Wednesday, June 6, 2007

List of Online Real Estate Websites

The online real estate market is changing rapidly, and time will tell which players survive and thrive. While they duke it out, here is a list of sites to try. If you've used them, let us know how they've worked (or didn't) for you.

Cyberhomes

PropertyShark

Redfin

Trulia

Zillow

Who have we missed?

Here is a good post on the Transparent Real Estate Blog that goes into more details about the pros and cons of each.

Piggybacking / Seasoned Tradelines Bite the Dust

For years I've been recommending piggybacking as a strategy to improve your credit. It works like this: you ask a trusted friend or relative with a good credit history to add you to their account as an authorized user. If the issuer reports authorized users to the credit reporting agencies (most do) then you benefit from the entire credit history on that account. In the mortgage world, this is called a "seasoned tradeline" and it's a great strategy for rebuilding credit for those who have limited credit histories or who have been through bankruptcy.

But now firms like Instant Credit Builders or ICB, have destroyed it. They've actually been acting as a middleman to "rent" out the payment histories of consumers who pay on time to those with poor credit, in order to get a quick boost to the credit score. Some of those consumers who rent these tradelines then get a mortgage that they really shouldn't qualify for.

I've heard of this scam for months now, and have not recommended it. The cardholder who rents out his or her history is fully on the line for any charges made by the authorized user. While the authorized user never needs to use the card for this strategy to work, the primary cardholder still needs to understand the risks involved. I wouldn't rent my good credit to a stranger!

Now Fair Isaac has said it will ignore authorized user accounts when calculating FICO scores. This is not great news for consumers who are benefiting from accounts with authorized user status on their credit reports. It's understandable why this change is happening...but it's too bad the scammers ruined it for the rest of consumers.

You can still boost your credit before a mortgage, and rapid fixes are still available to loan officers for borrowers with legitimate mistakes on their files. If you have a friend or relative who is willing to add you as a joint accountholder to their account, you can still likely use this strategy. But joint accounts are more risky since you agree to be responsible for the entire balance.