How to Prevent Financial Difficulties from Destroying your Credit

You know that you’re supposed to pay your bills on time, and to pay off your debt in full each month—or at the very least keep a low balance on your card. But, life is unexpected, and emergencies happen: medical bills, job loss, household repair, and more. What can you do when you’re struggling and don’t have the funds to allocate to debt?

These are the hard-and-fast steps you need to take today in order to stem the damage and begin the climb upwards towards a healthy, secure credit future. Taking action now will not only alleviate the anxiety surrounding your financial situation, it will increase your confidence that you can transform your situation for good.



Order your free credit report if you don’t have one. Make a comprehensive list of all your debt, and locate the phone number of each company. Place this list somewhere prominent: you need to know what you’re up against. Notate any errors or fraudulent activity on your report—you can dispute these later by composing professional letters to the companies.


Contact and set up a payment plan with each company and agency. If you’re truly having financial difficulties, Pujol Law can help you negotiate with credit card companies for a forbearance, and halt your payments for several months. Collections will generally accept any amount you are able to pay monthly. Choose a sum small enough that you could afford to pay that price for each separate collection or debt. If you can make a payment arrangement and get it in writing, it will prevent further hits to your credit score, and communication with your creditors is always a positive in your favor.


Credit utilization is the ratio of your debt to credit limit. It’s best to keep the ratio at 30% or less, but anything under 100% is a step in the right direction (100% can lead to a penalty increase in your APR). If you’ve had the card for a while, ask the company to raise your credit limit. This will immediately improve your credit utilization score by increasing your amount of credit relative to your debt. Another way to increase your overall credit is to apply for a new line, but this should only be done if your score is in relatively good standing and you don’t have many cards.


According to FICO (creator of the credit score), “…you need to repair your credit history before you see credit score improvement.” Start with the simple things, stay in communication with your creditors, and set up an easy payment plan. Once you get your feet back underneath you, you can begin to take bigger steps.

Pujol Law Group serves the needs of Florida homeowners whose credit is suffering from foreclosure, short sale, or loan modification. Repairing your credit can be a difficult process, but we help guide you through it. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.


A Cash Out Refinance: Should You Do It?

What does “cash-out refinance” mean?

It means you replace your existing mortgage with a new loan in an amount larger than what you currently owe. For example, on a house valued at $300,000 with $150,000 in equity, your cash-out refinance could be $200,000. The extra $50,000 can be used at your discretion. Some accrued home equity is what entitles you to receive a cash-out refinance.

A cash-out refinance differs from a traditional refinance because it’s for more than the amount owed. Usually, a re-finance takes advantage of lower interest rates that save a homeowner money.

The Benefits

There are various advantages to a cash-out refinance:

A Lower Interest Rate

With a large pool of lenders available today, it’s likely you can decrease the interest rate you’re paying by using the cash-out option.

Paying Off Other Debt

You may be making payments on other loans with higher interest rates (credit cards, etc.) that you can eliminate, saving the difference.

Tax Savings

Credit card interest is not tax-deductible. Mortgage interest is. So a cash-out refinance reduces your tax liability, meaning more cash in your pocket.

Improve Your Credit Score

By reducing the credit available to you that you’re actually using, you may raise your credit score. So having a $1000.00 limit fully available, as opposed to “maxed out”, helps your credit score.

The Drawbacks

As with anything financial, it’s wise to remember the downside:

Closing Costs

Make sure you factor in this expense when deciding if a cash-out is beneficial. Usually 3% to 6% of the loan amount, closing costs could negate other gains you would make.

Private Mortgage Insurance

Although not always required, a cash-out over a certain dollar amount could trigger this cost. Typically, PMI is 0.5% to 1% of the loan amount each year.

Risk Of Foreclosure

Obviously, repayment is necessary when your home is the collateral for any mortgage, including a cash-out refinance.

Going Backwards

It’s not difficult to have available credit again, overuse it, and find ourselves in financial quicksand.


What a cash-out refinance offers in the way of benefits, it demands back in the form of monetary self-discipline. The cash you take out of the process shouldn’t be viewed as lottery winnings, but as capital usable for your financial progress.

When the time arrives for insightful professional advice about anything real estate related, contact us immediately. You’ll have over two decades of experience at your disposal.



Refinancing Tips – How to Prepare for your Home Appraisal

Refinance Tips

An appraisal of your home’s current market value is a requirement of most lenders when applying to refinance your existing mortgage loan. A professional real estate appraiser will conduct a physical, on-site inspection of the property,, research recent sales of comparable homes, and prepare an appraisal report.  The report provides the lender with an independent, third-party opinion of what the home would sell for in the current market. This is to ensure the value of the property is sufficient to secure the loan as well as meet loan-to-value (LTV) ratios required for underwriting and loan approval.

What Can I Do to Effect My Home’s Appraised Value?

Much of the criteria an appraiser uses for determining a home’s value are items you can’t change, like square footage, zip code, school district, number of rooms, garage size, and how much homes in the area have recently sold for. There are, however, important things you as an owner can do to positively affect the appraiser’s report. These include:

  • Gathering paperwork, such as any previous appraisals (like the one done for your existing mortgage), your property survey, most recent tax bill, and association financial statements if the property is a condominium.
  • Providing a list of any recent improvements and upgrades, especially those not easily noticed (think added insulation, a new AC system or hot water heater, kitchen countertops, etc.), along with receipts.
  • Improving your home’s curb appeal by adding plants, flowers, and landscaping if needed to give your appraiser the best first impression of a well-maintained property
  • Declutter and clean out closets, garage, and storage places.
  • Make minor repairs to walls and fixtures
  • Freshen paint to brighten rooms and do touch-ups where needed.
  • Spend the money to have carpeting professionally cleaned, especially if you have pets.
  • Be sure pets are secured or removed on the day your appraiser is scheduled to allow him or her safe and easy access to all parts of the home.

For more information or questions about home appraisals, please contact us.



Refinancing? What to Look for in a Mortgage Company

Refinance Tips

If you are thinking of refinancing your home, then you need to find a reputable a mortgage company. Choosing the right one is a big decision because not all mortgage companies are the same.  Here are five tips to help you find the best one for you.

Decide: Local or National Lender

Do you want to work with a small local mortgage company or a large national one with offices in many states?  A smaller company will most likely get to know you and offer more personalized customer service, while a large company will never really know you but might be able to offer better terms.

Check Online Reviews

Nearly every company today has online reviews, either on Yelp or Google or Facebook.  Check these out before committing to any lender.  Most businesses receive some negative reviews, but a reputable company should have many more positive reviews than negative ones.

Compare Rates

A company like Bank Rate lists loan rates for a wide range of mortgage companies. Many lenders also list their rates on their individual website.  Remember that these rates are just a starting point. A mortgage company will need to pull your credit report to determine the rate that it will actually charge you.

Ask Questions

Once you have a list of mortgage companies that look like they might be a good fit, then it is time to contact them and ask questions.  These include:

  • How much of a down payment is required?
  • What fees will you charge me?  Are they paid upfront or rolled into the loan?
  • How long is the entire process, from pre-approval to closing?
  • How fast do you respond to questions and concerns?

Respect Your First Impressions

A mortgage company might have a stellar reputation and great rates, but if the person you talk to on the phone or meet with in person is not courteous or particularly interested in gaining your business, then it is probably best to keep looking for another company. Refinancing a mortgage loan is a big undertaking. You want to work with a company that listens to you and is happy to help guide you through the lending process.

If you are refinancing, it is tempting to go with whatever company advertises on the radio or pops up on your Facebook page.  But by first deciding what kind of lender you want to work with, checking online reviews, comparing rates, asking the right questions and following your instincts, you will choose the best lender for your situation.  If you have questions, please contact us.  Our team is standing by and looks forward to hearing from you.


Why the Florida Butler Rebate Puts Money Back in Your Pocket

Florida Butler Rebate

Buying a home, whether for the first time or the fifth is complicated, nerve-wracking and very expensive.

Let’s talk about title insurance which every home buyer needs. Here’s a comparison, we purchase car insurance in case something happens to our car. Title insurance is issued by a title agency after a title agent has researched the title or deed of the property you fell in love with. The agency is ensuring the property does not have any legal liens, defects or attachments you will be expected to pay that were attached by a previous owner. They are also ensuring your children will have a clear title should they inherit your home. The price of title insurance is based on the sale price of the property, the amount is decided on by the county using a staggered rate that is set by law. Back in 1992 Florida created several laws that regulated the price of title insurance.

Florida Butler Rebate

In 2000, The Florida Supreme court decided a Mr. Butler was in the right when he argued the laws of 1992 deprived him of the right to negotiate with his title agent about his commission. If he had been able to negotiate, Mr. Butler could have shopped around for an accommodating title agency, which could have saved him some of the money he paid at closing.

Benefit For You

If the title agency you are using does not offer a rebate, you can ask them for one. They have the right to refuse. Thanks to Mr. Butler, you now have the right to negotiate with or even shop for a title insurance agency who will offer you a rebate from the very beginning.

Pujol Law Group is here to help you with real estate purchase while protecting all your legal needs. Contact us to help you purchase your new home.

3 Refinancing Tips That Can Save You A Fortune

What if you could pay less for your mortgage? Not just every month, but in total when all was said and done? Wouldn’t you take that opportunity if you could? Well, all it takes to make that happen is to refinance your current mortgage. However, before you sign on the dotted line, it’s important to keep a few things about refinancing in mind.

#1: Shop Around

As with any other serious purchase, you need to be see what all the lenders in your area are willing to offer you in terms of deals. Just because the company you bank with gives you a good rate, that’s no reason not to talk to their competitors. After all, they might be willing to go a little lower to make sure they get your business instead.

Which leads to the next tip…

#2: Negotiate

When it comes to refinancing, you need to remember that you don’t have to just accept the terms as they exist. If you have good credit, if you can show you’re a good investment for the lender, see if you can get them to sweeten the deal a little bit. Smaller monthly payments, a lower interest rate, etc. Just like when you buy a car, or a home, remember that it never hurts to ask for a better bargain. You might just get it.

#3: Do All The Math Before You Sign

Too often we see a smaller rate of interest, or a smaller payment, and we can’t wait to put our names on that dotted line. However, it pays to make sure you check all the fees, and work out the full cost of your refinancing, to make sure you’re actually saving money. There’s nothing worse than putting a refinancing loan through, only to realize you’re now paying more overall than you were before you got it.

For more tips and tricks on refinancing your mortgage, simply contact us today!

With a Reverse Mortgage, Your Home Can Pay You to Live in it

What is a reverse mortgage?

A reverse mortgage, more properly a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), is a Federal Housing Authority (FHA) mortgage that’s designed to help senior citizens age with dignity by remaining in their homes.

With a reverse mortgage, seniors 62 and older are eligible to withdraw up to 50% of the appraised value of their homes.

Unlike other loans, recipients don’t need to make monthly payments. No payment will be due until the home is sold, though seniors can make payments to reduce the outstanding loan if they choose to do so. You still own your home and can never be forced to leave as long as you meet the loan requirements listed below.

Interest will be added to the loan for each month that goes by without a payment, but the total amount of money that’s owed on the loan can never exceed the appraised value of the home at the time the mortgage was made, no matter how many years you remain in the property.

Why should I get a reverse mortgage?

A reverse mortgage benefits seniors by converting their home equity into cash that they can use to improve their lifestyle and reduce the stress that can come with the added expenses associated with aging.

Further, the money you’ll receive from a reverse mortgage is not subject to income taxes. Since it’s not earned income, it’s already your money. It’s just the same as if you were withdrawing from your savings account.

If you’re a senior citizen, you’ve likely been paying to live in your home for years. A reverse mortgage gives you the opportunity for your home to pay you to live in it, freeing you from monthly mortgage payments and allowing you to improve the quality of your life by redirecting those funds for you to use as you wish.

What are the requirements of a reverse mortgage?

To qualify for a reverse mortgage, the FHA requires that…

  • Applicants are 62 or older
  • The applicant must own the home
  • The home is the applicant’s primary residence
  • The home must be kept in good repair
  • The applicant must have enough income to pay property taxes and home insurance (which is usually covered by social security and/or pension income)

A reverse mortgage can be an economic lifesaver. The FHA is very diligent in making sure seniors have the proper information and instructions before starting the process. However, it’s very important that you utilize the services of experienced attorneys to ensure that all your rights and your heirs’ rights are protected. To discuss the details and find out the facts, contact us.

Dealing with Credit Scores and Interest Rates

The first few times you run into credit scores, interest rates, and APRs in your life, it probably has something to do with your credit card. If you’re carrying a balance of a couple thousand dollars on a card, you’re often looking at maybe $10 per month is the difference between a 15% and a 20% APR. But home buying is different. The amount of money floating around when a home is purchased can be in the six or even seven figures–over a million dollars. Even a few fractions of a percentage point can add up quickly and cost you hundreds extra per month.

Credit Options
Luckily, you have options. If your Credit Score just needs a little repair, you can make a couple tweaks and save thousands on a home. You’re unlikely to get advice like this from most title companies, who get paid more when your interest rate is higher. There are ways for home buyers to fight back against the policies that bleed them dry when trying to afford a house, and credit repair is the first step. Along with buyer-friendly policies like the Butler Rebate, home buyers can find ways to afford their dream house.

Credit Repair
Credit Repair is a complicated concept, and it doesn’t always work exactly the way it seems like it should. When focusing on bringing your credit score up, it’s important to consult a group of professionals who know the ins and outs of the system. Pujol Law Group is a real estate attorney group who proudly provide full Title and Closing services. With over 8,500 properties closed, Pujol Law Group is no stranger to South Florida real estate. Unlike others in the industry that you may work with, Pujol Law Group is happy to have their experts chip away at your credit issues, bringing your score up to something you’re happy with. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today if you’re interested in a consultation about our credit repair services.

Butler Rebate

What Florida buyers and sellers should know about the Butler Rebate

What Florida buyers and sellers should know about the Butler Rebate

In the course of buying a home, the topic of title insurance will come up a number of times. If you are a homebuyer, odds are you are probably expecting to finance your purchase with a mortgage from a bank or other lending institution.  In most cases, your lender will require you to purchase a lender’s title insurance policy at closing in an amount equal to the loan. In addition, buyers often ask a seller to pay for an owner’s title insurance policy as well.  These policies protect the named insured (owner or lender) against the costs of previously unknown title defects that might have existed at the time of purchase.

In Florida, both the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction are allowed to pay the cost of the lender’s and the owner’s title insurance policies.   As such, who pays in each transaction is subject to agreement by all the parties in the Purchase and Sales Agreement.

So what exactly is the Butler Rebate? How does it affect me?

The premiums charged for title insurance in Florida are established and regulated by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. However, in the year 2000, a Gainesville developer named S. Clark Butler filed suit against the State of Florida because he wanted the ability to negotiate fees for title insurance with local agents. Florida law at that time prohibited agents from giving back or rebating any portion of the premium they received as a commission. Butler’s attorneys argued successfully that it was unconstitutional for the State of Florida to set the compensation received by a title agent, as that was as much 70% of the premium charged for a policy by title insurance companies. The Florida Supreme Court agreed, and thus was born what folks refer to today as the “Butler Rebate.”

If you are buying or selling real property in Florida today, the Butler Rebate means you can negotiate a rebate on your title insurance costs at closing.  Your title insurance agent should be willing to negotiate his commission and/or provide a rebate at settlement to the party responsible for paying for the lender’s and owner’s title insurance policies.

The Pujol Law Group is pleased to offer the Butler Rebate to our clients. For more information, please contact us.

Understanding Your Credit Score and How It Affects Your Interest Rate

Understanding your credit score and how it affects any loan you apply for is a challenge.

About 1/3 of your credit score is based on whether you pay your bills on time. Another 1/3 on how much of your credit you use (utilization).

Creditors and lenders are more cautious of whom they loan money to. Simply put, if you have a poor or bad credit score, you are bad credit risk; your access to money is limited, and open to fewer opportunities. This is sad, but definitely how it is! But most importantly, you can fix it! How? One way is to contact …….

Your Credit Score Determines Your Interest Rate Which Effects Your Monthly Payment
The higher your credit score the less you will have to pay in interest to borrow money.
You may get a car loan, but the interest rate you will pay will be higher than a person with good or excellent credit. You will be paying more, perhaps hundreds if not thousands more

Credit Scores:
• 500 – 579 – It is difficult to get a home loan with a score this low. If approved expect a loan 2% more than average rate. FHA loans might be available but more down payment is required.
• 580 – 619 – An improvement, but a 1% higher rate than the average.
• 620 – 679 – Typically there is only a 0.5%-1% interest rate higher.
• 680 – 720 – The average home buyer paying going rates.
• 720 – 770 – Gets you the best rates.

Tips for Lowering your Credit Score:

• Pay down your Credit Cards – Lower your credit Utilization. Credit cards don’t have to be paid off each month, just pay them down. Pay a bit more than the minimum. The higher the balances the more they hurt your credit score. You should get your balances as low as possible trying not to use more that 30-35% of your available credit on each card you have, before applying for a home loan.

• Pay On Time. Don’t make late payments.

Want to buy a home? Who doesn’t? Want to buy one and not pay tens of thousands of dollars more over the term of that loan because of higher interest rate lenders will charge you? Raise your credit score. Change your ways. Let us show you how!

The purchase of a home may just be the most significant purchase and investment in your life. Contact Pujol Law Group. They understand real estate, mortgages and all the facets of what goes into the purchase or sale of property. Get a team of seasoned individuals, with experience in over 8500 real estate transactions, on your side to help lessen the stress and protect your rights.