How Can I Get a Higher Credit Score?

Tips for improving your credit score from someone who’s been there!

Most people understand the importance of having a good credit score when they are trying to get a credit card or get approved for a home mortgage. But what if you know your credit score is not-so-great? Or what if you have no credit score at all? What should you do?

When I was 19, I applied for and got a department store credit card. I’m not ashamed to tell you that that was back in the early 1980’s, before there were credit scores, but there were still credit ratings. No surprise – 1 year later, after I’d failed to make on-time payments, my credit rating was bad, which I found out when I tried to finance a car.

With egg on my face, I applied for another credit card with a gas station. The card had a $100 limit, so I couldn’t get into too much trouble. I spent the next 12 months diligently paying that card off completely, every month, before the due date of the payment. It worked! My credit rating started to improve and I was eventually able to finance that car.

I’ve learned a lot about credit scores in the 40+ years since that department store card. In fact, I worked in mortgage lending for 27 years before I took the leap and decided to sell real estate. I share those lessons with many of the buyers I work with who find themselves with less-than-perfect credit. Here are the things I recommend to boost that credit score:

1. Get Started Now.

If you pay cash for everything and don’t have any credit trade-lines, how can they score you? I totally get that having bills to pay is no fun, but to get a credit score, you have to ‘pay to play.’ Apply for a small charge card and pay the bill on-time every month. If you can pay off the balance, do, but don’t make a late payment. Paying the minimum payment is better than paying off the balance late.

2. Know What is on Your Credit Report Now.

There are 3 credit repositories that keep track of everyone on the planet’s credit history – Trans Union (www.transunion.com), Experian (www.experian.com) and Equifax (www.equifax.com). Each of these companies allows you to access a copy of your credit report FOR FREE 1 time per year. These free reports won’t give you a credit score, but they will show you the credit lines that are associated with your social security number. These reports may contain inaccurate information! However, you can contact the credit repositories and have things corrected. (Hint: it’s a GREAT idea to do this well in advance of applying for credit, such as for buying a house or a car).

3. Always, Always, Always Use Your Middle Initial.

I know we all think we are unique and special, but invariably, there is someone else who has the same name. Or, if you are a Jr. or Sr. or the III, you need to use those suffixes to differentiate your credit trade-lines from someone else in your family. This little step can save you from a lot of credit clean-up, especially if the person who shares your name does not pay their bills on time.

4. Clean Up Your Act.

Once you get your free credit report and you see that you have delinquent accounts, address them and get them straightened out. If you have been making payments to a creditor but haven’t been making them on time, start making them on or before the due date. After a few months of doing this, your credit score will start to respond in a positive way. If you’ve gotten so far behind with a creditor that they gave up on you and sent the account to collection, contact the creditor and find out what you can do to pay it off. You might be able to make payments or settle for a lower amount.

5. Watch Those Medical Collections.

You know and I know that the insurance company was supposed to pay that doctor bill. But what if they don’t pay it? The doctor’s office is not going to go to bat for you to get it resolved. If they don’t get the payment from either you or the insurance company, they will simply sell it to a collection agency and move on to the next patient. Guess what? Now you have an ugly collection account on your credit report, the credit repositories think you are a deadbeat and your credit score goes down. Don’t let that happen – pay the bill and then fight it out with your insurance company to get reimbursed.

6. Resist the Urge to Apply For New Credit.

You know when you’re at the check-out and the clerk asks you if you want to save 10% by applying for their credit card? Just Say No! I will guarantee you that if you give your social security number, they are pulling your credit score and the result is an “inquiry” on your credit report. Too many credit inquiries can lower your credit score, as the credit repositories view it as a risk that you might be opening too much credit. So, only apply for credit when you really need it. If you’re a good shopper like me, you’re only buying things from the clearance rack anyway!!

7. Keep Your Balances at a Maximum of 30% of Your Available Credit.

This means that if you have a credit card with a maximum limit of $5,000, keep the outstanding balance below $1,500. Credit scores are higher for people who have more ‘available’ credit than ‘utilized’ credit.

I hope you can use some of my sage advice to get your credit score on the up-and-up!

Kris Kesling-Hays, Broker

Preferred Properties of Sarasota

Direct: (941) 321-5638

Email: Kris@PrefHomes.net

West Bradenton – SO close to the beaches!

One of the best things about living in West Bradenton is that you are so close to Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key, yet you are still in the middle of a vibrant, bustling city offering everything you need. While not as “touristy” as the barrier islands, most of the residents are definitely here to take advantage of the proximity of the Gulf of Mexico.

West Bradenton enjoys it’s own coastline in addition to it’s access to the Gulf Beaches. There are single family homes and condos built on canals that attract boaters, allowing them to dock in their own backyards and motor out to the Intercoastal Waterway and the Manatee River. There are other homes with spectacular views of the Intercoastal, where the water is only deep enough for a kayak or canoe.  

There are lots of parks found in West Bradenton and many wildlife sanctuaries. G.T. Bray Park’s facilities include a fitness center, group exercise classes, an Olympic-sized pool, kiddie pool and splash pad, teen center, hard and clay tennis courts, racquetball, pickleball, and a gym to play basketball, volleyball, badminton, and cornhole.  

Bradenton’s Riverwalk is downtown Bradenton’s showpiece. Overlooking the Manatee River, the Riverwalk is a 1.5-mile, ADA-accessible park spanning downtown with many features such as a beach volleyball court, fishing pier, skateboard park, mosaic amphitheater,  playground and splash-zone and more! Other parks in West Bradenton include DeSoto National Memorial, Palma Sola Botanical Park, and so many more. 

Wildlife preserves are plentiful in West Bradenton, like Robinson’s Nature Preserve, Perico Preserve, and Neal Preserve. Even some developed communities, like Wildwood Springs Condominiums, are arranged in an Audubon bird and wildlife sanctuary. 

Several topnotch sports facilities can be found along the El Conquistador Parkway in West Bradenton.  These include the IMG Academy and the United Tennis Club. IMG Academy is the world’s largest and most advanced multi-sport training and educational institution for young athletes from all over the world. It’s sport programs include baseball, basketball, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, and track and field. The United Tennis Club at El Con is a private tennis club in Bradenton, FL featuring 15 Har-Tru Courts, 6 Hard Courts, Tennis Concierge and Bar & Grill. 

Want culture? West Bradenton’s got it. There’s the Village of the Arts, which is an eclectic live-work community made up of colorful historic cottages that house everything from award-winning restaurants to specialty shops, studios, healing arts, bakeries and Bradenton’s best art galleries. There are museums – the South Florida Museum, comprised of exhibits and artifacts that touch on history, culture, the animal kingdom, and the natural world, and the Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez, whose exhibits touch on pleasure boating, commercial fishing, and maritime transportation, and covers a vast block of time stretching back hundreds of years to when Florida wasn’t even a state. 

With so much to offer, West Bradenton is a great place to live. Talk to one of our agents today to help you find the perfect home!

Lakewood Ranch – What a Town!

Lakewood Ranch, located “east of 75” (as the locals say) is a 31,000 acre award-winning master planned community that straddles Manatee and Sarasota counties. It is home to 20 individual villages (and growing!), offering single family homes, town homes, villas and condominiums. Some have golf courses, some are gated, some are 55+.

31,000 acres translates into 50 square miles, and that’s enough area for ‘The Ranch’ to have it’s own Main Street! It’s filled with shopping, dining, arts, entertainment, nature and recreation. The great outdoors are all around – walking and biking paths and even a doggie splash park. If you’re an avid golfer, tennis player or just like the social scene, the Golf & Country Club will not disappoint you.

The Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch has every field sport under the sun for athletes ranging from youth to professional. There are tons of family-friendly events to attend with local, state and national events year-round. And as if that’s not enough, there are 130 acres of perfectly manicured grounds, the Sarasota Polo Club, where there are seven world-class polo fields and a regulation-size arena. Polo players from all over the world come to Lakewood Ranch to play. 

The primary and secondary schools in Lakewood Ranch are consistently A-rated, and there are nine campuses of higher education, with emphasis on business, vocational, culinary and medical programs. Setting aside land specifically for educational institutions was a big part of the Ranch’s master plan.

What more could you ask for? Contact one of our agents today to help you find your home on “The Ranch.”

Downtown Sarasota…the Crown Jewel

If you want to live in the lap of luxury, surrounded by sparkling coastal waters, able to walk to almost any kind of restaurant or theater production, then you just have to live in downtown Sarasota. There is almost every style of home offered here that you can imagine – high-rise and low-rise condominiums, quaint bungalows from the 1920’s, single-story ranch style homes from the 1950’s, contemporary townhouses – the works!

“Downtown,” as the locals call it, is comprised of several mini-neighborhoods, each with it’s own history and it’s own character.

Laurel Park

An eclectic mix of single family homes and apartment buildings dating back to the 1920’s. Most of the streets are paved with bricks and 45 of the homes and structures in Laurel Park have City or National historic register designation. Some new construction is happening there too, but the real draw to this community is the feeling of stepping back in time, yet being able to walk to modern civilization.


Golden Gate Point

This tiny peninsula jets out into Sarasota Bay to the south just before you drive over the John Ringling Causeway Bridge on your way to Lido Beach. Condominiums dominate this 22 acre stretch of land, ranging from the single- and double-story variety to uber-luxurious high-rises. Palm trees line the streets as you meander around the Point, and you’re still only steps away from the restaurants and entertainment on the mainland.


The Rosemary District

In October 2018, SRQ Magazine dubbed this northern section of downtown “Rising Rosemary”  because of it’s transformation from humble roots to it’s now bustling, revitalized neighborhood. Some of the established condominiums and townhouses are now being combined with newly constructed ones, offering a variety of choices in housing. Several new businesses, restaurants and cafes and other services have popped up in the community and it is still close enough to walk to Main Street.


Palm Avenue

If you’re into art galleries, shopping, restaurants and upscale salons, you will LOVE living in this part of downtown. Existing high-rise condominiums are being joined by new ones, so there are plenty to choose from. Famous for it’s “First Friday Walks,” it’s a come-one-come-all outdoor event the first Friday of every month, where there is live music, gallery openings and more to be enjoyed from 6 pm to 9 pm.


Gillespie Park

Another up-and coming neighborhood north of Fruitville Road, this part of downtown was named for Sarasota’s first mayor, John Gillespie. The park itself, which boasts two basketball courts, an off-leash dog park, picnic tables, playground, fitness trail, three tennis courts, outside fitness areas and a pond, is flanked by street after street of single family homes and cottages and small apartment buildings. In March 2020, Sarasota Magazine wrote that “Gillespie Park Is Proof That Walkability Can Turn a Neighborhood Around.”  


There is so much more that Downtown Sarasota has to offer – you really need to see it for yourself. And you will definitely want to take advantage of the Sarasota Farmer’s Market held every Saturday on Lemon Avenue.  Call one of our agents, who know and love this town so well, to help you find your keys to Sarasota Paradise!

Waterfront or Water-close Living

A lot of people dream of owning a home with a view of some type of water. On the west coast of Florida, this is not such a tall order. There are homes with direct views of the Gulf of Mexico, some that look out on one of the many canals, and some that just enjoy the view of a smaller lake or pond.

In general, owning a waterfront property is a good investment. The mere fact that there is a limited supply of waterfront land creates a higher demand for these homes (many are tall structures built on a small lot!) and these homes typically enjoy continuous value appreciation. In addition, a home on or near a desirable body of water provides a potential sources of rental income to the owner.

If you are thinking about buying a waterfront or water-close home, be prepared for a much longer list of things to consider prior to purchase than you would on an inland property. Here are some things to think about:

  1. Commitment to more home maintenance.
    The home will not have any blockage from the elements, at lease on one side, so it can be vulnerable to intense sun rays, driving rains and winds, etc. Salt air can cause problems such as corrosion of wood, metal, etc. High humidity can cause mold, which can damage surfaces and be a health concern. Even people bring sand into the house on their feet can cause damage to floors!
  2. Proximity to water sports.
    This can be an appealing feature if you’re into some form of water sport. But keep in mind that others will be playing too, making noise, crowding the waterways, and trying to peek into your yard or home! And don’t underestimate what you will end up spending on water toys, outdoor
    furniture, etc., for entertaining by the water.
  3. Higher insurance.
    It is usually more expensive to insure a home by the water. Flood insurance is typically not included in a homeowner’s policy and needs to be purchased separately. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is only available in approved areas and offers maximum coverage of only $250,000. To insure amounts above $250,000 a homeowner must turn to private insurance coverage, which can be costly.
  4. Potential for hidden costs.
    Water and sewer costs may be higher than for homes inland. If there is a septic system, this may be more costly to maintain. There may be boat dock or boat lift fees.
  5. Restrictions on home improvements and additions.
    Want to add or rebuild a dock or construct a second story on your dream home? Review and approval of your project may be required at the city, county, state and federal level. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has something called the “FEMA 50% Rule,” where stricter building codes are required if the cost of the project exceeds 50% of the current cost value of the structure (this is an extremely simplified explanation of an extremely complex issue!). Experts must be consulted and this can be a huge, unexpected expense.

The agents at Preferred Properties of Sarasota have the expertise to guide you through these issues and many others that come into play when buying or selling a home by the water. Call us today!

Home Choices Galore!

Downtown Sarasota

At Preferred Properties of Sarasota, we know two Florida counties like the back of our hands:  Sarasota and Manatee.  Those two counties contain countless neighborhoods, which contain countless choices of homes.  We sell them all.

The heart of Sarasota is Downtown. A cultural mecca, with the hustle and bustle of businesses, restaurants and theatre, yet only a stone’s throw from beautiful Sarasota Bay.  There are remarkable historic homes and apartment buildings nestled between soaring condominiums with breathtaking views.

Travel west from downtown for amazing beach properties. Siesta Key, Lido, and Longboat Key provide a wide variety of homes, from a laid-back bungalows to spacious, elegant luxury homes.  The beaches here consistently rank among the best in the United States.  On the water, enjoy boating, fishing, snorkeling, and more.  Land lubbers will have to settle for boutique shopping, fantastic night life, and high-end cuisine.

Venture to the south part of Sarasota County and you can explore Osprey and Nokomis, which boast some of the most desirable developments in the area.  Both cities provide easy access to the area beaches as well as to I-75, the main artery connecting the major cities up and down the west coast of Florida.

Homes in Venice Florida

In the southern most part of Sarasota County are the cities of Venice and North Port.  These sleepy little towns are anything but, and are just great places to live.  To play golf, or not to play golf – that is the question.  Or go to the beach.  Or stroll through downtown or one of the many parks.

Not far north, by way of I-75, you’ll discover a little city called Lakewood Ranch.  So little, in fact, part of it is in Sarasota County, and part in Manatee County (okay, maybe not so little).  One of the fastest growing planned communities in the country, LWR (as we affectionately call it) offers several “A” rated public schools, private preparatory schools, and several campuses for higher education.  The Ranch also offers top notch athletic facilities, attracting talented individuals from all over the world.  Over 15,000 residents, who chose from single family homes, condos and townhouses, can’t be wrong about this being a great place to live.

East Bradenton Homes

Now that you’re in Manatee County, take a look at the diverse neighborhoods offered here. In East Bradenton, Myakka City and Parrish you will find lovely communities cropping up amongst the citrus groves and cow pastures. Peace and serenity abound here, yet it is steps from I-75, linking you to civilization.  Go west from here, and find exquisite homes along the mighty Manatee River.

Next you will land in the heart of Bradenton.  This is a city of people from every walk of life.  With the location at the southern tip of Tampa Bay, there are ample employment and educational opportunities here.  Home prices from the very low to the very high of the spectrum exist here, making the area appealing to all.

Bradenton Waterfront

The icing on the cake is that Manatee County, like Sarasota, offers pristine beaches and a wide variety of homes from which to choose.   Anna Maria Island, Holmes Beach, and the northern half of Longboat Key are the destinations of choice for thousands of visitors. These towns often become the second homes, if not primary homes, for many of these travelers.

Home is where the heart is.  We at Preferred Properties of Sarasota can help you find the home of your dreams.  Just call!  Bri Hays (941) 321-7772, or Kris Kesling-Hays (941) 321-5638.

Think You Can’t Buy a Home? Talk to Me.

By Kris Kesling-Hays, Sales Associate, Preferred Properties of Sarasota

One of the greatest joys in my long career in mortgages and real estate, is watching homebuyers, who were previously crippled by the thought that they could never own their own home, be given the keys to their first house. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me, even when it took us months, in some cases years, to get to that moment.

Oh, there are obstacles to buying a home. You bet. But with some planning and effort, it can be done.  If you are serious about home ownership, the very first thing to do is talk to me. Or someone like me, but preferably, me.

Kidding aside, understanding what those elusive obstacles are is key in overcoming them. The #1 obstacle to homeownership is saving for a down payment.  Do you even know how much of a down payment you need to save? That depends. The next obstacle is having dings on your credit. Or too much credit. Or not enough credit.

How much of a monthly payment do you qualify for? Equally important, how much of a monthly payment do you feel comfortable with? Is your employment stable? If your self employed, how much of your reported income will be used to qualify for a mortgage? You need to discuss these things with  someone (me) who can help you understand them and make them work for you.

And that’s just the mortgage side. What about real estate? Are home prices rising or falling? What is the inventory of homes for sale in the area where you want to live? You need a professional to help you wade through this information and make an intelligent decision.

I mentioned that it sometimes took years to get some customers to the closing table. That’s not an exaggeration. Lenders typically look for at least 2 years of stability in the same employment field. They look for 2 years of credit stability, with on-time payments and not a lot of new credit. It takes time for some folks to get to that stage and I have stayed with them along the way.

Recently, Preferred Properties joined forces with Home Partners of America who has an interesting program for people who wish to buy a home, but for one reason or another, are not quite ready. It’s a pretty simple program, really. You find a home you want to buy. If the property meets Home Partners’ criteria, they buy it and turn around and lease it to you. The minimum lease period is 1 year, and you can rent it for up to 5 years. At any time during the lease period, you can buy the property for a price that you’ve already agreed to. You can find more details on our website, www.prefhomes.net, or by talking to someone who knows things. (Me.)

Don’t Pass Up That Ugly House or Condo Located in the Perfect Neighborhood!

Ask me how you can buy a home and borrow additional money to make it beautiful again!

Many buyers find themselves renting because they feel they can’t afford a nice, newer home. Indeed, many of the homes in an “affordable” price range are back-owned as a result of a foreclosure. These homes are distressed, some severely, and many have been stripped down to bare walls. The banks sell these homes in “as-is” condition, with no offers of repairs.

However, there are mortgage programs available that allow you to buy a distressed home and set aside additional funds to make repairs and improvements in one transaction! These loan programs are designed to revitalize neighborhoods and expand home ownership opportunities!

Call me today to find out how you can make an ugly house into your dream home! (941) 321-5638 or email kris@prefhomes.net.

Renovation Options:

  • Painting
  • Flooring, Carpet or Tile
  • Mold Remediation
  • Appliances
  • Air conditioning
  • Additions/Expansions
  • Well/Septic
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Handicap Accessibility
  • Attached/Detached Garage
  • Insulation
  • Roofs, Gutters, Downspouts
  • Energy Efficient Upgrades
  • Termite Damage
  • Exterior Siding
  • Windows & Doors

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