Q: I have been told that I cannot get the best mortgage rate because of my credit rating score. Who sets the score and why do they have that power?

A: Well, actually they don’t … you do. It is how your handle your credit. Lenders report what you do every month. There are two major companies (Equifax and Transunion) that “keep score” and create a credit history based on how you pay your bills, how many loans you have outstanding etc. These companies are used by credit granters (banks, mortgage companies, car companies) to determine credit risk. Scores are between a 300 score and 900. In order to get the very best mortgage rate you have to be above 600. If your score is really low, you still may get a mortgage, but will pay a higher interest rate. You do need to get a good broker to steer you to the right lender.

Note: 1. Regularly check your credit rating-beacon score. You can pay for it online or they will send it to you by mail for free. If you find something wrong, dispute it.

2. Pay your credit cards on time. Missing a payment by 30 days could knock 100 points off of your score.

3. Try not to carry a balance over about 50 per cent of the credit limit each month.

4. Note this: How much you owe on your credit line is reported … how much you owe on a mortgage is not (by most banks).

Q: My wife and I are tired of the rat race and want to move to the country. What area do you recommend?

A: That depends on what you are looking for. Some people that say they want to rough it really mean that they want to see the cows, but not smell them. If you really want “the country” there are many options. For open land cattle areas – pick the nearby Nicola Valley near Merritt or the fabulous Cariboo. If you need ambience, but also must have “my sushi”, pick a small town like Qualicum Beach. If you ski, pick a smaller resort like Kimberley or Fernie. If you like the ocean, pick the Sunshine Coast. It is a good time to look, prices are the best they have been in years. Note: Rent first for six months before you buy in the place you pick. We have a lot of people moving back into town … after a stint with the “country”.