Q: I am getting married in June. I have a lot of debt and a shaky credit record, but the woman I am marrying has no debt at all and a very good credit score. Will my lousy credit affect hers? Would it make sense to keep our accounts separate after the wedding?
A: Yes, it would probably be wise to maintain separate accounts even after your wedding day. Your subpar credit score won't affect her sterling record as long as the two of you don't co-sign for a mortgage or other type of credit.
If you do buy something jointly - whether it's a house, car or other item - both of your credit histories will be considered by the lender, and your poor credit history will likely weigh more heavily in the bank's decision than your bride's higher score, according to a spokesman at the Virginia-based Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.
Q: I am selling my home without a real estate agent's help. Last weekend, a prospective buyer asked me if "there are a lot of blacks and Mexicans" in the neighborhood. I didn't know what to say, so I ignored his question (even though he asked it twice), and he stormed out. If the question comes up again, how should I respond?
A: Sellers, landlords and real estate agents have to be careful when answering questions about a neighborhood's racial makeup.
Most people know that federal law clearly prohibits housing discrimination based on the race of a prospective buyer or tenant. But the rules concerning comments about an entire neighborhood's racial composition are murkier, and even the slightest misstatement can trigger a lawsuit or even criminal proceedings.
When a prospective buyer asks about the racial makeup of an area or its schools, attorney Ralph Holmen of the National Association of Realtors suggests you respond with: "The Fair Housing Act prohibits me from providing that kind of information. I recommend that you contact the school district, municipal government or local library."
The answer might not satisfy the buyer, but it's better to lose a prospect than risk violating federal anti-discrimination laws.