Category Archives: Financial

Learn the Mortgage Basics

Brush up on these mortgage basics to help you determine the loan that will best suit your needs.

  • Mortgage terms. Mortgages are generally available at 15-, 20-, or 30-year terms. In general, the longer the term, the lower the monthly payment. However, you pay more interest overall if you borrow for a longer term.
  • Fixed or adjustable interest rates. A fixed rate allows you to lock in a low rate as long as you hold the mortgage and, in general, is usually a good choice if interest rates are low. An adjustable-rate mortgage is designed so that your loan’s interest rate will rise as market interest rates increase. ARMs usually offer a lower rate in the first years of the mortgage. ARMs also usually have a limit as to how much the interest rate can be increased and how frequently they can be raised. These types of mortgages are a good choice when fixed interest rates are high or when you expect your income to grow significantly in the coming years.
  • Balloon mortgages. These mortgages offer very low interest rates for a short period of time — often three to seven years. Payments usually cover only the interest so the principal owed is not reduced. However, this type of loan may be a good choice if you think you will sell your home in a few years.
  • Government-backed loans. These loans are sponsored by agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs and offer special terms, including lower down payments or reduced interest rates to qualified buyers.

Slight variations in interest rates, loan amounts, and terms can significantly affect your monthly payment. For help in determining how much your monthly payment will be for various loan amounts, use Fannie Mae’s online mortgage calculators.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Suggestions For A Smooth Loan Approval

•Don’t apply for new credit

•Don’t co-sign on a loan

•Don’t dispute anything on your credit report

•Don’t change bank accounts

•Don’t close any credit card accounts

•Don’t finance any elective medical procedure

•Don’t make a major purchase (car, boat, jewelry, etc.)

•Don’t max out or over charge your credit card accounts

•Don’t open a new credit card account

•Don’t take out a new loan

•Don’t transfer balances from one account to another

If you encounter a special situation, it is best to discuss it with your lender.

Source: Mortgage Options Lending

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Ways to Get Your Finances in Order

  1. Develop a household budget. Instead of creating a budget of what you’d like to spend, use receipts to create a budget that reflects your actual spending habits over the last several months. This approach will factor in unexpected expenses, such as car repairs, as well as predictable costs such as rent, utility bills, and groceries.
  2. Reduce your debt. Lenders generally look for a total debt load of no more than 36 percent of income. This figure includes your mortgage, which typically ranges between 25 and 28 percent of your net household income. So you need to get monthly payments on the rest of your installment debt — car loans, student loans, and revolving balances on credit cards — down to between 8 and 10 percent of your net monthly income.
  3. Look for ways to save. You probably know how much you spend on rent and utilities, but little expenses add up, too. Try writing down everything you spend for one month. You’ll probably spot some great ways to save, whether it’s cutting out that morning trip to Starbucks or eating dinner at home more often.
  4. Increase your income. Now’s the time to ask for a raise! If that’s not an option, you may want to consider taking on a second job to get your income at a level high enough to qualify for the home you want.
  5. Save for a down payment. Designate a certain amount of money each month to put away in your savings account. Although it’s possible to get a mortgage with only 5 percent down, or even less, you can usually get a better rate if you put down a larger percentage of the total purchase. Aim for a 20 percent down payment.
  6. Keep your job. While you don’t need to be in the same job forever to qualify for a home loan, having a job for less than two years may mean you have to pay a higher interest rate.
  7. Establish a good credit history. Get a credit card and make payments by the due date. Do the same for all your other bills, too. Pay off the entire balance promptly.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Questions to Ask About Property Tax

It’s natural for the sale price of a home to loom large in your mind. But don’t forget to look at what your property tax bill might be.

What is the assessed value of the property?

Assessed value is generally less than market value. A recent copy of the seller’s tax bill will help you determine this information.

How often are properties reassessed in this area?

In general, this will happen annually, but properties in areas of slower growth may be reassessed less often.

When was the last reassessment done on this property?

Most significant tax increases on an individual property can be linked to when that property was last reassessed.

Will the sale of the property trigger a tax increase?

Depending upon where you live, the assessed value of a property may increase based on the amount you pay for it. And in some areas, such as California, taxes aren’t allowed to increase until the property in question is resold.

Is the tax bill comparable to other properties in the area?

If not, it might be possible to appeal the assessment and lower the rate.

Does the current tax bill reflect any special exemptions for which I might not qualify?

For example, many tax districts offer reductions to those individuals 65 and older.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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How to Prepare to Finance a Home

Develop a budget.

Instead of telling yourself what you’d like to spend, use receipts to create a budget that reflects your actual habits over the last several months. This approach will better factor in unexpected expenses alongside more predictable costs such as utility bills and groceries. You’ll probably spot some ways to save, whether it’s cutting out that morning trip to Starbucks or eating dinner at home more often.

Reduce debt.

Lenders generally look for a debt load of no more than 36 percent of income. This figure includes your mortgage, which typically ranges between 25 and 28 percent of your net household income. So you need to get monthly payments on the rest of your installment debt—car loans, student loans, and revolving balances on credit cards — down to between 8 and 10 percent of your net monthly income.

Increase your income.

Now’s the time to ask for a raise! If that’s not an option, you may want to consider taking on a second job to get your income at a level high enough to qualify for the home you want.

Save for a down payment.

Designate a certain amount of money each month to put away in your savings account. Although it’s possible to get a mortgage with 5 percent down or less, you can usually get a better rate if you put down a larger percentage of the total purchase. Aim for a 20 percent down payment.

Keep your job.

While you don’t need to be in the same job forever to qualify for a home loan, having a job for less than two years may mean you have to pay a higher interest rate.

Establish a good credit history.

Get a credit card and make payments by the due date. Do the same for all your other bills, too. Pay off entire balances as promptly as possible.

Start saving.

Do you have enough money saved to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20 percent of the purchase price saved as a down payment. Also, don’t forget to factor in closing costs, which can average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.

Obtain a copy of your credit report.

Make sure it is accurate and correct any errors immediately. A credit report provides a history of your credit, bad debts, and any late payments.

Decide what kind of mortgage you can afford.

Generally, you want to look for homes valued between two and three times your gross income, but a financing professional can help determine the size of loan for which you’ll qualify. Find out what kind of mortgage (30-year or 15-year? Fixed or adjustable rate?) is best for you. Also, gather the documentation a lender will need to preapprove you for a loan, such as W-2s, pay stub copies, account numbers, and copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements. Don’t forget property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and association fees, if applicable.

Seek down payment help.

Check with your state and local government to find out whether you qualify for special mortgage or down payment assistance programs. If you have an IRA account, you can use the money you’ve saved to buy your first home without paying a penalty for early withdrawal.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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What to Know About Credit Scores

Credit scores range between 200 and 850, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:

Your payment history.

Did you pay your credit card bills on time? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also affect your history.

How much you owe and where.

If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, spreading debt among several accounts can help you avoid approaching the maximum on any individual credit line.

The length of your credit history.

In general, the longer an account has been open, the better.

How much new credit you have.

New credit—whether in the form of installment plans or new credit cards—is considered more risky, even if you pay down the debt promptly.

The types of credit you use.

Generally, it’s desirable to have more than one type of credit—such as installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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A Big Mistake Mortgage Shoppers Make

About one-third of recent home buyers failed to shop around for a mortgage, saying they were satisfied with the first quote that a lender gave them, according to Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey. But that could be a big mistake.

Researchers found that higher-income, younger-aged, and minority borrowers were the most likely to gather multiple quotes when shopping for a mortgage.

On the other hand, “first-time home buyers and lower-income borrowers are more likely to say that referrals from friends, family, or co-workers had a major influence on their choice of lender,” note Sarah Shahdad and Qiang Cai of Fannie Mae’s
 Economic & Strategic Research Group in commentary at Fannie Mae’s website. “Only first-time home buyers are more likely to say that a real estate agent’s or mortgage specialist’s referral influenced their choice of lender. … These findings suggest that there is an opportunity to help consumers be better informed and improve upon the mortgage shopping process.”

Shahdad and Cai urge that consumers be provided with more information about mortgage product choices and that buyers be encouraged to seek multiple sources of information.

“As large and infrequent as the mortgage transaction is in most people’s financial lives, borrowers may be leaving money on the table by not shopping around and negotiating for the best terms they can get,” Shahdad and Cai write. “Getting a better deal can help borrowers sustain their mortgage even in the case of unexpected increases in expenses or decreases in income. The level of influence of referrals on today’s first-time and lower-income home buyers suggests that finding a lender who delivers on other dimensions, such as efficiency and customer service, also is a key area of focus for many.”

Source: “What Is the Mortgage Shopping Experience of Today’s Homebuyer?” Fannie Mae (April 13, 2015)

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Get Your Finances in Order: To-Do List

  1. Develop a household budget. Instead of creating a budget of what you’d like to spend, use receipts to create a budget that reflects your actual spending habits over the last several months. This approach will factor in unexpected expenses, such as car repairs, as well as predictable costs such as rent, utility bills, and groceries.
  2. Reduce your debt. Lenders generally look for a total debt load of no more than 36 percent of income. This figure includes your mortgage, which typically ranges between 25 and 28 percent of your net household income. So you need to get monthly payments on the rest of your installment debt — car loans, student loans, and revolving balances on credit cards — down to between 8 and 10 percent of your net monthly income.
  3. Look for ways to save. You probably know how much you spend on rent and utilities, but little expenses add up, too. Try writing down everything you spend for one month. You’ll probably spot some great ways to save, whether it’s cutting out that morning trip to Starbucks or eating dinner at home more often.
  4. Increase your income. Now’s the time to ask for a raise! If that’s not an option, you may want to consider taking on a second job to get your income at a level high enough to qualify for the home you want.
  5. Save for a down payment. Designate a certain amount of money each month to put away in your savings account. Although it’s possible to get a mortgage with only 5 percent down, or even less, you can usually get a better rate if you put down a larger percentage of the total purchase. Aim for a 20 percent down payment.
  6. Keep your job. While you don’t need to be in the same job forever to qualify for a home loan, having a job for less than two years may mean you have to pay a higher interest rate.
  7. Establish a good credit history. Get a credit card and make payments by the due date. Do the same for all your other bills, too. Pay off the entire balance promptly.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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What to Do When the Sale Price Leaves You Short

If you’re thinking of selling your home, and you expect that the total amount you owe on your mortgage will be greater than the selling price of your home, you may be facing a short sale. A short sale is one where the net proceeds from the sale won’t cover your total mortgage obligation and closing costs, and you don’t have other sources of money to cover the deficiency. A short sale is different from a foreclosure, which is when your lender takes title of your home through a lengthy legal process and then sells it.

1. Consider loan modification first. If you are thinking of selling your home because of financial difficulties and you anticipate a short sale, first contact your lender to see if it has any programs to help you stay in your home. Your lender may agree to a modification such as: Refinancing your loan at a lower interest rate; providing a different payment plan to help you get caught up; or providing a forbearance period if your situation is temporary. When a loan modification still isn’t enough to relieve your financial problems, a short sale could be your best option if:

  • Your property is worth less than the total mortgage you owe on it.
  • You have a financial hardship, such as a job loss or major medical bills.
  • You have contacted your lender and it is willing to entertain a short sale.

2. Hire a qualified team. The first step to a short sale is to hire a qualified real estate professional and a real estate attorney who specialize in short sales. Interview at least three candidates for each and look for prior short-sale experience. Short sales have proliferated only in the last few years, so it may be hard to find practitioners who have closed a lot of short sales. You want to work with those who demonstrate a thorough working knowledge of the short-sale process and who won’t try to take advantage of your situation or pressure you to do something that isn’t in your best interest. A qualified real estate professional can:

  • Provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA) or broker price opinion (BPO).
  • Help you set an appropriate listing price for your home, market the home, and get it sold.
  • Put special language in the MLS that indicates your home is a short sale and that lender approval is needed (all MLSs permit, and some now require, that the short-sale status be disclosed to potential buyers).
  • Ease the process of working with your lender or lenders.
  • Negotiate the contract with the buyers.
  • Help you put together the short-sale package to send to your lender (or lenders, if you have more than one mortgage) for approval. You can’t sell your home without your lender and any other lien holders agreeing to the sale and releasing the lien so that the buyers can get clear title.

3. Begin gathering documentation before any offers come in. Your lender will give you a list of documents it requires to consider a short sale. The short-sale “package” that accompanies any offer typically must include: 

  • A hardship letter detailing your financial situation and why you need the short sale
  • A copy of the purchase contract and listing agreement
  • Proof of your income and assets
  • Copies of your federal income tax returns for the past two years

4. Prepare buyers for a lengthy waiting period. Even if you’re well organized and have all the documents in place, be prepared for a long process. Waiting for your lender’s review of the short-sale package can take several weeks to months. Some experts say:

  • If you have only one mortgage, the review can take about two months.
  • With a first and second mortgage with the same lender, the review can take about three months.
  • With two or more mortgages with different lenders, it can take four months or longer.

When the bank does respond, it can approve the short sale, make a counteroffer, or deny the short sale. The last two actions can lengthen the process or put you back at square one. (Your real estate attorney and real estate professional, with your authorization, can work your lender’s loss mitigation department on your behalf to prepare the proper documentation and speed the process along.)

5. Don’t expect a short sale to solve your financial problems. Even if your lender does approve the short sale, it may not be the end of all your financial woes. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You may be asked by your lender to sign a promissory note agreeing to pay back the amount of your loan not paid off by the short sale. If your financial hardship is permanent and you can’t pay back the balance, talk with your real estate attorney about your options.
  • Any amount of your mortgage that is forgiven by your lender is typically considered income, and you may have to pay taxes on that amount. Under a temporary measure passed in 2007, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation Act, homeowners can exclude debt forgiveness on their federal tax returns from income for loans discharged in calendar years 2007 through 2012. Be sure to consult your real estate attorney and your accountant to see whether you qualify.
  • Having a portion of your debt forgiven may have an adverse effect on your credit score. However, a short sale will impact your credit score less than foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Is Your Buyer Qualified?

Unless the buyer who makes an offer on your home has the resources to qualify for a mortgage, you may not really have a sale. If possible, try to determine a buyer’s financial status before signing the contract. Ask the following:

  1. Has the buyer been prequalified or preapproved (even better) for a mortgage? Such buyers will be in a much better position to obtain a mortgage promptly.
  2. Does the buyer have enough money to make a downpayment and cover closing costs? Ideally, a buyer should have 20 percent of the home’s price as a downpayment and between 2 and 7 percent of the price to cover closing costs.
  3. Is the buyer’s income sufficient to afford your home? Ideally, buyers should spend no more than 28 percent of total income to cover PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance).
  4. Does your buyer have good credit? Ask if he or she has reviewed and corrected a credit report.
  5. Does the buyer have too much debt? If a buyer owes a great deal on car payments, credit cards, etc., he or she may not qualify for a mortgage.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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