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Archive for the ‘Mid Atlantic Funding’ Category

30-Year Fixed Rate Rises Slightly, Remains at Historic Lows

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace at 3.9 percent, up from 3.83 percent at this same time last week.

After rising to 3.94 percent last Thursday, the 30-year fixed mortgage rated hovered between 3.93 and 3.91 percent for the rest of the week, falling to the current rate early this morning.

“Mortgage rates have remained low throughout the week and likely will stay at historically low levels for the foreseeable future,” said Erin Lantz, director of Zillow Mortgage Marketplace. “This is great news for the nearly 900,000 current homeowners that are projected to take advantage of the revamped Home Affordable Refinance Program by the end of 2013.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.24 percent and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.82 percent.

What are the rates right now? Check Zillow Mortgage Marketplace for up-to-the-minute mortgage ratesfor your state.

Posted at Zillow.com

10 Major Mortgage Mistakes to Avoid

Getting a mortgage is no simple task: It’s a complex and time-consuming process, and perhaps one of the most significant events of our lives, at least in financial terms. Here are ten potential pitfalls to avoid:

1. Not checking your credit: Long before you begin searching for a mortgage, you should know where you stand in the credit score department. After all, a bad credit score can bump up your mortgage interest rate several percentage points or leave you with no approval at all. Be sure you check your credit early on (several months in advance) in case any changes need to be made to get it back up to snuff.

[Click here to check home loan rates in your area.]

2. Applying for new credit alongside the mortgage: In this same vein, be sure to avoid applying for any other type of credit before and during the mortgage application process. Whenever you apply for new credit, you’re seen as a greater credit risk, at least initially. If you happen to apply for a credit card or auto loan around the same time you apply for a mortgage, your credit score might get dinged enough to kill your eligibility or bump up your interest rate.

3. Failing to look at the total housing payment: A mortgage payment consists of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI). A common mistake made by prospective home buyers is not factoring in their property taxes and insurance premium into their overall mortgage budget. The debt-to-income ratio (DTI ratio), used to determine if a borrower will qualify for a certain mortgage payment, is calculated by dividing the proposed cost of PITI by gross monthly income. A $1,200 homeowner’s insurance policy would add $100 per month to an escrowed mortgage payment.

4. Not seasoning your assets: The bank or lender will want to see that you can actually pay your mortgage each month. But without seasoned assets, those that have been in your own account for at least a couple months, you could be out of luck entirely. Some borrowers seem to think they can transfer funds from a relative’s account days before applying, but this simply won’t fly once the underwriter uncovers the paper trail.

5. Job hopping: Another key to mortgage approval is steady employment and income. An underwriter will want to know that the income you bring in every month is consistent and expected to continue into the foreseeable future. So don’t jump from job to job too much before applying for a mortgage. If it’s in the same field, it shouldn’t be a deal killer, but a career change will lead to problems. If you’re thinking about jumping ship, wait until you’ve closed your mortgage first.

6. Not getting pre-approved: Good preparation is the key to a good mortgage. Before shopping for a home, make sure you can actually qualify for financing by getting a pre-approval. A mortgage pre-approval is more robust than a simple pre-qualification because the bank pulls your credit and looks at your income, assets, and employment. Your DTI ratio will also come into play to ensure you know exactly how much you can afford. With this pre-approval, you will also get a written commitment from the lender that will show home sellers you’re serious about the purchase.

7. Not shopping around: But just because you’re pre-approved with one bank doesn’t mean you need to obtain financing from them. Be sure to shop around with multiple banks and lenders and even consider a mortgage broker. A broker can shop your rate with a number of banks concurrently and find you the lowest rate with the best terms. Don’t be one of the many consumers who obtains a single mortgage rate prior to applying. Comparison shop as you would for anything else you buy. And don’t forget to factor in closing costs!

8. Chasing exotic loan programs: Shop around for the lowest rate and closing costs, but not at the expense of your mortgage. Anything that sounds too good to be true most likely is. If the payment seems too low, you might be paying interest-only or even negatively amortizing, meaning your mortgage balance is growing each month. It’s best to keep it simple and go with a loan program you can get your head around, like a fixed-rate mortgage.

9. Forgetting to lock your rate: Keep in mind that a mortgage rate means very little if it’s not locked-in. If you’re happy with your rate, lock it. Mortgage rates change daily and sometimes several times daily. All those mortgage quotes you obtain are just quotes until you actually tell the bank, lender, or broker to “lock it in.” Once locked, your rate is guaranteed for a certain period of time, be it 7 days, 15 days, or a month. But never assume your rate is locked until you get it in writing!

10. Not reading your loan documents: Finally, it’s your responsibility to read and accept the terms of your new mortgage. Sure, it might be a pain to go through all the loan documents at signing, but it’s a bigger pain to sign up for something you don’t want or agree with. Take the time at closing to ensure you understand everything you’re signing, and thereby agreeing to. And don’t be afraid to ask questions! Otherwise, you could wind up with a mortgage with predatory terms and no place to turn.

Colin Robertson is the author of several finance websites aimed at helping consumers save money, including The Truth About Mortgage and The Truth About Credit Cards, which includes his popular credit score range.

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Posted at Yahoo.com

Your Home and Your Retirement

Many retirees are planning to access home equity, hoping it may make the difference between a comfortable retirement and just getting by. This article considers some of the strategies for tapping home equity, such as moving to a more affordable residence or obtaining a reverse mortgage.

Before You Start:

 

  • Talk with your spouse or partner about using your home to help finance retirement. Are you in agreement?
  • Consider whether your plans are realistic. For example, ask yourself whether you could really downsize to a smaller home.
  • Begin looking into the cost-of-living implications that would be associated with moving to a different part of the country.
  • Check your most recent retirement account statement to determine whether you’re already contributing the maximum amount.

 

Your Home and Your Retirement

Unlike earlier generations of retirees, who paid off first mortgages and retired at the family homestead, today’s Baby Boomers are looking to capitalize on home equity to enhance their retirement savings. Popular strategies for tapping home equity include downsizing to a smaller house or condominium, relocating to an area where the cost of living is more affordable, and taking out a reverse mortgage.

Regardless of which strategy you choose, it’s important to be realistic about what your house may be worth when you retire. Although housing prices have escalated considerably during the past few years, a variety of factors may cause them to level off or decline at some point in the future. Home equity may add value to a diversified portfolio, but relying too much on your house to fund your retirement could work against you if the real estate market in your area cools considerably.

Making a Move

Selling your existing home and relocating to a more affordable house or condominium may be a reasonable option if you have considerable home equity and the shift won’t negatively affect your lifestyle. As part of your research, remember to investigate the overall housing costs in your desired area. For example, real estate values and property taxes typically vary considerably by locale, sometimes even within the same state. Additionally, before relocating to a new area, you might want to spend significant time there to make sure it is compatible with your lifestyle and interests.

When calculating your home’s sale price as part of the retirement income equation, be sure to use realistic assumptions. Real estate prices have risen at above-average rates in recent years (see table on average annual rise in home prices, below), and there is always the potential that they may level off or even decline in the future. When planning your retirement income, remember the importance of diversification — owning a portfolio of stocks, bonds, and cash investments in addition to home equity — to help guard against market swings in any one area, including real estate. Of course, there are no guarantees that a diversified portfolio will protect against overall financial losses, but a diversified portfolio can position you to potentially take advantage of gains in several financial sectors.

Finally, when selling your home, consider that the first $250,000 in capital gains ($500,000 if you sell jointly with a spouse) is not subject to federal taxation if you lived in the house for two years or more.

A Reverse Mortgage: A Tool for Staying Put

Tapping home equity doesn’t necessarily require relocating. A reverse mortgage may be a solution if you have significant home equity and a desire to stay in your existing home. With a reverse mortgage, you receive a source of income by borrowing against your home’s equity. Payouts are tax free and may be taken as a lump sum, a line of credit, or an annuity-like payment schedule.

To qualify, you and other owners (such as a spouse or partner) must be at least 62 years of age. You must own your home outright or be able to retire an existing mortgage with the money you receive from the reverse mortgage. As long as the reverse mortgage is in effect, you are responsible for maintaining your home, and for paying taxes and insurance. The loan plus accrued interest is due when you die or sell the house.

When evaluating a reverse mortgage, be sure to consider the fees, which may be substantial. You may have to pay a loan origination fee of between 6% and 8% of the value of your home, in addition to servicing fees assessed over the term of the mortgage. Because of the relatively high fees, many experts recommend a reverse mortgage only if you plan to remain in your home for the long term. Also keep in mind that the amount you owe tends to grow over time, as interest (which is usually based on a variable, rather than fixed, rate) accrues on amounts that are gradually paid out. Over time, a reverse mortgage can completely exhaust the value of your home, leaving little if any assets left over for your heirs.

Payout Alternatives

Study payout options associated with a reverse mortgage carefully to determine whether one may work for you.

Payout Option Advantages Drawbacks
Lump sum You receive a considerable sum. Interest accrues on the entire amount.
Line of credit You have the flexibility to draw only as much as you need. Fees may outweigh the benefit if you draw only a small amount.
Annuity-like schedule You may receive a source of income for as long as you remain in your home. Payments are not indexed to inflation.

The recent boom in the national housing market may have lulled many Baby Boomers into believing their home equity will be enough to see them through a comfortable retirement. If you’re among those who intend to rely on a home’s value — either through downsizing, relocating, or obtaining a reverse mortgage — make sure that your plans include realistic projections. And remember that maintaining a diversified portfolio of other types of investments can potentially help balance out your overall pool of financial assets.

The Average Annual Rise in Home Prices:
Compare Recent Years with Historical Averages
2000-2004 1975-2004
New York 10.65 6.81
Ohio 4.28 4.81
Texas 4.39 4.15
California 14.46 8.51
U.S. Average 8.17 5.78
Source: Office of Federal Housing Oversight, OFHEO House Price Index, 2004 data as of September 30 (most recent available).
Summary:

 

  • Strategies for accessing home equity may include selling your house and moving to a smaller residence, relocating to a community where the cost of living is more affordable, or obtaining a reverse mortgage.
  • Because real estate values may potentially level off or even decline, it’s important not to rely too much on the value of your home to finance your later years. Consider using home equity to supplement a diversified portfolio that includes stocks, bonds, and cash investments.
  • Accessing home equity by selling your house may have the greatest appeal if you are able to find alternate housing without significantly compromising your lifestyle.
  • A reverse mortgage may work for homeowners who have considerable home equity and want to remain in their current residence. Payout options typically include a lump sum, a line of credit, or an annuity-type schedule of payments.
  • When evaluating reverse mortgages, review the fees and overall cost of borrowing (total interest paid over time), which may be considerable.

 

Checklist:

 

  • Read the fine print before signing any type of reverse mortgage, paying particular attention to details about fees and expenses.
  • Reinvigorate your traditional retirement saving initiatives by maximizing contributions to your workplace plans and/or IRAs.
  • If a reverse mortgage will make it impossible for you to pass along the full value of your home to an heir or heirs, consider revising your estate plan accordingly.
  • Don’t base long-term financial plans on the assumption that your home will maintain or surpass its current value.
Posted at Yahoo.com

10 ways to winterize your home

Don’t forget about exterior grading, indoor air quality

Fall is in the air already, which means that another chilly winter can’t be too far behind. So before the cold weather arrives, here’s your annual checklist of things to do to get your home ready for the change of season.

Inside your home

Check smoke detectors: Don’t neglect that smoke detector any longer! Take some time right now to check the operation of detectors, and to change the batteries. If you have an older house with a limited number of smoke detectors, install additional ones at each sleeping room, and make sure there is one centrally located on each level of the home as well.

Install a carbon monoxide detector: As houses get closed up for winter, the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning from malfunctioning gas appliances increases substantially. If you have a furnace, fireplace, water heater, or other appliance that’s fueled by propane or natural gas, or if you have an attached garage, install a carbon monoxide detector. They’re available inexpensively from many home centers and other retailers, and offer easy, plug-in installation.

Service your heating system: Perform a complete system check of your furnace annually, either by yourself or by a trained furnace technician. Check for worn belts, lubrication needs or other servicing that might be required; refer to your owner’s manual for specific suggestions, and follow any manufacturer safety instructions for shutting the power and fuel to the furnace before servicing. Check the condition of duct joints and insulation, and of course, change the filter.

Upgrade your thermostat: An older thermostat that’s a couple of degrees off can result in a lot of wasted energy, and so can forgetting to set the thermostat down at night. You can take care of both of those problems with an upgrade to a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats are digital and typically very accurate, and they allow for easy, set-and-forget programming of temperatures for different times of the day, including energy-saving nighttime and workday setbacks.

Outside your home

Trim trees: Trees that are overhanging your home can be a real hazard. They can deposit debris on your roof, scrape against shingles during wind storms, and, worst of all, snap off with potentially devastating results. Have a professional tree trimming service inspect the condition of overhanging tree limbs, and safely cut them back as needed.

Check the gutters: Clear the gutters of leaf and pine needle debris, and check that the opening between the gutter and the downspout is unobstructed. Look for loose joints or other structural problems with the system, and repair them as needed using pop rivets. Use a gutter sealant to seal any connections where leaks may be occurring.

Break out the caulk: A few hours and few tubes of caulking can make a big difference in both your heating bills and your comfort levels this winter. Caulk around windows, doors, pipes, exterior electrical outlets, and any other exterior penetrations where cold air might enter. Use a good grade of acrylic latex caulk, either in a paintable white or, if you don’t want to paint, use clear.

Drain sprinkler systems: In colder areas, now is the time to be thinking about having your sprinkler and irrigation systems blown out. You can rent a compressor and do this yourself, or contact a landscape or irrigation system installer and have them handle this for you. This is also the time to shut off outdoor faucets and install freeze-proof faucet covers as needed.

Adjust exterior grade: Fall is also a great time to look at the grade around your home, and make sure that everything slopes away from your foundation to avoid costly problems with ground water. Add, remove or adjust soil grades as necessary for good drainage.

Change light timers: If you have exterior lights that are controlled by timers, including low-voltage ones, check the timer settings. Change the “on” times to an earlier hour to reflect the earlier winter darkness, so that you always have adequate outside light available.

Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com . All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

Contact Paul Bianchina: Email Letter to the Editor

Copyright 2011 Paul Bianchina

6 must-haves for mortgage approval

Even trade-up buyers, owners of multiple properties hit roadblocks

Interest rates fell to new lows in September. Low interest rates increase affordability and should make it easier for buyers to qualify. Yet stories of buyers waiting months to gain loan approval and home purchase transactions not closing on time due to lender’s strict underwriting are all too common.

Some buyers are turned down for illogical reasons. For instance, if you have investments — even if they’re performing well — an underwriter might deny the mortgage because your portfolio doesn’t fall into the underwriter’s risk assessment model.

One couple was turned down because the husband had worked at his current job for less than a year — even though he was making more money at the new job than he was before.

These buyers were well-qualified. The wife had worked several years for one employer and was able to qualify for the loan on her own. So, the transaction closed, although two months late.

Generally, it’s more difficult to qualify now than it was a year ago. Most conventional lenders require a 20-25 percent down payment. For the lowest interest rates, your credit scores need to be in the 700 range. You need to have verifiable income and cash reserves in addition to your down payment and closing costs.

You could run into underwriting problems if you’re self-employed, as W-2 income is much easier to verify. Other hurdles are lapses in employment and owning a lot of property. Some lenders won’t lend to buyers who have more than three or four residential properties.

If you’re buying a new home before selling your current home, you’ll need to have 30 percent equity in your current home. This needs to be verified by the lender’s appraiser. Also, the lender will want to see a copy of the cashed check from the tenant for the first month’s rent to verify rental income if needed to qualify.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: As soon as you’re serious about buying a home, find the best mortgage broker or loan agent you can to assist you. Don’t make your selection based on interest rates alone. A good track record counts for a lot.

Closing the deal should be your primary goal. If you have to pay 0.25 percent more to assure your transaction closes on time and that you’re not turned down at the last minute, it’s worth it.

Be candid with your loan professional about anything in your financial picture that might impact loan qualification. A good loan agent or broker will be able to assess your financial situation and anticipate what you’ll need to do to satisfy the underwriter.

Be aware that appraisal issues can impact your loan approval. For example, if a previous owner added square footage without a building permit, the additional square footage probably won’t be included as livable square feet.

If the appraisal comes in for less than the purchase price, the lender might not lend you enough to close the deal. Include an appraisal contingency in your contract.

As of Oct. 1, the conforming jumbo mortgage limit for expensive housing markets like New York City and San Francisco dropped from $729,750 to $625,500. In some cases, conforming jumbo lenders have moved into the market to pick up some slack. You can expect to pay about 0.25 percent more for a 30-year fixed-rate conventional jumbo loan, in some cases. However, today’s lower interest rates will help boost affordability.

There are more jumbo financing options available now. Adjustable-rate mortgages that are fixed for 10 years and then revert to an adjustable have a starting rate about 0.25 percent less than a 30-year fixed jumbo. A five-year fixed starts about 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent lower, but is riskier.

THE CLOSING: Because of the risk factor, the lender may want you to have a large cash reserve. Your retirement account counts toward this.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of “House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide.”

Contact Dian Hymer: Email Letter to the Editor

Copyright 2011 Dian Hymer

The Closing Process

Closing consists of all the necessary final steps involved in sealing the deal on a home purchase. It includes:

The offer to purchase

There’s no foolproof way to make an offer that’s guaranteed to be accepted by the seller. But once you find your perfect house, it’s wise to move fast. A good rule of thumb is to make an offer that’s eight to 10 percent below the asking price, though that might not work in some areas based on trends in the market. This gives you some room to negotiate, but don’t top what you’ve predetermined to be the highest price you can afford.

The deposit

Also known as earnest money, this is a demonstration of good faith and commitment by the buyer to the seller. It is usually 1 percent of the home’s purchase price and is included in an offer to purchase. Either the real estate agent or the seller’s lawyer holds the deposit in trust until the deal closes. If you decide not to close on a deal once your offer has been accepted, you may lose your deposit and be sued for damages. If the seller does not accept your offer, your deposit will be returned. If the sale proceeds, your deposit is usually applied to your down payment.

Contingencies

These are certain requirements specified in a contract that need to be met before the buyer is required to close. Typical among them: the buyer’s securing of financing and an acceptable house inspection. Generally speaking, an inspection contingency covers a 10-to-14-day period from the acceptance of the contract, and financing contingencies run for 30 days. But in a seller’s market, buyers may be asked to fulfill their contingency requirements in shorter time frames.

Home inspection

In a home inspection, a professional conducts a thorough examination of a property to assess its structural and mechanical condition. The idea here is that a trained home inspector will be able to catch potential problems that a buyer might not detect.

The contract

This follows the acceptance of an offer by the seller, and it is a legal and binding obligation, on the part of the buyer, to purchase the property if any contingencies are met. It outlines the details of the transaction, including: a description of the property, the selling price, the date of closing, the possession date and any applicable contingencies.

Settlement sheet

Also called a “closing statement” or a “settlement statement,” this is a document that the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires to account for all financial aspects surrounding the sale and purchase of a home. It provides an enumerated list of the funds that were paid at closing. Items on the statement include real estate commissions and initial escrow amounts (money or securities deposited with a neutral third party – the escrow agent – to be delivered upon fulfillment of certain conditions). The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act requires that a copy of the settlement sheet be distributed to both parties at least one day prior to settlement.

Closing documentation

Before you can close on a house, some paperwork must be completed. This includes a title search to make sure the title is clear, title insurance to protect the buyer and the lender from an oversight regarding a claim on some aspect of the property and an application for homeowner’s insurance (necessary for securing a mortgage).

Closing costs

The total amount of closing costs varies, but may include: a loan origination fee, an appraisal fee, the cost of a credit report, a lender’s inspection fee, the cost of title insurance, a mortgage broker fee, taxes and a fee for document preparation. Your lender is required to give you prior notice of fees associated with your loan.

Final arrangements

Before the deal is closed and you take possession, you must make some practical arrangements regarding utility service and first mortgage payment.

Settlement

Settlement describes the payment of the balance of the purchase price the buyer owes on the property, and the transfer of the title. It takes place on the possession date specified in the agreement.

 

Posted at Yahoo.com

Buying Your First Home

Finding the right first home starts with a price range and a short list of desirable neighborhoods. But there are many other factors you’ll need to consider before investing in what may be your biggest asset.

Before You Start:

 

  • Grab your current household budget so you can consider your financial situation and your ability to make mortgage payments.
  • Ask family and friends if they can recommend experts, like a lawyer and an inspector, who can help with the home buying process.
  • Think about your lifestyle and how it might affect your choice of home and neighborhood.
  • Do a little research on current home prices in the neighborhoods you plan to target.

 

Buying Your First Home

Home ownership is the cornerstone of the American Dream. But before you start looking, there are a number of things you need to consider. First, you should determine what your needs are and whether owning your own home will meet those needs. Do you picture yourself mowing the lawn on Saturday, or leaving your urban condo for the beach? The best advice is to look at buying a home as a lifestyle investment, and only secondly as a financial investment.

Even if housing prices don’t continue to increase at the torrid pace seen in recent years in many areas, buying a home can be a good financial investment. Making mortgage payments forces you to save, and after 15 to 30 years you will own a substantial asset that can be converted into cash to help fund retirement or a child’s education. There are also tax benefits.

Like many other investments, however, real estate prices can fluctuate considerably. If you aren’t ready to settle down in one spot for a few years, you probably should defer buying a home until you are. If you are ready to take the plunge, you’ll need to determine how much you can spend and where you want to live.

How Much Mortgage Can You Afford?

Many mortgages today are being resold in the secondary markets. The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) is a government-sponsored organization that purchases mortgages from lenders and sells them to investors. Mortgages that conform to Fannie Mae’s standards may carry lower interest rates or smaller down payments. To qualify, the mortgage borrower needs to meet two ratio requirements that are industry standards.

The housing expense ratio compares basic monthly housing costs to the buyer’s gross (before taxes and other deductions) monthly income. Basic costs include monthly mortgage, insurance, and property taxes. Income includes any steady cash flow, including salary, self-employment income, pensions, child support, or alimony payments. For a conventional loan, your monthly housing cost should not exceed 28 percent of your monthly gross income.

The total obligations to income ratio is the percentage of all income required to service your total monthly payments. Monthly payments on student loans, installment loans, and credit card balances older than 10 months are added to basic housing costs and then divided by gross income. Your total monthly debt payments, including basic housing costs, should not exceed 36 percent.

Many home buyers choose to arrange financing before shopping for a home and most lenders will “pre-qualify” you for a certain amount. Prequalification helps you focus on homes you can afford. It also makes you a more attractive buyer and can help you negotiate a lower purchase price. Nothing is more disheartening for buyers or sellers than a deal that falls through due to a lack of financing.

In addition to qualifying for a mortgage, you will probably need a down payment. The 28 percent to 36 percent debt ratios assume a 10 percent down payment. In practice, down payment requirements vary from more than 20 percent to as low as 0 percent for some Veterans Administration (VA) loans. Down payments greater than 20 percent generally buy a better rate. Lowering the down payment increases leverage (the opportunity to make a profit using borrowed money) but also increases monthly payments.

How Much Home Can You Afford?

Bob and Janet’s combined income is $50,000 a year, or $4,166 a month. Their housing expense ratio of 28 percent yields a monthly maximum of $1,166 for mortgage, insurance, and taxes ($4,166 x 0.28 = $1,166).

Their total debt ceiling of 36 percent is $1,583 (4,166 x 0.36 = $1,500). Their monthly debt payments include a $200 car payment, credit card payments of $100, and student loan payments of $200. Subtracting this total of $500 from the $1,500 permitted leaves $1,000 in monthly housing payments.

Costs of Buying a Home

Many home buyers are surprised (shocked might be a better word) to find that a down payment is not the only cash requirement. A home inspection can cost $200 or more. Closing costs may include loan origination fees, up-front “points” (prepaid interest), application fees, appraisal fee, survey, title search and title insurance, first month’s homeowners insurance, recording fees and attorney’s fees. In many locales, transfer taxes are assessed. Finally, adjustments for heating oil or property taxes already paid by the sellers will be included in your final costs. All this will probably add up to be between 3 percent and 8 percent of your purchase price.

Ongoing Costs

In addition to mortgage payments, there are other costs associated with home ownership. Utilities, heat, property taxes, repairs, insurance, services such as trash or snow removal, landscaping, assessments, and replacement of appliances are the major costs incurred. Make sure you understand how much you are willing and able to spend on such items.

Condominiums may not have the same costs as a house, but they do have association fees. Older homes are often less expensive to buy, but repairs may be greater than those in a newer home. When looking for a home, be sure to check the actual expenses of the previous owners, or expenses for a comparable home in the neighborhood.

Choosing a Neighborhood

Before you start looking at homes, look at neighborhoods. Schools and other services play a large part in making a neighborhood attractive. Even if you don’t have children, your future buyer may. Crime rates, taxes, transportation, and town services are other things to look at. Finally, learn the local zoning laws. A new pizza shop next door might alter your property’s future value. On the other hand, you may want to run a business out of your home.

Look for a neighborhood where prices are increasing. As the prices of the better homes increase, values of the lesser homes may rise as well. If you find a less expensive home in a good neighborhood, make sure you factor in the cost of repairs or upgrades that such a house may need.

Finding a Broker

If you are a first-time home buyer, you will probably want to work with a broker. Brokers know the market and can be a valuable source of information concerning the home buying process. Ask lots of questions, but remember that most brokers are working for the seller, and in the end, their primary obligation is to the seller and not to you. An alternative is a so-called buyer’s broker. This individual does work for you, and therefore is paid by you. Seller’s brokers are paid by the seller.

Make sure that the broker has access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This service lists all the properties for sale by most major brokers across the country. Brokerage commissions average 5 percent to 7 percent and are split between the listing broker and the broker that eventually sells the home. Don’t be surprised if your broker is eager to sell you their own listing since they would then earn the entire commission.

Home Buying Costs

Down Payment 0% – 20% of purchase price
Home Inspection $200 – $500
Points $1,000 and up for 1% – 3%
Adjustments 3% – 8% of purchase price

Once you’ve determined a price range and location, you’re ready to look at individual homes. Remember that much of a home’s value is derived from the values of those surrounding it. Since the average residency in a house is seven years, consider the qualities that will be attractive to future buyers as well as those attractive to you.

Although it can be difficult, try to remember that you will probably want to sell this home someday. The more research you do today, the better your decision will look in the years to come.

Summary:

 

  • Buying a home can mean building significant value through the years.
  • Think carefully about how much you can afford to spend and consider borrowing guidelines like those used by Fannie Mae.
  • Pre-qualifying with your lender is a good way to determine how much house you can afford.
  • You will need cash for a down payment and closing costs. Generally speaking, the higher the down payment, the lower the interest rate and monthly mortgage payment.
  • In addition to your mortgage payments, you will also need to consider the other costs of home ownership.
  • Schools, taxes, services, crime rates, transportation, and zoning are important considerations when selecting a neighborhood.
  • Brokers usually represent the seller, but they can be valuable sources of information for buyers as well. A broker that belongs to the Multiple Listing Service will be able to offer a wider variety of homes to choose from.
  • Remember to consider resale value when buying your home.
Posted at Yahoo.com

Understanding Points, Rates and Fees

Not only do you have to understand what type of mortgage you should choose, you have to understand the costs associated with your mortgage. All of these costs will be paid upon closing your mortgage.

Purchase Points

Purchase points, also known as a “buy-down” or “discount points,” are an up-front fee paid to the lender at closing to buy-down or lower your interest rate over the life of the loan. Each point is equal to one percent of your total loan amount. If you have a $100,000 loan, one point would equal $1,000. The more points you buy, the lower your interest rate, but the more money you’ll need at closing.

How do you decide whether you should buy points and if so, how many? Well, the decision should be based on how long you plan on living in your home and what you can afford to pay each month toward your mortgage. If you plan on living in your home for more than five years, it’s probably a good idea to purchase points. The longer you live in your home, the more you can save on interest over the life of the loan.

Interest Rate

When you get a mortgage, you are charged an interest rate.this is the rate which the lender charges you for using their money to buy a home. It determines how much your monthly payments will be. Generally speaking, the higher the interest rate, the higher your monthly payment.

Mortgage interest rates change constantly.daily, even hourly. If you speak to a lender and are quoted a specific interest rate, that’s not to say you’ll necessarily get that rate when you close on your loan. Not unless you formally lock-in that rate with the lender.locking in an interest rate will guarantee you get your loan with a particular interest rate. Lenders will allow you to lock in for 15, 45 or 60 days. But the longer you lock in, the more expensive it will be, since it’s more of a risk to lenders.

Fees

There are always fees associated with getting a mortgage, these fees cover the cost of processing and underwriting the loan. These fees can include charges for ensuring the title to the home is free and clear; paying for a land survey; or paying for a home appraisal which gives you the estimated value of the property (lenders require an appraisal to close on your mortgage).

Deciding which mortgage to get may depend on what each lender does because different lenders may charge different amounts. Some may charge lesser closing fees to lure you in, but may charge you a higher interest rate, which means you may pay more in the long run. But everyone has different needs.you may or may not be able to afford to pay more at closing and are willing to pay more over the long term.

Before it comes time to close, do your homework, make sure there are no hidden fees, and ask your lender lots of questions so that you understand all the costs involved with your mortgage.

*Please consult your tax advisor.

 

Posted at Yahoo.com

Home Refinancing Basics

In recent years, millions of homeowners have taken advantage of low rates and refinanced their mortgages. This article describes the advantages and possible pitfalls associated with a “refi.”

Before You Start:

 

  • Remember that refinancing to reduce debt can be a smart move, but refinancing in order to borrow more for consumer purchases (car, vacation, etc.) could set you back significantly.
  • Read the fine print on your current mortgage to learn whether you’ll be assessed penalties or fees for “getting out” of that loan early.
  • Make sure you know whether you have a fixed or variable interest rate and what the terms are.

 

Home Refinancing Basics

In recent years, Americans seeking to take advantage of low interest rates have lined up to refinance their mortgages. In fact, refinancing hit an all-time high in 2003, and remained high in both 2004 and 2005, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.

But while it’s true that refinancing has the potential to help you reduce the costs associated with borrowing money to own a home, it is not necessarily a strategy that makes sense for every individual in every situation. So before you make a commitment to refinance your mortgage, it’s important to do your homework and determine whether such a move is the right one for you.

To Refinance or Not

The old and arbitrary rule of thumb said that a refi only makes sense if you can lower your interest rate by at least two percentage points for example, from 9 percent to 7 percent. But what really matters is how long it will take you to break even and whether you plan to stay in your home that long. In other words, make sure you understand – and are comfortable with – the amount of time it will take for your overall savings to compensate for the cost of the refinancing.

Consider this: If you had a $200,000 30-year mortgage with an 8 percent interest rate, your monthly payment would be $1,468. If you refinanced at 6 percent, your new monthly payment would be $1,199, a savings of $269 per month. Assuming that your new closing costs amounted to $2,000, it would take eight months to break even. ($269 x 8 = $2,152). If you planned to stay in your home for at least eight more months, then a refi would be appropriate under these conditions. If you planned to sell the house before then, you might not want to bother refinancing. (See below for additional examples.)

Remember: All Mortgages Are Not Created Equal

Don’t make the mistake of choosing a mortgage based only on its stated annual percentage rate (APR), because there are a variety of other important variables to consider, such as:

The term of the mortgage – This describes the amount of time it will take you to pay off the loan’s principal and interest. Although short-term mortgages typically offer lower interest rates than long-term mortgages, they usually involve higher monthly payments. On the other hand, they can result in significantly reduced interest costs over time.

The variability of the interest rate – There are two basic types of mortgages: those with “fixed” (i.e., unchanging) interest rates and those with variable rates, which can change after a predetermined amount of time has passed, such as one year or five years. While an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) usually offers a lower introductory rate than a fixed-rate mortgage with a comparable term, the ARM’s rate could jump in the future if interest rates rise. If you plan to stay in your home for a long time, it may make sense to opt for the predictability and security of a fixed rate, whereas an ARM might make sense if you plan to sell before its rate is allowed to go up. Also keep in mind that interest rates hovered near historical lows in recent years and are more likely to increase than decrease over time.

Points – Points (also known as “origination fees” or “discount fees”) are fees that you pay to a lender or broker when you close the deal. While a “no-cost” or “zero points” mortgage does not carry this up-front cost, it could prove to be more expensive if the lender charges a higher interest rate instead. So you’ll need to determine whether the savings from a lower rate justify the added costs of paying points. (One point is equal to one percent of the loan’s value.)

How Much Would You Save?

A homeowner with a 30-year, $200,000 mortgage charging 8% interest would pay $1,468 each month. The table below illustrates the potential monthly savings and the various break-even periods that would result from refinancing at different rates.
Rate After
Refinancing
New Monthly
Payment
Monthly
Savings
Months to
Break Even*
7.5% $1,398 $70 29
7.0% $1,331 $137 15
6.5% $1,264 $204 10
6.0% $1,199 $269 8
5.5% $1,136 $332 7
5.0% $1,074 $394 6
*Assumes $2,000 closing costs. Rounded up to the next highest month.

 

A Closer Look at Mortgage Fees

Using data collected during 2003, researchers at Bankrate.com determined the average fees charged to consumers who borrow money to buy a home. Based on a loan of $180,000, the fees broke down as follows:
Average Lender/Broker Fees
Administration fee: $336
Application fee: $205
Commitment fee: $498
Document preparation: $194
Funding fee: $228
Mortgage broker fee: $839
Processing: $320
Tax service: $73
Underwriting: $269
Wire transfer: $31
Third-Party Fees
Appraisal: $327
Attorney or settlement fees: $445
Credit report: $29
Flood certification: $17
Pest & other inspection: $68
Postage/courier: $45
Survey: $174
Title insurance: $605
Title work: $200
Government Fees
Recording fee: $76
Various taxes: $1,339
Stick With What You Know?

Finally, keep in mind that your current lender may make it easier and cheaper to refinance than another lender would. That’s because your current lender is likely to have all of your important financial information on hand already, which reduces the time and resources necessary to process your application. But don’t let that be your only consideration. To make a well-informed, confident decision you’ll need to shop around, crunch the numbers, and ask plenty of questions.

Summary:

 

  • The decision to refinance should only be made if the long-term savings outweigh the initial expenses. To calculate your break-even point, divide the cost of the refi by your monthly savings. The resulting figure represents the number of months you will need to stay in the home to make the strategy work.
  • Don’t select a new mortgage based only on its annual percentage rate.
  • Also evaluate the term of the loan, whether the interest rate is fixed or variable, and the relative merits of paying up-front fees in exchange for a lower rate.
  • Your current lender already knows you and has your financial information on file, so you may be able to get a better deal that way, instead of going to a new lender.
  • To get the best possible refinancing deal, you’ll need to shop around, crunch some numbers, and ask a lot of questions.

 

Checklist:

 

  • Shop around and conduct a detailed cost assessment (with a financial professional, if necessary) to identify which mortgage offers the greatest financial benefits.
  • Read the entire contract before signing. Don’t let anyone pressure you or rush you to make a hasty decision.
  • If refinancing results in lower monthly payments, use those savings to pursue other important goals, such as preparing for retirement and college costs.
Posted at Yahoo.com

Understanding Points, Rates and Fees

Not only do you have to understand what type of mortgage you should choose, you have to understand the costs associated with your mortgage. All of these costs will be paid upon closing your mortgage.

Purchase Points

Purchase points, also known as a “buy-down” or “discount points,” are an up-front fee paid to the lender at closing to buy-down or lower your interest rate over the life of the loan. Each point is equal to one percent of your total loan amount. If you have a $100,000 loan, one point would equal $1,000. The more points you buy, the lower your interest rate, but the more money you’ll need at closing.

How do you decide whether you should buy points and if so, how many? Well, the decision should be based on how long you plan on living in your home and what you can afford to pay each month toward your mortgage. If you plan on living in your home for more than five years, it’s probably a good idea to purchase points. The longer you live in your home, the more you can save on interest over the life of the loan.

Interest Rate

When you get a mortgage, you are charged an interest rate.this is the rate which the lender charges you for using their money to buy a home. It determines how much your monthly payments will be. Generally speaking, the higher the interest rate, the higher your monthly payment.

Mortgage interest rates change constantly.daily, even hourly. If you speak to a lender and are quoted a specific interest rate, that’s not to say you’ll necessarily get that rate when you close on your loan. Not unless you formally lock-in that rate with the lender.locking in an interest rate will guarantee you get your loan with a particular interest rate. Lenders will allow you to lock in for 15, 45 or 60 days. But the longer you lock in, the more expensive it will be, since it’s more of a risk to lenders.

Fees

There are always fees associated with getting a mortgage, these fees cover the cost of processing and underwriting the loan. These fees can include charges for ensuring the title to the home is free and clear; paying for a land survey; or paying for a home appraisal which gives you the estimated value of the property (lenders require an appraisal to close on your mortgage).

Deciding which mortgage to get may depend on what each lender does because different lenders may charge different amounts. Some may charge lesser closing fees to lure you in, but may charge you a higher interest rate, which means you may pay more in the long run. But everyone has different needs.you may or may not be able to afford to pay more at closing and are willing to pay more over the long term.

Before it comes time to close, do your homework, make sure there are no hidden fees, and ask your lender lots of questions so that you understand all the costs involved with your mortgage.

*Please consult your tax advisor.

 

Posted at Yahoo.com