5 Mortgage Misconceptions Set Straight

Getting a mortgage can be a breeze or a slog, depending on what you know about the process. To get organized and set your expectations properly, let’s debunk some common mortgage myths.

1. Lenders use your best credit scores

If you’re applying for a mortgage jointly with a co-borrower, logic suggests that your lender would use the highest credit score between both of you.

However, lenders take the middle of three credit scores (from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) for each borrower, and then use the lowest score between both borrowers’ “middle scores.”

So, if you had a middle score of 780, and your co-borrower had a middle score of 660, most lenders would qualify and approve you using the 660 credit score.

Rates are tied to credit scores, so in this example, your rate would be based on the 660 credit score, which would push your rate up significantly - or potentially even make you ineligible for the loan.

There are exceptions to this lowest-case-credit-score rule. Most notably, if you have the higher credit score and are also the higher earner, some lenders will allow your higher credit score on the file – but this is mostly for jumbo loans above $417,000.

Ask your lender about exceptions if you have credit score disparity between co-borrowers, but know that these exceptions are rare.

2. The rate you’re quoted is the rate you’ll get

Unless you’re locking in a rate at the moment it’s quoted, that rate quote can change. Rates are tied to daily trading of mortgage bonds, so most lenders’ rates change throughout each day.

Refinancers can often lock a rate when it’s quoted – as long as you’ve given your lender enough information and documentation to determine if you qualify for the quoted rate.

You typically receive a quote when you’re beginning your pre-approval process, but a rate lock runs with a borrower and a property. So until you’ve found a home to buy, you can’t lock your rate. And while you’re home shopping, rates will be changing daily, so you’ll need updated quotes from your lender throughout your home shopping process.

Rate quotes also come with an annual percentage rate (APR), which is a federally required disclosure that shows what your rate would be if all loan fees are incorporated into the rate.

This can make you think that APR is the rate you’ll get, but your loan payment will always be based on your locked rate, and the APR is just a disclosure to help you understand fees.

3. Fixed-rate mortgages are always better than adjustable-rate mortgages

After the 2008 financial crisis, many borrowers started preferring 30-year fixed loans. For good reason too: The rate and payment on a 30-year fixed loan can never change. But the longer the rate is fixed for, the higher the rate.

So before settling on a 30-year fixed, ask yourself this question: How long am I going to own this home (or keep the loan) for?

Suppose the answer is five years. If you got a five-year adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) instead of a 30-year fixed, your rate would be about .875 percent lower. On a $200,000 loan, you’d save $146 per month in interest by taking the five-year ARM. On a $600,000 loan, the monthly interest cost savings is $438.

To optimize your home financing, peg the loan term as closely as you can to your expected time horizon in the home.

4. Real estate agents don’t care which lender you use

A federal law enacted in 1974 called the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) prohibits lenders and real estate agents from paying each other fees to refer customers to each other. So as a mortgage shopper, you’re always free to use any lender you choose.

But real estate agents who would represent you as a buyer do care which lender you use. They’ll often suggest that you use a local lender who’s experienced with your area’s nuances, such as local taxation rules, settlement procedures and appraisal methodologies.

These areas are all part of the loan process and can delay or kill deals if a nonlocal lender isn’t experienced enough to handle them.

Likewise, real estate agents representing sellers on homes you’re interested in will often prioritize purchase offers based on the quality of loan approvals. Local lenders who are known and respected by listing agents give your purchase offers more credibility.

5. Mortgage insurance is always required if you put less than 20 percent down

Mortgage insurance is a lender-risk premium placed on many home loans when you’re putting less than 20 percent down. In short, it means your total monthly housing cost is higher. But you can buy a home with less than 20 percent down and avoid mortgage insurance.

The most common way to do this is with a combination first and second mortgage – often called a piggyback – where the first mortgage is capped at 80 percent of the home’s value, and the second mortgage is for the balance of what you want to finance.

Related:

Originally published January 12, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

3 Reasons to Live in a New Home Before Renovating

In today’s market, many buyers forego fixer-uppers for move-in ready homes. As a result, significant opportunities abound in prime locations as homes that need work linger on the market.

In competitive markets, savvy consumers gravitate toward these homes that nobody else wants. Why? They can customize the home to their requirements and build equity along the way.

That said, I often recommend that buyers live in a new home for a while before undertaking any major remodeling or pricey home improvements. I’m not talking about lighting or plumbing repairs necessary to make the house habitable. Rather, I’m referring to discretionary remodeling, expansions and other improvement projects.

Here are three good reasons to at least consider holding off on the big home improvement projects until you’ve had some time to settle in.

1. Living in the home can change your mind

You may have grand visions for what you’d like to do to a home, based on its condition and your priorities at the time you buy it. But until you’re actually living there, it’s difficult to know exactly how you’ll use the house, what will work for you and what won’t.

Ultimately, it’s this day-to-day experience that will inform your home improvement decisions, instead of early notions of how you want your everyday experience to be.

2. After buying a home, you deserve a break

Buying a home is a massive project, an enormous change in your life and a shock to the system – if not your finances. I’ve seen buyers jump through hoops, spending months on end looking for a home. In some situations, it becomes a part-time job.

A home renovation can be yet another big and stressful project, what with all the decisions to make and contractors to deal with.

My recommendation: Take a break from the stress of buying your new home.

3. You need time to plan

Any renovation, no matter how small, should be designed with care. That means speaking to multiple architects, contractors or designers to get their take on your ideas and options – a time-consuming process.

An hour with a well-qualified contractor can uncover opportunities where you least expected them. For instance, even though it may be an added cost now, moving the laundry machines from the garage to the top floor during a larger renovation may save you time and money down the road.

Conversely, hiring architects and contractors while under the constraints of an escrow period is likely to cause problems for you later.

Some buyers want to jump into renovations because they don’t want to live in a construction zone or pay rent and a mortgage at the same time. While this may make some economic sense upfront, it can still cause costly problems later.

Often, buyers who said they don’t want a home that requires any work end up buying a home that needs at least some. It’s the natural evolution of the buying process. Rarely does someone end up buying the home they started off thinking they wanted.

While you should be open to doing work on a home, don’t feel stressed about getting it all done at once. Live as-is for six months to a year. Take the home for a test drive and see how it runs. You may be surprised at how your perspective and priorities change once you settle in.

Find out which home renovations DIYers most regretted tackling themselves.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.
Originally published August 2016.

Source: zillow.com

What You Need to Know About the Fair Housing Act

If you’ve searched for a new place to live recently, you’ve likely seen the Equal Housing Opportunity logo (an equal sign inside a house) on a landlord’s, real estate agent’s or lender’s paperwork.

But the Fair Housing Act is more than just a logo. It’s a federal law designed to protect renters and buyers from discrimination.

Here are some key points to know about the Fair Housing Act when you’re searching for a place to live.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

Also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson just days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who had championed the cause for many years.

The act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status (sex was added in 1974, and disability and familial status were added in 1988).

At the time the act was signed, overt housing discrimination was a huge problem throughout the country, including the attempted segregation of whole neighborhoods and the outright rejection of qualified renters based on race and other factors.

Today, much of the discrimination in the housing market is less obvious, but it’s still an unfortunate reality.

According to the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), over 25,000 housing discrimination complaints were filed with the federal government and local and national fair housing agencies in 2017. Over half of the complaints were based on disability, followed by race at 20 percent.

But these numbers reflect only reported incidents. The NFHA estimates that over 4 million instances of housing discrimination occur annually, but many people don’t realize they’ve been discriminated against – or know what steps to take when it happens.

What does housing discrimination look like?

Most of the people you encounter in your home search, including real estate agents, sellers, landlords, property management companies and lenders, are bound to Fair Housing Act regulations and additional state and local laws, based on where you live or are looking to live.

Fair Housing Act violations can occur in all phases of buying and renting, including in advertising, while you search, throughout the application process, in financing or credit checks, and during eviction proceedings.

Here are a few examples of discrimination people in protected classes have encountered:

  • A real estate agent tries to “steer” a buyer away from a certain neighborhood
  • A landlord tries to avoid renting to someone by saying the unit advertised has been rented when it hasn’t
  • A property management company refuses to rent to a family with children or requires a higher deposit
  • A landlord evicts a person of color for a reason they wouldn’t evict a white tenant for
  • A mortgage broker asks questions or requests excessive documentation from an immigrant couple that they wouldn’t request from another buyer
  • A lender charges a single woman a higher interest rate than what her credit score should dictate
  • A landlord refuses to make reasonable accommodations for a tenant who is disabled

What do I do if I’ve been discriminated against?

If you’ve been discriminated against in any of the ways above, or if you suspect that other actions taken by a property manager, landlord, real estate agent, broker or lender may be discriminatory, there are many resources at your disposal.

  1. File a report: File a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at HUD.gov. You can also file a complaint with local housing resources found through the NFHA.
  2. Get more info from local housing agencies: You can find a list of local housing counselors at HUD.gov. Besides answering questions about discrimination claims, these agencies provide home buyer education workshops, pre-purchase counseling and rental housing assistance.
  3. Talk to an attorney: Like any other legal issue, when pursuing a complaint under the Fair Housing Act, it’s smart to consult a lawyer.
  4. Find people you can trust: If you experienced housing discrimination from your real estate agent, mortgage broker or lender, it’s time to find a new professional to help you in your home search. Ask friends, family members and colleagues for referrals they know, like and trust. Remember – these real estate professionals are working for you, so their only concern should be finding you the home that’s right for you.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

How to Throw a Bridal Shower on a Budget: A Guide for the Frugal Host

Between impressive floral arches and customized sugar cookies, throwing a picture-perfect bridal shower aimed at being a social media showstopper can be pricey.

CostHelper.com, a website that compares the cost of services, reports that a typical bridal shower can run from $15 to $40 per person for a luncheon or party in a private room at a mid-range restaurant. If you’re going all out with an elaborate bridal shower, you could be talking $40 to $150 or more (gasp!) per person. Even a small, elaborate bridal shower (think 15 guests) could cost between $600 and $2,250—and that’s before invitations, decorations and cake.

The good news is you can actually honor the bride and your budget at the same time. A bridal shower with simple refreshments at the host’s home, for example, can cost $10 to $15 or less per person, according to CostHelper.com. You just need to employ some creative tips for budget bridal showers to make the event more affordable.

What is the best way to plan a bridal shower on a budget? Follow these six tips as you prepare to shower the bride, and there’s a good chance you’ll have more fun and less financial stress:

1. Zero in on important goals

Before you even begin to plan a bridal shower on a budget, you need to know the goals upfront so you can understand where you should be investing your time and money. Sit down with the bride (or, if it’s a surprise, consult a friend or family member of the betrothed) and establish expectations and a budget to match.

Personal finance coach Emma Leigh Geiser shares her starting tip for budget bridal showers: “Plan an event that honors who the bride truly is and what you can provide, without sacrificing your financial well-being.”

Geiser, who helps women in their 20s and 30s with personal financial challenges, recommends learning what the bride envisions for her celebration and which traditions are most important to her. Be upfront about how much you can realistically afford to spend on the bridal shower, Geiser says. And don’t be shy about saying the bridal shower is your gift to the bride.

If the bride’s priority is to have her bridal shower at a high-priced restaurant, find creative ways to lower other costs to still plan a bridal shower on a budget. Bring your own cake to the venue, for example, exclude alcohol from the menu or keep the guest list small. If the bride is a foodie and wants guests to dine on gourmet dishes, you could spend most of the budget on a favorite caterer, but then consider hosting the event at someone’s home and doing minimal decor so budget isn’t needed elsewhere.

Finding out what's truly important to the bride can help you plan a bridal shower on a budget.

2. Delegate tasks

If you’re wondering how to throw a bridal shower on a budget, know that you don’t have to foot the entire cost of the party yourself. Consider co-hosting with the rest of the bridal party or one of the bride’s family members, or delegating specific tasks to willing volunteers.

When personal finance blogger Becky Beach had her bridal shower, catering was delegated to her sister-in-law. “She knows how to throw a bridal shower on a budget,” Beach says. Deputized to handle the food, her sister-in-law served inexpensive bites purchased from a wholesale club, including sausage-roll appetizers, crab cakes, apple crisp tartlets and cream puffs. (With this lineup, who needs a main meal?!)

Assigning smaller purchases to other bridesmaids and close family members is a good tip for budget bridal showers because it can make the overall cost of the event much more manageable for the host. For example, if you delegate tasks or items that cost $30 each to six people, you’ll save $180. Some popular responsibilities to dole out include:

  • Appetizers
  • Dessert
  • Drinks
  • Invitations
  • Favors
  • Games
  • Prizes for games

3. Let the theme choose you

You don’t have to necessarily come up with a theme first. Among the tips for budget bridal showers is to take inventory of what props or decorations are available to you for free. Do you know someone who threw a bridal shower and has leftover decor or favors? Perhaps a friend’s home decor items will fit the bill—like globes and vintage-inspired items, which can be transformed into an exotic travel theme.

If you're wondering how to throw a bridal shower on a budget, keep an eye out for decor items that can create a theme−not the other way around.

Even store clearance items can be repurposed to help dictate your theme’s direction. For example, a home decor or craft store might have steeply discounted artwork. The trick is to look past the art and focus on the frame, Beach says. Can you replace the artwork with a picture of the happy couple? Maybe you can remove the glass altogether, glue twine to the back and use it for hanging wedding wishes from the guests.

Learning how to throw a bridal shower on a budget becomes easier if you’re able to snag off-season items from a party or outdoor store—such as tiki lamps or beach house decorations—which could make for a wonderful fall island or Hawaiian theme.

When planning a bridal shower on a budget, don’t forget to ask friends and family members if you can borrow other party items, such as cake stands, vases and tablecloths. They might even have unopened gifts or stationery sets that you can use as prizes for games.

4. Do the invitations, games and decorations for less

Sending out mid-range traditional invitations by mail can cost $3 to $4 per guest, according to data from CostHelper.com. Invitation costs can add up quickly when you are trying to plan a bridal shower on a budget.

“Plan an event that honors who the bride truly is and what you can provide, without sacrificing your financial well-being.”

Emma Leigh Geiser, personal finance coach

If you’re open to skipping snail mail, you can leverage online invitation services that allow you to create your own designs and send to however many guests you’d like for free, Geiser says. You can easily save around $100 on invitations for a guest list of 30 by going the route of a free online invite. Some services may provide you templates to choose from, or they may include advertisements, but they do the trick nicely.

If you’re wondering how to throw a bridal shower on a budget and still keep guests entertained, search online for bridal shower games that can be printed for free or a nominal cost. You could also go the DIY route if you’re so inclined. For example, have guests try to guess what is in the bride’s purse—it’s even more fun if the bride doesn’t know this game will be played.

As far as decorating goes, focus your efforts on one area that will make the biggest impression. If the bridal shower is hosted in someone’s home, go all out decorating only one room. If the bridal shower is at a venue, like a restaurant, work on fancying up only one wall. Whether at a home or a venue, this area can serve as the focal point of the event and give the bride and guests the perfect spot for photos.

5. Make low-cost venues work

When you’re planning a bridal shower on a budget, opt for a low-cost venue that has built-in unique characteristics. “Choose a space that is its own fantastic backdrop,” Geiser says. She recommends a house with natural light and great landscaping in order to cut down on decorating costs.

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Hosting the party at a bride’s friend’s or family member’s home is ideal, since it would be free. “We all know at least one person who has a killer house; ask them if they wouldn’t mind hosting,” Geiser says. (Be sure to preview the site in advance of the bridal shower.) Another good choice: Apartment buildings and condos often have clubhouses or event rooms that can be used for free or rented for a nominal fee. See if any of your bride’s family or friends have access to these areas.

Other local resources can serve as low-cost venues when you’re working on how to throw a bridal shower on a budget. A park, for example, might have a nice garden or even an indoor space that could be used. Research your town’s online municipal pages for tips on how to secure local venues. Some sites might require a nominal fee, early bookings or have other restrictions, so work on booking a space as soon as you have a bridal shower date in mind.

6. Cut food costs by keeping things simple

Whether you are hosting the bridal shower at a restaurant or at someone’s home, schedule a morning brunch or appetizers and salads in the late afternoon when guests are in-between meals. Breakfast dishes, such as an egg casserole or French toast bake, can often cost less to make than a meat-centered entree, Beach adds.

Keeping food simple is a great tip when you're trying to plan a bridal shower on a budget.

If you are in charge of preparing food, stick with quick and easy options as a tip for budget bridal showers. “You don’t have to cook and create everything yourself,” Beach says. “There are so many beautifully crafted hors d’oeuvres you can get prepackaged.”

If you are hosting the bridal shower at a restaurant, ask if they offer a buffet option instead of sit-down catering: Choosing a buffet meal is typically about 30 to 50 percent cheaper than a sit-down meal, according to Eventective, which helps you find venues and event services.

If you’ve got your heart set on sit-down dining, narrow down the menu options in advance. You or the restaurant can make a simple printout of a few entree choices and not share full menus with guests. (Adding the bride’s name to the top of a personalized menu is also a nice touch.) In addition to being a tip for budget bridal showers, this strategy can also streamline the ordering and serving process so you have more time for games and opening gifts. Win-win!

Choosing a buffet meal is typically about 30 to 50 percent cheaper than a sit-down meal.

Eventective, special event and venue services

Keep track of the expenses when planning a bridal shower on a budget

You can master how to throw a bridal shower on a budget if you determine the guest-of-honor’s goals from the start. Another tip to remember when you plan a bridal shower on a budget is to track your expenses throughout the planning and hosting process to make sure you’re staying on budget.

If you are splitting costs with friends and family, remember to get reimbursed—preferably before the event, so you don’t have to worry about tracking people down to talk about business while celebrating.

As Geiser says, “What actually makes the event are the attendees, the conversation and the fun you create as a group celebrating the bride.”

The post How to Throw a Bridal Shower on a Budget: A Guide for the Frugal Host appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Say What? Home-Buying Lingo You Should Know

DTI, PMI, LTV … TBH, it can be hard to keep all this stuff straight. This lexicon of real estate terms and acronyms will help you speak the language like a pro.

Appraisal management company (AMC): An institution operated independently of a lender that, once notified by a lender, orders a home appraisal.

Appraisal: An informed, impartial and well-documented opinion of the value of a home, prepared by a licensed and certified appraiser and based on data about comparable homes in the area, as well as the appraiser’s own walkthrough.

Approved for short sale: A term that indicates that a homeowner’s bank has approved a reduced listing price on a home, and the home is ready for resale.

American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI): A not-for-profit professional association that sets and promotes standards for property inspections and provides educational opportunities to its members. (i.e., Look for this accreditation or something similar when shopping for a home inspector.)

Attorney state: A state in which a real estate attorney is responsible for closing.

Back-end ratio: One of two debt-to-income ratios that a lender analyzes to determine a borrower’s eligibility for a home loan. The ratio compares the borrower’s monthly debt payments (proposed housing expenses, plus student loan, car payment, credit card debt, maintenance or child support and installment loans) to gross income.

Buyers market: Market conditions that exist when homes for sale outnumber buyers. Homes sit on the market a long time, and prices drop.

Cancellation of escrow: A situation in which a buyer backs out of a home purchase.

Capacity: The amount of money a home buyer can afford to borrow.

Cash-value policy: A homeowners insurance policy that pays the replacement cost of a home, minus depreciation, should damage occur.

Closing: A one- to two-hour meeting during which ownership of a home is transferred from seller to buyer. A closing is usually attended by the buyer, the seller, both real estate agents and the lender.

Closing costs: Fees associated with the purchase of a home that are due at the end of the sales transaction. Fees may include the appraisal, the home inspection, a title search, a pest inspection and more. Buyers should budget for an amount that is 1% to 3% of the home’s purchase price.

Closing disclosure (CD): A five-page document sent to the buyer three days before closing. This document spells out all the terms of the loan: the amount, the interest rate, the monthly payment, mortgage insurance, the monthly escrow amount and all closing costs.

Closing escrow: The final and official transfer of property from seller to buyer and delivery of appropriate paperwork to each party. Closing of escrow is the responsibility of the escrow agent.

Comparative market analysis (CMA): An in-depth analysis, prepared by a real estate agent, that determines the estimated value of a home based on recently sold homes of similar condition, size, features and age that are located in the same area.

Compliance agreement: A document signed by the buyer at closing, in which they agree to cooperate if the lender needs to fix any mistakes in the loan documents.

Comps: Or comparable sales, are homes in a given area that have sold within the past six months that a real estate agent uses to determine a home’s value.

Condo insurance: Homeowners insurance that covers personal property and the interior of a condo unit should damage occur.

Contingencies: Conditions written into a home purchase contract that protect the buyer should issues arise with financing, the home inspection, etc.

Conventional 97: A home loan that requires a down payment equivalent to 3% of the home’s purchase price. Private mortgage insurance, which is required, can be canceled when the owner reaches 80% equity.

Conventional loan: A home loan not guaranteed by a government agency, such as the FHA or the VA.

Days on market (DOM): The number of days a property listing is considered active.

Depository institutions: Banks, savings and loans, and credit unions. These institutions underwrite as well as set home loan pricing in-house.

Down payment: A certain portion of the home’s purchase price that a buyer must pay. A minimum requirement is often dictated by the loan type.

Debt-to-income ratio (DTI): A ratio that compares a home buyer’s expenses to gross income.

Earnest money: A security deposit made by the buyer to assure the seller of his or her intent to purchase.

Equity: A percentage of the home’s value owned by the homeowner.

Escrow account: An account required by a lender and funded by a buyer’s mortgage payment to pay the buyer’s homeowners insurance and property taxes.

Escrow agent: A neutral third-party officer who holds all paperwork and funding in trust until all parties in the transaction fulfill their obligations as part of the transfer of property ownership.

Escrow state: A state in which an escrow agent is responsible for closing.

Fannie Mae: A government-sponsored enterprise chartered in 1938 to help ensure a reliable and affordable supply of mortgage funds throughout the country.

Federal Reserve: The central bank of the United States, established in 1913 to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible and more stable monetary and financial system.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA): A government agency created by the National Housing Act of 1934 that insures loans made by private lenders.

FHA 203(k): A rehabilitation loan backed by the federal government that permits home buyers to finance money into a mortgage to repair, improve or upgrade a home.

Foreclosure: A property repossessed by a bank when the owner fails to make mortgage payments.

Freddie Mac: A government agency chartered by Congress in 1970 to provide a constant source of mortgage funding for the nation’s housing markets.

Funding fee: A fee that protects the lender from loss and also funds the loan program itself. Examples include the VA funding fee and the FHA funding fee.

Gentrification: The process of rehabilitation and renewal that occurs in an urban area as the demographic changes. Rents and property values increase, culture changes and lower-income residents are often displaced.

Guaranteed replacement coverage: Homeowners insurance that covers what it would cost to replace property based on today’s prices, not original purchase price, should damage occur.

Homeowners association (HOA): The governing body of a housing development, condo or townhome complex that sets rules and regulations and charges dues and special assessments used to maintain common areas and cover unexpected expenses respectively.

Home equity line of credit (HELOC): A revolving line of credit with an adjustable interest rate. Like a credit card, this line of credit has a limit. There is a specified time during which money can be drawn. Payment in full is due at the end of the draw period.

Home equity loan: A lump-sum loan that allows the homeowner to use the equity in their home as collateral. The loan places a lien against the property and reduces home equity.

Home inspection: A nondestructive visual look at the systems in a building. Inspection occurs when the home is under contract or in escrow.

Homeowners insurance: A policy that protects the structure of the home, its contents, injury to others and living expenses should damage occur.

Housing ratio: One of two debt-to-income ratios that a lender analyzes to determine a borrower’s eligibility for a home loan. The ratio compares total housing cost (principal, homeowners insurance, taxes and private mortgage insurance) to gross income.

In escrow: A period of time (30 days or longer) after a buyer has made an offer on a home and a seller has accepted. During this time, the home is inspected and appraised, and the title searched for liens, etc.

Jumbo loan: A loan amount that exceeds the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac limit, which is generally $425,100 in most parts of the U.S.

Listing price: The price of a home, as set by the seller.

Loan estimate: A three-page document sent to an applicant three days after they apply for a home loan. The document includes loan terms, monthly payment and closing costs.

Loan-to-value ratio (LTV): The amount of the loan divided by the price of the house. Lenders reward lower LTV ratios.

Market value coverage: Homeowners insurance that covers the amount the home would go for on the market, not the cost to repair, should damage occur.

Mechanic’s lien: A hold against a property, filed in the county recorder’s office by someone who’s done work on a home and not been paid. If the homeowner refuses to pay, the lien allows a foreclosure action.

Mortgage broker: A licensed professional who works on behalf of the buyer to secure financing through a bank or other lending institution.

Mortgage companies: Lenders who underwrite loans in-house and fund loans from a line of credit before selling them off to a loan buyer.

Mortgage interest deduction: Mortgage interest paid in a year subtracted from annual gross salary.

Mortgage interest rate: The price of borrowing money. The base rate is set by the Federal Reserve and then customized per borrower, based on credit score, down payment, property type and points the buyer pays to lower the rate.

Multiple listing service (MLS): A database where real estate agents list properties for sale.

Origination fee: A fee, charged by a broker or lender, to initiate and complete the home loan application process.

Piggyback loan: A combination of loans bundled to avoid private mortgage Insurance. One loan covers 80% of the home’s value, another loan covers 10% to 15% of the home’s value, and the buyer contributes the remainder.

Principal, interest, property taxes and homeowners insurance (PITI): The components of a monthly mortgage payment.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI): A fee charged to borrowers who make a down payment that is less than 20% of the home’s value. The fee, 0.3% to 1.5% of the yearly loan amount, can be canceled in certain circumstances when the borrower reaches 20% equity.

Points: Prepaid interest owed at closing, with one point representing 1% of the loan. Paying points, which are tax deductible, will lower the monthly mortgage payment.

Pre-approval: A thorough assessment of a borrower’s income, assets and other data to determine a loan amount they would qualify for. A real estate agent will request a pre-approval or pre-qualification letter before showing a buyer a home.

Pre-qualification: A basic assessment of income, assets and credit score to determine what, if any, loan programs a borrower might qualify for. A real estate agent will request a pre-approval or pre-qualification letter before showing a buyer a home.

Property tax exemption: A reduction in taxes based on specific criteria, such as installation of a renewable energy system or rehabilitation of a historic home.

Round table closing: All parties (the buyer, the seller, the real estate agents and maybe the lender) meet at a specified time to sign paperwork, pay fees and finalize the transfer of homeownership.

Sellers market: Market conditions that exist when buyers outnumber homes for sale. Bidding wars are common.

Short sale: The sale of a home by an owner who owes more on the home than it’s worth (i.e., “underwater” or “upside down”). The owner’s bank must approve a lower listing price before the home can be sold.

Special assessment: A fee charged by a condo complex HOA when cash on reserve is not enough to cover unexpected expenses.

Tax lien: The government’s legal claim against property when the homeowner neglects or fails to pay a tax debt.

Third-party review required: Verbiage included in a home listing to indicate that the lender has not yet approved the home for short sale. The seller must submit the buyer’s offer to the lender for approval.

Title insurance: Insurance that protects the buyer and lender should an individual or entity step forward with a claim that was attached to the property before the seller transferred legal ownership of the property or “title” to the buyer.

Transfer stamps: The form in which transfer taxes are paid by the home buyer. Stamps can also serve as proof of transfer tax payment.

Transfer taxes: Fees imposed by the state, county or municipality on transfer of title.

Under contract: A period of time (30 days or longer) after a buyer has made an offer on a home and a seller has accepted. During this time, the home is inspected and appraised, and the title is searched for liens, etc.

Underwater or upside down: A situation in which a homeowner owes more for a property than it’s worth.

Underwriting: A process a lender follows to assess a home loan applicant’s income, assets and credit, and the risk involved in offering the applicant a mortgage.

VA home loan: A home loan partially guaranteed by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs and offered by private lenders, such as banks and mortgage companies.

VantageScore: A credit scoring model lenders use to make lending decisions. A borrower’s score is based on bill-paying habits, debt balances, age, variety of credit accounts and number of inquiries on credit reports.

Walkthrough: A buyer’s final inspection of a home before closing.

Water certificate: A document that certifies that a water account has been paid in full. The seller must produce this certificate at closing.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

Buying a Home? Plan for These Hidden Costs

You’re excited because you just found the perfect home. The neighborhood is great, the house is charming and the price is right.

But the asking price is just the beginning. Be prepared for additional – and often unexpected – home-buying costs that can catch buyers unaware and quickly leave you underwater on your new home.

Expect the unexpected

For almost every person who buys a home, the spending doesn’t stop with the down payment. Homeowners insurance and closing costs, like appraisal and lender fees, are typically easy to plan for because they’re lumped into the home-buying process, but most costs beyond those vary.

The previous owners of your home are the biggest factor affecting your move-in costs. If they take the refrigerator when they move out, you’ll have to buy one to replace it. The same goes for any large appliance.

And while these may seem like a small purchase compared to buying a home, appliances quickly add up – especially if you just spent most of your cash on a down payment.

You’ll also be on the hook for any immediate improvements the home needs, unless you negotiate them as part of your home purchase agreement.

Unfortunately, these costs are the least hidden of those you may encounter.

When purchasing a home, definitely hire a home inspector (this costs money too!) to ensure the home isn’t going to collapse the next time it rains. Inspectors look for bad electrical wiring, weak foundations, wood rot and other hidden problems you may not find on your own.

Worse still, these problems are rarely covered by home insurance. If an inspector discovers a serious problem, you’ll then have to decide if you still want to purchase the home. Either way, you’ll be out the cost of hiring the inspector.

Consider the creature comforts

Another cost is your own comfort. There are a number of smaller considerations you may not think about until after you move in.

Are you used to having cable? If so, is your new home wired for cable? It’s much harder to watch a technician crawling around punching holes in your walls when you own those walls.

And if you’re moving from the world of renting to the world of homeownership, you’ll probably be faced with much higher utility bills. Further, you could find yourself paying for utilities once covered by a landlord, like water and garbage pickup.

Plan ahead

The best way to prepare for the unknown and unexpected is through research and planning. This starts with budgeting before house hunting and throughout your search.

Look at homes in your budget that need improvements, and then research how much those improvements could cost. Nothing is worse than buying a home thinking you can fix the yard for a few hundred dollars and then realizing it will cost thousands.

There’s really no limit to how prepared you can be. Say you find a nice home that’s priced lower than others in the area because of its age. You may save money on the list price, but with an older house, you could be slapped with a much higher home insurance payment, making the house more expensive in the long run.

This is where preparation comes in. Research home insurance and property prices in the areas you’re considering to make more educated decisions before you ever make that first offer.

Clearly define how much you intend to put toward your down payment, and then look at how much cash that leaves for improvements and minor costs, like changing the locks. That way, when you find a house at the high end of your range, you’ll know to walk away if it requires a new washer and dryer or HVAC system upgrade.

Establish a rough estimate for as many costs as you can think of, and be extremely critical of homes at the top of your budget – otherwise, you could easily end up being house-poor.

Know your budget and plan ahead. Buying a home is a lot less scary when you know what you’re getting into.

Top featured photo from Offset.

Related:

Originally published August 2016.

Source: zillow.com

Is a Dual Agency Relationship Risky?

Buyers and sellers sometimes have the option of entering into a dual agency relationship with their real estate agent. Although this is not necessarily a problem, you should be aware of exactly what a dual real estate agency means and the restrictions it can place on your agent.

What is a dual real estate agency?

The term “agency” refers to the relationship that you, as a buyer or seller, have with your real estate agent. Dual agencies can occur with two agents or with a single agent.

A dual agency with two agents can occur when the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent are licensed under the same broker.

In a dual agency with a single agent, potential buyers may ask a seller’s real estate agent to submit an offer on their behalf. In this case, the agent is acting as a dual agent.

Dual real estate agency disclosure

Because dual agencies represent a conflict of interest for the buyer and seller, some states don’t allow them.

In states where dual agencies are legal, however, the law requires that a dual real estate agent inform both the buyer and seller of a dual real estate agency. These two parties must also sign consent forms indicating that they understand the concept of dual agency, as well as the restrictions imposed on the real estate agent by this type of agreement.

If either the buyer or the seller refuses to sign the dual agency agreement, the transaction cannot continue. Once the dual agency agreement is executed, the real estate agent becomes known as the disclosed dual agent.

Disadvantages of dual agencies

Dual agency imposes some restrictions on a real estate agent. The agent is required to treat both buyer and seller with fairness and honesty.

The agent is required to provide full disclosure concerning the property to the buyer, but they cannot reveal confidential information about the seller. When the time comes to make an offer, a dual real estate agent cannot advise the buyer on how much to offer, nor can they advise the seller to accept or reject an offer.

In a New York Department of State memo, consumers are advised to be wary of dual agency relationships. The memo states that when a person enters into a dual agency relationship, they are forfeiting their right to that agent’s loyalty. The agent then cannot advance the interests of either party.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

Buyer, Beware: Is Your Future House Haunted?

We’ve all heard home-buying horror stories. Sellers backing out or financing falling through can quickly kill a deal. But these snags don’t hold a candle to buying a “stigmatized” home.

A home where paranormal activity, suicide, murder, cult activity or other misfortunes and crimes took place could be categorized as a stigmatized property.

In real estate terms, a stigma refers to an intangible attribute of a property that may prompt a psychological or emotional response on the part of a potential buyer. In addition to physical defects, a house may have unusual features or a history that negatively impacts its value.

Get to know your state’s disclosure laws

Here’s a scary fact: A listing agent may not be required to disclose a stigma to buyers.

Ever heard the phrase “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware)? In the past, sellers were not required to disclose anything about homes they were selling. Over the years, most states have made changes to this rule and now require that buyers be made aware of certain issues.

The law urges buyers, sellers and their agents to engage in fair and honest dealing with all principals in the real estate transaction. However, the laws that regulate disclosure of sketchy events vary from state to state. Some state laws explicitly relieve the salesperson or broker of the obligation to disclose certain property stigmas.

For instance, what if a house is haunted? Massachusetts is particularly lax when it comes to stigmas. In the witch city of Salem, a seller’s agent does not necessarily need to volunteer information about paranormal activity or even a felony, suicide or homicide that has occurred in a home.

But if you or your agent asks a seller’s agent directly, they must answer truthfully. This differs from California’s stringent laws, which, in addition to other disclosures, mandate that buyers be informed of any deaths that occurred at a property in the last three years.

While it’s certainly ethical for sellers to be upfront about any defects that may impact the value of a property, it may not be a legal requirement.

Research before you fall in love

Since you’re unlikely to find the descriptors “haunted” or “former crime scene” in a property listing, how should you go about digging up some dirt?

  • Check with a real estate attorney in your state to see what disclosures are required.
  • Ask the seller’s representative if criminal or paranormal activity has been reported. Again, sellers and their agents are legally obligated to reveal problems they’re aware of when asked.
  • Carefully review the seller’s disclosures, if one is included with the listing. In many states, property owners are forced to put their real estate disclosures in writing.
  • Get the inside scoop from the neighbors.
  • Always Google the address of your future home. You may uncover a headline that sways your decision.

You may learn that a former owner passed away in the house. In areas with older properties, this is likely going to be the case, though it may not be cause for concern. Someone peacefully passing away in the comfort of their home is a lot different from a situation that involved foul play.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

What Is Escrow?

In this article:

  • What is an escrow account?
  • How does escrow work?
  • What does in escrow mean?
  • What does it mean to close escrow?
  • What is an escrow payment?
  • Is an escrow account required?

When buying a home, you’ll probably hear your lender or real estate agent use the word escrow. The term escrow can describe a few different functions, from the time your offer is accepted to the day you close on your home – and even after you become a homeowner with a mortgage.

There are essentially two types of escrow accounts. One is used throughout the homebuying process until you close on the home. The other, commonly referred to as an impound account, is used by your mortgage servicer to manage property tax and insurance premium payments on your behalf.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as financial or legal advice, guarantees or warranties of any kind. Reference to escrow accounts here refers to an escrow account established to facilitate the purchase transaction of a new home.

What is an escrow account?

An escrow account is a contractual arrangement in which a neutral third party, known as an escrow agent, receives and disburses funds for transacting parties (i.e., you and the seller). Typically, a selling agent opens an escrow account through a title company once you and the seller agree on a home price and sign a purchase agreement. When you’re buying a home, this escrow account serves two main purposes:

  1. To hold earnest money while you’re in escrow
  2. To handle and disburse the funds until all escrow conditions are met and escrow is closed

How does escrow work?

When you make an offer on a home, the seller may require you to pay earnest money that will be held in an escrow account until you and the seller negotiate a contract and close the deal. This earnest money gives the seller added assurance that you do not intend to back out of the deal, and it protects them in the event that you do. It also motivates the seller to pick your offer over others.

During the escrow process, the escrow agent will handle the transfer of the property, the exchange of money, and any related documents to ensure all parties receive what they are owed. This removes uncertainty over whether either party will be able to fulfill its obligations, and it helps ensure that neither party is favored over the other.

What does in escrow mean?

When you hear the phrase “in escrow“, it means that all items placed in the escrow account (e.g., earnest money, property deed, loan funds) are held with an escrow agent until all conditions of the escrow arrangement have been met. The conditions usually involve receiving an appraisal, title search and approved financing.

While the earnest money is in escrow, neither you nor the seller can touch it. Once conditions are met, the earnest money will likely be applied toward the purchase price or your down payment on the home.

What does it mean to close escrow?

To close escrow means that all of the escrow conditions have been met. You’ve received a home loan, and the title has legally passed from the seller to you. During the closing of escrow process, a closing or escrow agent (who may be an attorney, depending on the state in which the property is located) will disburse transaction funds to the appropriate parties, ensure all documents are signed and prepare a new deed naming you the homeowner.

Afterward, the escrow officer will send the deed to the county recorder for recording before escrow is officially closed. Once closed, you and the seller will receive a final closing statement and other documents in the mail. Check the statement carefully and call the closing agent immediately if you spot an error. Save the statement with your most important papers, as you will need it when you file your next income tax return.

What is an escrow payment?

After you purchase a home, you’ll be responsible for maintaining insurance on the property and paying state and local property taxes. The property tax and insurance premiums you owe are the escrow payments made to your escrow or impound account.

The impound account ensures that the funds for taxes and insurance are available and that premiums are paid on time. Your lender doesn’t want you to miss a tax payment and risk a foreclosure on the home. They also don’t want you to miss a homeowners insurance payment, or they may be forced to take out additional insurance on your behalf to cover the home in the event of property loss or severe damage.

How monthly escrow payments work

The amount of escrow due each month into the impound account is based on your estimated annual property tax and insurance obligations, which may vary throughout the life of your loan. Because of this, your mortgage servicer may collect a monthly escrow payment, along with your principal and interest, and use those collected funds to pay taxes and insurance on your behalf. 

Your lender will notify you 30 days before your next payment if the amount changes. You can also ask your mortgage servicer to walk you through the local impound account funding schedule that applies to your loan. If there are insufficient funds in your impound account to cover the taxes and insurance, your monthly mortgage payment may increase (even though your principal and interest will stay the same on fixed-rate loans).

Initial escrow payment at closing

Lenders usually require at least two months’ worth of insurance and property tax funds in the impound account at closing. The amount you have to prepay into an impound account for these costs is based on your location. Keep in mind that these funds aren’t additional closing costs. Instead, you’re prepaying extra months of home insurance and property tax bills that you would be required to pay when due. Your mortgage servicer will list the initial escrow payment amount due at closing on your loan estimate.

Your escrow analysis statement

Each month, your mortgage statement will show you how much you’ve accrued in your impound account. And each year, your mortgage servicer is required by law to send you an annual escrow account analysis showing you some of the following:

  • The amount of funds received from you
  • The amount of funds paid out for insurance and property tax
  • An estimation of how much the escrow portion of your monthly payment may increase or decrease based on the premiums owed
  • Notice if you don’t have enough funds in your account to pay the estimated tax and insurance due in the next bill (i.e., escrow shortage)
  • Notice if you have a negative balance in your account that is owed to bring your account to current (i.e., escrow deficiency)

Is an escrow account required?

An escrow account for paying property tax and homeowners insurance is generally required by lenders who originate VA, FHA and conventional loans. In some instances, lenders may allow the homeowner to pay the property tax and home insurance as a lump sum instead of setting up an escrow account. If you waive escrow, be aware that some lenders may charge you a fee or an increased interest rate.

While you may not be required to set up an escrow account, you can choose to open one voluntarily to break up insurance and property tax payments into smaller amounts, keep track of payment due dates and avoid surprise bills at the end of the tax year.

Need a home loan? Contact a pre-approval lender today to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

The post What Is Escrow? appeared first on Home Buyers Guide.

Source: zillow.com

What Happens to Mortgage Rates When the Fed Cuts Rates?

Just about everybody with a wallet is impacted by the Federal Reserve. That means you—homeowners and prospective buyers. Whether you’re already nestled in to the house of your dreams or still looking to find it, you’ll probably want to track what happens to mortgage rates when the Fed cuts rates. When the Fed (as it’s commonly referred to) cuts its federal funds rate—the rate banks charge each other to lend funds overnight—the move could impact your mortgage costs.

The Fed’s overall goal when it cuts the federal funds rate is to stimulate the economy by spurring consumers to spend and borrow. This is good news if you are carrying debt because borrowing tends to become less expensive following a Fed rate cut (think: lower credit card APRs). But in the case of homeownership, what happens to mortgage rates when the Fed cuts rates can be a double-edged sword.

What happens to mortgage rates when the Fed cuts rates depends on many factors.

The connection between a Fed rate cut and mortgage rates isn’t so crystal clear because the federal funds rate doesn’t directly influence the rate on every type of home loan.

“Mortgage rates are formed by global market forces, and the Federal Reserve participates in those market forces but isn’t always the most important factor,” says Holden Lewis, who’s been covering the mortgage industry for nearly 20 years and is also a regular contributor to NerdWallet.

To understand which side of the sword you’re on, you’ll need an answer to the question, “How does a Fed rate cut affect mortgage rates?” Read on to find out if you stand to potentially gain on your mortgage in a low-rate environment:

How a fixed-rate mortgage moves—or doesn’t

A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that remains the same for the entire length of the loan. If the Fed cuts rates, what happens to mortgage rates if you are an existing homeowner with a fixed-rate mortgage? Nothing should happen to your monthly payments following a Fed rate cut because your rate has already been locked in.

“For current homeowners with a fixed-rate mortgage set at a previous higher level, the existing mortgage rate stays put,” Lewis says.

If you’re a prospective homebuyer shopping around for a fixed-rate mortgage, the news of what happens to mortgage rates when the Fed cuts rates may be different.

For prospective homebuyers: If the Fed cuts its interest rate and the 10-year Treasury yield is similarly tracking, the rates on fixed-rate mortgages could drop, “and you could lock in interest at a lower fixed rate than before.”

Holden Lewis, mortgage expert and NerdWallet contributor

The federal funds rate does not directly impact the rates on this type of home loan, so a Fed rate cut doesn’t guarantee that lenders will start offering lower mortgage rates. However, the 10-year Treasury yield does tend to influence fixed-rate mortgages, and this yield often moves in the same direction as the federal funds rate.

If the Fed cuts its interest rate and the 10-year Treasury yield is similarly tracking, the rates on fixed-rate mortgages could drop, “and you could lock in interest at a lower fixed rate than before,” Lewis says. It’s also possible that rates on fixed mortgages will not fall following a Fed rate cut.

Stroud Financial Management.

Since ARMs are often adjusted annually after the fixed period, you may not feel the impact of the Fed rate cut until your ARM’s next annual loan adjustment. For instance, if there is one (or more) rate cuts during the course of a year, the savings from the rate reduction(s) would hit all at once at the time of your reset.

If the Fed cuts rates, what happens to mortgage rates for prospective homebuyers considering an ARM? An even lower rate could be in your future—at least for a specific period of time.

“If you’re looking for a shorter-term mortgage, say a 5/1 ARM, you could save considerably on interest,” Stroud says. That’s because the introductory rate of an ARM is usually lower than the rate of a fixed-rate mortgage, Stroud explains. Add that benefit to lower rates fueled by a Fed rate cut and an ARM could be enticing if it supports your financial goals and plans.

“If the Fed drops its rate during the adjustment period, you could see your interest rate go down and, in turn, see lower monthly payments.” 

Emily Stroud, financial advisor and founder of Stroud Financial Management

Benefits of other variable-rate loans following a rate cut

If you have a Fed rate cut and mortgage rates on your mind and are a borrower with other types of variable-rate loans, you could be impacted following a Fed rate cut. Borrowers with variable-rate home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and adjustable-rate Federal Housing Administration loans (FHA ARMs), for example, may end up ahead of the curve when the Fed cuts its rate, according to Lewis:

  • A HELOC is typically a “second mortgage” that provides you access to cash for goals like debt consolidation or home improvement and is a revolving line of credit, using your home as collateral. A Fed rate cut could result in lower rates for variable-rate HELOCs that track with the prime rate. If you are an existing homeowner with a HELOC, you could see your monthly payments drop following a Fed rate cut.
  • An FHA ARM is an ARM insured by the federal government. If you’re wondering about a Fed rate cut and mortgage rates, know that this type of mortgage behaves much like a conventional variable-rate loan when the Fed cuts it rate, Lewis says. Existing homeowners with an FHA ARM could see a rate drop, and prospective homebuyers could also benefit from lower rates following a Fed rate cut.

When it comes to a Fed rate cut and mortgage rates, refinancing to a lower rate could be an option for existing homeowners.

Refinancing: A silver lining for fixed rates

When it comes to a Fed rate cut and mortgage rates, refinancing to a lower rate could be an option if you have an existing fixed-rate loan. The process of refinancing replaces an existing loan with a new one that pays off your old loan’s debt. You then make payments on your new loan, so the goal is to refinance at a time when you can get better terms.

“If someone buys a home one year and a Fed rate cut results in a mortgage rate reduction, for example, it presents a real refinance opportunity for homeowners,” Lewis says. “Just a small percentage point reduction could possibly trim a few hundred bucks from your monthly payments.”

Before a refinancing decision is made based on a Fed rate cut and mortgage rates, you should consider any upfront costs and fees associated with refinancing to ensure they don’t offset any potential savings.

Managing your finances as a homeowner

You might be expecting some savings in your future now that you’re armed with information on what happens to mortgage rates when the Fed cuts rates. Whether you’re a homebuyer and financing your new home is going to cost you less with a lower interest rate, or you’re an existing homeowner with an ARM that may come with lower monthly payments, Stroud suggests to use any uncovered savings wisely.

“Invest that cash back into your property, pay down your home equity debt or borrow with it,” she says.

Understanding the connection between the Fed rate cut and mortgage rates can help you better manage your finances as a homeowner.

While news of a Fed rate cut may entice you to analyze how your mortgage will be impacted, remember there are many factors that help to determine your mortgage rate, including your credit score, home price, loan amount and down payment. The Fed’s actions are only one piece of a larger equation.

Even though the Fed’s rate decisions may dominate headlines immediately following a rate cut, your home is a long-term investment and one you’ll likely maintain for years. To best prepare for what happens to mortgage rates when the Fed cuts rates is to always manage your home finances responsibly and be sure to make choices that will lead you down the right path based on your financial goals.

*This should not be considered tax or investment advice. Please consult a financial planner or tax advisor if you have questions.

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The post What Happens to Mortgage Rates When the Fed Cuts Rates? appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com