Tag: real estate

Featured, Life Events, News

More Rich People Are Choosing to Rent Than Ever Before — Here’s Why

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Renting a home or condo has become a status symbol for some wealthy Americans.

Karen Rodriguez, an Atlanta, Ga., real estate agent, says people frequently contact her who are interested in condos renting for $10,000 to $15,000 a month in properties such as the Ritz-Carlton Residences, which have floors of condos above upscale hotel rooms.

“I do see a lot of high-net-worth renters,” says Rodriguez, with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties. “They have the disposable income to pay top dollar.”

Renter households increased by 9 million during 2005-2015, reaching nearly 43 million in 2015, according to the State of the Nation’s Housing report, an annual study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies that analyzes U.S. Census Bureau data. Of those, 1.6 million renter households earn $100,000 or more, representing 11% of all renters.

“Indeed, renter households earning $100,000 or more have been the fastest-growing segment over the past three years,” the report stated.

Here are four reasons why high earners are choosing to rent.

They’re frustrated with market trends.

stock market numbers and graph

Rob Austin, a biotech account manager in the Los Angeles area with a household income of over $350,000, rents a 1,700-square-foot townhome with his wife and two children.

In the last 10 years, 1.2 million households that earn $150,000 became renters, up from 551,000 in 2005. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, RentCafe.com reported in late 2016 that “wealthy households” that earn more than $150,000 annually increased by 217%, compared to an 82% rise in homeowners in the same income bracket.

The $150,000-and-up dollar amount served as the benchmark for “wealthy” renters because that’s the top of the bracket used in the American Community Survey to identify renters and homeowners.

Even when they had their second child in 2016, Austin says they were more steadfast to keep renting the two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath townhome instead of buying. Prices are increasing so much that they’re “priced beyond perfection,” he says.

“It’s gotten worse,” he says. “Everything is mispriced at this point.”z

They want the next best thing.

Some buyers’ mindset is, “I don’t love it, so I’m just going to go rent a house,” says Atlanta, Ga., real estate agent Ben Hirsh.

Some may be bored with what’s on the market and are holding out for a home or condo with even more extravagant features or amenities. “They’re not happy with what’s out there,” says Rodriguez, also founder of Group Kora Real Estate Group, which sells new and luxury condos.

If they’re in a location or price range that’s hot, they could get more for their home if they sell now. Some wealthy homeowners take advantage of the resale market by going ahead and selling a home or condo and biding their time while renting. For example, if they’re sold on news about ultraluxe condos that have been announced, but are not under construction, they don’t mind renting in the interim.

“People think there’s more coming,” Rodriguez says.

Some clients have so much wealth that they’re willing to pay for the entire year up front for an unfurnished condo, she adds. Investors also have noticed the market trends and are buying condos for $1 million to $2 million with the intention to rent them out.

They don’t want a long-term commitment.

retirement retire millionaire happy couple on the beach

Some wealthy homeowners are ready to sell their million-dollar estates for a lock-it-and-leave-it lifestyle, but aren’t sold on townhome or condo living.

Instead, they’re willing to spend what can amount to the down payment on a starter home for monthly rent to experience the luxury condo lifestyle with privacy and ritzy amenities, like 24/7 room service and spa access.

“They want to test out a high-rise,” Rodriguez says. “They are people who definitely can afford to buy.”

A 2016 report by the National Association of Realtors identified the top 10 markets in the U.S. with the highest share of renters qualified to buy. The study analyzed household income, areas with job growth above the national average, and qualifying income levels (a 3% down payment in each metro area’s median home price in 2015) in about 100 of the largest U.S. metro areas. The markets that are above the national level (28%) were:

  • Toledo, Ohio (46%)
  • Little Rock, Ark. (46%)
  • Dayton, Ohio (44%)
  • Lakeland, Fla. (41%)
  • St. Louis, Mo. (41%)
  • Columbia, S.C. (41%)
  • Atlanta, Ga. (40%)
  • Columbus, Ohio (38%)
  • Tampa, Fla. (38%)
  • Ogden, Utah (38%)

The short-term mentality also may be the nature of the industry that brings people to a city. Some prospective renters whom Rodriguez meets are planning to live in Georgia for a couple of years because of work, such as jobs in the growing entertainment sector. Films such as the “Avengers” and TV shows such as “The Walking Dead” shoot in metro Atlanta.

They don’t want to live out of a suitcase in a hotel and have the income to afford high-priced rentals, joining political figures and international executives who also are among those making the same choice, Rodriguez says.

They want cash in the bank.

Townhomes sell for about $800,000 in Austin’s neighborhood in California. To make a 20% down payment, he’d have to shell out $160,000 up front.

“Why would I want to tie up $160,000 in cash in an asset that most likely is not going to go up a lot more — and more than likely has topped and has nowhere to go but down in the next cycle?” Austin asks.

Austin says he’s not wavering from his decision, although he’s “taking heat” from friends since he has the income to purchase a home.

“We’re bucking the trend by saying, ‘No thanks, we don’t want to play (the real estate market),’” he says. “We’ll just wait.”

Lori Johnston
Lori Johnston |

Lori Johnston is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lori here

TAGS: , ,

Featured, News

This Family Spent $6,000 to Save Their Home and Still Wound Up Facing Foreclosure

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Lageshia Moore of Far Rockaway, N.Y. says her family spent $6,000 in hopes it would save them from foreclosure. “Some people might say, ‘OK, just get a new house.’ But it wasn’t that simple,” says Moore.

When Lageshia Moore and her husband found their home in 2006, they thought it would be a perfect place to raise their family. The $549,000 Far Rockaway, N.Y., duplex even had future income potential if they could find a reliable tenant and rent out one half of the house.

In order to purchase the property and avoid primary mortgage insurance, the couple took out two mortgages to cover the costs.

Like millions of Americans who purchased homes at the peak of the housing bubble, their timing could not have been worse. Moore, a teacher, left her job in 2007. It soon became impossible to meet their $4,000 total monthly mortgage payments. By the summer of 2008, they were deep in default, and the recession sent their home value plummeting.

They were officially underwater on their house, and the family was living solely on Moore’s husband’s income as a driver. Eventually, they were notified that their lenders had begun the foreclosure process.

“Some people might say, ‘OK, just get a new house.’ But it wasn’t that simple,” Moore said. “This was the house where we were raising our family. My husband is very proud and homeownership means a lot to him — so we weren’t going to just let it go.”

Instead, Moore and her husband did what many families facing foreclosure do: They began looking desperately for “foreclosure relief” companies, law firms, and groups who promised help. A nonprofit connected them to a court-appointed attorney, but it didn’t stop the foreclosure process. So they turned to companies that advertised foreclosure relief on radio stations and online.

Over the course of six years, the family handed over thousands to a handful of relief groups they thought could stop the foreclosure. “We were desperate, and we thought, ‘OK, we’ll hand over this money to someone and they’ll just fix it,’” Moore said.

One of those foreclosure relief companies was Florida-based Homeowners Helpline, LLC. In 2015 the family gave the company a total of $6,000: an initial $2,000 down payment, and then $1,000 in four monthly installments. By that time Moore had found a new job, but the family hadn’t paid the full mortgage amount in years.

Moore shared the contract with MagnifyMoney, in which Homeowners Helpline says it will “perform a mortgage loan review and audit,” including actions like sending a cease-and-desist letter and a “Qualified Written Request” for information about the account to the family’s lenders.

Here’s what Moore says happened: Homeowners Helpline connected her family with a New York City lawyer who “kept asking for endless paperwork, month after month after month,” and who eventually stopped answering their calls, she claims. They finally got in touch with him just before the house was set to go up for auction, she said, and he told them the efforts to stop the auction had failed.

“We were horrified,” Moore said.

Homeowners Helpline told MagnifyMoney a different story. Sharon Valentine, a processor at Homeowners Helpline who worked on Moore’s husband’s case, said the family was slow to hand over needed paperwork and “unrealistic about their expectations.”

Crucially, Valentine said, the family didn’t tell Homeowners Helpline the house was actively in foreclosure until they mentioned the auction. “And then it was like, ‘Wait, what?’” Valentine said. The company would have taken different actions had they known about the foreclosure proceedings, she added.

“We can’t help you effectively if you don’t give us all of the information and the paperwork,” Valentine said. “In general, some clients come in and they hear their friend was able to get a 2% [mortgage] rate or cut their payments in half, and it’s like, ‘Well, that’s a very different situation.’ We try to help educate, but sometimes you can’t change that expectation.”

The Best Help is Free

But there is a free resource to educate panicked homeowners about expectations and provide foreclosure assistance — as well as help them avoid scam companies that will steal their money. NeighborWorks America runs LoanScamAlert.org, which aims to be a one-stop shop for people with questions about or problems with their mortgages.

The Loan Modification Scam Alert Campaign launched in 2009, when Congress asked NeighborWorks America to educate and help homeowners. LoanScamAlert.org offers resources including information about how to spot and report scams, and lists of trusted authorities who can help. Its main goal: Drive people to call the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline, at 888-995-HOPE (4673), which is staffed 24 hours a day by counselors who work at agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“We provide them with a single, trusted resource,” said Barbara Floyd Jones, senior manager of national homeownership programs at NeighborWorks America. “It gets confusing when you see companies with all of these similar names advertising on the radio or TV, and then you have to research them. We want to let people know they don’t have to pay a penny for assistance.”

Anyone — regardless of income or other factors — can contact the counselor network to receive free advice and help. Homeowners aren’t always aware of the myriad government-affiliated groups that can provide assistance, or of the federal and state programs created to speed loan refinances and modifications, Floyd Jones said.

“We can never promise that everyone will be able to save their home; there are a variety of circumstances,” Floyd Jones said. “But we can promise a trusted counselor will listen, take a look at your paperwork if you want, and tell you all of your options.”

In fact, if a homeowner grants permission, the counselor can contact the mortgage lender directly to discuss options to stop the foreclosure, modify the terms of the loan, or otherwise make a deal. If need be, homeowners will also be connected with vetted legal assistance — although Floyd Jones noted not every situation requires a lawyer.

True to LoanScamAlert.org’s name, the hotline counselors also take complaints about mortgage-related scams: third-party companies that take the money and run, or slip in paperwork that unwittingly gets homeowners to sign over the deed to the house.

The Federal Trade Commission received nearly 7,700 complaints about “Mortgage Foreclosure Relief and Debt Management” services in 2016 — down from almost 13,000 in 2014, but still a significant figure.

“Stopping phony mortgage relief operations continues to be a priority” for the FTC, said spokesman Frank Dorman.

Both the FTC and LoanScamAlert.org offer tips to avoid scams — and to make sure you’re taking advantage of all federal and state programs that could help.

Red Flags:

  • They ask you to pay before any services are rendered.
  • Pressure to pay a fee before action is taken, sign confusing paperwork, or hire a lawyer off the bat. As with any scam, fraudulent mortgage relief services rely on high pressure to push vulnerable homeowners into taking action. Companies shouldn’t ask for “processing fees” or “service fees” early in the process, Floyd Jones said, as early foreclosure-stoppage efforts don’t cost anything. Be wary of signing any document, as you could unwittingly surrender the home’s title or deed to a scammer.
  • They make promises they can’t keep. 

    Promises or guarantees they’ll save your home from foreclosure — or even claims like “97% success rate!” No one can guarantee results.

  • They say they’re affiliated with the U.S. government. 

    Companies that claim to have an affiliation with a government agency. Some scammers may claim to be associated with the government, charging fees to get you “qualified” for government mortgage modification programs like Hardest Hit Fund. You don’t have to pay for these government programs — and lenders, particularly big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, may be able to offer you their own modification options directly.

  • They want you to send your mortgage payments to them.

    Companies that tell you to start paying your mortgage directly to them, rather than your lender. They may promise to pass the money along, but they could pocket it and disappear.Companies that ask you to pay them through unconventional methods: Western Union/wire transfers, prepaid Visa cards, etc., instead of a check. They’re trying to get your money in a way that’s hard to trace.

As for Lageshia Moore and her husband, the family ultimately filed for bankruptcy — a move that can stop the foreclosure process, but only temporarily — and are now working with a law firm on a loan modification she hopes will reduce their payments to a manageable monthly sum. In giving advice to others, she reiterates the simplest but most important tip: “Just do your research.”

“You’re panicked, but you have to do your due diligence,” she added. “Really sit down and weigh the pros and cons: foreclosure, short sale, etc. What does this process or contract really mean? It’s an emotional time, but you have to try to keep the emotion out of it. That’s what I would tell myself.”

What to Do if You’re Facing Foreclosure:

  • Call a HUD-certified counselor at 1-888-995-HOPE. You’ll get advice and help for free, and while counselors can’t ever promise to save a home, they’ll be happy to take a look at any paperwork or information about your case, contact your lender about options if you grant permission, and connect you with vetted legal assistance if need be.
  • If you’re not facing foreclosure yet, but you’re worried that you’re about to run into trouble, contact your mortgage lender’s loss litigation department. They may be willing to work with you. Your lender can also tell you whether you’ll qualify for government programs.
  • Overall, don’t let desperation stop you from taking the time to research any potential actions, including signing on with a relief company. Explore the company’s background and track record. Check online for reviews from other homeowners — and be sure to look up phone numbers too. Many scam companies simply shut down, reopen under a new name, and retain the same phone number.
Julianne Pepitone
Julianne Pepitone |

Julianne Pepitone is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Julianne here

TAGS: , ,

Mortgage

2 Times an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Makes Perfect Sense

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The interest rate on your loans determines how expensive it is to borrow money. The higher the interest rate, the more expensive the loan.

With a conventional, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, borrowers with the best credit can expect to receive a 4.23% interest rate on that loan. The average homebuyer borrows about $222,000 when they take out a mortgage, which means paying a staggering $168,690 in interest over the term of the loan.

When you need to repay balances in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, even half a point of interest can make a huge difference in how expensive your mortgage is. If you borrowed the same amount but had a rate of 4.73% rate, you’d pay $192,190 in interest — or almost $24,000 more for the same loan.

Given that interest rates make such a big impact on how much your mortgage costs, it makes sense to do what you can to get the lowest rate possible. And this is where adjustable-rate mortgages can start to look appealing. In two cases especially, it makes perfect sense to go with an ARM: when you plan to pay off your mortgage quickly, or you plan to move out of the home within a few years.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages Can Allow You to Borrow at Lower Rates

An adjustable-rate mortgage, also known as an ARM, is a home loan with a variable interest rate. That means the rate will change over the life of the loan.

ARMs are usually set up as 3/1, 5/1, 7/1, or 10/1. The first number indicates the length of the fixed rate period. If you look at a 3/1 ARM, the initial fixed rate period lasts 3 years. The second shows how often the interest rate will adjust after the initial period.

Some ARMs come with interest rate caps, meaning there’s a limit to how high the rate can adjust. And their initial rate is often much lower than traditional fixed-rate loans.

This can help you buy a home and start paying your mortgage at a lower monthly cost than you could manage with a fixed-rate mortgage. Borrowers with the best credit scores can access a 5/1 ARM with an interest rate of 3.24% right now.

The Risks ARMs Pose to Average Homebuyers

“The main advantage of an ARM is the low, initial interest rate,” explains Meg Bartelt, CFP, MSFP, and founder of Flow Financial Planning. “But the primary risk is that the interest rate can rise to an unknown amount after the initial, fixed period of just a few years expires.”

Homebuyers can enjoy extremely low interest rates for a month, a quarter, or 1, 5, 7, or 10 years, depending on the term of their adjustable-rate mortgage. But borrowers have no control over the interest rate after that.

The rate can rise to levels that make your mortgage unaffordable. Remember our earlier example, where just half a point of interest could mean making the entire mortgage $24,000 more expensive?

ARMs adjust their rates periodically, and the new rate is partly determined by a broad measure of interest rates known as an index. When the index rises, so does your own interest rate — and your monthly mortgage payment goes up with it.

The variable nature of the interest rate makes it difficult to plan ahead as your mortgage payment won’t be static or stable.

“Imagine at the end of year 5, rates start going up and your mortgage payment is suddenly much higher than it used to be,” says Mark Struthers, a CFA and CFP who runs Sona Financial. “What if your partner loses their job and you need both incomes to pay the mortgage?” he asks. In this situation, you could be stuck if you don’t have the credit score to refinance and get away from the higher rate, or the cash flow to handle the extra cost.

“Once you get in this spiral, it is tough to get out,” says Struthers. “The spiral just gets tighter.”

And yes, adjustable-rate mortgages can go down. While that’s possible, it’s more likely that the rate will rise. And some ARMs will limit how high and how low your rate can go.

Struthers puts it plainly: “ARMs are higher-risk loans. If you can handle the risk, you can benefit. If you can’t, it can crush you. Most people do not put themselves in a position to handle the risk.”

Who Can Make an ARM Work in Their Favor?

That doesn’t mean no one can benefit from adjustable-rate mortgages. They do come with the benefit of the lower initial interest rate. “If you plan to pay off the mortgage during that initial fixed period, you eliminate the risk [of getting stuck with a rising interest rate],” says Bartelt.

That’s exactly what she and her husband did when they bought their own home.

“In my situation, we had enough savings to buy our house with cash. But the cash was largely in investments, and selling all the investments would push our income into significantly higher tax brackets due to the gains, with all the cascading unpleasant tax effects,” Bartelt explains.

“By taking an ARM, we can spread the sale of those investments out over 5 years, minimizing the income increase in each year. That keeps our tax bracket lower,” she says. “We avoided increasing our marginal tax rate by double digits in the year of the purchase of our home.”

She notes that another benefit of taking the ARM in her situation was the fact that she and her husband could continue to pay the mortgage past that initial 5 years if they chose to do so. “The interest rate won’t be as favorable as if we’d initially locked in a fixed rate,” she admits. “But that option still exists, and having options is power.”

Planning for a Quick Sale? An ARM Might Work for You

Another way ARMs can provide benefits to homeowners? If you won’t live in the home for long. Buying the home and also selling it before the initial rate period expires could provide you with a way to access the lowest possible rate without having to deal with the eventual rise in mortgage payment when the rate increases.

“ARMs are typically best for those who are fairly certain they won’t be in the house for a long period of time,” says Cary Cates, CFP and founder of Cates Tax Advisory. “An example would be a person who has to move every two to four years for their job.”

He says you could view taking out an ARM as a way to pay “tax-deductible rent” if you already know you don’t want to stay in the house for more than a few years. “This is an aggressive strategy,” he explains, “but as long as the house appreciates enough in value to cover the initial costs of buying, then you could walk away only paying tax-deductible interest, which I am comparing to rent in this situation.”

Cates says you’re obviously not actually paying rent, but you can mentally frame your mortgage payment that way. But you need to know the risk is owing on your mortgage if you go to sell and the home hasn’t realized enough appreciation to cover what you spent to buy.
He also reminds potential homebuyers that you take on the risk of staying in the home longer than you expected to. You could end up dealing with the rising interest rate if you can’t sell or refinance.

What You Need to Know Before Taking an ARM

Before applying for an adjustable-rate mortgage, make sure you ask questions like:

  • What is the initial fixed-interest rate? How does that compare to another mortgage option, and is it worth taking on a riskier mortgage to get the initial fixed rate?
  • How long is the initial fixed rate period?
  • How often will the ARM adjust after the initial rate period?
  • Are there limits to how much your ARM’s rate can drop?
  • How high can the ARM’s rate go? How high can your monthly mortgage payment go?
  • If the mortgage’s interest hit the maximum rate, could you afford the monthly payment?
  • Do you have a plan for selling the home within the initial rate period if you want to sell before paying the adjusted rate?
  • Could you pay off the mortgage without selling if you did not want to pay the adjusted rate?

Do your due diligence and understand the risks and potential pitfalls before making a final decision. But depending on your specific situation, your finances, and your plans for the next 5 years, you could make an ARM work for you.

Kali Hawlk
Kali Hawlk |

Kali Hawlk is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at Kali@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , , ,

Mortgage

Guide to Getting the Best Rate on Your Mortgage

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Guide to Getting the Best Rate on Your Mortgage

A house is the single largest asset that most Americans will ever buy. The median price of a home sold in the United States is up to $301,300, and the median household income of a homeowner is $60,000. This means that a house now costs more than five times the income of a typical homebuyer.

With prices so high, it’s more important than ever to find a great rate on your mortgage. Finding the lowest rate can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a loan. But finding the best rates on the loans with the right features can be a challenge. In this guide we’ll teach you how to find the best mortgage rates.

Finding the best rate on a mortgage

When it comes to buying a house, you don’t just need to house hunt; you need to shop for a mortgage. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), just 53% of Americans shop for mortgages, but comparing lenders has a huge payoff. Saving 1% on your rate will save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. Your mortgage can make or break the affordability of a house, and it’s up to you to find the best rates. These are the steps you can take to find the best rates.

Compare rates using the CFPB’s handy tool

The CFPB offers a tool that allows you to compare the prevailing interest rates on various types of loans. To use the tool, you need to know your credit score, the amount you intend to borrow, and how much money you have for a down payment.

By exploring the different options, you can determine the best rates in your state, and the most common rates.

screen shot 1

This tool will give you an idea of the rate landscape in your state. However, you still need to do work to get the best rates.

Next, find lenders that offer the lowest rates

Once you know the lowest interest rates, you can find the lenders offering those rates through search engine queries. Enter the following formula: “State Mortgage, X% Interest Rate, Loan Type.”

For example, “Alabama Mortgage, 3.75% Interest Rate, 30-Year Fixed Rate.”

The bank or credit union with the best rate should emerge near the top of the search rankings. You will find mortgage comparison websites that will help you connect with the banks. Mortgage comparison websites can be a helpful resource, but they require your contact information. If you use a comparison site, expect to receive phone calls or email solicitations.

Continue to cross-reference the rates from comparison sites with information from the CFPB. The rates on a mortgage comparison site should be as good as those on the CFPB’s site.

If a lender has already pre-approved you, they may be willing to match the lowest rate. Talk with your loan officer about the rate you saw on the CFPB’s website. Ask them to match the rate. If they will, the conversation saves you time and money.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage from multiple banks

Once you find the banks with the best rates, consider getting pre-approved for mortgage rates from a few different banks. A pre-approval means that a bank plans to give you a loan at a given rate. You will need to submit documentation to a loan officer to get pre-approved. Typical documentation includes W-2 forms, tax returns, credit reports, and evidence of assets.

The bank will review your documentation and give you a pre-approval letter. The letter explains how much you can borrow and at what rate. If you’re denied at this stage, you can find out why.

A pre-approval is not a contract. It is not subject to underwriting or an appraisal. Rates can change after you get a pre-approval. That’s why we recommend getting multiple pre-approvals if you can.

When you’re pre-approved, a bank will give you a letter that you can submit with offers on a home. Home sellers want to see a pre-approval letter because it means that you’re likely to have access to the financing to close a deal.

Once you have pre-approvals in hand, start shopping for houses. You can submit a bid and negotiate a price using your pre-approvals.

Request loan estimates from lenders

Once a seller accepts your bid, request loan estimates from all the banks that pre-approved you.

A loan estimate is a three-page document that contains an estimated interest rate, monthly payments, and closing costs for the specific loan. It explains everything you need to know about the loan if you choose to move forward.

Compare all the loan estimates before committing to a particular mortgage lender. Loan estimates allow you a true apples-to-apples comparison of interest rates.

A loan estimate isn’t a contract. The bank may deny the loan based on the home’s appraisal values or due to underwriting problems. But a loan estimate will allow you to make an informed decision.

Factors that influence your interest rate

Shopping for a mortgage isn’t the only way to find the best interest rate. You can influence the rate by controlling these factors.

Credit score

The better your credit history, the better your rate will be. In some cases, the difference can be a full percentage point or more. Fixing your credit score is one of the best ways to influence your mortgage rate. Depending on your credit history, you might be able to fix your credit score on your own within a few months.

When you’re shopping for a mortgage, pay your bills on time and keep your credit usage low. Try to use 10% or less of your total available credit. Don’t close old credit accounts or apply for new accounts when mortgage shopping. These actions promote a high credit score while you shop for a mortgage.

Down payment & PMI

In general a bigger down payment means a lower interest rate.

If you put down at least 5%, you will probably qualify for the lowest advertised rates. But don’t confuse the lowest interest rates with the lowest cost financing. Most banks require you to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you don’t put at least 20% down on a home. PMI adds about .5%-1% per month on your mortgage. You won’t be able to remove PMI until you’ve built up at least 20% equity in your home. You build equity when your home rises in value and when you pay down your mortgage.

If you have a down payment less than 5%, you’ll need to look at FHA loans or VA loans. VA loans don’t require PMI, but you will have to pay an upfront financing fee. This is a fee that doesn’t help you build equity, but VA loans have competitive rates for people who don’t have a down payment. Check the fee schedule for VA loans to see if the financing fee is worth it to you.

FHA loans require just a 3.5% down payment, but FHA loans have require mortgage insurance premiums (MIP). The MIP is an upfront fee (usually 1.75% of the total mortgage) and monthly interest rate hike of around .5%. You can’t get rid of MIP unless you get rid of your FHA loan.

Location

Buyers looking for a mortgage in a rural area may see higher rates compared to equally qualified buyers in nearby urban areas. Most lenders have less familiarity with lending in rural areas. This leads to higher rates. In rural settings, you may get the best rates from nearby banks and credit unions.

Rates also differ on a state-by-state basis. States that have laws that make foreclosure difficult tend to have higher mortgage rates than states with looser foreclosure laws. Likewise, states that require lenders to have a physical presence in the state raises interest rates.

Loan size

Interest rates on small mortgages (less than $50,000) tend to be higher than rates on typical mortgage sizes. Small mortgages are less profitable than other loans, and many banks won’t issue this size mortgage. Borrowers may need to work with local banks or credit unions or government lending programs to find a micro-mortgage.

At the other end of the spectrum, jumbo mortgages tend to track closely to conforming loan interest rates. Banks can’t sell jumbo loans in the secondary market, so they are riskier for the bank compared to other mortgages. Usually, banks compensate higher risk with higher interest rates. However, the rigorous underwriting on jumbo loans may drive many poor prospects out of the market.

Length of loan (Loan term)

Mortgages with shorter terms have lower rates than those with longer terms. A longer term represents more risk for the bank. Banks compensate their risk with higher interest rates. This doesn’t mean that a shorter term loan is always the right choice. Choose the loan term that fits your needs before you compare rates. That way you’ll get the best interest rate on the right mortgage for you.

Fixed or variable rates

Adjustable-rate mortgages put more risk onto borrowers. You’ll initially pay a lower interest rate if you take out an adjustable-rate mortgage, but the rate might increase.

When you’re considering an adjustable-rate, learn when and how the interest rate adjusts. Most loans adjust based on a set index. In a low interest rate environment, you can expect rates to increase, but you need to guess how much. Weigh whether the low rates now are worth a potential high rate in the future.

Conforming vs. FHA vs. VA vs. conventional

The company that backs your loan may seem unimportant, but it influences your rate.

Conforming loans (those that can be purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the largest purchasers of mortgage loans in the U.S.) tend to have the lowest interest rates. Despite their low interest rates, conforming loans are profitable for banks. Banks can easily sell conforming loans to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and reinvest the proceeds in making more loans. Conforming loans require at least a 5% down payment and good credit. For conforming loans, put 20% down to avoid paying PMI.

FHA loans have more lenient down payment and credit standards. They tend to be expensive for well-qualified buyers. However, an FHA loan may be the right option if you have a low down payment or a poor credit score. Only you can determine if the extra cost is worth it for you. VA loans are available to veterans, and they charge an upfront fee. However, they offer competitive rates for first-time homebuyers. If you can qualify for a VA loan, look into it as an option.

Conventional loans can’t be purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. They require more shopping around to find the best rates. Not every lender issues conventional loans. If you qualify, the rates should be competitive with rates on conforming loans.

If you’re taking out a jumbo mortgage, you need to qualify for conventional underwriting. Likewise, condo buyers may need to qualify for a conventional loan. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will not purchase a mortgage if the property is part of an association that has more than 50% renter occupants.

Buying points

Many lenders offer to let borrowers buy “discount points” off of a mortgage. This means that you pay a set fee in exchange for the lender to lower your rate. In some circumstances buying discount points makes sense. Divide the cost of the point by the change in your monthly payment. This will tell you the number of months it takes for the prepayment to pay off (in terms of savings). If you expect to stay in the house significantly longer than the payoff period, go ahead and purchase the points. Otherwise, pay the higher interest.

Closing costs

An advertised interest rate doesn’t account for your total cost to borrow money. Most banks make their real money by charging closing fees. Banks might charge loan origination fees, recording fees, title inspection fees, underwriting fees, and application fees.

All the financing charges will be disclosed on a loan estimate. The loan estimate will also provide you with an annual percentage rate (APR), which expresses the total cost of borrowing money including the financing fees.

Special programs

Cities and states often issue special interest rates on loans for homebuyers who meet certain criteria. For example, Raleigh, N.C., subsidizes a $20,000 down payment loan for low-income, first-time homebuyers in distressed neighborhoods. Check your city, county, and state websites to see if you qualify for special rate programs. These programs often have favorable borrowing terms in addition to great rates.

Accelerating payments

Some borrowers cut their total interest costs by accelerating their mortgage payoff. If you make a half mortgage payment every two weeks, you’ll make an extra mortgage payment every year. This cuts a 30-year mortgage down to 23 years.

Making extra payments early in the life of your loan will help you achieve 20% equity faster. This will allow you to drop PMI payments or refinance at a lower rate.

Determining a budget for your loan

Finding a great rate on a loan that you can’t pay back is a sure way to destroy your credit. Before you apply for a loan, establish a realistic budget for your monthly mortgage payment. Avoid borrowing more than you can comfortably pay back.

When banks approve you for a mortgage, they will lend based on your current debt-to-income ratio without considering your other costs of living. Lenders have some limits, but you need to establish your own limits. Most of the time, lenders will not extend mortgage loans to borrowers whose monthly debt liabilities eat up more than 43% of their gross monthly income.

To understand debt-to-income ratio, consider this example. A person with a $60,000 annual income and a $500 monthly car payment applies for a mortgage.

A bank will allow them to carry a debt load up to $2,150 per month (($60,000/12)*43%). The bank subtracts the $500 from the maximum allowed debt load and determines that this person can afford $1,650 in house payments each month.

The bank in this example determines that $1,650 a month is an affordable budget.

No matter how large a loan you can get, you need to be a savvy consumer. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends that your entire housing payment (including taxes, insurance, and association dues) should take up no more than 28% of your gross income.

The CFPB’s advice may seem too strict, but you need to determine your non-mortgage-related cost of living before committing to a new loan. Calculate costs like income taxes, transit expenses, and child care or education costs. If you pay alimony or for out-of-pocket health care, consider those costs too. Plus, you’ll need to factor in the costs of home maintenance. Experts recommend setting aside 1%-3% of your home’s purchase price for maintenance and upgrades.

A 43% debt-to-income ratio may be manageable for people who expect a significant salary bump in the near future. But for many, such a high ratio could get you into credit trouble.

If you’re seriously shopping for houses, use Zillow’s advanced affordability calculator to determine how much mortgage makes sense for you. You can also learn if buying makes financial sense by using the Rent vs. Buy Calculator from realtor.com.

Before you start shopping for houses, determine how a mortgage will fit into your budget. Don’t succumb to pressures to overextend your budget. A burdensome mortgage has the power to turn a dream house into a nightmare. You can avoid the nightmare by planning ahead.

Determining loan features you want

In addition to establishing a budget, you need to understand how to find the right features on a mortgage. A great rate on a bad mortgage could spell financial ruin. When you’re shopping for loans, ask yourself these questions:

How long will you stay in the home?

Some buyers purchase houses with the intention of staying just a few years. Someone who plans to sell in a few years might consider a lower interest rate adjustable mortgage. However, an adjustable-rate mortgage is risky for someone who intends to live in a home long term.

How risky is your financial situation?

Do you and your partner have two steady jobs and a large cash cushion? In such a stable situation, you might feel comfortable putting 20% down. You might also feel good locking into a 15-year mortgage to save on interest.

People with less stable income and finances might feel more comfortable with a smaller down payment and a longer payoff period. This will mean paying PMI and higher financing costs, but they can be worth it for peace of mind.

Do you expect to have better cash flow in the future?

If you think that you’ll have more accessible cash flow in the future, you can borrow near the higher end of your limits today. An interest-only loan will allow you to get into a house with lower payments now and higher payments in the future. Of course, you need to be realistic about your future expectations. Your future income may be more modest than you hope, or you may face high costs in the future. An interest-only loan could leave you trapped in a house if housing prices decline.

Even if you expect a higher income, borrowing near the top end of your budget could keep you “house poor.” If the raise doesn’t pan out, you’ll be stuck in a house that you can’t comfortably afford.

Do you have access to other sources of financing?

Alternative sources of financing like a home equity line of credit make a loan with a balloon payment more viable. Alternative financing means that you’ll have options if your original mortgage payoff plan falls through.

Anyone considering a balloon payment loan should have a solid lead on alternative financing before they take out the loan.

How much cash do you have for a down payment?

You can purchase a house with almost no money down. For example, the Federal Housing Association (FHA) offers “$100 Down” home financing on select HUD homes, or down payments as low as 3.5% for FHA-backed loans. Veterans can purchase homes using $0 down VA loans.

On the other hand, if you have more money to put down, you may qualify for a conventional mortgage or a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The more cash you have, the more options you have for loan types.

Do you have compelling uses for cash outside of a home down payment?

Putting a large amount of money down on your home locks up the cash. You can access home equity through a home equity line of credit, but that introduces a new element of risk. Even if you have a large amount of cash, you may not want to use it to fund a down payment. For example, you may want to hold cash for an emergency fund, to start a business, or to fund some other purchase.

If you have a compelling reason to hold onto cash, you may intentionally narrow your mortgage search to low down-payment options.

How quickly do you want to pay off your house?

A paid-off home might be your top financial priority. In that case, you might want to look for options with a short payoff period. For example, you might prioritize the forced savings of a 15-year mortgage. You might even aim to payoff a 5/1 ARM before the first rate adjustment if you have sufficient cash.

How important is the monthly payment?

A lot of people prioritize a low monthly payment above any other factor. You can achieve a low payment by avoiding fees (like PMI), finding the lowest possible interest rate, and extending the terms of the loan. Even more important than those factors is borrowing an amount that you can easily afford under most circumstances.

Common mortgage terms

Sometimes the most difficult part about shopping for a mortgage is understanding the terms that lenders use. Below we’ve defined a few of the most common mortgage terms that you should know before you sign a loan.

  • Interest Rate – The amount charged by a lender for a borrower to use the loaned money. This is expressed as a percentage of the total loan amount.
  • APR – The annual percentage rate is the total amount that it costs to borrow money from a lender expressed as a percentage. The APR factors in closing costs and other financing fees.
  • Amortization Schedule – A table that shows how much of each payment goes to the principal loan balance versus the interest portion of the loan.
  • Term – A set period of time over which a fixed loan payment will be due (often 15 or 30 years).
  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage – A mortgage where the interest rate stays the same for the entire term of the loan.
  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgage – A mortgage where the interest rate changes based on factors outlined in the loan agreement. Often, the adjustment is tied to a certain publicly available interest rate like the Federal Exchange Rate. Adjustable-rate mortgages are considered riskier than fixed-rate mortgages due to the potential volatility of payments. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMS) include:
    • 1-Year ARM – A mortgage where the interest rate adjusts up to once per year for the life of a loan.
    • 10/1 ARM – A mortgage where the interest rate is fixed for ten years and then increases up to once per year for the remaining life of the loan.
    • 5/1 ARM – A mortgage where the interest rate is fixed for the first five years of the loan and then increases up to once every year for the life of the loan.
    • 5/5 ARM – A mortgage where the interest rate is fixed for the first five years of the loan and then increases up to once every five years for the life of the loan.
    • 5/25 ARM – Also known as the five-year balloon mortgage. A 5/25 loan is a subprime loan with a fixed rate for the first five years of the loan. If a borrower meets certain standards (usually a record of on-time payments), they will receive the right to refinance the remaining 25 years on an adjustable-rate mortgage. Otherwise, the bank requires a “balloon” or remaining balance payment after five years.
    • 3/1 ARM – A mortgage where the interest rate is fixed for the first three years of the loan and then increases up to once per year for the life of the loan.
    • 3/3 ARM – A mortgage where the interest rate is fixed for the first three years of the loan and then increases up to once every three years for the life of the loan.
    • Two-Step Mortgage – A mortgage that offers a fixed interest rate for a fixed period of time (usually 5 or 7 years). After the fixed period, the rate adjusts to current market rates. Often, the borrower can choose either a fixed rate or an adjustable rate during the second step.
  • Interest-Only Mortgage – A mortgage where a borrower pays only the interest on a loan for a fixed period (usually 5-7 years).
  • PMI – Private mortgage insurance is a product that protects a bank if you default on your mortgage. Lenders often require borrowers with less than 20% equity to purchase PMI.
  • Jumbo Mortgage – A mortgage that is larger than the standards for a “conforming loan” set by government-backed agencies. In most parts of the U.S. a jumbo loan must be larger than $417,000. In some of the highest cost of living areas, a jumbo is in excess of $625,000.
  • Fannie Mae – The Federal National Mortgage Association is a government-sponsored enterprise that purchases mortgages that meet certain criteria from banks that issue the mortgages.
  • Freddie Mac – The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation is a government-sponsored enterprise that purchases mortgages that meet certain criteria from banks that issue the mortgages.
  • Conforming Loan – A mortgage that meets the funding criteria of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The most stringent criteria is the loan size.
  • FHA Loan – A loan guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. Qualifying standards are not as stringent, but the fees are higher. In addition to a monthly premium (similar to PMI), borrowers pay a “borrowing” premium when they take out the loan.
  • VA Loan – A mortgage guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans can purchase houses with a $0 down payment when using a VA loan, provided the veteran meets other lending criteria.
  • Conventional Mortgage – A mortgage that is not guaranteed by any of the federal funding agencies. Certain homes or condominiums will only qualify for a conventional mortgage financing option.
  • Down Payment – The initial payment that a homebuyer supplies when purchasing a home with a mortgage.
  • Balloon Mortgage – A mortgage where a borrower pays fixed payments for a period of time (usually 5 or 7 years) after which the balance of the loan is due. This is considered a high-risk loan.
Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Featured, Mortgage

Guide to Refinancing Your Mortgage to Lower Your Payments, Consolidate Debt

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Happy black couple standing outside their house

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, mortgage lending between August and October 2016 was up nearly 50 percent over last year, “unusually large number likely due to a high rate of mortgage refinancing.”

There are many reasons you might consider refinancing your mortgage. For one, interest rates are continuing to creep up after several years of historic lows, driving many borrowers to refinance in hopes of locking in a lower rate now.

You may also have a long list of home repairs that need to be addressed. Cashing out on a refinance could provide you find the money you need to get the job done. You might also consider a mortgage refinance to help consolidate some of your high interest debt from credit cards or student loans.

But is any of this a good idea?

Today we’ll explore when refinancing a mortgage is a smart decision, and when it’s mathematically unwise. We’ll do this by looking at the cold, hard numbers and walk you through the process if you decide it is an avenue you’d like to pursue.

Refinancing to Lock in a Lower Mortgage Rate

Rates

As of this posting, the national average interest rate is at 4.15%. While that number is higher than it has been in the recent past, rates are still much lower than the average 6% rate you would have secured before the 2008 recession or the 10% average rate you would have had to pay in the 1980s.  If you originally financed or refinanced your mortgage prior to the recession, exploring refinance options could be a good path for you.

Fees

However, before you decide on interest rates alone, you need to be aware of all the associated fees that come along with a refi. These fees usually include escrow and title fees, document preparation fees, title search and insurance, loan origination fees, flood certification, and recording fees. These alone can easily add up to $4,700 or more, according to Trulia.

Do the math

Because each situation will have varying interest rates and fees, it’s important to run your own numbers before making a definitive decision. While we can’t run your numbers for you, we can take you through the mathematical process through an example. You can do the same by using your own, real-life numbers and this calculator from myFICO.

screen shot 1
Source: MyFICO

Let’s say you’re refinancing a 30-year mortgage with a 5.4% interest rate. You have been paying your mortgage for 10 years at this point. But today, you still have $205,285.94 to pay off. If you continue to pay on your current mortgage, you will pay it off in 2036 but you will have paid a staggering $255,377.71 in interest fees over the lifetime of the loan.

So you are considering a refi loan. Let’s say you prequalify for a 3.5% fixed mortgage refi rate over an additional 30 years.

If you decide to refinance to a 30-year mortgage, it will be like starting the clock over even though you already paid 10 years into your original loan. So, factoring in the total interest you paid over that 10 year period on the original loan and the interest you will accrue over the 30-year span of the new refi loan, you will pay a total of $251,720.

By refinancing, it looks like you will pocket $3,657.71 in savings. So refinancing is definitely the better option, right?

Hold your enthusiasm. Remember those fees that come along with a refi? Before you can actually refinance your existing mortgage, you could face an estimated $5,077 in fees, MyFICO’s calculator shows. With the additional interest and fees combined, you’ll end up paying  $256,797 over the lifetime of the loan — about $1,000 more than you would if you just stayed put.

That makes this particular refinance over $1,000 more expensive than continuing with your current mortgage. Plus, if you refinance, you’ll be paying on a mortgage for an additional ten years before you own your home outright.

Refinancing to Lower Your Monthly Mortgage Payments

House building, insurance, housewarming, loan, real estate, home concept

If you already have a low interest rate and are thinking about refinancing exclusively for lower monthly payments, think again. While the amount due monthly will go down, the amount you pay over the life of your loan will go up.

In our example above, refinancing to a lower rate of 3.5% would dramatically decrease your monthly mortgage payments before taxes —  from $1,403.83 per month to $922 per month. However, as we demonstrated using myFICO’s refi calculator, you’d end up spending $1,000 more over the course of the loan as a result.

Refinancing simply to lower your monthly payment is especially dangerous if you are in the first 5-7 years of paying off your current mortgage. That’s because interest charges are not spread out evenly over the course of your loan — they are front loaded. That means for the first 5-7 years, you’re paying more toward interest and very little toward the principal loan balance. In the meantime, you’re building very little equity. If you refinance during this time frame, you’re starting the clock over and delaying the opportunity to establish equity.

Suggest: Let’s back to our first example one more time. In this case, the homeowner is 10 years into their existing mortgage and has been making monthly payments of $1,403.83. By this time, roughly $477.89  goes toward the principal loan balance each monthly. But if they were to restart the clock and refinance to a new 30-year mortgage, only $325 of their monthly mortgage payment would go toward their loan principal.

Refinancing to Make Home Improvements

home improvement repair kitchen remodel

If you’re looking to refinance so you can cash out a portion of the new mortgage for home improvements, you may be onto a good idea. If you have a 20-year-old roof that needs to be fixed and no cash on hand, refinancing at at a lower rate could make more financial sense than using alternative financing options.

When you use a cash-out refinance, your financial institution will give you a new mortgage. Part of your monthly payment will go towards the amount you still owe on the home, while another part will go towards paying off the cash they give you at closing. You can usually only take 80%-90% of your established equity out as cash when using this method.

Another option is to take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC). This operates similarly to a credit card; the financial institution offers your a line of credit up to a specified amount, but you only have to pay on it if and when you choose to borrow. Because a HELOC is secured by your home, interest rates are much lower than on credit cards and may even be lower than the interest rate on a cash-out refinance. However, HELOC interest rates are typically variable, which could get you in trouble further down the line if you’re borrowing a lot of money for home repairs like a new roof.

Either way, you should be cautious. Making an upgrade for the sake of functionality is one thing, but making an upgrade for the sake of luxury is another. It’s inadvisable to make a lavish kitchen upgrade in the tens of thousands, even if you are under the illusion that it will build home value further down the line. If the luxury is something you really want, save up for it. Don’t finance it.

Refinancing to consolidate existing debts

Desperate young couple with many debts reviewing their bills. Financial family problems concept

Cashing out to pay off credit card debt

You may also be tempted to cash out a refinance in order to pay off other debt. Historically, homeowners have used this method primarily to pay off high-interest credit card debt. With interest rates so low, doing so may seem like a good idea. Rolling your credit card debt into a mortgage with 3% interest is better than paying it off with an average of 15%-25% interest — isn’t it?

It may seem like a good idea, but too often this method doesn’t change the root cause of the issue. If you had a spending or cash flow problem prior to the refinance, you’re likely to end up in credit card debt again, but this time you’ll have a bigger mortgage on top of it.

A better way to refinance your credit card debt could be applying for a balance transfer. Many credit cards include an initial offer of 0% interest on balance transfers for a certain amount of months. Zero percent is better than any interest rate you’ll find in the housing market. Though these cards come with balance transfer fees, those fees can be as low as 3%, and you only have to pay them once. Because there is a deadline on the 0% interest period, you’ll be more likely to find the motivation to pay the debt off quickly, building better financial habits along the way.

There are rare instances where rolling your credit card debt into a mortgage refinance can be advantageous. For example, if you’re a dual-income household and you lose a spouse without adequate life insurance, you may find yourself in a financial quandary.

In this scenario, if you have credit card debt in your own name and suddenly can’t afford to pay the monthly bills, refinancing your mortgage and cashing out a portion to pay off your high-interest debt may be one of the few feasible options.

Cashing out to pay off student loans

Recently SoFi, an online market lender, rolled out a new product that allows you to refinance your home and cash out a portion of the new mortgage to pay off your student loans. Let’s say you owed $30,000 on your home and had $20,000 in outstanding student loan debt. You would take out a $50,000 mortgage refinance with $20,000 of it paying off your student loan debt.

This can potentially be a smart idea. If the interest rate on the refinance is less than the interest rate on your student loans, you stand to save some money. If you ever sell your home, the sale will take care of the portion that went to pay off your loans.

The danger is you will lose all the benefits that come with federal student loans, such as income-based repayment and pay-as-you-earn options, as you will be swapping your Federal loans for a private loan issued by SoFi. For this reason, the vast majority of people who will benefit from this product will be those who already carry private student loans with relatively high interest rates.

How Should You Shop?

cfpb-logo-730x273

Before you start shopping, you’re going to want to arm yourself with knowledge. First, find out what competitive interest rates look like in your area. You can do so by using this tool from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It’s good to know what the best rates are, but it’s even better to know if you’ll qualify for them. About six months before you plan on applying for a refi, get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus to make sure everything on your report is accurate and up to date. Your credit report will be used to determine your credit score when you start submitting applications.

Many conforming loans will be backed by Fannie Mae’s Refi Plus program. To qualify for the lowest interest rates in this program, you will want to have a credit score of 740+. You can still qualify with a lower credit score, but the further down you are on this list, the higher your interest rate will be:

  • 740+ Best rates
  • 720-739
  • 700-719
  • 680-699
  • 660-679
  • 640-659
  • 620-639
  • Below 620 Worst rates, and you may have trouble even qualifying.

To find out which credit score range you fall into, pull your scores from several different sources using several different scoring models.

Variable vs. fixed rates

Another thing to consider before you shop is whether you prefer a variable or fixed rate. Variable rate loans are stable for one month to five years or more, after which the interest rate will adjust based on an index. Since rates are low at the current moment, the odds of your interest rates shooting up after five years is extremely high. Unless you know with certainty that you can afford your monthly payments when they rise, or you aren’t planning to stay in the home for long, taking this route is risky.

Because rates are so low, fixed is likely the way to go. The rates will be higher than the offers you receive for initial variable rates, but they will stay consistent for the entirety of your loan. When interest rates inevitably go up again, yours won’t if you lock in the fixed rates today.

Shop around — including your current lender

As with most shopping endeavors, the best way to find the best price is going to be getting quotes from several different lenders in your area.
There are two primary criteria you will want to examine. The first is obviously interest rates. The second is fees, which can eat into your savings.
When you start shopping, it’s easy to take the path of least resistance: your current lender. Typically, they will offer you lower fees than their competitors, but their interest rates may be potentially higher. Get outside quotes to use as leverage for negotiations in this arena.
Another possibility is your lender offers you the smallest fees and lowest interest rates among their competition, but the rate is still higher than you’d like it to be because of your credit score. While doing so doesn’t have a 100% success rate, you can try to negotiate for a lower rate based on customer loyalty.

When you’re applying, don’t forget to look at online marketplace lenders such as SoFi. Many times they have lower fees and involve less paperwork.

How Long Does the Process Take?

Clock time deadline

Many lenders will want to see if you are pre-qualified before you begin the full application process. This can be misleading because getting pre-qualified often takes mere minutes, and the interest rates you are offered are based only on a soft pull of your credit.

The full process of being approved for a loan will take much longer–typically between 30 and 45 days if you submit all of your paperwork in a timely manner. It will require a hard pull on your credit report and score, along with submitting a lot of personal documentation. Remember, just because you are pre-qualified doesn’t mean you will be approved. Once the financial institution has more information, they may adjust or redact their offer.

Paperwork to prepare

To make sure the application and approval process goes as smoothly as possible, gather up these commonly required documents before approaching your lender to fill out any forms:

  • Proof of income, including: past 2-3 months’ worth of pay stubs, employer contact information including anyone you’ve worked for in the past two years, W-2s and income tax documents for the past two years, and/or additional documentation of income for the past two years for self-employed individuals including Schedule C or K and profit/loss statements.
  • Proof of assets, including: a list of all the property you own, life insurance statements, retirement account statements, and bank account statements going back at least three months.
  • Accounting of debts. This includes statements for any outstanding loans or credit card debt you may have. Don’t forget your current mortgage!
  • Proof of insurance. For our purposes today, this generally refers to homeowner’s insurance and title insurance.
  • Know Your Customer information. Financial institutions are required to verify your identity before lending you any money or allowing you to open any type of financial account. Be prepared with your Social Security card, your driver’s license or other state-issued ID, and the addresses you have lived at for at least the past three years, including dates of residence.
  • Additional documents for special situations. If you receive income from disability, Social Security, child support, alimony, rental property, regular overtime pay, consistent bonuses, or a pension, be sure to prepare documentation for these income sources as well.

There may be additional documents required depending on your lender, but checking off this list is a great start.

If you have all necessary paperwork on hand, you can submit it via the internet or postal mail immediately after filling out your application online, over the phone, or in person. The modality of submission will depend on the lender.

Approval

A loan officer will look over your paperwork, which will hopefully end in approval. You will then be sent documents to review. It would be wise to do so with a lawyer, which is an additional fee you will want to calculate into your refinancing equation.

Closing

If you are agreeable to all terms, you will fill out your documentation for closing. You will have to issue payment for closing fees just as you did when you took out your original mortgage. Depending on the lender, you will submit this paperwork in person, through postal mail, or online. After the paperwork is processed, your current mortgage will be paid off and your refinanced mortgage will take effect.

Typically, the entire process takes somewhere between 30 and 45 days. >

Conclusion

If you’re refinancing solely for lower mortgage payments or in order to cash out for a chef’s dream kitchen, back up and reconsider. But if you’re refinancing for lower interest rates on a mortgage on which you’ve built significant equity, moving forward may be a good option. Be sure to run your numbers and sit down with a lawyer before signing on any dotted lines.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne at brynne@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Mortgage

Guide to Reverse Mortgages: Is the Income Worth the Risk?

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

old senior couple at home house on couch

If you own a home, chances are you’ve heard of a reverse mortgage. Despite increased attention and regulation, many homeowners still struggle to understand what reverse mortgages are and who should consider one. This guide will provide an in-depth understanding of exactly what a reverse mortgage is and the pros and cons of this complex financial product.

What is a reverse mortgage?

Most homeowners are familiar with a regular mortgage: You borrow money from a lender to purchase a home, then repay the loan in monthly installments over the course of several decades.

With a reverse mortgage, the lender pays you by taking some of your home’s equity and converting it into monthly payments to you. As long as you live, remain in your home, and continue to meet other obligations of the mortgage (discussed in more detail later), you do not have to pay the money back.

When you die, sell the home, or move out, you or your spouse or estate will have to repay the loan. If you signed the loan paperwork but your spouse didn’t, your spouse may be able to continue living in the home after you die, as long as they continue to pay property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs. However, your spouse will cease to receive monthly payments from the reverse mortgage, since he or she wasn’t a part of the loan agreement. Once your spouse passes away or moves out of the home, your family or heirs may need to sell the home to repay the loan.

Example of how a reverse mortgage works

James and Mary, ages 73 and 72, are a retired couple who own their home outright. They want to stay in their home but need to supplement their monthly income from Social Security and James’s pension. They would also like to remodel their kitchen. James and Mary’s home is valued at $250,000, and they do not have a mortgage.

The total amount that James and Mary can borrow using a reverse mortgage is limited by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is based on the age of the youngest spouse, current mortgage rates, and the value of the home.

Let’s run a hypothetical scenario through the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association’s reverse mortgage calculator.

Value of the home $250,000
Loan principal limit $150,000
Closing costs -$7,800
Net principal limit $142,200
Lump sum cash for kitchen remodel -$20,000
Remaining for monthly advance $122,200
Monthly advance $750

James and Mary have been mortgage-free for a year. The current value of their home is $250,000, and they are applying for a $150,000 reverse mortgage. After accounting for closing costs of approximately $7,800, the remaining available principal is $142,200. James and Mary would like to have $20,000 of that up front for the kitchen remodel, leaving $122,200 available for monthly installments. Based on this scenario, the amount James and Mary would receive monthly is approximately $750.

Reverse mortgage requirements

Businesswoman pushing button on touch screen

To qualify for a reverse mortgage, you must:

  • Be age 62 or older
  • Own your home outright or have a small mortgage (meaning the amount you owe on the mortgage is less than the amount you qualify for under the reverse mortgage program)
  • Use the home as your primary residence
  • Not be delinquent on any federal debt, such as back taxes, federally backed student loans, SBA loans, or HUD-insured loans.
  • Have the financial resources to continue to meet obligations such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, association dues, and repairs
  • Participate in an information session with a HUD-approved Home Equity Conversion Mortgages counselor

Meeting these basic requirements doesn’t necessarily mean a reverse mortgage is right for you.

3 questions to ask yourself when considering a reverse mortgage

  • Do you want or need to move? This question should help you understand whether or not your home will continue to meet your needs for the foreseeable future. If your home is physically difficult for you to navigate and maintain, you may be better off selling the home and downsizing to a home that is better suited to your retirement years. A reverse mortgage requires you to continue to reside in and maintain the home. If you are physically or financially unable to do that, you may have to sell the home to pay off the loan balance.
  • Can you afford to continue paying real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, association dues, and maintenance? While a reverse mortgage will boost your monthly income, consider whether that additional cash flow will be enough to continue covering real estate taxes, insurance, association dues, and home maintenance. Keeping up with these obligations is a requirement of a reverse mortgage. If you cannot afford to keep up with these expenses and your other bills, including health care, utilities, and other living expenses, a reverse mortgage may not make sense.
  • Are you planning on leaving your home to your children, grandchildren, or other heirs? When you pass, your heirs may have to sell the home to pay off the reverse mortgage. Other assets, such as investments or life insurance, may be available to pay off the loan balance. If your sole motivation for staying in the home is to pass it on to heirs, consider whether they’ll be able to hold on to it after you are gone.

Robin Faison is a licensed mortgage loan officer specializing in reverse mortgages with Open Mortgage in Scottsdale, Az. Faison also teaches a Reverse Mortgage for Purchase class accredited through the Arizona Department of Real Estate.

Faison says reverse mortgage borrowers typically fall on a spectrum, from those who are facing foreclosure and need a reverse mortgage to keep their homes, to those who are not in any financial difficulty and use a reverse mortgage line of credit strategically as a part of their overall retirement plan.

Reverse mortgage risks

A reverse mortgage is a financial product, and all financial products come with risks. Make sure you understand those risks before signing any paperwork. Those risks may include the following.

Fewer assets for heirs

Some homeowners dream of holding on to the family home and passing it down to their children or grandchildren. If this is part of your estate plan, consider whether your heirs will need to sell the home to pay off the reverse mortgage.

Even if you have life insurance proceeds or other assets that can be tapped to pay off the reverse mortgage after your death, those assets may be depleted, leaving less for your family members. Work with your financial adviser and a reputable reverse mortgage specialist to make sure that a reverse mortgage works with your overall estate plan.

Fees and other costs

Real estate investment. House and coins on table

Just like with a conventional mortgage, you will pay closing costs, mortgage insurance premiums, origination fees, and other costs to close on a reverse mortgage. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the fees and other costs of a reverse mortgage vary based “on the type of loan you choose, how much money you take out up front, and the lender you choose.”

Faison says lenders also receive a premium for servicing your loan (typically from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), which can be used to offset closing costs. However, regulations have made it more difficult for banks to offset costs on a fixed rate loan. Your lender will have more leeway for offsetting closing costs with that premium on an adjustable rate mortgage, but then the borrower bears the risk of rising interest rates.

Will owe more over time

As you receive money from the reverse mortgage, interest is added to the balance you owe each month. The amount you owe grows as interest on the loan balance adds up over time. Faison says many borrowers choose to make some payments on their reverse mortgage in order to keep the loan balance down.

Variable rates

Most reverse mortgages have variable rates. While these loans have more flexibility than fixed rate mortgages, your rate can rise quickly and dramatically.

HUD publishes statistics on all federally backed reverse mortgages each month. For October 2016 (the most recent month for which information is available at the time of this writing), interest rates on adjustable rate reverse mortgages range from 2.507% to 6.045%.

Interest is not tax deductible

Unlike a traditional mortgage, the interest you’ll pay on a reverse mortgage is not tax deductible until the loan is paid partially or in full.

Need to continue paying other obligations

You will still be responsible for paying property taxes, insurance, utilities, fuel, maintenance, and other standard costs of keeping up the home, just as you would with a conventional or no mortgage. If you cannot or do not continue to pay real estate taxes or insurance or to maintain the home, the lender may require repayment of the reverse mortgage.

May require “set-aside” amounts

Lenders are required to conduct a financial assessment to ensure borrowers have the financial capacity to continue paying obligations such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, and maintenance. If the lender determines that the borrower may not be able to keep up with such payments, they may require “set-aside” amounts to cover future obligations.

The set-aside amount is based on a formula that takes into account your current property taxes and homeowners insurance premiums, projected increases to taxes and insurance rates, monthly interest rates, and the life expectancy of the youngest borrower. While set-aside amounts help ensure borrowers can continue to meet loan obligations, those amounts will reduce your payment amounts.

Unscrupulous advice

Some unscrupulous advisers try to pressure borrowers into using proceeds from a reverse mortgage to purchase other financial investments. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) warns consumers to be skeptical of such advice. If those other investments lose value, you or your heirs may not have the means to pay off the reverse mortgage balance and may have to sell the home.

Primary residence requirement

Faison says she also reminds all of her clients about the obligation to continue using the home as your primary residence. You only need to live in the home for six months and one day out of the year for the home to qualify as a primary residence.

Annually, the lender will mail an affidavit that the borrower needs to complete, sign, and send back to confirm they are still there. Make sure to respond to those notices. Otherwise, the lender may believe you are no longer living in the home and take steps to collect on the loan balance.

How to shop for a reverse mortgage

Reverse mortgages are not one-size-fits-all products. Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a reverse mortgage.

Types of reverse mortgages

  • Single-purpose reverse mortgages. These are offered by some state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations. As the name implies, the loans can be used for only one purpose, such as home repairs or improvements or property taxes.
  • Proprietary reverse mortgages. These are private loans without federal backing. Owners of higher-valued homes may receive bigger advances from a proprietary reverse mortgage.
  • Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs). HECMs are federally insured and backed by HUD. Proceeds can be used for any purpose. An HECM may be more expensive than a traditional home loan, but they offer more flexibility. Borrowers can choose several payment options, including:
    • Single disbursement
    • Fixed monthly advances over a specified period of time
    • Fixed monthly advances as long as you live in your home
    • A line of credit
    • A combination line of credit and monthly payments

Other considerations for choosing a reverse mortgage

Faison recommends working with a local licensed loan officer who specializes in reverse mortgages or HECMs. “It’s fine to work with companies you hear about on TV,” Faison says, “but I often work with people who heard about reverse mortgages on the television but then decide they want to work with someone local.”

No matter who you work with, make sure you understand all costs involved. Loan expenses, including origination fees, interest rates, closing costs, and servicing fees, can vary among lenders. Make sure you fully understand the total cost of the loan.

How long do reverse mortgages take?

Clock time deadline

Depending on where you live and how busy appraisers are in your area, it could take two months or more just to get an appraisal on your home, which is only the first step in the process.

Faison also recommends asking your loan consultant how long the reverse mortgage process will take. If you are facing foreclosure or need money right away, a reverse mortgage may take more time than you have. Faison says some lenders may take 60 days or more, depending on the appraisal. “The appraisal industry has undergone a lot of change recently, and there are fewer appraisers available,” Faison says.

Alternatives to a reverse mortgage

A reverse mortgage isn’t right for everyone. Faison speaks with many people who ultimately are not good candidates. Credit issues may stand in the way of passing a financial assessment. In other cases, homes haven’t been maintained and are unable to pass the appraisal process. These problems can be resolved. However, if they are impossible to overcome, alternatives to a reverse mortgage include the following.

Refinance existing mortgage

If you have an existing home loan, you may be able to refinance your mortgage to reduce your monthly payments and free up some cash.

Take out a home equity loan or line of credit

If you own your home outright, you may be able to take out a home equity loan or line of credit. You will still be responsible for monthly payments, but the interest on the loan is usually tax deductible up to $100,000.

Sell your home and downsize or rent

If you are willing and able to move, selling your home to downsize or rent will free up the equity in your home, giving you extra cash to save, invest, or spend. You could also sell the home to your kids or another family member. Often, people who sell the home to a family member use a sale leaseback agreement where they rent back the home using proceeds from the sale.

REX agreement

A REX agreement is an alternative to a home equity line of credit. It allows you to access the equity in your home, giving you a cash payment of a percentage of your home’s market value (typically 12% to 17%) in exchange for 50% of the increase in your home’s value when it is sold. For example, if the home is worth $100,000 when the REX agreement is signed, the homeowner may receive a cash payment of $12,000 to $17,000. If the home increases in value by $50,000 over the next 10 years, when the home is sold, the company receives $25,000 (50% of the $50,000 increase).

Rent out part of your home

If you want to stay in your home but need some additional income, you may be able to rent out a part of your home to a roommate. Be sure to screen candidates carefully.

The bottom line

If you are considering a reverse mortgage of any kind, make sure you understand the pros and cons of this complex financial product before you sign. The television commercials may make it look easy, but a reverse mortgage is a serious financial commitment that comes at a cost and may impact potential heirs.

If you do not have the money to continue living in your current home at your current lifestyle, borrowing money against your home equity may not be the best option. Discuss your situation with a trusted adviser and a reputable, licensed loan officer with experience in reverse mortgages and HECMs. If you do decide that a reverse mortgage is right for you, review the different types of reverse mortgages and shop around for the best terms and rates. Do some research to find a counselor or company who will take the time to help you understand the costs and obligations before making any decisions.

Janet Berry-Johnson
Janet Berry-Johnson |

Janet Berry-Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Janet here

TAGS: , ,

Featured, Mortgage

Mortgage Broker vs. Loan Officer: The Best Way to Shop for a Mortgage

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Senior businessman showing a document to sign to a couple

When you need to take out a loan to buy a home, you generally have two options. You can work with a lender’s loan officer or hire a mortgage broker. Loan officers and mortgage brokers are not the same thing, although the terms are often used interchangeably.

Loan officers work for a bank or a lender and will only be able to show you mortgage options from that financial institution. In contrast, mortgage brokers are individuals or firms that are licensed by a state to act as middlemen between you and multiple banks or mortgage lenders. Because brokers aren’t beholden to a particular lender, they can shop around and try to find you a loan with terms that best fit your circumstances.

Why should you consider working with a mortgage broker?

One of the biggest benefits to working with a mortgage broker is that they take over the job of shopping for a loan. You might be able to do this on your own, and in some cases, you could find a better loan than the broker, but it can be a time-consuming and complicated process.

A broker can help collect and organize the documents you need to apply for a mortgage, such as your proof of employment and income, tax returns, a list of your assets and debts, and credit reports and scores. The broker can then use the information to look for loans, compare rates and terms, and apply for mortgages on your behalf.

Casey Fleming, a mortgage adviser and author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage,” says one of the big benefits is that brokers are generally “on your side,” while a loan officer represents the lender’s interest. Brokers are also incentivized to find you a loan that meets your needs and see the deal through closing because they don’t get paid until you close on the home.

Additionally, brokers might have access to lenders that don’t work directly with consumers, meaning you wouldn’t be able to get a loan from the lender even if you tried. And in some cases, brokers can leverage their relationship with a lender to get it to waive fees you’d otherwise have to pay.

Are there risks involved with using a mortgage broker?

While working with a broker could be a good idea, there are potential drawbacks to consider. “Not all brokers are created equal,” says Fleming. “Many have only a few sources for loans, and may not be able to find the best pricing.” There are also some mortgage lenders that don’t work with brokers and will only offer loans directly to consumers (through one of the lender’s loan officers).

Using a mortgage broker can also be expensive. Although you may find the services are worth paying for, consider the costs of using a broker:

Mortgage broker fees

Mortgage brokers are often paid in one of two ways. You may be able to choose how you’d like to pay the broker, or opt for both payment methods.

Some mortgage brokers will charge you a commission based on the loan you take out, often about 1% of the loan. For example, that’s a $3,000 fee on a $300,000 mortgage loan. You’ll pay this fee as part of your closing costs when you close on the home.

Other brokers may offer you a fee-free mortgage. However, what likely happens in this case is that the mortgage broker arranges a loan with a higher interest rate, leaving room for the lender to give the broker a cut. This route could cost you more over the lifetime of the loan but might be the better option if you want to minimize costs now.

Where to find a good mortgage broker

“Word of mouth is very useful when it comes to finding a good [mortgage broker],” according to Professor David Reiss, a real estate law professor at the Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, N.Y. You could ask friends or family members who’ve recently bought a home if they used a mortgage broker, as well as your real estate agent if he or she can recommend a broker.

However, don’t settle for the first recommendation you receive. The Federal Trade Commission recommends interviewing several brokers and trying to find one who’ll be a good fit for your home search.

Ask about their experience with buyers like you in the area, the fees they charge, and how many lenders they work with. “You want to know whether the mortgage broker can find competitive mortgage products, is well organized so that loans close in a timely manner, and whether it keeps away from bait-and-switch tactics that can be so difficult to deal with when buying a home,” says Reiss.

You can also look for reviews of the mortgage broker online, and check for complaints against the company with the Better Business Bureau. The National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) also has a directory of state associations and regulators, which you can use to check the broker’s license and standing.

Louis DeNicola
Louis DeNicola |

Louis DeNicola is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Louis at louis@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Featured, Mortgage

Guide to Getting a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Mortgage Loan

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Couple Celebrating Moving Into New Home With Champagne

Saving up the traditional 20% for a mortgage down payment is the kind of financial obstacle that can bar first-time homebuyers with minimal savings from becoming homeowners. The government-backed Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage is one solution for those who want to buy a home but can’t pull together a large down payment.

FHA mortgages are home loans funded by FHA-approved lenders and insured by the government.

The government backing protects lenders from loss if borrowers default. Because of this protection, lenders can be more lenient with their qualifying criteria and can accept a significantly lower down payment.

You can get approved for an FHA mortgage with a minimum credit score of 500, and you only need to put 3.5% to 10% down to buy a home.

How much can an FHA mortgage help you?

For a $150,000 home, a 20% down payment would mean you would need to bring $30,000 (along with other closing costs) to the table. That’s no small chunk of change. By comparison, an FHA mortgage would require anywhere from 3.5% to 10% for a down payment, which comes out to $5,250 to $15,000.

In this post, we’ll cover the following topics to explain the FHA mortgage, including:

  • FHA mortgage terms
  • FHA qualifying criteria and restrictions
  • FHA costs and mortgage premiums
  • FHA mortgages vs. conventional mortgages
  • How to shop for an FHA mortgage

FHA mortgage terms

There are both 15- and 30-year fixed-rate and adjustable-rate FHA mortgage options. With a fixed-rate FHA mortgage, your interest rate is consistent through the loan term. However, your monthly mortgage payment may increase based on your homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance premium, and property taxes.

Adjustable-rate FHA mortgages are home loans where the rate stays low and fixed during an introductory period of time such as five years. Once the introductory period ends, the interest rate will adjust, which means your monthly mortgage payments may increase.

A unique situation where signing up for a low, adjustable-rate FHA mortgage could make sense is if you plan to sell or refinance the home before the introductory period ends and the interest rate can change. Otherwise, a fixed-rate FHA mortgage has predictable mortgage payments and may be the way to go.

Qualifying criteria and restrictions

Although the FHA home loan is particularly appealing for first-time homebuyers, it’s not only open to first-time purchasers. Repeat buyers planning to use the home as a primary residence may qualify for an FHA home loan as well.

Besides the low down payment, an undeniable benefit of the FHA mortgage is the low credit score requirement. You may qualify for 3.5% down payment with a credit score of 580 or higher. You can also qualify with a credit score lower than 580, but you’ll have to make a 10% down payment.

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is another key metric lenders consider in addition to your credit score to determine whether you can afford a mortgage. DTI measures the amount of debt you have compared to your income, and it’s expressed in a percentage.

Lenders look at two debt-to-income ratios when determining your eligibility — housing ratio or front-end ratio and your total debt ratio or back-end ratio.

Your front-end ratio is what percentage of your income it would take to cover your total monthly mortgage payment. Lenders like to see your front-end ratio below 31% of your gross income.

Your back-end ratio shows how much of your income is needed to pay for your total monthly debts. Lenders prefer a back-end ratio of 43% or less of your gross income.

FHA limits

The FHA mortgage can be used for both single-family and multi-family homes, but there are loan amount maximums that vary by state and county.

For an example, in Fulton County, Atlanta, the maximum loan for a single-family house is $342,700. You can find the loan limits for all states and counties here.

 

FHA mortgage costs and mortgage insurance premium

Just like a traditional mortgage, an FHA home loan has closing costs. Closing costs are the costs necessary to complete your transaction, such as appraisals and home inspections. However, you may be able to negotiate to have some of these costs covered by the seller.

The real expense of the FHA home loan lies in the mortgage insurance premiums.

At first glance, the FHA mortgage probably seems like the ultimate hack to buying a home with minimal savings. The flip side to this is you need to pay mortgage insurance premiums to cover the lender for the lower down payment.

Remember, FHA-approved lenders offer mortgages that require less money down and flexible qualifying criteria because the Federal Housing Administration will cover the loss if you default on the loan. The government doesn’t do this for free.

FHA mortgage borrowers must “put money in the pot” to cover the cost of this backing through upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums. The upfront insurance premium for the FHA mortgage is currently 1.75% of the loan amount, and it can be rolled into your mortgage balance.

The annual insurance premium is broken into a payment that you make monthly. The annual premium for mortgage insurance can be up to 1.05% based on your loan term length, loan amount, and loan-to-value ratio (LTV).

LTV is a percentage that compares your loan amount to your home’s value. It also represents the equity (or lack of equity) you have in the property.

For example, putting 3.5% down means your LTV would be 96.5%. In other words, you have 3.5% equity in the home, and your loan is covering the remaining 96.5% of the home value.

Here’s the annual mortgage insurance premium on a 30-year FHA mortgage (for loans less than $625,000):

  • LTV over 95% (you initially have less than 5% equity in the home) – 0.85%
  • LTV under 95% (you initially have more than 5% equity in the home) – 0.8%

As you can see, starting off with less equity (or a smaller down payment) will cost you more in insurance premiums. You can expect to pay 0.85% in annual mortgage insurance premiums if your down payment is 3.5% on the 30-year mortgage.

Unfortunately, if your LTV was greater than 90% at time of origination, insurance premiums tag along for the entire loan term or 11 years, whichever comes first. There are exceptions if you have an FHA mortgage that was taken out before June 3, 2013.

How does the FHA home loan compare to conventional home loans?

Government-backed home loans like the FHA mortgage are part of special programs that serve borrowers that can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage.

At the other end of the spectrum is the conventional mortgage or the “Average Joe” of mortgages.

These traditional mortgages are offered by lenders and banks backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s mortgage standards. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-sponsored agencies that buy loans from mortgage lenders and banks that conform to preset requirements.

Since conventional mortgages are loans eligible to be purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the qualifying criteria bar is usually set higher. For instance, you should have at least a 620 credit score to qualify for a fixed-rate conventional loan. Although, credit score minimums vary by lender, and a score above 620 will be necessary for the most competitive interest rates.

A misconception about the conventional mortgage is that borrowers must have 20% for a down payment to qualify. Mortgage lenders may accept less than 20% down for a conventional mortgage if you have a high credit score and pay their version of mortgage insurance premiums, which is called private mortgage insurance (PMI).

PMI is a private insurance policy that protects the lender if you default. Be careful not to confuse the two types of insurance policies.

If you have PMI on a conventional mortgage, you’re able to request a removal of insurance payments when you build up 20% equity in your home.

On the other hand, the mortgage insurance premiums for new FHA mortgages (post 2013) can’t be removed unless you refinance.

When to choose a conventional mortgage instead

Putting down less money with the FHA mortgage can be a shortcut to homeownership if you don’t have much cash saved or the credit history to get approved for a conventional mortgage.

But, the convenience doesn’t come without strings attached and the additional insurance costs can follow you for the entire loan term. This can get costly.

Furthermore, putting a small sum down on a home means that it will take you quite some time to build up equity. A small down payment can also increase your monthly payments. Homebuyers with a strong credit score should consider saving a bit more money and shopping for a conventional home loan first before thinking the FHA home loan is the only answer to a limited down payment.

You may be able to qualify for a conventional home loan with PMI if you have a down payment of 5% to 10%. A conventional home loan with PMI may not require the same upfront insurance payment as the FHA home loan, so you can find some savings there. Plus, you’re capable of getting rid of PMI without refinancing.

How to shop for an FHA mortgage

If your present credit score and savings make you ineligible for a conventional home loan, the FHA home loan is still a viable option to consider for financing. Just make sure you understand the implications of the extra cost.

Like a conventional mortgage, you need to shop around with multiple FHA-approved lenders to find the most competitive rate. If you’re unfamiliar with FHA-approved lenders in your area, you can go to the HUD website to find a few.

Don’t rush to a decision. If you’re not sure which option (FHA or conventional mortgage) will be the most cost effective for you, ask each lender you shop with to break down the costs for a comparison.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Featured

Use This Calculator to See How Long It Will Take You to Save for a Home

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Save for a Home

Saving up for a home can feel like a seemingly endless journey for any prospective buyer — especially young workers. In our 2016 U.S. Housing Affordability Study, the MagnifyMoney team analyzed 380 metros in the U.S. and found nowhere in the U.S. where a worker who began saving today could reasonably save for a home in under one year.

On average, it would take workers aged 25 to 44 roughly five and half years to save for a home if they began saving now. Workers under age 25 would need more than five times as long (27.2 years). The journey would be shortest for middle-aged homebuyers aged 45 to 65, who we found would need just an average of 4.69 years to save enough for a new home.

In our study, we wanted to give a realistic picture of homeownership. We based our calculations on a worker whose goal was to save 20% of their income annually toward a goal of homeownership. We determined they would need to save enough to put down a 20% down payment, plus 4.5% for closing costs. We also factored in a one-month emergency fund equal to one month’s mortgage payment.

But we also know it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to be able to set aside that much of their earnings in savings, especially early in their careers. So we created a calculator anyone can use to find out how long it would take them to save up for a new home.

Check it out below and read on to learn more about how it works.

Calculating Your Chances of Homeownership

Our unique Home Affordability Calculator asks for your gross monthly income (that is, how much you earn each month before taxes are taken out) and location first.  From there, we give you a quick estimate of how long it would take you to save for a home if you were to start saving now.

You can customize all of the fields of the calculator from there to tailor your estimate more closely to your circumstances. Can’t afford to save 20% of your income? Adjust your savings rate to whatever rate you think you can manage, and the calculator will update your estimate.

For some, this estimate may look more like a life sentence rather than a reasonable timeline toward saving for a home. Here, we can admit this calculator isn’t perfect. Your earnings today may look much different than a few years from now, or even a few months from now. As you work your way up in your career and are able to set aside more funds toward a new home, you will certainly shave time off your savings goal. Furthermore, you may already have some savings in the bank, which this calculator does not take into consideration.

Read more about our findings in our 2016 Housing Affordability Study.

Here are the most affordable metros for each age group:

45 to 65-year-olds

45-65-The-Most-Easiest-Places

25 to 44-year-olds

25-44-The-Most-Easiest-Places

15 to 24-year-olds

15-24-The-Easiest-Places

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , , , , ,

Featured

MagnifyMoney: 2016 Housing Affordability Study

Advertiser Disclosure

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Housing Affordability Study

As the cost of housing soars ever higher and household earnings remain stubbornly stagnant, how realistic is homeownership for young people today?

Saving up for a new home can feel like an endless slog for young working Americans. The upfront costs alone — the down payment, closing costs, property taxes, etc. — are enough to scare off prospective buyers who are struggling to make ends meet.

Just over one-third of Americans under age 35 owned homes as of mid-2016, down 12% from 2010, according to U.S. Census data. While homeownership rates fell across all age groups during that same period, none experienced a steeper drop-off than the under-35s.

MagnifyMoney wanted to figure out how realistic homeownership is for young Americans today — that is, how long it would take them to save up for a new home in their area if they started saving now.

Calculating Home Affordability

Our analysis revealed two different sets of buyers — those who can afford the cost of a new home in their area and those who cannot. Affordability was largely driven by a worker’s ability to qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home in their metro area. Given these two different cases, we used two methods to determine how long it would take these groups to save for a home.

For buyers who can’t afford a large enough mortgage:

We assumed that the borrower can spare 35% of their monthly income toward mortgage-related payments. Based on this amount and the current interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, we calculated the total mortgage that the borrower can afford to take.

We then took the mortgage amount they would qualify for and subtracted it from the cost of a median-priced home in their area to find the mortgage gap they need to fill. Then, we added other necessary upfront costs: 4.5% closing costs and a standard emergency cash reserve equal to one month’s mortgage payment.

We determined, based on the median income for their age, how long it would take to save that amount, assuming a 20% savings rate.

Example:

We estimate a 25 to 44 year-old homebuyer in Salinas, Calif., would reasonably qualify for a $275,385 mortgage. A median-priced home in Salinas, Calif., costs $750,000. So, she would have to save at least $474,615 to fill the mortgage gap. On top of that, she would pay another $33,750 in closing costs (assuming an estimate of 4.5%) and need to set aside a $1,274 emergency cash reserve.

In total, she would need to come up with $509,612 to be able to buy a home in her area. If she saved 20% of her income toward that goal, it would take her 46.75 years.

For buyers who can afford a large enough mortgage:

Once again, we assumed that the borrower can spare 35% of their monthly income toward mortgage-related payments. Based on this amount and the current interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, we calculated the total mortgage the borrower can afford to take.

We then determined how much they’d need to save for a 20% down payment. We added to that the cost of closing costs and a one-month mortgage reserve.

For example:

A median-priced home in Johnstown, Penn., costs $74,900. So this buyer would have to save at least $14,980 to cover a 20% down payment. On top of that, he would pay another $3,370 in closing costs (assuming an estimate of 4.5%) and set aside $1,370 in an emergency cash reserve.

In total, he’d need to save $19,720. Saving 20% of his income toward this goal, it would take him 1.85 years.

Key Findings

  • Get ready for the long haul: Of the 380 metro areas we analyzed, we found no place in America where a worker of any age group could realistically save up for a new home in less than a year.Across all 380 metro areas analyzed…
    • 45 to 65 year-olds would need an average of 4.69 years to save for a home.
    • 25 to 44 year-olds would need an average of 5.63 years to save for a home.
    • 15 to 24 year-olds would an average of 27.2 years to save for a home.
  • Where homeownership is completely out of reach:
    • In 20.79% of metros (79 out of 380), workers of all age groups wouldn’t be able to qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home.
    • 15 to 24 year-olds wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median priced home in 357 out of 380 metros analyzed (93.95%).
    • 25 to 44 year-olds wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home in 68 out of 380 metros analyzed (17.89%).
    • 45 to 65 year-olds wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage loan large enough to cover the cost of a median-priced home in 29 out of 380 metros analyzed (7.63%).

The least and most affordable metros for 25 to 44-year-olds

25-44-The-Most-Easiest-Places
25-44-The-Most-Difficult-Places

A closer look at the housing market for 25 to 44-year-olds:

  • The most affordable metro area: Johnstown, Penn., is the easiest place for 25 to 44 year-olds to save for a home. The key: Affordable housing is in abundance. A median-priced home in Johnstown is $74,900. With a goal of saving enough to cover a 20% down payment, closing costs, and a one-month mortgage payment reserve, the total amount workers would need to save is $19,720. Earning the median annual income for that area of $53,164, they would need just 1.85 years to save.
  • The least affordable metro area: Salinas, Calif., is the most difficult metro area for 25 to 44 year-olds dreaming of homeownership. Earning the median annual salary of $54,499 and looking at a median-priced home listed at $750,000, they would need a staggering 46.75 years to save up enough. The reason? On an annual household income of $54,499, a homebuyer would only realistically be able to qualify for a $271,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan, leaving a half-million-dollar gap to fill.
  • Midwest is best: 9 out of the 10 most affordable metro areas are located in the Midwest, where housing prices are significantly lower compared to other regions. On average, it would take just 2.28 years for a 25 to 44 year-old to save for a home in the 10 most affordable metros.
  • California is where homeownership dreams go to die: 9 out of the top 10 most expensive metro areas for 25 to 44 year-old homebuyers are in California.
    • The average time needed to save for a home in the top 10 most expensive metro areas is a whopping 29.15 years.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds at least three years to save for a home in 7.37% of metro areas.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds between three and five years to save for a home in 53.16% of metro areas.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds between five and 10 years to save for a home in 34.47% of metro areas.
    • It would take 25 to 44 year-olds more than 10 years to save for a home in 5.00% of metro areas.

The least and most affordable metros for 45 to 65-year-olds

45-65-The-Most-Easiest-Places
45-65-The-Most-Difficult-Places

A closer look at the housing market for 45 to 65-year-olds:

  • The most affordable metro area: Danville, Ill., is the easiest place for 45 to 65 year-olds to save for a home today. A median-priced home in Danville is $68,200. With goal of saving enough to cover a 20% down payment, closing costs, and a one-month mortgage payment reserve, the total amount workers would need to save is $18,012. Earning the median annual income for their age group in that area ($51,975), they would need just 1.73 years to save.
  • The least affordable metro area: Homeownership dreams don’t get any more realistic with age in Salinas, Calif. It is also the most difficult metro area for 45 to 65 year-olds dreaming of homeownership. Even though this age group earns a median income 22% higher than 25 to 44 year-olds in this area, it would still take them nearly three decades (28.98 years) to save up for a median-priced home of $750,000. On an annual household income of $70,368, a 45 to 65 year-old homebuyer would only realistically be able to qualify for a $377,567 30-year fixed-rate loan, leaving a massive gap to fill — even without including closing costs and a one-month mortgage reserve.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds at least three years to save for a home in 16.32% of metro areas.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds between three and five years to save for a home in 57.37% of metro areas.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds between five and 10 years to save for a home in 23.16% of metro areas.
    • It would take 45 to 65 year-olds more than 10 years to save for a home in 3.16% of metro areas.
  • Midwest is best: 9 out of the 10 most affordable metro areas for 45 to 65 year-olds are also located in the Midwest, where housing prices are significantly lower compared to other regions.
    • On average, it would take just under three years (2.08) to save for a home in the 10 most affordable metros.
  • The California struggle: 9 out of the top 10 most expensive metro areas for 45 to 65 year-old homebuyers also are in California.
    • The average time needed to save for a home in the top 10 most expensive metro areas for this age group is a whopping 19.72 years.

The least and most affordable metros for 15 to 24-year-olds

15-24-The-Easiest-Places
15-24-The-Most-Difficult-Places

A closer look at the housing market for 15 to 24-year olds:

Of course, we don’t know many 15-year-olds who are shopping around for a single-family home these days, but U.S. Census Bureau data limited us to this age range. However, our findings still shine a light into the challenges facing the youngest homebuyers.

  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds at least three years to save for a home in 0% of metro areas.
  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds between three and five years to save for a home in 1.58% of metro areas.
  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds between five and 10 years to save for a home in 23.42% of metro areas.
  • It would take 15 to 24 year-olds more than 10 years to save for a home in 75.00% of metro areas.
  • The most affordable metro area: Sheboygan, Wisc., is the easiest place for 15 to 24 year-olds to save for a home today. Although median-priced homes are relatively more expensive in Sheboygan ($134,900) than other inexpensive metro areas on this list, young workers there earn relatively higher salaries, which enables them to save more toward future home costs. With a goal of saving enough to cover a 20% down payment, closing costs, and a one-month mortgage payment reserve, the total amount workers would need to save is $33,877. Earning the median annual income for their age group in that area ($38,510), they would need just 4.40 years to save.
  • The least affordable metro area: Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif., isn’t simply a difficult place for young workers to save for a home — it’s pretty much impossible. On an annual household income of $21,178, a 15 to 24 year-old homebuyer would only realistically be able to qualify for a $36,506 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan. With a median-priced home listed at $769,500, their mortgage loan would hardly make a dent. They would need 181.27 years to save enough to fill in that gap.
    • In the 10 most expensive metros, it would take 15 to 24 year-olds an average of 129.53 years to save for a home.
  • Things look much better in the South and Midwest: The 10 most affordable metro areas for 15 to 24 year-olds are also located in the Midwest and the South, where housing prices are significantly lower compared to other regions.
    • On average, it would take just under five years (4.79) to save for a home in the 10 most affordable metros.
  • Surprisingly expensive metros for 15 to 24 year-olds:
    • While 6 out of the 10 most expensive metro areas are located in California, there were some surprising findings in other states.
      • The 4th most expensive metro is Corvallis, Ore. Home prices are half as high as the most expensive metros on this list, but median incomes for this age group are among the lowest: $12,369.
      • Morgantown, W.Va., is the 6th most unaffordable metro for the youngest workers. 15 to 24 year-old workers in Morgantown earn among the lowest median incomes in the 380 metros we analyzed: $8,805.

Housing Affordability Calculator

Find out how long it would take you to save up for a home in your area.

Calculator Embed Code:
<iframe id=”home_afford” src=”//magnifymoney.com/calculator/home-affordability-calculator” width=”100%” height=”362″ frameborder=”0″></iframe>

Download the data behind this report:

Data analysis was conducted by Naveen Agarwal, MagnifyMoney Senior Data Analyst.

Metro Rankings for Ages 15 to 25

Metro Rankings for Ages 25 to 44

Metro Rankings for Ages 45 to 65

Metro Rankings for Ages 65 and Up

Metros by State: Searchable Database

Full Study Data

Appendix/Data Sources

Home prices: June 2016 median listing prices data provided by Zillow

Median income: Annual household income by age group and metropolitan area for 2014: U.S. Census Bureau.

Real Estate/Property Taxes: Real estate taxes for owner occupied units for metropolitan areas: U.S. Census Bureau

Mortgage interest rate: Bankrate.com National average on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 3.57% as of Sept. 1, 2016.

Downpayment: We assume a downpayment of 20%.

Savings rate: We assume homebuyers would save 20% of their annual take-home pay.

Closing costs: We assume closing costs of 4.5%.

Home Insurance rates by metro area: National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)

Mandi Woodruff
Mandi Woodruff |

Mandi Woodruff is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Mandi at mandi@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , , ,