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Life Events, Mortgage

What Is Mortgage Amortization?

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One of the biggest advantages of homeownership versus renting is each mortgage payment gradually pays off your mortgage and builds equity in your home. The difference between your home’s value and the balance of your loan is home equity, and your equity grows with each payment because of mortgage amortization.

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Understanding mortgage amortization can help you set financial goals to pay off your home faster or evaluate whether you should refinance.

What is mortgage amortization?

Mortgage amortization is the process of paying off your loan balance in equal installments over a set period. The interest you pay is based on the balance of your loan (your principal). When you begin your payment schedule, you pay much more interest than principal.

As time goes on, you eventually pay more principal than interest — until your loan is paid off.

How mortgage amortization works

Understanding mortgage amortization starts with how monthly mortgage payments are applied each month to the principal and interest owed on your mortgage. There are two calculations that occur every month.

The first involves how much interest you’ll need to pay. This is based on the amount you borrowed when you took out your loan. It is adjusted each month as your balance drops from the payments you make.

The second calculation is how much principal you are paying. It is based on the interest rate you locked in and agreed to repay over a set period (the most popular being 30 years).

If you’re a math whiz, here’s how the formula looks before you start inputting numbers.

Fortunately, mortgage calculators do all the heavy mathematical lifting for you. The graphic below shows the difference between the first year and 15th year of principal and interest payments on a 30-year fixed loan of $200,000 at a rate of 4.375%.

For the first year, the amount of interest that is paid is more than double the principal, slowly dropping as the principal balance drops. However, by the 15th year, principal payments outpace interest, and you start building equity at a much more rapid pace.

How understanding mortgage amortization can help financially

An important aspect of mortgage amortization is that you can change the total amount of interest you pay — or how fast you pay down the balance — by making extra payments over the life of the loan or refinancing to a lower rate or term. You aren’t obligated to follow the 30-year schedule laid out in your amortization schedule.

Here are some financial objectives, using LendingTree mortgage calculators, that you can accomplish with mortgage amortization. (Note that MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree.)

Lower rate can save thousands in interest

If mortgage rates have dropped since you purchased your home, you might consider refinancing. Some financial advisors may recommend refinancing only if you can save 1% on your rate. However, this may not be good advice if you plan on staying in your home for a long time. The example below shows the monthly savings from 5% to 4.5% on a $200,000, 30-year fixed loan, assuming you closed on your current loan in January 2019.

Assuming you took out the mortgage in January 2019 at 5%, refinancing to a rate of 4.5% only saves $69 a month. However, over 30 years, the total savings is $68,364 in interest. If you’re living in your forever home, that half-percent savings adds up significantly.

Extra payment can help build equity, pay off loan faster

The amount of interest you pay every month on a loan is a direct result of your loan balance. If you reduce your loan balance with even one extra lump-sum payment in a given month, you’ll reduce the long-term interest. The graphic below shows how much you’d save by paying an extra $50 a month on a $200,000 30-year fixed loan with an interest rate of 4.375%.

Amortization schedule tells when PMI will drop off

If you weren’t able to make a 20% down payment when you purchased your home, you may be paying mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance protects a lender against losses if you default, and private mortgage insurance (PMI) is the most common type.

PMI automatically drops off once your total loan divided by your property’s value (also known as your loan-to-value ratio, or LTV) reaches 78%. You can multiply the price you paid for your home by 0.78 to determine where your loan balance would need to be for PMI to be canceled.

Find the balance on your amortization schedule and you’ll know when your monthly payment will drop as a result of the PMI cancellation.

Pinpoint when adjustable-rate-mortgage payment will rise

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are a great tool to save money for a set period as long as you have a strategy to refinance or sell the home before the initial fixed period ends. However, sometimes life happens and you end up staying in a home longer than expected.

Knowing when and how much your payments could potentially increase, as well as how much extra interest you’ll be paying if the rate does increase, can help you weigh whether you really want to take a risk on an ARM loan.

The bottom line

Mortgage amortization may be a topic that you don’t talk about much before you get a mortgage, but it’s certainly worth exploring more once you become a homeowner.

The benefits of understanding how extra payments or a lower rate can save you money — both in the short term and over the life of your loan — will help you take advantage of opportunities to pay off your loan faster, save on interest charges and build equity in your home.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

By clicking “See Rates”, you will be directed to LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different lenders in our partner network.

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Mortgage

Do You Really Need a Home Warranty?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

If you’re thinking about buying a house or recently became a homeowner, someone has probably tried to sell you a home warranty. Unlike homeowner’s insurance, home warranties cover the day-to-day working parts of your home — the stove you use to cook your egg-white veggie omelet, air conditioning to cool a home on hot summer days, or the plumbing that empties out the bubbles from a toddler’s toy-filled bath.

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However, there are limits to what they cover, and they may or may not be a good fit for reasons we’ll discuss as we weigh the pros and cons of whether you really need a home warranty.

What is a home warranty?

If you’ve ever bought a used car, you may have been offered an extended warranty to cover some or all of the expense of major car parts that may nearing the end of their mechanical life. A home warranty works under the same principal, covering the working parts of your home that may be near the end of their functioning life.

The important thing to understand is that home warranties are not insurance, they are service contracts. In most cases the coverage is meant to service the covered items, not replace them. Although ultimately the coverage may cover the cost of replacing an air conditioner or dishwasher, you may have to pay a premium to have a technician come out and make that determination.

You can pay the entire premium upfront, but most warranty providers prefer to bill the annual premium in monthly installments. Unless you select a higher priced premium plan, you’ll also need to pay a service fee to a technician to verify any claims you request for repairs or replacement of covered items.

Home warranties are completely optional: unlike homeowner’s insurance, mortgage lenders don’t require that you purchase or maintain a home warranty.

What does a home warranty cover?

There are a lot of moving parts in a home, and all of them contribute to the comfort and safety of your day-to-day life. Even if your home is inspected by the most proficient home inspector around, what’s behind the walls or in the mechanical components of everything from your plumbing and air conditioning to your washer and dryer may not be visible.

The graph below gives you an idea of what a home warranty covers. These are all items that are not usually covered by homeowner’s insurance.

The items listed above are the most common ones covered by a regular plan. You might be able to cover the following by paying an extra premium for each component:

  • Pool/spa
  • Septic system
  • Water softener
  • Sprinkler
  • Well pump

Look at the fine print of each covered component to make sure you understand exactly what the warranty will pay for. For example, American Home Shield’s sample contract covers all components and parts on a garage door, except for the door itself and door track assemblies.

How much does a home warranty cost?

According to Consumer Affairs, home warranty premiums range from $300 to $600 per year. The cost varies based on where you live, and you can get an idea of where whether warranties run higher or lower in your state at sites like ReviewHomeWarranties or Consumer Affairs.

The entire premium may be prepaid for the entire year by the seller if a home warranty is being provided as an incentive to buy a home, but most providers will bill the cost of the plan monthly. That makes the average monthly cost $25 to $50 for home warranties in the $300 to $600 per year range.

If you get extra coverage for items that aren’t featured on the regular plan, expect to pay more for each item you add for coverage. You can also select specific “appliance” or “system” plans, if you want coverage for one or the other instead of both. There are other factors and costs that go into the price of your home warranty that will have an impact on how much you’ll spend.

Service fees

You’ll want to take a look at your policy to find out how much your home warranty deductible is. You may also see it called a “service fee” or “call fee.” The fee pays the technician that make the service call to see what’s wrong with whatever covered item you’re calling about.

You can choose a plan with the service fee built in, but the premiums for those plans will be more expensive. If you pick a regular plan, you’ll typically pay a service fee between $50 and $125. Service fees are additional expenses that above the cost of the monthly or annual premium payment for the warranty plan selected.

Downsides to buying a home warranty

There are many arguments against buying home warranties, especially since home warranty companies have historically been one of the “worst graded” categories on Angie’s List.

  • Your claim can be denied if the problems existed before. Think of a home warranty like an insurance policy. When something happens, you file a claim (referred to as a “service call”). An adjuster comes out to assess the damage and later submits their findings to the home warranty company, which renders a decision. That decision could be a denial of your claim. One of the most common reasons home warranty companies deny claims is due to pre-existing conditions, or problems that existed before you purchased the policy. The company may even require that you turn over a copy of the home inspection report to ensure that the issue wasn’t cited during the inspection.
  • You can’t pick your contractor. Warranty providers require that homeowners work with specific, pre-approved contractors. Homeowners may sometimes be disappointed in a long wait time for service or poor quality of service provided by these contractors, but they can’t fire them and pick their own.
  • You may get repairs when what you want is a replacement. The service technician will always try to repair the appliance or system first and replace it only if it is beyond repair. That can be a hassle.

How to shop for a home warranty

Negotiate a policy with the home seller. Your real estate agent is probably the best starting place for home warranty shopping. Home warranty companies often provide flyers and brochures at open houses, and tend to work with agents to help solicit their products. Sellers may offer to pay for one if the home for sale is older and hasn’t had recent upgrades.

Compare your options. There are a number of websites that provide comparison reviews of home warranty plans, as well as options to get quotes from several different companies based on the parameters you input. Once you’ve received some feedback, review them to determine how the total coverage stacks up with each offer. Look at how much the service fees are, what they cover, and what the maximums the warranty will pay for replacement.

Review your home inspection report to understand your needs. Your home inspection may give you an idea of how to shop as well. If the inspection indicates the appliances are newer and upgrades, but the air conditioning and plumbing system are older, you may just want to shop for the most competitive systems plan.

Vet companies carefully. According to Consumer Reports, most of the complaints the Better Business Bureau receives about home warranties relate to misunderstandings about what coverage is provided under their plans. This means you need to read the fine print about each covered item so you know exactly under what circumstances the item will be covered.

There are also limits to how much different plans pay out, so you may end up digging into your pocket to pay the difference for a replacement.

When it makes sense to purchase a home warranty

Home warranties can provide an extra financial buffer for homeowners, and may be a good fit in the following situations.

#1: You don’t have handyman skills

If you’re not mechanically inclined or if, as a renter, you used to call the landlord whenever the fridge made a weird noise, a home warranty will give you the comfort of calling someone trained to fix those things once you own a home.

There is always a service charge associated with visits to check a covered item, but it may be worth the cost if you obsess about whether the fridge is going to break down in the middle of the night.

#2: You’re on a tight budget without reserves for a major repair

If you’re a first-time homebuyer and had to use most of your funds to make a down payment and pay closing costs, you may not have a lot of reserves left over for a major purchase if something breaks down soon after you move in.

Although the warranty might not cover the entire expense of a new dishwasher or water heater, it may cover enough to keep you from having to use a credit card or hitting up a relative for a temporary loan.

#3: You’re buying an older home with older appliances and major systems

Not every seller updates their home’s components over the years, and although the home inspector may give you an idea of how old they are, they may be closer to the end of their natural life than you know. A home warranty will at least give you some insurance if some of the systems or appliances start having problems within the first year of buying your home.

When it doesn’t make sense to purchase a home warranty

Not everyone is a good candidate for a home warranty, and knowing that will help you allocate the funds to something more worthwhile.

#1: You’re buying a brand new home

When you have a home built, or buy a home that’s just been finished in a neighborhood, most of the appliances and systems are probably covered under the manufacturers warranties. For example, a standard 2-10 warranty offered through a builder covers you for defect over the following periods: a year for workmanship, two years for systems and 10 years on the structure. There’s really no need to spend the money on a home warranty for a newly constructed home.

#2: The seller is giving a credit toward new appliances or systems

It’s not uncommon for a seller to offer to pay some closing costs, so you have extra cash to pay for upgrades to items that are in need of upgrade. If the home inspector indicates that something like a water heater or air conditioner really is in bad shape, you may be better off asking for it to be replaced as part of the home purchase.

#3: You prefer to buy new appliances when the current ones go bad

If you prefer to buy a new car every two or three years rather than keeping an existing one running, you may have the same mindset about appliances and systems. Some homeowners prefer to the newest and best bells and whistles in their homes, making a home warranty unnecessary.

#4: You already have reserve funds for potential repairs

You can save on the expense of a home warranty and any related service calls by having money set aside for maintenance and repairs on your home, or allocate a certain amount of your budget every month to building a rainy day repair fund.

Final thoughts about home warranties

It’s never a bad idea as a first-time homebuyer to have a little extra insurance against unexpected home repair needs. You’ll probably find as time goes on that you’ll learn how to do easy DIY repairs like unclogging a garbage disposal or an annoying leaky faucet.

However, if you prefer to let someone else take care of any household repairs, or just don’t have the time or desire to learn how to do handyman-type jobs, a home warranty may be worth the money.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

By clicking “See Rates”, you will be directed to LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different lenders in our partner network.

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Mortgage

How to Speed Up Your Mortgage Refinance

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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The saying “time is money” is even more true when you’re refinancing your home to reduce your monthly payment. The sooner you complete a refinance, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of lowering your payment and improving your financial situation.

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There are steps you can take to move the process along more quickly. We’ll discuss these as we explain how to speed up your refinance.

Why speed is important in a refinance

Interest rates change on a daily basis. Once you lock in your rate, the clock begins ticking. If you don’t complete the refinance within the lock timeline, you could end up paying extension fees or end up having to re-lock at a higher rate.

Rate locks are usually priced in 15-day increments, although different lenders may offer other timelines. The shorter the lock period, the better your rate should be. If you can complete your refinance within one of the shorter lock-in periods, you’ll end up with a lower rate, lower costs or both.

Tip No. 1: Know what you want to accomplish with the refinance

If you’re objective is to save money every month on your payment, the refinance process can be incredibly fast. The simpler your goal is for the refinance, the easier it will be for the lender to approve your loan.

If a lender sees that you’re saving money and improving your financial situation with a lower down payment — and that you have made all your payments on time — it already has a pretty good idea that you’ll make a new lower payment on time.

However, if you’re applying for a cash-out refinance to consolidate debt, that may be a red flag that you are overextended on credit because your job or income is unstable, prompting lenders to request more proof of income to make sure you can repay your loan.

Tip No. 2: Pick a streamline refinance option

One of the benefits of government-backed loan programs, such as those offered through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veteran Affairs (VA), is the ability to refinance under “streamlined” guidelines. These refinance programs don’t require any income verification, and they usually won’t require any appraisal.

They also don’t require a full credit report, and they only verify that you’ve made your current mortgage payments on time with a mortgage-only credit report. Because lenders don’t have to underwrite your income or an appraisal, the refinances can be completed very quickly.

If you have an FHA or VA loan and have made seven payments on time since you took out your mortgage, you are probably eligible for a streamline refinance option. The VA streamline program is more commonly called a VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance loan (IRRRL), but it features the same income and appraisal flexibilities as the FHA streamline refinance.

Tip No. 3: See if you can get an appraisal waiver on conventional financing

When market values go up — as they consistently have for at least the past five years — conventional lenders may begin to offer appraisal waivers. Although you’ll still need to document your income and assets, conventional lenders may be able to offer you a waiver of your appraisal, which will significantly speed up your refinance process. It will also save you the cost of an appraisal, which is usually $300 to $400.

You may hear your loan officer talk about a property inspection waiver (PIW) or an automated collateral evaluation (ACE). These basically amount to a computerized system accepting the estimated value you input on your loan application as the appraised value for your refinance.

Appraisal waivers are usually only available on rate-and-term refinances, which are refinances paying off the balance of your loan to save money. If you are looking for a cash-out refinance to consolidate bills or make home improvements, chances are you’ll need a full appraisal.

Tip No. 4: Fill out an accurate and complete application

Take the time to fill out your loan application accurately. Be sure to provide contact information for your employer, your homeowners insurance company and a complete two-year history of your employment and addresses.

If you’ve applied for new credit accounts in the past 60 days, have a current statement handy in case the balance and payment haven’t yet appeared on your credit report. These may seem like minor things, but they can cause major delays if you don’t disclose them properly at the beginning of the loan process.

Tip No. 5: Have your basic paperwork ready to provide

Depending on the type of refinance for which you are applying, there may be very little your lender needs. However, there are some basics you should have handy to speed up the process, just in case.

  • Current month of pay stubs: If you aren’t doing a streamlined government refinance, this is usually the bare minimum a conventional lender will need.
  • Last year’s W-2: If you have high credit scores (above 720), you may not have to provide a W-2, but it depends on the type of income you receive. If you get overtime and commissions on top of a base salary, expect to provide two years’ worth of W-2s.
  • Current mortgage statement: This is needed to show that there are no late fees accruing. It also provides a snapshot of your current loan balance for your loan estimate preparation.
  • Two months of bank statements from a checking or savings account: Some lenders will only require one month. If you’re adding the closing costs to your loan balance, you may not need any bank statements at all.
  • Copy of your current homeowners insurance policy: Whether you include your homeowners insurance in your monthly payment or not, the lender will need this to calculate your total qualifying payment. It will also need to switch the lender information to show who your new mortgage company will be.
  • Current property tax statement: Again, this is required regardless of whether you have an escrow account. Your property taxes will need to be current, and the lender will need the yearly taxes to calculate your total qualifying payment.
  • Copy of your driver’s license or picture ID: This is needed to confirm your identity at your application and then again at your closing.

Tip No. 6: Apply with a digital or online refinance lender

You may see advertising or have a loan officer tell you about a digital or online refinance process. This generally means the lender doesn’t need any income or asset documentation to approve your loan, allowing the refinance to finished quickly.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t accessing your personal information in another way. New technology allows lenders to access your income and employment history through online databases. It can see your assets with “view-only access” to your banking accounts.

You generally have to work for a large employer to be eligible, and your bank accounts need to be with a large bank. You also need to be comfortable with giving your lender your log-in credentials for your bank for “read-only” access.

Tip No. 7: Stay at your current job

Your income and employment will be verified during the loan process and right before closing. Switching from a salaried to a commission position, or changing employers, will create delays in the process or prevent you from being able to complete the refinance at all.

Tip No. 8: Don’t make large deposits into your checking or savings accounts

If you are increasing your loan amount to cover your costs, you may not need to provide any bank statements at all. If you do need to provide bank statements, the first thing the lender will look for is large deposits.

If you received a large cash gift from a relative, or recently sold an asset such as a car or coin collection, avoid depositing the funds until after your transaction is complete to avoid having to provide documentation and explanations.

Tip No. 9: Provide only asset documentation you need for the loan

Refinance lenders only need enough documentation to approve your loan. If you have an extensive portfolio of stock funds, 401(k) plans or several different asset accounts, you don’t need to disclose them if you aren’t going to be liquidating them to complete your refinance.

Tip No. 10: Communicate any changes to your loan officer immediately

Sometimes a new job opportunity is too good to pass up, or a car breaks down requiring you to buy a new one. The most important thing is to immediately notify your loan officer of any changes to your employment, credit or assets so they can develop a game plan to prevent any unnecessary delays finishing your refinance.

Things that could slow down the refinance process

Sometimes situations can arise that you have no control over in the refinance process. You’ll need to make quick decisions to keep the refinance moving if you run into any of them.

Your appraisal comes in lower than estimated

A low appraisal could affect the viability of a refinance. This is especially true with conventional mortgages, where the interest rates are influenced by how much equity you have. Even a 5% difference in your estimated value could result in a higher rate, higher costs or both.

You can also dispute a home appraisal by providing recent, similar sales you think better represent your home’s value. If your value comes in lower, reach out to your loan officer to have a new break-even point analysis done to make sure the refinance still make sense. This calculation divides the total closing cost of your refinance by the monthly savings to determine how long it takes to recoup the costs. Getting your refinance done quickly isn’t beneficial if it takes you longer to recoup the costs than you plan to live in the home.

One caveat: Don’t give the appraiser your opinion about what you think your home is worth. There are very strict laws in place to make sure appraisers have the independence to evaluate your home’s worth without any pressure from an interested party. An appraiser can refuse to complete your appraisal, creating delays and potentially causing the lender to decline your loan.

Some states consider it a felony to influence a home appraiser, so it’s best to let the appraiser do the inspection, then dispute the value with recent sales if you don’t agree with the appraiser’s opinion.

You have a second mortgage you want to keep

If you have a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC), you may want to keep it open and just refinance your first mortgage. This will require an extra approval process called “subordination” or “resubordination.”

Your second mortgage lender will need to agree to being “subordinate” to your new first mortgage. That means your first mortgage lender wants to have first rights to foreclose on your home if you default.

Home equity loan and HELOC lenders will usually have a process in place to approve subordinations quickly, but some have long turn times that may force you to lock in your mortgage for a longer time period.

Final thoughts about speeding up your refinance

Be sure to shop around to get the best rate possible. Once you’ve found your best deal, lock it in and be prepared to act quickly with any documentation requests from your loan officer and loan processor.

Taking all these steps will help speed your refinance up so that you can begin enjoying the benefits of a lower rate and monthly payment.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

By clicking “See Rates”, you will be directed to LendingTree. Based on your creditworthiness, you may be matched with up to five different lenders in our partner network.