PMI

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is yet another source of overcharges and unjustified costs that homeowners need to scrutinize. You need to know how to cancel PMI when it is no longer needed, both under lending guidelines and under a new federal law that took effect in July, 1999.

Good Intentions Gone Bad. The practice of requiring PMI is actually well-intentioned. By insuring lenders against risk, PMI helps homeowners obtain financing when they can’t afford to make the standard 20 percent down payment. The initial down payment can be as low as 5 percent, so long as the borrower is willing to pay an extra monthly or annual charge toward PMI. Although PMI makes the down payment more affordable, the homeowner does not otherwise benefit from paying the premiums – this insurance simply protects the bank, not the homeowner, from loss in case of foreclosure or default on the loan.

Buying is Smarter than Renting


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Top 3 Reasons Why Buying is Smarter than Renting

Traditionally, part of the American dream was home ownership, and many adults worked towards that goal. Following the recent housing bubble, many people began to question whether buying a home was actually smarter than renting, with some advocating that home ownership came with lots of risks and few real rewards. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though! There are many advantages to buying your own home, and we’ve gathered up several of them below!

  1.       Tax breaks. It’s been said that the only guarantees in life are death and taxes – so why not get a break on how much you owe each year?! One of the major benefits of home ownership is the tax deductions you will be eligible to take. There are tax advantage and tax breaks whether you are a home owner with juts a primary residence where you live, or whether you also own investment properties that you rent out. Home owners are eligible for tax deductions on the mortgage interest they pay, which can really add up! These tax deductions reduce your total taxable income, as long as you itemize your deductions. Lower taxable income results in a lower tax owed to the government and more money back in your pocket come April.
  2.       Homes are valuable assets. When you own your own home, every month you’re be making a payment directly towards a tangible, valuable asset: real estate. When you rent, you hand your money over to someone else, who in 15, 20 or 30 years will then own land and a building that has no mortgage on it. They could choose to live there, “rent free” (save for taxes and other normal living expenses), or they could continue to earn income on it, perhaps allowing for an earlier retirement. Although real estate values can certainly ebb and flow in the short-term, in the long-term real estate is nearly always a solid move. There’s also something nice about the idea of owning a home where you know you’ll stay, where your kids will grow and where your grandkids will come and visit. That home will be a built-in part of your families’ memories.

3.      Home ownership gives you freedom. With most rentals, you’ll be subject to a lease and all the rules, terms and conditions of that lease. You likely won’t be able to paint your home any colors you wish, replace carpet with hardwood, or get new kitchen appliances. You may not be able to own pets, or you might be limited in the type and number of pets you can own. You may even be restricted on throwing larger birthday parties for your children, having a pool to play and splash in in summer, or in planting your favorite flowers out front. But with home ownership, the freedom to make a house your home is 100% yours!

Mortgage After a Bankruptcy?

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People file for bankruptcy every day, many for reasons outside of their control such as extended unemployment, divorce or unexpected medical debt. Bankruptcy can be a stressful, demoralizing time, and many people who file for bankruptcy worry that they will be unable to keep their homes, or will be unable to ever qualify for a mortgage again.

Will I be able to obtain a mortgage after a bankruptcy?

According to the Federal Housing Administration, “A Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not disqualify a borrower from obtaining an FHA mortgage provided the lender documents that one year of the payout period under the bankruptcy has elapsed and the borrower’s payment performance has been satisfactory (i.e., all required payments made on time). In addition, the borrower must receive permission from the court to enter into the mortgage transaction.” So, as long as you filed for bankruptcy more than 1 year ago, and within that time you have made all required payments under your bankruptcy settlement, you will likely be eligible for an FHA mortgage.

Additionally, the federal government has a program which may be available for homeowners who are in the middle of a bankruptcy: the Home Affordable Modification Program (or, HAMP). HAMP-modifications to mortgage loans can take place during an active Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, and require that you and your bankruptcy attorney submit a HAMP-modification require to the mortgage lender or servicer.

Traditionally, conventional mortgage lenders will often require a period of 2 years to have passed since the discharge of a bankruptcy, or 4 years since the dismissal of a bankruptcy. However, once that period of time has elapsed, you will likely be able to obtain a mortgage without many roadblocks, assuming that your credit score and any down payment are sufficient – just the same as any prospective borrower.

Although a bankruptcy, whatever the reason, will likely put you on a slower path to home ownership, there is no reason why you cannot recover from a bankruptcy and move forward with your plans to own a home. Today, lenders understand that people can get in over their heads financially, many times for reasons outside of their control. Given a bit of time, and proof that you are on the road to financial recovery, you’ll find that there are many lenders willing to give prospective borrowers with a bankruptcy on their record a mortgage at competitive interest rates.

2016: The Year to Buy!

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Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are financial promises and plans for the coming year. Is buying a home or financially preparing yourself to buy a home on your radar for 2016? If so, the best way to ensure that you reach that goal is to be proactive and start working towards your goals as soon as you can.

Mortgage interest rates are currently still low and experts don’t believe that they will rise sharply anytime soon, so if you’re interested in buying a new home 2016 is likely to be a great year to do that! With rental markets around the country heating up, 2016 looks to also be a great year for those with homes to list on the market. Whether you’re just looking to get yourself ready to be in the position to buy sometime in the future, or looking to actually buy a home in 2016, there are a few key things you can do in order to set yourself up to qualify for the best rates, terms and mortgage programs available on the market today:

  1.        Familiarize yourself with the mortgage loan products and programs available. ARMs, conventional mortgages, FHA loans, USDA loans, VA loans – what is best for you and your family? Although a mortgage broker should be able to help you determine what mortgage product is best for you, it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself a bit with your options. What is your long term and short term financial situation? Are you a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran? Are you looking at rural property, whether a farm or a home in the country? Once you’re able to map out some of the factors about yourself that may impact the mortgage loan programs you may qualify for, a lender can help you navigate the details of each program.
  2.        Down payments. Do you already have one? Will you have one? Will you even need one? Traditionally, buyers were expected to put down at least 20% of the purchase price of a home in cash. And for most buyers with conventional mortgages, that is still the case if they want to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI). However, some lenders are becoming more flexible with their down payment terms today in order to attract more buyers and more business and are relaxing their down payment rules. Additionally, there are federally-backed loan programs like FHA and VA loans which can require down payments significantly less than 20% – in some cases these programs won’t require any down payment at all!

What’s your credit score? If you don’t know what’s on your credit report, or what your credit score is – check it out today! You can request your credit report for free once per year from each of the three major credit bureaus. This report won’t contain your score, but that can either be purchased or obtained from a prospective lender. It’s important to check your credit report on a regular basis for inaccurate information which might negatively impact your credit score. Generally, the higher your score, the better your rates and terms, so if your score could use some improvement get started on it today!

6 Easy Ways to Mess Up a Home Purchase

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If you’ve never purchased a home before, you might not know how easy it is to mess up a home purchase.  There are many factors that first time home buyers especially fail to remember when looking for a home for various financial and emotional reasons.  Here are the seven ways you can easily mess up your first home purchase:

Be Emotional.

One of the biggest mistakes first time home buyers make is to get emotional about the house they are purchasing.  The reason why this can be bad is it often leads to home purchases that are out of the buyer’s price range.  Figure out what features you love about that house, and look for those features in another house that’s in your price range.

Buy a Home that Needs Improvements.

Right now, it’s a buyer’s market, meaning there are a plethora of homes that are available.  Don’t get stuck with a home that needs major improvements, because you will be able to find another home that is perfectly suitable.  Repairs will cost you a lot of money, which will lead to you having a decreased savings.

Forego the Home Inspection.

You already saw the home and you think it looks great, so you decide to forego the home inspection so you can move in sooner.  Good decision, right?  Wrong.  You need to have a professional assess the state of the home and tell you whether or not any repairs will be needed now or in the immediate future.

Forget about Maintenance Costs.

Remember to factor in maintenance costs when you are planning your home budget.  You should plan to spend a few thousand dollars every year you own your home on routine maintenance.

Forget about Property Taxes.

Many first time home buyers forget to factor in property taxes, which can be extremely high in certain areas that have a higher cost of living.  Ask your lender what property taxes you’ll owe on your home before you sign any contract.  If you don’t, you could find your savings dwindling quickly.

Spending Too Much Money.

This is a no-brainer.  Don’t spend too much money on your first home.  You need to remember that you’ll most likely be making these payments for 30 years, and you’ll still need to save for other expenses such as college, medical bills, and retirement.  Buy a home within your price range, and you’ll be much happier in the long run.

What You Need To Know About Escrow

What You Need To Know About Escrow

When you purchase or refinance your home, you will receive a GFE (good faith estimate) from your lawyer approximately when you will go into escrow.  This GFE will describe in detail the information for your escrow account; this is commonly referred to as insurance impounds and property tax.  This may or may not be necessary depending on the agreement you and your lender reach.  Here’s what you need to know about escrow:

Previously, home buyers would be responsible for paying their property taxes at the end of the year.  However, many homeowners didn’t budget properly throughout the year and thus ran short on funding.  Therefore, many lenders started asking homeowners to pay these taxes and fees throughout the course of the year as opposed to at the end of the year. The overall goal of this was to have the lender pay the fees on the borrower’s behalf each month to minimize any errors or missed payments.  For their services, lenders receive interest on the escrow funds.  Often, lenders will ask for anywhere from three to six months’ of property taxes to open an escrow account.

So, is it worth it for homebuyers?  Ultimately, yes. Even though you will technically lose a little bit of interest each month, it’s much easier to budget monthly than yearly for something that is due no matter what.   You will find yourself feeling a little more financially secure and not sweating at all when property tax season comes.cropped-cropped-1.jpg

Buying is Smarter than Renting

Traditionally, part of the American dream was home ownership, and many adults worked towards that goal. Following the recent housing bubble, many people began to question whether buying a home was actually smarter than renting, with some advocating that home ownership came with lots of risks and few real rewards. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though! There are many advantages to buying your own home, and we’ve gathered up several of them below!

  1.       Tax breaks. It’s been said that the only guarantees in life are death and taxes – so why not get a break on how much you owe each year?! One of the major benefits of home ownership is the tax deductions you will be eligible to take. There are tax advantage and tax breaks whether you are a home owner with juts a primary residence where you live, or whether you also own investment properties that you rent out. Home owners are eligible for tax deductions on the mortgage interest they pay, which can really add up! These tax deductions reduce your total taxable income, as long as you itemize your deductions. Lower taxable income results in a lower tax owed to the government and more money back in your pocket come April.
  2.       Homes are valuable assets. When you own your own home, every month you’re be making a payment directly towards a tangible, valuable asset: real estate. When you rent, you hand your money over to someone else, who in 15, 20 or 30 years will then own land and a building that has no mortgage on it. They could choose to live there, “rent free” (save for taxes and other normal living expenses), or they could continue to earn income on it, perhaps allowing for an earlier retirement. Although real estate values can certainly ebb and flow in the short-term, in the long-term real estate is nearly always a solid move. There’s also something nice about the idea of owning a home where you know you’ll stay, where your kids will grow and where your grandkids will come and visit. That home will be a built-in part of your families’ memories.

3.      Home ownership gives you freedom. With most rentals, you’ll be subject to a lease and all the rules, terms and conditions of that lease. You likely won’t be able to paint your home any colors you wish, replace carpet with hardwood, or get new kitchen appliances. You may not be able to own pets, or you might be limited in the type and number of pets you can own. You may even be restricted on throwing larger birthday parties for your children, having a pool to play and splash in in summer, or in planting your favorite flowers out front. But with home ownership, the freedom to make a house your home is 100% yours!