When you first bought your home a few years ago, perhaps you started off with a 30 year mortgage. Now, you are considering refinancing and changing it to a 20 year or even a 15 year mortgage.

Shortening your mortgage term and refinancing can be a smart financial move, but before you make this decision there are a number of factors that you should consider.

Switching to a shorter mortgage will mean that your monthly payments will be higher, but you will be 100% paid off much sooner and you will save thousands of dollars in interest rates. Here are a few of the factors to consider before making this decision:

Has Your Situation Improved?

Perhaps you have moved to a higher paying position, allowing you to earn a higher income and pay off more of your mortgage every month? Or maybe you have received an inheritance, which will help you to make the payments? Perhaps your expenses have gone down and you will have more money left over from your wage?

Whatever the reason, if your financial situation has improved you might want to consider switching to a shorter mortgage. With your spare money, you will be able to make the larger payments and get your house paid off sooner.

Is The Improvement Long Term?

However, it is important to consider whether this improvement will last for the long term. Will your higher wage stay that way for the next several years? Are there any hidden expenses that you are failing to factor in?

You might be set up to repay larger monthly amounts on your mortgage at the moment, but you don’t want to set yourself up for failure in the future if your finances change.

What Are The Refinancing Costs?

Keep in mind that refinancing often comes with costs and fees, so make sure that you subtract these when you are making your calculations. It can sometimes take at least two or three years to recoup the fees, so make sure that you don’t plan on selling your home in the short term.

Can You Get A Better Rate?

One of the advantages of refinancing to a shorter mortgage is that you can sometimes get the opportunity to find a better rate. Perhaps if you have an adjustable rate you will be able to convert it to a fixed rate. Take a look at what is available and ask your financial advisor for help.

These are just a few important factors to consider when it comes to shortening your mortgage term. For more info about your home, contact your trusted mortgage professional.

Dodd-Frank's Latest Gift: The Qualified Mortgage RuleThe Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s latest provision – the Qualified Mortgage rule – is going to effect on January 10, 2014.

While, like many of Dodd-Frank’s other features, its ability to protect customers remains to be seen, one of its impacts is already clear. Taking out a home loan just got harder.

The QM rule contains a set of provisions that, if followed, may protect lenders from lawsuits. They will also make it harder for customers to qualify to borrow money to buy a house.

Verifying Incomes

Lenders now have to follow stringent procedures to verify that borrowers can repay their loans. While many home loan lenders are already verifying and documenting borrower incomes, assets and debts, they will have to create additional paperwork to prove that they did their jobs.

DTI Caps

For a loan to be considered a qualifying mortgage, the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio can be no more than 43 percent. This means that if a borrower has $4,500 in gross monthly income, his total debt payments including his new mortgage cannot exceed $1,935 per month.

Previously, some lenders had been willing to go up to 45 percent.

Fee And Term Caps

Lenders will be less able to make creative loans, as well. Loans that meet the QM rule can be no longer than 30 years in length. They also cannot have closing costs and fees that exceed a cap of 3 percent of the loan’s balance.

Who Gets Impacted?

The good news is that the normal borrower taking out the normal loan might not notice the new QM rule. Borrowers that get squeezed are those that need to take out a loan that doesn’t fit the box laid out by the provisions. These include:

  • People in high-cost cities that need 40-year or interest-only mortgages to lower their payments.
  • Self-employed people and contractors that need to be able to borrow money on “stated” income without detailed verification.
  • Borrowers that can afford a loan but have other debts, like student loans.
  • Those that need non-traditional loans with high fees.

While the law still allow a lender to make a loan that isn’t a qualifying mortgage, given that the loan won’t have the same legal protections, its costs remain to be seen. This could end up pricing people with special needs out of the home loan market.

3 Considerations When Making A Down Payment One of the challenges you will face when deciding how much money to put down on your new home is whether to put down a larger down payment or to take a bit of money from your down payment and use it to pay “discount points” to lower your interest rate.

There are pros and cons to doing both and each borrower’s situation will be different so it’s important to understand which option is best for your individual need.

Some Factors You Should Consider Include:

  • Cost Of Borrowing – generally speaking, to lower your interest rate will mean you pay a premium. Most lenders will charge as much as one percent (one point) on the face amount of your loan to decrease your mortgage interest rate. Before you agree to pay discount points, you need to calculate the amount of money you are going to save monthly and then determine how many months it will take to recover your investment. Remember, discount points are normally tax deductible so it may be important to talk to your tax planner for guidance.
  • Larger Down Payment Means More Equity – keep in mind, the larger your down payment, the less money you have to borrow and the more equity you have in your new home. This is important for borrowers in a number of ways including lower monthly payments, potentially better loan terms and possibly not having to purchase mortgage insurance depending on how much equity you will have at the time of closing.
  • Qualifying For A Loan – borrowers who are facing challenges qualifying for a loan should weigh which option (discount points or larger down payment) is likely to help them qualify. In some instances, using a combination of down payment and lower rates will make the difference. Your mortgage professional can help you determine which is most beneficial to you.

There is no answer that is right for every borrower. All of the factors that impact your mortgage loan and your overall financial situation must be considered when you are preparing for your home mortgage loan.

Talking with your mortgage professional and where appropriate your tax professional will help you make the decision that is right for your specific situation.

Pitfalls And Warning Signs Of Making A Down PaymentWhen you already have a home, you may be interested in determining if a refinance is a good option. You will not have to worry about restrictions on down payments or some of the problems that can occur with a down payment.

However, if you are considering purchasing a home in or the surrounding communities, understanding down payment restrictions is important.

Gifting Of A Down Payment

There are some programs that will allow you to use a gift for your home down payment. However, before you assume this, make sure you talk to your loan officer. Generally speaking, the lender will require the person making the gift to provide a letter stating the money was a gift and does not require repayment.

Windfalls Of A Down Payment

When people hit the lottery or come into money through an inheritance, one of the first things they may consider is buying a new home. However, it is important to keep in mind that lenders will typically want to know exactly how you came up with your down payment.

Borrowers still need to show a “trail” of how they came into money. If your down payment amount has not been “seasoned” the lender may not accept your loan.

What Is A Seasoned Down Payment?

Generally speaking, your loan officer will want a “paper trail” to document your down payment. Most lenders require down payment funds to be at a minimum six months old.

For example, let’s assume a borrower did win the lottery: If they deposit the funds into their checking account and leave it there for six months or more, the funds would be considered seasoned.

Lender restrictions on down payment funds are fairly common. If you are uncertain if your funds meet the lender’s criteria, talk to your loan officer. In most cases, a lender will require at least one-half your down payment fall into the category of seasoned funds.

Some borrowers may use their retirement account or other savings to make their home down payment.

Don’t wait until the last minute to discuss your down payment with your loan officer because you may wind up disappointed. Keep in mind, every lender has different requirements and these rules may not apply to your lender.

4 Tips To Save For That Down Payment In order to save up a huge amount of cash for the down payment on your first mortgage, you need a solid savings plan!

When you take out a mortgage on your new home as a first time homebuyer, the more you can pay as a down payment the better. The down payment on a mortgage reduces the principle of the loan and means that you will be paying tens of thousands less in interest payments over the life of the loan.

Most financial experts recommend that you should save up at least 20% of the value of the home as a down payment. Depending on the value of the home that you want to buy, this can be a serious chunk of money.

The conventional saving tricks of skipping your morning latte and eating dinner at home just aren’t going to cut it when saving up this much money! You will need some strategies for saving big.

Here are some tips to help you get closer to that down payment:

Make A Separate Savings Account

No matter how much you have already saved for your down payment, create a new savings account to put the money in. When the money is in your personal account it is so much more tempting to spend it on day to day expenses. Also, a savings account will give you a better rate of interest so that you can help you money grow.

Pay Off Your Credit Cards First

If you have credit card debt, you will be paying interest charges to the credit card company every month. These charges can really add up, especially if you are only paying the minimum on your loans. If you can pay down this debt you will have extra money every month to put into your savings instead.

Get A Part-Time Job

If you want to accelerate yourself towards having your down payment saved up, you could consider taking on a part-time job in addition to your full-time job on a few evenings and weekends.

It doesn’t have to be something that you do forever, but even sticking with it for six months to a year will give you thousands in extra income that you can put straight towards your down payment.

Make A Backwards Budget

Do you find that after you have paid all of your bills and your living expenses, there is nothing left over to save? Rather than calculating all of the money that you use on your monthly expenses and then saving whatever is left afterwards, why not make your budget the other way around?

Start off with how much you want to be able to save per month then subtract that amount from your net income. The number you have left is what you have to live off.

You will find that you naturally change your habits to make this amount of money work for you and if it if not enough you can increase your income by getting a side gig. These are just a few ways that you can save up for a down payment on your first home in order to save money over the years on your mortgage.

5 Great Questions To Ask At An Open HouseAn open house gives you a great opportunity to look more closely at real estate you might be interested in buying. It also affords you the chance to chat with the owner or real estate agent so you can bring up any issues or hesitations you have with the home.

Knowing what to ask can be difficult, so below are examples of questions to ask at the next open house you attend.

Why Has The Seller Decided To Sell Now?

If you ask why the seller is moving, you could learn valuable information to help determine your offer or possibly whether or not you want to buy the home.

Knowing whether the owners are about to go into foreclosure, have experienced trouble in the neighborhood, or if they’ve retired and completely paid off the home can help you understand how urgently they need to sell their property.

Has The Seller Had Any Other Offers?

Don’t forget that you are not only negotiating with the seller for a price, you are also competing with other potential buyers. It really helps to know what you are up against.

It is important to understand that you might not get a 100% straight answer to this question as most sellers know that competition or perceived competition can cause a potential buyer to move forward more quickly and at a higher price.

If you’re comfortable in this discussion, you might want to try and see if you can find out the details of any other offers.

Does The Property Have Special Ownership Costs?

Ask the agent or owner about the other costs associated with owning the property, such as Home Owners Association fees within a condo complex or a gated community. It’s important to know about these extra expenses in advance so you can make an informed offer.

You may also want to ask about any pending litigation concerning the property. Litigation is not always a deal killer, but it’s better to know the details before you sign closing documents.

What Furniture And Appliances Are Being Sold With The House?

Most of the time, a seller will include their major appliances such as the refrigerator, stove and dishwasher with the home, but this isn’t always the case. If you don’t already have these items, it’s important to know whether they are included in the purchase price.

Is There Anything Else That You Want To Leave With The Home?

This is an important question to ask. Especially if there are specific things in the home that you have a strong interest in. Perhaps there is custom art work or a pool table that fits perfectly in the game room.

The seller may be eager to part with those items and include them in the sale of the home or sell them at a large discount. The open house is a great opportunity to learn more about a home before making the decision to buy it, so be sure you ask the right questions.

Beware Of Zombie Titles

30 October 2013

Beware Of Zombie TitlesWith the economic downturn, anyone dealing in real estate quickly became familiar with previously little-known terms such as foreclosure and short sale. Now that the housing market is picking back up and people are moving on, a new term is coming to light — zombie titles.

The Zombie Title

This is when a home has been vacated because the owners defaulted on their loan and their bank started the foreclosure process. However, for some reason or another the bank never completed the foreclosure and sold the home.

So, when the city starts fining someone for the overgrown grass and dilapidated structure, the homeowner who thought they were finished with the property gets the bill.

A Home That Keeps Haunting

Homeowners think they don’t own the property any longer and therefore try to move on by rebuilding their credit score and finding a new place to live. It can be a rude awakening to find out that not only do they still own a home they could have been living in, but also its long vacancy has caused it to fall into disrepair.

Its Spooking The Neighborhood

These vacant homes can decrease the value of a neighborhood. If the bank or the un-suspecting homeowner are neither one taking care of the property, then it can become overgrown and an eyesore on the block. It becomes a problem with no solution because the owner won’t want to invest any money in fixing up the property when the bank could come back with the foreclosure at any time.

Nail Shut The Foreclosure Coffin

Homeowners who have foreclosed on a home should double check that their bank actually followed through to closing on a sale. They could contact their lender or check public property records just to make sure. Otherwise, they could be haunted by their housing nightmare all over again.

Don’t let the zombie title of a past property haunt your future! Check with your bank to make sure you’re free and clear of your foreclosure. If you’d like more information on zombie titles or have other questions, please contant your trusted mortgage professional.

City Lights Or Starlit Nights, What Home Location Will You Choose?If you are looking to buy a home, you might be wondering whether you should be looking for properties that are right in the center of the city or property in a rural area a short drive away.

The rural or urban decision will ultimately be up to you, as there are advantages and disadvantages to either option. The main difference will lie in your priorities – what type of lifestyle is most important to you?

Living In The City

One of the main perks of buying a property that is located in the heart of the city is that you may be able to enjoy convenient public transportation and you won’t have to use a car to get everywhere.

You are likely to have a shopping center and a supermarket within walking distance of your home, as well as other important amenities such as a doctor’s office, a pharmacy, a post office and more.

Also, if you enjoy attending concerts, visiting art galleries or enjoying other artistic events, you will find many more of these concentrated in the city center. You will also enjoy more options when it comes to shopping.

Of course, living in the city center means that property prices are usually a lot higher and you will likely end up with a lot less space for your money. Your kids might not have as much room to run around (unless you find a home near an urban park or a playground). Also, the hectic pace of the city, with all the traffic and high rise buildings, can be stressful for some.

Living Outside Of The City

When you buy a home just a few miles outside of the city, you will find yourself experiencing a completely different lifestyle. You will be a lot closer to nature, with plenty of walking trails and wild areas right outside your door. The air will likely be cleaner and you will be able to see the stars better at night time.

Many people feel safer letting their children play outside in the countryside and the cost of housing is usually lower than in the high density downtown core. Some people also prefer the peace and quiet of the city and would much rather go for a walk in the woods or have a campfire than attend a cultural event – so the country is the right place for them.  

Of course, possible disadvantages of rural life is that it can be inconvenient and time consuming to drive into town to get supplies or to meet up with friends. You must own a car in order to get around, as the public transportation system will not be as good as it is in the inner city.

These are just a few factors to consider when determining whether you would choose the city life or the country life.

Lastly, there are sometimes special home loan programs that focus on specific city areas or rural properties.  It would be a good decision to consult with your trusted mortgage professional right away in order to find out all of your options.

Nail The Final Walkthrough Before ClosingBy the time you get to the final walkthrough on your property, the home buying process is almost complete. However, it is still important to pay close attention to this final step, as it will be crucial in the success of your home purchase.

The final walkthrough is your last opportunity to ensure that everything in the home is in working order and that there are no potential problems waiting for you when you take over ownership of the property.

While conducting a final walkthrough of the property, give yourself enough time to look carefully at everything and not be rushed. You are looking for any new issues that might have arisen since the last time you viewed the home.

Once you close on the purchase the previous owners will not be obligated for fixing any damage. For this reason, you should schedule your walkthrough approximately 24 hours before closing on a home.

What You Should Look For?

When you are performing your walkthrough, here are some of the important issues that you should be watching out for:

  • Are all major appliances in working condition? Do they all have their warranties and owner’s manuals?
  • Do all of the light switches and outlets work?
  • Have any of the fixtures or appliances gone missing, even though the seller agreed to leave them behind?
  • If you have agreed on any repairs, has the seller had these repairs completed?
  • Are there any signs of damage (i.e. scratched walls or floors) as a result of the previous owner moving out?
  • Do all of the water faucets and toilets function as they should?
  • Check the exterior of the house, especially if there has been a storm or strong winds since your last visit.
  • Did the previous owner leave any garbage, extra furniture or unwanted items behind?

What To Do If You Spot A Problem?

If you find a problem when you are going through your walkthrough, there are a few options of what you can do. If the issue is very serious, you might choose to walk away from the deal completely. However, if the issue is not that significant you might decide that it is not worth losing your dream home over.

You could simply pay for the repair yourself, or postpone the closing until the seller fixes the problem. If the repair was agreed upon during the negotiations, you have a legal recourse.

To find out more about buying property, feel free to contact your trusted real estate professional.

4 Quick Tips On Becoming A Young Real Estate InvestorInvesting in property at a young age seems like a bit of a daunting prospect sometimes. Most young people don’t have a lot of disposable income, often have poor credit and perhaps even student loans.

When you are in your early 20s, you are not likely thinking about investing in property and are probably focusing on other things. However, investing in property at a young age can bring you a lot of advantages.

It requires a different approach and style and you might be the only one of your peers who is doing so, but you will definitely reap the benefits later on in life. When you invest long-term, you will start building your financial independence.

Some might believe that it is impossible for a young person to start investing so early in life, but investing in your 20s is completely possible.

You are not “too busy”, in fact you will find that you have even less spare time as your responsibilities grow when you get older. You will need a little bit of money to get started, but often you can purchase your first property with as little as 3.5% down.

If you want to get started early, here are some tips that will help you along the way:

  1. Get into very good saving habits from a young age by putting aside your money from first jobs. When you want to take out a mortgage, you will typically need to be able to show savings of 3% of your purchase price.
  2. Maintain a clean credit history and pay all of your bills on time in order to build a great credit rating, so that you can obtain a mortgage with a good rate.
  3. Make the most of technology and social media to learn more about investing in property and to find the best opportunities. You have a wealth of information on investing, all at your fingertips.
  4. Find an older mentor – someone with successful experience who can give you tips on how to choose the right investment.

Another main advantage to investing when you are young is that if anything goes wrong, you will have more time to make mistakes and still recover without affecting your retirement. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so why not get started?