An In-Depth Guide About How to Use Equity in Your Home

An In-Depth Guide About How to Use Equity in Your Home

Home equity refers to the money that’s tied up in your home. It’s common for people who have considerable equity in their homes to use part of it for various purposes, some of which include carrying out renovations, buying a new home, and paying for children’s education. If you’ve reached a stage where you’re thinking about how to use equity in your home, know that while you get a few alternatives, there’s no single best option that suits everyone equally well.

What is Home Equity?

What is Home Equity?

Home equity is a numerical representation of the financial interest a homeowner has in a home. Simply put, it is the difference between a home’s existing market value and any attached mortgages/liens. If you purchase a home using a mortgage, the mortgage provider will continue to hold a financial interest in the property until you repay the mortgage completely. 

 

The equity you hold in a home begins with the down payment you make. It continues to increase as you keep making payments toward your mortgage. This is because your mortgage provider would assign a percentage of your monthly payment to bring down the outstanding principal amount. 

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While the amount your pay toward your mortgage has an effect on the equity you hold in your home, so does the property’s existing market value. For example, if there’s a drop in property prices, you may expect your home equity to reduce, and the converse holds true as well.

 

Where the Market Stands

Data shared by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that there has been a significant uptick in owners’ equity in real estate from the first quarter of 2020, when it stood at $20.09 trillion. By the second quarter of 2022, this number moved to $29.03 trillion. 

 

According to the National Association of REALTORS, as of the fourth quarter of 2021 and over the preceding 30 years, sale prices of existing single-family homes have increased by 4.3% annually. In the last 10 years, home prices have risen at an annual rate of 8.3%.

 

Further, data from ATTOM’s 2021 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report indicates that:

  • 41.9% of mortgaged homes in the U.S. are equity-rich (owners have at least 50% equity).
  • Only 3.1% of mortgaged homes in the country are “seriously underwater” (combined loan balances linked to a home exceed its market value by 25% or more).
  • Idaho has the largest percentage of equity-rich mortgaged homes (66.7%), followed by Vermont (64.8 %) and Utah (62.5 %).

 

Determining How Much Home Equity You Have

Before you think about how to access home equity, you need to determine how much equity you’ve built since you purchased your home. Calculating how much equity you have is fairly simple.  All you need to do is subtract the amount you owe toward your mortgage from the home’s existing appraised value. For example, if the appraised value of your home is $160,000 and you still need to repay $40,000 toward your mortgage, your equity in the home stands at $120,000. 

 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in residential property prices and helped homeowners build more wealth, they get just three basic ways of tapping into home equity if they don’t want to sell.

 

How to Use Home Equity

If you’re wondering how to tap into home equity, your options include going the cash-out refinancing way, getting a home equity line of credit (HELOC), or getting a home equity loan. While all three may give you access to the funds you require, they function in different ways and come with varied loan terms. What’s common between all three is you’ll need to repay the money by the end of the loan term or when you sell your house, whichever takes place first.

 

Cash-Out Refinancing

If you opt for cash-out refinancing, you basically take on a new mortgage for an amount that exceeds how much you owe toward your existing mortgage.  This gives you the ability to access your homes equity and you may use the money you receive for practically any purpose.  Cash-out refinancing works in the same basic manner as refinancing a mortgage. The difference between the two is that the former gives you access to the extra funds you need. 

 

This method might work well for you if you manage to get a lower interest rate than that of your existing mortgage and use the funds you receive in a suitable manner. Bear in mind that most lenders who provide cash-out refinancing require that you retain at least 20% equity in your home at the end of the process.  

 

Consider this example if you wish to know how to tap into home equity by using this method. You own a home with an existing market value is $200,000, and you still owe $100,000 toward your mortgage. This means your equity in the home is $100,000. Given that you may need to maintain 20% equity after cash-out refinancing, you might be able to borrow up to $80,000. Some lenders let you go below the 20% mark, in which case you’ll need to get private mortgage insurance (PMI).

 

One of the benefits of opting for cash-out refinancing is that it gives you access to the money you need for practically any legitimate purpose. You might also stand to gain if your new mortgage comes with a noticeably lower interest rate than your existing mortgage. However, getting a higher interest rate than that of your existing mortgage is a possible disadvantage. You’ll also need to account for closing costs that are similar to ones linked with getting a mortgage. 

 

HELOCs

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) gives you the ability to borrow against the equity you’ve built in your home, and your equity serves as collateral for the revolving line of credit you receive.  Getting a HELOC is also possible if you’re the outright owner of your home. Much like a credit card, the line of credit replenishes each time you make a repayment. 

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Borrowers typically get up to 10 years to draw funds from their HELOCs, during which time they’re required to make interest-only payments. However, you may also choose to make payments toward the principal amount during this period. Usually, a 20-year repayment period follows, during which borrowers need to repay the principal amount along with interest.

 

More often than not, HELOCs come with variable interest rates that may change based on prevailing market conditions. However, some lenders give you the option of converting a part of your balance to a fixed rate. In some cases, HELOCs shift to fixed-rate structures after the end of the draw period.

 

As with cash-out refinancing, most HELOC providers require that you maintain at least 20% equity in the home after you receive the funds that you seek. 

 

A distinct benefit of getting a HELOC is that you pay interest only toward the amount you draw, and not the entire credit line. Besides, since the credit line replenishes each time you make a repayment, you get the ability to keep your outstanding balance low. HELOCs tend to come with lower interest rates than traditional mortgages, and there’s a possibility that the interest you pay might be tax deductible. Besides, HELOCs come with no or low closing costs.

 

The fact that HELOCs typically come with variable interest rates might work as a drawback for some because of the unpredictability factor, especially if interest rates increase in the future. Besides, if you stick to making interest-only payments during the draw period, you’ll need to plan your finances suitably to ensure that once the larger repayments start, you have the resources to keep making payments on time. Remember that defaulting on a HELOC may result in foreclosure.

 

Home Equity Loan

A home equity loan functions in the same basic manner as a mortgage, which is why some people refer to it as a second mortgage. A lender would rely on the equity you’ve built in your house to serve as collateral. The amount you may qualify to borrow depends on the equity you’ve built in your house, although most lenders require that you hold on to at least 20% equity after lending you the money. The term of a home equity loan typically varies from 20 to 30 years.  

 

Since a home equity loan does not replace an existing mortgage, people who have existing mortgages with low interest rates might benefit by opting for this alternative. In addition, home equity loans tend to come with fixed interest rates, which helps provide predictability. Another benefit is that the interest you pay might be tax-deductible.

 

One drawback with home equity loans is that they might have higher interest rates than cash-out refinancing alternatives. You will, in all likelihood, also need to account for closing costs. If you default on your loan, your lender might choose to collect the amount you owe by going the foreclosure way.

Best Way to Use Home Equity

Best Way to Use Home Equity

There are different ways to make use of the equity you build in a home. For example, you could use the money you get to renovate your home, buy another home, fund your retirement, or pay for your children’s education. There is no single best way to use your home equity because requirements tend to vary based on individual circumstances.

 

How to Use Equity in Your Home to Renovate?

If you’re not sure about how much your renovation project might cost or feel that you might have ongoing costs over a prolonged period, a HELOC might be the way to go. However, a home equity loan might work better if you’re worried about rising interest rates. You may want to consider cash-out refinancing only if you get a lower interest rate than that of your existing mortgage. You also get a couple of home renovation refinancing options from which to choose. 

 

Using Equity in Your Home for Retirement

People who wish to use the equity in their homes to get through their retirement years more comfortably may think about getting HELOCs, home equity loans, or reverse mortgages. A reverse mortgage does not require making any monthly payments. Instead, a lender would provide a stream of payments to you, bringing down the equity you hold in stages. The lender would receive what you owe when you sell the property or upon your passing away. You need to be at least 62 years old to qualify for a reverse mortgage that’s insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

 

Using Equity in Your Home to Buy Another Property

If you’ve built substantial equity in your home, you may think about using it to buy a new home. No matter whether you get a home equity loan, a HELOC, or cash-out refinancing, you will be putting your primary residence at risk in case you’re unable to make your repayments in a timely manner.

 

 A HELOC might work well for you if you need some money to make the down payment and might need more to make renovations down the line. Home equity loans, on the other hand, offer more predictability in repayments through fixed interest rates. If you’re over 62 years of age, you may consider getting a home equity conversion mortgage (HECM), which is essentially a federally insured reverse mortgage.

 

Conclusion

It’s common for lenders to place a maximum limit on the amount you may borrow through a home equity loan, a HELOC, or cash-out refinancing, and most require that you retain at least 20% equity in your home at all times. If you’re wondering what the best way to tap into home equity is, bear in mind that it depends on your specific requirements. For example, if you plan to use the funds you receive for a long-drawn renovation project, you might be better off getting a HELOC instead of a home equity loan.

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Remember that tapping into home equity requires that you build enough equity first, and you may start by making a large down payment. Going forward, you may build equity faster by making more than the required monthly payment. Once you build reasonable equity in your home, you may think about borrowing money against it to use for different purposes. When you get to this stage, it’s important that you find a reliable lender that specializes in this realm. 

How Expensive a House Can You Afford?

How Expensive a House Can You Afford?

How much house you can afford to buy typically boils down to how much of a mortgage you can afford to repay. This is because most Americans turn to mortgages when it comes to becoming homeowners.  So, if you plan to purchase a home in the near future, it’s important to determine how much you may afford to borrow based on your existing salary and other factors.

 

While there’s a clear link between the two, the answer to “How much house can I afford?” is usually not the same as the answer to “How much mortgage can I afford?”

 

Even if a lender is willing to lend you enough money to buy a house you like, you need to bear in mind that you’ll need to keep making payments regularly and subsist on the rest of your salary until you pay off the mortgage completely. You also need to account for any unexpected expenses that you’ll need to encounter along the way.

How Much Home Can I Afford With My Salary?

How Much Home Can I Afford With My Salary?

Before you think about getting on the path to purchasing a home, you need to establish if you’re better off as a renter or a homeowner.  For instance, while buying a home gives you the ability to build equity, not making payments on time comes with the risk of foreclosure. If you have job security and have been consistent in making rent and bill payments, you may think about buying a home.

 

There are two ways to look at how much you can afford for a mortgage. One rule of thumb suggests that the mortgage amount should not exceed your annual income by more than two and a half times. For example, if you earn $100,000 a year, you may seek a mortgage of up to $250,000.

 

Another line of thought opines that your monthly mortgage payment should remain less than 30% of your gross monthly income, and this is something lenders look at as well. However, mortgage essentially look at your income and existing debts to arrive at a decision, and they overlook additional costs that might come in the form of income tax, health insurance premiums, saving for children’s college, and pre-tax retirement contributions.

 

Consequently, limiting your mortgage payments to less than 25% of your monthly income can help you steer clear of being house poor. Data released by Consumer Affairs indicates that:

  • 69% of homeowners in the United States feel house poor
  • Three out of five homeowners afford housing costs by not making essential home-related purchases
  • Three out of five homeowners are wrong in their expectations of repair and maintenance costs

 

If paying off your mortgage and maintaining a home account for a significant portion of your income, you might end up with inadequate money to meet discretionary expenses or save for retirement. Remember, an approved mortgage does not imply that it’s an affordable mortgage. 

 

How Expensive of a House Can I Afford With a VA Loan?

Eligible applicants may qualify for VA loans if the total of their monthly debt and mortgage payments, or their debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, does not exceed 41% of their gross monthly income. 

 

While qualified veterans with full VA loan entitlement don’t have to worry about loan limits, this is not the case with veterans who qualify for reduced VA loan entitlement. In 2022, the standard VA loan limit for most counties across the country stood at $647,200.

 

How Expensive of a House Can I Afford With a USDA Loan?

Qualifying for a USDA loan requires that you have a DTI ratio of 41% or lower. You might qualify with a higher DTI ratio only in case of significant compensating factors, as listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

 

The maximum you may borrow through a USDA loan depends on the county in which you wish to purchase a home. As of March 2022, this number stood at $336,500 for most counties. For Duchess County in New York, the maximum limit was $581,200. The maximum limit for Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, and Sussex counties in New Jersey was $776,600

 

What Factors Affect Affordability?

Technically, affordability when buying a home depends on your income, home prices, mortgage rates, and monthly mortgage repayments. However, if you find yourself asking, “How much can I afford for a house?” you need to account for a few other factors too.

 

Income

This includes income that you receive from all sources on a regular basis. Your income plays an important role in determining how much you may afford to spend toward mortgage payments each month.

 

Expenses and debt

Looking at all your debt payments and regular expenses gives you an indication of how much money you have left over from your income to make mortgage payments.

 

Savings

Your savings help you make your down payment, so the more you have the better. In addition, you might also need to turn to your savings to meet unforeseen expenses.

 

Creditworthiness

Your credit score and the debt you owe give lenders an indication of the level of risk you pose as a borrower. This factor plays a key role in whether a lender approves you for a mortgage. It also has a significant effect on the interest rate you get.

 

Lifestyle

Given that a significant number of homeowners end up cutting costs in various forms, it’s important to determine if you’re willing to make lifestyle changes and live on a tighter budget. If you already have considerable debt and don’t see yourself wanting to cut back on existing expenses, you might want to err on the side of caution.

 

Personality

In Pulp Fiction, when Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) tells Vincent (John Travolta) that “Personality goes a long way,” he seems rather convincing. That’s probably because it’s true to some degree according to a research article on Candidate Personality Traits, Voters’ Profile, and Perceived Likeability

 

From the point of view of buying a home, while some borrowers might be okay with the knowledge that they need to pay upward of $5,000 per month toward their mortgages each month, others might spend sleepless nights over significantly smaller payments. Besides, while some might feel perfectly at ease when refinancing their mortgages, the process might seem perturbing to others. 

 

As a result, it’s important to determine just how much you’re okay with borrowing without letting it affect your mental well-being.

 

What Do Mortgage Providers Look At?

Mortgage providers tend to follow different criteria when determining affordability, loan amounts, and interest rates. However, the basics remain the same. You may expect a lender to look at your existing income, debt, and assets, as well as the potential of increased income and debt in the future. 

 

While income, expenses, and the down payment amount have a bearing on how much a lender might be willing to lend, your credit history plays an important role in your ability to qualify for a mortgage and the interest rate.

 

The Effect of Debt-to-Income Ratio on Affordability

An important factor that lenders look at to determine how much of a mortgage you can afford, your debt-to-income ratio highlights how much you owe each month in comparison to your gross monthly income. Other than your debt, it takes the rent you pay into account if you don’t have a mortgage. Lenders typically look for debt-to-income ratios of 36% or lower. Of this, your rent or mortgage payment should ideally account for 28% or less. 

 

People with DTI ratios of 43% or higher can find it rather challenging to get a mortgage. In this case, you might want to improve your DTI ratio before you apply for a mortgage.

What’s the Actual Cost of Homeownership?

What’s the Actual Cost of Homeownership?

Arriving at an answer to how much house you can afford requires that you understand the actual cost of homeownership. This is because there’s typically more than what meets the eye, and if you only prepare to make monthly mortgage payments, you might be in for disappointment. Besides, knowing all the associated costs will help you make a better decision.

  • Property taxes. If you get a mortgage, you typically need to pay property taxes in the form of installments added to your monthly payments to your mortgage provider, who then makes the payments on your behalf. Just how much you need to pay depends on where you live. Data collated by the Motley Fool indicates that property taxes are highest in New Jersey, at 2.13%. For New York, this number stands at 1.32%.
  • Homeowners insurance. It’s common for lenders to require that you get homeowners insurance, and there’s a good chance that your lender will make these payments on your behalf through an escrow account. While homeowners insurance provides financial cover against losses and damages, it might not cover floods in flood-prone areas. In such instances, you might need to pay extra for flood insurance. According to Policygenius, the average cost of homeowners insurance in the U.S. stood at around $1,900 per year in 2022.
  • Mortgage insurance. If you pay less than 20% of a home’s selling price as down payment on a conventional mortgage, there’s a good chance you’ll need to get private mortgage insurance (PMI).Mortgage insurance helps lower the risk that lenders face when lending to people who make low down payments. While you might need to add these premiums to your monthly mortgage payments, you may also have the option to make a one-time premium at the time of closing instead.
  • Closing costs. Closing costs refer to expenses that buyers and sellers incur during the transfer of a property’s ownership. As a buyer, you are responsible to pay all mortgage-related closing costs. A seller, on the other hand, needs to pay fees incurred in the transfer of the title as well as real estate agent commissions. How much you need to pay toward closing costs depends on a home’s selling price, the mortgage provider you select, the type of mortgage you get, and the state in which you purchase a home. Typically, closing costs vary between 2% and 6% of a home’s selling price.
  • Condo/HOA fees. If you purchase a home that’s part of a condominium association or a homeowners’ association (HOA), prepare to shell out a monthly or quarterly fee.  These fees may vary significantly from one association to the next based on the location and the amenities/services on offer.  Condominium and homeowners’ associations charge this fee to cover expenses related to maintenance, building insurance, garbage collection, community swimming pools, and more.
  • Maintenance. As a renter, you’ve probably never had to worry about your home’s maintenance-related costs. This changes once you become a homeowner. These expenses may range from major to minor, from fixing roofs to replacing old fixtures. The general rule of thumb is that you may expect to spend 1% to 2% of a home’s selling price toward its maintenance each year. However, this number can be significantly higher for older homes.
  • Mortgage points. You may choose to pay for this optional expense to get your lender to reduce the interest rate of your mortgage. One point is equal to one percent of the mortgage amount. For example, one point on a $150,000 mortgage would amount to $1,500. Paying extra for points when you get a mortgage may lead to long-term savings. However, this might not be the case if you have limited cash. Besides, you may benefit more by making a larger-than-planned down payment. 

 

Conclusion

When asking yourself, “How much house can I afford?” make sure you take all your existing financial obligations and income into consideration. Remember that you need to account for any unexpected expenses that might come your way, and you should ideally have a savings fund that can cover at least six months of your expenses. 

 

If you’re still not sure about how much you can afford for a mortgage, consider discussing your specific situation with a qualified loan officer.

A Homebuyer’s Guide to Dealing With Inflation

A Homebuyer’s Guide to Dealing With Inflation

With inflation affecting most purchases, be it at the grocery store or the gas station, an increasing number of Americans are feeling the pinch on their pockets. Since there’s no definite way to tell when some respite might be in the offing, it’s only fair for people to wonder if now’s the right time to buy a home. 

 

The Effect of Inflation on Buying a Home

The effect that inflation has on the dollar is fairly straightforward. Rising consumer prices result in reduced spending power, with the dollar losing its value. Data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Consumer Price Index for all items increased by 8.5% in the 12 months preceding July 2022. 

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According to the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), median prices of homes across the country in the second quarter of 2022 increased by 14.2% year over year.  Anyone whose income has not increased similarly during this period might have to account for the dollar’s decreased buying power. It becomes particularly important to avoid stretching your budget too much, given that paying off a mortgage is usually a long-drawn affair.

 

The Effect on Mortgage Rates

While the Federal Reserve continues to tighten monetary policies with the aim of combating high inflation, mortgage rates are almost steadily on the rise.  When the Federal Reserve first signaled its intention of increasing short-term rates at the beginning of 2022, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage stood below 3.5%. In the week ending September 7, 2022, it was 5.89%.  

 

Inflation is one of the key factors that have resulted in higher mortgage rates since the start of the year, all the more so because investors factor in what they consider to be an inflation premium. Besides, if the dollar continues to lose its value as people repay their mortgages, it’s normal for lenders to want to charge higher interest rates. However, buyers who wish to keep their intended monthly payments the same might have to settle for lower-priced homes.

 

Some experts are of the opinion that rising inflation and interest rates will have a significant impact on housing affordability. This might make buying a home particularly challenging for people with tight or limited budgets. 

 

5 Tips to Buy a Home During High Inflation

There is no surefire way to steer clear of inflation’s ill effects, but there are things you can do to minimize the impact. For instance, if you have a preapproval in place, you may use the summer months to look at what’s on offer. This is because buyers tend to thin out during this period owing to travel and vacation plans. If you, on the other hand, plan to buy a home in the fall, you may expect bidding wars in hot markets. 

 

1. Buy Quickly

Many experts are of the opinion that more Fed rate hikes are in the offing and the trend may well continue into 2023. From the buyers’ perspective, time can be of the essence if they don’t want affordability to take a further hit. With there being no slowing down in inflation, it’s safe to assume that the dollar is worth more now than it might be next year or the year after.  Besides, if the upward trend in property prices continues, buying a home is bound to get more expensive in the future.

 

Buying a home in the near future can help existing renters avoid escalating rent payments. A report released by HouseCanary shows that rent prices have increased by 13.4% from the first half of 2021 to the first half of 2022.  Now, the national average for single-family homes stands at $2,495 per month. 

 

If you wait with the hope of lower interest rates, a drop in property prices, or being able to save more money, you might be in for a disappointment because of the different variables at play.

 

2. Rethink Your Budget

A good place to start is determining the maximum amount you can afford in the form of monthly payments. It’s important to establish your overall budget and look for homes accordingly. Homebuyers who plan to spend more than they originally intended need to account for a larger down payment. 

 

Rising prices of consumer goods as well as a higher cost of living need your attention. Costs related to homeowners’ insurance, property taxes, moving, and remodeling may also increase enough to disrupt your budget. When it comes to affordability, it’s important to determine when you need to walk away.

 

3. Reassess Your Strategy

Once you tweak your home buying budget, you might benefit by giving your strategy of buying a home another look. This could involve looking at homes in less-demand, and probably, more rural areas. Looking at smaller homes or those selling for lower prices might also be beneficial. However, if you’re buying a home as a first-time fixer-upper, you need to exercise due caution. Bear in mind that labor and building material costs are on the rise as well, and fixing a home may cost you considerably more than it did a couple of years ago.

 

4. Look at Your Credit Score and Finances

To get the lowest possible interest rates, you need to have an excellent credit score, ideally over 740. Lower interest rates translate into lower monthly payments. Improving your credit score in a short span of time can be tough, although you can try by repaying all or most of your outstanding debt as quickly as possible. Look for errors in your credit reports. If you find any, get them fixed. 

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If your existing finances permit, try making a large down payment. Since this minimizes the risk a lender faces, you might qualify for a lower interest rate. 

 

5. Consider Different Alternatives

If you wish to minimize the impact of inflation on your home buying, it’s crucial that you select the right mortgage. Given the scores of alternatives on offer, getting a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 20% down payment might not be the best idea. For instance, buyers who know they won’t live in the homes they purchase for long might benefit by looking at what adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) have to offer. Understanding how different types of interest rates and loan terms work places you in a better position to make a decision.

 

Some mortgages come with low or no down payment requirements, and these may help minimize the impact of inflation for homebuyers who qualify. Whether or not you need to pay extra toward mortgage insurance also needs your attention.

 

Should You Wait?

According to a recent forecast by Kiplinger, price inflation around the end of 2022 could hover around the 8% mark.  So, should you wait for inflation to ease before you buy a home? If you feel the numbers don’t work in your favor, it might be best to wait, all the more so if you’re buying your first home. 

 

Even though this might come at the cost of not being able to build equity as fast, you might be better placed in the future after you’ve given your money the opportunity to grow in other ways and the market becomes more favorable for buyers.

 

Bear in mind that a drop in inflation levels does not mean that home prices will drop too. However, a period during which home prices don’t increase by much might give you the opportunity to benefit through a higher income down the line. 

Should You Buy Now?

Should You Buy Now?

Data released by the National Association of REALTORS shows that the inventory of active listings in the U.S. has increased by 26.6% from August 2021 to August 2022. This gives prospective home buyers more options than they had a year ago. Besides, with the competition being slightly distracted, there’s a good chance you might be able to find a home you like at a price you can afford.

 

If you plan to buy a house now, you need to determine if you’ll be able to keep up with your monthly payments over a period of time. It’s also important for you to stay in the home you purchase for five or more years if you plan to make any kind of money when you sell.

 

Prospective homebuyers should ideally keep a close eye on listings that re-enter the market. This is because a home that’s made it back to the market might come with a lower asking price than before. It’s not uncommon for listings to re-enter the market because deals don’t go through owing to various reasons. 

 

Making the Most of Your Money

Once you decide to buy a home, you may follow different measures to make the most of your money.

  • Earn interest.Consider opening a high-yield savings account to save for your down payment as this gives you the ability to earn higher interest than a regular savings account.  However, make sure you choose an alternative that gives you easy access to your money. If you already have a lump sum amount that you plan to put toward your down payment, you may consider opening s short-term certificate of deposit.
  • Lock your interest rate. When you’re looking for a suitable mortgage provider, determine which ones offer rate locks. This ensures there’ll be no change in the interest rate offered to you from the time of the offer to the closing. You may get a rate lock for 30, 45, or 60 days, depending on your lender. It’s important for you to ask your lender what might happen if interest rates drop during the rate lock period because not everyone follows the same practice.

 

Tips for Homeowners to Manage Rising Costs

Rising costs have affected home buyers and homeowners alike. If you own a home, you may work at reducing utility costs by following a few simple tips.

  • Make sure there are no leaks in window frames for optimal regulation of indoor temperature.
  • Use a smart thermostat.
  • Clean and replace HVAC filters at regular intervals.
  • During summers, draw the blinds when sunlight streams into the home directly.
  • Switch to LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances.
  • Maintain an emergency repair fund.
  • Monitor usage of water (hot water in particular).

 

What Should Sellers Do?

Homeowners who wish to sell their homes at this point in time need to realize that instances of offers that exceed asking prices and bidding wars among prospective buyers are on the decrease. This is because a number of buyers are giving their plans second thoughts owing to existing interest rates and high price inflation. 

 

Now, it might be difficult to find buyers who are okay with relatively small problems. This is because buyer standards are getting back to what they used to be a couple of years back, and they might not want to overlook aspects such as worn-out carpets, poor paint jobs, and old fixtures. 

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Bear in mind that simply relying on how well a particular market is doing might not translate into you getting the desired price for your house. As a result, you might want to give your home an aesthetic makeover to make it more appealing to prospective buyers. Given that the market still has an adequate number of buyers, consider making the required changes before listing your home.

 

Conclusion

While some markets across the U.S. have cooled down over the last few months and mortgage rates still remain on the higher side, the decision to buy a home is largely a personal one and depends on multiple factors. However, it’s crucial to know the differences between living on rent and owning a home from the cost perspective. For instance, once you’re a homeowner, you’ll need to account for property taxes, homeowners insurance, and the home’s regular upkeep.

 

If you feel buying a home now might work well for you, make sure you approach the process with due diligence. Start by narrowing down on a suitable mortgage provider and getting pre-approval. This gives you an indication of how much you can borrow and it also puts you in a better position at the negotiation table.

 

Disclaimer:

“Certain restrictions apply. For qualified borrowers. All borrowers subject to credit and underwriting approval. Rates, term, and loan program may be subject to change without notice. The payment on a $300,000, 30-year fixed rate loan at 5.50% and 75% loan-to-value (LTV) is $1,703.37. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is 5.692%. Payment does not include taxes and insurance premiums. If you add taxes and/or insurance to your mortgage payment then the actual payment will be greater. Some state and county maximum loan amount restrictions may apply. This is an example and is for illustrative purposes only.”

18 Important Questions to Ask a Loan Officer

1. What Types of Loans Do You Offer?

Much like you do not buy the first home that comes your way, it’s important to select a mortgage provider after comparing your top alternatives. An easy way to do this is to ask loan officers that represent the lenders you shortlist a few questions. It’s also crucial to share all the information that a loan officer seeks from you because this brings with it advice that’s apt for your situation. Here are the top questions to ask a mortgage lender or a loan officer.

 

1. What Types of Loans Do You Offer?

1. What Types of Loans Do You Offer?

It’s common for most lenders to provide fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages. However, the fixed-rate period for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) might vary from one lender to the next. Further, you may find conventional mortgages with terms that vary from eight to 30 years, but not all lenders provide the same loan terms. Lastly, not all mortgage providers offer USDA loans, VA loans, FHA loans, and jumbo loans, making this one of the top questions to ask a lender.

 

2. How Much Can I Borrow?

One of the very good questions to ask a loan officer at the onset is how much you might be eligible to borrow. While online calculators help give you some indication, you are bound to get a clearer picture after discussing the specifics of your case with a loan officer. While loan officers take your income into account, they also pay attention to your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) and your ability to make repayments each month. Your DTI ratio essentially refers to how much of your monthly income goes toward rent and debt payments each month. 

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Bear in mind that most lenders prefer DTI ratios lower than 36%, and no more than 28% of your income should go toward monthly mortgage or rent payments. You may also expect your loan officer to take into account any large auto or student loan that might have an effect on your capacity to repay a mortgage.

 

3. What Type of Mortgage Might Work Best for Me?

Given the wide array of mortgage types from which homebuyers get to choose, it’s important to find one that suits your requirements. While you might be new to this realm, a loan officer should have adequate experience and knowledge to be able to guide you in the right direction based not just on your financial profile, but other aspects as well. For example, if you wish to buy a home on the outskirts of a big city or in a small town, you might qualify for and benefit by getting a USDA loan.

 

4. Is My Credit Score Good Enough?

Not all types of mortgages come with the same credit score requirements, and you might qualify for some even with less-than-perfect credit. For example, while you typically need a credit score of 760 or higher to qualify for the lowest interest rates, you may qualify for a conventional mortgage with a score of 620 or higher.

 

5. Can I Get Pre-Qualified or Pre-Approved?

One of the questions to ask your mortgage loan officer surrounds whether you might be able to get pre-qualified or pre-approved. A pre-qualification is the simpler of the two and you might even receive one over the phone. Lenders provide pre-qualification based on the information you provide, and they don’t delve into your financial situation.

 

You may get pre-approval only after submitting a formal application for a mortgage. This is when a lender would take a close look at your employment details, income, and credit report.  A pre-qualification does not hold as much ground as a pre-approval because the latter comes with a conditional commitment from a lender that mentions the amount it is willing to lend.

 

6. Do I Qualify for Any Assistance Programs?

While there are a few down payment assistance programs that run at the national level and many at the state level, most are offered at the city or county levels. As a result, if you need assistance with making your down payment, it’s best to ask your loan officer about the programs that are available in your area.

 

7. How Much Down Payment Do I Need?

According to the 2022 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report released by the National Association of REALTORS Research Group, the median down payment on a home is just 13%, and it stands at 8% to 10% for homebuyers between 23 to 41 years of age.  This is an important question to ask a mortgage officer if you have trouble coming up with a large down payment because your loan officer might be able to offer suitable alternatives. For instance, USDA and VA loans come with no down payment requirements. Besides, you might be able to get a conventional mortgage by providing less than 20% as down payment.

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8. How Much Will I Need to Pay for Private Mortgage Insurance?

You’ll typically need to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI) if your down payment towards a conventional loan is less than 20%, in which case this is among the top questions for loan officers.  PMI costs may vary from 0.5% to 2% of the original loan amount. It varies based on factors such as your credit score, the down payment amount, and the loan term.  While most major PMI providers in the U.S. charge largely similar rates, the answer to this question can give you an indication of the added burden you might face.

 

9. What Might Happen if the Appraisal Amount is Low?

Lenders rely on the appraised value of a home to calculate the loan-to-value ratio and not its purchase price. If the amount that comes through after the appraisal is lower than a home’s asking price, there’s a good chance that your lender will reduce the amount it is willing to lend. Consequently, you might have to ask the seller to lower the price or make a larger-than-expected down payment. If you’ve already made an offer and paid an earnest amount, you may stand to lose the same if you back out of the deal, unless you’ve included an appraisal contingency clause in the offer.

 

10. Are You Internet-Friendly?

You need to ask this question to a loan officer if you prefer handling your finances online. Given the advancements in technology, it’s fairly easy to find a lender that lets you apply for a mortgage and submit all the required documentation online. In addition, some lenders also give you the ability to make online payments.

 

11. Will my Mortgage Get Sold Off?

Even if you take a mortgage through a direct lender, there’s a possibility that the lender might finalize your loan and then sell it to a loan servicing company. While this is typically not a problem for borrowers, it’s good to know this information ahead of time. What you’re basically looking for by asking this question is an honest answer.

 

12. Does the Approval Process Take Place In-House?

If you apply for a mortgage through a mortgage broker or an online-only company, you may expect a different entity to handle the underwriting process. However, when you work with a direct lender, there’s a good chance that the processing takes place in-house. This makes it to the list of good questions for loan officers because in-house processing usually results in quicker approval times. Besides, lenders that carry out in-house underwriting may offer flexible eligibility criteria for borrowers who have complex files.

 

13. How Will I Receive Updates?

The process of getting a mortgage may take a month or two, or even longer. During this period, your loan officer might need to contact you to seek more information or provide updates about your application. As a result, it’s good to determine if your loan officer is in line with your preferred mode of communication.  For instance, while some borrowers prefer over-the-phone updates, others are more comfortable corresponding through text messages or emails. In addition, you might also benefit by asking how often you may expect updates.

 

14. What Does My Loan Estimate Look Like?

While interest rates change regularly, your loan officer should be able to give you some indication of the interest rate you may qualify for, even during the pre-qualification stage.  Once you begin the application process, you get a better idea through your loan estimate. This document mentions the annual percentage rate (APR) that will apply to your mortgage. The APR accounts for the interest rate as well as all other loan-related costs. The loan estimate also gives you a detailed breakup of all the fees and charges you’ll need to pay, including those that are part of closing costs.

 

If there is any change in costs, a lender is required to send you a revised loan estimate. If there’s any cost that you don’t understand, it’s best to ask your loan officer about it in advance. Using loan estimates is a good way to compare the costs of different types of mortgages, and you may also use them to evaluate multiple lenders.

 

15. Do You Offer Discount Points?

Discount points help bring down your mortgage’s interest rate in exchange for a fee. Besides, they might be tax deductible. If your lender provides discount points and you can afford to pay for them in addition to your down payment, this step can lead to long-term savings through a lower interest rate. This is particularly the case if you plan to keep the loan for a long period.

 

16. Do You Charge Prepayment Penalties?

This is an important mortgage question to ask if you plan to pay off your loan ahead of time because several lenders charge prepayment penalties when borrowers pay off their loans earlier than scheduled.  Typically, mortgage providers let borrowers pay up to 20% of their balance amounts each year before applying this penalty. A prepayment penalty might also apply if you’re refinancing your mortgage, selling your home or paying off a substantial portion of the loan.

 

17. Will I Need to Maintain an Escrow Account?

Your lender might set up an escrow account upon the closing of your mortgage, to which it directs part of your monthly payments with the aim of covering different costs. These may include mortgage insurance premiums, homeowners’ insurance premiums, and real estate taxes. Lenders do this to ensure that you make all required payments associated with homeownership on time, and to minimize the risk they face, should you default on your loan. If your lender requires an escrow account, find out if you have options to pay for shortages and the process of getting refunds in case of overpayments.

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18. Can I Lock the Interest Rate?

This is an important question to ask a loan officer if you’re worried about the interest rate increasing from the time you apply for a mortgage until it closes. There is a good chance that a lender might give you a rate lock option upon the approval of your initial application and before the underwriting process begins. Rate lock periods tend to vary from 30 to 60 days, although this is not always the case.

 

A rate lock basically protects you from a rise in interest rates. One that comes with a float-down option lets you benefit through any interest rate decrease that might take place during the rate lock period. Rate lock fees may vary from one lender to the next.

 

Conclusion

Now that you know what questions to ask a loan officer, make sure you exercise due diligence in choosing the right lender. For instance, while paying attention to the cost of a mortgage is crucial, it’s also important that you take flexibility in terms and a lender’s customer service into account before making a decision.

 

Bear in mind that there’s no real point in looking at homes to buy before you get a pre-approval because only then do you actually find out how much money a mortgage provider is willing to lend. Knowing the common mistakes to avoid when buying a home will also hold you in good stead.

Mortgages for Self-Employed Borrowers | An In-Depth Guide

Mortgages for Self-Employed Borrowers | An In-Depth Guide

Just like every rose has its thorn, self-employment comes with its share of potential drawbacks. This becomes particularly obvious when you set out to get a mortgage for buying a home. Fortunately, while getting a mortgage as a self-employed individual can be more difficult than qualifying for one if you have a regular job, you may still think about becoming a homeowner if you meet some requirements and follow a few measures.

 

Are You Self-Employed?

Are You Self-Employed?

From a lender’s perspective, you may qualify as a self-employed borrower if you have at least 25% ownership in a business, be it a corporation, a sole proprietorship, or a partnership.  Independent service providers and contractors fall under the self-employed bracket. You’ll also qualify as a self-employed borrower if you work for a business as a gig worker and receive Form 1099-MISC instead of Form W-2

A lender might also view you as self-employed if a major portion of your income comes from:

  • Royalties
  • Rent payments
  • Interest/dividends

 

Mortgages for Self-Employed Borrowers 

If you earn any income that comes with a Form 1099, you can be sure that a lender will view it as self-employment income. In this case, you’ll need to get through a few roadblocks before you may qualify for a mortgage. People who don’t plan to include their self-employment income in their mortgage applications need to realize that lenders will still look at their tax returns to determine how much money they make or lose. Further, if you plan to write off business losses against income, you run the risk of an underwriter subtracting the losses from your otherwise-qualifying income.

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Just how much scrutiny your application receives depends on the mortgage provider you select, your income, as well as the type of business you run. Since there is no formal contract of employment to fall back on, lenders typically ask for proof of income to determine if a borrower can afford to make monthly payments. Asking for additional proof to ensure that there is stability in income is common, as is determining if you have adequate cash flow to deal with low-earning periods.

 

The Two-Year Requirement

Even before looking at your income, most lenders will want to determine if you’ve been self-employed for a minimum of two years.  According to Freddie Mac, sellers might be able to justify providing mortgages to borrowers with at least 12-month self-employment work histories, provided they meet certain criteria.  For instance, you may qualify if you’ve been self-employed for 12 months and held a job in the same field for at least two years prior to the switch.

 

Do You Receive W-2s?

If you receive W-2s, documenting your income for a mortgage application is fairly easy. All you need to do is provide copies of your W-2s for the preceding two years along with your last two pay stubs. You don’t need to provide tax returns unless you have considerable tax-deductible employee expenses or you earn a tidy sum as income from investments or commissions. 

Self-employed borrowers with W-2s may also submit copies of their bank, retirement, and investment account statements. In this case, there is an increased possibility of approval if an underwriter finds your income to be adequate and your credit score to be satisfactory.  

Self-employed individuals who don’t receive W-2s have to follow a more difficult path. While they need to provide copies of their personal accounts, they typically also need to submit their personal tax returns, business account statements, business tax returns, profit and loss statements, as well as year-to-date balance sheets. 

 

Self-Employed Mortgage Documents

You may expect a lender to look at your income stability and the nature of your self-employment before making a decision. Applying for a mortgage as a self-employed individual requires that you provide different types of documentation. It may include:

  • Bank statements
  • Personal and business tax returns (including schedules K-1, 1120, and 1120S) 
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Balance sheet
  • Relevant state or business license

 

Are Self-Employed Mortgage Borrowers at a Loss?

Most mortgage providers don’t look at self-employed borrowers as ideal candidates. The reason they look at regular employees with favor is because of their steady and easily verifiable incomes. When compared to self-employed borrowers, regular employees with W-2s need to go through considerably lesser paperwork when applying for mortgages. 

One distinct challenge in applying for a mortgage as a self-employed individual is you’ll need to address business expenses. From the taxation point of view, deducting these costs can help bring down your taxable income. However, when you apply for a mortgage, a lower annual income might lead a lender to wonder if you earn enough money to purchase a home. In addition, lenders commonly seek low loan-to-value (LTV) ratios from self-employed individuals. This usually translates to making a larger-than-usual down payment.

 

Improving the Odds of Approval

Most lenders look at self-employed mortgage borrowers as high-risk propositions. This is mainly because of the preconceived notion that self-employed individuals can come with highly unpredictable income patterns. While people from this bracket find it harder than regular employees to get mortgages, following a few measures may help improve the odds of a successful application.

 

Scrutinize Your Finances

Take a close look at your personal and business finances to determine your existing financial situation even before you start looking for a mortgage. Ideally, you should keep your individual and business accounts separate. This is because lenders can have a tough time distinguishing between the two if there’s any kind of overlap. 

No matter whether you’ve filed your personal and business income separately or together, it’s crucial that you document all the sources of your income to build a stronger application for the underwriter. Bear in mind that while a lender would want to look at your personal finances, it would also want to determine how well your business is doing. 

Here are some questions that can help you establish where you stand:

  • How much do you currently owe toward personal and business debt?
  • Do you make enough money through your business to cover your mortgage and other payments?
  • How much can you afford to pay toward monthly mortgage payments?
  • How much can you afford to pay to cover closing costs and as down payment?
  • Do the preceding two years as a self-employed individual show steady or an increase in income?

 

Look at Your Credit Score

Your credit score plays a crucial role in whether or not you qualify for a mortgage and the terms that a lender offers. For instance, this factor has a significant effect on self-employed mortgage rates.

Lenders typically request your credit reports from all three credit bureaus, along with corresponding FICO Scores. This helps them evaluate the risk you pose as a borrower. Ranging from 300 to 850, the higher your credit score, the better the chances of approval. Besides, lenders tend to offer the lowest interest rates to applicants with exceptional credit scores.

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It’s important that you look at your credit score before a lender does. This way, if you have less-than-perfect credit, you may work on improving it before applying for a mortgage. This step also helps you identify any possible errors in your credit reports that might cause your credit score to drop. If this is the case, you may contact the credit bureau in question to get the error fixed.

 

Inspect Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio refers to the percentage of your gross monthly income that’s required to make your monthly debt repayments. For example, if your gross monthly income is $5,000 and your combined monthly debt payments amount to $2,000, your DTI ratio is 40%. Lenders pay close attention to the DTI ratios of self-employed mortgage seekers, and they view applicants with high DTI ratios as high-risk borrowers.

According to Fannie Mae, the maximum allowed DTI ratio for a manually underwritten mortgage is 26%. It can go up to 45% if a borrower fulfills credit score and other specific requirements. In addition, there can be exceptions in some cases such as cash-out refinance and high LTV refinance transactions. If your DTI exceeds 45%, consider bringing it down before you apply for a mortgage.

 

Offer to Make a Large Down Payment

Lenders view borrowers who start by having higher-than-usual equity in their homes as less likely to default on their mortgages. As a result, offer to make as large a down payment as possible without stretching your resources.

 

Have Substantial Cash Reserves

If you’ve saved a substantial amount of money, it shows lenders you can continue making monthly payments even if you suffer a temporary financial setback.  Ideally, you should be able to show enough cash reserves to cover 12 to 24 months of mortgage payments, insurance payments, property taxes, and the home’s regular upkeep.

Paying off as much of your consumer debt as possible before you apply for a mortgage is ideal. While this helps bring down your DTI ratio by reducing your monthly payments, the additional cash flow you have access to might also result in a lender offering you a higher loan amount.

 

Select a Suitable Lender

Not all mortgage providers view self-employed applicants in the same manner. For example, most big banks follow stringent eligibility criteria that might not work well for self-employed individuals. Specialized mortgage lenders, on the other hand, tend to offer self-employed people with good credit scores and adequate income a better opportunity to qualify for a mortgage.

 

Self-Employed Mortgage Loan Alternatives

Self-Employed Mortgage Loan Alternatives

Much like homebuyers who have regular jobs, self-employed mortgage seekers also get multiple options from which to choose. These include conventional mortgages as well as alternatives to traditional mortgages.

 

Conventional Loans

A majority of the mortgages issued in the U.S. classify as conventional conforming loans, guidelines for which are set by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Lenders that provide conforming loans require self-employed applicants to show at least two years of self-employed work history. You typically need a credit score of over 620 to qualify for a conventional loan. You’ll also need to DTI ratio of 43% or lower.

 

USDA Loans

Backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA loans are made available for the purchase of rural property as well as homes in suburban areas of large cities. These loans come with no down payment requirements, although you need to show at least two years of self-employed work history. To qualify, you need a credit score of 640 or higher. In addition, your monthly mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, should not exceed 29% of your monthly income.

 

VA Loans

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs backs VA loans. While you may apply as a military veteran, you can also apply if you’re still in military service, a surviving spouse, or a reservist. As a veteran, you don’t have to make any down payment. There is no prescribed minimum credit score requirement, which is why it may vary from one lender to the next.

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Non-Qualified Mortgages

Non-qualified mortgages (non-QMs) are ones that you may qualify for by providing alternative forms of documentation. Lenders who provide non-QMs tend to follow more relaxed credit requirements than those who offer conventional mortgages. Besides, you may even qualify with a DTI that’s over 43%. Meadowbrook Financial provides non-QMs for people with fair/average credit, for those looking at larger-than-usual loan amounts, for investors, as well as for foreign nationals. 

 

Conclusion

Self-employed people who have good creditworthiness and earn enough money may think about getting mortgages to go the homeownership way.  While the going might not be as easy as it is for people with regular jobs, you still get different options from which to choose. What’s important is for you to look at your existing financial situation and your ability to make payments going forward.

If you’re wondering how to calculate income for self-employed borrowers or need help to determine which mortgage option might work best for you, consider speaking with a loan officer who works with a reputed mortgage provider.

Find Out if 2022 Is a Good Year to Buy a Home

Find Out if 2022 Is a Good Year to Buy a Home

A significant number of Americans became first-time homeowners during the last couple of years because of historically low mortgage rates. High demand coupled with relatively low supply led to a fairly competitive market. According to RedFin, 53.6% of homes ended up selling for more than their list prices in May 2021, a sharp increase from 26% during the same month in the preceding year. However, with interest rates on the rise, many are starting to wonder if buying a home in 2022 is a good idea.

 

The Interest Rate Scenario

The Interest Rate Scenario

No matter which way you look at it, it’s plain to see that the Federal Reserve aims to do its best to get inflation under control. There will be some collateral economic damage appears to be a given. The spike in mortgage rates over the last few months is unprecedented. In the week ending on December 22, 2021, the average interest rate of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage stood at 3.05%. It climbed to 5.30% in the week ending on May 11, 2022, and dropped marginally in the following few weeks. One is yet to see the overall effect of this rapid increase on the housing market. 

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From the policymakers’ point of view, a slowdown in the housing sector might result in a slowing down of inflation. Rising interest rates seem to have had the desired effect in cooling down one of inflation’s most important drivers. For instance, data released by Mortgage Bankers Association shows that mortgage applications for purchasing new homes decreased by 14% from March 2022 to April 2022. Further, data released by Zillow indicates that there is a positive change in inventory levels from March to April. For those wondering if housing prices will drop in 2022, know that they continue to increase gradually at this point in time, and there’s no near reversal in sight.

 

Will the Housing Market Crash in 2022?

If you’re wondering when the housing market will crash again, the simple answer is – not any time soon. In fact, most experts actually have favorable forecasts surrounding the U.S. housing market for the remainder of 2022. This is because while there has been a relative slowdown in hyperactivity over the last few months, the market continues to witness fairly strong demand as well as an increase in prices. 

Urgency among prospective homebuyers driven by expectations of further increases in interest rates might help the summer market remain upbeat, and sellers who wish to capitalize on the equity they’ve built over the years may also help the cause.

The market might become more favorable for buyers in the coming months as more inventory hits the market. Besides, the market could also experience an uptick in the number of first-time buyers on their way to homeownership.

 

The Millennial and Gen Z Effect

Data released by Statista shows that millennials(born between 1981 and 1996) accounted for the largest share in the U.S. population chart in 2020, at 21.93%. Although at the third spot, Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) was not far behind, at 20.35%. Together, both represent over 40% of the country’s population, which is significant because first-time homebuyers account for the largest segment of people buying homes. It is safe to assume the deep buyer pool that exists will keep demand strong, all the more so because inventory remains low.

A handful of experts making housing market predictions for the next five years agree that a market crash is in the making, although the likelihood of this happening remains extremely slim. This is because there has been no significant increase in inventory over the last decade, and many from Gen Z will soon be ready to go the homeownership way. Further, while demand will remain high in the coming years, inventory is set to remain lower than the demand.

Not surprisingly, the low supply is working as a catalyst in fuelling demand and increasing home prices, which also indicates that the housing market is bound to remain strong. Given that not enough houses have been built over the last 10 years or so, one can expect that it will take several years to add the required inventory to balance the market.

In balanced housing markets, the time it would take to sell all existing inventory at the current pace stands at around four to six months. In April 2022, this number stood at 2.2, highlighting that the market is in favor of buyers. 

Privately-owned housing starts in April 2022 stood at 1,819,000, up by 14.6% from April 2021. However, even this seemingly large number will do little to bring down home prices in the near future. 

 

Are There Any Warning Signs?

“When will the housing market crash again?” is a question that’s commonly doing rounds for well over a year now.  While many experts feel that the economy is on its way to recovery, others feel that a recession is in the making. This is not without reason, because inflation began to climb in 2021, as did consumer prices.

To deal with the situation, the Federal Reserveincreased the funds rate in May, accounting for the biggest hike in over two decades. Some viewed this as a sign that a slowdown is just around the corner.  While the funds rate doesn’t have a direct bearing on long-term mortgage rates, it impacts short-term rates that come with adjustable-rate mortgages, personal loans, and credit cards. Therefore, an increase in rates can lead to a slowdown in spending.

In its forecasts for 2022, Goldman Sachs predicted that the country’s GDP would increase by just 1.75%. In addition, an April 2022 publication suggests that there is a 15% chance the country might go into recession within the next 12 months, and a 35% chance that it will happen in the next 24 months. If this happens, it will definitely not augment well for the housing market. 

 

The Russia-Ukraine War

Energy prices were already increasing, and the U.S. and Eurozone ban on Russian oil has amplified the pressure further still. High energy prices do not bode well with rising inflation. With increasing interest rates thrown into the mix, there could be reasons for consumers to cut overall spending. This could also mean that some people might lose their drive to become homeowners, or at least put their plans on the backburner for a while.

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According to the University of Michigan, the index of consumer sentiment stood at 50.2 in June 2022, down from 85.5 in June 2021, a -41.3% year-on-year change, and also its lowest recorded value.  Respondents in the survey highlighted there was anxiety about the effect that the Russia-Ukraine war might have on the American economy, as well as about rising oil prices and high levels of inflation.

America’s ban on Russian oil imports can lead to supply chain problems, which, in turn, may have a dampening effect on already high inflation. Besides, this geopolitical conflict now appears to persist for way longer than originally expected. If the prices of goods increase, there could be a possibility of consumers being uncomfortable when making large purchases – such as buying homes.  

 

What Should You Do?

Some people are on the fence when it comes to buying a home in 2022, wondering if they should put their plans on hold and wait for prices to drop. However, the possibility of this happening any time in the near future is rather bleak. The existing demand to buy homes and inadequate inventory are bound to keep prices on their upward trend. Besides, Wall Street firms continue to want to add real estate to their portfolios. Consequently, prospective first-time homebuyers are not just competing with each other, but with investors as well. 

On the whole, while some sectors such as the stock market and oil are experiencing volatility, the upward trend in housing prices will continue because of the supply and demand rule.

 

Are You Financially Sound?

Prospective homebuyers should ideally look at their existing financial situation and determine if the numbers work in their favor. If you plan to buy a new home and live in it for several years, and if you have a stable job that will let you keep up with your mortgage payments, you may consider buying a home in 2022. Given that mortgage rates might increase even more, there is no reason to postpone buying a home if you can afford to at this point in time.  If you feel you’re in a financially secure position, you may well start looking at homes that fit your bill.

 

Timing the Market

Timing when you purchase a home based on market conditions is easier said than done, and even experts go wrong in their predictions at times. Halfway through 2022, you need to realize that while mortgage rates are on the rise, they’re still affordable.  Consider this for perspective – the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage stood at over 18% in October 1981. It dropped to below 6% only toward the end of 2002. In July 2008, it breached the 6.5% mark again. 

Anyone expecting to time the market perfectly might be in for disappointment. If you find a home that meets your requirements and is within your budget, signing the dotted line might work well for you. Bear in mind that waiting for longer will result in spending more on rent and you might also be burdened with a higher interest rate than you may get now.

 

What Can Cause Prices to Drop?

What Can Cause Prices to Drop?

A continued increase in interest rates along with poorly performing financial markets might cause the rise in home prices to slow down or reverse. For instance, if mortgage rates climb to 5.5% to 6% and there’s a pullback of 20% or more in the financial markets, these factors could cause a lull in the appreciation of home prices. In addition, if prospective buyers have reduced purchasing power, the demand for homes might drop. 

A long-drawn war in Europe might have a cascading negative effect on home prices in the U.S., as might the after-effects of the pandemic. For instance, many baby boomers with significant equity in their homes chose not to sell over the last two years. If there’s a change in this trend and they start downsizing their homes, the market might get some added inventory, which, in turn, might lead to price corrections. 

You may expect home prices to reduce significantly in the near future only in case of an event of large proportions, such as a war, a sudden drop in demand, or a rapid addition of inventory. Even if home prices don’t continue to rise at the same rate, existing data suggests that prices are unlikely to nose-dive in the near future. 

The large rate of defaults that took place during the 2008 financial crisis is unlikely to happen again because lenders are way more prudent when issuing mortgages now. Unless history repeats itself in this form or in the form of double-digit interest rates, it looks like existing housing market trends are here to stay.

 

Conclusion

Don’t let the fear of missing out (FOMO) drive you into purchasing a home that holds the potential to put your finances in disarray. That said, 2022 is definitely a good time to buy a home because the demand continues to overshadow the inventory, and because prices might not rise as quickly and as much as they did in 2021. Prospective buyers also need to understand that there are micro-markets within markets, and some of the submarkets might present more favorable deals than others. 

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Bear in mind that no one can conclusively say when the housing market might crash again. Besides, most experts are of the opinion that while 2023 might witness some slowing down, a crash is highly unlikely.  If you’re still wondering whether 2022 is a good year to buy a home, know that it essentially depends on how ready you are to take the plunge. If you decide to move forward, start by looking at what different types of traditional and alternative mortgages have to offer.

Alternatives to the Traditional Mortgage

Alternatives to the Traditional Mortgage

Not everyone who can afford to buy a home qualifies for a traditional mortgage. Fortunately, there are alternative ways to own a home, one of which involves looking at what unconventional mortgage lenders have to offer. Depending on whether you meet the required eligibility criteria, getting a USDA loan or a VA loan might also work in your favor.

 

Nonbank/Unconventional Mortgage Lenders 

Typically referred to as private mortgage lenders, nonbank mortgage lenders offer financial products that are largely similar to what you’d find through traditional banking institutions. These include loans for first-time homebuyers, second home/investment loans, jumbo loans, reverse mortgages, as well as refinancing solutions. However, since alternative mortgage lenders don’t have to follow the same stringent regulations as banks, they are able to make way for relaxed eligibility criteria, lower down payments, and quicker processing of applications. Unlike banks, private lenders cannot offer deposit services.

 

Alternatives to a Traditional Mortgage

First-time homebuyers who do not meet the typically stringent eligibility criteria that come with traditional mortgages as well as investors who are looking for flexible solutions may turn to mortgage alternatives made available by nonbank mortgage lenders. While such alternatives give you the ability to bring down your monthly payments, you also stand the chance to qualify for higher loan amounts than you would through a traditional mortgage.

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You may refer to any mortgage that deviates from traditional mortgage practices as an alternative mortgage. The variation may come in the form of an adjustable rate or more relaxed income/creditworthiness requirements.    

 

What is a Non-Qualified Mortgage?

Non-qualified mortgages (non-QMs) refer to home loans that do not fall under the qualified mortgage (QM) bracket. Lenders that offer QMs need to determine if borrowers meet the requirements laid out in the ability-to-repay rule. In addition, lenders cannot offer features such as interest-only payments, loan terms of over 30 years, and balloon payments through QMs.

The non-QM market finds favor with people who have less-than-perfect credit as well as with those who cannot qualify for traditional mortgages or QMs for any other reason. Non-QMs, in their basic form, are designed as solutions for individuals who cannot meet the stringent eligibility requirements that come with traditional mortgages. For example, you might qualify for a non-QM as a foreign national or as an investor with fair credit.

One way to determine if you need to look at alternative or non-qualified mortgages is to check if you qualify for a traditional mortgage. General eligibility criteria for qualified mortgages include providing proof of income through paystubs, tax returns, and W-2s, as well as having a debt-to-income ratio of no more than 43%. In addition, fees and points cannot be more than 3% of the amount you borrow.

Given the stringent guidelines that accompany QMs, providers of such loans receive considerable protection from liability by being backed by some government entities such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Non-QMs, on the other hand, don’t provide lenders with any such safeguard.

 

Making the Case for Non-QMs

Data released by CoreLogic suggests that the main reasons why non-QMs from 2018 did not fit the QM bracket were:

  • Alternative of limited documentation
  • Debt-to-income ratios of over 43%
  • The need to make interest-only payments

More than 45% of non-QM borrowers had DTIs of over 43%, and over 40% presented alternative or limited documentation. While the share of non-QMs issued to borrowers with DTIs over 43% has increased significantly over the last few years, there has been a phasing out of risky factors such as balloon payments and negative amortization. 

The non-QMs of today have evolved considerably over the last decade and are not quite the same as they were before the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Consider this – the average credit score of non-QM borrowers in 2018 stood at 760. This number for homebuyers with QMs was a tad lower, at 754. In addition, the average first-lien loan-to-value ratio for non-QM borrowers was 79%, whereas it was 81% for QM borrowers.

 

Pros and Cons of Non-QMs

Determining if a non-qualified mortgage might work well for you requires that you pay attention to the benefits as well as the possible downsides.

 

Pros 

  • Lenders accept alternative forms of documentation
  • More relaxed credit requirements than QMs
  • No maximum limit to the number of investment properties
  • Foreign nationals may qualify

 

Cons

  • Might need to make a larger-than-usual down payment
  • Interest rates and fees and typically higher than QMs
  • Risky loan features may put you at risk
  • Not all lenders provide non-QMs

Nonbank/Unconventional Mortgage Lenders 

Your Top Alternatives to a Traditional Mortgage

People who don’t have lengthy enough credit histories, those who have fair/average creditworthiness, foreign nationals with no credit scores, and even those looking for larger-than-usual loan amounts get several mortgage alternatives from which to choose. Selecting the option that works best for you requires paying close attention to different factors, including your own requirements.

 

Using a Home Renovation Loan to Become a Homeowner

A home renovation loan gives you the ability to buy a fixer-upper home and have adequate funds to carry out required repairs and renovations.

  • 203K. FHA-backed, these loans come in two forms – streamlined and standard. Both do not allow inclusion of luxury items. The streamlined alternative is ideal for homes that require non-structural work such as kitchen/bathroom remodeling, plumbing/electrical repairs, and paint jobs. The standard variant allows for extensive structural changes that might include repairing the foundation or adding new rooms.  
  • HomeStyle Renovation. Backed by Fannie Mae, you may include luxury items in the HomeStyle Renovation loan. When buying a house, you may get a loan of up to 50% of the home’s as-completed value. Your down payment can be as low as 5%. Private mortgage insurance (PMI) stops when you get to the 22% equity mark.

 

Check if You Qualify for a USDA or VA Loan

Although both the loans in question are backed by government bodies,  they come with features that you would not find in a traditional mortgage. For instance, you may get either without needing to make a down payment.

  • USDA Loans. Guaranteed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), USDA loans are made available to rural homebuyers as well as those who wish to purchase homes in the outer suburbs of large cities. These loans come with more relaxed income and creditworthiness criteria than traditional mortgages. 
  • VA Loans. VA loans are guaranteed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They are made available to those currently serving in the U.S. military, veterans, reservists, as well as eligible surviving spouses. No matter how little you put toward the down payment, you don’t have to get PMI.

 

Non-Qualified Mortgage Options

Meadowbrook Financial Mortgage Bankers realizes that borrowers looking at what the non-QM market has to offer don’t have many options from which to choose. To fill this relative void, it offers four distinct products.

 

Credit Ascent

The Credit Ascent loan program is designed to meet the needs of individuals with fair/average credit who’re looking for responsible lending solutions. 

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  • You may qualify with standard or alternative documentation
  • You may borrow any amount between $150,000 to $300,000
  • You may have a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of up to 90%
  • You may apply with a FICO Score of 600 or higher
  • Your debt-to-income ratio can be up to 50%
  • Making interest-only payments is possible
  • You get a cash-out option

 

Prime Ascent

The Prime Ascent loan program is meant for qualified individuals who’re looking for larger-than-usual loan amounts. 

  • You may apply with full or alternative documentation
  • You may borrow any amount between $150,000 to $3,500,000
  • You may have a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of up to 90%
  • You need a FICO Score of 660 or higher
  • Your debt-to-income ratio can be up to 50%
  • You may use this loan to purchase a second home
  • Making interest-only payments is possible
  • You get a cash-out option

 

Investor Solutions

As the name implies, the Investor Solutions loan program is for investors who’re looking for alternative sources of funding. 

  • Can underwrite to property income
  • Can close as an LLC or a corporation
  • No limit on the number of properties you may finance
  • Borrow any amount between $150,000 to $3,500,000
  • Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of up to 80%
  • FICO Score of 600 or higher
  • Interest-only payments possible
  • Cash-out option

 

Foreign Nationals

You may consider taking a look at what this loan program has to offer if you’re a foreign national who wishes to purchase a home or refinance an existing mortgage in the U.S.

  • Second homes and investment properties count as eligible transactions
  • Can use standard documentation or debt-service coverage ratio (DSCR)
  • Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of up to 75%
  • Borrow any amount between $150,000 to $2,000,000
  • Interest-only payments possible
  • Cash-out option

 

What About Jumbo Loans?

Jumbo loans fall outside the bracket of traditional mortgages for one simple reason. They come with loan amounts that exceed conforming loan limits (CLLs) set forth by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). As per data released by the agency, the CLL for single unit properties is set to be $647,200 in 2022. With jumbo loans, qualified borrowers may get mortgages of up to three million dollars.

Given that the amount involved in a jumbo loan is typically a large sum, you may expect to find more stringent lending criteria than compared with other alternative forms of lending. 

  • You need a credit score of 700 or higher
  • Your debt-to-income ratio should be below 43%
  • You need to make a down payment of 10% to 20%

 

Who Can Benefit by Getting a Non-QM or an Alternative Mortgage?

Data indicates that the non-QM market closed at around $18.9 billion in 2020, although it is pegged to get to $200 to $300 billion per year in not too distant a future. The projected growth is mainly because an increasing number of prospective homebuyers are unable to qualify for traditional mortgages. The three main segments that stand to gain from non-QMs include:

  • Investors and self-employed individuals with considerable income tax write-offs. Mortgage seekers from this segment typically don’t qualify for any backing from the government or its agencies. Even if you do, navigating through the increasingly tough requirements is easier said than done. As a result, looking at what non-QMs have to offer might serve this group well.
  • Borrowers with less-than-perfect credit scores or inadequate credit histories. A number of entrepreneurs rely on flexible approaches when running their businesses. This might keep them from having credit scores that meet the requirements of traditional mortgages. A businessperson with a DTI ratio of over 43% is a perfect example of someone from this segment. What helps is providers of non-QMs focus more on your ability-to-repay and take into account cash flow from varied sources. 
  • Individuals with unconventional sources of income. Getting a traditional mortgage may seem like an uphill task if your tax returns don’t qualify as proof of income. This can be the case if your income comes from unconventional sources such as property investments, the stock market, alimony, and part-time work. When it comes to non-QM lenders, they may accept bank statements to serve as proof of income.

 

Conclusion

In an ideal world, there should be no stopping you from getting a traditional mortgage if you have the ability to repay. You would then get the same loan terms and interest rates as your peers who check all the QM boxes. However, not everyone who wishes to and can afford to buy a home qualifies for a traditional mortgage. What helps is that there are a number of alternatives to traditional mortgages, several of which come in the form of non-QMs. These aim to help borrowers with unconventional or unique circumstances. 

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If you’re unsure about which type of mortgage might work best for you, getting in touch with a reliable lender that provides alternative solutions might be in your best interest.

FHA Vs. Conventional Loans: An In-Depth Comparison

FHA Vs Conventional Loans An In-Depth Comparison

FHA and conventional loans are among the two most common alternatives homebuyers turn to when they seek funding to move forward with their purchases.  While you may use either one to purchase a new home, you may also use them to refinance an existing mortgage. Looking at the conventional vs. FHA loan comparison closely before determining which one might work better for you is important because each loan comes with notable differences. 

 

What is an FHA Loan?

What is an FHA Loan?

Backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), FHA-approved private lenders across the U.S. provide FHA loans. The FHA essentially insures mortgages to safeguard the interest of lenders in case borrowers default on their loans. FHA insures mortgages on single-family homes and multifamily properties alike. However, the home you purchase will need to serve as your primary residence

People with less-than-perfect creditworthiness who feel they might not qualify for conventional mortgages might benefit by looking at what FHA loans have to offer because they come with less stringent credit score requirements. 

 

What is a Conventional Loan?

Most conventional loans meet the requirements prescribed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, and the ones that do are also referred to as conforming loans. However, they do not come with any type of government-backed guarantee. Unlike FHA loans that you may use to buy only primary residences, you may use the proceeds from a conventional loan to purchase a second home or an investment property.

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Conventional loans that do not meet Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae guidelines surrounding aspects such as maximum loan amounts, applicants’ incomes, down payment requirements, and credit standards fall under the non-conforming loans bracket. Jumbo loans classify as non-conforming loans. Non-conforming loans tend to have a smaller market and come with higher-than-usual interest rates.

 

Eligibility Requirements

Whether you might qualify for an FHA loan, a conventional loan, or both depends on multiple factors such as your credit score and the down payment amount. However, FHA loans have more relaxed eligibility criteria surrounding acceptable credit scores and debt-to-income ratios, which is why they are listed first in this section of the FHA loan vs. conventional loan comparison.

 

FHA Loan Requirements

 

  • Minimum credit score of 500
  • Down payment can be as low as 3% based on your credit score
  • The home must pass a professional home inspection
  • The home needs to be appraised by an FHA-approved appraiser

 

Conventional Loan Requirements

 

  • Minimum credit score of 620, although you get better terms with a higher credit score
  • Down payment for first-time homebuyers as low as 3%
  • Down payment for second home needs to be at least 10%

 

Limits on Loan Amounts

FHA and conventional loans have maximum limits surrounding how much money you might be able to borrow, and these limits vary by county. In addition, these limits are subject to change each year. In November 2021, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that the conforming loan limits (CLLs) across most parts of the U.S. for one-unit properties in 2022 would be $647,200. Similarly, FHA’s countrywide floor and ceiling forward mortgage limits for one-unit properties in 2022 stand at $420,680 and $970,800, respectively.

 

Debt-to-Income Ratio Requirements

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio gives lenders an indication of how much money you need to use from your monthly income to make repayments toward your existing debt. Calculating your DTI ratio requires that you divide your total monthly debt payments by your monthly income and multiply it by 100. For example, if your monthly debt payments amount to $1,500 and your monthly income is $4,000, your DTI ratio is 37.5% (1500/4000*100).

The conventional loan vs. FHA loan comparison tilts in favor of the latter when it comes to acceptable DTI ratios. For FHA loans, your DTI ratio should be 50% or lower. When it comes to conventional loans, most lenders look at DTI ratios of 36% or lower with favor. It’s important to note that the maximum allowed DTI ratio does not apply to each applicant. Lenders might view borrowers with the higher end of acceptable DTI ratios with favor if they appear to be strong borrowers through compensating factors such as excellent creditworthiness or access to adequate cash reserves.

 

Down Payment Requirements

Just how much down payment you need to make when buying a home varies based not just on the type of loan you choose, but other factors as well. While common perception suggests that you need at least a 20% down payment to get a conventional loan, this is far from the fact. For instance, the Conventional 97 Loan is a 3% down payment loan alternative for first-time homebuyers, as well as for homeowners who wish to refinance their Fannie Mae loans, and you don’t have to fall in the low-income bracket to qualify. 

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The minimum down payment you need to provide to get an FHA loan depends on your credit score. You need to provide at a least 10% down payment if your credit score is between 570 and 579. If it’s 580 or higher, you may pay as little as 3%.

You may consider making a large down payment, even more than 20%, if you feel to can afford to because it comes it multiple benefits. With conventional loans, it takes away the need to pay extra for private mortgage insurance (PMI). In both cases, you may look forward to paying lower monthly payments and lower interest charges throughout the course of the loan term. You’ll also get to build equity in your home faster.

 

Mortgage Insurance Requirements

Mortgage insurance helps safeguard a lender in case you default on your loan. If you plan to get a conventional mortgage and pay less than 20% of a home’s selling price as down payment, you will need to get private mortgage insurance (PMI). Once you build 22% equity in the home, you longer need to make PMI payments.

With FHA loans, while FHA insures your mortgage, you still need to pay mortgage insurance premium (MIP). You need to keep making these payments until you pay off your loan in full.

Since you need to make mortgage insurance payments toward an FHA loan for the life of the loan, PMI might be more cost-effective in the long run, especially if you have good or excellent creditworthiness. This is because your credit score plays a role in the PMI rate you get. 

 

Property Standard Requirements

The condition of the home you wish to buy plays an important role in the FHA vs. conventional loans comparison. This is because FHA appraisals follow more stringent guidelines than conventional appraisals.  While assessing the value of a home is a part of an FHA appraisal, you may also expect an FHA appraiser to pay due attention to aspects such as adherence to local codes, quality of construction, and overall safety of the property. 

FHA does not require the fixing of problems that do not affect the soundness or safety of a home. If you feel the home you wish to purchase might not pass an FHA appraisal, you may get the seller to make the required repairs beforehand. Alternatively, you may think about applying for a conventional loan that has more relaxed norms surrounding property standards.

 

The Pros and Cons of FHA Loans

The main advantages of getting an FHA loan include:

  • Down payments can be as low as 3%
  • Low closing costs
  • Lower minimum credit scores required when compared to conventional loans
  • Higher DTI ratios accepted when compared to conventional loans

The possible drawbacks of getting an FHA loan come in the form of:

  • Need to pay mortgage insurance premium through the course of the loan’s term
  • More stringent property standard requirements than conventional loans
  • Need to use the home you buy as your primary residence
  • Interest rates might be higher than conventional loans owing to less stringent eligibility requirements

 

The Pros and Cons of Conventional Loans

You might benefit by getting a conventional loan in different ways.

  • Flexibility in terms
  • Nonconforming loans come with no maximum limits
  • No need to get PMI if your down payment is 20% or more of the home’s selling price
  • Can use proceeds of the loan to buy a second or an investment home

Like FHA loans, conventional loans also have some shortcomings.

  • Typically stricter eligibility requirements than FHA loans
  • Need a higher credit score to qualify when compared to FHA loans
  • Need a lower DTI ratio to qualify when compared to FHA loans
  • Need to pay extra for PMI if your down payment is below the 20% mark

 

Tips to Reduce Your FHA or Conventional Loan Expenses

One common factor in the FHA loan vs. conventional loan comparison is that you get the ability to lower your loan expenses in both cases. 

 

Compare Loans Estimates

It is important that you compare loan estimates provided by different lenders. Doing this requires paying attention to interest rates, monthly principal and interest payments, monthly mortgage insurance payments, total monthly costs, upfront loan costs, lender credits, as well as the amount of money you need to cover closing costs.

 

Select a Suitable Loan Term

Selecting a loan term has a bearing on the immediate and long-term cost of your mortgage. For instance, a longer loan term would result in lower monthly payments, and the converse holds true as well.  However, the longer the loan term, the more you would end up paying as interest. 

 

Make a Large Down Payment

Making a down payment of 20% or more can help you avoid the added cost of private mortgage insurance if you get a conventional loan. In addition, a large down payment – toward an FHA or conventional loan – would result in lower upfront fees, overall interest, and monthly payments. You might even benefit by getting a better interest rate.

 

Reduce Closing Costs

Reduce Closing Costs

Closing costs refer to the costs that users and sellers incur when transferring a property’s ownership. These may include loan origination fees, appraisal fees, title insurance charges, property taxes, escrow deposits, mortgage tax, and underwriting fees. These costs tend to vary from one county to the next, and typically range from 3% to 6% of the loan amount. What helps is you may take measures to lower your closing costs by paying attention to all the fees you need to pay.

The first thing you may do to bring down your closing costs is to get the seller to contribute partially. The possibility of this happening is more likely if you’re buying in a market that’s not favorable for sellers. Another option is to negotiate with your lender, especially if you’ve compared multiple loan estimates and have found lower costs through other lenders. You may also benefit through lower rates and fees if you’ve been a longstanding customer of the financial institution through which you’re seeking a mortgage.

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If you’re unable to fund closing costs on your own, you might ask your mortgage provider to include the same into the loan amount. If your lender agrees, these costs get added to the principal amount, which you repay over time.

 

Conclusion

You may consider getting an FHA loan if you have less-than-perfect creditworthiness or if you don’t have enough money to make a large down payment. This is also the case if you’re looking at buying a primary residence or if you have a high debt-to-income ratio. While conventional loans tend to come with stricter eligibility requirements, they may lead to savings in the form of low or no mortgage insurance payments. A conventional loan might also work well for you if you wish to buy a home that will not pass an FHA appraisal, if you’re buying a second home, or if you’re in it for the long haul.

If you’re still unsure about whether you should get a conventional or an FHA loan, you may consider speaking with a reputed mortgage provider who can take the specifics of your case into account and then guide you in making a more well-informed decision.

All You Need to Know About Home Inspections and Home Inspection Contingency

All You Need to Know About Home Inspections and Home Inspection Contingency

Buying a home is among the biggest financial moves that most people make, which is why it’s important to tread with caution. After all, homes do not come with warranties, and there’s little you can do if what you thought might be the house of your dreams turns out to be anything but. Fortunately, including an inspection contingency clause in your purchase agreement and following it up with a professional home inspection can help expose any problems you might face in the future.

 

What is Inspection Contingency?

What is Inspection Contingency?

As with other contingency clauses that you might include in your purchase agreement when buying a home, an inspection contingency clause requires that certain conditions be met before the contract is legally binding. In this case, the home in question needs to pass a professional inspection. When you add an inspection contingency clause to your purchase agreement, you usually get 7 to 10 days to bring up any objections you might have based on the home inspection report. This process essentially gives you time to arrive at a well-informed purchase decision.

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Since rules surrounding inspection contingencies are not the same across the country, consider discussing this aspect with your real estate agent or mortgage provider in advance. With an inspection contingency clause in place, you get the ability to back away from the deal and get back your earnest money if the inspection reveals a problem that the seller is unwilling to address. Alternatively, you may negotiate for a lower price or for the required repair work to be carried out. 

Other than mentioning the time you get to carry out an inspection, an inspection contingency clause should also highlight how you might want to move forward if you wish to raise any concerns after the inspection.

 

What is Home Inspection?

When your purchase agreement depends on an inspection contingency, you need to use the services of a professional house inspector to evaluate the home you wish to purchase. The process involves getting a knowledgeable and unbiased account of whether the home has any identifiable issues that might affect your purchase decision. While a general house inspector looks at different aspects of a home, you might need the services of a specialist to identify some types of problems.

 

What’s Covered in a Home Inspection?

According to the Standard of Practice issued by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), home inspectors are required to check a home’s:

  • Structural system. This includes the foundation, the floor structure, the wall structure, the ceiling structure, and the roof structure.
  • Roof system. This includes roofing materials, drainage systems, flashings, skylights, chimneys, and roof penetrations.
  • Interior. This includes walls, ceilings, and floors; steps, stairways, and railings; countertops and installed cabinets; doors and windows; vehicle garage doors and door operators; as well as appliances such as cooking ranges, ovens, microwave ovens, dishwashing machines, and food waste grinders.
  • Exterior. This includes exterior doors, wall coverings, flashing, trim, attached and adjacent decks, balconies, porches, patios, stoops, steps, eaves, soffits, fascias, grading, surface drainage, retaining walls, vegetation, adjacent and entryway walkways, and driveways.
  • Plumbing system. This includes fixtures and faucets; water heating equipment and hot water supply systems; interior drain, waste, and vent systems; fuel storage and fuel distribution systems; vent systems, flues, and chimneys; as well as sewage ejectors, sump pumps, and related piping.
  • Electrical system. This includes lighting fixtures, switches, and receptacles; heating and air conditioning systems; service drops; service entrance conductors, service equipment and main disconnect; cables and raceways; service grounding; interior components of service panels and subpanels; over-current protection devices; conductors; as well as arc fault circuit interrupters and ground fault circuit interrupters.

You may also expect a house inspector to check the home’s insulation, ventilation, and solid fuel-burning units such as fireplaces.

 

What’s Not Covered?

While it’s good to know what home inspectors look for, you also need to know the limitations of general home inspectors. For instance, you might need a specialized home inspection when it comes to identifying problems related to:

  • Pest and rodent infestation
  • Exposure to lead, asbestos, radon, or formaldehyde
  • Mold and odors
  • Carpet-covered flooring
  • Snow-covered roofs and outdoor spaces
  • Drainage, sewage, and septic systems
  • Landscaping and sprinkler systems
  • Swimming pools

 

The Cost of a Home Inspection

Data collated by HomeGuide suggests that the average home inspection cost in the U.S. is $325. While this number can be below $250 for homes that are smaller than 1,500 square feet, you might end up paying upward of $500 for homes larger than 4,000 square feet.  You might need to pay an added $100 to $300 if the inspection is to include mold, lead, radon, or asbestos testing.

 

Why Get a Home Inspection?

One of the main reasons to get a home inspection is to avoid nasty surprises after the purchase of a home. Buying a home without an inspection, on the other hand, may well be viewed as asking for trouble. This is because while not all homes on sale have problems, there is no way to tell for sure unless you subject them to professional inspections.  From a buyer’s point of view, a home inspection plays a key role in providing peace of mind when moving forward with the closing of a deal. 

 

Should You Attend the Inspection?

Whether you choose to attend a home inspection or not is entirely up to you. However, it’s fairly common for homebuyers to be a part of home inspections, so your home inspector will not find your request to partake as unreasonable. Besides, a home inspection gives you the right opportunity to get clarification about any doubts you may have about the home’s condition. 

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If you’re the one responsible for scheduling the home inspection, make sure you pick a time that gives you at least three hours of natural light to go through the process. You may take photographs and make your notes, so you may get any doubts clarified once the inspector is done doing his/her job.

 

The Home Inspection Report

The Home Inspection Report

After the physical inspection of a home is complete, you may expect your house inspector to give you a detailed report. Home inspection reports may include photographs along with detailed descriptions surrounding all the areas that the inspector covered. If the house has any safety issues or if it requires repairs in any form, you may expect to find a mention of the same in the report. Your report will also touch upon factors that might need your attention in the future.

It is crucial that you go through your home inspection report in detail. If you find any aspect to be confusing or if you have any questions, make sure you seek answers from your home inspector before moving forward with the deal. Most home inspection reports include:

  • Table of contents
  • An introduction that outlines important definitions, the date of the inspection, and the age of the building
  • A list of all inspected components such as interior, exterior, roof, and plumbing
  • A summary of defects, shortcomings, and other discoveries that warrant your attention and/or further investigation
  • If you’re wondering what fixes are mandatory after a home inspection, know that the seller is under no legal obligation to carry out any repair work and might choose to sell the house as-is.

 

What Do You Do After Receiving the Inspection Report?

Once you receive the home inspection report and go through it in its entirety, you get four options from which to choose. Depending on what you find in your home inspection report, you may:

  • Move forward with the deal
  • Ask the seller to lower the selling price
  • Ask the seller to carry out the required repair work 
  • Back out of the deal without incurring any penalty

If you’re unsure about which path to take, you may seek advice from your real estate agent. Bear in mind that almost all home inspections result in highlighting a few problems. If the concerns are small, you may consider moving forward with the deal. If the seller agrees to get the required work done, you may ask your inspector to sign off only after it’s complete. If you think that the issues are big and fail to arrive at a consensus with the seller, walking away from the deal and looking for other alternatives might be in your best interest.

 

Home Inspection Checklist

While professional home inspectors know just what to look for and where, you might benefit by coming up with your own home inspection checklist before the inspector’s arrival. This way, you can be sure of leaving no stone unturned during the process. Your checklist should include:

  • Appliances
  • Attic 
  • Balconies
  • Basement
  • Ceilings
  • Doors and windows
  • Electrical panel, power outlets, and light switches
  • Exterior paint/stucco
  • Floors
  • Foundation
  • Garage
  • Heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) system
  • Plumbing fixtures, faucets, and water heater
  • Porches
  • Rain gutters/downspouts
  • Roof
  • Steps, stairs, and railings
  • Walkways and driveways
  • Walls

 

Waiving Inspection Contingency

It is common for buyers to use home inspections as bargaining chips in favorable markets. For example, while a faulty water heater would not present problems surrounding a home’s safety or soundness, it might allow a buyer to ask the seller for a credit or for it to be repaired.

In most situations, waiving inspection contingency is among the top home-buying mistakes you should avoid. This is because the inspection that follows is meant to uncover any possible problem with the home you wish to purchase. By not adding an inspection contingency clause in your purchase agreement, you run the risk of having to spend a considerable amount of money down the line. This is because you assume financial responsibility for any repair work that might follow the sale of the home.

In competitive markets that favor sellers, many buyers draw attention to their offers by agreeing to overlook minor problems. However, instead of waiving home inspection contingency completely, many chose to modify the home inspection contingency wording they use in their offers. For instance, a buyer might agree to overlook repair work that totals to a predetermined amount. Alternatively, you might imply that you’re only looking for serious problems. When it comes to competitive markets, selecting a mortgage provider and getting preapproval before making an offer will also hold you in good stead.

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Getting a professional home inspection before you sign a purchase agreement is an option. This way, you may proceed with the agreement after you receive a favorable home inspection report. If you waive inspection contingency in your purchase agreement, you may still back out of the deal if you receive a negative inspection report. In this case, you’ll end up forfeiting your deposit, which is why you need to compare it with the money you might need to spend on carrying out the required repair work.

 

Conclusion

Once you narrow down on the house you wish to buy, you’ll need to make an offer and sign a purchase agreement. This is where you get to add contingency clauses that let you back out of the deal without losing money if the home does not meet certain prerequisites. A home inspection gives you the ability to look for any problem in the house, and a home inspection contingency clause lets you back out of the deal if you receive an unfavorable inspection report.

Using the services of a professional home inspector is the way to go because the last thing you want after purchasing a home is nasty surprises. Once an inspector discovers any problems, you may get the seller to address them or lower the selling price. Bear in mind that you can add an inspection contingency clause in your purchase agreement and still make a strong offer by getting mortgage preapproval and agreeing to make a large down payment

How Rising Interest Rates and Other Trends Might Affect the Housing Market

How Rising Interest Rates and Other Trends Might Affect the Housing Market

Interest rates play a crucial role in the U.S. housing market for various reasons. For starters, they have a direct bearing on how much you end up paying to get a mortgage for purchasing a home. This, in turn, tends to have an impact on the value of homes. While low-interest rates usually result in increased demand and a rise in prices, the opposite holds as well. Anyone wondering when housing prices will drop again should realize that while there’s no way to tell for sure, reading existing signs may help determine where the market is headed.

 

Is a Housing Market Crash Coming?

Is a Housing Market Crash Coming?

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage stood at 2.77% in the week that ended on August 4, 2021. In the week that ended on January 27, 2022, it increased to 3.55%. With interest rates moving upward, many probable homebuyers are turning to experts to check if anyone’s coming up with the next housing crash prediction. 

Another reason for concern is the increase in housing prices. Data released by Freddie Mac points out that housing prices increased by 11.3% in 2020 and 16.9% in 2021, respectively. It predicts that the trend will continue and expects a further increase of 7% in 2022.

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However, the consensus surrounding the housing market forecast is that there is little to no threat of a housing market crash in the near future. One reason is that while there has been an increase in interest rates, they continue to remain at near all-time lows. This implies that getting a mortgage might still be worth it for many homebuyers. In addition, many prospective buyers looking at buying their first homes or upgrading might want to make the move to circumvent any further increase in property prices.

 

What’s Different From 2008?

While one might be inclined to believe that the current U.S. housing market resembles what it did in 2008, this is not the case. For starters, the 2008 crisis came about mainly because there was a significant increase in the number of high-risk mortgages that went into default, starting in 2007. Credit standards at the time were low, and many lenders provided mortgages to people with average and poor credit. 

In the present-day scenario, the absence of easily disbursed loans gives the housing market a sense of security that was absent in 2008. Since then, the government backs loans from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have employed more stringent guidelines, which have prevented the system from getting overwhelmed with bad loans. 

Further, supply and demand continue to drive the existing U.S. housing market. While the pace at which young families are moving from cities to suburbs might not be as rapid as the market might like, unless there is a sudden spike in supply, there is no imminent threat of a housing market crash. On the other hand, the demand continues to remain high and supply remains tight, which suggests that little will change from how the market performed in 2021.

Even if the demand is to drop marginally because of high-interest rate expectations, the supply continues to remain low owing to factors such as higher lumber and labor costs that have come to pass because of supply chain problems caused by the pandemic. In addition, a recovering unemployment rate might further help augment the demand.  

 

The Interest Rate Effect

Officials at the Federal Reserve who seemed confident that the spike in housing prices would reverse as the economy got back on track pretty much abandoned their “transitory” theory after the release of the Consumer Price Index Summary in January 2022. It showed that the all items index increased by 7% percent for the 12 months ending in December 2021, the highest 12-month spike since June 1982. Soon after, Fed Chair Jerome Powell suggested it was time that the central bank looked at speeding up the taper.

The real estate industry was quick to take notice of his comments. If the Fed ends up increasing interest rates and reduces buying mortgage-backed securities, it might lead to higher mortgage rates. The Fed helped bring mortgage rates down to an all-time low during the pandemic, which led to a highly competitive housing market. However, some experts feel that increasing interest rates might have the opposite effect. As probable buyers choose to play the waiting game, it may well slow down the rise in housing prices.

Unfortunately, the housing industry is not in agreement surrounding how high mortgage rates might go in times to come as well as what effect increasing rates might have on the demand front. While some believe that the housing market, in its current shape and form, is strong enough to deal with even a notable rise in interest rates, others feel that it might lead to a downturn. 

Fannie Mae’s mortgage rate forecast released in November 2021 suggests that the interest rate of a 30-year mortgage will average at 3.3% in 2022 and 3.5% in 2023. However, this is not the only prediction of its kind. The Mortgage Bankers Association, through its January 2022 Mortgage Finance Forecast, expects the interest rate of a 30-year mortgage to average at 4% in the fourth quarter of 2022 and 4.3% in the fourth quarter of 2023. It also suggests that the year-on-year change in the FHFA U.S. House Price Index will come down to 5.1% by the fourth quarter of 2022, and drop to 4% by the first quarter of 2023.

 

Consequent Housing Market Predictions

One probable benefit of rising mortgage rates might be that the market would see fewer speculative buyers because of lower profits. This could prove to be beneficial for average homebuyers. With rising interest rates, most of the people who buy residential properties would do so with the aim of using them as primary residences or second homes. Consequently, a slowdown in demand might result in a correction of prices. 

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The preceding year or so worked relatively well for the U.S. housing market not just because of historically low-interest rates, but also because of a shortage in inventory. Houses ended up selling without spending much time on the market, often for more than their listed prices. In the months that follow, it is safe to expect a low inventory, elevated prices, as well as quick turnarounds. In addition, it will continue to remain a sellers’ market.

 

Inventory to Remain Low

The problem with the U.S. housing market’s low inventory existed even before the pandemic struck. However, the labor shortage that followed coupled with supply chain problems definitely amplified the effect. While builders across the country are trying to ramp up construction, it’s safe to say that there will be no significant uptick in inventory this year.  A Zillow report on playing catch up highlights that the country has experienced a shortfall of 1.35 million new homes because of the slowdown in construction after the 2008 housing market crash. In its predictions for 2022, it suggests that while the gap has reduced in 2021 and will do so again this year, the housing shortage will continue to remain a problem.

 

No Drop in Prices

Zillow predicts that home values will increase by 11% through the course of this year. Mortgage Bankers Association’s Mortgage Finance Forecast suggests that while the increase in housing prices might not be as pronounced as it was in 2021, prices will continue to rise. This is because sellers will still have the upper hand owing to factors such as high demand, low inventory, and low mortgage rates.  During the spring and summer period, probable buyers may expect bidding wars on a significant number of homes.  

 

Young Buyers at a Loss

The affordability factor has affected young first-time homebuyers in the U.S. for some time.  However, the pandemic worsened the problem, and a reversal in this trend might not happen any time soon.

According to data collated by Real Estate Witch, while home prices have increased by 118% since 1965 after accounting for inflation, the increase in median household income stands at a mere 15%. In addition, while Americans needed an average income of $144,192 to afford to buy a home in 2021, their median household income stood at $69,178. 

This puts the younger generation at a disadvantage when compared to older buyers. It’s now common for first-time homebuyers to seek financial help from their family/friends to make down payments, and this too will limit the number of young buyers entering the market.

 

Best to Be Prepared

Given the fast pace at which homes are selling, you should do your groundwork in advance. This includes keeping an eye out for new listings, being prepared to visit the homes you shortlist, and then being ready to make your offer. If involved in a price war, make sure you don’t end up overpaying or stretching beyond your budget.  Comparing prices of homes that sold in the vicinity during the preceding year is always a good idea. If the asking price of a comparable home seems much higher, you might be better off looking at other alternatives.

 

Is Now a Good Time to Buy a Home?

Is Now a Good Time to Buy a Home?

Prospective buyers who have access to the required funds might be looking at changes in mortgage rates to determine if they should move forward with the process. However, several first-time homebuyers have other things to worry about as well, which include coming up with down payment strategies and keeping up with monthly mortgage payments. This might result in people looking for less expensive homes or saving aggressively. Some businesses have given their employees the freedom to work remotely, which has resulted in buyers exploring more affordable housing markets, although this is not the case with the majority.

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Some experts predict that there might be a slowdown in demand in the coming months, which would then result in increased availability. This is because, since the inventory remains low, maintaining high sales volumes is not going to be easy. 

Unfortunately, the U.S. housing market continues to bear the burden of multiple unpredictable variables. In such a scenario, buying a home you can afford while still having some savings in the bank might be the best way forward, although you still need to plan for contingencies. For instance, if you plan to buy a house with your spouse, determine if you’ll be able to keep up with the payments in case one of you loses your job. You should also ideally plan to stay in the home you purchase for at least five years or for as long as it takes to cover your closing costs. This way, you minimize the possibility of losing money should you decide to sell the home.

 

Conclusion

Hoping to time the market when buying a home is not the best way forward, all the more so when there are multiple factors at play. For anyone wondering when home prices go will down again, it’s important to understand that while the price rise might not be as rapid as it was in 2021, the upward trend is expected to continue. A reversal in the slowly rising interest rates is unlikely to happen, although a sudden spike is not in the offing as well. With mortgage rates still near their all-time lows, this aspect should not act as a deterrent for prospective home buyers.

If you plan to buy a house in the near future, you should pay due attention to the long-term affordability factor. Once you decide to move forward, take a look at the different types of mortgages on offer and narrow down on ones for which you qualify. Then, determine which might work best for you after consulting with a reputed mortgage provider. Bear in mind that while mortgage rates need your attention, so do aspects such as flexibility in terms and customer service.