Brush up on these mortgage basics to help you determine the loan that will best suit your needs.
Mortgage terms. Mortgages are generally available at 15-, 20-, or 30-year terms. In general, the longer the term, the lower the monthly payment. However, you pay more interest overall if you borrow for a longer term.
Fixed or adjustable interest rates. A fixed rate allows you to lock in a low rate as long as you hold the mortgage and, in general, is usually a good choice if interest rates are low. An adjustable-rate mortgage is designed so that your loan’s interest rate will rise as market interest rates increase. ARMs usually offer a lower rate in the first years of the mortgage. ARMs also usually have a limit as to how much the interest rate can be increased and how frequently they can be raised. These types of mortgages are a good choice when fixed interest rates are high or when you expect your income to grow significantly in the coming years.
Balloon mortgages. These mortgages offer very low interest rates for a short period of time — often three to seven years. Payments usually cover only the interest so the principal owed is not reduced. However, this type of loan may be a good choice if you think you will sell your home in a few years.
Government-backed loans. These loans are sponsored by agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs and offer special terms, including lower down payments or reduced interest rates to qualified buyers.
Slight variations in interest rates, loan amounts, and terms can significantly affect your monthly payment. For help in determining how much your monthly payment will be for various loan amounts, use Fannie Mae’s online mortgage calculators.
Credit scores range between 300 and 850, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:
Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time? If they were late, then how late? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.
How much you owe. If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it’s a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.
The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer’s oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.
How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.
The types of credit you use. Generally, it’s desirable to have more than one type of credit — installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.
For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit www.myfico.com.
Investigate local, state, and national down payment assistance programs. These programs give qualified applicants loans or grants to cover all or part of your required down payment. National programs include the Nehemiah program, www.getdownpayment.com, and the American Dream Down Payment Fund from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, www.hud.gov.
Explore seller financing. In some cases, sellers may be willing to finance all or part of the purchase price of the home and let you repay them gradually, just as you would do with a mortgage.
Consider a shared-appreciation or shared-equity arrangement. Under this arrangement, your family, friends, or even a third-party may buy a portion of the home and share in any appreciation when the home is sold. The owner/occupant usually pays the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance costs, but all the investors’ names are usually on the mortgage. Companies are available that can help you find such an investor, if your family can’t participate.
Ask your family for help. Perhaps a family member will loan you money for the down payment or act as a co-signer for the mortgage. Lenders often like to have a co-signer if you have little credit history.
Lease with the option to buy. Renting the home for a year or more will give you the chance to save more toward your down payment. And in many cases, owners will apply some of the rental amount toward the purchase price. You usually have to pay a small, nonrefundable option fee to the owner.
Consider a short-term second mortgage. If you can qualify for a short-term second mortgage, this would give you money to make a larger down payment. This may be possible if you’re in good financial standing, with a strong income and little other debt.
You’ll likely be responsible for a variety of fees and expenses that you and the seller will have to pay at the time of closing. Your lender must provide a good-faith estimate of all settlement costs. The title company or other entity conducting the closing will tell you the required amount for:
Points, or loan discount fees, which you pay to receive a lower interest rate
Private mortgage insurance premium
Insurance escrow for homeowner’s insurance, if being paid as part of the mortgage
Property tax escrow, if being paid as part of the mortgage. Lenders keep funds for taxes and insurance in escrow accounts as they are paid with the mortgage, then pay the insurance or taxes for you.
Title insurance policy premiums
Prorations for your share of costs, such as utility bills and property taxes
A Note About Prorations: Because such costs are usually paid on either a monthly or yearly basis, you might have to pay a bill for services used by the sellers before they moved. Proration is a way for the sellers to pay you back or for you to pay them for bills they may have paid in advance. For example, the gas company usually sends a bill each month for the gas used during the previous month. But assume you buy the home on the 6th of the month. You would owe the gas company for only the days from the 6th to the end for the month. The seller would owe for the first five days. The bill would be prorated for the number of days in the month, and then each person would be responsible for the days of his or her ownership.
Not only does owning a home give you a haven for yourself and your family, it also makes great financial sense because of the tax benefits — which you can’t take advantage of when paying rent.
The following calculation assumes a 28 percent income tax bracket. If your bracket is higher, your savings will be, too. Based on your current rent, use this calculation to figure out how much mortgage you can afford.
Multiplier: x 1.32
Mortgage payment: _________________________
Because of tax deductions, you can make a mortgage payment — including taxes and insurance — that is approximately one-third larger than your current rent payment and end up with the same amount of income.
In the majority of U.S. housing markets, buying is more affordable than renting. While housing values have been on the decline in recent years, rents have been on the rise as the demand for rental properties have increased.
If your currently renting, now might be the best time to purchase financially. Housing values are at all time lows along with interest rates. These conditions are not expected to continue indefinitely. In fact; housing values are already showing signs of rising along with interest rates.
You might be asking yourself; how much house can I buy, and will I actually be better off purchasing a home versus renting? Your best resource to get answers to these questions would be either a mortgage broker or your banking institution. They will be in a position to tell you how much house you would qualify for, how much cash you will need to close and what your projected monthly payment would be. Once you have this information, you’ll be able to make an informed decision.
If you’ve decided that now is a good time to buy a home, then the next step is to contact a REALTOR® who will assist you with the house hunting process through the closing on your new home.
Act today; don’t keep putting your future plans on hold.
Access to mortgage credit is at its highest level in three years, and credit standards are expected to loosen even more this year, according to a newly released index by the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The Mortgage Bankers Association index rose to a 114 reading in March of this year, which is the highest reading in the gauge’s three year history.
Mortgage underwriting standards have gotten easier over the last two to three years, but nowhere near the loose standards of the 2005 and 2006 era.
Nearly 17 percent of the large banks recently eased their credit standards for prime purchase mortgages, while 5.6 percent have tightened their standards. The remaining banks have left their standards the same. This information comes from the Federal Reserve’s recent senior loan officer survey.
Follow these tips to improve your odds of getting a mortgage application approved: •Do not quit or change jobs. •Do not make any large purchases. •Do not have your credit pulled. •Do not deposit large sums of money. •Do not open, close or transfer asset accounts. •Do not increase your credit balances. •Do not stop making payments on anything. •Do not start a home improvement project that would require a loan. •Do not co-sign a loan for anyone. •Do not fudge on any of the facts on your loan application.