Do I or Don’t I? That is a loaded question when it comes to Credit!

As Loan Officers, we are frequently asked by our clients, “What can I do to improve my credit score?”. There are many Do’s and Don’t of Credit, which will not just to raise your score, but just as importantly, it will help you to make sure you don’t lower your credit score! I have a passion for helping my clients improve their financial situation before, during and after the loan process. I hope that this information will help;

Do:

  • Stay Current on Existing Accounts – One 30 day late can cost you!
  • Continue to Use your Credit as Normal – If it appears you are changing your credit pattern, it will raise a red flag and your score could go down.
  • Call your Loan Officer before life changing events to discuss – Call before making any address or credit changes that may affect your score or balances. This is especially important now because we must run credit just before the close of escrow to ensure that no new credit has been obtained: and that balances on existing credit haven’t increased.
  • Disclose all debts and payments. Make your Loan Officer Aware of any debts that may not appear on your credit report. We must account for all liabilities for which you are responsible. If you are purchasing multiple properties at the same time, even if they haven’t closed yet, or have just closed, those must be disclosed on your loan application; or they could hold up your closing or even prevent it.

Do NOT:

  • Apply for new credit. Every time you have your credit pulled by a potential creditor or lender, it can affect your credit score and we must include the new debt on your application; no matter when in the process you get it. This includes co-signing for a loan for someone else.
  • Pay off collections or “charge-offs”. If you want to pay off old accounts, do it through escrow. Be sure to request a “letter of deletion” from the creditor.
  • Close Credit Card Accounts. If you close a credit card account, it may appear that your debt ratio has gone up. Closing a card will affect other factors in the score, including credit history.
  • Max out or over-charge credit card accounts. Try to keep your credit card balances 30% or more below their limit during the loan process – less than 50% of the limit is best. If you pay down balances, do it across the board on all credit cards.
  • Consolidate your debt. When you consolidate all of your debt onto one or two credit cards, it will appear that you are “maxed out” on that card and your credit score will be penalized.

If you have any questions about the Do’s and Don’t of Credit during the loan process, please call Lisa Amato, Vice President/Branch Manager – Integrity 1st Mortgage, at (480) 244-6490.

Do I Need To Sell My Home Before I Can Qualify For A New Mortgage On Another Property?

Although every situation is unique, it is not uncommon for homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage on a new home while still living in their primary residence.

Perhaps you are outgrowing your current house, or have been forced to relocate due to a job transfer?  Regardless of the motivation for keeping one property while purchasing another, let’s address this question with the mortgage approval in mind:

So, Do I Have To Sell?

Yes. No. Maybe. It depends.

Welcome to the wonderful world of mortgage lending. Only in this industry can one simple question elicit four answers…and all of them may be right.

If you are in a financial position where you qualify to afford both your current residence and the proposed payment on your new house, then the simple answer is No!

Qualifying based on your Debt-to-Income Ratio is one thing, but remember to budget for the additional expenses of maintaining multiple properties. Everything from mortgage payments, increased property taxes and hazard insurance to unexpected repairs should be factored into your final decision.

What If I Rent My Current Property?

This scenario presents the “maybe” and the “it depends” answers to the question.

If you’re not quite qualified to carry both mortgages, you may have to rent the other property in order to offset the mortgage payment.

In that scenario, the lender will typically only count 75% of the monthly rent you are proposing to receive.

So if you are going to receive $1000 a month in rent and your current payment is $1500, the lender is going to factor in an additional $750 of monthly liabilities in your overall Debt-to-Income Ratios.

Another detail that can present a huge hurdle is the reserve requirement and equity ratio most lenders have. In some cases, if you are going to rent out your current home, you will need to have at least 25% equity in order to offset your payment with the proposed rent you will receive.

Without that hefty amount of equity, you will have to qualify to afford BOTH mortgage payments. You will also need some significant cash in the bank.

Generally, lenders will require six months reserve on the old property, as well as six month reserves on the new property.

For example, if you have a $1500 payment on your old house and are buying a home with a $2000 monthly payment, you will need over $21,000 in the bank.

Keep in mind, this reserve requirement is incremental to your down payment on the new property.

What If I Can’t Qualify Based On Both Mortgage Payments?

This answer is pretty straightforward, and doesn’t require a financial calculator to figure out.

If you are in this situation, then you will have to sell your current home before buying a new one.

If you aren’t sure of the value of the home or how your local market is performing, give us a ring and we’ll happily refer you to a great real estate agent that is in tune with property values in your neighborhood.

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As you can tell, purchasing one home while living in another can be a very complicated transaction.  Please feel free to contact us anytime so we can review your specific situation and suggest the proper action plan.

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Related Articles – Mortgage Approval Process:

What Do Appraisers Look For When Determining A Property’s Value?

Most people are surprised to learn what appraisers actually look at when determining the value of a real estate property.

A common misconception homeowners generally have is that the value of their home is determined after the appraiser has completed their physical property inspection.

However, the appraiser actually already has a good idea of the property’s value by the time they have scheduled an appointment to stop by the property.

The good news is that you don’t have to worry so much about pushing back an appointment a few days just to “clean things up” in order to help influence the value of your property.

While a clean house will certainly make it easier for the appraiser to notice improvements, the only time you should be concerned about “clutter” is if it is damaging to the dwelling.

The Key Components Addressed In An Appraisal

The Site:

Location, view, topography, lot size, utilities, zoning, external factors, highest and best use, landscaping features…

Design:

Quality of construction, finish work, fixed appliances and any defining features

Condition:

Age, deterioration, renovations, upgrades, added features

Health & Safety:

Structural integrity, code compliance

Size:

Above grade and below grade improvements

Neighborhood:

Is the property conforming to the neighborhood?

Functional Utility:

Is the property functional as built – style and use?

Parking:

Garages, Carports, Shops, etc..

Other:

Curb appeal, lot size, & conforming to the neighborhood are obvious to the appraiser when they drive down into the neighborhood pull up in front of your home.

When entering your home, they are going to look at the overall design, condition, finish work, upgrades, any defining features, functional utility, square footage, number of rooms and health and safety items.

Be sure to have all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in working condition.

Since the appraisal provides half the weight in any credit decision involving the security of real estate, the appraisal should be done by a qualified, licensed appraiser whom is familiar with your neighborhood, and the type of home you are buying, selling or refinancing.

If you’re interested in what specifically appraisers are looking for, here is a copy of the blank 1040 URAR form that is used by every appraiser in the country.

Related Update on HVCC:

Appraisers hired for a mortgage transaction on a conforming loan are chosen from a pool of qualified appraisers at random. Neither you nor your lender has the flexibility of deciding which appraiser will inspect your home.

This recent change was brought on with the Home Valuation Code of Conduct HVCC, and is effective with conventional loans originated on or after May 1, 2009.

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Related Appraisal Articles:

Where Does My Earnest Money Go?

Hey, I gave my real estate agent a $5000 Earnest Money Deposit check… Where does that money go?

A basic and very obvious question that most First-Time home Buyers ask once their purchase contract gets accepted.

According to Wikipedia:

Earnest Money – an earnest payment (sometimes called earnest money or simply earnest, or alternatively a good-faith deposit) is a deposit towards the purchase of real estate or publicly tendered government contract made by a buyer or registered contractor to demonstrate that he/she is serious (earnest) about wanting to complete the purchase.

When a buyer makes an offer to buy residential real estate, he/she generally signs a contract and pays a sum acceptable to the seller by way of earnest money. The amount varies enormously, depending upon local custom and the state of the local market at the time of contract negotiations.

An Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) is simply held by a third-party escrow company according to the terms of the executed purchase contract.

For example, there may be a contingency period for appraisal, loan approval, property inspection or approval of HOA documents.

In most cases, the Earnest Money held by the escrow company is credited towards the home buyer’s down payment and/or closing costs.

*It’s important to keep in mind that the EMD may actually be cashed at the time escrow is opened, so make sure your funds are from the proper sources.

The Process:

  1. Earnest Money is submitted to an escrow company with the accepted purchase contract
  2. At the close of escrow, the EMD is credited towards the down payment and / or closing costs
  3. If there are no closing costs or down payment, the EMD is refunded back to the buyer

Who Doesn’t Get Your Earnest Money:

  • Selling Real Estate Agent – A conflict of interest
  • Sellers – Too risky
  • Buying Agent – They shouldn’t have your money in their account

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Related Articles – Closing Process / Costs

What Does Title Insurance Protect Me From?

By including title insurance when purchasing property, your title insurer takes on accountability for legal expenses to defend your property title, should it ever be challenged.

Many different occurrences can come into play to warrant the need for title insurance.

The title company responsible will then take on the legal expenses to defend the property for as long as you are in possession of an interest in the property under the title.

If the defense is not successful, you will be reimbursed for any loss of value of the property.

Common Things Title Insurance Covers:

1. UNDISCLOSED HEIRS, FORGED DEEDS, MORTGAGE, WILLS, RELEASES AND OTHER DOCUMENTS

2. FALSE IMPRISONMENT OF THE TRUE LAND OWNER

3. DEEDS BY MINORS

4. DOCUMENTS EXECUTED BY A REVOKED OR EXPIRED POWER OF ATTORNEY

5. PROBATE MATTERS

6. FRAUD

7. DEEDS AND WILLS BY PERSON OF UNSOUND MIND

8. CONVEYANCES BY UNDISCLOSED DIVORCED SPOUSES

9. RIGHTS OF DIVORCED PARTIES

10. ADVERSE POSSESSION

11. DEFECTIVE ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS DUE TO IMPROPER OR EXPIRED NOTARIZATION

12. FORFEITURES OF REAL PROPERTY DUE TO CRIMINAL ACTS

13. MISTAKES AND OMISSIONS RESULTING IN IMPROPER ABSTRACTING

14. ERRORS IN TAX RECORDS

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Related Articles – Closing Process / Costs

Should I Refinance or Get a HELOC For Home Improvements?

For homeowners interested in making some property improvements without tapping into their savings or investment accounts, the two main options are to either take out a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC), or do a cash-out refinance.

According To Wikipedia:

A home equity line of credit is a loan in which the lender agrees to lend a maximum amount within an agreed period, where the collateral is the borrower’s equity. 

A HELOC differs from a conventional home equity loan in that the borrower is not advanced the entire sum up front, but uses a line of credit to borrow sums that total no more than the credit limit, similar to a credit card.

HELOC funds can be borrowed during the “draw period” (typically 5 to 25 years). Repayment is of the amount drawn plus interest.

A HELOC may have a minimum monthly payment requirement (often “interest only”); however, the debtor may make a repayment of any amount so long as it is greater than the minimum payment (but less than the total outstanding).

Another important difference from a conventional loan is that the interest rate on a HELOC is variable. The interest rate is generally based on an index, such as the prime rate. This means that the interest rate can change over time. Homeowners shopping for a HELOC must be aware that not all lenders calculate the margin the same way. The margin is the difference between the prime rate and the interest rate the borrower will actually pay.

A Home Equity Loan is similar to the Line of Credit, except there is a lump sum given to the borrower at the time of funding and the payment terms are generally fixed. Both a Line of Credit and Home Equity Loan hold a subordinate position to the first loan on title, and are typically referred to as a “Second Mortgage”. Since second mortgages are paid after the first lien holder in the event of default foreclosure or short sale, interest rates are higher in order to justify the risk and attract investors.

Measuring The Different Between HELOC vs Cash-Out Refinance:

There are three variables to consider when answering this question:

1.  Timeline
2.  Costs or Fees to obtain the loan
3.  Interest Rate

1. Timeline –

This is a key factor to look at first, and arguably the most important. Before you look at the interest rates, you need to consider your time line or the length of time you’ll be keeping your home.  This will determine how long of a period you’ll need in order to pay back the borrowed money.

Are you looking to finally make those dreaded deferred home improvements in order to sell at top dollar? Or, are you adding that bedroom and family room addition that will finally turn your cozy bungalow into your glorious palace?

This is a very important question to ask because the two types of loans will achieve the same result – CASH — but they each serve different and distinct purposes.

A home equity line of credit, commonly called a HELOC, is better suited for short term goals and typically involves adjustable rates that can change monthly. The HELOC will often come with a tempting feature of interest only on the monthly payment resulting in a temporary lower payment. But, perhaps the largest risk of a HELOC can be the varying interest rate from month to month. You may have a low payment today, but can you afford a higher one tomorrow?

Alternatively, a cash-out refinance of your mortgage may be better suited for securing long term financing, especially if the new payment is lower than the new first and second mortgage, should you choose a HELOC. Refinancing into one new low rate can lower your risk of payment fluctuation over time.

2. Costs / Fees –

What are the closing costs for each loan?  This also goes hand-in-hand with the above time line considerations. Both loans have charges associated with them, however, a HELOC will typically cost less than a full refinance.

It’s important to compare the short-term closing costs with the long-term total of monthly payments.  Keep in mind the risk factors associated with an adjustable rate line of credit.

3. Interest Rate –

The first thing most borrowers look at is the interest rate. Everyone wants to feel that they’ve locked in the lowest rate possible. The reality is, for home improvements, the interest rate may not be as important as the consideration of the risk level that you are accepting.

If your current loan is at 4.875%, and you only need the money for 4-6 months until you get your bonus, it’s not as important if the HELOC rate is 5%, 8%, or even 10%. This is because the majority of your mortgage debt is still fixed at 4.875%.

Conversely, if you need the money for long term and your current loan is at 4.875%, it may not make financial sense to pass up an offer on a blended rate of 5.75% with a new  30-year fixed mortgage.  There would be a considerable savings over several years if variable interest rates went up for a long period of time.

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Choosing between a full refinance and a HELOC basically depends on the level of risk you are willing to accept over the period of time that you need money.

A simple spreadsheet comparing all of the costs and payments associated with both options will help highlight the total net benefit.

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Related Article – Refinance Process:

Calculating The Net Benefit Of A Refinance Transaction

Calculating the net benefit of refinancing can be a challenging task if you do not understand what to calculate. We are going to focus on the net benefits of refinancing from the standpoint of lowering your interest rate.

Although there are several reasons to refinance, lowering your mortgage rate to save on interest payments over the term of the loan is the most popular.

Calculating the actual savings can be a tricky chore unless you know the difference between cash flow savings and interest savings. If your refinance objective is to only save on the interest by lowering your rate, then the interest savings should be done with the calculations below.

Calculating Interest Savings:

(Loan Amount x Interest Rate) / Months in year = Interest paid per month

($200,000 x 6% or .06) / 12 = $1,000.00

*Remember to do the calculation in the parentheses first*

We now know that you are paying $1,000.00 per month in interest. You should take the new interest rate you are getting with your refinance and calculate what your new interest payment will be.

($200,000 x 5% or .05) / 12 = $833.34

Now we need to find out the difference between the two interest rates.

Current Interest Payment – Proposed Interest Payment = Interest Savings

$1,000.00 – $833.34 = $166.66

Now you have figured out that by dropping your interest rate 1% on $200,000 you will be saving $166.66 per month or about $2,000 per year.

Awesome!

Anyone would want to save $2,000 per year, where do I sign… right? Not so fast, you’ll want to calculate the break-even point to find out how you will benefit after your closing costs.

Net Benefit Formula (Break-Even):

(Closing Costs – Escrows) / Interest Savings = Month of Break-Even

($6,000 – $1,000) / $166.66 = 30 Months

In other words, it will take 30 months for you to recoup the cost of your refinance. If you plan to keep your mortgage for at least 30 months then you might want to consider this deal.

Okay, now we can calculate your net benefit for refinancing with one more calculation.

(Monthly Savings * Months you plan to keep mortgage) – (Closing Costs –Escrows) = Net Savings

($166.66 * 120 months) – ($6,000 – $1,000) = $14,999.20

If you kept the mortgage for 120 months (10 years) you would save $15,000.

Okay, now you can find out where to sign.

Calculating the net benefits of a refinance is crucial in determining if it is strategic for you to refinance. Keep in mind that each mortgage is slightly different and you may need to adjust calculations accordingly.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  I heard that I should only refinance if I drop 1% on my mortgage is that true?

Some people say ½% , 1% to never. Every mortgage is different.

For Example: A no cost loan can have a 1 month break-even point with only a .25% drop in interest rate. Now that you know how to calculate your net benefit, you are able to figure out what may be best for your situation.

Q:  Why can’t I just compare my current payment to the proposed payment and figure out my net benefit?

You could just compare just the two payments if you wanted to find out your cash flow savings, but the current and proposed loans may have two different amortizations.

Let’s assume you currently have a 15 year mortgage and you’re comparing it to a 30 year mortgage. If both loans have the same interest rate and loan amount but the amortization is different, your interest savings per month would be $0. However, you are going to show a cash flow savings with the 30 year mortgage because of the longer amortization.

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Related Article – Refinance Process:

Understanding the Difference Between an Appraisal vs Neighborhood Listing Prices

Why is there such a difference between what my appraised value is and the price similar homes are selling for on my street?

It’s a great question, and you don’t have to be a mortgage professional or a real estate agent to understand the answer.

The distinction lies in the purpose of the two valuations and who is responsible for creating them.

Appraisals:

The purpose of an appraisal is to make sure that an independent non-interested third party verifies the “most likely” sale price based on the market value and condition of the home.

Appraisals are meant to be a realistic determination of the value of a home if it were to sell in the current market, in its current condition.

In addition, appraisers are governed by rules intended to standardize the subjective process of determining a home’s value.

Some of the key factors appraisers look at are: location, above ground size, room count, bathroom count, style of home, condition of property, amenities, and market conditions such as how long it takes for home to sell and if values are increasing, decreasing or steady.

Appraisers are also asked to look only at comparable sales within a certain distance, usually one mile except in rural areas, and within a specified period of time, which is 3 months in the current market.

Listing Prices:

Listing prices on the other hand are influenced by the real estate agent, and set by interested and often emotional sellers.

Sellers are not held by any rules when they list a home. In some cases, sellers take what they paid for the house, add what they have spent on improvements and even add amount for profit.

Often times, sellers will list their home based on the amount needed to pay for the real estate agent, closing costs and cover the amount of the mortgages.

Extra low prices are generally the result of an extra motivated seller that has to sell and move in a rush, so they’ll list their property below market comps in order to be the most competitive.

Throw in bank owned homes (foreclosed properties), and listing prices may be all over the place without a logical explanation due to an asset manager making decisions from another part of the country.

The Verdict:

While list price is never a good indication of what a home in your neighborhood is worth, appraisals are not an exact science that will determine the true value of your home either.

Some will argue that a home is worth what people will pay for it, so there’s obviously a little room for personal interpretation.  Either way, the bank securing that piece of real estate for a mortgage loan generally always has the final opinion that matters the most.

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Related Appraisal Articles:

How Do Mortgage Companies Value A Property That Has Not Been Built Yet?

It’s obviously easier to picture the process of estimating value on an existing property in a neighborhood that has a history of home sales, but the task of determining the value on new construction projects does pose some challenges.

Appraisals on homes that haven’t been built yet generally require the contractor and home buyer to supply more documentation in order to get a more accurate estimate of the property’s value.

The main purpose of this article is to give an overview of the appraisal process for a home buyer that is building a home vs purchasing standing inventory.

For some, building a new home can be both exciting and overwhelming.  Watching a project transform from idea to completed home with a front yard, white picket fence and a custom red front door is a rewarding experience.

Even if you are paying attention to all of the information from the beginning, there are still several details that have a tendency to catch even experienced builders off guard.

Game time decisions have to be made as cabinets and corners line up differently than the initial drawing could show, flooring doesn’t match the wall colors, or the sun hits a window the wrong way at dinner time.

While the last minute updates may cost you more money, they might also have an impact on the value of the property.

What Does An Appraiser Need For New Construction?

Plans –

The plans or construction drawings are usually done by your builder or architect. It lays out the floor plan of your home, sizes of rooms and square footage of your home.

They should include a floor plan layout, front elevation, real elevation & side elevations, mechanical and electrical details.

Specifications / Descriptions Of Material –

A “Spec” sheet has the type of construction materials you will be using. For example, whether your home will be built with standard 2 x 4’s or 2 x 6’s.

It also contains the type of insulation, roofing and exterior products that will be used in the construction, as well as floors, counter tops and appliances for the inside dressing.

Cost Breakdown –

The document that breaks down all of the costs associated with the construction, including land, building materials and labor.

A lender can generally provide you with blank forms for the spec and cost breakdown if your builder does not have them.

Plot Plan –

Shows where your home will sit on the site, any accessory buildings, well and septic locations, if applicable, and the finish grade elevations and direction of the drainage.

Once the lender has obtained the above information from you, they will forward a copy to the appraiser. It is the appraiser’s job to determine what the future value of the home will be once it is completed, per your plans, specs & cost breakdown.

Even though an appraiser will use the cost approach in the appraisal report, it is not the value that will ultimately be used by the lender.  The market approach to value, which uses existing sales of homes similar in size, quality, construction and location is the most common approach that lenders want for new construction.

The more complete and detailed your plans, specifications and cost breakdowns are, the more accurate your appraisal will be.

Once your home is complete, the appraiser will be asked to go out and inspect the home. They will report back to the lender what they have found, whether your home was completed according to the plans and specifications originally given, and if the value is the same as originally given in the report.

Sometimes the value has to be adjusted due to changes that were made during construction which may have affected the value of the home.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  Where can I obtain a set of plans?

Most builders have basic plans they work from, and make modifications specific to their clients’ needs. When building a custom home, it’s generally a good idea to work with a reputable architect.

Q:  Is there a form I can use for the list of specifications?

Yes, HUD has a generic form that most lenders use and it will give the appraiser most of the details they need to complete your appraisal. Anything not listed on this form can be added by you separately on an additional sheet.

Q:  Can I use my contract with the builder for the cost breakdown sheet?

In most cases, the lender will accept the contract, however, they will want the builder to provide a cost breakdown to ensure that the builder has accurately bid your home.

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Related Appraisal Articles:

HOA Hurdles to be Aware of When Looking at New Properties

A Home Owner Association (HOA) can have a huge impact on your life when you buy a home in a PUD (Planned Unit Development) or Condominium Project.

According to Wikipedia:

A homeowners’ association (abbrev. HOA) is an organization created by a real estate developer for the purpose of developing, managing and selling a development of homes.

It allows the developer to exit financial and legal responsibility of the community, typically by transferring ownership of the association to the homeowners after selling off a predetermined number of lots.

It allows the municipality to increase its tax base, but reduce the amount of services it would ordinarily have to provide to non-homeowner association developments.

Most homeowner associations are incorporated, and are subject to state statutes that govern non-profit corporations and homeowner associations.

State oversight of homeowner associations is minimal, and mainly takes the form of laws, which are inconsistent from state to state.

The Pros and Cons of HOA’s:

A Home Owner Association may have the power to determine the color of your home, the number of pets you have and the type of grass you have to plant.

They also may have the power to levy assessments, dues and fines.

Or, they may be as simple as collecting a few dollars per year to make sure the grass is cut in the common areas.

HOAs are set up by CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions) and become part of your deed.

The CC&Rs dictate how the HOA operates and what rules the owners, tenants and guests must obey.

You should take the time to review the CC&R for any prospective purchase to make sure that the home you are buying will be right for your lifestyle.

For instance, if you operate an Amway business from your home, it is possible the CC&Rs prohibit this type of activity. Or, if you have two dogs and three cats, the CC&Rs may limit you to one pet.

The CC&Rs are only a portion of the HOA.

Bylaws are another component of HOA’s that reflect the intention of the association.

Each HOA either has a managing Board of Directors, or a third-party property management company.

One issue to be sure you check on is potential assessments.

For instance, recently a Condo Association had a foundation problem and was assessing the members over $10,000 per unit.

Another PUD had a pool that required routine maintenance and certification.

Subdivisions are commonly set up as PUDs with an additional HOA.

Until the subdivision is complete, the builder is generally in charge of the HOA.

When complete, the management of the PUD is typically turned over to the homeowners at a special membership meeting.

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