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Showing posts from 2021

Will Soft Inquiries Hurt Your Credit Score?

Soft inquiries, sometimes known as a soft credit check or a soft credit pull, do not impact your credit scores because they are not attached to a specific application for credit.   They can occur when a credit card issuer or mortgage lender checks a person's credit for preapproval purposes. Examples of soft inquiries are when you check your own credit or one of your current creditors checks your credit.   If you are concerned about the negative impact on your score, specify to the lender that you want a "soft pull" to see if you qualify for preapproval. Soft inquiries may appear on your credit report but should not adversely affect your credit score. Consumers are entitled to one free copy from each major credit bureau, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, once every twelve months available at .   Hard inquiries occur when a borrower makes a new application for credit.   These will impact your credit score and will remain on your credit report

Paying Down Your Mortgage

When the situation arises that you have a lump sum of cash to pay down your existing mortgage,  there may be different options available.   Pre-paying principal on a fixed-rate mortgage shortens the term of the mortgage but the payment stays the same. Conversely, recasting a mortgage with a lump-sum principal payment lowers the principal and interest payment but leaves the term intact with the same payoff date. The interest rate on the mortgage will stay the same regardless.   Prepaying principal can be done at any time but may not be applied until the next payment date.   Recasting cannot be done within the first 90-days of a mortgage. Pre-paying principal is like driving faster on a trip to a specific destination to get you there sooner.   Recasting/Re-amortization gets you to the destination at the same estimated time of arrival but using less fuel. Most loans allow you to pre-pay principal, but recasting is not allowed on FHA, VA, and GNMA.   If you have a conventional loan

An Easy Fix to Avoid a Flood in Your Home

Do you remember if or when you have replaced your washing machine hoses?   Are they the original hoses and if so, how old is your washing machine?   It is recommended that washing machine supply hoses should be replaced every five to seven years.   Washing machines, like all appliances, are expected to work and when they don't, it's time to have them fixed or replaced.   However, there is a critical connection from the water supply that may even be older than your washing machine itself. Eventually, unless hoses are replaced, they will fail, which on the mild side could be slow leaks or burst entirely, and could cause a catastrophic flood in the home.   The failure could come from a number of causes including age, improperly installation, poor-quality materials or poor design. The hoses are generally under the same pressure as the other plumbing in the home.   Imagine having an open faucet running directly on your floor. Ask someone whose hose broke while they were asle

In Search of a Big Mortgage

The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan limits are adjusted annually to keep up with cost of living but with the appreciation experienced in many markets, it may not be enough. When the conforming loan limit is not enough, qualified buyers can turn to a jumbo loan. The maximum loan limit on conforming, conventional loans for 2022 is $625,000 for a single-family home but is increased up to $937,500 for designated high price areas.   The underwriting guidelines for conforming loans are consistent with regards to things like minimum down payment, private mortgage insurance, debt-to-income ratio, minimum credit score and cash reserves required. Jumbo loans are loans more than the FNMA maximum limits and are considered non-conforming loans.   This allows lenders to set their own requirements on maximum loan amount, minimum required credit score, maximum debt-to-income ratio, and minimum down payment. The rates paid on the jumbo loans may be the same as conforming loan rates.   It might so

Credit Utilization Affects Your Score

Credit utilization reflects how much of your available credit is being used at a given time.   Lower credit utilization indicates that a borrower is not heavily relying on their credit and that they are using their credit responsibly. Is calculated by dividing your total credit card balances by your total limits.   The higher the percentage, the higher the risk which adversely affects the credit score according to most of the companies.   It is recommended that your credit utilization be under 30% to positively impact your credit score. If the available limit on a credit card is $12,000 and their normal monthly balance is around $3,000, they have a credit utilization of 25%.   If for whatever reason, the borrower's available limit was reduced to $6,000, and their long history of having a monthly balance of $3,000, the ratio, then, increases to 50% which will likely lower their credit score. For borrowers who use more than 30% of their available credit and regularly pay off th

Larger Payment, Shorter Term, Bigger Savings

Some people consider a house payment as basic as monthly utilities but with a plan and some discipline, you can be mortgage free. Consider a person borrowed $300,000 at 3% for 30 years, the principal and interest payment would be $1,264.81 and at the end of 12 years, the unpaid balance on the mortgage would be $210,900. If that same person had financed the home on a 15-year term at 2.5%, the payments would have been $2,000 but the unpaid balance at the end of 12 years would be $69,310.   The homeowner will have a larger equity but they have also had to make higher payments. 15-year mortgages usually have a lower interest rate than the 30-year loans and at the time this article was written, the difference in a 30-year loan was about 0.5%.   A 15-year loan gives the lender their money back in half the time.   If rates go up during the interim, they will be able to loan it at the higher rate sooner.   For that reason, they are usually willing to offer a slightly lower rate on the sh

Have you checked these lately?

Homeowners know the need to periodically check certain things around the home to ensure that things operate properly and efficiently.   If maintenance is required, it may be less expensive to take care of it early rather than waiting until it is not working at all. Checklists are helpful because it requires little effort to know what must be done.   They are usually concise and provide enough information to complete the task.   These items apply to most homeowners but in no way offer a comprehensive list. Vacuum dryer exhaust ... not only does it affect the efficiency of your dryer itself, the accumulation of lint along with the hot air can ignite and create a fire hazard. Replace HVAC filters 4 to 6 times a year ... This is one DIY project that almost everyone should feel confident in handling.   Locate the filter, make a note of the size, and keep replacements available.   Turn off the unit, open the door or housing, remove the dirty filter, and replace it with the

Uncle IRRRL wants to refinance your VA loan

You don't have to have an Uncle IRRRL but you must be a veteran with a current VA-backed home loan. IRRRL is an acronym for Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan. To refinance with this program, also called the VA Streamline, the loan must provide a net tangible benefit (NTB) which would be in the financial interest of the Veteran.   Obtaining a lower interest rate is usually the reason behind refinancing but there needs to be enough difference in the current and the new mortgage to justify the expenses incurred.   Significantly lower payments or a shorter term are examples of acceptable benefit. The Veteran must currently have a VA-backed home loan to refinance using this program.   The Veteran does not have to currently live in the home as long as it can be certified that he or she did at one time. In most cases, an appraisal is not necessary and less verifications are required.   A minimum 640 credit score is needed, and borrower must be current on their payments with no

Buy Before You Sell Options

The decision to buy first or sell first, has always been a little of the "Which came first: the chicken or the egg?" type of question.   Is it better to buy another home before you sell your current one or sell the current one before you buy the replacement? Some buyers don't have a choice because they need the equity out of the current home to purchase the new one and possibly, their income limits their ability to qualify for having both mortgages at the same time.   However, some buyers, with sufficient financial resources, may have other options available to facilitate the move. A home equity line of credit, HELOC, is a type of loan that a traditional lender like a bank will loan up to the difference in what is currently owed on the home and 75-80% of the value.   A borrower is approved for the line of credit and then, can borrow against it as needed.   A homeowner with sufficient equity, would want to secure a HELOC prior to contracting for the new home.   Typic

Removing or Adding a Person to a Loan

In divorce situations, it is common, for the spouse who keeps the home to refinance to remove the other spouse from the loan.   Equally as common, first-time buyers who don't have enough income to qualify may ask a parent to co-sign and must add their name to the mortgage. Another situation that requires removing or adding a person to a loan could be to qualify for a better interest rate.   The difference in a minimally acceptable credit score and something that might be considered "good" could be as much as a 0.5% higher rate for the term of the mortgage. Consider that a couple is buying a home on a conventional loan, and they have individual credit scores of 760 and 670.   The underwriters will price the loan based on the lower of the two scores.   A half percent interest on a $400,000 30-year mortgage could have close to $110 a month difference. A possible solution to this dilemma could be available, assuming the borrower with the higher credit score had enough i

Keep Your Current Home as a Rental

Let's assume that you have owned your home for several years.  It has increased in value and the unpaid balance considerably less than you originally borrowed.  In short, you have equity in the home.  You're thinking about buying another home and one of the questions going through your mind is "should we find a replacement property before we put our home on the market? It is a good question but maybe there is another one you should be asking.  "Should we keep our current home and convert it to a rental when we buy another home?  The answer to the question may have a great deal to do with your finances but if you can afford it, it may end up being one of the better investments you have made. Do you have enough discretionary funds for a down payment and closing costs for your new home?  Is it enough to put 20% down payment so you can avoid paying mortgage insurance?  Can you qualify for the mortgage on the new home with the additional liability of your current home?

Cash-Out Refinance

With the rapid appreciation that homes have had in the last two years, most homeowners have equity.   A common way to release part of the equity is to cash-out refinance but some homeowners may not be eligible currently. This type of loan replaces the current mortgage by paying it off and an additional amount of cash for the owner.   Generally, lenders will consider a new mortgage up to a total of 80% of the current value. Typically, the rate on a cash-out refinance will be slightly higher than a traditional purchase money mortgage.   As is in any lending situation, the rate depends on the borrower's credit and income.   The best interest rates are available to borrowers with higher credit scores, usually over 740. Loan-to-value can affect the rate a borrower pays also.   A 70% loan-to-value mortgage could be expected to have a lower interest rate than an 80% LTV because there is a larger amount of equity remaining in the property and therefore, less risk for the lender. Th

Encouraging Multiple Offers

Based on the current competition due to lower than normal inventories, it is possible for a seller to find themselves on the beneficiary side of a multiple offers.   Two or more parties may be trying to buy your home at the same time and because of the competition, they increase the purchase price, possibly, remove unnecessary contingencies and try to make their offer as attractive as possible. This can pleasantly result in you realizing higher-than-expected sales price and proceeds of sale.   While it may not materialize, it is good to understand what could happen and the best way to handle it.   Your real estate professional is positioned to offer you specific advice but the following are some things to consider. One tactic is to delay showings for a short period of time.   Some agents will create this by putting a sign on the property with a rider that indicates "coming soon" and depending on the local MLS rules, it may even be put in the system.   No showings will be

Homeowners Need to Know

In the Boy Scouts, a certification, called a Totin' Chip, is required for scouts to carry, and use woods tools like a knife, axe and a saw.   They must read and understand the use and safety rules from the scout handbooks and demonstrate the proper handling, care, and use of each. No such certification is required for homeowners but there are a lot of good reasons why it should be self-imposed.   Making minor repairs is part of the responsibility of owning a home that will save both time and money. A homeowner will certainly appreciate the need for such training the first time a call is made to a service company to fix their air conditioner that suddenly quit cooling.   When the repairman arrives, he has a checklist which includes verifying the unit is getting electricity.   If not, they go to the electrical panel to see if a breaker has been thrown. It can be very humbling and expensive to have to pay a service fee to have a repairman flip a breaker to get your air condition

No Need to Make Common Mistakes

A successful home sale, considered by many owners, is to maximize their proceeds in the shortest time with the least inconveniences.   Just because it is a seller's market doesn't mean that homeowners can shortcut some of the steps that make it happen and they certainly need to avoid commonly made mistakes. Pricing too high Low inventory and high demand have contributed to the rising prices of homes.   NAR reports that the median sales price is up 17.8% in the past year and CoreLogic recently released data that July set new record growth of 18% year over year.   This might give sellers a false sense of security about overpricing their home Pricing a home too high initially can limit activity, attract the wrong buyers and ultimately, cause the home to realize a lower price than optimum.   There is an interesting dynamic that takes place when there is a shortage of homes to show, and a new home hits the market.   Buyers, who have been in the market but not purchased yet, wi

A Lesson from a Pro

A well-known professional home stager, recently, decided to sell the 4,000+ square foot home which she lived in with her husband.   It was certainly well maintained and by most standards, could have gone on the market immediately.   However, she still went through a full staging effort before she listed the home. The work included painting inside and out especially, changing the kitchen cabinets from gray to white.   The carpet was replaced along with a few dated light fixtures.   They stained the fence and added minor landscaping to make it look fresh and inviting.   They removed personal items from the home that might be distracting and replaced some furniture that was too large and might have limited a buyer's imagination. The home looked, smelled, and was clean.   It had great drive-up appeal.   Each room looked like it belonged in a magazine and the professional photos let potential buyers see the home before they visited it in person.   When the home did come on the marke

Equity, Price and the Agent You Select

A Seller's equity in their home is the difference between what the home is worth and what they owe.   At any point in time, it is an estimation because value is a very subjective term.   If the seller thinks the home is worth more than an actual buyer will pay for it, the estimated equity is too high.   If a buyer is willing to pay more than the seller believes the home is worth, the estimated equity is too low. A true determination of equity becomes more objective when the home is sold, and the value is solidified by the sales price.   This value is determined by negotiations between a seller and buyer and eliminate speculation and conjecture because money and title are being exchanged. The equity being defined above is more accurately referred to as Gross Equity.   After the ordinary and necessary expenses connected with the sale of a property are deducted from the sales price, along with any mortgage balance and/or liens, the proceeds are referred to as Net Equity. Like in

Rising Rents - Music to Your Ears?

Rents going up may not be pleasant to hear for tenants, but it could be music to your ears if you are an investor. The recent CoreLogic Single-Family Rent Index, April 2021 , showed a 5.3% increase in national rent year over year which doubled the increase experienced in April 2020.   This is the largest annual rent price increase in nearly 15 years. Interestingly, detached rentals are experiencing an even higher growth rate of 7.9% year over year compared to the 2.2% annual rate for attached rentals.   This is supported by the CoreLogic report that half of millennials and 2/3 of baby boomers "strongly prefer to live in a single, stand-alone home." From an investor's point of view, single-family rentals offer large loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rated for long terms on appreciating assets with definite tax advantages and reasonable control.   Rentals are considered to be the IDEAL investment because if offers income to offset the carrying cost of the in

Homeownership Cycle and Inventory

An interesting homeownership cycle begins with a starter home and progresses to larger and smaller homes throughout a person's lifetime.   Within a few years after purchasing their initial home, they might move up to a little larger house.   The reasons could be that they simply want a larger home and can afford it, or their increased family size may be motivating the move. While the children are small, they can probably get by with less space but as they grow and behave more like adults, even though they may not be, the need for more room becomes more pressing.   Depending on the size of the family, this will last some time and then, as they go off to college, enter the work force and find their own living space, the parents may find that they no longer need the larger home.   In the interest of saving money or possibly convenience, they migrate from a larger home to a smaller home until they consider an assisted living facility or possibly, a nursing home.   Another alternati

Mortgage Forbearance

Some homeowners who could not afford to make their mortgage payments this past year have been relieved to find out that their mortgage servicer or lender allowed them to pause or possibly, reduce their payments for a limited period.   While it does relieve the financial pressure, it is a temporary remedy. About 2/3 of the people who entered forbearance during the pandemic have exited the program.   There are only a little over two million homeowners remaining in forbearance. It is important for owners who find that they cannot make the payments on their mortgage to contact their lender and request a forbearance.   If you stop making mortgage payments without a forbearance agreement, the servicer will report this information to the credit reporting companies, and it can have a lasting negative impact on your credit history.   Without going through that process, the lender assumes you are delinquent, and protections afforded under forbearance may not apply. Forbearance does not for

Selecting the Right Agent in a Seller's Market

Even in the current, low inventory housing market, sellers are resisting the urge to sell it themselves and still seeking the help of a real estate professional.   It may be more important than ever and there is too much at stake to risk going it alone. The number of people attempting to sell on their own has been in steady decline since 2003 from 14% to 8% in the latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers produced by the National Association of REALTORS®. The most frequently mentioned difficulties that owners who decided to sell it without the benefit of an agent included preparing the home for sale, understanding, and performing the paperwork, getting the price right and selling it within the length of time planned.   Another commonly cited challenge was having enough time to devote to all aspects of the sale. The other nine out of ten homeowners who are selling are many times faced with the question: "How do I determine which agent to use?"   In some situations, owner

A Sad Story Relived Over and Over

Ask any real estate agent and they will tell you a similar sad story.   The seller, whose home just hit the market, received an offer which was less than the list price, but felt secure their home would sell quickly and countered for more.   For whatever reason, the buyer did not continue to negotiate and moved on. After a week or two and no other offers, the seller instructed the listing agent to contact the buyer's agent and say that the seller had reconsidered and would now accept their original offer. However, the initial enthusiasm the buyer had was gone and they were looking elsewhere. This is a story that frequently happens across America, in all price ranges.   The lesson to be learned is that sometimes, the first offer is the best.   Consider the rationale, a home is fresh on the market and buyers, especially the ones who have lost bids on other homes, act quickly to hopefully avoid some of the competition. When an offer is not accepted, it voids the original offer a

The Dynamics of Home Equity

For many people, their home is their largest asset and their best performing investment.   The equity in a home is the difference in what it is worth and what is owed.   Two dynamics, appreciation and unpaid balance, work in concert to make homeowner's equity grow. It can be said that you appreciate the fact that your home is your best financial investment.   It is also ironic that the appreciation, the increase in value, is what causes it to be your best financial investment. In a one-year period, the increase in value divided by the beginning value will determine the rate of appreciation for the year.   News stories and articles, frequently, report statistics on appreciation for the month, the year or longer. In many cases, a national appreciation is mentioned but the local appreciation is more reflective of an individual property. The National Association of REALTORS® reports " The median existing-home price 2  for all housing types in June was $363,300, up 23.4% from

Doing Nothing is Costing Something

It has been said that more money has been lost due to indecisions than ever was due to making the wrong decisions.   Many times, the larger the decision, the more likely procrastination comes into play and doing nothing will cost something.   Buying a home is certainly one of the biggest decisions people make.   Careful consideration and planning are necessary steps leading to a prudent decision.   Considering today's market that includes a global pandemic, financial volatility, and rapidly rising home prices, it is understandable that many people thinking about a home purchase are in a wait and see posture. However, there is a cost connected to waiting and it may be a lot more than you think.   The recent Home Price Expectation Survey 2021 Quarter two estimated appreciation rates will average just under 5% annual for the next five years.   It expects prices to increase by 8% in the next one year.   Being a renter or even putting off moving to a larger home, could keep you fr

Property Inheritance

Stepped-up basis is an incredible benefit to people who inherit property.   Not only do they receive the property itself, the basis or cost value of the property becomes the fair market value at the time of the decedent's death.   This avoids recognizing the gain between the decedent's cost and what it is worth when it is inherited. If a person had purchased a home for $100,000 and 20-years later when they died, it was worth $500,000, there would be a potential gain in the property of $400,000.   However, because of a tax provision called step-up tax basis, the person inheriting the property will have a basis of the fair market value at the time of death. The recipient could sell the property for $500,000 and have no taxable gain on the sale. A formal appraisal is the most reliable and defensible estimate of fair market value at the time of the decedent's death.   There will be a fee of several hundred dollars for the appraisal.   Another alternative is to get a broke

Less to Own than to Rent

The question is "financially speaking, are you better off owning than renting in the long term?" Renting a home has advantages.   It is usually a short-term commitment from year to year and the landlord is responsible for the repairs. Owning a home with today's low mortgage rates, the total house payment could easily be less than what the rent would be on a comparable home.   Once you assume ownership, you will have the responsibility of the repairs and possibly, a homeowner's association fee. Many times, an initial benefit of owing a home includes the ability to deduct property taxes and qualified interest on the mortgage.   With the increase of the standard deduction and a limit of $10,000 on state and local taxes, it is estimated that 90% of homeowners do not itemize their deductions to consider property tax and mortgage interest.   This comparison will not consider them. There are two very significant benefits that contribute to a home being an excellent i

Are You Covered?

A home warranty is a service contract that protects your home's appliances and some systems from repairs or possible replacements.   A convenient benefit of a home warranty is that when you report an item, they will assign a service provider to evaluate whether it should be repaired or replaced without the owner having to act like a middleman. Homeowner's insurance is required by most mortgage lenders when there is an outstanding loan.   This coverage protects the structure and the dwelling and the homeowner's personal property from named occurrences like theft, natural disaster, or accident.   Homeowner's insurance does not cover the systems and appliances for repairs or replacements due to normal wear. The fees for home warranties can vary based on deductibles and how much of the risk the homeowner is willing to accept. Additional items can be included to the standard coverage to include pool, spa, additional refrigerators, septic tanks, and other items.   There

Thoughts on Credit and Getting a Mortgage

Credit plays a huge role in getting a mortgage because it is a variable that helps the lender determine the likelihood that the loan will be repaid on a timely basis.   Credit bureaus evaluate people's credit worthiness using a FICO score.   The higher the score the better the borrower's credit. The mortgage rate charged to a borrower depends on their credit score.    There is an inverse relationship between credit score and interest rate changed.   The higher the score the lower the rate and the lower the score, the higher the rate.   Two separate buyers with the same income, purchasing the same price home may both be approved by the lender, but they may be charged different interest rates based on their credit scores. You could save thousands of dollars over the life of a loan by improving your credit score by just a few points.   A $350,000 mortgage at 3.5% has a principal and interest payment of $1,571.66.   By improving your credit score to qualify for a 3% rate, it