November 8th, 2016 5:06 AM by Jackie A. Graves, President
sales will accelerate, and a new president will occupy the Oval Office. Those
are two predictions we can make with confidence about 2017. As for mortgage
rates, who knows? They were low throughout 2016, and they could remain low in
2017, or rise. There's not a lot of room for them to fall.
you are buying a home or refinancing your loan, here are 10 mortgage tips for
say they often dispel the mistaken idea that homebuyers have to make down
payments of at least 20 percent. In fact, some loan programs allow qualified
people to buy homes with no down payment at all. Other loan programs allow down
payments as small as 3 percent or 3.5 percent.
Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees zero-down VA mortgages for qualified
borrowers: veterans, active-duty service members and certain members of the
National Guard and Reserves.
U.S. Department of Agriculture guarantees zero-down mortgages as part of its
Rural Development program. The loan guarantees are available in eligible areas
-- mostly rural areas, though some are suburban.
Federal Credit Union offers zero-down mortgages for qualified members to buy
Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages allow down payments as small
as 3.5 percent. And a few lenders offer conventional mortgages with down
payments of as little as 3 percent with private mortgage insurance.
Housing Administration-insured loans are appealing because they're widely
available to borrowers with imperfect credit. In 2016, the average credit score
for an FHA homebuyer was around 686, while the average conventional homebuyer
had a credit score around 753.
need a credit score of 580 or higher to get an FHA-insured mortgage with a down
payment as low as 3.5 percent. If your credit score is between 500 and 579, you
need to make a down payment of at least 10 percent to get an FHA mortgage. But
first you would have to find a lender that would approve the loan.
Here are more crucial facts about FHA
lenders don't want you to deplete your savings on the down payment and closing
costs. They want you to have "reserves" -- cash, or assets that can
be sold quickly, so you can take care of unexpected expenses without missing
lender will calculate the minimum reserves you'll need to qualify for a
mortgage. There's a possibility that the reserve requirements will oblige you
to unexpectedly make a down payment of less than 20 percent, triggering the
need for mortgage insurance. To avoid mortgage insurance in this case, you'd
have to cancel the deal, scrape up more money for a down payment and wait while
you put aside more money.
would rather you have an emergency fund than not, even if it means you'll have
to make higher house payments because of mortgage insurance.
your reserves is just one of five first-time homebuyer
though mortgage rates are likely to rise in 2017, some homeowners will have
reason to refinance. There are various refi triggers, even after interest rates
have risen above record lows:
last item -- refinancing into a 15-year
mortgage -- saves money in two ways: 15-year mortgages tend to
have lower interest rates than 30-year loans, and you pay interest over a
shorter period. In most cases, the monthly payments on a new 15-year mortgage
are higher than for a 30-year loan, but the total interest paid over the life
of the loan is less.
are also drawbacks to refinancing into a 15-year mortgage.
people buy homes, they often "stretch" to make their initial monthly
payments, on the theory that their incomes will go up over time, making house
payments easier to cover.
it's smarter to live within your means. You can move up to a more expensive
house after (and not before) your income rises. A conservative rule of thumb is
that all of your monthly debt obligations, including the house payment,
shouldn't exceed 36 percent of your income before taxes.
say your household income is $5,000 a month: The monthly house payment, car
payments, student loans, credit cards, child support and other obligations
shouldn't be more than $1,800, or 36 percent of that $5,000.
if you have a high credit score and will have plenty of money in the bank after
you close on the loan, the lender will be willing to let you accept a higher
house payment. But if your debt obligations are well above 36 percent of gross
income, you won't have much money left over to have fun and save.
typical mortgage has thousands of dollars in mortgage fees and other closing
costs. If you pay those fees out of pocket, you tend to get the lowest interest
rate you're eligible for. But you might want to accept a higher interest rate
in exchange for the lender paying some or all of the closing costs.
example, you might be offered an interest rate of 3.75 percent if you pay all
the closing costs, or a rate of 4.125 percent if the lender pays the closing
speaking, no-closing-cost mortgages are attractive to people who plan to
sell their homes within five years or so. If you plan to stay longer than
five or six years, your total costs will be lower if you go ahead and pay the
closing costs out of pocket. It's a balancing act, because paying the closing
costs could push you into making a smaller down payment, potentially forcing
you to pay for mortgage insurance.
already mentioned Veterans Affairs-guaranteed mortgages before, but these home
loans may be underused, even though they're popular.
2016, approximately one-eighth of mortgages were guaranteed by the VA,
according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. But a 2010 survey found that
many homebuying veterans weren't aware of the VA loan benefit or didn't know
much about it. About a quarter of active-duty military personnel weren't aware
that they were eligible for VA loans.
those active-duty personnel believed that the VA loan benefit was available
only to retirees or veterans who have been discharged. In fact, VA loans are
available to honorably discharged veterans, those who are on active duty or who
have completed at least six years of service in the National Guard or selected
Reserve units. Certain surviving spouses of veterans are eligible, too. See a detailed
primary feature of VA loans is that they can be used to buy a primary home
without a down payment.
cash-out refinance happens when the homeowner refinances the mortgage for more
than the amount owed. The borrower pockets the difference.
refinances were popular during the real estate boom of the early 2000s. Then
they almost disappeared after the housing bust wiped out billions of dollars in
home equity. Now that home values have climbed near their pre-recession peaks
in many markets, cash-out refinances have returned.
other way to extract cash from equity is through a home equity loan or line of
credit. When you want to spend the money on something short-term -- like a
vacation or a wedding -- it's probably better to get the money through a home
equity loan or line of credit. But if the purpose of the money is long-term --
like building an addition to the house -- then a cash-out refi might make more
you're eligible for a VA-guaranteed mortgage, you might be able to refinance
from a conventional mortgage (or an FHA-insured mortgage) into a VA loan.
many cases, you can refinance for up to 100 percent of the home's current
value. This means you can do a cash-out refinance using a VA loan. Funding fees
for cash-out VA refinances vary from 2.15 percent to 3.3 percent, and the fee
can be added to the loan balance.
your finances as boring and steady as possible between the time you apply for a
mortgage and the time you close on the loan.
sounds simple in theory, but it's sometimes difficult in practice, especially
for first-time homebuyers. What it means is this: Don't charge up your credit
cards and don't apply for new credit while the mortgage is going through the
you apply for the mortgage, the lender looks at your credit report and your
credit score. Then, shortly before closing, the lender surveys your credit
again. If there's a substantial change -- say you maxed out your credit cards
to buy furniture and appliances, or you got a loan to buy a car -- the lender
might have to delay your mortgage closing. In drastic cases, you could torpedo
your mortgage and have to apply all over again.
for new credit at the wrong time is just one of 3 ways to mess up a mortgage
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