Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Pandemic Impacts to Self-Employed Borrowers

May 19, 2020

In the world of mortgage origination and underwriting, the greatest focus is limiting risk.  COVID-19 has caused underwriting guidelines to get a little tighter as millions are unemployed, furloughed, and going into a forbearance status on mortgage payments. Today, I’ll focus on the tighter guidelines for self-employed buyers.

The guidelines can change depending on the lender you use. For example:

  • One lender now requires that self-employed borrowers asset statements show 6 months of “reserves” to cover mortgage payments after closing.  That means that the borrower’s bank statements must show enough available cash, after closing, to cover 6 months of mortgage payments.
  • One lender now requires an audited profit and loss statement from the most recent month to verify recent business performance (The word “audited” got my attention and I don’t believe I’ll be working with them on self employed buyers anytime soon).
  • Another lender now requires the following for self-employed borrowers:
    • Year to date profit and loss statement showing income consistent with previously filed tax returns.
    • Most recent three months of bank statements showing deposits consistent with sales / gross receipts specified on the P&L statement.
    • If the monthly statements show declining deposits, the underwriter will determine if the revenue decline results from an interruption from COVID or some other reason.  Ultimately, the underwriter will want to determine that the income is “stable and likely to continue” before approving the loan.

 

In this economy, it is wise for self-employed home buyers to review their filed tax returns and recent business performance and bank statements with their loan officer before searching for new homes.  A loan originator who understands new underwriting guidelines and will take the time to review details up front can save borrowers time, money, and potential disappointment.

Working at Dunwoody Mortgage, I represent some national mortgage companies that have not implemented stricter standards for the self-employed.  If you know a self-employed person who wants to buy a home in Georgia, please connect that person with me.  I will invest the time needed to best position the self-employed for underwriting approval in this changing and challenging mortgage world.

 

How Relatives Can Assist Home Buyers…

April 16, 2020

A recent survey of 1,045 adults found that 77% of the Gen Z and Millennial cohorts expect their parents’ financial assistance when purchasing their first home.  Of the young people surveyed, 38% expected help funding a down payment, 31% expected parents to co-sign on their mortgage, and 24% percent expected help covering closing costs.  From the lender’s perspective, this is all very doable as long as the needed documentation is delivered and all other lending criteria (e.g., credit scores and debt to income ratios) are carefully met.  Documenting financial assistance from relatives can be challenging if the borrower does not plan in advance, so here are some suggested “best practices” for home buyers who expect this help.

The “gifts of cash” concept covers help covering both down payments and closing costs, as mentioned in the survey.  Parents and other relatives can give cash to cover all aspects of the buyer’s cash to close – down payment, closing costs, and prepaid escrow.  To be approved, such gifts need to come from documented relatives, which includes parents, grandparents, siblings, and even aunts and uncles, along with spouses, domestic partners, and fiancés.  From experience, I can report that underwriters will likely not approve gifts from nieces or nephews and not from ex-spouses, as the relationship has been legally terminated.

Underwriters expect gifts to be carefully documented.  This includes a gift letter signed by both giver and buyer.  The letter states that the money given is a gift, and not a loan.  Loans to help buyers are prohibited.  If the giver makes the gift using a check, the underwriter will want to see a copy of the check.  And if the gift occurs before closing, the underwriter will want to see bank statements from the giver and the buyer showing the funds coming out of the giver’s account and into the buyer’s account.  For some loan types, the giver may have to show proof of funds and document the source of any “large deposits” into the giving account.  My preference for conventional loans is to have the giver wire the funds directly to the closing attorney’s escrow account.  When this is done for a conventional loan, the only documentation typically required for the buyer and giver is the gift letter itself.  It’s much simpler and less time consuming, so I recommend this approach when possible.

Relatives and even friends can co-sign mortgages along with the home buyer.  (Yes, friends can co-sign…I recently verified this for a potential client.)  To do this, we combine loan files for the buyer and the co-signer.  As long as the combined file meets all underwriting criteria (credit scores, available cash to close, and combined debt to income ratio), underwriting will approve mortgages including the “non-occupant co-borrower.”

Do you know a young person who wants to end her expense-only monthly rental cost?  Ask her if she is expecting an income tax refund this year.  Then connect her with me.  I’ll help her explore how best to fund a home purchase with that refund and assistance from family, if necessary.

Flood insurance program extended

August 1, 2019

Not many people seem to agree on anything in D.C. right now, but there is one thing receiving praise from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and National Association of Realtors (NAR) – flood insurance.

Democrats and Republicans worked together to reauthorize flood insurance through most of 2024. The NAR President praised the bipartisan agreement to provide some stability for national flood insurance for years to come. A strong flood insurance program helps stabilize the housing market and provide affordable housing in areas at a higher risk of flood damage.

It wasn’t that long ago some people thought the flood insurance program wouldn’t receive more funding, and now we have five years authorized – an eternity in politics these days!

Flood insurance isn’t just for the coasts. Sure we think of places like Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans, but there are plenty of places in the metro Atlanta area in flood zones. Without this program, large areas of residential homes in the US would be at risk causing a housing shortage and creating more issues in the housing market (especially when it comes to affordability).

A job well done on a program impacting millions of families in the U.S.

The mysterious case of home ownership

July 9, 2019

Home buyers continue to make assumptions (most of which are bad) when it comes to buying a home. Meaning, the options for education for buying a home are not as good as they should be.

That is why you have The Mortgage Blog!

This misinformation is undoubtedly holding some back from even looking to try and purchase a home. Let’s take a look at a recent survey by Fannie Mae to see some of the false assumptions buyers have about purchasing a home:

  • most buyers assume the minimum credit score is higher than what is actually required to qualify
  • most buyers assume the down payment is higher than what is actually required as a minimum down payment
  • few home buyers are aware of low down payment programs such as Fannie Mae Home Ready requiring only 3% down

Under these assumptions, many potential buyers assume home ownership isn’t even an option and therefor do not do any further investigating into possibilities of buying a home.

The Mortgage Blog has covered all of these topics and more:

The Mortgage Blog has your back! Reading over these, one will learn a large down payment is not needed to buy a home (as little as 3% down on a conventional loan and 3.5% on an FHA loan), perfect credit is not required (down to 620 on FHA and conventional and sometimes as low as 580 on FHA), and there are programs out there for first time home buyers.

Been wanting to own a home but confused at all of the misinformation out there? Just want a straight answer or two? Contact me! I will be happy to answer your questions about home ownership. If you are looking to buy in the state of Georgia, I can get you prequalified and on your way to owning a home!

Happy Holidays

December 17, 2018

Have a great holiday season!

Have a great holiday season!

Cash Out Refi or HELOC – Key Questions

October 25, 2018


 

 

In the last post we covered the fact that American households have over $6 trillion of accessible home equity and described the two main ways home owners can access that equity – a cash out mortgage refinance and a home equity line of credit (HELOC).  I promised to make my recommendations on which option is best for a home owner, based on a set of questions.  You will find my recommendations below:

Question #1:  Do I want a fixed payment, or can I live with changing interest rates and payments?  Recent economic conditions show rising interest rates.   HELOC accounts typically carry a variable interest rate that increases as market interest rates increase and decrease as the market decreases.  Borrowers obtaining a cash out mortgage refinance often secure fixed rate mortgages, so the payments do not change over time.  Which do you prefer?

Question #2:  Am I disciplined to proactively pay down my loan over time, or will I only make minimum payments?  HELOC accounts typically require interest-only payments.  If you only plan to make the minimum payments, you may be surprised in a few years when your HELOC account matures and the bank expects you to pay off the remaining account balance.  If you will proactively pay down the balance, you will not have this surprise.  Refi mortgage payments fully amortize over the loan term, so your monthly payment always includes a principal component.  And when you make the last payment, your original loan balance will be fully repaid.  Which option is best for you?

Question #3:  How much money do I need, $100,000 for a home renovation or $10,000 for a home repair?  In short, if you do make extra principle payments, how long will it take you to repay the loan balance?  The lower the amount and the faster you repay it, the less likely increasing interest rates will burst your budget.  If you need a renovation amount of cash, selecting the long-term fixed mortgage rate may be a better option since it provides a fixed payment over a long time period.

Question #4:  Why do I need access to my home’s equity?  In my opinion, home renovations, repairs, and debt consolidations serve as good reasons to tap home equity.  These are steps that ultimately increase your equity or improve your overall financial position.  To me, that’s a wise use of your home equity.  On the other hand, tapping home equity for expendable items or vacations may not be the best use of a home’s equity.

Do you have a friend pondering whether to access their home’s equity?  Please refer them to me.  I will ask them these questions (and more) and coach them to make the best decision for their own unique circumstances.

Study Shows Financial Benefits of Home Ownership – Part 3

May 8, 2018

Here is another conclusion from the homeownership study by Laurie S. Goodman and Christopher Mayer (https://www.urban.org/research/publication/homeownership-and-american-dream) – although homeownership carries risks, over time, homeownership correlates with strong wealth accumulation.  The wealth accumulation benefits show the strongest links to owners who maintain their homeownership during market fluctuations (page 53).  In my opinion, this is one of the strongest arguments for home ownership.

With every mortgage payment, the homeowner increases equity and wealth because each payment has a principal component.  If you want to keep your house, you must make your payments, and you grow your equity with each payment.  You grow your wealth by paying a bill.  This means that even folks with less financial discipline – who may not set aside money for “savings” – still build wealth with every mortgage payment.  So homeowners grow wealth first by making their regular payments.

 

Secondly, price appreciation also provides long-term wealth benefits.  The study notes that “Homes have generally appreciated in price over time,” (page 52).  So over time, the homeowner increases his / her ownership percentage of a generally appreciating asset.  Since we humans have to pay for a place to live, why not build wealth as you pay for housing as opposed to rent payments that are simply an expense?

The study also states that homeowners can increase their home’s value by making some improvements themselves.  The home owner’s “sweat equity” serves as yet another way to grow wealth through home ownership.

To wrap up, I’ll quote this statement, “There is little evidence of an alternative savings vehicle (other than a government-mandated program like Social Security) that would successfully encourage low-to-moderate income households to obtain substantial savings outside of owning a home” (page 43).  Like the regular Social Security contributions we make, mortgage payments serve like a “forced savings plan.”  Unlike Social Security, which is subject to the whims of politicians and bureaucratic calculations, homeowners own a specific asset which can appreciate and in which they can invest more.  What’s not to love?

As noted in the first paragraph, home owners must be able to hang on during market fluctuations.  Buying a home with a short-term horizon can decrease wealth.  We all endured a home price roller coaster from 2006 to 2013.  Although this period is fresh in our minds, remember that the only other time when we had home price swings of that magnitude was during the Great Depression.

In the next post, we will explore some other “pitfalls” of ownership, from a financial perspective.  For now, do you have a friend who expresses frustration about ever-increasing rent payments?  Ask them if they would like to increase their own net worth every month (instead of their landlord’s net worth).  Then refer them to me.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage will help them plan effectively for long-term ownership and wealth accumulation.  And we will take great care of them through the process.

 

Tools to Access Your Home’s Equity

January 11, 2018

Home owners often seek to use their home equity as a source of cash.  They can use this cash for renovations, paying off other high interest debt, funding college educations, etc.

Owners typically access their equity by either (1) paying off their current mortgage and obtaining a new, higher-balance mortgage using a “cash out” refinance or (2) obtaining a home equity line of credit (HELOC).  Each option has some pros and cons.  The new federal tax law somewhat changes the pro / con dynamic.

Under the 2017 tax law, mortgage interest paid on loan balances up to $750,000 remains deductible on your federal taxes.  However, the tax law eliminated the mortgage interest deduction on new home equity loans and lines of credit.  But note that this only affects home owners who itemize their taxes.  And with the doubling of the standard deduction under the new tax law, the number of households that itemize deductions is expected to drop from 34 million to 14 million.

So, if you are considering accessing your home equity, first think through whether this tax change will affect you.  If you are a single filer and your itemized deductions including mortgage interest would be less than $12,000, the interest deductibility will not affect your decision.  If you file jointly and your itemized deductions would be less than $24,000, interest deductibility will again not affect your decision.

Here is my list of benefits for each option:

Cash Out Refi:

·        You can obtain a fixed rate loan.  The monthly principal and interest payment will never change.  HELOC rates are variable and your payments will increase when market interest rates increase.

·        You can deduct all interest (on loan balances up to $750,000) as part of your federal tax calculations as described above.

·        You reduce your outstanding loan principal with every payment.  The monthly payments reduce your outstanding principal every month.  HELOC payments are interest only.  For people who don’t have the financial discipline to pay down HELOC balances, the cash out refi forces you to reduce the loan balance monthly.

HELOC:

·        You can access more of your home’s equity.  HELOC’s typically allow up to 85% loan balance (first mortgage plus HELOC) to home value or loan to value “LTV.”  Cash out refis only allow a maximum 80% LTV.

·        You pay less for the loan itself.  Closing costs are typically lower for a HELOC than for a mortgage.

·        You can pay less each month.  Required HELOC payments are interest only.  By not paying down part of the principal each month, your monthly payments will likely be lower with a HELOC versus a traditional  mortgage.   

Next post, we will cover some “rules of thumb” when choosing between a refi and a HELOC.  Own a home in Georgia and want to access some equity?  Give me a call at Dunwoody Mortgage and let’s review your options.  We can consider the advantages of each as we guide you to the best solution for your situation.

Happy Holidays

December 17, 2017

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Home Ready Example Case

June 6, 2017

So let’s take a look at a scenario where the Home Ready program can really help a home buyer, let’s call him “John Doe.”  John’s mortgage credit score is 680.  John wants to buy a house priced at $200,000 and he only has about $10,000 in cash.  In addition to his down payment, he will need to use some cash for closing costs and prepaid escrow, so he can really only afford a 3% down payment.

With a standard conventional loan, John would pay a “premium” for a loan with only 3% down.  His monthly principal and interest payment would be around $985.  And his private mortgage insurance (“PMI”) would be expensive at an estimated $226 per month.  So with the standard conventional loan, John would be looking at a mortgage payment of around $1,200, before we add in the escrow payments for homeowner’s insurance and property taxes.

Now let’s assume that John qualifies for Fannie Mae’s Home Ready program.  John can therefore win approval for a 3% down conventional mortgage without having to pay the “premium price” for the low down payment.  He simply must take the $75 online class and pass the quiz at the end.  In this case, John’s monthly principal and interest payment would be around $940.  And John’s PMI would be an estimated $186 per month.  By taking the class and paying $75, John has used the Home Ready program to reduce his mortgage payment (before escrow) to about $1,126.  If John qualifies for the program, Home Ready will save him about $74 per month in this scenario.

Ultimately John will recoup his $75 online class investment in about one month.  That’s a pretty good return, in my opinion.

Now this is just one example using the assumptions provided, but it provides a realistic picture of how the Home Ready program works.  Do you want to buy a house in Georgia soon?  Do you have average to below average credit and not much money for a down payment?  If so, the Home Ready program might be a great way for you to buy that home you want.  Call me at Dunwoody Mortgage and we can review the Home Ready program and other options that could work for you.