Posts Tagged ‘atlanta real estate market’

Down Payments Basics for Home Buyers

February 23, 2017

Blog HeaderA recent home ownership survey showed that 3 times more first time home buyers than repeat buyers say they lack enough money for a down payment.  Perhaps this is due to folks not truly understanding down payment requirements.  Many people believe you must make a 20% down payment to buy a home.  That is a myth!! 

Home buyers can purchase a home with as little as 3.5% down for a FHA loan.  Depending on your credit score and available cash, you may be better off going with a 5% down conventional mortgage.  In certain cases, you may be able to qualify (depending on your income and geographic area) for the low interest rate, low cost mortgage insurance “HomeReady” program, for as little as 3% down.  (Certain geographic areas have no income requirements.)

So what if you don’t even have 3% – 5% available for a down payment?  Are there options?  The first question for you is, “Do you have a relative who can give you the down payment?”  If you do have a loving person who will give you the down payment, we can use that with the proper documentation.  Note that the giver must be a blood relative or a spouse.  Generous ex-spouses are not considered family members so they cannot provide a gift.

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If you lack the available cash and you don’t have a giving relative, do you have a 401K or similar retirement account?  Depending on your plan’s rules, you may be able to borrow against your account to help fund your down payment.  Talk with your plan administrator for the details.

If these options are not available to you, you may need to wait and save.  But the time needed to save 3% to 5% is much better than saving for the 20% many people think is required.  Note that you must have 20% to avoid mortgage insurance, but if you can handle the mortgage insurance included in your monthly payment, you can buy a home with much less than 20% down.

Do you need coaching on the best loan / down payment option for you?  That’s what I do!  Call me at Dunwoody Mortgage.  Together we will evaluate your situation, review your options, thus allowing you to make the best decision for you and your family.

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Planning Your Home Purchase While Renting

February 16, 2017

A recent survey reported that 2.9 times more first time home buyers than repeat buyers expect a home purchase delay due to their current lease terms.  My first reaction to this statement is “No duh!”  I would expect most repeat buyers do not have a lease but own their home.  Lease terms definitely can affect a first time buyers’ purchase timeframe.  A lease is a written legal contract between the landlord and the lessee.  Note that I am not an attorney, but here are some common sense thoughts about leases and home purchases.

Firstly, plan ahead.  If you know your lease terminates in 6 months and you want to buy a house, go ahead and start planning now.  Submit a mortgage application and get prequalified.  Build a relationship with a Realtor.  Set aside more money for a down payment and closing.  Planning ahead may help you win loan approval and buy your dream home.  Waiting until the last minute will likely cause you stress and frustration.

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Secondly, know your lease terms.  What is the penalty for terminating your lease early?  Do you forfeit your security deposit?  Is there a different penalty?  Then evaluate the contractual penalty versus the home you want.  If you find and can buy your dream home, and the lease termination penalty is not too steep, you may want to go ahead and buy now.  The key here is to know the penalty so you can evaluate your opportunities.  Is missing the opportunity to buy the perfect home worth saving the security deposit you paid a few years ago?  Only you can make that choice.

Thirdly, talk with your landlord.  If your lease expires in 30 days and you still haven’t found the perfect house, perhaps you can negotiate a month to month lease or a 90 day lease continuation instead of signing a longer term lease.  Perhaps you could offer a slightly higher monthly rent to compensate the landlord for the shorter term lease, thus “buying more time” to search for and find the right home for you.

In short, planning ahead, knowing your lease details, and making an effort to negotiate with your landlord may give you the flexibility you need to find the perfect first home, without the stress of having a “deadline” hanging over you.  When you are ready to do your home purchase planning, call me.  I will give you as much time as you need to coach and counsel you, making sure you are truly ready to buy your first home.

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Credit Score Basics for Home Buyers

February 9, 2017

A recent survey reported that 2.7 times more first time home buyers than repeat buyers believe they must improve their credit scores before buying a house.  First let’s dispel credit score myths.  A home buyer can possibly win mortgage approval with a credit score as low as 620.  If your score is 620 or higher, you can possibly win loan approval.

If your score is less than 620, you need to work to improve it before you can qualify.  If your score is 620 or higher, you may want to take steps to increase your score as better scores tend to lower mortgage costs.  Note that I am not a credit score repair specialist, but here are some basic, fundamental tips to improve your credit score:

Pay down your credit card balances:  You get the best score on each credit card account when your balance is less than 1/3 of that account’s credit limit.  Your score drops when your balance is more than 1/3 of the limit.  And your score drops even further if your score is more than ½ of the credit limit. 

Pay your bills on time:  Late payments lower your score.  The later the payment, the more your score is penalized.

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Time heals all wounds:  The more time that has elapsed since your last late payment, the less those late payments will affect your current score.  Some credit issues have mandatory waiting periods.  For example, if your credit report shows a bankruptcy, 2 years must elapse before you can obtain a FHA mortgage, and 3 years must elapse before you can qualify for a conventional mortgage. 

Resolve account disputes now:  Mortgage underwriters hate account disputes.  If you have disputes on credit accounts, go ahead and resolve them prior to applying for a mortgage.

Be aware of collections accounts:  Note that I didn’t say to pay them off.  Sometimes, paying off a collection account will actually lower your credit score.  If you want to buy a home in the next 12 months or so, it may be best to just know about the collections accounts – you may have to deal with them as part of your mortgage process.  In some cases, we require the borrower to bring enough cash to close and to pay off collections account balances as part of the mortgage closing process.

If you want to buy a house in Georgia, get a good idea of your credit score and your monthly debt payments.  Then call me to discuss your loan options.  I’ll invest time coaching you on the best ways to help you win loan approval. 

More mortgage questions?  Check out our home buyer educational videos.

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Educating First Time Home Buyers

February 2, 2017

A recently published survey of 2016 home buyers shows that first time buyers (“FTBs) comprised a larger percentage (35%) of all home buyers than in 2015 (32%).  FTBs face greater challenges than buyers who have previously purchased homes.  In addition to the uncertainty and stress in making such a major financial decision for the first time, FTBs face additional financial challenges, some real and some more perceived.  For example:

  • 2.7 times more FTBs than repeat buyers believe they must improve their credit scores before buying a home.   
  • 2.9 times more FTBs than repeat buyers expect a home purchase delay due to their current lease terms.   
  • 3 times more FTBs than repeat buyers say they lack enough money for a down payment.

In short, first time buyers need significant education, advice and support.  In future blog posts, we will address each of the above challenges in more detail.  For now, let’s take a quick look at some ways Dunwoody Mortgage Services (“DMS”) helps to educate home buyers.

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The DMS staff has created a series of home buyer education videos published on our website:  http://dunwoodymortgage.net/custompage-view.aspx?id=9.  These videos are concise and to the point, each covering a key mortgage process topic, such as cash to close, monthly payments, mortgage insurance, and more. 

We encourage our clients to plan early – last year I closed a loan for I client with whom I had been talking for 2 years.  My boss’ record is 7 years.  In short, we will take the time to listen, to coach, and to help our clients plan for a future home purchase.  And sometimes, it may take a few years to save enough money, to improve credit scores, or to meet tax return guidelines for self-employment.  Helping our clients plan for mortgage success is something the DMS staff enjoys doing.  

Also, we coach our clients to plan a home purchase that best fits their financial situation.  Oftentimes, a home buyer can qualify for a mortgage payment that is so high, they would have to change their lifestyle to live with the payment.  Such high payments can lead to significant financial stress – we call that being “house poor.”  We consult with our clients about how a mortgage payment will fit into their budget and lifestyle.  We encourage discipline and budgeting, with the goal of helping the client buy a home that they love, and that they can comfortably afford.

Know a first time home buyer who needs financial coaching and counsel?  Tell them about us here at Dunwoody Mortgage — we will invest a lot of time in them, so their first home investment will be successful, and with minimal stress. 

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Mortgage Loan Limits Rise

December 6, 2016

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After some discussion on raising limits last year (that didn’t happen), mortgage loan limits are increasing for the first time in over a decade. Starting January 1, 2017, the loan limits for single family residences are increasing to:

  • Conventional Loan: $424,100 (up from $417,000, which is roughly a 2% increase)
  • FHA Loan: $358,800 (up from $342,700, which is roughly a 5% increase)
  • VA Loan: will match conventional loan limits just as these loans have been doing for years

Borrowers can now purchase a $438,000 with as little as 3% down. That is up about $9,000 from the old limits. FHA loans can now be as high as $372,000 (up from about $355,000). The increase on FHA loans is great for first time home buyers purchasing in the metro Atlanta area.

Remember, these limits start on January 1st. So if you need a little more room to keep a conventional loan, or make a higher FHA purchase, the loan process will need to start in early January.

Looking to buy a home in the Spring? Needing to get prequalified and start the process? If you are buying in Georgia, contact me today to get the process going!

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Interest Rates Jump

November 15, 2016

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One thing that I did not expect from this election was the change in interest rates.  Mortgage interest rates on November 14 were a half a percentage point higher than they were on November 7.  Rates are still close to their historic lows, and still lower than rates back in the second half of 2015, but they definitely have taken a quick upward turn in the last week.  And there’s really no way to predict how far rates may rise.  For a better understanding of what drives mortgage interest rates, take a look at these prior posts:  https://themortgageblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/interest-rates-lower-from-brexit/ and https://themortgageblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/feds-may-not-raise-rates-at-all-this-year/

While I don’t have a crystal ball to forecast interest rates, I will simply apply a bit of common sense.  Interest rates have been very, very low for multiple years now.  There really isn’t much opportunity for rates to go lower.  So logically, if rates are going to move, they will likely go up.  If you are ready to buy a house, how do you protect yourself from a rate increase?  Answer:  You lock your rate.

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When a home buyer goes under contract, I can lock rates for periods from 30 days up to 90 days.  The longer the rate lock period, the higher the price.  Locking your interest rate is the sure way to protect yourself against rate increases.  I locked a refinance on November 8, just before the close of business.  I hate to think that this client’s rate would now be 0.50% higher if we had delayed.  Because she locked for 45 days, her rate will not increase if we close the loan before the end of business on December 23.  As long as you can close before the lock expires, your rate will not change.  If something delays closing past the lock expiration, that might cost you.  (Moral of the story, quickly respond to any request from your loan officer.  Delays can cost you.)

Borrowers also want to know what happens if market rates decrease after they lock their interest rate.  Dunwoody Mortgage can also offer a free rate float down option on some loans.  If your qualifying rate drops by more than 0.25% and we can relock it (1) less than 30 days and (2) more than 7 days before closing, we may be able to do that at no charge.

So if you want to buy a home and you are worried about interest rate fluctuations, know that Dunwoody Mortgage can protect you regardless of which way the market moves.  Moving forward with a Georgia home purchase soon?  Call me here at Dunwoody Mortgage now, before rates go up any more.  We can answer your questions and offer the counsel to best protect you against interest rate changes.

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Credit Reports and Qualifying for a Mortgage #3

October 19, 2016

In prior posts we reviewed the credit score and public record components of a credit report.  But even with a qualifying score and a clean public record history, that doesn’t mean you are in the clear.  There are other credit report factors that can create underwriting hurdles which we must overcome.  Here are some other details we consider…

The credit report shows a history of open and closed credit accounts.  Data shown for each account includes:

  • Current account balance.
  • Account credit limit.
  • Account type – credit card, mortgage, student loan, auto loan, etc.
  • Account status – open, closed, collections, etc.
  • Minimum payment – these are important because they are included in the client’s (let’s call her Mindy) debt to income ratio.  If the total of all monthly payments is too high, Mindy might not qualify for the loan desired.
  • Late payment history – late payments are categorized as follows — 30 day lates are not good; 60 day lates are bad, and 90 day lates are really bad.  The report shows the dates of the most recent late payments.

If Mindy’s late payments were made more than 2 or 3 years ago and she has been consistently making on-time payments since then, it likely will not cause loan denial.  However, if Mindy’s late payments occurred after a bankruptcy, then underwriting may deny the loan.  I’ve had this happen where the underwriter said no to a client with a bankruptcy in 2010 followed by two 30-day late payments in 2012.

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  • Account disputes – if Mindy has officially disputed an account, it will show on her report.  Underwriters do not like account disputes.  This is especially true for FHA mortgages when a disputed account balance exceeds $1,000.  In some cases, the dispute can lead to loan denial.  I’ve had clients who had to go through a multi-week process to get a dispute removed from their credit before we could win loan approval.  I search for the word “dispute” on all credit reports.
  • Collections accounts – when an account has a collections status, this can cause loan denial.  This is especially true for FHA mortgages.  If the total outstanding amount of all collections accounts exceeds $1,000, underwriters will not approve an FHA loan until the balances are paid in full.  I had a client with 3 collections accounts earlier this year.  The client had plenty of cash, so we simply included the payoff of all collections accounts at the closing of her home purchase.

Once again, there is much more to a credit report than the score.  If you know someone who wants to buy a home in Georgia, don’t let them get mislead by a lender in a hurry.  Refer them to Dunwoody Mortgage, we will invest enough time up front to give everyone great confidence that the mortgage will actually close.

 

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Credit Reports and Qualifying for a Mortgage #2

October 12, 2016

The last post covered the credit score component of a credit report.  But remember, there is much more to a mortgage credit report than just the score.  After looking at a client’s credit score, I next review any public record filed against the client (let’s call him “Matt”) in a court of law.  These include liens, judgements, foreclosures, and bankruptcies.  How do these items affect Matt’s ability to win loan approval?

  • Liens – A tax lien is a big red flag. The IRS doesn’t play around when it comes to collecting money you owe them.  And lenders don’t want to get in line behind the IRS when it comes to collecting payments.  If Matt has a tax lien, he will likely need to pay it off before we can win loan approval.  We may be able to win loan approval if Matt has a tax lien, but it will take some extra work.
  • Bankruptcies – Bankruptcies stay on a credit report for 7 years.  Matt cannot obtain a conventional loan for 4 years following the bankruptcy discharge date (the date when Matt was officially released from personal liability for debts included in the bankruptcy).  For FHA loans, the waiting period is 2 years after the bankruptcy discharge date.  There are some differences in how we treat Chapter 13 vs. Chapter 7 or 11 bankruptcies.
  • Foreclosures – Foreclosures also stay on a credit report for 7 years.  It is possible to win loan approval even with a foreclosure.  For conventional loans, a 7 year waiting period is required.  For FHA loans a 3 year waiting period is required.  And note that the clock starts when the foreclosing bank sells the old house to someone else.  Not when the bank first takes the house.
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  • Short Sales – Once again, short sales stay on the report for 7 years. A short sale occurs when a loan servicer agrees to the sale of a property by the borrower to a third-party for less than the outstanding mortgage balance.  Waiting periods are 4 years for a conventional loans and 2 years for FHA loans.
  • Legal Judgments – Outstanding legal judgements must be paid off prior to or at closing.  Note that we can include payment of Matt’s legal judgments as part of the closing itself.

There is much more to a credit report than just the score.  When a lender pulls your report and quickly says “you qualify,” he or she might be doing you a disservice.  You want a lender who will take some time to look closely at your report, and deal with any potential issues up front.  If you plan to buy a home in Georgia and expect your lender to invest time in the details, call Dunwoody Mortgage Services.  We will help you avoid surprises.

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Credit Reports and Qualifying for a Mortgage #1

October 5, 2016

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This news may shock you – mortgage underwriters actually look at a borrower’s credit report.  Notice I said, credit report, not credit score.  The score is only one component of the full report.

When we pull a credit report, the first thing we do review is the credit score.  If the score doesn’t qualify, there’s no need to spend time on the report details.  My lending guidelines state that minimum qualifying credit scores for my clients are:

  • 620 for FHA and VA loans.
  • 620 for conventional loans.

Mortgage credit scores are different from consumer credit scores people get from websites like credit karma.  Issues pertaining to past mortgages carry more weight on a mortgage score than a consumer score.  So your mortgage score may differ significantly from a consumer score given to you by a credit card company or a website.  I’ve had clients with mortgage scores higher than their consumer scores and other clients with scores less than their consumer scores.  You never know for sure until you actually pull the mortgage report.

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We look at scores from all three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experion, and Transunion.  We are required to use the borrower’s middle score for loan qualification.  And if there are multiple borrowers, then the lowest middle score is the score we use to qualify the application.  When I pull a report, if the score is less than 620, the client and I will discuss ways that they can improve their score, which may be simply waiting for their score to rise while they pay their bills on time, or contacting a credit counselor who might be able to help improve their score.

Regardless of how good the score is, I will look carefully at additional report details.  Sometimes these details can cause some underwriting questions or challenges, even if the score qualifies.  It’s usuaully best to deal with any credit questions proactively.

Home buyers deserve to know as early as possible whether they can realistically win loan approval.  There’s no need for them to waste their time or a Realtor’s time searching for a home when they cannot qualify for a mortgage.

We will review other key credit report details in future blog posts.  But for now, if you know someone looking to buy a home in Georgia, and this person may have a few “skeletons” in their “credit closet,” (hey Halloween is approaching!), refer them to me.  I’ll take the time to look at all the details, giving them the level of service they truly deserve.


 

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Using Retirement Accounts for “Income”

May 23, 2016

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Prior posts have focused on how to use brokerage account assets to qualify for a mortgage.  Now let’s review using retirement account assets for “income” purposes.  The focus here is retirement accounts recognized by the IRS, such as IRA, Roth IRA, 401K, etc. accounts.

If the borrower can obtain distributions from the qualified retirement account without incurring an IRS penalty, then distributions from the retirement account can be considered as stable qualifying income if the income is expected to continue for at least 3 years.  Assuming that the borrower, “Don,” from my last two posts had his $500,000 in a qualified retirement account, here’s how we would calculate his “income” for a mortgage application.

Now if Don’s retirement portfolio includes stocks, bonds, and / or mutual funds, we start by multiplying the account balance times 70% to adjust for market volatility.  That gets us to $350,000 in usable asset value.  Don has been receiving $4,000 monthly distributions and wants to continue that, so we divide his $350,000 balance by his $4,000 distributions.  The result is 87.5.  So Don can continue these distributions for over 87 months.  The required minimum is 36 months (3 years).  Therefore Don can use his monthly distributions as “income” for his mortgage application.  Let’s go find that house he wants!

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Now let’s assume that Don only has $190,000 in his 401K.  The result after adjusting for market volatility is $133,000.  Assuming Don must pay $12,000 in cash at closing (down payment, closing costs, etc.), his available retirement account balance after closing on his home purchase would be $121,000.  That would allow for only 30 months of distributions at $4,000.  So we would have to adjust Don’s income for mortgage purposes down to about $3,360 and then look for a house he could afford with that monthly income.

There are other guidelines that also apply.  It gets complicated, but that’s why experienced mortgage lenders can really help.  If you know a retiree who is thinking about buying a home in Georgia, recommend that they talk to an experienced lender before planning a home purchase price.  Have them call or email me at Dunwoody Mortgage Service.  We will discuss their asset allocations and determine how much of an “income” they can use on their loan application.  I can help them structure the deal right the first time, making their loan experience as smooth as possible.

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