Posts Tagged ‘changes in the mortgage industry’

Should I Refinance Now?

June 20, 2019

As recently reported in The Mortgage Blog, mortgage interest rates have dropped to their lowest level in over two years.  The last time rates were consistently this low was just before the 2016 Presidential election.  For people who purchased homes since then, it may make sense to refinance now.  So how do you decide if a refinance is right for you?

I read one article from a major think tank stating you should refinance for a rate that is a specific amount lower than your current rate.  I believe that is a bit simplistic and you should crunch numbers in more detail.  I recommend comparing the financial benefits against the cost of refinancing – the total amount you can save each month versus the refinance cost.

With a rate / term refi, you will save by lowering your monthly interest payments and, possibly, by lowering or eliminating private mortgage insurance (PMI) payments.  I recommend you focus on the dollar savings.  A 0.5% interest rate change on a $100,000 loan will save you much less per month than the same interest rate change on a $400,000 mortgage.  Eliminating or reducing PMI payments can provide significantly lower monthly payments.  To eliminate PMI, you must must have 20% equity.  Perhaps your home’s value has increased since you bought it.  You can capture this higher value as equity in the new loan using a new appraisal value.  If the appraisal shows you have greater equity, even if it’s less than 20%, you may see your PMI payment reduced, perhaps substantially.

How do I analyze the savings?  I estimate a new monthly payment based on the lower interest rate and potential PMI changes and compare this rate versus their current payment.  Then I divide the refi closing cost by the monthly savings to get a “break even” point.  If the monthly savings break even on the closing costs in three years or less, I typically recommend that the client pursue the refinance.  Why three years?  It seems most people have a general idea of their plans for the next three years or so.  Anything further than that becomes a little murkier.  I’m currently working with a client who has a $335,000 loan.  I estimate a refinance will save her $150 per month and will “break even” in about 22 months.  That seems like a wise financial move to me.

 

Another option to consider is a cash out refinance.  Is there a home project you want to do?  Perhaps a kitchen or bathroom renovation?  I have clients using their home equity and lower interest rates to take cash out for a project, and still have the same payment (or even a better payment) than they have now.

Do you know someone who bought a Georgia home in 2017 or 2018?  Ask them what they would do with an extra $100 per month.  Then refer them to me.  I’ll run the numbers to determine whether refinancing is a wise move.

 

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The Impact of Student Loans on Home Purchases

March 20, 2019


Homeownership among people aged 24 through 32 declined 9% between 2005 and 2014.  There are many factors contributing to this trend.  One, obviously, was the Great Recession.  With higher unemployment, people underemployed, and people laid off, those in the 24 – 32 age bracket (just coming out of college) found a difficult labor market.  This caused them to delay their home buying plans.  On top of this, the Federal Reserve recently reported that increasing student loan debt has also lowered home ownership in this age group.

Millennials now carry a collective $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.  A recent Bankrate.com study reports that 31% of millennials (aged 23 – 38) have delayed buying a home because of student loan debt.  According to the study, almost 75% of the survey respondents stated that they have delayed major life financial milestones such as getting married, having children, saving for retirement, creating an emergency fund, and buying a car.

Reading studies like this makes it sound as though student loans are preventing people from qualifying for a home loan  Don’t confuse the ability to qualify for a home purchase versus simply putting off buying a home.  They are not the same.  I’ve helped people purchase a home that suits their budget even with student loan debt hitting six figures.  A potential home buyer will make a housing payment.  If they plan to live in one area for several years and have a good job, why not make a mortgage payment and build wealth instead of paying rent?  Again, they will have a housing payment of some kind.


Here are some loan options that may allow people with student loan debt to buy a home now rather than waiting:

  • 3% down Home Ready and Home Possible mortgages.
  • 3.5% down FHA mortgages.
  • 0% down VA mortgages for military veterans.
  • 3% down conventional mortgages.

To me, the report’s most eye-opening statement is this:  77% of millennials with student loan debt would approach college differently if they could go back and change it.  The respondents stated that they would apply for more scholarships or enroll in less expensive universities or colleges.

Do you have a friend or family member who thinks they cannot buy a home due to their student loan debt?  If so, refer them to me.  I will analyze their income and debts relative to all loan programs and help them chart the fastest course to home ownership.  With the many loan programs available, they might be able to buy now.


Low Down Payment / Credit Score Mortgage Options

January 16, 2019


Joe Tyrrell, an executive with mortgage software company Ellie Mae, recently stated, “People still have the misunderstanding that they need a FICO score above 720 and more cash for a down payment, so they don’t apply for loans because they assume they’ll be denied.”  These would be borrowers are self-selecting themselves out of the home buying market based on false assumptions.  So let’s clear up some mortgage myths.

Firstly, borrowers do not a need “great” credit score to win mortgage approval.  Conventional loan guidelines allow credit scores down to 620.  FHA loan guidelines allow credit scores down to 580.  And now non-traditional loans exist that can approve borrowers with scores down to 500 and derogatory credit events (e.g., bankruptcy or foreclosure) in the last two years.  Note that the lower one’s credit score, the higher the interest rate the borrower will face.  But FHA interest rates for lower credit score borrowers are not ridiculously high relative to rates for higher credit score home buyers.


Secondly, winning loan approval does not require home buyers to break their proverbial piggy bank and make a large down payment.  Home buyers can obtain FHA loans with a minimum 3.5% down payment, and they can win conventional loan approval with a 3% down payment.  And if the home buyer qualifies, he / she could obtain a low-interest Home Ready or Home Possible loan with a 3% down payment.  Qualifying military veterans can secure 0% down payment VA loans.  Buyers in rural areas can receive 0% down USDA loans in approved counties.

What may confuse potential home buyers about down payments is the fact that conventional loans require a 20% down payment to avoid mortgage insurance.  But as long as the buyer can win loan approval with the added monthly mortgage insurance expense, the buyer can get their mortgage with a down payment of only 3%.  This 20% down payment myth  requirement is widely held.  Even some financial journalists hold this incorrect notion, as shown by this statement in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “While conventional mortgages can require buyers to put down as much as 20% of the purchase price up front, FHA buyers can pay as little as 3.5%.”  Regardless of what some journalists write, I can help home buyers win conventional loan approval with a down payment as low as 3%!!

Home buyers should remember that they will have to pay closing costs and prepaid escrow in addition to the down payment.  So buyers should plan to invest more cash than just the down payment at closing.  But buyers have options to help with their cash to close needs.  We will explore those options in the next post.

For now, do you have a friend or co-worker who wants to buy a house but is concerned about the down payment or credit score requirements?  Connect them with me and I will help them obtain the best mortgage for their financial situation and home needs.

VA Mortgage Volume Grows (Again)

December 28, 2018

For the seventh straight year, the number of homes purchased using VA mortgages has increased.  VA home purchase loan volume has increased dramatically in the last five years – up 59%.  610,000 VA home loans have been closed in the current fiscal year, generating $161 billion in loan volume.  According to Chris Birk, director of education at Veterans United, “More Veterans have used this $0 down loan in the last five years than in the prior dozen years combined.”  VA loans now comprise about 10% of the residential mortgage market.

Many experts consider the VA loan to be the “most powerful home loan on the market.”  One key reason – low interest rates.  Industry researchers report that VA loans have consistently had the lowest interest rates for 53 straight months.  A second key reason – veterans can obtain a loan with a zero down payment.  That enables many veterans to buy now instead of waiting several years while saving money for another loan program’s minimum down payment.  A third reason – VA loans require no monthly mortgage insurance payment.  Combining these three factors can make a home purchase much more affordable for American military veterans.

 

 

Given the many VA loan benefits, any veteran considering a home purchase should investigate the VA loan option.  The first question a veteran should ask is, “Do I qualify for a VA loan.”  A prior Mortgage Blog post from 2016 addresses this question in detail.  See the post, VA Loans:  How to Qualify, by Clay Jeffreys.  The key update to this post is that the 2019 VA loan limit will be $484,350, as opposed to the $417,000 amount valid in 2016.  A quick summary is that VA loans are available to the following people:

  • People who were on active duty for 90+ days during wartime.
  • People who were on active duty for 181+ days during peacetime.
  • People who served 6+ years in the National Guard or Reserves.
  • Spouse of a service person who died in combat OR resulting from a service related disability.
  • Some people who have served as public health officers or in the Coast Guard.

To qualify, veterans must submit service related documents to the VA, which then provides a Certificate of Eligibility (“COE”) to the mortgage lender.  For example, active duty personnel submit the military form DD-214 to obtain the COE.  The VA requires different documents for National Guard and Reserves personnel.

Instead of standard monthly mortgage insurance, the VA charges a funding fee, based on the home buyer’s service record and down payment percentage.  The lender simply adds the funding fee to the loan balance.  See the post, VA Loans:  Funding Fee, by Clay Jeffreys for a more detailed funding fee explanation.

Do you know a veteran considering a Georgia home purchase?  We at Dunwoody Mortgage love helping veterans buy homes.  We deliver these great VA loan benefits with the excellence service all Dunwoody Mortgage customers receive.  Tell veterans you know to call me.  We will treat them with the honor, respect, and excellence they deserve.


Self-Employed Home Buyers – Helpful Loan Options

November 21, 2018


When obtaining a mortgage, self-employed home buyers face more detailed underwriting scrutiny regarding their income.  Conventional loans require analysis of the borrower’s net income as shown on their tax returns.  This can cause two challenges to self-employed buyers.

Firstly, underwriters compare year to year tax returns.  An income decline can cause loan denial.  As an example, one of my clients flips houses.  He wanted to buy a house in early 2016.  His 2014 tax return showed strong income.  He planned to sell two flipped homes in December 2015, but they were delayed about 3 weeks – until January 2016.  The income from those home sales did not appear on his 2015 income tax return.  Therefore, his income declined from 2014 to 2015, and he could not win conventional loan approval at that time.  He had to wait 12 months.  Then we won loan approval using a strong 2016 tax return.

Secondly, underwriters use the net income after business expenses to qualify a self-employed buyer.  Smart business owners expense as much as possible to lower their tax payments.  But the greater their expenses, the lower their net income, making it harder to qualify for a higher priced home loan.  Conventional loan underwriting guidelines work directly opposite to smart business tax strategy.  That can make it hard to qualify for the desired home.     

We can solve these problems by using a non-traditional mortgage that defines income using bank statements.  The underwriters determine income based on the statement deposit history.  The underwriters can specify income using 12 months of personal bank statements or 24 months of business bank statements.  Only 100% company owners can use business bank statements.  Qualifying for this loan requires that the borrower has been self-employed for at least 2 years.

So what’s the catch?  First of all, these loans typically require a 10% down payment – no 3% or 5% down loans.  Also, these non-traditional loans carry higher interest rates than traditional loans.  The borrower must decide if the higher interest payment is worth buying the house now.  For someone with significant tax write-offs, it may make sense to continue saving tens of thousands in tax payments in exchange for spending a little extra per year on mortgage interest. 

Do you know a self-employed friend or family member who wants to buy a home?  If you do, please connect them with me.  I will evaluate their ability to qualify for a traditional mortgage, and we will go that route if possible.  If tax savings or declining income becomes an obstacle, I can work to put them into a home sooner rather than later using a non-traditional loan.  With home prices and traditional mortgage rates rising, it may make financial sense to go ahead and buy now.

 

Is Your Home Your Piggy Bank?

October 18, 2018

A recent study shows that for the first time ever, accessible (or “tappable,” the term used by the study) US home owner equity has exceeded $6 trillion.  The number of home owners with equity that they can access has reached about 44 million.  In the first half of 2018, this tappable home equity increased by about $636 billion.

Ultimately this means that many Americans can utilize their home equity to fund home renovation projects, cover education costs, consolidate higher-interest debt, or fund other household needs.  Americans typically access their home equity in one of two ways, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or doing a cash out refinance on their entire mortgage.  Here are some costs and benefits of each option:

Cash Out Refinance:

  • Interest rate is typically fixed.
  • Fully amortizing – some of each monthly payment is principal.
  • Pays off existing mortgage so borrower starts with a new loan term and interest rate.

HELOC:

  • Variable interest rate.
  • Interest only payments – balloon due at end of loan term, often 10 years
  • Lower closing costs than a cash out refinance.
  • Does not change your current mortgage interest rate or amortization term.

So which option is best you ask?  Well, that depends considerably on the home owner’s circumstances.  As a mortgage lender, here are some questions I think a home owner should ask him / herself to help determine which option is right:

  • Do I want a fixed payment or can I live with changing interest rates and payments?
  • Am I disciplined enough to proactively pay down my loan quickly, or will I only make minimum payments?
  • How much do I need?  $100,000 for a home renovation or $10,000 for a home repair?
  • Why do I need to access my home’s equity?  Is the reason really worth tapping my equity?

Answers to these questions form the basis for a home owner’s decision.  In the next post, I will opine on my preferred options based on these questions, and give a recent client scenario.

Do you have a friend considering a renovation or needing funds for a child’s education in the next 3 months?  Please refer them to me.  I will ask them these questions and coach them to make the best decision for their own unique circumstances. 

 

Recent Mortgage Rate Changes

February 13, 2018

Wow!  Our economic world has gone crazy in recent weeks.  The Dow Jones average has dropped about 7.9% since its high on January 26, less than 3 weeks ago.

Mortgage interest rates have been changing dramatically too.  Rates have increased a half point (0.5%) since January 2.  Back in mid-December, I quoted an interest rate to a first-time home buyer named John.  Today, in mid-February, I would likely have to charge him 0.625% more than what I quoted in December.

So, what is driving the rapid mortgage rate changes?  In short, Wall Street, economic factors, and government policy.

To understand the basics, first realize that the vast majority of conventional mortgages are sold by lenders to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Fannie and Freddie then package these mortgages into mortgage backed securities (MBS).  Money managers, pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, etc. buy the MBS to keep in their investment portfolios.  They buy and they sell them like other investments. 

That means that the same economic factors that influence stock and bond prices – economic productivity, unemployment, inflation, and government policy – all impact mortgage interest rates.  And MBS must compete with other investment vehicles such as stocks and bonds to attract investors.

Many experts consider the market for 10 Year Treasuries as a benchmark or comparison for MBS.  Both investments offer stable, predictable cash flows.  Since January 2, 2018, the 10 Year Treasury rate has increased almost 0.4%.  Looks like interest rates on these competing investment vehicles are rising at the same time.

Given recent positive unemployment figures and wage growth, inflation concerns are increasing.  Higher inflation expectations tend to drive higher interest rates on Treasuries, bonds, and MBS.  Let’s face it, if investors expect inflation to be 3%, they will want to earn more than 3% on their fixed-income investments, right.  So as inflation concerns rise, it is logical to expect mortgage interest rates to rise accordingly.

When it comes to mortgage interest rates, there’s much more to consider, and we will delve into more details in future posts.  For now, if you know someone in Georgia who is considering a home purchase, please have them contact me.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage offer competitive rates in this changing environment, along with outstanding service to get home buyers to closing on time.

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.

My (FHA Loan) Christmas Wish List

December 19, 2017

FHA loans are great for certain borrowers.  I look to FHA loans when my clients have credit scores of say 680 or less, little available cash for a down payment, and want a 30 year mortgage.  FHA loans also can help a home buyer who has a higher level of other outstanding debt, as FHA guidelines allow slightly higher debt to income ratios.

FHA loans typically offer lower interest rates than conventional loans, but they do have some limitations.  But now there is some movement in Washington to change some of these limitations.  Let’s pretend that the federal government is Santa Claus.  Here’s my FHA mortgage wish list:

  • Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif has introduced the Making FHA More Affordable Act.  This bill would repeal the “life of the loan requirement” for FHA mortgage insurance.  Right now, if a borrower closes an FHA loan with a less than 10% down payment, the mortgage insurance is permanent – it never goes away.  In contrast, the mortgage insurance is cancelled automatically on a conventional (non-FHA) mortgage when the outstanding principal balance reaches 78% of the home’s original value.  In my opinion, this would be a good change for consumers who need FHA financing.  I don’t think they should have to pay the mortgage insurance after they have 22% equity in their home.
  • Under Ben Carson, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a report signaling an easing in FHA requirements for condominiums.  Currently, to close a FHA loan on a condo, the condo complex must be on the FHA approved list.  Condos apply for FHA approval based on a number of FHA-specified criteria.  If the complex is not on the FHA approved list, a buyer cannot obtain a FHA loan and must obtain conventional financing.  The National Association of Realtors reported that of the 614,000 condo sales in 2016, only 4% were closed with FHA financing. 
  • In addition to loosening FHA condo complex approval guidelines, the administration is also indicating that it wants to revive FHA’s “spot loan” program.  This program allows homebuyers to purchase a  condo in a complex that has not been approved for FHA financing.  Some estimates have claimed that without the spot loan program, 90% of condo projects cannot have buyers with FHA mortgages. 

We mortgage lenders must work within the rules defined by the regulators – we don’t make the decisions.  But I think the above changes would be very positive, as they would make home and condo ownership less expensive and more realistic for buyers who need the FHA loan program. 

If you know a potential home buyer in Georgia who wants to know if they are on Santa’s, sorry, FHA’s, “good list,” have them contact me at Dunwoody Mortgage.  We will work within FHA guidelines (and explore other potential loan options) to make sure they get the best deal on their mortgage, and hopefully enjoy some FHA guideline “gifts” from Washington soon.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Georgia’s TV and Film Industry is Booming. Forget Hollywood! Put Down Roots Right Here.

October 26, 2017

On your commute today, you probably passed a yellow TV or movie production sign – they are that common around Atlanta these days.

Look at the numbers:

  • FilmLA says Georgia is the #1 filming location in the world.
  • 320 film & TV productions will be shot here in 2017, generating $9.5 billion in direct spending.
  • The Motion Picture Association of America reports that more than 28,600 Georgians are directly employed by the film industry, while an additional 12,500 people work in production-related jobs.

The movie business may be kind to Georgia, but the mortgage industry traditionally hasn’t been kind to movie makers.

Film and TV studio workers may earn great livings, but they often have irregular employment schedules. Their employer of record can change with each project, and that’s a big red flag for mortgage underwriting. When it comes time to get financing for a home, regularly employed studio employees may be denied because they can’t demonstrate the stable income underwriters demand.

Until now.

I have access to a new loan program that can ease the way to home ownership for film & TV union members. The qualification requirements are simple.

Union members:

  • Who receive W-2s as salary employees
  • Who have two full years of filed tax returns in the film & TV industry

Underwriting will view the union as the employer, rather than the studio, and the union will be able to verify length of employment. The qualifying income will be based on the monthly average income. The borrower will still produce pay stubs to document current year earnings.

If you know someone in the film & TV industry who complains about renting or apartment life, please forward this email.  They may finally be able to put down roots in the new movie mecca.