Posts Tagged ‘metro Atlanta mortgage advice’

Help With Down Payments

January 23, 2019


Restating the main theme from the prior post, people who want to buy homes do not need “great” credit scores or large down payments.  Home buyers can obtain mortgages with as little as 3.0% down.  What about those people who have not saved enough for the low down payment plus closing costs plus prepaid escrow?  Do they have any options to help cover their required cash to close?  The answer is, “YES!” Here are some options for cash-strapped buyers:

  • Request that the seller contribute cash at closing to help cover the closing costs and prepaid escrow.  Mortgage guidelines allow the seller to contribute specific percentages of the home sale price to cover transaction costs and escrow, but not the down payment.  If the buyer’s agent can negotiate that the seller helps cover these items, then it can be done within the guidelines.  The greater the down payment, the more the seller can contribute.
  • Borrow from an employer-sponsored retirement account.  In many cases, home buyers with 401K or other retirement accounts may be able to borrow against the account balance to help purchase a home.  These are loans – the home buyer signs paperwork agreeing to repay the retirement account.  Different retirement plan managers have different rules, so home buyers should check with their HR departments and retirement plan managers to determine their eligibility.  Buyers can use retirement funds to cover down payment, escrow and loan costs.

  • Obtain a cash gift from a blood relative.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, and other blood relatives are allowed to give cash to help home buyers.  “Give” is the key word because all parties must sign documents stating the funds are a gift and not a loan, so no repayment is expected.  A recent Wall Street Journal article notes that now more first time buyers obtain relative gifts to help buy their homes.  Buyers can use gift funds to cover down payment, escrow and loan costs.
  • Government down payment assistance programs.  These programs are available from many state, county, and city governments.  They often require home ownership education classes and other commitments from home buyers.  These assistance programs may have income requirements.

The good news here is that cash-strapped home buyers can obtain low down payment loans and many can use one of these options to help close their loan.  Do you know someone who wants to buy a Georgia home but has limited cash?  Connect them with me.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage will help them explore all available options to buy a home sooner rather than later.


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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.

New FHA max loan limit

January 8, 2019

Just as conforming loan limits rose again this year, the maximum loan amount for FHA loans got a bit higher too.

Remember the maximum loan amount for FHA loans vary from county to county; meaning, the max loan amount is determined by the county in which the property resides.

  • The new FHA loan limit for 2019 is $379,500 for the metro Atlanta area.
  • The non-metro max loan amount also increased to $314,827.
  • Georgia also has some counties with max amounts between those ranges (for example, Clarke county is $341,550).

For those who want to see their specific county, use this lookup tool provided by HUD. Just choose your state and county then press “send” to get the exact amount.

The new limit for metro Atlanta counties means a buyer could purchase a $393,000 home and make just a 3.5% down payment. Buyers can look to purchase a home for more than $393,000, but they will need to make a larger down payment. For example, a person could buy a $400,000 home using an FHA loan. Since the max loan is capped at $379,500, the down payment will need to be about 5% instead of the minimum 3.5%.

I know what you may be thinking… why put 5% down and use an FHA loan? Wouldn’t a conventional loan be better? True. Maybe. Remember for those with credit scores under 680 who make a 5% down payment, the private mortgage insurance for a conventional loan is higher than the monthly mortgage insurance for an FHA. Also, the mortgage rate is higher for the conventional loan versus the FHA loan.

This is why it is imperative to speak with a licensed mortgage lender about the differences in loan programs instead of assuming an FHA loan is only for first time home buyers OR never consider an FHA loan if you can make a 5% down payment. The specific details of each client’s situation could make one program more attractive than the other even if it goes against what most people would consider normal.

Looking to purchase a home in the state of Georgia? Unsure of the loan program that is right for you? Contact me today. I can get you prequalified for a home loan in a few minutes, and we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each loan program to ensure the best fit for your situation.

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.


Generation Z is Preparing to Buy Homes

December 13, 2018

A recent study by realtor.com shows that Generation Z (ages 18 – 24) members show their strong home ownership desire because they prepare financially for a home purchase.  The study reports that Gen Z-ers are twice as likely as the previous generations to be saving or plan to be saving for a home purchase by age 25.   The study also noted that 40% of Gen Z-ers plan to become home owners by age 25.  These young people desire to buy homes at rates similar to Millennials and Gen X-er’s, but Gen Z-er’s have started saving sooner than prior generations.

The study shows that 79 percent are certain that they want to own a home, a level similar to the preceding generations.  Only 4 percent of this young generation say they do not want to buy a home.  The striking difference lies in the fact that, by age twenty-five, 74 percent have either started saving or plan to start saving for a home purchase.  Only 33 percent of the prior generations matched this saving discipline.  Some economists speculate that their graduating into one of the best labor markets in decades has given Gen Z-er’s a savings boost.

Other interesting details reported include:

  • Gen Z shows the least home-buying desire for investment or tax savings purposes (29 percent and 16 percent, respectively).
  • The top two reason for Gen Z home purchases are:
    • Customizing their own living space at 61 percent.
    • Raising a family in a home they own at 55 percent.

Great loan programs exist that can help young home buyers (older buyers, too) buy houses for as little as 3 percent down, and with interest rate and mortgage insurance discounts.  And military veterans can obtain VA loans with no down payment.  So young buyers who have started saving may be able to buy a home sooner than they think.

Do you know a young professional who talks about buying a home – perhaps a coworker or a niece or nephew?  Or has a friend with an adult child mentioned their kid’s home buying plans?  If so, please refer them to me.  If they are ready to buy now, we at Dunwoody Mortgage will get them into a home with a great loan that fits their needs.  If they are not ready to buy right now, we will coach them and help them to best prepare for their home purchase.  We love working with young (and older) home buyers.


Rents on the rise

December 11, 2018

Rents are still going up and just hit an all-time high, again. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that during the third quarter, the nationwide median asking rent topped $1,000 for the first time ever. According to the Census data, the median asking rent during the third quarter was $1,003, an increase of $52 over the second quarter and an increase of $91 over the same time period last year. That’s an increase of nearly 10% in just one year, when rents checked in at $912.

The increase has been dramatic over the last few years. Just three years ago, the asking rent was a full $200 less per month than it is right now.

Since we are a Georgia based company, I try and bring these topics back to the local area.

  • The Bad News: Rents are going up in Georgia.
  • The Not as Great News: So are home prices for buying.
  • The Good News: Metro Atlanta is a city where it is cheaper to own that rent.

A recent study by Trulia has Atlanta around the 60th cheapest metro area to rent (out of the top 100), and in the top 40 for cheapest metro area to own. While rents are going up, by living in the metro Atlanta area, you have the opportunity to own a home, build equity, and have your monthly housing payment go toward your financial goals (instead of your landlord’s).

Now here is the question – should I buy a home? To answer that question, ask yourself how long you plan to be in the home? Atlanta is a transient town, so maybe your time here is only for a year or two. In that case, renting could be the better option. If you plan to stay in a home for 3 years or more, that same Trulia article mentioned earlier says it is cheaper to buy than rent. Three years seems to be a good number for judging whether or not to consider buying a home or continuing to rent.

So… how long do you plan to stay in the home?

If you are looking to buy in the state of Georgia, contact me today! I can help get you prequalified for the home purchase. More importantly, we can discuss how much home you should buy versus how much home you qualify to buy. Often the amount one can qualify isn’t the amount one wants to pay each month as a mortgage payment. We’ll tackle those topics and more!

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.

 

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.

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. 

 

The end of the seller’s market

October 2, 2018

I know it seems we are stuck in a seller’s market. It feels like an eternity at this point! I’ll be back to that theme in a moment, but right now… If you have been putting off buying a home because of fierce competition, now is a good time to look at the market again. Homes are staying on the market longer now than they have all year. There are fewer buyers out looking to purchase a home. This is the best opportunity for buyers so far in 2018!

Regarding 2018 as a whole though, and back to the theme of this post, there are too few homes on the market for the number of buyers wanting to own a home. Sellers tend to receive multiple offers, and can be picky when it comes to whom they choose to sell their home. According to a recent study by Zillow, the market will balance out in the near future.

Zillow’s study says there are signs that the inventory levels are beginning to get better (as I mentioned above), but the country is still dealing with the fallout of limited new construction over several years during the Great Recession. Expect to see conditions continue improving over the next year, and around 2020, Zillow expects the market to become a buyer’s market again. By then, Zillow expects new construction will have caught up to demand. As people move from their existing homes into the new construction, it will put more homes on the market for other people to buy/enter the home ownership market.

It is coming… not as quick as we may like it, but a more balanced market is on its way. In the meantime:

  • Remember there are a lot of myths out there when it comes to buying a home. For example, you do NOT need 20% down to purchase a home. For more on this, check out my previous post.
  • There are things buyers can do to make their offers more competitive. For more on this, check out Rodney Shaffer’s recent post.

Better days are coming, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait another year. If you are buying in the state of Georgia, contact me today. I can help you get prequalified to purchase your home, and we can discuss the variety of options to make your offer more competitive in this market.