How much you can afford. Lenders will be happy to tell you how much they’re willing to lend you, but that’s not actually a good indication of how much house you can afford. Check out our affordability calculator to get an idea of where you stand before you start looking for houses. Remember that your monthly payment will be more than just principal and interest. It will also include homeowner’s insurance, property taxes and, potentially, mortgage insurance (depending on your loan program and down payment). You’ll also need to factor in utilities and maintenance.
Typically your lender will want to see a couple of months of mortgage payments in reserves. A lender does not want to give a mortgage loan to someone who is depleting all of their savings to qualify. The more reserves you have the better. Having a large amount of savings can sometimes make it a little easier to qualify for a mortgage. A large amount of reserves is seen as a compensating factor, it could help make up for having flawed credit.
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Homeowners are encouraged to explore free HUD foreclosure prevention counseling, which could help you qualify for other programs. Homeowners should also contact their servicer to find out if they qualify for a loan modification or other foreclosure prevention options. Some of these may include transition to other foreclosure alternatives, such as deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or short sale.
For the majority of homebuyers, a fixed-rate loan is the best choice, especially in a low-interest environment like we're in now. However, if you don't plan on being in the home you buy for more than a few years, an adjustable-rate mortgage could save you thousands of dollars in interest. For example, if you're buying a home to live in during four years of graduate school, an adjustable-rate mortgage with a five-year initial rate period could be a smart idea.
The amortization chart below (courtesy of the Federal Reserve) shows how the proportion of your payment that is credited to the principal of your loan increases each year, while the proportion credited to the interest decreases each year. In the later years of your mortgage, more of your payment will be applied to principal, helping you build equity faster.
Research your utilities. If you're moving into a larger home than you're used to, a home that is newer or older than you're used to or located in a climate that's hotter or colder than you're used to, ask your real estate professional to find out what the home's energy bills have typically been. This can help prevent being surprised by a higher utility bill than you're expecting. If you're moving into a new community, find out about water costs, too.
Find information on the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program, which is the new federal government short sale program. This is a plan created by the Obama administration that provides financial incentives to both homeowners and lenders. It both encourages the parties to use short sale process by providing financial aid to banks and homeowners, and it also simplifies the process. Find more on the short sale program from HAFA.
Less is charged for interest because your balance is lower and lower. But keep in mind that (at least for now) the interest you pay is deductible for tax purposes. That means if you pay $15,000 in interest this year, you will effectively reduce your taxable income by $15,000. If you’re in the 30% tax bracket, that saves you $5,000 in taxes. In short, for many people, having a mortgage is smart financial tax planning.
Amortization. Each mortgage payment is split so that part goes to paying the principal and the rest goes to interest. In the early years of your mortgage, interest makes up a greater part of your overall payment, but as time goes on, the principal becomes a larger portion because you have a smaller amount of principal to charge interest against. Your lender will provide an amortization schedule (a table showing the breakdown of each payment).
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A reverse mortgage loan typically does not require repayment for as long as the borrower(s) continues to live in the home as the primary residence, pays property taxes and insurance, and maintains the home according to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requirements, or until the last homeowner has passed away or has moved out of the property. The amount of equity you can access with a reverse mortgage is determined by the age of the youngest borrower, current interest rates, and the value of the home. Please note that you may need to set aside additional funds from loan proceeds to pay for taxes and insurance.
If you put less than 20% down on your mortgage, you'll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, so be sure to budget for this when shopping. Mortgage insurance rates can vary significantly, depending on your credit, the length of your mortgage, how much your down payment is, and other factors. However, it can add a significant amount to your payment, so be sure to take it into consideration.
In addition to the loan modification programs mentioned above, Wells Fargo has other options and programs that struggling homeowners can use to get help with paying their mortgage. Examples include principal reduction and forbearance. For example, they have written off tens of billions of dollars in principal that is due from a homeowner. Find additional Wells Fargo mortgage assistance programs.