Following the financial crash of 2008 and the subsequent collapse of the housing bubble, many (but not all) real estate markets eventually recovered. Entered into in a prudent way, home ownership remains something you should consider in your long-term financial planning. Understanding how mortgages and their interest rates work is the best way to ensure that you're building that asset in the most financially beneficial way.
One of the easiest ways to obtain a mortgage loan is to work with your existing bank. If you already have a relationship with a bank in the US, the process of applying for a mortgage is relatively painless. However, you may find that your bank can't provide you with the best possible deal. It can pay off to speak with underwriters at different financial institutions. In addition to mortgage rates, you should also ask them about their origination fees and various closing costs and fees.
As an example, when I was buying my first home, my lender called me three days before closing to let me know that my credit score had fallen to one point below the threshold for my interest rate, so I would either have to take an action that would improve my credit score immediately or accept a significantly higher interest rate. The solution required me to pay off one of my credit cards and fax proof of it to the lender -- not an impossible situation, but certainly a hassle when I was told it had to be done right away and I was at work.
If you plan on staying put until the mortgage is paid off, a fixed-rate loan will give you stability. The interest rate is a little higher than an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). But it won’t go up like an ARM can. The only things that will change your house payment over time are property taxes and insurance rates, but those will change regardless of which type of loan you get.
Catholic Charities also runs a number of free foreclosure counseling programs. They have locations across the nation, and case managers at many centers specialize in dealing with housing issues, including mortgage delinquency and providing more general homebuyer assistance. The services also deal with overall credit counseling and repair. All services are free to qualified families, and locations are approved and certified by HUD. Read more on Catholic Charities free housing counseling.
If you can afford the higher payments, or are willing to buy a less expensive home, a 15-year mortgage can save you thousands of dollars in interest and can allow you to own your home free and clear in half the time. Fifteen-year interest rates are about one percentage point lower than 30-year rates, and you might be surprised how much the combination of a lower rate and shorter amortization period can save you.
One common mistake among first-timers and repeat buyers alike is accepting the first mortgage that's offered. A seemingly small difference in rates can save you thousands of dollars over the course of a 30-year mortgage, and as long as all of your mortgage applications take place within a short time period, the additional inquiries won't have an adverse effect on your credit score.
A lot of borrowers choose to pick up the phone and call a handful of lenders to request interest rates. Those who do that may be surprised when the lender is asking questions before listing off rates. Again, interest rates vary and are dependent on many factors such as the loan program, your financial situation (including credit score), the cost of the home you’re looking to fund, etc. So, both the borrower and the lender should be interviewing one another to narrow down best options. Don't be alarmed if this happens to you! It's all part of the process of getting you into the best loan for your financial situation.
HARP, or the Home Affordable Refinance Program, is the latest federal program designed to help struggling homeowners with their mortgages. Designed to help people who are "underwater" with their mortgages due to lowered home values, it allows people who owe more on their home than it's worth to refinance their mortgages and get lower interest rates. In this sense it is a sort of emergency mortgage assistance program, but it only works for people who don't have any late or delinquent payments. If you are rejected while trying to refinance your home or go through a loan modification program, HARP may benefit. This only applies if your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and you need to owe 125% or less of your home's value in order to qualify.
Fixed-rate mortgages offer stability in your mortgage payments. However, many ARMs start with a lower interest rate than fixed mortgages and lock the rate in for a few years. That can mean significantly lower payments in the early years of your loan, so some borrowers opt for an ARM with the intention of selling or refinancing their home before the rate can adjust.
If you do not shop multiple lenders, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Even if you are sure this is the lender you want to use, getting quotes from other lenders can help you negotiate a better deal. Not every lender will give you the same mortgage rate, or closing costs. This is why shopping multiple lenders is very important. Getting at least 3 or 4 loan offers is recommended.
Know how much cash you'll need at closing. When you buy your home, you’ll need cash for a down payment (see how much you should put down) and closing costs (estimate your closing costs). The down payment typically varies from 5% to 20% or more. Putting less than 20% down will typically require you to pay for private mortgage insurance (keep reading for more on that). Closing costs could be about 3-7% of the total loan amount and will include charges such as loan origination fees, title insurance and appraisal fees.
Look at properties that cost less than the amount you were approved for. Although you can technically afford your preapproval amount, it’s the ceiling — and it doesn’t account for other monthly expenses or problems like a broken dishwasher that arise during homeownership, especially right after you buy. Shopping with a firm budget in mind will also help when it comes time to make an offer.
In addition to higher credit score requirements, several missed payments, frequent lateness, and other derogatory credit information can stop mortgage approvals. Pay your bills on time, lower your debts, and stay on top of your credit report. Cleaning up your credit history beforehand and fixing errors on your credit report are key to keeping up a good credit score.
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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.
So one thing that makes a mortgage different from other types of loans is that it is backed up by something – in this case, your home. They call this a “collateralized loan.” Credit cards are also loans, but they aren’t backed up by anything. If you fail to make your credit card payments, the credit card companies can’t take your home away from you.
Short sale can be an alternative to a foreclosure, and it will allow you to sell your home for less than the current outstanding mortgage balance on it. While this can be a drawn out process and take time, this option is becoming more common and acceptable by banks, real estate agents and servicers. Learn more on how short sales can stop foreclosures.
Modify your mortgage loan. In many cases your payment is no longer affordable due to changing personal or financial circumstances. A loan modification can reduce your payments, waive fees, lower your interest rates, and more. Banks and lenders are also offering loan modifications with interest rates as low as 2%. They have determined this is in their best financial interest as well. Learn more on low interest rate loan modifications. Find all of the pros and cons as well as details on modifying mortgages.
Treasury/FHA Second Lien Program (FHA2LP): If you have a second mortgage and the mortgage servicer of your first mortgage agrees to participate in FHA Short Refinance, you may qualify to have your second mortgage on the same home reduced or eliminated through FHA2LP. If the servicer of your second mortgage agrees to participate, the total amount of your mortgage debt after the refinance cannot exceed 115% of your home’s current value.
In addition to what is mentioned above, the Home Affordable Modification Program has also been enhanced and a new version was created by the federal government. Improvements to it will allow a larger number of homeowners the ability to apply for assistance, including principal reductions or loan modifications that will have an even lower interest rate.