It’s easy to get carried away planning for the year ahead. But take a moment to put your goals and your numbers in perspective, especially when budgeting your monthly mortgage. This can apply to both refinancing and buying a house. “Standard guidelines call for keeping housing expenses below 35 percent of total income,” Kevin Gallegos, consumer finance expert at Freedom Debt Relief, says. “Some experts are revising that number down to 28 percent.”
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.
DO THIS: GET IN CONTACT WITH YOUR LENDER TO DISCUSS THE REMAINING BALANCE ON YOUR MORTGAGE — AND WHEN YOUR PMI, IF YOU HAVE IT, CAN BE DROPPED. IF YOU’RE BUYING, CHAT WITH YOUR LOAN OFFICER ABOUT FINANCING YOUR UPFRONT MORTGAGE INSURANCE INTO A LOW-DOWN-PAYMENT LOAN, LIKE AN FHA, OR SEE IF YOU’RE ELIGIBLE FOR LOANS WITHOUT MORTGAGE INSURANCE, LIKE A VA LOAN.
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.

In simple terms, a mortgage is a loan in which your house functions as the collateral. The bank or mortgage lender loans you a large chunk of money (typically 80 percent of the price of the home), which you must pay back -- with interest -- over a set period of time. If you fail to pay back the loan, the lender can take your home through a legal process known as foreclosure.
Many mortgage programs will require a 620 or higher credit score in order to qualify for a loan. Although, FHA loans are available to people with credit scores as low as 580. However, just because you have a 580 credit score doesn’t mean you will automatically qualify. Lenders look at a lot more than just your credit score. You should have a relatively clean credit history over the past 12 months, with no late payments or collections.
Your debt to income, or DTI. Is the amount of monthly debt payments you have compared to your monthly income. Most mortgages will allow a maximum DTI of 41%, ideally you will want a DTI ratio of no higher that 36%. See how much house you can afford using our calculator. Try not to stretch yourself too thin, if you have a high DTI you will be more likely to miss mortgage payments if an emergency comes up.
Know your credit score. As soon as you decide to start looking for a home, check your credit report and credit score with any of the 3 major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. If you find any mistakes that need to be corrected, addressing these issues early will put you in a better position when it’s time to buy a house. (Bank of America credit card clients can get a free FICO® score in Online and Mobile Banking.)
To qualify you for a conventional loan, your lender will consider whether you have stable and reliable income. It may require copies of paystubs, W-2s, income tax returns and other documentation to make an assessment. Frequently changing jobs will not necessarily disqualify you for a conventional mortgage, if you can show that you’ve earned a consistent and predictable income.
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.
While it's true that the interest rates in the mortgage-backed bonds market are the primary determinant of the mortgage rate lenders charge, individual factors can impact the ultimate rate your bank offers you as an individual borrower. You are likely to receive a lower interest rate if you have a good-to-excellent credit score. If your score is poor, expect to pay a higher interest rate, and your bank might even turn down your loan request. Variable-rate mortgages often start with a low “teaser” rate, but the rate might rise sharply later, well above fixed mortgage rates. Many banks and credit unions offer loans that are guaranteed by a federal agency, such as the Federal Housing Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Veterans Administration. In some cases, these agencies make direct loans. Agency mortgages typically have lower interest rates than conventional mortgages. Rates also can vary from state to state. Furthermore, rates for rural homes might differ from those on urban property. Small or jumbo mortgages often have higher interest rates. You might reduce your interest rate by increasing your down payment or agreeing to a shorter-term mortgage.
In addition, Countrywide will be spending billions of dollars to modify mortgages as a result of a lawsuit they settled with the federal government. Many state governments sued the lender for all of the questionable home loans that they issued to uninformed borrowers, and the funds to the settlement will go directly to helping homeowners. Find more details on the free mortgage modification from Countrywide.
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