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Archive for the ‘Mortgage Tips’ Category

How To Build The Ultimate Tree House For Your Children In Just Seven Steps

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How to Build the Ultimate Tree House for Your Children in Just Seven StepsBuilding a tree house is a time honored tradition for many families. One of the benefits of having a yard is the ability to build a tree fort for your children.

If you’re planning to build a fun fort for your kids, here are seven steps to help you create the ultimate tree house.

The Ultimate Plan For The Perfect Playhouse

The best projects are often the most thought out. Sit down with your children and lay the plans for their tree house. Let them contribute their thoughts and ideas so they feel a part of the planning process.

Although you won’t need an engineering degree to build a quality tree fort, it’s important to calculate all the measurements and specifications of the build.

A Solid Foundation For Your Tree House

Prepare the location for your future tree house by trimming away any precarious branches or boughs on the tree you plan to build on. Ensure that your tree house will be well supported, and reinforce any questionable spots.

If your tree fort is being built from the ground up, make sure you’re working with a level foundation.

Have The Right Tools For The Job

Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to construct your tree house. Power tools and construction equipment can be borrowed from friends and neighbors or rented from your local hardware store.

When the time comes to gather your building supplies, be creative and consider re-purposed supplies. These materials are less expensive and add character and charm. You can find recycled and salvaged items at various recycled construction supply companies and through online classifieds like Craigslist.

Construct Your Tree House With Confidence

When you’re constructing your tree house, make sure it’s structurally sound. Watch tutorials online – you’d be amazed at the things you can learn from watching YouTube videos!

Make sure to measure twice and cut once. Using the proper cutting tool for each cut will help you achieve cleaner, more precise cuts. Also make sure to obtain any permits that may be required for the project.

A Personalized Theme Encourages Creativity

Choose a theme that relates to your child. If they love fairies, use that as the inspiration for your design. Pirate forts and superhero lairs are perfect places to spark imaginative play and creativity.

Incorporate cannons, cupboards and ropes with pulleys to create a unique and fun space for your children to play.

A Colorful Paint Job Brightens The House

When the walls are up and the building is done, it will be time to choose paint colors. Bright colors are a great way to brighten and liven up an outdoor space.

You could even consider creating a mural. Choose something that fits with the theme. This is something that you and your child can do together, or that you can do on your own as an added surprise.

Perfecting Your Child’s Play Space

Once your tree house is built, it’s time to get it ready for play. Decorate the space with fun decor and functional items. Throw pillows and rugs can add color and personality to a child’s play space. Window coverings can be made from scrap fabric or bed sheets.

Creating a tree fort for your child is a memorable experience and a labor or love. A unique space that sparks imagination and nurtures creativity is a wonderful gift to give a child.

How Pre-Qualifying Helps You Find the Right Home

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How Pre-Qualifying Helps You Find the Right HomeToo often, home buyers are disappointed when they find their dream home only to discover they are not able to get a mortgage to purchase the property. There are methods that potential buyers can use to ensure this does not happen to them. One of these options is to ensure you obtain a pre-qualification from your lender.

It is important to understand the difference between a pre-approval and a pre-qualification. While both are helpful, they do not carry the same weight.

What Are The Differences Between These Options?

A pre-qualification allows a borrower to determine how much money they may be able to borrow. For most borrowers, this allows them to start the house-hunting process with a mortgage amount in mind. Borrowers should understand, while the loan amount can be calculated, changes in interest rate as well as the borrowers credit are not evaluated in this process. In general, the lender will request specific information from the borrower including income and expenses as well as ask about their credit. None of this information is verified by the lender before sending a pre-qualification letter.

On the other hand, a pre-approval requires the borrower to provide a number of documents to the lender, typically the same documents borrowers need to apply for a loan. Oftentimes, this leads borrowers to speculate as to whether a pre-qualification is useful.

Why Pre-Qualification Helps

There are many valid reasons why potential homebuyers should ask about pre-qualifying for their mortgage. Some of these include:

  • Home prices – if a borrower is eligible for a mortgage of $200,000 they will know they will have to seek homes in a specific price range. If a borrower is only able to put down 10 percent, they know the maximum home price they can afford is $220,000.
  • Down payments – in most cases, borrowers who can afford to put down a large down payment will have more options available to them. In some cases, understanding how much mortgage a borrower may qualify for beforehand allows them to save additional money for a down payment.
  • Estimates of dollars needed – another advantage to pre-qualifying is borrowers can get an idea of what additional closing costs they may need to qualify for a mortgage. This can be very helpful for a first time home buyer.

Pre-qualifying for a loan can save a home buyer from being disappointed. There are few things that are more upsetting than finding a home you love only to discover you are not eligible for the loan you need in order to purchase that home.

If you’re contemplating a pre-qualification, call your trusted mortgage professional today for more information.

What Is A Mortgage Pre-Approval?

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What Is A Mortgage Pre-Approval?When you are purchasing a home, your broker may recommend you obtain a mortgage pre-approval before you find the home of your dreams.

There are some benefits to being pre-approved before you find a home, but oftentimes, people confuse pre-qualifications with pre-approvals.

So the question many buyers have is what exactly is a mortgage pre-approval?

In a nutshell, it’s when the lender provides you (the buyer) with a letter stating that your mortgage will be granted up to a specific dollar amount.

What Do I Need For Pre-Approval?

In order to obtain a pre-approval for your home purchase, you will have to provide your lender all of the same information you would need to show for qualifying for a mortgage.

This means providing tax returns, bank statements and other documents that prove your net worth, how much you have saved for your down payment and your current obligations.

What Conditions Are Attached To A Pre-Approval?

Generally speaking, a pre-approval does have some caveats attached to it. Typically, you can expect to see some of the following clauses in a pre-approval letter:

  • Interest Rate Changes – a pre-approval is done based on current interest rates. When rates increase, your borrowing power may decrease.
  • Property Passes Inspection – your lender will require the property you ultimately purchase to come in with a proper appraisal and meet all inspection requirements.
  • Credit Check Requirements – regardless of whether it’s been a week or six months since you were pre-approved, your lender will require a new credit report. Changes in your credit report could negate the pre-approval.
  • Changes In Jobs/Assets – after a pre-approval is received, a change in your employment status or any assets may result in the pre-approval becoming worthless.

Getting pre-approved for a home mortgage may allow you more negotiation power with sellers and may help streamline the entire loan process.

It is important however to keep in mind there are still things that may have a negative impact on actually getting the loan.

It is important to make sure you keep in contact with the lender, especially if interest rates increase or your employment status changes after you are pre-approved.

Overpay On Your Mortgage Or Add To Your Savings, This Is The Question

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Overpay On Your Mortgage Or Add To Your Savings, This Is The QuestionSo you find yourself with a little bit of extra money – perhaps due to a raise, an inheritance or an unexpected windfall?

Should you put all of your money toward paying down the mortgage on your home? Or would you be better off placing your extra cash into a savings account?

Deciding whether to pay down your mortgage or add to your savings is a complex choice and it depends on a number of factors in your personal financial situation.

Here are some of the things that you will need to consider when making the decision:

How Much Are Your Savings Earning?

Take a look at the savings accounts where you are keeping your money and assess the interest that your savings are earning. Is your money earning more in savings than you would save by paying down your mortgage earlier?

Does Your Mortgage Have Overpayment Penalties?

Some mortgage lenders will charge you a fee if you try to repay your mortgage earlier than the agreed upon term. Check with your lender to find out and calculate whether the extra costs will outweigh the benefits you get from overpaying your mortgage. If they do, put your windfall in savings instead.

What are Your Other Debts?

It doesn’t make sense to be overpaying on your mortgage if you have a lot of credit card debt that is charging you an enormous amount in interest. Prioritize your high-interest debt first before you think about overpaying on your mortgage.

Do You Have An Emergency Fund?

You should always have an emergency fund in cash that will protect you from having to use expensive credit card debt if an unexpected payment comes up such as a burst pipe or a flat tire on your car or if you lose your job.

A good rule is to have the equivalent of three to six months of savings in a bank account just in case you need it. This is a first priority and only when you have this emergency fund established should you consider overpaying on your mortgage.

These are just a few of the important factors that you should consider when deciding whether to overpay the mortgage on your home or place the money in savings. For more information, contact your trusted mortgage professional.

Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac, How They Impact Real Estate

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Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac, How They Impact Real EstateFannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been in the news quite a bit over the past few years, so it’s a good time to do a refresher on who they are and what role they play in the real estate market.

Who Are Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac?

Fannie Mae is the Federal National Mortgage Association. Freddie Mac is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. They were originally created to raise homeownership levels and increase the availability of affordable housing.

Fannie and Freddie don’t sell mortgages directly to homeowners. They buy mortgages from lenders, so the lenders can use the money to issue new home mortgages.

In 2008, due to mismanagement resulting in billions of dollars of losses, Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the government.

How Do Fannie And Freddie Impact Real Estate?

  • They contributed to the financial crisis and real estate downturn, by loosening underwriting standards, buying and guaranteeing risky loans and increasing purchases of mortgage-backed securities.
  • They are key players in the government’s Making Home Affordable foreclosure-prevention program. If your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may be able to refinance your loan and take advantage of lower interest rates.
  • They influence mortgage interest rates and the availability of home loans. Freddie, Fannie and the Federal Housing Administration together now guarantee about 90 percent of all new mortgages, far above their historic level.

What’s Going To Happen To Fannie And Freddie?

Fannie and Freddie’s future is uncertain. An amendment to the bailout legislation passed in 2012 which will require both to wind down by 2018. But this will not happen soon, if at all.

Congress must agree on a plan, which could take years, and then the market’s dependence on the companies and the financial backing they provide must be reduced.

As of the end of 2013, Fannie and Freddie will have repaid nearly all of the $187 billion dollar bailout loan back to taxpayers. In 2013, Fannie and Freddie made more than $100 billion and are involved in more than half of all new mortgages.

If you have further questions on this topic, please contact myself or your trusted mortgage professional. I’m happy to help.

Pros And Cons Of Adjustable Rate Mortgages

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Pros And Cons Of Adjustable Rate MortgagesWhen you are in the market for a new home, you may be faced with numerous options for financing your home. One of the choices you will have to make is whether to apply for a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage.

In some cases, an adjustable rate mortgage may be your best option, but keep in mind, they are not the answer for everyone. Adjustable rate mortgages can be risky for some borrowers and it’s important to understand both the pros and cons.

When To Consider An Adjustable Rate Mortgage

Perhaps one of the best things about ARMs is they typically have a lower starting interest rate than fixed rate mortgages. For some borrowers, this means it is easier for them to qualify for a loan. 

ARMs Are Beneficial For Borrowers Who:

  • Anticipate an income increase - for borrowers who are anticipating their income to increase over the next year or two, an ARM may be the right option.
  • Will be reducing their debt - those borrowers who have automobile loans or student loans that will be paid off in the next few years may benefit from an ARM which would allow them to qualify for a larger mortgage today anticipating their ability to convert to a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • Are purchasing a starter home - when you anticipate living in a home for five years or less, an adjustable rate mortgage may help you save money for a bigger home.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage May Contain Hazards

There are a number of different types of adjustable rate mortgages and they are each tied to specific interest rate indexes. While an ARM may offer borrowers some flexibility in terms of income and debt ratios, the downsides cannot be ignored. Some of the cons of using an ARM to finance your mortgage include:

  • Increasing rates - borrowers should carefully review their loan documents to see how frequently their interest rates may increase. Some loans adjust annually while other may not increase for three to five years after the mortgage is signed. For borrowers, this means they can anticipate an increase in their monthly payments.
  • Prepayment clauses - oftentimes, lenders include a prepayment penalty with ARM loans which can be devastating for borrowers. Before agreeing to an ARM, make sure you read the documents very carefully to determine how long you need to hold the loan
  • Home Values - one of the biggest challenges borrowers face with an ARM is what happens if the property value decreases: Refinancing a home into a fixed-rate mortgage may be impossible if this occurs.

Borrowers who are searching for the right mortgage should discuss all options with their loan officer. There are specific instances when an ARM may be the best option and there are other times, such as if you plan to stay in your home for more than five years, where a fixed-rate mortgage may be your best option.

The Pros And Cons Of Making Biweekly Mortgage Payments

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The Pros And Cons Of Making Biweekly Mortgage PaymentsHave you ever considered paying off the mortgage on your home in two biweekly payments rather than one monthly payment? It might seem like this wouldn’t make a difference, but the truth is that biweekly payments really do add up more quickly.

Since there are 52 weeks in a year you will end up making 26 payments in total – which is equal to 13 months rather than 12. This means that your mortgage will be paid off more quickly and you will save money on interest payments in the long run.

This arrangement might be the best for you when it comes to paying off your mortgage quickly and saving money, but it’s important to consider the possible disadvantages before you make the decision.

Cons Of A Biweekly Mortgage Payment

  • Often lenders do not offer biweekly services free of charge. You will be required to pay a registration fee as well as paying biweekly charges.
  • If your budget doesn’t allow the room to pay more toward your mortgage every year, this could be a foolish move. Don’t neglect the importance of having an emergency savings fund or paying your bills.
  • If you have your mortgage payment set up via direct debit from your bank account, taking out a payment every two weeks could catch you out if the funds are not there, especially if you are only paid once per month. This would result in charges for insufficient funds from both your lender and your bank.

Pros Of A Biweekly Mortgage Payment

  • Some people find that paying their mortgage biweekly fits better into their budget because it’s easier to plan for a smaller payment amount – especially if they are paid every two weeks.
  • By shaving years off the length of your mortgage, you are reducing the amount of money you will pay over the long run.
  • You will also be speeding up the time it takes to build equity in your home.
  • You will be compelled to make an extra mortgage payment per year, enforcing good habits on yourself that will eventually pay off.

These are just a few factors to consider before deciding whether you should make biweekly payments on your mortgage. If you don’t want to commit to biweekly payments on your home mortgage, you can always save up your money and make a lump sum payment at the end of the year.

For more tips and advice, feel free to reach out to your trusted mortgage professional today.

The Low Down On The HUD-1 Settlement Statement

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The Low Down On HUD1 Settlement StatementWhen preparing for a closing on your refinance or home purchase, one of the documents you will be provided with a few days before closing is a HUD-1 Form. This form provides you with valuable information about your loan.

While at first, this three page document may seem intimidating, if you understand what you see in each section, it is not as confusing as you might think. Let’s break down the various parts of the HUD-1 and talk about what they mean.

Loan Information

On the first page of your HUD1, you will see your loan information at the top. This includes the type of mortgage, property location, loan amount and the date of closing. This information is very basic but also is very important to review for accuracy.

Buyer And Seller Costs

If you are refinancing your home, you will only see information in the buyer section of the HUD-1. This section will define any charges associated directly with the home including taxes, insurance and any amounts that are due from you or payable to you at closing.

You will also see a total of all settlement costs which you can find broken down by category on page two of the HUD-1.

Page 2 Is Important

On the second page of your HUD-1 form, you will see a complete breakdown of all costs associated with your loan. This includes appraisal fees, broker or lender fees, and if your loan is a purchase loan, you will also see information regarding fees paid to a real estate broker if applicable.

Additional information found on this page includes escrow payments the lender may require be paid prior to closing. In most cases, escrow will include a portion of taxes and insurance payments that will be due through the quarter following closing on the mortgage.

Final And Important Highlights Of Page 3

Finally, you will need to review the signature page of your HUD-1 form. This page also contains critical information regarding your loan. Your interest rate, information on whether or not your loan will increase and the total amount you will pay over the life of your loan.

Additionally, you will see a comparison of the fees that you are actually paying compared to what your lender estimated at the type of application.

Borrowers need to review their HUD-1 form thoroughly prior to signing any loan documents. Typically, this form will be provided to a borrower a day or two prior to closing to allow for review and to get any questions answered prior to closing.

Having a basic understanding of the HUD-1 form can help make your closing much less stressful. For further questions on this topic feel free to reach out to your trusted mortgage professional.

10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Applying For A Mortgage: Part 2

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10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Applying For A Mortgage Part 2Yesterday you may have read the blog post on questions to ask yourself before applying for a mortgage. Here are 5 additional that you may want to think about before you go into your meeting with your loan officer.

Here are questions 6-10 that you may need to get answers to before completing your application:

6. How Long Until We Can Close Our Loan?

Loan closing times are based on a number of factors. Closing dates may be delayed if there are missing documents or other underwriting delays. Speak with the loan officer to get an estimate on the time from application to closing.

7. What Possible Delays May I Face In Closing?

There are a number of delays that often cannot be avoided. However, some can be avoided by making sure you provide your loan officer with all the documents they request in a timely manner. In some cases, there may be a delay in getting the appraisal completed or for title searches. Your loan officer can discuss other reasons why a delay may occur.

8. Do I Need An Attorney For Closing?

When you are ready to close your loan, you are welcome to have an attorney representing you. Generally, there will be an attorney present at the closing however, they are there to represent the lender. If you feel more comfortable having an attorney present, discuss this with your loan officer to ensure the attorney receives the date, time and location of closing.

9. Should I Lock In My Interest Rate?

Before locking in a rate, make sure it is important to understand there may be fees associated with an interest rate lock. Bear in mind, should rates decline during the period between application and closing you will not be able to take advantage of those lower rates.

10. When Will I Get A HUD1 Statement?

As a borrower, you are entitled to review their HUD1 statement prior to closing. Your loan officer should make arrangements with you to provide the statement one or two days prior to closing for your review. This will give you an opportunity to review loan terms, interest rate and costs of the loan.

Never hesitate to ask your loan officer any questions you may have. The more questions you have addressed during the application process, the less likely you will be to be confused at the time of your mortgage closing.

Keep in mind, your loan officer is there to answer your questions and guide you through the entire loan process.

10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Applying For A Mortgage: Part 1

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10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Applying For A Mortgage Part 1If you are considering applying for a refinance, it is important to understand the mechanics of your mortgage loan. Before you sit down to speak with your loan officer, you should consider preparing a list of questions you feel may need to be answered.

Typically, your loan officer will be available to assist through the entire mortgage process. Here are some questions that you may need to get answers to before completing your application:

1. What Type Of Loan Is Best For Me?

Your loan officer can discuss the various loan programs available to help you refinance. Some borrowers will benefit greatly from adjustable rate mortgages while others prefer fixed rate. However, other borrowers may find a fixed rate is the best option. Discuss various loan terms such as 30-year or 20-year mortgage loans.

2. What Documents Are Required?

Be prepared to provide your loan officer with several documents. The most common documents include pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns. Loan officers will also need a complete list of debts including auto payments, credit card payments and student loans.

3. What Costs Are Involved?

Prior to a loan closing you will be required to pay some costs up front. These may include appraisal fees, credit report fees and application fees.

Discuss all these costs with the loan officer to determine how much money will be required prior to the loan being approved. In addition, discuss any funds that will be required to complete the loan closing.

4. Can I Select My Own Appraiser?

When you apply for a refinance loan, lenders will require a property appraisal. Lenders typically maintain a list of approved appraisers and supply those lists to the loan officers. Typically, the loan officer will assign an appraiser to review the property. Borrowers generally have no input regarding the choice of appraisers.

5. When Will I Get A Good Faith Estimate?

Good Faith Estimates must be issued after you have completed your loan application. A second GFE is typically presented along with the HUD1 prior to closing. Keep in mind, the GFE is only an estimate of costs and that actual costs may be slightly higher or lower.

Never hesitate to ask your loan officer any questions you may have. The more questions you have addressed during the application process, the less likely you will be to be confused at the time of your mortgage closing.

Keep in mind, your loan officer is there to answer your questions and guide you through the entire loan process. For additional questions you should ask, check out tomorrow’s blog post.

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