QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOUR MORTGAGE ADVISOR

When it comes time to apply for a home loan, your Mortgage Advisor will cover the basics with you. This will typically include your interest rate, which loan solutions you qualify for, etc. However, there are a few important questions you can ask your lender to let them know what you need further clarification on.

What is my interest rate?

Rates are currently lower today than they’ve been in over 50 years, which is great news for homebuyers and those looking to refinance to a lower rate. However, there is no guarantee what your rate will be until your financial situation has been thoroughly evaluated. Multiple factors affect your rate, including:

  • Credit score
  • Property type and location of the home
  • Loan term
  • Interest rate type (fixed or adjustable)
  • Home price and loan amount

What are my loan options?

Depending on where you stand financially, you may qualify for multiple loans. Each loan will have different minimum down payment and credit score requirements. Your mortgage will also differ by the type of rate (fixed or adjustable.) Ask your advisor to walk you through all of your options and explain what the long-term of each loan will look like.

If you have circumstances that prevent you from falling within the traditional mortgage parameters, your loan options might change. For example, if you’re self-employed, your bank statements would be evaluated, rather than your tax returns.

Will I have to pay Mortgage Insurance (MI)?

If you put down less than 20% of the purchase price of the home, you will most likely have to pay Mortgage Insurance. MI is also typically required on FHA and USDA* loans. This helps offset the risk the lender would normally assume on a low down payment transaction.

What additional costs will I pay at closing?

Closing costs vary from loan-to-loan because many fees are based on the exact amount of money borrowed. The more you borrow, in general, the higher your costs. However, it is a general rule that closing costs run between 2-5% of the sale of the home.

Even though they’re called “closing costs,” you may be asked to pay some fees as the loan process progresses, like home inspections and appraisals. While your estimated closing costs will be included in the loan estimate, many of the fees listed can change along the way.

Does my partner have to be on the mortgage?

The short answer is no. Having a spouse as a co-borrower on a mortgage can often increase your odds for qualification if they have a good credit score, employment history, and income. In some cases, one spouse may have credit issues or complex income, which could work against you when applying for a mortgage. In that case, it may be more beneficial to have only one borrower on the loan.

However, both spouses may have to have their credit checked, so you’ll need to speak with your Mortgage Advisor about this. If you change your mind later on, a non-borrowing spouse can be added to the home’s title, or both spouses could refinance the home, which will allow you to apply again as co-borrowers on the new mortgage.

What Is An Escrow Account?

With an overwhelming amount of new terms and phrases to learn in a short amount of time, it can be hard to keep track of it all. That’s where we come in! Today’s topic: escrow accounts. What are they, and why are they beneficial to homebuyers?

What You Need to Know

An escrow account is typically used for two reasons— to protect a homebuyer’s “good faith” deposit before the transaction closes and afterward, to hold the homeowner’s funds for taxes and insurance. The homebuyer can create an escrow account, but the buyer’s real estate agent will typically be the one to open this account.

HELPFUL INFO: During the homebuying transaction, the account may be managed by a specialized company or agent; your escrow company and title company may be the same.

How it Works

Let’s say you find your dream house and put down an earnest money deposit to let the seller know you’re interested. This deposit doesn’t go straight to the seller’s pockets. Instead, these funds are deposited into an escrow account. When your housing transaction closes, the money is then put toward your down payment and closing costs.

Once you become a homeowner, you will fund the escrow each month as part of your total monthly mortgage payment. When you make a mortgage payment through your loan servicer, the money will be distributed among multiple categories, such as:

  • Principal and interest on your mortgage
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Mortgage insurance

Items not covered through your escrow account:

  • Utilities and other bills
  • Necessary home repairs
  • HOA fees

Is an Escrow Account Required?

The short answer is, it depends. Some loans will require an escrow account to be set up as an additional safety net for the lender, such as an FHA loan. Regardless of whether your state, lender, or loan requires an escrow account, it’s beneficial to have one in place.

Making Payments from Year-to-Year

Each year, your bank receives updated information on your property taxes and insurance payments. They will then perform what’s often referred to as an escrow analysis.

Because escrow is collected in advance, your lender might not have enough funds in your account to cover any increase in taxes or insurance, otherwise known as a “shortage.” In this case, you will owe the difference. However, you won’t be held responsible for this payment until the bank sends you a notice stating the amount outstanding.

Once you receive the notice, you can choose to pay the entire shortage as one lump sum, or you can choose to pay the amount over the next year. For example, if the shortage is $500, you will pay 1/12 of this amount each month.

In the Event of a Surplus

If taxes in your area happen to go down or your payments are overestimated, you will have too much money in your escrow account at the end of the year. Your lender will then pay the appropriate amount to the municipality, and the remaining amount goes to you.

Your lender will either send you a check for the surplus amount or give you the option to leave the money in your escrow account in case of a shortage in the upcoming year.

 Budgeting for the Future

Anticipating whether or not you’ll be required to pay more on your escrow account can be hard to keep track of. If you prefer to plan ahead, pay attention to any correspondence from your insurance company or taxing authority throughout the year, and budget accordingly.

 Questions? We can help! Talk to a Mortgage Advisor today for a no-commitment consolation.

Ways To Save For A Down Payment

Saving Money

Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting, impossible task. This is especially true if you’re already tackling debt and a mountain of bills. However, there are ways to save up for your dream home and still make ends meet. Let’s break it down.

Where should you begin?

Calculate How Much to Save

It’s impossible to save toward a goal that you’re unsure of. Before you plan out a budget, you have to decide how large of a down payment you want to make. This can, of course, be an estimated amount, but you want to make sure the number in your head and the number your finances reflect are similar.

A 20% down payment may be the best option for some homebuyers. However, for other buyers looking to purchase their first home or who need more financial flexibility, a smaller percentage might be more attainable. There are a variety of loan options that require little-to-no down payment at all.

DON’T FORGET: A down payment smaller than 20% will require Mortgage Insurance. MI allows more homebuyers the opportunity to purchase a home sooner than anticipated because it offsets the risk the lender would typically assume on a low down payment transaction. If you’re planning on putting down less than 20%, you will need to factor MI into your monthly payments.

When you have a price range for your dream home and a (realistic) goal for your down payment, use a Mortgage Calculator to estimate what your monthly mortgage payment will be. If the number looks a little higher than you’re hoping for, it may be in your best interest to save toward a more significant down payment.

Determine Your Timeframe 

Depending on the size of your down payment, your annual savings goal will change. It’s also essential to plan for any situations that could cause you to be unable to save toward your down payment goal. Have you considered renovations to your current home? Are you planning on getting married or having kids within this timeframe? What about potential medical costs?

Planning for obstacles will help you determine a realistic amount to save each paycheck and give you peace of mind, as well.

IMPORTANT TIP: Pay attention to interest rates within your savings timeframe as well. Study market trends. If interest rates are traditionally lower in the spring, you might want to push your savings timeline up to get the best rate.

Budget, Budget, Budget

Now that you’ve determined a timeline and savings goal, it’s time to look at where this money will come from. If your savings goal is more ambitious than your current savings habits, changes will have to be made. Whether it’s picking up a side hustle or cutting back on your weekend spending, make clear financial goals for each paycheck.

Get creative when trimming your budget! It’s often the little costs that add up in the end, not the big purchases you planned on. Consider:

  • Skipping the drive-thru and pack your lunch
  • Making coffee at home
  • Using a public park or space to work out (not a gym)
  • Renting a movie instead of going to the theater
  • Working a few extra hours instead of going home early

It may also be necessary to pull your money out of riskier investment vehicles such as stocks or investment trusts. For the time being, you may need to move your money to a traditional savings account separate from your regular accounts.

Don’t Forget About Additional Costs

Don’t let the price tag of a down payment cause you to overlook the smaller, but still costly fees of purchasing a home. You may need to factor in:

  • Mortgage Insurance
  • Appraisal and Inspection Fees
  • Closing Costs

The most important thing to remember when saving is to stick to your goal no matter what. It will pay off in the end!

Whether you’re saving plan starts today, or you’re ready to find your dream home, our Mortgage Advisors are here to help.

5 Tax Breaks for First Time Homeowners

Property Tax Deductions

Property taxes are paid to the state and/or county and are deductible from federal income taxes. These can include real estate taxes as well. Before the TCJA was passed, you could deduct an unlimited amount for these taxes, as long as you could document that the deduction matched the actual amount of the taxes you paid. For tax years 2018 through 2025, the new cap is a maximum deduction of ten thousand dollars.

State Incentives

Each state offers a specific incentive for buying a new house. These are most often in the form of programs for first-time homebuyers and will most likely help you subsidize the down payment on your mortgage. In addition to statewide offers, some states also have targeted funds or special programs aimed at certain geographic or metropolitan areas in the state, so be sure to visit your state’s housing agency website to see if there is additional help available to you.

Tax Credit for Mortgage Credit Certificate Holders

This credit is to help people in lower-income brackets buy a home. Since it’s a tax credit, it’s beneficial because it lowers the overall amount of taxes you owe. In order to qualify for this tax credit, you need to have a state-issued Mortgage Credit Certificate. The amount varies based on financial need and the price of the home. You can claim this mortgage interest credit even if you take the standard deduction, whereas a home mortgage interest deduction can only be taken if you itemize your deductions instead of taking the standard deduction. For example, Pima County offers 20% back! Say you paid $1,000 in interest, you would get a credit back of $2,000!

Tax Credit for Home Improvements

There are certain improvements you can make to your new home that qualify for the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. If you install solar panels or other sources of solar energy, you could qualify for this credit on your tax return.

Penalty-Free IRA Payouts

If you have an IRA or other pre-tax retirement savings accounts, you could withdraw money from those accounts to help you pay for your first house. Typically there are fees for early withdrawals (before the age of 60), but if you are buying your first house, you can deduct up to $10,000 from your traditional IRA without penalty. If you’re married and your spouse also has a traditional IRA, they can also withdraw $10,000 for the same home purchase. Additionally, if you have a Roth IRA, you could withdraw contributions you’ve made without penalties, regardless of your age. If you’ve had your account for at least five years, the withdrawal would also be tax-free. Finally, if you are withdrawing from your retirement accounts in order to purchase a home, you should consider the amount of time it will take to recoup those funds so that you do not negatively impact your future retirement income.

All potential tax benefits should be verified with a professionally licensed tax advisor if you have questions about these or other tax benefits for first-time homebuyers, contact your tax advisor.

If you’d like a referral for a tax advisor or have questions about anything related to the home-buying process

 

Hidden Cost for First-Time Homebuyers

 

There are many things home buyers learn throughout their first home buying experience. Much shock and disappointment could be avoided if buyers understood the additional expenses which come along when buying a home; not just the down payment and mortgage payment. Yes, all upfront costs in a loan transaction will be laid out with the Closing Disclosure form; but borrowers should truly know what they are getting themselves into financially before they’ve signed on the dotted line.

So alert your clients of these hidden costs for first-time buyers:

Down Payment

Down payments are one aspect of financing that first-time homeowners may not fully understand before purchasing a home. The standard down payment for conventional financing is 20% of the purchase price of the home, though this is not the only way! Most people still believe that a 20% down payment is required to get into their first home. In fact, 76% of individuals in a recent Fannie Mae study say they were unaware of low down payment options such as a 3 or a 5% down payment program. The Polder Group at Summit Funding’s low down payment programs can significantly help first-time home buyers get into the home they love.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

PMI is an added insurance policy to protect the lender in the event that the buyer cannot pay their mortgage and the loan winds up in foreclosure. Private Mortgage Insurance can be paid for all at once, when the loan is closed, or in monthly installments that are added to the mortgage payment for the loan.  If the borrower cannot make a 20% down payment, paying for PMI can help them get into a home when they may not have been able to before.

Inspections

Before closing on the house, it is generally a good idea to get a home inspection. A Home inspection will verify if there are hidden issues and will provide an in-depth analysis of the home, bringing to light things which might otherwise be missed. These inspections generally run a couple hundred dollars, but are widely considered worth it to the buyer as the information could save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in the end. Find limitations and exclusions to home inspections here.

Appraisals

Home Appraisals are unbiased, professional opinions on how much the home is worth. Appraisals must be done before closing so the lender can verify that the value of the home is at least the amount the buyer is paying for it. While also ensuring the subject is structurally safe, sound and secure. These can cost a few hundred dollars, but can often be rolled into the loan amount.

Closing Costs

Closing costs, sometimes called settlement fees, are paid when closing on a home. These are fees charged by people taking care of the purchase process, including the lender, real estate agent, and other third parties involved in the transaction. Some of these costs can be rolled into the loan, allowing less cash out of pocket to be needed at closing.

Closing Costs can include:

Government recording costs, appraisal fees, credit report fees, lender origination fees, title services, tax service fees, survey fees, attorney fees, underwriting fees, etc.

Earnest money

Earnest money is a deposit which the buyer submits at the time they make an offer to show that they have a serious intent to purchase the home. Most often, the amount is between 1-3% and the funds are generally held in escrow with the Title Company or closing agent. Earnest money is not a separate expense as it will be applied to either the buyer’s down payment or closing costs. However, it is worth mentioning because the funds are typically paid when the offer to purchase is made rather than when the loan closes.  Depending on the terms and conditions of the contract, the buyers could possibly get this money back if the sale does not go through. So it is important to review these terms carefully before making an earnest money deposit.

Homeowners Insurance

A buyer will need proof of homeowner’s insurance before the mortgage loan can be completed. Not only is it a wise thing to have, but insurance is required by the lender to ensure that the mortgage will be paid off, or the property will be repaired or rebuilt to its current value, in the case of disaster.  A buyer may also consider flood insurance, even if they don’t live in a flood zone, just in case.

Taxes

Buyers should always check the property tax rate for the new home. Local rates can vary by area depending on school, fire districts, etc. The buyer may owe the previous homeowner for some portion of fees already paid as they are paid yearly and are split when the home is sold.

Cost to Move In

First-time homeowners often forget how all the little things add up; make sure the buyers know to consider these in their budget as well:

Moving expenses – moving truck, boxes, hiring movers, feeding friends to help with the move.

Appliances/Furnishings – many homes don’t come with appliances or furnishings which are other expenses buyers need to keep in mind before deciding to purchase.

Maintenance costs – unless the home is a fixer-upper, buyers may not have too much work to do, but they should budget in small fixes and adjustments in their total budget.

Monthly Bills – many buyers don’t consider the change in monthly bills they will have with their new home, not only mortgage, but utilities, water, garbage, etc.

If you or your clients have any questions about the hidden costs for first-time buyers, please have them give The Polder Group at Summit Funding a call!