Cynthia Owens - Five College REALTORS ®



Posted by Cynthia Owens on 4/18/2019

If you’re a first time homebuyer and want to start weighing your mortgage options, you’ll have much to learn. With so much at stake, you’ll want to make sure you choose the best mortgage for you now, and one that will still suit your needs years into the future.

Sometimes, first time buyers are hesitant to ask questions they may consider too basic because they don’t want to seem inexperienced to lenders, agents, or anyone else they’ll be in contact with throughout the home buying process.

So, in this article, we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked mortgage questions that first time buyers might want to ask before heading into the process of acquiring a home loan.

What is the first step to getting a mortgage?

This question may seem straightforward, however the first step can vary depending on your financial situation. For those who already have saved up for a down payment and built a solid credit score, the first step is probably contacting lenders and getting preapproved or prequalified.

However, if you aren’t sure about your credit score and haven’t saved up for a down payment (ideally, 20% of what you hope to spend on the house), then you should address those matters first.

To find a lender, you can do a simple Google search for the mortgage lenders in your area, or you can ask around to friends and family to find out their experience with their own mortgage lenders.

What does it mean to be pre-qualified and pre-approved?

If you think of the mortgage process in three steps, the first step would be getting pre-qualified. This means you’ve given the lender enough basic information for them to decide which type of mortgage you’re eligible to receive.

Pre-approval includes collecting and verifying further details. At this step, you’ll complete a mortgage application and the lender will run a credit check. Once you’re pre-approved, your file can be moved to the underwriting phase.

What are closing costs?

“Closing costs” is an umbrella term that covers all of the various fees and expenses related to buying or selling a home. As a buyer, you are responsible for paying numerous closing costs. These can include, but are not limited to, underwriting fees, title searches, title insurance,  origination fees, taxes, appraisal fees, surveys, and more.

That sounds like a lot to keep track of, however your lender will be able to give you an accurate estimate of the total closing costs when you apply for your loan. In fact, lenders are required to give you a list of these costs within three days of your loan application in the form of a “good faith estimate” of the closing costs.

What will my interest rate be?

The answer to this question is dependent upon numerous factors. The value of the home, your credit score, the amount you put down (down payment), the type of mortgage you have, and whether or not you’re paying private mortgage insurance all factor into the interest rate you’ll receive. Interest rates also will vary slightly between lenders.

You can receive a fixed-rate mortgage that does not fluctuate throughout the repayment term. However, you also typically have the option to refinance to acquire a lower interest rate, however refinancing comes with its own costs.




Categories: Buying a Home   Mortgage   FAQ   qualify  


Posted by Cynthia Owens on 1/31/2019

If you’re finding that your finances are a bit tighter these days, you might need to adjust your budget a bit. Have you ever thought about alternatives in helping you to pay your mortgage? There’s a few things that you might be able to do in your home to save a few bucks and be more comfortable with your budget and finances. 


Share The Space


This might sound crazy, but it works for many people. If you’re willing to share your living space with others, it could help you to make a dent in your mortgage. This works especially well if you have a home with a separate entrance like an in-law apartment or something similar. 


Make Adjustments To Your Expenses


There are many different costs that come along with owning a home. If you reduce some of these expenses, you’ll be able to cut your overall spending. You don’t need to completely adjust your entire way of living to do this. Some ideas:


  • Cut the cord on cable and install streaming devices
  • Go on a family cell phone plan
  • Skip the gym membership
  • Use public transportation
  • Cook at home instead of eating out
  • Use coupons


Put Tax Refunds To Good Use


If you normally get a tax refund, you can apply that money to your mortgage instead of using it to buy something else. You could also adjust your withholdings. This would allow you to get a bit more money in your paycheck each week. You’ll get less of a refund during tax time, but the extra money may help you to pay down bills throughout the year. 


Pay More Towards The Principal 


To make the most of your hard-earned savings, use your money wisely and pay down the mortgage faster. Just be sure that there’s no penalty for a prepayment of the loan. You can either make an extra loan payment each month or you can pay a bit over what you owe on the mortgage each month. If you pay the mortgage faster, you’ll save potentially thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. You’ll need to check with your mortgage company to see what their process is for paying more towards the principal of the loan. Keep in mind that the first few years‘ worth of your mortgage payments will be going towards interest unless you specify extra payments to go elsewhere.


Whether you’d like a little more of a financial cushion or are just looking to get rid of all those pesky monthly bills, it’s never a bad idea to focus on paying your mortgage down as quickly as possible.





Posted by Cynthia Owens on 5/10/2018

There are so many factors that go into finding and securing the financing to buy a home.   While lenders require quite a bit of information for you to get a loan, you still need to be aware of your own financial picture. Even if you’re pre-approved for a certain amount of money to buy a home, you still need to dig into your finances a bit deeper than a lender would. The bottom line is that you can't rely solely on a lender to tell you how much you can afford for a monthly payment on a home. Even if you’re approved to borrow the maximum amount of money for your finances to buy a home, it doesn’t mean that you actually should use that amount. There are so many other real world things that you need to consider outside of the basic numbers that are plugged into a mortgage formula.   


Run Your Own Numbers


It’s important to sit down and do your own budget when you’re getting ready to buy a home. You have plenty of monthly expenses including student loan debt, car payments, utility bills, and more. Don’t forget that you need to eat too! Think about what your lifestyle is like. How much do you spend on food? Do you go out to the movies often or spend a regular amount of cash on clothing? Even if you plan to make adjustments to these habits when buying a home, you’ll want to think honestly about all of your needs and spending habits before signing on to buy a home. 


Now, you’ll know what your true monthly costs are. Be sure to include things like home insurance, property taxes, monthly utilities, and any other personal monthly expenses in this budget. If you plan to put down a lower amount on the home, you’ll also need to include additional insurance costs like private mortgage insurance (PMI).


The magic number that you should remember when it comes to housing costs is 30%. This is the percentage of your monthly income that you should plan to spend on housing. Realistically, this could make your budget tight so this is often thought of as a maximum percentage. By law, a lender can’t approve a mortgage that would take up more than 35% of your monthly income. Some lenders have even stricter requirements such as not allowing a borrower to have a mortgage that would be more than 28% of monthly income. This is where the debt-to-income ratio comes into play.


As you can see, it’s important to take an earnest look at your finances to avoid larger money issues when you buy a home.  





Categories: Buying a Home   budgeting  


Posted by Cynthia Owens on 12/7/2017

No income verification mortgage loans sound like a great idea. Also known as stated loans, these are easier to obtain than traditional mortgages. You won’t have to go through endless amounts of paperwork that traditional mortgages require. Think again. These types of loans are high risk and borrowers may have a hard time paying these loans back. Many lenders have removed these kinds of loans from their list of options. In certain circumstances, these loans can work for you, but you have to do your homework. 


Where Can You Get A Stated Loan?


Some lenders still provide these stated loans with no verification process required. Unlike earlier times, these loans are now pretty difficult to obtain. Typically, this type of mortgage is geared towards the self-employed and requires a large down payment. Also, the borrower must have a very good credit score to be considered for the loan. 


Are Stated Loans Unaffordable?


Since these loans come at very high interest rates, they are often seen as unaffordable due to the high monthly payment. Stated loans can have double the interest rate of what the current available mortgage rates are. However, if you don’t have many options, or are in a hurry to get a home and have money in the bank, it could work well for you.  


Could A No Income Verification Loan Be Right For You? 


If you really want a home loan, the first step is to be truly honest about your income. If you find a beautiful home and know that it’s out of your price range, you could risk defaulting on the loan. 


To truly understand what you can afford, you’ll need to figure out all of your monthly expenses including taxes, mortgage insurance, phone bills and grocery bills. This will give you a full picture of your finances. Once you look at all of these factors, you may find that it does make the most sense for you to get a no income verification loan. 


Deciding On The Type Of Loan You’ll Get


If you find that you need a lower monthly payment, it may make more sense for you to go after a traditional home loan. If you’re self-employed and know that your options are limited, a stated loan certainly is an option for you, you’ll just need to understand the risks of the entire process. You’ll also need to have a bunch of documents ready for the lender once you decide to go for the home loan. You can compare the costs of a no income verification loan to a traditional mortgage. Then, you can ask your lender what they’ll need from you in order to verify everything for the traditional mortgage. Any good broker can help you through your decision-making process. You’ll want to be well informed and compare all of the programs along with their fees. You should get recommendations on a lender who has the knowledge and experience to help you find the home loan that’s right for you.





Posted by Cynthia Owens on 8/31/2017

What do buying a house, opening a credit card, and getting approved for an auto loan have in common? They all depend on your credit score.

Building credit is a multifaceted undertaking. In a way, this is a good thing--you wouldn’t want lenders to base their opinions solely on one aspect of your financial history. The downside is that understanding just what makes up your credit score can be difficult.

To complicate matters further, there isn’t one standard method for scoring your credit, and different credit bureaus each use their own criteria.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the factors the major credit bureaus use to calculate your credit, and give you some ways you can boost your credit.

But first, let’s talk about some of the implications of having a good credit score.

Why credit matters

Typical credit scores range anywhere from 250 to 850. The three main reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Most lenders use a combination of those scores that is reported by FICO.

Most credit reports will rank your category from “bad” to “excellent.” Here’s an example of what a credit ranking might look like:

  • Excellent: 750+

  • Good: 700 - 749

  • Fair: 650 - 659

  • Poor: 550 - 649

  • Bad: -550

U.S. legislation makes it possible for Americans to receive a free report of their credit score and to challenge and correct the score if it contains inaccuracies.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, opening a new line of credit, or taking out a loan of some kind, then the provider will likely run your credit score. Those providers are going to want to see a return on their investment, so they’ll charge interest.

If you have a high credit score, it tells the lenders that you are a low-risk investment, and therefore they can offer you a lower interest rate, saving you money in the long run.

Components of a credit score

There are five main factors that credit bureaus take into consideration when formulating your credit score. Not all of the factors are treated equally. Your ability to pay your bills on time, for example, is considered to be more important than the types of bills you have. Here’s a breakdown of the five components that make up a credit score:

  • 35% - Bill and loan payments

  • 30% - Current total amount of debt

  • 15% - Amount of time you’ve had credit (since you took out your first loan or opened your first credit card)

  • 10% - Types of credit (cards, loans, etc.)

  • 10 % - New credit inquiries

Quick tips for building credit

It takes time to build credit and improve your score. So, if you’re hoping to buy a home within the next few years, now is the time to start working on your credit. Here are some best practices for building credit:

  • Set up autopay for your bills to avoid late payments. Even if the service doesn’t offer autopay, you can likely set up recurring payments through your bank.

  • Settle outstanding debt. Avoiding debt that you can’t pay off will only hurt you more in the long run. Call your creditor and see if they offer debt relief programs. More likely than not they’d rather work with you to ensure they receive some repayment rather than none at all.

  • Start budgeting the right way. New budgeting software like Mint and “You Need a Budget” are easy to use and link up with your accounts. They’ll help you monitor your spending and start paying off debt.

  • Don’t open new lines of credit close to when you want to take out a loan. New credit inquiries can briefly lower your credit, especially if you make more than one. Viewing your free credit reports doesn’t count as an inquiry, so feel free to do that as often as needed to check your progress.

  • Get credit for bills you’re already paying. You can report your monthly rent payments, switch bills into your name that you contribute to, or take out a credit builder loan. All three will help you build rent without changing your spending habits.







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