Questions and Answers Regarding Escrow Accounts

Questions and Answers Regarding Escrow AccountsWhether you are purchasing a new home or you are considering applying to refinance your home, chances are the lender will require an escrow account. These accounts are often a source of confusion for homeowners. In reality, these accounts benefit the homeowner and help protect the lender.

What is an escrow account?

Escrow accounts are sometimes called “impound” accounts. These accounts are set up to help manage payments of property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Depending on the individual requirements of the lender, you may be asked to pay as much as one-quarter of these upfront and they will be put into the account for the purposes of making payments.

Who controls escrow accounts?

Lenders have complete control over escrow accounts. However, homeowners are entitled to receive an annual statement advising them of their escrow balance. If there is an increase or decrease in insurance payments through the year, a homeowner may request the lender evaluate the escrow account and change the amount that is paid.

Is interest paid on escrow accounts?

There is no mandate to pay interest on escrow accounts. When you refinance your home, the funds for your taxes and insurance are calculated into your overall payment. The portion that is to be used to pay taxes and insurance is placed in escrow. Federal laws do not require lenders to pay interest on these accounts.

What happens if I sell my home or refinance?

When you sell or refinance your home, your escrow account will be credited at closing. The amount may be used to lower your out-of-pocket costs or may be turned over to you as a direct payment.

What happens if there is not enough/too much money in escrow?

If your lender has underestimated your escrow payments, they may request you send an additional payment to make up the difference. In the event you are paying too much into escrow, your lender has the discretion to release the overage amount directly to you. In most cases, shortfalls or overages of $50 or less are typically not a major concern.

If your lender requires you to have an escrow account for the taxes and insurance portion of your mortgage payment, it can be very helpful. Escrow accounts help ensure you do not have to come up with a large payment once a year for insurance or quarterly for taxes.

In some cases, if a lender does not require an escrow account, as a borrower, you may request they escrow your taxes and insurance for convenience.

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Why Should One Consider Refinancing Their Mortgage Now?

Why Should One Consider Refinancing Their Mortgage Now?Refinancing a mortgage is a golden opportunity to lock in today’s low interest rate for the next 15 or 30 years. While interest rates now are still low, there’s a good chance they may be heading up in the coming months.

The Fed may not maintain the current bond purchasing level forever, and any changes that the Fed makes will likely affect mortgage interest rate levels.

As interest rates remain near low for 30 and 15 year mortgages, homeowners can benefit greatly from a refinance. Several types of people in particular should consider refinancing.

Carrying a high rate

Anyone with an interest rate well above today’s level should think about a refinance. Unless the homeowner is planning to sell within the next few years, a refinance will almost always save money in the long run if the rate can be lowered by at least a percent.

Switching from FHA to conventional

Given that FHA mortgages now carry mortgage insurance premiums for the life of the loan, it makes a lot of sense for borrowers to switch away from them when they can. Refinancing may be possible once the homeowner has built up enough equity to qualify for a mortgage from a traditional lender, without the burden of mortgage insurance.

ARM coming up on adjustment

The low rate of an adjustable rate mortgage may not stay low beyond the first few years of the mortgage. After this point, the rate adjusts each year based on market trends. Rather than paying the adjusted rate, which is almost always higher, homeowners can refinance into a new fixed rate mortgage to lock in one of today’s low fixed rates for the duration of the mortgage.

Cash out to consolidate debt

Homeowners carrying high-interest debt, like credit cards and personal loans, can often benefit from consolidating it into their mortgage. As long as they maintain at least 20 percent equity in their home, they can get a cash-out refinance for an amount higher than their current mortgage balance. They can then use the difference to pay off high-interest debt.

What You Need to Know About Mortgage Insurance

What You Need to Know About Mortgage Insurance

Homeowners insurance and title insurance may not be the only kinds of insurance you need when you buy a home. Many buyers also have to purchase mortgage insurance, which lenders require for mortgages with a down payment of less than 20 percent. Take the time to understand what you’re buying and how long it will affect you.

Mortgage Insurance Protects the Lender

Most types of insurance will pay you if you make a claim. Mortgage insurance, though, is solely for the lender. If you were to stop making payments and the lender foreclosed on your home, the mortgage insurance would pay the lender the difference between the profit from selling your home and the amount you still owed on your mortgage.

Types of Mortgage Insurance

When you have a mortgage with a traditional lender, you get private mortgage insurance, often abbreviated PMI. This insurance is provided by a third party, although your lender will typically dictate who provides the insurance. When you get an FHA mortgage, the federal government provides the mortgage insurance and you pay mortgage insurance premiums, often abbreviated MIP.

Mortgage Insurance Amount

You can generally expect to pay 0.5 percent to 1 percent of your loan balance each year for private mortgage insurance. FHA mortgage insurance premiums are set by the federal government, and as of 2017, are 1.75 percent of the loan balance up front, plus 0.45 percent to 1.05 percent of the loan balance each year, depending on the type of loan.

How to Stop Paying Mortgage Insurance

FHA loans have mortgage insurance until the loan is paid off, either through regular payments or by refinancing. Traditional loans automatically cancel mortgage insurance when you have reached the point on your amortization schedule where the loan balance drops below 78 percent of the purchase price. You also may be able to apply to cancel mortgage insurance as soon as your loan balance is less than 80 percent of your home’s current appraised value.

How Can You Get Around Paying Mortgage Insurance?

When purchasing a home, the only way to avoid having to buy mortgage insurance is to get a mortgage for less than 80 percent of the home’s purchase price. However, the cost of mortgage insurance may be something you’re willing to pay for the opportunity to buy now without a down payment of 20 percent.

3 Reasons Why Buying an Investment Property Is the Best Way to Build Your Net Worth

3 Reasons Why Buying an Investment Property Is the Best Way to Build Your Net WorthWhether you have recently graduated from college or are getting close to retirement, it’s likely that you have given some thought as to how you can grow your net worth. You might have invested in stocks, picked up a few bonds or have a 401(k) plan set up to help fund your retirement. But have you considered buying real estate as part of your portfolio?

In today’s blog post we’ll have a look at three reasons why real estate investing is one of the most effective ways to grow your overall net worth.

Reason #1: It Generates Passive Income

One of the best reasons to hold real estate as part of your investment portfolio is that it can generate passive income in the form of rent. Whether you buy a single-family home or an apartment block, you can almost certainly find interested tenants who will live there. Part of the rent you receive each month will cover the costs of owning and operating the property. The rest of it is income which will continue to build over time.

Reason #2: It Increases In Value Over Time

Another great reason to invest in real estate is that in most cases, it increases in value over time. As long as you are maintaining the property and investing in its upkeep you have a decent shot at it being worth more in the coming years, should you decide to sell. Keep in mind that real estate is cyclical and that it’s not always going to be the right time to sell and realize your gains.

Reason #3: You Can Leverage Equity To Buy More Properties

Finally, our third reason that real estate is the best way to build your worth is your ability to use it as leverage to buy more real estate. For example, say you decide to purchase a house valued at $100,000 as an investment property. Once the mortgage on that home is paid off, you have an asset valued at $100,000 that you can then borrow against. So you can go out and acquire another $100,000 home without having to sell the first. As you can see, this can scale quite nicely over time.

If you are interested in learning more about real estate investing and how you can make use of mortgage financing to purchase properties, give our offices a call. We are happy to share our insight and expertise as well as advise you on the best mortgage products to help reach your financial goals.

The 4-Step Financial Checkup to Get Ready for a Mortgage in 2018

The 4-Step Financial Checkup to Get Ready for a Mortgage in 2018Are you ready to join the ranks of homeowners in our local community? Congratulations – homeownership is a big step towards building your net worth and financial freedom. However, it is also a significant transaction that will affect your finances for the foreseeable future. Let’s take a look at a quick four-step checklist that will help you to get ready to buy a home with a mortgage in 2018.

Step 1: Set Up A Monthly Budget

It might sound a little basic, but the best first step is to commit to a monthly budget. After you buy a home using a mortgage, you will be responsible for making monthly payments for a period of time. The faster you get used to working inside of a budget, the better.

Your budget doesn’t have to be extravagant. Simply list your sources of income and your expenses. If you are spending more than you are making, you are going to need to cut back a bit.

Step 2: Start Setting Aside Your Down Payment

If you haven’t already, it is an excellent time to start gathering the funds necessary to make your down payment. This is the amount of cash that you put forward against the price of the home. The remainder of the purchase cost is covered by your mortgage, which you will pay off monthly in the future.

Note that the standard down payment amount is 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. If you have less than this available, you may be required to purchase mortgage insurance. But don’t let this deter you from starting the process now, especially if you have found the house that you want to buy.

Step 3: Check Your Credit Rating

Next, you will want to check your credit rating and FICO score to find out if you have any outstanding issues. You can access a free credit report from any of the major reporting agencies up to once per year, so be sure to take advantage.

Step 4: Meet With Your Mortgage Advisor

Last, but not least, you will want to schedule a meeting with your mortgage advisor. This is your opportunity to have all your mortgage-related questions answered by a professional who has your best interests in mind. If you decide that you are ready to move forward with buying a home, you can begin the pre-approval process at your convenience. We look forward to helping guide you down the path to buying your dream home!

What Is Mortgage Insurance and How Does It Benefit Me? Let’s Take a Look

What Is Mortgage Insurance and How Does It Benefit Me? Let's Take a LookAre you in the market for a new home? If you are considering a mortgage, you may be curious about mortgage insurance, commonly referred to as PMI or MI. Let’s explore the topic of mortgage insurance, including how it works to reduce risk and how it benefits you as the mortgage borrower.

Mortgage Insurance = Risk Reduction

You might not know this, but the toughest part of the home buying process for many individuals and families is coming up with the required down payment. For example, if you were to buy a $200,000 home, you may want to invest $40,000 or $60,000 or more in the down payment. The remainder would be borrowed in your mortgage, which you would then pay off each month.

Most mortgage lenders require a minimum of 20 percent as a down payment. In the example above, this means having $40,000 cash on hand before you buy the home. If you can’t come up with this much, your lender may require mortgage insurance be purchased to protect them in case you default on the loan.

Mortgage Insurance Can Help You Qualify

Since mortgage insurance reduces the lender’s exposure to risk, it can help you in a number of ways during the qualification process. First, you can put less in your down payment than you had initially intended, which can increase your buying power and the size of home you can afford. Mortgages backed with a private insurance policy tend to be approved a bit faster than those that aren’t. Also, if you decide that you don’t need it later, many mortgage insurance policies can be canceled, which saves you a bit of money.

Look For Supplemental Benefits

Finally, don’t forget to ask your mortgage lender about any supplemental benefits offered with your mortgage insurance policy. Some policies protect you in the event that you lose your job or provide a partial claim advance if you can’t pay your mortgage. Note that not all policies have these benefits, so be sure to ask.

While it is true that mortgage insurance provides benefits to lenders, it also offers significant benefits to you as the borrower. To learn more about mortgage insurance or to get pre-approved for a mortgage so you can buy a home, give us a call today. Our friendly team of mortgage professionals is happy to help.

3 Reasons You Might Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage in Early 2018

3 Reasons You Might Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage in Early 2018If you are a homeowner who has had their mortgage for a few years, you may be starting to wonder about refinancing. In essence, this is the process of retiring your current mortgage and taking out a new one because the terms are more favorable to you. Below we will share three reasons why you might want to look at refinancing your mortgage this year. Let’s get started.

Can You Use Some Extra Cash?

Ask yourself: if you had some extra money on hand, how would you use it? Many homeowners refinance to pull out some of the equity value that they have built up in their home over time. You might use this cash for a major renovation, or to upgrade your furnishings, or even just for a nice vacation.

Of course, you should keep in mind that you are borrowing a brand-new mortgage loan that will replace your old one. You will still need to pay attention to your credit score, monthly debt load and other personal finances.

Can You Get A Better Interest Rate?

Moving to a mortgage product with a better interest rate is another reason that homeowners refinance. Mortgage interest rates tend to fluctuate over time and it is possible that you may be able to get a lower rate, which in turn lowers your monthly payments. If your credit score has improved significantly since you first borrowed your mortgage, you may find that you have access to favorable interest rates as well.

Would You Prefer A Lower Monthly Payment?

Finally, an efficient use of refinancing is to reduce the amount you have to pay for your mortgage each month. For example, if you owe $60,000 and you have five years remaining, that ends up being about $1,000 per month. However, depending on your circumstances it may be possible to extend this out to 8 or 10 years, which means that you will pay a lower monthly payment for a longer time period.

The above are just a few of the many good reasons that you might consider refinancing your mortgage sometime in 2018. To learn more about the benefits of refinancing, or to get the process started, give us a call today. Our friendly team of professional mortgage advisors is ready to share our experience and help you get the most out of your refinancing.

In a Hurry to Buy a Home? Speed Your Mortgage Approval up by Following This Checklist

In a Hurry to Buy a Home? Speed Your Mortgage Approval up by Following This ChecklistHave you finally found your dream home after months of searching, only to discover that the seller has received other offers? Few circumstances can raise your stress level as much as finding yourself in a bidding war against another buyer. However, being unprepared by not having your finances in order can make the situation even worse. Let’s take a quick look at a few ways that you can speed up your mortgage approval if you are in a hurry to buy your next home.

Pull Your Credit Report ASAP

The first step you will want to do is check your credit report so you have an idea what your mortgage lender will be seeing. You can get a free copy from the major credit reporting agencies up to once per year, so take advantage. There are scams out there, so be sure to only request a report from a government-approved credit agency.

Get All Of Your Paperwork Ready Before You Go In

You will want to gather up as much financial documentation as you can before heading in to meet with your mortgage advisor. Pay stubs, tax forms, and bank statements are all going to be required to prove that you are accurately reporting your current financial situation. You will also want to be able to provide reasons for any substantial loans or other transactions that have taken place in the past couple of years.

Share It All And Keep No Secrets

If you want your mortgage approval to come back quickly, it’s best to be truthful and hold nothing back during the application process. If you lie or try to gloss over areas that you feel are a bit negative, it can end up delaying your approval. Be straight with your advisor and don’t keep any secrets from them.

Work With A Professional Team

Last but not least, if you want the fastest possible mortgage approval you will want to work with a professional team. An experienced mortgage advisor knows the ins-and-outs of the mortgage marketplace. They know which lenders will be able to process quickly and which tend to be on the slower side. If you try to borrow a mortgage from a bank or large lender, you are tied into their process which may not be as quick as you would like.

When you’re ready to buy a home, give us a call. Our mortgage team is happy to help you secure your financing, no matter how much of a hurry you might be in. We look forward to assisting you!

Shopping for a Mortgage? Don’t Make These Key Mistakes That Trip Up First-time Buyers

Shopping for a Mortgage? Don't Make These Key Mistakes That Trip Up First-time BuyersAre you ready to dive into the real estate market for the first time? Buying a new house, condo or apartment is an exciting experience that sets you on the path to building your net worth. However, if you are planning to take out a mortgage, you should be aware that there are some potential pitfalls to avoid. Let’s explore a few of the key mistakes that first-time homebuyers make when they are shopping around for a mortgage.

Mistake #1: Trying To Rush The Process

The first mistake that you will want to avoid making is trying to rush the mortgage process along. Even if you have all of your paperwork ready before you enter the building, it can still take your mortgage lender some time to complete the background checks necessary to determine how much risk you represent. If you need to close on your new home quickly, it’s best to get pre-approved for your mortgage amount first.

Mistake #2: Ignoring Your Credit Score

Ask yourself: when is the last time you checked your credit score? Is your credit history healthy or does it need some attention? Are there any black marks or delinquencies in your past that need to be dealt with? Many first-time buyers fail to appreciate the importance of their credit score when they apply for a mortgage. Don’t make the same mistake.

Mistake #3: Being Behind On Your Taxes

Another crucial mistake that is commonly made is not being up to date with the IRS. While being behind on your taxes is never a good place to be, it can be significantly worse if you are trying to take out a mortgage. Remember that a mortgage is a large loan and one that presents a certain amount of risk to the lender. If you are not paying your bills on time, they may decide that you aren’t worth the trouble.

Mistake #4: Not Working With A Mortgage Professional

The last mistake we will warn you to avoid is trying to move forward with a mortgage without consulting a professional first. An experienced mortgage advisor knows far more about the current market than the average person does. The last thing that you need when you are trying to buy a home is bad advice. It is a good idea to work with a mortgage professional who has your best interests in mind.

When you are ready to buy your next home, contact us. We would be happy to share our insight and help you choose the mortgage product that best suits your needs.

Renovating in 2018? Cash-out Mortgage Refinancing Might Be the Best Way to Fund It

Renovating in 2018? Cash-out Mortgage Refinancing Might Be the Best Way to Fund ItIf you are a homeowner thinking about a significant home renovation in 2018, you have probably already considered your budget. As with any large project, you need to have the ability to pay the expected costs plus have a little bit extra set aside, just in case. The great news is that if you are a homeowner with a mortgage, you may qualify for cash-out refinancing, which can be a helpful way to leverage some of your home equity to cover renovation costs.

In today’s blog post we’ll explore the topic of cash-out refinancing and how this unique financial product can help to solve your budget woes.

What is Cash-Out Refinancing?

If you have never heard of it before, you are probably wondering exactly how cash-out refinancing works. In short, you refinance your existing mortgage into a new one while keeping the difference in cash. For example, if you have $100,000 left on your mortgage, but your home is worth $200,000, you might decide to refinance to $150,000. You will then be left with $50,000 in cash, which you can pull out to cover the cost of renovations or for other purposes.

Note that this is different from other forms of mortgage refinancing, which may or may not increase your total balance.

Some Of The Major Pros Of Cash-Out Refinancing

As you might imagine, there are significant pros to cash-out refinancing. If you decide to use the funds for renovation purposes, you are essentially using your mortgage to increase the value of your home. That is, of course, assuming you complete renovations which boost your home’s value!

Cash-out refinancing can also provide better or more stable interest rates than a loan or a home equity line of credit. This depends on a variety of circumstances, so be sure to check with your lender.

A Few Other Considerations To Keep In Mind

As with any financial product, there are some considerations to keep in mind. You may be extending the length of your mortgage, or refinancing to a different interest rate. You also can’t just walk in and sign for cash-out refinancing. There will be a process similar to the one that you went through when you got your current mortgage.

As you can see, cash-out refinancing is an excellent option for homeowners looking to use some of their home equity to finance other expenses. To learn more about this type of refinancing or to explore other mortgage options, contact us today.