Tips for preparing to buy a home

It takes a lot of preparation to buy a home. I know, I know, thank you Captain Obvious, right? But if you’re going to be searching for a home in 2017, I want you to be ready for what is headed your way!

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From our friends at Bank of the West, here is a list of great tips for preparing yourself to buy a home. See my summary below:

1. Fix Your Credit

Your credit is one of the first things a lender will look at when approving you for a mortgage loan. You can get a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion at annualcreditreport.com. Make sure to check for mistakes and file a dispute with the business in question, as well as the credit agency, if you find any inaccuracies. They must investigate within 30-45 days.

2. Maintain Your Credit Score

Your FICO score is the most common number used by mortgage lenders to rate your creditworthiness. You can get your credit report with a FICO score for free, or for a small fee. Anything above a 740 FICO score will help you secure better interest rates. If your score is lower, you may still qualify for a mortgage, just with a higher interest rate attached. Your first instinct may be to find ways to boost that credit score. Here are two things NOT to do:

– Don’t close lines of credit – it may indicate credit risk and actually hurt your score

– Don’t open new lines of credit – the uncertainty of your spending habits with a new card might indicate risk and cause your score to tick up

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3. Get a Big Down Payment

You’ll get a better interest rate on a mortgage if you have a larger down payment because lenders will think you’re less likely to default on your loan. Aim for a down payment of at least 20 percent of the selling price. This will also protect you from paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects lenders if you default on a loan.

4. Get Pre-Approved

Meet with a mortgage specialist before you start shopping. They can help you determine an accurate budget and decide what kind of home you can realistically afford. Get a pre-approval letter and add it to a good credit report, income verification and a maximum allowable loan, and home sellers will take you most seriously among the suitors.

5. Keep Track of Your Money

You’ll have lots of documents, bank statements, etc. during the pre-approval and underwriting processes. These will be examined closely to verify income and expenses. If your records show unusual activity, you’ll be asked to explain it and you’ll have to jump that hurdle before continuing the approval process.

If you need a recommendation for outstanding mortgage brokers.  I have a few that I highly regard.

 

Supplemental property taxes can confuse a buyer

Have you recently purchased a home and been thrown off by getting bills about “supplemental property taxes?” Our friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending breaks it down for you:

Supplemental property taxes often create significant confusion for new homebuyers. When someone purchases a property in California, the County Assessor is required to immediately re-asses the property for property tax purposes. This re-assessment usually correlates to the purchase price and can take up to six months to complete.

JVM Supplemental property taxes

When a home is purchased, property taxes are usually based on the property tax bill of the current owner or seller. But usually, their property tax bill correlates to the price the seller paid for the property – often much less than the buyer is paying. Then, buyers mistakenly believe the property tax payment estimate when they purchase is an accurate reflection of their actual property tax. Usually, that’s false.

Anywhere from three months and beyond, buyers should expect a “supplemental tax bill” from the County Assessor. Even if a buyer has an escrow or impound account, they have to pay for the supplemental taxes, which can be sizable. As soon as a supplemental bill is received, a buyer should contact their loan servicer.

Also, when new buyers refinance into a new loan less than a year after a purchase, supplemental tax bills can cause confusion. Even if a borrower is refinancing into a lower rate, the housing payment can appear to increase. This is because lenders are basing the new housing payment on the new property tax liability, while borrowers are still basing their housing payment on the seller’s property tax liability, which is too low.

How rate increases affect your payments

We’ve seen rates increase since Donald Trump won the election. Now, the Fed is saying they’ll do three rate hikes instead of the expected two in 2017. This caused rates to bump up about half a percent. What do interest rate increases mean in regards to a buyer’s payment and the overall market?

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According to The Wall Street Journal, if we adjust for inflation since 2006, housing prices are actually 16 percent below their 2006 peaks in most areas.  Many economists are saying the demand for housing remains as strong as ever and that recent rate increases will have a minimal effect.

However, people usually make home purchases based on payment. So as interest rates increase, somebody thinking of purchasing should know a 1/2 percent increase in rates for a $500,000 loan, increases the payment about $140-$150 (and even less after “tax benefits”).

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Should buyers and borrowers wait to see if rates fall before moving forward with transactions? Jay Voorhees of JVM Lending says absolutely not. Borrowers can easily take advantage of no-cost refi’s if rates fall.

And, as Gary Shilling wrote in a Forbes column on Dec. 6, he thinks the markets massively overreacted to Trump’s election. He points out that the root causes of weak economic growth (that have kept rates low) will remain. He also says that Trump’s proposed tax cuts and stimulus programs will be watered down by Congress; the expectations of an economic boom are overblown.

What do you believe? Are you bullish or bearish? This election reinforced the notion that nobody has a crystal ball and sitting on the fence waiting for one outcome or another may be the worst thing you can do.

Mortgage Terminology 101

mortgage-1 Buying a home, even for those with experience, is already a tricky process to navigate. Add choosing a mortgage on top of that and things can get really stressful. Luckily, Keith Loria of BHG posted a great list of basic mortgage terminology to help guide buyers through this process. Check out our lightly edited version:

“Mortgage Lenders” – lenders make the loan and provide the money you’ll use to buy your home. You’ll need a lot of financial background information when you meet with a lender so he or she can set mortgage interest rates and other loan terms accordingly.

“Mortgage Brokers” –  brokers work with multiple lenders to find you the best loan. This can be confusing, but their jobs are essentially to get you the best rate and terms on your loan.

“Mortgage Bankers” – most lenders are bankers, which means they don’t actually lend their own money, but borrow funds at short-term rates from warehouse lender. Some larger mortgage bankers will originate their own loans and sell directly to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or investors.

“Portfolio Mortgage Lenders” – they originate and fund their own loans, offering more flexibility in loan products because they don’t have to adhere to secondary market buyer guidelines. Once these loans are serviced and paid for on time for at least one year, they’re “seasoned,” and can be sold more easily on the secondary market.

“Hard Money Lenders” – this may be your last resort if you’re having trouble getting a mortgage and working with a portfolio mortgage lender. They are private individuals with money to lend, though interest rates are usually higher.mortgage-2

“Wholesale Lenders” – they cater to mortgage brokers for loan origination but offer loans to brokers at a lower cost than their retail branches offer them to the general public. For you, the loan costs about the same if it were obtained directly from a retail branch of the wholesale lender.

“Correspondent Mortgage Lenders” – these lenders have agreements in place with one or more wholesale lenders to act as their retail representative. They lend directly to buyers and use wholesaler guidelines to approve and close loans with their own money. They will also buy back any loans they close that deviate from those guidelines.

“Direct Mortgage Lenders” – direct mortgage lenders are simply banks or lenders that work directly with a homeowner, with no need for a middleman or broker.

How Much Down Payment Does a First-Time Home Buyer Need These Days?

JVM Lending LogoThe idea of saving enough money for a 20 percent down payment to buy a home in the Bay Area can be a daunting thought, especially because our average prices are so much higher than the rest of the nation. How can 20 or 30-something’s save that much money and still afford rent and basic living needs?

I  posed this question to my favorite lender Jay Voorhees, Co-Owner at JVM Lending.

“Buyers often need less money than they think to buy a home, as long as their loan amount is lower than the conventional and FHA maximum of $625,500. Buyers can either take advantage of FHA financing and buy with as little as 3.5 percent of the purchase price for a down payment, or with conventional financing, purchase with as little as 5 percent down. Both options above, however, require mortgage insurance, or an additional fee that borrowers have to pay every month when their loan-to-value ratio is over 80 percent.”

What does that mean from a real estate perspective? With interest rates and inventory low, it means you will probably be competing for a property. The good news is most buyers will have similar financing; however if one has 20 percent down or all cash, that may be the deciding factor on whom the seller selects.

What can buyers do to avoid mortgage insurance? According to Jay, put down 20 percent, or 10 percent down and get a second mortgage on top of their first mortgage (“80/10/10” financing). This option requires excellent credit and very low “debt ratios.” Jay says that many borrowers are forced to use FHA financing no matter what because FHA is much more flexible with respect to credit and debt ratios.

Jay had a couple final thoughts on the topic:

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The JVM Lending team in Walnut Creek (photo courtesy JVMLending.com).

“Buyers can also get gifts from relatives to use for down payment funds or closing costs. Buyers cannot use borrowed funds for a down payment. Whoever provides “gift funds” will have to provide a signed “gift letter” attesting to the fact that the funds are in fact a gift.”

And:

“The total closing costs for a purchase can range from $6,000 to $18,000, depending on the type of loan, the loan amount, and the place of purchase (some cities have high “transfer taxes”). If gift funds are not available and buyers are tight on cash, they can, however, ask their lender to increase their interest rate in exchange for a credit to cover some or all of their closing costs.”

If you have specific questions or would like to discuss your options and want to speak with JVM Lending, call them at (925) 855-4491 and ask for Jay, Heejin (both owners), or one of their talented associates. They are in downtown Walnut Creek at 1850 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite 530. Give them a call and and tell them you saw this blog on WalnutCreekLifestyle.