Pros and Cons of a 15-Year Mortgage

Coming up with the down payment on a home can be hard enough, and one way to make a home more affordable is to spread out the mortgage payments over 30 years.

But 30 years can be daunting, and that time can be cut down with a 15-year mortgage. It’s a lot more expensive in the short-term than a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, but pays off through greater long-term savings.

Here are some things to consider when weighing a 15-year vs. 30-year mortgage:

Saving Money
It can be difficult to see the long-term benefits when looking at a monthly mortgage bill that will be 50 percent higher over 15 years instead of 30.

Paying a home loan off in half the time requires a larger payment, of course, but it can save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest charges. Why? Not only is more principal paid earlier, but interest rates on 15-year mortgages are usually better than other loans types.

Here’s an example of a $200,000 mortgage at 30 vs. 15 years:

Mortgage type:         30-year          15-year
Interest rate:             4.5 percent    4 percent
Monthly payment:     $1,013           $1,479
Total interest:            $164,813       $66,288

That’s almost a savings of $100,000 by going with a 15-year loan. Divide that savings over 15 years and it’s about $555 saved per month.

Borrowers should make sure they have enough income to afford it, are able to manage their household debt and have money in liquid savings for emergencies.

Building Equity
Repaying a mortgage faster not only saves you money in the long run, but you build equity in your home faster, too. If home prices rise, your equity could grow as well.

This is good for many reasons, including making refinancing easier by lowering your debt-to-income ratio. While it won’t improve your cash flow, it should make it easier to get approved for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit.

An Easier Retirement
Another big advantage…if you plan to retire in the next 10 to 20 years, you won’t have to worry about mortgage payments during your retirement. Instead of a house payment, you can use that money for retirement expenses.

If you continue paying a 30-year mortgage into retirement, you may have to pull money out of your savings to make the payments.


Mortgage Options When Interest Rates Are Rising

Mortgage rates have been relatively low for years. Seeing them inch up can cause home shoppers to panic and possibly put their home purchase on hold.

The good news is that there are options when mortgage rates are rising.

First, it’s worthwhile knowing that small increases in mortgage interest rates shouldn’t affect buyers too much — a one-half percent rise in mortgage rates is only about $28 more per month on a $100,000 loan.

A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is the most common type of home loan. There are other types of home loans and other options that can make buying a home easier, though they often come with the caveat that a low interest rate now may mean a higher one later. Here are some options:

Get an ARM: An adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, will have a lower interest rate than a fixed loan, but only for a certain number of years before it changes.

The interest rate will be fixed for three, five, seven or 10 years, then may go up if interest rates are rising. The longer the fixed-rate period, the less savings you’ll see in the interest rate.

Pay More Points: Paying discount points can lower your interest rate. Each point costs 1 percent of the loan rate to lower your rate by one-eighth to one-quarter percent. Paying two points, or $2,000 on a $100,000 loan, to lower a 4.25 percent loan to 4 percent equals $15 per month in savings.

You’ll have to calculate how many months it would take to make up that savings. In the above case, it would take 133 months of saving $15 per month to make up the $2,000 paid for the lower interest rate. That’s about 11 years of living in a home.

Make a Bigger Down Payment: Coming up with a bigger down payment is another way to afford higher interest rates on a loan. The more money you put down, the less money you’ll need to borrow—and, sometimes, it can help you get a lower interest rate.

Do the Floatdown Option: Pay a fee of one-quarter to one-half of a point to get a floatdown option to protect you if mortgage rates drop by the time you close on the loan. If rates fall during the typical 45 days it takes to close a home loan, you’ll get the lower rate.

Those are just some of the options borrowers have when interest rates are rising. Ask your mortgage provider for more.

I hope you found this helpful. Contact me for more home and real estate insights and info.


A Quick Breakdown of Your Homeowners Insurance

As new homeowners will learn, borrowers need to provide their lender with proof of homeowners insurance for the full value of the property (usually the purchase price) in order to be approved for the loan.

Typically, the standard insurance policy protects your new property and some possessions against damage or theft. But what, specifically, will it cover?

Limited Damage to the Home’s Interior and Exterior
Your insurer will compensate you for repairs or rebuilding costs resulting from fire, hurricanes, lightning, vandalism or other covered disasters. Damage that is the result of floods, earthquakes and/or poor home maintenance is generally not covered unless you have purchased ‘riders’ for that protection.

Loss or Damage to Personal Belongings
Clothing, furniture, appliances and most other home contents are covered if they are destroyed in an insured disaster. You can even get “off-premises” coverage that enables you to file a claim for lost jewelry, for example, no matter where you lost it. But there may be limits on the amount of protection.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, most insurance companies provide coverage for 50 to 70 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home. If your house is insured for $200,000, there might be $140,000 worth of coverage for possessions. If you own expensive art or jewelry, and provide proof of their value, you can purchase a ‘floater’ policy to fully insure them.

Personal Liability
Liability coverage protects you from lawsuits filed by others. If your dog bites your neighbor, your insurer will pay her medical expenses. If your kid breaks her expensive vase, you can file a claim to reimburse her. And if the neighbor slips on the broken pieces and successfully sues for pain and suffering or lost wages, you’ll be covered for that, too. Experts recommend having at least $300,000 worth of coverage.

Lodging During Repair or Rebuilding
This coverage reimburses you for hotel rooms, meals and other costs you incur while waiting for your home to become habitable after a covered damage. Most policies impose daily or total limits unless you purchase additional coverage.


Obtaining a Mortgage When Self-Employed

Obtaining a mortgage is a little different when you’re self-employed.

Reporting your income as a self-employed worker on Schedule C for income tax purposes can make qualifying for a mortgage loan or refinancing a little more complex. The reason being that proving consistent and reliable income as a freelancer can be more involved because you don’t typically receive a regular paycheck. Because of this, the lender wants proof that you can repay the loan.

Each lender is different. Some require self-employed borrowers to go through extra hoops to prove employment, while others may or may not wait until the loan gets to its compliance or operations department. Early in the applications stage, for example, you may need to provide contact information for your employer so the lender can confirm you’re working regularly.

Many lenders will ask for three years of accounts to prove income. Some may drop it to two years, and a small number of mortgage lenders will accept one year.

However, 2018 guidelines make it easier for self-employed homebuyers, requiring only one year of income tax documents to prove income, as long as the application qualifies for automated underwriting. This automated system doesn’t require filling out various forms, though you’ll need to document your income, savings, retirement and investment balances.

An accountant or tax preparer may be able to help by providing a letter stating how long you’ve been in business. A Profit and Loss Statement, or P&L, can be prepared by your accountant to show your business income and expenses for a specific time, such as showing you paid off a business loan.

When applying for or closing on a loan, be sure to give yourself plenty of time. A rate lock can give you enough time to verify your income. Have your bank statements and tax forms ready, along with any other information your accountant or tax preparer says you might need. Respond to inquiries from your lender promptly and focus on the final goal of getting a new mortgage.


Kitchen Counsel: Tips to Keep That Stainless Steel Shining

If you have ever owned any stainless steel products, you know how beautiful and appealing the look can be. Stainless steel appliances give a renovated kitchen that POP! it needs, while steel also makes for a very durable cookware product that never disturbs flavors, yet guarantees a balanced heating of foods. It also resists corrosion and rust – a bonus for the steel fans!

But sometimes stainless steel appliances can be difficult to keep clean. Here are some quick and easy tips for cleaning steel and maintaining that fresh metallic look:

Clean with water and a cloth. Microfiber cloths are the best option to use when cleaning stainless steel because they absorb all of the water. It’s also a safe product to use to avoid scratching steel surfaces. You’ll want to avoid paper towels or any cloth or towel with a rough surface intended for non-stick cookware. This especially includes steel wool! When drying, dry along the grain to avoid water spots. If you clean or dry aggressively against the grain with regular scouring pads, you will leave marks on your appliance or pan, so be sure to take it easy.

Only use a drop of dish soap. For most cases, a drop of mild dish soap and warm water is all you’ll need to clean a pan or pot, so don’t overthink it! Just be gentle. Alternatively, using white vinegar as a cleaner has also been proven to work. Try it out – that stuff is like magic!

Glass cleaner is your friend. Fingerprints on stainless steel is one of the biggest complaints and it’s a valid concern! No matter how careful you try to be, fingerprints will always end up on your fridge. Spray glass cleaner on a microfiber cloth to get the job done. Wipe away the fingerprint using soft circular wipes. There are newer finishes of stainless steel that are fingerprint resistant, so if you are buying new products be sure to do your research and seek those out.

Keep a stainless steel cleaner on hand. If you need to remove stains or scratches from your stainless steel, using a steel cleaner is a great option. Read the directions on the cleaner and be sure to test the product on an unnoticeable location, just in case. Even if you aren’t trying to remove a stain or hide a scratch, stainless steel cleaner or glass cleaner will help your appliance shine. As always, rinse the area thoroughly afterwards and towel dry.

Stainless steel can be finicky, but with a little TLC, stainless steel will keep your kitchen looking sleek and stylish for years to come.


Modular vs. Manufactured Homes: What's the Difference?

Many hopeful homeowners may get confused by the terms “modular” and “manufactured” when it comes to property types. And while modular and manufactured homes tend to get used interchangeably, they are actually very different. Technically, both types of homes could be considered “manufactured,” since they are both built in a factory or manufacturing facility, but when it comes to manufactured and modular homes, it’s important to know the difference, especially when talking about financing.

Manufactured Homes

Constructed completely offsite and transported to their location, manufactured homes are also often called mobile homes or trailers. While they can come in a handful of different sizes, the most common are single- or double-wide. They can be located in a trailer community or on owned land, but manufactured homes are not on permanent foundations.

Lower in price, manufactured homes typically do not appreciate in value at the same rate as other types of homes. Because of this, it can be very challenging to find a mortgage lender who will finance the purchase of a manufactured home.

Modular Homes

Also called prefab homes, modular homes can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, styles and price ranges. Unlike manufactured homes, modular homes have comparable pricing to traditional site-built homes, and are similar in appearance, too. Sometimes modular homes can look exactly like site-built homes, due to the advances in modular construction and the wide variety of building styles that are available today.

Although modular homes can look just like traditional single-family homes, they are actually built in segments and then put together at the home site. Unlike manufactured homes, modular homes are constructed on a permanent foundation and are considered permanent structures.

Modular homes can be very cost effective and construction on them can be very efficient. Modular homes have to adhere to all state and federal building codes and must have the same kind of inspections as a regular site-built home. By contrast, manufactured homes only have to adhere to the standards set forth by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which tends to have more lenient rules and regulations.

Finding affordable financing for a modular home purchase or refinance isn’t nearly as difficult as it is for manufactured housing, so if you need a mortgage, a modular property is the way to go.


Figuring Out How Much Monthly Mortgage You Can Afford

When applying for a home loan, it’s important to keep in mind how much monthly mortgage you can afford. Through the approval process, lenders will factor in your credit score, income and other financial data to determine the maximum loan amount you’re eligible for, and you may qualify for more than you can afford. Consider how much you should borrow to keep your monthly expenses and family budget manageable.

To start that calculation, find an online mortgage calculator. It should show you the total costs of owning a home beyond the principal and interest of a mortgage. Other expenses can include private mortgage insurance, home insurance, property taxes and HOA fees.

Once you have that total number, you can determine if it fits within your monthly budget. If not, then you may have to find a lower-priced house to buy.

28 percent, a good start
The Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act requires mortgage lenders to determine that borrowers can reasonably repay a loan. The decision is based on an applicant’s credit, job stability and income. The law doesn’t allow mortgages to take up more than 35 percent of monthly income.

Many lenders use more stringent requirements, limiting a payment to 28 percent of monthly income.

How to do the math
Doing the math on how 28 percent of income equates to dollars is easy: Multiply your monthly income by 28, then divide that by 100. That number equals 28 percent of your monthly income.

Here’s an example: The median U.S. household income in September 2014 was $51,939, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That equals about $4,328 per month in income. Multiply that by 28 to get $121,191, then divide by 100 to get $1,211.

That $1,211 is 28 percent of the median household’s monthly income.

Beware of other debt
Other debt and expenses, however, may make it difficult to afford paying 28 percent of your monthly income toward a mortgage.

Credit card debt, a car loan and student loans will also be looked at by lenders, and if they add up to more than 7 percent of your income you may not qualify for a mortgage that costs 28 percent of your income. Your debt-to-income ratio would be at 35 percent or higher, and a lender may require you to pay off some debts before approving you for a home loan.

Contact me for more insights and info.


Tips for Veterans Buying a Home with VA Loan

For veterans or service members looking to buy a home with a Veterans Affairs loan, there are some extra steps to take and home condition requirements that aren’t needed with other types of loans.

The home must be safe, clean, in good condition and move-in ready, partly because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t want to back a loan where the military member’s finances are at risk because they have to make unexpected home repairs.

The extra work can be worthwhile. VA loans are 0.25 to 0.50 percent lower than conventional loans, don’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance, and have more flexible and forgiving requirements. Closing costs are limited and lenders fees are limited to 1 percent of the loan amount.

The government guarantees at least a quarter of the loan amount on a VA mortgage, which is why a down payment and mortgage insurance aren’t needed.

For buyers who qualify, here are some things to be aware of when buying a home with a VA loan:

Look for a move-in ready home. Homes that are structurally sound, safe and sanitary are more likely to pass the VA appraisal. The property must have adequate heating, roofing and safety features, and major issues must be repaired before the loan can close. If the VA expert has to return to reinspect something that needs to be fixed, the borrower will have to pay more inspection fees.

Be ready for an inspection. A home inspection is a normal part of buying a house, but a VA inspector will make sure the property is in good, working order. But a lot of the things they’ll be looking at are cosmetic, which a regular lender wouldn’t be concerned with. Though a VA inspection can sound like a professional home inspection, it isn’t and buyers can hire their own inspectors after the VA one if they’d like.

And more inspections. The VA also requires some inspections that other lenders don’t. A VA loan will require a pest inspection, along with a look at the septic tank, if there is one, and the water well if the property isn’t on a city water line.

Quicker timeline. VA loans have tighter timelines than other types of loans, which is why hiring a real estate agent and loan officer who have experience with VA loans can make the process smoother. Active-duty service members can have short buying windows if they’re ordered to move to another base.


3 Ways to Get Creative With Lighting

In today’s day and age, choosing the right lighting for your space can be an overwhelming proposition. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are three out-of-the-box ideas you can—and should—put into play.

Light unexpected spaces. There’s no need to settle for simple overhead lighting. Up ambiance and interest in a room by lighting a strip along the floor or beneath a kitchen counter. Place rope or strip lights along the edge of your staircase for easy navigation in the dark, or add indirect lighting under or above cabinets in the kitchen.

Light in layers. When planning lighting design for a room, think lighting in three main layers: overhead lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. Think a chandelier or ceiling fixture to cover overhead, table lamps for task lighting, and a few specialty spots for accent lighting—frame lighting around the bed frame in your bedroom, for example, or light a few of your favorite pieces of art to draw attention to them.

Don’t forget to dim. Considering that dimmer switches run a scant $25, there’s no reason not to have them in your home. Control your space’s mood and ambience for a small cost, and enjoy a slightly smaller utility bill – the American Lighting Association sites that a dimmer switch saves an average of $30 a year.

Interested in real estate and housing tips? Feel free to contact me directly.


Eco-Friendly Kitchen Features That Won't Break the Bank

Eco-friendly features are all the rage today as homeowners commit to living greener lives. But for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint, where do you begin?

For many, the answer is the kitchen. The central hub of the home, the kitchen offers a perfect foundation for incorporating green features and appliances.

Getting started, you may want to consider adding an induction stove, a stove that utilizes magnetic energy to induce a current that heats the food. Not only do pans heat up quickly on this type of stove, but the amount of time needed to cook meals is greatly reduced. In addition to the energy savings and coolness factor, induction stoves tend to be much safer than traditional stoves since there’s no open flame or hot electric element involved.

It’s also important to add energy-efficient appliances. If you’re trying to sell your home and an old dishwasher and refrigerator unit serve as the focal point of the room, it could be a major deterrent to a sale.

Changing up the lighting is another easy way to up the eco-friendly factor and make the kitchen appear fresh and new. Installing ceiling fans is another simple, inexpensive way toward making the space more eco-friendly. Ceiling fans will circulate warm air in the winter and will help keep the kitchen cool in the summer, keeping heating and cooling costs lower throughout the year.

When it comes to greening your home, remember that you don’t need to drain your bank account to find success. For example, adding a water filter to your sink (and saying goodbye to bottled water) is an inexpensive way to promote green living. Take this one step further by highlighting the fact that the water filter removes harmful contaminants, providing a fresh drink that can easily be enjoyed when relaxing at home or while out and about.

While not every change will yield a payoff, data shows that kitchen improvements will reap the highest rewards in home value, offering the fastest way to get someone interested in buying your home.


Title Insurance and Why You Need It

Title insurance can be one of those things that someone says you need when you buy a home, but you don’t understand why.

Without it, you could be left with a nagging question in the back of your mind: “Does the seller really own the property?” If the answer is no, it could be bad if you don’t have title insurance.

Some people or companies other than the title owner may have rights to the property. For example, the property owner may have sold mineral, air or utility rights to someone else. Or a bank with a mortgage on the property may own an interest in it. The government can also have a lien on the property for unpaid taxes.

What does title insurance do, exactly? Basically, it covers events related to the title that have already happened. It doesn’t cover future things that happen to the title after it has been issued.

First, the title company or an attorney verifies that the seller owns the property and is free to sell it. The title search includes searching property records to make sure there haven’t been any clerical errors and that there aren’t any undisclosed heirs, spousal claims, omissions in deeds, unknown liens or fraud with the deed. If there are any errors, they’re fixed before the home purchase transaction is completed.

Second, the title company contracts an underwriting company to issue an insurance policy, called title insurance. This protects you in court if anyone challenges you to the title of your home. If you lose any equity, you’ll be compensated.

Two insurance policies will often have to be bought by the homeowner: one protecting them as the owner, and a lender’s policy protecting the lender. The lender requires the insurance because it is providing a loan with the property as security. A problem with the title affects the value of the lender’s security. Only the amount of the loan will be covered in the lender’s policy, and it will decrease as the homeowner pays back the loan.


5 Easy Feng Shui Tips

So you want to add a little feng shui flavor to your home? The following tips can help foster a strong connection between your space and your energy, which can impact the way you feel when you move through your home, and attract positivity in your life.

1. Pay attention to your entryway. Everyone likes to make a grand entrance, right? Pay mind to how you decorate the front hall or front door of your home; it’s the first thing you see when you enter, and sets the tone for how you will feel as you transition into your space.

2. Add plants. Houseplants quite literally breathe life into your space. They foster growth and creativity, and clean your air. Win! Choose something easy to care for, like a fern or a succulent.

3. Balance your bed. To feel more grounded and balanced, make sure to even out each side of your bed. This means have matching nightstands and lamps on each side so the room looks and feels even. It also helps promote equal energy between you and your sleeping partner, should you have one.

4. Center your desk. If you work at home even occasionally, pull your desk away from the wall and face it out into the room, or at a window. Facing a wall can block creative energy. Open your space to let the energy move freely.

5. Create a gallery vibe. If you’re a fan of art or have a large collection of family photos, arrange them gallery-style, not in a straight line. Sharp edges (like those found in a straight line of photos) can be off-putting. Instead, arrange your photos in the floating, visually-appealing style of a gallery wall.

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