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HELOC vs. Cash-Out Refinance

The mortgage industry has one flaw: There is no built-in way to access equity.

For many home owners who want to use their equity to pay off debt, start a business, invest in the market, or just use the money for purchases, they cannot unless they take out another loan. The two most popular ways to do this is with a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a cash-out refinance.

A HELOC is a second mortgage secured by your home. A cash-out refinance is a first lien mortgage that “cashes out” some of your equity in your home. Which is better depends on your situation, the market and your goals.

Here are a few factors that might help make the decision easier for you and your family.

1. Take a look at your current interest rate. If your mortgage interest rate is low compared to the current market and you are borrowing a low amount compared to what is owed on your first mortgage, a HELOC maybe you best option. Why? Although the equity line is higher interest, it is only on a relatively low amount and you can keep your low rate on your first mortgage.

If current rates are lower than your first mortgage or if you are borrowing an amount approaching 50 percent of the current amount owed on the mortgage, it may be better to do a cash-out refinance. This is because the equity line interest is generally higher than the current market rate could make your payment higher. Additionally, because the equity line is generally adjustable, there is a risk that volatility will make your payment unpalatable.

2. Analyze payment vs. interest savings vs. risk. If your ultimate goal is to keep your payment as low as possible, an equity line might be a good choice. Remember, the equity lines are usually interest only and therefore the monthly payment stays relatively low. However, there is a risk in them because they are also adjustable.

If you’re goal is to pay your mortgage off as quickly as possible and pay the least amount of interest, a cash-out refinance is often times better. Again, this is because you pay both principal and interest on cash-out refinances and they are fixed rates.

3. Pay attention to costs. If the up-front costs are a determining factor, the equity line is the way to go. HELOCs are generally free, whereas, a cash-out refinance will add principal to your current mortgage.

4. Keeping it all in one loan. Many people do not like the idea of having two different loans. Even if the equity line is with your first mortgage servicer, there will be two different loans with two different payments and two different statements. These will also have different terms and most likely different rates. On a cash-out refinance there will all be one loan, one term and one rate.

When determining whether to do an equity line or the cash-out refinance it is important to determine long term goals, what your current needs are, and which option will put you in a better position in the long run.

Talk to a trusted advisor to help you navigate your best options.

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Is there a “perfect” time to buy a home?

No matter what is happening with home prices and mortgage interest rates, the right time to buy a house is when you are ready to take on the financial and emotional responsibilities of homeownership.

It’s easy to fall in love with a house, but committing to one for the long term can be more challenging.

“Buying a home is a serious investment,” said Loan Officer Rob Garrison. “Before you start shopping home listings, it is important to sit back, do your homework and analyze your personal and financial goals as well as your lifestyle before you take the plunge.”

“Don’t buy just because everyone else is, make sure you are ready.”

Start by answering these questions.

1. Why do you want to buy?
An important first step is to evaluate your reasoning behind wanting to buy. What do you hope to gain from purchasing a home? How does that fit into your short and long term goals? Consider how long you plan on spending time in one place, as it can tie you to that place. It is
important to take your career into consideration as well as the possibility of an expanding family.

2. Do you know what you can afford and still continue to live the lifestyle you are accustomed to?
You will likely need to take out a mortgage. It is important to begin by checking your credit score from three different reporting bureaus to assess whether you are able to obtain a mortgage. Then, there is the question of your down payment. There are zero down government options as well as 3-20 percent options, depending on your situation. Looking at your cash savings is an important first step.

3. Will you be staying there for five years or more?
When you purchase a home, the general rule is that you want to be sure you will be in the same location for at least five years. Otherwise, you are likely to take a hit financially. Of course this depends on the area you live in.

4. Do you have 3-6 months of emergency savings?
A good rule of thumb is that you have 3-6 months of living expenses in an emergency fund for unforeseen events. Home ownership also requires maintenance and repairs, so a slush fund is recommended to pay for repairs as they crop up.

If after careful evaluation you aren’t ready to purchase a home, there are great short term options to fit your needs. If you are looking for guidance to get yourself ready to purchase, enlisting a trusted, knowledgeable mortgage advisor is a great first step to realizing your dream,
whenever that might be!

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Should I Hire a Real Estate Agent to Sell My Home?

There’s a reason nearly 90 percent of sellers use a listing agent: selling a home takes time, knowledge of neighborhood trends, and negotiating skills. So, while eliminating the agent’s commission – 6 percent of the sale price, on average – sounds tempting, try to resist.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 82 percent of real estate sales are the result of agent contacts from previous clients, referrals, friends, family and personal contacts.

The Realtors priority is to help set the right price and then get buyers in the door. Agents have access to the most up-to-date information regarding recent sales of comparable homes and competing homes in your neighborhood. You may know that a home down the street was on the market for $350,000, but an agent will know if that home had upgrades and sold at $285,000 after 65 days on the market and after it fell out of escrow three times.

With a market that can shift weekly, if not daily, it is critical to keep abreast of those changes as they impact your home’s marketability and sale price. Realtors know the market conditions data, such as the average square foot cost of similar homes, median and average sales prices, average days on the market, and ratios of list-to-sold prices, among other criteria, will have a bearing on your home.

Contrary to popular belief, Realtors do much more than put an attractive “For Sale” sign in your front yard. Perhaps the most important exposure is through the MLS because it fans out to so many other sites and reaches most people directly and indirectly through its data feed.
Additionally, the agent will help stage and prepare your home for sale, providing professional quality photos and often videos of your home. Great Realtors promote your property through multiple social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. They will promote open houses, have Realtor walk throughs, and most importantly, vet potential buyers so you only deal with serious prospects.

Once you have found a buyer, the agent will make sure buyers are preapproved and negotiate on your behalf. Your agent will help you evaluate very buyer’s proposal without compromising your marketing position. The initial purchase agreement is only the beginning of a process of appraisals, inspectors, title, financing – a lot of possible pitfalls. Your agent will help you write a legally binding, win-win agreement that will be more likely to make it through to closing.

Before skipping a full service Realtor, think hard about the time and effort you want to spend, particularly if the process drags on. The average home takes about 4 months to sell (six in the slowest cities), according to NAR. If costs are a concern, have a frank conversation with your Realtor about what they expect to be paid.

Considering the relatively small cost of hiring a Realtor and the large potential risk of not haring one, it’s smart to find a professional to sell your home.

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How to Buy Your Dream Home When You Have Student Debt

Many people new to the workforce are strapped with student loan debt. Some are eager to purchase a home but believe that they cannot because they have not saved for a down payment or they will not qualify because of the debt.

Fortunately, there are loans and programs that are designed to help. Below are a few ways that people in this situation can buy a home.

1. Deferring student loans or getting an income-based repayment plan. Student loans are not designed to hamstring people to the point that they cannot afford to own a home. There are several programs available that allow student loan debt to be temporarily deferred or lower the monthly payment based on income.

Here is a resource for helping you navigate each of these. Note that different loan types treat deferred student loans and income-based repayment differently. You will need to go over these guidelines with your mortgage professional.

2. Co-signers. Some loan types will assign 1 percent of the balance of student loans to the debt to income ratio even if the loans are deferred or they are income-based repayment. For these folks, a viable alternative is a co-signer. Fortunately, most loan types will allow for family members to cosign. Again, it is something a good lender will advise and consult you on.

3. Gifts or low-down loans. Some have been unable to save enough money for a down payment. There are alternatives to this as well. Some loans like the USDA and VA loans do not require a down payment. Other loans, like the MSHDA loan, allow for 1 percent and loans through Fannie Mae or FHA allow folks to come in with 3 percent or 3.5 percent. Your loan officer will know all of the options available to you.

4. Budgeting. Oftentimes a simple budgeting plan can save the day. At Michigan Mortgage, we review all household income and debts with clients to make sure that they can afford a home and still make all of their monthly payments, including student loan debt. In fact, we will help them create a budget if they don’t have one so that they are comfortable with their bill and the payment of a new home.

While student loans can seem daunting and stifling, they should not stop folks from pursuing the dream of home ownership. If you are ready to make homeownership a reality, contact us today for a consultation.

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How do Escrow Accounts work?

Escrow “accounts” have more to do with your monthly mortgage payment than the initial home purchase.

When you borrow money from a bank or direct mortgage lender, this account is where the lender will deposit the part of your monthly mortgage payment that covers taxes and insurance premiums.

By collecting a fraction of those annual costs each month, the escrow account reduces the risk that you’ll fall behind on your obligations to the government or your insurance provider each year.

If you are putting down less than 20 percent for your down payment, most lenders will require you to open an escrow account. You will deposit monthly payments into the escrow account to cover your mortgage, plus property tax and insurance premiums; the lender will then take out the mortgage payment and pays the taxes and insurance for you. As for the mortgage insurance, the amount you will have to pay and when, depends on the type of you loan you get, so be sure to ask your lender what to expect.

The biggest advantage of using an escrow account is not having to come up with large payments once a year to pay taxes and homeowners insurance. Typically, it is much easier for people to pay $200 per month into a “forced” savings account instead of paying $2400 all at once.

Mortgage escrow accounts also guarantee your bills are paid on time. Your payments have already been budgeted for you and the money is waiting and available in your account. When the bill is due, the escrow account takes care of everything for you. It’s nice not to have to remind yourself of payment dates, amounts, etc.

A mortgage escrow account is an easy and simple way to manage your annual tax and insurance payments and put them on autopilot.

If you have any specific questions about your account, contact your lender and they can answer any questions you have.

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Tips that Make Getting a Mortgage a Breeze in 2019

Tip #1: Start early. One of the most important mortgage tips you should know before you get started is to understand all of your financial details. This makes the mortgage process go much more smoothly and eliminates surprises throughout the process.

Tip #2: Check your credit report for errors. Review your credit report to ensure that there are no errors such as incorrect addresses, phone numbers, names or accounts that show up. Your mortgage lender can give you the most detailed credit overview. There are multiple online sources that will provide a free credit report as well.

Tip #3: Work with a qualified lender before making repairs to your credit score on your own. A professional will consult you so that you don’t end up inadvertently lowering your score by trying to repair it on your own.

Tip #4: You can avoid private mortgage insurance if you have 20 percent down. If you do not have 20 percent down, there are multiple loan programs available that require a lower down payment. Your credit score and other variables come into play, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all process.

Tip #5: Make sure you can afford the payment comfortably. Most mortgages have a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio requirement. The DTI is the amount of monthly debt payments you have compared to your monthly income. Most mortgages will allow a maximum DTI of 41 percent; however, this number is not the same for every borrower nor for every loan. Ideally, you want to be comfortable and not stretch yourself too thin so you still have cash on reserve.

Tip #6: Know the right kind of loan for your unique situation. There are multiple loan options available. With conventional, FHA, rural development, VA, doctor loans and MSHDA options, as well as the streamlined 203(k) program, there are numerous nuances and options available to meet every borrower’s unique situation. Make sure you work with a knowledgeable loan officer that will take the time to educate you.

Tip #7: Have your documents ready so you don’t slow down the loan process. The mortgage process requires a great amount of paperwork, so having as much documentation beforehand can save time and energy. A loan officer will need to verify your income, tax documents, employment and a slew of other things.

Here is a checklist of some of the documents you may need (not all will apply to your unique situation).

  • Bank statements
  • Tax returns from the previous two years
  • W2s from past and current employers
  • Pay stubs
  • A list of your debts
  • A list of your assets
  • A gift letter if you’re using gift funds
  • Proof of timely rental payments
  • Credit Report
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Signed purchase agreement
  • Proof of additional income
  • Divorce decree
  • Bankruptcy paperwork

Depending on the loan and your credit history, you may need additional documentation not listed above. To better understand the process and be the most prepared, reach out to your trusted loan officer. We’re always here to help.

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How to Save for a Down Payment

Even if you don’t plan on buying a house for several years, you have probably started thinking about how to save for a down payment. Saving for a down payment means slowly setting aside small amounts of money and there are a number of ways to do that.

1. Plan ahead. Before you begin saving for a down payment for a home, you first need to know approximately how much you will have to save. Plan to sit down with a mortgage lender who will let you know what you qualify for.

In general, your housing expense should not exceed 29 percent of your monthly income. So, if your monthly income is $3,750 you can safely allocate $1,087 to your future house payment.

The $1,087 will include mortgage principal and interest, homeowners insurance, private mortgage insurance (PMI), real estate taxes and homeowners association (HOA) dues, if any. With interest rates at about 5 percent, this will put you into a mortgage loan ranging from $130,000 to $140,000.

To arrive at the amount that you can afford to pay for a house, you’ll have to add the down payment on top of that. So, if you are putting 5 percent down you would be looking at a sales price of about $135,000 to $145,000.

2. Determine your timeframe and budget. You will have to make some room in your budget to make sure that your savings are doable. Managing a tighter budget is a good way to prepare you for managing the type of tighter budget that home ownership requires.

3. Find the best way to save your down payment. Typically, since the money that you are investing will be used in a specific time frame, you should not save in a risk type investment (stocks). Instead, the money should be saved in a safe vehicle like your savings account or short-term CD.

4. Set up an automated savings plan. Set aside a certain percentage of or dollar amount of your regular pay to go directly into a savings account or money market account. This will remove the temptation and ability to spend the money for other purposes.

5. Windfall savings. You can shorten the savings period by including income tax refunds, gifts received, bonuses, and large commission checks and even the sale of personal assets into your down payment savings account.

If you have questions about down payments and costs associated with owning a home, please reach out to your trusted mortgage lender.

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Tips to Establish Credit for the First Time

Picture this: You live rent-free with a family friend, own your car outright, you are debt free and pay everything in cash and all the while you have been able to save thousands of dollars since starting a new job three years ago.

You’re in the perfect position to buy your dream home. Right?

Not exactly.

“Before applying for a mortgage, clients really need to understand the importance of having established credit and having a good credit score,” said Jill Dobb, loan officer assistant at Michigan Mortgage. “Buying a home requires you to have credit and the better the credit score the better the interest rate you will qualify for.”

“Many believe that just because they don’t have any debt, they are ready and financially capable of financing a home, which oftentimes is not the case.”

Living debt free is a goal for many, but in the eyes of the credit bureaus, debt free sometimes means you’re a credit “ghost,” meaning you’ve been inactive and nothing has reported to the bureaus for six months.

If you’ve had your credit pulled by your trusted mortgage lender and your score comes back 0, Dobb offered a few pieces of advice.

“We suggest that our clients with a zero credit score apply for a credit card or get a secured credit card at any national bank,” she said. “They need to use that card wisely to obtain a good credit score.”

“We recommend keeping all of your credit card balances below 30 percent of your credit limit and make sure all of your payments are made on time.”

If you have absolutely no credit score with all three credit bureaus, it will take a full 6 months to obtain a score with a revolving line of credit.

If you need additional information about credit improvement, or are interested in getting pre-approved for a mortgage, give us a call. We’d be happy to guide you in the right direction.

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When is the right time to lock in your interest rate?

Interest rates can be tricky. They change often, rising and falling with the market.

We want to make sure you’re getting the best rate possible, and we do that by locking your rate. How and when do we lock? Not all lenders are created equal, as you will see, but we wanted to take some time to explain our thoughts on the issue.

How do we know when to lock?

As interest rates continue to rise and the market becomes more volatile, it is more important than ever that your interest rate is locked at the right time.  So, when is the right time to lock? This article will discuss what goes into deciding when, and under what circumstances your loan should be locked.

There are two timing questions that should be considered.

  1. How far in advance of closing should you lock?
  2. How do you know if the market is getting better or worse?

How far in advance of closing should you lock?  

What many people don’t know is that a shorter lock duration generally gives you better pricing than a longer lock duration. I am not talking about the term (30-year loan v. 15-year loan) but rather the number of days the locked rate is secured before the closing happens. In other words, at any given time of day, if you lock for 15 days it is better pricing then if you lock for 30 days. This is the case regardless of the term of the loan.

One might deduce that it makes more sense to wait as long as you can (just before you close) to lock your rate. That might be a good strategy in a stable market, but not when rates are getting worse.

I think the old saying “pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered” applies here.

I like to lock loans as soon as possible so long as you are willing and able to close within 30 days. Because the market is finicky, I would rather take what is available now rather than risk market shift and a higher rate. If the closing is farther out than 30 days, I usually wait a bit to lock unless there are some very strong indicators of increasing rates. This is because a longer than 30-day lock carries with it a higher rate regardless of what the market does.

Playing the Market

But How do you know if the market is getting better or worse?  The short answer is… you don’t.

After 22 years in the business, I still rely heavily on experts to tell us where the mortgage market is going. We actually subscribe to a service that alerts us to lock our clients’ rates when the market is getting worse and to float when there is evidence it will get better or remain neutral. This is invaluable in a market like we currently have.

For example, in the last few weeks rates have increased four times. Each time before those rates moved, I was able to lock any loans that where floating and where scheduled to close in the next 30 days. Some of them I was able to lock on 15-day lock, thereby saving my clients thousands of dollars.

One last thought.

Clients that use lenders that cannot close within 30 days are at a significant disadvantage. Those that cannot close within 45 are even more vulnerable to a changing market. It is more important than ever to have a lender that can close quickly, watches rates and utilizes all technology available to them to make sure the client gets that best the market has to offer.

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Why a Doctor Loan?

For a new physician excited about the possibility of buying a home but carrying the weight of heavy student debt, a physician mortgage can be a great springboard for entering the housing market.

The physician loan (also known as a doctor loan) is designed to help a unique population that often has a high amount of student loan debt and minimal savings, as well as a new job contract that is required by lenders.

These loans are available for doctors, dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists and veterinarians.

The main advantages of doctor loans are access to financing with little to no money down and no required private mortgage insurance.

For new physicians, doctor loans offer a fast path to home ownership that would not be available otherwise. Last year, 84 percent of graduates from medical school reported having student loan debt; the median amount was $190,000 (according to the American Association of Medical Colleges).

Here’s a list of the program highlights.

  • 15-year fixed
  • No Mortgage Insurance
  • Loan amount up to $650,000
  • Minimum Credit Score: 700
  • Not available for Construction Loans
  • Not available for investment properties, second home or manufactured housing
  • Maximum 50 percent debt-to-income ratios

The perks of doctor loans are appealing for medical professionals who are ready to settle down after the grueling years in medical school and residency.

Physician loans are not a on size fits all option. It is important to sit down with a trusted mortgage professional and consider your individual situation to decide whether or not one is right for you.

For more information about doctor loans, visit www.michmortgage.com or contact one of loan officers. We’re here to help.