HELOC

What is a HELOC?

You could tap into your home equity with a cash-out refinance. But what if you already have a low rate on your mortgage?

Consider getting a home equity line of credit (HELOC) instead.

What is a HELOC?

According to Investopedia, “A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a set amount of available cash that can be used at the accountholder’s discretion and repaid over time. It works much like a credit card but has a substantially lower interest rate on outstanding balances. The money withdrawn is a loan secured by the borrower’s home mortgage, so a default on a HELOC account can be disastrous.”

With a HELOC, you can hold onto your low mortgage rate and still access funds to help pay for tuition, home renovations, high-interest credit cards, personal loans or whatever else you need it for!

Here are a few things you need to know.

  • HELOC funds can be withdrawn as needed
  • Multiple draws are available
  • Line amount of $10,000 – $500,000
  • Minimum 680 credit score is required
  • Variable rate
  • Flexible payment options

Remember, a HELOC is a variable rate, revolving line of credit that can be secured on your primary residence only.

If you have additional questions, please reach out. We are happy to help in any way we can!

Fall Stoop

How do interest rates impact your home buying power?

If you’re researching mortgages, you know that they come with interest rates. What exactly is a mortgage interest rate, and how much does it impact your buying power? What can you do to improve the interest rate you’re offered? We answer those questions in this article.

Your mortgage interest rate has a direct impact on how much house you can afford. What exactly is a mortgage interest rate?

Fall StoopA mortgage is a loan, and like other bank loans, it comes with an interest rate – it’s how lenders make enough money to stay in business. This is usually a percentage of the loan amount, and you pay it off alongside the principal. Usually, this makes up your monthly mortgage payment, along with things like private mortgage insurance (PMI), property taxes, and perhaps homeowner insurance.

How Your Mortgage Interest Rate Affects You

As the interest rate is part of your monthly mortgage payment, it directly affects how much of a loan you can afford. Even a small change in your interest rate can add quite a bit. For example, let’s say you bought one of Michigan’s average-priced houses for $210,000.

You managed a 10% down payment and got a conventional 30-year loan. At a 4% interest rate, you’re paying 1,264.40 per month. At 5% interest, this payment increases to $1,376.68. That’s $112 more per month – and 10 more PMI payments.

So, it’s pretty obvious how much your budget is impacted by mortgage interest rates. But what factors affect the interest rates themselves?

What Affects Mortgage Interest Rates?

Banks calculate interest rates based on many things, including the overall economic and market picture and the qualifications of each prospective borrower. We’ve already talked about factors that influence mortgage interest rates elsewhere in this blog, so let’s just do a quick overview of some of the factors you can influence:

  1. Your credit score and credit history.
  2. Your income and debt.
  3. Your down payment amount.
  4. The type of loan you choose.

Although a lot has been said about the Federal Reserve rate rising, it’s important to realize that this doesn’t directly affect your mortgage interest rate. (It does affect other types of loans, like credit cards.) However, the Fed is a good indicator of where the economy is heading, so it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on it.

Home

10 Things to Do Before You Buy a House

Are you ready to start shopping for your first home? Before you begin, take a look at these 10 tips to make your home-buying journey successful!

Few things are as exciting as making a real estate purchase – and few things cause more stress! To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 10 tips to help you navigate the process of buying your first (or second, or third) home. These won’t just reduce some of the anxiety, they’ll also help you avoid costly mistakes!

10 Tips for New Home-Buyers

  1. Know where and why you want to buy. The answers to these questions will help you understand what factors should be most important in your decision. For example, is your choice of neighborhood determined by your work, being close to family, or just that you fell in love with the area? Is this going to be a starter house that you’ll want to upgrade in a few years, or are you in for the long haul? Clarity here will help you make a purchase that’s in tune with the other parts of your life.
  2. Give yourself a financial health checkup. Start saving and paying off as many outstanding bills as you can. Check your credit report and get any errors removed. If you do this now, you’ll have a better understanding of what your budget really is – and a jumpstart on the mortgage preapproval process.
  3. Research neighborhoods, prices, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders. While the first two are a given, doing your homework on real estate agents and mortgage lenders is just as important.
  4. Plan your budget and down payment. Once you’ve gotten a clear idea of your financial status, figure out how much home you can afford and how much of a down payment you’ll need – and can manage. Hint: Down payment assistance is often available through state and other agencies.
  5. Understand how the mortgage and home-buying process works. We’ve covered this quite a lot in this blog. See our posts on mortgage underwriting and the path to home ownership for more details.
  6. Get pre-approved. We’ve covered mortgage pre-approval and why it’s so important elsewhere in this blog. Suffice it to say that you can make a stronger offer on a home when your mortgage is pre-approved.
  7. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. This is a very hot real estate market. Competition is intense, so be prepared to deal with sticker shock and maybe some disappointment if some other buyer beats you to a house. Be flexible and don’t give up. And know that it’s not just you; most home-shoppers are dealing with the same things.
  8. Review mortgage paperwork and requirements. Yes, there are mortgage professionals who will be reviewing these documents. But look them over yourself; not only will you be legally committing yourself to the terms, any mistakes you correct now will mean one fewer potential snag later.
  9. Verify all information in the listing. Make sure the house you are purchasing is all that the sellers claim. Make sure all the features and amenities, all the room sizes, are as advertised.
  10. Get a home inspection. This is different from a home appraisal, which is mostly about verifying the value of the house and any property. A home inspection looks for potentially costly building, health, and safety issues, and you don’t want to skip that.

Finally, remember that the mortgage provider you choose will have a big impact on your decision. Make sure you’re working with one like Michigan Mortgage that will help you explore all your lending options and choose the one that’s right for you!

 

Welcome

Beat the Rates with a Buydown Program

With the interest rates increasing, it’s important to find ways for buyers to continue to buy properties and have payments they can afford. A “Buydown” is a great way to do that.

Buydowns come in the form of 3-2-1, 2-1 and one-year buydowns.

How it works: funds from the seller pre-pay the buyer’s payment for 1, 2 or 3 years. For example, on a 2-1 Buydown, the interest rate is 2% lower than market in the first year, 1% lower the second year and market the third year.

WelcomeLet’s assume a home is being sold for $300,000 and the buyer is putting 5% down. To attract more buyers, the seller has agreed to pay $6,100 toward a 2-1 Buydown. If the current market rate is 5.5% then the buyer’s payment for the first 12 months would be at 3.5% or $1,279/month. For the second year, the payment would be based on a rate of 4.5% or $1,444/month. Starting in the third year, the buyer’s payment would be at 5.5% for the remaining 28 years or $1,618/month.

The cost is calculated by taking the difference between payments in year one and your 3×12 plus the difference between payments in the year two and year 3×12. In our example above the total cost would be $6,100. The monthly reduction in payment for the first year would be $339 and the $174 during the entire second year.

This may be a much more attractive option for a buyer than going into some sort of an adjustable rate (ARM) product that has more risk with it. Remember, an ARM will eventually adjust to the market rate and there is no guarantee that rates will be lower when that ARM starts to adjust.

The Buydown uses current market rates but allows the buyer to buy a home at a more affordable price with the risk of the ARM. Additionally, this a great way for buyers who are likely to make more money as they continue their career to ease into the payment.

But what is in this for the seller. Why would they do this? The answer is that the seller May be willing to concede $6,000 more readily than dropping their sale price by $10,000 or $15,000 when their house is not selling. Additionally, by offering this option to buyers they may get more interest from more buyers creating more competition.

We used to do 2-1 Buydowns years ago when rates were higher.  But for the last several years with rates at all-time lows, they were forgotten.  Now that rates are creeping up again, it may be good time to blow the dust off this product and help more buyers realize their dreams.

If you have questions about 2-1 Buydowns, give us a call! We’re happy to help in any way we can.

3 Tips to Buy a Vacation Home

Have you always dreamed of owning a cottage by the lake or a cabin in the woods? Buying a second or vacation home can make that a reality – but there are some things to know before you start shopping.

Maybe you love heading Up North every weekend and want your own place on the bay (which bay is up to you). Or perhaps you want to retire to a beach in Florida and want to buy your home now and rent it out to make some money until then. Either way, you’re thinking about buying a second home – and that’s a bit different than buying your first home or any other primary residence you’ve had. In this article, we’ll tell you why.

1.    Your Mortgage Might Be More Expensive

Your primary home (where you live most of the year) often carries less risk for mortgage lenders; a major reason is that it’s your only mortgage payment, so you’re less likely to strain your finances and default on it. Thus, primary residences usually get more favorable loan terms, with lower credit scores, higher debt-to-income ratios, and less money required for the down payment.

The flip side, of course, is that vacation homes come with stricter loan requirements and higher mortgage interest rates (to offset the greater risk).  You also won’t be eligible for some governmental loan assistance programs. So, while the monthly payment may not match that of your main residence, this may be a more expensive loan in terms of interest rates.

As a side note, look for a lender that provide second home loans regularly – some lenders even specialize in them. They’re likely to be able to help you find the best deal.

2.    Vacation Rental Homes Are Not the Same as Vacation Homes

No problem about the mortgage, right? You can always rent out your second home to cover the cost.

Except that vacation rentals are quite different from vacation homes in the mortgage world – and to many local authorities.

If you plan on renting out your vacation home on the regular and using this income to cover your mortgage costs, you’ve moved into the investment property zone. This comes with different requirements than a simple second home; depending on your mortgage terms, it might even violate your agreement with your lender if you rent the home out.

So if this is your plan, discuss it with your loan officer before you start the paperwork. You should also make sure that the location of your home allows vacation rentals; some popular vacation spots are putting restrictions on these “short-term” arrangements.

3.    Make Sure You Meet the Definition of a Vacation Home

There are some other requirements that come along with vacation homes. Obviously, you won’t be staying in it full-time, but you have to stay in it a stated number of days per year. And some lenders might stipulate that your vacation home is a certain distance from your main home; a vacation home in your neighborhood will look more like a rental property to most loan officers. Talk this over with your lender as well.

Before You Shop for a Vacation Home, Shop for a Mortgage

Your mortgage will impact how much vacation home you can afford, so talk with your mortgage lender before you start looking around. At Michigan Mortgage, we work hard to find the right loan for each individual customer.

Who’s responsible for paying closing costs?

More often than not, buyers and sellers are responsible for covering the costs of their respective closings.

Buyers can expect to pay 3 – 6% of the loan amount in closing costs. Sellers, on the other hand, typically pay 5 – 6% of the sale price to their Realtor.

But that’s not always the case. Here are a few ways buyers can get someone else to help pay their closing costs.

Seller Concessions

Buyers can sometimes avoid paying closing costs (or at least a portion of them) if they ask the sellers to pay them instead. This is called seller concessions.

Each loan program is different, as shown below.

  • Conventional: Up to 3% of the home’s value with a down payment of less than 10%. Up to 6% with a down payment of 10 – 25%.
  • FHA: Up to 6% of the home’s value.
  • VA: Up to 4% of the home’s value (there are some exceptions to this rule).
  • RD: Up to 6% of the home’s value.

In today’s competitive market, this may not be your best option, as sellers are hoping to net as much as possible when closing on the sale of their home. Your Loan Officer will explore all options and help guide you in the right direction.

Gift Funds

Financial gifts from loved ones can be used to fund your down payment and closing costs. In most cases, a “loved one” is defined as a family member, fiancé, or domestic partner.

Gift funds must be properly sourced and documented to avoid hiccups during the underwriting process. The gift must include a letter that states the funds don’t have to be repaid by the buyer.

For more information, reach out to your Michigan Mortgage Loan Officer.

Down Payment Assistance Programs

Are you familiar with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, otherwise known as MSHDA?

MSHDA offers a variety of down payment assistance programs to help buyers purchase their forever homes. Each program is different, but here are a few general MSHDA guidelines.

Michigan Mortgage has been named the No. 1 MSHDA Lender in Michigan (and West Michigan) since 2016. There are many MSHDA misconceptions in our marketplace – it’s a hard program to master. But our knowledge and expertise has set us apart from our competition.

We recommend that you explore all options with your Loan Officer before writing an offer. Give us a call if you have questions! We’re here to help in any way we can.

Reverse Mortgage

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A Reverse Mortgage is a home loan for seniors, age 62 or older, where they are able to use the equity in their home to get cash income and have the security of not having to pay monthly mortgage payments back.

Reverse MortgageIn the past, Reverse Mortgages were viewed in a negative light. That’s changing! There are many benefits to a Reverse Mortgage that consumers are unaware of.

How can a Reverse Mortgage help you achieve financial freedom?

  • Improve your monthly cash flow.
  • Payoff medical bills, auto loans and credit card debt.
  • Make home improvements (to modify the house to stay longer or for deferred maintenance).

Benefits of a Reverse Mortgage

  • Eliminates monthly mortgage payments.
  • Proceeds are not taxable.
  • Heirs get to keep the equity in the property and can never owe more than the house is worth.

Should you get a Reverse Mortgage? According to Forbes, “A reverse mortgage may be helpful but isn’t for everyone. There are a few factors that can make a reverse mortgage worth it:

  • Your home is increasing in value considerably. If you’re building up a lot of equity in your home, you may be able to take out a reverse mortgage and still have money left over for your estate.
  • You plan to stay in your home for a long time. Just like a regular mortgage, there are significant upfront costs associated with the loan. You’ll want to be sure you plan to live in that home long enough to make those costs worth it.
  • You can cover the costs of your home. Since staying current on property taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc. is required to keep your reverse mortgage current, it’s important that you have plenty of cash flow for these expenses.”

If you have considerable equity in your home and are looking for ways to use that equity as a form of income, a Reverse Mortgage may be for you! Reach out to your Michigan Mortgage Loan Officer for more information.

MSHDA

Do you need help making your monthly mortgage payments?

If you are struggling to make your monthly payments – mortgage, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, internet and more – due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) has a program to help.

According to MSHDA, “The Homeowner Assistance Fund was established under section 3206 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the ARP) to mitigate hardships associated with the coronavirus pandemic by providing funds to prevent homeowner mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosure, loss of utilities or home energy services and displacements of homeowners experiencing financial hardship on or after January 21, 2020 or for those homeowners who experience a coronavirus pandemic financial hardship that began before January 21, 2020 but continued after that date.

MSHDAThe U.S. Department of the Treasury notified MSHDA on April 14, 2021, that it will allocate $242,812,277 to the State of Michigan. This number was based on unemployed individuals and the number of mortgagors with delinquent mortgage payments.”

MSHDA opened the program to the public on February 14, 2022.

Who is eligible?

  • Homeowners with household incomes less than 150% of Area Median Income (AMI)
  • Homeowners who own and occupy the property as their primary residence
  • Homeowners must have and explain a financial hardship directly related to COVID-19 on or after January 21, 2020.

Up to $25,000 Grant Per Household to Pay:

  • Delinquent mortgage/housing expenses, including property tax and insurance escrow shortages
  • Delinquent land contract payments, mobile home consumer loan payments or mobile home park lot payments
  • Delinquent property taxes
  • Delinquent condominium/homeowners’ association fees
  • Delinquent homeowner’s insurance,
  • Delinquent utilities, gas, electric, water, sewer
  • Delinquent internet broadband services

For more information and to apply, click here. Due to backlog, it may take 6 – 8 weeks to review your application. If you have questions about the program, please call Customer Service 844-756-4423 or email MSHDA-HO-HAF-Program@michigan.gov.

Eryn

First 2022 Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship Winner Announced

In conjunction with our #MMGivesBack and Service Rewards programs, we’ve launched the Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship in hopes of recognizing High School Seniors with dreams of pursuing a career in service.

Careers Include:

  • Military
  • Teachers & Educators
  • Government & Politics
  • Police
  • Firefighters
  • First Responders
  • Doctors & Nurses

We received dozens of applicants and examined each one closely. We learned about their goals and aspirations, the community service they completed and impacts they made in West Michigan and how they plan to give back to those that need it most.

We assembled a Scholarship Committee to select our 2022 winners. Two West Michigan graduates will receive $1,000 to further their education.

ErynAfter much consideration, Michigan Mortgage is pleased to announce Eryn Bouwhuis, a 2022 Spring Lake High School Graduate, as a winner of this year’s Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship.

She said the following in her application.

“The word ‘service’ brings two other words to my mind which are: selflessness and sacrifice. The first word, selflessness, goes with the idea that in order to perform service you have to put other people’s needs first before yours. Service is the act of putting others in front of yourself. The second word, sacrifice, goes with the idea that service is the act of giving up one’s comfort for the benefit and needs of someone else. Service is done without any complaints, and it is done for the welfare of others. Service brings joy and happiness to others. I believe that service can truly change the lives of others, both the giver and the receiver. Even the smallest acts of service can go a long way. I believe that it is your duty to perform many acts of service throughout your whole lifetime.”

“I hope to work at a local hospital or somewhere close in order to give back to my local community of West Michigan. I believe that working as a nurse will serve as a way to give back to those in need. Another way I hope to impact our local community is by continuing to volunteer at local food pantries, food trucks, and blood drives. I have participated in some volunteer activities through my years on student council that I hope to continue with as I get older.”

Eryn plans to attend the University of South Carolina and major in Nursing. She may further my education by becoming a Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistant.

“This scholarship will help alleviate some stress that comes with paying for college,” she said. With less stress, I will be able to concentrate fully on my studies.”

Congratulations, Eryn! You are so deserving of this recognition.

Local Lender

5 Reasons to Choose a Local Mortgage Lender

Buying a home might be the single biggest purchase you make in your life. You want it to go right. That is why the mortgage lender you choose is critical to making sure your homeownership dreams come true and the experience is hassle-free.

Whether you are a first-time buyer needing assistance through the lending process or you are an existing homeowner seeking to refinance or purchase a vacation home, it pays to go with a local lender as opposed to a big-name national bank or brand.

Local LenderHere are 5 reasons to choose a local mortgage lender like Michigan Mortgage.

1. Personalized Service
A local mortgage lender gives you the chance to to work face-to-face with an expert, if need be. The growth of digital mortgages, like our Pro SNAP app, has eliminated the need for as much face-to-face meeting in the past, but as a home buyer it can be reassuring to know that your loan officer is right around the corner as opposed to across the country or overseas.

A local lender gets to know you. Your messages won’t sit in a voicemail box unanswered for weeks on end. With Michigan Mortgage, you’ll get a cell number for your loan officer and can call or text them at a moment’s notice to get your questions answered.

2. Local Expertise
Another advantage of local lenders is their familiarity with local market conditions. We know our local neighborhoods, so we know what’s going, what the trends are, and we use that knowledge when helping buyers obtain mortgages.

For example, a national lender with no roots in the local community may be reluctant to approve a mortgage for an atypical property, such as an original farmhouse on acreage that’s now covered by a subdivision. A local lender like Michigan Mortgage will know the history of the area and the changing demographics and economic trends and may be more comfortable underwriting such a loan.

Local lenders also have their finger on the pulse of the local or regional economy, and have a better sense of the lending risks in the area. What looks to a big lender like a dilapidated section of town might actually be an up-and-coming area where properties re increasing in value. Local lenders will know this.

Local lenders may also be more attractive to some home sellers and real estate agents who want an efficient and timely closing. Reputation matters. In situations where several offers are on the table, having a local, trusted lender could be the difference between closing or not closing.

3. Realtor Relationships
Local lenders invest a lot of time and effort building relationships with local Realtors. Realtors and lenders are the yin and yang of real estate. Michigan Mortgage loan officers are on a first-name basis with most of the real estate agents in their local areas.

Also, with everyone on your team – the Realtor, the lender, you– working in proximity, a closing can happen quickly and without hassle. The final stage of home buying is sometimes the most stressful. Having a unified team that is familiar and comfortable with each other can make the process quick and painless.

4. Varied and Specialized Products
Local lenders have a better understanding of property values and the local economy. When you work with Michigan Mortgage, you’re paired with a licensed loan officer and team of professionals who are experts in your region. Our loan officers help you choose the right type of loan for your circumstance and we keep you updated along the way. We have in-house tools and resources to expedite a loan, ensuring everything is taken care of in a timely manner.

Local lenders are where you’ll find the specialized loans the big lenders won’t bother with. Maybe you want an adjustable-rate mortgage with a 15-year lock? Or you want to buy a vacation property that lacks a furnace? Or you want to buy or refinance a home for less than $100,000, an amount too small to be of interest most lenders? Or you want a jumbo loan?

Local lenders are have more flexibility. Big banks need process large numbers of loan applications. To do that, they have rigid guidelines about who they will and won’t lend to. Big banks are more about volume than customer service.

At Michigan Mortgage, we have been Michigan’s leading MSHDA first-time buyer lender for 6 straight years. We are also a recognized USDA rural development leader.

5. Reliable, Responsive & Flexible
Local lenders are better at closing loans on a timely basis. If the closing of a loan has to be extended by a week, local lenders are more flexible than big banks who have corporate mandates to crank out the volume.

Local lenders, along with local real estate agents, have an incentive to provide you with excellent service because they want you to be a referral source for future business. They stake their reputation on each and every customer.

With a local lenders, you are much closer to the decision makers with the authority to approve your mortgage. You aren’t dealing with a corporate bureaucracy.

Michigan Mortgage loan officers are more likely to get personally involved in qualifying you for a mortgage, as opposed to big banks. Often, it’s a matter of the getting to know you. Perhaps you are self-employed with irregular income. Or you have poor credit due to a financial crisis, but have good income and low debt.

Michigan Mortgage loan officers are better suited to be responsible and flexible for borrowers like these.

At Michigan Mortgage, you will never be just a name or number on a loan application. We manage every step of the mortgage process, from application to underwriting to closing, to make the process easy. We have been financing the American homeownership dream for nearly three decades. We can do the same for you.