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Military Vets: Get a VA Home Loan

In addition to being one of the country’s leading lenders to first-time home buyers, Michigan Mortgage specializes in helping veterans of the United States military and their families get into their dream homes.

Veterans Affairs (VA) mortgages make it easier for veterans to obtain financing for home ownership. VA loans are available to veterans and active military members. VA loans are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and are somewhat easier to qualify for than conventional mortgages.

Image of a family hanging up an American flagVA Home Loan Benefits

VA loans are great because:

  • They can be obtained without any down payment.
  • Mortgage insurance is not required even if you put less than 20% down.
  • The VA does not require a specific credit score for a VA loan.

Although the costs of getting a VA loan are generally lower than they are for other types of low-down-payment mortgages, VA loans do carry a one-time funding fee that varies depending on the down payment and the type of veteran.

According to the VA, veterans who have taken advantage of the program have some of the lowest home ownership default rates, and that the agency also helped 80,000 VA borrowers avoid foreclosure in 2014, saving taxpayers $2.8 billion.

VA Loan Requirements

VA loans are offered to most active duty, reserve or National Guard and veteran service members and even some surviving spouses.

Veterans are able to borrow over $400,000 without any down payment on a principal residence home. According to the VA, almost 90% of VA loans have no down payment.

There’s also no minimum credit score requirement for a VA loan, while most home mortgage loans require a credit score of at least 620 for conventional loans or 580 for most FHA loans. A VA loan can also be used to refinance an existing loan.

VA loans do have specific requirements that most other loans don’t. For instance, all work on the home must be completed before the inspection. Also, there can’t be chipped or peeling paint inside or out, or termites or mold or loose handrails. In other areas, a VA inspection can be a bit more stringent. For example, while most home inspectors merely turn on the home’s furnace to see if it works, the VA requires inspectors to verify that the heat source can keep pipes from freezing.

Are you a vet? Reach out to one of our experienced Loan Officers to learn more. 

This blog post was written by experts at Mortgage 1 and originally appeared on www.mortgageone.com. Michigan Mortgage is a DBA of Mortgage 1. 

Kitchen

The Cost of Selling Your Home Yourself

It sounds easy, doesn’t it, selling your house on your own.

How hard can it be, right? Clean up the yard, take a few pictures, list the house on Zillow, then wait for the offers to roll in.

You’ve heard that houses are selling like hotcakes these days. If you sell by owner, you figure you can keep all the proceeds yourself. Money for nothin’…

The only hard part might be the paperwork at the end. But you presume there’s a website that takes care of all that.

It all sounds so easy, right?  Maybe not.

KitchenAs with anything, the devil is in the details. There are costs involved, along with the risk that you might shortchange yourself by not getting top dollar for your home.

Thinking of selling by owner? Here are some realities to be aware of.

Selling a Home by Owner Is Not Free and Easy

Selling a house by owner does not come without its costs. Among the financial costs many sell-by-owners don’t anticipate are the following.

Escrow fees: Escrow fees cover property taxes paid in advance to the lender that are held  in escrow. Escrow fees are usually split between the buyer and seller. They generally equate to 1% to 2% of the final selling price.

Title fees: These include a title search to verify the seller actually owns the property being sold and that there are not any conflicting liens on the property. Title fees can range from $300 to $1,500.

Reconveyance fees: Once your mortgage is paid off, you need to obtain a reconveyance deed to prove it. The cost for this can range from $50 to $65.

Recording fees: After obtaining a reconveyance deed, the transaction is recorded so it becomes a matter of public record. Recording fees are generally charged by the county where the transaction takes place, since the county maintains records of all property purchases and sales.  Recording fee costs differ from county to county. The national average for recording fees is $125, according to the Home Buying Institute.

Transfer taxes: These taxes are imposed by the city, county, or state to transfer title and register change ownership of the property. They are either calculated as a percentage of the sales price or as a flat fee. In Michigan, the transfer tax rate, as written into law, “is levied at the rate of $3.75 for each $500.00 or fraction of $500.00 of the total value of the property being transferred.” On a $250,000 home, the transfer tax is $1,875.

Attorney fees: If you have an attorney represent you at closing, you’ll pay for the attorney fees. They attorney may charge by the hour or they may charge a flat fee for a specific set of document preparation or review services.

Seller concessions: Seller concessions are closing costs the seller agrees to pay. They can make a home more affordable for the buyer, and they can help the seller close the deal. These concessions are negotiated between the two parties. On some loan types, there’s a cap on seller concessions. For example, on FHA loans, seller concessions are limited to six percent of the sale price of the home.

Mortgage pay off: As part of the sale, sellers must pay off the remainder of the loan on their home.

Holding costs: As the seller, you will pay holding costs (also called carrying costs), in between the time you accept an offer and the sale closes. You will continue to pay the monthly mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, association dues and utility bills during that time.

Other Potential Costs

In addition to the costs above, other possible costs involved in selling your home include:

Home appraisal: To determine the right selling price, some sellers hire an appraiser to determine the home’s fair market value. The national average for an appraisal is $355.

Multiple listing service (MLS) listing fee: MLS is the listing service professional realtors use, but anyone can list a home there. MLS will syndicate your listing to the major online listing sites. Fees for listing on MLS range from $50 to $500.

Professional listing photos: You might think you can get professional photos on your cell phone, but let’s be honest, you can’t. If you hire a professional real estate photographer to take photos and videos of your home, expect to pay several hundred dollars.

Advertising. Yard signs and a free listing on Craigslist sound great, but to reach a broad audience you’d need to run ads elsewhere. Expect to pay upwards of $200 for a month or two of ads on social media sites. Add in a few more dollars for posters or brochures.

Pre-listing home inspection. A pre-listing home inspection can give buyers confidence. Expect to pay upwards of $400 for an inspection.

Property survey. Again, to help reassure buyers, some sellers get a property survey. The national average for a survey is $550.

Open house expenses. If you decide to hold open houses to show off your home and generate foot traffic, there are costs related to promoting the open house, providing food and drinks (optional) and possibly staging the open house. There’s also the cost of your time to host the event.

Staging. Sellers in some markets hire professional stagers to make their house look the best it can be. Professionals are pricey, charging several thousand dollars. Even if you stage it yourself, there are costs associated with new furniture and other decorations.

The Biggest Risk: Shortchanging Yourself

The biggest hidden cost of selling by yourself is the risk of not pricing your home correctly or not getting as much as you can, especially in today’s competitive market.

Statistics from the National Association of Realtors indicate that For Sale By Owner homes sell for 11% less than homes sold by agents. Similarly, an analysis by the real estate technology firm HomeLight shows that top real estate agents help sellers get 10% more for their homes than average. 

If you are selling by yourself to save a few percentage points in Realtor fees, but you end up getting ten percent less for the house, where’s the financial wisdom in that?

The Value of a Realtor

We work with Realtors on a daily basis and know the value they provide.

Realtors help ensure sellers get top dollar for their homes. They also make sure the seller’s interests are protected. Realtors know experts in the industry like appraisers, surveyors, title companies, attorneys and more. They also get more foot traffic to the home. People often forget that agents work with other agents in their office who represent buyers and can get dozens if not hundreds of showings to a house in a matter of days.

If you need a Realtor referral, don’t hesitate to reach out. We work with some of the best in West Michigan.

This blog post was written by experts at Mortgage 1 and originally appeared on www.mortgageone.com. Michigan Mortgage is a DBA of Mortgage 1. 

Rob and Dave

Celebrating 25 Years of Success in the Business

When Dave Lehner and Rob Garrison teamed up to service West Michigan’s mortgage needs 25 years ago, they developed a plan to be the best in the business.

Their goal: focus on customer service to build trust with borrowers and business partners.

We dug through our archives and found the “How to Obtain Business” plan Dave created in 1994. It is safe to say they achieved their goal and so much more.

Rob and DaveHere are a few excerpts from the plan that highlight exactly who Rob and Dave are as Mortgage Lenders and Leaders.

Service: Service is the most important tool you will have. By taking care of the people that are using you, you will build a trust. Letting them know that when you say or set an appointment you will be there.

Returned Phone Calls and Pages: This goes along with service. When you are just starting out in the business, you must “Break Through.” One of the ways to break through is to call the person RIGHT BACK within 15 minutes! It doesn’t matter what it is regarding – always call back.

People Buying from People: Do not try to be a salesperson. Relax and be yourself. You do not have to always talk about work

Habit: They say it takes 90 days to make something a habit. If you keep going every day, even though at times it is very frustrating, you will notice that things will start happening. You must have faith, desire, and commitment. “Thick skin” is essential in this business. You have got to put your fears or emotions away! It takes four no’s to get one yes, so every time someone tells you “no” you’re that much closer to a “yes.”

Salesmanship: This is a tough thing to teach. You are not going to know everything in this business. Some people think they have to know everything before they can talk to a customer because they are afraid they will be embarrassed. Just get in there and get the deal, you will learn as you go. Being a good salesperson (not a liar) has to do with being sincere and truthful. Do not try to be a chameleon changing your colors to fit in, people will see right through you and will not trust you. It takes time and understanding of people. Always try to remember to put yourself in their shoes when you are talking to people and be straightforward and business will grow.

These words ring true today, 25 years after they were originally written (except for the mention of returning pages, of course). If our team can continue to focus on customer service, we will see success for many years to come.

Increase Home Equity

5 Tips to Increase Home Equity

Your home is probably the most valuable thing you own. Increasing the equity you have in your home can go a long way toward increasing your overall net worth. Equity is your home’s fair market value minus how much you owe on it.

Rising home prices, combined with falling mortgage rates, have helped homeowners increase their home equity over the past few years. Nationwide, home equity is rising. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the average homeowner gained about $26,300 in equity over the course of the year — the largest average equity gain since the third quarter of 2013. See the image below.

Home equity increases in 20020.

First, let’s define what we mean by home equity.

Home equity is the amount of your home that you actually own. In other words, your home equity is equal to your home’s current market value, minus your remaining mortgage balance. For example, if your home is valued at $300,000 and you owe $175,000 on the mortgage, your equity is $125,000.

Here are five ways to build up home equity.

1. Increase Your Down Payment

The more you put down on a home, the more of it you own right off the bat. Let’s say the home you buy is valued at $200,000. If you make a $10,000 down, you will owe $190,000 on the mortgage and have $10,000 in equity. If, however, you increase your down payment to $20,000, you would owe $180,000 on the mortgage and have $20,000 in equity.

2. Make Extra Mortgage Payments

Since paying off your mortgage helps you build equity, you’ll grow it even faster (and be able to pay off your loan sooner) by making extra payments each month. Many lenders even allow you to set your own recurring schedule, so you can make extra payments at an pace you feel comfortable with. If, for example, you had a 25-year loan for $250,000 at 3.75% interest, your monthly payments would be about $1,285.33. Increasing this by one-twelfth would add $107.11 to each payment. All of that extra payment would go toward the principal, thereby increasing your equity in the home.

3. Make Home Improvements

When you invest in home improvement projects–like an updated kitchen or bathroom–you’re increasing its value and, thus, boosting its equity. Just be sure to choose upgrades that provide the biggest payback. This cost-vs.-value tool can help you figure out which remodeling projects provide the best bang for your buck.

4. Enhance the Curb Appeal

Improving curb appeal can boosts your home’s value by 3-5%. Even simple things like trimming bushes, putting in a garden, painting and power washing can make an impact.

5. Shorten the Loan Term

Refinancing into a short-term loan will increase your equity faster. You will have higher monthly payments, but more of your payment will be going toward the balance, which increases the amount of the home you own.

Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC)

One benefit of building equity in your home is that you can tap into that equity with a home equity line of credit (HELOC). A HELOC is a revolving line of credit usually with an adjustable interest rate, which allows you to borrow up to a certain amount over a period of time. HELOCs work in a manner similar to credit cards, where you can continuously borrow up to an approved limit while paying off the balance.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call! We’re here to help in any way we can.

This blog post was written by experts at Mortgage 1 and originally appeared on www.mortgageone.com. Michigan Mortgage is a DBA of Mortgage 1. 

Spring Welcome Mat

Tips for Buying a Home This Spring

The spring homebuying season is upon us! It’s the most popular time to buy a home, but also the most competitive. What do you need to do to be ready for it?

Given the financial commitment that buying a home represents, it’s amazing how many people wade into the process with minimal preparation. Here are six steps to get you ready to tackle the busy spring market and put you in position to get a good deal on a great home.

#1: Check your credit

Yes, you may be tired of hearing it, but checking your credit is the first step you want to take in buying a home. Even if you’re confident that you’ve got excellent credit, undiscovered errors in your report could drag down your score – and result in a higher interest rate on a mortgage. Your credit score will also affect the mortgage rate you can obtain and the cost of the loan as a result.

You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and Transunion. You can order them through the official site at www.annualcreditreport.com. Once you have them, check for any errors in the payment history or status of your credit accounts and follow the instructions for correcting any that you find.

Your free credit reports don’t include your credit scores, which are what lenders use when evaluating you for a mortgage. For those you typically need to pay, either by purchasing them directly from the three companies or by enrolling in a credit monitoring service that includes your credit scores as a free perk.

Spring Welcome Mat#2: Know what you can afford

This can be a deceptively complex problem – it’s not simply a matter of figuring out how much of a mortgage payment you can handle. You also need to take into account property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and – you’re making less than a 20 percent down payment – mortgage insurance as well. All these are typically billed with your mortgage statement.

Then you also have to consider what kind of down payment you can make, the ongoing costs of home maintenance, monthly utility bills and a reserve for unexpected repairs. You’ll probably also want to have something set aside for buying new furniture or appliances, and other purchases/expenses to make the home your own.

The standard rule of thumb is that lenders don’t want to see you spending more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on your mortgage payment, and no more than 36 percent on loans of all types (auto, credit cards, etc.) though these are flexible. Just as important though, is how much of your earnings you want to spend on housing – 28 percent may be higher than you want to go.

#3: Consider the down payment

Your down payment isn’t just a matter of what you can put together or trying to hit a certain number. To a certain extent, the size of a down payment is a choice you make depending on how much you’re looking to borrow and the mortgage terms you’re willing to accept.

While a 20 percent down payment is considered the gold standard, it isn’t mandatory. Most lenders view 10 percent down nearly as favorably and many will let you go as low as 5. That allows you to buy a higher-priced home, but you will need to buy private mortgage insurance, which is like paying an extra half a percent or more on your mortgage rate.

If you go the FHA route, you can put as little as 3.5 percent down, which maximizes your homebuying ability but means higher fees both up front and for annual mortgage insurance.

If you’re seeking a jumbo loan or have damaged credit, lenders may require that you put at least 30 percent down in order to be approved.

#4: Do Your Research

Browse the real estate listings to see what sort of homes are being offered in your price range and where. Drive by a few of them to get a sense of the home and neighborhood in real life. Go to a few open houses to get a sense of the market and a feeling for prices. Pay particular note to homes that sell almost immediately after being listed – that’s a sign it was attractively priced, while ones that linger are likely overpriced.

You can also check local assessor’s office records online to see what other homes in the area have sold for recently, or use commercial online listings to do the same thing.

#5: Use a Realtor

A Realtor representing your interests as a buyer can be a big help when house hunting. First, they’ll be tuned into the local housing market and can help you cut through the clutter to find the properties that best match your criteria. They can also alert you when new ones are coming on the market.

#6: Be Ready to Buy

Because the spring housing market can be very competitive, you want to be ready to make an offer as soon as you find the right house. If you wait a day or two to think it over, you may find someone else has beat you to it, particularly if it’s an attractive property.

For this reason, you want to be sure to get preapproved for a mortgage before you being home shopping in earnest. Getting preapproved means choosing a lender and submitting all the financial information you need to be approved for a loan. It’s different from being prequalified, which simply means a lender gives you an estimate of what you can borrow based on unverified information you provide.

When you’re preapproved, you can show that to a seller as evidence you’re ready to buy and have the means to do so. That’s an important thing to be able to do when you may be competing with several other offers.

This blog post was written by experts at Mortgage 1 and originally appeared on www.mortgageone.com. Michigan Mortgage is a DBA of Mortgage 1. 

Why is my Credit Karma score different than my mortgage credit score?

Credit Karma is a great tool when it comes to credit monitoring and fraud alerts, but using the free tool while applying for a mortgage can sometimes raise confusion.

Why is my Credit Karma score different than the credit score my mortgage Loan Officer is using for financing?

This is one of our most commonly asked questions, so we’d like to offer an explanation.

Most people assume that their Credit Karma score is their universal credit score when applying for a home or auto loan. When their true mortgage credit score is pulled by their Loan Officer, shock and anger typically follow. Why are they different? Did the Loan Officer pull the wrong score?

Credit Synergy said this: “The information that was pulled by Credit Karma is the same that their mortgage loan officer pulled…. the only difference is the algorithm being used. Credit Karma utilizes a Vantage scoring model, while the mortgage industry utilizes three FICO algorithms: Beacon 5.0, Classic04, FICO V2. The Vantage algorithm being used by Credit Karma is typically 50 points or so higher than a mortgage FICO score.”

Mortgage FICO scores analyze your payment history, the number of years you’ve had credit, types of credit accounts you have, and more. These tend to be much more detailed than the reports pulled by Credit Karma and other consumer credit reporting companies.

We know it’s confusing. And some of our customers’ first instinct is to reach out to a second mortgage company to compare their credit score.

Rest assured, it doesn’t matter what mortgage company or what Loan Officer pulls your credit score. The scores will always be the same when you’re applying for a mortgage (and will always be different than your Credit Karma score).

If you have more questions about your credit, or would like to apply for a mortgage with one of our experienced Loan Officers, please reach out. We’re here to help in any way we can.

Thank you for trusting us to guide you home!

MSHDA DPA Program

MSHDA Announces $10,000 Down Payment Assistance Program for Michigan Home Buyers

MSHDA announced a new down payment assistance loan program called MI 10K DPA Loan, which offers $10,000 in assistance to buyers to use towards the required down payment, closing costs and prepaids/escrows. The program is available in 236 Michigan zip codes.

MSHDA DPA ProgramAccording to MSHDA, “This program was created to offer assistance to purchasers within specific geographic areas where the opportunity to purchase a home is high but the rate of homeownership needs improvement. Homebuyers looking to purchase a home within one of these areas will benefit from additional support to help them achieve homeownership.”

The MI 10K DPA Loan program will provide:

  • $10,000 to use towards the required down payment, closing costs and prepaids/escrows; any additional down payment can be used to buy down the first lien.
  • Maximum financing is not required.
  • Must be combined with a MSHDA MI Home Loan first mortgage (FHA, RD Guaranteed, or Conventional).
  • Minimum 1% borrower contribution.
  • Cash assets are restricted to $20,000.
  • 0% interest and no monthly payments.
  • Loan is due when the home is sold, refinanced, the first mortgage is paid in full, homeownership interest is transferred, or the home ceases to be the primary residence.
  • Available in 236 Michigan zip codes.

The program is available in the following Lakeshore zip codes.
Muskegon County: 49440, 49441, 49442, 49444, 49445
Ottawa County: 49417, 49423, 49424, 49428, 49464

For more information about the MI 10K DPA Loan program, reach out to your Michigan Mortgage Loan Officer. Thank you for trusting us to guide you home!

Moving Boxes

10 Facts Home Buyers Should Know

We live in a data-driven society. Numbers tell a story, but not always the full story. In this article, we’ve compiled 10 interesting and insightful home buying and home ownership stats. More importantly, we provide explanations for why the numbers are important and what they tell us. Would-be and existing homeowners can use these insights to make informed buying and borrowing decisions.

Here are 10 facts all home buyers should know.

Moving Boxes#1. On average, buyers spend 10 weeks searching for a home and view an average of 10 houses.

What this tells us: You can’t rush the home buying process. Be patient. Buying a house is a big investment. You may live there 30 years or longer. You will spend a good chunk of money on the home. What does it matter if you look at 10 or even 20 houses, so long as you find that one that’s right for you.

#2. For buyers aged 28 and younger, the median purchase price of a home was $177,000.

What this tells us: Millennials are now the largest home buying segment in America. Buyers aged 22 through 28 are the youngest segment of millennials. To afford a $177,000 house, presuming you put down a 20% down payment ($35,000) on a 4% 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, your annual household income would need to be approximately $30,000.

#3. For buyers aged 29-38, the median purchase price of a home was $274,000.

What this tells us: This data point is proof of the value of owning a home. The median price for this home buying segment is nearly $100,000 higher than the 28 and under age group, meaning that over a ten year span, the average homeowner has accumulated $100,000 in additional wealth, much of it largely attributable to their home.

#4. According to first-time buyers, paying down debt is the number one reason they struggle to afford a home, cited by 26% of home buyers.

What this tells us: Don’t let debt bite you in the butt. When it comes to qualifying for a mortgage, income and debt are the two biggest qualifying criteria. Not enough of one and too much of the other will hurt you. While you cannot directly control how much you make, you can control how much you spend and keep your debt under control.

#5. Median monthly housing costs are $1,566.

What this tells us: This tells us what the median homeowner can expect to pay on a monthly basis for home ownership. These costs include mortgage as well as taxes and insurance. As you begin your home hunting journey, keep this figure in mind to make sure you can afford the home you desire. Using the 28/36 rule, which says you should spend no more than 28% of your monthly income on housing expenses, an annual household income of approximately $67,000 is needed for these expenses.

#6. The average mortgage loan amount in 2019 was $184,700.

What this tells us: Assuming a 20% down payment on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4%, the monthly payment for this mortgage amount would be $882.

#7. For new, approved, noncommercial mortgages, the average credit score was 732 in 2019.

What this tells us: Credit score matters when it comes to getting a good rate on a mortgage. Do what you can to improve your credit score – pay down debt, pay your bills on time and don’t apply for new credit.

#8. Mortgage rates remain at record lowsBelow 3%.

What this tells us: This tells us there are buying and refinancing opportunities. Mortgage rates continue to be crazy low. Last week, mortgage rates fell to yet another record low, for the eleventh time since the beginning of the year. The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 2.8%, according to Freddie Mac. That’s the lowest level in the nearly 50 years of the mortgage giant’s survey. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 2.33%.

#9. The running average annual 15-year mortgage rate for 2020 through Sept. was 2.71%.

What this tells us: Rates on 15-year mortgages are usually lower than 30-year loans. If you can afford the little bit higher monthly payments that come with a 15-year mortgage, you will pay less total interest over the life of the loan and you will pay off your loan faster.

#10. For 2020, housing prices have risen approximately 5%.

What this tells us: Owning a home continues to be a road to prosperity. Home values continue to appreciate. Owning a home can be a valuable contributor to your overall wealth.

Go Beyond the Numbers

Looking for a new home or thinking about refinancing? Go beyond the numbers and get the loan that’s right for you. Connect with a Michigan Mortgage Loan Officer to get the process started using our digital mortgage app. It’s fast and easy! It only takes 15 minutes.

 

 

Sources: 1,2,3: National Association of Realtors, 2019; 4: Coldwell Banker, 2019; 5: US Census Bureau, 2018; 6, 7: Federal Housing Finance Agency, 2019; 8: CNN ; 9: Freddie Mac, 2020; 10: Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University, 2020

 

FICO Score

FICO Score: What It Is & Why It Matters

When you apply for a mortgage, your lender runs a credit report. A key component of the report is your credit score. One of the most commonly used credit scores in the mortgage industry is FICO.

In this article, we describe what FICO is, how it is measured, how it is used when approving you for a mortgage, and steps you can take to maintain and improve your credit score.

What is FICO?

FICO is a credit score created by the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO). The FICO company specializes in what is known as “predictive analytics,” which means they take information and analyze it to predict what might happen in the future.

In the case of your FICO score, the company looks at your past and current credit usage and assigns a score that predicts how likely you are to pay your bills. Mortgage lenders use the FICO score, along with other details on your credit report, to assess how risky it is to loan you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as what interest rate you should pay.

Why is FICO Important?

FICO scores are used in more than 90% of the credit decisions made in the U.S. Having a low FICO score is a deal-breaker with many lenders. There are many different types of credit scores. FICO is the most commonly used score in the mortgage industry.

A lesser-known fact about FICO scores is that some people don’t have them at all. To generate a credit score, a consumer must have a certain amount of available information. To have a FICO score, borrowers should have at least one account that has been open for six or more months and at least one account that has been reported to the credit reporting agencies over the last six months.

FICO Score Ranges

FICO scores range between 300 and 850. A higher number is better. It means you are less risk to a lender.

Scores in the 670-739 range indicate “good” credit history and most lenders will consider this score favorable. Borrowers in the 580-669 range may find it difficult to obtain financing at attractive rates. Less than 580 and it is difficult to get a loan or you may be charged “loan shark” rates.

The best FICO score a consumer can have is 850. Fewer than 1% of consumers have a perfect score. More than two-thirds of consumers have scores that are good or better.

Here’s a breakdown of scoring ranges and what they mean:

  • Score: <580
    Rating: Poor
    What It Means: Well below average; Indicates to lenders that you’re a risky borrower
  • Score: 580-669
    Rating: Fair
    What It Means: Below average; many lenders will approve loans, but many will not
  • Score: 670-739
    Rating: Good
    What It Means: Average or slightly above average; most lenders will approve loans
  • Score: 740-799
    Rating: Very Good
    What It Means: Above average; shows lenders you are a dependable borrower; nearly all lenders will approve you
  • Score: 800+
    Rating: Exceptional
    What It Means: Well above average; shows lenders you are an exceptional borrower; virtually every lender will approve you

                               Source: Experian 

The 5 Components of a FICO Score

A FICO score take into account five areas to determine the creditworthiness of a borrower:

  • Payment History. Payment history identifies whether you pay your credit accounts on time. A credit reports shows when payments were submitted and if any were late. The report identifies late or missing payments, as well as any bankruptcies.
  • Current Indebtedness. This refers to the amount of money you currently owe. Having a lot of debt does not necessarily mean you will have a low credit score. FICO looks at the ratio of money owed to the amount of credit available. For example, if you owe $50,000 but are not close to reaching your overall credit limit, your score can be higher than someone who owes $10,000 but has their lines of credit fully extended.
  • Length of Credit History. The longer you have had credit, the better your score will be. FICO scores take into account how long the oldest account has been open, the age of the newest account, and the overall average.
  • Credit Mix. Credit mix identifies your variety of credit accounts — retail accounts, credit cards, installment loans, vehicle loans, mortgages, etc. More variety gives a higher score.
  • New Credit. New credit refers to recently opened accounts. If you have opened a lot of new accounts in a short period of time, that will lower your score.

How is FICO Calculated?

To determine credit scores, FICO weighs each category differently:

  • Payment history is 35% of the score
  • Current indebtedness is 30%
  • Length of credit history is 15%
  • Credit mix is10%
  • New credit is 10%
Here are some things that FICO says it does not factor into its scores:
  • Participation in a credit counseling program
  • Employment information, including your salary, occupation, title, employer, date employed or employment history
  • Where you live
  • The interest rates on your credit accounts
  • “Soft” inquiries (requests for your credit report), which include requests you make to see your own credit reports or scores
  • Any information that has not been proven to be predictive of future credit performance

Tips for Improving Your FICO Score

Here are tips for maintaining and improving your FICO score. The time it takes to improve your credit score depends on the reason your score needs boosting in the first place.  If your score is low because you don’t have much credit history, your score can be boosted within months. If your score is low for other reasons, boosting it can take longer.

  • Keep Credit Balances Below Limits. Getting a high FICO score requires having a mix of credit accounts and maintaining an excellent payment history. You should keep your credit card balances well below their limits. Maxing out credit cards, paying late, and applying for new credit all the time will lower FICO scores.
  • Dispute Errors. It’s possible to improve your credit score in a matter of weeks. For example, you could successfully dispute errors on your credit report, pay down credit card debt, or pay off collections accounts. These actions could remove negative information from your credit report or add some positive info, either of which may benefit your credit score.
  • Pay Bills On Time. Realistically, here’s what you need to do: pay your monthly bills on time. A single on-time payment won’t do much to improve your score. Paying your bills regularly on-time will.

Here’s how different actions can negatively affect your credit score and for how long:

Action Avg. Recovery Time Credit Score Impact
Applying for Credit 3 months Minor
Closing an Account 3 months Minor
Maxing Out a Credit Card 3 months Moderate
Missed Payment / Default 18 months Significant
Bankruptcy 6+ years Significant
Source: VantageScore

Have questions about FICO or anything else mortgage-related? Give us a call!

This blog post was written by experts at Mortgage 1 and originally appeared on www.mortgageone.com. Michigan Mortgage is a DBA of Mortgage 1. 

First-Time Buyer Questions

First-Time Buyer FAQ ⁠— Part 2

First-Time Buyer QuestionsFor first-time buyers, the mortgage process raises a lot of questions. In part two of this series, we tackle some more of the most common questions we receive from customers.

“How Much Should I Save for a Down Payment?“

The exact dollar amount you should save for a down payment depends on the price of the house you are buying. Most down payment requirements are expressed in percentages. A 5% down payment on a $500,000 house is much greater in raw dollars ($25,000) than 5% on a $200,000 house ($10,000).

In terms of the minimum requirements for different loan types:

  • For USDA or VA loans, no down payment is required.
  • For FHA loans, the minimum down payment is 3.5%.
  • For FannieMae HomeReady loans, the down payment is 3%.
  • On a conventional loan, the minimum down payment will be somewhere between 3% and 5% of the purchase price. Be aware, however, that you will have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) if your down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price.

“What Will My Monthly Payment Look Like?“

A mortgage payment consists of two components:

  • Principal
  • Interest

The principal portion goes toward paying off the original amount of money you borrowed. The interest portion covers the cost of borrowing.

Your mortgage payment will be the same amount each month. Early in the life of the loan, more money goes toward interest than principal. Over time, the principal portion will match and then exceed the interest amount. For example, on a 30-year $200,000 mortgage at 4%, your monthly payment is $955. For the first payment, $288 goes toward principal and $667 goes toward interest. It isn’t until the 153rd payment that the interest and principal are roughly equal. Thereafter, more of the monthly payment goes toward principal until, on the very last payment of the schedule, $952 goes to principal and $3 to interest.

Your lender will provide you with an amortization schedule that shows a month-by-month P&I (principal and interest) breakdown for your loan.

For convenience, many people include property tax and insurance payments in their monthly mortgage payment. Technically, these aren’t part of the loan, but the loan servicer can put this money into an escrow account, where it is saved until the taxes and insurance are due. They then make the payments for you. You are not required to include escrow in your monthly payments. If you choose not to, you will just pay your property taxes and insurance annually on your own.

“Which Loans Are Best for First-Time Buyers?

Along with conventional loans, the following loans offer distinct advantages for first-time buyers.

  • FHA loans. A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is a mortgage that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and issued by an FHA-approved lender such as Mortgage 1. FHA loans are designed for low-to-moderate-income borrowers; they require a lower minimum down payment and lower credit scores than many conventional loans.
  • VA loans. VA loans are offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs. They are available to active and veteran service personnel and their families. VA loans are backed by the federal government and issued through private lenders like Mortgage 1. VA loans have favorable terms, such as no down payment, no mortgage insurance, no-prepayment penalties, and limited closing costs.
  • USDA loans. Rural Development home loans are low-interest, fixed-rate loans provided by the United States Department of Agriculture. The loans do not require a down payment. The loans are financed by the USDA and obtained through private lenders, such as Mortgage 1, and are meant to promote and support home ownership in underserved areas.
  • MSHDA loans. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) offers down payment assistance to people with no monthly payments. The down payment program offers assistance up to $7,500 (or 4% of the purchase price, whichever is less).

“Can I Complete the Mortgage Process Online?“

Yes! Every Michigan Mortgage loan officer has a Home Snap digital application that allows you to complete the application process online. You can get approved in as little as 15 minutes. The app lets you submit your information, communicate with your loan officer, and track the status of your loan. In these times of COVID and social distancing, Home Snap is the perfect solution.

“What is PMI?“

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is an insurance policy that protects a mortgage lender or title holder if a borrower defaults on payments, passes away, or is otherwise unable to meet the contractual obligations of the mortgage. If you pay 20% or more as a down payment on a conventional loan, you do not need PMI. Once you start paying PMI, it goes away in two ways: (1) once your mortgage balance reaches 78% of the original purchase price; (2) at the halfway point of your amortization schedule. For example, if you have a 30-year loan, the midpoint would be 15 years. At the point, the lender must cancel the PMI then, even if your mortgage balance hasn’t yet reached 78% of the home’s original value. PMI is typically between 0.5% to 1% of the entire loan amount.

“What Do I Need to Bring to Closing?

Closing is when you sign the many documents that finalize your purchase. The closing is usually held at a title company’s office. The seller will be there, as will your agent. In terms of what you should bring:

  • Photo ID: The closing agent has to verify that you are who you say you are. A driver’s license or current passport will do.
  • Cashier’s or certified check: This is to cover any down payment and closing costs you owe. Do not bring personal check or cash. Your lender will tell you how much the check should be and who it should be made out to.
  • Proof of insurance: The closing agent needs to see proof that you have the insurance in effect on closing day and a receipt showing you’ve paid the policy for a year. They may have already collected that, but it doesn’t hurt to bring your own copy just to ensure things go smoothly.
  • Final purchase and sales contract: Just in case you need to double-check anything against the actual closing costs.

“What Happens If My Appraisal is Low?

When determining the size of your loan, lenders use a formula called loan-to-value (LTV). When your mortgage contract is initially written, LTV is calculated using the purchase price. But the final contract is based upon the official appraised value of the house. What happens if the appraised value comes in lower? You have several options.

  • Boost the amount of your down payment. This will allow you to meet the LTV and down payment minimums.
  • The seller can lower the price. The seller can agree to drop the sales price of the house to match the appraised value. This will allow you to meet LTV.
  • Dispute the appraisal and ask for a new one. If you think the appraiser undervalued the house, you can ask for a new appraisal.
  • Cancel the purchase. If a compromise can’t be reached, you can cancel the home purchase agreement.

“What Will Mortgage Rates Be Next Year?

Ah, if only we had a crystal ball. We can’t predict what mortgage rates will be in a year, but we can say that rates today are near historic lows. The Federal Reserve announced recently that they will be holding short-term interest rates steady for the foreseeable future. While mortgage rates aren’t tied specifically to short-term interest rates, the two generally track closely together. So, while we can’t predict what rates will be in a year, we can say with certainty that today’s rates are at historic lows.

Got Questions? We’ve Got Answers

If you have questions, let us know. At Michigan Mortgage, we specialize in helping first-time buyers understand the mortgage process.

This blog post was written by experts at Mortgage 1 and originally appeared on www.mortgageone.com. Michigan Mortgage is a DBA of Mortgage 1.