Tag Archive for: Home Buying Tips

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.

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.

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.

Everything You Need to Know About MSHDA

Did you know that Michigan Mortgage was named the #1 MSHDA Lender in 2021?

In fact, our very own Dave Lehner was named the #1 MSHDA Loan Officer in West Michigan in 2021!

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.

Dave and Rob sat down with Alex Craig of the Dolinski Group to talk all things MSHDA and share their experiences over the past 25 years.

If you have questions about MSHDA, don’t hesitate to reach out! We’re here to help in any way we can.

co-borrower

Benefits of Having a Co-Borrower

It’s no secret – home prices in Michigan are on the rise. If you’re in the market for a new home and are wondering whether or not you can afford a home on your own, bringing on a co-borrower may be a possibility.

You may not need a co-borrower to qualify, but there are benefits to having one.

co-borrowerYou can enter the market sooner. In today’s market, it’s all about speed and strength. Having a co-borrower added to your mortgage application can increase your buying power and help you enter the competitive market with your best foot forward.

You can afford a bigger home. If you add a co-borrower to your mortgage application, it’s likely that you’ll be able to afford a larger home at a larger price point. Your Loan Officer will combine your income (if the co-borrower credit qualifies) to determine how much you can spend on a new home.

You’ll have more money for a down payment. Much like income, as stated above, if a co-borrower is added to your mortgage application, their assets are included in financing calculations. Between the two of you, you may have more money saved for a down payment.

Like all things, there are positives and negatives to adding a co-borrower to your mortgage application.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Your co-borrower must credit qualify. As mentioned earlier, co-borrower must credit qualify to be included on your mortgage application. We will verify your co-borrower’s income and credit before proceeding. We recommend that you have these conversations with your co-borrower before application is taken.

You are both liable for the loan. Before you add a co-borrower to your mortgage application, please make sure you’re comfortable with the long-term consequences. If a payment is missed or the home is entered into foreclosure, you’re both liable and your credit scores will be impacted.

Trust is key.

If you’re interested in purchasing a new home, we recommend that you sit down with an experienced Loan Officer to better understand your options. We’re here to help any way we can!

Realtor

How to Find the Right Realtor to Fit Your Needs

Choosing the right realtor can make your home-buying or home-selling process much less stressful. Here’s how to find the right Realtor for your needs.

RealtorBuying or selling a home is a big decision, one of the most financially impactful you’ll ever make. A little expert guidance would be very helpful – but how can you find an expert you can trust? One who’s both knowledgeable and ready to look out for your best interests? It’s all down to choosing the right realtor.

That may seem easier said than done. In most places, you can choose between several or even dozens of real estate professionals. How can you find one that works for you? That’s what we’ll answer in this article.

Realtor, Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Broker, or …

First, let’s clear up some confusion around who’s who in the real estate industry. According to Realtor.com:

  • “A realtor is a licensed real estate salesperson who belongs to the National Association of REALTORS®.
  • real estate broker runs an agency and has agents working under them. The broker must take additional courses and pay additional fees to maintain their state-issued broker license.
  • real estate agent is a state-licensed salesperson selling on behalf of the broker. Some states mandate that all real estate agents take additional coursework and pass another test to become associate brokers, who sell under a managing broker.”

It’s also good to know that there are usually two real estate agents involved in each transaction: a listing agent (who lists the house on behalf of the seller and represents them) and a buyer’s agent (who represents the buyer). While some states allow dual agency (one real estate agent representing both parties), it’s usually a good idea to have one person absolutely dedicated to your interests.

Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, it’s important to find the right realtor for your unique situation. How exactly should you do that?

How to Choose the Right Realtor

First, do your own investigation. Learn about the real estate market where you want to live. Find out about current home sizes and prices. If you haven’t already, talk with a loan officer about your mortgage options and get a preapproval when you’re sure you’re ready to buy.

Next, research multiple realtors. You can start with referrals from friends or family or look online. Find out which ones have good reputations for communication, honesty, efficiency, and reliability. This person is going to act as your agent, so make sure they’re the kind of person you feel comfortable doing business with.

Create a list of at least three realtors and interview them. During the interview, try to determine their:

  • Local knowledge. Deep knowledge of the real estate market is a given, but a good realtor will have more than that. It takes more than a certain monthly payment and a certain number of square feet to love a house; your realtor should also know what neighborhoods will mesh with your goals and personality – whether you’re looking for a quiet and upscale setting, a family-friendly area with great schools, or so on.
  • Communication and people skills. How does the realtor handle negotiation? Are you comfortable talking with them? Are they happy to answer questions? Do they reply promptly to phone calls, texts, or emails?
  • Experience. How long has the realtor been in the business? How long have they been in the area? If you’re selling your house, ask about how many homes they’ve sold in the past year, their selling percentages, and how they plan to market your home to buyers.
  • Specialty. Does the realtor work mostly with buyers or sellers? If they focus more on one than the other, you might want to find someone with more expertise in your field. Also, what kind of properties do they mostly handle – commercial, residential raw land, special use? Again, if they focus on something other than residential, you might want to look elsewhere.

Finally, don’t forget to read any agreements or contracts between you and your realtor carefully. Make sure you understand everything and don’t hesitate to ask questions. A good realtor will be happy to explain things; a bad one will rush you into signing.

Florida Real Estate

Licensed to Serve Your Florida Real Estate Needs

Michigan Mortgage has served the lakeshore for more than 25 years. It’s been a wild ride and we have no intentions of getting off anytime soon.

We have, however, expanded our reach. We are now licensed in Florida!

“Many of our clients are buying second homes and investment properties in Florida,” Rob Garrison said. “I thought it would be helpful for me to be able to serve them with the care they deserve and are accustomed to.”

Rob and his team spent countless hours learning about Florida’s Real Estate Market and understanding the laws and regulations that make it unique.

As Licensed Loan Officers in Florida, we can do purchases and refinances on primary residents, second homes, and investment properties up to four units.

Florida Real EstateWe can finance condominiums, single family homes and modular homes.

And we promise to provide the exceptional customer service you’re used to.

“The entire process will be completed in our Michigan offices,” Rob said. “Clients will have direct access to me and our amazing team.”

Why Florida?

Because the market is HOT.

“Many people are moving to Florida as COVID-19 has allowed more folks to work remotely,” Rob said. “And like more of the country, inventory is low and appreciation has been high in the last 12 months.”

During the cold winter months here in Michigan, a little sunshine in the Sunshine State sounds magical!

If you have questions about purchasing a new property or refinancing your current mortgage in Florida, give us a call! We’re happy to help in any way we can.

Job Change

Can I change jobs while buying a house?

After you’re pre-approved for a mortgage loan, any drastic changes to your credit score, debt and income can quickly derail the process.

When possible, we suggest our buyers avoid job changes, making big purchases and opening new lines of credit until after their loan closes.

If you’re interested in buying a new home or refinancing your current mortgage – and you’re contemplating a career change – here are a few things you should know.

Job ChangeBefore Applying for a Mortgage

Sometimes, job changes are unavoidable. If you’re on the hunt for a new job, for one reason or another, we recommend that you get settled before applying for a mortgage.

You’ll be asked to submit pay stubs for approval, so it’s best to wait 30 days before reaching out to a lender about financing. Most jobs changes should not impact your mortgage application if you haven’t applied for a mortgage yet.

According to industry experts, “You still need income that is reliable, stable and likely to continue in the future. And your new job should be an upward – or at least lateral – move within the same industry. As long as those criteria are met, changing jobs before you buy a house shouldn’t be a problem.”

While You’re in Process

When you apply for a mortgage, you’re approved based on the information you submit. If anything changes throughout the process – your income, debts, assets – please let your Loan Officer know immediately.

When you change jobs applying for a loan, we will have to start over again at the beginning. New documentation will need to be collected and your debt-to-income will need to be recalculated.

Best case scenario, you’re approved based on your new job after a short delay.

Worst case scenario, you’re denied based on your rate of pay or pay structure.

After the Loan Closes

After your loan closes, and you have the keys for your new home in hand, you’re free to change jobs. We will not reopen your loan or verify your income unless you reach out about refinancing in the future.

Your job change may impact your ability to refinance at a later date, but we can tackle that when the time is right.

Other Factors to Consider

Promotions: If you receive a promotion from your current company while in process, no need to worry! If your salaried or hourly rate-of-pay is increasing, and your pay structure is not changing, a promotion will likely increase your buying power.

Changes in Pay Structure: Commissioned employees may have the ability to earn more, but this pay structure can also complicate the mortgage process. Often times, commission pay cannot be counted as income unless it has been received for 12-24 months. The same is true for bonuses received.

If you have additional questions about your employment status and its impact on the mortgage process, give us a call. We’re happy to help in any way we can!