Credit Utilization Affects Your Score

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Credit utilization reflects how much of your available credit is being used at a given time. Lower credit utilization indicates that a borrower is not heavily relying on their credit and that they are using their credit responsibly.

Is calculated by dividing your total credit card balances by your total limits. The higher the percentage, the higher the risk which adversely affects the credit score according to most of the companies. It is recommended that your credit utilization be under 30% to positively impact your credit score.

If the available limit on a credit card is $12,000 and their normal monthly balance is around $3,000, they have a credit utilization of 25%. If for whatever reason, the borrower’s available limit was reduced to $6,000, and their long history of having a monthly balance of $3,000, the ratio, then, increases to 50% which will likely lower their credit score.

For borrowers who use more than 30% of their available credit and regularly pay off the bill each month, they should consider making payments toward the balance more frequently, like every two weeks. This keeps the balance lower, and, in many cases, the card issuer will only report the credit activity once a month to the credit bureau, usually on the monthly closing date of the account.

Another option may be to use multiple cards, if they are available, for the purchases during the month. Based on the limits of each card, this could result in lower utilization on a single card.

You could also ask for your available credit to be increased. Assuming you have a good history of paying on time, this may be an easy fix. Before doing this, ask if it could negatively impact your credit score because it will be reported as a hard inquiry on your credit.

If you are trying to improve your score to qualify for a mortgage, consult with a trusted mortgage professional who can advise you specifically for your situation. If you would like a recommendation, please contact meterri.

Larger Payment, Shorter Term, Bigger Savings

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Some people consider a house payment as basic as monthly utilities but with a plan and some discipline, you can be mortgage free.

Consider a person borrowed $300,000 at 3% for 30 years, the principal and interest payment would be $1,264.81 and at the end of 12 years, the unpaid balance on the mortgage would be $210,900.

If that same person had financed the home on a 15-year term at 2.5%, the payments would have been $2,000 but the unpaid balance at the end of 12 years would be $69,310. The homeowner will have a larger equity but they have also had to make higher payments.

15-year mortgages usually have a lower interest rate than the 30-year loans and at the time this article was written, the difference in a 30-year loan was about 0.5%. A 15-year loan gives the lender their money back in half the time. If rates go up during the interim, they will be able to loan it at the higher rate sooner. For that reason, they are usually willing to offer a slightly lower rate on the shorter term.

Having a lower rate means paying less interest but another remarkable thing happens, lower interest rate loans amortize faster than higher rate loans.

30-year 15-year
$300,000 mortgage for 30 years 3% 2.5%
Monthly payment $1,264.81 $2,000
Unpaid balance at end of 12 years $210,900 $69,310
Increased equity $141,590
Additional monthly payment $735.56
Additional total payments for 12 years $105,920
Savings $35,670

This recognized wealth building technique with higher payments, saves interest and retires the mortgage sooner. The shorter-term mortgage requires a commitment to make the higher payments each month rather than giving the borrower flexibility to spend or invest the difference each month for as long as the loan is in place.

To make you own calculations, go to the 30yr vs. 15yr Comparison.

Have you checked these lately?

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Homeowners know the need to periodically check certain things around the home to ensure that things operate properly and efficiently. If maintenance is required, it may be less expensive to take care of it early rather than waiting until it is not working at all.

Checklists are helpful because it requires little effort to know what must be done. They are usually concise and provide enough information to complete the task. These items apply to most homeowners but in no way offer a comprehensive list.

  1. Vacuum dryer exhaust … not only does it affect the efficiency of your dryer itself, the accumulation of lint along with the hot air can ignite and create a fire hazard.
  2. Replace HVAC filters 4 to 6 times a year … This is one DIY project that almost everyone should feel confident in handling. Locate the filter, make a note of the size, and keep replacements available. Turn off the unit, open the door or housing, remove the dirty filter, and replace it with the new one. Pay attention to the direction of the air flow; filters are marked to indicate the correct direction.
  3. Test all GFCI breakers. – GFCI breakers, as well as outlets, have a test button on them. Pressing the test button should cause the breaker to trip which shuts off all power to the entire circuit. To reset the breaker, push it completely to off and then, back to on.
  4. Vacuum refrigerator coils … Coils on refrigerators can be in different places depending on the model and manufacturer. Locate the coils and clean the dirt and dust from them using a soft bristle brush or a vacuum cleaner with a brush.
  5. Replace batteries in smoke detectors … smoke detectors should be tested monthly by pushing the test button. Annually, the batteries should be replaced, even if they appear to still have life in them. After replacing the batteries, test the smoke detector to see if it is functioning properly.
  6. Check windows and doors for leaks … There are several ways to check for leaks. One method used on a cold day would be to hold your hand a few inches from the window or door frame to feel for drafts. Another method would be to light a candle and trace the outline of the window or door to see if the flame or smoke pull in one direction, indicating an air leak.
  7. Inspect all sprinkler system stations to see if heads are leaking or need adjusting. … Manually, turn on each of the stations and look at each sprinkler that is running to see if it is leaking or if it is properly covering the area intended.
  8. Check garage door opener to see that safety features engage properly … Place a cardboard box in line of one of the sensors before trying to close the door. The door should reverse itself after sensing the obstruction.
  9. Check and clean fireplace(s) annually, if used … this may be a job that you want to have someone else do but you may be able to recognize indicators that the chimney needs cleaning. These things include evidence of birds or animals; fireplace smells like a campfire; smoke fills the room; difficulty starting or keeping a fire going; the fireplace walls have oily marks; the damper is black with soot and creosote. The frequency of use on wood burning fireplaces will impact the need for cleaning.

If you need a recommendation of a service provider for repairs, contact me terri with what you are looking for. I’ll get back to you quickly.

Uncle IRRRL wants to refinance your VA loan

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You don’t have to have an Uncle IRRRL but you must be a veteran with a current VA-backed home loan. IRRRL is an acronym for Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan. To refinance with this program, also called the VA Streamline, the loan must provide a net tangible benefit (NTB) which would be in the financial interest of the Veteran.

Obtaining a lower interest rate is usually the reason behind refinancing but there needs to be enough difference in the current and the new mortgage to justify the expenses incurred. Significantly lower payments or a shorter term are examples of acceptable benefit.

The Veteran must currently have a VA-backed home loan to refinance using this program. The Veteran does not have to currently live in the home as long as it can be certified that he or she did at one time.

In most cases, an appraisal is not necessary and less verifications are required. A minimum 640 credit score is needed, and borrower must be current on their payments with no 30-day late payments in the previous 12-months. A two-year employment history is required.

There are expenses associated with the IRRRL but they can be rolled into the loan balance. The VA funding fee, required on new VA loans for purchases or refinances is lower on the IRRRL at 0.5%. Disabled Veterans and qualifying surviving spouses refinancing under this program are exempt from the VA funding fee.

This program is not available for a cash-out refinance. There is a $6,000 exception for additional funds to pay energy improvements completed 90-days prior to closing. Your lender can provide more information for you.

If you are a Veteran and considering a refinance, ask your mortgage professional about this program. If you need a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional who is experienced in VA loans, give me a call at or terri.

Buy Before You Sell Options

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The decision to buy first or sell first, has always been a little of the “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” type of question. Is it better to buy another home before you sell your current one or sell the current one before you buy the replacement?

Some buyers don’t have a choice because they need the equity out of the current home to purchase the new one and possibly, their income limits their ability to qualify for having both mortgages at the same time. However, some buyers, with sufficient financial resources, may have other options available to facilitate the move.

A home equity line of credit, HELOC, is a type of loan that a traditional lender like a bank will loan up to the difference in what is currently owed on the home and 75-80% of the value. A borrower is approved for the line of credit and then, can borrow against it as needed.

A homeowner with sufficient equity, would want to secure a HELOC prior to contracting for the new home. Typically, the interest will be due monthly. When they sell the home, the loan would be paid off along with any other liens on the property like the first mortgage.

A bridge loan is different in that it is usually a specific amount of money for a short term used to “bridge” the time frame necessary to acquire the replacement property and sell the existing home. The amount available is like the HELOC, usually, up to 80% of the home’s value less the existing mortgage.

Some lenders may require being in the first position which may require retiring the existing first from the proceeds from the bridge lender.

Hard money lenders are a little more flexible in some of their requirements compared to typical lenders, but it comes at a cost. They could charge two to three percent, called points, of the money borrowed paid up-front and the interest rate will be higher than long-term mortgage money.

Another alternative is to find a conventional lender who has a program that allows you to recast the loan in a specified period. The borrower would get a low-down payment mortgage on the replacement home and after the original home is sold and funded, the lender will apply the lump sum toward the principal amount owed and recalculate the payments and amortization schedule.

By recasting the loan, the borrower does not go through the process of getting a new mortgage by refinancing and saves the costs involved. Most conventional loans and conforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans allow it after 90-days. FHA, VA, GNMA loans do not allow recasting.

Borrowers with 401(k) retirement accounts may consider borrowing against that asset which could be a lower interest rate than other temporary options. Depending on the size of the 401(k), the amount available to borrow could be up to half the balance or $50,000 whichever is less. If the loan isn’t repaid in a timely fashion, there can be taxes and penalties.

In each of these options, the seller is involved in borrowing money to accommodate a purchase and sale of a home. There will be expenses involved but the advantage is that they have a better chance of realizing most of their equity while facilitating a purchase before they sell their home. This is particularly helpful in markets that are low in inventory.

One last options is to consider selling your existing home to an iBuyer or private investor. The attraction to this alternative is that they will make you an instant offer, buy your home and you’ll have cash to use to purchase your new home. These companies or investors, intend to resell the property, so they must discount the price they pay for your property taking into mind they will be responsible for repairs, maintenance, selling fees and other expenses.

While it may sound appealing, you may discover that the amount you will realize will be less than if you sell your home in a conventional manner.

Your real estate professional will be able to do a comprehensive market analysis to indicate market value and the net proceeds you can expect to have. This will assist you in determining which option makes sense for you at this time. They can also recommend lenders and approximate timelines for each alternative.

Removing or Adding a Person to a Loan

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In divorce situations, it is common, for the spouse who keeps the home to refinance to remove the other spouse from the loan. Equally as common, first-time buyers who don’t have enough income to qualify may ask a parent to co-sign and must add their name to the mortgage.

Another situation that requires removing or adding a person to a loan could be to qualify for a better interest rate. The difference in a minimally acceptable credit score and something that might be considered “good” could be as much as a 0.5% higher rate for the term of the mortgage.

Consider that a couple is buying a home on a conventional loan, and they have individual credit scores of 760 and 670. The underwriters will price the loan based on the lower of the two scores. A half percent interest on a $400,000 30-year mortgage could have close to $110 a month difference.

A possible solution to this dilemma could be available, assuming the borrower with the higher credit score had enough income to qualify for the mortgage separately. If so, that person would be eligible for the lower rate.

The property could still be titled in both names and if so, that person would be liable for the mortgage should the named borrower default on the loan.

Another scenario that may arise is that a couple has enough income to qualify for a mortgage but because one of the parties has a lower credit score, it will be priced higher. Having a parent or relative added to the mortgage as a non-occupying borrower to help with the credit score. Interest rates are determined on the lowest middle of three scores for the borrowers applying for the loan.

Assuming the parent’s score was higher than the lower score of the couple, it could improve the rate applied to the mortgage loan.

The value of a trusted mortgage professional is very important. They can offer alternatives to situations that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage and in some cases, can make the difference in being approved at all.

Your real estate professional would be more than willing to make a recommendation and can support the need to assemble a strong team to help with your transaction.

Keep Your Current Home as a Rental

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Let’s assume that you have owned your home for several years. It has increased in value and the unpaid balance considerably less than you originally borrowed. In short, you have equity in the home. You’re thinking about buying another home and one of the questions going through your mind is “should we find a replacement property before we put our home on the market?

It is a good question but maybe there is another one you should be asking. “Should we keep our current home and convert it to a rental when we buy another home? The answer to the question may have a great deal to do with your finances but if you can afford it, it may end up being one of the better investments you have made.

Do you have enough discretionary funds for a down payment and closing costs for your new home? Is it enough to put 20% down payment so you can avoid paying mortgage insurance? Can you qualify for the mortgage on the new home with the additional liability of your current home?

You don’t even need “yes” answers to all of these to be considering the possibility of converting your home to a rental. If you have sufficient equity, you may be able to pull part of it out for your down payment and closing costs and still have equity available for other needs. Lenders will usually make cash out refinances up to 80% of the value of the home.

Another possibility may be to borrow against your qualified retirement program. The advantages include speed and convenience (it is your money), repayment flexibility, and cost advantage. If you believe the stock market is moving toward a down position, this could be additional incentive to earn more in the rental.

What makes rental properties so attractive right now is that rents are rising and expected to continue because the factors that make a shortage of homes for sale are the same that make the shortage of homes for rent. The rent collected, less the mortgage payments and expenses will probably result in a positive cash flow before tax. The other major factor is that homes are appreciating at a very high rate.

Using borrowed funds to control an appreciating asset is leverage and it can dramatically affect the rate of return an investor enjoys. The dynamics of income, appreciation and favorable tax benefits makes rental real estate very appealing.

Your real estate professional can provide information on the value of your current home, estimates for rental income and expenses and in finding your replacement home. Talk with your tax advisor to see how this alternative would work for you.

The good news if you choose this opportunity is you will not have to put your home on the market and timing of your new purchase became greatly simplified. It may even be to your advantage to be flexible with the seller’s occupancy which could be a big advantage if you are negotiating against multiple offers.

For more information, download the Rental Income Properties and talk to your real estate professional.

Cash-Out Refinance

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With the rapid appreciation that homes have had in the last two years, most homeowners have equity. A common way to release part of the equity is to cash-out refinance but some homeowners may not be eligible currently.

This type of loan replaces the current mortgage by paying it off and an additional amount of cash for the owner. Generally, lenders will consider a new mortgage up to a total of 80% of the current value.

Typically, the rate on a cash-out refinance will be slightly higher than a traditional purchase money mortgage. As is in any lending situation, the rate depends on the borrower’s credit and income. The best interest rates are available to borrowers with higher credit scores, usually over 740.

Loan-to-value can affect the rate a borrower pays also. A 70% loan-to-value mortgage could be expected to have a lower interest rate than an 80% LTV because there is a larger amount of equity remaining in the property and therefore, less risk for the lender.

There are no restrictions on how the owner can use the money. It can be used for home improvements, consolidating debt, other consumer needs or for investment.

Eligibility Requirements as found in FNMA Selling Guide B2-1.3-03 Cash-Out Refinance Transactions

“Cash-out refinance transactions must meet the following requirements:

  • The transaction must be used to pay off existing mortgages by obtaining a new first mortgage secured by the same property or be a new mortgage on a property that does not have a mortgage lien against it.
  • Properties that were listed for sale must have been taken off the market on or before the disbursement date of the new mortgage loan.
  • The property must have been purchased (or acquired) by the borrower at least six months prior to the disbursement date of the new mortgage loan except for the following:
    • There is no waiting period if the lender documents that the borrower acquired the property through an inheritance or was legally awarded the property (divorce, separation, or dissolution of a domestic partnership).
    • The delayed financing requirements are met. See Delayed Financing Exception below.
    • If the property was owned prior to closing by a limited liability corporation (LLC) that is majority-owned or controlled by the borrower(s), the time it was held by the LLC may be counted towards meeting the borrower’s six-month ownership requirement. (In order to close the refinance transaction, ownership must be transferred out of the LLC and into the name of the individual borrower(s). See B 2-2-01, General Borrower Eligibility Requirements (07/28/2015) for additional details.)
    • If the property was owned prior to closing by an inter-vivos revocable trust, the time held by the trust may be counted towards meeting the borrower’s six-month ownership requirement if the borrower is the primary beneficiary of the trust.
  • For DU loan case files, if the DTI ratio exceeds 45%, six months reserves is required.”

Encouraging Multiple Offers

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Based on the current competition due to lower than normal inventories, it is possible for a seller to find themselves on the beneficiary side of a multiple offers. Two or more parties may be trying to buy your home at the same time and because of the competition, they increase the purchase price, possibly, remove unnecessary contingencies and try to make their offer as attractive as possible.

This can pleasantly result in you realizing higher-than-expected sales price and proceeds of sale. While it may not materialize, it is good to understand what could happen and the best way to handle it. Your real estate professional is positioned to offer you specific advice but the following are some things to consider.

One tactic is to delay showings for a short period of time. Some agents will create this by putting a sign on the property with a rider that indicates “coming soon” and depending on the local MLS rules, it may even be put in the system. No showings will be allowed until a publicized date, usually, a few days, at which time, the goal is to have prospective buyers standing in line to see the home.

This might even be combined with an open house scheduled for the initial showings. Agents using this method have sometimes found lines of people waiting outside the home to see it first.

When multiple offers are made, invariably, there will be some disappointed people and for that reason, it is essential to follow a strict procedure to see that no one is given an advantage over other buyers. Discuss the following suggestions with your professional:

  • All offers are countered by asking the buyer to make their “best and final” offer which will include not only price but terms also.
  • The seller may authorize the listing agent to disclose that there are multiple offers. (Article 1, Standard of Practice 15 of the National Association of REALTORS® code of ethics.
  • Discuss with your professional their thoughts on revealing information, like price and terms, on other offers you are considering. In most cases, they are allowed to do so with your permission, and it may make a difference in the negotiations.
  • If one offer is substantially better than the other offers, the seller can accept or counter-offer.
  • Have your real estate professional advise you of countering more than one offer which could result in contracting to sell your home to more than one person. They can advise you alternative ways to do this.

Keep this in mind. Sometimes, the highest offer is not the best offer. Even though the buyer is willing to pay a high price for your home and possibly, willing to remove the financing condition, if they are going to get financing and it doesn’t appraise, it can cause issues.

Have your real estate professional tell you about asking for proof of funds from a cash buyer or confirming their ability to pay above appraised value.

Your real estate professional can help you realize the most out of your home.

Homeowners Need to Know

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In the Boy Scouts, a certification, called a Totin’ Chip, is required for scouts to carry, and use woods tools like a knife, axe and a saw. They must read and understand the use and safety rules from the scout handbooks and demonstrate the proper handling, care, and use of each.

No such certification is required for homeowners but there are a lot of good reasons why it should be self-imposed. Making minor repairs is part of the responsibility of owning a home that will save both time and money.

A homeowner will certainly appreciate the need for such training the first time a call is made to a service company to fix their air conditioner that suddenly quit cooling. When the repairman arrives, he has a checklist which includes verifying the unit is getting electricity. If not, they go to the electrical panel to see if a breaker has been thrown.

It can be very humbling and expensive to have to pay a service fee to have a repairman flip a breaker to get your air conditioning working again.

The basic items every homeowner should be able to do the following:

  • Turn off the water in case of an emergency.
  • Reset a circuit breaker.
  • Change the HVAC filters and clean the outside coils.
  • Clean a dryer vent.
  • Reset a garbage disposer and dislodge a jam by spinning the flywheel
  • Unclog a sink or drain.
  • How to plunge a toilet and when to use an auger.
  • Re-caulk a bathtub or sink
  • Light a pilot light on a water heater or furnace
  • Change the batteries on a smoke alarm

Service Providers or just <a href="mailto:terri.