WHICH DOWN PAYMENT STRATEGY IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

You’ve most likely heard the rule: Save for a 20-percent down payment before you buy a home. The logic behind saving 20 percent is solid, as it shows that you have the financial discipline and stability to save for a long-term goal. It also helps you get favorable rates from lenders.

But there can actually be financial benefits to putting down a small down payment—as low as three percent—rather than parting with so much cash up front, even if you have the money available.

THE DOWNSIDE

The downsides of a small down payment are pretty well known. You’ll have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance for years, and the lower your down payment, the more you’ll pay. You’ll also be offered a lesser loan amount than borrowers who have a 20-percent down payment, which will eliminate some homes from your search.

THE UPSIDE

The national average for home appreciation is about five percent. The appreciation is independent from your home payment, so whether you put down 20 percent or three percent, the increase in equity is the same. If you’re looking at your home as an investment, putting down a smaller amount can lead to a higher return on investment, while also leaving more of your savings free for home repairs, upgrades, or other investment opportunities.

THE HAPPY MEDIUM

Of course, your home payment options aren’t binary. Most borrowers can find some common ground between the security of a traditional 20 percent and an investment-focused, small down payment. Give me a call and let’s talk about it.

Debt-to-Income Ratio –It’s Just as Important as Your Credit Score When Buying a New Home

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is a simple way of calculating how much of your monthly income goes toward debt payments. Lenders use the DTI to determine how much money they can safely loan you toward a home purchase or mortgage refinancing. Everyone knows that their credit score is an important factor in qualifying for a loan. But in reality, the DTI is every bit as important as the credit score.

Lenders usually apply a standard called the “28/36 rule” to your debt-to-income ratio to determine whether you’re loan-worthy. The first number, 28, is the maximum percentage of your gross monthly income that the lender will allow for housing expenses. The total includes payments on the mortgage loan, mortgage insurance, fire insurance, property taxes, and homeowner’s association dues. This is usually called PITI, which stands for principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.

The second number, 36, refers to the maximum percentage of your gross monthly income the lender will allow for housing expenses PLUS recurring debt. When they calculate your recurring debt, they will include credit card payments, child support, car loans, and other obligations that are not short-term.

Let’s say your gross earnings are $4,000 per month. $4,000 times 28% equals $1,120. So that is the maximum PITI, or housing expense, that a typical lender will allow for a conventional mortgage loan. In other words, the 28 figure determines how much house you can afford.

Now, $4,000 times 36% is $1,440. This figure represents the TOTAL debt load that the lender will permit. $1,440 minus $1,120 is $320. So if your monthly obligations on recurring debt exceed $320, the size of the mortgage you’ll qualify for will decrease proportionally. If you are paying $600 per month on recurring debt, for example, instead of $320, your PITI must be reduced to $840 or less. That translates to a much smaller loan and a lot less house.

Bear in mind that your car payment has to come out of that difference between 28% and 36%, so in our example, the car payment must be included in the $320. It doesn’t take much these days to reach a $300/month car payment, even for a modest vehicle, so that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for other types of debt.

The moral of the story here is that too much debt can ruin your chances of qualifying for a home mortgage. Remember, the debt-to-income ratio is something that lenders look at separately from your credit history. That’s because your credit score only reflects your payment history. It’s a measurement of how responsibly you’ve managed your use of credit. But your credit score does not take into account your level of income. That’s why the DTI is treated separately as a critical filter on loan applications. So even if you have a PERFECT payment history, but the mortgage you’ve applied for would cause you to exceed the 36% limit, you’ll still be turned down for the loan by reputable lenders.

The 28/36 rule for debt-to-income ratio is a benchmark that has worked well in the mortgage industry for years. Unfortunately, with the recent boom in real estate prices, lenders have been forced to get more “creative” in their lending practices. Whenever you hear the term “creative” in connection with loans or financing, just substitute “riskier” and you’ll have the true picture. Naturally, the extra risk is shifted to the consumer, not the lender.

Mortgages used to be pretty simple to understand: You paid a fixed rate of interest for 30 years, or maybe 15 years. As time went on, mortgages started to come in a variety of flavors, such as adjustable-rate, 40-year, interest-only, option-adjustable, or piggyback mortgages, each of which may be structured in a number of ways. Many of these types of loans helped contribute to the mortgage crisis in 2008.

The whole idea behind all these types of mortgages was to shoehorn people into qualifying for loans based on their debt-to-income ratio. “It’s all about the payment,” was the prevailing view in the mortgage industry. That’s fine if your payment is fixed for 30 years. But what happens to your adjustable rate mortgage if interest rates rise? Your monthly payment will go up, and you might quickly exceed the safety limit of the old 28/36 rule.

These alternative mortgage products were fine as long as interest rates didn’t climb too far or too fast, and also as long as real estate prices continued to appreciate at a healthy pace. Make sure you understand the worst-case scenario before taking on one of these complicated loans. The 28/36 rule for debt-to-income has been around so long simply because it works to keep people out of risky loans. As we have gotten further away from the mortgage crisis that helped ruin the economy in the early 2000, lenders are now stretching those ratios based on the strength of the rest of the file.

Make sure you understand exactly how far or how fast your loan payment can increase before accepting a non-traditional type of mortgage. If your DTI disqualifies you for a conventional 30-year fixed rate mortgage, then you should think twice before squeezing yourself into an adjustable rate mortgage just to keep the payment manageable.

Instead, think in terms of increasing your initial down payment on the property in order to lower the amount you’ll need to finance. It may take you longer to get into your dream home by using this more conservative approach, but that’s certainly better than losing that dream home to foreclosure because increasing monthly payments have driven your debt-to-income ratio sky-high.

Anatomy of a Mortgage

In exchange for getting this very large loan, the person then agrees to put the house up as collateral against the loan

Introduction

Mortgages were the original home loan agreement. In many ways, the mortgage changed the real estate market completely and turned it on its head in a very good way. Before the advent of the mortgage, the only way for people to go out and get what they wanted in terms of property was to pay for it outright. Since very few people possessed the means back then to pay for property outright, the ownership rights were only there for pretty much the upper middle class. From the middle class downwards, most were excluded from home ownership. Mortgages changed all of that, and to understand how profound a mortgage is, it is important to take a close look at exactly what a mortgage entails.

Agreement

The agreement for a mortgage is one that is the main point of everything else that follows. Under the agreement of a typical mortgage, the person has the ability to borrow money from a lender in order to pay for a house or a property. The amount of money they can borrow varies, but for a Conventional Mortgage, the maximum you can borrow is 80% of the lower of the appraised value or purchase price of the house. Options for mortgages above 80% are available by paying mortgage insurance, which I will discuss in another blog. In exchange for getting this very large loan, the person then agrees to put the house up as collateral against the loan, so that the bank has some way to save itself in the event that the person is unable to pay the loan back.

Interest Rates

Whenever people think about loans, very likely the first thing that they think about is interest rates. There are a number of different interest rates involved in different loans, but when you compare the vast majority of them to what is available under a mortgage, what you find is that the vast majority of those interest rates don’t really match up. The average mortgage has an interest rate attached to it of between 4% and 5% (depending on the loan to value and credit score) and the vast majority of loans that are available on the marketplace today, even if they happen to be secured loans, really can’t match up.

Repayment Terms

Just like with interest rates, the repayment terms for a number of different mortgages are very impressive when compared to a number of other conventional loans. When you’re talking about unsecured loans (i.e. credit cards), then obviously there’s going to be no comparison, but for the most part you will find that mortgage repayment terms are significantly easier to deal with than with most other loans. This is because (a) the collateral being used is extremely strong and (b) the term lengths are longer, so naturally that makes the monthly payments smaller.

Fees

There are some fees for mortgage payments relating to things like late payments and underpayments, but you will find for the most part that fees are not really that important in the grand scheme of the agreement itself. It is important to be aware of what the fees are, and to make sure to pay your mortgage back on time every month.

Closing Costs

Closing costs for a home mortgage can be significant. With the advent of the new disclosure laws that have taken effect in 2015, all fees must be disclosed by your lender at the beginning of the loan process. These fees include appraisal costs, title fees, recording and lender fees. Make sure you receive a lender disclosure at the very beginning of the process.