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.

Some Money Saving Mortgage Tips

Buying a house is a great long term investment. If you’ve never had a mortgage payment, it simply means you’ll have to be more careful regarding the management of your finances.

The first step before venturing into a mortgage if you’re not already in one, is to consider your financial situation. Then decide to buy a home where the mortgage and down payments meet your financial situation, so that you can enjoy life and have a roof over your head at the same time. If you have no idea what your monthly budget can afford then you should take some advice from a finance professional first.

Regardless of your situation here are several ways to reduce your monthly mortgage payments:

As interest rates keep on changing you should keep track of changes and consider refinancing at the right time. This will reduce your expenditures. Do the calculations to know your savings after paying closing costs and other expenses. Closing costs can be added to your new mortgage to avoid out of pocket expenditures, while still saving you money.

Check your monthly mortgage statement properly and regularly to make sure that all adjustments are made correctly; even banks sometime they make mistakes.

Choose a mortgage that offers flexibility. You want a mortgage that allows you to pay in an easy way according to your earnings.

Consider biweekly payments or accelerated equity plans. This will give you an additional payment each year and begin to reduce your mortgage quickly right from the start.

Consolidate all your loans into a single one with lower monthly payments. Make a table and analyze all your loans; education, car, home and bank loans for example. Study your expenditures. Try to consult a mortgage specialist, ask him or her about debt consolidation, and how much it can reduce your monthly payments.

Go for a 30 mortgage. This will allow you to pay lower monthly payments, which will lower the amount of interest you pay. Make sure there is no prepayment penalty on your loan, because the best move you can make is to pay way more each payment than the minimum. Each time you do this you’ll be reducing the principle of your mortgage.

A mortgage or home loan is a long term debt but it doesn’t have to be a burden. You are advised to pay it off as soon as possible but arrange your budget tactfully by keeping an eye on insurance, loan disbursements and their interest rates. Enjoy your new home; hopefully with a few of these tips it will be all yours sooner than the banks desire. Remember, if it’s paid for it’s yours.

How to Select the Home Mortgage That Is Right For You

If you are seeking to finance the cost of a new home, you may be faced with more than one home mortgage loan option, including those with various interest rates, payment terms and length. For those not versed in today’s home mortgage options, choosing the right mortgage to apply for may not be so easy.

How to Select the Home Mortgage That Is Right For You

In order to select the right mortgage loan for you, you will first want to have an idea how many years you plan to live in the home that you intend to purchase. A conventional fixed rate home mortgage is typically designed for someone who intends to live in a home for at least 10 years. The fixed rate home mortgage loan is the most popular of the home mortgage loan programs. With this style of loan, the interest rate remains the same for the entire life of the loan.

Another style of loan is the adjustable rate home mortgage, also known as an ARM loan. This option allows the interest to adjust based on current market rates, which means, one year the interest rate may be low and the next year it may be significantly higher. Check out my earlier posts for a complete explanation on how this type of mortgage works. Here’s part I and here’s part II.

An Interest Only home mortgage, is a type of loan that where the homeowner is permitted to make payments on the interest alone for a specified amount of time. After that time concludes, the payments are applied toward the principal balance of the loan.This type of loan will have significantly higher payments once the interest only period is concluded.

Balloon home mortgages offer smaller payments in the beginning, but come with a large payment due at the end of the loan. Be careful with this type of loan, as there will be one large payment due at the end of the loan, which in some cases may be the entire principal balance.

For any type of mortgage loan, make sure to steer clear of negative amortization.Check out my post on this subject for a full explanation of the risks of any mortgage loan that has this provision.

If you are planning to refinance your existing home or apply for a new home mortgage loan, a good lender or mortgage broker will help you select the best loan for your individual situation.For further information on any type of mortgage option, feel free to give me a call.

 

 

What Size Mortgage Can I Afford?

When shopping for a house, it can be easy to fall in love with the home of your dreams. Be careful, however, that you are aware of how much house you can afford so your dream home isn’t crushed at the lender’s office.

Lenders often talk about qualifying ratios or debt ratios. These numbers can seem a bit mysterious, but a few simple formulas will give you an idea of what size mortgage loan you may be able to afford. Although this is helpful to determine a house budget, never rely on these numbers alone when planning a purchase. Consider obtaining a pre-approval for a loan from your broker or lender, so you know the exact amount you have to work with.

What size mortgage can I afford?

Grab a piece of paper and follow these steps to determine how much you can afford for a conventional mortgage. (Formulas for governmental or FHA mortgages will differ.)

1) Determine your monthly gross monthly income (before taxes).

2) Multiply this amount by 0.28. This is your maximum monthly housing expense. (Lenders allow 28% of monthly gross income for housing expenses. This is also known as the front end ratio.)

3) Now multiply your monthly gross income by 0.36. This is the allowance for your long-term monthly expenses. (Our company is a bit more flexible with that number, and may stretch it to 40 or 45% depending on the strength of the application). Many lenders allow that percentage of monthly income to go toward long term debt that can’t be paid off in 10 months.

4) Add up your monthly long-term obligations including child support, auto loans, credit cards minimum payments, and other payments that can’t be paid off in 10 months.

5) Subtract the total of those obligations from your long-term monthly expenses in step 3. This is your monthly housing expense. (This number is used for the back end ratio, or debt to income ratio, to make sure your total debt does not exceed 36% of your monthly income.)

6) Compare the maximum monthly housing expense from step 2 and your monthly housing expense from step 5 and take the smaller of the two. This is the amount you can afford each month for payment of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance – also called PITI.

The length of the mortgage and interest rates will affect the total dollar amount of the loan, so talking with a lender will give a big picture view of what you can afford. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will take the guesswork out of deciding a price range for a potential house and reduce stress in the home-buying process.

Give me a call about any possible mortgage scenario or if you need a pre-approval, I will be happy to help.

30 Year vs. 15 Year Mortgage, Which is Best?

Discussions of mortgages often focus on interest rates, but there is a much more basic decision to make. Should you go with a 30 year mortgage term or a 15 year mortgage term?

30 Year vs. 15 Year Mortgage, which is best?

Any discussion of mortgages tends to turn on two points. How can you qualify for the most money with the lowest payment, and how can you get the lowest interest rate for the mortgage? While these are two important issues, there is an additional one that people fail to consider, resulting in significant wasted money.

The term of a mortgage is extremely critical for a couple of reason. First, it sets the length of the obligation you are undertaking. Second, it defines the amount of interest you are going to pay over the life of the loan. These are huge issues when it comes to building equity, and deciding if a 15 or 30 year mortgage is best for you.

The longer the loan, the more total interest you are going to pay. The trade off, of course, is, you are going to have smaller monthly payments the farther you stretch out the obligation. While this may sound like a good goal when you first get the mortgage, it can backfire on you in the long run.

Most people focus on interest rates as a way to save money on morgetgas. This is a valid approach, but playing with the length of the loan is a better way to save money. If you can cut the payments in half by going with a shorter loan, you can save huge amounts on the total interest paid to a lender.

The decision on the term of the loan is relatively simple, but entirely dependent upon your personal situation. There is no absolute correct choice. First, you need to determine if you can comfortably afford the higher payments that come with a shorter term loan. In general, a 15 year mortgage will have monthly payments 20 to 25 percent higher than a 30 year loan.

If you can afford the higher payment, then that is the correct choice for you. By doing so, you will pay the loan off faster, and be building equity in the home quicker. However, if the monthly payment on a shorter term loan will stretch your budget, the more popular 30 year mortgage is best for you. Although you will pay more interest over the life of the mortgage, your monthly payment will be considerably lower.

If you do opt for the 30 year loan, make sure the mortgage has no prepayment penalty, allowing you to make extra payments toward the principal balance of your loan, which will not only reduce the total interest you pay over the life of the mortgage, but will also effectively reduce the remaining term of your loan.

If you would like me to run an amortization schedule for you that will show how much you will save by making extra payments toward your loan balance, please feel free to contact me.

Are Adjustable Rate Mortgages Worth It? Part II

In part one of this two part post, I talked about the benefits and drawbacks of adjustable rate mortgages (ARM), the safeguards built in to most ARMs.in the form of rate caps, and the dangers of negative amortization.

In this post, I would like to focus on a few things that you can do to help ensure you’re making the right decision and getting the best deal that you possibly can on your adjustable rate mortgage.

Shop Around:
Don’t go with the first offer you get. It may sound ridiculous that someone who is making what is often the biggest purchase of their life would jump at the first loan that’s offered to them. But first-time home buyers, who are sometimes surprised that they’ve been offered a loan, can be especially susceptible to this type of knee jerk reaction. Also, lenders who practice hard sell techniques, indicating that the loan rates could change at any moment, can pressure consumers into making quick, ill-advised decisions.

Make Sure You Know the Terms:
You may be thinking, “Of course someone would know the terms of a loan!” This isn’t always the case. When someone is ignorant of the terms of a mortgage, they either haven’t asked the right questions, or after asking a question and getting an answer, they don’t ask for clarification if they’re confused. You must ask questions, understand the answers thoroughly and ask for further explanation if needed.

Often information regarding an ARM is given in a simple sequence of three numbers, which may look something like this—3/1/6. In this example, you’re first given the initial cap change of 3, which is the maximum change allowed the first time the rate is adjusted. This maximum is often higher than subsequent changes. The second number represents the periodic change cap. This number, which in our example is 1, is the largest interest rate adjustment allowed during all other changes. The final figure is the life cap or the maximum adjustment that can be implimented during the term of the loan. In our example the life cap is 6, which is typically the highest amount you’ll see for a life cap on a first mortgage.

Ask Yourself “What if?”:
Taking the time to ask yourself this question and answering it honestly can save you a lot of heartache and money down the line, and help you determine if an adjustable rate mortgage is worth it to you. In other words, know the effect a 3 percent rise in the interest rate would have on your pocketbook in the first adjustment period. If you procure a loan with an interest rate that can be altered every six months, could you afford a big spike in the rate? Would your ability to pay and the security of your home be jeopardized by an upward trend in mortgage rates? Look at the actual numbers.

Let’s say you’re paying $602 dollars at 4% on an ARM that totals $126,000 and the loan goes to 7% in the first year. Your payment would then be $838 per month or $232 more each month and $2,784 more a year. Remember, that elevated amount only represents the difference in interest and does not include principal, which means suddenly you’re paying a lot more for your house than you intended. How much more? Over the course of a 30-year mortgage you will have paid more than $100,000 in additional interest! That is not a bargain.

Study Financial Trends:
To help you determine if an ARM makes sense for you, take some time and get the latest information on what is happening with interest rates. Study what’s occurred over the past 12 months and read up on what the experts are predicting. Check the index your potential lender uses to determine if rates will rise, fall or stay stable. Ask the lender what index they utilize to calculate if your mortgage payment will change. They should be able to tell you this and also inform you of the margin, which is the additional amount the lender adds to the index rate. It is usually from one to three points and is constant for the length of the loan. Study the index’s past performance to determine how stable it is and how often it changes. Some indexes will be adjusted monthly.

Consider a Less Expensive Home:
This is an option about which most people do not want to think. However, your first home does not have to be your last home. Buying a less expensive home at a fixed-rate can pay dividends in the next five to ten years. By paying more than interest on a loan, the homeowner benefits in two ways.

First, because the consumer is paying principal and not merely interest, they are slowly retiring the debt on the house, building equity and actually becoming the owner of the property. If the owner sells the home ten years down the road, he or she will realize a profit that can go towards the down payment for a bigger and better home.

A fixed-rate mortgage also allows you to benefit more from any appreciation in the property. If in ten years, you’ve paid $12,000 in principal on a home worth $100,000 and that same home rises in value by 3% per year, which is a negligible amount, then you would have a home that’s worth about $134,000 and a total gain of $46,000. Imagine how helpful that $46,000 would be in purchasing your dream home!

Try to think in the long term when it comes to home ownership. It can pay off in a very short amount of time, especially if you live in an area where property and home prices continue to escalate.

So, are adjustable rate mortgages worth it?
Although an Adjustable Rate Mortgage may look promising at first glance, it does have its pitfalls. When purchasing a home, carefully consider all of your options, do your homework and think about the future and what will be best for you and your family. An ARM may help you realize the American dream of home ownership; however, securing an adjustable rate mortgage under the wrong circumstances can turn that dream into a nightmare.

An Overview of the Mortgage Application Process

House hunting can be an exhilarating process, as you try to pick that perfect property. Applying for a mortgage, while not quite as exhilarating, does not have to be difficult, if you work with the right lender or broker. Following is an overview of how the mortgage industry works.

An Overview of the Mortgage Application Process

You have a nice chunk of money saved for a down payment. You have started shopping for a home or have found the perfect property.  It is time to enter the world of financing, better known as getting a mortgage. Before entering the this new world, it might help to get an overview of how the mortgage process works.

A mortgage simply is a debt instrument that acts to secure a cash loan to you on a home. In exchange for giving you the money, the lender puts a first lien on the prospective home for the loan amount. If you default, the lender can foreclose and sell the home to recover the debt amount.

In mortgage industry terms, applying for a mortgage is known as originating a loan. To originate the loan, you will first have to find a lender you are comfortable with. Many will find it advisable to use a mortgage broker to shop for the loan that best meets their needs. Different lenders offer different loans and terms. A good mortgage broker can make things that much easier for you.

As part of the mortgage application process, you will fill out a loan application. Depending on the nature of the loan, you probably will also be required to submit documentation supporting your claims of income and so on.

Once your application is submitted, a lender may ask for additional information or documentation. Depending on how the review, known as underwriting, goes, the lender may decline or approve your application. Often, the lender will add a stipulation to the loan that cover issues it is concerned about.

Once you are granted the loan, you will close on the residence you are purchasing or refinancing. Inevitably, your mortgage lender will most likely sell the loan to another entity. To raise cash to issue more home loans, lenders sell their current stock of mortgages on the secondary market.

Your mortgage will be terminated at some point in time. Positive reasons can be the sale of the home, refinancing or simply paying off the balance. Negative reasons can include default or bankruptcy. Regardless, the above represents the basic structure of the mortgage application process and what follows after closing.

Consolidate Bills with Cash-out Mortgage Refinancing and Make Your Monthly Payments Fit Your Budget

Have you seen enough commercials about credit card and other types of debt? Do you feel like all these commercials are directly talking directly to you? Have you finally decided it’s time to take advantage of these offers and get your finances under control? If your goal is to consolidate bills and bring your finances back under your control, a refinance of your mortgage that will allow you to do this is exactly what you need.

If you are paying each month on three or four different credit cards at an interest rate of at least fourteen percent, those monthly minimums will certainly add up. Each of those balances are charged the interest rates each month. When you consolidate bills instead of spreading them out, you are being charged interest on only one amount at what can be a fixed and, usually, lower rate than what your credit cards will charge you.

Several mortgage companies, including our own, offer mortgage refinances that are specifically designed to help you pay off your credit cards and consolidate bills by rolling those bills into your mortgage amount. One of the benefits of getting this type of loan is the fact that you will go from several bills each month coming due at different times to one bill due at the same time each month. In this way, you will only have to keep track of one bill each month and this bill will cover your mortgage as well as your debts. The only other monthly bills that you should have coming in will be your utilities.

In combining all of your debts, you are actually saving money each month. As stated earlier, when you consolidate bills in this way, you will be charged interest on one amount rather than several amounts. Since mortgage loans have lower interest rates than credit cards, you are charged less each month, which leaves more money in your pocket each month. This extra money can be used to pay off extra each month toward your balances or any other way you decide.

Consolidating bills in this way is a decision that will make life easier and give you control again of your finances. Your interest rates will be lower as will your monthly payment. You will save money while paying off your bills and keeping your credit score high. And don’t forget, mortgage interest is tax deductible, while credit card interest is not. So you will be getting a bonus from Uncle Sam as well. Ask your accountant or tax professional for further details.

Beyond rates: What the banks won’t tell you about choosing the best mortgage

Choosing the best mortgage from all the available lenders out there can be complicated. There are so many terms, features, restrictions and potential penalties to keep in mind. But at least mortgage rates are easy to compare—all you have to do is choose the lowest one, right?

Think again! Choosing the lowest rate is only straightforward if all the rates are stated the same way and include the same things. Fortunately, lenders are required to use the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) as their posted rate. So on lender websites, ads and window posters, the rate that’s quoted should be APR.

The Annual Percentage Rate is a compound rate, so it’s applied to original principal plus accumulated interest. This gives you a more accurate picture of the actual cost of the loan. To make the APR even more realistic, it not only includes all the interest costs of your loan, it also includes non-interest costs that lenders charge. Depending on the lender, this can include appraisal fees, closing costs, loan fees, loan origination fees, mortgage default insurance, creditor life insurance, legal fees and more. It’s that “depending on the lender” part you have to watch. The only way to accurately compare APRs is to look into each lender’s fine print and see what’s included in the rate it’s quoting.

Or, you could take the easier, faster, less frustrating route, and simply call me! As a Licensed NYS MLO, I have access to more lenders than you could possibly find on your own, and I fully understand all their products, terms and rates. I don’t usually advertise myself on blog posts, but I’d be happy to do a no-charge analysis of your needs, and then discuss which options work best for you. And I’ll make sure you don’t get fooled by a really low mortgage rate that could actually cost you more in the long run because of all the restrictions and penalties it includes.

Build Equity by Choosing The Right Mortgage

This savings account, better known as equity, can provide the means for putting your kids through college, dealing with emergencies and retiring.

Home ownership is the key to building wealth for most people because it is an involuntary savings account. As you pay down your mortgage each month, the value of your interest in the home rises.

Equity is a beautiful word as every homeowner knows. Once you get used to making your mortgage payments, you can rest assured that you are creating a nest egg every month. Throw in the appreciation on the property and your nest egg can grow large before you realize it. This savings account, better known as equity, can provide the means for putting your kids through college, dealing with emergencies and retiring.

Building equity is fairly simple. Just make your monthly mortgage payment. There are additional steps you can take to move the process along at a faster pace. These steps are all about the type of mortgage you obtain when you purchase your home.

When you purchase a property, particularly for the first time, it can be a stressful event. Right or wrong, most people tend to take anything they can get in a mortgage loan so they can meet the closing of escrow. This is understandable, but can come back to haunt you financially. If you can step back from the chaos for a moment, you might consider the following options that will help build equity.

A 30 year mortgage is the default for most home buyers. It is the first thing that comes to mind and most assume it is the safest option. A 15 year mortgage, however, is going to cut down on the total interest you pay on the loan as well as supercharge your equity growth. The 15 year loan is far better than a longer option, but only if you are absolutely sure you can meet the monthly payment requirements. If you have any doubts whatsoever, there is another option that you can consider.

Making prepayments on principal is a simple, proven way to build equity. The idea is to make an extra monthly payment when you have sufficient cash to do so. Effectively, you use your home as a savings account by doing this. The advantage over other investments is the equity growth should be tax free. Before taking this step, find out from your lender if there are any prepayment penalties. Regardless, making two of these payments each year will quickly build equity in your home.

If any of these ideas sound interesting, you can still take advantage of them even if you currently have a mortgage. Refinancing your mortgage gives you an opportunity to correct mistakes you made when you were more focused on getting through escrow. Talk with a mortgage professional to find out your options.