“What’s Your Mortgage Rate?”

Here is the one question I get more than any other by typical home buyers shopping for a mortgage:

What’s your mortgage rate?

I get that a lot from mortgage shoppers that are not familiar with the mortgage process. It’s sort of like walking into a shoe store and asking “how much for a pair of shoes?” For the shoe salesman, the answer would depend on factors like, style, size, material etc.

It works the same with mortgages. Rates depend on factors such as loan size, the loan to value (how much you are borrowing in relation to the selling price or home value), and of course your credit score.

If you see an ad with a low mortgage rate in nice large font, ask yourself this question. How do they know anything about the home I’m buying, the mortgage I’m looking for, or what my credit profile looks like? There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to mortgage rates (or shoes).

If you see a mortgage rate advertised on the internet that seems too good to be true, trust your instincts, steer clear and have a conversation with a reputable mortgage professional. That’s the one way to determine the only rate that you should really be interested in, and that’s the rate that you’ll be paying.

Does Paying Points On a Mortgage Make Sense?

You’ve found your dream home and are now ready to start shopping for a mortgage. Several lenders have talked about points. Points, also called discount points or origination fees, are each worth one percent of the loan amount. Paying points basically allows the borrower to buy down the interest rate. They are paid to the lender at closing.

You’ve heard that paying points is the only way to get a low interest rate. But is increasing your initial costs worth getting a lower rate?

For most people, paying points doesn’t make sense.

Points became popular in the early 1980s when mortgage rates were in excess of 15%. Most people could not afford the monthly payments that come with such high interest rates. Lenders began offering discounted rates at a certain fee. Sellers often paid the points in order to sell their properties. This gave buyers affordable mortgages and owners were able to sell their homes.

Times are different now. Interest rates are low. There isn’t a large need to pay a lot of money up front in order to get a lower rate.

Let’s look at the numbers. You have contracted to purchase a home for $450,000. You have the 20% down, which leaves you with a mortgage of $360,000.

You find a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.50% with one point. For closing, you will need to pay an additional $3,600 ($360,000 x 1%) for the point.

The lender can also offer you a rate of 3.75% with no points.

What do you choose? The lower rate or the lower closing?

At 3.50% you will have a monthly principal and interest payment of $1,616. At 3.75% your payment increases to $1,667 each month. That’s a difference of $51 per month. If you are looking for a monthly payment reduction, that’s not really a significant one.

It will take you 70 months ($3,600 divided by $51) to recoup your one point payment at closing in the form of a lower monthly payment. This is your payback period. But if you had the $3,600 still, it could be earning interest elsewhere. If it gets 3% interest in another investment, it would earn about $9 per month. If you pay points, this is interest lost, so subtract $9 from your $51 per month savings. Now divide $42 into $3,600, and your payback period increases to 85 months — seven years.

So you have to live in your home for at least seven years in order to take advantage of the savings that paying points gives you. Most people don’t keep a mortgage for seven years.

Whether through sale to  move up or elsewhere or refinance for cash out or lower rates, the average American keeps their mortgage for six years. Unless you are absolutely sure you will live in the home for the time period necessary to recoup your points, you should probably invest your money instead of putting it towards points.

If you are looking at paying points in order to reduce your monthly housing payment, you may want to look at a less expensive property. Fifty one dollars worth of savings isn’t a lot if you are on a tight budget. Chances are that if you have a tight budget to start with, finding extra money for closing would be difficult. And don’t forget, taking out a side loan to get the money to pay points with is defeating the purpose.

My suggestion, don’t pay points unless you’re sure it makes sense for you.

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.

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.

Historically, lenders have applied a standard called the “28/36 rule” to your debt-to-income ratio to determine whether you’re loan-worthy. Although those numbers have changed, and many of our loans exceed these numbers, it is instructive to use them to explain this concept.

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, homeowners 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.

However,  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.

If your DTI disqualifies you for a conventional 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 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.

The 7 Worst Financing Mistakes First Time Home Buyers Make…And How to Avoid Them, A Free EBook

I am excited to release my new EBook for first time home buyers: The 7 Worst Financing Mistakes First Time Home Buyers Make… and How to Avoid Them.

Click here or on the picture on the right to download your free copy.

Having originated mortgages for close to three decades, I have found the topics covered in this EBook are the ones first time home buyers want to know about most. Hopefully, this EBook will help you avoid the mistakes others have made that have cost potential home owners thousands of dollars, and blown up many deals.

Here are some of the mistakes I cover in this easy read, that will help you avoid a similar fate:

  • Overextending yourself
  • Not counting the cost of bad credit
  • Not knowing your down payment options
  • Not budgeting for closing costs
  • Not getting pre-approved
  • Not choosing the right mortgage product
  • Not getting multiple lenders to compete for your business
  • and so much more…

The download is absolutely free as my gift to you for reading my blog; there is nothing to buy and no commitments to make. Enjoy it, and feel free to pass it on.

I wish you much success on your purchase.

The APR When Shopping For a Mortgage, Not Always the Best Way to Shop

There are two different rates we’ve always been told to look for when shopping for a mortgage. The first is the Mortgage Interest Rate, which is the rate of interest that will determine your monthly payment. The second is the Annual Percentage Rate, more commonly referred to as the APR.

Many people have come to believe that a loan’s APR, is the single most important factor in comparing mortgage loans. However, this is rarely the case, especially in today’s marketplace,” explains Bob Peckenpaugh, Manager of CFIC Home Mortgage. Analyzing the APR during mortgage refinancing or second mortgage loan shopping can be a very tricky proposition.

The Annual Percentage Rate is defined as “the cost of consumer credit as a percentage spread out over the term of the loan.” Most consumers have no idea what makes up this elusive number. The APR is a valuable tool in comparing various mortgage loan programs, but it should never be relied upon as the sole determining factor in choosing a loan, for the following reasons:

1) Not all closing costs are calculated within the APR uniformly. According to Peckenpaugh, “There is a huge variance among lenders, mortgage loan officers, and even states on which fees they include in their APR when calculating the loan. There is no standard among the mortgage industry, let alone among competing mortgage companies.”

2) The costs themselves can be manipulated within the loan. For example, prepaid interest (the amount of pro-rated interest a consumer pays at closing for interest which will be earned from that date until the end of the month) can be represented as anywhere from 1 to 30 days, a potentially huge difference, especially on larger mortgage refinancing loans.

3) Manipulation of the title fees. Ordinarily, the title company’s settlement or closing fee is an APR fee, while their title insurance cost is not. Peckenpaugh explains, “recently, in order to minimize the effect to the APR, title companies began simply decreasing their closing fee, while subsequently increasing their title insurance fee by the same amount, thereby reducing the APR.”

4) Lack of industry awareness of what is accurate. Most mortgage loan or refinancing officers do not intentionally try to mislead, but inaccurate information could result in the consumer making a poor decision.

As opposed to APR, consumers would be better served by asking the following simple questions.

1) What is the mortgage interest rate?
2) What is the total mortgage loan amount?
3) What is the monthly mortgage payment (principal and interest)?
4) How much are the closing costs?

Under new guidelines issued in 2015, within three days of applying for a mortgage, the borrower will receive a Loan Estimate Form that discloses all of the estimated costs of the loan, including taxes and insurance.

If you have any questions about anything written here, feel free to contavt me, I will be happy to clarify things for you.

Buy Now or Buy Later? A Mortgage Rate Dilemma

Have you ever heard the story of the guy who always held out until tomorrow because he was certain mortgage rates were going to go lower? He waited his entire life and ended up dying with plenty of money, but living in an apartment. Sort of defeats the purpose of saving money to buy a home, doesn’t it?

A lot of potential home owners are like this fellow, constantly waiting around for the best deal to come along. They are certain they can wait out the market – little do they realize the market can long outlive all of us!

The Mortgage Rate dilemma.

Mortgage rates, with all the dire predictions over the last few years that they will soon be increasing, are still at one of the lowest rate thresholds ever despite weakening economic conditions around the world. There are many reasons for that, and maybe we can address them in a future article. But the fact remains that 30 year fixed rates are about as low as they have ever been.

Of course, as with any financial tool, mortgage rates will always be in flux. The good news for many homeowners currently holding mortgages, is that when rates drop substantially, the opportunity is there to refinance into into an even lower rate. It’s almost like being able to have your cake and eat it too!

Buy now or buy later?

There is no better investment you can ever make than buying a home for your family. Homes are an investment that, over time, will gain in value. Real estate is one of the safest investments you can make.

With all the news over the last number of years about the real estate fallout with sub-prime mortgages etc., most consumers who manage their credit and finances correctly can avoid having to deal with any of that. Knowing how much house you can afford, and what payments you can comfortably make will ensure that you don’t become another statistic. A good mortgage broker can help you figure that out.

One thing to remember, is that the future value of a dollar is always less. If I gave you the choice of giving you $100 today or $100 next year, the $100 I give you today is going to be worth more and will have more buying power. The same goes with a house – waiting to buy a house because you think the market is too volatile right now could be a big mistake. If your finances are in order and you are on solid ground with your credit, this make the perfect time to take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates and get a great deal in the real estate market.

There is no mortgage dilemma.

Taking advantage of the rates available today can help you secure your family’s financial future for years to come. Despite all the negative news you might hear about the real estate market, the fact of the matter remains that people who have kept up with their finances are going to benefit greatly from the housing market as it stands today. So why shouldn’t you as well?

Questions and Answers About HARP

What Is HARP?

HARP was started in April 2009. It goes by several names. The government calls it HARP, as in Home Affordable Refinance Program.

The program is also known as Making Home Affordable, the Obama Refi, A Better Bargain For U.S. Homeowners, DU Refi Plus, and Relief Refinance.

In order to be eligible for the HARP refinance program:

  1. Your loan must be backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
  2. Your current mortgage must have a note date of no later than May 31, 2009

If you meet these two criteria, you may be HARP-eligible. If your mortgage is an FHA, USDA, VA or a jumbo mortgage, you are not HARP-eligible.

HARP : Questions and Answers

Is “HARP” the same thing as the government’s “Making Home Affordable” program?

Yes, the names HARP and Making Home Affordable are interchangeable.

If my mortgage is held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, am I instantly-eligible for the Home Affordable Refinance Program?

No. There is a series of criteria. Having your mortgage held by Fannie or Freddie is just a pre-qualifier.

My lender won’t do HARP. Can I use HARP with another lender?

Yes. You can do HARP with any participating mortgage lender. This is a major change from the original HARP. The government is trying to get as many people access to the program.

I have a jumbo mortgage. Can I use HARP 2.0?

No, HARP 2.0 is not meant for jumbo mortgages. It’s for mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac only.

I have an interest only mortgage. Can I use HARP 2.0?

If your current mortgage is interest only, you may be able to use HARP. If your interest only mortgage is a conforming loan backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you should be HARP-eligible. Otherwise, your loan may be an Alt-A or sub-prime mortgage, in which case you will not be HARP 2-eligible.

I have a balloon mortgage. Can I use HARP 2.0?

If your current mortgage is a balloon mortgage, you may be able to use HARP. It depends on whether your loan is conforming, and whether it’s backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Does HARP work the same with Fannie Mae as with Freddie Mac?

Yes, for the most part, the program is the same with Fannie Mae as with Freddie Mac. There are some small differences, but they affect just a tiny, tiny portion of the general population. For everyone else, the guidelines work the same.

Am I eligible for the Home Affordable Refinance Program if I’m behind on my mortgage?

No. You must be current on your mortgage to refinance via HARP.

I’ve been told by my bank that I’m not eligible for HARP. I think my bank is wrong. Can I get a second opinion?

If you’ve been turned down for HARP but believe that you’re eligible, you can apply with a different bank and see what happens. Different banks are using different variations of the program. The changes are subtle, but they’re enough to cause some people to get denied who should otherwise have been approved.

My lender denied my HARP mortgage because my LTV is too high. What do I do?

Different banks are using different variations of the program. The edits are subtle, but they’re enough to cause some people to get denied who should otherwise have been approved. If you’ve been turned down for HARP 2.0, just try with a different bank

My lender denied my HARP mortgage because credit scores are too low. What do I do?

Different banks are using different variations of the program. The edits are subtle, but they’re enough to cause some people to get denied who should otherwise have been approved. If you’ve been turned down for HARP 2.0, just try with a different bank. 

Will the Home Affordable Refinance Program help me avoid foreclosure?

No. The Home Affordable Refinance Program is not designed to delay, or stop, foreclosures. It’s meant to give homeowners who are current on their mortgages, and who have lost home equity, a chance to refinance at today’s low mortgage rates.

What are the minimum requirements to be HARP-eligible?

First, your home loan must be paid on-time for the prior 6 months, and at least 11 of the most recent 12 months. Second, your mortgage must have a note date of no later than May 31, 2009. And, third, you may not have used the program before — only one HARP refinance per mortgage is allowed.

My home is not underwater. Can I still use HARP 2.0?

Yes, you can use HARP even if you’re not “underwater”.

Will HARP 2.0 “forgive” my mortgage balance?

No, HARP does not forgive your mortgage balance, nor does it reduce your principal owed. HARP refinances your current loan balance only. It is the same as any other refinance.

My mortgage note date is shortly after the HARP deadline of May 31, 2009. Can I get a waiver or exception?

No, there are no “date exceptions” for HARP. If your note date is not on, or before, May 31, 2009, you cannot use the program.

Is there a loan-to-value restriction for HARP?

No. All homes — regardless of how far underwater they are — are eligible for HARP.

I am really far underwater on my mortgage. Can I use HARP?

Yes, you can use HARP even if you’re really far underwater on your mortgage. There is no loan-to-value restriction under the HARP mortgage program so long as your new mortgage is a fixed rate loan with a term of 30 years or fewer. If you use HARP to refinance into an adjustable-rate mortgage, your loan-to-value is capped at 105%.

You keep saying LTV doesn’t matter, but my bank turned me down for HARP because my loan-to-value was too high.

That’s normal, actually. Not every bank will underwrite HARP loans to the letter of the guidelines. Loans with high LTVs can be risky to a bank. Therefore, some banks will limit their business to loans under 125% loan-to-value, for example. Remember — just because one bank turned you down doesn’t mean that every bank will. Apply somewhere else to get a second option.

My home is gaining value as the housing market improves. Will this hurt my ability to use HARP to refinance my home?

In general, no. As your home increases in value, its loan to-value decreases. So long as your loan-to-value remains above 80 percent, you should remain HARP-eligible. In the event your home’s loan-to-value falls below 80%, you may have difficulty finding lenders to refinance your home. As always, remember to shop around. If the first bank you ask says no, it doesn’t mean that all banks will say no, too.

If I refinance with HARP using an ARM, do I still get “unlimited LTV”?

No, if you use an ARM for HARP 2.0, you are limited to 105% loan-to-value. Only fixed rate loans get the unlimited LTV treatment.

Why does my bank say I’m limited to 105% LTV with my HARP refinance? I want a fixed-rate loan.

Not all banks are honoring the HARP 2.0 mortgage guidelines as they are written and one common “edit” is to change the maximum allowable LTV. You may want to get a HARP rate quote from another bank — one that won’t restrict your loan size.

Why does my bank say I’m limited to 125% LTV with my HARP refinance? I want a fixed-rate loan.

Not all banks are honoring the HARP 2.0 mortgage guidelines as they are written and one common “edit” is to change the maximum allowable LTV. You may want to get a HARP rate quote from another bank — one that won’t restrict your loan size.

Will my home require an appraisal with the HARP mortgage program?

Sort of. Although your home’s value doesn’t matter for the HARP mortgage program, lenders will run what’s called an “automated valuation model” (AVM) on your home. If the value meets reliability standards, no physical appraisal will be required. However, your lender may choose to commission a physical appraisal anyway — just to make sure your home is “standing”.

I have an FHA mortgage. Can I use the HARP 2.0 program?

No, you cannot use the HARP 2.0 program for an FHA loan. If your current mortgage is backed by the FHA, and your home is underwater, use the FHA Streamline Refinance program.

I have a USDA mortgage. Can I use the HARP 2.0 program?

No, you cannot use the HARP 2.0 program for a USDA loan. If your current mortgage is backed by the USDA, and your home is underwater, use the USDA Streamline Refinance program.

I have a VA mortgage. Can I use the HARP 2.0 program?

No, you cannot use the HARP 2.0 program for a VA loan. If your current mortgage is backed by the VA, and your home is underwater, use the VA IRRRL program.

Does Ginnie Mae participate in the HARP Refinance program?

No, Ginnie Mae does not participate in the HARP Refinance program. Ginnie Mae is associated with FHA mortgages — not conventional ones. HARP 2 is for conventional mortgages only.

Do I have to HARP refinance with my current mortgage lender?

No, you can do a HARP refinance with any participating mortgage lender.

So, I can use any mortgage lender for my HARP Refinance?

Yes. With the Home Affordable Refinance Program, you can refinance with any participating HARP lender.

My current bank says that they’re the only ones who can do my HARP Refinance. Is that true?

No, that’s not true. Or, at least it shouldn’t be. There are very few instances in which a HARP applicant will be precluded from shopping for the best rate. It’s doubtful that your situation is one of them.

My bank says I can’t get a HARP loan unless I work with them. Is that true?

Except in rare cases, no. With HARP, you can work with any participating lender in the country. And there are a lot of them.

Can I refinance my HARP mortgage into a shorter term? I want a 15-year fixed rate mortgage — not a 30-year.

Yes, you can shorten your loan term via HARP. You must still qualify for the mortgage based on payments, though. If the “payment shock” of switching to a 15-year fixed rate mortgage is deemed too steep, your lender may not approve the loan. Be sure to ask.

I put down 20% when I bought my home. My home is now underwater. If I refinance with HARP, will I have to pay mortgage insurance now?

No, you won’t need to pay mortgage insurance. If your current loan doesn’t require PMI, your new loan won’t require it, either.

I pay PMI now. Will my PMI payments go up with a new HARP refinance?

No, your private mortgage insurance payments will not increase. However, the “transfer” of your mortgage insurance policy may require an extra step. Remind your lender that you’re paying PMI to help the refinance process move more smoothly.

My bank says I can’t refinance with HARP 2.0 because I have PMI. Is that true?

No, it’s not true. You can refinance via HARP 2.0 even if your current mortgage has private mortgage insurance.

My current mortgage has Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance (LPMI). Can I refinance via HARP?

Yes, you can refinance your mortgage via HARP 2.0 if your current loan has lender-paid mortgage insurance (LPMI). It’s your loan officer’s responsibility to make sure that your new mortgage carries, at minimum, the same amount of coverage.

You’re saying I can refinance with LPMI but my bank says I can’t. Who is right?

With respect to LPMI, different banks have different rules for HARP. There are banks closing HARP loans with lender-paid mortgage insurance attached. That’s a fact. If your bank won’t do loans with LPMI, find one that will.

How do I choose my PMI “coverage” when I refinance a HARP loan that has LPMI?

Your loan officer will know what to do. Just make sure you disclose that your mortgage has LPMI at the time of application so your loan officer knows what to do. Otherwise, your loan could be delayed in processing.

How do I know if my mortgage has Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance (LPMI)?

To find out if your mortgage has lender-paid mortgage insurance (LPMI), locate your loan paperwork from closing. There should be a clear disclosure that states that your mortgage features LPMI, and the terms should be clearly labeled for you.

I don’t see an LPMI disclosure in my closing package but I think that I have it. How do I know if my mortgage has LPMI?

If there is no LPMI disclosure, first check if your first mortgage’s loan-to-value exceeded 80% at the time of closing. If it did, look to see if you are paying monthly mortgage insurance. If you are not paying monthly PMI, you’re likely carrying LPMI.

I was turned down for HARP because the bank says I have mortgage insurance. I think they’re wrong.

There are different types of private mortgage insurance and not all kinds are paid monthly. One such example is lender-paid mortgage insurance for which your lender pays PMI on your behalf each month. You don’t see the payments made, but you still have PMI. There are banks that will HARP-refinance loans with LPMI. If you bank says no, ask another bank and you may get a different answer.

What’s the bottom line with HARP refinances and mortgage insurance?

With HARP, regardless of whether you have borrower-paid mortgage insurance (BPMI) or lender-paid mortgage insurance (LPMI), a refinance is possible. The key is that the new loan has mortgage insurance coverage at least equal to the mortgage insurance coverage on your current mortgage.

What if my lender won’t give me a HARP refinance because I have mortgage insurance?

If your lender tells you that you can’t have a HARP 2.0 loan because you have mortgage insurance, find a new lender. There are plenty that of banks that can — and want to — help you.
hat’s the biggest mortgage I can get with a HARP refinance?

HARP refinances are limited to your area’s conforming loan limits. In most cities, the conforming loan limit is $417,000. However, there are some cities in which conforming loan limits are as high at $625,500.

Can I do a cash-out refinances with HARP?

No, the HARP mortgage program doesn’t allow cash out refinance. Only rate-and-term refinances are allowable.

Can I refinance a second/vacation home with HARP?

Yes, you can refinance an second/vacation property with HARP, even if the home was once your primary residence. The loan must meet typical program eligibility standards.

Can I refinance an investment/rental property with HARP?

Yes, you can refinance an investment/rental property with HARP, even if the home was once your primary residence. You can refinance a home on which you’re an “accidental landlord”. The loan must meet typical program eligibility standards.

I rent out my old home. Is it HARP-eligible even though it’s an investment property now?

Yes, you can use the HARP Refinance program for your former residence — even if there’s a renter there now.

How long do I have to stay in my house if I use HARP on my primary residence?

There is no specific time frame for which you’re required to stay in your home if you use HARP 2.0. Just like any other mortgage, if you plan to stay in your home post-closing, it’s your primary residence. If you plan to turn it into a rental, it’s an investment property.

Are condominiums eligible for HARP refinancing?

Yes, condominiums can be financed on the HARP refinance program. Warrantability standards still apply.

Can I consolidate mortgages with a HARP refinance?

No, you cannot consolidate multiple mortgages with the HARP refinance program. It’s for first liens only. All subordinate/junior liens must be resubordinated to the new first mortgage.

Is there a HARP program for second mortgages? My second mortgage is at a high rate and I want to refinance it.

No, the Home Affordable Refinance Program is for first mortgages only. Second mortgages cannot be refinanced via HARP, nor can they be consolidated into a first mortgage.

What happens to my second mortgage when I refinance my first mortgage using HARP 2.0?

HARP 2.0 is meant for first liens only. Second liens are meant to subordinate. You’ll get to replace your first mortgage and your second mortgage will remain as-is. Just be sure to mention your second mortgage at the time of application so your lender knows to order the subordination for you.

My second mortgage company won’t let me refinance my first mortgage via HARP. Can they do that?

With the HARP refinance program, second liens are meant to subordinate. Second lien holders know this, however, not all second lien holders will agree to it. This is against the spirit of the program, but second lien holders are within their rights to deny the refinance.

My second mortgage isn’t backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Is that a problem?

No, it doesn’t matter if your second mortgage isn’t backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Second mortgages are ignored as part of HARP. They can’t be refinanced, and they can’t be consolidated. Second mortgages are a non-factor in HARP 2.0.

I have an 80/10/10 mortgage. Can I use HARP 2.0?

Yes, if you have an 80/10/10 mortgage, you can use HARP so long as you meet the program’s basic eligibility requirements. You cannot combine your two mortgages, however. Nor can you take cash out.

I have an 80/20 mortgage. Can I use HARP 2.0?

Yes, if you have an 80/20 mortgage, you can use HARP so long as you meet the program’s basic eligibility requirements. You cannot combine your two mortgages, however. Nor can you take cash out.

Can I “roll up” my closing costs with a HARP refinance?

Yes, mortgage balances can be increased to cover closing costs in addition to other monies due at closing such as escrow reserves, accrued daily interest, and a small amount of cash.  In no cases may loan sizes exceed the local conforming loan limits, however. In most U.S. markets, this limit is $417,000. In certain high-cost areas, including Orange County, California and Fairfax, Virginia, for example, the limit ranges as high as $625,500.

I am unemployed and without income. Am I HARP-eligible?

Yes, you do not need to be employed to use the HARP mortgage program. Applicants do not need to be “requalified” unless their new principal + interest payment increases by more than 20%. If the new payment increases by less than 20%, or falls, there is no requalification necessary.

My lender is asking for income verification. How do I prove income for a HARP loan?

HARP mortgages are underwritten like most other mortgages. When income verification is required, you’ll often be asked to provide 2 years of W-2 statements, the two most recent years of federal tax returns, and a recent paystub.

I cannot verify income for my HARP loan. What are my options?

HARP does require verification of income, but some lenders may require it anyway. If you cannot (or will not) verify income with your lender, you may show 12 months of PITI in reserves as a substitute for actual verifiable income. PITI stands for Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance. In short, if you can show that you have 12 months of housing payments “saved up”, HARP will treat those reserves as “income”.

What is the maximum income that a HARP applicant is allowed?

The HARP refinance program has no maximum income limits. You cannot “earn too much” to qualify.

So, I can’t earn too much money to use HARP 2.0?

No, there are no income restrictions for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). A similar-sounding program, though — Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) does have income limitations. Many people confuse the two.

I used HAMP with my current lender. Can I use HARP now?

If you’ve used the HAMP program with your current lender to modify your mortgage, you may not be HARP-eligible. It depends on the terms of your modification. Ask your current servicer if you’re HARP-eligible.

I am now divorced. I want to remove my ex-spouse from the mortgage. Can I do that with HARP?

Yes. With HARP, a borrower on the mortgage can be removed via a refinance so long as that person is also removed from the deed; and has no ownership interest in the home.

Is there a minimum credit score to use the HARP?

No, there is no minimum credit score requirement with the HARP mortgage program, per se. However, you must qualify for the mortgage based on traditional underwriting standards.

Do I have to refinance my mortgage with my current lender?

No, you can do a HARP refinance with any participating lender you want. 

My current lender tells me that if I want to do a HARP refinance, I have to go through him. Is that true?

No, it’s not true. You are allowed to do a HARP refinance with any HARP-participating lender.

My bank called me for a HARP refinance. The rate seems high. Should I shop around?

Yes, it’s always a good idea to shop for the best combination of mortgage rates and loan fees. However, be sure to shop with reputable lenders that have experience underwriting and approving HARP mortgages. HARP 2.0 is a new refinance program and not many banks have expertise with them. You don’t want to have your loan approval fall apart because your lender failed to underwrite to HARP mortgage standards.

Where can I get the lowest rates on HARP loans?

The HARP refinance is just like any other mortgage — you’ll want to shop around for the best rates and service. However, because HARP is a “specialty loan”, you may want to limit your shopping with reputable lenders that know how to specifically handle HARP loans.

What are the costs to refinance via HARP?

Closing costs for HARP refinances should be no different than for any other mortgage. You may pay points, you may pay closing costs, you may pay neither. How your mortgage rate and loan fees are structured is between you and your loan officer. You can even opt for a zero-cost HARP refinance. Ask your loan officer about it.

What does the term “DU Refi Plus” mean?

“DU Refi Plus” is the brand name Fannie Mae assigned to its particular flavor of the HARP mortgage program. “DU” stands for Desktop Underwriter. It’s a software program that simulates mortgage underwriting. “Refi Plus” is a gimmicky-sounding term that could have been anything. The name has been trademarked, however.

What does the term “Relief Refinance” mean?

“Relief Refinance” is the Freddie Mac equivalent of DU Refi+.

I have a 40-year mortgage. Can I use HARP?

Yes, if you have a 40-year mortgage, you can use HARP. You must make sure that you mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, though, and that you meet all other eligibility requirements.

My lender says it’s not set up for Freddie Mac. How do I do a HARP loan?

Not every bank is participating in the HARP 2.0 program. If you’ve been told that your bank can’t or won’t help you, just try with a different bank. There are many banks that are participating in the program.

Check out my HARP information page, click here.

Don’t Be Ripped off! Avoiding Foreclosure by Refinancing Your Home is a Sucker’s Bet

Most people think a good way to avoid foreclosure is to start over…..refinance the mortgage and just start over.

The problem is most people facing foreclosure cannot refinance.

Stopping foreclosure is very difficult. Unfortunately, you will run into all kinds of mortgage brokers and lenders out there who will tell you what you want to hear and waste your time. Time is something you can’t afford to waste when you are trying to avoid foreclosure. You only have about 4-8 months after missing your first mortgage payment until you lose your house. The foreclosure process varies by state and lender.

Unscrupulous mortgage brokers and lenders have always preyed on people in trouble. There is no way they can get you refinanced but they tell you they can help stop foreclosure.

Why would they do that? They don’t get paid if you don’t close, so why would they take your application and keep you from looking at other options?

Unscrupulous mortgage brokers train their staff to just bring in the business…..get as many applications as they can. Some companies even have sales meetings to enforce getting applications even if they don’t close. This would surprise you but some mortgage companies live by the rule “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.”

You are in a very scary situation and you are treated like everyone else. You were never going to “stick” in the first place but now a month or two has gone by and you are even further behind on your mortgage payments.

Some mortgage brokers or lenders make money off of you by taking a fee up front. They know for a fact that no one can refinance your mortgage, but they tell you for a fee up front they will start working on your loan.

Quite a nice business model don’t you think? They tell you everything you want to hear when you are trying to avoid foreclosure. They collect a fee because you believe them and they move on to the next unsuspecting person. Not another minute will be spent on you after they get your money.

Who can refinance to avoid foreclosure?

You need equity in your home. Depending on how far you are in the process, you may need at least 25% equity in your property. The farther you are in the foreclosure process, the more equity you will need. If you are more than 2 payments behind and you don’t have at least 25% equity, it is almost impossible to refinance. Make sure when you are calculating the equity, you factor in all the late fees and legal fees.

Speaking of how far along you are in the foreclosure process, that makes a huge difference when refinancing. Once you are more than 90 days late on your mortgage, everything changes. The rate will dramatically change if you can even refinance at all after that point. That is why it is so important to pick the right mortgage broker or lender, because if they are not experienced in these types of loans, they can take too long and you will pass the point of no return.

Some private party lenders may be able to refinance you to avoid foreclosure. These are typically known as hard money lenders. They decide if they will lend you the money personally. There are no underwriting guidelines. It is a case by case basis. These can be very expensive. The rate and fees will probably be so high you won’t be able to afford it.

That brings up an important point. Even if you can refinance, what is your new payment going to be? If you are having trouble making the payment now, the payment is guaranteed to be more because you are trying to avoid foreclosure by refinancing. Any loan you get will probably be too expensive.

If you do not have equity in your property do not even consider refinancing your home to avoid foreclosure. You will end up wasting valuable time and money to find out no one can help you. Instead, seek the advice of a reputable attorney and see if you can work something out with your lender.

Good Luck!

Do The Right Math: Compare Mortgage Quotes Accurately

It doesn’t matter how many times you trawl the internet for information. When looking for tips on taking out a mortgage, you will always be given this advice: compare mortgage quotes.

This is the first and most important rule for would-be homeowners. Always compare mortgage quotes. Unless you do, you cannot distinguish the good offer from the bad. Only when you compare mortgage quotes can you assure yourself that you are getting the best possible deal there is.

Comparing mortgage quotes, however, is not as simple as pitting one figure against another. You have to factor in other things too. At the same time, you need to have at least a working knowledge of the mortgage terms and realities you will be dealing with.

Tips for Comparing Mortgage Quotes

Below are some tips to ensure that your comparison yields as precise a result as possible:

1. If you want to make comparisons using very accurate data, get quotes from different lenders or brokers on the same day. Mortgage quotes change daily. At times, they even change several times in one day. If you compare a rate you got from one lender on Tuesday to one you got from someone else on Thursday, and rates increased from Tuesday to Thursday, the second lender looks like the better lender, but that may not be the case.

2. When you compare terms, compare mortgage quotes for similar lock periods. A lock period is the specific span of time that guarantees implementation of a certain rate. As a rule of thumb, longer lock periods have higher rates. Lock periods are generally offered in increments of 15, 30, 45 or 60 days.

3. Compare mortgage quotes that have the same points, such as zero or one. In the mortgage business, a point is one percent of the loan amount paid at closing, or with most refinances, added to the loan amount. Three points, for example, means three percent of the loan amount.

4. You should be aware that mortgage quotes follow a tiered pricing. This gives you the opportunity to buy the rate and bring it up or down. How? It’s very simple. To make the points decrease, increase the mortgage rate. To make the points increase, reduce the rate. I only quote zero point loans for my clients, however, there is always an option to pay points and buy down the rate.

5. In the quote you ask for, ask that the quote be separated from standard closing costs to close a loan in your state. Property taxes, home insurance, title charges, appraisal costs, escrows for tax and insurance and prepaid interest are not lender fees. What falls under lender fees are application, processing and underwriting fees. I am happy to say that we don’t charge any of those fees.
Things to Watch Out For When Comparing Mortgage Quotes

1. Locks of 45 days or more have a higher rate.

2. If lenders are asking you to pay points on the loan, be sure to have them quote the points in dollars. This is for your protection. Unscrupulous lenders might later on change the base amount to collect more from you. This is because points are computed as percentages. The bigger the base, the higher the commission, for example.

3. Beware of lenders that are not upfront about the loan process to you. A trustworthy mortgage company is always willing to answer your questions and explain points of misunderstanding.

Comparison is good because it highlights the defects of one and showcases the suitability of another. All the reputable websites that dispense mortgage tips will always tell you to compare mortgage quotes.