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.

Top 10 Reasons to Use a Mortgage Broker vs. a Bank Lender

Back in 1987 when I first started in the mortgage business, mortgage brokers were a new phenomenon. Most people who needed a mortgage simply went to their local bank and acquired a “one size fits all” mortgage. Back then, clients would ask me what a mortgage broker does, if it costs more to use us, and what the benefits of using our services were.

Times have changed; approximately half of all mortgages are no longer being originated by bank lenders. Depending on the type of home loan you are seeking, you could save yourself thousands of dollars by shopping various lenders for your home mortgage needs. Therefore it is imperative that you know the difference between a mortgage broker and a bank lender.

Below are the Top 10 reasons why you should use a mortgage broker instead of a bank:

1. Mortgage brokers specialize in home loans and are commission based, so it is in their best interest to get you the best rate possible, or they don’t get paid.

2. Mortgage brokers have an exceptionally large network of lenders that they work with to get you the most favorable mortgage rates and terms. Put it this way, the more lenders you have competing for your home loan, the more you save.

3. Mortgage brokers are able to work one-on-one with each individual client, evaluate their specific needs and find a lender that suits them personally. Next, the broker submits the request to one or more lenders, and when the request is accepted the broker works closely with the lender until the home loan closes.

4. They can often times find a lender who accepts home loans that the bank foregoes. Mortgage brokers are also able to discuss a lower interest rate from lenders in trade for bringing in business.

5. Mortgage brokers save you the groundwork of finding the best mortgage rate and terms for your specific needs.

6. Banks on the other hand deal with all types of loans, and may not have the specialization in home loans that a mortgage broker has.

7. Bank loan officers process mortgage loans originated by only their employer.

8. Loan officers at a bank are often limited to certain home loan products, guiding principles and criteria that they must follow. This can limit the home loans available to you.

9. Regardless if you choose to have your home loan with that particular loan officer or not, they are still getting paid a salary. With this in mind they may not be looking out for your best interest.

10. In most cases, you not only will not pay more for your mortgage using a mortgage broker, but instead will pay less.

If you are ready to finally purchase your dream home or to refinance, give yourself an edge, and use a mortgage broker like us to to get you the best deal possible at the lowest possible rate and cost.

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?

Avoiding Mortgage Mistakes That Can Cost You Money

If you are planning to obtain a mortgage, then you should make sure that you avoid a number of common mistakes that will leave you paying too much money or getting into financial difficulties. If you are aware of potential mortgage mistakes that can cost you money, you will be better equipped to get the best deal for your needs.

Here are the most common mortgage mistakes that can cost you money, and how to avoid them:

Not sorting out your finances

If you try to obtain a mortgage before you have sorted your finances out, you could find yourself getting a rough deal or even being rejected. Before looking at mortgages, get all of your finances in order and have all your paperwork ready to submit to mortgage lenders. Also, obtain a free copy of your credit report and make sure that all the information on it is correct. If there are mistakes on your credit report, it could harm your chances of getting a good mortgage.

Looking for a house without being pre-qualified

Many people make the mistake of looking at property without having any idea whether they can secure a mortgage to pay for it. Pre-qualification is an initial estimation of how much you can borrow based on your income, assets, credit and debt. It relies on the undocumented information you give to your mortgage broker or lender, along with a copy of your credit report. It is very helpful when shopping for a home. A full application would include the documentation needed to back up the information.

Borrowing too much

Perhaps the biggest mistake people make is to borrow too much money. This can come about through a combination of not being honest with yourself and pressure from lenders. If you are not honest with yourself about how much you can afford then you will end up in financial difficulty. You shouldn’t be tempted by lenders who offer you overly generous mortgages because it is you who will pay the price if you cannot keep up with the payments. Work out how much you can comfortably afford to pay each month and stick to this budget.

Not shopping around

If you want a good deal you have to shop around. If you find a good deal, you shouldn’t automatically think it is the best deal you can get. Many companies offer amazing deals that turn out to be a lot more expensive than initially advertised. Do your research and find out what someone with your credit rating should be paying on average for a mortgage. If you do this then you will end up with a much better price.

Paying for things you don’t need

There are many unnecessary closing costs and junk fees that some brokers and lenders add. Don’t be ripped off by hundreds or even thousands of dollars in extra fees. Check out our Mortgage Saver Program, and don’t pay these unnecessary fees.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.