Real Estate Crowdfunding – How These Investments Work, Pros & Cons

Real estate offers a fantastic counterbalance to stocks in your investment portfolio, especially in an era of low interest rates and bond yields. But not all of us have $300,000 just sitting around to start snapping up properties.

Enter: crowdfunded real estate investments. A relatively recent addition to the arsenal of investment options, crowdfunding allows thousands of investors to pool their funds, so each investor can invest a small amount of money in larger projects.

Like all investments, real estate crowdfunding has its own pros and cons, and comes in many flavors and varieties. Before you invest a cent in any asset, you must first understand the risks, rewards, and the role the investment plays in your portfolio.

How Does Real Estate Crowdfunding Work?

On the simplest level, real estate crowdfunding involves many people each contributing a small portion of the greater cost of a real estate-related investment.

But “real estate-related investment” can carry many meanings. Keep the following variations in mind as you explore real estate crowdfunding investment options.

Equity vs. Debt

When you invest money through a crowdfunding platform, does the money go toward the direct purchase of new properties, or toward loans servicing other people’s properties?

If you know publicly traded REITs, you understand the difference between equity REITs and mortgage REITs. The former buys and manages real estate; the latter lends money secured against real estate.

Crowdfunding works similarly. In fact, many real estate crowdfunding investments are REITs — they’re simply sold privately rather than on public stock exchanges subject to traditional SEC regulation (more on regulation differences shortly).

Many private crowdfunded REITs offer both equity and debt REIT options. As a general rule, debt REITs generate more immediate dividend income, while equity REITs include an element of long-term appreciation in addition to income. For example, Fundrise offers several broad basket portfolios weighted more heavily toward either real estate equity or debt investments.

Not all real estate crowdfunded debt investments come in the form of REITs, however.

Peer-to-Peer vs. Fund Investments

In the case of private debt REITs, you invest money with a pooled fund, and the fund lends money to real estate investors as it sees fit. The alternative model for crowdfunded real estate debt involves lending directly to the borrower.

Crowdfunding platforms that follow this model allow you to browse individual loans, so you can pick and choose which loans you want to put money toward. For example, Groundfloor caters to real estate investors — mostly house flippers — lending them money to buy and renovate fixer-uppers. As a financial investor, you can log into your account and review available loans, including details about the project and borrower, and then put varying amounts of money toward as many or as few loans as you like.

Your loan is secured by a lien against the property. If the borrower defaults, Groundfloor forecloses to recover all investors’ money.

Property Type

Some real estate crowdfunding platforms specialize in residential real estate, while others focus on commercial.

Within each of those wide umbrellas, there’s plenty of variation as well. Residential properties could mean single-family rentals, or it could mean 200-unit apartment complexes. Commercial real estate could mean office buildings, or industrial parks, or retail space.

Before investing, make sure you understand exactly what you’re investing in — and more importantly, why.

Availability to Non-Accredited Investors

Some crowdfunding services like FarmTogether only allow accredited investors to participate. Others are open to everyone.

To qualify as an accredited investor, you must have either a net worth over $1 million (not including equity in your home) or have earned at least $200,000 for each of the last two years ($300,000 for married couples), with the expectation to earn similarly this year. So, most Americans can only invest with crowdfunding platforms that allow non-accredited investors.

Before doing any further due diligence, check to see whether prospective crowdfunding platforms even allow you to invest. Otherwise, no other details matter.


Advantages of Real Estate Crowdfunding

These relatively novel investments come with plenty of perks, especially for everyday people with few other paths to invest in large real estate projects. I myself invest in several real estate crowdfunding platforms.

As you compare crowdfunding investments to other types of real estate investments, keep the following pros in mind.

1. Low Cash Requirements

Through crowdfunded real estate investing, investors gain access to expensive investments like hotels, office parks, and apartment complexes that would otherwise remain unavailable to them. I don’t have $5 million to buy an apartment building. But I do have $500 that I’m happy to invest in a private fund that owns apartment buildings.

Although every crowdfunding platform imposes its own minimum investment, some of those minimums remain quite low. Groundfloor, for example, allows investments as low as $10.

Other platforms impose minimums of $500 or $1,000, keeping the minimums within reach of middle-class earners. It marks an enormous advantage to investing in real estate indirectly: you don’t need a full down payment plus closing costs in order to diversify your investments to include real estate.

2. Easy Diversification

With crowdfunding investments, you can easily include real estate in your asset allocation.

And not just through publicly traded REITs, which often move in greater sync with the stock market than with real estate markets because they trade on public stock exchanges. You can invest money toward any type of real estate, residential or commercial, in any grade of neighborhood, spread across many cities in the U.S. or even around the world.

For example, I have a little money invested in commercial office space through Streitwise, and a little invested in residential real estate (equity and debt) through Fundrise’s REITs. I also have money spread among a range of individual loans through Groundfloor. All in all, these investments expose me to real estate in 15 states.

Imagine how much harder that exposure would be if I had to go out and buy individual properties in 15 states?

3. Strong Income Yields

Crowdfunded real estate investments tend to pay reasonably high income yields. Which is always welcome, whether you’re pursuing financial independence at a young age, looking to build more retirement income, or simply enjoy earning more passive income each month. Because when you have enough passive income to cover your living expenses, work becomes optional.

I’ve consistently earned income yields in the 8% to 9% range on my investments with Streitwise and Groundfloor. With Fundrise, I earn around 5% in dividend yield, plus long-term appreciation.

Not many stocks or ETFs offer those kinds of yields.

4. No Labor and Little Skill Required to Invest

As a direct real estate investor, I can tell you firsthand how much skill and labor it takes to find good deals, analyze cash flow numbers, renovate properties, hire and manage contractors, and so forth.

With crowdfunded real estate investments, you outsource all of that to someone else. You just click a button to invest your funds, and sit back and collect the returns.

Don’t get me wrong, direct real estate investment comes with many of its own perks, such as the potential for higher returns, greater control, and real estate-related tax advantages. But you have to earn those advantages with sweat and knowledge, much of it required before you even buy your first property.

This ease of investing through crowdfunding platforms comes with a side benefit: you can automate your investments. Set up monthly or biweekly investments to avoid emotional investing and build wealth and passive income on autopilot.

5. No Property Management Required

It takes an effort not to laugh out loud when tenants call you complaining that a light bulb burned out, and ask you to come over to replace it. Unless the call comes at 3 a.m. — that’s less funny.

Few landlords enjoy managing rental properties, between chasing down nonpaying tenants, hassling with constant repairs and maintenance issues, and all-too-frequent complaints from tenants and neighbors — “this person plays their music too loud,” “that one smells like weed when they pass in the hallway,” ad nauseum. It’s why so many landlords end up hiring a property manager to take the headaches off their plate.

You don’t have to worry about any of that when you invest in crowdfunded real estate investments.

6. Protection Against Inflation

“Real” assets such as commodities, precious metals, and, of course, real estate all have inherent demand. Regardless of the currency you pay with or its value, you pay the going rate based on the underlying value of these physical assets.

That makes these assets an excellent hedge against inflation. If rents drive inflation higher, rental properties only become more valuable, with higher revenues. If the dollar loses value, people pay more for housing and commercial space.

In contrast, investors actually lose money — in terms of real value — on a bond paying 2% interest when inflation runs at 3%.


Disadvantages of Real Estate Crowdfunding

No investment is perfect, without risks or downsides. Thoroughly review these drawbacks and risks before parting with your hard-earned money.

1. Poor Liquidity

It takes a few clicks to sell a stock or ETF. Investors can liquidate their holdings instantaneously, leaving them with cold hard cash.

Real estate is inherently illiquid. It takes months to market and sell properties, and for large commercial properties it can involve hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs. So investors usually hold them for at least five years, and when these investments are funded through a crowd of financial investors, that means individuals can’t easily pull their money back out of the deal.

Most crowdfunded real estate investments advise prospective investors to plan on leaving their money in place for at least five years. Some do offer early redemption to sell their shares, but not instantaneously, and usually at some sort of discount or penalty.

Don’t invest anything you might need back within the next five years.

One notable exception includes short-term peer-to-peer loans secured by real estate, such as those offered by Groundfloor. These loans usually repay within nine to 12 months. Even so, you still can’t easily pull your money back out before the borrower repays the loan in full.

2. Complex Regulation and Performance Transparency

The regulation on crowdfunded investments can quickly make the average investor’s eyes cross. For a quick taste, investors have to navigate between Regulation D investments that fall under either 506(b) or 506(c), and Regulation A and Title III investments — also known as Regulation Crowdfunding or Reg CF.

Regardless, investors can’t use the familiar brokerage account tools that they’re already familiar with to research these investments. The SEC does require crowdfunding platforms to disclose a wide range of information, but it will look and feel unfamiliar for many retail investors.

There is one huge advantage that crowdfunded private REITs have over publicly traded REITs: the flexibility to reinvest profits to buy more properties. Publicly traded REITs must distribute at least 90% of all profits to investors in the form of dividends. That leaves them with high dividend yields but poor prospects for appreciation and asset growth. Private REITs like DiversyFund can employ far more flexibility to build their portfolios.

3. Limits on Participation

The SEC puts limits on how much money non-accredited investors can put into crowdfunded investments each year. Those limits are as follows:

“If either your annual income or your net worth is less than $107,000, then during any 12-month period, you can invest up to the greater of either $2,200 or 5% of the lesser of your annual income or net worth.

“If both your annual income and your net worth are equal to or more than $107,000, then during any 12-month period, you can invest up to 10% of annual income or net worth, whichever is lesser, but not to exceed $107,000.”

They provide a table by way of example:

Annual Income Net Worth Calculation 12-month Limit
$30,000 $105,000 greater of $2,200 or 5% of $30,000 ($1,500) $2,200
$150,000 $80,000 greater of $2,200 or 5% of $80,000 ($4,000) $4,000
$150,000 $107,000 10% of $107,000 ($10,000) $10,700
$200,000 $900,000 10% of $200,000 ($20,000) $20,000
$1.2 million $2 million 10% of $1.2 million ($120,000), subject to cap $107,000

Still, these speedbumps serve as reasonable cautions and protections for the average investor. These investments do come with an element of risk, and shouldn’t make up 70% of your retirement portfolio.

4. Less Protection from Default Than Other Real Estate Investments

When you own a rental property and your tenants stop paying the rent, you can evict them. You own the property, you can insure it against damage, and it comes with a certain amount of inherent value.

Real estate crowdfunding investments don’t come with these protections. You typically own paper shares of a fund, not all or part of a physical asset. Your investments aren’t even secured against the underlying properties with a lien in most cases.

Exceptions do exist, however. For example, when you invest fractionally in loans on Groundfloor, those loans are secured by a lien against real property. If the borrower defaults, Groundfloor forecloses in order to recover most or all of your money.

5. Lack of Control

Although stock investors have little control over the performance of their share prices, direct real estate investors do enjoy control over their returns and management. They can make renovations to boost the rents and property values, can tighten their tenant screening criteria to avoid deadbeats, can even insure against rent defaults.

But when you invest in real estate indirectly through crowdfunding, you surrender control to the fund manager. If they do well, you (hopefully) earn a strong return. If they mess up, you get stuck with the costs of their bungles.


Where Does Real Estate Crowdfunding Fit Into Your Portfolio?

While stocks belong in just about every investor’s portfolio, not everyone feels comfortable with real estate crowdfunding. Still, these investments offer a fine counterweight to stocks when used responsibly.

Your ideal asset allocation is personal to you, and depends on factors ranging from your age, target retirement horizon, net worth, and risk tolerance. I recommend thinking of crowdfunded real estate investments as an alternative to higher-risk, higher-yield bonds and public REITs.

For example, say you aim for an asset allocation of 60% equities and 40% bonds. Those equities include 57% stocks and 3% REITs, and your bonds include 30% low-risk government bonds and 10% higher-risk corporate bonds. You could take part of the 13% of your portfolio earmarked for REITs and higher-risk bonds and test the waters of crowdfunded real estate investments. If you like what you see, you can then move a little more, up to your comfort level.

However, real estate crowdfunding should not take the place of extremely low-risk investments in your portfolio, such as Treasury bonds or TIPS.


Final Word

With real estate crowdfunding, you have the luxury of investing small amounts to gauge the performance of your investments and your comfort.

These investments can play a role in any investor’s portfolio, but that role should start small. Don’t invest any money that would financially cripple you to lose, and do your homework on any crowdfunded investment’s past performance and risk management measures.

Most of all, always keep these investments in the perspective of your broader portfolio and asset allocation. These investments don’t exist in a vacuum — they play a role in a larger performance.

Have you ever invested in crowdfunded real estate? If so, what were your experiences?

Source: moneycrashers.com

11 Real Estate Exit Strategies for Low- or No-Tax Investment Gains

The single greatest predictor of wealth in the U.S. isn’t education level, ethnicity, gender, or any other demographic descriptor. It’s whether or not you own real estate.

In the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances, the Federal Reserve found the median net worth of homeowners to be 46 times greater than that of renters. While the median renter had a net worth of $5,000, the median homeowner owned $231,400 in net assets.

Homeowners benefit from appreciation, forced savings in the form of principal repayment toward mortgages, and often lower annual housing costs compared to local renters. Those advantages get compounded by a tax code that favors property owners. Beyond simple homeownership, real estate investors can reduce their taxes through myriad strategies and incentives.

Still, when it comes time to sell, many property owners face sticker shock at their prospective tax bill. So how can property owners reduce — or better yet, eliminate — their taxes when they go to sell?

Common Real Estate Exit Strategies

Try these low- and no-tax real estate exit strategies to keep more of your real estate profits in your pocket and out of Uncle Sam’s grasping paws.

1. The Homeowner Exclusion

To begin, homeowners get an inherent tax break when they sell their home — with certain requirements and restrictions, of course. If you’re a homeowner selling your primary residence, chances are you won’t have to pay taxes on your profits from the appreciation of the home’s value since you bought it.

Single homeowners can exclude the first $250,000 in profits from their taxable income, and the number doubles for married couples filing jointly. Sometimes called a Section 121 Exclusion, it prevents most middle-class Americans from having to pay any taxes on home sale profits.

Any profits over $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples) get taxed at the long-term capital gains tax rate. More on that shortly.

To qualify for the exclusion, however, homeowners must have owned and lived in the property for at least two out of the last five years. They don’t have to be consecutive; if you lived in the property for one year, moved out for three years, then moved back in for one more year before selling, you qualify.

If you want to sell a property you don’t currently occupy as your primary residence, and want to avoid taxes through a Section 121 Exclusion, consider moving into it for the next two years before selling.

2. Opt for Long-Term Capital Gains Over Short-Term

If you own a property — or any asset for that matter — for less than a year and sell it for a profit, you typically pay short-term capital gains tax. Short-term capital gains mirror your regular income tax level.

However, if you keep an asset for at least one year before selling, you qualify for the lower long-term capital gains tax rate. In tax year 2020, single filers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) under $40,000 pay no long-term capital gains taxes at all — the same goes for married filers with an AGI under $80,000. Single filers with incomes between $40,001 and $441,450 and married filers between $80,001 and $496,600 pay long-term capital gains at a 15% tax rate, and high earners above those thresholds pay 20%.

Keep your investment properties and vacation rentals for at least one year if you can. It can save you substantial money on taxes.

3. Increase Your Cost Basis by Documenting Improvements

If you slept through Accounting 101 in college, your cost basis is what you spent to buy an asset. For example, if you buy a property for $100,000, that makes up your cost basis, plus most of your closing costs count toward it as well. Let’s call it $105,000.

Say you live in the property for 20 months, making some home improvements while there. For the sake of this example, say you spent $15,000 on new windows and a new roof.

Then you sell the property for $160,000. Because you lived there for less than two years, you don’t qualify for the homeowner exclusion. After paying your real estate agent and other seller closing costs, you walk away from the table with $150,000.

How much do you own in capital gains taxes?

Assuming you earn enough income to have to pay them at all, you would owe the IRS for $30,000 in capital gains: $150,000 minus your $105,000 cost basis minus the additional $15,000 in capital improvements. If you can document those improvements, that is — you need to keep your receipts and invoices in case you get audited.

In this example, your capital gains tax bill would come to $4,500 (15% of $30,000) if you document the capital improvements, rather than $6,750 (15% of $45,000) if you don’t.

4. Do a 1031 Exchange

Section 1031 of the U.S. tax code allows investors to roll their profits from the sale of one property into buying a new property, deferring their capital gains tax until they sell the new property.

Known as a “like-kind exchange” or 1031 exchange, you used to be able to do this with assets other than real estate, but the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 excluded most other assets. However, it remains an excellent way to avoid capital gains taxes on real estate — or at least to postpone them.

Real estate investors typically use 1031 exchanges to leapfrog properties, stocking their portfolio with ever-larger properties with better cash flow. All without ever paying capital gains taxes when they sell in order to trade up.

Imagine you buy your first rental property for $100,000. After expenses, you earn around $100 per month in cash flow, which is nice but you certainly won’t be retiring early on it.

You then spend the next year or two saving up more money to invest with, and set your sights on a three-unit rental property that costs $200,000. To raise money for the down payment, you sell your previous rental property, and net $20,000 in profit at settlement. Ordinarily you’d have to pay capital gains taxes on that $20,000, but because you put it toward a new rental property, you defer owing them.

Instead of $100 per month, you net $500 per month on the new property.

After another year or two of saving, you find a six-unit property for $400,000. You then sell your three-unit to raise money for it, and again use a 1031 exchange to roll your profits into the new six-unit property, again deferring your tax bill on the proceeds.

The new property yields you $1,000 per month in cash flow.

In this way, you can keep scaling your real estate portfolio to build ever-more cash flow, all the while deferring your capital gains taxes from the properties you sell. If you ever sell off these properties without a 1031 exchange, you will owe capital gains tax on the profits you’ve deferred along the way. But until then, you need not pay Uncle Sam a cent in capital gains.

5. Harvest Losses

Invest in enough assets, and you’ll end up with some poor performers. You can sit on them, hoping they’ll turn around. Or you can sell them, eat the loss, and reinvest the money elsewhere for higher returns.

It turns out that there’s a particularly good time to accept investment losses: in the same year when you sell a property for hefty capital gains. Known as harvesting losses, you can offset your gains from one asset by taking losses on another.

Say you sell a rental property and earn a tidy profit of $50,000. Slightly nauseated by the notion of paying capital gains tax on it, you turn to your stock portfolio and decide you’ve had enough of a few stocks or mutual funds that have been underperforming for years now. You sell them for a net loss of $10,000, and reinvest the money in (hopefully) better performing assets.

Instead of owing capital gains taxes on $50,000, you now owe it on $40,000, because you offset your gain with the losses realized elsewhere in your portfolio.

6. Invest Through a Self-Directed Roth IRA

Want more control over your IRA investments? You can always set up a self-directed IRA, through which you can invest in real estate if you like.

Like any other IRA, you can open it as a Roth IRA account, meaning you put in post-tax money and don’t owe taxes on returns. Your investments — in this case, a real estate portfolio — appreciate and generate rental income tax-free, which you can keep reinvesting in your self-directed Roth IRA until you reach age 59 1/2. After that, you can start pulling out rent checks and selling properties, all without owing taxes on your profits.

Just beware that setting up a self-directed IRA does involve some labor and expense on your part. I only recommend it for professional real estate investors with the experience to earn stronger returns on real estate investments than elsewhere.

Pro tip: In addition to owning physical properties through a self-directed IRA, you can also use your self-directed IRA to invest in real estate through platforms like Fundrise or Groundfloor.


Hold Properties to Pass to Your Children

“Exit strategy” doesn’t always mean “sell.” The exit could happen in the form of your estate plan.

Or, for that matter, through methods of passing ownership of properties to your children while you still draw breath. There are several ways to go about this, but consider the following options as the simplest.

7. Leave the Property in Your Will

In 2020, the first $11.58 million in assets you leave behind are exempt from estate taxes. That leaves plenty of room for you to leave real estate to your children without them getting hit with a tax bill from Uncle Sam.

And, hey, rental properties can prove an excellent source of passive income for retirement. They generate ongoing income with no sale of assets required, which means you don’t have to worry about safe withdrawal rates or sequence of returns risk with your rental properties. They also adjust for inflation, as you raise rents each year. You can delegate the labor by hiring a property manager, and once your tenants eventually pay off your mortgage, your cash flow really explodes.

Plus, you can let your kids hassle with hiring a real estate agent and selling the property after you depart this mortal plane. In the meantime, you get to enjoy the cash flow.

8. Take Out a Home Equity Loan

Imagine you buy a rental property while working, and in retirement, you finally pay off the mortgage. You can enjoy the higher cash flow of course, but you can also pull money out through a home equity loan.

In this way, you pull out almost as much money as you’d earn by selling. Except you don’t have to give up the property — you can keep earning cash flow on it as a rental. You let your tenants pay down your mortgage for you once, all while earning some cash flow. Why not let them do it a second time?

You pull out all the equity, you get to keep the asset, and you don’t owe any capital gains taxes. Win, win, win.

You can follow the same strategy with your primary residence, but in that case you incur more personal debt and living expenses. Not ideal, but you have another option when it comes to your home.

9. Take Out a Reverse Mortgage

Along similar lines, you could take out a reverse mortgage on your primary residence if you have equity you want to tap into. These vary in structure, but they either pay you a lump sum now, or ongoing monthly payments, or a combination of both, all without requiring monthly payments from you. The mortgage provider gets their money back when you sell or kick the bucket, whichever comes first.

For retirees, a reverse mortgage helps them avoid higher living expenses while pulling out home equity as an extra source of income. And, of course, you don’t pay capital gains taxes on the property, because you don’t sell it.

10. Refinance & Add Your Child to the Deed

My business partner recently went to sell a rental property to her son for him to move into with his new wife. But the plan derailed when the mortgage lender declined the son’s loan application.

So they took a more creative approach. My business partner and her husband refinanced the property to pull out as much cash as they could, and they had the title company add their son and his wife to the deed and the mortgage note. The son and daughter-in-law moved into the property, taking over the mortgage payments. My partner and her husband took the cash, and while they remain on the deed, their ownership interest will pass to the younger generation upon their death.

In this way, they also streamline the inheritance, as the property won’t need to pass through probate.

This strategy comes with two downsides for my partner and her husband, however. First, they remain liable for the mortgage — if their son defaults, they remain legally obligated to make payments. Second, mortgage lenders don’t lend the entire value of the property when they issue a refinance loan, so my partner didn’t receive as much cash as she might have if she’d sold the property retail.

Of course, she also didn’t have to pay a real estate agent to market it. And any small shortfall in cash from refinancing rather than selling outright could be collected as a “down payment” from your child, or you could just shrug and think of it as a gift.


Other Exit Strategies

11. Donate the Property to Charity

Finally, you can always avoid taxes by giving the property to your charity of choice.

No clever maneuvers or tax loopholes. Just an act of generosity to help those who need the money more than you or Uncle Sam do.

By donating real estate you not only avoid paying taxes on its gains, you also get to deduct the value — in this case the equity — from your tax return. But bear in mind that the IRS looks closely at charitable deductions, especially house-sized ones, and you may hear from them demanding more information.


Final Word

Property owners have plenty of exit strategies at their disposal to minimize capital gains taxes. But don’t assume all of these options will last forever — with an ever-widening federal budget deficit, expect tax rates to rise and investment-friendly tax rules to suffer. Your taxes may go up in retirement, not down.

Whether you own a real estate empire or simply your own home, choose the strategy that fits your needs best, and aim to keep more of your proceeds in your own pocket.

What are your exit strategies for your properties? How do you plan to minimize your tax burden?

Source: moneycrashers.com

Why Principal Reductions on Loan Mods Aren’t the Move

Last updated on January 19th, 2018

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely heard stirrings of a mega super duper fantastic solve-all trillion-dollar refinance program in the works to save America once and for all.

You know, the one President Obama plans to unveil just in time for the election to give his campaign a shot in the arm (at least that’s what the pundits are saying). For the record, I’m sure any other President seeking a second term would play this the same way.

(Read more about the rumored mass mortgage refinancing plan.)

Well, critics have already come out in droves to have their say about the proposed deal.

One that made me think was an opinion piece by the Motley Fool, who for some reason is talking about mortgages for a change, as opposed to tempting you with their “Hidden Gems.”

Doesn’t Address Underwater Homeowners

Their core issue with the proposal is that it doesn’t address borrowers with underwater mortgages, you know, those that exceed the current value of the associated homes.

The author argues that the lower mortgage payments would certainly help these borrowers (and stimulate the economy), but without any home equity, they won’t have the incentive to refinance.

This is where I think he (and anyone else with this argument) gets it wrong. You see, there are scores of borrowers, dare I say millions, who are underwater and making on-time payments (or at least trying to).

And a program with no loan-to-value ratio constraints that lowers their mortgage rate from 6% to 4% overnight would surely appeal to them, even if they had to pay some closing costs.

I don’t think they would need that extra incentive, in the form of principal reduction, to go through with the refinance.

And I do think a simple interest rate reduction would be enough for many of these borrowers to stay put in their homes, as opposed to buying and bailing, or bailing and renting.

After all, a loan modification should address affordability concerns, not necessarily a homeowner’s desire to stay put. We can’t beg people to stick around for the greater good.

Why Principal Reductions Are Trouble

Clearly borrowers who receive both an interest rate and principal balance reduction will be better off with regard to paying their mortgage, although certain data suggests otherwise.

But it gets to a point where the borrower is getting too much, and the cost is simply too high.

The fact is many homeowners are in negative equity positions either because they purchased homes with no money down, or because they serially refinanced until they zapped all the equity out of their homes.

And some people just bought at the worst possible time. I’ve purchased things at the wrong time too, but never expected to get bailed out for my bad luck.

So taxpayers can’t be on the hook for all these homeowners. It’s also not fair to the homeowners who don’t get any direct benefit. But I’m sure they won’t mind others refinancing to lower rates that they can obtain themselves.

As it stands, an interest rate reduction would be much more cost effective than a principal reduction, and still serve the same purpose.

There are plenty of homeowners who would be very happy to see their mortgage payment reduced by hundreds of dollars a month, even if they’re underwater.

Because let’s face it, if they haven’t walked away yet, there’s a good chance they’re sticking around for the recovery.

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

Obama Slashes Costs for FHA Streamline Refinances to Boost Market

Last updated on August 29th, 2018

In another effort to buoy the flagging housing market, the Obama administration announced today that it would essentially be removing the upfront mortgage insurance premium on streamlined FHA refinances.

So homeowners who currently hold an FHA loan, looking to refinance into another FHA loan to lower their mortgage rate, will pay just 0.01% in upfront mortgage insurance premiums.

This represents a huge discount compared to the 1% upfront premium currently charged.

The annual mortgage insurance premium will also be slashed in half to 0.55%, which together with the upfront premium reduction is estimated to save the average FHA borrower roughly a thousand dollars annually.

In order to qualify for the new program, your FHA loan must have been originated prior to June 1, 2009.

The Obama administration believes about 2-3 million FHA borrowers will be eligible to benefit from this initiative, but only time will tell how many are really helped.

Are Future Homeowners Eating the Cost?

While this is great news for those who currently hold FHA loans, it makes you wonder if future homeowners will wind up paying for it.

Last week, the FHA announced that it would be raising upfront mortgage insurance premiums from 1% to 1.75%, beginning in April.

Additionally, the agency said it would raise the annual mortgage insurance premium by 0.10 percent for loan amounts under $625,500, and 0.35 percent for loans between $625,500 and $729,750.

The measures were taken to meet the congressionally mandated minimum for the FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance (MMI) fund, which has been depleted thanks to all the recent losses on bad loans. It is expected to boost the fund by $1 billion through fiscal year 2013.

So essentially first-time homebuyers and other current homeowners who do not hold FHA loans will pay a premium to take out an FHA loan.

It seems like a bit of a shift in wealth, though it will likely result in fewer new homeowners going to the FHA for mortgage financing, which is probably the end goal.

The FHA exploded in popularity in recent years as subprime lending fell by the wayside, but the agency bit off more than it could chew. So this is likely a bid to return to a more normalized mortgage market funded by private capital.

[FHA loan vs. conventional loan]

Still, it seems a little unfair for those who don’t hold FHA loans, regardless of what good it may do.

But if you have an FHA loan, this is a great time to inquire about a streamline refinance to lower your mortgage rate and your monthly mortgage payment, without being subject to steep closing costs.

Reviewing Servicemember Foreclosures

The White House also announced that it will conduct a review of all servicemembers foreclosed on since 2006 to identify any wrongdoings.

Those found to be wrongly foreclosed on will receive compensation equal to a minimum of lost home equity, plus interest and $116,785, paid for by the nation’s top loan servicers, who were involved in the National Mortgage Settlement.

Additionally, those who were wrongfully denied a refinance will be refunded any money lost as a result.

And those who were forced to sell their homes for less than the mortgage balance due to a Permanent Change in Station will also be provided with some form of relief.

Finally, the major loan servicers will pay $10 million into the Veteran Affairs fund, which guarantees funding for the VA loan program, and certain foreclosure protections will be extended to prevent future failings.

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

Bank of America Has a Waiting List to Refinance

Last updated on February 2nd, 2018

If you’re interested in refinancing your mortgage with Bank of America, you may be in for a big surprise.

Per Bloomberg, the mega bank has been unable to keep up with demand, thanks in part to HARP Phase II, which is beginning to roll out.

The program, which allows pretty much anyone to refinance, regardless of how deeply underwater they are, has led to everyone and their mother inquiring about a possible refi.

And we all know that the biggest names in the finance world will experience the biggest windfall.

Unfortunately, Bank of America has been making steady moves to get out of the mortgage world in recent times.

In fact, their share of the mortgage market has dwindled to little more than five percent, which is less than it held before it acquired Countrywide.

This is largely because they exited both the wholesale and correspondent mortgage businesses to focus on building relationships at the retail level.

90-Day Wait to Refinance

I hope you’re patient, because Bank of America is telling some customers who call during high volume periods of the day to make a reservation.

And once they do that, it could take anywhere from 60 to 90 days just to hear back. Even then, it’s unclear how much longer it will take to apply for a refinance, get the loan underwritten, and finally get it funded.

By then mortgage rates could rise, though that’s probably not too much of a concern. But in the mean time you’d still be stuck making higher monthly mortgage payments, which is clearly no good.

[Are mortgage rates going to stay low?]

If you do manage to “get in the door,” note that Bank of America also stopped offering cash out refinances last month.

So if you’re looking to tap your home equity, you’ll either have to try a HELOC or go elsewhere.

BofA Customers Don’t Need to Wait

That said, one of Bloomberg’s sources said those with Bank of America checking accounts, along with those who go to the bank in person, do not need to wait.

Still, you have to wonder about the bank’s urgency in getting your refinance application to the closing department.

If they’re overloaded, the turn times will surely be extremely high, which could put your time-sensitive mortgage application in danger.

This is all the more reason to shop around for your mortgage, as opposed to just going with the bank you know and “trust.”

If you’re only getting one mortgage quote, you’re doing yourself an injustice.

Be sure to contact several banks, along with a few mortgage brokers, to see what kind of mortgage rate you can get your hands on.

And don’t forget to compare fees and closing costs to ensure you receive the best deal on your refinance.

Tip: How to find the best mortgage rates.

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

Obama’s Broad Based Refinancing Plan

It took a few weeks, but we’ve finally got concrete details regarding the Obama Administration’s so-called “Broad Based Refinancing Plan.”

First off, homeowners with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages who are unable to refinance their mortgage to take advantage of the near-record low mortgage rates will be able to go through HARP 2.0.

HARP 2.0 was introduced back in October to address the needs of homeowners who were too deeply underwater to meet the max loan-to-value ratio cap of 125 percent.

Borrowers with underwater mortgages backed by Fannie and Freddie will continue to go through this program assuming they meet the guidelines.

So nothing really changes here, except perhaps the actual adoption of the problem, which appears to have been sluggish thus far.

Refinancing Program for Non-GSE Mortgages

What about all the underwater borrowers with non-GSE mortgages, those that are not backed by Fannie and Freddie?

Well, Obama is “calling on Congress” to pass a new refinancing program geared toward these homeowners, managed by the FHA.

It would be open to all those with non-GSE mortgages (less jumbo mortgages) who have kept up with their mortgage payments.

The big distinction here is that it requires Congressional approval, which may be an uphill battle. So really it’s just an idea at this point, not a live program.

Still, these are the proposed guidelines:

  • Borrower is current on mortgage for past 6 months and hasn’t missed more than one payment in previous 6 months.
  • Minimum credit score of 580
  • Loan amount does not exceed max conforming loan amount
  • Loan is tied to a single-family, owner-occupied property

Borrowers who meet these very simple guidelines will apply via a streamlined process designed to make it easier and cheaper to refinance.

To determine eligibility, a borrower must only prove they are currently employed. However, even the unemployed can qualify if other requirements are met and they present “limited credit risk.”

A new tax return and appraisal is not necessary to refinance.

The Obama administration will work with Congress to set loan-to-value limits for loans submitted to the program.

While a number hasn’t been set, the Administration used 140 LTV as an example, noting that mortgage lenders could write down the balance of mortgages that exceed that number.

How Will the Refinance Program Be Paid For?

Good question. Well, the cost of the refinancing program is estimated to range anywhere from $5 to $10 billion (quite a range isn’t it).

To avoid any taxpayer burden, the refinancing plan will be fully paid for by the proposed “Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee,” which imposes a fee on the largest financial institutions.

This fee will be based on the size of the institution and risk of their activities.

The FHA, who is set to manage the program, will even pay for a borrower’s closing costs if they choose to go with a shorter-term mortgage, such as a 15-year mortgage.

Those who refinance into mortgages with terms of 20 years or less will have their closing costs paid for the FHA. The GSEs will do the same for HARP 2.0 borrowers.

The Administration hopes this will promote responsible borrowing and reduce the amount of time it takes for borrowers to get back above water.

HAMP Expansion

The existing Home Affordable Mortgage Program is also being expanded to help more borrowers receive assistance.

The first-lien mortgage debt-to-income ratio limit of 31% apparently eliminates certain borrowers from the program because it doesn’t address other monthly obligations.

So the program will consider secondary debt with more flexible debt-to-income criteria.

Additionally, rental properties will be added to the program so long as a tenant currently occupies them or the borrower intends to rent the unit.

Finally, the Treasury will offer bigger incentives to the owners of mortgages who agree to write down principal.

Currently, owners receive between 6 to 21 cents on the dollar for principal reductions. This amount will be tripled to 18 to 63 percent on the dollar.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who do not currently receive compensation for principal reductions on loan modifications, will also receive principal reduction incentives

The Losers

The obvious losers are holders of jumbo mortgages, who are more than likely homeowners in hard-hit states like California and Florida where home prices have plummeted.

There doesn’t appear to be any relief for this type of homeowner, which is certainly a concern.

Additionally, those behind on their mortgage payments won’t benefit from this new refinance program.

So really only borrowers who have been able to make their mortgage payment each month will benefit.

Also, investors who hold non-GSE loans won’t see any benefit. And those with poor credit scores will be out of luck.

In other words, plenty of homeowners will miss out here, but it’s a tall order to include everyone.

Homeowners Bill of Rights

For the record, the Obama Administration also introduced several other initiatives, including a “Homeowner Bill of Rights,” which will once again revamp and simplify mortgage disclosures.

This includes a foreclosure appeals process and guidelines that prevent conflicts of interest that wind up doing harm to homeowners, along with a joint investigation into loan origination and servicing abuses.

Major banks and the GSEs will also provide up to 12 months forbearance for unemployed borrowers.

Additionally, a pilot program that transitions foreclosed property into rental housing will be employed to stabilize neighborhoods and get the housing market out of its funk.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, it sounds like an awesome program to save housing once and for all. But upon closer inspection, a lot of homeowners are left out, as mentioned above.

Along with that, the borrowers that are targeted may not really be the ones that need help.

The reality is that millions of people who are currently behind on their mortgages are going to lose their homes. And this program won’t change that. It’s simply going to help those on the brink, or even those that don’t even necessarily need assistance to make their mortgage payments, but want to catch a break after buying at the wrong time.

Sure, if all goes well, it could reduce foreclosures to some extent, bolster home prices somewhat, and get more money flowing into the economy. But it still requires Congressional approval to work. And even then, we won’t see a housing recovery without meaningful economic improvement.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

Proposed Bill Lowers FHA Costs for Educated First-Time Buyers

Last updated on March 20th, 2014

A new bill being floated by Representative Karen Bass (D-Calif.) aims to lower the costs of obtaining an FHA loan, which have surged in recent months.

Back in April, the FHA’s upfront mortgage insurance premium increased from 1% to 1.75%. On a $200,000 loan, we’re talking about an increase of $1,500, which certainly isn’t incidental.

The change was implemented to bolster the FHA’s capital reserves, which were drained as a result of the ongoing mortgage crisis.

But clearly this has made FHA loans a lot less attractive to first-time homebuyers, many of which rely on the agency’s signature low-down payment loan program, which requires just 3.5% down.

Enter the Homeownership Preservation Education (HOPE) Act

To offset some of these new costs, Bass has proposed new legislation, namely, the “Homeownership Preservation Education (HOPE) Act.”

In short, it provides a 0.25% reduction on the FHA upfront mortgage insurance premium for first-time homebuyers who complete a HUD-approved housing counseling course.

On that same $200,000 loan referenced earlier, a borrower would save $500 in closing costs, making homeownership more attainable and a little less painful.

The general thinking behind the bill is that more educated homeowners default less often, which reduces foreclosures and losses for the FHA.

As a result, these types of buyers should be able to catch a break on the costly upfront mortgage insurance premium.

While it may seem minimal, every little bit helps because purchasing a home can deplete your assets very quickly.

Look at Mortgage Alternatives

While this bill is certainly well intentioned, first-time homebuyers should also consider other loan options, such as conventional loans.

Though you generally have to come up with 5% down, you won’t have to deal with the pesky FHA upfront mortgage insurance premium, which is now ridiculously high.

Or look at programs such as Fannie Mae Homepath, which only require a 3% down payment and NO mortgage insurance.

If possible, you may also want to consider getting a gift for a larger down payment, that way you can avoid mortgage insurance altogether.

And with a loan-to-value ratio south of 80%, you’ll also enjoy a lower mortgage rate, which will decrease your mortgage payment and increase your affordability.

So along with the HUD-approved homeowner education course, educate yourself on all your loan options well before applying for a loan.

Also be sure to take the time to review your credit report to ensure there are not any errors holding you back from securing a lower rate.

Putting in the time to do some housecleaning before applying for a mortgage is probably the best way to save money.

By the way, beginning next week, the FHA is cutting mortgage insurance premiums for streamline refinances., which should be a godsend to scores of underwater homeowners.

Read more: Which mortgage is right for me?

(photo: cdsessums)

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

Piggyback Loan Is Another Home Financing Option

Shopping around for a home loan? Then you’re probably trying to figure out how to strike the best balance between your down payment and monthly mortgage expenses. Understanding just how much house you can afford is tricky, which is why it helps to know all of your options in advance.

Piggyback loans are just one more financing option you have at your fingertips for purchasing the home of your dreams — even without that 20% down payment. These loans involve taking out two rather than one mortgage, but can save you thousands of dollars on private mortgage insurance for borrowers who can’t afford a large down payment. Ready to learn more about piggyback home loans and if borrowing one is the right choice for you? Keep reading.

What Is a Piggyback Loan?

A piggyback loan, true to its name, is a set of two loans — with one piggybacking off the other. These loans are also sometimes referred to 80/10/10 loans, where the first loan is equal to 80% of your home’s purchase price, and the second loan is equal to 10% of the purchase price. This type of financing structure assumes you have at least 10% of the home’s purchase price to put toward a down payment.

Since many lenders require private mortgage insurance (PMI) on mortgages with less than a 20% down payment, this financing structure can help bridge that gap (for borrowers who don’t have the full 20% saved up) and ensure that you avoid paying extra PMI fees— which definitely don’t come cheap.

Let’s crunch some numbers as an example. Say you want to buy a home for $300k. Using a piggyback loan, your financing plan would look something like this:

1st loan (80%) $240k
2nd loan (10%) $30k
Down payment (10%) $30k

As you can see, using this financing structure will save you roughly half the sum of your down payment, allowing you to focus on saving up $30k rather than a whopping $60k in order to buy your home.

Benefits of piggyback loan

The biggest benefit of a piggyback loan is the savings you get from not having to take out a PMI policy. These insurance policies, which are required by most banks for borrowers putting less than 20% down on their homes, typically cost anywhere from 0.5% to 1% of your total loan amount per year. Some experts claim this number can even go up to 1.86% per year. This might sound insignificant, but let’s crunch some numbers to really see what it might actually cost you.

Using the same example as before, let’s say you were to take out a conventional loan for a house with a $300k listing price, and put 10% as a down payment. This would put your loan amount at roughly $270k. Here’s what various PMI payments might look like on a loan this size.

PMI rate (as % of your loan) Annual payment due Monthly payment due
0.5% $13,500 $1,125
1% $27,000 $2,250
1.86% $50,220 $4,185

As the numbers will show, PMI is clearly nothing to scoff at. In fact, PMI is so expensive that it could easily cost you a monthly mortgage payment many times over— in addition to actually having to pay your mortgage each month as well.

Things To Keep in Mind

Now that you know a bit more about piggyback loans, and all the savings they can provide, let’s talk about some of the downsides. After all, if piggyback mortgages are so convenient, why don’t more people get them?

The biggest downside of piggyback loans (and the reason more people don’t have them) is because they’re actually pretty hard to get. Think about it: Instead of going through the loan approval process once, you have to go through it twice. You’ll also be borrowing two separate loans at once, which is seen as a higher risk to many lenders.

These loans require higher credit scores, and you might even need to apply through a special lender who is accustomed to dealing with these types of financing packages. There’s also repayment to consider. Although refinancing a mortgage is typically seen as a relatively simple move for borrowers interested in securing lower interest rates— refinancing will be a lot harder when you have two loans instead of one. You’ll also be responsible for paying the closing costs on two separate loans (typically 2% to 5% of the loan amount) as well as any loan origination fees the lender may charge.

How To Apply

According to the credit experts at Experian, you’ll need a “very good to exceptional” credit score in order to qualify for a piggyback loan. Meaning, your score will need to be at least 700, although you’re more likely to qualify with a score of 740 or higher.

You should also plan on having enough saved up for as much of a down payment as you can afford, plus some extra funds for closing costs and other fees associated with buying your home. Finally, you’ll want to make sure your debt-to-income ratio is within a reasonable range before approaching lenders. While all of these things are pretty standard for anyone on the market to buy a home, the requirements are even more strict when applying for a piggyback loan— making it that much more important to have your financial ducks in a row.

Final Word

Piggyback loans might not be the most straight-forward financing package out there, but for the right home buyer— they can make all the difference in the world. Sit down and take a good hard look at your finances to decide if borrowing a piggyback loan might be able to help you reach your financial goals. And if the answer is no, don’t worry— there are a lot of other options that can help you afford your dream home.

Contributor Larissa Runkle specializes in finance, real estate and lifestyle topics.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Mortgage Rate Shopping: 10 Tips to Get a Better Deal

Last updated on December 8th, 2020

Looking for the best mortgage rates? We’ve all heard about the super-low mortgage rates available, but how do you actually get your hands on them?

When it’s all said and done, it never seems to be as low as the bank originally claimed, which can be pretty frustrating or even problematic for your loan closing.

But instead of worrying, let’s try to find solutions so you too can take advantage of these remarkable interest rates.

There are a number of ways to find the best mortgage rates, though a little bit of legwork on your behalf is definitely required.

After all, you’re not buying a TV, you’re buying a home or refinancing an existing, probably large home loan.

best mortgage rate

If you’re not willing to put in the work, you might be disappointed with the rate you receive. But if you are up for the challenge, the savings can make the relatively little time you put in well worth it.

The biggest takeaway is shopping around, since you can’t really determine if a mortgage rate is any good without comparing it to others.

Many prospective and existing homeowners simply gather one quote, typically from a friend or real estate agent’s reference, and then kick themselves later for not seeing what else is out there.

Below are 10 tips aimed at helping you better navigate the shopping experience and ideally save some money.

1. Advertised mortgage rates generally include points and are best-case scenario

You know those mortgage rates you see on TV, hear about on the radio, or see online. Well, most of the time they require you to pay mortgage points.

So if your loan amount is $200,000, and the rate is 3.75% with 1 point, you have to pay $2,000 to get that rate. And there may also be additional lender fees on top of that.

It’s important to understand that you’re not always comparing apples to apples if you look at interest rate alone.

For example, lenders don’t charge the same amount of fees, so clearly rate isn’t the only thing you should look at when shopping.

Additionally, these advertised mortgage rates are typically best-case scenario, meaning they expect you to have a 760+ credit score and a 20% down payment. They also expect the property to be a single-family home that will be your primary residence.

If any of the above are not true, you can expect a much higher mortgage rate than advertised.

Are you showing the lender you deserve the lowest rate, or simply demanding it because you feel entitled to it? Those who actually present the least risk to lenders are the ones with the best chance of securing a great rate.

2. The lowest mortgage rate may not be the best

Most home loan shoppers are probably looking for the lowest interest rate, but at what cost? As noted above, the lowest interest rate may have steep fees and/or require discount points, which will push the APR higher and make the effective rate less desirable.

Be sure you know exactly what is being charged for the rate provided to accurately determine if it’s a good deal. And consider the APR vs. interest rate to accurately gauge the cost of the loan over the full loan term.

Lenders are required to display the APR next to the interest rate so you know how much the rate actually costs. Of course, APR has its limitations, but it’s yet another tool at your disposal to take note of.

3. Compare the costs of the rate offered

Along those same lines, you need to compare the costs of securing the loan at the par rate, versus paying to buy down the rate.

For example, it may be in your best interest to take a slightly higher rate to cover all your closing costs, especially if you’re cash-poor or simply don’t plan on staying in the home very long.

If you won’t be keeping the mortgage for more than a year or two, why pay points and a bunch of closing costs out of pocket. Might as well take a slightly higher rate and pay a tiny bit more each month, then you can get rid of the loan. [See: No cost refinance]

Conversely, if you plan to hunker down in your forever home and can obtain a really low rate, it might make sense to pay the fees out-of-pocket and pay points to lower your rate even more. After all, you’ll enjoy a lower monthly payment as a result for many years to come.

4. Compare different loan types

When comparing pricing, you should also look at different loan types, such as a 30-year vs. 15-year. If it’s a small loan amount, you might be able to refinance to a lower rate and barely raise your monthly payment.

For example, if you’re currently in a 30-year home loan at 6%, dropping the rate to 2.75% on a 15-year fixed won’t bump your mortgage payment up a whole lot. And you’ll save a ton in interest and own the home much sooner, assuming that’s your goal.

And as mentioned, if you only plan to stay in the home for a few years, you can look at lower-rate options, such as the 5/1 ARM, which come with rates that can be much lower than the 30-year fixed. If you’ll be out of there before the loan ever adjusts, why pay for the 30-year fixed?

5. Watch out for bad recommendations

However, don’t overextend yourself just because the bank or broker says you’ll be able to pay off your mortgage in no time at all.

They may recommend something that isn’t really ideal for your situation, so do your research before shopping. You should have a good idea as to what loan program will work best for you, instead of blindly following the loan officer’s opinion.

It’s not uncommon to be pitched an adjustable-rate mortgage when you’re looking for a fixed loan, simply because the ultra-low rate and payment will sound enticing. Or told the 30-year fixed is a no-brainer, even though you plan to move in just a few years.

6. Consider banks, online lenders, credit unions, and brokers

I always recommend that you shop around and compare lenders as much as possible. This means comparing mortgage rates online, calling your local bank, a credit union, and contacting a handful of mortgage brokers.

If you stop at just one or two quotes, you may miss out on a much better opportunity. Put simply, don’t spend more time shopping for your new couch or stainless-steel refrigerator. This is a way bigger deal and deserves a lot more time and energy on your part.

Your mortgage term is probably going to be 30 years, so the decision you make today can affect your wallet for the next 360 months, assuming you hold your loan to term. Even if you don’t, it can affect you for years to come!

7. Research the mortgage companies

Shopping around will require doing some homework about the mortgage companies in question. When comparing their interest rates, also do research about the companies to ensure you’re dealing with a legitimate, reliable lender that can actually get your loan closed.

A low rate is great, but only if it actually funds! There are lenders that consistently get it done, and others that will give you the runaround or bait and switch you, or just fail to make it to the closing table because they don’t know what they’re doing.

Fortunately, there are plenty of readily accessible reviews online that should make this process pretty simple. Just note that results will vary from loan to loan, as no two mortgage loans or borrowers are the same.

You can probably take more chances with a refinance, but if it’s a purchase, you’ll want to ensure you’re working with someone who can close your loan in a timely manner. Otherwise a seemingly good deal could turn bad instantly.

8. Mind your credit scores

Understand that shopping around may require multiple credit pulls. This shouldn’t hurt your credit so long as you shop within a certain period of time. In other words, it’s okay to apply more than once, especially if it leads to a lower mortgage rate.

More importantly, do not apply for any other types of loans before or while shopping for a mortgage. The last thing you’d want is for a meaningless credit card application to take you out of the running completely.

Additionally, don’t go swiping your credit card and racking up lots of debt, as that too can sink your credit score in a hurry. It’s best to just pay cash for things and keep your credit cards untouched before, during, and up until the loan funds.

Without question, your credit score can move your mortgage rate significantly (in both directions), and it’s one of the few things you can actually fully control, so keep a close eye on it. I’d say it’s the most important factor and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

If your credit scores aren’t very good, you might want to work on them for a bit before you apply for a mortgage. It could mean the difference between a bad rate and a good rate, and hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

9. Lock your rate

This is a biggie. Just because you found a good mortgage rate, or were quoted a great rate, doesn’t mean it’s yours.

You still need to lock the rate (if you’re happy with it) and get the confirmation in writing. Without the lock, it’s merely a quote and nothing more. That means it’s subject to change.

The loan also needs to fund. So if you’re dealing with an unreliable lender who promises a low rate, but can’t actually deliver and close the loan, the rate means absolutely nothing.

Again, watch out for the bait and switch where you’re told one thing and offered something entirely different when it comes time to lock.

Either way, know that you can negotiate during the process.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower rate if you think you can do better; there’s always room to negotiate mortgage rates!

10. Be patient

Lastly, take your time. This isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly, so do your homework and consult with family, friends, co-workers, and whoever else may have your best interests in mind.

If a company is aggressively asking for your sensitive information, or trying to run your credit report right out of the gate, tell them you’re just looking for a ballpark quote. Don’t ever feel obligated to work with someone, especially if they’re pushy.

You should feel comfortable with the bank or broker in question, and if you don’t, feel free to move on until you find the right fit. Trust your gut.

Also keep an eye on mortgage rates over time so you have a better idea of when to lock. No one knows what the future holds, but if you’re actively engaged, you’ll have a leg up on the competition.

One thing I can say is, on average, mortgage rates tend to be lowest in December, all else being equal.

In summary, be sure to look beyond the mortgage rate itself – while your goal will be to secure the lowest rate possible, you have to factor in the closing costs, your plans with the property/mortgage, and the lender’s ability to close your loan successfully.

Tip: Even if you get it wrong the first time around, you can always look into refinancing your mortgage to lower your current interest rate. You aren’t stuck if you can qualify for another mortgage down the road!

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

7 Places in America That Will Pay You to Move There

From cash grants to free lots of land, these incentives are luring city dwellers to rural America.

If you’re willing to move and if you meet the qualifications, many rural American towns are offering incentives aimed at attracting new residents and reviving their communities.

At the beginning of the 20th century, rural America housed more than half the country’s entire population. While the number of Americans living in rural areas has been roughly stable over the past century — as urban and suburban America have boomed — its share of the total population has declined, falling from 54 percent in 1910 to just 19 percent in 2010.

This is due, in part, to migration to urban cores, especially by younger generations and the middle class.

This decline in population — and the accompanying social and economic challenges — is forcing rural America to come up with incentives to attract new residents back to rural communities.

Tribune, Kansas, offers such a program. “If you move here, we will pay down your student debt,” explains Christy Hopkins, community development director for Kansas’ least populated county, Greeley (in which Tribune sits).

This program, called the Rural Opportunity Zone (ROZ) program, offers perks to grads from big cities for moving to underpopulated towns in one of 77 participating Kansas counties. One of the incentives? They’ll help you pay off your student loans — up to $15,000 over the course of five years.

And it seems to be working — for both the town and its new residents.

“We’re the least populated county — we’re 105th in population for counties in Kansas, and now we’re eighth in college degrees per capita. There’s a correlation to draw,” says Hopkins.

Here are five towns and three states that offer a robust set of loans, programs and/or assistance for those seeking to become homeowners:

Curtis, Nebraska

Population: 891
Median home value: $79,000

Dream of building your own home from the ground up? Curtis, Nebraska, has a sweet deal for you. If you construct a single-family home within a specified time period,  you’ll receive the lot of land it sits on for free.

Marne, Iowa

Population: 115
Median home value: $75,300

Just 45 minutes east of Omaha, Marne will give you a lot of land for free — all you have to do is build the house (conventional construction or modular) and meet program requirements. Houses must be a minimum of 1,200 square feet, and the average lot size is approximately 80 feet by 120 feet.  

Harmony, Minnesota

Population: 999
Median home value: $93,900

Dreaming of a a newly built home in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? Good news: Your dream comes with a cash rebate.

The Harmony Economic Development Authority offers a cash rebate program to incentivize new home construction. Based on the final estimated market value of the new home, rebates range from $5,000 to $12,000, and there are no restrictions on the applicant’s age, income level or current residency.

Baltimore, Maryland

Population: 616,958
Median home value: $116,300

Definitively not a rural town, Baltimore offers homeowners incentives that are too appealing to leave off this list.

Baltimore has two programs offering robust incentives for buying a home in the city. Buying Into Baltimore offers a $5,000 forgivable loan (forgiven by 20 percent each year so that by the end of five years, you no longer have a balance) if you meet certain qualifications.

The city’s second solution is a brilliant one. The Vacants to Value Booster program offers $10,000 toward down payment and closing costs when you buy one of the program’s distressed or formerly distressed properties.

New Haven, Connecticut

Population: 131,014
Median home value: $168,400

Also not a rural area, but offering an incredibly generous package of homeowner incentives, New Haven offers a suite of programs totaling up to $80,000 for new homeowners, including a $10,000 forgivable five-year loan to first-time home buyers, $30,000 renovation assistance and/or up to $40,000 for college tuition.   

Alaska

Population: 739,795
Median home value: $310,200

Alaska offers incentives for veterans and live-in caretakers of physically or mentally disabled residents. They even have a manufactured home program and a rural owner-occupied loan program. See the full list of programs here.

Colorado

Population: 5.6 million
Median home value: $368,100

Colorado offers traditional programs that assist with down payments and low interest rates, but it also has a disability program that helps first-time buyers who have a permanent disability finance their home.

The state also has a down payment assistance grant that provides recipients with up to 4 percent of their first mortgage, which doesn’t require repayment.


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Originally published October 2017. Information updated October 2018.

Source: zillow.com