- Interest rates will rise slowly and gradually, ending 2016 about half a percent higher than 2015.
- March will see a rapid increase in home sales with buyers bidding up prices.
- More home buyers will waive the home inspection contingency in “hot markets.” (A mistake in my opinion.)
- Hot markets will be Seattle-Bellevue, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, Portland, Boise, Salt Lake City, and Omaha. (Thanks to Bloomberg for this one.)
- More young home buyers will look at neighborhood walkability as well as ability to ride their bikes to work as an important consideration.
- First time home buyers will look at townhomes and condominiums for more affordability, and lenders such as Envoy Mortgage will close more of these purchases due to their more lenient guidelines for multi-family structures.
- Buyers will preview homes online but will avoid clicking on online ads by agents and lenders.
- Builders will continue to build larger homes on smaller lots, making existing homes more attractive to families who want privacy.
- More home buyers will get pre-approved before touring homes, thanks to being better educated about the home buying process.
- More people will choose the conventional 3% down payment loan over the FHA 3.5% down payment loan.
- First time home buyers will take advantage of private grant money for their down payment as well as state down payment assistance programs.
- Underwriting requirements will lighten up and do away with some of the overly tight requirements of yesteryear.
Thank you for 28,000 views of my blog. I know next year will see even more! Thank you to all the readers who purchased my books and a double thank you to the readers who emailed me their gratitude for the information.
May God bless and keep us all healthy and safe in 2016!
Here are four things you should know about how credit cards affect your FICO score:
1) If you carry a balance that is over 50 percent of the limit, you will lose credit points.
To remedy, either call your creditor and ask to have the limit raised, or spread out your spending over an additional card. I am assuming, of course, that you are not overspending for your income and budget. That is another topic altogether!
2) If you pay off your balance in full each month, you will be rewarded with additional credit points.
The credit system recognizes the proper use of credit and adds points to your FICO score when you don’t carry a balance from month-to-month. Moreover, you don’t waste your money paying interest that is non-tax deductible.
3) If your total use of credit is below 50 percent of your total available credit, you will gain points.*
Not only does the system look at your individual credit card balance-to-limit ratio, but it also looks at the total of all your available credit cards. So if you are maxing out all your cards, your score will receive a double whammy in point subtraction.
4) Any payment that is 30 days late will dock your score. If you’re 60 days late, it gets worse, and ditto for 90 days.
If you are 31 days late for the first time and call your creditor immediately, they might give you grace and not report you as late, especially if you are a long-time, perfect-paying customer.
If your one-off late payment has already reported, then you should take steps to get that removed from your credit report. The law gives you the right to dispute the late payment, and many creditors are happy to remove the late payment when you send the right type of letter through the good old-fashioned USPS mail system. Why? Because it is a good business practice for them, and it is within their legal right to do so. As the creditor, they own your credit information.
When you understand how the system works, you are in control of your own credit score.
* If you reduce the 50% credit usage to 30%, you gain even more points.
Having a score of 740+ puts you in the top tier for a conventional mortgage loan. If your score is 800 or higher, you gain respect, bragging rights, and may qualify for slightly better terms, depending on the lender and loan program.
Learn what the credit professionals know that you don’t about restoring credit and your good name. I received an email from a gentleman who read this book and has been following the steps for do-it-yourself credit repair. “Three negative accounts gone, three to go,” he wrote. Yes, credit repair does work when it is done properly.
Unless you’re as cute as a cat or have just won the lottery and plan to pay cash for everything for the rest of your life, you need excellent credit and a high FICO score in order to obtain the best financing, the cheapest insurance premiums, and save money.
The first house I bought as a young, single woman was a smelly little house with stained floors, dingy walls, and a stove covered in black baked-on gunk. Part of the roof was rotten, and the refrigerator was disgusting. It was ugly for sure, but it was all I could afford with my pre-approval of $80,000. The best thing it had going for it was the charming white picket fence.
Before you feel sorry for me, let me state that this turned out to be one of the best real estate purchases I ever made. Here’s why.
Ten Things I Learned From My Ugly House
- After ripping up the dog-stained carpet, I discovered the hardwood floors were permanently damaged. There went my vision of having beautiful hardwoods as I couldn’t afford to replace them. It was much cheaper to install a nice wall-to-wall carpet.
- Fresh paint in a light neutral color completely brightened up the home. My daughter chose pale pink for her bedroom, and my son wanted green. Letting them choose their bedroom colors gave them a sense of personal ownership in the new house.
- It made more sense to have the disgusting appliances hauled to the dump than to try to renovate them. New appliances made me feel like I had a new kitchen even though the cabinets and counter tops were the same.
- I splurged on pretty light switch covers and I could not believe how many compliments I got on those little things.
- Before my loan could close, the lender required the seller to replace the rotten roof. (It showed up on the appraisal report.) This delayed the closing of my loan, but it was worth the inconvenience. (Thanks again, Mom, for letting me crash at your place for a month after I had to be out of my apartment.)
- I chose an FHA Adjustable Rate Mortgage. This turned out to be a very smart choice, because I saved a significant amount of money on my payments for the three years I was there. Because this wasn’t my dream home, I knew I wouldn’t live there a long time, so taking a 30-year fixed rate would not have made sense. Why pay more interest than needed?
- Because I got a lower interest rate with the ARM, my payments paid down the principal balance faster. Thus, when I sold the house three years later, my loan pay-off was smaller and I netted more profit than I would have if I’d taken the fixed rate mortgage.
- It doesn’t take a dream house to be happy. I discovered a great deal of satisfaction by cleaning up that little house. When my friends came to visit, they exclaimed, “What a cute house!” And it was.
- If the bedroom window won’t open on a hot summer night, don’t give it a little smack with your hand. I tried that and my hand went right through the glass, which cut my wrist pretty badly. It took a bath towel to stop the bleeding. Fortunately, 9-1-1 sent out a handsome fireman to wrap me up and take me in for stitches.
- A smelly, little house can bring in a nice profit after you clean it up and live there for three years. I sold the house for $125,000. After subtracting the money I put into the house and subtracting the payments I’d made, I calculated that I earned over $300 per month just for living there.
How’s that for a happy ending?
One mistake people sometimes make is closing off their credit cards so that they have no open accounts.
With no open credit card accounts and all your auto loans, student loans, and other installment debt paid, your credit score will disappear. This is because the credit bureaus have no way of rating your credit when you have no credit!
I believe in living debt-free. However, it is imperative that a person keep two to three credit cards open and active in order to qualify for the best mortgage at the best price. Otherwise, you could find yourself being forced to take a higher priced mortgage — or pay all cash for your house.
For a conventional loan, lenders want to see three trade line accounts. A closed installment loan (auto, etc.) is acceptable if it is not more than three years old.
For an FHA loan, lenders want to see two trade line accounts.
You do not need to carry a balance from month to month. In fact, it is better for your credit score if you pay off the balance in full each month and avoid paying interest. You can use the credit card minimally once a quarter to keep it active and accruing credit score points.
I urge you to pass on this information to folks who have dug themselves out of debt and then make the error of closing down all their credit cards. People get so sick of being in debt, that when they are finally free of that burden, they shut down all their accounts. THIS IS A BIG MISTAKE! Unless you are financially independent and will be paying cash for your houses, you need some open credit and a credit score to get a good mortgage.
After my colleague’s client signed his final mortgage documents for his refinance, he eagerly went out and bought a brand new truck. Little did he know he had just stopped his loan from closing. He thought his loan was a done deal because he’d signed the final papers, but that is not the way it works.
Signing is not closing (in most states).
For a refinance, closing is four days after signing, because federal law requires you to have a three-day right to cancel before the lender is allowed to fund and close the loan.
For a purchase loan, closing is normally two days after signing, because several things have to happen to complete the process. Your original loan documents are sent back to the lender. Someone in the funding department reviews all papers to make sure they are complete. Typically, there will be items for the escrow officer and/or processor and loan officer to do. In addition, the Deed is sent to the local county recorder’s office to receive a recording number. Only then are funds disbursed and is your loan closed.
In the West, if you used a small independent escrow agent rather than a title and escrow company that handles both functions, you are in a sub-escrow situation which can delay your closing by an additional day.
Disastrous Mistakes Borrowers Made
After signing for a refinance, a home owner dashed into work and told off her mean boss and quit. When the lender’s processor picked up the phone (as they typically do) to verify employment, she learned the borrower no longer had an income, and the loan was suddenly denied.
One eager home buyer was so excited, she went out and purchased all new appliances from Sears. As with “Mr. Eager” above, this put her debt-to-income ratio over the acceptable percentage, and her loan was promptly denied. She had to return all the appliances and provide a receipt–or she would have lost her house!
“Can They Do That?”
People think that once the contract is signed, they are set. But that is not true for mortgages. The lender can refuse to fund and close your loan if anything changes about your employment, credit, or overall risk factor.
So be wise and make no changes during your loan process–not even after you sign final papers. Have patience. Put your new loan as your priority. There will be plenty of time to get a truck, new appliances, or switch jobs later.
I love California, and I am excited to announce that I am licensed to do mortgage loans in the Golden State. Whether you are a first-time home buyer, a seasoned home buyer, or a home owner refinancing, I can help you get the best loan for your situation.
Here are some of the loan programs I can help you with:
* First-time home buyer FHA loan with 3.5% down or with gift money for the down payment.
* Grant money for the down payment on an FHA loan with no pay back whatsoever. A true grant, from a private bank. No neighborhood restriction.
* Conventional loans: 30-year fixed, 20-year fixed, 15-year fixed, 10-year fixed rates.
* 5/1 ARM: fixed for the first five years, then adjusts annually. A good loan for people who plan to keep the home for five years or less.
* VA loan for U.S. Veterans
Getting Pre-Approved is No Cost
There is no cost to get pre-approved and/or to find out how much house you qualify for. Let me know what you want, and I will take it from there.
What Does It Mean to Be “State Licensed”?
Loan originators who work for banks and credit unions do not have to be state licensed. The CFPB assumes the bank will vouch for their integrity and competence. However, mortgage brokers and direct lenders (such as myself) have to pass multiple hurdles in order to do business in California. Here are the requirements we go through that those at banks and credit unions get to skip over:
* 20 course hours plus additional class hours for California state law.
* Pass both a national test and a CA state test.
* Get fingerprinted and have a background check done.
* Have a credit report pulled and checked for personal financial responsibility.
* Be approved by the CA state authority.
You might say that state licensing ensures a higher level of scrutiny, which means more security and peace of mind for you.
Please feel free to contact me about your mortgage questions or financing needs via the Ask a Question page here.
Looking for a Recommendation for a Licensed Real Estate Agent?
I have worked with fine real estate agents in California. If you would like my recommendation for an agent who will work hard and put YOUR best interests first, send me a message here.
1) Stay in town during the loan process.
This is not the time to travel so that you are unavailable to provide additional documents the underwriter might ask for. If your vacation to Europe was pre-planned and cannot be changed, then allow ample time after you return home before the closing date. It is unrealistic to think you can check out during the loan processing and come back to sign one day later.
2) Leave your money where it is.
Do not transfer funds from one account to another during the loan process without your loan officer specifically instructing you to do so. In addition, do not transfer funds the two months prior to applying for a mortgage. The reason is because doing so can cause a paper-trail nightmare for you and the underwriter.
3) Leave your credit as is; open no new accounts.
If you open a new credit card or installment loan during the loan process, you are potentially sacrificing your home. Don’t do it! Although your credit has been checked and approved, it is likely your credit will be checked again right before closing. If new accounts appear, then your debt ratio and/or your credit score could suffer.
One first time home buyer decided to buy new appliances for the new home during the loan process. When her credit was re-checked, the new Sears account showed up and the payments put her debt ratio over the line. Her loan was denied! In order to proceed, she had to return the appliances and prove with receipts that she had done so. How embarrassing, right?
The same goes for buying a new automobile. Don’t even think about it! Your priority must be buying the house.
4) Write your purchase offer contingent on a home inspection.
Waiving a home inspection is a dangerous move. Inspectors are paid to find fatal flaws and major problems that are not obvious to the eye. When you visit a home, do you climb up on top of the roof? Do you crawl under the house? Do you inspect the electrical wiring, plumbing, water heater, sump pump, etc.? That is what your home inspector is for. It is an important step that prevents you from having to shell out thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars later.
5) Obtain your own buyer’s agent.
Calling the real estate agent listed on the for sale sign is a colossal mistake. The same goes for using the agent that is hosting the open house. When you use the seller’s agent, it is like using your opponent’s attorney in a court of law. Who would do that?! The seller’s agent is required by law to get the highest price and best terms for the seller. Dual-agency is not in your favor!
Since the seller pays for both the listing agent and the buyer’s agent, it is free to you to have your own expert agent representation. Therefore, there is never a reason not to do so. You do not save money or get a cheaper price on the house if you use the seller’s agent. Be smart and get your own agent representation.
Good question. The answer has to do with the European bond market. After a year and a half of all time lows, it has reversed its course; consequently, investors are quickly selling their bond market holdings, which forces prices lower and interest rates higher. The U.S. rates are inter-connected with European rates, so this has pushed mortgage rates back up to the 4% to 4.25% range for the 30-year fixed rate. The 15-year fix rates are in the 3.25% to 3.375% range, so don’t look for anything that starts with a two.
Is this movement temporary and will rates drop by to record lows? Friday we got a brief reprieve, but rates were back up Monday morning. No one can predict the future. Right now, rates are volatile and one day can make a difference of an eighth of a percent (.125%).
If you are risk adverse, the safest move is to lock in your rate. If you are refinancing and not under time pressure, then you have the luxury of floating rather than locking to see what happens. Last Friday, for example, we saw a dip in rates, but it lasted only the day. It could happen again–no one knows.
Please note that interest rates quoted are for top tier credit and at least 20 percent down on a single family residence. Factors such as your credit score, down payment, property type (condo, co-op, manufactured home), and region of the U.S. all affect the credit score.
When purchasing a home or refinancing your mortgage, locking in your interest rate is an important step. This is your security against rates going up while your loan is in process. A rate lock is a three-way agreement between the borrower, lender, and the investor that says the loan will be done at a specific interest rate, for a specific cost (or credit), on a specific property.
Here are five important things to know about locking in your rate:
1) You, the borrower, are in charge of choosing when to lock in your rate, and you must instruct your loan officer when to do that. Neither the loan officer nor the lending institution chooses the day for your lock.
2) You need to call your loan officer to request the rate lock. Do not leave something of this importance to the uncertainty of email or text, because you have no way of knowing if your loan officer will see your message before the rate you want changes. Interest rates can change midday when the market is volatile.
3) Within 48 hours of locking in your rate, you will receive a confirmation of the rate lock. If you do not receive confirmation in writing (email is fine), then do not assume your rate is locked. Call your loan officer again to verify and ask for a written statement.
4) If interest rates go down after your rate is locked, your rate is still locked. This is not a one-way contract where you are protected if rates go up (and the lender takes the loss), but the reverse is not true. That said, if rates drop by at least half a percent (0.5%), then lenders will often compromise with a decrease of .25%.
5) Your rate lock includes an expiration date. If your loan does not close and fund by that date, then you have two choices.
First, you can buy a rate lock extension. It is a per day fee, and you need to ask your loan officer what their company’s policy is. This option makes sense if rates are higher.
Second, you can take the new, higher rate. If rates are the same or lower than when you locked, the lender will extend your current rate at no charge.
Note: You cannot get a lower rate by letting your lock run out and then grabbing the new, lower rate.
Another note: If the rate lock expires due to the fault of the lender, you do not get to demand a free extension. You have no recourse. That is just the way it works. This is one reason why I offer my clients a Peace of Mind Guarantee that includes closing on time (or the lender pays)*, best pricing, and timely updates.
If you have any additional questions about locking in an interest rate, let me know. The comment button is at the top of this post.
* This is for my mortgage clients. I am licensed in CA and WA states. For details on the Peace of Mind Guarantee, simply ask and I will email you the official flyer.
If so, I have good news for you. After looking at local banks, credit unions, and other lenders, I have joined VITEK Mortgage Group, a lender with a stellar reputation. As a mortgage loan officer, I can shop the wholesale divisions of lenders such as Wells Fargo, Chase, Ditech, Caliber, and more — as well as VITEK’s own line of loan products.
It is important to me to get the very best loan at the very best pricing available for my clients. Having the ability to shop without being limited to only one lender’s loan products gives me the ability to do that. If I worked for a bank or credit union, I would be limited to their loan products only — and when it comes to a mortgage, it is NOT a “one size fits all” situation.
If you want a seasoned professional who wrote the book on mortgage rip-offs and money savers to do your loan shopping for you, then I am your gal. Not only that, but I go another step in helping you get a good title and escrow company, because now in 2015, too many title and escrow companies are piling on the junk fees and over-charges.
As a loan originator for VITEK Mortgage Group, I can extend their Peace of Mind Guarantee:
* Guaranteed On-Time Closing
* Guaranteed Real-Time Status Updates
* Guaranteed Best Value
VITEK stands for Value, Integrity, Teamwork, Excellence, Knowledge.
That is pretty much everything you and I want in a company.
I am licensed in WA state and will soon be licensed in CA as well. (I have met all the requirements for California and am awaiting on the Dept. of Business Oversight for their acknowledgement.)
Please let me know how I can help you with your home purchase or refinance.
NMLS License # 1284134