Should You Refinance Your Mortgage?

When is it a good idea to refinance your mortgage? Refinancing may not be the best solution for everyone, but for some – it could save a great deal of money in the long run.

Here are three reasons to consider refinancing and weigh out your options and costs:

You could lower your monthly mortgage payment. When you bought your home, you were given an interest rate that was determined by your credit score (as well as other factors, but your credit score played a big part). If your credit wasn’t great at the time, you probably didn’t get the best possible mortgage rate. If you’ve made improvements to your credit score and it’s been a little bit since you purchased your home, it’s possible that you could now get a lower rate which would also mean a lower monthly mortgage payment and more money in your bank account every month.

You’re looking to sell in the near future. With a cash out refinance option, your new mortgage would be more than what you owe on your home. This could be useful if you’re looking to increase your home’s value. Making additions or upgrades to your home may also be a good idea if you’re looking to sell in the next couple years. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to pay closing costs again – so be sure to calculate all your potential expenses to see if this option makes financial sense for you.

You could save more money over time. If you’re currently paying on a 30 year mortgage with a higher interest rate, it may be worth your time to try and get a lower rate on a 15 year mortgage, especially if you have no plans on moving in the next several years. Your monthly payment will be higher by refinancing to a 15 year mortgage, but depending on your new rate – you may end up saving yourself more money long term. This is another scenario that you will need to break out the calculator and determine if this is the best option.

Questions about refinancing and if this might be the best option for you? Contact the Loan Department at First Financial, and we’ll help you decide between your options with personalized service.

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only, are subject to change without notice and may be adjusted based on several factors including, but not limited to, property location, loan amount, loan type, occupancy, property type, loan to value, debt to income ratios, FICO credit scores, refinance with cash out and other variables. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. 

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Tips for First Time Home Buyers

Even if you’re not a first time home buyer, looking for and financing a home can be stressful. When you don’t know where to begin or what to do, it can be even more stressful – especially because it probably will be the biggest purchase of your life. Check out these tips for first time homebuyers to get the most out of your home buying experience and keep it as painless as possible.

Determine how much house you can afford and get preapproved.

When you’re ready to look for your first home, it’s important to know how much home you can afford. This will narrow down your home search and will give you a realistic view of the types of homes you can buy inside of your price range. You will also avoid the temptation to purchase a home where you’ll struggle to make the payments.

Save up for a down payment. 

With such a big purchase, having a down payment to invest in your home is important. A good rule of thumb for a down payment is to save 20% of your mortgage. For instance, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, your target down payment is $20,000.

If 20% of your mortgage doesn’t seem feasible, there are other options out there for first time homebuyers that will allow you to save and invest a smaller amount into your mortgage. If you’re wondering how much you need to save to achieve your desired payment, check out one of our mortgage calculators for reference.

Pay off as much debt as possible.

One of the factors that will determine your creditworthiness is your debt-to-income ratio. A debt-to-income ratio measures the total amount of debt you’re paying off each month compared to the amount of income you’re bringing in within the same period. If the amount of debt you’re paying off is considerably more than your income, this will negatively impact your credit score. In turn, this will hurt your chances of being preapproved for and financing a mortgage.

Try to avoid inquiries on your credit report.

When you’re looking to finance your first home, one item that first time homebuyers seem to overlook is avoiding new lines of credit. For instance, getting a new cell phone, adding on television service, or even setting up a utility account will all affect your credit score and your credit inquiries.

Before you buy a house, your focus should be on maintaining and improving your credit score while saving as much as possible for a down payment and avoid building new avenues of credit.

Buying your first home is no easy feat. When you finance your home with First Financial, we’re with you every step of the way and you’ll be well on your way to opening the door to your new home! Contact us today to learn more about the mortgage process, and check out our educational guidebook to happy homeownership.

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only, are subject to change without notice and may be adjusted based on several factors including, but not limited to, property location, loan amount, loan type, occupancy, property type, loan to value, debt to income ratios, FICO credit scores, refinance with cash out and other variables. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. NMLS CU ID: 685814

 

10 Tips for Selling Your House Fast and at Top Dollar

When you’re trying to sell your house, you want to do it as quickly as possible. But did you realize you only have six seconds? Your house may be on the market longer than that, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Homebuyers generally make their purchase decisions based on first impressions, and real estate experts estimate those impressions are formed within the first six seconds—three from the curb and three from the entryway.

If you’re going to win over a prospective buyer, you’ll have to get their attention quickly to convince them that your house is their next home. Yes, location is key. And yes, price matters too. With a few strategic preparations, you can make your property as attractive and inviting as possible. By doing so, you’ll set it up to sell sooner rather than later.

10 Ways to Prepare Your Home to Sell ASAP

1. Think like a buyer.
It can be tempting to present your home in a way that highlights the aspects you like the most. The problem with this approach is that your favorites are just that—your Potential buyers won’t be looking at your house through the lens of nostalgia. Help them see your home as a blank slate where they can form their own identity.

2. Focus on curb appeal.
It’s incredible what a tidy lawn and freshly mulched flower beds can do for a house. Most buyers will drive by your property before deciding whether or not to take a closer look. A house that looks welcoming from the street stands a much better chance of selling quickly.

3. Freshen up your front door.
If curb appeal is a friendly invitation, a freshly painted front door is a cheery welcome. Every buyer who looks at your home will most likely enter through the front door, so giving it a new coat of paint can cover up any scuffs and dings that have shown up over time. This small step will help the house look livable—not lived in.

4. Make basic repairs.
If you’ve lived in your home for any amount of time, there are probably a few problems you’ve learned to live with. Chipped paint, missing fence boards, leaky kitchen faucets, flickering lightbulbs, etc. These are just a few of the minor inconveniences that you might overlook on a daily basis. They’re also the little details that could make your house less attractive to a buyer. Make the simple fixes – you’ll be glad you did.

5. Stay neutral.
If you personalized your house by using vibrant colors in each room, it might be a good idea to repaint. While you might love bold colors, there’s no guarantee the next owner will. Painting the walls in neutral colors will let potential buyers observe the overall house without getting hung up on whether or not they like the colors you chose.

6. Make it less “you.”
While we’re focused on the interior, make a special effort to remove decorations and knick-knacks that reflect your personal tastes and identity. No matter how friendly and familiar they may be, family photos will make buyers feel like their visiting someone else’s house. You want them to feel like they’re spending time in their own.

7. Clean and declutter.
You don’t have to channel your inner Marie Kondo, but clearing clutter will not only make the house look cleaner, it will make it feel bigger. And when it comes to cleanliness, there’s no such thing as too clean. When you think things are finally clean enough, go over them once more. Buyers will notice.

8. Use some common scents.
It goes without saying (or at least it should) that you should do your very best to eliminate offensive smells like pets, dirty laundry, or cooking odors. If you want to increase your chances of selling your house, go a step beyond deodorizing and introduce a pleasant scent. Candles, essential oils, and fresh baked cookies can do a wonderful job of creating a welcoming environment for house hunters.

9. Stage strategically.
If you can’t afford to hire a professional real estate stager, you can still arrange each room to highlight your home’s top features. While each room matters, pay particular attention to the family room, the master bedroom, and the kitchen. These are the three rooms where the new owners will spend most of their time, so staging them well is a small task that can make a big difference.

10. Hire a real estate agent.
If you want to sell your home as quickly as possible, enlisting the help of a professional is a smart way to accomplish your goal. Experienced realtors know the local market, and their expertise can help you sell your house faster and for more money. Selling a home on your own might sound like a good idea, but when you consider that a real estate agent can handle the marketing, negotiations, and legal details, their commission can be money that’s well spent.

Potential home buyers want to walk through a house that feels exciting and new. They also want it to feel like home. Following the tips listed above can help you give them exactly what they’re looking for. And the faster you make that happen, the sooner those buyers will give you what you want—a house with a SOLD sign in the yard.

Have you recently sold your home and now need a mortgage on a new home? If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ – we’re sure we’ve got a mortgage product that will meet your needs!* Learn more on our website, and if you’re ready to get preapproved or have questions about the mortgage process – give us a call at 732.312.1500, Option 4. We’re happy to help you finance your dream home!

 *APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only, are subject to change without notice and may be adjusted based on several factors including, but not limited to, property location, loan amount, loan type, occupancy, property type, loan to value, debt to income ratios, FICO credit scores, refinance with cash out and other variables. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Federally insured by NCUA. ​NMLS CU ID: 685814

Can Buying Your First Home Actually Hurt Your Credit?

For generations, owning a home has been considered an integral part of the American Dream. Life without a home of your own, two kids, golden retriever, and a white picket fence just didn’t make sense. Okay, that last part may be a bit of an overstatement, but the fact remains – family members and financial experts have long recommended home ownership as a sensible path to financial stability.

When done correctly, buying a house can be one of the smartest investments you’ll ever make. It will undoubtedly be one of the biggest. As a first-time home buyer, your finances will face the scrutiny of mortgage underwriters, so it’s essential to have all your economic ducks in a row before you even begin applying for a mortgage. And while a smooth financing process is reason enough to be smart with your money, financial stability can also help when your credit takes a hit for five or six months following your big purchase. Wait. What?! Yep. That’s right. Your credit score can, and probably will – drop a bit for a few months after you become a homeowner.

Great for you. Not so great for your credit. Why does buying a house – which, by all accounts, is a wise financial decision – have a negative impact on your credit? The answer isn’t as crazy as you might think. When you apply for real estate financing, mortgage companies pull your credit report to determine whether it makes sense for them to lend you money. In credit industry terms, this is known as a “hard inquiry.” Since these inquiries signal you could be incurring additional debt, they often result in a small, temporary dip in your credit score.

Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to limit the negative impact of hard inquiries. If you’re going to apply for financing with multiple mortgage lenders, do your best to conduct all of your searches within a 30-day window. Because they understand that many people shop for the best rate even though they’ll only secure a single loan, major credit bureaus structure their rating systems to account for multiple inquiries within the same one-month reporting period. While there may still be a dip in your score, grouping your credit pulls will help you minimize the damage. And don’t worry, once you start making payments on time and establishing a positive mortgage history, your credit score should bounce back to where it was before.

Experience a little short-term pain for a long-term gain. From the opportunity to build equity to the satisfying sense of home ownership, there are a variety of excellent reasons to leave the renting life behind. A temporary dip in your credit score shouldn’t scare you away. If you entered the homebuying process with your finances in order and you resist the temptation to rack up additional debt as you furnish your new home, your credit rating should be just fine in the long run. And let’s be honest, you’ll probably be so busy remembering the new route to work and rearranging your living room furniture, that six months will pass before you’ve had a chance to think about your credit score anyway.

If you’re just beginning your home search and in the Monmouth or Ocean County area, your local First Financial Federal Credit Union branch is a fantastic place to start. In addition to reviewing your current financial situation, our representatives can also help you determine how much house you can afford and which mortgage program is right for you. We may even be able to help you get prequalified, which can give you the extra leverage you need when you do find that perfect house. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

*Subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

 

The 3 Best Categories for Boosting Your Home’s Value Without Going Broke

Everyone makes home improvements for different reasons, but most of the time they’re either a necessity like a roof repair, something for personal enjoyment, or intended to increase a home’s market value. Whether you’re getting ready to move or just sprucing things up, it’s wise to be mindful of how the improvements you’re making will affect your home’s value when it comes time to sell your home.

Based on what real estate experts say, the top home improvement categories that deliver the biggest bang for your buck are:

1. Practical Appeal

When we think of home renovation, our minds jump to fun projects like updating a kitchen or adding a deck, but standard projects like routine maintenance and repairs go a long way in creating a baseline appeal and value to your home.

  • Maintenance & Repairs

Home hunters want to know the place they’re considering is in good condition. No matter how great a renovated bathroom looks, it won’t persuade a buyer to overlook a major repair they’ll have to deal with right away. Performing routine maintenance on furnaces and septic systems, fixing problems like plumbing leaks or rusty gutters, and making practical improvements, are all investments that will raise and maintain your home’s value in the long run.

  • Energy Efficiency

Home buyers are looking more carefully at utilities – one of those controllable expenses that can be drastically improved with energy-efficient appliances and heating/cooling systems. Besides the personal savings on your utility bills and taxes, making your home greener may also improve the value of your home by up to 20 times the annual energy savings.

2. Curb Appeal

Potential buyers decide within the first few moments of walking up to a house whether or not they’re interested in seeing more. First, there’s landscaping. Overhanging trees and unruly bushes can obscure your home’s best features, darken the interior, encourage mold, and can even cause expensive damage.

Then there’s the entryway. Is it neat, well lit, and protected from weather? Is your front door in good shape and does it look secure?

Finally, fix other exterior issues like missing siding or chipped paint. These small fixes can make a pretty big difference when it comes to shaping the first impressions of anyone who sees your home.

3. Modern Appeal

It’s now time to give your home some modern appeal after the basics are taken care of. Real estate professionals say home buyers are looking for open floor plans, natural light, updated flooring, and bathroom and kitchen upgrades. A few of the most value driven ways to make your home look more modern, are to knock out a non-structural wall or kitchen island, and to improve light by replacing broken panes, or installing less expensive tubular skylights. You also want to fix squeaks in your floors, patch and repair boards and tile, and maybe even rip out some wall-to-wall carpeting and replace it with engineered hardwood. Updating a bathroom on a tight budget could mean cleaning grout, removing any rust stains, re-caulking, updating door knobs, or replacing faucets.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on improvements to increase your home’s value. Just choose your improvements wisely and you can easily recoup that investment back. The more you value your home by taking care of it, the more others will value it, as well.

In need of some home improvements but could use a little help? First Financial’s Home Improvement Loan is designed to help you create the home you’ve been imagining. It’s time to move your “wants” to the top of your to-do list.*

*Available on primary residence only. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Home Improvement Loan and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. Rate will vary based off of applicant’s credit rating. Not all applicants who apply will be approved, subject to underwriting guidelines and credit approval. Lien position and appraisal valuation may affect the maximum loan amount. Not all applicants will qualify for maximum Loan to Value (LTV) ratio. It will be based off of creditworthiness, property type, occupancy, lien position, and loan amount. Rates will be affected by LTV or combined LTV if there is another lien on the property. Loan amounts over $7,500.00 will be required to give First Financial FCU a security interest in their property. Rates will vary based off of lien position and whether the loan is mortgage secured or unsecured. For mortgage secured Home Improvement loans First Financial FCU (FFFCU) will waive closing costs at inception of loan. If loan is terminated within the first 2 years of opening, closing cost waiver is revoked and are required to be paid back by member to FFFCU.

Article source: Jessica Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

3 Things You Should Never Hide from Your Mortgage Lender

You’re ready to apply for a mortgage. The process of meeting with a lender and a getting a mortgage can be very complicated, especially for first time homebuyers. To help with this process, here are a few things to consider being up front about from the very start.

Career changes

When handing out large loans, lenders look for employment stability and steady income; most will check your employment history and income throughout the mortgage application process. Therefore, it’s better to be straightforward from the beginning. Failing to do so may jeopardize your eligibility or cause other problems prior to closing.

Other loans

If you have taken out other large loans or made a big purchase before applying for your mortgage, your lender needs to be in the loop. Making these financial decisions will affect your mortgage as it increases your “debt-to-income ratio” or DTI. Having a high DTI will also result in a higher mortgage interest rate, which makes you riskier in the eyes of your lender. So, come clean about that new car or any other significant loans – because it may affect the type of mortgage you qualify for.

Large deposits

When applying for a mortgage, the lender will usually ask for two months’ worth of bank statements. If they notice you’ve made multiple large deposits of over $100 (that are not attributed to income from your job), it’s imperative you provide them with documentation explaining the source of the income. These large deposits can be deemed quite questionable during the underwriting process – so in order to avoid delays, be prepared with all necessary documentation.

Looking to buy a home in the Monmouth or Ocean County area? You saw our last four short financial solutions videos on the benefits of a First Financial mortgage, how First Financial works with our members’ lending needs, personalized service, and personalized loan options. Now check out our final video in this series: creative loan solutions. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

*Subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

 Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com