6 Reasons to Take Out a Smaller Mortgage Than You Qualify For

Money house on white background

Whether you’re buying your first home or your fifth, being approved for a larger-than-expected mortgage can be intoxicating. But qualifying for a big loan isn’t the same as being able to afford it — and you don’t want your biggest asset to ruin your finances.

Look at what happened during the Great Recession: Believing their homes would appreciate in value, many people borrowed more than they could handle. When their homes lost value instead, those homeowners were stuck with underwater mortgages — loans that exceeded their home’s worth. This made it impossible for many to refinance or sell their homes for a profit, and led to a flood of foreclosures.

Before you sign up for a mortgage, ask yourself “How much house can I afford?” Many financial advisors and consumer advocates recommend that you borrow less than you qualify for. These are a few of the reasons why.

1. You’ll lower your risk of missing a payment. If your housing costs are on the edge of what you can afford, “the odds of not being able to make payments in the event of an economic emergency or a job loss is much too high,” says Casey Fleming, a mortgage advisor with C2 Financial Corporation and author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.”

Missing a mortgage payment can have a domino effect on your finances. “If you are at risk of missing a payment,” Fleming says, “you are at risk of being in default, risk of ruining your credit, and risk of foreclosure, which would wipe out your investment in the home.”

To ensure that the home you’re considering is within your budget, take all housing costs into account, including your mortgage payments, property tax payments, insurance premiums, maintenance costs and, if applicable – homeowners association fees.

2. You’ll be prepared for emergencies. Life can be rough – you might lose your job or face a medical emergency that drains thousands from your savings. You might have to move before you’re able to build significant equity in your home.

“Many people are on the razor’s edge when it comes to being able to tolerate any kind of economic disruption in their life,” says Brian Sullivan, a supervisory public affairs specialist with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Close to half of all American households don’t have enough savings to stay above the poverty line for three months if they lost their income, according to recent findings from the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

Getting a smaller mortgage than you qualify for will allow you to stash away extra money so you can handle hardships. Experts advise keeping enough money in your savings to cover six months of living expenses. You should also be saving for life after retirement.

“If all of your money is going to your monthly housing costs, then you aren’t able to invest in your retirement accounts or other savings,” Fleming says. “The closer you are to the maximum qualifying mortgage, the closer you are to having too little disposable income and inadequate reserves.”

3. You can more easily afford other costs. Part of the fun of owning a home is filling it with things you want and need. If you have children, you might need to set aside money for college. Let’s also not forget the costs of fixing a leaking roof or a busted water heater.

If you have to make other debt payments on credit cards, auto or student loans — it’s in your best interest to opt for a smaller monthly mortgage payment, and put your savings toward these expenses.

4. You can avoid using your home like an ATM. When less of your monthly budget is taken up by the mortgage, you’ll have more disposable income and be less tempted to use a cash-out refinance— the process of replacing your current mortgage with a larger one and pocketing the difference to buy a new car or pay off credit card debt.

A cash-out refinance can be risky because you’re putting your home on the line. If you miss a few credit card payments, you won’t lose your home. It’s another story when you can’t make higher mortgage payments after a cash-out refinance. “A home is shelter first and foremost, as opposed to an ATM for wealth creation,” HUD’s Sullivan says.

5. You’ll be prepared if property taxes rise. “You don’t know what will happen to property taxes in the future, which affect your mortgage payment,” says Lorraine Griscavage-Frisbee, deputy director of the Office of Outreach and Capacity Building at HUD. Depending on where you live, property tax rates may increase annually.

“Many municipalities tie taxes on their properties to the current value of the home. If someone is maxed out on their mortgage payment, they may not have any wiggle room if next year the tax bill goes up because of appreciating property values,” Griscavage-Frisbee says.

6. You can decrease your risk of having an underwater mortgage. Your home’s value isn’t guaranteed to increase over time. If it drops and you don’t have enough equity built up, you could end up owing more than the house’s market value, which is sometimes called having negative equity.

Over 4 million homes were in negative equity positions at the end of 2015, according to a report by real estate industry research firm CoreLogic. That’s an improvement compared with conditions immediately after the last housing bust, but Fleming says it’s still dangerous to count on home appreciation.

“If real estate values rise dramatically, it may work out well in the end anyway, but it seems very dicey to put all your eggs in one basket. If it doesn’t work out, you could end up with no assets at all,” he says.

A borrowing rule of thumb:
So how much should you borrow? Your debt-to-income ratio — the percentage of your pre-tax income that goes toward mortgage and other debt payments — is one way to figure out how large your loan should be. Professionals say 28% is a safe target.

You can also use a mortgage calculator, like our free mortgage payment calculator at firstffcu.com – to see what you might pay and be able to afford each month. In some cases, it does make sense to borrow what you qualify for. We also have a mortgage qualifier calculator at firstffcu.com. If you have a high income, plan on staying in your home for at least seven years, are buying in a competitive market, or have sky-high rent payments, there is some flexibility in the 28% rule. But if you can go lower than 28%, you should. That way, you’ll be more likely to feel comfortable — financially and otherwise, living in your home.

Stop into any First Financial branch and we can help you with your home buying journey. We provide great low rates and offer a variety of Mortgage options – to speak with First Financial’s lending department, call us at 732.312.1500, option 4.* 

To receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.** We’re here to help you achieve your financial dreams!

*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. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. **Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Article Source: Michael Burge for Nerd Wallet, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nerdwallet/6-reasons-to-take-out-a-s_b_11077442.html

Unfortunate Home Improvements

Home-Improvement-ProjectHome improvement projects can be a lot of fun — and sometimes add value to your home — but are they worth the money they cost? If you have plans to one day move out of your home (or even if you don’t), you should consider how the project impacts the resale value. Below are some home improvement projects that are typically not worth the cash.

A new pool. We can’t blame you for wanting a pool. However, keep in mind that the cost of installing one and then maintaining it is quite high. Also, if you’re planning on selling down the road, remember that some buyers could be turned off by a pool, like parents with small children.

Extensive customization. While a lot of people might like a kitchen backsplash, the type of backsplash makes a big difference. You shouldn’t go overboard customizing (particularly if you’ve got unusual taste), because if you do, you could risk alienating buyers down the road.

Half measures. If you can add a bedroom, great. Those often are worth the money. However, don’t add square footage to your home in bits and pieces. Eventually the home will look disjointed, and buyers typically want a home that flows well.
Taking away a bedroom. Buyers will want a certain number of bedrooms, so try to avoid converting them when considering altering your space.

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, subject to underwriting guidelines. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth of Ocean Counties. See credit union for details.

Article courtesy of Chris O’Shea of SavvyMoney.com.

5 Foolish Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers Make

buying-house-without-realtor

Buying a home is exciting, especially when you’re buying for the first time. In the midst of all of the excitement, it’s easy to become blinded by beautiful back-splashes, granite and quartz counter tops, hardwood floors, and fenced-in backyards. While looking at homes that are completely perfect from top to bottom, you may begin to rationalize a larger purchase than you had originally planned for — “This house is perfect for me; it’s worth $50,000 extra dollars for me to have a house with enough space in a perfect location,” or “We were planning on spending a little bit of money on painting; we can spend $50,000 extra on this house because it doesn’t need any work.” These are some common mistakes first-time homebuyers often make – so be careful to avoid them if you are about to buy your first home.

1. Overspending

Before you even look at a single property, you need to know exactly how much you can afford. We have several online financial calculators you can use, but these tools are only estimates. Use these tools as a guide, but then adjust the amount based on your individual situation. How much is your current rent payment? Did you meet that payment each month with ease, or was it a bit of a struggle each month? The payment you can afford right now is a good indicator of what you’ll be able to afford in your new home.

Meet with a lender and get pre-approved for an amount you can afford. Also, keep in mind that it’s always better to lean towards a lower amount, rather than a higher amount. You do not have to use the entire amount you’re pre-approved for. Once you know how much you have to work with, then and only then should you start your house hunt.

2. Counting chickens before they hatch.

When determining how much mortgage you can afford, base this amount on what you are earning today. That is, the income that you and your spouse earn from stable sources. If you’re in your last year of law school, for instance, don’t assume that you will be earning much more money in a year or two, so you can afford a larger payment. If your wife is expecting a big promotion, don’t base your mortgage payment off of her potential salary increase. No one can predict the future, and although you may very well be in a better financial situation a year down the road, there is no guarantee.

3. Failing to account for closing costs, property taxes, HOA, and homeowner’s insurance.

When you rent a home, you generally only have one payment — rent — and then maybe renter’s insurance, which is optional. When you buy a place, your mortgage payment is only the beginning of an array of costs. Homeowner’s association fees can be as low as $0 or as high as a few hundred dollars per month, depending on where you live and the amenities and services offered.

Homeowners insurance and property taxes very based on your geographic location. Florida has notoriously high homeowner’s insurance rates, where they average $161.08 per month. In Idaho and Wisconsin, rates are a bit lower, averaging below $50 per month, according to Value Penguin. Property taxes average higher in New Jersey, New Hampshire, Texas and Wisconsin and they’re lower in Louisiana, Hawaii, and Alabama.

Then on top of all of those costs, if your down payment is less than 20 percent of the selling price, you may end up paying an additional cost — private mortgage insurance (PMI) — which is basically insurance for the lender in case you default on your loan. At the end of it all, your $800 mortgage payment can easily turn into a $1,200 house payment.

4. Failing to protect yourself with home inspections, contingency clauses, etc.

During your house hunt, you may find a house that looks great at first glance. Then, as you walk through a few of the rooms, you notice problems with the house — maybe the floors squeak or the kitchen island is off-centered. After walking through the house, you come to realize that someone simply put lipstick on a pig, and this house is in questionable shape.

Home inspections provide you with some protection. The inspector will be able to find problems that you can’t and you want to know these problems before you sign on. “The seller isn’t likely to tell you there’s mold in the basement or the walls are poorly insulated,” reports MSN.

Contingency clauses also offer a form of protection. “A mortgage financing contingency clause protects you if, say, you lose your job and the loan falls through or the appraisal price comes in over the purchase price. Should one of these events occur, the buyer gets back the money used to secure the property. Without the clause, the buyer can lose that money and still be obligated to buy the house,” explains Justin Lopatin, a mortgage planner with American Street Mortgage Co.

5. Being too naive or too paranoid.

Some first-time home buyers are naive. Overly optimistic, they think nothing could possibly go wrong. If a home has a few problems, they view them as easy fixes and are unrealistic when it comes to the cost and time it takes to fix up the home. Some naive buyers will move to a neighborhood on the wrong side of town, forgetting that you can fix up a house, but you can’t change your neighborhood or location without moving.

Paranoid buyers can be difficult to work with. They may not believe the price is an accurate assessment of the house’s market value. They may submit low offers which can be consistently rejected. Paranoid buyers may not trust real-estate agents, and may even try to buy their home without an agent, which is generally an unwise choice.

Stop into any First Financial branch and we can help you with your home buying journey. We provide great low rates and offer a variety of Mortgage options – to speak with First Financial’s lending department, call us at 866.750.0100 option 4.* 

To receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.** We’re here to help you achieve your financial dreams!

*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. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. **Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Original article source by Erika Rawes of Wall St. Cheat Sheet.

 

Is There Such a Thing as Good Debt?

3d man sitting sad with text 'debt'.Most of the time, the word “debt” has negative connotations. Debt costs you money and therefore takes money away from financial goals like saving and investing.
So could there ever be good debt? That’s no easy answer. How you use debt has a big impact on whether or not you can consider it “good.” If you have too much of a “good” thing — that’s when it can turn into bad debt. So let’s consider 3 types of debt: investing in a college education, buying a home, and starting a business.

1. Are Student Loans Always Good Debt?
Student loans aren’t always good debt, because most people don’t consider how long they’ll be paying back their student loans when they take them out. But that doesn’t make them bad. If you take them out to obtain a job that you could have only secured with a college education and earn enough to make your student loan repayments manageable, your student loan debt was a good debt.

Here are some tips for student loans:

  • Keep your total loans under your projected starting salary when you graduate. If you’re able to do that, you should be able to pay them off with the standard 10-year plan.
  • Cut down on the loan amount. Get college credits while you’re in high school, go to a community college for your first two years, stick to a state school, and apply for scholarships.
  • Get a job to pay for your living expenses while you’re in school so you don’t take out loans for living expenses.
  • Keep in mind that private student loans don’t offer the flexibility of federal loans, so try to apply for federal student loans first.

Check out our FREE student loan calculator here to help manage your student loan debt, which will show you how much you can save by consolidating multiple loans or how to pay off your high interest student loan debt as quickly as possible.

2. How Much Should I Borrow for a Mortgage?
Owning a home used to be considered the American dream, and for many people it still is. Most people need to take out a mortgage for their purchase. If you think you’ll be in the same area for several years and can put a 20% down payment on a home, a mortgage could be a good long-term investment. Interest rates on mortgages are historically low, and owning a home can also provide tax benefits. The nice thing about a home is that it’s an investment you can live in.

However, many people end up buying a home without thinking about how it will affect their lifestyle or how they’ll pay their mortgage if an emergency came up. To avoid this, here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Make a 20% down payment so you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance.
  • Don’t use your entire savings account for a down payment. Homes are a hotbed for dipping into your emergency savings, as there are far more unexpected expenses that come up than when you’re living in an apartment.
  • Boost your credit score before you buy. Make sure you have a score above 700 so you can qualify for the best mortgage rates available. This can save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan.
  • If you think you might move in the next five years, you might want to rent so you don’t have to move during a down market and possibly sell your home for a loss.
  • In figuring out your monthly housing costs, the principal and interest on the mortgage loom large. But don’t forget property taxes, insurance, utilities, repairs, landscaping, snow removal and other factors. Make sure that your monthly housing expenses leave room for other expenses too.

We offer a number of great mortgage options, including refinancing – click here to learn about our 10, 15, and 30 year mortgage features and see what a good fit for your home is!*

To receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.**

3. What About Using a Loan to Start a New Business?
Entrepreneurship seems to be the new job security for many people in this generation. Incurring debt to start a business can be good debt if the funds help you to build a sustainable livelihood that allows you to repay any money borrowed and improve your financial situation. Just be cautious of how much debt you’re taking on.

Follow these tips to be financially smart and successful in your business:

  • Self-fund your business venture with savings first.
  • The smaller the investment, the quicker you can make money.
  • Do your research and get experience in the field before your launch. Some business opportunities require much bigger up-front investments, which may lead to a small business loan.

Did you know First Financial offers Business accounts, loans, and services? We understand that not every business is the same and, therefore, not every loan need can be the same.  This is exactly why we look at each individual business and create a customized lending solution to meet your specific needs. Please contact us at business@firstffcu.com and we’ll be happy to provide you with more information on business loans and services.

Debt Costs Money, So Use it Wisely
Debt can be good, but only if it helps you leverage your assets to build wealth. Every good debt has the potential to turn bad, so do your research first. The fewer monthly obligations you have, the more money you have to fund a lifestyle that you love.

Don’t forget about our free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

*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. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR.

 **Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

 Article Courtesy of Daily Finance Online by Sophia Bera

How to Assess a Neighborhood When House Hunting

House-HuntingWhen you buy a house, you aren’t just buying a house. In a way, you’re buying a neighborhood. After all, you’ll likely choose a home partly because it’s close to work, the schools are great, or it’s walking distance to restaurants and stores.

In fact, you could argue that picking the right neighborhood is more important than picking the right house. The last thing you want is to buy property in a place where everyone is trying to leave. So if you’re looking for a home for your house, here are some things to consider.

1. What to look for. If you’ve been focused on your dream house and not your dream neighborhood, the most popular areas tend to be ones that offer an instant sense of community to those relocating there. If living in the right community is important to you, then it’s important to think about these five factors:

  1. Aesthetics. An attractive neighborhood indicates the residents care about it.
  2. Affordability. Sure, you want an inexpensive house, but you also want to be able to afford the cost of living in the neighborhood.
  3. Safe environment. Nobody wants a criminal as a neighbor.
  4. Easy access to goods and services. Can you make a quick run to the bank or grocery store, or will every day be a headache behind the wheel due to traffic congestion or construction?
  5. Walking distance to goods and services. If exercise and a sense of community are important to you, find a house near the establishments you’ll be frequenting that is accessible by foot.

2. Online research. You probably use websites like Zillow.com, Realtor.com, Trulia.com, or Homes.com to search for a new house. But there are neighborhood-related websites and apps as well. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:

  • HomeFacts.com. This website contains mostly neighborhood statistics and information, but it also has data on more than 100 million U.S. homes (type in the street address of your prospective house to get the scoop on the whole area). Wondering how many foreclosures are in the area or if there are any environmental concerns? This is your site.
  • NeighborhoodScout.com. Read up on crime, school, and real estate reports for the neighborhood you’re considering.
  • Greatschools.org. Here, you can find reviews written by parents and students of schools in the neighborhood you’re considering. You can also find test scores and other data that may help you decide if this is a school you want your kids to attend.
  • CommuteInfo.org. This site offers a commuting calculator. Plug in information like miles driven and how many miles per gallon your car averages, and the calculator will give you an average cost of what your commute costs may look like in a month and in a year.

3. Red flags. As you’d expect, spotting a neighborhood on the decline isn’t rocket science. For example, pay attention to the property maintenance – overgrown lawns and shrubs, toys left outside, garbage bins not taken in – often reflect that the area is not well cared for and it can negatively affect the property value.

Though things are subject to change, selecting the right neighborhood is important. Your neighborhood’s character will likely shape your family’s character.

If you’re looking to purchase or refinance a home, First Financial has a variety of options available to you, including 10, 15, and 30 year mortgages. We offer great low rates, no pre-payment penalties, easy application process, financing on your primary residence, vacation home or investment property, plus so much more! For rates and more information, call us at 866.750.0100, Option 4 for the Lending Department.*

You can also sign up for our Mortgage Rate Text Messaging Service to receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone. To be a part of the program, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.** 

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR.

**Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Article courtesy of US News Online by Geoff Williams.

The Best Times to Buy, Sell, or List a Home

selling-home-vegasA common question from a buyer or seller is: what is the best time to buy or sell a home?

In the clothing world, it makes sense to get the best “deal” on winter clothes at the end of winter and that you likely will pay top dollar for a swimsuit when it’s warmer. Does the same trend hold true for real estate purchases and sales? Not really. But there are some considerations a buyer or seller should make as they enter the market that could have an impact on the transaction.

Spring and fall are better times for buyers.

Let’s be clear. You can’t ever time a home purchase. Buying a home isn’t like buying a car or an iPad. The home buying process is a journey, one that happens on your own time and only after you’ve done enough research, seen enough homes, and have your financial house in order.

At any one time there is a brand-new buyer entering the market and then another who has done enough research and becomes a very serious buyer. Nobody can control the evolution, but something for a buyer to consider is that real estate inventory tends to fluctuate by season. Each spring and fall we tend to see an increase in home inventory, and more inventory means more options for buyers.

Holidays and winter are the best times for sellers.

It’s not conventional for a seller to list their home before the holidays or in the dead of winter for obvious reasons, but serious buyers don’t care about the season or timing. At any one point of the year, there will be a very motivated, experienced buyer ready to make an offer, no matter the season. There have been contracts written on Thanksgiving, escrows closed on New Year’s Eve and there are even serious buyers who have made offers using DocuSign from a beach in Hawaii.

Sellers believe that it’s more conventional to list for the spring “selling” season and then again after the summer. If you go the conventional route, you will see more competition. If you can sell “off season,” you might fare better because there are still serious buyers, but less homes for sale.

Best time to list a home.

The Sunday open house, particularly the first Sunday of the month, is the holy grail of real estate.

For decades, agents and sellers worked hard on a listing with a deadline being the first open house. The “for sale” sign, which made the listing official a generation ago, would go in front of the house days leading up the first open house. In the digital age, the listing goes “live” online.

Sellers and agents work hard to clean, paint, or prep the home in time for the photo shoot. Agents and sellers tend to rush to the finish and you will see many listings hit the market late Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, with Sunday being the first showing. Instead, try listing on Monday or Tuesday and don’t do any showings until the open house on Sunday. You can build momentum and have a very strong first open house.

As much as buyers and sellers try to strategize the timing of a real estate purchase or sale, it’s never that easy. Unlike Macy’s or Target, who control inventory and monitor competitive activity, there isn’t one seller in real estate. Sellers are unrelated and disconnected and the types of homes are different making it nearly impossible to “time” a purchase or sale.

If you’re looking to purchase or refinance a home, First Financial has a variety of options available to you, including 10, 15, and 30 year mortgages. We offer great low rates, no pre-payment penalties, easy application process, financing on your primary residence, vacation home or investment property, plus so much more! For rates and more information, call us at 866.750.0100, Option 4 for the Lending Department.*

You can also sign up for our Mortgage Rate Text Messaging Service to receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone. To be a part of the program, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.** 

*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. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR.

**Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Article source by Zillow on Fox Business.