3 Steps to Take Before Seeking Preapproval for a Mortgage

Wooden house with keys

With interest rates rising, many people are rushing to buy a home early this season. If you are one of these people, then know that it’s especially important to get preapproved before you begin hunting for that dream home. With a competitive seller’s market, getting that proof gives you a leg up because the seller knows you’re “good for it,” so to speak. Here are some steps that will ensure you get the home loan that’s right for you.

#1: Determine what you can afford.

Being assured by a lender that you’re approved to borrow a certain amount doesn’t mean you can afford the sum. Despite laws that hold lenders more accountable than before the housing crisis, these companies are still known for offering larger loans than borrowers can afford. So, how do you know what you can actually afford?

  • Look at what you’re currently paying for housing, and try to stick as close to it as possible.
  • Look at the whole picture. Calculate the true expense by combining the principal, interest, taxes and insurance (an easy acronym to remember is PITI). What’s your down payment? If it’s less than 20%, you may also need to factor in an extra $50 to $300 per month for mortgage insurance. Don’t worry about the math though — there are plenty of online calculators that can help! Check out First Financial’s right here.

#2: Know what you’ll need to provide.

To get pre-qualified, a lender will ask simple questions about your income, assets, and debt. Preapproval means you’re offered a particular loan amount, so it’s a little more serious and usually comes with an application fee.

The lender will consider your debt-to-income ratio, your ability to repay the loan, and your FICO credit score (which influences your interest rate). To do this, they’ll run a credit check and ask for a list of financial documents, usually the following:

  • Bank statements for the last few months
  • Tax returns and W2s for the past few years
  • Proof of employment and income (pay stubs)
  • Anything else they believe could strengthen your loan application

Having these documents ready to go will streamline the process.

#3: Get your finances in shape.

Once you know what a lender will be looking for, work on anything that’s below standard. For instance, have you held a regular job for at least a few months? Lenders look for job stability. If you’ve jumped around, or if you’re considering a career move, staying put for now might improve your loan terms.

Have you taken on any new credit accounts or loans or closed old ones? Recent shifts in credit, such as getting a bunch of credit cards even if your intention was just to grab those sign-up bonuses, can affect your debt-to-income ratio and perceived financial stability.

Finally, take a look at your credit report and score. Is it below 620? You might have trouble qualifying. Is it at or above 720? You’re in the sweet spot for the best interest rates.

Simple things like making payments on time and paying off your credit card balance each month can improve your score and save thousands of dollars in interest over the lifetime of a loan. This process takes time though.

You really need to make sure you are ready to buy a house long before you even start planning to purchase it. If a home is at all on your radar, then start immediately and get prepared well before looking for a good mortgage lender.

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.** We’re here to help you achieve your financial dreams!

Don’t miss our FREE Homebuying Seminar on March 15th at 6pm in our Freehold/Howell Branch. Register today!

*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: Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing.com

How to Get the Best Mortgage Rate

conceptual image with piggy bank, coin and house

Credit score

The MOST important thing is your credit score. If your credit score isn’t good, not only will you not get a good deal, but you probably won’t even get approved. So the key here is to have a high credit score. The higher the score the better your rate.

Compare

Once you start looking for a mortgage, don’t get set on the first one you find. It’s better to shop around. There are tons of choices out there, so do your research and figure out what’s best for you. Make sure you compare not only interest rates, but fees as well.

Down payment

If you don’t have the money for a 20% down payment, there are mortgages available with lower down payment requirements, but you’ll have to purchase mortgage insurance and you’ll probably get a slightly higher interest rate too. If you’re only planning on staying in the house for a few years, this may not be as important for you.

Need help calculating if you can afford to buy a home or what your monthly payments will be based on what you put down? Check out our free mortgage calculators at firstffcu.com!

Debt-to-income ratio

Lenders will focus on how much your current gross income is going toward ongoing debt, so try and keep this ratio as low as possible. If you have any debt that is within reach of being paid off before you apply for a mortgage, definitely put some extra money on it and get it paid off.

Income stability

Lenders like to see a steady job history. If you’ve been in your job for at least a couple of years, you’re probably good to go. If you’re self-employed, the lender will probably want to see a few years’ worth of tax returns to make sure you have a solid stream of income coming in.

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.* 

*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. 

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

7 Signs You Can’t Afford to Buy a Home

House made of woman hands isolated on dollars background

Making the leap from renting to buying is thrilling and liberating — for many, it signifies the realization of “the American Dream.” Buying a home is also a long-term commitment, and one that requires strong financial standing. If any of these signs strike a chord, you may want to delay taking on a mortgage in the near future.

1. You have a low credit score.

Before considering home ownership, you’ll want to check your credit score, which you can do through free sites like Credit Karma, Credit.com, or Credit Sesame.

“The higher your score, the better the interest rate on your mortgage will be,” writes personal finance expert Ramit Sethi in “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.” Good credit can mean significantly lower monthly payments, so if your score is not great, consider delaying this big purchase until you’ve built up your credit.

2. You have to direct more than 30% of your income toward monthly payments.

Personal finance experts say a good rule of thumb is to make sure the total monthly payment doesn’t consume more than 30% of your take home pay.

“Any more than that, and your finances are going to be tight, leaving you financially vulnerable when something inevitably goes wrong,” write Harold Pollack and Helaine Olen in their book, The Index Card. To be fair, this isn’t always possible. While there are a few exceptions, aim to spend no more than 1/3 of your take home pay on housing.

3. You don’t have a fully funded emergency savings account.

And no, your emergency fund is not your down payment.

As Pollack and Olen write, “We all receive unexpected financial setbacks. Someone gets sick. The insurance company denies a medical claim. A job is suddenly lost. However life intrudes, the bank still expects to receive their monthly mortgage payments. Finance your emergency fund. Then think about purchasing a home. If you don’t have an emergency fund and do own a house, chances are good you will someday find yourself in financial turmoil.”

Certified financial planner Jonathan Meaney recommends having the equivalent of a few years’ worth of living expenses set aside in case there is a job loss or other surprise. “Unlike a rental arrangement with a one or two year contract and known termination clauses, defaulting on a mortgage can do major damage to your credit report,” he tells Business Insider. “In addition, a quick sale is not always possible or equitable for a seller.”

4. You can’t afford a 10% down payment.

Technically, you don’t always have to put any money down when financing a home today, but if you can’t afford to put at least 10% down, you may want to reconsider buying, says Sethi.

Ideally, you’ll be able to put 20% down — anything lower and you will have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is a safety net for the bank in case you fail to make your payments. PMI can cost between 0.5% and 1.50% of the mortgage, depending on the size of your down payment and your credit score — that’s an additional $1,000 a year on a $200,000 home.

“The more money you can put down toward the initial purchase of a home, the lower your monthly mortgage payment,” Pollack and Olen explain. “That’s because you will need to borrow less money to finance the home. This can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.”

Need help calculating if you can afford to buy a home or what your monthly payments will be based on what you put down? Check out our free mortgage calculators at firstffcu.com!

5. You plan on moving within the next five years.

“Home ownership, like stock investing, works best as a long term proposition,” Pollack and Olen explain. “It takes at least five years to have a reasonable chance of breaking even on a housing purchase. For the first few years, your mortgage payments mostly pay off the interest and not the principal.”

Sethi recommends staying put for at least 10 years. “The longer you stay in your house, the more you save,” he writes. “If you sell through a traditional realtor, you pay that person a fee — usually 6% of the selling price. Divide that by just a few years, and it hits you a lot harder than if you had held the house for ten or twenty years.” Not to mention, moving costs can be high as well.

6. You’re deep in debt.

“If your debt is high, home ownership is going to be a stretch,” Pollack and Olen write. When you apply for a mortgage, you’ll be asked about everything you owe — from car and student loans to credit card debt. “If the combination of that debt with the amount you want to borrow exceeds 43% of your income, you will have a hard time getting a mortgage,” they explain. “Your debt-to-income ratio will be deemed too high, and mortgage issuers will consider you at high risk for a future default.”

7. You’ve only considered the sticker price.

You have to look at much more than just the sticker price of the home. There are a mountain of hidden costs — from closing fees to taxes, that can add up to more than $9,000 each year, real estate marketplace Zillow estimates. And that number will only jump if you live in a major US city.

You’ll have to consider things such as property tax, insurance, utilities, moving costs, renovations, and perhaps the most overlooked expense: maintenance. “The actual purchase price is not the most important cost,” says Alison Bernstein, founder and president of Suburban Jungle Realty Group, an agency that assists suburb-bound movers. “What’s important is how much it’s going to cost to maintain that house,” she tells Business Insider.

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: Kathleen Elkins for Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/signs-you-cant-afford-to-buy-a-home-2016-4

5 Tips for Buying Your First Home

Mixed race couple in new home

With U.S. mortgage rates near all-time lows, the appeal of purchasing a home has become much more enticing. For those who currently own, those lower rates mean looking into refinancing options to lock in lower rates; for those who rent, this may provide a nice entrance into home ownership.

According to the most recent National Association of Realtors® Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report, the demographics of first-time homebuyers has shifted over the last century. The current median age sits around 29, with over 65 percent of homebuyers under the age of 34.

Below are five tips, catering specifically for older Millennials who are looking to plunge into homeownership for the first time.

1. Have Stable Employment and a Robust Savings Account

Your financial security is of the utmost importance when looking into any large purchase. If you are unsure of the likelihood that your job and a steady paycheck will be there in 6, 12, or 36 months, you need to step back and logically assess how probable it is you can keep afloat while paying off a home for the next 30 years.

As with any basic personal finance advice, it is wise to have a substantial savings account. Particularly for large purchases such as homes, making sure there is a financial cushion to fall back on in case of unthinkable circumstances should be a determining factor when you are looking for your first home.

2. Understand and Adhere to Budgeting Strategies

If money management is not a strong suit, it will pay off to get down to business and take the time to invest in your financial literacy. Without basic financial know-how, taking on a loan for hundreds of thousands of dollars might not be a wise move for your long-term financial portfolio. Make sure you understand exactly what you are getting yourself into, how you will afford payments in the years ahead, and how you will handle unplanned financial obstacles.

3. Have a Healthy Credit Report and Know How to Handle It Responsibly

When applying for home loans, a healthy credit score is your MVP. Without stellar credit, you could find yourself paying far more than you should. Take the time to make sure your credit tells a story of a financially responsible individual, and you are bound to see the rewards.

Remember: Your credit reflects who you are to lenders. It’s a snapshot into how you have handled credit in the past and provides an educated guess as to how you will act financially in the future.

4. Understand Loan Approvals

It’s easy to become swept away by the glamour of home shopping. The excitement and possibilities can lead to pricy immediate gratification, instead of financially sound judgments. It is incredibly tempting to look at approval amounts as permission to push your budget, particularly when submitting loan applications and receiving approvals. Simply because a lender says you can borrow a certain amount, does not mean it is the wisest decision. Approvals are meant to be guidelines and firm upper limits, not excuses to push your budgeting envelope beyond its comfort zone.

Ashland University Professor of Finance and CFP® Terry Rumker says, “You should decide how much you are willing to spend each month on your home — principal, interest, insurance, and taxes combined — and then figure out how much money you are willing to borrow. Not how much a bank is willing to lend.”

5. Critically Assess the 20% Down Payment Rule and See if it Makes Sense for You

While the debate on how much to put down on a home purchase has been going on for decades, with the most frequently touted advice being that 20 percent is the golden rule, contracts can go forward with less — much less — brought to the table. Decide what fits best with your budget and if you would be okay paying (and affording) Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which could add possibly a couple hundred onto your mortgage payment on a monthly basis until you have paid that 20%.

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: Rebecca Sheppard for Benzinga.com

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.