4 Simple Strategies for Coming Up with a Mortgage Down Payment

house key and dollars.Real estate concept

Buying a home is often seen as an important rite of passage and a major part of the American dream. Depending on your situation and where you live, it can also be cheaper than renting. But, unless you have a large chunk of money just sitting around, the down payment it requires is a big obstacle. As higher costs of living continue to shrink our net income, it can be a real struggle to save that recommended 20%, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer with few assets. Thankfully, there are plenty of assistance and low-down-payment options out there if you really need them, but there’s also a unique sense of accomplishment if you can do it on your own! Here are some simple strategies for saving up for a mortgage down payment.

1. Open a Dedicated Savings or Investment Account and Automate It

Separating your down payment fund from your other savings accounts will make it easier to calculate its progress. You can simply create a new savings account with your current bank for ease of transfer, but it’s also a good opportunity to open up a high-yield savings account that offers higher interest rates. Money market accounts and funds are also low-risk ways to earn more for your dollar. If you have a year or more to save, CDs offer even higher interest rates.

Next, set up your direct deposit or bank account to automatically transfer a certain amount from each paycheck (ideally based on your projected savings goal and timeframe). Even if you can’t afford to set aside much, consistency leads to accumulation.

2. Get Ruthless with Your Net Income

After savings and retirement contributions are deducted, your bills are paid, and your consumables are purchased, what’s left? What are you spending your money on? Can you live without any of those things for awhile? Being ruthless as you slash your discretionary spending is hard, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to ‘find’ money to apply to your down payment.

If you’re a two-income household, see if you can tighten up your finances enough to live off of one income for awhile and bank the second. It’s not easy, but it’s also much more possible than many people think.

3. Throw Every Windfall and Spare Dime at It

Tax refunds, monetary gifts, bonuses, cash-back rewards cards, even that annual raise – every time you find yourself with “extra” money, put it toward your down payment.

If it’s too hard to save larger chunks of money, save your “change.” Although there’s no shame in raiding the couch cushions or the console of your car, you can still apply the concept of “spare change” to your automated finances. Enroll in bank programs and apps that automatically round up debit transactions to the nearest whole dollar, transferring the difference into your designated savings account. You could also adopt the popular $5 rule – every time you get this (or another chosen amount) in change, it goes toward your down payment fund.

Check out First Financial’s Save Your Change Program – get started today!

4. Liquidate, But Don’t Rob Yourself

Carefully consider liquidating stocks, bonds, CDs or other non-cash assets if you own them. However, this does not include retirement accounts. As tempting (and allowable) as it is, borrowing from your future security could turn into robbing from yourself, not to mention taking these funds out early often will lead to having to pay penalties and taxes on it. Definitely not worth it!

There’s no way around it: saving money for a down payment takes planning, sacrifice, and time, but the reward will be worth the effort.

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: 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

 

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

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 Hidden Costs of Buying a Home

American home with three car garageYou’re looking for a house and see the perfect listing. And it has a big number on it, say $300,000. If you’re like most prospective homeowners, you imagine you will soon be talking to a lender and getting a loan for this amount.

But as veteran homebuyers may already know, you are going to pay much more than $300,000.

Yes, almost everything we buy has a hidden cost. You buy a toothbrush for a few dollars, and since you’ll have to purchase toothpaste, the ownership cost of a toothbrush is more than $2 – especially if you throw in a toothbrush holder. Obviously, the hidden costs of buying a house are far more complex. And if you aren’t prepared for them, you may come away from the experience feeling as if you’ve had the wind knocked out of you.

So if you’re thinking of buying your first house, be alert and prepared for these hidden costs that you need to keep in mind:

Home inspection costs. Before you close on a house, your mortgage insurer may require a home inspection, which can run several hundred dollars. But even if an inspection is not required, it’s worth paying a professional to evaluate the house so you can avoid spending hundreds of thousands on a train wreck disguised as a house.

Survey costs. Your lender may want you to have a professional survey of the property, so everyone knows exactly where your land’s boundaries are. That’s another several hundred dollars.

Taxes. You probably know you’re going to be paying taxes, but it can be easy to forget that you’ll likely need to pre-pay those taxes at closing. At the beginning of your mortgage, it can be a shock when you’re saddled with paying a couple months’ worth of property taxes, maybe a year’s worth of homeowner’s insurance, and possibly homeowner’s association dues as well.

Fees. Maclyn Clouse, a finance professor at the Reiman School of Finance at the University of Denver, rattles off a list of fees you may also pay at closing:

  • Government recording charges: The cost for state and local governments to record your deed, mortgage, and loan documents.
  • Appraisal fee: The cost for an appraiser to decide how much your house is worth.
  • Credit report fee: Your lender had to pay to get your credit report, so oftentimes you will cover that cost.
  • Title services and lender’s title insurance: Fees related to your home’s title.
  • Flood life of the loan fee: The government tracks changes in your property’s flood zone status, you’ll pay a small fee.
  • Tax service fee: Another pretty minor fee – this service ensures the taxes previously paid on the house are up to date (if your home was previously owned).
  • Lender’s origination fee: The charge for processing your loan application.

Moving costs. Will you be gathering friends and family to help you move your furniture and possessions into your home, or do you need a moving truck? Don’t forget about the cost of movers, if you are hiring them.

Total cost of ownership. Someone will have to mow the lawn with the mower you’re fated to buy, or you’ll hire a service. You’ll also probably need furniture and maybe a major appliance, like a washing machine. Even paint and paint supplies costs money and adds up quicker than you think.

Be ready for anything. Some houses (previously owned) come with propane or oil tanks, and at closing buyers have been asked to reimburse the sellers for the fuel remaining in the tank – in certain cases.

Looking for a mortgage? Check out First Financial’s mortgages, featuring great rates and low fees. We also have a 10 year mortgage as well – great for refinancing! 

First Financial also offers a Mortgage Rate Text Messaging Service so you can 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.

*Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Article Source – Geoff Williams of Money.USNews.com: http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/03/12/the-hidden-costs-of-buying-a-home

How to Cut Home Buying Costs

Pair of scissors cuts business expense word COSTS in half to savFor nearly all of us, buying a home represents one of the biggest financial transactions of our lifetime. There’s really nothing that compares to buying a home, since not only do we have to put up thousands of dollars of our own money but we also (usually) have to borrow much more than that.

There’s really no getting around the fact that buying a home is expensive. It takes a lot of financial discipline to save up a down payment and make the monthly payments. Along the way, there are bound to be problems that eat into your savings too. For example, everything from a new roof to a broken water heater is going to cost you. (Of course, renting can also have costly surprises such as escalating rent or being forced to move). While there’s not a whole lot you can do about some of the costs of buying a home, there are ways to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Shop Around for Your Mortgage

One of the easiest ways to cut costs when buying a home is by finding a low interest loan. Get quotes from banks and credit unions so that you can compare their fees and rates. Make sure that you compare the Good Faith Estimate given to you by each financial institution. One thing to note is that you are permitted to get as many quotes as you want within a three-week period. Normally, each quote would be a separate credit check, but when you’re shopping for a mortgage, multiple quotes are considered only one inquiry on your credit reports.

Check out First Financial Federal Credit Union’s mortgages, featuring great rates and low fees. We also have a 10 year mortgage as well – great for refinancing! 

First Financial also offers a Mortgage Rate Text Messaging Service so you can 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.*

Negotiate With the Seller

If you’re looking to get a portion or even all of your closing costs covered, then negotiating with the seller is your best bet. Depending on the state of the real estate market in your area, you could ask for more or less. If the real estate market is struggling or the property in question has been on the market for an extended period of time you may be able to get the seller to cover your closing costs.

Article Source: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/12/16/how-to-cut-home-buying-costs/

*Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.