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Buying a House This Year? This Should Be Your 1st Step!

by Amy McLeod Group


In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes outnumbers the number of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show that you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are not in an incredibly competitive market, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing whether or not your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the ‘My Home’ section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you through this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential homebuyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores necessary to qualify for a mortgage.

If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so today. Let The McLeod Group Network help - 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: KCM Crew

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers

by Amy McLeod Group

Urban Institute recently released a report entitled, “Barriers to Accessing Homeownership: Down Payment, Credit, and Affordability,” which revealed that,

“Consumers often think they need to put more money down to purchase a home than is actually required. In a 2017 survey, 68% of renters cited saving for a down payment as an obstacle to homeownership. Thirty-nine percent of renters believe that more than 20% is needed for a down payment and many renters are unaware of low–down payment programs.”

Myth #1: “I Need a 20% Down Payment”

Buyers often overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan. According to the same report:

“Most potential homebuyers are largely unaware that there are low-down payment and no-down payment assistance programs available at the local, state, and federal levels to help eligible borrowers secure an affordable down payment.”  

These numbers do not differ much between non-owners and homeowners. For example, “30% of homeowners and 39% of renters believe that you need more than 20 percent for a down payment.”

While many believe that they need at least 20% down to buy their dream homes, they do not realize that there are programs available which allow them to put down as little as 3%. Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined with programs that have emerged allowing less cash out of pocket.

Myth #2: “I Need a 780 FICO® Score or Higher to Buy”

Similar to the down payment, many either don’t know or are misinformed about what FICO® score is necessary to qualify.

Many Americans believe a ‘good’ credit score is 780 or higher.

To help debunk this myth, let’s take a look at Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently closed (approved) loans.

As you can see in the chart above, 51.7% of approved mortgages had a credit score of 600-749.

Bottom Line

Whether buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, knowing your options will make the mortgage process easier.

Let's get together and see if your dream home may already be within your reach. 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: KCM Crew

Oops! 5 Mortgage Moves You May Not Realize You Need to Do

by Amy McLeod Group

Getting a mortgage is easy, right? You’ve seen the TV commercials and the billboard ads touting promises like, “Get approved for a mortgage today!” Well, sorry to break the news, but the reality is that obtaining a home loan isn’t just one mouse click or phone call away.

There are a number of hoops to jump through and hurdles to cross before a mortgage lender will issue you a loan. To switch metaphors, it's less of a sprint, more of a triathlon—and it’s easy to overlook an important stage or two as you move toward the finish line.

Curious what home buyers often miss, much to their chagrin? Here are five essential steps that many people don't realize are needed for a mortgage.

1. Get pre-approved

In any highly competitive housing market, it's akin to self-sabotage not to get pre-approved before making an offer on a house.

Pre-approval is a commitment from a lender to provide you with a home loan of up to a certain amount. This will set your home-buying budget, and also show sellers that you’re serious about buying when it comes time to put in an offer. In fact, many sellers will accept offers only from pre-approved buyers, says Ray Rodriguez, New York City regional mortgage sales manager at TD Bank.

Mortgage pre-qualification should not be confused with pre-approval. Pre-qualification is based solely on verbal information you give a lender about your income and savings—meaning that it shows how much you could theoretically borrow. But make no mistake, it's no guarantee. Pre-approval, on the other hand, means the lender has already done its due diligence and is willing to loan you the money.

How to do it: To get pre-approved, you’ll have to provide a mortgage lender with a good amount of paperwork. For the typical home buyer, this includes the following:

  • Pay stubs from the past 30 days showing your year-to-date income
  • Two years of federal tax returns
  • Two years of W-2 forms from your employer
  • 60 days or a quarterly statement of all of your asset accounts, which include your checking and savings, as well as any investment accounts, such as CDs, IRAs, and other stocks or bonds
  • Any other current real estate holdings
  • Residential history for the past two years, including landlord contact information if you rented
  • Proof of funds for the down payment, such as a bank account statement. (If the cash is a gift from your parents, you need to provide a letter that clearly states that the money is a gift and not a loan.)

2. Ace the home appraisal

Lenders require a home appraisal before they’ll issue a loan, because the home you’re buying is going to serve as collateral. If you can’t make your mortgage payments, the lender will have to foreclose upon your home, and then sell the property to recoup its costs. Which is why it wants to make sure the property is worth the amount of money you’re paying for it.

If the home’s appraised value is the same as what you've agreed to pay, you’ve passed the appraisal. If the appraisal comes in at a figure higher than what you're paying, you’re golden—in fact, you’ve gained instant equity! But, if the appraisal comes in lower than what you've agreed to pay, you have a problem.

How to do it: A lender won't loan more than a home's appraised value, which could leave you, the borrower, to cover the difference, says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis. But if you’re unwilling or able to do that, you have a few options:

  1. Negotiate with the seller. For the appraisal to pass, the seller may agree to lower the sales price. Of course, this might require some negotiating by your real estate agent with the sellers agent.
  2. Appeal the appraisal. Sometimes called a rebuttal of value, an appeal involves your loan officer and agent working together to find better comparable market data to justify a higher valuation. If you file an appeal, the appraiser will review the information and then make a judgment call on whether or not to adjust the info.
  3. Order a second appraisal. If you believe the initial appraisal is significantly off base, for whatever reasonmaybe the appraiser overlooked a good comp or wasnt familiar with the local housing marketyou can order a second appraisal. Youll have to pony up for the expense, and appraisals can range between a few hundred dollars and $1,000, depending on the area.
  4. Walk away. This is a total bummer, but it may not be worth overpaying for a home, says Dossman.

3. Keep your credit score stable while under contract

Depending on the loan program, lender, and applicant’s specific credit history, the minimum credit score necessary to buy a home varies. The minimum requirement could be as low as 580 for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, or as high as 660 for a conventional loan, says Theresa Williams-Barrett, vice president of consumer lending and loan administration for Affinity Federal Credit Union. However, lenders vary in their requirements.

The caveat, though, is that your credit score must remain stable while you’re under contract on a house. Why? Because the lender’s final clearance and a loan commitment are subject to a last-minute credit check (and other verifications) shortly before closing.

How to do it: To avoid jeopardizing your final loan approval, follow these guidelines:

  • Dont open new credit accounts. Applying for a new credit card can ding your score, says Beverly Harzog, a consumer credit expert and author of The Debt Escape Plan, because it results in a hard inquiry on your credit report. Buying a car, boat, or any other large purchase that has to be financed can also dock your score.
  • Dont close old credit accounts. Closing an old account can hurt your debt-to-credit utilization ratioa term for how much debt youve accumulated on your credit card accounts, divided by the credit limit on the sum of your accounts. This ratio comprises 30% of your credit score. By closing a credit card account, you reduce your available creditmaking it more difficult to keep your debt-to-credit utilization ratio below 30% (the recommended percentage).
  • Dont miss a credit payment. Even one late payment can cause as much as a 90- to 110-point drop on a FICO score of 780 or higher, according to Credit.com.

4. Review the closing disclosure form

Lenders must provide borrowers with a closing disclosure, or CD, at least three business days before closing. Essentially, the CD is the official follow-up to a more preliminary document you received when you first applied for your loan, called the loan estimate, or LE (also known as a good-faith estimate).

The LE outlined the approximate fees you would be expected to pay if you move forward with a lender to close on a home. But your closing disclosure is the real deal—it outlines exactly what fees you’re going to pay at settlement. You have to scrutinize it carefully, especially considering that a recent survey of real estate agents by the National Association of Realtors® found that half of agents have detected errors on CDs.

How to do it: Ask your real estate agent to sit down with you and compare the CD and LE. Here's a list of things to triple-check:

  • The spelling of your name
  • Loan term (15 years? 30 years? Something different?)
  • Loan type (a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage)
  • Interest rate
  • Cash to close amount (down payment and closing costs)
  • Closing costs (fees paid to third parties)
  • Loan amount
  • Estimated total monthly payment
  • Estimated taxes, insurance, and other payments

5. Pass the underwriting process

Before your lender issues final loan approval, your mortgage has to go through the underwriting process. Underwriters are like real estate detectives. It’s their job to make sure you have represented yourself and your finances truthfully, and that you haven’t made any false or misleading claims on your loan application.

Underwriters will pull your credit score from the three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—to make sure it hasn’t changed since you were pre-approved. They will also review the appraisal of your prospective home to make sure its value matches the size of the loan you are requesting, and check that you haven't taken on any new debts.

Many underwriters will also contact your employer to verify the job and salary that you listed on your loan application. This sounds like a basic step, but you’d be surprised how many people lie on their mortgage application.

How to do it: This one’s pretty simple. Assuming you’ve been diligent about keeping your credit score, job status, and debts stable, you’ll pass with flying colors. If the underwriter has a question, don’t panic—the best thing you can do is respond with prompt and complete information. Your agent is also there to help you troubleshoot any issues.

Let the professionals on The McLeod Group Network help guide you through the home-buying process. 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Daniel Bortz, Realtor.com

Picture this nightmare: You apply for a mortgage, but your application gets rejected. Suddenly, you’re hit with an overwhelming wave of embarrassment, shock, and horror. It’s like having your credit card denied at the Shoprite. So. Much. Shame.

Sadly, this is a reality for some home buyers. According to a recent Federal Reserve study, one out of every eight home loan applications (12%) ends in a rejection.

There are a number of reasons mortgage applications get denied‚ and the saddest part is that many could have been avoided quite easily, had only the applicants known certain things were no-nos. So, before you're the next home buyer who gets burned by sheer ignorance, scan this list, and make sure you aren't making any of these five grave mistakes, which could land your mortgage application in the "no" pile.

1. You didn't use credit cards enough

Some people think credit card debt is the kiss of death ... but guess what? It's also a way to establish a credit history that shows you've got a solid track record paying off past debts.

While a poor credit history riddled with late payments can certainly call your application into question, it's just as bad, and perhaps worse, to have little or no credit history at all. Most lenders are reluctant to fork over money to individuals without substantial credit history. It's as if you're a ghost: Who's to say you won't disappear?

According to a recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, roughly 45 million Americans are characterized as "credit invisible”—which means they don't have a credit report on file with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

There’s a silver lining, though, for those who don’t have credit established. Some lenders will use alternative data, such as rent payments, cellphone bills, and school tuition, to assess your credit worthiness, says Staci Titsworth, a regional manager at PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh.

2. You opened new credit cards recently

That Macy’s credit card you signed up for last month? Bad idea. New credit card applications can ding your credit score by up to five points, says Beverly Harzog, a consumer credit expert and author of “The Debt Escape Plan.”

That hit might seem minuscule, but if you’re on the cusp of qualifying for a mortgage, your new credit card could cause your loan application to be denied by a lender. So, the lesson is simple: Don’t open new credit cards right before you apply for a mortgage—and, even if your lender says things look good, don't open any new cards or spend oodles of money (on, say, furniture) until after you've moved in. After all, lenders can yank your loan up until the last minute if they suspect anything fishy, and hey, better safe than sorry.

3. You missed a medical bill

Credit cards aren't the only debt that count with a mortgage application—unpaid medical bills matter, too. When you default on medical bills, your doctor’s office or hospital is likely to outsource it to a debt collection agency, says independent credit expert John Ulzheimer. The debt collector may then decide to notify the credit bureaus that you’re overdue on your medical payments, which would place a black mark on your credit report. That’s a red flag to mortgage lenders.

If you can pay off your medical debt in full, do it. Can’t foot the bill? Many doctors and hospitals will work with you to create a payment plan, says Gerri Detweiler, head of market education at Nav.com, which helps small-business owners manage their credit. Showing a mortgage lender that you’re working to repay the debt could strengthen your application.

4. You changed jobs

So you changed jobs recently—so what? Problem is, mortgage lenders like to see at least two years of consistent income history when approving a loan. As a result, changing jobs shortly before you apply for a mortgage can hurt your application.

Of course, you don’t always have control over your employment. For instance, if you were recently laid off by your employer, finding a new job would certainly be more important than buying a house. But if you’re gainfully employed and just considering changing jobs, you’ll want to wait until after you close on a house so that your mortgage gets approved.

5. You lied on your loan application

This one seems painfully obvious, but let's face it—while it may be tempting to think that lenders don't know everything about you financially, they really do their homework well! So no matter what, be honest with your lender—or there could be serious repercussions. Exaggerating or lying about your income on a mortgage application, or including any other other untruths, can be a federal offense. It’s called mortgage fraud, and it’s not something you want on your record.

Bottom line? With mortgages, honesty really is the best policy.

Are you searching for your new home? Let's the experts on The McLeod Group Network help you find it! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Daniel Bortz, Realtor.com

6 Mortgage Questions a First-Time Home Buyer May Be Embarrassed to Ask

by Amy McLeod Group

Mortgage questions abound when you're a first-time home buyer. Compounding the challenge is the embarrassment over interrupting the conversation with a would-be lender or seller to ask, "'Scuse me, what is a credit score? How much money do I need as a down payment?" Everyone knows this stuff, right?

No, they don't all know—so you should ask these questions. Or, at the very least, study up a bit so you know the basics. To help get you up to speed, here's a crash course on the most common mortgage questions and answers you need to know. Take five to read on, and wonder no more.

1. What do you need to get a mortgage?

Before loaning you money, lenders want to see proof that you've proven reliable paying off past debts, so you'll need to start establishing credit.

"There are ways to verify your past payments on utility bills, cellphone, and rent," notes Michael E. Matthews, senior vice president of PrimeLending. "Get a credit card, pay it back carefully. Your car and college loans—those things help you establish credit and help you get a mortgage."

2. If you have bad credit, how do you improve it?

Matthews talks to a lot of borrowers who come to him with this mortgage question. They think they have bad credit but are doing better than they think.

His first tip: Check your credit report. It's free to download one copy each year, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find. And if the news is bad, there's still hope.

"If you’ve got bad credit, a lot of times there’s aged activity on there—an old collection, a medical bill, something you didn’t know about," Matthews says. And these "errors" can often be fixed, boosting your credit score fairly quickly.

If you do have a bunch of bad marks and late payments, however, start paying on time and your score will gradually improve. Here are some ways to raise your credit score.

3. What’s the difference between a mortgage pre-approval and a pre-qualification?

"Pre-qualification is not going to hold the same weight as a pre-approval," says Matthews. "You can go online and get somebody to print you out a pre-qual letter. And you’ll find that if you’re negotiating with an agent and they’re looking at a pre-qual letter, it’s probably not worth much to them."

A pre-approval letter—involving lenders fully checking your finances in a verifiable way—takes more time and effort, which is exactly why it carries much more weight. If you're serious about buying a home, get pre-approved to show you mean business. Here's more on the difference between mortgage pre-approval vs. pre-qualification.

4. How much down payment do you need for a mortgage?

The gold standard down payment for a mortgage is 20%—so if the home's price is $200,000, you'd ideally have to pony up $40,000 of your own money to get the loan.

If you don't have that much, all is not lost. You can put down less, but that means you'll have to pay PMI, or private mortgage insurance. It's an extra fee of about $50 to $100 a month that lenders will require to mitigate the risk that you might default on your loan due to your lack of funds.

"There’s risk there that literally has to be accounted for, and that ends up being insurance that adds to your mortgage payment," says economist Jonathan Smoke. "When you put less down, the trade-off is you actually have to spend more on a monthly basis."

That said, there are some exceptions that allow a buyer to avoid PMI even with a small down payment. Buyers who are in the military, veterans, and family members of veterans may be able to avoid PMI with a Veterans Affairs loan. And once your equity in your home rises above 20%, you can stop paying PMI.

5. What kind of down payment assistance is available?

If you're looking for help with a down payment, Smoke says, the "bank of Mom and Dad" may be a smart start—if your parents have the means to pitch in. Gifted money can help many people qualify for a loan, he says, although you absolutely must tell your lender that the money was a gift—fibbing on this front will raise red flags.

If private assistance isn't an option, or isn't enough, never fear—there are over 2,000 down payment assistance programs across the country that can help, as long as you meet eligibility requirements in terms of income and credit.

Check with your real estate agent or lender, as they may be able to tell you about programs in your area that will help you become a homeowner.

6. What types of home loans are available?

Loan types vary widely, but Barbara A. Carrollo-Loeffler, director of consumer and residential lending at Provident Bank in Jersey City, NJ, says loans typically fall into two camps. The first includes loans with an adjustable rate, meaning the interest rate could change after a period of time. The second includes loans that are "fixed" or "term," meaning the rate will stay the same for the length of the borrowing period. Generally term or fixed-rate loans are more common and considered the safer option, but it all depends on your circumstances, including how long you plan to stay in the home.

Here's more info on the pros and cons of various types of home loans, and which one is right for you.

Contact your local experts at The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By and photo credit: Realtor.com, Jeanne Sager

Why Getting Pre-Approved Should Be Your First Step

by Amy McLeod Group

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the number of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, knowing your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the ‘My Home’ section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.” 

Freddie Mac describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so as well. Let’s get together - 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: KCM Crew

Displaying blog entries 1-6 of 6

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The McLeod Group Network
Keller Williams Capital City
1900 Hines St SE #220
Salem OR 97302
971-208-5093
Fax: 971-599-5229

**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.