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Once your offer on your dream home is accepted, it doesn't mean you can just grab the keys and move in. If you need a mortgage, securing this home loan takes time. The good news is that it's faster now than ever.

According to a recent three-year study by LendingTree, the length of time it takes to get a mortgage—aka closing—is an average of 40 days in 2019. That's down from 51 days in 2018, and 74 days in 2017.

And here's some good news for homeowners who've already moved in: The time it takes to refinance a mortgage is also dwindling. Refinancing takes an average of 38 days in 2019, down from 43 in 2018, and 55 days in 2017.

Home buyers should be thrilled to hear that the mortgage process is speeding up—who doesn't want to move into their new home as quickly as possible? Earlier closing times can also save home buyers money, especially if they are paying high rent or having to find temporary housing while waiting to move into the new home.

Why it takes less time to get a mortgage today

The digitization of the mortgage process is the main reason for the shorter closing times, according to the LendingTree report. The mortgage industry has become increasingly digital since the 2008 financial crisis, when companies operating in the paper-centric system of the past lost or misrecorded some details from their clients, causing problems and legal issues during the foreclosures that often followed.

Since then, some lenders have created new mobile-friendly products to speed up the mortgage-approval process. For example, Quicken Loans launched the app Rocket Mortgage in 2015 to help borrowers close earlier than the industry standard, reportedly sometimes as quickly as eight days.

Another factor contributing to shorter closing times is that mortgage volumes have been decreasing, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree. However, he says that given the recent drop in interest rates, “that’s kind of reversed itself a little bit, but we’re still seeing shorter times than in 2018.”

The LendingTree study also found that loans for smaller amounts took longer to close. Loans of under $150,000 averaged 47 days, versus 39 days for those above the conforming loan limit, which is $484,350 in 2019.

“You'd think something being more valuable or bigger risk for the lender, they might take a little bit more time with it, but it's the exact opposite,” Kapfidze says. One possible reason is that lenders may require a more extensive appraisal for lower-priced homes, which might have some type of damage or other problem.

How to get a mortgage fast

So what can consumers do to reduce as much as possible the length of time it takes to get a mortgage? To speed up the closing process, Kapfidze urges home buyers to choose a lender with a more digital, less paper-driven process. Before signing on with any lender, ask if the company can digitally link to a borrower’s bank, the IRS, or other institution to get information to process the mortgage, since this is the key to a speedy approval.

Online lenders make it easier for borrowers to compare mortgages, and they often offer better rates and faster approvals, but they come with less customer service, so they may not work well for complex home loans. Mortgage industry experts suggest that borrowers look over the application process, check out online reviews of the company, and make sure it is registered with the Better Business Bureau before they sign up.

Here's more on how to get a mortgage fast:

Work on your credit score

Before starting the home-buying process, make sure your credit score is in check. According to the LendingTree study, consumers with higher credit scores saw shorter closing times.

People with a credit score of above 760 have an average 38-day closing time in 2019, while closings take an average of 45 days for those with scores of below 720.

Have your financial documentation in order

“A lot of the delay in closing times is just the back-and-forth between the lender and the borrower,” Kapfidze says. He suggests having all documentation well-organized and easy to access, so that it doesn’t take long to send it to the lender.

Also, make sure that all the information that you provide is accurate, he says. If a mortgage lender goes to verify something and finds a discrepancy in what a borrower provided, that can slow things down.

The exact documentation that borrowers need to provide depends on the type of loan they’re seeking, but generally, the required documents relate to a borrower’s income, assets, and employment, such as a W-2 form, pay stubs for the previous 30 days, and bank statements. Borrowers also need valid identification, a loan application, a contract for the home purchase, and homeowner insurance contact information.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Many loan experts urge home buyers to get pre-approved for a mortgage before they start shopping for a home, especially if their financial situation is complex. A pre-approval helps buyers better understand what type of home they can afford and can shorten closing times.

“You're going to have to go through this process at some point anyway, so you might as well get it out of the way upfront as quickly as you can,” says Hayden Hodges, a Dallas-based mortgage loan officer at U.S. Bank. “I would want to know what my ceiling is, what my conditions are, as quickly as I can, as opposed to perhaps getting into unnecessary fire drills towards the end of a transaction.”

Lenders can work quickly to get borrowers pre-approved. Borrowers can speed up the process even more by providing all the documentation needed for pre-approval, Hodges says.

Make sure you have cash on hand

Having cash available to supply earnest money and to pay closing costs can help you close faster, Kapfidze says. Some closing costs need to be paid in cash, so make sure you can easily access the funds.

“You don't want to get to closing, and it's like, ‘Hey, you need to have a $12,000 check,’ and then realizing your money's not liquid," he says.

Contact The McLeod Group Network to start the search for your new home! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Erica Sweeney 

Should You Prepay Your Mortgage? The Pros and Cons

by Amy McLeod Group


Should you prepay your mortgage? For some homeowners it’s a financially savvy move—but for others, beefing up their loan payments just doesn’t make sense. To help you figure out whether prepayment is right for you, here are the pros and cons cited by financial experts.

Pro: You'll cut down on the interest you owe

Interest is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you needed to buy a home. After all, lenders don’t just hand out dough for free—they’re in the business to make money.

By increasing your monthly mortgage payments—also called “prepaying” your mortgage—you’ll effectively save money in interest charges. Those savings can add up big-time.

For example, let’s say you take out a $200,000 mortgage with a 4% fixed interest rate and a 30-year term. If you continue to make your minimum monthly payments, you’d be forking over $143,739 in interest over 30 years until the debt is paid off. But, by paying an extra $100 per month, you’d pay only $116,702 in interest over a 25-year time span—a savings of $27,037.

Pro: You’ll get your mortgage paid off sooner

By accelerating your mortgage payments, you’ll also be shortening how long it takes to pay off the loan, which would increase your cash flow in the future. That’s a huge incentive for some borrowers.

“For families with young children, where the parents are concerned about paying for their children’s college tuition, sometimes we will recommend they increase mortgage payments so that when their kids head off to college their mortgage obligation is gone,” says Joe Pitzl, a certified financial planner for Pitzl Financial, in Arden Hills, MN.

Paying more money each month toward your mortgage’s principal can also give you peace of mind, says Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner at Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, MD.

“Emotionally, it’s gratifying knowing that you’re paying your mortgage sooner than you originally planned to do,” Cheng says.

Pro: You’ll build equity faster

No matter how much money you put down on your mortgage, your home equity is the current market value of your home minus the amount you owe on your loan. So say your home is worth $250,000 and your mortgage balance is $200,000. In this case, you’d have $50,000, or 20%, in home equity.

Making larger mortgage payments toward your loan's principal would enable you to build equity faster. Having more home equity can be a tremendous boon if you’re looking to get a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, such as to pay for home improvements, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at Lending Tree.

Pro: It helps your credit score

Showing that you have less debt—and that you manage your debts responsibly, by paying your mortgage off early—can raise your credit score. That can help if you’re planning to apply for a car loan or a second mortgage on a vacation home, since your credit score would affect the interest rate you qualify for.

Con: Prepaying reduces mortgage interest, which is tax-deductible

Because prepaying your mortgage reduces your mortgage interest, it may not make sense from a tax-savings perspective. Mortgages are structured so that you start off paying more interest than principal.

For example, in the first year of a $300,000, 30-year loan at a fixed 4% interest rate, you'd be deducting $10,920. (To find out how much you paid in mortgage interest last year, punch your numbers into our online mortgage calculator.)

Nonetheless, taking a mortgage interest deduction under the new tax law requires itemizing deductions—and itemizing may no longer make sense for many homeowners, since the standard deduction jumped under the new tax plan to $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household, and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly.

Another thing to consider: In the past, you could deduct the interest from up to $1 million in mortgage debt (or $500,000 if you filed singly). However, for loans taken out from December 15, 2017, onward, only the interest on the first $750,000 of mortgage debt is deductible, says William L. Hughes, a certified public accountant in Stuart, FL.

Con: You could miss out on more lucrative investment opportunities

Every dollar you put toward your mortgage principal is a dollar you can’t invest in higher-yield ventures, such as stocks, high-yield bonds, or real estate investment trusts, Pitzl says.

That being said, “you’d be assuming more risk by investing your money in, say, the stock market instead of putting the money toward your mortgage,” Pitzl points out.

“You have to consider your risk tolerance before you decide where to put your extra cash,” says Cheng.

Con: You may miss paying off higher-interest debts

For many homeowners, paying off higher-interest debt—such as from a credit card or private student loan—is more important than prepaying their mortgage, Cheng says.

Think about it: If you’re carrying a $400 debt on a credit card from month to month with a 20% interest rate, the amount of money you’re paying in credit card interest is $80 per month—that would be leaps and bounds higher than what you’d be paying in mortgage interest on a home loan with a 4% interest rate.

Con: Prepaying a mortgage could hamper achieving other financial goals

Building your retirement savings is crucial, of course. However, some people make the mistake of prepaying their mortgage instead of maxing out their retirement contributions, Cheng laments.

“At the bare minimum, I recommend my clients do a full 401(k) match with their employer,” she says.

Moreover, Pitzl encourages people to build a sufficient emergency fund—typically, a fund large enough to cover three to six months of their essential expenses—before they focus on prepaying their mortgage.

“If you get into a bind, you can’t sell off windows and doors to make ends meet,” Pitzl says.

Con: There may penalties for prepaying your mortgage

Some lenders charge a fee if a client’s mortgage is paid in full before the loan term ends. That’s why it’s important to check with your mortgage lender—or look for the term “prepayment disclosure” in your mortgage agreement—to see if there’s a penalty and, if so, how much it is.

The bottom line: If you don't have enough money to pad your savings before you begin paying off your mortgage early, prepaying your home loan may put you in a financial hole if an emergency crops up.

Still not sure what direction to go in? Consider sitting down with a financial planner to discuss your options based on your personal finances.

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

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz 


What happens if you sell your house for more than you owe on your loan? If you find yourself asking this question, congratulations are most likely in order. Selling a house for more than the value of your mortgage often means you'll walk away with a nice profit.

But not always. Sometimes, even if a home's sales price is higher than the mortgage amount owed, a seller may not see a dime—or may even owe money at the closing table instead! Here's how to figure out if you're going to make or lose money when you sell your house.

Where your profits go when you close the deal

During your home closing—the final leg of the sales process where you swap your house keys for a check—there's traditionally a go-between who handles transferring funds from buyer to seller. That might be an escrow company, a real estate agent or attorney, or a title company, depending on where you live, but they're the ones who will take the buyer's money (usually a check from the lender) and use it to pay off the seller's mortgage, says Bryan Zuetel, managing broker of Esquire Real Estate and the managing attorney of Zuetel Law Group, in Pasadena, CA.

Yet that check doesn't just go straight into a seller's pocket. Many other parties must be paid off first. Here are a few costs that may eat up your profits.

Real estate agent commissions

First up, the seller's real estate agent has to be paid a commission—as well as the buyer's agent, if the buyer had one, says Robert Berliner Jr., a real estate attorney with the Berliner Group, in Chicago.

Traditionally, the title company, escrow company, or lawyer handling your closing will cut a check directly to your listing agent, Berliner says. This agent will split this with the buyer's agent who helped secure the deal.The typical commission for a seller's agent is around 5% to 6% of the sales price of the house, although just how much your real estate agent gets will be outlined in the listing agreement—the document you signed when you hired the agent to sell your house.

If for some reason there isn't enough money left over from the sale to pay your agent, you'll need to be ready to write a check at closing to make up the difference.

We know: It's a downer to write a check on the day you sell your home, but it happens if housing prices have dipped since you bought the place. Comfort yourself with the thought that you might be getting out before suffering more serious losses.

Closing costs

The buyer typically pays most closing costs, but sellers often face some closing costs, too. These fees can amount to as much as 1% to 3% of the purchase price of the house. Everything from recording fees to title insurance premiums can come out of the sales price of the house—aka the money the buyer pays to the seller—as part of closing.

And you guessed it, these fees will be paid during the process, so they'll come right out of the money left over after you pay off your mortgage.

Property taxes

After the agents get their cut and the closing fees are settled, any taxes you owe on the property will be levied. In many states, taxes are paid a year in arrears, Berliner says. In other words, the real estate taxes paid in 2019 are actually the taxes on the property for the year 2018. Your buyer isn't responsible for taking on the taxes for the time you owned the property—which means you may have to pay up.

Some states also levy a transfer tax when property is sold, which falls on the seller to pay out of the price of the home.

Just how much you're facing can vary greatly depending on where you live, Zuetel says, but you can expect costs roughly from $50 to $225.

Anything left? It's yours!

After your loan is paid, the agents get paid, and any fees or taxes are settled, if there's money left over, you get to keep the balance. Congratulations! The money can be paid by check or wired straight into your account.

To see just how much you're expected to net, you can ask your closing attorney, escrow officer, or even the title company for a draft settlement statement before closing. This document details all of the closing costs, real estate commissions, fees, and taxes that will come out of the sales price of the home.

Thinking about selling your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Jeanne Sager 

4 Good Reasons to Not Get a Mortgage Online

by Amy McLeod Group


Applying for a mortgage these days can be accomplished entirely online—no need to schlep to a bank and suffer hand cramps filling out paperwork.

Instead, you can punch some basic info into an online mortgage site, and up pops a bunch of loan choices. An industry renowned for being slow and cumbersome is now wooing customers with the promise of ease, speed, and transparency. Rocket Mortgage, Quicken Loan's online platform, for example, promises qualified customers approval in as little as eight minutes.

 
 
 

But taking out a six-figure loan is one of the most complicated and substantial financial transactions most people will ever make. Does it really make sense to handle it by pushing a few buttons on your smartphone?

Maybe for those with a typical 9-to-5 job and good credit.

"If you are a salaried employee with no overtime, no bonus—no funky income, if you will—just a plain-vanilla borrower, then sometimes the online mortgage does work," says Brian Minkow, a divisional vice president and loan originator at Homebridge Financial Services, a non-bank lender. "You know: You have a five-year work history, you're putting 20% down, and have an 800 FICO score."

But then there's everybody else.

Here are some of the many reasons why those borrowers might consider taking more time with the process, including consulting with an experienced loan officer or mortgage broker.

1. You want to shop around for the best loan

First and foremost, it's always in a borrower's best interest to comparison shop on rates and fees, says Keith Gumbinger, a vice president at HSH.com, a mortgage information website. Speed and convenience alone do not always translate into a better price for borrowers.

"You should invest some time in it, do your research," Gumbinger says. "Also, do your diligence on your credit. And think about how long you're going to be in your home." The reason? The length of time you estimate you are likely to be staying in the home can be a factor in whether you apply for a fixed or adjustable rate loan.

Gaining an understanding of different loan programs is a smarter approach than just "going online and filling out things," says Minkow. "A lot of people really don't know if they're getting the right loan program, the right interest rate, the right down payment."

The research process may ultimately lead you straight to the speedy online mortgage site as the best option anyway. But, Gumbinger says, "You won't know that unless you go out and take a look around."

2. You're a first-time home buyer

Researching all your options is especially important if you've never purchased a home before, advises David Weliver, founder of MoneyUnder30.com, a personal finance advice site. First-time buyers should always talk through important details like rates, points, and closing costs with an expert. "After you've been through the process once, you have a better idea of what to expect and what information you'll need to provide to make the process go smoothly," he says.

Even those who have borrowed before may want to consult with someone if there is anything about their circumstances that might make qualifying more difficult. For example, Weliver says, "a real person could be a helpful advocate" for borrowers who are buying a second home or rental property, have spotty credit, or have inconsistent income.

3. You're self-employed

About 15 million Americans are classified as self-employed, according to the Pew Research Center. While salaried workers generally only have to show the lender their W-2 tax forms to prove their income, self-employed workers "should expect that they will have to provide the lender with more income documentation, such as tax returns from the last few years," Weliver says.

The fact is, some online lenders are more strict about documentation requirements than federal guidelines require, because they want to reduce their risk, says Minkow. That can make qualifying even tougher for a borrower who is already perceived as a higher risk—for example, applicants who have only been in their current job for a few months, or those who want to include overtime pay as evidence of their buying power. The lender will want to see proof that the overtime pay is consistent. "Certain guidelines say you have to show you have it for 12 months or 24 months—it depends on the loan," Minkow says.

4. You want some extra handholding

Working with someone one on one may also help prevent last-minute problems when it comes time to buy that house. "I can't tell you how many clients who have come to me after they'd gone online and gotten a pre-approval from a lender," Minkow says. "Then they go to purchase a house, and halfway through the transaction, the online lender says all of a sudden, 'You can't get approved.' The client freaks out. And that's when they get ahold of someone like myself."

Finally, there is the matter of personal preference. Not everyone likes the impersonal approach. Before applying for a loan, borrowers might consider whether they are the kind of person who appreciates a lot of help and attention in other shopping experiences. "If you like a hands-on environment, like a Macy's, you're a different kind of shopper than someone who enjoys going to a warehouse club," says Gumbinger. "Your expectations going in will influence how satisfied you are with the process."

Let's get together to discuss your current situation and how The McLeod Group Network can help! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By and Photo credit: Realtor.com, Lisa Prevost


Mortgage interest rates are a mystery to many of us—whether you're a home buyer in need of a home loan for your first house or your fifth.

After all, what does “interest rate” even mean? Why do rates swing up and down? And, most important, how do you nab the best interest rate—the one that’s going to save you the most money over the life of your mortgage?

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
 

Here, we outline what you need to know about interest rates before applying for a mortgage.

Why does my interest rate matter?

Mortgage lenders don't just loan you money because they’re good guys—they’re there to make a profit. “Interest” is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you need to buy a home.

Your interest payment is calculated as a percentage of your total loan amount. For example, let’s say you get a 30-year, $200,000 loan with a 4% interest rate. Over 30 years, you would end up paying back not only that $200,000, but an extra $143,739 in interest. Month to month, your mortgage payments would amount to about $955. However, your mortgage payments will end up higher or lower depending on the interest rate you get.

Why do interest rates fluctuate?

Mortgage rates can change daily depending on how the U.S. economy is performing, says Jack Guttentag, author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia.”

Consumer confidence, reports on employment, fluctuations in home sales (i.e., the law of supply and demand), and other economic factors all influence interest rates.

“During a period of slack economic activity, [the Federal Reserve] will provide more funding and interest rates will go down,” Guttentag explains. Conversely, “when the economy heats up and there’s a fear of inflation, [the Fed] will restrict funding and interest rates will go up.”

How do I lock in my interest rate?

A “rate lock” is a commitment by a lender to give you a home loan at a specific interest rate, provided you close on your home in a certain period of time—typically 30 days from when you're pre-approved for your loan.

A rate lock offers protection against fluctuating interest rates—useful considering that even a quarter of a percentage point can take a huge bite out of your housing budget over time. A rate lock offers borrowers peace of mind: No matter how wildly interest rates fluctuate, once you're "locked in" you know what monthly mortgage payments you'll need to make on your home, enabling you to plan your long-term finances.

Naturally, many home buyers obsess over the best time to lock in a mortgage rate, worried that they'll pull the trigger right before rates sink even lower.

Unfortunately, no lender has a crystal ball that shows where mortgage rates are going. It’s impossible to predict exactly where the economy will move in the future. So, don't get too caught up with minor ups and downs. A bigger question to consider when locking in your interest rate is where you are in the process of finding a home.

Most mortgage experts suggest locking in a rate once you're "under contract" on a home—meaning you've made an offer that's been accepted. Most lenders will offer a 30-day rate lock at no charge to you—and many will extend rate locks to 45 days as a courtesy to keep your business.

Some lenders offer rate locks with a “float-down option,” which allows you to get a lower interest rate if rates go down. However, the terms, conditions, and costs of this option vary from lender to lender.

How do I get the best interest rate?

Mortgage rates vary depending on a borrower’s personal finances. Specifically, these six key factors will affect the rate you qualify for:

  1. Credit score: When you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, lenders want some reassurance you’ll repay them later! One way they assess this is by scrutinizing your credit score—the numerical representation of your track record of paying off your debts, from credit cards to college loans. Lenders use your credit score to predict how reliable you’ll be in paying your home loan, says Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert at LowCards.com. A perfect credit score is 850, a good score is from 700 to 759, and a fair score is from 650 to 699. Generally, borrowers with higher credit scores receive lower interest rates than borrowers with lower credit scores.
     
  2. Loan amount and down payment: If you're willing and able to make a large down payment on a home, lenders assume less risk and will offer you a better rate. If you don’t have enough money to put down 20% on your mortgage, you’ll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, an extra monthly fee meant to mitigate the risk to the lender that you might default on your loan. PMI ranges from about 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan.
     
  3. Home location: The strength of your local housing market can drive interest rates up, or down.
     
  4. Loan type: Your rate will depend on what type of loan you choose. The most common type is a conventional mortgage, aimed at borrowers who have well-established credit, solid assets, and steady income. If your finances aren't in great shape, you may be able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan, a government-backed loan that requires a low down payment of 3.5%. There are also U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans, available to active or retired military personnel, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans, available to Americans with low to moderate incomes who want to buy a home in a rural area.
     
  5. Loan term: Typically, shorter-term loans have lower interest rates—and lower overall costs—but they also have larger monthly payments.
     
  6. Type of interest rate: Rates depend on whether you get a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM. "Fixed-rate" means the interest rate you pay remains fixed at the same level throughout the life of your loan. An ARM is a loan that starts out at a fixed, predetermined interest rate, but the rate adjusts after a specified initial period (usually three, five, seven, or 10 years) based on market indexes.

Tap into the right resources

Whether you're looking to buy a home or a homeowner looking to refinance, there are many mortgage tools online to help, including the following:

  • mortgage rate trends tracker lets you follow interest rate changes in your local market.
  • mortgage payment calculator shows an estimate of your mortgage payment based on current mortgage rates and local real estate taxes.
  • Realtor.com's mortgage center, which will help you find a lender who can offer competitive interests rates and help you get pre-approved for a mortgage.

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

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz

Whose Mortgage Do You Want to Pay? Yours or Your Landlord’s?

by Amy McLeod Group


There are some people who haven’t purchased homes because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. However, everyone should realize that unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As Entrepreneur Magazine, a premier source for small business, explained in their article, “12 Practical Steps to Getting Rich”:

“While renting on a temporary basis isn’t terrible, you should most certainly own the roof over your head if you’re serious about your finances. It won’t make you rich overnight, but by renting, you’re paying someone else’s mortgage. In effect, you’re making someone else rich.”

With home prices rising, many renters are concerned about their house-buying power. Mike Fratantoni, Chief Economist at MBAexplained:

“The spring homebuying season is almost upon us, and if rates stay lower, inventory continues to grow, and the job market maintains its strength, we do expect to see a solid spring market.”

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings,’ which allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee the landlord is the person building that equity.

As mentioned before, interest rates are still at historic lows, making it one of the best times to secure a mortgage and make a move into your dream home. Freddie Mac’s latest report shows that rates across the country were at 4.46% last week.

Bottom Line

Whether you are looking for a primary residence for the first time or are considering a vacation home on the shore, now may be the time to buy.

The McLeod Group Network is here to help! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: KCM Crew

3 Things You'd Better Know Before Applying for a Mortgage—or Else

by Amy McLeod Group


Unless you’re sitting on a ton of cold, hard cash, you’re going to need a mortgage to buy a home.

Unfortunately, you can’t just show up at a bank with a checkbook and a smile and get approved for a home loan—you need to qualify for a mortgage, which requires some careful planning.

So, how do you please the lending gods? It starts with arming yourself with the right knowledge about the home loan application process.

Here are three things you need to know before applying for a mortgage.

1. What is a good credit score

Ah, the all-mighty credit score. This powerful three-digit number is a key factor in whether you get approved for a mortgage. When you apply for a loan, lenders will check your score to assess whether you’re a low- or high-risk borrower. The higher your score, the better you look on paper—and the better your odds of landing a great loan. If you have a low credit score, though, you may have difficulty getting a mortgage.

So, what’s considered a good credit score in the mortgage realm? While a number of credit scores exist, the most widely used credit score is the FICO score. A perfect score is 850. However, generally a score of 760 or higher is considered excellent, meaning it will help you qualify for the best interest rate and loan terms, says Richard Redmond, mortgage broker at All California Mortgage in Larkspur and author of “Mortgages: The Insider’s Guide.”

A good credit score is 700 to 759; a fair score is 650 to 699. If you have multiple blemishes on your credit history (e.g., late credit card payments, unpaid medical bills), your score could fall below 650, in which case you’ll likely get turned down for a conventional home loan—and will need to mend your credit in order to get approved (unless you qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan, which requires only a 580 minimum credit score).

Before meeting with a mortgage lender, Beverly Harzog, consumer credit expert and author of “The Debt Escape Plan,” recommends obtaining your credit report. You’re entitled to a free copy of your full report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Though the report does not include your score—for that, you’ll have to pay a small fee—just perusing your report will give you a ballpark idea of how you're doing by laying out any problems such as late or missing payments.

2. What down payment you need

What’s an acceptable down payment on a house? In a recent NerdWallet study, 44% of respondents said they believe you need to put 20% (or more) down to buy a home. So, if you do the math, you'd have to plunk down $50,000 on a $250,000 house. Of course, that’s a big chunk of change for many home buyers.

The good news? That 20% figure is common, but it's not set in stone. It’s the gold standard because when you put 20% down, you won't have to pay private mortgage insurance, which can add several hundred dollars a month to your house payments. Another advantage of putting down 20% upfront is that that's often the magic number you need to get a more favorable interest rate.

But, if you’re unable to make a 20% down payment, there are many lenders that will allow you to put down less cash. And there are a number of loan products that you might qualify for that require less money down. FHA loans require as little as 3.5% down. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loan program gives active or retired military personnel the opportunity to purchase a home with a $0 down payment and no mortgage insurance premium. Same with USDA loans (federally backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development).

Another option worth pursuing is qualifying for down payment assistance. There are 2,290 programs across the country that offer financial assistance, kicking in an average of $17,766, according to one study. (You can find programs in your area on the National Council of State Housing Agencies website.)

There are some cases, though, where you’ll have to put more than 20% down to qualify for a mortgage. A jumbo loan is a mortgage that's above the limits for government-sponsored loans. In most parts of the country, that means loans over $417,000; in areas where the cost of living is extremely high (e.g., Manhattan and San Francisco), the threshold jumps to $625,000. Since larger loans require the lender to take on more risk, jumbo loans typically require home buyers to make a bigger down payment—up to 30% for some lenders.

3. What is your DTI ratio

To get approved for a mortgage, you need a solid debt-to-income ratio. This DTI figure compares your outstanding debts (on student loans, credit cards, car loans, and more) with your income.

For example, if you make $6,000 a month but pay $500 to debts, you’d divide $500 by $6,000 to get a DTI ratio of 0.083, or 8.3%. However, that's your DTI ratio without a monthly mortgage payment. If you factor in a monthly mortgage payment of, say, $1,000 per month, your DTI ratio increases to 25%.

Lenders like this number to be low, because evidence from studies of mortgage loans shows that borrowers with a higher DTI ratio are more likely to run into trouble making monthly payments, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

For a conventional loan, most mortgage lenders require a borrower’s DTI to be no more than 36% (although some lenders will accept up to 43%), says Ray Rodriguez, regional mortgage sales manager at TD Bank.

The good news? If you’re above the 36% ceiling, there are ways that you can lower your DTI. The easiest would be to apply for a smaller mortgage—meaning you’ll have to lower your price range. Or, if you’re not willing to budge on price, you can lower your DTI by paying off a large chunk of your debts in a lump sum.

Let The McLeod Group Network help you with all your home-buying needs. 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz

Here’s What Mortgage ‘Rate Lock’ Looks Like, in One Chart

by Amy McLeod Group


In 2017, MarketWatch documented many of the reasons there aren’t enough homes to buy. One of the most striking forces in the housing market right now is “rate lock,” the idea that homeowners with ultra-low mortgage rates can’t bear to give up those loans and, in buying a new home, get stuck with a mortgage with a much higher rate.

Real estate data provider Black Knight shared data that illustrated the phenomenon. Among all homes listed for sale at that time, those with a mortgage that had a “5-handle,” a rate between 5.00 and 5.99%, were far more likely to be listed for sale than those with a 3-handle.


MarketWatch recently asked Black Knight for an update. The chart above shows the picture a year and a half later.

In its October Mortgage Monitor, Black Knight notes that homes purchased with the lowest interest rates in history, are also likely to have been bargains, since that was a particularly iffy moment just after the housing crisis. “At the bottom of the market in 2012 the average U.S. home sold for $199K, while interest rates hit a low 3.35%,” Black Knight analysts wrote.

“The same home today would not only cost 50% more (nearly $300K), but the interest rate on the mortgage would also be >1.5% higher. The $741 monthly mortgage payment on that house in 2012 (assuming 20% down) would be $1,257 today, a 70% increase to purchase the same home.”

That’s why Black Knight refers to “affordability lock,” rather than using the popular term “rate lock.”

By: Realtor.com,  

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

Don't Let Fear Stop You from Applying for a Mortgage

by Amy McLeod Group
Don't Let Fear Stop You from Applying for a Mortgage | MyKCM

A considerable number of potential buyers shy away from jumping into the real estate market due to their uncertainty about the buying process. A specific cause for concern tends to be mortgage qualification.

For many, the mortgage process can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be!

In order to qualify in today’s market, you’ll need to have saved for a down payment (73% of all buyers made a down payment of less than 20%, with many buyers putting down 3% or less), a stable income and good credit history.

Throughout the entire home buying process, you will interact with many different professionals, all of whom perform necessary roles. These professionals are also valuable resources for you.

Once you’re ready to apply, here are 5 easy steps that Freddie Mac suggests you follow:

  1. Find out your current credit history & score – even if you don’t have perfect credit, you may already qualify for a loan. The average FICO® Score of all closed loans in September was 724, according to Ellie Mae.
  2. Start gathering all your documentation – income verification (such as W-2 forms or tax returns), credit history, and assets (such as bank statements to verify your savings).
  3. Contact a professional – your real estate agent will be able to recommend a loan officer that can help you develop a spending plan, as well as determine how much home you can afford.
  4. Consult with your lender – he or she will review your income, expenses, and financial goals to determine the type and amount of mortgage you qualify for.
  5. Talk to your lender about pre-approval – a pre-approval letter provides an estimate of what you might be able to borrow (provided your financial status doesn’t change), and demonstrates to home sellers that you are serious about buying!

Bottom Line

Do your research, reach out to the professionals at The McLeod Group Network, stick to your budget, and be sure that you are ready to take on the financial responsibilities of becoming a homeowner. 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: KCM Crew

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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.