Author: Keith Osmun

The Mortgage Process: What Happens After Pre-Approval

Congratulations! You passed the pre-approval stage for getting a home, but what happens next?

Once you have a pre-approval letter from your lender, you can start looking for a home to purchase. Keep in mind that the letter is only good for 60 to 90 days, depending on the type of approval you received.

Why Should I Get Pre-Approved?

A pre-approval gives you an edge when shopping for a home because realtors and home sellers know you are already qualified to buy, according to a lender’s standards. It also means your time from agreeing to buy and closing will be faster, since approval is already done. During your search, keep the lender estimates in mind. It is an amount you can comfortably afford for a home. It is not advisable to go above it.

Once you have found a home that meets your needs and your pre-approval amount, you can start the sale process by giving the seller the pre-approval letter and making an offer on the house. If the seller accepts your offer, the next step is to start the underwriting process.

 

What is the Mortgage Underwriting Process?

Now that you have an accepted offer on a house, you will work with your loan officer to sign an official mortgage application. This will start the loan process and allow us to submit your application to underwriting for approval. If you have not yet provided the supporting documentation to verify the information on your application you will need to do this now. These documents will include income, assets, and credit documentation.

Required Documents to Apply for a Mortgage

  • Drivers License
  • Social Security Card
  • 1 Month Paystubs
  • Most Recent 2 Year W2 Statements
  • Most Recent 2 Years Tax Returns (if self employed or commission)
  • 2 Months Bank Statements
  • Most Recent Quarterly Retirement Statement
  • Home Owner Insurance Quote

(Additional Documentation may be required in Underwriting. Not all borrowers will need to present these documents – Ask us about our Automated Home Loan process where we electronically verify your information.)

Once your application is signed (we use electronic signatures to speed up the process), then your loan is submitted to an underwriting. The underwriter will review the information to confirm that it matches what was submitted on your application. They may have questions or request additional documentation at this time. Once your loan is “Conditionally Approved” in underwriting we will move to the appraisal.

What Happens During the Appraisal Phase?

An appraisal takes into account the interior of the home, the exterior, and the value of surrounding homes in the neighborhood. Once the appraisal is over, the loan can be processed. An underwriter will process the loan and clear the loan for closing. The appraisal must come in either greater than or equal to the value of the purchase price. If it comes in low you may need to bring additional cash or renegotiate with the sellers.

Once through processing, your loan will be scheduled to close. This is where you will sit down with an escrow agent or a notary to make everything official and legal. 

The Final Stretch: Closing Costs

The last part of the process, before you can start packing up your moving boxes, is the closing. Closing costs are what you pay for outside of the home itself. So, if you get an appraisal, the appraiser needs to be paid for their services. In addition, there is title insurance fees, taxes, tax services, and other fees that come with closing. These fees can range anywhere from 0-5% of the cost of the loan. 

If you negotiated that the sellers will pay these closing costs and pre-paid items then they will cover them at the closing otherwise these fees will need to be paid by you at the time of the close. If you are short on cash, ask your loan officer if you qualify for lender paid closing costs. This is where we will give you a credit at the close to cover some or all of your 3rd party fees. You will always need to cover your own down payment funds (unless a special program allows differently).

In summary, to start buying a home, the first step is the home loan pre-approval. Be sure to make an appointment with a Riverbank Finance professional loan officer today by calling (800) 555-2098.

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How a HELOC Can Help You Become Your Own Boss

Michelle Huizinga is a hairdresser in West Michigan, but you won’t find her at a retail salon near a grocery store. Instead, Michelle, like many enterprising entrepreneurs, works from her own home. Through a room she renovated in her home, Michelle now sees her clients and her children with no travel time.

“I started working from home because I had two small children at home. It’s a great way to make extra money while being my own boss and still able to spend as much time as I want with my kids. I can be flexible. I don’t have to be busy one week, where a lot is going on in our family. Also it cuts down on childcare costs because my husband can watch the kids at night when I cut hair.”

How can I start an at-home business?

While the freedom of self-employment is enjoyable, there is one catch: it can cost several thousand dollars to renovate a room in a home to become a business, like a hair salon. Depending on the work done out of the home, the State of Michigan might also require certifications.

“We had to build the salon in the basement from scratch. We needed walls, plumbing, shampoo bowl, equipment.” Michelle estimates that, at the minimum, one could need about $5,000-10,000 to start such a salon.

How a HELOC Can Help

With a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) loan from Riverbank Finance, you, too, could quickly become your own boss in your own home. The Line of Credit is great because it only charges interest on the money you borrow and use, just like a credit card. Traditionally, rates for a HELOC are lower than the average credit card rate, as well.

One other perk that can help a family save money is that, if a room in the home is used for a business, all the costs associated with said room can be written off on your taxes. So the electricity, water, and equipment used to make a hair salon in a basement can become a tax write-off and save you money as a homeowner.

If you have a skill set like hairdressing, accounting, or a number of any other skills that just require a single room to work in, you, too, could become your own boss, save on your taxes, and increase your family’s income. All it might take is an initial investment with a HELOC. To see if a HELOC is right to start your self-employment dreams, call one of our loan officers at (800) 555-2098 today.

 

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How a Refi Can Help You Care for Aging Parents

No one likes the idea of sending their parent away to a nursing home to be surrounded by strangers all day. But is there anything else that can be done? Maybe you want to have them live with you in a spare bedroom. But what about the cost of upgrading your home to meet their needs and disabilities? Some of the changes don’t come cheap! So if you haven’t saved up, what’s a caring child of aging parents to do?

One option you could explore is refinancing your mortgage to finance home improvements. A cash-out refinance would allow you to get a great deal of money for renovations to provide the best home environment for an aging loved one.

Cashout Refinance for Home Improvements

How easy is your home to navigate for an elderly person? Are there steps at the entrance? Are the railings easy to grasp? Can your entryways become slippery when wet?

If you want to upgrade your home so an older parent can live with you, consider these three important upgrades: mobility, dexterity, and hygiene.

Mobility. It’s important that steps become ramps, handrails are placed in key areas (like bathrooms), and things your parent needs the most are easily accessible. For example, it’s a good idea to have their bedroom close to a bathroom they can use. Hallways and doorways need to have proper and current lighting so they can see obstacles in their way. Stairways can be upgraded to have chair lifts to reduce the risk of falls.

Dexterity. This might seem trivial, but as we age, our hands aren’t what they used to be. Does the oven get stuck, or is the freezer hard to pull open? Does the coffee maker need to be upgraded to decrease the amount of steps your parent needs to make if they want a cup? Upgrading cabinets with more lazy susans or putting more pantry items at eye-level can increase their comfort.

Hygiene. Bathrooms can be a potential disaster when it comes to the elderly and the potential for falls. Including non-slip mats in and around a bathtub or shower, hand rails by the toilet, and curbed or walk-in/sitting tubs can reduce that risk. Keep in mind, removing your existing tub and purchasing a more elderly-friendly tub can be expensive.

Some of these renovations can add up to thousands of dollars or more, depending on how many changes your home needs. But who can put a price tag on keeping a family member at home, rather than at a care center? With that in mind, here are a couple of options: 

Cash-out refinance. You refinance your home for more than it’s worth, and the money you’ve put into the original mortgage is available to use as cash. This is a more advantageous option than a second mortgage, because you still only pay one loan and it often comes with a lower rate than a second mortgage.

Cashout Refinance Alternatives

Alternatives to doing a cashout refinance may be a Home Improvement loan or a Reverse Mortgage. These are unique loan options that can be used to finance the costs of home renovations.

HomeStyle Renovation Loans

Our HomeStyle Renovation Home improvement loan may be a great fit to allow you to finance the costs of home improvements into your mortgage. This program is a conventional home loan that is different from standard mortgages because it uses the future improved value.  The appraiser will prepare your home appraisal valuation based on similar homes that have sold with the amenities and improvements that you are planning. You can still avoid PMI if your loan-to-value is under 80% although this loan option allows up to 95% financing for primary residences.

Reverse Mortgage for Home Improvements

A reverse mortgage loan may be another great solution for the elderly to improve their home’s safety and accessibility. A reverse mortgage is a loan type that allows homeowners to access the equity in their home without having to make monthly principal and interest mortgage payments. At the closing they may be able to receive a lump some in proceeds which can be used to pay for home improvements.

If you are serious about upgrading your home, contact us at Riverbank Finance (800-555-2098) so we can help you find the best way to afford the renovations you need.

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Will changes to HARP hurt or help mortgage seekers?

If you’re seeking to refinance after October 1, 2017, you should know there are some changes coming from Freddie Mac regarding HARP. HARP, or the Home Affordable Refinance Program, is in the waning years of its existence, which is a good thing. How Freddie Mac is changing, in relation to HARP, could be a benefit to those seeking to refinance.

History of HARP

Back during the 2008 Housing Crisis, there was an overabundance of homes that were going under and being repossessed. One reason was because homeowners, who had a home with a LTV (Loan to Value) of over 80%, couldn’t refinance.  Because they still owed 80% or more of the loan, no lender would allow them to refinance. So they were stuck paying a big loan with huge interest rates.

Enter HARP. Harp allowed these homeowners a chance, through Freddie Mac, to refinance their loan and get a lower interest rate with more affordable payments. This allowed homeowners who were in over their heads with their mortgage a solution that didn’t cost their home.

Why the Change?

HARP was never created with the intention of staying around forever.  In fact, one requirement of HARP was that the loan had to be older than 2009 for the homeowner to qualify. Since then, the number of applicants has dwindled, as there are fewer mortgages from before that period in need of HARP.

The good news is both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are starting new programs to help homeowners who are underwater with their mortgages. No program existed before 2008. Since then, the government has seen the value in allowing more homeowners options to keep their homes.

Freddie Mac is replacing HARP with what is being called the Relief Refinance Mortgage. One key difference is that there is no requirement that the loan must originate before 2009. So if the loan is more recent, a homeowner can take advantage.

Do you Qualify?

Homeowners could qualify for a Relief Refinance Mortgage if they meet the following requirements:

  • The mortgage must be at least 15 months old.
  • The borrower should not have any delinquent payments in the past six months.
  • They can only have one delinquent payment in the past year.

 

Keep in mind, those three requirements aren’t the only ones, but they are the biggest obstacles to qualifying for the Relief Refinance Mortgage, according to Freddie Mac. Homeowners who do meet those qualifications can contact a Riverbank Finance Loan Officer (1-800-555-2098) for more information about getting relief in the form of a refinanced mortgage.

 

How can I lower my monthly mortgage payments?

So, you’ve had a home for awhile, but you feel like your budget is just too tight. You scrimp and save, but it’s never enough. If the biggest expense you have is your mortgage, maybe it’s time to refinance your mortgage.

Refinance to a lower rate

Rates are very low. Right now, for a 30-year mortgage, the fixed rate can be as low as the high 3’s to low 4’s. Fifteen-year loans may even be in the high 2’s. Refinancing may be a great way to lower your overall mortgage payments by dropping your interest rate. This could help to save you thousands over the life of your loan. If your interest rate is over 4.5% now is a great time to review refinance options.

Drop your PMI

The only type of mortgage where Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) drops off when you have 20% equity is the Conventional loan. Other types of loans, like the FHA, require PMI for the life of the loan. PMI usually costs 0.5 or 1% of the entire loan. It protects the bank from defaults. For you, it’s an extra cost — one that, once you’ve paid off 20% of the original loan value, you can refinance to remove. While it may not seem like a lot of money, 1% of a loan over the life of a 30-year mortgage can really add up over time. 

Extend your mortgage term

One reason folks often have trouble paying their monthly mortgage is that they think that a 15-year term is better than the 30-year. While it’s true that a 30-year mortgage takes longer to pay off, the monthly payments are lower. If your goal is a lower monthly budget, switching from a 15 to a 30-year will certainly do the trick. The only downside is the term of the loan is longer if you pay the minimum payments.

Also, if you already have a 30-year mortgage and refinance to a new one, you could still reduce your monthly payments.

Refinance from an FHA loan to a Conventional loan

You may have started with bad or low credit when you initially bought your house and had an FHA loan as the result. Or maybe you didn’t have enough money for a larger down payment. As your credit improves, you could have an opportunity to refinance your loan to a conventional mortgage. There are two advantages when refinancing an FHA to a Conventional loan: First, you could get rid of the Private Mortgage Insurance payments if you’ve paid 20% of the mortgage. Secondly, the interest rates for a Conventional loan may be lower than they are for FHA loans.

If you are thinking about refinancing your mortgage, contact one of our professional loan officers at 800-555-2098 to schedule an appointment. We can sit down and look at your financial situation and help you figure out the best way to lower your monthly mortgage payments.

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You’re recently divorced. Can you buy a home?

So, the marriage is over. Does that mean your dream of owning a home is, too? The short answer: No! You can still get a loan, as long as you keep in mind the following:

Keep Good Records

This is usually a good practice to have for any person, but especially true if you are recently divorced and are buying a home. Make sure you also keep your records updated. Keep a copy of any checks you’ve paid to show that you’ve paid your debts and bills in time. Any new addresses or changes in income also need to be recorded for when you meet with a loan officer.

Behave Yourself

The urge to “get back” at the ex is not uncommon, but very bad if you’re trying to get a loan. A new criminal conviction (for verbal threats, violence, or slashing tires) will definitely hurt your chances. A more common and petty way that spouses get revenge are things like not paying a bill at the home you no longer occupy or using the credit card in excess to hurt your ex’s credit. Typically, that hurts both of you and could also count as FRAUD. Don’t do it!

Pay Your Bills

If you are legally obligated to pay a bill, alimony, or a rental agreement, do it. If you feel the child support is too high or unfair, pay it anyway. Failing to pay those hurts your credit and makes you look like a bad investment. So, it’s always good to make sure that all bills are paid on time.

Know Your Worth

Properties or vehicles that need to be sold, spousal support, and child support can all help you get a mortgage if you benefit from them. You can count spousal and/or child support as income toward paying a mortgage. So, while you might be going from a two-income household to one, it may not be as bad as you fear. (Side note: it’s always good to inform the lender how long you expect the child support income will last.)

Be Vigilant

Even though you might behave yourself, your former spouse might not. Check your credit score to make sure they don’t make charges in your name. As much as it is in your power, be sure any payments the ex makes, per the divorce settlement, are in time.

Explore Your Options

Moving out of a shared home that you love doesn’t have to be the solution. If you and your ex agree that you can keep your current home, refinancing options are available that can separate a joint loan. Speak with one of our experienced loan officers today about this and more options for divorcees.

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Could you save money using an automated appraisal?

Much of our world is becoming automated. It should be no surprise that this is also true of the housing and mortgage industry. While some automation changes are feared, this change will be good for the mortgage lender and the mortgage seeker alike.

The Rules Have Changed

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have revised their rules for appraisals this past June. While it only affects first and second homes at the moment, it will likely go into other areas of borrowing in the near future.

What has changed? Fannie and Freddie are both accepting of AVMs, or Automated Valuation Models, for mortgages. During the housing crisis of 2008, too many homes were being overvalued by appraisers, which was a contributing factor to why the bubble burst. By using more AVMs, the appraisal process is less costly for everyone involved and more objective.

How does an AVM work?

AVMs use something called “appraisal analytics” to model the value of the home based on data on the region, tax assessment value, prices homes similar in the area, previous appraisals, and any information on improvements to the home, like adding a garage or a deck, that’s on record.

How do AVMs help mortgage borrowers?

The immediate benefit is there is no appraisal cost. Appraisals can average anywhere from $200-500. This also speeds up the home-buying process overall. What proponents of the new system like is that regardless of who inputs the data, the outcome is based on facts. So there’s a much lower risk of home prices being inflated during the mortgage process.

Is there a catch?

There’s often a drawback in removing a human element to a process. Appraisers actually do set foot in the home to check things out. AVMs don’t. So while it saves money and time, there’s also the risk of missing something key that could be wrong with the home in question. An algorithm can’t smell mold, for example, or notice if a support beam is weaker than it ought to be for its age. The data also takes a long period of time to compile. So the home’s valuation could be three or six months old, which could be significant or not, depending on housing market stability.

Is AVM right for me?

That answer could go either way. AVMs have been around for several years. Initially, some were concerned that homes were being either undervalued or hyper-inflated, but the data has remained consistent. Of course, there is the value of the human element being “hands on” in the appraisal. It’s best to have a conversation about the cost benefit of using an AVM with one of our loan counselors who can help explore the options with you.

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How High Will Interest Rates Go This Year?

Mortgage interest rates have been slowly increasing since they plummeted following the 2008 financial crisis. Twice this year already, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates, which, in turn, raises the rate at which banks loan out money for mortgages. But are they done raising rates this year, or could more hikes be on the way?

Will the FED raise interest rates?

Here’s a few ways you can tell a rate increase is on the way:

  • Language of the FED. This past week on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve met and decided not to raise rates this month but indicated that a raise is “coming soon.” Most analysts take the language in that statement to mean before the end of 2017, another increase will be on the way, possibly as soon as September.
  • How markets reacted to the last increase. Instability in the marketplace often translates to more caution on the part of the FED. According to their own account, the last increase went with little to no instability.
  • PCE. Personal Consumption Expenditure, or PCE, is the FEDs favorite measure of economic health for the economy. Two-thirds of all economic spending (or growth in the FED’s mind) is measured in this index.
    • While this acronym is pretty simple, the index itself is multi-faceted. It Includes “Durable Goods,” like cars and houses; “non-durables,” like food and clothing; and services.
  • Inflation. Inflation is the rising cost of goods and services. Usually this happens for three reasons:
    • Wages are increasing, thus making things more expensive to make and sell. (The average wage for an employee in Grand Rapids, Michigan, falls around $45-50,000 annually.
    • Increased demand, due to credit being more accessible.
    • Government monetary policy (printing money).

How Much Will Interest Rates Rise This Year?

Interest rates before the economic crisis in 2007 were around 6.5%. Currently interest rates are at 1.25%. At the beginning of the year, the FED had hoped to get the rate back to 2%, but, at the last meeting, FED officials revised that to 1.5% due to the size of economic growth this year. We are growing, but slower than they forecasted.

What are current mortgage rates?

Mortgage rates have been hovering around the 4% range for 2017 for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage. The rates for home loans shot up to the mid to low 4’s at the beginning of this year but have slowly dropped back down to the range it has been at for the past few years.   The exact mortgage rate will depend on your specific situation including loan amount, loan-to-value ratio, credit score and loan program.

Related: Current Mortgage Rates

Should I buy a house before interest rates go up?

Interest rates will likely not rise to 2% this year. That doesn’t mean the FED won’t try to reach that goal next year, or perhaps go even higher than that. So, while rates are slowly rising, they are still lower than they were ten years ago for those searching for a mortgage.

For West Michigan, the rates being this low means an increase in demand for new homes. While rates have ticked up, the housing boom hasn’t slowed. If you want to take advantage of interest rates before they rise again, speak with a loan officer about your mortgage options. Call Riverbank Finance at (800) 555-2098.

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Rental Property Quick Tips

You may be interested in rental property as a way to earn extra income, but how should you go about it?

Where to buy?

It’s an old but fitting adage that there are three rules in real estate: location, location, and location. The same is also true for renting out property. You need a good location to attract renters, but there can be pros and cons, depending on where you invest.

For example, if you buy near a university or college campus, chances are you won’t have a problem renting out the place nine months out of the year. The summer months might leave your property vacant while students are no longer in classes.

Other factors, such as how much your competition is charging for their properties, need to be considered. You could find a great deal on a duplex or a quad but find yourself unable to recoup your mortgage and upkeep costs if the area’s average rental rate is too low. You have to think both as a renter and as a prospective tenant to have success.

Crunch the Numbers

Investment properties, like rentals, require a minimum 20% down payment. The money can’t come from large gifts, you’ll need six months of payments reserved in savings, and you have to buy the property as an individual, not an LLC.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae also have different rules if your mortgage goes through them. Freddie requires 2 years of documented renting experience on your tax returns in order to list any projected rent as income. Fannie Mae does not.

In addition to all of this, a rental property mortgage also requires that you not have more than a 45% debt-to-income ratio.

All of these factors are reason enough to sit down with a Riverbank Finance consultant to see if you qualify. Contact one of our mortgage officers at (800) 555-2098

Property Management

Another factor that both lenders and owners need to take into account is how the property will be managed. Will it be all DIY? Will you handle finding tenants and hiring a handyman, or will you hire a management firm to do everything but pay the bills? All of these are factors you should consider before you enter a mortgage agreement. It will help you calculate what kind of return your investment will bring back and offer peace of mind to your lender as well.

Plan for bad seasons while hoping for good ones

Let’s face it, your property, at some point, will have vacancies. North Conway, New Hampshire is known for its skiing, mountain trails, and what they call “leaf peeper” season. This means their vacation rentals are full in summer, fall, and winter. Spring can be a vacant season for them for three months if a renter can’t be attracted to come for other activities.

It’s also a good idea to have a rental agreement at least started, if not finalized, to show your lender. That way, on day one of owning the property, you can get to work renting it out with the proper paperwork already done.

Lastly, every renter at some point in their career will experience a delinquent renter who refuses to make a payment. This is why it’s a wise idea to research debt collection agencies to help you recoup the losses.

 

While rental properties do require a great deal of preparation, they can pay off for countless investors who are willing to put in the work.

 

5 Mortgage Myths that are no Longer True

While it can be useful to listen to the advice from others who have gotten a mortgage, you might have heard some wrong information. Or, at the very least, dated information. Here are 5 rules that no longer are true for getting a mortgage:

1. You need a 20% down payment.

I recently spoke to my grandmother about her family’s first home purchase. She told me that they didn’t get a mortgage because, at the time they bought their home, mortgage rates were at a whopping 12%. My parents often warned me that you need to save at least 20% to make a down payment on a house. Fortunately, rates are not 12% anymore, and you don’t need a 20% down payment. Some loans don’t require a down payment at all.

Related: Conventional 1% Down Mortgage

2. Your credit score has to be perfect.

We’ve all made mistakes. Some of us have paid our credit cards late or forgot a medical bill. Those mistakes can wind up hurting your credit score. But the good news is, you don’t need a score of 750 to score a loan anymore! Riverbank Finance has helped borrowers with scores as low as 580 obtain loans.

3. You can’t have student debt.

It used to be assumed that you couldn’t get a loan until that festering student loan from college was paid off. Not true! Student loan debt is no longer a hindrance from acquiring the loan you need for your home. Guidelines are becoming easier to qualify for a mortgage with student loan debt. While our loan officers will need to know how much you owe and the type of loan you are seeking, having student debt isn’t a dead end.

4. Pay it off as fast as you can.

There are numerous “Get out of Debt” gurus who advocate paying off debts aggressively. To some of them, a success story is when a family scrimps and saves to pay off their mortgage within 5 years of buying their home. While paying off a mortgage is always the right thing to do, there are wrong ways to go about doing so: In order for this particular family to pay theirs off, they stopped paying into their 401k, their college savings for their kids, and saving in general. That was not the best plan, because they stopped preparing for their future.

If you want to pay off your mortgage quickly, you must also consider early prepayment penalties. Some loans have rules as to how much a borrower can pay back early. Pay too much, and that money may go to just eating a fee instead of eating away at your interest.

5. Buy the most expensive house you can.

On the surface, buying the most expensive house you can afford seems like a good idea. A home is an investment, after all. Really, when sitting down with one of our loan officers, what you’ll find is they’ll ask questions to help fit what you can afford and what you need into a mortgage. You may not need a home with 6 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and 20 acres of land. Think of the upkeep you’ll need to budget for landscaping alone.

It’s important to be upfront about the kind of needs you have when seeking a loan. Schedule an appointment with one of our mortgage professionals at (800) 555-2098 for more information.

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