Seven Things Your Agent Should Know About Your Mortgage Approval

While many experienced real estate agents have a general understanding of the mortgage approval process, there are a few important details that frequently get overlooked which may cause a purchase to be delayed or denied.

New regulation, updated disclosures, appraisal guidelines, mortgage rate pricing premiums, credit score, secondary approval layering, rescission deadlines, property type, HOA insurance requirements, title and property flip rules are just a few of the daily changes that can have a serious impact on a borrower’s home loan financing.

With today’s volatile lending environment, it’s obviously important for home buyers to get a full loan approval which clearly defines all contingencies that pertain to each unique home buyer’s scenario prior to spending any time looking at new homes with an agent.

Either way, we’ve listed a few of the top things your agent should keep in mind while showing you new properties:

Caution – Agents Beware:

Property Type –

High-Rise, Condo, Town House, Single Family Residence, Dome Home or Shoe House… all have specific lending guidelines that can influence down payment, credit score and mortgage insurance requirements.

Residence Type

Need to sell one home before moving into another? Is a property considered a second home if it’s in the same city?  What if I’m buying a home for my children to live in, it is still considered an investment property?

These are just a few of several possible residence related questions that should be addressed by your agent and loan officer at the initial loan application.

Rates / Locks

Mortgage Rates are typically locked for a 30 day period, and one of the only ways to get a new rate is to switch mortgage lenders.  Rates also have certain adjustments for property / residence type, credit score and down payment which could have a big impact on monthly payments and therefore approvals.

A 1% increase in rate could literally mean the difference between an approval or denial.

Headline News / Employment

Underwriters watch the news as well.  Borrowers who work in a volatile industry during hard economic times may have to jump through a few extra hoops to prove that their employment and income is secure.

Job changes, periods of unemployment or property location in relation to the subject property are other things to consider that may cause a speed bump in the approval process.

Title / Property Flip –

A Flip is considered a property that has been purchased by an investor and quickly sold to a new buyer within a 30-90 day period.  Generally, an investor will do a little rehab work, fresh paint, landscaping…. and try to re-sell the property for a significant profit margin.

While it seems like a perfectly fair transaction, many lenders have strict guidelines in place that prevent borrowers from obtaining financing on properties that have a previous owner with less than 90 days of documented ownership.

These rules change frequently, and are specific to particular property types, so make sure your agent is aware of all the boundaries associated with your approval letter.

Homeowner’s Association Insurance

Some lenders require Condos and Town House communities to have sufficient insurance and reserves coverage pertaining to specific ratios on units that are owner occupied vs rented.

It may also take a few weeks and cost up to $300 to receive an HOA Certification, so make sure your Due-Diligence period is set accordingly in the purchase contract.

Appraisal Ordering Procedures

Appraisal ordering guidelines are changing quite frequently as regulators implement many new consumer protection laws created to prevent future foreclosure epidemics.

Unfortunately, some of the new appraisal regulations have proven to slow the home buying process down, as well as confuse lenders about the true estimate of neighborhood values.

VA, FHA and Conventional loan programs all have separate appraisal ordering policies, so make sure your agent is aware of which loan you’re approved for so that they document any anticipated delays in the purchase contract.

For example, if an appraisal takes three weeks and the average time for an approval is two weeks, then it probably isn’t smart to write a purchase contract with a four week close of escrow.

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California New Home and First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

California’s first time home buyer and new home tax credit for 2010 that passed legislature and signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week has raised questions, home buyers spirits and tax payers blood pressure.

Low blood pressure is important to me, therefore, I will concentrate on maintaining high spirits for you potential homeowners by answering the main questions and introduce some specific scenarios that many of you will relate to.

In March 2009, the initial $100 million tax credit for new homes only was launched. By July 3, 2009 the state had roughly 12000 applications, of which about 10,700 were allocated their credit. The new tax credit for 2010 launching on May 1, 2010 for $200 million will be split evenly; $100 million for new home sales and $100 million for first time home buyers. Should a first time home buyer want to buy a new home, their credit will fall under the new home allocation. At the current pace of resales in California, the first time home buyer allocation could be exhausted within 1 maybe 2 months, whereas the new home credit should last equal to that of 2009, about 4 months. Can you say FRENZY?

FAQ for California Tax Credit

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New Home Tax Credit Highlights

  • $100 million allocation for brand new home purchases
  • Any taxpayer can apply
  • Move up buyers, first time home buyers eligible
  • Detached or Attached single family residence; does not include rentals, 2nd homes or vacation homes
  • Ability to reserve tax credit for home not yet completed
  • Must be primary residence for at least 2 years or tax will need to be refunded
  • Homes must close escrow after May 1st, 2010 but before December 31, 2010
  • If credit lasts this long – you may obtain a contract by December 31, 2010 and close by August 1, 2011
  • Seller must submit Certification of home never been occupied

First Time Home Buyer Credit Highlights

  • $100 million allocation for existing homes; if FTHB buys a new home the credit is taken from the new home allocation
  • Standard sales, short sales, foreclosures are eligible
  • Escrow close date is considered purchase date – those that enter a purchase contract prior to April 30th, 2010 and close after May 1st, 2010 could be eligible for both the Federal refundable credit and the state credit
  • “First Time Home Buyer” = never purchased or no ownership in a principal residence during the preceding 3 year period ending on the date of purchase of the new principal residence
  • Must be primary residence for at least 2 years or tax will need to be refunded
  • Certification from taxpayer that they are a first time home buyer

Scenario #1

My wife and I are in the process of purchasing a new home jointly with my parents (50, 50). The new home is about $450,000 and the closing date of this new home will be in September 2010. There will be 4 persons on the title: me, my wife and both of my parents. However, only my wife, my kid and I will be living in the new home as our primary residence.

With my parents who are not going to live in the new home, on the title, will this affect my being qualified for the full amount of $10,000 California 2010 new home tax credit?

$450,000 purchase price
4 people on title, parents will not live in home
Husband/wife will occupy as primary residence = Qualified for credit

$450,000 x 50% ownership = $225,000 qualified purchase price
$225,000 x 5% credit = $11,250, however $10k is the max

50% Ownership x $10,000 credit = $5000 credit amount

You and your wife would be eligible for a $1666.66/year credit for 3 years as long as you stay in the home as your primary for the first 2 years.

Scenario #2

My wife and I plan on purchasing a home between May 1 2010 and Dec 2010; However, she and her sister are co-owners of a rental condo. Do we still qualify for first time homebuyer credit for CA?

As long as the residence that is held by your wife and her sister has not been a principal residence for her in the preceding 3 years up until the date you purchase the new home, she will be okay. So basically that condo has to be a rental or claimed as such on the tax returns.

Scenario #3

I am in the process of closing our escrow on April 19th for an existing home (not new) and I am a first time home buyer. Given that the tax credit is going to be effective from May 1st 2010, does it makes sense to push our closing date to May 1st ?

This is simply to take advantage of both credits, the Federal $8000 tax credit and the state.  My suggestion if you choose to extend your escrow would be to speak with your tax professional to make sure you will be receiving a benefit from the tax credit.

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The California Tax Credit for new homes and first time home buyers is certainly a booster to those purchasing right now.  This is a temporary boost folks.  This should not be the only reason that you are out trying to purchase a home.  If it is, well, you better hurry.

The Franchise Tax Board just released the update to the new credit on their site on March 30, 2010.

FAQ for California Tax Credit

Apply for a California loan

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Signs the $10000 Homebuyer Tax Credit Legislation

Where Does My Earnest Money Go?

Hey, I gave my real estate agent a $5000 Earnest Money Deposit check… Where does that money go?

A basic and very obvious question that most First-Time home Buyers ask once their purchase contract gets accepted.

According to Wikipedia:

Earnest Money – an earnest payment (sometimes called earnest money or simply earnest, or alternatively a good-faith deposit) is a deposit towards the purchase of real estate or publicly tendered government contract made by a buyer or registered contractor to demonstrate that he/she is serious (earnest) about wanting to complete the purchase.

When a buyer makes an offer to buy residential real estate, he/she generally signs a contract and pays a sum acceptable to the seller by way of earnest money. The amount varies enormously, depending upon local custom and the state of the local market at the time of contract negotiations.

An Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) is simply held by a third-party escrow company according to the terms of the executed purchase contract.

For example, there may be a contingency period for appraisal, loan approval, property inspection or approval of HOA documents.

In most cases, the Earnest Money held by the escrow company is credited towards the home buyer’s down payment and/or closing costs.

*It’s important to keep in mind that the EMD may actually be cashed at the time escrow is opened, so make sure your funds are from the proper sources.

The Process:

  1. Earnest Money is submitted to an escrow company with the accepted purchase contract
  2. At the close of escrow, the EMD is credited towards the down payment and / or closing costs
  3. If there are no closing costs or down payment, the EMD is refunded back to the buyer

Who Doesn’t Get Your Earnest Money:

  • Selling Real Estate Agent – A conflict of interest
  • Sellers – Too risky
  • Buying Agent – They shouldn’t have your money in their account

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Renting vs Buying A Home

Buying a home versus renting is a big decision that takes careful consideration.

While there are several biased sources that can make arguments for or against owning a home, we’ve found that most home buyers base their ultimate decision on emotion.

Yes, there are some tax advantages of owning real estate, as well as the potential to earn equity or pay a mortgage note off after several years.

However, let’s address some of the more obvious topics of discussion first.

Benefits Of Renting:

Lower Acquisition Cost –

Unless you’re able to qualify for a mortgage loan with zero down and have your closing costs paid for by the seller, a typical investment to purchase a home is around 3.5% – 7% of the purchase price for down payment and closing costs on an FHA mortgage, and an average of 13% – 23% for a home secured by conventional financing.

Compared to the cost of about 1-3 month’s rent payment, it’s obvious that renting a home makes financial sense in the short-term.

Lower Qualifying Standards –

While the FHA and other government insured mortgage programs have more flexible credit / qualifying guidelines than most traditional home loan programs, there is certainly a lot less paperwork and personally invasive probing required by most landlords and property management companies.

Generally proof of employment / income and a decent credit history (or a good explanation) is needed to rent a home.

Freedom To Move –

It’s easy to find a home through a reputable property management company, move in that weekend and then leave a year later when the rental contract expires.  Not being tied down by a long-term mortgage liability is ideal for people new to a community, in a career that keeps them on the go or for parents with children that prefer a certain school district.

Plus, if you’re planning on moving in the next 3-5 years, then it may become cost-prohibitive due to the amount of equity you’ll have to gain in the short-run just to cover the cost of paying an agent, buyer closing costs, transfer taxes…. so that you can at least break even at closing.

Less Maintenance and Cost –

If something breaks, a simple call to the property management company will generally solve the issue in 48 hours or less.  Plus, renters don’t have to carry expensive homeowners insurance, pay property taxes or worry about interest rates adjusting.

Benefits of Owning:

Pets Are Allowed –

Well, according to the rules and regulations of your county or neighborhood HOA, you can pretty much have as many domestic and exotic pets without having to pay extra deposits.

It may seem like a funny benefit to mention first, but the millions of dog and cat lovers would definitely rank this towards the top of their list.

Pink and Purple Walls –

Yep, you can paint the inside of your house any color you choose.  And depending on whether or not there is an HOA in place, you could probably do the same thing on the home’s exterior.  Landscaping, flooring, built-in shelving… it’s your property to renovate and grow in.

Peace-of-Mind and Security –

The only way you would be forced to move is if the bank forecloses on your property due to a default in mortgage payments.

So basically, you don’t have to worry about a landlord’s financial ability to make mortgage payments on time. Plus, you can stay in your own property as long as you wish.

Tax Benefits -

The US government has created certain tax incentives making it possible for many homeowners to exceed the standard yearly deduction.

*Disclosure – Check with your CPA or Tax Attorney to verify your own unique filing scenario*

The following three components of your home mortgage may be tax deductible:

a) Interest on your home mortgage
b) Property Taxes
c) Origination / Discount Points

Stability -

Remaining in one neighborhood for several years lets you and your family establish lasting friendships, as well as offers your children the benefit of educational continuity.

Appreciation of Property -

Historically, even with other periods of declining value, home prices have exceeded consumer inflation. From 1972 through 2005, home prices increased on average 6.5%, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Forced Saving -

The monthly payment helps in repayment of the principal amount. Also when you sell you can generally take up to $250,000 ($500,000 for married couple) as gain without owing any federal income tax.

*Disclosure – Check with your CPA or Tax Attorney to verify your own unique filing scenario*

Increased Net Worth

Few things have a greater impact on net worth than owning a home. In a comparison of renters versus homeowners, the Federal Reserve Board of Consumer Finance found that the average net worth of renters was just $4,000 compared to homeowners at $184,400.

While the available tax advantages and potential for earned equity are generally highlighted by most industry professionals as the top reasons to own real estate, it’s important to remember that markets go through cycles.

However, owning real estate that appreciates more than the rate of inflation may help contribute towards your overall investment portfolio, provided your maintenance and mortgage costs are kept low.

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Understanding the FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)

* Disclaimer – all information in this article is accurate as of the date this article was written *

The FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium is an important part of every FHA loan.

There are actually two types of Mortgage Insurance Premiums associated with FHA loans:

1.  Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP) – financed into the total loan amount at the initial time of funding

2.  Monthly Mortgage Insurance Premium – paid monthly along with Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance

Conventional loans that are higher than 80% Loan-to-Value also require mortgage insurance, but at a relatively higher rate than FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums.

Mortgage Insurance is a very important part of every FHA loan since a loan that only requires a 3.5% down payment is generally viewed by lenders as a risky proposition.

Without FHA around to insure the lender against a loss if a default occurs, high LTV loan programs such as FHA would not exist.

Calculating FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums:

Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP)

UFMIP varies based on the term of the loan and Loan-to-Value.

For most FHA loans, the UFMIP is equal to 2.25%  of the Base FHA Loan amount (effective April 5, 2010).

For Example:

>> If John purchases a home for $100,000 with 3.5% down, his base FHA loan amount would be $96,500

>> The UFMIP of 2.25% is multiplied by $96,500, equaling $2,171

>> This amount is added to the base loan, for a total FHA loan of $98,671

Monthly Mortgage Insurance (MMI):

  • Equal to .55% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is greater than 95% and the term is greater than 15 years
  • Equal to .50% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is less than or equal to 95%, and the term is greater than 15 years
  • Equal to .25% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is between 80% – 90%, and the term is greater than 15 years
  • No MMI when the loan to value is less than 90% on a 15 year term

The Monthly Mortgage Insurance Premium is not a permanent part of the loan, and it will drop off over time.

For mortgages with terms greater than 15 years, the MMI will be canceled when the Loan-to-Value reaches 78%, as long as the borrower has been making payments for at least 5 years.

For mortgages with terms 15 years or less and a Loan -to-Value loan to value ratios 90% or greater, the MMI will be canceled when the loan to value reaches 78%.  *There is not a 5 year requirement like there is for longer term loans.

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First-Time Home Buyer Credit Checklist

Getting a new mortgage for a First-Time Home Buyer can be a little overwhelming with all of the important details, guidelines and potential speed bumps.

Since there are so many rules and steps to follow, here is a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind throughout the mortgage approval process:

DO:

  • Continue working at your current job
  • Stay current on all your accounts
  • Keep making your house or rent payments
  • Keep your insurance payments current
  • Continue to maintain your credit as usual
  • Call us if you have any questions

DON’T

  • Make any major purchases (Car, Boat, Jet Ski, Home Theater…)
  • Apply for new credit
  • Open new credit cards
  • Transfer any balances from one credit or bank acct to another
  • Pay off any charge-off accts or collections
  • Take out furniture loans
  • Close any credit cards
  • Max out your credit cards
  • Consolidate credit debt

Basically, while you are in the process of getting a new mortgage, keep your financial status as stable as possible until the loan is funded and recorded.

Any number of minor changes could easily raise a red flag or cause a negative impact on a credit score that may result in a denied loan.

Most importantly, check with your loan officer on even the simplest questions to make sure your loan approval is successful.

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Making Sure Your Cash-To-Close Comes From The Proper Source

Providing proper asset documentation and the actual source of the funds is a critical element of the loan closing process.

There’s nothing worse in a real estate purchase than making it all the way through the hoops and hurdles just to have a loan denied after the final documents have been signed due to the borrower using the wrong checking account for the down payment.

Seasoning of the down payment money is just as important as the source, which is why underwriters typically require at least two months bank / asset statements in the initial mortgage approval process.

A Few Acceptable Sources Of Down Payment Include:

  • Bank Accounts – checking / savings
  • Investment Accounts – money market, mutual funds
  • Retirement Funds – keep in mind that borrowing against a 401K plan will require a repayment, which will be calculated in the Debt-to-Income Ratio
  • Life Insurance – Cash value and face amount
  • Gifts – Family members can gift down payment funds with certain restrictions
  • Inheritance / Trust Funds
  • Government Grants – Many state, county and city agencies offer special down payment assistance programs

It is extremely important to make sure your loan officer is aware of the exact source of your down payment as early in the process as possible so that all necessary questions, documentation and explanations can be reviewed / approved by an underwriter.

A good rule-of-thumb to remember is that whatever funds you’re using as a down payment have to be pre-approved by an underwriter at the beginning of the mortgage approval process.

Basically, if you accidentally forget to deposit money in your checking account on the way to the closing appointment, it is not acceptable to get a cashier’s check from a friend’s account until you have a chance to pay them back later.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  What if I don’t have a bank account and cannot properly source my funds to close?

Cash on hand is an acceptable source of funds for some loan programs, but make sure you bring that detail up at the application stage

Q:  Can I use a bonus from my employer for my down payment?

Yes, but generally this needs to be a bonus you regularly receive

Q:  Can I borrow the money from a friend?

No, any money that needs to be repaid is typically an unacceptable source of funds

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Talk the Talk – Know the Mortgage Lingo at Closing

What the heck are they talking about?

Many borrowers go through the closing process in a haze, nodding, smiling, and signing through a bunch of noise that sounds like Greek.

Even though you may have put your trust in your real estate and mortgage team, it helps to understand some of the terminology so that you can pay attention to specific details that may impact the decisions you need to make.

Common Closing Terms / Processes:

1. Docs Sent

Buyers sit on pins and needles through the approval process, waiting to find out if they meet the lender’s qualification requirements (which include items such as total expense to income, maximum loan amounts, loan-to-value ratios, credit, etc).

The term “docs sent” generally means you made it!! The lender’s closing department has sent the approved loan paperwork to the closing agent, which is usually an attorney or title company.

Keep in mind that there may be some prior to funding conditions the underwriter will need to verify before the deal can be considered fully approved.

2. Docs Signed –

Just what it implies.  All documentation is signed, including the paperwork between the borrower and the lender which details the terms of the loan, and the contracts between the seller and buyer of the property.

This usually occurs at closing in the presence of the closing agent, bank representative, buyer and seller.

3. Funded –

Show me some money!

The actual funds are transferred from the lender to the closing agent, along with all applicable disclosures.

For a home purchase, if the closing occurs in the morning, the funds are generally sent the same day. If the closing occurs in the afternoon, the funds are usually transferred the next day.

The timing is different for refinancing transactions due to the right of rescission. This is the right (given automatically by law to the borrower) to back out of the transaction within three days of signing the loan documents. As a result, funds are not transferred until after the rescission period in a refinancing transaction, and are generally received on the fourth day after the paperwork is signed.

(Note – Saturdays are counted in the three day period, while Sundays are not). The right of rescission only applies to a property the borrower will live in, not investment properties.

4. Recorded –

Let’s make it official. The recording of the deed transfers title (legal ownership) of the property to the buyer. The title company or the attorney records the transaction in the county register where the property is located, usually immediately after closing.

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There you have it – an official translation of closing lingo.

As with any other important financial transaction, there are many steps, some of which are dictated by law, which must be followed.

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