Posted by Sandra Tessier on 4/17/2018

We all know that buying a home is expensive. For first-time buyers who donít have the luxury of equity for a down payment, it can be difficult to find a way to finance your home without taking on a huge interest rate and mortgage insurance.

Fortunately, loan programs like those offered by the U.S. Veterans Affairs can be a godsend. However, there is a great deal of confusion around who is eligible for VA loans and how to acquire them.

So, in todayís post, weíre going to cover some of the frequently asked questions of VA loans. That way, you can feel confident in knowing whether or not itís a good financing option for you and your family.

VA Loans FAQ

Who is eligible for a VA Loan?

VA loans arenít just for veterans. Most members of the military, including Reserve and National Guard members can apply. Additionally, spouses of service members who died from a service-related disability and those who died on active duty can apply as well.

How long do you have to service to be eligible?

The VA defines eligibility as having served no less than 90 days of service during wartime and 181 days of continuous service during peacetime.

Who are VA Loans offered by?

Like any other loan, VA loans are offered by private lenders. The difference is that VA loans are guaranteed by the government. That means that the federal government takes on some of the risk of lending to you, therefore making it possible to secure a loan with little or no down payment.

Should I make a down payment on a VA loan?

If you have the means, making a down payment will almost certainly save you money in the long run. If you can put down 10% of your total mortgage amount, you can also significantly reduce the VA Funding Fee.

Will I have to pay private mortgage insurance?

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is something that borrowers pay on top of their mortgage payments and interest. This additional insurance helps borrowers buy a home with a small down payment. VA loans allow you to secure a mortgage without PMI.

Are VA loans different for active duty, National Guard, and Army Reserve members?

Each type of service member is eligible for a VA loan. However, there are some minor differences regarding the VA Funding Fee. With no down payment, an active duty member would pay 2.15% of the loan amount in fees. National Guard and Army Reserve members pay around 2.40% with no down payment.

What does my credit score need to be to get a VA loan?

The VA doesnít have a set minimum credit score. However, the private lenders that offer the loan do. On average, the lowest credit score that you can secure a VA loan with is around 620. That being said, a higher score will secure you a lower interest rate, saving you money over the lifetime of your loan.




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Posted by Sandra Tessier on 12/26/2017

You may have heard of private mortgage insurance, also known as PMI, but youíre probably not sure what exactly it is. If your down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price of the home, then youíll need to pay for this additional insurance in order to secure a loan for the home. This type of policy protects the lender if you end up in a foreclosure situation. This way, the lender is assured that they will not lose money. 


Private mortgage insurance is also required if you refinance your home when it has accrued to less than 20% equity. Again, this protects the lender from losing money if the loan is defaulted on. 


Fees


The fees involved with private mortgage insurance can range based on a few factors including the actual size of the down payment and your credit score. You can expect the cost of the insurance to be somewhere between 0.3% and 1.5% of the loan amount per year. The PMI premiums are tax deductible some years and other years they are not. It really all depends upon the state of the government and what they have enacted for the particular fiscal year. Private mortgage insurance premiums can be paid either monthly or with a large payment upfront, although most policies will require the borrower to pay on a monthly basis.    


This Insurance Can Be Canceled


The lender will automatically cancel your PMI once the loan drops down to 78% of the homeís value. For this reason, youíll want to keep track of your payments in order to see how far away you are from shedding this monthly fee. When your loan is paid down to 80% of the homeís original value, you have the right to ask your lender to discontinue to insurance premium payments.


What Is The Loan-To-Value Ratio?


This ratio is the amount of mortgage debt in the form a percentage based on how much the home is worth. Itís calculated by the following formula:


Amount owed on the mortgage/Appraised value


This is an important factor when it comes to matters of PMI insurance, as itís how the required loan payment percentages are calculated. If a home is worth $100,000 and $80,000 is still owed on the home, the loan-to-value ratio is 80 percent. This means the borrower can request the insurance be cancelled.      


FHA Loans Have Different Requirements


If you secure an FHA loan, they require the payment of PMI premiums for the entire life of the loan. You canít exactly cancel these insurance payments but you can refinance the loan in order get rid of the insurance. This means that you will no longer have an FHA loan.           


Private mortgage insurance can be a nuisance, however as a first-time homebuyer with little capital, the fees may be worth it when youíre able to secure your first home.




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Posted by Sandra Tessier on 8/15/2017

Purchasing a home is a sign of new financial responsibility for many people. The leap into homeownership is a big and important step. Finding a home and securing a mortgage isnít easy. Getting ready to take on a mortgage can require a lot of research and education on your part. Before you get too confused, youíll need to learn the basics of a mortgage and what you should know before you apply. 


Be Prepared


This is probably the best advice for any first time homebuyer. Find some good lenders in your area. You can sit down with a lender and talk about your goals. The bank will be able to explain all of the costs and fees associated with buying a home ahead of time. This way, youíll know exactly what to expect when you head into a purchase contract without any surprises. 


Whatís Involved In A Loan? 


Each mortgage is a different situation. This is why meeting with a lender ahead of time is a good idea. Your real estate agent can suggest a mortgage lender if you donít have one in mind. No one will be happier for you than your real estate agent if you have a smooth real estate transaction. Youíll be able to walk through the mortgage process step by step with a loan officer and understand the specifics of your own scenario.


What Youíll Need For A Mortgage


Thereís a few things that youíll need to have ready before you can even begin searching for a home. 


Cash For A Down Payment


Youíll need to save up a bit of cash before you know that youíre ready to buy a home. Itís recommended that you have at least 20 percent of the purchase price of a home to put down towards your loan initially.   



A Good Working Knowledge Of Personal Finances


You should have an understanding of your own finances in order to buy a home. Not only will this help you save, but it will help you to ensure that youíre not going to overextend yourself financially after you secure the mortgage. To get your finances in order, honestly record all of your monthly expenses and spending habits, so you know exactly what you can afford.   


The Price Range Of Homes Youíre Interested In 


If you have an idea of what kind of home youíd like, it will make your entire house shopping experience a lot easier. Youíll be able to see exactly what you can afford and how much you need to save. When your wish list equates to half-million dollar homes, and you find that you can only afford around $300,000, you donít need to go into shock! Itís good to have an idea of how much house you can afford and what it will get you. When you do a little homework, youíll discover that buying a home isnít such a hard process when youíre prepared!





Posted by Sandra Tessier on 5/16/2017

Thereís many different myths about buying a home that may have been presented to you as fact. All of these rumors could have you believing that being a home owner is a dream. Here, weíll debunk some of the most common misconceptions about home buying and give you the tools to solve any issues that you may come across in the process of securing a home loan.


If You Donít Have 20% To Put Down On A Home, You Canít Buy


Many conventional loans do require a 20% down payment on a home. Thereís also many different loans available that may suit your needs. From Federal Housing Administration loans to Veteranís programs to down payment assistance programs, thereís many different things that can be done to help you buy a home. Keep in mind that any time you put less than 20% down, youíll need to provide additional mortgage insurance, also known as PMI or private mortgage insurance.  


If Your Credit Score Is Terrible Youíre Out Of Luck

If you want really good mortgage rates, having great credit is very important. If your credit score is low, your rates tend to be much higher. A really low credit score could keep you from getting a loan completely. FHA loans allow you to still qualify for a loan with a credit score as low as 580.


You Need To Make Bank To Get Money From The Bank


Monthly annual income is just one of the factors thatís considered when it comes to getting a loan to purchase a home. Your debts matter just as much if not more. People with significant credit card debt and other loans may be denied a home loan even if they have a substantial income. 


Youíre In The Clear If Youíre Pre-Qualified


Pre-qualification is much different than pre-approval. Pre-qualification involves giving your lender basic information about your finances in order to estimate how much of a loan you can get. This will give you a ballpark figure of about how much youíll be able to borrow. Of course, this is very helpful in the home search process, but youíre not done. To get pre-approved, youíll need a complete mortgage application in order to have your complete financial background check and credit rating.  


If Youíve Met One Real Estate Agent, Youíve Met Them All


This couldnít be further from the truth. Your relationship with your real estate agent is going to be quite close. Youíll need to share somewhat personal information in order to secure a house youíll love. Agents are involved in one of the biggest decisions that youíll ever make. Each agent has his or her specialties and knows different neighborhoods better than others. Definitely go with a real estate agent that you feel comfortable with and knows their stuff.  


Closing Costs Arenít Your Responsibility


Sometimes, sellers do pay the closing costs in the sale of a home. It all depends upon how the negotiations go with the home. Youíll need to be prepared for upfront costs in buying a home. These include a credit check, attorney fees and property insurance. As a buyer, youíll be paying anywhere between 2 and 5 percent of the purchase price of the home.  


Itís important to be prepared and to stay informed in order to make sound financial decisions throughout the process of purchasing a home. Everything will be that much more exciting when you have all of the pertinent information that youíll need.




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Posted by Sandra Tessier on 4/26/2016

When it comes to mortgages there is a lot to know and a lot of choices. One loan that was popular before the housing crisis was the interest-only loan. An interest-only loan is an adjustable-rate loan with an initial fixed period when only interest is due. They are typically available in 5-, 7- or 10-year terms. Economists blame interest-only loans for the†foreclosure crisis citing they†were issued too freely. Today, interest-only loans are more difficult to obtain. Borrowers were using interest-only loans to qualify for a more expensive home and when the interest-only term ended the payment went up leaving many homeowners unable to afford the mortgage payment. Interest-only loans are now being used by wealthy borrowers as a financial tool to help them manage irregular cash flow, reap a tax benefit, or free up cash for investment elsewhere. Lenders that offer interest-only loans have strict qualifying standards. They generally require 30 percent equity in a property, and a minimum FICO score of 720. Lenders also look at the ability to pay back the loan is based on the fully amortized payment, not the interest-only payment.