Frequently Asked Questions
What is a credit report ?
Do I have a right to know what's in my report?
What type of information do credit bureaus collect and sell?
Identification and employment information
Your name, birth date, Social Security number, employer, and spouse’s name are routinely noted. The CRA also may provide information about your employment history, home ownership, income, and previous address, if a creditor requests this type of information.
Your accounts with different creditors are listed, showing how much credit has been extended and whether you’ve paid on time. Related events, such as referral of an overdue account to a collection agency, may also be noted.
CRAs must maintain a record of all creditors who have asked for your credit history within the past year, and a record of those persons or businesses requesting your credit history for employment purposes for the past two years.
Public record information
Events that are a matter of public record, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, or tax liens, may appear in your report.
What is credit scoring?
The most widely use credit scores are FICO scores, which were developed by Fair Isaac Company, Inc. Your score will fall between 350 (high risk) and 850 (low risk).
Because your credit report is an important part of many credit scoring systems, it is very important to make sure it’s accurate before you submit a credit application. To get copies of your report, contact the three major credit reporting agencies:
Equifax: (800) 685-1111
Experian (formerly TRW): (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742)
Trans Union: (800) 916-8800
These agencies may charge you up to $9.00 for your credit report.
You are entitled to receive one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This free credit report may not contain your credit score and can be requested through the following website: https://www.annualcreditreport.com
Why is credit scoring used?
How is a credit scoring model developed?
Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a credit scoring system may not use certain characteristics like — race, sex, marital status, national origin, or religion — as factors. However, creditors are allowed to use age in properly designed scoring systems. But any scoring system that includes age must give equal treatment to elderly applicants.
How reliable is the credit scoring system?
Although you may think such a system is arbitrary or impersonal, it can help make decisions faster, more accurately, and more impartially than individuals when it is properly designed. And many creditors design their systems so that in marginal cases, applicants whose scores are not high enough to pass easily or are low enough to fail absolutely are referred to a credit manager who decides whether the company or lender will extend credit. This may allow for discussion and negotiation between the credit manager and the consumer.
What can I do to improve my score?
Nevertheless, scoring models generally evaluate the following types of information in your credit report:
- Have you paid your bills on time? Payment history typically is a significant factor. It is likely that your score will be affected negatively if you have paid bills late, had an account referred to collections, or declared bankruptcy, if that history is reflected on your credit report.
- What is your outstanding debt? Many scoring models evaluate the amount of debt you have compared to your credit limits. If the amount you owe is close to your credit limit, that is likely to have a negative effect on your score.
- How long is your credit history? Generally, models consider the length of your credit track record. An insufficient credit history may have an effect on your score, but that can be offset by other factors, such as timely payments and low balances.
- Have you applied for new credit recently? Many scoring models consider whether you have applied for credit recently by looking at “inquiries” on your credit report when you apply for credit. If you have applied for too many new accounts recently, that may negatively affect your score. However, not all inquiries are counted. Inquiries by creditors who are monitoring your account or looking at credit reports to make “prescreened” credit offers are not counted.
- How many and what types of credit accounts do you have? Although it is generally good to have established credit accounts, too many credit card accounts may have a negative effect on your score. In addition, many models consider the type of credit accounts you have. For example, under some scoring models, loans from finance companies may negatively affect your credit score.
Scoring models may be based on more than just information in your credit report. For example, the model may consider information from your credit application as well: your job or occupation, length of employment, or whether you own a home.
To improve your credit score under most models, concentrate on paying your bills on time, paying down outstanding balances, and not taking on new debt. It’s likely to take some time to improve your score significantly.
What happens if you are denied credit or don't get the terms you want?
If you’ve been denied credit, or didn’t get the rate or credit terms you want, ask the creditor if a credit scoring system was used. If so, ask what characteristics or factors were used in that system, and the best ways to improve your application. If you get credit, ask the creditor whether you are getting the best rate and terms available and, if not, why. If you are not offered the best rate available because of inaccuracies in your credit report, be sure to dispute the inaccurate information.
If you are denied credit, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires that the creditor give you a notice that tells you the specific reasons your application was rejected or the fact that you have the right to learn the reasons if you ask within 60 days. Indefinite and vague reasons for denial are illegal, so ask the creditor to be specific. Acceptable reasons include: “Your income was low” or “You haven’t been employed long enough.” Unacceptable reasons include: “You didn’t meet our minimum standards” or “You didn’t receive enough points on our credit scoring system.”
If a creditor says you were denied credit because you are too near your credit limits on your charge cards or you have too many credit card accounts, you may want to reapply after paying down your balances or closing some accounts. Credit scoring systems consider updated information and change over time.
Sometimes you can be denied credit because of information from a credit report. If so, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the creditor to give you the name, address and phone number of the credit reporting agency that supplied the information. You should contact that agency to find out what your report said. This information is free if you request it within 60 days of being turned down for credit. The credit reporting agency can tell you what’s in your report, but only the creditor can tell you why your application was denied.
Fair Credit Reporting Act
Your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act:
- You have the right to receive a copy of your credit report. The copy of your report must contain all of the information in your file at the time of your request.
- You have the right to know the name of anyone who received your credit report in the last year for most purposes or in the last two years for employment purposes.
- Any company that denies your application must supply the name and address of the CRA they contacted, provided the denial was based on information given by the CRA.
- You have the right to a free copy of your credit report when your application is denied because of information supplied by the CRA. Your request must be made within 60 days of receiving your denial notice.
- If you contest the completeness or accuracy of information in your report, you should file a dispute with the CRA and with the company that furnished the information to the CRA. Both the CRA and the furnisher of information are legally obligated to reinvestigate your dispute.
- You have a right to add a summary explanation to your credit report if your dispute is not resolved to your satisfaction.
When should I refinance?
What are points?
Should I pay points to lower my interest rate?
What is an APR?
The annual percentage rate (APR) is an interest rate reflecting the cost of a mortgage as a yearly rate. This rate is likely to be higher than the stated note rate or advertised rate on the mortgage, because it takes into account points and other credit costs. The APR allows homebuyers to compare different types of mortgages based on the annual cost for each loan. The APR is designed to measure the “true cost of a loan.” It creates a level playing field for lenders. It prevents lenders from advertising a low rate and hiding fees.
The APR does not affect your monthly payments. Your monthly payments are strictly a function of the interest rate and the length of the loan.
Because APR calculations are effected by the various different fees charged by lenders, a loan with a lower APR is not necessarily a better rate. The best way to compare loans is to ask lenders to provide you with a good-faith estimate of their costs on the same type of program (e.g. 30-year fixed) at the same interest rate. You can then delete the fees that are independent of the loan such as homeowners insurance, title fees, escrow fees, attorney fees, etc. Now add up all the loan fees. The lender that has lower loan fees has a cheaper loan than the lender with higher loan fees.
The following fees are generally included in the APR:
- Points – both discount points and origination points
- Pre-paid interest. The interest paid from the date the loan closes to the end of the month.
- Loan-processing fee
- Underwriting fee
- Document-preparation fee
- Private mortgage-insurance
- Escrow fee
The following fees are normally not included in the APR:
- Title or abstract fee
- Borrower Attorney fee
- Home-inspection fees
- Recording fee
- Transfer taxes
- Credit report
- Appraisal fee
What does it mean to lock the interest rate?
What documents do I need to prepare for my loan application?
- Copy of signed sales contract including all riders
- Verification of the deposit you placed on the home
- Names, addresses and telephone numbers of all realtors, builders, insurance agents and attorneys involved
- Copy of Listing Sheet and legal description if available (if the property is a condominium please provide condominium declaration, by-laws and most recent budget)
- Copies of your pay-stubs for the most recent 30-day period and year-to-date
- Copies of your W-2 forms for the past two years
- Names and addresses of all employers for the last two years
- Letter explaining any gaps in employment in the past 2 years
- Work visa or green card (copy front & back)
If self-employed or receive commission or bonus, interest/dividends, or rental income:
- Provide full tax returns for the last two years PLUS year-to-date Profit and Loss statement (please provide complete tax return including attached schedules and statements. If you have filed an extension, please supply a copy of the extension.)
- K-1’s for all partnerships and S-Corporations for the last two years (please double-check your return. Most K-1’s are not attached to the 1040.)
- Completed and signed Federal Partnership (1065) and/or Corporate Income Tax Returns (1120) including all schedules, statements and addenda for the last two years. (Required only if your ownership position is 25% or greater.)
If you will use Alimony or Child Support to qualify:
- Provide divorce decree/court order stating amount, as well as, proof of receipt of funds for last year
If you receive Social Security income, Disability or VA benefits:
- Provide award letter from agency or organization
Source of Funds and Down Payment
- Sale of your existing home – provide a copy of the signed sales contract on your current residence and statement or listing agreement if unsold (at closing, you must also provide a settlement/Closing Statement)
- Savings, checking or money market funds – provide copies of bank statements for the last 3 months
- Stocks and bonds – provide copies of your statement from your broker or copies of certificates
- Gifts – If part of your cash to close, provide Gift Affidavit and proof of receipt of funds
- Based on information appearing on your application and/or your credit report, you may be required to submit additional documentation
Debt or Obligations
- Prepare a list of all names, addresses, account numbers, balances, and monthly payments for all current debts with copies of the last three monthly statements
- Include all names, addresses, account numbers, balances, and monthly payments for mortgage holders and/or landlords for the last two years
- If you are paying alimony or child support, include marital settlement/court order stating the terms of the obligation
Types of Programs
Fixed Rate Mortgages (FRM)
Even though you have a fixed rate mortgage, your monthly payment may vary if you have an “impound account”. In addition to the monthly loan payment, some lenders collect additional money each month (from folks who put less than 20% cash down when purchasing their home) for the prorated monthly cost of property taxes and homeowners insurance. The extra money is put in an impound account by the lender who uses it to pay the borrowers’ property taxes and homeowners insurance premium when they are due. If either the property tax or the insurance happens to change, the borrower’s monthly payment will be adjusted accordingly. However, the overall payments in a fixed rate mortgage are very stable and predictable.
Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM)
When the time comes for the ARM to adjust, the margin will be added to the index and typically rounded to the nearest 1/8 of one percent to arrive at the new interest rate. That rate will then be fixed for the next adjustment period. This adjustment can occur every year, but there are factors limiting how much the rates can adjust. These factors are called “caps”. Suppose you had a “3/1 ARM” with an initial cap of 2%, a lifetime cap of 6%, and initial interest rate of 6.25%. The highest rate you could have in the fourth year would be 8.25%, and the highest rate you could have during the life of the loan would be 12.25%.
Some ARM loans have a conversion feature that would allow you to convert the loan from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate. There is a minimal charge to convert; however, the conversion rate is usually slightly higher than the market rate that the lender could provide you at that time by refinancing.
Hybrid ARMs (3/1 ARM, 5/1 ARM, 7/1 ARM, 10/1 ARM)
The beauty of a fixed-period ARM is that the initial interest rate for the fixed period of the loan is lower than the rate would be on a mortgage that’s fixed for 30 years, sometimes significantly. Hence you can enjoy a lower rate while having period of stability for your payments. A typical one-year ARM on the other hand, goes to a new rate every year, starting 12 months after the loan is taken out. So while the starting rate on ARMs is considerably lower than on a standard mortgage, they carry the risk of future hikes.
Homeowners can get a hybrid and hope to refinance as the initial term expires. These types of loans are best for people who do not intend to live long in their homes. By getting a lower rate and lower monthly payments than with a 30- or 15-year loan, they can break even more quickly on refinancing costs, such as title insurance and the appraisal fee. Since the monthly payment will be lower, borrowers can make extra payments and pay off the loan early, saving thousands during the years they have the loan.
HARP 2.0 Refinance
HARP 2.0 is a refinance option for homeowners that are “underwater,” meaning they owe more on their home than their home is worth.
In order to be eligible for the HARP 2.0 refinance program, you must meet certain criteria. Firstly, you must not have refinanced through the original HARP program. You need to be current on monthly mortgage payments with no late payments over 30 days due in a minimum of 6 months, and no more than one late payment in the previous 12 months. Your mortgage must be backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and must have been bought by either Fannie or Freddie before May 31st, 2009. Your loan to value (LTV%) must be at least 80%.
The purpose of HARP is to allow homeowners who owe a mortgage that is more than the value of their home a more affordable and stable mortgage.
FHA loans allow individuals who may not qualify for a conventional mortgage obtain a loan, especially first time home buyers. These loans offer low minimum down payments, reasonable credit expectations, and flexible income requirements.
VA Home Loans
The Veterans Administration provides insurance to lenders in the case that you default on a loan. Because the mortgage is guaranteed, lenders will offer a lower interest rate and terms than a conventional home loan. VA home loans are available in all 50 states. A VA loan may also have reduced closing costs and no prepayment penalties.
Additionally there are services that may be offered to veterans in danger of defaulting on their loans. VA home loans are available to military personal that have either served 181 days during peacetime, 90 days during war, or a spouse of serviceman either killed or missing in action.
Interest Only Mortgages
You won’t build equity during the interest-only term, but it could help you close on the home you want instead of settling for the home you can afford.
Since you’ll be qualified based on the interest-only payment and will likely refinance before the interest-only term expires anyway, it could be a way to effectively lease your dream home now and invest the principal portion of your payment elsewhere while realizing the tax advantages and appreciation that accompany homeownership.
As an example, if you borrow $250,000 at 6 percent, using a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly payment would be $1,499. On the other hand, if you borrowed $250,000 at 6 percent, using a 30-year mortgage with a 5-year interest only payment plan, your monthly payment initially would be $1,250. This saves you $249 per month or $2,987 a year. However, when you reach year six, your monthly payments will jump to $1,611, or $361 more per month. Hopefully, your income will have jumped accordingly to support the higher payments or you have refinanced your loan by that time.
Mortgages with interest only payment options may save you money in the short-run, but they actually cost more over the 30-year term of the loan. However, most borrowers repay their mortgages well before the end of the full 30-year loan term.
Borrowers with sporadic incomes can benefit from interest-only mortgages. This is particularly the case if the mortgage is one that permits the borrower to pay more than interest-only. In this case, the borrower can pay interest-only during lean times and use bonuses or income spurts to pay down the principal.
Components of an ARM
Index: A financial indicator that rises and falls, based primarily on economic fluctuations. It is usually an indicator and is therefore the basis of all future interest adjustments on the loan. Mortgage lenders currently use a variety of indexes.
Margin: A lender’s loan cost plus profit. The margin is added to the index to determine the interest rate because the index is the cost of funds and the margin is the lender’s cost of doing business plus profit.
Initial Interest: The rate during the initial period of the loan, which is sometimes lower than the note rate. This initial interest may be a teaser rate, an unusually low rate to entice buyers and allow them to more readily qualify for the loan.
Note Rate: The actual interest rate charged for a particular loan program.
Adjustment Period: The interval at which the interest is scheduled to change during the life of the loan (e.g. annually).
Interest Rate Caps: Limit placed on the up-and-down movement of the interest rate, specified per period adjustment and lifetime adjustment (e.g. a cap of 2 and 6 means 2% interest increase maximum per adjustment with a 6% interest increase maximum over the life of the loan).
Negative Amortization: Occurs when a payment is insufficient to cover the interest on a loan. The shortfall amount is added back onto the principal balance.
Convertibility: The option to change from an ARM to a fixed-rate loan. A conversion fee may be charged.
Carryover: Interest rate increases in excess of the amount allowed by the caps that can be applied at later interest rate adjustments (a component that most newer ARMs are deleting).
Commonly Used Indexes for ARMs
6-Month CD Rate
This index is the weekly average of secondary market interest rates on 6-month negotiable Certificates of Deposit. The interest rate on 6 month CD indexed ARM loans is usually adjusted every 6 months. Index changes on a weekly basis and can be volatile.
This index is the weekly average yield on U.S. Treasury securities adjusted to a constant maturity of 1 year. This index is used on the majority of ARM loans. With the traditional one year adjustable rate mortgage loan, the interest rate is subject to change once each year. There are additional ARM loan programs available (Hybrid ARMs) for those that would like to take advantage of a low interest rate but would like a longer introductory period. The 3/1, 5/1, 7/1 and 10/1 ARM loans offer a fixed interest rate for a specified time (3,5,7,10 years) before they begin yearly adjustments. These programs will typically not have introductory rates as low as the one year ARM loan, however their rates are lower than the 30-year fixed mortgage. This index changes on a weekly basis and can be volatile.
This index is the weekly average yield on U.S. Treasury securities adjusted to a constant maturity of 3 years. This index is used on 3/3 ARM loans. The interest rate is adjusted every 3 years on such loans. This type of loan program is good for those who like fewer interest rate adjustments. The index changes on a weekly basis and can be volatile.
This index is the weekly average yield on U.S. Treasury securities adjusted to a constant maturity of 5 years. This index is used on 5/5 ARM loans. The interest rate is adjusted every 5 years on such loans. This type of loan program is good for those who like fewer interest rate adjustments. This index changes on a weekly basis and can be volatile.
The prime rate is the rate that banks charge their most credit-worthy customers for loans. The Prime Rate, as reported by the Federal Reserve, is the prime rate charged by the majority of large banks. When applying for a home equity loan, be sure to ask if the lender will be using its own prime rate, or the prime rate published by the Federal Reserve or the Wall Street Journal. This index usually changes in response to changes that the Federal Reserve makes to the Federal Funds and Discount Rates. Depending on economic conditions, this index can be volatile or not move for months at a time.
12 Moving Average of 1-year T-Bill
Twelve month moving average of the average monthly yield on U.S. Treasury securities (adjusted to a constant maturity of one year.). This index is sometimes used for ARM loans in lieu of the 1 year Treasury Constant Maturity (TCM) rate. Since this index is a 12 month moving average, it is less volatile than the 1 year TCM rate. This index changes on a monthly basis and is not very volatile.
Cost of Funds Index (COFI) – National
This Index is the monthly median cost of funds: interest (dividends) paid or accrued on deposits, FHLB (Federal Home Loan Bank) advances and on other borrowed money during a month as a percent of balances of deposits and borrowings at month end. The interest rate on Cost of Funds (COFI) indexed ARM loans is usually adjusted every 6 months. Index changes on a monthly basis and it not very volatile.
Cost of Funds Index (COFI) – 11th District
This index is the weighted-average interest rate paid by 11th Federal Home Loan Bank District savings institutions for savings and checking accounts, advances from the FHLB, and other sources of funds. The 11th District represents the savings institutions (savings & loan associations and savings banks) headquartered in Arizona, California and Nevada. Since the largest part of the Cost Of Funds index is interest paid on savings accounts, this index lags market interest rates in both uptrend and downtrend movements. As a result, ARMs tied to this index rise (and fall) more slowly than rates in general, which is good for you if rates are rising but not good if rates are falling.
L.I.B.O.R stands for the London Interbank Offered Rate, the interest rates that banks charge each other for overseas deposits of U.S. dollars. These rates are available in 1,3,6 and 12 month terms. The index used and the source of the index will vary by lender. Common sources used are the Wall Street Journal and FannieMae. The interest rate on many LIBOR indexed ARM loans is adjusted every 6 months. This index changes on a daily/weekly basis and can be extremely volatile.
National Average Contract Mortgage Rate (NACR)
This index is the national average contract mortgage rate for the purchase of previously occupied homes by combined lenders. This index changes on a monthly basis and it not very volatile.
There are no penalties to paying off a balloon mortgage loan before it is due. Borrowers may refinance at any time during the life of the loan.
Balloon loans typically have either 5 or 7-year terms. For example, a 7-year balloon mortgage with an interest rate of 7.5% would feature this interest rate for the entire term. After 7 years, the remaining loan balance would become due.
A reverse mortgage works much like a traditional mortgage, except in reverse. Instead of the homeowner paying the lender each month, the lender pays the homeowner. As long as the homeowner continues to live in the home, no repayment of principal, interest, or servicing fees are required. The funds received from a reverse mortgage may be used for anything, including housing expenses, taxes, insurance, fuel or maintenance costs.
To qualify for a reverse mortgage, you must own your home. You may choose to receive the reverse mortgage funds in a lump sum, monthly advances, as a line-of-credit, or a combination of the three, depending on the reverse mortgage type and the lender. The amount of money you are eligible to borrow depends on your age, the amount of equity in your home, and the interest rate set by the lender.
Because the borrower retains ownership of the home with a reverse mortgage, the borrower also continues to be responsible for taxes, repairs and maintenance.
Depending on the plan selected, a reverse mortgage is due with interest either when the homeowner permanently moves, sells the home, dies, or the end of a pre-selected loan term is reached. If the homeowner dies, the lender does not take ownership of the home. Instead, the heirs must pay off the loan, typically by refinancing the loan into a forward mortgage (if the heirs meet eligibility requirements) or by using the proceeds generated by the sale of the home.
Graduated Payment Mortgages
When interest rates are high, borrowers can use a graduated payment mortgage to increase their chances of qualifying for the loan because the initial payment is less. The downside of opting for an smaller initial payment is that the interest owed increases and the payment shortfall from the initial years of the loan is then added on to the loan, potentially leading to a situation called “negative amortization.” Negative amortization occurs when the loan payment for any period is less than the interest charged over that period, resulting in an increase in the outstanding balance of the loan.
What type of loan program is best for me?
Ask yourself the following questions to determine what loan type is right for you:
- Do you expect your financial situation to change over the next few years?
- Do you plan to live in your current home for a long time?
- Do you feel comfortable with the idea of a changing mortgage amount?
- Do you want to be free of mortgage debt by the time your children go to college or you retire?
A professional lender is the best resource available to help you decide which loan best fits your needs. Follow the general guidelines outlined below to get started selecting the best mortgage for your home.
|How many years do you plan to stay in your home?||Plan(s) to Consider|
|1-3||3/1 ARM or 1-year ARM|
|7-10||10/1 ARM or 30-year fixed|
|10+||30-year fixed or 15-year fixed|
What is an Appraisal?
Why get an Appraisal
- Contesting high property taxes
- Establishing the replacement cost for insurance purposes
- Divorce settlement
- Estate settlement
- Negotiating tool in real estate transactions
- Determining a reasonable price when selling real estate
- Protecting your rights in an eminent domain case
- A government agency requirement
- A lawsuit
What are Appraisal Methods?
- Cost Approach – A formula is used to obtain the property value: Land value (vacant) added to the cost to reconstruct the appraised building as new on the date of value, less accrued depreciation the building suffers in comparison with a new building.
- Sales Comparison Approach – The Appraiser identifies 3 to 4 comparable comps, recently sold properties in the neighborhood, ideally, sold in the previous 6 months and within ½ mile of the subject property. A comparison is done between the recently sold properties and the subject property including square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, property age, lot size, view, and property condition.
- Income Approach – The potential net income of the property is capitalized to arrive at a property value. Capitalization is the process of converting a future income stream into a present value. This approach is suited to income-providing properties and is used in conjunction with other valuation methods.
Who owns the Appraisal?
Can Another Mortgage Company be Used After the Completed Appraisal?
Who determines the market value of a property?
The real estate agent receives a percentage of the price as compensation and often represents the seller in the transaction and assists them in setting the sale price. They perform a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), which real estate agents in most states are allowed to perform without an Appraiser’s License or Certification. The CMA is vital to the agent’s preparation for a listing examining recent property sales in the neighborhood to arrive at a listing price. Typically the agent will suggest a price to the seller based on the CMA however the seller may choose to list their property for a higher price.
How can I assist my Appraiser?
- What is the purpose for the appraisal?
- Is the property listed for sale, and if so, for what price and with whom?
- Is there a mortgage? And if so, with whom, when placed, for how much and what type (FHA, VA, etc.), at what interest rate, or other type of financing?
- Are any personal properties or appliances included in the property?
- With an income-producing property, what is the income breakdown and expenses for the last year or two? A copy of the lease may be required.
- Provide a copy of the deed, survey, purchase agreement, or additional property papers.
- Provide a copy of the current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, or balance owed on anything, i.e. sewer, water, etc.
What Happens at Closing?
At closing, the ownership of the property is officially transferred from the seller to you. This may involve you, the seller, real estate agents, your attorney, the lender’s attorney, title or escrow firm representatives, clerks, secretaries, and other staff. You can have an attorney represent you if you can’t attend the closing meeting, i.e., if you’re out-of-state. Closing can take anywhere from 1-hour to several depending on contingency clauses in the purchase offer, or any escrow accounts needing to be set up.
Most paperwork in closing or settlement is done by attorneys and real estate professionals. You may or may not be involved in some of the closing activities; it depends on who you are working with.
Prior to closing you should have a final inspection, or “walk-through” to insure requested repairs were performed, and items agreed to remain with the house are there such as drapes, lighting fixtures, etc.
In most states the settlement is completed by a title or escrow firm in which you forward all materials and information plus the appropriate cashier’s checks so the firm can make the necessary disbursement. Your representative will deliver the check to the seller, and then give the keys to you.
What are Statutory Costs?
Transfer Taxes – Required by some localities to transfer the title and deed from the seller to the buyer.
Deed Recording Fees – To pay for the County Clerk to record the deed and mortgage, and to change the property tax billing.
Pro-Rated Taxes – Such as school taxes and municipal taxes may need to be split between the buyer and the seller since they are due at different times of the year. For example, if taxes are due in October and you close in August, you would owe taxes for 2-months, and the seller would owe for the other 10-months. Pro-rated taxes are usually paid based on the number of days, not months of ownership. Some lenders may require you to set up an escrow account to cover these bills. If not, you may want to set one up yourself to insure the funds are set aside for these important expenses.
State & Local Fees – Other state and local mortgage taxes and fees may apply.
What are Third-Party Costs?
Attorney Fees – You may want to hire an attorney when purchasing a home. They usually charge a percentage of the selling price up to 1%, or some work on an hourly basis or for a flat fee.
Title Search Costs – Usually your attorney will perform or will arrange for the title search to ensure there are no obstacles such as liens or lawsuits regarding the property. Or you may work with a title company to verify a clear property title.
Homeowner’s Insurance – Most lenders require you prepay the first year’s premium for homeowners insurance, sometimes called hazard insurance, and must show proof of payment at the closing. This insures that the investment will be secured even if the property is destroyed.
Real Estate Agent’s Sales Commission – The seller pays the real estate agent’s commission, and if one agent lists the property and another sells it, the commission is usually split. The commission is negotiable between the seller and the agent.
What are Finance and Lender Charges?
Origination Fee – For processing the mortgage application there may be a flat fee, or a percentage of the mortgage loan.
Credit Report – Most lenders require a credit report on you and your spouse, or an equity partner. This fee is often a part of the origination fee.
Points – One point is equal to 1% of the amount borrowed and can be payable when the loan is approved either before or at closing. Points can be shared with the seller which is negotiable in the purchase offer. Some lenders will let you finance points which will add to the mortgage cost. If you pay the points up front they are tax deductible in the year they are paid. Different deductibility rules apply to second home loans.
Lender’s Attorney’s Fees – For your attorney to draw-up documents and to ensure that the title is clear, and for representation at the closing.
Document Preparation Fees – There are several documents and papers prepared during the home-buying process ranging from the application to the closing. Lenders may charge for this, or the fees may be included in the application and/or attorney’s fees.
Preparation of Amortization Schedule – Some lenders will prepare a detailed amortization for the full term of your mortgage. This is usually done for fixed mortgages or adjustable mortgages.
Land Survey – Lenders may require that the property be surveyed to ensure it has not been encroached and to verify the buildings and improvements to the property.
Appraisals – Professional Appraisers can do a comparison of the value of the property to that of other recently sold neighborhood properties. Lenders want to be sure the property is worth the value of the mortgage loan.
Lender’s Mortgage Insurance – If your down payment is 20% or less, many lenders require that you purchase Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for the loan amount. If you should default on your loan, the lender will recover their money. These insurance premiums will continue until your principal payments, plus the down payment equal 20% of the selling price and may continue for the life of the loan. The premiums are usually added to any amount you must escrow for taxes and homeowner’s insurance.
Lender’s Title Insurance – Even with a title search for any property obstacles, liens or lawsuits, many lenders require insurance to protect their mortgage investment. This is a 1-time insurance premium usually paid at closing, and is for the lender only, not the homebuyer.
Release Fees – If the seller has worked with a contractor who put a lien on the house and is expecting payment from the proceeds of the house sale, there may be fees to release the lien. The seller usually pays these fees which could be negotiated in the purchase offer.
Inspections Required by Lenders – The lender may require a Termite Inspection if you apply for an FHA or a VA mortgage loan. In many rural areas a water test may be required to ensure the well and water system will maintain an adequate water supply to the house; for quantity not quality. Depending on the sales contract and property type, additional inspections may be required.
Prepaid Interest – The first regular mortgage payment is usually due from 6-8 weeks from closings; however, interest costs begin at closing time. The lender will calculate the interest owed for that period of time, and that fraction of interest is sometimes due at closing.
Escrow Account – Lenders often require that you set-up an Escrow Account, where you will make monthly payments to, for taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and sometimes PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance). The amount placed in this account at closing depends on when property taxes are due and the timing of the settlement transaction. The lender can give you a cost approximation during the application process of your mortgage loan.
Are There Any Other Up-Front Expenses?
Inspections – Lenders may require inspections, and you can make your purchase offer contingent based on satisfactory completion of some other inspections such as structural, water quality tests, septic, termite, roof and radon tests. You and the seller can negotiate these inspection fees.
Owner’s Title Insurance – You may want to purchase title insurance in case of unforeseen problems so you’re not left owing a mortgage on property you longer own. A thorough title search ensures a clear title.
Appraisal Fees – You may want to hire an Appraiser either before you sign a purchase offer, or after reviewing the lender’s appraisal report.
Money to the Seller – You’ll need to pay for items in the house you want that were not negotiated in the purchase offer such as appliances, light fixtures, drapes, lawn furniture, or fuel oil and propane left in tanks.
Moving Expenses – If you are changing jobs, your new employer may pay for your relocation, otherwise you must figure in the moving costs such as truck rentals, professional movers, cash for utility deposits like telephone, cable, electricity, etc.
Escrow Account Funds – In the purchase offer, you can request that the seller set up an Escrow Account to defray any costs for major cleanup, radon mitigation procedures, house painting, appliance repairs, etc. Depending on the purchase offer contract and contingency clauses, you may discover that you have expenses upon moving in.
Example: Your purchase offer contract has a clause making the purchase contingent on a satisfactory structural inspection, and it’s determined that the house needs a new roof. You can negotiate to have the seller arrange for the work to be done but, this will delay the closing date. You may have to agree to a higher price for house, or to pay some of the new roof repair expenses. Or you and the seller may split the cost using estimates from a contractor of your choice, and each of you will put funds into an Escrow Account. Or, the seller may be willing to reduce the sale price of the house, but either way cash will be needed for the new roof.
Time Investment – One often overlooks major up-front costs in buying a home. The time and expenses invested in house-hunting, which can take up to 4-months, plus the time spent searching for the best mortgage for you, the right real estate agent, an attorney, and other related things that take up your valuable time.
What is RESPA?
RESPA requires lenders to give you an information booklet about settlement costs, written by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development which address how to negotiate a sales contract, ways to work with professionals like attorneys, real estate agents, lenders, etc, and your given rights as a home buyer. It gives an example of the Uniform Settlement Statement used at your closing. You are entitled to see a copy of the statement 1-business day prior to closing indicating your final costs.
What is required?
The TIL Statement may also contain information on security interest, late fees, prepayment provisions, and if the mortgage is assumable. If you have an adjustable rate loan, the statement may outline the limits on the adjustments, annual and lifetime caps, and give an example of what your next year’s payment may be depending on interest rates. For adjustable rate loans the total payments figure is estimated as a worst-case scenario. The figure reflects the payments you would make if your loan adjusted upward to the maximum rate allowed by annual and lifetime caps, and then stayed at that rate for the loan duration.
What is Foreclosure?
What Happens When a Mortgage Payment is Missed?
How Can a Foreclosure be Avoided?
- Contact your lender as soon as you know your payment will be late.
- Never ignore the lender’s letters or phone calls.
- Don’t assume that your situation is hopeless.
Who do I qualify?
Mortgage Modification – If you can currently make your regular payment, but can’t catch-up on the past due amount, the lender may agree to modify your mortgage. One way is to add the past due amount into your existing loan and finance it long-term. Mortgage Modification may also be possible if you no longer can make your payments at the former level. The lender may modify your mortgage and extend the loan length, or perhaps take steps to reduce your current payments.
Pre-Foreclosure Sale – Foreclosure can be avoided by selling your property for a lesser amount necessary to pay off your mortgage loan. You may qualify if:
- The loan is at least 2 months delinquent
- The house is sold within 3-5 months
- A new appraisal, that the lender will obtain, indicates that the home value meets program guidelines.
Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure – This is when the lender allows you to give-back your property and forgives the debt. It does have a negative impact on your credit record; however it’s better than foreclosure. The lender may require that house be “For Sale” for a specific time period before agreeing. This route may not be possible if there are other liens against the home.
For FHA Loans – The lender may assist you in getting a one-time payment from the FHA Insurance Fund. The mortgage loan must be into at least 4-months, but not more than 12-months past due. The homeowner must prove the ability to resume making full mortgage payments on time, and other conditions apply:
- A Promissory Note must be signed allowing HUD to place a lien on your property for the amount received from the FHA Insurance Fund.
- The note is interest free, but must be repaid eventually.
- The note becomes due when you pay off the loan, transfer title, or sell the property.
For VA Loans – The Veteran’s Administration Loan Centers offer financial services designed to help homeowners avoid Foreclosure, and options for your specific situation.
Forbearance – It may be allowed to delay payments for a short period with the understanding that another option will be used to bring the account current later.
Repayment Plan – If your account is past due, but you can now make regular payments again, the lender may allow you to catch-up by adding a portion of the overdue amount to a certain number of monthly payments until your account becomes current.
Partial Claim – Your lender may be able to help you obtain a one-time payment from the FHA Insurance Fund to bring your mortgage current, if you qualify:
You may qualify if:
1) Your loan is at least 4-months delinquent, but not more than 12-months.
2) You are able to begin making full mortgage payments again.
When your lender files a Partial Claim on your behalf, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development will pay your lender the amount necessary to bring your mortgage current. You must execute a Promissory Note and a Lien will be placed on your property until the note is fully paid. The note is interest-free and is due when you pay off the first mortgage, or when the property is sold.
What is a FHA Loan?
FHA does not make home loans, it insures a loan; should a homebuyer default, the lender is paid from the insurance fund.
- Buy a house with as little as 3.5% down.
- Ideal for the first-time homebuyers unable to make larger down payments.
- The right mortgage solution for those who may not qualify for a conventional loan.
- Down payment assistance programs can be added to a FHA Loan for additional down payment and/or closing cost savings.
FHA Loans vs. Conventional Home Loans
If I've Had a Bankruptcy in Recent Years, Can I Get a FHA Loan?
What Documents are Needed to Apply for a FHA Loan?
- Complete Income Tax Returns for past 2-years
- W-2 & 1099 Statements for past 2-years
- Pay-Check Stubs for past 2-months
- Self-Employed Income Tax Returns and YTD Profit & Loss Statements for past 3-years for self-employed borrowers
- Complete bank statements for all accounts for past 3-months
- Recent account statements for retirement, 401k, Mutual Funds, Money Market, Stocks, etc.
- Recent bills & statements indicating account numbers and minimum payments
- Landlord’s name, address, telephone number, or 12- months cancelled rent checks
- Recent utility bills to supplement thin credit
- Bankruptcy & Discharge Papers if applicable
- 12-months cancelled checks written by someone you co-signed for to get a mortgage, car, or credit card, this indicates that you are not the one making the payments.
- Drivers License
- Social Security Card
- Any Divorce, Palimony or Alimony or Child Support papers
- Green Card or Work Permit if applicable
- Any homeownership papers
Refinancing or Own Rental Property
- Note & Deed from any Current Loan
- Property Tax Bill
- Hazard Homeowners Insurance Policy
- A Payment Coupon for Current Mortgage
- Rental Agreements for a Multi-Unit Property
How big of a FHA Loan Can I afford?
P = Principal
I = Interest
T = Taxes
I = Insurance
Monthly Income x .29 = Maximum PITI
$3,000 x .29 = $870 Maximum PITI
Your total monthly costs, or debt to income (DTI) adding PITI and long-term debt like car loans or credit cards, should not exceed 41% of your gross monthly income.
Monthly Income x .41 = Maximum Total Monthly Costs
$3,000 x .41 = $1230
$1,230 total – $870 PITI = $360 Allowed for Monthly Long Term Debt
FHA Loan ratios are more lenient than a typical conventional loan.
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
What is Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)?
How Does Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) Work?
Could Obtaining Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) Help Me Qualify for a Larger Loan?
How Much Does Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) Cost?
How is Private Mortgage Insurance Paid?
- Borrowers can choose to pay the 1-years premium at closing, and then an annual renewal premium is collected monthly as part of the house payment.
- Borrowers can choose to pay no premium at closing, but add on a slightly higher premium monthly to the principal, interest, tax, and insurance payment.
- Borrowers who want to sidestep paying PMI at closing but don’t want to increase their monthly house payment can finance a lump-sum PMI premium into their loan. Should the PMI be canceled before the loan term expires through refinancing, paying off the loan, or removal by the loan provider, the borrower may obtain the rebate of the premium.
How Does the Buyer Apply for PMI?
What is the History of Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)?
Cancellation of Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
With certain exceptions (home mortgages signed on or after July 29, 1999) your PMI must be terminated automatically when 22% of the equity of your home is reached, based on the original property value and if your mortgage payments are current. It can also be canceled at your request with certain exceptions, when you reach 20% equity, again based on the original property value, if your mortgage payments are current.
- If your loan is “high risk”
- You have not been current on your payments within the year prior to termination time or cancellation
- If you have other liens on your property
Ask your lender or mortgage servicer for information about these requirements. If you signed your mortgage before July 29, 1999 you can request to have the PMI canceled once you exceed 20% home equity. But, federal law does not require your lender or mortgage servicer to cancel the insurance.
|Amerin Guaranty Corporation303 East Wacker Drive, Suite 900Chicago, IL 60601Tel: 800-257-7643Fax: 312-540-0564||PMI Mortgage Insurance Company601 Mongomery StreetSan Francisco, CA 94111Tel: 800-288-1970Fax: 415-291-6175|
|Commonwealth Mortgage Assurance Company1601 Market StreetPhiladelphia, PA 19103-2197Tel: 800-523-1988Fax: 215-496-0346||Republic Mortgage Insurance Co.P.O. Box 2514Winston-Salem, NC 27102-9954Tel: 800-999-7642Fax: 919-661-0049|
|G.E. Capital Mortgage Insurance CorporationP.O. Box 177800Raleigh, NC 27615Tel: 800-334-9270Fax: 919-846-4260||Triad Guaranty Insurance Corp.P.O. Box 25623Winston-Salem, NC 27114Tel: 800-451-4872Fax: 919-723-0343|
|Mortgage Guaranty Insurance CorporationP.O. Box 488Milwaukee, WI 53201Tel: 800-558-9900Fax: 414-347-6802||United Guaranty CorporationP.O. Box 21567Greensboro, NC 27420Tel: 800-334-8966Fax: 919-230-1946|
What is a VA Loan?
Who is eligible for a VA Loan?
- Veterans who were NOT Dishonorably Discharged, and served at least 90 days
- World War II – September 16, 1940 to July 25, 1947
- Korean Conflict – June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955
- Vietnam Era – August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975
- Persian Gulf War – Check with the Veterans Administration Office
- Afghanistan & Iraq – Check with the Veterans Administration Office
- Veterans Administration website www.va.gov
At least 181 days of continuous active duty with no dishonorable discharge. If you were discharged earlier due to a service-related disability you should contact your Regional VA Office for eligibility verification.
- July 26, 1947 to June 26, 1950
- February 1, 1955 to August 4, 1964, or May 8, 1975 to September 7, 1980 (Enlisted), or to October 16, 1981 (Officer)
- Enlisted Veterans whose service began after September 7, 1980, or officers who service began after October 16, 1981, must have completed 24-months of continuous active duty and been honorably discharged
Reserves and National Guard
- Certain U.S. Citizens who served in the Armed Forces of a government allied with the United States during World War II.
- Surviving spouse of an eligible Veteran who died resulting from service, and has not remarried.
- The spouse of an Armed Forces member who served Active Duty, and was listed as a POW or MIA for more than 90-days.
What type of home can I buy with a VA loan?
- Existing Single-Family Home
- Townhouse or Condominium in a VA-Approved Project
- New Construction Residence
- Manufactured Home or Lot
- Home Refinances and Certain Types of Home Improvements
How do I apply for a VA guaranteed loan?
If I have already obtained one VA Loan, can I get another one?
What are the benefits of a VA Loan?
- 100% Financing & No Down Payment Loans
- No Private Mortgage (PMI)
- No Penalties for Prepaying the Loan
- Competitive Interest Rates
- Qualification is Easier than a Conventional Loan
- Sellers Pay Some of the Closing Costs
- Can be combined with additional down payment assistance to reduce closing costs
What are the disadvantages of a VA Loan?
- VA Loans made prior to March 1, 1988 can be assumed with no qualifying of the new buyer. If the buyer defaults the property the Veteran homeowner may be liable for the funds.
- Some sellers are hesitant to work with someone obtaining a VA Loan because it takes longer than a conventional loan to process.
- Sellers are often asked to pay a portion of closing costs and therefore less likely to negotiate the sales price of the home.