Monday, January 15, 2007

Prepare Yourself To Obtain The Mortgage That Is Best For You

As we welcome a new year filled with endless possibilities to achieve your financial goals and chart a course for long term financial health; one of the most important pillars to consider when laying your foundation is the role that real estate will play in accomplishing your objectives. If you are a homeowner, the task of managing your equity includes an occasional review of the structure of your mortgage to ensure that your loan addresses present needs and maximizes your opportunity to grow the equity in your home. If you are in the market for a new home mortgage, there are practical considerations to take into account when considering who you should trust as an advisor and ultimately which loan program is right for you. Here is a practical guide to ensure that you make smart financial decisions.

Understand Your Time Horizon

The term of the loan product you chose should be directly tied to the length of time you intend to own the property. For example, one of my clients was working as a resident at CU Medical Center and there was little doubt that he would be relocating upon graduation from the program. The young couple came to me prepared to sign a 30 year mortgage as this is what their parents had recommended. The time horizon for my clients was a maximum of three years and a three year ARM was a more appropriate choice for them resulting in a significantly reduced interest rate and substantial interest savings. Simply stated, if you are planning to move in the next three to five years a thirty-year fixed mortgage would likely not provide you with the lowest possible costs.

Understand Your Risk Tolerance

Everyone has a tolerance for risk and your ability to live with your mortgage and sleep well at night requires that you understand where you are on the risk scale. I have clients that are willing to trade the volatility of adjustable rates for the periodic advantage of a lower initial rate, the idea of a thirty-year mortgage is completely foreign to someone with this profile. By contrast, I have clients who would be best served having an adjustable rate mortgage, but could not bare the uncertainty of knowing what their payment will be for the next 30 years regardless of their true intention to remain in the property.

Understand Your Credit Profile

Credit profile is comprised of two important factors, credit scores as reported by Trans Union, Equifax and Experian, and your capacity to repay the debt. Credit scores range from 360–850 and take into account a number of factors including payment history, account balances, age of accounts and inquiries. Generally speaking higher credit scores result in lower interest rates and better terms. Borrowers should strive to maintain credit scores of 620 or higher. Capacity is a measure of your ability to repay the debt as determined by your verifiable or stated debt to income ratio, typically not to exceed thirty-six percent of your gross income. This is a guideline and other factors such as high credit scores may allow you to stretch to fifty percent. To determine your debt to income ratio take your total monthly payments on your mortgages and consumer debt such as credit cards, car loans, etc. and divide the total into your gross monthly income.

Understand How Technology Can Work For You

The internet has changed the way we receive and process information becoming a useful tool for researching a home mortgage. Consumers should be very careful when using the internet as more than a research tool when acquiring a mortgage; surveys indicate low satisfaction rates among consumers who obtain a mortgage over the internet. The most effective strategy combines the information gathering utility of the internet with the personal consultation of a competent mortgage professional. The most advanced mortgage lenders utilize their websites as a resource tool for their clients and provide personalized service to ensure client satisfaction.

Another significant change has been the development of automated underwriting tools which allows lenders to weigh a borrower’s total risk profile against program guidelines making it easier for a larger range of applicants to qualify for a mortgage.

Understand That Interest Rate Is a Function of Risk

The interest rate a lender charges a borrower is directly related to the risk associated in making a loan to that specific borrower. It is not reasonable to expect a lender to provide a borrower with poor credit scores the same interest rate as someone with an excellent payment history. Be realistic about your qualifications and if you believe you are not receiving the rate you deserve ask your lender to provide you with a complete explanation of how your interest rate has been determined. In addition to explaining your credit profile, your lender should also explain the adjustments made to the final interest rate.

Understand Your Options Concerning Interest Rates and Loan Fees

A borrower who is shopping for the best mortgage rate can easily be seduced by low rate offers that are accompanied by low Annual Percentage Rates known as APR. Federal Law requires that APR be disclosed in addition to the actual interest rate when pricing a mortgage. Although disclosure of APR is intended to provide the borrower with enough information to make an informed decision; the reality is that APR may not be the best way to compare options when shopping for a mortgage and can mislead a borrower resulting in costly errors.

Consider buying down the interest rate by paying points (equal to a percent of the loan amount) and explore a no costs loan, whereby the total costs of the loan are factored into the interest rate. In order to determine if either choice is right for you, know your time horizon and be clear about your objectives. A competent mortgage professional can walk you through the evaluation process and provide you with a written comparison of loan programs and pricing structures.

Understand Potential Pitfalls and Protect Yourself

Prime loan programs also known as “A Paper” loans typically do not include a pre-payment penalty, by contrast the majority of sub-prime mortgage programs have associated prepayment penalties. In the event that the mortgage balance is dramatically reduced or paid in full prior to the end of the prepayment phase, a significant penalty can be charged to the borrower. A typical prepayment penalty is equal to six months interest on 80% of the principal balance for a period of one to five years. A prepayment penalty could in effect lock a borrower in to a loan program eliminating the option of refinancing in the near future.

Beware of loan program with extremely low initial interest rates, not everyone will win the lottery and the day will come when the interest on the fully indexed rate will come due. Loan programs tied to monthly adjustable indexes and programs that allow a monthly payment less than the interest due will cause negative amortization, which results in an increasing loan balance and loss of equity.

The Bottom Line

By understanding your unique qualifications, doing your homework and seeking the advice of a qualified mortgage lender, you can successfully navigate the waters and obtain the loan that is best for you.

1 comment:

UK Home Mortgages said...

This is a great article on finding the best home mortgages for certain needs. Thanks for the info!