South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Mortgage Rates and Purchasing Power

Mortgage ratesHow Does Purchasing Power Work? You’ve heard the term before — but really, what does ‘purchasing power’ mean? In its most basic form, purchasing power means what you can buy for a given amount of money. For example, a cup of coffee that cost $1 in 2010 now costs almost $4 (thanks, Starbucks!). You buy less gas with $25 today than you did a few years ago, and a car that costs $35,000 once could be bought for less than $10,000. So the purchasing power of a dollar has dropped over time. Inflation makes items cost more and lessens purchasing power.

Buy Low …
So when costs are low, it’s better to buy, before they rise, right? That may not exactly work with a cup of coffee, but it definitely works with things like cars, airplane tickets, and of course houses. When it comes to buying a home, your purchasing power is directly related to several factors, including the availability of desirable homes, average home prices, and the current mortgage rate.

Today’s interest rates are still astonishingly low. The average rate for 30-year fixed-rate loans over the last 40 years has been around 8.9 percent. But over the last several months, mortgage rates have been in the 3-4% range. This is significantly lower than the historic average — but higher than it was a year ago. Experts are predicting mortgage rates to steadily go up, possibly to as high as 5% by the end of the year.

Little Numbers, Big Difference Five percent might not seem like a lot, but when you do the math, you’ll see that even a quarter of a percent rise in mortgage rates will significantly lessen your purchasing power and make a big difference to how much you end up paying for your home. Just check the following chart, which assumes you put 20% down (although loans are available with only a 3% down requirement — call me to learn more!).

Your Monthly Payment Rate Loan Amount Purchase Power
$1,500 3.75% $323,893 $404,867
$1,500 4.25% $304,915 $381,144
$1,500 5.00% $287,551 $279,422

Don’t be like the family who delayed and delayed buying, and ended up shopping in the $270,000 price range rather than the $380,000 range and had to settle for two bedrooms rather than three. With rates this low, the smart buyer makes a move. The market can’t sustain these numbers for long, and won’t need to as it improves. If you’re considering a home purchase, contact me today to see the strength of your purchasing power — before it drops!

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Three iPhone and Android Apps That Make Managing Your Mortgage Payments Quick and Easy

Three iPhone and Android Apps That Make Managing Your Mortgage Payments Quick and EasyYour mortgage payment may be among the largest payments you make every month. While certainly an important part of your budget, this payment is also critical to helping you build equity in your home because it attributes to mortgage principal reduction. Managing your mortgage payments can be challenging, but there are some incredible apps available for use with Android or iPhone smartphones that can simplify your mortgage management tasks.

Mortgage Mentor

This app is available for both iPhones and Android devices, and is designed to be compatible with all types of mortgages. It can calculate PMI for adjustable rate and variable rate mortgages, and it can help you to determine the true cost of a mortgage. Through the use of this intelligent app, you can track your account information in real-time, or you can manipulate the numbers to help you to make more thoughtful and intelligent decisions about your finances.

Loan Calculator Pro

This app is only currently available on iOS devices, but those with this operating system may want to download it today. It has some of the same capabilities as Mortgage Mentor, but it goes a step above and beyond by providing you with mortgage payment notification reminders. It also has a unique feature that allows you to set a final payoff date for your mortgage, and it will calculate how much money you need to pay per month toward your mortgage to accomplish this goal.

Bill Payment Log

The Bill Payment Log app is a unique program that can entirely replace the outdated manual entry checkbook balancing task. It is suitable for use with iOS, Android and even Windows. You can use it to monitor and track payments for all credit accounts, including mortgages. While it does not have the analytical tools associated with some of the other mortgage apps, those who are looking for an all-in-one app that facilitates bill payment tasks for all accounts, this may be a great option to consider.

Making your mortgage payments on time is important, but you also may need to know if you need to pay extra each month and what the effects of that will be. You may also be concerned about “what if” scenarios for your adjustable rate mortgage. There are numerous apps available on the market today that can help you to facilitate your efforts, and these are among the leading choices available.

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Three Tips for Reducing Your Closing Costs if You’re Looking Forward To Buying a Home in the Spring

Three Tips for Reducing Your Closing Costs if You're Buying a Home in the Spring Spring is approaching fast and it is usually the busiest time of the year for home buying. After a long and cold winter, many people are ready to enjoy the nicer weather and begin to shop for a new home. Spring is also the perfect time for home buying for families with children because it allows them to move during the summer without interrupting school.

Home buying has costs associated with it other than the mortgage itself. Known as closing costs, these fees are a part of the home buying process and they are due at the time that the mortgage is finalized. Buyers, however, can negotiate these costs and reduce the expense with a little bit of effort and with the help of a good mortgage professional.

If you are thinking of buying a new home in the spring here are three helpful tips to reducing your closing costs.

Compare All of Your Mortgage Options

If you’re using mortgage financing to cover some of the up-front purchase cost of your home you’ll have other closing costs to pay including lender fees, mortgage insurance and more. Be sure to compare all of your options with your trusted mortgage adviser to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal and paying the least amount in fees and interest.

You may also be able to save a bit on your closing costs by choosing a “no points” mortgage. In this type of mortgage you’ll end up saving on closing costs but you’ll be left paying a higher interest rate. Spend a bit of time doing the math to determine the best course of action.

Third Party Fees

Some of the closing cost fees will be associated with third party vendors that must perform required services. Home appraisals, title searches, and costs for obtaining credit reports are some of the items included in this area. While these may be a little harder to negotiate because the lender uses specific companies to perform these services, it does not hurt to ask if you can use your own appraiser or title search company.

Zero Closing Cost Mortgages

Buyers may also wish to inquire about a no closing cost mortgage. This type of mortgage eliminates all closing costs. The lender covers all of the closing cost fees in exchange for a slightly higher interest rate on the loan. In most cases the increase is less than one-quarter of a percent. This type of loan can be very helpful to buyers. Buyers can then use the money that they saved on closing costs to help with the move.

With a little preparation, you can find the best mortgage product for the up-coming spring season. Be sure to contact your experienced mortgage professional, as they will be able to help you find the right mortgage for your specific needs with the lowest out-of-pocket expenses.

Compare All of Your Mortgage OptionsIf you’re using mortgage financing to cover some of the up-front purchase cost of your home you’ll have other closing costs to pay including lender fees, mortgage insurance and more. Be sure to compare all of your options with your trusted mortgage advisor to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal and paying the least amount in fees and interest.

You may also be able to save a bit on your closing costs by choosing a “no points” mortgage. In this type of mortgage you’ll end up saving on closing costs but you’ll be left paying a higher interest rate. Spend a bit of time doing the math to determine the best course of action.

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Be Prepared for Your Mortgage Pre-approval Interview by Having Answers to These 4 Questions

Be Prepared for Your Mortgage Pre-approval Interview by Having Answers to These 4 QuestionsSo – you’re thinking of buying a house and now you’re ready to take the next step and meet with your lender or mortgage advisor for the pre-approval interview. Are you ready?

At this stage of the application process your lender will dig into your financial background to ensure that you’re fully capable of making your mortgage payments and that you don’t present too high a risk. Let’s take a quick look at a few questions you should know the answers to before you go in for a mortgage pre-approval.

Do You Have a Specific Home in Mind?

If you’ve already picked out the perfect new home, be sure to bring along some of the details when you meet with your lender. At minimum you’ll want to know the price range that you’re expecting to buy in so that your mortgage advisor can try to find a mortgage that allows you to purchase the home and still meet your other financial goals.

What is Your Current Income from All Sources?

Your income (and that of your spouse or significant other, if you have one) will be a major factor in the size of your mortgage, your payment terms and the interest rate that you qualify for. If you have a significant income and it’s clear that you will have little trouble making the mortgage payments you’ll likely qualify for a shortened amortization period that includes a lower interest rate. Conversely, if you can only afford to make a bare minimum monthly payment you’ll be facing a longer mortgage term.

Do You Have Any “Black Marks” on Your Credit?

If you have any negative spots in your credit history you’ll want to ensure that you’re able to answer for them, because your lender will certainly ask about them. Be honest and confident, and remember that the lender wants your business as much as you want to receive a pre-approval for mortgage financing.

What Are Your Plans in the Next Five to Ten Years?

Finally don’t forget that interest rates will continue to fluctuate and that may have an impact on your mortgage in the near future. Be sure to share any major financial plans that you have with your mortgage advisor as they can keep you appraised of any refinancing opportunities that come about.

Buying a home is an exciting time – one that will be far less stressful if you are fully prepared for the many steps along the way. Contact your local mortgage professional today to learn more about how you can get pre-approved for mortgage financing. If you don’t have one, I have a couple of lenders I’ve worked with over the years, whom I can wholeheartedly recommend.

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Separation Anxiety: How to Deal with a Joint Mortgage Loan in the Event of a Divorce

Separation Anxiety: How to Deal with a Joint Mortgage Loan in the Event of a DivorceDuring the course of a marriage, it is common for the couple to acquire property together. This is what is referred to as joint or community property.

When a couple divorces, it is up to the parties involved to determine what happens to this joint property or let a judge use applicable law to determine how property is to be split.

What Happens To The House?

A couple of options are available when deciding what to do with a house where both partners are listed on the mortgage. First, the couple may decide to simply sell the home and split the proceeds from the sale.

Another option would be for one person to give the other person the house as part of the divorce settlement.

Technically, the house is sold or transferred and whoever gets the home is now the sole person listed on the mortgage.

Beware Of The Tax Implications

Typically, the person who gets the house should be the person who is in the lower tax bracket. This is because capital gains taxes may be lower or non-existent for those who are in the 10 or 15 percent tax bracket.

If the house is sold and the proceeds are split, capital gains taxes are exempted on the first $250,000 of profit made on the sale. For a married couple, the exemption is $500,000. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to sell the house before the marriage is over.

What If Children Are Involved?

In the event that the divorcing couple has a child, the best interest of the child must be considered. Typically, a judge will award a principal residence to the parent who will raise the child after the divorce is finalized.

To help the custodial parent afford any payments on the house, the other parent may be asked to help make payments as part of a child support or alimony agreement. This may be beneficial to the noncustodial parent as payments that are considered alimony are tax deductible.

When a couple divorces, they have a lot to think about. As this may be an emotional time, figuring out what to do with a home where both parties are on the mortgage can be difficult. However, those who are divorcing amicably or who want what is best for their children can come to an agreement without a lot of stress or drama.

I Can Help You Sort Out Your Options – Both Of You

For over 38 years I’ve been helping South Orange County people in all facets of their real estate lives, buying, selling, and leasing local property. I would be honored to assist you in your real estate planning.

Bob Phillips,            Realty One Group, South Orange County, CA.         Cell/Text:  (949) 887-5305,               BobPhillipsRE@gmail.com

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Scam Alert! 3 Mortgage Modification Scams to Watch out for (And How to Avoid Them)

Scam Alert! Three Mortgage Modification Scams to Watch out for (And How to Avoid Them)As if homeowners who are facing foreclosure don’t have enough to worry about, a multitude of loan modification scam artists have invaded the internet, public files and even foreclosure notices in newspapers in hopes of targeting their next victim. By identifying the top three modification scams and learning how to avoid them, at-risk homeowners can protect themselves (and their homes).

Never Pay For Mortgage Modification Assistance

Many desperate homeowners fall victim to scam artists who offer to provide them with assistance in the loan modification process for an exorbitant fee. Many times the scam artist who promises to provide assistance will require that the homeowner pay the fee upfront, after which they will provide very little assistance or simply take the money and run. Consumers should be aware that assistance and counseling services are offered for free through a number of reputable HUD approved counseling agencies.

Avoid Transferring The Deed

One popular scam that at-risk homeowners often face is the property deed scam in which scam artists promise to purchase the home in question, agreeing to let the desperate homeowner rent it out. They suggest that turning over the deed to a borrower with a better credit rating will offer additional financing opportunities, thus preventing the loss of the home. The scammer often promises to sell the home back to the homeowner, but in reality has no intention of doing so.

Many times the scam artist will sell the home to another buyer. In some instances, the crook will collect any processing fees, take the title to the home and any equity, and then leave the home to default. It is a good idea for consumers who are approached with a property deed scam to report it to the FTC.

Ignore Unrealistic Promises

Mortgage modification scammers often make promises to do such things as negotiate a solution to the foreclosure more quickly, process mortgage payments for the consumer while the negotiation is being worked out, or even guarantee a loan modification. Since the actual lender is the only one who can agree to a loan modification, and this solution requires additional processing time, overnight fixes are almost always scams. Additionally, consumers should never make mortgage payments to anyone other than their lender.

For additional information about mortgage modification scams and how to avoid them, or to receive assistance with working out a solution to avoid foreclosure, at-risk homeowners should contact someone with distressed property training and experience. In South Orange County, California, I am just such a person.

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New Formula Could Revamp Credit Scores Nationwide!

An article from Tory Barringer, of DSNews.com, August 8th, 2014:

credit-score-fico-improvementThe company responsible for one of the most widely used measures of credit health is making changes to its current model that could boost credit scores nationwide.

In an announcement on Thursday, analytics and decision management firm FICO said its new credit model, FICO Score 9, “introduces a more nuanced way to assess consumer collection information,” resulting in greater precision for lenders measuring a borrower’s credit stability. The model will be available to lenders through the country’s various reporting agencies starting in the fall.

“FICO Score 9 uses a more refined treatment of consumers with a limited credit history and those with accounts at collection agencies, so that lenders can grow their credit and loan portfolios more confidently,” said Jim Wehmann, EVP for Scores at FICO.

The key difference in the new model is that strikes from medical collections will have a lower impact, reflecting the relatively low level of credit risk they represent. From just that change, the company expects the median FICO score will increase by 25 points among consumers whose only credit dents come from unpaid medical debts.

FICO isn’t alone in its push to reassess how medical debts are reflected on a borrower’s credit profile. In May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released the results of a study finding that credit scores may underestimate creditworthiness by as much as 10 points for consumers owing on medical costs and by up to 22 points for consumers who have repaid their debt.

Often, consumers aren’t even aware their debt has been sent to collections, CFPB said.

Another change in the FICO Score 9 model is that it will also discount any overdue payments that have already been made, leaving only unpaid collections as a mark.

While the changes may have a significant impact on approval rates for credit cards and auto loans, the effects will be more subtle for borrowers and lenders in the mortgage space, says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for personal finance website Bankrate.com.

“These changes are going to be a positive for consumers, but it’s not something that moves the goalposts,” McBride said in a phone call. “These changes aren’t going to take a consumer with bad credit and suddenly make them appear as if they have good credit.”

Rather, for consumers whose credit scores sit on the threshold between poor, adequate, or good, the expected boost could make a difference in terms of required down payments or interest rates.

The Score 9 model also promises to help lenders make decisions on consumers with little to no credit history—though McBride doesn’t expect to see an immediate impact in mortgage approvals for credit-lacking millennials.

However, if those young consumers have an easier time securing lines on smaller loans, however, that could balloon out into the mortgage space in the future.

“You [have to] knock over the dominoes,” McBride said.

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Can One Missed Mortgage Payment Affect Your Credit Rating? Yes! Here’s What to Do if You Miss One

Can One Missed Mortgage Payment Affect Your Credit Rating? Yes! Here's What to Do if You Miss OneMost people don’t know whether or not a single missed mortgage payment can have serious consequences for their credit score.

The good news is that there are things that can be done to mitigate the damage and help anyone who has missed a payment repair their credit. What are some options to help homeowners get back in the good graces of their creditors?

Own Up To The Mistake

The best thing to do is to admit that the payment was missed and immediately make amends for it. For the most part, mortgage lenders are sympathetic to the fact that people miss payments for reasons that may be beyond their control.

By calling the lender as soon as it appears that a payment may be late or not forthcoming at all, it is easier to make arrangements to roll that payment back into the mortgage or take other steps to decrease the odds of a negative remark being made on a credit report.

Don’t Let A Single Missed Payment Turn Into Multiple Missed Payments

While a single missed payment can hurt a credit score, it is important to not compound the mistake by missing more payments. In some cases, someone may decide to make up for the late payment before making any further payments.

However, that only makes the mistake worse because a borrower will be considered late on all subsequent payments. It is better to make the most current payment on time and make the late payment the secondary priority.

Hire A Third-Party If Necessary To Negotiate A Loan Modification

It is important to not let emotion get in the way of negotiating a modification to a mortgage. When a borrower hires a credit counselor or a bankruptcy attorney to talk his or her creditors, the negotiations can stay professional and on topic.

In most cases, a lender will be willing to make modifications for those who need them because it is better to get the money from the borrower willingly instead of having to go through a foreclosure proceeding.

While a missed mortgage payment can be bad news for a credit score, it is possible to make amends for the missed payment while minimizing long-term damage to a borrower’s credit score. By owning the mistake, staying current on all future payments and working with a third-party, it may be possible for a lender to forget that the missed payment ever happened.

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An Insider’s Guide to Reducing Your Remaining Mortgage Years Through a Smart Refinance

Reasons_Why_You_Should_Consider_Refinancing_Your_MortgageIs it always the best idea to pay off a mortgage over 30 years? While it may help a homeowner lower his or her monthly payment, it can mean paying more in interest and waiting several more years to build sufficient equity in the home.

The question is…how can a homeowner reduce the amount of time it takes to pay off a mortgage by refinancing his or her loan? A few methods for reducing your mortgage term are explained below.

Refinance From A 30-Year Mortgage To A 15-Year Mortgage

For those who don’t want to wait any longer than necessary to pay off their home loan, it may be possible to refinance to a shorter-term mortgage. Instead of taking 30 years to pay off the loan, a homeowner can opt to pay off the loan in 10 years or 15 years. The shorter the term, the less interest will be paid on the loan.

Get A Lower Interest Rate With A Shorter-Term Mortgage

Another good reason to shorten a mortgage term is because it could lower the loan’s interest rate. Instead of paying 4.5 percent over 30 years, it may be possible to pay 4 percent over 15 years. This gives the mortgage holder the chance to build equity in the home faster as they are paying more of the principal balance with each payment. While a mortgage holder can pay more than the minimum amount on a longer-term mortgage each month, it could still end up costing more overall due to the terms of the loan. Be sure to ask your mortgage professional about your options here.

Stop Paying Mortgage Insurance

Those who are paying mortgage insurance could be paying $200 or more per month for nothing more than the right to protect the lender against default. Homeowners who could qualify for a conventional loan should attempt to refinance to a conventional loan if possible to avoid making this payment. Instead of going toward mortgage insurance, put that money toward the principal balance on the loan. There are, of course, risks involved with this approach so be sure to fully discuss them with a professional.

How Can Someone Refinance A Loan?

Now that you know how to pay off your mortgage faster through a refinance, how can someone go about refinancing a home loan? Fortunately, refinancing is similar to the process of securing the home’s first loan. All a borrower will need to do is find a lender that he or she wants to work with, find an offer that works for that borrower and then close on the deal. Although there may be closing costs associated with the new loan, some lenders may be willing to waive some or all of them on a refinance.

Paying off a mortgage as soon as possible can help a borrower save money while building equity in the home at a faster pace. This gives a homeowner financial strength as well as the flexibility to sell the house in the future without worrying about losing money in the deal. To find out more about refinancing options, talk to a mortgage lender.  I have a few excellent local choices, if you need a recommendation for one.

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Giving and Getting: Why the Terms of a Home’s Sale Are Frequently More Important Than the Price Paid

Giving and Getting: Why the Terms of a Home's Sale Are Far More Important Than the Price PaidOne of the most significant factors home buyers and sellers focus on when buying real estate is the negotiated sales price in the purchase contract. While the sales price is undeniably important, the reality is that other terms in the sales contract may have more far-reaching and significant effects on the transaction.

In fact, with a closer look at some of the most important terms, you will see why you and your agent should actively negotiate for improved terms rather than a lower sales price.

Closing Costs

Some buyers and sellers will haggle over a few thousand dollars in the sales price without paying attention to the closing costs, but the fact is that the closing costs for a typical transaction may cost the buyer between two to five percent of the sales price on average.

A sales contract may be negotiated so that the seller assumes some or most of the closing costs, and this can result in considerable savings the buyer. Likewise, when a contract is negotiated in the interest of the seller, the seller may save thousands of dollars at closing if the contract states that the buyer is responsible for these costs.

The Appraised Value

In an ideal world, a home would appraise for the contracted sales price, but this is not always the case. A sales contract may be written with terms that allow for the sales price to be renegotiated after the appraised value is confirmed, and this may benefit both parties. Some sales contracts, however, state that the negotiated sales price is final regardless of the appraised value.

The Property Inspection

Many home buyers opt to obtain a property inspection to determine if there are hidden issues with the property structure, foundation, roof, air quality and other components. Some inspections reveal that a home is in fairly good condition, but others may reveal that a property needs thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs.

Some sales contracts may be written so that the buyer may back out of a contract within a certain period of time after receiving the property inspection report or so that the terms of the sales contract may be renegotiated once the property inspection report has been completed.

Special Contingencies

A real estate transaction may extend for several weeks or even months while the buyer contracts with a lender, an appraiser, a property inspector and other third parties. During this period of time, many events can occur that may adjust the interest level or even the ability of the buyer and seller to fulfill the contract.

Some sales contracts are written so that the buyer may opt out of the contract within a certain period of time with minimal expense and regardless of other factors related to the appraisal and inspection. ( In California, there is usually an initial 17 day period during which a buyer can withdraw for no stated reason.)

Generally, there are standard terms found in many real estate sales contracts, but these terms can be adjusted by either party to benefit buyers or sellers. Those who are preparing to buy or sell property should actively communicate their needs and desires with their real estate agent so that the contract may be negotiated with terms most favorable to their needs.

In 37+ Years of Local Experience, I have Seen Almost Every Possible Type of Scenario.

Whether you are buying, selling, or leasing, it is important to have an experienced agent negotiating at your side.  You would have to look far and wide to find a more experienced real estate agent in South Orange County.  Give me a call or a text, at (949) 887-5305, or shoot me an email at BobPhillipsRE@gmail.com, and let’s talk about your real estate goals.

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