South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

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The Bill Payment Log app is a unique program that can entirely replace the outdated manual entry checkbook balancing task.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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Ways To Leverage Your Home To Reduce Your Tax Burden For Next Year

It's Tax Time - Here's How You Can Leverage Your Home to Reduce Your Tax BurdenEach year around April, we can find ourselves becoming a little more tense at the thought of what is about to occur: tax time.

Instead of falling into the trap of procrastinating your taxes, however, it’s much more beneficial to face tax time head-on and do your research on your applicable deductions well in advance.

Your home is good for many things, but using your home to reduce your tax burden may be one benefit you haven’t thought of. Here are some tax benefits that can be leveraged with your home, and some ways to lower your tax bill in 2014.

Deduct Interest On Home Loans

Though interest paid on personal loans isn’t deductible on your tax return, interest paid on mortgages is.

Home mortgage interest, for both your primary residence and a second home such as an investment property, can account for a large bill near the end of the year, and can significantly decrease your tax bill for 2014.

Interest paid on a line of credit for your home or a home equity loan is also usually deductible, and you may also qualify to deduct the insurance premiums on your private mortgage if this was a requirement from your lender. Ensure you keep your Form 1098 from you lender, and be sure not to miss each of your interest deductions.

Deducting Points Paid For A Better Rate

If you paid points in order to get a better interest rate on your home mortgage, the IRS will allow you to deduct these, too. If you meet the requirements for this deduction, one of which is that you paid the points in the same year that you purchased your primary residence, be sure to add the points to your list of deductions.

Deduct Property Taxes

Property taxes are also deductible on your tax return, and since they make up a significant portion of your home expenses each year, they certainly shouldn’t be excluded from your list of deductions in 2014.

As an annual deduction for the entire period you own your home, ensure you don’t forget about your first year in your home. If you’ve just purchased your home, the property taxes would have been split between the seller, the previous homeowner, and you, the buyer, at the time of the property transfer. Your portion of your first year’s property taxes for the home is also fully deductible.

Tax-Free Sales Gain

If you’ve owned and lived in your home for a minimum of two years and are ready to sell, you likely qualify for up to $250,000 dollars of tax-free profit, or up to $500,000 for married couples.

If the sale falls short of the two year mark, the IRS provides some tax relief if the sale is due to a list of unforeseen circumstances, such as changes in employment or health. Be sure to see where you qualify, and leverage the sale of your home for tax-free sales gain.

Having the ability to leverage your home in order to lower your tax burden is, of course, another benefit of being a homeowner. Often, reaping the full benefits of tax deductions is a simple matter of doing your research or speaking with a professional to get the information applicable to you.

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4 Of The Best Questions To Ask Before Refinancing Your Mortgage

The Best Questions To Ask Before Refinancing Your Mortgage1) Do I Have Enough Equity To Get A Mortgage?

To get a conventional loan, you will usually need to have at least 20 percent equity. This means that your house will have to be worth at least $250,000 to get a $200,000 loan. If you have less equity, you could end up having to pay for private mortgage insurance, which can easily add $100 or more to your monthly payment.

2) How’s My Credit?

Most lenders will look at your credit score as a part of determining whether or not to make you a loan. With conventional lenders, your rate will depend on your score and the higher it is, the lower your payment will be. Other lenders, like the FHA and VA programs have an all or nothing rule.

If you qualify, your rate won’t be based on your credit, but if your score is too low, you won’t be able to get any loan. Generally, 620 credit scores are the lowest that will qualify you for any loan.

3) What Do I Want To Accomplish?

Mortgages typically offer a choice as to their term. While the 30-year loan is the most popular, shorter term mortgages save you money since you pay less interest over their lives. They also get you out of debt sooner, at least as regards your house.

The drawback is that they carry higher payments since you pay off more principal every month. This can make them less affordable for some borrowers.

4) How’s My Current Loan?

If you have an adjustable rate mortgage, you may want to switch to a fixed rate mortgage simply for the additional security it offers you. On the other hand, if you are planning to move relatively soon, your current mortgage could be a better deal whether it’s fixed- or adjustable-rate.

When trying to decide what to do, compare the cost of refinancing with what it would cost you in additional interest to hold on to your existing loan. While the breakdown is different for every borrower, generally, you’ll need to keep your current house and loan for anywhere from three to six years to break even on the costs of refinancing.

Deciding what to do with your mortgage can be complicated. Working with a qualified loan broker that can consider every angle with you can help you to make a better decision. If you don’t already have a favorite loan person, give me a call or shoot me an email – I have a couple who I can enthusiastically recommend.

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4 Myths About Buying Your Home That Just Aren’t True

Posted in Home Buyer Tips, Home buying, Homebuyer Tips, Real estate, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on March 26, 2014

BUSTED 4 Myths About Buying Your Home That Just Aren't TrueIt can be pretty intimidating to dip your toes into the realm of home ownership, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. To make things worse, there are a number of myths floating around out there surrounding the home buying process.

Such misconceptions have many kept many would-be homeowners from realizing the personal and financial rewards of owning a property. To clear things up, here are 4 myths about buying your first home that simply aren’t true.

Myth #1 – It’s Cheaper To Rent Instead Of Own

If you buy a property that is within your budget and your mortgage terms allow you to make comfortable monthly payments, the cost of rent can often be higher than mortgage payments.

Sure, there are other expenses associated with owning a property that you wouldn’t be responsible for if you were renting, but one thing that many people forget is the fact that renting does not allow you to build equity.

The ability to build equity into a property that you own is like paying into a savings account – if you buy a home for $200,000, and pay down your mortgage to $175,000 in 5 years, you’ll have $25,000 in home equity that can be tapped into later if you need a lump sum of cash to pay for other large expenses.

If you sell your property down the line, any equity that the property has accumulated will provide you with more profit from the sale of the home.

Myth #2 – Whatever Shows Up On The Inspection Report Is The Seller’s Responsibility

Most offers on a home usually come with a home inspection condition that makes the offer contingent on the acceptance of a home inspection report by the buyer. Many buyers, however, are under the impression that sellers are responsible for any issues that show up on the inspection report.

Although the seller is required to make certain major repairs as stipulated by the lender, everything is still negotiable. A buyer may ask the seller to fix a minor crack in the basement wall or repair any scuff marks on the hardwood flooring, but the seller can essentially refuse, leaving the buyer with the decision of whether or not to continue with the offer anyway.

Myth #3 – The Perfect Home Is Out There – I Just Have To Wait For It

Buyers have a tendency to focus too much on all the little things that may be wrong about a house rather than on the majority of the things that are right. Homes are much like people – they aren’t perfect. Even brand new homes might have a few minor flaws.

The goal of a house hunt is to find the perfectly acceptable home – one that may have a couple of quirks that you can either live with or fix, but is otherwise ideal. An experienced buyer’s agent can help you identify issues that are deal-breakers, and help keep some perspective by separating irritating details from the big picture.

Myth #4 – I Don’t Need A Real Estate Agent To Buy A House

Without the proper team behind you – especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer – you could potentially find yourself in a compromised position. Many buyers don’t take the time necessary to shop for an agent who can best represent them in their purchase.

Think about it this way – would you perform surgery on yourself? Do you feel comfortable filing your own income taxes, or do you opt to use the services of an accountant? Being represented by a licensed real estate agent will give you the benefit of professional skills and knowledge, including the ability to find financing and close the deal with your best interests put first.

It’s always in your best interests to have an experienced, knowledgeable agent representing you in a home purchase. With such a major investment on the line, you want to have someone who can help you complete a purchase leaving no stone unturned, and ultimately saving you money – and a lot of headaches.

A professional real estate agent – like me – will be able to sort the myths from the reality and make your home-buying experience a positive one.

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4 Important Questions To Ask Before Refinancing Your Mortgage

4 Important Questions To Ask Before Refinancing Your Mortgage

So you are thinking of refinancing? Well you are in luck because I have 4 quick and important questions you should  ask yourself before doing so.

1) Do I Have Enough Equity To Get A Mortgage?

To get a conventional loan, you will usually need to have at least 20 percent equity. This means that your house will have to be worth at least $500,000 to get a $400,000 loan.

If you have less equity, you could end up having to pay for private mortgage insurance, which can easily add $100 or more to your monthly payment.

By the way, if you live in South Orange County, and not sure of the present value of your property, give me a call and I would be happy to help you estimate it.

2) How’s My Credit?

Most lenders will look at your credit score as a part of determining whether or not to make you a loan. With conventional lenders, your rate will depend on your score and the higher it is, the lower your payment will be.

Other lenders, like the FHA and VA programs have an all or nothing rule. If you qualify, your rate won’t be based on your credit, but if your score is too low, you won’t be able to get any loan. Generally, 620 credit scores are the lowest that will qualify you for any loan.

3) What Do I Want To Accomplish?

Mortgages typically offer a choice as to their term. While the 30-year loan is the most popular, shorter term mortgages save you money since you pay less interest over their lives. They also get you out of debt sooner, at least as regards your house.

The drawback is that they carry higher payments since you pay off more principal every month. This can make them less affordable for some borrowers, generally, you’ll need to keep your current house and loan for anywhere from three to six years to break even on the costs of refinancing.

4) How’s My Current Loan?

If you have an adjustable rate mortgage, you may want to switch to a fixed rate mortgage simply for the additional security it offers you. On the other hand, if you are planning to move relatively soon, your current mortgage could be a better deal whether it’s fixed- or adjustable-rate.

When trying to decide what to do, compare the cost of refinancing with what it would cost you in additional interest to hold on to your existing loan. While the breakdown is different for every borrower, generally, you’ll need to keep your current house and loan for anywhere from three to six years to break even on the costs of refinancing.

Deciding what to do with your mortgage can be complicated. Working with a qualified loan broker that can consider every angle with you can help you to make a better decision. I have a couple of excellent lenders I can wholeheartedly recommend, if you’re looking for one.

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What Financial Preparations Should I Make Before Applying For A Mortgage?

PersonalFinanceTipsGetting a mortgage isn’t an easy thing to do. Before a lender will put down tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars, it wants to know that the borrower can handle the loan so that it will get paid back. to this end, there are three things that a potential homebuyer can do to prepare for the mortgage approval process.

Managing Debts For many homebuyers, managing their credit score is the biggest challenge. Mortgage lenders like buyers with strong credit. While getting strong credit usually isn’t something that can be done overnight, paying bills on time, all of the time can help to build a positive profile. Using as little credit as possible is also helpful, since high utilization of existing credit lines can harm a borrower’s score.  Having less debt can also reduce monthly payments, making it easier to qualify for a larger mortgage.

Managing Income Lenders look for two things when it comes to a borrower’s income:

  • Stable incomes are preferred, so being able to prove the income with a W-2 form or other documentation is usually required. Self-employed people will typically need to prove their income with their tax returns, so taking high write-offs can make it harder to qualify.
  • A borrower’s income should be significantly higher than his total monthly debt payments. Lenders divide a borrower’s monthly payments including their proposed mortgage into the gross monthly income. If the payments exceed a set percentage, the lender will shrink the mortgage until it considers the payment affordable.

Managing Paperwork To qualify for a mortgage, borrowers typically need to submit a comprehensive file of supporting documentation. This can include tax returns, pay stubs and bank and investment account statements. Since lenders frequently want some historical data, it can be a good idea for people considering applying for a mortgage to start collecting documentation months before they actually begin the mortgage application process. That way, they will have everything the lender wants and when the lender needs it.

This should lead to a relatively painless pre-approval. After all that, it’s time to go house shopping. That’s when the fun begins.

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Don’t Make These Mistakes When You Want To Get A Home Loan

Don't Make These Mistakes When You Want To Get A Home LoanGetting a home loan can be a challenging process, and a finicky one. Qualifying can be challenging and once a buyer gets approved, it can be surprisingly easy to derail the process. Here are some mistakes to be avoided:

Not Pre-Checking Credit

Once a borrower makes his application for a mortgage, his fate is largely sealed. One way to increase the chance of qualifying for a home loan is for a borrower to check his credit before applying. That way, he can address any issues before they become problems for the lender.

Changing Jobs

Lenders judge borrowers on their ability to repay the loan. While a borrower’s credit rating is a good indicator of past performance, his current job and income provides some assurances that he can make his payments.

Changing jobs or losing a job interrupts the income, and can make a lender decide not to lend to that borrower.

Taking On New Debt

New debt can derail a mortgage in two ways. First, adding debt can lower credit scores from the inquiry that comes as well as worry lenders. Second, new debt increases monthly payments, which lower the amount that a borrower can take out on a home loan due to the limitations imposed by the lender’s debt to income ratio.

Fudging The Numbers

Some borrowers might be tempted to tweak some of the numbers on their mortgage applications to make them more attractive to the lender, but lying on a mortgage application is a very bad idea.

First, lenders investigate what gets entered and they’re likely to catch it. Second, it is also fraud and could leave the borrower subject to prosecution.

In general, people considering a home loan should remember the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take. Its message — do no harm — is a good rule of thumb for applying for a mortgage.

Applicants that keep their financial status the same throughout the process without making any changes are more likely to emerge at the end with their new home and their original loan.

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Can I Have A Co-Signer For My Mortgage?

Can I Have A Co-Signer For My Mortgage Loan?Like credit cards or car loans, some mortgages allow borrowers to have co-signers on the loan with them, enhancing their loan application.

However, a co-signer on a mortgage loan doesn’t have the same impact that it might on another loan. Furthermore, it poses serious drawbacks for the co-signer.

What Is A Mortgage CoSigner?

A mortgage co-signer is a person that isn’t an owner-occupant of the house. However, the co-signer is on the hook for the loan.

Typically, a co-signer is a family member or close friend that wants to help the primary borrower qualify for a mortgage.

To that end, he signs the loan documents along with the primary borrower, taking full responsibility for them.

When a co-signer applies for a mortgage, the lender considers the co-signer’s income and savings along with the borrower’s.

For instance, if a borrower only has $3,000 per month in income but wants to have a mortgage that, when added up with his other payments, works out to a total debt load of $1,800 per month, a lender might not be willing to make the loan.

If the borrower adds a co-signer with $3,000 per month in income and no debt, the lender looks at the $1,800 in payments against the combined income of $6,000, and is much more likely to approve it.

CoSigner Limitations

Co-signers can add income, but they can’t mitigate credit problems.

Typically, the lender will look at the least qualified borrower’s credit score when deciding whether or not to make the loan.

This means that a co-signer might not be able to help a borrower who has adequate income but doesn’t have adequate credit.

There Are Risks In CoSigning For A Mortgage

Co-signing arrangements carry risks for both the borrower and the co-signer.

The co-signer gets all of the downsides of debt without the benefits. He doesn’t get to use or own the house, but he’s responsible for it if the mortgage goes unpaid.

The co-signer’s credit could be ruined and he could be sued (in some states) if the borrower doesn’t pay and he doesn’t step in.

For the borrower, having a co-signer may an additional level of pressure to make payments since defaulting on the loan will hurt him and his co-signer.

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