Lynne Morey's Blog
You may have heard the term “escrow” in your experience with real estate. You might know it’s an account, but what exactly does it do for you as a buyer? An escrow account is what your lender uses to make payments on things like property taxes, insurance, and more. The lender collects your monthly mortgage payment, and part of that cash goes into an escrow account.
This type of account is an excellent option for homeowners because your bills relating to being a homeowner will all be paid without you having to do anything. It makes budgeting a breeze because there aren’t any complicated calculations involved. Every month, your lender collects 1/12 of the estimated tax bill and insurance cost for the home. The rest of your mortgage payment covers the principal and interest on the loan of the house.
Are Escrow Accounts Mandatory?
You’ll find that most lenders require you to have an escrow account. The purpose of the account is to keep the home safe as collateral for the loan. The bank has an interest in the proper insurance behind the property. The taxes also need to be paid on time in order to keep the property in good standing. If the taxes aren’t paid, a tax lien will be placed against the house.
Everything In One Place
You’ll receive an annual statement from your lender that will show you how much money was collected and placed in your escrow account. Escrow payments often change because insurance premiums and taxes tend to change quite frequently. The amount being put into escrow may change a few times throughout the year. The lender keeps track of all this for you, saving you some time.
Bills That Need To Be Paid
Whether you have an escrow account or not the bills that are included must be paid one way or another. It’s a good idea to speak with your lender before you buy a home to find out that bank’s procedures around these insurance and tax payments. Property tax and home insurance are items that you’ll need to budget for regardless of how your lender does things. An escrow account can be much more convenient for many buyers.
Escrow is just another one of the many essential terms that you’ll come across as a homebuyer. Knowing the advantages and purpose of the account helps you to be informed as you dive into the home buying process.
Paying off a mortgage early is a dream of many homeowners. By making larger payments on your home loan, you can cut years off of your loan term and save thousands of dollars in interest payments that you can use toward savings or investments. But in an economy that has seen decades of wage stagnation and increasing costs of living, it can often seem like an unattainable goal.
With some planning and initiative, however, there are ways to pay off your home loan before your term limit.
In today’s post, we’re going to talk about three of the ways you can start paying off your mortgage early to avoid high interest payments and save yourself money along the way.
1. Refinance your mortgage
If you’re considering making larger payments on your mortgage, it might make sense to look at refinancing options. Most Americans take out 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages.
If you can afford to significantly increase your mortgage payments each month, you could refinance to a 15-year mortgage. This will save you on the number of interest payments you’ll have to make over the years. But, it will also help you secure a lower interest rate since shorter term mortgages typically come with lower interest rates.
This option isn’t for everyone. First, refinancing comes with fees you’ll have to pay for upfront. You’ll have to apply for refinancing, get an appraisal of your home, and wait for the decision to be made.
But, you’ll also have to ensure that you can keep up with your higher monthly payments. If your income is variable or undependable, it might not be the safest option to refinance to a shorter term mortgage.
2. Make extra payments
An option that entails less risk than refinancing is to simply increase your monthly payments. If you recently got a raise or are just reallocating funds to try and tackle your mortgage, this is an excellent option.
Depending on your mortgage lender, you may be able to simple increase your auto-pay amounts each month, streamlining the process. Otherwise, it’s possible to set up bill-pay with most banks to automatically transfer funds to your lender.
3. Bi-weekly payments or one extra payment per year
Making bi-weekly instead of monthly payments is an option that many homeowners use to pay off their mortgages early. Bi-weekly payments work by paying half of your monthly payment once every two weeks.
The vast majority of homeowners make 12 monthly payments per year. But by switching to 26 bi-weekly payments, you can effectively make 13 full monthly payments in a year without seeing too much of a difference in your daily budget.
This doesn’t seem like much savings in the short term, but let’s take a look at how much you could save over the term of a 30-year mortgage.
On a 30-year fixed mortgage of $200,000 with a 4.03 annual interest rate, you would make a monthly payment of $958.00 and a bi-weekly payment of $479.
Over 30 years of an extra monthly payment, you could save nearly $20,000 on the total interest amount and pay off your mortgage almost 5 years early.
Most homebuyers take out a mortgage when they purchase a house, and there are several different types of mortgages to choose from. Here are some of the more common mortgage options and the benefits of each one.
Conventional 30-Year Fixed Mortgages
Perhaps the standard starting point for a mortgage is the conventional 30-year fixed home loan. This mortgage is underwritten by a private lending institution but conforms to standards set forth by federal programs. The terms of the loan last for 30 years, and the interest rate is fixed so that it doesn’t change throughout this period.
A conventional 30-year fixed mortgage is a good option for many homebuyers. It lets you spread out the cost of a house across three decades, and you know what the interest and payments will be for the full duration of the loan.
Conventional 15-Year Fixed Mortgages
Conventional 15-year fixed mortgages are just like their 30-year counterparts, except these last half as long. Because the duration of these mortgages is half as long, homebuyers end up paying a lot less in interest.
You’ll have to pay more per month if you cram your mortgage into 15 years, but the interest savings are substantial. If you can afford higher monthly payments, this option will end up saving you a lot.
Adjustable-rate mortgages come in various durations, just as fixed-rate mortgages do. The difference between the two is that the interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage can adjust. The interest rate is set according to an index, and as the index changes so does the interest rate on the loan. Which index is used and how adjustments are made are detailed in the paperwork of a loan.
Most adjustable-rate mortgages come with lower initial interest rates than fixed-rate mortgages offer, although the rates on adjustable mortgages can end up being much higher. If you can financially manage an increase in your mortgage’s interest rate, this option might be a way to save a little bit of interest (although there is risk involved).
The federal government offers several guaranteed mortgage options for qualifying individuals. Some of the most common ones are VA and FHA guaranteed home loans.
In these programs, the government guarantees a mortgage if the homebuyer fails to make their payments. This reduces the risk to the lender, and many lenders relax their qualification requirements as a result.
If you can’t get a conventional mortgage and qualify for a federally guaranteed program, one of these could help you attain the dream of home ownership.
If you bought a house that was over $484,350 prior to 2020, you had to get a jumbo loan, which is a non-conforming loan. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) increased the limit on conforming loans to $510,400 in most areas. The FHFA also increased the loan limit to $765,600 in some high-cost areas, which include Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. FHFA increased the loan limit for conforming loans because home prices increased by an average of 5.38 percent from the third quarter of 2018 to the third quarter of 2019.
What is a Conforming Loan?
A conforming loan follows standardized rules set by the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA / Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC / Freddie Mac). The two companies are government-sponsored, and they drive the home loan market. The most common standardized rule is the loan limit. Still, the two organizations dictate how much a loan-to-value ratio can be, your debt-to-income ratio, higher interest rates based on your credit score and what documentation you might need for a home loan. A conforming loan must also have private mortgage insurance (PMI) if the down payment is less than 20 percent.
Jumbo and Other Non-Conforming Loans
Banks do not like to write non-conforming loans because they cannot sell those loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or most of the other smaller organizations that buy loans. The most common non-conforming loan is a jumbo loan – a loan that is outside the loan limit, which is increasing for 2020. Other types of non-conforming loans might include loans for people who do not meet the debt-to-income ratio or the loan-to-value ratio. Because those loans are riskier, they often come with higher interest rates. Generally, you must also have a very good credit score to qualify for most non-conforming loans, especially jumbo loans.
While some states and territories were mentioned as high-cost areas above, some places in the continental United States are also considered to be high-cost areas. Washington, D.C. and some parts of California have the higher limit of $765,600 for 2020 because the prices of single-family homes are higher than average.
Qualifying for a Jumbo Loan
To qualify for a jumbo loan, you’ll have to jump through more hoops. Some factors a lender look for include:
A credit score of at least 700. Some lenders require a score of at least 720.
Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). While non-conforming loans may go outside the typical DTI, some lenders might refuse to go over 45 percent.
The lender might require you to have cash reserves of several months to a year in the bank.
The lender might require extensive documentation. You might have to supply your complete tax returns and several months of bank statements for a jumbo loan.
Lenders might require a second appraisal of the home.
A larger down payment.
You might get a higher interest rate, depending on the lender, your financial situation and market conditions.
Closing costs are often higher because of the extra steps you must go through to qualify for the loan.
As with any loan, shop around for a jumbo loan instead of jumping at the first loan offered.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of credit scores when it comes to buying a home. Along with your down payment, your credit score is a deciding factor of getting approved and securing a low interest rate.
Credit can be complicated. And, if you want to buy a home in the near future, it can seem daunting to try and increase your score while saving for a down payment.
However, it is possible to significantly increase your score in the months leading up to applying for a loan.
In today’s post, we’re going to talk about some ways to give your credit score a quick boost so that you can secure the best rate on your mortgage.
Should I focus on increasing my score or save for a down payment?
If you’re planning on buying a home, you might be faced with a difficult decision: to pay off old debt or to save a larger down payment.
As a general rule, it’s better to pay off smaller loans and debt before taking out larger loans. If you have multiple loans that you’re paying off that are around the same balance, focus on whichever one has the highest interest rate.
If you have low-interest loans that you can easily afford to continue paying while you save, then it’s often worth saving more for a down payment.
Remember that if you are able to save up 20% of your mortgage, you’ll be able to avoid paying PMI (private mortgage insurance). This will save you quite a bit over the span of your loan.
Starting with no credit
If you’ve avoided loans and credit cards thus far in your life but want to save for a home, you might run into the issue of not having a credit history.
To confront this issue, it’s often a good idea to open a credit card that has good rewards and use it for your everyday expenses like groceries. Then, set up the card to auto-pay the balance in full each month to avoid paying interest.
This method allows you to save money (you’d have to buy groceries and gas anyway) while building credit.
Correct credit report errors
Each of the main credit bureaus will have a slightly different method for calculating your credit score. Their information can also vary.
Each year, you’re entitled to one free report from each of the main bureaus. Take advantage of these free reports. They’re different from free credit checks that you can get from websites like Credit Karma because they’re much more detailed.
Go through the report line by line and make sure there aren’t any accounts you don’t recognize. It is not uncommon for people to find out that a scammer or even a family member has taken out a line of credit in their name.
Avoid opening several new accounts
Our final tip for boosting your credit score is to avoid opening up multiple accounts in the 6 months leading up to your mortgage application.
Opening multiple accounts is a red flag to lenders. It can show that you might be in a time of financial hardship and can temporarily lower your score.