What’s My Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio?

Debt-to-Income (DTI) is one of the many new mortgage related terms many First-Time Home Buyers will get used to hearing.

DTI is a component of the mortgage approval process that measures a borrower’s Gross Monthly Income compared to their credit payments and other monthly liabilities.

Debt-to-Income Ratios are designed to give guidance on acceptable levels of debt allowed by particular lenders or programs.

There are actually two different Debt-to-Income Ratios that underwriters will review in order to determine if a borrower’s monthly income is sufficient to cover the responsibility of a mortgage according to the particular lender / mortgage program guidelines.

Most loan programs allow for a Total DTI of 43% and a Housing DTI of 31%.

Two Types of DTI Ratios:

a) Front End or Housing Ratio:

  • Should be 28-31% of your gross income
  • Divide the estimated monthly mortgage payment by the gross monthly income

b)  Back End or Total Debt Ratio:

  • Should be less than 43% of your gross monthly income
  • Divide the estimated house payment plus all consumer debt by the gross monthly income

Remember, the DTI Ratios are based on gross income before taxes.  Lenders also prefer to use W2’s or tax returns to verify income and employment.

However, the adjusted gross income is used to calculate DTI for self-employed borrowers on most loan programs.  Since there is room for interpretation on these guidelines, it’s important to review your personal income / employment scenario in detail with your trusted mortgage professional to make sure everything fits within the guidelines.

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First-Time Home Buyer Credit Checklist

Getting a new mortgage for a First-Time Home Buyer can be a little overwhelming with all of the important details, guidelines and potential speed bumps.

Since there are so many rules and steps to follow, here is a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind throughout the mortgage approval process:

DO:

  • Continue working at your current job
  • Stay current on all your accounts
  • Keep making your house or rent payments
  • Keep your insurance payments current
  • Continue to maintain your credit as usual
  • Call us if you have any questions

DON’T

  • Make any major purchases (Car, Boat, Jet Ski, Home Theater…)
  • Apply for new credit
  • Open new credit cards
  • Transfer any balances from one credit or bank acct to another
  • Pay off any charge-off accts or collections
  • Take out furniture loans
  • Close any credit cards
  • Max out your credit cards
  • Consolidate credit debt

Basically, while you are in the process of getting a new mortgage, keep your financial status as stable as possible until the loan is funded and recorded.

Any number of minor changes could easily raise a red flag or cause a negative impact on a credit score that may result in a denied loan.

Most importantly, check with your loan officer on even the simplest questions to make sure your loan approval is successful.

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Alternate Sources For Establishing Credit

While the basic Rule-of-Thumb for acceptable credit history is a minimum of four trade lines documented on a credit report, there are alternative methods of building a credit picture that an underwriter can use to make a decision for a loan approval.

For potential home buyers with little or no credit history, keeping records for 12 months of paying bills on time is essential for mortgage loan approval. In fact, loan officers will appreciate receiving proof that you have paid a variety of accounts regularly and on time. Even if you do not have a credit history, or your credit report isn’t as good as it could be, this may enable you to get a mortgage.

The industry term for this is “thin credit.”

Some loan types, namely FHA and USDA, will accept alternative credit sources in order to establish proof of financial responsibility.

Alternative credit is unreported to the bureaus, but will still be verified and can be instrumental in a home loan approval.

Those with thin credit don’t usually have bad credit, but have just not had an opportunity to build enough traditional credit, such as bank/store credit cards, auto loans, etc.

Alternative Sources for Building Credit:

  • Rental History – Canceled checks and letter from property management company
  • Medical Bills – 12 months of statements from medical billing company showing paid as agreed
  • Utilities – power, gas, water, cable, cell phone
  • Auto Insurance
  • Health / Life Insurance – as long as it’s not auto-deducted from pay check

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Understanding the FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)

* Disclaimer – all information in this article is accurate as of the date this article was written *

The FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium is an important part of every FHA loan.

There are actually two types of Mortgage Insurance Premiums associated with FHA loans:

1.  Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP) – financed into the total loan amount at the initial time of funding

2.  Monthly Mortgage Insurance Premium – paid monthly along with Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance

Conventional loans that are higher than 80% Loan-to-Value also require mortgage insurance, but at a relatively higher rate than FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums.

Mortgage Insurance is a very important part of every FHA loan since a loan that only requires a 3.5% down payment is generally viewed by lenders as a risky proposition.

Without FHA around to insure the lender against a loss if a default occurs, high LTV loan programs such as FHA would not exist.

Calculating FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums:

Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP)

UFMIP varies based on the term of the loan and Loan-to-Value.

For most FHA loans, the UFMIP is equal to 2.25%  of the Base FHA Loan amount (effective April 5, 2010).

For Example:

>> If John purchases a home for $100,000 with 3.5% down, his base FHA loan amount would be $96,500

>> The UFMIP of 2.25% is multiplied by $96,500, equaling $2,171

>> This amount is added to the base loan, for a total FHA loan of $98,671

Monthly Mortgage Insurance (MMI):

  • Equal to .55% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is greater than 95% and the term is greater than 15 years
  • Equal to .50% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is less than or equal to 95%, and the term is greater than 15 years
  • Equal to .25% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is between 80% – 90%, and the term is greater than 15 years
  • No MMI when the loan to value is less than 90% on a 15 year term

The Monthly Mortgage Insurance Premium is not a permanent part of the loan, and it will drop off over time.

For mortgages with terms greater than 15 years, the MMI will be canceled when the Loan-to-Value reaches 78%, as long as the borrower has been making payments for at least 5 years.

For mortgages with terms 15 years or less and a Loan -to-Value loan to value ratios 90% or greater, the MMI will be canceled when the loan to value reaches 78%.  *There is not a 5 year requirement like there is for longer term loans.

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Is There A Rule-of-Thumb Regarding The Number Of Credit Lines To Have Open?

While the actual credit score has a big impact on a loan approval, it’s not the only component of the credit scenario that underwriters consider for a mortgage approval.

Since loan programs, individual lenders and mortgage insurance companies all have their own credit report restrictions, it’s difficult to define a standard Rule-of-Thumb to follow.

However, the number of “Open and Active Trade Lines” seems to be the common denominator in most approvals.

A trade line is basically a credit card, installment loan or other credit liability that is reported to the credit bureaus and displayed on a credit report.

Credit Trade Line / Approval Bullets:

  • Banks usually won’t count a trade line that is less than 12 months old.
  • The minimum number of trade lines most lenders find acceptable is 4 open and active trade lines.
  • Lenders like to see at least one credit line of $5,000, or all credit lines to total $1,000 or more.

Exceptions to Trade Line Rules:

Interestingly enough, a recent list of Mortgage Insurance requirements included a favorable trade line requirement, which read:

Min 3 trade lines @ 12 mo reporting. Cannot be ‘authorized user’

Basically, this means as long as the lender, and the loan program allow for less than 4 trade lines, this mortgage insurance company will accept only 3 trade lines that are in the borrower’s name.

Another exception to this rule is if you have no FICO score, and no negative trade lines.

In this case you may qualify for an “alternative credit” loan. The most common loan of this type is insured by FHA, but there are select programs that are usually targeted to assist people whose culture does not trust or use banks.

Borrowers applying for a non-traditional credit loan will still need to prove they have successfully paid their bills on time for 12 months by clearly documenting at least four creditors.  A verification of rent from a property management company, power, utilities, cell phone… are alternative sources of credit that can be used.

*A letter from a landlord or creditor stating that the bills were paid on time is not acceptable forms of proof.  Lenders will need canceled checks and / or copies of bank statements to start out with.

Since not all companies report to credit bureaus, it’s possible to get a complimentary credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com to verify your total reported trade lines.

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Renting vs Buying A Home

Buying a home versus renting is a big decision that takes careful consideration.

While there are several biased sources that can make arguments for or against owning a home, we’ve found that most home buyers base their ultimate decision on emotion.

Yes, there are some tax advantages of owning real estate, as well as the potential to earn equity or pay a mortgage note off after several years.

However, let’s address some of the more obvious topics of discussion first.

Benefits Of Renting:

Lower Acquisition Cost –

Unless you’re able to qualify for a mortgage loan with zero down and have your closing costs paid for by the seller, a typical investment to purchase a home is around 3.5% – 7% of the purchase price for down payment and closing costs on an FHA mortgage, and an average of 13% – 23% for a home secured by conventional financing.

Compared to the cost of about 1-3 month’s rent payment, it’s obvious that renting a home makes financial sense in the short-term.

Lower Qualifying Standards –

While the FHA and other government insured mortgage programs have more flexible credit / qualifying guidelines than most traditional home loan programs, there is certainly a lot less paperwork and personally invasive probing required by most landlords and property management companies.

Generally proof of employment / income and a decent credit history (or a good explanation) is needed to rent a home.

Freedom To Move –

It’s easy to find a home through a reputable property management company, move in that weekend and then leave a year later when the rental contract expires.  Not being tied down by a long-term mortgage liability is ideal for people new to a community, in a career that keeps them on the go or for parents with children that prefer a certain school district.

Plus, if you’re planning on moving in the next 3-5 years, then it may become cost-prohibitive due to the amount of equity you’ll have to gain in the short-run just to cover the cost of paying an agent, buyer closing costs, transfer taxes…. so that you can at least break even at closing.

Less Maintenance and Cost –

If something breaks, a simple call to the property management company will generally solve the issue in 48 hours or less.  Plus, renters don’t have to carry expensive homeowners insurance, pay property taxes or worry about interest rates adjusting.

Benefits of Owning:

Pets Are Allowed –

Well, according to the rules and regulations of your county or neighborhood HOA, you can pretty much have as many domestic and exotic pets without having to pay extra deposits.

It may seem like a funny benefit to mention first, but the millions of dog and cat lovers would definitely rank this towards the top of their list.

Pink and Purple Walls –

Yep, you can paint the inside of your house any color you choose.  And depending on whether or not there is an HOA in place, you could probably do the same thing on the home’s exterior.  Landscaping, flooring, built-in shelving… it’s your property to renovate and grow in.

Peace-of-Mind and Security –

The only way you would be forced to move is if the bank forecloses on your property due to a default in mortgage payments.

So basically, you don’t have to worry about a landlord’s financial ability to make mortgage payments on time. Plus, you can stay in your own property as long as you wish.

Tax Benefits -

The US government has created certain tax incentives making it possible for many homeowners to exceed the standard yearly deduction.

*Disclosure – Check with your CPA or Tax Attorney to verify your own unique filing scenario*

The following three components of your home mortgage may be tax deductible:

a) Interest on your home mortgage
b) Property Taxes
c) Origination / Discount Points

Stability -

Remaining in one neighborhood for several years lets you and your family establish lasting friendships, as well as offers your children the benefit of educational continuity.

Appreciation of Property -

Historically, even with other periods of declining value, home prices have exceeded consumer inflation. From 1972 through 2005, home prices increased on average 6.5%, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Forced Saving -

The monthly payment helps in repayment of the principal amount. Also when you sell you can generally take up to $250,000 ($500,000 for married couple) as gain without owing any federal income tax.

*Disclosure – Check with your CPA or Tax Attorney to verify your own unique filing scenario*

Increased Net Worth

Few things have a greater impact on net worth than owning a home. In a comparison of renters versus homeowners, the Federal Reserve Board of Consumer Finance found that the average net worth of renters was just $4,000 compared to homeowners at $184,400.

While the available tax advantages and potential for earned equity are generally highlighted by most industry professionals as the top reasons to own real estate, it’s important to remember that markets go through cycles.

However, owning real estate that appreciates more than the rate of inflation may help contribute towards your overall investment portfolio, provided your maintenance and mortgage costs are kept low.

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Ten Things You Can Do To Protect Your Identity

Facts About Identity Theft:

It’s estimated that there were 10 million victims of identity theft in 2008, and 1 in every 10 U.S. consumers have reported having their identity stolen.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported in 2005 that 1.6 million households experienced fraud not related to credit cards (i.e. their bank accounts or debit cards were compromised).

And, the U.S. DOJ also reported that those households with incomes higher than $70,000 were twice as likely to experience identity theft than those with salaries under $50,000.

What Is Identity Theft?

According to the United States Department of Justice, identity theft and identity fraud “are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.”

Such personal information may include your name, address, driver’s license number, Social Security number, date of birth, credit card number or banking information.

Victims of identity theft can spend months trying to restore their good name. And most victims do not realize it has happened until they get denied for a mortgage or a credit card.

Ten Ways to Protect Your Identity:

1.  Dumpster Diving –

Avoid “dumpster diving” by shredding all papers that contain any personal information.

Criminals sift through trash looking for the following:

-Bank Statements
-ATM Receipts
-Canceled Checks
-Credit Card Statements
-Credit Card Purchase Receipts
-Credit Card Solicitations (unopened “pre-approval” solicitations)
-Pay Stubs
-Tax Documents
-Utility Bills
-Expired Identification Cards (Drivers License, Passports…)
-Expired Credit Cards
-Medical Statements
-Insurance Documents

2. Personal Info / Phone Calls -

Never provide personal information, including your Social Security number, passwords or account numbers over the phone or internet if you did not initiate the call.

If you are asked for any type of personal information, before giving any information, ask the caller for their name, telephone number and the organization that they are representing.

You should then call the company using the customer service number the company provides with your account statement. Do NOT call the number you were given by the caller.

To reduce the number of solicitations you receive, you can sign up at the do not call registry:

web: http://www.donotcall.gov
call: (888) 382-1222

3. Look Over Your Shoulder –

Avoid “Skimming and shoulder surfing” (Never let your credit card out of your sight).

Pay with cash. Try never to let your credit card out of your sight to avoid a fraud scheme known as “skimming”.

According to Wikipedia:

“Skimming is the theft of credit card information used in an otherwise legitimate transaction. It is typically an “inside job” by a dishonest employee of a legitimate merchant. The thief can procure a victim’s credit card number using basic methods such as photocopying receipts or more advanced methods such as using a small electronic device (skimmer) to swipe and store hundreds of victims’ credit card numbers.”

Be aware of people “shoulder surfing”. This is when they are looking over your shoulder or standing too close trying to obtain your PIN number when making purchases with your debit card. They may also be listening for your credit card number.

4. Secure Your Mail –

Always mail your outgoing bill payments and checks from the post office or a neighborhood blue postal box and never from home.

Pick up your incoming mail as soon as it is delivered. The longer it sits the better chance a criminal has of stealing it.

-Get a P.O. Box.
-Lock Your Mail Box

Contact your creditors if a bill doesn’t arrive when expected or includes charges you don’t recognize. It may indicate that it was stolen.

5. Read Credit Card Statements -

Review account statements to make sure you recognize the purchases listed before paying the bill.

If your credit card holder offers electronic account access, take advantage and periodically review the activity that is posted to your account.

The quicker you spot any unauthorized activity, the sooner you can notify the creditor.

6. Monitor Credit Report -

Review your credit report at least once a year to look for suspicious activity. If you do spot something, alert your card company or the creditor immediately.

7. Email Links –

Never click on a link provided in an email if you believe it to be fraudulent.

Keep in mind, no financial institution will ask you to verify your information via email.

Criminals may link you to phony “official-looking” web site to confirm your personal information. This is known as “phishing”.

According to Wikipedia:

“Phishing” is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

8. Opt Out –

Opt out of credit card solicitations. (Take your name off marketers’ hit lists)

You can opt out of credit card solicitations by calling 1-888-567-8688 to have your name removed from direct marketing lists.

You can do this online at OptOutPrescreen.com, which is the official consumer credit reporting industry opt-out website for the three credit companies:

Experian
Equifax
Trans Union

9. Safeguard Your Social Security Number -

Protect your Social Security number.

Never carry your Social Security card or anything else with your social security number on it in your wallet or purse, along with your driver’s license.

Do not put your Social Security number or driver’s license number on any checks you may write.

Only give out your Social Security number when absolutely necessary.

10. Read Privacy Policies –

Find out what company privacy policies are (know who you are dealing with).

When being asked for your Social Security number or driver’s license number, find out what the company’s privacy policy is.

Inquire as to why it is being asked for.

Ask who has access to your number.

Ask if you can arrange for them not to share your information with anyone else.

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Where Does My Earnest Money Go?

Hey, I gave my real estate agent a $5000 Earnest Money Deposit check… Where does that money go?

A basic and very obvious question that most First-Time home Buyers ask once their purchase contract gets accepted.

According to Wikipedia:

Earnest Money – an earnest payment (sometimes called earnest money or simply earnest, or alternatively a good-faith deposit) is a deposit towards the purchase of real estate or publicly tendered government contract made by a buyer or registered contractor to demonstrate that he/she is serious (earnest) about wanting to complete the purchase.

When a buyer makes an offer to buy residential real estate, he/she generally signs a contract and pays a sum acceptable to the seller by way of earnest money. The amount varies enormously, depending upon local custom and the state of the local market at the time of contract negotiations.

An Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) is simply held by a third-party escrow company according to the terms of the executed purchase contract.

For example, there may be a contingency period for appraisal, loan approval, property inspection or approval of HOA documents.

In most cases, the Earnest Money held by the escrow company is credited towards the home buyer’s down payment and/or closing costs.

*It’s important to keep in mind that the EMD may actually be cashed at the time escrow is opened, so make sure your funds are from the proper sources.

The Process:

  1. Earnest Money is submitted to an escrow company with the accepted purchase contract
  2. At the close of escrow, the EMD is credited towards the down payment and / or closing costs
  3. If there are no closing costs or down payment, the EMD is refunded back to the buyer

Who Doesn’t Get Your Earnest Money:

  • Selling Real Estate Agent – A conflict of interest
  • Sellers – Too risky
  • Buying Agent – They shouldn’t have your money in their account

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Shopping For A Hazard Insurance Policy

When shopping for a hazard insurance policy, something called “bundling” can actually save you quite a bit of money that most people aren’t aware of.

Many of the big insurance companies price their insurance rates to attract a particular segment of the market. They usually price their hazard insurance policies to attract homeowners who need to insure not only their homes with hazard insurance, but also their cars with car insurance and lives with life insurance.

The big insurance companies want customers who will stay with them for years vs shopping around for a better deal every six months.  So, to give customers an incentive to stick with them, they offer discounts if you use the company for all three (hazard, auto, life) lines of insurance.

Companies offer “multiline discounts” to attract customers who will need more than one type of insurance. These companies offer a cheaper rate to insure both your house and car than if you insured each one separately at different companies.

The same goes if you add a second car or a life insurance policy – the discounts keep adding up.

…..

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. How much can you actually save when you combine insurance policies with one company?

It varies by company, but with some of the large insurance companies, it will save you up to 40%.

Q. Why are the large companies sometime so far off when it comes to price on my hazard insurance?

Large companies often give significant discounts if you have your hazard, auto and life insurance with them – and they actually *want* to be higher in price if you only have one line. People with only one line of insurance switch more often according to the statistics.

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Seven Things Your Agent Should Know About Your Mortgage Approval

While many experienced real estate agents have a general understanding of the mortgage approval process, there are a few important details that frequently get overlooked which may cause a purchase to be delayed or denied.

New regulation, updated disclosures, appraisal guidelines, mortgage rate pricing premiums, credit score, secondary approval layering, rescission deadlines, property type, HOA insurance requirements, title and property flip rules are just a few of the daily changes that can have a serious impact on a borrower’s home loan financing.

With today’s volatile lending environment, it’s obviously important for home buyers to get a full loan approval which clearly defines all contingencies that pertain to each unique home buyer’s scenario prior to spending any time looking at new homes with an agent.

Either way, we’ve listed a few of the top things your agent should keep in mind while showing you new properties:

Caution – Agents Beware:

Property Type –

High-Rise, Condo, Town House, Single Family Residence, Dome Home or Shoe House… all have specific lending guidelines that can influence down payment, credit score and mortgage insurance requirements.

Residence Type

Need to sell one home before moving into another? Is a property considered a second home if it’s in the same city?  What if I’m buying a home for my children to live in, it is still considered an investment property?

These are just a few of several possible residence related questions that should be addressed by your agent and loan officer at the initial loan application.

Rates / Locks

Mortgage Rates are typically locked for a 30 day period, and one of the only ways to get a new rate is to switch mortgage lenders.  Rates also have certain adjustments for property / residence type, credit score and down payment which could have a big impact on monthly payments and therefore approvals.

A 1% increase in rate could literally mean the difference between an approval or denial.

Headline News / Employment

Underwriters watch the news as well.  Borrowers who work in a volatile industry during hard economic times may have to jump through a few extra hoops to prove that their employment and income is secure.

Job changes, periods of unemployment or property location in relation to the subject property are other things to consider that may cause a speed bump in the approval process.

Title / Property Flip –

A Flip is considered a property that has been purchased by an investor and quickly sold to a new buyer within a 30-90 day period.  Generally, an investor will do a little rehab work, fresh paint, landscaping…. and try to re-sell the property for a significant profit margin.

While it seems like a perfectly fair transaction, many lenders have strict guidelines in place that prevent borrowers from obtaining financing on properties that have a previous owner with less than 90 days of documented ownership.

These rules change frequently, and are specific to particular property types, so make sure your agent is aware of all the boundaries associated with your approval letter.

Homeowner’s Association Insurance

Some lenders require Condos and Town House communities to have sufficient insurance and reserves coverage pertaining to specific ratios on units that are owner occupied vs rented.

It may also take a few weeks and cost up to $300 to receive an HOA Certification, so make sure your Due-Diligence period is set accordingly in the purchase contract.

Appraisal Ordering Procedures

Appraisal ordering guidelines are changing quite frequently as regulators implement many new consumer protection laws created to prevent future foreclosure epidemics.

Unfortunately, some of the new appraisal regulations have proven to slow the home buying process down, as well as confuse lenders about the true estimate of neighborhood values.

VA, FHA and Conventional loan programs all have separate appraisal ordering policies, so make sure your agent is aware of which loan you’re approved for so that they document any anticipated delays in the purchase contract.

For example, if an appraisal takes three weeks and the average time for an approval is two weeks, then it probably isn’t smart to write a purchase contract with a four week close of escrow.

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