Why Do I Need Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage Insurance, sometimes referred to as Private Mortgage Insurance, is required by lenders on conventional home loans if the borrower is financing more than 80% Loan-To-Value.

According to Wikipedia:

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is insurance payable to a lender or trustee for a pool of securities that may be required when taking out a mortgage loan.

It is insurance to offset losses in the case where a mortgagor is not able to repay the loan and the lender is not able to recover its costs after foreclosure and sale of the mortgaged property.

PMI isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it allows borrowers to purchase a property by qualifying for conventional financing with a lower down payment.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) simply protects your lender against non-payment should you default on your loan. It’s important to understand that the primary and only real purpose for mortgage insurance is to protect your lender—not you. As the buyer of this coverage, you’re paying the premiums so that your lender is protected. PMI is often required by lenders due to the higher level of default risk that’s associated with low down payment loans. Consequently, its sole and only benefit to you is a lower down payment mortgage

Private Mortgage Insurance and Mortgage Protection Insurance

Private mortgage insurance and mortgage protection insurance are often confused.

Though they sound similar, they’re two totally different types of insurance products that should never be construed as substitutes for each other.

  • Mortgage protection insurance is essentially a life insurance policy designed to pay off your mortgage in the event of your death.
  • Private mortgage insurance protects your lender, allowing you to finance a home with a smaller down-payment.

Automatic Termination

Thanks to The Homeowner’s Protection Act (HPA) of 1998, borrowers have the right to request private mortgage insurance cancellation when they reach a 20 percent equity in their mortgage. What’s more, lenders are required to automatically cancel PMI coverage when a 78 percent Loan-to-Value is reached.

Some exceptions to these provisions, such as liens on property or not keeping up with payments, may require further PMI coverage.

Also, in many instances your PMI premium is often tax deductible in a similar fashion as the interest paid each year on your mortgage is tax deductible. Please, check with a tax expert to learn your tax options.

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Why Do I Need To Pay A VA Funding Fee?

The VA Funding Fee is an essential component of the VA home loan program, and is a requirement of any Veteran taking advantage of this zero down payment government loan program.

This fee ranges from 1.25% to 3.3% of the loan amount, depending upon the circumstances.

On a $150,000 loan that’s an additional $1,875 to almost $5,000 in cost just for the benefit of using the VA home loan.

The good news is that the VA allows borrowers to finance this cost into the home loan without having to include it as part of the closing costs.

For buyers using their VA loan guarantee for the first time on a zero down loan, the Funding Fee would be 2.15%.

For example, on a $150,000 loan amount, the VA Funding Fee could total $3,225, which would increase the monthly mortgage payment by $18 if it were financed into the new loan.

So basically, the incremental increase to a monthly payment is not very much if you choose to finance the Funding Fee.

Historical Trivia:

Under VA’s founding law in 1944 there was no Funding Fee; the guaranty VA offered lenders was limited to 50 percent of the loan, not to exceed $2,000; loans were limited to a maximum 20 years, and the interest rate was capped at 4 percent.

The VA loan was originally designed to be readjustment aid to returning veterans from WWII and they had 2 years from the war’s official end before their eligibility expired. The program was meant to help them catch up for the lost years they sacrificed.

However, the program has obviously evolved to a long term housing benefit for veterans.

The first Funding Fee was ½% and was enacted in 1966 for the sole purpose of building a reserve fund for defaults. This remained in place only until 1970. The Funding Fee of ½% was re-instituted in 1982 and has been in place ever since.

The Amount Of Funding Fee A Borrower Pays Depends On:

  • The type of transaction (refinance versus purchase)
  • Amount of equity
  • Whether this is the first use or subsequent use of the borrower’s VA loan benefit
  • Whether you are/were regular military or Reserve or National Guard

*Disabled veterans are exempt from paying a Funding Fee

The table of Funding Fees can be accessed via VA’s website – CLICK HERE

The main reason for a Veteran to select the VA home loan instead of another program is due to the zero down payment feature.

However, if the Veteran plans on making a 20% or more down payment, the VA loan might not be a great choice because a conventional loan would have a similar interest rate, but without the Funding Fee expense.

A beneficial way to view the VA Funding Fee is that it is a small cost to pay for the benefit of not needing to part with thousands of dollars in down payment.

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

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How Do Mortgage Rates Move When The Fed Lowers Rates?

Lower mortgage rates is a common misconception that is perpetuated by the mainstream media when the Fed makes an announcement of lowering rates.

However, when the Fed cuts interest rates, mortgage rates can actually increase.

Fed 101:

According to Wikipedia:

The Federal Reserve System (also known as the Federal Reserve, and informally as the Fed) is the central banking system of the United States.

This system was conceived by several of the world’s leading bankers in 1910 and enacted in 1913, with the passing of the Federal Reserve Act. The passing of the Federal Reserve Act was largely a response to prior financial panics and bank runs, the most severe of which being the Panic of 1907.

Over time, the roles and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve System have expanded and its structure has evolved. Events such as the Great Depression were some of the major factors leading to changes in the system.

Its duties today, according to official Federal Reserve documentation, fall into four general areas:

  1. Conducting the nation’s monetary policy by influencing monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.
  2. Supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation’s banking and financial system, and protect the credit rights of consumers.
  3. Maintaining stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets.

The Federal Reserve controls two key interest rates in this country:

1) The Federal Funds Rate

2) The Discount Rate

These are overnight lending rates used by banks when they lend money to each other.

When these rates are low, money is cheaper for banks to borrow, and that “cheap” money spreads throughout the economy.

The aim of the Federal Reserve in its interest rate policy is to either speed up or slow down the economy. In times of economic downturn, the Federal Reserve will cut rates to help create a boost. Conversely, in times of heavy inflation, the Fed will raise rates to help slow down the economy.

That’s it; speed up or slow down….no tricks.

When the credit crisis began to spiral in 2007, the Fed cut rates dramatically in hopes of jump-starting the economy. The Fed keeping rates near zero is an indication that the economy is moving along at a steady pace. If the economy improves to the point where inflation starts to creep up the Fed will begin hiking rates.

The Fed and Mortgage Rates:

Mortgage rates are tied to mortgage bonds, which are traded every day on the secondary market just like stocks.

Bonds are often considered a safer investment than stocks since they yield a constant rate of return.

During times of market turmoil, investors sell their stock holdings and move into bonds (called a “flight to safety” in financial jargon).

Conversely, when the economy is booming, investors move their money away from bonds and into stocks to take advantage of the upswing in the economy.

Remember, The Fed cuts interest rates to boost the economy.

When investors see this boost, they sell their bond holdings and move into stocks.

This movement causes the rates on those bonds to increase naturally as the bonds have to attract new investors with higher rates of return.

As a result, we see mortgage rates increase.

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So, the next time you hear the Fed cutting interest rates, don’t assume mortgage rates will simply follow suit. The rate cut is simply meant to boost the economy, which moves money from bonds to stocks, and causes mortgage rates to rise.

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What’s The Difference Between Interest Rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR)?

The difference between APR and actual note rate is very confusing, especially for First-Time Home Buyers who haven’t been through the entire closing process before.

When shopping for a new mortgage loan, you may notice an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) advertised next to the note rate.  The inclusion of an APR is actually mandated by federal law in order to help give borrowers a standard rule of measurement for comparing the total cost of each loan.

The APR is designed to represent the “true cost of a loan” to the borrower, expressed in the form of a yearly rate to prevent lenders from “hiding” fees and up-front costs behind low advertised rates.

According to Wikipedia:

The terms annual percentage of rate (APR) and nominal APR describe the interest rate for a whole year (annualized), rather than just a monthly fee/rate, as applied on a loan, mortgage, credit card, etc. It is a finance charge expressed as an annual rate. 

  • The nominal APR is the simple-interest rate (for a year).
  • The effective APR is the fee+compound interest rate (calculated across a year)

The nominal APR is calculated as: the rate, for a payment period, multiplied by the number of payment periods in a year.

However, the exact legal definition of “effective APR” can vary greatly, depending on the type of fees included, such as participation fees, loan origination fees, monthly service charges, or late fees.

The effective APR has been called the “mathematically-true” interest rate for each year. The computation for the effective APR, as the fee+compound interest rate, can also vary depending on whether the up-front fees, such as origination or participation fees, are added to the entire amount, or treated as a short-term loan due in the first payment.

What Fees Are Typically Included In APR?

  • Origination Fee
  • Discount Points
  • Buydown funds from the buyer
  • Prepaid Mortgage Interest
  • Mortgage Insurance Premiums
  • Other lender fees (application, underwriting, tax service, etc.)

Since origination fees, discount points, mortgage insurance premiums, prepaid interest and other items may also be required to obtain a mortgage, they need to be included when calculating the APR. Fees such as title insurance, appraisal and credit are not included in calculating the APR.

The APR can vary between lenders and programs due to the fact that the federal law does not clearly define specifically what goes into the calculation.

What Does APR Not Disclose?

  • APR on a loan tied to a market index, like a 5/1 ARM, assumes the market index will never change.  But Adjustable Rate Mortgages always change over the course of 30 years.
  • Balloon Payments
  • Prepayment Penalties
  • Length of Rate Lock
  • Comparison between loan terms – EX:  A 15-year term will have a higher APR simply because the fees are amortized over a shorter period of time compared to a similar rate / cost scenario on a 30-year term.

APR Comparing Examples:

  • Bank (A) is offering a 30 year fixed mortgage at 8.00% APR
  • Bank (B) is offering a 30 year fixed mortgage at 7.00% Note Rate

Easy choice, right?

While Bank (B) is advertising the lowest Note Rate, they’re not factoring in the origination points, underwriting / processing fees and prepaid mortgage interest (first month’s mortgage payment), which could essentially make the APR much higher than the one Bank (A) is advertising. So Bank (A) may show a higher rate due to the APR, but they could actually be charging a lot less in total fees than Bank (B).

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Before lenders and mortgage brokers were required to state the APR, it was more difficult to find the truth about the total borrowing costs of one loan vs another. When comparing mortgage rates, it’s a good idea to ask your lender which fees are included in their APR quote.

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