What Are Mortgage Points? Should You Pay Them?

(TNS)—When people want to find out how much their mortgages cost, lenders often give them quotes that include loan rates and points.

What Is a Mortgage Point?
A mortgage point is a fee equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. A 30-year, $150,000 mortgage might have a rate of 7 percent but come with a charge of one mortgage point, or $1,500.

A lender can charge one, two or more mortgage points. There are two kinds of points:

  1. Discount points
  2. Origination points

Discount Points
These are actually prepaid interest on the mortgage loan. The more points you pay, the lower the interest rate on the loan and vice versa. Borrowers typically can pay anywhere from zero to three or four points, depending on how much they want to lower their rates. This kind of point is tax-deductible.

Origination Points
This is charged by the lender to cover the costs of making the loan. The origination fee is tax-deductible if it was used to obtain the mortgage and not to pay other closing costs. The IRS specifically states that if the fee is for items that would normally be itemized on a settlement statement, such as notary fees, preparation costs and inspection fees, it is not deductible.

How do you decide whether to pay mortgage points, and how many? That depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • How much money you have available to put down at closing
  • How long you plan on staying in your house

Points as prepaid interest reduce the interest rate—an advantage if you plan to stay in your home for a while—but if you need the lowest possible closing costs, choose the zero-point option on your loan program.

By the Numbers…
A lender might offer you a 30-year fixed mortgage of $165,000 at 6 percent interest with no points. The monthly mortgage principal and interest payment would be $989. If you pay two points at closing (that’s $3,300) you might be able to drop the interest rate down to 5.5 percent, with a monthly payment of $937. The savings difference would be $52 per month, but it would take 64 months to earn back the $3,300 spent upfront via lower payments. If you’re sure you will own the house for more than five years, you save money by paying the points.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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(TNS)—You’ve found the perfect house. Interest rates are still low. There’s just one thing standing between you and your dream home: a down payment.

Don’t abandon your homeownership dreams just yet. Here are nine ways to come up with the cash for your new home.

Pay Off Your Credit Cards
Paying bills will help in your hunt for down payment money. When you carry a credit card balance, the ever-accumulating interest charges mean more of your money goes to the card company each month. Keep that cash for yourself by cutting your debt load.

With the “avalanche” method, you prioritize your debts and pay the most on the one with the highest interest rate. Once that’s paid, shift your focus to the next highest rate and so on. You’ll get the most money-sucking credit card bills out of the way more quickly, freeing up more of your income to go toward building your savings.

Ladder CDs to Boost Savings
Once you have a few extra bucks, put it to work making more money for you. Certificates of deposit are low-risk and relatively accessible. But when interest rates are low, the return isn’t always what a saver hopes. You can maximize the earning power of CDs by opening different certificates at varying maturity dates.

For example, instead of buying one big CD, spread your money into three-month, six-month and one-year certificates. Known as laddering, this gives you flexibility to adjust your savings as rates change. Laddering allows you to lock in when rates are high and when rates are not so good. The process keeps you from being stuck for too long with low earnings.

Use Special Programs
There are many programs for homebuyers struggling to save for a down payment, especially for first-time homebuyers. Borrowers in a wide range of incomes, locales and professional groups may have access to aid from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored offices that buy mortgages and package them as investments. Various nonprofit and community groups also lend a hand to buyers struggling to put money down on a home. And don’t forget about assistance from state agencies.

Tap Your IRA
If you’re looking to buy your first home, let the IRS help. Tax laws allow you to use up to $10,000 in IRA funds as a down payment if you’ve never owned a house. If you’re married and you both are first-time buyers, you each can pull from your retirement accounts, meaning a potential $20,000 down payment.

Even better is the IRS definition of “first-time homebuyer.” Technically, you don’t have to be purchasing your very first home. You qualify under the tax rules as long as you (or your spouse) did not own a principal residence at any time during the two years prior to the purchase of the new home. In these instances, Uncle Sam waives the penalty for early withdrawal, but you may owe tax on the money, depending on the type of IRA.

Get a Gift
Aunt Edna always liked you best. Take advantage of that favored family status and ask her to make a present of your down payment. Tax law allows gifts of several thousand dollars a year to be bestowed without tax consequences to either the giver or recipient. The gift-exclusion amount is $14,000 for 2017 and is adjusted annually for inflation.

The gift exclusion isn’t limited to relatives. The monetary present can be from anyone, so track down a well-off friend now.

Ask for a Raise
No luck finding a benefactor? Then maybe it’s time to ask your boss for more money. Just make sure you do your homework beforehand and base your request for a salary increase on your accomplishments rather than your needs.

Get a Second Job
Boss turned down your request for a raise? Moonlighting could help you earn the extra money. This option makes the most sense for those who are young and not yet fully established in their professional lives.

Look for Lost Money
Do you have any money stashed somewhere? Around $23.5 billion worth of matured savings bonds remains unredeemed, according to the Treasury Department, ignored by owners and not earning a penny of interest. Make sure your bonds and other investments are still adding to your net worth.

You could also have money languishing in an old bank account somewhere. You can file a claim with the Treasury to claim lost, stolen or destroyed savings bonds, or check the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators to see if you have any missing money.

Sell Unwanted Items
You likely have some used furniture you no longer use or old clothes that are no longer in style. Sell it to make a few more bucks to use for your down payment.

You can sell your items on sites like Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Amazon to turn your trash into someone else’s treasure.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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(TNS)—Buying a house is a life-changing process that requires lots of upfront financial planning.

When looking for a home, keep certain factors in mind, including your financial situation, types of available loans, your credit score, the price of the house and your down payment so you can navigate the process smoothly.

Your Financial Situation
Before you buy a house, make sure that your monthly budget can handle such a large expense. Unless you’re one of the few people who can pay cash for a home, you’ll likely be paying it off for 15 or 30 years, depending on the length of your loan.

In addition to the mortgage payment, you’ll want to factor in expenses like property taxes, homeowners insurance and routine maintenance.

Types of Mortgages
When buying a home, you have a few options for the type of loan you want to use. Two of the most common mortgage types are fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages.

The interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage stays the same over the life of the loan, with payments divided up into equal amounts that you pay on a monthly basis. The longer the loan term, the less you have to pay each month; however, you’ll likely pay more in interest than you would with a shorter-term loan.

An adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, has a fixed interest rate for an initial period, followed by a period when the lender may periodically adjust the interest rate. For example, a 5/1 ARM has an introductory rate of five years. After that five-year period, the interest rate can change annually. With an ARM, you need to consider how much your monthly payment could increase and your ability to pay if it does go up.

Your Credit Score
You also need to review your credit score before buying a house. Your credit score helps creditors determine your creditworthiness. Borrowers with credit scores of 740 or higher generally qualify for the best mortgage deals.

It’s still possible to buy a house if you have bad credit. You likely will have to accept a higher interest rate on your mortgage, which could cost you hundreds of dollars extra per month.

If your credit score drops too low, though, you might not qualify for a mortgage at all. Consider improving your credit score first before trying to buy a house.

The Price of the Home
The higher the price of the house you want to buy, the more you can expect to pay on a monthly basis. When looking at houses, consider your budget and how much you can afford to spend.

Remember to consider your needs, too. Do you have a new addition to the family and need the room? Have your kids moved out and you want a smaller home?

Also, take a look at the price range of the houses available in the area where you want to buy. Compare the prices you find to your budget and determine what home you can afford.

The Down Payment
A large down payment represents one way to reduce the monthly cost of your mortgage. As a matter of fact, a down payment of 20 percent gives you access to better interest rates and prevents you from having to pay private mortgage insurance. So, in addition to lowering the amount you owe initially, a down payment also can get you a lower interest rate, making a house more affordable. There are also mortgages that require no down payment or a small one.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

There’s a reason that spring and summer are the major seasons for selling houses. Most people want to move at a time that allows them to be settled by the fall, when kids go back to school and daylight shortens.

However, you might find yourself having to sell a vacant home in the off-season. The home might be empty because the seller had to move on for reasons of work or had to move into a house he or she was paying for.

There are really two issues here. The first is selling a vacant house. The second is selling a house in the off-season. Here are some tips on how to do both:

Selling a Vacant House

Keep Up Maintenance and Repair – Even with no one around, surfaces need to be dusted and kept clean. Once people move out, minor items needing repair, like a leaky faucet or a burned-out light bulb, might not be noticed. It’s your job to notice, though, because signs of even minor disrepair or lack of maintenance can quickly turn off prospective buyers.

Clean the house or hire someone to clean it at least once a month. Surfaces need to be dusted, for example, and floors mopped or vacuumed. Do a walkthrough looking for repairs once a month, or hire a property manager to do it.

Make Sure the House Doesn’t Look Vacant  A vacant property shouldn’t look vacant for two reasons: First, it’s uninviting to see an empty property. It’s less likely that a buyer will see themselves in the space; second, it’s an open invitation to thieves, vandals and even squatters. You don’t want to open the door one day and see that vandals spray-painted all over the walls.

Develop a plan. Pick up mail if the seller isn’t having it forwarded. Place lights on timers so that they go on automatically in the evening, just as they would if someone still lived there. Many have remote apps that make this easy.

Turn Heat or Air Conditioning on Regularly  Don’t leave the heat or air conditioning off for long periods of time. Lack of heat can cause pipes to freeze or burst. Lack of air conditioning may make it difficult to cool the house properly when it comes time to show it. In addition, lack of proper ventilation can make the house smell musty and unused.

It’s best to run the heat and air conditioning at regular intervals while the house is vacant.

Focus on Curb Appeal  Don’t skimp on curb appeal just because the house is vacant. If anything, making the house look inviting becomes even more critical if no one lives there. Keep the grounds and garden in the same pristine condition as the house. Paint the door a vibrant color. Place small trees on either side to frame it.

Stage the Interior  When prospective buyers come, they need to see an interior that looks welcoming, and that allows them to visualize themselves in the house. They may not be able to do that fully if the house is completely empty.

On the other hand, completely furnishing an empty house may not be practical. What you need to do is stage the interior. Put focal pieces in each room, for example. You don’t need to create a functional room; you just have to give clients a sense of how the room would look if they lived there. In other words: a fireplace with wood, a lamp and a sofa in the living room might be enough. No need for matching armchairs and two more lamps!

Selling in the Off-Season

Price to Sell  While you likely won’t attract the maximum number of buyers in the off-season, some people do look in the fall and winter. To move the house, the most prudent move is to price it to sell. If you’re in a hot market, that may be at a market price. If demand is a tad sluggish, price it slightly under. For most sellers, it’s better to sell at a price slightly under the asking price in October than to wait five more months, especially if they’re carrying the mortgage.

Sweeten the Offer  Sweetening the offer may also help sell the house in the off-season. Nicely enough, sweeteners abound, depending on the property. Does a patio look as if it may need replacement in the next five years? See if the seller will replace it as a sweetener. Do the same with any major appliance that may go in five years, such as water heaters.

The other sweetener strategy is to wait for buyers to suggest things. Some may want a reseeded lawn or pruned trees. Entertain these offers if they look likely to result in a sale.

It can be more challenging to sell a vacant home in the off-season, but by utilizing these tips, you’ll place yourself at a strategic advantage in moving a house in the off-season.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

You may be getting into the holiday spirit this October, but remember that if you’re trying to sell your home, you still have to appeal to the majority of buyers. Not everyone is into the haunted house scene, so maybe tone down the spook factor while you’re on the market.

Keep it lit. You may be trying to set the mood with dim, orange or black lighting, but if your house comes across as dark, then you might be alienating buyers from the get-go. If holiday-themed lights are your weak spot, try to keep them as part of your outdoor decoration, and at a minimum. Trendy lanterns are a great way of boosting your seasonal lighting without incorporating off-putting plastic string lights.

Put the animatronics away. Sure, the sudden sounds and animation are a great way of frightening friends and family when they walk through your door, but you certainly don’t want to have that effect on buyers. That floating head that comes to life with the smallest movement (or goes off randomly, shocking unsuspecting victims)? Keep it stored away until your home is off the market. Even if turned off, these characters will distract buyers from the real reason for their visit: to see if it’s a place they can call home.

Keep it neat. You want your home to appear as neat as possible when it’s on the market. Any excess decorations—even if they’re fake spiders, tombstones, ghouls or spider webs—can come across as clutter. Make it as easy as possible for buyers to envision themselves living in the house. Selling will be significantly harder if your home looks like a scene from a horror movie. (On that note, put the fake blood away for the time being, as well.)

Don’t deck out the exterior. While you may be proud of your hair-raising cemetery, rolling fog and thundering sound effects, prospective buyers may have a hard time looking past your seasonal decor. All of the Halloween accessories can take part in molding buyers’ first impressions. You want them to think of your place as home, not a haunted attraction.

If you can’t live without the Halloween-themed accessories, keep it simple. There are plenty of Gothic-inspired items that scream Halloween without being over the top. A simple black rose wreath on your front door and a couple of pumpkins by the entrance won’t hurt your chances of selling. Candles are a great way to show off your holiday spirit, and they also make your home smell clean. Many fall centerpieces with leaves and twigs look great for Halloween, so double up on your autumn decor!

Don’t focus on the fact that you can’t embellish every nook and cranny with scream-worthy accessories. Remember, the faster you sell, the faster you can get into the comforts of your new place, where blood-curdling screams and chilling ghost stories make you feel at home.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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Appraisal disappointing? You have options, according to the Appraisal Institute.

“Homebuyers and sellers should first understand what an appraisal is and how it’s used,” says Jim Amorin, president and acting CEO of the Appraisal Institute. “Real estate appraisals for mortgage finance applications are prepared for the bank or financial institution so they can better understand the collateral risk in making the loan. This can be confusing, because homebuyers typically pay for the appraisal and receive a copy of it.”

In some cases, the appraisal may not match the contract price—but just because an appraisal comes in below (or above) the listing or contract price doesn’t mean it’s flawed, Amorin says. The agreed-upon contract price may be above market value, for example. In those situations, the buyer and seller often renegotiate the contract at more favorable or balanced terms.

Homebuyers should ask their lender for the qualifications of the appraiser, including whether they are designated by a professional association like the Appraisal Institute, says Amorin. A qualified and competent appraiser knows how to conduct a thorough market analysis and make appropriate adjustments.

Homebuyers also can ask whether the appraiser is directly engaged by the bank or whether the bank utilizes an appraisal management company, and what their procedures are for engaging qualified appraisers.

“The best way for consumers to combat potential problems with appraisals is to ensure the appraiser hired by their lender is highly qualified and competent,” Amorin says. “Consumers have every right to demand the use of a highly qualified appraiser, someone with field experience in their market and knowledge and experience to handle the assignment properly.”

Contrary to incorrect interpretations of appraiser independence requirements, appraisers welcome information that would assist the development of credible assignment results,” says Amorin. If lender policies permit, consumers can accompany appraisers when conducting the property inspection and may provide the appraiser with any information they consider important.

Amorin suggests consumers ask their lender for permission to do so, and confirm the appointment. Consumers should also take note of whether an adequate inspection is performed. Did the appraiser spend enough time at the property to observe important features or improvements or potential problems?

Homebuyers should take advantage of their right to obtain a copy of the appraisal report,” Amorin says. Even though the appraisal is ordered to help assess lender collateral risk, buyers are entitled to a copy of the appraisal report. Federal regulations require lenders to provide property buyers with free copies of appraisal reports no later than three days before the loan closes.

Although appraisal review is best performed by qualified appraisers, consumers should examine the appraisal for potential deficiencies, says Amorin. According to “Appraising the Appraisal: The Art of Appraisal Review,” common errors in appraisals include: misuse of adjustments to comparables; disregarding special financing and concessions; or miscalculation of gross living area (GLA).

Amorin suggests consumers ask themselves:

  • Do adjacent homes add or detract from the value of the subject property?
  • Is the subject property equal to or lower in price than surrounding homes?
  • Does the floor plan have any functional problems?
  • Does the house (particularly the kitchen and bathrooms) require major remodeling to make it comparable with similar homes in the same price range?
  • Is the number of bedrooms and baths in the home comparable to similar homes in the same price range?
  • Did the appraiser perform an adequate inspection?

“Most lenders have appraisal appeal procedures, known as ‘Reconsiderations of Value,'” says Amorin. “If you’re aware of recent, comparable sales information or items that may not have been available or considered by the appraiser, provide those to the lender. If problems were found with the first appraisal, you can and should obtain a second appraisal.”

Source: Appraisal Institute

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

While the immediate danger is gone and hurricane season is winding down, individuals in the affected areas are still working through a recovering market. Most residents of hurricane-prone areas expect storms to hit, but the buyer and seller population may not be familiar with the ramifications of a hurricane that disrupts a real estate transaction.

Here’s what Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association President-Elect Lou Nimkoff and RE/MAX 200 Orlando-based REALTOR® Daniel Wilson have to say about navigating the real estate market during hurricane season:

Trust your gut.
Unfortunately, you may come across individuals that try to take advantage of vulnerable homeowners. Following a natural disaster, service “professionals” who are not qualified to perform a job may try to overcharge for a service claiming an increase in demand. If not careful, you can wind up with a botched repair that costs you thousands of dollars.

“My No. 1 piece of advice to buyers and sellers post-hurricanes is to be aware of everyone that you’re dealing with and make sure that they’re a trusted name in their industry. During times of distress, a lot of companies try and profit from those in need. For example, make sure the roofer that comes to your door knocking for business is an actual licensed and insured roofer. Better yet, look up the business and find their customer reviews online,” says Wilson.

“You need to have a home inspector take a look and make sure any work you had done was done properly,” says Nimkoff.

Have patience. 
The market was hit hard and it will take time for everything to settle down. Not all homes are back on the market after sustaining damage during the hurricanes. In a few more weeks, you could be seeing more activity; however, if you do see something you like, it will most likely sell quickly since inventory is low. If a home fits the bill, jump on it before another buyer comes along and claims it.

“I advise buyers to act on the same day the homes get listed if they’re interested, otherwise they will have a very difficult time in getting their offer accepted once there’s been a multiple offer situation. My theory is: the first agent in the door—with the best offer and continued communication with the other agent—wins!” says Wilson.

“Because it is a seller’s market and there is an unusually high number of sellers, buyers want to be able to try and attract them and negotiate with them quickly,” says Nimkoff.

Get back on the market.
If your home was damaged by the hurricanes and you are trying to sell, fix any issues as quickly as possible so you can get your home back on the market. If your home only sustained minor damage, fix any issues without withdrawing your listing. Time off the market can translate into offers that you could be missing out on. Buyers will start to come out of the woodwork after laying low in the weeks following the hurricanes.

“I have a current seller who needed to have a new roof put on because of the hurricane. We went under contract with a buyer, got insurance to approve the new roof and scheduled a professional to place the new roof on the home—all while still on track with the original closing date of just 30 days from contract to close,” says Wilson.

“You need to make sure that your insurance values are up-to-date. If you do have a loss, you can quickly have it repaired and you don’t have to get into a fight with the insurance company. If you suffered some sort of loss, you need to repair it quickly and properly,” says Nimkoff.

Be flexible and keep the end goal in mind.
Do remember that hurricane season can be stressful. Emotions are high for both buyers and sellers. Work together to achieve your goal while avoiding the drama.

“If you’re going to buy a house during hurricane season, talk to your landlord and say, ‘I need an extra month if I can’t move into my new house.’ Or if you’re selling your home, you have the right to delay the home you are selling so you can work out the issue because of a pending hurricane,” says Nimkoff

“It’s an awfully tight market. A thousand people a day are moving in here. Don’t get too focused [on hurricanes] that you forget about the long-term benefits. We have pretty low interest rates right now,” he adds.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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(TNS)—You’re buying a home and you need a mortgage. How do you choose the right lender—one that will offer not only the best deal, but also good customer service?

You’ll find no shortage of banks, online lenders, mortgage brokers and other players eager to take your loan application. Here are five tips for selecting the best mortgage lender out of the bunch.

Compare Offers and Lenders
Start getting familiar with various lenders and the deals they’re offering by browsing through mortgage rates.

Lenders will “present price differently,” notes Robert Davis, an executive vice president at the American Bankers Association (ABA). “Some lower rates might include fees with it, so the annual percentage rate is different than what you might think.”

Also, understand that some lenders specialize. One might be a good choice if you’re financing a condo, while others might offer a better deal if you’re building your home from scratch. You’ll want to have a general idea of the type of property you’re interested in.

Check With Lenders and People You Know
You might find the right mortgage and the best lender without having to look very far. Go to the bank or credit union where you have a checking or savings account and ask about the types of mortgage deals that are available to current customers.

Compare any offer against what other lenders in your area and online and large national lenders will give you.

“Interest rates change as much as three or four times a day, so get quotes from three different (lenders) to increase your odds,” says Brian Koss, executive vice president of Mortgage Network.

Be sure to ask family members and friends for referrals to loan officers and mortgage brokers who gave them good, professional service and helped them find the most competitive loans.

Decide: DIY or Hire a Broker?
One important decision is whether to seek out a mortgage and lender completely on your own or use the services of a mortgage broker.

A broker can help with your comparison-shopping by gathering quotes from several lenders, but it’s important to understand that a broker isn’t obligated to find the deal that’s best for you.

If you decide to work with a mortgage broker, it’s wise to look at how the loan offers from the broker size up against those you find on your own.

Look at differences in rates, fees, mortgage insurance and down payments—and compare what your bottom-line costs will be.

Talk With Your Real Estate Agent
Be sure to ask your real estate agent for lender recommendations. Smart loan officers rely on that business and take good care of the clients sent their way by local real estate agents.

Keep in mind that agents might have relationships with certain lenders, so when your agent gives you a name, ask whether there is any affiliation.

While some real estate brokerages have their own favored in-house mortgage lending businesses, good agents will not limit their referrals to those particular lenders.

Be Ready for a Possible Hand-Off
Many lenders will end up selling your mortgage to the secondary market, which means you will likely have a different company servicing your loan than your original lender.

This transfer is often outside your control, but you can ask the lender whether it knows if your mortgage will end up being serviced by a different company. If you want a lender you can reach out to immediately if problems arise, finding one who will hold onto your mortgage might be the best option.

“If it’s important for you to have local contact with the lender, then you’ve got to go to a bank that keeps your mortgage,” says Davis.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

The mortgage process can be complicated if you jump in without any prior knowledge on home-buying and lending. The best tool you can arm yourself with is an understanding of how your mortgage interest rate is calculated.

Credit can make or break you.

Your credit score will determine how reliable you are in the lending world. The higher your score, the lower your interest rate will likely be. Check your credit on one of the three major credit reporting agency sites—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—or your credit card company may have a free credit report service (although these aren’t as reliable). Improve your FICO score for a better chance at a lower interest rate.

Factor in size and location.

  • State or County: Even your place of residence can affect your rate.
  • Local Mortgage Lenders: Shop around. Interest rates can vary from company to company even if they’re located in the same town.
  • Loan Size: The size of your home can also impact your interest rate. The bigger the loan, the higher your interest rate will be if you’re not putting more money down.
  • Down Payment Size: Your mortgage interest rate may also depend on how much you’re putting down and if your loan includes closing costs and private mortgage insurance (PMI). Putting down less than 20 percent can increase your risk factor and may require PMI, but your interest rate may be lower depending on the loan.

Not all loans are created equal.

Loan Length: Your loan terms play a bigger role in interest rate calculations than you think. Have you decided whether you want to pay off your loan in 15 or 30 years? You may pay more per month with a shorter term, but you’ll be paying less interest over the life of your loan. Short-term loans may also have a smaller interest rate.

Fixed or Adjustable: You’ll also have to consider whether a fixed- or adjustable-rate loan is right for you. Your interest rate can change over time if you choose an adjustable-rate loan. It may start off low or fixed, but can increase over time depending on market conditions. Fixed-rate loans, however, will have a higher interest rate attached to them.

Loan Type: Interest rates can also vary according to your loan type. Choosing a loan can be overwhelming, but a local lender should be able to provide you with the best options. Some of the more popular loans are conventional, FHA and VA loans. While FHA loans have less down payment restrictions and a smaller interest rate, your monthly payment can be more expensive due to the required PMI added on. VA loans can have smaller interest rates and don’t require PMI like FHA does. Conventional loans are widely accepted in the real estate industry as dependable, but your interest rate may be higher.

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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(TNS)—Buying a house can be difficult enough—especially in today’s market.

Even after a seller accepts an offer, the sale is not a done deal until certain “contingencies” are met. Some are straightforward: Some buyers stipulate, for example, that a sale cannot proceed until they sell their current home. Other contingencies are more complicated. Either way, all are in place to protect buyers and sellers, allowing either to walk away from a deal if their conditions are not met.

Navigating these contract conditions can be confusing, and in today’s hot real estate market in which some buyers are waiving contingencies in order to win bidding wars, it can be difficult to determine which are important.

These days, real estate agents say they have seen buyers waive inspection contingencies to make their offers more attractive. In doing so, buyers are forgoing their rights to an independent inspection, meaning they cannot ask the seller for repairs or walk away from a property if it turns out to be unsatisfactory. In short, buyers are accepting a house as is—and potentially, all of its hidden problems.

To help buyers decide how important independent inspections are, we spoke to real estate agents and inspectors about what goes into a home inspection, and whether waiving that condition is a good idea.

What exactly is a home inspection?
In most typical real estate transactions, a home inspection is the next step that occurs after a bid is accepted. Buyers are responsible for hiring the inspector before the deal closes, and the process is in place to protect them.

The inspector’s job is to examine a home, determining whether there are problems with its exterior or interiors, from the foundation to the roof. The inspector provides a report to a buyer, who can then bring that information to a seller and use it back at the bargaining table.

How quickly do I have to schedule one?
“It depends on the contract and the state you’re in,” says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors. But typically, he adds, buyers have five to 10 days after a home goes under contract.

Lesh’s advice: Once a home is under contract, contact an inspector immediately.

“Inspectors are busy, especially in hot markets,” he says. “Some people tend to forget and wait until the last minute. You really only have a few days.”

How can I find a well-respected home inspector?
Regulations for home inspectors differ across the United States. In New Jersey, for instance, inspectors are licensed and regulated by the state’s Home Inspection Advisory Committee. To become certified, inspectors must, by law, complete 180 hours of study courses, including 40 hours of unpaid field work in the presence of a licensed inspector. Each inspector must pass a national exam, and complete continuing education every other year.

In Pennsylvania, by contrast, home inspectors are not regulated by the state, and instead are required to be a “member in good standing of a national home inspection association,” such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (interNACHI). Each association has its own requirements on certification and continuing education; for example, ASHI requires inspectors to pass the national exam and to complete 250 inspections to become certified. Continuing education is also required.

What does my home inspection cover?
A general home inspection is a noninvasive exam of a seller’s home.

“The standards of practice are pretty uniform,” says Pete Ciliberto, owner and chief inspector of Real Estate Inspections, an inspection group. “We are covering all the major components and systems of a house—all of the structural elements, the foundation, exposed framing,” and more.

What that means: A general inspector will inspect the general structure of the roof, and the gutters and downspouts around it. He or she will make sure the home’s “flashing”—the thin layer of waterproof material that prevents water from getting into where it does not belong—is correct. The heating and air conditioning systems are also inspected to ensure they are up to snuff. So are ceilings and floors, chimneys and vents. The ventilation of attics is inspected, and a generalized overview of electrical systems is completed.

“There are probably over 200 things that we inspect,” Lesh says.

What does it not include?
Many things are not included, inspectors say. An inspection is not technically exhaustive, they pointed out, nor does it determine a property’s suitability. Inspectors are not required to determine whether a building is up to code, and they are not required to move furniture, enter crawlspaces, or offer any services besides the inspection.

Most important, the experts said, inspectors are not required to determine the presence of rodents or pests. They are not required to assess air quality or test for mold, mildew or fungus. Airborne and environmental hazards are also excluded, meaning radon, lead paint and asbestos tests are not conducted in a general inspection.

However, buyers can bring in specialists if they have particular concerns—or hire a general inspector who may be trained in a specialized area.

“There are guys who do mold testing, air sampling, and other ancillary services,” Lesh says. “If you want one person to take care of the whole thing, you can (find someone) to do that.”

Why should I get one—and should I waive that contingency?
When making a financial decision as significant as purchasing a home, you want to confirm that you are making a wise investment. While inspections are not holistic, they offer a snapshot of a home’s condition, and can give you fair warning of what repairs may be needed now or in the near future. Plus, agents point out, after an inspection report is issued, a buyer can use the report to ask a seller for repairs—or can walk away entirely.

“They can ask for anything they want or can terminate for any reason—they do not have to say why,” says Mike McCann, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®, which has offices in the Mid-Atlantic region. “The fall-through rate is only about 10 to 15 percent of the time, but I will tell you now, over 90 percent of the time, concessions are made after the inspections.”

McCann says he advises clients to never waive the inspection.

“If they don’t own the home, there are many things about it that they don’t know yet. You can’t check the roof. You can’t see every joist. Having a professional go through that is very important.”

©2017 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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The post On the House: What to Expect When It’s Time to Get Your Home Inspected appeared first on RISMedia.

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