Tag Archives: first time buyer programs

I Can Afford That, Right?

When looking at buying a house, there are a lot of things to consider. Do you NEED a two-car garage or do you just WANT a two-car garage?  Do you have a school district preference or prefer a certain city so you can be closer to work?  Do you want a rambler or a two-story and do you need a fenced-in yard for your furry family member?  Do you prefer to avoid outside maintenance, making a townhome a better option?  Is it important the house is updated or are you pretty handy at DIY?

Some of these decisions are a basic “wants” vs. “needs” analysis. Obviously, if you had a household of four people, a one-bedroom home won’t cut it – that would be a “need,” whereas having a pool in the back is more of a “want.”  Lot’s of things to take into account.  The most important though, should be what price home, or payment, that you can really afford.  Buying a house isn’t just a house payment for the next 30 years – it’s a commitment along with other financial responsibilities.

Many of you may be renting right now and, quite possibly, could be paying more in rent than what you can afford for a house payment. One of the mortgage lender’s goal is to help you get financing, but the main goal should be to make sure that whatever financing you obtain, you are comfortable with the payment.  Let’s face it, you’ll have this payment for the next 30 years and eating ramen noodles every night doesn’t sound like fun.

So how do we determine what payment/price you can afford? Lenders use something called ratios to determine your qualifications.  Ratios take a certain percentage of your GROSS monthly income, taking into account other monthly debts you have, to come up with a maximum house payment.  Sometimes, that top-end payment is NOT what you want to pay because it puts you out of your comfort-zone.  And if that’s the case, please let your lender know that!  There is no reason you should ever pay more per month than what you financially can afford.  You know your spending habits much better than your lender.  That said, if you think you can spend more than what the lender determines you can afford, we can’t increase it just to make you happy.  To make that work, your income has to be higher, debts lower or you may need a co-signor or co-borrower to bring that payment to what you feel you can afford.

Different loan programs have different guidelines for ratios. One constant is that your monthly income is looked at in gross terms versus net (after taxes/deductions).  The exception to this is if you’re self-employed.  In this situation, we look at the NET profit or loss on your federal taxes (assuming a schedule C filing) since this is what you got taxed on.  Also, different types of income might be looked at as an average over two years.  You’d want to check with your lender about how they will look at your specific situation.  For now, let’s keep this simple and use an FHA example assuming the person is salaried at $5000/month and has $650/month in debts.

In the example below, notice that there are TWO percentages being used. The first, we call the housing ratio.  This determines the maximum house payment you can make based on your monthly income.  The second is called the debt ratio.  This is based off your monthly income too, but now factors in any monthly debts you have (credit cards payments, car loans, other house payments, installment loans, lines of credit, ongoing payments to the government for taxes, alimony, child support, overdraft protection balances, etc.)  We will take the lesser of the two calculations to determine the maximum payment you can afford.  FHA guidelines allow 31% for the housing ratio and 43% for the debt ratio.  Some lenders may be willing to exceed these ratios, please check with your lender.

 

 

In this example, the buyer can afford a $1500/month house payment. The payment includes principal and interest on the loan, a monthly amount for property taxes and monthly amount for hazard/homeowner’s insurance and monthly mortgage insurance, if applicable.  If you were looking at a townhome, or something with monthly association dues, the lender would also factor this into the maximum payment you can afford.

Let’s say $1500/month puts you at a purchase price on a single family home (no association dues) at $220,000. You’ve gotten yourself pre-approved and are out looking at homes.  Did you know that you could look at multiple homes, ALL listed at $220,000, and possibly not qualify for ANY of them?  I know, I know … but your lender said you could look homes at that price.  So what gives?  Ultimately, you are getting pre-approved for a house payment, NOT a price.  The price of the property is a guide, so to speak.  In this example, if the lender used $229/month for the property taxes and ALL the homes you looked at had taxes higher than $229, then your payment would end up being higher than $1500, hence you wouldn’t qualify.  Not only will taxes affect the price you can afford, but so can the interest rates, association dues and hazard/homeowner’s insurance.  These are all moving parts to the home purchase puzzle!

As lenders, we do our best to give you an approximate price point, but knowing the above will hopefully help you understand that some houses you look at, though you were told the price would work, just won’t. Alternately, the house you look at could be $190,000 and the taxes could be crazy high,  making the payment higher than $1500, meaning you can’t afford even THAT lesser priced home.  It’s nuts, I know.

Remember I mentioned this was a single family home? Pretend you change your mind and start down the townhome or condo path.  If that should happen, then your $1500/month payment MUST also take into account association dues, which can vary dramatically.  This will lower your purchase price power approximately $20,000, maybe more depending on the dues.  Best advice here – talk to your loan officer if you decide to change property types so you can get a more accurate price range to be looking in.

So the question – “I can afford that, right?” has the wishy-washy answer of “maybe.” First, remember your income and your monthly debts will determine WHAT payment you can afford monthly.  And second, the payment you can afford will get varying results on whether you can afford a specific house depending on interest rate, property taxes and homeowner’s insurance amounts.  Your lender will get you pretty close to the price range you can look in so you have a starting point, but at least now you have a better understanding as to why you might not be able to buy the house you thought you could afford.

My goal is to provide education and a clear understanding of the process and your goals. It would be my pleasure to help you with your homeownership journey.

You Through the Underwriter’s Eyes — Credit

Credit is super important in financing a home, and these days, even more so.  In my previous blog,  I introduced how underwriters make a loan decision based on four criteria – capacity, credit, cash and collateral.  That blog went over capacity – otherwise known as your income and employment.  Today, we will get to know what role credit plays in your loan decision.

Credit score trumps many things in today’s lending. For instance, you could have sufficient income, plenty of assets (money in the bank), but you don’t have the necessary score set forth by the investor.  Because of this, you might not be eligible for financing until your score meets investor requirements.  These “certain” scores will vary depending on program and lender.  Your individual credit scores are generated through three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.  Not everyone has scores and some people may have less than three scores due to a lack of or length of credit history.

As a consumer, you have the right to look at your credit report annually for free. You can visit www.annualcreditreport.com.   Getting your scores will cost you though, so be prepared to pay something to see your scores (costs vary).  A best first step is to visit www.myfico.com to learn from the best!  Your score may be available via other methods, such as your credit card company or outside companies you may pay to monitor your score.

The important thing to know here is that most mortgage lenders use the FICO scoring system, created by Fair Isaac Corporation in the 1950’s (source).  There is another major scoring system called Vantage, established by the three credit bureaus (source).  While Vantage scores are accurate under Vantage, they are not what the majority of lenders use for your score, so they may not be an accurate indicator when it comes to mortgage financing.

To unintentionally confuse matters, BOTH scoring systems pull from the three bureaus, one of which is Experian and their score is actually called a FICO score. Under the Vantage system, your Experian FICO score may be different than the FICO score under the FICO scoring system. Always best to know what system is being used to generate your score, especially since your lender is probably using the FICO system.

We now know score is the starting point, but it’s not the only point. In a previous blog, “No Credit = No Loan” alludes to, you don’t necessarily need a score.  But, we still need to look at your history.  Your score is an indication of how well you pay your bills, how much you use your credit (allowable limits in relation to actual balances), types of credit you have (revolving vs. installment), length of time credit has been established and recent inquiries (credit checks) into your credit.  And by the way, your score is literally a snapshot on the day it was pulled so it could vary daily.

Lenders are trying to determine your willingness and ability to repay the loan. Sometimes the score doesn’t tell the whole story, so they do look at other things.  Have you had any late payments in the last 12 months (may go back 24 months depending on program)?  Are there any outstanding collections or any other major derogatory things like judgments, bankruptcy, foreclosure or short sale?  If you have had one or more of the major derogatory items, the waiting period for new loan will differ depending on the loan program you use.  And guidelines for collection accounts will vary by program too – whether they must be paid or not.

Your monthly debts, items on the report and items not on the report, such as child support, alimony or tax payments, all need to be factored into that you can qualify for. The lender will run ratios, or percentages, to determine your qualifications using your usable/verifiable monthly income in relation to your monthly debts.

As an example, using monthly qualifying income at $5000/month and monthly debts at $650/month, below is how the figures shake out. These ratios are standard guidelines for FHA financing and will differ with other loan types.  The debt piece under credit goes hand in hand with the capacity part – income.

Sometimes, the underwriter also wants to know the “why” behind any derogatory items. What was the reason you had a bankruptcy or late payments on the credit card.  Again, they look at the whole file, as well as guidelines of your loan program, to determine the necessity of explanations.

To sound like a broken record, credit is the utmost importance when it comes to your loan. The advice here is simple: pay your bills on time; keep your balances status quo while in the process and do not close any accounts or open any new accounts.  If you have had derogatory items in your past, a lower score or no credit, start early and get in touch with a lender to discuss what you need to do to be ready for your exciting home-buying journey!   Next up of the 4 C’s – Cash.

You Through the Underwriter’s Eyes — Capacity

What is an underwriter? This is the person who will review your file to make sure you meet the guidelines set forth by the program you’re doing.  Underwriters determine if you are a good credit risk for the bank or lender, so they look at four different aspects of your situation.  We call these the four C’s to underwriting – capacity, credit, cash and collateral.  This blog focuses on your income and employment, which fall under capacity.

Employment is NOT necessary to get financing, but what is necessary is income to determine you have the ability to repay your new loan plus any other debts you have. Non-employment income can come from social security, disability, pension, alimony, child support or even interest you’ve earned via investments.  Depending on the loan program you’re doing, we need to verify a history of receipt and determine that it will continue for at least three years.  Depending on the income type, the methods we use to verify the income will vary.

With employment, the underwriter is looking at past history and the likelihood of job continuation. We realize that no one knows when a job may end, but past history and a current verification from your employer will help us answer that question.  Sometimes an employer will write “no” in the box labeled “probability of continued employment.”  If that happens, we may have a difficult time justifying the employment, thus income, we are using for your qualifications.

The underwriter is also looking for a two-year work history if we are using employment income for qualifying. You don’t need the same job for the last two years, though that’s certainly preferable.  If you had been out of work for an extended period of time, say three – six months, you may have to be on your new job for a certain timeframe to use the income for qualifying.  That timeframe will vary on programs.  We still would need to verify a two-year work history prior to the time off.  If you were a student in the last two years, for instance, we can use this as part of your “job” history and would obtain unofficial transcripts from you to prove this.

If you have a history, especially in the last 12 months, of changing jobs frequently (more than two – three times), this may make it tougher to use the income as well since it’s hard to predict, based on history, that the current job we’re using for income will be stable. Certainly, people change jobs to get better pay, hours or even benefits.  We aren’t faulting you for bettering your situation and applaud that, but frequency of those changes could be harmful.

What about changing jobs in the process? It is certainly acceptable to do so, but you should always check with your loan officer first.  Remember, underwriters are using your current income pay structure to determine your qualifications.  Let’s say you are a salaried employee now and have the option to go to a base (less per year) plus commission.  My guess is you may take this option since you may have a higher earning potential.  The problem is that lenders can only use the commission income for qualifying if you have a two-year history of receiving this type of income.  If you don’t, then the numbers the lender has given you would be inaccurate since they were based on the higher salary, not the lower new base pay.

And yes, we really like things in two’s! For instance, when it comes to income, or your capacity, we look at types of income differently.  If you are salaried, we can use that as your income and like any proof, we will confirm this with recent paystubs, W2s and possibly tax returns.  If you are hourly, and you work the same hours per week, we can use that easily enough.

If you work variable hours, then we may need to average your income over the last two years and current year to determine what your monthly income works out to be. Commission, overtime, bonus, tips and self-employment all need to have a two-year history to use it for qualifying.  Sometimes, a lesser time frame is allowed, but that is dependent on the type of income and loan program you’re doing, as well as your specific situation.  This income, since variable, will be averaged over 24 months and if it’s declining, we may have to use the lower income or could not use it.

Interestingly, lenders will use your GROSS income to determine qualifications (unless you’re self-employed, then net is used). Seems a little odd to do this since you don’t get that much in your paycheck, do you?  But, we have to put all people on the same playing field.  If two people had the same salary, but one opted to put max into their 401K and the other had health insurance costs, their net income would be vastly different, possibly giving one person more qualifying ability over the other.  So, we use gross income and we use something called ratios to determine your qualifications.  This just means, based on the program you’re doing, we take a percentage of your gross income and subtract your monthly obligations to determine a maximum payment you can afford – but that’s another blog!

In the lending puzzle, capacity – income and employment, is just one piece of how you are looked at from the underwriter.  Next up will be credit and really, for some, that is the cornerstone of starting your financing process.

What to Expect when You’re Expecting to be a Homeowner

A little play on a book title, but if you’re like me, you feel better about taking on something new when you’re prepared –whether it’s going to college, starting a new job, becoming a parent or buying your first home. When you understand the process, the task itself isn’t so daunting.

The first thing to realize, as you leap into home-ownership, is the need to get pre-approved for financing. The lending industry is under scrutiny in an effort to protect you, the buyer.  Due to this, lenders are required to prove you have the ability to repay the loan.  This means you will be required to provide supporting documents.  This can become quite cumbersome, and frankly, frustrating.  We understand – believe me!  Our goal is the same as yours … help you get a loan.

The first step is the loan application. To make this convenient, we can gather this

courtesy of Stuart Miles|freedigitalphotos.net

information over the phone, on our internet site or in-person, whatever is best for you.  We need information such as your name, contact information, addresses and employers for the last two years, income, assets and your debts.  The application enables us to obtain credit to determine if you meet today’s credit guidelines, which vary by program and financing type.

From there, if all looks good, we gather supporting documents, such as paystubs, bank statements, etc. This information will initially be reviewed by the loan officer for validity and to determine if income matches what’s on the application, among other things.  It’s important to meet with your loan officer to discuss your options, the costs of buying a home, and most importantly, your comfort level in terms of a payment.

Once pre-approved, you’ll look at houses, and hopefully, will find one you want. At this point, you and your Realtor will draft a purchase agreement stating the terms of your offer – price, closing date, what you may want the seller to pay toward closing costs, earnest money amount and any contingencies you desire, such as having a home inspection.  Assuming you get the “your-offer-was-accepted” call, we move on to the next steps.

You may have chosen to do a home inspection. You will pay the inspector directly; this is not part of the closing costs the lender would have gone over with you.  The inspection will help you determine if you want to move forward on the purchase or not.  Hopefully, you are full speed ahead!

Now that you have a property address and aren’t just a TBD (to be determined) anymore, there will be disclosures that are generated for you to sign. Your lender may mail these, email you a link or sit down with you to sign depending on their process.  At this point, you will receive a loan estimate, which will outline all your costs, including down payment and seller paid costs or down payment assistance, if applicable to your situation.  Your lender most likely went over a similar type estimate at your pre-approval meeting so you had an idea what your costs would be.  The loan estimate is still an estimate but is much closer to actual figures now that we know the price, taxes, rate (if you locked) and closing date.

 

At this point, you can lock in an interest rate. Your loan officer will check to see what rates are for the program you’ve decided to use.  Keep in mind, if using a first time buyer program, they publish their interest rates right out on their sites – so the rate is the same with any lender.  Rate locks have expiration dates – that means we must lock the rate long enough to cover you through your closing date.  And something very important – once locked, you’re locked.  If rates go down after locking, you cannot get a better rate and if they go up after locking, the lender must honor that rate.

Depending on how long the time-frame was between your initial pre-approval and the accepted purchase agreement, the lender may ask for updated paperwork – items that get old, like paystubs and bank statements. Eventually, when your earnest money clears, we will prove that left your account.  And, if your credit report has, or will, expire before your closing date, new credit will need to be pulled.  The life on the report is 120 days.

The lender will process your file, order verifications of income, flood certification, appraisal on the home and title work, among other things. Depending on the lender, the file may go directly to the underwriter, or may hang back while the ordered items come in.  The best advice here – if the lender needs any additional information from you, please provide it in a timely manner to keep your process going as smoothly as possible.

Once all documents are in, including an acceptable appraisal and title work, your loan will go back in for final approval. Either after this, or prior to this, the lender will provide you with a closing disclosure, which you must have in your hands three business days (includes Saturday) prior to closing.  Some lenders require you sign this to acknowledge receipt in that time frame.  This will give you the final figures for your closing.

Now the fun — going to closing and getting the keys to your home! You will sign a bunch of documents, get a check or send a wire for money needed at closing (dependent on your program, down payment, etc) and will possibly have a chance to chat with the sellers to find out more about your new home, and maybe the scoop on your new neighbors!

For most people, this process, starting with the application, will take you 60-120 days depending on your situation and motivation. And for some, it may take nine months or longer J  Either way, hopefully this has given you a little more information on what to expect when you expect to be a homeowner!

Homebuyer Education that is an A+

Goodness – there is a lot of information available for homebuyers, especially for first time buyers. You can search online and find plenty of information, tips and opinions.  Your family, friends and co-workers are typically willing to give their advice too, not to mention all the books on the subject of home-buying.

With so much information from multiple sources, it can be a little overwhelming, not to mention daunting. There is a wonderful resource that we have in Minnesota that can help take the mystery out of buying your first home and give you the one-stop-shop of homeownership research.

It’s called Homestretch. The Minnesota Homeownership Center developed a required class for people who want to utilize first time buyer assistance programs.  This class, however, is not just for first time buyers.  It’s for ANYONE looking to buy a home.  And so much has changed in lending, that getting a refresher after being a homeowner for years isn’t a bad thing!

The class is eight hours long, but is well worth the time investment – not only for the education piece, but also it enables you, if eligible, to participate in many different assistance programs. Talking to your lender will help you determine the programs you might be eligible for.

Homestretch is taught in many locations which you can choose from and can be found by clicking their link on the right side of my blog. You can attend ANY class that’s convenient for you.  If you’re planning on doing any special assistance program, like Neighborhood LIFT or NSP, you will need to attend a HUD-approved Homestretch class.  Their website can direct you appropriately.  As of this writing, there are no more funds in the LIFT program.

During the class, you will learn about becoming a homeowner, how to prepare for this “move” financially, determine your comfort level for a house payment by completing a budget, learn about credit, different loan types, home inspections, the offer process and MUCH MORE! I know I sound like a commercial for Homestretch, but I truly believe in being as educated as possible about the BIGGEST purchase you will ever make.

The in-person class is really the way to go. Since there are other people in the same situation as you, others’ questions can help you learn more than you would from the manual you receive.  Typically, the class will have a few different presenters, possibly a loan officer, a Realtor or a home inspector, to name a few.  These experts can add more value to the printed material too since they know the ropes!

The Homestretch class does come with a cost and each agency that teaches it will charge a different amount ranging from $20 – $50 (typically per household). Also, there are classes taught in different languages, so if English isn’t your primary language, you may be able to find a live class that meets your needs.

But what if you don’t have time to share eight hours with new home-buying strangers? Then you may opt to take the Framework class which is the online version of Homestretch.  This probably won’t take you as long as the in-person class, but you will still learn the same information.  The fee for Framework is $75.  Depending on the program you end up using, as discussed with your lender, you may want to confirm Framework is an option over Homestretch.  Some programs do require the in-person class.

Regardless of what method of learning you choose, in-person or online, this class is the perfect “starting point” for your home-buying journey. It’s best taken prior to even starting your pre-approval process or shortly after meeting with your loan officer.

Being educated on what to expect, what questions to ask and things to avoid is priceless. Homestretch is definitely the way to go if you’re looking for the one-stop-shop for homebuyer education!

Should You Jump on Too?

The market has improved in pricing and rates are certainly looking good. Just because rates have gotten better and “everyone” seems to be refinancing, does it make sense for you to jump on the bandwagon too?

As with all financial decisions, it makes sense to understand your current mortgage situation. Here are some questions that will help a lender give you the best possible advice on the viability of a refinance and the possible benefits.

ID-100265173What is your current rate now? The general rule of thumb for a refinance to make sense is to drop your rate by 1 – 1.5%. If your loan amount is under $150,000, you may need the rate to drop 1.5 – 2% before refinancing will make financial sense.

Do you owe on any second loans, home equity loans or did you get any down payment assistance when you purchased your home? If you have these types of loans, and your goal is to pay them off, the new loan may be called a cash-out refinance. This type of refinance will require you to have more equity in the home and may have a little higher rate.

If you have a second loan, you may have to keep it depending on how much equity you have in your home. If the second loan was used for a down payment to buy your home, we may be able to use one of MN Housing’s refinance programs. Feel free to contact me if this situation applies to you. I would be happy to explain it in more detail.

What is your home value? Fortunately, the market is improving. Certain loan types will require you have a minimum amount of equity in your home or you may have to carry mortgage insurance.

Will the savings offset the closing costs? With all refinances, there will be costs involved, from the lender, title company and third parties. Also, a new escrow account will be established for future payments of taxes and insurance. Lenders can run these numbers to determine the charges and figure out the period of time to recoup the fees. The rule of thumb is to recoup the fees in less than 2 years. The costs may be covered by the lender (pay a higher rate), covered by you out of pocket, or rolled into your loan.

The last, and most important question – How long will you live in the home? If all the numbers align, but you only plan to live in the home another 2-3 years, refinancing may not make sense.

These are just a few of the questions to really determine if refinancing is right for you. Just because your friend, family member or co-worker is doing it, doesn’t make it the right financial decision for you. I’d be happy to assess where you are and where you want to be, to see if you should jump on the bandwagon too!

*Image compliments of Stuart Mills|freedigitalphotos.net

Out with the Old, In with the New

In August, MN Housing retired one of their popular MN first time homebuyer programs – Home Help. This program was very beneficial for borrowers with lower incomes and allowed a borrower to get a larger amount of down payment assistance – up to $10,000, as a deferred loan. Home Help had some obstacles making it a little more difficult to obtain, such as a special home quality housing inspection. Though the borrower qualified for the program, the home may not have.

Fortunately, MN Housing didn’t leave us hanging without a replacement – one that’s similar in terms of assistance, but different in that the previous obstacles are now gone!  As of October 1, 2014, MN Housing is now offering the Deferred Payment Plus program (DPP for short). This is a secondary alternative to the current Deferred Payment Loan program.

For some clarification, a deferred payment loan is just that – deferred. There is no interestID-100246872 rate tied to it and no monthly payments are required. Full repayment of the loan is due upon sale of the property, or when it’s no longer your primary residence, or if you were to refinance the home without using a new MN Housing loan.

The current Deferred Payment loan allows a borrower to get up to 5% of the sale price with a maximum assistance amount of $7,500. For a household of 1-3 people, the maximum household income is $60,000. Larger households have higher income limits depending on the number of members. Household income is defined as ANY income derived from any of the borrowers on the loan, whether consistent or not, as well as any spousal income from a spouse NOT on the loan.

You could qualify for more than the $7500, depending on your need, with the Down Payment Plus program. To qualify for more funds, which go up to $10,000, there are some additional parameters that must be met. At least TWO of the following items must apply to your situation in order to be eligible for the higher assistance.

  • You’re a single head of household with dependents
  • You have a household of four or more people
  • One of your household members is disabled
  • Your front end ratio is over 28%

The first three are pretty simple to understand. The fourth parameter, the “front end ratio,” may need some explanation. As lenders, we look at how much of your GROSS monthly income is used toward your house payment, which we call the front end or “housing” ratio. We also look at how much you spend toward your housing AND other monthly obligations, this we call the “debt” ratio. For the “front end ratio” to be one of the two items for you, the proposed housing payment must be higher than 28% of your gross monthly income. Your approved MN Housing lender will help you determine this.

The DPP loan with MN Housing is a wonderful opportunity to help you and your family make homeownership attainable. With all the MN Housing programs, there are other qualifying parameters. You can find further information about these requirements on their site or allow us to go over those guidelines with you. We’d love to help determine your eligibility to make your home buying dreams a reality!

Image compliments of Stuart Mills – freedigitalphotos.net

No Credit = No Loan … or Not?

You hear all over the news and in advertisements how important your credit score is. I agree … your score is absolutely important and has become the first go-to thing lenders look at. We want to know what the score is, how long you’ve had credit and how well you pay your bills on time.

But what if you’re one of those people who don’t have a credit score? It happens, even to some people who have some credit established. Maybe the history isn’t enough for a FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score to be generated or there are just too few items on the report.

credit  cardI’m here to give you some hope. Not all loan programs require a credit score. The main criteria – you must meet the eligibility requirements of a Minnesota first time homebuyer program. In conjunction with this, we will use FHA financing which allows us to evaluate credit not necessarily reported to the credit agencies.

Really, what it all comes down to is what you have for debt obligations outside of a traditional credit report. It’s imperative that we review credit for the lending process. This means we’re looking for accounts that you pay on a monthly basis, ON TIME and over the last 12 months. Our goal is to analyze three accounts, but that’s not set in stone.

So, what do we look at? Are you renting? Are your payments on time? If it’s a management company or apartment complex you pay, we can verify directly with them your timeliness. If you pay a private party, such as a private landlord, or your parents, we want to see the last 12 months cleared checks, or auto withdrawal, from you to demonstrate you’ve paid on time. As a tip, if you’re living at home, it makes sense to pay something to your parents, EVERY month, for 12 months, always due the same time (say, the 1st of the month) and by check. This way, regardless of the amount, we can look at your history as a source of credit.

What about other sources? Here is a quick reference list of items that you may pay monthly that can be used to develope your credit history. This list isn’t all-inclusive, but a way to get you thinking about what you have out there and how it can help you get your first home! Remember, these items must be in your name.

Utilities, cell phone, car insurance, weight loss plans, lot rent for a mobile home, renters insurance, health club payments, child support/alimony paid separately from your work paycheck, Netflix, gaming sites, internet services, lay-away or monthly payments to a doctor

Not all lenders allow the evaluation of credit from these sources, so you’ll want to ask ahead of time. The main idea I want to get across is that having no credit doesn’t necessarily mean no loan. It’s best to find a lender you’re comfortable with and one that has the ability to walk alongside with you to make your dreams become reality! I am here to help if you so desire!

 

Dakota County + Conventional Financing = Happy Homebuyers

Shout out to our partners at the Dakota County CDA!  For as long as I can remember, they have only allowed FHA or VA loans to be used in conjunction with their MN first time home buyer program.  They now allow a 30-Year fixed conventional financing option via the HFA Preferred conventional program and this is great news.

As a refresher, all MN first time home buyers must qualify for a basic loan program — FHA, VA or conventional financing.  I look at this as the cake.  As long as you meet the parameters for credit, income and assets for the specific program, you can qualify for your loan — the cake.

One step further, if you meet the parameters of the first time home buyer program, such as the one in Dakota County, you could then get down payment and closing cost assistance — which is the frosting on your delicious cake!  Now wouldn’t that be sweet?

There are guidelines for the conventional loan that must be met in order to qualify.  First, ID-10039817there is a minimum credit score of 640  to even be eligible for the Dakota County  program.  The required down payment is at least 3% and you must contribute $1000 of your own money (no gift) to the transaction.

Since you have less than 20% down, you will be required to have private mortgage insurance, also known as PMI.  The good news is that the PMI for this first time buyer program has reduced coverage requirements which may result in lower monthly PMI payments.

You can learn more about the Dakota County program here, but as a quick recap, they offer three different down payment options.  These are dependent on your household income, but range from 3.5% of the purchase price (max of $7500)  up to 10% of the purchase price (max of $10,000).  As with all MN first time home buyer programs, the assistance is a second loan against your property.  If you sell or refinance your home, the second loan becomes due and payable.

Another requirement for this program, as with other MN first time buyer programs, is to attend the Homestretch class.  This is a worthwhile, 8-hour class that will teach you everything you need to know about buying a home, the process, as well as keeping your home.  You can find classes at the Homeownership Center. Costs for these classes will vary on the location you choose, such as directly from Dakota County or another provider.

I am an advocate of the in-person class because you can learn so much from other attendees.  If it doesn’t work in your schedule, you can “attend” the class online via their Framework class.  If you go this route, you will also need to set up a one-on-one meeting with a first time buyer specialist at the Dakota County CDA.

I am excited we can now offer conventional financing with Dakota County.  They have a wonderful program and for those of you with higher credit scores, it may be a much better financial option to FHA financing in terms of your monthly payment.

As always, it would be a pleasure to discuss your situation to see which cake you qualify for and what type of frosting we can layer on top!

*photo courtesy of  Salvatore Vuono, freedigitalphotos.net

 

Pre-Approved for What?

If you’re a MN first time home buyer or are in the home buying market, it’s crucial to obtain pre-approval.  This terminology can mean different things to different lenders.  How much information are they gathering to determine your eligibility for financing?  Are they just asking some general questions via a website and going off what you entered?  What information are they looking at to confidently send you out looking for a home?   Again, this process varies from lender to lender.  Regardless of who you choose to work with, you want to make sure a few things happen.

Compliments Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net
Compliments Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

First, you’ve provided an application.  The application provides the lender with the stepping blocks to dig deeper into your situation.  It gives them the keys to check credit — which helps them to know if you meet today’s guidelines for a loan.  For instance, are your credit scores where they need to be?  Do you have any derogatory credit that could prohibit you from obtaining financing?  Or even simpler, do you have enough credit established?

Second, they request supporting documents from you.  I’ve heard many people say that they were pre-approved just off of their credit and information they provided on the application.  My concern is nothing was verified.   Different types of income have different requirements on whether we can use it in qualifying or not.  Without seeing paystubs, W2s, bank statements, taxes, and possibly verifications of employment, we can’t really say if someone’s pre-approved.

Third, they’ve taken the time to go over your options and your comfort level.  It’s all good to be told you can buy a house for $250,000, but do you know what a payment looks like for that size home?  Is it even a payment you’re comfortable with?  What are the costs involved with buying a home?  Are you eligible for any assistance if you’re a MN first time home buyer?  Do you know where you will be getting the money from for down payment and closing costs?

Even more important, for “what” are you pre-approved?  Many people say they’re pre-approved for a certain house price.  And while that is partially true, it’s not really what the lender is approving you for.  Based on your income and debts, you will be pre-approved for a PAYMENT.  This will include principal, interest, taxes and insurance (both homeowner’s and possibly mortgage insurance).

Depending on the home type you want, this payment may also include association dues and if you’re using a first time buyer program, it may include a payment for the assistance you’re getting.  This payment will determine the price of the single family home, townhome or condo you may purchase, BUT, the interest rate, taxes and association dues will truly determine the actual purchase price while keeping you within the payment limit.

There’s a lot to know about getting pre-approved.  The most important thing is education.  Understanding what pre-approval means, knowing your options and being comfortable with these are key.  We’d love to help make sure your pre-approval is a “YES!”