Tag Archives: homeowner’s insurance

Same Name, So Many Types

Insurance … that covers a lot of area – from car insurance and liability insurance to health insurance and homeowner’s insurance.  There are a lot of insurance types out there and when you buy a house, there are a few you need to be familiar with.

My previous post discussed mortgage insurance.  This type of insurance may be required on your loan if you have less than 20% down with conventional financing or if you’re doing FHA financing.  It insures the lender in case you default and doesn’t cover you for anything.  Mortgage insurance is factored into your monthly house payment.

Flood insurance is another one that could possibly become something you need to understand.  Lenders will “pull” a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) flood certificate on all properties prior to financing them to confirm the house is not in a flood zone.  If it is in a flood zone, flood insurance will be required to be part of your house payment.

Title insurance is necessary for any loan that is being done in Minnesota.  There are two types of title insurance.  One is called lender’s title insurance which insures the lender in case any other liens come up against the property.  As lenders, we want to be in first lien position so if other liens arise, we are paid first.  Lender’s title insurance is paid by the buyer at the time of closing and the amount varies by title company, loan amount and purchase price.

The second title insurance out there is called owner’s title insurance and this would protect you.  It is optional and the cost is based on purchase price and loan amount, as well as the title company you’re using.  This is a one time fee paid by you at closing, so it’s not something that is “renewed” year after year.

Though you aren’t in a lien position, you may want to be protected if liens come up that weren’t incurred by you. When purchasing a home, one of the jobs of the title company is to search public records on the address you’re buying.  They want to make sure no liens exist so they can pass free and clear title to you.  If there are liens, the seller is responsible to pay these off at closing.  No one is perfect, so there could be liens out there that the title company doesn’t find as they may be improperly recorded at the county.  Liens follow the property address, not the person who incurred them.  So, when you go to sell or refinance and a new search is done, something could come up like this and you would either need to pay it off, go to court to fight the lien if it’s not yours or when you purchased, if you had bought the owner’s policy, you may be protected for instances like this.  Talking to a title company is the best way to learn more about the owner’s policy and their specific coverages.

Finally, there is homeowner’s insurance.  This is a little confusing because it actually is known by a few other names – hazard and property.  They all do the same thing – insure the property we will be lending on.  And lenders want to make sure the property is adequately insured.  The amount of coverage requirement will vary by lender and loan type so you will want to check with your lending institution.

Homeowner’s insurance is billed annually, and in many instances, will be part of your house payment depending on the loan type you’re doing and your down payment amount. It’s your responsibility to set up your annual policy with an insurance agent of your choice prior to closing.  The amount they charge will be part of your payment, and if you escrow your insurance in your payment, the renewals will be paid by the lender in the future on your behalf.  This annual premium amount is broken down to a monthly amount and added to your house payment.

What if you purchase a townhome or condo and the insurance is covered in your association dues? Do you need homeowner’s insurance in that instance?  The answer to this varies.  Most associations have insurance that covers the structure, so if it were to have damage, their coverage would insure that loss.  However, these policies don’t always cover cupboards, carpet, bathroom fixtures, etc., also known as “walls-in” or “all-in” coverage.  If they don’t have this, then you would need to purchase this policy, typically called an HO-6 policy and it would be included in your payment if the loan type you’re doing requires this.  If “walls-in” or “all-in” is part of their policy, then you wouldn’t need it for loan purposes, BUT, you will still want to purchase it to protect your personal belongings!

As you can see, when it comes to buying a home, there are a lot of insurance types to be familiar with. It can get a little confusing.  Hopefully, you will work with a lender that will help educate you on the requirements specific to your loan type.  As with ALL insurance related questions, please reach out to the appropriate provider or expert to answer questions you might have for your situation.

Confused Over Insurance?

Insurance is necessary.  Let’s face it, things happen and it’s best to be prepared.  There is life insurance,  health insurance, car insurance, renter’s insurance,  insurance for our pets and we even have insurance for the gadgets we buy.  Insurance is big business because you’re paying for the “what ifs” that occur.  I certainly hope you never have to use insurance, but you’re always thankful when you have it.

As a homeowner, or soon to be homeowner, there are many types of insurance and they can be a little confusing.  Let’s examine insurance types the lender will require you to have in order to obtain financing.

ID-100259033Hazard insurance — also known as homeowner’s insurance or property insurance.  This will insure you against loss or damage to your home.  Lender’s require that you carry insurance for as long as you have a loan, though continuing to insure your home, as long as you own it, is advised.  The property serves as security for the loan and the lender wants to protect this security.  In most instances, your insurance will be included as part of your monthly house payment, but the insurance agent is your choice.  The benefit of this insurance is not only to protect your home, but it also protects your personal belongings (to what extent will be determined by your policy).

Private Mortgage Insurance — also known as PMI or mortgage insurance.  If you have less than 20% down using conventional financing, the lender can require that you carry mortgage insurance.  I say “can” as there are a few first time buyer programs that don’t require this insurance even with less than 20% down.  Unfortunately, this insurance does nothing for you.  It insures the lender in case you default on your loan.  The lender will choose the mortgage insurance company, though most PMI companies are priced similarily.  At some point, you may be able to remove this insurance from your monthly payment, if you meet certain requirements.

FHA loans always have mortgage insurance.  This is NOT PMI as it is not purchased through a private company.  FHA insures their own loans and the insurance is required on all FHA loans regardless of how much you provide for a down payment.  This also insures the lender in case of default and is included in your house payment.  The insurance will remain on the loan for the entire term of the loan when you take out a 30-year loan.

Flood insurance is another type of insurance the lender may require; however,  the chances that you need this are slim to none.  All lenders require a flood certification to prove the home they’re financing is NOT in a flood zone.  If it is in a flood zone, the lender will require you to carry flood insurance on the home.  This will also be part of your monthly payment, if required.

Title insurance — lender’s policy and owner’s policy.  The lender’s policy is required to be purchased on all transactions in MN.  The cost of this is determined by the title company with whom you close.  It insures the lender that they always have first lien position to the property, even if another lien comes up against the home. The owner’s policy is optional to purchase.  It is very inexpensive insurance and is highly recommended.

Insurance is complicated, yet necessary, and there are countless options.  The more you understand the options and requirements  that are available, the better you’ll understand the process of buying your home!

*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles – freedigitalphotos.net

An Unseen Hazard with Buying a Foreclosure … the Deal that didn’t Close

With so many foreclosures in the marketplace, you are bound to purchase one.  Thing about foreclosures is the process can be a little trying.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, you’re dealing with a bank, so timeliness is not always a priority on their part.  You may not get a decision on your offer as quickly as you’d like.  Sometimes, banks will set a date purchase agreements are due requesting the “highest and best” offers.  This means they’re looking for multiple offers and in this instance, they may have originally priced the home lower than market to create this frenzy.  It is what it is and if it’s a home you want, you have to play by their rules.

Another thing you can expect with a foreclosure is an “as-is” addendum.  This means that you are buying the house without a seller’s disclosure and in most instances, the bank won’t fix anything if there are any issues with your inspection or appraisal.  Oh, and speaking of inspections … just because it’s sold as-is does not mean you can’t get one or make your offer contingent on one.  It’s still highly recommended.  Let me give credit to some banks out there.  Some WILL do repairs which can be beneficial to you.  Also, just because it’s bank-owned doesn’t mean you can’t ask the bank to cover some or all of your costs.  A good Realtor will be able to advise you on this aspect of your purchase agreement.

guy with houseThe reason a bank completes an as-is addendum, is they have no knowledge of the home.  They’ve never lived there and I’d be shocked if anyone from the bank has even been to the house.  So, if there was previous water damage, storm damage or anything that may negatively affect the home, they won’t know about it.  Typically, there is no personal property offered in these deals.  For instance, if the kitchen still has the appliances, they cannot guarantee they will be in the home when it transfers to you.  If they happen to be there when you move in — woohoo — extra bonus!

When working with the banks on these foreclosures, you can expect, in most cases, that the bank will require you to close with a title company they have chosen.  The bank will run all their transactions through this title company for ease and for familiarity.  Typically, the bank will offer to pay your owner’s title policy.  So you know, the bank may require you to close with their chosen company, though by law, you technically CAN choose your own company.  I would highly recommend you get a solid recommendation from your agent or lender.  Many title companies will adjust their fees to compete with the bank’s company.  I deal with title companies all the time and I know who performs and who could use a little work.  Those that can use a little work are not all bad.  There may be delays in getting paperwork or closing scheduled, but it eventually gets done.

Sometimes, it doesn’t.  Here’s what happened that should have never happened.  A recent transaction I had didn’t close on it’s desired close date and then didn’t close a week later.  It wasn’t the client’s fault.  It wasn’t due to financing — package and funds were there.  It wasn’t due to the Realtors not doing their job — they did all they could.  It ALL had to do with the title company.  This “title company” had no presence in MN.  The people were slow to answer emails and rarely answered phones.  They didn’t meet with clients, but sent a notary — very impersonal.  Not only that, the title work was “outsourced” which made matters worse.

Needless to say, we needed some paperwork, which took a few weeks to get after persistent emails and calls.  We needed the closing to be scheduled so we knew when to date the closing paperwork and the buyers knew when to be available — never was set.  Since we finally had the necessary paperwork, the agents and client set a date; we sent the package and wired funds.  It’s typical for the title company to provide a HUD to the lender for approval.  The HUD is the itemization of the settlement charges.  We spent the morning of the “rescheduled” closing date burning the phones up to the closer, as well as emailing.  Nothing.  Right after lunch, we requested the wire be sent back since there was no response or HUD.  Low and behold … a response with a request to give them some time as they are working on the HUD.  That was it, the last communication.  I am not sure why an extra week wasn’t enough time.  Come Monday we still didn’t have the wire back.

Seems pretty bad, huh?  It is unacceptable to have such poor communication.  In the 16 helpyears I have originated loans, I have NEVER experienced such disregard to all the people involved.  If you think the above is bad … the following is worse.  The family moved from their apartment, had their lives in a truck, their kids hours away with family and no place to go expecting to close on the date set in the purchase agreement.   So, that week the buyers had to pay to store their stuff and live in a hotel, with many days of frustration and uncertainty.  Who wants to go through this?  They didn’t deserve this.  The day the funds were at the title company, we waited … and waited … and the return calls never happened nor did the HUD arrive.  The buyers moved on and are now renting month to month.  They had to, had to provide a home for their children and stop waiting for a closing that wasn’t happening.  Why?  Because a title company couldn’t get their ducks in a row, didn’t have the same customer-focus as the others involved and didn’t have the desire to make it happen.

How could this have been prevented?  Bucking the system with the bank and choosing their own title company.  Does this mean everything would have been rosy?  Not necessarily, but it would have meant familiarity by those who matter — the buyers, agents and mortgage company.  It would  have meant the personal touch of having a person to talk to, someone to depend on and someone to sit across from who knows the programs and can explain the paperwork — not just a notary to stamp after each signature — which is how they planned to handle the signing.  These people could have saved hundreds, not to mention all the time lost in work, on the phone and away from their children.  How do they get that back?  How can they be compensated for what they lost?  They can’t and that is a shame.

Working with the right people doesn’t just mean your Realtor and loan officer.  EVERYONE involved in the transaction needs to have the same goals in mind … YOUR goals in mind.  This obviously includes the title company.  As you can see, they can make or break a transaction — a preventable situation.  I am hopeful that this family can get their lives back in order and I truly hope they can trust again to take that magical step of owning their first home.  They actually gave the title company one more shot and … of course, they still didn’t close.   I pray homeownership happens, as everyone deserves to own a home and more importantly, everyone deserves to be treated fairly, like they matter and be given the common courtesy of great communication.

Pre-Approvals Aren’t Created Equally

As much as I’d like to say pre-approvals are all the same — they’re not.  Though you can buy the same pair of jeans at numerous stores, you cannot get the same pre-approval from numerous companies.  So why not?  If an FHA loan is an FHA loan, then I should get the same product anywhere I go, right?  Not so much.  The thing is, it’s more that all lenders aren’t created equally, meaning you won’t get the same answer or loan suggestions from everyone.  Also, many lenders don’t have access to the first time home buyer programs.  Due to this, you may very well be steered into a program that may not be right for you OR you may be steered away from those first time programs because they’re “too much work”.  Cry me a river.

The question remains, why aren’t pre-approvals the same?  A pre-approval means different things to everyone.  For instance, one lender may see the pre-approval as just running your numbers over the phone, pulling credit and then issuing you a pre-approval letter.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Isn’t this what pre-approval means?  Nope.  The reputable lenders, me included 😀 , realize there is a lot that goes into saying “you can buy a house”.  Yes, we need to run numbers and yes we need to get credit; there is still much more to do.  Your loan must be run through an automated underwriting system (AUS).  This is a program with a million different checks and balances to identify risk or maybe conclude it isn’t a risk at all.  We can run FHA, VA and Conventional loans through this system.  And, it’s HIGHLY advised.  Sometimes the program alerts us to something we missed, such as an issue in credit that’s pages down in the credit report and we missed it.  Other times, it helps us pre-approve a buyer that may not have qualified otherwise.  For instance, let’s say the normal guideline is to take 41% of your gross monthly income toward your debts and proposed house payment.  Maybe this is a bit limiting for what you’re looking for.  Looking at your credit and assets, I can determine that you are well qualified to extend yourself a bit.  (NOTE:  I am not here to increase your payment just so I can do a bigger loan.  You need to spend what you feel is comfortable.)  After I run it through AUS, I may get an approval up to 45% of your income.  This just made it so you can afford a larger loan amount and possibly the house you want.  If the payment is something you can live with, then off to the races we go.  If not, then let’s chat about where you want to be.  Ultimately, this decision should be driven by a budget — something that lays out what you owe and what expenses you have monthly in relation to your NET income (after taxes).  You know, things like clothes, dinner out with friends, a $4 cup of coffee every Monday and Friday, or whatever.  It’s crucial to budget.

Okay, so now you know we need to have the loan run through the automated system.  Now what?  We’re all human.  There is that element of imperfection — typing something wrong, from income to assets — the information is only as good as the accuracy of the data entered.  The next part of the pre-approval is gathering documentation for your loan, paperwork that supports what you supplied on the loan application.  I have had this happen before — a client told me he worked an extra 4 hours a week in overtime.  I confirmed verbally that this has been going on for the last 2 years (need a history of this type of income).  He stated that 4 hours was on the low end and sometimes it’s more.  To be safe, I used the lesser number to avoid a possible inaccurate pre-approval.  It was crazy when I finally got the paystub and low and behold, overtime didn’t really exist at all!    Either he’s not telling the truth (and I always give the benefit of the doubt) or the company isn’t paying him as they should be.  Turns out it was the latter.  Bummer, huh?  Needless to say, my income was off, so it was putting a damper on their qualifying power.  We had to adjust their searches down.  As simple as this may seem, it’s not.  I liken it to buying a TV.  Let’s say your research shows that based on your savings, you can afford a 27″ TV (do they make those anymore??).  You head over to the “big box” store and right there, first thing you see, is a beautiful, crystal clear 32″ LCD TV.  Now, I don’t know about you, but that TV is going home with me TODAY!  I’ve seen what I could have (if I could afford it) and know that’s what I want.  Looking at the piddly 27″ TVs just doesn’t cut it.  This is the same experience with buying a home.  If you’re looking at homes in a higher price range and then come to find out you don’t qualify that high because your paystubs don’t support the higher income, you’ll be disappointed.  Nothing compares to the home that was $20000 more than your new approval amount.  And the truth is, nothing will compare.  It’s tough to wean yourself off something so much nicer, bigger or what-have-you than what really works in your budget.  It’s critical that your lender gets this documentation ahead of time before you start looking.  No sense getting your hopes up for something that isn’t obtainable.

Okay, so now we know the AUS system has pre-approved your home loan and your documentation supports that — now what?  How can the pre-approval differ if the lenders are playing by the same rules?  Another great question.  First, not all lenders know what to look at with the documentation or how to even calculate your income.  Sad to say, but true.  And, not all lenders are supported in the back end to fulfill their commitments to your pre-approval.  Anyone can say you’re pre-approved; but can they actually process your loan in a timely manner, underwrite the file in-house AND fund the loan on time locally?  Not many lenders can say this.  The “big box” lenders are having a very hard time getting deals done in a 60-90 day window.  Don’t get me wrong; they can be great lenders.  It’s tough to give great customer service and attention when there are so many pieces of business coming in — too much they just can’t handle it.  Truth be told, some lenders, more specifically loan officers, just flat out lie.  Many years ago, the lending industry got an “escape” clause if you will.  Essentially, per MN Statute, the pre-approval and the full approval are NOT guaranteed since things may change.  Remember the stuff you shouldn’t do while in the home-buying process?  People do those things, such as quitting a job a few days prior to closing.  I mean really, you couldn’t wait 2 days?  It was just that bad?  He didn’t think it was an issue — we had him approved and ready to go.  Bummer is that investors are requiring a verbal verification of employment within 5 or even 3 days of closing.  We MUST call your company to make sure you still work there.  You can imagine our surprise when the answer was no.  He was stuck — closing supposed to happen in 2 days, no job, no loan.  We did the only thing we could — wait until he got the job.  Since this wasn’t my deal, I have no idea how the listing agent/seller reacted to this big delay.  My guess is they weren’t too happy.  Can you blame them?

And last, the company, and/or the loan officer, can make or break whether that pre-approval is just a piece of paperwith no value.  There are a few good loan officers out there that do the right things to insure you are actually pre-approved for a home loan.  Then there are those who somehow survived all the changes and still don’t have a clue how to read a paystub, let alone ask for one.  It’s common sense.  If someone mentions that they get paid tips a huge flashing light goes off saying “Verify Income” sooner than later.  Why?  Well, tips vary and we need a 2-year history of earning them to use that type of income to qualify.  Oh and those tips that don’t make it to the W2 or tax return … can’t use them.  You will find that Realtors who have been around a long time, know and recognize those lenders and loan officers who perform with their pre-approvals.  Admittedly, I made a mistake last summer using alimony income.  I took the word of the borrower that it was consistent, month after month she was receiving it.  When I received the bank statements to confirm the stability of this income, I failed to look closely for the consistency.  When the underwriter can’t see a pattern, it’s really tough to use the income.  Holy cow did I learn my lesson by doing a loan that was completely free – no income for my company and no income for me.  But that’s what you do … stand behind your letters and do what you say you’ll do.  I put it out there and I will make it happen.  You need to find a lender that will do that — of course, I would love to be that person for you!

In a nutshell (of say 1600 words or so :lol:), you can see that more things go into a pre-approval than just “running your numbers” on a calculator and calling it a day.  Knowing the lender you work with is so important.  The Realtors I work with are number one in the Minnesota area and realize the importance of working with someone who can perform, even if the audience did pay for the show!  Be cautious and be certain that you work with the best lenders who come through, day in and day out.  It’s not just a piece of paper that is the same no matter who you work with; it’s truly the “ticket” to whether you get on the home-buying train or have to get off right before your destination.  No fun being dropped off in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do but start the journey over — assuming you can find a ride that can get you there.  Hope to help you get there soon!

Tips & Tidbits: Let Me Introduce the Cheapest Insurance Out There …

If you’re in the loan process right now, your head is probably spinning with all the new information.  Throw in there a lot of references to insurance — insurance for the home (aka hazard insurance), for the mortgage company (aka PMI or MI) and title insurance.  Oh, and to confuse the matter more, you can actually purchase mortgage insurance on your loan (in case something happens to you, the loan will be paid).  What the heck is the deal with all these insurances and what is really protecting you?

I am so glad you asked.  Let’s just start with some explanatory definitions, then I will get to the meat of this.  Homeowner’s Insurance is insurance that covers your home and the contents in case of a catastrophe or burglary.  As lenders, your house is our collateral.  If something should happen to it, we want to make sure you have enough coverage to replace your home.  This is a policy you purchase with your current insurance agent or one I could refer you to.

If you were to buy a townhome or condo, you may not need this type of insurance.  In most instances the homeowner’s association covers that with the owner’s association dues.  There are some changes that have occurred with investors in regards to requiring a separate policy.  If the association’s insurance policy only covers “studs out”, then you would need to buy a special policy called a HO-6 — basically, this will cover the “studs in”, which means, all your personal belongings along with cupboards, fixtures and appliances.  If the association does have the extra coverage, it is still advisable for you to get the HO-6 policy (just won’t be as expensive) to cover your personal belongings.  In this instance, proof of this would NOT be required at closing.

How about the “dreaded” Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) on conventional loans or Up-Front Mortgage Insurance (UFMIP) with FHA?  First of all, it’s not something to dread; it’s reality.  And in this day and time with all the private mortgage insurance companies that had to pay on claims due to foreclosure, it will never go away.  In a positive light, it allows you to do a minimum down program.  Anyway, the purpose for mortgage insurance is to insure the lender in case of default.  You remember AIG???  Who couldn’t forget the insurance  company that was bailed out … a few times, right?  They insured a lot of the high risk loans that were done in the past years.  No wonder it’s harder to get this type of insurance.  Only in the last few months have the PMI companies “let loose” a little to do 3% loans.  UFMIP is for FHA loans.  FHA is self-insured.  They have an up-front amount that is financed into your loan amount, as well as a monthly amount for insurance — which is lower than conventional insurance.

Last, at least the last I intend to address, is Title Insurance.  This is the CHEAPEST insurance you will ever purchase.  There are two types of title insurance — lender’s and owner’s.  The lender’s policy is required to be purchased to insure the lender that they are in first lien position.  One of the title company’s jobs is to search public records at the county to check for any liens.  The title company can only find what is correctly recorded.  You have the  option to purchase a  policy for yourself, called an owner’s policy.  This protects YOU in the event any liens were to appear against the property that you didn’t incur.  For instance, let’s say that a few owners ago, a new roof was put on the home and the owners didn’t pay the contractor.  In order for the contractor to make sure he gets paid, he placed a lien against the home YOU’RE purchasing.  If recorded correctly, the title company will find this and require the seller to pay it off to give you free and clear title.  If, however, someone made a mistake at the county, then it may not show up.  Bummer deal is liens follow the address, NOT the person who incurred them.  Five years later you decide to sell and wah-la, a $5000 lien appears.  Hmmm — what to do?  You have a few options — pay it (cheerfully I’m sure 😀 ), go to court to fight it or … drum roll please … at closing when you purchased your home, you purchased owner’s title insurance.  With this insurance, you pay ONCE, at closing, and it covers you for the ENTIRE time you own your home.  This insurance depends on the loan amount and sale price, but for first time buyers, it won’t be much more than $200 or so.  Paying just $200 to save $4000.  No brainer.  The two real estate attorneys I trust would NEVER let their clients close without it.  They spend way too much time fighting in court for other clients that don’t have the insurance.  Unpaid work is just an example of a type of lien, but there are more “opportunities” to have to use it — heirs to a property, divorce situation, many things that may put a  person in title to the home YOU own.

The long and short — there are many types of insurance during this process.  The only one you have the CHOICE to purchase is the owner’s title insurance.  It’s a necessary, but cheap, evil and well worth the investment.  Just do it!