Tag Archives: mn first time home buyer

You Through the Underwriter’s Eyes — Cash

This is the third blog in a series of four covering the criteria the underwriter looks at when they make a loan decision. The four C’s, as mortgage lenders call them, are capacity, credit, cash and collateral.  Today I want to address cash and I know everyone wants to have lots of that!

Cash is a literal word, meaning notes, currency or coins. Cash, in our lending world, is verifiable assets that you have available to use for the purchase of your home, whether that’s to cover down payment or closing costs, and in some instances, reserves.  Reserves would be assets you have left over after the purchase.  Some programs require reserves, and if your loan program does, your lender will advise how much you need post-closing.

Most commonly, cash is the money you have saved in a checking or savings account.   Cash can also be accounts that aren’t completely or immediately liquid like stocks, mutual funds or retirement.  Guidelines for the loan program you do will determine acceptability of these funds.

Interestingly, cash – actual currency or coins – is typically not acceptable in a purchase or refinance transaction. Seems contradictory to what we are trying to verify, doesn’t it?  What I mean is two-fold.  First, you cannot go to your closing day with a suitcase full of $100’s to pay for your down payment and costs.  The funds must be from an account, such as a checking or savings account, something liquid.  More than likely, you will either wire the funds or bring a cashier’s check to closing.  You won’t physically bring in the green!

The second part is that cash deposits into your bank accounts typically won’t be counted as your available liquid assets. Again, seems odd, especially if you commonly save money at home or in a safe deposit box and then deposit it into your account.  It’s your money, so why isn’t this allowed?  Such a good question and it comes back to verifiability.  There is no way for the lender to prove that the funds are yours to begin with or prove they are not.  Also, that money could be a gift or from a loan, both options requiring further explanation and documentation.

Now, I did say that cash is typically not acceptable.  There are some instances where cash deposits may be okay.  Let’s say your position has regular pay but also has tip income.  It is probably a normal part of your deposits to put cash into your account due to the nature of your job.  This, and other situations where cash deposits are common, are looked at on a case by case basis to satisfy lender or investor guidelines.

In terms of documentation, we will request the last TWO months bank statements to verify your assets or the last quarterly statement you have for investment accounts, such as mutual funds or retirement. We may ask for explanations, and possibly document, any deposits that are out of the ordinary from your regular work direct deposits.  If you hand-deposit checks each pay period, we may need copies of those checks to confirm they are work related.

Assets other than a checking or savings account (including money market), are usable for closing. We would not only document having the funds, per statements mentioned above, but we may need to verify liquidation of the funds and then prove they are indeed in a liquid account.

Did you know that retirement is acceptable for down payment and closing costs? A withdrawal is allowed and we would verify this; but in some instances, a loan against the account would be acceptable assuming your company allows for this.  And the really good news?  Any monthly payment you have from setting up a loan against your 401K is NOT considered in the ratios (discussed in the credit “C”).  Of course, we will verify this transaction going out of the 401K and going into a liquid account.

Most programs allow for gifts from family members, so this may be an option for you. This money may, or may not, already be in your account.  There are specific guidelines to follow and documentation requirements vary depending on the loan program.

What if the assets are tied up in other property? Taking a loan against a home, such as a home equity loan, may be acceptable as well.  Same would apply in that we would verify the receipt of funds.  Now that you have a loan, there will be a monthly payment that WILL have to be counted in your ratios.

Biggest thing we are looking for is to make sure you have enough for closing costs and the required down payment. We do look for a history of deposits and make sure that there aren’t any out-of-the-ordinary deposits.  If you have a history of overdrafts, this may negatively impact the loan decision, but ultimately, it’s up to the underwriter based on your history, hence the reason we get a few months of statements.

Check with your lender to determine the acceptability of assets you intend to use and the requirements. Many lenders may follow the same guidelines, but it’s still best to ask.  Best advice, save and then save some more and make sure you can verify all non-work deposits!

Last up of the four C’s of underwriting will be collateral – the house you’re buying or refinancing.

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!

Need Money for Closing Costs?

Most of the first time buyer assistance programs require that the assistance you receive, for down payment and/or closing costs, is paid back. Usually it’s paid back over a period of time or the repayment of it is deferred until the house is sold or no longer your primary residence.  Either way, the entity providing the funds gets their money back to help the next home buyer in need.

MN Housing just announced a new grant program which doesn’t require any money to be paid back!  As with all MN Housing programs, there are eligibility requirements.  These vary depending on WHICH MN Housing program you use and there are three of them – Start Up, Step Up and MCC (Mortgage Credit Certificate).  The grant works with all three of their programs AND you can pair it WITH the assistance!

In any case, you still must meet guidelines set forth by the underlying loan type you are securing — FHA, VA, RD (Rural Development) or conventional. If you meet those guidelines, then we look to see if we can layer the loan type with the MN Housing program.

Generally speaking, they have income limits that your household must be under, and as with the underlying loan program, there are minimum credit score requirements. Being a first time home buyer is a pre-requisite for two of the three programs – Start Up and MCC.  And the definition of a first time home buyer is not having ownership interest in a principal residence in the last three years.

The grant is only available when using a conventional loan with your MN Housing program. It cannot be used with VA, FHA or RD.  The grant amount will differ depending on which guidelines your underlying loan is following – Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  Who are Fannie and Freddie you ask?  These are the agencies that provide the guidelines lenders follow for conventional financing.  Your lender will determine the best underlying loan for your needs and situation.

To be eligible for the grant, you must have annual qualifying income under $72,320. Qualifying income is the income your lender uses to determine your qualifications for your loan.  For instance, if you are the only one on the loan, but your spouse is not, then the qualifying income is just your income.  This limit is for the 11-county metro area, which encompasses Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Washington and Wright Counties.  Income limits are lower in the remaining MN counties.

If using Fannie Mae, the grant amount is a flat $1,500 to use toward your closing costs only.

If your lender determines Freddie Mac guidelines are your best fit, the grant will vary based on the loan amount you’re securing and qualifying income – (which still needs to be below the aforementioned limits).  The grant can be used for BOTH closing costs and down payment.  Minimally, you would be looking at ½% of the loan size, but you could be eligible for a larger grant if your income meets lower limits set for the program.  Any lender participating with MN Housing can give you further details.

As always, when working with a lender, make sure they offer these great programs with MN Housing and any other agencies to help you get into your house with as much assistance as possible. And who can say “no” to grant money!?!

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!

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!

 

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

Lately, I have been helping a lot of people purchase their home and it hasn’t been a traditional single family home.   Many MN first time homebuyers opt to purchase a townhome or condominium because it works in their price range or their lifestyle.

When I say “condo,” what do you visualize?  Do you see a high-rise building that resembles an apartment complex?  These are typical versions of condos, and believe it or not, many apartments have been converted to condos, which may explain why they look like your first apartment!  These properties are perfect for many people, but some might prefer a traditional townhome.

Be aware that some condos are like a wolf in sheep’s clothing — on the outside they look like townhomes and feel like townhomes, but on the legal description of the property, they’re condos.  So what does this mean to you?

Simply put, the difference between them has to do with ownership of the land beneath the unit.  You own the land if it’s a townhome, you don’t if it’s a condo.  This differentiation is really a moot point since both properties are part of an association which governs what you can do to the property, or what you can’t do, such as bulldoze it down and build something new.

Most condos have a shared water line.  Water comes into one meter at the complex and then individual lines go to the units.  The water is part of the association dues you pay on a monthly basis.  Usually, in a townhome, you will have your own water meter and will be responsible for this utility on your own.

The most important differentiation may come with financing.  Getting a loan on a condo can be tougher than a townhome.  Many years ago, condos got a bad rap.  Investors would buy condos as rentals and if their rent was not paid, they would let the properties fall into disrepair. Now there is a stigma tied to condos that’s been hard to shake!

Some loan types, such as FHA, require the complex to be approved by FHA in order to be eligible for financing.  If it’s not approved, you may have a difficult, or drawn out process buying a condo in the complex using FHA financing.  For some, conventional financing may be the only option available in this situation.

Regardless of financing types, even IF it’s FHA approved, the lender will receive a questionnaire completed by the association to make sure the complex is financeable.  The lender will consider how many units are rented, how many are owned by one person, what their budget looks like, and most importantly, if the association is currently in litigation.

The biggest thing to take from this is many townhomes are really condos in their legal descriptions.  And to be clear — just because it’s a condo doesn’t make it a bad property type to purchase, or make it a bad investment, it just means there may be some extra hurdles with financing.   Make sure you work with a lender and realtor who can help you be sure what you purchase is a sheep, and not a wolf in disguise!  It will make the financing process go that much more smoothly!

 

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

 

Inspection and Appraisal – Two Peas in a Pod, Right?

The quick answer to this is no, but it helps to understand why they aren’t the same and what purpose they play in your home purchase process.

The inspection is for YOU.  This is the time you can decide to move forward with your purchase, or opt to cancel due to new information, or maybe, you just get cold feet.  The inspection period is the time to reflect on your purchase.

The inspection is NOT a requirement of financing for a home.  It’s optional, but highly recommended.  The cost of the inspection is not part of your loan closing costs.  It is a separate payment made directly to the inspector and can range from $250 – $400.  You choose the inspector, usually with guidance from your realtor.

Most people will make their offer “contingent” on an inspection.  That ID-100270859means, you’re telling the seller you want to move forward, BUT, you first want the home inspected.  Typically, you have a window of time to get the inspection done and that window is defined in the purchase agreement.

The inspector will look for hazards and any immediate concerns, as well as urgent repairs needed after you purchase.    For instance, if the basement shows major water damage or settling of the foundation, this may raise concerns about the soundness of the home.  You may opt to not buy the home knowing that you may be getting into something that you can’t afford in terms of repairs.

The inspector will also look at the positives – let you know what’s good about the house, such as new mechanical equipment or a new roof.  They will also walk you through basic information – how do you shut off the gas or the water in case of an emergency?  How often should you change the filter on the furnace?  They will provide you with great maintenance tips for homeownership.

The appraisal, on the other hand, is for the LENDER.  Of course, you will get a copy of it for your records, but the appraisal is required for you to obtain financing.  The lender wants to make sure that the home used for collateral is not only worth what you paid for it, but also has good future marketability.

As long as you’ve decided to proceed after the inspection, the lender will order the appraisal.  It’s done randomly, meaning the appraiser is not a choice.  This is to protect both the lender and buyer from steering or having influence on the appraiser’s decision.

The appraiser will also look for safety and hazards, but they will also dig a little deeper.  They will compare similar homes – if you’re buying a rambler, they will compare ramblers.  If you are buying a townhome, they will compare similar style townhomes, preferably in the same complex.  They must consider sold and closed properties within a certain radius of the home (typically within a mile) and within a certain time period (typically within 6 months).

There is so much more involved with appraisals and inspections.  Two peas, yes, but not the same pod.  The biggest thing to take from this is that one is optional and for your purposes – the inspection.  From this, you can determine if you want to move forward with the purchase.

The appraisal is for the lender in order to determine if the home is a good risk and will help determine if they can extend credit, as it’s required to secure financing.  In any instance, the hope is that both the inspection and the appraisal are in your favor!

*photo courtesy of hywards/freedigitalphotos.net