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Getting rid of a troubled home loan

February 11th, 2011

Are you desperate to get rid of your mortgage problems? You are not alone. Zillow recently reported that 27 percent of U.S. homeowners are underwater on mortgage loans. There also were 261,333 foreclosure filings in January, according to RealtyTrac.

But homeowners dealing with foreclosure and underwater home loans aren’t the only one struggling. Some borrowers are struggling to make monthly mortgage payments due to a drop in income, job layoff, illness or some other factor beyond their control. There is no easy solution to dealing with mortgage problems, but there are several options to consider.

Sell your home

Getting rid of a mortgage loan is the best option if you really can’t afford to make the payments. Just because you sell the property you currently live in doesn’t mean you won’t be able to purchase another home in the future. Find out what’s going on in your neighborhood in terms of home sales. If there have been a lot of foreclosures, the value of your home is likely to be affected. But even if you are underwater on a mortgage loan that doesn’t mean you have to give up the idea of selling. But you may have to consider a short sale.

A short sale occurs when the mortgage lender agrees to accept a lower payoff that what you owe on a home loan. The advantage to doing a short sale is that the lender can recover some of what’s owed. You would be able to get out from under a troubled loan and avoid foreclosure. Keep in mind that any mortgage debt that is forgiven by the mortgage lender in such a deal may be taxable, so it’s important to consult with a tax advisor.

Mortgage refinancing

Maybe you are feeling pinched by monthly mortgage payments, but things haven’t gotten so serious that you are about to lose you home. If you still have some home equity and good credit, you might qualify for a mortgage refinance. The more equity you have and the higher your credit score the better. Refinancing could be the right move it you are paying interest that is much higher than current mortgage rates. A mortgage payment calculator can help determine how much money you could actually save by refinancing.

These are just a few ways to get out from under expensive mortgage payments. There may be other solutions that suit your financial needs. Talk with your mortgage lender or a housing counselor to learn more about your options.

Should You Refinance Your Home Loan?

May 16th, 2010

Current mortgage rates are low and it seems like it might be a good time to refinance your home loan. You’ve even begun to gather quotes from several local mortgage lenders advertising competitive mortgage rates. But does it make sense to do a mortgage refinance at this time?

Use a Loan Calculator

It is important to determine the amount of time it’s going to take to recoup any money you put out to refinance. Use the “Is it time to refi?” loan calculator to compare several mortgage quotes. The following example walks you through the steps of using the loan calculator.

Existing Home Mortgage

First, the loan calculator asks for information about your existing mortgage.

  • What is the original term of your home mortgage? For this example let’s use 30 years.
  • What is the original amount of your mortgage loan? Our example uses $250,000.
  • What is the current balance of your home loan?  ($175,000)
  • How long have you had the mortgage? (8 years)
  • What is your current interest rate? (7%)

New Home Loan 

Next, the loan calculator needs information about the new mortgage.

  • What is the amount of the new loan? ($175,000)
  • What is the new mortgage term? (15 years)
  • What is the interest rate on the new loan? (5%)
  • How much are the estimated closing costs? (2%)
  • How long do you plan to remain in the home after doing a mortgage refinance? (10 years)

How Much Would You Save?

When you run the numbers in the loan calculator, you get a report detailing your potential savings. Using the numbers in this example you would go from having a monthly mortgage payment of $1,663 to paying $1,384. Over the 10-year period that you plan to remain in the home you would save $33,524 due to the decreased monthly mortgage payment.

Reducing Mortgage Loan Principal

The loan calculator also gives an analysis of the reduction of loan principal. In this scenario if you refinanced and stayed in the home for 10 years the principal would be reduced by $101,667. However, if you did not refinance your mortgage, the principal would be reduced by $111,194 over the 10-year period.

Total Savings

The last part of the report shows that the estimated cost of refinancing is $3,500, which is based on the 2% closing costs. It also shows that the total amout that would be saved by refinancing would be $20,497.

5 Things to Remember When Refinancing

March 12th, 2010

According to Freddie Mac data, mortgage rates averaged 4.95% for 30-year loans, and 4.32% for 15-year mortgages.

How Long Can Mortgage Rates Remain Low?

Current mortgage rates are near historical lows, but some housing experts believe rates may begin to rise this year. It is unclear what may happen to rates. However, you still have time to take advantage of low mortgage rates by refinancing, so keep the following things in mind as you shop for a loan:

  1. You can’t time mortgage rates. Interest rates fluctuate all the time, so it’s difficult to predict with certainty which way they are headed at any given point in time. If you shop around for a refinance deal, consider asking your mortgage lender to lock in your rate. In most cases you must pay a fee to lock in a mortgage rate for a specific period of time, which is usually about 60 days
  2. Don’t assume that your current mortgage lender has the best refinance deal. Shop around and compare deals for mortgage refinancing. The good faith estimate (GFE) can help you compare apples-to-apples. Let your current mortgage lender know about other offers to see if they can match them or give you a better deal
  3. You could end up paying mortgage insurance (MI) if your property value has fallen significantly. If your home appraisal leaves you with less than 20% equity, expect to pay for MI. You can avoid MI by using any money you have saved to make a one-time payment at closing to boost your home equity
  4. If you don’t have a title insurance policy to protect yourself, now is the time to get one. Title insurance is issued to protect your mortgage lender against problems that may be related to the property title. In many cases, you have to ask for an owner’s title insurance policy that protects you
  5. Unless you are desperate to raise cash, it’s probably not a good idea to cash out equity when you refinance. With housing values still falling in many areas, you may want to hold on to as much equity as you can

Consider refinancing if you are struggling to make your monthly payments, have a high interest rate, or have an adjustable rate mortgage. However, refinancing your mortgage may not make sense if you plan to sell your home soon, or already have a low mortgage rate. Use a loan calculator to determine if refinancing can save you money.

Government to Help Housing Markets Suffering the Most

February 19th, 2010

People struggling with mortgage loans in five states are getting additional aid to get them through the housing crisis. President Obama said the government plans to give $1.5 billion to local and state housing agencies in an effort to help troubled homeowners.

Help for Troubled Mortgage Loans

Funds are to go to agencies in Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida, and Michgan, states hit hardest by the housing downturn. Those states have seen housing prices plunge more than 20% from their peak.

Money can be used in various ways, including modifying home loans that are underwater or helping unemployed people struggling with mortgages to avoid foreclosure. Housing agencies can also use the aid for “programs encouraging sustainable and affordable homeownership,” according to the White House blog.

Get Help with Your Mortgage

While these programs should help many troubled homeowners, you may need to look for relief sooner than that. Contact your mortgage lender or loan servicer if you are already behind on monthly payments. You may be eligible for a mortgage refinance or loan modification.

Refinance Mortgage

Mortgage refinancing through the government’s program requires:

  • Your mortgage loan to be guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
  • You to be current on mortgage payments
  • The ability to make payments on the refinanced home loan
  • You to be the owner-occupant of a one- to four-family home

If you don’t have a home mortgage guaranteed by Fannie Mae of Freddie Mac, don’t assume that your mortgage lender can’t help you. They may have some other program to help you do a mortgage refinance.

Mortgage Loan Modification

Getting approved for a home loan modification through the government’s program requires:

  • Your mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance) to be greater than 31% of your monthly gross income
  • You must be able to document financial hardship that is keeping you from affording your mortgage payment
  • Have a first lien that originated before Jan. 1, 2009

If you are facing foreclosure, mortgage loan servicers can’t proceed with a foreclosure sale until you’ve been evaluated for help through the mortgage loan modification program.

Contact Mortgage Lender

The most important takeaway is that you must be proactive about getting help with your mortgage loan. Ducking and dodging phone calls and letters from your mortgage lender isn’t going to help your situation. Be diligent about tracking down someone at your mortgage lender who is authorized to set up some kind of deal to get back on track with your home loan.

Should You Refinance to Get a 15-Year Mortgage?

December 31st, 2009

Mortgage refinance rates have edged up recently but are still low enough for many people to apply for a loan. If you’ve been paying on a home loan for several years, refinancing to get a 15-year mortgage can help you pay off your home quicker. But should you do it?

Lower Mortgage Rates

Mortgage loans with a 15-year term have lower mortgage rates than 30-year loans. That means you end up paying less interest over the life of a loan. For instance, 30-year fixed  mortgage rates are averaging 5.14%, while 15-year fixed loans are averaging 4.54%, according to Freddie Mac.

High Monthly Payments

But refinancing into a 15-year loan from a 30-year mortgage usually means your monthly payment is going to rise. For example, a 30-year mortgage  for $200,000 with a 5.14% rate would have monthly payments of $1,090.82, while the same amount for 15 years at 4.54% would have monthly payments of $1,534.08. Use a mortgage payment calculator to run different scenarios for interest rates and terms.

More Homeowners Refinance for 15 Years

Despite the higher payments, 15-year mortgages are popular these days. About one in five mortgage refinancings in November were for 15-year mortgage loans, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. “My general advice is homeowners who have 30-year mortgages — and they’ve been in them for 3 or 4 years — it’s prudent not to go back into a 30-year mortgage,” Amir Syed of American Street Mortgage told CBS2.

Mortgage Principal and Interest Payments

Most of your mortgage payments go toward interest in the early years of amortization. So if you already have a 30-year home loan and refinance for another 30 years, you end up starting over again with most of your payments going toward interest.

It’s important to discuss all the numbers with your mortgage lender to determine if it really makes sense to refinance. Use the refinance savings calculator to determine if you can save money by refinancing and how long it is going to take to recoup the cost of refinancing.

Financial Freedom

For many people paying off their home represents true financial freedom. A 15-year mortgage is one way to reach this goal quicker, although you may have to make some sacrifices in your monthly budget to afford higher mortgage payments.

You can get free, no obligation mortgage refinance quotes here to determine if a 15-year loan can help you.

Getting Help with Mortgage Loans

November 20th, 2009

Many homeowners who have trouble making mortgage payments turn to savings and investment accounts for funds. But some financial experts recommend that homeowners seek help from mortgage loan modification or refinance programs before depleting their savings or ending up in foreclosure, according to a Consumer Reports article. 

Keeping money in a savings account can allow you to have access to cash in the event of an emergency. Here are some things to remember about getting help with your home loan.

Mortgage Loan Modifications

The government’s Making Home Affordable program has helped about 650,000 homeowners modify mortgages since February. That’s about 20% of the people who are eligible for help through the program.

If you are struggling to stay current with mortgage payments or are already behind on payments, you could qualify for a home loan modification. You also must:

  • Have a first lien that originated on or before Jan. 1, 2009
  • Have monthly mortgage payments (including taxes and insurance) greater than 31% of of your monthly gross income
  • Be able to document that you are having trouble making mortgage payments because of a financial hardship

Even if you don’t have a mortgage loan guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you could qualify for assistance. Contact your mortgage loan service to find out if you qualify for help. Mortgage modifications last for a three-month trial period, but are supposed to be extended for five years if you make the payments on time.

Refinance to Lower Mortgage Rate

Mortgage rates are very competitive right now if you want to refinance. Even if you’re home has lost some value during the housing crunch, a mortgage refinance isn’t impossible.  You may qualify for a refinance if:

  • Your home loan is owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
  • You are current on your mortgage payments
  • The amount you owe on your first lien doesn’t exceed 125% of the current market value of your property
  • You have income to make payments after mortgage refinancing

Lowering Monthly Payments

Even if there is a second lien on your home, you could qualify for a refinance. If you currently have a high mortgage rate, refinancing should lower your monthly payments. However, if you currently have an interest-only loan and refinance into a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly payments may not decrease. But refinancing should result in an overall savings over the life of the mortgage loan.

When seeking help with a mortgage loan it’s always best to contact your loan servicer directly. Avoid using companies that offer to modify your mortgage for a fee that is paid upfront.

Fannie Mae Program Turns Homeowners into Renters

November 14th, 2009

If you’ve gotten behind on mortgage loan payments and are facing foreclosure, there may be help from a Fannie Mae program. The housing agency is allowing some homeowners to voluntarily transfer their properties back to their mortgage lenders and stay in the homes as a renters. Here are some details of the Deed-for-Lease Program.

Mortgage Refinance or Modification

You may have tried unsuccessfully to do a mortgage refinance or loan modification. Fannie Mae’s program allows you to complete a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure and lease back your house at the current market rate for up to 12 months. Your mortgage must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae. The idea is that even though you are struggling to keep up with mortgage payments, you might be able afford a lower rent.

“This new program helps eliminate some of the uncertainty of foreclosure, keeps families and tenants in their homes during a transitional period, and helps to stabilize neighborhoods and communities,” said Jay Ryan, vice president of Fannie Mae, in a statement.

Who Can Qualify?

 To participate in the Deed for Lease program you must:

  • Live in the home as your primary residence
  • Be released from subordinate liens on the property, such as a second mortgage
  • Be able to document that the market rental rate is less than 31% of your gross income
  • Submit to a credit check
  • If the property you live in has tenants, they also may be eligible to rent through the program
  • Get renters insurance if you have a pet
  • Pass a property inspection
  • Not have an illegal activity on the premises

Advantages to Rental Program

So why is Fannie Mae letting people rent back their properties instead of foreclosing? One reason is that it is better to keep people in a property rather than let it sit abandoned. Foreclosed homes that sit abandoned often fall into disrepair or attract vandals and and other criminal activity.

Mortage Lenders as Landlords

Some lenders, however, are reluctant to get into the landord business even if homeowners are struggling with mortgages. “We’re in the lending business. We’re not really equipped to be landlords,” Tom Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, told Time magazine.

Contact your mortgage loan servicer to discuss participating in this program if you’ve exhausted other options such as a trying to refinance, sell your house, or get a loan modification.

10 Things to Consider about Doing a Mortgage Refinance

October 5th, 2009

Current mortgage rates have fallen near record lows, but should you move to do a mortgage refinance? Here are 10 things to consider if you’re thinking about refinancing.

  1. Consider a 15-year mortgage if you have a low balance. Fifteen-year mortgage rates averaged 4.36% last week, the lowest rate since Freddie Mac began tracking the rates.
  2. Consider paying points to get a lower mortgage rate. Generally, you can lower your mortgage rate by about 0.25% for each point you pay.  Each point will equal 1% of the total amount of your mortgage.
  3. Use a loan calculator to figure out what your monthly payments will be after refinancing. A loan calculator also can show the break-even point for recouping fees paid to refinance.
  4. Check out home values in your area before applying to refinance a mortgage. This will keep you from being surprised by a low appraisal during the refinance process. Keep in mind that if you live in an area hit by a lot of foreclosures, it may be difficult to get a high enough appraisal to refinance if you don’t have a lot of home equity.
  5. Don’t apply for a mortgage refinance until after you’ve reviewed your credit report. Make sure all information on your report is accurate. If you have a poor credit history, you may be turned down for refinancing.
  6. Don’t apply for other types of credit before getting approved for a mortgage refinance. Too many credit inquiries or newly opened lines of credit are red flags to mortgage lenders.
  7. Ask mortgage lenders to provide a Truth-in Lending Disclosure and Good Faith Estimate before paying an application fee or a rate lock-in fee. Some lenders may balk at doing this, but anyone who wants your business should be able to give you this information.
  8. Make sure you continue making payments on your current mortgage. You are still responsible for the payments until you close on the refinance.
  9. Comply with the mortgage lender’s request for documentation of income, income taxes, financial statements, etc. Dragging your feet on getting these documents together can delay closing on your home loan.
  10. Just because mortgage rates are low doesn’t mean you should refinance. Talk with an experienced mortgage counselor if you need help deciding whether or not refinancing will help you.

Countdown to Your Mortgage Closing

If you do refinance your mortgage, be patient. Mortgage lenders have been overwhelmed by requests for loan modifications and refinancings so it make take a little longer than you want to get to closing.

8 Mistakes to Avoid When Refinancing a Mortgage Loan

August 7th, 2009

A mortgage refinance can lower your monthly payments and decrease the amount of interest paid over the life of your home loan. But don’t just focus on mortgage rates without understanding everything involved with a refinance. Here are eight mistakes to avoid when refinancing a mortgage.

  1. Not shopping around for mortgages is a huge mistake. It’s imperative that you compare different deals to make sure you get the loan package that is right for your situation. Not all mortgage refinancing is the same so slow down and take your time. Read the rest of this entry »

Mortgage Modification: Another Hurdle for Some

January 2nd, 2009

If you took out a ‘piggyback’ second mortgage (aka a ‘junior-lien loan’) to cover, say, your down payment or private mortgage insurance (PMI), then you may have problems if you need a loan modification. Read the rest of this entry »