Category Archives: Real Estate

Can I Afford A House?

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When it comes to purchasing a new home, there are always many questions and factors to consider before putting down an offer. “Why is the owner selling? Do I like the location and surrounding area? Does the home have all of the amenities I am looking for?” The first, however, should be “Can I afford this home?” What would seem to many to be a simple ‘yes or no’ is actually one of the more complex questions when it comes to home-buying-101.

The question, ‘Can I afford this home,’ seems for the most part straightforward. You either can or you can’t. But what goes into determining the answer is where the complexity sets in. Below we have compiled a list of 5 important things to keep in mind when determining if you can afford a home or mortgage that you are interested in purchasing.

  1. Income Factors
    • Income before taxes is one of the most important factors in determining if you can afford a home and mortgage payment. But “income” doesn’t only refer how much you make per year before taxes. Income should also be evaluated by job security (the probability that you will keep your job), opportunity for raises and bonuses, confidence in keeping steady commission if your job operates off of this, chances that salary will stay the same or increase, and other considerations such as if you are planning on having kids soon.
  2. Monthly Spending
    • Monthly spending or your typical monthly budget is another factor that should be evaluated when determining if you can afford a house. Living expenses such as bills/utilities, transportation, health, fitness, home, kids, travel, personal care, pets, shopping, taxes and other expenses should be calculated, multiplied by 12, and then subtracted out of your income to get a clear picture of how much money you have left to work with. It is extremely important to be honest with yourself when calculating your monthly budget.
  3. Down Payment & Closing Costs
    • Monthly mortgage payments are not the only thing that you have to worry about paying when you plan to purchase a home. Once you decide on a home and have calculated your monthly spending and compared it to your yearly income, the next things that should be considered are down payments and closing cost. According to Mortgage 101, ‘Traditionally mortgage down payments range from 10 to 25 percent of the total purchase price of the property.” However, there are now more options that can potentially lower your down payment that our loan officers can help you decipher and apply for. Just as a rule of thumb, it is best to prepare to pay within that percentage for a down payment. Along with a down payment, closing costs should also be considered when determining if you can afford a home. Closing costs vary individually based on location and property values, but typically will include the costs to transfer property deeds, titles, land transfers, legal fees, loan fees, etc. On top of this remember that typically the closing itself will usually cost you 2-3% of the home price.
  4. Taxes/ Insurance
    • Once you purchase a home, taxes and insurance must be paid in order to protect both you and the lender. The main tax that a homeowner will pay is a yearly “Property Tax.” What a property tax does is quantifies the value of your property and home and gives the tax money you pay to the government. Normally, people set up Escrow Accounts that take money from your accounts monthly to go towards your end-of-year property taxes and insurance bills, and then accumulates that money until it is due (so you don’t have to come up with the lump sum all at once, which can be overwhelming). If you own your property outright, some people do choose to pay their yearly property tax at outright without an Escrow Account.
    • Homeowners insurance varies based on many factors including location, and risk factors, but is also something that you are required to pay. This can also be deposited monthly into an Escrow account. The main thing to remember with homeowners insurance is the more risk your property has, the more money you will pay on a policy. Basic homeowner policies usually include (but are not limited to) Dwelling Protection, Personal Property Protection, Natural Disasters, Other Structure Protection and Injury Liability. Another insurance you will likely have to pay is a mortgage insurance to ensure you will pay your monthly dues. Sometimes Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is required if you as a buyer are putting less than 20% down on a house and better protects the lender.
  5. Monthly Mortgage Payment
    • Monthly mortgage payments will be what you pay every month that goes towards the principal (money you borrowed) and interest on that money. They also sometimes include some of the home’s insurance and taxes. Mortgage payments vary depending on the home, location, money put down on the property and individual’s credit score. To see an estimated monthly mortgage payment you can click here, but until you meet with a lender, this will just be a projection.

Along with income factors, monthly spending, down payments and closing costs, taxes and insurance, and monthly mortgage payments, there will usually always be random “other” costs included when purchasing a home including homeowners dues, home maintenance, home inspection, etc. When predicting if you are going to be able to afford a house, it is always best to over-price your projected spendings. Don’t forget that according to CNN, Total debt payments (credit cards, student loans, car payments, etc.) should be less than 36% of gross income because that has been shown to be a level of debt that most borrowers can pay back comfortably.

Buying a house is a difficult process, but here at Alpha Mortgage, we are ready to assist you in any way possible. Contact us today!

Best Time to Refinance Your Mortgage

 

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In order to best understand the most opportune time to refinance your mortgage, it is essential to understand how the process works. Refinancing is the process of trading in your old mortgage for a new one that features a new interest rate and term. When you refinance your mortgage, the loan officer who grants you the new mortgage basically pays off the remainder of your old mortgage and provides you with a new mortgage- by refinancing the remaining amount. Another way you can think about refinancing is that you are “resetting your mortgage” – not getting rid of existing debt.”

When you’re considering refinancing, it is important to do your research and crunch out the numbers to make sure that the deal is better over time as opposed to being beneficial short-term. Interest is the silent killer when it comes to refinancing homes; so planning into the future and weighing out scenarios is essential when you’re considering refinancing. This being said, there are major benefits to refinancing with the top three being lower interest rates over time and the opportunity to reduce the term of your original mortgage through standard refinancing, and to acquiring cash from the home’s equity value to use on other purchases through cash-out refinance transactions.

So once you figure out that refinancing is for you, when exactly is the best time to refinance your Mortgage?

  • You plan on staying in your home for a long time- Most of the time, when one refinances their mortgage, they end up extending the term of the loan. This means that you will be paying smaller amounts for a longer time. It is important to look at the savings compared to cost as well as how long you want to stay on your property. If you plan on staying for a while, and the numbers are right, refinancing is a good option to save money.
  • You want to shorten your Mortgage term- Refinancing your mortgage presents the opportunity for borrowers to reduce their mortgage term under reduced interest rates. As long as you’re able to pay the increased monthly payments (which vary from a little to a lot depending on the cost of the mortgage) this is a great option for people looking to pay off their loan sooner rather than later under ideal circumstances.
  • Current interest rates are at least 2% below your existing mortgage interest rate-The University of Minnesota reports that “Most lenders agree that the greatest gain in refinancing your home occurs when the current interest rate stands at least two percentage points below your existing mortgage loan interest rate and refinancing costs are affordable. If those two conditions exist, you should look into refinancing, which offers potential benefits, depending on your situation.”
  • Refinancing costs are reasonable- Most people don’t take into account that there are costs associated with refinancing mortgages. Usually one will have to pay closing costs (in the thousands), taxes, insurance, and prepaid items. Factor these costs into your refinancing decision. If the costs are reasonable and you are still saving money, go for it!
  • It will save you money in the long run- The ultimate goal of refinancing is to save money. By calculating monthly payments and long-term interest costs, borrowers can get a better picture and see if refinancing is a good option. If the conditions are right and you’re saving more money than you would on your existing mortgage, refinancing is a great option to save cash.

Remember: refinancing is a great option for homeowners under the right conditions. A tip to keep in mind if you’re considering refinancing your mortgage is to do it only once to keep incurring home equity (since refinancing resets your mortgage clock). If you are interested in refinancing your mortgage, our expert loan officers can help. Contact Alpha Mortgage today!

What Makes a Good Loan Officer?

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With 2015 upon us and the economy looking up, many people are looking towards purchasing a new home this year. It is no secret that one of the most important steps in property purchase involves communication and collaboration with loan officers. Loan officers, or Mortgage Originators, evaluate, authorize, or recommend approval of loan applications for people and businesses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they are normally responsible for contacting companies inquiring about loan needs, meeting with loan applicants to gather personal information, obtaining and verifying financial information, explaining loan terms and types, analyzing and evaluating applicant’s finances, and eventually approving or denying loan applications. So what should you look for in a loan officer to make your home-buying experience as seamless and stress-free as possible?

A good loan officer holds many great qualities including time-management skills, problem-solving skills, and responsiveness, but 5 traits that an outstanding Loan Officer must have are listed below:
• They are transparent with customers- a great loan officer is always in line with all national loan regulations, but arguably even more importantly, they are open and forthcoming with customers and realtors about important information that can make or break a loan in a timely matter. They never over-promise or under-deliver.
• They are passionate about what they do- one thing that sets apart excellent loan officers from average is their love for what they do. It is apparent when a loan officer hates what they are doing, but through positive energy and attentiveness to customer needs, passion from a loan officer shines.
• They measure all of their data and information- great loan officers understand that nothing can be improved if it is not first measured. Best performers know exact numbers of leads, credit report pulls, contracts, and closings they have had in specific time periods because they understand how imperative numbers are both to potential borrowers and to their own success.
• They are accountable- They work for companies that hold employees to high work standards and ethical standards because they want to push themselves to their highest potential as a loan officer. They appreciate accountability because it shows borrowers and real estate agents that they can be relied on for closings.
• They are connected- The best loan officers not only know basic real estate principles, but they have rich professional connections with local real estate agents. Great loan officers have a deep base of knowledge they use to inform real estate agents about the closing process for clients, and maintain a positive communication process between the parties.
Looking for a Loan Officer on the North Carolina Coast? Alpha Mortgage has their own in-house team of specially trained Loan Officers that meet all of these qualifications! Check them out and contact one today to get the ball rolling on the purchase of your dream home!

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Mortgage Market Guide 11-17-14

News from abroad read that Japan has fallen into a recession after the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined for two consecutive quarters. A recession is defined as a significant decline in economic activity, which includes industrial production, employment, real income and wholesale retail trade. A recession is measured by two consecutive negative quarters of GDP data. Japan’s GDP fell by 1.6% in the third quarter after falling 7.3% in the second quarter.

The New York State Manufacturing Index bounced back in November after a somewhat weak reading in October. The index rose by 10.2 this month, up from the 6.2 registered in October, but lower than the 12.0 expected. The general business index signaled that business condition activity continued to expand in November, though at a slower pace from the May to September period. Within the report it showed that the employment component edged lower.

A recent study reveals that first-time homebuyers are faced with many challenges with the mortgage process, according the J.D. Power 2014 Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction study. The big issues facing first time homebuyers is growing student loan debt and affordability. Recent data shows that among the respondents purchasing a home, 58% are first timers. In addition, lack of experience and uncertainty regarding the process is also a barrier when it comes to first time buyers.

Mortgage Market Guide

Americans filing for first time unemployment benefits fell to multi-year lows in the latest week as the sector continues to recover and move into greener pastures. The Labor Department reported that Weekly Initial Jobless Claims fell by 10,000 to 278,000 and is the second lowest level since the Great Recession ended. The four-week moving average of claims, which irons out seasonal abnormalities, fell to a 14-year low of 279,000, down 2,950 from the previous week. Since June, claims have averaged 293,000 per week compared to last year’s same time period of 343,000 and well below the 594,000 average per week in 2009.

Global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported today that after falling to a 14-year low in September, planned layoffs by employers across the nation surged by nearly 70% from September. U.S. employers announced planned cuts of 51,183 in October, well above the 30,477 planned in September. October is the second highest amount of planned cuts since the May 2014 figure of 52,961 and marks only the fourth time in the last 22 months that planned cuts were above 50,000.

With the Thanksgiving Holiday quickly approaching, more Americans are expected to take to the skies to visit friends and relatives this season. Airlines for America reports that 24.6 million passengers will fly domestically between November 21 and December 2. That’s up about 1.5% from 2013, or 31,000 more passengers per day. U.S. carriers have reaped some big profits in that past year and are making sure that there is enough room to meet the growing demand. The top three destinations for Thanksgiving are Chicago, Orlando and Cancun.

Mortgage Market Update 09-12-14

Americans across the nation opened their wallets in August spending their hard earned money on automobiles and a range of other goods, including back-to-school items. Retail Sales rose by 0.6% last month, above the 0.3% recorded in July, which was revised from 0.0%. The report signals that the economy continues to recover after the weak readings from the beginning of the year.

Consumer Sentiment hit a 14-month high this month, in a survey done by the University of Michigan showing a rate of 84.6, up from the previous reading of 82.5. The surveys gauge of consumer expectations rose to 75.6 from the 71.3 reading last month and above a forecast of 73.0. The uptick in Consumer Sentiment was one of the reasons for the rise in Retail Sales as consumers feel more confident about the economy.

The price for oil continues to fall after a ramp in supplies pushing the price to lows not seen in over a year. The recent drop has pushed prices at the gas pump lower as the national average price for a regular gallon of gasoline is at $3.41, down nearly 4% from this time last year. Prices usually fall this time of year after the summer driving season, but with the large supply of oil on the market, AAA predicts a 15 to 20 cent drop by Halloween. The drop in gas prices puts extra cash in the consumers pocket, which could be used on the upcoming shopping seasons.

Mortgage Market Guide 07-22-14

The housing sector received some good news on Tuesday as the National Association of REALTORS® reported that June Existing Home Sales rose by 2.6% from May to an annual rate of 5.04 million units. That was slightly above the 5.0 million expected. However, the 5.04 million is 2.3% below the 5.16 million recorded in June of 2013. The median sales price in June was $223,300, a 4.3% increase from last year, marking the 28th consecutive month of year-over-year gains. Sales are based on single-family, town homes, condominiums and co-ops.

Higher prices for gasoline in June led consumer prices higher, which was somewhat offset by moderating food costs. The Consumer Price Index, a key measure of consumer inflation, rose by 0.3% last month, which matched expectations. Since May of 2013, prices have risen 2.1%. Gasoline prices jumped 3.3%, the biggest increase in a year, while overall food prices rose by a modest 0.1%. The conflict in Iraq pushed oil prices higher in June, which led to the higher gas prices, but most believe that prices at the pump have peaked for the summer.

In earnings news, Coca-Cola reported lower than expected revenues in North America, failing to show growth for the second consecutive quarter. Coke sales as well as Pepsi have been declining as developed countries such as the U.S. become more health conscious and look for healthier alternatives. The soda maker reported earnings per share of 58 cents, which was lower than the 59 cents recorded in the same period last year.

Mortgage Market Update 07-07-14

Foreclosure starts across the U.S. unexpectedly rose from April to May by 9.5%, as reported by Black Knight Financial Services. The rise comes after eight straight months of declines with starts down 32% since January. Black Knight said that half of the foreclosure starts are repeat foreclosures, rather than new entries. Repeats are loans that had been in foreclosure, shifted back to either current or delinquent due to a modification, repayment plan or some action by the borrower, but have since fallen back into foreclosure.

Government sponsored entity Fannie Mae released its June 2014 Economic and Housing Outlook revealing that economic activity contracted in the first quarter, which could lead to lower growth in 2014 that was seen in 2013. Fannie Mae has forecasted just 2.1% overall growth in 2014, one-half a percentage point below the 2013 pace. Fannie went on to say that “overall growth in the housing market pulled back in the first quarter, with major housing indicators coming in lower year over year compared to the first quarter of 2013.”

Karl “Chip” Case of the Case/Shiller Home Price Index says that we have much more negative vibrations in the housing surveys abut home ownership that we have ever had before. Mr. Case went on to say that only buy a house for the long haul and says for first time home buyers, be sure you can afford the house and don’t expect a quick profit.

Mortgage Market Update 06-23-14

Housing news dominates the headlines this week as the sector tries to stabilize after the harsh winter weather early in the year weighed on the market. Black Knight Financial Services reported today that home prices rose 0.9% from March to April and were up 6.4% year-over-year. Within the report it showed that 19 of the 20 largest states saw month-over-month increases.

The National Association of REALTORS© (NAR) reported that May Existing Home Sales were up 4.9% from April to an annual rate of 4.89 million units. The 4.9% was the highest monthly rate since the 5.5% recorded in August 2011. The report showed that the median home price was $213,400, which is 5.1% above May 2013, while inventories account for a 5.6 month supply. The NAR said that “buyers are benefiting from slower price growth due to much needed, rising inventory levels since the beginning of the year.”

The cost of air conditioning homes across the U.S. is around $11 billion a year with air conditioning accounting for about 5% of all electricity produced in the U.S. There are a few tips to help cut costs. If you have central air conditioning, a shaded area for the unit is the best spot to ensure the highest efficiency. During the cooling period, change the filter once a month so that the unit doesn’t have to work extra hard to cool the house. Closing the blinds and curtains during the peak sun hours will also boost efficiency. In addition, installing ceiling fans will also reduce costs and try to keep the lights off during the long days of sunlight in the summer.

Mortgage Market Update 04-14-14

Consumers across the nation stepped up spending in March after dismal spending in the beginning of the year, due to the severely harsh winter weather. Retail Sales rose by 1.1% last month, the biggest gain since September 2012, while February’s 0.7% rise was revised up from 0.3%. Retail Sales account for 1/3 of consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for about 2/3s of the U.S. economy.

Home loan lending declined in the first quarter of 2014 due to rising interest rates and home prices. Total lending came in at about $226 billion, the lowest level since 1997 and less than one-third of the 2006 average. Home loan rates are up from the best levels seen early in 2013 after the Federal Reserve began to taper its massive stimulus program. Wells Fargo recently reported that its home-loan originations fell to $36 billion in the first quarter after it exceeded $100 billion for seven straight quarters through June 2013.

Banking giant Citigroup reported first quarter earnings of $3.9 billion or $1.30 per share, easily beating the $1.14 per share estimated by Thomson Financial Research. The gains were due in part to solid performances from its consumer and international businesses. In addition, the bank also grew both loans and deposits, while holding the line on its expenses.