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Should I choose a 15-Year Mortgage or a 30-Year Mortgage

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So you’ve found your dream house, and have decided to start the lending process so that you can own the keys and start making it a home. Congratulations! Once you’re sure that you can afford the home, and have found an informed and transparent loan officer, the next thing as a buyer that you need to consider is whether you should choose to secure 15 year fixed mortgage, or a 30 year fixed mortgage. When determining which loan option is best for you, it is important to weigh out the differences in affordability, your degree of job security, as well as your saving habits.

The main difference between a 15 and 30-year loan is that fifteen-year loans typically have higher monthly payments with less interest, and thirty-year loans usually have lower monthly payments in which you end up spending more interest over time. The first step in determining which term to choose is using a mortgage calculator and crunching the numbers to figure out your specific individual options and the difference in monthly payments and total amount spent. Then, ask yourself what you can honestly afford. If you can comfortably make the 15-year fixed mortgage rates, do so. If not, the 30-year option is probably best for you. Remember that making extra payments when possible is always an option (although according to the FDIC, 97.3% of people do not consistently pay extra on their mortgages).

It is also essential to evaluate your job security and emergency funds when determining which loan to choose. Are you in a position/job with a paycheck steady enough to make those payments every month? It is important to remember that once you sign the loan, you will be required to make the same payment each month, and if you choose to go with a higher monthly payment (15-year loan) it is a good idea to have an emergency fund in place just in case something happens. If you don’t have adequate savings in place, or lack an emergency fund, it is a safe bet to go with a 30-year option.

Financial saving habits are also important to consider when determining whether to go with a 15-year or 30-year loan. Before choosing which term you want to have your loan on, evaluate your spending habits. According to USA Today, many people may lack the discipline needed to save long-term, especially in amounts that would offset what they would save by switching (from a 30-year) to a 15-year mortgage. A lot of times people need that extra money for something else, so they choose to keep their money in a 30-year mortgage with lower individual monthly payments. It is important to realize that you can always pay more of your mortgage off monthly, however, many people lack the discipline to send in the extra money every month when it isn’t required by the bank. If you are confident in your financial personal discipline, and do not tap into your savings (or will need to in order to afford a shorter term), a 15-year loan might be a good option to consider.

Be sure to consider your age and professional plan for the next 15-30 years when deciding whether you want to choose a 15 or 30 year loan. Are you planning on retiring? Do you plan on having children? What about other expenses that you will have (car, student loans, etc.)? Once again, it is important to answer these questions as honestly as possible, and to go over your options with your loan officer, who will be able to give his/her honest opinion based on individual circumstances and plans and which term will be best in your scenario.

Remember – in the end, your individual financial situation, goals, and comfort levels will determine which mortgage term you should choose, and what may be right for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it will be right for you. However, a good rule of thumb remains: if you’re comfortable making higher payments (and have an adequate emergency fund), can meet other important financial milestones such as retirement and large expenses like cars and student loans, and have strong personal discipline when it comes to finances, a 15-year mortgage is a great option to own your home in half the time you would otherwise. If any of these conditions make you uncomfortable, it is better to go with the 30-year fixed loan and add in extra payments if you can. Let Alpha Mortgage help you make the right decision when it comes to choosing your loan term.

How to Apply for a VA Loan in North Carolina

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A VA loan, formally known as a Veteran Affairs loan, is a mortgage loan in the United States guaranteed by the US Department of Veteran Affairs that is designed to offer long-term financing to eligible American Veterans in order to help secure housing. VA loans are available for the primary residences of Veterans, active duty members, certain surviving spouses, certain Reservists, and National Guard members, and provide excellent benefits for those who are approved. Benefits of getting a VA loan include equal opportunity, little to no down payment, no monthly PMI, home appraisal and reasonable value calculated, negotiable interest rate, reasonable closing costs, assistance to borrowers, and the ability to finance the VA funding fee.

The US Department of Veteran Affairs doesn’t directly fund the loans through the program, but instead backs them from private lenders such as banks and mortgage companies,  which is why Alpha Mortgage can provide VA Loans to those who qualify in North Carolina with more favorable loan terms than they may normally receive.

In order to apply for a VA loan in NC, there are a few preliminary steps one must take in order to reach the application process. The first thing you will need is a Certificate of Eligibility that one obtains from the VA. A Certificate of Eligibility (COE), provides lenders with the evidence that they need to determine if one is qualified to receive a VA loan. As stated on the official website, “The evidence you need depends on the nature of your eligibility.” They provide a table to reference during this process here.  It is important to make sure that all of the qualifications

After you figure out what specific evidence you need, and that evidence  has been collected, there are multiple ways to go about actually applying for the loan- including online, through your lender, or through mail. Once the loan is approved through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the rest of the process can be taken care of through your lender.

Whether you have been approved for a VA loan already, or need assistance in the process, remember that Alpha Mortgage is here to help with all of your VA loan needs! Contact us today!

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!

5 Things that will Destroy your Credit while looking for a Mortgage

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In the lending process, one of the most important things that brokers look at when determining if an applicant should be approved or denied for a mortgage is credit score. Credit score refers to the three-digit number that represents how well you handle money. Credit scores are calculated through data records that come from previous statements, monetary amounts owed, length of one’s credit history, new credit, and types of credit used. There are three different credit scores: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. FICO scores are what most lenders check when applicants are applying for a loan. There are three FICO scores checked, one for each respective bureau, to determine risk. FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher the number is, the better credit one has.

According to the FHA, “Generally speaking, to get maximum financing on typical new home purchases, applicants should have a credit score of 580 or better.” Lenders will look at your score before approving you, and often during the loan process as well to make sure that nothing has changed. If your score is a bit lower than 580, don’t sweat it. As long as your credit future looks promising, you still can potentially get a mortgage, you just may have to pay a higher down payment. If you’re in the clear, congratulations! You are one step closer to owning your dream home. However, regardless of score, it is essential to avoid these 5 things when you’re applying for a mortgage that can potentially destroy your credit score.

1. Opening up a new line of credit- There are two types of inquiries when it comes to someone wanting access to your credit- soft inquiries and hard inquiries. A soft inquiry occurs when you want to check your own credit score, potential employers run background checks on you, or other small questions. A hard inquiry is a serious check into your credit either conducted by a lender, credit card issuer, or other financial institution. These hard lower your credit score for a few points and stay on there for up to two years. They must be authorized. When you open up another or multiple lines of credit during the lending process, this raises a red flag to your lender that you’re desperate for credit.
2. Closing a credit card account- On the opposite end of the spectrum, closing credit card accounts can also lower your credit score and cause issues when you are applying for a mortgage. According to Next Avenue, when you close out a credit card or consolidate all of your credit card debt onto one account, your credit score will take a ding. The article states “when you close a credit card account, you lose the amount of available credit on that card. This increases what’s known as your credit utilization ratio, or CUR, a figure that compares the amount of credit you’ve used with the total amount of credit you have available. The way to maximize your credit score is to have a low utilization ratio.” Avoid this when applying for a mortgage.
3. Not paying your bills on time- This is a given… but sometimes we forget that even the smallest slip in not paying bills can be an issue when it comes to your credit score. If you don’t already, set up reminders for every bill that needs to be paid a few days in advance to the due date.
4. Shopping around for a mortgage- It is extremely important to check your options when looking for a mortgage in order to secure the best rate possible. However, your FICO score takes a hit with multiple inquiries from different lenders. To compensate for this, within 30 days of a mortgage inquiry, additional inquiries are lumped into the first. What does this mean? If you are shopping around for the best mortgage rate, do so within a concentrated 30-day or less period.
5. Co-signing loans- As a parent, helping your child with a loan may seem like the best option to help them build credit, but be very careful when co-signing with your children for finances. It is in fact a good way to build their credit up, however, if they miss a payment it could shave up to 50 points off of your credit score. If you do co-sign, make sure to set reminders for when payments are due to remind your child and ensure that no payment will fall through the cracks. Yikes!

Want to apply for a mortgage? We can help.

Mortgage Market Update 12-16-14

Home builder sentiment across the nation edged lower in December, but still remains robust as 2014 comes to an end. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index fell to 57 this month, which was just below the 58 expected and down from the 58 recorded in November. Any number above 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good rather than poor. Within the report it showed that current sales conditions and expectations for future sales declined, while the traffic gauge of prospective buyers held steady.

In another sign that the U.S. economy has improved from the depths of the Great Recession, the Federal Reserve reported on Monday that factory production rose by 1.1% in November from October. Output at factories has risen 4.8% over the past year, which is above levels seen before December 2007. Despite a global slowdown, the U.S. has continued to recover, led by a boost in auto sales, food, wood, plastics and rubber products.

Today is the busiest day of the shipping season for the U.S. Post Office and FedEx with just 10 days until Christmas. The nation’s largest shipper, the Post Office, says it will process 640 million pieces of mail on Monday, up 33 million from last year. The Post Office further reported that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it expects to deliver 12.7 billion cards, letters and packages. FedEx reports that it will ship 22.6 million packages on Monday while it will deliver 290 million packages during the same period, up 9% from 2013.

Mortgage Market Guide 12-01-14

The National Federation of Retailers (NRF) reported today that Black Friday weekend sales didn’t sizzle, which could be attributed to deals that began before Thanksgiving. The NRF said that sales from Thanksgiving through Sunday is estimated to hit $50.9 billion, down from the $57.4 billion in 2013, an 11% decline. The NRF went on to say that during the four-day period, 2014 online sales will be flat from last year. Another reason for the ease in sales could be that shoppers are holding out until later in the holiday shopping season to see if they can get better deals.

In a move that could potentially make it possible for hundreds of thousands of additional consumers to get mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have relaxed lending standards beginning today, December 1st. The new measures stem from an agreement in October where lenders had blamed the lack of clarity on when they would be penalized for making mistakes on mortgages they sell to Fannie and Freddie. The new standards should include faster turnaround times for mortgage applications to be processed. In addition, lenders be able to consider reduced credit scores and look past one time events when consumers suffered a hit on credit scores.

Fannie Mae released its Economic and Housing Outlook report for November late last week revealing that “economic growth in the U.S. is slowing from the strong mid-2014 numbers to a more moderate pace heading into next year.” Fannie Mae said that full economic growth is expected to be around a modest 2.5% in 2015. Fannie went on to say their view of housing starts, home sales, and home price trends will be largely unchanged next year and that “mortgage activity in 2015 will be very similar to 2014.”