Buying a Home

Purchase Financing & Buying Guide

Offering loans in North Carolina & South Carolina – (910) 256-8999

The idea of purchasing a home, whether it be your first or last, is bound to bring many questions to mind. This is a natural reaction, as it is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. Rest assured, our team and is here to assist you in understanding the loan process with our goal being to make your experience a pleasant one.

This guide covers the basics about buying a home. It is designed to answer commonly asked questions and provide clear definitions of terms you may be unfamiliar with, even if you have been through the home-buying process before.

Understanding Rate Shopping

Shopping for the best interest rate possible has always been the consumer’s primary objective when borrowing money. As well it should be! The challenge with this strategy is that there is much misleading information released on the subject by various media. Internet web sites and email marketing, along with other media such as radio, television and billboard advertising, have brought the importance of interest rates to the forefront of consumers’ minds.

The problem for the consumer with this type of marketing is that it is designed to make the lender’s phone ring. Often, the advertiser offers a ridiculously low interest rate, with the intent of using a “bait-and-switch” technique once the client is reeled in. This is often done through short pricing. Short pricing is a term that is used when a lender offers an extremely attractive interest rate, but that rate is only locked-in for a very brief period of time.

The average consumer enters into a purchase contract to buy a home for at least 30 days. Pricing on an interest rate locked in for a 7-day period is of no use to most prospective home buyers. It simply isn’t enough time to complete the transaction. While the billboard advertising or Internet banner ad may boast a terrific rate, the lock-in period is often not realistic in terms of providing enough time to negotiate a purchase contract and close the deal. Be very careful when shopping for interest rates. Make sure that when you are quoted a rate, you are asking the broker what the lock duration is. Make sure that lock period allows you enough time to complete your purchase transaction.

Another common marketing ploy that makes interest rates appear attractive is geared around the manner in which fees are presented. All lenders are required by law to state the real cost of the financing through the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) each time an interest rate is quoted in advertising. APR takes many of the fees associated with the loan into consideration, and it is usually listed in fine print as a disclaimer.

Advertisers often list a low interest rate in large bold type, but the higher APR indicates in fine print that several points are being charged to get that rate.

The consumer must take into consideration that the interest rate is not the only important factor in obtaining financing. Another equally important question to answer is, “How long do you need to borrow this money?”

The length of time you need to borrow the money has a profound impact on whether or not you should be paying upfront fees (points), and likewise has bearing on your loan program selection.

Statistically, homeowners move every 7 to 10 years. One of the common mistakes made by home buyers is automatically selecting a 30-year fixed rate loan program for financing instead of evaluating other options. The chance of needing the financing for 30 years is actually slim-to-none. If the buyer is somewhat transient in their job or is planning a family in the near future, the home may not really meet their long-term needs.

Buyers are often solicited with programs that are contingent upon 30-year financing. The interest rates that are offered, regardless of how low they might be, are often irrelevant as rates are dependent upon several factors, including down payment and credit score.

If a buyer has at least 5% for a down payment, an interest rate that is fixed for three, five or seven years may be a much more realistic option. This allows the buyer to capitalize on a low introductory rate and save a significant amount of money, which can then go toward the down payment on their next home. It is of utmost importance to work with an experienced loan consultant that understands some of the practical aspects of financial planning. A well-versed consultant will ask you many questions about your short and long-term goals, and assist you in choosing a loan program that is truly suited to those goals.

Mortgage Points

Origination points are often misunderstood. Points are nothing other than interest paid at the time of closing to obtain a lower interest rate on a loan. One point is equivalent to 1% of the loan amount. If you are going to borrow $300,000 on your loan, one point would equal $3,000. This generally generates 1/8 to 3/8 of a percent lower interest rate, depending upon the loan program.

When does it make sense to pay points? Paying points is a prudent financial move, if you are planning to be in the loan for a long period of time. Again, one of the most important questions to address when you borrow money is, “How long do you need to borrow this money?” This will answer the two all-prevailing questions you will have, which are 1) Should I pay points? And 2) What loan program is best for me? Notice that the question is not geared to, “How long do I plan to live in the home?” but more appropriately, “How long am I likely to be in this loan?”

How long you will be in the loan is not only affected by the tenure that you own the home, but also the probability of seeking a refinance at some point in the future. As a general rule of thumb, you will need to be able to recuperate the total cost of the points in a period of time that is less than the amount of time you will need to borrow the money.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you are going to borrow $300,000 for your mortgage, and choose to pay one point, which equates to an initial up front cost of $3,000. If paying one point up front saves you $100 a month, this means it will take you 30 months or 2.5 years, to recuperate the cost of the point that you paid. If you refinance the home anytime before that 30-month mark, or decide to sell the home, you will have effectively wasted money. However, if you keep that loan for longer than a 30-month period of time, it is a prudent financial move.

When deciding whether or not you should pay points, take into consideration where interest rates are at when you seek financing, and compare that to historical market trends.

When interest rates are at historical lows, it makes much more sense to pay points, especially if you think you will live in the property for an extended period of time. Historically low rates, combined with the fact that you know you do not intend to move would indicate you will have longevity in the loan. It is unlikely rates will go down, giving you incentive to refinance.

Rates are cyclical. When interest rates are off of their historical lows, and higher than they generally are, we know that there is a strong likelihood rates will eventually come down. This is certainly no time to pay points. The chances of refinancing at some point in the future are extremely high, and therefore, you would not need to be in this loan for a long period of time.

Credit Scoring

Your credit score is a major factor that will be considered by the lender when they review your loan application. They want to know what your credit history is, and whether you have the ability to pay back the loan you are requesting. In short, good credit translates into lower rates for the home buyer and less risk to the lender.

Credit scores can range between a low score of 300 and a high of 850. The higher the client’s score is, the less likely they are to default on their loan. We will run a credit report to determine what your credit score is, and if necessary, we can point out some simple ways to help you improve your credit score without enlisting the help of a credit repair service.

Once you fill out a loan application and enter into the loan process, you should not run up your charge cards or make any major purchases! You also should not apply for any other type of new credit, as this could negatively impact your credit scores.

Today, many programs limit your borrowing ability if you have a low credit score. If you do have a low credit score you may still be able to obtain financing, just be prepared for both a higher interest rate and higher down payment requirements. While you may not get the interest rate you had hoped for, it is an opportunity to start building up your credit again. Once you begin making mortgage payments on time and in full, your credit standing will improve and we can seek to refinance you at a lower rate as soon as the opportunity arises.

In some cases, with credit counseling, borrowers have seen significant improvement in their credit scores in as little as 3 to 6 months, allowing them to qualify for the mortgage they desire.

Pre-Payment Penalties

Lenders attach pre-payment penalties to loans to ensure that the loan will be profitable for them. As a general rule of thumb, we do not suggest that you accept a pre-payment penalty as a part of your loan structure. One of the most important aspects of financial planning is to have options with your money. Restrictive clauses such as a pre-payment penalty can prohibit you from maneuvering when it is necesarry or when others opportunities arise.

If you want to accept a pre-payment penalty clause in your loan, it is much more advisable to go with a “soft pre-pay.” This only penalizes you in the event of a refinance, but not if you decide to sell the home.

Interest rates have dropped significantly many times over the last 15 years. Many homeowners have not been able to take advantage of lowered rates by refinancing, because their hands have been tied by a daunting pre-payment penalty. Pre-payment penalties will generally provide you with a slightly lower interest rate in exchange for the pre-payment penalty clause. Mortgage professionals will sometimes push the benefits of a pre-payment penalty so they can beef up their commission. Be very leery of this type of sales pitch!

If you want to accept a pre-payment penalty clause in your loan, it is much more advisable to go with a “soft pre-pay.” This only penalizes you in the event of a refinance, but not if you decide to sell the home.

Junk Fees

A junk fee is a derogatory term defining extra fees, which are charged as a dollar figure rather than a percentage of the loan amount. It is important to know that you can often negotiate these fees down or have them removed if they have not been properly disclosed to you. The lender is required to provide you with a Loan Estimate disclosing their fees within three days of your application.

Fees associated with the following are NOT considered junk fees: appraisal, credit report, escrow or attorney, title search, title insurance, document recording, notary, tax service, flood certification, title endorsements and survey. These are legitimate fees charged by third parties and are necessary to complete the trans-action.

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