There’s No Equity in Renting, So When Is Renting a Good Idea?

The fact that interest rates have dropped to near historic lows as the rents continue to sky rocket in most urban set ups, buying a home seems to tilt the balance to its favor. The reports by Trulia also suggest that for renting to become cheaper than buying, the 30-year fixed mortgage must hit at least 5% in Los Angeles and 5.1% in New York City. However, the mortgage rate has hit a low of 3.17%, making the projection unattainable, at least in the near future.

As much as the statistics favor home buying over renting, for many Americans, the financial tradeoff may not be easy. Numerous advantages come with home ownership, not to mention the tax deductibles on your mortgage interests. But if you don’t carefully analyze your financial situation and make informed choices, home ownership can turn into a financial nightmare.

The most critical component of your decision-making process should be your financial stability. You need to ask yourself key questions like: How stable is your job? How likely are can you get a pay raise or promotion over the coming years? Is your job likely to shift locations or cities? How stable is your marriage or relationship? Is there a possibility of splitting up or divorcing that may occasion untimely disposal of the home? And so on. If the answer to one or more of your questions indicates doubts on whether you will maintain the house within the next five years or more, then it would be pointless to commit yourself, regardless of the mathematics.

Change of Cities

If the nature of your job or appointment involves frequent relocation or change of cities, you may need to evaluate between buying and renting. Many home owners have suffered the cost of servicing mortgages for homes they do not live in. They even spend more resources in renting homes in their new location. Their efforts to sell may be thwarted when the timing coincides with the market lows when the mortgage interest rates rise, wiping out their equity and savings.

Financial Situation

Many Americans are living under strenuous financial situation and may not be in a position to save enough for the down payment. You need to analyze your individual financial status. The ultra-tight real estate markets like San Francisco even make it harder for aspiring home owners.

Home Insurance Costs

It is important to know that homeownership doesn’t stop with the acquisition of the mortgage. You’ll need money to settle your property taxes, and the mortgage company will require a proof of home insurance policy. When you rent a house, your landlord will cater for property insurance in addition to some utility bills like water, heating, or power. However, you may need to provide for your rental insurance, which is much more affordable. The policy still provides good benefits of homeowners’ insurance, except that it doesn’t cover the building structure.

Home Maintenance Costs

As a homeowner, you take responsibility for all your maintenance costs like fixing a leaking roof, the parading ants over your kitchen cabinets, broken toilet bowls, electrical breakdowns, and much more. And then there’s the dirty task of mowing your lawn, cleaning the compound, painting the walls, etc. When you decide to rent, most of these tasks will be done by the landlord or an appointed agent.

Bottom line

While it’s true that reduced rates are quite tempting to potential home buyers, you shouldn’t use the statistics to make costly purchases that could turn problematic. You can consider renting affordable housing alternatives like studio apartments as you put aside substantial savings for future investments. That way you’ll be able to make much larger down payment when the markets can’t offer better mortgage rates.

If you borrow less and give a huge down payment, the banks and the property sellers will prefer you over your competitors in a bidding situation. Additionally, your house will appreciate much faster in value as interest rates reduce, cutting down your financing costs.

The worst mortgage advice you could get

Bad mortgage advice could cost you tons of money and time.

Are you thinking about buying or refinancing a home in the near future? If so, chances are you’re getting all kinds of advice from well-intentioned friends and family.

Just remember to keep this important piece of advice in mind: Don’t listen to everything you hear. According to industry professionals, some words of wisdom are not wise at all.

To help you separate the bad advice from the good, check out five common statements that should cause you to cover your ears immediately.

Bad Advice No. 1: “A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is best for everyone.”

The common perception is that a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is always the best option, because it typically offers lower monthly payments than other shorter-term mortgages. But the kicker is that interest payments over the course of the loan can be quite substantial when compared to mortgages with shorter terms and lower interest rates.

Consider this example based on rates from Freddie Mac, as of March 20, 2014:

A 30-year loan on a $200,000 property with a 4.32 percent interest rate has a monthly payment of $992 and interest payments totaling $157,153 over the life of the loan. On the other hand, a 15-year loan for the same property with a 3.32 percent rate has monthly payments of $1,412 and yields $54,187 in total interest paid. So by opting for the shorter mortgage, you could save more than $100,000 in interest, which is worth it if you can meet those higher monthly payments.

Whether or not a 30-year fixed mortgage is the right choice depends on the borrower’s goals and financial situation, says Houtan Hormozian, vice president of Crestico Funding, a Los Angeles-based mortgage brokerage firm.

For example, if you have cash saved up for job, family, or medical emergencies and you already have college and retirement funds set up, then a 15-year mortgage might be a better option. Without money saved up, losing a job or an expensive surgery could deal a hard blow to someone’s finances, including their ability to make mortgage payments.

Bad Advice No. 2: “Stay away from adjustable-rate mortgages.”

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is a loan with an interest rate that is fixed for a period of time then adjusts, causing the ARM payments to increase or decrease.

ARMs get a bad rap, because they’re seen as risky products that contributed to the housing bubble, easy credit, and ultimately, the subprime mortgage crisis.

“The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is the most popular type, because everyone is afraid of adjustable [rates],” Hormozian says.

In fact, only 3 percent of homebuyers chose adjustable-rate mortgages in the first half of 2013, reports Freddie Mac. With that low figure it’s easy to get scared off, too. But the fear associated with ARMs is somewhat unjustified, according to Hormozian.

“Depending on the consumer, circumstances, and knowledge of their economic situation, there could be an ARM that fits them,” says Frank Percival, board president of the Washington Association of Mortgage Professionals.

One major benefit of an ARM is that it typically will have a lower interest rate than fixed-rate mortgages at the outset. For example, a 5/1 ARM will have an initial fixed rate for the first five years then adjusts afterward.

This is a great option for homeowners who plan on moving out of their house before the rate adjusts. However, this does carry some risk, since personal finances and the condition of the housing market may make moving difficult in a set amount of time.

So choosing an ARM may come down to your financial situation and your aversion to risk. Percival explains that if a homebuyer with a 5/1 ARM saves $200 a month in interest compared to a 30-year fixed mortgage, it may make sense to choose that type of loan. However, if someone wants to err on the side of caution, given the risks discussed, a 30-year fixed mortgage might be the more sensible choice.

Bad Advice No. 3: “If your home is underwater, consider a short sale.”

“When the housing market was bad a year or a year and a half ago and the values of homes were low, people were encouraged from realtors [and] buddies at work to walk away from their home,” says Percival. He calls this “one of the worst pieces of advice in recent history.”

If desperate homeowners took that advice, they would usually do a short sale on their home. What exactly is that? It’s a real estate transaction in which a lender agrees to let the borrower sell his or her property for less than – or “short” of – what is owed on the mortgage.

Even if your home is underwater, it’s a bad idea, asserts Percival. If homeowners can still afford to make their mortgage payments, then they shouldn’t do a short sale.

“People who didn’t have medical emergencies or lose their jobs were dropping their keys and leaving their homes,” Percival says. This is a dumb choice, he adds, since it’s possible that their home value could go have gone up.

Plus, if you do a short sale, you may have to wait several years to qualify for a home again, says Percival. The reason? Because a short sale usually lowers your credit score just as a foreclosure would, according to myFICO, the consumer division of FICO. Shortsellers may be able to qualify for a mortgage in as little as two years, but this may depend on a variety of factors, like how much you are able to put down.

Beyond your own finances, short sales have a far-reaching effect, according to Percival.

“Every short sale or foreclosure reduces the value of every home in the neighborhood,” he says. “If folks would have waited for the recovery to kick in and housing prices to go up, they could have sold it at a profit. People just wanted to walk away from debt.”

Bad Advice No. 4: “An FHA loan is your only option.”

First-time homebuyers are particularly susceptible to bad advice. For example, homeowners who can’t afford a large down payment may hear that a government-backed FHA loan is their only option, since the down payment requirement can be as low as 3.5 percent of a house’s purchase price. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Some homeowners might be surprised that getting a conventional loan might be better suited – and easier – for them than an FHA loan, says Aaron Vantrojen, president of the Arizona Association of Mortgage Professionals, says.

The standards to qualify for an FHA loan have tightened, says Vantrojen. Plus, the FHA loan has become more expensive in recent years due to its rising mortgage insurance premium (MIP).

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the mortgage insurance on an FHA loan must be carried for the life of the loan. On the other hand, the private mortgage insurance (PMI) on conventional home loans can be dropped when equity in the home reaches 20 percent, Vantrojen says.

As a result of dropping the insurance premium, homeowners can save thousands of dollars in the long run. “The annual mortgage insurance for FHA loans is so high, we are trying to get people into conventional loans if they qualify,” Vantrojen says.

The biggest advantage FHA loans have over conventional loans is the low down payment requirement. But conventional loans, with a 5 percent down-payment required, might be a better deal when you factor in the mortgage insurance payments, says Vantrojen.

“I will always look at options for conventional loans [for homebuyers],” says Vantrojen, president of Geneva Financial, a mortgage banking firm based in Tempe, Arizona. “The guidelines for conventional loans are changing, and a person who couldn’t qualify for one a month ago might be able to qualify now.”

Bad Advice No. 5: “Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.”

If you’re in the market for purchasing a home loan and in need of a little guidance, you might want to think twice about listening to someone who tells you: “Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.”

“One of the most common mistakes is not getting advice from a mortgage investment advisor,” says Hormozian. “Any time you don’t seek advice from a professional, you could be in trouble.”

But not all mortgage professionals are created equal, which is why Hormozian says homebuyers should make an effort to consult and get the opinions of established mortgage advisors, licensed mortgage companies, and reputable professionals when they are ready to purchase a loan.

“At the end of the day, my job is to make sure my client will have a comfortable life and a sound investment,” Hormozian says. “If I feel they are going to have a hard time making a payment or living up to that liability, I have to advise against it.”

For example, if someone tells you it’s a great idea to buy investment property as a source of instant income, you better consider the source. Instead of talking to real estate agents, homebuyers should talk to unbiased resources, who could help them avoid potential mortgage heartaches, says Vantrojen.

 “Do your due diligence, talk to industry professionals – people who have been real estate investors and [who] can tell you the highs and lows of owning real estate,” he explains.

If owning a new home for you and your family is a main objective, Percival says it might be a good idea to check whether you are dealing with licensed mortgage professionals. He suggests verifying mortgage loan originators (MLOs) and their MLO license numbers through the National Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS), which performs this service for free.



How Do Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) Work?

In past decades, many people have been trained to think that a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is the only way to go when it comes to getting a mortgage. They look negatively on adjustable rate mortgages because they fear the adjustable part. But there are advantages to having an ARM and times where a long-term fixed-rate mortgage doesn’t really make as much sense.

Lower Rates and Payments
An ARM, or adjustable rate mortgage, is similar to a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in that it is also amortized over a 30-year period. But it’s usually for shorter-term situations and generally carries a lower interest rate than fixed-rate mortgages. So if you’re trying to keep your interest rate and payment low, an adjustable can be a sensible choice. And since it’s a short-term mortgage, it’s useful to have a lower rate and payment if you know you’re only going to be in your home for less than 10 years–especially when most American families generally move within nine years or less.

Some adjustable rate mortgages give you even more financial flexibility if they are available with interest-only payments. During the interest-only period, you decide if you want to pay interest plus principal or just interest alone. The rest of your money can go elsewhere, say, toward other bills or just extra spending money.

A Closer Look at ARMs
Many people tend to shy away from ARMs for the fact that the rate is adjustable. However, there are a few caveats to this:

  •  While ARMs do have an adjustable rate, the rate is fixed for six months, one, three, five, seven, and sometimes even nine years, depending on which term you choose. The rate doesn’t begin to adjust until after the fixed-rate period.
  • Although the rate can adjust up, don’t forget that it can also adjust down as well.
  • Most people who have an adjustable rate mortgage usually refinance it when it’s time for the rate to adjust. That way, they have some control over their interest rate.

Caps and ARMs
If you have an adjustable rate mortgage and can’t or don’t want to refinance when it’s time for the rate to adjust, it’s important to understand what happens to the rate after the fixed-rate period.

When the rate on an ARM adjusts, there are limitations on how much it can increase or decrease. These limitations, called “caps” include the “initial cap”, the “periodic cap”, and the “lifetime cap”. The initial cap is the limit on how much the rate can adjust the first time it adjusts. The periodic cap is the limit on how much the rate can adjust after the first adjustment. The lifetime cap is the limit on how much the rate can adjust over the life of the loan. Different ARMs carry different caps, depending on the program.

Let’s say your ARM has caps of 5/2/5. The first five is the initial cap; the second number is the periodic cap; and the third number is the lifetime cap. If your rate is 6.5 percent, then the initial cap says the first adjustment is your rate plus or minus five percent–so it can go as high 11.5 percent or as low as 1.5 percent (though it’s pretty unlikely that rates would change that significantly). The periodic cap says the second and subsequent adjustments are your rate (6.5 percent) plus or minus two percent–so no higher than 8.5 percent and no lower than 4.5 percent. The lifetime cap says the rate can never go higher or lower than your rate (6.5 percent) plus or minus five percent.

There are times when you’d want to refinance and times when you don’t. So why would you not refinance your ARM when it’s going to adjust? Well, as we said, rates can go down as well as up. There are some people who are not afraid of risk and are willing to gamble that their rate could go down. To be somewhat savvy, it’s wise to follow what’s happening in the market to know whether short-term rates will go up or down. The Federal Reserve is usually the entity that affects short-term adjustable rates. They meet eight times a year and decide whether to increase, decrease or maintain short-term rates as a control measure over inflation.

Deciding whether you should get an ARM and/or whether to refinance it is really your own decision. But if you can answer a few questions–whether or not you want a lower rate and payment; whether or not you’re only going to be in your home for less than 10 years, and whether you can stand a little risk in terms of the interest rate–then, you’ll be closer to making the right decision. Either way, you should confer with an experienced mortgage expert to be sure you’re making the right decision.


Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act: Expiring Soon!

These days, it seems like there are no homes for sale in Los Angeles.  The end of the year though, has and continues to be a great time to buy because although most people are busy with the holidays – you can capitalize on a great deal! Another driving force is the expiration of the Mortgage Debt Relief Forgiveness Act.  This Act is set for expiration at the end of the calendar year.

The federal government created this Act in 2007 to allow struggling homeowners to avoid being held responsible for the “income” they received when they managed to get out from under their heavy mortgages through short sales and other transactions. The Mortgage Debt Relief Forgiveness Act exempts current homeowners from the hidden income taxes that are normally incurred when mortgage debt is forgiven. With this Forgiveness Act not in place the IRS will consider the mortgage debt wiped out without actually being paid back as income and tax it as such.

Struggling homeowners now have another reason to try and sell their homes in short sales and other sales before the end of the year.  This could create the right opportunity for a buyer looking to move before the end of the year. Some short sale servicers are even expediting these transactions to get a short sale closed before year’s end.

In this market where many homes are still underwater and retiring seniors are relying on the profits from the sale of their home, as a buyer, you might stand to benefit from the inventory changes. Contact your local Crestico office today for more information.

Cash Back Offers for your Home Loan


With real estate market again getting heated, the mortgage marketing campaigns in the financial institutions may also be heating up. Just about the most common in the offers tempting consumers will be the offer to get cashback for your mortgage business. This often is accessible for new purchases and also the refinancing of existing mortgages. 

It was only a couple of years ago once this was the hottest new offer in the industry. In today&rsquos market it appears that every other lender in the country is offering this cash return option.

An example of the standard cash return offer out there is 3% cash return whenever you subscribe to a condition of five years. Now here’s the place that the catch also comes in. Typically if you accept this offer you’re taking the amount of money back option in the place of a rate discount.

Just what exactly does this mean to consumers? Keep in mind I would recommend that you crunch the numbers when you jump at the offers available on the market. In today&rsquos market it’s not unreasonable for consumers with a good credit rating and verifiable income to command a single% discount on closed term mortgages. Some consumers are even able to get 1.05% off posted rates about the closed term of the choice.

To find out how a numbers figure out, let&rsquos check out a comparison between what you get coming from a cash return offer versus what you save having a 1% rate discount. Let&rsquos assume that you require a whole new $150,000 mortgage that you intend to amortize over two-and-a-half decades (the common). Lets also assume that the posted rate on a 5-year term is 8.35%. With the cash return provide you with will get $4,500 at the time the mortgage is advanced and as a consequence pay a rate of 8.35%. Assuming that all you do is make your minimum payment per month then in the term with the mortgage your total payments will amount to $70,710. After the phrase the main balance outstanding is going to be $138,736.90

If you successfully negotiate 7.35% with a 5-year term (with a 25-year amortization) then your total payments over the term are $64,994.40. After your term the complete principal balance outstanding is $137,158.98.

Which means not only do you think you’re making $5,715.60 less in whole payments in the term, but you need to $1,577.92 less principal balance outstanding at the end. Suddenly $4,500 money back doesn&rsquot seem so appealing?

I still believe today&rsquos real estate prices and low mortgage rates represent an excellent opportunity for owning a home. If getting 3% cash return helps to make the difference between you being able to afford your house and renting i quickly say do it now. Still, no financial decision must be made without weighing out each of the alternatives.

Remember: when the offer seems too good really was &ndash it’s always.