Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Understanding Credit Life Insurance for Home Buyers



Credit life insurance is a specialized type of insurance designed to provide financial protection for borrowers and their families in the event of the borrower's untimely death. This insurance is often associated with loans, including mortgages, and is specifically tied to the outstanding balance of the loan. In the case of a home purchase, credit life insurance will cover the remaining mortgage balance if the homeowner passes away before the loan is fully paid off.

In some cases, lenders may include the expense of credit life insurance in your loan principal. This arrangement means that you'll accrue interest on the combined amount, potentially resulting in increased costs over time. Consequently, opting for traditional life insurance, as opposed to credit life insurance, might be a more financially prudent choice to protect your family's financial well-being.

Credit life insurance offers peace of mind to homeowners, knowing that their loved ones won't be burdened with mortgage payments in case of an unexpected tragedy.  It can be a safeguard for their loved ones from inheriting the mortgage debt in the event of their death. It ensures that the home loan is paid off, preventing financial strain on surviving family members.

Some lenders may require or recommend credit life insurance as part of the loan approval process, making it easier for homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage but it is not typically mandatory, and the borrower usually has the option to request its removal from the loan agreement. 

Advantages of Regular Life Insurance:

While credit life insurance serves a specific purpose, there are advantages to opting for a regular life insurance policy instead:

  • Regular life insurance provides a broader range of coverage beyond mortgage debt. It offers financial protection to beneficiaries for various needs, such as income replacement, education, and long-term financial security.
  • Unlike credit life insurance, which is tied to a specific loan, regular life insurance can be used to address multiple financial goals and needs, making it a versatile option.
  • Regular life insurance remains in force regardless of changes in your mortgage or loan status. It can be maintained even if you refinance, pay off your mortgage, or move.
  • Some life insurance policies, such as whole life or universal life, offer a cash value component that can grow over time, potentially providing additional financial benefits.
  • With regular life insurance, you have the flexibility to choose any beneficiary, not just the lender, ensuring your loved ones are financially protected.

Credit life insurance can provide a valuable safety net for homebuyers by addressing their mortgage debt in the event of their passing. However, it's essential to consider the broader financial needs of your family and explore regular life insurance options, which offer more extensive coverage and flexibility. Ultimately, the choice between credit life insurance and regular life insurance should align with your specific financial goals and priorities.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Discover how to make a difference in your neighborhood



Whether you're a seasoned homeowner or just starting this thrilling chapter, every time you turn your key, you're not just entering a house but also embedding yourself in a neighborhood. The heartbeat of a vibrant community doesn't solely rest upon pristine lawns or architectural beauty, but predominantly on its residents � wonderful folks like you! Consider these suggestions to enjoy your new neighborhood and actively contributing to making it a wonderful place to live.

Foster Connection - Begin your journey by fostering connections. Introduce yourself to your neighbors, participate in or organize social events, and involve yourself in local gatherings, HOA, Next Door, or forums. Establishing a network of friendly faces creates a sense of belonging and shared responsibility towards the well-being of the neighborhood.

Create a Safe Environment - A safe community is a serene community. Be mindful of adhering to speed limits while driving through your neighborhood, watch out for children playing, and consider organizing or participating in a neighborhood watch program. Ensuring that everyone feels secure enhances the quality of life for all residents.

Champion Cleanliness and Green Practices - Your new neighborhood is an extension of your home. Engage in and advocate for practices like regular clean-up drives, recycling initiatives, and maintaining green spaces. Planting trees or creating communal gardens can be wonderful projects that not only beautify the area but also instigate sustainable living.

Support Local Businesses - Frequent local shops, cafes, and services to boost the neighborhood's economy. Supporting local businesses fosters a self-sustaining community, often making it more attractive to future residents and other local entrepreneurs.

Volunteer and Offer Support - Whether it's helping a neighbor with yard work or volunteering in local schools, your acts of kindness will ripple through the community, establishing a culture of support and assistance that enriches everyone's lives.

Organize and Participate in Events - From block parties to garage sales, events can add vivacity to any neighborhood. They provide a platform for residents to mingle, forge friendships, and create cherished memories, threading a fabric of unity and camaraderie.

Respectful Living - Being mindful and considerate of your neighbors is foundational. Adhere to noise guidelines, maintain your property, and respect shared spaces. A culture of mutual respect enhances peaceful co-existence and cultivates a harmonious environment.

Advocate for Improvements - If you observe areas for improvement, like a need for better street lighting or safer playgrounds, take the initiative. Work with local authorities, attend town meetings, or organize petitions to facilitate beneficial changes.

In contributing towards shaping a great neighborhood, you're not only enhancing your living experience but also elevating the quality of life for existing and future residents. Your active involvement, care, and initiatives sow the seeds for a community where everyone enjoys a sense of belonging, security, and joy in their daily lives. After all, the richest neighborhoods are those woven with the threads of unity, understanding, and collective effort. So, embrace your role and be the beacon that lights up your community with positivity and progress!

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

How Home Value Growth Beats Renting



Over the last 60 years, the average sales price of homes has appreciated at a rate of 5.56% annually, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data. During the same period, rent has increased at a rate of 3.88% annually which presents a compelling argument in favor of homeownership.

When we analyze these figures, it becomes evident that homes have not only appreciated in value at a faster rate than the increase in rental costs, but they have also provided homeowners with a substantial asset that builds equity over time. This discrepancy in growth rates means that, in the long run, homeowners are likely to experience a greater return on their investment compared to renters.

Renters, while they may have the flexibility of moving without the ties of property ownership and might have lower upfront costs, do not gain any equity from their monthly payments. Their money goes straight to their landlord, and they are subject to the annual increases in rent. Over time, as rent continues to rise, renters might find themselves allocating a larger portion of their income to housing expenses compared to homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages, whose monthly payments remain constant.

Homeowners, on the other hand, can lock in their housing costs, particularly if they have a fixed-rate mortgage. Even as the value of their property increases, their monthly mortgage principal and interest payments remain steady. Furthermore, as they pay down their mortgage, they build equity in their home, which becomes a valuable asset. This asset can be leveraged for other financial opportunities, such as funding education, investing, or purchasing additional property.

In addition, homeowners can capitalize on the tax benefits associated with mortgage interest and property tax deductions, and potential capital gains exclusions, which can contribute to the overall financial advantage of homeownership.

In conclusion, while renting may offer flexibility and potentially lower upfront costs, homeownership presents a compelling long-term financial opportunity. The significant difference in the annual growth rates of home prices and rent over the past 60 years underscores the potential for wealth accumulation and financial stability that comes with investing in real estate and the equity building that comes with homeownership.

Download our Buyers Guide and consider getting together with your agent to get the facts of today's market.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Bridging Wealth Gaps: Homeownership's Stand Against Inflation



When exploring the benefits of homeownership, it's more than just having a place to call your own. Among its many advantages, homeownership stands as a formidable safeguard against inflation and a strong vehicle for long-term wealth accumulation. This article will delve into the dynamics of appreciation and amortization, explaining why owning a home can be one of the most impactful financial decisions you can make.

Inflation, the overall upward price movement of goods and services in an economy, erodes the purchasing power of money. In simpler terms, as inflation rises, each dollar you have buys a smaller percentage of a good or service.  The same inflation that is driving rising mortgage rates is putting upward pressure on home prices.

Over the past sixty years, homes have appreciated in value at an annual appreciation rate of 5.56% according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data.  As a homeowner, you want to benefit from the appreciation.  Inflation for the same period averaged 3.7% (Bureau of Labor Statistics) making homes an effective hedge against inflation.

Real estate, unlike many other assets, is a tangible, real asset. History has shown that over the long term, the value of real assets tends to rise at a rate that at least matches, if not outpaces, inflation. So, as the price of goods and services increases, so does the value of real estate, making homeownership a strategic move against inflationary pressures.

With a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly principal and interest payment remains constant. As a result, while other costs may rise due to inflation, your primary housing cost (if you exclude taxes and maintenance) remains stable, shielding you from the full impact of inflation.

Home appreciation refers to the increase in the home's value over time. Given the finite nature of land and the ever-growing demand for housing, especially in thriving areas, real estate often appreciates. This appreciation can result in substantial equity gains for homeowners, creating a form of 'forced savings' and making it a powerful tool for wealth accumulation.

Amortization has been considered the silent wealth builder.  Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion of that payment goes toward the loan's interest, and the rest pays down the principal, thus retiring your debt incrementally. This process means you're gradually building equity in the home with each payment. Over time, a larger portion of your payment goes towards the principal, accelerating your equity buildup.

Combined, appreciation and amortization can lead to significant wealth growth for homeowners. As the home's value rises and the mortgage balance decreases, homeowners often find themselves sitting on a substantial asset, which can be leveraged in various ways, from securing loans to planning retirements.

While the emotional and social benefits of homeownership are often celebrated, the financial benefits are equally compelling. In a world of economic uncertainties and inflationary pressures, owning a home emerges not just as a source of stability but also as a strategy for long-term financial prosperity. By understanding and leveraging the twin forces of appreciation and amortization, homeowners can pave a path to meaningful wealth accumulation even during periods of relatively high mortgage rates.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Access "Trapped Equity" without Refinancing



American homeowners have a record amount of equity in their home.  Many of these homeowners would like to cash out part of that equity but don't want to trade an historically low interest rate for one that is as high as it's been in 20 years.

Instead of refinancing their home, an option is to get a fixed-rate second-lien.  This is different than a HELOC, home equity line of credit, which gives you continual access to your equity at a variable rate.  A HELOC has a draw period where you only must pay the interest.

A second mortgage is a loan against the equity where the homeowner will receive a lump sum and will make payments to repay the loan and interest over a specified period.  Generally speaking, lenders want the combination of the existing first-lien and the new second-lien not to exceed 75-80% of the home's current value.

To calculate how much would be available in a second-lien, subtract the existing unpaid balance on the first-lien from 75-80% of the home's current value.  The remaining amount would be available in the form of a second-lien mortgage.

The borrower, which is the homeowner, would have to qualify for the new second mortgage with sufficient income, acceptable debt-to-income ratios, good credit, and other underwriting requirements.

The advantage of this option is that the homeowner retains the lower interest rate first mortgage which may represent a larger percentage of the value of the property.  The second mortgage will have a higher interest rate but will only be on a smaller percentage of the value of the property.  The blended rate of the two mortgages will be less than the cost of refinancing the home at current interest rates.

Your lender can run an analysis to determine the blended rate on your first and second mortgages so you can see the benefit of keeping your low rate first mortgage in place and accessing your equity through a fixed-rate second mortgage.  Sources for home equity loans could be traditional banks, community banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, and mortgage companies.

A fixed-rate second mortgage is a solution for homeowners who would like to cash out part of their equity but feel trapped because they don't want to trade an historically low interest rate for a much higher one.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Navigating Closing Costs During Your Home Sale



Buying or selling a house is an exciting and sometimes confusing experience that includes expenses called "closing costs" that can often catch us by surprise. Closing costs are simply the fees and expenses incurred by buyers and sellers during a real estate transaction's closing or settlement process. 

Typical closing costs can vary depending on what is customary in an area, the mortgage type, property value, and other factors.  The largest expenses can be the real estate commission and the title policy.  Total closing costs for a buyer can characteristically range from 2% - 5%  of the sales price and 4% - 7% for a seller.

The most common buyer's closing costs include loan origination fee, title insurance, attorney fees, appraisal, homeowner's insurance, underwriting, miscellaneous fees associated with a new mortgage, and prepaid interest to the end of the month.

Interest is paid in arrears on mortgages after the borrower has used the money.  The payment due on the first of the month pays the interest for the previous month and is calculated for a full month.  The prepaid interest covers the time from the closing date to the end of that month.  The borrower's first payment will usually not be the first of the month following the closing date but the next one.

Separate from the closing costs, lenders usually itemize the additional fees collected at closing used to pre-pay portions of the property taxes and insurance to establish the escrow account.  Insurance is always purchased annually in advance which would be due at closing.

The seller will owe the taxes from January 1st to the closing date, and it will generally show as a credit to the buyer if they haven't been paid to the taxing authority for the year yet.  Lenders generally like to have two months of funds for the annual insurance and taxes so they can be paid or renewed before it is due.

Some expenses are paid outside of closing like the inspection fees that would be due to the provider at the time they are made.

While both buyers and sellers are responsible for paying certain closing costs, it is possible for a buyer to negotiate for a seller to pay part or all their closing costs.  VA loans restrict the buyer from paying certain fees and they become the responsibility of the seller.  Such fees include attorney fees, agent fees, escrow fees to establish the account, rate lock fees, appraisal fees or inspections ordered by the lender.

The actual expenses will be determined by the lender and special provisions in the sales contract. Your agent can supply you with an estimate of closing costs you typically will be responsible for at the beginning of the transaction and again at the time the sales contract is written.  Buyers will receive an estimate from their lender at the time of application.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Tap into your home equity five ways



Your home is not just a place to live; it's a valuable asset that can serve as a financial resource when you need it most. One of the significant advantages of homeownership is the opportunity to build equity over time, which can be accessed in various ways to fund life's important milestones or unexpected expenses.

Whether you're looking to undertake a home improvement project, consolidate debt, cover education expenses, or simply ensure financial flexibility for the future, your home equity can be a powerful tool to achieve your goals. By understanding the options available and the implications of each, you can leverage your home's value to enhance your financial well-being and seize opportunities that come your way.

Home Equity Loans are a fixed amount loan using the equity in the home as collateral. The borrower receives a lump sum and pays it back in regular monthly installments over a fixed term, typically at a fixed interest rate.

A Home Equity Line of Credit is similar to a credit card; a HELOC provides a revolving line of credit using the home's equity as collateral. Homeowners can borrow as much or as little as they need up to a specified limit, and interest is only paid on the amount borrowed.

 A Cash-Out Refinance involves refinancing the current mortgage for more than the homeowner owes and pocketing the difference. Essentially, homeowners replace their existing mortgage with a new, larger loan and get the difference in cash to be used any way they want.

A Reverse Mortgage is available to seniors, typically 62 and older and allows homeowners to convert part of their home equity into cash without having to sell their home or pay additional monthly bills. Instead of making monthly payments to a lender, the lender makes payments to the borrower.

Homeowners can choose to sell their current property and purchase a less expensive one, using the profit from the sale (equity) for other purposes. This is a more drastic approach as it involves moving, but it can release a significant amount of equity.

Each of these options has its own advantages and considerations, so homeowners should carefully evaluate which method best fits their needs and consult with financial professionals before making decisions.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Why you should check the claim history on the home before you make an offer



Buying a home is a big decision, and there are a lot of things to consider. One important factor to consider is the home's claim history. A home's claim history can tell you a lot about the property, including its potential risks and liabilities.

To identify potential risks because a home with a history of claims may be more likely to experience future claims. This could be due to the location of the home, the age of the home, or the materials used in construction.

The cost of insurance can be higher for homes with a history of claims. Insurance companies factor in the risk of future claims when setting premiums.

You may be able to negotiate a lower price if you discover the home has a history of claims. This is because the seller may be motivated to sell the home quickly to avoid future claims.

The Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) is a database that tracks insurance claims filed on homes.  A CLUE report can be purchased for a fee, and it will show you the number and type of claims that have been filed on the property within the last seven years.  

Sellers are entitled to one free copy of their LexisNexis CLUE report each year; there is a nominal fee for additional, original reports.  Contact LexisNexis by calling 888-497-0011 or by emailing consumer.documents@lexisnexisrisk.com.  As a potential buyer, your agent can request a copy of the report from the listing agent who may have to ask the seller to order it themselves, if they haven't done so recently.

Another option is to instruct your home inspector to look for signs of damage that may have been caused by previous claims.

Checking the claim history of a home is an important part of due diligence in the home buying process.  It is important to remember that the claim history is not a perfect predictor of the future. Just because a home has had claims in the past does not mean that it will have claims in the future. However, the claim history can give you valuable information that can help you make an informed decision about whether to buy the home.