Is It Time to Cancel the Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage insurance benefits the lender if a borrower with less than a 20% down payment defaults on their loan.  Most conventional mortgages greater than 80% and all FHA loans require the borrower to have this coverage.

Private mortgage insurance on conventional loans can range from 0.5% to 2.25% based on the loan-to-value and the credit worthiness of the borrower.  A $350,000 mortgage would have a monthly mortgage insurance premium of $146 a month at the low-end of the scale and over $600 on the high-end.

You may request that your mortgage servicer cancel the PMI when the principal balance reaches 80% of the original value at the time the loan was made.  You should have received a PMI disclosure form when you signed the mortgage documents stating the date.  If you have made additional principal contributions, it will accelerate the date.

Other criteria considered to cancel the PMI on your loan is:

  • The request must be in writing.
  • You must be current on your payments with a good payment history.
  • The lender may ask that you certify there are no junior liens in effect.
  • If the lender is concerned that the value has declined, an appraisal may be required to show that it is eligible.

Conventional loans are supposed to remove the mortgage insurance when the unpaid balance is 78% of the original purchase price.  

Another possibility is that the lender/servicer must end the PMI the month after you reach the midpoint of your loan’s amortization schedule.  For a 30-year loan, it would be after the 180th payment was paid.  The borrower must be current on the payments for the termination to occur.

With the rapid appreciation that many homes have enjoyed in recent years, homeowners may be able to refinance their home and if the new mortgage amount is less than 80% of the current appraised value, no mortgage insurance would be required.

The owner would incur the cost of refinancing but eliminate the cost of the mortgage insurance.  To calculate the savings, subtract the new principal and interest payment from the old principal and interest with PMI.  Then, divide the savings into the cost of refinancing to determine the number of months necessary to recapture the cost.

FHA loans have two types of mortgage insurance premium: up-front and monthly.  For loans with FHA case numbers assigned on or after June 3 2013 with LTV% greater than 90%, the MIP will be paid for the entire term of the loan.  If that is the case, refinancing on a conventional loan is the only way to eliminate the MIP.  For loans with original LTV% less than 90%, the MIP is collected for 11 years until the balance is 78% of the original amount.

When buying a home, purchasers may not have enough resources for a large down payment.  It is understandable to use the best mortgage available to buy the home.  The next goal should be to manage the mortgage to lower the overall costs.  In this article, we explored eliminating the private mortgage insurance.

Make Your Best Offer FIRST

This strategy is not about trying to negotiate the best price; it is about beating out the competition and buying the home.  It may be difficult to understand until you have lost a few homes to better offers but when the reality of the situation is that there are not that many homes on the market, the competition heats up and different tactics are necessary.  

Sales in December were annualized at 6.76 million, a 22.2% increase year over year according to the National Association of REALTOR®.  The median sales price is $309,800 which is up 12.9% from the previous year.  Inventory for December fell to 1.9 months’ supply from 3.0 months’ supply in December of 2019.  Six months inventory is considered a balanced market.

Things that work in a buyer’s market will not work in a seller’s market.  The shortage of available homes for sale has led to not only shorter market times but multiple offers that have sales prices above the listing price.  Buyers, especially in entry to mid-level priced ranges, may have lost out multiple times to buy a home.  

Buyers must be strategic if they want to successfully find a home.  There are some things that are absolutely essential to just be in the game.

Unless you are paying cash and have adequate proof of funds, you need to get pre-approved.  REALTORS® and financial advisors have been saying this for decades, but it is critical now.  There are plenty of reasons that benefit the buyer but most importantly, it is to show that a buyer is serious and has gone through the effort to have a lender run his credit and verify his income, expenses, employment, and credit.

If the home fresh on the market, in a desired location and price range, you need to assume there will be competing offers and you may never even get a counteroffer from the seller.  You need to consider making your highest and best offer first, as if you will not get a second chance.  This is more difficult for some people than others because of their bargaining nature.

Earnest money that accompanies a contract shows that the buyer is acting in good faith.  The amount that may be customary may not be enough in a competing market.  Consider two or three times what might be normal.  Talk to your agent about what would make an impression on the seller.

While contingencies will protect your earnest money from specific concerns like loan approval and inspections, the seller will look at them as ways that the buyer can get out of the contract and they’ll need to put the home back on the market.  If a seller is presented multiple offers, they might be prone to accept one with the least contingencies, especially, if the prices are comparable.

There is usually a period connected to the different contingencies that are allowed to complete them.  By shortening these times as much as possible limits the time the seller might feel they are in limbo.

If you have the flexibility, you might express your willingness to move the closing and/or possession dates to accommodate the seller’s schedule.  This could be an important factor in your favor and could be done in a verbal statement conveyed from your agent to the listing agent. 

These are things buyers should consider and discuss with their agent before they find the home that they want to buy.  While you are formulating your position, another offer may be accepted before you even make yours.  For more information, download our Buyers Guide.

Home Insurance and Mortgage Insurance

Many homeowners with mortgages pay for both types of insurance but only one of them protects the owner.

Homeowner’s insurance covers damage to your property and losses from fire, burglary, vandalism, and other named natural disasters.  When an insured has a loss, they file a claim with the insurance carrier which would be subject to the deductible mentioned in the policy.

If the homeowner has a mortgage on the property, the lender will require that the borrower carry adequate insurance on the property and name the lender as an additional insured.  This protects the lender that the home will continue to be sufficient collateral for the loan in case of a loss.

Mortgage insurance is not like homeowner’s insurance in that it is solely for the protection of the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan.  Usually, lenders require mortgage insurance on any loan greater than 80% loan-to-value.  Occasionally, they may require it on some loans less than 80% based on their underwriting requirements and possibly, from anticipated risk from the borrower.

VA loans do not require mortgage insurance.  Conventional lenders must remove the mortgage insurance when the loan amortizes below the stated percentage.  FHA loans require mortgage insurance for the life of the loan.

When a property appreciates so that when the owners refinance, the loan-to-value ratio is less than 80%, no mortgage insurance would be required.  This can be a strong motivation for some owners to refinance to save the cost of the mortgage insurance.

Mortgage insurance premiums are not regulated by law like homeowner’s insurance is in most states.  Most buyers are concerned about the interest rate on their mortgage, but few question the amount of the mortgage insurance premium.

The homeowner can select the carrier for his homeowner insurance, but the lender determines the carrier for the mortgage insurance.  When you are interviewing lenders, the type of insurance that will be required and the price of the mortgage insurance should be included in the discussion.

Pre-Listing Inspections

Imagine what happens when there is not a pre-listing inspection.  The buyer contracts for the home with a provision for professional home inspection.  When it is made, there could be things that the buyer didn’t expect or even, anticipate.  If it doesn’t trigger an action to terminate the contract, the buyer will inevitably, ask the seller to make all the repairs.

When presented with the buyer’s request, the seller may take the opposite position of not wanting to do any of the repairs.  The buyer could accept the property in its “as is” condition or negotiate the repairs or a reduced price with the seller.

Any experienced agent can tell you that sometimes a mutually agreed negotiation is reached and other times, an impasse is met that cannot be resolved.  The contract is terminated, and the house has to go back on the market but this time, a disclosure has to be made to all parties looking at the home which may deter showings.

Taking a pro-active approach, by obtaining a pre-listing inspection, the seller can find out about things that will probably show up in a buyer’s inspection.  They can get them repaired before the home is shown and it will help the buyer feel more confident with the home.  Another option would be to disclose them as not working and make a price adjustment, either way, the seller is in control and is taking a position of transparency with potential buyers.

In some cases, the pre-listing inspection may show things in working order that the buyer’s inspection indicates as needing repair.  With two disinterested parties having opposing opinions, negotiations have a more likely chance for a mutual agreement.

Disclosing things that are not in working order can reduce liability in the future.  Some deficiencies with the home are not discovered prior to the closing and the surprise issues could lead to liability.  The pre-listing inspection by a professional combined with the seller disclosing it properly can reduce potential liability.

For the small investment in the pre-listing inspection, the benefits are well worth the expense.  You and potential buyers will have a better idea of the condition of your property and know what to expect.  You can present the property in a transparent way that will build confidence with the buyer.  You’ll avoid unpleasant surprises as well as possible delays.  Pre-listing inspections can lead to faster sales and satisfaction for everyone involved.

For more information, download the Sellers Guide.

Would you move if it was to your advantage?

A much-repeated investment strategy is to buy low and sell high.  Some people who purchased around the financial crisis of 2010-2012 are poised to make considerable profits.

The median home price in America is now $295,300 up from $155,600 in February 2012 which calculates close to an 8% annual increase.  The median equity that homeowners have earned during the same period is $140,000.

Inventory is in short supply while demand is high which has caused prices to increase.  Factors that continue to contribute to the lower number of homes on the market are record low mortgage rates and housing starts have not met expectations since the Great Recession.  This year, people spending more time at home due to the pandemic has caused some people to rethink their current living space which has added to the demand. 

Some experts believe that a significant portion of the workforce will continue to work from home after the pandemic has passed making the motivation for a larger home more of a long-term effect.

The median days on the market for a listing is 24 which is a direct result of the low inventory and heightened competition.  Sold homes are receiving an average of three offers with some situations ending in a bidding war.  This is an advantage for a seller who can not only realize a higher sales price but also accelerate a move into another home.

While the pandemic has certainly wreaked havoc on some businesses like the hospitality industry, real estate has continued to boom. Seven out of ten sales contracts are closing on-time which can give sellers a great deal of confidence.

Taxpayers can exclude up to $500,000 of qualified gain if they are married and up to $250,000 if single.  Some homeowners are taking the profit from their homes while at the top of the market, reserving part of their equity for investments, and purchasing another home with a higher loan-to-value mortgage at the incredibly low mortgage rates now available.

If you’re curious to see if this might work for you, contact us at (214) 632-2092 to find out what your home is worth now and what homes are available that may fit your lifestyle better.  Download our Sellers Guide.

Buyer’s Closing Costs

Ideally, each party will pay their own closing costs associated with the purchase and the sale of a home, but they can be negotiable based on lender requirements and market conditions.

The fees are usually paid at the settlement and will be itemized on the closing statement.  Buyers should be aware of them before contracting for a home.  If a mortgage is involved, the lender will want to verify that the borrower has ample funds available at closing to pay for them.

Buyer’s closing costs can range between two to five percent of the sales price.  The real estate agents should be able to give you an estimate of what a buyer can expect.  The most accurate estimate will come from the lender at the time the loan application is made. They may or may not include other fees that will be charged to buyers by the title or escrow company.

Buyers are required to be provided a standard Closing Disclosure form at least three business days before the loan closing date.  This document will include the loan terms, estimated monthly payments, loan fees and other charges.  This can be compared to the loan estimate provided by the lender when the application was made.

Fees connected to a mortgage

Loan origination fee … This is the lender’s fee for processing the mortgage application.  It can vary in amount but typically, it can be one percent of the mortgage amount.  It may be possible to negotiate this fee into the rate of the mortgage.

VA funding fee … This is a fee charged to the veteran for closing the loan.  It can be paid in cash or rolled into mortgage.  The amount is based on the status of the veteran, their down payment and whether they have had a VA loan before.

Appraisal … This is a fee paid for a licensed appraiser to determine the value of the property.  It validates that the mortgage will not exceed the purchase price and that the buyer has enough down payment based on the type of mortgage applied for.

Attorney fee … This fee is charged to ensure that the legal documents are drawn properly so the lender will have an enforceable mortgage.  It is not for legal representation of the buyer.

Discount points … A point is one percent of the mortgage.  These fees are considered prepaid interest and can be used to adjust the interest rate on the mortgage.

Lender’s title insurance … This coverage insures that the lender has an enforceable lien from title claims on the property.  This policy is usually issued in connection with an owner’s title policy and is priced separately.

Mortgage insurance … Most loans made in excess of 80% of loan to value require mortgage insurance to protect the lender from loss if the property must be foreclosed on.  There is no mortgage insurance requirement on VA loans. FHA mortgage insurance premium has two parts.  There is an up-front charge of 1.75% of loan amount and then, a monthly amount which is added to the payment.  Conventional loans usually collect the first month’s premium in advance and subsequent amounts are rolled into the mortgage payment.

Recording fees … These are fees that are for filing the legal documents with the municipal or county recorders.  The documents would include the mortgage and the deed.

Survey fees … This fee is necessary, based on requirements of the lender, to verify property lines, shared fences and driveways and to identify any other encumbrances.

Underwriting fee … This is a separate fee that covers the research and determination that the entire loan package meets the lender’s requirements.

Fees required by mortgage for escrow account

Property taxes … Lenders can require two to three months taxes to be held in escrow so that there will be enough to pay them in full 60 to 90 days before they are due.

Property insurance … Insurance is paid in advance and the annual premium will be due at closing.  The lender further requires one additional month’s amount so that one month prior to the anniversary date, the premium can be paid for the renewal.

Flood insurance … The lender may require flood insurance on the property based on their assessment of the location in a flood zone or proximity to a flood zone.

Fees connected to purchase of a home

Settlement fee … This is the buyer’s portion of the fee paid to the title or escrow company, or attorney who handles the closing of the sale.

HOA Fee … Home Owner Association fees are usually paid in advance by the owner.  They are prorated at closing for the amount paid that the seller does not benefit from.

Owner’s Title insurance … This coverage insures that the buyer, the new owner, received clear and marketable title from the seller.  It will protect the new owners’ interests should they be challenged.  Even though it may not be required, it is recommended.

Pest inspection … A pest inspection by a licensed exterminator can be required by a buyer to determine if there are active termites or termite damage, dry rot or another pest infestation.

Property inspection … A home inspection conducted by a professional can be required to determine structural integrity of the property as well as all the systems in the home.  It can include but not be limited to plumbing, electrical, roof, heating and air conditioning, appliances and other things. 

Title search … Sometimes, title companies waive this fee when an owner’s title policy is issued.  It can be customary that a separate fee is charged in addition to the premium for the title insurance.

Transfer taxes … When government taxes are required, these fees must be collected.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a U.S. government agency that makes sure banks, lenders and other financial companies treat the public fairly.  You can download a Closing Disclosure Explainer from their website.

Home Inspections

A home inspector is another key professional involved in a real estate transaction.  Many times, the sales contract will have a provision that allows the purchaser to have inspections made to discover issues that are not readily apparent or have not been disclosed by the seller.

It is important to have a qualified individual perform the inspection.  Regardless of whether a license is required, buyers should ask about the inspector’s experience, training, years in business and if they are familiar with the area and type of property involved.

Membership in professional associations can indicate an inspector’s commitment to education and training.  References from both customers and agents are helpful and may be more meaningful.  You are encouraged to call the references, especially, if you are concerned about any specific areas. 

Errors and Omission insurance is intended to cover mistakes made during an inspection.  It would be good to find out if the inspector has this type of insurance and how mistakes are handled or if omissions are made.

Find out exactly what is included in the inspection and what will trigger the inspector to recommend that you get an opinion by a specialist.  They should be able to provide you with a sample report so you can see the detail with which the items will be explained.  Ask if items that need attention will also be documented with pictures.

Some inspectors will allow you to accompany them during the inspection.  They will be able to point out their concerns and answer any questions you may have about different things.  An inspection can take two to three hours depending on the size of the property.

Generally, there is a time allotted in the sales contract for the inspections to be made and not completing them in a timely fashion could waive your right to use the contingency.  Your real estate professional will be able to guide you through this process.

Cutting Your Housing Costs in Half

Cutting the price will generally bring buyers of anything out of the woodwork that were not serious before.  Some renters could easily lower their monthly cost of housing by half or more by purchasing a home with all the financial benefits that come with it.

The most obvious thing in today’s market is that the mortgage payment could be less than the rent the tenants are paying.  With mortgage rates hovering around 3%, this is a major factor of the savings.

The two other major contributing factors are appreciation and amortization of the mortgage, neither of which benefit tenants continuing to pay rent.  According to the FHFA House Price Index, home prices rose 5.4% from July 2019 to July 2020.  There were 400,000 less homes on the market during the summer of 2020 than the previous summer which is influencing appreciation.

With each payment a homeowner makes on their mortgage, a portion is used to reduce the principal amount owed.  This is like a savings account for the owner because it lowers their unpaid balance and increases their equity.

The equity becomes an asset that can be accessed by doing a cash-out refinance or a home equity line of credit once the equity has reached 80% loan-to-value.

A $300,000 home purchased with an FHA loan at 3% for 30 years would have a payment of approximately $2,013 including principal and interest, taxes, insurance, and mortgage insurance premium.  If the tenant were paying $2,400 in rent, this would be a savings of almost $400 a month.

The monthly principal reduction would average $500 a month for the first year which would lower the net cost of housing.  The other major item to consider would be the appreciation.  Assuming, in this example, the home was appreciating at 3% annually, the monthly appreciation in the first year would be $750 which would further lower the cost of housing.

Rent$2,400
Total House Payment$2,013
Less Monthly Principal Reduction$513
Less Monthly Appreciation$750
Plus Estimated Monthly Maintenance$200
Net Cost of Housing$950

In this example, it would cost over $1,400 per month more to rent than to own.

A different approach to this would be that the equity in this home in seven years would be $121,579 based on appreciation and principal reduction.  If the same person continues to rent, there would be no equity build-up.

If you’re curious as to how much you could cut your housing cost, go to the Rent vs. Own or contact me at kimberlywoodard@ebby.com or (214) 632-2092.

Some Mortgage Interest May Not be Deductible

Banks are concerned about making loans that will be repaid not about making loans that are tax deductible for homeowners.  It is good business for the bank but how is the homeowner supposed to know?

Most homeowners and potential homeowners are aware there are tax benefits associated with ownership.  For instance, mortgage interest and property taxes have been deductible expenses from federal income tax since it was enacted in 1913.  

The current law provides that homeowners can deduct the interest on Acquisition Debt which is the amount of debt incurred to buy, build or improve a first or second home up to $750,000.  The amount of acquisition debt decreases as payments are made and it cannot be increased unless the additional funds borrowed are used for capital improvements. 

It is not uncommon for a homeowner to refinance their home for any number of reasons.  It could be to get a lower interest rate that would lower the payments or remove mortgage insurance.  However, when additional funds are borrowed for reasons beyond “buy, build or improve”, the excess is considered personal debt and the interest is not deductible according to IRS.

Maybe this is not important if the owner is taking the standard deduction because it is higher than the total of the property taxes, qualified mortgage interest and charitable deductions made by the taxpayer.  Currently, it is estimated that 90% of homeowners are electing to use the increased standard deduction implemented with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  

A confusing issue that occurs at the end of the year is when the lender reports to the borrower the amount of interest that was paid.  While that amount is most probably accurate, the bank doesn’t know if it is qualified mortgage interest for the borrower.  

It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to keep track of outstanding acquisition debt and whether part of the balance is considered personal debt.

Another area where it could become important is if the property was lost due to foreclosure, deed in lieu of foreclosure or a short sale.  The provisions of the Mortgage Forgiveness Act have been extended through 12/31/20 which exempts the forgiven debt from being considered income and therefore taxable.  However, it only applies to acquisition debt.  Any part of a mortgage refinance that is considered personal debt could be taxable in that situation.

As an example, let’s say that homeowners originally borrowed $300,000 to purchase a home that they owned for 15 years.  During that time, the home appreciated significantly, and they refinanced it twice.  Once, they made some improvements and took out cash to pay off personal loans and the second time, it was only a cash out.

Original acquisition debt$300,000
Remaining acquisition debt including improvements225,000
Unpaid balance on current mortgage$550,000
Personal debt325,000

In the example above, the personal debt of $325,000 would be considered income on foreclosure and recognizable as income on that year’s income tax return.

If you have never refinanced your home or have refinanced it but never taken any money out of it except to make capital improvements, your unpaid balance in most likely acquisition debt.  However, it you have refinanced your home and pulled money out of it for purposes other than capital improvements, those funds may be considered personal debt.

This article is for information purposes.  If you are unclear about the current acquisition debt on your home or need advice for your individual situation, contact your tax professional.  Additional information can be found in IRS Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.

Four Things Sellers Should Do Before the Sign Goes in the Yard

Just like buyers should be pre-approved before they begin to look at houses, Sellers should have their home pre-approved.  The reasons are similar: appeal to the “right” buyers, discover issues with the home early, improve marketability, increase negotiations position and close quicker.

For the seller, there are few things that need to be done before the sign goes in the yard and definitely before prospective buyers see the home.  The first is to understand that once you decide to sell the home that it needs to appeal to the broadest base of buyers and that means depersonalizing your home.

Once the home is sold, you will need to pack your things for the new home.  Think of this as starting the process early.  Get moving boxes and make decisions on what you intend to give away or discard in each room and closet.  Identify and pack those items before the home goes on the market. This will be the first wave of making your home more marketable.

When your home hits the market, it needs to be a neutral commodity and not “your” home.  A good rule of thumb is to remove items that involve religion, hunting and sports.  That means removing personal items like family photos or collections displayed in the room.

Next, in round two, go through every room to remove the items that make too large of a statement or take up too much room.  Pool tables may be appropriate in a game room, but they are not in a dining room or a living room.

Personal collections may have taken you years to accumulate and you’re proud of them but the people who come to see your home will either not appreciate them or they will become distracted by looking at them instead of the home.  The livability of your home needs to be the focal point.  The buyers need to visualize themselves living in the property that will become “their” home.

The four most important rooms to address are the primary bedroom, kitchen, living room and dining room.  These rooms have a major influence on buyers when determining whether “it is the right home.”   Bright colors, possibly used as accent walls, should be neutralized.  

After you have depersonalized the home and removed non-essential items that could make the rooms or closets look small, you might want to consider another technique referred to as staging.  Rearranging furniture so the room shows to its best advantage is simple and doesn’t cost a thing.  You might decide that a coffee table or statement piece would be nice and your REALTOR® or stager can suggest a place to rent it rather than buying it.

Once the home is depersonalized and staged, you are ready to have a professional photographer take the pictures that visually describe your home to potential buyers long before they ever look at the home physically.  These will be used on websites, portal sites, MLS, and social media.  Anyone with a point and shoot camera thinks they are a photographer but a pro with the correct wide angle lens, who understands lighting and has an “eye” for what makes a great picture is worth every dime you’ll spend.

One more consideration should be to have the home inspected before it goes on the market.  It won’t replace the buyer’s inspections but it will discover any items that need repair and they should be done before the home goes on the market.  This will probably save you money because it might cost less to repair them than they’ll want in second round of negotiations when their inspector finds it.

Another benefit is that if their inspector identifies a problem area that your inspector did not, you have a basis for legitimate disagreement that could just be personal opinion instead of a “fact.”

While the process of depersonalizing should take part before you put the home on the market, you’ll want you have the benefit of your real estate agent’s experience to help you with the process.  At age 18, a person can expect to move nine more times but by age 45, they may only expect to move another 2.7 times.  Your REALTOR®’s experience can be valuable not only in saving your time and money but actually, make the difference in a successful sale.