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Is a 15-year Mortgage a Good Idea?

Shot of a mature couple using a digital tablet while going through their paperwork together on the sofa at home

A 15-year mortgage may be good for some people based on their ability to make a higher payment if one of their goals is to build equity in their home faster or to pay it off sooner.

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A Good Time to Buy a Home

You may have noticed that REALTORS® seem to always think now is a good time to buy and they can usually justify it with solid reasoning.  While it can be true in general, a good time to buy has more to do with the individual than anything else.  There are four things to consider.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have good credit.  Since the Great Recession and the housing crisis, lenders have been required to be sure that the borrowers have good credit.  This actually benefits not only the lenders but the borrowers because no one wants to buy something that they cannot afford and run the risk of losing it to foreclosure.  FHA has the most lenient FICO credit score of 580+.  VA requires a little higher at 620 while Fannie Mae guidelines on conventional mortgages require a 700 score.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have a good job that gives you the income to qualify for the mortgage and the likelihood that you’ll continue to be employed in the future.  Two years of steady employment in the same industry with no significant gaps is a measure that lenders consider.

Lenders use qualifying ratios to make a determination.  The total house payment, principal, interest, taxes and insurance, should not exceed 28% of the borrower’s monthly gross income.  Their total monthly debt including the house payment should not exceed 45% of monthly gross income.  There is some flexibility in the ratios for the right circumstances.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have the available funds for the down payment and closing costs plus a little cushion for the unexpected.  The down payments can range from 0% for VA loans to 3.5% for FHA and 3% to 20% for conventional.

In addition to the down payment, borrowers will have closing costs that can range from 2 to 3.5% depending on the loan type.  It is possible for the seller to pay the buyer’s closing costs but it needs to be negotiated in the sales contract.  The lender’s underwriter wants borrowers to have cash available for unexpected expenses related to the house and their normal living expenses.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have stability … In addition to employment, stability applies to not moving soon, marital status, children and unanticipated expenses.  Market or economic conditions could also affect stability.

So, the answer to the question “is it a good time to buy a home” depends on several things that are relative to the buyer.  While it might be a great time to buy for one buyer, it may not be the best time for another buyer.

Make a self-assessment to the best of your knowledge on these issues and then, schedule an appointment for a live interview with a trusted mortgage professional to get their opinion based on what underwriting will look at.  Call me at (320) 762-7106 if you’d like a recommendation.  After you determine it is a good time to buy a home, it is time to meet with your real estate professional.

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Waiting Period


Experiencing a distressed sale with a previous home can delay being able to qualify for a new mortgage for a period of time.
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VA Funding Fee Going Up

The cost of a VA home loan is going up beginning January 1, 2020 when the funding fee is being increased from 2.15%

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Little known facts about FHA mortgages

These facts about FHA mortgages may help you to decide for or against using this type of loan.
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Selecting an agent


When a whole lobster was presented at the table of a restaurant, the customer noticed there was only one claw on it.  He asked what happened to the lobster and the waiter said, maybe he lost a fight with another lobster.  The customer replied to the explanation by saying “then, bring me the winner.”
There are approximately 1.3 million REALTORS® in the U.S.  The July 2019 Existing Home Sales annualized about 5.4 million units with a listing side and a selling side that totals 10.8 million transactions.  That means that the average number of units sold per agent is 8.
In any given market, 20% of the agents are selling 80% of the homes.  260,000 agents are selling 8,480,000 or an average of 32 transactions sides.  Some markets are dominated by 10% of these successful agents selling 90% of the market.  If that were the case, 130,000 agents are selling 9,720,000 or an average of 75 transactions sides.
The question you should ask yourself is who do you want representing you in the purchase or sale of the largest asset that most people have?  Do you want an average agent, or do you want a powerhouse agent who can provide you the best advice, avoid issues that can cost time, and maximize the results that you expect and deserve?
Finding the right property is listed as the most difficult experienced by buyers (56%), according to the Home Buyers and Sellers Profile, together with the paperwork (20%) and understanding the process and steps (16%) makes these the most important areas of expertise needed when evaluating your agent.
An agent provides valuable services for buyers and sellers during the transaction that can make a difference in finding the “right” home or buyer, negotiating the best terms, and closing on time.  The answers to the following questions can help you decide who to work with in your next purchase or sale.
Describe your experience in real estate? What are your personal sales stats compared to the market? (For sellers, list price to sales price ratio, days on market; for buyers, average # of houses shown and closure rate)
Describe your strategy to accomplish my needs? Do you have references and/or reviews?
What makes you different than your competition? Can you help me find the other professionals and vendors? What is your fee and who pays it?
For more information, download the Sellers Guide and Buyers Guide.

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Cost of Waiting to Buy

If rates and prices go up next year, as the experts are expecting, it is going to cost more for the same home.
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Invest in Equity Build-up

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Equity build-up could be one of the biggest advantages to buying a home.  There are two distinct dynamics that take place to make this happen: each house payment applies an amount to reduce the mortgage owed and appreciation causes the value of the home to go up.

It is easy to make a projection based on the type of mortgage you get and your estimation of appreciation over the time you expect to own the home.  Even conservative estimates can produce impressive results.

Let’s look at an example of a home with a $270,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years and a total payment of $2,047.55 payment including principal, interest, taxes and insurance.  The average monthly principal reduction for the first year is $362.98. If you assume a 3% appreciation on the $300,000 home, the average monthly appreciation is $750 a month.

The total payment of $2,047.55 less $1,112.98 for principal reduction and appreciation makes the net monthly cost of housing, excluding tax benefits, $934.57.  If this hypothetical person was paying $2,500 in rent, it would cost them $1,565.43 more to rent than to own.  In the first year, it would cost them over $18,000 more to rent.

Together, the items in this example contribute over $1,100 to the equity in the home .  This is one of the reasons a home is considered forced savings.  By making your house payments and enjoying increases in value, the equity grows and the net cost of housing decreases by the same amount. 

In this same example, the $30,000 down payment grows to $133,991 in equity in seven years.  While this is equity build-up, the extraordinary growth is attributed to leverage.  Leverage is an investment principle involving the use of borrowed funds to control an asset.

To see what your net cost of housing and the effect of leverage will have on a home in your price range, see the Rent vs. Own.  If you have questions or need assistance, contact me at (320) 762-7106.

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Whats the difference

There is a difference in a property disclosure, a home inspection and a home warranty and the roles they play in the purchase of a home.

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Show Them You’re Serious

June and July are the busiest home sale months of the year. When inventory is in short supply and you may be competing with other offers, it is important to show the seller you’re serious. Make your offer look as good as possible because you may not get the chance to make or accept a counter-offer.

Put yourself in the seller’s shoes.  Your home has just gone on the market.  There is lots of activity and suddenly, there is more than one offer to purchase.  The seller’s first consideration may be to accept the highest offer but there are many other things to consider like closing dates, closing costs, possible repairs, contingencies and of course, the ability of the borrower to get a loan.

Offer a fair price for the property in your initial purchase agreement.  It shows sincerity and good faith that you’re actually trying to purchase the home and not trying to take advantage of the seller.  The old adage that you can always go up later may never happen if there are multiple offers on the property in the beginning.

  1. Remove the uncertainty that you may not be approved for a mortgage by having a pre-approval letter from your mortgage company.
  2. Show your sincerity by increasing the normal amount of earnest money customary for the area and price of the home.  The earnest money will be applied toward your down payment and closing costs.  Consider placing even more money in escrow when the contingencies have been met.
  3. Specify a closing date in the contract but acknowledge that you can be flexible to accommodate the sellers’ moving date.  If it becomes an issue, it still must be mutually agreed upon.
  4. Make the contingency periods shorter if possible to make the seller feel that they’ll know sooner that the offer is solid.
  5. If the contingency really isn’t important to you, leave it out of the offer.  The more contingencies included in a contract, the more the seller will wonder what might happen to keep it from closing.
  6. Write a personal note to the seller explaining why you like and want their home.  Consider including a picture of your family and pets.
  7. If you’re not using a digital contract, physically sign the offer with a felt tip pen of contrasting color.  You’d be surprised how this adds a personal touch to the offer.

One way to eliminate the competition of multiple offers is by not procrastinating.  When you have decided to write a contract, don’t wait; do it immediately and ask your agent to deliver it quickly.  Your agent will be able to help you craft a solid offer that makes you look serious and can give you advice that may be unique to your situation.

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