Wednesday, February 18, 2009

First Home Buyers' Guide To Choosing The Right Mortgage

Selecting the right mortgage package as a Minnesota first time home buyer can be a confusing process, and working with a mortgage loan officer isn't always the best way to get the mortgage loan that you can afford. One of the biggest mistakes that first time is to sign on the loan that they qualify for, instead of taking a smaller loan that they can actually afford.

How does this happen? Loan officers will qualify you for a loan based on your income ratio and not necessarily how much you're prepaid to pay in housing payments each month. If you borrow the entire loan amount that you "qualify" for, it's likely that your monthly payment will be pushing your monthly budget to the max.

Setting your own limits for the loan will help you resist the temptation to just borrow up to the limit that your loan officers offer s and help you stay within a comfortable housing expense range based on your income level. Here are some more tips for selecting the mortgage for your new home purchase:

1. Consider the tax benefits. Some mortgages are 'interest only' loans which means you can deduct the entire payment on your taxes for that year. However, loans that are designed with a negative amortization scale won't allow you to deduct interest from your monthly payment.

2. Evaluate the long-term advantages. Whether you're planning to live in your home for 30 years and more or not, it is still advisable to know the pros and cons of your mortgage package. A fixed interest rate loan is somewhat higher in amount but unlike ARM and other loan products, it can safeguard you from changing market conditions. But a fixed interest loan also has its limitations. Smart Consumer's Guide to Home Buying's author, Barron, proposes that the fixed interest rate may increase your payments because of the demands of the escrow account linked with it.

3. Inquire about flexible payment options. Some home mortgage loans allow you to make extra payments towards the principal balance without paying a penalty, which means you can start paying down your mortgage when you have extra funds at your disposal. Find out if your loan products offer this type of flexibility so you can start paying down and be free of debt sooner than later.

4. Look for ways to keep payments low. Even when the lender offers you a large loan, consider cutting back on the loan amount so that you can keep the payments within an affordable range. A low interest rate, long loan term, and the ability to make interest-only payments are a few ways to keep payments as low as possible and within your budget range.

5. Apply for mortgage insurance. Most first time home buyers do not have a lot of money available for the down payment, which can make a big difference to the loan amount and monthly payments. Mortgage insurance can provide for your down payment, or in some cases, allow you to apply for an attractive loan product without having to make any type of down payment.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cashflow Versus Appreciation

You want to invest in Minnesota real estate. What's the best way to use your money? The use of leverage and OPM (other people's money) is what makes real estate such a powerful investment tool. Different people have distinct viewpoints regarding how much leverage and OPM is good.

First of all, always make a qualified mortgage professional part of your team of experts; the examples that follow may not be appropriate or even possible for your particular situation. Some people have the goal of receiving cashflow every month to supplement their incomes while others want long-term financial success through investment appreciation.

To vitalize your financial goal, look closely into your options. What's amazing in the real estate market is the assurance that you are in control. For instance, you have $20,000 to start with. With this amount, you can have either a 10 percent down payment on a $20,000 worth of property or a 20 percent down payment on a $10,000 property. Of course, you will be the one to decide which is better.

There is no right or wrong answer; again, it depends on your goals, but let's look at the differences. Whenever you make a large down payment it is more likely that you will be able to get cashflow because your mortgage payments will be lower and at the 20% mark you do not need mortgage insurance. So if cashflow is what you desire, larger down payments help you achieve that.

Assuming that for the $100,000 and $200,000 properties, the appreciation is set at 6 percent (Please note that the appreciation rate actually varies depending on their locations, type of property, etc..but for this article, you can well disregard these differences). That translates to these figures: the $100,000 will be worth $106,000 after a year of appreciation and the $200,000 becomes $212,000.

You will have made double the amount of appreciation with the 10% down payment on $200K option, but you didn't have to spend one penny more! This effect will compound year after year and after awhile the difference will staggering.

Greater appreciation values mean a shorter time until you have enough to pull out some equity and use it to buy ANOTHER property and then have two properties working for you, again compounding the effects of appreciation. What are you sacrificing? Since you paid a lower percentage down payment, the cashflow might not be there on the $200K home, and maybe there are even months where you have to pay some maintenance expenses out of pocket, but look at the long term gain advantages.

Moreover, you get more advantage since debt payments and maintenance costs are tax deductions (using leverage or OPM and getting less monthly cashflow) unlike cashflow that is taxable. In the case of some people who needed monthly cashflow - the solution is simple, your approach can be modified to get what you really wanted. Besides, most people would agree that extra payment every month realizes wealth building benefits in the future!

Your choice to effectively use your money is important. Start now by building your team of experts and hit your mark!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In Today's Economy Is It Better To Rent Or Buy A Home?

Again we find ourselves facing another financial dilemma: should I rent or should I buy? And just like many other financial quandaries, we have seen the example of our parents and perhaps friends but have little true professional knowledge to base our decisions on. We get a lot of advice from those around us, which is VERY tempting to listen to, but should we? For me the answer is "Don't ask a butcher how to bake a loaf of bread!" It's a good idea to listen to everyone you meet in your life, but it's an even better idea to consider who is giving the advice when you're faced with a decision.

A good adviser takes into account several factors to help you come up with sound financial decision. One, he must consider your individual situation; and two, he must be experienced enough to back his claims with solid evidence. Since no two people have exactly the same predicament and your case is unique from the others - it is crucial to weigh the costs and benefits of buying versus renting. As the co - author of the book Equity Happens (Russell Gray) puts it, "Do the math!"

With that being said, I'm not going to try and tell you which option to choose. I cannot possibly do that because I don't know your particular situation. I will tell you some numbers to think about and I will say that for many people, right now is an amazing time to purchase a home. You can start with monthly expenses. In the case of renting, add up your rent plus any additional fees and the utilities you must pay.

For ownership expenses it's a little trickier. You must add together more items and might need the help of professionals to determine what the expenses will be. The main expenses are commonly abbreviated with the acronym PITI. This stands for Principal (the amount of money you pay toward the principal of your loan), Interest (the amount you pay toward the interest of the loan), Taxes (property taxes you must pay), and Insurance (both property insurance and mortgage insurance, if applicable).

Owning a home also covers utility expenses plus other maintenance outlay aside from the PITI. In the case of renting, while it is compelling that you only pay the same amount on a monthly basis; you can go back and determine what your previous payments could buy you a home for. Monthly monetary costs are important aspects in deciding what to choose between owning and renting but it is also equally significant to look at the long-term benefits.

The majority of these long-term benefits often lie on the side of ownership. After many years of renting you will still have title to nothing and you will continually be paying higher rents. After owning for many years your payments will remain basically the same as when you first purchased the home (except some costs like utilities, insurance, etc. that rise with inflation, your main costs will not change). And, what's even better, you will have the wonderful thing called equity from all the payments you've made towards owning the home. If you choose wisely in an appreciating market (not hard to do!) you will also gain the value of appreciation of your's like free equity!

There is a good chance your choice shifts according to your personal feelings and opinion. Simply put, making the best decision towards renting or owning a home involves your subjective feeling. What can be more fun than having a house you can call your own, and enjoying the independence in creating changes with it however you like it! On one hand, you might favor the side of renting if you will give emphasis on other concerns such as having no lawn to mow, or other maintenance issues.

Often, financial consideration plays a big role but also brings into mind subjective feelings over the argument: to buy or to rent a house? To be more specific, purchasing expensive appliances no longer bothers you when you have huge savings from renting instead of owning. Or maybe, the freedom to do whatever you want with your own house appears inconsequential if you will note the massive expenses you shed off just to purchase your home. Either way, the dictum "numbers do not lie" proves that the former is still weightier than the other.

Concisely, this article wants to present two major points: always consult a professional in weighing out your options and calculating your expenses; and look beyond the immediate gains of ownership or renting. The benefits from both sides will not be evident unless we set our eyes on the long range that will not be apparent on a monthly cost comparison. In a buyers market that we are in, ownership is favored over renting.

Alexandria P. Anderson is a licensed Minnesota Realtor that helps people to find and purchase Plymouth Townhomes as well as Plymouth Lofts in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.