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Q-A Series – FIRST STEPS

Q. WHAT STEPS NEED TO BE TAKEN TO SECURE A LOAN

The first step in securing a loan is to complete a loan application. To do so, you’ll need the following information.
– Pay stubs for the past 2-3 months
– W-2 forms for the past 2 years
– Information on long-term debts
– Recent bank statements
– tax returns for the past 2 years
– Proof of any other income
– Address and description of the property you wish to buy
– Sales contract

During the application process, the lender will order a report on your credit history and a professional appraisal of the property you want to purchase. The application process typically takes between 1-6 weeks.

Q. HOW DO I CHOOSE THE RIGHT LENDER FOR ME

Choose your lender carefully. Look for financial stability and a reputation for customer satisfaction. Be sure to choose a company that gives helpful advice and that makes you feel comfortable. A lender that has the authority to approve and process your loan locally is preferable, since it will be easier for you to monitor the status of your application and ask questions. Plus, it’s beneficial when the lender knows home values and conditions in the local area. Do research and ask family, friends, and your real estate agent for recommendations.

Q. HOW ARE PRE-QUALIFYING AND PRE-APPROVAL DIFFERENT

Pre-qualification is an informal way to see how much you maybe able to borrow. You can be ‘pre-qualified’ over the phone with no paperwork by telling a lender your income, your long-term debts, and how large a down payment you can afford. Without any obligation, this helps you arrive at a ballpark figure of the amount you may have available to spend on a house.

Pre-approval is a lender’s actual commitment to lend to you. It involves assembling the financial records mentioned in Question 47 (Without the property description and sales contract) and going through a preliminary approval process. Pre-approval gives you a definite idea of what you can afford and shows sellers that you are serious about buying.

Q. HOW CAN I FIND OUT INFORMATION ABOUT MY CREDIT HISTORY

There are three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. Obtaining your credit report is as easy as calling and requesting one. Once you receive the report, it’s important to verify its accuracy. Double check the “high credit limit,”‘total loan,” and ‘past due” columns. It’s a good idea to get copies from all three companies to assure there are no mistakes since any of the three could be providing a report to your lender. Fees, ranging from $5-$20, are usually charged to issue credit reports but some states permit citizens to acquire a free one. Contact the reporting companies at the numbers listed for more information.

CREDIT REPORTING COMPANIES
Company Name Phone Number
Experian 1-888-397-3742
Equifax 1-800-685-1111
Trans Union 1-800-916-8800

Q. WHAT IF I FIND A MISTAKE IN MY CREDIT HISTORY

Simple mistakes are easily corrected by writing to the reporting company, pointing out the error, and providing proof of the mistake. You can also request to have your own comments added to explain problems. For example, if you made a payment late due to illness, explain that for the record. Lenders are usually understanding about legitimate problems.

Q. WHAT IS A CREDIT BUREAU SCORE AND HOW DO LENDERS USE THEM

A credit bureau score is a number, based upon your credit history, that represents the possibility that you will be unable to repay a loan. Lenders use it to determine your ability to qualify for a mortgage loan. The better the score, the better your chances are of getting a loan. Ask your lender for details.

Q. HOW CAN I IMPROVE MY SCORE

There are no easy ways to improve your credit score, but you can work to keep it acceptable by maintaining a good credit history. This means paying your bills on time and not overextending yourself by buying more than you can afford.

What is Escrow Anyway

Once an offer has been accepted by a seller and both parties have signed all of the pertinent dotted lines on the offer this document becomes the sales contract (or agreement). Next, the contract and all necessary paperwork and/or funds are collected and delivered to a neutral third party called an escrow holder.

During the escrow process, this neutral third party will carry out the provisions of the agreement between buyer and seller. An escrow holder is typically an escrow firm or title company. As with the other parts of your transaction, a good real estate agent can help you find an escrow holder in your area. Check the fees charged by the various escrow holders in the area. These fees may be negotiable.

The escrow officer carries out instructions from the buyer and seller, and ensures that ownership of the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer.

The escrow officer will also collect all of the odds and ends in the purchase process.

This includes proof of insurance, the preliminary title report, inspection reports, loan information and the like. The escrow officer will also prepare the final closing statement. The final closing statement is much like a bank statement, in that it lists all of the credits and debits associated with the purchase of the home. Compare the closing costs to those listed on the Good Faith Estimate received from your broker/lender.

You will typically meet with the escrow officer to sign a lot of documents. READ EVERYTHING! Take your time and ask questions about things you don t understand.

Hints on Closing

  • Keep in close communication with your lender. Are there any problems with documentation on the loan Has everything been verified
  • Keep in close communication with your real estate agent. Are there any problems with the home inspection Pest report
  • Always be available for any questions from your real estate agent, escrow officer, loan officer, or anyone else involved in the buying process. Make sure you re  in the loop with any issues that may arise.
  • When it comes time to close escrow — that is, take possession of the house — clear some time. Figure out WHEN you d like to close, and then look at when you HAVE TO close. Are you moving at the end of the month from a rental to your new place Don t let delays leave you out in the street!

Ask your escrow officer for an estimate of closing costs. You won t know exactly how much you ll pay until escrow closes, but it is good to know these figures ahead of time.

Closing Documents You Should Keep

On closing day, expect to sign a lot of documents and walk away with a big stack of papers. Here s a list of the most important documents you should file away for future reference.

HUD-1 settlement statement. Itemizes all the costs  commissions, loan fees, points, and hazard insurance  associated with the closing. You ll need it for income tax purposes if you paid points.

Truth in Lending statement. Summarizes the terms of your mortgage loan, including the annual percentage rate and recision period.

Mortgage and note. Spell out the legal terms of your mortgage obligation and the agreed-upon repayment terms.

Deed. Transfers ownership to you.

Affidavits. Binding statements by either party. For example, the sellers will often sign an affidavit stating that they haven t incurred any liens.

Riders. Amendments to the sales contract that affect your rights. Example: The sellers won t move out until two weeks after closing but will pay rent to the buyers during that period.

Insurance policies. Provide a record and proof of your coverage.

Sources: Credit Union National Association; Mortgage Bankers Association; Home-Buyer s Guide (Real Estate Center at Texas A&M, 2000)

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

10 Questions to Ask Your Lender

1. What are the most popular mortgages you offer Why are they so popular
2. Which type of mortgage plan do you think would be best for me Why
3. Are your rates, terms, fees, and closing costs negotiable
4. Will I have to buy private mortgage insurance If so, how much will it cost, and how long will it be required (NOTE: Private mortgage insurance is usually required if your down payment is less than 20 percent. However, most lenders will let you discontinue PMI when you ve acquired a certain amount of equity by paying down the loan.)
5. Who will service the loan  your bank or another company
6. What escrow requirements do you have
7. How long will this loan be in a lock-in period (in other words, the time that the quoted interest rate will be honored) Will I be able to obtain a lower rate if it drops during this period
8. How long will the loan approval process take
9. How long will it take to close the loan
10. Are there any charges or penalties for prepaying the loan

Used with permission from Real Estate Checklists & Systems, www.realestatechecklists.com.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Choosing The Right Loan

Help For First Time Home Buyers
There are many first time home buyer programs available to assist you in your purchase. These programs range from informational courses  like this one  to federal, state and local government agencies and non-profit groups that can assist you with down payments, lower-than-market rate financing and troubled credit.

Depending on your income and other personal factors, some of these programs can assist you in getting into a home for less than $1,000.

For information about first time home buyer programs and a variety of other home loan assistance programs in California, check out the California Housing Finance Agency’s web site at www.calhfa.ca.gov and the California Department of Housing and Community Development at www.hcd.ca.gov.

Police, teachers, firefighters and other public employees often have access to home loan programs that have favorable down payment options and special income qualifications. If applicable, check with your employee association or retirement system.

When choosing a loan, you’ll be confronted with a variety of choices of how interest rates are applied. There are fixed rate mortgages and adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). Look at each type of loan carefully and decide, based on your financial situation and ability to stomach roller coaster interest rates, which is best for you!

Fixed rate mortgages are set at a constant interest rate over the period of the loan ‘ usually 15 or 30 years. This provides maximum stability as far as your monthly loan payment is concerned.

ARMs often provide a much lower initial interest rate at the inception of the loan. ARMs are set by an index plus a margin that equals an interest rate for a loan. An index is a gauge of interest rates which fluctuates with current market conditions. The margin is a fixed amount which gets added to the index. There are two different types of ARMs, the standard version that starts to adjust almost immediately after funding and the intermediate ARM, that doesn’t start to adjust for several months to several years.

There is a lot more to know about loans. You can learn more by visiting www.freddiemac.com/homebuyers, www.hud.gov or www.fanniemae.com (click on Homepath) or by simply asking questions of your real estate agent, lender and/or mortgage broker.

If you’re getting an ARM, look for ones with lower margins. Interest rates tend to be similar for most lending institutions, so the real gauge of saving money over time is a lower margin!

Look out for prepayment penalties on your loan! Having one can save you some money every month, but if you refinance or sell your home, you could get hit with thousands of dollars in penalties!

Q-A Series – CLOSING

Q. WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I’VE APPLIED FOR MY LOAN

It usually takes a lender between 1-6 weeks to complete the evaluation of your application. Its not unusual for the lender to ask for more information once the application has been submitted. The sooner you can provide the information, the faster your application will be processed. Once all the information has been verified the lender will call you to let you know the outcome of your application. If the loan is approved, a closing date is set up and the lender will review the closing with you. And after closing, you’ll be able to move into your new home.

Q. WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR DURING THE FINAL WALK-THROUGH

This will likely be the first opportunity to examine the house without furniture, giving you a clear view of everything. Check the walls and ceilings carefully, as well as any work the seller agreed to do in response to the inspection. Any problems discovered previously that you find uncorrected should be brought up prior to closing. It is the seller’s responsibility to fix them.

Q. WHAT MAKES UP CLOSING COST

There may be closing cost customary or unique to a certain locality, but closing cost are usually made up of the following:
– Attorney’s or escrow fees (Yours and your lender’s if applicable)
– Property taxes (to cover tax period to date)
– Interest (paid from date of closing to 30 days before first monthly payment)
– Loan Origination fee (covers lenders administrative cost)
– Recording fees
– Survey fee
– First premium of mortgage Insurance (if applicable)
– Title Insurance (yours and lender’s)
– Loan discount points
– First payment to escrow account for future real estate taxes and insurance
– Paid receipt for homeowner’s insurance policy (and fire and flood insurance if applicable)
– Any documentation preparation fees

Q. WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO HAPPEN ON CLOSING DAY

You’ll present your paid homeowner’s insurance policy or a binder and receipt showing that the premium has been paid. The closing agent will then list the money you owe the seller (remainder of down payment, prepaid taxes, etc.) and then the money the seller owes you (unpaid taxes and prepaid rent, if applicable). The seller will provide proofs of any inspection, warranties, etc.

Once you’re sure you understand all the documentation, you’ll sign the mortgage, agreeing that if you don’t make payments the lender is entitled to sell your property and apply the sale price against the amount you owe plus expenses. You’ll also sign a mortgage note, promising to repay the loan. The seller will give you the title to the house in the form of a signed deed.

You’ll pay the lender’s agent all closing costs and, in turn,he or she will provide you with a settlement statement of all the items for which you have paid. The deed and mortgage will then be recorded in the state Registry of Deeds, and you will be a homeowner.

Q. WHAT DO I GET AT CLOSING

– Settlement Statement, HUD-1 Form (itemizes services provided and the fees charged; it is filled out by the closing agent and must be given to you at or before closing)
– Truth-in-Lending Statement
– Mortgage Note
– Mortgage or Deed of Trust
– Binding Sales Contract (prepared by the seller; your lawyer should review it)
– Keys to your new home

Q-A Series – HUD and FHA

Q. WHAT IS THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Also known as HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was established in 1965 to develop national policies and programs to address housing needs in the U.S. One of HUD’s primary missions is to create a suitable living environment for all Americans by developing and improving the country’s communities and enforcing fair housing laws

Q. HOW DOES HUD HELP HOMEBUYERS AND HOMEOWNERS

HUD helps people by administering a variety of programs that develop and support affordable housing. Specifically, HUD plays a large role in homeownership by making loans available for lower- and moderate-income families through its FHA mortgage insurance program and its HUD Homes program. HUD owns homes in many communities throughout the U.S. and offers them for sale at attractive prices and economical terms. HUD also seeks to protect consumers through education, Fair Housing Laws, and housing rehabilitation initiatives.

Q. WHAT IS THE FHA

Now an agency within HUD, the Federal Housing Administration was established in 1934 to advance opportunities for Americans to own homes. By providing private lenders with mortgage insurance, the FHA gives them the security they need to lend to first-time buyers who might not be able to qualify for conventional loans. The FHA has helped more than 26 million Americans buy a home.

Q. HOW CAN THE FHA ASSIST ME IN BUYING A HOME

The FHA works to make homeownership a possibility for more Americans. With the FHA, you don’t need perfect credit or a high-paying job to qualify for a loan. The FHA also makes loans more accessible by requiring smaller down payments than conventional loans. In fact, an FHA down payment could be as little as a few months rent. And your monthly payments may not be much more than rent.

Q. HOW IS THE FHA FUNDED

Lender claims paid by the FHA mortgage insurance program are drawn from the Mutual Mortgage Insurance fund. This fund is made up of premiums paid by FHA-insured loan borrowers. No tax dollars are used to fund the program.

Q. WHO CAN QUALIFY FOR FHA LOANS

anyone who meets the credit requirements, can afford the mortgage payments and cash investment, and who plans to use the mortgaged property as a primary residence may apply for an FHA-insured loan.

Q. WHAT IS THE FHA LOAN LIMIT

FHA loan limits vary throughout the country, from $115,200 in low-cost areas to $208,800 in high-cost areas. The loan maximums for multi-unit homes are higher than those for single units and also vary by area.

Because these maximums are linked to the conforming loan limit and average area home prices, FHA loan limits are periodically subject to change. Ask your lender for details and confirmation of current limits.

Q. WHAT ARE THE STEPS INVOLVED IN THE FHA LOAN PROCESS

With the exception of a few additional forms, the FHA loan application process is similar to that of a conventional loan (see Question 47). With new automation measures, FHA loans may be originated more quickly than before. And, if you don’t prefer a face-to-face meeting, you can apply for an FHA loan via mail, telephone, the Internet, or video conference.

Q. HOW MUCH INCOME DO I NEED TO HAVE TO QUALIFY FOR AN FHA LOAN

There is no minimum income requirement. But you must prove steady income for at least three years, and demonstrate that you’ve consistently paid your bills on time.

Q. WHAT QUALIFIES AS AN INCOME SOURCE FOR THE FHA

Seasonal pay, child support, retirement pension payments, unemployment compensation, VA benefits, military pay, Social Security income, alimony, and rent paid by family all qualify as income sources. Part-time pay, overtime, and bonus pay also count as long as they are steady. Special savings plans-such as those set up by a church or community association – qualify, too. Income type is not as important as income steadiness with the FHA.

Q. CAN I CARRY DEBT AND STILL QUALIFY FOR FHA LOANS

Yes. Short-term debt doesn’t count as long as it can be paid off within 10 months. And some regular expenses, like child care costs, are not considered debt. Talk to your lender or real estate agent about meeting the FHA debt-to-income ratio.

Q. WHAT IS THE DEBT-TO-INCOME RATIO FOR FHA LOANS

The FHA allows you to use 29% of your income towards housing costs and 41% towards housing expenses and other long-term debt. With a conventional loan, this qualifying ratio allows only 28% toward housing and 36% towards housing and other debt

Q. CAN I EXCEED THIS RATIO

You may qualify to exceed if you have:
– a large down payment
– a demonstrated ability to pay more toward your housing expenses
– substantial cash reserves
– net worth enough to repay the mortgage regardless of income
– evidence of acceptable credit history or limited credit use
– less-than-maximum mortgage terms
– funds provided by an organization
– a decrease in monthly housing expenses

Q. HOW LARGE A DOWN PAYMENT DO I NEED WITH AN FHA LOAN

You must have a down payment of at least 3% of the purchase price of the home. Most affordable loan programs offered by private lenders require between a 3%-5% down payment, with a minimum of 3% coming directly from the borrower’s own funds.

Q. WHAT CAN I USE TO PAY THE DOWN PAYMENT AND CLOSING COSTS OF AN FHA LOAN

Besides your own funds, you may use cash gifts or money from a private savings club. If you can do certain repairs and improvements yourself, your labor may be used as part of a down 8 payment (called -sweat equity”). If you are doing a lease purchase, paying extra rent to the seller may also be considered the same as accumulating cash.

Q. HOW DOES MY CREDIT HISTORY IMPACT MY ABILITY TO QUALIFY

The FHA is generally more flexible than conventional lenders in its qualifying guidelines. In fact, the FHA allows you to re-establish credit if:
– two years have passed since a bankruptcy has been discharged
– all judgments have been paid
– any outstanding tax liens have been satisfied or appropriate arrangements have been made to establish a repayment plan with the IRS or state Department of Revenue
– three years have passed since a foreclosure or a deed-in-lieu has been resolved

Q. CAN I QUALIFY FOR AN FHA LOAN WITHOUT A CREDIT HISTORY

Yes. If you prefer to pay debts in cash or are too young to have established credit, there are other ways to prove your eligibility. Talk to your lender for details.

Q. WHAT TYPES OF CLOSING COSTS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH FHA-INSURED LOANS

Except for the addition of an FHA mortgage insurance premium, FHA closing costs are similar to those of a conventional loan outlined in Question 63. The FHA requires a single, upfront mortgage insurance premium equal to 2.25% of the mortgage to be paid at closing (or 1.75% if you complete the HELP program- see Question 91). This initial premium may be partially refunded if the loan is paid in full during the first seven years of the loan term. After closing, you will then be responsible for an annual premium – paid monthly – if your mortgage is over 15 years or if you have a 15-year loan with an LTV greater than 90%.

Q. CAN I ROLL CLOSING COSTS INTO my FHA LOAN

No. Though you can’t roll closing costs into your FHA loan, you may be able to use the amount you pay for them to help satisfy the down payment requirement. Ask your lender for details.

Q. ARE FHA LOANS ASSUMABLE

Yes. You can assume an existing FHA-insured loan, or, if you are the one deciding to sell, allow a buyer to assume yours. Assuming a loan can be very beneficial, since the process is streamlined and less expensive compared to that for a new loan. Also, assuming a loan can often result in a lower interest rate. The application process consists basically of a credit check and no property appraisal is required. And you must demonstrate that you have enough income to support the mortgage loan. In this way, qualifying to assume a loan is similar to the qualification requirements for a new one.

Q. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I CAN’T MAKE A PAYMENT ON LOAN

Call or, write to your lender as soon as possible. Clearly explain the situation and be prepared to provide him or her with financial information.

Q. ARE THERE ANY OPTIONS IF I FALL BEHIND ON MY LOAN PAYMENTS

Yes. Talk to your lender or a HUD-approved counseling agency for details. Listed below are a few options that may help you get back on track.

For FHA loans:
– Keep living in your home to qualify for assistance.
– Contact a HUD-approved housing counseling agency (1-800-569-4287 or TDD: 1-800-483-2209) and cooperate with the counselor/lender trying to help you.
– HUD has a number of special loss mitigation programs available to help you:
– Special Forbearance: Your lender will arrange for a revised repayment plan which may Include temporary reduction or suspension of payments; you can qualify by having an Involuntary reduction in your Income or Increase In living expenses.
– Mortgage Modification: Allows refinance debt and/or extend the term of the your mortgage loan which may reduce your monthly payments; you can qualify if you have recovered from financial problems, but net Income Is less than before.
– Partial Claim: Your lender maybe able to help you obtain an interest-free loan from HUD to bring your mortgage current.
– Pre-foreclosure Sale: Allows you to sell your property and pay off your mortgage loan ,to avoid foreclosure.
– Deed-in lieu of Foreclosure: Lets you voluntarily “give back” your property to the lender; it won’t save your house but will help you avoid the costs, time, and effort of the foreclosure process.
– If you are having difficulty with an-uncooperative lender or feel your loan servicer is not providing you with the most effective loss mitigation options, call the FHA Loss Mitigation Center at 1-888-297-8685 for additional help.

For Conventional Loans:

Talk to your lender about specific loss mitigation options. Work directly with him or her to request a “workout packet.” A secondary lender, like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, may have purchased your loan. Your lender can follow the appropriate guidelines set by Fannie or Freddie to determine the best option for your situation.

Fannie Mae does not deal directly with the borrower. They work with the lender to determine the loss mitigation program that best fits your needs.

Freddie Mac, like Fannie Mae, will usually only work with the loan servicer. However, if you encounter problems with your lender during the loss mitigation process, you can coil customer service for help at 1-800-FREDDIE (1-800-373-3343).

In any loss mitigation situation, it is important to remember a few helpful hints:
– Explore every reasonable alternative to avoid losing your home, but beware of scams. For example, watch out for:

Equity skimming: a buyer offers to repay the mortgage or sell the property if you sign over the deed and move out.
Phony counseling agencies: offer counseling for a fee when it is often given at no charge.

– Don’t sign anything you don’t understand.

Q. WHAT IS A 203(b) LOAN

This is the most commonly used FHA program. It offers a low down payment, flexible qualifying guidelines, limited lender’s fees, and a maximum loan amount.

Q. WHAT IS A 203(k) LOAN

This is a loan that enables the homebuyer to finance both the purchase and rehabilitation of a home through a single mortgage. A portion of the loan is used to pay off the seller’s existing mortgage and the remainder is placed in an escrow account and released as rehabilitation is completed. Basic guidelines for 203(k) loans are as follows:
– The home must be at least one year old.
– The cost of rehabilitation must be at least $5,000, but the total property value – including the cost of repairs – must fall within the FHA maximum mortgage limit.
– The 203(k) loan must follow many of the 203(b) eligibility requirements.
– Talk to your lender about specific improvement, energy efficiency, and structural guidelines.

Q. WHAT IS AN ENERGY EFFICIENT MORTGAGE (EEM)

The Energy Efficient Mortgage allows a homebuyer to save future money on utility bills. This is done by financing the cost of adding energy-efficiency features to a new or existing home as part of an FHA-insured home purchase. The EEM can be used with both 203(b) and 203(k) loans. Basic guidelines for EEMs are as follows:
– The cost of improvements must be determined by a Home Energy Rating System or by an energy consultant. This cost must be less than the anticipated savings from the improvements.
– One- and two-unit new or existing homes are eligible; condos are not.
– The improvements financed may be 5% of property value or $4,000, whichever is greater. The total must fall within the FHA loan limit.

Q. WHAT IS A TITLE I LOAN

Given by a Lender and insured by the FHA, a Title I loan is used to make non-luxury renovations and repairs to a home. It offers a manageable interest rate and repayment schedule. Loans are limited to between $5,000 and 20,000. If the loan amount is under 7,500, no lien is required against your home. Ask your lender for details.

Q. WHAT OTHER LOAN PRODUCTS OR PROGRAMS DOES THE FHA OFFER

The FHA also insures loans for the purchase or rehabilitation of manufactured housing, condominiums, and cooperatives. It also has special programs for urban areas, disaster victims, and members of the armed forces. Insurance for ARMS is also available from the FHA.

Q. HOW CAN I OBTAIN AN FHA-INSURED LOAN

Contact an FHA-approved lender such as a participating mortgage company, bank, savings and loan association, or thrift. For more information on the FHA and how you can obtain an FHA loan, visit the HUD web site at http://www.hud.gov or call a HUD-approved counseling agency at 1-800-569-4287 or TDD: 1-800-877-8339.

Q. HOW CAN I CONTACT HUD

Visit the web site at http://www.hud.gov or look in the phone book “blue pages” for a listing of the HUD office near you.

Its a Jungle Out There!

Because there is so much money and so many different professionals are involved in the real estate purchasing process, there is always room for professional incompetence or outright fraud. Here are some things to look out for in the team that assists you in your purchase.

Real Estate Agents: This is the key person on your team! Make sure he or she is competent! We cannot stress this point more! Do your homework. All real estate agents must be licensed by the California Department of Real Estate. Visit the Department’s web site (www.dre.ca.gov) to determine the license status of an agent.

Also, talk to others who have used the agent. This is the one person you really need to trust in this process.

There are some unscrupulous lenders out there who only want their commission or points from a loan and couldn’t care less if you are getting the best loan product. There are some lending tactics that are outright fraud.

Beware of the following illegal lending practices and predatory lending tactics:
Flipping the frequent making of new loans to refinance existing loans
Packing selling of additional products without the borrower’s informed consent
Charging of excessive fees
Bait and Switch offering of very attractive terms which are not available and then pressuring the borrower into more expensive terms and hidden fees
Door-to-Door High Pressure Sales typically trying to sell home improvement contracts funded by home equity loans usually with less than desirable terms
Trust Selling salespersons who try to gain your trust based on some common background and then sell you something that might not be in your best interest
No Job! No Problem! encouraging home equity loans to those with no job or bad credit with the knowledge that the borrower will probably lose their home because they can’t make the payments
Pressuring for Immediate Sale insisting that a loan contract be signed immediately before the good deal is gone.

Prior to using the services of a mortgage broker or lender, make sure they are properly licensed by checking the California Department of Corporations web site (www.corp.ca.gov) and/or the California Department of Real Estate’s web site (www.dre.ca.gov).

Home Inspectors: The competency of this person is key in making sure you’re purchasing a structurally sound, safe home. A home inspector who misses details can end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run. Or worse, missed details could cause you or a family member harm because of bad wiring, cracked glass and other hazards.

Escrow Officer: The escrow officer is the referee in the home buying game. Just as with your favorite sport, an incompetent  or cheating  referee is a huge headache. If bad calls are made on the part of the escrow officer, it can cost you large amounts of money or kill the whole deal.

Tax Advisor: A tax advisor can be a great asset to you financially. Finding out that certain expenses are not tax deductible after-the-fact can put you in a real bind with the IRS. Ask your real estate agent, family members, friends or others you trust if they can recommend the services of a reputable tax advisor in your area.

Deciphering Your Home Loans Good Faith Estimate

By: G. M. Filisko

Knowing how to read your good-faith estimate can help you save money on your home loan.

When you’re shopping for a mortgage loan, it’s sometimes hard to understand the jargon lenders use in the good-faith estimate explaining the costs and fees you’ll pay when taking out a mortgage.

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender has three days to give you a good-faith estimate of the fees and interest rate you’ll pay, as well as other loan terms.

Here are five tips for using the new three-page form to your advantage.
When you apply for a mortgage, the lender has three days to give you a good-faith estimate of the fees and interest rate you’ll pay, as well as other loan terms. Here are five tips for using the new three-page form to your advantage.

1. Know which fees can increase and by how much
In the past, lenders provided an estimate of the costs involved in getting your home loan, and if those costs rose by the time you closed on your home, tough luck. The good-faith estimate shows some fees the lender can’t change, like the loan origination fee that you pay to get a certain interest rate (commonly called points) and transfer costs.

The form also lists the charges that can increase by up to 10%, like some title company fees and local government recording fees. The lender must cover any increase over that amount.

Finally, the good-faith estimate lists the fees that can change without any limit, such as daily interest charges.

2. Look for answers to basic loan questions
In the summary section, lenders explain your loan’s terms in simple language. Can your interest rate rise If so, a lender must spell out how much the rate can jump and what your new payment would be if it does. Can the amount you owe the lender increase, even if you make your payments on time If it can, a lender must show you the potential increase.

3. Evaluate the “tradeoffs” on a loan
In the new “tradeoff table,” you can ask lenders to provide details on the tradeoffs you can make in choosing among home loans. If you’d like the same loan with lower settlement charges, how will the interest rate change If you’d like a lower interest rate, how much will your settlement charges increase

4. Compare apples to apples with the shopping chart
Included on the good-faith estimate is space for you to list all the terms and fees for four different loans, so you can make side-by-side comparisons.

5. Know what’s missing from the good-faith estimate
The new form lacks some key information, such as how much you’ll reimburse the sellers for property taxes they’ve already paid on the home. It also doesn’t tell you the amount of money you’ll have to bring to the closing table. Some lenders have created supplemental forms providing that information. If yours hasn’t, ask for it.

More from HouseLogic
More on the new good-faith estimate form (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/homebuyer-tax-credit-what-you-need-know/)

Other web resources
The new U.S. Housing and Urban Development good-faith estimate (http://www.hud.gov/content/releases/goodfaithestimate.pdf)

More on shopping for a loan (http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/ramh/res/Settlement-Booklet-January-6-REVISED.pdf)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has encountered many settlement statements that bore no resemblance to the lender’s good-faith estimate. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Make Your House FHA-Loan Friendly

By: Terry Sheridan

Know the basics of FHA loan rules and you stand a better chance of selling your house or condo.

Make your house FHA-friendly, and it will appeal to more homebuyers. Why Because the Federal Housing Administration is insuring the mortgage loans used by about 30% of today’s homebuyers.

If your house passes the FHA rules, it will appeal to buyers who plan to use an FHA-insured mortgage. If your house doesn’t qualify for an FHA loan, you’re cutting out 30% of potential buyers.

FHA is especially important to first-time homebuyers and those with small downpayments because it allows borrowers with good credit to make a downpayment as low as 3.5% of the purchase price.

Here’s how to make your home appealing to FHA borrowers:

Know the FHA loan limits in your area
Start by checking to see if your home’s listed price falls within FHA lending limits for your area (https://entp.hud.gov/idapp/html/hicostlook.cfm). FHA mortgage limits vary a lot. In San Francisco, FHA will insure a mortgage of up to $729,750 on a single-family home. In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the loan limit is $271,050.

Home inspections
Most buyers will ask for a home inspection, whether or not they’re using an FHA loan to buy the home. You must give FHA buyers a form (

http://www.ncradon.org/docs/foryourprotection.pdf) explaining what home inspections can reveal, and how inspections differ from appraisals.

How much do you have to repair
If the home inspection reveals problems, FHA will not give the okay to buy the home until you repair serious defects (

http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/files/05-48ml.pdf) like roof leaks, mold, structural damage, and pre-1978 interior or exterior paint that could contain lead.

Dealing with FHA appraisers
Help the lender’s appraiser by providing easy access to attics and crawl spaces, which usually must be photographed, says appraiser Frank Gregoire in St. Petersburg, Fla. Your buyer can hire his own appraiser to evaluate your home. But FHA only relies on reports by its approved appraisers. If the two appraisals conflict, the FHA appraisal preempts the buyer’s appraisal.

Help with FHA closing costs
Most FHA buyers need help with closing costs, says mortgage banker Susan Herman of First Equity Mortgage Bankers in Miami. So a prime way to make your house FHA-friendly is to help with those costs. FHA currently allows sellers to pay up to 6% of the sales price to help cover closing costs, but is considering lowering that limit to 3% in the fall of 2010.

If you’re selling a condo
FHA also has to approve your condo before a buyer uses an FHA loan to purchase your unit. Be sure your condo is FHA-approved for mortgages (

https://entp.hud.gov/idapp/html/condlook.cfm). The list has been updated, so if your association was approved a year ago, check again to make sure it’s still on the approved list.

FHA generally won’t insure loans in condo associations if more than 15% percent of the unit owners are late on association fees. Ask your property manager or board of directors for your association’s delinquency rate.

Other rules cover insurances, cash reserves and how many units are owner-occupied (

http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/files/09-46aml.pdf) and the types of condos that can be purchased with an FHA mortgage

(http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/files/09-46bml.pdf).

FHA sometimes issues waivers for healthy condominiums that don’t meet the regular rules. If your condo isn’t FHA-approved, it doesn’t necessarily have to meet every single rule to gain approval. Ask your REALTOR® to consult with local lenders about getting an FHA waiver for your condo if it doesn’t meet all the requirements.
FHA also limits its mortgage exposure in homeowners associations. With some limited exceptions, no more than 50% of the units in an association can be FHA-insured (

http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/files/09-46aml.pdf).

FHA loans for planned-unit developments
FHA no longer requires lenders to review budgets and legal documents for planned-unit developments.

More from HouseLogic
Show Your Support for FHA (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/show-your-support-for-FHA/)

Other web resources
Why Ask for an FHA Loan (http://www.hud.gov/fha/choosefha.cfm)
Find a State Program to Help Homebuyers Afford Your Home (http://www.hud.gov/buying/localbuying.cfm)

Terry Sheridan is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered real estate for 20 years, and has owned and sold three homes.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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