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Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

By: G. M. Filisko

By knowing how much mortgage you can handle, you can ensure that home ownership will fit in your budget.

Homeownership should make you feel safe and secure, and that includes financially. Be sure you can afford your home by calculating how much of a mortgage you can safely fit into your budget.

Instead of just taking out the biggest mortgage a lender qualifies you to borrow, consider how much you want to pay each month for housing based on your financial and personal goals.

Think ahead to major life events and consider how those might influence your budget. Do you want to return to school for an advanced degree Will a new child add day care to your monthly expenses Does a relative plan to eventually live with you and contribute to the mortgage

Still not sure how much you can afford You can use the same formulas that most lenders use, or try another of these traditional methods for estimating the amount of mortgage you can afford.

1. The general rule of mortgage affordability
As a rule of thumb, you can typically afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. If you earn $100,000, you can typically afford a home between $200,000 and $300,000.

To understand how that rule applies to your particular financial situation, prepare a family budget and list all the costs of homeownership, like property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care costs.

2. Factor in your downpayment
How much money do you have for a downpayment The higher your downpayment, the lower your monthly payments will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home’s cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment.
The lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment.

3. Consider your overall debt
Lenders generally follow the 28/41 rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes, and insurance shouldn’t total more than 28% of your gross annual income. Your overall monthly payments for your mortgage plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn’t exceed 41% of your gross annual income.

Here’s how that works. If your gross annual income is $100,000, multiply by 28% and then divide by 12 months to arrive at a monthly mortgage payment of $2,333 or less. Next, check the total of all your monthly bills including your potential mortgage and make sure they don’t top 41%, or $3,416 in our example.

4. Use your rent as a mortgage guide
The tax benefits of homeownership generally allow you to afford a mortgage payment-including taxes and insurance-of about one-third more than your current rent payment without changing your lifestyle. So you can multiply your current rent by 1.33 to arrive at a rough estimate of a mortgage payment.

Here’s an example. If you currently pay $1,500 per month in rent, you should be able to comfortably afford a $2,000 monthly mortgage payment after factoring in the tax benefits of homeownership.

However, if you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, consider what amount would be comfortable and use that for the calcuation instead.

Also consider whether or not you’ll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a “what if” tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.

More from HouseLogic
More on the mortgage interest deduction (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/mortgage-interest-deduction-vital-housing-market/)

More on the tax advantages of homeownership (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/tax-tips-homeowners-preparing-2009-returns/)

Other web resources
A worksheet on home affordability (http://www.ginniemae.gov/2_prequal/intro_questions.asp Section=YPTH)

Freddie Mac information on home affordability (http://www.freddiemac.com/corporate/buyown/english/preparing/right_for_you/afford.html)
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who’s owned her own home for more than 20 years. 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.

Common Closing Costs for Buyers

You ll likely be responsible for a variety of fees and expenses that you and the seller will have to pay at the time of closing. Your lender must provide a good-faith estimate of all settlement costs. The title company or other entity conducting the closing will tell you the required amount for:

Down payment
Loan origination
Points, or loan discount fees, which you pay to receive a lower interest rate
Home inspection
Appraisal
Credit report
Private mortgage insurance premium
Insurance escrow for homeowner s insurance, if being paid as part of the mortgage
Property tax escrow, if being paid as part of the mortgage. Lenders keep funds for taxes and insurance in escrow accounts as they are paid with the mortgage, then pay the insurance or taxes for you.
Deed recording
Title insurance policy premiums
Land survey
Notary fees
Prorations for your share of costs, such as utility bills and property taxes

A Note About Prorations: Because such costs are usually paid on either a monthly or yearly basis, you might have to pay a bill for services used by the sellers before they moved. Proration is a way for the sellers to pay you back or for you to pay them for bills they may have paid in advance. For example, the gas company usually sends a bill each month for the gas used during the previous month. But assume you buy the home on the 6th of the month. You would owe the gas company for only the days from the 6th to the end for the month. The seller would owe for the first five days. The bill would be prorated for the number of days in the month, and then each person would be responsible for the days of his or her ownership.

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

Two Things You Can t Get Away From TAXES & INSURANCE

Taxes
When you buy your house, you will be assessed a yearly property tax. Typically, this is calculated at about 1.5% of the purchase price of your home. It is important to figure this cost into your monthly expenses. On a $200,000 home, plan on paying about $3000 a year in property taxes.

There are several ways of paying your property taxes. You can pay them in one lump sum, make semi-annual payments or set up an impound account with your lender. An impound account allows you to pay your taxes in monthly installments. Many firsttime home buyers find this the most convenient thing to do  and may be required to do so by their lender.

Insurance
Just like your car, you ll need to carry insurance  typically referred to as homeowner s insurance  on your home. This protects your home and its contents from fire, theft and other types of damage. Depending on the area of California in which you live, you may also be required to carry flood insurance and earthquake insurance. And, many first time home buyers will need to budget for and purchase Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). PMI provides lenders with a financial guaranty against loss in the event that a borrower defaults. While this guaranty is good for lenders, it is also good for borrowers because it means that lenders are more willing to make loans to borrowers who may not otherwise be able to qualify for a home loan.

Insurance rates vary widely depending on the location and value of the property. When purchasing your insurance, review your insurance policy carefully and know what is covered and what is not. Typically, insurance on your home can be paid in a similar fashion as your property taxes. That is, yearly, quarterly or monthly through an impound account. Again, many first-time home buyers choose  or are required by their lender  to use an impound account for these costs.

7 Homeowner Tax Advantages

By: G. M. Filisko

When you’re evaluating how much home you can afford, make sure you factor in the tax advantages of homeownership.

Owning your home not only allows you to build wealth through appreciation, but it can also reduce the amount of income tax you pay every year.

Here are seven tax benefits for homeowners.

1. Homebuyer tax credits
If you purchase your first home before April 30, 2010, you’re entitled to a tax credit of up to $8,000. If you currently own a home, but sell it to purchase another home before April 30, 2010, you’re eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $6,500.

2. Deductions for loan fees
Typically, you can deduct the “prepaid interest” you paid when you got your mortgage loan. That includes points, loan origination fees, and loan discount fees listed on your settlement statement, even if the seller paid those fees for you. Each time you refinance your home, you can deduct prepaid interest fees.

However, you must meet certain requirements to take the prepaid interest deductions when you purchase or refinance your home. Check with your accountant to be sure you’re following the rules.

3. Property tax deductions
In the year you purchase your home, you’re entitled to deduct the real estate taxes you paid at the closing table. You can continue to deduct the property taxes you pay each year.

4. The mortgage interest deduction
Every year, you can deduct the amount of interest and late charges you pay on your mortgage and home equity loans, though there are limitations. If you’re required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) because you made a downpayment of less than 20% on your home, you can also deduct those premiums as mortgage interest expenses.

5. Home office expenses
If you have a home office you use only for business, you may be eligible to deduct the prorated costs of your mortgage, insurance, and other expenses related to that space. The government scrutinizes home-office deductions closely. Be sure you’re entitled to the deductions before claiming them.

6. The costs of selling your home
In the year you sell your home, you can deduct the costs of selling it, including real estate commissions, title insurance, legal fees, advertising, administrative costs, and inspection fees. You can also deduct decorating or repair costs you incur in the 90 days before you sell your home.

7. The gain on your home
If you lived in your home for at least two of the previous five years before you sell it, the government lets you to take up to $250,000 of profit on the sale of your home tax free. That amount is doubled for married couples. This deduction isn’t available on rental or second homes.

The government also allows you to subtract from your home sale profit any amounts you spend on improvements, such as window replacement, siding, or a kitchen remodel. Those deductions are in addition to the tax credits you can receive in 2010 for making energy-saving upgrades. Money invested for routine maintenance and repairs doesn’t count.

This article includes general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws vary by jurisdiction.

More from HouseLogic
More on the mortgage interest deduction
(http://www.houselogic.com/articles/mortgage-interest-deduction-vital-housing-market/)
Claiming your homebuyer tax credit (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/claim-your-homebuyer-tax-credits/)

Tips to use when preparing your return (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/tax-tips-homeowners-preparing-2009-returns/)

Other web resources
More information on homeownership deductions (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/article-29693.html)

IRS information on the mortgage interest deduction (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p936.pdf)
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who’s enjoyed the tax advantages of homeownership for more than 20 years. 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.

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