Increase Your Credit Score to Decrease Your Mortgage Rate

Everyone knows that their credit score will affect the mortgage they qualify for and the interest rate they receive. The details of how exactly those numbers are arrived at, however, are a bit hazy for the average prospective homeowner.

This confusion is due to a number of reasons. Chief among them is the fact that your average person isn’t well-versed in credit terminology or the variables that go into determining their credit scores.

In this article, I’m going to break down credit scores and credit bureaus, then discuss how each of them affects the mortgage rate you could receive. Then, we’ll talk about some ways you can boost your score to qualify for a better rate.

Anatomy of a credit score

Credit scores are determined by five main variables. In order of importance, they are:

  • 35%: your payment history on loans, bills, credit cards, etc.

  • 30%: your total debt amount for all of your accounts

  • 15%: length of your credit history (how long you’ve had open accounts for loans, credit cards, etc.)

  • 10%: types of credit you have used (auto loan, student loan, credit card… diversity of loans matters)

  • 10%: recent credit inquiries (such as taking out new loans or opening new credit cards)

To have a “good” (over 700) or “excellent” (over 750) credit score, you’ll need to focus on each of these factors. For most people, paying their bills on time over a long enough timeline is enough to get them into the excellent range.

But things happen in life. People forget to pay an important bill, they have financial emergencies, or they have to take out a loan for an unforeseeable expense.

The credit bureaus

So, who are the people that determine your credit score?

There are three main credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Lenders will look at reports from all three bureaus to determine your rate. Due to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, consumers are able to receive a free copy of their credit report from each bureau once per year.

Since then, companies like Credit Karma have made credit reports even more accessible. Users are able to check in on their credit as often as they want free of charge.

Since much of your credit score is out of your hands, at least in the short-term, what can you do to help boost your score over the next few months to increase your chances of getting a good interest rate on your loan? Two things.

Credit and mortgages

So, just how much of an impact does your credit score have on your mortgage rate? Having an excellent score can give you a full percentage point lower on your monthly interest rate.

One percent doesn’t seem like much, but over the period of a 30-year loan that can amount to tens of thousands of dollars that you could have saved if you had a better credit score. As you can imagine, having an extra $2,000 per year can be quite helpful to a new homeowner.

So, what can you do to boost your score?

Make corrections

Since you have access to free credit reports be sure to go through your detailed report a few months before you plan to apply for a mortgage. Report any harmful errors to help you increase your score.

Don’t apply for new credit

The period from now until you apply for a mortgage is an important one. If you make new credit inquiries (i.e., open up new credit cards, take out new loans, etc.), your score will temporarily decrease. Wait until after you sign on your mortgage to take out other loans.

How To Keep Your Finances In Check To Prepare For Buying A Home

There’s so much to consider when to comes to buying a new home. The first issue is that of your finances. You need to make sure that you’re preparing financially for the home search, and not just making your list of “wants” for a new home. It’s an exciting time when you’re purchasing your first home, but don’t let the excitement overtake your responsibility. Here’s some tips to keep you on the financial straight and narrow path when preparing to buy a home:

Be Mindful Of Your Credit Score

There’s many factors that can affect your credit score. Applying for new credit cards is one of those factors. Your credit score will drop a few points every time you have a new credit inquiry or open a new account. If you do get approved for new credit, lenders may have concerns that you’ll spend up maxing out your new approved credit limit on that account and possibly default on your loan.

Closing credit accounts is another factor that greatly affects your credit score. You may think that closing unused accounts is a good idea to help get yourself financially ready for becoming a homeowner. This isn’t true. Closing accounts lowers your amount of overall available credit. This means that your debt-to-credit ratio is larger. This lowers your overall credit score. You can certainly make these smart financial changes after you close on your new home.

Keep Records

When you move your money around, make sure you have records of it. Your lender will want to know about any unusual deposits and withdrawals. You’ll need to prove where your money comes from. All of the cash that you’ll be using for your home purchase should be in one account before you apply for a mortgage.

Keep Up With Your Bills

Don’t increase your debt. This will have an affect on the very important debt-to-income ratio which is one of the most vital aspects of loan approval. Also, be sure that you don’t skip your payments on bills. Your history of payments is incredibly important as well. Be sure that you continue to make full, on-time payments on all of your bills.

Keep Your Job

Even though a new job could mean a raise, or a better situation for you and your family, it could delay you in getting a mortgage. You’ll need to have your employment verified along with pay stubs to prove your source of income. Lenders like to see a longer employment history.

Keep Saving

The biggest up front costs in buying a home is that of closing costs and the down payment. Those must be paid at the time of closing. Lenders may even verify that your savings is on hand. Keep saving steadily and be sure to keep your savings in place.

3 Key Benefits of an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) offers a home loan with an interest rate that may move up or down. Therefore, with an ARM, your mortgage payments may rise or fall depending on a variety of market factors.

For many homebuyers, an ARM remains a viable home financing option for a number of reasons, including:

1. Lower Interest Rate at the Beginning of Your Mortgage

An ARM enables you to purchase a home that may exceed your price range. As such, it frequently represents an ideal option for a young professional who expects his or her income to rise over the next few years.

With an ARM, you are able to lock in an interest rate for the first few years of your mortgage. For instance, with a 5/1 ARM, your interest rate will remain in place for the initial five years of your home loan. This means that your mortgage payments will remain the same for five years, then rise or fall based on market conditions.

Ultimately, an ARM may help you secure your dream home. In fact, an ARM often allows homebuyers to pay a lower interest rate at the beginning of a mortgage than the interest rate associated with many traditional fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) options.

2. Extra Savings for Home Improvements

If you choose an ARM with a below-average interest rate, you may be able to save extra money that you can use to improve your home.

For example, if you want to overhaul your residence’s attic or basement or add an outdoor swimming pool, an ARM may help you do just that. Because you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for the first few years of your home loan, you can budget accordingly and invest in home improvements that may help you boost the value of your home.

3. Affordable Short-Term Financing

If you intend to live in a home for only a few years, an ARM may be preferable compared to an FRM.

In many instances, an ARM will feature a lower interest rate than an FRM. As a result, if you take advantage of an ARM, you may be able to secure a great house at an affordable price. Plus, if you sell your home before your initial interest rate expires, you can avoid the risk that your interest rate – and monthly mortgage costs – may rise.

Homebuyers should evaluate both ARM and FRM options. By doing so, a homebuyer can assess his or her home loan options and make an informed decision.

If you ever have ARM or FRM questions, banks and credit unions are happy to respond to your queries. These lenders will enable you to evaluate your financing needs so you can acquire your dream house.

Furthermore, consulting with your real estate agent may deliver immediate and long-lasting benefits. Your real estate agent can offer home loan recommendations and put you in touch with local lenders.

Dedicate the necessary time and resources to assess your home financing options, and you can move one step closer to securing your ideal house.

Mortgage Terminology 101

Whether you’re a first time homebuyer or a seasoned homeowner, the terminology of mortgages can be confusing. Since buying a home is such a huge financial decision, you’re also going to want to make sure you understand every step of the process and all of the conditions and fees along the way.

In this article, we’re going to explain some of the common terms you might come across when applying for a home loan, be it online or over the phone. By learning the basic meaning of these terms you’ll feel more confident and prepared going into the application process.

We’ll cover the acronyms, like APRs and ARMs, and the scary sounding terms like “amortization” so that you know everything you need to about the terminology of home loans.

  • ARM and FRM, or adjustable rate vs fixed rate mortgages. Lenders make their money by charging you interest on your home loan that you pay back over the length of your loan period. Adjustable rate mortgages or ARMs are loans that have interest rates which change over the lifespan of your loan. You may start off at a low, “introductory rate” and later start paying higher amounts depending on the predetermined rate index. Fixed rate mortgages, on the other hand, remain at the same rate throughout the life of the loan. However, refinancing on your loan allows you to receive a different interest rate later down the road.

  • Amortization. It sounds like a medieval torture technique, but in reality amortization is the process of making your life easier by setting up a fixed repayment schedule. This schedule includes both the interest and the principal loan balance, allowing you to understand how long and how much money will go toward repaying your mortgage.

  • Equity. Simply state, your equity is the the amount of the home you have paid off. In a sense, it’s the amount of the home that you really own. Your equity increases as you make payments, and having equity can help you buy a new home, or see a return on investment with your current home if the home increases in value.

  • Assumption and assumability. It isn’t the title of a Jane Austen novel. It’s all about the process of a mortgage changing hands. An assumable mortgage can be transferred to a new buyer, and assumption is the actual transfer of the loan. Assuming a loan can be financially beneficial if the home as increased in value since the mortgage was created.

  • Escrow. There are a lot of legal implications that come along with buying a home. An escrow is designed to make sure the loan process runs smoothly. It acts as a holding tank for your documents, payments, as well as property taxes and insurance. An escrow performs an important function in the home buying process, and, as a result, charges you a percentage of the home for its services.

  • Origination fee. Basically a fancy way of saying “processing fee,” the origination covers the cost of processing your mortgage application. It’s one of the many “closing costs” you’ll encounter when buying a home and accounts for all of the legwork your loan officer does to make your mortgage a reality–running credit reports, reviewing income history, and so on.  

How to Use Gift Money For a Down Payment

If you are looking to buy a home you may be wondering how you will be able to come up with the down payment. One way that many buyers come up with down payment money is from gifts.  If you are planning on using gift money to help buy a home there are some guidelines you will need to follow.

Here are some simple rules:

1. Get a Gift Letter

If you are getting gift money to help you buy a house you will need a gift letter. The letter has a few requirements:

  • Have the letter hand-signed by you and the gift-giver
  • State the relationship between the buyer and the gift-giver.
  • State the amount of the gift.
  • State the address of the home being purchased.
  • A statement that the money is a gift and not a loan that must be paid back.
  • A statement that says: “Will wire the gift directly to escrow at time of closing.”

2. Document a paper trail

Mortgage underwriters want proof of where the money came from and where it went. Get copies of transactions showing the withdrawals and deposits. You will also need to make sure that the transaction is for the exact amount of the gift.

Following these simple guidelines will get you to the closing table hassle free.