Carol Snider and Laura Snider Cooperman's Blog
Thinking of buying a home in the near future? You're going to need a preapproval. This tells real estate agents that you're serious about the home-buying process, and it alerts sellers that you're a solid, low-risk candidate. Preapprovals aren't always easy to score, however. And if you're someone who's had a few credit issues in the past, you may need to improve your credit score before your dream of home-ownership becomes reality.
Here's a checklist of best practices for prepping your credit to gain a preapproval:
Check Your Credit Reports
Before you ever approach a lender for a home loan preapproval, make sure you know what's on your credit reports. You're entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three different reporting agencies:
Order credit reports for yourself and for anyone who will be a co-applicant on your home loan, and then scour your reports for inaccuracies.
File Immediate Disputes Over Inaccuracies
Any discrepancies you find should be reported immediately. It's an easy process of reporting the issue to the credit bureau and waiting while they go back to the creditor to verify what you've claimed. In most instances, the inaccuracy will be removed within a week or two, though you may have to produce receipts as proof of payment.
Contact Creditors to Offer Settlements
Make a list of old, unpaid debts that are valid and set aside the funds to pay them off, one by one. If you have cash-in-hand, call creditors and ask them to settle for a portion of the balance in cash. Some may be willing to work with you, others may not. But it never hurts to ask.
Pay Current Bills On Time
Stay current on existing accounts. Make sure everything is paid on time, from credit cards to car payments, to ensure you don't lose points on your overall score while you're working toward credit restoration.
Pay Down Your Debt-to-Income Ratio
Your debt-to-income ratio is an indicator of how responsibly you use your credit. The lower your ratio, the easier it will be to obtain a preapproval. Pay down big balances. The more credit you're able to free up, the more attractive you'll look to potential lenders. Prepping your credit to gain a preapproval is surprisingly easy, but it requires the funds necessary to pay off outstanding debts and to pay down current balances.
Start early if you suspect there are items on your credit report that require fixing, and be patient as things circle back around. Credit repair is not an overnight fix, but with steady progress, it won't be long until you have a preapproval for your new dream home.
There are a number of programs, government-sponsored and otherwise, that are designed to help aspiring homeowners find and get approved for a mortgage that works for them.
Among these are first-time homeowner loans insured by the Housing and Urban Development Department, mortgages and loans insured by the USDA designed to help people living in urban and rural areas, and VA loans, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In today’s post, I’m going to give you a basic rundown of VA loans, who is eligible for them, and how to apply for one. That way you’ll feel confident knowing you’re getting the best possible deal on your home mortgage.
What is a VA Loan?
VA loans can provide soon-to-be homeowners who have served their country with low-interest rates and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).
If you’re hoping to buy a home soon and don’t have at least a 20% down payment, you typically have to take out private mortgage insurance. This means paying an extra insurance bill on top of your monthly mortgage payments. The downside of PMI is that it never turns into equity that you can then use when you decide to move again or sell your home.
Loans that are guaranteed by the VA don’t require PMI because the bank knows your loan is a safer investment than if it wasn’t guaranteed
VA loans may also help you secure a lower interest rate, or give you some negotiating power when it comes to discussing your interest rate.
Finally, VA loans set limits on the number of closing costs you can pay in your mortgage. And, if you’ve ever bought a home before, you’ll know how quickly closing costs can add up.
Who is eligible?
There are some common misconceptions about who can apply for a VA loan? So, we’ll cover all the bases of eligibility.
If you meet one of the following criteria, you may be eligible for a VA loan:
You’ve served 90 consecutive days during wartime
You’ve served 181 days during peacetime
You’ve served six or more years in the Reserves or National Guard
Your spouse died due to their work in the military
There are some restrictions to these eligibilities. For example, your chosen lender may still have credit score minimums.
Applying for a VA Loan
There are two main steps for applying for a VA Loan. First, you’ll have to ensure your eligibility. You can do this by checking the VA’s official website. Be sure to call them with any questions you may have.
Next, you’ll need a certificate of eligibility. The easiest way to acquire one is through your chosen lender. If you haven’t chosen a lender, you can also apply online through the eBenefits portal, or by mailing in a paper application.
Once you have a certificate, you can apply for your mortgage and you’ll be on your way to buying a home.
Property buyers today may think of a credit union as an alternative form of lending and ultimately meant for people who don't fit the stereotypical borrower. But this assumption may a little unfair once you learn the facts. Credit unions present several unique opportunities that you simply won't find anywhere else. We'll give you both the good and bad, so you can make a better decision.
A Non-Profit Oasis
As a non-profit institution, credit unions tend to have better rates than traditional banks. Plus, they're a little more personal than a regular bank in that they're investing in a single community as opposed to the whole country. So while you may not get the level of sophistication you would from a well-known bank, you will get the kind of personalized service that's hard to find today.
Before you finance a property, you first need to qualify for your credit union. This essentially means proving you're connected to the credit union somehow. Often, it's based on where you live, but you may be able to join based on anything from your employer to your church to your family members. Before you dismiss your eligibility, talk to a credit union officer to see if there's a connection.
Once you qualify for the institution, you'll need to become an official member. To do this, credit unions typically have its customers purchase shares in the organization. (These fees are generally affordable and they're the key to securing your membership.
The practical advantages of a credit union mortgage are the flexible terms and requirements as well as the reasonable fees and rates. Plus, the credit union staff tend to take into account the relationship you've built with them. So while a national bank will encourage you to apply for a mortgage through the company, the fees may not change significantly from those of a stranger — regardless of your track record with the bank.
Why Skip the Credit Union
There are a few reasons not to finance with a credit union. For one, a credit union isn't going to have as many products as a bank would, which could inevitably cause you to miss out on a worthwhile opportunity. It's also likely to be a more traditional style of banking, meaning you may not have options for online banking. And as with a regular bank, a credit union may change leadership, which can, in turn, change the terms of your mortgage for the worse.
Regardless of where you finance, it's probably worth discussing your options with a credit union. As you shop around, you'll get a better sense of which products and terms are right for you.
If you’re a first-time homebuyer, odds are you’ve thrown the words “prequalified” and “preapproved” interchangeably. However, when it comes to home loans, there are some very important differences between the two.
For buyers hoping to purchase a home with a few missteps and misunderstandings as possible, it’s vital to understand the procedures involved in acquiring financing for a home.
Today, we’ll break down these two real estate jargon terms so that you can go into the mortgage approval process armed with the knowledge to help you succeed in securing a home loan.
Let’s start with the easy part--mortgage prequalification. Getting prequalified helps borrowers find out what kind and what size mortgage they can likely secure financing for. It also helps lenders establish a relationship with potential customers, which is why you will often see so many ads for mortgage prequalification around the web.
Prequalification is a relatively simple process. You’ll be asked to provide an overview of your finances, which your lender will plug into a formula and then report back to you whether or not you’re likely to get approved based on your current circumstances.
The lender will ask you for general information about your income, assets, debt, and credit. You won’t need to provide exact documents for these things at this phase in the process, since you have not yet technically applied for a mortgage.
Prequalification exists to give you a broad picture of what you can expect. You can use this information to plan for the future, or you can seek out other lenders for a second opinion. But, before you start shopping for homes, you’ll want to make sure you’re preapproved, not prequalified.
After you’ve prequalified, you can start thinking about preapproval. If you’re serious about buying a home in the near future, getting preapproved will simplify your buying process. It will also make sellers more likely to take you seriously, since you already have your financing partially secured.
Mortgage preapproval requires you to provide the lender with income documentation. They will also perform a credit inquiry to receive your FICO score.
Mortgage applications and credit scores
Before we talk about the rest of the preapproval process, we need to address one common issue that buyers face when applying for a mortgage. There are two types of credit inquiries that lenders can perform to view your credit history--hard inquiries and soft inquiries.
A soft inquiry won’t affect your credit score. But a hard inquiry can lower your score by a few points for a period of 1 to 2 months. So, when getting preapproved, you should expect your credit score to drop temporarily.
Once you’re preapproved for a mortgage, you can safely begin looking at homes. If you decide to make an offer on a home and your offer is accepted, your preapproval will make it easier to move forward in closing on the home.
Once the lender checks off on the house you’re making an offer on, they will send you a loan commitment letter, enabling you to move forward with closing on the home.
The process of applying for a mortgage is tedious and time-consuming; it requires you to answer personal questions about your finances. To ascertain your credibility for a mortgage, lenders structured the application process in such a way that allows them to get as much information about borrowers either directly or indirectly.
Before you decide to apply for a mortgage; it's best you familiarize yourself with some of the possible questions the lender would ask about your finances. Because it involves a considerable amount of money, you should be prepared to answer questions about disparities in your income, why you defaulted in making any accrued payments and questions about your credit history.
Below are some of the possible questions your lender would ask relating to your finances.
How long have you earned your present income?
Lenders want to ascertain if you have earned your present pay for over two years. If you just got promoted or got a salary raise recently, this is good. However, what most lenders are looking out for is a consistent income amount for the last year. If they are not sure of your income, they would take a look at your W-2s for previous years and your pay stub for the present year. Before you go ahead to make an offer for a house, ensure it's an amount your current income will support.
How often you get paid?
A lender wants to ascertain how much income you earn, how your pay is derived, and the steadiness of your salary or irregularity of income. If you receive a steady means of income, your annual salary would determine how much mortgage you get – if your income varies, you might be required to provide details.
The disparities in your income
If your income keeps changing each year either positively or negatively, come prepared to explain the reason behind the fluctuation. If your revenue decreased from the previous year, there is every possibility the underwriter would select the worst period in the last two years to determine how much you get on a mortgage. However, if your income increased in the previous year, the underwriter would take the average of the last two years to determine your mortgage value. If your income rises yearly either due to promotion or a new position, get someone from your human resource department to write a letter to that effect.
If you are new at your job
Being new at a job doesn't affect your application for getting a mortgage – as long as you are receiving either a salary or a full-time hourly rate. Some lenders even grant loans to individuals who haven't gotten their first paycheck if they have a fully executed employment contract.
If you earn commissions
If you are a salesperson who earns a commission, you would need to provide two full years of tax returns to determine non-reimbursed business expenses you wrote off.
Before applying for a mortgage, ensure you take a second look at all your finances and identified anything that could act as a deterrent so that your application has the best chance of being approved.