Posted in Mortgage

Creative Ways To Keep Your Family Sane During The COVID-19 Crisis

Creative Ways To Keep Your Family Sane During The COVID-19 CrisisIt can be a tremendous challenge to suddenly be stuck at home during the COVID-19 crisis. For those who are in an area of the country where there is a “shelter in place” order, this can feel very much like house arrest. If there are children stuck at home as well, this could be enough to make the entire family go stir crazy.

It can be hard to come up with ways to have fun when there is a lot of fear and anxiety in the air; however, here are a few great ways that families can have fun, grow closer, and bond during a challenging time.

Take A Virtual Tour Of A Museum

There are a handful of museums and aquariums around the country that are offering people the opportunity to take a virtual tour of their exhibits. These museums and aquariums are feeling the sting of the pandemic as well. They have gone out of their way to allow people to take a look at the numerous educational exhibits they have to offer over the internet. This can be a great way for a family to take a trip to somewhere exciting, take a look at some awesome exhibits, and learn about something new.

Make Videos Together

One of the most popular apps today is called TikTok. This is a social media platform where people make creative, funny videos, edit them, and share them with their followers all in one place! These videos are usually only a few seconds long and are layered with music. Think about funny poses, creative dance routines, and more! 

Build A Puzzle Together

Sometimes, the greatest joys are in the simplest pleasures. There are countless puzzles out there and many of them have thousands of pieces. They will keep the entire family busy for days to come. Then, once the puzzle is done, it can be glued together and framed. This can serve as a tribute to the time when the family had to band together during a difficult time.

Get Creative

These are a few creative ideas that families can put to use during the pandemic. They will bring the family together through bonding experiences that will last forever.

Posted in Mortgage

Building An Emergency Fund During An Emergency

Building An Emergency Fund During An EmergencyBy now, it should be apparent that this COVID-19 (Corona-virus) pandemic is going to be here for several months. It is already causing the market to plummet and is disrupting jobs all over the country. Many people who work as hourly employees (or are independent contractors) are starting to suffer. As people’s budgets start to feel the squeeze, this is exactly the time that people should be relying on an emergency fund; however, for those who don’t have one, it is time to start saving.

How To Create An Emergency Fund

Even though cash assistance from the government might be coming soon, this is not going to be enough to get people through the crisis. To start building an emergency fund, it is important to take a look at the regular income first. Try to figure out how many shifts are going to cut and estimate what money is left (unless you are a salaried employee).

After this, take a look at other possible sources of credit. Know the limits on the card and figure out to what extent these cards can be drawn out. If there is an income tax refund coming, plan for this; however, remember that the government might be behind.

Finally, try to cut spending where possible. Remember that vacations should be postponed, given travel restrictions. Most restaurants are going to close, so try to shop at the grocery store instead. Finally, consider asking the bank to put a stop on mortgage payments. These are all great ways to save immediate money.

Save What Is Left

Finally, after figuring out all of the expenses, subtract this from the expected monthly income over the next few months. Whatever is left should be socked away into an emergency fund. It is critical to have this fund put away in case a repair is needed on the house or if someone gets laid off. 

Other Ideas To Consider

Finally, while this is not advisable, people might be able to cut retirement contributions to help with the emergency fund. It is better to save for the future when possible, but this can help people save money in a pinch, if needed. Take these tips to heart over the next few months and build an emergency fund.

Posted in Mortgage

COVID-19 Relief Programs For Homeowners

COVID-19 Relief Programs for HomeownersFederal housing agencies and government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak with multiple relief programs for homeowners experiencing hardship due to illness and job loss.

60-Days Forbearance on Home Mortgages Owned or Backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac

Many U.S. home loans are owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Homeowners can determine if your loan is connected with Fannie Mae here.here. Please check here to check if your mortgage is affiliated with Freddie Mac.

CARES Act Provide Relief for Eligible Homeowners

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provides two protections for homeowners:

  • Payment forbearance for homeowners impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. Forbearance periods up to 12 months may be approved based on individual hardship.
  • Foreclosure and other legal actions are stopped for 60-days. 

Forbearance may require a lump sum payment of deferred payments after the forbearance period or deferred payments may be added to the back of a mortgage, but fees may not be added to the loan balance.

Loan Modifications

Mortgage servicers may provide modification of loan terms to assist homeowners impacted by COVID-19. Modification terms can include:

  • Reduction of mortgage interest rate
  • Extension of the loan repayment term.
  • Capitalization of unpaid principal and/ or interest to principal balance; this means adding unpaid amounts to the mortgage balance.

Contact your mortgage servicing company as soon as you know you will miss a mortgage payment or payments Relief programs usually require documentation verifying financial hardship. Mortgage servicers are experiencing high volumes of calls; you may need to call multiple times for assistance.

Mortgage Assistance for Non-Government Owned Loans

If you have a conventional mortgage that is not owned or backed by a government agency, please call your loan servicing company and ask about mortgage relief provisions. If your loan is covered by private mortgage insurance (PMI), ask your loan servicer if that company can help with relief options.

State and local agencies may offer housing relief options to homeowners and renters. Certified credit counseling agencies can also help with determining budgeting needs and local resources in addition to working with unsecured creditors toward reducing payments on credit card debt and personal loans.

Posted in Mortgage

The Department Of Veterans Affairs Is Allowing Drive-by Appraisals Because Of COVID-19

The Department Of Veterans Affairs Is Allowing Drive-by Appraisals Because Of COVID-19The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has impacted every industry across the country. Many people are being asked to shelter in place and everyone has been asked to practice social distancing to try to curtail the spread of this deadly virus.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has asked both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to make some changes in the manner they conduct property appraisals and employment verification.

Shortly after the move by the FHFA, The Veteran’s Administration (VA) and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) followed suit by relaxing property appraisal requirements. Due to the unusual circumstances that are facing the country right now, these changes are necessary to keep people safe while minimizing the blow to the economy.

Exterior Inspection Appraisals

One of the critical parts that must happen during the purchase of a home is something called an appraisal. Typically, these appraisals involve an on-site inspection of the home, taking a close look at everything inside to try to make sure the price is as accurate as possible. Now, appraisals can be done on something that is called an exterior-only or “drive-by” basis. This means that appraisers might drive by to confirm that the property exists, but will not physically inspect it. 

In some cases, they might just use the computer, find comparable properties, and appraise it in this manner. This is normally referred to as a “desktop appraisal”. This is important for everyone, including those who are Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loan borrowers.

Why Appraisals Are Needed Now

Even though fewer people may be currently looking at houses, there are other reasons why an appraisal might be necessary. Many people are looking for sources of emergency funding, particularly as hours get cut and people get laid off.

There are still bills that need to be paid, including utility bills and mortgages. Therefore, many people are looking at taking out a second mortgage as a source of immediate liquidity. Sometimes, an appraisal might be needed to make this happen.

Other Measures Are Being Taken By The FHFA

In addition to the notice about drive-by appraisals, the FHFA has also suspended any foreclosures and evictions in many cases. People who are facing hardship due to the pandemic can also apply for forbearance, which can take a lot of stress off of the shoulders of individuals and families.

If you have questions about your mortgage and financing options available to you during the Coronavirus pandemic, contact your trusted mortgage professional. They will be best able to analyze your personal situation and provide the most accurate feedback.

Posted in Mortgage

How To Be Sure Your Home Is Sanitized During Quarantine

How To Be Sure Your Home Is Sanitized During QuarantineDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for everyone to make sure they act in the best interests of their local communities and the world as a whole. This means that everyone should follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), practice social distancing measures, and obey all orders to shelter in place. When families are stuck at home, it is important to ensure the house is sanitized. This will prevent the spread of this dangerous virus. There are a few measures that everyone should take to make sure their home is as clean as possible.

Clean High-Touch Surfaces Frequently

Any surfaces that multiple people are going to touch on a regular basis need to be cleaned every day. Some of the most common surfaces people need to clean daily include counters, doorknobs, bathroom appliances, faucets, toilets, phones, tablets, end tables, tabletops, and keyboards. Try to use a household spray followed by a wipe.

Read the labels of these cleaning items to make sure they are being used properly. During the cleaning process, try to wear gloves and make sure to dispose of them after they are used. Finally, if there are any surfaces that have bodily fluids on them, including blood, these need to be cleaned thoroughly as well.

Step Up Laundry Practices

All laundry needs to be cleaned as thoroughly as possible. If there are any clothes that have bodily fluids on them, including sweat after working out, these need to be laundered immediately. While handling laundry, try to wear disposable gloves. Try to keep these items as far away from the body as possible. Make sure to closely follow any and all directions on laundry detergent. Try to wash clothing at the warmest temperatures allowed on the clothing labels to ensure any pathogens are killed. Finally, wash hands with soap and water after handling any laundry.

Ask Questions 

Finally, anyone who has questions about how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic needs to rely on resources from credible sources such as the CDC and WHO. Furthermore, don’t hesitate to call a local doctor and ask questions. It is important for everyone to watch out for one another during this trying time.

Posted in Mortgage

Staying Social While Distancing

Staying Social While DistancingFor many months, the COVID-19 (Corona-virus) pandemic appeared to be a problem that only existed in foreign lands. Now, this virus has arrived on the shores of the United States and has disrupted jobs, hospitals, and lives. People are being asked to practice social distancing measures to curtail the spread of the virus while some parts of the country are being asked to stay home entirely. The good news is that there are still ways for people to remain social while being safe. 

Get Outside Safely

One of the first tips that people need to remember is that they are still allowed to go outside. Even in states that are telling people to shelter in place, people are still allowed to go outside and get some fresh air. This is a great way for people to not only stay in shape but many other people are doing the same thing. Therefore, this is an opportunity for everyone to get some vitamin D, run into a few neighbors, and socialize (while practicing safe social distancing measures, of course!).

Get The Family Involved In The Cooking Process

Next, given that many restaurants are going to be closed during this crisis, take this opportunity to get the entire family involved in the cooking process. Take a few minutes and bake some cookies with the kids. Ask them for ideas on what to cook for dinner. This is a great opportunity for children to learn about something new, given that they are going to be home from school for a while.

Use Video Chat Applications

Finally, remember that there are still ways for people to stay in contact with one another through video chat apps. These include FaceTime and Skype. Even though that trip to visit the grandparents was canceled, this is still a great way to stay in touch. Furthermore, this can be a way for families to check in with each other and make sure that everyone is doing alright.

Stay Social During The Pandemic

In the end, it is going to be a challenging few months; however, with the right strategies, the country is going to come out stronger on the other side. Put these tips to use and stay social during the pandemic! 

Posted in Mortgage

Paying Rent And Mortgages With A Credit Card

Using a credit card for mortgage or rent

When people purchase a house, they usually set up their mortgage payments as a direct draft out of a checking account. The same is typically true of rent payments; however, many people have wondered if there was another way to pay rent or mortgage. After all, there are credit cards out there that have fantastic rewards. It would be great to take advantage of these rewards by placing rent and mortgage payments on a card.

Sadly, there is no way to pay rent or mortgage with a credit card without a fee. There are bank interchange fees that would lead to a surcharge for banks and landlords. This prevents them from readily accepting credit cards without a fee. What if there was a better way?

Possibilities For Credit Card Payments

It is rare to find an apartment complex that accepts a credit card. It is even harder to find a bank that does this. It is helpful to ask about the different ways to pay rents and mortgages when talking to banks and landlords. It can be helpful to do the math on any fees that are charged and compare them to rewards. For example, if a credit card gives five percent cash back on rotating categories, it might be beneficial to take advantage of this five percent back and pay a two percent fee to use the card. This would still net three percent in savings.

Using Third-Party Payment Options

There are also third-party service providers that will allow someone to pay nearly any bill online with a debit or credit card. This includes rent and mortgage payments. These third-party sites still charge fees. Sometimes, it is a flat rate. Other times, it is a percentage of the total.

When To Use Credit And Debit Cards

The most appropriate time to use a credit or debit card to pay this bill is when a minimum spending requirement is needed to trigger a significant bonus. For example, if a card requires someone to spend $5,000 to trigger a bonus, it is easier to reach this number by using the card to pay rent. Otherwise, it is better to calculate the fee versus and points and see which option makes the most sense.

Posted in Mortgage

Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Or Invest the Money?

Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Or Invest the MoneyTo understand what to do with a windfall or extra disposable income when it comes to paying down a mortgage or investing the money, we need to discuss and understand the concept of opportunity cost.

What Is Opportunity Cost?

The concept of opportunity cost takes into consideration the total financial impact of the use of funds when applied in different ways, to be able to compare the effectiveness of how it is best to use them. The opportunity cost considers the risks involved, the potential reward, as well as the tax implications of the choices.

Risk Versus Reward Evaluation

All investments have risks. When comparing the potential earnings from an investment against the savings of mortgage interest, only the investment side has any downside risk. If you pay down the mortgage, there is a 100% certainty that the loan will reduce and the interest paid will go down. You can calculate the saving on the interest and know the exact amount.

If you invest those same funds, there is always a risk that the investment money can be lost or the investment returns are lower than expected. Moneywise did a comparison of using money to lower a mortgage versus investing in the S&P 500 stock market index over 43 years from 1971 to 2013. For 26 of those 43 years (60% of the time), paying down the mortgage was a better financial move.

Tax Implications

The tax implications involve the impact of the mortgage interest deduction, and its effect on reducing federal income taxes, and the cost of paying capital gains tax on investment profits.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 reduced the possibility for many people of benefiting from an itemized mortgage interest deduction because the standard deduction increased. For comparative purposes, most Americans pay capital gains at the current rate of 15%.

Take the tax savings from the mortgage deduction, if you can use it, and compare this to the investment income, less the applicable capital gains taxes. Ask your tax accountant to do the calculation for you if you cannot do this yourself.

Summary

For some, paying down a mortgage is more beneficial than investing. Paying down a mortgage certainly has less risk. Be sure to consider paying down high-interest credit card bills first. That is always a wise idea because the interest rate charged on credit cards is so high.

Every person’s financial circumstances are somewhat different so there is no standard answer when comparing paying down a mortgage to investing the same amount of money. Each person needs to do this calculation of the opportunity costs, to be able to apply their extra funds in ways that are most beneficial for them.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted real estate professional to discuss current financing options.

Posted in Mortgage

The Long-Term Toll Of College Costs

The Long-Term Toll Of College CostsTaking out enormous student loans to get a college degree may be a terrible idea for some. The burden of paying off this debt can make it far more challenging to do other important things like buying a home.

Here are some common problems that come from taking out large student loans:

  • Not Worth It: The college degree may not help you land a high-paying job. Even high-paying jobs like being a dentist have extremely high educational costs as well. Aspiring dentists borrow, on average, over $500,000 to go to dental school and spend multiple decades paying it back.
  • Tuition Hyper-Inflation: Colleges and universities saw the easy money from student loans as a great reason to increase tuition. In many institutions, tuition increases, over the past 42 years, went out of control, especially for trade schools and private universities. College costs rose by 1,400% since 1978. That is five times more than the inflation rate over the same period.
  • OverBorrowing: The easy ability that students have in many cases to over-borrow for living expenses on top of college costs means that they take bigger loans than they need and wastefully spend the money.

In the olden days, they had a phrase for a person who sold themselves into a kind of work-slavery. They called these people “indentured servants.” By taking out student loan debt that may take decades to pay back, this is a form of indentured servitude, especially because it is difficult, if not impossible to get out of paying the student loans back. Even bankruptcy does not discharge student loan debt.

If your student loan goes into default, there is the possibility of a wage garnishment, which means up to 25% of your take-home pay will be deducted from your checks and used to pay off the student loan debt. This is like a modern version of being an indentured servant.

But You Need A College Degree To Succeed, Right?

For many, earning a college degree that teaches skills and knowledge, which help get a high-paying job, is a reasonable idea. However, not all degrees are equal in their influence over getting a job. Many degree certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on. Moreover, some do better than those who have degrees.

Conclusion

What do Bill Gates, Coco Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Rachel Ray, Mark Zuckerberg, Sean “Diddy” Combs, James Cameron, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Richard Branson, Simon Cowell, Larry Ellison, Ted Turner, and Wolfgang Puck all have in common? They all do NOT have a college degree and still became immensely successful. Many are billionaires, who simply started their businesses and did not have time to finish college, so they dropped out.

Before you saddle yourself with student debt for a huge portion of the rest of your life, think carefully about the ramifications. Then, if you must borrow, borrow as little as possible and make sure you get a degree that helps get a high-paying job.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to consult with your trusted real estate professional.

Posted in Mortgage

Most Renters Are Paying Far More Than Their Landlord’s Mortgage

Most Renters Are Paying Far More Than Their Landlord's MortgageIn the overwhelming majority of the 50 largest cities across the U.S., monthly rent is more than the mortgage payment for single-family homes. In several cases, much more. 

Global answering service and chat support company Moneypenny compiled data from Zillow on median rent and mortgage payments from July 2014-July 2019.

In order to calculate the monthly mortgage payments, Moneypenny took the median home sale prices during the same time period and in the same major cities and then used nationally-average mortgage terms: 30-year fixed rate at 4% with approximately 6% down. 

Once the two figures — median monthly rent and median monthly mortgage — were calculated for each city, they were compared side-by-side. The data may surprise you. 

From Less Than Half To More Than Triple

In just seven of the 50 cities analyzed, tenants pay less rent than the owner’s mortgage payment each month. In 28 of the cities — well over half, tenants are paying more than 150% of their home’s mortgage. The city with the highest rent-to-mortgage ratio, Miami, shows that renters pay more than 300% of their landlord’s monthly mortgage payment on average.

Rounding out the top five are New York (276%); Riverside, California (231%); Boston (230%); and San Diego (221%). At the opposite end of the spectrum is New Orleans, where tenants pay just 49% of their home’s mortgage each month, followed by Richmond, Virginia (57%), and Kansas City, Missouri (82%). 

An interesting data point is that the median monthly mortgage payment in Miami is $720, while in New Orleans it’s $2,857. 

Not-Necessarily-For-Profit

While it makes perfect sense that rent prices in hot real estate markets are higher, some may still be surprised by the disparity between rental amounts and monthly mortgage payments. However, it’s important to note that even in the cities with the biggest gap, landlords are not necessarily pocketing the excess and enjoying a nice profit. While it’s certainly possible that they may be, homeowners are more likely putting some of that money back into the house in the form of improvements and maintenance, as well as setting some of it aside for large emergency repairs. 

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted real estate professional.