Mortgage Blog





It’s the No. 1 reason that mortgage applicants nationwide get rejected: They’re carrying too much debt relative to their monthly incomes. It’s especially a deal-killer for millennials early in their careers who have to stretch every month to pay the rent and other bills.

But here’s some good news: The country’s largest source of mortgage money, Fannie Mae, soon plans to ease its debt-to-income (DTI) requirements, potentially opening the door to home-purchase mortgages for large numbers of new buyers. Fannie will be raising its DTI ceiling from the current 45 percent to 50 percent as of July 29.

DTI is essentially a ratio that compares your gross monthly income with your monthly payment on all debt accounts — credit cards, auto loans, student loans, etc., plus the projected payments on the new mortgage you are seeking. If you’ve got $7,000 in household monthly income and $3,000 in monthly debt payments, your DTI is 43 percent. If you’ve got the same income but $4,000 in debt payments, your DTI is 57 percent.

In the mortgage arena, the lower your DTI ratio, the better. The federal “qualified mortgage” rule sets the safe maximum at 43 percent, though Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration all have exemptions allowing them to buy or insure loans with higher ratios.

Studies by the Federal Reserve and FICO, the credit-scoring company, have documented that high DTIs doom more mortgage applications — and are viewed more critically by lenders — than any other factor. And for good reason: If you are loaded down with monthly debts, you’re at a higher statistical risk of falling behind on your mortgage payments.

Using data spanning nearly a decade and a half, Fannie’s researchers analyzed borrowers with DTIs in the 45 percent to 50 percent range and found that a significant number of them actually have good credit and are not prone to default.

“We feel very comfortable” with the increased DTI ceiling, Steve Holden, Fannie’s vice president of single family analytics, told me in an interview. “What we’re seeing is that a lot of borrowers have other factors” in their credit profiles that reduce the risks associated with slightly higher DTIs. They make significant down payments, for example, or they’ve got reserves of 12 months or more set aside to handle a financial emergency without missing a mortgage payment. As a result, analysts concluded that there’s some room to treat these applicants differently than before.


Lenders are welcoming the change. “It’s a big deal,” says Joe Petrowsky, owner of Right Trac Financial Group in the Hartford, Conn., area. “There are so many clients that end up above the 45 percent debt ratio threshold” who get rejected, he said. Now they’ve got a shot.

That doesn’t mean everybody with a DTI higher than 45 percent is going to get approved under the new policy. As an applicant, you’ll still need to be vetted by Fannie’s automated underwriting system, which examines the totality of your application, including the down payment, your income, credit scores, loan-to-value ratio and a slew of other indexes. The system weighs the good and the not-so-good in your application, and then decides whether you meet the company’s standards.

Fannie’s change may be most important to home buyers whose DTIs now limit them to just one option in the marketplace: an FHA loan. FHA traditionally has been generous when it comes to debt burdens: It allows DTIs well in excess of 50 percent for some borrowers.But FHA has a major drawback, in Petrowsky’s view. It requires most borrowers to keep paying mortgage insurance premiums for the life of the loan — long after any real risk of financial loss to FHA has disappeared. Fannie Mae, on the other hand, uses private mortgage insurance on its low-down-payment loans, the premiums on which are canceled automatically when the principal balance drops to 78 percent of the original property value. Freddie Mac, another major player in the market, also uses private mortgage insurance and sometimes will accept loan applications with DTIs above 45 percent.

The big downside with both Fannie and Freddie: Their credit-score requirements tend to be more restrictive than FHA’s. So if you have a FICO score in the mid-600s and high debt burdens, FHA may still be your main mortgage option, even with Fannie’s new, friendlier approach on DTI.


By Kenneth R. Harney, The Washington Post

Posted by Jill Kohler on June 10th, 2017 6:48 AM


Despite rising home prices, it’s still cheaper to own a home than to rent, reports CNBC. But the toughest part for those who want to buy is actually finding a home.

“One thing we added this month to our REALTORS® Confidence Index is analyzing data on REALTORS®’ comments,” said Danielle Hale, managing director of housing research at NAR. “The two biggest phrases in the comments this month were ‘low inventory’ and ‘multiple offers.’”Inventory levels in April dropped 9 percent compared to a year ago, and listings spent an average of 29 days on the market before selling—the shortest timeframe since the National Association of REALTORS® began tracking such data in 2011.

The least expensive homes are the toughest to find. Sales of homes below $100,000 dropped 17 percent in April year-over-year. Also, sales of homes under $250,000 dropped more than 6 percent. Yet a new Trulia report shows it’s cheaper to buy than rent in all of the nation’s 100 largest metro markets. So while consumers may have more financial incentive to buy now, they are hard-pressed to find an actual home to buy.

The report shows that buying a home is 33.1 percent cheaper than renting, but there are big differences across metros. For example, it’s more than 50 percent cheaper to buy than rent in Baton Rouge, La., if a consumer is purchasing with a 20 percent down payment and 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. On the other hand, in San Jose, Calif., buying is only 3.5 percent cheaper than renting.

Source: “It’s Cheaper to Buy a Home Than Rent, But Only If You Can Find One,” CNBC (May 24, 2017)


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Posted by Jill Kohler on May 29th, 2017 2:19 PM

4 Things first-time homebuyers need to know!

Buying a home is likely the biggest purchase you'll ever make, and it's not always an easy one.

Low inventory has pushed home prices up in cities throughout the country, giving sellers an advantage. Homes sell fast, bidding wars break out and offers above the asking price are common.

All of this means that buyers need to be on their game and have their finances in order before entering the market.

Here's what experts said first-time buyers need to know:

1. What you can actually afford
Before buyers start their house hunt, it's important they know how much they can afford to spend.
"Start with a plan," said Chantel Bonneau, a financial adviser at Northwestern Mutual. "Don't let your imagination take over and don't let what you see from friends' houses drive your budget."
Buyers should list out all of their monthly expenses. Don't forget to include items like groceries, transportation, and discretionary spending, like gym memberships and nights out.
Related: Should real estate be part of my retirement plan?

A general rule of thumb is that housing costs shouldn't take up more than 30% of your before-tax income.

But experts said that the percentage can vary, especially if you have other debts, like student loans or car payments.

Spending too much on monthly housing payments can leave homeowners house poor, and unable to afford other expenses -- like saving for retirement.
"A home is not a good excuse to be reckless with the rest of your financial situation," said Bonneau.

In competitive markets, it's common for buyers to get pre-approved for financing to get a leg up. But experts said that just because a bank approves you for a certain amount, it doesn't mean that's what you should spend. Stick to a price limit you're comfortable with.

2. You need a buffer
While it may be tempting to throw everything you've got at your offer to stay competitive, experts recommended having at least some money left over after you close on a home.

"If buying a house takes your checking account down to $1,000, it's probably too expensive," said Bonneau.
Experts advised having at least three to six months in savings the day you become homeowners. One reason is that you'll need emergency savings now more than ever.

"You don't want a flat tire or a deductible on a medical plan to throw you into financial turmoil," said Bonneau. "When you are a homeowner, you have a lot more things that can go wrong."

If a home purchase leaves you with no liquidity, it might be worth considering waiting to increase your savings or lowering your price point, advised Neil Krishnaswamy, a certified financial planner with Exencial Wealth Advisors.

3. The true cost of owning a home
The down payment tends to be the biggest financial hurdle to owning a home, but there are many other costs that pop up along the way: appraisal, origination, credit report and notary fees can all add up.

And the costs don't stop just when the keys are handed over. There's the move, new furniture and costs like lawn care and utility payments that former renters might not be used to paying.

"I don't know if anyone truly understands the total cost of owning a home," said Krishnaswamy. "Things just continually come up that you want to do, either buy something to fill a room or fix or improve something. Most people underestimate the cost."

4. Renovations are not as seen on TV

Buying a fixer-up might allow you to snag a bigger home or afford one in a more desirable area, but experts warned there are huge risks.
"Know that it is always more expensive than what you are imagining ... or what you see on TV," said Bonneau.
If a home needs renovations, factor that into the total cost of buying, recommended Krishnaswamy.
A private loan is an option to finance the project, but can be difficult to secure, especially after just taking out a mortgage.

If your home appraises for more than you purchased it for, you could have the option of tapping your equity to help pay for renovations.

There are some mortgage options that include renovation expenses. For instance, 203k FHA loan allows homebuyers to finance the sale and rehabilitation on a single mortgage.
Another option is asking a friend or family member for a loan.

"If you are trying to secure the best low-rate loan, look at those closest to you, but be mindful of your relationship status if you can't pay back the loan," said Krishnaswamy.
Send us your money questions for a chance to be featured in Broke no more! Ask us here.


CNNMoney (New York)First published May 11, 2017: 10:38 AM ET

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Posted by Jill Kohler on May 23rd, 2017 8:19 AM

College Grads Could Get Home Buying Help

Several states are offering homeownership assistance programs to recent college grads that may help them receive thousands of dollars toward the purchase of a home. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the "Graduate to Homeownership" program, which provides assistance to first-time buyers who have graduated in the past two years from an accredited college or university with an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctorate degree. Program participants may be eligible for up to $15,000 in down-payment assistance or a reduced-rate mortgage—but they have to agree to live in one of eight upstate New York communities in order to be eligible.


"Upstate colleges and universities have world-class programs that produce highly skilled graduates, who then leave for opportunities elsewhere," Cuomo said in a statement. "This program will incentivize recent graduates to put down roots."

Nearly half of states offer some form of housing assistance to student-loan borrowers, according to an analysis by Credible.com. Ohio offers Grants for Grads, which, like the New York program, offers down-payment assistance or lower-rate mortgages to people who have graduated from college in the past four years. Rhode Island's Ocean State Grad Grant program offers up to $7,000 in down-payment assistance to college graduates who earned a degree in the past three years.

Many of these state programs, however, require college grads to live in certain cities within the state, similar to New York's program. "It can certainly help people who are dealing with high student debt burdens," says David Reiss, research director for the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. "But programs like this have to deal with a fundamental issue: Do these communities have enough jobs for recent college graduates? Time will tell."

Source: “College Grads Can Get Home Grants – But There’s a Catch,” realtor.com® (May 5, 2017)

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Posted by Jill Kohler on May 9th, 2017 2:24 PM

Top tips for first time buyers

Tips for First Time Home Buyers

Hire a buyer’s agent to save you time and money

If you are considering buying a home, hire a buyer’s agent. An agent will save you time in finding a home that meets your needs. They can send you listings to view the details and photos before actually setting foot out the door. Also, agents often know of new listings that aren’t on the market yet. Besides, the seller is the one that will end up paying the commission, so take advantage of having some representation on your side, it doesn’t cost you anything.

Set up the financing for your new home purchase

Think about getting the loan before buying a home. It is smarter to go house shopping with a preapproval letter in your hand. When that day comes along that you want to make an offer, it will make your offer a lot stronger when the seller doesn’t have to worry so much as to you having to get financing. 
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Negotiate a successful deal that benefits both parties

Make sure your buyer’s agent gives you a list of comparable sales in the area. This will help you determine how much to bid on the home. The last 3 months sales are a good gauge for you to determine what to bid. Remember there are always more details to the offer than just the price. Examples are: how soon you want to move, having a pre-approval, seller’s assist, the items you want them to leave in the house. There are many details so be sure so sit back and think of the things that are important to you.

Make home inspections part of the plan

You may want to make your offer contingent on the home inspection. If you find out the home has foundation issues, you may decide against buying it. Having a home inspection will let you know exactly what you are getting into. Some people hate to spend another $300-$500 on the inspection, but it does give you the opportunity to address with the seller the problems of the home. Also, it lets you negotiate the items you would like them to address.

Remember buying a home is a step by step journey, there is no easy way there. There are many hurdles to go over to end up living in your dream home, but if you take them one step at a time, you’ll be well on your way to home ownership in no time.  

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Posted by Jill Kohler on October 19th, 2016 1:43 PM

FHA Loan

FHA loans are the new most popular mortgage loan. During the housing boom, subprime mortgages were all the rage. But as the housing market fell apart, lending standards tightened and the benefits of FHA mortgages are more prevalent.  FHA is a good alternative to for first time buyers to be able to qualify and become a homeowner even though they don't have a large amount of cash to put down.

You can borrow 96.5% of the value of the home. You only need to come up with a 3.50% downpayment. Minimum credit scores are typically lower, as well as you won’t be disqualified if you have a bankruptcy or foreclosure. With FHA loans, you can also refinance with them. You need to be current on your payments, but you may not need to get your home appraised. And typically there is a lot less paperwork involved. FHA currently allows sellers to contribute up to 6% towards the buyers closing costs. Lastly, FHA loans come with fixed rates. Many reasons homeowners got into trouble was their mortgages were adjustable rates and their monthly payments became very unstable.

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Posted by Jill Kohler on October 17th, 2016 4:26 PM

Credit Tips


One of the most important factors today in getting a Pennsylvania mortgage is knowing your credit score and history.  Your credit is going to determine a lot of things, whether you can get a mortgage, how much you'll have to put down and what your interest rate will be.

If you've had a blemish or two on your credit report (and who hasn't these days) here are a few tips toward improving your scores. 

  • Keep your bill payment history on time for 24 months.
  • Open several new accounts and use them by making the minimum payment for a number of months.
  • Open a secured credit card (Orchard Bank has a good one)
  • Don't keep running your credit report. Wait 6 months
  • Talk to a qualified professional about your situation
Posted by Jill Kohler on October 14th, 2016 4:08 PM

401k for home purchase
Many people consider this option since they don't have money set aside in their savings account. By withdrawing money from your 401k you will have to pay early withdraw fees as well as taxes on the money you take out. On the other hand, it may be worth it if you found the right house.

As a first time homebuyer you can often avoid the penalties, but you will have to pay taxes on the money. However, you can usually take the money out of your 401k without a penalty if you basically take out a loan on the money,( if your employer permits loans.)

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Also, unless you are putting at least 20% down on the home purchase, you will more than likely have pmi insurance. Since there isn’t going to be a huge difference in the monthly payment on the insurance itself, it may be in your better interest to consider not borrowing from the 401k unless you have enough to put the entire 20% down to avoid the insurance all together.

If you have an accountant I would suggest you sit down with them and see what this impact would have on each situation in relation to your taxes.  It is unique to every individual.

Posted by Jill Kohler on October 13th, 2016 11:05 AM
This is one of the most common questions we hear from potential home buyers and borrowers. The simple answer is a minimum of 3.5 to 5% in cash of the amount of the property you're planning on purchasing. This assumes decent credit (above 620 mid score) 2 years continuous employment, documented income (current paystubs, w-2's) with the total payment (including property/school taxes and insurance) or PITI no more than about 31% of gross monthly income for monthly housing expense. Bear in mind this is a minimum set of criteria. We fund loans through many different wholesale banks and each of those lenders has their own set of underwriting guidelines (and some can be downright picky) If you are planning on applying for a purchase mortgage anytime soon, you may want to speak with a qualified mortgage professional to review your credit, financials, accounts and ratio's to prepare in advance before entering the market and falling in love with your dream home. 

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Posted by Jill Kohler on October 11th, 2016 11:17 AM

Getting a mortgage loan, whether FHA, refinancing, or conventional can take a little doing, but here are a few tips to prepare for the process. 

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1) Gather all your financial information in one place. Current W-2's (or 1099's), at least last years tax returns, preferably the last 2 years, current mortgage statements, 1 month of current pay stubs for all borrowers,

2) Have an idea of what your credit score is.   A lender will pull a trimerge report from 3 major credit bureau's and have some questions about these issues.  The lender may also guide you in the right direction if your credit is less than perfect on what steps to take to improve it.

3) Be honest and provide accurate information on your application. Credit reports,  bank accounts, and jobs are all verified. It's a lot easier to deal with an issue upfront than find out later in the loan process after you've paid for an appraisal and things are moving along.

4) Respond promptly to any requests for additional information so that you get your approval sooner.  

Posted by Jill Kohler on October 10th, 2016 3:34 PM

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