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4 Smart Money Habits That Will Help You Save up a Mortgage Down Payment Faster

4 Smart Money Habits That Will Help You Save up a Mortgage Down Payment FasterAre you ready for home ownership? The prospect of owning your own house or apartment is an exciting one, but with any financial transaction this large there are some things to consider. The first is your down payment – that is, the initial payment you’ll put against the cost of the house to reduce the amount that you’re borrowing in a mortgage. Let’s have a look at four habits that will help you to get your down payment saved up faster.

Build (And Stick To!) A Reasonable Budget

The first and most obvious tip is to stick to a reasonable budget. Determine how much you have coming in and going out of your bank accounts and credit cards each month. Group everything into areas like ‘food,’ ‘utilities,’ ‘dining out,’ ‘entertainment’ and more. Then, reduce each area to a reasonable amount and avoid any overspending.

Figure Out Your ‘Latte Factor’ And Eliminate It

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a ‘latte factor’ is that one consistent purchase that you make each day which, over time, drains your bank account. For example, if you spend $5 each day on your coffee habit that adds up to almost $2,000 per year in unnecessary costs. Pay close attention to your spending habits and try to eliminate anything that you can.

Make Automatic Payments To A Down Payment Fund

If you’re working a stable job and have regular pay periods, you may want to explore setting up a separate savings account for your down payment. Once you have this account opened, set up automatic deposits from your regular bank account after each pay day. This limits your ability to spend your cash while building up your down payment fund automatically.

Don’t Carry Credit That You Don’t Need

Finally, try not to carry credit that you aren’t going to use. This includes department store credit cards, extra bank credit cards or lines of credit. While it won’t necessarily harm your credit score to have available credit, if you do have it you’re far more likely to use it than if you don’t. You’ll need to be disciplined to save up your down payment. So don’t bother with extra credit that may be too tempting to resist using.

These are just a few of the smart money habits that will help you get your mortgage down payment saved up as quickly as possible. When you’re ready to discuss mortgage financing for your new home, please be sure to reach out to your local Mason Mac loan officer today!

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Case-Shiller Home Price Index: National Home Prices Reach Pre-Recession Level

According to the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index for June, Seattle, Washington continued to lead home price growth for the tenth consecutive month with a June reading of 13.40 percent growth year-over-year. Portland Oregon held second place for home price growth in the 20-City Home Price Index in June but trailed Seattle by 5.20 percent with 8.20 percent year-over-year home price growth. Dallas Texas held third place with a year-over-year home price growth rate of 7.70 percent. The 20-City Home Price Index increased by 5.70 percent year-over-year and was unchanged from May’s reading.

Case-Shiller’s National Home Price Index reported a reading of 5.80 percent home price growth in June as compared to May’s reading of 5.70 percent.

Wage Growth, Strong Economic Indicators Drive Demand for Homes

Case-Shiller’s month-to-month home price data also reflected continued growth. 14 cities reported higher home prices in June after seasonal adjustment. Home prices rose 0.40 percent month-to-month nationally; the 20-city index rose by 0.10 percent month-over-month after seasonal adjustment.

Shortages of homes for sale continue to drive up home prices as sales of pre-owned homes outpace new home sales. Builders haven’t kept up with demand due to ongoing labor and lot shortages and rising materials costs. There was an estimated 4.20 months’ supply of homes for sale in June; the average level is a six-month supply. Low mortgage rates continue to encourage first-time and current buyers to enter the market.

David M. Blitzer, Managing Director, and CEO of S&P Dow Jones Indices Committee said that although home prices are rising steadily, wage growth and overall economic growth were driving demand for homes in June. Mr. Blitzer said that current economic trends indicated home price growth was not expected to reverse anytime soon. If you’re currently interested in acquiring a new home, please be sure to reach out to your local Mason Mac loan officer today!

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Closing Costs 101: The Best Tips for Keeping Your Costs Down When Finalizing Your Mortgage

Closing Costs 101: Expert Tips for Keeping Your Costs Down When Finalizing Your MortgageAre you considering buying a new home? If you are going to make use of mortgage financing, you may be wondering about some of the costs attached. As you may have heard, all mortgages have a number of fees and other costs that are assessed at the “close,” or when you finalize the loan, in addition to any down payment. Let’s take a look at a few expert tips that will help you to keep your closing costs to a minimum when you take out your next mortgage.

Trade the Lowest Rates for the Lowest costs (via low or no closing cost loan options)

Does your lender offer a loan option with little or no closing costs?  While there’s no such thing as free, it may make sense in certain situations to take a slightly higher interest rate from a lender if that rate will cover a portion or all of your closing costs.

This option is typically best for short term financing (if you won’t be in the home long, or plan on refinancing in the near future, for example, from an FHA to a conventional loan).  Over the long term, a lower rate will save more money than the cost of closing fees in most situations.

Choose Your Lender Wisely

If you’ve done a good job shopping for your mortgage, you’ve arrived at a lender with fair costs and competitive rates.  Rates and fees vary widely from lender to lender, and thought cost and rate isn’t  the only thing to consider when choosing your lender, you are going to want to work with a mortgage banker that offers competitive rates at competitive costs.

Lock Your Rate at the Right Time

Finally, don’t forget that most mortgage lenders will offer a “rate lock.” This means that you can have a particular mortgage rate frozen for a set period. This might be 15, 30, 60 days or even longer depending on the terms of your mortgage. Using a rate lock can ensure that you keep a lower mortgage rate, even if interest rates were to change significantly in the meantime.  If you’re working with an experienced loan officer, they’ll be able to help you lock in at an optimal time, either saving you money, or at least protect you from an environment where low rates are getting more expensive.

There you have it – three tips that you can use to ensure that you keep your closing costs as low as possible when taking out your next mortgage. For more info on your options and to learn about Mason Mac’s competitive products and prices, be sure to reach out to your local Mason Mac loan officer today!

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Buying a Home in a Hurricane

When Disaster Strikes, Know Your Options


Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey has given us a reason to bring up a tough topic.  Disasters are a sad reality of life, and the potential for them is everywhere, whether it be the result of a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, flood, volcano, or something man made.  When disaster strikes, one of the most important things to consider once in a place of safety is what to do for shelter? For those buying a home, is the home under contract still there and in livable condition?  For those with a home destroyed by disaster, where to go?


The 203(h) loan can help you rebuild after disaster strikes

First, a note on perspective.  When disaster strikes, people are losing their homes, and sometimes, their lives.  Your lender absolutely, positively knows how important your real estate transaction is, but when something as devastating as a natural disaster takes place, you need to expect delays, as appraisal re-inspections are often required (always in Presidential declared disaster areas), and sometimes needed repairs must be made before you can close on your new home.  While delays and hold ups aren’t ideal, you’re a lucky one if that’s the only problem to come out of a disaster while you’re buying a home.


The Disaster Relief Mortgage


For those unfortunate ones who have been displaced and had their homes destroyed by a natural disaster, there’s the FHA 203(h) mortgage.  The FHA 203(h) mortgage loan allows those with homes located in an area designated by the President as a disaster area that were destroyed or damaged to finance the purchase or reconstruction of a primary residence.

The biggest perk of the 203(h) program is that it allows a homeowner or renter who lost their home to buy a new one with 0% down payment.  The program also allows up to 6% sellers assistance (closing cost help), so there is no savings or reserve requirement to obtain a loan for a new home.

The 203(h) can be used to borrow up to the local HUD loan limit for FHA loans, and with restrictions, any mortgage obligation on a previously occupied home in the disaster area can be excluded from qualifying, so the 203(h) can be a way for someone affected by disaster to get a truly fresh start.


Not every Loan Officer is well versed in the 203(h) loan, and not every lender offers it, but if you have any questions on the program, you can reach out to your Mason Mac loan officer or give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer any and all questions about  the program.


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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 28, 2017

Last week’s economic news included readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes, Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released, along with coverage of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s remarks at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Home Sales Lower in July

According to the Commerce Department, new home sales fell to a seven-month low in July; 571,000 new homes were sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis in July.  This reading fell short of the expected sales rate of 608,000 new home sales and June’s reading of 630,000 sales. This was unwelcome news for home builders, who have been under pressure to build more homes.  pronounced shortage of available homes coupled with high buyer demand has pressured builders to increase their rate of housing starts. A sudden dip in new home sales could impact builders’ production rates if slow sales persist.

Buyer demand may be waning as home prices have continued to climb. July’s national average home price rose to $313700, which was 6.30 percent year over year. The National Association of Realtors® said the current inventory of available homes rose to 5.70 months. This was the highest reading in highest reading in several months. Real estate pros consider a six-month supply of homes for sale an average reading. Regardless of record high demand for homes and low inventories, rapidly rising home prices reduce the pool of potential buyers due to affordability.

Sales of previously owned homes also fell in July. The National Association of Realtors® reported that pre-owned homes sold at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.44 million sales. Analysts predicted a rate of 5.50 million sales based on June’s reading of 5.51 million sales.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims

Freddie Mac reported mixed mortgage rates results, but mortgage types surveyed were little changed. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell three basis points to 3.86 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was unchanged at 3.16 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged 3.17 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three mortgage types.

First-time jobless claims rose to 234,000, which fell short of the expected reading of 238,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 232,000 new claims.

Fed Chair Defends DoddFrank Act

Fed Chair Janet Yellen defended Dodd-Frank mortgage legislation passed after the financial crisis. The legislation established credit standards for mortgage lenders to eliminate irresponsible lending practices. Speaking at the Federal Reserve’s annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Chair Yellen’s comments responded to recent indications by the administration and banking officials that the Dodd-Frank Act should be repealed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic reports include readings from Case-Shiller on home prices. Pending home sales, construction spending and inflation reports will be released in addition to weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. Several labor reports will also be released including ADP Payrolls, Non-Farm Payrolls, and the national unemployment rate will also be released. For more information about mortgage options, please reach out to one of our Mason-McDuffie Mortgage professionals.

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First-time Buyers: Boost Your Chances of Mortgage Pre-approval With These 4 Tips

First-time Buyers: Boost Your Chances of Mortgage Pre-approval With These 4 TipsBuying a home for the first time? If you plan on taking out a mortgage, you will likely want to know just how you can get pre-approved for enough financing to get the home of your dreams. In today’s post, we will share four tips that will help you to boost your chances of a successful pre-approval when you apply for a mortgage.

Polish Up Your Credit Score

It should come as no surprise that your credit score is one area every mortgage lender is going to inspect. Order a copy of your credit report and be sure to go over any outstanding items in detail. Are there any old or retired debts on there that need to be removed? Or do you have any outstanding black marks that will need to be explained? If necessary, take the next step and visit a credit repair specialist to get things polished up.

It’s Best To Apply When You’re Employed

While it’s not mandatory to have a job to get a mortgage, you will certainly need to demonstrate that you have enough income to afford to make your monthly payments. Waiting until you (and your spouse or partner, if applicable) are gainfully employed will go a long way in making your lender feel confident about your repayment ability.

Don’t Take Out Any Major Loans

Of course, you will want to avoid taking out any significant loans around the time you’re applying for a mortgage. Every lender will want you to demonstrate your ability to manage your debts. So if you’re trying to get a car loan, student loan and mortgage at the same time, you’re not likely to be successful.

Maintain At Least 3 Months Of Spending Cash

Finally, many lenders will want to see that you have at least three months’ worth of cash saved up. This is so that you can continue to make your mortgage payments on time, even if something unfortunate were to happen. If possible, it’s good to have as large a safety net as is possible. If you’re able to put six months of mortgage payments aside, don’t hesitate. You can even invest the funds in some low-risk or guaranteed investment and they will grow over time.

The mortgage pre-approval process is not meant to be scary or intimidating. In fact, it’s an excellent time to give yourself a financial tune-up before purchasing your new home. For more information about mortgage options, please reach out to one of our Mason-McDuffie Mortgage professionals.

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5 Surprisingly Stylish Ways to Improve Your Living Room’s Look Using Wallpaper

5 Surprisingly Stylish Ways to Improve Your Living Room's Look Using WallpaperFrom a sophisticated couch to a stunning art print, there are plenty of ways that you can dress up your living room and instantly change its vibe. You may not realize it, but wallpaper is back in fashion and becoming another popular way to instantly revamp a room. If you’re contemplating ways that wallpaper can benefit your space, here are some options you may want to try out.

Add An Accent

A brightly colored accent wall may have been a popular trend a few years ago, but a way to bring your wall into current fashion can be to add wallpaper. In addition to a fun print, wallpaper can instantly add elegance without overpowering the look of your living room.

Cover The Closet Doors

If you’ve come across a wallpaper pattern you like, try applying it to the front of the closet doors. It will be an easy way to dress up your doors without adding a coat of paint and will add a subtle effect that will go with your room’s décor.

Add In Some Personality

With wallpaper making a comeback, there are so many options that allow you to personalize your wallpaper and make the room your own. Posters of your favorite rock band may be a thing of the past, but unique wallpaper can be a great way to inject your own passions into your favorite room.

Make It Your Wall Art

Many homeowners struggle with how to dress up their walls appropriately, but choosing wallpaper can be a great means of avoiding this dilemma. Instead of an art piece, you can choose strips of wallpaper to provide visual interest or paper a whole wall that will act as the focal point of your room.

Upgrade Your Coffee Table

It’s often the case that people buy oversized books to decorate their coffee table, but you may want to utilize wallpaper if you have a glass surface on your table. Instead of leaving your table neutral, add a patch of wallpaper under the glass for an instant designer look.

With wallpaper making a comeback, there are plenty of ways to dress up your room for little cost that will make a huge difference in the look of your space. If you’re currently in the market for a new home, please reach out to one of our Mason-McDuffie Mortgage professionals.

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Graduating From College? 3 Things You Need to Know About Mortgages and Student Loans

Graduating From College? 3 Things You Need to Know About Mortgages and Student LoansAre you thinking about buying a new home using a mortgage loan? If you’ve just graduated from college, you’re probably wondering how your student loans will impact a mortgage and what your options are. In today’s post we’ll share three things that you need to know about mortgages if you’re still working on paying off your student loan debt.

#1: Yes, Your Student Loans are part of your Application

Student loans are generally disclosed on your credit report, so your lender will see the balance, payment, and payment history.  Recent guideline changes have actually made qualifying for a mortgage when you have student loan debt easier and more “common sense” than previous guidelines.  Student loans get a bad rep when it comes to their impact on your mortgage qualifying, but the reality is that they’re treated like any other debt including car loans and credit cards.

One thing to keep in mind with student loans, though, is to know the details and share them with your loan officer up front.  Are you on an income-based repayment plan?  Are the loans forgivable?  These details will help your loan officer provide you with a bulletproof pre-approval.

#2: It’s All About Your “DTI” Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is going to be a significant factor in the success of your mortgage application. This figure helps to determine how much money you need to send out to balance your debts each month versus how much you’re bringing in from working. If this ratio is too high, it’s a signal that you may not be able to juggle all of the payments you’re responsible for making. Also, keep in mind that over time, your job and income situation will change and this can affect your DTI ratio as well.  If you’re a recent graduate with a job offer on the table, you can use your future income to qualify, which can make a huge difference in your DTI.

#3: Missed Payments Can Cause Serious Problems

Finally, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t miss any student loan payments. Even one missed payment – for any reason – can cause significant damage to your credit rating or FICO score. Successfully managing a higher-than-normal debt load means being strict with your budget and responsible with your payments. If possible, try to have your student loan payments taken out from your bank account automatically. That way you won’t forget or miss the payment deadline.

While it may be a challenge to manage multiple types of debt, it’s not impossible. Juggling student loans with a mortgage can be done and offers the benefit of building your net worth while paying off your past loans. For more information about getting a mortgage when you have student loans, contact one of our trusted mortgage advisors today. We’ll be happy to share our insight and make recommendations that fit your situation.

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Can I Get a Mortgage With Less Than 20 Percent Down?

What Mortgage Options Are Available With Less Than 20% Down?

One of the biggest mortgage mysteries is how much money is needed as a down payment when purchasing a new home.  This question is often misunderstood, but also involves a lot of misconceptions.  One rumor that won’t seem to die is that to buy a home, you need a large down payment.  Usually 20% is the most common belief.  In reality, that’s about 20% more than most people need to buy a home.

With the resurgence of low- to no-down payment products and programs, getting a mortgage for a new home requires very little in the way of down payment.  Below, you can read about

Buying a home with less than 20% down
MasonMac can help bring you home with low and no down payment loan options

several programs that require little or no down payment, along with some info on when it’s a good idea to have or use a larger down payment, if possible.


The VA Loan program

For qualified veterans, the VA loan program allows a veteran and their spouse to purchase a new home with 0% down payment required (in most cases, as long as they have full eligibility and are buying a home using a VA loan under or equal to the VA mortgage limits for their area).

The VA loan has 0% down required, no monthly mortgage insurance, tremendous interest rates, allowances for sellers to pay closing costs, and flexible underwriting requirements for borrowers with less than perfect credit.  You do have to be a qualifying veteran to take advantage of this program, but if you can get a VA loan, it’s one of the best low/no down payment mortgage options available.


The USDA Loan program

USDA loans are available to low-moderate income buyers (low-moderate is subjective, but determined by county numbers, so those in high priced markets can have higher income than those in low priced markets), and require 0% down payment for qualified buyers.

USDA loans are available in rural areas (by definition, but many USDA-eligible areas are quite close to metropolitan areas), require $0 down, are flexible with credit requirements, allow sellers to pay closing costs, and have low monthly PMI.  Rates tend to be great on this product, too, so for those who can get a USDA loan, it’s a great product option for buyers without a lot of money for a down payment.


The FHA Loan Program

FHA loans generally have a down payment requirement, but it’s far less than 20%.  With just 3.5% down, a buyer can use the FHA loan program to obtain a great fixed rate.  To add to that, FHA allows buyers to use local or national down payment assistance programs to cover the gap between a true $0 down loan and FHAs 3.5% requirement.  There are many products and programs locally and nationally to help buyers with their down payment, and many will cover most or all of the down payment and closing cost requirements.

FHA loans have PMI, but it’s not that expensive, and the low rates and low down payment requirements, even with less than perfect credit, help to offset that cost.  Add in the fact that sellers can contribute to paying closing costs, and FHA becomes one of the best low down payment mortgage options out there.


Conventional Loans

This one is probably the biggest mystery, and also where the 20% down misconception comes from.  In order to get a conventional loan without PMI, a buyer needs to either have 20% down or get creative with a first and 2nd mortgage (commonly referred to as an 80-10-10 or 80-15-5).

Conventional loans, though, can be obtained with as little as 3% down.  There are also products for 5% down, 10% down, and 15% down under the conventional loan umbrella.  Conventional loans are priced (both the loan rate and mortgage insurance, or PMI, rates) based on down payment and credit score, so a buyer with great credit and 15% down will see a lower monthly payment than someone with less than good credit and 5% down, but that doesn’t mean a conventional loan isn’t possible to get.  With low fixed rates, PMI that can be cancelled when enough equity accrues, and an easy loan process, conventional loans with less than 20% down can be a great choice for many buyers.


Bottom line is that if someone wants to buy a home with less than 20% down, they have a tremendous amount of loan options at their disposal.  Rates, mortgage insurance, and other factors will determine which loan program is best for a buyer, and a great loan officer can share all of the available options, along with their positives and negatives.  So if a down payment is what’s holding you back from owning a home, please reach out to one of our Mason-McDuffie Mortgage professionals.  Chances are, you’ll be able to call yourself a home owner a lot sooner than you think.

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Itching to Start a Project? Don’t Forget These Four Key Tips to Avoiding Renovator’s Remorse

Itching to Start a Project? Don't Forget These Four Key Tips to Avoiding Renovator's RemorseTake a look around your home. Do you feel that burning desire to renovate or upgrade certain areas? Perhaps it’s the kitchen countertops or the décor in the master bedroom. Whatever the case, if you’re itching to take on a home renovation project you’ll want to ensure it’s one that makes your life better – not worse! Let’s take a look at four tips that will help you to avoid experiencing “renovator’s remorse.”

Ask Yourself: Will This Project Add Value?

If you’re renovating to build equity in your home, you’ll want to determine if the project is worth undertaking. There are many renovations that might seem to make the home more appealing, but in truth add next to no value that can be realized later when you sell. Be sure to choose those projects which will bump the home’s value by a significant amount.

Start With A Realistic Budget

Ask any friend or neighbor that has renovated their home and you’ll discover that costs can quickly spiral out of control if you’re not careful. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to start with a realistic budget that incorporates some additional room for last-minute tweaks or changes. Once you have the project scoped out, take a trip to your local building supply store and chat with the professionals. They’ll be able to help you understand what the actual costs of your renovation will be and they can point out things that you may have forgotten.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Even the most skilled carpenters and tradespeople make mistakes, so you should rest assured that it can happen to you. Even if you have to go over your plans twice or three times, it’s worth knowing exactly what you’re going to do before getting started. As the saying goes: “measure twice, cut once.” Spending the necessary time preparing your work will go a long way in saving you time and money later.

Don’t Start If You Can’t Finish

The last piece of advice is to finish any home project that you start. A half-finished renovation project can degrade your quality of life significantly. And the longer it takes to get done, the less motivated you will be to finish it. Stay on task and get the job done as soon as possible. If you’d like to buy a new home, please reach out to one of our Mason-McDuffie Mortgage professionals.