VA Loans 101

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Veterans Affairs (VA) loans are invaluable for homebuyers. Their advantages include little or no money down, qualifying with a lower credit score, competitive interest rates, potentially lower closing and auxiliary costs, and no private mortgage insurance requirements.

VA loans are administered through approved lending institutions, and backed through an entitlement of up to $36,000. This entitlement can guarantee a home loan of up to 453,100 without a down payment and possibly higher in some high-cost counties.

You may qualify for a VA loan if you’re an active duty service member, a veteran in good standing, a current or discharged National Guard or Selected Reserve member, a spouse of a service member who died on active duty, or a spouse of a veteran who died as a result of military service. Your lender will require a Certificate of Eligibility, which requires different ev…

HARP Ending… Again… For Good?

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Since 2009, the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) has helped qualified homeowners with limited equity in their homes find affordable refinancing. After seven program extensions, HARP is scheduled to end December 31, 2018, when new assistance programs from the mortgage-loan-backing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will take its place.

In the wake of the housing crisis and plunging home values, too many Americans were left owing more on their homes than the homes were worth – leaving them “underwater” with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios greater than 100%. HARP stepped in to help homeowners with LTV ratios greater than 80% refinance loans and find manageable monthly payment terms.

To be eligible for a HARP loan, your mortgage must have originated no later than May 31, 2009. You must be current on your payments – no payments late by thirty days or more in the last six m…

Don’t Let A Refi Hurt Your Credit Score

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By Tracy Scott

Do you have a loan payment that is squeezing your monthly budget a bit tighter than you’d planned? When you borrowed the money five years ago, you may have been in a different job, childless or paying less on other household expenses. Refinancing may provide the needed relief for your financial situation. It may also prevent you from needing to make bad money choices such as maxing out your credit card for groceries or opening new lines of credit to pay your bills.

What Does Refinancing Mean?

Refinancing is paying off a current loan by originating a new one. The old debt still exists, but it is now in the form of a new loan, quite often with a lower payment and interest rate. You need good credit to qualify for a refinance. Just as when you applied for the original loan, approval is often based on your ability to repay the loan, your employment history, and your current credit score.

HARP To End This Year

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The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) has arguably been one of the most successful programs to assist homeowners affected by the subprime mortgage crisis. According to HousingWire, almost 3.5 million homeowners have been assisted by the program, with around 1 million of those homeowners having been underwater (owing more on their home than it was worth).

HARP was created to help homeowners who were in decent enough financial shape to avoid foreclosure, but who were unable to secure refinancing because the drop in their home values left them underwater or otherwise unable to meet traditional criteria. HARP does not reduce the amount of principal owed, but it does rework the terms in order to secure better interest rates, lower monthly payments, or save on collective interest.

Many homeowners who can take advantage of HARP refinancing have already done so. However, ther…

Construction Liens 101

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A construction lien, otherwise known as a mechanic’s lien, is a claim that is made against a property by a contractor, subcontractor, or other professional party involved in a construction project. These liens exist to protect construction professionals from non-payment for materials or services rendered.

If you are withholding payment to a contractor for a construction project of any sort for substandard work or another dispute, the contractor has a right to file a construction lien on your property. Unfortunately, the same principle allows a subcontractor to file a construction lien on your property if the contractor did not pay the subcontractor. You, as the property owner, are still potentially on the hook.

Do not ignore a construction lien filed against your property. In the best case, the lien makes it virtually impossible to sell or refinance your property. If it is …

All About Real Estate Disclosures

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You want to know exactly what you are getting when you make any large purchase, especially when you are buying a home – the largest purchase that many Americans will ever make in their life. That’s why a real estate disclosure statement is a fundamental part of any real estate transaction.

By law, home sellers must provide a disclosure statement in writing regarding the condition of their home. The contents of disclosure statements vary by state and municipality, but they must disclose known hazards and defects of the home, as well as any important information that may affect the seller’s decision.

As a seller, you must make sure that you compile a thorough list of disclosure items. Your agent should be able to help you determine if each item must be disclosed.

Sellers are not required to search for any unknown defects, but failing to disclose a reasonab…

Don’t Let A Credit Dispute Blow Your Mortgage

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“Always check your credit report for errors, and dispute any errors as soon as possible.” We normally give this advice, but there are a few exceptions to this rule – including when you are preparing to apply for a mortgage loan.

Errors in credit reports should generally be disputed because of the potentially detrimental effects on your credit score. Matt Schulz, Senior Industry Analyst at CreditCards.com, puts it this way: “The thing about a credit score is it’s not really important every single day, but when it’s important, it’s really important.”

Mortgage loans are one of those important occasions where a high credit score is essential – you want your credit score to be as high as possible in order to qualify for the best interest rates and save thousands of dollars over the life of a loan. Unfortunately, if a loan officer sees that items on your credit report are …

American Homebuyers By The Numbers (Infographic)

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Who is buying homes in the US? Discover who these homebuyers are in our exclusive infographic above.

Lenders compare mortgage applications across several factors, including the credit scores of hopeful homebuyers. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips.

Last week, we detailed what sacrifices people made to pay for their homes. Come back next week for our final installment, which will offer a profile of U.S. home sellers.

MoneyTips is happy to help you get free mortgage quotes fr…

Interest Rate Acronyms

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APR and APY – are they new texting acronyms? IDK, you say – or rather, you text? (For the benefit of the textually-challenged, IDK means “I don’t know.”) If you think they are texting acronyms, or just “DK” what they are, it’s time to learn.

APR and APY are financial acronyms, short for Annual Percentage Rate and Annual Percentage Yield, respectively. Both are interest rates, but they have a significant difference. APR does not address how interest is compounded – the default is the interest that you earn if you are depositing money, or pay if you are borrowing it – in one year. APY takes into account how often the interest is compounded.

If interest is compounded once per year, there is no difference between APR and APY – interest is added all at one time. However, let’s assume an interest rate is compounded monthly. In that case, the interest payment is divided up into twelve equal increments.

If you are earning interest on a deposit, that adds a sma…