How Much Can I Afford?

How much mortgage money can I qualify to borrow?

This is typically the number one question mortgage professionals are asked by new clients.

Of critical importance when considering mortgage financing: There is sometimes a difference between what a client ***can*** borrow and what they ***should*** borrow.

In other words, what makes for a comfortable long-term mortgage payment?

The Quick Answer:

If we’re simply considering the financial math, lenders will calculate your Debt-to-Income Ratio and generally allow for 28-31% of your gross income to be used for the new house payment with up to 43% of your gross income to be used for all consumer related debts combined.

Sample Mortgage Scenario:

Let’s use a gross monthly income of $3000 and a qualifying factor of 30% Debt-to-Income Ratio:

$3000 multiplied by .3 (30%) = $900 max monthly mortgage payment

This means that your mortgage payment (Principal, Interest, Taxes, Hazard Insurance) cannot exceed $900 a month.

“Ballparking” a Qualifying Loan Amount:

Simple step:  We use a safe average of $7 per month in payment for every $1000 in purchase price so…

Step 1)  $900 a month divided by $7 = $128.50

Step 2) $128.50 multiplied by 1000 = $128,500 loan amount.

Remember, these are average ratios and guidelines set by most lenders for common mortgage programs.

Keep in mind, while most consumer debts are listed on a credit report, there are some additional monthly liabilities that may contribute to the overall qualifying percentages as well.

Regardless of how your personal income and credit scenarios factor in, it is important to consider your overall budget when trying to determine how much of a mortgage you should qualify for.

Other items to consider in your monthly budget:

1. Confirm all debts are taken into account
2. Any private notes or family loans
3. Short-term expenses – medical, auto repairs, travel, emergencies
4. Plan on additional expenses for the home such as water, electric, maintenance, etc…
5. Keep a cushion for savings and financial planning

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Top Five Market Factors That Influence Mortgage Rates

Timing the market for the opportunity to lock a mortgage rate on a new loan is certainly a challenge, even for the professionals.

While there are several generic interest rate trend indicators online, the difference between what’s advertised and actually attainable can be influenced at any given moment by at least 50 different variables in the market, and with each individual loan approval scenario.

Outside of the borrower’s control, the mortgage rate marketplace is a dynamic, volatile, living and breathing animal.

Lenders set their rates every day based on the market activities of Mortgage Bonds, also known as Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS).

On volatile days, a lender might adjust their pricing anywhere from one to five times, depending on what’s taking place in the market.

Factors That Influence Mortgage Backed Securities:

1.  Inflation –

According to Wikipedia:

In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. When the price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, annual inflation is also an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a loss of real value in the internal medium of exchange and unit of account in the economy.

A chief measure of price inflation is the inflation rate, the annualized percentage change in a general price index (normally the Consumer Price Index) over time.

As inflation increases, or as the expectation of future inflation increases, rates will push higher.

The contrary is also true; when inflation declines, rates decrease.

Famous economist Milton Friedman said “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.”

Public enemy #1 of all fixed income investments, inflation and the expectation of future inflation is a key indicator of how much investors will pay for mortgage bonds, and therefore how high or low current mortgage rates will be in the open market.

When an investor buys a bond, they receive a fixed percentage of the value of that bond as ‘coupon’ payments.

With MBS, an investor might buy a bond that pays 5%, which means for every $100 invested, they receive $5 in interest per year, usually divided up over 12 payments. For the buyer of a mortgage bond, that $5 coupon payment is worth more in the first year, because it can buy more today than it can in the future, due to inflation. When the markets read signals of increasing inflation, it tells bond investors that their future coupon payments will be less valuable by the time they receive them. So basically, this causes investors to demand higher rates for any new bonds they invest in.

2. The Federal Reserve

As part of its 2008-2010 stimulus effort, the NY Fed spent almost all of its $1.25 trillion budget buying mortgage bonds. Many believe this strategy kept mortgage rates lower over a 15 month period.

The lending environment significantly changed between 2008, when the Fed began its mortgage bond purchasing program, and early 2010 when the market was left to survive on its own.

When the MBS purchase program was announced in November 2008, mortgage bonds reacted immediately and dramatically.

But at that time, there weren’t any investors willing to take a risk in buying mortgage bonds. The meltdown in the mortgage market and world economies lead many investors to shy away from the risks associated with MBS, which is why the Fed had to step in and basically assume the role as the sole investor of mortgage bonds.

However, loan underwriting guidelines drastically tightened up by 2010, which may create a little more confidence in the mortgage bond market.

3. Unemployment –

Decreasing unemployment will suggest that mortgage rates will rise.

Typically, higher unemployment levels tend to result in lower inflation, which makes bonds safer and permits higher bond prices. For example, the unemployment rate in March 2010 was at 9.7%, just slightly below its highest mark in the current economic cycle.

Every month, the BLS releases the Nonfarm Payrolls (aka The Jobs Report) which tallies the number of jobs created or lost in the preceding month.

The previous report indicated a loss of 36,000 jobs. Not necessarily a number that will move the needle on the unemployment gauge, but some economists suggest we need about 125,000 new jobs each month just to keep pace with population growth. So that negative 36,000 is more like negative 161,000 jobs short of an improving unemployment picture.

One flaw to pay attention to with unemployment rates is that the method of surveying fails to capture part-time workers who desire full-time employment, discouraged job seekers who have taken time off from searching and other would-be workers who are not considered to be part of the labor force.

4. GDP –

GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is a measure of the economic output of the country.

High levels of GDP growth may signal increasing mortgage rates.

The Federal Reserve slashes short-term rates when GDP slows to encourage people and businesses to borrow money. When GDP gets too hot, there might be too much money floating around, and inflation usually picks up. So high GDP ratings warn the market that interest rates will rise to keep inflation concerns in balance.

Spiking GDP with flat/increasing unemployment begs some questions.

There are two major indicators that help provide more context:

1. Increases to worker productivity – employers are getting more work out of their current employees to avoid hiring new ones

2. Surges in inventory cycles – when the economy first started contracting, manufacturing slowed down to cut costs, and sales were made by liquidating inventory.

This is like a roller coaster cresting a hill, where one part of the train is going up, the other down. Eventually, the other side catches up, inventories are rebuilt by manufacturing more than is being sold. Both surges can throw off periodic reports of GDP.

5. Geopolitics –

Unforeseen events related to global conflict, political events, and natural disasters will tend to lower mortgage rates.

Anything that the markets didn’t see coming causes uncertainty and panic. And when markets panic, money generally moves to stable investments (bonds), which brings rates lower. Mortgage bonds pick up some of that momentum.

Acts of terrorism, tsunamis, earthquakes, and recent sovereign debt crises (Dubai, Greece) are all examples.

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Putting It All Together:

Economic data is reported daily, and some items have a greater tendency to be of concern to the market for mortgage rates. If you are involved in a real estate financing transaction, it’s helpful to be aware of these influences, or to rely upon the advice of a mortgage professional who is already dialed in.

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Four Possible Reasons To Refinance

A mortgage is generally the largest debt most homeowners have to manage.  It’s a good idea to give your personal real estate finance portfolio a check-up at least once a year.

Since there are many reasons a homeowner may choose to refinance, we’ll take a look at the four most common.

1.  Mortgage Rates Drop:

Typically, the most common reason that homeowners refinance their mortgage is to secure a lower interest rate. Interest rate and loan amount determines the total cost that a borrower will pay. The lower the interest rate, the less the overall cost will be. Interest is calculated on a daily basis and usually paid back to the lender on a monthly basis.

2.  Lower Payments:

Lowering a mortgage payment can be achieved by lowering the mortgage rate, lengthening the loan term, combining two or more loans or removing mortgage insurance.

3.  New Mortgage Program:

Refinancing an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) to a new Fixed Rate Mortgage (FRM), combining a first and second mortgage or paying off a balloon loan are three possible reasons to explore a refinance.

4.  Debt Consolidation:

If there is sufficient equity, sometimes paying off consumer debt by combining all debts into one lower monthly mortgage payment can significantly reduce the short-term deficits in a budget.  However, it’s important to keep in mind the total cost of that debt by adding it into a 30 year mortgage payment.

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Frequently Asked Refinance Questions:

Q:  Do I have to refinance with my current mortgage company?

No, you may choose any company to refinance your mortgage since the new loan will replace the existing mortgage.

Q:  Is it easier to refinance with my current mortgage company?

It is possible your current mortgage company may require less documentation, but this could add additional cost or a higher interest rate. Do your homework and shop around to make sure you’re getting a great deal.

Q:  Will I automatically qualify if I’ve never made any late payments?

No, you will have to qualify for your new refinance. However, certain programs will allow for reduced documentation like a FHA to FHA Streamline Refinance.

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Calculating The Net Benefit Of A Refinance Transaction

Calculating the net benefit of refinancing can be a challenging task if you do not understand what to calculate. We are going to focus on the net benefits of refinancing from the standpoint of lowering your interest rate.

Although there are several reasons to refinance, lowering your mortgage rate to save on interest payments over the term of the loan is the most popular.

Calculating the actual savings can be a tricky chore unless you know the difference between cash flow savings and interest savings. If your refinance objective is to only save on the interest by lowering your rate, then the interest savings should be done with the calculations below.

Calculating Interest Savings:

(Loan Amount x Interest Rate) / Months in year = Interest paid per month

($200,000 x 6% or .06) / 12 = $1,000.00

*Remember to do the calculation in the parentheses first*

We now know that you are paying $1,000.00 per month in interest. You should take the new interest rate you are getting with your refinance and calculate what your new interest payment will be.

($200,000 x 5% or .05) / 12 = $833.34

Now we need to find out the difference between the two interest rates.

Current Interest Payment – Proposed Interest Payment = Interest Savings

$1,000.00 – $833.34 = $166.66

Now you have figured out that by dropping your interest rate 1% on $200,000 you will be saving $166.66 per month or about $2,000 per year.

Awesome!

Anyone would want to save $2,000 per year, where do I sign… right? Not so fast, you’ll want to calculate the break-even point to find out how you will benefit after your closing costs.

Net Benefit Formula (Break-Even):

(Closing Costs – Escrows) / Interest Savings = Month of Break-Even

($6,000 – $1,000) / $166.66 = 30 Months

In other words, it will take 30 months for you to recoup the cost of your refinance. If you plan to keep your mortgage for at least 30 months then you might want to consider this deal.

Okay, now we can calculate your net benefit for refinancing with one more calculation.

(Monthly Savings * Months you plan to keep mortgage) – (Closing Costs –Escrows) = Net Savings

($166.66 * 120 months) – ($6,000 – $1,000) = $14,999.20

If you kept the mortgage for 120 months (10 years) you would save $15,000.

Okay, now you can find out where to sign.

Calculating the net benefits of a refinance is crucial in determining if it is strategic for you to refinance. Keep in mind that each mortgage is slightly different and you may need to adjust calculations accordingly.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  I heard that I should only refinance if I drop 1% on my mortgage is that true?

Some people say ½% , 1% to never. Every mortgage is different.

For Example: A no cost loan can have a 1 month break-even point with only a .25% drop in interest rate. Now that you know how to calculate your net benefit, you are able to figure out what may be beneficial for your situation.

Q:  Why can’t I just compare my current payment to the proposed payment and figure out my net benefit?

You could just compare just the two payments if you wanted to find out your cash flow savings, but the current and proposed loans may have two different amortizations.

Let’s assume you currently have a 15 year mortgage and you’re comparing it to a 30 year mortgage. If both loans have the same interest rate and loan amount but the amortization is different, your interest savings per month would be $0. However, you are going to show a cash flow savings with the 30 year mortgage because of the longer amortization.

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Who Owns My Home If I Have A Mortgage?

Many borrowers believe that when they purchase a property by obtaining mortgage financing, they also own their home.

Technically speaking, full ownership on a property only happens once the mortgage loan amount has been paid in full.

To break this down in more detail, there are a few components of a mortgage:

A Promissory Note is a document signed by the borrower acknowledging their commitment to pay the mortgage back with interest in a specific period of time.

In addition to the terms of repayment, the Note also contains provisions concerning the rights of both parties involved in the agreement.

In some states, a Deed of Trust is used instead of a Mortgage Note. The main difference is that on a Deed of Trust there is a Trustee, which the legal title is vested to in order to secure the repayment of the loan.

There are three parties involved with a Deed of Trust:

1) Trustor – This is the borrower

2) Trustee – This is the entity that holds “bare or legal” title, and is usually the title company which holds the Power of Sale in the event of default and reconveys the property once the Deed of Trust is paid in full.

3) Beneficiary – This is the lender that is getting repaid

Deeds of Trust are easier for lenders to foreclose on than a mortgage because there is no need for a judicial proceeding.

Mortgages on the other hand, have to go through judicial proceedings, which can be expensive and time consuming.

In summary, until you have your promissory note paid in full, you are not the only one with an ownership interest in your property.

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Understanding the FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP)

* Disclaimer – all information in this article is accurate as of the date this article was written *

The FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium is an important part of every FHA loan.

There are actually two types of Mortgage Insurance Premiums associated with FHA loans:

1.  Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP) – financed into the total loan amount at the initial time of funding

2.  Monthly Mortgage Insurance Premium – paid monthly along with Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance

Conventional loans that are higher than 80% Loan-to-Value also require mortgage insurance, but at a relatively higher rate than FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums.

Mortgage Insurance is a very important part of every FHA loan since a loan that only requires a 3.5% down payment is generally viewed by lenders as a risky proposition.

Without FHA around to insure the lender against a loss if a default occurs, high LTV loan programs such as FHA would not exist.

Calculating FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums:

Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP)

UFMIP varies based on the term of the loan and Loan-to-Value.

For most FHA loans, the UFMIP is equal to 2.25%  of the Base FHA Loan amount (effective April 5, 2010).

For Example:

>> If John purchases a home for $100,000 with 3.5% down, his base FHA loan amount would be $96,500

>> The UFMIP of 2.25% is multiplied by $96,500, equaling $2,171

>> This amount is added to the base loan, for a total FHA loan of $98,671

Monthly Mortgage Insurance (MMI):

  • Equal to .55% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is greater than 95% and the term is greater than 15 years
  • Equal to .50% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is less than or equal to 95%, and the term is greater than 15 years
  • Equal to .25% of the loan amount divided by 12 – when the Loan-to-Value is between 80% – 90%, and the term is greater than 15 years
  • No MMI when the loan to value is less than 90% on a 15 year term

The Monthly Mortgage Insurance Premium is not a permanent part of the loan, and it will drop off over time.

For mortgages with terms greater than 15 years, the MMI will be canceled when the Loan-to-Value reaches 78%, as long as the borrower has been making payments for at least 5 years.

For mortgages with terms 15 years or less and a Loan -to-Value loan to value ratios 90% or greater, the MMI will be canceled when the loan to value reaches 78%.  *There is not a 5 year requirement like there is for longer term loans.

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Shopping For A Hazard Insurance Policy

When shopping for a hazard insurance policy, something called “bundling” can actually save you quite a bit of money that most people aren’t aware of.

Many of the big insurance companies price their insurance rates to attract a particular segment of the market. They usually price their hazard insurance policies to attract homeowners who need to insure not only their homes with hazard insurance, but also their cars with car insurance and lives with life insurance.

The big insurance companies want customers who will stay with them for years vs shopping around for a better deal every six months.  So, to give customers an incentive to stick with them, they offer discounts if you use the company for all three (hazard, auto, life) lines of insurance.

Companies offer “multiline discounts” to attract customers who will need more than one type of insurance. These companies offer a cheaper rate to insure both your house and car than if you insured each one separately at different companies.

The same goes if you add a second car or a life insurance policy – the discounts keep adding up.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. How much can you actually save when you combine insurance policies with one company?

It varies by company, but with some of the large insurance companies, it will save you up to 40%.

Q. Why are the large companies sometime so far off when it comes to price on my hazard insurance?

Large companies often give significant discounts if you have your hazard, auto and life insurance with them – and they actually *want* to be higher in price if you only have one line. People with only one line of insurance switch more often according to the statistics.

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Do I Have To Continue Making My Mortgage Payment If My Lender Goes Bankrupt?

When mortgage lenders go out of business and are essentially taken over by the FDIC, homeowners are left wondering if they still need to make a monthly payment.

Great thought, and a very common question for many borrowers in the 2006-2010 timeframe.

The short answer is YES, you still have to continue making mortgage payments if your current lender files for bankruptcy or disappears over the weekend.

In order to give a more thorough answer to this popular topic, we’ll need to address the relationship between mortgage loans as liens and mortgage servicers who make money by handling payments.

To put this topic in perspective, 381 banks actually filed bankruptcy between 2006 and 2010 forcing them to cease their mortgage lending activities. And a common misconception borrowers have about their mortgage company is that their agreement should become obsolete once the lender files for bankruptcy or goes out of business.

Based on the way mortgage money is made, packaged and sold on the secondary market as a mortgage backed security, the promissory note (agreement) is actually spread between many investors who rely on a servicing company to collect and manage the monthly payments.

A mortgage is considered a secured asset, where the collateral is real estate.  And, the mortgage note has a separate value to investors and servicers based on the interest and servicing fees they have wrapped up in the monthly payments.

This is why many mortgage notes get sold to other servicers who pay for the rights to service your loan. So basically, even if a mortgage company is bankrupt, someone else is willing to take on the job of collecting payments.

Also, by signing a mortgage note, the borrower is committing to continue making the required payments, regardless of what happens to the mortgage company servicing your loan.

Bullets:

  • Your house is an asset
  • The mortgage note has a separate value to investors
  • Regardless what happens to your mortgage company, you need to make your payments

Also, it’s important to continue making your mortgage payments on time, regardless of which servicing company is sending a monthly statement.  Obviously, keep a good paper trail of those mortgage payments in case there is a mix-up between transitions.

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How Do I Calculate My Mortgage Payment Without Using A Mortgage Calculator?

Calculating an exact mortgage payment without a calculator on a loan is no small task, but there are some simple rules-of-thumb you can use to get a close estimate.

With the exception of the MIT Blackjack Team, performing this type of complex math in your head often leads to frustrating rants.

When coming up with a rough estimate, it is important to understand the individual components that factor into the overall monthly mortgage payment.

Yes, the thousands of dollars you send to your lender every year may cover more than just the mortgage, but referring to one simple formula will help you gauge what the new payment will be as you’re out looking for new properties that may be in your price range.

What’s In A Mortgage Payment?

A mortgage consists of 4-6 parts:

  • Principal – the balance of the loan
  • Interest – the fee paid to borrow the mortgage money
  • Property Taxes – based on county assessed value and residence type
  • Hazard Insurance – in the case of fire or property damage (may include a separate flood policy)
  • Mortgage Insurance – more than 80% LTV on conventional loans, or with FHA financing

Most lenders use the acronym (PITI), which includes Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance.

And in the case where a separate Mortgage Insurance Premium is required, we add another “I” to the end of that creative series of letters.

Another monthly expense that you have to consider is the monthly dues that come with properties that have a homeowner’s association (common in condominiums and other developments). This isn’t a payment made to your lender, but you will have to qualify with that payment and it is also good practice for you to factor that in the monthly cost of your new home.

Confused yet? Don’t worry, this is slightly easier than most state bar exams.

The Mortgage Payment Cheat Sheet:

Ok, you’ve made it this far and haven’t closed your browser, so that is a good thing.

Please keep in mind, this top secret formula will by no means be exact.

Mortgage Payment Formula:

For every $1000 you borrower, your TOTAL monthly mortgage payment will be $8.

So, if you purchase a home for $250,000 with a $50,000 down payment – borrowing a total of $200,000, then a good estimated total monthly PITI payment would be roughly $1600.

But don’t forget to add your homeowners association dues to that monthly payment.

What If I Pay Taxes and Insurance Separately?

Well now we’re at the easy part. If you elect to pay taxes separate from your mortgage, the cheat sheet is reduced from $8 per $1000 down to $6 per $1000.

So there you have it. $8 for every $1000 borrowed.

Again, please keep in mind that this is not going to give you an EXACT payment. You may be purchasing a property with higher real estate taxes or your insurance premiums may be higher than average depending on the state you live in.

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Understanding An Amortization Schedule

By committing to a mortgage loan, the borrower is entering into a financial agreement with a lender to pay back the mortgage money, with interest, over a set period of time.

The borrower’s monthly mortgage payment may change over time depending on the type of loan program, however, we’re going to address the typical 30 year fixed Principal and Interest loan program for the sake of breaking down the individual payment components for this particular article about an amortization schedule.

On each payment that is made, a certain amount of interest is taken out to pay the lender back for the opportunity to borrow the money, and the remaining balance is applied to the principal balance.

It’s common to hear industry professionals and homeowners talk about a mortgage payment being front-loaded with interest, especially if they’re referencing an amortization chart to show the numbers. Since there is more interest being paid at the beginning of a mortgage payment term the amount of money applied to interest decreases over time, while the money applied to the principal increases.

We can better understand mortgage payments by looking at a loan amortization chart, which shows the specific payments associated with a loan.

The details will include the interest and principal component of each periodic payment.

For example, let’s look at a scenario where you borrowed a $100,000 loan at 7.5% interest rate, fixed for 30 year term. To ensure full repayment of principal by the end of the 30 years, your payment would need to be $699.21 per month. In the first month, you owe $100,000, which means the interest would be calculated on the full loan amount. To calculate this, we start with $100,000 and multiply it by 7.5% interest rate. This will give you $7,500 of annual interest. However, we only need a monthly amount. So we divide by 12 months to find that the interest equals $625. Now remember, you are paying $699.21. If you only owe interest of $625, then the remainder of the payment, $74.21, will go towards the principal. Thus, your new outstanding balance is now $99,925.79.

In month #2, you make the same payment of $699.21. However, this time, you now owe $99,925.79. Therefore, you will only pay interest on $99,925.79. When running through the calculator in the same process detailed above, you will find that your interest component is $624.54. (It is decreasing!) The remaining $74.68 will be applied towards principal. (This amount is increasing!)

Each month, the same simple mathematic calculation will be made. Because the payments are remaining the same, each month the interest will continue to be reduced and the remainder going towards principal will continue to increase.

An amortization chart runs chronologically through your series of payments until you get to the final payment. The chart can also be a useful tool to determine interest paid to date, principal paid to date, or remaining principal.

Another frequent use of amortization charts is to determine how extra payments toward principal can affect and accelerate the month of final payment of the loan, as well as reduce your total interest payments.

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