Legal Q&A: An inspector can block my mortgage?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Aug. 8, 2017 Question: We are buying a home and had a “four-point” inspection done for the homeowner’s insurance. The insurer declined to cover the house due to the brand of the electrical panel fuse box. What gives? – Dan

Answer: Most insurance companies require a “four-point” home inspection before insuring a property. The inspection focuses on the four main causes of most insurance claims: HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning); electrical wiring and panels; the roof; and plumbing. This inspection doesn’t concern itself with cosmetic or other issues outside of the four listed systems.

Certain brands of electrical panels, particularly those installed before 2000, have been found to cause problems and not perform as they should. A fuse is supposed to trip when there is a problem in order to prevent a much larger problem. Many home fires are caused when fuses or panels malfunction.

If the insurer is denying coverage due to a suspect panel, the worst solution, in my opinion, would be to try a different insurer. Just because another company will give you the coverage doesn’t make the panel any safer.

If you are faced with this situation, speak to the seller about replacing the panel before the deal goes any further. If the seller won’t budge, your best bet is to find a different, and safer, home.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

Copyright © 2017 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

It’s getting easier to qualify for a mortgage

NEW YORK – Aug. 8, 2017 – Thanks in part to rising home prices, some mortgage lenders are loosening their underwriting standards so borrowers can purchase property sooner.

“The reality has sunk in that there are buyers out there who will be able to buy homes and make the mortgage payments,” William E. Brown, president of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), told the industry news website OriginatorTimes.com. The industry is “trying to give them more options to buy a house,” he added.

Mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are rolling out new programs to spur homeownership, and some lenders are relaxing their standards to avoid losing business as home prices and mortgage rates rise, says Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance.

“If your business is going to drop 20 percent, you need to come up with ways to offset that,” Cecala says.

Some analysts say that this shouldn’t create fear: Lenders aren’t returning to the lax standards that were commonplace before the last housing crash. Back then, some mortgage borrowers didn’t have to put any money down to buy a home.

Still, others in the industry warn lenders to be vigilant against creating another unsustainable housing boom by relaxing underwriting rules too much.

“This is what happened last time,” says Edward Pinto, a fellow at conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.

Underwriting standards still remain stricter than in the past. Though borrowers have more loan options, such as 3 percent down mortgages, they typically must meet higher credit requirements to qualify. Also, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s 3 percent down loans are capped at $424,100.

Following the housing crisis, Fannie established a debt-to-income cap of 45 percent, making an exception for borrowers who put at least 20 percent down and could show they had enough savings to pay their mortgage for 12 months if they lost a job. But last month, Fannie did away with those special requirements and raised its cap to 50 percent, though borrowers with a debt-to-income ratio between 45 percent and 50 percent still have to prove their creditworthiness in order to get a loan.

The Urban Institute called Fannie’s new policy “a win for expanding access to credit” and estimated it would lead to the approval of 95,000 new loans annually.

Freddie Mac also recently launched a pilot program to allow borrowers to use income from household members not on the loan. Freddie officials said the move was to help increase opportunities for Latinos, who often live in multigenerational households.

Laurie Goodman of the Urban Institute says that, overall, the changes lenders are making are “very marginal.” The Urban Institute index shows that loans today are still less risky than they were between 2000 and 2002, a time period when lending standards were considered “reasonable,” the institute says.

Source: “As Prices Rise, Mortgage Lenders Are Making It Easier to Buy a House,” OrignatorTimes.com (Aug. 5, 2017)

© Copyright 2017 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

11 must-do’s for the first-time homebuyer

By Claes Bell, CFA • Bankrate.com

Spaces Images/Getty Images

Had it with rentals and roommates and think it’s about time you took advantage of low mortgage rates and became a first-time homebuyer? To make that happen, just follow this simple step-by-step plan.

1. Check the selling prices of comparable homes in your area
Do a quick search of actual multiple listing service, or MLS, listings in your area on a number of websites, including the National Association of Realtors.

Use Bankrate’s mortgage calculator to get an idea of what your monthly mortgage payments would be if you bought today.

2. Find out what your total monthly housing cost would be,
Include taxes and home insurance in your cost. In some areas, what you’ll pay for your taxes and insurance escrow can almost double your mortgage payment.

Compare mortgage rates now to find the right loan for you.

To get an idea of what insurance will cost you, pick a property in the area where you want to live and make a call to an insurance agent for an estimate. You won’t be obligated to buy the policy, but you’ll have a good idea of what you’ll pay if you decide to buy. To estimate what you’ll pay in taxes, check your property appraiser’s website. Just remember that exemptions and the intricacies of local tax law can create differences between what a homeowner is currently paying and what you can expect to pay as a new homeowner.

3. Find out how much you’ll likely pay in closing costs.
The upfront cost of settling on your home shouldn’t be overlooked. Closing costs include origination fees charged by the lender, title and settlement fees, taxes and prepaid items like homeowners insurance or homeowners association fees. Check out Bankrate.com’s annual closing cost survey to see what closing costs average in your state.

4. Look at your budget and determine how a house fits into it.
Fannie Mae recommends that buyers spend no more than 28 percent of their income on housing. Push past 30 percent and you risk becoming house-poor.

5. Talk to reputable Realtors in your area about the real estate climate.
Do they believe prices will continue falling or do they think your area has hit bottom or will rise soon?

6.Look at the big picture.
While buying a house is a great way to build wealth, maintaining your investment can be labor-intensive and expensive. When unexpected costs for new appliances, roof repairs and plumbing problems crop up, there’s no landlord to turn to, and these costs can quickly drain your bank account.

7. Prepare for the hunt
If the numbers make sense for you, making these additional moves at the very beginning of the purchase process can save you time, money and aggravation.

8. Examine your credit.
Blemished credit or the inability to make a substantial down payment can put the kibosh on your homeownership plans. That’s why it pays to look at your creditworthiness early in the homebuying process. Get your free annual credit report and examine it for errors and unresolved issues. If you find mistakes, contact the credit reporting bureau to make sure they are corrected. It’s also a good idea to get your FICO credit score, which will cost you a small fee.

Get your credit report and score today, free and with no obligation at myBankrate.

9. Get your docs in a row.
Collect pay stubs, bank account statements, W-2s, tax returns for the past two years, statements from current loans and credit lines, and names and addresses of your landlords for the past two years. Have all of that paperwork ready for the lender. It may seem like a lot, but in this age of tight credit, don’t be surprised if your lender wants a lot of documentation.

10. Find lenders and get preapproved.
Getting preapproved for a mortgage helps you bargain from a position of strength when you are house hunting. The institution where you bank and a local credit union are good places to start your search.Use Bankrate’s mortgage rates tool to find lenders offering the best rates in your area. Applying to multiple lenders in the same month helps increase your chances of getting a loan approved at the best rate possible without dinging your credit score too much.

11. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try … the government?
If you can’t find a bank willing to lend to you — and in the current tight credit market, it’s possible you won’t — consider getting an FHA loan. The Federal Housing Administration has a program that insures the mortgages of many first-time homebuyers. As a result of this guarantee, lenders who might otherwise feel queasy about your qualifications will be more inclined to lend to you. As a bonus, the FHA requires a down payment of only 3.5 percent from first-time homebuyers.

Source: http://www.bankrate.com

7 ways to improve your credit score

By Dana Dratch • http://www.Bankrate.com

If you need to boost your credit score, it won’t happen overnight.

A credit score isn’t like a race car, where you can rev the engine and almost instantly feel the result.

Credit scores are more like your driving record: They take into account years of past behavior you can find on your credit report, not just your present actions.

7 steps to raise your credit score

Watch those credit card balances.
Eliminate credit card balances.
Leave old debt on your report.
Use your calendar.
Pay bills on time.
Don’t hint at risk.
Don’t obsess.

1. Watch those credit card balances
One major factor in your credit score is how much revolving credit you have versus how much you’re actually using. The smaller that percentage is, the better it is for your credit rating.

The optimum: 30 percent or lower.

To boost your score, “pay down your balances, and keep those balances low,” says Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union.

If you have multiple credit card balances, consolidating them with a personal loan could help your score.

What you might not know: Even if you pay balances in full every month, you still could have a higher utilization ratio than you’d expect. That’s because some issuers use the balance on your statement as the one reported to the bureau. Even if you’re paying balances in full every month, your credit score will still weigh your monthly balances.

One strategy: See if the credit card issuer will accept multiple payments throughout the month.

2. Eliminate credit card balances
“A good way to improve your credit score is to eliminate nuisance balances,” says John Ulzheimer, a nationally recognized credit expert formerly of FICO and Equifax. Those are the small balances you have on a number of credit cards.

The reason this strategy can boost your score: One of the items your score considers is just how many of your cards have balances, says Ulzheimer. He says that’s why charging $50 on one card and $30 on another instead of using the same card (preferably one with a good interest rate), can hurt your credit score.

The solution to improve your credit score is to gather up all those credit cards on which you have small balances and pay them off, Ulzheimer says. Then select one or two go-to cards that you can use for everything.

“That way, you’re not polluting your credit report with a lot of balances,” he says.

If you can’t afford to pay these small balances off at once, moving them to a balance transfer credit card might help.

3. Leave old debt on your report
Some people erroneously believe that old debt on their credit report is bad, says Ulzheimer.

The minute they get their home or car paid off, they’re on the phone trying to get it removed from their credit report, he says.

Negative items are bad for your credit score, and most of them will disappear from your report after seven years. However, “arguing to get old accounts off your credit report just because they’re paid is a bad idea,” he says.

Good debt — debt that you’ve handled well and paid as agreed — is good for your credit. The longer your history of good debt is, the better it is for your score.

One of the ways to improve your credit score: Leave old debt and good accounts on as long as possible, says Ulzheimer. This is also a good reason not to close old accounts where you’ve had a solid repayment record.

Trying to get rid of old good debt “is like making straight A’s in high school and trying to expunge the record 20 years later,” Ulzheimer says. “You never want that stuff to come off your history.”

4. Use your calendar
If you’re shopping for a home, car or student loan, it pays to do your rate shopping within a short time period.

Every time you apply for credit, it can cause a small dip in your credit score that lasts a year. That’s because if someone is making multiple applications for credit, it usually means he or she wants to use more credit.

However, with three kinds of loans — mortgage, auto and more recently, student loans — scoring formulas allow for the fact that you’ll make multiple applications but take out only one loan.

The FICO score, a credit score commonly used by lenders, ignores any such inquiries made in the 30 days prior to scoring. If it finds some that are older than 30 days, it will count those made within a typical shopping period as just one inquiry.

The length of that shopping period depends on the credit score used.

If lenders are using the newest forms of scoring software, then you have 45 days, says Ulzheimer. With older forms, you need to keep it to 14 days.

Older forms of the software won’t count multiple student loan inquiries as one, no matter how close together you make applications, he says.

“The takeaway is, don’t dillydally,” Ulzheimer says.

5. Pay bills on time
If you’re planning a major purchase (like a home or a car), you might be scrambling to assemble one big chunk of cash.

While you’re juggling bills, you don’t want to start paying bills late. Even if you’re sitting on a pile of savings, a drop in your score could scuttle that dream deal.

One of the biggest ingredients in a good credit score is simply month after month of plain-vanilla, on-time payments.

“Credit scores are determined by what’s in your credit report,” says Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for Consumer Action. If you’re bad about paying your bills — or paying them on time — it damages your credit and hurts your credit score, she says.

That can even extend to items that aren’t normally associated with credit reporting, such as library books, she says. That’s because even if the original “creditor,” such as the library, doesn’t report to the bureaus, they may eventually call in a collections agency for an unpaid bill. That agency could very well list the item on your credit report.

Putting cash into a savings account for a major purchase is smart. Just don’t slight the regular bills to do it.

6. Don’t hint at risk
Sometimes, one of the best ways to improve your credit score is to not do something that could sink it.

Two of the biggies are missing payments and suddenly paying less (or charging more) than you normally do, says Dave Jones, retired president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.

Other changes that could scare your card issuer (but not necessarily hurt your credit score): taking cash advances or even using your cards at businesses that could indicate current or future money stress, such as a pawnshop or a divorce attorney, he says.

“You just don’t want to do anything that would indicate risk,” says Jones.

7. Don’t obsess
You should be laser-focused on your credit score when you know you’ll soon need credit. In the interim, pay your bills and use credit responsibly. Your score will reflect these smart spending behaviors.

Are you getting ready to make a big purchase, such as a home or car? At least a few months in advance, have a look at your credit score, Consumer Action’s Sherry says.

While the score that you get through your bank or a service may not be the exact same one your lender uses, it will grade you on many of the same criteria and give you a good indication of how well you’re managing your credit, she says. It will provide you with specific ways to improve your credit score — in the form of several codes or factors that kept your score from being higher.

If you are denied credit (or don’t qualify for the lender’s best rate), the lender has to show you the credit score it used, thanks to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Another smart move is to regularly check your credit reports, says Sherry.

You’re entitled to one of each of your three credit bureau reports (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) for free every 12 months through AnnualCreditReport.com.

It’s smart to stagger them, Sherry says. Send for one every four months, and you can monitor your credit for free.

Source http://www.Bankrate.com

Credit Score Facelift

Credit Score, FICO, TransUnion, Experian

As the years go by, technology progresses. New computers and cellphones, more efficient ways of handling paperwork—but what about credit reporting? According to the Urban Institute, who has written multiple times on tightness of mortgage credit, the mortgage market is taking on less than half of the risk it was in 2001 and less than a third of the risk in 2006. This can be attributed to the current credit score model, which is outdated.

FICO 4, which was created in the late 1990s, is much less granular than the more recent models, FICO 9 and VantageScore 3, which is soon to be dated compared to VantageScore 4.0 coming out in the fall. FICO has versions 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, and now 9, so why is FICO 4 still the GSE requirement for originators to use?
For example, student loan debt is included in installment debt in FICO 4 and first and second mortgages are seen as the same thing. The newer models also have a better wealth of information regarding student debt, which Urban Institute says has increased exponentially since the late 1990s.

At the time, student loan debt was less than $100 billion, but as of Q1 2017 that number has risen to $1.34 trillion. In FICO 4 and VantageScore 3, student loans are looked at in a way that determines how it impacts the performance of other debt. Other reasons FICO 4 is outdated include issues concerning medical debt, and the consistency of information in reporting to more closely align the three models presently used—TransUnion FICO Classic 4, Equifax Beacon 5.0, and Experian/Fair Isaac risk Model v2.

In a statement about how the GSEs use the FICO 4 family of models for screening and loan level pricing adjustments, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) said in its 2016 Scorecard for the GSEs that they continued to work with Fannie and Freddie on implementing additional or alternative credit score models with the Enterprises’ businesses.

“The Enterprises have considered other credit-score-related issues that can independently improve access to credit,” the statement said. “As described above, this includes the Enterprises work to enhance their automated underwriting systems to process loans for borrowers who do not have a history of traditional credit and, therefore, lack credit scores.”

According to the Urban Institute, these credit scoring models that are used by the GSEs and lenders who sell to them need to be updated.
“The updated models have already been developed; its time to conclude the ongoing studies and modernize the system,” Urban Institute said in the report. “Incorporating newer models into the mortgage origination process would allow the market to serve a greater number of creditworthy borrowers seeking to purchase a home.”

Urban Institute isn’t the only one with this issue on their mind. Tuesday, Senators Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) introduced bipartisan legislation that has received support from 20 consumer and industry groups to get the FHFA to create processes for credit scoring models to be validated and approved for use by the GSEs when they purchase mortgages. The current credit scoring model doesn’t;t take into account rent or utility payments and therefore hurts African-Americans, Latinos, and young people who otherwise would be approved.

Source http://www.dsnews.com