Imad Massabni - ERA Key - Morrison


Photo by ESB Professional via Shutterstock

If the thought of getting a mortgage and being in that much debt is stopping you from buying a home, plan to pay it off. Here’s how you can do it in just five to 10 years.

  • Live well below your means. If you can keep your mortgage payment to below twenty percent of your take-home pay, you’re on your way. That means that instead of buying a larger house in an upscale community, buy the nicest one you can in the neighborhood you can afford. When you do this, you’ll not only save on the payment but your energy and maintenance costs will be lower, as well.
  • Take a 15-year mortgage. Instead of the typical 30-year loan, opt for the 15-year choice. Your payments will be slightly higher, but they won’t be double. Use an online mortgage calculator to see the difference in the payment. You’ll be surprised at how much more affordable cutting the loan length in half can be.
  • Use an early mortgage pay-off calculator. Try plugging in different payment amounts to see how quickly you can pay it off. Adding as little as $100 extra each month can massively reduce the years to completion.
  • This next idea is easy if you get paid weekly or bi-weekly. Instead of making your mortgage payment once a month, pay half of it every two weeks. Using this trick allows you to make an entire extra payment each year, cutting months and years off your mortgage. If you do it to match your bi-weekly payments, you won’t even notice the additional payment out of your household budget.

Your Agent Can Help

When you’re looking for just the right house to put your plan into action, your knowledgeable real estate agent can find you the perfect one. Let them know what you’re trying to accomplish so that they match you to the right house at the right time.


Photo by TheDigitalWay via Pixabay

Looking to buy your first home? Unless you have a couple hundred thousand in the bank, a rich family member or a winning lottery ticket, you’re going to have to borrow money. TV ads suggest it’s as easy as clicking your phone, and in some cases it might be, but you should know what kind of financing is available and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Conventional Mortgage

In this option you go to a bank or other mortgage lender, they give you money and you buy your house. It’s straightforward and offers the lowest interest rates. It’s also the hardest to qualify for. That’s because there’s no government agency guaranteeing to step in if you default. If you don’t pay, the bank is on their own in repossessing the property and recovering what they can.

Do I qualify for a conventional mortgage?

Whether you qualify, and what rate you’re eligible for, depend largely on three factors.

  • Your FICO credit score.

  • Your Debt-Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). A measure of your ability to pay: monthly income divided by the mortgage costs.

  • The Loan-to-Value ratio (LTV). The loan amount divided by the cost of the house. For the most favorable terms this can be no more than 80 percent, which means a 20 percent down payment. If you don’t put 20 percent down, there are other options.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Some lenders write conventional mortgages with as little as 5 percent down, but you’ll have to buy PMI. This covers part of the bank’s loss if you default. The premium depends on the three factors mentioned above. It can add up to hundreds to your monthly payment. You’ll never see that money again, but you get your foot in the housing door and enjoy any appreciation that takes place. As your principle goes down and LTV drops under 80 percent, you stop paying those premiums.

Second Mortgage

Sometimes you can use a second mortgage for some of the down payment. A common variation is the 80-10-10, where you put 10 percent down and borrow 80 and 10 percent on the first and second mortgage, respectively. The rate for the second mortgage will be higher but the overall monthly payment might be lower than with PMI.

Guaranteed Mortgages

FHA and VA mortgages. With these a government agency guarantees the loan. FHA’s can have a down payment as low as 3.5 percent, and VA’s (available to veterans) might have no down payment at all. Interest rates are higher than conventional mortgages.

Floating Rate Mortgages

Most mortgages have an interest rate fixed for the life of the loan. With floating rates, there is an introductory period of a few years with a rate lower than a fixed rate mortgage. After that, the rate varies at a predetermined percentage above the prime rate. This can get you into a home with a low initial monthly payment, and is designed for people who expect their income to increase significantly before the higher rate sets in.

Down Payment Assistance

A federal program, the Freddie Mac Home Possible Advantage, offers 97 percent loan and down payment assistance to low and moderate income buyers. Also, you can contact your state’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to see what assistance is available at the state and local level.


If you’re in the market to buy a home, you’re probably learning many new vocabulary words. Pre-approved and pre-qualified are some buzz words that you’ll need to know. There’s a big difference in the two and how each can help you in the home buying process, so you’ll want to educate yourself. With the proper preparation and knowledge, the home buying process will be much easier for you.  


Pre-Qualification


This is actually the initial step that you should take in the home buying process. Being pre-qualified allows your lender to get some key information from you. Make no mistake that getting pre-qualified is not the same thing as getting pre-approved.


The qualification process allows you to understand how much house you’ll be able to afford. Your lender will look at your income, assets, and general financial picture. There’s not a whole lot of information that your lender actually needs to get you pre-qualified. Many buyers make the mistake of interchanging the words qualified and approval. They think that once they have been pre-qualified, they have been approved for a certain amount as well. Since the pre-qualification process isn’t as in-depth, you could be “qualified” to buy a home that you actually can’t afford once you dig a bit deeper into your financial situation. 


Being Pre-Approved


Getting pre-approved requires a bit more work on your part. You’ll need to provide your lender with a host of information including income statements, bank account statements, assets, and more. Your lender will take a look at your credit history and credit score. All of these numbers will go into a formula and help your lender determine a safe amount of money that you’ll be able to borrow for a house. Things like your credit score and credit history will have an impact on the type of interest rate that you’ll get for the home. The better your credit score, the better the interest rate will be that you’re offered. Being pre-approved will also be a big help to you when you decide to put an offer in on a home since you’ll be seen as a buyer who is serious and dependable.  


Things To Think About


Although getting pre-qualified is fairly simple, it’s a good step to take to understand your finances and the home buying process. Don’t take the pre-qualification numbers as set in stone, just simply use them as a guide. 


Do some investigating on your own before you reach the pre-approval stage. Look at your income, debts, and expenses. See if there is anything that can be paid down before you take the leap to the next step. Check your credit report and be sure that there aren’t any errors on the report that need to be remedied. Finally, look at your credit score and see if there’s anything that you can do better such as make more consistent on-time payments or pay down debt for a more desirable debt-to-income ratio.


There are a number of programs, government-sponsored and otherwise, that are designed to help aspiring homeowners find and get approved for a mortgage that works for them.

Among these are first-time homeowner loans insured by the Housing and Urban Development Department, mortgages and loans insured by the USDA designed to help people living in urban and rural areas, and VA loans, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.


In today’s post, I’m going to give you a basic rundown of VA loans, who is eligible for them, and how to apply for one. That way you’ll feel confident knowing you’re getting the best possible deal on your home mortgage.


What is a VA Loan?

VA loans can provide soon-to-be homeowners who have served their country with low-interest rates and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).

If you’re hoping to buy a home soon and don’t have at least a 20% down payment, you typically have to take out private mortgage insurance. This means paying an extra insurance bill on top of your monthly mortgage payments. The downside of PMI is that it never turns into equity that you can then use when you decide to move again or sell your home.

Loans that are guaranteed by the VA don’t require PMI because the bank knows your loan is a safer investment than if it wasn’t guaranteed

VA loans may also help you secure a lower interest rate, or give you some negotiating power when it comes to discussing your interest rate.

Finally, VA loans set limits on the number of closing costs you can pay in your mortgage. And, if you’ve ever bought a home before, you’ll know how quickly closing costs can add up.

Who is eligible?

There are some common misconceptions about who can apply for a VA loan? So, we’ll cover all the bases of eligibility.

If you meet one of the following criteria, you may be eligible for a VA loan:


  • You’ve served 90 consecutive days during wartime

  • You’ve served 181 days during peacetime

  • You’ve served six or more years in the Reserves or National Guard

  • Your spouse died due to their work in the military

There are some restrictions to these eligibilities. For example, your chosen lender may still have credit score minimums.

Applying for a VA Loan

There are two main steps for applying for a VA Loan. First, you’ll have to ensure your eligibility. You can do this by checking the VA’s official website. Be sure to call them with any questions you may have.

Next, you’ll need a certificate of eligibility. The easiest way to acquire one is through your chosen lender.  If you haven’t chosen a lender, you can also apply online through the eBenefits portal, or by mailing in a paper application.

Once you have a certificate, you can apply for your mortgage and you’ll be on your way to buying a home.