Today is August 16th.  If you are in the market to buy a home, you have approximately 45 days to find a home and get it under contract if you want to ensure you can take advantage of the first time home buyer tax credit.

Why 45 days?  Because in forty five days, it will be around October 1st which is the latest you can get a home under contract to purchase and still reasonably close  on the transaction by the November 30th.   Remember, it takes about 45 to 60 days to get to the closing table from the time the seller accepts your offer.  Thefore, if you expect to finalize your transaction by the November 30th deadline, you need to have found a property and come to terms with a seller by October 1st.

So get out there and find a home; $8000 is a lot of money to pass up.   Time waits for no one…


This Saturday, June 6th I will be hosting  comprehensive home buyer seminar at Perl Mortgage’s main office located at 2936 West Belmont at 10am.  The seminar will provide all the inside information serious buyers need to know about purchasing a home in this crazy market. 

We will discuss everything from getting qualified for a mortgage to the details of the new $8000 tax credit for first time home buyers.   No question about buying a home will go unanswered!

RSVP is Required.  Please contact me directly at 312-651-5355 or russ@smartmortgageadvice.com

The seminar is free too!

Celebrity Foreclosure

Well, it looks like the rough economy is hitting T-Boz from 90’s R&B group TLC.   Mediatakeout.com is reporting that her house is being foreclosed…

One of the situations I see often is when a person has great credit but their spouse does not.   With FICO scores taking and even more important role in qualifying for a mortgage today than even just six months ago, this can be a very big issue for potential home buyers and folks looking to refinance.

Most people assume that lenders go off the breadwinner’s FICO score which IS NOT the case.  Lenders take the lowest middle FICO score between both borrowers.    So if Joe has FICO scores of 775, 780, 740 and his wife has FICO scores of 720, 710, and 680; theFICO score used for qualification purposes is Joe’s wife’s middle score of 710.

In this example, Joe is likely to pay a higher interest rate because his wife does not have a 740 FICO score which is needed to qualify for the most competitive rate these days.    In most cases, I would just drop Joe’s wife from the loan application and only use Joe for qualifying purposes.    Joe’s wife would still be on the title to the property, but would not be responsible for the mortgage.

However, what do you do if you need both incomes to qualify for the mortgage?  In short, you are your spouses credit!  If you need both incomes to qualify for the mortgage and your spouse has bad credit, it means YOU have bad credit to.

So the next time you are picking up potential mates at a bar, instead of asking for a phone number you may want to ask for a FICO score instead.

4.5% Interest Rates

There has been a lot of buzz going around about a plan to reduce mortgage rates to 4.5%. While none of us knows what is going to be implemented, I can say that I don’t believe 4.5% interest rates are going to save the housing market because low rates do not address the root cause of the current housing market stagnation.

The housing market isn’t suffering from high interest rates. Rates have been at near historical lows for the past six years. The bottom line is that if you can’t afford to buy with 30 year rates at 6%, you can’t at 4.5% either.

The housing market is suffering the consequences of loose lending and an oversupply of homes. Over the past seven years or so, mortgage products allowed people to afford bigger mortgages due to a combination of low interest rates and less strict guidelines such as lower down payments and even lower credit scores. When money is falling off the trees, borrowers are not as price constrained as they would be in a normal market. This leads to ever increasing home prices.

In addition, developers turned every cornfield they could find into the hottest new development to meet the demand from consumers. Condo developments popped up on every street corner in urban areas. Not only were Joe Plumber consumers buying homes, but also Donald Trump wannabes which further inflated prices.

Eventually, supply begins to exceed demand. As any 10th grader taking economics will tell you, when that happens prices must come down. In the case of the housing market, supply begin to exceed demand and to make matters worse, the liquidity that fueled the demand also begin to dry up. In short, the housing market had the rug ripped out from under it. Banks drove home prices sky high with loose lending and then shut off the spigot abruptly with ever increasingly strict underwriting guidelines.

A 4.5% interest rate won’t help anyone if you still need a 40% down payment and a 800 FICO score to qualify or if there are still way too many houses on the market relative to the number of buyers.

If we want to get the housing market stabilized, we need a moratorium on building new homes so that the existing inventory can be worked through. In addition, the government needs to provide reasonable incentives to make buying an attractive alternative to renting for credit worthy borrowers. For instance, the government should consider providing down payment grants. We also need some incentives to encourage the purchase of foreclosed homes.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know artificially lowering interest rates will not stop this train wreck.

Many people have a phobia about the documentation needed to get approved for a mortgage. There really shouldn’t be any fear and the paperwork required really isn’t all that bad. When you apply for a mortgage, you should have the following documentation readily available as it will make the underwriting process smoother and faster. You will need to provide your lender with copies of the following documents:

Driver’s Licenses: This is to verify that you are who you say you are…

Proof of Citizenship: Yes, you have to be in the country legally to get a mortgage. If you are a permanent resident, we need your green card. If you are a non-permanent resident, we need the visa to show that you can legally work and live in the US.

Past two years w-2 statements: This corroborates income and work experience.

Most recent 30 day’s paystubs: Your paystubs should so year-to-date earnings and match your income claimed on the loan application. If you are self-employed or commissioned, in lieu of paystubs we will need your most recent two years of tax returns.

Most recent three months statements for savings and investment accounts: Funds available for down payment, closing costs, and reserves need to be verified. The banks will want to see all of your available liquid assets. Any large deposits on the accounts may also need to be explained. If you don’t get paper statements mailed to you, the online printouts are fine as long as your name and bank are clearly legible on the printout.

There may be other documents needed in certain circumstances, but the above is a good start.

Like most of the good loan officers who are still in the business, I have been bombarded with phone calls from consumers looking to refinance over the past week. Always a day late and a dollar short, the media is reporting that mortgage rates are back at historic lows. I locked a number of borrowers at 5.375% over the past week with no points and no closing costs on thirty year fixed rate loans. However, given the number of calls I have taken, the number actually locked is relatively small.

The reality is that most people aren’t going to benefit from the ultra-low rates that are available and here is why:

Too Slow and Indecisive: The mortgage market is extremely volatile right now. Rates are changing multiple times in the day (usually for the worst). Last Tuesday, I could do 5.375% the first thing in the morning and by about noon, the market moved to 5.5 and then 5.625%. The bulk of the people who missed the opportunity did so because they had to “think about it…” C’Mon people. I am saving you $200 plus per month, not charging you a dime to do it and getting you a historically low thirty year fixed rate and you need to think about it??!! Discuss it with the wife?!

Second Mortgages: One of the insidious things that lenders are doing right now is refusing subordinations. When you have a second mortgage or home equity line of credit, that lender has to give you permission to refinance the first mortgage. In the past, this used to be no big deal. However, now that values are falling and second mortgage lenders bear most of the default risk, they are refusing to subordinate to a new first mortgage even if a refinance of the first mortgage is less risky than the original mortgage!! Very few lenders will subordinate a second mortgage if the combined loan-to-value is above 85%. I wrote about this practice earlier this year.

FICO Scores: Mortgage lenders love FICO scores. In fact, they love them so much these days that now you need a 740 or higher to qualify for the lowest rates available. In fact, if you have a 739, you are going to see your rate jump by at least .125%. Up to 1/2 percent higher or more if you have a 700 FICO or lower. That one late payment on the library book will cost you big time.

Expensive PMI: Private mortgage insurers bear the brunt of the loss when a home goes into foreclosure. Given the foreclosure records that have been broken, PMI companies have been losing their shirts. Now they are jacking up the cost of mortgage insurance. If you have a loan to value more than 80%, increased mortgage insurance costs may erode any savings from a lower interest rate.

Big Ass Loan: Otherwise known as Jumbo or non-conforming mortgages. In many cases, if you have a loan that is too big to sell to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (larger than $417k in Chicago), it is going to be much harder to find a good rate these days. Particularly, if you don’t have at least 25% equity in the property.

These gotcha’s can be overcome, however, it you need to make sure you are working with a knowledgeable professional. It is important that you talk in detail with your lender (hopefully me!) and really figure out how you can better position yourself to take advantage of the current low rates that are available. As I keep trying to tell people who keep putting off refinancing or buying a home, the risk isn’t if rates are going to be lower, the risk is will you actually qualify!