Brextastrophy Or Brexportunity? What The Brexit Vote Means For Homebuyers And Homeowners



The recent decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has led to serious turmoil in stock markets around the world. Many investors are panicking and selling off stocks in a hurry. Smart investors, though, can be prepared to ride out the storm by making a few savvy moves.

In times of trouble, people tend to look for the safest possible investment. These generally fall into three groups: stock in big companies, bonds of financially stable governments and real property. That last category should be of interest to homeowners and house hunters alike, as the recent Brexit vote is likely to be a boon to real estate markets everywhere outside the United Kingdom.
It’s not that people are flocking out of the UK and looking for houses to buy. Rather, many people are looking to invest in real estate, but the British pound sterling is experiencing a loss of value. On the other hand, for people looking for real estate either as living space or as an investment, the time has never been better.
Let’s take a look at how this could affect each group individually.

Real Estate Investors

Owning rental property is a big wealth-building strategy component for many people. Whether you serve as landlord yourself or turn the property over to a management company to handle the day-to-day operations, rental income is as close to passive as it gets. You get the rent minus expenses, plus the appreciation of the property.

One of the biggest costs associated with buying rental property is the mortgage. Very few landlords own rental property outright. More often, they mortgage the property and use the rent to cover the mortgage payment.

Interest rates have been historically low as a means of economic stimulus for quite some time, so costs have already been modest. With the uncertainty created by the Brexit vote, most experts expect the Fed to avoid raising those rates. Mortgages will stay cheap into the foreseeable future.

Moreover, investors seeking to invest in a more diverse real estate portfolio are buying mortgages at an accelerated rate. They’re doing so because they’re seeking a safe investment, and prime mortgages (loans made to people with good to very good credit) represent a pretty safe place to park money. Since there are more dollars available to lend, the cost of those dollars (the interest rate) will drop further.

If you’ve been on the fence about buying an investment property, the time could be right. Low rates and rising property values could make it a valuable part of your retirement strategy.

Homebuyers

Most of the reasons why home ownership makes sense for investors also make sense for people looking to buy a home for themselves. There’s one more factor, though, that could tip the scales in favor of buying a home.

One of the other effects of increased mortgage availability is an easing of mortgage requirements. The door is open for borrowers with less-than-optimal credit scores. Many of these people have been scared away from the mortgage market because they fear they won’t be approved. The increased availability of credit, though, may make mortgages easier to get. Working through a community lender like Destinations Credit Union can offer borrowers the personal guidance they seek along with access to loan options that are not always widely available on the open market.

Homebuyers with good or very good credit may be able to up their price range a bit. If you’ve been on the market for a while and had little success, it may be time to take another look at payment projections and re-evaluate how much house you can afford. With interest rates approaching 3-year lows, you may be able to find an affordable house payment on a more expensive house.

Homeowners

If you’re a current homeowner, these rates should be attractive to you, as well. If you’re thinking about selling your home, now’s a great time. Cheap loans and rising rents will continue to push more people into the housing market, and more demand means prices are sure to continue to increase. Now might be a good time to get an estimate or test the waters to see how much you might get for your home.

If you’re happy with your home but want to make some upgrades, getting a home equity line of credit to do those remodels is another way to take advantage of low rates. Remodeling a bathroom or kitchen using a home equity loan could help you take advantage of the surging real estate market, and it could make your house a happier home in the meanwhile.

If remodels aren’t in the cards right now, it may be a wise opportunity to refinance. If you got a loan when you had less than perfect credit but have been making payments consistently, you could qualify for a significant savings in your monthly payments. The same is true if your mortgage is more than 10 years old. Refinancing now could lock in some serious savings and take some pressure off the budget each month.

You can probably save money on your homeowner’s insurance too.  If you haven’t shopped around for a while, you might want to see what switching can save you.  Our partnership with TruStage and Liberty Mutual offers great discounts to our members.  Liberty Mutual was one of the companies cited in The Simple Dollar’s Blog for the cheapest home insurance.  Get a quote and put some extra money in your pocket.

Don’t buy into the hype. The Brexit vote is not a time for panic. It’s not a time to stuff your money in a mattress. It’s a time to make smart moves to protect your investments, when disciplined investors can significantly improve their position. You can do it, and Destinations Credit Union can help!

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Mortgage Pre-qualification

Q: Every ad for mortgage companies I read talks about pre-qualification or pre-approval. Is that something I need to do before I start house shopping?

A: There are two phases to securing a mortgage.

Imagine the lending market as sort of trying to set up a friend on a date. You tell your friend about the partner you have in mind for them, and based on what you tell them, they decide if that person is worth a date. They’re considering the possibility of the date, assuming everything you say is true. If you tell your friend about the potential date’s persistent body odor problem, they might choose to say no. If you tell your friend about their beau-to-be’s interesting job, sense of humor or winning smile, they’d probably set up a date to see for themselves. That’s part 1.

Of course, your friend doesn’t go immediately from your description to wedding bells. First, they have to actually date and get to know each other. Your friend has to see if the qualities you described are actually true and make sure there’s nothing hiding beneath the surface that would rule them out. That’s part 2.

While it does make for some confusion, lenders may refer to either part 1 or part 2 as pre-approval, and the other as pre-qualification. Rather than focusing on the labels, focus on the steps involved and what the steps mean. We’ll keep calling them “part 1” and “part 2.”

What do I need for part 1?

In part 1 of the process, you describe your financial situation to a potential lender. Usually, this information includes salary, savings and current debts. The lender may or may not pull your credit score at this point. Based upon that information, the lender will make a determination about the kind of loan you might qualify for, assuming everything you’ve said is true.

You don’t need to prove anything at this point. It can be done over the phone, over the Internet or in person and no documentation is required.

During Part 1, you might want to compare possible mortgage rates. There’s a lot less paperwork involved, so it’s much easier to ask a lender to run through a variety of scenarios. You can look for a loan situation that combines the monthly payment, interest rate, term and down payment where you have the most comfort.

Part 1 can be completed early in the house shopping process. In fact, it makes sense to do this before you view the first house. That way, you won’t fall in love with a house you can’t possibly afford or convince yourself to settle for a house that doesn’t really meet your needs. This also gives you the chance to straighten out any potential kinks in your financial situation before starting part 2. Don’t worry about multiple checks on your credit if necessary. Credit bureaus lump mortgage inquiries within 30 days together as 1 inquiry, so they won’t adversely affect your credit score.

It’s important to note that pre-qualification is not a guarantee of a loan. To continue our example from above, your friend agreeing to a first date does not mean you get to start planning a wedding! Completing part 1 is a way to get an idea of how much you can afford to spend during your house hunting, as well as a way to show potential sellers that you’re serious. Completing part 1 illustrates to a buyer that you are already part of the way through the lending process, and it’s less likely that your financing will fall through.

What do I need for part 2?

Part 2 is where the paperwork starts to fly. At this point, a lender is deciding whether or not to issue you a loan. Successfully completing part 2 means a lender is ready and willing to provide you with a loan up to a specified amount.

To navigate this step, you’ll need to prove everything you claimed in part 1. This means you need to provide tax forms to substantiate your income and account statements to verify your savings. You’ll also need to sign a variety of forms giving your lender or their agents the power to talk to employers, landlords and the IRS about your financial security.

Generally, lenders will want tax returns for the past 2 years, including supporting documents like W-2 forms. If you’ve switched jobs a few times in that span, you may need to go further back to demonstrate consistent employment. If you’re an independent contractor or own a small business, documentation requirements are significantly steeper. You’ll need to provide enough financial disclosure to show lenders that you can make the payments.

Completion of part 2 is a conditional approval for a loan. If the house you’re buying passes appraisal, you will get financing on the terms you’ve agreed upon with your lender. The paperwork is a bit more cumbersome, so you don’t want to do this multiple times. Only complete this step with a lender you’re going to borrow from.

Part 2 is best to complete before you make an offer, especially in competitive markets. A letter of prequalification or preapproval that shows your financing is in place does a lot to reassure sellers that your offer will survive until closing. If you’re on the fence about what house you’ll put an offer on, this process can still be completed with the property identified as “to be determined”.

Don’t worry if this process seems confusing. You’ll be working with a qualified mortgage professional who deals with it every day and can answer all your questions. One of the benefits of working with Destinations Credit Union, an institution you trust, for your mortgage is that it clears your mind to focus on the important stuff, like where to put the sofa!

The Hows, Whys, And Whens Of Rate Locks


Q: Everyone I talk with about my house search tells me I need to shop mortgages and lock in a rate. What do they mean? 
If you’re on the market for a house now, congratulations. This is an historically good time to buy. Interest rates are low and prices are rising in most markets. Even if it seems like a disorienting and confusing process, home buying is worthwhile in the long run.
A rate lock is an agreement by a lender to ensure a rate on a loan for a set period of time. Regardless of what the mortgage market does before the closing date, the “points,” duration, and interest rate will remain the same. The lock agreement is valid until a few days after your expected closing date to account for any potential complications and can be rejected only if some serious error emerges during the qualification process. 
When should I get a rate lock? 
Rate lock agreements are usually offered for 30, 60 or 90 days. The longer term locks may seem like a good deal, but they usually come with higher origination fees. A 30-day rate lock might establish a 4.00% interest rate with a quarter point (or 0.25% of the value of the loan). A 60-day lock on that same loan might include a half point instead (0.50% of the loan).
It might be tempting to get your mortgage rate set in stone before you’ve started looking at homes so you have a good idea of your price range. As convenient as it sounds, doing so could cost you in the long run. Interest rates don’t change that fast. Over the past year, interest rates have gone from a low of 3.55% to a high of 4.20%. The worst month ever for mortgage rates saw an increase of about half a percent. That raises your monthly payment $35 on a $250,000 loan. To save that $35 per month, your lender may charge you $6,250 (a quarter point) up front! You won’t make up for that higher upfront cost for nearly 15 years. If, instead, you paid the higher interest rate and put that money in a savings account, you’d make about $2,000 over the life of your mortgage.
That said, ignoring your mortgage rate until the day before closing is also unwise. Your lender needs time to put together the paperwork for your loan. Ideally, you should get a rate lock sometime between a week and a month before you close. A pre-approval process should give you a good idea of your budget and can help your offer stand out in a sellers’ market. An easy closing transaction, instead of trying to time the market, should be your priority here. 
How do I lock my rate? 
One of the wisest things you can do in the home-buying process is to talk with your credit union representatives to let them know you are starting the process of buying a home. With many years of experience in home lending, they can help you identify some good strategies for determining the right home for you and streamline the process you’ll be following. They will also help you get started on pre-approval if appropriate at that time. Then, once you’ve found the right house and you’re ready to make it yours, let them know you are ready to lock your rate. After signing an agreement with your lender for the rate, points and duration, you’re all set. 
Why should I lock my interest rate? 
Locking your interest rate has two big benefits. It helps you prepare your new monthly budget and it helps your credit union get all the necessary paperwork in order for closing. Don’t think of your rate lock as a chance to score a deal. You won’t save much money. In fact, you could stand to lose quite a bit by trying. Think of it as a T-crossing and I-dotting exercise. Having a rate lock on a mortgage means one less piece of paperwork that stands between you and your new home.
If you’d like more information about current mortgage rates, saving for a down payment, or anything else about the home-buying process, reach out to your neighbors at Destinations Credit Union. Our supportive staff is there to help you every step of the way, from setting a budget to protecting your biggest investment. Call, email, or click your way to Destinations Credit Union today! 
 SOURCES: 

https://ycharts.com/indicators/30_year_mortgage_rate

The Government’s $3 Trillion Dollar Plan


So, whatever happened to that interest rate hike?  It was supposed to happen all spring, then all summer, and now we’re supposed to be fully confident that the Federal Reserve is going to raise interest rates by the end of 2015.  But so far, it hasn’t.  On one hand, that’s great news: You still have time to lock in a fixed-rate mortgage or take out a low, fixed-rate home equity loan to pay off those credit cards before the rates go up. By the way, if you’re interested, that’s only a click away.  

On the other hand, it’s a little worrisome.  Raising the prime interest rate is how the Fed tells us that the economy is doing well and it’s time to save money.  So, why haven’t we seen an interest rate hike? The answer is more interesting than you might think, because it involves a multinational chain of events and a $3 trillion gamble with your tax dollars on an interesting new idea. It’s an idea that falls somewhere between efficiently practical and boringly immoral, just as many decisions often are when they’re made by folks who have spent too much time staring at spreadsheets and not enough time breathing fresh air.

To explain what’s going on, we need to flash back six years.  At the height of the financial crisis, the two biggest concerns for the long-term future of the American economy were the resiliency of the big banks and the incredible number of home foreclosures.  If the banks couldn’t get their balance sheets straight, they couldn’t loan money, which would mean that anyone who wanted to buy a home, start a business, or go to college would suddenly find themselves without a loan to do so. Meanwhile, those on the brink of foreclosure, trying to keep their businesses afloat or finishing their education might lose everything they’d worked to acquire.  Of particular concern to the government were American homes, because our homes represent the largest part of our wealth, are essential to our well-being and buoy our retirement accounts.  Unfortunately, investment products built on inadvisable home loans were the centerpiece of the financial crisis, making the protection of our mortgages a difficult task.

The government’s solution was to bail out the banks, but to do so in a way that we hadn’t tried before.  Normally, the Fed puts money into the economy by buying government bonds from banks by using money it creates on a computer in its offices.  Fed managers tap on their keyboards, change a few spreadsheets, and poof, money is created.  In the aftermath of the financial crisis, however, they decided to create money by buying mortgage bonds, which made it easier for government money to flow to beleaguered homeowners, thereby protecting Wall Street and Main Street at the same time.  

However, the Fed can’t just create money without enduring some repercussions. Usually, it has to either remove the money from the economy over time, which can slow down an economic recovery, or watch as inflation eats away at the value of the dollar, causing people to dip into their savings and work harder for less actual pay. Neither option is fantastic.
This time, the repercussions could be even worse.  Because the Fed has tied the $3 trillion it created over the last six years to mortgage bonds, removing the money could cause a spike in mortgage rates. After all, that $3 trillion has been paying part of your mortgage for the last six years; that’s a profit for your lender that’s been passed on to you.  If the Fed chose to remove the $3 trillion and raise interest rates, we could see a spike in mortgage rates that all but guarantees young people will rent their homes for their whole lives.  If you were planning on selling your house in time for retirement, it could cripple the value of your home, because the same buyer who had $250,000 wouldn’t have more money, but they would have to pay more to their lender.  Not fantastic.

All year, the Fed has been staring down this crisis, warning us that it would have to raise rates, all the time hoping that doing so wouldn’t kill the housing market. Then, a really odd set of circumstances kept it from having to do so.  Twin financial crises in Europe and China drove international investors to the dollar. As they sought to sell other currencies, they propped up the value of the dollar, delaying the effects of inflation and buying the Fed more time.  

Now, a new plan has emerged, which is where a really interesting idea comes into play.  What if the Fed didn’t take the money out? Instead, it’s started paying the banks to keep savings with Washington, just like your savings account (except thousands of times larger).  The idea is that, as long as inflation is being kept under control through foreign investment, our central bank can pay about $30 billion a year in interest for financial institutions to store money. That money makes the banks want to save, which takes money out of the economy, which they pass on to some customers in the form of higher savings rates and making them want to save as well. Suddenly, the money has come out of the economy, inflation isn’t a risk, and everyone along the way is getting paid for doing so, especially big banks and their shareholders.  

Reminder: that’s your $30 billion per year.  Another reminder:  $30 billion was the budget request to keep Pell grants in line with inflation … over the next 10 years.  You’re paying the mega-banks 10 times what you’re paying to keep college funding from shrinking.

It’s a short-term solution, obviously.  Voters don’t love their tax dollars being spent to reward the same banks that caused the financial crisis, and those banks, by definition, are the ones being let off the hook.  Europe and China won’t buy dollars forever, particularly if it doesn’t look like the Fed is raising rates (which would help foreign investors who are saving their greenbacks).  At some point, the money is coming out of the economy.  Ten years from now, the Fed says, it will all be gone.  The only question is, how fast it will come out, which means we’re still waiting to hear when the prime interest rate is going up.

And that brings us back to today.  We’ve been told to expect a rate hike by the end of the year, and when it comes, it’ll cost you more to pay off your credit cards.  If you’re in a variable rate mortgage, your monthly payment will eventually go up.  The best move today is the simplest one, which is transferring over to fixed-rate loans.  Do it today, so you can save thousands of dollars.  Then, once you’ve locked in your rate, let your congressperson know that you don’t love your tax dollars continuing to bail out the mega-banks six years later.  

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