Are You Ready? 5 Tips to Prepare for Mortgage Approval

Buying your first home is an adventure that can be as scary as it is exciting. In the end, it’s a destination well worth the journey. Buying a house, especially compared to renting, isn’t just a permanent home for your family. It’s a long-term investment in one of the most stable economic markets in the world.

Congratulations on starting this adventure.

Here are a few things you can do to get ready for mortgage approval: 

Estimate How Much House You Can Afford

There are multiple online calculators available to help you pinpoint exactly how much you can afford to pay per month in mortgage, but as a general rule, aim for no more than 2.5 times your gross annual income. If you make $58,000 a year (the average household income in America), a $145,000 home should feel very comfortable, financially speaking. How much that comes out to per month in mortgage payments, however, depends on a few different factors.

Know Your Credit Score

In general terms, the higher your credit score, the better the interest rate you’ll get, but not always. The housing market, the Fed, and the overall strength (or weakness) of the economy also contribute to interest rates. Just know that it’s not entirely personal, and unless you can make a bigger down payment, your interest rate isn’t going to be easily malleable.

For a $145,000 home with a 20% down payment, your monthly payment will be about $550 per month in principle and interest at a 4% interest rate. As a reference point, your payment increases to $620 a month at 5% interest. Note that this doesn’t include tax.

Maximize Your Down Payment

A higher down payment results in a lower mortgage payment. Period. For a $145,000 home, a 3% down payment will cost you about $755 a month in principle and interest, including PMI (see below). A $30,000 down payment cuts your total loan so much that you can expect to pay $150 less, about $620 per month. When you get into the $200,00 or $300,000 house range, the difference between a 5% down payment and a 20% down payment is the difference between a Ford Focus and a Cadillac CT6. 

Knowing your comfort level is important. It’s easy to forget that a mortgage is just a loan. You’re borrowing money. Being realistic about your employment status, future earnings, and borrowing limits is key to smart home ownership.

Saving for as large a down payment as possible is not just a matter of lowering your monthly payment. It can also be the difference between buying a house with 3% equity compared to 30% equity. Just because you can afford a $190,000 home with $10,000 down doesn’t mean that’s the right financial decision, especially when a $150,000 house with a $30,000 down payment may be the safer choice.

Weigh the Pros & Cons of PMI

If you don’t put down at least 20% of the home value, expect to pay PMI, or “Private Mortgage Insurance.” This is literally an insurance policy for lenders loaning money to someone with limited savings. Those who cannot put down at least 20% are seen as higher risk, so PMI is used to protect lenders against the threat of loan default.

PMI ranges from 0.3% to 1.2% of the total amount of the loan. Assuming a minimum 3% down payment, expect to pay an extra $420 per year ($35 per month) to $1,600 ($140) in PMI on a $145,000 house.

The downside of PMI is that it’s non-refundable. If you can avoid paying it–if you can afford a 20% down payment–do. The extra hundred dollars a month can be invested in far better ways, offering far better rates of return.

The benefit of PMI is that many people wouldn’t be able to get into a house without it. If a 1% tax makes the difference between renting–literally paying for your landlord’s mortgage–and paying down your own mortgage, there’s no reason to hesitate. In the two to five years it takes to pay down your mortgage to an 80% loan-to-value ratio (the equivalent of 20% in equity), the 4% average return on the housing market has no comparison to paying rent for five years with no assets and no equity. 

Don’t Forget Taxes

Taxes and fees vary by state, city, and ZIP code. Ask your realtor for a realistic analysis of projected taxes for the area you’re looking to buy.

How much you can afford to pay in mortgage per month depends on your annual income, down payment, credit score, and the cost of the house you want to buy. Use Zillow’s mortgage calculator for a general idea of what size house you can comfortably afford, or contact us today to see how we can help get you into a house that’s right for your family, your future, and your budget.


3 Ways to Prepare for Mortgage Approval

You have been wanting to move into your own home for quite some time, but are not sure where to begin. In order to work towards mortgage approval, here are three things you need to do to really invest in the future you want. Remember, if you are not able to move into your dream home right away, you can always move later. The point is to get started!

Know What You Can Afford

Do you have a household budget? If not, please sit down with pen and paper or spreadsheet and create one. You will amazed how much disposable income you actually have at the end of the month. Look at everything, including your Starbucks habit. Work hard to account for every penny. It seems like a daunting task, but it really isn’t. It’s the first step in your mortgage approval process. Here is a short list to get you started:

  • Begin with your paycheck. What is your monthly take home pay? If you have a partner, you need to include their information, too.
  • Deduct all fixed, monthly payment amounts, such as: rent, car payments, student loans, charge cards, utilities, child support, and anything else you may have.
  • Deduct all non-fixed monthly expenses. This part is more difficult. How much do you spend on gas, clothes, and dining out (even if you charge it), coffee, etc. The list may be long, but this is also something you have control of and can curtail if necessary. This is your disposable income. If it is higher than you thought, congratulations! Although, you may still want to tweak it, and you will see why in a minute. If it is lower than you thought, or perhaps you had no idea what it might be, you really need to take some drastic changes. These are not tweaks, these changes may include pleasure points you will have to limit yourself to. Did you ever think about how much you give Starbucks in a week? The cost of a White Chocolate Mocha is $4.75 without taxes. If you have one each day on your way to work, you are spending $23.75 weekly, $95.00 monthly. Let it be a weekly treat to yourself and you are still saving $76.00 a month. A 48 ounce serving container of Folgers, bought at Walmart averages $9.98, and that’s without a coupon, see the difference? Put your money back into your pocket.

Review Your Credit Report

Have you actually looked at your credit report? Do you know your credit score? This is taken very seriously by mortgage providers and significantly affects your chances for mortgage approval. Why, you ask? Because this determines how much money lenders feel comfortable lending you, and how high your interest rates will be. The lower the number the higher the rate, and of course the opposite is true: higher score, lower interest rate. Know your numbers, and if they are low, take steps to improve them. One sure way to improve them is to pay down or off your credit card debt. If you have any judgments, find out what they are for, and how you can get them removed; these bring down your score, fast. It may take a while to get this resolved, but in the meantime, you are taking other positive steps in procuring your home.

Save For a Down Payment

Now we go back to budget. You must make a down payment or in many instances, at least be able to pay closing costs. The positive steps you take in amending your budget will help you get to house shopping sooner than you realize. Earmark that money for a single purpose. Sometimes it is easier if you open a separate designated bank account, and immediately transfer it each pay period. Do not touch it; watch it grow. Were you able to find $100.00 a month? That’s $1200.00 a year. Good job! You are now much closer to buying your home.

Pacific Mortgage Group is here to help you get moved in to your home ASAP! Licensed in six states so far, and working with over 100 lenders, we are more than happy to assist in getting financing for your home loan. Contact us to see if you qualify for $0 closing costs. Let’s make you a homeowner.