Jeffrey Harrington's Blog
A mortgage could put you on the hook to a lender for longer than a decade. The last thing that you want to do is to enter a financial relationship with the wrong mortgage lender. Engage the wrong mortgage lender and you might enter a legally binding agreement with a company that is on the brink of financial ruin.
Why you may want to hold off on signing that mortgage
Even if the wrong mortgage lender is solvent and not at risk of steep financial challenges, there could be negative fallout. An inexperienced lender might not perform sufficient due diligence to prevent unscrupulous workers from being hired by their organization.
If they don't, your financial data could be at risk. Other reasons why you may want to hold off on signing that mortgage, especially if doing so legally binds you to the wrong lender include:
- Identity theft - Regardless of who you get your mortgage through, you'll share a lot of personal data with a potential lender. Someone at the wrong lending agency could take your information and make illegal purchases.
- Kickback schemes - The wrong mortgage lender might push you toward specific homeowner's insurance providers, home inspectors or home goods retailers. These lenders might get kickbacks off of sales that you make with these vendors.
- Non-competitive interest rates - Should the lender not have a strong balance sheet, you might get a mortgage with less than stellar interest rates. Over time, this type of deal could force you to pay thousands more over the life of your home loan than what you would pay with a lender who had a stronger balance sheet.
- Illegal contract clauses - An unscrupulous lender might add illegal clauses into your mortgage contract.
Why just getting a house is not enough
You might not have hit the bull's eye even if you found a lender to approve you for a mortgage. In fact, you might have just stepped into a business venture that could force you to pay more for your house within five years.
That may happen if you allowed a mortgage lender to talk you into signing a variable rate mortgage. If you've ever had your student loans balloon after a grace period ended or interest rates climbed, you know the pain of having to deal with an unexpected payment increase.
Misuse of your personal and financial records is another negative that might result from entering a mortgage deal with the wrong lender. At the worst, you could become a participant in a Ponzi scheme. This could happen even if you enter a deal with a relative or friend who works in the housing or financial industry.
Protect yourself by performing the same level of due diligence that a home loan provider performs on you. Check financial performance, mortgage interest rates and the types of mortgages that lenders normally go with. For example, you could find out if a lender generally takes risks with subprime mortgages. Also, and this applies to any deal, trust your gut and avoid putting on blinders simply because you want a certain house right now.
What do buying a house, opening a credit card, and getting approved for an auto loan have in common? They all depend on your credit score.
Building credit is a multifaceted undertaking. In a way, this is a good thing--you wouldn’t want lenders to base their opinions solely on one aspect of your financial history. The downside is that understanding just what makes up your credit score can be difficult.
To complicate matters further, there isn’t one standard method for scoring your credit, and different credit bureaus each use their own criteria.
In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the factors the major credit bureaus use to calculate your credit, and give you some ways you can boost your credit.
But first, let’s talk about some of the implications of having a good credit score.
Why credit matters
Typical credit scores range anywhere from 250 to 850. The three main reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Most lenders use a combination of those scores that is reported by FICO.
Most credit reports will rank your category from “bad” to “excellent.” Here’s an example of what a credit ranking might look like:
Good: 700 - 749
Fair: 650 - 659
Poor: 550 - 649
U.S. legislation makes it possible for Americans to receive a free report of their credit score and to challenge and correct the score if it contains inaccuracies.
If you’re thinking about buying a house, opening a new line of credit, or taking out a loan of some kind, then the provider will likely run your credit score. Those providers are going to want to see a return on their investment, so they’ll charge interest.
If you have a high credit score, it tells the lenders that you are a low-risk investment, and therefore they can offer you a lower interest rate, saving you money in the long run.
Components of a credit score
There are five main factors that credit bureaus take into consideration when formulating your credit score. Not all of the factors are treated equally. Your ability to pay your bills on time, for example, is considered to be more important than the types of bills you have. Here’s a breakdown of the five components that make up a credit score:
35% - Bill and loan payments
30% - Current total amount of debt
15% - Amount of time you’ve had credit (since you took out your first loan or opened your first credit card)
10% - Types of credit (cards, loans, etc.)
10 % - New credit inquiries
Quick tips for building credit
It takes time to build credit and improve your score. So, if you’re hoping to buy a home within the next few years, now is the time to start working on your credit. Here are some best practices for building credit:
Set up autopay for your bills to avoid late payments. Even if the service doesn’t offer autopay, you can likely set up recurring payments through your bank.
Settle outstanding debt. Avoiding debt that you can’t pay off will only hurt you more in the long run. Call your creditor and see if they offer debt relief programs. More likely than not they’d rather work with you to ensure they receive some repayment rather than none at all.
Start budgeting the right way. New budgeting software like Mint and “You Need a Budget” are easy to use and link up with your accounts. They’ll help you monitor your spending and start paying off debt.
Don’t open new lines of credit close to when you want to take out a loan. New credit inquiries can briefly lower your credit, especially if you make more than one. Viewing your free credit reports doesn’t count as an inquiry, so feel free to do that as often as needed to check your progress.
Get credit for bills you’re already paying. You can report your monthly rent payments, switch bills into your name that you contribute to, or take out a credit builder loan. All three will help you build rent without changing your spending habits.
Your mortgage isn’t the only expense that can put a hole in your wallet. There are several hidden costs that come with owning a home. If you’re not aware of these costs, they can sneak up on you and quickly put you in a position where you can no longer afford your home. However, if you are caught by surprise when these bills arrive, there are seven steps that you can take to reduce the costs.
7 easy ways to save money as a homeowner
Utility bills are one of the biggest expenses that you’re responsible for as a homeowner. If you’re like many Americans who own a house, included among your utility bills are electric, telephone, gas, water and cable bills. By themselves, these bills equally add up to $250 to $300 a month.
Save money on utility bills by cutting out a service that you don’t use or moving to a less expensive service provider. Other ways to save money on utility bills include moving to a lower priced telephone package and only paying for cable channels that you actually use.
Here are six more ways to save on home expenses:
- Water your lawn during the evening. It helps the earth to absorb water better, eliminating the need to use more water during the heat of the day to keep your grass from turning brown.
- Perform regular maintenance on your house. Clean the gutters and repair cracks in your driveway and sidewalk when you see them instead of letting these damages get so big that they cost you hundreds of dollars to fix.
- Rid of pests immediately. Pests can chew through your walls and damage furniture.
- Work with your homeowner’s association to have them care for property around your home. Don’t take these projects on yourself if you don’t have to.
- Bundle your homeowner’s insurance with your auto and life insurance. Ask the insurance company agent to give you a discount based on where you work and how long you have been a customer. Some employer’s offer discounts on insurance to their employees.
- Install your own security alarm system. Depending on where you live, a security system that you buy from a housewares store might do the trick.
Another way to save on the cost of owning a house
Regardless of where you live, property taxes will probably rise at some point. The best way to save on property taxes is during the home buying process. Ask your real estate agent to find you a house that’s located in a thriving area that doesn’t have an enormous property tax attached to it. Let your real estate agent do the legwork for you. Don’t just look for a house that’s located in an area that has reasonable property tax rates. Go with a house that’s in an area that doesn’t experience frequent property tax increases.
If you’re a first time homeowner, you might be shocked at the hidden costs of home ownership. The sooner you familiarize yourself with the additional costs,the sooner you can prepare to meet the expenses. Knowing about the hidden costs of owning a house could also prevent you from getting in over your head and taking on more mortgage than you can afford.