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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

Mortgage Information

Shop for a Mortgage as Rates Rise

It is always advisable to shop for a mortgage, but as rates rise the savings can be significant. Each lender offers different loan programs and sets different borrower requirements. It’s important that you get quotes from several types of financial institutions, mortgage lenders, and brokers to find one that offers the best loan program for you.
Banks
Banks are for-profit financial institutions that typically offer several different products such as mortgages, credit cards, checking and savings accounts, and more. Many large banks have branches nationwide or throughout a specific region where you can get in-person support, and they also might offer a wider selection of mortgage products.
One downside to banks is that they tend to charge slightly higher interest rates on home loans compared to credit unions, according to a side-by-side comparison by the National Credit Union Administration.
Credit Unions
Credit unions are nonprofit organizations that offer banking services to their members. In addition to offering lower interest rates on mortgages and other financial products, credit unions have historically earned the highest customer satisfaction ratings.
However, you’ll need to join a credit union to get a mortgage. Some credit unions are open to anyone, but others may require you to work in a certain industry or live in a certain area.
Mortgage Lenders
You might also find a home loan with another type of lender. For instance, online lenders, such as Rocket Mortgage, offer an end-to-end digital process. You may be able to get pre-approved, upload loan documents, and close on the loan all online. By saving money on overhead costs, online lenders may also be able to offer lower rates or special discounts.
Mortgage Brokers
Mortgage brokers are licensed to act as a go-between with you and your lender. When working with a mortgage broker, you’ll have access to a variety of residential loan programs from different lenders. The broker doesn’t make a loan. Instead, the broker has a variety of lenders they work with.
In general, a mortgage broker will have a lot of knowledge of different home loan programs, and a good idea of what you might qualify for, including what interest rate you’re eligible for.
Shop For Best Rates
Getting rate quotes from multiple lenders and comparing offers is one of the easiest ways to save money on your mortgage. That’s because the interest rate is one of the key components of the mortgage’s total cost, and rates can vary considerably with each lender. Despite this, about half of homebuyers skip shopping for the best rate.
To find the best loan for you, research all costs of the loan. Knowing just the amount of the monthly payment or the interest rate isn’t enough. Even more important than knowing the interest rate is knowing the APR — the total cost you pay for credit, as a yearly interest rate. The interest rate is a very big factor in calculating the APR, but the APR also includes costs like points and other credit costs, like mortgage insurance. Knowing the APR makes it easier to compare “apples to apples” when considering mortgage offers.
When you’re shopping around, you may see ads or get offers claiming to have rates that are very low or fixed. But they may not tell you the true terms of the deal as the law requires. The ad may feature buzz words that are signs that you’ll want to dig a little deeper.
  • Low or fixed rate. A loan’s interest rate might be fixed or low only for a short introductory period — sometimes as short as 30 days. Then your rate and payment could increase dramatically. Look for the APR: under federal law if the interest rate is in the ad, the APR also should be there. Although it should be clearly stated, you may instead need to look for it buried in the fine print or deep within a website.
  • Very low payment. This might seem like a good deal, but it could mean you would pay only the interest on the money you borrowed (called the principal). Eventually, though, you would have to pay the principal. That means you would have higher monthly payments or a “balloon” payment — a one-time payment that is usually much larger than your usual payment.
You also may find lenders that offer to let you make monthly payments where you pay only a portion of the interest you owe each month. The unpaid interest is added to the principal that you owe. That means your loan balance will increase over time. Instead of paying off your loan, you end up borrowing more. This is known as negative amortization. It can be risky because you can end up owing more on your home than what you could get if you sold it.
Find out your total payment. While the interest rate determines how much interest you owe each month, you also want to know what you must pay for your total mortgage payment each month. The calculation of your total monthly mortgage payment considers these factors, sometimes called PITI:
  • principal (money you borrowed)
  • interest (what you pay the lender to borrow the money)
  • taxes and
  • homeowners’ insurance
“Mortgage rates rose again as markets continue to manage the prospect of more aggressive monetary policy due to elevated inflation,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Not only are mortgage rates rising but the dispersion of rates has increased, suggesting that borrowers can meaningfully benefit from shopping around for a better rate.”

Using Home Equity To Buy  Another Property

Interest rates are rising and so it the equity in your current real estate holdings. There are alternatives to financing a second home or investment property other than a traditional mortgage. If you have a large amount of equity in your first home, you could obtain enough money through a Home Equity Loan to pay for most—if not all—of the cost of a second home.
Using a home equity loan (also called a second mortgage) to purchase another home can eliminate or reduce a homeowner’s out-of-pocket expenses. However, taking equity out of your home to buy another house comes with risks.
If you’re interested in using home equity to purchase a new home, the value of your house will need to be high enough to support the loan, and you’ll have to meet your lender’s requirements. Here’s how to get a second mortgage to buy another house.
1. Determine the amount you want to borrow. Before taking equity out of your home to buy another house, decide how much you want and need. Home equity loans limit how much you can borrow. In most cases, you can only access up to 85% of the equity in your home.
2. Prepare for the application process. Your approval for a home equity loan will depend on multiple factors. The value in your home will determine the maximum amount of equity available, and your financial information will determine how much of that equity you can borrow. In addition, your lender will look at your credit score, income, other outstanding debts and additional information.
3. Shop around for a home equity loan. When taking out a home equity loan for a second home, you can use any lender. The loan does not have to be with your current bank or mortgage company. So the best way to get a competitive interest rate is to shop around and get quotes from multiple lenders. As you compare, look at the interest rate, loan terms, fees and estimated closing costs. You can also negotiate with the lender on the rate or a particular term.
4. Apply to the loan with the best terms. Once you’ve determined the loan with the best terms, you’re ready to apply. You’ll submit the application and provide the requested information. Your lender will order an appraisal of the home or determine the value using another method.
5. Close on the loan. After you go through the underwriting process, your loan will be ready to close. Before finalizing the loan, make sure you understand the terms carefully. Also, know that the Three-Day Cancellation Rule allows you to cancel a home equity loan without penalty within three days of signing the loan documents.
Before you use a home equity loan for a second home, consider the pros and cons of taking equity out of your home to buy another house.
Pros:
·      You’ll reserve your cash flow. Using home equity to buy a second home keeps cash in your pocket that you would otherwise use for the home purchase. This increased cash flow can result in a healthier emergency fund or go towards other investments.
·      You’ll increase your borrowing power. Buying a house with equity will allow you to make a larger down payment or even cover the entire cost — making you the equivalent of a cash buyer.
·      You’ll borrow at a lower interest rate than with other forms of borrowing. Home equity products typically have lower interest rates than unsecured loans, such as personal loans. Using home equity to purchase a new home will be less expensive than borrowing without putting up collateral.
·      You’ll have better approval chances than with an additional mortgage. Home equity loans are less risky for lenders than mortgages on second homes because a borrower’s priority is typically with their primary residence. This may make it easier to get a home equity loan to buy another house than a new separate mortgage.
Cons:
·      You’ll put your primary residence at risk. Using a home equity loan to buy a new house can jeopardize your primary home if you’re unable to handle the payments.
·      You’ll have multiple loan payments. Taking equity out of your home to buy another house means you’ll potentially have three loans if you have a mortgage on both your primary residence and the second home in addition to the home equity loan.
·      You’ll pay higher interest rates than on a mortgage. Home equity products have higher interest rates than mortgages, so you’ll be borrowing at a higher total cost.
·      You’ll pay closing costs. When using equity to buy a new home, you’ll have to pay closing costs, which can range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount.
Other options for buying a house with equity
Using a home equity loan to buy another house is just one path borrowers can take. Here are a few additional options for using equity to buy a new home.
Cash-out refinance
A cash-out refinance is one way to buy another property using equity. A cash-out refinance accomplishes two goals. First, it refinances your existing mortgage at market rates, potentially lowering your interest rate. Secondly, it rewrites the loan balance for more than you currently owe, allowing you to walk away with a lump sum to use for the new home purchase. Taking equity out of a home to buy another with a cash-out refinance can be more advantageous than other options because you’ll have a single mortgage instead of two. However, interest rates on cash-out refinances are typically higher than standard refinances, so the actual interest rate will determine if this is a good move.
Home equity line of credit
A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is another option for using home equity to purchase a new home. HELOCs are similar to home equity loans, but instead of receiving the loan proceeds upfront, you have a line of credit that you access during the loan’s “draw period” and repay during the repayment period. This method of using equity to buy investment property can be helpful if you’re “house flipping” because it allows you to purchase the property, pay for renovations and repay the line of credit when the property sells. However, interest rates on HELOCs are typically variable, so there is some instability with this option.
Reverse mortgage
Homeowners 62 or older have an additional option of using equity to buy a second home — a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). Commonly known as a reverse mortgage, a HECM allows borrowers to access home equity without making payments. Instead, the loan is repaid when you leave the home. Reverse mortgages provide a flexible way of using equity to buy another home, as borrowers can choose between receiving a lump sum or a line of credit. However, keep in mind that while you won’t make payments with a reverse mortgage, interest will accrue. This causes the loan balance to grow and can result in eating up all the home’s equity.
 Alternate forms of financing for purchasing a second home include:
  • Private money lenders
  • Seller financing
  • Peer-to-peer lending
  • Hard Money Loans
  • Personal Loans

Florida Closing Cost Primer for Buyers

Florida Closing Costs

Closing costs are inevitable when you’re buying or selling a property. While they vary from state to state, the amount you’ll pay in Florida depends on both the property and the county it sits in. As a buyer, you’ll have to cover most of the fees and taxes.  In Florida, you’ll also have to post a fee for documentary stamps (or doc stamps), which is a percentage of the sales price. Then there are the taxes. You’ll likely be subject to property and transfer taxes.

Neither party is responsible for 100% of the closing costs in Florida, which includes fees, taxes, insurance costs and more. The buyer typically pays between 3% to 4% of the home loan’s value and is responsible for the bulk of the fees and taxes. The seller usually pays between 5% to 10% of the home’s sale price. Closing costs also vary among counties.

Condos are regulated by the Florida Condominium Act. The legislation lays out your rights to the property and gives you an “undivided interest” in all the common areas of the building. You’ll have to pay a monthly maintenance fee or a yearly homeowners association fee to cover the servicing of those areas that fall under the “undivided interest.” The fee isn’t tax-deductible.

If you are getting a mortgage The fees shown on the Good Faith Estimate can be difficult to understand but can be broken down into five sections.

One-time fees

  • Appraisal fee
  • Reinspection fee
  • Credit application, credit report and credit supplement fees
  • Mortgage origination fee
  • Lender’s title insurance policy (optional owner’s title insurance)
  • Escrow fee
  • Home inspection fee (optional)
  • Closing attorney fee
  • Courier fee
  • Bank processing fee
  • Recording fee
  • Notary fee
  • Loan discount points

Recurring fees

  • Homeowners insurance
  • Property taxes and tax servicing fees
  • Mortgage insurance premiums
  • Flood certification fee (in some areas)

Appraisal fees

Lenders typically require an appraisal as part of the underwriting process, before financing a home purchase. Appraisals will vary in price depending on the location and size of the property. The lender hires an appraiser to provide the fair market value of the home, and the buyer pays the lender.

Mortgage origination fee

Every lender will charge a mortgage origination fee, which covers their service and administrative costs. The average loan origination fee is 1% of the total loan amount. Buyers should shop for lenders with both experience and low origination fees.

Title insurance policy fees

Lenders typically require borrowers to purchase insurance to protect the financial institution from future title claims. This policy is called lender’s title insurance and the cost depends on the location and size of the property.

Owners title insurance protects the Buyer from future claims against the title.  The customary party that pays for the Owners Title Policy varies by County in Florida.  In Sarasota,Collier, Miami-Dade and Broward County, the Buyer pays for title insurance and chooses the title company.  In all other counties, it is the Seller’s responsibility.

Escrow fees

During the purchase and sale transaction, your funds will enter a holding account managed by a third party — an escrow company. When the transaction is complete, the escrow representative will disperse your down payment, fees, and loan proceeds to the appropriate individuals.

Home inspection fee

A home inspection is a common contingency for a home purchase. As the buyer, you can hire an inspector to evaluate the condition of the home and its systems prior to purchase. Home inspection costs vary depending on the size and age of the property. You will pay the inspector for their service out-of-pocket, and this amount is separate from the purchase and sale transaction.

Attorney Fees

Florida is a Title Theory state and does not require that an attorney be used to close a real estate transaction.  Private real estate attorneys, or borrower’s attorneys, are an additional and optional cost for buyers who want a specialist to assist them with contract-related issues or professional advice beyond the scope of their agent’s abilities. Private real estate attorneys charge by the hour or charged a fixed rate for the transaction and rates vary based on their level of expertise and services provided.

Documentation fees

During a financed home purchase, several institutions need to process information and create official records.

  • The courier fee allows lenders to send your documents to necessary parties
  • The bank processing fee pays the bank for handling the necessary loan documentation.
  • The lender uses the recording fee to pay the county to file a public record of the transaction.

Loan discount point fees

When locking your interest rate with your lender, you’re allowed to buy down the rate. To do this, you pay “points” — essentially, paying interest in advance. One point is equal to 1% of the loan; but that does not translate to a 1% drop in interest rate. Not all buyers choose to buy down their interest rate, but when they do, the rates vary by lender.

Homeowners’ insurance

As a stipulation of your financing, you will be required to purchase homeowners’ insurance. You will continue to pay the insurance premium on a yearly or twice-yearly basis directly to your insurer, or monthly via an escrow payment that is part of your monthly mortgage payment to your loan servicer. Homeowners insurance policy fees range based on the amount of coverage and the size of the property.

Property taxes

Your property taxes will be prorated based on your closing date. Some buyers pay their taxes in lump sums annually or biannually. If you don’t pay this way, you might escrow the taxes, which means they would be included as an escrow line item in your monthly mortgage payment to your loan servicer. Property taxes are paid in arrears in Florida.

 

Mortgage insurance premiums

If your loan amount is more than 20% of the value of the home, you are typically required to pay insurance to protect your lender’s investment. Mortgage insurance is generally escrowed but may vary from lender to lender. Some lenders will also charge a one-time application fee for mortgage insurance.

Flood insurance

Depending on the location of your property, you may also be obligated to purchase flood insurance to help protect your lender’s investment. Flood insurance policies range by risk level, based on location and are a Federal Program and the pricing cannot be competitively shopped for.

What are the closing costs for cash buyers?

Cash buyers are still required to pay for things like notary fees, property taxes, recording fees, and other local, county and state fees. Unlike a buyer who is using financing, cash buyers won’t have to pay any mortgage-related fees. But most cash buyers still opt to pay for things like appraisals, inspections, and owner’s title insurance.

Closing costs can vary depending on where you live in Florida, the type of property you buy and how much it sells for. While the seller forks over some money, the buyer pays for the bulk of the fees and taxes, which typically add up to 2.5% of the average sale price depending on the time of year you close ( proration sensitive).

Should You Refinance During The COVID-19 Situation?

Covid-19 and Refi

Covid-19 and Refi

Rates are lower than ever; when a refinancing is done right, it can save you thousands of dollars. But not every potential refi makes the cut. Sometimes the expenses just don’t justify the potential savings.

It is time to refinance your home mortgage if the terms lower your mortgage interest rate, pay off their mortgage years earlier, or saves thousands in interest over the life of the loan. You can save serious money by refinancing your mortgage. But due to refinancing fees and expenses, not every refi makes financial sense.

COVID-19 is creating changes with lenders and how they are doing business. This is resulting in refinancing taking longer and getting stricter than it has been in the past. Although the mortgage process is considered essential as a financial transaction, depending on where you live, there may be changes related to COVID-19  involving your appraisal, rate lock and closing process.

Rates are quite low and because your home is your biggest financial investment, the equity can be very useful as a resource in times of trouble. But if you’re thinking of financing your home loan there are several steps you should take to make sure that it’s the right move for you.

How Long Do You Plan On Being In Your Home?

Being able to answer this question will help you figure out the term length you want on any refinanced mortgage; but there’s another reason asking this question …

If you plan on moving within the next 5 – 10 years, it could be worth your while to look at an adjustable rate mortgage ( ARM).  You get a lower rate initially with an ARM because the rate can adjust after the teaser period. But if you move before the end of the fixed-rate time frame, you don’t have to worry about whether the rate is going up and down in the end. Additionally, your payment will tend to be lower because most adjustable rate mortgages are based on 30-year terms.

Age Of Current Loan

The age of your current loan sometimes plays a role in whether you can refinance. Even if you can refinance, it does not always make sense.  When you refinance you have to pay closing costs.  If you are not planning on staying in the house past the breakeven point when the savings and the additional expenses paid starts to net to overall reduced costs for home ownership, the it is not the time to refinance.  You may want to accelerate buying a new home to realize the saving from lower interest rates.

Plans For Monthly Savings

If you determine that you’re going to save money by refinancing based on the rate and term you can get, make sure that you have a plan for what you’re going to do with the monthly savings in order to put yourself in a better financial position. No one knows exactly when COVID-19 is going to end and how long it will take for the economy to recover. If you can save money now, you can work on establishing the savings need should the vaccine be delayed or we continue with a longer recession

You could use your savings to build up an emergency fund. Maybe you choose to allow yourself to save money in the future by paying off high-interest debt now. You can also use this to catch up on saving for retirement if you stopped contributing temporarily while dealing with the situation caused by the virus.

It’s a very volatile market right now, so we advise all of our clients to rely on the advice of their Home Loan Expert and Financial Advisors at all times.

The Mortgage Refi Process

Approving a mortgage is a complicated process, one that requires a lender to validate a borrower’s income, check the value of the home being used as collateral and scrutinize the title history of the property.

Just as refinancing applications picked up, the coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed the way everyone in the mortgage industry works. Loan officers no longer go to the office. Appraisers stopped walking through houses. And no one gathers around the title company’s closing table. The process is a little slower because everybody’s working from home right now. Things that would take an hour to do are taking a day sometimes.

It is more difficult to verify a borrower’s employment. A task once dispatched with a quick call to the borrower’s human resources department now means leaving a voicemail and waiting a day or two for a response.

Meanwhile, homeowners looking to refinance may have to get in line behind buyers who need a mortgage so they can close on a house which are a priority with lenders.

The mortgage industry already had been digitizing, and lenders quickly adapted to many changes. One stumbling block, though, is that most lenders still require some documents to be signed in the presence of a legal witness and notarized.  Florida allows for mobile notaries and they are busier than ever.

Sometimes, documents are being signed remotely and online and mobile notaries are not allowed yet.  You need to allow time for in person notarization and overnight mailing of documents.  Digital closings may be the way of the future, but we are not there yet.

What You Can Do to Secure a Smooth Refinance

Here are a few ways you can make the refi process as smooth as possible:

— Get your paperwork in order. Don’t let something simple like a missing document delay your refinance. Collect PDFs of financial documents, including pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns and retirement accounts.

— Make sure the lender will honor your rate lock. In normal times, lenders extend rate locks for 30 to 60 days, meaning you won’t have to pay more if rates go up before your loan closes. These aren’t normal times, though, and many refinances aren’t closing within 30 to 60 days, so make sure your lender is willing to extend your rate lock if your deal is delayed.

— Keep your credit score tight. Now isn’t the time to miss a payment, take on new debt or otherwise do anything to lower your credit score. Lenders are being especially strict about borrowers’ credit histories.

 

Virtual Home Buying Made Easy!

Virtual Homebuying

Virtual Homebuying

Gov. Ron DeSantis enacted stay-at-home orders for Florida effective April 3, but the order considers real estate an “essential service,” so Realtors may continue to operate under limits set by CDC guidelines.
Under the issued Homeland Security guidance, “residential and commercial real services” are included on a 15-page list of essential services. These cover settlement services and government offices that conduct title searches, notaries, and mortgage and recording services, as well as construction. The advisory letter was created by the Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.
Optima Properties is able to continue to service your needs as a Buyer.
Showings:
  • In-person showings are considered a health risk. We can
Zoom, Facetime, or Skype showings
  • Online Video Tours are available on active listings currently and more are being developed every day.
Contracts:
  • Digital Signing of all Contract Documents
  • Zoom, Facetime or Skype Contract Review
Deposits:
  • Wired Earnest Money Deposits
  • Following Wire Fraud Protection ( Voice to Voice Confirmation)
Property Inspections:
  • Electronic Delivery of Inspection Reports
  • Zoom, Facetime or Skype Inspection Review
Mobile Notary:
  • Mobile Notary and Virtual Closings Now Available
House Key Delivery:
  • Non Contract Key Delivery Service Post Closing
Please contact me for all your Real Estate Related Needs.
Stay Home and Stay Safe!

Key Trends Home Buyers Should Watch in 2019

2019 Real Estate Market Trends
2019 Real Estate Market Trends

2019 Real Estate Market Trends

It’s a time to look ahead, to make new plans, to achieve new dreams. If those dreams include buying your own home, you should keep an eye on the ever-changing tides of the housing market. Now, markets are like the weather: You can’t entirely predict how they will act, but you can get a sense of the forces that will push things in one direction or another.
There will be more homes for sale, especially in luxury markets
There has been a tight inventory of homes for sale for several years now and homes have been hitting the market, but not enough to keep up with the demand. Nationwide, inventory actually hit its lowest level in recorded history last winter, but this year it finally started to recover. Inventory growth is expected to continue into next year, but not at a blockbuster rate—less than 7%. This is welcome news for buyers.
Affording a home will remain difficult
Life is also going to be more difficult for home buyers, because mortgage rates are expected to continue to increase, as well as home prices, so the pinch that buyers are feeling from affordability is going to continue to be a pain point moving into 2019.
Mortgage rates, now hovering around 5%, are projected to reach around 5.8% by the end of 2019. That means the monthly mortgage payment on a typical home listing will be about 8% higher next year. Meanwhile, incomes are only growing about 3% on average. That double whammy is toughest on first-time home buyers, who tend to borrow the most heavily and who don’t have any equity in a current home to draw on.
Millennials will still dominate home buying
Just a few years ago, Millennials were the new kids on the block, just barely old enough to buy their own homes. Now they’re the biggest generational group of home buyers, accounting for 45% of mortgages (compared with 17% for baby boomers and 37% for Gen Xers). Some of them are even moving on up from their starter homes.
At the time of last year’s forecast, the GOP’s proposed revision of the tax code was still being batted around Congress. While there was talk that it might discourage people from buying a home, no one really knew how it might affect the real-estate market.
This year … well, we still don’t really know. That’s because most taxpayers won’t be filing taxes under the new law until April 2019. And while some people might have a savvy tax adviser giving them a better idea of what’s in store, for many, the reality check will come in the form of a bigger tax bill—or a bigger refund.
Renters are likely to have lower tax bills, but might not be tempted to buy while affordability remains a challenge, and with the new, increased standard deduction reducing the appeal of the homeowner’s mortgage-interest deduction.
“I think the new tax plan will affect mostly homeowners and home buyers in the upper parts of the distribution,” says Andrew Hanson, associate professor of economics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. “Those who either own or are buying higher-priced homes are going to pay a lot more.”
The biggest change resulting from the new tax law, Hanson predicts, will be in mortgages, since people will be less inclined to take out large mortgages.

Why Your Mortgage Is Getting More Expensive

World events are conspiring to make it more expensive for you to borrow money to buy a house.
Mortgage rates have increased for six consecutive weeks, according to Bankrate data, bringing interest on a 30-year fixed rate loan to 4.44 percent—the highest level in 11 months—while home prices continue to rise due to a lack of available homes.
After years of tepid economic growth, inflation and wage growth recently found a groove, while the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise short-term interest rates multiple times for a consecutive year has reduced the value of government debt.
Homebuyers Should Get off the Fence
Mortgage rates are moved by the yield on 10-year Treasuries, rather than short-term rate hikes by the Fed. That’s why mortgage rates fell throughout 2017, for instance, even as the central bank raised the federal funds rate three times. Rates remain cheap, however, compared to historical prices. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage came with an interest rate above 6 percent just before the Great Recession in 2007. Potential homeowners should get off the fence and make a bid, assuming you have an affordable home target and adequate savings, because rates are likely only heading north.
Mortgage rates are expected to climb in 2018, so it might be worth shopping for a mortgage before this long period of low rates takes a turn.
Here are several predictions from the largest housing and mortgage groups for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage:
  • The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts it will rise to 4.6 percent in 2018.
  • The National Association of Realtors expects it be around 4.5 percent at the end of 2018.
  • Realtor.com says the rate will average 4.6 percent and reach 5 percent by year-end.

Tax Deductions to Take in 2017 Before They Disappear

As you’ve no doubt heard, the U.S. tax code got an overhaul—so what does that mean for the 2017 return you’re filing right about now? It means that this is your last chance to take advantage of tax deductions from the old tax code.
Here is a rundown of four major tax breaks that are disappearing after this filing year, and how to take full advantage of them for 2017.
Home Office Deduction
With the increasing popularity of telecommuting and working from home, the home office tax deduction is one that many people opt to take. If you’re full-time self-employed, this deduction will continue in 2018. But for all you office workers who work in your “home office” on the occasional Friday? The gig is up.
“In 2018, for non-self-employed people, the home office deduction is going away entirely,” says Eric Bronnenkant, CPA, CFP, and Betterment’s head of tax. If you are a W-2 employee this is the last year you will be able to take advantage of the home office deduction. The home office deduction falls under what’s called “miscellaneous deductions,” and includes business expenses that are not reimbursed by your employer. Miscellaneous deductions can’t exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income, but if you meet the requirements, you can take the deduction in 2017.
Unlimited property tax
One of the biggest changes for homeowners in the new tax bill is the cap on deducting property taxes.
In the past all property taxes were tax-deductible. Yet going forward in 2018, the maximum you can deduct is $10,000, and that includes state and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax.
That means if you pay more than $10,000 a year between your state and local income taxes, property tax, and sales tax, anything exceeding that amount is no longer deductible. For your 2017 return, make sure every penny you pay in property taxes is deducted, along with your state and local taxes—or, if you’re in a state without income tax, a portion of the sales tax you paid.
Moving expenses
If you moved in 2017, lucky you: You’re the last to take advantage of the ability to deduct your moving expenses, provided your move meets certain requirements (e.g., your new job is at least 50 miles farther away than your old job was from your old home).”Previously, people could deduct all the expenses associated with [relocation] moving,” says Priya Mishra, the managing attorney at Top Tax Defenders. “This will now be gone.”
The only exception going forward, according Patrick Leddy, a tax partner at Farmand, Farmand, and Farmand LLP, will be members of the armed forces. So if work took you to a new locale last year, don’t forget to dig up your receipts and deduct those moving expenses.
Interest on a home equity loan for non-home improvement purposes
A home equity loan is money you borrow using your home as collateral. This “second mortgage” (because it’s in addition to your original home loan) often takes the form of a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). Traditionally, the interest on these loans could be deducted up to $100,000 for married joint filers and $50,000 for individuals. The best part? You could use that money to pay for anything—college tuition, a wedding, you name it.
But starting in 2018, home equity loan interest is deductible only if it’s used for one purpose: to “buy, build, or improve” your home, according to the IRS. So if you’re dying to update your kitchen or add a half-bath, you’ll get a tax break from Uncle Sam. But if you want to tap your home equity to go to grad school, well, that’s on you.
More bad news: Unlike the mortgage interest deduction where loans taken before 2018 could be grandfathered into the old laws, old home equity loans have no such exemption. People with existing HELOC debt take the hit just like homeowners applying for one now.
But there is one small loophole: To reclaim this deduction, you could refinance your second mortgage and your first into a new mortgage that lumps together both debts. This essentially turns your HELOC into a regular mortgage, which means that you can deduct that interest. Just remember that refinancing can be costly, and that this new loan will be subject to the new, smaller limits on deducting mortgage interest. In loans originating on or before Dec. 14, 2017, that limit is $1 million. On loans made after that point, the cap is $750,000.
Will I owe more taxes next year?
Worried about losing all of these deductions? Though the new tax plan is drastically changing how most people will file their taxes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will end up owing more. Limits on mortgage interest deductions may be dropping, but so are the tax rates for most income groups. While the amount of property tax you can deduct is shrinking, the standard deduction is growing. So, it may all balance out.
The most important thing to do, after making sure you’ve grabbed all of the tax deductions you can for 2017, is to sit down with your accountant or financial advisor and size up where the new tax laws leave you.That will give you plenty of time to prepare for 2018 taxes and beyond.

How To Buy A Second Home?

You’ve found the perfect new home for your family, but your current house hasn’t sold yet. You can’t afford to carry two mortgages, or maybe you were counting on money from your sale to help with the down payment and closing costs.

Before you let that dream home slip away, consider these strategies to help bridge the transition:

Make an offer that’s contingent on the sale of your house:

A seller may be persuaded to accept your offer with the caveat that you’ll have to sell your house before closing on theirs. You’ll strengthen your chances of getting a seller to take a chance on you if you can show that your home is priced properly and has a solid marketing strategy.   Successful contingency offers depend on good communication between the real estate agents representing both sides.  It’s up to you and your agent to reassure the seller that the closing won’t be delayed.  Obviously, in hotter housing markets with potentially multiple bids, it can be harder to get sellers to accept such an offer.

Offer the seller a rent-back option:

One way to buy yourself extra time to complete your sale is to offer to buy the new house, then rent it back to the seller after closing.  A rent-back agreement is typically for just a month or two. But this arrangement can give sellers extra time to move – or to find a new house of their own – while putting a little money in your pocket and keeping you from having to pay two mortgages at once.

Tap the equity in your current home:

If you have a high credit score and considerable equity in your house, you could free up some of the latter with a home equity line of credit. A HELOC lets you use up to 85 percent of your home’s value, less the balance remaining on your mortgage, and is fine-tuned based on your credit profile and income. Most HELOCs have a variable interest rate, so it’s in your best interest to pay off the loan as soon as your current home sells.

This strategy may let you buy a house before you sell, but it’s not a last-minute option. A HELOC requires an appraisal, income verification and a thorough credit check, so it takes time – generally 30 days or more – to qualify, says Tim Beyers, mortgage analyst with American Financing in Aurora, Colorado. If you’re thinking of going this route, make sure you run the numbers with an expert upfront, Beyers says.

To qualify for the new loan, a lender will evaluate your current mortgage payment, plus the HELOC payment and your new monthly mortgage payment, to calculate your debt-to-income ratio for the new mortgage approval, Beyers says. If your income is high enough to have a debt-to-income ratio below 40 percent with all those payments and other monthly expenses taken into account, only then should you consider a HELOC, he adds.

“Once you start dipping into your home’s equity, that changes the equation when you apply for a new mortgage,” he explains. “Taking too much out can hurt your qualification chances on a new mortgage. Don’t make an offer, then try to scramble to do the math.”

Add a HELOC to your new mortgage:

With this strategy, you break up the financing on your new home with a first mortgage for the amount you need, plus a HELOC to make up the difference in your shortfall for a downpayment, says Elise D. Leve, senior mortgage banker at Citizens Bank in New York.

Once you sell your current home, you can pay the HELOC portion off in full and end up with the single mortgage you wanted in the first place, Leve says.

Get a Bridge Loan:

A much riskier strategy is what’s called a ‘bridge’ or ‘swing’ loan. Using your existing home as collateral, you take out a bridge loan for three months to five years to use as the down payment on your new home. Once you’ve purchased your new home, you sell the old one and pay off the mortgage and the bridge loan. Such a loan is less risky in a fast appreciating market where appreciation can cover the extra payment on the old home. Even in the best market, however, swing loans can be expensive, last-ditch propositions that are fraught with caveats. Bridge loans can cost 5 to 10 percentage points more than a typical equity loan. Your home must be lien free. Excellent credit is mandatory, as are good income-to-debt ratios. It may be a better idea to get a cash-out refinance, second mortgage or equity loan to use as a bridge loan. Traditional financing is cheaper and less risky, but that could preclude you from landing another mortgage for a new home should the lender consider you stretched too thin.

Mortgage Rates and The Fed

The Federal Reserve kept the benchmark rate unchanged on September 21st, in a divided vote that alludes to the possibility of a hike before the end of the year.

“The Committee judges that the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened but decided, for the time being, to wait for further evidence of continued progress toward its objectives,” the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released in statement. “The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run.”

“Our decision does not reflect a lack of confidence in the economy,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a press conference, later adding, “We’re generally pleased with how the U.S. economy is doing.”Today’s action was largely expected by analysts as policymakers stood fast this summer, despite initially forecasting four hikes this year. The federal funds rate informs the trajectory of mortgage rates, which remain at historic lows.

Perhaps no sector has benefited more from ultra-low rates than housing, which was devastated by the real estate crash. Home sales are expected to total about 5.7 million this year, up from 5.4 million in 2014 and 4.6 million in 2011. The recovery can at least partly be traced to 30-year fixed mortgage rates that remain below 4%, down from about 6% in 2008, keeping borrowing costs low for buyers.

But today’s housing market is supported by far more than low mortgage rates — namely steady job and economic growth. What’s more, 30-year mortgages are priced off 10-year Treasury note yields, which do rise as short-term rates climb, but not as steeply.

Doug Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae, the giant government-sponsored funder of mortgages, expects this week’s Fed hike of a quarter of a percentage point to have virtually no immediate impact on Treasury or mortgage rates, noting markets already have priced in the move. Assuming the Fed raises its rate by a percentage point over the next year, Duncan expects 30-year mortgage rates to drift from 3.9% to 4.1% during the period. That would boost the monthly cost of a typical $225,000 mortgage by $26 to $1,454 — not enough to deter most buyers.

Adjustable-rate mortgages, many of which are modified annually, could increase about twice as rapidly, by about a half a percentage point. Yet as long as job growth and aggregate U.S. incomes increase proportionally, Duncan expects any market impact to be modest. A far bigger restraint on home sales, he says, is a limited supply that should push up prices by nearly 5% both this year and in 2016. As a result, Duncan expects home sales to increase 4% in 2016, down from 8% this year, with higher rates holding back 1% to 2% of deals.

“As long as the rate rise is gradual, I don’t see it as a hugely important factor,” he says.