A Q&A with Our Loan Officers on How COVID-19 is Impacting the Mortgage Industry

Now more than ever, we are living in uncertain and challenging times. COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work and play. To get a better understanding of how this pandemic has affected the mortgage industry, we interviewed a few of our Loan Officers from different regions including Heather Devoto from McLean, VA, Anne Borghesani from Plymouth, MA, and John Dolbec from Warwick, RI. Here’s what they had to say:

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced during this pandemic?

Across the board, teleworking has been an adjustment because of the lack of face-to-face communication, interruptions from kids at home and difficulty of training new employees. However, technology has made things easier because anyone can jump on a video conference call and quickly address any questions or concerns in a timely manner.

What advice would you give someone looking to purchase a home during this time?

If you are ready to buy or refinance, rates are low and it is a great opportunity to take advantage of that if you can. If you are not quite ready yet, it’s never too early to know where you stand in terms of qualifying to buy a home.

Are there any positive things you’ve seen during this time?

The mindset about virtual technology and video conferencing has certainly changed for the better; people are much more comfortable logging into software applications like Zoom and Skype. Also, as a society, we are realizing that we can carry on with “business as usual” despite not being in an office environment. And for a lot of people, working from home has enabled them to spend more time with family.

How has the home buying process changed during COVID-19?

Buyers can now make offers sight unseen. We’ve seen most home sellers will not accept buyers without a pre-approval letter. Financing has become more creative using drive-by appraisals, title companies are now doing remote closings for convenience, and Open Houses require appointments, masks, booties, and hand sanitizer.

How have you and/or First Home Mortgage adjusted and adapted during this time?

We’re adjusting well and every member of our team has worked hard to take action to keep coworkers and clients as safe as possible. Our offices have come together working harder than ever. We’ve implemented new procedures to increase our levels of customer service.

Are there any other tips you’d like to give to potential homebuyers?

The market is competitive, and you want to be able to move fast! Spend the extra time in the beginning to educate yourself about the intricacies of buying a home so you can be confident and make smart home buying decisions. Once you are ready, talk to a loan officer to get the ball rolling on qualifying instead of looking online at homes you may or may not be able to afford.

Are you looking to buy a home or refinance? Please contact one of our loan officers today!

5 Ways to Staycation at Your Home This Summer

While many areas of the country have begun reopening, we are still living in a pandemic and the CDC recommends distancing to take priority. Sadly, this means many of our summer vacations have been put on hold. But after months of being cooped up you may be looking for ways for change up the scenery and “staycation.” Here are 5 ways to staycation in your own home and neighborhood.

  1. Backyard Camping

Build a tent, make a fire, roast some s’mores! Get out into the night air in your own backyard and sleep under the stars.

  1. Swap Rooms or Rearrange the Furniture

Painting or home renovations may not be in your budget or a commitment you’re ready to make. Instead for a change of scenery, rearrange the furniture, sleep in the guest room, let the kids swap rooms for the night! Order “room service” by having take out delivered, hop in your pajamas, and binge watch your favorite show.

  1. Turn your backyard into an oasis

Adding some summer elements to your backyard will be sure to shake things up and give you vacation vibes you’re looking for. Some more costly ideas could be adding in a pool, volleyball net, or built in grill and bar area. If you’re looking for ideas on a budget you could opt for an inflatable pool or slip and slide for the kids, a firepit, or a new set of bistro table and chairs. Adding some of these may even add value to your home!

  1. Have a theme night

With technology these days you can have the world at your fingertips! Plan each night for a week to be a different theme, whether that be riding virtual rides at Disney World online or take an online cooking class and then fly over Paris via Google Maps. Get the family involved and assign each member with a night to plan. The options are endless!

  1. Enjoy nature

Even with social distancing guidelines in place, we are still encouraged to safely get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air. Do some research in your town or community and take up some outdoor activities you’ve never tried. Whether that is learning a new sport the family came play together or finding a new hiking trail you haven’t tried!

Be sure to check out more blogs and resources on our website HERE!

Source: https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/clever-ways-to-create-a-stellar-staycation-at-home/

First Home Mortgage Named a Top Mortgage Lender

The results are in! First Home Mortgage has been named one of Scotsman Guide’s Top Lenders of 2019! Scotsman Guide provides comprehensive and verified rankings of mortgage companies across the nation. We are honored to be recognized as a Top Mortgage Lender and we thank our clients and partners for assisting us in achieving this huge accomplishment!

Not only was First Home Mortgage recognized as a company, but many of our Loan Officers were named Scotsman Guide’s Top Originators.

Matt Nader

Ryan Paquin

Jake Ryon

Scott Story

Jason Nader

Heather Devoto

Alex Jaffe

Tammi Lewis

Ayaz Rahemanji

Todd Pede

Jeff Stempler

Gabe Tuvek

David Toaff

James Moran

Kari Story

Ann Flaherty

Mike Taylor

Mike Nadeau

Mike Archer

Anne Borghesani

Santana Brown

Tom Cumpston

Jeff Halbert

Bill Payne

Darren Rickwood

Tim Sisson

Daniel Tinnin

Congratulations to all! Reach out to a loan officer in your area today!

Mortgage Calculators

Here at First Home Mortgage, we strive to deliver excellent customer service from the start. We provide tools and resources to better prepare you for purchasing or refinancing your home. Whether you’re buying a home for the first time, you’ve purchased before, or you are refinancing, you will have questions and concerns. “What will my mortgage payment be?”, “How do I know it’s a good time to refinance?”, “What can I afford?” – these are all very important questions that will be the basis of your journey. With these questions in mind, we have provided 9 different mortgage calculators to help you get started!

Mortgage Calculator #1: Mortgage Payment

Repayment of a mortgage loan requires the borrower to make a monthly payment back to the lender. That monthly payment includes both repayment of the loan principal, plus monthly interest on the outstanding balance.

Mortgage Calculator #2: Proceeds from Sale of a Home

How much profit will you make if you sell your home? This is largely dependent on two things: the amount you still owe on the home and what you will have to pay for selling the home.

Mortgage Calculator #3: Compare Two Mortgage Loans

When purchasing a home, the mortgage you choose and the options you want with it will have a significant impact on how much your home costs you in the long run.

Mortgage Calculator #4: Time to Refinance?

The decision to refinance a home mortgage can involve many factors. You might want to take cash out of your home and apply it elsewhere or obtain a lower rate to lower your monthly payments.

Mortgage Calculator #5: Debt to Income Calculator

Your DTI is the percentage of your gross income used to cover your mortgage and other debt payments. This ratio and your credit score are two key factors used to determine if you qualify for a loan.

Mortgage Calculator #6: Rent vs Buy

Deciding whether to rent or buy relies on many factors. Take into consideration the difference in monthly rent vs. mortgage payment, home value, rent increases, interest rate, and taxes to name a few.

Mortgage Calculator #7: Home Affordability

Your ability to obtain a loan for a new home purchase is based on several aspects. Lenders typically focus on three key ratios: Loan-to-Value ratio, Housing Ratio, and Debt-to-Income ratio.

Mortgage Calculator #8: Adjustable Rate Mortgage Analyzer

ARMs typically offer home buyers the advantage of having a lower mortgage payment during the initial period of the mortgage. Once the initial period expires, the rate will reset at current interest rate levels.

Mortgage Calculator #9: Compare a Bi-Weekly Mortgage to a Monthly Mortgage

One popular strategy for accelerating the payoff of a loan is to make ‘Bi-Weekly’ payments. Under a Bi-Weekly mortgage plan, you will make payments to your lender every two weeks instead of monthly.

While we consider these mortgage loan calculators to be very helpful and educational, everyone’s personal situation varies, and reaching out to one of our Loan Officers will give you a more accurate sense of what you would be facing! Find a Loan Officer in your area today!

Home Buying Lingo You Need to Know

The home-buying industry is full of acronyms. It can be hard to keep up, so we’re here to help! Learn the lingo before going through the home buying process so you sound like a pro. Here are some of the most important acronyms you need to know:

APR (Annual Percentage Rate): The APR is simply the interest rate you pay on a loan annually. Basically, it is the cost of borrowing money from a financial institution.

ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage): An ARM is a mortgage with an interest that can increase or decrease depending on various factors. Adjustable-rate mortgages often begin with low-interest rates, even below market rate sometimes, but the rate does increase or decrease based on a standard financial index set by the Federal Reserve or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR).

CD (Closing Disclosure): The Closing Disclosure is a 5-page form provided to you by your lender usually 3 days prior to closing. The final terms and costs of your mortgage are outlined in the CD. This document is very important to review thoroughly so there are no surprises at closing.

DTI (Debt-to-Income) ratio: The debt-to-income ratio compares your monthly gross income to your monthly debt payments. Simply put, lenders look at the percentage of your monthly gross income that is paid towards your debt payments every month.

FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation): FICO is the first company to offer a credit risk model represented by a score. The credit score model FICO is still the primary method to determine your creditworthiness.

FHA (Federal Housing Administration): FHA is a government agency that sets standards for construction and underwriting. The FHA insures loans made by private lenders and banks for home building.

LE (Loan Estimate): A Loan Estimate is a 3-page document provided at the beginning of the home loan process that provides an estimate of the costs you can expect. This breakdown will include costs such as closing fees, interest rate, and your loan amount.

LOX (Letter of Explanation): This is a letter written by you to address or explain anything in your employment or financial documents that may be a cause for concern. This could include sudden or unusual activity in your credit report or bank statements.

LTV (Loan-to-Value) ratio: The LTV ratio is used to determine the risk factor for a lender taking on a loan. The LTV ratio measures the loan amount compared to the market value of the asset.

PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance): This acronym represents the sum components that equal your monthly mortgage payment.

PMI (Personal Mortgage Insurance): Personal mortgage insurance is a type of insurance that you may be required to purchase if you have a conventional loan. PMI is usually required when your down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price. PMI is used to protect the lender in the event you stop making your mortgage payments.

POC (Paid Outside of Closing): Any fee or payment that will need to be paid outside of the normal fees due at the time of closing a loan. Appraisal fees, for example, are due at the time of service and would need to be paid before closing.

Do you have any follow-up questions to the above acronyms or would you like our loan officers to walk you through the homebuying process? Contact one of our loan officers today!

Four Signs You Should Refinance Your Mortgage

With mortgage rates still hovering around all-time lows, it might be a good time to consider refinancing your mortgage to snag a lower rate. Refinancing can reduce your monthly payment and total interest costs. Even if your home loan is as recent as last year, it still may be worth replacing. Here are 4 signs it’s time to refinance!

Your current rate is over 4%

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey revealed that last month’s average rate for a 30-year mortgage was holding at 3.29%. Last year, the typical rate was falling around 4.1% for the same 30-year mortgage. A study recently done by LendingTree has discovered that borrowers that refinanced a home loan taken out in early 2019 can save $60 a month for every $100,000 borrowed. Over the life of the loan that added up to almost $20,000 in interest savings!

Your credit is in good shape

It is no secret that the better your credit score, the better chance you have on landing a low interest rate. Credit scores can range anywhere between 300 to 850 with 800 and higher considered “exceptional” and 740-799 considered “very good.” If your credit score falls in the exceptional or very good range, you are in a better position to refinance and get a lower rate.

However, if your credit score could use some improvement, here are some quick tips:

  • Pay off credit card debt and lower your credit utilization (this is the percentage of available credit you’re using).
  • Don’t close old credit cards you’re not using. As long as you’re not being charged annual fees, this can help lower your credit utilization which will in turn raise your credit score!
  • Check for errors on your credit reports. If any errors are found, alert the credit bureau so that the issue can be resolved and removed from your reports.

Cash out your equity

A cash out refinance may be right for you if you are ready to cash out on built up equity on the home. Homeowners choose to cash out in order to pay for education, additional home improvements, eliminate other debt, or start a new business. However, if you choose a cash-out refinance it is important that you can keep up with the payments in the event the home improvements do not add value, or the new business fails.

You plan to stay in your home for a long time

Due to closing costs, it can take months or in some cases years to break even and begin the actual savings. If you are moving or selling soon, refinancing may not be a great idea. But if you plan to stay in your home, a refinance can truly save you money in the long run.

Get in touch with a Loan Officer today to find out if refinancing is right for you!

 

 

Source: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/5-signs-refinance-mortgage-now-182906584.html

8 Ways to Make Your Home a Smart Home

There’s no doubt that technology has revolutionized our everyday lives. Implementing smart devices and technology throughout your home can improve your quality of life. Other than work, we spend the vast majority of our time at home and by using technology to automate everyday processes, we can save time, energy, and even money. Here are 8 ways to transform your home into a smart home.

  1. Smart Home Assistant/ Smart Speaker

The first item you will need to turn your home into a smart home is a digital assistant. The two most popular options are the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Using voice commands, you can control many functions including the temperature, music, and even turning lights on and off. You can also use the assistant to set reminders or create your grocery list.

  1. Smart Home Hub

Some smart speakers have a built-in smart home hub, but if your speaker does not have one you should consider a separate hub. The hub is essentially the brain, a central location where all your devices connect, allowing for total automation of your home from one app.

  1. Smart Lightbulbs

Smart lightbulbs will not only make your life easier, but they are energy efficient! The bulbs will connect to your assistant giving you the power to turn lights on and off in any room with just the sound of your voice or on the app. Depending on the type of smart lightbulb you choose you can even control other settings such as changing colors!

  1. Smart Thermostat

A smart thermostat can be used to automate the temperature in your home. The thermostat can connect to your hub or assistant and can be controlled through the app. It can learn your favorite settings and monitor temperatures in different rooms of your home. Plus, if you are coming back from a trip, you can adjust the temperature so it is perfect once you arrive home!

  1. Smart Doorbell

Smart doorbells have become increasingly popular in recent years. They can create a way to keep your family and home safer. The smart doorbell will alert you when someone is present and allows for you to speak through the doorbell. The HD camera inserted into the doorbell adds the extra protection of checking in at any time. This could come in handy for when you’re not home. Most intruders ring the doorbell before breaking into a home, so if you’re not there and someone rings, you’re able to speak to them and see them which could potentially deter any further crime. Some smart doorbells even have the capacity to recognize frequent visitors and can tell you who is specifically at your door.

  1. Smart Plugs

Smart plugs allow you to group and schedule devices via your app. You can use these to put timers on lighting, turn on appliances, and more! These are cheap, easy to install, and connect to your smart home hub or speaker.

  1. Security Cameras

One of the best ways to keep an eye on your home is through indoor and outdoor security cameras. Most smart home security cameras, whether indoor or outdoor, can easily connect to your home’s wi-fi. Through your smart phone, you can access the cameras to check in and ensure everything is as it should be. Most people opt to have multiple cameras outdoors. Putting one camera on each corner of your home can allow a full range of view to see what is happening all around the perimeter. Many security cameras come with a storage option, some recording movements and allowing you to save or rewind to view previous footage.

  1. Smart Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are essential in turning your home into a smart home. These smart detectors use technology to sense danger and alert you via your smartphone. Some detectors can even detect false alarms, only alerting you of a real threat. Most come with add-ons like sensors to determine occupancy in the home during an emergency.

 

Source: https://thesmarthomer.com/how-to-make-your-home-a-smart-home/

No Contact House Hunting

Amid rising Covid-19 cases and in consideration of the health and safety of agents and clients, Bright MLS has temporary loosened its restrictions on home listings which previously required properties be shown in person in order to stay on the market. If you are a future homebuyer or have been perusing listings you may have noticed a rising increase on homes with virtual options, such as virtual walk throughs and virtual open houses. With the current situation of the world today, real estate agents are forced to get creative when it comes to keeping business up. Some have even decided to live-stream tours of homes, allowing prospective buyers to sit back and watch while asking questions in real time. Some agents are still offering in-persons showings as well. However, extra precautions are in place such as sanitizing in between clients and limiting the amount of people in a home at one time.

Other aspects of the home-buying process have updated procedures as well to incorporate social distancing and respect the recommended self-quarantining. Home inspections and settlements are two areas in which precautions are being put in place. Recently, inspectors are advised to be the only one at the property while inspecting. Filming and taking photos of their inspection are ways they are ensuring clients are receiving the information they need and still being very much a part of the process. Now when it comes time to sign the paperwork and close on your new home you may find the room a bit emptier than expected. Realtors are now being asked to not be present during the settlement process and those that need to sign paperwork or present documents are being brought in separately to do so.

No doubt the current situation we are facing as a globe is drastically changing our everyday lives. But when it comes to buying a home, having a dedicated Realtor and Loan Officer in your court can make what seems like an impossible task at a time like this, very realistic. Due to technology and social media, you don’t have to put off your dreams of purchasing a home any longer!

Contact one of our Loan Officers today!

Mortgage Interest Credit

Depending on your annual income, you may qualify for a mortgage interest credit. In order to receive this credit, you will need a Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC). The IRS will require the MCC in order to grant the interest credit so be sure to speak with a Loan Officer to find out if you qualify.

The Mortgage Credit Certificate allows first-time homebuyers to reduce tax liability dollar-for-dollar by a percentage of the interest paid on the mortgage. This credit can range from 20% to 35%, depending on the MCC program. However, any interest not included as part of the tax credit can still be eligible for home mortgage interest deductions on your federal tax returns.

If you purchased a home with the MCC this year be sure to have these handy when filing your taxes this season:

  • Mortgage Credit Certificate (issued directly after closing)
  • IRS Form 8396 (attach this to your 1040 form)

We recommend consulting with a tax professional so that you can best maximize your savings! And for additional information, contact one of our loan officers.

 

Tips for Preparing for Tax Season

2019 has come to an end which means tax season is right around the corner. Soon it will be time to prepare your 2019 tax returns and it pays to be ready! Getting prepared early can not only save you time and stress but potentially money.  It’s especially important if you have experienced major changes throughout the year such as getting married or buying a home. The IRS encourages early preparation and has recently shared a few tips that can give you a head start.

Always make sure you’re paid up on your taxes is important. The IRS expects that you will have paid most of your tax bill by the time you file your return. If your taxes are being withheld from your pay, chances are that’s enough to cover your total bill and even leaves you with extra for a refund. But keep in mind life events can happen which affect your tax withholding.  You will want to make sure your withholding will also take care of any other income you receive from other sources such as a business or investments.

Of course, you won’t start receiving your W-2s or 1099s until January at the earliest, but there are a few things you can do while you wait. Gathering important records and documents ahead of time will allow for a quicker return. Making sure your address is up to date with your employer and investment providers will ensure you receive these forms in a timely manner. Creating a checklist is also very helpful and can be used every year. Look at your old tax records to compile of list of what materials you were sent. Use that list to create a checklist so you know what to expect throughout the tax season. If you have recently purchased a home, there are some additional documents you may need to gather such as the settlement statement, property tax statement, and if you’re a first-time homebuyer, your Mortgage Credit Certificate.

When you’re all set to file, consider doing so electronically! Every year the IRS is encouraging tax payers to file electronically for many reasons. Not only is filing electronically quicker and secure, it’s easier and is highly accurate. Anyone with a bank account is eligible for direct deposit. Meaning your refund will be automatically sent to you bank account, so you won’t have to wait to receive the check in the mail.

Now that the holiday season is over, preparing for tax season should be on the forefront of your mind. Taking steps to ready yourself will prove to be beneficial in the future.

 

Source: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/taxes/4-ways-to-get-ready-for-tax-season/ar-BBWsZss?ocid=spartanntp

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