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Mortgage Blog

May 16

Alternative Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

A standard fully-amortizing mortgage pays off the balance over the term. With a 30-year term, this requires 360 monthly payments, while a 15-year term requires 180 payments. Many lenders, however, offer special loan repayment programs that promise to pay off the balance before term, without imposing much of an added burden on the borrower. This article looks at the most common of these schemes, as well as an alternative that borrowers can adopt on their own.

Bimonthly Payment Plans

On a bimonthly payment plan, the borrower's monthly payment in split into two pieces of equal size, one due on the 15th of the month and the other on the first. While the borrower makes 24 payments a year instead of 12, they add to the same total. However, the lender credits the half payment on the 15th to the balance on the 15th, which reduces the interest due on the first.

While the reduction in interest shortens the period to payoff, the impact is small. On 30-year mortgages with rates of 6% or less, payoff occurs after 719 half payments, shaving just one-half of a month off the term. On a 7% mortgage, payoff occurs after 718 half payments, accelerating payoff by one month.

There isn't anything wrong with the bimonthly mortgage, provided that paying twice a month is convenient and you don't give up anything of value to get it. Readers have reported to me that loan officers touting the bimonthly have told them that the term would be reduced to 23 or 24 years, which is nonsense.

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Apr 4

Making Your Extra Mortgage Payments Count

Homeowners with a mortgage usually want to reduce their interest cost by paying down the loan balance as fast as possible. This article is about what borrowers can and cannot do on their own.


Is There Any Benefit In Making Scheduled Payments Before the Due Date? No. One of the many readers who have asked me this question told me that she was in the habit of making payments 6 months early! She was crestfallen to learn that this practice did not reduce her interest cost at all.

On a standard mortgage, interest accrues monthly, and is calculated by multiplying one-twelfth of the annual interest rate times the loan balance at the end of the preceding month. For example, if the loan balance is $100,000 and the interest rate is 6%, the interest due is .06/12 x 100,000, or $500. The borrower owes $500 regardless of when the payment is made or how many days there are in the month. If the payment is late by more than the 10 or 15 day "grace period", there is an additional late fee. But there is no rebate for paying early.

Simple interest mortgages, on which interest accrues daily, are an exception. On these mortgages, every day of delay in making the payment increases the interest cost, and paying early does reduce the borrower's interest bill. Simple interest mortgages used to be fairly common, but I am not aware of any being offered today.

Do Extra Payments Save More Interest When Made In Some Months? No, the only valid rule is that the sooner you make the payment, the more interest you will save.

An idea that keeps popping up in my mailbox is that the best month in which to make extra payments to principal is January. It is certainly true that a January payment saves more interest than one made in the succeeding February, but it saves less than one made the preceding December.

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Mar 21

Unmarried Couples Buying a House Together May Also Be Buying Trouble

More and more couples, both mixed and same-sex, are electing to live together without getting married, and often this includes purchasing a home together. This is a major decision fraught with potential consequences if and when they decide to split.

Set the Ground Rules For a Split Before the Purchase

Couples who have just decided to live together are understandably reluctant to discuss how they will want to deal with a split when it comes. Facing the issue at the outset, however, may save a ton of expense, aggravation and acrimony down the road. They should consider, furthermore, that a failure to agree on the ground rules that will govern a split might well indicate that the relationship will probably not last very long. This may prompt them to reconsider their decision to purchase the home together.

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Mar 14

Mortgage Issues of Married Couples: From Loan Qualification to Breakup

When a married couple purchases a house with the help of a mortgage, they become subject to a wide range of legal rules and custom-based practices at every stage of the process. This article will summarize some of the major issues that arise.

Qualifying For a Standard Mortgage

If both of the parties have incomes, these can be combined in meeting underwriting rules that set ceilings on the ratio of housing expense to income. This means that they can afford a larger mortgage together than either can afford separately, and can therefore purchase a more costly home together.

But this is subject to an important proviso: both parties must have acceptable credit scores. When incomes are combined, lenders use the lower of the two credit scores. If the lower score is too low to qualify, only the income of the partner with an acceptable score can be used.

Moral: Before you pop the question, check his (her) credit score as well as her (his) income.

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Mar 4

Builder Financing May Be Problematic

"I purchased a home from builder XYZ for $320,000, and have a $10,666 Realtor rebate coming back to me. (2/3 of 5% of $320,000). The builder had me sign a paper that says the Realtor rebate can only be used to pay settlement costs. In addition, if I use XYZ's lender, the lender will pay $5,000 toward my settlement costs.

I can't imagine that my settlement costs will add to the $15,666 credit that I have. What happens to the excess? Will the builder take it off the purchase price?"

Rebate of the Realtor's Commission

The rebate of the Realtor's commission can only be used as a credit against closing costs. If the rebate is not fully needed for that purpose, the Realtor will keep it – it will not be taken off the purchase price.

Why is the builder willing to charge you $320K and pay $10K of your costs, but is not willing to reduce the price to $310K? While they cost the builder the same amount on your transaction, they have different implications for other transactions. By defining the price reduction as a rebate, the builder retains flexibility to adjust prices on a case-by-case basis, as circumstances dictate. These circumstances include differences between individual buyers – some must be persuaded to buy, while others don't. It also includes possible changes in the market over time. If demand picks up and sales increase, the rebate may no longer be necessary to stimulate sales.

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