Home Mortgage Refinancing Tips For A Smarter You

Mega MansionThe beauty of an economic downturn is cheap credit.  It’s ironic, because cheap credit is one of the main causes of this collapse in the first place!  That said, for those of you with mortgage debt, now is a great time to call your local bank and check up on rates.  Refinancing can be a daunting process, but it shouldn’t be with the right representative and proper frame of mind.

I recently refinanced one of my rental properties and now is a good time to share with you some key things to think about and assess.  Hopefully by the end of this article you will be able to make an informed decision and save lots of money as a result!

INFLATION

Knowing when to refinance is like being a bond trader.  Bond traders obsess over inflation assumptions, and you should have at least a basic assumption as well.  Clearly, there has been tremendous monetary expansion recently, which should ultimately lead to higher inflation.  Basic economic theory says that for every new $1 dollar bill printed, there will be a $1 increase in prices in the overall basket of goods eventually.  The key word is eventually, which could be decades away.

People have been waiting for higher inflation, and therefore higher rates for the past decade.  Ironically, those with short-term fixed mortgages (ARMs) are this century’s winners, because rates are resetting at equal to lower levels than when they were originally fixed!

Inflation has been coming down now for over 25 years, and I see little reason to expect inflation to suddenly jump higher given the tremendous output gap in the economy.  If inflation does start rising, at least you know that your assets are by definition also rising in nominal value.

The figure to watch is the 10-year US treasury yield.  Currently at 3.4% 2%  2.7% (as of 4/26/14) the yield is hovering close to the lows of the past decade.  Meanwhile spreads between treasury yields and bank mortgage rates have narrowed since the crisis.  Most long term duration mortgages are related to the 10-yr bond yield, hence whenever you see the stock market crashing,watch bond prices rise, and yields fall.  This is the exact time to call your mortgage broker.

DURATION

Where Americans Pay The Most To Live And Why

Samurai On Waialae Beach At Sunset

As one can guess, higher paying jobs leads to higher costs of living.  In fact, more than half of the 20 cities surveyed by the US Census Bureau are based in Caleeforneea, as Governor Arnold would say.

How is it that California is so dominant in the expensive category, when the mass of settlers first arrived on Plymouth Rock 300 years ago?  3,300 miles is a long way to travel, especially on horse and foot!  The main reason for the unfettered move out west is simply warmth and sunshine!

Every time I vacation in Hawaii, I always ask myself, why the heck ain’t I here for good.  Let’s face it, more sunshine equals happier people.  Sunshine is the classic zeitgeber to help us wake up and get us motoring in the morning.  No sunshine leads to no photosynthesis, which means no plant life, and therefore no ecosystem.

After 10 years of living on the east coast, I can still feel the grey skies weigh down my soul every winter.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the winter snow during the holidays, but I just love being in a cheerful mood more.  Here are America’s most expensive places to live based off median monthly housing costs.

TOP CITIES WHERE AMERICANS PAY THE MOST TO LIVE

Book Review & Giveaway: The New Rules For Mortgages

41rpgJfrwQL._SS500_“The New Rules For Mortgages” by Dale Siegel provides a fantastic understanding of everything you need to know about mortgages.  For many, a home is the single biggest purchase of their lives, and the mortgage is a necessary instrument for making homeownership dreams a reality.

Qualifying for a mortgage is daunting, but it doesn’t have to be under Dale Siegel’s guidance.  After all, who’s better to give instructions than the president of her own mortgage company?  It’s important to highlight that Dale truly tries to provide readers knowledge about mortgages and doesn’t use her book as a sounding board for her company.  The book is like a secret weapon for first time home-buyers who dare tip-toe past enemy landmines.  The enemy is the industry which has adeptly blown off many appendages via exotic liar loans and oh-too-high fees.

How To Lower Your Property Taxes – Adventures In Assessor Land

FACT: The goal of local governments is to get every single penny in tax revenue from you! When I got my property tax bill in 2009, I was astonished to see that the City is taxing my primary residence based off an assessed value 7% HIGHER than in Armageddon 2008!  In the biggest economic downturn ever, the San Francisco assessors office believes my property actually increased?!  What a sham!

Like clock work, assessed values increase 2-3% higher every year, regardless of the economic environment.  It’s as if the City is punishing me for succeeding to lower my assessed value last year by 3%.  Too bad for the city, because they are messing with the WRONG person.  The tax collectors office counts on citizens to roll over and listen to their every whim, but not me, and certainly not you!

I want to share some tips on how you too can fight against the machine.

5 STEPS TO REDUCE YOUR PROPERTY TAX

 

The 30/30/3 Principle – Three Home Buying Rules To Follow

A reader writes in: “Hello Samurai! I like your 1/10th rule for buying automobiles and was wondering if you use some similar sort of calculation when deciding how much one should be spending when buying a home?  Thnx, Brian”

Response: Hi Brian, thanks for your question. For those who are not aware, the 1/10th rule simply states one should spend no more than 1/10th your annual gross income on the purchase price of a car.  Home buying is a tougher one, especially since people get so emotionally crazy and irrational when it comes to property.  There are several key hurdles you need to meet before buying a home.  The rules can be encapsulated in the 30/30/3 principle.

1) Cash flow. Traditionally the industry says to spend no more than 30% of your gross income on your monthly mortgage payment, but I think you can stretch it to 50% if you think you’ll be making more money in the future.  Don’t bank on it though, as this downturn has shown many people, including myself.

50% of your gross income on $50,000/month is much different from 50% on $2,000/month mind you.  You must be able to take care of your basic needs with the money remaining.  Hence, I suggest spending LESS as a percentage of your gross income the more income challenged you are.  I wouldn’t spend more than 30% of gross, if income is $10,000/month or less.

2) Down Payment. You should have at least 30% of the value of the home saved in cash.  20% is for the downpayment to avoid PMI insurance, and the other 8-10% is for a healthy cash buffer.  There are some high-risk people out there who want their home so bad that they put down only 10%, and take another 10% in the form of a maxed out HELOC loan just to get in the home.  If you don’t have at least 30% of the value of the home saved up, then it’s best to start eating only ramen to bolster savings!

3) Value of the home. Cash flow affordability is a function of the price you pay.  If you are able to meet the first two hurdles of cash flow and down payment, then you can tie it all together with a proper multiple of your yearly gross income to see what you can afford.  The MAX multiple I recommend is 5X if you meet the first two conditions, but 3X is better.  In this case, the more you make, riskier it is to go to an upper limit multiple because of  leverage.  5X $500,000 is much more daunting than 5X of a $50,000 salary for example.  You can always refinance your home, but you can never change your initial purchase price!

Good Example: $100,000/yr income, $120,000 in cash saved, $400,000 home no problem!  $320,000 mortgage after putting 20% down, and you still have a $40,000 buffer.  Your monthly payment is $1,918/month PMI at 6%, and is a suitable 23% of your monthly gross income of $8,333.  In case of layoff, you have 21 months of mortgage coverage with your $50,000 buffer.

Donkey Example: $120,000/yr income, $100,000 in cash saved, salivating for a $750,000 home.  10% down leaves $25,000 in cash, and a $675,000 mortgage since you’re doing another $75,000 HELOC to avoid PMI insurance.  Monthly payment $4,000, or 40% of your gross income.  6 month mortgage coverage ratio before you run out of cash is not enough.  Don’t do it!

I highly recommend making sure you pass the 30/30/3 principle before making the biggest purchase of your life.  It’ll be good for you in the long run, and it’ll be great for neighbors and the entire financial system as there will be less of a chance you’ll foreclose.  Best of luck in your house hunt!

Recommendations:

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For Tenants: Take a moment to check your free credit score through GoFreeCredit.com, a company I trust. If you are in a hot rental market, or really want a particular rental, you should have your credit score as part of your application for your landlord. I am a multi-property landlord and highly value a credit score and report. Those who come to me with their credit score stand out above others who don’t. If you do not want to pay for the credit monitoring, simply cancel within the grace period.

For Homeowners. LendingTree Mortgage Refinance offers some of the lowest refinance rates because they have a huge network of lenders to provide mortgage loans, home equity loans, and home equity lines of credit. If you’re looking to buy a new home, consider using LendingTree to get multiple offer comparisons in a matter of minutes. When banks compete, you win.

Updated: 2Q2014