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Home Equity Loan or Cash-Out Refinance: Which One is Better for You?

One of the many appeals of purchasing a home is the equity that you’ll eventually build up. As you make your mortgage payments, you’ll be primarily paying down the interest on the loan at first. Over time, though, the amount you owe on your mortgage is reduced through a process known as amortization. The result is the buildup of equity in your home. 

Using Equity to Fund Your Life

Around the time that homeowners start to build equity, many of them start thinking about renovating or other major projects that are designed to improve their home and make it better suit their needs. In other cases, you might be looking for ways to fund your children’s college education. Regardless of why you want to access your home’s equity, you have two primary options for doing so: a home equity loan and a cash-out refinance. 

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Surprise! The Federal Reserve Bank Lowered Interest Rates

Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, made a surprising announcement on July 31. For the first time in more than 10 years, the Fed slashed interest rates. The reasoning behind this move, according to Powell, was to extend the country’s economic expansion so it can continue to set records. 

Dissecting the Interest Rate Reduction

The comments Powell delivered on July 31 in tandem with the Fed’s announcement were largely positive. It was a desire to keep the economy looking favorable that lead to the decision to lower the interest rate by a quarter percentage point. This move is designed to make it more affordable for consumers to borrow money to purchase cars, homes and consumer goods. 

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Top 3 Loans Homebuyers Can Take Advantage Of

For first-time homebuyers, obtaining financing isn’t the aspect of a mortgage they need to contend with. There are also a number of different types of loans available. While the options can be overwhelming, careful research can ensure that you understand each and help you find the one that best suits your situation. 

1. VA Loans

VA loans are limited to veterans and members of the military. Often easier to qualify for than a conventional loan, these mortgages are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s important to make the distinction that in spite of being the guarantor, the VA does not actually make the loan. 

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Reverse Mortgage Myths Busted

A reverse mortgage is officially known as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). A tool that taps into a home’s equity while providing retirement income for homeowners aged 62 years or older with no monthly payments, reverse mortgages are being increasingly common. While most reverse mortgages are federally insured and are a great financial decision for many homeowners, there are still many myths surrounding them that can make it difficult to decide if they are the best choice. 

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President Trump pushes for lower interest rates

In spite of intense pressure from President Trump, the Federal Reserve did not change its key interest rates when it met last. Instead, the Fed reiterated its stance that it probably not hike rates in the near future. The reasons for their decision included low inflation and a strong economy. 

Does a Lower Interest Rate Make Sense?

Trump stated that he wanted the economy to continue to strengthen so he urged the Federal Reserve to lower rates in hopes that it would spur greater growth. Some experts, such as Kathy Bostjancic, an economist at Oxford Economics, projects that slashing the interest rate by one percentage point in 2019 will help the economy grow by about one-half of a percentage point in 2020. In order to be fully beneficial, though, businesses would need to be able to find enough qualified workers so they can make more goods and provide more services. Already, however, companies are having a hard time doing that because, at 3.8 percent, the nation’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in close to 50 years. 

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Cash-Out Mortgage Refinancing: Does it Make Sense for You?

In general, when interest rates are on the rise, homeowners don’t refinance their mortgages. This makes sense because many people choose to refinance in order to reduce their monthly payments. When refinances are initiated during periods of rising interest rates, though, the reasoning behind them is often quite different. 

Why Refinance When Interest Rates are High? 

In most cases, when a homeowner decides to refinance their mortgage when the interest rates are high or rising, the action is fueled by the desire to “cash out.” This means that the new mortgage is larger than the balance due on the old one with the excess money being used to fund other, discretionary purchases. 

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Should You Refinance Your Mortgage Now?

By now, nearly everyone has heard about the Federal Reserve Bank’s surprise move to keep interest rates steady at their last meeting. In fact, the Feds even went so far as to indicate that they likely wouldn’t raise interest rates again in 2019. This is good news for those who were in the market to purchase a home but who were concerned about the effects of the incremental interest rate hikes would have on their bottom line. 

What About Refinancing? 

What might not be as clear is whether the Feds’ “patient approach” to the possibility of future interest rate increases means that it’s a good time for current holders of a mortgage to refinance. While keeping in mind that it’s possible that interest rates might start to fall — which would make refinancing even more attractive — there are other considerations you should think about as well. 

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Celebrate the Spring Home Buying Season with Lower Interest Rates

In March, the Federal Reserve Bank surprised everyone by not raising interest rates. In fact, the agency stated that it would likely not raise interest rates again in 2019. This announcement came quickly on the heels of their policy generated just six weeks ago. At that time, the agency indicated that they would take a patient stance about the market when it came to deciding about future hikes in the interest rate. 

Sparking Home Buying Interest

While the most popular home buying season of the year — spring — is already underway, the announcement by the Federal Reserve Bank to hold off on any interest rate increases for the rest of the year will provide it with a much-needed boost. Even though interest rates in 2018 continued to be low compared to other years, the fact that they kept increasing made some people reconsider whether buying a home was in their best financial interest. That misgiving is now no longer an issue which should prompt a renewed flurry of mortgages throughout 2019 and starting with the spring. 

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What Does it Mean to Buy Down Your Mortgage Rate?

Buy Down Your Mortgage Rate

One way of doing so is to buy down your mortgage rate. This is accomplished by paying for mortgage points. These mortgage points — sometimes they’re referred to as closing points or discount points — are a fee that is paid to the mortgage broker or lender. In exchange for the payment of mortgage points, you receive a discount. For example, one percent of the loan’s total amount for each mortgage point paid. 

Mortgage Points Explained

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Want to Qualify for the Best Mortgage Rate? Do These 3 Things First

Purchasing a home is not only likely to be the biggest investment you’ll ever make, but it is also the largest debt you’ll assume in your lifetime. It pays to do your research when it comes to ways to qualify for the lowest mortgage rate. After all, just a couple of percentage points can make the difference in you paying thousands of dollars more over the course of the loan.

1. Check Your Credit Score

Your credit score is the single most important item when it comes to securing the best mortgage rate. Being able to improve it takes time so ideally. you should start by taking a look at your credit score at least several months before you actually want to apply for a mortgage.

According to myFICO.com, the difference you’ll be if you have the highest credit range and one that’s average is about $33,000 in total interest over the course of the loan. Ways to improve your credit score include checking your credit report for mistakes, paying off credit card debt, spending only 20 to 30 percent of your credit limit and paying your bills on time each month.

2. Determine the Best Mortgage Type

While some mortgages are limited to a certain sector of the population — the military, for example, or those who meet certain income guidelines — you can usually categorize them as either those that are backed by the federal government and conventional loans. About 65 percent of all mortgages in the United States are those issued by private lenders such as credit unions, thrift institutions, mortgage companies and commercial banks. In some cases, these conventional loans might also be guaranteed by agencies that have government ties like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Government-backed loan programs are also offered by private lenders, but the federal government acts as the full or partial guarantor. In general, these loans have lower down payments and credit score expectations than conventional mortgages. There are usually more flexible borrowing and income requirements. With these advantages, though, come stipulations regarding the loan. The borrower might live at the property as their primary residence and it cannot be used to generate rental income or as an investment.

3. Look at Loan Terms

Regardless of the mortgage lender you deal with, they are looking to reduce the risks they take by offering you a loan. This means that a shorter loan term — such as a 15-year mortgage instead of the typical 30-day mortgage — will net you a more attractive interest rate. The payoff is that your monthly payments will be much higher.

As an example, if you pay an interest rate of 4.23 percent on a $260,000 mortgage loan for 15 years, your monthly payment will be about $1,953. Secure that same loan amount and mortgage rate for 30 years and your monthly payments will only be about $1,276. By doing that, though, you’ll be paying an extra $100,000 in interest of the life of the loan.

There are a number of factors that go into the search for the lowest rate. The above three provide you with some flexible options to suit your particular situation.

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