Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tips to Getting Your Loan Modification Application Reviewed

Many homeowners seeking a loan modification to lower their monthly mortgage payments and avoid foreclosure continue to find the application process a very complex process, often causing them to give up before their application is ever reviewed by their mortgage company.

Certified housing counselors for CredAbility, a national nonprofit credit counseling and education agency, speak daily with hundreds of homeowners seeking a loan modification or other solutions to keep their homes. The organization has several tips for people that will help them increase the chances that their application is reviewed as quickly as possible.

A homeowner needs to collect and send several documents that tell the mortgage company why you need a modification, and it needs to be done in a timely, organized manner. Once a homeowner has submitted these documents, they need to stay in regular contact with the company. With hundreds of thousands of applications under consideration, homeowners must take matters into their own hands to make sure their application gets to the right person at the company.

Here are CredAbility's recommendations for homeowners seeking a loan modification:

Speak With a Nonprofit Housing Counselor to Understand Investor Rules for Your Loan. Every homeowner's mortgage loan is different, so don't rely on information you may have heard from your neighbor or your sister-in-law, even if they received a loan modification. For example, if your 30-year, fixed interest rate loan is owned by one investor, and your neighbor's is owned by another investor, the rules governing a loan modification may be quite different. A certified counselor at a nonprofit credit counseling agency can help you find the investor who owns your mortgage and determine your options.

Submit All Documents That Prove Your Current Income. Income verification is critical, but homeowners sometimes don't provide their mortgage company with recent documents. If you lost a job in June, don't provide pay stubs from March. In addition to recent pay stubs and other traditional income sources, homeowners should also provide a document called a "contribution letter." This letter explains the source of any household income that is not easily verified. For example, a servicer will want to know the total household income of a married couple, even if only one person's name is on the loan. The letter could also include income verifying that you have a roommate that pays rent.

Submit Current Bank Statements. Recent bank statements allow your mortgage company to verify your income and expenses. This information enables the mortgage company to see your monthly expenses for food, utilities and other expenses and determine whether you will have enough money to make your mortgage payment.

Mail Your Documents to the Mortgage Company. Many people prefer to send all of their documents by fax or scan their documents and send them via email. However, postal mail is usually more reliable, especially if it's addressed to the person you spoke with at the mortgage company. Faxes often get lost.

Label Each Page With Your Name and Loan Number. One of the most common complaints among homeowners is that the mortgage company loses their documents. You can help your own cause by writing your name and loan number on each page of every document.

Fully Explain Any Recent or Unique Income Changes. For example, a bank deposit may show various one-time transactions, such as an asset sale, cash gifts from family members or a bonus. Unless you explain this one-time increase in income, the servicer may not understand it and use this information to deny your loan modification.

Include a Timeline in Your Hardship Letter. Every application for a loan modification must include a "hardship letter" that explains the reasons for your request. But the letter must have specific dates explaining when an income loss has occurred. If your spouse lost her job on July 15 and your family income will decrease by $3,000 beginning in August, your letter needs to provide these details.

Call Your Mortgage Company Every Week. Many homeowners work extremely hard to submit all of their paperwork to the servicer - and then wait for weeks before picking up the telephone to call them about the status of their application. This is a mistake for several reasons: the person handling your application may quit; the application may be transferred to another person; the company may need more information. You get the picture.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

12 Ways to Save Money on Homeowners Insurance

SHOP AROUND
Friends, family, the phone book and Internet are some of the sources you can use to find homeowners insurers. Get a wide range of prices from several companies. But don't consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer both a fair price and excellent service. Quality service may cost a bit more, but you buy insurance in case you need to make a claim, so it's important to get a company with a good reputation. Talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they give. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs. Check the financial ratings of the companies with AM Best or Standard and Poor's.

RAISE YOUR DEDUCTIBLE
Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay. Deductibles on homeowners policies typically start at $250. Increase your deductible to
$ 500 -- save up to 12 percent
$1,000 -- save up to 24 percent
$2,500 -- save up to 30 percent
$5,000 -- save up to 37 percent

BUY YOUR HOME AND AUTO POLICIES FROM THE SAME INSURER
Some companies that sell homeowners, auto and liability coverage will take 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them.

WHEN YOU BUY A HOME...
Consider how much insuring it will cost. A new home's electrical, heating and plumbing systems and overall structure are likely to be in better shape than those of an older house. Insurers may offer you a discount of 8 to 15 percent if your house is new. Check the home's construction: In the East brick is better, because of its resistance to wind damage, and in the West frame is better, because of its resistance to earthquake damage. Choosing wisely could cut your premium by 5 to 15 percent. Avoiding areas that are prone to floods can save you about $400 a year for flood insurance. Homeowners insurance does not cover flood-related damage. The closer your house is to firefighters and their equipment, the lower your premium will be.

INSURE YOUR HOUSE, NOT THE LAND
The land under your house isn't at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your homeowners policy. So don't include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. If you do, you'll pay a higher premium than you should.

IMPROVE YOUR HOME SECURITY AND SAFETY
You can usually get discounts of at least 5 percent for a smoke detector, burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks. Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police station or other monitoring facility. These systems aren't cheap and not every system qualifies for the discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind your insurer recommends and how much the device would cost and how much you'd save on premiums.

STOP SMOKING
Smoking accounts for more than 23,000 residential fires a year. That's why some insurers offer to reduce premiums if all the residents in a house don't smoke.

SEEK OUT DISCOUNTS FOR SENIORS
Retired people stay at home more and spot fires sooner than working people and have more time for maintaining their homes. If you're at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies.

SEE IF YOU CAN GET GROUP COVERAGE
Alumni and business associations often work out an insurance package with an insurance company, which includes a discount for association members. Ask your association's director if an insurer is offering a discount on homeowners insurance to you and your fellow graduates or colleagues.

STAY WITH AN INSURER
If you've kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive special consideration. Several insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for 3 to 5 years; by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for 6 years or more.

COMPARE THE LIMITS IN YOUR POLICY TO THE VALUE OF YOUR POSSESSIONS AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR
You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home. But you don't want to spend money for coverage you don't need.

LOOK FOR PRIVATE INSURANCE FIRST
If you live in a high-risk area, one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms, fires, or crime, and have been buying your homeowners insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or company representative. You may find that there are steps you can take that would allow you to buy insurance at a lower price in the private market.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

FHA Giving Buyers Until October 4th

View ImageThe Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is giving homeowners and buyers until October 4 to lock in a low monthly insurance premium. After October 4, the monthly insurance premiums on FHA loans will increase by over 63%.

What does this mean for home buyers?
A home buyer purchasing a $200,000 home using a $193,000 FHA mortgage before October 4 would pay an insurance premium of $88.46 per month. If the same home buyer waits until after October 4, the insurance premium would jump to $148.01.

Although the upfront mortgage insurance premium is going down after October 4, the long term impact to the home buyer is actually a net increase in their out of pocket costs because the monthly premium is going up by 63%. Sellers can pay the upfront premium or it can be financed into the loan amount, so homebuyers rarely pay the upfront premium out of pocket. On the other hand, the increase in the monthly premiums will be paid right out of the home buyer's pocket with their mortgage payment each month.

Home buyers in a home short term may actually benefit
Ironically, home buyers who plan to be in the mortgage for less than three years and decide to pay the upfront fee themselves (instead of having the seller pay it for them), may actually save money by waiting until after October 4 to apply for an FHA loan.

The upfront premium will be reduced to 1% from 2.25%. This change will impact over 30% of the home buyers in today's market who use FHA-insured financing.

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