Why Do I Need To Pay A VA Funding Fee?

The VA Funding Fee is an essential component of the VA home loan program, and is a requirement of any Veteran taking advantage of this zero down payment government loan program.

This fee ranges from 1.25% to 3.3% of the loan amount, depending upon the circumstances.

On a $150,000 loan that’s an additional $1,875 to almost $5,000 in cost just for the benefit of using the VA home loan.

The good news is that the VA allows borrowers to finance this cost into the home loan without having to include it as part of the closing costs.

For buyers using their VA loan guarantee for the first time on a zero down loan, the Funding Fee would be 2.15%.

For example, on a $150,000 loan amount, the VA Funding Fee could total $3,225, which would increase the monthly mortgage payment by $18 if it were financed into the new loan.

So basically, the incremental increase to a monthly payment is not very much if you choose to finance the Funding Fee.

Historical Trivia:

Under VA’s founding law in 1944 there was no Funding Fee; the guaranty VA offered lenders was limited to 50 percent of the loan, not to exceed $2,000; loans were limited to a maximum 20 years, and the interest rate was capped at 4 percent.

The VA loan was originally designed to be readjustment aid to returning veterans from WWII and they had 2 years from the war’s official end before their eligibility expired. The program was meant to help them catch up for the lost years they sacrificed.

However, the program has obviously evolved to a long term housing benefit for veterans.

The first Funding Fee was ½% and was enacted in 1966 for the sole purpose of building a reserve fund for defaults. This remained in place only until 1970. The Funding Fee of ½% was re-instituted in 1982 and has been in place ever since.

The Amount Of Funding Fee A Borrower Pays Depends On:

  • The type of transaction (refinance versus purchase)
  • Amount of equity
  • Whether this is the first use or subsequent use of the borrower’s VA loan benefit
  • Whether you are/were regular military or Reserve or National Guard

*Disabled veterans are exempt from paying a Funding Fee

The table of Funding Fees can be accessed via VA’s website – CLICK HERE

The main reason for a Veteran to select the VA home loan instead of another program is due to the zero down payment feature.

However, if the Veteran plans on making a 20% or more down payment, the VA loan might not be the best choice because a conventional loan would have a similar interest rate, but without the Funding Fee expense.

The best way to view the VA Funding Fee is that it is a small cost to pay for the benefit of not needing to part with thousands of dollars in down payment.

* Disclaimer – all information is accurate as of the time this article was written *

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Why Do I Need Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage Insurance, sometimes referred to as Private Mortgage Insurance, is required by lenders on conventional home loans if the borrower is financing more than 80% Loan-To-Value.

According to Wikipedia:

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is insurance payable to a lender or trustee for a pool of securities that may be required when taking out a mortgage loan.

It is insurance to offset losses in the case where a mortgagor is not able to repay the loan and the lender is not able to recover its costs after foreclosure and sale of the mortgaged property.

PMI isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it allows borrowers to purchase a property by qualifying for conventional financing with a lower down payment.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) simply protects your lender against non-payment should you default on your loan. It’s important to understand that the primary and only real purpose for mortgage insurance is to protect your lender—not you. As the buyer of this coverage, you’re paying the premiums so that your lender is protected. PMI is often required by lenders due to the higher level of default risk that’s associated with low down payment loans. Consequently, its sole and only benefit to you is a lower down payment mortgage

Private Mortgage Insurance and Mortgage Protection Insurance

Private mortgage insurance and mortgage protection insurance are often confused.

Though they sound similar, they’re two totally different types of insurance products that should never be construed as substitutes for each other.

  • Mortgage protection insurance is essentially a life insurance policy designed to pay off your mortgage in the event of your death.
  • Private mortgage insurance protects your lender, allowing you to finance a home with a smaller down-payment.

Automatic Termination

Thanks to The Homeowner’s Protection Act (HPA) of 1998, borrowers have the right to request private mortgage insurance cancellation when they reach a 20 percent equity in their mortgage. What’s more, lenders are required to automatically cancel PMI coverage when a 78 percent Loan-to-Value is reached.

Some exceptions to these provisions, such as liens on property or not keeping up with payments, may require further PMI coverage.

Also, in many instances your PMI premium is often tax deductible in a similar fashion as the interest paid each year on your mortgage is tax deductible. Please, check with a tax expert to learn your tax options.

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How Do I Calculate My Mortgage Payment Without Using A Mortgage Calculator?

Calculating an exact mortgage payment without a calculator on a loan is no small task, but there are some simple rules-of-thumb you can use to get a close estimate.

With the exception of the MIT Blackjack Team, performing this type of complex math in your head often leads to frustrating rants.

When coming up with a rough estimate, it is important to understand the individual components that factor into the overall monthly mortgage payment.

Yes, the thousands of dollars you send to your lender every year may cover more than just the mortgage, but referring to one simple formula will help you gauge what the new payment will be as you’re out looking for new properties that may be in your price range.

What’s In A Mortgage Payment?

A mortgage consists of 4-6 parts:

  • Principal – the balance of the loan
  • Interest – the fee paid to borrow the mortgage money
  • Property Taxes – based on county assessed value and residence type
  • Hazard Insurance – in the case of fire or property damage (may include a separate flood policy)
  • Mortgage Insurance – more than 80% LTV on conventional loans, or with FHA financing

Most lenders use the acronym (PITI), which includes Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance.

And in the case where a separate Mortgage Insurance Premium is required, we add another “I” to the end of that creative series of letters.

Another monthly expense that you have to consider is the monthly dues that come with properties that have a homeowner’s association (common in condominiums and other developments). This isn’t a payment made to your lender, but you will have to qualify with that payment and it is also best practice for you to factor that in the monthly cost of your new home.

Confused yet? Don’t worry, this is slightly easier than most state bar exams.

The Mortgage Payment Cheat Sheet:

Ok, you’ve made it this far and haven’t closed your browser, so that is a good thing.

Please keep in mind, this top secret formula will by no means be exact.

Mortgage Payment Formula:

For every $1000 you borrower, your TOTAL monthly mortgage payment will be $8.

So, if you purchase a home for $250,000 with a $50,000 down payment – borrowing a total of $200,000, then a good estimated total monthly PITI payment would be roughly $1600.

But don’t forget to add your homeowners association dues to that monthly payment.

What If I Pay Taxes and Insurance Separately?

Well now we’re at the easy part. If you elect to pay taxes separate from your mortgage, the cheat sheet is reduced from $8 per $1000 down to $6 per $1000.

So there you have it. $8 for every $1000 borrowed.

Again, please keep in mind that this is not going to give you an EXACT payment. You may be purchasing a property with higher real estate taxes or your insurance premiums may be higher than average depending on the state you live in.

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Do I Have To Continue Making My Mortgage Payment If My Lender Goes Bankrupt?

When mortgage lenders go out of business and are essentially taken over by the FDIC, homeowners are left wondering if they still need to make a monthly payment.

Great thought, and a very common question for many borrowers in the 2006-2010 timeframe.

The short answer is YES, you still have to continue making mortgage payments if your current lender files for bankruptcy or disappears over the weekend.

In order to give a more thorough answer to this popular topic, we’ll need to address the relationship between mortgage loans as liens and mortgage servicers who make money by handling payments.

To put this topic in perspective, 381 banks actually filed bankruptcy between 2006 and 2010 forcing them to cease their mortgage lending activities. And a common misconception borrowers have about their mortgage company is that their agreement should become obsolete once the lender files for bankruptcy or goes out of business.

Based on the way mortgage money is made, packaged and sold on the secondary market as a mortgage backed security, the promissory note (agreement) is actually spread between many investors who rely on a servicing company to collect and manage the monthly payments.

A mortgage is considered a secured asset, where the collateral is real estate.  And, the mortgage note has a separate value to investors and servicers based on the interest and servicing fees they have wrapped up in the monthly payments.

This is why many mortgage notes get sold to other servicers who pay for the rights to service your loan. So basically, even if a mortgage company is bankrupt, someone else is willing to take on the job of collecting payments.

Also, by signing a mortgage note, the borrower is committing to continue making the required payments, regardless of what happens to the mortgage company servicing your loan.

Bullets:

  • Your house is an asset
  • The mortgage note has a separate value to investors
  • Regardless what happens to your mortgage company, you need to make your payments

Also, it’s important to continue making your mortgage payments on time, regardless of which servicing company is sending a monthly statement.  Obviously, keep a good paper trail of those mortgage payments in case there is a mix-up between transitions.

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Is There A Rule-of-Thumb Regarding The Number Of Credit Lines To Have Open?

While the actual credit score has a big impact on a loan approval, it’s not the only component of the credit scenario that underwriters consider for a mortgage approval.

Since loan programs, individual lenders and mortgage insurance companies all have their own credit report restrictions, it’s difficult to define a standard Rule-of-Thumb to follow.

However, the number of “Open and Active Trade Lines” seems to be the common denominator in most approvals.

A trade line is basically a credit card, installment loan or other credit liability that is reported to the credit bureaus and displayed on a credit report.

Credit Trade Line / Approval Bullets:

  • Banks usually won’t count a trade line that is less than 12 months old.
  • The minimum number of trade lines most lenders find acceptable is 4 open and active trade lines.
  • Lenders like to see at least one credit line of $5,000, or all credit lines to total $1,000 or more.

Exceptions to Trade Line Rules:

Interestingly enough, a recent list of Mortgage Insurance requirements included a favorable trade line requirement, which read:

Min 3 trade lines @ 12 mo reporting. Cannot be ‘authorized user’

Basically, this means as long as the lender, and the loan program allow for less than 4 trade lines, this mortgage insurance company will accept only 3 trade lines that are in the borrower’s name.

Another exception to this rule is if you have no FICO score, and no negative trade lines.

In this case you may qualify for an “alternative credit” loan. The most common loan of this type is insured by FHA, but there are select programs that are usually targeted to assist people whose culture does not trust or use banks.

Borrowers applying for a non-traditional credit loan will still need to prove they have successfully paid their bills on time for 12 months by clearly documenting at least four creditors.  A verification of rent from a property management company, power, utilities, cell phone… are alternative sources of credit that can be used.

*A letter from a landlord or creditor stating that the bills were paid on time is not acceptable forms of proof.  Lenders will need canceled checks and / or copies of bank statements to start out with.

Since not all companies report to credit bureaus, it’s possible to get a complimentary credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com to verify your total reported trade lines.

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What’s The Difference Between A Primary Residence, Second Home and Investment Property?


When applying for a mortgage, a borrower’s “Occupancy Type” is a major factor in the amount of down payment required, loan program available and mortgage interest rate.

Whether you are purchasing, doing a rate/term refinance or taking equity out of your property through a cash out refinance, occupancy type is always considered by the underwriter.

Three Types of Occupancy:

Owner Occupied / Primary Residence -

According to HUD, a principal residence is a property that will be occupied by the borrower for the majority of the calendar year.

At least one borrower must occupy the property and sign the security instrument and the mortgage note for the property to be considered owner-occupied.

Second Home -

To qualify as a second home, the property typically must be at least 50 miles from the primary residence, and it cannot appear that the real estate is being purchased for rental investment purposes.

Investment Property -

A property that is not occupied by the owner and is typically utilized for rental income purposes.

Down Payment Requirements:

Owner Occupied / Primary Residence -

Purchases for VA and USDA can go up to 100% financing, while FHA requires 3.5% of the purchase price as a down payment.  Conventional financing may require anywhere from 5% – 25% depending on the credit score, county, property type and loan amount.

Second Home -

Average 10% down for a purchase, and 25% equity for a refinance.

Investment Property -

Down payment requirements will range from 20-25% depending on the number of units.  When doing a cash-out refinance on an investment property with 2-4 units, the required loan to value will need to be 70% or lower to qualify.

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*It should be noted that on any high balance loan amount the above mentioned Loan-to-Value (LTV) requirements will change. Credit score requirements also apply.

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What’s My Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio?

Debt-to-Income (DTI) is one of the many new mortgage related terms many First-Time Home Buyers will get used to hearing.

DTI is a component of the mortgage approval process that measures a borrower’s Gross Monthly Income compared to their credit payments and other monthly liabilities.

Debt-to-Income Ratios are designed to give guidance on acceptable levels of debt allowed by particular lenders or programs.

There are actually two different Debt-to-Income Ratios that underwriters will review in order to determine if a borrower’s monthly income is sufficient to cover the responsibility of a mortgage according to the particular lender / mortgage program guidelines.

Most loan programs allow for a Total DTI of 43% and a Housing DTI of 31%.

Two Types of DTI Ratios:

a) Front End or Housing Ratio:

  • Should be 28-31% of your gross income
  • Divide the estimated monthly mortgage payment by the gross monthly income

b)  Back End or Total Debt Ratio:

  • Should be less than 43% of your gross monthly income
  • Divide the estimated house payment plus all consumer debt by the gross monthly income

Remember, the DTI Ratios are based on gross income before taxes.  Lenders also prefer to use W2’s or tax returns to verify income and employment.

However, the adjusted gross income is used to calculate DTI for self-employed borrowers on most loan programs.  Since there is room for interpretation on these guidelines, it’s important to review your personal income / employment scenario in detail with your trusted mortgage professional to make sure everything fits within the guidelines.

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Calculating Loan-to-Value (LTV)

Understanding the definition of Loan-to-Value (LTV), and how it impacts a mortgage approval, will help you determine what type of loan amount and program you may qualify for.

Since the LTV Ratio is a major component of getting approved for a new mortgage, it’s a good idea to learn the simple math of calculating the amount of equity you may need, or down payment to budget for in order to qualify for a particular loan program.

The LTV Ratio is calculated as follows:

Mortgage Amount divided by Appraised Value of Property = Loan-to-Value Ratio

*On a purchase transaction for a residential property, the LTV is calculated using the lesser of either the purchase price or appraised value.

For Example:

Sally qualifies for a 96.5% Loan-to-Value FHA program, which means she’ll have to bring in 3.5% as a down payment.

If the purchase price is $100,000, then a 96.5% LTV would = $96,500 loan amount. And, the 3.5% down payment would be $3,500.

$96,500 (Mortgage Amount) / $100,000 (Purchase Price) = .965 or 96.5%

In addition to determining what mortgage programs are available, LTV also is a key factor in the amount of mortgage insurance required to protect the lender from default.

On a conventional loan, mortgage insurance is usually required if you have an LTV over 80% (one loan is more than 80% of the home’s appraised value). On that point, if you are currently paying mortgage insurance and think that your LTV is less than 80%, then it may be time to refinance, or call your lender to restructure the payment.

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Frequently Asked LTV Questions:

Q:  Why do the lenders care about Loan to Value?

Lenders care about the LTV because it helps determine the exposure and risk they have in lending on a certain property. Statistics show that borrowers with a lower LTV are less likely to default on their mortgage.  Also, with a lower LTV the lender will lose less money in case of a foreclosure.

Q:  Can I drop my mortgage insurance on an FHA loan?

The mortgage insurance on an FHA loan is structured differently than a conventional loan. On a 30 year fixed FHA loan, the monthly mortgage insurance can be removed after five years, as well as when the borrower’s loan is 78% LTV.

Q:  What does CLTV stand for?

CLTV stands for Combined Loan To Value. The CLTV calculation is as follows:
(1st Mortgage Amount + 2nd mortgage amount) / Appraised Value of Property = CLTV

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Top 8 Things To Ask Your Lender During The Application Process

Knowing what questions to ask your lender during or before the loan application process is essential for making your mortgage approval process as smooth as possible.

Many borrowers fail to ask the right questions during the mortgage pre-qualification process and end up getting frustrated or hurt because their expectations were not met.

Here are the top eight questions and explanations to make sure you are fully prepared when taking your next mortgage loan application:

1. What documents will I need to have on hand in order to receive a full mortgage approval?

An experienced mortgage professional will be able to uncover any potential underwriting challenges up-front by simply asking the right questions during the initial application and interview process.

Residence history, marital status, credit obligations, down payment seasoning, income and employment verifications are a few examples of topics that can lead to stacks of documentation required by an underwriter for a full approval.

There is nothing worse than getting close to funding on a new home just to find out that your lender needs to verify something you weren’t prepared for.

2. How long will the whole process take?

Between processing, underwriting, title search, appraisal and other verification processes, there are obviously many factors to consider in the overall time line, which is why communication is essential.

As long as all of the documents and questions are addressed ahead of time, your loan officer should be able to give you a fair estimate of the total amount of time it will take to close on your mortgage.

The main reason this question is important to ask up-front is because it will help you determine whether or not the loan officer is more interested in telling you what you want to hear vs setting realistic expectations.

You should also inquire about anything specific that the loan officer thinks may hold up your file from closing on time.

3. Are my taxes and insurance included in the payment?

This answer to this question affects how much your total monthly payment will be and the total amount you’ll have to bring to closing.

If you include your taxes and insurance in your payment, you will have a higher monthly payment to the lender but then you also won’t have to worry about coming up with large sums of cash to pay the taxes when they are due.

4. Will my payment increase at any point after closing?

Most borrowers today choose fixed interest rate loans, which basically means the loan payment will never increase over the life of the loan.

However, if your taxes and insurance are included in your payment, you should anticipate that your total payment will change over time due to changes in your homeowner’s insurance premiums and property taxes.

5. How do I lock in my interest rate?

It’s good to know what the terms are and what the process is of locking in your interest rate.

Establishing whether or not you have the final word on locking in a specific interest rate at any given moment of time will alleviate the chance of someone else making the wrong decision on your behalf.

Most loan officers pay close attention to market conditions for their clients, but this should be clearly understood and agreed upon at the beginning of the relationship, especially since rates tend to move several times a day.

6. How long will my rate be locked?

Mortgage rates are typically priced with a 30 day lock, but you may choose to hold off temporarily if you’re purchasing a foreclosure or short sale.

The way the lock term affects your pricing is as follows: The shorter the lock period, the lower the interest rate, and the longer the lock period the higher the interest rate.

7. How does credit score affect my interest rate?

This is an important question to get specific answers on, especially if there have been any recent changes to your credit scenario.

There are a few key factors that can influence a slight fluctuation in your credit score, so be sure to fill your loan officer in on anything you can think of that may have been tied to your credit.

8. How much will I need for closing?

*The 2010 Good Faith Estimate will essentially only reflect what the maximum fees are, but will not tell you how much you need to bring to closing.

Ask your Loan Officer to estimate how much money you should budget for so that you are prepared at the time of closing.

Your earnest money deposit, appraisal fees and seller contributions may factor into this final number as well, so it helps to have a clear picture to avoid any last-minute panic attacks.

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Now that you have the background to these eight important questions, you should feel more confident about finding a mortgage company that can serve your personal needs and unique scenario.

Remember, the more you understand about the entire loan process, the better your experience will be.

Most frustration that is experienced during the home buying and approval process is largely due to unclear expectations.

You can never ask too many questions…

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Who Owns My Home If I Have A Mortgage?

Many borrowers believe that when they purchase a property by obtaining mortgage financing, they also own their home.

Technically speaking, full ownership on a property only happens once the mortgage loan amount has been paid in full.

To break this down in more detail, there are a few components of a mortgage:

A Promissory Note is a document signed by the borrower acknowledging their commitment to pay the mortgage back with interest in a specific period of time.

In addition to the terms of repayment, the Note also contains provisions concerning the rights of both parties involved in the agreement.

In some states, a Deed of Trust is used instead of a Mortgage Note. The main difference is that on a Deed of Trust there is a Trustee, which the legal title is vested to in order to secure the repayment of the loan.

There are three parties involved with a Deed of Trust:

1) Trustor – This is the borrower

2) Trustee – This is the entity that holds “bare or legal” title, and is usually the title company which holds the Power of Sale in the event of default and reconveys the property once the Deed of Trust is paid in full.

3) Beneficiary – This is the lender that is getting repaid

Deeds of Trust are easier for lenders to foreclose on than a mortgage because there is no need for a judicial proceeding.

Mortgages on the other hand, have to go through judicial proceedings, which can be expensive and time consuming.

In summary, until you have your promissory note paid in full, you are not the only one with an ownership interest in your property.

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