House Rich, Cash Poor: How One Couple’s “American Dream” Home Nearly Tanked Their Finances

“While our original $150,000–$170,000 price range would have put our housing costs at a manageable 30% of our total income, springing for a $200,000 loan shot that number up to just shy of 50%.

For many people, a logical step after completing college is often purchasing a home and inching closer to the American dream.  And yet, there are pitfalls to obtaining a home that can lead to financial stress and the inability to reach important short-term and long-term financial goals.

This article describes how one couple took all the right steps to prepare for a home purchase, but eventually decided to purchase a home that cost more than they planned to spend on housing.  The reason was simple:  They fell in love with a home that was too expensive when compared to their total income.  The article continues to describe what happens next in their attempt to regain their financial health.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Stress the necessity of preparing a realistic budget that reflects mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, repairs, etc when purchasing a home.
  • Share the advantages and disadvantages of owning versus renting a home.

Discussion Questions

  1. Given your goals and lifestyle, how important is home ownership to you?
  2. What steps should you take to prepare for purchasing your dream home?
  3. Assume you have found your dream home and you can afford the payments, insurance, taxes, repairs, etc. What steps are necessary to negotiate the purchase and obtain financing?

Reverse Mortgage Complaints

Reverse mortgages are a special type of loan that allows homeowners, 62 and older, to borrow against the accrued equity in their homes.  Reverse mortgages can help some older homeowners meet financial needs, but they can jeopardize retirement security if not used carefully.

In February 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report that some homeowners have experienced problems with reverse mortgages.  The most common reverse mortgage complaint is about difficulty with changing the loan terms and problems communicating with loan servicers.  Some consumers, for example, express frustration about slow, inconsistent communication from their reverse mortgage loan servicer.

If you are having a problem with your reverse mortgage or having problems getting through to your mortgage servicer, you can submit a complaint to CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-2372 or TTY/TDD (855) 729-2372.  The CFPB will forward your complaint to the company and work to get you a response within 15 days.

For additional information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • How can a person access funds from a reverse mortgage?
  • Ask students what other alternatives might be available before settling for a reverse mortgage?

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the purpose of a reverse mortgage?
  2. Can people with very low equity in their home qualify for a reverse mortgage?
  3. How can people protect themselves from dishonest reverse mortgage providers that charge exorbitant fees?

Mortgage Comparison Calculator

Many home buyers do not shop around for a mortgage. Failing to comparison shop for a mortgage often means higher monthly payments and paying thousands of dollars more in interest over the life of the loan.  A recent survey of mortgage borrowers revealed that:

  • Nearly half of borrowers only consider one lender or broker before applying for a mortgage.
  • Over three-fourths of borrowers only apply to one lender.
  • Lenders and brokers were the most common mortgage information source; with real estate agent also used. Other source of information were websites, financial and housing counselors, friends, relatives and coworkers.

Home buyers should complete an application with multiple lenders or brokers in an effort to get a better deal.  Also, ask questions and take actions to help you find the best mortgage for you

For additional information on comparing mortgage rates, click here:

For the complete report on study, click here:

A mortgage comparison calculator is available, click here:

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students interview people who own homes to obtain information about the mortgage process they used.
  • Have students prepare a data summary of mortgage rates for different lenders in their area.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What actions can be taken to reduce mortgage costs?
  2. Describe factors that a person should consider when choosing among several mortgage lenders.

The One Financial Mistake that Could Cost Homeowners a Bundle

“Interest rates have bounced around historical lows for years, yet a surprising number of homeowners who could benefit from a refinancing still haven’t taken advantage of the potential cost savings.”

In this article, Marine Cole points out some surprising facts about interest rates and the reasons why people don’t refinance their homes.  According to Ms. Cole and other experts, some people are simply unaware of their current rate or don’t have the get-up-and gumption to refinance.  Other factors include procrastination, mistrust, and the inability to understand complex decisions may also be barriers to refinancing.

The article also points out that the decision to refinance could result in thousands of dollars in savings for the homeowner.  For example, refinancing a 30-year, $200,000 mortgage from 6.5 percent to a current rate of 3.35 percent will save approximately $130,000 in interest payments over the life of the loan.

For more information, click here

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Stress the importance of making sound financial decisions not only when buying or refinancing a home, but other aspects of your financial life.
  • Discuss the reasons mentioned in this article that describe why people would not refinance and take advantage of lower interest rates for buying or refinancing a home.

Discussion Questions

  1. How important is comparing interest rates when either purchasing a home or refinancing an existing home mortgage?
  2. According to this article, there are many reasons why people don’t refinance their home. If you were refinancing a home mortgage, what would be your major obstacle to refinancing an existing home mortgage?  How could you overcome this obstacle?
  3. Assuming you had a chance to refinance your home and save $100,000 over the life of the loan, would you refinance? Explain the factors that would influence your decision.

Rents Are Rising . . . And So Are Evictions

“The average renter now spends 30% of their income on rent, up from a longtime average of about 25%, according to Zillow.”

Over the past year, average salaries have increased 1.8 percent.  At the same time, the average rental cost for apartments, houses, condos, and other housing has risen 7 percent.

The Neighborhood Law Clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School estimates that several million families a year face evictions nationwide.  In fact, for many tenants, an unexpected emergency or unexpected expense can lead to eviction.  Most often, evicted tenants face a very difficult time finding a new home that is often in a different neighborhood or a home that is not as nice as their last home.

While the major reason for a tenant’s eviction is not paying the rent, some landlords will look for minor violations like loud noise or having a pet when there is a no pet policy to evict tenants.  Then, landlords will rent to a new tenant that is willing (and able) to pay higher rent.  In some cases, the owner of the rental property will sell the property or convert the property to condos.

For more information go to http://money.cnn.com/2014/10/29/real_estate/evicted/index.html

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Discuss the importance of choosing a housing option that you can afford.
  • Stress the importance of budgeting for housing and other major expenses and establishing an emergency fund.

Discussion Questions

  1. While most everyone wants a nice, safe place to call home.  What factors affect your choice when choosing an apartment, condo, or house to rent or buy?
  2. Does the fact that the average tenant spends 25 to 30 percent of their income on rent and that there are no tax advantages or equity buildup when you rent, encourage you to purchase your own home? Justify your decision to rent or buy.

Mistakes of Homebuyers

An increasing number of homebuyers are coming into the market. However, along with that trend, is an increasing number of financial regrets due to mistakes such as:

  •  considering that renting may still be a viable financial choice in some situations; for example, if you may be moving due to a job or other circumstances.
  • with rising housing prices and higher mortgage rates, some buyers may not be competitive when bidding on a property.
  • other debts (such as a high car loan) may limit the monthly payment a person can afford.
  • putting too much faith in online property prices, which can give a false sense of true home values.
  • skipping the home inspection can result in not being aware of subtle home defects.
  • unrealistic expectations of the future appreciation of the home.

For additional information on mistakes made by homebuyers go to:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101837611

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students research suggestions for avoiding home buying mistakes.
  • Ask students create an in-class presentation with suggestions for avoiding home buying mistakes.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. What actions might be taken to avoid these home buying mistakes?
  2. Describe other difficult situations that a person might encounter in process of buying a home.

Mortgage Rates Fall Again

Cheap mortgage rates are a bonanza for home buyers.

Currently, home mortgage rates are trending lower which is good news for home buyers.  According to a recent Freddie Mac survey, the 30-year fixed rate is 4.28 percent.  The 15-year fixed rate is 3.32 percent.

So how important is a lower home mortgage rate for a home buyer? 

  • At a rate of 6 percent, the monthly mortgage payment for a $200,000 thirty-year mortgage is $1,000 a month ($200,000 x 6% ÷ 12 = $1,000). 
  • If the rate drops to 4.28 percent, the monthly payment drops to $713 a month ($200,000 x 4.28% ÷ 12 = $713). 
  • That’s a difference of $287 each and every month.
  • Assuming the home buyer makes monthly payments for the entire 30-year period, that’s a savings of $103,320 ($287 x 12 x 30 = $103,320).

For additional information about mortgage rates and the factors that cause rates to increase or decrease go to http://money.cnn.com/2014/03/06/real_estate/mortgage-rates/index.html.

Discussion Questions

1.  What are the common mistakes people make when they finance a home?

2.  Why would you consider a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year mortgage?

3.  Why would you consider a 30-year mortgage instead of a 15-year mortgage?

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to discuss

  • Why a home buyer should compare mortgage rates when financing a home purchase.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of a 30-year and a 15-year home mortgage.