How to Get the Best Mortgage Rate

“Finding the right mortgage (and how to get the best mortgage rate can be a confusing process–especially for first time home-buyers.”

Buying a home is a huge financial commitment.  In this article, Deborah Kearns discusses the following six questions that can help you decide which is the right mortgage for you.

  1. Should I get a fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage?
  2. Should I pay for points?
  3. How much should I expect to pay in closing costs?
  4. Do I qualify for any special programs?
  5. How much can and should I put down?
  6. Any other insights on how to get the best mortgage rate?

Each question provides detailed information to help you answer the question and find the right home mortgage financing needed to purchase the home of your dreams.

For more information, click here. 

Teaching Suggestions

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

  • Help students understand the importance of purchasing a home they can afford after all other home ownership costs–taxes, utilities, repairs, etc. are considered.
  • Stress the necessity of “shopping” for a home mortgage and comparing both term of the mortgage and the effect of interest rates on total financing costs.

Discussion Questions

  1. What factors affect the cost of financing a home that you would like to purchase?
  2. How important is good credit when purchasing a home? Does it really make a difference if you have a good credit score or a bad credit score?  Explain your answer.
  3. What steps can you take to make sure that you are getting the lowest interest rate when you finance your home?

Comparing Renting vs. Buying Your Home

While more people are renting in recent years due to various economic and household situations, home ownership is still a financial goal for many.  A financial comparison between renting and buying often overlooks various factors.  An online calculator may be used to consider buying items such as the opportunity cost of investing your down payment (along with the taxes on capital gains), condo or home association fees, maintenance costs, and, of course, the tax benefits of property taxes and mortgage interest.  On the rental side, the calculator considers initial costs (such as a security deposit and any broker’s fee) along with the opportunity costs of the initial costs and recurring costs, such as renter’s insurance.

For additional information on calculating the renting vs. buying your home, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students ask people to describe factors that affected whether they own or rent their housing.
  • Have students conduct a personal financial analysis for renting and buying a place to live.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are benefits and drawbacks of renting and buying a place to live?
  2. Describe financial factors that might be overlooked when comparing renting and buying a place to live.

A Look at Reverse Mortgages

Every day, approximately 10,000 people in the United States turn age 62, according to the Census Bureau.  And if they are homeowners, they may be eligible to borrow against a portion of the equity in their house by using a loan called a “reverse mortgage.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is warning consumers about potentially misleading reverse mortgage advertising.  In June 2015, the CFPB issued a consumer advisory stating that many television, radio, print and Internet advertisements for reverse mortgages had “incomplete and inaccurate statements used to describe the loans”.  In addition, most of the important loan requirements were often buried in fine print if they were even mentioned at all.  These advertisements may leave older homeowners with the false impression that reverse mortgage loans are a risk-free solution to financial gaps in retirement.” For example, the CFPB said, “After looking at a variety of ads, many homeowners we spoke to didn’t realize reverse mortgage loans need to be repaid.”

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Visit the website of the American Association of Retired Person (AARP) at aarp.org. Locate the AARP Home Equity Information Center, which presents facts about reverse mortgages.  Then prepare a report on how reverse mortgages work.
  • Ask students to visit Fannie Mae’s website at fanniemae.com/homebuyer to find out who is eligible for reverse mortgages, and what other choices are available to borrowers.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why should you consult a qualified professional before you decide to get a reverse mortgage?
  2. Where can you find Housing and Urban Development-approved Home Equity Conversion Mortgage counseling agencies near you?

Mortgage Calculator

“A house is the largest purchase most of us will ever make so it’s important to calculate what your mortgage payment will be and how much you can afford.” 

While technically not the usual article you expect to read on the Kapoor Money Minute blog, the information about this Bankrate mortgage calculator can help you determine how much your monthly home mortgage payment will be.  To use the calculator, you simply input the requested financial information in the boxes provided and the calculator will determine your monthly mortgage payment.  You can also access an amortization table that shows how much of each payment is for interest and how is used to reduce the unpaid balance on your home mortgage.

In addition to this calculator, the Bankrate.com site provides additional calculators and information on many personal financial topics.  Take a look and be surprised at the amount of useful information available on this site.

 For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

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

  • Use the calculator to help students determine how much house they can afford.
  • Discuss other expenses that could increase the cost of home ownership.

Discussion Questions

  1. Take a look at the information that you must enter in order to use the mortgage calculator described in this article.  How do the amount of the mortgage, interest rate, and term of loan impact the monthly payment for your home mortgage?
  2. In addition to your monthly home mortgage payment, what other costs can you expect when you buy a home?
  3. Buying a home is a “big” financial decision. Are there additional factors besides mortgage payment and other home ownership expenses that you should consider before making a decision to buy a home?

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?

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.

The Seven Baby Steps (Dave Ramsey)

“Get out of debt the same way you learned to walk–one step at a time.”

This article describes Dave Ramsey’s seven steps that anyone can take to get out of debt and begin to manage their personal finances.  These seven basic principles have been taught by Mr. Ramsey via radio, books, Financial Peace University, live events, and online.  Listed below are the seven steps discussed in this article.  Note:  You can get more information about each step by clicking on the “Learn More” tab.

  1. Begin by creating a $1,000 emergency fund.
  2. Pay off all debt using the debt snowball .
  3. Save 3 to 6 months of expenses in a savings account.
  4. Invest 15 percent of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement accounts.
  5. Create a college funding plan for your children.
  6. Pay off your home mortgage early.
  7. Build wealth and give.

For more information, click here

Teaching Suggestions

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

  • Ask students visit the Dave Ramsey website.
  • Discuss some or all of the seven baby steps described in this article. Reminder:  Students can get more information by clicking on the “Learn More” tab.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can the seven baby steps help you manage your personal finances?
  2. Do the steps in this article make you want to change your priorities and what’s important in your life? Justify your answer.

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.