As a homeowner in Cincinnati , your fiscal responsibility extends beyond just making mortgage payments. You must also pay your home’s real estate taxes as they come due, as well as your homeowners insurance policy premiums.
Failure to pay real estate taxes can result in foreclosure. Failure to insure your home is a breach of your mortgage loan terms.
There are two methods by which you can pay your real estate tax and homeowners insurance bills.
The first method is to pay your taxes and insurance as the bills come due, usually semi-annually. Depending on your home’s tax bill size and the cost to insure your home, these payments can feel quite large — especially if you’ve failed to budget for them properly.
The second method of paying your taxes and insurance is to give your lender the right to pay them on your behalf, a process known as “escrowing for taxes and insurance”.
When you escrow your real estate taxes and homeowners insurance, you pay a portion of your annual obligation to your lender each month, which your lender then holds in a special account for you, and disperses to your taxing entities and insurance company as needed. Lenders prefer that homeowners escrow taxes and insurance because, in doing so, the lender is assured that tax bills remain current and that homes stay insured.
Want a discount on your next mortgage rate? Tell your lender that you’re willing to escrow.
To help calculate your monthly escrow payment to your lender, do the following :
- Find your home’s annual real estate tax bill
- Find your home’s annual homeowners insurance premium
- Add the two figures and divide by 12 months in a year
The quotient is your monthly “escrow”; the extra payment you’ll make to your lender each month along with your regularly scheduled principal + interest payment. Then, when your tax bills and insurance premiums come due, your lender will make sure the payments are made on your behalf.
If you’re unsure whether escrowing is right for you, talk to your loan officer and/or financial planner. There are valid reasons to choose either path.
More commonly called APR, Annual Percentage Rate is a government-mandated mortgage comparison tool. It measures the total cost of borrowing over the life of a loan into dollars-and-cents.
A loan’s APR is printed in the top-left corner of the Federal Truth-In-Lending Disclosure, as shown above. When quoting an interest rate, loan officers are required by law to disclose a loan’s APR, too.
APR is meant to simplify the process of choosing between two or more loans. The theory is that the loan with the lowest APR is the “best deal” for the applicant because the loan’s long-term costs are lowest. However, the loan with the lowest APR isn’t always best.
APR makes assumptions in its formula that can render it moot.
First, APR assumes you’ll pay your mortgage off at term, at never sooner. So, if your loan is a 15-year fixed rate, its APR is based on a full 15 year term. If you sell or refinance prior to Year 15, the math used to make your loan’s APR becomes instantly flawed and “wrong”.
Example: Let’s compare two identical loans in Kentucky — one with discount points and a lower interest rate; and one without discount points and a higher mortgage rate. The loan with discount points will have a lower APR in most cases. However, if the homeowner sells or refinances within the first few years, the loan with the higher APR would have been the better option, in hindsight.
Second, APR can be “doctored” early in the loan process.
Because the APR formula accounts for third-party costs in a mortgage transaction, and third-party costs aren’t always known at the start of a loan, a bank can inadvertently understate them. This would make the APR appear lower than what it really is, and may mislead a consumer.
And, lastly, APR is particurly unhelpful for adjustable-rate loans. Because the APR calculation makes assumptions about how a loan will adjust during its 30-year term, if two lenders use a different set of assumptions, their APRs will differ — even if the loans are identical in every other way. The lender whose adjustments are most aggressively-low will present the lowest APR.
Summarized, APR is not the metric for comparing mortgages — it’s a metric. For relevant comparison points, talk to your loan officer.
Loan-level pricing adjustments are mandatory loan fees based on a borrower’s specific default risk.
First introduced in 2008, LLPAs were Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s logical response to massive balance sheet losses. At the time, the housing market was deteriorating and mortgage delinquencies were rising.
To “better align with loan risk characteristics”, the two entities created specific fees to be associated to specific loan traits, to be charged to all borrowers.
LLPAs are still in existence today.
Today’s loan-level pricing adjustments can be grouped into 5 basic categories. Application exhibiting any of the 5 traits can trigger LLPAs, adding to a borrower’s loan fees:
- Credit Score (i.e. the borrower’s FICO is below 740)
- Property Type (i.e. the subject property is multi-unit)
- Occupancy (i.e. the subject property is an investment home)
- Structure (i.e. there is a subordinate/junior lien on title)
- Equity (i.e. mortgage insurance is required by the lender)
In many respects, loan-level pricing adjustment are similar to auto insurance. All things equal, the driver of a “fast” car will pay higher costs than the driver of a “safe” car. The same is true for mortgages.
Loan-level pricing adjustments are public information. Fannie Mae publishes the complete LLPA matrix on its website. The chart can be confusing, however. If you have questions about how LLPAs work, talk with your loan officer.