Archive for the ‘Budgeting’ Category

How To Renegotiate Your Credit Card Interest Rates To Something Lower

January 11, 2011

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Credit card debt, left unchecked, can pile up quickly. Especially for debtors making minimum payments.  

According to the Federal Reserve, a credit card balance of $5,000 at 23.99 percent APR won’t pay off for 16,127 years. That’s one reason why it’s important to manage your credit card rates, and renegotiate them whenever possible.

In this 4-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn the tested tactics that can cut a credit card rate, and get monthly payments to a more manageable range. And it’s do-it-yourself — no debt management firms required.

Some of the tips in the video include:

  • Compare your current rate to the rate offered to new customers. Ask the lender for “new customer rate” if it’s lower.
  • If your credit score has improved since application, ask for an interest rate more reflective of your current credit score.
  • Be nice to the customer service representative. Kindness helps.

Managing debt is an important part of household budgeting so if you’re finding your credit card payments and/or rates too high for your liking, try following the instructions as described in the video. And, above all else, be persistent. The credit card companies won’t likely approve your first request. 

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Rent A Home Or Buy A Home : The Case For Both Sides

September 17, 2010

Is it better to rent a home, or to buy one? The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think. In this balanced, 3-minute joint interview from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll hear the case for both sides.

From the pro-renting part of the talk, there’s valid points about the economic impact of low credit scores and/or no cash for downpayment, and the ongoing, annual cost of home maintenance — estimated at 2% of a home’s value.  Plus, renters have the ability to “follow a job” to a new town or region whereas a homeowner may be restricted, somewhat.

From the pro-purchase part, however, there’s excellent points that were made, too:

  • Mortgage rates are low and each 1% drop to rates equates to a 9% drop to home price
  • Buyers can zero in on a particular area with particular schools or walkability, for example, better than renters
  • A home can a piggybank over the long-term; a place for “forced savings” for families that want it

The segment then closes with 5 of the best cities in which to rent, and 5 of the best cities in which to buy.

Whether buying or renting, don’t try to go at it alone. There’s lot of resources online, and an email to a local real estate or mortgage pro can set you in the right direction.

How Much Should You Expect To Pay In Mortgage Closing Costs?

August 19, 2010

Closing costs by state, 2010

How much does a mortgage cost? The answer depends on where you live. But no matter which your locale, chances are strong that you’ll pay more for a mortgage in 2010 as compared to 2009.

According to Bankrate.com and its annual Closing Cost Survey, a typical $200,000, purchase mortgage now carries an average $3,741 in closing costs — up nearly 37 percent from last year.

As defined by Bankrate.com, “closing costs” is defined as the sum of two numbers.  The first group is labeled “origination charges”, a category that includes such items as underwriting fees, application fees and processing fees.  These fees are paid directly to the loan originator’s company at the time of closing.

The second grouping of costs is labeled “third-party fees”.  Third-party fees include appraisals, credit reports, settlement fees and title searches — items paid in connection with the loan, but not paid to the lending bank or broker.

It’s unclear why closing costs appear to have escalated into 2010, but Bankrate.com suggest that recently-enacted federal lending laws are a culprit:

  1. The new law requires loan officers to be accountable to a Good Faith Estimate’s accuracy. Bankrate.com’s prior-year surveys may have been “understated”, therefore, because of a lack of accountability.
  2. The cost of federal compliance is high, and banks may be passing on compliance costs to consumers

To see the complete list of closing costs by state, including where Utah ranks, visit the Bankrate.com website.

What Does It Mean To Escrow Taxes And Insurance?

August 3, 2010

Escrow schedulingThe fiscal responsibility of a homeowner extends beyond the mortgage’s basic principal and interest repayments. Homeowners are also responsible for the real estate taxes on the home and its insurance premiums, too.

Failure to pay taxes can lead to foreclosure, and failure to insure is breach of your mortgage contract.

As a homeowner, you have a choice about how you manage your real estate tax and insurance bills.  You can choose to pay them from your own bank account when the bills come due, or you can choose to pay 1/12 of the annual bill to your mortgage servicer each month, and then let your servicer pay the bills on your behalf when they come due.

Not surprisingly, servicers prefer the latter method — it reduces two major lender risks:

  1. That the home’s real estate taxes go delinquent and are sold to a third-party
  2. That the home endures catastrophic damage during a lapse of insurance coverage

In theory, when the servicer is paying the bills, the home’s taxes are always current and the home’s insurance is always paid. This method of managing taxes and insurance is commonly called “escrowing”.

To calculate a home’s monthly escrow payment is simple. Just take the sum of the annual real estate tax bills and insurance bill, then divide it by 12 months in the year.

As a example, a $4,000 annual tax bill with a $800 insurance policy = $4,800 annually = $400 paid into escrow monthly. These monies are collected as part of the regular mortgage payment along with the mortgage’s scheduled principal + interest payment.

Homeowners choosing to escrow tend to get the lowest rate, lowest fee loans. This is because lenders often charge a premium to “waive escrow” (i.e. pay their own taxes and insurance). Escrow waiver fees vary between banks, but can range up to half-percent of the amount borrowed. The larger the loan, the stiffer the penalty in dollar terms. 

Choosing to waive escrow can also raise your mortgage rate by up to 0.250 percent.

If you’re unsure whether escrowing is right for you, talk to your loan officer and/or financial planner. There’s good reason to go either route depending on your profile.