Monday, June 16, 2008

Homes - To Buy or Not to Buy?

My husband, Bob and I lived on military bases for the first dozen years of our marriage. When you move eleven times in thirteen years it doesn't make sense to buy! When we finally settled one place long enough to purchase our first home, we were thrilled and had "imposter syndrome" for the first month or so. We kept waiting for the "real" owners to show up and kick us out of the house! Alas, it was a dream come true and we truly enjoyed that home. Now...I know what some of you are thinking--is that a picture of my house? No, it's not, it's just one of the many, many gorgeous homes that are on the market in America. We sold that first home and the next year property values plummeted in the area. Not all Americans are having such good timing in buying and selling.

Last week the average fixed rate mortgage was at its highest since last October , 2007, with a 30 year averaging 6.32%, up from 6.09% but still below last year's rate of 6.74%. It appears that the rate will continue to creep upward, so if you were thinking of buying a home, now would probably be a good time. It can turn from a buyers market to a sellers market in a relatively short amount of time as those extra properties are purchased and taken off the market.

If you are considering buying a home, shop carefully for lenders and be sure that you negotiate, negotiate, negotiate with the LENDER as well as the SELLER. When discussing closing costs and fees, make sure that you don't over pay. Here are four key areas to keep in mind when negotiating fees and costs with your lender:

Don’t Pay for Inflated Credit-Report and Courier Fees - Some lenders are charging up to $65 for pulling your credit report. That is unusually high, considering the fact that credit reporting bureaus only charge $6 to $18 per report. Using the same tactics, some lenders charge courier fees for shipping your closing documents for as much as $100, while the majority of overnight express services only charge $22. Tell your lender, up front, that you refuse to pay any more than the going rate for these services.

Don’t Pay for Document Prep and Administration Fees - The origination fee should include these services, so don’t pay them! Ask your lender to waive these fees.

When You Buy A Home: Don’t Pay for Yield Spread Premiums - Lenders increase your interest rate slightly to include origination and other fees so you don’t have to pay them out-of-pocket at closing but some lenders and mortgage brokers are double dipping—by charging both the fees and the higher interest rate. Ask your broker directly if a firm charges you a yield spread premium. If so, you shouldn’t pay any additional fees.

Don’t Pay for Padded Title Insurance Fees - When you are shopping for lenders, look for all the above, plus look out for those who don’t tack on a lot of extra charges for services such as title search and document preparation. Theses can add hundreds of dollars to your closing costs and they really should be included in the price of title insurance, which depending on where you live, can be as high as $6,000.

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Twice As Stimulating!

The check is in the mail. The check is in the mail. Oops!

Can you remember the check you waited the longest to receive? Maybe it was your college roommate who borrowed $300 and "promised" to repay you within the month--some three years later you're still waiting. Or, it might be a deadbeat relative who is always wanting to borrow "just the rent money" and amazingly seems to be near homelessness without your check. But the next time you see him, he's driving a new Mercedes--that's a check you're never going to see.

Well, this year, Uncle Sam really DOES have the check in the mail--sometimes twice! Through June 6, the U.S. Treasury had sent 66.6 million payments totaling about $56.8 billion. Altogether, an estimated 130 million payments will be made this year. A hand full of people are getting a SECOND stimulus check in the mail. Don't take that as God's way of telling you to put the money down on a new Mercedes!

If that happens to YOU, then don't think it's a windfall from a doubly generous Sammy. The IRS will eventually catch their mistake and come back after you for the money. If you get the check, write "void" on the back of it (under the endorsement section) photocopy it for your records and return it to the IRS with a note indicating it was a "erroneous stimulus check." You should mail it to your regional IRS office where you filed your return,,id=105693,00.html
This isn't just a matter of being honest, it's a matter of saving a huge headache in the future when you've spent the second check and the IRS is wanting it back post haste!

So much for twice as stimulating!

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)