6 Things Your Mortgage Lender Wants You To Know About Getting a Home Loan During COVID-19

mortgage during coronavirusGetty Images

Getting a mortgage, paying your mortgage, refinancing your mortgage: These are all major undertakings, but during a pandemic, all of it becomes more complicated. Sometimes a lot more complicated.

But make no mistake, home buyers are still taking out and paying down mortgages during the current global health crisis. There have, in fact, been some silver linings amid the economic uncertainty—hello, record-low interest rates—but also plenty of changes to keep up with. Mortgage lending looks much different now than at the start of the year.

Whether you’re applying for a new mortgage, struggling to pay your current mortgage, or curious about refinancing, here’s what mortgage lenders from around the country want you to know.

1. Rates have dropped, but getting a mortgage has gotten more complicated

First, the good news about mortgage interest rates: “Rates have been very low in recent weeks, and have come back down to their absolute lowest levels in a long time,” says Yuri Umanski, senior mortgage consultant at Premia Relocation Mortgage in Troy, MI.

That means this could be a great time to take out a mortgage and lock in a low rate. But getting a mortgage is more difficult during a pandemic.

“Across the industry, underwriting a mortgage has become an even more complex process,” says Steve Kaminski, head of U.S. residential lending at TD Bank. “Many of the third-party partners that lenders rely on—county offices, appraisal firms, and title companies—have closed or taken steps to mitigate their exposure to COVID-19.”

Even if you can file your mortgage application online, Kaminski says many steps in the process traditionally happen in person, like getting notarization, conducting a home appraisal, and signing closing documents.

As social distancing makes these steps more difficult, you might have to settle for a “drive-by appraisal” instead of a thorough, more traditional appraisal inside the home.

“And curbside closings with masks and gloves started to pop up all over the country,” Umanski adds.

2. Be ready to prove (many times) that you can pay a mortgage

If you’ve lost your job or been furloughed, you might not be able to buy your dream house (or any house) right now.

“Whether you are buying a home or refinancing your current mortgage, you must be employed and on the job,” says Tim Ross, CEO of Ross Mortgage Corp. in Troy, MI. “If someone has a loan in process and becomes unemployed, their mortgage closing would have to wait until they have returned to work and received their first paycheck.”

Lenders are also taking extra steps to verify each borrower’s employment status, which means more red tape before you can get a loan.

Normally, lenders run two or three employment verifications before approving a new loan or refinancing, but “I am now seeing employment verification needed seven to 10 times—sometimes even every three days,” says Tiffany Wolf, regional director and senior loan officer at Cabrillo Mortgage in Palm Springs, CA. “Today’s borrowers need to be patient and readily available with additional documents during this difficult and uncharted time in history.”

3. Your credit score might not make the cut anymore

Economic uncertainty means lenders are just as nervous as borrowers, and some lenders are raising their requirements for borrowers’ credit scores.

“Many lenders who were previously able to approve FHA loans with credit scores as low as 580 are now requiring at least a 620 score to qualify,” says Randall Yates, founder and CEO of The Lenders Network.

Even if you aren’t in the market for a new home today, now is a good time to work on improving your credit score if you plan to buy in the future.

“These changes are temporary, but I would expect them to stay in place until the entire country is opened back up and the unemployment numbers drop considerably,” Yates says.

4. Forbearance isn’t forgiveness—you’ll eventually need to pay up

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act requires loan servicers to provide forbearance (aka deferment) to homeowners with federally backed mortgages. That means if you’ve lost your job and are struggling to make your mortgage payments, you could go months without owing a payment. But forbearance isn’t a given, and it isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

“The CARES Act is not designed to create a freedom from the obligation, and the forbearance is not forgiveness,” Ross says. “Missed payments will have to be made up.”

You’ll still be on the hook for the payments you missed after your forbearance period ends, so if you can afford to keep paying your mortgage now, you should.

To determine if you’re eligible for forbearance, call your loan servicer—don’t just stop making payments.

If your deferment period is ending and you’re still unable to make payments, you can request delaying payments for additional months, says Mark O’ Donovan, CEO of Chase Home Lending at JPMorgan Chase.

After you resume making your payments, you may be able to defer your missed payments to the end of your mortgage, O’Donovan says. Check with your loan servicer to be sure.

5. Don’t be too fast to refinance

Current homeowners might be eager to refinance and score a lower interest rate. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s not the best move for everyone.

“Homeowners should consider how long they expect to reside in their home,” Kaminski says. “They should also account for closing costs such as appraisal and title insurance policy fees, which vary by lender and market.”

If you plan to stay in your house for only the next two years, for example, refinancing might not be worth it—hefty closing costs could offset the savings you would gain from a lower interest rate.

“It’s also important to remember that refinancing is essentially underwriting a brand-new mortgage, so lenders will conduct income verification and may require the similar documentation as the first time around,” Kaminski adds.

6. Now could be a good time to take out a home equity loan

Right now, homeowners can also score low rates on a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, to finance major home improvements like a new roof or addition.

“This may be a great time to take out a home equity line to consolidate debt,” Umanski says. “This process will help reduce the total obligations on a monthly basis and allow for the balance to be refinanced into a much lower rate.”

Just be careful not to overimprove your home at a time when the economy and the housing market are both in flux.

The post 6 Things Your Mortgage Lender Wants You To Know About Getting a Home Loan During COVID-19 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

6 Tips to Survive Tandem Parking

Tandem parking is probably the least enjoyable “tandem thing to do.” There’s tandem skydiving, tandem bikes, but tandem parking … doesn’t that sound like a hassle?

What is tandem parking?

Tandem parking means you have to essentially share one large spot with the person you live with.

If you live in an urban area where street parking is difficult to find, you’re probably lucky to have a parking spot at all. Many big cities and multifamily developers have reduced the number of parking in new complexes. Multifamily developers are seeing less of a need to build parking lots simply because city dwellers now have the option to hop on city bikes, scooters, ride-share or take public transportation.

In Seattle, for example, 30 percent of new buildings proposed in the past several years don’t include any parking at all. Some designers have advocated for parking garages to be built as flex space that can be converted. Additionally, it’s pretty common now for building management for newer developments to charge tenants for parking.

Despite the cost, some renters are still willing to pay 5 percent more for parking.

parking garage

How does tandem parking work?

Tandem parking is a very long parking spot in which two cars could park — one in front of the other. Technically, it’s two parking spots in either a covered or open lot, but if you were on the inside, the car behind you would need to back out in order for you to get out.

It may be one step above having to circle your block for a street parking spot, but if you and your household have busy schedules, it may pose an issue.

Why do some apartment buildings have tandem parking?

Apartment buildings have tandem parking mostly because space is limited. Older developments tend to have tandem parking, but new buildings also offer this kind of parking structure, as well. Buildings that use tandem spots may often be able to squeeze in more spots.

Here are six tips for managing and dealing with tandem parking with neighbors.

1. Consider a rotation

If the area outside your apartment isn’t all that crowded for street parking, try a rotation from month to month with your roommate. Flip a coin or negotiate to decide who gets to park in the spot. This could also be contingent on who has a busier work or travel schedule.

Perhaps it can change based on the season, as well. For example, in the colder winter months, you can make the rotation week to week since it’s not ideal to park outside in the harsh winter weather with snow on the ground.

empty parking spot

2. Pay extra to permanently claim the spot as yours

Depending on how much you covet your parking spot, perhaps you can negotiate to pay a little more each month to make the on-site spot yours.

Of course, this would only work if both parties agreed. However, it could be worth a shot, especially if your roommate wants to save a little cash each month.

If your roommate is not on board with this idea, perhaps you can look into nearby garages and find out how much they cost to rent each month.

There are also free apps such as SpotAngels and SpotHero to help you find parking spots in urban cities. You can set filters to show you garages or parking meters.

3. Understand your schedules

Because the cars are positioned one in front of the other, the most efficient first step is to understand your tandem partner’s daily schedule. This is probably the most important part of sharing a tandem spot, especially if the previous two tips aren’t an option. If you have similar working hours, a month-to-month swapping of who gets to park on the inside vs. outside may work out.

Whoever tends to leave first in the morning should park last, but schedules may change frequently, too. If that’s the case, communicate frequently about these changes. Also, consider getting a whiteboard to place near the door in your apartment that gives the latest update on when you need to leave in the morning or when you’ll arrive home in the evening.

4. Get a key

If you’ve ever seen a solo valet worker hustle to move cars to bring your car from the depths of the endless rows of cars, you know moving cars is time-consuming. While backing out your roommate’s car isn’t nearly as much work, it can definitely cause delays and isn’t ideal if you’re in a hurry.

In the event of an emergency or if you need to leave and they’re not home or still sleeping, you could give each other a spare car key.

Whether you keep the keys inside of a lockbox in the garage or on your keyring, having a plan for this will give both vehicle owners peace of mind.

girl on phone

5. Communicate often

If you both work sporadic schedules, send a text reminder of when you’ll be home and if you need to leave early in the morning. Having this plan could help you get in and out faster.

If you’re dealing with multiple people in your household who share two tandem spots, you may want to create a WhatsApp channel dedicated to schedule updates. There are also GPS apps that show in real-time when you’ll arrive home, in case your roommate needs to move their car before you get home.

6. Talk to your landlord

Perhaps you live in a building where you sometimes see empty parking spots.

Talk to your landlord, and see if you could pay a little extra to take one of the empty spots, even if it’s just temporary.

There’s no harm in asking your landlord about the options, especially if you and your roommate are having a hard time managing the tandem spot.

Tandem parking is manageable

While most apartment dwellers would rather have individual parking spaces rather than tandem spots, the way you manage it can make your lives easier.

Of course, tandem parking is a lot easier if you generally get along with your roommate(s). If you’re swapping extra car keys, it’s important to have trust and believe they won’t be careless with your car in case they need to move it.

Know each other’s schedules and communicate frequently about any changes or emergencies that may arise.

The post 6 Tips to Survive Tandem Parking appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

What to Expect in Apartment Living in 2020

As the Bob Dylan song goes, the times, they are a-changin’, and that couldn’t be truer than for apartment living.

Renting used to be a lower rung on the ladder as you climb toward the American dream — owning a single-family home in the suburbs. But as homes increase in cost and competition, renting is on the rise.

According to Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing Studies 2017 rental-market report, the number of high-income households (earning at least $100,000) renting their homes rose by 6 percent from 2005 to 2016. As a result of this increase, apartment complexes have added more amenities to appeal to the influx of renters. The same study found that in 2016, 89 percent of new apartments offered in-unit laundry and 86 percent provided swimming pool access.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Today’s apartment complexes are not what they used to be, and apartment living is significantly nicer and more desirable than it was just 10 years ago. Here’s what you can expect for modern apartment living in 2020.

1. High-end amenities

indoor pool

Forget the bare-bones coin-operated laundry room and trash dumpster in the back parking lot or basement. According to NMCH’s 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey, 83 percent of adult and millennial renters said it was important to have an apartment that offered convenience and flexibility. Additionally, fast internet access, technology, and green initiatives are now considered must-haves for modern apartments.

To keep up with the competitive rental market, apartment complexes are upping the ante when it comes to amenities. In-unit laundry and pool access are quickly becoming par for the course, while many luxury complexes offer trash collection and recycling programs, high-speed internet, fitness centers, eco-friendly rooftop gardens and communal spaces, such as BBQs and theater rooms. These amenities make it easier to enjoy life at home and to entertain friends and family, just as one would if they owned a single-family home.

2. Online communication with apartment management

Speaking of convenience, flexibility and technology, many modern apartment complexes simplify the tasks that were previously pain points of renting — namely, rent payments, maintenance requests and apartment management communication. A number of complexes are capitalizing on technology to streamline these tasks.

For example, rather than having to mail a check each month, platforms like RentPay allow renters to automate their rent payments and pay via credit card or electronic check. Even if a landlord doesn’t accept electronic payments, RentPay prints a physical check and mails it directly to the landlord each month.

Additionally, it’s becoming more common for larger apartment complexes to offer an online portal or website for easier communication with apartment management, from submitting maintenance requests and asking questions to renew leases and sign contracts. This saves renters significant time and money.

3. More emphasis on safety and security

keypad

In the past, one of the downsides of renting was security. With people constantly going in and out of the building or complex, it seemed as if anyone could walk in. With so many technology advances this past decade, in terms of access and price, it’s easier for complexes and renters to invest in security.

Many of today’s complexes offer gated access to the parking lot, codes for elevator access and security key fobs to all points of entrance. Some even offer enhanced security within the individual units, like video doorbells and camera security systems.

If your building doesn’t offer in-unit security features, there are multiple home security options available that are non-intrusive, as far as security deposits and installation are concerned. Simply plug in the device and monitor your apartment from your smartphone. Many systems are easy to pair with indoor security cameras and other alarms for additional safety.

4. Smaller space

While apartments are getting smaller in square footage due to space constraints and population growth, architects are getting smarter with layout designs to maximize every inch of a room. For instance, micro homes, the tiny house equivalent in apartment form, are as small as 350 square feet but make use of movable and folding furniture so it can serve as an entertaining space by day and bedroom by night.

Open floor plans are still popular and, while they can at first seem daunting to decorate, they offer the most options for room layouts. And thanks to more furniture companies starting to specialize in small home living, it’s much easier to find compact couches and dual-purpose furnishings that go beyond the futon.

Popular home stores like Pottery Barn, CB2 and IKEA offer couches, tables and other items designed specifically for small spaces. While it’s becoming harder to find spacious apartments, complexes are making up for it with communal spaces for entertaining.

Apartment living has changed for the better

If you’re looking for a place to call home, apartment living may be the perfect solution. The evolution of apartments in the past decade means they’re a favorable housing option for a variety of lifestyles — in both urban and suburban settings.

Lush amenities, online communication, security measures and optimized floorplans have helped renting become a more comparable alternative to buying. You can enjoy the in-unit laundry, entertainment amenities and peace of mind without worrying about the costs or inconvenience of maintenance tasks.

The post What to Expect in Apartment Living in 2020 appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

What is a Walk-Up Apartment?

A walk-up apartment is an apartment located in a building accessible only by stairs. There’s no elevator to reach the upper floors of the building — just your legs and lots of steps.

Things to consider before moving into a walk-up apartment

Walk-up apartments can be a lot of work so they might seem less desirable. Due to the low demand, that means they can be more affordable — even in an expensive city like Manhattan.

Buildings with walk-up apartments are usually smaller and have fewer tenants, giving you a more private living situation. And you can ditch the gym membership since you’ll be getting your exercise every day via the stairs.

But there are lots of obvious downsides to a walk-up apartment. If you decide to move into one, it’ll be difficult hauling all of your furniture up multiple flights of stairs. It can be tiring walking up and down stairs each day and even worse if you’re someone who’s bouncing in and out of the house regularly.

Pros of a walk-up apartment

  • More affordable rent price
  • Exercise
  • More privacy

Cons of a walk-up apartment

  • Difficult to move into
  • Tiring
  • Not ideal for someone who is frequently in and out of the house

It’s all about perspective

Whether or not a walk-up apartment is right for you all comes down to your perspective. What one person views as a pro might be viewed as a con to you or vice-versa. Make sure the pros outweigh the cons from your perspective before moving into a walk-up apartment.

Additional resources

  • How to Move Furniture Up the Stairs Without Scratching
  • How to Start Working Out Without Paying for a Gym Membership
  • What is an Accessible Apartment?
  • How Your Apartment Can Help You Lose Weight
  • 6 Ways to Get Fit in Your Apartment

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