Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Key Factors of Your Credit Score

Just what goes into the score? Everything in your credit report, with different kinds of information carrying differing weights, says Fair Isaac Corp. Public Affairs Manager Craig Watts. The FICO-scoring model looks at more than 20 factors in five categories. (The VantageScore relies on slightly different factors. The Bankrate feature "New Vantage credit score now online" compares the FICO score with VantageScore. )

1. How you pay your bills (35 percent of the score)
The most important factor is how you've paid your bills in the past, placing the most emphasis on recent activity. Paying all your bills on time is good. Paying them late on a consistent basis is bad. Having accounts that were sent to collections is worse. Declaring bankruptcy is worst.

2. Amount of money you owe and the amount of available credit (30 percent)
The second most important area is your outstanding debt -- how much money you owe on credit cards, car loans, mortgages, home equity lines, etc. Also considered is the total amount of credit you have available. If you have 10 credit cards that each have $10,000 credit limits, that's $100,000 of available credit. Statistically, people who have a lot of credit available tend to use it, which makes them a less attractive credit risk.

"Carrying a lot of debt doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a lower score," Watts says. "It doesn't hurt as much as carrying close to the maximum. People who consistently max out their balances are perceived as riskier. People who never use their credit don't have a track history. People with the highest scores use credit sparingly and keep their balances low."

3. Length of credit history (15 percent)
The third factor is the length of your credit history. The longer you've had credit -- particularly if it's with the same credit issuers -- the more points you get.

4. Mix of credit (10 percent)
The best scores will have a mix of both revolving credit, such as credit cards, and installment credit, such as mortgages and car loans. "Statistically, consumers with a richer variety of experiences are better credit risks," Watts says. "They know how to handle money."

5. New credit applications (10 percent)
The final category is your interest in new credit -- how many credit applications you're filling out. The model compensates for people who are rate shopping for the best mortgage or car loan rates. The only time shopping really hurts your score, Watts says, is when you have previous recent credit stumbles, such as late payments or bills sent to collections.
"Then, looking for new credit will be seen as an alarm because statistically, before people declare bankruptcy and default on everything, they look for a life preserver," Watts says. Also, if you have a very young credit file, an inquiry can count for more than if you've had credit for a long time.

What doesn't count in a score
The scoring model doesn't look at:
  • age
  • race
  • sex
  • job or length of employment at your job
  • income
  • education
  • marital status
  • whether you've been turned down for credit
  • length of time at your current address
  • whether you own a home or rent
  • information not contained in your credit report
A lender may consider all those factors when deciding whether to approve a loan application, but they aren't part of how a FICO score is calculated, Watts says.

Credit scores are not perfect
The major drawback to credit scoring is that it relies on information in your credit report, which is quite likely to contain errors. That's why it's critical that you check your credit reports annually, or at the very least three to six months before planning to buy a house or a car. That will give you sufficient time to correct any errors before a lender pulls your score.

Watts says that the need for accuracy in credit files is one reason why it's good for consumers to learn about credit scores.

"There's a hope that as consumers know about credit reports and scores, they'll do more to correct errors and provide more oversight," he says. "If consumers can police the accuracy of their own reports, everybody gains."

How does Credit Scoring Works? How is a Score Calculated?

Ever wonder why you can go online and be approved for credit within 60 seconds? Or get pre-qualified for a car without anyone even asking you how much money you make? Or why you get one interest rate on loans, while your neighbor gets another?

The answer is credit scoring.

Your credit score is a number generated by a mathematical algorithm -- a formula -- based on information in your credit report, compared to information on tens of millions of other people. The resulting number is a highly accurate prediction of how likely you are to pay your bills.
If it sounds arcane and unimportant, you couldn't be more wrong. Credit scores are used extensively, and if you've gotten a mortgage, a car loan, a credit card or auto insurance, the rate you received was directly related to your credit score. The higher the number, the better you look to lenders. People with the highest scores get the lowest interest rates.

Scoring categories
Lenders can use one of many different credit-scoring models to determine if you are creditworthy. Different models can produce different scores. However, lenders use some scoring models more than others. The FICO score is one such popular scoring method.
Its scale runs from 300 to 850. The vast majority of people will have scores between 600 and 800. A score of 720 or higher will get you the most favorable interest rates on a mortgage, according to data from Fair Isaac Corp., a California-based company that developed the first credit score as well as the FICO score.
Fair Isaac reports that the American public's credit scores break out along these lines:

Currently, each of the three major credit bureaus uses their own version of the FICO scoring method -- Equifax has the BEACON score, Experian has the Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model and TransUnion has the EMPIRICA score. The three versions can come up with varying scores because they use different algorithms. (Variance can also occur because of differences in data contained in different credit reports.)
That could change, depending on whether a new credit-scoring model catches on. It's called the VantageScore. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion collaborated on its development and will all use the same algorithm to compute the score. Consumers can order their VantageScores online at Experian's Web site for $6. Its scoring range runs from 501 to 990 with a corresponding letter grade from A to F. So, a score of 501 to 600 would receive an F, while a score of 901 to 990 would receive an A. Just like in school, A is the best grade you can get.

What's the big deal?
No matter which scoring model lenders use, it pays to have a great credit score. Your credit score affects whether you get credit or not, and how high your interest rate will be. A better score can lower your interest rate.
The difference in the interest rates offered to a person with a score of 520 and a person with a 720 score is 4.36 percentage points, according to Fair Isaac's Web site. On a $100,000, 30-year mortgage, that difference would cost more than $110,325 extra in interest charges, according to's mortgage calculator. The difference in the monthly payment alone would be about $307.

Powerful little number
If you rented an apartment, got braces, bought cell phone service, applied for a job that involved handling a lot of money, or needed to get utilities connected, there's a good chance your score was pulled.
If you have an existing credit card, the issuer is likely to look at your credit score to decide whether to increase your credit line -- or charge you a higher interest rate, according to a credit scoring study by the Consumer Federation of America and the National Credit Reporting Association.

Buying a car? Most car dealers want to know your credit score when you walk in the door, says Bob Kurilko, vice president of product development and marketing for, an online consumer resource for automotive issues. "They want to know how they can put a loan together for you."

The score has made it easier for many people to get credit, Kurilko says.
Before, it was up to individual lending institutions to come up with their own criteria, he says. "They would hedge their risk and tend to go conservatively. It's opened up lending to a lot more people."

Consumers' rights
Until recently, many Americans didn't even know this number existed because it was a closely guarded secret in the lending industry. In fact, lenders were prohibited from telling borrowers their credit score. The line of reasoning: The number was the result of analyzing complex financial data that the layperson would have difficulty understanding. Plus, if people knew their score (according to the industry mindset at the time), they might be able to change their behavior to manipulate the score and throw off the whole model, rendering it useless.

All that changed a few years ago, when consumers began finding out about the score and demanding to see it. In an unprecedented move in 2000, online lender E-Loan offered to give consumers their scores for free, with information explaining how the score is calculated and how they might improve it. Fair Isaac responded by cutting E-Loan off from its source of credit reports, effectively crippling its ability to lend money. E-Loan stopped giving away credit scores.
Public outcry on the possibility of people being denied credit based on bad information in credit reports led to several pieces of legislation -- and a much more open attitude about credit scores.

Fast forward to current day: Not only can consumers buy their score online from any number of sources, but everyone is entitled to a free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The program rolled out across the nation one geographical region at a time with all consumers eligible on Sept. 1, 2005.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reverse Mortgage - Get the Facts

Reverse Mortgages: Get the Facts Before Cashing in on Your Home’s Equity

If you’re 62 or older – and looking for money to finance a home improvement, pay off your current mortgage, supplement your retirement income, or pay for healthcare expenses – you may be considering a reverse mortgage. It’s a product that allows you to convert part of the equity in your home into cash without having to sell your home or pay additional monthly bills.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, wants you to understand how reverse mortgages work, the types of reverse mortgages available, and how to get the best deal.

In a “regular” mortgage, you make monthly payments to the lender. In a “reverse” mortgage, you receive money from the lender, and generally don’t have to pay it back for as long as you live in your home. The loan is repaid when you die, sell your home, or when your home is no longer your primary residence. The proceeds of a reverse mortgage generally are tax-free, and many reverse mortgages have no income restrictions.

Types of Reverse Mortgages

There are three types of reverse mortgages:
  • single-purpose reverse mortgages, offered by some state and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations
  • federally-insured reverse mortgages, known as Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) and backed by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • proprietary reverse mortgages, private loans that are backed by the companies that develop them
Single-purpose reverse mortgages are the least expensive option. They are not available everywhere and can be used for only one purpose, which is specified by the government or nonprofit lender. For example, the lender might say the loan may be used only to pay for home repairs, improvements, or property taxes. Most homeowners with low or moderate income can qualify for these loans.

HECMs and proprietary reverse mortgages may be more expensive than traditional home loans, and the upfront costs can be high. That’s important to consider, especially if you plan to stay in your home for just a short time or borrow a small amount. HECM loans are widely available, have no income or medical requirements, and can be used for any purpose.

Before applying for a HECM, you must meet with a counselor from an independent government-approved housing counseling agency. Some lenders offering proprietary reverse mortgages also require counseling. The counselor is required to explain the loan’s costs and financial implications, and possible alternatives to a HECM, like government and nonprofit programs or a single-purpose or proprietary reverse mortgage. The counselor also should be able to help you compare the costs of different types of reverse mortgages and tell you how different payment options, fees, and other costs affect the total cost of the loan over time. 

To find a counselor, visit or call 1-800-569-4287. Most counseling agencies charge around $125 for their services. The fee can be paid from the loan proceeds, but you cannot be turned away if you can’t afford the fee.

How much you can borrow with a HECM or proprietary reverse mortgage depends on several factors, including your age, the type of reverse mortgage you select, the appraised value of your home, and current interest rates. In general, the older you are, the more equity you have in your home, and the less you owe on it, the more money you can get.

The HECM lets you choose among several payment options. You can select:
  • a “term” option – fixed monthly cash advances for a specific time.
  • a “tenure” option – fixed monthly cash advances for as long as you live in your home.
  • a line of credit that lets you draw down the loan proceeds at any time in amounts you choose until you have used up the line of credit.
  • a combination of monthly payments and a line of credit.

You can change your payment option any time for about $20.

HECMs generally provide bigger loan advances at a lower total cost compared with proprietary loans. But if you own a higher-valued home, you may get a bigger loan advance from a proprietary reverse mortgage. So if your home has a higher appraised value and you have a small mortgage, you may qualify for more funds.

Loan Features

Reverse mortgage loan advances are not taxable, and generally don’t affect your Social Security or Medicare benefits. You retain the title to your home, and you don’t have to make monthly repayments. The loan must be repaid when the last surviving borrower dies, sells the home, or no longer lives in the home as a principal residence.

In the HECM program, a borrower can live in a nursing home or other medical facility for up to 12 consecutive months before the loan must be repaid.

If you’re considering a reverse mortgage, be aware that:
  • Lenders generally charge an origination fee, a mortgage insurance premium (for federally-insured HECMs), and other closing costs for a reverse mortgage. Lenders also may charge servicing fees during the term of the mortgage. The lender sometimes sets these fees and costs, although origination fees for HECM reverse mortgages currently are dictated by law. Your upfront costs can be lowered if you borrow a smaller amount through a reverse mortgage product called a "HECM Saver."
  • The amount you owe on a reverse mortgage grows over time. Interest is charged on the outstanding balance and added to the amount you owe each month. That means your total debt increases as the loan funds are advanced to you and interest on the loan accrues.
  • Although some reverse mortgages have fixed rates, most have variable rates that are tied to a financial index: they are likely to change with market conditions.
  • Reverse mortgages can use up all or some of the equity in your home, and leave fewer assets for you and your heirs. Most reverse mortgages have a “nonrecourse” clause, which prevents you or your estate from owing more than the value of your home when the loan becomes due and the home is sold. However, if you or your heirs want to retain ownership of the home, you usually must repay the loan in full – even if the loan balance is greater than the value of the home.
  • Because you retain title to your home, you are responsible for property taxes, insurance, utilities, fuel, maintenance, and other expenses. If you don’t pay property taxes, carry homeowner’s insurance, or maintain the condition of your home, your loan may become due and payable.
  • Interest on reverse mortgages is not deductible on income tax returns until the loan is paid off in part or whole.

Getting a Good Deal

If you’re considering a reverse mortgage, shop around. Compare your options and the terms various lenders offer. Learn as much as you can about reverse mortgages before you talk to a counselor or lender. That can help inform the questions you ask that could lead to a better deal.
  • If you want to make a home repair or improvement – or you need help paying your property taxes – find out if you qualify for any low-cost single-purpose loans in your area. Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) generally know about these programs. To find the nearest agency, visit or call 1-800-677-1116. Ask about “loan or grant programs for home repairs or improvements,” or “property tax deferral” or “property tax postponement” programs, and how to apply.
  • All HECM lenders must follow HUD rules. And while the mortgage insurance premium is the same from lender to lender, most loan costs, including the origination fee, interest rate, closing costs, and servicing fees vary among lenders.
  • If you live in a higher-valued home, you may be able to borrow more with a proprietary reverse mortgage, but the more you borrow, the higher your costs. The best way to see key differences between a HECM and a proprietary loan is to do a side-by-side comparison of costs and benefits. Many HECM counselors and lenders can give you this important information.
  • No matter what type of reverse mortgage you’re considering, understand all the conditions that could make the loan due and payable. Ask a counselor or lender to explain the Total Annual Loan Cost (TALC) rates: they show the projected annual average cost of a reverse mortgage, including all the itemized costs.

Be Wary of Sales Pitches

Some sellers may offer you goods or services, like home improvement services, and then suggest that a reverse mortgage would be an easy way to pay for them. If you decide you need what’s being offered, shop around before deciding on any particular seller. Keep in mind that the total cost of the product or service is the price the seller quotes plus the costs – and fees – tied to getting the reverse mortgage.

Some who offer reverse mortgages may pressure you to buy other financial products, like an annuity or long term care insurance. Resist that pressure. You don’t have to buy any products or services to get a reverse mortgage (except to maintain the adequate homeowners or hazard insurance that HUD and other lenders require). In fact, in some situations, it’s illegal to require you to buy other products to get a reverse mortgage.

The bottom line: If you don’t understand the cost or features of a reverse mortgage or any other product offered to you – or if there is pressure or urgency to complete the deal – walk away and take your business elsewhere. Consider seeking the advice of a family member, friend, or someone else you trust.

Your Right to Cancel

With most reverse mortgages, you have at least three business days after closing to cancel the deal for any reason, without penalty. To cancel, you must notify the lender in writing. Send your letter by certified mail, and ask for a return receipt. That will allow you to document what the lender received and when. Keep copies of your correspondence and any enclosures. After you cancel, the lender has 20 days to return any money you’ve paid up to then for the financing.

Reporting Possible Fraud

If you suspect that someone involved in the transaction may be violating the law, let the counselor, lender, or loan servicer know. Then, file a complaint with:

Whether a reverse mortgage is right for you is a big question. Consider all your options. You may qualify for less costly alternatives. The following organizations have more information:

Reverse Mortgage Education Project
AARP Foundation
601 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20049

U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
451 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20410
1-800-CALL-FHA (1-800-225-5342)

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580 — Click on “Mortgages & Your Home”
1-877-FTC-HELP (­1-877-382-4357)

The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a video, How to File a Complaint, at to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to read and Understand your Credit Report

The lender told you to get a copy of your credit report as part of the pre-qualifying process for a mortgage. The purpose, he said, was to see how your credit looked and to clear up any errors that might be in the report.

But now that you've got it, there are an awful lot of numbers, abbreviations and terms you've never seen before. Trade lines, charge-offs, account review inquiries -- how do you read this thing?
First off, there are three major credit-reporting agencies in the United States: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.Order a copy of your credit report to review.
Thanks to a federal law you'll now be entitled to one free credit report from each of the main credit reporting agencies per year. The program rolled out across the nation region by region with all Americans eligible on Sept. 1, 2005.

The reports will not automatically be sent out. Each consumer must request their reports one of these three ways. Go to, which is the only authorized source for consumers to access their annual credit report online for free; call (877) 322-8228 or you may complete the form on the back of the Annual Credit Report Request brochure, and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA, 30348-5281. One more caveat: You'll be able to order all three credit reports at one time or at different times throughout the year. It's your choice. But, be sure to order from the centralized agency. If you go directly to the credit reporting agencies, you will be charged unless you fit another criteria for a free report.

If you want to review your credit reports more frequently, you can order directly from the credit reporting agencies via their Web sites, by phone or mail. Costs vary from state to state, but in most states, it can cost up to $18.00 to get your report. TransUnion, Equifax and Experian all allow you to review your report online.
"Looking at one is a useless endeavor; you need to look at all three," says Howard Dvorkin, president of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "People tend to pull one and think everything is the same on all of them. That's not normally the case."

The reports will have different information because it's a voluntary system, and creditors subscribe to whichever agency they want -- if any at all.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Everything about the Escrow Process

Many people have seen the words “in escrow” accompanying a “for sale” sign on a listed real estate property, but what does “in escrow” really mean exactly?

What it means is that the Seller has accepted an offer from a buyer to purchase the property and both parties have entered a process that will be handled by an escrow company. Like with most real estate transactions and unlike most purchases for goods and items, a buyer can’t take possession of the property the day the offer is accepted, while at the same time, the Seller cannot have access to the purchase funds. Therefore, the sale is technically NOT finalized.

Here is what is needed:
  • There has to be a contingency period where the buyer may order inspections on the property to make sure the property is free from major flaws, infestations or debts (relative to the buyer’s level of acceptance).
  • If the Buyer is using a loan to purchase the property, the Buyer will need time to go through a loan application process and give the lender a chance to also inspect the property (since they will have an interest in the property as collateral).
  • Also, the deed to the property must change hands from the seller to the buyer and recorded with the county where the property resides (a process that may also take several weeks to complete).
As you can see, there are several processes (among many others) that must take place before the sale is considered final and the property is considered “sold.” This is where escrow comes in, as the Escrow holder will oversee much of these processes.
Escrow is a neutral third party that will hold the purchase funds on behalf of the buyer (to make sure funds do not go to the seller until the property is transferred to the buyer) and the seller (to show that the buyer is making a commitment to making the purchase). However, it is important to note that Escrow does more than just hold the buyer’s funds.

So how does the escrow process begin?
Once a buyer’s offer is accepted by the seller, the process of escrow starts when both parties agree on which escrow company it wants to use for their transaction. The selected escrow company will then generate a document known as “Escrow Instructions” which will serve as written instructions for the escrow company throughout the entire process on how and when to disburse the purchase funds.
After both parties approve and sign the escrow instructions, the buyer will then proceed to deposit an initial down payment into the escrow company’s trust account (usually representing 3% of the purchase price) for the escrow holder to hold on to. Once the Escrow Holder receives the signed escrow instructions and the buyer’s initial deposit, escrow is now considered “open.” At this point, the listing agent for the home will probably proceed to update his/her advertising for the property to say that the sale is “pending” or “in escrow.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mortgage Calculator

What is a Mortgage Calculator?
A mortgage calculator, also known as a mortgage payment calculator is a financial tool used to determine what your estimated mortgage payment will be and is based on certain variables such as home value, loan amount, interest rate and more. Understanding your mortgage payment before committing to a home loan is a serious step in the financial responsibility of homeownership.

Who should use our Mortgage Calculator?

Free mortgage calculators can be used by real estate professionals, current homeowners as well as potential home buyers. There are a wealth of online calculators to help professionals and consumers understand how much they can afford, the value of mortgage refinancing, the effect of extra principal payments and more. In fact, we have one of the most extensive set of mortgage calculators online and provide easy to use snippet codes where webmasters can quickly add a free mortgage calculator to their website.

How much can you afford?

This is the most important questions when shopping for a new mortgage or comparing refinancing rates. The mortgage payment is just in one factor in the total cost of home ownership and this is the very reason why debt to income ratios are used by lenders. Typically you want to stay under 35% of your total monthly income for your mortgage obligation however this 35% also include property taxes, homeowners insurance and condo or association fees. Before comparing mortgage payments it’s a good idea to make a sidenote of how much these additional homeowner costs are and add them to the mortgage payment calculated online for a true sense of the full obligation as a homeowner.

Check the Mortgage calculator on the right side

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What are Mortgage Points?

When people want to find out how much their mortgages cost, lenders often give them quotes that include both loan rates and points.

What exactly is a point?

A point is a fee equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. A 30-year, $150,000 mortgage might have a rate of 7 percent but come with a charge of 1 point, or $1,500.A lender can charge 1, 2 or more points. There are two kinds of points -- discount points and origination points.

Discount points: These are actually prepaid interest on the mortgage loan. The more points you pay, the lower the interest rate on the loan and vice versa. Borrowers typically can pay anywhere from zero to 3 or 4 points, depending on how much they want to lower their rates. This kind of point is tax-deductible.

Origination fee: This is charged by the lender to cover the costs of making the loan. The origination fee is deductible if it was used to obtain the mortgage and not to pay other closing costs. The IRS specifically states that if the fee is for items that would normally be itemized on a settlement statement, such as notary fees, preparation costs and inspection fees, it is not deductible.
How do you decide whether to pay points, and how many? That depends on a number of factors, such as how much money you have available to put down at closing and how long you plan on staying in your house.Points as prepaid interest reduce the interest rate, an advantage if you plan to stay in your home for a while.
But if you need the lowest possible closing costs, choose the zero-point option on your loan program.

By the numbers ...

A lender might offer you a 30-year fixed mortgage of $165,000 at 6 percent interest with no points. The monthly mortgage principal and interest payment would be $989. If you pay 2 points at closing (that's $3,300) you can bring the interest rate down to 5.5 percent, with a monthly payment of $937. The savings difference would be $52 per month. But it would take 64 months to earn back the $3,300 spent upfront via lower payments. If you're sure you will own the house for more than five-and-a-half years, you save money by paying the points.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why do I need Title Insurance?

Why do you need title insurance?

To protect possibly the most important investment you'll ever make - the investment in 
real estate.

A lender goes to great lengths to minimize the risk of lending money for the purchase of real estate. First, credit is checked as an indication of the borrower's ability to repay the loan. 

Then, the lender seeks assurance that the quality of the title to the property to be acquired and which will be pledged as security for the loan is satisfactory. The lender does this by obtaining a loan policy of title insurance.

The loan policy does not protect the borrower.

The loan policy protects the lender against loss due to unknown title defects. It also protects the lender's interest from certain matters which may exist, but may not be known at the time of the sale. 

But, this policy only protects the lender's interest. It does not protect the borrower. That is why a real estate purchaser needs an owner's policy, which can be issued at the same time as the loan policy, usually for a nominal one-time fee. 

What is the danger of loss?

If the lender has title insurance protection and the owner does not, what possible danger of loss exists? 

As an example, assume real estate was purchased for $100,000. A down payment of $20,000 is made, and a lender holds an $80,000 mortgage lien, or beneficial interest. The lender acquires title insurance protecting the lender's interest up to $80,000. But the purchaser's down payment of $20,000 is not covered.

What if some matter arises affecting the past ownership of the property? The title insurance company would defend and protect the interest of the lender. The purchaser, however, would have to assume the financial burden of his or her own legal defense. If the defense is not successful, the result could be a total loss of title. 

The title insurance company pays the lender's loss and is entitled to take an assignment of the borrower's debt. The purchaser loses the down payment, other equity in the property that may have accumulated, and the property. And the balance on the note is still due!

How can there be title defect if the title has been searched and a loan policy issued?

Title insurance is issued after a careful examination of copies of the public records. But even the most thorough search cannot absolutely assure that no title hazards are present, despite the knowledge and experience of professional title examiners.  In addition to matters shown by public records, other title problems may exist that cannot be disclosed in a search.

What title insurance protects against?

Here are just a few of the most common hidden risks that can cause loss of title or create an encumbrance on title:

* False impersonation of the true owner of the property
* Forged deeds, releases or wills
* Undisclosed or missing heirs
* Instruments executed under invalid or expired power of attorney
* Mistakes in recording legal documents
* Misinterpretations of wills
* Deeds by persons of unsound mind
* Deeds by minors
* Deeds by persons supposedly single, but in fact married* Liens for unpaid estate, inheritance, income or gift taxes
* Fraud

What protection does title insurance provide against defects and hidden risks?
Title insurance will pay for defending against any lawsuit attacking the title as insured, and will either clear up title problems or pay the insured's losses. For a one-time premium, an owner's title insurance policy remains in effect as long as the insured, or the insured's heirs, retain an interest in the property, or have any obligations under a warranty in any conveyance of it.
Owner's title insurance, issued simultaneously with a loan policy, is the best title insurance value a property owner can get.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What is an Escrow Account?

An escrow account is used to collect and hold funds to pay your property taxes, homeowners insurance premiums or other charges when they become due.
The account is often established for you by your mortgage company when you take out your mortgage.  However, if an escrow account was not set up when you took out your mortgage, you may be able to do so now. 
Real estate taxes and insurance premiums must be paid regularly — typically, payments are due once or twice a year — and failure to pay these bills on time may cost you money in tax penalties or result in cancellation of your insurance coverage.

What are the benefits of an escrow account?

An escrow account helps you:
  • Manage your budget: You do not have to make lump sum payments when your taxes and insurance are due. You have made monthly payments throughout the year to cover those obligations.
  • Gain peace of mind: You don’t need to keep track of when your tax and insurance bills are due.  The payments will be made, on time, on your behalf.
  • Ensure that your home is protected: With paid-up insurance coverage and taxes, you protect your investment in your home and meet your lender’s requirements.
Most mortgage companies require an escrow account for mortgages with less than a 20 percent down payment.

How does an escrow account work?

Your monthly mortgage payment includes an amount for property taxes and insurance in addition to the amount you owe for principal and interest.
The amount of your monthly mortgage payment that is for taxes and insurance is placed by your mortgage company into an escrow account. The funds can be used only to pay taxes and insurance on your behalf.
Your mortgage company pays the taxes and insurance bills for you when they are due. Your mortgage company examines any changes in your tax and insurance costs (for example, your local government may change the amount of your real estate taxes). Your mortgage company sends you a statement each year showing the prior year's activity — amounts collected from you and placed in escrow as well as the payments made on your behalf — and showing any adjustments that may be needed based on changes in your tax and insurance costs.   
Here is a simplified example* of how escrow payments are calculated:
Annual real estate taxes: $1,800 ÷ 12 months = $150 per month
Annual property insurance: $720 ÷ 12 months = $60 per month
Total monthly taxes and insurance: $210
So in this example, $210 would be added to your total monthly mortgage payment and applied to your escrow account. You might hear your total monthly mortgage payment referred to as your “PITI” — forprincipal, interest, taxes and insurance.

Do you have an escrow account?

If you are not sure if you have an escrow account, check your monthly mortgage account statement or contact your mortgage company.  Your account statement will typically indicate your “Escrow Balance” and the amount of your total monthly mortgage payment that is applied to escrow.

Should you establish an escrow account?

If you do not have an escrow account, you may want to establish one. Ask your mortgage company for more information.

Want more information?

For more information, talk with your mortgage company to determine if you are setting aside adequate funds in your escrow account or if you should set up an escrow account. Also, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers "Frequently Asked Questions about Escrow Accounts for Consumers".