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The Jana Caudill Team's Blog

The Jana Caudill Team


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New stimulus package proposes tax credit for home buyers

by The Jana Caudill Team

Last week, the Senate verbally approved the Fix Housing First Act, an important amendment to their version of the Economic Stimulus Bill. The piece of legislation and the Stimulus Bill are still awaiting Senate and House negotiations, but could provide all home buyers of primary residences over the next year with a tax credit of $15,000 or 10 percent of the cost of the home, whichever is less. The credit will not need to be repaid unless the home is sold within two years of purchase. This Senate's version of the tax credit, if implemented, will replace, or “sunset” the current $7,500 credit. If you are not familiar with this Act, please click here for more information.

The Jana Caudill Team will send out the latest information as soon as it becomes available.

If you are interested in buying or selling a home, let the number one real estate agent in Northwest Indiana work for you! We can be reached at (219) 661-1256 or via email at

Source: Keller Williams Realty: This Week @ KW-February 9-13, 2009

Affordability climbs as interest rates fall


Last week, the benchmark 30-year mortgage rate fell below 5 percent to reach an all-time low of 4.96 percent.

This rate is down from two weeks ago when it hit 5.01 percent.  "The outlook is very positive that these low mortgage rates will persist at least through the first half of the year. That is the timetable laid out from the Federal Reserve for pumping up to $500 billion in mortgage-backed bonds," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for

Low interest rates mean more affordable mortgage payments. Act now and get into your dream home today!

 Click here to read the full article from Market Watch.

Housing stats imply its time to buy


According to a recent report from Global Insight, an economic and financial analysis forecasting firm, current housing statistics indicate that now is the right to time to buy.

They claim that the U.S. housing market as a whole is undervalued by 3.8 percent. Global Insight analyzed 330 metropolitan areas in the United States and found that 241 metro areas experienced price declines in the third quarter of 2008 in comparison to 150 metro areas in the second quarter.

The markets that were hardest hit were in areas that were most overvalued three years ago. This study, a combined effort by HIS Global Insight and National City Corporation represented 78 percent of all existing housing units in the United States.

Low interest rates and increased affordability make today's market a buyer's dream!


Source: Global Insight (12/03/2008)

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) recently altered its guidelines as a result of the Economic and Housing Recovery Act of 2008. One significant change was the elimination of the seller-funded down payment assistance program. Often used by builders through non-profit organizations such as Nehemiah and Ameridream, this program enabled the seller of a property (either an individual or a builder) to “donate” an amount equal to the funds needed by a buyer for a down payment on a home when securing FHA financing.

As of Oct. 1 of this year, the FHA will no longer allow seller assisted down payments. Not only that, but the FHA actually increased the down payment requirement from 3 percent to 3.5 percent—a setback for those who want an FHA loan and are already having problems saving enough money to close on a home.


Fortunately, there is another financing option that can bring these folks a little closer to home: family loans. This feature is unique to  FHA. And while it‘s not permissible for buyers to borrow the down payment from individuals when securing any other type of mortgage, FHA’s guidelines allow buyers to borrow from family members. But to obtain a family loan, borrowers must keep some specific requirements in mind: 

  • The family member making the loan can be a parent, grandparent, son, daughter, stepson or stepdaughter, or a legally adopted child or foster child.
  • The term of the loan cannot be less than five years.
  • The FHA loan and family loan combined cannot be greater than 100 percent of the value of the home.
  • The scheduled loan payments, if any,must be factored into the buyer’s debt ratios.
  • Funds cannot be directly or indirectly associated with the seller, or anyone in the transaction who has a financial interest in the sale.

Now let’s combine the family loan with another advantage afforded by the Housing and Recovery Act of 2008: the $7,500 tax credit. If Grandpa is a likely candidate to supply a family loan, then he might want to know how he would get paid back. If the buyers are first timers and qualify for the tax credit, then Grandpa could get repaid come tax time.

Remember that lenders will want to verify the source of all funds to close the transaction, so be prepared to provide a copy of the loan agreement that spells out the terms and verifies that Grandpa has sufficient funds available to make the loan.

Sometimes when a window closes, another one opens, So while the recent Housing Recovery Act of 2008 has put the squeeze on the seller-funded down payment assistance program, a family loan can provide another avenue to closing on a home.

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, the most sweeping housing legislation since the Depression era, was passed by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives at the end of last month and was signed into law by President Bush. The new law addresses various aspects of the housing downturn, including assistance for homeowners who are behind on their mortgages, federal oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and funding for cities to buy and fix up foreclosed properties. Many of the provisions of the new law go into effect October 1, 2008 but for first-time home buyers who bought, or will buy, their home between April 9th of this year and July 1, 2009, there's an immediate bonus a tax credit of up to 10 percent of the sales price, up to $7,500. Note that this is a tax credit, not a tax deduction. A deduction is an item that is subtracted from your annual income before income taxes are calculated. A tax credit is subtracted from the amount of taxes you owe.

First-time home buyer is specifically defined in the new law, and includes those who may have owned a home in the past, but not within the last three years. To qualify, be prepared to show your last three years? worth of income tax returns to prove that you did not pay mortgage interest during that period. There are also income limitations on the tax credit - $75,000 per year if you're single and $150,000 if filing a joint return to qualify for the full credit, but the credit does phase out beyond those amounts up to $95,000 for singles and $170,000 for joint filers.

By the way, the tax credit isn't a gift - you have to pay it back. Nevertheless, it provides an initial reprieve, as repayment doesn't begin until two years after purchase, and is payable over a 15 year period. If you sell the property before the tax credit has been fully repaid, any remaining amounts owed are due to the IRS upon closing.

Applying for the tax credit isn't mandatory, but for many, it will make home ownership feasible in the coming year and that's exactly what the tax credit is intended to accomplish.

A Bad Wrap! by David Reed


We’ve all heard the term, “wrap around,” but what exactly does it mean? A wrap around mortgage, or simply a “wrap,” is an agreement where the buyer of a property makes monthly payments to the seller of a property, who then pays the original lender each month. This is perceived as a way of an owner “selling” a property to a buyer without the buyer obtaining conventional financing.

While a wrap can be viewed as a traditional sale, in reality it’s anything but.

All mortgage loans contain a “due on sale” clause. That means if the current owner of the property sells or otherwise transfers ownership then the lender can immediately call the loan in completely. In other words the lender says, “Okay, you sold the property, we want our money.” In the past, the due on sale clause was not as prevalent, but now all mortgage loans contain such language.

So how would the lender ever know? First, if it’s a legal transfer of ownership, the sale would be recorded and therefore become public record. Lenders would receive notice from the companies they employ to monitor such transactions. The lender could also find out following the change of the original owner’s mailing address.

Now say the owner of the property tells you that they could “carry the note” for you if all you did was make monthly payments directly to him or her. If your agreement was to pay $2,000 per month, those funds could then be directly applied to their original mortgage payment.

Many wrap arrangements require a substantial down payment from the buyer along with the agreement to make a mortgage payment above and beyond what the real mortgage payment requires. Wraps are typically made because the buyer, the seller or both are unable to secure financing. While it may appear to be a solution to a tough problem, a wrap around mortgage is inherently problematic (and generally not worth the trouble).

For example, what would happen if the seller was notified by the lender that an illegal transfer of ownership took place and the lender activates the no-sale clause and wants all its money back?

First, the seller would have to immediately refinance the current note, which would be nearly impossible because the property would have been sold.  A new lender wouldn’t finance the new deal nor would the buyer, because the lender wouldn’t recognize the new owner.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, what if the buyer indeed made the monthly payments on a regular basis but the owner somehow fell behind and didn’t make the payments to the original lender? The lender would be forced to foreclose on the original owner, meaning that the new buyer would lose the down payment and payments to the original owner!

A wrap around isn’t a “last resort” method of financing, it’s a “no resort.”  Violating the terms of a mortgage, having the mortgage called in by the lender and the buyer losing his down payment and presumed equity with no legal ownership rights is a losing proposition for everyone!

Getting a gift in the form of cold, hard cash to buy real estate is a wonderful thing. Gift funds are a common way parents help their kids buy a home, but there are certain requirements to follow to ensure the gift transfer goes smoothly.

What exactly is a cash gift? Technically, it is a transfer of funds from one party to another without any expectation of being paid back. This non-repayment factor is a key element because lenders can’t accurately calculate debt ratios if the gift is in fact a loan. How do lenders determine this? The “givers” are required to sign an affidavit stating that the funds being given are a gift with no repayment expectations.

Who can give a gift? Gifts can come from family members (parents, siblings or grandparents), non-profit agencies, local or state agencies, churches, domestic partners and trade unions. 

The party that furnishes the gift must show an “ability to give”, which means they have the money available in an account they own. This is documented by providing account statements showing the funds are available. Finally, it must also be documented that the gift funds were transferred from one party to the next and the lucky recipients (and future home buyers) must provide a bank statement showing the gift was received.

While the need for documentation might sound heavy-handed, the truth is lenders need to take every precaution to make sure that the “gift” isn’t a “loan.” So if you know what the lender expects ahead of time, the gift transfer can be seamless. Just remember, financial gifts over a certain limit may have income tax implications, so be sure and consult with an accountant or tax specialist before getting the mortgage process underway.

One final note to consider. Conventional loans differ from FHA programs in their requirements for reporting gifts to be used toward the purchase of a home. Buyers using conventional financing need to prove that they have at least 5 percent of their own funds in the purchase transaction. However, that requirement is waived if the gift represents more than 20 percent of the purchase price. The FHA loan, on the other hand, merely requires the buyers have at least $500 of their own money at closing, regardless of the amount of the gift.

We frequently hear we’re supposed to regularly check our credit reports. And staying on top of this is especially important when starting to shop for a new home. There are three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These bureaus store consumer credit histories by the millions, and hundreds of thousands of businesses tap these bureaus for their data about you. Unfortunately, mistakes can happen. Especially if you’re not the only “Bob Johnson” or “Susan Smith” who lives in St. Louis. 

Let’s say you receive a copy of your credit report and find a mistake—what do you do?  What if there’s an old collection account showing as unpaid when you have the paid receipt and a letter stating that the account has been settled?

Your credit report will show which of the three credit bureaus are reporting the error, and you’ll get a toll-free number to call.  But if you have ever called one of these numbers, you know to expect anything but friendly service. You know the drill, “Press 1 for English, Press 2 if you are a consumer, Press 3 if you’d like to enroll in our...” and so on.  It’s likely you’ll either leave a voicemail or listen to some sales pitch for a credit protection service. But all you want is to get your credit fixed so you can clean up your report.

You’ll be asked to fax your documentation, fill out some forms and then wait for the bureau to fix the report and update your file. This can take time, sometimes weeks. Luckily, there is an easier way: let your loan officer handle it for you.

That’s right. You can give that very same documentation to your loan officer and they can  have the offending item removed from your credit report in minutes. How can they do it so quickly?

Mortgage lenders use credit reporting agencies. Often. And those same agencies hire customer service representatives to make sales calls to all those mortgage companies.  One of their services allows the lender to provide the corrected documentation showing the collection account as having been paid to the credit agency, who will then update the credit report almost immediately. What once showed up as an “unpaid” collection account now rightly shows as “paid.” It’s that easy.

It’s important to regularly check your credit, and if you do find yourself in a situation where your credit report has an error on it, don’t go to the bureaus directly. Instead, take advantage of the relationship your lender has with the credit agencies. Your mortgage specialist can fix things much quicker than you can.

Five Year Increments by David Reed


Which is better, a 30-year or a 15-year fixed rate mortgage?  A common and important question which, when answered, affects both the monthly payment and the amount of interest paid on a mortgage loan. While paying less interest over a shorter timeframe seems to be the obvious answer, the difference in monthly payment is surprising to some.

For instance, on a $300,000 note at 6.25 percent over 30 years, the principal and interest payment is $1,847 per month. Whereas on that same loan amount over 15 years at 6 percent, the payment jumps to $2,531! It’s easy to understand why most choose a 30-year loan over a 15-year loan; not only is the payment lower but it takes less income to qualify.

On the other hand, more money goes to interest on a 30-year loan compared to a 15-year loan. Using those same figures, the 30-year note yields $364,920 of interest, most of it in the first 10 years of the loan, while the 15-year loan only requires $155,580. That's less than half the interest that a 30-year loan produces!

So, which is better? Maybe neither.

While few lenders advertise this, there’s a compromise available to you. Loan payment periods can actually be acquired in five year increments. You don’t have to choose between a 30 and a 15-year loan! You can select a 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 year mortgage. Some lenders even offer 40-year loans. Now it’s possible to both keep monthly payments manageable and save on interest charges.

Here are the payments for these additional amortization periods on $300,000:
Term(yr) Rate  Payment
10 6.00% $3,330
20  6.25% $2,132
25 6.25% $1,979


Since these five year increments aren’t advertised you’ll typically have to ask your loan officer for a quote. Don’t be shy, you’ll find out that you just might be able to have the best of both worlds: lower payments with reduced interest charges!

Government Grants by David Reed


For first-time buyers, often the first thought that comes to mind is, “I need a down payment.” This is often followed by the question, “Now, where do I get that down payment?”

Depending upon the loan type, a home mortgage typically requires 3 to 5 percent down. If you have the money, then you’re set. But what if you don’t?  What if you’re renting? You can afford a mortgage within your means, but coming up with the down payment money needed to begin the transaction can be challenging. So, where can you turn?

One of the most overlooked sources of down payment funds is likely right under your nose—in the form of government bonds and local grant programs.

These programs either provide outright monetary grants for down payment or money to buyers in the form of a forgivable loan. In essence, the government will help you buy your home and you typically only have to pay back the money if and when you sell that same property.

In the past it was challenging to find these special programs, but now all you need is your agent, a computer, an Internet connection, and a search portal such as Google or Yahoo.  Enter the search terms “down payment assistance (followed by your city, state or province)” and see what pops up! It might just be the answer to helping you buy your first home.

Displaying blog entries 151-160 of 181