1. If I have mortgage default insurance do I also need mortgage life insurance?
- Yes. Mortgage life insurance is a life insurance policy on a homeowner, which will allow your family or dependents to pay off the mortgage on the home should something tragic happen to you. Mortgage default insurance is something lenders require you to purchase to cover their own assets if you have less than a 20% down payment. Mortgage life insurance is meant to protect the family of a homeowner and not the mortgage lender itself.
2. What steps can I take to maximize my mortgage payments and own my home sooner?
- There are many ways to pay down your mortgage sooner that could save you thousands of dollars in interest payments throughout the term of your mortgage. Most mortgage products, for instance, include prepayment privileges that enable you to pay up to 20% of the principal (the true value of your mortgage minus the interest payments) per calendar year. This will also help reduce your amortization period (the length of your mortgage). Another way to reduce the time it takes to pay off your mortgage involves changing the way you make your payments by opting for accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments. Not to be confused with semi-monthly mortgage payments (24 payments per year), accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments (26 payments per year) will not only pay your mortgage off quicker, but it’s guaranteed to save you a significant amount of money over the term of your mortgage. With accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payments, you’re making one additional monthly payment per year. In addition to increased payment options, most lenders offer the opportunity to make lump-sum payments on your mortgage.
3. Can I make lump-sum or other prepayments on my mortgage, or will I be penalized?
- Most lenders enable lump-sum payments and increased mortgage payments to a maximum amount per year (as much as 20% of the original borrowed amount). Please note, however, that some lenders will only let you make these lump-sum payments on the anniversary date of your mortgage while others will allow you to spread out the lump-sum payments to the maximum allowable yearly amount. Since each lender and product is different, it’s important to check stipulations on prepayments prior to signing your mortgage papers. Most “no frills” mortgage products offering the lowest rates often do not allow for prepayments.
4. How do I ensure my credit score enables me to qualify for the best possible rate?
- There are several things you can do to ensure your credit remains in good standing. Check out my previous post on credit scores and my 5 step plan on how to improve them: What’s your credit score and how do you improve it?
5. What amortization will work best for me?
- While the lending industry’s benchmark amortization period is 25 years, and this is the standard that is used by lenders when discussing mortgage offers, and usually the basis for mortgage calculators and payment tables, shorter or longer timeframes are available – to a maximum of 30 years. The main reason to opt for a shorter amortization period is that you’ll become mortgage-free sooner. And since you’re agreeing to pay off your mortgage in a shorter period of time, the interest you pay over the life of the mortgage is greatly reduced. A shorter amortization also affords you the luxury of building up equity in your home sooner. Equity is the difference between any outstanding mortgage on your home and its market value. While it pays to opt for a shorter amortization period, other considerations must be made before selecting your amortization. Because you’re reducing the actual number of mortgage payments you make to pay off your mortgage, your regular payments will be higher. So if your income is irregular because you’re paid commission or if you’re buying a home for the first time and will be carrying a large mortgage, a shorter amortization period that increases your regular payment amount and ties up your cash flow may not be the best option for you.