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Factors to consider when refinancing

With mortgage interest rates being so low, more and more people are refinancing for obvious reasons.

When considering whether to refinance your mortgage there are many factors to consider, with obvious ones being the interest rate and the type of mortgage.

But there are many more factors to consider, including these from a helpful list compiled on Yahoo! Homes:

How long will I be in my home? The general rule is that unless you are planning to stay in your home at least another five years, then refinancing may not make sense. This is because a refi usually carries closing costs and the costs could outweigh the benefits. You usually “break even” at the five-year mark, which means you have paid for the costs to refinance.

Is there a prepayment penalty on my current mortgage? Since many mortgages carry a penalty if you pay off your existing mortgage, find out if you will be charged a “prepayment penalty.” The amount varies, but it can add up to several months’ worth of interest payments. Ask your lender.

What are the costs of the new mortgage? Lenders almost always charge fees for taking out a new loan. These can add up to an average of $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the size of the loan. Charges include application fees, appraisal, origination and insurance fees, plus title search, insurance and legal costs. Unless your new rate is at least a half a percentage point lower than your current rate, the fees may eat up your potential savings.

Will my tax savings be reduced? If you claim mortgage interest on your tax return, refinancing to a lower rate will mean that you’ll have less mortgage interest to deduct. That means you might have to check with your tax advisor to see if your overall savings will be increased if you refinance.

Check out the entire list so you can properly evaluate whether to move forward.

  

Home prices keep dropping

Here’s more bad news on the housing front:

Home prices fell for a third straight month in November in nearly all cities tracked by the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home-price index.

The declines show that most homeowners are not reaping the benefits from some signs of an improving housing market.
Prices dropped from October in 19 of the 20 cities tracked.

The biggest declines were in Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit. Phoenix was the only city to show an increase.

If you’ve been waiting to purchase a home, this is good news. But for many stuck in underwater mortgages, this is terrible news.

  

Mitt Romney says we should speed up forclosures

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during the Republican Party of Florida presidential candidates debate in Orlando, Florida, September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Scott Audette (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

The foreclosure crisis has been a huge drag on the economy since the economic collapse of 2008. Warren Buffett has explained that we won’t have an economic recovery until we have a housing recovery.

One of the controversies, however, involves bad practices by the banks, and whether consumers should get a break in the face of this misconduct.

Mitt Romney apparently doesn’t think so, as he is arguing in Las Vegas that foreclosures should speed up.

“Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom,” Romney said when asked by the Las Vegas Review-Journal what he would do to jump-start the floundering housing market. “Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.”

The administration, Romney said, “has slow walked the foreclosure process … that has long existed and as a result we still have a foreclosure overhang.” Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto sued Bank of America in August, accusing it of foreclosing on homes without proper authority. Nevada is beset by economic turmoil and foreclosures. Last year, one in nine Las Vegas homes received a foreclosure notice.

On pure economic terms he has a point, but he seems to ignore how millions of American were screwed over by the banks. Yes, many home buyers made mistakes, yet it’s clear that the banks were jamming through mortgages just to rack up fees.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  

Is it cheaper to buy than rent your home?

For many parts of the country, this is becoming true:

As the national real estate slump deepens, home prices in many cities have crossed a worrisome milestone.

It’s cheaper to buy a home than to rent onein 74 percent of the country’s largest 50 cities, according to the real estate site Trulia — findings that confirm the national epidemic of depressed housing prices remains in full swing.

Trulia’s research, which compared the median list price and median rent for two-bedroom apartments, condos and townhomes in America’s 50 largest cities, found that renting is more expensive than buying in dozens of markets, particularly in Miami and Las Vegas, as well as Mesa, New Mexico, and Arlington, Texas.

Of course, you have to have the credit to buy a home, thus this doesn’t apply to everyone. That said, if you have good credit, with mortgage rates so low, now is a good time to start looking if you want to purchase a home.

  

American are shedding their mortgage debt

USA Today has a story on an interesting trend:

Americans are reducing mortgage payments at a record clip, directing cash that once went for debt into consumer spending and savings.

Low interest rates, defaults and refinancings have shaved more than $100 billion off the nation’s annual mortgage bill — an amount comparable to all unemployment benefits for one year or this year’s Social Security payroll tax cut.

“This is a form of economic stimulus that goes to Main Street rather than Wall Street,” says Nicholas Carroll, a journalist on consumer finance and author of Walk Away From Debt for a Better Future. When freed from a mortgage payment, people’s first purchases tend to be necessities, such as socks and underwear, he says.

Homeowners have trimmed interest payments alone by 11% — or $67 billion a year — from the peak in 2008, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The savings come equally from grabbing lower interest rates and reducing what’s owed by paying down principal or defaulting on loans.

This is another positive byproduct of the real estate bust. Home prices keep coming down, and more and more Americans are underwater on their mortgages. So many of them are walking away. Homeowners with jobs and good credit are taking advantage of low mortgage rates to refinance and lower their payments.

This results in more disposable income, so Americans can spend more on typical consumer products.

  

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