How Does a Lender Evaluate Your Borrowing Ability?
If you are thinking about buying a home, one of the first things you should do is go to a lender to get pre-approved. This will determine how much money you can borrow on a mortgage. This will also help you filter your home search by sale price, which will narrow your choices within your financing range.
So how does a lender evaluate — called underwriting — and determine how much you can borrow? It involves the three C’s: Credit, capacity and collateral!
Credit or FICO Score
The first item a lender will review is your credit profile, also known as your credit score or FICO score. This can range from 350 – 850. This is where all the decisions you’ve made in the past regarding will be reflected, such as:
- How much debt you have outstanding
- How much debt you have outstanding as a percentage of open credit accounts
- How much debt you have in the different types of credit accounts (credit cards, car loans, school loans, etc.)
- How well you’ve paid your bills over the years
Lenders used to allow much lower credit scores for borrowing purposes, but they’ve gone up the past few years. You need, in general, at least a 640 FICO score to borrow on a loan. The optimal score is 740-760 or above. The lower your score, the higher your interest rate and points on your mortgage loan.
Capacity or Income
If you pass the FICO score test and the lender says you are creditworthy, the next item you will be evaluated for is your “capacity.” Capacity means that based on the lender’s allowed maximum percentage debt to your gross income, less all of your other debt payments, how much do you have available for a housing payment? It also has to be stable income, such as $65,000 per year for two years in a row.
Per the chart, you can generally have your total mortgage payment, less other debt payments, be up to about 35% to 40% of your gross income. In the chart the bank took 35% of this borrower’s $6,000 gross monthly income and subtracted out other debt payments to get a maximum allowed housing payment of $1,750. And that $1,750 equates to about a $225,000 house with a $200,000 mortgage (this means you will need to put down a downpayment of $25,000 to buy the $225,000 house) per the bottom of the chart.
Collateral or the Property
If you’ve got the credit, and the capacity, you only need one more piece and that’s the collateral. This is the easiest part. You will pay the bank and they will order an independent appraiser to determine a market value of the property. And the lender will lend you up to a certain percentage of that value (or purchase price whichever is lower) like 80% loan to value (LTV) or maybe 90% LTV or maybe up to 96.5% LTV. This depends on the bank and the loan program in which you qualify. So even if your income qualifies you for a higher loan amount, the MOST any one bank will lend you on any particular property is up to their maximum allowed loan to value percentage on that property.
That’s it! If you’ve got credit, and capacity, go out and find the collateral!
Leonard Baron, MBA, CPA, is a San Diego State University Lecturer, a Zillow Blogger, the author of several books including “Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101 – A Smarter Way to Buy Real Estate.” Read useful tips for real estate buyers in his blog, Making Smart and Safe Real Estate Decisions. See more at ProfessorBaron.com.
There is a right way and a wrong way to sell a home.
Here are some of the wrong ways.
I Want to List it High Because I Know Someone Will Offer Less
When a home seller interviews a real estate agent it's easy for them to get caught up in the excitement of choosing a sales price. If they can get more money for the home, it means more financial opportunities for the homeowner. Maybe it means they can afford to buy a larger, more expensive home, pay off some bills or take a vacation. Unfortunately, uninformed sellers often choose the listing agent who tells them they will list it at the highest list price. This is, by far, the worst mistake a seller can make.
The reality is that it doesn't matter how much money you think your home is worth. The only person whose opinion really matters is the buyer who is going to make an offer, and of course, the appraiser. Pricing a house is part science and part art. It involves comparing similar houses in similar communities, making the necessary adjustments for the differences between them, charting market movements and measuring the amount of housing inventory, all of this in an attempt to help determine a range of value. This is the same method appraisers use to evaluates a house. No two appraisals are exactly the same; they are however, generally close to one another. There is no hard and fast way to just stick a price on your home.
Is the Price Too Low?
Houses sell at a price a buyer is willing to pay and a seller is willing to take. If a house is priced too low the seller should expect to receive multiple offers and drive up the price up to the market value. There is not much danger in pricing a home under its actual value and your competition. The danger is in pricing it too high and haveing the house sit on the market for months.
How It Starts To Go Wrong
The seller of a home didn't interview her real estate agents. She pick the first agent off the Internet because, "He looked like a nice guy." The agent priced her house at $250k. After 90 days of sitting on the market, the listing expired.
It Continues To Go Wrong
The next agent she hired listed the house at $235k. Months passed and eventually she dropped the price to just under $220k, still no offers. A few people looked at the house, but no serious buyers came forward.
More Than a Year Later
By the time she hired the last agent list her house, the seller had grown exhausted and weary. It was now more than 12 months later. The seller and her agent then priced the home at $195k and it sold very quickly. The sad part is that the comparable sales in the neighborhood fully justified a price of $220k, but the home had been on the market for too long at the wrong price, and now the market had slowed.
The question is how much money expired listings cost the real estate owner? The financial losses often exceeds the extra mortgage payments paid and goes beyond the cost or the hassle factor of trying to keep a home spotless during the listing period. It affects the value that a buyer ultimately chooses to pay because it is no longer a “fresh” listing. It's now stale, dated, a home that was overpriced for too long. Don't let it happen to you. Don't be that seller of an expired listing. Be sure to hire a professional Realtor to price your house correctly from the beginning.