Millions of American homeowners signed on the dotted line and became the proud owners of adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) over the last several years. Most knew exactly what they were getting into — but it may still be a surprise when you get that first notice of an “adjusted” mortgage payment due. Many through neglect, optimism or simply being too busy are or will be taken completely by surprise when they see their monthly mortgage payment jump after an “adjustment.”Are you as an ARM homeowner prepared for sometimes significantly higher monthly payments on your mortgage? Here are six tips and things you can do to prepare in advance for that first spiked payment under your ARM loan.Pay down your principal while you canHave you thought about adding extra to your monthly payment and telling your servicer to apply the extra to your principal balance? This won’t help you directly when your payment spikes, but it will build equity, which in turn makes it easier to refinance your loan once it adjusts.Make a plan to deal with your revolving debt, and stick to itIf your credit card debt starts getting out of control, you’re going to have less flexibility when it comes time to pay the higher payment on your ARM or refinance to get a better rate. During the one, two, three or five years that your payments are flat, pay some extra to get your credit card and other revolving debt down to a manageable level. This of course is good advice even for non-homeowners.Save your money in anticipation of higher mortgage paymentsWhy shouldn’t you set aside some savings earmarked specifically to help get through at least the first few spiked mortgage payments when your rate adjusts? Planning ahead this way can cushion the blow of a new higher mortgage payment considerably.Become educated on your options for refinancingMany homeowners took out adjustable rate mortgages or even Interest-Only mortgage loans planning on refinancing after the introductory rate or interest-only period was up. If you were one of them, you need to spend time educating yourself on what refinance options are best for you. The last thing you want to do is come to a mortgage broker hat in hand asking for any way out they have available.A divorce, job change, not having as much equity as you thought you would in your home, and so many other factors can influence whether you qualify for an acceptable rate when you refinance. Don’t wait until you’re paying hundreds more a month — consult an expert Realtor and/or mortgage professional in your area before you need a new loan.Reach out to your lenderYour lender definitely knows when your payment is due to change, and you’ll be hearing from them — because they want to keep you as a customer. They don’t want you refinancing with someone else. So don’t be surprised if they’re willing to work with you as your adjusted rate period approaches. If you’ve made your payments on time you’ll likely have a willing partner.Consult a local RealtorIt may be drastic to plan a move simply because your mortgage payments are going up. But many homeowners went for 3/27 or 5/25 ARMs precisely because they didn’t see themselves in the same home three or five years down the road.To know whether selling is a viable option, consult a Realtor in your area with experience listing and representing buyers throughout the current market conditions. Ask how long properties are staying listed, what prices are doing, what’s making homes sell and what’s making them sit there. There is no substitute for the expertise of a local real estate agent when it comes to evaluating your sales options.
If you’re in the market for real estate, whether to sell your home or buy a new one, finding a good agent can make the process much easier. While you can save money theoretically by selling on your own, you may be surprised at how difficult it is to do. This goes double for an economy where people aren’t buying homes at their appraised value. No one wants to be stuck listing a house for the next year and a half. You want to get it sold and move on with whatever you can get. Hiring a good agent can help you get more from your investment and have the process done much more quickly. Here are some tips you can use to find one.Personal RecommendationsOne of the best ways to find a good real estate agent is to go straight to those who have used one in the past. As long as they had a good experience, they’ll be able to put you in contact with someone who has done a good job at least once. This is a more solid recommendation than you’ll get from browsing advertisements or cold calling the companies in your area. While the right agent for one homeowner may not be the right one for another, it’s still one of the best ways to hire someone.Area FamiliarityIt’s paramount to make sure that the real estate agent you hire is not only experienced and successful, but has a decent amount of knowledge about the area in which you live. It’s one thing to be able to sell a home. It’s another to be able to sell yours. To do that, they will have to be able to answer questions from prospective buyers in such a way that sells the location as much as it does the property. When people go looking for a new house to buy, they aren’t just looking at style and square footage. They want to know about the schools in the area. They want to know where the mall is. They want to know about the neighbors. Make sure the agent you hire knows the answers.PersonalityWhen it comes to selling real estate, it’s hard to underestimate the importance of personality. Personality is what drives any salesperson to success, and it’s usually very easy to determine whether or not someone will be successful in a sales field just by talking to them for a few minutes. If they can’t sell you on themselves, how will they be able to sell your home?
Do you have a home that you cannot sell? Do you want to buy but are worried the drop in the market isn’t over? Do you want to buy investment property at the right time so that you can make money off it? All of these questions could be easily answered if we had a crystal ball to look into the future. If I could tell you that in 12 months we would be out of this economic slump you would know to buy investment property now, or hold your house one more year for a better price. The problem is that we cannot see the future.For over thirty years I have been in the real estate business and I can tell you this is the worst market I have ever seen. Recently I have seen several big players in the real estate market come crashing down into foreclosure here in my hometown of Griffin. As a broker I see this as the most slow moving real estate market of my career. As a licensed real estate appraiser I am seeing homes being valued at 10-15% what they were at just a year ago. The bad part of that is the year before that it was even worse.So what can we look to as leading indicators of what is to come? One thing you can look at is the number of unresolved mortgages that are waiting to go into foreclosure. The market is running on a false sense of security right now because there are a large number of mortgages that are waiting to go into foreclosure. I know a few people personally that have not paid a payment in over a year, yet they are still in their homes because they bank is spreading out the damage over time to try to make a recovery. On top of that there are a growing number of vacant homes that the banks are being slow to put back on the market for a fear of flooding it and decimating values.So how do you become a smart home buyer, investor, or seller? Here are a few tips:leave emotion out of your real estate deals. Never buy a home just because you love it or sell simply because you hate it. When you make judgments based on your feelings and emotions you are going to get less than what you deserve.
Develop a relationship with a real estate professional who has their ear to the sound of the market.
Save more money than you have in the past, repair any problems you have with your credit.