These days, you can't open a newspaper, turn on the television news, or pick up a newsmagazine without reading or hearing about the looming home mortgage crisis in the United States. When the housing boom was at its peak and home mortgage rates were at an all time low, lenders enabled people who wouldn't ordinarily qualify for mortgages to borrow money in order to buy houses.
Called subprime mortgages, this type of lending is often tied to interest-only house payments and adjustable rate mortgages. This means that the interest rates realign periodically. One wave of adjustments has already come, while another wave that affects many more homeowners is on the horizon. For many people, this interest rate adjustment can mean that their house payments can increase by several hundred dollars a month. In some cases, this puts a strain on families, while in other instances, borrowers are unable to make the increased payments and are forced out of their homes - either through selling or through foreclosure.
Because an increasing number of people are putting their homes up for sale, there is more supply than demand. This drives down home prices and thus the value of the homes that aren't on the market. Newsmakers and reporters have been quick to say that the real estate boom has gone bust, and that many homeowners are stuck with mortgages that exceed the value of their homes. A closer look at the number reveals that, in some parts of the country, housing prices are considerably lower, while in other parts of the country, the effects have been minimal.
What does this mean to you as a homeowner and a borrower? With the Fed recently cutting interest rates, it's time to take a hard look at the lending terms of your mortgage and to decide if you're a candidate for mortgage refinancing. If you have an adjustable rate mortgage, you may want to refinance in order to have the stability of a fixed rate mortgage. If you have a lot of equity in your home, the still low interest rates might be an opportunity to take out a home equity loan for repairs and maintenance.
If you aren't a homeowner, but are considering buying a home, there's never been a better time to do so. In some housing markets, prices have plummeted, sellers are highly motivated, and builders are offering steep discounts and incentives on new homes. If you are planning to buy, one of the first steps you need to take is to find a mortgage broker, who can help you determine how much you can borrow, the price you can afford to pay for a house, and how much your payments will be. Some companies even offer an online mortgage calculator that allows you to plug in numbers and get a ballpark figure of the amount of mortgage you may qualify for.
Whether you're refinancing your existing mortgage or looking to buy a new home, it's important to carefully choose your mortgage company. Although your instinct may be to turn to the national lenders or national banks, some of the best deals can be found in your local area. Local mortgage companies are often in a better position to offer lower interest rates and better terms. The best way to find out about local mortgage companies in your area is to go online. Websites that specialize in helping people find mortgage lenders in their area allow you to search by state and then provide you with contact information for each mortgage company in your area. When it comes to new mortgages or mortgage refinancing, it definitely pays to shop around.