House Abandonment

March 10th, 2008

I want the readers to know from the outset that my heart goes out to people that feel this is their only option. I can imagine they feel this way because they do not believe someone has reached out to them in a manner they can understand. Let me paint this picture and you tell me how you would feel.

You are working and everything is going along well at the job. Your wife has a good job, the children are in school and it appears that everything is peachy keen. Bills are being paid on time and you have never been late. You have no idea what is about to happen. One day you go into work and they tell you, they are having company wide layoffs and you have fallen into that category. Unfortunately the layoff is effective immediately. There is no discussing it and everyone has to leave within your department. As you are leaving, you contact your wife at work to share what happened because you are absolutely stunned at this news. She says you will discuss it more tonight. You are semi-reassured thinking she will have a plan.

Later on that evening as you begin discussing the household finances to include the mortgage payment, you discover within two months you be in a financial hole without that regular income. You will not be able to pay your mortgage nor other bills. So your first thought it to begin searching for employment. However when that two month period rolls around you have not gotten a job. Now you and your wife have some choices to make. Bills are piling up and you didn’t pay all your bills from the month before. You are receiving creditor phone calls and you do not even want to answer the phone. You begin using a one credit card to pay another and juggling your bills. The next month rolls around and you are receiving calls from your mortgage lender. Instead of answering the phone or even looking at your mail, you have chosen to take no action.

Right about three months and two days, you have decided to move out in the middle of the night. You have felt like you have no choice. You were upside down on your mortgage and have felt there was not an easy option. You returned the house keys to the lender and literally walked away. I have to tell you as I was reading an article on the internet about this, there was a company that started titled to assist people. I have to tell you I will go and read about this as well.

Before you walk out of your home make sure that you talk to a competent and reliable person within the home ownership industry. You might be surprised especially if you find out that you lender has been attempting to contact you and has viable options that assist you in keeping your home. However, you have been too afraid to answer the phone because you do not want any more bad news. You might be surprised at what you hear on the other end of the phone.

Dr. Taffy Wagner

House-Swapping – Home Ownership from A Creative Perspective

March 3rd, 2008

I must admit, I am one of those people that love creativity. What is happening with the housing market is literally forcing people to get creative. Think outside the box. If there has ever been a time, this is a good time. Why because when you think inside the box it is limiting to the way things are always done. Now, there is a world of opportunity. I was contacted by a friend and colleague who knew I was writing a mortgage blog. She briefly told me about this house-swapping story.


I was all too excited to go and find out about house-swapping. From what I understand, people that live in different places that have a house for sale and have not been able to sell, look for houses in the area they want to move that are for sale. You have to love modern technology. This is where the internet comes into play. You can search an online database ( where people can go state by state. That is absolutely phenomenal. It also tells you how many properties available by state and then it shows you in the different cities or counties.


Even in this transaction, a realtor has to be used. What each party should agree is to utilize the same realtor which in return reduces fees. The realtor should be willing to work with lowering their fees or commission based on the transaction taking place. If the properties are of equal value it is a swap, if they are not there is some cash exchanged. I have to say, I would have to and see the property to make sure it would be conducive to my needs. Why do I say that? You do not get to choose your own furnishings and all those things. However, at the end of the day you also do not have that expense. Not necessarily a huge moving cost either. The more I write about this, it keeps getting better and better to me.


This could definitely solve those moves that need to happen quick due to job relocation, or even health concerns. If you are someone that has a house that has been on the market for a while and have not had any luck, I think this would be an option worth considering. Let your fingers do the walking and see if someone is looking for a home like yours.


We have looked at the advantages, are there disadvantages to this equation? The only questions which might not be disadvantages are the following: I would want to know about the neighborhood and school system. Something that came to mind is how do the utilities and other bills get handled that belong to the property. When you do a house swap, do you do it for a set period of time? Find out all the particulars before you do a house-swap.


Think about it, house-swapping is bartering coming back to life. Not that it has been non-existent in some fashion. However, I think it is being revived on a much larger scale.


Dr. Taffy Wagner

Things Are Looking up in Ohio

February 28th, 2008

As I reported waaaayyy back in June, Ohio had the lead in foreclosures nationwide. In an article last week, the Columbus Dispatch detailed just how FHA can help Ohioans get back on track. According to the article, 1,400 Ohioans refianced to FHA Loans last month. In total, FHA has helped 4,400 Ohio citizens refinance since the program was introduced.

Alphonso Jackson also made an encouraging visit to Columbus:

More struggling homeowners need to take advantage of that program or others offered to prevent foreclosure, Jackson said. Too many avoid calling their lenders for help and end up losing their homes instead of being offered the chance to tap an FHA program.

“We are committed to finding solutions that can sustain families through times of uncertainty as we push toward renewed economic vibrancy,” he said. “That means giving them an avenue to refinance from subprimes into safe, affordable mortgages.”

The article also details the Project Lifeline program in a sidebar.

Debt-to-Income and FHA

February 13th, 2008

As a consumer housing advocate, I teach on home ownership often. When consumers are preparing to purchase a home they think about where they want to live, the type of house they was whether it is pre-existing or building, even the school system in the neighborhood and the distance from their job. Granted, those are very good requirements that all consumers should consider, but I say to you there are even more items you should consider.

Purchasing a house is a major purchase and should not be taken lightly. Do not choose a house based on keeping up with the Jones’s, relatives or friends that have a certain type of house that you like. I recommend that you do not even purchase more house than you can afford. Maybe you are reading this and asking yourself, what do I mean by that? There are people that purchase homes and then they cannot afford to furnish the house. You probably know what I am talking about now, you drive by the house and there are no window treatments and you can see all in the house. Do not misunderstand because when we moved into our homes both times we took our time with furnishing our home and did it without incurring extraneous debt. We made the choice and paid for all of our furnishing with cash and on our own schedule not anyone else’s.

When you are not educated with good information you can make the mistake of overbuying. What that says to me is that you are not aware of your finances down to income and expenses. A very crucial item that you need to sit down and factor out is what your debt-to-income ratio is. I strongly advise that you figure this out even before you start looking for a house.

Let me define for you what debt to income ratio means and then elaborate on how it pertains to FHA if you are considering getting an FHA loan. Debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of a consumer’s monthly gross income that goes toward paying debts. Remember, gross income is a person’s income before all deductions. The debt-to-income ratio can include certain taxes, fees and insurance premiums. This is what lenders look at to determine what percentage of your income is available for a mortgage payment after all continuing obligations are met.

Therefore, if you are applying for an <a href=””>FHA loan</a> and are not sure what their debt-to-income ratio is let me share with you. After doing much research, I found out that the FHA has a 29/41 rule which means this:

Gross monthly income times 29 percent equals the amount that can be applied towards housing

Gross monthly income times 41 percent equals the amount that can be applied towards recurring debt and housing expenses.

This formula all in itself can help you decide if you are in a financial position for home ownership. Use this formula as an educational tool that can help you in the home buying process.

Dr. Taffy Wagner


January 31st, 2008

Reader Gerald asked, Does either of the packages address whether or not PMI will be required with deposits of less than a certain percentage, and what would that percentage be?

Actually, FHA loans do not use PMI, but rather mutual mortgage insurance (MMI). MMI is made up of an upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) and monthly mortgage insurance (MI).

The upfront MIP is required for all borrowers with less than a 20% down payment. On a 30-year fixed-rate loan the MIP is 1.5% of the total loan amount. Any unused portions of the MIP can be refunded within 84 months of loan term (7 years).

The monthly MI is .05% of the total loan amount per year. Borrowers who put down at least 10% on a 15-year loan are exempt from paying monthly MI. For the rest of borrowers paying monthly MI, it is cancelled after 78% of the principle has been paid off. For this cancellation to happen, borrowers must have made all MI payments on a 30-year loan for five consecutive years.


January 18th, 2008

I recently received the following question from reader Sandra:

The average home price where I live is $525,000. Will FHA ever raise the loan limits, so that areas that have a higher average price can utilize the program? Also what is the required down payment? I had recenly heard that it was to be reduced from 3% to 1.5%

As for now, FHA loan limits aren’t going to be changing. However, current legislation (HR 1852, which has passed in the House) includes an amendment proposing the loan limit be set at lower of either

  • 125% of the local median home price, or
  • 175% of the national GSE conforming limit

This bill may be combined with a Senate bill, but both seek to increase loan limits to make FHA loans a realistic option for more buyers. As for the down payment, it is still a toss up as to what the agreed-upon change will be. Although nearly all legislators seek to remove the 3% down payment, there is disagreement on whether it should be zero down or the 1.5%, which could be packaged into fees. In my opinion, the 3% isn’t terrible (look where a lot of the subprime borrowers who didn’t put up any cash ended up), but a lower down payment could certainly make homeownership possible for many more Americans. I’d predict that in the next 6 months or so the 1.5% will be the new minimum.

Thanks to Sandra for the question! If you have a question, please leave it as a comment or send an email to

Numbers Going Up and Through The Roof

January 16th, 2008

This is a bit of news that I believe the readers should know about as well. Even though the majority of the blogs written here provide information about FHA and also some current news, it is just as important that you are aware of some other aspects of the mortgage industry. Why? Because I believe that some of what I am about to share you could already know or this information is going to give you insight into what could have happened to you.

I was talking with my brother about my blogging and he said did you see this article about mortgage fraud. I asked him what he was talking about and he basically gave me the gist of it – there are so many mortgage fraud cases filed that the officials that prosecute the cases cannot keep up. So I took the time and did some research and found out that banks filed 47,717 cases this year which is up from 21,994 two years ago which was according to Federal Bureau of Investigation and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of The Treasury Department. What does this say to you? This says to me that people were clearly being taken advantage of by people in the mortgage industry.

Understand this before you get all in an uproar, I am not saying everyone in the mortgage industry was bad. What it says is that you must be careful and do your due diligence before hiring a realtor, mortgage broker, banker or lender. As a matter of fact, in every area of your life, you should do your homework and background checks. Let me give you a prime example, I recently received a letter in the mail from a company that read about me on a press release. They contacted me basically throwing out some names that I would know. I finished reading the letter and put it aside. I had decided that after a couple of days, I would do some research on the internet to find out about them. After doing my research, I had found some very derogatory information that was recent from several different people. I was very proud of myself for not being too eager to jump right into something without having done my homework.

Look at these numbers as well because when I say numbers are going up, they are going up. I remember last month there was an article that said the number of foreclosures filed here had already topped last year’s filing in November. For any of you that have followed
Colorado’s foreclosure being in national news as #1 in the nation for foreclosure during the past year. So I am sure even where you are, the foreclosures have made record numbers.

If mortgage fraud is up, then it almost stands to reason why there are tons of foreclosures. Does make you say hmmmm. It did for me because that has to be a part of it. Once again even if you are facing foreclosure, thoroughly read all your paperwork.

Taffy Wagner

Can I Refinance my FHA Loan?

December 28th, 2007

With all this talk in the news and media about foreclosures lately and different programs to help those facing foreclosure, I began wondering about refinancing. So many times people refinance their loans and I thought someone is probably asking themselves this very question – can they refinance their FHA home loan? While they are thinking about this question to themselves and not asking a person, they begin to become anxious about their housing situation. Not knowing the answer to questions can lead one to a path of wrong decisions and stagnant path, not taking action which can be detrimental. Read the below information slowly and carefully because this could be the answer you are looking for.

An FHA streamline refinance is a mortgage refinance of an existing FHA loan with limited amount of documentation and qualifications which streamlines the process. I have to admit when I think back to the loan processing for purchasing a house or car, it takes up some time. Sitting there going through pages and pages of information, terms, and more making sure nothing is left out. I applaud the fact they have streamlined this process. These times made me feel as if I was enlisting in the military again. Now that you are aware of what a FHA streamline refinance is, let me share regarding the cost. This is always going to be important. There are many types of interest rate and fee combinations for FHA streamline refinance. Check with your lender for what the parameters are.

You know that I could not let you guys think that is all there was to this loan. Of course not, there are qualifications. You should not even be surprised because you have to qualify for most things today. Seems there are only two qualification requirements which are (1) must currently have a FHA loan; and (2) must be current on mortgage payments. I ask you if you were not current, why would you be applying for an additional loan? It does amaze me sometimes watching the news hearing what people are saying.

For those that were preparing to ask this question, is there a difference between a normal refinance and an FHA streamline refinance, the answer is a strong yes. The difference from what I surmised is qualifications and documents required to qualify for the loan. The benefit to me is streamlining. If this limits the amount of documents and qualifications, this could be the one for you. A big one before I forget is that with a typical refinance loan the loan cost will be higher than an FHA streamline. Oh another huge benefit to this is FHA does not require an appraisal for a FHA streamline. How many of you know the costs of an appraisal can sometimes get you? For that reason alone, you should be doing your homework and researching what you think is best.

The main concern I have is that you go to a loan officer and have not fully done your research on the type of loan you are seeking and then get turned down. You can never have too much knowledge. Take the time to research all types of loans and decide on what works best for you.

Taffy Wagner

The Mortgage Crisis Could Affect You

December 26th, 2007

More and more horror stories are coming out about this mortgage crisis. Like me, I am sure many of you are realizing it is getting worse before it gets better. This past week, I read a story that stated Washington Mutual would be closing offices and laying off 3,000 workers. Has anyone started thinking about all these employees that are being laid off? I can’t help but think about them because when you are laid off from a job, everything is now subject to your lack of receiving a paycheck – your mortgage, auto loan, auto insurance, groceries, etc. Some might have received a severance package that only lasts so long. Normally, a layoff is not something you plan for and people are caught unaware and end up in situations unprepared. I digress; let me return to the mortgage crisis.

Last week I briefly shared about the mortgage plan that was being unveiled. Remember, I made a comment about what happens to the people that are already delinquent, because they too need help! Hooray seems as if maybe someone out there in cyberspace or powers that be were thinking the same thing. I just read where the Senate passes bill addressing mortgage crisis. Before you begin doing cartwheels, do you realize the House passed a similar bill back in September? From what I can understand, the two chambers must now come to an agreement on the legislation before sending it to the White House for approval.

Let me share what this bill says that the senate has passed. This particular bill would allow the Federal Housing Administration to back refinanced loans for tens of thousands of borrowers who are delinquent on payments (okay, just for that statement alone I am doing cartwheels) because their mortgages are resetting to sharply higher rates from low initial “teaser” levels. I have always believed that when people are already delinquent, you need to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel and give them some hope to know that someone out there is concerned about what they are going through. Sure, you didn’t cause them to make the choices they made; however, how much better will it make a loan officer, mortgage company or even bank look to be a part of the solution. How many people will they tell that ABC Company helped me when I thought I was about to lose my house or when I had to make the choice between paying my mortgage or having Christmas for my family.

Do not think for one minute, that consumer that was facing these trials and tribulations would not tell everyone they know how ABC Company came to their aid. I personally would be shouting it from the rooftop telling everyone I knew. If I had a blog, I would be blogging about their help, customer service and everything. They potentially begin to receive so many referrals; they would not have to advertise. Will you be a part of the solution or aid the problem?

Taffy Wagner

Different types of FHA Loans

November 15th, 2007

FHA Home Loans have many options that anyone can consider. The purpose of writing on this particular topic is to share with you what is available. I was not aware of all the different types of loans that FHA had to offer. Sure you will know about some of the ones that I talk about it, but there might be others that fit your situation better. So before you run right out and say you want a specific type of loan, read this thoroughly. Do additional research if necessary and choose what works best for you.

I heard you guys say, you are always saying research, research – couldn’t I have done enough research by now. Not necessarily and research aids in making informed decisions versus impulse decisions which lead to error, owning the American nightmare versus dream and even imposed tension in a marriage because someone did not research thoroughly before signing on the dotted line. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that and have even witnessed something happening once or twice in my own marriage because all the information was not received up front. Don’t leave it up to the mortgage banker, broker or realtor to give you all the information. Do your own homework and research. At the end of the day, you are responsible for the mortgage payments and all that is involved with home ownership.

Let’s get to the different types of loans which I am going to talk about over two or three days. If it takes two days to cover it, then that is what it will take; otherwise it will be three. First we have the FHA 203(b) Loan – from what I read it is the most commonly used, offers a low down payment, flexible qualifying guidelines, limited lender’s fees and a maximum loan amount.

I believe one of the biggest benefits of any loan is having a loan with a low down payment. If you have a low down payment that alleviates more of a pressure of attempting to manage a higher down payment when you know you don’t have the money. When I was reading about this loan, it said this loan enables the homebuyer to finance both the purchase and rehabilitation of a home through a single mortgage. This meaning it is divided with a portion being used to pay off the seller’s existing mortgage and the remaining is placed in an escrow account and released as rehabilitation is completed.

Correct me if I am wrong, if it has to be rehabilitated isn’t it a pre-existing foundation? I would believe if it wasn’t pre-existing that this type of loan would then not be available for this particular buyer and the buyer would have to begin his or her search all over again. Definitely send me some comments on this, help my understanding of the 203(b). I am always looking for information that I believe has not been shared on a larger scale to share with my readers.

We have discussed the 203(b) – send me your comments and thoughts about this type of loan. Even if you have had this type of loan, what do you think the benefits are or what is the downside?

Dr. Taffy Wagner