Surveillance video shows mail carrier routinely pepper-spraying dog

When you are refinancing your mortgage the appraisal is the most important part of the process. You want the value of your home to come back as high as possible in order to make the loan to value ratio as low as possible. If your appraisal value puts your home equity at less than 20%, the higher the amount of equity in your property (the difference between the home's value and your mortgage balance) the more competitive the interest rate you are likely to get since lenders consider borrowers with more equity to be less risky. If you are refinancing your mortgage you need to understand the home appraisal's essential role in the process.

What Is a Home Appraisal?

An appraisal is an opinion of a home's value provided by a third party who is qualified to provide this opinion. The appraiser gets paid for providing the service of valuing your home. In a refinance transaction, the appraisal protects the mortgage lender by ensuring that it doesn't provide a loan of more than the property is worth. If the property later goes into foreclosure or power of sale for any reason, the lender wants to be able to resell the property and get its money back.

The appraiser will contact you to schedule the appointment and often their visit to your home will be between 30 and 45 minutes to tour through the whole house and take pictures and notes on the finishes and condition, measure its dimensions, and evaluate its overall condition both inside and out. The appraiser will then go back to his or her office and conduct research on your property, the legal description, the lot dimensions, sales history, etc. and then he will search for adequate comparables. Ideally the appraiser will be able to find comparable sales that took place in your immediate neighbourhood in the past 3 months. Based on the home visit and these records, the appraiser arrives at a professional opinion of how much your property would sell for if you put it on the market. The mortgage lender then uses this value, along with your income, assets and credit history - to determine how much it will lend you and at what rate.

How Home Appraisals Work in Today's Market

The lender or mortgage broker often will order the appraisal through a third party called an appraisal management company (AMC) or contact the appraisal company directly. Many lenders have direct referral relationships with a small panel of appraisers and don't use an AMC. Or the lender may have an in-house independent appraisal department. The appraiser should have local knowledge of the area (called market competence). Appraisers are expected to follow the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice issued by their Appraisal Foundation.

Home Appraisal Fees

Residential home appraisal fees vary based on the size of the home and other factors, but typically you should expect to pay $250 to $400 for an appraisal of a standard single-family home. More complex properties are more expensive because the inspection takes more time.

You may be required to pay the fee up front at the time of the appraisal or in other cases it will be paid for from the proceeds of the mortgage refinance, regardless of whether your loan closes, the appraiser still did the work and needs to be paid. While the fee may seem worthwhile if it enables you to get the refinance terms you want, it can seem like a waste of money if a low appraisal means you can't refinance.

An option is to ask a real estate agent to do a comparative market analysis and provide you with printouts of recent comparable sales from the Multiple Listing Service, taking this step could potentially save you hundreds of dollars by saving you from wasting your money paying for an appraisal if the value is too low to refinance.

Improving Your Chances of a High Appraisal

The value the appraiser gives your home largely depends on the recent sales prices of comparable properties, but there are definitely steps you can take to help secure a higher value.

The biggest thing is making sure your property is neat and clean, uncluttered and easy to inspect. Any pets should be contained and smells masked. Ensure your appraiser feels comfortable in the home and can focus on taking in all the features of your home. Having a dirty or unkempt home definitely will give the appraiser a bad first impression and will make the home appear in poorer condition than it actually is.

The biggest thing an appraiser takes into account is:

exterior and interior condition
total room count
functionality, including interior room design and layout, and functional obsolescence
improvements to kitchens and baths, windows, the roof and the home's systems (heating, electrical and plumbing) over the previous 15 years that make the home more up-to-date, functional and livable by today's standards
condition and age of the home's systems
exterior amenities such as garages, decks and porches
location
unappealing features, such as an exterior appearance that's inconsistent with the rest of the neighborhood
It's a good idea to create a list of your property's features to provide to the appraiser when he or she arrives.

Getting a Second Opinion on a Low Appraisal

A lot of homeowners are not realistic about their home's value, there is definitely an emotional factor that can lead to the homeowner thinking their home is worth more than reality, however there are definitely cases where the appraiser may have determined a final value that is on the conservative side and this may sink your refinance.

Keep in mind an appraisal is just one person's opinion, the appraiser should be well trained and educated, however as with all professions, there are good and bad practitioners.

If the homeowner does not like the value of the appraisal, they can write a letter of appeal to the lender or AMC, but the chance of an appraiser changing his or her opinion is very slim, unless the homeowner has overwhelming evidence that the value is off.

You may be able to make a case by pointing out that the comparables used were in an inferior school district or an inferior subdivision, or that they have other adverse influences affecting value, such as being on a busy street.

The Bottom Line

Understanding how the appraisal process works will give you the best chance of getting an appraiser to assign the highest possible value to your property. Appraisals don't always come in at the values borrowers hope for, and they are a human process with room for subjectivity and mistakes. You can appeal a low appraisal, but you'll only succeed with strong data to back you up.

There seems to be a lot of talk about refinancing today, and I wanted to take some time to go over some of the many reasons of why someone would refinance their current mortgage. I understand that change can be scary and it's easier to just not do anything at all. However you will see below that you may actually be hurting your financial situation if you will not consider refinancing.

1: MONTHLY SAVINGS

This is for most people the main reason they look at refinancing; reducing their monthly mortgage payment. Today, interest rates are still near historic lows, and a reduction in mortgage rate will lower the monthly payment. Thankfully, there are many programs that allow for a homeowner to access these low rates. HARP, FHA Streamline, VA IRRL are a few programs that allow a homeowner to refinance regardless of what they currently owe and without an appraisal. There are many other options that a licensed loan officer could discuss with you and go over your options.

2: REDUCING TERM

With rates still being near historic lows, many homeowners have taken the opportunity to reduce their mortgage terms by refinancing from a 30 year term to a 20 or 15 year term. With the reduction in rates, many of done so without increasing their monthly payments and in some cases even reducing their monthly payment. Reducing your mortgage term, saves thousands of dollars and is a something to consider if the numbers make sense.

3: CASH OUT- ACCESS EQUITY

For those who have been in their homes for awhile, in most cases they have gained equity that is now available for them to access. There are many programs today that allow homeowners to access the equity in their homes for a numbers of reasons: paying off credit card and loan debt, college expenses, home improvements, and the list goes on. Some homeowners save hundreds of dollars every month by consolidating their debts through a refinance. A licensed loan officer can go over what options you have and see if a cash out refinance could help you.

These are just a few of the many reasons a homeowner would refinance. With interest rates still low, and many programs being available for all credit types, now is a great time to look into your options. I encourage you to reach out to a licensed loan officer who can discuss all your options with you and see if refinancing makes sense for your situation.

A California father and dog owner says he did a double-take after he says surveillance video revealed who was hurting his dog.

Wherever Pupa the poodle mix goes, little Alfonso Jr.,3, and Regina,1, usually follow. Their father Alfonso Galindo calls the 7-year-old rescue a beloved member of the family, which is why his recent discovery was so tough to swallow.

"It's heartbreaking," said Galindo.

It all started when the strange stains that have been appearing for months appeared again last week in the patio of his home in San Diego. He checked his recently installed cameras and couldn't believe what he saw.

"I'm at a loss for words," said Galindo.

Just after 11 a.m. last Tuesday, surveillance video shows a postal carrier walks up to his mailbox and past the metal front gate. Behind the gate is Pupa. As the mail carrier places the mail in the mailbox, you can see a cylindrical something in his left hand. At the same time, from another camera, you can see Pupa behind the gate begin to convulse for several minutes.

"The dog is withering in pain...makes me sick to my stomach," said Galindo.

Galindo says he searched through his videos - about a month's worth - and found nine similar incidents, where his dog convulses after the postal carrier walks by. Galindo believes the mail carrier was casually and quickly spraying the pepper spray at Pupa's face.

"It's a total betrayal of the trust. You would think the Postal Service is somebody you can trust," said Galindo.

Galindo went through the last few months in his mind. Pupa did sometimes turn up with red eyes, but it would always go away. But was someone else in the home hurt? In the last six months, both of Galindo's children - who are constantly touching and hugging Pupa - have developed mysterious respiratory problems.

"Countless trips to the ER and Urgent Care, and countless medications," said Galindo.

Galindo now believes he knows the cause.

"I get livid thinking about it. This is the health of my children," said Galindo.

He's filed a complaint with the Postal Service, along with a police report.

"I believe what he's done to our family is criminal," said Galindo.

A Postal Service spokesperson says they've begun an internal investigation.
The Pros and Cons of Releasing Equity With a Remortgage

When your mortgage term is up you'll have the option to remortgage to a different product or different lender with (hopefully) better interest rates and terms. As part of a remortgage, most lenders give you the option to release some of the equity of your house and have it as cash lump sum. Whilst this is a very tempting option for a lot of people, especially those who are in debt or are in need of a home renovation, a new car or other luxuries, there are many pitfalls with going down this route.

Let us take a look at an example of whether releasing equity is financially feasible over a personal loan for the same amount. Let us assume a couple want to release £10,000 from their home equity. At a 3% interest rate on their remortgage, this will add around £50 - £60 extra a month to their mortgage bill on a 20 year period. In comparison, a personal loan of the same amount over a five year period will add around 3 times that amount - £180 a month over a 5 year period (assuming an interest rate of around 4.5% APR)

On paper this looks great and seems like the most sensible option. However, over the borrowed period, releasing the equity will cost around £6,000 in interest, whereas the personal loan would be around £1,150 which is £4,850 less!

As a long term plan, the releasing of equity in a remortgage is a bad idea due to the very large amount of total interest accrued despite the fact the monthly payments are much lower. If you're goal is to be debt free and mortgage free as soon as possible then releasing equity simply doesn't work unless that money is absolutely necessary for emergency purposes.

Ultimately, remortgaging and releasing a cash lump sum from your house has pros and cons and whether you should do it or not depends very much on your current financial situation:

Pros

The ability to release a large cash lump sum, tax free from your home equity. This could be used for any purpose at all
Monthly payments will be low due to low interest rates (at the time of writing) and generally longer payback periods
Cash lump sums could be used to consolidate debts and leave you with very low monthly payments for the borrowed amount
Cons

Ultimately you are just prolonging your mortgage. If you're goal is to be mortgage free ASAP then releasing equity isn't a good idea
The total amount of interest you would pay over the loan period is far more than the amount you would pay were you to get a personal loan for same amount
Releasing equity can mean that some lenders won't give you preferable rates and you may end up on a higher interest rate than normal
Remortgaging your house and releasing cash from it can make financial sense for some situations, however, if your goal is to spend that money on luxuries or things that aren't essential, then from a financial point of view getting a personal loan makes more sense providing the monthly outgoings are within your means.

If you are looking for a West Midlands Mortgage Broker who can offer free advice on mortgage, remortgages and equity release then call Secure Mortgages Residential. With our expert service, we have helped hundreds of customers find the best possible deal whatever their financial situation.

Everyone wants to get approved for a home loan when they first apply and there's nothing wrong with that. But the question is: How do you get there? How-to articles are great, but they don't always inform you
about potential missteps in the application process. Here are the top five reasons mortgage lenders deny applications and how you can avoid making them.

Bad Credit

It shouldn't be a real surprise that mortgage lenders are looking for a history of good credit in a home loan applicant. As with any large purchase, your credit score will directly affect the approval and interest rates if you're approved. While frustrating to some, this process ensures banks do not approve risky financial transactions. Would you lend money to someone who has a known history of not returning borrowed money? If you did, you would want to take additional measures to justify taking the high risk. So, if you're interested in taking out a home loan, now or 20 years from now, start cleaning up your credit history. Make payments on time and improve your credit.

Debt To Asset Ratio

Just as much as mortgage lenders want you to have a good history of repaying debts, they also don't want you to carry various debts. A high debt to asset ratio indicates a lot of outstanding debts. Carrying too much debt signifies the potential for you to overextend yourself financially, which could ultimately lead you to default on your loans. If you default, then they don't get their money back. So, in order to avoid a denial based on a having too many outstanding debts, simply pay off your debts before applying for a home loan. Or at the very least, significantly decrease them. This will decrease your chances of being denied.

Income Instability

Aside from the applicant's credit, the biggest potential indicator of the ability to repay a home loan is employment status. Specifically, mortgage lenders are looking for income stability. If an applicant has just started a new job within the last six months or has a history of changing jobs frequently, they may present a high risk for repayment and be denied. Self-employed individuals, unfortunately, fall into this category, but fear not, by simply providing proof of profitability you'll be able to turn things around. For all others, in order to avoid this situation, be sure to find employment that you can stick with for a while. This will not only help you with any debts you are carrying, but also help increase your chances of a home loan approval.

Banks and mortgage lenders are strict about the terms and conditions of their money. A good credit score, debt to asset ratio, and income stability can help you quickly get approved for a home loan. With this information in mind, start planning now!

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