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What is the Lifetime Learning Credit?

The Lifetime Learning Credit is a federal tax credit to offset expenses associated with higher education. There is no age limit and the credit can be applied to part-time student courses, even if it is only one class. The credit is for 20% of the related expenses up to a maximum of a $2,000 credit per household. Tax credits are a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes due. The Lifetime Learning Credit can be used for higher education expenses, regardless of the age of the student, but there is a household limit per year. 20% of educational expenses up to a household maximum of $2,000 can be applied as an income tax credit. The credit exists to make it easier for Americans to increase their skill-set and education. Continue reading...

What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is performed by a certified home inspector to determine the condition of a property and to find out if there any safety of compliance issues that the home or property may have. Home inspectors are typically hired by real estate professionals and homebuyers when a home is on the market. It is not required except for FHA loan termite inspection requirements, but it is always advisable for a potential home buyer. A home inspection is not to be confused with a home appraisal. Continue reading...

What is a Home Mortgage?

A home mortgage is a long-term loan for the purchase of a home, secured by the value of the home itself. Banks as well as mortgage companies make mortgage loans to consumers and charge an interest rate for the duration of the loan that may be fixed or variable. Mortgage loans generally last for between 15 to 30 years, and they are constructed so that paying off a home can fit into a person’s budget while a bank or lending institution collects interest on each payment. Continue reading...

What is a Home Office Expense?

IRS Link to Form — Found Here The home office expense deduction allows people who work from home to take a tax deduction reflecting the loss of square footage in their home for the purpose of doing business there. The space must be used exclusively for doing business on a regular basis and it must be the principal place of business, not just a place to work outside of the actual office. Many people fail to file for the home office expense deduction because they believe it will be more trouble than its worth or that it may even trigger an IRS audit of their reporting. Continue reading...

What is a Home Office?

People work out of their homes more an more as telecommuting and remote work becomes easier to manage and more affordable for some companies. Some people use the term “home office” to loosely refer to the fact that they work primarily from their home, while other people have an actual office space in their home which is used solely for business purposes. In the latter case, someone can apply for a home office expense deduction on their taxes. Continue reading...

What is Home Equity?

Home equity is a notional amount that a person owns at any given time, which is computed as the market value of a home minus any remaining principal repayments on a loan. Home equity is an asset on a person’s balance sheet, and can be used as as leverage for additional loans or lines of credit. A person’s home equity is the amount in their home which is “paid off.” It can be computed by taking the fair market value of a home and subtracting the amount of principal, if any, that still needs to be repaid on a mortgage loan. Continue reading...

What is a Home Debtor?

In contrast to the term “home owner,” home debtor is reserved for those who will seemingly never be able to pay off the mortgage(s) on their home, or who have already defaulted. Most Americans live in homes that they pay on, but are still primarily owned by the bank that loaned them money. Banks have insurance to protect them against mortgage defaults. Home mortgage loans are the primary way that Americans by homes today. Continue reading...

What is a Home Equity Loan?

Home equity loans give a homeowner the ability to borrow a lump sum against their home equity. Homeowners have the ability to use their home equity as collateral on a lump-sum loan from a lending institution. This may be done on a paid-off home or on one with an outstanding first mortgage. People sometimes use these to pay for large expenses such as their children’ s college, or as a debt consolidation tool. When used for debt consolidation, a homeowner will take out a large loan against the equity they have in their home and use it to pay off debts to credit card companies and other creditors. Continue reading...

What is a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)?

Much like a Reverse Mortgage or Second Mortgage, a HELOC gives homeowners the ability to convert their home equity into cash. A HELOC is a line of credit secured by the equity in your home. Homeowners can choose when to use the funds, and there are repayments due according to a schedule in the contract. It functions as a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card with large limits. Some people find themselves interested in a HELOC if they have a large balloon payment due on a loan, perhaps even their home mortgage loan. They are also sometimes used as a debt consolidation tool to pay off credit cards and other outstanding debts (but, for this, fixed-rate home equity loans are more popular). Continue reading...

What is a No-Cost Mortgage?

No-Cost Mortgages waive the initial closing costs by making a repayment structure for those costs into the interest payments on a mortgage loan. Closing costs can range from 2%-5% of the total cost of the home, and include attorney fees, underwriting fees, application fees, and so on. These costs are deferred and are paid in the form of additional interest on the loan. Closing costs are separate from down-payments of equity, and are a miscellaneous hodgepodge of a wide range of fees associated with closing a mortgage deal. These costs are sometimes covered by the seller, but most often they are paid by the buyer. Continue reading...

What is Homeowners Insurance?

Homeowners insurance covers a variety of risks to a homeowner, including damage to the property and the belongings within it, as well as liability coverage in the event that someone else is injured on the property. It does not include coverage for flood or earthquake damage, so people living in areas where that might be a problem will need to find a separate policy for those coverages. Homeowners insurance is highly advisable for any homeowner, and most mortgage lenders will require it. Continue reading...

What is a Mortgage Rate Lock?

Mortgages take a while to process, but a broker or bank can lock in a rate for themselves or their clients. Locking-in rates costs money somewhere along the line, and the longer the rate is locked in, the more it costs. 60 days is generally the longest time frame you will see a rate locked in, due to the cost associated with that risk. Mortgage rates can be locked in for a period of time long enough to underwrite the loan. This might be for a period as short as 20 days or as long as 60 days. Continue reading...

What is Appraisal?

Appraisal is a valuation conducted by a certified professional to assess the value of property, especially real estate. Appraisals are an important service in the real estate industry in particular. Where mortgage loans are being taken out from banks, including original mortgages, refinancing, home equity loans and lines of credit, as well as in business and estate valuations, the property appraisal will play an important role. Continue reading...

What is a No-Fee Mortgage?

No-fee mortgages are synonymous with no-cost mortgages, which might apply to first mortgages or refinancing arrangements where the closing costs are paid by the lender, broker, or bank, but a higher interest rate is charged on the loan as a means of recouping those waived fees. Closing costs and fees are calculated based on the total amount being loaned, and might be about 3% for a first mortgage and 1.5% for a refinanced mortgage. When the fees and closing costs associated with a mortgage loan are waived for the borrower, they are usually baked in to a higher interest rate on the loan. Continue reading...

What is the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)?

In 2009 the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) commissioned the HARP program to help Americans upside-down on mortgages to get approved for mortgage refinancing. This is only available to people whose mortgages are already owned by Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac. Many Americans find themselves upside-down, or underwater, on their home mortgages, particularly after the housing bubble popped in 2008. To be underwater means that there is more owed on the loan than the home can serve as collateral for. Continue reading...

What is the Home Affordability and Stability Plan (HASP)?

HASP came into being in 2009 in response to the housing market crash that made life very difficult for many Americans. Also known as the Making Home Affordable Plan. It called for the creation of various programs and support for lending institutions, consumers, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Program (HASP) has three main parts. Part one is to aid responsible homeowners who are suffering from falling home prices and have become underwater on their mortgages. Continue reading...

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is basically an annuity paid for with home equity. In a reverse mortgage, instead of paying to for your home, you’re getting paid for your home. It is considered a loan, but it does not have to be repaid, except by the proceeds from selling the home. Older Americans who need the income and aren’t concerned about their heirs getting their house might apply for a reverse mortgage. It is also known as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). Continue reading...

What is Housing Expense Ratio?

When deciding whether to issue a mortgage loan to a customer, a bank or lender will look at the housing expense ratio, which is the annual cost of the mortgage payments, including all insurance and expenses related to owning the property, divided by the gross income of the individual. Gross income is used because tax deductions can be taken for mortgage payments. If a proposed mortgage leaves the borrower with a housing expense ratio (HER) over 28%, they will usually not be approved for this mortgage loan. The HER is found by dividing all annual costs associated with the new home with the gross annual income of the (proposed) borrower. Continue reading...

What is Appraisal Fraud?

Appraisal Fraud is the intentional misrepresentation of the value of a home using an appraiser’s statement. Appraisals are necessary for large loans and real estate transactions, and appraisal fraud is common. Fraud can be committed in this manner by the appraiser or by a person falsifying an appraiser’s statement. A common example would be overstating the value of a home so that a borrower can get a larger home equity loan. Continue reading...

What is a Mortgage Equity Withdrawal?

Mortgage Equity Withdrawals (MEWs) may effectively be a withdrawal when viewed in a balance sheet, but they are actually loans that use the equity in a home as the collateral. These are also known as home equity loans. A full liquidation of equity through such a loan is a reverse mortgage. When a homeowner has paid off their home, they have a lot of equity and collateral to work with if they would like to get some liquidity (money) out of a hard asset. Continue reading...