Should You Refinance Your Home?

As mortgage rates hit a historical low, you may be wondering whether or not you should begin the process of refinancing your mortgage. At Frank B. Pallotta Law Firm, we are here to walk you through your options and guide you in the best way we can. 

Benefits of Refinancing

There are multiple advantages to refinancing your mortgage loan. If mortgage rates are exceptionally low to the point that it would lower your monthly mortgage payment, this would be a great opportunity for you to move forward with the refinancing process. 

Another great reason to refinance your mortgage is to shorten your loan term from a 30 year loan to a 15 year mortgage loan. This could seriously accelerate your goals to having your home completely paid off. 

If you have an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), refinancing your mortgage could give you more predictable payments with a fixed-rate loan to lock in your rate for the remainder of the loan. 

You Should Refinance If…

If you’re facing a cash flow issue then a cash-out refinance issue may be the best plan for you. You can read more about this option in our latest blog post. Since mortgage loans usually have lower interest rates and are tax deductible, this might be a good option for you.

If you have reached 20% equity in your home then it is time to refinance to eliminate the lender-paid mortgage insurance (PMI) premium that is built into your loan.

Lastly, if you need to remove a person from your mortgage usually due to a divorce or to remove a co-signer no longer needed, the only way to accomplish this is by refinancing. 

What To Expect When Refinancing

Before you begin the refinancing process, there are a few things you’ll want to check first. Make sure you have at least 20% equity in your home. If you will still have to pay PMI even after you refinance for a lower interest rate, you will want to crunch the numbers to see if refinancing even makes sense for you. 

You’ll also want to check to make sure your credit score is at least 760 and your debt-to-income ratio is 36% or less. This will give you the best chances to get the lowest interest rate. 

Last but not least, be sure to calculate the break-even point and how refinancing will affect your taxes.

Ready to Call Your Real Estate Attorney?

If you think refinancing is the best next step for you or if you have more questions about what your options are, we are here to help you. Give us a call today and let our expert team guide you. With videoconferencing still in effect under COVID-19 Executive Orders, Frank B. Pallotta Law can make your refinance closing even easier.

What You Should Know About Home EQUITY

We can set all the right plans for our future but no one could predict things like a global pandemic, an economic recession or a natural disaster. When those things hit, it’s important to know what options you have to get your hands on some cash if you need it.

If you need a cash-out refinance or a home equity line of credit, there are some important things to know about the process and how that will impact you long term. 

What is a Cash-Out Refinance?

When you have a cash-out refinance, you are borrowing against your home equity to obtain funds. With this type of refinancing, you receive your check at closing and the amount of this loan is then added onto the mortgage that you owe. Since mortgage rates tend to be lower than other types of debt and are tax-deductible, this route can be a very cost-efficient way to borrow.

Doing this results in a new mortgage loan which may have different terms than your original loan. These terms could range from a different type of loan, a different interest rate or a longer or shorter time period for paying off your loan.

Before your check is cut, proceeds are first used to pay off your existing mortgage and any closing costs or prepaid items. You can expect similar closing costs to your original mortgage at your cash-out refinance closing.

What is a Home Equity Line of Credit?

Home equity line of credit (HELOC) is taken out in addition to your existing mortgage. Since this is considered a 2nd mortgage, it will have its own term and repayment schedule separate from your 1st mortgage. However, if your house is already paid for and fully owned by you (no mortgage), some lenders allow you to open a home equity line of credit and the HELOC will be your 1st and only mortgage.

With a HELOC, you can withdraw from your available line of credit as needed during your draw period, which is usually about 10 years. During this period, you’ll make monthly payments with principal and interest. After the draw period ends, the repayment period begins with 20 years to repay the outstanding balance.

HELOC usually has no (or relatively small) closing costs.

Ready to Call Your Real Estate Attorney?

If you’re in need of taking any equity out on your home, the best next step is to call Frank B. Pallotta Law today. Our expert team will guide you through your current situation and make you feel confident in choosing the right decision between a cash-out refinance or a home equity line of credit. And with videoconferencing still in effect under COVID-19 Executive Orders, Frank B. Pallotta Law can make your refinance closing process entirely stress free. 

Why Home Buyers Should Hire a Real Estate Agent

When searching for a new home in Georgia, you may not be aware that you could technically do it on your own. Georgians are not legally required to hire a real estate agent to assist in finding and purchasing a home. However, if you ask anyone at Frank B. Pallotta Law, the first thing we’re going to recommend is to start interviewing realtors. 

Interviewing real estate agents may sound like a daunting task but, most of the time, all it takes is simply asking your friends and family if they know a good realtor and you’ll probably end up with a longer list than you anticipated. If that comes up with little to no results, we would be happy to provide recommendations of real estate agents in Cobb, Cherokee, Fulton and surrounding Metro Atlanta counties. 

Why Hire a Professional?

A highly skilled real estate agent will help you navigate the real estate industry. They will have a team in place to guide you through one of the largest financial investments of your life. 

To make sure you know who you’re going into business with, start by researching online, ask about everyone on their “team” and learn what techniques they use to get their buyers on the winning end of every purchase. 

One question that is usually overlooked is who they use as their closing attorney. The most important phase of purchasing real estate is the moment the legally binding contracts are signed so it’s worth researching the real estate lawyer who will be processing the transaction.

Remember you are the CEO of your home search! Everyone you hire to guide you through the process, works for you.

Benefits to Hiring a Real Estate Agent

Money is the obvious benefit to hiring a real estate agent for both buyers and sellers. It’s understandable why so many people may initially think that having a middle man between buyer and seller is a waste of money but there are major financial benefits to realtors. Realtors know negotiation. As an unrepresented home buyer, you may miss huge opportunities just by simply not knowing what you can negotiate and what you cannot; what increases your home value and what does not. 

Money aside, real estate agents do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. We all know moving is a major transition and, unfortunately, the world doesn’t stop just because you are moving. You will be juggling more than usual, adding legal documents into the mix without a professional keeping you on track could get dicey. Important things that real estate agents are trained to handle might slip through the cracks. 

At the end of the day, your investment is too important to not hire a real estate agent. 

The final step in your home buying process is the closing. Behind every successful real estate agent is a highly skilled real estate attorney that takes over to process the transaction in a peaceful and fair manner after the selling price and terms have been established.

Georgia Law Requires a Real Estate Attorney 

Although Georgia does not require a realtor to buy or sell a home, all closings must be conducted by a licensed Georgia real estate attorney. Since we already know that closing on a home requires you to sign stacks of legal documents, you’re going to appreciate having that person in the room to help you understand what you’re signing and agreeing to. 

If you decide to buy your next home without a real estate agent, just note that you are still required to have a real estate attorney present at closing. Frank B. Pallotta Law would be happy to help you through that! Give us a call today and let our expert team guide you.

5 Tips for Home Buyers to Find the Best Interest Rate

When the time comes and you’re finally ready to buy a home in Woodstock or Roswell, topics like mortgage interest rates may feel overwhelming and start giving you cold feet. Take a breath. At Frank Pallota Law, we are here to help you navigate the convoluted real estate market in Metro Atlanta.

A high interest rate could be the one thing between you and your dream home. So we’re going to take you through a few things you can start TODAY to ensure you will get the best rate once the time comes to apply.

Because there are a few components that determine your rate, you can’t anticipate a certain rate by simply asking your neighbors even though their home is in the same area and, most likely, comparable in price. So spend less time asking around and more time doing these 5 things…

1. Have the Highest Credit Score Possible

Needing a high credit score to get the best interest rate seems like a given for obvious reasons, however, there are a few things you can do to get a leg up! Pay down your credit card balances as much as you can each month without closing them. The goal is to get into the habit of only spending as much as you’re bringing in each month without building any unnecessary debt. Having a history of responsible credit usage will work in your favor when applying for a mortgage rate.

2. Have a Large Down Payment at Closing

As you prepare to make your home purchase, you want to start saving as if you already have a mortgage payment. Put that extra money into a savings account to apply towards your down payment. The larger the down payment at closing, the better the interest rate!

3. Lower Your Debt to Income Ratio

When applying for a mortgage interest rate you typically want a debt-to-income ratio smaller than 36%, with 28% (or less) of that debt going towards your mortgage. To figure this out, simply take your total debt amount and divide it by your income. If your debt totals up to $1,000 per month and your monthly income equals $4,000, your DTI is $1,000 ÷ $4,000, or 25 percent.

4. Pay Bills ON TIME

A history of how you manage your credit plays a significant role in the outcome of your interest rate. With a high credit score, a large down payment and a reasonable debt-to-income ratio, the lender will see you as a trusted borrower thus approving you for a great interest rate.

5. Avoid Adding New Lines of Credit Until After Closing

Try holding off on opening any new lines of credit until after those closing documents are signed, sealed & delivered! Adding new lines of credit make it more difficult for the lender to get an accurate sense of how you manage your finances. The more predictable you are in regards to your financial behavior, the greater confidence the lender will have in your ability to pay your mortgage on time.

If you have more questions or concerns about locking in your interest rate before closing, we’re here to help! Give us a call today and let our expert team guide you through the process.

Best Months to Sell Your Home – RANKED

When to sell? When to buy? When to close? If you’re in the beginning phase of putting your home on the market, you’ve most likely already been told that it’s a seller’s market out there. Lucky for you, right?! Yes, as long as you have a wise real estate agent and a thorough closing attorney by your side.

Although the current real estate market is in favor of home-sellers, you still need to find the right season for homebuyers. We’ll take you through the top 4 months to put your home on the market based on the demographic that your newly listed home in the Metro Atlanta area will appeal to!

1. July 

There are so many factors that make July the #1 month to sell your home. The obvious one being BEAUTIFUL weather! What better way to showcase what your home has to offer on the inside and outside than a beautiful summer day? The second biggest reason July is the top month to sell your house is children are on summer break so your home buyers have more time and convenience to move, change school districts and get settled all before the kids start their next school year.

2. August

August is ranked 2nd best month to sell your home for many of the same reasons that make July the hottest month for homebuyers to be shopping the real estate market! Although listing your home in August could be a little riskier than July, due to the school year quickly approaching, but if you know you’re in a desired real estate location like Woodstock, GA, then you could set yourself up for the perfect bidding war. In this “seller’s market” we see a lot of homebuyer bidding wars that result in homes selling above list price. MAJOR WIN!

3. September

I know, we said to sell while the kids are out of school but September could still work for the young families on the search! Young growing families with children who are not yet in the school system will be searching while the weather is still nice. So if you have a home near a good school district, listing your home in September could motivate a lot of homebuyers to close before the holidays begin!

4. October

If your home is more the bachelor pad type or a retirement community, you don’t have to work around the general school schedule. However, you will want to get your home listed before the Holiday Season and FLU season begins! No one wants a lot of foot traffic in and out of their homes during this time (not to mention, where will you hide all of the presents?). List your home at the beginning of the fall season so you can have it sold before the Christmas trees are up and the germs are out!

If you’re ready to sell your home and need to be connected with a team that will know the in’s and out’s of the real estate market, we’re here to help! Give us a call today and let our expert team guide you through the process.

What Every First-Time Homebuyer Should Know

Buying a home can be an incredibly intimidating process, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. But fear not! Here are some simple tips to keep in mind to make your first home-buying experience run smoothly. 

Start saving early. 

Most people will tell you that a 20% down payment is standard, but some lending programs will allow you to put down as little as 3%. This doesn’t always mean you’re saving money, however. A low down payment often results in higher costs in the future. Even if you are able to negotiate a small down payment, that can still be a lot of money. For example, a 10% payment on a $200,000 home is still $20,000.  

Know your mortgage options.

There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re applying for your first mortgage, and a lot of opportunity for less-than-scrupulous lenders to take advantage. Make sure you do your research and work with a mortgage expert so you know you’re getting the best deal. 

Get a pre-approval letter.

You can pre-qualify for a mortgage, which means you can get a basic idea of how much a lender is willing to approve based on factors like your income, credit history, and down payment. As you get closer to finalizing your home purchase, make sure you get a pre-approval letter in writing. This will help you look more serious to sellers, and help protect you from last minute approval changes that could cost you.   

Budget for additional expenses.

It can be hard to see past the asking price of your dream home, but don’t forget there are other expenses to consider. Closing costs, title insurance, moving costs, or necessary updates and repairs can add up quickly. It’s helpful to have a little extra set aside to cover these final costs so you don’t find yourself going over budget. 

Trust the experts.

You may have seen every episode of House Hunters, but that doesn’t always translate to real world knowledge. Work with a realtor and a closing attorney you trust (hey, we know a guy!) to make sure everything runs smoothly and is cost-effective. 

Becoming a homeowner for the first time is an exciting experience, and one you’ll remember forever. Make sure you’re ready to take the leap, and know that there are plenty of people ready to help you open the door to your dream home! 

Real Estate Terms Explained: Title Insurance

If you’re a first-time buyer, you’re probably faced with a lot of unfamiliar terms as you complete the closing process. But don’t worry! We’re going to use the power of the blog to explain (most of) them to you. 

Today’s lesson: Title Insurance

What the heck is title insurance? 

Technically there are two answers to this question, because there are two types of title insurance: the lender’s insurance and the owner’s insurance. Both policies protect against future financial losses. To put it simply, if your home purchase falls through after closing, these insurance policies can save you and your lender from being financially responsible for a property home that you didn’t actually purchase. Most lenders will require this insurance, and you’ll find it included with the rest of your closing costs. Owner’s insurance is optional, but highly recommended. Both policies are a one-time fee that you pay at closing.   

Why would my purchase fall through after closing?

It’s an unlikely scenario, but it is possible. When you purchase a property, a title researcher will check the ownership history to make sure you have what is known as a “clean title.” This means that there are no pre-existing issues that could prevent the title from becoming legally yours. 

A pre-existing issue could be that a previous owner failed to disclose a creditor’s lien on the house, or the property is caught up in an inheritance dispute, or there are uncollected taxes on the property. In most instances these issues are the result of a minor error and can be cleared up quickly, but there are cases where the title issues take months or even years to resolve. And if you find yourself in one of those situations, you’ll be facing a mountain of legal fees and the potential that you’ll lose the property (and the money you invested) before you even unpack. 

Alright, I hear you. How do I get title insurance? 

Typically your agent or closing attorney will start the process for you. You’ll be charged a one-time fee (the exact cost will vary depending on a variety of factors), and even though you only pay for it once, the coverage will insurance your financial transaction as long as you own the property. Please note: this is NOT homeowners insurance — that’s a completely different type of policy and coverage. If you’re not sure how to find the right title insurance, talk to your closing agent or attorney. We live for this stuff. 

Title insurance may seem like yet another unexpected cost, but trust us, it’s worth it. If you still need convincing, give us a call! We’re here to help you every step of the way.