Moving Up With Slim Equity

October 4, 2016
Last updated:
October 21, 2021
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“I think we just found our dream house!” Luis and Miriam had been clients for several years and we had become friends. I have helped them with several refinance loans over the past several years. The most recent refinance was just six months ago.

“I don’t know if you remember,” I said, joking, “but we just finished a refinance on your house this year. Are you already tired of that nice loan we got for you?”

“No…but we were driving around on Sunday, and we just happened to stop at this new development close to our house. It’s perfect for us, and I think we can afford it once we sell the old place.”

Luis gave me some numbers—the price of the new home, and what he thought he’d get for his old townhome. I ran numbers for the “best case” scenario—that he would get the full price he wanted for his townhome. Even if that happened, there wouldn’t be enough for a 20% down payment and normal closing costs. Time for Plan B: a smaller down payment, with mortgage insurance.

Can Moving Up With Limited Equity Be Possible?

I created a new application for Luis and Miriam with a 10% down payment. They would have to pay mortgage insurance, but we would be able to remove it once there was enough equity from appreciation. I pulled a new credit report. Their credit scores were high, as I had expected, but they had acquired a new car. Their total payments meant that they would not be able to qualify for the new loan they wanted—in lending terms, their debt-to-income ratio was too high.

I was certain their home would not sell for the high price they were hoping for, so I worked some numbers with a more realistic figure. They’d have enough money for the 10% down payment and normal closing costs, with just a few thousand left over. That would cover their moving expenses, but not much else. The new car was looking like a deal-killer.

Their new home was $500,000. If we dropped the down payment from 10% to 5%, they’d free up $25,000. By happy coincidence, their car loan was almost exactly that amount. Paying off the car loan with the proceeds of the sale brought their debt to income ratio down to a level where we could get their loan approved.

I explained our plan to Luis and Miriam. “You’ll only have to pay mortgage insurance for a couple of years,” I said. “Even with the cost of the mortgage insurance, about $250 a month, getting rid of a $500 a month car loan still puts you ahead of the game.” They agreed, and started getting their home ready for their first open house.

The builder had been willing to accept a contingent offer; this meant that they’d be able to get out of the deal for their new home if their old one didn’t sell. Two weeks later, they had an offer on their home—from a well-qualified, pre-approved buyer. They would clear a bit more cash than the worst-case scenario I had drawn. That was good news.

Refinance Your Mortgage

When interest rates are low, that may be the perfect time to refinance. This is especially true if the rate you locked in at when you first took out your mortgage is significantly higher than the going rate for a loan today. By refinancing, you can save tens of thousands of dollars or more off your mortgage over the long run.

But not only that, refinancing at a lower rate can help you build equity in your home faster compared to your ability to do so with your old mortgage because more of your monthly payments go towards the principal with a lower interest rate. While a straight refinance doesn’t cause your home equity to change, you may find out of any increases in your home’s equity when your lender appraises your home.

Don’t Take Out Any Additional Loans

Taking out a few loans within a short period of time will increase your debt load, as well as your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). If your DTI is too high, you may find it more difficult to qualify for a new mortgage that you may want. Either paying off existing debt or resisting the urge to take out more loans can increase your chances of getting approved for the loan you want and need,

Improve Your Home to Add More Equity

You may be able to quickly add equity to your home by improving it. There are many projects you can undertake that will increase the value of your home, and therefore increase your equity in it. Upgrades such as renovating your kitchen, revamping your bathroom, redoing your floors, and even boosting your curb appeal can do wonders for your home’s value, and therefore your home equity.

Knowledge in Mortgage Practices is Key

Five weeks later, they received the keys to their brand new home. By dropping the down payment all the way to 5% and paying mortgage insurance for a few years, they were able to redirect the cash from the sale of the old home to pay off their car. This not only let them qualify for the loan because of their lower payments, but it helped their household budget by a couple of hundred dollars a month.

The limited equity Luis and Miriam had to work with presented a challenge, but with a little juggling—and a client who listened to our suggestions and guidance—we enjoyed a very happy ending.

Moving up from your current home into something better often requires knowledge. We want to share this knowledge with you in our free downloadable ebook. Click this link or the button below to take advantage of this offer now.

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Sammamish Mortgage is a local mortgage company serving the broader Pacific Northwest region, including Washington state, Idaho, Colorado, and Oregon. We are proud to offer a wide variety of mortgage programs and products with flexible qualification criteria. Please contact us if you have any questions or are ready to apply for a home loan.

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