Your monthly mortgage payment, which includes the loan’s principal, interest, property taxes and homeowners insurance, no doubt takes a large chunk of your take-home pay. Most homeowners just live with the pain, despite some concrete steps they can take to lower the payment.
It’s not easy, and it does require effort on your part. But, you can lower your monthly house payment.
Dump the high interest rate
Although mortgage interest rates have been at historic lows, many homeowners bought their homes during periods of high interest rates. And, yes, rates will be rising, so you’ll need to take advantage of this tip soon.
By refinancing the home with a mortgage that carries a lower interest rate, your monthly payments will naturally go down. For instance, if you bought your home in 2003, you are most likely paying 5.83 percent in interest.
Lock in today’s rates, 4.625 percent as of this writing (actually, this was first posted on my blog 2 1/2 years ago, today rate is actually closer to 3%!), and your house payment will be reduced significantly.
There are aspects of refinancing that need to be considered before jumping into it so run the idea by your accountant and discuss details with at least a couple of lenders first (Update: we just completed our refinance, in late 2020, and it is now saving us $300 a month!). For many, it’s worth the fees.
Lower your property taxes
Depending on where you live, paying your “fair share” to help fund our schools and local government can add a hefty amount to your monthly house payment. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, the average American homeowner pays $2,197 in property taxes every year.
This adds more than $183 to your house payment each month. If you live in a high-tax state, such as Illinois or New Jersey, you may pay close to twice that amount. And California is about three times as high.
Your first step to lower property taxes is to dig out your current assessment and check to ensure that everything in it is accurate, from the home’s square footage to the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. If you do find errors, or if you know of homes in your area that are more expensive yet the homeowners pay less in taxes, you may be able to dispute your tax bill.
Most county assessor’s offices have procedures to file disputes.
Are you paying too much for homeowners insurance?
The average American homeowner pays about $1,083 each year (a bit less than $100 per month) for homeowners insurance, according to ValuePenguin.com.
And, many may be paying too much, according to a Consumer Reports study. Among respondents to the survey, “About 9 percent switched insurers in the previous three years, and more than half reported finding a better price,” according to Jeff Blyskal at consumerreports.org.
He goes on to claim that homeowners “can save hundreds to more than $1,000 per year in premiums by shopping around.”
Insurance companies use your credit score when determining your premium, so work on raising your score to get better rates.
Blyskal explains that “an insurance premium for a 45-year-old homeowner with a fair credit score would be 36 percent higher than if she had an excellent score, on average nationally. If the homeowner had a poor score instead of an excellent one, her premium would be 114 percent higher.”
Get rid of PMI
Private mortgage insurance (PMI) or the Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) if you have an FHA loan, is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it helps Americans who might not otherwise be given a mortgage to finally become homeowners.
The flipside, however, is that the premiums are tacked onto the house payment every month. With a conventional loan, PMI is removed when the homeowner obtains 20 percent equity in the home.
FHA’s MIP, however, remains for the life of the loan. But, if you’ve hit that magical 20 percent equity mark (and 80 percent loan-to-value), refinance into a conventional mortgage and do away with the MIP payment every month.
With rates at record lows, and values continuing to trend upwards, it is a great time to begin to earn equity and build wealth through homeownership. And can’t find the home you want because everything that you can afford has multiple offers and goes off of the market within days (or even hours)? Ask me about my new “Dream Home Program”, and get the scoop on what I can do to help you find that home so you can finally stop paying your landlord!
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