Crossing that Bridge Loan when you come to it.
When would someone need a bridge loan? Bridge loans are often used by prospective home buyers who are ready to buy, but who have not yet sold their current home. When the housing market is booming and houses are selling within days or weeks of being listed, a bridge loan makes little sense. But what about those times when the housing market seems to be moving along at a more reasonable pace?
Imagine, for example, that you find your dream home. You are eager to purchase it, except for one major setback: you need to sell your current home first. In the meantime, you can snatch up that dream house by applying for a bridge loan. A bridge loan can allow you to pay off the mortgage on your current house, or gather enough cash to make a down payment on your dream house while you wait for your current home to sell. In hindsight, the opposite situation would be ideal: selling your home, and then finding your dream home. But since life, and especially issues of personal finance, are not always ideal, a bridge loan is a viable option for anyone who finds themselves caught in between.
The terms of a bridge loan can vary widely. Some types of bridge loans allow you to completely pay off the mortgage on your current home. A fairly typical bridge loan might work as follows: the bridge loan is used to pay off the mortgage on your current home, and the rest of the money is used to make a down payment on your new home. In this type of scenario, closing costs and six months of prepaid interest are normally subtracted from the loan amount. If the first home is not sold after a period of six months, the borrower is usually allowed to begin making interest-only payments on the bridge loan. When the first home is sold, the bridge loan can be paid off in its entirety, with any unearned interest payments credited to the borrower.
Be warned that using bridge loans in this way—to span the disparity between two separate transactions—can be costly. Bridge loans often come with high fees, so make sure you understand the terms of your loan before signing. Also, be prepared to face the possibility of having to pay the equivalent to three mortgage payments (your current house, new house, and the amount of the loan itself) until your home is sold. Before even considering a bridge loan, speak to your real estate agent. Find out how long homes in your houses’ price range are taking to sell. If the housing market is so slow that you expect your home to remain unsold for many months, a bridge loan may not be such a good idea.
Bridge loans are also commonly used in real estate investing. Individuals interested in investing in real estate property, but who may not have access to conventional loans, can use a bridge loan to make the purchase. Individuals who use bridge loans may be unable to qualify for conventional loans due to credit problems. Thus, many bridge loans are often available through non-traditional lenders, who offer interest rates ranging from 14 to 20 percent. These lenders often also charge ‘points’, or fees, on these loans. One point is one percent of the total loan amount. Because these lenders are not as concerned with credit ratings as traditional lenders, bridge loans are much more accessible, though also much costly.
Bridge loans offer a fast and relatively easy way to receive a fast cash infusion. But they are also saddled with higher than average fees and interest rates. The best advice regarding bridge loans is also perhaps the simplest: don’t use them unless you really have to.
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