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Limited Liability Corportations and Foreign Investment in California Real Estate

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There is some exciting news for foreign investors due to recent geo-political developments and the emergence of several financial factors. This coalescence of events, has at its core, the major drop in the price of US real estate, combined with the exodus of capital from Russia and China. Among foreign investors this has suddenly and significantly produced a demand for real estate in California.

Our research shows that China alone, spent $22 billion on U.S. housing in the last 12 months, much more than they spent the year before. Chinese in particular have a great advantage driven by their strong domestic economy, a stable exchange rate, increased access to credit and desire for diversification and secure investments.

We can cite several reasons for this rise in demand for US Real Estate by foreign Investors, but the primary attraction is the global recognition of the fact that the United States is currently enjoying an economy that is growing relative to other developed nations. Couple that growth and stability with the fact that the US has a transparent legal system which creates an easy avenue for non-U.S. citizens to invest, and what we have is a perfect alignment of both timing and financial law… creating prime opportunity! The US also imposes no currency controls, making it easy to divest, which makes the prospect of Investment in US Real Estate even more attractive.

Here, we provide a few facts that will be useful for those considering investment in Real Estate in the US and Califonia in particular. We will take the sometimes difficult language of these topics and attempt to make them easy to understand.

This article will touch briefly on some of the following topics: Taxation of foreign entities and international investors. U.S. trade or businessTaxation of U.S. entities and individuals. Effectively connected income. Non-effectively connected income. Branch Profits Tax. Tax on excess interest. U.S. withholding tax on payments made to the foreign investor. Foreign corporations. Partnerships. Real Estate Investment Trusts. Treaty protection from taxation. Branch Profits Tax Interest income. Business profits. Income from real property. Capitol gains and third-country use of treaties/limitation on benefits.

We will also briefly highlight dispositions of U.S. real estate investments, including U.S. real property interests, the definition of a U.S. real property holding corporation “USRPHC”, U.S. tax consequences of investing in United States Real Property Interests ” USRPIs” through foreign corporations, Foreign Investment Real Property Tax Act “FIRPTA” withholding and withholding exceptions.

Non-U.S. citizens choose to invest in US real estate for many different reasons and they will have a diverse range of aims and goals. Many will want to insure that all processes are handled quickly, expeditiously and correctly as well as privately and in some cases with complete anonymity. Secondly, the issue of privacy in regards to your investment is extremely important. With the rise of the internet, private information is becoming more and more public. Although you may be required to reveal information for tax purposes, you are not required, and should not, disclose property ownership for all the world to see. One purpose for privacy is legitimate asset protection from questionable creditor claims or lawsuits. Generally, the less individuals, businesses or government agencies know about your private affairs, the better.

Reducing taxes on your U.S. investments is also a major consideration. When investing in U.S. real estate, one must consider whether property is income-producing and whether or not that income is ‘passive income’ or income produced by trade or business. Another concern, especially for older investors, is whether the investor is a U.S. resident for estate tax purposes.

The purpose of an LLC, Corporation or Limited Partnership is to form a shield of protection between you personally for any liability arising from the activities of the entity. LLCs offer greater structuring flexibility and better creditor protection than limited partnerships, and are generally preferred over corporations for holding smaller real estate properties. LLC’s aren’t subject to the record-keeping formalities that corporations are.

If an investor uses a corporation or an LLC to hold real property, the entity will have to register with the California Secretary of State. In doing so, articles of incorporation or the statement of information become visible to the world, including the identity of the corporate officers and directors or the LLC manager.

An great example is the formation of a two-tier structure to help protect you by creating a California LLC to own the real estate, and a Delaware LLC to act as the manager of the California LLC. The benefits to using this two-tier structure are simple and effective but must one must be precise in implementation of this strategy.

In the state of Delaware, the name of the LLC manager is not required to be disclosed, subsequently, the only proprietary information that will appear on California form is the name of the Delaware LLC as the manager. Great care is exercised so that the Delaware LLC is not deemed to be doing business in California and this perfectly legal technical loophole is one of many great tools for acquiring Real Estate with minimal Tax and other liability.

Regarding using a trust to hold real property, the actual name of the trustee and the name of the trust must appear on the recorded deed. Accordingly, If using a trust, the investor might not want to be the trustee, and the trust need not include the investor’s name. To insure privacy, a generic name can be used for the entity.

In the case of any real estate investment that happens to be encumbered by debt, the borrower’s name will appear on the recorded deed of trust, even if title is taken in the name of a trust or an LLC. But when the investor personally guarantees the loan by acting AS the borrower through the trust entity, THEN the borrower’s name may be kept private! At this point the Trust entity becomes the borrower and the owner of the property. This insures that the investor’s name does not appear on any recorded documents.

Because formalities, like holding annual meetings of shareholders and maintaining annual minutes, are not required in the case of limited partnerships and LLCs, they are often preferred over corporations. Failing to observe corporate formalities can lead to failure of the liability shield between the individual investor and the corporation. This failure in legal terms is called “piercing the corporate veil”.

Limited partnerships and LLCs may create a more effective asset protection stronghold than corporations, because interests and assets may be more difficult to reach by creditors to the investor.

To illustrate this, let’s assume an individual in a corporation owns, say, an apartment complex and this corporation receives a judgment against it by a creditor. The creditor can now force the debtor to turn over the stock of the corporation which can result in a devastating loss of corporate assets.

However, when the debtor owns the apartment building through either a Limited Partnership or an LLC the creditor’s recourse is limited to a simple charging order, which places a lien on distributions from the LLC or limited partnership, but keeps the creditor from seizing partnership assets and keeps the creditor out the affairs of the LLC or Partnership.

Income Taxation of Real Estate

For the purposes of Federal Income tax a foreigner is referred to as nonresident alien (NRA). An NRA can be defined as a foreign corporation or a person who either;

A) Physically is present in the United States for less than 183 days in any given year. B) Physically is present less than 31 days in the current year. C) Physically is present for less than 183 total days for a three-year period (using a weighing formula) and does not hold a green card.

The applicable Income tax rules associated to NRAs can be quite complex, but as a general rule, the income that IS subject to withholding is a 30 percent flat tax on “fixed or determinable” – “annual or periodical” (FDAP) income (originating in the US), that is not effectively connected to a U.S. trade or business that is subject to withholding. Important point there, which we will address momentarily.

Tax rates imposed on NRAs may be reduced by any applicable treaties and the Gross income is what gets taxed with almost not offsetting deductions. So here, we need to address exactly what FDAP income includes. FDAP is considered to include; interest, dividends, royalties, and rents.

Simply put, NRAs are subject to a 30 percent tax when receiving interest income from U.S. sources. Included within the definitions of FDAP are some miscellaneous categories of income such as; annuity payments, certain insurance premiums, gambling winnings, and alimony.

Capital gains from U.S. sources, however, are generally not taxable unless: A)The NRA is present in the United States for more than 183 days. B) The gains can be effectively connected to a U.S. trade or business. C) The gains are from the sale of certain timber, coal, or domestic iron ore assets.

NRA’s can and will be taxed on capital gains (originating in the US) at the rate of 30 percent when these exceptions apply.Because NRA’s are taxed on income in the same manner as a US taxpayers when that income can effectively be connected to a US trade or business, then it becomes necessary to define what constitutes; “U.S. trade or business” and to what “effectively connected” means. This is where we can limit the taxable liability.

There are several ways in which the US defines “US trade or Business” but there is no set and specific code definition. The term “US Trade or Business” can be seen as: selling products in the United States (either directly or through an agent), soliciting orders for merchandise from the US and those goods out of the US, providing personal services in the United States, manufacturing, maintaining a retail store, and maintaining corporate offices in the United States.Conversely, there are highly specific and complex definitions for “effectively connected” involving the “force of attraction” and “asset-use” rules, as well as “business-activities” tests.

Generally and for simplistic explanation, an NRA is “effectively connected” if he or she is engaged as a General or limited partner in a U.S. trade or business. Similarly, if the estate or trust is so engaged in trade or business then any beneficiary of said trust or estate is also engaged

For real estate, the nature of the rental income becomes the critical concern. The Real Estate becomes passive if it is generated by a triple-net lease or from lease of unimproved land. When held in this manner and considered passive the rental income is taxed on a gross basis, at a flat rate of 30 percent with applicable withholding and no deductions.

Investors should consider electing to treat their passive real property income, as income from a U.S. trade or business, because the nature of this type of holding and loss of deduction inherent therein is often tax prohibited. However, the election can only be made if the property is generating income.

If the NRA owns or invests in or owns unimproved land that will be developed in the future, he or she should consider leasing the land. This is a great way to generate income. Investment in income-generating allows the NRA the ability to claim deductions from the property and generate a loss carry-forward that will offset income in future years.

There are many tools we can use to assist our NRA clients in avoiding taxation on Real Estate income property, one of which is ‘portfolio interest’, which is payable only on a debt instrument and not subject to taxation or withholding. There are several ways to fit within the confines of these ‘portfolio interest’ rules. NRAs can participate in the practice of lending through equity participation loans or loans with equity kickers. An equity kicker is like a loan that allows the lender to participate in equity appreciation. Allowing the lender to convert debt into equity in the form of a conversion option is one way that this can be accomplished as these provisions usually increase interest rates on a contingent basis to mimic equity participation.

There are two levels of tax applicable to a foreign individual or a foreign corporation who owns a U.S. corporation.

The U.S. corporation will be subject subjected to a 30 percent withholding tax on its profits, when the income is not re-invested in the United States and there will be a tax on dividends paid to the foreign shareholders as well. When the U.S. business is owned by a foreign corporation, whether directly or through a disregarded entity, or through a pass-through entity. The branch profits tax replicates the double tax.

The U.S. has treaties covering the ‘branch profits tax’ with most of the European nations, reducing the tax to between 5 and 10 percent. The 30 percent tax is onerous, as it applies to a “dividend equivalent amount,” which is the corporation’s effectively connected earnings and profits for the year, less investments the corporation makes in its U.S. assets (money and adjusted bases of property connected with the conduct of a U.S. trade or business). The tax is imposed even if there is no distribution.

Foreign corporations are taxed on their effectively connected income and on any deemed dividends, which are any profits not reinvested in the United State under the branch profits tax.

The rules applicable to the tax on the disposition of real estate are found in a separate regime known as the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA).

Generally, FIRTPA taxes an NRAs holdings of U.S. real property interest (USRPI) as if he or she were engaged in a U.S. trade or business. As mentioned earlier, this means that the traditional income tax rules that apply to U.S. taxpayers will also apply to the NRA. Obligation to withhold 10 percent of the amount realized on any disposition falls on purchasers who acquire a USRPI from an NRA.

Ownership and interests of Real Estate Property include: fee ownership, co-ownership, leasehold, timeshare, a life estate, a remainder, a reversion or a right to participate in the appreciation of real property or in the profits from real property. For purposes of definition interest in real property would include any ownership of personal property used to exploit natural resources, land, buildings, mineral deposits, crops, fixtures, operations to construct improvements, the operation of a lodging facility, or providing a furnished office to a tenant (including movable walls or furnishings) as well as Improvements, leaseholds, or options to acquire any of the above.

There are several ways in which a partnership interest is treated as a USRPI: A domestic corporation will be treated as a U.S. real property holding corporation (USRPHC) if USRPIs are equal to or exceed 50 percent of the sum of the corporation’s assets. OR when 50 percent or more of the value of the gross partnership assets consists of USRPIs – Or when 50 percent or more of the value of partnership gross assets consist of USRPIs plus cash and cash equivalents. The disposition of partnership interest will be subject to FIRPTA. To the extent that such partnership continues to own USRPIs they will remain subject to this withholding.

The good news is that disposition of an interest in a USRPHC is subject to the FIRPTA tax and withholding but is not subject to state income tax. There is an obvious benefit when compared with the disposition of a USRPI owned directly. USRPI which are owned directly are subject to the lower federal capital gains rate as well as state income tax. If, however on the date of the disposition the corporation had no USRPIs and the totality of the gain was fully recognized (no installment sales or exchanges) on the sale of any USRPIs sold within the past five years Then this disposition cannot be subject to these rules.

Any USRPI sold by an NRA (individual or corporation) will be subject to 10 percent withholding of the amount realized. Withholding applies even if the property is sold at a loss.

The purchaser must report the withholding and pay over the tax, using Form 8288 within 20 days of the purchase. This is to be duly noted because if the purchaser fails to collect the withholding tax from the foreigner, the purchaser will be liable for not only the tax, but also any applicable penalties and interest. The withheld taxes are later credited against the total tax liability of the foreigner.

Instances wherein withholding is not required, are the following:

The seller provides a certificate of non-foreign status. Property acquired by the purchaser is not a USRPI. The transferred property is stock of a domestic corporation and the corporation provides a certificate that it is not a USRPHC.

The USRPI acquired will be used by the purchaser as a residence and the amount realized by the foreigner on the disposition is $300,000 or less. The disposition is not subject to tax, or the amount realized by the foreigner on the disposition is zero.

Estate and Gift Tax: In determining who is an NRA and who is excluded the test is completely different for estate tax purposes. The focus of inquiry will centers around the decedent’s residence. This test is very subjective and focuses primarily on intent.The test considers factors from across the board, such as how long the NRA has been in the United States, how often he or she travels as well as the size, and cost of home in the United States. The test will also look at the location of NRA’s family, their participation in community activities, participation in U.S. business and ownership of assets in the United States. Voting is also taken into consideration.

A foreigner can be a U.S. resident for income tax purposes but not be domiciled for estate tax purposes. An NRA, whether a nonresident alien or non-domiciliary, will be subject to a different transfer taxes (estate and gift taxes) than a U.S. taxpayer. Only the gross part of the NRA’s Estate that at the time of death is situated in the United States will be taxed with the estate tax. Although the rate of NRA’s estate tax will be the same as that imposed on U.S. citizens and resident aliens, the unified credit is only $13,000 (equivalent to about $60,000 of property value).

These may be ameliorated by any existing estate tax treaty. European countries, Australia, and Japan enjoys these treaties, The U.S. does not maintain as many estate tax treaties as income tax treaties.

The IRC defines the following property as situated in the United States: A) Shares of stock of a U.S. corporation. B) Revocable transfers or transfers within three years of death of U.S. property or transfers with a retained interest (described in IRC Sections 2035 to 2038). C) Debt issued by a U.S. person or a governmental entity within the United States (e.g., municipal bonds).

Real estate in the United States is considered U.S. property when it is physical personal property such as works of art, furniture, cars, and currency. Debt, however is ignored if it is recourse debt, but gross value is included, not just equity. U.S.-situs property is also a US property if it is a beneficial interest in a trust holding. Life insurance is NOT included as U.S.-situs property.

The estate tax returns must disclose all of the NRA’s worldwide assets, in order to determine the ratio that the U.S. assets bear to non-U.S. assets. The gross estate is reduced by various deductions relating to the U.S.-situs property. This ratio determines the percentage of allowable deductions that may be claimed against the gross estate.

As mentioned earlier, when real estate is subject to a recourse mortgage, the gross value of the real estate is included, offset by the mortgage debt. This distinction is very relevant for NRAs whose debts are subject to apportionment between U.S. and non-U.S. assets and therefore not fully deductible.

Accurate planning is crucial. Let us illustrate: An NRA can own US property through a foreign corporation and this property is not included in the NRA’s estate. This means that the US Real property owned by the NRA has now effectively been converted into a non-U.S. intangible asset.

And with Real Estate that was not initially acquired through a foreign corporation, you can still avoid future taxation to the estate by paying an income tax today on the transfer of the real estate to a foreign corporation (usually treated as a sale).

An NRA donor is not subject to U.S. gift taxes on any gifts of non-U.S. situs property gifted to any person, including U.S. citizens and residents. Gift taxes are imposed on the donor. Gifts from an NRA that are in excess of $100,000 must reported on Form 3520.46 by citizens and residents, however, Gifts of U.S.-situs assets are subject to gift taxes, with the exception of intangibles, which are not taxable.

If it is physically located in the United States tangible personal property and real property is sited within the United States. The lifetime unified credit is not available to NRA donors, but NRA donors are allowed the same annual gift tax exclusion as other taxpayers. NRA’s are also subject to the same rate-schedule for gift taxes.

The primary thrust of estate tax planning for NRAs is through the use of; the following: Foreign corporations to own U.S. assets, and the gift tax exemption for intangibles to remove assets from the United States. It is very important that the corporation have a business purpose and activity, lest it be deemed a sham designed to avoid U.S. estate taxes. If the NRA dies owning shares of stock in a foreign corporation, the shares are not included in the NRA’s estate, regardless of the situs of the corporation’s assets.

Let us break this down into one easy to read and understand paragraph:

In a nutshell, shares in U.S. corporations and interests in partnerships or LLCs are intangibles and the gift of an intangible, wherever situated, by an NRA is not subject to gift tax. Consequently, real estate owned by the NRA through a U.S. corporation, partnership, or LLC may be removed from the NRA’s U.S. estate by gifting entity interests to foreign relatives.

Ownership Structures: Here we discuss the ownership architectures under which NRA’s can acquire Real Estate. The NRA’s personal goals and priorities of course dictate the type of architecture that will be used. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these alternatives. Direct investment for example, (real estate owned by the NRA) is simple and is subject to only one level of tax on the disposition. The sale is taxed at a 15 percent rate If the real estate is held for one year. There are many disadvantages to the direct investment approach, a few of which are: no privacy, no liability protection, the obligation to file U.S. income tax returns, and if the NRA dies while owning the property, his or her estate is subject to U.S. estate taxes.

When an NRA acquires the real estate through an LLC or an LP, this is considered an LLC or a limited partnership structure. This structure provides the NRA with protection of privacy and liability and allows for lifetime transfers that escape the gift tax. The obligation to file U.S. income tax returns and the possibility for U.S. estate tax on death remain, however.

Ownership of real estate through a domestic corporation, will afford privacy and liability protection, obviate the foreigner’s need to file individual U.S. income tax returns and allow lifetime gift tax-free transfers. *this refers to a C corporation, since a foreign shareholder precludes an S corporation.

Ownership of stock will not trigger a return filing obligation, unlike engaging in a U.S. trade or business which requires a U.S. tax return

Ownership of real estate through a domestic corporation has three disadvantages: Federal and state corporate income tax at the corporate level will add a second layer of tax. Dividends from the domestic corporation to its foreign shareholder will be subject to 30 percent withholding. Shares of the domestic corporation will be included in the U.S. estate of the foreign shareholder.

Furthermore, the foreign shareholder will be subject to FIRPTA, because the corporation will be treated as a USRPHC (upon the disposition of the stock in the corporation). The purchaser of the shares is then required the file a U.S. income tax return with 10 percent tax withholding. Actual ownership of the real estate may be held by the U.S. corporation directly, or by a disregarded entity owned by the corporation or through a U.S. partnership. An LLC that chooses to be taxed as a corporation can also be the corporation.

There are several advantages to foreign corporation ownership:

Liability protection– There is no U.S. income tax or filing requirement for the foreign shareholder. Shares in the foreign corporation are non-U.S. assets not included in the U.S. estate.

Dividends are not subject to U.S. withholding. There is no tax or filing requirement on the disposition of the stock. There is no gift tax on the transfer of those shares of stock.

Disadvantages of using the foreign corporation: A) just like with the domestic corporation, there will be corporate level taxes, because the foreign corporation will be deemed engaged in a U.S. trade or business. B) Possibly the largest disadvantage of ownership of U.S. real estate through a foreign corporation would be that the foreign corporation will be subject to the branch profits tax.

One of the most advantageous structure for ownership of U.S. real estate by NRAs is a hybrid foreign and U.S. corporation. It runs like this: The NRA owns a foreign corporation that in turn owns a U.S. LLC taxed as a corporation. The benefits to this type of structure is paramount to a good tax shield and offers: privacy and liability protection, escaping U.S. individual income tax filing requirements and it also avoids U.S. estate taxes. On top of that it allows for gift tax-free lifetime transfers, and avoids the branch profits tax.

The beauty and benefit of this is that the timing and the amount of this dividend is within the NRA’s control even though distributions from the U.S. subsidiary to the foreign parent are subject to the 30 percent FDAP withholding.

There are many things to consider and several structures available to limit tax liability, preserve and protect anonymity and increase profits of US Real Estate investments by foreign investors. We must keep in mind that each investment presents its own challenges and no structure is perfect. Advantages and disadvantages abound which will require a tailored analysis in light of the individual or group objectives.

It’s really about implementing a structure which will successfully carry the NRA through to his or her END GAME, with the utmost protection from liability and the maximum return on investment.

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Mortgage Post Closing Services: Describing What They Entail

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Could you be interested in mortgage post closing services? They entail strict reviews and audits to ensure compliance and completeness of documents. It is only after total confirmation of documents that the lender can fund the loan. The service provider selected by your company must be very experienced and good at their work. They must know how to correct documents from various origination stages and review them. The only documents that providers of mortgage post closing services could correct are those that have been signed and funded. The work of hired professionals also is to review legal, loan processing and other documentation for regulatory conformity.

They follow origination and underwriting rules to the letter, making sure missing information, if any, is retrieved. Mortgage closing services also entails data integrity checks so as to generate quality control reports. While doing integrity checks on loan information, service providers also state any possible exceptions. Basically their major activities entail the following. Tracking all documents (trailing document retrieval) associated with the mortgage post-closing is the first critical step. The documents that need to be trailed include assignments, assumption agreements, judgments, tax records, trust deeds, modifications, and UCC (Uniform commercial code) among others.

After the completion of this, issuance of final title policy, lien and assignment take place. The second activity offered during delivery of Mortgage closing services is the assembly of post closing loan package. What this entails is compilation of all loan documents that are usually submitted during the whole origination process. It means therefore that the provider of mortgage post closing services will work together with underwriters, loan officers, loan processors, mortgage brokers, home appraisers, property sellers and any other involved parties. The assembling work is rather tiresome and lengthy and that is why you want it to be done by a big company with many employees.

Another activity includes post closing data integrity audit as aforementioned. The main reason why this audit is done is to tackle possible home loan deficiencies. They verify and address red flags that were raised during the underwriting process. After this, all loans that have been fully approved are registered with a given mortgagee system. This whole process of registering approved loans prevents future assignments on loans. It also saves lenders from incurring future correction and tracking costs or facing document penalties among others. This step of mortgage post closing services also ensures faster execution of loans, zero errors on documentation and an easy closing process.

Mortgage quality control audit is also part of mortgage post closing services. There are automated audit systems used for this task. The service you will be offered in this step include pre-funding, post-closing, servicing, compliance, foreclosure loans, fraud investigation, preparation of the QC plan, cancel or reject, and commercial loans audit among others. It is imperative to make sure that the provider of the post closing service can audit and review the loans you normally process. Many outsourced companies deal with FHA, VA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac among other home loans. Their basic auditing process entails file document review, evaluation of underwriting process, credit risk analysis and third party verification.

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All You Want To Know About Mortgage

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A mortgage is a kind of agreement. This allows the lender to take away the property if the person fails to pay the cash. Generally, a house or such a costly property is given out in exchange for a loan. The home is the security which is signed for a contract. The borrower is bound to give away the mortgaged item if he fails to make the repayments of the loan. By taking your property the lender will sell it to someone and collect the cash or whatever was due to be paid.

There are several types of mortgages. Some of them are discussed here for you –

Fixed-rate mortgages- These are actually the most simple type of loan. The payments of the loan will be exactly the same for the whole term. This helps to clear the debt fast as the borrowers are made to pay more than they should. Such a loan lasts for a minimum of 15 years to a maximum of 30 years.

Adjustable rate mortgages- This type of loan is quite similar to the earlier one. The only point of difference is that the interest rates might change after a certain period of time. Thus, the monthly payment of the debtor also changes. These kinds of loans are very risky and you will not be sure that how much the rate fluctuation shall be and how the payments might change in the coming years.

Second mortgages- These kinds of mortgage allows you to add another property as a mortgage to borrow some more money. The lender of the second mortgage, in this case, gets paid if there is any money left after repaying the first lender. These kinds of loans are taken for home improvements, higher education, and other such things.

Reverse mortgages- This one is quite interesting. It provides income to the people who are generally over 62 years of age and are having enough equity in their home. The retired people sometimes make use of this kind of loan or mortgage to generate income out of it. They are paid back huge amounts of the money they have spent on the homes years back.

Thus, we hope that you are able to understand the different kinds of mortgages that this article deals with. The idea of mortgage is quite simple- one has to keep something valuable as security to the money lender in exchange for getting or building some valuable thing.

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What Insurances Can I Have With My Mortgage?

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Life Cover

Life Cover provides a lump sum if you die during the policy term. This can be used to pay off your mortgage so your family do not have to worry about making any further repayments.

Critical Illness Cover

Critical Illness Cover is designed to insure against critical illnesses which could have a severe impact on your ability to earn a living. It should pay out if you are diagnosed with one of the critical illnesses or disabilities listed on the policy. You could then use the lump sum to repay your mortgage or help pay expensive medical costs. Some policies pay out on death during the period of cover if you are eligible to claim.

Accident, Sickness & Unemployment Cover

Accident, Sickness & Unemployment Cover is a short-term income-protection policy. It pays you a tax-free monthly sum for up to 12 months if you are unable to work due to an accident or sickness or if you become unemployed through no fault of your own. Policies are available that protect you against all of these events or just cover you for accident and sickness only, or unemployment only.

This type of insurance is expensive so to reduce the cost you can choose to have a ‘deferred period’. Then, in the event of a claim, you will not receive any benefit for a period of time at the beginning. This deferment could be for 30, 60 or 90 days for all three types of claims. You can also have a longer deferred period of 180 days for accident and sickness cover. To help you decide which deferred period is best you should take into consideration such things as any savings you may have and any sick pay you get from your employer.

You can choose the amount of monthly benefit you wish to receive up to 65% of your gross monthly income. Gross income is your wages before deductions have been taken such as income tax and National Insurance contributions. Of course the higher the benefit you require the higher the cost of the insurance. Cover provided by some companies may be limited due to individual circumstances.

Just as an example, Accident, Sickness and Unemployment Cover typically costs £4.71 a month for every £100 of monthly benefit. This is based on a 36-year-old customer choosing £850 of accident, sickness and unemployment monthly benefit with claims paid after a 30-day deferred period.

The cost of this insurance depends on a number of factors including your age, your occupation and where you live.

A number of companies offer short-term income protection and other products designed to protect you against loss of income.

Buildings Insurance

This covers the structure of the home such as the roof, walls, windows and permanent fittings.

Contents Insurance

This covers household goods, personal possessions and valuables within the home.

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Tips to Choosing a Mortgage Broker

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When you’re searching for a new home, you go through a number of properties to find that perfect match for you and your family. Once the excitement settles, it’s time to secure your financing.

You have two choices, you can approach your bank and hope that they are offering loans right now or you can approach a mortgage broker, someone who specializes in property financing and works with a host of leading banks, financial institutions and credit unions to secure you the best deal available to meet your budget.

When you first start looking for someone to help you secure the financing you need, it’s advisable to speak to family and friends that have recently purchased property in the area. They may be able to recommend an experienced broker that they dealt with, who secured them their financing. Word of mouth is usually the best way to find the best of the best.

Another option is to search online. You will be welcomed by hundreds of mortgage brokers who all want to assist you in getting the finance you need to secure your new home. If you choose online, there is some additional research you will have to do to ensure you will be working with someone who has experience and knowledge in the industry and has a good reputation with their customers.

There are a number of different brokers out there, some will be tied to certain estate agencies, some will work independently and some will work for large lending centers that are working closely with a number of the leading lenders in the country. Try and steer clear of the first two, rather go with the one that can work alongside a large number of banks and financial institutions to find you the money you need in the shortest period of time.

The mortgage broker should be focused on finding you the best possible deal. They may present you with a number of offers, enabling you to choose the one you feel meets your specific requirements.

One of the most important considerations is that they have extensive industry experience and an excellent reputation. You want your mortgage broker to work for you, they should provide you with all the information and advice you need, also providing you with outstanding customer service. This is so important as a first time buyer when you are unsure about the processes that lie ahead.

Determine if they charge any upfront fees. Some mortgage brokers will charge fees for their efforts. Ensure you are aware of the percentage they charge and how the payment is to be made. Is it upfront? Do you have to pay it straight away? This may reduce your down payment slightly, so take this into consideration.

Always do your own research as well, don’t rely on what they tell you. Even if you have chosen to use a mortgage broker because they can secure the best deals, approach the banks and find out what they are offering right now. Don’t settle for the first offer that comes you way, by doing some research, you can ensure you find the best mortgage with the best interest and terms to suit your budget.

Never assume your loan is secure. Ensure everything is provided to you in writing. This should be the offer from the lending institution, the mortgage broker’s fees and anything else imperative to your decision.

With everything in writing, you are set to go ahead and place an offer on your new dream home with the confidence that your financing should be approved within the shortest period of time.

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STAR Servicer – Total Achievement and Rewards Program for Mortgage Servicers

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As the fall out continues with the countrywide 50 state investigations, lending servicers who are responsible for bill collection of mortgage payments and other aspects of mortgage servicing for investors, it has come to the attention of the government how badly these companies are run. Fourteen companies have been under review and all of them have been found to violate foreclosure laws. Fannie Mae and other government agencies have been discussing how to best improve our mortgage servicing and lending here in the United States. Fannie Mae has come up with a performance program to help assist mortgage servicers’ to get it right and to stay within the boundaries of the law. This ultimately will help ensure the health of our housing economy and help support the housing recovery.

Not only will servicers be facing no procedures, they will also be facing harsh fines as a group entity. These fees could total over 20 million; however, this is just an estimation of what they could be paying for violating foreclosure laws.

Fannie Mae on Wednesday announced the STAR (Servicer Total Achievement and Rewards); the program is designed to better assist and will help examine how the servicers help homeowners avoid foreclosure. The goal of this new program is to set clear expectations and specific measurements to help Fannie Mae and servicers increase focus on avoiding foreclosure.

As more and more news comes out about how servicers’ have violated foreclosure laws, this program is an ongoing effort to hold servicers accountable. So how will this work? Each servicer will be given a servicer performance scorecard, which in turn will provide feedback on a monthly basis. With this program it should help servicers see where they need improvement and overall performance. Top ranking servicer’s will become eligible to receive monthly incentive awards and recognition. Also, top ranking servicer’s performance will be made public in an annual scorecard. Many believe this program will help gear better customer service to home owners, help with the housing recovery, and keep the servicers on the right track.

This will also help the federal government to set guidelines and regulations in place for the mortgage servicing industry. As the mortgage industry and bank industry is reviewed by the government to find a solution and to prevent another financial crises,it seems many changes are going to happen over the next few months and years. As we wait and see if the HAMP program and other federal programs will stick around, it is good to know servicers will now be regulated better in hopes of making the homeowner ship experience safer for everyone.

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Foreign National Mortgages: Things To Keep In Mind

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A foreign national mortgage refers to a loan for non-us residents. Even the government can issue loans to non-residents of the States. Let’s find out more.

First of all, if you are in the States legally, you can apply for the loan. However, for illegal residents, there are zero chances of success. The reason is that main lenders always require ID before reviewing an applicant. And these requirements include visas, work permits, green cards and social security numbers as well.

Rules for the resident foreigners

Generally, it’s not difficult for non-us residents to look for a mortgage. There are two primary categories that they fall in:

1. Permanent residents: they have green cards and the rights to live in the States with all the long-term residency rights

2. Non-permanent residents: Generally, your residency rights are based on your employment.

Regardless of which category you fall in, you can apply for a mortgage. However, you may need to put in a little more effort if you are not a permanent resident.

Permanent vs non-permanent

If you are a non-permanent resident, you may have to show a proof that you will live in the country for at least another three years. If your visa or work permit has fewer than 12 months of expiry date, your lender can find out how likely you may be to stay.

FHA loans are designed for non-permanent residents. According to the rules, if you have a renewed visa or work permit, you can be a good candidate for approval.

Refugees or those in the asylum

If you have been in the asylum or have the refugee status, we have good news for you. With this status, you have the right to work, and you have greater chances of getting a mortgage approval. So, this is important to keep in mind.

Non-resident foreign buyers

If you have no right to live in the USA, you may still be eligible for the loan. However, you may have credit score problems to face. Actually, lenders have concerns as how they can enforce a debt in case of these non-residents.

So, you can’t get the type of deals a resident or citizen can get. In fact, you may have to make a down payment up to 50% to get this type of loan. Aside from this, the mortgage rate can be quite higher unlike the rate charged to a resident.

Welcome to the States

Immigrants were the founders of the States. Therefore, American has always been quite welcoming to immigrants.

Typically, lenders make their lending decisions based on the risk factors, such as the financial resources, down payment size, and creditworthiness of the borrower. As far as determining the best deal is concerned, you can be on the level playing field irrespective of the citizenship status you may have.

Long story short, if you are non-resident in the United States, you can still apply for a mortgage but you need to meet the requirements set by the lender. Hope this helps.

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Tips To Choose a Mortgage Lender

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No matter how rich you are emergency situations can crop up at any time. Thus, you have to consider taking a loan either from an individual or from a financing company or a bank. Most of the people of now like to opt for the latter options rather than going for the first option. This is because the financing companies or banks are more reliable than a person. But the high interests that are charged on the loans are really a burden. So, a better alternative that you can look for is mortgaging your property against the loan you take. This will relief you from being taxed with high charges and you can pay the loan amount at your convenience within the time limit that the company has offered you. To choose a proper loan lender you can follow some of the tips that we have provided in this article.

Prepare a List

While you consider risking your personal property, why plan everything in haste. Some companies would try to persuade you to take quicker decisions by offering attractive rates but let them be as they are and take your time to take your decision. Research well and make a list of the companies that you find.

Check the Terms and Conditions

Not only choosing the company but knowing the terms and conditions through which the loan to be completed are important. Remember that you are risking your property for money and the slightest carelessness in this respect can cause you to lose your money.

How Quickly They Respond

The next thing that should be your determining factor is that how quickly they respond to your queries. Emergency situations don’t give you a lifetime opportunity. A delay can make the problems to increase. So, instead, you should go for the ones that respond quickly to your needs.

Compare and Choose

After you check with several companies you can compare the interest rates and also the time period they are allowing you to make the repayments. You also have to ensure that the company that you are thinking of dealing with should have a good reputation in the market. Check their client reviews and the years the company has been in the market. If you find that the company is a genuine one then you should go ahead with finalizing the deal with the company.

We hope that just by reading this article you have got an idea about choosing the mortgage provider. This will help you in choosing a better lender for your needs.

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Credit Card Processing: How the System Works

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Establishing a merchant account for your business enterprise is the wisest financial decision you will ever make for the growth, expansion and success of your business. Once you’ve set up a merchant account, you can accept credit and debit cards payments from your clients for your products and / or services. You can also arrange to accept online and mobile banking payments for your products and / or services.

A merchant account opens up new avenues for your business; therefore, giving your business many more opportunities to flourish. But, have you ever understood how the credit card processing system works? Have you tried to perceive the complexities of the players involved in the process and the intricacies of the system?

While it is not entirely essential for you to know the inside and outside of the card processing system because your Merchant Service Provider will do the needful for you; it is good for you to acquaint yourself with the system on a general basis.

The Participants Involved in a Card Transaction

A typical credit or debit card transaction involves the following players:

• The customer

• The merchant

• The payment gateway

• The customer’s credit card issuer

• The credit card interchange

• The processor at the acquiring bank

• The merchant’s acquiring bank

The Route the Money Takes from the Customer to the Merchant

Let’s take an example to understand how the card processing system works.

Suppose that a customer walks into a clothing store and she finds a bag that catches her eye. She immediately proceeds to the payment counter and makes a payment of $100 towards her purchase with her cards.

The cashier at the merchant’s store accepts the cards and uses a card swiping machine to set the process into motion.

• The $100 amount makes its first stop at the payment gateway where the payment is first authorized with a minor deduction in the amount.

• Now, $99 travels to the appropriate processor and after a minor deduction is submitted to the card interchange as $98.5.

• Once the transaction gets a clear at the interchange, it moves on to the issuing bank with a further deduction where the issuing bank verifies the availability of funds in the customer’s credit / debit card.

If the transaction is declined, it makes its journey back to the customer from here.

• If the transaction is approved, $98 reaches the processor at the acquiring bank, just one step closer to the merchant account.

• Once authorized, $97.5 gets deposited into the merchant’s account, which is now at the merchant’s disposal.

(The figures and fees involved in card processing are based on the number of players in the process, merchant type, card type and risk factors)

In the present age, quite a number of payments are made electronically, especially with the extensive use of credit and debit cards and online funds transfer. Although typical card processing takes seven participants, the entire transaction amazing takes a maximum of five seconds for approval.

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5 Tips to Consider When Refinancing Your Mortgage

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Here are 5 tips to consider when refinancing your mortgage.

Is it the right move?

When conditions are right, financially and economically, you might be considering a refinance of your mortgage. Before you jump into what seems like a good idea, it’s best to know exactly what the refinancing process is, and just what it entails. You should know that when you are going to refinance, it involves starting the loan application process right from the start, as if you are buying a new home. Will you be taking the loan with a new lender, setting up a new deal, or should you shop around and see what’s on offer from other loan providers? The best person to lead you through what is now a veritable minefield of lenders, is your mortgage broker. They are far more up to date with what’s on offer than if you spent hours scouring the internet looking for the best deals.

Why Refinance?

What are your reasons for refinancing? There could be a variety of reasons. Lower interest rates on offer? A difference of a point or two in the rate may seem small when you look at it, but that couple of points can save you thousands over the years because your repayments will go on for 15 to 30 years for a typical mortgage.

Another reason some may decide to refinance is to get a shorter term, which also saves thousands of dollars. For example, things have never looked rosier personally, and both you and your partner are working, and your income is higher. So, a change in your financial situation can be used to save money on higher monthly payments. Conversely, you might be after a lower monthly payment or have that fixed rate changed to a variable rate, or vice versa.

Refinancing Costs

There are some obvious things to look at when considering refinancing. One of the first things is the actual cost of refinancing. Look at the fees you will be paying and divide it by the months of your mortgage and see whether there is a saving as a result of the refinancing. Sometimes you are ahead straight away, other times you might have to work out when you will hit the break-even point.

Penalties

Are there any penalties in your mortgage terms and conditions that apply if you pay out the mortgage early? Lenders do NOT like mortgages paid out early. Remember, when you refinance, you are paying off one loan and applying for another completely new loan. Add any penalties to your total costs for refinancing and calculate that break-even point again. Be certain that you are not losing money overall when you refinance.

Your Equity

An important factor in this whole process is to work out the equity you have in your home. A negative equity is when you owe more on the home than what the house is worth. If you have been in your home for a number of years, the annual increase in your home’s value will stand you in good stead. But if this is a refinance taken out after only a short time into your mortgage, price fluctuations may have worked against you. If your lender is offering less than the equity, you will not be able to get the refinance, unless, of course, you have the money to pay the difference. Current markets indicate an overall rise in prices, but there have been some downward movements as well over the year and that may have had a negative effect on your home’s value.

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Get Over from Your Credit! Credit Debt Management

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Credit arises when you spend without paying. And how it is done? Yes, you are right, it’s through credit cards. Here, we are going to discuss how can we control that small plastic card which can make us happy with its service and can lead us to bankruptcy if goes out of control. Credit debt management can suggest us the way to get back that control and maintain it.

Credit card handling tips which you can follow for efficient credit debt management:

o Use your credit cards wisely; this will help you build a good credit history.

o Reviewing of credit card bills helps you pay them on time simultaneously finding errors (if any) in the bill.

o Get your credit report and analyze it. Contact credit rating agencies if there is any mistake in the report regarding credit card or any other debts.

o If you are already having balances on your credit cards, don’t apply for more cards.

o Get your balance transferred to a card with lower interest rate, if you use more than one credit card.

o If you are late on payments to another creditor, your credit card company can raise your

interest rate. So, always pay your bills on time for all your debts.

o Special cards such as gas and petrol cards, departmental store cards or rewards cards carry higher rates as compared to normal cards, so avoid them

o If your credit debts are getting out of hands, contact credit debt management agencies for help.

Along with the measures specified above you can take the help of credit debt management companies. You can search among numerous credit debt management companies available online along with the services they offer. These services include credit counseling, credit card education and credit card debt consolidation services. Under a credit card debt consolidation service, you make a single monthly repayment to these agencies for all your credit card bills. Further, this agency pays your creditors from that amount at negotiated amounts. Yes for getting this service, you will be charged with a certain percentage of the total debt payment for credit cards.

You can enroll for a credit debt management agencies within 15 to 20 minutes. After the enrollment the consultants from these agencies will contact you with the services and credit debt management plan while discussing your credit card spending with you. The services of these agencies will continue till all your debts are in control or you have decided you withdraw voluntarily from this service. A credit debt management besides erasing your debts can also erase your stress due to credit cards.

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