Heather Petty is a personal finance writer at Finder, specializing in home and personal loans. After falling victim to a disreputable mortgage broker when buying her first home, she’s on a mission to help readers avoid similar experiences when managing their own finances. A self-proclaimed word nerd, her writing and analysis has been featured on MSN, Credit.com and MediaFeed, among other top media. Heather previously worked as a technical writer and editor for the casino systems industry and is an internationally published young adult mystery author. She earned a BA in English with a minor in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno.
- Home loans
- Home equity products
- Homeowners insurance
- Over 20 years of experience as a writer and editor
- Skilled at breaking down technical concepts and jargon into simple, easy-to-understand terms
- Featured on MSN, Credit.com and MediaFeed.org, among others
- Author of nearly 200 articles covering all aspects of personal finance
- Internationally published young adult mystery author
- Bachelor of Arts in English | University of Nevada, Reno | 1993–2000
Industry insights from Heather Petty
We asked Heather to shed some light on the wild real estate market and what it means for homeowners and potential buyers — post-COVID.
Is it possible to refinance my current home equity loan to take advantage of lower interest rates and soaring home values?
If you have a good credit history, applying to refinance your existing home equity loan can help you lower your payment and interest rates. Refinancing is also a great time to shop around and make sure you’re getting the best deal with your current lender. But if your credit has seen better days, going through the refinancing process could cost you more than it saves you in the long run.
I’m over $60,000 in student loan debt, and struggling to pay it off. Will it ever be possible for me to get approved for a mortgage?
Some banks offer mortgages designed for professionals like doctors, lawyers and CPAs, which allows them to set aside student debt when qualifying for a loan. But even if you don’t fit into one of those job categories, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) under the Biden administration recently announced a change in how student loan payments are calculated for FHA loans that could help you qualify. The new underwriting rules allow mortgage lenders to use your actual student loan payment to calculate your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, rather than an inflated figure that was based on the assumption that your payment would be 1% of your total student debt. That reduction in your DTI could be exactly what you need to qualify for a mortgage.
I’m still unemployed because of COVID-19 staff reductions. Can I refinance my home to lower my mortgage payments?
Possibly, but it can be difficult. If you have someone willing to sign onto your loan as a guarantor or have proof of another source of income to repay the loan, you should be able to refinance. But you also can consider special loan offerings, too. Most government-backed loans require less documentation, and the FHA offers streamlined refinancing that doesn’t require income verification. Some lenders also offer special refinancing options for low-income borrowers. If none of those options are available to you, consider alternatives to refinancing, such as loan modification or the foreclosure and forbearance relief available through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
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