Many first time homeowners have questions about taxes + insurance and how they will impact a monthly mortgage payment. When you set up your mortgage, you may have some choices in regards to how often you pay toward your property taxes and insurance, but first it’s important to see what category you fit in to better understand your options:
Category One: If you are putting less than 20% down on your home OR if you have an FHA loan, you will likely be required to set up an escrow account with your lender. An escrow account is part of your loan paperwork and agreed upon at closing. Each month, your lender collects the required insurance and tax payments from you along with your mortgage amount. The money then gets held in an escrow account and used to pay off the insurance and property taxes either annually or semi-annually, whenever they are due. The lender takes care of these payments for you out of your escrow account and pays directly into the insurance company and county tax office for you. While these payments are collected at the same time as your monthly mortgage payment, they are technically separate. The convenience of an escrow account is that it forces you to save for these big annual or semi-annual bills every month along the way. However, many times the lender does not grant any interest on the money sitting in an escrow account whereas if it were sitting in your own private account, the same money could have some interest earning potential.
Category Two: If you are putting more than 20% down on your home or have your home paid off, you have some different options when it comes to property taxes and insurance. Instead of setting up a required escrow account, you can accumulate the money you need for insurances and taxes on your own, earning interest on that money all the way up until the time it is due. When the bill comes, you are in charge of paying the taxes directly to your county tax collector and the insurance payment directly to your insurance company. In Austin, the tax bill always arrives around Christmas and is due at the end of January. The disadvantage to this method is that it requires discipline to make monthly payments to yourself in your savings account and earmark that money for insurance and taxes. You do not want to be surprised by a hefty annual bill (right at Christmastime) and have no accumulated savings to pay it. However, avoiding escrow does ensure that your mortgage payments are consistent from month to month throughout the year. If you have an escrow account and your property tax bill or your insurance premiums suddenly jump, you might not be made aware of the change until the end of the year when you see the breakdown from the lending company.
Whatever your decision when it comes to paying insurance and property taxes, it is important to discuss your options with your realtor and financial lender to make the most financially sound decision for you!