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Ten Things You Can Do To Protect Your Identity

Facts About Identity Theft:

It’s estimated that there were 10 million victims of identity theft in 2008, and 1 in every 10 U.S. consumers have reported having their identity stolen.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported in 2005 that 1.6 million households experienced fraud not related to credit cards (i.e. their bank accounts or debit cards were compromised).

And, the U.S. DOJ also reported that those households with incomes higher than $70,000 were twice as likely to experience identity theft than those with salaries under $50,000.

What Is Identity Theft?

According to the United States Department of Justice, identity theft and identity fraud “are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.”

Such personal information may include your name, address, driver’s license number, Social Security number, date of birth, credit card number or banking information.

Victims of identity theft can spend months trying to restore their good name.

Most victims do not realize it has happened until they get denied for a mortgage or a credit card.

Ten Ways To Protect Your Identity:

1.  Dumpster Diving –

Avoid “dumpster diving” by shredding all papers that contain any personal information.

Criminals sift through trash looking for the following:

  • Bank Statements
  • ATM Receipts
  • Canceled Checks
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Credit Card Purchase Receipts
  • Credit Card Solicitations (unopened “pre-approval” solicitations)
  • Pay Stubs
  • Tax Documents
  • Utility Bills
  • Expired Identification Cards (Drivers License, Passports…)
  • Expired Credit Cards
  • Medical Statements
  • Insurance Documents

2. Personal Info / Phone Calls –

Never provide personal information, including your Social Security number, passwords or account numbers over the phone or internet if you did not initiate the call.

If you are asked for any type of personal information, before giving any information, ask the caller for their name, telephone number and the organization that they are representing.

You should then call the company using the customer service number the company provides with your account statement.

Do NOT call the number you were given by the caller.

To reduce the number of solicitations you receive, you can sign up at the do not call registry:

3. Look Over Your Shoulder –

Avoid “Skimming and shoulder surfing.” (Never let your credit card out of your sight)

Pay with cash. Try never to let your credit card out of your sight to avoid a fraud scheme known as “skimming”.

Skimming is the theft of credit card information used in an otherwise legitimate transaction. It is typically an “inside job” by a dishonest employee of a legitimate merchant. The thief can procure a victim’s credit card number using basic methods such as photocopying receipts or more advanced methods such as using a small electronic device (skimmer) to swipe and store hundreds of victims’ credit card numbers.

Be aware of people “shoulder surfing”. This is when they are looking over your shoulder or standing too close trying to obtain your PIN number when making purchases with your debit card.

They may also be listening for your credit card number.

4. Secure Your Mail –

Always mail your outgoing bill payments and checks from the post office or a neighborhood blue postal box and never from home.

Pick up your incoming mail as soon as it is delivered. The longer it sits the better chance a criminal has of stealing it.

    • Get a P.O. box.
    • Lock Your Mail Box

Contact your creditors if a bill doesn’t arrive when expected or includes charges you don’t recognize. It may indicate that it was stolen.

5. Read Credit Card Statements –

Review account statements to make sure you recognize the purchases listed before paying the bill.

If your credit card holder offers electronic account access, take advantage and periodically review the activity that is posted to your account.

The quicker you spot any unauthorized activity, the sooner you can notify the creditor.

6. Monitor Credit Report –

Review your credit report at least once a year to look for suspicious activity. If you do spot something, alert your card company or the creditor immediately.

7. Email Links –

Never click on a link provided in an email if you believe it to be fraudulent.

Keep in mind, no financial institution will ask you to verify your information via email.

Criminals may link you to phony “official-looking “ web site to confirm your personal information. This is known as “phishing”.

“Phishing” is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

8. Opt Out –

Opt out of credit card solicitations. (Take your name off marketer’s hit lists)

You can opt out of credit card solicitations by calling 1-888-567-8688 to have your name removed from direct marketing lists.

You can do this online at, which is the official consumer credit reporting industry opt-out website for the three credit companies:

9. Safeguard Your Social Security Number –

Protect your Social Security number.

Never carry your Social Security card or anything else with your social security number on it in your wallet or purse, along with your driver’s license.

Do not put your Social Security number or driver’s license number on any checks you may write.

Only give out your Social Security number when absolutely necessary.

10. Read Privacy Policies –

Find out what company privacy policies are. (Know who you are dealing with)

When being asked for your Social Security number or driver’s license number, find out what the company’s privacy policy.

Inquire as to why it is being asked for.

Ask who has access to your number.

Ask if you can arrange for them not to share your information with anyone else.


Related Credit / Identity Articles:

Is There A Rule-of-Thumb Regarding The Number of Credit Lines To Have Open?

Is There A Rule-of-Thumb Regarding The Number of Credit Lines To Have Open?

While the actual credit score has a big impact on a loan approval, it’s not the only component of the credit scenario that underwriters consider for a mortgage approval.

Since loan programs, individual lenders and mortgage insurance companies all have their own credit report restrictions, it’s difficult to define a standard Rule-of-Thumb to follow.

However, the number of “Open and Active Trade Lines” seems to be the common denominator in most approvals.

A trade line is basically a credit card, installment loan or other credit liability that is reported to the credit bureaus and displayed on a credit report.

Credit Trade Line / Approval Bullets:

  • Banks usually won’t count a trade line that is less than 12 months old.
  • The minimum number of trade lines most lenders find acceptable is 4 open and active trade lines.
  • Lenders like to see at least one credit line of $5,000, or all credit lines to total $1,000 or more.

Exceptions To Trade Line Rules:

Interestingly enough, a recent list of Mortgage Insurance requirements included a favorable trade line requirement, which read:

Min 3 trade lines @ 12 mo reporting. Cannot be ‘authorized user’

Basically, this means as long as the lender, and the loan program allow for less than 4 trade lines, this mortgage insurance company will accept only 3 trade lines that are in the borrower’s name.

Another exception to this rule is if you have no FICO score, and no negative trade lines.

In this case you may qualify for an “alternative credit” loan. The most common loan of this type is insured by FHA, but there are select programs that are usually targeted to assist people whose culture does not trust or use banks.

Borrowers applying for a non-traditional credit loan will still need to prove they have successfully paid their bills on time for 12 months by clearly documenting at least four creditors.  A verification of rent from a property management company, power, utilities, cell phone… are alternative sources of credit that can be used.

*A letter from a landlord or creditor stating that the bills were paid on time is not acceptable forms of proof.  Lenders will need canceled checks and / or copies of bank statements to start out with.

Since not all companies report to credit bureaus, it’s possible to get a free credit report at to verify your total reported trade lines.


Related Credit / Identity Articles:

Alternate Sources For Establishing Credit

Alternate Sources For Establishing Credit

While the basic Rule-of-Thumb for acceptable credit history is a minimum of four trade lines documented on a credit report, there are alternative methods of building a credit picture that an underwriter can use to make a decision for a loan approval.

For potential home buyers with little or no credit history, keeping records for 12 months of paying bills on time is essential for mortgage loan approval.

In fact, loan officers will appreciate receiving proof that you have paid a variety of accounts regularly and on time. Even if you do not have a credit history, or your credit report isn’t as good as it could be, this may enable you to get a mortgage.

The industry term for this is “thin credit.”

Some loan types, namely FHA and USDA, will accept alternative credit sources in order to establish proof of financial responsibility.

Alternative credit is unreported to the bureaus, but will still be verified and can be instrumental in a home loan approval.

Those with thin credit don’t usually have bad credit, but have just not had an opportunity to build enough traditional credit, such as bank/store credit cards, auto loans, etc.

Alternative Sources For Building Credit:

  • Rental History – Canceled checks and letter from property management company
  • Medical Bills – 12 months of statements from medical billing company showing paid as agreed
  • Utilities – power, gas, water, cable, cell phone
  • Auto Insurance
  • Health / Life Insurance – as long as it’s not auto-deducted from pay check


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What’s The Difference Between A Single Family, Second Home and Investment Property?

What’s The Difference Between A Single Family, Second Home and Investment Property?

When applying for a mortgage, a borrower’s “Occupancy Type” is a major factor in the amount of down payment required, loan program available and mortgage interest rate.

Whether you are purchasing, doing a rate/term refinance or taking equity out of your property through a cash out refinance, occupancy type is always considered by the underwriter.

Three Types Of Occupancy:

Owner Occupied / Primary Residence –

According to the HUD Handbook 4155.1: 4.B.2.b, a principal residence is a property that will be occupied by the borrower for the majority of the calendar year.

At least one borrower must occupy the property and sign the security instrument and the mortgage note for the property to be considered owner-occupied.

Second Home –

To qualify as a second home, the property typically must be at least 50 miles from the primary residence, and it cannot appear that the real estate is being purchased for rental investment purposes.

Investment Property –

A property that is not occupied by the owner and is typically utilized for rental income purposes.

Down Payment Requirements:

Owner Occupied / Primary Residence –

Purchase for VA and USDA can go up to 100% financing, while FHA requires 3.5% of the purchase price as a down payment.  Conventional financing may require anywhere from 5% – 25% depending on the credit score, county, property type and loan amount.

Second Home –

Average 10% down for a purchase, and 25% equity for a refinance.

Investment Property –

Down payment requirements will range from 20-25% depending on the number of units.  When doing a cash-out refinance on an investment property with 2-4 units, the required loan to value will need to be 70% or lower to qualify.


*It should be noted that on any high balance loan amount the above mentioned Loan-to-Value (LTV) requirements will change. Credit score requirements also apply.


Related Articles – Mortgage Approval Process:

What’s My Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio?

What’s My Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio?

Debt-to-Income (DTI) is one of the many mortgage related terms home loan shoppers will hear all-to-often.

DTI is a component of the mortgage approval process that measures a borrower’s Gross Monthly Income compared to their credit payments and other monthly liabilities. Debt-to-Income Ratios are designed to give guidance on acceptable levels of debt allowed by particular lenders for loan programs.

There are actually two different Debt-to-Income Ratios that underwriters will review in order to determine if a borrower’s monthly income is sufficient to cover the responsibility of a mortgage according to the particular lender and/or their mortgage program guidelines.

Most loan programs allow for a Total DTI of 43% and a Housing DTI of 31%.

Two Types of DTI Ratios:

a) Front End or Housing Ratio:

  • Should be 28-31% of your gross income.
  • Divide the estimated monthly mortgage payment by the gross monthly income.

b)  Back End or Total Debt Ratio:

  • Should be less than 43% of your gross monthly income.
  • Divide the estimated house payment plus all consumer debt by the gross monthly income.

Remember, the DTI Ratios are based on gross income before taxes.  Lenders also prefer to use W2’s or tax returns to verify income and employment.

However, the adjusted gross income is used to calculate DTI for self-employed borrowers on most loan programs.  Since there is room for interpretation on these guidelines, it’s important to review your personal income and/or employment scenario in detail with your trusted mortgage professional to make sure everything fits within the guidelines.

Editorial Note: DTI percentages and figures are up-to-date as of 2018.


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Calculating Loan-to-Value (LTV)

Calculating Loan-to-Value (LTV)

Understanding the definition of Loan-to-Value (LTV), and how it impacts a mortgage approval, will help you determine what type of loan amount and program you may qualify for.

Since the LTV Ratio is a major component of getting approved for a new mortgage, it’s a good idea to learn the simple math of calculating the amount of equity you may need, or down payment to budget for in order to qualify for a particular loan program.

The LTV Ratio is calculated as follows:

Mortgage Amount divided by Appraised Value of Property = Loan-to-Value Ratio

*On a purchase transaction for a residential property, the LTV is calculated using the lesser of either the purchase price or appraised value.

For Example:

Sally qualifies for a 96.5% Loan-to-Value FHA program, which means she’ll have to bring in 3.5% as a down payment.

If the purchase price is $100,000, then a 96.5% LTV would = $96,500 loan amount. And, the 3.5% down payment would be $3,500.

$96,500 (Mortgage Amount) / $100,000 (Purchase Price) = .965 or 96.5%

In addition to determining what mortgage programs are available, LTV also is a key factor in the amount of mortgage insurance required to protect the lender from default.

On a conventional loan, mortgage insurance is usually required if you have an LTV over 80%.  (one loan is more than 80% of the home’s appraised value)

On that point, if you are currently paying mortgage insurance and think that your LTV is less than 80%, then it may be time to refinance, or call your lender to restructure the payment.


Frequently Asked LTV Questions:

Q:  Why do the lenders care about Loan to Value?

Lenders care about the LTV because it helps determine the exposure and risk they have in lending on a certain property. Statistics show that borrowers with a lower LTV are less likely to default on their mortgage.  Also, with a lower LTV the lender will lose less money in case of a foreclosure.

Q:  Can I drop my mortgage insurance on an FHA loan?

The mortgage insurance on an FHA loan is structured differently than a conventional loan. On a 30 year fixed FHA loan, the monthly mortgage insurance can be removed after five years, as well as when the borrower’s loan is 78% LTV.

Q:  What does CLTV stand for?

CLTV stands for Combined Loan To Value. The CLTV calculation is as follows:
(1st Mortgage Amount + 2nd mortgage amount) / Appraised Value of Property = CLTV


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Common Documents Required For A Mortgage Pre-Approval

Documents Required For Pre-Approval

Even though many lenders are still quoting quick 10 minute pre-qualifications over the phone or online, a true mortgage approval that holds any weight is one that has been issued by an underwriter who has had an opportunity to review all of the necessary documents.

With a constant stream of new lending guidelines, volatile mortgage rates and tightening regulation from Washington, very few real estate agents will show new homes to a First-Time Home Buyer without at least a pre-qualification letter.

However, real estate agents representing sellers generally require full underwritten loan approvals which contain only a few contingencies that are due within a few days of accepting an offer.

A Pre-Approval Letter will help you in three ways:

It’s obviously a good idea to get your paperwork prepared ahead of time so that the pre-approval process is as thorough as possible.

In order to get a pre-approval letter, you’ll start by filling out a loan application and submitting a few documents for the loan officer and / or underwriter to review.

Common Loan Pre-Approval Documents:

Income / Assets for Wage Earner:

  • Last 2 year W2s and Tax Returns
  • 2 most recent Pay Stubs
  • 2 most recent Bank Statements, 401(K), Liquid Assets, Investment Accounts

Income / Assets for Self-Employed:

  • Last 2 year Tax Returns – Business and Personal
  • Last Quarter P&L Statement

Letter of Explanation For:

  • Employment Gap or New Line of Work
  • Late Payments / Judgments / Bankruptcy on Credit Report


  • Bankruptcy Discharge
  • Child Support Documentation
  • Lease Agreements (If own other Rental Properties)
  • Mortgage Payment Coupons (If own other Real Estate)


Most borrowers also want an opportunity to learn more about the loan officer before digging up all of these personal documents.

Spend 15 minutes on the phone asking the loan officer to explain how mortgage rates work, quizzing them on some basic industry vocab or just to see if they know what to prepare your agent for ahead of time.

The Q&A session can be more than just a lender qualifying you, as long as you’re prepared to ask the right questions.

Either way, you’ll definitely want to have the above list of approval documents ready once you’ve decided on the right loan officer that you trust will meet your expectations.


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Top 8 Things To Ask Your Lender During The Application Process

Top 8 Things To Ask Your Lender During The Application Process

Knowing what questions to ask your lender during or before the loan application process is essential for making your mortgage approval process as smooth as possible.

Many borrowers fail to ask the right questions during the mortgage pre-qualification process and end up getting frustrated or hurt because their expectations were not met.

Here are the top eight questions and explanations to make sure you are fully prepared when taking your next mortgage loan application:

1. What documents will I need to have on hand in order to receive a full mortgage approval?

An experienced mortgage professional will be able to uncover any potential underwriting challenges up-front by simply asking the right questions during the initial application and interview process.

Residence history, marital status, credit obligations, down payment seasoning, income and employment verifications are a few examples of topics that can lead to stacks of documentation required by an underwriter for a full approval.

There is nothing worse than getting close to funding on a new home just to find out that your lender needs to verify something you weren’t prepared for.

2. How long will the whole process take?

Between processing, underwriting, title search, appraisal and other verification processes, there are obviously many factors to consider in the overall time line, which is why communication is essential.

As long as all of the documents and questions are addressed ahead of time, your loan officer should be able to give you a fair estimate of the total amount of time it will take to close on your mortgage.

The main reason this question is important to ask up-front is because it will help you determine whether or not the loan officer is more interested in telling you what you want to hear vs setting realistic expectations.

You should also inquire about anything specific that the loan officer thinks may hold up your file from closing on time.

3. Are my taxes and insurance included in the payment?

This answer to this question affects how much your total monthly payment will be and the total amount you’ll have to bring to closing.

If you include your taxes and insurance in your payment, you will have a higher monthly payment to the bank but then you also won’t have to worry about coming up with large sums of cash to pay the taxes when they are due.

4. Will my payment increase at any point after closing?

Most borrowers today choose fixed interest rate loans, which basically means the loan payment will never increase over the life of the loan.

However, if your taxes and insurance are included in your payment, you should anticipate that your total payment will change over time due to increases in your homeowner’s insurance premiums and property taxes.

5. How do I lock in my interest rate?

It’s good to know what the terms are and what the process is of locking in your interest rate.

Establishing whether or not you have the final word on locking in a specific interest rate at any given moment of time will alleviate the chance of someone else making the wrong decision on your behalf.

Most loan officers pay close attention to market conditions for their clients, but this should be clearly understood and agreed upon at the beginning of the relationship, especially since rates tend to move several times a day.

6. How long will my rate be locked?

Mortgage rates are typically priced with a 30 day lock, but you may choose to hold off temporarily if you’re purchasing a foreclosure or short sale.

The way the lock term affects your pricing is as follows: The shorter the lock period, the lower the interest rate, and the longer the lock period the higher the interest rate.

7. How does credit score affect my interest rate?

This is an important question to get specific answers on, especially if there have been any recent changes to your credit scenario.

There are a few key factors that can influence a slight fluctuation in your credit score, so be sure to fill your loan officer in on anything you can think of that may have been tied to your credit.

8. How much will I need for closing?

*The new 2010 Good Faith Estimate will essentially only reflect what the maximum fees are, but will not tell you how much you need to bring to closing.

Ask your Loan Officer to estimate how much money you should budget for so that you are prepared at the time of closing.

Your earnest money deposit, appraisal fees and seller contributions may factor into this final number as well, so it helps to have a clear picture to avoid any last-minute panic attacks.


Now that you have the background to these eight important questions, you should feel more confident about finding a mortgage company that can serve your personal needs and unique scenario.

Remember, the more you understand about the entire loan process, the better your experience will be.

Most frustration that is experienced during the home buying and approval process is largely due to unclear expectations.

You can never ask too many questions…


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Mortgage Glossary: Top Terms To Know

Mortgage Related Terms:

While most mortgage web sites offer a glossary containing hundreds of real estate and lending related terms, we wanted to highlight the top terms that most borrowers will hear several times throughout the approval and home buying process.

Understanding the “Shop Talk” between the various industry professionals that you’ve assembled on your team will hopefully give you greater confidence when discussing important topics that may impact your transaction.

Amortization Schedule:

A schedule of payments showing the amount applied to the principal and interest through the payoff.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR):

The effective rate of interest that includes loan related fees.  The APR helps determine the total cost of borrowing a loan and is used to compare loans that are advertised with different note rates.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM):

As opposed to a fixed-rate mortgage where the payment is set for the full term of the loan agreement, an ARM is tied to a specific financial index and may adjust after a set amount of time.


Where a borrower pays an up-front fee to lower the mortgage rate and monthly payment.  Rate Buydowns can be used to help a borrower qualify for a loan, or as a means of negotiation where the seller would contribute to a lower rate in order to entice a buyer to purchase their property.

Combined Loan-to-Value (CLTV):

The total amount of mortgage obligations on a particular property compared to the fair market value.

Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI):

A borrower’s minimum monthly liability payments divided by their gross monthly income.


Failure to fulfill an obligation to pay a mortgage.


Late payments on a monthly liability.  Creditors generally report payments to credit bureaus once the delinquency goes past 30 days.


A big stack of documents that the lender, buyer and sellers sign during a real estate purchase or mortgage transaction.  These disclosures may also notify all parties involved of their rights and obligations.

Discount Point:

The amount paid to decrease an interest rate.

Fico Score:

The three credit reporting agencies in the United States, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, collect data about consumers used to compile credit reports. The credit agencies use FICO software to generate FICO scores, which are sold to lenders.

Each individual actually has three credit scores at any given time for any given scoring model because the three credit agencies have their own databases, gather reports from different creditors, and receive information from creditors at different times.

Fixed Rate Mortgage:

A mortgage loan where the interest rate on the note remains the same through the term of the loan, as opposed to loans where the interest rate may adjust or “float”.

Good Faith Estimate (GFE):

A good faith estimate must be provided by a mortgage lender or broker in the United States to a customer, as required by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). The estimate must include an itemized list of fees and costs associated with your loan and must be provided within three business days of applying for a loan.

These mortgage fees, also called settlement costs or closing costs, cover every expense associated with a home loan, including inspections, title insurance, taxes and other charges.

A good faith estimate is a standard form which is intended to be used to compare different offers (or quotes) from different lenders or brokers.

Gross Income:

Total taxable income which is generally verified by a lender through tax returns and W2’s.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC):

A line of credit secured by real estate.

HUD-1 Statement:

A comprehensive and itemized list of closing costs prepared by a closing agent that details all of the financial figures in a mortgage refinance or purchase transaction.

Joint Liability:

When more than one person applies for and secures a mortgage.

Jumbo Mortgage:

A mortgage with a loan amount above conventional conforming loan limits. This standard is set by the two government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and sets the limit on the maximum value of any individual mortgage they will purchase from a lender.

Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FHLMC) are large agencies that purchase the bulk of U.S. residential mortgages from banks and other lenders, allowing them to free up liquidity to lend more mortgages.

When FNMA and FHLMC limits don’t cover the full loan amount, the loan is referred to as a “jumbo mortgage”. The average interest rates on jumbo mortgages are typically higher than that of conforming mortgages.

Loan-to-Value (LTV):

The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio expresses the amount of a first mortgage lien as a percentage of the total appraised value of real property. For instance, if a borrower wants $130,000 to purchase a house worth $150,000, the LTV ratio is $130,000/$150,000 or 87% (LTV).

Loan to value is one of the key risk factors that lenders assess when qualifying borrowers for a mortgage. The risk of default is always at the forefront of lending decisions, and the likelihood of a lender absorbing a loss in the foreclosure process increases as the amount of equity decreases. Therefore, as the LTV ratio of a loan increases, the qualification guidelines for certain mortgage programs become much stricter. Lenders can require borrowers of high LTV loans to buy mortgage insurance to protect the lender from the buyer default, which increases the costs of the mortgage.

The valuation of a property is typically determined by an appraiser, but there is no greater measure of the actual real value of one property than an arms-length transaction between a willing buyer and a willing seller. Typically, banks will utilize the lesser of the appraised value and purchase price if the purchase is “recent.” What constitutes recent varies by institution but is generally between 1–2 years.

Loan Rate Lock:

Where the loan officer locks a specific rate with a lender for a set amount of time.

Liquid Assets:

Money in a bank or investment account that can be obtained quickly.

Loan Origination Fee:

A fee paid by a borrower to a lender for obtaining a mortgage loan.

Loan Servicer:

A mortgage servicer is the company that borrowers pay their mortgage loan payments to. Mortgage servicers either purchase or retain mortgage servicing rights that allow them to collect payments from borrowers in return for a servicing fee. The duty of a mortgage servicer varies, but typically includes the acceptance and recording of mortgage payments; calculating variable interest rates on adjustable rate loans; payment of taxes and insurance from borrower escrow accounts; negotiations of workouts and modifications of mortgage upon default; and conducting or supervising the foreclosure process when necessary.

Many borrowers confuse mortgage servicers with their lender. A mortgage servicer may be a borrower’s lender, but often the beneficial rights to the payment of principal and interest on mortgages are sold to investors such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, FHA, and private investors in mortgage securitization transactions.

Mortgage Insurance:

Mortgage insurance (also known as mortgage guaranty) is an insurance policy which compensates lenders or investors for losses due to the default of a mortgage loan. Mortgage insurance can be either public or private depending upon the insurer.

Mortgage Backed Security:

A mortgage-backed security (MBS) is an asset-backed security or debt obligation that represents a claim on the cash flows from mortgage loans, most commonly on residential property.

First, mortgage loans are purchased from banks, mortgage companies, and other originators. Then, these loans are assembled into pools. This is done by government agencies, government-sponsored enterprises, and private entities, which may offer features to mitigate the risk of default associated with these mortgages.

Mortgage-backed securities represent claims on the principal and payments on the loans in the pool, through a process known as Securitization. These securities are usually sold as bonds, but financial innovation has created a variety of securities that derive their ultimate value from mortgage pools.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI):

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is insurance payable to a lender or trustee for a pool of securities that may be required when taking out a mortgage loan. It is insurance to offset losses in the case where a borrower is not able to repay the loan and the lender is not able to recover its costs after foreclosure and sale of the mortgaged property.

Real Estate Related Terms


Generally used when a seller accepts the terms presented in a purchase contract offer.


A “Subject To” provision in a purchase contract or mortgage approval that requires more work or documents to be submitted prior to a final decision to be completed.


The period of time described in a purchase contract for the buyer and seller to perform certain duties such as appraisal, loan approval and inspections.

Deed of Trust:

In real estate, a trust deed or deed of trust, is a document wherein specific financial interest in the title to real property is transferred to a trustee, which holds it as security for a loan (debt) between two other parties.

One is referred to as the trustor the other referred to as the beneficiary. In its simplest terms the trustor would be the receiver of money and the beneficiary would be the lender of money. The trust deed document most likely would be recorded (constructive notice) with the County Recorder where the property is located as evidence of and security for the debt.

When the loan is fully paid, the monetary claim on the title is transferred to the borrower by reconveyance to release the debt obligation. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the trustee has the right to foreclose on and transfer title to the lender or sell the property to pay the lender from the proceeds.

Earnest Money:

The deposit money deposited in escrow by a buyer in good faith to secure a purchase transaction.


A third party that holds money or property in trust until a transaction has been complete.  There are several uses for the word “Escrow” in the real estate or mortgage process.  Closing Escrow describes when a purchase transaction is complete.  An Escrow or Impound account involves having your annual property and hazard insurance payments handled by a third party and taken out of monthly installments in a mortgage payment.


The difference between a loan balance and a property’s fair market value.

Who Owns My Home If I Have A Mortgage?

Who Owns My Home If I Have A Mortgage?

Many borrowers believe that when they purchases a property by obtaining mortgage financing, they also own their home. Technically speaking, full ownership on a property only happens once the mortgage loan amount has been paid in full.

To break this down in more detail, there are a few components of a mortgage:

A Promissory Note is a document signed by the borrower acknowledging their commitment to pay the mortgage back with interest in a specific period of time.

In addition to the terms of repayment, the Note also contains provisions concerning the rights of both parties involved in the agreement.

In some states, a Deed of Trust is used instead of a Mortgage Note.

The main difference is that on a Deed of Trust there is a Trustee, which the legal title is vested to in order to secure the repayment of the loan.

There are three parties involved with a Deed of Trust:

  1. Trustor – This is the borrower.
  2. Trustee – This is the entity that holds “bare or legal” title, and is usually the title company which holds the Power of Sale in the event of default and re-conveys the property once the Deed of Trust is paid in full.
  3. Beneficiary – This is the lender that is getting repaid

Deeds of Trust are easier for lenders to foreclose on than a mortgage because there is no need for a judicial proceeding. Mortgages on the other hand, have to go through judicial proceedings, which can be expensive and time consuming.

Time frame for foreclosures of a deed of trust is about 3 months after the notice of default compared to a year for mortgages. Basically, until you have your promissory note paid in full, you are not the only one with an ownership interest in your property.


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VA Loan Basics For Las Vegas Veterans

VA Loan Basics For Las Vegas Veterans

If you’re a Las Vegas Veteran, a VA Mortgage may be an excellent option to consider when pre-qualified for new home loan.

What Are VA Loans?

As a way to honor and serve those who served the nation in World War II, the U.S. government created the VA Loan Guaranty program.

Since then, the Department of Veterans Affairs has helped more than 18 million veterans and their families achieve the dream of home-ownership.

Faced with deployments across the globe and frequent domestic relocation, active duty military members and veterans have struggled at times to build the financial stability necessary to secure reasonable lending options. VA loans have served as a crucial bridge for this deserving demographic.

VA loans are guaranteed by the federal government. In essence, the Department of Veterans Affairs agrees to cover about one quarter of a borrower’s mortgage in the event of default. That fiscal safety net gives VA-approved lenders a greater degree of security, which often translates into excellent rates and loan terms for qualified borrowers.

VA loans are also one of the few remaining ways for borrowers to purchase a home without putting any money down. The no-down payment feature is routinely cited as the program signature benefit as it is also a cornerstone of the program’s mission to make home-ownership possible for as many veterans and military members as possible.

The VA Loan Guaranty Program backed more than $68 billion in single-family loans for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, an 80-percent increase from last year.

Some Key Benefits of VA Loans:

VA loans feature some of the most powerful financial benefits of any loan product on the market, in large part as a tribute and service to America’s veterans and active duty military members.

VA loans are one of the few remaining avenues for qualified borrowers to buy a house without a down payment — that no-cost option is routinely cited by veterans as the program’s most compelling benefit. In most parts of the country, veterans who qualify can purchase a home worth up to about $729,000 without putting down a single dollar.

There are also several other key benefits that can make a huge financial difference for military members and their families:

  • No private monthly mortgage insurance, which is a staple of conventional loans when the buyer puts down less than 20 percent
  • No penalties for loan pre-payment
  • Higher debt-to-income ratio allowed than for most conventional loans
  • Sellers can pay up to 6 percent of closing costs

Veterans often have an easier time qualifying for a VA loan. In fact, about 8 in 10 VA borrowers could not have obtained a conventional loan. The program does not have income or credit restrictions.

But remember that the VA doesn’t issue loans – it guarantees them. Prospective borrowers should expect VA-approved lenders to examine an applicant’s financial standing and credit history. In general, borrowers with a credit score below 620 may struggle initially to obtain financing.

Who Is Eligible For VA Mortgage Loans?

Millions of American veterans and active duty military members are eligible for the VA Loan Guaranty Program. But fewer than 10 percent of the country’s 24 million veterans have taken advantage of their entitlement.

Many veterans think they’re ineligible for benefits. Others don’t know how to apply or where to look for information. In fact, a 2004 VA survey found that 20 percent of veterans weren’t even aware of the home loan program’s existence.

The sad reality is millions of military members who bravely served our country are still missing out.

Anyone who meets the following criteria is eligible to qualify for a VA loan:

  • Military members who have served 181 days on active duty or three months during war time may be eligible.
  • People who have spent at least a half-dozen years in the National Guard or Reserves
  • Spouses of those killed in the line of duty

Prospective borrowers who meet the criteria must first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the VA. The COE is a formal military document that essentially verifies an applicant’s entitlement to participate in the program.

These forms can be found online at the VA website or through qualified VA lenders and brokers.

Not everyone who qualifies will wind up obtaining a VA loan. But those who do qualify have access to one of the most flexible and powerful lending options in the country.

What Can VA Loans Be Used For?

VA loans are surging in popularity nationwide, as more and more veterans turn to these low-cost loans in the face of a hardened credit market and a declining economy. Qualified buyers can purchase a home with no down payment and enjoy an array of significant financial benefits, from no private mortgage insurance to closing costs paid by the seller.

While VA loans are flexible, there are some limitations. These government-guaranteed loans can be used for a range of purposes that fit the needs of most military members and their families. But veterans and active duty military cannot use their VA entitlement for certain types of purchases.

First, here’s a look at the acceptable uses of a VA loan:

  • To buy, build or refinance an owner-occupied residence
  • To refinance an existing VA-guaranteed or direct loan
  • To repair, alter or improve a veteran-owned residence
  • To simultaneously purchase and improve a home
  • To buy a single-family residential unit in a VA-approved condominium development
  • To buy a farm residence owned and occupied by the veteran

So, VA loans are applicable for a range of uses for military members and their families. The main thrust of the program is home purchasing and refinancing. There are options for purchasing manufactured homes, but there are specific criteria regarding the units and lending institutions have become increasingly wary of these types of loans.

Now, here’s a look at the non-acceptable purposes of VA Loans:

  • Land loans
  • Investment properties
  • Buying or building a combined residential and business property unless
  • The property is primarily residential, with no more than one business unit and a nonresidential area that doesn’t exceed 25 percent of total floor space
  • Buying more than one separate residential unit or lot unless one is owner-occupied and there’s evidence that:
  • The units are not available separately
  • The units have a common owner, were considered one unit in the past or are assessed as one unit

How Much Can I Borrow With My VA Loan?

As with any home loan, the final loan amount will vary based on a number of factors, including an applicant’s financial standing and credit score.

Underwriters will generally seek to identify and verify income that can be used to cover the mortgage payment; other shelter expenses; debts and obligations; and family living expenses. They will also seek to verify that the income is stable, reliable and likely to continue.

The VA has a lending limit in place that varies by geography. In most parts of the country, the loan limit is $417,000. There are higher limits in some of the nations’ more expensive real estate markets. In those markets, the VA Loan limit is $1,094,625.

In essence, qualified buyers who want to purchase a home above the loan limit are on the hook for covering the difference. There are also jumbo loan options available.

Las Vegas Mortgage Approval and Funding Process

Purchasing a new Las Vegas property can be an overwhelming process between the various contract negotiations, mortgage approvals, inspections, and new appraisal guidelines.

The following outline will help buyers with the overall time line:

1. Loan Application –

The loan application should be one of the first places home buyers start, especially if you are planning to apply for an FHA mortgage.

This is where the loan officer can spend a little time with a potential borrower to discuss their unique lending scenario, financing goals, and qualifying guidelines.

Depending on the amount of information requested by both parties, a typical loan application generally can take between 15 minutes to an hour.

It is highly beneficial to get all of the required documentation submitted at this time as well so that any potential underwriting challenges can be addressed.

2. Pre-Approval Letter –

A pre-approval lets the borrower and seller know how much they can qualify for, and is issued once the loan officer has verified income, assets, and credit.

As lending guidelines continue to change, most loan officers will take the pre-approval a step further and run a full online Fannie Mae (DU) or Freddie Mac (LP) automated underwriting approval to make sure the borrower has an additional layer of confidence prior to shopping for a new home.

Most sellers are requiring a full approval be submitted with a purchase offer.

Keep in mind, DU or LP approvals are not considered full underwritten approvals, unless an underwriter has physically analyzed the submitted documentation.  Every bank has their own quality control systems for this process, but the average time it should take for a full underwritten approval is 48-72 hours.

So basically, it is a good idea to get everything in and wait an extra day or so for an underwriter to issue a full approval.

3. Loan Search / Good Faith Estimate –

Once a pre-approval has been issued, it is important that the lender and borrower agree on the actual terms of the new mortgage prior to submitting offers on a new property.

A Good Faith Estimate is a form that outlines the interest rate, down payment, purchase price / loan amount, and other estimated closing costs so that the borrower can make an educated decision.

Even though the GFE is an “Estimate” based on the disclosed costs of the new loan, there are several things that the loan officer does not have control over.  Make sure you ask your loan officer what specific line items you can expect to be consistent or change at the time of closing.

4. Purchase Offer –

Depending on which market you are in, the purchase offer and acceptance process can be an entirely new beast to deal with.

Short Sales, Bank Owned (REO), and Rehab properties may take several weeks of negotiation before a perceived win / win deal is reached. It is important to hire a full-time real estate professional who is familiar with the landscape and knows how to navigate these types of transactions.

Recent neighborhood sales, pending foreclosures, and the actual terms of the purchase agreement are a few things that you need to pay close attention to before you commit to putting a sizable earnest money deposit down.

4. Due Diligence Period –

This is the time, as defined in the purchase agreement, that the borrower and seller have to complete all inspections, appraisal, review HOA / title documents, and anything else that may have an impact on the successful closing of the purchase transaction.

Due to new HVCC and FHA Appraisal guidelines, it may take a few extra weeks before an appraisal can be delivered.

5. Appraisals / Inspections Completed –

Typically, the appraisal and home inspection are paid for in advance by the borrower and have to be completed within 10 days of an accepted offer.  Obviously, an extended period of time will have to be given if the mortgage falls under HVCC guidelines.

The mortgage company will have to order the appraisal through a third party Appraisal Management Company, but the buyer’s agent generally handles the logistics of the property inspection.

Most borrowers like to be present at the time of the home inspection, however, the appraisal is handled privately by an appraiser.

6. Final Conditions Submitted to Bank –

The appraisal, preliminary title report, and any addition borrower documents are submitted to an underwriter for final approval.  This process takes 48-72 hours and is the final step, other than a loan lock, needed to order closing documents.

Proof of hazard insurance is also required prior to ordering loan documents.

Some mortgage programs allow a borrower the option of including their quarterly real estate tax payments and annual hazard insurance premium in the monthly mortgage payment by establishing a separate escrow (impound) account.

Make sure that you know what your total monthly mortgage payment is before ordering documents.

7. Loan Lock –

Mortgage rates have a tendency to change a few times a day depending on market conditions and adjusting credit / bank guidelines.   It is important to regularly communicate with your loan officer to make sure you get the rate and closing cost scenario that you have budgeted for.

Some brokers have the ability to change banks or negotiate a lower rate if things change for the better, but you are ultimately putting full trust in your loan officer when it comes to the rate game.

Rates can be locked between 7 – 90 days. A good rule of thumb, the shorter the lock period, the lower the interest rate.

Since a .125% adjustment in rate may only impact your monthly payment by a few dollars, it is a good idea to find a rate you are comfortable with and lock as soon as possible.

With the rapid fluctuations in pricing due to the turbulence on Wall Street, rates could move .5% in a matter of hours causing monthly payments and closing costs to significantly change.

8. Final Loan Documents Signed –

The final loan documents are delivered to an escrow or title company for preparation.  The borrowers will either sign with an escrow officer or meet an approved notary at a convenient location.

Sinings can take between 1-2 hours, depending on the amount of questions the borrower has about the transaction.

If there is additional funds to close, like a down payment or closing costs not covered by the seller, the borrower will bring a certified check to the escrow company.

*Make sure your loan officer knows where these funds are coming from so that there is a documented paper trail for the underwriter to approve.

The final property inspection is also completed during this time. If there are things that still need to be fixed before the you agree to close on the purchase, let your loan officer know if you want to hold off on funding, unless the rate or documents are set to expire.

9. Funding / Recording-

Once the final documents have been signed by the borrowers they are shipped back to the bank for a quick inspection and then set in line for funding.

A wire is sent from the lender through a few places and eventually ends up at the escrow company.

Since this process may take a few hours, it is common to hear about a delay between the time a bank “Funds” a loan and an escrow company “Records” a closing.