Purchase and Renovate: ONE LOAN

It’s Sunday afternoon and you’re out there house hunting. It’s part of the process.

All of a sudden, you’ve found the right house. It’s the house you want: the price is right, the location is right, the amenities are allright. But there’s a problem with this house that is otherwise not so right: it needs a new kitchen with appliances. Oh, and the windows are ancient, ugly, drafty and in serious need of replacement.

retro k

You want this house. And you’re rather move in to your new “right” house with that a new kitchen, appliances, and windows.

But how to purchase the home and find the money to renovate?

Maybe Uncle Harold can lend you the money after the closing. But, do you really want to ask Uncle Harold for such a favor? Then you know you have to invite him for every Thanksgiving and every Christmas and every Fourth of July barbecue. You LOVE Uncle Harold, but EVERY holiday? Umm….

And what if the house won’t pass muster with your Lender’s appraisal? Maybe those windows and broken kitchen cabinet doors will catch the Appraiser’s attention and she’ll call for them to be repaired prior to closing. (We call that a “Subject To” appraisal: the appraisal is subject to completion of required work before the Lender will close your mortgage loan) The Seller is willing to do only minimal work to help you pass an appraisal, but do you really want to rely on the Seller’s handiwork to repair the kitchen cabinets and/or windows?

All of a sudden Uncle Harold spending all his holiday time with you is looking like your only option…

But there are several programs where your Lender can provide you the mortgage money for your home purchase and for the renovations. The beauty of it? A Purchase and Renovation Loan!  ONE LOAN and thus ONE MONTHLY MORTGAGE PAYMENT.

The first, and most commonly used, is the FHA 203k Rehab Mortgage . With this program you can actually do a full house gut-renovation if you wanted to. It all depends on how much mortgage money your Income, Assets, and Credit allow you to qualify for, AND how much the home will be worth AFTER your proposed improvements. That’s right, that same appraiser who might have “subjected-to” your “right” home will now tell you how much the home will be worth with the new kitchen, appliances and windows. Yup, definitely improves value and the “After-Improved” appraisal will reflect that. Better still, the Lender’s approval decision is based on that “after-improved” value.

The FHA also offers the FHA 203k Streamline program. You need a minimum of $5,000.00 in improvements to qualify (can you say “Appliances?”) and the maximum is $35,000 for improvements. This program offers a faster, more efficient process of approving a purchase/renovation loan. And meets your “right house” scenario of new kitchen, new appliances and new windows, unless you’re selecting crazy expensive product/services.

old k

FannieMae has a similar program for your renovation needs, too. FannieMae HomeStyle. This program is similar to the FHA 203k for purchasing and renovating that “right” home you found.

So, don’t lose hope. You can buy that house that’s so right for you. Ask me for more details by clicking “Ask Trevor.” I’m happy to give free advice all day long; it’s what I do.

new k
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Buyer’s Agency

I’m happy you’re using a Buyer’s Agent.

Be sure you’re familiar with the local and State rules regarding Buyer’s Agency. In general, you want to be sure the Buyer’s Agent is working exclusively for you. Too often consumers call the real estate agent showing them homes “my Agent” or “my Broker.” In many States, Licensing requires the real estate agent to represent the best interests of the home SELLER. Here in NY an “Exclusive Buyer’s Agency” agreement is required to be signed by both parties and the law protects the Buyer because the Agency is TRULY for the Buyer.

As to fees: typically real estate commissions, including Buyer’s Agency fees, are a percentage of the purchase price of the house. Some Buyer’s Agents are permitted to charge some minor upfront fees; check the licensing requirements in your State. In many cases the Buyer’s Agent is paid her commission from the MLS “split” with the Listing Agent on the home. In some instances the MLS split isn’t sufficient to compensate the Buyer’s Agent and the consumer may have a balance due at closing. In my experience here in New York, the most I’ve seen is 1% due from the Buyer to the Agent at closing but this can vary depending on your purchase transaction and your commission agreement with your Buyer’s Agent.

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Help for Veterans In Crisis

One small act can make a difference in the life of someone else in trouble.

If you know of a Veteran in need of assistance due to a life crisis, use the VA Crisis Line. The Veterans Crisis Line was established by the Veterans Administration to connect Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs personnel through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.

The Crisis Line website is http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

You can do your part to support a Veteran in crisis.

The professionals at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans of all ages and circumstances—from Veterans coping with mental health issues that were never addressed to recent Veterans struggling with relationships or the transition back to civilian life.

Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 1.25 million calls and made more than 39,000 lifesaving rescues. In 2009, the Veterans Crisis Line added an anonymous online chat service and has engaged in more than 175,000 chats. In November 2011, the Veterans Crisis Line introduced a text-messaging service to provide another way for Veterans to connect with confidential, round-the-clock support, and since then has responded to more than 24,000 texts.

VA is working to make sure that all Veterans and their loved ones are aware of the Veterans Crisis Line. To reach as many Veterans as possible, VA is coordinating with communities and partner groups nationwide, including community-based organizations, Veterans Service Organizations, and local health care providers, to let Veterans and their loved ones know that support is available whenever, if ever, they need it.

Remember our Veterans of the Armed Forces in all walks of life on Veterans Day this Tuesday, November 11th, and if you can, reach out a helping hand to a Veteran in need.

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Tax Refund: Spend Wisely

tax refundIt’s tax time and many homeowners receive large tax refund checks. Here’s some advice I’ve put together for you on different ways to use that money.

This article was the first in my series “The Affordable Home.”  In the series I seek to focus on the intangible benefits of homeownership by making them, well, tangible.  I believe the affordable home is the sensible and proper approach to homeownership; so many new homebuyers today specifically focus on the affordability of the mortgage loan instead of the “HGTV” aspects of a house. I find this attitude refreshing for two reasons.

First, it’s an “old” attitude: in decades past the idea of buying a home revolved around diligent budgeting to save up the down payment and the concept the monthly payment should be affordable.


The features of the house—granite countertops, high end appliances, paved driveways—were minor considerations and certainly did not make for sound decision-making when buying a home.  Those features could be added later, if one so desired, and those “old-timers” (I was once one of them) knew that.


Second, during the past decade, during the “Boom” the focus was on something I considered completely nuts: buy a home, an amazing home packed with big rooms, big features, and big monthly payments, at any cost.  Affordability be damned.  I struggled as a mortgage professional during those years to try to talk sense into people.

Since it’s tax-time, the advertising from folks who want your refund checks are everywhere.  There was the TV advertisement: “Just in time for your tax refund we’ve received a new stock of bamboo flooring!”


It occurred to me that this is the time of year when many people, especially homeowners, get large tax refunds and the sharks start circling looking to take a bite out of that refund check.  To this I say, “STOP!  Take a minute to reflect on what you should do with your money!  You worked hard for it, and you bought an affordable home so you could get that refund, don’t throw it away without giving it due consideration.”

Here are my suggestions to spend your tax refund wisely:

1. Consider investing the money for your future.  My pal Nick, the owner of the Westside Steakhouse  was at one time a stock broker.  Here’s his take on wisely using your money:: “Never spend more than you make and save some money every week.”  Awesome advice and I believe that fits very handily into my concept of the affordable home.   Especially in this day and age of doubt over pensions, we consumers must be smarter and more responsible with our planning for retirement.  Follow Nick’s advice and invest your tax refund to begin or supplement your savings plan.

The New York Times “Your Money” section featured a wonderful piece recently about a new vehicle that makes it easier for us to create a sound investment strategy without all the costly bells and whistles.  Here’s the link to that article:  Financial Advice for People Who Aren’t Rich

I have long advised my clients to consider retaining a Financial Advisor to provide counsel on all things finance-related: investing, budgeting and insurance.  You can find a local Financial Advisor in the your area here:  National Association of Personal Financial Advisors

And here is sound advice from a CPA about investing not just your refund, but investing throughout the year and the tax benefits/ramifications: Fund Your Retirement Or Your Child’s College?

2. Create an Emergency Reserve.  Take some or all of that refund check and put together your emergency reserves.  Park the money somewhere it’s inaccessible by debit card!  You’ll need ease of access, but putting it within reach of a debit card is a surefire path to disaster.  pile of cash

3. Pay down debt.  This tends to be the long held standard amongst many homeowners I’ve known over the years.  I believe this is an admirable activity, but I believe taking your tax refund to pay down debt should be part of a comprehensive plan for debt management.   To take a page out of my friend Nick’s finance playbook: don’t spend more than you earn.  I advocate tending to your credit use respectfully and as part of your total family budget every month.  This way you won’t necessarily have to take your hard won refund check and pay down a credit card balance.  Of course, if, during the year you experienced an emergency and needed to access your credit to assist with that emergency, then paying off that debt at tax time is a sound strategy since it’s a one time event.

I’ve found that Consumer Action is the best site on the ‘net for sound advice on all things credit related, including how to obtain lower credit card rates and fees and great counselling on preparing and maintaining a family budget.  Find them here: Consumer Action

 Another Smart Strategy for The Affordable Home: Take home more money in your paycheck; get a smaller refund at tax time.

I hope my suggestions are useful to you at this exciting time of year.  Of course, I also advocate that you really shouldn’t get such a large refund at tax time if you’re a homeowner.  I’ve long believed that you should incorporate into your homeowners’ “network of advisors” a great tax professional or CPA.  By doing so, you can lean on your tax professional/CPA to advise you on the correct withholding throughout the year to increase your take-home pay, reduce your end of the year tax refund (and prevent having to pay!), and enjoy the benefits of homeownership every month instead of once a year. Here’s the IRS page on how to calculate correct withholding, but I recommend you do this only under the guidance of your tax professional/CPA:  IRS Withholding Calculator


Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Loan Modifications in New York State

Many Homeowners are aware of the Federal Government’s initiative to assist them with the Loan Modification process with the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).   New York State also provides specific guidance for Homeowners in distress both from a support perspective and from a regulatory initiative.

Here are some key points for New York State Homeowners to be aware of if they are considering a Loan Modification.

Borrower Programs and Counseling

Under New York Law, a servicer is responsible for ensuring that its staff is aware of programs designed to assist borrowers in avoiding foreclosure or resolving delinquency. If a homeowner is 60 days late on his/her payment or if a servicer has reason to believe the homeowner is experiencing financial hardship and in imminent risk of default, New York requires servicers and their staff to provide a list of government-approved not-for-profit housing counselors in the homeowner’s geographic area. Servicers can find the list on the Department’s website or the Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s website.

Loss Mitigation Contacts

A servicer is required to make loss mitigation staff available to the borrower. This information must be provided to the borrower and include a toll-free number so a borrower may have direct communication with the loss mitigation staff. In addition to this toll-free number, the servicer must establish a fax line for receipt of documents as well as an email address.

Servicers are required to establish special escalation contacts for not-for-profit housing counselors, government representatives and legal services organizations to utilize when necessary to review or intervene in the handling of a pending loss mitigation matter.

The Department’s Foreclosure Relief Unit

The NYS Department of Financial Services has created the Foreclosure Relief Unit as part of a statewide initiative to assist homeowners already in foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure.

Homeowners in danger of foreclosure may call the Foreclosure Relief Hotline at 1-800-269-0990 or visit the “Help for Homeowners” section of the Department’s website.

The Foreclosure Relief Unit can:

  • Provide information on available federal programs
  • Answer inquiries about the foreclosure process
  • Assist homeowners in their efforts to obtain loan modifications and other relief
  • Take complaints from aggrieved homeowners and seek resolutions with banks and mortgage servicers

I welcome Comments for all my blog entries but they must be approved.

I will be happy to review and approve all legitimate comments provided by readers of tcurranmortgage.com. I do not permit unfettered access to comments for obvious reasons: mortgage spammers and their ilk.

If you wish to Comment on any entry, please do so and I will quickly review and approve.

Thanks for reading tcurranmortgage.com.

Hope that helps!

Market Prediction for 2014

The Affordable Home Is Worth Waiting For.

A good friend and real estate broker made a prediction:

“Spring 2014 real estate market will be the busiest since 2005. Prices will not spike so much as the volume of transactions. That’s my take.”

That’s a LOT of homes getting sold. His prediction is based on what we both believe is serious pent up demand, both from YOU, the potential Buyers and from potential home Sellers. And again, I quote:

“Think of all the people who have waited since 2007-8. Putting off life, babies, etc until there was a recovery. The pent up demand will be a considerable influence.”

I Believe in The Affordable Home.

Prepare, prepare, prepare:
• Mortgage Prequalification
• Attorney
• Home Inspector
• Buyer’s Agent

Do your research, hit the streets and work hard shopping for a home BUT stand your ground on your price. The Affordable Home is out there waiting for you, and it’s worth the wait.

My friend the real estate broker is a great guy named Phil Faranda. You can find his words of wisdom here:


The Affordable Home: Washing the Dishes

I believe in The Affordable Home.

dishmasterI’ve debated for many years with various folks, friends and family members over washing the dishes, not that I mind the household chore, rather the expense of hand-washing dishes versus using a dishwasher.

Thanks to the National Resource Defense Council, I’m both wrong and I’m right!

They say that using a newer Energy STAR efficient washing machine is the least expensive way to wash your dishes. But they make a good case for “efficient” hand-washing. A new Energy STAR efficient dishwasher uses 3-5 gallons of water and 1kWh energy. dishwasher

Efficient hand-washing, where you use separate tubs to soap the dishes and wash them by hand then rinse in a separate tub thereby not running the water the whole time is nearly as efficient with 8 gallons and 1kWh. More efficient than an older dishwasher which can use up to 15 gallons and 2-3 kWh!

Make your home more affordable: either invest in a new Energy STAR efficient dishwasher or get more efficient in the way you wash your dishes by hand.

More on the NRDC website HERENational Resource Defense Council



Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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The document ‘drip’

docs 1I once lost a client because he was annoyed with me for asking him to provide documents for his loan application.  He felt that my request for ALL the pages of his bank statement (he only provide page 2 of a 6 page statement),  various W2 forms and 1099 forms (he had varying income streams) and the complete contact information for his wife’s employer was “too much.”   He cancelled his loan application, and I was happy to see him go.

I believe my role as someone’s Loan Originator is to help them have a positive and tranquil experience with their Loan Application and approval process.   I believe I should use my extensive knowledge garnered from nearly 24 years in the industry to know most-all the documents an Underwriter will require in order to approve someone’s loan request.  So, I ask for a lot of documentation up front at the time of application.

Then there’s my childhood friend Bill who moved out west after retiring here in New York.

docs 3He found a house and applied for his loan.  I recommended a fantastic national mortgage banking company (I’m not Licensed in Bill’s state).  Instead, Bill chose his bank, where he’d had his money parked for many years.  A few weeks into the loan process he called me one evening ranting and raving.  It seems the bank kept calling him and asking him for more documents every day.  He said they were “papering” him to death!   We reviewed the requested documents together and I told him they were all reasonable requests. What was unreasonable was the fact his Loan Originator should have gathered these documents with the initial loan application.

As to my former client—the real estate agent who referred him to me told me after he closed how he was complaining during the many weeks it took to get his loan approved how the Loan Originator kept asking him for more and more documents every day.  The real estate agent said the guy was pretty stressed over those requests.

When you apply for your mortgage, your Loan Originator can either gather all your documents up front—the mark, IMHO, of a true and experienced PRO—or document “drip” you through to closing.docs 2

Here’s what you should be prepared to submit at Loan Application:

__Paystubs: most recent four weeks consecutive

__W-2’s: most recent two years

__Tax returns: Federal Tax returns for most recent two years including all schedules

__Bank Statements: most recent three months consecutive statements, all pages

__Other assets: proof of other cash assets: 401k, IRA, Employer Pension Plan, Retirement funds, Mutual Funds, Stock accounts: Most recent three month statement, all pages

__Photo ID

__Fully signed Purchase Agreement (Contract of Sale)

__Proof of your Earnest Money Depositdocs 4

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Key Points for VA Loans

veterans 1More Veterans are using their Veterans Benefits to buy homes today with VA Loans.  The problem many of them encounter is this: Mortgage Loan Originators (MLO) don’t have sufficient experience with VA Loans.  This can make for some troublesome times when a Veteran is buying a home.  You definitely want to work with an experienced MLO, someone with at least 15 years experience.   Take some time when shopping for your VA Loan to interview the MLO before you make a decision.

Some key points for you to know when you interview a Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) for your VA Loan:

VA Funding Fee is 2.15% of the Loan Amount (and is always financed) for Active Duty Veterans with at least 180 Days active duty. No Funding Fee for Disabled Veterans.

The Funding Fee is different for other service types/periods, including Reservists.

A Veteran can finance 100% of the purchase price of the home.modern home 191

A Seller can pay all of a Veteran’s Closing Costs, and more.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about VA Loans and your MLO will need to be available to explain and reassure the Seller and the real estate agents of the VA process. For example, many Sellers and/or real estate agents believe that VA Loans take “a LONG TIME” to approve and close. Not true. (My average closing time on VA loans is about 6-8 weeks compared to 3-4 weeks for FHA). They also believe that VA Appraisals ALWAYS slash the value of the house. Not true. I’ve only seen one VA Appraisal come in slightly less than purchase price in the last couple of years, and, in that case, both the Listing Agent and I suspected the value might be tight before. Bottom Line: your MLO has to have clear communication to make it easier for you to negotiate with Sellers when competing against other Buyers with different financing terms.

If your MLO asks you for your DD-214 right away, then you know you’re dealing with someone with experience. You don’t need the Certificate of Eligibility or COE as we MLO’s can obtain that directly from VA on your behalf.

thank you veteransFor a New York Purchase you’ll need some cash for your “Good Faith Deposit” when you sign the contract of sale. It’s the rare Seller who will sign a contract with a Buyer who doesn’t at least put $10,000 on the contract (refundable to the Veteran at closing due to the 100% financing). Not that it’s impossible (I’m working with 3 Veterans right now who have less than $5,000 to put down), but it will require serious negotiating on the part of your MLO, real estate agent, and Attorney.

VA Condos: few and far between because the VA just doesn’t approve enough Condos, so focus on Single Family Homes. Find VA Approved Condos

Two Family Homes: unless you have experience in property management (and can prove it), you’ll have to qualify with your own INCOME for the purchase; rental income will be excluded from the qualifications.

You’ll need a Termite Report but YOU CANNOT PAY FOR IT, the Seller must pay.

We qualify Veterans’ Income two ways: a percentage of monthly gross income, or “Debt to Income Ratio” AND a residual income method which is similar to doing a family budget, so it’s a pretty cool way to qualify you. idyll


Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Using Gift Money

Often First Time Buyers rely on family to provide extra money for the purchase of a home in the form of a Gift.

In general, before using Gift money from family, I recommend you have a discussion with the Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) who prequalified you. Depending on the Loan Program she used to qualify you, there may be restrictions on using Gift funds or there may be other requirements.

Gift funds, like all monies used in the purchase of a home, must be “sourced.” That is, your Lender will need to see the source of the Gift money from your family member. In most instances the Lender will also need to track the transfer of those funds from your family member into your bank account.

Again I caution: Speak with your MLO before using Gift monies for the purchase of a home.

A question that often comes up when Gift monies are involved is:

“What are the tax consequences of using

Gift money when buying a home?”

I’m happy to refer you to the website for my good friends at Burns & Rodriguez for professional guidance in this area from tax professionals:


Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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