Sunday Dinners

Sunday Dinners

I was speaking to one of my clients yesterday. She has been shopping with her husband since January for the right house. They had two houses locked down in contract only to discover in both cases the Sellers had problems that prevented my clients from closing, even though their mortgage loans were approved.

I have learned one thing in my 23 years helping First Time Homebuyers and I shared that one thing with my client yesterday as a way to help her maintain her energy and optimism.

I told her, “Someday soon in your new house, when you are sitting down to a Sunday dinner with your family at your dining room table you will remember all the hard work, disappointment, crazy sellers, and challenges you had to overcome in order to buy your first home. You will look around that Sunday dinner table and think to yourself, ‘All that hard work was worth it.’”

It’s true: the thing I learned a long, long time ago, through my early experiences as a mortgage professional and through the challenges I faced buying my first home, the thing I learned is that all the hard work pays off. To sit down with your family to that traditional Sunday dinner in YOUR dining room in YOUR own house, oh yes, that’s when you truly reap the rewards from your hard work shopping for that house.

I encourage all of you to stick with it. You will find shopping for that home to be challenging, arduous, and filled with nail-biting anxiety. But it’s all worth it in the end.

Paying rent just isn’t worth it in the long run; 

owning something that’s yours really is worth the work.

Think of your future Sunday dinners next time you are feeling

blue about the home buying experience.

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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Ask Trevor A Question


When negotiating on the purchase of your first home, I strongly advocate making an Offer as quickly as possible. Strike while the iron is hot!

When negotiating on the purchase of your first home, I strongly advocate making an Offer as quickly as possible.  Strike while the iron is hot!


I mean that you should make an Offer when you first visit

a home that meets the two following conditions:


  • Comes close to your “Wish List.”   The “dream home” exists only in our minds.  Smart first time buyers who search for a home by first creating a comprehensive wish list—and writing it down for constant review as you house hunt—can make a prompt decision on any given home.  When a home hits most of the points on your list, it’s time to make an Offer.


  • Matches Your Affordability Level.  I assume you have been properly prequalified by an experienced mortgage loan originator.  By knowing your “numbers” you’ll know when a given home matches your level of affordability for a monthly payment.  It’s all about monthly payment.  When a home matches what you can afford monthly, it’s time to make an Offer.


Make an Offer NOW; don’t go home and think about it! 

Too many first time Buyers do that and they wind up losing

out on a great house because of their tardiness. 


Here in New York you are not committed to the transaction at the Offer-stage; not until you sign a contract of sale with your Attorney (usually about a week later) are you prevented from changing your mind.  If you’re not in New York, check with your local Realtors and/or real estate Attorneys to see what you’re committed to at the point you make an Offer.



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 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

Hope that helps!

Weekend House Hunting

Spend a few minutes with your Saturday morning coffee and preparing to visit Open Houses, FSBO’s and real estate offices.

I know it’s cold outside, but the weather this weekend is shaping up to be incredibly mild in comparison to our very nasty winter so far, you might even say this weekend will be “Spring-like!”

Thus a good weekend to get out there House Hunting!

Here then some links to previous posts First Time Buyers need before hitting the streets looking for a home. Spend a few minutes with your Saturday morning coffee and preparing to visit Open Houses, FSBO’s and real estate offices.

Buying a home is not about “investing!” It’s about owning a piece of the rock and those intangible benefits of homeownership!

Learn from others’ mistakes: BUY A HOME YOU CAN AFFORD! All those crazy people buying houses during the “BOOM” over-stretched their housing budgets. Know what you can afford and Use A Blanket That’s Big Enough!

I learned early in my career as a Mortgage Banker: It’s All About The Monthly Payment.

Okay, now that you are ready to hit the pavement shopping for a home, you’ll need some insight so you can get the house you want at the price you’re willing to pay:

How do you guess what the house is worth? Use your Personal Market Value “Divining Rod!”

Don’t be put off by the List Prices! EVERYTHING is negotiable! Asking Prices Don’t Matter To Realistic Buyers. (That would be YOU!!!)

Let’s say you have an awesome weekend and lo and behold you find a great house in a great location at a price reasonably close to what you’re willing to pay! WOW! Now it’s time to hunker down and negotiate. Cast aside your fear of rejection through preparedness. Prepared Buyers WIN negotiations by showing a Seller how serious they are!!! Follow these FIVE Steps to Get YOUR HOME THIS WEEKEND!
Five Steps To Making An Offer To Buy A Home

Good luck, enjoy the weather, have fun and Happy House Hunting!

NO CREDIT? Not a BAD Thing

In the absence of a credit score and established credit history on a credit report, alternative credit references are perfectly acceptable to help you obtain an FHA mortgage.

This morning I attended an FHA Underwriting web-conference. While I’ve been originating FHA Insured Loans for 21 years, I think it’s important to stay up to date with guideline changes. More importantly, the web conference gave me the opportunity to speak directly with an FHA Underwriter who sees FHA loans from all walks of life and from all over the country.

I had a few questions, but my primary question had to do with clients who don’t have established credit histories.

I’ve blogged about this before here at because this is a situation I encounter frequently here in the NY Metro region. Many of my clients are immigrants to the United States (just like ME!), and often they have limited or non-existent credit profiles.

This isn’t a BAD thing when applying for an FHA Insured mortgage loan. Let me put it simply: BAD credit is a BAD thing; NO credit is NOT a BAD thing.
And let’s not confuse “I have no credit” with the reality I often see after hearing that statement from a client and running a credit report: When you say you have NO credit, you really mean NONE, ZERO, ZILCH, NADA. You do NOT mean no credit cards today or auto loans today because you have seven collection accounts, a car reposession, and two defaulted student loans. That’s BAD.

When I run your credit report and encounter NO credit score due to NO credit history, I may still be able to assist the client with an FHA Insured Loan.

What we’ll do next is to establish what’s called an “Alternative Credit Profile.” We can accept other forms of credit that most established adult consumers have: Rental payment histories (cancelled rent checks), Car Insurance payment histories, Cell phone, utility bill, cable bill payment histories. All of these—and other similar items—are acceptable alternative credit references.

In the absence of a credit score and established credit history with credit cards, student loans, auto loans and etc. on a credit report, these alternative credit references are perfectly acceptable to help you obtain FHA mortgage financing to buy your first home.

The FHA Underwriter happily answered my query about such situations: YES, she is seeing many FHA loan approvals with the alternative credit histories in place of an established credit history and credit score for a consumer with NO CREDIT.


Delinquent FHA Mortgages: DOWN!

The Federal Housing Administration reports that delinquencies on FHA Insured mortgage loans are down.

The Federal Housing Administration reports that delinquencies on FHA Insured mortgage loans are down.

Many in Congress are worried that the Federal Housing Administration will fail in its attempt to save, bolster and support the crashing housing market. Too many pessimists—and those without a thorough understanding of the longevity of the FHA and it’s ability to weather previous storms—see a future taxpayer bailout of the vaunted agency.

At the end of 2009 and into 2010, HUD (which oversees FHA) took some serious steps towards reigning in potentially damaging loans and Lenders. FHA closed the door on many Lenders who abused the FHA system and subsequently had high default rates. FHA proposed important changes to manage risk on its package of insured loans, including the appointment of a Risk Manager, the increase of the Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (which goes into effect April 5th, 2010), and other important changes to the program to protect the viability of FHA to continue to insure mortgage loans for Americans.

It’s not often you see immediate effects from policy changes in an organization as large as HUD, but there it is: FHA statistics report a reduction in delinquencies of FHA Insured mortgage loans. This change is not very large by the standards of current originations, but it’s certainly a good start.

I’ve been originating FHA Insured mortgages since the day I started in the mortgage business in 1989. I have always believed the FHA truly fulfilled its original Congressional mandate from 1934 to make it easier for Americans to become homeowners. I have helped so many families over the years with FHA Insured loans. I’m thrilled to hear this very positive news in a time when good news about anything housing or mortgage related is a rare thing indeed.

I’m still originating today mostly FHA loans as it seems to be the only way most families in the New York Metro region can manage to qualify to buy a home. I have full faith and confidence in the ability of HUD to maintain its potential to insure mortgage loans.

Inspired by Phil Faranda

As I gobbled some crazy good pizza Phil lectured me that I need to be blogging again.

I had lunch with my good pal and Realtor Extraordinaire Phil Faranda the other day. As I gobbled some crazy good pizza Phil lectured me (kindly, as it were) that I need to be blogging again.

In between chomps on the pizza I responded.

GULP. “Been there done that Phil. I used to blog on tcurranmortgage a LOT.” BITE. CHOMP. GULP. YUM.

“Do it again,” says the JPhilip man.

So he got me to thinking. Not just about Pizza, but about blogging again. Then he drew me in ever so craftily when I responded in a rather lengthy way to his posting on his Facebook blog. You can read for yourself how my pizza-enabling-pal became my new blogging-enabling-friend. And I quote: “Trevor, you just wrote a blog post! See how easy?”

I did it again this morning. Got on my soapbox and came real close to ranting and raving in reply to one of Phil’s eloquent and passionate blogs about our interesting business we all work in.

Am I back to blogging BIG-TIME? Since I’m crazy busy in my new role as Director of Business Development for a busy mortgage company, I truly don’t believe I have the time, but I’ll try to come back here to more often and enlighten y’all with my thoughts and information on mortgages, real estate and the homebuying experience.

Speaking of blogs, do check out Phil’s and also my good friend Gary’s (also known as Dedicated WebMaster of this here tcurranmortgage blog) blog about his search for a home in Babylon.

Hey Phil, here’s a re-cap of a bunch of articles I done blogged “back in the day” about the negotiating process. These are the lessons I’ve learned over my 20 year career as a mortgage professional and the distillation of the advice I have given (and continue to give) my HomeBuyer clients:

How To Make An Offer: Redux 2009

Asking Price Doesn’t Matter To Realistic Buyers

When Is The Best Time Of Year To Buy A Home?

FSBO’s: For Sale By Owner

And, in a more-detailed response to Phil’s FaceBook posting this morning about the Seller who didn’t counter-offer, an excerpt from a rather old blog entry here on, Negotiating An Offer In A Changing Market. The excerpt from that article is posted here to further illuminate Phil’s point that a Seller should ALWAYS counter-offer a Buyer’s offer no matter how low it is. Phil says that Buyers are so hard to come by that, when you have one in front of you, you (The Seller) must react with more than a “NO” to a lowball offer.

My personal spin on that is the Seller isn’t really serious about selling the house. See more below.

Serious Sellers. Oh boy there are a lot of houses on the market. Don’t let that fool you into thinking they are all ready for the taking by smart Buyers like you.

Assume there is a percentage of Sellers out there who are not serious about selling their homes. They still think it’s last year and the prices are still mega-millions. Note to Sellers: the market has changed!

You want to discern who is serious about Selling and who is standing there thinking their homes are cash cows waiting to be milked by an unsuspecting Buyer. Note to Buyer: that’s not YOU!

Some folks don’t need to move. The job is not relocating to Arizona; it’s not time to retire; they don’t need to buy a bigger house to accommodate the elderly Mom who is moving in with them. Some folks just have this idea they can sell their home and make tons of money. That’s not “serious about selling” in my book.

You can ask a lot of questions to get at the “truth” behind a Seller’s motivations to sell. You may not get answers to your questions, or the answers may reveal nothing of the Seller’s intentions, or, worse, you may be lied to.

In my long experience I have found the best way to get at the secret of whether or not a Seller really wants to/needs to sell a home is to make an offer.

The person who doesn’t respond to an offer probably thinks he’ll just sit tight to get his price. That’s fine, but if the house isn’t worth that price anymore, then you, educated Buyer, will be moving on to greener pastures.

If your original offer is seriously low, and there is no response, try raising it. If still there is no reaction—a counter offer from the Seller is what I consider a reaction—then this Seller probably isn’t serious.

Time for you to move on. There are plenty of houses out there. Keep going until you find a Seller who really is serious about selling their home.

These are just basic suggestions to help you chart the mysterious waters of a cooling market.

You really must be out there looking, looking, and looking some more, making offers, and making more offers in order to develop a good sense of where the market is going and how you can achieve your goal of homeownership.

Thanks Phil for dragging me back here! Let’s see where it goes from here…

I welcome Comments for all my blog entries. I will be happy to review and approve all legitimate comments provided by readers of 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 Hope that helps!

FHA in the New York Times

The New York Times presented a brief piece about FHA insured loans.

I attended the grand opening of the Hamilton Lofts development in Harlem last week.  The developer and sponsor of this brand new condominium project, Romy Goldman, has done an exceptional job: the finishes, the thoughtfulness and attention to every detail are very impressive.  More impressive still is Romy’s understanding of the nuances of financing for her potential buyers, especially with regards to FHA Insured Financing.   She had the condominium approved by HUD to allow her potential Buyers to purchase using the FHA program.   On the entire island of Manhattan there were only 7 other approved condominiums for FHA financing.   Romy was definitely ahead of the curve: her project is the eighth approved condo in Manhattan.


The New York Times presented a brief piece about FHA this past Sunday; they interviewed Romy Goldman and included her thoughts on FHA in the article.

My favorite quote from the article, “According to Meg Burns, the F.H.A.’s director of single-family program development, these loans actually perform very well. “That’s kind of a shock to most people because we serve borrowers with riskier profiles,” she said. “But we have pretty stringent underwriting standards. You have to have sufficient verifiable income and employment to make your mortgage payments.” YAY FHA!!!


Here’s the article: FHA Loans Help Sales

FHA Insurance is NOT PMI!!!

Realtors and clients will call FHA loans, or the attendant insurance premiums, “PMI.” “Trevor, what is the monthly PMI on that FHA loan?” The two programs are different.

A brief primer on the difference between FHA Mortgage Insurance and its pale imitator: PMI or Private Mortgage Insurance.

The FHA mortgage insurance program has been around since 1934.
  This program was created under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to help turn a nation of renters into a nation of homeowners.  Back then, the rental rate was 70%, and FHA was instrumental in turning that around.

What the FHA or Federal Housing Administration does is it provides insurance for Lenders against foreclosure.   When an FHA loan goes bad, the FHA steps in, reimburses the Lender and takes the house in foreclosure.  Anytime you see “HUD Homes For Sale” those are FHA loans that went bad.

FHA has been absent for most of the “boom” years due to the limitations on loan amounts for any given geographic area.  These loan limitations are set through an act of Congress and are—by law—a percentage of the median price and the FNMA limit in a given area.   FHA was absent for most of the past ten years due to the low limit on lending.  For example, in the NY Metro region, the limit for a single family home was $362,000 (approx.).  The fact is, during those crazy times, you couldn’t find a single family home priced in the New York market unless you went very far afield, indeed, usually to a distant suburb.

As part of the 2008 stimulus package, Congress increased the permanent FHA limit to $625,000 (approx) for a single family home.   As part of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, that limit has been further increased to $729,250 through December 31st, 2009.  These numbers are not only more reasonable for our market place, but open up the FHA mortgage opportunity to so many more homebuyers.

FHA is, in my opinion, the “miracle loan.”  The Underwriting criteria, as set forth by FHA, is much more flexible than Conventional or Fannie Mae guidelines. FHA requires a purchaser or homeowner (in a refinance) to pay mortgage insurance regardless of the size of the downpayment.  In my humble opinion, this is a small price to pay for the excellent flexibility afforded by FHA guidelines, and the opportunity for homeownership opened up to so many more families.

PMI, or Private Mortgage Insurance, is the corporate, non-public version of mortgage insurance.  PMI companies came into existence to fill the gap left by the FHA loan limits.  For Conventional, or Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac loans, when a purchaser makes a downpayment of less than 20%, the Lender requires the purchaser to buy Private Mortgage Insurance to protect the Lender’s (riskier) investment.

Often, Realtors and clients will call FHA loans, or the attendant insurance premiums, “PMI.”   “Trevor, what is the monthly PMI on that FHA loan?”  The two programs are different. The FHA insurance is actually called, “MIP” for Mortgage Insurance Premium. There are two MIP’s when obtaining and FHA Insured mortgage loan.

The first is the Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium, or UFMIP. This is typically 1.75% of the loan amount and is most often financed on top of the mortgage loan you need to purchase or refinance your home.

The second premium is the Monthly Mortgage Insurance Premium or MMIP.
This premium is included with your monthly mortgage payment to your Lender. The premium is calculated based on a percentage value of the loan amount determined by the amount of your downpayment (and in recent history, your credit score, although that requirement has been cancelled). You will pay this monthly premium until your equity position in the home reaches 78% of the value at time of closing. It may be possible to eliminate FHA MMIP after 5 years of good payment history.

The UFMIP is included in your principal and interest payment for the life of the loan. If you sell the home or refinance into a non-FHA mortgage, you may be entitled to a refund of a portion of the UFMIP.

More information about FHA loans can be found at the FHA website.

Hope that helps!

Boston Triple-Deckers: A Suggestion

Buy your first home—a New England triple-decker—and use the FHA 203k Rehabilitation Loan to do so. Your purchase money and repair money can be had in a single, convenient, 30year Fixed Rate Loan.

Today’s features an article about that particularly New England home, the triple-decker. These are lovely homes from the 1890’s built to house the influx of immigrants from Europe. These homes were a wonderful alternative to the tenement housing of the time. In the ensuing years, triple-deckers have come to describe the character of a neighborhood, whether in Boston or New Bedford. Dennis Lehane, author of “Mystic” featured these homes much like characters in his book (and in the subsequent film directed by Clint Eastwood).

My wife lived in one for a time when she lived in the Boston area and has fond memories of her time living in a triple-decker.

Today’s NYTimes reports of the foreclosure blight affecting this beloved New England icon.

I have a suggestion for any of you first time buyer folks living in a town with triple-deckers: go out and buy your first home—a triple-decker—and use the FHA 203k Rehabilitation Loan to do so. NYTimes reports there are many foreclosures selling far below market. This is the ideal opportunity to purchase a first home at a considerable discount and obtain the money necessary to renovate that home to your specifications. As the article points out, triple-deckers have long been the domain of first time buyers looking for an affordable option for homeownership: the rental of the other two apartments helped homeowners offset their monthly mortgage payments.

The FHA 203k Loan is a program wherein the Lender provides you with the money to purchase the home (acquisition) combined with the money to improve the home (construction) in one closing and with a single 30year fixed mortgage payment. I am an expert in this program having originated many such loans in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant in the early-mid 1990’s under President Clinton’s initiative to rehabilitate inner cities using the FHA 203k program. We encountered a similar experience then in those communities that New Englanders now face with these triple-deckers: historic brownstones, multiple families of 3 and 4 family properties, were in need of serious rehabilitation and presented first time buyers with an excellent opportunity.

With this program, you make your 3.5% downpayment off the purchase price of the home. You present to the Lender your plans for renovating the property. These plans are prepared in consultation with your contractor and an independent FHA Certified Consultant. The Lender uses your proposed improvements both to appraise the house at “future value” after improvements and to make the final loan decision. Minimum repairs are $5,000 with most Lenders. A feature of the program allows you to include up to 6 months’ worth of mortgage payments in the loan so you don’t have to worry about paying rent on your current apartment and a mortgage on your new home while your contractor completes the renovations.

The Seller of the home receives her money (your 3.5% downpayment and the Lender’s portion of the acquisition loan) at the closing table and you receive title. Your repair money is placed in an escrow account upon closing of title: your contractor receives the go-ahead to begin work with the renovation money available in up to 5 “draws” or payouts depending on the amount of construction/renovation.

FHA Loans are only available for Owner-Occupants; Investors are not permitted. You don’t have to be a first time buyer to qualify, either.

FHA Loans require you qualify based on your income, assets, and credit, although the criteria are much more flexible with most FHA Lenders than with Conventional loan programs. There are no income limitations; the program is available to all American Citizens, Permanent Resident Aliens, and even Aliens working with Authorization from the U.S. Government. FHA is an insurance program so you’ll be paying two insurance premiums (one Upfront at closing, financed in the loan for thirty years, the other built into your monthly payment), and you must pay those premiums regardless of the size of your downpayment (even if it’s more than 20% down).

You can find an FHA Lender in your area at the FHA Website along with more information on the FHA program. If you live in a New England town or city where there are triple-decker homes in need of your love and attention, and you want to get a great deal on your first home, I strongly recommend you consider this financing option to help you make that dream come true. You’ll be doing something good for you, and for the historic quality of New England, too.

Hope that helps!

I’m Going To Be Sick

The New York Times reports today on targeted racial discrimination by Wells Fargo.

The truth comes out, and I am so disgusted by it that I literally want to vomit. I knew there were shenanigans going on back in the day—I watched my clients evaporate before my eyes when I told them they could get a 30yr Fixed Rate loan if they only purchased a cheaper home. Those clients went elsewhere for their mortgage financing, preferring to “drink the koolaid” with mortgage “professionals” peddling loans that were affordable for about the first fifteen minutes after closing.

As much as the “boom” was great for lots of people in the mortgage business, I watched my originations decrease. I made less money. I started writing as a way to maybe, possibly, sorta-kinda, hold on to clients by demonstrating more about who I was as an originator and how I really had their best interests in mind. I guess I had some vague hope that the clients would read my blog, come to realize they were being bamboozled by the “other mortgage person” and stick with me. They didn’t. (It’s okay, I sleep very well at night)

Little did I realize then—I guess I am that naive—the kinds of officially sanctioned shenanigans going on at companies like Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Read more about it in today’s article linked HERE.

You might want to be sick while you read.

Excuse me…I think I’m going to be ill…