How To Prepare to Become a Homeowner

START. No matter what your timeline for when you plan to become a Homeowner. START. Put “all your ducks in a row” as it were.
START. Now. Why? Too many Homebuyers wait until they’re actively looking for homes. Then it becomes overwhelming because of the lack of preparation.   

Think about it. You’re out on a Sunday afternoon visiting three open houses you saw advertised on Zillow. The first house is a wreck, and a bank foreclosure to boot (and that wasn’t in the advertisement!). But the second house, painted in a lovely yellow tone with the perfect fieldstone finish around the foundation, in great condition, and priced right…now this is a house worth considering!

So you want to put in an Offer. But you are not yet Prequalified for mortgage financing. (Preapproved? Prequalified? Same thing, no matter what the real estate agents tell you!). Oh, and you don’t even have an Attorney selected. Home Inspector? Who? What? WAIT…whoa…WOW…this is overwhelming!!!

START. Find a great Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator with a reputable Direct Lender. If you follow the “get pre-approved” link on Zillow, you’ll be referred to an excellent and local mortgage professional. But don’t stop there. For that mortgage professional, or any mortgage professional you come across in your research, do a little background checking…you know, like a “Private Detective!” You can verify the license of your mortgage professional at National Mortgage Licensing System Consumer Access HERE. When you’re on the site, click on “Self-reported Employment History.” If the mortgage person was managing a pizza restaurant three years ago, well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Remember, longevity in this business is hard to accomplish and in the doing, the mortgage pro gets better and better and…yes, experience counts!

START. Get referrals to two very important members of your home-buying team: a great Attorney who specializes ONLY in real estate and a Certified Home Inspector. Interview them; review the cost; determine if you like these pros. Put them on notice you’re not yet ready to buy, but you’ll want them at a moment’s notice once you’re out there shopping for a home.

START. Credit: let the mortgage professional tell you if your credit is sufficient for mortgage financing. I meet lots and lots of consumers who—while checking their own credit reports—decide ON THEIR OWN that their credit isn’t sufficient. Except…wait for it…you don’t work for the bank! Let the bank tell you if your credit is acceptable, or not. You’ll most likely be surprised.

START. Income: here’s the basics for qualifying for a mortgage loan. 2 years consistent employment history. We’ll use your current salary to qualify (not what you were paid before you got that big raise three months ago). Unless you get lots of overtime, or bonuses are a regular occurrence, or if you are Self-Employed, we don’t need to average your income; we’ll use the current salary. For those other income situations, your mortgage pro will do the math for you based on the different loan program guidelines (FHA has different requirements from FannieMae and different from FreddieMac). If you recently graduated college with a degree, we can use the education history (in most cases) towards the two year requirement.

START. CASH!!! Here’s the thing, even if you’re buying in New York, where the closing costs are the highest anywhere, you really can buy a home with minimal down payment. Because many loan programs allow the Seller to pay your closing costs through a “Sellers’ concession.” You’ll negotiate this into your purchase price when you make an Offer.

START. Put your team together. Review your Credit, your income, your cash. Rely on a trusted mortgage professional to tell you exactly where you stand today for a mortgage loan. Focus on monthly payment. Even if you’re not going out looking for homes until next summer, preparing for that experience is one of the smartest things you can do today in your endeavor to become a Homeowner!

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.

Check out my Trulia profile HERE

Check out my Zillow profile HERE

Find me on TWITTER: @tcurranmortgage

Happy House Hunting!

5 Steps To Making An Offer To Buy A Home

When you take these formal steps you are demonstrating to everyone involved in the transaction just how serious a Buyer you are. You will set yourself apart from “the crowd” when you follow my method.

There is a deliberate process to making an offer. I include step-by-step instructions on how this works. My instructions will help you get the house you want, even if you are dealing with a difficult Seller, a Bank-Owned property, or if you are competing against another Buyer for the same house.

I have seen these methods work many times over with my clients over my almost 28 year career as a mortgage professional.

My basic methodology here is one of making your Offer a very formal proceeding. When you take these formal steps you are demonstrating to everyone involved in the transaction just how serious a Buyer you are. You will set yourself apart from the crowd. I have seen this method work time and time again for my Homebuyer clients.

5 Steps To Making An Offer:

STEP 1. Always make offers in writing. Yes, it is absolutely true that offers can be presented verbally. Don’t do that. Put your offer in writing every time. Even if you are in a situation where you and the Seller are sending counter offers back and forth, every new offer should be in writing.

When your offer is in writing, you come across to the Seller as serious. Think about it, anyone who is taking the time to go in to the real estate office and sign the form is serious about buying a home.

Include the following into your written offer:

  • * The amount of your “earnest money deposit” or “good faith deposit.” That is the amount of money you’ll put into escrow with the Seller’s attorney upon signing the contract of sale.
  • * The amount of your mortgage financing. Of course you’ll back this up with a prequalification letter, but you must include the amount of your mortgage in the offer.
  • * Items included in the sale. If the appliances and the chandelier in the dining room are to be included in the sale, make sure they are written in to the offer. This shows the homeowner you were paying attention when you inspected the home and asked, “What’s included in the sale?”
  • * Attorney Information: the name and complete contact information for your attorney.
  • * Anticipated contract date. Always make this date within 48 hours of your offer. Present the assumption the Seller will accept your offer and immediately forward a contract to your attorney.

Again, this demonstrates to the Seller how serious you are. You are in effect saying, “I am so serious about buying this home I want to sign the contract immediately!” Imagine how many other Buyers out there are delaying things like signing the contract (and potentially changing their minds).

  • * Anticipated closing date. This is an interesting point for the offer. I always recommend putting the closing date for an offer within thirty days of the contract. The fact is most closings take place within 60 days of contract, and your attorney will most likely change that date in the contract, but if your offer says “thirty days,” once again you demonstrate how serious you are about buying the home.

STEP 2. Prequalification letter. Your mortgage professional should be available to fax a prequalification letter within hours of your making your offer; even on Saturdays or Thursday evenings.

STEP 3. Mortgage pro phone call. I think a phone call from your mortgage professional to the Listing Agent is a home run. When the Listing Agent hears from the mortgage person directly how eminently qualified you are, imagine how that raises your profile in the mind of the agent and the Seller!

STEP 4. Home Inspection ready to go. When you sign your offer, be sure to tell your Realtor that you’ve already spoken with your Home Inspector and you can have the inspection done tomorrow. Whoa, that’s really the mark of a serious Buyer!

STEP 5. Get ready with your counteroffer. If you offered less than the asking price, then you need be prepared with your counter offer if the Seller either declines or counters your opening offer. All of the steps above should be repeated with the new price replacing the original number. Organization and swift responses rule the day! Oh, you may not want to counter offer. That’s okay, too.

Close-up shot of keys in the lock of open door. One key is in lock another hanging on the ring
Unlock the door to homeownership with this method

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.

Check out my Trulia profile HERE

Check out my Zillow profile HERE

Find me on TWITTER: @tcurranmortgage

I welcome Comments for all my blog entries.  I will be happy to review and approve all legitimate comments provided by readers of  If you wish to Comment on any entry, please do so and I will quickly review and approve.

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!


How-To Make An Offer: Redux 2009

Check out my Re-Posted article on making offers and you, too, can get the home you want at the price you want to pay.

I like to share my professional and personal experience with HomeBuyers. To that end, I created this blog four years ago. I’ve written extensively about the experience of buying a first home, especially with regards to negotiating with Sellers.

As the Spring Buying season gets underway (and it is DEFINITELY doing so as witness recent activity within my market), I thought I might Re-Post one of my blog articles about how-to make an offer to buy your first home. There is a definite process to making an offer as you will see in the article. Not only did I present information from the “old-fashioned” way of buying a home through a Realtor, but I seeded the article with much that I had learned as a mortgage professional. In my experience, this is a technique that is tried and true and it WORKS.

When Buyers ask me, “Hey Trevor, how do I get a sense what the Seller’s “real” price is?” I respond: “MAKE AN OFFER!”

When Buyers like a house but realize it needs updating, or, the house location is great for their needs but the house itself isn’t quite right, thus leading in both instances to a desire to pay substantially less than the asking price, I recommend those Buyers, too, use the Offer technique described in my article.

Too often Buyers look at homes they really like but walk away without making an offer. In New York State, until you sign a contract of sale, you can make as many offers on as many houses for whatever prices as you like without being committed to a danged thing. Use the Offering technique to get what YOU want. In today’s Buyer’s market this technique is useful to get unrealistic Sellers shaken loose from the idea that their home is still worth what it was in 2005.

Try it and you’ll find you get results when you are dealing with what I consider to be “serious” Sellers and Realtors. The method also helps you weed out unrealistic Sellers from your search for a home. It’s true, there are Sellers out there who aren’t serious. By using my offer method you discover quickly and avoid wasting your time dealing with them.

Let’s talk about Realtors for a moment. With the market in such disarray, many, many Realtors have departed the real estate business; they could not earn enough to pay their bills. They have moved on to take salaried jobs elsewhere. You would think this cleansing process would leave only serious real estate professionals, those who are earnest in their desire to adhere to professional standards and ethics. Too, you would think the part-time Realtor, the “dabbler” if you will, couldn’t possibly survive. In both cases your thinking would be wrong. I’m sorry to report that I’m still coming across situations where Buyers are working with less-than-professional-Realtors. Unfortunately, this can affect a Buyer because you don’t get the high quality of professionalism that you deserve. In a difficult market where Sellers are unsure of their course of action the results can be disastrous. The Realtor’s role is to bring Buyers and Sellers together. A seasoned professional does so ethically and with quality sales techniques. The Pro doesn’t use sales “mumbo-jumbo” instead adhering to the idea that a good salesperson listens to the needs of the customer/client and finds a way to satisfy those needs. The Seller wants the best price in a “Buyer’s Market” and the Buyer wants the home they love without over-paying. Quality Realtors make that happen.

My experience with many part-time Realtors is they don’t have the resources to find the right home for their Buyer. Neither do they have the time nor the inclination for lengthy negotiations.

Many of those “Boom-Time” Realtors who made a killing selling homes to anyone with a pulse just don’t care to understand the finer points of being a good salesperson. In an attempt to survive they are still using the methods that sold homes four years ago. For example, I had a Realtor tell one of my clients at an open house that he had “…better hurry up and make an offer because there are 3 other really good offers on the table.” WHAT!?! In this market that cannot possibly be true. That’s “Boom-Time” selling, not Buyer’s Market professionalism.

My Buyer tested the waters using my offering technique. The offer was neither accepted nor countered. We do not believe the Realtor even presented the offer to the Seller, a violation of New York State law. My client’s offer was very reasonable considering the market conditions, their seriousness as qualified homebuyers, and the fact the house needed $30,000 of updates. The Buyer used the offering technique to discern if the Seller was serious about selling the home. Clearly the Seller was not, or, as I suspect, the Seller’s Realtor was a substandard salesperson. The house is still on the market a month later. I guess the other “really good offers” just didn’t work out (if they existed at all).

My client, on the other hand, has gone on to find a superb and experienced Realtor after using my offering method to walk away from a good house with a bad situation.

Check out the article and you, too, can get the home you want at the price you want to pay. As I have often said around the internet after posting advice on one forum or another, “Hope that helps!”

The Floaters: Please Step This Way For Your New Career

To all you mortgage losers who got in during the boom and (almost but not quite) got out when it went bust: Please Step This Way For Your New Career!

They’re still out there, floating on the fringes of the mortgage business, behaving almost as badly as they did “back in the day.” These are the losers who got into the mortgage business immediately before and during the fantasy boom which ultimately led to the mortgage meltdown of 2007. They ignored the fundamentals of mortgage underwriting and joined the feeding frenzy of taking homeowners and homebuyers on the Sub-Prime ride to hell.

These idiots are still hanging on for dear life, attempting to find a foothold and stay in the game.

Newsflash:the game is over. Thank goodness.

When I say they’re still trying to hold on, what I mean is, they’re either still representing themselves as “being in the business” or they’re answering employment ads for Loan Officers. The fact is they have a day job and maybe they have some odd part-time status at a mortgage company. These fools are not working full time originating mortgage loans and keeping up to date with the rapidly changing market conditions to approve and close mortgage loans.

As to the first group of losers, well, I’ve spoken about them already. They still call themselves mortgage professionals even though they’re really and truly out of the business and working a day job at the local Big Box store. They interfere with the normal commerce of mortgage business when they try to sink their teeth into a potential mortgage application, claiming to the poor unwitting consumer how they have “special programs” available to help the consumer get a mortgage loan. Interference it is, truly, because these idiots are still making promises that can’t be kept: offering to provide “Stated Income” loans when no such program exists. Or offering to qualify someone with $40,000 income for a $500,000 mortgage when there isn’t a calculator on the Planet Earth that will do such math.

The second group of morons answer our company’s ads seeking Loan Officers. These yo-yo’s come into our office claiming to be experienced when they can neither spell nor define terms such as FHA or LTV. Then they lay claim to be capable of becoming the top producer in our shop in no time in the toughest real estate market in history. Then the kicker: they want a signing bonus, a salary plus commission and all kinds of employment benefits.

Look, LOSER, I started in the business 19 years ago and was offered straight commission. That’s what I still get paid. That’s what most every mortgage company pays! And in this market, why on earth would a mortgage company offer a salary or signing bonus? Companies are struggling to survive, they’re not in a position to hand out money just because you feel you deserve it!

So, I say this: Stop it! PUHLEEEEZE! You’re embarrassing yourself in ways too incredible to describe! We actually stopped laughing at you lot some time ago because you’re all so pathetic! Now we just cut the interview short and send you packing.

Truly, we’re considering collecting employment opportunity listings from the Big Box Stores, Fast Food Joints and even local convenience stores just so we can point you all in the right direction: to your new career as cashier, stock clerk or janitor.

Do us—mortgage pro and consumer alike—ALL a favor and get OUT of the mortgage business once and for all! You came in and thought you were gonna party like it’s 1999 when instead you destroyed people’s lives and wrecked an industry.

So, to all you mortgage losers who got in during the boom and (almost but not quite) got out when it went bust: Please Step This Way For Your New Career!

To The Rescue!

This afternoon we’re closing another loan we rescued from previous disaster with not one, but two other mortgage companies. This morning, we’re continuing to process the “rescued” loan from two nights ago.

Last night I spoke with yet another Realtor down and out because he had a purchase transaction dragging on and on into oblivion with no hope of ever closing. The Seller’s attorney advised him yesterday that today, Friday August 29th was the absolute last day to get an approval.

The Realtor said, “I think I’ll just let this one go and lose this deal.”

I pointed my finger at him and admonished him not to every say such a thing while I was around. Told him to get the file ready and show it to me today at 1pm when I return to his office. Turns out I also know the Seller’s attorney and I’m certain that, after reviewing the file and determining if I can get it approved and closed, that one phone call to that attorney will provide us with the time we need to finally get it done right.

Rescue, rescue, rescue. I encounter so many of these situations, whether it’s for folks trying to refinance their homes or families trying to purchase their first homes. Many times I have to say, “No, this is truly not possible. There is no way to make this loan work.” But my “No” comes in a few minutes, or, at the most 24 hours. The losers keep wasting everyone’s time as if some magic wand is going to fall out of the sky, hit them in the head and provide a miracle cure for the loan in question.

Days turn into weeks as everyone waits for the mortgage loser to come up with a solution, approve the loan and close it. And the losers are not just mortgage brokers, they are mortgage bankers and loan officers of regular banks, too.

This is the fallout of the mortgage meltdown of 2007. Too many losers still populate the mortgage industry, wasting the time of hopeful homebuyers, serious sellers, and realistic Realtors.

Message to mortgage losers: GET OUT OF MY BUSINESS!!!

For those of you industrious readers, working honestly every day in your field, let me wish you a peaceful Labor Day weekend!

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Buying Strategies: Prequalification Letter as negotiating tool

Two tools. Buyers use them to get what you want: your dream of homeownership at the price you’re willing to pay. Sellers beware!

I believe the prequalification letter is a negotiating tool. Buyers must use this important device wisely when making offers to purchase a home.

In today’s uncertain and changing market, a Buyer has only two fundamental advantages when bargaining with Sellers. Remember, Sellers are still holding all the cards on price and timing of a sale. Those Sellers who aren’t “real” Sellers, will just sit it out until they can get their price or they finally give up, take the sign down, and head for the backyard barbecue grill.

Too, there are many “real” Sellers who want to believe beyond all hope they can still get top dollar (read: Summer 2005) for their home. As such, they’re not willing to negotiate on price, closing deadlines, downpayment, financing, or incentives (tossing into the sale price that freezer in the basement they would otherwise sell you for $350!). They really do want to sell, but haven’t gotten it through their heads, yet how dramatically the market has changed.

If you’re a serious Buyer—that is, you really want to get out of the rat-trap of renting an apartment—you’re faced with the dilemma of breaking through this impregnable mindset of Sellers. I don’t believe we’re in a “Buyer’s Market” yet, and there’s no guarantee this market will become a full-blown “Buyer’s Market.” Therefore, you have to focus on the fundamentals if you are truly to accomplish your goal of homeownership.

A Buyer has two devices, tools, or “weapons” in the quest to make the dream come true.

The first is the ability to get up and walk away from the negotiating table. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again a thousand times, a Buyer’s power is defined by the willingness to get up and say, “No, thanks.” You have to draw the line, and force a Seller to negotiate. If they come running after you as you leave the table, great, you’re making progress. If they don’t, well, you’ve just saved yourself a whole bunch of aggravation and potentially financial distress.

The second tool is the prequalification letter. Never show a Seller your maximum loan qualifications. If you’re negotiating down a price of, say, $425,000 to your offer of $387,500, and your prequalification letter says, “$500,000” the Seller has absolutely ZERO incentive to bargain with you. After all, according to the letter from your Lender, you can handily afford the price the Seller is asking. Boy! You’ve got nerve trying to bargain that Seller down when you’re obviously well-off enough to afford more than the asking price! The nerve!

Your letter should reflect only the price you are offering. If you increase your offer, have your mortgage person increase the prequalification letter. If you have to do this three or four times to get what you want, then so be it!

I have always customized my prequalification letters based on the offers my clients are making. Since
I specialize in 100% financing, the offer and the letter are usually the same amount.

But, there’s more to the use of this important tool. The letter is just a piece of paper, and you want the Seller (and their Realtor) to truly have confidence in you. You want to present yourself as the one and only Buyer for this home, so, “Take my lower offer NOW!”

The prequalification letter should be delivered immediately you make the offer. If you made your offer on a Saturday afternoon at 3:30p.m., the latest the prequalification letter should be delivered to the Seller is 10a.m. Monday morning. I usually send mine within hours of the offer, even if it’s a Sunday evening. Yet, too often, I hear from Realtors how they’re still waiting for a prequalification letter the following Wednesday! Frankly, I think that’s ridiculous.

This delay only serves to dilute your credibility in the mind of the Seller. And if you’re trying to get the home for less than asking price, if you’re strong enough to use option one in bargaining (walking away), then why would you knock yourself down a few pegs by working with a mortgage person who isn’t as aggressive as you are? The speed with which you—and your team of professionals: mortgage person, engineer, attorney—work puts action ahead of words. As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Two tools. Buyers use them to get what you want: your dream of homeownership at the price you’re willing to pay. Sellers beware!