My Interview on NPR: Credit and Refinancing

If you listen to the soothing voices of NPR in the mornings, you may have heard NPR's Wendy Kaufman's interview discussing the challenges of refinancing with lower credit scores.  I actually meet with Wendy about a week ago in Bellevue so she could interview me for this piece which I'm told will be airing again around 8:50 this morning PST on KPLU (88.5 a.m.).

You can also read the text version which includes a link to the broadcast:  Home Loan Blues: Refinancing Isn't So Easy

Here are some points I'd like to add to the interview:

It is more challenging to refinance (or purchase) in today's market.  Especially if you compare it to the wild subprime era of a few years ago…however the pendulum is still swinging tighter.  Mortgage guidelines absolutely needed to swing back from subprime, however some people may surprised to experience a mortgage transaction today.   The broadcast included a borrower who had to take clear copies of his documents–that would have happened before too assuming his supporting documentation (bank statements) were even required.   Today's underwriter is asking a lot more "why" instead of simply checking off a box that was generated by a streamlined automated underwriting system.  Qualifying for a mortgage is not impossible but you do need to be cooperative and provide what your mortgage professional asks of you…including that last page of your bank statement, even if it's blank.

With regards to credit scoring, we continue to see the minimum allowed credit score being raised.  It used to be that a 700 credit score or higher was considered great.  Now there are three different credit score "brackets" with conforming mortgages if your score is in the 700 range.   With higher loan to value loans, like FHA, many lenders are requiring a mid-score of 640 or higher (some lenders may go lower but I expect their credit score standards to increase too at a higher rate).

There are programs available for refinancing your home if you have lost equity and/or have a lower credit score.  If home owners currently have an FHA mortgage or conforming mortgage that qualifies for a Home Affordable Refi, they may still be able to take advantage of today's low rates.  If your home is located in Washington state, I'm happy to review your scenario at no obligation to see if refinancing makes sense for you. 

Listen to the NPR interview where I discuss credit scores.

 

Tips for homebuyers and sellers

Yesterday I was interviewed by Melinda Fulmer for a MSN Real Estate article.   Here were a few of my pointers (with some clarification) for buyers:

1.  Plan on having a down payment.  FHA allows for a reduced down payment which can be gifted or loaned by family members, as does USDA and VA. However I do like to see those shy on savings practice making mortgage payments to a savings account until they have at least 6 months of mortgage payments “in reserves”.   This account is not to be used for your down payment–it’s in case of an emergency.

2. Be picky when selecting your loan originator.  I do believe in getting referrals from people you financially respect.  You can also try “googling” their names to learn more about the loan originator and their qualifications.

Borrowers may be better off working with loan originators who have are able to provide FHA loans–even if they’re not considering FHA financing.  Many conventional loans are having to switch to FHA financing as the underwriting is more forgiving and rates may be better depending on mid-credit scores.

3. Get prequalified as soon as possible.  This is a good way to get to select your loan originator (this is not the same as a preapproval).  During this stage, you’ll be able to see how detailed oriented the LO is what their personality is like–what type of programs do they recommend.  A LO should provide you a Good Faith Estimate without any commitment from you.

4. Rate lock strategy.  Ask your LO what they can do if rates improve after you lock.  Right now, with the turbulent markets, many lenders are offering free rate float downs as long as the lock meets specific criteria.  This provides borrowers with the assurance that the rate will not be higher than the current rate lock and that should rates improve, they may have the opportunity to “float down” to that rate.  Do make sure to obtain a written lock confirmation.

For sellers, I suggest that they insist on a preapproval letter to be included with their offer.  They should also carefully read the letter, it should address the buyer’s credit, income/employment and where the down payment is coming from along with the type of loan they’re approved for. Preapproval letters are sadly not worth more than the paper they’re written on, however they can provide you with some clues about the lender the buyer is working with.  If a seller has two identical offers, the buyer’s lender can make a huge difference in whether or not the transaction closes smoothly.

Join Me Tuesday at Rain City Radio featuring The Tim (aka the Seattle Bubble)

Once again we have a great show lined up at Rain City Radio, featuring "The Tim" who author and moderates The Seattle Bubble blog.  It should be a very interesting conversation and you are welcome to join the RCG panel.   For more information, click here.

I will update this post as more information becomes available.

Update:  Click below to listen to the interview with Tim Ellis from Seattle Bubble.  This is a great interview that expands beyond "the bubble" and also discusses blogging, and Tim’s Naked Loon.

Catch Me Tomorrow at RCG Radio featuring the West Seattle Blog

Dustin Luther of Rain City Guide will be hosting Rain City Conversations at 4:00 p.m. PST on Tuesday, June 24, 2008. Our featured guest is non other than Tracy Record, Editor of the infamous West Seattle Blog.  I’m really looking forward to having the chance to actually chat with Tracy.   I have a very small neighborhood blog in West Seattle as well…I bow down and curtsy to WSB!   I do hope you join us at 4:00 p.m. PST to participate — for more information, click here.

Dustin continues to line up the great guests and topics…plan on tuning in Tuesdays at 4:00 p.m.

Update:  Listen to a West Seattle Conversation featuring Tracy Record, Editor of the West Seattle Blog.   

Something New for You at Rain City Guide

Tomorrow afternoon, Dustin Luther is featuring Rain City Conversation: a live "call-in" show hosted by Dustin with the Rain City Guide community, including yours truly.  If the shows are anything like Dustin’s 4realz Roundtables, the conversations will be recorded and available following the show.   

For our first conversation, Dustin has invited all the Rain City Guide contributors to introduce ourselves–it should be a fun and entertaining way to get the ball rolling!  I hope you will call in and join us tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. PST.  For more information, click here. 

Update:  You can listen to our first RCG Converation by clicking the link below.

My Recent Interview by Todd Carpenter

Last week Todd Carpenter, who is indeed one of the lending pioneers of blogging, interviewed me at REMBEX Blog Fiesta.   I am very flattered to be interviewed by Todd and to be associated with the great real estate bloggers he’s featuring on his site.   The interview is more about why I blog…Todd’s introduction sums it up:

"Rhonda Porter is an example of why I think traditional media has seen it’s best days. As a mortgage professional, there’s nothing more annoying than watching the nightly news stumble through a story about the industry. It seems like they never get a story completely right. An industry expert can offer insight and understanding for a particular niche that no general reporter could ever hope to. For this reason, I believe an Army of Davids like The Mortgage Porter will eventually change the way most people get their news."

To read the interview, please click here.