Archives for September 2010

My New Phone: The Droid-X

I recently switched from a Blackberry Storm to a Droid X. It's a bit of an adjustment and so far I'm very pleased with my new phone…I am actually writing this post from the Droid X's extra large keypad using Typepad's mobile application. 

I thought I would share a few notes and favorite apps with you now that I've had this phone for a couple weeks.   Many folks ask me "why not an iPhone?"  Verizon doesn't have one yet and I wanted my new phone yesterday (actually a few weeks ago).  Honestly I'm not sure that I would like an iPhone any better than my Droid-X.  Here's a comparison by between these two popular smart phones by PC World–the operating system for Droid X has recently been upgraded to 2.2 Froyo (don't ask me what that means–I guess it's suppose to be better).

Please keep in mind that I am NOT an expert with the Droid, Google or the thousands of applications.  Some of the applications deserve a post of there own!

Droid is short for "Android" and is Google's answer to the smart phone arena.  My phone is a Droid-X.  Some of the features that drew me to this model was the larger screen (so it's easier for me to use the keyboard) and that it can act as a wireless mobile hotspot.  The Droid X has seven screens for you to organize your favorite applications.  Another feature I like about my Droid is that it does not have be teathered to my computer for updates or back ups. 

If you're considering a Droid, I suggest you start with a visit where they have videos of some of the basic apps, like your contacts and fun extra's like Google Goggles.   

If you have Gmail or use Google docs, such as the calendar (which instantly syncs with your Droid), you're one step ahead of new Driod users like me!  I've been kind of behind using Google apps before my Driod–that's changing rapidly and I'm loving convenience!  You don't have to use Gmail, I was able to set up my default email accounts quite easily.

Between importing my Facebook and Gmail contacts, my phone's database is pretty set.  Originally I also uploaded my Twitter friends, but with following over 2000, it was a bit cumbersome. I personally decided to not use Twitter–it may work just fine for you. I keep my Twitter friends handy on my Droid by using Hootsuite's free version.  (If someone out there is using the upgrade, please let me know if the few extra bucks is worth it).

Speaking of apps… oh my gosh!!  Here's a quick list of what I've downloaded so far:

You will probably want to check into Advanced Task Killer (Free).   Your Droid will run more programs than needed and the Task Killer will keep your Droid in line and free up memory when unneccessary programs are running.

I am using GoogleVoice for my voice mail.  This is a great ap that transcribes your voicemail so that you can read it — great for if you're in a meeting and cannot take a phone call.  

Voice Actions for Andriod (requires 2.2 or higher) allows me to verbally give my Driod commands, from sending a text or email to searching for a favorite song on Pandora.Photo shot with DroidX 

Dropbox is great for sharing between your computer and Droid and you can even share with friends.  Of course I have Facebook, Hootsuite (for Twitter) and Yelp.   Adobe Photoshop Express if fun, if you're into photography, with your 8meg built-in camera.   NOTE:  I (okay, my son) took this photo in Spokane, used photo-editing applications that came with my phone.  I used Dropbox to instantly upload it to my computer.

For real estate, check out Zillow's ap and The Talon Group has a mobile ready site at where you can keep track of your transactions.

I like Epicurious, a free ap which allows me to check out recipes while I'm at the grocery store and Kindle is great if I want to purchase a book to read.  My guilty pleasure, for when I'm waiting in the car at the West Seattle True Value Hardware parking lot while hubby's shopping is: Finger Bowling.

I'm still learning about my new phone–do you have a Droid?  What are your favorite applications and features?  I admit–I still have a lot to learn about this phone and I'm having fun doing so!


Email Issues

Hopefully this is resolved… I'm just home from a quick visit to Spokane and it looks like both of my primary email accounts rhonda (at) mortgageporter (dot) com and rhonda (at) rhondaporter (dot) com went down this morning.   I'm not receiving anything.

I am receiving email at mortgageporter (at) gmail (dot) com so if you need to reach me by email–please use this account or give me a call.

I will update this post once this has been fixed.

UPDATE ~ Sunday, Sept 26 at 10:13 am:  Just received a response via Twitter from Network Solutions.  Many of their clients are experiencing email issues and they are working on this issue as fast as they can.

UPDATE ~ Monday, Sept 27:  Knock on wood–it looks like everything is operating as it should again.  I apologize for any inconvenience.

One More Week before FHA Changes Mortgage Insurance Premiums

I've written about the upcoming changes to FHA's upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums which is effective on all case numbers obtained October 4, 2010 and later.  This impacts both purchases and refinances.  If you're considering utilizing FHA for a refinance and you're going to retain your home for more than four years, you may want to consider taking now.

Here's a comparison between the two mortgage insurance scenarios based on an FHA streamline refinance with no appraisal based on the current 30 year fixed rate of 4.250% (apr 5.013) as of today, Sept. 24, 2010, at 12:30 p.m. with a $528,695 base loan amount:

FHA mortgage insurance with FHA case number issued by October 1, 2010 or earlier:

Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium of 2.25% = $11,895.00

Base loan amount of $528,695 plus $11,895 (most borrowers finance the ufmip) = $540,590.  Amoritzed for 30 years at 4.25% provides a principal and interest payment of $2,659.38.

Annual mortgage insurance premium of 0.55% of the base loan amount ($2907.82) divided by 12 months = $240.46.

$2,659.35 plus $240.46 = $2,899.91 principal, interest and mortgage insurance payment.

FHA mortgage insurance with case numbers issued October 4, 2010 or later:

Upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.00% = $5,286, creating a total loan amount of $533,981.  Amortized for 30 years at 4.35% provides a principal and interest payment of $2,626.87.

Annual mortgage insurance premium of 0.90% of the base loan amount ($4758.26) divided by 12 months = $393.48.

$2,626.87 plus $393.48 = $3,020.35 principal, interest and mortgage insurance payment.


What can you do if you're considering an FHA loan?  If you're "tight" on qualifying with your debt-to-income ratios, you may want take action PRIOR TO OCTOBER.  Obtaining an FHA case number has nothing to do with when  you take your application or lock in  your rate.

If you are interested in an FHA purchase, refinance or streamline refi and your home is located in Washington state, I am happy to help you!  Mortgage Master Service Corporation is a Direct Endorsed, HUD approved FHA lender and I've been originating FHA loans for over 10 years.  Just click on the apply tab above or send me an email!

PS:  Many home owners who currently have an FHA mortgage are able to take advantage of today's low interest rates with an FHA streamline refi without an appraisal.

The Fed Leaves Rates Unchanged

It was widely expected that the FOMC would not make changes to the Fed Funds rate today…and that's what happened. 

Here are excerpts from the FOMC statement today:

"Household spending is increasing gradually, but remains constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit…. Employers remain reluctant to add to payrolls. Housing starts are at a depressed level. Bank lending has continued to contract, but at a reduced rate in recent months…"

You can read the entire press release here.

If you have a home equity line of credit, your rates should be remaining the same (for now).   Other than loans attached to the prime rate, mortgage rates are not directly controlled by the Fed.  Mortgage rates, however, may be influenced by the actions of the FOMC.   Mortgage interest rates are based on bonds (like mortgage backed securities).  Investors reacting to the FOMC may impact mortgage rates.  Fellow mortgage blogger, Dan Green, has authored an excellent post: The Federal Reserve May *Influence* Mortgage Rates, But It Doesn't *Set* Them.

Mortgage rates remain at very low levels.  As the economy improves, we will see rates trend higher.  Inflation will also cause mortgage rates to rise. 

If you're a home owner (primary or investment) in Washington state, I highly recommend contacting your mortgage professional to see if refinancing today makes sense for you.   If you haven't heard from your mortgage originator in the past few months, it's possible they may no longer be originating as many have left industry.  I'm happy to adopt your mortgage and you as a client, regardless of if you refinance or not.

VA Loan Limits for Washington State

Below are the loan limits for VA loans in Washington state for 2010.  I should have posted this earlier this year, I've recently had more inquiries about this great program.  

  • King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties:  $481,250
  • San Juan County: $505,000
  • All other counties in Washington state: $417,000

If a Veteran elects to purchase a home with a sales price higher than the loan limit, they're down payment is 25% of the difference between the loan amount above and the sales price.


A veteran purchases a home in Kitsap county with a sales price of $560,000.  

$417,000 (Kitsap county VA loan limit) x 25% = maximum guarantee and possible entitlement = $104,250.

$104,250 / $560,000 = 19%.  Since this is less than the 25% maximum guarantee, a down payment will be required. 

$560,000 x 25% = $140,000.  

$140,000 – $104,250 (maximum guarantee) = $35,750 required down payment.

The base loan amount for this scenario (not including the funding fee) is $524,250.

A Veteran can purchase this home with 6% down payment!

Zero down loans are also available as long as the sales price does not exceed the VA loan limit. 

Today's rates make VA loans very attractive and sellers are more likely to consider paying closing costs.   Rates right now are still in the low to mid-4s for a VA loan.   A Seattle area home with a sales price of $685,000 can be purchased with a down payment just under $51,000 and a rate of 4.375% priced with 0 points (apr 4.683).  

King, Pierce and Snohomish VA loan limit of $481,250 less the sales price of $685,000 = $203,750.  $203,750 x 25% = $50,937.50 required down payment for VA loan.

Lenders have various limits as to how large of a VA loan they'll fund.  This is one reason why it's great to work with a company like Mortgage Master Service Corporation where we have several sources for government loans.   If I can provide you a quote for a VA loan on a home located in Washington state, please contact me.

Attention Sellers: you're really limited the chances of selling your home if you don't consider buyers who are using VA or FHA financing!

Last but not least, THANK YOU to those who serve and have served our country.

Observations from taking the SAFE Act required licensed mortgage originator exam

I finished the last requirement for maintaining my license to originate mortgage loansfor homes in Washington this week: I passed the national exam required by The SAFE Act.  I will be required, as a licensed mortgage originator, to take 8 hours of continuing education every year since I've met my 20 hour requirement this year.  (Note: mortgage originators who work for depository banks, like Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Chase, or credit unions like BECU or Alaska Federal Credit Union, are not required to be licensed and are not held to the same standards per the SAFE Act.  You can read more about that here). 

I called a few weeks ago to schedule my test times at the PearsonVue Center.  The number I called directed me to a local office who then provided me with a toll free number.  The center said they could not schedule my appointment there.  Much to my surprise, when I called the toll free number to schedule my Federally mandated exam, I was sent to a call center in India!  Is it just me, or is there something wrong with off-shoring jobs for something that is required by our government?   Especially during these times when unemployment is darn near 10%.

I arrived at the exam center in Renton a half hour early and had my palms scanned.  Ladies, be warned, if you're wearing a jacket, you may be asked to remove it and leave it hanging outside during the test.  I wasn't quite prepared for this and probably would have worn a different top than what I had on underneath the jacket. 

The exam itself is multiple choice with a good portion of it being on Federal laws.  In my opinion, I don't find it very important knowing which branch of government created or oversees a certain law as knowing about the law.   Does it matter if it's HUD or the Federal Reserve Board who oversees RESPA or RegZ?  If you're violating RESPA, you're violating RESPA.  I think there's too much emphasis on this portion of the test.  I'd like to see more questions testing a mortgage originators general knowledge and their ethics, as well as the laws and regulations (just not so much focus on the "who" and more on the "what" and "why").  

I also think it would be beneficial to have specialized desiginations for mortgage originators that would require additional education and testing, for programs such as the Reverse Mortgage.  Just because I have the product available at our company, doesn't mean that I should be originating the loan.   

If your loan originator is licensed, they must take and PASS the (state and national) exams by December 31, 2010 or they cannot take a loan application effective January 1, 2011 unless they go work for a bank or credit union.  If they work for a bank or credit union, they don't have to sweat it.  They will need to register with the NMLS, but that's it. 

You can see if your mortgage originator is licensed or not by visiting

Happy Labor Day

Mortgage Master Service Corporation is closed today in observance of Labor Day and will reopen for business as usual on Tuesday morning.

Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882.  From the United Stated Department of Labor:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.   

Last week, Christina Romer, the recently resigned White House Chair of Economic Advisors, stated

"We have tools that would bring unemployment down without worsening our long-run fiscal outlook, if we can only find the will and wisdom to use them".  

Read her entire prepared statement here.

During this Labor Day, I hope that those who are unemployed or under-employed find "labor" soon.  

What should I do about my credit score, if anything?

I was asked this question via a friend on Facebook:

I had a 785 mid score, with 3 open trade lines (all at less than 30%) until the bank dropped my credit limit to the exact dollar amount of my balances. Now I'm down in the 714 range. I'm now considered a low-mid risk…hmmmmmmmmmpppphhhh! Only way out I can see is paying off Visa.

On the flip side, I don't need my credit score now…don't need a mortgage re-fi, and already have all the insurance I need.

It's pretty stinky when banks reduce your total available credit because the side effect is, your credit is dinged.  What the bank has effectively done is make it appear as though you're a credit user who has maxxed out their credit cards to their limit!  I'd probably contact the bank manager to express you disappointment (to put it mildly) and to see if they will correct this and to learn why they did this.

Credit scoring modules reward borrowers who use 30% or less of their available credit line.  Borrowers who use less 50% or less of their available credit also receive favorable scores.   Borrowers are also being whammo'd by banks when they reduce their home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) if it increases their loan to value over 50%.

If this person was interested in improving their credit score, their goal could be to work on getting each credit card paid down to 50% of the new credit line limit.  I would start with the smallest debt first as the credit scoring system doesn't distinguish between a $5,000 credit card limit or $500 credit card limit.  If this borrower has a $500 limit and they pay it down to $250, it should have the same impact as paying the $5,000 down to $2,500.  Once one card is paid down to 50% of the new limit, continue to make minimum monthly payments and move on to the next lowest credit line limit and repeat until all of your credit cards are under 50% of the available credit line.  The next level of improvement would be to pay your credit cards down to 30% of your credit line limit; so if your lowest credit card line is $500 and you've been maintaining a $250 balance, the next target would be 30% of the credit line or $150 (500 x 30%).

I do not recommend paying off credit cards completely and closing if they're older as the credit scoring modules love established credit with a good history.  You can use your cards to fill your gas tank or buy groceries and paying it off monthly.

Of course, if you don't really care what your credit score is currently because you're not planning on making purchases that will require your credit score, you don't have to do anything.  However, I think it's best to try to have a credit score of 740 or higher as so many things in our lives are priced based on our credit scores. 

Related posts you might find interesting:

New Credit Card Regulations and Games Creditors Play

Overdraft Protection and Your Credit Score

The Fed is Getting Tougher on Credit Card Companies