Category: General

We Salute You

In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River, and this became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans. Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor: in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe. These memorial gestures all took place on November 11 in universal recognition of the celebrated ending of World War I fighting at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). The day became known as Armistice Day. In 1954, to honor ALL veterans, President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day. While many people don’t know the origins of Veterans Day, there are as many people – if not more – who have a lot of misconceptions about a VA Loan. Allow me to highlight and correct some of these myths:

Myth #1: VA Loans are not a great option for a buyer.
Ha! Not only can you borrow over $400K with no down payment and no private mortgage insurance, VA Loans have a higher allowable debt-to-income ratio than many other products!

Myth #2: It’s a “one and done” product
Double ha! While there are some restrictions, you can use your VA Loan eligibility as often as you wish – it’s even possible to have more than one active VA Loan at the same time. Also, if you’ve lost a VA Loan to foreclosure in the past, that doesn’t mean you’re no longer eligible.

Myth #3: VA Loans have slow turn times, too much red tape
You’re KILLING me here! VA Loans can close just as quickly as other products. Now, in the past, every VA Loan had to be reviewed and approved by the Veterans Administration, and they had a lot on their plate – but that was YEARS ago. Get with the times!

Myth #4: There’s no such thing as a Jumbo VA Loan
Wrong AGAIN! In cases when the loan amount is more than $417K, all the borrower needs to do is come up with 25% of the difference as a down payment. For example, if the loan amount were $517K, the borrower would only have to come up with 25% of the $100K difference. Quick math: $25,000 (the down payment needed) is only 4.84% of $517K. On a conventional purchase of $517K requiring a 20% down payment, that would require the buyer to come up with $103,400. Wow!

Let me throw out just a handful of things to consider – things that many agents and homebuyers alike either don’t know or have forgotten: even a low credit score can qualify a borrower for excellent rates and terms; bankruptcies and foreclosures are treated much more leniently with this product; and since private mortgage insurance isn’t required, the buyer can afford more in her/his monthly payment.

While we can ALWAYS do more to thank the women and men who selflessly serve in the armed forces, the least we can do is make sure they know what they’ve earned and deserve! THANK YOU, Veterans!


A baseball laying on top of turf.

Back when the 2017 baseball season started (what seemed like twelve years ago to many), the Los Angeles Dodgers had an overall payroll for their roster totaling over $240 million – that’s a lot of money for men who wear tights, eyeliner, and play a game for a living. The next highest payroll was the New York Yankees at a little north of $201 million. Facing the Dodgers currently in the World Series are the Houston Astros, and they started the season with a payroll of approximately $124 million. Just for comparison’s sake, the Astros were #18 on the payroll list, meaning that there were sixteen teams beside the Dodgers who spent more on their rosters and did NOT make it to the Big Game (actually, it’s Games – plural – and they seem to drag on forever).

In essence, we’re witnessing a battle for jewelry (the highly coveted World Series Ring) and the chance to visit the White House without having to wait in line for a tour with one team paying $116 million more than the other team to be a part of this. It remains to be seen who’s going to win this, but it’s GOT to be a little galling for the Dodgers to realize they’ve clearly overpaid for their ticket – it’s like being on a luxury cruise for which you paid full price and have a nice cabin only to overhear the couple next to you on the Lido Deck that they paid practically half of what you shelled out, and they have the biggest cabin on the ship! When the World Series is over, and a victor is declared, it will obviously come down to one team outperforming the other – not how much money an owner decided to pay to cobble together their team.

Whether you’re looking to sell your home or buy one, this little slice of life taken from the baseball world is something you should take to heart. It doesn’t matter how much your prospective agent says she/he is willing to spend to market your property or what they’ll do to get you THE house, you should only concern yourself with one thing, and one thing only: their stats. Point blank ask them to show you their numbers – and the way they respond will tell you volumes, too. If they sidestep the question and try to show you their Yelp reviews and testimonials on their website, keep this in mind: these things can be . . . manipulated. That’s obvious, right?

Let me give you one more piece of advice: while you may think you’re the local equivalent to a member of the Shark Tank, I would recommend against trying to whittle down an agent’s commission. Rather than seeking out the agent who’s willing to do the job for the least amount of money, look for the agent who’s willing to work the hardest for you and produce the best results.

With all that said, I have one parting wish for you: may whoever you choose to represent you be able to help you faster than the length of a baseball season!

The Spooky Truth

A carved jack-o-lantern

Do you have that friend or family member who pronounces a fairly common word incorrectly on a regular basis? Or, do you know someone who’s pretty intelligent but consistently conjugates one particular verb incorrectly? I have a friend of almost 20 years when something isn’t quite going his way, he gets “fustrated” – this friend is a very successful, college-educated professional who works with executives at the C level every day. In the conjugation department, I have a relative who constantly says “I seen that” – I’m not sure if he knows that the word “saw” isn’t just something you use to cut through a log or plank.

The next time you find yourself in a discussion with a handful of people, watch for the use of the word “impact” and listen to the way it’s being used. I’m willing to bet you’ll hear this phrase: “I was impacted by . . .” Until relatively recently, the “translation” of that phrase would have meant that the person was, literally, crushed like a stone by something – so if the person was still alive to tell the story, then you were talking to a member of the Justice League or one of the Avengers, someone with superhuman strength. Over time, though, saying that you were “impacted by” something has become acceptable in the English language to mean that this something has significantly affected you – and left you standing unscathed by a one-ton rock. (And yes, it has AFFECTED you, not EFFECTED – that’s a lesson for another day.) Words are funny.

Speaking of funny words, the word “mortgage” has its origins in Old French that translates to “death pledge” – spooky! Granted, for anyone who hasn’t yet purchased a home, the idea of entering into a contract to pay back a ginormous sum of money over a 30-year period can be pretty overwhelming, even spooky. However, let me throw you a curve: the word “rent” has its origins in Middle English meaning “to tear, rip”. When you rent instead of buying a home, you’re metaphorically tearing a hole in your financial pockets – the money’s just falling out and landing in someone else’s pocket who carries the mortgage. With a mortgage, you have the benefits of building equity, enjoying a tax deduction, painting the kitchen whatever color strikes your fancy, and hanging a framed velvet painting of dogs playing poker on any wall you choose.

I’m going to throw one more word at you: “faith” – don’t worry, I’m not going to get religious on you. Faith can be defined as holding a belief in something for which there is incomplete evidence. I point that out because, quite often, buying a house is referred to as a “leap of faith” – but I can’t disagree more. Millions of people have purchased homes and realized the benefits detailed above – THAT is rather COMPLETE evidence, wouldn’t you say? Conversely, I would say that believing one can continue to rent a home and realize those same benefits is based on VERY incomplete evidence – and THAT’s spooky!

KNOWING is Half the . . . Problem

elvis shaking hands with the president

If you’ve learned one thing from reading these columns, it’s this: I don’t read a ton of books by or about the French philosopher Descartes or spend large amounts of money traveling the world to view the Masters’ paintings in far-flung museums – my entertainment and sources of knowledge run to the more . . . mundane, if you will. Well, I’m not about to disappoint.

In the movie Men in Black, the two main characters J & K (played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively) have recently met and K is trying to recruit J to join the clandestine government agency that monitors aliens on planet Earth. Agent K has just shown J a lot of things that are hard to believe/explain and urges J to keep them secret. At this point, J interrupts him, and this piece of dialogue ensues:

J: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.

K: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody KNEW the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody KNEW that the Earth was flat. And fifteen minutes ago, you KNEW that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll KNOW tomorrow.

All too often, we listen to others around us on everything ranging from politics and where to find the best street tacos to technology and which actor played the best Batman – and we come to conclusions without basing them in our own research or inquiry. We just KNOW that the iPhone is the best smartphone available on the market (even though we haven’t owned or used one) or that the food truck called Let’s Taco ‘Bout Food can’t be beat (even though it’s located in a city 350 miles away from us, and there’s a good chance we’ll never make it there to sample the goods). In other words, we’ve just adopted a mindset based on the prevailing opinion of a group and refused to step outside of that group and see what works for us as an individual.

For example, everybody KNOWS that you have to have a 20% down payment to purchase a house. Sure, that’s true IF you don’t want to pay mortgage insurance at the beginning of your loan, but the 20% down payment is NOT an absolute requirement for getting a mortgage. Everybody KNOWS that an FHA loan is only available for first-time homebuyers. Um, no. There are certain hoops you have to jump through for an FHA loan, but it’s available to more than first-time homebuyers (and you only need 3.5% for a down payment). Everybody KNOWS that you have to have at least a 620 FICO score to qualify for a loan. While it’s true that the higher the FICO is, the better your options are, a 620 FICO is not the absolute cut-off point.

I’m fairly certain I’ve sort of harped on this before, but I think it bore repeating – or maybe I bored you by repeating it (sorry). My point is this: rather than KNOWING what is and isn’t possible, don’t be afraid to ask. More often than not, you’ll find that what you KNOW is true but isn’t the ONLY possible truth – like Elvis not really being dead but having returned to his mother planet.

Foreclosure and Fate

cat in a box
in 1835, an Austrian physicist by the name of Schrodinger devised a way to
explain quantum physics (and impress women) by placing a cat inside a sealed
box with a vial of poisonous gas that could break at any moment and kill the
unwitting feline.  The crux of this
exercise was this: until one opened the box to see if Mr. Finickypants
was still upright, the cat could be considered both alive and dead.  (Who
says physicists don’t know how to party?)
We’ll come back to Schrodinger, a potential cat killer, in a few
to CoreLogic

a California-based company that provides financial analytics –
this is the year that the lion’s share of people who foreclosed on a home
previously will be coming back into the market to purchase a home.  These folks are being called “Boomerang
Buyers”.  As you know, it takes seven
years for a foreclosure to be removed from someone’s credit report, and 2010
was the year when foreclosures hit their peak.
Seven years is a long time to wait, so you can imagine a lot of people
who had to go through the foreclosure process are eager to buy again.  However, even with the seven years now in the
rearview mirror, many of these buyers still aren’t ready to purchase a
home.  Why?
most instances, a foreclosure was the result of not being able to pay the
mortgage.  (Yes, I realize I’m stating
the obvious, but bear with me.)  In those
same instances, in the months leading up to the need to undergo a foreclosure,
many people had overlooked paying a bill here and there because their attention

understandably so –
was elsewhere.  Well, those creditors
didn’t just forget about those unpaid bills –
they were reported, and those matters now appear on a person’s credit report,
and they still need to be addressed.
often than not, when someone comes to us after their seven-year waiting period
all excited and ready to purchase a home again, we pull their credit and find
these other matters that are keeping their credit scores lower than the
individuals expected.  Sometimes these
matters are easily addressed and discharged so their credit score takes a nice
jump in a short period of time.  However,
the majority of these good people have longer to wait while these issues are
addressed and cleared –
in other words, these are things that could have been addressed DURING the
waiting period so that when the seven-year mark hit, they wouldn’t have to wait
even a day longer.
one can take the view that if someone has had to wait for seven years to get
the foreclosure off their credit report, waiting another few months won’t hurt –
but that’s a view most likely held by someone who hasn’t had to wait SEVEN
YEARS.  For all those who are still
waiting for their seven-year stint to run, meet with a mortgage company NOW to
pull your credit report and have them help you address any outstanding issues
so you don’t have to wait even a day longer than required.
go back to Schrodinger, physicist/potential enemy to cats around the world: in
his own weird way, he was trying to demonstrate that something could have two
equally likely outcomes but left it up to fate to determine which outcome would
result.  In the case of your foreclosure,
kick Schrodinger in the kneecaps, and take control of your destiny –
don’t let fate determine . . . your fate.


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