Marin County Vote by Mail Ballot Drop-Off Locations

This election cycle, there has been much disinformation propagated about voting by mail, and in an effort to help fellow community members arrive at the truth, I am providing below the drop-off locations as an additional way to submit your ballot prior to November 3. To receive an absentee ballot, you must have first registered online. Once you’ve received and completed your ballot you can mail it back or drop it off. At any time, if you need help or additional information, you can access it at www.marinvotes.org.

San Rafael

  • Albert J. Boro Community Center, 50 Canal Street, San Rafael, 94901 
  • Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael, 94903
  • Marin Health and Wellness Campus, 3240 Kerner Blvd., San Rafael, 94901
  • Whistlestop, 930 Tamalpais Ave., San Rafael, 94901

Corte Madera

  • Corte Madera Recreation Center, 498 Tamalpais Drive, Corte Madera, 94925

Fairfax

  • Fairfax Town Hall, 142 Bolinas Road, Fairfax, 94930

Novato

  • Novato Library, 1720 Novato Blvd., Novato, 94947

San Anselmo

  • San Anselmo Town Hall, 525 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo, 94960

Sausalito/Marin City

  • Marin City Library, 146 Donahue St., Sausalito, 94965

Bolinas

  • Bolinas Community Center, 14 Wharf Road, Bolinas, 94924

Point Reyes

  • West Marin Health and Human Services Center, 1 Sixth St., Point Reyes, 94956

About Fraud

The nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice conducted a meticulous review of elections that had been investigated for voter fraud and found “miniscule incident rates of ineligible individuals fraudulently casting ballots” — no more than 0.0025 percent.

Up until this point, I never thought a service I might provide to our clients moving into the county might be providing information about how to cast a ballot. But with all that’s at stake this time — and every time really — I’m leaving nothing to chance.  Whether by mail, by drop-off at the locations above, or in person, make sure your voice is heard and your vote is counted.  

Get out the vote,

Rob Spinosa

Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate

NMLS: 22343 

Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 

rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office: 324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA 94960

Berkeley Office: 1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA 94709

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate. In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

The Seven Real Estate Stages of the Pandemic

By now, some of us have lost a loved one, friend or community member to COVID-19.  Though if the cavalier denialism exhibited by some Americans is an indicator, there are still many who have yet to share the magnitude of such a loss.  But even putting one’s head in the sand about the medical realities of the coronavirus cannot spare us the social, emotional and economic impacts. 

It’s accepted as true that though we all grieve a loss, everyone grieves in a unique manner.  One of the most referenced works on the topic was written in 1969 by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in her book On Death and Dying. This philosophy is popularly referred to as the “stages of grief,” and whether comprised of five emotions or seven, it feels increasingly as though we are traveling through ‘stages of the pandemic’ in both our professional and personal lives.  Sometimes we mourn the loss of our “past life” in a linear fashion and sometimes we jump along the steps chaotically, but without a doubt we have been presented with an event that has impacted our world and is in the process of shaping our future.  If I think back to February or March, and reflect on today, here are some examples from my journey through the stages: 

1) Shock and disbelief

Wait, no broker tours, no showing of property?  Here we go again a la Lehman, 2008 or 9/11 — investors leaving the market and loan programs being suspended or canceled.  Tremendous rate chaos.  

2) Denial

No way they will shut businesses down — that’s crazy.  What do you mean the kids are not going to go to school?  The Junior Warriors basketball season is canceled?

3) Guilt

I should have been more forceful with our clients who were on the fence.  How did we get lulled into complacency with credit availability?  Why did we let our guard down and not consider existential risks in our assessments of the market?  

4) Anger and bargaining

Why are we, here in CA, subject to shelter-in-place while people in other parts of the country are still conducting business as usual?  What do these “health experts” really know?  Man, I HATE Zoom meetings!

5) Depression/loneliness/reflection

My 85-year old dad is 2000 miles away and I’m not sure when he’ll see his grandson next.  I’m not going to see the inside of a bustling conference room for many months. Some of the skills, habits and personality traits I’ve used to build my business are going to be sidelined indefinitely.  Put the professional wardrobe in mothballs…

6) Reconstruction and working through

Yes, this is the landscape of our new reality — it is not temporary.  Embrace, learn and master the tools and tactics necessary to maintain momentum.  Contemplate what it will take to grow in a remote world.  Reinvest marketing dollars accordingly.   Rethink all iterations of “it’s just the way we do things.”

7) Acceptance and hope

The way we did business is over.  What remnants exist are gifts but my mindset must accept that I am in a foreign country now and I need to first learn and then speak their language.  I can still think in my native tongue, but the longer I hold out and do so, the more difficult it will be to assimilate.  The sooner I embrace the good and bad of the new culture, the sooner I will be open to its wonders.

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, I can find myself cycling through several or even all of the above stages on any given day.  My guess is that most others do as well — unless they are stuck.  Maybe they’re stuck in denial.  Maybe they’re still pissed off — at their governor, at their clients, at themselves. Then again, maybe some are well on their way of reconstructing their businesses but  require help they never previously needed; with new technology, with new tools, with new ideas.  My point is that we have all lost a loved one — our pre-pandemic way of life and business.  It’s now up to us to move on, yet before we do we must confront the grieving process.  Recognizing that is part of a healthy healing process too.

In loving memory,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

1984

Look, I realize I should be so lucky to think that someone from the Van Halen camp is going to bust me on a copyright infringement for using the image above.  So if they come a calling, this is what I would tell them:

I originally wrote this blog post on the 34th anniversary of the release of Van Halen’s 1984 “album.”  I was a dark-skinned, plenty-awkward eighth-grader settling in for a long Illinois winter.  With no discernible basketball talent, no academic prowess and eliciting zero interest from the cute, middle-America girls who hailed from the Arrowhead subdivision and peopled the halls of our junior high, the basement my Dad built out for us threatened to be a pain cave of epic boredom proportions for at least the foreseeable future.  That is, were it not for the crackle of the phonograph needle that succumbed to the majestic OBX polyphonic synthesizer swells of “1984.”  Like watching sunrise over the Earth from outer space, that short, haunting prelude to the massive hit “Jump,” would give way to the dawn of a different day for me.  

Most of us have a favorite “album,” and again I use this word in quotes because the format for delivering music has evolved so drastically over the years.  We can likely all name at least one collection of tunes that formed the audio backdrop for a trajectory change in our lives.  Even hearing just a snippet can hearken back to a summer on the beach, an old flame, or the very essence of our youth.

Coming of age for most of us is a painful metamorphosis cocooned somewhere in the silk of our teenage years.  But for me, the strains of 1984 literally reached out of my boombox and put an electric guitar in my hands.  Then, having summarily equipped me for my calling, those nine songs transformed me, for the very first time, into an autodidact and demonstrated that a dream is meant to be pursued with innocent, if infinitely energized, abandon.  No matter how crazy and audacious the goal, when you smell like teen spirit and have little to lose, it’s your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give it all you’ve got.  You may not end up emulating your hero note for note, but that matters a lot less than the amount of growth you’ll experience for strumming along — with enthusiasm, with passion and with purpose. 

Thanks to a career I now love in the mortgage business, I meet a lot of people.  As introductions go, I’ll get an occasional, “Are you from California?”  “Why no…,” I will answer, and often they’ll next ask how I found myself in beautiful Marin County, just north of San Francisco.  “Well, in the late ’80’s, I moved to L.A. to pursue a career as a rock guitar player, like Eddie Van Halen….”  Pause…..  “What???”

Since the album came out, I listen to the 1984 intro every year on my birthday.  First it was on vinyl, then cassette, then CD, then my shuffle and now just my phone.  Regardless, it re-centers me with a time and place that are gone, but with an optimism that will never die.  I would be willing to bet that most of us have a musical bond to that very pivotal moment in our lives when we became much of who we would be for the rest of our lives.  What’s yours?

Might as well jump!

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

What Are Credit Tradelines?

I think I’ve made it clear before that I find no shame in talking about how hard we work for our clients. My assistant, Jamie, and I see a good number of mortgage applications come across our desks every week and in 2019 and 2020, a high percentage of them have been for jumbo home loans, which means that our borrowers must demonstrate strong credit depth by way of an adequate number of tradelines on their credit report. Gone are the days when one could just have a decent FICO score in order to cross credit concerns off of the loan approval list.

When we talk about credit tradelines and credit depth, most of the prominent jumbo mortgage banks like to see recent credit activity (that is, use of credit and timely payment) to consider any account active. And that’s really what a “tradeline” is — an account. An individual tradeline might be a mortgage, an auto or student loan or a credit card. All are different types of “trades” but in the case of revolving debts like credit cards, use of those cards in the last year or two is what really brings the tradelines into active status and works to meet the jumbo lender’s requirements.  By far, the gold standard for jumbo credit is three active tradelines with activity in the last twelve months, per borrower.

So in that spirit, I’m going to let you all in on a secret for getting a great jumbo loan if you are thinking that a mortgage application may be in your future in the coming months. Here are three GREAT ideas for taking that seldom-used credit card lurking in the back of your wallet or purse, or that forlorn department store card that you forget you had, and turning it into a bona fide active tradeline which, in turn, makes you eligible for the widest selection of jumbo loan programs.

1) The Starbucks Triple Mocha Frappuccino (Venti): $4.95

This frosty beverage will set you back both 500 calories and 500 centavos — but don’t you dare pinch pennies to pay this time. Instead I want you to reach for the least-used credit card in your quiver and rack this hefty charge on that piece of plastic. By doing so, you’ll bring this credit card to “active status” within the last 12 months and you’ll be on your way to both cardiac arrest and credit qualification.

2) Nashua Tape 1.89 in. x 120 yd. 300 Heavy-Duty Duct Tape (2-Pack): $10.88

Race fans! Hot rodders! Weekend warriors! Remember when you bought your house and your mother-in-law gave you a $100 gift card to Home Depot? Remember when you used it all plus another $400 on that initial visit and they convinced you to open a store card, take advantage of the discount and then pay the rest off later? Remember too that you haven’t used the card since that day twelve years ago? Well, now’s the time to repair everything in the house with duct tape. We already knew of its all-purpose abilities, so you’re burnin’ daylight, pardner. Get crackin’ on those DIY projects and the ‘honey do’ list and pick up a two-pack just in case.

3) The Warren Plaid Boxer: Now $15.00

One other thing that we know is that if someone is going to have a collection account on his credit report, and it’s going to be of the variety of which he’s unaware, it’s either going to be a medical bill or a Banana Republic store card (close third to a cell phone bill never received). I’m not sure why this is, but people go bananas over Banana’s billing. So let me help you save your credit shorts and get into a clean, fresh pair of undies while at the same time giving you an excuse to A) actually locate your Banana Republic card, B) place an order on it before they call you to tell you it’s been inactive since Marky Mark made skivvies the shizzle and, C) bring your store card to active status in the eyes of Equifax, Experian and Transunion.

My point(s) above are simple.  Active credit tradelines are a critical component to getting a great jumbo loan, but you can’t create them after you’ve applied for a mortgage. When we pull your credit report as part of the pre-approval process we’re looking at both credit history and recent activity but the time to address both is BEFORE you’re in the mortgage process. Or while you’re saving for your down payment. Or while you’re waiting for more inventory to hit the market, etc. Bringing your unused tradelines to active status is a little step you can take that will pay a big dividend later — opening up the widest array of jumbo options and, as a result, giving you access to the most competitive rates.  Let me know if you have questions about this aspect of getting a jumbo loan and I’ll be happy to help you craft a road map to success and hey, I might even let you in on a few more bargains as well…

Venti triple mocha frap for Ron,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

Can I Refinance a Mortgage on a COVID Forbearance Plan?

Back at the end of the first quarter of 2020, the president might still have wanted to downplay COVID, but many real American homeowners suddenly found themselves in dire financial straits and quickly took advantage of the forbearance plans offered by the servicers of their mortgages.  This payment relief allowed them to navigate the most uncertain and immediate impacts of the pandemic and for some, provided a bridge to re-employment and/or firmer financial footing.  Now that some of these borrowers have made readjustments to the new normal, they may wish to take advantage of the historic low interest rates that have stemmed largely from the Federal Reserve’s response to this same pandemic.  So can a borrower refinance if there has been a forbearance or deferral on the current loan?  Let’s examine the options available today if the borrower has a conforming/conventional loan.  Jumbo loans and government loans (FHA and VA) behave differently and I’ll cover those in a separate post.  But here’s what we need to know today:

  • If you are or were in forbearance with no missed payments, then we must verify that all payments were made to terms of the agreement AND the payoff of the existing loan cannot include any funds due. 
  • If you were in forbearance, had missed payment but brought them current prior to making your refinance application, then we just need verification that your mortgage is current and no funds due to complete any reinstatement are included in the loan’s payoff.
  • If you were in forbearance, had missed payments and brought them current after making your refinance application, then we need verification that your mortgage is now current and we need to source the funds used to bring the loan to that status.
  • If you have a plan for payment deferral then you must provide a copy of the agreement issued by your servicer and you must have made at least 3 consecutive payments following the effective date of the deferral agreement.  The payoff of the loan can, in this case, be used to satisfy the full amount of the mortgage, including the payments deferred.

The low rate environment that exists today is unprecedented, a lot like the adjustments we’re all being required to make as we confront our new reality.  If you’ve taken advantage of the forbearance or deferral agreements available to you, and have adhered to the terms, there’s a good chance you can refinance your conforming or high-balance conforming mortgage today at historic low rates.  You’d be incorrect to assume otherwise.  Get in touch if you think we can help. 

Mask it or casket,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

Should I Keep Making My Mortgage Payment?

With so many people refinancing these days, and with the loan process sometimes crossing one or two months’ time, a question we frequently get from those in process is, “Should I keep making my mortgage payment?”  The answer is a simple and clear, “Yes!”  

But let’s talk about why, because the concept is as simple as it is often misunderstood.  In our formative financial years, many of us rented a home or apartment before we made the leap into home ownership.  And I’d be willing to be bet that more than a few of us got chased by a landlord about the rent being a few too many days late past first of the month.  Herein lies the mortgage payment dilemma when it comes to refinancing.  Unlike rent payments, which are due on the first of the month and cover the month ahead, mortgage payments are applied in arrears.  This means that you live in the house in August, for example, and you pay for that time (in interest and principal) on September 1.

Now let’s assume you’re refinancing a home and your expected close of escrow is the 10th of August.  Let’s also assume that you have not made the mortgage payment on the first of August.  Your mortgage has a grace period until the 15th of the month, after which you are assessed a 5% penalty.  But back to our closing scenario — the payoff demand on your existing loan, once received by escrow, will include all of the days of interest for July, plus the expected days of interest in August until the close date of the transaction.  Your new lender will collect prepaid interest from August 10 through August 31.  You will “skip” a September 1 payment altogether (no regular payment with either old or new servicer) and your first payment with the new loan will be due on October 1.  Got it?  OK, great.  But remember, on August 1 and into August AND until escrow closes, you are still responsible for your August payment!  If for some reason you don’t close on the 10th and there are delays past the 15th (where you’d incur a penalty) and, heaven forbid, delays past the end of the month where you’d report late to the credit bureaus, the responsibility to have made the August payment falls squarely on you.  

The best advice any of us can give on any mortgage transaction is to ALWAYS make your payment if you are unsure of how things will work out or if your lender or closing agent is not responsive or clear on the matter.  Until your new loan is funded and closed, you are ALWAYS responsible for making your mortgage payment and the risk of going 30 days late on your home loan is a risk too great to run.  Any overpayment, as painful as it might be, is far less damaging than the credit blemish of a missed payment.  If you have questions on any scenario, get in touch and we’ll be happy to explain further. 

The check is in the mail,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

How To Win a Real Estate Bidding War

What’s the one thing you can do to make your offer to buy a home stand out?  What’s the secret sauce, the magic bullet, the key to success?  

If you answered, “There isn’t one,” you’re pretty close.  Truth is, I haven’t found any singular aspect of any offer that assures success.  All-cash offers, zero-contingency offers, overbid offers, offers with colorful “love letters,” etc., none of them provide any guarantees to the hopeful buyer.  But there is one thing I’ve noticed that does increase the odds dramatically — stacking advantages.  

More often than not, we observe that the winning bid is a combination of the right price, the right terms and the right people.  The weight given to each will vary, but these three elements seem to be common ingredients in the proverbial taking of the cake.  Ideally, you can exert a great degree of control over these aspects:  You can offer the price you want.  You can set the terms as they fit your situation and you can choose your Realtor and lender.  You have every reason to be optimistic.

The Price Is Right

I once had a seasoned Realtor tell me, “it’s often about price, but rarely exclusively about price.”  This is good advice and it’s also why financed buyers are sometimes surprised to learn they beat a competing cash offer.  Perhaps the “sure thing” its assurances of a fast close were not compelling enough to entice to the seller to forego the higher price you may have offered, sometimes because you were using financing.  So determining when to bid under, over or right at list price matters and it’s a foundation for the rest of the offer you’ll build.

The Terms-inator

Having the right terms on your offer helps appeal to the seller’s confidence level (or lack of it) in you, the buyer.  Your terms also speak to the seller’s preferred timing and need to control a sequence of events.  One might assume that a fast close is always the ticket here, but…not so fast.  Some sellers actually need more time to close and recognizing their key thresholds will help you craft the terms you’ll state for releasing your inspection, appraisal and financing contingencies, as well as the timing of the close.

Not Everyday People

If you’re ever so bored that you need to kill an afternoon, look up how many real estate licenses have been issued in your area.  Next, look up how many of those active licensees transact one or less purchase or sale per year.  My point here is that you have a choice of your real estate representation and choosing wisely makes a big difference in your success ratio, even before you set foot in an agent’s car.  Locating a Realtor who knows the market intimately, has current negotiation experience and who garners respect in the community provides an edge perhaps greater than all the others.  Of course, choosing your lender wisely matters too, and in many areas where competition is fierce, we have learned firsthand that the listing agent will accept or not accept a buyer’s offer based on who is providing the financing.  If the listing agent knows a lender can be reached as needed and has been accountable to them and their colleagues in the past, your offer takes on new meaning.

Hundreds and hundreds of transactions have given me a window into what it takes for buyers to succeed when they place an offer on a home they wish to buy.  The results of that perspective confirm that it’s rarely any single aspect of their offer that has the ability to seal a deal, but instead the right combination of factors.  By “stacking advantages,” including offering a compelling price, setting the most appealing terms and using strong professionals on their team, a buyer’s odds increase exponentially.  And the best part about all of this?  Buyers control each block in that stack — so use great care!

Timber!

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

How Do Rate Locks Work?

There is one thing in common among all of our clients.  No matter what price point, no matter what loan size, no matter good credit or bad, no matter first-time buyer or seasoned investor, all are looking for the lowest interest rate at the lowest cost.  But how does a mortgage borrower secure such terms?  A part of the home loan process is “locking an interest rate” and this process could use a bit of explanation, so as to dispel some of the myths and offer a better understanding of how things work.

What Is a Rate Lock?

You’ve done your interest rate shopping and made a decision about working with a mortgage lender/broker.  The time has come to “lock” a rate.  What does this really imply?  A rate lock is a commitment the lender makes to you to preserve a given rate for a specific period of time.  In exchange for this commitment, you, the borrower, are insulated from market risk.  Once your rate is locked, that is (barring a few exceptions) the rate you will obtain for the life of the loan.  With many lenders today, there is no cost to lock a rate, but as you’ll see below, there are implications once a lock is in place.  It is fair to say a rate lock is a commitment on both sides of the transaction, borrower and lender.

Time Is of the Essence

All rate locks exist in finite periods of time and the most common lock periods are 30 days, 45 days and 60 days.  Longer locks will commonly have higher rates or costs associated with them, and this is a function of risk.  The longer a lender commits to preserve a rate, the more the lender is exposed to underlying financial market volatility.  Think of your rate lock in the same light as a life insurance policy.  Purchasing a policy with a longer term will be more expensive because the likelihood of a claim increases for the insurer as the years go by.  

Breaking the Chains

So now that you’ve locked your rate, what happens if your lock expires, or you decide to break the lock, or rates go down?  These are all valid questions and they can all be addressed by the blanket statement that just as in life in general, breaking a commitment in finance has consequences as well.  Some lenders offer enticing “float down” policies and suggest that clients can have it both ways — both locked and floating.  There is always an offset with such approaches because behind the scenes in the mortgage secondary market, rates locks are complex hedges that involve costs and have metrics that impact a bank’s efficiency and cost of providing funds.  All lenders want to have strong “pull through” on locks, and their ability to offer future clients competitive rates depends on this.  All this said, sometimes rates do drop dramatically while a borrower is in process and there is potential for a “renegotiation,” but this is not common and any rate lock should always be perceived, first and foremost, as a “for better or worse” proposition.  Finally, transactions that run longer than their lock periods are faced with extension costs, which are best avoided.  Borrowers should know that they cannot deliberately exhaust a rate lock in the hopes of capturing a new, lower rate with the same lender.  In those cases there is often a 30-day “freeze” where a new lock would be subject to “worst case” pricing.

Locking your interest rate on a mortgage is an important decision and an important commitment.  A good lender can help you navigate the nuances of the choices before you.  Fundamentally, one locks a rate to prevent the risk that rates will go higher while in the process of purchasing or refinancing a home.  What we see, in practice, is that deliberate action tends to relieve stress and assure a better outcome.  “Floating” a rate for better is always tempting because as we agree, everyone is enticed by the idea of lower rates and lower costs.  But remember, temptation can lead to unecessary risk and risk is what a rate lock strives to address by tamping down market volatility and containing aspects of your process that you don’t control.  Understanding how a rate lock works and formulating your own plan on locking is a smart move, and we’re here to help you with it.  

Lock ’em and doc ’em,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

Anyone Can Hold the Helm When the Sea is Calm

If your business is anything like mine, COVID is presently dishing out challenge after challenge to the way you (used to) work.  If it hasn’t already driven many nails into the coffin of the way things were, then I’m willing to bet you’re within earshot of the hammer.  If you’ve had time to collect your thoughts and countenance reality, you may have even begun to think about how biz will look in 2021, 2022 or beyond.

Many of us, in real estate careers we have built over years or decades, have assumed a form of de facto leadership.  We likely have staff that report to us and certainly we have clients to manage and lead through the complexities that even an ordinary real estate transaction can impose.  People referred or returning to us have come to rely on us commensurate with our experience, good judgment and history of positive results.  Yet even for the most seasoned pros, there comes that day when we are just sailing along, minding our own store, and a real problem arises.  Because of our intuition, most of us would admit we can usually sense trouble before it truly gains momentum and, in turn, this is the moment at which we begin, on levels subtle and overt, to mobilize…

…or not.  As I have observed leadership during this same pandemic above, I am keeping a close eye on how it is being managed.  Or not.  Where it has faltered and failed, I have discerned these lessons below, to use and reinforce in my own life and practice:

Don’t Ignore the Problem

Perhaps one of the first and worst responses to a rising sea is to pretend that it’s not rising.  Those who have a nose for the wind can tell when a storm is brewing — long before the gales are whipping through the sails.  Denial, wishful thinking and hope are bad strategies.  Historically over my career, I have felt less anguish for the times that I have been needlessly overcautious versus the times that I have been deliberately, negligently or lazily unprepared.

Don’t Make the Problem Worse

Once a troublesome situation has developed, the next worst thing you can do is set in motion a pattern of dishonesty.  Small lies lead to bigger lies but eventually and inevitably they all crash into the truth.  Part of our job as professionals is to use discretion and specific judgment.  This often manifests itself as the careful framing of a situation.  After all, we’re not going to rush out and tell every party to the transaction that we have a problem when it’s first discovered.  If intent on actually finding a solution, we are going to circle our wagons and get very busy behind the scenes.  This may mean that for a period of time we have to be very selective in what we disclose, and to whom.  The pilot of an airplane doesn’t need to scare the beejeezus out of passengers at the first onset of turbulence.  He can give a concise report when the time is right, though the clock is always ticking.  Just enough turbulence plus just enough silence will equal way too much panic.  

Don’t Delegate the Problem

If you have the stuff to be a real leader, then you take, and likely have taken, ownership of the tough ones.  You don’t throw people under the bus, you don’t seek to blame as a go-to strategy and you don’t delegate the difficult decisions.  Instead, you consult experts, you seek diverse advice, you confide and decide.  Just like water seeks its own level, if you want to know who the real leader is in any operation, observe to whom people run when there’s a fire.  If that person is you, and you delegate that emergency to another, and that other person deals with the issue, don’t expect to be viewed as the leader ever again.

Don’t Hinder the Problem Solvers

Thomas Paine is often credited with the saying, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”  My guess is that the sentiment goes back well before his time.  When in the thick of trouble, if you’re not going to commit to being productive and leading the way out yourself, then either follow the advice of others or get out of the way of both the leaders and followers.  Fast.  Once you have extricated yourself from playing a constructive role in the outcome, your counterproductive comments, criticisms and observations are no longer welcome.  Instead, focus your energy on getting yourself back into the good graces of the leaders or followers and do your part to help when and where you can.  Ultimately, problems get solved best when they have the highest percentage of buy in from those they impact.

Thanks to the pandemic, many of us find ourselves mourning the loss of the way things “used to be.”  We want to attend gatherings, we want to eat in restaurants with friends, we want to watch our kids play team sports and go back to school with their classmates.  But soon enough, we have to move along in these stages of grief, become part of the solution and take progressive steps in helping develop and promote a new normal. When tasked with leadership, those we are leading are watching us closely and counting on us.  Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.  But the sea isn’t calm right now and it’s rising again.  No doubt, real leaders will also rise to meet this challenge.  I plan to do my part to be one of them.  And you?

Oh Captain, My Captain,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

How Long Is a Pre-Approval Good For?

You’ve decided to make the leap and enter the real estate market as a buyer.  You’ve been looking at homes online, the temptation has become too strong and you realize it’s time to hit the street and actually start looking at properties.  Your Realtor almost immediately informs you that not only will she not participate in your search before she knows you’re pre-approved, but also that in this pandemic day and age, without a pre-approval letter no serious listing agent will even let you step foot in the home for a viewing.  And so you reach out to your preferred lender and you get pre-approved for a mortgage.  Now, how long will that preapproval be good for?

There are a few elements involved in the lifecycle of a pre-approval so let’s look at some of the ones that typically govern the validity of your profile and the day it may expire:

Credit Report

It’s safe to say that your credit report has a 90-day expiration.  Even in cases where a lender will permit 120 days, we have to assume that a purchase timeline might be 30 days.  Since it’s largely not in your control, you never want your credit report expiring while you’re in contract.  At some point between 75 and 90 days, credit expiration becomes a material factor.  Now, if the original credit pull has you with 800 FICO scores and you’ve done nothing that would jeopardize your strong credit rating, it’s highly unusual for your credit report to suddenly become an issue, but a re-pull is warranted if you think you may enter a non-contingent contract when you’re coming up on your expiration date.

Tax Filing Deadline

In 2020, the income tax filing deadline was July 15, but in most years, April 15 is the day by which you either need to file your tax returns or file an extension.  If your pre-approval did not include this year’s filing and you’ve since filed your return (including e-file), your pre-approval must be updated accordingly.

End of Year

During January and February, most of us get our W-2 forms, our 1099s, K-1s and other year-end statements of earnings.  All of these must be included in your file, so if your property search crosses the end of the year, your pre-approval would need to include the newly released information.

Life Events

If you get a new job, your hours on your current job are reduced or changed, if you get divorced, buy a new car, etc., all of these events could impact your pre-approval.  A good way to conceptualize your pre-approval would be to assume that anything that impacts your income, assets or credits could influence your mortgage application.  Let us know when these things happen and we’ll make the necessary adjustments.

Your mortgage pre-approval is always a work in progress until you go into contract.  We can make any necessary changes and advise on financial aspects in advance too.  We’re here to help and ultimately our goal is to build and maintain and strong and ready file so that you have the best chance of winning your offer.  We need your help to do that and we, in the industry, can all help by reminding you it’s not over until the keys are in your hands.

Best if used before,

Rob Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending

Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343 
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959 
rob.spinosa@rate.com

Marin Office:  324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA  94960

Berkeley Office:  1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA  94709
 

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate.  In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283