The Four Horsemen of Deals Dead

My wife likes to joke that all I do for my job is talk to people.  “I hear you in there yucking it up all day…” So maybe there is always an element of the truth in jest, but an aspect of these conversations that she does not take into consideration is the near-constant battle I fight fending deals from The Four Horsemen; Delay, Indecision, Unfounded Expertise and The Unreasonable Pursuit of Perfection. When these vigilantes appear over the horizon of any real estate transaction, having a powerful defense can turn them away and save even the most vulnerable purchase or refinance. 

The enemies of our real estate transactions can be real persons; buyers, sellers, family members, agents, lenders, underwriters, appraisers — you name it.  But also, and more often, the real villains can be the thoughts and actions (or inactions) of those same parties. When this is the case, I have observed over my career that the destructive forces loosely fall into four categories:

Delay

There it is in black and white, written into our contracts: “Time is of the essence…” Delay, intentional or head-in-the-clouds inadvertent, is a huge risk to all real estate transactions. Providing necessary documents or signatures a day (or a week…) late may seem like no big deal at the time, but the real estate clock is always ticking. In a sales capacity, we walk a fine line. Trust us, we don’t want to be pushy. But you know what we want even less than being a backbreaker? The conversation about the additional costs incurred due to the seemingly innocuous delay you introduced when you thought you had all the time in the world. Oh, and those dates written into your contract? The ones by which you must perform? You may have gotten lucky before and you may get lucky again, but know that eventually your roulette game of missing contractual dates will land upon a counterparty reaper who will cut you no slack. And when the bell tolls that time, it will toll for thee.

Indecision

Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. And the worst thing you can do is nothing.” I would agree that when you engage in the serious business of real estate buying, selling or refinancing, you should do so with a firm understanding that you WILL be required to make important decisions. Yes, you can entrust your agents to help, but you cannot stay on the white picket fence forever. A trait I’ve noticed among my most successful clients? Resolve. When decisions are made, they are made AND done. Progress can then be made from that point. But to not decide, you must delay and if you do, you will hear the hooves of the Horsemen just the same.

Expertise, Unfounded

The internet is a wonderful thing. But as I write this today, there are otherwise smart people who, in the middle of a global pandemic that’s killed 600K+ Americans to date, are taking medications their very own doctors would implore them not to take. If some of our clients would be willing to bet their own health they can outsmart their medical doctors do we seriously think, for a minute, that they’re not also “doing their research” about their transaction, their property and their loan? Now, I am all for seeking an education on all matters important. Knowledge gained in this manner has the benefit of making one conversant with the pros — it allows us to communicate at a higher level and this, in turn, earns us respect and benefits us with the return of more precise answers. But I could read a thousand web pages about replacing my water heater. I could watch a hundred videos on how to do it. Yet make no mistake that if I attempted to actually perform the replacement I would be at great risk of making mistakes and getting in well over my head the instant something didn’t go to plan. Because the simple fact is, unless and until I have performed dozens and maybe hundreds of water heater replacements, the seasoned plumber is the guy/gal with the right training, the right tools, the right tricks, the right intuition and the right finishing touches. OK, you say, “I’ve hired a pro but I don’t really trust that person.” Sorry, but the burden is still on you. Make another and a better decision. Without delay.

The Unreasonable Pursuit of Perfection

It is my opinion that if you asked any sizeable group of even the very best real estate professionals what percentage of all of their deals go absolutely perfectly, the number would be very small. Sure, you’d get some sporadic total success stories, but the vast majority of closed deals would have instead come with their expected twists and turns, drama and excitement. Because real estate transactions are inherently complex, it’s important to embrace an attitude of “controlling what you can control” and being flexible in the face of the factors you cannot control. Buyer, sellers and homeowners who have an unreasonable expectation of perfection or who demand that the universe bends to their will are often setting themselves up for failure. Sure, we should all strive for the best and we should make every effort to promote that outcome, but when things do not go our way, most often it is not personal. It is also not the end of the earth. Can we adapt, adjust our sails and keep the greater goals intact? If we can avoid letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, almost always the answer is, “Yes!”

If you are a consumer looking to buy, sell or refinance real estate, there are many, worthwhile steps you can take to help your cause. There are also a few surefire methods of self-sabotage, as above. The best of us professionals work to impart our knowledge and experience to achieve the outcome for which we are hired and if you one day hear something along the lines of, “I understand that’s what you’ve heard or read, but that’s not the way this will play out and it’s time to decide what you’d like to do, even if it doesn’t seem entirely ideal…” This is not some long-winded way to hear ourselves talk for the better part of the day, but instead to send a concise signal to the sixteen galloping hooves that they are not welcome here and it’s time for them to turn back. You may not hear them, but we do.

Still they ride,

Rob Spinosa
SVP 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

Refinancing a Jumbo Mortgage After a COVID Forbearance

Despite some recent setbacks that see COVID cases increasing, many of us are optimistic that vaccination rates will continue to go up and all of America will eventually commit to getting the worst of the virus behind us once and for all. There is no doubt that as we headed into the summer, we could feel the economy coming back on line and the country getting back to work. Sure the recovery has been uneven, but compared to the uniform bleakness of last summer, there could only be reason for hope this time around.

Not surprisingly, the progress we’re seeing in the general economy has carried over to what we’re seeing in the mortgage industry — many homeowners who took advantage of COVID forbearance and payment deferral plans are now back to work, back on their feet, seeing those arrangements draw to a close and contemplating their best options for long-term, future financing. This happens to coincide with an ongoing low rate environment, and that has opened the door to a refinance for a good percentage of owners. But wait… If a borrower has had a recent forbearance or deferral, and has a jumbo loan, can he or she even refi at all?

The answer is “Yes!” But if you have had a forbearance or deferral plan, you have a jumbo loan and you are out there researching a refinance, you are very likely going to get some conflicting information. A key thing to remember is that not all jumbo lenders are created. Because they are not required to follow the “Agency” guidelines, that is, the rulebook that governs conforming loans as dictated by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, jumbo mortgage lenders will have different demands for refinancing post-COVID.  Here’s what we’re seeing for the most lenient of our investors:

Repayment Plan

The homeowner must have completed the full repayment plan or made at least three consecutive timely payments (and not missed any other payments under the program).

Payment Deferral

The homeowner must have made at least three consecutive timely payments following the effective date of the deferral agreement.

Modification Trial Payment Plan

The homeowner must have completed the trial payment plan.

If you are in doubt about whether or not you will meet the requirements above, get in touch and we can figure it out — often without any credit checks or exchange of any other personal documents. From there, if a refinance looks promising, the process is IDENTICAL to the one employed by a borrower who has not gone through any sort of hardship plan. We understand the nature of these inquiries and the place from which they stem. If you need a hand with your scenario, extend yours to us today.

Wash your hands,

Rob Spinosa
SVP 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 Get a Jumbo Mortgage with an H-1B Visa?

Right now, immigration is a hot topic in the United States.  Also right now, real estate is a hot market in the United States.  And also right now, at the intersection of these two, I field a lot of questions from those with H-1B visas who are looking to get a jumbo mortgage in order to buy or refinance a home.  Here are the three most common:

  1. “Can I get a jumbo mortgage if I am on an H-1B visa?”
  2. “What are the requirements for getting a jumbo mortgage if I am on an H-1B?”
  3. “Are the terms any different for a visa holder compared to a US citizen?”

Let’s look at the answers for each, but first delve into just a little bit of the technical definitions of both the H-1B visa and a jumbo mortgage.

Citizenship Status and the H-1B

In mortgage lending, we generally recognize four statuses for citizenship; US citizen, permanent resident alien (green card), non-permanent resident alien and non-resident.  In the eyes of most jumbo guidelines, US citizens and permanent resident aliens are essentially treated the same.  Non-residents, also known as foreign nationals, are generally not eligible for conventional financing, though there are loan options that exist for them which I have covered in a separate post.  The H-1B falls into the non-permanent resident alien status. 

An H-1B visa allows an individual to temporarily work in the US in a “specialty occupation.” Specialty occupations may include those in high tech, science, medicine and business/finance.  So the question remains, how does the lending industry treat an H-1B/non-permanent resident alien?

Jumbo Mortgages

One might think that a jumbo mortgage could most easily be defined by loan size — and there is some truth to this.  However, in many higher-cost areas of the US, the conforming loan limits differ.  Across most of the country, the one-unit conforming loan maximum is presently $548,250.  But here in Marin County, for example, our conforming limit is $822,375.  So yes, a jumbo loan would be anything over the conforming limit, regardless of location, but there are also some lending options that will allow a jumbo loan below the high-balance conforming loan limit ($822,375, in our example) but above $548,250. 

Therefore, “jumbo” is not exclusively tied to loan size and a better definition might go something like this:  A jumbo loan has a loan amount that is typically above the conforming loan limit and that follows the qualified mortgage (QM) requirements.  Jumbo loans are not securitized by the “agencies,” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Jumbo loans are most often underwritten to a specific investor’s guidelines and funded with that investor’s deposit base.  The investor has additional discretion over the qualifying guidelines of the loan itself and this may result in a more intensive process, additional documentation from the borrower and a more restrictive qualifying standard when compared to conforming loans.

Putting It All Together

Now that we’ve established that we have an eligible visa holder and the need for a jumbo mortgage, what will this borrower face once in the loan process?  First off, the answer is “yes” an H-1B holder can get a jumbo mortgage!  Often at the exact same terms as a citizen or green card holder. 

The key sticking points for these borrowers often tend to revolve around history.  Lenders like to see a two-year credit history (US credit, FICO scores, etc.) and a two-year tax return history.  It’s very difficult for a newly minted H-1B holder to get financing based on the historical proclivities of the lending industry, but once there is a track record, things open up substantially.  As for loan amounts, rates, and loan programs, again, so long as the history piece is met, we generally do not find there are any additional restrictions or restraints for a non-permanent resident alien.  And yes, we see these applicants all the time here in the tech-heavy Bay Area.

If you are a visa holder and have questions about a jumbo mortgage, don’t hesitate to get in touch.  Pre-approval is free and does not obligate any applicant, but before the application is completed, I am available to answer any questions you may have.

Welcome!

Rob Spinosa
Senior 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

Buying a Home All Cash, Then Getting a Mortgage

Back in a real estate market a long time ago and in a mortgage galaxy far, far away — otherwise known as 2009/2010 — some buyers needed to purchase a home with cash, then hope to refinance after they had the keys in hand.  The reason for this?  Bad credit?  Nope.  Extinction of stated income loans?  Sorry, try again.  The reason was often that the homes were not eligible for financing — many had been ravaged by the neglect of economic downturn.  Plumbing was torn out, there were holes in the walls and a good number of the properties that came on the market through short sales, foreclosures and otherwise were just in various problematic states of disrepair.  They could not pass the appraisal test for “as is” condition, and so buyers needed either a private money (“fix and flip”) loan or cold hard cash in order to make the purchase.

In response to market conditions, a guideline provision known as “delayed purchase financing,” or “delayed purchase” or “recoup of funds” was implemented.  This allowed a homebuyer to get what was essentially a cash-out refinance shortly after buying a home with cash.  Heretofore, it had not been possible to get a cash-out loan within the first six months of ownership — sort of an industry standard also aimed at preventing fraud.  But with the volume of homes purchased “free and clear” out of necessity, the lending guidebook needed to adjust its sails to reality and create a finance option for buyers who ultimately desired to have a mortgage.  The delayed purchase finance exception became reality.

Flash forward to 2021, and many of California housing markets are demanding the benefits of delayed purchase financing for an entirely different reason — fierce competition.  Buyers today feel they are being forced to make cash offers to appear most attractive to sellers who have lots of choices.  And in a world where certainty and speed are highly desirable, cash is king.  I’m not kidding you when I say that houses worth $3MM or more routinely sell all-cash in our area.  But at the end of that luxurious day, some of those buyers still hope to put a mortgage, at today’s low rates, on the property and recoup some of their cash investment.  So how do they do it?

How Does Delayed Purchase Financing Work?

The question above can best be answered by saying that if you think of this transaction JUST LIKE a purchase money loan, you will be very near to the truth.  That is, the income, assets and credit you’d need to qualify if you were buying and financing the home traditionally still all apply if you are doing delayed financing.  But like with all things mortgage, there are  a few exceptions, potential snags and special considerations…

Down Payment

When you buy traditionally, you have a down payment and a mortgage and the two amounts added together total your purchase price.  But when you finance after purchase you’re just obtaining a mortgage and the “down payment” is already converted to equity (synonymous for “ownership”) in the home.  So remember, if you buy a home for $500,000 and you seek to use the delayed purchase finance exception, you’re not getting a loan for $500K, but probably $400K or less (this would be equivalent to an 80% loan-to-value and 20% down payment, for example).  This may seem obvious but it can get lost in the shuffle of conceptualizing the recoupment of funds.  You’re recovering what you would have otherwise financed, not the full purchase price amount.

Gift Funds

Let’s paint a common picture.  Sometimes given the competitiveness of the market, a young couple seeking to buy a home might lose out on a number of bids.  Maybe they even have 20 or 25% to put down, but still, time and again they are outbid.  Finally, their generous parents swoop in and agree to help them buy the home all-cash so that they have an edge and, lo and behold, they win this bid.  Next, our young couple goes to refinance the home with the delayed purchase finance exception and we ask from where the funds to purchase came.  “Oh, that was a gift from our parents…”  Well, now we have an issue because technically gifts have no expectation of repayment.  So in structuring the acquisition, it’s important that our buyers understand the implications of source of funds, particularly when it comes to gifts, and how to otherwise structure their purchase so they can recoup via mortgage financing later.  Get in touch if you have this scenario yourself.

Reserves

Another potential asset hiccup occurs when delayed financing coincides with a jumbo loan amount.  As we’ve discussed in prior blogs, jumbo loans require asset reserves.  If a cash buyer delves too deep into his savings to buy a home with cash, he may come up short on the assets that were earmarked for meeting the reserve requirement.  The funds are no longer liquid assets, but instead equity in real estate and cannot be considered as reserves.  What’s happened here is that this buyer’s assets have been reclassified as equity.

Rate Differences?

Some scenarios and lenders will price out a delayed purchase differently than a traditional purchase.  Usually where this happens, the rate on the delayed purchase would be higher.  That’s because these lenders will view these transactions like a cash-out refinance instead of a “purchase money” loan.  And in the realm of lending, a cash-out refinance is perceived as riskier and thus it comes with a higher rate.

It’s important to begin with the end in mind when contemplating delayed purchase financing.  Yes, it’s a great way to get a jump on making a competitive offer on a home, but adding the mortgage later is not exactly the same as adding it at the time of purchase.  Because of this, discussing with a mortgage professional how the end loan will look before making the leap into an all-cash purchase is the best strategy.  The good news is that you can still pre-approve for the loan in advance of your purchase.  If you feel that a cash offer is going to be what’s required to prevail in your market, getting a pre-approval for a delayed finance mortgage is exactly what you should do. 

Don’t delay,

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

Asian American Support Goes Viral

Often, getting the first words down are the hardest. “Writer’s block.”  But not this time. 

So let me start by condemning the recent incident of gun violence against Asian Americans in Atlanta.  Let me take the opportunity to communicate to all Americans of all races that discrimination, in all forms, is wrong and will not be tolerated.  Not in my business, not in my community, not in the private confines of my home.  

Specifically with violence against Asian Americans, statistics show an increase in verbal and physical assaults since the onset of COVID-19. So the next time you get a chance to talk about the pandemic — anywhere with anyone — don’t call it, or allow it to be called, the China virus or the Wuhan flu.  Not because there isn’t a kernel of truth in its place of origin, but because we can readily call it COVID and everyone will still know exactly what we mean. 

Call it COVID because then your language, intentional or otherwise, won’t hit anyone’s ear offensively and won’t stand even a remote chance of being indiscriminately harmful.  I know, you’ve heard prominent individuals and certain news media personalities offer cover for making a cultural issue of the virus. But let’s accept xenophobic smalltalk for what it is — a license for someone bolder, coarser, and perhaps even legitimately sinister to push the boundary of another’s rights just that much further in the wrong direction.

We can debate the forensic anatomy of the Atlanta crime and whether anyone’s words in particular led to this shooter’s behavior.  Due process should be allowed to run its course in due time — also an American right.  But it is indisputable, today, that our individual responsibility to upholding the dignity of all Americans, through actions big and small, contributes to a more just, peaceful and inclusive society.  

In my profession, required continuing education reinforces the laws aimed at preventing discrimination in housing; ECOA, FHA, FCRA, etc. Not only were these created with good intention, they were created to address bad practice.  It’s essential that we live their values each day because, even through the language we use with our prospects and clients, we have the profound ability to affect the lives of others in very real ways.  For decades, access to home ownership has been denied to otherwise worthy Americans exclusively on the basis of race, sexuality, marital status or other classifications.  Rest assured the discrimination was not always blatant, and certainly at least some of it happened in the presence of good people who didn’t or couldn’t prevent it.  In solidarity with my Asian American neighbors, I feel compelled to say, “Not any more and not on my watch.”

Still, it must be accepted that tackling overt discrimination and preventing acts of violence that shock the conscience cannot be expected to fall within any single individual’s control.  It takes villages to do that.  So to all of us, in our unique positions as members of diverse and straddling communities; home, school, race, church, sport, neighborhood, sexual orientation, hobby and interest, I understand it’s become increasingly difficult in a culture of high-velocity information exchange to remain outside of range on the core issues of who we are as a nation.  Regardless, I encourage you speak up.  Let’s commit to begin with the manner in which we communicate, the words we choose and our effort to have those words heard by those around us.

As a grandchild of Italian immigrants myself, I support and welcome the Asian American community — I always have.  But the days of doing so silently are over.  Our doors are open and they will always find in me a supporter of their equal rights as individuals and a restless champion for their pursuit of happiness here in the United States.

E pluribus unum, 

Robert J. 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

It’s Cool to Conform in 2021

If you know me, you know that I don’t like to stick to convention.  I was the teenager who skipped college, moved to Hollywood and played rock guitar.  In my 20’s, I saved up vacation time not for sandy white beaches but instead for expeditions to the harsh mountain environs of the world’s highest peaks.  In my 30’s, I dove (literally) into the sport of triathlon — an endeavor, to quote my Aunt Marge, that would be something she’d “rather die a thousand deaths” before contemplating.  When I come to the fork in the road where straight and narrow diverges from the path less traveled, you can bet your best Yogi Berra’ism that I’m gonna take the latter.  So to write a blog post solely about the increase in conforming loan limits tests my own limits of conformity.  But for once, I am going to go along with the crowd and talk about pending changes coming to the San Francisco Bay Area, and across the state of California, in 2021.

Let’s step back for a minute and recognize that for the entire state (and country), the current conforming loan limit for a single family residence is set at $510,400.  In many of the higher cost, coastal counties of CA, we also have a “jumbo conforming,” “super conforming,” or “high-balance conforming” loan limit that exceeds this limit.  For example, here in my home county of Marin, that limit is presently set at $765,600.  Let’s look at how these will increase in 2021:

2020 Conforming Limit         2021 Conforming Limit

$510,400                                    $548,250

2020 High Balance Limit       2021 High Balance Limit          County

$765,600                                   $822,375                                      Marin

$765,600                                   $822,375                                      Alameda

$765,600                                   $822,375                                      Contra Costa

$672,750                                   $739,450                                      Monterey

$764,750                                   $816,500                                      Napa

$765,600                                   $822,375                                      San Benito

$765,600                                   $822,375                                      San Francisco

$765,600                                   $822,375                                      San Mateo

$765,600                                   $822,375                                      Santa Clara

$765,600                                   $822,375                                      Santa Cruz

$494,500                                   $550,850                                      Solano

$704,950                                   $707,250                                      Sonoma

As of the writing of this post (late November of 2020) we have already begun to implement the higher limits, so if you believe any of these increases will impact your purchase or refinance mortgage, please let me know.  I am a big fan of the higher limits because a conforming loan generally provides an easier qualification compared to a jumbo mortgage, and simply because we have higher home prices in the Bay Area should not be a reason to subject borrowers to a more burdensome loan process.  Yes, I realize that much of the country may not dance to the beat of my drummer.  But even though I don’t conform to their point of view, my idea of conforming is increasing, and that’s a step in the right direction.

We don’t get fooled again, 

Robert J. 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

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

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

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