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How To Build A House Without Getting Divorced!

By Christy Soukhamneut, shared with permission
The first house my husband and I ever bought, we built.  Over the last 21+ years of marriage, we have built 3 additional homes and completely remodeled another. The remodel might have really been the one that did us in – I only wish I had the before and after pictures to show you. PLUS, we were young and stupid and did almost 100% of the work ourselves while selling a house and then living in the midst of a remodel job with no kitchen.  It was truly urban camping.
Somehow, we made it out on the other side of all of that without getting a divorce.  We learned a few things in the process that could help you on your journey.  On the upside, not all of it was bad.  Read on to learn the good, bad, and the ugly from not only my experience, but from top industry experts who have been through the process themselves and helped thousands of clients successfully make it through this journey unscathed.
The Good
 Here is what Ungenita Prevost from Posh on Pennies had to say about purchasing a new construction home (you can fin Ungenita on Twitter @UngenitaPrevost @PoshonPennies or online ) “Building with your partner can be a lot of fun if you start the process with the right attitude, a clear budget and set the intention to create something that you both love. It’s a win, win!”
“We approached it like a joint venture (I know it sounds like business, it’s one of my favorite words).  The point is we were equally involved and contributed.”
The Bad (really, how to keep it from going bad, but it fits with the theme)
According to Paul Sian from HER Realtors (find Paul at 513-560-8002, on Twitter @PaulPSian, or online ), that having “a professional real estate agent can help keep you out of trouble….you have expert advice. At times where emotions can get the best of you having an expert in your corner lest you relax and know someone else has your best interests in mind and will guide you when you need it.”
Shawn Helwig, Area Sales Manager with Henry Homes (you can reach Shawn at 615.573.7444 or online at says “It is very rare that both parties get 100% of what they want in a new home.  Be open to compromise. If you can get 90% of your wish list, consider that a win.  Don’t sweat the other 10%.”
Judy McDougal, a top producing Realtor® with ReMax Savannah (you can reach Judy at 912.354.1555 or online who is currently building a home with her husband Art, says “The best thing you can do is hire a builder that you both can work well with.  Building is a partnership.”  She goes on to agree with both Ungenita that decisions should be made together and with Shawn that compromises need to be made.
The Ugly (again, cut me some slack…it’s a theme)
Jarad Brown, a savvy loan officer with Starkey Mortgage who is currently remodeling a home with his pregnant wife Amber – he is a brave man (Jarad can be reached at 912.604.8848, on Twitter @jaradbbrown or online at  , advises to avoid the ugly by setting a budget. He says to set one for the entire build and one for each section of the build or remodel.  For example, the kitchen is the most important to us so we are going to allot $30,000.  Make sure to use dollar amounts and not vague figures.  Then stick to the budget.  No cheating.
In summary, the top tips are:
·        Start with a good attitude
·        Work with a professional Realtor®
·        Pick a builder you can both work with
·        Make decisions together
·        Be willing to compromise
·       Set a budget & stick with it…no cheating
Follow these simple (though, admittedly not always easy) steps and you should be well on your way to enjoying your new home.
Join us next time as we explore more in the world of mortgage lending. If you have a burning question or just want to chat — I love to be social……you can reach me on Twitter (@ChrisEllaLoans), Snapchat (ChrisElla2), CyberDust (ChrisElla),, at the office at 912.721.9400, and my website at . Find out more about me and more ways we can network (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) at\chrisella
As always, if you liked this article please like, share, or comment…….or all of these things; they are greatly appreciated.
 Oh…One last piece of advice, agree on when you will remove the port-a-potty J It doesn’t go with your décor.
Christy Soukhamneut, Area Manager
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The worst is over! You have chosen a lender and real estate agent, you have found the home of your dreams, and your team has negotiated the best deal available for you. As a homebuyer, all you have to do now is sit and wait for your loan to close, right?


Getting a home loan is an interactive process. To help avoid any surprises while waiting for final approval, clients should consider the following do’s and don’ts.

Bart Swan and his team recommend that you keep your loan process on track by remembering the following:

• Do keep the process moving by responding to your loan officers’ requests.
• Do make decisions as soon as is reasonably possible.
• Do convey questions or concerns you have as they develop.
• Do continue to make all of your rent or mortgage payments on time.
• Do stay current on all other existing accounts.
• Do continue to work your normal work schedule with no unplanned time off.
• Do continue to use your credit as normal.

After you have been preapproved for your mortgage, refrain from falling into some of these common pitfalls, which can tie up your loan process, or worse, reverse the process entirely:

1. Don’t make any major purchases (car, jewelry, furniture, appliances, etc.).
2. Don’t apply for any new credit (even if it says you are preapproved).
3. Don’t pay off charges or collections (unless directed by your loan officer).
4. Don’t make any changes to your credit profile.
5. Don’t make unusual deposits into your bank accounts or move money around.

Follow these simple rules and you will help to make your loan closing as smooth and hassle-free as possible. Call me today for any questions you may have about your upcoming purchase.

Choosing a Location for Your New Home


Making the decision to relocate is almost always difficult. You can be influenced to move by many factors. Do you want to upgrade, downgrade, change school districts, or find a better lifestyle? Moving can provide these changes for you, but can also be a hassle without the right guidance. We have some tips to help aid your search for the perfect home in just the right spot.


What kind of climate are you looking for? Do you want a large amount of land or just a small front yard? Decide what you’re looking for before diving into the search. The internet is an excellent tool to research various regions and what they have to offer. You may be surprised to learn what areas align with your perfect idea of a home location.

Contact a real estate professional to save time and become more informed. They will help with home availability in areas you wish to review while advising you of the selling prices of the homes.


If you have children, finding a home within an exceptional school district is probably one of your main concerns when relocating. There are several online resources for DIY research. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics offers helpful data and snapshot reports to help you compare districts. Use this and other free tools to stay informed.

There are also consultants who specialize in finding the best school for your child. If school district is one of your top priorities, consider hiring a consultant to help you navigate the maze of school choice.


Do you enjoy fine dining or walks in the park? Perhaps both? Figure out how you would like to spend your free time and find a location that caters to your needs. If you enjoy hiking or other outdoor activities, maybe the middle of a busy city isn’t the best place for you. If you like a wide variety of restaurant choices nearby, you may not enjoy living in a rural area. Consider your choices carefully, and make sure you fully appreciate the amenities of your new home’s location.


Most of us would enjoy a shorter commute versus a longer one. Figure out travel time to and from your place of business. Get to know the traffic patterns of your potential new location. What seems like a short drive in the middle of the day may actually be quite strenuous during rush hour. Do you use public transportation? Ensure that there are systems in place in your location of choice to get you where you need to go. If you have an electric vehicle, charging stations nearby could be a selling point for you. Travel frequently? A shorter drive to the airport could really help your trip time. Keep your needs in mind and make sure your commute is a sustainable one.


We all want to feel safe. Just like school districts, there are plenty of resources online to check safety statistics on your potential new neighborhood. These resources can prove invaluable, especially if you’re the type of person who likes being able to leave their door unlocked.


Make sure the value of homes in the area you are considering is going up, not down. Are there potential new developments occurring? What will the neighborhood look like in the future? Know approximately how long you plan to stay in that location and choose accordingly.

Consider these and other tips when choosing a location for your new home. You and your family are sure to find contentment if you know your needs and plan ahead.

Ask Bart Swan or any of my team members if you have any questions or concerns. While purchasing a home may be stressful, it is one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences you will ever have.

Rural Housing Loan Changes Are Upon Us!

Rural housing loans in Florida
Rural Housing loans in Florida

I hope you’ve got your Rural Housing loan ready to close by the end of September 2011.  The cost of financing a RH loan will go up for any loans approved by Rural Housing on or after the 1st of October.  It’s not a huge increase, but you may want to know about it.

The Guaranteed Rural Housing Loan is already similar to the FHA loan, but it offers financing at 0% down, whereas the FHA loan requires at least 3.5% down.  The FHA loan has an upfront fee that is rolled into the loan, and an annual fee spread across the 12 payments.  A Rural Housing loan has historically only had an upfront fee.  Beginning with approvals on or after Oct 1 the RH loans will have a reduced upfront fee but will be adding an annual fee.  The difference in payment for loans approved after October 1 will be about $17/month higher per one hundred thousand financed.

It’s interesting to note that the annual fee is calculated every year based on the average unpaid balance for that year.  In other words, the calculation is pretty complex, but makes a little bit more sense than the typical mortgage insurance model.  The new RH model only charges mortgage insurance (they call it “Annual Fee”) on the unpaid principal each year, so it reduces over time.  Typical mortgage insurance is a flat fee calculated upfront and doesn’t reduce regardless of how much you pay down your loan.  So while the RH fee is more complicated, it’s fairer, at least in my humble opinion.

Remember the RH loan has household income limits you can access here, and is only available in some areas.  To find eligible areas, click here.  My primary area of business is Okaloosa County, Florida.  The income limit in Okaloosa county is $102,500/year for a household of 5-8 and $77,650 for a household with 4 or less people.  If your household earns more money than the household limit (kids included), you can’t get a Rural Housing loan.

The Rural Housing loan is an excellent program if you and your property are eligible!

How can I help you or your friends?

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Fine Tuning Credit Scores

By next spring, two of three credit reporting bureaus will use a new model. Fair Isaac, the developer of FICO scores, has made the biggest change to its mathematical credit score model since it was introduced in 1989. Scores will still be on a 300- to 850-point scale. But the company estimates that 40% to 50% of borrowers’ scores could go up or down by more than 20 points because of how the new model fine-tunes the variables it uses to evaluate consumers’ credit use behavior.


For creditors, the new FICO score promises to reduce the risk of defaults, improving the predictability of defaults by 5% to 15%. Delinquencies are at their highest rate since 1992, when the economy was also in a recession. The revised scoring method “has a few more gray areas fleshed out so it gives us confidence in credit scoring models,” says Ginny Ferguson, a member of the board of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers.

Equifax and TransUnion will be the first credit reporting bureaus to roll out the changes over the next year. As credit tightens because of the financial crisis, FICO scores are becoming increasingly important for borrowers looking to qualify for favorable terms. That puts high scorers in “even a better position for pricing on loans” as the economy recovers, says Ferguson.


The timing of the new scores reflects more changes in the marketplace, says Careen Foster, senior product manager at Fair Isaac. “Lenders said they wanted a stronger predictive model, but didn’t want to change how it is used,” she adds.

Fair Isaac has increased the number of groups that customers fall into from 10 to 12, taking into more account the number and magnitude of credit problems. Infrequent problem borrowers will no longer be lumped in with habitual delinquents. With the new model, “there is more forgiveness around people in the middle,” says Foster. “If you have one isolated missed payment you won’t score as low as before.” The new FICO model also focuses less on how many accounts a borrower has and more on the amount of balances carried.


Piggybacking — upping a score on someone else’s back — won’t be ruled out in the new FICO score. But it will make using that route to establishing credit harder and lengthier. The authorized user provision allows young adults to create a credit history by using and paying off accounts held by their parents. But it has also been subject to abuse, with high credit scorers selling their names to borrowers looking to improve scores. Fair Isaac estimates that 30% of U.S. credit card holders, or 60-75 million people, are authorized users. says that many of those authorized users are women. Many of them rely on their husbands’ FICO scores, and it will now take longer for those women to build up their own credit scores.


First Blush

The Fed’s been at it again, offering words that sound encouraging at first blush, confirming that their buying program of Mortgage Backed Securities is in full swing and will continue as needed. Of course, the media will pick this up and offer their own interpretation, saying “Good news, the Fed’s words on continuing their purchasing program mean that rates will continue to drop lower, and remain low into the summer…” But is this really what that means? Not so.

Here’s the truth.

Yes, the Fed has been buying Mortgage Bonds, but if you look at what they are purchasing, they are buying a lot of FNMA 30-yr 5.5% and 5.0% Bonds…which won’t have much of an impact on present interest rates. Why? First, see the Fed’s purchases for yourself by hitting this link: Direct Link to View Fed Mortgage Bond Buying –

So why is the Fed buying these Bonds? Well if you think about it, it’s very smart of the Fed…and maybe even a little sneaky…because 5.5% Bonds actually represent outstanding mortgages with rates of 6 – 6.50%, which are precisely the loans being refinanced at today’s great interest rates.

Stay with me here…

With rates at present low levels, many of the mortgages in these FNMA 5.5% pools being bought up by the Fed will be refinanced and paid, thus giving the Fed a quick recoup on some of their investment. And this is likely a big reason why the Fed said they could continue this purchasing program beyond June, if necessary. Bottom line, the Fed buying these higher rate coupons will not necessarily help rates to move lower, as their actions do not impact the loans being originated at today’s low rates.

Here’s the most important part.

Sometimes I talk to clients who are in a situation where it makes sense to refinance right now, and save $250 per month for example. But when they hear the media throwing around teases of lower rates ahead, they decide to hold off on making the decision to save the $250 per month right now, in the hopes of gaining another $30 per month in additional savings with a lower rate than where we stand presently. Now clearly, rates could turn higher, and this window of opportunity could pass them by entirely.

The clincher is this:

Even if those clients ultimately are correct in timing the market, and eventually grab that lower rate and save another $30 per month – think of what they have lost by waiting. While they delayed, they lost the savings they could have gained by taking action sooner – or in the example used, $250 – for every single month they waited. So even if they got lucky and obtained the rate they were looking for, it could take years to make up what they lost by waiting.

I don’t want anyone to miss an opportunity by either waiting, or not understanding what is at stake. Let’s talk further on this – call or email me and let’s discuss what this might mean for you.

Through the education of our community and our clients we’re “Providing A Professional Approach to Mortgage Finance”!  How can we help you?