The home buying process will go smoothly when you work with me!

1. Individualized—I work directly with you, the home buyer to put together financing plans that fit your unique needs and expectations.
2. Local presence—I have been serving Salem for the past 17 years. Landmark Professional has been here for the past 25 years!
3. Communication—Staying connected to each other is integral to our success. I maintain an “open door” policy when it comes to contacting me whenever you need assistance.
4. Integrity—You will always be updated and know just where your file is in the process. If a challenge arises, I will face it head on and keep you informed the entire way.
5. Great Team—You can be assured that you will be working with the best individuals in the industry.
6. Smooth transitions—There will not be any surprises at the closing table.
7. Personal connections—You will have a “first name” working relationship with me and my team, we are dedicated professionals who share your goals.
8. Peace-of-mind—You will be in great hands and will receive the kind of care and attention that you deserve.
9. Mutual benefit—I understand the importance of closing on time—and am committed to supporting you and your timelines.
10. Professional—I adhere to a strong code of ethics and personal standards of excellence.
11. Products—I have flexibility with a number of top-quality mortgage products, lenders and services.
12. Referrals—You will tell your friends and neighbors about the top-notch service that you received—a positive reflection is what I strive for. My business is referral based, so your referral is the highest compliment I can receive.

Call or email me anytime, I look forward to working with you on the most important financial decision of your life. Karen@landmarkprofessional.net
or 503-385-4050

New Good Faith Estimate

Effective January 1st the new Good Faith Estimate becomes required.  The new form is suppose to make it easier for the consumer to shop and compare lenders and the costs for a mortgage loan.  Notice I said “suppose” to.  Many in the industry are still very confused over the form as well, so don’t be upset if you don’t feel comfortable seeing the new form. 

There are many things about the new form that have us all shaking our heads. For example, there is no place to show the consumer their total house payment or how much they need to close .  These are two numbers that are important in the home loan process.  This new form can not be written on or even signed by the borrower either.

The new settlement booklet is finally out, please see the link below to access the booklet that will explain the new form.  I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the booklet and new form.  Does it make it easier or more confusing to obtain a mortgage loan? 

HUD released their settlement cost brochure today!! Here you go… http://portal.hud.gov/portal/page/portal/HUD/documents/Settlement%20Booklet%20December%2015%20REVISED.pdf


Mortgage Lenders Urged To Take Part In Housing Plan
U.S. bank regulators want lenders to participate in the new program to support home loan modifications,_ in order to ease downward pressure on house prices and foreclosures.


Here are links to several sites to help us understand the highlights of Obama’s plan to stem foreclosures and to modify existing loans that may be in trouble.



I have some concerns on whether this will truly work or not. 

1.  Lenders are only “encouraged” to participate. It is not mandatory.

2. Do borrowers have to be late currently or just about to be? I believe the answer is no according to the above links so that is good news.

3. It seems that one of the qualifications is that you are not able to qualify for a traditional refinance due to loss of equity in your home. In my initial research, it seems that there are two plans or options that you may fall under.  4. How will this affect someones credit report in the future?  This woud be helpful to those that aren’t late yet and contemplating this as a solution to lower their interest rate and payment.

My concern is that the Hope for Homeowners program and the FHA Secure program were suppose to be the “savior” for people in need but those programs worked only for a few people. Lenders put their own spins and requirements on those programs so the success rate of these programs was negligible.

I am sure that as the plan unfolds and lenders add their interpretation, we will see how this plays out.

http://www.financialstability.gov/  This website has a question and answer format that is good.  The two options are 1) a refinance option for those who owe about the same or more than their current value is and 2) the modification program.

Secrets to Creating a Budget

I read this article and thought that it had a couple of ideas that might interest you.
I hope that you will find an idea or two that you can use. I will continue to pass these on as I come across them.  The article is a bit long but getting back to the basics with our budgeting and incomes is important in these times of economic uncertainty.   Please call or email me if you have any questions or if I can be of assistance.  karen@landmarkmortgage.com

You’d never set out on a cross-country road trip without consulting a map.  And, likewise, you can’t expect to reach your financial goals without developing a plan for spending and saving.  Indeed, budgets play a pivotal role in helping consumers pay off debt, feather their nest egg and make the most of their hard-earned dollars.

Yet, despite their best intentions, many Americans lack the money-management skills necessary to get their bank accounts under control.  Why?  Often, it’s because they don’t know where they stand, says Jim Tehan, a spokesman for Myvesta Foundation, a self-help consumer education Web site.  “People write out budgets all the time without knowing where their money is really going,” he says.  “What they’ve created is a wish list of how they’d like to spend their money, but it’s not realistic.  It’s a page of lies.”

Follow the money: Track your spending

The first step to developing a budget, says Tehan, is to track your expenses for at least a month, using a checkbook ledger, a sticky note inside your wallet or a daily expense work sheet.  Be sure to record every purchase no matter how small, including ATM fees.  “Once you know where your money is going, you can make an educated decision about how best to allocate your money,” he says.

Many novice budgeters make the mistake of becoming too financially conservative, at least on paper.  “The No. 1 rule of setting budgets is to not cut all the fun out of your life.  Inevitably, Spartan budgets that have no allowance for entertainment are doomed to fail.”  Instead, learn to moderate. “If you’re eating out every night, and that’s something you enjoy doing, try eating out once a week instead,” says Tehan.  “It’s not about cutting out everything that gives you joy in life.  It’s about better allocating your money.”

Make savings contributions automatically

Though every budget scenario is different, Curt Weil, a Certified Financial Planner for the Lasecke Weil Wealth Advisory Group in Palo Alto, Calif., says a good rule of thumb is to allocate at least 10 percent of your earnings toward savings, using direct deposit to pay yourself first.

Short-term savings that you may need to access can be held in an interest-bearing savings account, six-month certificate of deposit or money market fund.  Long-term savings, meanwhile, should be directed toward a tax-friendly retirement savings tool, such as an individual retirement account, or IRA, or 401(k).

The ultimate goal, of course, is to maximize your 401(k).  But those just starting out should contribute at least enough to get the employer match, says Weil.

Define spending and priorities

Another 35 percent of your earnings, he says, should be earmarked for housing and utilities.  Weil says, however, that homeowners can often up that percentage since principal payments are already a form of forced savings, and the mortgage interest they pay is tax-deductible.

If you’re saving for something specific, such as a new car or your child’s college education, you may want to set aside another 10 percent of your earnings into an interest-bearing account or a tax-favored 529 college savings plan.

Everything else — the remaining 45 percent– is discretionary, for use on food, entertainment, clothing and vacations.  That’s where priorities come in.  You can’t have everything you want, says Martin Siesta, a Certified Financial Planner for Compass Wealth Management in Maplewood, N.J., but you can direct your dollars toward things you want the most.  “If consumers start by deciding what’s most important to them, then cutting back on some of the things that aren’t that important isn’t really a sacrifice,” he says.

Pay with cash

One you’ve determined how much to set aside for saving, spending and investing; it’s time to make those numbers stick.  The growing popularity of credit and debit cards makes it all too easy to overspend.  With the exception of your mortgage and car loan, most consumers should implement a strict policy of paying with cash for groceries, clothes, vacations and nonessential items.

Siesta also recommends relying less on ATMs, especially those that charge a fee.  Withdrawing a fixed amount of discretionary money at the beginning of the month, he says, forces you to make better spending choices.  “By spending cash out of an envelope you begin to get a better feeling for where your money is going and what your priorities really are.”

Strategically pay down expensive debt

Financially speaking, of course, you’ll never get ahead if you don’t also implement a plan to pay down your debt.  Interest payments made to credit cards not only cost you big, but also deny you the ability to apply that money toward savings or entertainment.

“I approach it from an investment point of view,” says Weil.  “Not having to pay interest is the same, economically, as earning interest.  So not having to pay credit card interest is like earning 18 percent.”

Conventional wisdom maintains that consumers with multiple credit card balances should tackle the card with the highest interest rate first, while continuing to make minimum payments on their other cards.  Once the first card is paid off, focus on the next highest rate card.  Tehan contends, however, some debt-laden consumers get a psychological boost by paying off the smaller balances first.  “Paying off your highest rate card first makes sense because it saves you the most money, but if you have several smaller cards it can be easier psychologically to get those out of the way first.  That way you can see some immediate progress, which gives you a little boost,” says Tehan.

The secret to paying off debt is to determine how much you can afford to send each month and make those payments consistently.  “It’s important to keep sending the maximum amount you can afford to send,” says Tehan.  “Some people make the mistake of reducing the amount they send when they see their payments going down.”

Build a safety net

No matter what your debt situation, you should also begin saving for a rainy day.  Financial planners recommend setting aside three- to six-months’ worth of living expenses into an emergency fund, in case you or your spouse lose a job, fall ill or get hit with an unexpected bill.  “It’s important to set aside savings while you’re paying off debt,” says Tehan.  “It may sound backward, but if you don’t have an emergency account and you pay down your credit cards for six months and then an emergency pops up, all the progress you have made is going to be instantly wiped out.”

The most painless way to save, of course, is to set aside any financial windfalls you receive, such as bonuses, tax refunds or yearly raises.  You could also try saving your change or any $1 bills that find their way into your wallet.

Live within your means

Learning to live within your means is a simple matter of spending less than you make.  For most consumers, that means cutting back.  It does not mean doing without.

According to Siesta, there are dozens of ways to reduce your monthly expenses without crimping your lifestyle.

³ If you’re paying multiple credit cards, consider rolling the balances over to a lower rate card, taking note of any introductory rates that may expire.

³ Still have an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM?  If you’re planning to stay put, refinance to a fixed mortgage before interest rates climb any higher.

³ If you’re paying private mortgage insurance, or PMI, check to see if it can be canceled.  Under the Homeowners Protection Act of 1998, servicers are required to automatically terminate PMI on loans originated after July 29, 1999, when the loan is paid down to 78 percent loan-to-value, which means you have 22 percent equity in your home.  In some cases, you can request PMI cancellation when your equity reaches 20 percent.

³ Slash health-care costs by ordering generic medications through a mail-order pharmacy.  “If you’re taking a medication regularly, you can save a lot of money using a mail-order service,” says Siesta, noting consumers should consult their medical plans first.

³ Depending on your family’s needs and comfort zone, you can also save big by raising the deductibles on your home and auto insurance.

³ Don’t be afraid to play hardball.  Many consumers today continue to pay more than they should for cable TV, Internet service and local and long-distance phone plans.  By approaching your current providers with more competitive offers and a threat to switch teams, you can often significantly lower the rates you pay.

³ It’s equally important to pay your bills on time.  Not only will you avoid late fees, but you’ll keep your credit score clean, which rewards you with the best possible rates on future loans. 

And above all else, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.  Your neighbors with the latest clothes and luxury cars may be drowning in debt, and while you may not sport a designer watch, you will be able to sleep at night.

 by: Shelly K. Schwartz, http://www.bankrate.com



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What Would You do With a Second Stimulus Check?

Fed Chairman Sparks Talks Of Another Stimulus Bill:  While testifying on Capitol Hill recently, Bernanke endorsed the idea that another round of stimulus checks may be needed to help jolt the economy.  The talk surrounding the idea is being embraced by Congress and the President.  This second bill may in fact be larger than the $168 Billion package approved in February, which included $600 tax rebates for most individuals and tax breaks for businesses.

The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is pushing talks around the proposed bill that could resurrect a few items that were pulled out of the first stimulus bill such as: $37 Billion in public works spending, $6 Billion to extend jobless benefits, $15 Billion to help states pay their Medicaid bills and $3 Billion in food stamp assistance for the poor.

What would you do with a second stimulus check?  In these trying times, would you go out and spend it, payoff a bill or save it? 

Credit Tips

In today’s lending environment, your credit is more important than ever. Your interest rates are directly related to your credit score. Any credit score under a 720 has a cost now associated with it.

The first thing I suggest if you are looking to purchase or refinance a home is to review your credit report. You may obtain a free credit report at Freecreditreport.com.  I am happy to review it with you and offer suggestions for improving your scores.

While we don’t know the exact formulas used to create your score, we do know the things that will affect your score.

35% of your score is derived from how you pay your bills. 30% is how much you owe. 15% is how long you have had the accounts. 10% is the type of accounts you have and the last 10% is new credit. 

Payment history is key. Paying bills on their due date or before is best, but as long as they are paid before they are 30 days late, it will not affect your score.  If you do happen to have a late payment, the older it is, the less it will hurt your score.

One of the other factors that affects your score is the amount of outstanding credit that you have. If you have too much debt that is negative, even if it’s all paid as agreed.  The balances to the limit is also a negative.  For example, if you have one credit card that is at its max limit, that is worse than having the balances spread over two or three cards. The score card likes to see less than 30% of your limit on your card.

A recent late will hurt your score drastically. It will take a good 6-12 mos to recover from a late payment, the type of account that is late will tell how long the time is.   A card over the limit will also hurt your score. Bringing the amount owed down will generally recover your score in 2-3 mos time.

The duration of your accounts plays a part in scoring, the longer the better. Several new accounts can have an adverse affect on your score. 

The types of accounts you have is a balancing act. Typically a mortgage, car loan and a few credit cards would be a good mix as long as those accounts aren’t close to their limits, are paid as agreed and have been in use for a period of time. Try and avoid the finance companies if you can.

We should all pull our credit reports at least once a year to routinely check how our credit is and to make sure that no fraudulent activity has occurred.  If you need any help reviewing that report, I would be happy to do that with you.