Stephen Katz – First Home, First Loan Helping to make home ownership a pleasant reality Tue, 15 Aug 2017 13:42:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Home Inspections Benefit Buyers And Sellers Wed, 09 Aug 2017 20:20:50 +0000 Today, we’ll discuss the home inspection process. The home inspection is a crucial part of the process for both the buyer and the seller, although it is designed primarily to protect the buyer.

When you’re looking at a house, you want to be able to focus on whether or not it’s the right house for you. You don’t want to worry about the nuts and bolts of the home. Once you have your house under contract, there will be a contingency that allows you to have an inspector examine the nuts and bolts for you.

Inspectors keep an eye out for safety concerns and things that will affect the home value. The inspector will climb up into the attic and check insulation, and look out for wiring issues as well, among other things.

It’s important to choose the right inspector. You want someone thorough, but also someone who won’t cause unnecessary alarm. If there is a major issue with the home, and the seller won’t fix it, you do have the option to back out of the house.

From a seller’s standpoint, it’s important to understand that you should designate some money for inspection repairs. No house passes an inspection 100%. An inspector will find something, and it’s smart to have a budget set aside. Some sellers even have an inspection ahead of time so that they can make the repairs before an offer has even been made.

The most important thing is to choose the right inspector. Listen to your real estate agent, because they will have an inspector they know and trust to work with you. If you have any questions, give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you!

What Are the Benefits Of Working With A Local Lender? Fri, 04 Aug 2017 20:36:55 +0000 We have been in business for over 20 years here in Atlanta and are local. If you want to close your loan on time, it’s best to work with a local lender, like us! We have local staff and will ensure your deal gets closed on time.

Availability is the most important aspect of any company’s customer service experience. If you have questions or needs about your loan, you can call, text, or email your agent, even if it’s after hours. They are available when clients are out looking at houses and whenever else they are needed. Additionally, they explain the whole process, so that everyone understands exactly what they’re getting into. Well, why should you expect any different from your lender? The answer is, you shouldn’t. You should receive the exact same respect and we pride ourselves on that!

One of the biggest changes in the lending world in over 20 years occurred on October 3. Things that have been around for 50 years are no more. You’ll no longer hear about the Good Faith Estimate, which is replaced by the Loan Estimate, and there is no more HUD-1, as it has been replaced by the Closing Disclosure. In addition, new hard stops and timeframes have been instituted and have to be met before a loan can be closed. These changes are to ensure the consumer knows what their loan is before it closes and to make sure there are no surprises.

To make sure the process moves smoothly, it’s crucial to understand that the days of closing a loan in 10 days are over. If you plan on buying a home, whether you’re a first-time buyer or a luxury buyer, it’s never too early to talk to a lender. You can reach us at 770-824-9777 if you have any lending questions. Or send us an email at


What Causes A Loan To Fall Through? Wed, 26 Jul 2017 20:04:28 +0000 Today, we’re going to talk about why some loans fall apart before they get to the closing table.

1.    Misinformation. Now, the client is not misleading anyone on purpose. Once you’ve made an offer on a home, we will start to verify the information you submitted for your pre-approval. Let’s say you have a catering business that you do on the side, and it’s on your tax return but you forgot to mention it to the loan officer. That could be the difference between the loan working out or not working out.

 2.    Timely information. You will have to get a lot of information to the loan officer, to your agent, to home insurance companies, and more. It is important that you submit the information as soon as possible. If your loan officer asks you for pay stubs, get the pay stubs over that day or the next day. There’s a lot of things going on, so getting things in on time is crucial.

 3.    Uncontrolled factors. Appraisals, CondoCerts, home inspections, and job loss are the main four. If the appraisal comes in low and the listing agent doesn’t want to negotiate, the loan could fall through. CondoCerts make sure the condo is warranted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to protect the consumer. If you get a home inspection back and the repairs cost more than what you are approved for, the loan would fall through. If you lose your job, you could lose your loan if you don’t have an offer for another job.

 One thing that is in your control is major purchases. Don’t go and buy a new car or a boat before you close on the home. The loan will fall through.

Any other questions or concerns? Feel free to reach out! We’ve got you covered.


How To Determine How Much House You Can Afford Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:01:10 +0000 Are you a first time home buyer? Are you trying to determine your budget? We (lenders) are more than happy to help you find your answer(s), but here are some tips to get you started:

One of the first things that you’ll want to look at is your credit. If you do not have any credit established, you’re going to need to start there. You can establish credit by opening up a credit card (for first timers, I have heard great reviews about the Chase Freedom Unlimited card). Once you’ve been approved, it’s going to take at least a few months to build up a credit score. They will start by allotting you a certain limit (example: you can only spend $700 a month). It is best to keep your utilization under 30%. Therefore, if your limit is $700, then try not to spend more than $210 a month on your credit card. Most importantly, NEVER be late on your payments. This will negatively impact your score in a big way. Another factor that will impact your credit is a loan (student loans, car loans, medical bills, etc.). This will be taken into account as well, which includes your payment history for each individual loan. Sites such as Credit Karma can help to give you an idea of your current score, however, your lender will pull a report that is much more accurate. Don’t be surprised if they are different.

The next item you will want to look at is your debt. As mentioned previously, this involves any loans that you currently have open in your name, as well as any unpaid credit card bills. Even something as simple as a medical bill can affect this. Have you ever had to go to the ER? Did you pay off every bill from that visit? Luckily, your credit report will show any delinquent bills that you may not be aware of. Make it a priority to pay off any debts in question.

Once you’ve built up a decent credit score and have paid off all your debts, you’re going to need to look at your salary. Lenders will only ask for your gross salary, however, you will also want to keep in mind some other important factors, such as: what your salary is after taxes, how much you spend monthly on bills, etc. To play it safe, you’ll want to use THIS number (what you get after subtracting bills, taxes, etc.) to ensure that your home purchase will not be putting you into debt. You will typically want to place your max budget as 3x your gross salary.

Lastly, you will need to save up for a down payment. If you search the internet, I’m sure that most places will say that you need 20% down. While 20% is ideal, most people on average only put 3-5% down. You will need a minimum of 3% down (unless you use a VA loan), but realistically, try to stick to 5-10%. Therefore, if you’re looking for a house that’s $200,000, then be prepared to put about $10,000 down (that’s 5%).

Feeling overwhelmed? Start here with Zillow’s free house affordability calculator. It might not be 100% accurate, but it can at least point you in the right direction.

Give us a call today! We can help you through the entire process, including helping you raise your credit score, offer financial advice, and everything in between! 770-824-9777

Home Purchase Process For First Time Buyers Thu, 13 Jul 2017 18:32:56 +0000 Are you looking to buy your first home? Well look no further, because I’m here to walk you through the entire process!

Step 1: Determine if you are ready to purchase a house. This is something that only YOU can decide, however, here are two key points to keep in mind:

–          Why do you want to buy a house? Are you looking for a faster commute? Somewhere to plant your roots or start a family? These questions will also help you to narrow down specifics such as location, neighborhood, home style, etc.

–          Are you financially ready? This requires a decent credit score, a good bill payment history, a low debt-to-income ratio and money saved up for a down payment. Zillow and NerdWallet offer two basic affordability calculators, which will give you a good idea. For an exact estimate, give me a call! I can help. Low credit score? I can help with that too.

Step 2: Once you’ve determined that you’re ready, you’ll want a realtor. It’s important to find someone that you’re comfortable with and who you can trust. We have plenty of great realtors that we can recommend, so don’t be afraid to reach out!

Step 3: You will need to get pre-approved for a mortgage. That’s where I come into play! Most sellers in the Atlanta area require this, so give me a call today. I will be happy to walk you through the entire process.

Step 4: Look at homes. This is when you will start spending a lot of time with your realtor, which is why it is important to work with someone you trust. They will help you to find your dream home!

Step 5: Choose a home. Make sure to choose a house within your budget and desired location. Please note that people often have to make compromises during this process, such as a townhome versus a single-family home, the condition of the home itself, etc. Just make sure that you’re still extremely happy with your choice, as you will most likely live here for the next 3-5 years at least.

Step 6: Obtain your loan. This is where I come back into the picture. My team and I are dedicated to helping you every step of the way!

Step 7: Make an offer. Your realtor will be a great help during this step. Please keep in mind that you may need to make an offer slightly above asking price if the house is in a high-demand area.

Step 8: Buy home insurance. Typically, this is required and it is also something that I (your lender) will help you with. Options include:

–          Title Insurance

–          Homeowners Insurance

–          Flood Insurance

–          Home Warranties

Step 9: Closing. This is when everything becomes finalized and the house is officially yours! Final payments are made, paperwork is proofread and turned in, deeds and other documents are prepared, etc. You may want to walk through the home one last time to make sure that there were no additional material changes you were unaware of.

Step 10: Move in! The last and most exciting step. All that’s left is for you to move in and make your new house a home.


Let me help you to reach step 10! Give me a call today at 770-824-9777 or email me at


Lending Misconceptions Keeping You From Buying Your Dream Home Fri, 07 Jul 2017 17:22:32 +0000 Are you a renter who is looking to purchase a home of your own? If so, you’ve come to the right place!

Many of our clients have said to us that they wish they would have made their purchase years ago, instead of renting for a long period of time. With interest rates as low as they are, we want to encourage all the renters out there to buy now! Low rates mean you have more spending power as a buyer, which is perfect for first-time home buyers looking for the right fit.

Many potential home buyers are waiting until they save up for a large down payment to avoid paying Private Mortgage Insurance. The fact is, you don’t need to have 20% down to buy. There are many great low down payment packages out there, such as FHA loans (3.5% down) or conventional loans with as little as 3% down. One of the most popular packages is a 5% down conventional loan with no mortgage insurance!

Nowadays, it’s very common for people to monitor their credit. Many people don’t want their credit pulled until they are absolutely ready to buy because they fear their score is going to be impacted. This is another misconception – there is no set formula detailing how much your score is impacted by being pulled. If you have pretty good credit as it is, the impact of having a lender take a look at it is going to be minuscule because you’ve already proven you can manage your own credit risk. If your credit isn’t great, give us call and we can help you manage it a bit better.

If you have any questions about the minutiae of lending, or if you want more information about whether you’re eligible for a home loan, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Interest rates are at historic lows, so you don’t want to miss out on your chance to make the dream of homeownership a reality!


What Are Loan Officers Asked Most Often? Wed, 28 Jun 2017 19:49:55 +0000  

The number one question that we get asked every day from potential clients is, “What is your current interest rate?”

If only that question had a simple answer. If it were as easy as just spouting off a percentage, you might not even need us. That’s because understanding and getting your interest rate is a process. Rather than quote you an interest rate, we like to spend a few minutes going over what exactly is involved in coming up with an interest rate. There are 4 important factors that determine your interest rate. They are:

1.    What is your credit score?

2.    What type of loan program do you want?

3.    What can you afford for a down payment?

4.    What type of property are you getting?


We want to help educate you and guide you in determining your interest rate. We don’t want to give you a quote on the phone by jumping to conclusions, only to have to backtrack what we said based on the information you give us. When you buy a home, you are making one of the most important purchases of your life, so you want to be able to trust the people you are working with. You also want to make sure you know what kind of home you can afford based on that information, so you know what kind of home you should be looking for.

If you have any questions for us, feel free to give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you!


Raise The Roof! Fannie Mae Has Raised Their DTI Ceiling! Wed, 21 Jun 2017 20:39:20 +0000 Have you ever been rejected for a mortgage due to your debt-to-income ratio? Or know someone who has? Well good news: starting July 29, Fannie Mae is raising the DTI ceiling to 50 percent! Currently, it sits at 45 percent.

Never heard of DTI? Debt-to-income ratio takes your gross monthly income and determines what percentage of that goes towards any debts that you may have – credit cards, loans, etc. including what your new mortgage payment would be. You can find a free calculator here.

No need to get alarmed quite yet if your ratio is higher than 50 percent. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration all have exemptions allowing you to buy or insure loans, even if you have a DTI above 50 percent.

Word of advice, however, high DTIs are viewed more critically by lenders than any other factor – including credit score. The reason is simple: more monthly debts = a greater risk of late mortgage payments.

Having a lower DTI does not mean that you’re automatically good to go, however. There are still several other factors involved in the approval process, such as your down payment, your credit score and more.

Want to find out what loan you can be approved for? Give us a call today!

Why Do You Need Title Insurance? Thu, 15 Jun 2017 14:37:20 +0000 Today, we’ll talk about what title insurance is and exactly what you’re paying for.

Whenever I sit down with a borrower, they ask what fees they can expect when they’re getting ready to close. One of those components is title insurance, which can be kind of pricey, but is very important. The important thing to remember is that title insurance is a one-time fee that is paid for at the time of closing. Typically, this is mandatory, so that we know that the property is going to be free and clear of any liens or clouds on title.

After hearing that, you may think to yourself “I don’t need that, it’s just an extra cost.” You might think that your home is free of any lien or clouds on title, but your builder or neighbor may have liens on your property. For example, if you buy a house where a contractor did some work for a previous owner but it wasn’t paid, it could affect your ability to refinance down the road if there are liens against the property.

Another thing you need to be aware of is the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRIP). TRIP was established because of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, which was a response to the mortgage crash. The Dodd-Frank Act aimed at making sure buyers are aware of what they’re getting into and understand their financial obligations. This change affects all of us, but the worst of it is going to land on the lending side of things.

The thing that will affect you, the buyer, the most is once you get the closing disclosure, or settlement statement, which replaces the HUD-1 statement. If we, the lender, send the disclosure through the mail, you assume three business days for delivery and then three days for review prior to closing. For example, assuming you receive the settlement statement on Friday, it will be Wednesday before you can close. This means there will be no more last second closings, as the process has now been drawn out a bit.

Do you have more questions that we didn’t answer here? Feel free to reach out! We’re happy to help.

Why Is The Pre-Approval Process So Important? Wed, 07 Jun 2017 18:08:59 +0000 Today, I’ll discuss the importance of the pre-approval process. The pre-approval process is imperative and essential to be completed prior to you making any offers. The listing agent and seller typically require a pre-approval letter to accompany your offer with the Realtor you work with.

This process can happen a couple of different ways. The preferred methods are to either do this in person or over the phone. You can also go to my website and fill out an application there. I typically conduct a follow-up call after you submit an application.

Ultimately, we need to ask you all the necessary questions. Depending on your answers, we can ask follow-up questions. By the end of the conversation, we will have a great loan profile for you. This allows us to email you a list of required documents.

We want a smooth escrow process. There’s nothing worse as a homebuyer to be running around at the last minute. We do all this work upfront. We can discuss rates and programs. We want to educate you at the end of the first conversation. We want to help you make the best decision for your situation.

We look forward to assisting you with your finance needs!