Monday, February 25, 2019

How to Get a Mortgage With Challenged Credit

You’ve found your dream home and made an offer. Now comes the hard part: getting a home loan to finalize the purchase.

Applying for a mortgage means putting your finances, including your credit score, in the spotlight. A bad credit score could add an extra wrinkle or two to the mortgage approval process.

“While getting a mortgage with bad credit is not always easy or optimal, it’s still possible under certain conditions,” says Daniela Andreevska, content marketing director at Mashvisor, a real estate data analytics company. A better question might be whether you should get a mortgage with challenged credit.

This guide breaks down everything you need to know about getting a mortgage with bad credit, along with tips on how to decide whether it’s the right move.

What’s Considered Bad Credit for a Mortgage?

What’s considered bad credit for a home loan can vary from lender to lender.

“It’s important to realize that different lenders have different guidelines on what constitutes bad credit,” says Jennifer Beeston, vice president of mortgage lending at online lender Guaranteed Rate.

Beeston says the typical base credit score allowed for conventional mortgages is 620, although some lenders may require a higher score. Knowing where your credit score lands on the spectrum can help you narrow down your mortgage options. FICO credit scores are the most widely used scores for lending decisions, including mortgages. These scores range from 300 to 850.

FICO Score Rating Score Range

  • Exceptional 800 or higher

  • Very Good 740 to 799

  • Good 670 to 739

  • Fair 580 to 669

  • Poor 579 or below

What’s considered a fair or poor score according to FICO might be deemed bad credit by a mortgage lender, depending where you are in the range.

What Types of Mortgage Loans Can You Get With Bad Credit?

When you’re looking for a mortgage and you have bad credit, government-backed loans may be the best option. The government doesn’t make loans directly; instead, it insures loans offered to eligible borrowers.  Government-backed loans include Federal Housing Administration loans, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans and U.S. Department of Agriculture loans. Each one is designed with a different borrower in mind and has different credit score requirements.


Designed For: Borrowers with a fair credit score and a down payment of less than 20 percent

Credit Score: 580 for a 3.5 percent down, 500 to 579 for a 10 percent down


Designed For: Military veterans

Credit Score: None


Designed For: Low- or moderate-income homebuyers living in designated rural areas

Credit Score: 640

Beeston says borrowers with FICO scores of 620 or below may want to set their sights on an FHA loan if they’re not eligible for a VA loan . There’s one thing to note, however: FHA lenders aren’t required to make loans for borrowers with 580 credit scores. Some may raise the bar higher and require a 620 to 640 FICO score instead.

So where can homebuyers fnd these types of loans? The government guarantees loans from a wide network of lenders, both traditional and alternative mortgage lenders. The latter includes online lenders, some of which offer bad credit home loans and use nontraditional underwriting methods to get a sense of a borrower’s ability to repay a loan.

If you prefer to get a conventional mortgage not guaranteed by the federal government, you may be able to qualify. But it may be easier to qualify with a government-backed program, so it’s a good idea to investigate these options if your credit is less than ideal.

Again, the minimum credit score lenders look for can vary. And they can also impose different requirements on other factors, such as:

  • The minimum down payment required

  • The maximum debt-to-income ratio allowed

  • The types of properties borrowers can use a mortgage for

  • Minimum or maximum income allowed for a loan

  • Origination and other lender fees

As with any large purchase, you should shop around and compare bad credit mortgage terms from multiple lenders. It also helps to do the math to see what getting a mortgage with bad credit might cost.

How Bad Credit Affects the Cost of Buying a Home

Along with other factors, such as debt, assets and income, mortgage lenders use credit scores to gauge risk. Credit scores influence not only whether a borrower can get approved for a loan, but the interest rate he or she will pay for a mortgage. The better your FICO score, generally the less you can expect to pay for a home loan.

For example,’s loan savings calculator estimates you’d pay a 4.139 percent APR if your credit score is 760 or above. So, for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage of $300,000, you might expect to pay more than $224,000 in interest over the course of the loan. However, if your score is between 620 and 639,’s calculator estimates you’d pay a 5.728 percent APR.  So if you had the same mortgage, you’d pay nearly $329,000 in interest. And you can expect to pay even more interest if your score falls below that threshold.

These calculations don’t account for down payment or loan type, which can result in some variation in the total interest paid. But they do show how much of a difference a higher APR from a lower credit score can make in buying a home.

Tips for Getting a Mortgage With Bad Credit

When you’re planning on getting a mortgage and you have bad credit, there are things you can do to improve your odds of getting approved or landing more favorable loan terms. Andreevska says getting a co-signer is one path to consider.

“If you have a bad credit score, you might still have a chance to qualify for a conventional mortgage but not necessarily on your own,” she says. “You can get a family member or friend with a good score to co-sign with you,” which may help you get approved.

A word of caution about co-signers, however: “This is a major responsibility, as anything you do, such as missing a payment, will hurt your co-signer’s credit score, as well as your own,” Andreevska says.

Before reaching out to a potential co-signer, consider whether you’re in a strong enough position financially to keep up with the payments. And also think about how quickly you might be able to improve your credit score so you can eventually refnance the loan into your name only, releasing the co-signer of responsibility.

Making a larger down payment is also something to think about if you’re not comfortable with the idea of a co-signer.

“This will decrease your risk of default, so a lender might be willing to make a loan,” Andreevska says. However, “you should only put as much money down as you can really afford.”

If making a larger down payment would leave you with no money to cover expenses such as closing costs, fees, homeowners insurance or repairs once the home is yours, you may want to hold on to your cash. Alternatively, you could ask family members to gift you money to put toward your down payment.

Consider Improving Your Credit Score Before You Buy a Home

Getting a mortgage when you have bad credit is certainly possible, but if you don’t need to buy a home right away, you may want to work on raising your credit score first.

“If you know there are black marks on your credit, such as late payments or accounts in collections, start making serious credit repair efforts at least six months in advance of applying for a home mortgage,” says Glenn Brunker, mortgage executive at Ally Home, the direct-to-consumer mortgage lending arm of Ally Bank. “If you can wait a year before applying for a home loan, that’s an even better time frame to get your credit and finances into top shape.”

Brunker says the first thing to do is make sure you’re paying bills on time, “since payment history is the No. 1 factor that goes into a person’s FICO score.”

In addition to establishing a positive payment history, paying credit card balances on time could also improve your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of your total credit limits you’re using at any given time. An ideal credit utilization ratio is about 7 percent, but anything under 30 percent could help raise your credit score.

Beeston says an easy way to stay on top of due dates is setting up automatic minimum payments from your checking account, then making sure you have the funds available in your account to cover the payment. Alternatively, you can set up alerts with your accounts to let you know when a due date is approaching.

Finally, while you’re working on your score, hold off on applying for new loans or credit lines.

“Consumers should avoid applying for a new credit card around the time they’re applying for a home loan since that requires a credit check, which can negatively impact your credit score,” Brunker says.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The price is right in Port St. Lucie!

Anthony Bonna was born when I was a rising junior in college, which makes him a millennial and makes me… old.

Bonna, who served a stint as a St. Lucie County Commissioner last year, grew up (mostly) in Port St. Lucie; as a kid, he recalls “riding along a dirt road called Becker.” After college he returned to Florida, thinking maybe someday he’d return home.

If he could afford it.

That is, he and his wife “were very committed to living within our means,” said Bonna, 32. In most of our region, that might have meant a condo or an older, smaller home.

In Port St. Lucie it gave him the pick of the litter.

With a median home price of $225,000, Bonna and his wife easily found a home close to family and “just a 5-minute walk from my church, my gym, a Duffy’s, good takeout, and a Publix.”

What’s not to like? And indeed, homebuyers Bonna’s age like Port St. Lucie more than almost any other city in America.

In its 2019 ranking of “Where Millennials are Buying Homes,” the personal finance firm SmartAsset ranked PSL 10th in the nation, with a reported 53 percent of millennials who own their homes.

The city — which has actually topped the list in years past — would have ranked higher on the list but for the fact it’s long had a high rate of millennial homeownership; points were given to cities that saw big jumps.

For context, an Urban Institute study last year reported that in 2015, just 37 percent those between ages 24 and 34 owned their own home — far below the Baby Boomers and my generation, Generation X, at a similar point in their lives.

So why is Port St. Lucie bucking that trend? It’s all about the price tag.

According to the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches, which covers St. Lucie County, the median sales price in Martin County was $360,000 in 2018, 60 percent higher than the Port St. Lucie median; the median in Palm Beach County was $345,000.

So what happens — and we see this in the traffic — is that people who work in those counties but can’t afford to live there buy in Port St. Lucie, which is bisected by U.S. 1, I-95 and the Florida Turnpike and makes for a (relatively) easy commute.

“We see a lot of teachers, police officers, firefighters,” said Jason Coley of the “Team Coley” Realty Group with Atlantic Shores Realty, headquartered along St. Lucie West Boulevard.

“Where else are you going to go and get new construction for $250,000?” said Coley.

Prices remain so low in part because so many new homes are being built; Mayor Greg Oravec said another 50,000 “dwelling units” that are “entitled” – as in, can legally be built.

“So even if there was political will to say ‘We don’t want any more development, the supply pipeline will continue for the foreseeable future,” he said.

But there are, he stresses, other reasons younger buyers flock to his city. It’s the safest large city in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; the school district’s on the rise; there’s plenty of shopping and dining and lots to do.

Realtor Coley said the only complaints he hears are about traffic (of course) and the fact there aren’t a whole lot of high-paying jobs in town. But city officials are confident employers will eventually follow all the potential employees, perhaps along the Tradition “jobs corridor.”

Bottom line, said Oravec, is “we’re a place where the American dream is alive and well.”

And that dream would seem to be on life support in communities to the south.

For where younger homebuyers can put down roots, they invest not just in their own homes but in the community. They pay taxes, they get involved civically, they become the leaders that shape an area’s future.

That’s always been one of the worrying things about a Martin or a Palm Beach County; where “the future” can’t afford to live there, where’s that future going to come from?

And while Martin County’s environmental problems in particular make a strong case for keeping growth in check, by capping new residential construction you drive prices up.

That’s great for existing homeowners. It’s not so great in terms of a diverse community or a diversified local economy. It’s not great for service industry folks who can’t afford to live where they work.

So while other South Florida communities struggle to find answers to their affordable housing crises — Port St. Lucie doesn’t have one.

And that’s good both for young homeowners — and the city itself.

Gil Smart is a TCPalm columnist and a member of the Editorial Board. His columns reflect his opinion. Readers may reach him at, by phone at 772-223-4741 or via Twitter at @TCPalmGilSmart.

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Housing Market Is Starting to Look Brighter

Real estate indicators are starting to shift in favor of home buyers as the housing market sets its sights on spring. Mortgages are getting cheaper, housing inventories are growing, and home prices are rising at a slower pace.

Mortgage rates have been holding steady for the last few weeks. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.45 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac. Late last year, mortgage rates were nearing the 5 percent threshold, but several weeks of decreases have offered some relief to home shoppers. The five-year adjustable-rate mortgage has been averaging under 4 percent, landing at 3.90 percent last week, Freddie Mac reports.

Home buyers are responding to the lower rates. New mortgage applications of home buyers across the country surged to the highest level since 2010 during the week ending Jan. 11, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Applications were 9 percent higher than they were the week before.

Housing inventories have grown significantly in many markets too, offering buyers a lot more choices. That is helping to put a tighter lid on home price growth as sellers face greater competition. Homebuilders are reportedly lowering their prices in many areas too. A quarter of newly built homes saw a price cut during the last quarter of last year.

The decrease in mortgage rates is likely to boost home sales this year, compensating for the decline in sales recorded last year while pushing prices up modestly, says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “With the return of homebuyers, home prices look to rise again in 2019, but with one big difference. For the first time in years, income gains of a projected 3.5 percent will outpace home price growth of around 2 percent. That is healthy and a turn toward better housing affordability,” Yun writes in a Jan. 24 opinion piece in the newspaper The Hill.

Certainly, for home sellers, lower prices may not sound ideal. But housing analysts say sellers need to set a realistic price up front to find a buyer as the market shifts.

“The good news here for sellers is that—with interest rates down and slowing prices—more prospective buyers should be encouraged to get off the sidelines, shop around, and consider making offers,” writes Kenneth Harney, a syndicated real estate columnist for The Washington Post.

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Source: “Housing Market’s Fundamentals Actually Turning Brighter,” The Washington Post (Jan. 23, 2019)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

14 Valentine's Day Facts You Probably Didn't Know

  1. It has some pretty dark roots.  Historians believe Valentine’s Day actually began in Ancient Rome as a pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia, which included sacrificing animals and whipping women with animal skins until they bled, signifying their fertility. So romantic.

  2. In the 1300s, it officially became a holiday associated with love and romance.   The holiday was Christianized — no more animal sacrifices! — and was celebrated in mid-February because many believed that birds started their mating season on February 14, which is why doves are often associated with love.

  3. Saint Valentine wasn’t just one person.  In fact, he might have been two or three. But the most common “founder” of Valentine’s Day was the Saint Valentine who defied Emperor Claudius II. At the time, Claudius had banned marriage because he thought it distracted young soldiers. Valentine felt a bit differently — he illegally married couples until he was caught. After he was sentenced to his death, young couples would visit his cell and give him flowers and cards. And the day he actually died? February 14. Allegedly. But there have been multiple St. Valentines throughout history, including one pope. (He only served for 40 days in 827 A.D.)

  4. The first valentines were sent in the 15th century.  But not until the 17th century did people start exchanging cards and letters. And Valentine’s Day cards weren’t mass-produced until the 1840s.

  5. Today, it’s pretty big business.  About 55% of Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day and spend an estimated $18.2 billion a year, including more than $1.7 billion on candy alone. On average, men spend $150 on Valentine’s Day. And the women? Just $74. Step it up, ladies!

  6. Americans send 141 million Valentine’s Day cards each year.   That’s more than any other holiday except Christmas. And how sweet: Teachers receive the most Valentine’s Day cards annually, followed by children, mothers, and wives.

  7. And nearly 9 million Americans will buy gifts or cards for their dogs.   Hey, furry friends need love, too.

  8. The most popular gift on Valentine’s Day is flowers.  Followed by chocolate and then jewelry. Americans send more than 220 million roses each year, and as many as six million couples will get engaged on February 14. (February is the second most popular month after December for proposals.)

  9. The first heart-shaped box of chocolates was introduced in 1868.   Today, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are sold each year. That’s 58 million pounds of chocolate.

  10. Necco Sweethearts — a.k.a. conversation hearts — were invented in 1866. Each box has approximately 45 sayings — including “True Love,” “Hug Me,” and “You Rock” — but you can personalize your own, too. And about 10 new sayings are added each year.

  11. More than 8 billion conversation hearts are manufactured each year. And Necco has to start making them just days after February 14 to have enough in time for the next Valentine’s Day. That’s almost 100,000 pounds per day. But don’t worry if you still have last year’s box — they have a shelf life of five years.

  12. Apparently, condom sales rise in February.  Sales are almost 20% to 30% higher around Valentine’s Day. And maybe not so surprisingly, more at-home pregnancy tests are sold in March than any other month.

  13. Lace is commonly used in Valentine’s Day decorations.  It comes from the Latin lacques, which means to snare or to net, as in catch a person’s heart.

  14. It’s celebrated differently around the world.  Many Latin American countries know the holiday as el día de los enamorados (day of lovers) or día del amor y la amistad (day of love and friendship.) In Japan, it’s customary for just the women to give confections to the men in their lives, with the quality of the chocolate indicating their true feelings, according to Fortune. On March 14, the men repay the favor by celebrating the increasingly popular “White Day.”


So now you’re In The Know

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Life Hacks

These days, everyone seems to be looking for a shortcut or a “hack.” Apparently, things like “growth hacking,” “social media hacking,” “biohacking” and so on are all the rage. It appears everyone wants to find that magical shortcut that will lead them to getting more output with less effort.


And, of course, hacking “experts” and gurus are on hand to help! The number of seminars, webinars and pitching services focused on the “hack economy” are unprecedented.


In a great post about useful hacks by Morgan Housel, a partner at Collaborative Fund, he wrote about attending a three-hour session with a social media consultant who walked attendees through a slew of social media-related “hacks.” However, although she talked about things like when to post and why to create hashtags, Housel notes that the trainer never actually talked about the most important component: creating good content to post.


Good writing takes time, creativity, patience, determination, perseverance and careful editing. In other words, it’s work. With this in mind, Housel provided a list of hacks that he finds useful.


  • Marketing hack: Make a good product that people need.

  • PR hack: Do something newsworthy.

  • Writing hack: Write every day for years.

  • Learning hack: Read a book. When finished, read another.

  • Work culture hack: Trust people and pay them well.

  • Investing hack: Give compounding the decades it requires.

  • Savings hack: Lower your ego and live below your means.

  • Career hack: Work harder than is expected of you and be nice to people.

  • Organization hack: Clean up your mess.

  • Fundraising hack: Make a product lots of people will pay for with decent or better margins.

  • Scale-to-a-million-users hack: Make a product a million people need.

  • Making college more affordable hack: Go to an in-state public school and work full time.

The takeaway is, rather than focusing on what you can “hack,” it’s a far better use of time and energy to follow tried and true principles of productivity and achievement. Five favorites are:


  1. Follow the 80/20 Rule. 20% of our inputs are responsible for 80% of our outcomes. Therefore, it would stand to reason that the ultimate “hack” is to identify and spend time on what has the potential to provide the greatest outcome. The rest is a distraction.

  2. Separate Urgent from Important: One of the most important productivity concepts that goal-oriented individuals understand is the difference between those things that are urgent and those things that are important.

  3. Give consistent effort and have patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Things worth doing take time and consistent effort towards the goal.

  4. Create a Stop Doing list: To do more of the right things, you need to also stop doing the wrong ones.

  5. Last, but not least, if you do something, do it well. Two of my favorite Friday Forward stories are about how world-class photocopies launched the career of one of America’s top venture capitalists and how a plumber showed a client what commitment to excellence looks like.

History is a great teacher, showing us time and again that qualities such as focus, patience, practice and a commitment to excellence will always trump a hack in the long-run.


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Friday, February 8, 2019

Botanica 2019 - Happening This Weekend

Happening this weekend…

Botanica 2019 at the Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens, 2410 SE Westmoreland Blvd., Port St. Lucie, FL.

Saturday & Sunday (February 9th & 10th) from 9am to 4pm for all your outdoor and garden needs. Food, fun, live remotes with Hamp Elliott from 97.1 Ocean FM and Jazz from 12 – 2pm with the Fort Pierce Jazz & Blues Society both days.

Come out and join in the fun!

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Free Tax Assistance Available Throughout St. Lucie County Starting February

Trained volunteers with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs will be providing free tax preparation assistance at eight locations throughout St. Lucie County starting in February.


These sites offer free tax filing assistance to those residents making less than $55,000 per year. Please call 211 for updates. Assistance will be offered at the following locations:


Indian River State College (Fort Pierce campus / Building B – Room 119), 3209 Virginia Ave., Fort Pierce: Thursdays from 2 to 7 p.m. (772-462-7489)


Lakewood Park Branch Library, 7605 Santa Barbara Drive, Fort Pierce: Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon and Fridays from noon to 3 p.m. (772-462-6870)


Kilmer Branch Library, 101 Melody Lane, Fort Pierce: Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (772-462-1615) (Note: tax service will not be available on March 30)


Morningside Branch Library, 2410 SE Morningside Blvd., Port St. Lucie: Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon (772-337-5632)


Mustard Seed Ministries (Fort Pierce), 3130 South US 1, Fort Pierce: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (772-465-6021)


Mustard Seed Ministries (Port St. Lucie), 8311 South US 1, Port St. Lucie: Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (772-340-1406)


Knights of Columbus, 451 SW Ravenswood Lane, Port St. Lucie: Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (772-878-7514)


Port St. Lucie Community Center, 2195 SE Airoso Blvd., Port St. Lucie: Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (772-344-4302)


Times and availability may vary, so please call ahead.


A list of potential paperwork that residents will need to bring to have their federal taxes prepared include: Proof of identification, Social Security numbers, birth dates of family members, property tax bills, all income documents, including wage and earning statement(s) W-2, W-2G, 1099-R from all employers; interest and dividend statements from banks (forms 1099-Div); a copy of last year’s federal and state returns (if available); health care expenses; donation receipts and bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit.


Volunteers at all of the sites have been trained by the Internal Revenue Service. For more details about this program visit: and search the “VITA” and click on “Free Tax Return Preparation for You by Volunteers.”


Please be aware that residents will not be able to contact the tax volunteers by calling the individual locations. For additional assistance and information please contact the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, 7410 South US 1, Port St. Lucie or call 772-340-5606.


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Friday, February 1, 2019

Happy Groundhog’s Day

Will more Winter or Spring in these six weeks unfold? Whatever the outcome, when he’s put to the test, Mortgage Masters Group wishes you Phil’s very best!   Happy Groundhog’s Day!!!


Did You Know? The First Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1887 and was celebrated in Punxsutawney, PA. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, it gets scared and runs back into its burrow, predicting six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.


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