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7 Ways to Improve Your Credit for a Mortgage Application

Joseph Coupal - Monday, November 27, 2017

Prime Lending, The McMullen Group, Boston, MAIt’s more important than ever to prepare your credit for a mortgage application. Cleaning up your credit report and increasing your credit score will improve your chances of getting approved. If your credit’s already good, maintaining it will be key in locking in a low interest rate.

1. Check Your Credit Reports

When you make your application, the mortgage lender look for three main things: a steady income, a down payment, and a solid credit history.

Checking your credit report will let you see if there’s anything that’s hurting your credit. You never know which credit report the bank will pull, so check all three of them. You can get a free copy of all three credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.

2. Dispute Inaccurate Information

Misinformation can hurt your credit score and get your application denied . Get rid of any inaccurate information by disputing it with the credit bureau. If you have proof of the mistake, providing it will help ensure the mistake is removed from your report.

3. Pay Off Delinquent Accounts

Delinquent accounts include any late accounts, charge-offs, bills in collection, and judgments. Mortgage lenders need to be convinced that you’ll make your payments on time.

Outstanding delinquencies will kill your chances of getting a mortgage. Pay off all accounts that are currently delinquent before putting in a mortgage application.

4. Bury Delinquencies with Timely Payments

You need to establish a pattern of timely payments to get approved for a mortgage and get a competitive interest rate.

If you have a recent late payment - or you've just paid off some delinquencies - wait at least six months before applying for a mortgage. The older the delinquency, the better your credit looks.

5. Reduce Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your mortgage underwriter will question your ability to make your mortgage payments if you have a high level of debt relative to your income. Bring your monthly debt payments to at most 12% of your income – the lower, the better. (After you get a mortgage, your debt-to-income ratio will skyrocket, but shouldn't be higher than 43% of your income.)

6. Check Your FICO Score

Order your Equifax and TransUnion FICO Scores from myFICO.com to get an idea of where your credit stands. Your FICO score should be at least 720 to get good interest rate on a loan. If your score is lower than that, read through the included analysis to find out what’s bringing your score down. Note: Although lenders still use it, Experian no longer allows consumers to purchase a FICO score based Experian credit report data. If you want to get an idea of your Experian credit score, you can purchase a VantageScore or buy a three-in-one credit score from Equifax or TransUnion.

7. Don't Incur Any New Debt

Taking on new debt can make a mortgage lender suspicious of your financial stability – even if your debt level stays below 12% of your income. It’s best to stay away from any new credit-based transactions until after you’ve gotten your mortgage. That includes applying for credit cards, especially since credit inquiries affect your credit score.

For more information on home mortgages, contact Prime Lending at The McMullen Group.


Signs It’s Time to Move To A New Home

Joseph Coupal - Monday, November 20, 2017

Prime Lending, The McMullen Group, Boston, MAMoving is a lot of work – there’s no doubt about it. But it can also give you a wide range of rewards, from lowering costs, to gaining space, to giving you the features you value most. If you’re considering a move into a new space, there are many factors to consider including budget and location. But how do you know if relocation is the best option for you? If you’ve been thinking about moving and just haven’t taken the first step, here are 12 signs it’s time for you to start a new house search.

Growing Family

If your home isn’t big enough to accommodate your growing brood, upgrading to a home with more bedrooms or square feet is logical. In addition to enough bedrooms, consider a new home with multiple living spaces that will allow you to spread out. If you feel like the walls are closing in on you, look for a home with an open floor plan — a smaller house that is open can feel as big as a home with more square footage.

Empty Nest

Much like a growing family, if your kids have moved out, why pay for all that extra space if you don’t need it? Take advantage of the market and trade in your family-sized home for something a bit smaller, perhaps with the upgraded features you always wanted but couldn’t afford during your child-rearing years.

Hot Market

It’s a seller’s market (for now), so if you’re looking to get more out of your house, particularly if you’ve made improvements to increase the value of your home, now’s the time to sell. Buyers can still win big, even in a seller’s market. According to U.S. News & World Report, buyers can get the right home for the right price if they are smart and ready to move quickly. That means getting prequalified, doing your research and finding a good agent.

No More Storage Space

If you’ve reorganized, cleaned out clutter, sold or donated clothes and household items you no longer use and still don’t have enough storage space, it may be a sign it’s time to look for a home with more storage options. But before you decide the storage options in your current home aren’t enough, be sure to check out these clever storage and organization tips from RealSimple.com. (Pinterest is also a great source for creative storage solutions!)

Return on Investment

Does your home need upgrades and improvements to turn into your dream home? Financial guru Dave Ramsey suggests that some of the best home improvements for return on investment include: a family room or bedroom addition, kitchen remodel and bathroom remodel. Smaller projects such as painting your front door, replacing hardware and light fixtures and updating dingy carpet can also help. But not all home renovations will add value to your home, so consider the finances before you start construction. It may be a better deal for you to sell your home without dropping the cash on major improvements and put the money toward a down payment on your dream home.

Cost Savings

If the struggle to pay your utility bills, home repair bills and a hefty mortgage keep you up at night, moving to a less expensive home in a more affordable community may be the answer to your sleepless nights. In every growing metropolis, there are outlying towns and cities rapidly building new homes with a budget-friendly price tag. If you’re truly looking to save money, be sure to take a look at property taxes in your potential new neighborhood as these can vary from city to city, and even a tiny difference can add a significant amount to your monthly mortgage.

Money Pit

Is it costing you more to maintain your home than it’s worth? It may be more affordable for you to make a move than to continue pouring your hard-earned cash into a money pit. If that’s the case, market your home as a great “investment property” and list to sell as-is.

Declining Neighborhood

A spike in crime or more police activity in your current neighborhood can be a clear indicator it’s time to pack the moving truck and head out. If you sense your neighborhood moving in the wrong direction, don’t wait to make a move, or you may also see the value of your home take a dive.

Out of Place

Over time, neighborhoods grow and change. If you’re feeling out of place where you live now, maybe it’s time for a move. Living in the city can have its perks, but perhaps you’re ready for a slower pace in a quieter neighborhood. On the flip side, if you live in the ‘burbs but are making the drive into the city frequently, there may not be much in the way of cost savings for you to continue living in suburbia.

Crazy Commute

Are you driving an hour or more to and from work each day? Take some time to weigh your options. Cutting your commute could save you big bucks in the way of gas and tolls and it could also mean more family time. There’s a point when it just doesn’t make sense to continue driving so far to work if living closer is a possibility.

Life Changes

Marriage, kids, aging parents — changes in the stages of life may require a move to a new home that’s more suitable for the season you’re in. If you’re getting serious in a relationship or are the primary caretaker for aging loved ones, combining households can save you time, stress and money.

A Fresh Start

Sometimes the best thing is simply a fresh start. If you’re coming out of a difficult period in your life, starting over may be just what your heart needs. If it makes sense financially, there’s no better time than the present to hit the reset button and start anew.

If it’s time for you to make a move, take the first step and contact a PrimeLending home loan expert at The McMullen Group to get prequalified for a home loan.


Homes For Heroes: Home Mortgage Program FAQs

Joseph Coupal - Monday, November 13, 2017

Prime Lending, The McMullen Group, Boston, MAWho qualifies as a hero?

Current and former firefighters, law enforcement, military (active, reserves and veterans), healthcare workers, emergency medical services and teachers.

What if I am already working with an agent or lender?

If you are currently represented by a real estate agent or mortgage lender, it is not our intent for you to break that agreement. If they are interested in learning more about our program, please feel free to have them contact us for more information on Homes for Heroes and the Hero Rewards we offer.

Do I need to use all Homes for Heroes affiliates to enjoy the savings?

No, you do not need to use all of the HOH affiliates, but it is required that you use a Homes for Heroes affiliated real estate agent in order to receive a Hero Reward check after closing. Most heroes do not want to miss out on any savings, so they choose to use as many of our local affiliates as possible to maximize their Hero Rewards.

What if I’m not ready to buy, sell or refinance?

Don’t worry. If you’re not ready, that’s OK. It’s still a good idea to speak to a real estate specialist if you’re simply thinking about it. They can provide some good insight on preparation and steps to take before you even begin the buying, selling or refinancing process.

For more information on the Homes for Heroes Rewards Programs, contact Prime Lending at the McMullen Group.


All Heroes Deserve a Life After Service

Joseph Coupal - Monday, November 06, 2017

McMullen Group, Hanover, MAServing others is the most humble and noble career any of us can decide to take on. Many of us work in some form of service – but a select few serve with a level of sacrifice attached to it. These are our heroes. If you are reading this, you are likely one of these heroes or are closely related to one. For this, we cannot possibly thank you enough.


For us, heroes are those who sacrifice so much to give back through their chosen career, most notably a bigger and well-earned paycheck, in order to serve our families, communities and country every day. We recognize teachers, EMS, firefighters, law-enforcement, military, and healthcare professionals for all they have done to make our country better and keep us safe. Your service is appreciated so much more than what you are compensated for.

This is the idea behind Homes for Heroes. The least we can do for our heroes is provide the resources and services to help our heroes stretch their dollars. Also, considering that many in these professions are not physically able to work as long as others in less demanding fields, heroes deserve a life after service. This is why I work closely with many heroes- to make sure they are prepared financially when they need to be physically.


Even as our heroes love what they do to serve their fellow citizens and communities, even those with the biggest hearts know the time will come when they just can’t give any more. Our best and brightest who serve, know that they want to give 100 percent of themselves to their communities every day. But there is a chance that one day, you’ll realize that you just can’t give it all they have anymore. You will know it’s time to retire and move into a new chapter.

It is important to know ahead of time what that next chapter looks like. Those who fight for our freedom, our safety and our education are true heroes, and it is our job to help them make the most of your modest salaries and make a promising future for you and/or your families. While many in public service are given great workplace benefits, increasingly governments have come strained and are shifting responsibility to the individual. Now more than ever, working with a Financial Advisor to create a strategy to the next chapter is critical.


After watching many of my own family members sacrifice so much, including a quality retirement, I consider it a true privilege to help our heroes prepare for success in the next chapter. From life insurance, retirement accounts and college-savings plans to overall financial strategizing, serving those of you who serve us is a great honor.

I am also here to present advice on managing money, sticking to a budget and being able to save and invest so you and your family can achieve your goals. Whether it’s carrying on an estate to loved ones left behind, or to enabling you to live the life you want when you retire from service, we on the Homes for Heroes team have the resources and expertise to serve you by providing the tools you need to live the life you need now and have the life you want later.

For more information on the Homes for Heroes Program, contact Prime Lending at The McMullen Group.


Renovate Your House Into Your Ideal Home

Joseph Coupal - Monday, October 30, 2017

Is there a project in your house that you have always wanted to undertake? With the help of a professional contractor, and PrimeLending at the McMullen Group, now you can. Our renovation loan programs can help you renovate your home OR help you purchase a house that may need some work, but has great potential.

If you own a house but have always wanted an “open floor plan” or if you’d just like to make a few small improvements, PrimeLending can help make that a reality. By refinancing with PrimeLending, homeowners can get the funds they need to truly make a house, your home.

Or if you are looking for a new house, PrimeLending allows you roll the cost of the house, plus the cost of the improvements you would like to make, into a single loan, streamlining the process.

Imagine the possibilities for you and Imagine the possibilities and contact Brian McMullen today to learn what a renovation loan might look like for you.

How to Buy your First Home

Joseph Coupal - Monday, October 23, 2017

Millennials make up largest group of home buyers

Prime Lending, The McMullen Group, Boston, MAThe real estate market is soaring.

But Millennials shouldn't feel pressure to get in on the action, according to financial experts. They're the largest group of homebuyers in the market today.

Buying a home is one of the most -- if not the most -- significant purchases of your adult life. So, you'll want to make sure you're really ready.

Here are three steps that'll help you do that:

Sort your money out

First and foremost, get your finances in order before skipping off to find your dream home. This means understanding your total income and what it can buy.

While there are lots of online calculators out there to give you some quick numbers, approach with caution.

Calculators online can be deceiving in that they don't consider all expenses.

The general rule according to experts is to spend no more than 30 to 38% of your monthly (pre-tax) income on housing costs. This includes all costs involved in homeownership -- from monthly loan payments to insurance. But you may need to err on the conservative side if your expenses are high.

Next you'll need to figure out exactly how much you should have saved.

Sure, you'll need enough to afford a down payment on the house -- typically about 20% of the purchase price. In some cases you might be able to put down significantly less, though you'll probably be required to pay mortgage insurance as well.

But having a down payment isn't enough. You may also need savings to cover a couple months' worth of mortgage payments that the bank will expect to see, plus enough to cover home insurance and possibly mortgage insurance, and also closing costs -- between 2 to 5% of the purchase price -- before you get to the closing table. Plus, you want to make sure you have enough to buy furniture, still pay your monthly expenses, and cover emergencies, too.

While that sounds daunting, a little careful planning can get you there over time. Budgeting is a big part of the process, so allocate what money you'll need by setting up a savings account toward getting your future house.

So where do you find the savings?

If you're living paycheck to paycheck, it's time to get comfortable and take a close look at your budget to figure out where you can cut back. Financial planners recommend sitting down with a professional to look through your finances and form a game plan.

Save any extra income -- put aside bonuses or incentive payments you earn.

Shop around for your mortgage

Since a home is a pretty big purchase, you're probably going to need a loan. But there are a wide variety of mortgage options to choose from. Work with a professional mortgage provider before house shopping to go over the options and figure out what you qualify for.

It's probably a good idea to stick to the basics. The most common mortgage is a fixed interest rate mortgage over a number of years -- usually either 15 or 30. The main benefit of a fixed rate is consistency, meaning steady payments over the life of the loan. While 15 years of payments will save you money on interest and allow you to pay off your loan sooner, spreading the loan out over 30 years might make the monthly payments more affordable for you.

The mortgage qualification process is called pre-approval. If you get pre-approved for a mortgage of a certain amount, the lender will give you a letter that you can present to sellers to show you have access to the money for the home you're bidding on.

To move forward with the pre-approval process you're going to need good credit, at least some money to spare, and a steady job.

Keep in mind, mortgage lenders will require protection in case you default on paying your mortgage.

As a first-time buyer, you usually add insurance to your mortgage.

But a higher down payment could spare you the added expense of insurance. Most lenders will want a down payment of at least 20% to avoid paying for mortgage insurance.

Find a home

It's finally time to shop for your dream home. When looking at a house, put the time in to get familiar with the place. And know that while you're shopping around, just because you make an offer does not mean you're committed to buying that home.

Pay attention to the layout and structure of the house. Hire a good home inspector, and ask lots of questions about the property. These are your first line defenses against a bad buy, according to experts. Spending a little more money on help in finding the cracks can save you a lot down the road. Knowing the facts before signing a contract can also help you negotiate a lower price on the property or walk away from thousands of dollars in repairs.

If you find problems with your future house, let the seller know and ask for a discount. The last thing you want is a property with a lot of problems that you didn't anticipate.

Educate yourself on the real estate market and read and understand the terms of the contract. Use your head, not your heart.

For more information or to speak to a mortgage lender, contact Prime Lending at The McMullen Group.


Credit Scores: A Closer Look

Joseph Coupal - Monday, October 16, 2017

McMullen Group, Boston, MAAsk any given loan officer about big factors that go into getting a great interest rate on your mortgage, and you’ll hear that having good credit can help you out tremendously. That’s because borrowers with higher credit scores tend to have lower delinquency rates than borrowers with low credit scores. In other words, lenders consider it less risky to give loans to borrowers with good credit, which is why those borrowers are often eligible for lower interest rates and terms.

But what exactly does a credit score reflect? Here’s a breakdown.

What Goes Into Your Credit Score

Your credit score is also commonly called a FICO® score. It’s an analysis of all your credit files that together represent how credit-worthy you are. Your score is added up based on the following:

  • Payment history (do you pay your bills on time?) – 35% of your score
  • How much you owe (on each line of credit, and in total) – 30% of your score
  • Length of credit history – 15% of your score
  • New credit and inquiries (how often you apply for new credit) – 10% of your score
  • Types of lines of credit you have (credit cards, car loans, etc.) – 10% of your score

Most scores range from 300 to 850 or higher. The higher, the better, and having good credit habits and spending behaviors will help build and keep your score high.

Getting a Copy of Your Credit Report

It’s always a good idea to know what your credit score is, especially if you’re thinking about buying a house soon. You can get a free copy of your credit report once a year from a leading reporting agency like Experian, Equifax or TransUnion.

Once you receive a copy of your report, look it over for any errors. If you find anything incorrect or questionable, contact the credit bureau you received your report copy from. You’re allowed to add a 100-word written statement to your credit report if you want to dispute an error.

Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

Raising your credit score takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. To start, you can:

  • Pay all your bills on time
  • Reduce debt
  • Use credit cards wisely
  • Avoid spending more than you earn

You can also seek assistance from credit counselors, who are available through credit bureaus and local government agencies.

Keep in mind that while having good credit can be beneficial, you shouldn’t worry if you want to buy a house but have less-than-perfect credit – PrimeLending and The McMullen Group offers a wide variety of home loans for an array of financial situations. Get in touch with one of our home loan experts to learn about your options.


Refinance Your Mortgage To Reduce Debt

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The McMullen Group, Hanover, Boston, MAYou may have large outstanding debt on one or more credit cards. You may also be struggling to make any significant dent in paying the debt down; especially if you’re only making minimum payments. With interest rates making up a significant portion of each payment, it might take years to pay off the balance.

When you factor in that most credit cards have variable interest rates, your minimum payment amount increases as the rates climb. And with multiple credit cards – each with different due dates and their own minimum payment amounts – you may feel as if you’re drowning in debt. But there is a potential lifesaver; if you already have a mortgage, you can apply for a cash-out refinance loan and use the funds to consolidate and pay off high interest credit card debt, medical expenses or college tuition.

What is a cash-out refinance loan?

It’s when a homeowner secures a new loan to replace the current mortgage for more than the amount currently owed and keeps the difference between the old and new loans. The homeowner is then able to use the additional cash refinanced to help pay off any debt.

Why should I get one?

One of the many advantages to using a cash-out refinance loan to pay off your high interest debt is the lower interest rate this secured loan typically offers; it’s usually much lower than any of the high rates on your credit cards.

The average credit card rate is substantially higher than the average 30-year mortgage rate. In fact, the interest on credit card debt and even car loans could easily be double that of your mortgage rate. The reason? Credit card debt is considered riskier than mortgage debt so the credit card companies charge interest accordingly. As such, using a cash-out refinance loan can help you pay off your credit card debt much sooner, since less of your money is going toward interest payments.

By transferring debt from a financial vehicle that charges more to less, you can save a considerable amount of money. And if you consolidate the debt, you will see immediate monthly savings in your payments. You’ll also eliminate multiple bills; it can be very confusing paying several credit card and car loans which have different due dates during the month. If you consolidate, you will only need to pay one bill per month, your mortgage.

The other important advantages to using a cash-out refinance loan to pay off debt, include:

  • Access to money you already have to pay off big bills including college tuition, medical expenses, new business funding or home improvements
  • It’s usually available at a more attractive interest rate than found on unsecured personal loans, student loans or credit cards
  • The interest rate is more stable than the adjustable rate that comes with the other debt reduction instrument, a home equity line of credit (HELOC)
  • Increase your credit score because when you use the funds to pay off high-interest credit card debt, it not only eliminates the higher-interest monthly payments, but can have a positive impact on your credit score
  • The mortgage interest is tax deductible and the debt may be tax deductible as well

Cash-out refinancing and a home equity loan – what’s the difference?

Some people aren’t sure of the difference between cash-out refinancing and a home equity loan. Here are some of the major distinctions to look for:

  • A cash-out refinance is a replacement of your first mortgage, while a home equity loan is a separate loan on top of your first mortgage
  • The interest rate on a cash-out refinancing loan is usually, but not always, lower than the interest rate on a home equity loan
  • You may pay closing costs when you refinance your mortgage, while you don’t typically pay closing costs with a home equity loan

The Bottom Line

It’s important to note that while a cash-out refinance loan can reduce your high interest debt, it’s not a panacea. It is a great solution to provide immediate debt relief, but the best practice is to take steps, such as save more or reduce discretionary expenses so that you don’t end up with an unmanageable amount of high interest debt. If this sounds like a solution you might be interested in, start by talking with an experienced mortgage professional or loan officer to find out what your best loan options are for reducing high interest debt.


Ready for a Kitchen Remodel?

Joseph Coupal - Monday, October 02, 2017

Start your fall off with a renovation loan from PrimeLending.

With a renovation loan, you can purchase or refinance a home and roll the cost of a kitchen remodel into your mortgage.

  • Add an island, upgrade your cabinetry or countertops and more
  • The loan covers the mortgage plus the kitchen remodel costs in one monthly mortgage payment
  • Improvement costs are spread throughout the term of the loan
  • Refinancing now could enable you to take advantage of lower interest rates

Why not enjoy the holidays in a beautiful new kitchen? Contact Brian McMullen today to learn how you can turn a property into your perfect home.

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Refinancing to End PMI

Joseph Coupal - Monday, September 25, 2017

McMullen Group, Prime Lending, Hanover, Boston, MAFor many home buyers, private mortgage insurance is a necessary evil. If you don’t have 20% in cash to put down on a home, you’ll often be left with little choice other than PMI.

But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with the payments.

If you’ve built up some equity in your home, you may be able to refinance your loan and end those PMI payments. But is it a good idea?

Are you already eligible for a PMI cancellation?

Before you consider refinancing, determine if you’re eligible—or nearly eligible—for an automatic PMI cancellation.

PMI drops off automatically once the loan-to-value ratio reaches 78% based on the value of the property at the time the policy was instituted.

If your equity is nearing the cutoff, it may make more sense to wait until your lender automatically cancels your PMI payments rather than pay closing costs to refinance your loan. However, if you have a government-backed loan, things may be different. Many Federal Housing Administration loans now carry mortgage insurance for the life of the loan.

The only way to get rid of FHA insurance is to refinance into a conventional loan.

The equity and appreciation combo

If you haven’t made enough payments to reach the automatic cancellation point, you may still be able to get out of PMI without refinancing.

If the value of your home has increased since you took out your loan, your lender may be willing to factor that in and cancel your PMI automatically. Many lenders will allow borrowers to drop PMI once the value has reached the 80% level through a combination of appreciation and amortization.

If you know the value of your home has increased, or you’re close to reaching the equity point through payments, you’ll need to order an appraisal to give to your lender, which will cost $300 to $450.

If you aren’t sure if the value of your home has increased and don’t want to spend the cost of a full appraisal upfront, start with an automated valuation model.

This is a computerized estimate of the home’s value. It is not a substitute for an appraisal, but it can give some advance notice of what the property may appraise for.

But, really—should you refinance?

If you’re not eligible for an automatic cancellation, refinancing will get you out of PMI, but you still need to make sure the cost is worth it.

There will always be charges for title and escrow, appraisal, underwriting, document preparation, and other third-party costs and fees.

To determine if refinancing is the better option, you’ll have to determine if the amount you’d save by ending PMI payments earlier is greater than the costs associated with refinancing.

A quick way of getting an approximate idea of those numbers is to divide the cost of the loan (title, escrow, etc.) by the monthly reduction in payment.

Finding a good deal

If you do want to refinance, make sure you get the best deal by finding the lender with the best fees, rather than the lender with the best interest rate that day.

There is very little difference in rates from one lender to the next. The consumer should get an itemized listing of costs and fees before making a decision on what lender to use. They should also be aware that rates change from one day to the next.

You also want to find a lender who is willing to go the extra mile for you.

Just as the selection of a Realtor is important in a buyer’s success, the same can be said about mortgage lender. Any borrower should look for a mortgage officer who returns calls, emails and texts promptly, answers questions fully and in plain language, and is highly knowledgeable about different loan programs to meet their client’s needs.

For more information on how cash-out refinancing can help you, contact PrimeLending home loan expert at the McMullen Group today.