All You Need To Know About Home Loans

Here at USAgencies Credit Union, we provide a variety of products and services to meet your specific financial needs and in the most ideal ways possible. One such example is home loans. Let’s take a closer look at how its application process works.

What is a home loan?

A home loan, or a mortgage, enables you to purchase a home without having to foot all the cash out of your pocket when purchasing. You will, however, need to make a down payment, which is typically between 3.5-20% of the home’s appraised value, along with closing costs and some other fees. The lender then finances the rest of the purchase. You’ll repay the loan, along with interest, over the course of (generally) 15 to 30 years.

Are all home loans alike?

Before you get started, you’ll need to choose a mortgage type. A conventional loan will necessitate a 5-20% down payment on the home. There’s also an FHA loan, which only requires a down payment of 3.5%, but necessitates mortgage insurance. If you’re a military veteran, consider obtaining a VA loan, which lets you buy a home with zero down payment.

Once you’ve chosen the kind of loan which is best for your scenario, you may be given a choice of repayment arrangements for that loan. Here are the three common types of mortgages:

  1. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. The interest rate on this 30-year mortgage will remain fixed no matter the changes to the national rate.
  2. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. This mortgage will also have a fixed interest rate, but the term lasts just 15 years. The monthly payments will be higher, but the overall interest paid over the course of the loan will be significantly lower.
  3. Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). An ARM gives the borrower a lower interest rate in the early years of the loan, and then a gradual increase (adjustment) in rate over the rest of the life of the mortgage.

What do I need to know before applying for a home loan?

A home is likely to be the largest purchase you will ever make. To qualify for one, you will need to prove that you are living a financially responsible life and that you can afford the monthly payments.

The primary way lenders gauge your financial responsibility is through your credit score. This number is like a grade that tells lenders how you’ve handled your past credit card accounts and other debts. It will include the length of time you’ve had your credit cards and loans open, the timeliness with which you’ve made your payments, the trajectory of your debt and the amount of available credit you might use. Most lenders will only grant a home loan to borrowers with a credit score of 650 or higher. You can check your score for free with My Credit Score in our Online and Mobile Banking. You might also consider ordering a free credit report from all three major credit bureaus once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

During the time leading to your mortgage applications, make sure to pay all your bills on time, don’t open new credit cards and work on paying down overall debt. A higher credit score will help you get approved quicker and it will net you a lower interest rate on your loan.

Another crucial factor in determining your eligibility for a mortgage is your debt-to-income ratio, or your DTI. Lenders want to know how big your collective outstanding debt will be in relation to your income if you receive the home loan. Most lenders will only allow a maximum DTI of 36%.

When should I apply for a home loan?

While you won’t need the loan until you are ready to close on a house, it’s a good idea to start the process before you begin house-hunting. Your lender will let you know whether you can expect to be approved for a loan and will provide you with an estimate of how much house you can afford so you don’t face disappointment later.

When initially applying for a home loan, ask your lender for a letter of pre-approval. This letter confirms you are preapproved for a home loan up to a specific amount. Having this letter in hand shows real estate agents and sellers that you are serious about buying. Most pre-approvals are only good for 60-90 days, so make sure you’re ready to start house hunting before you get yours.

How do I apply for a home loan?

To apply for a home loan at USAgencies Credit Union, connect with us to help you get started. Make sure all of your financial paperwork is in order and hold onto all important financial documents in the months leading up to your application.

To make it easier, we’ve created a list of the information and documents you’ll need:

  • Name of current employer, phone and street address
  • Length of time at current employer
  • Official position/title
  • Salary including overtime, bonuses or commissions
  • Two years’ worth of W-2s
  • Profit & loss statement if self-employed
  • Pensions and Social Security check stubs
  • Proof of child support payments
  • Copies of alimony checks
  • Statements for all checking and savings accounts
  • Investments (stocks, bonds, retirement accounts)
  • Proof of any gifted funds from relatives
  • Car loan information

You will also need to explain any blemishes on your financial record; including bankruptcies, collections, foreclosures and delinquencies.


Have more questions about Buying or Refinancing, or ready to get your application started? Connect with us at 503.275.0300 or visit our website. 

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Member Moment: Anne’s Story

Did you know your credit union is part of a history that began back in the 19th century? The principles of service to members, acting in the community’s best interest and being responsive to members’ needs have only grown over the past century in the U.S. Here at USAgencies Credit Union, we’re proud to join the chain of institutions committed to the credit union mission. As a member-owned cooperative, our only goal is your financial success.

Our member, Anne, shared how her values align with the credit union philosophy of “people helping people”.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I worked for the Federal government for most of my career in four locations in Oregon. The Forest Service was mostly very good for me. It helped me learn a lot, grow and travel. I helped employees learn new computer programs and solve problems using computers. I joined a credit union early in my career and was happy to continue that choice. I raised my daughter as a single parent and I appreciated the support from the Forest Service. I’m very proud that my daughter earned a PhD. At the end of my career, I was one of twelve people nationally in the Forest Service to provide an avenue for employees to request computer solutions for their professional issues.

Your Passion
My passion is helping people and learning. That’s why my career fit me so well. I think credit unions are a good match also because they share these same values.

What is your favorite USAgencies’ moment as a member?
I appreciated the seminars from USACU that provided great information and helped me prepare for retirement. It was fun when USACU would come to the office and give us cookies. We could meet employees, ask questions and I got to be good friends with one very nice employee. I even participated in a panel which gave me more knowledge about USACU.

What do you value the most about USAgencies?
I value USACU because it is a credit union. I deeply appreciate that it is not run for shareholders who don’t care about the way the business operates. Banks want to maximize return no matter the cost to individual clients. My prejudice is that credit unions make decisions with members in mind. USACU is local which is important to me.


Thank you Anne for sharing your values, we appreciate you!

Want to share your USAgencies moment? Submit your story to social@usacu.org or via telephone at 503-275-0300. We’d love to hear from you!

Getting Ahead on Your Student Loan Before You Graduate

As you begin scouting different employment opportunities, be sure to look at the larger picture before you accept a position.

Hopefully, you’ve chosen a career path that will bring you joy and gratification. Equally important, though, is a job that can support your lifestyle choices. While the positions you consider for your post-college job will likely offer the opportunity for growth, you’ll still need to pay your bills—and make your student loan payments—as soon as you graduate. A job that brings you satisfaction and a pleasant working environment will not last long if the salary it offers causes you to sink into debt.

How do you determine what kind of salary will be large enough to support your desired lifestyle?

To get this information, you’ll need to create a mock monthly budget for your post-college self.

Using a spreadsheet or paper and pen, create two columns, one for expenses and one for actual dollar amounts. In the expense column, list your typical monthly expenses, including housing costs, transportation costs, health insurance, groceries, entertainment costs, clothing costs, dining out, savings, etc. In the dollar column, list the amount of money you expect to pay every month for each expense.

Your budget should look something like this:

Expense Monthly Cost
Housing $1200
Transportation $300
Health insurance $250
Groceries $350
Student loan payments $350

It will take some research and some hard, honest thinking to come up with these numbers. For housing costs, take a moment to think about where you see yourself settling down after college. You don’t have to know the exact neighborhood you’ll live in, but it’s good to know the city that will work best for you in terms of lifestyle, career path, and family plans. You can narrow this down to a few choices so long as you keep it reasonable. Once you’ve chosen your desired location, research the median rental prices in the area on real estate sites like Zillow and Redfin.

Next, work on transportation costs. If you already own a car, you’ll have an idea of what it costs you each month. Otherwise, spend some time thinking about what kind of car you want to drive. You can find listings on Carfax.com. Include costs like auto insurance, gas, and upkeep, in this category.

Or, if you plan on living somewhere with reliable public transportation, you might choose this route instead. Make a calculation of how much you’ll spend on bus and/or train rides, along with the occasional cab or ride-share ride.

Complete your budget using your best estimates for each category. Once you’ve filled out each expense amount, add up your total and multiply it by 12 to give you the amount of money you’ll need each year for supporting the lifestyle of your choice. (This number will increase with inflation, but since current salaries will likely increase along with the inflation rate, this exercise can still give you an idea of the annual salary you’ll need.)

Now that you have these numbers, you’re ready to go ahead with your job search. When considering possible positions, you don’t have to choose the one that pays the highest salary if there are other things about the job you don’t love. However, it’s best to pursue positions that can actually support you.


Are you choosing your first job for the salary or for other factors? Share your take with us in the comments.

How to Celebrate Mother’s Day While in Quarantine

Everything looks different now with the coronavirus pandemic raging, and Mother’s Day is no exception. You can’t take the family out for pizza or treat mom to a meal at her favorite restaurant, but you can still celebrate. Here are some ways you can make this day special for mom, no matter how far apart you may be.

Take a virtual trip together

Airbnb is now offering virtual experiences from around the world. Take a trip with mom and learn all about a new city, as well as its culture, from the comfort of your home. If your mom is an art aficionado, you can also check out virtual tours of famous museums like the Guggenheim in NYC and Musée d’Orsay in Paris. FaceTime with mom while you tour to make it a trip you take together.

Make a craft together

The nationwide lockdown has sparked a trend in old-fashioned crafting, like quilting, pottery and jewelry-making. Order matching craft kits from sites like Etsy and spend some quality virtual time with Mom working on your masterpieces together while chatting on the phone or video conferencing on Zoom.

Dine out at home

Dining inside restaurants is still not allowed in most states, but you can always order it. Pick up mom’s favorite dinner for the family. If you’re celebrating with your mom remotely, have her favorite meal delivered for both of you to enjoy in your own homes. Deck out your table in its finest and make it a joint experience by setting up a video conference while you eat.

Enjoy a custom photo album together

Sort through your old pictures and create a custom photo album on a site like Shutterfly. Make one copy for you and one for mom. Flip through the albums together while chatting on the phone or FaceTiming to relive some of the year’s best moments.

Send a spa kit

Let mom enjoy some pampering at home this year with a DIY spa kit. You can order a premade kit online, or create your own basket of specialty soaps, bath bombs, scented candles, a loofah, body brush, moisturizer, bath salts, massage tools, facial mask, scented oils, shampoo and conditioner. Throw in her favorite magazine and a CD with soothing music for the ultimate in relaxation.

Watch a movie together

Is there a movie you and your mom both adore? Watch it together on Mother’s Day, quarantine-style. Start the movie at the same time in your own homes, and keep up a steady stream of text messages about the movie instead of the live chit-chat you’d enjoy if you were really watching together. Make it extra-special by sending mom a homemade “ticket” to your movie, including the title and the official start time, and throw in some of mom’s favorite snacks, too.

Mother’s Day may be different from what you’re used to this year, but you can still make it an extra-special day for mom. She deserves the best!


How are you celebrating Mother’s Day at home this year?

Member Moment: John’s Story

Going green and being kind to our environment is a long-term commitment, not a sprint. Our member, John, kindly shared his passion about reducing the damage to our planet and we’re happy to be a small part of his journey.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I work for the Department of the Treasury in Portland Oregon. I own my home and have become more and more interested in reducing the damage I do to the environment.

What is your favorite USAgencies’ moment as a member?
I got a loan through USAgencies Credit Union and used the money to put solar panels on my house. Since I also own an electric vehicle, I now create my own fuel for my car!

That means I have virtually no fuel bill or electric bill from now on. That’s $150 – $200 every month that goes into my pocket!

The loan from USAgencies paid for my solar panels and it was super easy to get and my savings cover the expense. Now I don’t smoke up the atmosphere!


Congratulations John! And thank you for all you do for our planet.

Want to share your USAgencies moment? Submit your story to social@usacu.org or via telephone at 503-275-0300. We’d love to hear from you!

How Should I Spend My Stimulus Check?

The stimulus checks promised in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act are starting to land in checking accounts and mailboxes around the country. The $1,200 granted to most middle class adults is a welcome relief during these financially trying times.

Many recipients may be wondering: What is the best way to use this money?

To help you determine the most financially responsible course of action to take with your stimulus check, USAgencies Credit Union has compiled a list of advice and tips on how to use this money.

Cover your basic life expenses

First and foremost, make sure you can afford to cover your basic necessities. With millions of Americans out of work and lots of them still waiting for their unemployment insurance to kick in, many people are struggling to put food on their tables. Most financial experts agree that it’s best not to make any long-term plans for stimulus money until you can comfortably cover everyday expenses.

Charlie Bolognino, CFP and owner of Side-by-Side Financial Planning in Plymouth, Minn., says this step may necessitate creating a new budget that fits the times. With unique spending priorities in place, an absent or diminished income and many expenses, like subscriptions and entertainment costs, not being relevant any longer, it can be helpful to reconfigure an existing budget to better suit present needs. As always, basic necessities, such as food and critical bills, should be prioritized.

Build up your emergency fund

If you’ve already got your basic needs covered, start looking at long-term targets for your stimulus money.

Emergency funds should ideally be robust enough to cover 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses. If you already have an emergency fund, it may have been depleted during the pandemic and need some replenishing. If you don’t yet have an emergency fund, or your fund isn’t large enough to cover several months without a steady income, you may want to use some of the stimulus money to build it up so you have a cushion to fall back on during lean times that are likely to come in the months ahead.

Pay down high-interest debts

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, Americans owed a collective $930 billion in credit card debt during the fourth quarter of 2019. Using some of your stimulus check to pay off high-interest debt would be a great way to get a guaranteed return on the money, says Chris Chen, of Insight Financial Strategists in Newton, Mass.

This advice only applies to credit cards and other private, high-interest loans. The federal government put a 6-month freeze on most student loan debts, so they should not be as high a priority right now.

Boost your savings

If your emergency fund is already full and you’ve made headway on your debt, it can be a good idea to use some of the stimulus money to add to your USAgencies Credit Union savings account. The money in your savings can be used to cover long-term financial goals, such as funding a dream vacation or covering the down payment on a new home.

Consider all your options before choosing how to spend your stimulus money. In all likelihood, this will be a one-time payment received during the pandemic.


How are you spending your stimulus check? If you need further assistance, don’t hesitate to connect with us at 503.275.0300 or info@usacu.org. We’ll be happy to help you maintain financial stability during these uncertain times.

7 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day at Home

April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, while many of us are staying home due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are still things we can do to celebrate the environment while we’re at home. Here are a few ideas to get started:

Plant a garden. Earth Day, April 22, 2020, is the perfect time to plant that garden you’ve always wanted. Garden centers and home improvement stores are still open around the country, with many offering curbside pickup. Add a burst of color to your property with a row of flowers, try your hand at planting a vegetable garden, or plant a tree!

Learn about recycling. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by learning about local recycling rules and refreshing your knowledge about what happens to the things we recycle. Share this information with your children as they are learning from home.

Use the My Disney Experience app to explore the world of nature from home. Check out the “Wilderness Explorers at Home” feature on the app for a virtual tour of nature’s wonders.

Learn about the plants in your neighborhood. Bring your daily walk around the neighborhood up a notch on Earth Day by looking out for plants in your area. You can use the Native Plant Finder website to find out which plants are native to your zip code. See how many of these plants you can find on your walk!

Watch a documentary about our planet. Celebrate Earth Day by watching a fascinating documentary about the Earth. Netflix is now running “Our Planet,” an incredible docuseries hosted by David Attenborough that features beautiful footage from around the world. You can also check out Disney+ for Disneynature’s “Elephant” and “Dolphin Reef,” which conveniently offer downloadable activity packets for kids.

Watch the NASA Science Live webcast. The space agency website will host a special edition of the webcast on Earth Day, April 22, at 1 p.m. PST, featuring agency chief Jim Bridenstine.

Join the Earthfest. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City is airing an all-day “Earthfest” on Wednesday. The live-streamed event will feature a full day of activities and education, including a “watch party” at 6 p.m. EDT, where participants can “hop aboard” a live flight to explore our neighboring planets.


How are you planning to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day?

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