Category Archives: Educational

Get a Jump on Back-to-School with this Quick Checklist

Although it’s mid-summer, and school may be the farthest thing from our mind, it’s a great time to get a jump on that back-to-school checklist. Those lazy days of summer have a tendency to slip quickly by, leaving you in a mad dash to get everything done in time. Why not head into fall prepared and confident that your student is ready to go, making the transition from summer to school is a smooth one?

Here are a few tips for getting back-to-school ready:

  • Assess where you stand.If you set a financial goal to save for school expenses as a New Year’s resolution, now is a great time to check in on that progress. Ask yourself: How much have I saved? Am I on track for my goals? Or am I behind? Not quite where you thought you’d be? Talk to one of USAgencies’ Member Service Reps about tools that can help you save, including account alerts, direct deposit, or which savings product might help you best reach your goals.
  • Ensure your student has access to funds. For some students, this may be their first time with their own bank account- others may be old pros. Whatever the case may be, getting your student set up with an account from USAgencies will ensure they have many ways to access the funds they need. With everything from our easy-to-use mobile app, to Shared Branching, to the thousands of surcharge free ATMs across the country, your student will be sure to be able to connect to their money when & where they want. One feature parents especially enjoy- account-to-account transfers inside Online Banking.
  • Keep track. Using credit and debit cards can sometimes make it easy to lose track of what you spend. Using a budgeting program–like MoneyMark from USAgencies’ Online Banking–can help you stay on track of your monthly expenses. You can even use the Cashflow Calendar feature this July & August to win some extra cash! Learn more about how this promotion can help you stay on track of money coming in and going out, plus even help bring in a little extra if you win!
  • Check in with your school’s financial aid office. All schools have different requirements when it comes to financial aid. Make sure that your school has an updated version of your FAFSA and that everything is in order for the upcoming school year so your student’s financial aid is not delayed.
  • Refinance to a lower rate & help save. If you haven’t checked in with USAgencies to see if we can reduce your auto, home or credit card rate, it’s worth a look. Reducing your interest rate can save you hundreds of dollars over the life of your loan. Contact us to see how we can put more cash in your wallet at the end of the month.
  • Explore transportation options. Car, motorcycle or bike, USAgencies can help your student get wherever they’re going with a low-interest loan, flexible terms and easy-pay options, like direct deposit. Your Credit Union has an Aspire Auto Loan option for those with little or no credit, too. A transportation loan could be a great way to help you get your student’s credit history started on a positive note.
  • Look into a responsible private education loan. As college costs continue to rise, more students are in need of private student loans to fill the gap financial aid doesn’t cover. USAgencies partners with Sallie Mae to offer the Smart Option Student Loan to help cover education expenses. With the Smart Option Student Loan, you can take advantage of some of the lowest private education loan rates in the nation, and you can choose repayment options to help pay off your loan faster than with a conventional private loan.
  • Check out a low-interest Signature loan. If your student needs another resource for paying for the ever-rising cost of books, school supplies, athletic gear, etc. consider applying for a low-interest unsecured personal loan. This July & August, USACU is offering a loan special on Signature loans – with up to 1.25% off already low rates! Learn more here.
  • Consider asecured Visa card for those unexpected expenses. The credit limit on a Secured Visa Gold card is protected by funds in your savings account — it’s the perfect tool to help students establish good credit. Have a student with a little more credit history? Check out our Visa Platinum card- it offers rewards (1 point for each $1 in purchases) that you can use towards travel, merchandise or a better interest rate on a certificate or auto loan with us. Another benefit of the Visa Platinum- USAgencies invests 5% of the net income from our Visa Platinum cards into charitable giving programs. Last year we contributed almost 21 thousand dollars to back into the community that we serve. Learn more about our Community Giving Program

Many don’t want to start thinking about back to school already, especially in the midst of these beautiful long summer days. However, back to school finances can creep up on you quickly, so planning ahead pays off. This list is a good starting place, but if you should need any help along the way USACU, your Trusted Financial Service Provider of Choice, is here to help you in any way we can. Give us a call or stop by, and we can help you make back-to-school a breeze this year.

Do you have any savvy back to school shopping tricks you use to save money every year?

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Homebuying 101 – VA Loans

Throughout the next several weeks we’ll be posting articles and info on various aspects of the home buying process. Topics will cover everything from saving for a down payment, to refinancing, to purchasing investment properties, and more. We encourage you to connect with us on any questions you might have, and to share this information with friends and family.

What is a VA Loan?

The VA (Veteran’s Administration) Home Loan Guarantee Program helps veterans purchase or refinance homes through VA-approved lenders, like USAgencies Credit Union.

Loans are backed up to $417,000 in Oregon and Washington (and more in some areas) with low closing costs and fewer fees than conventional loans.

Packed with money-saving advantages such as no down payment requirement and no private mortgage insurance (PMI), it’s no surprise that the VA home loan has been used by over 18 million families. For nearly 70 years, this program has made it possible for families just like yours to experience the pride of homeownership.

The VA home loan program continues to shine brightly and forge ahead on its mission of making homeownership possible for the brave men and women who serve our country

Advantages of a VA Loan

  1. No Down Payment Necessary. Traditional loans typically require a buyer to provide between 3 to 20 percent of the home’s price as a down payment. For many first-time homebuyers, supplying this amount of money up front may not be feasible. The VA Loan is a good option for those who may not have a large sum set aside for a down payment, and who meet certain requirements (see Qualifications section).
  2. Less Stringent Qualifications. Many first-time homebuyers might not yet have a strong credit history, which can make it more difficult to get approval for a mortgage or qualify for an affordable interest rate. Since the VA Loan is government-backed, VA Loans are easier to qualify for at competitive rates.
  3. Lower Monthly Payments. Since VA Loans don’t require the added monthly expense of PMI, they tend to leave more money in your pocket each month. In addition, the competitive VA Loan rates can save a typical buyer thousands over the life of the loan.

Qualifications

In general, an honorably discharged service member is eligible for a VA home loan if he or she meets any one of these requirements:

  • Served 181 days during peacetime (Active Duty)
  • Served 90 days during war time (Active Duty)
  • Served 6 years in the Reserves or National Guard
  • The spouse of a service member who died while in service or from a service-connected disability

For more specific information about VA loan qualification, it is best to speak with an experienced home loan officer, like USAgencies’ Steven Raymond.

Next Steps…

The first step toward securing your VA loan is getting pre-approved. This involves a pre-qualification process, where a loan officer assesses the borrower’s financial situation and determines the maximum the veteran qualifies for. The borrower then must submit a completed loan application and documentation to obtain a commitment, otherwise known as a “pre-approval”.

For more detailed information about getting pre-approved for a VA loan, please contact an experienced mortgage loan officer, like Steven Raymond, VP of Residential Lending at USACU.

Questions?
Steven Raymond, VP or Residential Lending at USAgencies Credit Union, has over 30 years of experience in the mortgage industry. Steven’s seen it all, as far as mortgages go. If you have questions—about refinancing, getting pre-approved, or anything else mortgage-related—talk to Steven!

Steven Raymond
Vice President of Residential Lending, NMLS#: 234025
Direct: (503) 275-0329
Toll-free: (800) 452-0915 x329
Email: sraymond@usacu.org

Ready to go?
Apply for a mortgage online now.

Equal Housing Lender Logo blog
USAgencies Credit Union
NMLS#: 441193

Homebuying 101: Refinancing – What to Consider

Throughout the next several weeks we’ll be posting articles and info on various aspects of the home buying process. Topics will cover everything from saving for a down payment, to refinancing, to purchasing investment properties, and more. We encourage you to connect with us on any questions you might have, and to share this information with friends and family.

Summer is just around the corner and it’s prime home-buying time. However, not everyone is in the market to buy. If you’re happy with your current home, you can still take advantage of some of the lowest mortgage rates we’ve seen by refinancing your mortgage. There are three main reasons to refinance your home: to save money, to borrow cash against your equity, or to do a combination of the two.

 

Refinance to Save

If you’re trying to save money by reducing your monthly payments, you need to divide cost of getting the loan by the monthly payment savings. This will tell you how many months it will take for you to “break even” and start saving money. If you plan on staying in the home past the time frame shown, you should refinance. Here’s a good rule to follow:

If the “break even” point is…

Under 3 years: Good time to refinance

3 to 5 years: Consider options carefully

5 years or more: Best to wait and refinance later

If your overall goal is to refinance to a shorter term loan (for instance going from 30 to a 15-year mortgage) to pay your house off faster, be sure the rate is dropping enough to recover the costs as if the refinance was a 30-year loan. If it doesn’t, you should just start pre-paying principle on your current loan at the 15-year payment amount instead of refinancing and paying costs.

 

Refinance for Cash

You can get cash for any purpose you want: home improvements, pay off debts, family needs – there are no restrictions based upon how the cash will be used. The common 30-year fixed first mortgage allows you to borrow up to 80% of the appraised value for the refinance loan amount.

The two other ways people choose to borrow cash are with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or a Home Equity Loan.

 

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A HELOC is a revolving line of credit that allows borrowers to obtain a predetermined amount of money drawn against the equity of their home. (Think of it as a “credit card” secured by a mortgage or deed of trust on the property). Borrowers will be approved for a specific amount of credit (their credit limit), which is the maximum amount of money they can borrow at one time. The credit limit is normally set by the lender based on a percentage of the home’s appraised value and subtracting that from the balance still owed on the first mortgage. Additional factors will also be used to determine a credit limit such as: income, debts, credit history and ability to make payments. HELOC funds can be accessed by special checks or a credit card.

Many HELOC plans have fixed periods known as “draw” and “repayment” periods – which can vary in length. During the draw period the borrower is able to borrow money and may have smaller monthly payments or interest-only payments. Some plans call for payment in full by the end of the draw period; other plans that use a repayment period ask that the money be paid over that fixed amount of time, or may have a repayment period and balloon payment at the end.

A HELOC is good for borrowers who desire a lower up-front rate and access to money at unpredictable times. Borrowers will only need to pay back the amount of money that is actually used from the line of credit and they only face credit reviews on a 1 to 3 year basis. Competition among lenders has encouraged the growth of introductory “teaser” rates and other incentives.

 

Home Equity Loan

A Home Equity Loan is an example of a second mortgage. Borrowers receive a check for the entire loan amount and will need to make payments on the loan until it’s paid off.

Home Equity Loans are a good choice for borrowers who need a specific amount of money and payment stability. These are fixed rate loans which allow borrowers to lock-in the interest rate for the entire life of the loan. Unlike a HELOC, there are no annual (or “maintenance”) fees associated with this type of loan.

Note: The combined mortgage along with either the HELOC or Home Equity Loan typically cannot exceed 80% of the current value of the home. 

 

Your Choice Home Equity Options

If a Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit is the right option for you, USACU has a special promotion running during the month of May: Your Choice Home Equity Options. Click here for more info or to apply (limited time only).

 

Next Steps…

For more detailed information about the refinancing process and different financing options, please contact an experienced mortgage loan officer, like Steven Raymond, VP of Residential Lending at USACU. Steven can help you evaluate your current financial situation, your long term goals and help you make the best decision possible.

For more info on our Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit, including our ‘Your Choice Home Equity‘ promotion, please contact Lending Services (503.275.0300, opt. 2).

Questions?

Steven Raymond, VP or Residential Lending at USAgencies Credit Union, has over 30 years of experience in the mortgage industry. Steven’s seen it all, as far as mortgages go. If you have questions—about refinancing, getting pre-approved, or anything else mortgage-related—talk to Steven!

Steven Raymond 
Vice President of Residential Lending, NMLS#: 234025
Direct: (503) 275-0329
Toll-free: (800) 452-0915 x329
Email: sraymond@usacu.org

Ready to go?
Apply for a mortgage online now.

Equal Housing Lender Logo blog

USAgencies Credit Union
NMLS#: 441193

 

 

Homebuying 101: Investment Properties

Throughout the next several weeks we’ll be posting articles and info on various aspects of the home buying process. Topics will cover everything from saving for a down payment, to refinancing, to purchasing investment properties, and more. We encourage you to connect with us on any questions you might have, and to share this information with friends and family.

With mortgage rates near all-time lows, now might be a good time to consider purchasing a rental property. The process of purchasing a rental home will vary depending on your circumstances, but here are a few considerations involved with the process:

What type of down payment will you have for the property?

Your down payment will impact how much home you can afford and can influence your rate, depending on the loan-to-value (LTV) of the property. Typically, one can get a better rate with a 75% LTV ratio, compared to one of 85% (loans greater than 80% LTV will also require mortgage insurance). The interest rate will vary based on the percentage of down payment (25, 20, 15). In addition to your required down payment you will need to have the equivalent of six months of PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance), based on the property, in savings as a reserve.

Is this your first rental property?

Borrowers who have demonstrated income from other rental properties in their past two years’ tax returns are treated differently than those who are purchasing their first rental property. A soon-to-be new landlord will need to qualify for the new loan using their existing resources (assets, income, etc.) and will not be able to use anticipated rental income from the new property. Those with past rental income, as demonstrated in their past two years’ tax returns, will be able to claim a portion of the   income derived from the new rental property to qualify for the new loan.

I want to purchase a different home and want to rent out my current home. What do I need to know?

As mentioned in the previous question, you will need to have a certain amount for the down payment for the new primary home and that will depend in part on the purchase price of the home. Additionally, you will need to qualify for both the old payment (PITI) and the new payment (PITI) unless you have a documented landlord history. With landlord history you can use a portion of the estimated rental income from the new rental property to assist in qualifying for the new loan.

What if I am looking at a Vacation Home that I will be using as a Second Home?

There is different treatment for vacation or second homes that are not used as rental properties. Treatment for second or vacation homes tends to be more favorable and is typically treated the same as your primary residence.

I’ve heard that if I buy a home with all-cash, I can get a better deal. Is that true?

Maybe, but that is not guaranteed. Keep in mind that if you pay cash up front, you will need to wait a minimum of six months before you can potentially qualify for a loan on that property. You will need a new appraisal on the property if you choose to explore refinancing that property after you purchase it with all cash.

What is the process for getting a pre-approval for a Rental Home?

You will need to go through the same process as you would for purchasing any home. Documentation needed includes:

  • Paystubs dated within the last 30 days
  • W2s for two years. If you are self-employed or if you have rental income from existing rental properties, you will need to submit your tax returns for the past two years. If you are retired, you will need to submit any award letters from Social Security and/or your Government Annuity Letter
  • Bank statements (savings/checking) for two months
  • TSP, 403B, 401k, IRA and any other retirement account statements (last quarter)


Next Steps…

Whether you’re considering your first investment property, or your 10th, one of the best ways to understand your lending options is for you to speak with an experienced mortgage loan officer, like Steven Raymond, VP of Residential Lending at USACU. Steven can help guide you through the process and present you with the best options for your individual needs.

 

Questions?

Steven Raymond, VP or Residential Lending at USAgencies Credit Union, has over 30 years of experience in the mortgage industry. Steven’s seen it all, as far as mortgages go. If you have questions—about purchasing costs, getting pre-approved, or anything else mortgage-related—talk to Steven!

Steven Raymond 
Vice President of Residential Lending, NMLS#: 234025
Direct: (503) 275-0329
Toll-free: (800) 452-0915 x329
Email: sraymond@usacu.org

Ready to go?
Apply for a mortgage online now.

Equal Housing Lender Logo blog

USAgencies Credit Union
NMLS#: 441193

Homebuying 101: Purchasing Costs

Throughout the next several weeks we’ll be posting articles and info on various aspects of the home buying process. Topics will cover everything from saving for a down payment, to refinancing, to purchasing investment properties, and more. We encourage you to connect with us on any questions you might have, and to share this information with friends and family.

You’ve decided to buy a home. Congratulations! That’s a big step.

The next step? Gaining a full understanding of the costs associated with your purchase. People often assume the only cost of buying a home is the price of the home, and that’s it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case- there can be a lot of other costs you should be prepared for. Here’s a quick overview of some common purchasing costs you should expect when buying a home…

Down Payment
The down payment is a percentage of the purchase price. It could be anywhere from as low as 0% down for veterans and those in rural areas, to 3 to 3.5% for first time homebuyers, to as much as you would like. However, if you put less than 20% down, most lenders will require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which is an insurance fee that protects lenders against loss if a borrower defaults.

PMI Discontinuation

  1. Borrowers may request cancellation when the loan amortizes to 80% Loan-to-Value (LTV) or is paid down to 80% LTV, if certain other requirements are met.
  2. If you’re current on your loan payments, PMI will automatically terminate on the date the principal balance of your loan is first scheduled to reach 78% of the original value of the property.

Pre-Paids
Pre-paids consist of property taxes, homeowners insurance, daily interest through the end of the month and the amount needed to establish an escrow account for paying property taxes and insurance. Therefore, pre-paids will vary depending on the price (value) of the home as both property taxes and insurance are based first on the value of the home and the value will vary from county to county and the state that the property is in.

Closing Costs
Closing costs are made up of services and/or products that are required to complete a home loan. These items will include appraisals, credit reports, title insurance, escrow, county recording, flood determination, tax service, processing, underwriting and other fees and points.

Many of the closing cost items are a fixed amount and will be consistently the same for all loans. However, some of the items of closing costs are based on the purchase price and/or loan amount. Therefore, closing costs will vary with each transaction.

Next Steps…
Buying a home involves more than just the cost of the home itself. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to go about paying these costs – for instance, the seller may be able to pay the pre-paids and closing costs. The most reliable way to discover your payment options is for you to speak with an experienced mortgage loan officer. They can offer suggestions and help guide you through the process.

 

Questions?
Steven Raymond, VP or Residential Lending at USAgencies Credit Union, has over 30 years of experience in the mortgage industry. Steven’s seen it all, as far as mortgages go. If you have questions—about purchasing costs, getting pre-approved, or anything else mortgage-related—talk to Steven!

Steven Raymond 
Vice President of Residential Lending, NMLS#: 234025
Direct: (503) 275-0329
Toll-free: (800) 452-0915 x329
Email: sraymond@usacu.org

Ready to go?
Apply for a mortgage online now.

 

 

Equal Housing Lender Logo blog

USAgencies Credit Union
NMLS#: 441193

Home Buying 101: The Housing Market

Throughout the next several weeks we’ll be posting articles and info on various aspects of the home buying process. Topics will cover everything from saving for a down payment, to refinancing, to purchasing investment properties, and more. We encourage you to connect with us on any questions you might have, and to share this information with friends and family!

 

Spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and skies are clearing. Spring is also a time when potential homebuyers start to peek out of their doors and more actively pursue a new home. With the typical springtime bump in inventory, better weather for those heading from open house to open house, and kids heading towards summer break soon, this time of year can be the ideal time to buy for some. With all of the changes we’ve seen in the housing market over the last several years, you may have questions about whether or not this is the “right time” for you…

Should You Try to “Time the Market”?
One problem with attempting to time your home purchase to the business cycle is that no one can accurately predict the future. Another challenge is that interest rates are generally higher during a depressed market and income may not be keeping up. For that reason, fewer people can qualify for a home purchase than in more prosperous times.

The “wait-and-see” strategy generally works best for first-time buyers. People who already have a home usually need to sell it in order to buy their next one. If a “move-up” buyer wants to buy a home during a depressed market, that means they usually have to sell one during the slow market, too. If a seller wants to sell his home to take advantage of a hot market when prices are fairly high, they generally have to buy their next home during that same hot market, so it tends to equal out.

How Do Changes in the Market Affect Supply & Demand?
There are times when the economy is brisk and everyone feels confident about his or her prospects for the future. As a result, they spend money. People eat out more, buy new cars, and…they buy new homes.

Then, for one reason or another, the economy slows. Companies lay off employees and consumers are more careful about where they spend money, perhaps saving more than usual. As a result, the economy decelerates even further. If it slows enough, we have a recession.

During such a time, fewer people are buying homes. When the supply of available houses is greater than the supply of buyers, appreciation may slow and prices may even fall, as happened in the early eighties and the early to mid-nineties.

If you are lucky enough to purchase a home during a slow period, you can be reasonably certain the economy will begin to show strength again. At times, real estate values may even surge drastically. In many regions of the country, this is precisely what occurred in the late eighties and nineties.

What’s the Current Market Temperature?
The past few years have seen a major boom in housing sales. And it appears things aren’t changing anytime soon. Low rates and a relatively low amount of inventory make it a prime seller’s market. Sellers are oftentimes seeing multiple offers for over asking price. What’s the best thing someone can do to buy in the current market? “Get preapproved. Get all of your ducks in a row ahead of time so you know how much house you can afford and are ready to make a quick decision on a home,” says Steven Raymond, Vice President of Residential Lending at USAgencies Credit Union. “The market is very hot. And we’re just heading into spring, which can be prime home shopping time, so it can be pretty competitive out there. Getting preapproved ahead of time ups the chances of a closed sale for buyers.”

The Take Away
Markets slow and surge, as does housing inventory and buyer confidence. No matter what the situation in the market, or in your own family, it pays to be prepared. Knowledge is power. Knowing ahead of time what you’re pre-qualified and/or pre-approved for can help put you in a better position and allows you to make the best decision for you and your family.

 

Questions?
Steven Raymond, VP or Residential Lending at USAgencies Credit Union, has over 30 years of experience in the mortgage industry. Steven’s just about seen it all, as far as mortgages go. If you have questions—about the current market, getting pre-approved, or anything else mortgage-related—talk to Steven!

Steven Raymond 
Vice President of Residential Lending, NMLS#: 234025
Direct: (503) 275-0329
Toll-free: (800) 452-0915 x329
Email: sraymond@usacu.org

Ready to go?
Apply for a mortgage online now.

 

 

Equal Housing Lender Logo blog

USAgencies Credit Union
NMLS#: 441193

Freshen Up Those Finances for Spring

Give Your Finances a Checkup This Spring
Spring brings showers, flowers and an urge to tidy up. When you dive into spring cleaning this year, don’t forget your finances. Here’s how to give your money a thorough checkup to prepare for a great summer and beyond.

Check the health of your credit report
By monitoring your credit regularly, you can identify problems early. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free annual report from each of the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Your credit score is not on your credit report, but what’s on your report influences what your score is. You can pay to see your score for a small fee.

Some financial institutions, like USAgencies Credit Union, will connect members with free financial counseling. They can discuss things that may be affecting your credit standing, as well as look at whether options such as consolidating debt or refinancing your home might be worthwhile.

Bolstering an anemic credit score
To bolster credit, take steps to clear demerits on your reports. Dispute errors and contact creditors to see whether they’d be willing to make “goodwill adjustments” to remove legitimate blemishes in return for paying a balance in full.

Another strategy for rebuilding credit is taking out a secured credit card. With a secured card, you deposit enough money to cover the limit you’re applying for, and your financial institution keeps that amount on hold for as long as you have the card. A secured card lets you establish a record of responsible credit use — boosting your credit standing in the process.

Tackling costly debt
High-interest debt from credit cards and loans can spiral out of control. To lower interest rates and reduce monthly payments, look into debt consolidation, which combines debt from multiple sources into a single loan. Choose from several solutions including home equity loans and lines of credit as well as personal loans.

With mortgage rates still near historic lows, those holding older mortgages might also benefit from refinancing to get a lower-interest loan.

Tuning up your credit score and tidying up your debts can refresh your finances. Before you know it, your budget will be in healthier shape, and you’ll be able to afford more summer fun.

Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet
© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Questions about how USACU can help you freshen up your finances for spring? Contact us.