Category Archives: Guest Post

Home Shopping Snapshot: Spring 2018

Our friend Brent Schreiber, VP of Real Estate at our mortgage partner Consolidated Community Credit Union, is here to give us some insight on the current housing market, interest rates and more.

Current Status of the Market

As we head into the spring home buying season, inventory continues to be low, which makes it a very competitive situation for purchases. There is still an imbalance of buyers and sellers (more buyers than sellers), which has continued to put pressure on prices. The Portland market (Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington county) continues to see an influx of households moving to the area and with rents being high, many are looking to purchase a home. The past 2 spring-summer periods have seen bidding wars on properties as demand has outpaced supply. Rates have risen measurably to the highest point in the last 4 years, so we will soon see if that has an impact on demand. Homebuyers should look to get pre-approved prior to their home search as agents want to know that they are working with qualified borrowers who are ready to make an offer.

Interest Rates

Mortgage rates recently have risen to a 4-year high and are currently around 4.5% on a 30-year fixed conventional loan. While this rate is still historically low, it’s a significant move up from what we saw in 2017 and prior as rates were 4% and below on the same type of loan. Many factors have led to the increase in rates, but most notably a strong economy with low unemployment and a tax cut in addition to that has created some inflationary pressure (which causes rates to rise). While we don’t know if this will continue, the trend is definitely up as our economy remains strong. As rates rise, borrowers start to look at alternative products such as 5, 7 and 10-year ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages) to secure lower rates and payments. If you’ve been shopping for a home for a while and were working off of lower rates to calculate your payments, make sure you update your pre-approval and get revised payments that reflect the current rate environment.

Home Buyer Tips

First and foremost, if you are looking to buy whether in the near term or further on down the road, make sure to get pre-approved through a lender (your credit union can provide same-day pre-approvals). During the pre-approval, your lender will review your credit, income and assets in order to issue the approval. This is a good process to go through because it will let you know if you are ready to buy or not. If you’re not quite ready to buy, your lender will focus on what items are needed in order to generate an approval; if it’s a credit issue, we can let you know what to work on to improve your credit score; if it’s an income issue, we can discuss options such as getting a co-signer or paying down debt; if it’s insufficient funds for a down payment, we can discuss low down payment options as well as options for gift funds or give you savings strategies to help meet your down payment goals. Real estate agents in a competitive market are going to want to know that your finances have been looked at and approved by a lender, so make sure to do this very early in the process.

Closing costs and pre-paid items (property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and pre-paid interest) are often an overlooked part of the home buying process. Many borrowers fail to take these items into account when they are budgeting for their home purchase and look solely at the amount that they want to put down. Closing costs are in addition to the down payment and in many cases can be 2-2.5% of the purchase price ($6000-$7500 on a $300,000.00 purchase). If you are buying for say $300,000.00 and want to put 10% down ($30,000.00), this means that you are really going to have to bring $36,000.00 to close ($30,000.00 for down payment and $6000.00 for closing costs/pre-paid items). Talk to your lender and realtor about strategies to get some or all of those costs paid by the seller.

 


For more information on the home buying process or to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan, visit our website or contact us.

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Q&A: Take a Tour of Waterfront Bikes

This May, we’ve partnered with Waterfront Bikes, a local Portland bike shop, to help you ‘gear up’ for National Bike Month. Most PDXers know this local shop, but did you also know they’re family-owned AND family-run? Our Q&A session with shop owner Karen Stiles gives a quick tour of a Portland bike shop that sets itself apart with lots of options and friendly, personalized service (sound familiar?).

How long has Waterfront Bikes been in business?
We have been in business for 16 years.

Can you tell us a little bit about your store?
We are a small, friendly shop located on the downtown waterfront. We service the local community selling new and used bikes and repairing almost every type of bicycle. We are also very busy with folks visiting our city, as we have a complete line of rental bikes. We enjoy talking bikes, and rides, and always enjoy helping people navigate the city by bike. We have recently started doing some exclusive small tours that really focus on the Wine Country.

What are some of the benefits of purchasing a bike with Waterfront Bikes?
We are a local family-owned shop and so we really know our customers. Every bike is built and assembled with care and fitted for comfort. Each new bike purchase comes with 10% off any additional gear. We also include a free yearly tune-up (excluding parts) which adds to the value of your purchase and keeps the bike in good working order.

What do you love about bikes?
I love that bikes allow you to really explore places in ways that are all-encompassing. You can ride many miles in a day, or just take in a few, and learn so much about places. I love that bikes are green and that interconnectedness with the world is enhanced while riding on a physical level too. I love that you move fast enough to get somewhere but slow enough to see and hear new things that you wouldn’t experience in a car.

What’s your favorite local bike ride?
I love the East Side Neighborhood ride. It allows me to explore the neighborhoods at my leisure stopping at fun locations for a cup of tea, bite to eat, or a beer. Its fun to feel the city at a cycling pace and see and hear all the local activities. Riding into parks along the way–sometimes through Laurelhurst Park or up Mt Tabor–is always so relaxing. It’s just a great way to spend the day!

 


Learn more about our bike special this May, plus RSVP for our upcoming FREE Bike Safety Basics Seminarhttps://www.usacu.org/bikemonth

Connect with Waterfront Bikes: http://www.waterfrontbikes.com/

Spotlight: A Look Inside Enterprise

If you didn’t already know, USAgencies Credit Union has partnered with Enterprise Car Sales for years in order to bring our members great cars with great pricetags and great warranties! Here’s a quick Q & A with Austin Moothart, Enterprise Dealership Manager, on what it’s like to work for Enterprise, and what he likes most about his job…

Enterprise

What do you do at Enterprise?
I am responsible for creating great buying experiences for our customers.

What makes Enterprise different?
Enterprise is different than any other dealership because our program is set up to put the customer first with our no haggle pricing, a transparent buying process and professional sales consultants who focus on helping the customer find the right vehicle for their needs. It’s not about just selling a car to a customer, it’s about the experience. So many people have negative experiences at dealerships which causes them to not look forward to buying their next car. When customers buy from us, our goal is to create customers for life and create relationships where people are excited to send in their friends and family.

What are some of the added benefits of buying a vehicle at Enterprise?
Great people and service, 109-point vehicle inspection, 7-day repurchase program, free roadside assistance for the first year, 12-month/12,000 mile limited powertrain warranty, and a free Carfax. Plus, we offer Kelley Blue Book Trade-in value on all trades!

We partner with thousands of credit unions across the country who trust us to help their members find the right vehicle when it’s time.

Favorite thing about your job?
Enterprise is a company that respects its employees and working in the Car Sales division has allowed me to work with some amazing professionals who share the same values that I have when it comes to taking great care of people. I really enjoy having a sales team that works really hard every day to do the right thing and exceed the expectations of our customers.

Favorite customer story?
I don’t have just one favorite customer story to share. But I will tell you that my best memories are the ones of customers who come in nervous about buying a car and leave telling us how they will never buy a car anywhere else but here. Having customers smile, laugh and hug us afterwards is the best feeling because we know that they are genuinely happy with the vehicle they picked out. Knowing that my team was part of a customer’s positive buying experience is incredibly rewarding!

 


Know what else is great about Enterprise? Now through April 30th, you can get 1% off your qualifying auto loan rate when you purchase with Enterprise and finance with USAgencies! Terms and conditions apply. Learn more.

 

Indirect Lending: Know Before You Go

Have you ever heard the term “Indirect Lending”? If you’re shopping for a new car or truck, and heading to the dealer, it’s a good idea to understand exactly what indirect lending is, and how it can affect your purchase. Our Lending Supervisor, Callie Gibbs answers a couple of questions about this common dealer lending practice and gives some tips on what you may want to watch out for…

Q. What is Indirect Lending?
A. Indirect lending means that the dealer finds your financing for you. Your general application information is sent to several different credit unions for approval. This can mean several inquiries on your credit report, as well as your personal information in the hands of several institutions. The financial institution that ends up “buying” your loan then pays the dealer for that loan; generally, 2% or more of the loan amount.

Q. How does Indirect Lending differ from lending at USAgencies?
A. At USACU, we already know you. We will decision your loan request based on you, not just the numbers. Our loan officers can give you information about what to look for when shopping, the best rates available to you. We will also advise you on the amount to spend so that you don’t get in over your head and have buyer’s remorse. Your credit union doesn’t feel we should have to buy your loan; we want to earn your loan.

Q. What kinds of things should you watch out for with Indirect Lending?
A. The biggest concern with indirect lending is that the dealer is allowed to add on thousands in products. This can sometimes cause you to finance 130% or more of the value of the car.

Q. What’s better than Indirect Lending?
A. A USACU AutoCheck! With an AutoCheck, you’ll know how much you are approved for before you start shopping, so you won’t overspend, you’ll know the book value of the vehicle you’re looking for so you’ll be sure that you’re getting a good deal, and you’ll avoid sitting in a chair at the dealer for hours dealing with the “dealer finance guy” that your salesperson has to keep checking with. You just make the deal, complete and sign the AutoCheck, and drive off- it’s that easy! Basically, it will save you time and money… and who doesn’t want more of that?



For more Q & A with Callie, you can contact her directly:

Callie Gibbs, Lending Supervisor, USACU

Callie Gibbs
Lending Supervisor
Certified Financial Counselor
cgibbs@usacu.org
(503) 275-0312

 

Auto Solution: They Shop, You Save

The holiday season is here and with it comes the never-ending to-do list. This time of year, we know that your time is even more precious. If you’re currently shopping for a car and you’d like to save both time and money, why not try our trusted auto broker– Auto Solution?

Auto Solution is an auto-buying service available for USACU members that is dedicated to the elimination of any and all hassle in the auto-buying process. They’ll locate the vehicle you want from their dealer network and negotiate on your behalf. They can often find you vehicles at or near dealer invoice or wholesale to you save big!

Here’s a quick Q & A with Mark Loebner, owner of Auto Solution, on how they can help save you time, money… and maybe even give you a warm fuzzy feeling this holiday season.

Q. What does Auto Solution do, in a nutshell?
A.
In a “nutshell” we help members purchase new and used vehicles without hassle, and help provide them with financing from their Credit Union. With access to nearly 1,000 dealerships and a helpful staff that is here to guide you along the way, we’re happy to help with your next car purchase.

Q. How long have you been in this industry?
A. 
We have been providing new and used auto buying for Credit Unions for about 25 years in the Pacific Northwest.

Buy an Auto Solution vehicle, and donate a bike to a child in need.
Donated bike in USACU lobby.

Q. What does the auto-buying process look like?
A.
It’s a good idea to get pre-approved with USACU first, so that you know what kind of budget you’ll want to stick to. Next, you’ll work with an auto buying expert from Auto Solution who will learn all about your vehicle needs and budget. Auto Solution will then locate the vehicle you want from its dealer network and call you back frequently within a couple of hours! We’ll negotiate with the dealer to get you the best price we can (often near wholesale) and then deliver your vehicle straight to your home or credit union branch. Oh, and we take trade-ins too!

Q. Tell us about the kids bikes promo going on now.
A.
The kids bike promotion is done every year, and when a member purchases a vehicle, the Credit Union and Auto Solution purchase a new bike and it is given to a local charity prior to Christmas.

It is a great feeling to wake on Christmas morning knowing 50-60 children from under-served families are seeing their new bike for the first time!

Q. Favorite member story?
A.
As far as a member story, there are many of them, but one that stands out was a member who came all the way down from Sitka, Alaska to get his new truck drive it back home (and brought us 50 lbs. of bear meat!).

We love what we do and members love our service!

Questions?

Contact our lending department to learn more about how Auto Solution can help you:
Local: (503) 275-0300, ext. 2
Toll-free: (800) 452-0915, ext. 2
Email: loans@usacu.org

Ready to shop?
Get pre-approved with USACU first, then
Browse some of Auto Solution’s inventory (or call 503-238-2429)

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The Benefits of Volunteering

From our friends at Idealist.

(It really is okay to ask, “What’s in it for me?”)

Volunteering can be far more than simply doing a good deed.

In fact, volunteering can be a great way to develop skills, learn more about career options, make friends, garner new professional contacts, get exercise, spend time outdoors/with animals/with kids, or even just shake up your routine.

Yet volunteers rarely speak of the benefits of volunteering to themselves — maybe it feels a bit too self-centered, or too far from the altruistic vision of the selfless volunteer.

But who says that doing good and enjoying yourself while meeting your own personal/professional goals can’t happen at the same time?

Part of finding the right volunteer opportunity is being honest about what you hope to learn and accomplish.

If in the process of meeting your personal and professional goals, you are also serving as an effective volunteer, helping to meet the goals of your particular volunteer project or role, and/or helping to move an organization’s mission forward, it’s a win-win situation.

Personal and professional benefits of volunteering

With that in mind, here are some of the personal and professional benefits one can gain from volunteering:

Skill development
Always wanted to learn about sustainability and conservation methods? Have experience creating podcasts and would like to try using them as an advocacy tool for a nonprofit? Volunteering helps you learn new skills, keep skills sharp, or use existing skills in new ways.

Career exploration
Regardless of your age or career level, volunteering will introduce you to new professional paths.

Volunteering can be an excellent way to learn more about a particular role or sector (particularly if you are coming from a for-profit job and hoping to switch to non-profit or government), workplace or office culture, or cause.

Also, never underestimate the power of networking; volunteering offers the opportunity to cross paths—as well as, in many cases, quickly bond—with people from across your community, including many with whom you may otherwise not have had contact.

Personal growth
Lifelong learning includes hands-on experiences as a volunteer which can teach you about issues ranging from adult literacy to public health to animal welfare.

Need a break from your day-to-day life? Recharge by walking dogs, playing basketball with kids, or taking tickets at a film festival. Need to work off some stress? Consider some of the more labor-intensive roles like helping to remove invasive species or chopping out non-native trees and bushes.

Lastly, don’t forget that sometimes it just feels good to be valued; as a volunteer you can contribute unique skills, experiences, and perspectives. For example, you might be great at using online sites like MySpace and Facebook.

Many organizations are looking to branch out into social networking to help connect with new audiences; as a volunteer, you can be the in-house expert to get them started.

Socialize
In addition to professional networking, volunteering can be a fun, meaningful way to make new friends. New to the community? Looking to branch out socially? Simply looking for something to do with new people? Volunteer and get to know others who care about the same issues that you do.

Have an impact
Last but most certainly not least, volunteering is one of the best ways we know of to make a difference in your community. Whatever your passion, however you get involved, volunteering offers a way to have a real and lasting impact on the world.

 

Did you know you can become a volunteer at your favorite CU?

It’s true–USACU is guided by a group of Volunteers! If you’d love to join in and help set the tone at one of the best member-driven cooperative credit unions in the Pacific Northwest, click here to learn more.

Interested, but not sure you’re ready to become a full-fledged Volunteer? Check out our Associate Volunteer program.

Questions?
Call: 503.275.0300

Click: info@usacu.org