Homebuying 101 – Part I


Homebuying 101Homebuying 101: Where to begin

So you’re ready to buy a home. You’ve started looking on zillow to see what’s available, you’ve casually mentioned it to friends and family and now it’s time to get serious. What now? Subscribe to the Homebuying 101 for a step by step road-map for home buying.

Before calling for a lender or a realtor, start thinking about your stability. Are you REALLY ready? Does your current job make you happy? Are you dating with the possibility of moving in together? What about the possibility of kids? Aside from yourself, buying a home is your biggest investment. You want to make sure it really is the time.

Once you’ve asked yourself all these questions and you are still ready to buy, ask yourself what you can afford as a down payment and what you can afford as a monthly obligation to a home. Not just the payment, but utilities, insurance, cutting the lawn, a homeowners’ warranty to name a few items. Remember, it’s not what you qualify for, but how much you think you can afford.

Okay. You’ve decided that now is the time. You’ve decided what you can afford. The next step is documentation gathering. Some may ask why document gathering before seeing a Realtor or a Lender is so important. The main reason is a Realtor wants you to be pre-approved for a certain amount and the Lender is the one to do it.

It is important to make the distinction between “Pre-Qualified’ and “Pre-Approved. Pre-qualified is calling a Lender and telling them how much money you make and how much cash you have and BAM…you’re pre-qualification is on the way. Pre-qualifications don’t hold to much weight. There is way more to determining purchase power than answering a couple of questions.

So what’s the alternative? The alternative is a pre-approval. A pre-approval is received only once the Lender has run a credit report, actually looking at W-2s / Pay-stubs / tax returns and looking at bank statements. Even then, you have a pre-approval. Not a final approval.

Now, back to document gathering. When a Lender requests documentation from you, they are not trying to make your life difficult. The question I always ask my clients is “what documentation would you ask for if you were lending someone $100,000 or more?” For a full list of items that you should begin gathering to make your life and the life of your Lender a bit easier, get the Ultimate Homebuyer Checklist.

Thanks For Reading!

Jeff Cooper (NMLS #18242) – Author of the Amazon Bestseller “The Debt Reduction Hack”

It’s Time For A Little Focus


Focus Young Grasshopper

time for a little focusAs you may or may not know, I’ve been at this blogging thing for awhile. Unfortunately, I’ve been all over the place with my posts. Starbucks, the Washington Football team (okay…the Redskins), Politics (rarely) and other topics that don’t really mesh. Let’s call it eclectic. It’s time for a little focus!

In reading “How-To” articles on blogging and how to get people that keep coming back, I see that a little consistency helps. So that’s where I’ve kind of ended up. I need consistency! With that in mind, I’ve actually had really good success with “The Debt Reduction Hack”  (Amazon #1 Best Seller in two categories – Thank you very much!) so, moving forward, saving money and home financing are going to be the primary topics (at least until I lose focus).

I would like to encourage anyone who is going to be reading these blogs add their two cents. I would also encourage others that blog about mortgages and finance to participate. Finally, as they always say in school, if you have a question about something, chances are someone else has that same question. So don’t be afraid to ask questions in the comment section and I will do my best to answer them.

Keep coming back because I may be offering different discount coupons from time to time. Afterall, who doesn’t like a good free ice cream cone coupon every once in awhile? And also check back for the occasional Starbucks story. Too many things happen there that I feel the need to share!

If you would like to come along for the journey, click here and subscribe.

As always, Thanks for Reading!



Welcome Back Starbucks!


It’s Been A While, Starbucks!
Starbucks in Pikesville

I know I’ve been pushing my book recently and I’ve gotten away from my narrative on what’s been going on at Starbucks. Please forgive me for my neglectfulness. I will try to do better. After all, who wants to constantly be hearing about my new book, The Debt Reduction Hack (available at Amazon).

So let’s start with the lady that spent every day sitting in the soft chairs at Starbucks in Woodholme. Remember her? The one who totally rejected the older gentleman that tried to strike up a conversation with her. Well, when they remodeled the Starbucks and took out the soft chairs, I think she took it personally. I haven’t seen her since. I guess the possibility does exist that she – you know – moved out of town.

I’ve seen numerous other characters along the way that probably have good stories. One guy, I happen to find fascinating is here almost every day that I’m here. He usually has a couple of books in front of him but he is always feverishly drawing in a notebook using a pencil. I’m not talking trees and flowers or fruit, but full on coloring books. Strictly black and white though (so I guess it is not a coloring book). I’ve been tempted to ask him what he’s doing but he always seems in a zone and I wouldn’t want to disturb him…so I haven’t.

Today a young lady placed her order and when asked for her name for her cup, she responded with a popular protest hashtag. When her drink was ready, she was standing right next to where I was sitting but chose not to get her drink so the barista would have to cal it a few times. The barista didn’t bite and the lady finally picked up her drink and walked out.

I have heard (not seen – which usually means urban legend) this technique work once before. Someone had the person at the register write Bueller on the cup…and then left. In this case, the Barista did call the name more than a few times. Either they totally got the joke or played right into the plan of the jokester. For those that don’t get the joke, please find “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on demand.Starbucks in Pikesville - 21208

One of the cutest things I’ve seen here was an older gentleman striking up a conversation with an older woman. She, unfortunately, seemed to be suffering from some level of dementia but he didn’t care. She asked him no less than 10 times how old he was and every time he responded, it was as though it was the first time she asked the question.

He would ask her if she remembered a specific singer or song and when she said yes, he would start singing. He didn’t care how loud he sang or who was listening. As far as they both were concerned, they were the only two in the place. She would start singing along and comment that they must be around the same age and ask how old he was. He would politely answer and continue the conversation and the singing. When it was time to go, they both went their separate ways. Very sweet!

I’ll save some other stories for another post. Hopefully, you found these somewhat interesting!

Please don’t forget I’m still in the mortgage business so give me a call, e-mail, text or smoke signals if you are buying a house or you need to refinance. I also will handle your referrals with care…and if you would like to be added to my distribution list, CLICK HERE!

Thanks For Reading!

Jeff – Phone: 301-529-8289

The Debt Reduction Hack


Debt Hacks - CoverOver 425 Downloads in the First Weekend!

I am VERY excited to introduce my new book to the masses. The name of the book is “The Debt Reduction Hack” and the goal of the book is to help those that find themselves buried in debt.

Instead of taking 27 years to pay off a single credit card (assuming minimum payments only), this Hack will help eliminate that debt in 27 MONTHS! Depending on the debt load that is being carried, this very simple method could save over $100,000 in interest payments. Yes, that number is correct!

Many provide the “Get out of debt easy” information which usually involves shorting the creditors, filing for bankruptcy and killing your credit. With this method, you pay off every creditor, save a ton of money and increase your credit score.

If you do find yourself in debt and you want to take the proper steps to get out from under, you owe it to yourself to get this book today. It is being offered for just $0.99 to the first 100 people that sign up. In return, all I ask is for a fair assessment of the The Debt Reduction Hack at Amazon. Get your copy today!


8 Things to Know About FHA Loans


8 Facts About FHA Loans

Think you can’t qualify to buy a home? Don’t give up hope. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), a government agency, allows borrowers to take advantage of a low down payment, reduced closing costs, relaxed lending standards – and insures your loan, which is offered by an FHA approved request. So, if you are wondering, “what is an FHA loan?,” here are eight facts you’ll want to know.

  1. An FHA home loan allows a low down payment

Conventional lenders usually require a 20% down payment; you can pay less but are then required to buy private mortgage insurance for the lender’s benefit. That can add to your monthly payment.

FHA-approved lenders can offer FHA loans with as little as 3.5% down. You still pay the FHA to insure your loan but the overall costs are much lower. And you can obtain the money for your down payment as a loan or gift from a family member, employer or charity. Most conventional lenders won’t allow that.

  1. FHA loans are easier to qualify for

Lenders who work with the FHA are willing to give you a break because the government is standing behind your FHA home loan. That gives first-time home-buyers a real opportunity, as well as residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods, who can find qualifying for certain types of mortgage loans a real challenge.

Borrowers with less-than-perfect credit can often qualify for a FHA home loan. Even if you have a bankruptcy in your history, you still have a shot at qualifying. In fact, your credit score can be as low as 500 and you may still qualify for a loan, within certain guidelines. And an FHA lender can finance multi-family homes, condos, as well as mobile and manufactured homes.

There can be income limitations to qualify for special financial loan benefits, such as down payment assistance. That’s a question to ask your lender.

  1. FHA home loans have lower interest rates

In addition to lower down payments, FHA-guaranteed loans generally have lower interest rates. Since the FHA doesn’t actually provide the financing or determine the interest rates of the loans it backs, the rate you pay for an FHA home loan will be negotiated with an FHA-approved lender.

  1. FHA loans can help you avoid foreclosure

The Making Home Affordable Program (MHA) is a government initiative to help borrowers who are suffering a financial setback. If you are in default on an existing mortgage, MHA may be able to help you reduce your loan payments and avoid foreclosure.

There are also options to assist unemployed homeowners as well as homeowners who are “underwater” – meaning you owe more on your mortgage than what your home is currently worth.

  1. An FHA loan can help disaster victims

Disasters seem to be occurring with increasing frequency: floods, landslides, earthquakes, tornadoes and all the rest. The FHA Mortgage for Disaster Victims Program provides 100% financing through approved lenders for the purchase or reconstruction of a home severely damaged or destroyed due to a disaster.

  1. The FHA can help you make home repairs and upgrades

If you have a bit of a “fixer-upper” on your hands, an FHA home loan or refinance may be just what you need. To start, the Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) program can help you lower your utility bills by financing the cost of adding energy efficient improvements to your home.

But other home improvements can be financed through an FHA 203(k) insured loan, as well. You can buy a home that needs some TLC, and get up to $25,000 on top of the purchase price for alterations, repairs and site improvement, all wrapped up in one loan. Look for an FHA-approved lender, such as a bank, credit union, savings and loan or mortgage company that is approved to make “Title I” loans. You can search for a lender on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

  1. An FHA loan can help senior citizens gain retirement income

For homeowners who are 62 or older and in need of a boost in income, the FHA Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program can be a viable solution. If you live in your home and own it outright, or have a low balance remaining, a so-called “reverse mortgage” will allow you to remain living in your home while tapping a significant portion of the equity. It’s a loan you never pay back.

  1. FHA loans have lower closing costs

Anyone that has purchased a home knows there are a lot of fees due at closing. Appraisal fees, inspection, credit report and broker fees and commissions, origination charges – it can be a mighty long list. While the FHA doesn’t regulate or determine fees, the closing costs for an FHA home loan are generally lower than with a conventional mortgage. This is another item to be negotiated with your FHA-approved lender.

Get Pre-Approved Today!

Realtors and the Art of Email


email logoEmail became commonplace many years ago. Today, just about every business and university practices frequent communication via email. It’s used as a marketing tool by many organizations. In an email statistics report, The Radicati Group, Inc. noted email is the preferred method of communication in business. It’s no wonder that real estate agents are expected to have good email communication skills.

This statistic indicates a positive trend, considering more than two-thirds of people who email a real estate agent expect a response within a half hour. Many even said they think agents should respond immediately, according to Realtor.com. However, even though the majority of agents use email every day, only 20 percent reply to prospective clients within an hour after they receive an email.

Perks of Email

According to OpposingViews, there are many reasons to incorporate email into your strategy as a real estate agent. The ability to stay in touch and exchange information quickly and conveniently is something many professionals are grateful for. Plus, for someone working for themselves, having an email address is free. If you have your own website, you’ll probably have to pay for the domain, but it usually comes with a small number of email addresses free of charge.

Another great benefit of communicating over email is the ability to keep records of all your exchanges. This can be helpful if a fact needs to be found again or to reread a conversation you had with a client weeks ago.

Most real estate agents prefer to communicate through email, with the majority of agents checking their email daily.

Every professional should know and practice email etiquette. Real estate agents need to take this a step further and use email as a marketing and client retention tool. Together, these skillsets can greatly contribute to gaining new clients and holding onto established ones.

Rapid Response

The no. 1 priority when it comes to emailing with current or potential clients is promptness. Clients turn to real estate agents for advice and information. Agents need to be a reliable resource for them. Prospective homebuyers usually have questions and concerns by the dozen, whether they are first-time buyers or not. A home is likely the largest and one of the most significant purchases a person makes in his or her lifetime. Agents need to be mindful of this and be courteous to clients. Prompt email responses show clients you care about their needs, inspire trust in you as their agent and can help calm anxieties they may be experiencing.

Email Etiquette

Business Insider explained there are certain rules that professionals should follow when sending an email. Since emails are written messages, it can be easy to make a grammatical or spelling error that can stand out to the recipient. Make sure to proofread each message before hitting send.

Another tip is to add the recipient last. It isn’t hard to accidentally send an email before it’s completed. An unfinished message can look unprofessional and the person reading it may not take you as seriously.

When phrasing your emails, make sure they sound professional. Use a clear, direct subject line and begin every email with a salutation, such as “Hi” or “Hello. The language in the body of the email should be clear and concise. Humor isn’t always conveyed well over email, so it’s best to avoid this during the first few exchanges.

Going Mobile

In today’s fast-paced world, many people are checking their emails on mobile devices. According to a report from Movable Ink, almost half of emails are opened on a smartphone and nearly 20 percent more were opened on a tablet. Because only about a third are opened on a computer, it’s important that all emails are responsive. This means they look good and are legible on mobile devices as well as on a computer screen.

This is especially important for any marketing emails. Placester explained every real estate agent should be using email as a marketing tool. Using programs like MailChimp or Constant Contact can help to design attractive, responsive emails to send to your client list. These should be a combination of promotional, informational and newsletter emails. These will keep you top of mind for your clients. Plus, the ability to share the emails could bring you even more leads.

Sharing Information

Sending newsletter and other informational emails not only keeps you top of mind with your clients but also positions you as a resource and an expert. If you have a blog, you are already generating useful content homeowners and potential homebuyers will enjoy reading. Using these emails is another way to draw more people to your blog, website and business.

When communicating with clients, there are many mediums people prefer. Direct mail, phone conversations, in-person meetings and text messages are used by many agents. However, email is one of the most important tools you can have. To ensure the best communications between you and your clients, make sure you are utilizing it to its full potential.