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Mark Aalto's Blog

By Mark Aalto NMLS: 116708 | Mortgage Broker
or Lender in Portland, OR
  • The 12 Months of a Short Sale - A Christmas Carol for 2011

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Portland, Financing in Portland, Credit Score in Portland  |  December 23, 2011 11:01 AM  |  415 views  |  2 comments

    Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848,...

    Image via Wikipedia

    In honor of the Christmas spirit and my wonderful Realtor friends, I bring you this adaptation to the Christmas classic. I would sing this for you personally but you'd either get the song stuck in your head or you'd come to my office and tell me not to quit my day gig.  Without further delay, let's begin.

    One the first month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  a contract that the Bank ignored

    On the second month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    On the third month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  three lame excuses, two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    On the fourth month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  four back up offers, three lame excuses, two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    On the fifth month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  five pages to resubmit, four back up offers, three lame excuses, two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    On the sixth month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  six new comps with lower value, five pages to resubmit, four back up offers, three lame excuses, two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    On the seventh month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  seven unlicensed negotiators, six new comps with lower value, five pages to resubmit, four back up offers, three lame excuses, two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    On the eighth month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  eight illegible pages, seven unlicensed negotiators, six new comps with lower value, five pages to resubmit, four back up offers, three lame excuses, two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    On the ninth month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  nine grumpy relatives, eight illegible pages, seven unlicensed negotiators, six new comps with lower value, five pages to resubmit, four back up offers, three lame excuses, two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    On the tenth month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  ten escrow officers on vacation, nine grumpy relatives, eight illegible pages, seven unlicensed negotiators, six new comps with lower value, five pages to resubmit, four back up offers, three lame excuses, two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    On the eleventh month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  eleven repairs from the home inspection the Bank won't perform, ten escrow officers on vacation, nine grumpy relatives, eight illegible pages, seven unlicensed negotiators, six new comps that lower value, five pages to resubmit, four back up offers, three lame excuses, two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    AND THE GRAND FINALE - EVERYONE SING WITH ME.

    On the twelfth month of my short sale my Realtor gave to me:  twelve shots of tequila, eleven repairs from the home inspection the Bank won't perform, ten escrow officers on vacation, nine grumpy relatives, eight illegible pages, seven unlicensed negotiators, six new comps that lower value, five pages to resubmit, four back up offers, three lame excuses, two extensions and a contract that the Bank ignored

    Happy Holidays to my friends, family and business partners.  And about that short sale?  Let's talk next year.
  • The Attack of the Killer Christmas Trees Part II

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Portland, Home Selling in Portland, Financing in Portland  |  December 8, 2011 6:55 AM  |  464 views  |  1 comment

    Sometimes mortgage transactions are like a walk down a familiar street to buy a newspaper at the local grocery store. You've seen all the houses before, everything is familiar and the overall experience is one of predictability. There is a quiet satisfaction as you hear your coins clinking inside the vending machine, pull today's prized edition out of the box and begin your walk back to your placid domicile. Ah, perfect, well-ordered world.

    And then there are the times when you are innocently starting your journey to the newspaper stand and are kidnapped by a group of delinquent eight year olds that throw you into the back of the 1963 VW bus they stole from your hippie neighbor down the street. It's evident by the smell of artificial grape flavoring that they have been chugging cough syrup. What passes for normal driving behavior to an eight year old that has spent his entire lifetime playing video games induces waves of nauseaand the certainty that your doom is close at hand. Mortal peril is imminent with every ill-advised illegal left turn, with each "too fast, too fast" burst of acceleration through busy intersections. Run old lady with your push cart of groceries, run! Eventually they drop you off at the newspaper stand but you feel disoriented, violated and somehow quite certain that someone is toying with you for no reason other than boredom and the need for a good laugh at your expense.

    Yes, sometimes obtaining a mortgage can feel like that.

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some wonderful customers that I have known for several years. They were having all sorts of issues with their refinance transaction because a bunch of rabid, flesh-eating Christmas trees were taking over their property. According to the investor that the loan was to be placed with, the trees would eventually take over the entire community of Astoria, stealing Christmas presents, destroying the commercial fishing season and in general, running amok. Terrifying and desperate measures were called for. Armed with pitchforks, burning torches and a plethora of memos filled with common sense, Sara (my awesome assistant) and I were able to subdue the problematic pine trees of diminutive stature.

    I am pleased to say that yesterday afternoon our customers made their way to our office with big grins and hugs for Sara and I. They had just finished signing their loan documents with the title company and all was right with the world once again. True, there was a lot of time and work involved with their refinance but we overcame the challenges thrown at us and some semblance of order was restored.

    So, for those of you that are experiencing some challenges on your mortgage transaction, take heart: all is not lost. Hard work and determination can overcome many a situation. And should you need a pitchfork or burning torch, Sara and I are just a phone call away, ready to help.

    Enjoy the holidays, but watch out for those trees - they can't be trusted.

  • Coffee, Trivia and Barista Zombies – Happy Thursday

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Portland, Home Selling in Portland, Financing in Portland  |  December 1, 2011 10:05 AM  |  471 views  |  No comments

    Yesterday I had the chance to catch up with one of my favorite Realtors at a local coffee joint in Ladd’s Addition. It’s always a great way to start the day when you have the combination of Grade AAA jet fuel caffeine and a lively conversation with someone you genuinely like and respect.

    So there we were, hanging out and laughing at the barista a bit who seemed just three shades above being asleep. With my sensitivity to caffeine I would likely just have to smell a few coffee beans and I’d be wide awake were I to trade vocations and be serving up a latte or two. Something seems a little odd about a person purveying a beverage that is a liquid stimulant and having the personality of someone from the walking dead. But, zombies are in now from what I hear so maybe he was just in the zone or something. Channeling a role as it were. Luckily, none of the customers seemed uptight whatsoever. And I never actually did hear the barista shout out “brains” and shuffle around awkwardly. What a relief.

    Amidst a very nice atmosphere, a great cup of coffee and a few stories here and there the time passed quickly. And in the midst of our conversation I realized that my friend and I were telling the same story but from two sides of the industry. What it amounts to is this: whether we are Loan Officers or Realtors, buyers or sellers, Escrow Officers or appraisers we are all learning more than we could have imagined about multiple topics we hadn’t anticipated needing to know in order to get our transactions closed. If you think I’m exaggerating, ask any buyer or seller about their recent real estate experience. Then, wait for it, wait for it, they will inevitably roll their eyes (kind of like the zombie barista) and the next thing you know you’ll be hearing a story about non-permitted additions or endless documentation requirements, last-minute job changes, properties with Christmas trees and the unexpected twists and turns transactions can take at a moment’s notice.

    The good thing about any sort of support group is when we hear the stories others share the inevitable internal response is one of kinship and the realization we are embarking on a journey that others are experiencing as well. Perhaps the destination is somewhat different but the events that happen between embarkation and arrival are eerily similar. And best case, you can hear what others have to say and murmur to yourself “wow, I’m lucky – my situation isn’t half as bad as theirs.”

    Today’s market is not for the faint of heart. Transactions require hard work, patience, communication, persistence and determination. It’s not always a straight path from the beginning to the end of a purchase – detours should be anticipated. As my friend commented yesterday, I too have found myself thinking that I really didn’t want to learn half the things that were needed to close several recent transactions. At the same time, the experience and knowledge gained can be applied to new customers that encounter similar situations. After all, the most valuable component a Realtor or Loan Officer can provide to their customers is the ability to anticipate challenges before they happen. What might have seemed a trivial fact or detail from a past transaction may now be the difference between a loan closing or falling off a cliff.

    I often will tell customers that the best thing about working with an experienced Loan Officer or Realtor is that inevitably we made most of our mistakes earlier in our careers and have since been able to build upon those experiences and knowledge to keep our customers out of harm’s way. It’s somewhat amusing when customers or business partners ask “how on earth did you know that?” I just smile and tell them that being a Loan Officer is like playing a game of Trivial Pursuit. Just don’t ask me where my car keys are at any minute during the day – my brain is busily trying to make room for more arcane details from loans past in order to keep present transactions on course.

    If you are choosing a Loan Officer or Realtor in 2011, my advice would be to place their experience level at the top of your list of qualifications. True, they may need therapy at the end of the month after closing a few transactions but that can be easily solved with a strong cup of coffee and a good friend to converse with.

    Have a great day – I look forward to talking with you soon.

  • Attack of the Killer Christmas Trees

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Portland, Home Selling in Portland, Financing in Portland  |  November 14, 2011 7:42 AM  |  485 views  |  No comments

    trees

    There are rare occasions in which sarcasm is warranted and maybe even welcomed. And then there are the other 364 days of the year. The following will be an example of the latter, I fear.

    Recently Sara and I submitted a loan directly to one of our investors. This is not normal protocol - typically our loans are underwritten "in-house" by our own company. We submit loans directly to our investors only in cases where we are uncertain if the loan can be purchased on the secondary market. In this case the culprit was farm loss on a tax return.

    About a week after submitting the loan we received a phone call from the underwriter. Unfortunately, the news was not good: he was declining our loan submission. Not one to give in easily, I asked the question that most underwriters dread being asked - "why is this loan being declined?" Sara and I were informed that this underwriter had vast resources at his disposal, including satellite images from google maps. Armed with these shocking images, he was able to determine that our customers' property was infested with Christmas trees. Rabid, sap oozing, brain eating zombie Christmas trees. The Christmas Tree Zombie Apocalypse had hit Astoria.

    Not wishing to cause a general panic, I calmly asked the underwriter how he could tell that the trees were in fact, Christmas trees. Once again, the dreaded satellite images were brought into the conversation. At this point, sarcasm seemed like a good idea. So, of course, I had to ask: "Did the satellite images confirm the trees in question were indeed, Christmas trees? Were there little presents under each of them?" As could be expected, this witty repartee was none too appreciated by the underwriter. I'm glad that he doesn't realize that these trees may in fact be spreading, infecting other trees all the while singing Christmas carols and stealing sugar cookies.

    In all seriousness, there are only a few trees on the property none of which are rabid, eat brains or sing witty versions of the "Island of Misfit Toys" with lyrics that would shock a sailor. The field full of trees is actually just a field. Full of grass. With an occasional horse. And yet, at this point I can't seem to convince the underwriter that the satellite images are wrong.

    Maybe I should just tell him that the field was infested with Christmas trees but that they turned into Zombies and have now left the property in search of brains and hot chocolate.

    So if your Christmas tree comes from Astoria, watch out. Keep your hot cocoa and cookies locked up.

  • HARP II

    Posted Under: Financing in Portland, Foreclosure in Portland, Credit Score in Portland  |  November 1, 2011 7:06 AM  |  597 views  |  No comments

    Back when I was in high school we used to joke about underwater basket weaving courses - classes that were fictitious yet represented something easy and fun. Basically a guaranteed "A" as it were.

    In 2011, there is nothing easy or fun about being underwater as it pertains to homeownership. The fact that the problem persists is not due to lack of effort on the part of the government. Each time a new acronym starts being used in our daily vernacular as Mortgage Bankers you are virtually guaranteed that this is the result of a new effort on the part of some Federal Agency. First there was Hope for Homeowners. Then there was HARP. Then came the FHA underwater mortgage program. And now? We have HARP II.

    HARP II is not yet official but we do know that there will be greater flexibility for consumers that are upside down in their mortgage. Currently Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow refinances to be closed at up to 125% of the current value of the home. It's my understanding that this limit will be lifted altogether.

    One of the other persistent issues involves consumers that have two mortgages or customers that have loans that are not guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Mortgages that are not guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie cannot be paid off using the current HARP program. I don't anticipate this will be changed with the new version.

    If you or someone you know would like to see if your mortgage is guaranteed by Fannie Mae, click here. For Freddie Mac, click here.

    Further details are being released in the next couple weeks. Let's hope that a few more consumers can take advantage of this program. And let's hope it's easy for all of us.

  • Sales for Dummies

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Portland, Home Selling in Portland, Financing in Portland  |  October 12, 2011 7:16 AM  |  573 views  |  No comments

    On Monday I attended a sales training event with a truly fantastic trainer, Lynn Lovern, from Florida. Lynn has been around in the industry even longer than I have and was willing to share a career's worth of wisdom with a group of us from Pacific Residential Mortgage. There were some tough moments during the session and some challenging exercises that we had to wrap our brains around. But by the end of the day, we all had the feeling that we had been given the opportunity to become better professionals and had new tools to help us on a daily basis.

    After the training was over, I had the opportunity to talk with Lynn directly and admit to her the reason I chose to participate in the class is that I consider myself to be a lousy salesperson. She laughed and joked that I was "selling" myself short. At this point I did the secret pinky swear sign and told her that I was dead serious. "I'm worried that I might be the idiot savant of mortgage lending" I told her. Images of Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman inevitably swirled around her head. I assured her I had no talent for counting cards and had never been kicked out of a casino in Vegas. She shook her head and secretly pondered if she was being paid enough to deal with people like me.

    When all is said and done, I inevitably reach the conclusion that I have been lucky to find a job that fits my personality and skill set. And, I feel truly fortunate that I have enough business partners and consumers to work with to keep me just on the plus side of institutionally insane. And yet, I just can't come to terms with calling my job a "sales" job. Maybe this is why there are so many in my profession that call themselves Mortgage Consultants, Mortgage Planners, Loan Fuhrers etc. After all, helping consumers buy and refinance their homes is a big responsibility and the idea of "selling" mortgages isn't appealing to us as professionals and I would imagine that consumers feel something very similar.

    Tomorrow I will be participating in an exercise to judge areas in which I can improve my sales skills. I'm absolutely terrified to be honest with you. I'm worried that I will blurt out something crazy as I am prone to do when the Tourette's syndrome kicks in. Lucky for me the exercise will be in front of the owners of my company. Worst case, they'll at least get a laugh before they show me the door and demote me to the mailroom.

    Let's talk on Friday - if I'm still employed at that point you'll know that I didn't botch the training too badly.

    Have a great day and get out there and sell, sell, sell.

  • Rates - Legalized Gambling

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Portland, Home Selling in Portland, Financing in Portland  |  October 4, 2011 9:13 AM  |  570 views  |  No comments

     

    Example of a Blackjack game. The top half of t...

    Image via Wikipedia

    Sometimes I feel a bit like a glorified dealer at a Blackjack table.

    I quote a rate on a 30 year fixed mortgage and offer a customer the option to keep the rate or gamble that rates will improve further. “Hit or stay?” I say with my cool green visor set askance to the side at a jaunty angle. The customer looks at me hopefully for some sort of clue as to what cards I hold and whether he should stay or take another card. I shrug my shoulders and explain that no one ever truly knows what cards will be dealt to dealer or client alike. My customer wipes perspiration off of his forehead, looks for support from the patron next to him and begins to twitch noticeably. He lights a cigar and is aware that everyone seated at the table is waiting for him to make his move. His chips are not substantial – one wrong move and he is done for the night. With a flair for the dramatic, he asks for another card. Bust. Should have stayed. With a quiet dignity, he exits the table and heads home for the night. All that is left is the smell of his cigar and the awareness that chance is not always kind.

    On any given day, customers are looking for some clue as to what the market will hold for them. Is it best to cash in gains and lock in the current rate or is it better to take a chance and hope that the market improves further? There is no “correct” answer as rates are influenced by so many things. As a Loan Officer I can tell clients what financial events are on the horizon but the markets are human emotions on parade as much as anything. In other words, strategy can only go so far. As is the case with cards, we don’t truly know what the next turn of the deck will hold for us.

    My advice to consumers is to pick a rate that works and “lock in” if that is available. If, by chance, you are able to enjoy some gains in the market, don’t wait too long to cash in. There are always risks – pick a strategy that you are comfortable with and talk openly with your Loan Officer.

    You can always grab your cigar, bet big and hope for the best. The element of risk is inherent and if such is your liking, you may as well enjoy it. Just be careful – this turn of the cards will last 10 to 30 years.

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