Q; There's a lot of focus on first-time homebuyers. Why is that?
JM: When someone who is renting can purchase a home, it's great for the individual and for the community. And there are so many great programs for first-time buyers.
AP: As Judy said, when people purchase a home, they're becoming stakeholders in the community. For the homeowner, it's a great investment vehicle, an asset they can build equity in. It's the American dream.
Q: What's your number one piece of advice for someone looking to do this the first time?
JM: Usually, first-time homebuyers will look for a home and then start the financing process. Our number-one piece of advice is to talk to your lender as the first step. That way we can look at your credit report and offer an action plan that's going to get you the best interest rate, programs and products.
AP: And make that a truly local lender. When you're working with a local Realtor and lender, you have a team that knows the market, understands your unique situation and can offer you better service. We have local knowledge and take a consultative approach to determine each buyer's best options.
Q: Assuming many first time homebuyers are relatively young, do you see a movement toward online mortgages? What's the advantage of working with a community bank instead?
AP: I went to a conference last year with a lot of lenders from different markets around the country. In markets like Seattle or Los Angeles they're legitimately concerned about the perceived convenience of Internet lenders.
Q: You said the “perceived” convenience of Internet lenders.
AP: Absolutely—you lose the benefits of face-to-face interaction. Instead of someone whose expertise and local guidance you can trust, you end up with somebody in a call center, operating in a silo 500 miles away.
JM: We do see that. People come in who went that route and thought it was going to be so much easier. Then they got frustrated and just went back to renting for a while. But when you have a face-to-face with a local lender, we're able to give you a personalized approach.
AP: And that leads to real convenience throughout the process.
Q: But you have the option for online mortgage application, right?
AP: Yes. For those who want an online application, we offer the best of both worlds.
JM: It's a convenient way to start the process. Then we can get in touch however the customer prefers—e-mail, text or phone—to keep things moving along.
Q: Any common misconceptions or mistakes you see with first-time buyers?
JM: There's often confusion about payment amounts due to the numbers Internet lenders are showing. Some people are led to believe their mortgage payment will be what they saw online. Those payment numbers often don't factor in escrow. We give our customers a realistic estimate of their payments based on their unique escrow amount and interest rate.
AP: And another misconception that ties back to Internet lending is that sitting down with a mortgage lender face-to-face is going to be difficult and intimidating. In fact, it makes the whole process easier. It's more streamlined, with an expert guiding you all the way from application to closing. At the end, people often say, “You made it so easy.”