Build A Relationship With Your Lender

When Maurissa Stone wanted to refinance her Laurel, Maryland, townhouse in 2003, reports of predatory lending made her cautious. While she didn’t know the different types of loans available, she knew she didn’t want to be stuck with one that would put her home at risk and jeopardize her future financial plans.

After shopping around, Stone, a management consultant for NeighborWorks America, met Leighann Sudhoff, a representative of CFIC Home Mortgage. Instead of immediately selling Stone on loan products, Sudhoff established a relationship with her. She helped Stone clear her student loan debt and improve her B-rated credit score so she’d be able to refinance through an FHA streamline loan, which requires less documentation for approval but results in a lower monthly principal and lower interest payments for the borrower. For Stone, the loan officer she chose played a central role in her homeownership journey.

After refinancing and collecting $20,000, Stone, 44, was able to sell her Laurel townhouse and come away with $60,000 in cash. “My homeownership success is directly correlated to my relationship with my lender,” says Stone. “She really went above and beyond the call of duty and took the time to understand my investment strategy. Not only did my mortgage payment go down considerably but I paid off my debts while increasing my credit score.”

With the profits from the sale of her Maryland property and her improved credit score, Stone was able to act on her goal of acquiring investment property. She turned to Sudhoff again to secure loans for a two-story townhouse in Baltimore and an investment home in Hampton, Virginia. The property in Baltimore, which she bought in 2004, is walking distance from the harbor, and the Virginia home, which she bought this year, is just a short distance from Virginia’s Buckroe Beach.

Stone, who faithfully contributes 14% of her salary to her 401(k) plan and has $80,000 collectively saved toward retirement, is determined to make real estate investing an integral part of her investment strategy. Her plan is to eventually sell her Baltimore home, which has already appreciated by $40,000, and use that money to pay off the Hampton home she currently rents out for $900 a month. Upon retirement, she plans to relocate to the Hampton property to minimize living expenses but maintain her quality of life.

Make sure the lender is invested in your long-term financial goals. Sudhoff’s willingness to fix Stone’s debt profile first and find out about her investment goals helped Stone safeguard her financial future. And Sudhoff continued looking out for Stone with the purchase of her second and third properties. “[Sudhoff] was adamant about me not getting in over my head and yelled at me when she learned that my realtor was showing me stuff that priced over the limit she set in her pre-approval letter,” says Stone. “She said that my realtor didn’t really understand my total financial picture and goals, but she did.”

Make sure the lender answers all of your questions.

If a lender can’t explain the process in