Home Improvement Loans in St. Louis, MO 

There are many things to consider when deciding which loan program best suits needs of a homebuyer or homeowner looking to refinance. Home improvement loans or what those in the mortgage business refer to as Renovation mortgage programs have many benefits but are sometimes overlooked as an option. Let’s explore home improvement loans and discover the many benefits. 

Our Renovation Mortgage Programs allow homebuyers/homeowners to purchase/refinance a home plus make improvements. This is desirable for a number of reasons. 

•    There is one application, one loan approval, one closing and one monthly mortgage payment.
•    Financing is based on an appraiser’s estimate of “After Improved Value”.
•    Conventional, FHA, VA, and Jumbo loan options are available.
•    Homes in most any condition can be financed, including owner-occupied, second home and investment properties.
•    Renovation can include virtually any upgrade, repair or improvement purpose.

Who is most likely to benefit from a renovation mortgage program?

•    Buyers walking away from a house in their price range because it doesn’t have what they want even though it is in the neighborhood they desire.
•    Buyers not interested in a fixer-upper because they don’t know how they’ll finance the improvements.
•    Buyers trying to buy a home where current property condition does not allow for traditional financing.
•    Customers that currently own a home that they want to renovate and are looking for financing options.

What is the value of Renovation financing? 

•    Allows homebuyers to add their personal touch to the home.
•    Fulfills two needs — purchase or refinance and renovate — with one loan and one monthly mortgage payment.
•    Allows renovation to begin after closing.
•    Includes wanted and needed renovations such as additions, upgrades, energy-saving improvements, and handicap-accessibility modifications.  
•    Makes renovation costs more affordable by spreading them throughout the mortgage term.
•    Allows the borrower to complete renovations all at one time opposed to one upgrade at a time.

What value does Renovation financing bring to REALTORS?

•    Sets the agent apart from their competition.
•    Helps the Realtor® overcome the challenges of selling a home in need of repairs, such as aged homes or fixer-uppers.
•    Makes aged properties more marketable to a new generation of buyers that are interested in purchasing and remodeling homes.
•    Increases the number of potential buyers.
•    Sellers don’t need to make or pay for repairs prior to listing.

First Integrity Mortgage Services is uniquely able to deliver this loan product. We have a Renovation Specialist and a dedicated team (Coordinator, Processer, and Underwriter) with a focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience when using one of these products. If you think that a Renovation Loan might be right for you, or if you are a Realtor® interested in making this option available to your clients, contact us today! 

By: Kiara Johnson

Real estate has produced many of the worlds’ wealthiest people, so there are plenty of reasons to think that an investment property is a sound choice. But like any investment, it’s better to be well-versed before diving in. Arm yourself before starting a new career as a real estate investor. 

If you’re ready to borrow for a residential investment property, these tips can improve your chances of success: 

Make Sure It’s for You

Do you know your way around a toolbox? How are you at repairing drywall? Or unclogging a toilet? Sure, you could call somebody to do it for you, but that will eat into your profits. Property owners who have one or two homes often do their own repairs to save money. If you’re not the handy type and you don't have lots of spare cash, being a landlord may not be right for you. 
Your first property will consume a lot of your time as you learn the ins and outs of being a landlord. Think of it as another part-time job. Do you have the time?

Pay Down Debt First

Savvy investors might carry debt as part of their investment portfolio, but the average person should avoid debt. If you have student loans, unpaid medical bills, or have children who will soon attend college, purchasing a rental property may not be the right move at this time.

Down Payment

Investment properties generally require a larger down payment than owner-occupied properties, so they have more stringent approval requirements. The 3.5% you put down on the home you currently live in, isn’t going to work for an investment property. Since mortgage insurance won’t cover investment properties, you’ll need to put at least 20% down to secure traditional financing. If you can put down 25%, you may qualify for an even better interest rate. When looking at a two or four family property, the down payment requirement can be even higher: 25% - 30%.

Beware of Higher Interest Rates

The cost of borrowing money might be cheap right now, but the interest rate on an investment property will be higher than traditional mortgage interest rates. Remember, you need a mortgage payment that’s low enough so that it won’t eat into your monthly profits too significantly. The bigger the risk, the higher the rate. 

Income varies

Tenants come and go, and it may take a while to rent out a recently vacated unit. If the unit needs substantial repairs or rehabbing, it will reduce your income even more. Furthermore, you'll still have to pay the bills, including mortgage, property taxes and insurance.

Calculate Operating Expenses

Overall, operating expenses on your new property will be between 35 percent and 80 percent of your gross operating income. If you charge $1,500 for rent and your expenses come in at $600 per month, you’re at 40 percent. For an even easier calculation, use the 50 percent rule. If the rent you charge is $2,000 per month, expect to pay $1,000 in total expenses.

Get a Low-Cost Home

Start small. While repairs present a challenge, so can buying a larger property than you're ready to handle. Starting small – purchasing a single apartment, condo or duplex, for example – can help you get grounded in the idea of investing in real estate and decide whether it's really the right step for you. The more expensive the home, the higher your ongoing expenses will be. 

Find the Right Location

Look for low property taxes, a decent school district, a neighborhood with low crime rates, an area with a growing job market and plenty of amenities like parks, malls, restaurants and movie theaters.

If you have any questions or comments regarding investment properties or this article, please contact Kiara Johnson, NMLS# 869292, at or 314-568-6389. 

It’s Not Rocket Science

By: Dave Puzniak

Every day, on the TV, on the radio, on the internet, in the mail, on billboards, at your favorite sporting events, and concerts, it’s the same message:



Making the decision to refinance is an important decision and should not be taken lightly.  Your home loan is possibly the largest financial investment you will make and you need to analyze your options based on your unique situation to ensure the refinance is right for you.  A refinance can take many different forms and your situation dictates the route you need to take in order to improve your financial situation.

The most common refinance is utilized to lower your interest rate and your monthly house payment.  This is called a rate and term refinance. The ability to lower your rate will be dependent upon several factors: on the interest rate market improving since the last time you either purchased or refinanced your home; having your credit improve, or seeing your property value rise.  A lower interest rate may also allow you to build equity in your house quicker, by increasing the amount of your payment going to reducing the principal balance. 

A second type of refinance is decreasing the term of your mortgage.  A shorter term mortgage amortization, such as a 20 year or a 15-year term mortgage, generally has lower interest rates.  The trade-off is a potentially higher monthly mortgage payment. However, there is the added benefit of a larger amount of the payment dedicated to the paying down the principal balance of your mortgage.  The greatest benefit is the ability to pay off your loan sooner, reducing your total interest costs over the life of the loan. 

Other reasons to refinance are to change the type of loan program.  With the large variety of mortgage programs available such as FHA, VA, USDA, in addition, to grant programs, you may have a program which helped you as a first time homebuyer,  but as you build equity may not be as beneficial 5-10 years into the mortgage loan.  In some cases, you may start with an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) to take advantage of a lower introductory rate then change to a fixed-rate mortgage in an effort to stabilize your payments for the remainder of your time in the home. The situation can work in reverse as well.  If you know you are going to move within a 5-7 year period then you may look to the ARM in lieu of a fixed rate mortgage to take advantage of the lower rates on the ARM loans.

The final option is using your home as an asset.  You may want to remove some of the equity from the house to handle other financial obligations.  This is called a cash-out refinance. If you are short on cash but flush with equity in your home, then cashing out the equity in your home can provide you with some options to handle other financial situations within your family. 

The uses for the equity can include:

1- Renovations or Repairs– allows you to make improvements to your property or help in the maintenance, put on an addition, redo a kitchen or bathroom
2- Family Budgets – allows you to pay off bills which may have accumulated and lower your overall monthly outlay
3- Tuition Cost – allows you to help pay schooling costs, may be cheaper than student loans and could potentially be tax deductible
4- Debt Consolidation – provides relief to high interest, variable rate credit card debt by turning these payments into a fixed rate manageable payment and restore your household budget
5- Weddings – can help to handle the cost of a wedding
6- Judgments, collections or liens – provides relief for these premium debts from medical issues, lawsuits, and other legal issues

No matter the decision you choose to make regarding refinancing, it is recommended you use a qualified mortgage professional to assist you with your decision.  You will want to share your financial goals with your mortgage professional in order to provide them with the information necessary to properly advise you to meet your financial goals.

Licensed mortgage professionals at First Integrity Mortgage Services use their experience, expertise, and the special programs available to discover your goals, present multiple relevant options, and recommend the program that best meets YOUR needs!

Contact David Puzniak NMLS # 559106 to schedule an appointment today at 314-486-2652 or to start the process of refinancing your home!

First Integrity Mortgage Services is a locally owned mortgage banker located at:
77 West Port Plaza, Suite 200
St. Louis, MO 63146, NMSL#276593.
Visit us today at and see the difference!!

Life Is...

By Christine Elbert 

Life is all about choices. Choosing the right lender can be the difference between an easy, smooth closing or…something else. How does someone know what Lender to choose? There are so many different places and so many different styles of business. Internet loans? Call Centers? Local bank?

These are some of the options, but we at First Integrity believe there is a lot more to a good mortgage company besides a hefty marketing budget.

So what would make a great Lender?

First Integrity Mortgage Services believes it comes down to one simple concept. Provide the best possible options and personal service to every single one of our clients. That part is simple, what it takes to do that is not.

It takes a local Mortgage bank, a company that controls its own funds so on closing day you are not waiting for a wire from someone over in Seattle, your banker, your money, is right here so we know closing and funding your loan will be no problem.

It takes a company that believes in rational lending (a First Integrity term founder Joe Bayer Sr. coined referring to us simply using our brains). First Integrity still takes a common sense approach to loan approval. Not everyone fits in the same little box. A good mortgage company believes boxes are for moving day.

So how do you create that company?

 It starts with the people. First Integrity has a handpicked staff who are committed to providing the very best in mortgage service. With over 400 years of combined mortgage experience, First Integrity has created a small and powerful mortgage company. You don’t have to be big to be good.

So what about the process?

Joe Bayer Sr. answered that question a few years ago by designing a loan process unique to the mortgage industry. By breaking away from the “assembly line” style of loan approval followed by the industry, First Integrity created a new and better path to home ownership. Instead of an assembly line of 5-6 different strangers working on your loan, at First Integrity you have a 3 person team committed to knowing you and knowing your loan. Your loan officer, Loan Coordinator and underwriter all work as a team to make sure your loan goes through correctly and quickly.

At First Integrity Mortgage, we believe in the 3 Pillars – it comes down to People, Pricing, and Products.

We’ve created the perfect team, we offer some of the best competitive pricing in the area and have a vast range of mortgage products, some unique only to First Integrity, that we can offer our clients the best way to own their home.

So Why First Integrity? 

We believe we are the best possible choice for those clients who want personal and professional service. Add to that the widest range of products, highly competitive pricing and a system designed to simplify the loan process and you have a solid, reputable mortgage bank.

You deserve a mortgage bank that works for you. First Integrity delivers.

We Care! We Think! We Deliver!

Christine Elbert is a Senior Mortgage Banker with more than a decade of experience in the industry. For questions or comments about this article, Christine can be reached at or 314-495-1865 NMLS# 238515.

By: David Puzniak

In the 1960’s, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote these lines for a song, “The long and winding road, that leads to your door, will never disappear.”  Contrary to popular belief, the song, “The Long and Winding Road” is not about Lennon and McCartney’s first home buying experience, but it does mirror the path all homebuyers must follow in order to go from initial decision to own a home to actually buying and closing on the home.

Ideally, the home buying process starts by visiting with a credible lender who can provide information on the various mortgages available and help make sense of all the options. A good lender will want to discuss financial goals, family goals, and more in order to offer a program that is specifically designed for the borrower’s unique needs and wants.

Once a home to purchase decision has been made, it’s in the interest of the borrower that a complete preapproval is performed. This will include checking credit history and submission of income and asset information. The lender will then analyze all of the documentation, identify any pitfalls and work to be completed in order that the borrower is fully prepared when the right home is found. THIS IS A PREAPPROVAL; it is a thorough review of credit, income and asset documentation. It is important to obtain a preapproval and not a prequalification.

A prequalification is simply a credit report and a verbal acknowledgment of income and assets. Often, online lenders will ask borrowers to simply complete an online form and do NOT collect any documentation to support the income and asset levels shared on the forms. Without the documentation, the figures are simply opinions.

Once a price range is established, it’s time to seek out the advice of a real estate agent. Friends and neighbors can be the best resource for finding a real estate agent, as they have had direct experience with the Realtor’s® attitude and qualifications. Lenders can also be a great resource, as they have had direct experience with various Realtors® in their region. 

Smart borrowers will interview a few agents to ensure they are in tune with their wants and needs. It’s also recommended to share search information with the agents and to share all the desired elements for the home to be purchased - the number of bedrooms, the number of bathrooms, the need for a garage, the need for a specific school district, handicap accessibility, etc.  These factors and much more will be taken into consideration by the real estate agent while helping a borrower find a home.  The Realtor® should also provide valuable insights about the neighborhood and suggest borrowers drive through the neighborhood at various times of the day/night/weekend in order to get a feel for the area.  

When searching for a home, make sure to introduce the Realtor® chosen to the lender.  A great working relationship between the borrower, real estate agent and lender keeps the lines of communication open and helps to move the home buying process in the right direction.

The Home Buying Process has many different players. If the long and winding road is well navigated, at the end of the journey, a HAPPY HOME is found!

For any questions or comments, David Puzniak can be reached at 314.486.2652 or

David Puzniak

Senior Mortgage Banker

First Integrity Mortgage Services

NMLS #559106 


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