Mortgages in St. Louis Newsletter

Kiara Johnson Loans By: Kiara Johnson

This is by far one of my favorite times of the year! It’s the time of year where most people come together and realize how important it is to be thankful for the many blessings we have. We know everyone’s story is different, and no one is dealt the same hand. This is why it is so important for us to give back while we can. 

Here at First Integrity Mortgage Services, we don’t wait until this time of the year to show support to our community. This is something close to all of our hearts & an ongoing trend year round. Once a quarter, First Integrity Mortgage picks an organization to give back. Money is raised among the employees and donated at the end of the quarter. The organizations chosen are usually near and dear to the employees here. 

1st Quarter 2017 – Team Activities for Special Kids (T.A.S.K.) & Gateway to Hope
2nd Quarter 2017- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)
3rd Quarter 2017- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
4th Quarter 2017- Amy’s Wish

Although the majority of our donations come from our employees, everyone is welcomed to participate. If you want to know FIMS current organization of choice, feel free to contact our office at 314-878-7900.

Backstoppers is another organization FIMS holds close to heart. Police officers, firefighters, and EMS workers continue to face great challenges and make sacrifices for our safety every day. Supporting Backstoppers is one of our ways of saying “Thank You”. We give $750 for every Backstopper loan we originate. The borrower receives $500 off closing cost AND we donate $250 to the organization. 
We don’t stop there! Every year, in April, we host a Trivia Night in support of Backstoppers. Our first year in 2016, we raised approximately $8,000.

Our second year, we took it to a new level and raised over $16,000!  2018 we are looking to go above and beyond. Everyone is welcomed to attend our trivia night. More details to come early 2018. 

Another group that we like to show our appreciation and support to is our veterans. The individuals that have fought for our country and our freedom definitely deserve a break and some recognition. Every VA loan that is originated, we waive our origination fee.  Just a simple way of saying “Thank You” and we appreciate everything you have done.   So as we go into the holiday season, let’s show what the season is all about…Love, Peace, & Happiness!

If you would like more information or have any questions, comments, or concerns, please reach out to Kiara Johnson, NMLS# 869292, directly at or 314-568-6389. 

Happy Holidays!

VA Loans in St. Louis, MO 

By Christine Elbert Christine Elbert Home Loans in St. Louis

What’s a VA Loan?

The VA loan program is a specialized loan available only to eligible Veterans. The VA loan is insured by the Federal Government, though the loan is held and serviced by mortgage banks. The VA loan has a number of special features that truly make it a great deal for those who serve our country. AND, at First Integrity Mortgage we waive our lender fee of $985 for all veterans that are utilizing their VA benefit through a VA Home Loan!

What makes a VA loan different?

VA loans are unique in a number of ways that make it a stand-out loan. First, there is no required down payment from the Veteran. Second, there is no monthly mortgage insurance. This allows qualified veterans to qualify for a higher priced house with the same payment as perhaps a lower priced house on a conventional or FHA loan. The VA does have a funding fee charged to the Veteran, but it can be added to the loan amount and financed so no cash out of pocket. The seller is also allowed to pay up to 4 percent of the sales price towards the Veterans closing costs and prepaids.

What kind of VA Loans are there?

VA loans can either be a fixed rate for 10, 20 or 30 years, they also offer an ARM program (ARM loans are Adjustable Rate Mortgages. On VA Loans, ARMS are typically lower rate caps effectively lowering the risk of the market). 
VA loans can be used for a number of things. You can purchase your new home with a VA loan (as long as it is your primary residence) or you can also refinance your home using a VA loan. 

Refinances can be either rate and term (just the balance you owe and the cost to close) or a cash out (cashing out a portion of the equity in your house as well as refinancing the old loan).  VA Loans also offer the IRRL (Interest Rate Reduction Loan) refinance, where a refinance can be done on the principal balance with no appraisal. This loan has helped many Veterans take advantage of lower mortgage rates even if their property has lost value since the original purchase. VA also offers a renovation or home improvement loan product so with a VA loan you can improve the property you are looking to buy or already own and still take advantage of the VA loan program.

If you have questions about your VA eligibility, Veterans can go to the VA benefits website and request a COE (Certificate of Eligibility). Your First Integrity Mortgage Services loan specialist is also able to help with the COE, should you need it.

If you are an eligible Veteran or knows someone who is and would like more information on the VA loan program, please contact Christine Elbert at or 314-495-1865. 

Home Improvement Loans

By: Joe Bayer Jr. Joe Bayer Jr. Loans in St. Louis

There are many things to consider when deciding which loan program best suits the needs of a home buyer 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! 

Mortgages in St. Louis and Real Estate Investing

Kiara Johnson Mortgages in St. Louis 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. 

Refinancing in St. Louis 
Dave Puzniak Home Loans St. Louis 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 refinancing 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 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 tha 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, maybe 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!!

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