VA Loans Deserve Top Consideration

This article was published in the Daily Bulletin on Saturday, June 4th, 2011. By Tim Harrison

It is time to change the stereotype about Veteran Affairs home loans’ being problematic.

In general, I have strong opinions and this is a big one — I would love to help my community and the public at large to under-stand the merits of giving high priority to offers from veterans using the VA loan.

Too often, I have noticed that some real estate agents steer their sellers away from a VA home loan offer.

I feel this is both a missed opportunity, and potentially, an injustice to a worthy Vet!

Part of the unfortunate tendency to give lower consideration to a VA loan is the result of misunderstanding the VA loan itself.

Because the VA offer may not include a cash down payment, uninformed sellers and their agents consider the offer to be less desirable than an offer with a cash down payment.

The VA loan includes a low-or no-down payment option through our federal government, which has the ability to insure the loan. (VA loans are insured through the Department of Veterans Affairs.) Actually the loan is insured up to a 30-percent loss by our government for those veterans who are eligible.

Another issue can be an outdated idea about VA guidelines. Long ago, VA loan guidelines included much stricter policies on property condition.

For that matter, so did the Federal Housing Administration home loan pro-gram, although it seems real estate professionals are now aware that an FHA offer is one to consider, because the FHA guidelines on property are pretty much in sync with conventional offers.

Since the VA guidelines have been modified, there is very little reason to give lower consideration to an offer from a potential home buyer using a VA loan.

The only real difference is that a VA loan requires a termite report and clearance with both Sections 1 and 2 of the report cleared. Most homebuyers want the termite work done prior to closing the transaction anyway.

In reality most home loan programs these days have the same concern when it comes to property condition and that is that health and safety issues be addressed. The question is, does a condition exist that is potentially harmful to the new occupant or occupants? The VA loan, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA or any other loan is in sync on this concern.

Our veterans are the people who fight or have fought for the amazing liberties that we benefit from every day — I believe these are the very people who are worthy of being given a more-than-fair consideration. This is a point I feel passionately about — veterans are the heroes in our communities. They are our neighbors, colleagues, friends, children, wives, husbands, mothers, brothers, sisters and fathers who have served through our armed forces to ensure the freedom that you and I enjoy today.

I feel certain that if most people selling a home understood this vital financing tool available to our veterans, sellers would insist on high consideration for offers that are made by the veterans.

Real estate professionals have a fiduciary duty to represent their sellers’ highest good. I understand that if an offer is made with a significant down payment as compared to a low to no down payment, regardless of loan type, that the real estate professional must represent the seller well by advising them that the higher down payment may be a safer offer to consider. I am just saying the VA loan is also a good loan and they close quite easily with lenders who have experience with closing a VA loan.

I become frustrated because of an idea about loan guidelines that are 15 years out of date, that veterans do not get the fair or even preferred treatment they deserve. When you think about this from a practical point of view, as long as the buyer making the offer will be able to complete the sale in a timely and professional manner, why shouldn’t top priority to vets be the industry standard?

There is one more aspect about this topic that I am particularly bothered about — I have witnessed VA loans given lower priority or no consideration at all when the property being sold is a bank-owned property. To be clear, not all banks practice this and I take my hat off (if I wore a hat) to Bank of America for being sellers of bank-owned properties that regularly consider and accept VA offers. However there are some banks that do not, and these are banks that the American people bailed out when they were in trouble. The fact that these institutions do not consider VA offers as a general rule is both insupportable and unconscionable.

I will stand firm in my opinion that all banks should make it clear to real estate agents they want to see all offers, including VA, because these buyers deserve consideration.

For my part I offer deeply felt thanks to each of you, especially to my stepfather, Ray Lyons, a proud Purple Heart recipient from his service in the Vietnam War and to my brother, Dr. Dan Harrison, who served in the United States Air Force. Also, to the families who are left at home holding thoughts of love, support and well being for their loved ones off at war, you have all my respect for staying strong and supportive. Truly, my heart and prayers go out to you all every day, thank you, as well. Tim Harrison is branch manager of the HLC Team at Broadview Mortgage in Upland

FHA Approval Important for Condo Owners, Associations

This article was published in the Daily Bulletin on Saturday, May 14th.

FHA Approval Important for Condo Owners, Associations

By Tim Harrison What does having a Federal Housing Administration-approved condominium project mean for the homeowners and the association? I recently attended a board meeting for a condominium association that represents a property that I own in Upland. The board members asked me about FHA approval for the association, and what it meant. I realized then that most condominium owners and board association members do not understand the advantages to owners and associations in applying for and maintaining FHA approval of a condominium project. Since board members are in the process of receiving information about this issue, it is important that board members understand the factors involved, so they may substantiate a decision to spend resources (both time and money) to apply for, or continue, FHA approval for their condominium. Additionally, boards have a responsibility to provide information to condominium owners for such expenditures. First, it may be helpful to understand the relationship between the FHA and condominium owners. An FHA-approved condominium is eligible for FHA financing, meaning that, should an owner within the condominium association wish to sell or refinance property, owners have a greater change at selling the property at the highest possible price, or in the case of refinancing, with the favorable terms offered through an FHA loan. The advantages of FHA financing are significant. FHA approval will attract potential buyers for the condominiums in an association.

Here are important points to consider. FHA allows for higher loan-to-value refinancing opportunities, meaning that FHA approval can help current homeowners refinance into a lower rate. FHA requires lower FICO scores and less down payment. Down payments may be as low as 3.5 percent of the purchase price. FICO scores may be as low as 620, with a FICO of 640 being the standard of most FHA investors (the investors are the people or company who fund the loans). Compare this FICO requirement to other financing options; most PMI requires FICO scores above 700 and a minimum of 10-percent down payment on condominium properties. FHA is available only to homeowners who plan to buy the property as a primary residence (as opposed to investors). The last point is relevant for many reasons. Keeping owner occupancy numbers high in a project is an advantage to owners and associations, because as the number of non-owner-occupied properties in an association increases, the ability to finance properties within that project decreases. (The reason for this is that investors who fund mortgages have a requirement that a certain percentage of the units in a condominium association must be occupied by an owner, otherwise, the investor will not finance within that condominium association. The concern for investors here is that if times get tough, people are more likely to protect the roof over their own head rather than someone else’s.) 


 An additional consideration is that owners in associations prefer that buyers who purchase within their condominium association actually live there – it is well-documented that owners tend to care more about the property and the association as a whole, and are more likely to participate in the activities of the board, as well as taking time to keep a property well-maintained. Equally important is that most potential homebuyers these days are not in a position to finance a full 10-percent to 20-percent down payment as well as closing costs when purchasing a home. In my experience, many potential buyers need the flexibility that FHA financing allows. Since so many people have weathered tough financial times these past few years, it makes sense that buyers may need, for example, less restrictive qualifying requirements allowed through FHA loans (for example, a lower down payment). FHA has recently changed its approval guidelines, allowing prospective homebuyers to use FHA financing for an owner-occupied purchase of a condominium. I strongly maintain that FHA approval is worthwhile, and that the extra expense and time involved for either applying for, or maintaining a condominium association as FHA approved is justified. Without FHA approval, the potential negative fiscal impact on condominium properties for both the association and for owners is great, since buyers have choices, and the savvy buyer will choose the best financing options available, and in many cases, that can mean an FHA loan. Since many condominium purchases are made by first-time homebuyers, they will only be able to buy with an FHA loan, as they often have less of a down payment than trade-up buyers. A condominium association always wants to attract a bigger buying pool, buyers who will look at and buy the property, meaning that a seller will be able to ask a higher sales price. At the meeting I attended, after hearing my explanation, the entire board said they were glad I was there to explain why FHA approval is important. The board would not have approved the expenditure had it not been explained to them, which prompted me to further my research into this topic. My gut told me that FHA approval is beneficial, and I now have the data to support that instinct. For 2011, my prediction is that the percentage of condominium sales using FHA financing is likely to go up.

The large investor pool that was paying cash for properties has decreased, and we are likely to see a rise in the number of first-time homebuyers purchasing condominiums (vs. investors). I highly recommend that condominium boards approve the additional funds and time needed to maintain or to apply for FHA approval, both for the advantage of the individual owners, and the association as a whole.

-Tim Harrison, The Straight-Up Mortgage Guy, is Branch Manager of the HLC Team at Broadview Mortgage in Upland. A Mortgage Professional for over 20 years, Tim is a Founding Board Member for Lenders Who Care, a national non-profit that offers free, non-sales education for consumers, employers, H.R. professionals and services organizations.


Real Estate Tips

This tip was published in the Daily Bulletin, Saturday, January 8.  -Tim

Before you ever look at a home, begin with a basic household budget.

The bottom line is that you cannot truly know what you can afford, if you do not know your own budget parameters.

Online tools are readily available, and easy to use. (Try or Or, begin with the old method of writing down every item you spend money on (that is, everything) for at least two months.

Make sure to average in your big bi-yearly or yearly expenses, like car insurance.

After reviewing your expenses, take stock of where your money is being spent.

You may be on target, or you may (like most of us) want to re-assess some of those non-essential expenses.

Good luck and keep the big picture and long-term goals in mind.

-Harrison is branch manager of the HLC Team of Broadview Mortgage in Upland.

Happy New Year - Financial Goals for 2017

New Year -- Setting new financial goals for 2017 doesn't have to be a chore. Think of it like taking yourself and your family to the next level of well-being - a part of your long-term financial health. Keep your goals simple, and don't overwhelm yourself with too many tasks. One useful approach is to address one issue per month. Here are basic tips for getting yourself into financial shape. Wishes to you all for a great coming year. - Tim

  1. Create a household budget. Use one of the many on-line budgeting tools (try, or, or, begin with the old method of writing down every item you spend money on (that is, everything) for at least two months. Take stock of where your money is being spent. You may be on target, or you may (like most of us) want to re-assess some of those non-essential expenses.
  2. Make a plan to pay down your high-interest loans. I often talk to clients who are focusing on a big savings account first. A savings account is important, but rates are very low (0% in some cases!) for savings accounts right now. Pay down those credit cards and high interest loans, as quickly as you can, then focus on the savings account.
  3. Most people think of 'discipline' and 'responsibility' as an enemy. If this is you, try to reframe that idea. Long-term financial responsibility is an investment in your well-being and in the overall quality of your life, for yourself and for your family.
  4. When taking on a project like budgeting, or creating new financial habits, some of us do really well with a support person or an accountability partner. If you are one of these people, think of who you can invite to share these goals with with you; a quick monthly or weekly check-in call with a person who is really interested in your well-being can be rewarding.
  5. Create an incentive for yourself - for example, if you have a savings goal for the year, for every dollar that you save, add ten cents or a quarter for a year-end reward (that flat-screen TV, a special weekend away). Rewards are important, and balance is, too.

Good luck and keep the big picture and long-term goals in mind.

Save Taxes on Property Purchased from Parents

Hi all, My family and I were featured in the Daily Bulletin, Saturday, Dec 3, 2010. Special thanks to Toni Momberger for her article, which touched my family personally. It is great living in the community where I grew up.

Bye - Tim

Save taxes on property purchased from parents Chose the link below to go directly to the Daily Bulletin web article, or read text, below.

You can go home again. And you can save on property tax in the bargain.

As many children dreamed they would, Tim Harrison became an adult and bought the house he grew up in, “It was the proximity to the school. I used to walk there and play sports, skateboard, ride bikes,” Harrison said of Chaparral Elementary School in Claremont. Harrison had a vision of his son reliving Dad’s happy childhood, and in many ways, it was realized. “I went by the school one day and saw Sean playing handball and thought, ‘That was me.’” Harrison’s parents bought the Claremont home in 1976. Harrison was about 12 years old. At that time it was 1,200 square feet, and accommodated two parents and four boys. Harrison lived in the house until he was 21, and then left to finish college.

In 1985 he married, and three months later his parents announced they were going to move, and put their home on the market. Harrison had seen it coming. His dad’s commute to Long Beach was becoming a strain.  “I wasn’t surprised, but I was shocked, because it was the family house,” Harrison said. He immediately began to wonder if there was a way he could afford to buy it.  “My brain just started going, ‘Could I?’ I called my brother — and I had a finance degree — and we calculated payments.”

Harrison bought the property at fair market value in 1985. He had been gone from the home only two and a half years. His new wife, Lauri, was agreeable. “I was happy and anxious at the same time. I worried about paying for it,” Lauri Harrison said. “We didn’t have two dimes to rub together.” “It was all me, having a vision of my kids’ living here, liking my childhood,” Tim Harrison said. “When I brought the idea to my mother, Mom was elated — and my mom’s not one to show a ton of emotion.”

Harrison’s grandmother helped with the down payment, and one of his older brothers co-signed the loan, which was for a regular mortgage. There were no objections from brothers wishing they had gotten to buy it, not even from the youngest, who had moved into the home at age 9. “He just thought it was cool he could come back home for Fourth of July and other traditions,” Tim Harrison said. “He digs it. He loves all the stuff we’ve done to it.” The Harrisons expanded the house, added a pool, landscaped.

They’ve discovered a lot of advantages to buying parents’ houses, too — emotional, practical and monetary. Tim and Lauri didn’t know about the tax savings, and spent $1,500 right off the bat that they didn’t need to pay. He learned about it from an old friend. “Our neighbor, Les Boring, I used to mow his lawn when I was a kid. He would give me a soda, which I never got at home. He was the grandfather to the neighborhood. He came over and said, ‘By golly, Tim did you know...?’ “Les Boring walked across the street and saved me $1,500,” Tim Harrison said. According to Proposition 58, which had become effective barely a year before Harrison’s purchase, property transferred from parents does not need to be reassessed for taxes. From Harrison’s parents’ 1976, $33,000 purchase, the property taxes were $174 in 1988, when Harrison became the owner. “We would have jumped to three times that,” Tim said. In a conventional transaction, property tax is reassessed and the new owner pays on the house’s new — and usually higher — value. Harrison’s property tax rate will continue along its regular 1 percent a year increase from his parents’ purchase price, with a couple of adjustments. Reassessments apply only to improved portions, such as the pool or added rooms.

This rule also applies to houses transferred from children to their parents. For this extension, “children” include stepchildren, children- in-law, and in some cases, foster children. It can be used on homes sold or inherited from grandparent to grandchild, too, if the generation in between is dead, thanks to 1996’s Prop. 193. It does not apply to sales between siblings, and has no effect on capital gains taxes. In order to get the lower rate, Harrison had to apply to the Los Angeles County Assessor’s office, and supply documentation proving his eligibility. Buyers, or those inheriting a home, have three years from the date of purchase or parent’s death to do this. When approved, the benefit is retroactive to the date the house changed owners. After the three-year deadline, the application may be approved, but it won’t be retroactive. It’s possible that a sold or inherited property went down in value so far that it’s not beneficial to take the parent/child tax exclusion. In that event, the new owner may opt for a reassessment. Counties in California allow owners to use the lowest of all tax rate possibilities. The other benefits to buying a childhood home are less tangible. “Walking my son to his first day of school to the school I went to from the house I grew up in,” Tim Harrison said. “You can’t buy those moments.” “And Sean has the same bedroom Tim had growing up,” Lauri Harrison said. He also didn’t have to say goodbye to mementos attached to the house, like the growth chart on the kitchen wall, and the basketball hoop Tim’s dad made. “When the house was painted, I thought about taking (the basketball hoop) down, and I thought, ‘No, I can’t do it.’” The best, though, is the work he put into the home, as a team with loved ones. “My family built this room,” he said of the high ceilinged family room his son and niece were reading in. “That beam was my eighth-grade photography project. I took pictures of all of us lifting it up. I spent he next summer reroofing he ouse.” His seventh-grade summer was spent digging the trench to pour that room’s concrete foundation. And then there’s the handy factor. If a circuit or the sprinkler system isn’t working, Tim can always call the previous owners. “I call my dad for everything,” he said. Lauri Harrison added that her in-laws didn’t have to worry about the usual rush to move out, or fix up the house for the market. There are a few disadvantages, though. “One problem about buying a house from your parents is they don’t take everything,” Tim said. “And I killed Mom’s fig tree. That was the worst. It was an accident.” They also had concerns about Mom’s opinion of their homeownership. When Mom came to visit, we were both nervous,” Tim said. “She was sweet about it, but, ‘Oh, you painted that. Oh, you changed that.’ Then she said, ‘Why didn’t you do this when I lived here?’” And not everything is sentimental. “It’s a little weird moving into your parents’ bedroom,” Tim said. Nonetheless, the Harrisons are planning to stay forever. “All our memories are here. Our son was born here. We’ve had countless family gatherings here. This is our home,” Lauri Harrison said.

How to Choose a Lender

"This article was published in the Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 edition of the Daily Bulletin. Many thanks to Real Estate Editor, Toni Momberger, for her dedication to keeping our community well-informed!" - Tim After the traumatic events of the past few years, you may be surprised by the following statement: I still firmly believe that buying a home can be one of the smartest, longest lasting, and most profitable financial decisions you will ever make in your life. This is conditional or your buying a home you can afford and using a loan that is safe and suitable to your situation. How can you get started? First, find a great mortgage professional. A mortgage professional who has experience and expertise will consider all the loan options available to you, and help you and your family make the right financial decision for your long-term financial needs. One of the best ways to find a high-level loan professional is to ask a Realtor you trust, your accountant, a co-worker, friend or family member, or your financial planner. Be prepared to answer the following when you talk with your mortgage professional.

■ What types of loan programs are available for your individual situation?

■ Are you an active or retired member of the military?

■ Have you ever invested in the CalPERS or CalSTRS retirement systems?

■ Have you owned a primary residence in the past three years?

■ How long do you intend to live in the property, or to own the property, if you plan to buy as an investment?

■ Are you likely to refinance the loan within five years, even though you may live there for longer than five years?

And ask what interest rates are available to someone with your credit score, income and debt. Remember that the lowest rate does not always reflect the lowest overall cost of a loan, which is what you are looking for. You want to focus on the overall cost of the loan and total interest over the time of the loan. Don’t limit yourself by focusing only on an interest rate, which often leads consumers into trouble. If you focus only on the interest rate quoted, be sure you understand that the rate may be misleading. The rate may include a quote that does not include the points charged in the loan. The rate quoted may be fixed only for a set number of years (even when the quote states a 30 year term, the loan maybe be fixed for a shorter period). Preparing for homeownership is a process. For your financial health, and the financial well-being of your entire household, take the time to understand all the terms of a loan and consider the long-term benefits of buying a home, versus renting. ----Tim Harrison is the branch manager of Broadview Mortgage in Upland

Steps to Take to Homeownership

Hi all, Below is great information for starting the process of planning for home ownership. This article was published in the Daily Bulletin, Saturday, November 6, written by our consumer education partner, Elizabeth Alvarez. Regarding her third recommendation, Elizabeth can give you a great suggestion! - Tim

Steps to take to homeownership

A responsible plan for homeownership can take several months, or longer, to create. Here are a few basic steps to begin the process.

1. Review your credit profile. Order your free annual credit report online at or by calling 877-322-8228. The Federal Trade Commission offers a useful explanation of your rights regarding credit reports. Visit and search for credit for more information.

2. Compare the cost of renting versus buying. The online calculator at www. is a useful comparison tool.

3. Interview two mortgage professionals. Ask family, friends, colleagues and business professionals for a recommendation.

Is it Possible to Buy a Home Without a Substantial Down Payment?

Historically low interest rates and a variety homes for sale, combined with excellent home loan options described below, make this a unique opportunity to compare the true costs of renting versus buying a home. Give my office a call about any of these programs. We will put together an analysis comparing renting versus buying for you and your familiy. The events of the last few years have left many people believing that a home may only be purchased for those who have a large down payment. This is not so. There are agencies such as FHA, CalHFA, CalPERS, and VA that offer programs that help with both down payment and with closing costs. Each program listed below is designed to help those with little or no down payment to purchase a home move using a safe, secure and responsible mortgage option. Low to NO Down-Payment Options

  • Standard FHA (Federal Housing Agency) loans allow for a 3.5% down payment for both first-time buyers and repeat buyers.
  • For those seeking a refinance option, FHA offers mortgage refinance programs that will refinance up to 96.5% of a home's value.
  • The California Housing Finance Authority (CalHFA) partners directly with FHA to allow first-time homebuyers to finance up to 99% of the sales price through two loans: the first mortgage loan covers the majority of the sales price (up to 96.5% of the sales price), while an additional loan covers most of the balance. With CalHFA, the borrow is required to contribute a minimum of 1%. (NOTE: The second loan is called a "silent second" because no payment is required until one of the following events takes place: either the first mortgage becomes due, or the first mortgage is entirely paid off.) This program is available for home purchases in all of California.
  • The California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) allows for a 3% down payment - however, since a portion of this can come from a gift, the borrower may actually need as little as 1% of their own funds for the down payment.
  • The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) offers public employees an FHA program 100% financing, when a CalPERS personal loan is used for that purpose.
  • Most VA loans require absolutely no down payment and offer competitively low rates.

That is a lot to digest for one post! Bye - Tim

Consider Purchasing a Home with Your College-Age Adult Child

For families with adult children attending college, it may make sense to buy a condominium or small home for the student to live in while in school, as a family investment. Families may be able to use this option with as little as 3.5% down with an FHA loan. (For example, on a $250,000 home, that will mean a down payment of $8,750.) This is not a decision to be made quickly or taken lightly. Families should spend time together clearly thinking through the prospect. Still, families may actually save money in overall housing costs versus paying for a dorm room or renting an off-campus property for the duration of the student's education. Additionally, there is the opportunity to make money once the adult child finishes school and the property is sold. There are also non-financial incentives to purchasing a property for your college student.

Having a home of their own may provide a better environment with a higher quality of life for the student while they attend school. Begin considering this idea by comparing the cost of on-campus housing with all the costs involved with owning a home near campus. Set up a list of responsibilities and expectations for each family member. And, be sure to factor in the income for renting extra rooms to other college students. After reviewing the math, many students and parents realize that buying college real estate is simply a wise financial decision; most parents who buy real estate for their college-age kids consider it an investment opportunity. The overlying strategy should be to try to help your child and save money at the same time. If the math makes sense, consider this highly important factor -- the adult child will learn to be a homeowner, experience the responsibilities of paying bills and taxes, and witness first-hand the importance of maintaining a healthy credit history.

Some families (not all!) report that the adult student ends up being fairly handy around the house, a great bonus. This financial strategy requires that the numbers make sense when the purchase is made. Then, when the home sells in three to five years, if the family realizes a profit - well, that will be the icing on a the cake.

Mortgage Rates: "Shopping for Rates on the Internet"


Straight Talk from The Straight Up Mortgage Guy The Internet is a great tool for all of us when we want a preliminary education, pretty much on any subject. I know I often start with a quick search for great restaurant revues and vacation specials. We all love a great deal, right? Be aware, however, not to limit your home mortgage research by simply being an online rate shopper. There are many reasons why. For example, focusing only on an interest rate when 'shopping' online may lead to one or all of the following:

  • The rate may be misleading.
  • The rate may include a quote that does not include the 'points' charged in the loan.
  • The rate quoted may be fixed only for a set number of years (even when the quote states a 30-year term, the loan maybe be fixed for a shorter period).

Clients and consumers in general lose the big picture regarding the appropriateness of a loan when they focus only on the lowest quoted loan rate. That can lead to a loan that costs more money in the long run. My team and I never simply quote a great rate - the right mortgage ensures that all the best options have been considered for you and your household, for your long-term financial well being. A few questions to consider:

  • Will you live in the property?
  • How long do you intend to live in the property, or to own the property, if an investment?
  • What is the rate environment?
  • Is it likely that you may be refinancing the loan within five years, even though you may live there for longer than five years?
  • Will your FICO score, or your loan-to-value, or your type of loan, impact the true final interest rate of the loan?
  • What types of loan programs are available for your individual situation?
  • Are you an active or retired member of the military?
  • Have you ever invested in the CalPERS or CalSTRS retirement systems?

Remember that the lowest rate does not always reflect the lowest overall cost of a loan - which is what you truly are looking for. You want to focus on the overall cost of the loan and total interest over the time of the loan. A mortgage professional that has experience and expertise to help you weed through the options and help you make the right financial decision for your needs is ideal to help you when you are considering the best loan for your long-term financial picture. One of the best ways to find this type of high-level loan professional is to ask a Realtor you trust, your accountant, a co-worker or your financial planner. Preparing for homeownership is a process. For your financial health, and the financial well-being of your entire household, take the time to understand all the terms of a loan. We always encourage our clients to ask questions and to educate themselves. Here is a useful tool that may help as well. Give us a call; we are here to help you. Until next time - bye!