Buying a home out of state: How to navigate a cross country move.


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It can be very intimidating to sell a house and buy one at the same time with logistics and coordination at the very minimum.  Now, add in one more wrinkle, buying a house out of state and let me know if the stress levels drop or rise.

Just the thought of it, sends a tingle up my spine.  It’s a lot to process emotionally.  Over the years, I’ve come to conclusion that there are 3 critical steps that need to occur to help ease the process and each of those 3 comes down to people.

1. This may be the easiest: Find a Realtor you know and trust to sell your current home.  Don’t know one, then talk to the friends and family you trust to get a good referral. If this is not an option, then calling and talking to a few local ‘experts’ will be in order, the key here is to trust your intuition.

2. Find a trusted Realtor to help buy.  This one is going to be more difficult but is in many ways more important because you will most likely have very little time to search through home after home. In most cases, clients fly into town for a week, sometimes only a weekend and need to see as many houses that fit their requirements as possible.  A good Realtor will get to know you and what’s important for you in a house so they can scout for you.

3. Find a local Mortgage Broker (ideally) or Loan Officer.  This person will be critical in ensuring that after packing up the moving trucks and driving across the country (now homeless from your recent sale) that you will be able to move in as planned.

So how do you find 2 and 3?  When Jim and Julie (why are all of my clients named Jim and Julie…), were moving from Iowa to St. Paul to be closer to their kids and new Grandchild they were lucky to have a Son-in-Law and Daughter who had also recently just purchased a home.  Because of that they were able to use their trusted Realtor and Mortgage Broker to help them through each step of the process, answer any and all questions they had and set their expectations so no last minute surprises would come up.  After 14 years, I’ve walked clients through this exact process from Idaho, Wisconsin, Iowa, New York, Texas, Arizona and California off the top of my head. The questions are always different, but the fears and worries never change.

Okay, so what happens if you don’t have friends or family that can suggest someone?  Then we need to dig deeper into YOUR story and why you are moving. Is it for a job relocation? Are you just in need of a change of pace and like a lot of cold winters in Minnesota?  Somehow, I don’t see here being a vacation hot spot.  My point being, there is going to be someone you know, that lives in or near the area in most cases, or at the very least, someone who has a vested interest in your well being. Let them help.  If they don’t know a guy, they probably know a guy who knows a guy.

It’s a very simple premise, talk to the people you know and trust.  It’s the reason why I send many of my clients to other professionals when they are in need for insurance, financial planning or even a painter.  My clients know and trust me, or they wouldn’t be working with me.  Because of this, they know that I would only send them to someone that I trust to do their jobs as well as I aspire to do mine.


Buying a house with past foreclosures


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One of the many pleasures I take in this profession is to help people find a solution to their problem. Anyone can quote an interest rate but not everyone in the mortgage industry has what I call the ‘critical thinking muscle’. I would be bored out of my mind if there wasn’t opportunity for creativity on a daily basis…or at the minimum a need for thought.

A good friend and business associate of mine wanted to help her friend, Jim, buy a home again.  Like many potential home buyers, Jim had some troubled credit in the past and in this particular case, it was two prior foreclosures and a short sale. He had been told by another loan officer at one of the large banks that he could not be approved for new mortgage for 7 years without a size able down payment.

After listening to the circumstances leading up to the foreclosures, his wife dying and an fortune in medical bills decimating what was left financially.  I took great care to make sure that if I was going to find a way to help Jim get into a home, I wouldn’t be making an empty promise.  He had been through too much in the past and was busting his butt everyday to take care of his two children.

In this industry, guidelines and rules for specific loans change often.  I never make a promise during the first conversation, instead choosing to re-look and reevaluate each option to confirm my thoughts.  This is an emotional business in many ways and getting someones hopes up falsely is both haphazard and unprofessional.  There is a level of mutual respect that needs to exist for any lasting relationship.

From our initial conversation, I was quite sure that the loan officer that advised Jim previously had overlooked an option that would allow Jim to buy a home now being only 3 years past his foreclosure issues and in this particular case and circumstances, he could have purchased a home within 1 year if he had spoken to a more knowledgeable professional.  Once I confirmed this, Jim and I then talked over what his goals were for the new home, what he felt a comfortable budget would be for him and the family moving forward and put together a plan for finding the perfect house.

Jim was grateful to buy a home this past summer and both he and the kids are in a perfect situation for themselves without being house poor.  Critical thinking doesn’t have to garner a zany, left field option.  Sometimes critical thinking is nothing more than listening well to get the full story and using that information to evaluate every potential option.

When I think about what makes me happiest, it comes down to knowing that I helped improve someones life in some small way and getting to know someone new. So many of my clients will call me up and say ‘remember me?’  How could I forget!?!

Each story is so unique that it would be impossible to forget who you are.


FYI: Names are always changed for privacy.

Divorce and your Mortgage

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Divorce is never easy. Divorce is never simple. Unfortunately, it becomes even more complicated when you own a home.

I have dealt with helping couples through the refinance process and divorce so many times over the past fourteen years that I feel I have it down to a science.  The first part is very simple, the person getting the home, has to refinance a new mortgage solely in their name.

It’s the second part that gets tricky, especially if you care about your clients like I do. Earlier this year, I was working with mother of two young children and helping her navigate the refinance waters. Even though the actual refinance process can be done in 30-45 days, I was working with her for close to 9 months to make sure everything was done correctly from start to finish, BEFORE the divorce decree is negotiated and finalized. We start the refinance AFTER the decree is 100% legal. This can take months.

When a family planning attorney refers me a client in this situation, the first thing I do is walk them through what steps we will want to take to protect them in the divorce negotiations such as having an appraisal done to start the negotiation process. I then prepare them for the emotional hurdles that will come up.  In this case, the current mortgage was not in her name, just her soon to be ex-spouse. So we were going to have to include him in this process either with her calling/talking with him or via her attorney.

As you can imagine if you haven’t been through divorce, this is one of the most emotionally difficult things someone can go through and doubly so when the divorce is not amicable (in my experience, they rarely are). Looking over the entire divorce process, my job no longer is simply about logistically finishing the refinance.  My job is to listen, to help keep my client focused on putting themselves in the best position for their future and most importantly, to listen.  Yes, I listed listen twice.  It’s THAT important.

Once the pain of the divorce settles, I want my client to look back years later and be thankful that I helped them use this opportunity to best plan for the next phase in life and retirement.  Not only did I help her refinance into a mortgage that would put her further ahead in 10 years than she would have been before the divorce, but I also walked her through setting up her own retirement savings plan and budgeting for a family of 3 with an income a fraction of what she had been working with prior.

By the time her kids reach college, she won’t be thinking about the divorce, she will be thinking about the plan we put in place to allow her to pay for her Children’s future…and that makes my heart swell with pride.

– Matt

Understanding your Customer: Empathy

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I was recently asked to give a brief presentation on a Empathy for clients in stressful situations. I started thinking about those situations and what comes up in the mortgage industry (see a few of my previous posts for case in point). Although I find it easy to show why and where empathy, or concern and understanding for your customer, is important in these extreme situations I had a minor revelation that I believe not only pertains to business, but to life in general.  Maybe these thoughts are the core of why I feel I understand my clients well and can relate to each and every one.

The  striking thought that washed over me in my brainstorming session:  Empathy does not start when an extreme situation occurs. It’s required at that point, but without an emotional connection beforehand, weathering the most stressful moments with ease will be nearly impossible.

Empathy begins the first moment you meet. In business and in life in general, the most meaningful connections are built on taking the time to understand someone other than yourself, walking in their shoes, so to speak. When talking to a new client, I want to understand what their life is like, what their values are, what makes them happy and what they worry about.  In a sense, it’s very similar to the conversations you have when you meet a love interest. “What makes you tick?”  If you don’t take the time to get to know a client or a friend on a personal level, you can’t fully understand how a stressful situation is affecting them.  If you lack that understanding, you also lack the ability to help them weather the storm in a way that fits them.  

We all handle stress differently. In my little mortgage world, if a home purchase isn’t closing on time, everyone is immersed in this stressful event and the only way to alleviate the stress is to have the solution to completing the mortgage AND knowing how to guide the sellers and buyers through the uncertainty on an emotional level.  Sometimes, that’s trouble shooting the logistics of living situations, sometimes it’s simply reassurance that’s needed and other times it’s making the phone calls to the moving company for them. The point is, no two people are the same and because of this, what they need to work through a situation will not be the same.

Empathy begins with a conversation. It is an earnest and caring compassion.  A willingness to understand something new.  A want to connect on a personal level. In it’s boiled down essence, Empathy is the definition of my business and life philosophy. I firmly believe that this core value is the reason I get a text out of the blue from a client asking how my family is doing.

Empathy is the single most important factor in being successful and fulfilled in each of our lives. That may sound a little ‘preachy’, yet, I challenge you to look at the client or friend that brings the strongest feelings of happiness and satisfaction and tell me that you’re ability to relate and understand each other has nothing to do with that joy.

Navigating an Upside down home

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Over the last several years, many have heard about the “Obama” program or the “HARP” program.  For every person that understands the ins and outs of this program, there are 2 more that do not.

An example, once a week I get out with friends for a tennis league.  We spend some time hitting a fuzzy yellow ball, we spend some time running and we spend time complaining about not being young anymore…that may be the majority of the conversation!  In the midst of one of these conversations we ended up turning to home values and with them knowing that I am a Mortgage Broker and it quickly dawned on me that Joe was underwater on his home, or, he owed more than the home could appraise for and wanted.

Now, it had been four years since these programs came into place and I ridiculously assumed that everyone understood what they were and what they could do.  Joe loved the fact that we could lower his interest rate by over 2% being that he and his wife plan to live in the home for years to come.

HARP, or the Home Affordable Refinance Program, is a program that allows homeowners who have a mortgage owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae that has been open since May 31st 2009 or earlier to refinance their home into today’s rates. The link attached will give you more information on where to look to see if you may qualify.  Once we determine that portion the most important part of the equation begins.

Refinances NEED to make sense for YOUR goals.  As with Joe and his wife, I take great care to look at both the short and long term views and financial goals.  We then determine a break even point or the month and year someone would need to own their current home to offset the closing costs. This is when we have a realistic conversation about where life is headed and how the option to refinance would be utilized to help achieve those goals.  As I have mentioned before, every single person is different and because of this, no single situation will be beneficial to all.

I was happy that it made sense to refinance for Joe and his family but I would have also happily told him to keep what he has if it wasn’t in his best interest. My role is to be your advisor, a guide that can help translate the financial jargon into simple and plain english, to give you the tools and education you need to make the best decisions.

Always feel free to reach out to me for any question or further explanation.  My greatest pride is having something of value to offer.



The Independence Day Blog: Family Values


Not every one of my blogs need be about mortgage’s.  Quite frankly, you’d get as bored reading them as I would writing them.  That wouldn’t be good for anybody.

Instead, I wanted to share a story with you.  The holiday’s always get me thinking about family. Good or Bad, we all have a lot of memories tied to recurring events.  Etched into the mind year after year.  But what about those memories that, in the moment, take your breath away?

How do we hold onto them? How do we ensure they don’t fade with time when our cell phone camera isn’t in our pocket?

These tiny bursts of pure enjoyment are so fleeting and powerful all the same. My wife and I try to take a moment each night to talk about the kids…not the daily to-do list, but the single happiest moment we had with each child over the course of the day.  It helps us remember the little things that we want to carry through the years in the midst of the bedtime routine that has us wondering why we became parents at times!

Two years back, my daughter would turn four in a week, was eating her breakfast and watching her favorite show while her brother and mom slept in.  I sat down and habitually checked my email, cup of coffee in hand, when Elle scooted over, took my phone out of my hand and laid her head on my shoulder. Needless to say, we sat and watched the rest of Jake and the Neverland Pirates together.

If you have ever experienced the “horrendous three’s” you will instantly understand how powerful that moment was.  For a brief second, there was no reprimanding, setting expectations, enjoying a moment of quiet only to realize that it’s just a bit tooooo quiet.

With all the responsibilities and distractions on the to-do list of a parent, sometimes all they want is you….until they need their juice 7 minutes later.

Have a great 4th and enjoy every sane moment with your family you get 🙂



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