Bloggity Blog

Fresh, Fun & Financial. What could be better?
Browsing Mortgage Services

Explor-a-Mortgage, Part 2  by Jan


As you may or may not know, I’ve been exploring refinancing my home on and off for a couple of months.

My latest meeting was with Larry, and we worked the numbers (OK, Larry worked the numbers…) and I came to the conclusion that, even though the interest rate was a smidge lower, the $250 toward closing offer wasn’t enough of a savings for me to refinance, nor did it make sense to enter a 15-year refi agreement, what with the closing costs and all. But… I thought maybe the special 10 and Done offer might be worth it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the info I needed with me. (Derp.)

So, I finally got my schtuff together and met with Tom Wehmeyer, another one of our crack mortgage specialists. I brought in my most recent mortgage statement to see if the 10 and Done refi offer would be a good fit for me. We uncovered a few surprises, and I gotta say, I learned a lot!

Basically, Tom walked me through how refinancing would change things financially for my family. (I asked him to walk really slow, like we were idly strolling, looking in shop windows. And I warned him we might have to circle the same block a few times.)

When my husband refinanced our home in 2012, I thought we had set up payments so that the 20-year mortgage would be paid at an accelerated 15-year rate. But no. We had refinanced for 20 years, and we were making payments that would pay off our mortgage in, you guessed it, 20 years. So we had 16 years of payments left instead of 11 years.

And this misconception affected everything.

In order for us to take advantage of the 10 and Done refinancing offer, we would have to condense that 16 years into 10, which would increase our mortgage payments by $255 each month. A-a-a-and, that amount doesn’t include taxes and insurance. We also would have to set aside money to pay that out of pocket when the due dates came around. (No more of this handy escrow stuff to make sure the money was available.)

Basically, yes, said Tom, you would save some money. Over the 10-year run, we would save about $3,200 in interest. But you’d have to be comfortable with increased monthly payments. Is that “worth ‘feeling the squeeze’ every month?” as Tom put it.

Whew! An extra $255 a month? Not gonna happen. But on the bright side, Tom did lay out another option for me.

If I did want to pay it off faster, we could simply start paying more on a monthly basis. The beauty of this option is that we’re not committed to the higher payment, so if other expenses got in the way that month, we could simply pay our regular amount.

I have to say, Tom was awesome. Not only did he stroll through the numbers and terms slowly enough for me to keep up, he was willing keep circling back until I thoroughly understood what he was saying. All the while, never making me feel like I was the dullest knife in the drawer. Patient, he was. Knowledgeable, he was. Condescending, he was not.

I asked him if our conversation was typical of refinancing meetings. Oh, absolutely, he said. You get involved with each person a bit before narrowing it down to what’s best for them.

I love that about Linn Area Credit Union. Even though I spent a few hours exploring various options, and ultimately decided not to refinance, not a single person acted like I was wasting their time. They were truly looking out for my family’s best interests, not pressuring me to sign something that I would regret.

Maybe in five more years, we could take another look at refinancing. Until then, I’ll just keep my eyes open for other ways to save.

Explor-a-Mortgage, Part 1  by Jan


When was the last time you refinanced your home? Were interest rates lower or higher? If you don’t know, then you should take a look at your mortgage paperwork. It might be totally worth your while!

My interest (pun intended!) in this is very personal. My husband and I refinanced about four years ago, and I had little to do with it. I was going through a very difficult time trying to help manage my parents’ health, so my husband took care of the whole shebang. It was all I could do to show up and sign the papers. Even that stressed me out.

Flash forward to April 2016. Hey, hey! I now work for Linn Area Credit Union, and I’m around money-smart people all day long! So I got this crazy idea that maybe we should look at refinancing again (re-refinancing?), and maybe even rolling our HELOC in with it and doing other crazy-fancy financial stuff. This time I was prepared to take the lead, instead of my husband.

So I had a little sit-down with Larry, one of our top mortgage specialists. Totally cool guy. Brews his own beer, knows oodles about mortgages, and has an awesome sense of humor. (As I like to say, he’s hi-Larry-ous!)

Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t going to work out exactly as I imagined. We couldn’t roll the HELOC into the mortgage because of a little thing called the loan-to-value ratio, aka LTV. Basically, with both the HELOC and the mortgage together, the loan would be higher than 80% of the home’s value. (I didn’t know that was a thing, but, yes, Larry knew it was a thing.)

Larry gave me something else to think about, too. We’ve only got about 12 years left to pay on our home, and when you bundle the closing costs into the mortgage, you raise the amount you owe. In our case, even though we could refinance at a much lower interest rate, in the short term, the savings would be offset by the closing costs.

So the savings would be a wash, unless we commit to this house for the next 10 years. Even though my husband and I have no plans to move, I’m not willing to predict what the next 10 years will bring. Which brought me to a standstill.

Of course, that was in April… flash forward to July!

Right now, Linn Area has a couple of really great special offers that might tip the scales toward refinancing. Because of my earlier chat with Larry, I’m guessing the promotion that offers $250 toward closing costs might not be for me. (It could be perfect for you, though… everyone’s situation is different. Linn Area mortgage specialists will help you figure out what’ll work best!)

Personally, I’m intrigued by the 10 and Done special offer, since I would only have to pay $100 in closing costs. I’ll have to make another appointment with Larry, or one of our other mortgage specialists if he’s not available. (They’re all super-sharp and fun to work with, even if they don’t all homebrew.)

And even though my HELOC-bundling idea didn’t pan out, I really feel like there IS a way for our family to refinance and save some money, especially with the current mortgage offers. If so, I know the Linn Area mortgage team will help me find it!

First step to buying a home!  by Tara


Buying a house is a big deal. Big. Huuuuuuge. (Pretty Woman reference, anyone, anyone??) One of the most important steps is getting preapproved. Why? Because the last thing you want to do is go falling in love with a house that you absolutely can’t afford.

Like, I think this house is gorgeous (pool boy is included, right?), but my bank account disagrees:

beautiful backyard with pooloutside of modern mansion

To make sure you’ve got your head in the game and your eye on the right price range, the smartest thing you can do is work with a mortgage officer before you even start daydreaming on the internet. Don’t deny that you’ve been doing it, buddy! Nope, you don’t even have to have a realtor at this point. (We can help you find one if you’re not sure where to start, too!)

So it’s kind of like one of those choose your own ending books of yester-year. You have several options on ways to get preapproved:

  1. Give us a call at 378-0101 ext. 3. Many times we can tell you over he phone in just 10 minutes what you will be preapproved for!
  2. Throw on your PJs and apply online at – fill out as much of the app as you can. A mortgage loan officer will get back to your toute suite!
  3. You can stop into our Blairsferry, Marion or Edgewood Road offices and we can help you get started, face-to-beautiful-face.

Information you’ll want to have available at the time of preapproval (for you AND a co-borrower, if one will be involved): social security number, contact info, employment info, and best estimates of your income and assets.

Taaahhhhhh DAHHH! You’re preapproved! I knew you had it in ya!

Now its time to get out there are find your new home!

Tara’s Refinance Story  by Tara


“Rates are at a historic low! Now is the time to refinance!”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you’ve heard this at least a dozen times. When my husband and I became homeowners in 2008, we locked into a rate that our loan officer was ecstatic about because it was “so low!” As the years passed, the rates got lower and lower. Just like you, I kept hearing, “The rates are lower than we’ve ever seen! NOW is the time to refinance!”

The idea of refinancing kind of scared me. It sounded almost as fun as going to the dentist or listening to an album featuring nails on a chalkboard. My husband and I had avoided it like the plague until September of this year. Rumor was if your APR was 4.00% or higher, you absolutely needed to look into refinancing. People seemed to be saving a ridiculous amount of money – and, since our APR was higher than 4.00%, I thought it was worth a shot.

What’s really cool about our mortgage department is that they can tell you pretty quickly (either in person or over the phone) whether or not you’d save money by refinancing. My husband and I sat down with one of our helpful mortgage loan officers who ran through several scenarios (15 year, 30 year, various other combos). The loan officer seemed to be almost as excited as we were about the difference refinancing would ultimately make in the life of our loan.

Many people find that they can reduce the amount of money they would have to pay each month. We decided to keep our payments the same and, instead, shorten the life of our loan. Thanks to our refinance, we will have our house paid off 8 to 10 years faster than if we had ignored all the yammering about historically low rates. Yes, we did have to bring a little money to the table

Curious about the process? Let me give you the nutshell version:

We met with a loan officer and locked into a new, much lower rate at the end of September. My husband and I had to provide some paperwork, such as our most recent pay stubs, most recent mortgage statement, and our most recent bank statements. (DON’T WORRY! These things are super easy to get your hands on, thanks to online access to accounts! You just need to print stuff off instead of digging through the piles of paperwork you have stored away.)

Linn Area Credit Union selected an appraiser, who then contacted me for an appointment. This was the part I was most nervous about, but it was super easy. You don’t have to clean to closets out, TRUST ME! The appraiser is looking at the overall big picture, not the dust bunnies. Not that I have any of those… Anyway, he had performed the appraisal and returned all of the documents within 3 weeks of us locking into our rate!

Now here’s the part where you get to kick back and relax while Linn Area Credit Union takes care of the rest behind the scenes. What kinds of things are they doing? I’ll sum it up in one word: PAPERWORK. Bleck. So glad we didn’t have to deal with any of that jazz! Occasionally, they’ll need a little more info from you if requested by the underwriters (dun dun dunnnn). We had to resubmit our latest mortgage statement. *shrug* Whatever, no biggie. The next time I had to do anything for our refi was when I was asked what a good time of day would be for our closing. I’m serious! It was THAT easy. Heck, I spent more time signing documents at closing than I did on the rest of the process combined!

Our entire refi process took about 45 days, but they can take up to 60.

So if you’ve been dragging your feet thinking that refinancing was going to be too big of a pain in the tuckus, please at least call one of our loan officers at (319) 378-0101 ex.3 to see if you’re missing a HUGE opportunity! You can also check out rates, find out about our loan officers or apply online at

WE WANT TO KNOW: Have you refinanced? How much did you save??

Tips for Buying Your First Home  by Matt


Buying a home can be a very intimidating process for the experienced homeowner, so it’s only reasonable to say that for a first-time buyer it can be downright terrifying! 

It’s easy to get swallowed up by the terms and requirements of the mortgage world, things like escrows and rate locks, wondering why anyone would want to look at your college transcripts, being bamboozled by being told you don’t have enough debt (yes, there is such a thing) and all kinds of “little” details you would never even think of!

 I’ve gotten together with some of our most experienced mortgage originators (combined, these two have over 60 years in the biz!) to get some of their top tips for purchasing your first home!

Mr. Larry Potter (no relation to the wizard), the Director of Mortgage Lending at LACU, believes that planning and preparing is the key.  Start by speaking with a loan officer first to get pre-approved and go over the process to see what it will be like from start to finish.  They are able to estimate what it will actually cost you to purchase a home and what your eventual payment will be like.  Trust me, it adds up quick and you don’t want to be caught off guard when you find your perfect first home and realize it will be a $1,500/month payment!

Tom Wehmeyer is the Mortgage Loan Manager, and he truly is an expert at getting home loans approved!  If there’s a product or situation out there, odds are he’s dealt with it!  The man has more sayings (we call them Tom-isms) than you can count, but he is as wise as they come.  He’s a by-the-books kind of guy and can help you decide what is best for you by presenting the options.  He suggests a detailed conversation with a loan officer to discuss the details we will need to obtain and document to get you approved for a loan.  People are often surprised at the documentation they need to provide, things such as tax returns, utility bills, statements from landlords of your past 12 months payment history, etc.  Often times there are issues that can be easily cleared up, but there has to be knowledge that they are issues first and we can help identify what they might be!

His biggest recommendation is to determine your “threshold for pain”.  Don’t let a realtor or even a lender tell you what you can afford.  What you make in a month (gross income) divided by the debts reporting on your credit report (called a debt ratio) generally needs to be under 41% including the proposed payment on the new home.  The problem people run into is that they don’t consider that this ratio doesn’t account for vehicle insurance, groceries, entertainment expenses, car repairs, daycare costs or any of those “unpredictables”.  Your being comfortable with your payment is key, not just what the numbers say you should be able to afford.  We want to help you realize your dream and still be happy with your choice two, six or sixty months down the road.

So, if you’re thinking about a new home, now or in the future, give us a call, stop in or visit our website to set up an appointment with one of our very qualified loan officers first! Heck, you can even apply online! We’re here for you to help make that American Dream come true.

Free Money for First Time Home Buyers!  by Tara


Ready to buy your first home? Listen up. Let’s speak mono a mono. Buying your first home can feel completely overwhelming, especially when you start crunching the numbers. We feel like it’s really important to work with people you trust and who will give you reliable advice (like us!). Know what else is helpful? A little extra cash.

Linn Area Credit Union is one of only a handful of financial institutions in Iowa that was approved to give out $50,000 worth of grants to First Time Home Buyers.  We’re able to do this $1,000 at a time. (A $1,000? Not too shabby!)

Let’s see if you fit the criteria:

  • You have not owned a home in the last 3 years
  • Your income does not exceed $54,720 for 1-2 person family or $62,925 for 3+ family household (income limits for properties in Linn County; other counties may vary)
  • Property being purchased must typically be within a town with a population of at least 25,000
  • Purchase price must not exceed $243,000

Not sure if you qualify? No worries! Just give us a call at 378-0101 x3 and one of our friendly loan officers will help you out!

There are only 50 grants available – but only through the end of the year – so hurry!

Want to learn more about our mortgage services? Click here to check out our rates, here to meet our helpful loan officers, here for our really cool mortgage calculators or here to apply for your loan online!

You might be austere and not even know it!  by Matt


What do the words austerity, bailout, blog, woot, and truthiness all have in common?  Stumped?  No, I’ll wait, it’s okay. 

Still no answer?  Well, as amusing as it is to puzzle you all, I suppose I will make it easy for you.  All of these words have appeared as the number 1 most searched word list in the last ten years.  The Top Ten Words of the Year list is published by Merriam-Webster (they make dictionaries!) at the end of each year, showcasing the most searched words that can be linked to current events. 

This year, the chart topper was austerity.  Now when I saw this, I did exactly what many thousands of others have done this year: I looked it up!  Here is what I found… 

The quality or state of being austere.   

Now that explains it all, doesn’t it?  Further down I go, looking for something that makes sense and I find… 

Enforced or extreme economy.   

Oh, okay, that seems a bit more reasonable.  The search for this word peaked right around the announcement of the economic collapse in Greece and continued to pop up whenever there was news regarding newly impacted countries in Europe.  

Austerity is not just applied to a global economy or even a national economy, but a “personal economy” as well.  Everyone has taken steps to “trim the fat” out of their lifestyles to try to buckle down and pinch those pennies in hard times.  Myself, I decided I was eating out way too often for lunch!  Now, I find that I buy more groceries to stock my drawer here at work for lunches than I do for the cupboards at home!  I’m not sure if that’s a sign that I eat too much when I’m at work, I don’t eat enough at home, or I just spend too much time at work…but whatever it is, I’m spending less than I was before! 

As we begin a new year, many people are considering a financial overhaul to streamline their wallet/purse/satchel and cut the amount of plastic carried around.  Let me share a secret with you though, you can do sooo much more!  And now I’m going to tell you HOW! 

Interest rates are so low right now, it’s ridiculous!  Mortgage rates are creeping back up a little here and there (but are still remarkably low – take a look for yourself here) so it’s the perfect time for you to consider a refinance. Or, say, if you think that your belated Christmas gift for this year should be a new house, we would love to help you out there as well!

I’m a numbers guy, all the talk in the world won’t convince me of anything unless I have the numbers to convince me.  Right now, rates are sitting around 4.75% on a 30 year fixed loan (click here to see our latest rates!).  If you are looking at a loan of $100,000 that gives you a monthly payment of $521.65 (principal and interest).  Let’s bump that up to 5.25%, where we were a little over a year ago, and you get $552.20 per month.  Well that’s only a difference of $30.55 right?  What’s the big deal?  Here it is, take that and multiply it by the number of payments over 30 years and you’ll see what the big deal is!  

I’m sure you’ve run the math by now and are amazed to see that it’s a difference of almost $11,000 over the life of the loan.  Don’t you think you could come up with something better to do with that money?  Here are some ideas, in case you can’t:

  • An original New York Taxi Painting by Miguel Freitas (it’s on Ebay!)
  • A 2 Carat Leo Diamond engagement ring (From Jared, it’ll even make your car’s GPS love you!)
  • A full size robot model used in I, Robot (It lights up, but it will not do your laundry.  Conversely, it won’t rebel and try to take over the world either!)
  • Your own fleet of Tata Nano cars, four to be exact ($2500 a piece, imagine a smart car got caught in the closing doors of an elevator and was smushed into an even smaller car!)
  • Or you could pay off my student loan debt….just a thought!

So, while you’re doing your planning for the coming year, and think you want to take a more austere approach to life, think about all your options!  When you do, make sure to check out Linn Area’s mortgage website (click here) for some additional ideas!  If you’re like me, the calculator section is pretty enlightening.  You can do a rent vs. own comparison, look at potential tax savings, and find out the amazing benefit of paying just a little extra on your mortgage payment each month, among other things! 

Do you have any creative ways you have practiced austerity in the past or plan to practice it in 2011?  We would love to hear about them!