Dan Marchiando's Mortgage News Blog

Once again Conforming loan sizes have increased, as well as FHA and VA mortgage loans. Any loans bigger than these would generally be Jumbo loans.

The majority of mortgages originated in the U.S. for the past several years have been Conforming loans, which are loans underwritten to the standards of the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If you have a mortgage, odds are it is Conforming Fannie or Freddie loan, even though you send your monthly payment to another institution (the loan servicer). FHA and VA (veteran) loans make up the next largest group of mortgage loans. Conforming, FHA, and VA loans have some of the lowest interest rates, amongst all mortgages available.

The federal agency FHFA limits the maximum loan sizes that Fannie and Freddie can purchase, and the max can change annually based on changes in median home prices. So as home values increase, these loan limits also increase.

The new maximum regular Conforming loan limit is now $726,200. This is an increase from 2022, when it was $647,200, 2021 when it was $548,250, and more than the flat $417,000 limit we had from 2006 through 2016. There are also separate higher Conforming loan limits for duplex, triplex and fourplex residential properties.

Fannie and Freddie are also allowed to buy some larger loans in high-cost areas like California. These are referred to as High-Balance or Super-Conforming loans, and the limits for these loans vary by county, and the interest rates on these loans are usually slightly higher than on regular Conforming loans. FHA and VA loan limits for our area generally mirror the larger Super-Conforming loan limits here, and generally have the lowest interest rates.

For Santa Barbara, the new Super-Conforming, FHA, and VA limit will be $805,000,

for Ventura, $948,750,

for San Luis Obispo, $911,950,

and for Los Angeles, $1,089,300.

For loan amounts greater than these, you’d need to consider a Jumbo mortgage.

You can’t take out a Conforming mortgage directly from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or an FHA or VA mortgage directly from the FHA or VA, so why should you care about these big government-related agencies or programs? The main reasons are that these programs lead to lower interest rates and create more affordable financing options for the majority of Americans. They do this because of government mandates, and are able to do this because of their sheer size and efficiency, their superior technology, and their ability to survive big and small financial upsets like the Great Recession of 2008, and the more recent COVID pandemic.

If you have questions about your existing mortgage, are considering a new mortgage, or just have questions about your credit report, please don't hesitate to call or email me.

As always, thanks for your interest,

Dan Marchiando
 Mortgage Loan Specialist

 Office: (805) 899-1390 x105
 Cell: (805) 886-0581
Posted by Dan Marchiando on December 9th, 2022 2:10 PM

No doubt motivated by massive credit data breaches at places like Equifax, Marriott/Starwood, Anthem, Chase, Target, and Citibank--the federal government in late 2018 passed legislation to require the three big Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) to provide free Credit Freezes, and more useful Fraud Alerts. The three primary CRAs are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Previously, California law allowed each bureau to charge up to $8 each time you placed a freeze, or removed a freeze; so $24 to place freezes at each of the 3 agencies, and $24 to later remove. It seems likely that most people in the U.S. have been touched by one of the breaches mentioned above. I for example, have relationships with 5 of the 6 mentioned above.

Under the new federal legislation, now when you place a Fraud Alert, it will last for one year instead of just 90 days. It appears they can be renewed every year, and only require a suspicion that you are a victim (who isn’t?). If you can document that you have filed a report for Identity Theft with an agency like the police, then you can ask for an Extended Fraud Alert that lasts for seven years. A Fraud Alert places a warning into your credit report, that tells businesses that check your credit, that they should contact you first before opening a new account. Fraud Alerts are a less aggressive alternative to Credit Freezes, and might be a better option for many people. They are also easier, because if you place a Fraud Alert with any one of the three agencies, that CRA will send your request to the other two, so you do not have to contact all three.

A Credit Freeze restricts new creditors from accessing or pulling your credit report to open a new credit account, thus providing a measure of protection from an identity thief opening an unauthorized account in your name. The Freeze does not restrict your existing credit providers, or collection agencies acting on behalf of those credit providers, from periodically reviewing or updating your credit file.

You can now place a freeze and remove a freeze for free. You can place a Credit Freeze online, by phone, or by mail. If you place the freeze online or by phone with a CRA, it must be effective within one business day. If you request a removal, the CRA must lift within one hour. If your request is by mail, the CRA must place or lift the freeze within three business days. The downside of freezes is that they take more effort to manage, require that you deal with each CRA separately, and require that you plan ahead to un-freeze your credit file, whenever seeking to open new credit accounts.

The CRAs also all offer Credit Locks, which while similar to Freezes, are not regulated by federal law, plus some CRAs charge a monthly subscription fee to use the lock feature. The CRAs have supposedly made the Credit Locks slightly more convenient and quicker than Credit Freezes, in an attempt to make them more attractive. However, locks do not offer the same level of consumer legal protection as the federal law, because instead of having the law behind you, you have a User Agreement (a contract) with the CRA, that was written by the CRA’s attorneys to protect the CRA, and not you.

To place an alert or freeze:

Equifax: (800) 685-1111 or https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/

Experian: (888) 397-3742 or www.experian.com/fraud   or www.experian.com/freeze 

TransUnion: (888) 909-8872 or https://fraud.transunion.com/ or https://freeze.transunion.com

As always, thanks for your interest,

Dan Marchiando, your California Mortgage Broker and Loan Officer

Posted by Dan Marchiando on March 1st, 2019 7:25 PM

Mortgage rates took their biggest jump the day after the November 2016 election, and continued to rise in the days following. Rates took another small jump when the Federal Reserve, otherwise known as the “Fed”, announced their first short-term rate increase in a year, on December 14, 2016. This is a typical over-reaction to Fed short-term rate changes. After the Fed’s announcement, and after the presidential inauguration, rates declined a bit, until spiking again in March, around the same time that the Fed announced a second short-term rate increase. And once again, rates settled DOWN after the March Fed announcement, and continued to slowly slip lower until reaching a summertime low in August. Rates today are only slightly above the lows they reached in the summer.

The Fed is expected to raise their short-term rates a little again this December, but that is not expected to have any long-term effect on mortgage rates. The Fed has also been stimulating the economy for the last several years since the Recession, by working to keep interest rates low, by buying Treasury Bonds and Mortgage Backed Securities. They have announced that they are curtailing this stimulus effort, and plan to slowly sell off the securities they’ve accumulated. As long as this is done at a slow pace over the next few years, we should not see any big interest rate spikes due to this switch in policy. Inflation is the biggest threat to low mortgage rates, and the inflation rate has remained quite low, in spite of the expanding economy, the rising employment rate, and the bullish stock market. Note: The above trend chart is provided for evidence of trends only, and is not an offer of, or advertisement for, mortgage rates. The chart tracks the typical 30-year Conforming fixed rate single-family purchase loan, for someone with very good credit. Some mortgages rates like Jumbos would be higher, while some mortgages like FHA and VA might be lower.

Mortgage Checkup?
Ask me about a free mortgage checkup. If your life situation has changed recently, or you have questions about your existing mortgage, or wonder whether a 15-year mortgage is right for you, please contact me. I’m happy to review your mortgage and discuss options with you--I'm never too busy for your questions. And as always, I greatly appreciate your referral of friends and family.

Thanks for your interest,

Dan Marchiando, your California Mortgage Broker and Loan Officer

Posted by Dan Marchiando on November 27th, 2017 7:24 PM

There is a lot of conflicting information about how big a down payment needs to be—to purchase a home. Old standards, beliefs, expectations, and traditions die hard.

Down Payment Reality

While the benchmark of mortgage down payments is a twenty-percent down payment, statistics from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) show that nationwide the average purchase down payment in 2016 was just 11 percent. In California, and other states where home prices are higher, that average down payment is slightly higher, but still less than 20%. As might be expected, the average down payment for young first-time home buyers tends to be less than the average down payment for older move-up buyers.

Down Payment Beliefs

Interestingly, surveys by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Zelman & Associates show that 39 percent of “non-owners” (renters and those living with parents, etcetera) believe they need a down payment of more than 20%. Twenty-six percent of those surveyed non-owners believe they need a down payment of 15 to 20%. And 22 percent of the non-owners believe they need a down payment of 10 to 14%. That adds up to huge majority of potential buyers who believe they need a down payment that exceeds that real nationwide average down payment.

Below are some of the loan options available, that can make the purchase of a home possible with less than a 20% down payment.

No Down Payment Loans

• VA (Veteran) guaranteed loans with no down payment up to $625,500 in Santa Barbara County. Even larger Jumbo VA loans are available with a down payment. You may know more veterans than you realize; more than 13% of male Americans and more than 1% of female Americans have served in the armed forces.

• USDA guaranteed loans with no down payment, subject to geographic, income, and loan size restrictions.

3% Down Payment Loans

• Conventional Conforming loans to $424,100, with private mortgage insurance.

3½% Down Payment Loans

• FHA government-insured loans up to $636,150 (in Santa Barbara County).

5% Down Payment Loans

• Conventional Conforming loans to $625,500 (in Santa Barbara County), with private mortgage insurance.

10 to 19% Down Payment Loans

• Conventional Conforming loans to $625,500 (in Santa Barbara County), with private mortgage insurance, and Jumbo loans to $1.50 million without mortgage insurance.

If you know someone who might be in the market to buy a home now or in the future, a low down payment loan can be an option. It is a great way to get into a home and start building equity. There are some other very common ways that home buyers can get an assist towards buying a home. The biggest and most common assist comes in the form of GIFTS of cash from family members. The second most common assist involves someone acting as a co-signer on the mortgage loan with the home buyer. To a lesser dollar extent, home sellers can also provide an assist, by providing a credit to buyers, that can be used to offset some of the buyer’s purchase transaction costs. Not everyone is a good candidate for these programs, but I’m happy to work with anyone interested in exploring these financing options.

As always, thanks for your interest,

Dan Marchiando, your California Mortgage Broker and Loan Officer

Posted in:General and tagged: Mortgage Down Payments
Posted by Dan Marchiando on May 30th, 2017 6:45 PM

“Fixing” or Locking in the “Rent”
Homebuyers who buy at today’s home prices have the potential to “fix” the majority of their monthly housing costs decades into the future. Since the mortgage payment is the majority of a person’s housing expense, and the most common mortgages have fixed interest rates, a homebuyer has the potential to know this cost for the next 30 years. And because California has Proposition 13 to control property tax growth, which is typically the second biggest housing expense, buying a house can make sense in the long run, when compared to rent that creeps up year after year forever. Granted, the monthly cost of buying can be more than renting in the short run, but as rents increase owning eventually wins out.

More so than renters, homeowners have the ability to personalize the home as they want—to make it fit their personality, life-style, and needs. Some homeowners feel a sense of pride and elevated status from homeownership.

The potential for more stable housing costs, plus less hassles and fewer moving costs as homeowners can control their destiny, instead of being subject to the whims of a landlord.

Income Tax Savings
Prior to buying a home, most taxpayers use the Standard Deduction. Having mortgage interest and property taxes to itemize on a Schedule A can increase tax deductions and open the door for other Schedule A deductions, thereby reducing income taxes. Mortgage interest can also be helpful to some taxpayers subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax. Talk to a CPA for details.

Tax-free Capital Gains
Owners of a residential property that is used as a “Primary” residence have the potential to shield $250,000 to $500,000 (depending on marital status) of Capital Gains profit from taxation, upon the sale of the home. Talk to a CPA for details.

Leverage Supercharges Return
Most homeowners finance or “leverage” their home purchase, because they don’t have the resources to pay cash. And this so-called “leverage” can lead to greater return on investment than paying cash for the home. Imagine a buyer who purchases a $500,000 home with all cash that then grows in value to $750,000 in ten years. That amounts to about a 4.1% annual return on investment. The buyer who puts a 10% down payment and makes monthly payments could have an annual return on investment over 12% after ten years.

Inflation can eat away at the purchasing power of the dollar, and increase the cost for goods and services like food, gas, clothing and rent. The effect of inflation on people with savings is thus a negative. But in the case of debtors, inflation can be a positive in that the borrower is paying off a loan in the future with dollars of lesser value. So the key may be to have a balance of savings and debt.

Forced Savings
Most mortgage payments today include a portion that goes towards paying off the mortgage principal balance. So a portion of that monthly housing budget goes towards saving and building equity in a potentially valuable asset.

Retirement Planning
Homeownership can become an important part of a retirement plan. Many homeowners set a goal of paying off or paying down their mortgage by retirement, so their housing costs are reduced, so they can cope with reduced income in retirement. As a “Plan B” a home’s equity in many cases can be tapped in retirement with a Reverse Mortgage.

A home can be a major part of a wealth legacy left to heirs. In most instances today, this legacy can become a tax-free transfer of wealth from one generation to the next.

As always, thanks for your interest,

Dan Marchiando, your California Mortgage Broker and Loan Officer

Posted by Dan Marchiando on March 16th, 2015 5:56 PM

In response to the higher mortgage foreclosure rates being experienced at the start of the most recent Recession, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (currently the largest buyers of mortgages) established “Risk-Based Pricing” for Conforming loans. “Price” refers to the “Points” paid by a borrower for a particular interest rate.
Before the Recession, a Conforming loan was basically the same price for any borrower with a credit score of 660. But afterwards, Fannie and Freddie both required pricing “add-ons” using a matrix of credit score and loan-to-value percentages. This risk-based pricing is MANDATED by Fannie and Freddie, and is required of ALL lenders originating Conforming loans. So it doesn’t matter where you go to get your Conforming loan—broker, banker or online—all lenders are subject to the same pricing adjustments.

At right is an excerpt from the adjustment matrix for a typical 70-75% loan-to-value loan. As you can see, having a 739 credit score instead of a 740 credit score can add a quarter of a point onto the cost of a loan. Having a 699 score could add one and a quarter points onto the cost of a loan. On a $400,000 loan, this could amount to $1000 or $5000. On a $600,000 it could amount to $1500 or $7500.

Sometimes the interest rate can be increased to cover these add-on points without having to pay them up-front, but of course a higher interest rate just spreads the cost over the life of the loan.

Credit scores are just one factor in pricing a loan. Loan-to-value, property type, and whether the home is owner-occupied or not can also affect pricing. Consumers can’t always just call a lender and say “what’s your rate?” because of all the variables involved. Any reputable lender should be upfront  and clear that any quote given is based on an assumption of certain parameters, and some of these parameters aren’t know until a credit report is obtained, and an appraisal is done.

I am here to provide honest, straightforward advice. If I can be of any assistance to you, your friends, or your family, feel free to contact me. I will take care of you and your referrals in the same upfront fashion as I always have.

Thanks for your interest,

Dan Marchiando, your California Mortgage Broker and Loan Officer.

Posted by Dan Marchiando on November 7th, 2014 3:29 PM


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Ability-to-Repay (ATR) Rule went into effect January 2014. The rule was designed to protect consumers from getting trapped in mortgages that they cannot afford, by requiring mortgage lenders to evaluate whether borrowers can afford to pay back a mortgage before signing them up. The rule was required by Congress with passage of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, in response to the financial crisis and nationwide foreclosure epidemic. Congress was also no doubt motivated by the recession to pass Dodd-Frank—to provide some protection to the larger economy from collateral damage due to future crises in the banking  and housing industries.


The ATR rule applies to loans made on residential properties from 1-4 units, and applies regardless of whether the property is the borrower’s primary residence, vacation home, or residential investment property. Certain types of loans are exempt from the ATR rule, like some Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs), and reverse and commercial mortgages.


The Ability-to-Repay Rule puts into law conservative but common-sense practices that most lenders were already following since the financial crisis started. The mortgage lenders who survived the widespread failure of banks, long since stopped making risky and exotic Stated-Income, Easy-Documentation, Low-Documentation, and No-Documentation loans. So the Ability-to-Repay Rule has not caused a dramatic reduction in the availability of loans in 2014, because lenders were already requiring full documentation of income and assets. But the ATR will make the return of easy-documentation loans unlikely anytime soon.


Under the ATR, mortgage lenders must look at customers’ documentable income, assets, and savings, and weigh those against the borrowers’ monthly housing payments and other monthly debts. Also, lenders can no longer qualify borrowers based on teaser or introductory interest rates offered on ARM loans—and pre-payment penalties are severely restricted. The Ability-to-Repay Rule does not require lenders to offer any specific type of mortgage—lenders can offer any type of mortgage they reasonably believe a consumer can afford to repay. But lenders do have to evaluate the numbers on the borrowers’ documents, and retain documentation to back up their assessment. In practice, today’s lenders stopped making exotic  and complicated loans a few years ago. Features like Negative Amortization and 1% teaser rates—that failed lenders like Washington Mutual, Countrywide, and World used to have—are not currently being offered. And it seems unlikely those types of loans will return anytime soon.


The biggest impact of the loss of Stated-Income and Low-Documentation loans has been to self-employed borrowers who have a lot of write-offs that reduce their taxable income. Some self-employed borrowers may be forced to claim fewer tax deductible expenses in the future, which will require them to pay more taxes, just so they can qualify for loans.


If you have any questions about loan documentation, please don't hesitate to give me a call or shoot me an email—I'm happy to help and I'm never too busy for your questions. And as always,  I greatly appreciate your referral of friends and family.


Thanks for your interest,


Dan Marchiando, your California Mortgage Broker and Loan Officer. 

Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Marchiando on June 27th, 2014 5:09 PM


There has been a fair amount of change and new legislation over the past 6 years affecting the appraisal process for residential properties. Some have had a noticeable impact on borrowers, and some are fairly benign or insignificant.


The biggest changes that have occurred, have happened in the process that is used to order residential appraisal reports. Prior to the real estate and mortgage melt down, loan officers usually ordered their client’s appraisals directly from their local and trusted appraisers. However, a few large banks outsourced the ordering to middlemen called Appraisal Management Companies (AMC).  In New York in 2008, the N.Y. Attorney General sued an appraisal management company (AMC) used by the now defunct lender Washington Mutual, for manipulating and potentially inflating appraisal values. This legal action ended up affecting the whole appraisal process over the entire U.S.   Shortly thereafter in 2009, a joint set of rules called the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) were temporarily put into place by the huge mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in conjunction with their government regulator, the FHFA. With these new rules, lenders were required to use a middleman AMC to order their appraisals, in spite of the fact that an AMC was implicated in the New York scandal (I know, it sounds fishy to me too). The HVCC drove business to appraisal management companies, which were designed to be independent third parties, uninfluenced by mortgage lenders. The majority of the loans being originated then, and now in 2014, were being underwritten to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines, so they could be sold off to the mortgage giants. Therefore, mortgage lenders (banks and mortgage banks) started requiring everyone to place all their appraisal orders with an approved AMC, who then contracts with an appraiser to perform the work on behalf of the lender and borrower, adding a layer of cost to the borrower. All of this is due to a few “bad apples” in a state far from California, and involving a lender no longer in existence. Around the same time in 2009 the Federal Reserve used its powers to enact temporary Appraisal Independence Rules with similar requirements. In 2010 the HVCC was refined into a new set of similar rules called Appraiser Independence Requirements (AIR). And later still in 2010, with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Reform Act, the Appraisal Independence Rules were made into more permanent U.S. law, with some minor tweaks. The latest rules no longer require the use of an AMC if the independence rules are followed properly, but lenders have universally stuck with using AMCs for their own convenience. And many lenders have also invested in or created financial partnerships with AMCs that they are now probably reluctant to give up. They do have to disclose these financial relationships to borrowers when loans are made, but borrowers have no ability to choose the AMC or appraiser that does the appraisal.


As I said above, this recent switch to the use of Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs) has added a layer of cost onto borrower's appraisal costs. Initially AMCs tried to hold the line on the cost to borrowers by just cutting the amount of the appraisal fee that went to the appraiser. This caused many experienced and veteran appraisers to push back. And many newer, less-experienced, and out-of-town appraisers filled the void, and for a while appraisal quality seemed to decline. And of course home values had also plunged as a result of the Recession, so there were certainly a lot of people unhappy about appraisals during this time period. The industry seems to have adjusted somewhat to the changes, and now appraisal fees have increased, appraisers are getting a little more for their work, and appraisal quality seems to have improved.


Another more minor change brought about by the Dodd-Frank Reform Act was a requirement that borrowers be given a copy of their appraisal, either electronically or on paper, at least 3 days prior to the closing of their loan. Previously existing law only required that borrowers be notified that they had a legal right to request a copy (in writing) of their appraisal. The idea behind this newer rule, was that it would give the borrower a little time to dispute the quality or value of the appraisal. Where our brokerage practice is concerned, this law provides no real extra protection, because we have always provided a copy of the appraisal to our clients immediately after it becomes available, without the client having to request a copy in writing. And we always review the appraisal for accuracy and discuss the appraisal with our clients, and advocate for our clients to challenge the results of the appraisal if necessary,.


If you have any questions about current appraisal rules, please don't hesitate to give me a call or shoot me an email--I'm happy to help and I'm never too busy for your questions. And as always,  I greatly appreciate your referral of friends and family.


Thanks for your interest,

Dan Marchiando, your California Mortgage Broker and Loan Officer.

Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Marchiando on May 14th, 2014 4:16 PM

Federal Reserve rules went into effect in late 2009 and were made final in 2011, to help homeowners keep track of who owns their mortgage loan, and who to contact if they have loan servicing issues. This issue can be very confusing to borrowers, because borrowers often assume that the company that collects their monthly mortgage payment (the loan Servicer), is also the owner of their mortgage (the loan Investor). But in reality these two roles are usually split early in the life of the loan. Generally speaking, banks and mortgage bankers originate loans to borrowers, often through mortgage brokers like Paragon Mortgage. Their business model is creating new loans--not holding loans as an investment for 30 years. They will oftentimes sell the loan to an investor like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, often before the first mortgage payment is due. If the bank or mortgage banker is big enough to have an efficient and cost-effective loan servicing department (to collect the monthly payments and send monthly statements), then the bank will keep the responsibility to service the loan, but sell the loan to an investor. If not, then they will sell the loan to an investor, and sell the servicing right/responsibility to a company that specializes in servicing loans. In the past, this habit of selling the servicing of mortgages loans could happen all too frequently, leaving homeowners very frustrated with the constant changes. There has been considerable consolidation in the mortgage industry in the  years since the start of the Great Recession in 2008, so I think that in the future, we will hopefully see less turnover of mortgage loan servicing.


What the New Rules Require

The new rules now require the company that purchases your mortgage as an investment (the Investor), to send you a letter within 30 days telling you of their ownership, the date the transfer occurred, and contact information should you need to contact them or their agent. These new rules only apply to a borrower's principal residence and do not apply to vacation, rental, or business property loans.


What About the Loan Servicing?

 If the servicing of your loan has also been transferred, then the current loan servicer is required (by different and older rules) to send you a letter telling you who the new loan servicer will be, and their contact information. This letter is sometimes called a "goodbye" letter. The new loan servicer is also required to send you a letter confirming that they have now acquired the responsibility to collect your mortgage payment for the loan investor. This letter is sometimes called a "hello" letter. Sometimes both of these legally-required notices are combined into a single letter addressed from both servicers. There is a 60-day grace period after the transfer: during this time you cannot be charged a late fee if you mistakenly send your mortgage payment to the old servicer.


If you have any questions after reading this, please don't hesitate to give me a call or shoot me an email--I'm happy to help and I'm never too busy for your questions. And as always,  I greatly appreciate your referral of friends and family.



Thanks for your interest,

Dan Marchiando, a California mortgage broker and loan officer.


Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Marchiando on March 19th, 2014 6:58 PM

January 21, 2014 Newsletter message.

A lot has been happening in the mortgage industry over the past few years, as a result of the Recession that started in 2007, and I thought it would be useful to you to have an update on a few of the more important issues, over the next few months.


What's happening with loan amounts?

Conforming loans were reconfirmed for most of 2014, at the 2013 limit of $417,000. High-Balance (aka Super-Conforming) loans in Santa Barbara County were reconfirmed for most of 2014 at the 2013 loan limit of $625,500. The High-Balance limits for San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties are also unchanged for 2014, at $561,200 and $598,000. The Conforming and High-Balance programs are important because they make up the majority of home loans being made since the start of the Recession, and they are also the least-expensive loans for home borrowers.


A federal agency called the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) -- on an annual basis -- determines the maximum-size loans for these two loan programs. The FHFA is supposed to determine these maximum loan sizes based on a complicated formula that involves statistical home sale prices, however they are not apparently mandated to use the formula. In the summer of 2013, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that home prices are lower than before, the agency was considering lowering the max loan amounts for Conforming and High-Balance loans. Fortunately, because of lobbying from members of Congress and several industry and consumer groups, these maximum loan limits were continued at their 2013 amounts, so as to not limit access to these important and less-expensive mortgage loans.


Jumbo loans will continue, to be any loan bigger than a county's High-Balance loan limit, which would be anything greater than $625,500 for Santa Barbara County.


The Veteran or VA loan maximum, for their 100% financing loans, actually increased for Santa Barbara County, from 2013's $593,750 to 2014's $643,750. With a down payment, VA loans can go as high as $1 Million.


Where are purchase loan interest rates these days?

Conforming (maximum $417,000)      4.375%, APR 4.410%

High-Balance (Super-Conforming)     4.500%, APR 4.525%

Jumbo                                                 4.875%, APR 4.899%

(effective Friday 1/17/2014)


If you have any questions about any of this, give me a call or shoot me an email--I'm happy to help and I'm never too busy for your questions. And as always,  I greatly appreciate your referral of friends and family.

Thanks for your interest,
Dan Marchiando

Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Marchiando on February 19th, 2014 6:16 PM

I frequently see articles and websites talking about the different types of credit scores available, and these articles usually say something like "...90 percent of mortgage lenders use the FICO score...". I've been in the mortgage business for about as long as FICO scores have been around, and I can say with some confidence that FICO scores are the only scores used by all conventional and government home mortgage lenders, for first mortgage loans. The majority of these first loans being originated today are sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and these institutions only use the FICO credit score. Lenders obtain a FICO score from each of the three credit aggregating agencies or bureaus--Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The credit data and scores from each of the three bureaus are combined in a single commercial report called a "Tri-merge" credit report. These exact/same commercial reports are not available directly to consumers.

Other credit scores that you might be sold as a consumer are almost never FICO scores, and most often do not use the same numbering scale that FICO uses. So it can be somewhat like having someone telling you the temperature in Celsius, when all you can relate to is Fahrenheit.

TransUnion and its subsidiary TrueCredit sell consumers the VantageScore. Experian and their subsidiary Experian Direct sell the PLUS score to consumers. And Equifax mostly sells their proprietary "Equifax Credit Score". These alternative scores are sometimes referred to as "educational scores". Many of the websites that you can visit for scores will not disclose to you that the scores they sell are not the same scores that are used by mortgage lenders. The few that do, bury this disclosure in fine print that you really have to search for.

The only place where you can reliably purchase the FICO score as a consumer is through MyFICO. But the cost is fairly high ($19.95 for each of three different scores), so I don't recommend that consumers purchase their FICO scores unless they have a really compelling reason to do so. I do however recommend that consumers access their free credit reports through the website AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the legitimate site that the government required the three credit bureaus to create for the benefit of consumers in 2004. Because these free reports are available to consumers, I also don't generally recommend the various (and expensive) credit monitoring services.

If you have any questions about any of this, give me a call or shoot me an email--I'm happy to help and I'm never too busy for your questions. And as always, I greatly appreciate your referral of friends and family.

Thanks for your interest,

Dan Marchiando

Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Marchiando on November 12th, 2013 4:35 PM

A question that I often hear from people about mortgage loans, is whether someone can take over the payments on another person’s mortgage, especially when a property is inherited from a parent. Generally speaking, most residential mortgage loans have what is called a “Due-on-Sale Clause”, which prevents just anyone from taking over payments on another person’s mortgage loan when the property is sold or otherwise transferred to another person. This part of the mortgage contract allows the lender of the money to immediately demand payment of the whole mortgage principal and interest balance. Being in breach of the Due-on-Sale Clause allows the lender to use the foreclosure process to enforce the immediate repayment of the mortgage loan.

However, in 1982, the Garn-St. Germain Act was passed, and later codified into U.S. Code Title 12 – Banks and Banking; Chapter 13 – National Housing; § (Section) 1701j–3. Preemption of due-on-sale prohibitions.

This federal law created very specific and consumer-friendly legal exemptions to the typical “Due-on-Sale Clauses” that lenders put into mortgage loan contracts. These exemptions ONLY apply to residential properties, which are comprised of one to four units. The property needs to be residential, but it does not need to be occupied by the giver or the receiver as their primary residence. There are 9 exemptions, and the most important ones of interest to the average homeowner would be these:

. . . lender may not exercise its option pursuant to a due-on-sale clause  upon—

(5) a transfer to a relative resulting from the death of a borrower;

(6) a transfer where the spouse or children of the borrower become an owner of the property;

(7) a transfer resulting from a decree of a dissolution of marriage, legal separation agreement, or from an incidental property settlement agreement, by which the spouse of the borrower becomes an owner of the property;

(8) a transfer into an inter vivos trust (“living trust”) in which the borrower is and remains a beneficiary and which does not relate to a transfer of rights of occupancy in the property;

Acquiring a property through inheritance, family transfer, or divorce, while using the protections of this law, does not mean that the person is formally “assuming” the obligations of the mortgage. However, the person acquiring the property would most likely be financially motivated to continue making the mortgage payments so as to not lose the property through foreclosure, due to payment default.

This matter is fairly complicated, and there are a large number of variables to be considered. This article and the information contained herein is provided for informational purposes and is not legal advice. Readers should not act upon any information contained in this information without first seeking the assistance of legal counsel who will apply the applicable law to your specific circumstances.

Thanks for your interest.


Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Marchiando on October 9th, 2013 7:34 PM
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post about matters affecting homeowners. I was happy to hear from many of you who read my last blog post about pulling credit on AnnualCreditReport.com. If you missed reading it, you can still see the information on my website here. If you don't want to read the whole thing, you can get a quick video synopsis by viewing this video produced by the FTC here

FTC Time to Check Your Credit Report

So hopefully you pulled your credit last month using AnnualCreditReport.com, and probably you have some questions. Give me a call or shoot me an email--I'm happy to help.
There are a couple of common misconceptions about credit reports and scores, that seem to have a life of their own. One is that pulling your credit will somehow lower your credit scores. This is not true if you, the consumer, pull your own credit report. This is only true if a lender or bank pulls your report. The effects of one or two inquiries by lenders is pretty minimal, and multiple inquires very close together--as happens when you shop for a mortgage--are only counted as a single inquiry. You can see in the following chart, that inquiries are one of the least important of 5 different components of credit scores. So no excuses--check your credit.
The second misconceptions I hear about over and over is that it is possible to have too much available credit, or too many credit cards with big credit limits. This is also not generally true. What the scoring model looks at is utilization of the available credit, and outstanding balances. Here's an example of utilization: I have a Visa or Mastercard with a credit limit of $10,000, and I regularly charge about $1,000 on my card every month, paying off the full balance each month. My utilization in this case is 10% ($1,000 divided by my $10,000 credit limit). From observation of many credit reports and scores, I believe that the best scores can be achieved with utilization in the range of 7% to about 35%, and balances in the range of $600 to $2,500.
Fair Isaac is generally guarded about the makeup of their FICO scoring model, but they have stated that these 5 categories--listed in order of importance--make up our FICO scores. You can also see that these 5 categories carry different weights, with Payment Habit being the most important, and carrying the most weight.

How a FICO Score breaks down

1. Payment History or Habit - 35%
The largest factor in a credit score is payment habit. Credit blemishes pull down scores based on four metrics: Recency, Size, Severity, and Number. Recent late payments, large late payments, very late payments, and lots of late payments do the most damage to credit scores.
2. Balances or Amounts Owed - 30%
Large balances owed, lots of accounts with balances, and high utilization of credit affects 30% of a credit score.
3. Length of Credit History - 15%
A longer credit history of on-time payments will increase scores. The average age of active accounts, and the age of the oldest and newest accounts are all factors, so resist the temptation to close your oldest accounts, or open un-needed new accounts.
4. Types of Credit Used - 10%
While not a key factor, this category rewards borrowers who have a history of using a mix of different types of credit, like credit cards (called revolving), installment loans (like car loans), and mortgages.
5. New Credit - 10%
Also not a key factor, this category considers the recency and number of new accounts and the recency and number of credit inquiries by credit granters like banks and mortgage companies.
You can read more about this subject at MyFICO.com.
Thanks for your interest.


Dan Marchiando

Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Marchiando on April 5th, 2013 1:03 PM
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As I was considering potential New Year resolutions recently, I remembered that I needed to pull my personal credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the truly free site that was required by federal legislation in 2003, and became accessible in California December 1, 2004 (The  Federal Trade Commission FTC.gov serves as regulator for this site). You can see by this date that these free annual reports have been around for over 8 years, and yet in spite of that fact, statistics show that very few people are taking advantage of this free service to monitor and protect their credit information. A December 2012 report by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) “… estimates that as many as 44 million consumers obtained copies of their consumer (credit) file disclosure(s) annually in 2010 and 2011 – either as a result of obtaining free annual file disclosures through annualcreditreport.com (15.9 million), (or) through one of many various credit monitoring services (26 million)…” To give this some perspective, the reader should know that there are currently about 238 million adults in the U.S. And the CFPB report states that each of the three big credit bureaus or agencies—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian— has over 200 million separate credit files, which means that approximately 84% of the adult U.S. population has a credit file that can be checked. But on an annual basis, only about 18% of the adult population is viewing their credit information, and only about 7% are doing so using the free service at AnnualCreditReport.com. In fact, these CFPB statistics show that more people have accessed their credit reports from paid credit monitoring services, than they have from the free AnnualCreditReport.com service.

Because I am always promoting the free service available at AnnualCreditReport.com I was surprised to find that even I’m really not that good about remembering to pull one of my three free credit reports every 4 months. But I have an easy solution now, that you can employ too, that involves your smart phone and/or a calendar program like the Google or Outlook calendar. I just set a recurring annual event/appointment with a reminder alarm—in February—to pull my credit report from Equifax, on AnnualCreditReport.com. And then I created a recurring annual reminder in June for TransUnion, and another one in October for Experian.

Why is it important to check your credit regularly? I can think of two good reasons. One, a significant percentage of credit users are subject to various forms of identity theft every year, and secondly, because statistics show that a significant number of individual credit files have errors—some serious, and some more benign. By checking your credit on a rotating basis every 4 months, you can do a pretty good job of monitoring your credit file, for no dollar cost, and a small investment in time. Once you’ve done it a few times you will likely find that it goes pretty quickly. And by checking your credit online in this fashion, you can also more easily dispute errors in your file electronically, rather than through the mail. Like maintaining a house or a car, it is usually advisable to do regular maintenance , before problems turn into even bigger problems, and cost more to fix.

To help you in getting started using AnnualCreditReport.com, I’m providing a link here to the official site, and a short illustrated PDF tutorial, "Annual Credit Report Website Instructions", on pulling your credit at one of the three bureaus. Be aware that there are a large number of imposter sites and sites with similar names that try to hook people using search engines, so watch your typing fingers, and a be sure to bookmark the official site for next time.

Thanks for your interest.


Dan Marchiando

Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Marchiando on February 22nd, 2013 2:08 PM

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM) Improvement Continues

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are continuing to improve, and the offered interest rates are now attractive again. Actually, some of these ARM loans never really went away. When lenders and investors don’t want to make ARM loans, they don’t take them off the menu so-to-speak, they just price them unattractively compared to their 30-year fixed-rate loans.

So what has changed?

1) The interest rate savings, between ARM loans and traditional 30-year fixed rate loans has increased most recently, making ARM loans worth considering , depending on the personal circumstances of the borrower. So a 30-year fixed-rate loan might have an interest rate of say 4.50%, while a 7-year ARM loan might be available for under 3%; enough of a difference to make an ARM worth looking at.

2) All the more exotic, confusing and complex ARM loans, like negative-amortizing “Option ARMs”, “PayOption ARMs”, “Pick-a-Pay”, NegAm, “Flex-Pay”, plus all the short-fused subprime ARMs are now gone from the market, as the lenders (i.e. WAMU, World, and Countrywide) who marketed them have all disappeared.

3) Almost all the currently available ARM loans are based on a single interest rate index, namely the one-year LIBOR index. Indexes like COFI, COSI, CODI, CMT, 1-Year Treasury, T-Bill, and MTA have all but disappeared from use. While there are still legions of existing ARM loans in place that are based on these rate indexes, new ARM loans based on these indexes are not being offered. Home Equity Lines of Credit(HELOCs) continue to be offered based on the Prime Rate index.

4) The “interest-only” feature for ARM loans is less commonly seen, but is still available. In past decades, as ARM loans evolved, the interest-only feature ended up being included with most ARM loans, and the interest rate on Interest-Only ARMs were often the same as for loans without the interest-only feature. Today most lenders price their Interest-Only ARM loans with slightly higher interest rates than they do their regular or fully-amortizing ARMs. This slightly higher interest rate takes away some of the lower payment advantage that the interest-only payment has over the fully-amortizing, principal and interest payment of the more plain-Jane ARM loan.

5) As recently as about 2008 or 2009, lenders were qualifying borrowers—or determining their ability to repay loans—based on the lower monthly interest-only payment. To put this in perspective, a $400,000 7/1 interest-only ARM at 4% would have a monthly payment of $1,333. But a fully-amortizing loan at the same 4% interest rate would have an initial monthly payment of $1910. So when crunching the debt-to-income ratio of a borrower, they would use the lower initial interest-only payment to qualify. On interest-only loans in 2011, lenders are using the higher fully-amortizing monthly payment to compute debt ratios and qualify borrowers, even though the loan allows the borrower to pay less for the first few years of the loan. The affect is that interest-only loans no longer make it easier to qualify borrowers for larger loan amounts.

Thanks for your interest,

Dan Marchiando

Posted in:General
Posted by Dan Marchiando on June 20th, 2011 1:16 PM
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