You are here: Benchmark Home » The Benchmark Blog

collage of happy benchmark clients and text reading "Benchmark brings you home"

The Benchmark Way – Buying A Home

With Benchmark, you’re never alone. We know that getting a mortgage can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our family is here to walk you through the process of getting you home. In next part, we will give a deeper view into the heart of our approach to long term care of our clients.

From applying for a mortgage through closing on your new home, Benchmark has your back. Welcome to,

The Benchmark Way.

The Process

Contact Your Lender

Before you get started with a mortgage, you’ll want to find your loan officergive me a call or contact me.Your Benchmark lender is a licensed mortgage professional who understands exactly what it takes to match you with the best possible loan to match your goals. It’s important to note, no loan will ever be the same.

photo of typing on a laptop keyboard

Get Pre-Approved

Getting pre-approved is the first major step towards purchasing your new home. To get pre-approved, we verify your information and documents to determine how much you are able to borrow towards your new home. This will strengthen any offer you decide to make on a home.

Get a Real Estate Agent

Having a good real estate agent can greatly enhance your home-buying experience. They can help match you to the home you may not have even known you wanted, and are your best advocate in negotiating your offer. Through our relationships, your Benchmark lender may be able to make a great referral for you.

For some tips on choosing one one your own, we have a great article for you: Find A Great Real Estate Agent The Easy Way.

photograph of front door to a home with wysteria vines and purple flowers in front of brick facade

Find Your New Home

Knowing your price range and desired location(s) will help your real estate agent with your search. Once you have your home in sight, move FAST. Contact your agent, and let your Benchmark lender know about your find!

photograph of brass well-worn pen nib

Sign The Contract

Whether the Contract is completed by your realtor or by yourself, its completion will get you one step closer to your new home. As soon as the offer is accepted and the contract is signed by all parties, please communicate your new home’s address to your lender. Then we will be able to start assembling your Loan Estimate.

Your Loan Estimate

Your Benchmark lender will send you a loan estimate. The loan estimate will give you a general overview of your loan and estimated costs.

collage with "EXCELLENCE IS OUR BENCHMARK" overlayed

The Benchmark Magic

This is where The Benchmark Way of lending wins the race. Our team of underwriters and processors will be working hard to make sure we have what we need from you to close your loan on time. So, sit back and relax… We are ordering your appraisal, getting documents from Title, and everything in between to complete your loan.

Final Approval

This is our favorite part of theprocess! Our underwriters have looked over all of the documents and have given their seal of approval. At this point, you’re almost home!

Closing Time!

The closing date will be set*, and the documents** will be ready to be signed. Get your pen ready, because we will need for you to sign on lots of lines! After everything is signed, the keys are yours. Welcome Home!

*Clear to Close: This simply means that all conditions of your loan have been met, and the loan underwriter has given the blessing to release instructions to your title company for the closing. If  you are buying a home this is your goal.
**Closing Disclosure: All lenders are required to provide your Closing Disclosure three business days before your scheduled closing. Use these days wisely! Double-check that all of the details are correct. If something looks different from what you expected, ask me why, and let’s get it sorted ASAP. NOW is the time to resolve problems. If the explanation you get isn’t enough, just keep asking questions.

collage of happy benchmark clients and text reading "Benchmark brings you home"

Most Patriotic Day in Texas Raises Money to Support Veterans

One Million Dollars Raised at Private Fundraising Events to Support Veterans

DALLAS, TEXAS – APRIL 21, 2017 – The sixth annual “Boot’n and Shoot’n” and “Boot’n and Salute’n Benefit Dinner” raised a record $1,000,000 to support military veterans.

Both events, sponsored by Benchmark Mortgage, a mortgage banker located in Plano, Texas, support the work of The Brain Treatment Foundation, Third Option Foundation, 22Kill, and the Dallas Fort Worth Fallen Officer Foundation. Kara Williams of the Brain Treatment Foundation stated, “The money raised will offer life-altering treatment programs to veterans that are otherwise unavailable through the VA. This will not only change the life of a veteran, but will also affect their families, their loved ones and the community they served. We are so honored to be a part of the most patriotic day in Texas.”

New this year was the addition of the Boot’n and Salute’n Benefit Dinner held on April 5, 2017. The dinner honored veteran heroes and their families with moving tributes and stories. The dinner also featured a stirring keynote address from retired US Army Lt. Col. Allen West and a live auction. To top off the evening, guests were treated to a private concert from Stoney LaRue. The Boot’n and Shoot’n event held on April 6, 2017, at the Dallas Gun Club featured a clay shooting competition that paired veterans and civilians for a few hours of fun followed by silent and live auctions and live music from Jon Wolf.

What started in as means to establish support for veterans and their families in the Dallas area has quickly grown into an event to honor and serve those from around the country who have given so much to so many. These events allow veterans and civilians to spend time with each other to build a community of support. Andrew Paul, Benchmark branch manager and former Navy SEAL, put it best when he said, “Honor your veterans and the fallen in how you live your life.” There is no better way to live than in serving others and offering gratitude to our service men and women.


Headquartered in Plano, Texas, Ark-La-Tex Financial Services, LLC d/b/a Benchmark Mortgage (Benchmark) is a full-service mortgage banker. The company, founded in 1999, operates retail origination branch offices nationwide. In living out Benchmark’s core values, our branch offices are committed to the communities they serve, promising thoughtful, responsive, and efficient service.

HUD Lowers Mortgage Insurance Premiums for Most FHA Loans


[UPDATE – According to Housing Wire, This reduction has been indefinitely suspended mere minutes after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America.]

The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Monday that they plan to reduce the Mortgage Insurance Premium for FHA mortgage loans. Since 2012, the Federal Housing Administration’s(FHA) Mutual Mortgage Insurance(MMI) Fund has gained $44 billion, and is now 32 basis points above the 2 percent threshold level required by Congress. This is ~$13 billion more than projected for Fiscal Year 2017 in an Actuarial Review of the MMI Fund for Fiscal Year 2012.

The FHA Pays It Forward

“After four straight years of growth and with sufficient reserves on hand to meet future claims, it’s time for FHA to pass along some modest savings to working families,” … “This is a fiscally responsible measure to price our mortgage insurance in a way that protects our insurance fund while preserving the dream of homeownership for credit-qualified borrowers.” – Julián Castro, HUD Secretary

According to the FHA, the reduction will return the Mortgage Insurance Premium nearly to levels seen before the housing bubble crisis. The FHA also predicts that ~1 million borrowers will buy or refinance with an FHA loan over the next year, most of whom will see reduced costs.

“We’ve carefully weighed the risks associated with lower premiums with our historic mission to provide safe and sustainable mortgage financing to responsible homebuyers,” … “Homeownership is the way most middle class Americans build wealth and achieve financial security for themselves and their families. This conservative reduction in our premium rates is an appropriate measure to support them on their path to the American dream.”

– Ed Golding, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for HUD’s Office of Housing.

The Takeaway

According to the FHA, annual mortgage insurance premiums will be lowered 25 basis points*, or one quarter of one percent, will come into effect on January 27th of this year. The FHA estimates that new rates could save, on average, $500 in 2017 alone for most FHA borrowers.

*For loans less than or equal to $625,500 with a maturity greater than 15 years. Please see the full report from HUD for more details of different loan scenarios and their actual MIP’s. 

Call or contact me today! Get started today. Find Your Branch here: Get Started Now!

New Homeowners

Millionaire Tells Millennials To Buy A Home

CNN recently ran an article explaining why self-made millionaire David Bach has said,

“The fact is, you aren’t really in the game of building wealth until you own some real estate.”

In his book, “The Automatic Millionaire” Bach writes,

As a renter, you can easily spend half a million dollars or more on rent over the years ($1,500 a month for 30 years comes to $540,000), and in the end wind up just where you started — owning nothing. Or you can buy a house and spend the same amount paying down a mortgage, and in the end wind up owning your own home free and clear!

We have touched on this in the past. (see Buying Still Cheaper Than RentingRenting vs Buying a Home and Accumulating Wealth, and Homeowner Average Net Worth 3,600% Higher Than Renter)

Bach has told CNBC that buying a home is “an escalator to wealth“.

“If millennials don’t buy a home, their chances of actually having any wealth in this country are little to none. The average homeowner to this day is 38 times wealthier than a renter.”

In regards to the idea of a starter home, Bach says,

“Oftentimes, buying your first home means you’re not buying your dream home. You’re just getting into the market.”

The Logic

Following David Bach’s logic is simple. We all have to live somewhere. We have to pay either rent or a mortgage. Over time, a mortgage can increase your net wealth over renting.

While buying your dream home would be nice, Bach says that the key is to just get into the market, and admits that your first home may not be your last.

The Takeaway

On average, family wealth of homeowners is dramatically higher than that of renters, and this divide has seen growth over time. David Bach, best-selling author and self-made millionaire, advises homeownership as the surest path to building wealth.

Call or contact me today! Contact your Benchmark mortgage lender today. Find Your Branch here: Get Started Now!

Department of the Treasury Building

Conforming Loan Limits Set To Increase For 2017

Department of the Treasury Building

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has announced that it is increasing the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgage loans beginning in 2017.  A mortgage loan is considered “conforming” when it is eligible to be acquired by Fannie Mae and/or Freddie Mac. (Mortgages are often sold to Fannie or Freddie so that a lender has the liquidity/money available to issue more mortgage loans for home buyers.)

The New Conforming Loan Limit

The current 2016 loan limit for single-unit properties or single family homes has remained at $417,000 for the last 10 years until recently. The FHFA has announced that the loan limit for single-family homes is increasing approximately 1.7% on January 1, 2017 from $417,000 to $424,100.

The changes were established because of The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 [pdf], which previously set the baseline loan limit at $417,000. The law also determined that after a period of housing pricing declines, the loan limit may not rise until prices return to pre-decline levels. It follows that since the FHFA is increasing the limit, it stands to reason that home pricing is back to pre-decline levels!
See also: Low Housing Inventory Driving Values Up – Benchmark (why the latest rise in home pricing is not another bubble)

FHA National Loan Limit is Up, Too

The FHA national loan limit “ceiling” will rise to $636,150, formerly set at $625,500. Additionally, the “floor” will increase to $275,665 from $271,050. The actual limit is variable by state and county. The “floor” is the lowest assigned limit, and the “ceiling” is the highest assigned limit for the nation as a whole.

The national loan limit is recalculated annually by the FHA from a percentage calculation of the national conforming loan limit. The calculated increase is positively correlated with rising home prices in high-cost markets.

What Does This Mean?

It means that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has taken notice of the trend of rising home prices. It also means that borrowers will be able to borrow more than they previously could without affecting the ability of lenders to maintain liquidity.

It’s a great time to buy!

Celebrating Our Veterans

Benchmark is thankful for all United States veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made for our country.

We asked some of our own veterans here at Benchmark to share what makes them proud to have served our great nation.

Jasper photograph

I am proud to have served in the US Navy. Volunteering four years of my life seems such a small sacrifice to protect this great country we live in. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

-Jasper, Navy


At the time I joined, war had already been waged for 6 years. I felt I had the ability and responsibility to enlist and fight in hopes that my family, friends and future children would not have to. The experience left me with a much different outlook on our world. Nothing has ever or will ever fulfill me in the way that my time did. That’s why Benchmark is such a great fit for me. It supplies the tight knit and likeminded environment of people who come here daily to accomplish one mission.

Jerrod, Army


I wanted to do something different than the other girls. My time with the National Guard was spent helping the immediate community. You’re there at the worst of times. I loved that in those situations you get instant gratification knowing you’re making a real difference.

-Kathleen, National Guard

Adjusting to your new location graphic

5 Ways to Adjust To Your New City

Whether you are striking out to your first job after college, or moving your whole family for a job relocation; moving is hard. Here are a few helpful tips to successfully begin adjusting to your new surroundings.

Commute street view photograph

Plan Your New Commute

Think ahead, and plan the routes you’ll eventually need to follow. Knowing the quickest way to work, schools, and local centers will make you feel more confident about starting a new routine. As you map out your regular routes, make note of surroundings and landmarks. Having a general understanding of the city layout makes it seem less foreign.

neighborhood sidewalk photograph

Explore Your New Neighborhood

Discovering local places can help give you a good idea of your new neighborhood’s personality. Gainin an understanding of your community’s identity can put you in a better position to settle in. Shopping and dining locally is also a great way to integrate into your new community.

Man talking on cell phone photograph

Keep Your Relationships

Staying connected with friends from your previous city requires some effort, but it’s worth it. Long distance friendships have a way of making you feel balanced and grounded when you experience change. New relationships can take time to develop when you move to a new city, but you’ll appreciate knowing you have support from your friends.

Woman and pedestrians photograph

Remember that People are Mirrors

People tend to reflect the energy that they see and feel around them. If you don’t feel that your new city has a friendly environment, look to yourself first, and think of the way strangers see you. If you appear closed off and sullen, they’ll interact with you the same way. Making the conscious decision to be kind and warm toward everyone around you can make your new city feel that way to you, too.

Purple field flowers on front of house with lights on photograph

Understand that Adjustment Takes Time

Moving to a new city is difficult. Don’t doubt yourself if your new place or your new city doesn’t feel like home right away. Be patient as you undergo this major change, and eventually, you will feel like your new home is, well… home.

Expensive Apartments/Condos photograph

Buying Still Cheaper Than Renting

Expensive Apartments/Condos photograph

Even in light of rising home prices, Trulia‘s October 2016 “Rent vs. Buy Report” successfully argues that owning your home with a conventional 30-year fixed rate mortgage costs less than renting in major US metros, even in high priced areas like Honolulu, HI (which sees 17.4% cost reduction over renting). The highest difference was 53.2% in Miami, FL and West Palm Beach, FL.

Nationally, the average was an impressive 37.7% cost reduction.

It’s a Game of Pace

Even while home prices are appreciating nation-wide, interest rates have remained so low that the pricing increase has not approached matching rental inflation. In fact,

Prices would have to appreciate 23% in Honolulu, HI, to over 45% in Ventura County, CA before renting, at current rates, becomes less expensive than buying. On the other side, rates would have to approach 9.1%, which would be a 145% increase over the current average of 3.7%, for renting to be financially more attractive than buying. (We have not seen rates like those since January 1995, according to Freddie Mac)

Consider also the Family Wealth aspect of home ownership, coupled with ownership being closely tied to the American Dream, and the reduced out-of-pocket cost of owning over renting, and it might make one wonder if the benefits of renting are really worth it.

The Takeaway

The numbers are clear. It makes good financial sense to be a homeowner. Let’s not forget the slice of the American Dream that comes with it! If you are interested in taking advantage of the benefits of home ownership, but aren’t sure where to start, call or contact me today! contact your Benchmark mortgage consultant today. Find Your Branch here: Get Started Now!