You are here: Benchmark Home » The Benchmark Blog

Live Facebook Stream: Ryan Grant at Sales Mastery

home inspector appraising a home

Appraisal Shortage Causing Delays In Home Sales

home inspector appraising a home

CNBC published an article on their Real Estate blog entitled, “‘Massive’ shortage of appraisers causing home sales delays”

Below are a few quotes that summarize the story quickly, in case you don’t have the time or patience to read the article yourself.

“The appraisal shortage is massive. You’re seeing significant delays, you’re seeing cost increases, you’re seeing rate [locks] expire,” said Brian Coester, CEO of Rockville, Maryland-based CoesterVMS, a national appraisal management company.

…when the U.S. housing market came crashing down, the number of appraisers has shrunk by 22 percent, according to the Appraisal Institute, an industry association. With so few new cadets, the current population of appraisers is aging. More than 60 percent are over the age of 50.


…the decline in new appraisers is largely due to new regulations…


…appraisers no longer see a need to pay apprentices, but at the same time, licensing requirements to become an appraiser include 2,500 hours of appraisal experience to be completed in two years as an apprentice.


In some of the nation’s hottest housing markets, where sales are up double digits compared to a year ago, the shortage means searching far and wide for an appraiser.


[Home] Prices could change in the course of two months, the delay time it is now taking in some markets to have an appraisal done. Mortgage rates are also starting to move in a wider range, and that makes rate-locks ever more important.

read more:

How Does Benchmark Respond?

core values card

Our 5 Core Values have served us well. We believe that they will continue to enable us to thrive, even in a complicated market.

We built our reputation and our business on these Core Values, one of which is Relationship. Another complimentary value that we hold dear is Positive Attitude. The combination of these can go a long way in ways you may never expect. So what is our approach?

To be as clear and transparent as possible in building relationships with partners in helping our mutual clients to get their new home as smoothly as possible. Just like we pride ourselves on being thorough and courteous for our clients, we strive to be open and thorough in our communications with partners.

We have an experienced staff who search daily to ensure coverage. We foster a positive relationship with our panel of appraisers.

Our appraisers prioritize us because we pay them generously and pay them quickly.

We have an advantage over appraisal management companies, as our appraisers receive the full fee, rather than just a percentage, and we have control over both the fee and the due date.

We have clear channels of communications with our appraisal department to quickly and efficiently resolve disputes and revisions.

Service is Our Trademark

For years, we have made the mortgage process look easy to those who have entrusted us with their home loans.

…efficiency and customer service is second to none.

Tom and his team make you feel like family and not just a number. He walks you thru all of your options and helps guide you thru the whole process. The attention he gives to his clients is untouchable. You will not get service like you get from him anywhere. 5 star all the way

…the Benchmark Mortgage Team are outstanding! From start to finish they kept us informed of the process, progress, and approvals. By far the most professional and expedient loan process I have ever been through.

We take service seriously. These are just a taste from a small collection of genuine testimonials giving by our Benchmark clients/fans. I encourage you to view more testimonialsmy testimonials. If you love being taken care of and like what you see, call mefind your branch or apply now


5 Easy Tips for Fall Decorations

Think Outside The Pumpkin

photograph of a pumpkin

Make your fall pumpkin stand out by decorating the OUTSIDE, rather than gutting it. Not only does this broaden the possibilities to glitter, paint, melting crayons, and more, but it could also prolong the life of your beautiful gourd.


Warm Hues + Neutrals = Autumn Environment

Fall colors aerial view

Bring the autumn indoors by looking to nature for inspiration.


 Keep Firewood In Your Fireplace

pre-loaded fireplace

Not only will it save you a step for the next fire you build, but it will appear “primed” and ready, creating a cozy feel with the comfort of having things already taken care of.


Show Off Throw Pillows And Blankets

blankets add color and warmth

Cooler temperatures mean cozy decor is a welcome addition. Use blankets and throw pillows to add color and coziness to your living spaces.


Display Apples In A Bowl

Glossy red apples on display

Be authentic by showing off the best fruit of the season: Apples! Beautiful, fresh seasonal fruit on display gives a feeling of abundance. The fresh scent doesn’t hurt, either!

Boy reading on the living room rug.

A New School Year Means New Opportunities

Boy reading on the living room rug.

As we are in early September, and most school districts have been in session for at least a week, it’s a good time to pause and reflect.

Every year, students begin afresh in a new grade, families return to a routine anchored in a schedule created by the school(s) their children attend, friends are reunited while new friends are made, and a clean slate is delivered with the promise of good marks for academic performance.

For many, this is the reason for the new clothes, new supplies, and general feeling of newness that comes from new investments into materials and time with a purpose. For students, there will be new subjects, new lessons, new teachers, new textbooks, new methods, and new patterns. When a pattern is repeated, it becomes a routine. Routines become habits, and habits build character.

Every New School Year is a Chance to Build Something New

Good choices are made when your student(s) feel secure about who they are. The biggest control factor is you: family time and family dynamics. If you do not typically do these things, this is a good time to start making positive patterns in your life.

1. Meal Time Gatherings

If you do not already sit down together as a family for your evening meal, try to set aside as many days to do this as possible. Eating is a social act, as much as it is practical, and emotions are closely tied with it. This can help give you more quality time together, and help strengthen a sense of belonging.

2. Healthy Sleep Patterns

If you consider yourself a night owl, but the world doesn’t seem to understand why starting later is a grand idea, this is for you. While it is pretty common knowledge that the recommended time for adults is 7-9hrs, school aged children need between 9-11hrs, including those in high school. (src: Sleep FoundationGetting enough sleep is important for cognitive performance, including memory, concentration, and alertness (not a complete list). This is a new school year. Schedule your time to set yourself up for success.

3. Outdoor Activity

When weather allows, spend some time in the great outdoors, even if only for a few minutes. If you are someone who likes to wake up early, a morning walk, jog, or run is a great way to get outside while building your immune system, improving your mood, and enhancing your cognitive function. If that doesn’t sound like you, even going for a walk before or after your family’s evening meal can yield real benefits. On the weekends, try bicycling, hiking, sports, or just going for a walk to potentially improve your well-being.

4. Find and Feed Your Passion

Mark Twain is said to have said, “Don’t let your boy’s schooling interfere with his education.” (but it was probably Grant Allen src: Quote InvestigatorWith so many interests, ideas, and hobbies to explore, it just makes good sense to feed your passion, and to engage in the developing expertise in that which catches your fancy. Some schools offer classes to help this along as a professional pursuit, but if your does not, don’t let schooling interfere with education. A sharp mind is a curious mind.

5. Volunteer

Nothing gives you a vested interest in your community quite like investing your time and energies to give back. Of course, this assumes you can make the time. Not only does it feel good to do good, but this is also a great resume booster for students who will be applying to attend college!

The Takeaway

Every new beginning, just like the start of a new school year, is to make positive lasting changes. Make sure to write the new activities, orders, or plans into your schedule, and stick to it. If you do, they just may become full blown habits by midterms. Happy School year!

New House

Jump in New Home Sales Highest Since 2008

New House
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau, new single family home sales in June grew by 3.5%* over May, and 25.4%** over June 2015. The seasonally adjusted annual rate was 592,000 in June, and 572,000 was the revised rate in May. The rate in June of last year was estimated to be 472,000.

Economists Weigh In

June 2016 is the highest new single family home sales we’ve seen since February of 2008, according to Ralph McLaughlin, Chief Economist for Trulia, who writes, “This is a continued sign that demand for homes remains solid and aptly reflects increasing homebuilder confidence.”

Brent Nyitray, a Chartered Financial Analyst specializing in economics and financial markets, said, “New Home Sales rose to 592k in June, much higher than the Street expectation. The median new home price rose 6.1% YOY to $306,700. There is about 4.9 month’s worth of inventory right now, compared to 5.1 months in May.” (read more)

Home Prices Rose

In June, the median new home sale price was $306,700, with the average sales price at $358,200.

Home prices nationwide rose 5% in May (compared to May 2015), according to the CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices.

The Takeaway

New Home sales have seen an increase since last year, and since last month, with the highest numbers since February of 2008, 100 months ago. This has surpassed expectations, and signals that demand really is the driving force in the housing market. With the inventory at only 4.9 months, compared to 5.1 months in May, low housing inventory is still driving values up.

With inventory shrinking, home values are likely to increase. With rates still low, it’s a great time to buy. Call us today!

*(±23.9%), **(±27.9%) – 90% confidence interval includes zero. The Census Bureau does not have sufficient statistical evidence to conclude that the actual change is different from zero.

EU Referendum Result graphic #Brexit

The EU Referendum, Brexit, and US Mortgage Rates

“The sudden stop in employment growth rules out any chance of a rate hike from the Fed at next week’s FOMC meeting, particularly now that the UK vote on whether to leave the European Union appears to be going down to the wire,” said Capital Economics Chief Economist Paul Ashworth.  (source:

Britain’s exit from the EU increases the value of the dollar, which will push U.S. mortgage rates still lower. “This would create another mini refinance mortgage boom at financial institutions as homeowners rush to lock in near-historic low interest rates,” says Steve Rick, chief economist for CUNA Mutual Group. (source:

Fed Not Expected To Raise Rates

As Paul Ashworth indicated in his quote in HousingWire, The Federal Open Market Committee (who determines monetary policy of the Federal Reserve) is not likely to raise interest rates in their next meeting in July.

Futures dropped in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU today, June 24th. This lack of confidence puts more pressure on the FOMC to, once again, postpone a rate hike.

US Dollar Strengthens as Pound is Pummeled

The pound fell to near 1985 levels, making it the lowest value in three decades. According to the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, 1GBP is now down to 1.37USD. (source: WashingtonPost)

When our currency is worth more, it has more purchasing power, which is cause for suspecting that this could make the cost of housing cheaper still.

Is a refinance boom coming? That remains to be seen, but with the relatively high supply in the housing market coupled with a stronger dollar, we may begin to see the supply begin to normalize as homeowners cash out on their accumulated equity.

The Takeaway

No matter your opinion of the EU Referendum result, mortgages are still, historically speaking, ridiculously cheap.

Mortgage prices tend to follow Treasury yields, which have been trending down all year, too. Last week, the interest on 10-year Treasuries dropped to its lowest in four years on worries that Britain would vote to leave the European Union. When the political and economic outlook is uncertain, the world’s money tends to flow into safe investments like U.S. bonds, including mortgages. – Loraine Woellert, Senior managing editor for Redfin research (source:


Is More Housing Inventory On the Way?

Is More Housing Inventory On The Horizon?

Is More Housing Inventory On the Way?
There has been a lot of talk about the rising value of houses in recent years. While some have expressed concern over another 2008 style housing bubble forming, we have dispelled this notion. While economics is a bit more complicated, most moves are the direct result of what you may have learned in school: supply and demand.

The Buyers are Vying

While no-one doubts that the current economy is sluggish (with varying opinions as to why), the demand for single family homes has continually increased. To corroborate that this is not just a timely fad, surveys show that 80%+  still considers home ownership an essential part of the American Dream. (something that we have talked about before). A recent Gallup survey indicates that real estate is considered to be the best long-term investment.

The Owners are Holding

For several years, homeowners may not have been able to sell. Reasons were numerous, including issues such as family finances and lack of home equity. (which isn’t surprising, in the wake of a housing bubble collapse) As a result of this “holding”, the supply of homes is low, as is to be expected. With the steady increase in home values, however, there is reason to believe that incrased motivation to sell will possibly increase the supply. Do families want to sell?

Short of asking, we can look at how long homes have been held, on average, over time.


As the economy continues to improve, even if slowly, and more families approach possession of significant equity (20% or more), we expect to see more homes on the market. As the supply increase reduces the gap with existing demand, home price increases may begin to slow.

The Takeaway

If you are one of those who have been holding onto your current home over the last few years, now may be a good time to cash in (sell), and find the home of your dreams.

Grant Clinton with his son posing in front of ANW sign

Benchmark Loan Officer Competes on American Ninja Warrior

Meet Grant Clinton.

overcomerGrant Clinton is a Loan Originator and Branch Manager in our awesome branch in Houston, TX!

We are proud to announce that Grant will be competing as an American Ninja Warrior in the Oklahoma City Qualifier on June 20th!




Grant on the rings - gymnastics
With an outstanding history as a gymnast, Grant Clinton was a nominee for the Nissen Emery Award in 2002! Hindered by injuries in a gymnastics career, it is no surprise that he identifies with the title “Overcomer“. To add yet another layer to the name, watch his Submission Video below:

Grant Clinton’s Submission Video


It’s no surprise to us that American Ninja Warrior judges saw this and determined that he was good enough to have a chance in the Oklahoma City Qualifier.

You’ve earned it, Grant!

Cheer Him On With Us!

Grant surveys the course with his son.


Grant’s wife, and son hold signs, cheering him on. T-shirt: “Grant’s the B.O.M.B. (Bearded Obstacle Mortgage Banker)”


American Ninja Warrior Grant Clinton with OVERCOMER shirt watches his daughter walk.


Grant Clinton watches from the sideline.


Grant Clinton is filmed before his run as an American Ninja Warrior contestant.


American Ninja Warrior and Benchmark Mortgage Loan Originator Grant clinton poses with his son in Oklahoma City.

Watch American Ninja Warrior on NBC on June 20th.
Make sure you set your DVR and continue to watch.
If he makes it past the qualifier on the 20th, then the Oklahoma City Regional Finals will air on August 1

Buy a replica OVERCOMER t-shirt  here! (must order by June 5th)

Cheer on Grant, Benchmark’s own Ninja!


DIY Self-Draining Bath Toy Storage


If you have a small child (or small children), you probably have “too many” bath toys, and would benefit from an easy-access storage system. Better yet, an easy-access storage system that drains automatically. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

DIY Bath Toy Organizer

Photo of DIY bath toy organizer

This set up is great! Your little one can reach all of his/her toys, and putting them away after bath time is both easy, and fun! To make this organizer, you will need a few things.

Gather Supplies

  • 1 – tension shower rod (you can get this at any home improvement store)
  • 4 – (or your preferred quantity) plastic baskets with holes in them (you can find these at dollar stores)
  • 2 – per basket – S type shower hooks (metal is recommended for ease of use)

Do you have your supplies? Great! Now it’s time to put our new idea together!

Make It!

  1. Size your rod so that it fits roughly 6″ above the side of your tub along the back wall, and install.
  2. Install the shower hooks onto the tension shower rod.
  3. Decide where your baskets will be placed, and fasten to the rod by using the hooks with the holes in the baskets.

Easy, right? See? You CAN Do It Yourself!

Use It!

You know what to do! If you have toys that can be categorized, have fun placing categories in their own bins. Toss the toys home in a round of bath-time hoops with your little one. The best part? The holes in the bins mean that these cubbies are self-draining.

Like this project? See other projects in our DIY series. click here!


Build A Decorative Mug Plaque!


This post is inspired by:

If you rely on a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, you probably don’t keep it a secret. Let’s turn your favorite dish in the cupboard (the noble mug) into a centerpiece of pride! Have you ever wanted to show off your stunning collection of unique mugs? Do you have a handmade favorite, or souvenirs from special memories, or simply a mug that makes a statement? Show it off!

DIY Mug Hanging Wall Board

This is something that every coffee lover will appreciate. If you are a tea-lover, this is for you too. This is quick, easy, and, not to mention, quite useful!

Gather Materials

For this project, you will need

  • A wood panel that is 1″ thick, 2′ wide, and as tall as you want. (as long as it will fit where you want to mount it)
    You can cut this yourself (be careful, and follow manufacture instructions on tools!), or have your home improvement center cut it for you. Remember to measure twice, and cut once. 
  • Some paint, stain+finish, or a finishing oil. (I like Danish Oil, as it gives color and protection in one product)
  • Lastly, you will need screw hooks large enough to accept your mug handles.

You can find all of these materials at your local home improvement store.

Build It!


For Paint

Take your board, and paint it the color of your choice. If you want to distress it a little, paint a different color for two coats, and lightly spot-sand for a rustic color-reveal look.


If you are using a stain, lightly sand the board, wipe any dust free, and apply your stain in a well-ventilated area. Apply as many coats as product instructions indicate, and follow instructions for drying time. Once try, apply INTERIOR wood finish according to product instructions.

Finishing Oil

Apply finishing oil following instructions on product container. Certain oils may be buffed for added sheen.

Install Hooks

Once your board has dried, it’s time to install your screw hooks! Lay your board flat, and arrange mugs on it in a pattern that makes you happy. Mark where the hooks will be screwed. It may help to drill pilot holds before screwing your hooks in place. Screw hooks in place.

Mount Your Mug Plaque

If you are mounting this to the side of your cabinet, you can use 3/4″ wood screws to screw into it from inside the cabinet for a clean look, free of exposed fasteners. If you are mounting it anywhere else, use drywall anchors, or screw directly into studs using 2″ wood screws. Make sure your anchors are rated for the weight of the board + mugs.

Use It!

Now that it’s up, hang your mugs, and show your collection off with pride! The next time you stumble into the kitchen to pour your cup of coffee/tea, you will love being greeted by your mug plaque. Your guests will love it too!

Bonus Ideas

  • Using paint, stencil, or any other ideas you may find, paint a word, scene, or picture on your board!
  • Paint your hooks to match your kitchen decor!
  • If hanging directly on an exposed wall, add a row of hooks to the bottom for keys, kitchen tools, towels, or anything else you can think of!
  • Add a small shelf to the top (if you are handy enough) for more ornate detail and functionality!

Like this project? See other projects in our DIY series. click here!