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FHFA Announces Conforming Loan Limit Increase In 2019

photograph of child jumping on bed

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has announced that the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages has increased.

In most of the country, the confirming loan limits will increase nearly 6.5%, from $453,100 to $484,350 for 2019. For most high-cost areas, where 115% of the local median home value exceeds the loan limit, the loan limit for one unit properties will be $726,525.

What Does This Mean for Homebuyers?

You can now purchase a home with a higher sales price using a conventional conforming loan through the FHFA regulated Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

The new limits are effective January 1st, 2019. Typically, the VA and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) are expected to adopt the same increased loan limits for 2019 for FHA and VA loans.


Dose of confidence: nervous about buying? Don't be.

Nervous About Buying? Here’s A Dose of Confidence

Dose of confidence: nervous about buying? Don't be.
If you are interested in buying a house, but do not know what you might need, or whether you can qualify, you’re not alone. Many would-be buyers are intimidated by the thought of what it takes to buy a home. Some wonder whether they can afford to buy, if they have enough saved for a down payment, or if their credit is good enough.

Can You Relate? If So, You’re In The Right Place!

Be confident that you can do it! The basics are pretty simple. To qualify in the current market, you will need a down payment (would you believe that you don’t need 20%), a stable income, and a good credit history.

You will have contact with your lender, your agent, and other professionals whose roles help get you into your home. These pros are also valuable resources on your journey home.

5 Easy Steps

Ready to apply? Here are 5 steps to follow as suggested by Freddie Mac:

  1. Check your credit score and history.
    Though the average FICO score for closed loans was 731 (September 2018 according to Ellie Mae), there are loan products for a wide range of scores. It’s just a good idea to know where you stand before applying.
  2. Gather your documents.
    You will need to be able to verify your income, which you can do with W-2 forms or tax returns, your credit history, and statements verifying cash assets (bank statements, investment statements, and the like).
  3. Contact your loan officer!
    Your loan officer can help you develop a spending plan, help you determine how much home you can afford,review your income, expenses and financial goals, and recommend a real estate agent who knows the market and will work for your best interests. With a pre-approval letter in hand, sellers will see your offer as legitimate, and will be more likely to accept. You may get pre-approved by your loan officer. Don’t have one? Find yours today!Meet our team or contact us today!That’s me! Contact me today, or Apply Now!
  4. Contact your real estate agent.
    Your real estate agent can help you find the right home for you in your price range, be your advocate in pricing negotiations, and be a great source of advice in the specifics of what you’re looking for in a home, neighborhood, and location.

Take Action

Armed with the information above, you are ready to start doing your own research. Just remember to know how much house you can afford, stick to your budget, and be mentally and emotionally prepared. Making dreams come true takes a little effort and responsibility. At Benchmark, we are here to help make it as easy as it can be.

Ready to get started? Apply now. Want to explore your options? Find your loan officer and contact them today!Contact us today!Contact me today!

the sun rising in the distance

Can I Still Get A VA Loan With Bad Credit?

the sun rising in the distance

Unfortunately, it depends on the situation and reasons, so there is no simple answer for bad credit. A few potential reasons could be that you have experienced a divorce which led to a bankruptcy, mismanaged your finances, experienced job loss, or any other financial hazards.

Your credit is calculated from many moving parts. The good news is that your credit score is constantly changing! If you take steps to improve your financial habits, you may also gain an improved credit score in addition to greater peace of mind.

At Benchmark, we don’t leave you to figure it out all on your own.

You are working hard for the chance to buy your dream home. Shouldn’t your lender ,at least, work just as hard?

Knowing what improvements to make when improving your credit can be tricky. That’s where we can help. For example, while some factors apply to everyone, there will be others that only apply to you.

Some strategies you could use to positively impact your score very quickly are:

  1. Keep credit card balances low: I like to call this the rule of 30. Your balance accounts for 30% of your credit score. You want to make sure that your utilization ratio is less than 30%. For example, if you have a credit limit of $1,000, your balance should NEVER exceed $300. If you are already over that, pay it down to where it is less than 30%. By far, this is the mistake that most people make.
  2. Pay your debts: This is not always as simple as it seems, but this accounts for 35% of your score. Something to keep in mind is that paying off new debt has a greater impact than paying off old debt. If you have a newer open credit card, pay that balance first.
  3. Clear up any mistakes: Did you know that as many as 4 out of 5 people have errors on their credit reports*? The odds that you may be one of them are high at 80%. While you can pull your own credit for free once a year, credit reports can be difficult to read. At Benchmark, we review your credit report with you to ensure your credit’s accuracy. If errors are found on your report, you have the opportunity to correct them.

Ratio of used credit and payment of debt combine to account for 65% of your score. The next biggest factor is time, or the length of your credit history. If you are trying to improve your credit, it is important that you do not close your credit card accounts. This hits you on two categories: one is your credit utilization ratio ,or how much you owe, because the ratios will not be calculated properly on closed accounts (you’d have debt, but no extra credit limit), and the other is on length of credit history, because a closed account does not report a length of time.

Chart of credit status and new mortgages
Image source:

Overall, there is no single quick technique to improve your credit score. It’s best to simply live within your means, by not spending more than your income. If you’d like more information, give us a call. We can help you get a more personalized view of your credit, and help you decide what you can do to improve it.

At Benchmark, we are ready to help you achieve your dream of owning your own home. Call 1-800-VET-EASYus or Contact Us, or get your Certificate of Eligibility to get started today!

Benchmark Never Quits with Team Never Quit

Benchmark Partners with Team Never Quit for the 2018 Patriot Tour!

Benchmark Never Quits with Team Never Quit

Benchmark Mortgage is proud to announce our partnership with Team Never Quit.

This year, we will be hitting the road with the 2018 Patriot Tour! Our Team is proud to have changed the way VA lending is done, and we take a “never quit” attitude with our veterans and their dreams.

NO MORE will the veteran be taken advantage of. We have a heart and passion for our veteran community, and we pride ourselves in making the home financing experience amazing. Setting the industry standard for 20 years, we are proud to have helped make the American Dream of home ownership become a reality for more than 100,000 Americans. Home ownership has always been the American dream and we believe that no one is more deserving than those who have served our country.

The Patriot Tour features retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of the New York Times bestseller “Lone Survivor” ,a riveting tale of the heroic sacrifices made by Marcus and fellow SEAL Team members assigned to Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan;  Taya Kyle, author of ‘American Wife’, Executive Director of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, and wife of the late U.S. Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle; retired U.S. Army Capt. Chad Fleming; and retired Navy SEAL and ultra-marathon runner David Goggins.

The Patriot Tour brings together things worth protecting, and things worth celebrating: Family, Service, Sacrifice, and Community. We are excited to be joining the Patriot Tour with these amazing heroes. Stay tuned for more exciting updates as we tour the country, coming to a city near you!


The Patriot Tour 2018

young couple unpacking in their new home

2018 Homeownership Profiles: Millennial Buyers

young couple unpacking in their new home

In 2017, Australian millionaire Tim Gurner famously attempted to blame millennial homebuyer obstacles on their inability to avoid frivolous spending on $19 avocado toast, in comments that were widely mocked throughout the internet.

Many commentators are still quick to point the finger at extravagant spending to explain why homeownership among younger adults has declined compared to previous generations. However, the more likely culprit is soaring student loan debt and a limited supply of homes causing rapidly inflating prices, which is making it more difficult for millennials to afford homes.

Despite what you hear, it’s not all doom and gloom for aspiring millennial homebuyers. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) latest study, millennials continue to be the largest generational cohort of buyers, making up 36% of the purchase market.

Check out the latest statistics and trends among this influential bloc of homebuyers.

Stats About Millennials

 Many people still think of millennials as teenagers, instead of young adults in their 20’s and 30’s who currently make up the largest generation in the workforce. NAR’s study defines millennials as buyers age 20-37.

Of this group:

  • 22% of millennial buyers are age 20-27, while 78% are age 28-37. The median age was 31.
  • 66% were married couples, 18% were single, and 15% were unmarried couples
  • 65% were first time homebuyers
  • Prior to buying, 56% rented an apartment or house, 18% lived with parents/relatives/or friends, and 24% owned a previous home

Millennials As Homeowners

  • 89% purchased previously built homes and 11% purchased new homes. Better price was cited as the number one reason buyers purchased previously owned homes.
  • Quality of the neighborhood, convenience to job, and overall affordability of homes were the top reasons millennial buyers chose their neighborhood.
  • The median purchase price was $220,000
  • 44% paid asking price or higher for their home

Millennials and Home Financing

  • 98% of millennials financed their home purchase, compared to 88% overall
  • 75% used savings for the down payment, 23% used gift funds, and 21% used proceeds from the sale of a primary residence (respondents could select more than one source)
  • 53% reported that student loans delayed saving for a home
  • 55% reported that they made sacrifices to non-essential items like entertainment and vacations to save for a home
  • 67% found the mortgage application and approval process not difficult or easier than expected.
  • Only 6% of millennial buyers had a previous mortgage application denied. The number one reason was for debt-to-income ratio, followed by low credit score.
  • 46% of buyers had student loan debt. The median amount was $27,000.
  • 55% used a conventional loan, 27% used an FHA loan, and 10% used a VA loan.

After analyzing their demographics and buying habits, it is clear that millennial buyers have become a powerful force in the housing market. As it turns out, avocado toast is not preventing millennials from buying homes.



Are you ready to buy? To get started, Find your Benchmark branch!Call or Contact Me to kickstart your homeownership journey!Meet our team, and find your loan officer to get started!

Avoid roadblocks before closing on your new home.

How To Avoid Roadblocks Before Closing On Your New Home

You have submitted a mortgage application, found your dream home, and put in an offer. Now what? Applying for a home loan is an ongoing process, from application to closing, that does not have to be stressful. There are several things you can do to make the process more efficient, and things not to do to avoid delaying your closing or changing the status of your approval. Below is a list of recommendations to make sure that this exciting journey progresses as smoothly as possible, all the way up to the day you receive your keys.



Pay bills on time

Remember to stay current on your existing accounts. Set reminders for yourself or place bills on autopay to avoid late payments, as they could cause a delay in your closing.


Postpone career moves until after closing

Your approval is based on your current employment and income, and both need to be verified. Making career changes, regardless of the compensation, will make the verifications obsolete and cause the loan file to repeat the underwriting step. Of course, there are instances where you may not be able to control these changes. If you are considering a job change or experience an unexpected job change, give us a call.


Keep financial documents available

We try to collect everything up front, however, our Underwriting team may request additional documentation. We recommend that you keep your financial records easily accessible until after closing.


Save your income statements

Keep all current and upcoming income statements. There will be additional verbal verifications with your employer and your CPA, and verification of your IRS tax transcripts. Everything will need to match, so hang onto your incoming paystubs, as they may need to be updated by your underwriter.


Save all pages of your bank statements

These pages may need to be updated, so be sure to keep upcoming bank statements available. This applies to all checking and savings accounts, along with any brokerage and retirement accounts.



Make any large purchases (such as a boat or car)

Similar to the way a new credit card or credit inquiry can prevent us from being able to close your loan, making a large purchase before your closing can delay your move-in date. If you must make a large purchase, give us a call first to determine what kind of impact it could have.


Make any unusually large deposits

Money used for a down payment on your home may not be borrowed money, and you will need proof that large deposits are not borrowed funds. A large deposit is defined as any amount greater than 25% of any one borrower’s monthly net income deposit.


Close credit card accounts

Closing a credit card will reduce your total amount of available credit, impacting your credit score. New credit can bring your credit score down as well, so it’s best to postpone opening any new credit accounts until after closing. (see the next Do Not)


Apply for new credit

New credit inquiries can have a negative impact on your credit score and your debt-to-income ratio. Any changes can create delays, change the terms of your loan, or cause your loan to be denied, in some cases. If you must open a new account, consult with us first, and we will analyze and properly document the impact.


Be afraid to ask questions

If you are uncertain about what you need to do, or which steps you should take, we at Benchmark are here to help you through the process. Together, we can work towards a truly great experience purchasing your brand new home!

construction home loans: things to be aware of

Construction Loans: What to Expect

construction home loans: things to be aware of

Building a new home offers many advantages over purchasing an existing home on the market. You are able to customize the home to your specific needs and preferences and avoid costly repairs of outdated features. New homes are often also more energy efficient and technologically equipped.

Different from Traditional mortgages.

Securing financing for a construction loan does differ from obtaining a traditional mortgage, however. Since the home is not yet built, there is more risk for the lender because the home being purchased is used as collateral for the loan. In other words, there is no present collateral to back the loan before it is approved. Much like applying for a traditional mortgage, you will be required to submit documentation pertaining to your income, assets, and credit history to determine if you meet requirements set by the lender to qualify for the construction loan. You and your builder will also provide detailed documentation on the building plans and construction timeline to the lender to evaluate the ability for the project to be completed on time and within budget.

Because of the increased risk that comes with building a house, you can typically expect to need a credit score of 700+ with a sizeable down payment of at least 10-20%. The specific requirements will vary based on your lender and the type of construction loan you choose.

One-Time-Close, or “Construction-to-Permanent” loans

A one-time-close construction loan, also commonly known as a construction-to-permanent loan, is a popular choice among borrowers, because it allows you to avoid the extra expense of two closings when building your new home. Because construction and permanent financing are combined into one loan, you will save on costs associated with title and appraisal fees that would occur if there were two separate closings.

With a one-time close program, the borrower will take out all of the financing to build the home, and the loan is closed before starting construction. Permanent house payments will not typically begin until the construction is completed. The loan is funded as the house is being built through construction draws to the builder. In order to receive these draws, the lender will conduct regular check-ins and inspections of the property to ensure the project is being completed according to the plans and timeline. Generally, you are making interest-only payments as the builder draws funds to build the home. Once construction is completed, the loan will be converted into a permanent note, and your permanent monthly house payment will begin.

In Summary…

Construction loans are a great option for aspiring home owners who want to build their custom dream home from the ground up. While the process differs from obtaining a mortgage on an existing home, your lender can walk you through the process and advise you on the advantages and disadvantages of undergoing a building project.

Have questions about construction financing? Get in touch with me or call me !Get in touch with your local Benchmark branch!Get in touch with us!

Medical professional at desk

Benchmark Introduces New Program to Expand Options for Medical Professionals

Medical professional at desk
Benchmark has launched a new mortgage product that is customized to the unique career and financial outlook of professionals in the medical field. Last year, we launched the Medical Doctor Loan Program to better serve medical residents and doctors. Now we have further expanded our options for medical professionals to include jumbo loan amounts up to $2 Million with our Preferred Medical Professional Program.

The new Preferred Medical Professional Program is tailored to meet the needs of medical doctors within 10 years of residency, dentists and veterinarians OR newly licensed medical residents/students who are currently employed or starting new employment within 60 days of closing.

At Benchmark, we understand what it has taken to get to this point in your medical career, so we designed our new Preferred Medical Professional Program to maximize your money, and even to exclude student loan debt in certain cases:

  • Loan Amounts up to $2 million1
  • Student loan debt that is deferred for at least 12 months may be excluded from Debt-to-Income (DTI) calculations
  • Purchase and limited cash-out refinances
  • Loan-to-Value (LTV) up to 95%2
  • Available on 5/1, 7/1, 10/1 + 15/1 Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMS)

1 minimum loan of $453,101 in most areas
2 LTVs ≥ 90% requires Lender Paid Mortgage Insurance

Want to learn more about your home financing options available through Benchmark? Get in touch with me.Find your branch to get started.Select your loan officer to get started.

Ark-La-Tex Financial Services, LLC 5160 Tennyson Pkwy STE 1000, Plano, TX 75024. NMLS ID #2143 ( 972-398-7676. This advertisement is for general information purposes only. Some products may not be available in all licensed locations. Information, rates, and pricing are subject to change without prior notice at the sole discretion of Ark-La-Tex Financial Services, LLC. All loan programs subject to borrowers meeting appropriate underwriting conditions. This is not a commitment to lend. Other restrictions may apply. (

Home entrance with manicured garden in golden hour

How to Buy in a Competitive Summer Market

Home entrance with manicured garden in golden hour

The weather is heating up, and so is the summer housing market.

With more buyers entering the market looking to find a new home during the summer months, competition can be fierce. Every homebuyer’s nightmare is finding their dream home, only to lose it in a multiple-offer scenario that drives the asking price up beyond your reach. How can you make your offer stand out in an aggressive housing market? Here are a few ways to get an edge.

Use an Experienced Agent

Think of your real estate agent as the MVP of your home buying team. The right agent will not only make your home search easier, but they can also help improve your chances when making an offer. An experienced agent will work with you to craft a great offer, and will be responsive and professional in discussions will the seller. Having a professional on your team who is knowledgeable about the local market could be the difference between your offer being accepted or rejected.


A lot of homebuyers assume that pre-qualification and pre-approval for a mortgage are the same thing. In fact, they are quite different, and which one you get can make a huge difference in the eyes of the seller. A pre-qualification is only an estimate of what you qualify for based on the income, assets, and debt information you provide. It does not include an analysis of your credit report or verification of the financial information you provide. On the other hand, getting pre-approved means your loan officer documents and verifies your financial information and reviews your credit report. After evaluation, they can issue a specific loan amount you are approved for.

A seller in a multiple-offer scenario will immediately see through a pre-qualification, and worry that if they accept your offer, the deal might fall through if you are unable to secure your home financing. A pre-approval makes your offer stronger and puts you in an optimal negotiating position.

Set Realistic Expectations

Setting realistic expectations can help reduce your stress during the home buying process. Making an offer on a home can be nerve-wracking, so it is a good idea to go into negotiations already knowing your bottom line. Make a list of what you are willing to compromise on – whether it’s sale price, contingencies, or closing costs – before you make your initial offer. Don’t let a high-stress multiple-offer situation make you commit to something that does not make financial sense for you and your family. It can be disheartening if your offer is not accepted. If this happens, just keep your head up, and continue your home search armed with your pre-approval from your lender, and the expertise of your real estate agent.

Ready to look for your new home this summer? Contact me, call , or apply now to get pre-approved.Find your local loan officer to get pre-approved.Meet the team, Contact us, or Select your loan officer to get pre-approved.

Boot'n & Shoot'n 2018 raises money for veterans

Boot’n & Shoot’n 2018 Raises $1Million for Veterans

Boot'n & Shoot'n 2018 raises money for veterans

DALLAS, TX—The month of April means the first full month of Spring, wildflowers, and the arrival of what former Governor Rick Perry described as “the most patriotic day in Texas:” Boot’n & Shoot’n.

Boot’n & Shoot’n is an annual event to raise money for US military veterans who risked it all. For the second year in a row, Boot’n & Shoot’n has reached 1 million dollars in funds raised to help deserving veterans and their families.

Hosted at the Dallas Gun Club, 90 teams of clay shooters each teamed up with a veteran for a day of sporting clays, a live concert, country style food sponsored by Babe’s Chicken, and a live auction. 100% of all proceeds is given to organizations which exist solely to aid veterans and their families, including The Brain Treatment Foundation, 22Kill, and Third Option Foundation. Founded in 2012 as the vision of Benchmark Founding Partner Stewart Hunter and his wife Janet Hunter, this year marks the 7th annual event. To learn more, visit