Archive for December, 2009

What’s the Difference? (Part 1)

December 31, 2009

(Part 1 of 3 posts on terminology that can often create confusion)

Don’t you just hate it when someone you are talking with starts throwing words around that you don’t fully understand?  We certainly don’t want that!  It is important that anyone involved in the purchase or refinance of a home understand the terminology used.  Especially when you consider this information involves not only your personal finances, but also something with high emotional ties – your home.

This series of posts will compare two similar terms but with very different meanings and implications that are used throughout the mortgage process.  This information will hopefully be valuable and not just industry jargon to pepper your conversation.  But either way, we thought you might want to know.

Part 1 – What’s the difference between a “pre-qualification” and a “pre-approval”?

Regardless of which term you are referring to, both words describe a lender’s review of your personal information in order to secure a home loan.  The process is typically used when a borrower is preparing to purchase a home.  (Incidentally, it is highly advised to take this step before you shop for a home, rather than shopping for a loan after you find your dream home.)

The significant differences are:  the amount of effort a lender puts into helping you determine how much house you can afford; and in how much documentation you provide a lender.  A pre-qualification means you have had a casual conversation with a lender and have verbally discussed your financial situation for purchasing a home.  You will only talk about your credit, income and possibly size of down payment.  You are given an opinion of your ability to secure a loan based on a hypothetical situation.

A pre-approval means you have provided actual documentation to verify your income and assets, have had a full credit report run, have discussed various loan options available and have a good idea of how much house you can afford.  You will also know how your home may be financed and what the payments can look like.  In a word, you are an informed buyer.

Gaining a pre-approval has significant advantages to both the buyer and to the seller.  As a buyer you know how to shop, can make an offer with a high degree of confidence and know that you have financing lined up.  Taking this simple step also gives you huge bargaining power over a pre-qualified buyer since your offer is more financially sound.  As a seller you know a pre-approved buyer is serious, prepared to make you a quality offer and you don’t have to worry if the deal is going to fall through.

If you are considering purchasing a home, call one of our Home Loan Specialists today (866-98-AWARE) and let us help you with a pre-approval so you can shop with confidence to purchase your dream home.

Coming soon – Part 2 – What’s the difference between a “pre-paid expense” and a “closing cost”?

Giving – It’s in the ‘Jeans’

December 24, 2009

In our company, Friday is jeans day.  Nothing unusual, it is just a day to dress a little more casual in your favorite pair of appropriate jeans.  (The pair of jeans we all really love probably should never be worn outside of the house.)

John Arnold, Executive Director of Feeding America W. Michigan (right) and Gary Gunnett, Director of Charitable Parnerships with Awareness Home Funding (left)

Anyway, for the month of December we, as employees, were given an opportunity to wear jeans any day of the week in exchange for a small donation that would be equally matched by the company.  We had over 95% participation!  But the bigger news is that we were able to support two local organizations –

Shirley TenHarmsel, Director of Buist Community Center and Larry Buist, Owner of Buist Electric

Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank and The Buist Community Assistance Center.  Both organizations seek to help those who might otherwise go without a meal.

Giving to others always feels good – regardless of good jeans or not.


How you can help

If you have ever considered helping a food bank your first thought is to probably stop by with a bag of groceries.  However your desire to help can do a tremendous amount more if you donated money instead of the actual items.  Through their connections they are able to gather exponentially more food than what you or I would be able to purchase on our own. 

In this case, the donation of actual dollars really has more impact.  Of course, with the growing number of families these organizations (and others like them) are able to help, the gift of your time is always appreciated too.

Does it Really Matter?

December 23, 2009

This is the time of year when charitable organizations seem to be doing their best to let us know about their causes.  This is also the time of year when perhaps we think the most about giving.  Maybe it’s because of the time we spend with family and friends that those with a need weigh heavily upon our hearts and minds.  But do you ever have the wondering doubt about whether your efforts even make a difference?  Does my single donation really matter?

In a word, yes!  Yes, your individual contributions do matter to these organizations – not only the monetary ones, but gifts of time and sharing about the organization with others.  However there is a way to help your own efforts go further. 

You’ve heard the acronym for team – Together Each Accomplishes More.  That thinking is exactly how collectively our individual contributions of money and time and effort make a real meaningful and significant impact.  A “Parade” magazine article written by actor, Matt Damon talks about his efforts to encourage others to work together in support of various causes.

If I give to a cause, I am one person who cares and provides support.  However, if I tell 10 friends about a cause or organization or need and we each give, now both financial support and the level of understanding has changed dramatically – even if the individual amount given is only a couple of dollars or your time.  There are now 10 people who care; will tell others; will get involved.  This is not only the thought behind teamwork, but also the growing concept of “micro-philanthropy”. 

We can’t all write checks for thousands of dollars, but we can work together to pool our resources, channel our efforts and share ideas to help others.  With everyone doing a little part, the work gets done, the effort is made, someone is helped and we have all played a part.

Check out our website ( and see how we can help you join the efforts of others like yourself to make a difference in an organization you care about.

The Latest News

December 17, 2009

With a flurry of activity always a happening this time of year, we’d like to let you know about the latest news with a couple of the organizations we are partnered with. 

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services

They are a unique organization that provides communication, human services and education to deaf, hard of hearing and hearing communities with the goal of inclusiveness in Western Michigan.   With services that range from interpreters to career development to sign language and lip-reading classes,  they have gained a reputation for excellence in the deaf and hard of hearing community. 

A current promotion assists those who are in need of a smoke detector in their home specifically designed for a deaf or hard of hearing person.  If you are in need of one please contact DeafHHS at 616-732-7358 (v/vp) or stop by their office to pick one up.  They are working in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Fire Department to help you with the installation if needed at no cost.  The Fire Department also had traditional 9-volt smoke detectors available if needed. 

Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids

Recently we had the opportunity to support Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids with a donation made possible by one of our clients.  Gilda’s Club offers free cancer support for children, adults, families and friends.  With the holiday’s, many members rely on them for help in handling the extra emotional and social demands that this season can bring for support and “normalcy”.   Check out their website to learn more about this organization and the many activities they have happening.

Guiding Light Mission

Our friends at Guiding Light Mission have recently launched their new website that squarely focuses attention on homelessness and the needs of the homeless.  They provide “food and shelter while equipping men with social, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual skills, thereby preparing them to serve.”  We are proud to be a partner with them and their efforts to strengthen the community as well. 

Doing what gets Results

December 16, 2009
There seems to be some odd consistencies to fund raising campaigns.  One common routine is to buy product, sell it, deliver the items, collect payment and then send 50% or more of the proceeds back to the original source.  Another equally popular approach is to expend a massive amount of time, energy and upfront money to try and organize a bunch of adults to participate in a single task while simultaneously having fun. 

Ironically, we then sit back and often wonder why our results are not more profitable?  If the goal of raising funds is to net as much profit as possible, why do we keep basically doing the same thing?  That sounds like the definition of insanity. 

What about a new approach that costs nothing, requires none of your time or energy, adapts to your business model and produces proven results?  The Awareness Works 4 U program delivers a $250 donation every time we close a home loan for one of your supporters.  The next time you pass some information along to your supporters, tell them about Awareness Home Funding. 

Contact us today.  Stop the insanity and start getting results.

A Zest for Life

December 15, 2009

Presentation of $250 Donation

Today Awareness Home Funding had the distinct pleasure of meeting John Mulder, Vice President of Medical Services, and John Norden, Vice President for Development from Faith Hospice.  We were also able to tour their Trillium Woods facility.

Based in West Michigan, Faith Hospice strives to help their patients experience all the joy, hope and fulfillment of life possible while dealing with a life-limiting illness or condition.  The Trillium Woods location is a fully staffed, in-patient facility.  In their primary role they are not so much an organization that focuses on dying, but on living through the last phase of a loved one’s life.  They partner with a patient and their family to increase understanding with compassion.  Having had first-hand experience, Faith Hospice really does embrace an entire family through what can be a very difficult time.

However, they also help patients with serious ailments with treatment options often unavailable in traditional medical settings so that they can return to their lives again.  John Mulder stated his purpose this way, “As long as there is still air in [a patient’s] lungs, they have life yet to live.  I intend to help them to live that to the fullest.” 

It was also a pleasure for us to be able to donate $250 to this non-profit organization to help them continue their work in the community.  To learn more about them and their services click here.

Trust is Essential

December 14, 2009

“Having Awareness as a corporate partner for Special Olympics makes sense. They have opportunities and resources for our supporters that make the relationship a win-win for both the Special Olympics and our supporters.”
–Development Manager, Special Olympics Michigan

Trust is a word that conveys reliability and strength of character.  Yet it is also a concept with great fragility and a trait that must be carefully tended.  Awareness Home Funding views our past successes with great appreciation.  The recommendations of our partners reflect our responsibility to organizations and clients alike, but also drive us to perform at a higher standard.  When you succeed, we succeed.  Working together the communities we serve ultimately succeed.

As a partner, we have communication methods that will work with you however you connect with your supporters.  Our program is easy to implement and incorporate into your current fund raising efforts.  Changing your mode of operation just does not make sense.  We respect your hard work too much to not value the trust placed in us.  It is what a partner does.

Contact us today and let our passion further yours.

“I wholeheartedly recommend Awareness Home Funding to other charitable organizations, they’re for real.”                                         –Director, Humane Society of Kent County

The Power of Suggestion

December 13, 2009

“We just wanted to write and say, ‘thank you’ for all
your hard work in helping us buy our new home.  We are
so excited about our new life together in our new home.”
– The Wilson’s

Everyone knows how powerful a word can be.  Yes, as the saying goes, at times talk is cheap.  But the impact behind those suggestions and ideas from another can be invaluable.  Where we go, what we wear, and how we act, are often influenced by the suggestion of another.  Add to the equation, the variable of that suggestion coming from someone like yourself – someone you trust – and you have a mighty force to contend with.

This is why the feedback we receive from our clients is treated like gold.  We can tell you we are a trustworthy company, but having that recommendation come from someone who has gone through the process is more meaningful.  It has the “wow” factor that actually carries some weight.

 “Thank you so much for all of your help throughout this entire process!  You have been so helpful and I appreciate you so much!”
– Margie

If you have shared your experience with Awareness Home Funding with us and others, thank you.  If not, why not now? We invite you to post your own thoughts on our company, our staff or on the service we provide.  Our goal is to continually develop a life long friendship.

“Thank you for all your hard work with my loan application.  If I hear of anyone looking for financing I’ll send them your way.”

The Envelope Under the Tree

December 12, 2009

Do you know someone who always seems to have a story to share?  That person who can turn the everyday occurrences of life into an event that must be shared?  That would describe Harry.  He is one of our Loan Officers and has seemingly a million stories that always have an underlying moral.  Perhaps that’s part of the allure.  Anyway, this is one of his stories.  I hope you enjoy it.

“The year I turned nine, everything about Christmas changed for me. That year my Mom and Dad simply exchanged envelopes in place of the usual gifts. The content created the most joy I had ever seen on my parents’ faces. They each had selected a charity to donate in the name of the other.  The details of the donation were packaged in a simple envelope that lay under the tree. I don’t remember exactly what my Dad received but I do remember my Mom’s gift that year. My Dad had taken some of my Christmas “stuff” and added to it for gifts to children who might not have received anything for Christmas. He presented my Mom with a list of the children and the gifts they received.

‘Each year the exchange of Christmas envelopes continued. The creativity and generosity continued to increase over the years. I remember years when a particular family was the recipient of one of the Gifts. Another time our church’s youth group was involved in spreading the joy by helping with the delivery. It was never a question of who could spend the most, the goal was to do the most possible to spread the Christmas message while staying within the budget. As I got older, I was enlisted to help. Sworn to secrecy until Christmas morning, the experience of helping with the Christmas exchange profoundly influenced my own thinking.

 ‘The best part of any worthwhile tradition is the opportunity to pass it on to the next generation. This is one I intend to continue.”

All The Time!

December 11, 2009

What if you could only use something that you heavily relied on for a limited time?  For example, what if you only had access to your car two times a year?  You would plan and organize your schedule to make the absolute most out of that limited opportunity.  However, when you need something on a continual, consistent basis, having access to that only a couple times a year does not make the most sense.  Isn’t it ironic then that most fund raising campaigns are structured this way?

As a non-profit organization you need financial support on a year round basis.  Most fund-raisers have your oganization racing full speed for that seasonal push of support.  Unfortunately, other organizations like yours are doing the exact same thing, at the exact same time.  The competition for donation dollars becomes exceedingly fierce.

Enter the Awareness Works 4 U  program.  Our program faithfully works for you every day of the year.  There is no agenda to plan or organize, no staff to coordinate or schedule.  Forget about food to order, venues to book or promotions to execute.  Every day the Awareness Works 4 U program keeps your organization and your cause in front of supporters and their contacts.  How many fund-raisers can do that for you?

This is where we make a real difference.  Allow us to partner with you to provide ongoing, continuous support.  Send us an email at or call us at 866-982-9273.