Archive for June, 2010

A Little Goes a Long Way

June 30, 2010

Last month we hosted a blood drive and bone marrow registration with Michigan Blood at our offices in Grandville.  Michigan Blood made a promise in 1955 and has kept it – to provide blood whenever it was needed.  After providing for Michigan hospitals first, they regularly send blood wherever it is needed across the United States, including to the military.

If you have ever hosted a blood drive event or donated blood yourself it is understood you will be helping someone somewhere at sometime.  The amazing part is when you learn just how your donation can help.  Besides the obvious of providing blood for an accident victim or surgical patient, a donation can do so much more.  A single pint donation can be used to help up to three people.  The reason is that one unit of blood can be separated into several components:  red cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate. 

A little biology lesson here.  Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues.  Anemic patients may need transfusions to increase red blood cell levels.  Plasma is a mixture of water, proteins and salts that circulate nutrients, enzymes and hormones.  Platelets promote blood clotting and can give patients with leukemia, children with cancer, premature infants, and children having heart surgery the life saving help they need.  Cryoprecipitate is a by-product of thawed plasma that can be given to patients separately.  Also consider this, a patient who needs an organ transplant could be forced to pass up lifesaving surgery if compatible blood is not available to support the transplant.  From this perspective, volunteering an hour (at most) of your time is suddenly invaluable.

To qualify as a donor, you need to be 17 or older, weigh at least 110 pounds and in good health.  A donor can also give every 56 days.  Yet, despite all the positive effects and relative ease of donating blood, there is always a need for more. 

Did you know that…

  • On average, someone needs blood every three seconds? 
  • Across the United States, about 37 percent of the population is eligible to donate, but only 3 – 4 percent actually do?
  • The average blood donor gives about twice a year?
  • If all blood donors would give three times a year, blood shortage would be rare?
  • If only one more percent of all Americans would donate, shortages of blood would disappear for the foreseeable future?

While we didn’t break any records, by any stretch of the imagination, it was a successful event for our first time.  We were glad to do our part and that our event encouraged several inactive registered donors to participate again.  But, there was another significant reason why we hosted this event.  We registered people as bone marrow donors. 

Michigan Blood’s Marrow and Stem Cell Department was formed in 1990 and is now the busiest donor center in the United States despite being only 33rd in size out of 80 centers.  Every day, thousands of patients with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases desperately need marrow or cord blood transplants.  The sad truth is that nearly 70 percent of these patients will not find a matching donor in their families.

To be a marrow or stem cell donor, you again need to be healthy yourself, between the ages of 18 and 60, and not be afraid of needles.  (You can cringe at needles, just not faint.)  The exciting news is the advances in bone marrow donations that have been made.  If you are found to be a match for someone the most common way to donate now is through a non-surgical procedure call PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell) donation. 

In this method the donor receives injections of a drug that increases blood-forming cells in the bloodstream.  After five days, the donor’s blood is removed from one arm (just like when you donate blood), passes through a machine to separate out the blood-forming cells, and is then returned to the donor in the other arm.  For many patients, bone marrow transplants are their best or only hope for a cure.  The good news is that research and registry members are able to save more lives than ever.

Think about participating the next time a blood drive and bone marrow registry are held in your area.  The website of Michigan Blood conveniently lists drives planned in your area.  Get involved and save a life!  Who knows, the life you save could be someone you love.

It’s Baaack! (In a Good Way!!)

June 2, 2010

This past February we posted information on Rural Development (RD) home loans – what it is, how it works, why this is such a great program.  Interest in this program has really grown over the past few years because it is so consumer friendly.  We too have seen a steady increase in RD loans.  Our company continues to underwrite more RD loans than any other lender in the state of Michigan.

Unfortunately, by April of this year funding for the program had already been exhausted for the fiscal year that runs October 1 – September 30.  Kevin Smith, Area Director for Rural Development explained that, “Record demand, not only in Michigan but nationally, for the Guaranteed Rural Housing loan program lead to the full utilization of Congressionally appropriated funding at an early time frame this fiscal year.”

While more federal dollars have not be allocated yet, the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development has decided to continue the program again for the remainder of this fiscal year by issuing conditional commitments again.  What this means is that lenders can conditionally approve and close RD loans. 

The original article we posted on this loan program follows.  Of course you can always contact us directly to for more information (866-982-9823) too.

RD Loans – A Great Option to Consider

An RD loan is a Rural Development home loan offered by the Rural Housing Service specifically for moderate to lower income residents buying homes in rural areas.  A rural area is defined as a community with a population of 10,000 residents or less.  Although some communities located outside of a metropolitan statistical area can qualify with populations up to 20,000 residents. 

In plain English this means if you would like to purchase a home in an area that is not a large city there is a program available.  For most, when you initially think of what a rural area is you might envision acres of farmland or large acreage properties where your neighbor is a mile away.  Not so.  In many instances rural areas are just outside of major cities.  In fact in the state of Michigan, more areas qualify for rural status than areas that do not.  Many of these areas are cozy suburban towns with close knit neighborhoods and strong local schools. 

Another point to note is that the RD loan program cannot be used to purchase or refinance farms or large acre properties where the land far out values the home.  This is a program for consumers who meet the typical credit requirements of obtaining a home loan.  They are just in a slightly lower income bracket and do not have enough funds on hand for a 20%+ down payment.  If this isn’t a program that helps the “little guy” I don’t know what does!  The largest advantage of RD loans is that they currently remain one of the last true “zero down” home loan options.  (VA loans are the other zero down payment option.)

The basic guidelines for an RD loan include:

  • Loans may be used to purchase a single-family, primary residence.
  • On a refinance, the existing loan must already be an RD loan.
  • A borrower must lack sufficient resources to provide a down payment for a conventional loan (typically 20-25% of the purchase price).
  • The RD loan allows a borrower to finance up to 100% of the appraised value of the home without requiring private mortgage insurance. 
  • A one time funding fee is charged and may be financed as part of the loan.  (For purchases, 2% of the loan amount is charged.  On refinances, the fee is .5% of the loan amount.  See you Home Loan Specialist for specific details.)
  • The property must be located in a designated rural area, have all-weather street access, and have approved water and waste systems.
  • The value of the site may not exceed 30% of the total appraised property value.
  • Sellers may contribute up to 6% of the purchase price toward closing costs and pre-paids.
  • Gift funds are allowed.  (Consult a Home Loan Specialist for specific criteria.)
  • Currently, only above ground pools are allowed with RD loans.
  • The property may not be active farmland.

With comparable interest rates, high LTV (loan to value) allowance and no monthly mortgage insurance, RD loans provide a great option to home buyers who may have thought they could not qualify for a home loan.  Talk with one of our Home Loan Specialists (866-982-9823) about the specific details and how this program can work for you.