Posts Tagged ‘Awareness Home Funding’

Tales of a Home Buyer – part 5

June 7, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

My Loan Officer now took my file (all 7,000 pages at this point) and submitted it to the underwriter for them to review and verify.  I was feeling a little more confident at this point that the loan would go through smoothly.  However, the first part of this process is not just for the underwriter to approve the loan, but to also to gather more information (called conditions) if needed to support their decision.  It’s kind of like the kid on the playground who says, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” when you say you can do a handstand or something else you can no longer do at age 39.  (There’s a whole other story there.  Don’t ask.)

I am happy to report; my loan was approved by the underwriter with minimal conditions.  Those were submitted and my Loan Officer and Title Agent were soon given the all clear sign to get the final documents ready for the closing.  If you think the papers you signed for your application were excessive, you haven’t seen anything yet.  Some of the documents are the same ones you signed for the application.  You get the privilege of signing those again.  Others are new forms that detail your loan and how you will repay it.  Then there are others that give you important information about the whole transaction, and then even more that verify you were given that information.  As you may have guessed, there were a couple politicians and lawyers involved in determining the process for buying (or even refinancing) a home.  I highly suggest a big breakfast before and a hand massage after the closing.

The day of my closing seemed to never come.  The dream of owning my own home was finally here after almost 3 years of planning and hard work.  The moment the keys to the front door were placed into my hand was, as they say, priceless.  Owning a home is not just the purchase of piece of property.  A home is where you raise a family, share memories, retreat from the world.  It is an investment unlike any other.  Stocks and bonds can never hold the emotional ties that a house does.  A home is not just brick and mortar; it is a part of who you are.

We, at Awareness Home Funding, have always said we had one of the best careers there is.  It is a high honor to help someone with the most significant transaction in their lives.  We’ve been through the process – not just as loan officers and processors, but as home owners ourselves.  We haven’t forgotten the feelings and emotions attached to the address.  I’ve shared my story, and you have (or will have) your own.  The point in sharing mine is that we understand, completely, and are here to help you with compassion and expertise.  We’d love to be a part of your unique story and happy ever ending.

Why Do You Run?

April 21, 2011

Awareness Home Funding shared in our April e-newsletter that three of our employees are participating in the 2011 Riverbank Run.  They are running not only for personal reasons, but to also help In The Image and their S.H.O.E.S. program which provides shoes for at-risk students in three area school districts.  Last year they helped 9,000 kids and have a goal of helping with 12,000 pairs of shoes this year!

A link for each member of the Awareness Team is included if you would like to help area kids by supporting their run.  Let us introduce them to you.

Robin Baker began running 16 years ago because of the positive influence of her father, Al Owens.  Al has been very involved in the Grand Rapids racing community for over 35 years and has passed the passion to his daughter.  Robin also likes the aerobic base it gives her for all the other activities she enjoys.

This year Robin is participating in the 5k race.  Her main goal:  to run and have a good time with her friend Shanna and to pass the passion to Shanna’s son, Kendrick.

Robin said she particularly loves the Riverbank Run because it is a great race with high energy.  “I grew up in the crowd as a little girl, waiting at the finish line for the first, second and third places to come through” shared Robin.  “You always knew when they were approaching because you could hear the roar from the crowd getting closer and closer.  And then I would wait for my dad to finish, which he would never do until he found my mom in the crowd and stopped to give her a kiss and thank her for her support.  Now I use the Riverbank run to kick-off my summer of racing fun.  My husband and I are signed up for several weekend adventure races.”

To support Robin, follow this link: http://www.active.com/donate/intheimage2011/BakerR

Shanna Black has a unique perspective on this year’s race because of her son, Kendrick.  “We are very excited to do this event together. I’m hoping that he will enjoy his first race and we can start an annual tradition of running the Riverbank Run together.” 

Shanna started running like most to stay active and healthy.  This will be her second year running the Riverbank 5k Run and has a personal goal of simply beating her finishing time from last year.

Visit this page to encourage Shanna and Kendrick: http://www.active.com/donate/intheimage2011/Shanna-Kendrick

The third member of the Awareness Team is Anthony McCullough.  Anthony started running just last year because he didn’t think he could run a 5k.  He kept running after his first race as a method of exercise for himself and his dog.  “It was the best way to give my dog exercise.  When you have a tall 100lb Doberman just walking him does not get rid of the energy he has.  So we had to move to running.”

Anthony’s goals have expanded rather quickly since his first 5k last year.  He ran in a 10K also and this year can be seen in the 25k.  He has set a personal goal of finishing in 2 hours and 20 minutes, but the primary goal is to “mainly just finish”.

Let Anthony know you care by clicking on this link: http://www.active.com/donate/intheimage2011/amccullough

Please support our runners by encouraging their efforts.  However, the primary goal is to support area at-risk kids.  It is inspiring to see how a pair of shoes can make all the difference.

Agents of Change

March 4, 2011

On a personal level the word change can be defined as making a difference in the state or condition of someone or to substitute another state or condition.  To change is to make a significant difference so that a person is distinctly different from what they were.  Change is inevitable in life for all of us.  The defining moment however, is whether or not that change is positive. 

Sometimes it is specific person or group that initiates these transformations.  They are agents of change and possess such characteristics as being sensitive, realistic, flexible, tolerant, committed, influential, confident and passionate.  Allow us to introduce you to two agents of change.

Guiding Light Mission is located on Division Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids, MI.  They provide emergency services by way of shelter and meals to anyone in need as well as overnight shelter to men.  Their long history dating back to 1929 has equipped them to provide social, physical, spiritual and intellectual needs to men in the community with the ultimate goal of allowing individuals to discover a new life in Christ. 

The START program (Spiritual Truth And Recovery Training) is a 4-6 month recovery program for men with an expectation of re-engagement into the community.  A recent example is the Recovery Runners, a group of men from the START program who are training for the River Bank Run In The Image run team.  Their stories of overcoming addictions and hardship are inspirational; and now they run to complete yet one more transformation. (You can see their personal stories here:  http://www.lifeonthestreet.org/LIVE-ON-THE-STREET/Recovery-Runners.aspx

In The Image is the other change agent in this story.  They are an organization that links gently used clothing, housewares, furniture and appliances with families in need in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Their history dates back to 1987 when a couple of individuals paid attention to the needs around them.  That same attention to detail has lead to the addition of In The Image’s SHOES program – Shoes Help Our Elementary Students.  Last year this program distributed almost 9,000 pairs of shoes to kids in Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Kentwood school districts.

Guiding Light Mission and In The Image continue to impact the community, offering people in need a hand up as agents of change.  The baton has been handed to the men running as part of the In The Image run team.  Besides running to overcome yet one more personal challenge they are running to raise awareness and funds for at-risk kids.    With every $10 raised, In The Image is able to purchase a brand new pair of shoes for an area student.  It is amazing what a simple pair of shoes can do.  Now it is your turn.  Get involved with a commitment to positively help more kids this year. 

Awareness Home Funding will be supporting a group of runners from our company who will be running for In The Image.  You can support In The Image directly by visiting http://active.com/donate/intheimage2011and donating what you feel lead to do.  Be an agent of change yourself.

One Really Good Day

January 6, 2011

Yesterday was awesome!  Let me start by saying it wasn’t due to the sun shining on newly fallen snow or that I won the lottery.  (Just for the record I didn’t even play.)  Yesterday was a truly great day because I was able to visit three area non-profits with gifts of support to help them continue their efforts.  For extra measure I even threw in a visit to a new friend who is organizing an upcoming event you really should attend.

The reason for these visits was the result of the AHF Charity Gridiron Challenge game we have been playing this NFL season.  Every week we encouraged friends, family, co-workers and supporters of all non-profits to register and play by picking the teams they felt would win their respective games.  The player with the most correct picks received a $50 gift card.  The non-profit organization they were playing for received $250 from Awareness.  While the game created some friendly competition and interesting office dynamics, the most important part was the ability to support some great organizations. 

The day started with a brief stop to see Jay Starkey, Executive Director at In The Image.  This is an organization that connects families in need with donated clothing, furniture, appliances and more.  Every year they also help area at-risk kids get a new pair of shoes for school.  Last year they were able to help nearly 9,000 kids and have a goal of helping 12,000 kids this year.  Jay, his staff and many more friends played with great enthusiasm all season long with a desire to win “at least just one week”.  That was just what they did the last week of the regular season thanks to a long-time friend of Jay’s.  $250 to In The Image means helping 25 kids with new shoes.  This day was getting brighter as I began to see what these organizations can do with a relatively few bucks.

I then made my way across town to Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.  If you have not heard about all the excitement going on there lately where have you been?  Gilda’s Club is a place where people of all ages gather to learn about cancer, share experiences with others, and have the opportunity to laugh along the way.  This March Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids will celebrate 10 years of keeping that signature red door open and warmly welcoming all who want to enter with Laugh Fest.  This is the first annual 10 day event that is sure to tickle every funny bone you have. 

I was extremely honored to deliver to them as our grand prize winner, a check for $2500.  It was fun to watch the faces of three weekly winners who also happen to be on the staff of Gilda’s Club beam with pride at their successful efforts.  However, it quickly sank in that this money also meant they had more work to do, more lives to help, more smiles to share.  Incidentally I also had another contribution for them.  You see the real difference in the Awareness business is that we make a contribution of $250 with every home loan we close; and a client had  just asked us to help Gilda’s Club as a result of their loan.  That is one part of my job that will never grow old.

I took a slight detour from delivering checks from the Charity Gridiron Challenge game to deliver one for the next event we are sponsoring.  The Grandville/Byron Center Varsity Hockey team is hosting their second annual charity game.  This year they are raising funds and awareness of Juvenile Diabetes by supporting JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).  A team mom decided to chair the event this year since her son, a senior on the team, has type 1 diabetes.  (If you missed his story in our January e-newsletter, sign up to receive it for free.)  The charity game is January 29 at the Georgetown Ice Arena.  Visit our Facebook page for all the details under the Events tab.

By now I wondered if there was anything to top my excitement.  I had already brightened the day of 3 groups and had one more stop to make – Harbor House Ministries.  Peg Driesenga is the Executive Director of a Christian residence for people with severe mental and physical disabilities.  Like Gilda’s Club, Harbor House is not a place of dimmed lights and hushed tones.  The rooms are open and bright with an air of energy and excitement.  Laughter and conversations drift from all around.  Life is in full swing here.

Peg showed me The Cove, a new activity and physical therapy building on their property.  They have a personal goal of remaining debt free and our contribution was another partner making sure that stayed a reality.  I was really impressed by the love and compassion the staff at Harbor House possesses to care for their residents.  Hopefully we can bring you their full story sometime.

This was one really good day.  And to think it all started with a simple game of picking football teams.  I guess the bottom line is that it’s not about how big the act of kindness is, but that you do act.  It’s not about the value of the check, but the value of the intention behind it.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day, what are you doing to make a difference with yours?

We Should Talk

October 19, 2010

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 18 months you know that interest rates on home loans have been at historically low levels.  The bad news is that you also know the effects the market has had on the value of your home.  Many homeowners feel they have few options available.  How can you refinance your home to take advantage of these great rates when your home’s value is less than before?  Well before you decide that living under a rock now sounds appealing, we should talk.

If you have taken care of your credit by paying your bills on time, watching your credit card balances and not overextending yourself there are options.  No, these are not crazy loan programs set to self-destruct in 3 years time.  We are Awareness Home Funding, we only offer solid loan programs that actually make sense and benefit you.  These are programs with exactly you in mind – designed to reward you for your efforts and good behavior.

We have programs to refinance Conventional, FHA and RD loans that allow borrowers to take advantage of the historically low interest rates without the need for a new appraisal of your home to be completed.

Here are the basics:

  • You need to live in the home you are refinancing. 
  • This cannot be a second home or an investment property.
  • You need to be current on your mortgage right now.
  • Your personal credit needs to be in good shape.  (We can help you get a complete credit report and score at no charge.)

If this sounds like you, we should talk.  We can help you determine the specific qualifications so you can make an informed decision without pressure, confusion or cost. 

Call us today at 866-982-9273.

Forget Football in America! We’re Talking Football in the Office!!

September 1, 2010

It barely reaches 14 inches tall yet its stature is staggering.  It weighs in at less than a pound yet the power it yields is overwhelming.  The prestige of it is so great that it is kept heavily guarded in a top-secret vault somewhere in northern Kent County, Michigan.  What is it?  This can only be none other than the World Famous Traveling Trophy.

A moment of silent respect please ….

Every year at this time our employees enter into the fiercest of competitive events: the Pigskin Pick-Em’s.  Each week participating employees select which football teams they have determined will win their respective match ups.  Each week, when the results are revealed, one victorious person within our company receives the dubious honor of displaying this icon of power and posterity upon their desk for all to gaze upon.  The respect this trophy beholds is so great that no one dare touch it unless they have already been bestowed with the honor of winning any week’s picks.

Now before you think we have all totally lost it, let me assure that we are not a complete bunch of nuts.  We are just a little competitive during this season where bragging rights give us great personal satisfaction and cheap entertainment.  Hey we don’t get out much; we’re handling your home loans with the utmost focus.

But admit it.  You want to play now too don’t you? 

Unfortunately this game is just for us employees, but we are developing one you can play!  Each week you can visit our website and select your winning picks and we will post the winning player on our Facebook page.  Of course after the above description of our antics this seems a little lackluster.  That just won’t do.

So let us introduce the AHF Charity Gridiron Challenge!!  This will soon be up on our website for your enjoyment, bragging rights and competitive urges.  Each week you will play for a $50 gift card to a national chain restaurant.  But wait, there is more!  You will also be playing for your favorite non-profit, 501c3 verifiable charity.  (Sorry our legal department insisted that part be added.) When you win, your charity does too with a $100 check!  But that’s not all!

After 17 weeks of nail-biting, hair-raising intensity the charity that has ‘won’ the most weeks will also win an additional $2500!!  Now here is where the real fun begins.  Your involvement in getting others to play is critical because in the event of a tie between charities, the organization with the most number of supporters playing will be the winner.  Whoa! 

The game will be up and running on our website by September 7 along with complete rules and game details.  Act now, operators are standing by! 

Not really, but we do hope you have as much fun as we do.  Game on!!

Pam Teachout

August 26, 2010

We would like to introduce you to another member of the Awareness Home Funding Team, Pam Teachout.  Pam is one of our Home Loan Specialists who not only helps clients with their home loans but also makes sure all your questions are answered.  Pam wanted to share her thoughts on our company and approach to customer service.

OK…I want to say something about Awareness. 

I have worked many places over the “decades” of my life….and this is one of the best companies I have worked for in terms of “doing what’s right” for the customer.  We are expected and encouraged to go the extra mile for the client.  How refreshing is that?  So many businesses today, in order to survive, have to meet “the quota”, and cut corners to get there.  That is not the philosophy here at Awareness Home Funding.  We know if we do the right thing, the business will come to us. 

Are you unable to refinance or purchase a home because life has thrown you a financial curve? What if your credit is too low and you do not qualify for a home loan?  Well, we will help you understand what you need to do to make your credit healthy again, and give you a path to get there.  We spend time with you.  We help you where it hurts.  When you are ready, and we will keep checking on your status, we do hope we can provide you with that home loan.   

Although we are a business that like all businesses needs to make money; we don’t throw you out with the bath water if you are not ready or decide not to get a home loan.  We’ll check on you later to see if your circumstances have changed.  We want to be your one stop-shopping FOR LIFE for all your mortgage needs. 

I am so proud to work for a company that TRULY has the client at heart.  Would you like to hear the icing on the cake?   Awareness Home Funding will donate $250 to the charity of the client’s choice!  How cool is that?   Personally, I have purchased and refinanced only with credit unions in the past.  I never realized there was a company out there like Awareness.  I just thought a lender would cost me more money and a credit union would not “take advantage” on one of its members.  While I do believe in what credit unions do care for their customers, they could NEVER spend the amount of time with a client the way that Awareness folks do.  They say either you are approved or not approved; that’s it.  For that matter, so do most banks and lending companies.  That is what sets us apart. 

I work for Harry Gribnitz.  And Harry, I do not mean to make you blush, but dang you are the influence that keeps this boat floating and makes me feel so good about coming to work everyday.  I get to help people get into their first home, or refinance to a lower interest rate!  But the best part is helping people “get there” if they have credit problems.  That is SO satisfying. 

An Endearing Appeal that Lingers On

August 10, 2010

The idea was to provide a little education and old-fashioned marketing to create some excitement over a product – specifically wool.  That was 1807 when Elkanah Watson first exhibited his sheep.  As with many good ideas, it grew – into annual agricultural events that are now held all across the country.  According to the Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, there are over 3,200 fairs held in North America every year; 86 of them just in the state of Michigan.

Fairs have become a kaleidoscope of events, exhibits and competitions showcasing knowledge, experience and advancements in industry, livestock, horticulture and agriculture.  Talk about an interactive classroom!  All this on display to tantalize the senses with what our world has to offer.  Now add some rides, food and smiles all around and you have a classic event for everyone that has entertained for generations. 

The alluring and endearing appeal is part of what has kept many of us at Awareness Home Funding coming back each year.  Not just to participate in child-like wonder and awe, but to support and encourage the benefits of honest home-grown goodness and hands-on education.  Fair is a place where the values of hard-work and integrity are still just as important as market-share and return on investment.

The beauty is that fair offers something for everyone.  Machines with power and force; athleticism showcasing grace and control; animals on display testing patience with understanding; sweet savory samplings to tempt and delight … Are you ready to join us?

The Kent County Youth Fair is here – August 9 -14 in fact.  Find us this year in the Children’s Barnyard or appreciating the club booths or talking with friends or eating elephant ears or … just come down, we’ll be there.  Take a peek at their website before you go though for all the details: www.kcfg.org

See ya at Fair!

Faith Higbee

July 21, 2010

Many companies and individuals speak of community involvement and compassion.  While an endearing goal and value, how far does the commitment go?  Hopefully as you learn more about Awareness Home Funding you see that this is so much more than mere words.  We thought that introducing our staff to you might help.

To that end, we will periodically share the floor with each of our staff members while they introduce themselves and what giving back means to them.  First up is … well, just read on.

Alo! That’s “hello” in Creole and although I’m not fluent in the language quite yet, I have flashcards at home to prove my attempt. My name is Faith Higbee and I work at Awareness Home Funding; by this time next month, I’ll be traveling with a Missions Team to Haiti for a week to visit the orphaned babies, help distribute food and try my hand at carpentry. People are my passion and helping is my goal, cliché as it may sound. Needless to say, upon finding out that Awareness Home Funding is a leader in outreach programs, I was eager to join the team. Their unique fund raising programs donate $250 to an organization of choice with each home loan that’s closed. Such a charitable act is a tough one to follow and hit close to home as a Hospice volunteer.

For the past year, I’ve acted as a companion volunteer to the elderly and terminally ill. Some people may say that it’s no easy feat but I love what I do. In all honesty, I take more from my experiences with patients that I visit than I would ever imagine them to. The feeling is monumental and their stories are instant classics! Little more is humbling than to sit at someone’s bedside as they speak about their life’s beginnings while experiencing their end. For me, it’s been illuminating. My first patient once told me a phrase that still sticks with me: “If I make it to Heaven before you do, I’ll poke a little hole and help pull you through.” Although quite the tearjerker, it’s just one of many reasons why I volunteer my time and stay motivated for future endeavors. If life is about lessons, I want my share of mine.

Not all Bones are Worth Barking at

July 13, 2010

The Home Buyer’s Tax Credit program has not only received much attention, but also much success among buyers who were able to take advantage of the incentive to receive up to $8,000 in tax credits.  The program was so successful that it was granted two extensions.  The first extension happened this past winter allowing more time and more buyers to get in on the action.  And thousands did!  The second extension was signed into action just 11 days ago by President Obama.  This second extension moves the deadline to close on these home loans from June 30 to September 30, 2010. 

While this may sound good on paper, did it even help anyone?  Were home buyers just thrown the proverbial dog bone?  The second extension affects home loans for purchase agreements that were finalized by April 30 of this year.  That means these contracts are now over 60 days old with most written to close within that time frame.  If a buyer takes another 90 days to close on their home loan, it will have taken 5 months to close their loan!  Are sellers even willing to wait that long to close on the sale of their home?  What affect with that long of a wait have on a sellers next purchase?

Perhaps the underlying question is why didn’t the home loan close in the first place?  You can make the argument that with all the home buyers flooding the market, lenders, appraisers, title companies, etc were suddenly backlogged with so much business they could not possibly keep up.  For some this is probably true, but is the extension too late?  Remember that the extension only changes the closing date.  The binding purchase contract still needs to be dated on or before April 30, 2010.  If the contract was written to close by June 30, 2010 and it did not, that contract is now void.  A written addendum to change the closing date changes the purchase agreement and while the buyer and seller may agree, it also means a final binding agreement was not in place by April 30.

The other challenge we have heard is that buyers were not properly qualified before they even made an offer on the home.  Unfortunately, many lenders only pre-qualify a borrower which means you have only verbally discussed your financial situation for purchasing a home.  A stronger case is when a borrower is pre-approved.  This means actual documentation on income, assets and debt load has been reviewed and verified.  Pre-approved borrowers have fewer surprises when their home loan is processed. (Awareness Home Funding always prepares our clients.)  Unfortunately, many home buyers wanting to take advantage of the Home Buyers Tax Credit are failing to close due to challenges that should have been addressed before they even began to shop for a new home.

The Home Buyers Tax Credit program was a good program that really worked, really helped buyers and really moved home sales.  This last extension just helps very few and was put into affect way too late.  But let’s not leave this post on a down note.  There is still a home buyer’s incentive program in place, one that has been there for some time – the Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program.

The MCC program is a Federal tax credit on the mortgage interest you pay on your home loan over a calendar year.  While this does not reduce your monthly mortgage payment, it is a dollar for dollar reduction from the amount of your Federal Income Tax liability.  Not every state offers the MCC since it is state run and funded despite being a federal program.  However, for states that do, it effectively reduces your annual interest rate.  Awareness Home Funding is committed to using the MCC program wherever available in the states we are licensed to conduct business.

The main point is this, while the Home Buyers Tax Credit program has ended, help is available for home buyers.  Call us today (866-982-9273) to see how we can help you.