BBB Integrity Counts! Award Honoree

We are very proud to be an Honoree of the 2008 Integrity Counts! award from the Southwest Idaho Better Business Bureau… as it turns out, honesty is still the best policy!  Questions?  Call 208.388.0500


Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe…

… is no way to pick your mortgage lender.  Most of our clients come to us by referral.  If you are using the internet to search for professional to help you with your mortgage, you should consider asking someone you trust for a referral instead. After all, if shopping for a mortgage was just about getting rate quotes, we never would have experienced a foreclosure crisis. CLICK HERE to see what people are saying about us. 

Not Your Average Mortgage Bankers

It’s our team that makes us different.  No giant call center with a “we’ll get to you when we get to you” attitude.  We’re local folks too and it’s all about you being excited to see us when we bump into each other at the Saturday morning farmer’s market.
Questions?  Call (208) 388-0500

It Takes a Village…

We believe in keeping business local.  It helps the Idaho economy and it also fosters a quicker, less stressful closing.  We take pride in having relationships with some of the best Idaho REALTORS®, Title Professionals, Escrow Agents, Insurance Agents, Home Inspectors, Builders and Appraisers who are knowledgeable, ethical and share our philosophy.  Need a recommendation?  Call 208.388.0500

Sep 15

Over half of Approved Loans Have A FICO® Score Under 750

The results of countless studies have shown that potential home buyers, and even current homeowners, have an inflated view of what is really required to qualify for a mortgage in today’s market.

One such study by the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania revealed that many millennials have not yet considered purchasing homes simply because they don’t believe they can qualify for a mortgage.

A recent article about millennials by explained that:

About 72% of aspiring millennial buyers said they’re waiting because they can’t afford to buy…

The article also explained that 29% of millennials believe their credit scores are too low to buy.The problem here is the fact that they think they will be denied a mortgage is keeping them from even attempting to apply.

Ellie Mae’s Vice President Jonas Moe encouraged buyers to know their options before assuming that they won’t qualify for a mortgage:

“Many potential home buyers are ‘disqualifying’ themselves. You don’t need a 750 FICO® Score and a 20% down payment to buy.”

So, what credit score is necessary?

Below is a breakdown of the FICO® Score distribution of all closed (approved) loans in July from Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Report.

Sep 12

Number of Buyers Putting Down Less Than 10% Hits 7-Year High

According to Black Knight Financial Service’s Mortgage Monitor Report, 1.5 million Americans have purchased a home with down payments under than 10% over the last 12 months. This is great news for buyers as this marks a 7-year high.

Many mortgage programs offered by agencies like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae allow buyers to put down as low as 3% to purchase their dream homes. The strength of the housing market has aided buyers who used low-down-payment programs to buy. As a recent CNBC article points out,

“Defaults on recent low down payment loans, so far, are slow, but that is as much a factor of the good credit quality as it is the strength of the housing market. Home prices are rising incredibly fast, meaning those borrowers are gaining equity in their homes quickly.”

Low down payments aren’t just great for first-time homebuyers. These programs have allowed homeowners who want to capitalize on the equity they have in their homes to use the profit from their sale to pay off high-interest credit cards, fund education or even start a business.

According to a new Census Report, the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, home equity was used to start 7.3% of all businesses in the United States, which equates to over 284,000! The industries that saw the most growth from home equity are accommodation & food services, manufacturing and, retail trade.

Bottom Line

Gone are the days of ‘20% down or no mortgage.’ What could you build with the equity in your house? Let’s get together today to evaluate your ability to achieve your dreams today!

Sep 11

Where Are Home Prices Headed?

Today, many real estate conversations center on housing prices and where they may be headed. That is why we like the Home Price Expectation Survey.

Every quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts, and investment & market strategists about where they believe prices are headed over the next five years. They then average the projections of all 100+ experts into a single number.

The results of their latest survey:

Home values will appreciate by 5.0% over the course of 2017, 4.0% in 2018, 3.2% in 2019, 3.0% in 2020, and 3.0% in 2021. That means the average annual appreciation will be 3.64% over the next 5 years.

The prediction for cumulative appreciation increased from 17.8% to 18.4% by 2021. The experts making up the most bearish quartile of the survey are projecting a cumulative appreciation of 6.7%.

Bottom Line

Individual opinions make headlines. We believe this survey is a fairer depiction of future values.


Oct 21

Will the Presidential Election Impact Mortgage Rates?

When the presidential election is over, one thing is fairly certain: there will be some changes to interest rates, affecting stocks, bonds, and mortgage rates. We know something will happen; we’re just not sure which way things are going to go.trump-vs-clinton

Historically, rates generally drop after a Democrat is elected, according to Freddie Mac data. The last couple of years have bucked that trend, but only slightly, with average rates rising from 3.66% in 2012 to 3.85% in 2015.

Politico thinks things are leaning the opposite way: Rates are going to have a big impact on the election. With a “still-uneven economy,” even a small rate hike could “unsettle” the progress we’re making.

According to CNN Money, “Raising rates too soon can … rattle the stock markets. It can also crush consumer and business confidence.” With one more Fed meeting scheduled before the election — only six days before — is it possible Janet Yellen will choose to bump up interest rates? It seems highly unlikely.

Elections and candidates often have a negative impact on the economy because candidates need to point out problems in the country so that they can offer ways to fix them.. According to Tim Kane, an economist at the Hoover Institution, this negative talk “creates pressure on the Fed to keep rates low to boost the economy.”

In a more general sense, the impact of the election is one of uncertainty: We don’t know who will win, and therefore we can’t begin to predict economic trends over the next few years. This pushes consumer confidence down and makes more people reluctant to go out on a major spending limb, especially for such a big-ticket item as a new home.

Whatever you decide to do, though — jump in while rates are low, or hold off to see how the economy reacts to the new regime — just remember there is no right or wrong answer. The housing market is constantly in flux, and only you and your real estate advisors can determine what’s best for you. If you’d like to discuss these trends and ideas further, my office door is always open.

Contact me for a conversation today.(208) 388-0500

Jan 26

6 Housing Related Tax Deductions You Don’t Want to Miss!


It’s tax season and it’s a great time to talk about the benefits of home ownership specifically in regards to saving money on your income taxes.

As you prepare to file your tax returns, there are a number of housing related expenses that you should discuss with your accountant because they MIGHT save you money on your income taxes. Here are our top 6:

  1. Mortgage interest you’ve paid
  2. Any discount points or origination fees you paid in the last year to get your loan
  3. Property taxes you’ve paid
  4. Home office related expenses are also sometimes tax deductible
  5. Certain moving expenses especially if you relocated for work
  6. Mortgage insurance.

Mortgage insurance (or MI) is the new kid on the block. Congress created this tax deduction in 2007 as a way to help boost the distressed housing market. It had a sunset clause, but it has since been extended through 2016 for qualifying borrowers.

As with all tax deductions, there are limitations, but it’s a conversation you should be having with your CPA especially if your adjusted gross income is less than $110,000.

On behalf of the whole Boise team at Benchmark mortgage, we hope this tip helps you save money!

Benchmark is a mortgage bank. We have local processing, local underwriting and a local appraisal panel. Our goal is to help our clients save money not only when they take out a loan, but also after closing… and we’d love to help you too.

Dec 11

Self-Employed Home Buyers Struggle, but Help Is On The Way


If you’re self-employed, I just wanted to share a quick mortgage tip with you that might help you buy a home even if you’ve had problems in the past.

We have a new mortgage program that is specifically for people, like yourself, who are self-employed. What makes it different is that it only requires one year’s worth of tax returns. This is new and it’s HUGE.

Traditionally…you would have been asked to provide the last two years’ worth of tax returns which has been a big challenge for many self-employed folks…especially if their income has been inconsistent.

While this program may not help everyone, we are projecting that it will help 30% more business owners than prior loan programs. Again, that’s huge!

My husband Dean, and I work as a team. Benchmark is a mortgage bank and we have local processing, underwriting and appraisals. Dean is absolute expert on helping self-employed people.

Call us today… we’d love to help you too.

May 19

A Lender’s Perspective: Home Sales are Skyrocketing

Recently, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Existing Home Sales Report. The numbers shocked many analysts as they revealed a 10.4% increase over the same month last year.

This is the highest number of sales since September 2013. Sales have increased year-over-year for six consecutive months and the 10.4% increase is the highest annual increase since August 2013. March’s sales increase was the largest monthly increase since December 2010.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, explained:

“After a quiet start to the year, sales activity picked up greatly throughout the country in March. The combination of low interest rates and the ongoing stability in the job market is improving buyer confidence and finally releasing some of the sizable pent-up demand that accumulated in recent years.”

Here is a graph showing home sales so far this year:

Existing Home Sales | Dean & Shanna Tucker Benchmark Mortgage

An increase in sales occurred in every region of the country even the Northeast that experienced one of their roughest winters in years:

Existing Home Sales by Region | Dean & SHanna Tucker Benchmark Mortgage

Bottom Line

Houses are flying off the shelves. If you are looking for a quick sale in a market that is favoring sellers, this may be the perfect time to sell your home too.

May 12

This Advice on Home Ownership Hasn’t Changed in 200 Years

This Advice on Homeownership Hasn’t Changed in 200 Years

This Advice on Homeownership Hasn’t Changed in 200 Years | Dean & Shanna Tucker Benchmark Mortgage

Billionaire John Paulson… like many of the wealthiest individuals… believes in the financial advantages of homeownership. He has often repeated:

“I think, from an individual perspective, the best deal investment you can make is to buy a primary residence that you’re the owner-occupier of.”

However, he has not been the only billionaire to give such advice. As a matter of fact, that same advice has been given by people of wealth throughout the history of our nation.

Here is a quote often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States and billionaire real estate developer:

“Every person who invests in well-selected real estate … adopts the surest and safest method of becoming independent, for real estate is the basis of wealth.”

Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest entrepreneurs in American history said:

“90% of all millionaires became so through owning real estate.”

Bottom Line

If the same advice has been given by the wealthiest people in each era of our country’s history, perhaps we should take it.

May 07

The Deal of the Century?

The Deal of the Century?? |Dean & Shanna Tucker Benchmark Mortgage

Recently, Freddie Mac published a blog post titled Mortgage Rates: Still the Deal of the Century. They explained that, if you are planning to purchase a home, now may be the time:

“If you are in the market to buy a home, today’s average mortgage rates are something to celebrate compared to almost any year since 1971.”

And they let their readers know that there is no guarantee that rates will remain this low:

“Over the past few years, we’ve enjoyed a long run of historically low mortgage rates. While no one expects them to change dramatically overnight, they are expected to head up. Most experts agree that mortgage rates will drift up in the coming months to end the year approaching 4.50%…Buying a home is a big investment – perhaps the biggest one you’ll make in your life. So, it’s important to be sure you are ready to make that purchase. If you are ready, today’s rates are not to be missed.”

The article went on to calculate what the principal and interest payment would be based on a $200,000 fully amortizing mortgage at different times in history.

Mortgage Payments | Dean & Shanna Tucker Benchmark Mortgage

Here is a look at rates over the decades:

Historic Mortgage Rates by Decade | Dean & Shanna Tucker Benchmark Mortgage

Here is a look at rates over the last four years and what Freddie Mac projects for next year:

30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage Rates | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

If you are thinking of buying your first home or looking to move up to your dream home, now may be the time to do it.

Feb 16

Helping Home Owners: Understanding the Property Tax Reduction Program (Circuit Breaker)

property taxesI was having dinner with a dear friend of mine who was widowed a few years back. When her husband died, she was left with a young son and limited financial resources. She is blessed to own her home free and clear, but her biggest fear is that someday they will be uprooted from their home because of an inability to afford the Idaho Property taxes. She lives  in an area of Boise with notoriously high property taxes, so I could understand her fears. Heartbreaking.

I knew about a property tax reduction for certain elderly folks, but I wasn’t sure if other low income folks might qualify and if so what the criteria  were.

After a little digging, here’s what I found out:

The Property Tax Reduction (Circuit Breaker) program reduces property taxes* for qualified applicants. Contrary to popular belief, this discount is not just for older folks! The amount of reduction is based on income for the previous calendar year. If you qualify, the property taxes on your home and up to one acre of land may be reduced by as much as $1,320.

Who Qualifies? 

According to the Idaho Tax Commission’s website, you may qualify for property tax reduction in 2015 if you:

  1. Owned and lived in a home or mobile home in Idaho that was your primary residence before April 15, 2015 (You may qualify if you lived in a care facility or nursing home. Contact your county assessor for information.), and
  2. Had income of $29,100 or less for 2014, and
  3. Met one or more of the following status requirements as of January 1, 2015:
    * Age 65 or older
    • Widow(er)
    • Blind
    • Fatherless or motherless child under 18 years of age
    • Former prisoner of war/hostage
    • Veteran with a 10% or more service-connected disability or receiving a pension from Veterans Affairs
    (VA) for a non-service-connected disability
    • Disabled as recognized by the Social Security Administration, Railroad Retirement Board, or Federal Civil

How to Apply

  1. Contact your county assessor for application materials. The office is listed under County Offices in your
    telephone directory, or you can click on this link:
  2. Complete an application. Here is a link: If you have
    questions, the assessor’s office can help you. When you file your application, you must provide proof of:
    • Income
    • Medical expenses
    • The requirement(s) you meet (age 65 or older, blind, VA disability, etc.)
    • Ownership, if the property is owned by a trust or limited liability corporation (LLC)
  3. File the application with your assessor’s office by April 15. If you don’t have all of your income information, fill
    out as much of the application as you can and file it by the April 15 deadline. You must apply for your 2015
    property tax reduction between January 1 and April 15, 2015.

You must apply and qualify each year to receive this benefit. Property tax reductions are not renewed automatically. If your application is approved, your property tax reduction will appear on your December 2015 tax bill. For complete details:

* Property Tax Reduction benefits will not reduce solid waste, irrigation, or other fees charged by government entities.

Ark-La-Tex Financial Services, LLC d/b/a Benchmark Mortgage 5160 Tennyson Pkwy STE 2000W, 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. Idaho Mortgage Broker & Lender #MBL – 4060

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