AL and FL Mortgage News

Little more than a year ago in April 2020 we saw conventional and government mortgage rates slide to the lowest levels in history.  It has been epic yes for the homeowner and homebuyer as long as you maintained a 660 or better credit score.  At the same time in the blink of an eye lenders raised the bar on credit scores for all government loans from a 600-660, jumbo loans were impossible to find, and non-QM lenders (literally all of them) just stopped funding loans.  Like most absurd acts acceptable in 2020 our industry has come to its senses and this situation has mostly smoothed itself out with some subtle but important differences.

As of April 6th, 2021 most non-QM lenders (who we could call out of the box lenders) who survived 2020 have ramped back up their product offerings and are once again funding jumbo loans, bank statement loans and non-warrantable condos.  With prices skyrocketing nationwide jumbo mortgage loans aren't just a tool for the wealthy.  Bank statement loans (jumbo and non-jumbo) are an excellent resource for the self employed borrowers with 680 credit and above and not enough can be said about that topic.  In early 2021 Fannie Mae has cracked down and has started labeling condos as non-warrantable even when by all senses they sometimes are 100% warrantable so non QM-condo loans for non-warrantable condos are HUGE right now.  Right now that means you can buy a non-warrantable condo and borrow 90% on primary residences, 80% on second homes, and 75% on investment properties with acceptable credit and assets (condotels excluded).

If you are a veteran be comforted to know that the industry in general is once again accepting 620 and 600 range scores on VA purchases and  VA refinances.  The great news is that VA rates are insanely good and are trending toward to mid and upper twos back toward the lower two range especially if you have a 660 score.  Some lenders are advertising a 580 benchmark is being offered (which we do not) but we have not seen anything below this mark for VA loans so far in 2021 regardless of down payment. 

For those using FHA the benchmark for credit score across the marketplace seems to be 620.  If you are below this mark you can get purchase or refinance yes but it might be worthwhile to figure out if something minor is keeping your score down that can be fixed.  That last statement isn't new to 2020 or 2021.

Today if your scores are 720+ conventional purchase and conventional refinance mortgage rates are still below 3% after a nice market correction in the last three weeks but most notable is the15 year is trending back in the low 2% range and the 10 year is hovering near and below 2%.  We highly encourage EVERY conventional borrower, buying or refinancing to consider the 20 year.  For many years prior to 2020 the 20 year pricing most mimicked the 30 year but that is always the case.  In most market conditions and scenarios, rates are typically lower and the payment can be more affordable that the 15 year term creates.

There is more to say here and likely something that could help in your scenario.  This is why finding a mortgage broker, not just a bank, who understands the entire marketplace is key.  If you to buy, build, or refinance in Florida or Alabama we would love to give you information 100% risk free and point you in the right direction. 

You can reach us by emailing usapplying online or calling us today at 888-269-8335.


Posted by Devin Murray on June 22nd, 2021 3:35 PM

November 19th, 2020

Projected Loan Limit Size:   -  According to a detailed analysis this week posted by Matthew Graham COO of Mortgage News Daily just a few days ago the nationwide Conventional loan limit is projected to increase roughly $40,000 to around $550,000 for single family dwellings. While the formal announcement is set to be released next Tuesday November 24th, for Florida and Alabama this means an increase from $510,400 in 2020 to an estimated projection of $550,000 in 2021.  Any increase is always a positive for the general housing market even if you don't have a loan at all but given that many of us are spending more time at home and have increased needs for our families this impacts many people who have or plan to get a conventional loan in a good way that maybe it hadn't prior to 2021 especially since rates are where they are.  We will be posting some more breaking news regarding rates and products since the volatility that has been 2020.

While we don't have time to explain the many was this increase is a big deal, the impact directly impacts VA and jumbo loans as well.  Since VA entitlement is based on this limit, veterans get that additional affordability on refinances and purchases.  For some who were we stuck buying or refinancing with only a jumbo option any years prior to 2020, this will certainly translate to more availability of options, better rates, and possibly higher LTVs which is never bad.

If you want to know how this change might help you, please email us or submit an online application on our secure website.  Exciting times!!!!

Quick note:  We have been very busy in 2020 and haven't had much time to post to this blog but we have hired more staff and will ramp up the flow of information to the public starting today November 19th, 2020.  

Posted by Devin Murray on June 22nd, 2021 3:35 PM

So I was getting a haircut at noon the other day and my stylist brought-up the cost of lumber in conversation.   She is extremely sharp, but it took me back because I know she is not buying, selling, or building and this was the second time in about 4 weeks she mentioned this.  A few weeks earlier I was at a family gathering where this came-up.   I overheard a couple discussing it while I was eating lunch in a downtown café a few weeks back.  It would seem that lumber prices (and maybe a shortage of chips for auto manufacturers) is the talk of the town everywhere I go.  Since I finance residential properties and pay attention to economic data, I felt compelled to contribute some factual and maybe useful information to the ongoing discussion.

After reading-up it appears the shutdowns in 2020 impacted the processing of lumber in the US at the mill level which eventually decreased supply while demand seemed relatively steady.  To heavily oversimplify the discussion anyone can track the price of lumber because it is a commodity and lumber futures (aka futures contracts) are traded on the NASDAQ exchange using symbol LBS.  In the real-world cash lumber prices we experience at the local store versus lumber futures are not exactly the same but let’s assume they are and skip the explanation of how and why they are different for now.

At quick glance at LBS you can see it did began a meteoric rise in early March 2021, reached a peak price of around $1,700 in early May but as of the third week of June prices have already corrected back to $900 early March levels.  For all of 2020 we saw an average in the $400-500 range (excluding when COVID immediately hit) and in the last five years the mean was somewhere around $350-400.  So is the cost of wood going to remain in the current territory of basically double and triple what we have seen in the last five years?  Economics say prices we have seen in the last 90 days aren’t sustainable and we have watched the sharp decline they predicted will continue.  But what does this actually mean for the hair stylist, my family members and the few dozen others who have mentioned it?

I never mentioned this to anyone but when prices were in the $1,600 range I ran into my contractor on the baseball field and yet again he brought it up.  When I asked this same question he smiled at me and said, “Let me put it to you this way, a lumber package for an average 2000 square foot house is about $25,000 higher than this exact time last year”.  Really I thought?  “Seriously, that’s it?” I said aloud.  

Given the price of lumber futures being down 40%+ since I had this conversation that would mean the cost difference for that same 2000 square foot home is now on $15,000.  To put that in to perspective that is about the cost of 75 additional square feet or a forced downgrade of flooring or cabinetry in most homes.  Coupled with the cost of what the full $25,000 was before March 2020, most people would never feel a significant impact of this at all.

In essence the cost of money plummeting in the last 15 months NOT lumber cost should still overshadow the hottest topic around town.  Fact is if you are buying, selling, building or remodeling this is a fair warning to get moving as quickly as possible as 30 year rates seem to be rising above the 3% mark yes even in a seller's market.   For anyone else not in this category, I would also encourage you to learn about why the cost of money is so different in 2021 especially those who are mortgage free.  

We are licensed in Florida and Alabama with more states coming soon.  If you want a quote or other information regarding mortgages you can plug-in your information securely on our site 24 hours a day, call us at 888-269-8335, or send us an email  Make it a great day! 

Posted by Devin Murray on June 21st, 2021 4:36 PM

For nearly 17 years now I have originated somewhere over $450,000,000 in mortgages on everything from $75,000 starter homes to over $1 million estates from California to Miami.  While every day is a new day I believe I have seen the best and worst situations imaginable.  Over the years I have taken all of these experiences and use that to inform each customer that calls me even if I never close their loan.  I have been blessed with so many incredible relationships and opportunities I feel that it is only right to share that same information with you and maybe help make your transaction the best it can possibly be.  I could do a Top 50 but here is my opinion of the Top 10 that come to mind.

  1. Nobody likes surprises so get pre-approved in advance and get your documents to your lender as soon as possible.  Even if you don’t use that lender have your credit, income, and assets verified first.  Ask about the experience of your originator once you get to know them.
  2. Ask the lender to provide you with a copy of your tri-merge credit report even if you must pay for it.  Typical cost is $40-50 just pay.  Know your middle score(s).  Credit Karma is nice and pulling your own scores is fine but more times than not, those are not accurate when it comes to mortgage financing.
  3. Know exactly the name of loan types you qualify for, what other options are out there, and why those other options don’t make sense. A natural discussion of rates, payment, and closing costs will ensue ask if not.
    1. Example 1: If you qualify for a conventional loan, it is a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae loan
    2. Example 2: Why shouldn’t I get an FHA or USDA loan?
  4. Inquire about sub-programs or other options available
    1. Example 1: Home Ready and Home Possible are loan programs within conventional offerings that apply to people who do not own other properties
  5. Ask about what property types you can do other than a stick-built single-family home?
    1. Example 1: condos vs. duplexes vs. modular
  6. Hire an agent with rock-solid experience who really knows several markets within the area and one who listens to your needs first.  Once you narrow a few places down, witness what goes on in those areas for yourself.  Get in your car, get stuck in rush-hour traffic on purpose to see a worst case scenario.  Go walk the neighborhood and talk to your future neighbors.  See what they like/dislike about the area.
  7. Know the maximum seller concessions and seriously consider an offer with seller concessions.   Nine times out of ten, sellers are often more likely to give concessions over a price cut and this advantage gives you the options to keep savings in your pocket or put that additional money down.
  8. Ask your lender if they offer Custom Rate Locking, Lock-and-Shop Pricing, and To Be Determined Approvals.  All of these are highly customized mortgage features that will save your time and money and make your experience top notch.     
  9. Own your due diligence, do not let it own you.  When you make an offer, inspection contingencies are important but be realistic and know what to focus on. Be thinking about the roof, foundation, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical in that order and consider these major systems if you can get a showing before the offer is made. Usually sellers try to point out anything that has been recently updated.  Many home inspectors write up as many issues as they can find but that sometimes creates more confusion on something that can divert attention away from an much larger issue.  
  10. Set-up bi-weekly payments after closing.  If bi-weekly isn’t allowed ask your LO how to fix this with equivalent extra monthly principal contributions.  It is not top secret information but one extra payment each year can shave years off a 30 year note.

Get pre-approved

How a to find a good realtor

Custom Rate Lock

Lock and Shop Mortgage Pricing

Mortgage Loan Approvals on a To Be Determined property

Bi-weekly payments

Maximum seller concessions

Maximum seller paid closing costs and pre-paid items  

maximum third-party contributions

Posted by Devin Murray on December 2nd, 2020 9:10 AM
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Last week we received a call from a young professional who is gearing up to make his first home purchase.   He had good credit, steady annual income, and enough money saved for a small down payment on a new home for the family.   During the call, he voiced concern about the pre-approval amount he qualified for because of his student loans.  He had basically no debt other than a little over $130k in student loans all in deferment for the next 11 months and was of the mindset that this debt would not count against him as a result.  His credit report showed a $0/mo payment and he was a little confused as to why when he spoke to different lenders local, regional, and national each offered very different opinions on the purchase amount he could qualify for.

In the universe of mortgage financing student loans are analyzed by credit underwriters according to three main data points that normally appear on your credit report in order of importance: Repayment status, monthly payment, and current balance.

While monthly payment and balance don’t need further elaboration, knowing your repayment status and how it impacts how your payment is viewed by creditors is a little confusing.  For anyone seeking a mortgage your student loan is considered to be in a Regular Repayment status if the monthly payment is fixed and is fully amortized over full term (i.e. 5,10, 15 or 20 years) of the loan.  The best case scenario here is when the fully amortized monthly payment amount(s) appear on the credit report along with your balance(s).   In some cases you can be at the start (or restart) of regular repayment status, but the payment amount does not show on the credit report and you can clear this up with documentation from your student loan servicer showing what the payment should be.

If your student loan is not in a regular repayment status you are most likely in Deferment, Forbearance, Graduated Payment plan, or an Income Drive Repayment (IDR) plan.  No matter what your scenario, having one of these status means you are paying an amount less than the fully amortized payment or you aren't paying anything at all.   When applying for a mortgage your credit report will show one of the following:  no monthly payment (as in no number appears in the payment field), a $0/month payment is listed, or a payment significantly smaller monthly payment with respect to the balance of the student loan(s).  None of this disqualifies you from getting a loan but the debt will most likely be counted toward your debt ratio using several different methods which will impact what you can and cannot finance.  

FHA: FHA underwriting is the most inflexible next to USDA with respect to student loans.  If you are not in regular repayment status, FHA will use the greater of 1% of the outstanding principal balance or the monthly payment on the credit report.    While highly unlikely, if documenting the fully amortized payment over the life of the loan proves to be less than the 1% or payment showing on the credit the fully amortized payment can be used.

  • So if our borrower from the above example wanted to go with an FHA mortgage an underwriter would likely calculate $1,300/mo in future payments since his credit report showed $0/mo for each of the deferred loans.  FHA isn’t evil because of this nor should you avoid FHA loans if you have student loans.   FHA allows for many other things with debt ratios and credit scores that conventional cannot, so FHA loans are still great financial tools in many circumstances.

USDA (Rural): USDA underwriting always defaults to 1% of student loan balance monthly payment calculation method or the payment that appears on the credit report, whichever is more, no exceptions.  Combined with the most conservative debt ratio across the board the USDA loan can be very difficult for any borrower(s) with student loans.  Other restrictions like family household income limits and property eligibility also apply to USDA loans.  Just as with FHA, USDA loans have great offerings too.

Conventional:  If you are talking to a lender, regardless if you have student loans, ask if they offer both conventional loans underwritten by both Fannie and Freddie Mac.  If they don’t and you are buying/refinancing in Alabama or Florida call us at 888-269-8335.  We say this because not all conventional loans are the same and this advice will be true even if you have no student loan debt.

  • As a general rule conventional loans afford borrowers breaks that FHA and USDA do not.   According to Fannie Mae if a monthly student loan payment is on credit, as long as it is not zero dollars, can be used.   This means borrowers in both Graduated Payment and IDR plans can potentially catch a huge break with Fannie Mae if a payment greater than $0 is reporting.  For those in deferment or forbearance status the lower of the 1% of the loan balance OR documented fully amortized payment can be used.   
  • In better news Freddie Mac is easier and more flexible than Fannie Mae.  The same break applies with Graduated Payment and IDR plans as with Fannie Mae but those in deferment or forbearance status can use the lower of the 0.5% of the loan balance OR documented fully amortized payment can be used.  Also unlike Fannie, Freddie will actually allow $0 payments to be counted in some unique instances where deferment extends 12 months beyond the closing date.

So for our example above using a conventional loan underwritten by Freddie Mac versus Fannie Mae, Freddie is twice as flexible with the student loan debt in that it would calculate our borrower’s projected student loan payments at $650/mo versus $1,300/mo.  

VA: For eligible veterans it is no surprise that the VA is likely the most flexible with student loans.  VA underwriters will use the greater of the student loan payment listed on credit report or 0.42% of the balance (that is 5% divided by 12 months).  If the 0.42% is greater the actual payments can be used with a letter from the servicer.  IDR plans resulting in a monthly payment greater than $0/mo can be used, and IDR plans resulting in a $0/mo payment can be used if they continue 12 months beyond the loan funding date.  Also loans deferred loans beyond 12 months of the loan funding date can be calculated at $0.

If our borrower would have been eligible for a VA loan, the payment calculated by underwriting would be $546/mo versus $650 (Freddie) or $1,300 (Fannie Mae).

Jumbo:  Other than to state our own, there is no industry-wide standard for student loan requirements on jumbo loans (amounts over $484,500 as of Oct 2019 in AL and FL (exclude Monroe Co)).   Loans in repayment can use the payment on the credit report or documentation of actual.  Any loans showing a $0 payment will use the 1% of balance monthly payment calculation.  We have other info available on this blog for Jumbo Loans and Jumbo Construction Loans.

If the numerical differences between how these student loans are calculated from program to program doesn’t seem important, know that for this buyer it meant being able to afford the $325,000 home in a much better neighborhood with better schools over a $210,000 property.  For some it might mean the ability to buy versus not being able to buy at all.  For others it might mean being unable to refinance their existing loan.   

Other than Google (j/k Google) there is no evil company preventing people from getting the most truthful information.  With loan guidelines that are updated several times a year and lenders enacting their own overlays on top of those rules will only result in growing public confusion on this and many other topics related to mortgages.   Missing just a little information about how debt impacts you can lead to all kinds of financial decisions that can impact you and your family today and for many years to come.  We believe that empowering yourself with solid information and picking a lender with the highest level of expertise in the marketplace are your keys to success with home buying and refinancing.

If you have student loans and are buying, refinancing, or building a home in Alabama or Florida we urge you to seek out information like this and contact us with questions. No two scenarios are ever the same and we’d love the chance to get to know you and help you plan your future.  

If you want to find out how much you can qualify for today, complete our online application 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Can I buy a house if I have student loans?

Can deferred student loans keep me from getting a mortgage?

Do deferred student loans count when applying for a mortgage?

Will student loans in forbearance keep me from getting a mortgage?

Can I afford more house if my student loans are in a graduated re-payment plan?

Does student loan forgiveness in the future allow me to buy a house now?

Posted by Devin Murray on September 30th, 2019 8:15 PM

USDA Purchase Honoraville, AL

A few months back we received a call from a nice family from Fort Deposit, Alabama asking about building a new home after having outgrown their current home.  We had given them several options and a plan for building on land they already owned with an FHA construction-to-permanent loan.  Ultimately after researching and planning for several weeks they decided nine to ten months to have their new home built was just too long for their needs.  

After a quick re-evaluation, we pre-approved them for a several other loan products including a USDA loan with the disclaimer that any property they found would first need to be eligible for USDA financing.  A few days later they contacted an agent and found a great home on 14 acres with a similar floor plan that was built in the last ten years for under $260,000.  The property was loaded with amenities like granite counter tops, hardwood floors, custom tile bathrooms, and an outdoor kitchen as well as energy saving options like spray foam insulation in the attic and tank-less hot water heater/circulation system.  Not to mention to surrounding land was loaded with mature pines and provided the privacy they were hoping for (see more pictures below).

Within a few short days the home was under contract and we had USDA loan approval.  The contract was written for 45 days and we had their loan ready and clear to close in 41 days.  The sellers and agents were all very pleased and closing went very smoothly as planned.   Most importantly the hard-working family who thought they would build found using a USDA loan and buying an existing home ended giving them an attractive home in a short amount of time, with little to no money out of pocket (seller’s concessions applied), and very affordable payments.  

As it was with this family, the home buying process doesn’t always end up exactly where you start and that is why it is important you choose a lender that is an expert in closing loans custom fit for you in your market in Alabama or Florida.  Many lenders pretend, we deliver.  

There is never any fee or obligation to learn more about the buying process, research your different loan options, get a quote, or get pre-approved.   You can visit us online for quotes and pre-approvals 24 hours a day or for more information give us a call at 888-269-8335 during normal business hours 8-5pm M-F.

Posted by Devin Murray on July 30th, 2019 4:08 PM

In the last 24 hours we have received a fourth call in just as many months from a potential borrower/buyer who states that several local banks and credit unions in their area have denied them mortgage pre-approval on a conventional loan because their non-US residency status was “permanent resident alien” but not because of insufficient credit, income, or assets.  As I assured yesterday’s caller and others before them who were in different states and markets, having a permanent resident alien status is does not bar you from getting a conventional loan.

A few months back a couple who had been refused a loan at 5 different local banks across two cities were very hesitant when I echoed this same information to them.  They were very hesitant at first and with very good reason.  Just like we do many other loans we had them approved in 48 hours and closed iin about 22 days with no issues.  

If this is true, why is the answer from one lender to the next so different for conventional loans?  The short answer is Fannie Mae doesn’t require them to write these loans and you can read their most recent explanation here.  As for us, we attribute our ability to provide loans for permanent resident aliens with open arms based on good partnerships in the business who provide us the most flexibility in all loan products.  This is why Gulf States Financial was created and this is who we are. 

Are you or a family member a permanent resident alien who can’t find financing?  Fill-out our secure online pre-approval application 24 hours a day or call us during business hours at 888-269-8335.

Our guidelines related to this topic and others subject to change at any time without notice.  Gulf States Financial NMLS #835698.  Equal Housing Lender

Posted by Devin Murray on April 24th, 2019 3:25 PM

A Better Way to Lock

All New Custom Rate Locking - Many times a contract closing date calls for locking a loan for longer than what is needed.  This has been the trend in the mortgage industry for many years.  To capture better pricing for our customers we are excited to announce the ability lock the rate only for the time the borrower needs.  If the borrower needs 22 days we can lock for 22 days not 30.  Combined with custom rates and the ability to shop and lock we are really looking forward to tailoring each loan for each customers needs.

Southern Data

The US Median home price in January 2019 was $249,900 and the South was $219,800 according the NAR.  Combined with significantly lower property taxes compared to North and Western regions, the southern states still remain a significant value in terms of affordability in housing.

Nationwide Data

Home Prices: Corelogic notes that the rate of home-price growth as of December 2018 was 4.7% which is the lowest level seen in nearly 7 years.

Inventory: According to NAR Existing homes on the market are up 6.2% as of December 2018 compared to one year ago but shortages still remain in lower-price tiers.  Rising inventory is good when considering new housing starts in the last decade were under 10 million where demand for housing based on population growth is believed to be around 15 million.

Do you want to see how a custom rate quote compares to a standard rate quote?  Email us your questions or have them submit a pre-approval application from any mobile device 24 hours a day.


Posted by Devin Murray on April 15th, 2019 10:34 AM

Tapping Equity - Buying Second Homes and Investment Properties

We typically get several inquiries a week from people all over the country who want to learn more about what it takes to finance a second home or investment property from Huntsville to Miami.  Most are shocked to learn that they only need 10% down for second homes and 15% down for investment properties (excluding condos).  Among those that inquire we find that most have sufficient credit and income to easily qualify but don’t have enough assets in hand to make the down payment on the “perfect place” they really love or the ideal property that will generate the most rental income so they do not take action.

With several publications announcing home values grew at national average just under 7% year or year as of QE4 2018 (which equates to nearly a $17,000 average increase) the average consumer who has owned for three years or more has much more equity than they realize.  With the Fed’s announcement for 2019 and rates hitting 12 month lows two weeks ago, there hasn’t been a better opportunity for your customers to capture some of this equity and put it to work.

No two customers are ever the same and neither are the solutions on how to access equity.  HELOCs are an excellent answer and will normally allow cash-out up to 90% of the appraised value while fixed rate second mortgages follow close at 85-80%.  If requirements such as credit score or income for HELOCs and second mortgages are too strict, refinancing of a primary mortgage primary may be a feasible solution.  Below is a current summary of what the loan-to-values allowed based upon occupancy.

Owner Occupied:
VA  = 100% (minus any funding fee)
FHA = 85%
Conventional  = 85% (Freddie requires 740+)
Non-conforming = 85% (porfolio and Non-QM)
Conventional = 80%
Jumbo = 80%

Second Homes:
Conventional = 80%
Jumbo  = 65%

Investment Property
Conventional = 75%
Jumbo = 60%

We work with a range of customers from first time buyers of second homes and investment properties to those with large portfolio holdings.  If you have a customer who might be in the market who wants to discuss their scenario with one of our licensed loan officers please feel free to have them call, email, or apply online 24 hours a day. 


*High Balance loan limits for both AL and FL are conforming loans between $484,351 to $749,525



Posted by Devin Murray on April 8th, 2019 1:25 PM

Interest Rates:

Federal Reserve – announces on March 20th, 2019 no rate increases through the rest of 2019 – great for purchases and refinances

Interest rates across the board hit 12 month lows early last week and are trending back upward as of late last week.  Rates spent the majority of 2018 climbing so this is great news not just for purchases.


The power of a refinances is big and can help realtors too – borrowing money for second homes and investment purchases against a primary residence is the cheapest money out there.  In combination with good rates and higher loan to value maximums, there has not been a better time in over a year to refinance.  We will talk maximum LTVs for on cash-out refinances next week.

Condo Financing:

 If you missed out last week key conventional  guidelines are freeing up much needed money for both condo buyers and existing owners.  The details of the full article are here.

Do you have a financing scenario you are helping a customer with? Send us your questions or have them submit a pre-approval application to us directly from any mobile device 24 hours a day.

Posted by Devin Murray on April 2nd, 2019 8:32 AM



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