Meet Tina Mueller, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

Tina MuellerGet to know Tina Mueller, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Onalaska.When did you start your banking career?

Tina: I started in 1992, and I came to Merchants Bank in Onalaska in 2005. I’ve been a personal banker, consumer loan officer, branch manager and of course a mortgage lender. I have always worked for a community bank; I believe in local decision making as key decisions are made locally by people who live and work in the community.

What is your best banking tip?

Tina: The best thing people can do is develop a good credit rating. Be diligent about spending and make your monthly payments on time. Having a major credit card from your local bank is a great way to establish credit and paying off the balance in full each month is a good way to develop a credit rating. It is important to maintain a good credit rating to have a chance at obtaining the best rates possible on loans when they go to make a major purchase like a car or a home.

My coworkers have put together a great video series on building a good credit rating: Watch here.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Tina: One thing my parents taught me about money is how to save, which was huge. My first job was when I was in high school and the rule was if I was going to work, half of my pay check had to go into a savings account. I was amazed at a young age at how quickly funds would add up in a savings account. Paying yourself first and establishing a savings pattern builds discipline and good financial habits. Building savings also provides a sense of financial security and builds wealth.

If you $1,875,000 what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Tina: That’s easy! I would buy a tiny place on the beach which I would share with family. I love relaxing by water and being in the sun. There is nothing better than the sound of waves crashing, birds chirping and the warm breeze blowing.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Tina: The Green Bay Packers – Go Pack Go!

Picture your dream home. What is your favorite room and why?

Tina: My favorite room in the house is the great room. A place where the whole family can hang out together. Whether we are kicking back and enjoying great conversations, or maybe watching a Packer game while grabbing something to eat. This is the room we tend to gather in. Big windows with a nice view would make it even better.

What, Why and How: Merchants Bank Mortgage Underwriting

Mortgage Underwriting Team

Merchants Bank Underwriters (l-r): Chris Thrune, Angie Booher, Abbey Krumrie, Shelley Vondrasek, Teresa Ebersold, Lynn Corey, Shay Yackel, Kady Cada, Haley Schultz and Jenna Hartman.

Underwriting. A term you might not be familiar with, or if you are, one that brings to mind piles of documents and lots of questions. In this edition of our eNewsletter, we’re demystifying the underwriting process to help you understand why it’s important, essential and ultimately a beneficial part of the mortgage process.

“Underwriting is about assessing risk – the risk the Bank takes in loaning money, but also the risk the customer is taking by promising to pay back borrowed money. Our underwriters work hard every day to make sure applicants truly qualify for a mortgage and help guide them to smarter financial decisions,” says Underwriting Manager, Jenna Hartman.

But, first things first, where does underwriting fit in the mortgage process? Here’s a simple breakdown of the steps:

  1. Discussing Your Needs. You meet with a local lender to discuss your goals, budget and loan options. With your lender’s help, you select a home loan program.
  2. Pre-Approval Application. You apply for a mortgage pre-approval and provide the necessary paperwork to your mortgage lender. Pre-approval is a great first step to help you determine how much you can afford before you look for a house and show buyers you’re serious about purchasing a property or land.
  3. Pre-Approval Application Reviewed by Lender. The lender reviews your application and documentation.
  4. Pre-Approval Decision/Approval. After review, your lender determines if you qualify for mortgage pre-approval and how much you can afford. You’ll discuss your budget in more detail and prepare for your house search (or contractor search, if you’re building).
  5. House Hunting. Now comes the fun part! Once you have qualified, stay in touch with your lender during the building or house hunting process. Or, maybe you’ve already found the perfect home…then you’ll move on to step six.
  6. Application Reviewed by Underwriting. With the property selected, you provide additional documentation to your lender. From there, the Underwriting department at Merchants Bank, made up of nine employees based in Winona, MN, reviews your application, including all of the documentation you provided.
  7. Loan Decision/Approval. After careful review of all your documentation, the Underwriting department determines if you qualify for the home loan. The decision is communicated to you by your mortgage lender. If you are refinancing a current mortgage, you’re ready to sign papers.
  8. Buying/Building a Home. You finalize the details of the mortgage terms with your lender, who will also communicate with the realtor and/or sellers. Once terms have been agreed upon, you meet with all involved parties to sign the final paperwork.
  9. Moving In. Congratulations! Now that you’re moving in you’ll be busy making your house into a home and begin your mortgage payments. Our local Loan Servicing department will be with you throughout the repayment process to answer all your questions and help put you at ease. About a month after your loan closing, you’ll either receive your loan payment book or notice of your first automatic payment, whichever payment option you selected. If you are escrowing (putting money aside each month as part of your mortgage payment), for your property taxes and homeowner’s insurance the Loan Servicing department will pay those bills the next time they are due. Stay tuned for an article in our next eNewsletter with an inside look at Merchants Bank Loan Servicing and tips from our experts.

We’re with you from start to finish. This mortgage application process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the housing market.

The important thing to note is that while there are guidelines our Underwriting department must work within when reviewing loan applications, lenders, customers and underwriters can all work together to make the process go smoothly. Communication is key and another reason having local lenders and local underwriters is so beneficial to our customers. Jenna shares two common issues that can slow the loan process and how you can avoid them.

Acquiring New Debt

“One common issue we see is applying for or acquiring new debt – like a credit card – while our team is reviewing a loan application,” says Jenna.

She recommends consulting your lender prior to taking out new debt to avoid this hiccup in the loan process. “Even if you could save 25% at a department store or on furniture for your new home – it might not be worth it. Any new debt you take on during the loan process has to be documented and could affect if you qualify for the loan.”

Moving Money Between Accounts

Jenna adds, “[w]hen you move money from account to account or bank to bank, it can make our job to verify your financial assets more difficult.”

When your money is moved between accounts or financial institutions, it makes the paper trail to track the funds harder for the Underwriting team to verify. Many people don’t realize that verifying adequate liquid assets is part of the mortgage loan approval process. It’s all a part of the education we provide our customers. This problem can also be avoided by consulting your lender before you move any money.

If you have questions about the underwriting, or any part of the mortgage process, just ask your local Merchants Bank mortgage lender.

“Everyone in the Merchants Mortgage team is working hard for you – from the lenders to those of us behind the scenes. As underwriters, we know that when we approve a loan, there are people moving into homes and making memories. It’s such a rewarding process to be a part of.”

Additional Resources:

 

 

B.J. Hamilton Joins Merchants Bank as an Assistant Vice President/Mortgage Lender

B.J. Hamilton has joined Merchants Bank in La Crescent as an Assistant Vice President/Mortgage Lender, according to Steve Christiansen, Merchants Bank President in La Crescent and Onalaska.

“B.J. has built a strong following in our area because of his commitment to meeting and exceeding the needs of his customers,” Christiansen said. “Our customers will value his knowledge of lending and benefit from his ability to make sure their needs are taken care of from start to finish.”

Hamilton had been a mortgage lender at Altra since 2013. Before that, he spent nearly ten years in Montana, both working in home lending for Montana banks and working as a project manager for a construction company.

“Merchants has impressed me since I moved to the Coulee Region. Merchants has a great reputation for taking care of its customers, and it offers a full range of mortgage products. I’m especially excited for my customers who are considering building because of our 5 percent down construction loan. That can really help them get started building right away,” Hamilton said. “Plus, I had a former co-worker that was so happy when she made the move to Merchants that I had to consider it when an opportunity was available.”

Hamilton is involved in the area. He is a member of the La Crosse Area Builders Association and the La Crosse Area Realtors Association. He is a former member of the Great Rivers United Way Funds Distribution Committee and a former Board member of the St. Thomas Child and Family Center in Great Falls, Montana.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including its location in La Crescent, and other Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Loans are subject to approval. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is also a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Meet Arlene Schwerzler, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

Arlene Schwerzler, Mortgage LenderGet to know Arlene Schwerzler, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Red Wing.

When did you start your banking career?

Arlene: I started banking a very long time ago. Thirty-two years. I’ve been a teller, personal loan assistant, personal banker, branch manager and mortgage lender. I started at Merchants 20 years ago, where I’ve been a mortgage lender. I’ve stayed a mortgage lender for so long because I love it. I don’t want to do anything else; it’s extremely rewarding.

What is your best banking tip?

Arlene: There are so many people involved in a real estate transaction, but the key to a successful transaction is spending time with a lender first. We’re here to help you understand all the moving parts of the process, and talk about what resources are available to you.

I am dedicated to helping customers make good decisions regarding this significant financial commitment. We’ll talk about the rewards, the risks, and where you are in relation to where you want to be. It’s important that your lender understands your unique situation.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Arlene: My parents were great role models, and although it isn’t specific to money, they taught me that hard work pays off and to always do the right thing, even if it means not winning. Honesty truly is the best policy.

If you $1,875,000 what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Arlene: I would most definitely take care of my kids, family and friends. If I can make someone else’s life easier or happier, that’d be the most fun I could have!

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Arlene: Plants – I love the outdoors, my garden and being outside.

Picture your dream home. What is your favorite room and why?

Arlene: It’s not really a room, but my favorite feature of a home would be gigantic windows. I love being able to see the beauty of the outdoors, even when I’m inside.

Meet Dawn Stenberg, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

DawnStenbergSquare

Dawn and her daughter in the kitchen at home.

Get to know Dawn Stenberg, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Winona.

When did you start your banking/lending career?

Dawn: I started in banking in 2002, and I’ve been in mortgage since 2008. I came to Merchants in 2012, and here I’ve been a mortgage coordinator, mortgage underwriter, and now a mortgage lender.

What is your best banking/borrowing tip?

Dawn: A question I get asked a lot is whether or not customers should close open credit card accounts. It actually makes more sense to keep accounts with a long, healthy history open. If you close accounts in good standing and then just have fairly new loans open, it actually can hurt your credit score. Of course, fraud is a concern too. The more accounts that are open the more difficult it is to keep track of them all, making you more vulnerable to fraud. It’s important to find the happy medium between keeping healthy accounts open while still being able to manage and monitor all of them.

What is something smart borrowers do?

Dawn: Something that makes the process easier for everyone is to consistently make all of your loan payments on time. It’s also great to see customers saving, even if it’s just a little bit from each paycheck. Anything is better than nothing, and over time the savings will grow and it’ll help you be comfortable in your home.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Dawn: Have a budget. It’s important to keep track of your finances to ensure you are not overspending and to stay on track with your financial goals. It can also help create healthy spending habits.

If you had $1,875,000 what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Dawn: I would take a long extended vacation! Probably to Europe or New Zealand.

Picture your dream home. What is your favorite room and why?

Dawn: My favorite room is the kitchen; I love to cook. My favorite times are when my kids are helping me bake around the island. The kitchen for me is the focal point of the home – It’s where the family all gathers together.

Meet Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank, and his son

Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank, and his son.

Get to know Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Eau Claire.

When did you start your banking/lending career?

Ben: I’ve been in banking since September 2005. I’ve worked in many positions on the retail side of the bank, such as a personal banker, customer service supervisory, branch manager, mortgage officer and mortgage sales manager. I started with Merchants on June 30, 2017 as a mortgage lender and I’m happy to use my experience in credit and customer service to help people get homes they could afford.

What is your best borrowing/banking tip?

Ben: My top home buying tip is always get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start the home buying or building process. It’s important to understand how the purchase you’re making will affect your budget.

What is something smart borrowers do?

Ben: This ties in with getting pre-approved for your mortgage: be prepared, know how your costs will interact. Just because you can afford a payment on paper, doesn’t mean that’s realistic. It’s a bad idea to stretch your budget; you want to be comfortable making that payment even when unforeseen expenses come up.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Ben: One of the things I was taught from a young age is you work very hard for your money, so spend and save wisely. It’s always good to avoid making impulse purchases. Picture your dream home.

What is your favorite room in your house and why?

Ben: I’m very fortunate to have my dream home, and my favorite room is my kitchen/sunroom. I love being in the kitchen cooking and entertaining. It was the most important feature when we were looking, so when we walked in we knew immediately we were home.

If you had $1,875,000, what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Ben: I would go back to Europe and spend most of my time in Belgium and Holland where my family is from.

Arlene Schwerzler Joins Merchants Bank in Red Wing as a Mortgage Lender

Arlene Schwerzler, Mortgage Lender

Arlene Schwerzler has joined Merchants Bank in Red Wing as a Vice President and Mortgage Lender, according to Dan Massett, Regional President for Merchants Bank in Red Wing, Cannon Falls and Hampton.

Schwerzler is a familiar name and face to the Merchants Bank employees and many customers in Red Wing. As a long-time mortgage lender at Merchants Bank in Winona, Schwerzler served many customers in Red Wing.

“Many of my customers already live in Red Wing, and I’m lucky to have a strong referral network,” Schwerzler said. “I look forward to being in Red Wing every day and taking care of mortgages for my customers, the people referred to me and many new customers from start to finish.”

Schwerzler has been in banking for more than 30 years. She started as a Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Winona in 1998 and also spent a short amount of time at Merchants Bank in Rochester. She has a loyal following.

“Certainly, Arlene has a great amount of experience and that helps to serve her customers, but what makes her stand apart from other lenders is her willingness to go the extra mile and to be there whenever her customers have questions,” Massett said. “Buying a home can be stressful, but Arlene takes that stress away.”

Merchants Bank offer a full-range of home mortgage products and is well known as a leader in the mortgage industry because of its commitment to integrity and service to its customers, making sure they are taken care of throughout the process. Another of Merchants Bank’s strengths is that it services its loans, which means that questions are answered by a Merchants Bank employee who lives in the area. Currently, Merchants Bank services more than $2.6 billion in home mortgage loans.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including Minnesota locations in Red Wing, Cannon Falls, Hampton, Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Rushford, Lanesboro, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Merchants Bank was founded in 1875. Loans are subject to approval. Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, the company’s leasing arm, is based in the Twin Cities.