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Founder's Log Home Blog

Wisconsin Log Homes Founder
"This blog is a great opportunity for me to
communicate with fellow log home enthusiasts.
Any ideas or questions for future blogs?
Please e-mail me...
I'd like to hear from you."

Dave Janczak
Founder of Wisconsin Log Homes, Inc.

Mortgage Loan for your Home  

We strongly recommend that you get a mortgage loan commitment before you approach a bank for a construction loan.  Since the mortgage loan is the longest and most expensive of the two loans, it's important to concentrate more on comparing mortgage plans than "short term" construction loans. 

When you shop for a mortgage loan, you're not only comparing one lender to another, but also the different types of mortgages within each lending institution.  Remember, there are many types of mortgage loans, and finding the right one is as important as finding the right floor plan.  You have the right to "buy" the best possible financing for your home at the interest that suits your budget.

Make sure you can contribute your part of the paper trail before you set out.  Expect to be asked for 2-3 years of income tax returns and a financial statement that lists all of your assets and liabilities.  It's also a good idea to get a copy of your credit report from a national reporting agency.  Credit reports often contain inaccuracies, and you want to be able to correct them. 

Because loan approval is based in part on your credit history, try to make it look as good as possible before the credit check.  Lenders generally believe you can afford approximately 36% of your income to be tied up in debt payments, and that includes your house payment.  So if your mortgage, insurance, tax and interest payments eat up 28% of your gross income, that only leaves about 8% for other monthly obligations such as loans, credit cards, child care, etc.  Try to reduce your credit card bills and put as much cash as you can to raise your bank accounts. 

Obviously, you're looking for the lowest interest rate.  It sounds simple, but more than likely you'll be comparing apples to oranges because lenders who offer lower interest rates may require higher point fees.  Points represent interest you pay up front on your loan.  One point is 1% of the amount of the mortgage.  Most plans have different rates available, depending upon the number of points you wish to pay. 

To ensure that you are getting the mortgage loan you need, ask yourself a few questions.  How quickly would you like to repay your loans - within 15, 20 or 30 years?  Typically, the sooner you repay your loan, the more money you save in interest payments.  However, the longer you extend the term of your financing, the lower your monthly payments may be.  In choosing the right loan terms, consider your budget capabilities and long-term spending patterns. 

The choices and decisions can be mind-boggling.  But many lenders offer free, no obligation pre-qualification.  This will show you how your monthly payments and cash requirements will change with various plans.  They may even be able to help you restructure your debts to enable you to qualify for a loan.  Pre-qualification is designed to save you time and frustration.  It will enable you to design a home that fits both your budget and your needs. 

The Appraisal

Three key items lenders weigh when evaluating your mortgage loan request are your loan application, credit history, and the appraisal. 

Because bankers aren't builders, they hire independent appraisers to help answer questions in this area.  These people are supposed to be the experts, but some are less expert than others, particularly when dealing with innovative structures such as super-insulated log homes.  Some may have never seen a Wisconsin Log Home. 

Ignorance can be a problem.  When bankers and appraisers first hear the words "log home," they may have a vision of a little log cabin, one log stacked on top of another with bugs, wind and rain coming through the cracks.  You may need to do some educating by showing them the Wisconsin Log Homes website, planning guide, construction manuals and your blue prints.  We will also be more than happy to talk with your appraiser or lender to explain our homes and elite building system if needed.

When appraisers are investigating a mortgage, they inspect the house and check selling prices on comparable homes in the neighborhood.  It's the same for new construction, except there is no existing house.  Instead, the appraisers base their decision on drawings, specifications, contracts and other documents you provide to the lender.  In some cases, appraisers will base their decision only on square footage and comparable houses in the neighborhood. 

For this reason, we suggest that you meet with the appraiser before he reviews your project.  Show him the quality and energy efficiency of our Thermal-Log construction, high-tech Low-E argon windows and insulated doors.  Be sure to point out the quality of other amenities you plan to include in your home - maybe a full fieldstone masonry fireplace that's 28 feet high versus a more typical 8-foot high floor to ceiling fireplace.

It's imperative that you point out any wood tongue and groove ceilings, solid wood ceiling beams, wood covered walls and any areas that have high cathedral or vaulted ceilings.  It's doubtful that any of the comparable homes in your building area will have such high-quality amenities and architectural details.  The cost of such items may be overlooked if you don't bring them to the appraiser's attention.  Other items would include your selection of custom stair and railings, thick beamed window and door trim, hardwood flooring, custom cabinetry and other items that add to the value of your home. 

Sometimes appraisals are decreased because of the value of the homes in the neighborhood, not the proposed home.  The market value of every home is affected by that of its neighbors.  Banks are more likely to finance a home in an area dominated by homes of equal or greater value than an area where homes are worth much less.  Keep this in mind when deciding where and what to build. 

After reviewing this information, the appraiser tells you and the loan officer how much he thinks the home will be worth.  Don't panic if the appraiser's estimated value is significantly less than yours.  This seems to be the norm, especially when they are dealing with an unfamiliar construction method. 

Appraisals can differ greatly because they are just opinions.  And you're entitled to get more than one as long as you pay for it.  But if two appraisers come up with basically the same value, you'll probably have to make some adjustment.  If you have the money, you might want to increase the down payment to reduce the amount you have to borrow from the bank.  If this is not an option, you may have to downscale the design or think about adding some of the amenities at a later date.  The one thing you don't want to do is reduce the structural quality of your home.    

The Draw Schedule

When you discuss the draw schedule with your banker, you'll need to explain the payment terms you have agreed to with your log or timber home producer.  Generally, these terms don't fit neatly into the normal draw schedule.  Wisconsin Log Homes, like most manufacturers, require a payment with the order, a payment prior to shipping, and final payment when the materials arrive. 

Construction draws are made on a specific schedule established by the bank when the loan is approved.  There are normally 4 to 6 draws made from a construction loan as follows:

1st Draw: Made upon completion of the foundation

2nd Draw: Follows completion of a weather-tight shell

3rd Draw: After installation of plumbing, heating, electrical and air conditioning

4th Draw: Upon completion of interior finish and trim, the installation of appliances, and kitchen and bathroom fixtures

5th Draw: Follows completion of the house and final inspection

6th Draw: After the expiration of the mechanic's lien period

Draw schedules are set by the banks for their convenience in administering construction loans.  But they do make exceptions, and you'll need one to pay for the log home package.  Most packages are delivered while the foundation is under construction.  You'll need a draw from your loan before anything is actually built on the site.  Your loan officer will have to approve draws for work in progress at the log home producer's plant. 

Convincing your loan officer to approve a special draw for the home package may require a coordinated effort by the home producer and yourself.  Wisconsin Log Homes will be happy to work with your banker.