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HOME BUYER’S GUIDE
HELPFUL INFORMATION ABOUT FINANCING
YOUR FIRST HOME
TABLE OF CONTENTS
About Guardian Mortgage | 3
The Buying Process | 5
The Mortgage Process | 6
Pre-Approval vs. Pre-Qualification | 7
How Much Can You Afford? | 8
Credit Scores | 9
Down Payment | 11
Required Documents | 12
Six Steps for a Successful Closing | 13
Changes that Could Derail the Closing | 14
Frequently Asked Questions | 17
Mortgage Lingo | 19
ABOUT GUARDIAN MORTGAGE
The story of Guardian Mortgage begins in 1965 when a young man of common sense
and uncommon smarts had a better idea. While building homes in Grand Blanc,
Michigan, Jack Sweet saw firsthand how confusing and difficult it was for his home
buyers to go through the loan process. He knew there had to be an easier way.
Jack wanted to treat customers the way he would want to be treated—by offering
advice on which loan options best fit their needs and walking them through the
process, each step of the way.
So Guardian Mortgage began and flourished. Customers appreciated the respectful
treatment, honesty, and sound advice Guardian offered. And, they spread the word
far and wide about a different kind of home mortgage company.
Guardian Mortgage Today
As the years went by, Guardian expanded and our primary focus on our founding
principles of integrity, superior customer service, and mutual trust remains. Today we
originate loans in 40 states and have helped over a million homeowners realize their
dreams of homeownership. These are not just numbers. Our greatest source of pride
comes from our clients’ satisfaction. Virtually all Guardian Mortgage business comes
from referrals, word of mouth, and repeat customers—often spanning generations of
the same family.
Guardian Mortgage is a division of Sunflower Bank, N.A. and whether you know us
as Sunflower Bank, First National 1870, or Guardian Mortgage, our philosophy is
simple: we offer a full range of financial products that create possibility in the lives
we touch and the communities we serve. We are small enough to connect with our
customers and community and large enough to offer the resources to fully meet their
financial needs. We strive to be truthful, sincere, and candid. We aim to help clients
balance ambition with reality, being an honest partner every step of the way.
If you are considering a new home purchase, look to Guardian, where you will
experience common sense, uncommon smarts, and unparalleled service.
How is Guardian Different from Other Home
We focus exclusively on residential home loans. You can trust us with the most
important purchase you’ll make – your home.
We’re real people. Forget “call banks” and temps using a script. If you have a
question, give us a call. A real mortgage professional is sure to answer.
We’re an industry leader in on-time closings. Our underwriting expertise and
technological advantages help to get you to the closing table faster, and into your
We offer competitive rates and superior mortgage servicing. We want to earn
customers for life, and since we retain the servicing on most of our loans, we’ll be with
you for the long term.
To us, putting customers first is our whole way of doing business. We’re not lost in
a mess of corporate red tape. We’re just real people helping real people make their
dreams of buying a home come true.
Since 1965, Guardian Mortgage has been a rock of stability in a turbulent financial
world. We’re not just another mortgage company; we’re a partner you can trust.
Guardian Mortgage strives to:
• Listen attentively and ask questions to fully understand your needs
• Create mortgage solutions to reach your long-term financial goals
• Communicate regularly and proactively, keeping you in-the-know
• Be honest, kind, and take full responsibility for our actions
• Respect your time and minimize your effort
• Provide you with quality service so that you can wholeheartedly
recommend us to your family and friends
THE BUYING PROCESS
Find a lender you can trust
Find an experienced lender who specializes in residential
mortgages. This is a huge investment of your time
and money, and it’s important to find a professional
mortgage company to attend to every detail. Though it
may be tempting to choose a buddy, or go with someone
based strictly on the lowest quoted rate, we recommend
prioritizing by reputation instead. It’s an unfortunate
reality that many mortgages fall through because of
companies who promise the moon and can’t deliver.
Consultation and application
Your lender will learn more about your real estate
aspirations and current finances. Consult with them to
find out how much you should spend on a home, and
submit a mortgage application. Additional paperwork can
get the approval process started and will be required as
the mortgage process continues.
Look for a home
Contact a licensed, experienced real estate agent for
Make an offer
After you find your dream home, present a competitive
offer immediately. Your real estate agent should have
extensive experience in contract negotiations.
When the seller accepts your offer, you go “under
contract.” At this point, every detail must be handled
accurately and immediately. Your lender and real estate
agent will work together to ensure an accurate, timely,
and predictable closing.
Inspections and insurance
Shop for a homeowner’s insurance policy. At the same
time, find a qualified property inspector. Your home
inspection plays a critical part in well-informed home
buying negotiations. Your real estate agent will work with
you to negotiate the contract details.
It’s almost yours! Bring any requested certified funds or
documentation, and a valid photo ID. Your next steps will
be over the threshold into your new home.
THE MORTGAGE PROCESS
This behind-the-scenes guide shows how the Guardian Mortgage staff works hard to help
you become a homeowner. Throughout this process, you’ll often have to provide supporting
documentation so that we can comply with federal regulations and loan guidelines.
Our licensed mortgage lender consults with you to identify the best mortgage to
meet your needs. They ask for initial paperwork and monitor the file throughout
The loan application is uploaded into the system. Operations support gathers initial
loan documents and prepares the file for submission to processing. They may contact
you for additional documents.
The compliance department sends out federal disclosures for electronic
signatures and addresses any potential issues.
The Underwriter reviews all documentation, ensuring you qualify for the
requested loan. The file is underwritten based on the loan program and loan
parameters. They will determine if any additional documentation or information
is needed to complete and finalize the review and approval.
Operations support gathers any remaining documents, identifies new
documentation requests, and ensures the file is in order. They may contact you
for additional paperwork.
The closing department prepares loan documents and sends them to the title
company for your signature. They also ensure the funding of your loan after all
parties have signed the documents.
There are important differences between a pre-qualification and a pre-approval.
A pre-qualification can be completed over the phone by answering a few questions and pulling a
credit report. This is not a pre-approval and carries no more weight than if you pulled your own
credit report and used an online calculator to determine your payments for the loan amount.
A pre-approval with Guardian Mortgage is a free, no-obligation process that gives you upfront
approval for a specified loan amount. If approved, you will be provided with an Approval Letter
that offers real estate agents, builders, and sellers proof that you have been conditionally
approved for the loan amount.
Think of a loan as having two parts: 1) your credit profile and 2) the home and its value.
Obtaining a pre-approval gets the first part (the credit) out of the way. It can help you
negotiate a better price with the seller and help you close quickly.
What is required to obtain pre-approval?
Your mortgage lender will evaluate your credit history, calculate your housing and debt ratios,
verify your income, and confirm you will have the down payment and cash needed to close.
The pre-approval is only as good as the information you provide. It’s also subject to the lender’s
verification of that information.
See the section called Required Documents for a list of what you’ll need to give your mortgage
A pre-approval can be a powerful part
of your home-buying strategy and
is a speedy process if you respond
promptly to the lender’s requests for
HOW MUCH CAN YOU AFFORD?
To understand how much you can afford, calculate the following:
1. Housing Ratio: The total home payment (principal, interest, property taxes, and
homeowner’s insurance) divided by monthly gross income. The housing ratio represents the
percentage of your monthly income that is being used toward housing.
2. Total Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio: The total home payment plus other installment loan
payments, minimum payments to revolving credit accounts, and any child support or alimony
payments divided by monthly gross income. The DTI represents the percentage of your
monthly income that is obligated toward total debt.
An old rule of thumb was that you could qualify for a loan within these guidelines:
• Housing Ratio less than 28% of your monthly gross income
• DTI Ratio less than or equal to 36% of your monthly gross income
Today, however, borrowers can qualify for loans when their ratios are greater than these percentages.
But your credit score and amount of money in the bank significantly affect the maximum ratios
Even a person with superior credit should not spend more than 43% of their gross income for
total debt payments. Remaining income is needed for income taxes, Social Security taxes, savings,
retirement investments, home repairs, utilities, food, clothing, medical bills, savings, etc.
In the long run, you need to make your peace-of-mind and financial security your priorities.
Your lender decides what you can borrow,
but you should decide what you can afford.
A credit score (also called your FICO®
score, referring to Fair Isaac Corporation that provides
the system used to calculate the score) is designed as a numerical representation of your
creditworthiness. Mortgage lenders use credit reports to determine whether you have the ability to
pay them back and if you will repay them.
The higher the credit score, the more likely a borrower is to honor the terms of their financial
contracts with lenders. Lower credit scores represent a more perceived risk of untimely payments or
default, which may be translated into higher interest rates to offset that risk.
All mortgage lenders will pull a credit report (called a tri-merge credit report that displays credit
history and scores from all three credit bureaus) and use the results of that report for approval and
to determine the applicable mortgage rate. With more than one borrower, the credit report for all
borrowers will be considered.
Mortgage lenders are not credit experts and will typically refer those with lower credit scores to
credit restoration or repair companies, whose primary business is to consult and execute credit score
In general, for credit improvement and maintenance, you should concentrate on paying your bills
on time, paying down outstanding balances, and not taking on new debt in the six months before
purchasing a home.
Five main criteria make up a credit score:
35% Payment History
On-time vs late payments
30% Available Credit
Your credit limit minus the balance owed
15% Length of History
How long since accounts were opened
10% Number of Inquiries
Every time you apply for credit, an inquiry is logged
10% Type of Credit
Mortgages, installment loans, revolving credit
In addition, the credit report identifies any bankruptcy, liens, or public records filed. If you have any
derogatory credit items (late payments, collections, bankruptcy, foreclosures, repossessions, etc.),
you will want to prepare an explanation letter to the lender for these items. This letter provides the
background on why these derogatory items came about and what you are doing to prevent the issues
Lenders want to hear that derogatory items on the credit report are isolated events that occurred
due to extenuating circumstances.
Credit scores range from 300 to 850 and are commonly broken down into categories:
ABOVE AVERAGE (739-720)
BELOW AVERAGE (699-680)
The down payment is the money you put into the home at the time of purchase. Your mortgage loan
goes toward the remainder of the purchase price. A greater down payment increases your equity
position and reduces lender risk, so increasing the down payment can improve your odds of getting
approval for the loan.
Most loan programs have a required minimum down payment. There is no maximum; you can put
as much money down as you want. The more money you put down, the lower your loan amount and
monthly mortgage payments will be.
On a conventional loan, if you pay a down payment of less than 20% of the home’s value (80% loan-
to-value or LTV), you will be required to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).**
The minimum down payment on a conventional loan these days is 3%. Conventional loans with
down payments of less than 20% carry PMI, which can be paid monthly as Borrower Paid Mortgage
Insurance (BPMI) or financed into the interest rate as Lender Paid Mortgage Insurance (LPMI).
The following are examples that allow for lower down payments:
FHA loans offer a required minimum down payment of 3.5%. On a $200,000 house, the down
payment would be $7,000. Gift money from a family member is allowed. FHA loans have upfront
Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP), as well as an annual premium that is collected with the monthly
payment. The upfront MIP is rolled into the loan, which prevents the borrower from having to pay
this amount at closing.
VA loans still allow for 0% down payment (or 100% financing); however, the borrower needs to have
at least 2 of the following before 100% financing can be considered:
• Excellent credit
• Substantial savings/reserves
• Low debt-to-income ratio
There are many other loan programs, some national, some state, and some lender-specific. Your
lender will evaluate your individual profile and recommend the best program(s) for your long- and
NOTE: A “piggyback loan” can cover the difference between your down payment and the 20% required to avoid PMI.
Piggyback loans are second-liens, with higher interest rates and separate monthly payments. They are available to those
with excellent to superior credit.
MINIMUM REQUIRED DOCUMENTS
If you have been pre-approved prior to shopping for a loan, your lender may have already collected
the following items. Otherwise, you will need to submit the following documentation:
r Completed Uniform Residential Loan Application (Form 1003)
r Lender will pull a tri-merge credit report (credit history and scores from all three credit
Note: Lender is required to provide you credit scores used for loan qualification and approval
r Most recent 30 days of pay stubs for each borrower that reflect year-to-date earnings
r Most recent 60 days of bank statements from liquid asset accounts and retirement accounts.
Statements can be online printouts, and all statements must show the beginning balance and
ending balance for each period, include the account holder’s name, some portion of the account
number, and the banking institution’s name. As required by the Patriot Act, please be ready to
explain any large recent deposits into your account(s).
r W2s for each borrower covering the previous 2 years
r All pages and all schedules for the two most recent personal tax returns filed with the IRS
r If you have filed an extension on the most recent tax return, the lender requires a copy of
that extension form
r If self-employed, a year-to-date Profit and Loss Statement
r If you hold a 25% ownership position with your employer, the lender may require all pages
and all schedules of the company tax returns for the last two years, a current Profit and Loss
Statement, and Balance Sheet.
The lender may also require any of the following:
• All pages of a recorded divorce decree
• All pages of any lease agreement on investment properties
• A credit explanation letter for derogatory credit items
SIX STEPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL CLOSING
Select your homeowners insurance company. Ask your insurance agent to contact
your lender at least 14 days prior to your closing date with policy information. It’s
imperative that the insurance binder reflects lender requirements, so put your agent
in contact with us as soon as possible.
Your lender will tell you when your loan is expected to close. You will need to contact
the title company to arrange an appointment for the closing. Be sure to let your
lender know the scheduled date and time.
The lender prepares the Closing Disclosure (CD) with input from the title
companies. Your lender will inform you of any funds required at closing.
Make arrangements to bring funds to your closing appointment. Bring a cashier’s
check, payable to the title company, or you may wire the money using the title
company’s wiring instructions 2 to 3 days before closing.
There are rare occasions when the amount of the settlement costs changes before
the time of closing. If that happens, the title company will advise you of the
amount and resolution of the difference. It is prudent to bring a personal check
as a precaution. The title company will advise you on their policy on accepting
personal checks. If you will be receiving proceeds from the refinance, please make
arrangements with the title company ahead of time for your preferred method of
receiving these funds. They can provide a check or wire funds.
Have your valid driver’s license or other government-issued ID with you at the closing.
The closing could be delayed if documents are signed incorrectly or if closing
conditions are not satisfied. If you have been asked to bring final documentation
to your closing appointment, it must be provided or you will be unable to proceed
with the closing. After all documents have been signed, they will be approved by the
lender, and then the loan will be funded.
CHANGES THAT COULD DERAIL THE
The following situations could delay your purchase closing date or put your loan approval at risk. Be
fully honest with your lender. Let them know about any issues that might come up at the earliest
Making expensive cash purchases prior to closing
Lenders are required to verify that your down payment and/or closing costs are being paid from
acceptable money sources. Reductions in available cash or cash reserves after your initial loan
application can negatively affect the loan approval.
Incurring additional monthly debt obligations prior to closing
Additional debt payments can increase your debt-to-income ratio (the ratio of your total monthly
payments compared to your gross monthly income) to a level that exceeds allowable guidelines and
could prevent you from obtaining a loan. Please refrain from opening any new credit accounts and/or
charging large purchases like appliances, furniture, etc. prior to closing and funding of your loan.
NOTE: Mortgage lenders are required to complete a re-verification of your credit history and liabilities using a credit
“soft pull” just prior to your closing as part of a mandatory loan quality control process. This type of credit inquiry does
not adversely affect your current score but will identify any new obligations or changes to your debt obligations that were
incurred after the original credit report was received. Any additional debt identified on the “soft pull” must be added to the
debt-to-income ratios and could jeopardize your loan approval.
Changing employment immediately prior to closing, even if the change results in a more favorable
compensation package, complicates the underwriter’s ability to document the job stability and secure
the income documentation required by lending guidelines. Verification of employment within ten
days of closing is required, so please advise your lender or loan processor if you are contemplating
any change to employment prior to closing.
Last-minute contract and loan program changes
Last-minute changes to the contract terms—including amendments to the contract, changes
to agent/seller concessions as well as changes to your loan program at the “eleventh-hour”
can be problematic. A complete change in the loan program—such as changing from FHA to
Conventional—or changing details of your loan program including a late decision to be non-escrow
will likely trigger any or all of the following additional steps:
o Additional underwriter review
o Update of the appraisal by the appraiser
o Re-disclosure of the loan estimate
Switching banks or moving money around
In order to comply with Anti-Money Laundering laws and the Patriot Act, underwriters are
required to document the source of all money used in the mortgage transaction. Changing banks or
transferring money to another account prior to providing bank statement(s) to verify assets could
make it difficult for the lender to properly document your finances. Please inform your lender if you
are planning to transfer money in preparation for the loan closing.
Last-minute gift funds
If gift funds are a possibility in your transaction, please notify your lender at the beginning of the
loan process to ensure verification of the entire amount of cash. Gift funds require the completion of
specific documents to verify the source and receipt prior to closing. Last-minute requests to use gift
funds could delay a closing as the lender awaits the required documentation from the gift-giver and
confirmation of the receipt.
Late insurance policy details
Lenders are required to have the details of a borrower’s selected insurance policy to obtain loan
approval and prepare the loan documents for the closing. Be sure you have provided your insurance
company information a minimum of 10 days before closing to avoid potential delays.
Any of the above items could delay your closing for more than three days as a result of federal
waiting times required after any changes involving re-disclosures. Therefore it is critical to get any
last-minute negotiations and changes resolved as soon as possible to prevent an unexpected delay.
Additionally, the following items could also create delays at the title company:
Non-purchasing spouse absent
If the property is located in a community property state, a buyer is required to have their spouse
present at closing to sign documents, regardless as to whether the spouse is a borrower on the loan.
There are three to four documents the non-purchasing spouse will sign at closing to acknowledge
their spouse is taking out a debt while married, but only the borrower will sign the Loan Note and
other documents specific to the loan obligation.
Missing government-issued photo ID
All signors must bring a valid government-issued photo ID to closing so that the closing agent can
collect a copy of the photo ID.
Unacceptable source of closing funds
In general, funds from the buyer beyond $1,499.00 provided at the closing must be in the form of a
cashier’s check or official check from the depositor’s bank or financial institution. Please check with
your specific title company prior to closing for details.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What will my interest rate be?
Each loan has specific guidelines that we must follow in order to lend someone money. Our
consultation with you will help us understand what type of loan will fit your financial goals. The best
rates are reserved for those people with the best credit. If you have had credit challenges in the past
that have not been corrected, you can expect to pay a higher interest rate.
2. What is the difference between APR and interest rate?
The annual percentage rate (APR) is the annual cost of a loan and includes some of the closing costs,
such as mortgage insurance, closing costs, points and origination fees. The interest rate is the annual
cost that only includes the monthly principal and interest payment for the mortgage.
3. What are my total costs?
Closing costs and prepaid items typically range from 2% to 4% on all loan types PLUS any down
4. Who pays the closing costs and prepaid items?
Depending on the loan type, all or a portion of the closing costs and prepaid items can be paid by the
buyer, seller, real estate agent, or the lender. When the lender pays the closing costs, interest rates
will be higher.
5. What is the difference between mortgage insurance and homeowners insurance?
Mortgage insurance (MI) is a policy the lender has in place to protect their interest in the property
should the loan go into default. MI is usually required when you have a down payment of less than
20%. Homeowners insurance is required on all loans and is for the protection against damage to the
6. Are taxes and insurance included in my payment?
FHA and VA loans require taxes and insurance to be part of the monthly payment. On conventional
loans with 20% or more equity, you may choose to make these payments yourself instead of having
them rolled into the mortgage payment; however, you pay the full amount when these bills are due.
7. What does the title company do?
The title company’s job is threefold:
a. They hold your earnest money or “good faith” deposit in an escrow account and deliver it
according to the terms of the sales contract.
b. They search the title to the home and issue a title policy that insures you get a property with
no liens from the previous owners.
c. They distribute the money that is changing hands during the sale. The lender gives them the
loan funds, and they pay all the bills associated with the transaction.
8. Who pays for the title company?
The title company has three main fees:
a. Escrow fee: This is an administrative fee that you and the seller split equally (by law).
b. The title policy: This will vary by state, as some states are regulated, and some are not.
c. Recording the documents with the county clerk, surveyor, and courier services: you will be
charged for the direct costs.
9. Who pays the real estate agent?
The seller pays the fee for BOTH the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent.
10. Why should I get pre-qualification prior to shopping for a home?
Getting pre-qualified prior to shopping for a home or putting a home under contract is a good idea
for the following reasons:
• Pre-qualification helps you identify your borrowing ability and limits.
• A pre-qualification shows realtors, builders, and sellers that you are serious about your offer
and that you are a qualified buyer.
• Pre-qualification provides you with an advantage over non-qualified buyers who may be
submitting offers on the same home.
11. How much should I have for a down payment?
Depending on the loan program selected, at least 3% of the purchase price of the property may be
required for the down payment amount. The required down payment can also depend upon the loan
type (Conventional, Government, Jumbo, etc.).
If you are new to mortgages and residential lending, it can sometimes be overwhelming to understand
all of the related terminology. Helping clients become informed consumers is important to us at
Guardian Mortgage, so we’re happy to provide you with definitions of common terms used in dealing
with mortgage loans. Keep in mind that this is a simplified financial glossary and, as always, if you
have questions or want to talk to a real person, we’re available to help.
Adjustable Rate Mortgage
An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) differs from a standard fixed-rate mortgage because its
interest rate can change several times during the loan term. The initial interest rate on an ARM is
usually lower than with a fixed-rate loan. It stays the same for a set period of time, then can adjust
lower or higher depending on market conditions.
Amortization means to pay off a debt through periodic payments. The length of those payments is
called the term. Mortgage payments are structured to apply most of the payment to interest at the
start of the loan term. Therefore, payments will pay off a larger portion of the interest at first and
then gradually increase the amount paid toward principal.
The appraisal is a standard report within the mortgage industry that details the characteristics and
estimated value of a property at a specific point in time as determined by a licensed real estate
appraiser. Appraisals are only valid for a set period of time and describe the home’s condition, age,
square footage, neighborhood, and sales prices of comparable nearby homes, among other things.
Buyers and sellers have fees connected with the purchase and sale of a property. If a loan is being
used to purchase the home, buyers typically pay a larger portion of the costs related to the financing
functions performed by the mortgage company, whereas sellers’ costs are usually associated with
transactional fees such as real estate agent fees, tax transfer fees, etc.
The down payment is a percentage of the purchase price paid at closing which reduces the total
amount borrowed. Larger down payments reduce risk for mortgage lenders, which can result in lower
interest rates and other transactional fees.
When entering into a purchase contract, earnest money—sometimes called a “good faith deposit”—
serves as confirmation that the buyer is vested in the transaction and motivated to fulfill the
conditions set forth in the contract, such as securing financing and having inspections performed.
Earnest money becomes non-refundable at a certain point of the process. The real-estate agent
can clarify which conditions must be met for earnest money to be returned should the contract be
breached by either party.
Home equity is the appraised value of the home minus the home’s liabilities. For example, if the
home is valued at $300,000 and the owners have a mortgage of $200,000, the home’s equity is
An escrow account holds funds related to property taxes, insurance, homeowners’ association dues,
and other assessments. A lender may require borrowers to pay a certain amount as part of their
monthly mortgage payment to ensure that the escrow account is sufficiently funded. The lender then
disburses these assessments to the appropriate agency when they are due.
Mortgage interest payments are funds paid from the borrower to the lender. Basically, it’s the cost of
borrowing money. It is calculated as a percentage called interest rate (see below).
Mortgage Interest Rate (Note Rate)
The interest rate is what lenders charge to loan money. It’s usually calculated as a percentage and can
vary based on the borrower’s risk or other industry factors. Higher risk profiles can result in a higher
rate. Adjustable rate mortgages have a fixed interest rate for a certain period of time and then may
adjust up or down, based on market conditions. Fixed-rate mortgages will have the same rate for
each installment of the loan.
The fees charged by some lenders to cover the preparation of new loan applications and other
documents related to mortgage processing.
The principal is the amount which a borrower owes on a loan and must pay back to the lender.
A Partner you can trust.
Serving generations since 1965.
2701 N. Dallas Parkway, Suite 180
Plano, TX 75093 | NMLS#709491
Office hours: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM CST
Guardian Mortgage, a division of Sunflower Bank, N.A.