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Yes, You Can Get a Mortgage


Keep lines of communication, as well as your mind, open!

Toula Akladios has an unabashed passion for the mortgage business. And with some of the unbelievable real-estate deals on the market, it drives her crazy when the media suggest money is available only to those with perfect credit and a stash of cash for a 20% down payment. (See So, You Say You Want to Refinance?)

"You can have a credit rating in the 600s and only a 3.5% down payment and there really is a product for you," says Akladios. "The FHA (Federal Housing Administration) allows for a lot of understanding and forgiveness. I want people to know this! I get so excited when I talk mortgages -- go figure."

I heard about Akladios from a friend in California who was caught up in a hellish, never-ending refinancing scenario with a big bank -- until she connected with this mortgage specialist from Prospect Mortgage LLC, which is headquartered in Sherman Oaks, California .

Given the federal tax credit for new home buyers and the low interest rates, it's worth trying even if you think you're a long shot, she says.

Akladios has been in banking for decades, and in the mortgage business for seven years. She's the sales manager for Prospect's Naperville, Illinois, office but operates nationally. She left a major bank because she was frustrated by its lack of speed and flexibility, and the hit her reputation was taking with clients when she kept missing lock-in deadlines.

The issue when dealing with larger institutions, Akladios says, isn't just a limited selection of mortgage products. Some of the processors and underwriters just lack the depth of experience.

Also, many banks have laid off staff and aren't equipped to handle the onslaught of applications.

On the refinancing front, Akladios says, the biggest challenge borrowers face is denial.

People still don't believe how much the values of their properties have dropped, and then are upset when the appraisal comes in lower than their expectations.

Also, there's no longer any such thing as a set rate. The refinancing rate you can get will depend on your credit score and the loan-to-value ratio of the property.

Akladios is optimistic about the overall market, and says she's seeing some stability in California, where multiple offers are now being made for homes, driving prices up a bit. Other markets, such as Florida, have yet to bottom out, she says.

Her best advice: Talk to people. Take the referral from someone who has finished the process, not one who is in the middle of one.

"Ask around," she says. "Everybody has the same rates. I believe referrals is what it's all about. Otherwise, you're taking a risk."

To follow up directly with Akladios, email
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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