Posts filed under ‘Expert Advice’

EXPERT ADVICE: Why you should seek a USDA Guaranteed Housing Loan

In today’s economy, many borrowers are not looking to purchase a home due to the out of pocket expense.  Paying closing costs and putting money down is really challenging. There are programs, however, designed to help homeowners out, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Guaranteed Housing Loan program.  The greatest advantage of the USDA Guaranteed housing loan program is that home buyers can receive  up to 103% financing. This program is designed to assist low- to moderate- income homebuyers to purchase homes in rural areas and achieve their dream of homeownership.   To determine if a property is in an eligible rural area, visit the USDA website and click on one of the programs under the “property eligibility” link on the left side of the page. After you are directed to the next screen, you can type in the state or zip code to see if the property is eligible.

Why should a borrower want a USDA guaranteed loan? The term ‘guaranteed loan’ may be confusing.  Here is how the program works: an approved lender provides the funding for the loan, while USDA guarantees the loan up to 90%. USDA will allow the lender to provide up to 103% financing. Although USDA does not provide funding for these loans they do guarantee the repayment of the loans to approved lenders. Put another way, you are not guaranteed a loan. Rather, the loan funds are guaranteed to the lender should you default on your payments.  Because the government is guaranteeing the loan, USDA approved lenders are more willing to provide these loans to qualified borrowers.  The maximum loan amount is based on the county of residence and there is no purchase price maximum. USDA has flexible credit guidelines, and non-traditional credit maybe accepted.

Who is eligible to purchase a USDA home?  You must still qualify for a guaranteed loan. But the good news is this USDA product is not limited to first time homebuyers. Anyone who plans to purchase in an eligible rural area as their primary residence may apply for a USDA guaranteed loan. You must provide stable income and credit history should indicate your willingness to meet repayment options.

If you’re interested in seeing if you qualify for a USDA loan please email us. We would love to help homeowners reach their dream. Please email us at

Sonia Jones, Housing Resource Director


March 9, 2012 at 11:00 am


Every year around this time, individuals and businesses are scrambling to gather the necessary tax-related documents to see if they can plan vacation, or perform budget cuts in their personal lives. If you are a business owner thinking about your tax strategy, you are probably going to have some surprises ahead.  Small businesses and taxes are often uneasy bedfellows, simply because many people fear the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  Having this misconception is most small businesses’ first mistake. The IRS can actually be a flexible and friendly partner for your business, if you contact them early and often. The IRS has many resources for small businesses and also offers tax workshops around the state.

As a heads up to small business owners, tax liabilities—whether it is payroll, sales, federal or other taxes—are probably the number one reason that a lender will turn down a business for a loan. Many businesses are hesitant when it comes to obtaining an accountant.  But, not only will having an accountant help you avoid tax issues, it will also be helpful when seeking financing. Lenders find it comforting when a business has an accountant to handle the fiscal aspects of their business. It implies that the business owner has thought ahead and is less likely to have future tax problems. The cost of paying an accountant can seem overwhelming for a start-up or existing small business, but the old adage still prevails, “Pay now or pay later”!  In this economy, when everyone is looking for ways to create revenue, it is possible to find affordable accountants who would be happy to work with you to help you succeed, and also would be willing to work out a reasonable payment plan for their services. Check your local community college’s Small Business Center ( ) or your local university’s Small Business Technical and Development Center ( ) for guidance on tax help and other business services. The NC Department of Revenue also offers a Small Business Taxpayer Recovery Program for businesses with fewer than 200 employees.


– by Roberta McCullough, Vice President, Business Services & Operations

February 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm

EXPERT ADVICE: Tips For Buying a New Home

Thinking about buying a home? There are so many factors to consider, and it can be hard to know where to begin. This week, Sonia Jones, our Housing Resource Director, has some helpful tips to get your started on the path to homeownership.

How much can you afford?
You don’t want to take on a mortgage that is too expensive and end up house poor. has lots of helpful information, including explanations of terms like ‘debt to income ratio’ and calculators to help estimate how much of a mortgage you can afford given your income. You should also consider any other real estate that you currently own, and assess whether you would be able to afford those in addition to your new house.

You’ve heard it before: location, location, location!
There are many factors that influence the desirability of a location. Consider the property value and make sure the area you’re looking at is not a declining market area. The quality of neighborhood schools is also important. Being in a good school district increases your chances of re-selling the property in the event you move. Other important things to look at: taxes, services, crime rates, transportation, and zoning. If you find a property you like, free property value analysis tools at sites like Zillow or Home Gain are pretty accurate

Get pre-qualified for a loan. lists the three most important reasons to make sure you are pre-qualified:

1. You’ll uncover credit problems
2. You’ll know how much house you can afford
3. Most real estate agents require a pre-qualification letter signed by the lender, along with a purchase contract

Be clear about the price and all other costs—don’t be afraid to ask questions.
When you find your perfect home, work with your agent to negotiate the price. When you’re ready to close the deal, make sure you understand the settlement statement, which details all the funds paid by the buyer and the seller. Request a copy of the settlement statement, review it carefully, and discuss with your agent about who pays the closing cost and any other fees associated with the loan. If anything is unclear, don’t hesitate to clarify.

For more information on home buying, visit

January 27, 2012 at 5:07 pm

EXPERT ADVICE: Bucket List for Obtaining a Business Loan

Every other week our lending staff will be providing tips and helpful advice on a range of issues. This week, our Vice President of Business Services and Operations, Roberta McCullough, has a ‘bucket list’ for those of you thinking about getting a business loan.

1. Have a plan—a real one.  You must have a written business plan for what it is you want to do. It should include the market you plan to serve, a projection of demand with facts to back it up, projections on how much money you plan to make, how much it will cost you to run your business (at least annually), and lastly, but most importantly, what you want the money for!

2. Determine how much money you need to get started, and be prepared with some of your own cash.  Lenders will not give you 100% of what you need.

3. If you are going to set up your business outside the home, have an idea of where you want your business to be, but please don’t sign a lease until you know you can get a business loan.

4. Be willing to be flexible.  You might not get exactly what you ask for.  Have a plan B.

5. Have a secondary method for paying the lender back.  If you have a job, don’t quit it!  At least until you see your business can make it.

6. Make sure you complete the application in its entirety.  A lender will quickly deny you if s/he is buried in paperwork and your application is submitted incompletely.  And guess what— it’s legal!  Lenders can legally deny you just for an incomplete application, regardless of your qualifications.

Good luck!

January 13, 2012 at 11:00 am


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