Bringing People Home

Updated on June 18, 2014

By Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

James Bukovac is in the business of bringing people home.

“People don’t like the term ‘mortgage’,” says James. But as an independent mortgage advisor, James has made it his job to help people get the mortgages they need. His most important piece of advice is to start early.

“Planning produces results and saves you money,” he explains.

Healthcare providers know the value of preventative care for people, but most people don’t take the same approach to their finances.

“When it comes time to look for a mortgage, most people make the mistake of waiting until they find a house they like to check their credit. And if there is a problem, they often don’t know what to do to fix it,” says James.

When they end up with an emergency financial situation, people often don’t know what their credit score is, how it is used to approve loans or what they can do to fix it.

“Anyone between the ages 20-65 needs to maintain as good of a credit file as they can,” explains James. “Cars, homes, timeshares, department stores – anything you want to buy- means you want someone to extend credit to you. And approval is based on your credit score. A higher credit score equals a lower interest payment. A lower score means you’re facing higher interest.”

James advises all clients to keep their credit card balances at or below 25% of their limit. This could lead to a better debt-to-income ratio, or DTI.

“The maximum DTI we go to is 45%,” he adds. New laws that could go into effect in January 2014 will lower the maximum allowed DTI to 43%.This new lower limit could affect whether someone can buy the home they want.

“Recently, a married couple told me they were thinking about waiting to spring to buy a home, I told them that by spring, they could only afford a $60,000 home. They found a place in Hopewell, Township for $95,000 no matter what changes in 2014. Now they are assured of the home in the place they wanted to life.”

One significant way James helps people get mortgages for the homes they want is by improving their credit scores.

“You can give the average American the recipe to improve their credit score, but it’s too complicated and usually won’t get done,” he says. “So I refer clients to a company that specializes in getting items removed from a credit report. Now one of my clients who had a score of 550 has a score is now 650. He is married, his wife works as a nurse. They have three children and have rented their whole lives. But based on his income and rebuilt credit he’ll be able to buy his first home this spring.”

In order to really assist people who need him, James is on call for customers seven days a week, even on weekends when banks aren’t available. And unlike banks, if a customer’s application is denied, James works to teach people why and how to fix it.

“When someone is turned down, those companies just don’t call people back. The customer gets a letter in the mail telling them they are denied with no reason. One of the boxes will be checked but the person “your debt to income ratio too high” or “credit score too low” or “income too low to maintain” check and four and five word and no info on how to improve it,” he says.

Sometimes fixing someone’s credit requires James to do serious detective work that banks aren’t willing to offer. For instance, he was referred to a young couple by a real estate agent in Mononaghela, PA. They had applied for personal line of credit or mortgage and were turned down. As soon as James had permission to check the credit report, he saw the problem.

“He had a state tax lien of $30,000 in unpaid self-employment taxes. When we discussed this, I learned it was actually his father’s business, but he and his father had the exact same name,” he says.

James told him he had to take a day off of work, go downtown to Pittsburgh and visit the Prothonotary’s office with several pieces of documentation. He finally got documentation proving it was not on himself and I contacted my credit bureau.

“They got it removed it removed from his credit report,” he says. “There’s no way this man would’ve known what to do. He and his wife just had a baby and now they plan to buy a home spring 2014.”

Financial mistakes can have lasting effects. But with time and careful planning, James has helped bring his customers home.

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