#YourStory: Matt & Pakou

By: Katie Lindquist

katie l

This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity of helping customers Matt and Pakou buy their first house in Waunakee, just north of Madison. They found a beautiful brick two-story that needed some repair work and a loan product that would allow them to purchase the home and provide funds to begin a rehab project.

They initially began working with a mortgage broker but quickly realized the process and timeline was not as originally advertised.   With a closing date fast approaching, the broker communicated that they would not be able to provide their financing in time after all.  To make matters worse, the home sellers could not extend the closing date. Matt and Pakou were at risk of losing their dream house when their realtor mentioned Great Midwest Bank.  Said Matt, “Naively, I had assumed buying a house was simply a matter of being qualified for the money then finding someone willing to sell you a house. After having some very frank conversations with our realtor, she suggested we give Katie at Great Midwest Bank a call. Because they are a small, local bank rather than a broker for a national company, maybe they could make something happen.”

The first time home buyers reached out, and after hearing more about our bank, products, and process, they completed their application with us the same day. They were in desperate need of a quick turnaround, good communication, and the right loan product for their situation – all of which we were able to step in and provide.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone work as quickly and effectively as Katie did. Not just in the mortgage process but anywhere in my professional career. Katie got our application moving along in an incredibly short amount of time and was able to answer every single one of our (many) questions. She put us at ease with a process that until that point had been extremely challenging, at best,” confessed Pakou.

Together we decided on the GMB Portfolio product, which would enable them to purchase the home and at the same time borrow additional funds to get started on the remodel right away. Because Matt and Pakou knew they eventually wanted a fixed rate product, early on we also discussed and put into place a timeline for a post-rehab refinance. Everything came together in time and fortunately we were able to close their purchase on the original closing date! Just a few short months later, we wrapped up their fixed rate refinance with another smooth closing. Being able to provide a seamless experience like this is what makes our jobs as Loan Officers so enjoyable… and the most rewarding part is seeing buyers like Matt and Pakou turn a house into a home.

Matt ended his testimonial with, “Katie was able to make not only the initial rehab loan but the subsequent refinance both perfectly painless, and structured in a way that made sense financially. She was able to point out options for us that saved us money both in the short and long run. Honestly, for that alone it would have been worth working with her and Great Midwest Bank. The fact that she was also one of the most professional, pro-active, and friendly people I’ve ever met was the icing on the cake.”

Posted in Customer Service, Dream Home, first time homebuyers, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Our Story, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Leave a comment

Five Things That Could Decrease the Value of Your Home

bedroomIf you are thinking of selling your home somewhere down the road, there are a couple of things that the experts suggest that you NOT do because it could actually decrease the value of your home and make it less appealing to potential home buyers

Here are five things that could potentially decrease the value of your home or leave it sitting on the market for longer than you’d hoped:

Bold Paint Colors: When buyers view your home, bold colors may stick out like a sore thumb and they may look at it as an extra expense to have the walls repainted. If you decide to use a bolder color, we recommend using it on an accent wall with lighter shades.

Over-remodeled Kitchens: It’s one of the most important rooms in your home. However, there is a point where it can be overly done and doesn’t fit with the rest of your home. We suggest that you don’t go overboard—remodel so it matches the style and design of the rest of your home.

Ignore Landscaping: It’s the first impression that makes them want to walk in the door. Get rid of overgrown shrubs and plant new ones. If you have weeds growing in your lawn, apply a good weed killer. Fertilize the grass to make it look greener. Get rid of junk and toys in both the back and front yards.

Unfinished Projects: You may be doing them yourself or have hired a contractor who has not yet finished an improvement project. Either way, make sure it’s complete before listing your home for sale. Buyers may view it as costing them money or may not be able to imagine the finished project.

Wasted Space: Do you have a spare bedroom that has turned into a storage area? Or an office that is now an exercise room? Don’t leave them as-is. Return them to their originally intended use. Potential buyers want to visualize how every square foot can be used—especially if home prices in your area are somewhat tied to the square footage of your home.

Are you ready to take the plunge and sell your home? Meet with one of our Great Midwest Bank Loan Officers today. We can help you get started on the next chapter of your life in a new home.

(via LoanOfficerMagazine.com)

Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography / Foter /CC BY

Posted in Buying & Selling, Homeowner tips, Remodeling, Useful Tips | Leave a comment

#YourStory: Justin & Nicole

JustinIn early July, I had the pleasure of working with new customers Justin and Nicole who were buying a home in Hales Corners.  Like many others before him, Justin found his way to me by word of mouth.  I took a call at home on a Saturday morning.  Justin was frustrated.  Now, I knew he had been to other lenders, but it wasn’t until he wrote me a nearly four page testimonial that I learned he’d truly been through the “ringer.”

First, a bit of background.  Justin is a full-time corporate pilot.  Flies a really cool jet for some local executives traveling on business from the metro-Milwaukee area.  But does anyone remember a little thing called the Great Recession?  Corporate jets were one of the first things to go for many companies.  As a result, Justin, like so many others who were “dislocated” from their jobs during that 2-3 year span, suffered financially.

But four years had passed and Justin cleared up some debt while his work stabilized.  After being hired permanently in his current position, and knowing that he had some help from family for a nice-sized down payment, he and his wife set out to buy a home, a place to call their own.

He stopped at his own bank where he was handed some forms and a fax number.  After two weeks, he finally had his response.  Because of his past financial woes, they couldn’t help.  The next option was a mortgage broker, who recommended FHA financing.  After more difficulty getting in touch, and with the help of his Real Estate agent, after SIX weeks, Justin finally had his pre-approval letter.

Turns out the letter wasn’t worth the paper on which it was written.  Which is why I often suggest to clients that “all pre-approvals are not created equally.”  Too often, to appease a prospective borrower, lenders will provide a letter and hope for the best, only to result in disappointment.

That’s when Justin found me on that otherwise quiet Saturday.  We met face-to-face on Tuesday.  I spent a good part of our meeting understanding his past financial difficulties and learning about his new job.  Bottom line was they had two weeks to close on this home.  Not to mention they had given their Landlord notice.  Justin wrote, “ I have to tell you that as a pilot and someone who likes order, what a relief it was to have Jon hand me a checklist,” adding that he finally felt like he was dealing with a professional.  We ended up closing – using the GMB Portfolio product – on the originally scheduled date.

He finished his testimonial as follows: “Our closing not only happened on its original date, but had no hiccups and took less than an hour!  The experience with Great Midwest Bank is exactly what I had in my head of how it should have happened from the beginning!”

Happy we could help Justin.  One Customer at a time!  And makes my job extremely satisfying!

So what’s #YourStory? Send me a note or tell us on Facebook!”

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#YourStory: Eric & Angie

Jon Reetz - website#YourStory continues with a home purchase a couple of years back in Fox Point.  Our borrowers – Eric and Angie – were purchasing their first home.  And by most standards, this was a “plain vanilla” mortgage loan request.  Solid borrowers that had prepared very well for the event.

Their product of choice was a very popular one – a long term fixed rate.  We often talk about Borrowers fitting in the “box” required for these types of loans.  And Eric and Angie were a perfect fit.  But their story wasn’t so much about the Product.  Let’s face it – most lenders offer very similar, competitive rates and work to minimize costs.  Great Midwest filled that requirement, along with local loan servicing.

Instead, this was about the Process.  Eric and Angie took the right first step with a thorough pre-approval so they could shop for a home with confidence.  They signed an offer to purchase the home and Great Midwest Bank ordered an appraisal.  Enter the Bump in the Road.  The appraisal suggested the home was worth a bit less than the agreed upon price.  Eric called me, obviously concerned.  I advised, based on experience, they discuss it with their Real Estate agent and consider a lower, amended price.  Which they did.  Which the seller agreed upon.  Problem solved.

Buying a home is an emotional experience.  You should count on experienced Professionals – the Loan Officer, Real Estate Agents and Inspector – to guide you along the way. “…We were very anxious about our first home purchase.  While we qualified for an excellent rate, we wanted to work with a company that we could trust as an advisor in the process. Great Midwest Bank was just that – such a consultative approach to mortgage lending. Great Midwest Bank we could trust, Great Midwest Bank told us what to expect every step of the way, and Great Midwest Bank brought us a solution to a situation we had no clue how to handle.  Our experience — Simply Awesome!”

Anytime Eric! We’re glad you’re loving the home. And thanks for the great testimonial!

So what’s #YourStory? Send me a note or tell us on Facebook!”

Posted in Banking, first time homebuyers, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Our Story, Testimonials, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Comments Off on #YourStory: Eric & Angie

#YourStory: Henry

henryThis is Henry’s story.  A couple of months back, I received an email from a local realtor in a panic.  One of her clients, Henry, had just been denied a loan to purchase a condominium.  But the interesting fact here, like so many other situations we see, was that Henry had taken the appropriate steps to get pre-approved for a new home.

His was a typical example which, in retirement, he was downsizing from his current home.  That home, in fact, was already under contract and scheduled to close the same day he would move into his new Nashotah condominium.  He had plenty of down payment funds as a result.  So what, you say, is wrong with this picture?

His original lender somehow overlooked the simple fact that he had some negative credit history a few years back.  And that history was no fault of his own.  Henry had experienced a serious health issue and, because he was self-employed at the time, his business suffered.  And that was compounded by the recession our country was facing at the same time.

Enter the Great Midwest Bank Portfolio Loan.  A perfect example of common sense mortgage lending.   In short order, GMB turned the situation around and made Henry a big fan:  “…thank you for everything you have done. Your service was great and the application process was quick and easy. The people at GMB listened to me and did not make judgements based only on numbers.  I have already given your name to two friends looking to sell/move in the near future.  Believe me when I say I will be a walking, talking commercial for you and GMB.”

You bet Henry.  Glad we could help!  So what’s #YourStory?  Send me a note or tell us on Facebook!

Posted in Customer Service, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Our Story, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Comments Off on #YourStory: Henry


Jon Reetz - websiteIf you’re a current customer, you probably know some of #OurStory.  In the words of our 4th Generation Family-Run Bank President, Dennis Doyle, “we know who we are, and we know who we are NOT.”  Any successful organization tends to do something very well.  For Great Midwest Bank, it’s residential mortgage lending.  And now nearly 80 years into #OurStory, it’s that simple approach we take that continues to be the key to our success – and to the satisfaction of our amazing & loyal customers.

I started with Great Midwest in 2002.  I witnessed the sudden jump in real estate values for five years.  And the dramatic drop that followed.  Now nearly six years or so on this side of the “mortgage-meltdown,” I’m happy to report a vibrant real estate market in Wisconsin.  Though the mortgage industry has seen significant changes brought on by more restrictive rules and regulations, Great Midwest Bank continues to be that common-sense lender that Wisconsin has relied upon since 1935.  We were born at the height of the Great Depression and weathered a World War and the Great Recession aforementioned.  Sticking to what we know, I guess you could say we’re here to stay.

And if you’re wondering about the hashtag, we’ve adapted to the times.  We’re sharing #OurStory in all kinds of places.  Not just on our website, but on Social Media too.  Over the next few months, we’ll share some of #YourStory too.  Highlighting when we’ve helped Wisconsin families achieve the dream of getting into – or back into – a home of their own.  Have a story to tell?  Let us know via email!  We’d love to share it.

our story

Posted in Just For Fun, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Our Story, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Comments Off on #OurStory

5 Great Ways to Save on your 4th of July BBQ

‘Tis the season for fireworks and BBQ! But that doesn’t mean you should let your finances go up in flames!


Five great tips for saving on your 4th of July BBQ:

  1. BYOM: Why not ask your quests to bring their own meat. Not only will this save you money, it will also ensure everyone is eating something they handpicked and sure to enjoy. In fact, why not make the whole BBQ a potluck!
  1. Ditch paper plates and invest in plastic dinnerware. These can be washed and stored for a few years. This way you won’t have to use your nice dinnerware, but you also wont be running out to buy new paper plates every time you want to have people over.
  1. Invest in a quality grill & take care of it. Cheap grills not only have shorter life spans, they also tend to burn more fuel, whether you’re using charcoal or propane or something else.
  1. Pay attention! Make sure you know how to work your grill (sometimes it’s easier said than done) and don’t burn the food! Clean it regularly!
  1. Plan ahead and make your own ice! If you spend the week leading up to your BBQ making ice you’ll have no need to go out and purchase a big bag of it. Why buy something you can make at home for free?

Save big and have a blast with these great ways to save at your 4th of July BBQ this year!

For more savings tips make sure to follow Great Midwest Bank: http://simplylocalbank.com/#facebook

Photo credit: schreiblockade / Foter / CC BY-ND

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You Did It!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou followed the steps, got your ducks in a row and moved into your new home. Over the last few months we provided you insight on the mortgage process as well as tips on selecting a great realtor, finding the perfect home and on how to move.

Your boxes are unpacked, your furniture is in its spot and your cabinets are full of pots and pans. You’re ready to put your feet up and relax, but before you do, there are a few more things to consider:

  1. Fill out a change of address form at the post office.
    • This will route your mail to your new address. However, to make sure you don’t miss anything after the post office stops forwarding your mail make sure to contact the senders and inform them of your new address.
  1. Update your driver’s license with your new address.
    • This can be completed at a DMV office or often online, just be sure to complete this task shortly after your move.
  1. Send out change of address cards.
    • These days many people just send a text or an email to tell people they’ve moved, but with so many cute change of address cards out there we still believe in sending them snail mail.
  1. Host a housewarming party.
    • This is a great excuse to invite everyone over to see your new home all at once. Open the windows, fire up the grill and chill the drinks. Be proud of your new home and show it off!

We’re so happy you’ve gotten your ducks in a row. But there’s one more thing to remember… enjoy your new home!

Haven’t started the home buying process yet? Complete a mortgage preapproval online or schedule an appointment to meet with one of our friendly, experienced loan officers today.

Photo credit: It’sGreg / Foter / CC BY-ND

Posted in Banking, Buying & Selling, Dream Home, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Pre-Approval | Comments Off on You Did It!

3 Financial Tips We Learned From Dad

dadBecause Father’s Day is right around the corner, we thought we would take a minute to pass on some words of advice from the some of the men in our lives that have influenced us the most, our dads.

Not only did these wonderful guys help to shape what we find interesting and what we find funny, they also tried to pass along words of wisdom to help us live independently as we grew up.

Here are three of their tips that we still hold dear to this day:

  1. Money doesn’t grow on trees

Maybe we were fooled by the green color of those leaf-like bills, but at an early age our fathers made sure we knew money isn’t something that just appears like wild strawberries.  It’s something that should be earned. Not only that, but these days being financially independent is essential if you want the freedom to live the life you want.

  1. Always give back

This isn’t something our fathers taught us, but rather something they showed us. Through their volunteering, financial donations and willingness to help out their neighbors, we were taught young that supporting your community is one of the most rewarding things a person can do.

  1. You can’t take it with you when you go

It’s true! Our fathers never forgot to remind us that life is short, so live it to its fullest. Don’t spend too much time saving and not enough time living. While it’s important to be financially responsible, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t splurge on a trip to Italy or a cooking class once in a while.

Take some time this Father’s Day to call your Dad and thank him for all of the memories, the adventures and the words of wisdom. And for those of you who are dads yourself, don’t forget to pass along these essential lessons to your kids.

Want to learn more about ways to save? Visit us online at greatmidwestbank.com or at one of our nine convenient locations.

Photo credit: lucianvenutian / Foter / CC BY-SA

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Plan For Your ‘Someday’ With These 3 Easy Ways To Save

moneyWorking hard, paying bills, and putting money aside for your needs and wants in the “now” are so often automatic in our day-to-day lives – so why aren’t we thinking about or planning for the future? According to the 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, nearly one-third of workers have almost no retirement savings or investments (< $1,000), and a staggering 57% are underprepared with less than $25,000 for retirement.

It’s clear that anyone not using the present to plan for retirement will likely be setting themselves up for a less than golden future. But it’s never too early or too late to save for retirement. Try one – or more! – of these three ways to take advantage of retirement savings opportunities right now to build yourself a more secure future:

  1. Open Up a my Social Security Account

Social Security benefits play an important part of planning for retirement. Don’t forget about your my Social Security account! This free account can help you determine what your benefits will be and when will be best for you to start receiving them.

  1. Save Early and Save Often, No Matter How Much You Earn

Starting retirement savings early is the best way to take advantage of compound interest and establish good savings habits. Take advantage of any workplace opportunities, like a 401(k) or 403(b), and never turn down “free money” that comes in the form of employer contributions or matches. Individual Retirement Accounts or IRAs are also a great way to save, with some tax benefits in the process. If you get paid by direct deposit from your employer, you may also be eligible to participate in the new myRA program. myRA is a simple, safe, and affordable retirement account created by the United States Department of the Treasury for the millions of Americans who face barriers to saving for retirement.

Need help finding ways to save? Canceling your cable could save you $50 a month. That comes out to $600 a year! For more ideas like these, visit America Saves online.

Starting early isn’t possible for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play catch-up. Calculate what you will need to save in order to live comfortably in retirement. Once you have turned 50, you can make “catch-up contributions” – an extra amount beyond the normal limits that you can contribute to tax-deferred retirement plans.

  1. Take the America Saves Pledge

Those who make a commitment to themselves and their family to save usually save more than those who don’t. Make your commitment to retirement savings today and receive regular advice and support via email and/or texts while you save money. America Saves will provide you with the motivation and advice you need to reach your savings goal.

Tammy Greynolds works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org. America Saves is proud to be part of the “Campaign for a Secure Retirement: Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement” joint, national educational retirement campaign to encourage retirement planning and saving and to promote the online Social Security Statement, available through mySocial Security, as an important retirement planning tool.

Written by guest blogger Tammy Greynolds (America Saves)

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013 / Foter / CC BY-SA

Posted in Financial Planning, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Saving/Budgetting, Useful Tips | Comments Off on Plan For Your ‘Someday’ With These 3 Easy Ways To Save

Planning Ahead When It Comes Time To Moving

babyMoving can be a very stressful process. Packing, cleaning, driving, lifting and unpacking an entire house is not always an easy task. To make things a little easier on you, we’ve developed a list of considerations to use for planning the big move.

Things you should consider when planning your move:

  • What do you NEED to bring with you? Consider making some donations or possibly having a rummage sale before the move. More cash and fewer things to move sounds like a win/win.
  • What packing supplies will you need? Think about stopping by your local grocery store to pick up free boxes!
  • After making a considerable down payment on your new home, will you be hiring a moving company? Consider asking family members or bribing your friends to help with the move and transportation. (After all, every family has that outdoors loving cousin with the huge truck!) On another note, if you’re moving to another state, look into renting a portable moving pod. It might be more convenient than driving a moving van.
  • While your children and pets are obviously an important part of the move, having them around can be dangerous for their safety and slow down the process. Think about asking someone nearby to watch them for you during the move.
  • When you reach your new home, is there plenty of space to park the moving van or truck? If you’re going to have your own driveway that’s great, but for those of you moving to a location with less parking space, consider ways to make sure you’re not moving your stuff from a parking spot three blocks away.
  • Think about creating a plan for where your furniture is going to go in your new home, and label the boxes. Doing this will help make sure the moving in process is efficient and there will be fewer hazards to trip over in the front rooms.
  • Consider packing your essentials in a separate bag or box. It would be a shame to have to spend your first night in your new home without your favorite ninja turtle pajamas.

The better prepared you are the easier moving will be and the sooner you’ll be all settled in to your new home! For more tips on the home buying process click here to check out our other blog posts, or schedule an appointment to meet with one of our friendly Loan Officers today.

Photo credit: CarbonNYC / Foter / CC BY

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Kids Or Not, This Is Why You Should Live In A Good School District

bussWhen searching for a new home it’s easy to focus on the home itself. “I’d like 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms with an attached garage and hardwood floors.” While these are important things to consider in the short term, when it comes to a long-term investment there are other important factors. Near the top of the list is a high quality school district, whether you have kids or not.

A good school district is important for your children, yes. But did you know buying property within a good school distract can also increase the resale value of your home?

In 2013 the National Association of Realtors conducted a survey with 1000 participating home-buyers. 22% of the participants considered the proximity to a school as very important to their buying decision. Moreover, 29% considered the school’s quality important.

In fact, buyers might be willing to either pay up to 20% more, live in a smaller house or sacrifice amenities like an extra bedroom to live in a high quality school district.

On the other hand, while properties found within high quality school districts also tend to weather poor real estate markets, these homes also often have higher property taxes. We know… you hear higher taxes and you run away screaming. But we wouldn’t recommend making that your deciding factor.

All in all, living within the boundaries of an excellent school district can be great for your kids and great for your home’s resale value. If you’re looking for your next home to be an investment, we’d definitely recommend talking to people in the neighborhood..

Haven’t begun the home buying process yet? Come pay us a visit at Great Midwest Bank to begin the mortgage process today!

Photo credit: madame.furie / Ashley Modern / CC BY-SA

Posted in Buying & Selling, Homeowner tips, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Moving, Useful Tips | Comments Off on Kids Or Not, This Is Why You Should Live In A Good School District

Banking the Way it “Used to Be!”

bankDon’t get us wrong. At Great Midwest Bank, we offer competitive rates that stack up against the best of them. But we want you to know that banking is not just about low rates and costs.

Why else might you choose Great Midwest Bank?

  • Community Oriented

We’re a family-run, community bank and all about relationships.  Whether participating in a charity run or promoting financial education, we’re passionate about helping and building our communities.  After all, word of mouth is our best form of marketing.

  • Customer Service

We pride ourselves on going above and beyond to help make your experience smooth, whether it’s a mortgage or checking account you’re considering. Lots of companies talk the talk.  We live it, because our ownership structure and financial strength allow us to do so.  As a mutual bank, we’re working for you, not for Wall Street.  We deliver service like it “Used To Be” from most any bank. 

  • We’re Simply Local

We often say, “Mortgages are what we DO.”  Being Wisconsin-based, we understand this market.  Your loan is processed and approved by folks right here, people who understand your city, your town, and your neighborhood. This can make a huge difference in getting your financing approved.

To learn more about Great Midwest Bank, our deposit account options or the home mortgage process stop by one of our nine locations or drop us a line.

Great Midwest Bank. Your Simply…Local, Simply…Social Bank.

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Step 4: Closing On Your Dream Home!

step 4You’ve done it! Your ducks are in a row, you’ve found a new place that you can’t wait to call Home and your mortgage loan has been approved. Now all that’s left is Step 4 of the Home Buying Process – The Closing!

You’re almost out of the water, but to make sure this step goes smoothly here are 5 tips:

  1. Consider scheduling your closing as soon as your offer to purchase is accepted. Remember that most offers to purchase reflect an “on or before” closing date.  With enough lead time and a cooperative seller, you may actually be able to consider moving the date up.  Think about a date other than the end of the month or a Friday.  You’ll increase your chances of an extra-smooth process.  Schedule time off from work as you’ll need to be there in person.  Sellers often “pre-sign” ahead of closing.  Buyers almost always attend, though exceptions do exist.   We’re flexible on a closing location, so pick one of our offices or one of the real estate agents’ offices that works for you.
  1. Expect an email from us a few days in advance of closing with a final, exact dollar figure. You’ll need a cashier’s check from your bank or plan to wire transfer funds to us ahead of time.
  1. Before signing on the dotted line, have your Real Estate agent schedule a time with the seller to do one final walk-through of the home. You can double-check that the seller has followed through on necessary repairs and didn’t decide to give you a brand new graffiti filled wall as a house warming gift.  And make sure all garbage and belongings are removed.  We’ve heard plenty of stories about sellers leaving a garage full of “stuff.”
  1. Do some wrist exercises…because you’re going to be signing a number of documents. But because we maintain servicing of many of our mortgage products, there’s less here than at most other lenders.
  1. Closing should last no more than an hour, often less. Because we manage our own closings, our funds are immediately available.  So no waiting after you sign like many other lenders.
  1. The house is yours! Get your keys and move in!

Still looking to get your ducks in a row? Visit or talk with one of our experienced Loan Officers to get the process started!

Posted in Dream Home, first time homebuyers, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Homeowner tips, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages | Comments Off on Step 4: Closing On Your Dream Home!

5 Questions to Ask at Every Open House

Have you been tirelessly researching upcoming open houses? Found a few that you’ve already fallen in love with?


As they say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That applies to many aspects of life, including when shopping for a new home. It would be easy to choose a home based on the beautiful new patio or granite counter tops, but sometimes this can be a recipe for disaster.

In order to save yourself a major headache down the road, shop with confidence by asking these five essential questions at every open house:

  1. How long has the house been on the market?
    • By now most people know to ask this question. If a house has been on the market a while, it might mean there is a problem with the house itself or a case of simply being overpriced. Either way, it’s perhaps a good opportunity to make an offer at a discount.
  1. How many offers have been made?
    • This is a good way to gauge your competition and how quickly you’ll need to act. Do your best to avoid multiple offer bidding wars, unless you think the value is justified by recent sales.  Unfortunately, in today’s market, that idea is sometimes unavoidable.  If you do make the winning offer, be patient with your home inspection.  Don’t feel rushed by the fact that there were multiple offers.
  1. How much does it cost for heat, electricity and water?
    • That first utility statement after moving into a new home can be daunting. Ask this question ahead of time to help determine your budget. If a specific utility seems higher than you’d expect, this could also suggest an underlying issue that should be checked out during an inspection.
  1. What recent updates have been made?
    • Some updates, like appliances (which you shouldn’t assume will come with the house), will be obvious. Others may not. For example, it might be difficult to tell if the electricity or roof have been redone.
  1. What issues does the house have?
    • Sellers are not allowed to hide any known code violations or structural issues. Read the Real Estate Condition Report… many buyers skim it but it’s one of the most important items in your offer.

Ask these questions, investigate the neighborhood, and do a thorough job of viewing the home, and you’ll be on the right path to landing yourself in the home of your dreams.

Have additional questions about the home buying process before you venture off to your first open house? Contact one of Great Midwest Bank’s friendly, experienced loan officers today.

Photo credit: Aurimas Adomavicius / Foter / CC BY-ND

Posted in Buying & Selling, Dream Home, first time homebuyers, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Homeowner tips, Useful Tips | Comments Off on 5 Questions to Ask at Every Open House

Step #3 – Shop With Confidence for Your New Home

Have you been paddling around the idea of buying a new home in 2015? Have you already filled out an online mortgage pre-approval and visited one of our experienced Great Midwest Bank loan officers? That’s great! You’re on the right track to getting your ducks in a row!

Now you’re all ready to get your feathers wet by diving into step #3 of the home buying process – Shopping with confidence for your new home!

You’ve probably done some browsing already, and maybe you have your home picked out. But if not, let GMB help you find the perfect realtor to meet your needs so searching for your dream home is fun and as stress free as possible. We’ll be with you every step of the way, from tips on what to look for in a new home to the steps needed in the inspection and appraisal process.

Don’t be a sitting duck. Quack into a new home today with Great Midwest Bank.


Posted in Buying & Selling, first time homebuyers, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Pre-Approval | Comments Off on Step #3 – Shop With Confidence for Your New Home

7 Essential Steps for Buying Your Next Home

legoIf you’ve been through the process of buying a home, you perhaps know there are a number of steps involved. If you are buying your first home, it’s important to understand the order in which these steps should occur.

Follow this path and you’re much more likely to sail smoothly through the process:

Step 1 – Mortgage Pre-Approval

  • Have a price range or monthly budgeted payment in mind.
  • Get Pre-Approved! Meet or call one of our Loan Officers before you submit an offer.  Many can be done in a day or two.
  • Use that opportunity to discuss all the costs involved, including lender fees, third party costs, and prepaid items.  Your Loan Officer will also provide an estimate of cash required to close.
  • Be prepared to provide financial documents to your lender.  A thorough pre-approval should always include a review of your income and asset information.
  • Our pre-approval letter will contain a monthly payment amount as opposed to a loan amount or purchase price figure.

Step 2 – Making and Negotiating the Offer

  • Provide your real estate agent with your GMB Pre-Approval letter.  Share your price range as well.
  • Your agent will set you up for regular emails reflecting homes that are both on the market already as well as new listings.
  • When you identify a home, ask your real estate agent for a list of comparable homes that have recently sold in the area.
  • Be upfront about what you want included, such as curtains, lighting fixtures, appliances, etc.
  • Think about a seller credit towards costs if that’s possible.
  • Be flexible on the closing date if you’re able to do so.
  • Ask the seller to buy you a home warranty.

Step 3 – Inspecting the home

  • Find a qualified inspector by asking your Realtor.
  • When you make the appointment, you should plan on attending.
  • If there are problems, obtain individual inspections by certified contractors and get a bid for the repair work.  Your real estate agent should be able to offer some reputable names.
  • Ask the seller to correct the problems.  You can also consider asking for a reduction to the sales price or credit towards costs.

Step 4 – Loan Approval

  • Upon providing the signed offer to us, Great Midwest Bank will provide appropriate disclosures.  When you review and accept the terms, we’ll request funds for the appraisal.
  • Ask about a rate lock.  Generally, if you’re within 45 days of closing, we can lock your rate.
  • We likely will request updated financial information if the pre-approval occurred a month or more before your application.
  • You’ll receive a copy of the appraisal upon completion.  If it is lower than the agreed price, you may be able to negotiate with the seller.
  • We work to provide you with a formal Loan Commitment by the date designated on the offer to purchase.

Step 5 – Shop for homeowners insurance

  • Be sure to shop around and ask us for a local reference.
  • Compare coverage, including personal property and garages.
  • Compare deductibles and ask about a claim service.
  • Provide your insurance agent with the Loan Officer contact info.

Step 6 – Viewing the home before closing

  • Verify that all items you negotiated in the contract are still there.
  • Check appliances to make sure they are in working order.
  • Turn on faucets and flush toilets.
  • Check heating, air conditioning, smoke detectors.
  • Check once more for water stains.
  • Watch for any trash left in the house

Step 7 – Closing the loan

  • We will prepare a settlement statement and communicate a final, exact figure for you to bring to closing.
  • We will also compare the actual costs to our original estimate.
  • We usually require a cashier’s check or wire transfer of funds.  Ask your loan officer for details.

Though the process may seem a bit overwhelming, we take pride in guiding you through the process step by step to make sure you’re able to close on your dream home before you know it. Visit us today. www.greatmidwestbank.com

Photo credit: Bill Ward’s Brickpile Foter CC BY

Posted in Customer Service, first time homebuyers, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Pre-Approval, Saving/Budgetting | Comments Off on 7 Essential Steps for Buying Your Next Home

Four Ways To Save At the Ballpark This Season

miller parkDo you feel that? The warm weather rolling in, the smell of brats on the grill, and the ground vibrating as fans across Milwaukee stampede in the same direction… This can only mean one thing – baseball season is back! If you are planning on catching the Brewers taking it all home this year, you’ll want to consider these four money saving ideas before you pack up your grill and head to Miller Park.

  1. Go for the cheap seats

Let’s face it. Half the fun of a baseball game is the atmosphere, and when it comes to the Milwaukee Brewers the atmosphere is everywhere no matter where you sit. Consider purchasing tickets with a lower price tag or look for cheaper games to save money without missing out on the experience. Also, keep in mind that buying your tickets in person might also save you from having to pay any pesky online processing fees.

  1. Tailgate

Everyone knows baseball games are notorious for expensive food and drinks. Save yourself some money (and have yourself some fun) by bringing your own food and beverages to everyone’s favorite party in the parking lot before the game. Coordinate your tailgating needs with friends to bring the bill down even further.

  1. Skip the souvenir shop

It’s tempting to buy a foam finger or a new jersey while you’re at the stadium, but remember you’ll be paying more. Instead, think about buying your Brewers gear prior to the game either online or at retailers across Milwaukee. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also be able to deck out before heading to the ballpark.

  1. Leave your car at home

Unless you’ve volunteered your vehicle as a tailgating base, there’s really no need to bring your car to the stadium. Instead, carpool with friends, have your spouse or roommate drop you off, or jump on some public transportation. Miller park is also equipped with a surplus of bike racks if you would like to cycle to the game. Not only will leaving your wheels at home help cut down on the money you’re spending on gas, but you’ll also be able to avoid paying any high parking prices. You could say you’re keeping green… both environmentally AND financially.

Follow these game day money saving tips and you’ll be able to catch the baseball season from the stands instead of from the couch. Need more help saving? Open a savings account with Great Midwest Bank today.

Photo credit: Darrins / Foter / CC BY-SA

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Five Great Tips for Managing Your Tax Refund


Tax Day is just over two weeks away. If you’re like many Americans, you’re waiting until April 14th to click Submit. However, to make sure everything is entered correctly (which will hopefully equate to a refund) we recommend getting out of procrastination mode.

What’s that? Your taxes are done? Great! Now comes the fun part… deciding what to do with your refund! Here are some suggestions that will definitely pay off in the long run:

  • Pay down debt.
    • Whether it’s student loans, credit cards or your car payment, using your tax refund to decrease your outstanding debt is a great way to improve your credit. Consider making payments on accounts with the highest interest rates for the best return on your investment.
  • Use towards a home down payment.
    • Planning to purchase a home in 2015? Consider using your tax refund towards your down payment. Meet with a Great Midwest Bank Loan Officer for a pre-approval before you start shopping.
  • Update your home.
    • Need a new roof? Better curb appeal? Maybe a new air conditioner? Using your tax refund toward these purchases is a great idea. Especially if you are considering selling in 2015.
  • Donate to charity.
    • Not only will you be doing something great for your community, but you’ll also be able to deduct your charitable donation on next year’s taxes.

Though it’s good to be responsible with your savings, it’s also good to have a little fun. Make sure to take some of your tax refund and treat yourself for being such a savvy money planner! And remember, at Great Midwest Bank we can help you with your home mortgage, savings account and financial planning. We have the tools and resources to help you get the most out of your tax return.

Photo credit: JD Hancock / Foter / CC BY

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More Than Just a Rate

Jon Reetz - website

In the world of mortgage lending, what you see is not always what you get.

I run into folks that are shopping several lenders and are only interested in the absolute best rate and lowest costs.  And, while shopping is a fundamentally sound practice, home buyers should realize there’s much more to consider.

After twelve years in the business and hundreds of home purchases later, I’d suggest you consider a handful of other important factors.

  • Expect Responsiveness and Accessibility. Today’s market often means you have to act quickly.  And though email is an efficient way to communicate, an initial ten minute phone call to discuss your circumstances goes a long way towards avoiding bumps in the road.  A good Loan Officer will take that time to discuss your specific situation, even at night or on the weekend.
  • Experience Counts. Today’s list of mortgage rules is longer than ever, long enough that it’s impossible to memorize them all.  Originators with at least a few years under their belt have been through enough Borrower scenarios to know what works… and what doesn’t.  Countless times I’ve seen inexperienced originators lead someone down the wrong path.
  • Details, Details, Details. The pre-approval process should ALWAYS include submission of your pertinent documents – pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns if necessary.  I’m still shocked that some Lenders will still issue a pre-approval based on a phone call and quick check of credit.  Insist that your Originator look over this information ahead of time.
  • Real Estate Agents Love Local. Competing on a home with another buyer?  Your chances of getting an offer accepted are higher with a locally-run provider.  Agents know that the pre-approval process is thorough and the underwriting and closing stand a much better chance of remaining on track.  And we’ll most often service your loan locally after the closing, too.
  • Options are Good. If you don’t fit in the box that seems to shrink every year, find a Lender with their own money.  We call that concept a “Portfolio Loan” at Great Midwest Bank.  Fannie Mae and FHA require uniform Borrowers.  One small difference and you could find yourself on the outside looking in.  A Portfolio Loan might be a way for you to get into (or back into) the housing market.

At Great Midwest Bank, you’ll find competitive rates and low costs.  That’s a given.  It’s the rest of what we have to offer that really makes us stand out from the crowd.  Find a Loan Officer here to get the process started.

Posted in Banking, Customer Service, first time homebuyers, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Pre-Approval, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Comments Off on More Than Just a Rate