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

So You’ve Completed an Online Mortgage Pre-Approval Application. GREAT, What’s Next?

GMB_DUCKS_Facebook_POST-step2Ready to paddle into a new home, but not sure how to get your ducks in a row? You might have heard us quacking recently about completing a mortgage pre-approval with Great Midwest Bank, which is the first step.

Now for the second step! Meet with or call a Great Midwest Bank Loan Officer, conveniently located in Madison, Chilton and throughout Metro Milwaukee, to provide your information.

Wondering what we’ll need? Use this handy checklist to help you prepare:

  • Past two years W-2’s
    • Two years of information helps us determine your historical income, which on occasion is averaged if you work significant overtime, have a part-time job, or receive commission and/or bonus income.
  • Past two years Federal Tax Returns
    • For self-employed, rental property owners or commission-based borrowers.
    • Income for self-employed individuals often is reflected on Schedule C.
    • Rental property owners usually reflect that income on Schedule E and will likely need to provide mortgage and insurance statements on each property owned.
    • Commission-based borrowers sometimes file form 2106 for “Unreimbursed Employee Expenses” which would be deducted from income.
  • Last month of Paystubs
    • A month of paystubs (usually 2) allows us to measure consistency of income.
  • Two Months of Bank Statements (all pages & indicating your name)
    • We’re usually only interested in funds for down payment or that will be required at closing in a refinance situation.
    • An underwriter will look for significant large deposits other than payroll deposits and may require an explanation.
    • An online printout of history without your name and account number clearly indicated will not be acceptable for formal underwriting but can sometimes work in the case of a pre-approval. Just be prepared to eventually provide statements.  If you can’t access them online, ask your bank for copies.
  • Most recent Retirement Statement(s) (all pages & indicating your name)
    • We ask for these in the event we need to reflect that payment reserves are available or if you’re considering borrowing from retirement assets for down payment.
  • Signed Authorization and Electronic Disclosure Consent (available on our website)

While some houses will be on the market for months, others sell within days. In order to make sure you don’t miss out on getting your dream home, be ready to move quickly. Schedule a meeting or a call with a Great Midwest Bank Loan Officer to get your Ducks in a Row and into a new home today!

Posted in Banking, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Pre-Approval | Comments Off on So You’ve Completed an Online Mortgage Pre-Approval Application. GREAT, What’s Next?

Great Tips for Single Homebuyers

Paying Household BillsDid you know that, according to the National Association of Realtors, 31% of all homebuyers are single?  Though the thought of owning a home can be scary for a single homebuyer, it certainly doesn’t have to be. Consider these GREAT tips and you could be hosting summer parties in your new home.

Get pre-approved and talk to a loan officer

  • Complete a Great Midwest Bank Mortgage Pre-approval well in advance of looking for a new home, to get a better idea of the home you can afford.
  • Loan Officers at Great Midwest Bank will assist you throughout the process, making it stress free and easy to understand.
  • Regardless of what you are approved for, shop for homes valued at a price you are comfortable with. Don’t forget unexpected home repairs such as a new washer, fixing leaks and landscaping.

Start house hunting

  • Spring is the perfect time to visit open houses. Make a day out of it and enlist friends that will provide positive advice.
  • Walk around the block, if neighbors are out, say hello. Take into consideration the lifestyle of the neighbors, noise and proximity to restaurants and shops.
  • Don’t be afraid of paint colors or wallpaper, these can be changed. Once you move in, add your own style.

Think about the future

  • Don’t limit your search to a home that fits your needs now, but also consider your future needs.
  • Consider re-sale when purchasing a home. Though you may fall in love with the home’s quirky features, want a small yard or enjoy not having a playground near you; future buyers may not. Purchase a home you love but also one that someone else will appreciate down the road.

Most importantly, be prepared to move quickly. Don’t miss out on owning your dream home, call a Great Midwest Bank Loan Officer today or fill out a Pre-Approval Mortgage Application online.

Posted in Banking, first time homebuyers, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Pre-Approval, Useful Tips | Comments Off on Great Tips for Single Homebuyers

Five Tips for First Time Homebuyers

New home owners with keySpring is the start of home buying season as well as wedding season. After many couples walk down the aisle, they begin saving for their first home.

According to a study by the National Realtor’s Association, 33% of recent homeowners were first time buyers. It can take first time homebuyers 60-90 days longer to make a home buying decision, due to being new at the process. The Loan Officers at Great Midwest Bank are here to make the process simple, fun and fast.

If you are looking, or will be looking soon, to buy your first home, read over these essential tips before you start.

  • Create a wish list; identify your wants and needs.
  • Look past cosmetic dislikes, such as paint colors and wallpaper, which can be updated later. Consider homes that meet your structural needs; number of rooms and layout, which are harder to change.
  • Look for homes that fit your future plans – though you may not have kids now, you may in the future. Look at room size, location to the master, bathrooms (with bathtubs), yard, street traffic and school districts. All which will also help for future resale.
  • If you are able to, don’t buy a home after one visit; go back multiple times and inspect it top to bottom.
  • Be ready to move quickly once you find the right home, get pre-approved with Great Midwest Bank well in advance of your home search.

Ready to dive into a new home? Great Midwest Bank can help you through the process. Contact a Simply…Local Loan Officer today to get started.

If you are also in the process of planning your wedding, stop by our booth at the Brookfield Bridal Expo, this Sunday, March 8th at the Sheraton Hotel in Brookfield, where we will answer your home buying questions and help you get your ducks in a row.

Posted in Banking, first time homebuyers, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Homeowner tips, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Pre-Approval | Comments Off on Five Tips for First Time Homebuyers

5 Simple Steps to Save Successfully this America Saves Week

By: Tammy Greynolds, America Saves Communications Coordinator

money 12

America Saves Week (February 23 – 28, 2015) is an annual opportunity for individuals to assess their savings and take financial action. America Saves’ mantra – and the focus for America Saves Week – is simple: Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. When you know what your current financial picture looks like, you can be more proactive in setting yourself up for future success.

Try these five simple steps during America Saves Week to help yourself save successfully:

  1. Assess Your Savings.

Like your health, you should assess your savings annually to make sure you’re savings priorities are on the right track. Complete this simple 12 question assessment to find out your current standing and help you plan for the future.

  1. Evaluate your Savings Preparedness.

Check off your savings accomplishments on the Saver Checklist to further evaluate where your savings habits need strengthening for your future goals.

  1. Take the America Saves Pledge.

Those with a savings plan are two times as likely to save for emergencies and retirement than those without one. Join the nearly 400,000 American Savers who have already committed to save. When you make the pledge, you can choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save towards your goals.

  1. Share Your Savings Goal.

Take part in the 2015 #imsavingfor Photo Contest. Share a selfie that shows what you’re saving for on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and enter the contest at http://americasavesweek.org/imsavingfor for a chance to win $500. Savings never looked so good.

  1. Make Your Savings Social.

Are you on Twitter or Facebook? Join America Saves in encouraging your friends, family, and colleagues to save this week. Better yet, join one of the five – yes, five! – Twitter chats that America Saves will be a part of this week to get real-time savings tips and advice.

America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

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This America Saves Week: Take Your Financial Future into Your Own Hands

By: Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Director America Saves

America Saves Week, February 23 – 28, 2015, is the perfect time to review your finances, set your savings goals for the year, and set up a system that will allow you to save automatically. That’s why the America Saves Week theme is – Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. Did you know that only half of Americans report having good savings habits? Even if you are already saving, it’s good to take a look at your greater financial picture and decide whether there’s potential to save more or set a new savings goal. Join thousands of others who are pledging to pay down debt, save money, and take financial action during America Saves Week. Not sure what to save for or what to save for next? Here are the most popular saving goals of those who have pledged to save through America Saves:

  • Save for Emergencies – Research has shown that low-income families with at least $500 in an emergency fund are better off financially than moderate-income families with less than this amount. Nearly a quarter of savers who have taken the America Saves pledge have chosen “emergency savings” as their first wealth-building goal. Learn more.
  • Save for Retirement – Retirement savings is a top priority for many savers. Saving for retirement now will ensure that you have enough money to maintain a comfortable standard of living when you stop or reduce the amount of hours you work. Learn more.
  • Save for Education – Saving for education is the second most popular goal savers select when they pledge to save with America Saves. There are many different things to factor in when saving and paying for college. Learn more.
  • Pay Down Debt – Getting out of debt is the #3 goal savers select when they pledge to save. The good news is that there is hope. With planning, discipline, patience, and maybe some outside help, almost anyone can reduce their debts and start to accumulate wealth. Learn more.
  • Save for a Home – For decades, home ownership has been the main path to wealth for most Americans. Today, home equity – the market value of a home minus the balance on any home loans – represents more than four-fifths of the typical family’s wealth. Learn more.

Not sure how to save for your goals? Here are some saving strategies to help:

  • Save Automatically – The easiest and most effective way to save is automatically. This is how millions of Americans save at their bank or credit union, and how millions of employees save through 401(k) and other retirement programs at work. Learn more.
  • Save at Tax Time – Do you spend weeks eagerly anticipating your tax refund? When the money finally comes in, is it gone tomorrow? Many people view tax refunds as unplanned bonuses. They see the money as a gift from the government, to use for splurges or treats. But a tax refund provides the opportunity to improve your financial situation.  Learn more.

Take the America Saves Pledge, or re-pledge, today to set your savings goal and make a plan to save. When you take the Pledge, you can also choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save for your goal. And don’t forget to follow America Saves on Facebook and Twitter. America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

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7 Ways to Turn Saving Money into a Habit

By: Brittany Lyte, Wise Bread


The spending and saving habits of your past don’t define your future — your current ones do. And this America Saves Week is a great time to start with a clean slate. Hitting the reset button won’t cure all your financial woes, but when it comes to adopting good saving habits it’s truly half the battle. The other half, of course, is drafting a well-planned road map for success. Luckily, we’ve got a primer to get you started. Read on for our guide to adopting seven money-saving habits that stick.

  1. Set a Goal

How much money would you like to save? And for what?

When you pinpoint a clear savings goal — be it a new car, a down payment on mortgage, or a backyard swimming pool — it becomes a whole lot easier to conjure up the self-restraint required to achieve it. It needn’t be a big ticket item, either. Simply having a goal to visualize, like a college savings account for your children or a fund for spontaneous weekend escapes, will help keep you focused, motivated, and disciplined.

  1. Map Out a Timeline

Once you’ve figured out what you’re saving for and how much money you’ll need, it’s time to figure out how long it will take to reach your goal. If you want to save $4,000 for a trip to France, for example, figure out how much money you’re willing and reasonably able to part with each paycheck and then calculate how many paychecks it will take you to get there. This savings plan is the road-map that will help steer you to the day when you’ve finally saved enough money to book those airline tickets.

  1. Set Benchmarks

The act of consciously putting away a set amount of money on a set schedule will help build the muscle memory you need to turn saving money into a habit. And since this is the key to adopting a new behavior that will serve you long after you’ve reached this particular savings goal, it’s important to stay on track. Break down your timeline into weekly, monthly, and quarterly savings targets and be sure to verify that you’re meeting them every time.

When you take a large goal and compartmentalize it into a series of smaller ones, it becomes a whole lot easier to accomplish.

  1. Start Small

If you’re struggling to make ends meet and the idea of feeding your family, filling up the gas tank, and paying the bills while also contributing to your savings account seems impossibly daunting, remember that no amount you invest in your savings is insignificant. Even $1 a day makes a difference. The key is identifying the largest amount of money you can commit to stowing away on a regular basis without thwarting your ability to make good on all your other financial obligations. Don’t shortchange yourself, but beware of setting a goal that’s overzealous. The process of meeting your goal should be a challenge, but it shouldn’t be impossible.

  1. Reward Yourself

Reward yourself when you reach major savings milestones to help keep up the momentum. For example, after a month of successfully meeting your weekly savings benchmark, treat yourself to a meal at your favorite restaurant or grant yourself the license to splurge (a little!) on your next shopping trip. Remember, your reward needn’t require you to spend any money, and it certainly shouldn’t bump you off track. A relaxing home pedicure, a guilt-free movie marathon, or a sunset stroll through the park does the trick just as well as anything you can buy.

  1. Don’t Let Yourself Slip

Likewise, it’s important to implement consequences in the event that you fall short on one of your savings benchmarks. If you come up 20% shy of your quarterly benchmark, hold yourself accountable. Spend a night in that you otherwise would have spent out on the town. Calculate how much money you saved by forgoing an evening of food and entertainment and funnel that amount straight into your savings account. Then break out your savings timetable and devise a new plan to help get yourself back on track.

  1. Snuff Out Your Bad Habits

If you’re still struggling to stick to your plan, see if you can identify any wasteful spending habits  so you can nix them. Keeping track of every outgoing dollar over a two-week period can reveal unhealthy spending habits you never knew you had. Online budget planners offer easy tools to score and analyze your every dollar, but old-fashioned pen and paper works just fine.

What will you do during America Saves Week to kick off your new savings habit?

Brittany Lyte is a columnist for Wise Bread (+WiseBread) — top personal finance blog and winner of PC Magazine’s Top 100 Website Award.

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Step 1: Complete a Mortgage Pre-Approval

ducksHave you been thinking about diving into the housing market? Then it sounds like the perfect time to GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW with Great Midwest Bank!

The mortgage process may seem overwhelming from the outside, but from our viewpoint, it’s simply a collection of steps each prospective homeowner must take to move into their dream home. Lucky for you, we have over 80 years of experience in the mortgage industry and have had the pleasure of serving folks in metro-Milwaukee, Madison, and Chilton over that time.

Step one is simple: Complete a mortgage pre-approval online or visit one of our conveniently located branches to complete a no-hassle pre-approval with one of our experienced loan officers.

Thinking about cutting corners? Take care of this step FIRST, and then we’ll help you get to the next step in the mortgage process.

So take a deep breath, and know that we’ll be with you every step of the way. We’re in this together. Not the same boat, but definitely the same pond.

Have any questions? Feel free to give us a call!

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Should a Home Seller Pay the Buyer’s Closing Costs?


Assisting a buyer with paying all or part of their closing costs may just be the ticket to getting your home sold—even in a hot market.

Depending on the buyer, they are usually required to make a minimum down payment. While you (as a seller) also have closing costs to pay, a buyer’s closing costs can also run into the thousands of dollars. Buyers sometimes struggle with having enough money to pay the closing costs.

So how does it work? Let’s say that your home is on the market for $200,000. Buyer closing costs may be $5000. The buyer offers you $190,000 and they decide THEY will pay the closing costs. Or they offer you $195,000 and YOU pay the closing costs. In effect, your bottom line will be the same.

It’s important when selling your home and negotiating the final sales price, that the real estate agent provides you with what is called a “net sheet”. It’s an estimate of the money that you would receive from the sale of your home after paying commission, your closing costs, pro-rating property taxes and the balance of your mortgage. If you decide to pay all or part of the buyers’ closing costs, that would be deducted from your money too.

First-time homebuyers are often in need of help with paying closing costs. However, many second-time buyers are selling their homes and have lost a lot of value over the past several years. They may just get enough money for the down payment and may need help with closing costs too.

And, if you are selling your home and buying another one, it’s also an option for you to consider. Sure, the loan amount may be a little higher to cover the closing costs. Only you can decide if it’s worth it to pay a little bit higher payment each month — or come with funds over and above your down payment.

If you’re in the market to buy or sell, contact one of our Loan Officers.

Posted in Buying & Selling, first time homebuyers, Homeowner Info, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Real Estate Agent | Comments Off on Should a Home Seller Pay the Buyer’s Closing Costs?

11 Questions to Ask Yourself If You Are Thinking of Selling “For-Sale-By-Owner”

????When the time comes that you decide you want to sell your home, the question you might ask yourself is, “Should I list my home with a Realtor or try to sell it myself?”

The choice is yours. However, we wanted to give you 11 questions to ask yourself to help you make an educated decision.

  1. Do you have access to accurate data regarding selling prices, square footage, floor plans and amenities of other homes that have sold in your surrounding area within the last 6 months?
  2. Do you know how long it has been taking to sell a home in your area?
  3. Will you be available to answer phone calls and show your home to prospective buyers?
  4. Will you be able to screen prospects to make sure they are qualified (or worse yet, thieves)?
  5. Do you have a plan to market your home so people know it’s for sale?
  6. Can you handle criticism if negative comments are made about your home?
  7. Are you able to negotiate the highest sales price—either on the phone or face-to-face?
  8. Do you have access to purchase contracts and all state-required disclosures?
  9. Do you know how to obtain title insurance, deeds and any other legal documents needed to transfer ownership?
  10. Will you be available to meet appraisers, inspectors and contractors during the process?
  11. Do you understand all the fees you will be charged at closing and exactly how much you will end up with?

If you’re not so sure about the questions above, consult one of our Loan Officers – we’ll do all we can to help point you in the right direction!

Posted in Banking, Buying & Selling, For Sale by Owner, Homeowner Info, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages | Comments Off on 11 Questions to Ask Yourself If You Are Thinking of Selling “For-Sale-By-Owner”

4 Reasons to Use A Piggy Bank (And What To Do Once It’s Full)

GMB - piggy bankIn an effort to further encourage all of our customers to follow our 2015 financial resolutions, we wanted to highlight one of the easiest, most convenient ways to save: the piggy bank.

Every person receives a piggy bank at some point in his or her childhood. It’s one of the most effective ways for parents to teach their children the value of saving money rather than spending it. More importantly, the piggy bank is also a good reminder for parents and young adults who may have forgotten the importance of saving.

Below are five reasons why every person, young or old, should be using a piggy bank:

  • It helps organize loose change. Rather than losing all of those nickels and dimes under the couch cushion or in your car, hold onto them and place them inside a piggy bank. Not only will this help cleaning up the house and car, it will also further reinforce good money savings habits.
  • The money adds up. When it comes to finances, it’s always important to set goals… Using a piggy bank is an easy way to help you reach those goals. Whether you’re looking to save for a new car or for a warm winter vacation, adding to a piggy bank will visually show how close (or far away) you are from making that purchase.
  • Sets a great example. Piggy banks are an easy and effective way to teach youngsters in the family about the importance of saving. They may not be saving up for a big purchase, but they certainly want to save up for something, whether it’s a new toy, a new phone, or a new video game. Teaching them the benefits of using a piggy bank will go a long way in the future.
  • Reinforces “Always Be Saving”. Saving should always be top of mind. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “A penny saved is a penny earned”. Whether you’re depositing a portion of your paycheck into a savings account or stuffing change into a piggy bank, every little bit helps. With a piggy bank, you’re literally able to watch your money grow every time you save. This is a great habit to keep with you throughout your adult life.

Now, we know what you’re thinking. What do you do once the piggy bank is full? There are a couple of options.

  • Reward yourself with a treat! Whether it’s a new designer handbag, a lobster dinner, or a small vacation, (and put the rest inside a Great Midwest Bank savings account).
  • Donate a portion of the money to a local charity in your area, (and put whatever is left inside your Great Midwest Bank savings account).
  • Invest some of the money, (and put the rest into a Great Midwest Bank savings account).
  • Put all of it into a Great Midwest Bank savings account. If you don’t have a savings account, stop into any of our nine conveniently located branch locations and learn about our your options today.

Happy Saving!

Posted in Banking, Budgeting, Financial Planning, Just For Fun, Saving, Useful Tips | Comments Off on 4 Reasons to Use A Piggy Bank (And What To Do Once It’s Full)

Places Where Germs Hang Out


Bacteria is everywhere—and most people talk about it in terms of making sure your bathroom is kept germ free (if that’s ever possible).

However, there are other places in the home to consider.

Door Knobs and Light Switches – Use disinfecting wipes.

Kitchen Sponges – Soak those in water with some lemon juice and then microwave for about 1 minute.  Replace your sponges every month or so.

Kitchen Drains/Kitchen Faucet Handles – Pour baking soda and white vinegar down the drain.  Wait 5 minutes and then flush with boiling water.  Wipe down handles with disinfecting wipes.

Cutting Boards – Scrub with baking soda and rinse with hot water.

Computer Keyboards – Disconnect the keyboard and spray with compressed air.  Then wipe down keys and spaces in between with rubbing alcohol.

Pet Bowls – Wash pet food and water bowls at least every week – every day would be ideal.

Posted in Homeowner tips, Just For Fun | Comments Off on Places Where Germs Hang Out

Finding Lost Money

??????????????????????????Did you accidentally leave some money stashed away in a savings account following a long distance move?  Or do you think a deceased loved-one had an insurance policy that never got paid? Maybe even stocks, bonds and retirement accounts?

Here are some links where you can do your research (maybe you’ll find your name (or a relative’s name) on the list!):

MissingMoney.com – Forgotten bank accounts, stock dividend checks, utility company deposit refunds, etc. (free)

PolicyLocator.com – Life insurance policies that have not been cashed in (costs money)

PBGC.gov – Government website to find unclaimed pensions (free)

UnclaimedRetirementBenefits.com – Government website for unclaimed retirement and 401k accounts (free)

TreasuryDirect.gov – Government website for unclaimed savings bonds (free)

Stop in to any of our branches to speak with a teller about checking and savings options at GMB or contact Dan Murphy to discuss investing.

Posted in Banking, Budgeting, Financial Planning, Local Bank, Saving | Comments Off on Finding Lost Money

Selling Your Home? Don’t Overprice it!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????We recently read an article about why sellers overprice their homes. You may not be thinking of selling your home any time soon, but we thought this was a good reminder that when it comes time for you to do so, the local real estate market dictates the price based on similar types of homes in your area. However, it is common for sellers to think that their situation and home is “special” and justify to themselves why they think their home is worth more.

Here are some of the reasons sellers provide as to why this happens:

  • They deserve to make a profit.
  • They don’t want to bring money to closing.
  • They feel their home is better than similar homes.
  • They want to recover the actual cost of home improvements.
  • They need the extra money for a larger down payment.
  • They think buyers will negotiate.
  • They think that a real estate agent should be able to sell it if only they found the right buyer.

It’s understandable that a seller considers the price they paid for the home. Add to that the real estate commission and closing costs and the desire to make a profit…However, the market doesn’t always co-operate and an overpriced home will be on the market for a longer time period. While you might have some buyers look at your home, you may not receive any offers.

If you are thinking of selling your home, we suggest that you interview at least two or three real estate agents and review their market analyses. If you’re looking for some direction, please contact one of our Loan Officers because we know some of the best, hard-working agents in the area.

Posted in Buying & Selling, Loan Officer, Local Bank | Comments Off on Selling Your Home? Don’t Overprice it!

2015 Financial Resolutions

financeWith the start of a New Year comes a new opportunity to set financial goals for yourself.

Many New Year’s resolutions relate to exercise, work-life balance, or being less connected to technology.  We are also encouraging you to take on these five Financial Resolutions for 2015.

  • No matter how much you’re currently saving, you can always be saving more. In fact, there’s a great phrase to remind you of this financial resolution for 2015. Just think ABS – Always Be Saving. This financial resolution is at the top of the list for a reason: it should be top of mind.Work towards this by having a portion of your paycheck automatically deposited to a savings account (preferably to which you don’t have direct access to transfer funds out electronically or write checks).  Looking for a good Savings Account option?  Check out our GMB products here.
  • Cut down expenses. With the holiday season fresh in your head, you’re probably wondering, “Where did it all go?” Spontaneous purchases made in 2014 more than likely contributed to your current feelings of financial instability. To improve upon this for 2015, before making that luxury purchase ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Challenge yourself to shop online without buying – sleep on any purchase over $100 if you can – just leave it in your cart and come back the next day.  Or walk into a store and browse.  Walk out without buying and come back when it’s convenient.
  • “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. This saying from French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, can certainly be applied to budgeting one’s finances. Nobody is going to plan your budget for you. In formulating a plan, it’s important to create realistic targets. Once you’ve created a plan, it’s important to put it into action. Keep track of your budget using tech-friendly tools like Mint.com. Don’t have time to budget?  Then at least set a monthly savings goal.  Again, be realistic just to get into the regular habit.
  • Plan for retirement. Whether you’re just starting your career or you’re on the last leg of it, planning for retirement is a crucial step for every individual. More importantly, planning for retirement has lasting effects on not only your own personal financial stability, but also your family’s. From employer matching to claiming certain saving tax breaks, there are plenty of ways to jump-start your retirement planning. Ask our own Dan Murphy for advice along the way!
  • Set up an emergency fund. Put this money aside and only use this fund when unexpected but necessary payments appear, like a quick car fix, or major housing repair. Consider starting it with this year’s tax refund. If you’re interested in a ballpark estimate of your refund, use your last paystub to calculate it with this great tool from Turbotax.  It’s also available as a Smartphone App.  Sleep comfortably knowing that you are prepared no matter what curve balls the future has in store for your finances.

If you’re not already doing so, make sure you start following us on Twitter. We frequently post helpful tips and share great advice on how consumers can reach financial goals such as these and achieve stability. Don’t worry, we’ll be sure to check up to see how you’re doing…

Here’s to a successful and prosperous 2015!

Posted in Budgeting, Checking & Savings, Financial Planning, Local Bank, Saving | Comments Off on 2015 Financial Resolutions