What do children’s bank accounts and the Berenstein Bears have in common?

As a mortgage lender, I get to meet many great people.  Often, they are smart, savvy and educated, yet struggle with financial concepts like budgeting and money management.  We believe in empowering our customers to make wise financial decisions, and part of that empowerment involves educating kids so they can grow up to be confident about how to manage their money.

For the next couple of months, we are running a special incentive to help parents teach their kids about smart money management in a fun, creative way.  Just stop in one our locations and open a minor savings account, and they will receive a free piggy bank, along with the Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With Money!  It’s a wonderful story that opens up a fun dialogue about money.  We look forward to seeing you and your children soon!

What do I have to do to get a business or commercial loan?

I have heard many people say that banks are just not lending anymore.  Some say the rules are so constricting that very few people can actually get a loan. While the economy has created an atmosphere of cautious lending, we are in the business to lend money and we do our best to meet our customers needs without putting undue risk on our bank or on them. 

When assessing the risk of any loan, we use the 5 C’s of credit as a filter for determining credit risk.  The 5C’s are  Character, Capacity, Collateral, Capital and Conditions.

Character is your willingness to pay the proposed debt.  A large part of this is your credit history.  This will show how you have handled you finances in the past.  Even if you are looking at a business loan, we look at how you handle your personal finances.  How you handle your own money is a large indicator of how you will handle the finances of a business.

Capacity is your ability to support the debt.  For this, we are looking for documented sources of income or cash flow to make the proposed payments.  We analyze past tax returns to give us an indication of whether the necessary income is actually there and if the income can be sustained.

Collateral is the ability to pay the debt through liquidation, if the projected income stream does not occur as planned.  For many types of business loans, we are looking for additional personal property to be offered as collateral.  Depending on what is offered as collateral, we will attach different percentages of the debt to different types of collateral.  In all cases, we are looking to cover 100% of the debt with appropriate collateral.

Capital is your reserve supply of money and equity including your net worth.  When in business or starting a business, there are almost always unforeseen or unexpected expenses that come up over the course of time.  Having the ability to cover some or most of these is essential.  Adequate capital can also carry you through slower cycles of your business.

Conditions are the general business conditions that exist in your market place.  Is there room enough in the economy for your business?  Do you offer a special niche that is yet to be filled, or are you one of many companies doing the same thing?  Since the economy is not very strong right now, you will have to show more strength in the 4 other areas (character, capacity, collateral and capital) to overcome the weakness of the current market place.

Even in the midst of our current economic climate there are loan opportunities for those who are prepared and can show strength in these 5 important areas.  If you are planning a business expansion or a start-up rate yourself in these 5 areas before applying for your loan.  Or, if you’d like to talk through your eligibility with one of our friendly loan officers, we’d welcome the conversation.  Contact us through our website or give us a call at: 715.359.4231.

Rent vs. Own

When it comes to a house, should I buy or rent?  It all depends on your personal circumstances, but there are three important questions you may want to ask yourself before you make your decision:

Can I afford to buy a home?  When considering the costs, it’s important to remember that in addition to the monthly mortgage payments of principal and interest, there are taxes, homeowners insurance, and ongoing costs to maintain your property.    

How stable is your job?  It’s a good rule of thumb to plan on being in a home for at least five years to make it worth the down payment and closing costs.  Do you feel confident you will continue to be employed for at least 5 years?  With our current weak economy, it may be unsettling to face potentially being unemployed and having a mortgage.  If you choose to rent, you would have the flexibility of moving if needed.

What is your credit history?  Financial institutions and landlords both check your credit, so it’s a good idea to be aware of your credit standing as it will be a factor in determining if you qualify for a home loan or lease. 

After answering these questions you should come away with a clearer sense of whether to buy or rent.  Always feel free to contact one of our  friendly mortgage lenders: Michelle Knopf, Julie Jacobson and Tracy Engman.

Leisure Club: Off to a Great Start

The Leisure Club year has started off with two amazing performance events already this year.  Thank you to all who came out for the events.  It was fun to reconnect with friends and see some new and familiar faces!

The first event was on a snowy day in February where we headed to the Fireside Dinner Theater in Fort Atkinson.  We were treated to a fabulous meal and the show “Viva Vegas”.  The costumes, music, glitz and glamor took you back to the days of Tom Jones, The Rat Pack, Judy Garland, Bette Midler and so many more.  Check out the other photos from this event.






Our second trip was to the Performing Arts Center in Appleton to see the Broadway production of Mary Poppins.  All I can say is WOW!  It was amazing… from the full chorus numbers to the beautifully choreographed dances.  We watched Mary Poppins fly through the sky, Bert and the other chimney sweeps on top of the buildings, Jane and Michael on their outing to the park and so much more.  We were truly privileged to be part of it.  Check out the other photos from this event.





Our next scheduled trip is to the famous Miller Stadium in Milwaukee on May 23rd to see the Brewers take on the New York Giants.  Sign-up and celebrate spring with the sights and sounds of an exciting day of Brewers baseball.  It is sure to be a grand slam event! 


Identity Theft: 8 Ways To Stay Smart

The epidemic of identity theft has greatly exceeded everyone’s predictions. Recent news articles estimate as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. It can be very expensive and stressful to repair what a thief has created. We all must do what we can to stop this serious crime from increasing. Here is a list of several things that can help decrease the epidemic spread of this crime.

1. Destroy all personal information before throwing it in the trash. Keep an inexpensive shredder readily available and always be sure to shred documents, making them unreadable for thieves when they search the garbage.
2. Be very cautious of any internet solicitations. There are many identity theft scams just waiting for you to provide your account number and security codes. Consider only giving information to reputable sites you have worked with before or have accessed directly. Never use hyperlinks that come in emails and ask for personal information.
3. Keep your personal information as private as possible. Do not give it out to telephone or mail solicitors unless you know that they are from a reputable company and you have initiated the transaction yourself.
4. Keep close tabs on your wallet and purse at all times. Many of us carry a great deal of personal information in them. Consider reviewing what you carry in them and leaving some securely stored at home.
5. Check your mailbox for routine bank account statements, credit card statements and debit card and credit card renewals. Notify the sender the moment these do not arrive.
6. Monitor your credit reports at least once a year to insure the information is correct. Cancel old or unused cards or credit.
7. When using your debit card at an ATM, look for skimming devices attached to the machine for collecting the card info and pin number. Don’t allow people to be to close to you when using these devices. They might be a shoulder surfer and could be collecting your card information.
8. Use strong security codes and passwords. So many things we do these days require codes. Please do not use general information like birthdays, children’s names etc.

This is just a small list of ways to protect ourselves. If you have any other precautions to share feel free to do so. The FDIC website is also an excellent source of information on protecting your identity. With everyone working together we can slow down the progression of this serious and devastating crime.

Self-employed Borrowers and Home Loans: What Are the New Rules?

Are you self-employed and concerned that you won’t qualify for a fixed rate home loan? Although, it is true that qualifying for a fixed rate loan may be more difficult for a self-employed borrower than it has in the past, by no means is it impossible.

Just like with any loan an underwriter looks at the borrower’s ability to repay the loan. The difference with a self-employed borrower is that the borrower carries the risk of their business’ success directly on them. This requires a thorough examination of not only the borrower’s personal credit and income, but also the viability of the business that their income is derived from.

There are a few commonly asked questions from self-employed borrowers inquiring on how to qualify for a home loan:

1. How long do I have to be self-employed before a bank will consider me for a home mortgage?  The general rule of thumb is two years. By the time a borrower has been in business two years it gives an underwriter a clear picture of the cycles of your business.

2. How do I prove my ability to maintain income? The bank will require your last two years of personal income taxes and the last two years of business taxes. Once we receive those taxes we spend time analyzing the income and expenses to give each borrower the maximum credit for income possible.

3. I have heard that the new underwriting rules are so strict that I may not qualify – does it pay to apply? It is true that changes to underwriting guidelines can make qualifying for a mortgage more difficult for self-employed borrowers. The biggest change is a tighter restriction on the debt to income ratio of our borrowers.

There is no cost to apply for a home loan and we will fully analyze your credit and income picture prior to incurring any cost to you. With current interest rates at near record lows, it might be worth taking the time to investigate refinancing or securing a new home loan.  Ultimately, each borrower’s situation is different, but I would encourage you to contact us to discuss your specific needs.  Meet our friendly mortgage lenders: Michelle Knopf, Julie Jacobson and Tracy Engman.

What is the Leisure Club?

Have you ever wondered what our Leisure Club is all about, and what we do?

Our popular Leisure Club has been around and open to our customers for nearly two decades, taking many exciting trips and offering an array of exciting events. Over the years we have traveled to Alaska, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Northwest. We not only journey to far away places, but we also offer fun and exciting day or weekend trips to see the sites around our great state of Wisconsin. Whether it’s a Broadway musical, a summer picnic, or a sporting event, our Leisure Club provides entertainment and fellowship with old friends, along with many opportunities to meet new people.

Being a Leisure Club member also has many benefits. As a member, you will receive free personalized checks, discounted Travel and Gift Cards, free photocopy services, and safe deposit discounts.

Becoming a member is quick and easy! All you have to do is open an account with a minimum deposit balance of $1,000.00 and be at least 55 years young. One of our Personal Bankers can assist you in setting up an account specifically tailored to fit all of your banking needs. Contact us today to get more information or join the club by calling 715.359.4231.

Check out a complete listing of our current events schedule and even sign-up online to attend. We hope to see you soon!

Refinancing – what’s involved?

Many of you have probably heard through the media or through friends and family that mortgage interest rates are at historic lows. While refinancing may not be an option for everyone, you may be asking yourself if it would be worthwhile to refinance your mortgage and wondering what steps need to be taken.

The general rule of thumb has been that if you can lower your interest rate by 1% it makes sense to refinance. When deciding whether or not to refinance, you should consider how many months of lower payments it will take to recoup the closing costs. If you’re not sure, you can contact any of the lenders at Intercity and we would be happy to review your options with you.

If you decide you want to refinance, here are the pieces of information your lender will need to start the process:

1. New loan application: Even though you already have a mortgage, you will need to complete a totally new loan application for the refinancing. You can get this form from your lender.

2. Verify income: To verify income, we will need one month of current paystubs and the last two years of your W-2s and Federal tax returns. (If you are self-employed, we will need the last three years of tax returns.)

3. Property Appraisal: As the real estate market has been fluctuating, a new appraisal of your property will need to be done to determine the current market value of your home.

Once the appraisal is completed and the income information has been documented, the refinance is ready to be approved (provided you have approved credit). There are many factors that are taken into consideration when approving a fixed-rate mortgage. Your credit score, loan-to-value and debt-to-income ratios are all factors that will determine eligibility.

Once the underwriter has received all the required information, it is reviewed and deemed eligible for a fixed-rate mortgage. Currently, refinancing a mortgage takes 2-3 weeks to complete. The bottom line is that if you qualify for refinancing, the savings on your mortgage can be significant!

Should I be refinancing my home loan?

Conventional wisdom has been that you should refinance your mortgage if you can lower your rate by 1%. That is still true, but some customers are even saving money by lowering their interest rate by less than one percent. Depending on your situation, it might make sense for you to refinance. Contact us today to see if refinancing is right for you! Your friendly Intercity State Bank mortgage lenders are: Julie Jacobson, Michelle Knopf and Tracy Engman.

What’s the value of a community bank?

Most Americans choose to bank at either a large national bank or at a local community bank. But, what’s the difference? Although the large national banks can offer a lot, community banks offer you just as many great products and services, plus the personalized local touch. When you choose a community bank like Intercity State Bank, it’s a win-win for you and the community, and here are five reasons why:

    Reason #1. We are a safe and financially sound home for your deposits. Our long-standing history of stability and integrity can be told through generations of families in our area.

    Reason #2. We are your neighbors, friends, and business associates, and we care about our quality of life and what happens here in north central Wisconsin. That’s why we put our money to work in the form of local loans, helping to create area jobs and grow our home towns.

    Reason #3. When you do business with us, you begin a lifelong relationship with bankers looking out for your best interests. We help people reach their goals, from buying your first home or car, to launching a new business into reality. If you’ve ever applied for a loan, you know that it’s easier to work with someone you know.

    Reason #4. We share the same values and concerns as the community members we serve. When we aren’t at the bank, we are serving in our schools, churches and other community organizations.

    Reason #5. We are generally very responsive, experienced, flexible and competent. When you are working face-to-face with real people versus automated phone receptionists, it’s easy to get things done.

If you’ve never experienced the value of a community bank, we’d love to introduce you to Intercity. Give us a call or stop in to learn more.