May 16, 2020

JF2083: Understanding Loans With Christine DePaepe

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Christine is a renovation loan division manager VP of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate INC. She has been actively involved in the mortgage industry since 1996 and her goal is to help those who may not have a large sum of money to invest in properties themselves without some additional funding. She shares her wealth of knowledge around the different types of loans available for many investors.


Christine DePaepe  Real Estate Background:

  • Renovation Loan Division Manager VP of Mortgage Lending at Guaranteed Rate INC.
  • From Chicago, Illinois 
  • Actively involved in the mortgage industry since 1996
  • Over the course of a 20+ year career has originated: Conventional, Fannie Mae Homestyle Renovation, FHA, FHA 203k, VA and VA renovation, commercial, Jumbo, new construction and Jumbo renovation. 
  • Noted by the Scotsman Guide in the top 20 FHA Volume Originators for 4 years consecutively
  • Guaranteed rate presidents club member for 7 years consecutively 
  • Say hi to her at:   

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Best Ever Tweet:

“I love the 203k program for people buying in areas that are up and coming because it has the lowest down payment” – Christine DePaepe


Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks today, and today we’ll be speaking with Christine DePaepe. Christine, how are you doing today?

Christine DePaepe: Great. Thanks for having me.

Theo Hicks: Absolutely, thanks for joining us. I’m looking forward to talking about mortgages today. She is the renovation loan division manager, VP of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate, from Chicago, Illinois. She’s been actively involved in the mortgage industry since 1996, and over the course of her 20+ year career she has originated all types of loans – conventional Fannie May HomeStyle Renovation, FHA, FHA 203(k), VA, VA Renovation, commercial, jumbo, new construction and jumbo renovation.

She has been noted by the Scotsman Guide in the top 20 FHA volume originators for four years consecutively, as well as a member of Guaranteed Rates President Club for seven years in a row. You can learn more about her at We’ll have a link to that in the show notes.

Christine, do you mind giving us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Christine DePaepe: Yeah, thanks for asking. Really, today we focus on a lot of renovation, new construction, helping buyers get into properties with a little bit lower down payment for investing… And by doing that, we’re trying to help people that don’t have as much capital as some of the major investors get into properties and start their portfolio.

Theo Hicks: I’m familiar with the 203(k) renovation loans on the residential properties… What types of opportunities are there for the 5+ properties when it comes to getting a renovation loan?

Christine DePaepe: On the 5+ properties – I refer those out to my partner and we can do up to 30 units. So if you’re buying commercial property, they will be able to help renovate the individual units… So we have to look at the total of purchase price plus what they’re looking for on the renovations to come together with “Will it work?”, future value… There’s a lot that goes into it, but we can do up to 30 units.

It’s private money, so it’s gonna be a lot different than the FHA loan or the HomeStyle Renovation loan, but we will definitely have an outlet for any of the listeners who have questions on that.

Theo Hicks: Okay, so you specialize in the residential renovation loans.

Christine DePaepe: Right, I specialize in the residential. What we’re trying to do is obviously help investors who want to buy properties. We have it available for long-term holds… Or we kind of use our FHA programs. Those are owner-occupied, but the caveat is that FHA only requires you to live in them one year. So what we’re seeing is by educating the buyers they can get into a four-unit property with 3,5% down, which is very low for four units, as long as they live there for a year. After they lived there for a year, they’re not required to stay in the property. They can then rent out the unit they lived in and have a cash-flowing property.

And again, with 3,5% down, it opens up a lot to people who otherwise would not be able to do this. Because on your conventional 4-unit, you’re looking at 20% to 25% down, and most buyers don’t have that, who are trying to start their portfolio.

Theo Hicks: So if I do a FHA 203(k) loan on a property, I live in it for a year, I move out and I wanna use it as a rental property… If I wanna do another 203(k) FHA owner-occupied loan, can I just do that, without doing anything to my existing loan, or is there something I need to do first before going to do a new one?

Christine DePaepe: FHA only allows you to have one FHA loan in your lifetime, unless there’s expanding family or a job transfer. So you can’t continue to use the program like that. I have had in the past — if there’s an equity pick-up over a couple years, they can refinance into a conventional program, and then let’s say a couple years later they wanna try to do an FHA again; that is allowed. But it’s not gonna  be consistently allowed, in terms of just keep churning.

More so, if you wanna do another property, you’d have to do a different program, probably conventional, but that requires a higher down payment.

Theo Hicks: Is there a rule of thumb of how many times you can rinse and repeat the FHA loan? Is it 2, is it 3?

Christine DePaepe: Well, FHA only allows one FHA loan as a client. So as a borrower, you can only have one encumbered FHA loan. So really for the investment, if you’re buying it and you’re living there for a year, you can only do that once with the FHA program… Because it’s such a low down payment, it’s 3,5% down, so they  don’t allow multiple churns, meaning you can’t keep doing it every year. You can do one to start, and then if you want to do another property, with a renovation program you’d have to do a conventional, and that requires a larger down payment. So we would talk with the clients to see if it would fit their needs, if they wanted to do another one, but it would be a larger down payment.

Theo Hicks: Okay, so just to confirm – I can do one; even if I refinance my existing FHA loan into a conventional loan, I still can’t do another one. I have to go conventional.

Christine DePaepe: No, if we are able to do that, then yes, you can. As long as you are out of the FHA loan, which I have done for clients – I got them into a conventional – and then they’ve used the FHA program again. If we get you out of the FHA loan, then you can go ahead and do another one. That is correct.

Theo Hicks: Okay, so you can have one FHA loan at a time, basically.

Christine DePaepe: Correct, yes.

Theo Hicks: Okay. So if you get an FHA loan and you refinance that property or you sell that property and you get rid of that FHA, then you can technically do that.

Christine DePaepe: Then  you can do another one, correct.

Theo Hicks: Okay.

Christine DePaepe: And on the FHA 203(k), they also allow for mixed-use, which is very unique, because most mixed-use is considered commercial. So when I say mixed-use, I’m not talking anything greater than four units, I’m talking four units or under. So if you have a store front that houses an insurance office, and then you have 2 or 3 residences above, as long as you’re buying the property and you live there for a year, then you can put 3,5% down on that mixed-use property, which is very low for a mixed-use property.

You need to live there a year — you can either do move-in ready. If the property doesn’t need work, that’s fine; we can still use it on my FHA program at 3,5% down. But if  the residences above need updating, you can use our renovation money only on the residential units, to fix them up and gain more rental cashflow… And you need to live there a year. And again, after a year you can move out, and then you have a cash-flowing property.

So the key is just trying to help people who are willing to move into a property for a year, with a super-low down payment, start to build their portfolio of property.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, this is exactly how I got into investing. I didn’t do the 203(k) loan because I didn’t know about it at the time, so I paid for renovations out of pocket… But I did do the FHA loan 3.5% down, and got into a duplex, lived there for a year and then ended up selling the property.

So what are the major differences, besides obviously the renovation aspect of it, between the standard FHA loan and the 203(k) loan? Is it just doing renovations, I get the 203(k) loan, and if I’m not I’m doing FHA? Are there any differences in the rates, amortization, anything like that?

Christine DePaepe: So the FHA regular is for single-family, up to four units, as well as the mixed-use. They don’t do investment properties, second homes, or anything like that. It’s only primary residence. And there is a difference in the rate on the construction, which is the 203(k), because of the risk, there is gonna be about a 1% difference. So if the current FHA rate is at 3% on a move-in ready property, we’re probably at 4% on construction. And again, it’s just due to the inherent risk of construction. They have a building. But when it’s done, we can always do the Streamlined FHA Refi, and we can get a lower rate and payment if the market indicates that, at the market rate at the time the construction is done.

Theo Hicks: Okay. And another question I had is something that I’ve always been confused about, so maybe you can clear this up… PMI. If I get an FHA loan, will I have PMI forever, or will it eventually go away?

Christine DePaepe: That’s a great question. FHA changed their guideline on that. I don’t know the exact year or month, but it was in the past couple years. FHA — now PMI will never go away, unless you put 10% down. Now, remember, the minimum requirement is only 3,5%, and that’s what most people are doing. But in the cases where someone’s like “Well, I wanna put 10% down”, PMI stays on the property for 11 years, and then it’s automatically canceled. But if you do not put 10% down, it’s on forever, and that’s not a good thing. So those are definitely loans that we’re always reviewing 2-3 years out, to see if they’ve picked up enough equity to get them out of an FHA loan, to get rid of the PMI… Because it is on for the life of the loan.

That’s only new in the past couple of years. Prior to that, the PMI always fell off around year 11, automatically. So that is definitely a change in the FHA program.

Theo Hicks: So even if I put 3.5% down and then in 11 years I have 10% equity, I still have to pay the PMI.

Christine DePaepe: That’s correct. And PMI falls off with 20% equity on conventional loans, and they used to on FHA. But FHA now has it for the life of the loan.

Theo Hicks: Okay. So for a typical client who does an FHA loan, lives in it for a year, keeps it, rents it out, what’s the next loan that you recommend giving them? And then let’s do two scenarios. One where it’s gonna be a more turnkey property, and then one where it’s gonna be a property that requires renovations. And we’ll keep it 1 to 4 and mixed-use.

Christine DePaepe: Normally, if you’re gonna use FHA and you wanna do a long-term hold, I recommend doing the 3 or 4-unit. You wanna get the most property you can. After that, if we can’t refinance them out, which normally we can’t that soon – it’s not gonna have enough equity to go into a conventional loan – I would say most of my clients then had a two-unit conventional program, because on the two-unit conventional you can put down 15%… And that’s either for move-in ready, or renovation. So that would be the next step. They don’t normally go back to a three or four, because it steps up to 20%-25% down, and that can be a little bit too much… But some people are willing to do the two-unit, and that’s a 15% down.

Theo Hicks: And then for that, since it’s conventional, you said the PMI will fall off after 20%.

Christine DePaepe: Yeah, on the conventional — so if you go into that at 15% and have MI, the PMI will go away. I think it’s a minimum of five years, and then you just put in for the PMI to be eliminated.

Theo Hicks: So we order an appraisal to determine the value of the property at that point?

Christine DePaepe: No, if they’re on a very low rate and they don’t  wanna refinance, they call the servicer direct and say “Hey, I’d like to have my property reevaluated”, and the company will do a reevaluation to see if they can get rid of the PMI for them.

Theo Hicks: Okay, Christine, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Christine DePaepe: I evolved the 203(k) program for people buying in areas that are up and coming, because it has the lowest down payment, so it’s the least amount of cash out. I love that program for a buyer looking to move into something with a low down payment. When I meet with people, a lot of times they don’t have the capital, but they understand how important it is to invest in real estate… So we just educate them about the program and how buying in maybe an up and coming area you can gain a lot of equity.

They’re not for established high-end areas, because you’re trying to get into an area that is just up-and-coming with this low down payment… And FHA has lower loan limits, so we also have to watch that, depending on the area. Now, some areas have much higher loan limits, so we always have to go by the county. So that’s another thing I do wanna point out – the county dictates what we can do for each borrower; so when the borrowers call, because I’m licensed in 42 states, I first have to identify “Okay, what county are you looking in?” and then I help them understand the loan limits that they’re gonna be using, so they can buy their property. But if you were to say the best advice, I would say a four-unit or a three-unit and use the low down payment that’s available.

Theo Hicks: Alrighty. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Christine DePaepe: Sure.

Theo Hicks: Alright. First, a quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [00:15:40].24] to [00:16:24].27]

Theo Hicks: Okay, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Christine DePaepe: Best ever book I’ve recently read… You stuffed me on that one. Let me take a pass on that one. Let’s go to the next question.

Theo Hicks: How about best ever resource you use to stay up to date on your area of expertise?

Christine DePaepe: We just do a lot of internal training at my company. We have a lot of educational within our company, so I take a ton of training. Recently, I took a lot of VA training, because we have VA renovations, so I really needed to get in tune with that whole process. So just internal training. I’m always reading what’s going on and training myself, and I train other people… So it’s more about just I’m always reading what’s going on in the industry – what changes, what things are happening… Like we just talked about FHA – for years and years and years PMI went away, and then boom, FHA makes a change… So I have to keep up on that and the guidelines.

Theo Hicks: So I typically ask “If  your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?”, but I’m gonna change it up a little bit and say “If for some reason the FHA program just went away tomorrow, what would you do next?”

Christine DePaepe: I always try to stay with niche products. They have reverse mortgages out there, commercial, I love jumbo renovation… So I’m really in tune with everything different. I think there’s a lot of value when you understand just not the everyday mortgage. I do the everyday mortgage, but it’s really great to specialize in something; it just brings a lot of people to you, because of the specialty.

Theo Hicks: Okay. The next question – I’m gonna change it up a little bit, too. This may apply to you, but based on your experience, what’s the main mistake that investors make that result in their FHA or FHA 203(k) loan getting foreclosed on?

Christine DePaepe: That is a great question. What I see is when people call me they don’t even realize they shouldn’t do it. So one thing I look at is the total loan applications. Recently — I will give an example. A woman had never purchased a home, and she was (I would say) in her mid-50’s, and she was very honest; she was like “I don’t know what I’m doing, and I don’t have a lot of money.” So that right there concerned me, because she wanted to buy a four-unit major gut rehab; when I say that, we’re talking the property was maybe 150k and she was looking to do 250k worth of work… Without a lot of reserves, it’s a little nerve-wracking, because a reconstruction of that property is probably anywhere from 6 to 10 months… And we can only finance six payments. So my concern was she was gonna use every resource she had in her assets to put down on the property, and when the six months ran out, she would have to make this mortgage payment.

So after talking to her and explaining about that, she would have been a prime person that I think some loan officers maybe would not have really done the kind of diligence and education I did… And we both realized it wasn’t the right move. I’m like “This may not go well, and they will take your home. They definitely will foreclose if you can’t move forward with  your payments.”

So she bought a move-in ready where there’s no timeframe to not have your rent being paid. I think that’s the one thing on these four-units that people should understand. The first six months no one’s gonna live there on most of these rehabs. Now, some are just cosmetic, and we can get them done in 3-4 months, if they’re just gonna do kitchens and bathrooms… But some, they’re doing everything – new plumbing, new electric, kind of making it an effectively new home.

The cosmetic ones are easier, but gut rehabs – we’re definitely not in the home for six months. So it’s definitely important that they have a little bit of capital. The low down payment is great, but they should have a little bit of reserves. They require that on FHA, three months reserves. Then we try to roll in payments.

So where things can go wrong is when they don’t realize — they think, unfortunately, with HDTV and all these rehab shows, “I can do a whole rehab in 30 days”, and that’s a mistake. It’s not really reality.

Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?

Christine DePaepe: Oh, I love to give back to the community. We do a lot with Guaranteed Rate. We have a foundation and we give back to the community. We all contribute, we all help… I do a lot of work in my community as well. That’s just something I’ve always done. I definitely have a heart for kids, and we do a lot with women shelters and helping women with children that need to start over, so we give back in those ways.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what is the best ever place to reach you?

Christine DePaepe: Well, my office phone goes to my cell phone, because I don’t  ever like to miss a call. I basically work and I’m available every day, especially on weekends and nights… Because you’re seeing a trend in the workplace where people are more in open [unintelligible [00:20:55].03] environments and everybody can hear each other, so people don’t really like to talk when they’re at work, so I make it a point to always be available at nights and weekends, where they’re more comfortable talking about their finances.

I’m at 773-848-4144.

Theo Hicks: Well, Best Ever listeners, definitely take advantage of that. You said you cover 42 different states, so it’s most likely that she’s in the state that you’re at… So if you’re looking to get into real estate with the FHA or the FHA 203(k) loan, definitely take advantage of that.

Alright, Christine, great content. I really enjoyed our conversation. It’s bringing me back to when I was looking at my first property, it’s very nostalgic… Just to quickly go over what we’ve talked about – there are renovation loans for 5+ units. You will refer people to someone who works with units up to 30, and it’s private money, so it’s obviously gonna be a little bit different, but your focus is on the FHA loans.

The FHA loan – it’s gonna be owner-occupied; you have to live in there for one year. The major advantages is a 3.5% down payment, and a good strategy would be to buy it, live in it for a year, move out and then rent it out. If you’re capable at some point of refinancing it or selling the deal, then you can use the FHA loan again, but you’re only allowed to have one at a time.

Christine DePaepe: Well, we also have the HomeStyle, we haven’t touched on that a little bit… I did wanna bring that up, because our HomeStyle Renovation program is for long-term hold rental properties, and it’s for single-family/townhome/condo. We don’t do multi-units. But what we’re using that for are investors who buy a house and just wanna do some cosmetic updating to increase the rents, and they don’t wanna use their own funds. So that program is 20% down.

But if you’re buying a house for example for 300k and you just wanna update it to get a higher rental rate, you can get our money, 50k to 70k, to update it. Then they’re holding them to not pay capital gains for a couple years, and either they’ll flip them or they will repay them. But those are for investors. They don’t have to live there. It’s 20% down, but we’ll give them the money to do the renovations.

So if they’re buying for 300k, doing 75k of repair, we use that as a 375k start point, they give me 20%, and I give them back 75k to do the cosmetic updates. That’s been a great program as well for some of my actual true investors who do long-term holds.

Theo Hicks: Okay, and that’s the HomeStyle Renovation Loan.

Christine DePaepe: That’s correct. It’s also available for owner-occupied multi-units, but those have larger down payments. So I just fit the needs to whatever the buyer is trying to do. Basically, it’s a phone conversation to see what they’re trying to do, how is their credit… That’s another thing I work on. A lot of people do not have any idea how to help their credit scores, or what they’re doing wrong, or what’s affecting it… And we have a software that will help the indicated scores, if there’s something wrong that I can identify; it’s very easy for us to help get everyone ready to purchase, get their credit corrected etc. So I think it’s a totality of everything. You can be very good at mortgages, but it’s the whole package – reviewing the file, finding out their goals and strategies, reviewing the credit, what can we do to make their credit score better…

You want a 760 credit score, that’s really what you want nowadays. That gets  you the best rate and programs available… So that’s what everyone’s goal should be. Hopefully, everybody’s using Credit Karma, because that’s a  great app to monitor your score.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. We’ll make sure they get that Credit Karma to check that out as well. So we also talked about the major difference between the FHA and the 203(k) loan, besides obviously the renovation portion of it, is the 1%(ish) difference in the interest rate.

You also talked about PMI and how that has recently changed… And now the PMI will never go away, unless you put down 10% upfront for your FHA loan. After 11 years it will be canceled. Then after FHA, some of your options would be to get a conventional loan. You mentioned the two-unit conventional program that allows you to put down 15%, and that’s a move-in ready or a renovation loan. And I believe you said the PMI expires on that after five years… Correct?

Christine DePaepe: Yeah, on the 15% down that’s correct.

Theo Hicks: Okay. Then we talked about the processes. You call whoever’s servicing your loan and then ask them to have that property reevaluated to see if you’ve reached the equity limit.

Your best ever advice was to use the 203(k) loan program in an up-and-coming area, because it is the least amount of cash out of pocket. Then you talked about how there are gonna be some loan limits based on whatever county you lived in.

Then during the Lightning Round you talked about one of the biggest mistakes you see people make with these types of programs, that result in them either getting their property taken away, or if you stopped them, they would have gotten their property taken away… And that is them just falling into the HDTV trap of thinking that everything can be done in half an hour of their time.

You’ve also talked about the reserves that are needed, and you only give out six payments, and things like that. So again, Christine, I really appreciate it. Lots of great information about these loan programs. It’s a very good episode for people who are wanting to get into real estate and don’t necessarily know how.

Thank you for joining us. Best Ever listeners, thank you as always for listening. Have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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