Ask a Lender: Mike Gambatese, Guaranteed Rate

by Chicago Agent

Q. Are Banks Getting Tougher or Easier with Lending Guidelines?

A. We have plenty of options for all types of buyers. We have loan programs that are specifically designed for buyers ranging from inexperienced first-time homebuyers to seasoned homeowners who have bought and sold several homes. We offer everything from FHA financing with a minimum of 3.5 percent down to jumbo financing. I believe mortgage programs have improved over recent months, and this, combined with historically low rates, makes it an excellent time for your clients to buy a home. In the first half of 2012, we have seen a tremendous amount of activity and pre-approvals – the best it’s been in several years. This is a good sign that the market has rebounded!

Q. Why are condos so tough to get approved/financed?

A. Living in Chicago, which is primarily a condo market, it is important for me to have all types of loan programs for condo buyers. With Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac tightening up their guidelines, I have to be versatile in finding ways to get the tougher condo deals done. This is why Guaranteed Rate has its own in-house condo approval department with an entire staff dedicated to doing everything from FHA approvals of 100-plus unit buildings to someone buying a unit in a three-flat. We are consistently working directly with Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac to get buildings approved and have a database of more than 200 buildings/associations in the Chicago area that have already been approved.

Q. What is your thought on the future of interest rates?  

A. This is a great question. It is hard to imagine that interest rates could go any lower than they currently are. Now, more than ever, it is important for people looking to buy to speak with a lender, get pre-approved and know their options. Mortgage rates are at historic lows, so it is very attractive to get into the market. However, knowing your client’s limitations is extremely important, so time is not wasted showing them homes they cannot afford. As the economy shows signs of strength, the usual result, from what we’ve seen historically, is higher interest rates. I never like to predict, but I will say that if you have homebuyer clients, now is the absolute best time. I can only imagine that the Fed will keep rates as low as possible to keep the housing market alive. We are consistently seeing numbers that are rebounding from the past year or so. With these rates, buyers qualify for more now than they ever have.


Mike Gambatese has been a loan officer for over 10 years.  In that time, he has closed over $300 million in loan volume with a focus on purchase business based solely on referrals from Realtors, past clients, financial planners, CPAs and attorneys.  Since joining Guaranteed Rate in 2005, Gambatese has been a consistent member of The President’s Club and is in the top 1 percent of mortgage originators in the country, which is published annually in Mortgage Executive Magazine. In 2011, he was recognized as a Five Star Mortgage Professional (nominated by his clients) in Chicago Magazine. He lives in Chicago with his wife and three children.

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