As a Zions Bank mortgage loan officer in Lewiston, Jenna Snyder has been extremely busy in recent months processing paperwork for two different types of clients.

Many are Lewiston-Clarkston Valley residents refinancing their homes with some of the lowest interest rates in at least a quarter of a century.

Others are individuals moving into the area from more expensive places, such as Los Angeles, seeking a slower pace of life.

Regardless of the type of loan customers are seeking, Snyder said, both groups generally want the same thing: added security in a time when the coronavirus pandemic has made life everywhere more uncertain.

Those refinancing their homes are often able to lower their payments and reduce the terms of their loans.

“You can have the white-picket-fence lifestyle here, whereas somewhere else, it’s just not attainable for them,” she said. “I believe people are looking for that.”

Business Profile spoke with Snyder about the trends she sees in the region’s housing market, the impact of low interest rates and tips for first-time home buyers.

Business Profile: In the past year, average home sale prices have risen from $225,688 to $264,005 in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley even though many people lost their jobs or had their pay cut at least temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic. What do you believe is the reason for that?

Jenna Snyder: I believe our pandemic briefly repressed our price growth and our housing market, but it was very quick to rebound. ...We can’t keep up with (supply and demand). Some of the homeowners who might have considered selling their homes and moving up, they might be sitting on the sidelines waiting, waiting to see what happens in the near future and taking advantage of the lower interest rates. It’s created a tremendous opportunity for existing homeowners to refinance. The inventory is low, so homeowners are concerned about their ability to purchase a new home in a competitive market.

BP: What perspective do you have about interest rates because of your experience earlier in your career?

JS: In the 1990s, I did a lot of second mortgages (at) 26 to 28 percent. Right now I have been locking people in on 30-year, fixed mortgages at around 3 percent.

Historically speaking, this is the lowest we’ve ever seen in interest rates. … It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s exciting to me.

BP: You have already talked some about how people from more expensive areas such as Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., are moving here. What more can you share about what you believe the appeal is?

JS: You can’t even buy a house as a first time homebuyer in California. ... You can buy a home (here). … (People) have been pushed into staying at home more with COVID and (are) realizing family is important. (They want to get back to) the roots of how life should be ... instead of the hustle and bustle of traffic and driving 1½ hours to work and 1½ hours home and working for the almighty dollar. (We have) beautiful golf courses and nice weather.

I have some clients who will come in from St. George, Utah, or Southern California, and they see a gorgeous million dollar home here. To them, they can get so much more bang for their buck for that million dollars than they would ever get in Southern California or St. George. They think it’s a screaming deal, whereas for somebody who is living here in Lewiston, we just don’t. That’s not what we’re looking for. It’s just a different market. We’re coming from a different place.

BP: The downturn in the economy because of COVID-19 has affected the process of getting a loan. What should home buyers expect?

JS: Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, (the federally-backed companies that buy most mortgages) have tightened their guidelines. Bank statements (for example) used to be good for 60 days. Now we need (bank statements from) 30 days ago. A pay stub used to be good for 60 days. Now we need to get verification of employment seven days prior to (the loan) closing. It’s a lot more detailed verification (to document) that people are very stable in their jobs (and) that their assets are stable.

We have to meet those guidelines, because we’re selling that paper to them to generate new revenue to lend to our new borrowers.

BP: You encourage people who are interested in buying a home to get advice from mortgage professionals at two or three reputable financial institutions, even if they believe they don’t have resources to buy a home. Why is that?

JS: They have a misconception they don’t qualify. You don’t need 20 percent down. Most of the time, first-time home buyers don’t even know what their credit score needs to be. The first step is to talk to someone (who) can get you moving in the right direction. I just worked with this great (young man). He didn’t have a credit score. In one month’s time, he went from no credit score to a 793 credit score. He was able to purchase his own home.

Financial institutions have lots of options. (Zions offers a) a first-time homebuyer loan (for buyers in certain income brackets). It’s a 3 percent down program (for certain areas in Nez Perce County and other parts of the state). (There’s) no mortgage insurance, and the interest rates are lower than (conventional loans).

BP: As challenging as the coronavirus pandemic has been for many families, the low interest rates present an opportunity for those who have jobs to improve their futures by buying their first homes. What other advice do you have for that group of buyers?

JS: It’s really important to prepare financially. Pay down any large credit balances you might have. … Make sure you’re paying your bills on time.

Get prequalified with a lender. Then it lets the (real estate) agent know, as well as the seller know, that you are qualified ... and you have viable credit.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

Jenna Snyder

Age: 44

Job title: Mortgage loan officer at Zions Bank in Lewiston

Education: Spent most of her childhood in Wallace, Idaho. Graduated from Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif. Associate degree of nursing from North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene.

Job history: Worked as a mortgage loan officer from 1995-99, then took a couple of years off to have children. Went back to work as a loan officer until 2008, when the housing market crashed. Worked as a nurse for five years, including at Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d’Alene and as an administrator for two assisted-living facilities. Returned to the loan industry, working first at Envoy Mortgage in Spokane, then U.S. Bank in Clarkston. Started at Zions last September.

Family: Married with four adult children.

Hobbies: Gardening and tending to 100 animals, including goats, ducks, chickens, pigs and dogs, on a small farm in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.

About Zions Bank

Founded in 1873, Zions Bank has 25 branches in Idaho and 97 locations in Utah. Zions Bank has nearly 1,500 employees. Of those, 16 are based in southeastern Washington and North Idaho. The financial institution has a focus on small business and is one of Idaho’s top US.Small Business Administration lenders.

U.S. long-term mortgage rates fall to low; 30-year at 2.81 percent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week as the key 30-year loan reached a new all-time low for the tenth time this year.

Home loan rates have marked a year-long decline amid economic anxiety in the recession set off by the coronavirus pandemic. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year mortgage fell to 2.81 percent from 2.87 percent last week. By contrast, the rate averaged 3.69 percent a year ago.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 2.35 percent from 2.37 percent.

The low borrowing rates have bolstered demand by prospective homebuyers. But the demand has been constrained by the economic hardship brought by the coronavirus pandemic as well as the scarcity of available homes for sale.

In the latest sign that layoffs remain a hindrance to the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession, the government reported Thursday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week by the most in two months to a historically high level.

Associated Press

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