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County tops in state for mortgage approval

Staff writer

When Darren Franz walked into Hillsboro’s Emprise Bank to apply for his first home loan, it helped to see familiar faces.

“I can walk in there and everyone knows who I am,” he said. “It helped make things more comfortable and relaxed in a very stressful situation.”

Franz bought his first home last year, and said working face-to-face smoothed the process.

“I felt like it was really easy to get,” he said. “They helped with everything I needed and answered any questions.”

The odds were in Fanz’s favor, as 70.89% of applicants for home loans in the county are approved.

“It wouldn’t surprise me that Marion County would have a high approval rate,” said Don Noller of Marion National Bank. “For the most part, people have pretty good credit.”

In addition to credit scores, banks look at applicants’ debt-to-income ratio, time spent at their current job, and time at current residence.

Marion County has the eighth-highest home-loan approval rate in Kansas, according to a SmartAsset survey.

The county’s approval rate is just as good as, or better than, rates for counties of a similar size. Nemaha County has a higher approval rate of 72.54%, but Allen County’s rate of 54.84%, and Bourbon’s at 57.77% are both lower.

Approval rates are boosted by the number of financially secure people moving to houses around Marion County Lake, Noller said.

“They’re looking for a second home or a retirement home, so they aren’t getting turned down,” he said.

As a first-time homeowner, Franz didn’t have the advantage of a well-established credit history that a retired applicant would have.

“It has its own set of challenges because my credit history isn’t as long as someone who is retiring,” he said. “Altogether it wasn’t a difficult process, but it was nerve-wracking.”

Most houses in the county are listed at $75,000 to $95,000, according to Marion real estate agent Lori Heerey.

An $80,000 mortgage in Marion County for 30 years has an annual percentage rate around 3.894%, while it would be around 3.671% for 15 years.

A lower average sale price can make loan application approval easier for banks and buyers but affordability remains a factor, Noller said.

“We don’t have million-dollar properties, but we have some over $250,000,” he said. “You have to have the income to support that payment.”

Having been through the process once, Franz said it will help if he buys a new house in the future.

“I have a more general idea of what’s coming, though I don’t have any plans to move,” he said.

Last modified Oct. 3, 2019

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