10 Tips for First Time Homebuyers

Source: Ray Brousseau www.housingwire.com

1. Know what you can afford  

When looking for a new home, make your search more effective by knowing how much home you can afford. Carefully calculate the overall monthly payments. Be sure to include additional costs like property taxes, insurance premiums, homeowners insurance, homeowners’ association dues (if applicable), etc. Look at your monthly budget to understand how a mortgage payment will fit into it.

2. Identify your potential downpayment 

Do you have 20% of your target purchase price available for a downpayment? That’s often considered the industry norm, but there are other options available. If you don’t have the funds for a significant downpayment, it may not be a problem. There are a variety of loan programs offered at various credit levels. Some mortgage programs have loans that offer a 3.5% downpayment or even a no-downpayment option for veterans and active military. It is important to note, however, that most loans that offer less than 20% down have additional insurance premiums that will add to the monthly payment.

3. Work with a local agent  

Pinpoint the area where you’d most like to own a home, and then connect with a real estate agent who works in that area. Make sure that the agent has worked extensively in that neighborhood and has insights into local matters like taxes, schools, new developments and other issues that may be important in the contract process. Ask how many homes the agent has helped buyers purchase in your desired location to gauge their experience working in that particular area. Agents who list homes also should have a good understanding of fair market value for the homes you’re considering.

4. Evaluate your preferred neighborhood

You think you know where you want to buy a home, but how much do you actually know about the neighborhood? Visit the area at different times, including during heavy commute times, weekends and later in the evening. What’s the traffic like for kids in the neighborhood? How far is the nearest grocery store? Also, talk with the neighbors in your desired community. What do they like about the area? What do they dislike? Their perspectives may offer greater insight into your desired location.

5. Get credit ready

Buying a home may be one of the largest financial decisions you ever make. Be prepared. Get a copy of your current credit report, identify any discrepancies, and get them fixed — if possible — before you talk to a lender. 

6. Hold off on large credit purchases

Large purchases, such as a car loan or lease, may impact your debt-to-income ratio. Changes to this number may affect your ability to qualify for the loan amount you require. Avoid taking out any loans or adding significant debt to credit lines before you try to purchase a home.

7. Season your downpayment funds

Make sure your downpayment and closing-cost funds are in your account 60 to 90 days prior to closing on your home. Some loan programs may require “seasoning” on those funds, meaning they have been in your account for a certain amount of time. Be sure to know about any conditions on these funds from your lender so that you don’t hold up closing. If you will be using any gift funds from family or friends for your home, be sure to get them prior to when you will need them.

8. Understand rate vs. points

With the many financial considerations that go into buying a home, none may be as confusing to first-time homebuyers as the issue of “points.” To start, in the real estate arena, points are generally a fee that is paid to the lender to lower the interest rate on your mortgage. One point is equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. Is it better to get a lower interest rate by paying points upfront? Or are rates so low that the reduction offered by “buying down” the rate is minimal? Consider these options carefully, and make use of the many online tools and calculators to help you understand the cost implications of both.

9. Know where you stand with lenders

Borrowers with higher credit scores — like those with scores of 720 or above — can often shop around for the lowest available interest rate and get a conventional loan. Borrowers with lower credit scores, especially those with scores of 640 and lower, may experience higher rates because of the potentially higher assumed risk by the lender. For these borrowers, don’t be discouraged if you can’t get the lowest rate. There often are still many promising loan options available, and the difference in payment due to the higher rate may be less than you expect.

10. Go for it  

Trying to time the market perfectly is impossible. Find the home that is right for you. Waiting may cause you to miss out on lower rates, lower home prices or even that perfect home.

10 Reasons to be a GuardianCU Member


The 10 reasons to be a Guardian Credit Union member is not just a list but a way of life here at Guardian! We take all of our member in as family members and not just another number in the books. We value all of our members and want to make sure they are getting everything they deserve out of their financial! Let’s point out some of the reasons we feel that being a Guardian member is all about.

  1. Gratifying – Our member service has always been the most gratifying part of our job and is important to us because its important to you!
  2. Understanding – We understand that no one is perfect all the time and we are always looking to help our members improve themselves financially if we can. This is another reason our members come to us for their lending needs.
  3. Auto Loan Specials – Our Auto Loan specials are something we really flaunt, it’s one of the best deals around! We offer a 90 Day No Pay and 1% Cash Back on a non Guardian Auto Refinance loan. We offer this promotion from time to time and right now is the time! So  make sure to take advantage of it while it’s around!
  4. Relationships – We value our relationships with our members. When you trust your financial you tell everyone! We have great members and offer a great referral program to thank them for telling their family and friends!
  5. Discounts – We have some of the best discounts around for our members. We offer a 10% discount with Sprint, up to 10% discounts at 5 local universities, and even discounts on prescriptions through MetLife.
  6. Investment Services – We offer help in Investments with our financial adviser Darren Klump. He is able to help you on anything from 401ks, IRAs, and Insurance. Have a few questions still not answered give him a call at 414-546-7450 and just ask for Darren.
  7. Any Time – Whenever you have a question give us a call, we are always here to help with all your needs big and small.
  8. No Penalties – We don’t have any penalties on paying off your loans early. We actually want you to be financially free so you can spend your money how you like!
  9. Community – We pride ourselves in the amount of support we give back to the community that surrounds us. We want to see our community grow so we can grow. You can see us out at many local events and we are always there with a smile and welcoming invite to learn more about us.
  10. Ultimate Online Services – On reason our members like us is our amount of online services we have to offer. We offer everything from Online Bill Pay, person to person transfers and personalized online alert systems. Those are just few to mention to learn more make sure to check out our website.

If you aren’t a member yet I hope this list helps you want to become one! If you have more questions stop by any branch and pick our brains a bit we promise we don’t bite. We will show you how easy it is to switch! You will ask yourself why didn’t you do it sooner!


This article was written by a Teller and GCU Brander, Misty D. at our South Milwaukee Branch


Saving for the Holidays on a College Budget


Saving for the Holidays on a College budget by Misty DeGrave Teller at our South Milwaukee Branch

School has started, your tuition is paid and you’re only working part time with the holiday’s right around the corner. It might not be easy, but you can do it. Let me show you some ways to have a fun holiday season and not break the bank (or better yet, credit union).

Being a GCU member is already a great start to saving. GCU has teamed up with 5 area colleges to offer tuition discounts just for being a member.  If you are going for an Associate, Bachelor or Graduate degree you can receive a tuition discount.

At Wisconsin Lutheran College you can get a $1000.00 scholarship just for being a member of GCU. That can buy or rent a few books.  You can check out how to apply for theses discounts by going online to guardiancu.org or stopping in at any of the 6 GCU locations.

Your student ID is a value tool.  With it you can get savings at local restaurants, movie theaters, department stores and so much more. Some discounts can range from 10% up to 25% off.  So when you are at your favorite store ask if they offer discounts to college students.  When traveling home for the holidays remember your student ID, you will find savings at home with your ID as well.  Your ID might help you just as much as your books during your college years.

Another way to save for the holidays that is easier said than done is making a budget and sticking to it. Make a list of who you want to get gifts for and an estimated amount you want to spend per person.

When making your budget don’t forget the little things like holiday parties and travel expenses, those add up. You can find budget help online at places like Etsy or Pinterest.  You can open a Christmas club account that you can add to all year, and when shopping time comes you are ready to go.  Most of these accounts offer interest on them so you will even have a little extra money for that gift you forgot about (or to spend on yourself, you deserve it).

Saving on the gifts and staying within your budget can be as easy as being creative. Your local craft store may offer student discounts (with your ID} and a handmade gift is always treasured.  Have a cookie swap with your fellow students; you get a variety of treats for the cost of one with a side of fun.  Have a secret Santa party with a set dollar limit to spend.  You can find more savings on gifts online at Etsy, Pinterest and Facebook.

Have a safe and happy Holiday season.

GCU vs. Big Banks

KevinGWhen did sacrificing customer service for more profits become the new normal?  Try this, go to the nearest branch of a big bank; will you be greeted with a smile?  Will anyone there know your name?  Will you feel they have your best interest in mind?

Sadly these days, the answer to all of these questions seems to be a resounding NO.  At GCU, we think it’s time to say YES again.

YES, we will provide you all the modern conveniences that you need, and still provide you with phenomenal service.

YES, we want to have a relationship with you and your family and help in any way that we can.

YES, we have your best interests in mind, because we know that helping our members comes before anything else.

One of the few reasons people will stay with one of the big banks is convenience, they have the resources to provide them with all of the modern technology that we need in our busy lives. The C in GCU might as well stand for convenience, because every day we are trying to make our member’s lives easier. Let’s start with our online banking, our members can view their account balances, view previous transactions and statements, pay their bills, and make transfers between their accounts. GCU also has a webpage specifically for mobile users, as well as the Guardian Line, which is a 24-hour telephone teller.  In addition, GCU also has a mobile app for our members on the go.

Being a member at GCU means that you have a say in what we do.  That’s because we are a not-for-profit, member owned, financial cooperative, dedicated to being your primary financial institution by providing superior, comprehensive, courteous, and prompt services. That’s our mission statement and that’s how we operate.

Being owned by our members, means that we don’t look at you the same way a big bank would.  At a big bank, you are a source of profit, and that is how you are treated.  The purpose of their executives is to make as much money as possible for the company, and this philosophy trickles down to all of their daily operations (fees, higher minimum balances, higher interest rates, etc.).

Whether it be; charging far less fees than a bank, offering several accounts that require no minimum balances, or offering lower interest rates, GCU is here for your advantage. When deciding between financial institutions, hopefully you can see why GCU is better for you than the big banks. At GCU, we know how busy your life is and we hope to be a convenient solution for all your financial needs. We strive to know all of our members, so that we can better assist you in any of the many services that we offer.  At GCU, you aren’t member #111111; you are Tom, Jason, Katie, or Jennifer.  It’s time to feel that someone is looking out for you; it’s time to feel appreciated again.

Stop by GCU today and see what we can do for you.

Written By: Kevin Gosseck – GCU Brander at the Waukesha Branch

Welcome our GCU Branders!


Over the years we have had some amazing employees come through our doors, Employees that truly make GCU what it is today! We decided to give some of our employees a chance at helping out the marketing team and showcase what we do in and out of the office. We selected 6 employees who work on the front line to represent Guardian Credit Union in the branches and around the communities at events! I’d like to take the time to introduce our GCU Branders! They each wrote out a small post about themselves so when you see them in the branches please feel free to say Hi! They won’t bite I promise!

AndreaBrezgelAndrea B. – Teller at West Milwaukee for 6 months

What sets Guardian Credit Union apart from other financials you have worked at?

What sets Guardian apart and what is my favorite thing about working here at Guardian is that we’re not just co-workers but we consider ourselves family and a team. If there is a problem or you need help there is always someone willing and available to help you.

What do you do when you aren’t at work?

When I’m not at work some of my favorite activities to do are exploring parks with my son, watching movies with friends and going to new and different types of restaurants. I also enjoying visiting my parents at their house in Shawano.

AshleyTurnerAshley T. – Branch Supervisor at Oak Creek for 2 years

What do you like most about Guardian Credit Union?

What I like most about Guardian Credit Union is its commitment to it’s employees and members. The employee recognition program is awesome for employees and the fact that my voice is heard and I can reward my co-workers is a great perk! Guardian really steps up to the plate when connecting with the community as well as events like parades and kite flying events. I’m proud to be a member and an employee of such a wonderful company.

What do you love doing in the summer time?

I love to go camping. I enjoy being outdoors surrounding by nature and relaxing by the campfire. It’s a great time to reconnect with my family and friends! I also enjoy playing board games, watching movies and reading.

EmmaHerder Emma H. –  Teller at Waukesha for 3 months (a member even longer though)

What do you like most about working for Guardian Credit Union?

As an employee of GCU, I truly appreciate the people I’m involved with the most – whether it’s co-workers or members. My job becomes less work and more fun because of who I am around and what we do! I really look forward to the experiences and knowledge I am exposed to everyday!

What is your favorite activity to do in the summertime?

When it comes to summer, there isn’t much that I don’t love…but what I like to do the most is go to the Wisconsin State Fair! The best part is definitely the food! I also love art, fashion, watching movies with good company and reading!

Rheanna H. – Teller at South Milwaukee for 1 year and 6 months

What do you like most about working for Guardian Credit Union?

I like that GCU gives back to my community. Some events we do for the community are Seasons of Giving, Guardian Cares and Dollars-for-Scholars. Over the time I have worked here I have seen an enormous effort to try and show our community that we truly care about them. I believe it is what makes us stand out from other credit unions. I enjoy coming to work because I have grown to know many of our members and we are always welcome to new ones!

What is your favorite activity to do in the summertime?

My favorite activity to do is to spend time down by the lake by 7 bridges. I don’t get down there very often but when I do I feel relaxed and I am able to reflect on anything going on in my day to day life. I also like to attend a number of events that GCU does for South Milwaukee in the summer. I love checking out Evening on the Ave., Dinner and a Movie and the Heritage Parade.

JericaFehrJerica F – Teller at the West Allis for 1 year 

What do you like most about working for Guardian Credit Union?

We all enjoy what we do, care about each other, and care about our member. I’ve seen employees go out of their way to help members. It is important to work with a staff that is as committed to what you do and treats each other with that same respect.

What is your favorite activity to do in the summertime?

My favorite activity to do in Milwaukee is head the to Wisconsin State Fair! I love the State Fair because, it is like a combination of all the festivals in one. It’s like being a big kid all over again! I like to make sure I get on all the rides, eat a jumbo turkey leg and enjoy a cold Milwaukee brew! I have not ever tried a Cream Puff though, sadly the line is always so long. Hopefully, I’ll get around to trying on this year!

TylerCalligaroTyler C – Branch Supervisor at Menomonee Falls for 2 months

What do you like most about working for Guardian Credit Union?

The members and my great co-workers! I am very excited to be apart of the Guardian team!

What is your favorite activity to do in the summertime?

Since I have lived in South Eastern Wisconsin my whole life I know a thing or two about the surrounding area! I really enjoy the amazing nature that Wisconsin can offer the part of the year. Whether I’m going out to the lake or taking a nice hike those all contribute to what I enjoy about Wisconsin during the summertime!

GuardianCares 2015 – Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative

Guardian Cares Veterans

Over the years Guardian Credit Union has established a fundraising campaign as a way to enable members to help donate to local charities throughout the community. GuardianCares facilitates community involvement for our members while allowing us to help countless individuals.

Launched in 2012, we are proud to announce that the chosen charity this year is the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative. GCU will raise funds for the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative through the donations of our members in exchange for GCU memorabilia. Our staff also generously donates personal funds to support the cause as well.

The following charities have been recipients of the GuardianCares fundraising campaign donations:

  • 2014 – Dryhootch of America
  • 2013 – My Good Mourning Place
  • 2012 – Free and Community Clinic Collaborative

We couldn’t be more excited to work with another charity that truly has pushed to help our Veterans succeed after they have served their country! They have served over 1,200 Veterans and their families throughout the years. Stop into any branch to see what we are offering for your donations! Also, feel free to check out the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative website to see what other ways you can help the charity!

2015 Dollars for Scholars

Graduation, Scholarship, Diploma, College,

With the beginning of summer finally here it’s also the end of another school year. It marks a time when graduating high school students are looking forward to college and with this comes education expenses. Over the year Guardian has been able to provide a unique scholarship program that’s funded entirely by its employees. We donate $5.00 per paycheck to the scholarship fund. By donating we get to wear jeans everyday if we decide to participate – come on who doesn’t want to wear jeans to work every day?! Especially, if we are helping out members in the meantime! Not only do we get to wear jeans but 100% of the contributions are used to fund various scholarships for our members.

This year we are pleased to announce that we were able to select 8 scholarship winners! This couldn’t have been made possible without the support and participation from all of employees here at GCU! –Thank You! Over the last few weeks we have been judging the contestants on written essays, financial need, GPA, extra-curricular activities, community involvement and career plans. Along with this they are required to have a minimum 2.5 GPA and provide at least one letter of recommendation. These students have excelled not only in school but also throughout the surrounding communities. Please help us in congratulating these extraordinary students on this great achievement!

Annie StaskunasWarren Sladky Scholarship Academics

Graduating: Pius XI Catholic School  Attending: University of Wisconsin Madison  Studying: Management/Human Resources

Lindsay TeislWarren Sladky Scholarship Academics

Graduating: University School of Milwaukee  Attending: Wofford College of South Carolina  Studying: Chemistry

Apoorva DhawanBob Gibbons Scholarship Community Service

 Graduating: Waukesha West High School  Attending: University of Wisconsin Madison  Studying: Biomedical Engineering

Kaitlyn SeiboldBob Gibbons Scholarship Community Service

Graduating: Hartford Union High School  Attending: University of Wisconsin Madison  Studying: Biology (pre-med)

Austin SustachekAl Kraus Scholarship Finance

Graduating: Oak Creek High School  Attending: University of Wisconsin Oshkosh  Studying: Accounting

Kailee CieslewiczAl Kraus Scholarship Finance

Graduating: Menomonee Falls High School  Attending: University of Wisconsin La Crosse  Studying: Business

Matthew VossHigh Achievement Guardian Scholarship

Graduating: Oak Creek High School  Attending: University of Wisconsin La Crosse  Studying: History/Psychology

Aliyah QuallsHigh Achievement Guardian Scholarship

Graduating: Rufus King International School  Attending: Arizona State University  Studying: Music Education

Congratulations to all our scholarship winners and we look forward to seeing you grow in your college career as well as your financial career here at GCU! We wish you nothing but the best of luck throughout these next few years! Study hard, Make friends and last but not least – HAVE FUN! Thank you again to everyone that participated and we look forward to next year and choosing new winners that are sure to impress!