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Forbearance: Is It A Good Idea?

Don’t do it!! Don’t you dare do it!!” Some strong advice from a passionate financial expert. Barry Habib was discussing forbearance plans in a recent podcast geared toward real estate investors. I have followed Barry for a while, mostly because of his focus on lending and his extreme savvy when it comes to economics. Typically, his advice is aimed at lenders, but this was very firm advice to real estate investors. There is a lot of hype out there about forbearance agreements, and rightfully so, as they can be extremely attractive and super helpful. Some of the rumors make these sound too good to be true, so I went looking for the truth. Can ordinary investors, like you and me, take advantage of this even if we don’t financially need it? The short answer is yes, but it comes at a price. 

A forbearance agreement in its simplest form is an agreement between a lender, or loan servicer, and a borrower to not make the scheduled payments as originally agreed. If we focus on real estate loans, a forbearance agreement would prevent a loan servicer from starting a foreclosure on the property during the term of the agreement. Up until now, if you entered into a forbearance agreement on a home loan, you would stop a foreclosure, but it would still be reported as missed payments on your credit.
So why all the hype? The CARES Act has made some dynamic changes around these agreements. First, loan servicers for government backed or government owned loans are required to issue forbearance agreements for anyone who wants them. Yes, that is right, anyone who wants them. In the past, these agreements were hard to get, and a borrower would need to qualify and document financial hardship. Now if the loan is owned or backed by the government, every borrower will get 180 days with no questions asked which they can extend for a second 180 period if they choose. There are no fees or penalties to take advantage of this. One important point that was a topic of confusion is that this money is not free. There may be no fees, but anyone entering into this agreement will need to make up the missed payments.

An early misunderstanding was that borrowers would need to come up with one lump sum payment for all the payments that were not made. That would have created massive foreclosures, which created fear. It was because of this belief that many investors believed we would see another housing bubble burst. The truth is that each loan servicer will have the flexibly to come up with a repayment plan for each individual borrower. Although it is true that a lump sum payment is one of the five repayment options, it is not necessarily required. It is far more likely that there will be an affordable plan put in place which should prevent a massive increase in foreclosures. Other than the lump sum option, here are the four repayment options that a loan servicer could implement with each borrower.

  • Borrowers allowed to repay past due amount within 12 months after forbearance ends.
  • Extend the term of the mortgage by the exact number of months in forbearance.
  • Add past due amounts into loan balance and extend the term of the loan by the number of months necessary to make the monthly payment the same as the previous payment.
  • Add past due amounts into loan balance and extend term of loan for 40 years (480 months).

Basically, the borrower will be able to extend the loan term to make up these payments. These are specific to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Other lenders or servicer for other types of loans could have slightly different options.
So, if you automatically qualify and there are no fees, why would you not do this? Here are three deadly pitfalls, which is why I believe you should avoid doing forbearance agreements on your mortgages if you are able:

  • Depending on your repayment option, you could accrue interest on these payments. Since most of your payment is likely interest, you will be accruing interest on interest which gets very expensive in the long run.
  • It will limit your borrowing power. Let me explain, although it is true that the CARES Act will prevent loan servicers from reporting missed payments, the fact that you entered into this agreement will report. Not reporting the missed payment will keep your credit scores intact, but any lender looking at the payment history will see the forbearance agreement. I could not find clarity on this, but most experts believe that it will actually say, “forbearance agreement” right on the credit report for each agreement you enter into. I know this is true because three of the largest lenders in this country have already stated they will be creating underwriting guidelines around COVID caused forbearance agreements and will not extend credit for two to four years post forbearance agreement. That means by simply trying to work the system and not making payments, you could be out of the game for two to four years!! I am not sure that we will, but if this pandemic creates buying opportunities, it will certainly be before you are able to borrow again.
  • By not making payments on loans, it hurts the overall housing market. Taking the ethics out of this decision, the more people that take advantage of the forbearance agreement, the less liquidity lenders will have, meaning the tougher the guidelines will get. This, of course, reduces demand for housing.

The interesting thing about all this is loan servicers do not understand the ramifications for putting you in a forbearance agreement. It is the lender that owns the loan and lenders that will originate new loans that understand this, but unfortunately that is not who you are talking to when you call your mortgage company to ask about this. I want to be very clear that forbearance is a fantastic option if you need it. It helps people in need and will help maintain home values as we work through the COVID crises. I am only recommending not doing it if you can afford to continue the payments. I also want to mention that these rules and privileges are for government loans only. Third party lenders like banks, credit unions, and private lenders are not subject to these guidelines.


Finally, a nice enough morning that I get sit on the balcony, drink my coffee and get caught up with the craziness the media is supplying. I sip my coffee, wow it tastes good today, and relax with my iPhone 5. Yes, it still works. I start to dig into some of the more popular news sites and watch some videos produced by some local investors I respect. Finally, not all bad news. Just what I needed to add to another relaxing morning in quarantine.
One of the videos I watched from someone I normally agree with made me pause. Am I looking at this entire thing correctly, and with my eyes wide open?


which way

His story is similar to mine in that he was invested in real estate when the last downturn hit. It was 2009 when he finally gave up, implementing a short sale on an investment property that ruined his credit and kept him out of the best buying opportunity in our lifetime. What I still believe will never be matched as long as I live. He is calloused by this experience and uses this experience when he titles his video, “Real Estate is Doomed.” His point with his catchy title, other than getting your attention, is that he believes we are going to enter into a real estate recession, similar to what we hit in 2008. It should create massive opportunities and he wants to be ready.

It is not often, but I disagree with him with this overzealous prediction, and here is why. Let me start with some of the legitimate bad news in the media, so you know I am aware of the situation and that I am not trying to be overly optimistic. Job loss numbers have never been this bad… EVER! The week ending 3/21/2020 broke a jobless claim record with 3.307 million. That record held for just one week. The very next week jobless claims were 6.648 million and that could still get adjusted up. We expect that these numbers will remain high through April, as there is a backlog and many applicants have not been able to get phone calls or emails returned. Jobs are the driving force of the economy, and these are devastating numbers. So why am I more optimistic than my pal? There are two reasons: improving COVID numbers and government support.
COVID Numbers: As I sit here looking for the latest data, I have seen multiple articles about Europe and the improvements over there. Italy is no longer the leader in positive test results, with Spain passing them by; but both countries are reporting fewer and fewer cases. In fact, with very little exception, all of Europe is reporting improvements. The primary countries still reporting increasing cases did not implement any mandatory lock downs. Looking closer to home, New York and New Jersey ranked number one and two for most cases in the US (which leads the world in cases) and they both have reported declining new cases.


I can regurgitate the statistics from the articles I have read, but I am not sure that is what is important. What is important is the primary hotspots for this virus are all reporting improvement. I also wonder what will happen as more testing becomes available. My guess is more tests will result in more positive cases, which sounds bad, but if you think about it, it will also account for more recoveries and a smaller death rate. Some experts say that actual infections could be 50X what is being reported. Yikes! Some doctors claim this virus was in the US in December, meaning if you felt a little off in December, it is possible you were infected and recovered. Maybe it is too early to tell, but this positive news is not something we were reading just one week ago. It is realistic that we can see businesses start opening up again in the next few months, making this an extreme, but short disaster. The question then becomes, how quickly can we recover once we are back up and running?

Job Support: The amount of time for a recovery is directly related to the amount of damage done. The longer people are without income means the more payments they will miss, the more evictions, foreclosures and repossessions we will see. This is exactly what some are expecting based on what we experienced 12 years ago. Our leaders understand this and understand it was their decision to halt the economy. For these reasons we are seeing their support in a big way to lessen the damage done.


We have never seen the government step in like they are right now. It can be argued that they have gone overboard already with more stimulus expected to come. Between the CARE ACT, buying mortgage securities, extending tax deadlines, and much more, they did more in 18 days than they did in 18 months of the credit crash. Here are some highlights of  the CARE ACT that will help lessen the damage done.


  • EIDL is a business relief loan program that includes $10,000 in grant money. Small businesses can apply for this loan directly on the SBA website here. This will help small business with operating expenses, including rent to their landlords, to keep their doors open. It is a low interest rate loan.
  • PPP is a loan to protect payroll. A business owner can borrower 2.5 times their monthly payroll and get this… they don’t need to pay it back!! I have been learning a lot about this program and can tell you that there are still a ton of questions around it. You need to apply for this loan directly with your bank.
  • Unemployment benefits are being expanded to self employed borrowers affected by the virus.
  • Increased unemployment benefits of $600 per week.
  • The stimulus check we have all heard about.
  • Deferral of taxes for properties, income, and payroll. This should loosen cash for business owners to give them time to get back to business.

This is just part of the CARE ACT and does not include corporate bailouts or the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs to help home and apartment owners with payment deferrals. This also does not include what credit card companies and other creditors are doing, as well as mom and pop landlords that can afford to defer payments. Did I mentioned other programs that companies are offering? For example, there are multiple business to business programs like what Facebook and Google will be doing with free ads for impacted companies.

The bottom line is it is not fair to compare this pandemic with the credit crash. The credit crash was caused by greed. There were major mistakes made and unjustifiable risks taken. Billions of dollars in bad debt and real estate with borrowers that lied on applications and never should have received a loan. It caught me by surprise, but looking back, there was no way to avoid it. The borrowers were never able to pay their bills, so the only option was foreclosure. This time is very different. We are hurting economically because the government closed the economy down. You have smart business owners that made sound financial decisions that will suffer along with their staff simply because the government said you cannot stay open. They were able to pay their bills before the pandemic and many will be able to after. And let’s not forget we have record breaking low interest rates and tight inventory.


My guess is that as soon as businesses can reopen, people will go back to spending and these same businesses will rehire staff. I understand it will not happen overnight, but this is very different than 2008, which attacked real estate directly and lasted for 18 months to two years. It is entirely possible that this is short lived with the start of recovery a month or two away. Economist would call this a V curve, because it hits bottom and recovers quickly. 2008 is a great example of a U curve. Fall hard, stay down for a while, then recover. I may be right, and I may be wrong, but I thought it was important to bring a positive, and realistic, prospective. If I am wrong, I and Pine Financial are prepared to take advantage of it, but for the sake of so many, I hope I am right.    
I wanted to conclude by saying although I wanted to focus this article on the economy and my personal opinion, it is not lost on me that many people are suffering, both physically and financially with this pandemic.


heart knot

For personal reasons, I want to be ready and I feel prepared for whatever happens, but I wish whole heartedly that this chaos was not occurring. My heart goes out to everyone that has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.


In order to reach the top of the real estate investing mountain, you’re going to want, and need to utilize all the tools available to you in your financial tool belt. While you can theoretically build a house with just a few tools, the quality of the house can suffer if you don’t have certain specialized tools at your disposal. The same holds true when you’re trying to finance your real estate transactions.

First, a key truth in real estate: You don’t need to have a sterling credit record or access to a ton of cash in order to make a fortune as a real estate investor. But you’ll reach the real estate investing Promised Land much more quickly if you do.

Because your ultimate goal is to create a thick real estate portfolio, and a large residual monthly income that comes in regardless of whether you decide to pull yourself out of bed every morning or you choose to sleep in, you will want to ensure that your finances are in a maximum state of health. That requires you to give your finances an intensive check-up, much like your personal physician would do to ensure that you’re the picture of good health.

Step One: Get in the Right Frame of Mind: The most critical step of analyzing your financial situation lies in realizing that the way you approach money and financial decisions plays a massive role in your ultimate success or failure. If you have a proven track record of shooting yourself in the foot with bad financial decisions, it’s imperative that you do a radical about-face and change your spending habits.

If you waste a ton of money on music downloads, splurge daily on over-priced gourmet coffee, or you are on a first-name basis with the greeter at Walmart, I have a newsflash for you: Your budget has more pork in it than a Congressional spending bill. By cutting much of the waste out of your personal economy, you can generate cash out of thin air that you can use for much better purposes than instant gratification.

Instead, you can change your life for the better. But the choice is yours alone to make.

Step Two: Relentlessly Cut Expenses: When you’re done paying bills at the end of the month, do you usually have cash left over, or do you tend to spend everything within a day or two of payday – and then limp through until your next paycheck comes in? Most people spend the lion’s share of their paycheck on bills, food, and other necessities. If they’re lucky, they are able to set a few dollars aside for a rainy day. The difference between those who have control of their finances and those whose financial life is in disarray, is that having control involves taking control, and keeping control. While many people have trouble increasing their income, it is possible to reduce spending. In order to do that, you need to get a handle on your expenses and identify areas of your budget that can be trimmed back. While this isn’t the sexiest topic of conversation, it’s absolutely vital to your ultimate success as a real estate investor. Budgeting for monthly expenditures and spending only what is on your list is one of the most difficult aspects of taking control of your financial life. By eliminating unnecessary expenditures, you’ll reach your goals more quickly. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Gut the Cable Pig: That’s right; cancel your cable. You’re constantly complaining that there’s nothing good on anyway, right? Instead, talk to your spouse, take a walk, listen to a podcast or read a good investing book.

Cut Your Cell Phone Plan Down to Size:  Most people load up on costly and wasteful cell phone package deals. Unlimited texting, mobile web, and massive calling plans are great, but most people don’t use all of their phone’s features. Do you need mobile browsing, or is it just a toy you use to watch YouTube videos when you should be doing something else? Do you need unlimited texting, or can you give your thumbs a rest if it will save you $20 per month?

Go Through Your Credit Card Statement:  See if you have any recurring charges each month.  Are they items that you need? You may even have some small charges each month that you forgot about signing up for. Eliminate the one’s not needed and keep up on them to make sure you aren’t throwing money out the window.Stay Out of the Drive-through – Your waistline and your wallet will thank you. These often-daily trips to McDonald’sand other fast food joints are killing your health and your budget, sometimes to the tune of $5-$10 per trip. This goes for coffee as well. Caribou and Starbucks are tempting, but do you really need to stop for a $5 cup of coffee each day, or would you save money by making some at home?

Step Three: Pay off Excessive Debt: Another area that’s probably holding you back is excessive debt. High credit card balances, store charge card balances, and computer payments are a fact of life for millions of us. However, if they’re holding you back financially, they need to go the way of the 8-track tape and join the growing list of things that once had a useful purpose and no longer do. Make extra payments, have a yard sale, or do whatever else it takes to eliminate excessive debt.If you can’t find the cash to pay off some of these accounts, consolidate them, or at least make larger payments. If what’s in your wallet, credit cards, are consuming too much of your cash, it’s time to take control and protect your financial interests. Nobody else will.

Step Four: Check Your Credit Report and Score: What’s your credit history like? Do you have a long track record of consistently paying your bills on time or do you tend to pay a lot of your bills late, if at all? If you are like most people, your on-time bill paying record is somewhere in the middle. The first step in making that determination is to examine your credit report and to find out what your credit score is. Once you know those details, you can get to work improving your credit and positioning your finances to take advantage of real estate opportunities when they present themselves to you. The good news is that you won’t have to spend a small fortune obtaining your credit report. The Federal government, for once, finally had a pro-consumer idea that makes sense. The three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax have teamed up with a single website ( that allows you to get your credit report once per year for free. Whether you get all three at the same time, or you stagger them so that you examine a different one every four months, is your choice.
The important thing is that you get these reports and see what information is on them. They will have the majority of your credit transactions on them, as well as any charge-offs, late payments, etc., along with your current balances.
If you find that your report contains errors, omissions, or fraudulent accounts (accounts listed in your name that were opened by somebody other than you), there is a mechanism in place to correct these entries. Because your ability to borrow money, and the interest rate you’ll pay, hinges upon the accuracy of these reports, it’s in your best interest to ensure that the story your credit report is the truth.
While you may not get free credit scores with your free credit reports, it’s still important that you have an accurate understanding of your current credit score as part of a comprehensive examination of your finances. You’re much more than a number, but to a potential lender, numbers are all that matter. If your FICO score is too low, your chances of getting a loan approval are reduced. This knowledge will allow you to act decisively in improving your credit score, and the rate and terms you can demand in all your financial transactions.
Step Five: Increasing your Income: You have two choices in increasing your income; work harder at your job or find an entrepreneurial opportunity that can put you on the path of financial success. Real estate investing is a proven method of creating wealth, residual monthly income, and life-changing opportunity.
Pine Financial Group aims to continue giving you tools you can put to work in your life today to increase your income and build real, sustainable wealth. What you do with this knowledge is up to you.

Only 2%

Last month Pine Financial Group hosted the 2020 Minnesota Real Estate Investor Success Summit, it was a great event and we had our best turn out to date at over 215 registered! I had the opportunity to emcee the event, which is always fun because deep down inside I think I am a stand-up comedian. Ask my wife and she will tell you there is nothing a want-to-be comedian loves more than a new audience! I thoroughly enjoy the chance to get in front of a crowd and provide the tools to grow their business.


At the Success Summit, I was feeling especially froggy and offered anyone in attendance the opportunity to schedule a call with me to help offer some guidance or feedback on their current strategy or goals. More than 10 years investing in real estate, I have been fortunate to participate in thousands of deals as a hard money lender, developer, landlord, agent, flipper, etc. I fully recognize, and respect, that I may not have been the most established investor in the room that day, but I was the only one with a microphone offering this opportunity. This is where the 2% comes into play, I had only four people take me up on the offer. This could be an evidence of my poor ability to “sell” the service, or I suspect it is more of an indication of the difference between the 2% and 98% of people attending real estate investing events.

The guys in the office often give me a hard time for my “go to” saying about the events we host, “why are you even here today?” Sure we laugh a little bit, but I really mean it, people identifying themselves as investors are giving up their evenings, weekends, spare moments, and often times money to attend classes, seminars and webinars on this elusive topic of real estate investing. For this reason, I ask the question: “Why are you even here today?”So, what does it take to be in the 2% vs the 98%? One of the many things I love about real estate investing is that almost anyone can do it. It depends on your skill and resources, or your ability to leverage other’s skills and resources, but the non-negotiable is desire. That desire is created by an individual’s vision, often referred to as,


“The Big Why” and the beauty of it is that it is different for everyone! One person’s goal in attending an event might simply be to buy a home to live in, while others may be on their way by syndicating $100 Million in multifamily investments. Most are somewhere in between looking to supplement or replace their current income through investing. The ability to execute the individual plan comes back to the “why,” peoples go to whys are “for my family”, “to quit my job,” “to be rich.” Let’s just dissect the family answer, because in order to attend all these events, the attendee must spend time away from their family. If the goal to invest in real estate is to help their family -Is it to create additional income to cover an event, like college or a wedding?

  • Is it to provide income that would allow a family a nicer home, better schools?
  • Is it to supplement income so that a spouse can stay home or reduce hours to spend time with family?
  • Is it to replace income so that you are more available to be with your family?

Once the true why is established, you reverse engineer what it will take to accomplish the goal, how many flips, rentals, wholesale deals, etc. This is a relatively simple process; however, in all of my time around real estate investors, I have found that a lack of vision is what leads to aimlessly attending event after event, hoping to achieve the topic that was last presented until the next shinny object appears.

The four phone calls I had with those that took advantage had a common theme, they just needed to hear it from someone else. It is amazing how an objective third-party opinion can bring a plan in to prospective so quickly.

Two were trying to figure out how to get into small multifamily properties 20-50 units, but both needed to take some very specific (although not obvious) steps to make that a reality. The other two just needed to structure a small rental portfolio to provide enough monthly cash-flow that they could retire a little more comfortable.

2020 is well underway, before spending another evening or weekend away from your loved ones or paying to attend a “life changing” event, I challenge us all to slow down and identify, “why we are here today.”

REFINANCING PITFALLS WITH A FIX AND FLIP Keeping the Property When Your Flip Becomes A Flop

I was young and inexperienced, but I was convinced I was unstoppable. I had a lot of energy and motivation. The house was in Arvada, a northwestern suburb of Denver, and I purchased it for a killer price.  It was part of a package deal with another house I planned to keep as a rental.


This one did not have great rental numbers, but looked fantastic as a flip, so I bought both houses. I started the rehab on both properties, with the focus on the planned rental; that would be a much easier and a quicker rehab.  That house went smoothly.  I rehabbed it, rented it, and refinanced it.

 Because I used a hard money loan, I had no money into it and was producing positive cash flow within six weeks. The Arvada house was a different story. That one ended up in my rental portfolio too, but it was far from planned.  
It was after I was done with the first project that I started noticing the shady work in Arvada. There was un-permitted work all over the place. There was a small addition that was falling away from the house, material used to build that did not belong, leaks that were covered up, and faulty wiring. The budget was blown before I even started, and I did not have the reserves to cover the extreme amount in overages. I did not know what to do, so I went cheap.


for sale
I did a lipstick job, threw the house on the market and crossed my fingers. I dropped the price, and then dropped it again. It got to the point that I could not pay off my loan and pay a Realtor, so I decided to keep it. In order to do that, I had to pay back my hard money lender, meaning I had to refinance the loan. 

This painful experience taught me many important lessons; don’t go cheap on finishes, what to look for in a budget, and the pitfalls of the refinance. Lending has changed since then, so I reached out to Joe Massey at Castle and Cooke mortgage, our preferred lender in Colorado, to get some help on what issues investors are running into today when they try to refinance their flip.

Here is the list of pitfalls we discussed:
Value:  It is nearly impossible to get an appraisal higher than the last list price. In my case, I kept dropping the price, to the point it was listed below what it could have appraised for. When I went for the refinance, the appraisal came in at the last list price, and I was forced to bring cash to closing to get the deal done. Refinance appraisals are based solely on the comparable sales (comps) in the area, as there is no other market indication for the appraiser to reference.  Also, the low-quality rehab is hard for an appraiser to put a value on, so it is common for low quality rehabs to have no impact on appraised value. Low quality rehabs do, however, have a big impact on actual value. Once there is MLS exposure, meaning everybody who is looking for a house can see it, the appraiser has actual market information to use to come up with a more accurate value. Think about it, how can the appraiser justify a value higher than what it is listed at in the MLS?  You better just count on the value coming in at, or even below, the lowest list price. 
Another obstacle with the MLS exposure is with timing. This is not a big deal for most, but is worth a mention. The property must be out of the MLS for at least one day before you can apply for the loan.  Again, not a big deal, but this will create a day or two delay in the process. 


Credit:  Credit requirements are a little stricter with rental property loans compared to owner occupied loans. Almost all loans are approved or denied by a computer system, so the scores can vary. For example, if you have less than perfect credit but a larger down payment, the computer could approve the loan.

In the rare case the loan is manually underwritten, the credit on rentals needs to be 620 or higher until you hit your 5th rental, and at that point you will need to have a 720 credit score.

Entities:  Conventional lenders will not loan to an LLC or corporation; you will need to own the home in your personal name to qualify. Many lenders will not loan you money if at ANY point you owned the property in an entity. 

Most fix and flippers do business in an entity, so you can see how this can cause you a problem with a refinance. All hope is not lost though! Because Joe is a direct to Fannie Mae lender, he is able to finance you while your property is in your entity, but will require that you move it into your personal name. If you hear a lender tell you they cannot help you because you owned your flip in your LLC or corporation, know that there are lenders like Joe out there that can do it.
DTI:  You might hear that you cannot finance a rental because your debt to income ratio will be off, meaning you don’t make enough money to support all your debts. The hiccup here is often the rent amount on the new property, and if you can use that to offset the new mortgage payment. Some lenders will want to see the property on your tax returns to give you credit for the income, which is always a loss in the first year you buy a new property and rehab it; therefore making it tougher to qualify.  If you get this feedback, call another lender.  The guideline here is that you can use 75% of the gross rent amount as income if you have a lease and can show at least one month of rent collected and the security deposit.
Another issue with DTI is self-employed borrowers.  I have written full articles on this subject, because many people who are self-employed take as many deductions as possible. When you take a deduction, you lower your taxable income, so you save on taxes. The problem is that when you lower your income, you hurt your DTI, making it harder to qualify for loans. It is not the fact that you are self-employed that is preventing you from getting a loan, it is the income you report. The guideline here is that you can get a loan when you work for yourself if your income supports the debt. Income is documented with two years of tax returns, unless you have been in business for at least five years and have a 740 or higher credit score, in which case you will only need one year of tax returns. 


Reserves:  As you start to go over budget or have issues with your fix and flip, it is very common to burn through your reserves to save the deal. This is understandable but could create a problem. You are required to have reserves for conventional loan qualifying, so it is very important that you have this set aside before you apply for your refinance.

The guideline is a little confusing and is based on the number of properties you own. The reserve requirement is:
6 Months of mortgage payments on the subject property (PITI) plus…

  • 2% of unpaid loan balances on your other rental property loans for 1-4 financed properties
  • 4% of unpaid loan balances on your other rental property loans for 5-6 financed properties
  • 6% of unpaid loan balances on your other rental property loans for 7-10 financed properties

You do not count your primary home mortgage balance in these calculations. 
You are able to use some retirement money to meet this requirement, but you will also need money in the bank. Check with your lender if you plan to use retirement money to meet this requirement, and they can walk you through what funds need to be where when you apply.  If you start running low on reserves, do what you can to get the house acceptable for an appraisal and then get the loan done.  Once the loan is in place, go back and complete anything that you need to complete that will consume your reserves. 
Changes in your situation:  Several things can create problems here. If you are in the middle of the refinance process, it is probably best that you do not take out any additional credit or even have your credit pulled. You also don’t want to leave your job, which seems obvious, but I feel the need to mention it. 

I wish I had this information when I was working on that Arvada house, and I wish I knew someone like Joe to help me through the process.