Thursday, October 14, 2010

Understanding the Foreclosure Freeze

In September and early October 2010, several lenders suspended foreclosures due to questions about whether the transactions were being processed consistent with applicable state law requirements.

Although nearly all of the foreclosures in question are expected to be fixed eventually, the current situation is creating difficulties and a new hurdle to the recovery of the housing and mortgage markets. Additionally, homes on the market without clear title will make sales much more difficult. It is expected that foreclosures in question are likely to be withdrawn from the market.

The foreclosure problem isn't about whether some home owners had their homes wrongly foreclosed upon (there's been no evidence of that to date) but to what extent banks were taking short cuts on foreclosure procedures in states requiring judicial foreclosures.

It is difficult to say what percentage of foreclosures that were improperly processed were. The assumption is that, for most of them, this may be only a technicality and the property ultimately would have been repossessed. Owners who believe their home was wrongly foreclosed may wish to contact an attorney to investigate the possibility of a property claim. However, that could prove costly and time consuming-regulations vary by state.

Any family who loses a home to foreclosure is one family too many. Anyone facing foreclosure should be sure to consider all the options available. In many cases, it may make more sense for a bank to modify a loan or agree to short sale to expedite disposal of inventory.

Visit my website for more real estate news and advice or foreclosure information.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

10 Low-Cost Tips to Make Your Home More Appealing to Buyers

When selling your home, the goal is to sell it quickly for the highest price while spending as little as possible on renovations. With a limited budget and a little effort, you can greatly increase your home's appeal by focusing on what prospective buyers can see on their first visit. The experts at BuyOwner.com offer the following recommendations for preparing a house for sale and staging it for showings.

Tip #1: Refresh the Exterior

First impressions count when it comes to selling a home. Most buyers won't even leave their car if they don't find the exterior appealing. The best ways to improve your home's exterior include:
-Repairing and/or replacing trims, shutters, gutters, shingles, mailboxes, window screens, walkways and the driveway.
-Painting siding, trim and shutters and lamp and mailbox posts.
-Pressure washing vinyl siding, roofs, walkways and the driveway.
-Washing windows.

Tip #2: Spruce Up the Lawn and Landscape
Home buyers associate the condition of your lawn and landscaping with the condition of your home's interior. By improving the outside, you affect buyers' impression of the entire property. The best ways to enhance the yard include:
-Mowing and edging the lawn.
-Seeding, fertilizing and weeding the lawn.
-Keeping up with regular lawn maintenance by frequent watering.
-Trimming and/or removing overgrown trees, shrubs and hedges.
-Weeding and mulching plant beds.
-Planting colorful seasonal flowers in existing plant beds.
-Removing trash, especially along fences and underneath hedges.
-Sweeping and weeding the street curb along your property.

Tip #3: Create an Inviting Entrance
The front door to your home should invite buyers to enter. The best ways to improve your entry include:
-Painting the front door in a glossy, cheerful color that complements the exterior.
-Cleaning, polishing and/or replacing the door knocker, locks and handles.
-Repairing and/or replacing the screen door, the doorbell, porch lights and house numbers.
-Placing a new welcome mat and a group of seasonal potted plants and flowers by the entry.

Tip #4: Reduce Clutter and Furniture
A buyer cannot envision living in your home without seeing it. A home filled with clutter or even too much furniture distracts buyers from seeing how they can utilize the space your home offers. If you have limited storage space, you may want to consider renting a temporary storage unit to place items you wish to keep. The best ways to declutter your home include:
-Holding a garage sale to prepare for your move, getting rid of unnecessary items.
-Removing clutter such as books, magazines, toys, tools, supplies and unused items from counter tops, open shelves, storage closets, the garage and basements.
-Storing out-of-season clothing and shoes out of sight to make bedroom closets seem roomier.
-Removing any visibly damaged furniture.
-Organizing bookshelves, closets, cabinets and pantries. Buyers will inspect everything.
-Putting away your personal photographs, unless they showcase the home. Let buyers see themselves in your home.
-De-personalize rooms as much as you can.

Tip #5: Clean, Clean, Clean
The cleanliness of your home also influences a buyer's perception of its condition. The appearance of the kitchen and bathrooms will play a considerable role in a buyer's decision process, so pay particular attention to these areas. The best ways to improve these areas include:
-Cleaning windows, fixtures, hardware, ceiling fans, vent covers and appliances.
-Cleaning carpets, area rugs and draperies.
-Cleaning inside the refrigerator, the stove and all cabinets.
-Removing stains from carpets, floors, counters, sinks, baths, tile, walls and grout.
-Eliminating house odors, especially if you have pets.
-Considering air fresheners or potpourri.

Tip #6: Make Minor Repairs
The small stuff does count, especially with first-time home buyers. Without dismissing the importance of repairing major items such as a leaky roof or plumbing, you do not need to spend money on replacing these items. Instead, focus on the minor repairs that will make your home visually appealing. The best ways to improve your home include:
-Repairing ceilings and wall cracks.
-Repairing faucets, banisters, handrails, cabinets, drawers, doors, floors and tile.
-Caulking and grouting tubs, showers, sinks and tile.
-Adding fresh paint to ceilings, walls, trim, doors and cabinets.
-Tightening door handles, drawer pulls, light switches and electrical plates.
-Lubricating door hinges and locks.

Tip #7: Showcase the Kitchen
The heart of any home is the kitchen. If you are going to spend any money on renovations, this is the one area where you will see the greatest return. Even with a modest budget, focusing on a few key areas can make a great difference in getting the asking price for your property. The best ways to showcase the kitchen include:
-Replacing cabinet doors and hardware.
-Installing under-cabinet lighting.
-Replacing light fixtures.
-Replacing outdated shelving with pantry and cabinet organizers to maximize space.
-Baking cookies or cupcakes for a showing, to create a homey smell.

Tip #8: Stage Furniture
Furniture placement can enhance the space of your home while giving buyers an idea of how to best utilize the space with their own belongings. Take some time to rethink how different areas in your house could be used. Some ideas to think about include:
-Moving couches and chairs away from walls in your sitting and family rooms to create cozy conversational groups.
-Creating a reading corner in the master bedroom.
-Clearing an empty room to set up a reading space.
-Turning an awkward space into a home office.
-Setting the dining room table with your best china.
-Set wine glasses in front of the fireplace or next to a Jacuzzi tub.

Tip #9: Light Up the House
Create a sense of openness and cheerfulness in your home through its lighting. To improve the lighting try:
-Opening shades and drapes to let the sunshine warm and brighten rooms.
-Installing brighter light bulbs in rooms that tend to be dark.
-Adding additional lamps for ambient lighting.
-Turning on all the lights for a showing.

Tip #10: Add Fresh Touches
You can easily add color and style to your home by adding fresh touches throughout. Some ideas to consider include:
-Placing fresh floral arrangements in the entry and master bedroom.
-Placing bowls of bright-colored fruit in the family room and the kitchen.
-Filling an empty corner with a potted leafy plant.
-Setting new hand soap in the bathrooms.
-Displaying fresh towels near sinks.

Click here for more helpful tips for sellers.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tips to Getting Your Loan Modification Application Reviewed

Many homeowners seeking a loan modification to lower their monthly mortgage payments and avoid foreclosure continue to find the application process a very complex process, often causing them to give up before their application is ever reviewed by their mortgage company.

Certified housing counselors for CredAbility, a national nonprofit credit counseling and education agency, speak daily with hundreds of homeowners seeking a loan modification or other solutions to keep their homes. The organization has several tips for people that will help them increase the chances that their application is reviewed as quickly as possible.

A homeowner needs to collect and send several documents that tell the mortgage company why you need a modification, and it needs to be done in a timely, organized manner. Once a homeowner has submitted these documents, they need to stay in regular contact with the company. With hundreds of thousands of applications under consideration, homeowners must take matters into their own hands to make sure their application gets to the right person at the company.

Here are CredAbility's recommendations for homeowners seeking a loan modification:

Speak With a Nonprofit Housing Counselor to Understand Investor Rules for Your Loan. Every homeowner's mortgage loan is different, so don't rely on information you may have heard from your neighbor or your sister-in-law, even if they received a loan modification. For example, if your 30-year, fixed interest rate loan is owned by one investor, and your neighbor's is owned by another investor, the rules governing a loan modification may be quite different. A certified counselor at a nonprofit credit counseling agency can help you find the investor who owns your mortgage and determine your options.

Submit All Documents That Prove Your Current Income. Income verification is critical, but homeowners sometimes don't provide their mortgage company with recent documents. If you lost a job in June, don't provide pay stubs from March. In addition to recent pay stubs and other traditional income sources, homeowners should also provide a document called a "contribution letter." This letter explains the source of any household income that is not easily verified. For example, a servicer will want to know the total household income of a married couple, even if only one person's name is on the loan. The letter could also include income verifying that you have a roommate that pays rent.

Submit Current Bank Statements. Recent bank statements allow your mortgage company to verify your income and expenses. This information enables the mortgage company to see your monthly expenses for food, utilities and other expenses and determine whether you will have enough money to make your mortgage payment.

Mail Your Documents to the Mortgage Company. Many people prefer to send all of their documents by fax or scan their documents and send them via email. However, postal mail is usually more reliable, especially if it's addressed to the person you spoke with at the mortgage company. Faxes often get lost.

Label Each Page With Your Name and Loan Number. One of the most common complaints among homeowners is that the mortgage company loses their documents. You can help your own cause by writing your name and loan number on each page of every document.

Fully Explain Any Recent or Unique Income Changes. For example, a bank deposit may show various one-time transactions, such as an asset sale, cash gifts from family members or a bonus. Unless you explain this one-time increase in income, the servicer may not understand it and use this information to deny your loan modification.

Include a Timeline in Your Hardship Letter. Every application for a loan modification must include a "hardship letter" that explains the reasons for your request. But the letter must have specific dates explaining when an income loss has occurred. If your spouse lost her job on July 15 and your family income will decrease by $3,000 beginning in August, your letter needs to provide these details.

Call Your Mortgage Company Every Week. Many homeowners work extremely hard to submit all of their paperwork to the servicer - and then wait for weeks before picking up the telephone to call them about the status of their application. This is a mistake for several reasons: the person handling your application may quit; the application may be transferred to another person; the company may need more information. You get the picture.

Click here for more real estate news and advice.

For more mortgage and finance information, visit my website's mortgage center.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

12 Ways to Save Money on Homeowners Insurance

SHOP AROUND
Friends, family, the phone book and Internet are some of the sources you can use to find homeowners insurers. Get a wide range of prices from several companies. But don't consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer both a fair price and excellent service. Quality service may cost a bit more, but you buy insurance in case you need to make a claim, so it's important to get a company with a good reputation. Talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they give. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs. Check the financial ratings of the companies with AM Best or Standard and Poor's.

RAISE YOUR DEDUCTIBLE
Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay. Deductibles on homeowners policies typically start at $250. Increase your deductible to
$ 500 -- save up to 12 percent
$1,000 -- save up to 24 percent
$2,500 -- save up to 30 percent
$5,000 -- save up to 37 percent

BUY YOUR HOME AND AUTO POLICIES FROM THE SAME INSURER
Some companies that sell homeowners, auto and liability coverage will take 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them.

WHEN YOU BUY A HOME...
Consider how much insuring it will cost. A new home's electrical, heating and plumbing systems and overall structure are likely to be in better shape than those of an older house. Insurers may offer you a discount of 8 to 15 percent if your house is new. Check the home's construction: In the East brick is better, because of its resistance to wind damage, and in the West frame is better, because of its resistance to earthquake damage. Choosing wisely could cut your premium by 5 to 15 percent. Avoiding areas that are prone to floods can save you about $400 a year for flood insurance. Homeowners insurance does not cover flood-related damage. The closer your house is to firefighters and their equipment, the lower your premium will be.

INSURE YOUR HOUSE, NOT THE LAND
The land under your house isn't at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your homeowners policy. So don't include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. If you do, you'll pay a higher premium than you should.

IMPROVE YOUR HOME SECURITY AND SAFETY
You can usually get discounts of at least 5 percent for a smoke detector, burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks. Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police station or other monitoring facility. These systems aren't cheap and not every system qualifies for the discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind your insurer recommends and how much the device would cost and how much you'd save on premiums.

STOP SMOKING
Smoking accounts for more than 23,000 residential fires a year. That's why some insurers offer to reduce premiums if all the residents in a house don't smoke.

SEEK OUT DISCOUNTS FOR SENIORS
Retired people stay at home more and spot fires sooner than working people and have more time for maintaining their homes. If you're at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies.

SEE IF YOU CAN GET GROUP COVERAGE
Alumni and business associations often work out an insurance package with an insurance company, which includes a discount for association members. Ask your association's director if an insurer is offering a discount on homeowners insurance to you and your fellow graduates or colleagues.

STAY WITH AN INSURER
If you've kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive special consideration. Several insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for 3 to 5 years; by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for 6 years or more.

COMPARE THE LIMITS IN YOUR POLICY TO THE VALUE OF YOUR POSSESSIONS AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR
You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home. But you don't want to spend money for coverage you don't need.

LOOK FOR PRIVATE INSURANCE FIRST
If you live in a high-risk area, one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms, fires, or crime, and have been buying your homeowners insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or company representative. You may find that there are steps you can take that would allow you to buy insurance at a lower price in the private market.

Visit my website for more helpful Home Buyer Tips.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

FHA Giving Buyers Until October 4th

View ImageThe Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is giving homeowners and buyers until October 4 to lock in a low monthly insurance premium. After October 4, the monthly insurance premiums on FHA loans will increase by over 63%.

What does this mean for home buyers?
A home buyer purchasing a $200,000 home using a $193,000 FHA mortgage before October 4 would pay an insurance premium of $88.46 per month. If the same home buyer waits until after October 4, the insurance premium would jump to $148.01.

Although the upfront mortgage insurance premium is going down after October 4, the long term impact to the home buyer is actually a net increase in their out of pocket costs because the monthly premium is going up by 63%. Sellers can pay the upfront premium or it can be financed into the loan amount, so homebuyers rarely pay the upfront premium out of pocket. On the other hand, the increase in the monthly premiums will be paid right out of the home buyer's pocket with their mortgage payment each month.

Home buyers in a home short term may actually benefit
Ironically, home buyers who plan to be in the mortgage for less than three years and decide to pay the upfront fee themselves (instead of having the seller pay it for them), may actually save money by waiting until after October 4 to apply for an FHA loan.

The upfront premium will be reduced to 1% from 2.25%. This change will impact over 30% of the home buyers in today's market who use FHA-insured financing.

For more current real estate news click here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fed Giving Borrowers Time to Change Their Minds

The Federal Reserve released a proposal earlier this week to give mortgage applicants three days to change their minds.

The proposal was part of a 930-page document that clarifies and finalizes the new financial reform law.

The Fed's document says that for closed-end loans secured by real property or a dwelling, a creditor must:

  • "Refund any appraisal or other fees paid by the consumer (other than a credit report fee), if the consumer decides not to proceed with a closed-end mortgage transaction within three business days of receiving the early disclosures (fees imposed after this three-day period would not be refundable); and

  • "Disclose the right to a refund of fees to consumers before they apply for a closed-end mortgage loan."

The Fed says this proposal will make it easier and cheaper for consumers to comparison shop. It also acknowledged that borrowers who want to close a transaction in a hurry would be handicapped because most lenders will delay sending out an appraiser for a few days.

Other proposals affecting home buyers included:

  • A ban on yield-spread premiums, which encourage mortgage brokers to push buyers toward more profitable mortgages.

  • A requirement for lenders to tell borrowers when their mortgage is sold or transferred.

  • An explanation of the effects of balloon payments, adjustable loan payment fluctuations, and minimum payments on loan balances.

For more daily Real Estate News, visit my website.

5 Reasons Why Now is a Great Time to Buy

The economy is stabilizing. Home prices are holding. It's not just as good a time as ever to buy a house. It's one of the best times ever.

ForSaleByOwner.com presents five overlooked reasons why now is a great time to buy a house.

1. Low mortgage rates serve as an equity shock absorber. When buyers borrow at today's record-low rates, they start building equity as soon as they close. That means they have a little give to absorb a few ups and downs as the still-recovering housing market gains traction.

2. Houses are in move-in condition. Homeowners have continued to spend on maintenance and repair, according to the Harvard Joint Center on Housing. Homeowners who have been holding back kept their houses in good shape while they waited. As those houses enter the market, they are in marked contrast to tattered foreclosures.

3. Terrific houses are coming on the market. Foreclosures are finally starting to clear the system - and this is just the opportunity that owners of many desirable properties have been waiting for.

4. Appraisal regulations are finally aligned with market realities. Fannie Mae has adjusted its appraisal guidelines...again. Now that appraisers have more flexibility to set values that reflect the current market, today's deals will make it over the finish line.

5. Plenty of programs. Homes are more affordable than they have been for years, but communities have stuck by "workforce housing" programs that encourage middle-class families to buy houses. Buyers who qualify can get a big boost by combining one of these programs with today's low mortgage rates.

Click here for more helpful Tips for Home Buyers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Making Moving Easier

View ImageWhether you're planning a move across town or across the country, making your move hassle-free is what it is all about. Besides the traditional garage sale and packing of boxes, there are a few details you won't want to forget before you begin loading the truck:

Plan Ahead

Experts recommend scheduling moves at least one month in advance, especially during the peak-moving season between May and September. Some estimates indicate 80 percent of all moving and storage business is done when schools are out. That's when employees are most likely to be transferred.

Ask Questions

Take the time to get as much information as possible from moving companies before selecting one. Check on truck size and availability. Ask about moving supplies, such as boxes, dollies and furniture pads. Find out about protection plans for your possessions. Ask about lost or damaged property claim procedures. Determine price differences in packing the truck yourself or having it professionally packed. Get estimates.

Save Your Receipts

Many of your moving expenses are tax deductible, so hang onto your receipts. Consult with your tax advisor to find out what is deductible, or call the Internal Revenue Service and request Publication 521: "Tax Information On Moving Expenses" to find out which moving expenses are deductible.

Collect Documents

If you're moving out of the area, you'll need to gather your family's personal records. Remember to get your medical and dental records, school transcripts, legal documents, titles, bank records, tax returns, stocks and bonds certificates, birth certificates, passports and insurance documents. Be sure to empty your safe deposit box.

I am excited to provide my clients with complimentary move management services! If you are moving long distance, across state lines or internationally I can provide you with FREE access to the Move Advocate. Click here for more information!


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sellers ~ Create a Lasting First Impression

As the summer buying and selling season is nearing its end, it is even more important to create a lasting first impression with potential buyers. Here are 8 simple tips that will help your home stand out from the crowd.

Clean up the yard. Curb appeal is so important. Many buyers will drive by a home and determine if they want to take the time to see the inside. Cut back overgrown shrubs, particularly those that obscure windows or make it difficult to get to the front door. Mow the grass, rake or pick up downed leaves and branches, put away lawn tools, kids' toys and discard or store any outdoor furniture that is rusty or ragged. Plant colorful annuals or put a few nicely planted containers on or near the front porch.

Open the drapes and blinds. Sunshine is the world's best decorator and nothing is more depressing than walking into a home where shades, curtains and drapes are closed.

Wash the windows
- inside and out. For the same reasons as above, no other small improvement will give you more bang than this.

Clutter Control. De-cluttering and organizing your home is very important and not just to make the place look neat. A cluttered home looks smaller and less airy. All of the pictures, knick-knacks, even an exquisite art collection are distracting to many buyers.

Clean your kitchen and bathrooms - Be sure to pay attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. The kitchen may be old but it can still sparkle. Clean the stovetop with a good degreaser and all countertops to remove stains and discoloration. Wash the front of all cupboards and appliances and keep the floor swept and scrubbed for as long as the home is on the market. De-clutter here too, especially the refrigerator door. Ditch countertop appliances, canisters, etc and keep cupboard doors and drawers closed if your hand is not actually in them. It is critical that the bathrooms sparkle. Old bathrooms can be charming and a new shower curtain or fresh flowers on the counter may be all you need. Put out your best towels and, if you have young children, enforce the flush rule.

Refinish hardwood floors.
These are a major selling point when selling your home and sometimes a home's most compelling feature. Often they don't need complete refinishing, just to be roughed up and polyurethaned to obtain that killer shine.

Paint/Repaint Your Home.
If your taste in decorating is a bit strong, it may pay to hire a professional to tone down some of the more dramatic color rooms. Neutral colors are best for marketing your home for sale.

Buy, borrow or rent what you need
. If your furniture shows the effect of raising five kids or if pets have ruined the rugs and upholstery, think about storing or getting rid of your existing furniture and finding just enough more attractive stuff to get by. If your nest is empty and the kids' rooms are beaten up, throw out the furniture, give the walls a quick wash coat of paint and put one or two small flea market pieces - a hobby horse, a bean-bag chair, the old bassinette from the attic - in the room to merely suggest its use.

Visit my website for more helpful Home Seller Tips.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Need a Portable Storage Unit?

Portable storage units for moving and storage have increased in availability and popularity in recent years. Portable storage units are a great alternative to traditional self storage and are perfect for a home remodeling project.

Consider a portable storage unit the next time you need to do any of the following:

Getting Rid of Clutter - Whether selling your home or hosting family for extended visits - a storage unit lets you temporarily store non-essential stuff and declutter your living space.

Consolidating - Use a storage unit to store extra furniture or boxes when downsizing a home or office. Take your time in deciding what to do with your extra stuff.

Moving - Take your time packing and unpacking, without the hassle of a moving van. After you load the storage unit, 1-800-PACK-RAT moves it to your new home or office.

Renovations - Protect your belongings during repairs or upgrades. A storage unit helps you keep your furniture, electronics and other valuables safe and out of the way, so you can reclaim space from intrusive home renovations.

Salvaging - Speed recovery from fire or water damage with a delivered storage unit. Store salvaged items on-site so you can get to them while work is being done, or let 1-800-PACK-RAT store them in a secure, climate-controlled warehouse.

Archiving - Make record retention a cinch with a storage unit delivered right to your office. We bring it back on a regular basis so you can add new records or search for needed paperwork. Special rates help make long-term record storage affordable.

Visit my website to get $50 OFF Local Storage or Moving Rentals or 10% OFF Long Distance Moving.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rural Development Funding Passed by Senate

The restoration of the ingle-family rural housing program that would guarantee home loans for rural buyers was passed by the Senate this week and is on its way to President Obama.

Rural Development's Single Family Housing Programs provide homeownership opportunities to low- and moderate-income rural Americans through several loan, grant, and loan guarantee programs. The programs also make funding available to individuals to finance vital improvements necessary to make their homes decent, safe, and sanitary.

This is great news for home buyers who want to buy a home while the rates and prices are still low. And it is a huge relief for thousands of rural home buyers who need to close on their home purchases before Sept. 30 to take advantage of the home buyer tax.

To learn more about a USDA home loan program, click here.

Visit my website's Mortgage Center for more helpful mortgage loan information.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tips to Reduce Your Closing Costs & Fees

With home mortgage rates at historic lows, many people are eager to refinance their current mortgage loan to lock in a low rate. Existing home owners with adjustable rate mortgage may never get a better time to refinance out of their current mortgage and into a more conservative and consistent 15 or even 30 year mortgage loan.

When deciding to refinance a home mortgage, be sure to understand the refinancing costs associated with doing so and then try to limit them as much as possible.

Refinancing an existing mortgage is very similar to securing an initial mortgage. In fact, your new mortgage will be used to pay off your existing one, so it is just like buying your home all over again. There are certain costs associated with a refinancing, just as there was when the original mortgage was secured.

Closing costs such as broker fees, appraisal fees, title search, inspections and various administrative fees are all part of the fee structure associated with a mortgage refinance. To reduce your closing costs and any other mortgage-related fees, ConsumerLoansDirectory.com offers the following tips:

Try to refinance with your existing lender. They will want to keep your business and if they know you are looking to refinance, they will be motivated to offer the lowest rate possible and reduce your fees to keep you onboard with them.

Take a look at your credit report to ensure there are no issues you are unaware of that might detract from you score. A high score will help you secure the lowest possible interest rate and this could save you thousands over the term of your loan.

Do not hesitate to negotiate your fees. Many mortgage-related fees are controlled by the mortgage company so they have the ability to lower them. Administration fees are especially easy to get waved or reduced.

Avoid having your closing costs included in your loan balance. Sure, this is a great way to avoid them altogether but the reality is that you will by paying for them each month during the length of your loan and with interest included, you will end up paying a lot more in the long-run than if you had just paid them out of pocket upfront.

Visit my website's Mortgage Center for more helpful mortgage loan information.

Visit my website www.CristinaTheREALTOR.com for your online real estate needs!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mortgage Rates Hit Record Low

Mortgage rates fell for the 10th time in the last 13 weeks, tying a record low. Now, if only the economy would cooperate, even more people could take advantage of the low rates by refinancing.

Mortgage brokers are reporting rising interest in home refinancings as rates on a 30-year fixed loans have hit record lows in four of the past five weeks. This week the average rate fell to 4.56 percent, the lowest since mortgage company Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971.

Lower mortgage rates improve affordability: The difference between a 6% and a 5% mortgage rate on a $300,000 mortgage, for example, is about $188 a month.

And it's not just 30-year fixed loans. The rate on the 15-year fixed loan, a popular choice for refinancing, dropped to 4.03 percent from 4.06 percent last week. That was the lowest on records dating back to 1991.

What a great time to buy! With housing prices still low and rates like this, buying a home makes much more sense than renting.

Visit my website's Mortgage Center for more helpful mortgage loan information.

Visit my website www.CristinaTheREALTOR.com for your online real estate needs!

Friday, July 16, 2010

What Borrowers Should Know About FHA Loans

FHA Pros, LLC, a national FHA condo approval service, has developed a list of facts speaking to the top misconceptions associated with FHA loans in order to help home buyers better navigate an already confusing market. FHA loans are mortgages issued by qualified lenders and insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

In the last three years, home buyer interest in FHA loans has gone from practically zero to upwards of 87 percent. However, many buyers still do not fully understand the benefits of these loans. So, in an effort to change that, here are seven things you should know:

1. FHA Loans Are Not Only For Lower-Income Borrowers. FHA loans are available to everyone. There is no maximum income restriction associated with FHA loans. Borrowers do need to substantiate income and assets by submitting proper documentation. This requirement ensures that borrowers are truly able to afford their future homes.

2. FHA Loans Are Not Only For First-Time Buyers. Many people believe FHA loans are available only to first-time homebuyers. This is not the case. Whether borrowers are making their first home purchase or their fifth, they can look to FHA loans as a home financing option.

3. FHA Loans Are Not Just Small Loans. In Fact, Loan Amounts Can Be As High As Almost $800,000. The government recently raised the maximum loan amount from its original cap of $362,790 to $793,750 as a way to help stabilize the housing market. The amount a buyer can borrow varies from county to county. Later this summer, condo buyers interested in FHA loans can visit www.checkfhaapproval.com to instantly identify FHA-approved condo associations and review maximum loan amounts for a given location.

4. FHA Loans Are Not Affiliated With The Section 8 Housing Program. While both programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), FHA loans have nothing to do with low-income subsidized housing. FHA loans are simply mortgages insured by FHA. This insurance provided by the federal government allows lenders to lend more freely by assuring them that they will be repaid in the event of default. Most traditional lenders are able to provide FHA loans to their customers.

5. FHA Loans Are Often More Affordable Than Conventional Loans. While FHA loans typically offer the same interest rates as other loans, borrowers benefit from a much lower down payment of as low as 3.5 percent.

6. FHA-Approved Condo Developments Are More Desirable To Buyers. With 87 percent of home buyers indicating that they plan to use FHA loans, condo associations that are not FHA approved are missing out on a significant pool of prospective buyers. Under rules in place since February 2010, an entire condominium development must now apply to HUD and be granted FHA approval before a buyer can purchase a unit in an association with an FHA loan or before an existing unit owner can refinance into an FHA loan.

Due to the general unwillingness of today's lenders to extend credit with respect to conventional loans, many borrowers find that FHA is their best bet. Lenders don't mind lending when the federal government (FHA) assures them of repayment.

Homeowners associations (HOAs) should note that although FHA-insured mortgages might be easier to obtain, they are not "risky" loans, due in large part to the strict "full documentation" requirements placed on borrowers.

Individual buyers or sellers can initiate the approval process or current owners can encourage their HOA to apply. More information about the FHA- approval process is available at www.getfhaapproval.com.

7. FHA Loans Are Assumable. In addition to lower down-payment and credit-qualifying requirements as compared to conventional loans, FHA loans are assumable. This means that when a seller with an FHA loan sells his or her property, the loan and its financing terms (interest rate) can be transferred to the new buyer. This unique feature will certainly make a property more valuable in times of rising interest rates.

Visit my website's Mortgage Center for more helpful mortgage loan information.

Visit my website www.CristinaTheREALTOR.com for your online real estate needs!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Make Room for Golf Balls

Some great words of advice that we all should try to remember...

When things in your life seem almost too much

When 24 hours in a day is not enough

Just remember the mayonnaise jar.

A professor stood before his philosophy class with some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large, empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

Then the professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous yes.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided. "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things-family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full."

"The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff."

If you put the sand into the jar first, he continued, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

"If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

"So. . . pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner."

"There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lawn Care Tips for the Summer Season

With all of this HOT weather, I think it is safe to say that summer is officially here! Along with summer comes weeds, bugs and more time needed to tend to your lawn.

Here are some ways you can make the most of the season with these summer lawn care tips:

1. Water conservation and proper watering is important at any time of year, but particularly when heat and a lack of rain lead to water deficits and drought.

2. Evaluate your lawn regularly for signs of irregular color and texture. These can be signs of damage that may result from pests or disease.

3. Proper year-round lawn care keeps a lawn healthy and prevents weeds, disease and pests. But sometimes, insects you may not notice can travel from the yard to your home. To stop them, hire pest control to keep the bugs on the outside. You can also reduce their outside presence by treating the lawn for insects such as fleas and ticks and fire ants.

4. While lawns are generally the focal point of most yards, don't forget about trees and shrubs. Well-maintained landscaping adds dimensionality to a home and increases its value.

5. Stay safe! In the heat of the summer you may be tempted to mow your lawn in shorts and flip flops, but remember, you should wear long pants and closed-toed shoes.

6. Stay Hydrated! No matter what outdoor activity you're enjoying, be sure drink plenty of water.

7. The essentials of good summer lawn care are watering, fertilizing and proper mowing. However, sometimes an underlying problem (such as bare spots or severely damaged turf) requires additional measures.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Should You Rent or Buy?

Interest rates are at all-time lows, there are lots of houses to choose from and prices are incredibley low. It is so tempting to buy right now. But is the timing right for you?

As a first-time home buyer, there is a lot to consider when making the decision to rent or buy a home. Potential buyers should ask themselves several key questions before making this important decision:

1. What will monthly costs be and can I afford the payments?
Keeping mortgage payments under 30 percent of your monthly income is a good rule of thumb. If you can't keep mortgage payments below that, you may be better off renting for awhile.

2. What other debt do I have?
Total rent or mortgage payments plus credit obligations should not exceed 35 to 40 percent of monthly income.

3. What is my credit score? Can I qualify for a good interest rate?
A high credit score indicates strong creditworthiness, and that qualifies you for better interest rates on a mortgage. Maxing out on your credit lines and paying bills late will lower your credit score. The impact of a credit score on interest rates can be significant. For instance, a borrower with a score of 760 could pay nearly two percentage points less in interest on a mortgage than someone with a score of 620. Lower interest rates also mean lower monthly payments. If your credit score is low, you may want to delay buying a home until you can improve your score.

4. How much will taxes, monthly maintenance, or other fees cost?
Owning a home means you'll have to pay real estate taxes and other costs like insurance and maintenance. On the other hand, owning a home brings big tax savings at the end of the year. As a renter, the owner pays those costs for you.

5. How many years will I stay here?
Generally, the longer you plan to live someplace, the more it makes sense to buy. You'll build equity in your house and its value is likely to increase over the years.

For more helpful Buyer Tips, visit my website at www.CristinaTheRealtor.com

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What's More Important ~ Low Rates or Tax Credit?

Although 90 percent of consumers believe that the tax credits have helped both first-time home buyers and the U.S. housing market overall, many home buyers feel that mortgage rates have a greater impact on their purchasing decisions.

In a recent survey by Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services, an overwhelming majority of those polled found that when factoring in either low interest rates or the tax credit, low rates were far more important in a decision to purchase a home now.

There's a good reason for this statistic. For example, if you purchase a home for $300,000 and finance $270,000, and your interest rate for a 30-year fixed rate loan was 5.25% versus 4.75%, you would pay nearly $30,000 more over the term of the loan. This is a significant amount of money!

Since the Fed's Mortgage Backed Securities purchase program ended on March 31, there has been much volatility and price swings in the markets. Rates overall are off their lows and are often quoted above 5.00% today with no points.

Looked at from another perspective, if prospective home buyers are waiting for home prices to decline a bit more before purchasing a home, but interest rates push higher towards 6.00% in the meantime, waiting could well cost those home buyers more money in the long run.

In fact, let's say a home buyer delays a transaction but receives a $10,000 reduction off that $300,000 home. If, in the meantime, rates were to rise .75% to 6.00% and the buyer financed 90% of the purchase price, the amount of total payments over a 30-year term would be over $35,000 more than paying the $300,000 purchase price and the 5.25% interest rate.

So, remember, just because the tax credit programs have ended doesn't mean that isn't a good to buy!

For useful mortgage tools and information visit my mortgage center.

Friday, July 2, 2010

How to Get Your Extended Home Buyer Tax Credit

You've decided to purchase a home and take advantage of the Extended Home Buyer Tax Credit. Here's what you have to do to get your benefit:

  1. Close on your home purchase between November 7, 2009 and April 30, 2010, or have a binding written contract in place by April 30, 2010 with a closing date no later than September 30, 2010 (original date was June 30, 2010).
  2. Decide whether to:
    • apply the credit to your 2009 tax return, filed on or before April 15, 2010;
    • file an amended 2009 return; or,
    • apply the credit on your 2010 return, filed on or before April 15, 2011
  3. Attach documentation of purchase to your return.

Documentation of Purchase

For more information on claiming the credit and on the documentation required for your 2009 or 2010 returns, see the IRS's First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit Questions and Answers.

When to Apply the Credit

Buyers purchasing homes on or before December 31, 2009 may claim the credit on their 2009 tax returns.

Buyers purchasing in 2010 will have the option to:

  • Claim the credit on their 2009 return, even if the purchase is completed after December 31, 2009;
  • File an amended return for 2009 if their purchase is completed after April 15, 2010; or,
  • Claim the credit on their 2010 tax returns.

Applying the Credit to Your 2009 Taxes

You will need to do three things to claim the credit on your 2009 tax return:

  1. Fill out Form 5405 to determine the amount of your available credit;
  2. Apply the credit when you file your 2009 tax return or file an amended return;
  3. Attach documentation of purchase to your return or amended return.

If you have specific questions or need additional information, please contact a tax professional or the Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-1040.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Home Buyer Tax Credit.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Condo

You've found the perfect condo and you're ready to make an offer. Before you move too quickly you should do some homework. Here are the seven most important questions you need to ask before buying a condo:

1. "What Are People Complaining About?"
Take a look at the minutes of the condo association board meetings to see what the owners have been griping about. If everyone was complaining about the faulty plumbing or the gardener's absence, you know that the complex is having management difficulties. Even if there aren't any complaints, reading the minutes will reveal the sorts of projects that are under way at the complex -- projects the seller may have neglected to mention.

2. "Who's Been Naughty and Who's Been Nice?"
Find out the delinquency rates of present owners. If people aren't paying their association dues on time, that is either a sign of discontent or an indication that the association might be underfunded.

3. "How Much Is In the Repair Fund?"
Ask if the community has done a reserve-fund review in the past five years. Lester Giese, the author of The 99 Best Residential & Recreational Communities in America, recommends the following formula: If the complex is one to 10 years old, the reserve fund should have 10% of the cost of replaceable items (roofs, roads, tennis courts, etc.). Between 10 and 20 years old, the repair fund should be at 25% to 30%. At 20 years, that amount should be 50% or above. Residents who brag that they don't pay much in maintenance may be in a complex that either is not being kept up well or is living beyond its means.

4. "Can You Cover Me?"
If you look at nothing else, get a copy of the certificate of insurance, which is a summary of the association's policy. First see if the replacement costs covered by the policy are an accurate estimate of the cost of rebuilding. Then make sure that the policy has a building-ordinance clause, which means that the insurance will cover the cost of bringing the building up to code if there is any rebuilding to be done. On older buildings, there may have been many code upgrades since the time of construction. Finally, make sure that you understand exactly what the association policy covers and what you are responsible for. The smart condo owner will insure his or her personal belongings, along with any other items within the unit that are not covered by the association's policy. If you have trouble understanding the insurance lingo, take the insurance certificate to an agent whom you trust and who understands the state laws.

5. "Does the Association Present Any Legal Problems?"
Buying a single-family home without a lawyer is no big deal for many people. But with a condo, there's so much more involved. Contact a local real estate lawyer and have him or her go over the bylaws of the association. Do they make sense? Are they consistent with the state laws? Giese, the author, once found that the association bylaws of a large garden-style condo complex had been lifted from the books of a high-rise condo, leaving confused tenants with rules about shared hallway space and the correct use of garbage chutes. Benny Kass, a Washington real estate attorney, recommends that you also have your lawyer screen the association at the local courthouse, to see if any owners have filed suit against it.

6. "Is the Complex Renter-Friendly?"
If the renter population is over 10%, there should be clear rental policies, either listed in the bylaws or tacked on as an amendment. Does the management company find renters for you? If so, do they get enough good renters? Ask other tenants about their experience. In addition, ask to see the association's rental lease, and have a real estate lawyer look it over. Keep one thing in mind, though: An association can change its bylaws to prohibit or restrict renting at any time. The more owners who rent, the less chance that will happen.

7. "Am I My Community's Keeper?"
Watch out for a condo whose owners manage the place themselves. Although many are operated efficiently, self-management can lead to more hassles for owners -- especially those who live thousands of miles away. If the complex is professionally managed, check out the management company as thoroughly as you check out the association. Ask other owners. Ask people in nearby buildings. And be sure to interview the day-to-day manager directly. If you hook up with a bad manager, you can be sure of this: Your dream condo will keep you up at night.

 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

CONGRESS PASSES TAX CREDIT CLOSING DATE EXTENSION!!!

The US Senate voted unanimously to extend the tax credit closing date and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to September 30.

According to the National Association of REALTORS, "After a close brush with the deadline, Congress has passed an extension of the Homebuyer Tax Credit closing deadline, the Homebuyer Assistance and Improvement Act (H.R. 5623)".

The extension applies only to transactions that have ratified contracts in place as of April 30, 2010 that have not yet closed. The legislation is designed to create a seamless extension - the new closing deadline for eligible transactions is now September 30, 2010.

This will allow transactions to move forward. The bill is retroactive and covers the lapse period from June 1, 2010 to the date of enactment of the extension.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

180,000 to Lose Tax Credit if No Extension

Up to 180,000 home buyers will lose their tax credit through no fault of their own if Congress fails to pass an extension to the home buyer tax credit by June 30 when the closing deadline expires.

According to estimates by the National Association of REALTORS® there are home buyers in every state of the union that will be impacted, from 390 in Wyoming to 17,700 in California.

These are not buyers who just entered into the market. These are buyers who previously met all the qualifications for the tax credit, but find themselves at the mercy of a workflow jam with lenders or other delays such as lapses in the National Flood Insurance Program, Rural Housing Service, and new home construction, and might not be able to complete the purchase of their homes by the current deadline.

NAR issued the following state-by-state estimate of the number of home sales that would be delayed beyond the June 30 deadline (numbers are rounded to the nearest 10):

Alabama, 2,590; Alaska, 830; Arizona, 5,440; Arkansas, 2,090; California, 17,700; Colorado, 3,390; Connecticut, 1,770; Delaware, 400; District of Columbia, 300; Florida, 14,830; Georgia, 6,270; Hawaii, 710; Idaho, 1,270; Illinois, 7,030; Indiana, 3,560; Iowa, 2, 030; Kansas, 1,840; Kentucky, 2,540; Louisiana,1,800; Maine, 840; Maryland, 2,630; Massachusetts, 3,930; Michigan, 6,470; Minnesota, 3,760; Mississippi, 1,530; Missouri, 3,600; Montana, 760; Nebraska, 1,110; Nevada, 3,800; New Hampshire, 690; New Jersey, 4,300; New Mexico, 1,160; New York, 9,190; North Carolina, 4,890; North Dakota, 460; Ohio, 8,510; Oklahoma, 2,760; Oregon, 2,090; Pennsylvania, 5,830; Rhode Island, 500; South Carolina, 2,460; South Dakota, 500; Tennessee, 3,910; Texas, 15,340; Utah, 1,130; Vermont, 400; Virginia, 3,890; Washington, 3,190; West Virginia, 940; Wisconsin, 2,690; and Wyoming, 390.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rates at an All-Time Low!

Rates are at an all-time low! This is great news for anyone who has yet to refinance to take advantage of the lowest rates ever recorded, or to purchase that new home or investment property more affordably than ever before.

Both 30 Year and 15 Year Fixed Rates clipped down to their lowest levels. All this is incredible as just months ago, many experts had anticipated that rates would be well above 5% this summer and on their way to 6% by year end.


Visit my website's Mortgage Center for more helpful credit information.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

TAX CREDIT CLOSING EXTENSION

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate approved a three-month extension to the tax credit closing deadline, which would give buyers until Sept. 30 to close. It is not completely final since it is attached to another bill that still has to be passed by the House.

The extension would apply only to buyers who met the April 30 deadline to have signed purchase contracts. NAR estimates up to 180,000 buyers who were hoping to close by June 30 and get the tax credit are likely to miss the current deadline, so the extension is essential.

Friday, May 28, 2010

RD Has Funds!!!

Rural Development has received additional Guaranteed Single-Family Housing Loan funds in the amount of $2.5 billion.

They are able to begin to issue Conditional Commitments on loans subject to the availability of funds as follows:
  • The guarantee fee for purchase transactions will be 3.5 percent
  • The guarantee fee for refinance transactions will be 2.25 percent
If have any buyers who have been waiting for it to come back, it's time to start shopping again!!!

Click here for more detailed information.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hope for USDA Rural Development

Earlier this week, the US House of Representatives passed the Rural Housing Preservation and Stabilization Act of 2010 (HR 5017). Through this legislation, the guarantee fee in the USDA Guaranteed Rural Housing (GRH) Program may be raised to offset any need for Congressional Appropriations (Currently we believe to 3.5%).

Additionally, HR 5017 would authorize USDA Rural Development to guarantee up to $30 billion in loans in Fiscal 2010. This would represent an $18 billion in loan making authority for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Before these changes can be implemented, similar legislative action will need to occur in the US Senate.

Following the action in the House, the USDA Rural Development National Office sent an announcement that stated “Depending on Congressional activity with the proposed legislation it is possible that the Agency may consider issuing additional commitments.”

We're getting closer!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

USDA Funding May NOT Run Out

Yesterday, the Kanjorski bill (HR 5017) passed unanimously in the House Financial Services Committee and we anticipate that it will be voted on by the Full House of Representatives early next week.
HR 5017 is a bill aimed at supporting the rural housing market that has struggled to get passed. Also known as the Rural Housing Preservation and Stabilization Act of 2010, it will end the current method of using federal funding to backstop the guarantee and instead will fund the program through mandatory fees.

HR 5017 ensures rural homebuyers access to affordable loans through USDA, but because these loans have tripled since 2006, federal funding will be running out literally in the next few days, making passage critical.

Rep. Barney Frank, who is a big supporter of the program, expressed his concern that the program was going to run out of funding by the end of the month, and said that he was going to do everything possible to expedite the bill so that would not happen.

In order to pay for the program, lenders will pay up to a 4% fee on new home mortgages. There was an amendment removing the provision for the monthly mortgage insurance, and it appears that the authorization ceiling has remained at $30,000,000 for the balance of the year. The new guarantee fee would be 3.5% for these new funds (currently, it is 2%).

Next, the bill moves to a House vote. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

4 Energy-Efficient Renovations Homeowners Should Consider

Homeowners should be proactive in making energy-efficient home renovations in order to receive the rebates outlined in President Obama’s new “Home Star Retrofit Rebate” program, recently introduced in Congress. If passed, the proposed $6 billion program could reduce energy costs for middle-class families by hundreds of dollars a year.

Here ios an easy check-up list every homeowner can do to optimize the energy efficiency of their home:

Windows and Doors
Holes in windows and doors allow conditioned air to leak from your home and allow outdoor air to infiltrate, which can tax your heating and cooling systems and raise your energy bills. Caulk around windows and doors where there are gaps. Also caulk areas where plumbing lines or electrical wiring extend to the exterior of the home.

Floor and Wall Insulation
Insulation acts as a barrier to heat movement and helps keep any home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter—all while using less energy. Making sure insulation is used at potential gaps such as around an attic stairway or over the attic access door is important as well.

Shedding a Little Light on a Simple Solution
By replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, you can use up to 75% less energy on lighting alone. A wide assortment of CFLs is now available for almost any type fixture found in a home.

Appliances and HVAC Systems
Your major household appliances are a good place to focus on to make your home more eco-friendly. Start by changing the filters of your HVAC systems regularly and consider upgrading older appliances to take advantage of newer, more efficient designs.

Buy a Programmable Thermostat
This energy-saving step can have a positive and noticeable impact right away. Programmable thermostats are fairly easy to install and once they are set up a homeowner can adjust them as the weather changes. For every degree that a thermostat is set back, you may realize a savings between 1-3% on your heating or cooling bills.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

US Plan to Streamline & Simplify Short Sales

The U.S. Treasury plan to help homeowners avoid foreclosure potentially applies to 75 percent of the mortgages in the U.S., including those backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae (those two organizations are currently devising guidelines). The plan, which provides incentives for lenders and homeowners for completing Short Sales, is many-faceted:
  • It provides incentives to lenders and borrowers for completing Short Sales
  • It streamlines and standardizes the documentation necessary for Short Sales
  • It limits the ability of subordinate lien-holders to obstruct the Short Sales process
  • It sets limits on the time it takes lenders to approve or reject Short Sales requests
  • It steps up pressure on lenders to make permanent the 650,000 trial loan modifications they started earlier in 2009

Incentives to Borrowers

Under the plan, borrowers who complete a Short Sale are released from all mortgage debt. Additionally, they receive $1,500 for moving expenses.

Incentives for Lenders

The plan provides for payments of $1,000 to mortgage servicers and investors for completing a Short Sale - or a deed-in-lieu transaction, in which the deed is simply turned over to the lender.

Standardized Documentation

The program will publish streamlined and standardized documentation for Short Sales, including a Short Sale Agreement and Offer Acceptance Letter. Creating one standard set of documents will minimize the complexity of Short Sales, which should significantly increase use of the optionn.

Payments Capped to Subordinate Lien-Holders

Some holders of second mortgages have blocked Short Sales by requiring payment in exchange for releasing their claim. Under the plan, subordinate lien-holders as a group can receive no more than $3,000 from proceeds of the sale.

Time Limits for Short Sales

Lenders will have only 10 days to approve or reject a Short Sale - a significant step, since the process often takes so long to complete that the transaction falls through. Borrowers will be allowed at least 90 days to market and sell their home, with the possibility of additional time based on local market conditions. Marketing can run at the same time as the foreclosure process, but no foreclosure can take place during the marketing period as long as the borrower is acting in good faith to sell the property.

Many real estate agents have undergone extensive training to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. If you've fallen behind in your mortgage payments or received a pre-foreclosure letter from your lender, a real estate professional can help. Try to select a real estate agent with a Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) or Short Sales and Foreclosures Resource (SFR) designation to ensure their level of expertise.

Friday, March 19, 2010

U.S. Plan to Help Homeowners Avoid Foreclosure

Homeowners across the United States who are undergoing financial hardship could avoid foreclosure under a plan announced on Nov. 30 by the U.S. Treasury Department. Under the plan, millions of at-risk homeowners could be free of mortgage debt without going through foreclosure, and given $1,500 for relocation.

The Treasury plan, which potentially applies to 75 percent of the mortgages in the U.S., including those backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae (those two organizations are currently devising guidelines), provides incentives for lenders and homeowners for completing Short Sales – transactions in which the lender agrees to a sale price that's less than the borrower owes on the mortgage. Short Sales are preferred to foreclosure because homeowners take less of a hit on their credit and lenders realize a smaller loss.

However, Short Sales often get bogged down because of the complicated nature of the transaction. Deals can fall through because they take too long. Buyers are discouraged with the extended short sale process, which frequently results in foreclosures that could have been prevented.

On April 5, 2010, the U.S. government will implement the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA). Part of the Home Affordable Modification Program, HAFA helps home owners who are unable to retain their home under HAMP by simplifying and streamlining the use of short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosures. The official effective date of the plan is April 5, 2010, but participating mortgage servicers can begin operating under the terms of the program before then if they are ready to meet all reporting requirements.

Under the plan, which speeds up and simplifies the Short Sale process, mortgage servicers have 10 days to approve or reject a request for a Short Sale. And when the sale is done, the borrower must be fully released from the debt.

Many real estate agents have been through extensive training to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. If you've fallen behind in your mortgage payments or received a pre-foreclosure letter from your lender, contact a real estate agent with a Certified Distressed Properties Expert designation today.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Buy Now ~ Before the Cost Goes Up!

Don’t forget the cost of FHA mortgage insurance is going up. But there is a window of opportunity to get an FHA loan before the this happens. As long as the the laon in obtained before April 5, you can get an FHA loan with 1.75% upfront mortgage insurance (versus 2.25% AFTER April 5).

Why This Is Happening:
· FHA’s capital reserve requirement mandated by Congress has fallen below the minimum requirement.
· FHA makes up 1/3 of all financing in today’s market

What Will Change:
· Increase in the up front MIP Fee to 2.25% from 1.75%
· FHA is also asking Congress to increase its monthly premium which is one of the major advantages compared to a Conventional Loan’s PMI rate. (This has not been finalized yet).
· Seller concessions will be lowered to 3% from 6% - currently viewed as a reason to inflate appraisals.
· Minimum Credit Score of 580 – lower scores require 10% down
· Most likely will not increase the amount the buyer needs to bring to the table, but by increasing the PMI it will increase payments (which is one way to add to the reserve without hurting buyers)

So, Save $$$ ~ Buy NOW!!! Don't hesitate on this one, time is running out!

Visit my website for more up-to-date real estate news.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Truth About Appraisals

Knowing the Guidelines Solves the Mystery

The appraisal process often baffles consumers. They may feel that their home is worth a higher dollar amount, and so the appraised value doesn't always make sense to them.

It is important to know that the appraiser is completely independent from lenders, buyers, sellers, and real estate agents, and that the guidelines to which they adhere are dictated by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) and Fannie Mae. In most states, the mortgage lenders must also disclose the purpose of the appraisal, as each transaction carries its own set of rules.

In essence, these important guidelines help appraisers put a fair market value on homes based on comparable sales in the same area, and the home must be bracketed in size and value.

For example, there is no set dollar figure associated with a great view, pool, spa, bathroom upgrades, etc. If a homeowner installs a custom pool that cost them $30,000, but the local marketplace supports the value of a pool at $15,000, then that item will be bracketed as [$15,000] on the appraisal.

Upgrades can usually be expressed at a higher percentage of their value in newer homes because the only way to obtain those upgrades was to put more money into the cost of building the home. On the other hand, the upgrading or remodeling of an older home is rarely reflected in full in the final appraisal. This is because typically 25-40% of the project involves demolition and the fixing of issues that aren't uncovered until the project has already begun, such as plumbing or wiring that may need updating.

Ultimately, the value of the upgrades must be supported by comparable examples within the same marketplace. These comparisons must be drawn from current market activity within the last six months. This is a safeguard to prevent appraisers from attaching too high a value to the home in question, and opening up the appraisal for review. This guideline further states that appraisers can only base their opinion on the value of home sales that have actually closed.

Visit my website for more helpful Home Seller Tips.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Make Sure You Are Getting the Best Tax Advice

Recently I had a client call me to complain about how upset she was regarding the fact that she was only getting half of the $8000 tax credit. She had purchased a duplex a couple of months ago and was expecting to receive 10% of half of the sales price (since she was renting out the other half of the duplex and receiving rental income). She was, therefore, expecting to get $7500 (10% of $75K instead of 10% of the full purchase price of $150K)

She was very upset because she had recently been to H&R Block to have her taxes done and they insisted on the fact that she was only entitled to half of the tax credit ($4000) rather than 10% of half of the purchase price ($7500).

Now, I am not a tax accountant and don’t even pretend to be. But, I called the IRS and they confirmed that this is indeed wrong. She was indeed entitled to 10% of half of the purchase price ($7500), NOT half of the tax credit ($4000).

So, don’t assume that H&R Block knows what they are talking about. If you (or your clients) have questions regarding the tax credit or any other tax related issues, contact the IRS!

You can get answers to questions about general tax rules by calling (800) 829-1040 (Option 2, Option 1, Option 4).

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Handy Staging Tips for Sellers

Selling a home can be challenging and time consuming for a seller. In today’s market, you must use “every trick in the book” in order to make your home appealing to the greatest number of buyers.

Here are some handy staging tips that will help you prepare your home for selling...

Get ready to move... Start packing!
Before you show your home to any potential buyer be sure to go through your whole house with your agent to finish the Staging process. Meanwhile, here are some quick tips to help you start. Follow these general tips and your home will look better than the competition. Staged Homes sell faster and/or for more money!

INSIDE
• Clear all unnecessary objects from furniture throughout the house. Keep decorative objects on the furniture restricted to groups of 1, 3, or 5 items. In general, a sparsely decorated home helps the buyer mentally „move in‟ with their own things.
• Rearrange or remove some of the furniture in your home, if necessary. Many times home owners have too much furniture in a room. When it comes to selling your home, thin out overcrowded rooms to make the rooms appear larger.
• Clear all unnecessary objects from the kitchen countertops. If it hasn't been used for three months… put it away! Clear refrigerator fronts of messages, magnets, pictures, etc.
• In the bathroom, remove any unnecessary items from the countertops, tub, shower stall and commode top. Keep only the most necessary cosmetics, brushes, perfumes, etc., in one small group on the counter. Coordinate towels in one or two colors only.
• Take down, reduce, or rearrange pictures and objects on walls. Patch and paint all walls, if necessary.
• Review the house interior, room by room, and:
1. Paint any room needing paint.
2. Clean carpet and draperies that need it.
3. Clean windows.
• If you need room to store extra possessions use the garage or rent a storage unit.
• Leave on certain lights during the day (your agent will show you which ones). During showings turn on ALL lights and lamps.
• Play light FM music every day in the house, for all viewings.

OUTSIDE
• Go around the perimeter of the house and move all garbage cans, discarded wood scraps, extra building materials, etc., to the garage or, if applicable, take them to the dump.
• Check gutters and roof for dry rot and moss. Make sure they are swept & cleaned.
• Look at all plants. Plants are like children ~ they grow so fast. Prune bushes and trees. Keep
plants from blocking windows: "You can‟t sell a house if you can‟t see it!"
• Remove any dead plants, weed all planting areas and put down fresh mulching material.
• Keep your lawn freshly cut, edged and fertilized during the growing season.
• Clear patios or decks of all small items, such as little planters, flower pots, charcoal, barbeques, toys, etc.
• Check the condition of the paint on your home, especially the trim and the front door. The first impression, or "curb appeal,‟ is very important.

IN GENERAL
Try to look at your house "through a buyer‟s eyes," as though you‟ve never seen it before. This exercise will help you see what needs to be done. Any time and money invested on these items will usually bring you the return of more money and a quicker sale.

Visit my website for more helpful Home Seller Tips.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Buying Distressed Properties - Part 3

Purchasing Tips

It's critical to have the home professionally inspected before you make an offer or put down earnest money. The inspector will assess the structure's soundness and may uncover problems that would be very costly to repair. Banks usually sell foreclosed homes as-is, meaning they won't make any allowances for repair. And even in a short sale, they likely won't make any such allowances, because they're already losing money on the transaction.

You should have your financing in order before pursuing a foreclosure purchase. Pre-approved buyers have the best chance of getting the property in case of multiple offers. Also, banks generally aren't interested in contingencies (for instance, needing to sell your current home before purchasing another).

You might also consider hiring an appraiser who'll tell you what the house is worth. A qualified real estate agent can also perform a Comparative Market Analysis.

To guide you through the process - from obtaining a loan to identifying a home, to negotiating with the sellers (whether homeowners or banks), to closing - contact me today.

Mortgage and foreclosure terms defined

Distressed Properties and FHA Loans
If you're a first-time homebuyer, a federally insured FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan might be a good option. The FHA has a program to help you repair a fixer-upper. You can get one loan that combines the mortgage with the repair costs. The amount of the loan is based on the projected value of the property once repairs are made.

FHA loans only require a 3.5 percent down payment – compared to 20 percent with conventional loans – and the down payment can come from an employer, family member or charitable organization. FHA loans also have lower closing costs than conventional mortgages.

Since the federal government insures these loans, you'll get a competitive interest rate and lenders may be willing to give you terms that make it easier to qualify for a loan. If you have less-than-perfect credit, it's easier to obtain an FHA loan than a conventional mortgage.

Find out more about FHA loans.

About HUD Homes

FHA-insured homes that go into foreclosure are acquired by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD homes are offered for sale through Internet sites managed by management companies under contract to HUD.

Real estate agents who register with HUD can submit offers on behalf of their clients. HUD pays the agent's commission.

HUD homes are sold as-is, without any warranty. HUD doesn't make repairs nor pay to correct any problems. Again, that makes it critical to have homes inspected before making an offer.

In designated revitalization areas, law enforcement officers, K-12 teachers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians can purchase a home at 50 percent off the listing price. (They must commit to live in the property for three years.) Additionally, evacuees from hurricanes Katrina, Rita or Wilma can purchase a HUD home at a discount.

Visit my website for more helpful Home Buyer Tips.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Buying Distressed Properties - Part 2

Is a distressed property for you? Here are pros and cons of buying one:

Advantages of Buying a Distressed Property
First, you'll be dealing with a highly motivated seller – either a bank in the case of a foreclosure, or in a short sale, sellers who are in financial trouble and very interested in getting out of a mortgage they can no longer afford.

These types of sales take much of the emotion out of the process. You won't be insulting anybody, for instance, if you make an offer that's lower than the asking price. (That's not to say that the low offer will necessarily be accepted, of course.)

Lenders are extremely interested in getting these homes sold and off the liability side of their balance sheets. Many foreclosed properties can be purchased for only a percentage of what they would have commanded five years ago. (This situation is beginning to change, though; bidding wars are breaking out on some foreclosed properties these days, especially those that are moderately priced. It is important to work with an agent that knows what is going on in this area and will be able to help you arrive at a reasonable strategy for making an offer.)

If you're looking at a short sale, you're not likely to get quite as good a deal as on a foreclosure. But there are definite advantages to purchasing one of these homes. For one thing, the homeowners typically still live in the home. Since they want to get the home sold quickly, they are likely to keep it well-maintained and in good move-in condition.

Disadvantages of Purchasing a Distressed Property
If you're looking for a "steal," you may not find it. The market is heating up, with more and more buyers jumping into the market. If you're purchasing a home to live in, you'll often be competing not only against buyers similar to yourself, but against investors. More competition inevitably leads to higher prices.

The transaction process for short sales or foreclosures often takes longer than for traditional transactions. It's sometimes not clear which lending institution actually owns a mortgage loan, and it can take time to get it all sorted out – especially if there's a second mortgage involved, which is often the case.

Some foreclosed properties are also in rough condition. Many have sat idle for a long time with minimal or no maintenance. The departing owners may have sold off fixtures, or damaged the property.

Most importantly, it is critical to work with a qualified real estate agent. Short sales more difficult to execute; but not impossible. Home buyers should be prepared to learn about a new process and should be sure that they work with an agent that is familiar with the process. Try to find an agent with the Certified Distressed Property Expert® (CDPE) Designation to ensure you are working with someone that has undergone extensive training in processing short sales.

Visit my website for Distressed Property Purchasing Tips.