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.