Monday, February 28, 2011

FHFA Refinance Program Reminder

March is here and June 30, 2011 is fast approaching. Do you qualify for the HARP program? What steps do you need to take to refinance if you qualify? Contact me and I will help get you in touch with someone who can help!


FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release Contact: Corinne Russell (202) 414-6921 March 1, 2010 Stefanie Mullin (202) 414-6376

FHFA Extends Refinance Program By One Year

Washington, DC -- Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Ed DeMarco today announced the extension of the Home Affordable Refinance Program, (HARP), a refinancing program administered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to June 30, 2011. The program is a key component of the Administration’s Making Home Affordable Program announced last February. The HARP program expands access to refinancing for qualified individuals and families whose homes have lost value. The program was set to expire on June 10 of this year.

“FHFA has reviewed the current market situation and the state of mortgage insurance availability and has determined that the market conditions that necessitated the actions taken last year have not materially changed,” said DeMarco. “Accordingly, to support and promote market stability, and to encourage lenders and other mortgage market participants to fully adopt the HARP program, including the implementation of the October 2009 expansion of loan-to-value ratios (LTVs) to 125 percent, FHFA is authorizing the extension of HARP until June 30, 2011.”

In 2009, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchased or guaranteed more than 4 million refinanced mortgages. Of this total, 190,180 were HARP refinances with LTVs between 80 percent and 125 percent. The HARP began in April 2009 and has grown over the past few months. For more information on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac refinance activity, see FHFA’s monthly Foreclosure Prevention & Refinance Report. Additionally, homeowners can visit www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov for additional information on the program.

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The Federal Housing Finance Agency regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks. These government-sponsored enterprises provide more than $6.3 trillion in funding for the U.S. mortgage markets and financial institutions.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

8 Reasons Why You Should Work With a REALTOR®

Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS®. The term REALTOR® is a registered trademark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics. Here's why it pays to work with a REALTOR®.

1. Navigate a complicated process. Buying or selling a home usually requires disclosure forms, inspection reports, mortgage documents, insurance policies, deeds, and multipage settlement statements. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes.

2. Information and opinions. REALTORS® can provide local community information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more. They’ll also be able to provide objective information about each property. A professional will be able to help you answer these two important questions: Will the property provide the environment I want for a home or investment? Second, will the property have resale value when I am ready to sell?

3. Help finding the best property out there. Sometimes the property you are seeking is available but not actively advertised in the market, and it will take some investigation by your REALTOR® to find all available properties.

4. Negotiating skills. There are many negotiating factors, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession, and inclusion or exclusion of repairs, furnishings, or equipment. In addition, the purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase. Your agent can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.

5. Property marketing power. Real estate doesn’t sell due to advertising alone. In fact, a large share of real estate sales comes as the result of a practitioner’s contacts through previous clients, referrals, friends, and family. When a property is marketed with the help of a REALTOR®, you do not have to allow strangers into your home. Your REALTOR® will generally prescreen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.

6. Someone who speaks the language. If you don’t know a CMA from a PUD, you can understand why it’s important to work with a professional who is immersed in the industry and knows the real estate language.

7. Experience. Most people buy and sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. Even if you have done it before, laws and regulations change. REALTORS®, on the other hand, handle hundreds of real estate transactions over the course of their career. Having an expert on your side is critical.

8. Objective voice. A home often symbolizes family, rest, and security — it’s not just four walls and a roof. Because of this, homebuying and selling can be an emotional undertaking. And for most people, a home is the biggest purchase they’ll every make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you stay focused on both the emotional and financial issues most important to you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

5 Most Dangerous Hazards in a Home

Home owners beware: Several dangers may lurk in a home. If you’re not careful, they could make you sick. Pillar to Post, a home inspection company, reviews how to spot these dangers in the home and encourages you to contact a home inspector if your home may be at risk for any of these potential dangers.

1. Radon: a colorless, odorless gas that can seep into the home from the ground. Radon has been called the second most common cause of lung cancer.
What to look for: Basements or anything with protrusion into the ground offer entry points for radon. The Environmental Protection Agencypublishes a map of high prevalence areas for radon. A radon test can determine if high levels of radon are present.

2. Asbestos: a fibrous material once popular in building materials because it provides heat insulation and fire resistance. But asbestos was banned in 1985. It may still be found in older home’s insulation materials, floor tiles, roof coverings, and siding. If disturbed or damaged, it can enter the air and cause severe illness.
What to look for: Homes built prior to 1985 are at risk of having asbestos within construction materials. Home owners should especially be careful when remodeling because disturbing insulation may cause the asbestos to become airborne.

3. Lead: a toxic metal used in home products for many years that can contribute to several health problems, especially among children. Exposure can occur from deteriorating lead-based paint, pipes, or lead-contaminated dust or soil.
What to look for: Homes built prior to 1978 may have lead present. Look for peeling paint and check old pipes. To get a HUD-insured loan, buyers must show a certificate that homes built prior to 1978 are lead-safe.

4. Hazardous products: stockpiles of hazardous household items — such as paint solvents, pesticides, fertilizers, or motor oils — that can create a dangerous situation if not properly stored or disposed. They can cause illness or even death if small amounts are ingested.
What to look for: Make sure these items aren’t tucked away in corners, crawl spaces, garages, or garden sheds. Home owners often don’t realize these products can pose a danger and may forget they’re storing them. But buyers don’t want it to become their problem — and expense — to dispose of. If these products are found, make sure the buyer requires their removal and gets a disposal certificate prior to closing, which proves the products were disposed of properly and not just dumped in the backyard.

5. Groundwater contamination: the result of hazardous chemicals that are illegally disposed of and then seep through the soil and enter water supplies. A leaking underground oil tank or faulty septic system can contribute to this.
What to look for: Look for any conditions that may be conducive to leakage. Homes near light industrial areas or facilities may be at risk. Also a concern: areas once used for industry that are now residential. Pillar to Post offers a Neighborhood Environmental Report that details any dangers or remedies of environmental incidences and sources of contamination that have occurred at a specified address and within its vicinity.

Source: Pillar to Post

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tipsy Tuesday: Tips for Finding the Perfect Neighborhood for You!

Your neighborhood has a big impact on your lifestyle. Follow these steps to find the perfect community to call home.

Is it close to your favorite spots? Make a list of the activities — movies, health club, church, etc. — you engage in regularly and stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel from each neighborhood you’re considering to engage in your most common activities.

Check out the school district. This is especially important if you have children, but it also can affect resale value. The Department of Education in your town can probably provide information on test scores, class size, percentage of students who attend college, and special enrichment programs. If you have school-age children, visit schools in the neighborhoods you’re considering. Also, check outwww.schoolmatters.com.

Find out if the neighborhood is safe. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime statistics. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type — such as burglaries or armed robberies — and the trend of increasing or decreasing crime. Also, is crime centered in only one part of the neighborhood, such as near a retail area?

Determine if the neighborhood is economically stable. Check with your local city economic development office to see if income and property values in the neighborhood are stable or rising. What is the percentage of homes to apartments? Apartments don’t necessarily diminish value, but do mean a more transient population. Do you see vacant businesses or homes that have been for sale for months?

See if you’ll make money. Ask a local REALTOR® or call the local REALTOR® association to get information about price appreciation in the neighborhood. Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, this information may give you a sense of how good of an investment your home will be. A REALTOR® or the government planning agency also may be able to tell you about planned developments or other changes in the neighborhood — like a new school or highway — that might affect value.

Make personal observations. Once you’ve narrowed your focus to two or three neighborhoods, go there and walk around. Are homes tidy and well maintained? Are streets quiet? How does it feel? Pick a warm day if you can and chat with people working or playing outside.

Monday, February 21, 2011

4 Tips to Avoid Foreclosure Scams

REALTOR® Magazine-Daily News-4 Tips to Avoid Foreclosure Scams

4 Tips to Avoid Foreclosure Scams
More home owners are falling prey to scams that promise to “stop the foreclosure” and “save your home.”

The Federal Trade Commission has released a report to help borrowers avoid falling victim to such scams, here are a few of its tips:

1. Watch for outlandish claims. "Eliminate your debt!" and "We guarantee to stop the auction" are too good to be true. If it sounds like an easy way out, don’t believe it, the FTC warns.

2. Don't pay up-front costs. Consumer investigator Dale Cardwell warns home owners to beware of any deal that requires you to pay up-front fees. Cardwell says you shouldn’t pay any business or person who promises to modify your loan because only your lender can do that.

3. Beware of those imitating government agencies. Watch out for scammers who may capture logos, names, photos, and Web sites to make it look like they are part of a government agency.

4. Make payments only to your lender, no one else. Never write a check to someone else instead of your lender for your mortgage. Scammers may present an official looking reinstatement package and tell you to pay everything to them. Send payments only to your loan servicer, experts recommend.

Source: “In Saving Home, Steer Clear of Scams,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Feb. 13, 2011)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Finishing Touches for Kitchens & Baths: Home and Design

A great article from Realtor Magazine. Link to the article is at the end of the post.

Easy Solutions for Kitchens & Baths

It's too easy for a remodeling budget go down the drain when improving a kitchen or bathroom. Small, inexpensive improvements such as painting or refinishing tubs, sinks, cabinets, countertops, and even grout can give old kitchens and baths a fresh feel.

Cabinets

Dark cabinets can make a kitchen look cave-like. But your seller doesn’t need to spend the big bucks for new cabinetry. As long as the cabinets are in good condition, you can update their look for under $250. New cabinet knobs or handles—an easy do-it-yourself project—can instantly upgrade a kitchen. You can get hardware for as little as $2 to $3 apiece. "It’s amazing how you can transform decent cabinets by just swapping out the hardware and bringing it up to date," Millholland says. Brushed nickel hardware looks high-end, Fisher says. Chrome is also a good option, while black and bronze are gaining popularity. Avoid dated brass knobs. For outdated cabinets get out the paintbrush. Painting cabinets a rich, neutral color or refinishing the cabinets with a clear coat can greatly enhance their appearance and brighten the kitchen. Popular color choices are warm earth tones, such as off-white cabinetry with butterscotch glaze (it really pops when combined with a tannish gold granite countertop) or cream colors, Millholland says.

Counters

Granite is still king when it comes to countertops (with quartz a close second). The price of granite has dropped considerably in recent years, even as low as $29 per square foot, which makes it not much more expensive than laminate, says David Alderman, president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. But if granite still doesn’t fit sellers’ budget, they may be able to get the look for less with updated laminates that resemble granite, or by enhancing the look of the countertops they have. Some companies offer kits to help make countertops resemble granite styles. In her listings, Fisher has used a $49.95 color kit from Giani Inc. (www.GianiGranite.com) that takes laminate, ceramic tile, or other countertops from plain to a marble-like appearance. For a modern look, liquid stainless steel finish is also available. Even those old tile countertops can be saved. Fisher suggests hiring a professional to clean or paint the grout. Fisher turned to The Grout Doctor, a grout cleaning company with nationwide franchises, to overhaul white tile countertops that had dark purple grout. The purple was off-putting in photos, she says. She had the grout refinished in a light cream color. It cost less than $220 and made a drastic improvement. (Tip: Cleaning and refinishing stained or dirty grout on floors and bathtubs can make a big difference, too. Just be sure to keep your grout color neutral for best results.)

Fixtures

Instantly make a dated bathroom more modern with just a few enhancements to the fixtures. For example, removing that large plated glass mirror or old medicine cabinet and replacing it with a framed mirror in a rich finish like oil-rubbed bronze, can make a big change at a small cost, says Bill Millholland of Case Design/Remodeling Inc. "It’ll make the bathroom look much more sophisticated," he notes. "Typically a bigger mirror is better than a smaller one, but consider its proportion to the room—it will look awkward if it’s too big." For an easy, elegant look, add sconces on each side of a framed mirror, adds Alderman.

If your faucets have forever lost their shine, you might consider replacing those too, even for as low as $20. You’ll want to make sure your lighting and faucet finishes all match, Millholland recommends. The most popular bathroom faucet finishes are brushed nickel, followed by polished chrome and satin nickel, according to an NKBA trend report.

Surfaces

Terrylynn Fisher has seen multitude of colors in bathroom countertops, sinks, and tubs—from pink sinks to brown tubs to baby blue tiles. But it’s not easy to sell a pea-green tub, and it’s pricey to replace it. Fisher, a salesperson with Empire Realty in Walnut Creek, Calif., has covered up such bathroom color dilemmas by hiring pros to refinish the problem areas in a neutral white. Two national franchises, Miracle Method and Permaglaze, can refinish porcelain, fiberglass, and acrylic, among others, and repair cracks to make the material look new. Fisher has found that to be a cost-effective solution: She paid Miracle Method about $350 to refinish a pink bathtub and shower and about $200 for the counter and sinks, changing them to a neutral white. For $550, the change completely transformed the once-colorful bathroom into a more pleasing neutral one for resale that no longer had buyers grimacing.

Create That Hotel Feeling

Luxurious bathrooms do more than help home owners unwind—they also help attract buyers. For a spa-like ambiance, bring in fluffy towels, attractive wall d├ęcor, dimmable lighting, soothing sounds, fragrant scents, and accessories in cool and calming colors.

Appliances

Kitchen appliances that are mismatched or dated can be difficult for buyers to look past. As long as the appliances still work, an increasingly popular option is painting them. Several companies, such as Rust-Oleum and Krylon, make special paint to spray or brush over appliances in black, white, or other shades. Stainless steel paint, such as Thomas’ Liquid Stainless Steel, will give a refrigerator, dishwasher, or range a brushed-on look. Costs for the special paints start at $19.95; you can often find kits designed for specific appliances. Of course, you’ll want to disclose such updates to buyers and make them aware of any upkeep issues.

HOMETIP FROM HOUSELOGIC

Buyers Love pull-out shelves in a kitchen. You can add them fairly easily to most cabinets.

They are available in three basic materials: + Solid wood + Metal wire + Plywood sides with fiber bottoms

Read more at http://www.houselogic.com.



Finishing Touches for Kitchens & Baths: Home and Design: REALTOR Magazine

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why You Should Buy That Home Now

If you are thinking about buying a home in the near future or are interested in what is going on with Freddie and Fannie, the link to the below article from SmartMoney.com provides some great information. It explains the Obama administrations proposal, what it means for home buyers and when these changes could go into effect.

Why You Should Buy That Home Now

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Real Estate Is 'as Affordable as it Gets'

REALTOR® Magazine-Daily News-Real Estate Is 'as Affordable as it Gets'

Real Estate Is 'as Affordable as it Gets'
Now is a good time to buy real estate, according to data from Moody’s Analytics. Home affordability has returned to pre-housing bubble levels or even fallen below the average in many U.S. markets.

In fact, housing affordability by the end of September had returned to or fallen below the average reached between 1989-2003 in 47 of the 74 housing markets that Moody Analytics tracked.

In September 2010, the ratio of home prices to annual household income had fallen to 1.6--below the historical average of 1.9 between 1989 and 2003. The ratio peaked in 2005 at 2.3.

"Based on incomes, this is as affordable as it gets," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "If you can get a loan, these are pretty good times to buy."

Some of the most undervalued markets include Cleveland, Detroit, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Phoenix.

But those cities also are facing high rates of foreclosures and more borrowers defaulting on their mortgages that could decrease values further in those cities before they start to improve, Zandi says.

In Phoenix, for example, "it's become cheaper to buy than to rent,” Jon Mirmelli, a real estate investor in Scottsdale, Ariz., who rents out foreclosed homes, told The Wall Street Journal. "But the question is: can you qualify for a loan?"

Source: “Home Affordability Returns to Pre-Bubble Levels,” The Wall Street Journal Online (Feb. 8, 2011)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tipsy Tuesday: Tips for Choosing Upgrades for a New Home

REALTOR® Magazine-Daily News-Tips for Choosing Upgrades for a New Home


Tips for Choosing Upgrades for a New Home
Most home owners opt to add some upgrades to a new home, which can be rolled into the mortgage opposed to paying for them later on their own. But the choices of what flooring, lighting, or other upgrades to choose can be overwhelming.

Designer Candice Olson, author and host of HGTV's "Candice Tells All," says lighting and extra wiring are key upgrades new home buyers should consider.

"Adding lighting -- or at least the wiring for it -- means you'll be able to have bathroom sconces instead of that one overhead light the builder gives you,” Olson says. “Your flat-screen TV can be where you want it. You'll have a floor outlet for the lamp in middle of the open room. And you won't be ripping out walls later to do all this."

Also, she says home owners shouldn’t forget about the exterior lighting either. "Outside lighting, plus landscaping, will set apart your house from the others in the neighborhood where buyers chose from plans A, B and C," Olson says.

As for flooring, Olson recommends hardwood floors for the main living areas, and cork floors for the basement, since there’s potential for water leakage in basements.

She also says the addition of taller baseboards, chair rails, crown molding, coffered ceilings, built-ins or a banquette also are smart investments for upgrades.

Source: “Decisions, Decisions: Add Character to Your Home With a Few Choice Upgrades,” Chicago Tribune (Feb. 4, 2011)

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Valentine's Day - 10 Ways to show your home some love!


1. Change your air filter
2. Have your heating/cooling unit serviced (should be done every 6 months)
3. Give one room a fresh coat of paint
4. Clean your windows (inside and out) it's amazing how much brighter
your rooms will be
5. Clean out your junk drawer in the kitchen
6. Dust window treatments and ceiling fans
7. Replace your box of baking soda in the fridge/freezer
8. Clean out your medicine cabinet
9. Have carpets professionally cleaned
10. Give your home a good deep clean

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Should Happen to Fannie and Freddie?

REALTOR® Magazine-Daily News-What Should Happen to Fannie and Freddie?

What Should Happen to Fannie and Freddie?
A Democrat and Republican House subcommittee will begin Wednesday to debate the future of mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which back or guarantee more than $5 trillion worth of U.S. mortgages.

The government-sponsored enterprises have been under federal control since September 2008. The goal was to calm the growing panic from the financial crisis.

Some Republicans argue it’s time for the government and the GSEs to part ways, while some Democrats say it shouldn’t end yet but the role of government support should change.

Fannie and Freddie securitize about 90 percent of all new mortgages.

The Obama administration is expected on Friday to release a report detailing its plans for the government’s role in the mortgage market.

Meanwhile, many groups have come forward to propose their own solutions for the fate of Fannie and Freddie, which keeps mortgage money accessible to consumers even during economic downturns.

For example, the conservative American Enterprise Institute plan calls for gradually privatizing Fannie and Freddie over the next five years and allowing the private sector to take on more of the secondary market for mortgages.

On the other hand, the liberal Center for American Progress calls for the creation of Chartered Mortgage Institutions that would pool mortgages into bonds and be private but regulated by a federal agency. It would also create an insurance fund in which issuers could purchase credit insurance on mortgage-backed securities.

The National Association of REALTORS® has argued that the federal government should continue to have a role in maintaining accessible, affordable mortgage capital even when private sector lenders pull back.

Source: “The Great Debate: What to Do About Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (Feb. 9, 2011)
and “Plans to Overhaul U.S. Housing Finance System,” Reuters News (Feb. 8, 2011)