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Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
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Tom's Blog

Most Americans Opposed to Homeowners Walking Away From Mortgages, Says New FindLaw.com Survey

April 7, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 7, 2011--While many homeowners continue to wrestle with the fallout of the housing crisis, a majority of Americans say that simply walking away from a mortgage shouldn't be an option for homeowners, according to a new survey by FindLaw.com.

Many homeowners still facing potential foreclosures or being "underwater" on their mortgages (meaning they owe more on the loan than the house is currently worth) have simply been walking away from their mortgages and refusing to make the required monthly payments. There are no reliable figures on how many homeowners have chosen to take this path, sometimes referred to as a "strategic default."

According to the FindLaw.com survey, the majority of Americans, 60%, believe that it is "never OK" for homeowners to simply stop making payments on their mortgages. One-third of the population (34%) says it's OK for homeowners to walk away from mortgages, but only if they aren't able to make the monthly payments. Only 3% believe that homeowners should be able to walk away from mortgages anytime they want.

"Many homeowners are currently facing very difficult and complicated situations involving their home mortgage, in some cases even including the threat of foreclosure," said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor for FindLaw.com. "But before making any major decisions, homeowners should consult with financial and legal professionals, including accountants, real estate attorneys and financial advisers. Any major change to a mortgage situation could lead to serious and unanticipated consequences involving taxes, contract law, credit scores, ability to borrow in the future, potential for lawsuits, and much more.

"Various government programs and tax changes involving mortgages have been enacted since the beginning of the housing crisis," continued Rahlfs. "Combined with private programs and variations in state laws, it creates a complicated web of potential actions available to homeowners, who should carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of their decisions."

The FindLaw survey was conducted using a telephone survey of a demographically balanced sample of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3%.

Tags: News

Tips for Remodeling Your Children's Rooms

April 6, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 6, 2011--The room is empty, the bed is made, and even stranger--it's dead silent. When your children move away to college or their own apartment, the question remains: What should you do with the room they leave behind? Remodeling unused bedrooms is a great way to deal with the changes in your household, plus, you can utilize the space for something practical as opposed to leaving it as-is.

Talk to your children and ask them what furniture they'd like to keep for the future and what can be thrown away. What belongings need to be saved? Can some be moved into the attic or basement for storage? If your child is only away at college (as opposed to a more permanent move), tailor the remodel after his or her personal taste. Color choices and style can be made with the child in mind, yet still be given a fresh new look.

Furthermore, here are a few examples of what you can do with the extra space:

Home offices are always great to add to your home. Whether you have a business, use it for work or simply for bill paying, an office is a great way to continue keeping your home (and its paperwork) organized and clean. A computer desk and chair, shelves, bookcases and cabinets will be a great start for any new office.

A game room will provide entertainment for years to come. With a few tables and a few games, you'll have a running start to an entertainment-based room. You may even want to add a mini-fridge or shelving for assorted snacks and food stuffs. It can be simple, but fun at the same time.

Alternatively, your game room can double as a media room as well (size depending). Do you love movies or have a guilty pleasure of television? Add a TV, surround-sound system and a couch for entertaining guests. Large DVD cases can be purchased to display all of your CDs, DVDs, books and more. During the week, your entertainment room can also be a reading room and place of rest. The options are endless.

Cancel that gym membership and create your own personal exercise room. If you love working out and love it even more so from the comforts of your own home, consider purchasing a couple of exercise machines, yoga mats and work-out DVDs. Don't forget about a CD player or iPod speakers--the motivation to any solid work out!

These options only scratch the surface to what you can do with your extra space. Turn any hobby of yours into a room of personal paradise. Painting rooms, sewing rooms, large walk-in closets, and more can be used from the space left behind by your newly adult children. Renovating will be an exciting and rewarding project for you to take on--one that will match your interests and give your home a fresh feel.

Source: Relocation.com Blog

Tags: News

Fannie Mae Launches 'Las Opciones de los Casas' to Educate and Empower Homeowners

April 6, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 6, 2011--Fannie Mae today launched "Las Opciones de los Casas," a teleseries for the Spanish-speaking community designed to educate homeowners about their options to avoid foreclosure, empower them to make informed decisions and motivate them to take action and seek help. Through a partnership with Univision, the teleseries debuted as a television broadcast in Miami on March 28, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Fannie Mae's South Florida Mortgage Help Center. Las Opciones de Los Casas, part of the Company's "Know Your Options " initiative to help struggling homeowners, is now available on www.conozcasusopciones.com.

"The Latino community has been disproportionately affected by the housing crisis, and at Fannie Mae we are committed to helping all families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure," said Jeff Hayward, senior vice president, National Servicing Organization, Fannie Mae. "'Las Opciones de los Casas' is a powerful tool to help Spanish-speakers understand their options to avoid foreclosure and to make them familiar with the different outcomes of these options, whether it's staying in their homes or finding the right housing somewhere else."

Modeled on a telenovela, "Las Opciones de los Casas" portrays a family and their closest friends as they navigate financial hardships in a number of scenarios in their neighborhood. The series gives a realistic view of a range of options for avoiding foreclosure, including repayment plans, modifications and short sales. "Las Opciones de Los Casas" also warns homeowners to protect themselves against scams, showing them that mortgage help should always be free.

Through the teleseries, viewers will:

  • Witness a story line in which a family and their friends try to find the best way to avoid foreclosure
  • Familiarize themselves with the different options to avoid foreclosure
  • Identify with the characters and their obstacles while following the story
  • Discover and learn the positive outcomes or negative consequences of the choices made by the characters (i.e., talking to your bank instead of paying a scam artist to resolve the situation)

"Many homeowners lose their homes simply because they don't understand that there is an alternative," added Hayward. "The better homeowners understand that they have options, the more likely they are to take action and make proactive decisions-and the better their chance of finding a solution that allows them to avoid foreclosure."

Through foreclosure prevention programs, borrower outreach, underwriting guidelines and servicer engagement, Fannie Mae is taking a comprehensive approach to helping struggling homeowners. In addition to websites and series like KnowYourOptions.com and "Las Opciones de Los Casas," Fannie Mae seeks to address the nation's housing crisis by opening Mortgage Help Centers in hard-hit communities such as Miami, Chicago and Atlanta, reaching out to homeowners directly to encourage them to pursue foreclosure alternatives, organizing foreclosure prevention events across the country and providing support and assistance to non-profit organizations at the forefront of homeowner education efforts. Since the start of 2009, Fannie Mae's efforts have helped more than a half a million families stay in their homes.

Tags: News

NAR Study Finds Americans Prefer Smart Growth Communities

April 6, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 6, 2011--Americans favor walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, with 56% of respondents preferring smart growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation. That's according to a recent study, the Community Preference Survey, by the National Association of REALTORS .

"REALTORS care about improving communities through smart growth initiatives," said NAR President Ron Phipps. "Our members don't just sell homes, they sell neighborhoods. REALTORS understand that different home buyers are looking for all kinds of neighborhood settings and that many home buyers want walkable, transit-accessible communities."

Walkable communities are defined as those where shops, restaurants, and local businesses are within walking distance from homes. According to the survey, when considering a home purchase, 77% of respondents said they would look for neighborhoods with abundant sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly features, and 50% would like to see improvements to existing public transportation rather than initiatives to build new roads and developments.

The survey also revealed that while space is important to home buyers, many are willing to sacrifice square footage for less driving. Eighty percent of those surveyed would prefer to live in a single-family, detached home as long as it didn't require a longer commute, but nearly three out of five of those surveyed (59%) would choose a smaller home if it meant a commute time of 20 minutes or less.

The survey also found that community characteristics are very important to most people. When considering a home purchase, 88% of respondents placed more value on the quality of the neighborhood than the size of the home, and 77% of those surveyed want communities with high-quality schools.

The survey of 2,071 adult Americans was conducted by Belden, Russonello and Stewart from February 15-24, 2011.

Tags: News

Low Prices, Attractive Mortgage Rates Helped Spur 2010 Vacation Home Purchases, According to New HomeAway Research

April 5, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 5, 2011--While the overall residential real estate market is down, sales of vacation homes fared better than sales of primary residences and investment properties in 2010. In fact, some consumers found low real estate prices, attractive mortgage rates and the potential for price appreciation compelling enough reasons to buy more than half a million vacation homes last year, according to proprietary research commissioned by HomeAway, Inc. as part of the National Association of REALTOR'S (NAR) 2011 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey.

The research found 38% of vacation home buyers decided to purchase a vacation property last year primarily because of low real estate prices. And 2010 proved a good year to buy, according to the NAR survey. Median sales prices for vacation properties dropped 11.2% from $169,000 in 2009 to $150,000 in 2010.

Other vacation home buyers cited the following factors as the most important reason to take the plunge into vacation home ownership last year, according to HomeAway research:

  • Wanted a personal family retreat (27%)
  • Potential for price appreciation (12%)
  • Low mortgage rates (11%)
  • Other (13%)

"Vacation homes are more attainable than ever for consumers of all ages, thanks to attractive prices and the fact that people can rent them to travelers to help offset the costs," says Brian Sharples, chief executive officer of HomeAway. "As the NAR report shows, about four in 10 buyers last year were under the age of 45."

Although few vacation home buyers cited rental income as the most important factor in their decision to buy last year, about seven in 10 buyers (69%) said it influenced their decision.

In fact, nearly all (94%) of vacation home buyers say they do plan to rent their property within the next 12 months to either long-term or short-term renters or a combination of the two, and 60% of buyers believe they'll make enough rental income to cover at least half of their mortgage.

Of those buyers, about 44% plan to make their vacation homes available for rent between one and eight weeks over the course of the next year; 42% plan to rent their properties between nine and 26 weeks per year; and 15% plan to rent their homes between 27 and 52 weeks per year.

Vacation home buyers are willing to rent their property to more than one type of guest. The vast majority (74%) of people who plan to rent their property to short-term renters say they'll rent the home to vacationers, while 36% plan to rent to business travelers and 23% plan to rent to other tenants, such as college students or people who are relocating to the area.

For more information, visit http://www.homeaway.com/.

Tags: News

California-Based Company Launches Informational Web Site on Energy Saving

April 5, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 5, 2011--A California-based company, EMC Global Enterprises LLC, has announced the launch of a new Web site: www.MyEnergyHeroes.com.

Founder of EMC Global Enterprises LLC, Evelyn Cole, said, "Our goal is to inform people on ways they can help the environment and save money too! Imagine a world where everyone captures free energy to power housing tracts, concert halls, and movie theaters. We can make a difference by sharing the expertise gained at MyEnergyHeroes.com."

EMC Global Enterprises was founded in April of 2010. MyEnergyHeroes.com recently launched and is an online source of information for environmentally-friendly individuals looking to get off the grid at affordable rates. The site offers recommendations from Cole on adding solar panels to generate electric power, as well as ways to generate electricity through wind and magnetic generators.

Cole, who has personal experience in generating her own power, added, "We have been heating our own water with the power of solar panels and as a result our home costs less. We're an environmentally-friendly green household and I know first hand that it is simple and achievable." Cole's hometown of San Luis Obispo also has a local movie theatre that runs completely on solar power.

MyEnergyHeroes.com does not sell any products or services, but does have links to retailers of alternate power supplies and instructions on building your own home energy systems. Everything on the site comes recommended by Cole and includes her ratings.

For more information, visit www.MyEnergyHeroes.com.

Tags: News

Protect Your Belongings with Self-Storage Insurance

April 5, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 5, 2011--Whether you're in between moves or simply need the extra space, self-storage is a fantastic option for those who find they need to temporarily unload some personal belongings. To further protect your property, renters should look into and purchase storage insurance. At some facilities, it may not be an option. However, if you are not required to purchase it and think that your property is automatically safe, think again. Most times, if your property is worth seeking extra storage space for, it's worth insuring.

Renters generally have three different options in terms of insurance:

1) Some homeowner's or renter's insurance may allow for additional coverage for your storage unit, however, you must check with the facility to ensure that they accept this type of coverage. When you go to rent your unit, proof of insurance will be required by the storage facility. Make sure to have that on hand.

2) Facilities may offer their own insurance premium ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. Although there may or may not be a deductible, rates may be higher and coverage lower compared to insuring through your homeowner's or renter's policy. Be sure to inquire about what types of damages are covered and if any items are excluded from the policy.

3) Independent self-storage insurance may be your best bet. Outside insurance companies may have a partnership with particular storage facilities, but oftentimes they operate independently. This type of insurance will insure higher-valued items and may protect against damage that other policies may not cover.

Though prices per plan vary, insurance typically runs $8 for $2,000 coverage; $12 for $3,000 coverage; and $20 for $5,000 coverage. Some providers may even provide coverage for 50% in case of burglary. (Taking pictures of all your items in the storage unit is highly recommended. If items are damaged during a burglary, snap photos of them as well along with a broken lock or a damaged door).

As always, it's best to understand whatever policy you sign up for. Make sure you acquire all of the details at the time of signing so that you can be prepared and knowledgeable in the worst-case scenario that you need to put a claim in.

Source: StorageFront.com

Tags: News

Home Warranties Protect Homeowners during Extreme Weather; Attract Buyers in Competitive Real Estate Market

April 4, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 4, 2011--Extreme temperatures across the nation contributed to a record-breaking year for home warranty claims, and now with a glut of homes for sale across the country, home warranties to cover major systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical) and built-in appliances are even more appealing to sellers and prospective buyers.

A home warranty provider with 1.4 million customers said it responded to nearly three million service requests in 2010, approximately half related to HVAC malfunctions. The company received increased calls from homeowners in areas of the country, such as the Northeast, that experienced extreme summer heat-stressing AC systems-and record cold and icing during winter-stressing heating systems.

Meanwhile, with an abundance of homes for sale, sellers and buyers are reaping benefits from home warranties.

"For the past 28 years, I have encouraged home sellers and listing agents to add a home warranty during the listing cycle to protect sellers against unexpected repair expenses if a system or appliance malfunctions after the home goes on the market," says Dominic Cardone, a real estate broker in the suburbs of Philadelphia. "Perhaps even more importantly, the home warranty can help keep together a transaction by easily and inexpensively resolving many of the issues sometimes discovered during the home-inspection stage."

According to many home warranty providers, the highest rate of homeowner claims encompasses water heaters, furnaces and central-air conditioning, while major appliances covered by a home warranty generally start to require servicing at five years of age. Since home systems and large or built-in appliances are acquired during a home sale, there are many unknowns--such as how things previously have been used and maintained.

"A home warranty offers immediate financial protection for new homeowners, who generally purchase a new home without working knowledge of the age or functionality of its infrastructure and equipment," says Timothy J. Meenan, executive director, Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC). "The repair and replacement coverage of a home warranty is cost effective and provides peace of mind, particularly during the first years of ownership if the inherited, unfamiliar home systems and appliances malfunction."

Home warranties can be purchased anytime during homeownership, renew annually, and most are transferable with the sale of a home. They provide 24-7 phone support and access to pre-qualified repair professionals, a particularly useful benefit for owners new to a neighborhood or region.

For more information, visit www.go-scic.com.

Tags: News

Now Is the Time to Get Your Home's Exterior in Tip-top Condition

April 4, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 4, 2011--According to DIY shopping and support website Trades Supermarket, the improved spring weather means more than giving the lawn a trim for homeowners; it signifies the time to undertake necessary repair and maintenance checks, not only to make sure the house and garden look good and are safe for summer, but also to save expenditure on major improvements in the long run.

The strong winds over the winter months may have impacted the safety of areas in and around the home, notes Tommy Walsh, TV favorite and member of the Trades Supermarket team. These impacted areas can include roofs, guttering and fences. Walsh suggests that homeowners ensure wooden fence posts are still intact and embedded properly in the ground, and consider treating them by applying a new coat of preservative. Checking guttering, fascias and roof tiles for damage and movement, as well as clearing out any leaves and debris that have built-up over the winter, are must-do jobs. Walsh adds that ladder work is always a two-person job, and that people who are not confident should consult professionals.

According to Walsh, checking for the onset of rot in wood is another important safety check, especially on sheds and decking, which could cause serious injury to people if they collapsed. With decking, Walsh suggests looking at the condition of the posts and making sure the planking is nailed or screwed firmly in place. Shed owners should not only inspect the wood but also make sure the roofing felt has not shrunk or ripped-replacing it if necessary to prevent leaks-therefore avoiding further damage to the wood or the shed's contents. If decking or sheds are due for a fresh coat of a preservative treatment, Walsh advises making sure the timber is washed down using a stiff brush and lightly sanding before application.

"Doing maintenance checks around the home are jobs that are often put off until 'next weekend' but many of these checks are for safety reasons," says Walsh. "You don't want to risk any accidents or end up spending more money having to replace things, like your fascias or decking, in the long run."

For more information visit http://www.tradessupermarket.com.

Tags: News

Federal Housing Finance Agency Reports Mortgage Interest Rates

April 4, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 4, 2011-The Federal Housing Finance Agency has reported that the National Average Contract Mortgage Rate for the Purchase of Previously Occupied Homes by Combined Lenders, used as an index in some ARM contracts, was 4.79% based on loans closed in February. This is an increase of 0.08% from the previous month. This Contract Rate series can be found at http://www.fhfa.gov/Default.aspx?Page=251.

The average interest rate on conventional, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loans of $417,000 or less increased 12 basis points to 4.97% in February. These rates are calculated from the FHFA's Monthly Interest Rate Survey of purchase-money mortgages (see technical note). These results reflect loans closed during the Feb. 22-28 period. Typically, the interest rate is determined 30 to 45 days before the loan is closed. Thus, the reported rates depict market conditions prevailing in mid- to late-January.

The contract rate on the composite of all mortgage loans (fixed- and adjustable-rate) was 4.80% in February, up 10 basis points from 4.70% in January. The effective interest rate, which reflects the amortization of initial fees and charges, was 4.92% in February, up 11 basis points from 4.81% in January.

This report contains no data on adjustable-rate mortgages due to insufficient sample size.

Initial fees and charges were 0.80% of the loan balance in February, unchanged from January. Thirty percent of the purchase-money mortgage loans originated in February were "no-point" mortgages, down from 34% in January. The average term was 27.2 years in February, down 0.1 years from 27.3 years in January. The average loan-to-price ratio in February was 74.7%, up 1.3%from 73.4% in January. The average loan amount was $216,900 in February, up $14,500 from $202,400 in January.

Technical note: The data is based on a small monthly survey of mortgage lenders. Survey respondents are asked to report the terms and conditions on all conventional, single-family, fully amortized, purchase-money loans closed during the last five working days of the month. The sample is not a statistical sample but is rather a convenience sample. The data exclude FHA-insured and VA-guaranteed mortgages, refinancing loans, and balloon loans. This month's data are based on 4,379 reported loans from 34 lenders, which may include savings associations, mortgage companies, commercial banks, and mutual savings banks.

The effective interest rate includes the amortization of initial fees and charges over a 10-year period, which is the historical assumption of the average life of a mortgage loan. The data is weighted to reflect the shares of mortgage lending by lender size and lender type, as reported in the latest release of the Federal Reserve Board's Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data.

For more information visit www.fhfa.gov.

Tags: News




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