Sunday, May 27, 2012
At the flags upon these graves
Know these flags represent
A few of the true American brave
They fought for their Country
As man has through all of time
Except that these soldiers lying here
Fought for your country and mine
As we all are gathered here
To pay them our respect
Let's pass this word to others
It's what they would expect
I'm sure that they would do it
If it were me or you
To show we did not die in vein
But for the red, white and blue.
Let's pass on to our children
And to those who never knew
What these soldiers died for
It's the least we can do
Let's not forget their families
Great pain they had to bear
Losing a son, father or husband
They need to know we still care
No matter which war was fought
On the day that they died
I stand here looking at these flags
Filled with American pride.
So as the bugler plays out Taps
With its sweet and eerie sound
Pray for these soldiers lying here
In this sacred, hallowed ground.
Take home with you a sense of pride
You were here Memorial Day.
Celebrating the way Americans should
On this solemnest of days.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
- Provides you with $3000 dollars at close for relocation expenses
- Gives you an upfront release value to sell the home
- Gives you a min of 120 days and max of 360 days to sell the home
- 10 business day approvals once a contract has been submitted for a approval
- Permanent relief of all future liabilities associated with the loan from the Lender or Servicer
- No Promissory Notes or funds required at close from the Borrower (i.e., seller)
- No Deficiency Judgments
- Mandatory Foreclosure Postponement
- Decrease Borrowers time to re-establish credit and get a second chance at homeownership more quickly
- As a HAFA Specialist I:
- Know who is eligible and who is not!
- Understand the current U.S. distressed housing market
- Have in-depth knowledge of the U.S. Treasury's HAFA program.
- Know how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's HAFA programs work.
- Have access to short sale evaluation tools for listing consults
- Get HAFA program and Servicer updates as they occur
- Have all the latest HAFA documents for the process
Monday, May 21, 2012
The revisions could remove at least some of the obstacles that have dissuaded condominium homeowner association boards from seeking FHA approvals or recertifications of their buildings for FHA loans during the past 18 months. Under the agency's regulations, individual condo units in a building cannot be sold to buyers using FHA insured mortgages unless the property as a whole has been approved for financing.
According to condominium experts, realty agents, lenders and builders, FHA's rules have become overly strict and have cut off unit buyers from their best source of low-cost mortgage money, thereby frustrating the real estate recovery that the Obama administration says it advocates.
Christopher L. Gardner, managing member of FHA Pros, LLC, a national consulting firm based in Northridge, Calif., that assists condo boards to obtain FHA approvals, said barely 25 percent of all condo projects that are potentially eligible for FHA financing are now approved. That is despite the fact, says Gardner, that FHA financing is the No. 1 mortgage choice for half of all condo buyers and is crucial to first-time and minority purchasers.
Moe Veissi, president of the National Association of Realtors and a broker in Miami, says FHA's strict rules "have had an enormous impact on individuals" across the country, especially residents of condo projects who suddenly find they are unable to sell their units because their condo board has not sought or obtained approval from FHA as the result of objections to the agency's strict criteria. This, in turn, depresses the prices unit owners can obtain and ultimately, said Veissi, harms their equity holdings and financial futures.
FHA officials defend their requirements as prudent and necessary to avoid insurance fund losses, but have expressed a willingness to reconsider some of the issues that have upset condo owners and the real estate industry. Among the biggest areas of criticism of FHA's rules are its limitations on:
• Non-owner occupancy. The agency requires that no more than 50 percent of the units in a project or building be non-owner-occupied. This rule alone has made large numbers of condominiums in hard-hit markets ineligible for FHA financing, where investors have purchased units for cash to turn into rentals.
• Delinquent condo association fee payments. FHA refuses to approve a project where more than 15 percent of the units are 30 days or more behind on payments of condo fees to the association. Given the state of the economy, this has been a problem for thousands of associations, even in relatively prosperous markets. Steve Stamets, a loan officer with Apex Home Loans in Rockville, Md., says some unit sellers and buyers have been so frustrated by the rule that they have offered to pay the amount of delinquent fees needed to bring the overall project into compliance "just to get the deal done. This is a ridiculous situation," said Stamets, who added: "When somebody calls up now and says they want to buy a condo with an FHA loan I cringe."
• Non-residential space usage. FHA has set a cap of 25 percent of the total floor space in a project for commercial use. Critics say this is too low and unrealistic for condo projects in urban areas, where retail and office revenues can be important to overall financial feasibility.
The agency has imposed a long list of other requirements on insurance and reserves, plus a highly controversial rule that associations interpret as creating severe legal liabilities for condo board officers if applications for FHA approvals contain inaccuracies. Andrew Fortin, vice president for government and public affairs at Dallas-based Associa, one of the country's largest homeowner association management firms, says that many boards, facing the prospect of up to 30 years in prison and heavy financial penalties, have refused to apply solely because of this personal liability requirement.
FHA is expected to clarify the personal liability language and make other modifications in its forthcoming rules. Whether the changes will be enough to convince condo boards to apply for approvals in large numbers is uncertain, but industry experts say they -- and condo unit owners -- are likely to welcome whatever loosening of the current restrictions FHA can offer.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Friday, May 11, 2012
Some home-sale transactions close quickly, while others can take months. Two significant factors that affect most home sales are inspections of the property and financing the purchase.
Inspections should be done within the first couple of weeks after the offer is ratified, i.e., accepted by both buyer and seller. Usually, the day after ratification is day one of the contingency and closing time periods. This may vary from one location to the next.
When transactions fall apart soon after ratification, the cause is usually something discovered during the buyer's inspections. It's a good idea for sellers to get presale inspection reports so that the buyers have as much information about the property as possible before they make an offer.
Most home inspection reports make recommendations to consult other specialists such as a roofer, furnace contractor, drainage specialist or engineer. Few sellers have these additional inspections done. Even if they do, the buyers might want a second opinion.
Inspections are also somewhat subjective. One inspector might say a roof needs to be replaced; another might say it has a few years of life left as long as it is properly maintained. Transactions fall apart because the buyer and seller can't come to an agreement on inspections, which means the sale doesn't close, the house goes back on the market and the buyers renew their home search.
If the inspection issues are worked out satisfactorily, the next major hurdle that could delay your sale, or crater it, is the loan contingency. Cash buyers bypass this rigorous process; however, they do need to provide the sellers with evidence that they have sufficient liquid funds to close the sale.
All-cash deals can close whenever the buyers and sellers agree, after all inspection issues are resolved. Closing can occur in a week or two. Some all-cash buyers include an appraisal contingency in their contract to confirm that they're not paying over market value.
In this case, it would take longer to close because an appraiser would need to visit the property and work up an appraisal report. If the property didn't appraise for the purchase price, the buyer might be able to back out and have the deposit returned.
Both buyer and seller would start all over again. However, if they negotiated a resolution, the sale could close quickly and would take far less time than it does to close a sale involving a mortgage.
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Purchase contracts include contingencies and time periods for them to be met. To avoid having to ask for extensions, make sure that the time periods you request are reasonable. An extension might not be granted if the seller has a backup offer for a higher price.
Buyers should get preapproved for the financing they need to close a home sale before their offer is accepted. This way, they are assured of what they can afford to pay. Preapproval can cut a few days off the loan approval process.
Loan approval can go relatively quickly if you present all required documentation promptly and your financial situation is not complicated. It can be more time consuming for buyers who are self-employed or are using other than W-2 income to qualify.
Part of loan approval involves an appraisal on the property by a licensed appraiser. This can slow the process down depending on the lender, how backlogged they are and the loan amount. A large loan amount can prompt the need for two appraisals, which adds more time to the approval process.
THE CLOSING: If you're buying in an area where homes are selling quickly, it may take 35 to 45 days from contract acceptance for final loan approval and closing.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Title: "The Seven Pearls of Financial Wisdom: A Woman's Guide to Enjoying Wealth and Power"
Author: Carol Pepper and Camilla Webster
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 2012; 352 pages; $25.99
A number of notable personal finance experts have made attempts to share their knowledge, insights and experiences on money matters with women-friendly money books and courses. However, many of these are relatively narrowly focused on subjects like budgeting, investing, getting out of debt, real estate, or building a career or business.
Now there's a new entree into this genre by former Rockefeller money manager Carol Pepper and Forbes journalist Camilla Webster: "The Seven Pearls of Financial Wisdom: A Woman's guide to Enjoying Wealth and Power."
I read a lot of finance, self-help and other books from similar genres, and spend much of my time exploring and creating multimedia resources in the same areas. Against that backdrop, "Seven Pearls" at first glance came off as overly simple, and lacking, mmm, pizzazz. What you won't find in this book is a bunch of charts and graphs and links and bullets and short-attention-span gimmicks or cutesy phrases and acronyms. The paragraphs can run long, and the voice is less girlfriend-ey and more straight shooter.
What you will find in "Seven Pearls," however, is 300 pages of straightforward, substantive, visionary, step-by-step guidelines for creating a truly prosperous life, including clear advice for managing your money, business, career, family and romantic relationships, and professional advisers toward that end.
Pepper and Webster don't coddle or infantilize readers, nor do they assume that the average reader is mired in financial desperation or struggle just to believe they deserve to flourish. In fact, many women may not be emotionally ready to receive and execute on the advice it contains. Some will need to take a course like Conscious Bookkeeping or work through a book like Karen McCall's "Financial Recovery" or Julia Cameron's "The Prosperous Heart" before they can truly appreciate and act on the simple but serious wisdom contained in "Pearls."
Pearls provides Pepper and Webster's opinionated, yet ego-free, guidance on a wide-ranging, but interconnected, set of topics including:
- developing a set of investment guidelines for your portfolio.
- starting and managing a business.
- finding, vetting and selecting the right spouse.
- raising wise children.
- managing your wellness with DNA testing.
"Seven Pearls" neatly obliterates such fears and concerns, providing a nuts-and-bolts outline and action plan for women who do earn a good income -- and those who plan to in the future.
Pepper and Webster provide hundreds of pearls of financial wisdom in seven areas of their lives, carving out a vision for a prosperous life by doing some touching, some deep dives and lots of clear, actionable recommendations in the areas of:
1. Wealth building: business, career, investments and retirement planning, including how to manage your own emotions to avoid common (and costly) business, tax and investment mistakes, and select and manage your team of advisers.
2. Romance and marriage: managing the costs incurred while dating; financial red flags that prospective mates might raise; and how to handle the financial negotiations and disclosures that are necessary to minimize the too-common financial causes of marital strife.
3. Power: In this section, the authors coach women around many of the powerless beliefs and behaviors that happen so often even among educated career women -- like refusing to speak up for oneself or failing to -- and direct them to the image, social media and organizational tools for building and deploying their own powerful, personal brands, including everything from Twitter to seats on corporate boards.
Motherhood, crisis and loss, retirement and legacy building are also given intensive treatment in "Seven Pearls." For reader-friendliness, each chapter starts off with a set of questions that surface the problems that will be addressed within.
Many women now make more money than their husbands or prospective mates, yet many of these same women lack more than a basic understanding of financial tools. "Seven Pearls" is the first women's finance book I've seen that is tailored to take readers far beyond money crises and beyond the basics (though it does offer some crisis guidance and much advice for avoiding crises in the first place).
Rather, the authors effectively usher readers into a life season of wisely, assertively and knowledgeably using an advanced set of tools for managing their prosperity, their relationships and their futures, without fear, intimidation or unnecessary complexities.
In "Seven Pearls," Pepper and Webster offer successful women the logistics and structure on which they can construct a fully prosperous life, minus the fluff.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman's Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Economic growth seems to be slowing, inflation remains subdued
Mortgage rates hit all-time lows this week, but demand for purchase loans is only slightly higher than it was a year ago as tight lending standards and worries about what's been dubbed the "jobless recovery" continue to weigh on homebuyer demand.
Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.84 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending May 3, down from 3.88 percent last week and 4.71 percent a year ago, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey. That's a new low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971, breaking the old record of 3.87 percent set during the first three weeks of February.
For 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, rates averaged 3.07 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from 3.12 percent last week and 3.89 percent a year ago. That's also a new low in records dating to 1991, breaking the previous record of 3.11 percent set just three weeks ago.
Rates on five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 2.85 percent with an average 0.7 point, unchanged from last week but down from 3.47 percent a year ago. Rates on five-year ARMs hit an all-time low in records dating to 2005 of 2.78 percent during the week ending April 19.
For one-year Treasury-indexed ARM loans, rates averaged 2.7 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 2.74 percent last week and 3.14 percent a year ago.
"Signs of slowing economic growth and inflation remaining subdued allowed yields on Treasury bonds to ease somewhat and brought most mortgage rates to new all-time record lows this week," said Freddie Mac's chief economist, Frank Nothaft, in a statement.
Nothaft noted that real gross domestic product rose at a 2.2 percent annual rate during the first quarter of this year, down from 3 percent during the final quarter of 2012 and below the consensus forecast of 2.5 percent.
Annual growth in the core price index of personal consumption expenditures (PCE) was 2 percent in March, which matches the Federal Reserve's implied inflation target, Nothaft said.
Although the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee said last week that it expects to maintain "a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy" to support a stronger economic recovery, the committee announced no changes to existing policies.
Labor market conditions have improved in recent months but unemployment remains elevated, the committee said in a statement. Despite some signs of improvement, the housing sector "remains depressed," the statement said.
Mortgage broker and syndicated columnist Lou Barnes believes the Fed "has neither the intention nor capacity to inflate away our debt burden. With (PCE) above 2 percent, the Fed won't even embark on something as mild as QE3," Barnes said, referring to speculation over a possible third round of "quantitative easing."
Looking back a week, a separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed demand for purchase loans was up a seasonally adjusted 2.9 percent during the week ending April 27 compared to the week before. Purchase loans demand was up 3 percent from the same week a year ago
The National Association of REALTORS® last week reported that pending sales of existing homes jumped a seasonally adjusted 4.1 percent from February to March, to the highest level since April 2010. Pending sales were up 10.8 percent from the same time a year ago on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Q: We are renting a house and we set up a trampoline in our backyard. The owner wants to remove it because of liability issues if there's an accident. Is that reasonable, or is there something we can do about this, like place a sign on the trampoline? --Marleen
A: It's noteworthy that you find yourself in the precisely opposite situation of most tenants who have an issue with their landlord about a hazardous condition. Most often, tenants complain that there is a dangerous situation on the property, and that their landlord refuses to fix it and eliminate the hazard. Though laws do vary by state, landlords do often find themselves held liable for the physical and monetary damages incurred by virtue of hazardous conditions on the properties they own.
In the final analysis, your landlord's insistence that the trampoline be removed is actually quite reasonable. Here are three factors I want you to consider as you try to wrap your head around this.
1. Trampolines are very dangerous. I suspect you may think your landlord is overreacting, and that you might not realize just how dangerous trampolines actually are. To get a sense for where your landlord is coming from, simply Google the words "trampoline" and "liability." You'll soon see that not only are trampoline injuries a very common cause of severe injuries to adults and children alike, they are also the source of a full-blown body of law around homeowners being responsible to cover the costs and other damages related to those injuries.
In fact, just last month, New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain suffered a career-pausing ankle dislocation, you guessed it, while jumping on a trampoline.
2. Your landlord has the legal responsibility to prevent hazardous conditions. Not only is it highly likely your landlord would become embroiled in a legal case that arises from the injuries a visitor to your home might incur on the trampoline, it's also highly likely that because your landlord is aware that you have installed the trampoline he'd end up being held liable. And that's just the beginning; many homeowners insurance and hazard insurance policies are actually voided by the installation of a trampoline on the home.
Your landlord needs to be able to maintain the home in insurable condition, and needs to make sure that an insurance policy is on the property and remains in force. This protects your landlord, but also may protect you in the event that you were to be injured or harmed as a result of a fire or some other insured-against event of that nature, which I hope never happens at your home. If having a trampoline in the backyard voids the insurance policy, which it likely does, that in and of itself renders your landlord's demands reasonable.
3. There's one way you can have 100 percent control over your backyard and what you put in it. Putting a sign up on a trampoline doesn't minimize the possibility of people getting injured, and it doesn't necessarily impact the specter of liability for your landlord, either. Possibly, having every single person who ever jumps on it sign a waiver might minimize the liability concern, but enforcing that and ensuring that the signer is competent and the form will stand up in court is completely infeasible.
When you rent someone else's home, they absolutely have the right to impose some basic health, safety and other conditions on the rental, like a ban on waterbeds and large dogs.
The one way you can get ultimate control over your home and how you customize it is this: Buy your own home. Problem is, as a homeowner, you need an insurance policy, too, especially if you have a mortgage. Your mortgage company will require that you either (a) obtain and maintain a policy or (b) they will put a very, very expensive policy on the property.
So, if and when you do buy your own home, I'd urge you to work with your insurance representative to fully understand the impact of having a trampoline in your backyard, before you do that.