Require 20% Down on a House? Hong Kong Tried That

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As U.S. regulators fool with the idea that homebuyers should put 20 percent down on home purchases, they need only look across the sea to see what happen when a similar plan was put in place in Hong Kong recently: Sales at 10 of the island-nation’s largest home developments fell almost 60 percent the week after the government raised the minimum down payments and deposits for foreign buyers.

Anyone need further proof that requiring $60,000 cash to buy a $300,000 house is going to further dent buyer enthusiasm? At least in Hong Kong, the measure was intended to slow the pace of sales — something we surely don’t need more of here. The Hong Kong government has made several attempts to curb the inflation of home values, including raising mortgage interest rates. This most recent measure was aimed specifically at foreign buyers; about a third of luxury home transactions in the first quarter of this year came from overseas or mainland China.

But the results do provide a good indicator of what the U.S. housing market can expect if the 20 percent rule — part of the 376 pages of proposed changes known as the Qualified Residential Mortgages package or QRM — kicks in: Buyers go away.

The proposal made this spring by a group of federal agencies would require a 20 percent down payment, limit to one-third a borrower’s debt payment and extend the most-favorable loan rates to only those with excellent credit. Regulators reason that if borrowers had to put down 20 percent of the home’s value, they would have more “skin in the game” and be less likely to walk away from the loan.Perhaps what they didn’t reason was that just fewer people would be able to buy a house. Public reaction to the 20 percent down requirement was swift, and negative; public comment was extended to Aug. 1.

“If we require 20 percent down payments to get a loan, we will ensure broad swaths of working- and middle-class people will not be able to get a loan,” John Taylor, chief executive of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, told the Washington Post. The NCRC advocates an extension of credit to low- and moderate-income borrowers.

The QRM is an overreaction to the mortgage crisis caused primarily by toxic loans — the so-called “liar loans” and optional adjustable rate mortgages that put people into homes they couldn’t afford, said David Berenbaum, Chief Program Officer for the NCRC. The default rate for 30-year fixed rate loans has been less than one percent, regardless of the size of the down payment. And of all the loans written in 2009, only 30.5 percent would have met the new proposed standards.

Should homebuyers be required to put 20 percent down? Yes. 28 (31.1%) No. 59 (65.6%) That’s still not enough. 3 (3.3%)

For more insight on mortgages these AOL Real Estate guides:

More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Get property tax help from our experts.

 

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Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/06/14/require-20-down-on-a-house-hong-kong-tried-that/

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Home Equity Line Adds New Option to Refinancing

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If you’re looking to refinance your mortgage but you also need some extra cash, there may be a few options out there you haven’t considered. Today’s re-fi rates are low, but to get the best deal overall, your best bet may be to refinance your principal loan at the lowest rate you can find and then to apply for a home equity line for the cash. That way, with today’s low home equity rates, you’ll

If you’re looking to refinance your mortgage but you also need some extra cash, there may be a few options out there you haven’t considered. Today’s re-fi rates are low, but to get the best deal overall, your best bet may be to refinance your principal loan at the lowest rate you can find and then to apply for a home equity line for the cash.

That way, with today’s low home equity rates, you’ll get the best interest rates for both portions of your financing.

The other main option is a cash-out refinance, in which the borrower takes additional cash above the loan amount. But that usually means an additional 0.5 percent or more in interest, which can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a 30-year loan. Instead, simply refinance the balance of your mortgage, and then apply for a home equity line for the rest.

Right now, home equity rates are at prime or prime plus 0.5 percent to 1.0 percent, a lot better than almost any other kind of loan out there, including personal loans and credit card debt.

Cash-out refinancing is not a real option for homeowners who are underwater and need to borrow more than 80 percent of the value of their home. And while there are 95 percent loan-to-value mortgages out there, you can’t be living in a declining market such as Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada. Also, if your credit score is below 680, you’ll need to turn to the FHA for the refinance if you want anything more than a 90 percent loan-to-value mortgage.

Generally in today’s market, even if you don’t live in a declining market, you probably won’t be able to get an equity line if it means going above 90 percent loan-to-value. And even that could be difficult, unless you have a credit score over 760. Therefore, home equity lines are a better choice for smaller projects, like making needed repairs on your home.

Also, think twice before paying off credit card debt with a home equity line. While you may be paying a high price for credit card debt, transferring credit card debt to an equity line means you are exchanging unsecured debt (debt that is not guaranteed by an asset) for secured debt (in this case debt that is secured by your home). That means, if for some reason you can’t make the payment on your equity line, the lender has the right to foreclose on your home. You can learn more about how equity lines work in the Federal Reserve’s pamphlet “What you should know about Home Equity Lines of Credit.”

Millions of people put their homes at risk because they used the equity in their homes as a piggy bank and borrowed to levels that are now higher than what their homes are worth. Some have walked away from these homes because the combined mortgage and equity line is higher than what the home’s value is expected to be for 10 or 20 years.

But if you need the cash, and it will put you in a better position financially, you’re better off choosing an home equity line than a cash-out refinance.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Personal Bankruptcy and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Improving Your Credit Score.

 

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Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2010/12/09/home-equity-line-adds-new-option-to-refinancing/

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Cutoff Date for Relief Loan Applications Fast Approaching

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Washington is acting to rescue tens of thousands of beleaguered homeowners by offering interest-free loans, some of which will ultimately be “forgiven” if borrowers follow the rules.

But the pre-screening deadline for applicants is July 22, so interested homeowners must move fast. Click here to get started.

Coming out of the budget of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the $1 billion allotted for the Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program is expected to help about 30,000 of them, reports The Washington Post.

But qualifying for the relief program is not easy. Among other conditions, applicants must be unemployed or underemployed, 90 days behind on mortgage payments and have received a foreclosure notice. Homeowners who qualify for the program — which is offered only in 32 states — receive a loan enabling them to meet up to two years or $50,000 worth of mortgage payments. The loan requires no payments for five years, as long as borrowers contribute 31 percent of their income or at least $150 to their mortgage payments. After that, the magic starts: The government reduces the loan balance by 20 percent each year until, poof — no more loan.

MSN Money offers a more thorough breakdown of the program.

For more on mortgages and related topics see these AOL Real Estate guides:

More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area.

 

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Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/07/05/cutoff-date-for-relief-loan-applications-fast-approaching/

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Renters: Home Improvements That Move With You

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home improvements that move with youEven if you’re just renting a place for a short time, it’s important to personalize it with the style and conveniences that make you feel at home. If you’d like to make home improvements but hesitate because of longer-term living plans, consider projects that can move with you.

“I’m a big proponent of ‘make it yours,’ even if you’re only going to be in a place for six months,” says Paige Rien, a designer for HGTV’s “Hidden Potential” with her own practice outside of New York City. “Always think about a change in terms of what it’s like to undo it…If it’s not hard to install, it won’t be hard to uninstall.”

Here are top tips for home improvements that travel with you. #mini_module { width: 265px; height:220px; border: none; float:left; margin:10px; font-size:12px;} #mini_module img {border:none; width: 265px; height:131px; border: none; margin:0px; } #mini_module .mini_title { margin: 0px; padding:0px; width:265px; height:131px;} #mini_module .mini_main { margin: 0px; padding:0px; width:265px; height:85px; background: transparent url(http://www.aolcdn.com/travel/bg-short)} #mini_module .mini_item {padding:12px 0px; margin: 0px 20px; border-bottom:1px dotted #CCCCCC;} #mini_module a { color: #49A3CA; text-decoration:none; } #mini_module a:hover { color: #F98419; text-decoration:underline;}

Wall décor options: Wall décor easily makes a personal style statement and sets the tone for a room. But if you’re afraid to hang the kinds of large pieces that leave major anchoring holes behind, Rien recommends creating a “gallery wall” with a collection of favorite family photos in smaller, lighter frames. Such an exhibit moves easily to your next destination, and the minimal damage left behind will be easy to repair with a bit of spackle and sandpaper.

Another way those with wall hanging hang-ups can add interest is with picture ledges and other easy-to-install shelves. Use these instant display pieces to hold art or small collections, or get creative to form architectural elements. “I actually have some shelves we used as a mantel in our last apartment, because the fireplace didn’t have one,” says Rien. “Now we’re in a place that has a mantel, so the shelves are being used for something else.”

Search Homes for Sale Browse through photos of millions of home listings or search for rentals

Light fixtures: If you’re not thrilled with the builder-grade fixture that presides over your dining area or illuminates another major space, replace it. Most major home improvement retailers have lighting departments with an array of DIY-friendly fixtures. A ceiling fan is more complicated to install, but it’s worth the investment in an electrician’s help when you consider the dollars a fan can trim from year-round utility bills. Whatever kind of fixture you choose, make sure to carefully pack and store all parts of the original for easy reinstallation when it’s time to move.

Flooring enhancements: Area rugs work wonders in defining a space and lending a pop of color or needed texture. Roll out an eye-catching area rug over existing carpeting, tile or hardwood, then roll it up again later for a new look in a new place. One of Rien’s favorite temporary flooring tricks is to install FLOR modular carpet tiles as runners, area rugs or room-filling solutions. The FLOR tiles can be quickly applied over most existing flooring surfaces, are easy to clean and replace, and can be pulled up and placed elsewhere in a completely different configuration.

Portable security systems: Smart, streamlined technologies in today’s home security options make them flexible and portable enough to move with you. DIY wireless systems like the Archerfish Solo can be installed to protect your current abode, offering video surveillance that’s configured to notify you by smartphone or e-mail when threats or unexpected events occur.

Outdoor enhancements: The accessories you choose to create curb appeal in one place can do the same elsewhere, so consider portability as you invest in your exterior home improvements. A beautiful mailbox, for example, can just as easily collect mail at a new address, and high-quality ceramic pots can be planted with a new array of garden color on your next porch.

What you can’t take with you “Not everything is portable, even though you think it will be,” advises Rien. “You have to be able to part with the things that don’t work–either sell them or put them in the basement.”

Window treatments form one category of poor travelers. You may think that your blinds or shutters are sized to a standard window, but their dimensions only have to be off by a fraction of an inch to be unusable in your new home. Instead, offer or even sell them to the new occupant of the home you’re leaving, and start fresh when you do windows in your new place.

Other fixtures can also prove to be basement-bound if they don’t suit the scale or style of your new home. For example, a huge heirloom chandelier may overtake a scaled-down dining room, dwarfing diners rather than enhancing the space. And most outdoor accessories may be more weathered than you realize, so leave the porch lights on for the new resident and build a new welcome at your next house.

Tom Kraeutler is a home improvement expert for AOL Real Estate and host of The Money Pit,” a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program offering home improvement and remodeling tips and ideas, as well as help tips for buying or selling a home.

Still trying to decide which is right for you? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides to help you no matter whether you choose to buy or rent:

More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Get property tax help from our experts.

 

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Spring Cleaning: Essential Tips for Homeowners

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Spring CleaningBy Pat Mertz Esswein, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

As you go about your annual spring-cleaning ritual, take a few additional steps to save money on energy bills this summer, improve your home’s appearance and ward off big-ticket repairs later.

Here are 18 things for you (or the handyman) to tackle now to help prepare your home for the warmer months and keep it in top shape.

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More from Kiplinger: Quiz: How Smart a Homeowner Are You? What $300K Buys You Now Quiz: How Long Should it Last? 10 Tiny Homes You’ll Love Big Time

More on AOL Real Estate: Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area.

 

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DIY Party Decorations For Frugal Festive Fun

Why spend a ton of money to make a festive scene when you can create DIY party decorations with a personal touch for way less cost?

DIY Party Decorations With Tissue Paper

Tissue paper is easy to find anywhere, comes in every color you can think of, and makes great party decorations! Plus you can use any leftovers to wrap gifts. These decorations can be made for any kind of party, all year round, just by changing up the color theme.

Read more…

The post DIY Party Decorations For Frugal Festive Fun appeared first on DailyPerk.

Source: http://dailyperk.perkstreet.com/diy-party-decorations/

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Home equity loan defaults soar

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NEW YORK (Fortune) — One of the last sources of ready cash for homeowners looking to get money from their house appears to be shutting down and the results aren’t likely to be pretty for the economy. More From FORTUNE

Betting against the BoA – Countrywide deal

Countrywide: From bad to worse

NEW YORK (Fortune) — One of the last sources of ready cash for homeowners looking to get money from their house appears to be shutting down and the results aren’t likely to be pretty for the economy.

More From FORTUNE

  • Betting against the BoA – Countrywide deal

  • Countrywide: From bad to worse

  • B of A – Countrywide: The skeptics’ view

  • Last week, buried deep in the ugly details of Countrywide Financial Corp.’s earnings release, was the news that its $32.4 billion portfolio of prime HELOCs — home equity lines of credit — had begun to rapidly deteriorate. The reeling Calabasas, Ca.-lender was forced to take a $704 million charge related to homeowners’ inability to pay back equity they extracted from their homes.

    The structure of these loans appears to spell trouble for Countrywide and other home lenders with big home equity loan books. According to an overlooked Moody’s Investors Services note that came out last Wednesday, once a certain threshold of losses is achieved in a home equity loan securitization pool, the bond holder is paid off ahead of the lender.

    What’s worse is that it’s difficult to see how large a lender’s exposure is to home equity loans. Known as rapid amortization, this risk is treated as a contingent liability for Countrywide and other home equity loan lenders and is carried off balance sheet, until deterioration occurs and the lender goes on the hook for the loans. Countrywide is the nation’s biggest home equity lender, with around 9% of the market.

    In the short-term, this is just another blow for a investors in the financial sector. Longer-term however, it looks like a lot of ready cash is getting taken away from homeowners, at least in California. Coupled with rising unemployment, this could pose a major headache for already strapped homeowners.

    To head off more defaults, Countywide sent out letters to 122,000 homeowners last week informing them that their home equity credit lines were shut down since their estimated home values had dropped below their loan amounts.

    Right behind Countrywide was Chase Home Lending, which notified borrowers in Los Angeles, Imperial and Orange Counties that they could tap their credit lines for no more than 70% of the value of their house. Previously, the limit had been 90%.

    The Calculated Risk blog, which specializes in real estate and mortgage finance issues, has estimated that mortgage equity withdrawals for the fourth quarter totaled $145 billion. If tightening lending standards are put rapidly into place for home equity loans, it is not inconceivable that $50 billion or more of spending power is instantly removed from the economy.

    In other words, at least one-third of the recently passed $150 billion stimulus package is already canceled out.

    (C) 2008 Cable News Network. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.

     

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    Thrift Store Online Shopping: Find Used Items on the Web

    Wish you could shop for used things online like you can at the local thrift store? These thrift store online websites will help you find what you’re looking for at prices worth paying.

    Thrift Store Online Shopping Basics

    Searching for thrift store clothing online poses a single big problem for traditional thrift store lovers: The prices we are used to at the local Goodwill or Salvation Army wouldn’t cover the shipping costs required to get us the same thrift store scores we can find by leaving our homes to shop.

    Read more…

    The post Thrift Store Online Shopping: Find Used Items on the Web appeared first on DailyPerk.

    Source: http://dailyperk.perkstreet.com/thrift-store-online/

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    Online Wedding RSVP: How to Set One Up and Save on Postage

    Setting up an online wedding RSVP will help you save a bunch on postage and stay organized.

    There are so many great traditions associated with marriage. The vows. The best man and maid of honor speeches. The cutting of the cake. Do you really need to open 150 tiny envelopes to find out which of your friends are attending for the sake of tradition? Do you really need to stamp all those envelopes and enclose them in mailed invitations? Most importantly, do you need to buy those cards and stamps and add a little more cost to your wedding? No way!

    Read more…

    The post Online Wedding RSVP: How to Set One Up and Save on Postage appeared first on DailyPerk.

    Source: http://dailyperk.perkstreet.com/online-wedding-rsvp/

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    The Balanced System Of Smoking

    The entire of us are discerning of the verity that cigarette smoking is hazardous for wellness. Then again, it takes a proportion of self-control supremacy to refrain from smoking. http://www.defeataddiction.com is a hazardous infatuation which has diverse flank domino effect. Extreme smoking cigarettes breathing finished cigarette smoking tin reason raised hypertension plane and unvarying united [...]

    Source: http://www.brothernwla.org/the-balanced-system-of-smoking/

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    5 signs that it’s a good time to sell

    5 signs that it’s a good time to sell

    Why desperate homeowners could find relief this year

    Traditionally, most homes have sold during the spring months. In the current volatile housing market, the time of year is not the most reliable predictor of the best time to sell.

    Homes certainly show better in spring than they do on a dark and dreary winter day. Lately, however, weather patterns are hard to predict.

    The weather has some effect on home sales. It can slow things down if incessant rain keeps sellers from being able to prepare their homes for sale. However, a bigger influence on the housing market is the overall economic situation and its impact on buyers’ psyche.

    Normally, the home-sale market ramps up in March or April and stays busy until the beginning of July when the market tends to slow down for the summer. The 2011 home sales went counter to this. The market was active at the beginning of the year, but stalled in April. If you waited until spring to sell last year, you would have missed the best selling opportunity of the first half of 2011.

    Baby Boomers Launch Remodeling Boom

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    baby boomersThe first wave of Baby Boomers turned 65 last year, which will have a significant impact on real estate and the nation’s housing market. Not only should home sales increase, but hammers and nails will be flying as homes change hands from older to younger owners, while the home remodeling industry strikes it rich.

    In fact, home remodels could be in for their best years ever. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, home owners over age 55 comprised a third of all home sellers between 1997 and 2007. That is a trend that experts say will only increase over the next 20 years as more Boomers retire.

    And home remodelers have it made in the shade because if the Boomers sell their homes and move, younger buyers are extremely likely to remodel. If Boomers decide prices are too soft to sell and stay put, they are likely to adapt their home for old age, adding in more lighting, elevators, and principles of universal design. So the home remodelers win either way.

    Looking at recent housing turnover data between the years 1997 and 2007, buyers of existing homes tend to be younger, the sellers, older. Of the 24.5 million owner-occupied sellers between 1997 and 2007, about 7.6 million, or almost one-third, were over age 55 when they sold their #mini_module {width:265px;height:220px;border:none;float:left;margin:10px;font-size:12px;} #mini_module img {border:none;width:265px;height:131px;border:none;margin:0px;} #mini_module .mini_title {margin:0px;padding:0px;width:265px;height:131px;} #mini_module .mini_main {margin:0px;padding:0px;width:265px;height:85px;background: transparent url(http://www.aolcdn.com/travel/bg-short)} #mini_module .mini_item {padding:12px 0px;margin:0px 20px;border-bottom:1px dotted #CCCCCC;} #mini_module a {color:#49A3CA;text-decoration:none;} #mini_module a:hover {color:#F98419;text-decoration:underline;} Search Homes for Sale See photos of homes for sale in your area and across the country on AOL Real Estate

    home.

    And who buys these homes? People under age 45, who purchased 57 percent of the homes the old folks sold off. In fact, the median age buyer was about 33. With the median age seller almost 68 years old, we see that buyers tend to be about 35 years younger than the owners of the homes they purchase. And old people tend not to buy other old people’s homes: Fewer than 25 percent of homes sold between 1997 and 2007 by sellers who were age 55 or older were swooped up by contemporaries.

    Which means, of course, that the housing stock these Boomers are shedding is at least as old as they are.

    In fact, the age of owner-occupied housing stock has been trending upwards over the last ten years. In 1997, the median age of the average American home was 29 years, but crept to 32 by 2007.

    You know what we Boomers used to say: Never trust anyone over age 30.

    With housing stock that old, the likelihood for a buyer coming in and remodeling is huge. The age and condition of these units makes them more affordable to younger buyers, and they tend to be located in the suburbs. On average, 80 to 90 percent of homes sold by older sellers to spring chicken buyers are single family detached units.

    “The new owners of baby boomer suburban housing,” the report said, “will likely be concentrated in the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups and higher income categories that have historically spent the most on remodeling.”

    But here’s a new headache for buyers: Thanks to the financial crisis, many seniors who planned to downsize and free up some home inventory are staying put, because the financial melt down took a toll on both the equity in their homes and their retirement accounts. Mobility rates among older homeowners posted sharp drops between 2005 and 2009. But fewer “senior” seniors have had home equity wiped out, because most of these folks have owned their home for years and paid down mortgages. Still, many Boomers may postpone moving out of their homes because they simply cannot afford to move.

    Which means that when they do finally vacate those homes, the places are going to need a lot of work. The study also showed something we real estate reporters have always known: recent home buyers spend buckets of money when they first buy a home. There’s a reason why Lowe’s caters to the 45 to 54 year old age group: home buyer expenditures peak in the 45-54 age group because these are the wonder years when families, home equity and incomes grow and flourish. And goodbye Formica: what rooms do buyers who buy from older sellers focus on? Kitchens and baths. Which is why Lowe’s very best customer is the new homeowner. Home buyers age 35 to 44 spend more on average for home improvements than any other age group.

    But then, the Boomers are the generation who did things “their way.” Don’t expect them to follow their parents’ retirement patterns. As this study notes, they have made different housing decisions the whole way. Boomers are more likely to live in newer, suburban homes, and continue to spend a lot on home improvements once the housing market stabilizes and mortgage lending loosens. Remodeling, says Dallas architect Gary Gene Olp, is in their DNA.

    “I see more Boomers moving back into the city from the suburbs, to older homes they are remodeling because they love urban social fabric and cultural amenities,” says Olp, who specializes in LEED certified green architecture and building. “They are re-populating the inner city, ditching cars and walking, even in Dallas and Houston.”

    San Antonio developer Leobardo Trevino of Ricchi Dallas Investments, LLC, who is undergoing three ambitious Dallas commercial projects, has begun building what he calls “Smart Mansions” outside of San Antonio, TX. His buyer: downsizing baby boomers who want it all but in 2500 square feet or less.

    “These people want all the bells and whistles, ” he says, ” but not necessarily all the space.”

    Trevino’s Smart Mansions have a main living room, dining room and Euro-kitchens, decked out marbled masters and secondary bedrooms. They have high ceilings and top energy efficiency but less lawn to tend, and zero wasted space.

    “Boomers no longer want to overspend or overbuild,” says Trevino, “Been there, done that. But at the same time, there is absolutely no lowering of their standards.”

    Candy is an award-winning, Dallas-based real estate reporter, blogger, and consultant. She’s the gal who brought House Porn to the Bible Belt! Read more at SecondShelters.com. and send story ideas and tips to CandyEvans@secondshelters.com.

    Thinking about adding value with home improvements? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides to help you, whether you’re selling or staying.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/04/18/baby-boomers-begin-remodeling-boom/

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    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Refinances Mortgage Loan Down to 1%

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    Mortgage rates have fallen to record lows. But if you’re in the market for a home loan, you’re going to have a tough time matching the deal that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg got on his mortgage.

    Like millions of Americans have done in recent years, Zuckerberg decided to refinance his mortgage. But according to Bloomberg, the rate he got was amazing low: just 1.05 percent.

    How did he do it? And can non-moguls get a similar deal?

    Taking a Monthly Gamble

    The key to understanding why Zuckerberg got such a great deal on his mortgage is that he didn’t get a conventional fixed mortgage. Rather, he decided to refinance his $5.95 million loan on his Palo Alto, Calif., home with an adjustable-rate mortgage.

    Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, got a lot of notoriety during the housing boom. With lower interest rates, ARMs helped many homebuyers afford high-priced homes, because they often offered low teaser rates for an initial period of time. But after that teaser rate went away, borrowers were stuck making higher monthly payments, which many blame for what eventually cracked the housing bubble.

    Even so, the average ARM, which locks in rates for one year at a time, carries a rate of 2.7 percent. What helped Zuckerberg get an even lower rate was his willingness to accept monthly resets of his interest rate. That means his monthly payments could rise as soon as August.

    Despite that theoretical risk, few people expect interest rates to rise anytime soon. The Federal Reserve has said that it plans to keep rates low at least for the next couple of years, and many analysts expect an even longer period of low rates.

    That said, there’s not much downside to the Facebook founder even if the Fed raises rates. That’s because Zuckerberg has a huge reserve of wealth behind his loan. Unlike most homeowners, he can simply sell assets and pay off his mortgage loan if the interest rate on his loan suddenly skyrockets.

    How the Rest of Us Should Play the ARMs Race

    The trend that most homeowners have followed recently is to get rid of adjustable-rate mortgages in favor of fixed loans. With average rates on 15-year mortgages at 2.86 percent and 30-year mortgages fetching 3.56 percent, ordinary homeowners don’t get much benefit from taking on the risk of an adjustable-rate mortgage.

    Despite Zuckerberg’s cheap rate, trying to follow in his footsteps isn’t a smart idea for most homeowners. Refinancing to a fixed-rate mortgage will help you lock in affordable, predictable payments no matter what happens to interest rates in the future.

    You can follow Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger on Twitter here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook.

    See also: Anderson Cooper’s Manhattan Pad Sells for $3.8 Million Listing Fails: The Best of the Worst in Real Estate This Week Countrywide ‘VIP Loans’: Few Pols Resisted Mortgage ‘Gifts’

    %Gallery-160348% More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find homes for rent in your area.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/07/16/facebook-ceo-mark-zuckerberg-refinances-mortgage-loan-down-to-1/

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    Are Low Mortgage Rates Killing the Housing Market?

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    This may fall under the category of “too much of a good thing,” but there is growing sentiment that the historically low interest rates on mortgages are actually fueling the stagnation of the housing market.

    By keeping rates low, the hope was that more people would be motivated to buy homes. And when that didn’t happen, fingers of blame were pointed in the direction of more stringent lending standards. People can’t qualify for loans, can’t avail themselves of the low rates — so went the bank-bashing.

    But along came some numbers that tell a different story. Yes, lending standards are making it tougher to qualify for loans now, but the reality is that fewer people are even trying. The national Mortgage Bankers Association, which tracks new mortgage applications weekly, says those applications were down 14.9 percent last week from one week earlier. The group expects to see mortgage originations fall from an estimated $1.2 trillion in 2011 to $900 billion in 2012.

    Could it be that when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the low interest rates would be around through 2013, buyers just plopped back on their couches waiting to see if the housing prices would fall even further?

    The ‘Luxury of Waiting’

    “By keeping rates low for two years, you gave buyers the luxury of waiting to see if the market is at the bottom,” says Paul Habibi, professor of real estate at UCLA’s Anderson School of Business Management. “Why wouldn’t you wait if you were a buyer?” he asks. “There are no expectations of home value appreciation, so all that low interest rates have done is create a big holding pattern in buyer behavior.”

    So should we be praying for rates to start creeping up?

    “Rising rates are absolutely a better motivator than falling ones,” says Dan Green, loan officer with Waterstone Mortgage, who runs the award-winning TheMortgageReports.com website. He notes that for the second straight year, low rates sparked a boom in refis, but did little to help the purchase market.

    It’s kind of maddening for mortgage guys like Green who underscore that a 1 percent mortgage rate drop, like the one we’ve had since last year, translates into an instant 11 percent increase in purchasing power.

    “Falling mortgage rates do more to help home affordability than falling home prices,” he says. Yet still no one is buying.

    Which leads to the next line of thinking: If lower interest rates immobilized buyers, might not rising rates serve as a cattle prod? A few good pokes in the bellies of reluctant buyers might just get them off the couch and back into the game.

    Also see: Want a Mortgage? Avoid These 8 Mistakes Upside Down on Your First House? Just Buy a Second One! Mortgage Mod Hell: Trapped Between Lenders, Collectors

    %Gallery-137795% More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find rentals in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/10/31/are-low-mortgage-rates-killing-the-housing-market/

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    Watch: When to Pay Off the Mortgage Early

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    pay off your mortgageWhile paying down the mortgage is undoubtedly one of the largest financial burdens many Americans have to contend with, it’s certainly not the only long-term investment homeowners need to consider. This is particularly true for homeowners nearing their 60s, for whom financial investments made today can have a lasting impact on their post-retirement income. Our sister site, DailyFinance, addresses this issue in the latest entry of their “Ask the Expert” video series with Regina Lewis.

    For 57-year-old Ed, a homeowner nearing the end of his fixed-rate mortgage, the decision to pay off his debt early or begin investing his money elsewhere can make a real difference in just how far his savings will take him. Read his full question, and Regina’s video response, below.

    Ed asks: I am 57 years old with a couple more years to work before I retire. I currently have an equity mortgage on my home with $30,000. The house payment is less than $100 a month. I pay $1,100 a month toward the loan. Here is my question. Should I be paying minimal on my mortgage and putting the rest in my 401(k) and hopefully make money on that money, or would you pay the house off by continuing to pay the accelerated payment to get it paid off as quickly as possible? What is my smartest move? I think I know, but want to hear a professional’s point of view. For more expert advice from Regina Lewis, visit DailyFinance.

    And to ask the DailyFinance team your own personal finance question, add your comments here.

    For more insight on mortgages and refinancing see these AOL Real Estate guides:

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/07/13/watch-when-to-pay-off-the-mortgage-early/

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    BarterQuest How-to: Trade Smart at the Best Bartering Site

    If you’re into bartering, chances are you’ve discovered BarterQuest a relatively new site that helps folks trade one product or service for another — like eBay but without cash. BarterQuest also makes multi-party trades easy, so you don’t have to find that one person looking for the exact thing you have, you can do three way (or more) swaps.

    Read more…

    The post BarterQuest How-to: Trade Smart at the Best Bartering Site appeared first on DailyPerk.

    Source: http://dailyperk.perkstreet.com/barterquest/

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    Where to Snag Beach Homes on the Cheap

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    We’re combining two of our favorite things: Summer vacations and discount houses using RealtyTrac‘s recent list of the 10 best beach towns for buying foreclosures.

    RealtyTrac’s ranking is based on the size of the discount that homebuyers can get in purchasing a foreclosure — compared to other residential properties in the same region. And ultimately, that could be the easiest way to choose between destinations like Marco Island, Fla., and Honolulu.

    So if you’re thinking of owning your own little piece of a beach paradise, this could be your cheapest way in.

    %Gallery-158199% More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. See celebrity real estate.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/06/14/where-to-snag-beach-homes-on-the-cheap/

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    ‘Project X’ Copycat Revelers Allegedly Wreck $500,000 Home

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    It didn’t take long before the carnage in the hit house-party movie “Project X” spilled onto the real real estate market.

    Thirteen teenagers are being questioned for their possible involvement in a wild house party that will cost the builder nearly $100,000 in repairs, reports KHOU in Houston, Texas.

    “It’s devastating. This is a new home that was ready to sell,” said private investigator Mark Stephens, who was hired by the homebuilder to observe the property. Stephens estimates the home to be worth $500,000.

    A tour of the once pristine, 4,000-square-foot-home today reveals gaping holes in the walls, heaps of broken glass and liquor bottles strewn across the property.

    Stephens told KHOU that the night after the property was vandalized, he returned to the neighborhood in the hope of catching the culprits in the act. Just down the street, in another vacant home, he came upon a group of teenagers throwing another massive party.

    Police took 13 teenagers into custody, with two minors being young enough to be released back to their parents.

    Stephens said that when he asked the teens why they broke into the home, they simply said “Project X.”

    Yet this isn’t the first time the riotous teen flick reportedly has inspired copycat revelry. Another party in Houston turned deadly after an unidentified teen was shot multiple times at an illegal party in another vacant home, ABC News reports. The party, which drew between 500 to 1,000 high school and college-age students, was shut down by police, but the gunman reportedly escaped on foot.

    Idle Hands, Empty Homes

    An underlying problem in these and other cases of home vandalism is the glut of vacant homes sitting idle on the market. As foreclosures have flooded local real estate inventories, vacant properties have attracted all manner of blight, lowering property values and putting more financial stress on already struggling neighborhoods.

    And the vacancy problem could continue to rise. Despite a new report that shows a 13 percent drop in completed foreclosures in the first month of this year, as compared to January 2011, there are signs that foreclosures could soon rise. With the $25 billion mortgage settlement finally underway, experts expect foreclosure activity to increase through 2012, as banks begin to clear a massive backlog of disputed foreclosures. One in every 637 homes received a foreclosure filing in February, according to RealtyTrac.

    In Houston, where both wild parties took place, one in every 689 homes received a foreclosure notice in February — up nearly 10 percent from the previous month.

    Also see: Renters Beware: Fraudsters Still Lurking on Craigslist ‘Home Alone’ House Sells for $1.6 Million

    %Gallery-146479% More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. See celebrity real estate.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/03/15/project-x-copycat-revelers-allegedly-wreck-500-000-home/

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    Mortgage Applications Soar to Highest Level Since Spring 2009

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    mortgage applicationsBy Kerri Panchuk

    With interest rates well below 4 percent for the week ending June 8, total mortgage applications soared 18 percent from the previous week, an industry trade group said Tuesday.

    The Mortgage Bankers Association noted that the refinance index increased more than 19 percent from the previous week, reaching its highest level since April of 2009. The seasonally adjusted purchase index rose about 13 percent from a week earlier — reaching its highest level in more than six months.

    “Mortgage application volume increased sharply last week,” said Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s vice president of research and economics. “The increase was accentuated due to the comparison to the week including Memorial Day, but the level of refinance and total market activity is the highest since the spring of 2009.”

    Read more on this story at HousingWire.

    See more on HousingWire: Bear Stears, Deloitte Settle With Investors for $295 Million Basel Committee to Determine If U.S. Big Banks Fit International Standards Wells Fargo to Limit FHA Streamline Participation

    %Gallery-154886% More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. See celebrity real estate.

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/06/13/mortgage-applications-soar-to-highest-level-since-spring-2009/

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    Hasson Company Branch to Join Central Oregon Builders Association

    The Central Oregon branch of premiere Northwest brokerage Hasson Company Realtors has become a member of the Central Oregon Builders Association (COBA). As an organization, COBA advocates politically and locally for the housing industry, and provides opportunities for the public to become educated on issues affecting contemporary homebuilding. COBA will provide the Hasson Company with [...]

    Source: http://www.hassonblog.com/2012/01/hasson-company-branch-to-join-central-oregon-builders-association/

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    Ways a Mortgage Can Help or Hurt Your Credit

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    mortgage creditBy Gerri Detweiler

    Will a mortgage help — or hurt — your credit? If you’re thinking, “Well, both,” you’re exactly right. But there are subtleties involved that may surprise you.

    To get a mortgage these days, a lender is going to closely scrutinize your income, debt and credit history before giving you the loan. That makes a mortgage a sign of financial responsibility that can help your credit scores, says Sarah Davies, senior vice president, risk and analytics, for VantageScore. “They see you as a highly creditworthy consumer,” she says.

    “You might notice that most credit reports single out mortgages in their own category, separate from installment loans and revolving loans,” Steve Ely, CEO of eCredable points out. “Lenders looking beyond the credit score want to quickly see how well you’re doing living up to this obligation. For example, if you are responsible enough to take on a mortgage, and can make the ongoing payments on time, you are rewarded by having your credit score increased over time.”

    Another way a mortgage can help your credit is by rounding out your credit history. “Over the long term, adding a mortgage to your credit report can improve your credit “mix” if, for example, your credit report only contains revolving (typically credit card) accounts,” explains Barry Paperno, community director for Credit.com and an expert in credit scoring. “Having multiple types of credit — revolving and installment — indicates you’re able to manage different types of credit products, and leads to lower risk.”

    But that’s not a huge advantage he warns, since only about 10 percent of your score is based on your mix of credit. (He’s talking primarily about FICO scoring models here.) “Don’t expect the addition of a mortgage to add more than a few points to your score even under the best of circumstances.”

    What about homeowners who have paid off their mortgages? While that may be the smart thing to do financially, it’s not likely to mean a boost to your credit scores. While a paid-off mortgage is still considered when your credit scores are calculated, “it doesn’t play as significant a role,” as one that is still in repayment, Davies warns. One reason for that is that the scoring model can’t tell if the homeowner paid the loan off or simply refinanced it. And what about the size of the loan? Is it better to have a larger mortgage? That may help a little bit, Davies says. But by the same token if you fall behind, the hit to your scores can be greater.

    And, yes, a mortgage can also hurt your credit. The millions of Americans who have missed payments or lost their homes to foreclosure in recent years know that firsthand. Miss a mortgage payment and your scores may drop significantly.

    A VantageScore report explains it this way: For most credit card models, missing a credit card payment has less impact than missing a mortgage or auto payment. This is because credit score models consider late payments on your larger, secured debts as higher risk than being late on smaller, unsecured debts such as credit cards.

    “The bigger the asset, the more foundational it is, and the bigger the hit to your credit score,” warns Davies.

    But even if you’ve made all your payments on time, there is another way a mortgage can impact your credit scores. It’s due to the way new accounts impact your scores. Paperno explains:

    The immediate impact upon adding a mortgage (or any new account) to your credit report is usually a drop in your score. Research has shown that a consumer who has opened a new account recently is more likely to have problems paying on time in the future than someone who has no recently opened accounts. Fortunately, any points lost for this reason tend to be regained within six months after opening the new account, provided all payments are made on time, account balances are kept low and additional new accounts are opened only as needed.

    Ultimately, like most types of credit, a mortgage can help your credit if you manage it well and make the payments on time. That may be easier said than done for some these days, but if your goal is a strong credit score, it’s worth keeping in mind.

    See more on Credit.com: 8 Surprising Things That Affect Your Credit The Ultimate Credit Report Cheat Sheet How Can I Get a Loan After Credit Issues?

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find homes for rent in your area.

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/09/20/ways-a-mortgage-can-help-or-hurt-your-credit/

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    5 Mistakes to Avoid When Refinancing

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    mortgage refinanceMortgage rates are at record lows and should stay that way as long as economic reports continue to be disappointing, according to Bankrate.com, which tracks mortgage rates weekly. However, if you’ve been thinking about refinancing, you should act quickly. If mortgage rates rebound, they could do so fast, according to Bankrate.com.

    But don’t make mistakes in your rush to refinance. Here are five of the biggest ones, according to a survey of LendingTree network lenders. LendingTree is an online marketplace of mortgage lenders.1. Overestimating the value of the home. Despite the fact that home values continue to drop, homeowners still tend to over-value their home. As a result, they receive higher-than-expected loan offers. Use our tool to track home prices in your area so you’ll have a better idea how much your house is worth.

    2. Hesitating to lock in low rates. Lenders are seeing borrowers waiting for rates to drop further, missing out on the opportunity to lock-in with the current low rates.

    3. Focusing only on interest rates. Borrowers often forget to factor in lender fees, loan terms and lender reputations into their decision to refinance. Compare several offers and run all the numbers (including fees) using calculators at Mortgage Professor to see which offer is the best and to determine whether refinancing even makes sense for you.

    4. Overlooking shorter-term loans. Remember, the 30-year mortgage isn’t your only option. A 20-year or 15-year mortgage can shorten the life of the loan and significantly reduce the amount of interest paid.

    5. Not knowing what documents are required to refinance. If you haven’t taken out a mortgage or refinanced recently, you might not be aware that you need a lot more documentation these days to get a loan. Be ready to provide pay stubs from a recent month, two months of bank and other financial statements, two years of W-2s and, if you’re self-employed, two years of tax returns showing self-sustaining income.

    More from Kiplinger: 10 Cities With the Lowest Cost of Living Should I Refinance? 10 Best Value Cities for 2011

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/09/20/5-mistakes-to-avoid-when-refinancing/

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    10 DIY Projects That Even Renters Can Do

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    By Scott Gamm

    NEW YORK — Even though mortgage rates are at historically low levels, it’s the rental market in many areas across the U.S. that is really heating up. Obtaining a mortgage is undoubtedly a strenuous process on the heels of tightened credit standards. Add to that the fact that many Americans simply can’t afford a new home, the number of Americans still jobless or just getting by — and many consumers are finding it easier, or necessary, to rent, which explains why the average rent nationally is at its highest level since 2007, according to researchers at Reis.

    Testifying on Capitol Hill in the aftermath of the housing crash, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner spoke words that previously might have been considered political suicide: Geithner suggested that homeownership should no longer be considered a singular measure of the American Dream — and maybe every American shouldn’t own a home.

    Welcome to the post-housing bubble renter’s society. Geithner didn’t mention it, but his words implied that the do-it-yourself projects associated with the American Dream of home ownership should be applicable to the growing ranks of renters across the nation.

    When renting, it doesn’t make sense to complete a major renovation, like flooring, new windows or a new kitchen. Throughout the duration of your lease, however, there are some easy and inexpensive projects you can do yourself to spruce up your rental. MainStreet asked design pros to weigh in on the top DIY projects for renters.

    Replacing a Showerhead

    If you’ve ever thought the weak water pressure in your shower has nothing to do with the low-flow showerhead installed by the building to minimize their water bill, think again. Chances are the showerhead in your rental needs to be replaced — whether or not it’s because the landlord installed a low-flow head. You, and your hair, will be very happy if you complete this project, and thankfully, this isn’t a lengthy or costly job.

    First off, it’s helpful to know the types of showerheads so you can easily narrow your choices when selecting one at a home improvement store.

    “There are two main categories of showerheads to choose from: fixed or handheld. But within these categories is a wealth of options — from rainshowers to multi-setting versions,” said Andrea Conroy, director of retail marketing at Moen.

    And as for the actual installation of your new showerhead, here’s what Controy suggests:

    1. Unscrew the existing showerhead from the shower arm, using a crescent wrench if necessary.

    2. Remove any old thread seal tape and apply new by wrapping the tape around the shower arm threads two to three times.

    3. By hand, screw the new showerhead onto the shower arm. Use the wrench to tighten the new showerhead. If installing a handheld version, first screw the handheld bracket to the shower arm and tighten with a wrench. Then, attach the hose and handheld shower to the handheld bracket.

    Choosing the Right Paint Color

    Any time you move into a new place, chances are you’ll be painting the kitchen, bedrooms and living room. When choosing what color to paint your rental, there’s a “science” behind different colors.

    “Blue colors elicit feelings of tranquility and confidence. This is the least appetizing color, so it should not be the main color in a kitchen,” advises Chris Ring, v.p. of ProTect Painters.

    “Yellow enhances concentration, speeds metabolism, and is perfect for kitchens and bathrooms,” Ring advises.

    Pink colors are on the tranquilizing end of the color mood scale, making a pink shade an appropriate choice for bedrooms.

    For this and other painting tips below, do keep in mind that even if you are a Michaelangelo, you may have to repaint the walls to white when you move out, and/or take the risk of a landlord trying to claim part of a security deposit as a result of a custom paint job. As such, it’s best to ask for a landlord’s approval to paint and agree to terms before undertaking the project.

    Painting the Bathroom

    Painting a tiny bathroom makes for a challenge, especially when trying to paint around the sink, mirror and shower.

    “Before painting, wash all the walls to remove any mildew with mildew remover or bleach and water,” advises Joe Kowalski, training manager at Glidden.

    And for your bathroom painting job, Kowalski adds these recommendations:

    • For walls, use either a semi-gloss or eggshell finish; both provide dirt and moisture resistance.
    • For the ceiling, paint with an eggshell finish is advised.
    • Paint that includes primer provides extra adhesion over a glossy surface.

    More Storage Is Better

    Whether you’re sidestepping into your small studio rental or fortunate enough to be renting a place with enough closet space, tips for maximizing your rental’s storage space always come in handy.

    Janet Lee, author of Living In A Nutshell, shares these tips:

    1. Place a removable, peel-and-stick wall decal on a bare surface (whether it’s on a wall or the back of a door.) 2. Rub the surface of the sticker with a squeegee to ensure that the decal lays smoothly against the wall. 3. Add a hook onto the decal and apply pressure to ensure damage-free hanging. 4. Wait one hour before hanging hats, jackets, backpacks and other apparel.

    Hiding Your Lamp Cord

    Cords can make your rental a cluttered mess as well as an electrical hazard for children. Lee offers these easy steps for making the cord “disappear”:

    1. Use a hand drill to create a hole in the bottom of a metal gelatin mold. 2. Run a pre-wired pendant cord through the hole of the mold. 3. Insert a light bulb into the end of the cord. 4. Affix cords to wall in decorative loops using clear cord clips for damage-free hanging.

    Read the rest of this story at TheStreet.com.

    More from TheStreet: Kids Off to College? Time to Sell Your Home 10 DIY Projects for Your New Home 10 Home Improvements You’re Wasting Time and Money On

    %Gallery-159150% More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find homes for rent in your area. Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/07/23/10-diy-projects-that-renters-can-do/

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    Home equity loan defaults soar

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    NEW YORK (Fortune) — One of the last sources of ready cash for homeowners looking to get money from their house appears to be shutting down and the results aren’t likely to be pretty for the economy. More From FORTUNE

    Betting against the BoA – Countrywide deal

    Countrywide: From bad to worse

    NEW YORK (Fortune) — One of the last sources of ready cash for homeowners looking to get money from their house appears to be shutting down and the results aren’t likely to be pretty for the economy.

    More From FORTUNE

  • Betting against the BoA – Countrywide deal

  • Countrywide: From bad to worse

  • B of A – Countrywide: The skeptics’ view

  • Last week, buried deep in the ugly details of Countrywide Financial Corp.’s earnings release, was the news that its $32.4 billion portfolio of prime HELOCs — home equity lines of credit — had begun to rapidly deteriorate. The reeling Calabasas, Ca.-lender was forced to take a $704 million charge related to homeowners’ inability to pay back equity they extracted from their homes.

    The structure of these loans appears to spell trouble for Countrywide and other home lenders with big home equity loan books. According to an overlooked Moody’s Investors Services note that came out last Wednesday, once a certain threshold of losses is achieved in a home equity loan securitization pool, the bond holder is paid off ahead of the lender.

    What’s worse is that it’s difficult to see how large a lender’s exposure is to home equity loans. Known as rapid amortization, this risk is treated as a contingent liability for Countrywide and other home equity loan lenders and is carried off balance sheet, until deterioration occurs and the lender goes on the hook for the loans. Countrywide is the nation’s biggest home equity lender, with around 9% of the market.

    In the short-term, this is just another blow for a investors in the financial sector. Longer-term however, it looks like a lot of ready cash is getting taken away from homeowners, at least in California. Coupled with rising unemployment, this could pose a major headache for already strapped homeowners.

    To head off more defaults, Countywide sent out letters to 122,000 homeowners last week informing them that their home equity credit lines were shut down since their estimated home values had dropped below their loan amounts.

    Right behind Countrywide was Chase Home Lending, which notified borrowers in Los Angeles, Imperial and Orange Counties that they could tap their credit lines for no more than 70% of the value of their house. Previously, the limit had been 90%.

    The Calculated Risk blog, which specializes in real estate and mortgage finance issues, has estimated that mortgage equity withdrawals for the fourth quarter totaled $145 billion. If tightening lending standards are put rapidly into place for home equity loans, it is not inconceivable that $50 billion or more of spending power is instantly removed from the economy.

    In other words, at least one-third of the recently passed $150 billion stimulus package is already canceled out.

    (C) 2008 Cable News Network. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2008/02/05/home-equity-loan-defaults-soar/

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    Cities With The Most Homes in Foreclosure

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    Downtown Naperville, IL by Ian Freimuth, Flickr.com By Michael B. Sauter

    According to data released last week, the worst effects of the housing crisis are beginning to wind down. RealtyTrac’s latest report shows the number of foreclosures in the U.S. in April is down 13 percent, to 188,780 from 219,258 a year ago. However, some of the largest cities in the U.S. continue to lag behind the rest of the country and still have long way to go before the housing crash has fully run its course.

    RealtyTrac published the number of new home foreclosures in April in the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. Of those 50 areas, 10 had more than double the national foreclosure rate –one out of every 698 new homes. In California’s Inland Empire metro area, the rate was more than triple that.

    Using RealtyTrac’s foreclosure rates and and home price data from Fiserv Case-Shiller, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates.

    According to Trulia’s chief economist, Jed Kolko, while the overall decline in home prices is the major underlying force behind these areas’ high foreclosure rates, whether foreclosures are increasing or decreasing is also a function of the state’s legal system. Florida, for example, has a lengthy foreclosure process that involves the courts, while Nevada’s process is much shorter and non-judicial. As a result, Florida is much farther behind in liquidating its foreclosure inventory.

    These are the 10 U.S. cities with the most homes in foreclosure.

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/05/25/cities-with-the-most-homes-in-foreclosure/

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    Should Underwater Homeowners Just Walk Away?

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    underwater home mortgages Almost a third (31.4 percent) of homeowners with mortgages are underwater, according to the 2012 first-quarter Zillow Negative Equity Report, yet 90 percent of them are current on their mortgages and continue to make payments. Deciding whether to “stay and pay” on a home that’s worth less than you owe is a tough financial decision, but ultimately, it is one that only homeowners themselves can make.

    And while it’s fraught with emotion for most, there are a number of financial factors that you can and should consider. In fact, looking at the numbers may help you face the facts and make a better financial decision in the long run.

    Own vs. Rent

    When you were thinking about buying your home, you may have tried a “rent versus buy” calculator. (Of course, those were likely created before the housing meltdown and may have overstated some of the value of owning.) Now, however, you must flip the equation: Look at the cost of continuing to own versus the cost of renting.

    To do this, spend a weekend hunting for apartments or houses. Go and take a look at rental homes. Find out what’s available, what they cost and what kinds of requirements landlords are looking for in terms of deposits and credit.

    Get your free credit score and report card from Credit.com.

    The goal? To get a realistic idea of how much you’d pay to rent so that you can compare the cost of renting with what you are paying for your mortgage. When you look at the “own” side of the equation, don’t forget to factor in periodic expenses such as maintenance (including repairs that will have to be done in the next few years) and property taxes (if they aren’t included in your mortgage payment).

    One more twist: If your mortgage (or second mortgage, if you have one) is a variable-rate loan, then you should also consider the cost of your mortgage when interest rates rise. Try an online mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly payment at higher interest rates.

    Getting Back to Square One

    One of the arguments in favor of owning versus renting is that as you pay down your mortgage, you are building equity. But with so many homes underwater, the real question is “when?” When will your home be back in the black and start building equity? Until it does, you are effectively renting. And how much will that cost in the meantime?

    Of course, trying to guesstimate future home-price appreciation is like trying to predict where the stock market is headed. Just take a look at the March 2012 Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey. It compiles predictions from a diverse group of 104 experts — economists, real estate experts, and investment and market strategists — to measure expectations about the projected path of the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index over the next five years.

    Read more of this story at Credit.com.

    See more at Credit.com: 10 Mistakes Homebuyers Make What’s Really in Your Credit Report? The Upside of the Foreclosure Crisis: Affordable Homes

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find homes for rent in your area. Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

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    How to Use Cloth Diapers To Save a Bundle

    Before I had my baby, I knew diapers were going to be expensive. But then I learned how to use cloth diapers to keep my baby budget low.

    Cloth diapers are a bigger cost up front than disposable diapers, but the cost savings proves itself in just a few months. Diapering is one baby cost that doesn’t have to be outrageous. You just need to know how to use cloth diapers.

    Read more…

    The post How to Use Cloth Diapers To Save a Bundle appeared first on DailyPerk.

    Source: http://dailyperk.perkstreet.com/how-to-use-cloth-diapers/

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    May 2012 San Diego Events

    May 4 28th Annual Old Town Cinco de MayoOld Town comes alive with a celebration of art, culture, and history of the 1800’s.  Ride in a horse drawn stagecoach, enjoy music, carnival rides and games, car show, chalk art, riding and roping show, Mexican wrestling, and other activities.  Visit museums and specialty shops, and dine on delicious food and drink. Free. Time:  Fri.  5:00 pm – 10:00 pm / Sat. 11:00 am – 10:00 pm / Sun. 11:00 am – 5:00 pmLocation:  Old Town State Historical Park, San Diego Ave. For more information visit www.fiestaoldtown.com

    May 5 The Salvation Army 3rd Annual Spring Fling FestivalThis festival will feature dozens of local crafters in indoor and outdoor booths.  There will also be live musical entertainment and a fun carnival zone for the kids.  A special feature will be the Silent Auction featuring donations from many San Diego businesses.  Time:  9:00 am – 3:00 pmLocation:  The Salvation Army, 4170 Balboa Ave., Clairemont For more information visit www.sandiegocitadel.com

    May 5-6 Escondido Renaissance FaireTravel back to the 16th century and the glories of the reign of Elizabeth the First.  Activities include several of Will Shakespeare’s new plays, battle pageants, music in the streets, jugglers and hundreds of costumed re-enactors performing in this giant outdoor play.  There is an admission fee, which covers all entertainment. Time:  10:00 am – 6:00 pmLocation:  Felicita County Park, 742 Clarence Lane, Escondido

    For more information visit www.goldcoastfestivals.com/Escondido.html

    May 6 16th Annual Festival Cinco de Mayo – Chula VistaFestival guests will receive a true cultural experience as they sway with Mexican dancers, peruse the work of local artisans and taste authentic south of the border cuisine.  Tune in for a Mariachi Band Battle at one of the two festival stages in addition to the popular Kids Fun Zone.  Come join the 30,000 community members who enjoy this celebration of Hispanic culture. Time:  11:00 am – 7:00 pmLocation:  Downtown Chula Vista, Third Avenue For more information visit http://www.thirdavenuevillage.com

    May 6 Carlsbad Spring Village FaireThe largest one day fair in California.  Features hundreds of exhibitors with a little of everything such as arts and crafts, antiques, clothing, a large variety of food stands serving International foods, and children’s rides.  Time:  8:00 am – 5:00 pmLocation:  Carlsbad Village For more information visit www.kennedyfaires.com/carlsbad

    May 11-13 11th Annual Gator by the Bay A family event featuring Zydeco and Cajun bands, Blues bands and community musical groups performing on multiple stages.  Enjoy Cajun and Creole food, cooking demonstrations, strolling entertainers, dance lessons, and more.

    Time:  Refer to website for scheduleLocation:  Spanish Landing Park at Harbor Island – Harbor Drive – San Diego Bay For more information visit www.gatorbythebay.com

    May 12 Asian Cultural Festival of San DiegoEnjoy musical performances, costumed dancing, martial arts, craft-making, merchandise booths, cultural exhibits and cooking demonstration. There will be a food court, picnic area, and a kid’s area. Time:  10:00 am – 6:00 pmLocation:  Liberty Station – NTC Park, near Cushing & Roosevelt Rds, Point Loma

    For more information visit www.asianculturalfestivalsd.com

    May 13 4th Annual Mother’s Day Fancy Dress SwimFundraiser for World Swims Against Malaria.  Mothers will “dip” in the ocean wearing their Mother’s Day finest.  A five dollar donation is all that is needed for this World Swim Against Malaria.

    Time:  10:00 am – 11:00 amLocation:  Oceanside Pier, Oceanside For more information visit www.onesandiego.org/

    May 16-20 Ocean Beach: Beach Ball FestivalAn outdoor live music, action sports, and microbrew festival.  Lots of food, merchandise, beach volleyball games, a big ferris wheel, a waterslide, mechanical bull rides and a human hauler contest.

    Time:  Wed.-Fri. 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm / Sat. 10:00 am – 10:00 pm / Sun. 10:00 am – 5:00 pmLocation:  Ocean Beach: Saratoga Park, Veterans Plaza, Lifeguard & Municipal Pier Parking Lots

    For more information visit www.oceanbeachsandiego.com

    May 19 24th Annual Tierrasanta Patriot’s DayCelebrate Armed Forces Day with a delicious BBQ dinner under a shaded canopy while listening to pleasant music.  There will be  a beer & wine garden, game area for kids, raffles, dancing, plus a fireworks show.

    Time:  4:00 pm – 9:00 pmLocation:  Tierrasanta Recreation Center, 11220 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Tierrasanta

    For more information call 858-268-0044

    May 19-20 7th Annual Encinitas Sports FestivalJoin 300 of your closest friends and family for two days of sports and fun in Encinitas. The City becomes a sports destination the weekend before Memorial Day and you don’t want to miss it.  Triathlons, Duathlon, Bike Tours, 5K Run, Kids and Family 1K Walk/Run, Moonlight Beach Paddle & Swim, and a 2-day sports expo. Time:  Refer to website for scheduleLocation:  Encinitas – various locations, refer to website For more information visit www.encinitasrace.com/esff.html

    May 20 Annual North Park Festival of the ArtsAn explosion of arts, culture and entertainment with live entertainment, specialty booths, food court, beer garden, Kid’s Art Beat, and tons more! 

    Time:  10:00 am – 6:00 pmLocation:  North Park – University Ave. & 30th St. For more information visit www.northparkfestivalofarts.com

    May 20 26th Annual Navy’s Original Bay Bridge Run/WalkA running and walking event across the Coronado Bay Bridge is a rare opportunity, and now is the time to do it!  The route begins downtown and proceeds across the bridge to the Coronado Island to Tidelands Park, concluding with fun festivities. Time:  7:00 am – 12:00 pmLocation:  Bayfront Hilton Parking Lot, One Park Blvd., San Diego For more information visit www.mwrtoday.com

    May 20 19th Annual Sicilian FestivalCelebrate Sicilian-Italian American heritage and enjoy delicious cuisine from local restaurants in a festive setting in Little Italy.  Music, beer, wine, dancing, ethnic art & craft items to browse.  Free.

    Time:  10:00 am – 6:00 pmLocation:  Little Italy, Downtown San Diego For more information visit www.sicilianfesta.com

    May 20 Escondido Street FaireThis faire will feature live entertainment as well as over 600 booths showcasing arts & crafts, unique clothing, and international foods.  Children’s rides, rock climbing wall, and more!

    Time:  10:00 am – 6:00 pmLocation:  Downtown Escondido, Grand Ave. between Center City Pkwy and lvy. For more information visit www.kennedyfaires.com/escondido

    May 26 Santee Street FairLive bands, entertainment, food, arts & crafts, vendor booths, beer garden.  In just three years the Santee Street Fair has become one of the best events in town.  Over 300 food and vendor booths, 3 stages of live music and entertainment, and fun rides. Time:  10:00 am – 7:00 pmLocation:  Santee Town Center – behind Santee Trolley Square, Mission Gorge Rd., SanteeFor more information visit www.santeestreetfair.com

    May 27 Annual Ethnic Food Fair A cultural food festival at Balboa Park will be offering a delicious assortment of ethnic foods along with entertaining costumed performances.  Free.

    Time:  10:00 am – 5:00 pmLocation:  Balboa Park, House of Pacific Relations International Cottages For more information visit www.sdhpr.org

    May 27 Vista Strawberry FestivalStrawberries will be the main event along with a 5K Fun Run and Kids Runs, as well as 200+ vendors at our street fair, carnival rides, a Strawberry Pie Eating contest, Strawberry Idol, Ms. Strawberry Shortcake, and much more!  Free admission. Time:  7:00 am – 4:00 pmLocation:  Downtown Vista, 127 Main St., Downtown Vista For more information visit www.vvba.org

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    Case-Shiller: Why the Sky Isn’t Falling

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    case shillerCount me among the unpanicked over the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller monthly housing index that shows housing values have dipped past a low set during the Great Recession. I’m not even getting goosebumps over the chilling words “housing double-dip.”

    Nope. For the 70 million home-owning Americans who don’t have a need to sell their homes at the moment, this is not the end of the world. Yes, they can thank their lucky stars that they still have jobs and didn’t get ensnared in a toxic mortgage. And yes, they can feel for their friends and family who weren’t so fortunate — or, if they are feeling less charitable, weren’t as smart as they. But for the bulk of Americans, this is a problem that, well, doesn’t hit that close to home.

    Want perspective? Of the 75 million owner-occupied homes in the U.S., about 5 million were sold in the past year, which means that there were tens of millions of home owners who were content to stay put, paying their bills and living obliviously to the drops in home prices. Of those five million sales last year, about one third were distressed sales.

    Currently, there are 3.87 million homes on the market. In April, distressed homes were 37 percent of sales (24 percent foreclosures and 13 percent short sales). And 7 percent of new listings were foreclosures, but they’ve been entering the pipeline at a steady pace and selling quickly at bargain prices, says the National Association of Realtors.

    Of course, scary Case-Shiller numbers are nothing new. Since last June, when a yearlong rebound in prices began to sputter out, the index has recorded losses every month. If there’s a bright spot, it’s that in the last quarterly report, all 20 cities tracked showed declines; in the most recent index, two of the 20 actually showed month-over-month improvement.

    And for the record, the experts back in December offered the same explanations as did the experts commenting on this week’s report: The large number of foreclosures on the market and the expiration of the federal homebuyer tax credit are pushing prices down.

    I’d throw in an even larger reason that the experts gloss over: Lenders aren’t lending money to even qualified buyers. They have imposed unrealistic standards for those applying for mortgages and then wonder where all the buyers are. Maybe they should look for them under the mountains of paperwork that they keep demanding and misplacing. Seriously, has anyone tried to get so much as a refinance lately?

    NAR says, albeit more politely than I do, that “the recovery is uneven, held back by unnecessarily tight credit.” The association projects that “if the lending community simply returned to the safe, sound standards that were in place a decade ago (before the lax standards that led to the unprecedented boom-and-bust cycle), home sales would rise 15 to 20 percent over current projections.” Now wouldn’t that be nice?

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    Home Prices Drop to Record Low

    These AOL Real Estate guides can help, no matter whether you choose to buy or sell:

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Get property tax help from our experts.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/06/02/case-shiller-the-sky-isnt-falling/

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    Are Low Mortgage Rates Killing the Housing Market?

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    This may fall under the category of “too much of a good thing,” but there is growing sentiment that the historically low interest rates on mortgages are actually fueling the stagnation of the housing market.

    By keeping rates low, the hope was that more people would be motivated to buy homes. And when that didn’t happen, fingers of blame were pointed in the direction of more stringent lending standards. People can’t qualify for loans, can’t avail themselves of the low rates — so went the bank-bashing.

    But along came some numbers that tell a different story. Yes, lending standards are making it tougher to qualify for loans now, but the reality is that fewer people are even trying. The national Mortgage Bankers Association, which tracks new mortgage applications weekly, says those applications were down 14.9 percent last week from one week earlier. The group expects to see mortgage originations fall from an estimated $1.2 trillion in 2011 to $900 billion in 2012.

    Could it be that when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the low interest rates would be around through 2013, buyers just plopped back on their couches waiting to see if the housing prices would fall even further?

    The ‘Luxury of Waiting’

    “By keeping rates low for two years, you gave buyers the luxury of waiting to see if the market is at the bottom,” says Paul Habibi, professor of real estate at UCLA’s Anderson School of Business Management. “Why wouldn’t you wait if you were a buyer?” he asks. “There are no expectations of home value appreciation, so all that low interest rates have done is create a big holding pattern in buyer behavior.”

    So should we be praying for rates to start creeping up?

    “Rising rates are absolutely a better motivator than falling ones,” says Dan Green, loan officer with Waterstone Mortgage, who runs the award-winning TheMortgageReports.com website. He notes that for the second straight year, low rates sparked a boom in refis, but did little to help the purchase market.

    It’s kind of maddening for mortgage guys like Green who underscore that a 1 percent mortgage rate drop, like the one we’ve had since last year, translates into an instant 11 percent increase in purchasing power.

    “Falling mortgage rates do more to help home affordability than falling home prices,” he says. Yet still no one is buying.

    Which leads to the next line of thinking: If lower interest rates immobilized buyers, might not rising rates serve as a cattle prod? A few good pokes in the bellies of reluctant buyers might just get them off the couch and back into the game.

    Also see: Want a Mortgage? Avoid These 8 Mistakes Upside Down on Your First House? Just Buy a Second One! Mortgage Mod Hell: Trapped Between Lenders, Collectors

    %Gallery-137795% More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find rentals in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/10/31/are-low-mortgage-rates-killing-the-housing-market/

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    ‘I’m Trapped in a High-Rate Mortgage’

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    By Les Christie

    Record-low mortgage rates of 3 percent to 4 percent have been out of reach for these homeowners. Despite having good credit and making their payments on time, they’re stuck paying 6 percent or more on their loans. See the whole story on CNNMoney.

    It Would Kill My Father to Walk Away

    high rate mortgageName: Kristy Robinette and Ronald Schiller Hometown: Livonia, Mich. Interest rate: 7 percent

    Shortly after her mother passed away five years ago, Kristy Robinette bought a home with her father, Ronald Schiller, for $189,000.

    They love the place, but its value has plummeted to $120,000 — and they still owe $178,000. Even worse: the mortgage is carrying a sky-high 7 percent rate.

    For three years now, they’ve been trying to refinance, but they owe too much to meet Freddie Mac’s guidelines. And since they haven’t fallen behind on payments, they don’t qualify for a modification under the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program.

    Read more of this story at CNNMoney.

    Denied Twice and Feeling Hopeless

    high rate mortgageName: Arturo and Leigh Candelas Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colo. Interest rate: 5.88 percent

    The Candelas have tried several times to reduce the almost 6 percent rate they’re paying on their mortgage.

    Twice they attempted to refinance, in 2009 and 2010, but their home’s value had fallen by so much — from $650,000 to $423,000 — that the bank denied their requests.

    “To say that we’re frustrated would be an understatement,” said Leigh Candelas, who is a stay-at-home mom. “We’ve never been late on our mortgage payments and naively went through the refi process twice only to pay the appraisal fees for no reason.”

    Read more of this story at CNNMoney. ‘I Give Up’

    high rate mortgageName: Kelly Reeves Hometown: Newport Beach, Calif. Interest rate: 6.75 percent

    Living in hard-hit Orange County, Calif., Kelly Reeves has seen her home’s value plummet so severely that she now owes $180,000 more on her home than it’s worth.

    Her adjustable-rate mortgage, which carries a 6.75 percent rate, is due to reset in January, leaving her guessing as to what she’ll pay next year.

    Reeves, who is a media consultant, has made several attempts to refinance to a fixed-rate loan but always hits a dead end.

    Read more of this story at CNNMoney. Could Save Close to $1,000 a Month

    high rate mortgageName: Thomas Coe Hometown: Los Angeles Interest rate: 6.38 percent and 7.88 percent

    Thomas Coe bought a cozy house in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles for $559,000 in 2007. He didn’t put much money down and financed the balance with a $417,000 interest-only mortgage (a loan you pay only interest on for a fixed period, then pay off the balance) that carries a 6.38 percent rate and a $100,000 home equity loan charging a pricey 7.88 percent.

    Coe, who is an assistant director on feature films including “Twilight,” could save nearly $1,000 a month if he refinanced both loans to today’s low rates. “I know my interest rates are so high right now compared to what’s current,” he said.

    Coe was earlier denied a refinance through his lender, Bank of America, because he’s underwater. But he thinks he may qualify for some relief under the $25 billion mortgage settlement, an agreement reached between the attorneys general of 49 states and the nation’s five largest banks — including Bank of America — over foreclosure processing abuses.

    Read more of this story at CNNMoney.

    4 Banks, $1,450 in Fees Later

    high rate mortgageName: Brent and Christina Knittel Hometown: Stateline, Nev. Interest rate: 5.5 percent and 6 percent

    Brent and Christina Knittel look great on paper. According to the couple, they have steady jobs (Brent is a real estate investor and Christina is a corporate communications director), ample income, strong credit scores and make their mortgage payments on time.

    Nevertheless, the couple hit one roadblock after another when trying to refinance the two fixed-rate loans they took out on their Lake Tahoe condo.

    Their lender, Bank of America, offered to refinance their loan to 4.7 percent, a point higher than the average rates that were available. But since the closing costs would come to several thousand dollars, the savings from the new rate weren’t big enough to make the refi worthwhile.

    Read more of this story at CNNMoney.

    See more on CNNMoney: 2012 Best Places to Live Top-earning Towns Hotspots for the Rich and Single

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. See celebrity real estate.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate, or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook and Pinterest.

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    Mortgage Mod Hell: Trapped Between Lenders, Collectors

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    Kate Hanni is no stranger to public advocacy. After she was trapped in a plane on the tarmac for more than nine hours, she formed Flyers Rights, the largest nonprofit advocacy group for airline passengers’ rights. The result was the passage of the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights and the three-hour tarmac-delay limit for the flying public.

    Now Hanni — who blogged about her experience for The Huffington Post – is standing up for another cause that affects her personally: the housing crisis. This time, instead of an airplane, she’s trapped in mortgage modification hell. Her complaint? Lenders won’t talk to you unless you are behind in your payments, and then once you are, their debt collectors start harassing you with calls asking when you expect to pay up.

    Hanni, a real estate agent for 23 years, and her husband, who worked in the wine industry, were doing just fine until the recession dried up both their businesses. Their incomes shrank, along with the value of their Napa Valley, Calif., home. They turned to their savings to stay afloat, running through about 75 percent of their retirement fund and the money they had set aside for their son’s college education. And then — despite all she had read about the frustrations and failures of the loan modification process — Hanni decided to try for one.

    The first thing her lender, Bank of America, told her was that loan modifications were only for those who were behind in their mortgage payments, and since buying the house in 1997, Hanni had always paid on time. So in order to qualify, it became necessary to stop paying her mortgage and start ruining her credit.

    The collection calls started coming about three weeks after she was late with her first payment. “These calls just won’t stop,” Hanni says, despite her attempts to explain that she’s only doing what the bank advised her to do. “Bank of America is spending a zillion dollars having people make these calls, and it just makes no sense. Why not have a loan modifier call instead?”

    While Hanni’s story certainly can’t top that of Deborah Crabtree — the woman in Hawaii who claims in a lawsuit that Bank of America’s debt collectors called her up to 48 times a day, including at her husband’s wake — it does represent what a lot of homeowners are experiencing.

    Trashing Your Credit to Save Your House

    With President Obama about to announce mortgage reforms, we are a nation with crossed fingers, hoping that one of the practices he ends is the one in which lenders refuse to give you the time of day unless you first miss a couple of payments.

    Hanni, 51, and her husband, 59, “don’t have a whole lot of time to recoup” their spent savings, she says, adding, “every issue facing America is facing my family . . . unemployment, low resources, and being forced to destroy our excellent credit” to apply for a loan modification.

    “Forcing Americans out of their homes, removing their real estate residential interest tax credits, and crippling their ability to own again or even to get a decent rental due to a forced, reduced creditworthiness is insane,” Hanni says. “The outcome is that the home will still be devalued, drag down values in the neighborhood and create a worse situation for the former homeowner. Depending on their age, they may never recover from this disaster.”

    Judging from what happened the last time Hanni got passionate about a consumer issue, the banking industry had better watch out.

    Also see: HAMP Mortgage Modification Program Still No Help The Mortgage Fix That Can Save the Economy

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find homes for rent in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/09/08/mortgage-mod-hell-trapped-between-lenders-collectors/

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    Home Equity Loan a Good Option for Cash-Strapped Retirees

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    Home values sank, the stock market plummeted, 401K plans were depleted, and today many of the nearly 40 million Americans in retirement are discovering they may have not been financially prepared for a doomsday scenario. One remedy many Baby Boomers, with their record-high level of home ownership, may not have considered is a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). For more than half of all U.S. households, home equity — the

    More retirement-age Americans are going back to workHome values sank, the stock market plummeted, 401K plans were depleted, and today many of the nearly 40 million Americans in retirement are discovering they may have not been financially prepared for a doomsday scenario. One remedy many Baby Boomers, with their record-high level of home ownership, may not have considered is a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC).

    For more than half of all U.S. households, home equity — the value of a home minus the debt owned — accounts for at least 50 percent of net wealth, according to the Survey of Consumer Finances, published by the Federal Reserve. Statistics also reveal — according to an annual government report, A Profile of Older Americans — that the over-65 population is swelling and an increasing number of retirement-age Americans are being forced back to work. More money problems are on the way, with half of U.S. households in jeopardy of being able to sustain their lifestyle through retirement, says the Center for Retirement Research of Boston College.

    Home equity loans were traditionally used has a last resort for retirees, but a growing number of seniors are tapping their home equity earlier, either as a financial buffer, to sustain income security, or to improve debt management.

    How can retirement-age homeowners tap into their home equity in a responsible and fruitful way?

    For retired Americans who have a small mortgage or no mortgage and low levels of debt, leveraging the equity in their home — either through a home equity loan or a second mortgage — is a way to free up immediate cash.

    “It would be cheaper than taking out an unsecured loan, where the rates are generally higher,” said Clifton Thomas, a CPA in San Francisco, though he cautioned that this be determined on a case-by-case basis and is not a viable route if monthly payments cannot be covered.

    Increased longevity has many over age 65 worrying that they may outlive their retirement resources. For those who do not have income from employer-sponsored pension plans, longterm financial security may be unusually challenging. Some financial planners recommend deferring Social Security payments and taking out a term home-equity loan or reverse mortgage to help fund expenses for a few years, when they will qualify for maximum Social Security benefits.

    Another common fear of older Americans is having to spend their last years in a nursing home. But better overall health and the growth of community living has drastically reduced that risk. Today, most people would prefer to live in their homes for as long as they can. As a result, preserving the value of one’s home has become more important — and having a financial cushion helps older homeowners make repairs such as faulty furnaces and leaky roofs before they become more serious. A HELOC, which requires borrowers only to pay interest on the amount they use from the loan, is well-suited for this purpose.

    As older Americans struggle to pay rising household expenses, their use of credit cards has expanded, according to the Survey of Consumer Finances. Today, nearly 50 percent of families aged 55 to 64 carry credit card debt. Debt consolidation may be a good way to fend off personal bankruptcy. Shifting credit card debt to a HELOC is a good way to lower monthly expenses, since interest rates for home equity debt are much lower than than those for credit cards.

    For those seniors with existing mortgages, monthly payments make it hard to enjoy later life. In this case, a home equity loan or reverse mortgage can allow homeowners to defer monthly mortgage payments on a conventional mortgage.

    Experts say that it’s never too late to make a financial plan that will access your current assets and expenditures, and project your future cash flow. Michael Gray, a CPA in San Jose, Calif., recommends that seniors hire a fee-only financial advisor rather than one who is commission-based, who may (or may not) benefit from clients moving money in and out of different investments.

    For qualified homeowners, a home equity loan and a HELOC will likely be among the options recommended. As part of a responsible retirement plan, both may provide financial security that previously seemed unobtainable.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2010/12/09/home-equity-loan-a-good-option-for-cash-strapped-retirees/

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    Eagle Pass Housing Authority Section 8 opens October 17

    The Housing Authority of the City of Eagle Pass will open their Section 8 waiting  list beginning October 17, 2012.  The housing authority will take thirty (30) applications every Wednesday from 8:00AM to 11:00AM.   The housing authority closed their waiting list Feb. 2010. The agency anticipates high interest from the…

    Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/EaglePassBusinessJournal/~3/OVVnSNtMP-w/

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    Obama’s Refinance Plan Explained

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    By Nick Timiraos

    The Obama administration is revamping a program that’s designed to let more homeowners refinance their mortgages even if they don’t have any equity. This isn’t a new program, but instead attempts to turbo-charge an existing federal initiative called the Home Affordable Refinance Program.

    Here’s a look at some frequently asked questions:

    What is HARP? The Obama administration in 2009 rolled out HARP to refinance borrowers whose loans were backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and who were current on their payments. The idea was simple: If you were making your payments on time but didn’t have enough equity to refinance, you would be able to lower your rate without having to pay down your mortgage balance or take out mortgage insurance.

    Initially, the program was limited to borrowers who owed between 80% and 105% the value of their homes. In mid 2009, the program was opened to borrowers who owed up to 125% the value of their homes.

    But a series of unforeseen “frictions” have led fewer borrowers to take up on the offer of lower rates. Fewer than 900,000 homeowners have refinanced under HARP over the past 2½ years, and just 72,000 of those borrowers have loan-to-value ratios between 105% and 125%.

    Click here for the rest of the Q&A.

    See also: Obama to Announce Refi Help for Underwater Homeowners

    More from the Wall Street Journal: Ginormous Dallas Hotel Set to Open Is the Housing Crisis Making People Sick? At Zucotti Park, Love Under the Tarps

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/10/24/obamas-refinance-plan-explained/

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    Home Builder Turns Trash Into $10,000 Green Homes

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    dan phillipsDan Phillips is one of the most unconventional home builders you’ll ever find. In fact, he’s more an ecological social messiah than a home builder (see video below). For $10,000, he builds affordable homes for low-income people that are attractive, energy-efficient and save landfills. Most builders purchase building materials — piles of wood, sheet rock, nails, bricks, and tiles — that are used in construction and then, when the house is finished, the waste is discarded to the dump. Phillips, 66, salvages those materials, hauling them from the trash or even picking them up on the road, to build or remodel homes for low-income buyers.

    He says he’s just doing what people have been doing for years — using whatever they can scrounge up to to build shelter.

    “And if you ponder what could be used,” says the Huntsville, Tex., resident, “then building materials are everywhere.”

    Phillips himself has been “everywhere”: He worked as an intelligence officer in the Army, then as a dance instructor, an antiques dealer and a puzzle maker. Fourteen years ago he started a new career: Creating affordable homes for low-income families out of trash. He is a self-taught carpenter, electrician and plumber. His motivation came from the disparity he saw between #mini_module {width:265px;height:220px;border:none;float:left;margin:10px;font-size:12px;} #mini_module img {border:none;width:265px;height:131px;border:none;margin:0px;} #mini_module .mini_title {margin:0px;padding:0px;width:265px;height:131px;} #mini_module .mini_main {margin:0px;padding:0px;width:265px;height:85px;background: transparent url(http://www.aolcdn.com/travel/bg-short)} #mini_module .mini_item {padding:12px 0px;margin:0px 20px;border-bottom:1px dotted #CCCCCC;} #mini_module a {color:#49A3CA;text-decoration:none;} #mini_module a:hover {color:#F98419;text-decoration:underline;} Search Homes for Sale See photos of homes for sale in your area and across the country on AOL Real Estate

    landfills overflowing with discarded building materials and a lack of affordable housing. He started Phoenix Commotion, a for-profit company that hopes to solve the world’s social problems associated with housing.

    Phillips builds homes for as little as $10,000, making them energy-efficient with tight insulation, solar hot water and even a rainwater catchment system. He hires unskilled workers, teaches them marketable construction skills and then helps them find jobs when the project is complete. He keeps the landfills shallow by using truckfuls of leftover building materials such as lumber, tile and granite. Locals even hand off their old fixtures and doors to Phillips when they remodel, which he keeps in a warehouse and distributes free to low-income and needy people and organizations.

    Huntsville officials say he is saving costs as well as Mother Earth. In fact, his materials warehouse has inspired a spin-off in Houston, the nation’s third largest metropolitan area. The Houston warehouse opened in October, 2009 and within the first six months diverted 200 tons of building materials.

    So far, Phillips has built 13 homes that are highly unusual, especially in Huntsville, a town of 35,000 north of Houston whose main industry is the huge high security prison that houses Texas death row inmates.

    There’s the “Bone House,” which features a stairway made of bones, floors covered in wine corks and beer bottle caps, and a skylight made from — are you ready? — a Pyrex baking dish.

    There’s the Storybook House that has that medieval Hansel and Gretel feel. There’s the Budweiser House with an exterior of red, white and blue. There’s the 600-square-foot Doll House, built for Gloria Rivera, a doughnut-shop cashier who put her own thumbprints in the bright yellow stucco walls, which was constructed of almost 100 percent salvaged, donated or recycled materials.

    To Phillips’s dismay, about half the homes he has built in Huntsville have been lost to foreclosure. As he told the New York Times in 2009, “You can put someone in a new home, but you cannot give them a new mindset.”

    Undaunted, he is continuing to spread the story of what he does to others and preach his philosophy: You may not save the world anytime soon, but you can help tidy up your own backyard.

    See photos of other amazing green homes here.

    %Gallery-120434%

    For more green coverage, visit the Huffington Post Green section.

    Candy is an award-winning, Dallas-based real estate reporter, blogger, and consultant. She’s the gal who brought House Porn to the Bible Belt! Read more at SecondShelters.com. and send story ideas and tips to CandyEvans@secondshelters.com.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/04/25/home-builder-turns-trash-into-green-homes-for-10-000/

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    Bob Vila’s 5 ‘Must Do’ Projects Before Summer

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    sealing a driveway

    May is that in-between month — that time of year when we adjust to the unpredictable nature of spring and get ready to welcome summer with its longer days, warmer temperatures, and unlimited opportunities for outdoor enjoyment.

    Being a month defined by transition, May is an ideal time to take care of basic maintenance inside and outside the house. Better to find out now that you have a faulty air conditioner, roof leak, or deck in need of refinishing than to later disrupt the more pleasurable pursuits of summer.

    Here are my five top “must-dos” for the month of May:

    %Gallery-156058% Related:

    Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s “This Old House,” “Bob Vila’s Home Again” and “Bob Vila.” Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content — practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

    Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/05/25/bob-vilas-5-must-do-projects-before-summer/

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    Mortgage Rates Stay Low, But Homebuyers Aren’t Budging

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    mortgage ratesWASHINGTON — The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4 percent this week, nearly matching the all-time low hit just one month ago.

    Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan dropped from 4.10 percent last week. Four weeks ago, it dropped to 3.94 percent — the lowest rate ever, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.31 percent from 3.38 percent. Four weeks ago, it too hit a record low of 3.26 percent.

    Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. They yield fell this week after investors shifted money out of stocks and into the safety of Treasurys on fears that Europe’s debt crisis could worsen.

    The Federal Reserve is also shifting more money into longer-term Treasurys to try to force mortgage rates lower. Treasury yields fall when buying activity increases.

    Less Home Buying Than Expected

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that low rates have failed to spur the increase in home buying or mortgage refinancing that government officials had expected.

    High unemployment and declining wages have made it harder for many people to qualify for loans. Many Americans don’t want to sink money into a home that could lose value over the next three to four years. And most homeowners who can afford to refinance already have.

    %Gallery-137999% The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes fell in September and is on pace to match last year’s dismal figures — the worst in 13 years.

    Sales of new homes rose last month after four straight monthly declines. But the increase was largely because builders cut their prices. And it followed a peak buying season that was the worst on records going back nearly 50 years.

    A Run on Refinancing

    The low rates have caused a modest boom in refinancing, but that benefit might be wearing off. Most people who can afford to refinance have already locked in rates below 5 percent.

    Rates have been below 5 percent for all but two weeks in the past year. Just five years ago they were closer to 6.5 percent. Ten years ago, they were above 8 percent.

    The average rate on the five-year adjustable loan fell to 2.96 percent from 3.08 percent. That matches a record low hit four weeks ago.

    The average rate on the one-year adjustable loan declined to 2.88 percent from 2.90 percent. It fell last month to 2.81 percent, the lowest on records dating to 1984.

    The average rates don’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

    The average fee for the 30-year fixed mortgage fell from 0.8 to 0.7. The average fee on the 15-year fixed loan was unchanged at 0.7. The average fees on the five-year adjustable loan one-year adjustable loan were also unchanged at 0.6.

    To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week.

    Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

    Also see: Open Houses of the Week: Hobnob With the 1 Percent Where Are the Real Home Bargains? Not Where You Think! Mortgage Giant Asks Taxpayers for Another $6 Billion

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find rentals in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/11/04/mortgage-rates-stay-low-but-buyers-arent-budging/

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    ‘Mortgage Prof’: 5 Reasons Banks Would Rather Foreclose

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    “Why won’t the bank just reduce the amount of my loan instead of taking my home and then selling it to someone else for way less than I would have been happy to pay?” It’s a question that gets asked repeatedly these days, especially by people who are facing foreclosure or are upside down on their mortgages.

    For the answer, we turned to Jack Guttentag, the Mortgage Professor and Inman columnist.

    Guttentag believes that lenders have been too stingy when it comes to reducing loan balances. Private lenders have offered loan reductions only sparingly, he says, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac not at all.

    Here’s the professor’s take on why homeowners can’t catch a break on loan reductions.

    1. The buck stops there.

    The decisions to reduce principal loan amounts are made by the firms that service mortgages — the same folks who brought the country the robo-signing scandal. As servicing firms, anything they decide must be in the financial interest of their client — that’s your lender, not you. If they depart from customary practice — and writing down loan balances is a departure from customary practice — the buck stops with them, Guttentag says. In other words, who’s going to take the risk of reducing Joe Homeowner’s loan amount and then have to explain it to the boss? To take Nancy Reagan out of context: They just say no.

    2. Banks are in the business of making money.

    No lender is going to write down the balance of a loan in default just because you owe more than the home is worth. Truth is, there is no benefit to the lender to helping Joe Homeowner keep his house instead of selling it to the next guy. Plus, to help Joe would eliminate the possibility that the bank could also get a deficiency judgment against him. Banks are in this for the squeeze and think of Joe as just the orange. Nothing personal, of course.

    3. In this economy, you will likely default anyway.

    Sure, you want to believe that the economy is going to turn around and the value of your home will again rise to what you paid for it. After all, hasn’t listening to a fairy tale been a surefire way to fall asleep?

    From the lender’s standpoint, the only reason to write down a loan balance is that it will reduce the chance that you will default. And evidence has shown that people who are heavily underwater — that’s deep in negative equity territory — are more likely to default than those who aren’t. Truth is, negative equity discourages people from making their mortgage payments. They figure: Why keep throwing good money after bad?

    4. Banks are short-staffed and the staff they do have is untrained.

    Most interactions between mortgage borrowers and servicers are handled by computers or relatively unskilled employees, says Guttentag. Borrowers in serious trouble are referred to a smaller number of more skilled and specialized employees, but until you enter the red zone, you are likely to encounter frustration.

    Guttentag says that at the onset of the mortgage crisis, servicers were caught short-handed and the sheer volume of foreclosures in the pipeline hasn’t allowed them to catch their breath.

    5. Mortgage insurance works against you.

    When mortgages carrying mortgage insurance go to foreclosure, banks are protected up to the maximum coverage of the policy, which generally is enough to cover all or most of the loss. This discourages modifications, says Guttentag. Why would a bank do a modification for $15,000 if the $40,000 foreclosure cost is going to be paid by the mortgage insurer? Even if the insurance coverage falls short of the foreclosure cost, the shortfall has to exceed the modification cost before modification becomes financially more attractive.

    So there you have it. A five-point plan for keeping homeowners on the hook for that hefty loan balance.

    Also see: Viewpoint: Where’s Housing in the ‘Occupy’ Protests? Mortgage Mod Hell: Trapped Between Lenders, Collectors The Mortgage Fix That Can Save the Economy

    %Gallery-135214% More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find homes for rent in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/10/18/mortgage-prof-why-banks-foreclose-instead-of-settling-for-les/

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    How to Get Your Mortgage Above Water

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    underwater home mortgagesThe problem: You want to sell your home but the loan is underwater. To sell now, you’d have to dig into other assets to fill the gap between what you owe and what the home will fetch, and you just don’t have that much.

    The solution? Hope home prices start to recover, continue to make regular payments to steadily reduce the loan balance, and either add extra principal payments or save in some other way.

    But how long will this take?

    It is possible to make an estimate — to get a sense whether it will take three years or 10, for instance. That should help in evaluating your options, though some key factors are uncertain, such as your home’s appreciation rate and the returns you might earn on any savings.

    If you want to begin an aggressive effort to get above water, the key issue will be whether to make extra principal payments or to save in another way that might get you to your goal faster but with more risk.

    Extra principal payments earn an investment return equal to the mortgage interest rate, since every extra dollar paid to reduce the loan balance saves interest charges on a dollar. If you had a 5 percent mortgage, extra principal payments would earn a guaranteed 5 percent, which is high compared with yields on other guaranteed savings. A five-year certificate of deposit, for instance, pays just 1.1 percent. You might earn more in the stock market, then use the gains to help pay off the loan balance, but you could lose money, too.

    Ordinary mortgage payments also help you slowly get above water because each payment reduces the loan balance. Every payment puts a bit more toward principal than the last.

    So how do you put all these factors together? Jack M. Guttentag, emeritus professor of finance at the Wharton School, provides two calculators on his website, The Mortgage Professor. The first shows how long it will take to get above water, the second how much extra one would have to pay on principal to reach a given equity level in a specified time.

    His example shows a loan with a $200,000 balance, a home worth $150,000 and a $1,300 monthly payment.

    If the loan rate was 6 percent, the appreciation rate zero and the borrower made only the required payment, it would take 122 months for the negative equity to be wiped out, leaving the borrower with a property worth exactly as much as the remaining loan balance after about 10 years.

    But if the home appreciated at 2 percent a year and the borrower made extra principal payments of $100 a month, the time to get above water would be cut nearly in half, to 68 months.

    Using the calculator, you can study your own situation. Keep in mind that one key factor — the home’s appreciation rate — is just guesswork, so it will pay to experiment with various rates. It’s unlikely we’ll see soaring home values anytime soon, even if the market does start to recover.

    See more on TheStreet: No-Card ATM Transactions Gaining Steam Beware: ‘Great’ Condo Deals Bring Other Fees 3 Things Insiders Ask When Getting a Mortgage

    See also: Underwater Mortgages Keeping Housing Market Afloat? Should Underwater Homeowners Just Walk Away? Extreme Home Makeovers: From Sorry to Stunning %Gallery-156057% More on AOL Real Estate: Find homes for rent in your area. Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/06/14/how-to-get-your-mortgage-above-water/

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    House of the Day: Where the Deer and Antelope Play

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    While it doesn’t carry a price tag quite as mind-blowing as its neighbor (nearby Jackson Land and Cattle Ranch is listed at $175 million), this $100-million ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyo., known as “Walton Ranch,” still is certainly one of the most expensive properties on the American market.

    The 1,848-acre property nestles between Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks, and plays host to a rich array of wildlife. Elk, bear, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, antelope and deer roam its expansive woodlands and meadows, which stretch along three miles of Snake River. And even with all that nature at hand, the ranch affords residents easy access to world-class ski resorts and vibrant nightlife — it’s just five miles to Jackson Hole.

    %Gallery-129689% To protect the property’s pristine environment, the former owners placed it under conservation easement in 1983. That distinguishes it from neighbor Jackson Land and Cattle Ranch, whose heftier price stems partly from the fact that it has 35 separate lots open for development. Walton Ranch is a functioning cattle ranch and hay farm with a two-story main house and manager’s complex containing two homes, bunkhouse outbuildings, sheds, barns, and, of course, corrals.

    Ranch Marketing Associates is handling the property.

    Got a tip for House of the Day? Know of an exceptional or unusual property currently listed for sale? Please email ann.brenoff@huffingtonpost.com with your suggestions and be sure to include links to listing details and photos. (Due to the volume of response, we unfortunately are unable to respond to each submission.)

    See more Houses of the Day and other homes for sale in Wyoming on AOL Real Estate.

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. See celebrity real estate.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/08/08/house-of-the-day-where-the-deer-and-antelope-play/

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    House of the Day: Luxury by Lake Tahoe

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    This $6.785 million residence, located in the luxurious Martis Camp community of North Lake Tahoe, Calif., boasts four bedrooms, 5½ baths, and an incredible array of cutting-edge amenities — including a home iPad interface system and hydronic heating throughout the flooring.

    The master suite, which offers commanding views of majestic arboreal wilderness, includes a fireplace and spa-inspired bath. The lower level features a recreation-media room, complete with a surround-sound system and a bar, as well as a 1,000-bottle wine cellar and an exercise den. Moveable glass walls divide the living room from an outdoor patio and walk-out terrace, which offer extensive outdoor entertaining space including a spa, fire pit, dining area and landscaped lawn. Furnishings throughout are a combination of the rustic and the ultramodern.

    %Gallery-152060% As if this all weren’t enough, Martis Camp residency offers several extra layers of luxury, including an 18-hole golf course, and a family recreation center with swimming, bowling, basketball, cinema and art. Finally, the community includes 26 miles of private trails for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

    Brian Hull of Martis Camp has the listing.

    Click on the images below to see more homes for sale near Lake Tahoe, Calif.

    See more Houses of the Day on AOL Real Estate.

    Got a tip for House of the Day? Know of an exceptional or unusual property currently listed for sale? Please email krisanne.alcantara@huffingtonpost.com with your suggestions and be sure to include links to listing details and photos. (Due to the volume of response, we unfortunately are unable to reply to each submission.)

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. See celebrity real estate.

    #fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-355424{display:none;} .cke_show_borders #fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-355424, #postcontentcontainer #fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-355424{width:570px;height:411px;display:block;}

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/04/03/house-of-the-day-luxury-by-lake-tahoe/

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    Your Facebook Status: Foreclosed

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    facebook foreclosedForeclosure via Facebook? With roughly 4 million foreclosures in the pipeline in this country, some legal experts say it’s just a matter of time until lenders win the right to serve foreclosure documents through the giant social network.

    That day has already come for one couple in Australia. When they defaulted on a six-figure loan and couldn’t be found via a physical address or email, the lender’s enterprising lawyers located them on Facebook. The lawyers were able to verify the couple’s identities by matching up their names and birthdates — and, of course, the fact that they had “friended” each other.

    Australian courts upheld the lender’s right to send foreclose notices via Facebook, citing the fact that the couple didn’t enable privacy protections on their Facebook accounts and were frequent enough visitors to the site that they would “reasonably receive notice as a result.”

    While Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, says he is unaware of Facebook being used in the U.S. to deliver legal notifications, but “it’s bound to happen,” he said. “The real concern the courts have is whether it’s a fair notice that the person actually receives.” According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, courts in New Zealand, Canada and the U.K. already have adopted the Australian example to avoid having cases stall when people can’t be located and served in person.

    “There are people who exist only online,” Joseph DeMarco, co-chair of the American Bar Association’s criminal justice cyber crime committee, told the publication. The ability to serve documents by social-media networks would be useful, he said.

    Facebook has taken heat before about its policies protecting the personal data of its 694 million users worldwide. Following the case in Australia, which happened in 2008, company spokesman Barry Schnitt said the company was pleased to see the Australian court validate Facebook as a reliable, secure and private communication medium. (Facebook did not respond to messages left by AOL.)

    Is it appropriate to use social networks to find people and deliver legal papers to them via the network?

    “No one likes to receive a legal service,” said Rotenberg. Legal service, after all, usually isn’t good news: Someone wants you for something. And yes, he adds, “There are going to be privacy concerns, but in some respects they’re almost inescapable.”

    Email, by contrast, is generally not considered by courts to be a safe or reliable way to deliver legal notices. We get too much email, much of it winds up in spam and we don’t always open everything in our in-boxes. Legal notices delivered this way can easily be discounted with a simple “I didn’t see the email.”

    But Facebook, said Rotenberg, is different. If you don’t have thousands of friends and you regularly post status updates indicating that you are active on the site, you lose the excuse that you likely overlooked the notice. Of course not everyone with a Facebook page visits the site regularly, but save it for the judge whether you’re one of them.

    Bottom line: It’s probably going to be determined to be legal, just not likely to be popular. And should use of Facebook as an electronic process-server escalate as a norm, you can expect it would have some adverse impact on the site’s participation levels. In the meantime, if you don’t want the banks to find you, the best defense is enabling your privacy settings on Facebook and be mindful of the personal data you post.

    For more on mortgages and related topics see these AOL Real Estate guides:

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Get property tax help from our experts.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/06/17/your-facebook-status-foreclosed/

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    Case-Shiller Index: 3 Reasons to Blow It Off

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    case-shillerWe like to panic as much as the next homeowner, but reading the proclamations each month uttered by the Great Gods of Real Estate — Case and Shiller — is simply growing wearisome.

    Nobody really knows what to make of all the contradictory statistics and reports about home sales and prices that are released every few nanoseconds, but the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index — like the one this week that said home prices saw a puny 1 percent uptick from April 2011 — is the one that always grabs the public’s solemn attention and causes that kick-in-the-gut feeling.

    Here are three reasons why the report is pretty meaningless to a homeowner:

    1. Case-Shiller pretends to be a national index.

    Yet nationally, there are more than 3,100 municipalities, of which Case-Shiller tracks just 20. And they aren’t even the biggest cities. Real estate is highly localized. Prices in those 20 cities might have ticked up just 1 percent, but in your neighborhood, it could have been more — or less. You won’t know until you check your very specific neighborhood comparable sales.

    2. Case-Shiller only considers single-family, detached homes.

    Uh, what about those of us who live in condos? In multi-family homes? What about new construction? Nope, all invisible to Messrs. Case and Shiller.

    Dan Green, who blogs for The Mortgage Reports, notes that in a market like Chicago, these excluded homes actually outnumber the included ones. So if you live in Chicago, you can presumably ignore the market-chilling results of this latest release.

    For the rest of us, the numbers are equally meaningless. As a buyer or seller in the new-homes market, you need to know what’s happening with new homes; ditto for condo shoppers.

    3. Timing is everything.

    The Case-Shiller index takes 60 days to release its data, so it essentially is reporting on where the housing market was two months ago. Frankly, in this rapidly changing market, two-month-old information is worthless to buyers and sellers.

    The sale of a home on your street last week, which is what the bank’s appraiser will be looking at, holds far more importance than the price someone else got two months ago.

    The only value we glean from the Gospel of Case-Shiller is that their reports have consistently studied the same markets since 1987, which allows them to provide an interesting comparative analysis over time. Their methodology is unimpeachable in this regard. But current homebuyers and sellers shouldn’t get their britches tied in knots over reports based on narrow, incomplete and out-of-date information.

    Also see: Short Sales: What You Need to Know Tweet Your Way to a Home Sale

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/07/28/case-shiller-index-3-reasons-to-blow-it-off/

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    The New Homeless: Living Behind the Wheel

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    During the Great Depression, people who were forced to live in their cars were known as “Ford families.” Today, they go by the far more impersonal name of the “vehicular homeless,” and you can count 45-year-old Carey Fuller and her two daughters, 8 and 17, among them.

    The Fullers (pictured above) became homeless in April 2004 when Carey lost her job in the financial services sector in Seattle. With the job loss came a move from a three-bedroom apartment into a two-bedroom — but that wasn’t enough to cut expenses. Seeing what was waiting for her around the corner, Fuller took her final bit of income, a tax refund, and used it to buy an RV that she and her girls could live in. After a while, even gas and maintenance on the Winnebago became more than she could afford, so she traded down for a minivan. Fuller takes whatever work she can find, often landing part-time jobs. She also blogs about her life as a homeless mother living in a van.

    As the economy continues to circle the drain and the number of foreclosures rises, more and more people are following in Fuller’s tracks. Some cities, like Venice and Palo Alto in California, have even created parking areas for people who live in their vehicles.

    “Cars are the new homeless shelters,” says Joel John Roberts, CEO of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) Partners, the largest services provider for the homeless in Los Angeles County. Car and van dwellers don’t show up in U.S. Census Bureau data because census workers don’t knock on car windows, Roberts says.

    How They Got There

    How did so many families wind up sleeping in cars, vans and RVs? In most cases, they were hit with a job loss or health crisis that cost them their home. The move from roof to backseat is often swifter than expected, and in the case of those whose homes have been foreclosed, there is often a sense of disbelief that the actual day of eviction will come. Departures are often fast and furious, with things thrown into a van. Often, the newly evicted don’t travel far; they camp out in the neighborhood where they lived. They quickly learn which public parks leave their restrooms unlocked and that joining the local YMCA provides access to a shower.

    In some cases, it’s divorce, not unemployment, that puts people in their cars at night. Rudy Salinas, director of outreach for PATH, recalls finding a man living in his car in a supermarket parking lot a few months ago. The man had a stack of neatly dry-cleaned uniforms next to him, which he wore to work each day. But at night, separated from his wife and unable to support two households, he slept in the market’s parking lot.

    Salinas said that PATH did its own census of the homeless population in Hollywood, Calif. They counted 748 people without homes; 151 of them were car dwellers.

    “In my 19 years of doing outreach, I have never seen such a spike in numbers like the one in the past 18 months,” he says.

    Carey Fuller, the single mother in Seattle, advocates for the homeless while being homeless herself. She says that she parks “anywhere I can” at night, picking spots near foreclosed homes to avoid police detection. Her daughters do their homework in the school library and they do laundry in public laundromats. Meals are taken at church soup kitchens or purchased in convenience marts that have microwaves to heat things up. She lives on an inconsistent child support payment of $150 a month and $500 a month in food stamps for the three of them. Showers are taken at the community pool; on weekends, they hang out at the library where there are many free events.

    She gave up trying to use the overtaxed housing assistance system, because of the long waiting lists for apartments.

    Is she just a job away from being able to rent an apartment? Fuller says it isn’t as simple as that. Landlords discriminate against the vehicular homeless, she says, and demand to see a current rental history. After sleeping in the car for nearly eight years, she doesn’t have one.

    She’s been doing this for so long that it’s become a way of life.

    “My life feels normal to me,” she said, “We live just like every other family except we sleep in the minivan.”

    A New Community

    Car and van dwellers have formed a community of their own, often exchanging survival tips online. Fuller has taught people how to make a “coffee can cooker” on Facebook.

    For a long while, the Wal-Mart Stores chain was known for its tacit willingness to let RV-ers use its parking lots overnight. In the evening, the campers served as a de facto security force, making sure that no one did anything to give the police reason to come calling. In the morning, the campers frequented the store, often buying their day’s food and supplies there. Gradually, more and more Walmarts became less hospitable to the community. Word quickly spread among the van dwellers about which ones you could park safely in without getting in trouble.

    Warm climates tend to draw those living in their vehicles, for the obvious reasons. Southern California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada are popular among the displaced, although many people initially try to stay close to the spot where they fell. They want to keep their kids in the same school, stay close to family and friends. And they lack the money for gas to crisscross the country without direction or purpose.

    Salinas tells of the single mother who works at a minimum-wage job and has her 5-year-old son sleep in her sister’s Section 8 apartment. She herself sleeps in the car out in front of the apartment each night, fearing that her presence inside would violate her sister’s HUD-landlord agreement, which limits the number of adults allowed. She doesn’t want to cause her sister to become homeless too, Salinas said. It’s not illegal to sleep in your car, by the way, unless a municipality makes it so.

    As for today’s “Ford families,” it’s not without some irony to give them the moniker. Although Henry Ford did help a small number of distressed families by giving them loans and some land to work, he also laid off thousands more. And he deeply angered many with public comments about how the unemployed should do more to find work for themselves.

    Also see: Detroit Mom Offers to Trade Her House for a Car Protesters ‘Liberate’ Foreclosed Homes Squatting: Social Menace or Economic Necessity?

    %Gallery-138078% More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find rentals in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/11/23/the-new-homeless-living-behind-the-wheel/

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    15 Household Hacks: Save Money, Prevent Frustration

    Household hacks end up becoming go-to moves for savvy moms and dads. But how do you learn them? I’ve gathered 15 of the best household hacks of all time below to help you get started building your household smarts. Add your favorites that I didn’t mention in the comments below!

    Read more…

    The post 15 Household Hacks: Save Money, Prevent Frustration appeared first on DailyPerk.

    Source: http://dailyperk.perkstreet.com/household-hacks/

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    Balloon Mortgage Video

    Here’s a new video we just did explaining Balloon mortgages. Give it a quick view, it’s very short and informative! If you prefer to read a more detailed version, you can find that at Balloon Mortgage Explained.

    Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TruthfulLendingDotCom/~3/hFIcEaZhCm4/

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    What a Homebuyer Should Know Before Closing

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    By Leonard Baron

    It’s hardly page-turning literature, but there are many reasons why you should read these documents before making any property purchase:

    o. Title abstract o. Title insurance policy and schedule of exclusions o. Plat or a survey while you walk the property boundaries o. Homeowners’ association documents (bylaws, board of directors minutes, etc.)

    What if you inspected a foreclosure, and everything about it looked great, especially the two parking spaces on the side of the house? Everything was so perfect you didn’t look at the county plat or take the time to have a survey done – you simply rushed to buy it. Then, a week after closing, you show up and there’s a fence closing off the parking spaces you thought were part of your land – turns out they weren’t. The neighbor let the previous owner use those spaces because they were friends. You? You’re out of luck.

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    Or, what if you bought a house and the previous owner had given a recorded easement to the neighbor to use your driveway? In this case your neighbor – whom you might like now, but who knows about the future – has the absolute right to park in your driveway, drive across it and work on his car in it.

    Or, what if there was a significant restriction on your property, recorded in the property chain of title? Perhaps you’re required to clip your trees so they don’t block the neighbor’s view, or there’s a height restriction on new construction.

    Or, maybe someone else owns the subsurface (oil, water, minerals, natural gas) rights to your land and has the right to drill for them from an adjacent property?

    Or, perhaps the parking spaces you received in your new condominium garage were also given to another unit?

    These are all real situations that occur on real properties. In fact, I’ve either read about or personally been apprised of each one of these issues within the past two years.

    The hard truth is: In almost every circumstance listed, the potential for trouble would have surfaced if the new owners had read important documents before purchasing their property. You may decide you can live with a restriction, but wouldn’t you like to know about it before you make the decision to purchase?

    %Gallery-153360%

    When you buy a property through a multiple listing service transaction, the escrow company will generally provide you with documents relating to the legal rights and responsibilities that come along with your purchase. It may also provide a plat of the property showing its boundaries (or in some areas you may need to have a survey done).

    The title insurance company will provide an insurance policy stating that the seller has the right to sell it to you – with some exclusions to the policy. That’s the Schedule of Exclusions, and you need to read and review the issues noted on it. You should also fully review all of homeowners’ association documents.

    You, as the buyer, will generally receive all these documents in an inch-thick packet of papers after you are going into escrow. Read them. Get together with your real estate sales professional, title insurance officer and, if necessary, your lawyer. Protect yourself.

    You are making one of the most expensive and complicated purchases you will ever make. A little reading, review and research will go a long way toward reducing the chances of something going wrong.

    Related:

    How to Vet an Investment Property Buying? Use This Checklist to Avoid Surprises Demystifying HOA Fees and Special Assessments

    Leonard Baron, MBA, CPA, is a San Diego State University Lecturer, a guest blogger on Zillow.com, the author of several books including “Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101“, and loves kicking the tires of a good piece of dirt! See more at ProfessorBaron.com.

    Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/07/03/what-a-homebuyer-should-know-before-closing/

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    Online Wedding RSVP: How to Set One Up and Save on Postage

    Setting up an online wedding RSVP will help you save a bunch on postage and stay organized.

    There are so many great traditions associated with marriage. The vows. The best man and maid of honor speeches. The cutting of the cake. Do you really need to open 150 tiny envelopes to find out which of your friends are attending for the sake of tradition? Do you really need to stamp all those envelopes and enclose them in mailed invitations? Most importantly, do you need to buy those cards and stamps and add a little more cost to your wedding? No way!

    Read more…

    The post Online Wedding RSVP: How to Set One Up and Save on Postage appeared first on DailyPerk.

    Source: http://dailyperk.perkstreet.com/online-wedding-rsvp/

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    5 Things That Can Derail Your Home Sale

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    If you’re selling a home, you know the drill: Declutter, add a fresh coat of paint, clear out all your family photos and personal items.

    That’s just for starters.

    Once that’s done, you might want to take care of some things that could really turn buyers off and derail your hopes of unloading your home. And we bet you never would have thought of them.

    Jessica Edwards, a Coldwell Banker real estate consumer specialist, offers her inside tips on what a seller should always — or never — do to make certain that buyers take the bait.

    %Gallery-158643% More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. See celebrity real estate.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/5-things-that-can-derail-your-home-sale/

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    Will I Owe Taxes on Forgiven Mortgage Debt? – Developments – WSJ

    If you or someone you know is “underwater” on a home and in a position where they need to sell, have them call Drew Auker just as soon as possible.  The window of opportunity to short sell and avoid income tax on the forgiven debt is closing.

    Underwater-homeowner

    Five years ago, Congress passed a law, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, that would prevent households from having to treating certain types of forgiven mortgage debt as taxable income.

    If the provision expires as scheduled on Dec. 31, it could throw a wrench not only into efforts to trim loan balances for underwater borrowers, but also for short sales, where banks allow homeowners to sell their properties at a loss. Real-estate agents from Nevada to Florida have been using the looming expiration as a marketing tool, telling homeowners that now’s the time to do a short sale because come next January, they might owe taxes on it.

    The deadline on the debt-relief measure comes as banks are beginning to cut homeowners’ mortgage balances more aggressively as part of the $25 billion settlement reached earlier this year, as a report released Wednesday showed. Federal agencies, meanwhile, are taking steps to make short sales more attractive.

    Here are a few commonly asked questions:

    How does the relief provision work? Without the measure, a homeowner who owes $300,000 on his mortgage and sells his house for $250,000 would owe taxes on the $50,000 balance that’s forgiven, because it would be considered income by the Internal Revenue Service. This could take away some of the incentive for homeowners to seek a short sale.

    Is all forgiven mortgage debt covered by the relief provision? No. Many people assume that the provision covers any mortgage debt that’s forgiven, but the measure applies only to homeowners who borrowed money to “acquire, construct, or substantially improve a principal residence,” according to a brief from law firm K&L Gates.

    That means debt that’s forgiven on a second home or on a home equity line of credit that wasn’t used to finance home improvements is supposed to be reported to the IRS as income.

    Forgiven debt isn’t taxable in some other cases, including where the taxpayer is insolvent or if the debt is discharged through bankruptcy.

    What about debt that’s wiped away through a foreclosure—is that covered by the tax provision? It depends. If the mortgage has recourse to the borrower, any cancelled debt is considered income and could be covered by the provision. Debt that’s forgiven through a foreclosure on a non-recourse mortgage isn’t considered income, according to the IRS, so the provision isn’t relevant.

    (Non-recourse mortgages don’t allow the lender to pursue the borrower for any deficiency after a foreclosure, while recourse mortgages do. Whether a mortgage has recourse often depends on the type of loan and the state. In California, mortgages taken out to purchase a home are generally non-recourse, while Florida is a recourse state.)

    How much would extending the provision cost the government? Extending the provision for two years, as President Obama proposed earlier this year in his budget proposal, would cost $2.7 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

    See more answers on the mortgage-debt tax-relief provision from the IRS.

    via blogs.wsj.com

     

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    Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SanDiegoRealEstateInformationInsightsByDrewAukerRealtor/~3/_N3xWc1OcgY/five-questions-will-i-owe-taxes-on-forgiven-m

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    Renting is Easy

    There are times when we need an extra space for our need. However, we do not have enough money to buy a new place. This way we need to rent place. Of course, there are many things that we need to consider when we are renting a place. Often we encounter that renting a place [...]

    Source: http://www.brothernwla.org/renting-is-easy/

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    Vacant House Targeted by Squatters, Scammers and Thieves

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    vacant home squatterEmpty houses — those either awaiting foreclosure or where the owners have moved out for other reasons — might as well have a “kick me” sign on them. Actually, make that “vandalize me” sign. They are frequently the targets of squatters who move in illegally, scammers who claim they own them and rent them out to unsuspecting tenants, or just plain old garden variety thieves who break in and steal the valuables right down to the copper plumbing and refrigerator.

    Or, in the case of one Suffolk County house, all three. According to a story on ABCLocal News, the Bay Shore home of Richard and Lisa Scott slipped into foreclosure in 2009. The Scotts said they gave their lender, Bank of America, three short sale offers that went nowhere fast, with the bank citing incomplete paperwork that the Scotts and their agent insist was delivered. The Scotts, meanwhile, moved out to rebuild their lives in the South.

    Shortly thereafter, Scott’s brother reported driving by and seeing a squatter living in the house, with the air conditioner running and lights blazing. Once the squatter was removed, someone ran a scam ad on Craigslist and leased out the house, collecting $4,000 from the unsuspecting tenant. And then, to add insult to injury, with the squatter and tenant gone, vandals broke into the house and stripped it bare, leaving holes punched in the walls and stealing the copper plumbing, the appliances, even the kitchen sink.

    According to the report, BofA is now trying to hasten the foreclosure process.

    As for those who may be forced to leave a home vacant, here are some tips to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

    1. Try not to move out. Vacant homes have increasingly been targeted by squatters. The bank can’t force you out of your home until they foreclose. Until then, you own it — no matter how many missed payments you have. If you must leave, consider renting it out. Let the tenant know you are pursuing a short sale and that the home may be foreclosed on, but that you are giving them a discount in the fair market rent in exchange for maintaining the property.

    2. Notify the local police and utilities that the home is going to be vacant. Utility companies make it possible for squatters to set up shop. By presenting a doctored up lease agreement and some sort of “proof” of ID, anyone can get an account established and the electricity turned on in your home. By calling and putting it in writing that the house is going to be vacant, you are at least alerting the utilities — which likely won’t make a whit of difference.

    3) Let your neighbors know. Nobody feels good about saying they are losing their home. But with it happening to so many, no one will be surprised. If the neighbors know that the house will be empty, they can keep an eye on it and report any suspicious activity to you and the police. In exchange, maybe you want to hire their kid to keep the grass cut and the yard tidy.

    4) Stop thinking this isn’t really your problem. Yes, you fully expect that the bank is going to foreclose on you and are saying to yourself, “Why should I care?” Look at the Scotts’ example. They were sickened to return to their house — which they still own and are still responsible for — and find the damage.

    Also see: Realtors’ Latest Challenge: A Surge of Squatters Woman Faces Foreclosure on Home She Bought for $1 Protesters ‘Liberate’ Foreclosed Homes

    More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area.

     

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    Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2011/11/11/foreclosed-house-targeted-by-squatters-scammers-and-thieves/

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    5 signs that it’s a good time to sell

    5 signs that it’s a good time to sell

    Why desperate homeowners could find relief this year

    Traditionally, most homes have sold during the spring months. In the current volatile housing market, the time of year is not the most reliable predictor of the best time to sell.

    Homes certainly show better in spring than they do on a dark and dreary winter day. Lately, however, weather patterns are hard to predict.

    The weather has some effect on home sales. It can slow things down if incessant rain keeps sellers from being able to prepare their homes for sale. However, a bigger influence on the housing market is the overall economic situation and its impact on buyers’ psyche.

    Normally, the home-sale market ramps up in March or April and stays busy until the beginning of July when the market tends to slow down for the summer. The 2011 home sales went counter to this. The market was active at the beginning of the year, but stalled in April. If you waited until spring to sell last year, you would have missed the best selling opportunity of the first half of 2011.

    Tips for Choosing Home Builders

    If you have decided to build your next home, congratulations! You will have plenty of crucial decisions to make within the upcoming months from where to build your home to what colour to paint the master bedroom walls.  The first decision to make, of course, is what builder to hire. There are dozens of different home builders [...]

    Source: http://www.brothernwla.org/tips-for-choosing-home-builders/

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