Archive for June, 2009

You May Have Money Waiting for You!

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Have you checked the State of California’s Unclaimed Property website lately? If not, what are you waiting for? You may have money with your name on it waiting for you.

The State of California is required to post unclaimed property‚property and money‚on their website. Many people do not know about this.

About two weeks ago my mother called me and told me that I had unclaimed property registered under my name on the website. I had no idea this site existed and logged in to claim my property. I also looked up many family members and discovered quite a few had unclaimed property waiting for them. Obviously it made their day when I called to tell them.dreamstime_7061255

Go to www.claimit.ca.gov. Click on “Start your search” on the left. If you enter your name and do not find anything, try just entering your last name and scrolling through the names to see if you are there. I also suggest NOT entering a city. I have moved since the time I was associated with my unclaimed property, so at first it did not show up when I entered my current city.

Once you find your name and the property registered to you, you need to claim it on the site and print out the claim form. If the money owed is over $1,000 you need to have the form notarized. You then send in all the paperwork, with necessary documents, to the State. They claim it may take 6-8 months to obtain but it’s your property, so it’s worth it.

If you are married or have changed your name, be sure to check under previous names. I did not have documentation of bank accounts I owned under my maiden name with my grandmother, who passed away, so I had to send in a lot of documents, including my marriage license, birth certificate, social security card and my grandmother’s death certificate. I also sent a letter explaining everything (I highly recommend this).

If you have any questions the phone number is on the website and they are very easy to reach and very helpful.

Best of luck and pass the site along to everyone you know. www.claimit.ca.gov.

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Possible New Source for Mortgage Assistance

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Struggling homeowners may be able to get help from a new, rather surprising source‚their private mortgage insurance company.

dreamstime_37147361Mortgage insurance is not the same as homeowners insurance. It is a type of protection for lenders in the case of loan defaults, and is required to be purchased by borrowers who have a down payment of less than 20%.

With the state of the economy and the millions of loans either in or facing default, this move on behalf of the private mortgage insurers is a smart one…not only for the obvious reason that it will likely create more business for them on new home purchases, but preventing foreclosure is helpful to them as well and saves them money.

Private mortgage insurers end up paying a lot of money if a home it insures goes into foreclosure. Their role in such a scenario is to try to compensate the lender for the default. With all the homes in foreclosure or on the way to that point, this is very costly.

Some companies are developing new ways to help struggling homeowners, such as offering no interest loans to help borrowers get caught up with defaulted payments, and dreamstime_3356736offering job loss protection features for a specified time (for example, if you lose your job you could be eligible to receive funds each month, for a specified time after the loss, toward your mortgage payment). Some may even offer to help streamline loan modifications that qualify under government programs, but where the servicer is too busy to help get the process going.

Don’t get too excited yet. Each mortgage insurer will have a set of eligibility requirements that you will have to meet (for example, you will likely have to show that you are able to make payments, and may be required to prove that your financial setbacks are what led to your inability to make payments on your loans).

To find out if your insurer can offer assistance, look on your mortgage paperwork to get the name of the insurer and give them a call.

Since this help option is so new, and since many of the other assistance programs available are overloaded, there may be changes implemented in the future that may make the assistance provided harder to obtain.

The good news is that you may have another option in your arsenal to prevent foreclosure, so start learning more and see if this one can work for you.

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Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Summer is just beginning and that means it’s time for sunscreen. But do you know that chances are the one you favorite brands may not only offer inadequate protection against the rays, but may also be unsafe?

Research has indicated that almost 85% of sunscreens available to consumers do not adequately protect us from the sun. Even if your favorite brand says it has an SPF of 30 or 45+ this may not be the case.img00115

Another major concern with sunscreens is the list of ingredients that are added. One of the most harmful is Oxybenzone, which has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, cell damage and low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers were exposed to the chemical. The FDA implemented new guidelines for sunscreens back in 2007 but they have not been enforced as of yet.

It may surprise you to know that almost 600 brands of sunscreen sold in the U.S. contain Oxybenzone! It is also found in facial moisturizers, lip balm and some lipsticks.

Don’t fret‚Ķthere is a solution. There is a great website you can visit to see how your favorite sunscreen rates and whether it contains chemical ingredients. Go to www.cosmeticsdatabase.com. You have a few choices once you get there. You can simply go to Enter Your Name Brand and look your brand up, or you can click on the National Brand Buying Guide to get a list of those that are safe to use. There is also information on other products that contain Oxybenzone and other harmful ingredients.

This site is full of information and will definitely keep you protected throughout the sunny summer…without the worry!

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Short Sales May Soon Get Easier

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

If you have sold your home through a short sale or are contemplating doing so, or if you are an agent with experience selling short sales, you know how difficult they can be. The main problem is getting the lender to accept the offer.

Often this is a lengthy process and many buyers give up at some point and move on to make an offer on another property. The difficulty for agents is confounded by the fact that every lender seems to have its own set of rules and procedures.

This may all change soon.

The Obama administration understands the frustrations of sellers, buyers and agents and has been attempting to establish short sale protocol to speed up the process for everyone by offering financial incentives to lenders, but this too takes time and is undoubtedly met by resistance from lenders. dreamstime_67950771

A few lenders have taken it upon themselves to stand out and carve the way for others to ease the process. Bank of America, one of the largest financial institutions,recently announced that it is going to revamp its short sale process.

A typical short sale process can take anywhere from one to three months (some even longer) from the time the offer(s) is submitted. Bank of America plans to streamline this process by shrinking total time to one week or less. “Wow,” you say, right? I agree. It remains to be seen, BUT this is very important news.

Often when a large lender institutes a policy that helps make the process smoother, other lenders follow in their footsteps. We saw this happen last year when Citigroup was the first to announce new procedures to help with modifications‚others followed suit.

dreamstime_6482204The impact of this announcement could be astronomical, since after it’s recent acquisition of Countrywide, Bank of America services one in five mortgages in the U.S.

Since short sales have doubled this year this could be a significant improvement in getting inventory off the market much more quickly. Bank of America surmises that this program will be in effect in the next 60-90 days.

It plans to reach out to the homeowners right at the beginning of the short sale process, when the homeowner decides to utilize the short sale method, instead of the typical response which comes once an offer has been submitted to the homeowner. This will be a win-win situation for homeowners, buyers and the banks, and will get inventory sold and off the market quicker, thus avoiding more foreclosures and empty properties.

Short sales are typically a preferable option to foreclosure, as they allow the homeowner to sell their home for less than the amount owed on the loan and walk away from the debt. The lender has to approve the short sale and typically the homeowner’s credit is not as severely affected as with a foreclosure, allowing them to repurchase in about 2 years (compared with 5-7 years for those who have gone through foreclosure).

To learn more about the short sale option and other options to foreclosure, you can visit www.MortgageWalkawayOptions.com.

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Tax Money Can Be Used Toward Purchase Down Payment

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Good News! The U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will allow home buyers to apply the administration’s new $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit toward the purchase costs of FHA-insured homes. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 offers home buyers a tax credit of up to $8,000 for purchasing their first home. This credit can only be accessed after a family has filed its tax returns with the IRS. Home buyers that use FHA-approved lenders can apply the tax credit to their down payment in excess of 3.5 percent of appraised value or their closing costs, which can help obtain a lower interest rate.

Currently, borrowers applying for an FHA-insured mortgage must make a minimum 3.5 percent down payment on the purchase of their home. The current law does not allow approved lenders to monetize the tax credit to meet the required 3.5 percent minimum down payment, but, under the terms of the new declaration by the FHA, lenders can now monetize the tax credit for use as an additional down payment, or for other closing costs, which can bring down the interest rate.

This announcement is positive news for first time home buyers and can help reduce down payment and interest rate costs. For information on whether you qualify for an FHA insured loan, speak with your mortgage service provider or contact HUD at www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hoc/hsghocs.cfm.

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