Archive for November, 2009

Can the Government Really Help Struggling Homeowners?

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

The Obama administration announced yesterday that it is going to try yet again to push lenders to assist struggling homeowners with loan modifications. Are they planning on doing something different? Is there some magic noose that they have around the lenders’ necks that they will tug a little tighter on? Or maybe they are going to promise the lenders extra dessert for being good?dreamstime_8340128

Since the implementation of the Making Home Affordable Plan the administration has been trying to give lenders every incentive it can think of to push the program–they have offered financial incentives to the lenders that work with borrowers on approving modifications, and for accepting smaller loan payments in lieu of foreclosures. The result is that there seems to be a decent effort to get homeowners started on paperwork for modifications, but the follow through is lacking.

The newest figures claim that 14% of homeowners with mortgages are either behind on their payments or in the foreclosure process. This figure is a record for the ninth straight quarter, and there is no end in sight as unemployment (currently at over 10% nationally–a 26-year high) continues to force people from their homes. Furthermore, the unemployment problem makes the program virtually useless, as it was implemented before the spike in unemployment and focused on the market as it stood six months ago. What to do?

dreamstime_9059796One way the administration plans to push lenders is to delay the payments to lenders until AFTER the loan modifications have been made permanent. They also plan to “highlight” loan companies that are lacking in follow-through (kind of like a spotlight on the bad guys…not good publicity for their business).

It will be interesting to see if these new tactics work. I will keep you posted as to any updates–the full plan is to be announced tomorrow. For now, if you are one of the millions of homeowners struggling to get a loan modification I suggest you remember this advice:

1. Call a counselor: you can try HopeNow: (888)995-HOPE or www.HopeNow.com.

2. Call your lender OVER AND OVER.

3. Document everything in writing.

4. Keep pestering them and be vigilant–no one is going to take care of you but you.

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Carlsbad Parks Update: Poinsettia Park

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

This is the first in a series of blogs that will focus on the happenings at local parks. Poinsettia Park, a beautiful 42 acre sprawling park located in South Carlsbad between Poinsettia Lane and Palomar Airport Road, just off Hidden Valley Road, is a busy place right now!IMG00211

If you have driven by the park lately you may have noticed a lot of big dirt movers, men in hard hats and safety cones. Currently two new parking areas are being installed at the park, to be completed shortly. This is part of the master plan for the park and will be welcome by park users, especially during baseball games, heavy tennis times and summer concerts in the park.

Recently Poinsettia Park completed an addition of seven new tennis courts just over a year ago, bringing the total to ten lighted courts. Two years ago the tot play area was rehabilitated. The park also has lighted basketball courts, barbeque areas, walking/running trails throughout, lighted baseball fields, childrens’ play areas and a synthetic turf athletic field. It is the largest public tennis complex in the City of Carlsbad. In the summer Poinsettia Park is one of the parks to host Friday jazz concerts in the park.

IMG00208The master plan for Poinsettia Park includes the addition of a Recreation Center (much like the one at Stagecoach Park), but due to current economic conditions that is on the back burner for now.

Many local residents, myself included, have wondered whether Poinsettia Park will ever open a dog park area. Well, according to a representative from the Parks and Rec Department for the City of Carlsbad, that is not planned for the immediate future. The closest city dog park is located Ann D. L’Heureaux Dog Park, just off of Carlsbad Village Drive, east of El Camino Real. IMG00209

If any dog lovers are interested in working with me to petition the City Council for the addition of a dog park at a South Carlsbad Park, such as Poinsettia, Aviara, or other parks, please contact me!

Poinsettia Park is a beautiful park and has something for everyone, including many places to relax. Be sure to check back here soon for a review of more Carlsbad Parks!

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October Home Sales

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Home sales in North San Diego in October seem to be improving, despite problems with the lending industry. Sales of both attached and detached homes in North County decreased 1.33% in October from September. Here are the October statistics, according to HomeDex:

Detached North County Homes:

Median price $430,000

Average Price:$539,127

Total units sold: 772

Median market time: 35 days

Attached North County Homes:

Median price: $239,250

Average price: $289,869

Total units sold: 314

Median market time: 38 days

An article in the paper this morning predicted that the market prices will rise in 2010 and that there are more buyers purchasing homes now than there have been in a long time. This is predicated upon two main factors–housing prices being lower and the federal tax credit to first time homebuyers. Now that the tax credit has been extended AND expanded to include ALL buyers (who meet the criteria), many Realtors feel this will continue to boost sales.

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What Makes a Stellar Agent?

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I wanted to blog on this topic because I was in the middle of a chat session on another site where a question was asked of realtors. The question was, “Why is there such a negative attitude toward real estate agents?” You can imagine the slew of answers that resulted from this. In these answers some respondents mentioned that they felt a lot of agents were whining. I am not going to whine…quite the contrary.

Being the best you can be at what you do is no easy task, no matter what profession you call your own. It is easy to just go to work, do your job and come home. I surmise that a large majority of people are in this category. But to surpass adequacy you need to stretch yourself–you need to not only work hard, but always keep in mind that you are representing and helping PEOPLE, and that you can make an enormous difference in their lives. So, what does it take to be a stellar agent?

LISTEN: A stellar agent has to listen to her/his clients. You are helping your client and need to understand what they need, what is important and what their limits are. Listening is the most important element in any relationship, and a stellar agent knows this.

DILIGENCE: You have to work hard for your client, but work is not measured in terms of hours or number of homes shown. Instead, it is determined by your efforts and your attitude…by the true genuine nature of the work you put into every transaction.

HONESTY: This one is a given, but you’d be surprised by the lack of it sometimes (I’m not talking just real estate, I mean in general). You need to be honest with your clients. If you listen well and they find a home that they think is hands down “it,” but you know something that may sway the decision, you have to share it. I am not telling you to make any decisions for your clients (that is not our job…despite the fact that many clients try to have you do so!), but I am saying that we have to lay all our cards on the table for our clients.

CARING: If you don’t truly care for your job or for those you help it will show. If this is the case you need to find another profession where you do not have a great impact on peoples’ lives.

KNOWLEDGE and EXPERIENCE: As with any job, the degree of knowledge you possess is a reflection of the type of agent you are. You can learn as you go along or when a situation arises, or you can make the extra effort and continue to study–the market, the neighborhoods, the changes in laws. A stellar agent never stops learning.

INTEGRITY: I am not listing these characteristics in any particular order, but this one is definitely one of the most important. The stellar agent lives up to very high ethical standards. There are enough people in this world who do not heed the importance of integrity–some of them are very successful. If you have integrity and always honor it, you will not only succeed, but you will have a better attitude and go further than average agents.

ATTITUDE: It’s all in the attitude. Many people have said an agent must have thick skin, and that is true. It is also true that if you do something you love you will be a more satisfied person. Your attitude is a reflection of you and your work.

COMMUNITY: A stellar agent contributes to his/her local community and stays involved. I am not talking of traditional marketing and ads. What I refer to is blogging, answering questions on internet forums, reading and responding to other real estate blogs. The nature of our business has certainly changed with the invention of the internet. It is no longer about just plastering your picture on a truck or posting ads in the paper to get clients. The stellar agent takes advantage of the opportunities out there to connect with people and display their knowlege, to learn concerns and be helpful.

I am a stellar agent and plan to continue to be one. Yes, it is time-consuming but it is worth it because I actually love what I do for a living. I can incorporate my love of the law, my passion for writing (I already published a book to help people facing foreclosure), my fondness for working with people and my thirst to continue to be a lifelong student, into one job! What more could you ask for!

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Watch Your Credit Card Rates–They May be Rising Soon

Monday, November 9th, 2009

An article in the Huffington Post today announced that banks are planning to raise credit card rates and annual fees. The reason? The banks say doing so will protect consumers from sudden rate hikes. Many of these changes are scheduled to take effect February 22, 2010.

These changes will apparently apply both to risky borrowers as well as to the prime borrowers who maintain good credit histories. So, does this make sense to you? It sure doesn’t to me.dreamstime_8348000

People are struggling–losing houses, losing jobs, making due with so much less. Banks are not loaning money and now they want to make us pay more to have the privilege of using our credit cards–? Demand for bank loans grew for the third straight quarter, yet banks have admitted they are hesitant to start loaning freely again because of fear of returning to the problems that arose the last time they tried that.

What can be done? It seems a vicious Catch-22 but banks and consumers need to return to a more normal sense of business. On the one hand, the economy is in dire straights because of an overuse of credit, but on the other hand we cannot pull out of the economic pot hole unless the banks DO lend money and encourage people to spend it as well.

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A Different Perspective

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Have we become a nation of whiners? I keep hearing that all over the place. Times are hard and many people have lost their jobs, homes, pride…and so much more. It can feel daunting at times and make us feel exhausted and even desperate.

Keep in mind during these times that there were times that were MORE difficult. I know when bad things happen to you it is sometimes hard to see this perspective, but have a look at these photographs. There is always someone who is worse off. So be thankful for what you DO have and take a positive step in the right direction. As Thanksgiving approaches find those things for which you CAN be thankful–your health, your family…

Images from 1935-1939

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It’s Official!! Buyer Tax Credit Extended and Expanded

Friday, November 6th, 2009

It’s official…President Obama signed the buyer tax credit extension/expansion today. Now ALL homebuyers meeting the qualifications will be able to reap the benefits of tax credits upon purchase of their next home. To see the requirements read my post from 11-5-09.

Happy shopping, and please let me know how I can help you realize your dream of home ownership (or of purchasing a new home or second home). Have a great weekend!

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Deed For Lease Program To Help Struggling Homeowners

Friday, November 6th, 2009

The newest program in the Federal arsenal to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure is called the Deed for Lease program. Created by Fannie Mae, this program will allow homeowners to essentially become tenants in their homes for 12 month periods (including the possibility of renewal at the end of the lease). In exchange for this right the homeowner will agree to deed the home back to the lender, as well as other requirements.

Here are the requirements in a nutshell:mortgagedeed

1. The primary mortgage must be financed by Fannie Mae (they finance about 31 million home loans so there is a good chance they finance yours)

2. Borrowers must live in their home as a primary residence

3. Any secondary mortgage holders must agree to release the borrower from loan obligations (this I see as the biggest challenge to this program)

4. Rental rates will be fixed at market rates but no more than 31% of the renter’s gross income (another potential problem, since 31% of gross income may be less than market rental rates)

As I indicated in the parenthesis above, there are issues with this program that will need to be ironed out. While it sounds great in theory it may not effectively help many. It will depend a great deal on the second lien holders willingness to forgive debt (and if short sales are any indication this may be an issue–the reason many short sales do not go through is BECAUSE second lien holders are not willing to forgive the debt and walk away).

It is clear that the Feds are continuing to try to help struggling homeowners, but to what extent this new progam will work remains to be seen. If anything it is another avenue that a desperate homeowner can try. If you are interested in what other options may be available to you please email me for a download of my book, Mortgage Walkaway Options. My email is rblamar@roadrunner.com.

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Senate Extends AND Expands $8,000 Tax Credit

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

More great news for homebuyers…late Wednesday that Senate unanimously extended the $8000 first time buyer tax credit, also expanding it to include a $6500 tax credit to all buyers who are not first time home buyers. The new deadline is April 30, 2010.

The current tax credit program was scheduled to expire on November 30, 2009. Under both bills buyers need to be in the earning bracket of $125,000 or less as an individual and $225,000 or less as a couple to qualify for either credit. The new home cannot cost more than $800,000.

The expansion credit to all non-first-time home buyers also requires the move-up buyers to have lived in their current home for at least 5 years before purchasing,

The House still must approve the credit expansion but is expected to do so.

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Short Sales May Finally Get Shorter

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

The dreaded short sale…you find a property at a great price, make an offfer, and wait. Many times the bank takes months to respond, creating frustration among buyers, sellers and agents. I personally groan when I pull up properties for clients and see they are short sales; although I do show them to my buyers I tell them up-front that it could be a long time until the bank responds to their offer, so not to give up searching for other properties.dreamstime_6795077

As a lisitng agent of short sales I feel I have a little more control, but only because I am willing to bombard the lender daily‚multiple times a day if necessary‚to get paperwork and answers. But as agents dealing with these types of properties know, every lender has it’s own policies and every short sale can be dramatically different from the previous one...but maybe not for long.

The newest buzz is that one of the largest lenders, Bank of America, is switching over to a new short sale system that will make the process easier for everyone involved. They are doing this via an electronic platform that will allow them to streamline the process, eliminating mounds of paperwork files for each transaction.

smileTimelines will be streamlined and everyone involved in the transaction will be working in real time to get the offers accepted and close the transaction in the time it takes for a normal sale to go through. Parties to the transaction will be able to log into they system to see status updates electronically 24 hours a day. The electonic platform will also automate decision-making for the lender, handle offer approvals in a speedy fashion and comply with all government programs.

It seems lenders have finally figured out what we agents have been screaming for years: that short sales benefit THEM too! They save the lender money and time, and get a property off the lender’s books; after all, the lender does not want to own all these homes. Short sales are a win-win for everyone involved.

As with most great ideas, hopefully other lenders will play follow-the-leader and make short sales a pleasant experiences for everyone.

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