Archive for September, 2011
Saturday, September 10th, 2011
It is rare that you see a time when all the neighbors are out walking around – I mean entire families and their dogs just strolling around, talking to each other. No televisions, no phones, no computers, no distractions. That is what it was like during the power outage in my neighborhood.
Sad that it takes a power outage to get neighbors together, but I have to say that it was something we should all do every so often. I played board games with my daughter by candlelight – completely cut off from the world. I had no phone access, no portable radio, no internet, and cell lines were down. I followed news updates on my iPad, but really that was the only connection to the outside world for seven hours. My neighbor came over and let me borrow his generator to cool my refrigerator down so food would not spoil. I saw so many neighbors in the street, it was almost a party!
The power outage, while a big inconvenience for most, really makes one think about things…like how important it is sometimes to turn off the phone and computer, get out and see your neighbors, and just sit with your kids doing something fun. It was like going back in time, and yes it did make us all think about how vulnerable and dependent we are, which of course is another good thing to do every now and again. Most importantly, this little stray from the norm strengthens our sense of community, kindness and goodwill toward others.
Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Those of you who regularly read my blogs, or follow me on Twitter, know that I have been impressed lately with Bank of America when it comes to assisting with short sales. With a bad reputation in the past for not dealing with these sales in either a timely or attentive manner, B of A has truly come out of the darkness (where many other lenders are unfortunately still stuck) and is trying to get short sales sold.
Now there is another reason to be happy if you are a homeowner with a B of A loan who needs to short sale your property: B of A is making it easier for you to get your home sold.
Bank of America has agreed to allow real estate agents to submit back up offers in sales where the buyer decides to walk away from the purchase, or doesn’t qualify. Once a backup offer is submitted, the lender will not require that the entire process start from scratch. In other words, the back up buyer will slide right in and the process will pick up from that point. This could save LOTS of time.
Bank of America was the first lender to institute a system where offers and all pertinent documents could be submitted online, and where access is available to the listing agent and homeowner 24 hours a day. This system, called Equator, virtually eliminated having to fax and email documents to the lender multiple times – gone are the “we never received that” days (even though the agent faxed it twice, emailed, it, AND mailed it via certified mail).
Bank of America has also established a help handle on social media sites, like Twitter (BofA_Help), which is attended to during business hours and gets results (I cannot tell you how much it has helped me).
This newest weapon in B of A’s arsenal will allow agents to continue to market a property and take back up offers, which could be a lifesaver if buyer number one cannot proceed with the purchase.
So kudos go to Bank of America, for really trying to find ways to speed up short sales. All we can hope is that they will continue to find more ways to help, and that other lenders will follow suit. I would love to hear what you have to say on this subject – please feel free to submit a comment by clicking on the title of this blog and then scrolling to the end.
Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
There has been quite a bit going on in the distressed property market as of late, and if you are a homeowner who is underwater or are unable to continue to pay your mortgage, there is some good news on the horizon to help you.
HAMP incentives increased for early borrower assistance: Fannie Mae has increased HAMP incentives to servicers who work out loan modifications with borrowers. HAMP – the Home Affordable Modification Program – is a program that encourages lenders to work with homeowners in issuing loan modifications. It gives financial incentives to the lenders who successfully work modifications. With the new increase, the feds are attempting to sweeten the proverbial pot to encourage even more modifications in lieu of short sales and foreclosures, and the goal is to do so early in the delinquency process. While the lenders still have to agree to issue the modifications, hopefully these extra incentives will push them toward looking more closely at modifications before rushing to initiate foreclosure proceedings.
Housing counseling agencies awarded money by HUD: HUD (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) has awarded $10 million to housing counseling agencies across the country, in order to strengthen counseling available to struggling homeowners. The money will be distributed to areas that face high incidences of foreclosures, and is good news for desperate homeowners.
Feds are telling states to design more state-specific programs to help borrowers: Several prominent economists have been sharing their view that states can do more to help distressed homeowners, acknowledging that the biggest problem in doing so is state funding. To that regard, HUD earlier this year created the EHLP – the Emergency Homeowner’s Loan Program. It, along with other federal programs, provided $1 billion to states with programs geared toward helping homeowners. Many state programs have realized great success in this endeavor, and the problem facing these programs going forward will be the federal budget situation. If you are looking for a way to get help with a distressed home situation, now is a great time to find out if there are any state programs that can assist you.
If you are delinquent on your mortgage and have not discussed options with a counselor, a Realtor and your accountant or financial planner, it is imperative that you do so. There are options available to you, but the longer you wait, the less of a chance that you may be able to reap the benefits of any of these options. The government is attempting to help you, and there are some programs available for free, such as HopeNow, the free counseling agency that can review your situation with you and make suggestions about available options. They can be reached at (888)995-HOPE.
Friday, September 2nd, 2011
Today is my parents’ 50th anniversary – an amazing milestone to reach in this day and age – and it got me thinking about sustainability. In our world of bigger, better, faster, oftentimes a new widget is replaced so quickly that you barely had time to enjoy the now “old” version you just purchased a few months ago. I still love my iPad 1, and don’t plan to buy the 2. As for my iPhone 4, it does everything I need and I don’t plan on replacing it with the iPhone 5 that is shrouded in mystery but being hyped up nonetheless. Housing is similar.
Back during the housing boom everyone wanted to upsize – McMansions sprung up all over and there were multiple offer situations going on everywhere. It was a listing agent’s dream. I remember I put a listing on the market on a Thursday, with instructions that there would be no showings until Saturday (the sellers wanted to clean it), and I had 3 offers Friday night (sight unseen), 7 by the end of the weekend. It was a great time to be a listing agent, but I often wondered why so many people wanted to move up – many of them had nice homes and didn’t need more space. I think in part many people were keeping up with the Joneses, others just were thrilled that the banks were going to give them mortgages on their dream homes – ones they thought they’d never be able to afford (and many could not).
Sustainability is defined as the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. In an economy that is gripping people around the wallet so tightly, many don’t focus on sustainability. But housing is sustainable. Let’s consider how: first, it is necessary; we all need a roof over our heads. Second, it is like the stock market – it goes up and it goes down, but when it is down you know it will rise again. The difference with housing is that the risk in buying a home (that you can actually AFFORD) is not as great as investing in stocks, bonds, or minerals. In the long run it becomes sustainable. But that is the trick: you need to focus on the long run.
Buying a home these days is not as easy as it was in the early 2000s, and in this we should take comfort. Buyers who buy a home that they can live in for a long time, one for which the payments are comfortable and possible, will eventually see equity grow. Investing in a home is investing in your future, the future of your family, and the economy as a whole. So choose wisely, and focus on long term goals. You will be happy you did, and you will understand that homeownership is still part of the American dream, and a smart choice.
In the spirit of sustainability, I wish a very happy 50th anniversary to my incredible parents. They are enjoying an Alaskan cruise, courtesy of their loving children (something I am so glad I was able to do). I too celebrate a wedding anniversary this weekend – 18 years; not as long as 50 years, but we plan to be there too one day. No matter what you do in your life, sustainability is a positive goal on which to focus in many situations, especially when you are in it for the long haul.