Saturday, November 29, 2008

Legislation to permit Seller-Funded Downpayment Assistance

On September 16, the House Financial Services Committee approved H.R. 6694 the "FHA Seller-Financed Down Payment Reform and Risk-Based Pricing Authorization Act of 2008' (Whew what a mouthful) Introduced by Rep AL Green (D-TX) will allow seller-funded down payment assistance to continue for certain borrowers only.
H.R. 3221, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act which became law in July 2008, actually prohibits Seller Down payment Assistance which began in October 2008. H.R. 6694 would allow seller-funded down payment assistance for borrowers with credit scores above 619. Borrowers with scores between 620-680 will be required to pay a higher up-front premium (3%) and higher annual premiums (1.25%. Those above 680 will not have to pay the higher fees.

** NAR Washington News Report September 22, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Take the Stress Out of Homebuying

Buying a home should be fun, not stressful. As you look for your dream home, keep in mind these tips for making the process as peaceful as possible.

1. Find a real estate agent who you connect with. Home buying is not only a big financial commitment, but also an emotional one. It’s critical that the REALTOR® you chose is both highly skilled and a good fit with your personality.

2. Remember, there’s no “right” time to buy, just as there’s no perfect time to sell. If you find a home now, don’t try to second-guess interest rates or the housing market by waiting longer — you risk losing out on the home of your dreams. The housing market usually doesn’t change fast enough to make that much difference in price, and a good home won’t stay on the market long.

3. Don’t ask for too many opinions. It’s natural to want reassurance for such a big decision, but too many ideas from too many people will make it much harder to make a decision. Focus on the wants and needs of your immediate family — the people who will be living in the home.

4. Accept that no house is ever perfect. If it’s in the right location, the yard may be a bit smaller than you had hoped. The kitchen may be perfect, but the roof needs repair. Make a list of your top priorities and focus in on things that are most important to you. Let the minor ones go.

5. Don’t try to be a killer negotiator. Negotiation is definitely a part of the real estate process, but trying to “win” by getting an extra-low price or by refusing to budge on your offer may cost you the home you love. Negotiation is give and take.

6. Remember your home doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Don’t get so caught up in the physical aspects of the house itself — room size, kitchen, etc. — that you forget about important issues as noise level, location to amenities, and other aspects that also have a big impact on your quality of life.

7. Plan ahead. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to get approved for a mortgage, investigate home insurance, and consider a schedule for moving. Presenting an offer contingent on a lot of unresolved issues will make your bid much less attractive to sellers.

8. Factor in maintenance and repair costs in your post-home buying budget. Even if you buy a new home, there will be costs. Don’t leave yourself short and let your home deteriorate.

9. Accept that a little buyer’s remorse is inevitable and will probably pass. Buying a home, especially for the first time, is a big financial commitment. But it also yields big benefits. Don’t lose sight of why you wanted to buy a home and what made you fall in love with the property you purchased.

10. Choose a home first because you love it; then think about appreciation. While U.S. homes have appreciated an average of 5.4 percent annually over from 1998 to 2002, a home’s most important role is to serve as a comfortable, safe place to live.

To insure a stress-free transaction contact The H Team today. Ask about our free Buyer’s Guide.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sharp decline in Mortgage Rates This Week

Sharp Decline in Mortgage Rates This Week

Mortgage rates declined Tuesday after the Federal Reserve said it would spend $600 billion to support the mortgage securities market.

Rates fell to 4 7/8 percent, a 1 1/8 percentage point decline. David Beadle, president of BestInfo, said it was the sharpest one-day decline since 1988.

"I hope that the effect is that it brings more investors home to investing in housing," said Alfred DelliBovi, president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. “[Investors] have had a sense in the markets that anything connected with a mortgage is bad" even though most people pay their home loans, he said.

Source: Reuters News, Al Yoon and Lynn Adler (11/25/2008)

Let The H Team help you get pre-approved with Christie Gabel. A full service loan officer with years of experience.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting Your Home Ready For Winter

Getting Your Home Ready For The Winter


Disconnect all hose bibs.

Turn off all exterior freeze faucets

Caulk around all Windows

Cover Air Conditioning Unit


With the furnace off.. Take your vacuum cleaner and clean out around the coils/ heat exchanger. Next change the filter.

Insulate your H2O heater and install pipe wraps on the line coming out of the heater. Make sure your H2O heater is on medium to conserve energy.

All basement windows should be caulked. Install insulation along all exterior door frames.

If you use a fabric softner sheet make sure you remove the dryer vent screen and wash it with water. This will help extend the life of your dryer.

Check dryer vent hoses to insure they are free of debris.

Main Living Area

Caulk around every window,, top, bottom and sides.

Install door frame insulation to all exterior doors.

Install door sweeps on the bottom of all exterior doors.

Install outlet and light switch insulators on any outlets or switches on exterior facing walls.

Install a programmable thermostat.

Vacuum all heat registers.

Hire a chimney sweep to clean chimney

By becoming pro-active now you will save energy and have a warmer home. For a list of qualified contractors contact The H Team today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Considering "Rent To Own" Things to Know

In today's Real Estate market some sellers are considering "Rent To Own. Is it for you? Here are some thoughts if you are the buyer or if you are the seller. As with any other contractural agreement consult a licensed professional.

Rent-to-Own Deals: Smart Questions to Ask...

For Sellers:

Who will tend to the property and pay for routine maintenance?

Who pays for major repairs?

What are the costs of setting up and managing an escrow account for the portion of rent allotted to the down payment?

Will you manage the property yourself, or hire an agent?

What if the renters change their minds? Who keeps the money in the escrow account?

If the buyers change their minds, what will be required to put the property back on the market?

For Buyers:
How much of the rent is going to the down payment?

How locked in are you if you change your mind?

What will it cost you to get out of the deal?

How long will it take to accumulate enough of a down payment that you are likely to qualify for a mortgage?

Need an agent experienced in Rent To Own? Contact The H Team today.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mortgage Foreclosure Debt Relief

Today’s Home Owners are facing a lot of stress due to changing market conditions that are forcing foreclosure or a short sale of their home..
As the government takes action to stabilize the housing market, homeowners must understand the potential tax implications and new rules regarding these often once in a lifetime transactions.
“It’s hard to believe, but prior to December of 2007, if a homeowner lost his house due to a bank foreclosure, and the bank forgave any difference between the price it was sold for and what was owed, the homeowner would owe additional income tax on that portion,” said Chris Kaucnik, Director of Marketing for HWA.
Michael J. Greenen, CPA and Certified Financial Planner offers an example, “Let’s say the homeowner owed $300,000 on the mortgage, but the foreclosure sale only brought in $200,000. Then the bank forgave the $100,000 shortfall, called cancellation of debt. The homeowner would have been liable for the income tax on the $100,000 debt forgiveness from the bank.”
“Now, because of the unique stresses in the housing industry lately and on our whole economy, last December Congress stepped in to provide temporary relief in the form of forgiving this debt, but only for the 2007, 2008 and 2009 tax years. After that, the old rule applies again,” adds Greenen.
There are conditions that apply to this tax relief:
– To be eligible, the mortgage must be for the principal residence, not vacation, investment or other properties.
– No more than $2,000,000 of forgiven debt can be excluded from taxable income.
– When part of the debt is from a home equity loan, it cannot have been used for purposes other than to build, buy or substantially improve the property otherwise that portion used for other purposes is still taxable.
– When a short sale occurs*, the portion of the mortgage the bank may forgive, including any commission expenses and other selling costs are taxable other than for 2007, 2008 and 2009.
– When the lender agrees to reduce a mortgage payment for a homeowner to keep them in their home, the amount it is reduced by is taxable other than for these relief years.**
– This Act also extended mortgage insurance as an itemized deduction through 2010 on mortgage contracts entered into between 12/31/06 and 1/1/11.
* A short sale is when a borrower is behind on the mortgage payments and the lender agrees the house can be sold for less than what is owed on the mortgage. But all proceeds must be turned over to the bank.
** This does effect eventual capital gain exclusions when the homeowner decides to sell the home. Consult with a professional tax accountant or attorney for advice and information as soon as possible.

Information provided from HWA.

Determine your Homes current value and possible sale price by contacting The H Team today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Keeping Your Fireplace Clean

How to Keep Your Fireplace Clean

Winter and cold fall nights are on the way. When did you last take a minute to Thank your fireplace for keeping you warm? What about the nights when its flames sparked an evening of romance, or when that special smell brought comfort and calm to you and your family? There’s really an easy and great way to thank your fireplace.
Take Care Of It!
No matter how well you care for a fireplace, the flue inside your chimney suffers a gradual build-up of creosote (hard-layered residue from the wood-smoke), which can catch fire. Periodic chimney-cleaning is necessary in order to avoid such a catastrophe. This isn’t a do-it-yourself project; you need to hire a professional to clean your chimney.
Have your chimney cleaned once a year if you use it a lot. If you use your fireplace two or three times per week during colder months, have it inspected and cleaned each year. Another handy method is to inspect and clean after every 70 fires. Ask the chimney inspector about the condition of your flue liner and (if you have a masonry chimney) mortar.
So how can you reduce creosote build-up and keep your fireplace and chimney as clean as possible this season?
First of all, encourage good draft up your chimney, simply by keeping a window open a crack when you burn a fire. The air entering your room will get sucked up the chimney. Opening a window also ensures that your indoor air quality stays good while you burn the fire.
If you have glass fireplace doors, invest in a screen to block the fire instead of using glass. Doing so will also aid in ventilating the fire and encouraging airflow through the flue.
In addition to the aforementioned ventilation tips, you can reduce creosote build-up by using only dry hardwood logs, which burn more completely.
Clean the ash out of the fireplace. Wear a dust mask, open a window in the room and then open the damper to let the draft suck any airborne ash out of the fireplace. Then, using fire gloves, remove the old coals. Carefully sweep the remaining dust into a dustpan. Remember to wait about three days after your most recent fire to do any of this; embers stay hot for a surprisingly long time!
Cap your chimney. Not only can an uncapped chimney collect gunk and debris, but it can also cause your damper to rust or even invite animals to make it their unlucky home.
Glass cleaners, brick cleaners and other appropriate cleaners are available for purchase to maintain the happy appearance of your fireplace. If you have dish soap handy, simply dilute it to make your own glass cleaner.
Taking care of your fireplace will insure staying warm on those cold wtinter nights and increase the safety for your family.
For a list of licensed chimney sweeps in the area just contact The H Team

* Adapted from an article written by Brian McDonald RIS Media, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

November is Home Staging Awarness Month

STOCKTON, Calif., Oct 31, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The Real Estate Staging Association (RESA), the Trade Association for Professional Home Stagers, has announced that November is Home Staging Awareness Month. RESA's goals are to facilitate positive interactions within the home staging industry, provide support to professional stagers in addition to promoting the benefits of home staging to the consumer. The Interior Redesign Industry Specialists (IRIS), and American Society of Home Stagers and Redesigners (ASHSR) are also partnering with RESA as National Co-Sponsors of Home Staging Awareness Month in a unified effort to bring industry professionals together. All professional stagers are invited to attend and participate in this ground breaking event.
These leading Staging Professional Organizations have partnered with members of "Stage it Forward" (SIF) a powerful internet blogging community that is hosted by the Real Estate Blogging website called Active Rain. ( SIF is conducting "Home Staging Round Table Discussions" throughout North America during the month of November, "Home Staging Awareness" month, in order to bring home stagers together to discuss vital industry issues. If you would like to attend a Round Table Visit and click on the event calendar to find a location near you.
Other industry partners such as BEKINS PODS, IKEA, THE PLANT ATRIUM, CORT FURNITURE RENTAL, BROOK FURNITURE RENTAL, KELLER WILLIAMS and THE ENERGIZED SELLER, are sponsoring the events. For a full list of industry partners and sponsors please visit and click on the SIF button on the menu.
RESA has released "The Consumers Guide To Real Estate Staging", free publication that explains the benefits of staging and how to choose a professional stager. The publication is available to homeowners and Real Estate Professional. To download a free copy visit
For more information on home staging, or to join a Round Table, find a professional stager, or sponsor a future event, please contact one of these organizations: RESA -The Real Estate Staging Association visit or call 888-201-8687 speak to Shell Brodnax; IRIS - Interior Redesign Industry Specialists or call 877-674-8667 speak to Sandy Dixon; ASHSR - American Society of Home Stagers and Redesigners or call 888-563-9271 and speak to Audra Slinkey.
Should you desire a local staging company contact The H Team
SOURCE: Real Estate Staging Association

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Understanding Your Relationship With A Realtor

It’s important to understand what legal responsibilities your real estate salesperson has to you and to other parties in the transaction. Ask what type of agency relationship your agent has with you:

Seller's representative (also known as a listing agent or seller's agent)
A seller's agent is hired by and represents the seller. All fiduciary duties are owed to the seller. The agency relationship usually is created by a listing contract.

Buyer's representative (also known as a buyer’s agent)
A buyer’s agent is hired by prospective buyers to represent them in a real estate transaction. The buyer's rep works in the buyer's best interest throughout the transaction and owes fiduciary duties to the buyer. The buyer can pay the licensee directly through a negotiated fee, or the buyer's rep may be paid by the seller or through a commission split with the seller’s agent. Free Seller Representation

A subagent owes the same fiduciary duties to the agent's customer as the agent does. Subagency usually arises when a cooperating sales associate from another brokerage, who is not the buyer’s agent, shows property to a buyer. In such a case, the subagent works with the buyer as a customer but owes fiduciary duties to the listing broker and the seller. Although a subagent cannot assist the buyer in any way that would be detrimental to the seller, a buyer-customer can expect to be treated honestly by the subagent. It is important that subagents fully explain their duties to buyers.

Disclosed dual agent
Dual agency is a relationship in which the brokerage firm represents both the buyer and the seller in the same real estate transaction. Dual agency relationships do not carry with them all of the traditional fiduciary duties to clients. Instead, dual agents owe limited fiduciary duties. Because of the potential for conflicts of interest in a dual-agency relationship, it's vital that all parties give their informed consent. In many states, this consent must be in writing. Disclosed dual agency, in which both the buyer and the seller are told that the agent is representing both of them, is legal in most states.

Designated agent (also called appointed agent)
This is a brokerage practice that allows the managing broker to designate which licensees in the brokerage will act as an agent of the seller and which will act as an agent of the buyer. Designated agency avoids the problem of creating a dual-agency relationship for licensees at the brokerage. The designated agents give their clients full representation, with all of the attendant fiduciary duties. The broker still has the responsibility of supervising both groups of licensees.

Nonagency relationship (called, among other things, a transaction broker or facilitator)
Some states permit a real estate licensee to have a type of nonagency relationship with a consumer. These relationships vary considerably from state to state, both as to the duties owed to the consumer and the name used to describe them. Very generally, the duties owed to the consumer in a nonagency relationship are less than the complete, traditional fiduciary duties of an agency relationship.

**Adapted with permission from REALTOR Magazine consumer handout.