Boomerang buyers return – qualifying after foreclosure or short sale

HomesThere is homeownership after a foreclosure or short sale. Home owners, who lost their homes to foreclosure or short sale during the housing downturn and recession, are apparently returning to the housing market in increasing numbers, such that their home buying activity is attracting economists’ attention.

Ken Fears, the National Association of Realtors® Director of Regional Economics and Housing Finance, wrote for the NAR Economist’s Outlook Blog (Return Buyers Prefer Safe, Affordable Financing; economistsoutlook.blogs.realtor.org; June 25, 2015) about the research and numbers associated with home buyers who previously lost a home. These “boomerang buyers” accounted for about 8% of home sales during 2014. Considering that there were about 9.3 million home owners who lost their homes between 2006 and 2014, the estimated 350,000 boomerang home buyer sales during 2014 may be just the beginning of the “homecoming.”

If you are a boomerang buyer, there may be a home in your future. Conventional, FHA, and VA mortgage underwriting guidelines have typically allowed for foreclosure, short sale, or bankruptcy with re-established credit and a waiting period. However, easing mortgage requirements may make it easier for you to qualify for a mortgage.

Fannie Mae underwritting guidelines (fanniemae.com) require you to wait at least seven years after a foreclosure, which is typically measured from the reported foreclosure completion date. If you had a short sale, the waiting period is four years. However, if you had a bankruptcy, you’ll have to wait four years after a chapter 7 bankruptcy is discharged; and two years after a chapter 13 is discharged (but four years if the chapter 13 is dismissed). However, if you had multiple bankruptcies within a seven year period, a five year waiting period from the most recent discharge or dismissal date is required.

FHA (hud.gov) has changed significantly in recent years. Besides reducing waiting periods due to extenuating circumstances, there are various caveats that may further reduce your waiting period. Nevertheless, the typical waiting periods include: three years after a foreclosure, two years after a chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge, and one year if you are current on a chapter 13 payment plan. The waiting period after a short sale is differentiated depending if the loan was in default: if the loan was not in default at the time of the short sale and your previous 12 months payments were timely, you may be eligible for a FHA mortgage without waiting; however if the loan was in default prior to short sale, you will have to wait three years.

If you are eligible for VA financing (benefits.va.gov), you will have to wait two years after a foreclosure, short sale, and chapter 7 bankruptcy (one year into a chapter 13 payment plan with court approval). However, if your foreclosure or short sale was on a VA mortgage, then your eligibility amount may be reduced.

Waiting periods may be significantly reduced if you can document that your foreclosure, bankruptcy, or short sale resulted from extenuating circumstances. However, such applications are subject to underwriter discretion; and not all lenders grant such exemptions.

If you are a boomerang home buyer, it is crucial that you consult with a lender before embarking on the home buying process. Besides guidance on mortgage eligibility, your lender can help you determine the appropriate mortgage for your circumstances. And as your lender will tell you, timelines and qualifying requirements are subject to change.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorCopyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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EMP’s, solar flares and your home – are you prepared

homesYour home takes on different functions at various times. Maybe you think of your home as place of relaxation and entertainment, or maybe it’s where you create gourmet meals. And although much of the living you anticipate in your home may be for enjoyment – will your home be a suitable shelter to protect you and your family?

To bring attention to preparedness, the Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov) played on pop-culture in a 2011 posting of a tongue in cheek account of preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. The result of this and other efforts increased awareness of planning for emergencies and severe weather. As a severe weather event might inconvenience you for as much as a day or two, preparedness experts have since turned to preparing for and the aftermath of Katrina-like events, or worse – the takedown of the electric grid.

Preparedness experts have recently brought attention to the electric grid’s vulnerabilities with reports of hacking and alleged terrorist activity. However, one weakness that has been talked about in recent years, although has been known since the cold war, is the electromagnetic pulse (EMP). R. James Woolsey and Peter Vincent Pry, in their August 12, 2014 Wall Street Journal article (The Growing Threat From an EMP Attack; wsj.com), describe EMP’s, the aftermath, and preparedness. Woolsey and Pry quoted a 2008 EMP Commission report that estimated “within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown.”

Alternatively, the effect of a direct hit of a coronal mass ejection (CME) would be very similar to an EMP; causing “widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket…” Although 1859 was the last time a CME hit the Earth (when most of daily life did not depend on electricity), a CME barley missed the Earth (by several days) during July 2012. Scientists estimate a 12% chance of being hit by a CME in the next ten years (Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012; science.nasa.gov; July 23, 2014).

Although discussions about EMP’s and CME’s seem extreme; it should make you think about your preparedness level. If you don’t yet have (or need to update) a plan, preparedness information is available through government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (ready.gov). FEMA’s “Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness” interactive course is “a training program designed to help the citizens of this nation learn how to protect themselves and their families against all types of hazards…” and is a comprehensive source on individual, family and community preparedness (www.ready.gov/are-you-ready-guide).

Locally, the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security offers a resource library of information to prepare for and the aftermath of emergencies (montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs/).

In addition to having an emergency plan, experts recommend reviewing your homeowners’ insurance policy to ensure of adequate coverage as well as compiling an inventory of your home’s contents; this is supposed to help you recover quicker from disaster. Additional recommendations include (but are not limited to) mitigating weather related damage: making sure your home’s doors and windows are secure and impermeable to weather, and also ensuring your roof and gutter system is well maintained (draining water at least five feet from your home); as well as removing debris and dead trees/shrubs from the home’s perimeter.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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DANGER Report not a mea culpa – but forecasts issues affecting housing market

real estateNews about the D.A.N.G.E.R. Report is making the media rounds, but maybe the excitement is more hyperbole than news. And contrary to the recent hype, the D.A.N.G.E.R. Report is not a mea culpa by the National Association of Realtors®.

D.A.N.G.E.R. is an acronym for “Definitive Analysis of Negative Game changers Emerging in Real estate.” The Report was commissioned by the National Association of REALTORS® as that is part of the NAR Strategic Thinking Advisory Committee’s attempt to identify issues affecting the future of the industry; the Swanepoel | T3 Group researched and authored the Report, which identifies trends and offers the residential real estate industry an impact assessment.

Described as a “…mix of yesterday, today and tomorrow…” the Report is intended to assist those in the industry to “…anticipate the forces taking shape that we can’t yet see;” by pointing out possible challenges, threats, and opportunities. Although the result is meant to “inspire” discourse, the reception has so far been mixed. NAR CEO Dale Stinton was quoted to say, “The D.A.N.G.E.R. Report is like 50 things that could keep you up at night. It isn’t a strategic plan. It isn’t telling you to do anything. It’s 50 potential black swans. It’s for your strategic planning processes. Digest it and cuss and fuss and decide whether it’s right or wrong…” (Anrea V. Brambila; ‘Danger’ report alerts industry to 50 biggest threats; inman.com; May 15, 2015).

One issue highlighted in the Report that has attracted the media attention is agent competency and ethics. The use of Report quotes such as, “the real estate industry is saddled with a large number of part-time, untrained, unethical, and/or incompetent agents…” is as if some in the media are saying “we told you so.” But the truth is that competency does not guarantee ethical behavior, and vice versa; the answers, like the issues, are more complex than you might expect – and do not assure advancement.

Like many of the issues reported in D.A.N.G.E.R., concern about agent competency and ethics is not new. The National Association of Realtors® has for years tried to influence public opinion of Realtors® and the industry by publicly promoting the high ethical standards by which Realtors® are held. Many are unaware that a code of ethics was adopted in 1913 by the association, and has since strived to instill and maintain a high level of integrity in the field. And yet with such emphasis on ethics, you might expect that public opinion would be much higher, but the limited research on consumer perception of ethics is mixed at best. And according to one study, consumers consider price, quality, and value more important than ethical criteria in purchase behavior (The myth of the ethical consumer – do ethics matter in purchase behaviour? The Journal of Consumer Marketing. 2001;18(7),560-577).

The D.A.N.G.E.R. Report may have missed the mark by not acknowledging that the industry’s transformation over many decades has been mainly influenced and driven by market forces, regulation, and technology. Discussing “black swans” with regard to these three areas may have been more valuable and practical to professionals and consumers.

However, as much as we try to identify unforeseen events; they are just that – unexpected and unanticipated. Take for instance the extreme changes that have occurred over the last ten years in the real estate industry – much of which were due to market forces, regulation, and technology.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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The cost of doing nothing – deferred maintenance and home values

HousesIf you want to have one of the faster home sales in the area, you’re probably going to have to wait until you die. According to a 2012 study, “estate sales” sell faster than other homes. Benefield, Rutherford, & Allen’s study compared time on market and price of estate sales to regular sales, and quantified what many ostensibly know: estate sales sell about 3.4% faster and about 3.6% less than other homes (Justin, D. Benefield, C. Rutherford Ronald, and T. Allen Marcus. “The Effects of Estate Sales of Residential Real Estate on Price and Marketing Time.” Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics 45.4 (2012): 965-81).

Although the study is one of many recent studies raising awareness about real estate outcomes in our aging population, one of the main considerations for the rapid time frame and discounted sale price is deferred maintenance; and the issue of postponing home repairs and updates is prevalent among all age groups.

Before Kermit Baker wrote “The Return of Substandard Housing” for the Harvard Joint Center of Housing Studies, it was not quite known how much less home owners spent on home maintenance during and immediately after the Great Recession. However, the 2012 study indicated that “improvement spending” decreased 28% between 2007 and 2011, which essentially “erased” such spending during the housing boom (housingperspectives.blogspot.com).

And as the economy slowly improves and home prices increase, you might expect that home owners will reduce deferred maintenance and once again spend on home improvements. According to Craig Webb (Remodeling Activity Rose Again in 1Q, RRI Shows Nation remains on track to hit record remodeling pace this fall; May 18, 2015; remodeling.hw.net), the Residential Remodeling Index (RRI) increased 1.4% in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the previous quarter, indicating that improvement spending is indeed on the rise (albeit below the 2007 peak).

But what’s the cost of doing nothing? Deferred home maintenance is cumulative, and its effects can be wide ranging. For many, having put off home maintenance and repairs has impacted home sales in recent years, and may continue to be a factor in years to come. Although average home prices have increased, many home owners have found that a lack of home maintenance, repairs and updates over the years is an impediment to selling their homes at higher prices – or even at all.

A mindset exists among many home owners, and even real estate agents, that years of deferred maintenance can be overcome with some updating and minor repairs just before a home sale. And although improvements will certainly make your home more appealing to home buyers, it won’t necessarily increase your home’s value as much as you think (or as much as you’ve been told).

Before undergoing any project, crunch the numbers and determine the value of your repairs/updates, and how that might realistically affect your estimated sale price. Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report (costvsvalue.com) can give you an idea of the return-on-investment (ROI) for improvement projects. Getting back to your expectation of adding value – most improvement projects will only return a fraction of the cost in today’s market.

If you are making improvements, you should consider hiring reputable, licensed contractors who are familiar with the permitting process and building code requirements; because ROI is not always determined by the amount spent on the project, but on the quality of workmanship as well.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in home condition, home improvement, home maintenance, home remodeling, home renovation, home repairs, home value, home values, real estate, repairs | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Survey may indicate buyers need attentive agents

buyer agentA recent MarketWatch report indicated that the top four reasons why millennials are not buying homes include: lack of down payment; student loan debt; credit card debt; and not knowing where to start. The reasons per se may not surprise you; however, regional differences are interesting.

Daniel Goldstein’s May 30th report (Millennials in Texas and in California reject home ownership for vastly different reasons; marketwatch.com) tries to tie together a recent Carrington Mortgage survey and the lack of homeownership participation among millennials. Since millennials are supposed to be the heir apparent to the U.S. economy; he ponders about why there is only a 38% homeownership rate (according to CoreLogic) among millennials when mortgage interest rates are at record lows. The figure pales in comparison to the homeownership rate of 52% of the same age group in 1980 – at a time of double digit interest rates!

Millennials in the western region of the U.S. seem to be mostly concerned about down payment. This may be due to the region including many high cost metro areas. Additionally, the western region has seen much of the home price growth and hot markets we hear about in the media.

Midwestern region millennials are mostly concerned about student loan debt, which has a direct impact on their debt-to-income ratio. The midwestern region has some of the lowest cost of living areas, which influences wages and ability to qualify for a mortgage.

The top concern for millennials in the northeast is credit card debt. And while having credit card debt is not necessarily a bad thing (as long as credit is not maxed out and payments are timely); many do not understand the general concepts of credit reports, and the relation between credit scores and credit card debt.

Whereas most of the country seems to be concerned about wages, savings, and debt; southern millennials (which includes Maryland, DC, and Virginia) are reported to be generally stumped about the home buying process.

What millennials reported in the survey is what generally daunts first time home buyers – the overwhelming process of buying a home. Although not considered rocket science, buying your first home can be intimidating. And it’s not just because it is one of the most expensive purchases of a lifetime; but also because the process is multifaceted with many possible pitfalls. Recent industry trends have also made the process less personal, leaving many home buyers to “figure it out” on their own.

Millennials’ concern about the home buying process may not necessarily be economics as it is about the industry itself. It may be a telling sign that “continuity of care” in the real estate industry is lacking, and should have many professionals revisit the client centered business model.

Although recent industry trends favor real estate agent teams as a means to high volume home sales; buyers who work with a team may not necessarily be overly satisfied with communication and support. Millennials and other first time home buyers may be seeking seasoned real estate agents and loan officers who are able to listen to their needs and concerns, while being able to educate and provide guidance. Much like having the ability to talk to a physician directly, rather than communicating through messaging services and technicians; having a single Realtor® who can promptly answer phone calls and emails, may greatly increase satisfaction and quality of service.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Hot regional housing markets change reliance on MLS listings

HomesGood news for home sellers, in most US regions. Tuesday’s news release from S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices indicates a nationwide home price gain. The 10-city and 20-city composites continue to show home price gains, as the composites realized a 4.7% and 5.0% year over year gain respectively (month over month gains were 0.8% and 0.9% respectively). The nearby Washington DC region was not as robust as the other US regions in the composite, however, as home prices gained about 1% year over year and about 0.8% month over month (us.spindices.com).

The S&P/Case-Shiller index seems to be in agreement with the U.S. House Price Index Report issued by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (fhfa.gov), which indicated that national home prices gained 1.3% during the first quarter of 2015. However here in Maryland, home prices did not fare as well with a 0.38% decline year over year.

Hot markets in western regions of the US, such as Washington, are making news besides strong home prices. In one of the hottest markets in the nation, a Seattle Washington broker has decided to drop out of their MLS. Counter intuitive to the idea of maximizing listing exposure, Rob Smith of the Puget Sound Business Journal reported that Quill Realty is dropping out of their local MLS (Here’s why this Seattle realty company just ditched the MLS; bizjournals.com, May 18, 2015).

Instead of MLS placement, Quill intends to place listings on a number of websites, including Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com. The rationale is that sellers will save money from the 1% commission that is charged by Quill; while buyers of Quill’s listings “… will become responsible for working out a financial arrangement with their own broker.”

Of course, this is not an entirely new idea. There have been a number of seller oriented business models that have been devised over the years; with new variations popping up during hot markets. Many discount brokers and MLS placement services, which have survived the housing downturn, have continued to market their business model successfully.

Innovative or not, hot markets tend to make brokers become more protective of their listings by seeking ways to make them proprietary. Low housing inventory in some markets, along with increasing home prices and buyer competition can make a home listing a hot commodity. I will remind of the recent report indicating that pocket listings are on the rise. Pocket listings are listings kept out of the MLS and shown only to a select network of contacts and clients. And although pocket listings are often associated with luxury real estate, pocket listings in hot markets can occur across all price ranges because of the increased home buyer competition.

In response to recent trends, several regional Realtor® groups and brokers have been formulating a nationwide consumer MLS to provide the consumer with up to date relevant information (brokerpublicportal.com). Board member of the Broker Public Portal, Robert Moline (Home Services America) stated, “There is a tremendous amount of support and momentum throughout the MLS and brokerage communities to create a new choice for how and where to display their listings…”

And even though many home sellers are taking advantage of a seller’s market in their respective markets, home buyers are becoming increasingly resourceful as well. Many buyers are learning how to find home for sale in places other the MLS. Besides alternative listing websites, many buyers are also relying on neighborhood listservs (internet email lists) and internet groups for home sale notifications.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Don’t skip the home inspection – old, new, or renovated

homesLike the 49ers seeking gold in California, real estate investors have flocked to D.C. in recent years to seek their fortunes. As home values rebounded, many distressed homes were snapped up by investors with the intention of renovating/rehabbing, and then selling them. For many home buyers, these “flipped” houses have become home; however, for a few, the dream has become a nightmare.

Martin Austermuhle reported on WAMU (A Dream Home Becomes a Nightmare; wamu.org) about D.C.’S house flipping environment and highlighted one family’s dream turned nightmare. Characterized as a “cautionary tale of home-buying in a hot real estate market,” the story was basically about how rotted wood in the porch has led to a multimillion dollar law suit between the purchasers and the rehabber.

If you haven’t received the memo, “house flipping” is once again a bad thing – or is it? Unfortunately, “flipping” has become synonymous with fraud and scams because of the attention that it received in the mid 1990’s (as the result of widespread fraud and scams that involved flipped homes). At that time, several cities (Baltimore being one) were known for flipping scams because of the investors’ ability to purchase a home for very little money and turn it around for a big profit.

Although, there should be nothing wrong with buying a distressed property, rehabbing and selling it (aka home flipping); flipping has generally become the term used when there is an accusation of fraud or con involved with a rehabbed home. During the 1990’s, flipped homes were the center of many mortgage fraud cases that took advantage of lenders by providing false income statements, fraudulent credit reports, and/or fraudulent appraisals. In these cases, the investor was not the only scammer; as accomplices often included: loan officers, appraisers, title agents, real estate agents, and even “straw” buyers.

Many home buyers were also scammed into buying homes in disrepair that were represented as being rehabbed. And believe it or not, some of these homes were nothing but shells (e.g., gutted).

In the aftermath of the flipping crisis of the 1990’s: lenders wrote off hundreds of millions of dollars, lawsuits were filed, and a movement grew to educate home buyers about the need to conduct home inspections. Mortgage underwriting changed to safeguard against future scams with the introduction of title seasoning (length of ownership).

Legitimate rehabbing of distressed properties has always been a viable industry; and can transform an eyesore into a livable home. However, just because renovations have been made to an old home doesn’t mean that it is now brand new!

When buying a home, you must do your due diligence regardless of the age of the home. A thorough home inspection should be conducted, even on new homes. Although home inspectors don’t have x-ray vision, the technology they employ can sometimes make it seem as if they do. Besides the routine identification of deferred maintenance, home inspectors can typically identify issues with renovations and can usually identify code violations. Furthermore, you should check permits when considering a home that has been renovated or expanded. Many jurisdictions offer online services to search permits; locally, the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services has such a search portal (permittingservices.montgomerycountymd.gov).

If you’re buying a home, you might also consider working with an experienced Realtor®. A seasoned professional is not only knowledgeable about neighborhood price trends and disclosures; many are skilled to work in tandem with the home inspector to negotiate repairs.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in due diligence, flipping, home inspection, home inspector, home remodeling, home renovation, real estate | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New settlement rules may facilitate much needed communication

homesSigned into law July 21st, 2010, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (aka Dodd – Frank) was intended to improve accountability and transparency in the financial system, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and to end “too big to fail.” The Act created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which enforces regulations to protect consumers and implements rules such as the Qualified Residential Mortgage (also mandated by Dodd – Frank).

Five years after enactment, Dodd – Frank seems to be the Act the keeps on giving with the upcoming implantation of Sec 1098; which states that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)shall publish a single, integrated disclosure for mortgage loan transactions” in a “readily understandable language” so as to help borrowers understand the financial aspects of their loan clearly and to be nontechnical.

The new disclosure and settlement statement is intended to present important information conspicuously to help consumers decide if the mortgage is affordable and give warning about undesirable loan features. The new forms seek to standardize fee and cost disclosures so as to make shopping for a mortgage easier. One of the more important aspects of the new regulation is that the new Closing Disclosure is to be given to the borrower at least three days prior to settlement. During the three days prior to closing, changes to the Closing Disclosure that increase charges are prohibited (unless allowed by exception).

Firm timelines for closing and mortgage associated matters, have always been a crucial aspect of the home purchase contract. Not adhering to the dates specified in the contract usually has consequences. However, changes to Realtor® contracts are being considered to reflect the three day waiting period. What was once a firm timeline may no longer have the “time is of the essence” feel, as future contract revisions may not hold the buyer in breach of contract if the home does not close by contract settlement date. Carryover issues may also include implications to meeting loan commitment and appraisal contingency timelines.

If you’re buying a home, note that there are a number of situations that could cause your closing date to be rescheduled because of a “reset” to the three day waiting period, including a loan product changes, 1/8% increase in APR, and/or there is an added pre-payment penalty.   Additionally, other lender actions may also require you to reschedule closing; such as a lender required repair with reinspection.

Many in the industry are also concerned about routine buyer and agent pre-settlement walkthroughs. Rather than prior to closing, they will have to be scheduled to allow for negotiation on potential issues without resetting the three day waiting period (and cross your fingers that nothing happens to the home the three days prior to closing).

However, CFPB Director Richard Cordray was quoted emphasizing “The timing of the closing date is not going to change based on the final walk-through…” in a National Association of Realtors® (realtor.org) May 12th press release reporting on speakers at a regulatory issues forum.

The complexity and implications of the new regulations will undoubtedly cause some confusion in the first days of implementation. However, the new rules inadvertently address one of the weak links to the real estate transaction – communication. Many are beginning to recognize the necessity for everyone involved in the transaction to be proactive and communicate with each other to ensure compliance.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Basements, humidity and dehumidifiers – what’s the problem?

homesThere seems to be a misconception of the relationship between basements, humidity and dehumidifiers; which probably results in the dehumidifier being one of the most misunderstood and least respected household appliances. This is apparent because many first time home buyers are turned off to any home where they see a dehumidifier, thinking there is a moisture problem. The dehumidifier doesn’t even have to be running; it could be turned off and tucked away in a closet.

The battle that all home owners deal with is keeping moisture out of the basement. Of course, regular maintenance can retard water penetration from the exterior: having the proper grading and extending downspouts will keep rainwater away from the home’s foundation. And serious water penetration issues should be resolved by licensed professionals. However, if the home doesn’t have a foundation or water penetration issue, basement humidity is still an ongoing battle. And if your home has an in-ground basement, chances are you know what I am talking about.

Believe it or not, it’s not necessarily a water problem that dictates humidity in a basement; but rather it’s physics. More precisely: thermodynamics and entropy. Put simply: temperatures in your home seek equilibrium, and warm air will move toward cooler air. Basements tend to be cooler than the upper floors because warm air rises. However, as the temperature seeks equilibrium, the warm air will also move toward the cooler basement air. When warm air meets cold air, the air condenses and develops humidity.

Although humidity is generally thought of as the amount of moisture in the air; according to Dehumidifier Basics(energystar.gov), it is most commonly referred to as “relative humidity” or RH. “RH is the amount of water vapor actually present in the air compared to the greatest amount of water vapor the air can hold at that temperature.” An RH between 30% and 50% is considered to be optimal. When RH is above 50%, bacteria and mold may grow.

If you don’t have a dehumidifier, you might consider buying one to help maintain the optimal RH in your basement. Dehumidifiers are differentiated by capacity, which is described as pints per 24 hours (measured by the size and conditions of the area where the unit may be placed). Energy Star provides a chart to help you decide the capacity best suited for your needs.

If you already have a dehumidifier, you might be surprised to know that most units are not meant to be operated in areas that are below 65°F (according to Energy Star); however, there are models that are designed for lower temperatures. If you use your dehumidifier in temperatures below 65°F, the unit may not function properly even though you may hear the compressor running. Below 65°F, frost can form over the condensing coils inhibiting the unit from removing moisture from the air. If your unit frosts, it should be unplugged and allowed to defrost.

Although some units are designed to be placed against walls, Energy Star recommends placing your dehumidifier in an area that allows free circulation of air around the unit for optimal operation. And of course, refer to manufacture’s manual for operation and electrical safety warnings.

Maintaining a comfortable RH level in the home can be achieved, and it starts by proper home maintenance. However, a dehumidifier may be necessary for optimal comfort. Energy Star (energystar.gov) provides consumer information about selecting and safely operating a dehumidifier.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Millennials redefining American Dream – and it’s not what you think

home for saleThere is no doubt that the baby boom generation has fueled the housing market for over four decades. That’s right, our vision of the American Dream was shaped by those who are said to have been born between 1946 and 1964. Success was measured against a standard of working at one job or career for a lifetime, buying a suburban house to raise a family, and do it all on a single income.

As time passed and the economy changed, single income families became passé. Many struggled to keep up with the Jones’ and maintain the American Dream. The Dream became twisted into maintaining a lifestyle at all costs, even by financing it with their home’s equity.

In fact this meme was used in a Lending Tree commercial that ran prior to the housing bust. The commercial starts with the character “Stanley Johnson” introducing himself, and then posing with his family proclaiming they are great. The scene pans out to show his home as he continues to describe his four bedroom home being located in a great community. He then shows off his new car. And is proud to point out he is a member of the local club. He rhetorically asks with a smile while grilling in the backyard, “How do I do it?… I’m in debt up to my eyeballs…” And the commercial ends with “Stanley” mowing the lawn as he proclaims, “Somebody help me…”

At the time when the commercial ran, cash-out refinancing was popular. But in retrospect, the dark comedy seems prophetic of what went wrong with the American Dream. And as some have wondered if the American Dream died with the housing bust, it is becoming apparent that the dream is being redefined by Millennials (those born between 1980 to 2000) – and it may not be exactly what you think.

Millennials have been blamed for holding back a strong housing recovery by delaying household formation and not buying homes. But Brena Swanson of HousingWire proclaimed that to be old news in her April 28th article (Hey Millennials — You know nothing about housing finance; housingwire.com). She reported that many housing economists have declared 2015 as the year of the Millennial. Furthermore, she reported that by the end of 2015, Millennials are expected to be the largest home buying group; which may be derived from recent polls indicating that they believe it’s a good time to buy a home.

But don’t blame Millennials if 2015 doesn’t turn out they way housing economists expect. Why should the problems of a housing market be attributed to a generation who refuses to walk lockstep with older generations? Gen-X blogger, Jeremy Vohwinkle, pegged it in 2007 when he wrote about the problems with the housing market being rooted in an antiquated vision of the American Dream (The Real Estate Generation Gap: The Baby Boomers Are Trying to Sell, but Who’s Buying?; genxfinance.com). He proclaimed that the Baby Boom real estate cycle (starter home, upgrade to large home, downsize to retirement home) is not what younger generations want.

So, it’s not that the American Dream is dead, as some have thought; it is just being reinterpreted, most likely being restored to its original intentions. And rather than keeping up with the Jones’, it appears to be that the American Dream for Millennials is focused on increasing their quality of life – and whatever that brings with it.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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