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  Mon Oct 30

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They continued, "Well, you may not be stupid or broke. Maybe you already have a house and you don't want to move. Or maybe you're a Trappist monk and have forsworn all earthly possessions. Or whatever. But if you want to buy a house, now is the time, and if you don't act soon, you will regret it. Here's why: historically low interest rates."

 

They were talking about rates hovering around five percent. Today, rates are under four percent for a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

Reason No. 1 to buy now: Rates are low

"Low mortgage rates continue to keep ownership less expensive than renting," said Investopedia. "Even a small change in interest rates has a significant effect on what you'll pay each month and over the life of a 30-year mortgage. Take a $172,000 30-year mortgage, for example ($172,000 is 80% of the median sales price for existing homes of $215,000 after a 20% down payment). With an interest rate of 4%, you would pay $821.15 each month. At an interest rate of 5%, the monthly payment would be $923.33, and at 6%, the payment rises to $1031.23."

Reason No. 2: Rents are high

In many markets, rents are rising to unsustainable levels, reports the National Association of Realtors (NAR). "In the past five years, a typical rent rose 15% while the income of renters grew by only 11%."

The cities with the highest rent increase since 2009 include New York, San Jose, San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle. For the rest of the list, click here, and to see how much more renting can cost you over a lifetime, check out Riskology.

Reason No. 3: Qualifications are easier

During the real estate downturn of the mid-2000s, banks and lenders tightened the reins, and often only the most qualified applicants could get approved. Post-recession, qualifications have loosened. Buyers who can't show solid income and a minimum credit score probably won't be offered a risky interest-only ARM today, however, those with less-than-perfect credit and minimal funds still have options. The Federal Housing Association (FHA) minimums are a 620 credit score and a 3.5 percent down payment.

Reason No. 4: Private mortgage insurance fees are down

Buyers who put less than 20 percent down on their home generally incur a monthly fee in the name of private mortgage insurance (PMI). In January 2015, the government announced lower PMI rates on Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, which equates to a savings of about $900 a year. Seventy-five dollars a month may not seem like much, but every little bit helps when you're committing to an investment as large as a home.

Reason No. 5: It's still one of the best investments out there

In fact, some would say it's the very best investment out there.

"Buying a home is the best investment any individual can make. Affordability is still at an all-time high," said CNBC.

Not only as a comparison between buying and renting, but as a measurable asset, homeownership stands up—as long as buyers make a smart decision.

"The largest measurable financial benefit to homeownership is price appreciation," said Investopedia. "Price appreciation helps build home equity, which is the difference between the market price of the house and the remaining mortgage payments."

Reason No. 6: It feels good

You know that pride of ownership thing? It's true. Really. Nothing compares to the feeling of walking into a home that's yours for the first time. Or painting the walls a color other than white. Updating the kitchen. Making it your own. Not worrying about your rent being raised. And, of course, watching your equity grow over time.

   
  Mon Oct 30

Rent Or Purchase ?

 

House in HandsTrulia released a Rent vs. Buy Report. The report explained that homeownership remains cheaper than renting in all of the 100 largest metro areas by an average of 38%!

The other interesting findings in the report include:

  • Even though prices increased sharply in many markets over the past year, low mortgage rates have kept homeownership from becoming more expensive than renting.
  • Some markets might tip in favor of renting this year as prices continue to rise faster than rents and if – as most economists expect – mortgage rates rise, due both to the strengthening economy and Fed tapering.
  • Nationally, rates would have to rise to 10.6% for renting to be cheaper than buying – and rates haven’t been that high since 1989.

Buying a home now makes sense. You can lock in a mortgage payment before home prices and mortgage rates rise as experts expect they will. If you rent, your housing expense will only continue to increase.

   
  Mon Dec 11

Remodeling? Recoup Your Investment When You Sell

Remodeling? Recoup Your Investment When You Sell

Before you pour your savings into a new kitchen and a rainforest shower for the master, think about whether or not you'll be able to recoup your investment when it comes time to sell. 

If you have equity in your home, you can make improvements, but don't go over the limit of what other buyers can spend for a home similar to yours in your neighborhood. 

While it's tempting to make your home more beautiful, you have to consider the rest of your neighborhood. If most residences in your neighborhood are three-bedroom single-story homes, buyers are unlikely to shop in your area for two-story four-bedroom homes. 

Buyers want to shop for a home where there is the most selection of homes that fit their criteria. If they want a swimming pool, they're going to look in neighborhoods where many homes have pools. They won't be aware of your home if you have the only pool in your subdivision.  

That's why over-improving for the neighborhood is a bad idea. Not only will you not get your money back for some updates, your home my be harder to sell because of them.  

Another reason buyers don't tend to pay as much for updates as you might think is broad differences in taste. Your updates may include choices your buyer wouldn't have made because of several reasons:  

You only improved one or two rooms, leaving the rest of the home looking unfinished. 

Your updates were too radical, such as cold minimalism in a traditional setting. 

Your updates masked a problem but didn't solve it, such as a kitchen that's too small. If the kitchen is still too small after you've put in granite counters, don't expect buyers to care. 

You failed to do necessary repairs and updates that were less visible than the new décor but buyers noticed anyway. 

Your updates are beautiful but require a lot of cost and upkeep. 

Buyers want to make a home their own, and don't want to be distracted or confused by design statements that they don't agree with. Enjoy your home while you can, but make sure your new look can be easily depersonalized when it comes time to sell. 

Don't expect to set a listing price based on what you've put into your home no matter how long you own it. Your home will be worth market value no matter when you sell, whatever the value is for that point in time. 

All the improvements in the world won't change that basic fact. Your home and the improvements you make are only worth what willing buyers say they will pay. 

Before you begin renovations, talk to your Realtor and your lender. They will help you develop a reasonable plan for updates that will add value to your home. 

   
  Wed Nov 08

Home Purchase in Winter

As the temperature in many areas of the country starts to cool down, you might think that the housing market will do the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Here are 4 reasons you should consider buying your dream home this winter instead of waiting for spring!

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.3% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.2% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates are Projected to Increase

Your monthly housing cost is as much related to the price you pay for your home as it is to the mortgage interest rate you secure.

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage are currently at 4.08%. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac & the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way You’re Paying a Mortgage

There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage - either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide whether it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.


   
  Mon Nov 27

$$$$ Sales are up !!! Good NEWS

Press Room

Empire State home sales set record in August

Sep 22, 2016
Albany, NY – Sept. 22, 2016 – Homes sold at a record-setting pace across New York State during August with 13,912 closed sales, according to the housing market report released today by the New York State Association of REALTORS®. The previous record was 12,938 closed sales in August 2007. The statewide median sales price increased 3.8 percent compared to August 2015.
 
“With eight months in the books, sales are more than 11 percent ahead of last year and well on the way to surpassing the 100,000-mark for the fourth consecutive year,” said Duncan R. MacKenzie, CEO of the New York State Association of REALTORS®. “The continued growth in the statewide median sales price is being driven by the steady decline in the number of homes available for sale.” 
 
“Low inventory conditions have not yet translated into a slowing of sales,” MacKenzie said.  “While mortgage rates and other market conditions are expected to remain favorable, we believe that buyers facing the challenge of fewer choices for their next home is a potential headwind for the market.” 
 
The year-to-date (Jan. 1 – Aug. 31) sales total of 82,791 was 11.3-percent above the same period last year. August 2016 closed sales increased by 8.1 percent compared to a year ago to reach 13,912. 
 
The year-to-date (Jan. 1 – Aug. 31) statewide median sales price was $235,000, an increase of 2.2 percent from the same period in 2015. The August 2016 statewide median sales price of $257,291 represents an increase of 3.8 percent compared to the August 2015 median of $247,941.
 
August pending sales reached 13,113, up 13.1 percent compared to a year ago. 
 
The months supply of inventory dropped 28.6 percent at the end of August to 7 months supply. It was at 9.8 months at the end of August 2015. A 6 month to 6.5 month supply is considered to be a balanced market. Inventory stood at 77,933, a decrease of 20.1 percent compared August 2015.
 
   
  Wed Nov 29

SMOKING POT IN YOUR RENTAL

As the movement to legalize marijuana blazes through the nation, landlords and building managers may be wondering whether the right to ban the drug from their properties is going up in smoke. The truth around the issue is a bit hazy.

State laws legalizing some form of pot use don’t prevent landlords from writing lease agreements prohibiting marijuana on their properties. “If a landlord does not want marijuana cultivated, grown, or used on the property, the lease should directly address this and state such prohibition,” says Lesley Walker, associate counsel for the National Association of REALTORS®. “For existing lease agreements, a landlord could consider having tenants sign an addendum that specifically addresses the presence and use of marijuana on the property.”

But the laws don’t necessarily support such agreements either. When a state law says no person shall be penalized for using marijuana, does evicting a tenant who violates a property owner’s no-pot policy constitute a penalty? The question is still being tested in the legal system, but housing experts say state courts are likely to err on the side of “yes.” So for landlords and property managers, there’s real concern not only about creating a zero-tolerance policy but also about enforcing one.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and four of those states—Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington—have also legalized recreational pot. (Voters in D.C. also approved recreational marijuana in November, but the measure was struck down by Congress.) And while no state explicitly requires landlords to accommodate tenants who wish to use the drug at home, many of these states prohibit landlords from discriminating against medical marijuana patients by refusing to rent to them.

Still, marijuana laws are in flux. The federal government, which has long held that any form of pot use is illegal, effectively ended its ban on medical marijuana in late December after President Barack Obama signed a bill prohibiting federal funds from being spent to prosecute medical marijuana users. This may change the situation in California, for example, where residents with medical conditions have the right to “full and equal accommodations” in housing. Before the recent federal change, such protection didn’t necessarily include medical marijuana, says June Barlow, general counsel for the California Association of REALTORS®. But the new law could lead to medical marijuana accommodations in California.

The State’s Prerogative

It’s incumbent on practitioners who work as property managers to monitor changing laws, as more than half of the country’s 1.1 million REALTORS® live in jurisdictions where marijuana is legal in some form, according to NAR.

Here’s a possible scenario: A medical marijuana patient asks her landlord to let her smoke pot in her apartment. The landlord denies her request, but the tenant does it anyway, believing that her state’s law gives her the right. The landlord takes her to court to evict her. Although the state doesn’t explicitly require housing accommodations for pot, the law is in its infancy and a legal precedent has not been set. A judge may decide the legality of medical marijuana in the state means the tenant’s use should not be restricted and she should not be evicted.

“As far as evictions go, enforcement [in states that have legalized marijuana] has gone from criminal to civil, and that’s very difficult,” says Fred Prassas, CPM, GRI, a founding member of property management firm PMC Management Group in LaCrosse, Wisc., and  a real estate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Prassas, a former president of the Institute of Real Estate Management, spoke about the topic at NAR’s property management forum last May. “State laws give landlords the right to prohibit marijuana,” he says, but in states where use is legal, judges may not uphold such prohibitions.

So far, Prassas says, cases of this nature are only beginning to show up in  lower courts, and no recorded decisions have been made yet. But he has spoken to real estate professionals involved in these cases who believe the tide is turning in tenants’ favor.

The federal law change may further weaken landlords’ rules. While marijuana technically remains an illegal drug at the federal level, the government’s pledge not to prosecute medical marijuana users could make it more difficult for landlords to rely on federal law to argue their case.

States are less compelled to enforce a law the federal government has been lenient on, says Megan Booth, a senior policy representative for NAR.

Strengthening Your Position

Until legal standards are in place, there’s only one thing landlords can do to potentially strengthen their position in court: Follow the advice of NAR’s Walker and write more precise lease agreements.

If a lease agreement says only that illegal substances, or “criminal activity,” are not allowed on the premises, that won’t include a prohibition on the use of marijuana where it is legal under state law. Also, a “no smoking” policy doesn’t explicitly ban other forms of marijuana use, such as “vaping”—the practice of mixing THC with a propylene glycol–based liquid and vaporizing it—or baking pot into food items (such as brownies).

If tenants sign a lease agreement explicitly denying their right to use marijuana in any form on the premises, they have less legal recourse, says Booth. “The more explicitly it is spelled out in your lease, the more protected you are.”

What If You’re OK With Pot?

Certainly, there are landlords who take a more liberal approach to marijuana use.  For them, legal concerns may be less significant, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t consider another potential ramification: loss of property value.

In Denver, where both medical and recreational marijuana is legal, marijuana use in properties is becoming a stigma, suggests Jack O’Connor, broker-owner of The Denver 100. “I’ve had people ask if living near marijuana will hurt their kids’ health. I don’t have all the research, but you can’t say 100 percent that it won’t,” O’Connor reasons.

Public sentiment is in favor of marijuana legalization—52 percent of Americans support it, according to a Pew Research Center report last year—but that could change. “People are in favor of it being allowed,” Prassas says, “but that doesn’t mean they want their neighbors smoking it.”

Colorado’s real estate contracts and forms are due to be updated by Jan. 1, 2016, and O’Connor expects the new forms will include disclosure requirements around pot-friendly properties. That could require real estate professionals to inform buyers when homes—particularly condos—are in or near buildings where pot is used or allowed. No state currently requires such disclosures. O’Connor’s company, though, already makes it standard practice.

“We look at it as a potential disclosure of a defect,” O’Connor says. “If a house had a cigarette smoker, that would be a defect because of the odor. It’s the same with marijuana, and there’s no question that marijuana smoke is more potent than cigarette [smoke].”

And it’s not just the smoke that landlords need to think about; growing may raise issues, too. In some states, it’s legal to grow up to six pot plants for personal use. But cultivating the plants requires a high volume of humidity, which can cause mold in units and buildings.

As state marijuana laws evolve, so must best practices for landlords, property managers, and brokers. For now, you may have to read between the lines to discern the right path forward. The best advice is to pay careful attention to the wording of both your state’s laws and your own lease agreements.

   
  Sat Nov 25

Mortgage Pre-Qualification vs Pre-Approval

Two often confused terms in the home buying process are a mortgage loan pre-qualification and a home loan pre-approval. Even some loan officers and real estate agents will use the terms incorrectly, so here's what you really need to know about each one.

 

Pre-Qualification

A mortgage loan pre-qualification is simply an estimate of how much house you can afford and how much money a lender would be willing to loan you. The best time to get a pre-qualification is right at the beginning of your home buying process, before you even start looking at houses. This involves either sitting down with a lender or talking with one on the phone, and providing information on your income, assets, debts, and a potential down payment amount. The lender would then provide you with a ballpark figure in writing of how much he thinks you could afford to pay for a monthly mortgage. There is no cost involved and there is no commitment on either side. This estimate is just helpful in helping you figure out if buying a home is a viable option, and if so, what your price range would probably be.

 

Pre-approval

Getting pre-approved means that you have a tentative commitment from a specific lender for mortgage funding. In this case, you provide a home loan lender with actual documentation of your income, assets, and debts. This process typically requires an application fee as well, since the bank will run a credit check and work to verify all your employment and financial information. Once you are approved, the lender will give you a letter of commitment, stating how much money her bank is willing to loan you for a home purchase. With a pre-approval in hand you can start your shopping - real estate agents and sellers will take you much more seriously when they see you have your mortgage funding in place.

It is important to understand, however, that even a pre-approval is not a guarantee that you will be approved for a mortgage loan.  The funding will only be given when the property appraisal, title search, and other verifications check out on the home you have chosen to buy.  Neither is the pre-approval binding; you can still obtain a mortgage from a different lender. If you do stick with the same company that pre-approved you though, the application process will be much shorter once you find the right house.

   
  Mon Nov 20

Where Foreclosure Backlogs Remain a Problem

Banks continue to clean out the pipeline of loans that were originated during the housing boom days that have since turned sour.

Most of the homes that are still being foreclosed on are from loans originated between 2004 and 2008, known as “legacy foreclosures,” according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ 2016 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.

The following markets are seeing the biggest cases of backlogs with legacy foreclosures:

  • District of Columbia: 76% (share of legacy foreclosures)
  • Hawaii: 66%
  • New Jersey: 64%
  • Nevada: 63%
  • Delaware: 61%
  • Massachusetts: 61%

On a county level, the highest number of legacy foreclosures are occurring in:

  • Nassau County (Long Island), N.Y.: 8,632 representing 74 percent of all loans actively in foreclosure
  • Cook County (Chicago), Ill.: 7,357 representing 53 percent
  • Kings County (Brooklyn), N.Y.: 6,207 representing 68 percent
  • Miami-Dade County, Fla.: 5,262 representing 64 percent
  • Los Angeles County, Calif.: 4,956 representing 64 percent

While foreclosures are elevated in some areas, nationwide they mostly are continuing to drop. ATTOM Data Solution’s report showed that overall foreclosure filings – which include default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions – dropped 14 percent in 2016 from 2015 to the lowest level since 2006. There were 933,045 foreclosure filings in 2016.

Read moreWhere the Foreclosure Niche Still Makes Sense

“The national foreclosure rate stayed within an historically normal range for the third consecutive year in 2016, even as banks continued to clear out legacy foreclosures from the last housing bubble, particularly in the final quarter of the year,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “Foreclosures completed in the fourth quarter had been in the foreclosure process 803 days on average, a substantial jump from the third quarter and indicating that banks pushed through significant numbers of legacy foreclosures during the quarter. Despite that push, we still show that more than half of all active foreclosures nationwide are on loans originated between 2004 and 2008, with a much higher share of legacy foreclosures in some markets.”

   
  Sat Dec 02

Carbon monoxide can kill

Updated December 29, 2015 4:48 PM
 
Police tell News 12 they were called to the scene around 8 a.m. in response to two unconscious girls at a home on Franklin Court East. (12/29/15)

GARDEN CITY - A Garden City family was exposed to dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide in their homes Tuesday morning, emergency crews say.  
Martin Arelleno, the owner of a home on Franklin Court East, says his cousin was staying with his wife and two kids in the basement. Arelleno says his cousin's two daughters fainted after being exposed to the gas.
A carbon monoxide detector was inside the home, but no alert was set off.
Garden City police say six out of the eight people inside the home were taken to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning. Arelleno says his family will be OK.
The source of what caused the high levels of carbon monoxide is still under investigation.
Garden City police say neighboring homes were also checked for carbon monoxide, but were found to be normal.
Nassau County Assistant Chief Fire Marshal John Priest says homeowners should get their heating systems checked by a professional.
"Carbon monoxide is a deadly killer. It is invisible, and it is odorless," says Priest. "Fire services across the United States will go to 60,000 carbon monoxide calls during 2016. We strongly suggest carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in the home on any floor."


 
   
  Fri Nov 17

How Long Information Stays On A Credit Report Once Reported

The three negative items which tend to show up the most on Credit Reports are:

  • Judgments
  • Collections
  • Late Payments

Borrowers can't do anything about past late payments, all they can do is to make sure they do not go late again.  Judgments and Collections are another issue, because they can pay them off, so they will stop having a negative impact on their Credit Score.  However, some of the Judgments and Collections I see on Credit Reports for Borrowers with major credit issues are substantial.  It is not unusual for these Borrowers to have a combination of Judgments and Collections upward of $10,000 to $20,000.

An example of a sizable Collection would be a repossessed car.  Even though the car will be re-sold by the creditor, the creditor will still list the full remaining balance as the Collection amount.  The remaining balance on a repossessed car can easily be over $10,000.  When a Borrower has a Collection this substantial, it is not unusual for them to also have several other Collections as well.  Even if the Collection Company is willing to settle for 50% of the amount owned, they will most of the time not settle unless the Borrower is able to pay them the agreed upon amount in one lump sum.  If the Collection is substantial most Borrowers do not have enough funds to do that.

Another reason why the length of time information on a Credit Report remains is important, is because the Borrower may not want to payoff the Judgment or Collection if they are close to the time which they will drop-off the Credit Report without payment.  The chart below shows the length of time different items remain on a Credit Report.

The best thing to do is to just pay everything off, but when Borrowers do not have sufficient funds to do so, the above chart is very useful in determining what Judgments or Collections should be paid-off first, and which ones are close enough to coming off on their own which should either be paid last or not at all.  I am a firm believer if you own a debt, then you need to pay the debt.  So I do not ever suggest a Borrower not payoff their Collections or Judgments on their Credit Report, not paying them will be a decision they need to reach on their own.  However, I do have an obligation to provide the information in the above chart when it is requested by a Borrower who wants to know How Long Information Stays On A Credit Report Once Reported, and the above chart is very useful in providing them with that information quickly.

   
   
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