Archive for the ‘Real Estate Practices’ Category

The Future of Short Sales in Phoenix
November 15, 2011

In these tough economic times we have seen lots of good people who are struggling to make their payments and keep their homes.  Recently I attended a seminar that talked about the future of short sales in the Arizona market.  It was headed by a panel that included executives from Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase and some other well-known people from the financial industry.  The long and the short of it is that short sales are not going away anytime soon.  One of the panel members made the comment that he sees the numbers rising not decreasing in the near future.  We were assured that while there is noshadow inventory” in the Phoenix future, there will be lots of short sales that will continue to affect the market locally.  Another panel member reminded us that a short sale transaction is a settlement of debt, not a relief of debt.  Basically he was saying that lenders are not in the habit or will they be in the habit of approving a short sale if the sellers do not have a true hardship causing them to no longer be able to afford the house.  “Strategic default” was brought up and the bank execs all agreed flat-out, do not submit them because they will not be approved. If you are not familiar with the term strategic default it means that the seller wants to sell because they no longer want to pay on a home that is worth substantially less than what they owe.  This is not what the short sale was intended for and banks made it clear they do not and will not work with these home owners.  One other point that was brought up was that the IRS has recently hired 20,000 new agents and they are going to be primarily be investigating mortgage fraud and the strategic default process.

As for real estate agents, we were encouraged to hear that the banks have stream-lined their short sale process and in many cases are even able to aid the seller in getting out of the home and relocating into a new home but offering a little $$$.  The HAFA and HAMP programs are there and can be a great help for those who qualify.  There are some great articles out there that explain the options to home owners that are in trouble.  One website I highly endorse is shortsalehelp.org  I urge all home owners and agents who work with short sales to educate yourself on the process and keep up to date.  The short sale market is changing rapidly and by the time you read this I am sure that some of the rules have changed.

As with any legal and financial dealings I highly recommend that you not only speak to a reputable real estate attorney but also talk to a CPA that you trust to find out what your financial implications may be.   While we are in an anti-deficiency state here in AZ, you still may have financial implications.  Real estate agents are great to help you market and sell your home but we are not legal or financial experts and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

Below are some links to lending institution web sites that may be helpful if you have a loan with one of them and are looking for answers:

Bank of America

Wells Fargo

Chase

Advertisements

What’s the Dirt on Mold?
December 6, 2010

Mold can grow in any home, even newly-built homes or homes under construction. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances. Although research on the health effects indoor mold can cause is ongoing, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects. . . In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people. . . The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking exposure to damp indoor environments in general to shortness of breath, to respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children and to potential development of asthma in susceptible individuals.

How can I prevent mold from growing in my home?

  • The key to preventing mold is controlling moisture. Keep humidity levels low (between 40% and 60%). A hygrometer is an inexpensive humidity measuring instrument that will measure your indoor moisture levels and can be purchased at most hardware stores.
  • When water leaks through roofs, windows, or pipes, act quickly. If damp areas are dried within 48 hours of a leak, mold will most likely not grow.
  • Thoroughly clean and dry all areas affected by flooding.
  • Increase ventilation by running the fan or opening the window when showering.
  • Use exhaust fans or open windows when cooking or running the dishwasher.
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • If you notice condensation or moisture collecting anywhere, quickly dry the wet surface, determine the water source, and reduce the moisture. Condensation can also be a sign of high humidity in your home.
  • Clean and maintain your home regularly. Discard clutter and excess stored materials. Molds grow on fabrics, paper, wood, or anything that collects dust and holds moisture.

If you are building a new home, make sure your builder is contractually obligated to do the following:

(1) Construct a mold-free home (except for very low levels of non-harmful molds);

(2) Inspect lumber and building materials used and reject moldy lumber and building materials from being used in the construction of your home;

(3) At the close of every work day, cover the entire home in clear plastic sheeting to protect it against rain and snow until the roof is completely shingled, the exterior siding is completed, and the windows are installed and closed;

(4) Permit you to do mold inspection and testing (at your expense) during the construction process so that you can monitor whether or not the home is being built mold-free;

(5) Remove any mold contaminated lumber or building materials discovered during your mold inspection and testing.

What do I do if I find mold in my house?

If mold is growing in your home, you need to clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. Mold will reappear until its source of moisture is completely removed. High moisture levels that are not corrected can cause mold to grow back quickly. Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a solution containing no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water.

Mold growth, which often forms spots, can be a variety of colors, and can smell musty. If you can see or smell mold, a health risk may be present. If you have health concerns, consult a health professional before beginning any mold cleanup.

You may need professional help when there is a lot of mold, the home is very damp, or mold returns after repeated cleaning.

Remember the following steps when cleaning mold yourself:

  • Discard any moldy or damaged materials. Wear a mask and gloves when removing any moldy materials. Furnishings, mattresses, carpets, rugs, or sofas that have been wet or damp for over 48 hours should be discarded.
  • Vacuum. Vacuum all surfaces in the home thoroughly to reduce the amount of mold spores.
  • Clear wet areas. Pull carpets and furnishings away from wet walls. Carpets and floor pads that are moldy should be cut out and discarded.
  • Isolate any affected areas. If the mold is limited to one area, isolate that area. Cover the affected surfaces with plastic sheeting. Note that this is only a temporary measure to minimize exposure.

If you are renting and you encounter mold, report all plumbing leaks and moisture problems immediately to your building owner, manager, or landlord. In cases where persistent water problems are not addressed, you may want to contact local, state, or federal health or housing authorities.  Find your state health department contacts here.

 

6 Common Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid
November 12, 2010

You’ve determined that you’re ready to buy a home. You’ve saved enough for a down payment, you’ve been searching for properties, and you’re ready to make your dream a reality. Buying a home is an exciting process; however, if you’re not careful, it can turn into a nightmare. Here are 6 common home buyer mistakes to avoid. 

1. Not Budgeting Properly

It’s easy to overestimate what you can afford. Although owning a home may be a better investment than renting, it’s not necessarily going to be cheaper. Take a good look at your income and expenses for a few months before determining what you can comfortably afford. Make a budget sheet using Microsoft Excel or any other budgeting software. List all your income as well as every single expense, including food, gifts, and even haircuts. Keep in mind any emergency expenses as well.

When budgeting, don’t forget about hidden costs including closing costs, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, HOA fees, and décor and furniture to fill your new home.

2. Neglecting your Credit Report Prior to Getting Approved

Your credit score can be either helpful or detrimental to your loan process. Getting a full credit report from all three credit reporting agencies – ExperianEquifax, and TransUnion – before applying for your home loan will not only let you know how credit-worthy you are, it can lead you to possible reporting errors. One study found that as many as 25 percent of credit reports have damaging errors.

3. Not Getting Pre-approved for a Home Loan before Searching

Most sellers prefer bids from prospective buyers who are already pre-approved for a home loan. Being pre-qualified and pre-approved are different. Pre-qualification is usually the unofficial process of informing a lender of your credit status, income, and debt. The lender can usually give you a ballpark figure of what type of loan they may offer. Pre-qualification is based on your word alone and doesn’t hold much weight with sellers.

Pre-approval is the verification of the information you provided to the lender. This process will give you a better idea of how much the bank will loan you. Getting pre-approved can get you a step ahead other potential bidders that have no pre-approval.

4. Skipping the Home Inspection

You love that old fixer-upper, but skipping the home inspection can cost you as much in repairs as the cost of the home itself. The home inspection should include the overall foundation and structural features of the house, the roof, walls, plumbing, the presence of mold, pest infestations, heating, air conditioning, appliances, and the electrical system. Also, ensure that your inspector is certified with the American Society of Home Inspectors.

5. Picking the wrong neighborhood

You’ve found a home you love, but do you know what happens in the neighborhood after dark? Do you know the crime rate? What is the traffic like during rush hour? How is the school district?

Knock on your potential neighbors’ doors, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Call the school principal, or talk to parents who are waiting to pick up their kids after school. Read the local newspaper to learn more about the community. There are many real estate blogs and community websites on the internet so before buying the home, check out the neighborhood.

6. Using a Bad Real Estate Agent or No Agent

You want a real estate agent who understands your needs and limitations and will work for you and look out for your interests. Get references from friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Consider interviewing a few different agents to find out about their activity and experience in your area.

It’s definitely possible to buy a home without the help of a professional real estate agent, but realtors have access to all the homes on the market through the multiple listing service (MLS). Unless you are in the real estate business yourself, you’ll likely not have any access to the MLS in your area. Real estate agents spend their time sifting through listings, making appointments to show homes, meeting with inspectors, and helping you create a comparative market analysis to determine proper pricing.

The real estate agent you choose could be the greatest asset or biggest obstacle to finding your dream home.