Friday, March 13, 2009


This wasn't quite the celebratory transition I had in mind but life events have simply made it necessary so here goes...

2-3 months ago now I finally got around to moving this blog's content to its own Website using Wordpress. That's what all the blog consultants out there say to get your own site so people like Google can't just shut you down (i.e. Google owns Blogger). And for a couple months I was just posting in both places with the intent of making a big, sexy announcement about the move once the "new" site was up to speed. Well, the new site isn't quite where I want it yet but just because I'm falling behind with the double posting and don't want you to think I'm just stale. Here's the BIG, SEXY ANNOUNCEMENT:


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Divorce the House Before the Spouse

Not necessarily my view but some interesting thoughts put forth here. Some bits from the article:

“If you’re still linked through the house, than you’re not really divorced,” says Kelly Lise Murray, a Harvard-trained lawyer and Nashville real estate agent...

But Murray, who describes herself as a “divorce real estate advocate,” says people tend to underestimate the “ghosts” that go along with keeping the house. The place is often so filled with memories, both good and bad, she says, that “it’s not the family home anymore. It’s a huge lodestone...”

Then there’s the even bigger issue of hidden debt. Ideally there will have been no secrets between the husband and wife. But money is a major cause of divorce, and in many cases, one spouse has no clue that the other one has rung up big bills that have become undisclosed liens against the property...

I think the premise above contains two particular advantages.

First, the divorce case is quickened and potentially "cleaner." I can't tell ya how many cases I have now that are just sort of lagging because of an inability to sell real estate...nothing too much happening but no final closure either. Of course no one can control market conditions.

Second, there's way too much guesswork in setting some value on a marital residence at some time fairly arbitrarily plus there's a lot of unknown and moving factors that have to happen for the typical refinance with buyout or sell in the future and distribute proceeds in some pre-set that's messy!

No Earnest Money: You Can’t Be Serious

Oh, but I am.

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

An earnest payment (sometimes called earnest money or simply earnest, or alternatively a good-faith deposit) is a deposit towards the purchase of real estate or publicly tendered government contract made by a buyer or registered contractor to demonstrate that he/she is serious (earnest) about wanting to complete the purchase. When a buyer makes an offer to buy residential real estate, he/she generally signs a contract and pays a sum acceptable to the seller by way of earnest money. The amount varies enormously, depending upon local custom and the state of the local market at the time of contract negotiations.

I’ve been working with a long term client regarding sale of real estate over the last months. And won’t go in to many details here but there was a shocker regarding a recent offer and contract (where eventually the buyer’s backed-out of the deal) where the listing real estate agent didn’t require nor take any earnest money from these buyers when they made their offer and subsequently backed-out.


And in the end the result may have been the same but it sure would have been nice if the potential buyer’s had a little skin the game…ya know, I think it’s called leverage.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

An Interesting Retort From a Commenter

Thought I'd post a nice comment in full from local blogger and Realtor Eric Rojas. Like I tell my wife, disagreement is good, it provides more ideas rather than just agreeing with one idea...

I might disagree with your "waiting game". There is no guarantee the right deal will be there for you later. I personally have offered on a foreclosure (lost in a multiple offer) and have won a multiple offer short sale for my clients on another place this month.
Meaning, many preceived the prices as agood deal and jumped. This is still very rare, even in our worst months here after Red October.

You did acknowledge people could jump if it's a steal. But finding the combo of good location, good building, good price is still tough... especially if you don't write and offer.

I know of sales happening now that are $50K less (give or take) than previous sales on units for sale simply because the buyer wrote an offer (did not have to wait and compete when the price finally would be lowered).

Anyway, I'm biased here, but also put my own money where my mouth is. Making an arbitray decison when it's better to buy based on the current market is like trying to time any market. I think if a home is what you want and you have a good understanding of the location... and you can afford it... take a shot.

If you were in the market today (say renting and needed a place for your growing family) you'd wait another 6 months even though a great house becomes availble?

Ethanol Subsidies and No-Money-Down Mortgages?

Who would have known? I saw this piece in the WSJ describing a mortgage program buried within the Department of Agriculture.

To be eligible for a USDA-backed loan, a borrower can't have income that exceeds 115% of the median county income, and the loans are restricted to areas with lower population density -- generally towns of no more than 25,000 residents. So while home buyers in big cities aren't eligible for the loans, residents of many of America's fastest-growing towns and exurbs do qualify. The loans that come through the program are made by private lenders, then insured by the government and sold to Ginnie Mae, a federal agency that sells mortgages to investors.

Here's an overview from USDA. Likely not eligible in Cook but maybe in a collar of a collar county.

New Tax Breaks for Homeowners

A nice little reminder/overview from Kiplinger's regarding end of year tax planning for homeowners.

Notably, the new up to $7,500 tax credit for new homes brought from April 9, 2008, through June 30, 2009 and the Private Mortgage Insurance deduction for homes bought since 1/1/07.

A Second Wave of Mortgage Disaster

I saw the above on 60 Minutes last week...not exactly a cheery prognosis for the holiday season. Here's the full text of the story. Obviously just one person's quote, but still...

"We had the greatest asset bubble in history and now that bubble is bursting. The single biggest piece of the bubble is the U.S. mortgage market and we're probably about halfway through the unwinding and bursting of the bubble," Tilson explains. "It may seem like all the carnage out there, we must be almost finished. But there's still a lot of pain to come in terms of write-downs and losses that have yet to be recognized."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It May Be Time to Think About Buying a House

I saw the piece over the weekend in the NYTimes but hadn't gotten around to reading it until today. It's been their most read article for nearly a week now so I thought I'd give it a skim. An important and true opening 'graph:

Five or 10 years from now, when the financial crisis has ended and housing prices are up smartly once more, we will look in the rearview mirror and realize that we missed a golden age for first-time home buyers.

But when is the right time? At least around Chicagoland, unless you can get a steal, I'd wait 6 months before buying anything. My view is that surely until the new administration comes into office things will remain dour. Then, I'm expecting Obama to make a big economic push right away but it will still take 2-4 months from legislative passage until that stimulus gets into the real economy. With greater confidence, I don't think you lose much by waiting until spring 2010.

As is always the case with real estate, much depends on location. One study, “The Changing Prospects for Building Home Equity,” tries to predict where today’s first-time buyers in the 100 biggest metropolitan areas may actually have less home equity by 2012 as a result of continued price declines.

How should you proceed if you're planning to buy a home in the next 1-2 years?

Still, for anyone feeling the urge to buy, a number of practical considerations have changed in the last year or two. The basics are back, like spending no more than 28 percent of your pretax income on mortgage payments, taxes and insurance. Even if a lender does not hold you to this when you go in for preapproval, you should hold yourself to it.

You will also want to start now on any project to improve your credit score because it may take several months to get it above the 720 level that qualifies you for many of the best mortgage rates.

John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for, a consumer credit information and application site, suggests starting to pay down and put away credit cards months before you apply for a loan. That is because the credit scoring system could penalize you if you use a lot of credit each month, even if you always pay in full. Also, check your three credit reports (it’s free) at and dispute errors.

While no one can easily predict the likelihood of losing a job, Friday’s startling unemployment figures suggest the need for caution if you think you might be vulnerable.

Remember the tax credit and it's expiration date.

Also, if you wait after June 30, you will miss out on a $7,500 federal tax credit for income-eligible first-time home buyers that works like an interest-free loan.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mortgage Fraud Incidents up 45% Year-to-Year: We're #3!

Saw this reported here. Some snippets from the piece:

Reported incidents of mortgage fraud grew by 45 percent in the second quarter compared to the year-ago period, as borrowers misstated their financial information to maneuver around tighter lending standards, industry data released Tuesday showed.

Florida properties led the way with about one-fifth of mortgage fraud incidents reported in the second quarter, the Mortgage Asset Research Institute reported. California was second, and Illinois third, the data showed...

The largest increase in mortgage fraud in the first half of this year involved borrowers misstating their financial profile, which is not surprising as borrowers try to get around stricter lending guidelines, the report said.

Some basic examples of fraud included false bank statements made on computers and pay stubs with white correction liquid on them, said Jennifer Butts, the institute's director of operations.

See it's not all the big, bad lenders. Now that the election's over perhaps some acknowledgment of fault on the part of buyer's signing these mortgages is at hand.

That’s the Problem, there was NO CANCER CLAUSE!

Saw this in a recent What’s Your Problem? column in the Trib. regarding a builder’s failure to return an elderly couple's earnest money deposit. A sad tale, the husband got cancer and subsequently died and thus the couple didn’t want to purchase the home. The potential buyer’s relied on the developer’s oral promise that they’d refund the earnest money if the gentleman got cancer. I read that in the end they did get 3/4 of the deposit back.

But really, would you expect a developer to honor an oral promise regarding an earnest money refund? Get it in writing!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Choosing a Real Estate Attorney

Nice video over on YouTube from a local practitioner I know well. Who'd have thunk it. I've had like 3 deals with this guy, good lawyer for your smallish condo development projects. Never knew he was high-tech. I don't think his firm even has a Website.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Guide for Single Woman Buyers

Saw a review of the above in the Sun-Times.

Developers Using Auctions to Sell Inventory

Thought this was an interesting overview reporting from a Florida real estate auction done to sell a developer's condos. I used to think of this as limited to the foreclosure scene but not anymore. We have a client who's going to do one of these shortly so I'm very interested and will be reporting more in the near future.

As long as you can set a minimum bid, what's to lose?

Questions to ask Prospective Agent?

Here's the story and the list from the Tribune's piece:

•How long have you worked in real estate, and how long have you been licensed?

•Are you a Realtor? What professional designations do you have, and what special skills do they certify?

•Do you work alone, or do you have an assistant or support staff?

•How often will we be in touch during the searching and buying process?

• Can I look at homes without you?

•What makes you stand out among your peers, and do you have references from clients?

•Will you act as a buyer-broker, or do you represent the seller?

•How will you get paid, and may I have that in writing?

•How many other buyers are you representing?

A fair list I suppose. On the Listing side, I'd want to see a full marketing plan as to how he/she would be marketing your home...very specific: Internet, newspaper, signage, open houses, ect. Surely view other property's he/she has currently listed.

On either side I'd want to know about community connections. When I think of an agent or two I work a lot with and think highly of, they are individuals who have a home in the community, perhaps have kids who've gone through or are in the schools, are involved in things like service organizations, Chambers of Commerce, ect.. I can think of a couple who are on the local school board.

I'd say the "real estate" stuff is more of a minimum bar to get over and the non-real estate knowledge and networks are how to really find an excellent real estate professional.