Thursday, April 27, 2006

Couple new low commission realtors

For what they're worth, I got a couple advertisements from real estate brokers both adverstising under 3.5% commissions on sales:

Major Enterprise, Inc. -

Altimate Real Estate, Inc. -

I gleaned some new tips from an article entitled Back in Balance from the March 2006 Kiplinger's Personal Finance. Some of the piece was the same old stuff but these were tips that I thought were pretty good and new to me:

1. Make your home stand out (Sellers). Stage your home almost like a model home. For single-family homes landscaping is mentioned prominently. I agree that it's the cheapest upgrade that will add value to your sale. Also discussed were putting a smaller bed in the master bedroom to make the room look larger and even moving out to a relatives if that's feasible.

2. Target your offer (Buyers). If a home is new to the market and priced well, make an offer at the top of the range. If the home has been on the market for six months, make an offer at the bottom of the range, or below.

3. Win the beauty contest (Buyers). Some of these were obvious things like getting preapproval and scheduling appraisals and inspections in advance to minimize time. A suggestion I hadn't heard of was to write a "love letter" to a Seller pleading your case. It's suggested that by putting a personal story to the offer, you may stand out.

Good shopping!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Existing home sales up

The National Association of Realtors reported a .3 percent increase in the sale of existing homes in March to an annual pace of 6.92 million. This is an increase from both February and January. Here's a story from The Times. Here's the Association's press release:

The national median selling price was reported at $218,000, up 7.4 percent from a year earlier.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Well users beware

I saw another private well horror story in the April 20, 2006 Chicago Suntimes. The Suntimes' Website has notoriously poorly working links so I won't post the link. But the area in question is located in unincorporated DuPage County near Carol Stream. Some 30 private wells in Wayne Township have tested positive for unsafe levels of vinyl chloride and a related chemical.

According to the story, a federal class-action lawsuit is planned alleging that the Mallard Lake landfill is the source of the problems.

I don't know the specifics of this situation, but boy have I heard about more well problems over the last year. Is there just an inherent risk with wells? I don't know the technical side of it at all. I know we usually have someone test them for clients. I enjoy my Lake Michigan water more and more everyday!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Payment-option loans under attack

Regulators at the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC and three other agencies are cracking down on various payment-option and interest-only loans due to the financial risks they pose to home buyers and lenders. The regulators want to impose creditworthiness restrictions and disclosure requirements, forcing lenders to be certain that borrowers understand the potential dangers.

Payment-option mortgages have soared in popularity in the last three years. They typically allow borrowers to choose among one of four payments each month: a "minimum" payment based on an artificially low start rate; an interest-only payment involving no principal reduction; or traditional amortizing over 15- or 30-year schedules.

Final regulations are expected within the next couple of months.

Basement flood damage

I read a good piece recently regarding checking for flood damage in the basement of homes and also how to avoid them. Obviously we do have the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Act (IRRPDA) but an informed Seller can probably wiggle out from it's coverage.

Things to look for:

1. Foundation Cracks. The most common source of basement seepage is cracks in poured concrete foundations. Cracks are visible from the interior and exterior of the foundation's corners and around windows. They generally run diagonally from the top down.

2. Stains and Smells. Stains and smells indicate water problems. Be wary of scented candles exuding warm ambiance, they could be masking musty odors.

3. Sump pump. A basement with no sump pump signals potential water problems.

4. Capped drains or a stand pipe. If a home has capped drains or a stand pipe, it tells you that water flowed into the basement at one time and could be a potential problem in the future.

5. Poor drainage and landscaping. Gutters and downspouts should disperse water a minimum of six feet away from a house foundation. The yard's grade should slope away from the house.

Keep your eyes open for these hints! Also, remember that IRRPDA has a one year statute of limitations, but you can recover attorneys fees from the defendant.

B.L. Title Services attacks lawyers

I got a letter at home recently from B.L. Title Services, 505 Crescent Blvd., Glen Ellyn, IL 60137 regarding profiteering lawyers in the title insurance industry and how to avoid them (See Below).

"Dear Home Seller:

The contract for your house sale requires that you gettitle insurance. This is usually ordered by your realestate lawyer and is your biggest expense after thereal estate broker fees.Why is it 54 expensive? Because most real estatelawyers get a "kickback" from the title -company theyuse. They pay their title company fees then the restof your money is the lawyer's profit. So, ask yourlawyer how much "his" title company will charge youand how much he pockets.Cut out the middle man and order your title insurance:from B.L. Title. Save that money that would otherwisego to your lawyer.We are underwritten by Stewart Title, the 3rd largesttitle insurance company in the country. As you can seefrom the long list of closing offices, there is sureto be a convenient location near you.For a limited time if you order your title from us, wewill issue you a check at your closing for $300. That$300 can be used for anything you like. You could useit to pay some of your closing fees, you could put itin your pocket, (or you could even pay your lawyerwith it!)Call us today toll free at 866-790-5900 so we can putsome money in. your pocket, not in your lawyer's.


Michael Freedman

Is B.L. Title Services reviewing titles without an attorney? Do they not charge some fee over and above what Stewart Title charges?? Is BL an agent for Stewart Title? Would it be appropriate to include in an offer to purchase that Stewart Title will not be acceptable to the purchaser? I would think a consumer would be better off with an attorney reviewing documents than a non-attorney or no review at all.

As someone who is a title agent the label of "kickback" is absurd. Not only does it violate RESPA, but my legal assistant spends a good hour or two per transaction getting the title commitment together and I'm involved review and title clearing too.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Paperless closings with CT

I saw a bit in the April 3, 2006 Chicago Sun-Times that Chicago Title is going to begin rolling out paperless closings. Has anyone had one of these yet?

The gist of this article made it sound like the mortgage documents will be signed over the Internet and then mortgage document copies will be given to Buyers on a CD rather than paper format. It'll be interesting to see how it will all play out.

Will there be an actual closing i.e., time/place then? I'm assuming all the Seller's documents and such will still be "wet" signed. What's really the savings if you still need to attend a closing? If this paperless mortgage stuff is going to happen it seems the main reason to have it is so that there can be a "remote" closing.

Maybe I'll start using my CT agency more now...