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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Citibank follows JPMorgan Chase's Lead

Here's the recent piece about Citibank's plan to impose a moratorium on most foreclosures as part of a series of initiatives aimed at helping at-risk borrowers remain in their homes. You'll recall we previously reported Chase's similar plan. I'm not sure how much longer Citibank's going to be in business themselves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Buffet Buying Bargins?

Here's Mary Umberger's full column recently about HomeServices of America's (HSA) plan to expand its real estate business during the economic downturn. HSA is part of Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Corp. Some excerpts:

HSA apparently thinks the current sag in housing makes this the ideal time to spend some money, and has set aside a minimum of $200 million to expand its existing brokerages and to buy distressed realty companies at bargain prices, according to its chief executive, who told me the Minneapolis-based company is eyeing Chicago.

"Our goal is to be in the top 60 to 65 markets," said CEO Ronald J. Peltier. "Chicago is one of them, and we definitely will be there. We're positive that timing and opportunity will converge in the not-too-distant future."

What's your plan as the economy sours? I think it may be time for this author to launch his long-planned brokerage business.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Difference Between Real and Personal Property

That's the topic of Lew Sichelman's piece this week. But the real question is what's the difference between personal property and a fixture, Lew. And I think a thorough lawyer in a residential real estate transaction spends a good amount of time during his initial contract review with a client discussing fixture/personal property issues. You might say this "crap" is too small to bother with but the way I look at it is one item like a refrigerator or AC unit or something protected or gotten due to good lawyering just about pays your $500-$600 attorney's fees.

Here's my recent story involving a personal property dispute...

The issue involved a backyard play-set which I think is a pretty gray's not clearly personal property that a Seller can remove nor a fixture that must stay with the home. In my case I had the Sellers and I recall asking about how it was attached to the ground and was there a concrete foundation in the ground. Well, I think in my transaction the Buyer's attorney was sort of asleep at the wheel. So during the time between contract acceptance and closing I shot a letter off to the Buyer's attorney asking if his clients wanted to buy this playground set or Sellers were going to sell it to someone else, in other words assuming this was personal property and my clients will take it if Buyer's don't buy it separately. If Buyer's lawyer had really analyzed the situation it may actually have been a fixture but I'll pat myself on the back and suggest my great lawyering got another check for $400 or so at closing to my clients.

Be on top of this seems small but it can make you look good if you're thorough!

Face Tough Times, Don't Ignore your Mortgage Problems

Here's a nice recent overview from the Trib. of many of the "help" programs out there for homeowners...

Hope for Homeowners

Designed for borrowers who are under water with their mortgage but can afford a new one insured by the Federal Housing Administration, the new program will insure up to $300 billion of refinanced, troubled mortgages into 30-year, fixed-rate loans.

A new mortgage cannot be more than 90 percent of a home's new appraised value, meaning lenders must agree to write down a portion of the loan and the new mortgage amount can't exceed $550,440.

The catch? Lender participation is totally voluntary. The other potential hitch is that if the loan in question carried a piggyback loan, any subordinate lender would have to agree to release their lien on the property.

Call the existing lender or a new lender to see if you qualify. The program runs through Sept. 30, 2011.

FHA Secure

The year-old program offers FHA-insured mortgages to borrowers who are either current or delinquent on their non-FHA adjustable-rate mortgage. The loan-to-value ratio of the new loan depends on how many payments were missed so a gap loan may be necessary. Delinquencies must have occurred because of payment shock associated with an interest rate reset or the recasting of an Option ARM.

If you don't currently qualify, stay tuned. The federal government is considering extending the end date of the program, now Dec. 31, and may also expand the program's eligibility to include borrowers with fixed-rate mortgages, Burns said.

A list of approved FHA lenders is available at

Hope Now

The national private partnership of housing counselors, mortgage servicers and investors was established to assist borrowers who are afraid to call their lender directly or don't know where to turn for assistance. Callers to the hotline, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, receive help in contacting their mortgage servicer or an appropriate housing counselor. The phone number is 1-888-995-HOPE.

Illinois Statewide Foreclosure Prevention Network

The state program offers counseling to families and works with lenders to refinance borrowers into 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages that carry interest rates of 5 to 8 percent, closing costs of less than $1,000 and no prepayment penalties.

Typical participants have a credit score of at least 590 and while they have kept up with their payments, an interest-rate adjustment is, or would, make the mortgage unaffordable. For more information, call 1-877-793-3470.

Local housing advocacy groups

Many local groups work directly with lenders on behalf of troubled borrowers to modify the terms of mortgages.

Another plus of contacting your local group: Some mortgage servicers and lenders have given counseling agencies a better set of phone numbers so it's easier to reach a decision-maker. Some agencies also operate their own aid programs, so it pays to ask. For instance, in July the Northwest Side Housing Center began piloting an effort to provide troubled borrowers with "gap" loans of up to $50,000 that cover the difference between a refinanced loan and the loan it is replacing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Buy & Bail

Note HUD's recent announcement about the so-called buy and bail situation where you supposedly rent out your current home to get that income in order to buy a new home.

Massive Effort to Save Mortgages

Here's a broad overview regarding what all the big lenders are doing in terms of mortgage modifications from the WSJ.

JPMorgan Extends an Olive Branch

A couple key announcements from JP Morgan Chase here and here.

The first piece outlines Chase's plan to halt new foreclosure filings for the next 90 days or so. The second examines their plan to expand their mortgage-modification program. Some program specifics:

In addition to Chase loans, the program will also be offered to customers with loans held by Washington Mutual Inc. and EMC. JPMorgan acquired Washington Mutual last month after the bank became the largest in the nation's history to fail. EMC was a mortgage unit of Bear Stearns Cos., which JPMorgan acquired in February...

JPMorgan's enhanced program will include the opening of 24 regional counseling centers, the hiring of 300 additional loan counselors, new financing alternatives, reaching out to borrowers with pre-qualified modification terms and a new process to independently review each loan before it is moved into foreclosure.