Owners may qualify for mortgage principal reduction


MIAMI – Oct. 19, 2016 – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) says lenders will be contacting more than 1,400 South Florida homeowners at risk of foreclosure with offers to reduce their unpaid mortgage balances.

The one-time modification would lower their monthly payments in addition to the total amount owed on the mortgages, FHFA said.

To qualify, owners must have a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac; live in the home; be 90 days or more delinquent as of March 1; have an outstanding unpaid mortgage balance of $250,000 or less as of March 1; and owe more than 115 percent of what the house is worth.

Statewide, 6,260 homeowners are potentially eligible for the principal reduction program, according to FHFA. Nationwide, 30,761 could qualify, the agency said.

During the worst of the housing crisis, mortgage principal reduction was considered a last resort among lenders because so many people across the country owed more than their homes were worth, said Guy Cecala, publisher of the Inside Mortgage Finance newsletter in Bethesda, Md.

What’s more, there was concern that homeowners would intentionally default on mortgages to qualify for a principal reduction, and lenders did not want to reward those people, Cecala said.

Now that the housing crisis is over, reducing mortgage balances for struggling homeowners won’t result in big dollar losses for the government, according to Cecala.

“The numbers are quite small,” he said. “The inventory of distressed properties has shrunk dramatically. Dealing with it now is much more manageable.”

To accept the offer, homeowners have to make three on-time payments and sign an acceptance letter, according to FHFA.

The agency encourages homeowners who think they qualify but have not received an offer in the mail to contact their individual lenders directly.

Even if homeowners aren’t eligible for principal reduction, they may qualify for another program, FHFA said.

“The sooner you let them know you’re having difficulty, the greater the number of options your servicer will have at their disposal to help,” the agency said in a blog post.

Copyright © 2016 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Paul Owers. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


The Home Refinancing Plan Banks Don’t Want You Knowing

When homeowners visit Refinance Comparisons official website, they may be surprised to find out they qualify for a program that has the banks on edge.

There has never been a better time to refinance your home. That’s because of a little-known government program called the Home Affordable Refinance Plan® (HARP). This allows Americans to refinance their homes at shockingly low rates, and reduce their payments by an average of $3,300 a year.

But here’s the catch – like most government programs, this is likely temporary. Currently the program is set to expire in 2016. But the good news is, once you’re in, you’re in. If the thought of a lower payment or fewer years on your mortgage sounds appealing, the time to act is right now.

Quick Version: Smart homeowners are using a free government program to save as much as $3,300 a year on mortgages. There’s absolutely NO COST to see if you qualify. Click here instantly to see if you qualify.
It’s like a true middle-class stimulus package
This is unknown to many, but if your mortgage is $625,500 or less (unless you live in a high-cost area then the loan limits may be higher), you most likely qualify. Basically, the Government wants banks to cut your rates, which puts more money in your pocket (which is good for the economy). However, the banks aren’t too happy about this – here’s why:

You can shop several lenders, not just your current mortgage holder
Your home’s Loan-to-value (LTV) can be 80% to 125%
You think banks like the above? Rest assured, they do not. They’d rather keep you at the higher rate you financed at years ago. That’s why the pressure is on time-wise. The Middle Class seems to miss out on everything (did you ride the last stock bubble? Probably not). Thus, it’s almost a no-brainer to jump on this now. You need to act fast in order to refinance your house at these current low refinance rates. You can greatly benefit:

The average monthly savings for most eligible Americans is $275. Can you use an extra $275 a month?
Many homeowners not only save every month, but depending on their current rates, they can also shorten their term.
Almost a million homeowners could still save money, but sadly, most of them think the HARP program is too good to be true. Remember, HARP is a free government program and there’s absolutely NO COST to see if you are eligible.
Instantly see online >>
This is why it’s a no-brainer – you may actually lower your payment or possibly shorten your term! This is how powerful that little word called “interest” is. The middle class never sees “breaks” like this. So this is your chance to get “in”.

This often overlooked method to lower your payment (and continue to make the higher payment by directing the excess to the principal) is a great way for you to pay off your mortgage in a shorter period of time, all the while saving more money in interest over the life of the loan.

But how do you find these rates?
Here’s the answer – there are a few free websites out there that will compare mortgage rates for consumers, and allow them to choose the best one (that’s a great thing about the internet – it allows you to do business with lending institutions all over the country).

Refinance.Comparisons.org, one of the country’s largest and most respected mortgage refinance comparison shopping websites, is one of the few companies with HARP lenders on its network, and is currently assisting homeowners like you to obtain further information regarding superb mortgage rates.

With Refinance.Comparisons.org there’s no obligation and the service is fast & easy. It takes about five minutes, and the service is 100% free. You have nothing to lose except money stress.

Act Now Before Rates Rise






Seven Pitfalls That May Cost A Sale

WESTBOROUGH, Mass. – Oct. 12, 2016 – Selling a home has some typical challenges. Maybe the couple across the street just listed their house, which has an amazing kitchen. Or maybe you’re getting transferred and you have to sell and find something new in your future city in what seems like an impossibly short amount of time.

Whatever the circumstances, you want the sale to go as smoothly, and take place as quickly as possible. So sellers, don’t do this stuff.

1. Don’t take your own photos
How important are house photos? Many buyers won’t even look at a listing that doesn’t have them. Ditto for poorly taken photos that don’t adequately show the home. We’ve talked before about the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) survey that showed that homebuyers rate photos as the feature they use most when searching for a home online.

“Home sellers used to count on curb appeal to make a good first impression on potential buyers,” said HGTV. “Now, with 80 percent of homebuyers starting their house hunt online, a home’s ‘pix appeal,’ or how good it looks in photos posted on the Internet, is taking over as the top way to impress buyers off the bat.”

To put it another way: “Here’s a shocker: Most of the listings with bad photos also have wording like ‘price lowered!’ ‘Marked down!’ and ‘Priced to sell!’ in the listing – all signs that the phone isn’t exactly ringing off the hook,” noted camera store Adorama. “Could it be that the lousy photos of these properties are turning away potential clients?”

The easy answer: yes.

If you insist on taking pictures yourself (and we really, really recommend you don’t unless you’re a professional photographer), at least heed some tips. But again, not a good idea.

2. Don’t try to sell your home by yourself
According to NAR, 87 percent of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker – a number that has been rising consistently since 2001 when it was just 69 percent.

The reason: Homes sold with a Realtor get a higher sales price: “The typical for sale by owner (FSBO) home sold for $210,000 compared to $249,000 for agent-assisted home sales,” said NAR. Homes listed with a real estate agent also sell weeks earlier than FSBOs.

3. Don’t argue with your agent about price
Two things are irrelevant to your listing price: What you feel you should be able to get for your home, and what your neighbors across the street with the updated kitchen and oversized lot got for their home. So is what you currently owe on your home.

It’s your agent’s job to research the area, the market, recent sales and new listings, and come up with a smart pricing strategy to get your home sold.

If you disagree with the listing price your agent recommends without a legitimate reason (like you’ve found real comparables that weren’t part of your agent’s research or listing presentation), there might be trouble brewing.

4. Don’t trust Zillow as the word of God
In a nutshell, using Zillow (as well as Redfin and Trulia) to determine your home’s value, is dangerous because their price estimates are off. And not by a little.

Zillow says it’s off by 8 percent on their “Zestimates,” but that doesn’t come close to the L.A. Times report that found Zestimates can be wrong by as much as 61 percent depending on the house and the location. A recent study found that their average Zestimate is off by $14,000.

5. Don’t follow prospective buyers around while they’re touring your house
Buyers hate this, plain and simple. If they have questions, they will ask. Shadowing them will only make them feel uncomfortable, which isn’t likely to result in a sale.

6. Don’t refuse to negotiate
If there’s one thing you can count on during a home sale, it’s that there’s going to be something to negotiate. Even if both parties immediately agree on the sales price, there could be issues that are uncovered during the inspection, or conflict surrounding the close of escrow and move-in dates. Your inflexibility could end up in a cancelled escrow.

7. Don’t ignore your agent’s request to fix up (or at least clean) your house
Staged homes sell faster and for more money. So do updated homes. But that doesn’t mean you have to shell out a bunch of money. Depending on the condition of your home, it could take as little as a good scrub down and a little decluttering to make your house shine.

Your agent will undoubtedly have suggestions to make your house more saleable. Listen to them. Even if it’s uncomfortable to hear that your house isn’t as tidy as it should be or that your décor style maybe isn’t what buyers are looking for, it’s in your best interest to make the recommended changes.

Source: Elaine Quigley, CBR, CRS, GRI, Westborough, Mass.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®

Average time to close? 46 days

NEW YORK – Sept. 28, 2016 – The time to close on a mortgage loan is leveling off at about a month and a half after fluctuating for months following last year’s implementation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s TILA-RESPA Integrated disclosure rules.

But as the learning curve has passed, the average time to close on a mortgage seems to be settling at about 46 days, according to Ellie Mae’s Origination Insight Report. The report shows that the time to close on a loan has remained at 46 days for the past three months. The average time to close a refinance also averaged 46 days.

Sixty-four percent of real estate professionals indicated their contracts were settled on time in August, while 30 percent said they faced delays to settlement, and 6 percent saw their contracts terminated, according to the latest Realtor® Confidence Index, a survey sent to more than 50,000 real estate practitioners. The biggest issues affecting a contract delay were issues related to obtaining financing, the appraisal and a home inspection, according to the survey.

“The fraction of delays due to appraisals has increased in recent months, in part due to a shortage of appraisers and other issues reported by Realtors (e.g. being asked to make ‘inspections’),” the report states.

Source: REALTOR® Confidence Index (August 2016) and “The New Normal: Time to Close Settles at 46 Days,” HousingWire (Sept. 22, 2016)

© Copyright 2016 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

U.S. will extend HARP home loan program

WASHINGTON – Sept. 2, 2016 – Seven years after the federal government first offered an option to help some homeowners refinance into more affordable mortgages, the program is being extended yet again, and plans for a new refinancing program are being completed.

The Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, already had been extended at least twice and was scheduled to end at the end of this year. But HARP will continue through September 2017, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said.

The program, begun in response to the housing crisis, allows people who owe more than their home is worth, or who have little equity, to refinance into a loan at current low interest rates. (The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage has hovered below 3.5 percent for weeks. For much of 2008, it was about 6 percent.)

More than 3.4 million homeowners have refinanced their mortgages under the program since it began, according to the housing finance agency, which oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. About 18,000 borrowers refinanced under HARP in the second quarter of this year, down from nearly 20,000 in the first quarter. Still, more than 323,000 loans are estimated to remain eligible for refinancing under HARP.

Erin Lantz, vice president for mortgages with the real estate site Zillow, said about 12 percent of mortgaged homes remained underwater at the end of June. But borrowers may still not be aware that the HARP program exists, she said. Or, because they may have failed to qualify in the programs early years because of missed or late payments, they may think they remain ineligible.

Cora Fulmore, coordinator of the Florida Housing Counselors Network, said some borrowers remained wary, perhaps because of past tussles with lenders. Housing counselors have tried various outreach efforts to get people to apply, she said, including going door-to-door and offering gift cards to borrowers.

There’s a lack of trust, she said. They’re not believing this program can help them.

Some borrowers may be suspicious that HARP is too good to be true, or they may simply not want to take the time to apply, said Jay Plum, head of consumer and mortgage lending at Huntington Bank in Columbus, Ohio. The bank has made overtures to eligible borrowers, he said, going so far as to send HARP document packages to homeowners by overnight delivery.

He urged borrowers who might think they do not have refinancing options to take a look at the program, noting that it offers a streamlined application process that often does not require an appraisal. It really is in their best interest, he said.

Madonna Barwick, 49, a teacher who lives in Canfield, Ohio, said a teller at a Huntington grocery store branch told her about HARP. She was able to refinance her mortgage last year, she said, lowering her monthly payment by more than $300 and easing her financial worries. Her rate dropped to just over 4 percent from more than 6.6 percent. It was a blessing, she said.

Here are some questions and answers about special refinancing options:

What loans are eligible for HARP refinancing?

Loans must have originated on or before May 31, 2009, and must be owned or guaranteed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The property must have a loan-to-value ratio the mortgage divided by the homes value of 80 percent or higher. (A $140,000 house with a $130,000 mortgage would have a loan-to-value ratio of about 93 percent.) The borrower must have had no late payments in the previous six months, and no more than one late payment in the previous year.

Do I have to do a HARP refinancing with my current lender?

No. You should start by contacting your current loan servicer, but you should also check other lenders to compare rates and fees, said Ms. Lantz at Zillow. To find participating lenders in your area, search on the HARP website.

Bob Walters, chief economist with Quicken Loans, said borrowers should not hesitate to inquire about HARP if a loan officer does not mention it: They should certainly ask.

How will the new refinancing option available in October 2017 differ from HARP?

As with HARP, borrowers will generally have to be current on their payments. Unlike HARP, however, the new refinancing option will not have a cutoff date, so loans made after May 2009 may be eligible. And unlike with HARP, borrowers can use the new refinancing option more than once.

The new offering will generally focus on mortgages with loan-to-value ratios of 95 percent or higher. Freddie and Fannie say they will announce more details in November.

Copyright © 2016 Cihan News Agency; provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. All rights reserved.


How to Choose Your Listing Agent

interviewing realtor

Hiring a listing agent is crucial to your entire experience as a home seller. The person you choose will be involved in preparing your home for sale, establishing a listing price, marketing your property and negotiating the transaction.

While you might be tempted to hire a friend who has a real estate license or your co-worker’s sister, remember that the person you enjoy meeting for drinks isn’t always the best REALTOR® to represent your interests. That friend could turn out to be the right agent for you, but before you choose him or her, take the time to get recommendations for several agents and interview them.

You’ll be paying a significant commission to this person (often 6% of the sales price of your home), spending time with them, and relying on their advice to sell your home for the best possible price and as quickly as possible given market conditions.

What to Look for in an Agent

Many sellers are tempted to choose the REALTOR® who suggests the highest list price for their property and who gives their home the most compliments, but you’re better served by a realistic REALTOR®.

You need to find a REALTOR® with whom you can communicate easily, someone who knows your neighborhood well and has a good marketing plan to reach buyers who are not only interested in your home but are also qualified to buy it. Most REALTORS® have experience looking at homes and can offer advice about the condition of your home and ways to improve its appeal without overspending.

When you talk to neighbors and friends about their recommendations for a REALTOR®, ask them how easy it was to reach the agent when they had questions, and how much support and advice the agent gave them throughout the sales process.

Questions to Ask During the Interview

A REALTOR® typically has a listing presentation she provides for sellers—often in the sellers’ home so that she can get a look at the property and its condition. Some of your questions may be answered during the presentation, but if not, you may want to ask the following:

  • Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors? REALTORS® must abide by the NAR’s code of ethics. In addition, each state’s real estate license requires continuing education for agents.
  • How many sales did you complete last year?
  • In what price range do you sell most of your homes?
  • What was the average difference between sales price and list price? While this depends on your local market conditions, a REALTOR® who often sells homes well below list price may not be advising sellers to price their homes correctly or may be inadequately marketing homes.
  • What is your marketing plan for my home? How many websites will include information about my home? Where will you look for buyers?
  • Do you have advice for me about the condition of my home? Do you have expertise as a home stager or do you recommend that I hire a professional stager?
  • Can you recommend contractors and moving companies?
  • How often should I expect to hear from you when my home is on the market?
  • Will you provide me with regular feedback and updates about potential buyers?

Pricing Advice

The most important conversation you will have with your agent is about the price of your home. The REALTOR® you choose should present you with a comprehensive market analysis that compares similar homes that are on the market, have sold recently and have been taken off the market.

You are paying for your REALTOR®’s knowledge and expertise, so listen carefully to the advice you receive and choose your agent thoughtfully.

Source: http://www.realtor.com

Veterans Guide To Home Ownership

Chapter 1

Be on the Money—Get Your Finances in Order

Check (and Repair) Your Credit

Veterans and military buyers can face some unique credit challenges. Here’s how to whip your credit into shipshape before embarking on the home-buying process.

Prepare Your Finances

Get your fiscal house in order! Stability is key when it comes to showing a lender you’re a good candidate for financing. So here’s what you need to know to ensure you’re on the right track.

Loan Pre-Approval Is Key

Many real estate agents won’t even show homes to buyers who haven’t been vetted by a lender. Here’s why you should get pre-approved—today.

How Much Can You Afford?

How Much Can You Afford?

This is not your average mortgage calculator. It’s designed for veterans and active-duty military members, and can help you figure out what’s in your price range, and what isn’t.

Go to VA Home Loan Calculator

Discover the advantages of the VA loan for military home buyers.

Discover the advantages of the VA loan for military home buyers.

Visit our Veteran Home Loan Center

Chapter 2

Find the Right Home Loan for You

Understand Your Loan Options

VA loans are a huge benefit, but they’re not always the right fit for veterans and military buyers. Learning about all your loan options is key to getting the best deal possible.

Home-Buying Benefits for Veterans & Military Buyers

When it comes to buying a house, being a veteran or active-duty service member offers some distinct advantages.

Are You Eligible?

Check out our handy tool to see if you may be eligible for a $0 down VA home loan.