REMAX 440/Central Blog

NAR Bus Tour Opens National Home Ownership Dialogue

March 2, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, March 2, 2011--Throughout this month, consumers across the country can engage REALTORS, local officials and their neighbors on an issue that literally hits close to home--home ownership--as the National Association of REALTORS kicks off a month-long Home Ownership Matters Bus Tour in cities across the nation. "Americans today are debating what home ownership means to their families, communities and the nation as a whole," said NAR President Ron Phipps. "We want to engage in that dialogue directly with people in their own communities. This bus tour gives us a chance to interact and communicate directly with consumers about what housing issues matter most to them." The first stop on the tour is in Chicago on March 5, where the bus will visit the Chicago Flower & Garden show at the Navy Pier outside Festival Hall B from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. CST. NAR President-elect Moe Veissi will join invited local officials to speak with Chicagoans, who can also learn about how issues like tax reform and mortgage availability could affect their ability to buy, sell and own a home. Attendees can also register to win prizes worth up to $2,500. Other major stops on the tour include Denver on March 19 and Portland, Ore., on March 26, with additional stops in cities along the way. Ongoing news and information for the tour will be posted on HouseLogic at "Issues like the mortgage interest deduction, foreclosures and short sales, affordable financing and available credit don't just affect people who own a home--homeownership shapes communities and strengthens the nation's economy, as well," said Phipps. "Behind every home purchase, sale and foreclosure is a human face, and we hope this bus tour will give a voice to those personal experiences." For more information, visit

Energy-Saving: Separating Facts from Fiction

March 1, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, March 1, 2011--With cold temperatures blasting the nation, it's always smart to dispel some energy-saving rumors so you can conserve your heat to the best of your ability. The following are five energy-saving myths with various alternative suggestions so you can save some money when it counts the most. Myth: Electric room heaters will save you money on your energy bill. A room or space heater may save you money...if you have central electric heat. However, central gas heating is far cheaper than electric heat and you can easily end up paying more by using space heaters. If space heating is the route you're taking, make sure to turn down the heat in the rest of the house--lowering even by one degree Fahrenheit cuts costs by three percent. Myth: Foam gaskets in electrical outlets will reduce air leakage. Foam gaskets are often cited as a quick fix to stop air leakage, but the reality is that less than one percent of a home's air leakage is resulted from outlets. If your home has an abundance of outlets, sealing them may help, but spend your time on larger efforts--insulating attic floors and doors, as well as basement ceilings. This will have a far better effect in keeping the warm air in and cold air out. Myth: Dimming lights will cut your lighting bill. The relationship between dimming and energy use isn't linear, and savings will be less than expected. When the voltage drops, the filament cools, the wavelength spectrum of the light shifts further into infrared, and efficiency suffers. For real savings, try CFL or LED light bulbs. Myth: Buying an efficient air conditioner or furnace will automatically reduce my energy bill. Savings are not automatic. Make sure the unit is properly sized and installed. Improperly installed systems can waste one-third or more of the energy that is actually used by the unit. By completing the job right the first time, you can hopefully see future savings as a result. Myth: Insulating the ceiling will cause more heat to leak out the window. Adding insulation to one section of your home will not increase the pressure to other parts. However, properly insulate the poorly insulated areas, because those will be areas of concern regardless. Use a flame or incense to find air leaks around doors and windows. Seal them up with caulking or expandable foam. By avoiding these myths and following this advice, you can continue sealing up any leaks in your home before you start shelling out your money. Heat your home the proper way. Source: Consumer Reports Blog

Tips for Making Roof Color Choices with Confidence

March 1, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, March 1, 2011--Standard slate gray or bold terracotta? Solid brown or a blend of three warm brown tones? For some homeowners, the question of what color to cap off their homes is more challenging than the decision of what roofing product to use. According to color expert Kate Smith, CMG, people are often paralyzed at the idea of making a roofing color decision. "Selecting exterior building product colors can be daunting for some people specifically because of the long lifespan of those products," says Smith. With some roofs having as much as a 50-year warranty, it's a long-term color commitment to make. "While it's fairly easy and inexpensive to repaint the interior of a room, you want to maximize your roofing investment by selecting a color you can live with for many years. Many people need some support and guidance when making those larger color decisions." Smith, a national color expert, offers these tips for homeowners trying to determine what roofing colors to select.
  • Tip #1 Take time and do your homework. Don't rush a decision. Try to envision a home exterior that you will like next year, five years from now, and then 20 years from now.
  • Tip #2 Consider your options. While a solid color roof may work for some home styles, a blend of several colors may offer a "softer" look with more accent options. Pre-bundled roofing color blends can be made with two, three, four or five different color blends that complement each other.
  • Tip #3 - Investigate the different roofing color options available to you. Use a Color Design tool to create your own custom color blends.
  • Tip #4 - Request life-sized samples of your favorite color roofing tiles to hold up against your current roof to see the change that a new color will make for your home.
  • Tip #5 Look at the other homes in your neighborhood. Your home should blend in or stand out from other homes, but never clash with the rest of the homes in your community. A roofing color can help achieve a harmonious look.
  • Tip #6 Get assistance from a professional. Just as selecting the roofing product is a big decision requiring assistance of a professional, so is the choice of the roof color. Consult a color expert and use the color tools offered by experts and product manufacturers to gain a strong comfort level for your color choice. For more information or to test out a Color Design tool, visit:

Fannie Mae's Latest National Housing Survey Shows Key Changes in Americans' Attitudes Toward Housing and the Economy Over the Last Year

March 1, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, March 1, 2011--Fannie Mae's latest national housing survey finds that Americans are more confident about the stability of home prices than they were at the beginning of 2010, even though they lack confidence in the strength of the economy. Seventy-eight percent of respondents believe housing prices will hold steady or increase over the next twelve months, up from 73% in January 2010. But almost two-thirds still believe the economy is on the wrong track, virtually unchanged (61%) from the beginning of last year. The Fannie Mae Fourth Quarter National Housing Survey, conducted between October 2010 and December 2010, polled homeowners and renters to assess their confidence in homeownership as an investment, the current state of their household finances, views on the U.S. housing finance system, and overall confidence in the economy. "Over the course of the last year, we gained deeper insights into Americans' confidence in the strength of the housing market and the economic recovery," said Doug Duncan, Vice President and Chief Economist of Fannie Mae."More Americans believe that housing prices will remain stable over the next year.We also are seeing encouraging signs in the positive attitudes toward homeownership among younger Americans, despite the severe impact of the housing crisis on Generation Y. But most respondents to our survey continue to lack confidence in the strength of the economic recovery, and they are less optimistic about their ability to buy a home in the years ahead. This sense of uncertainty is weighing on the housing recovery today and reshaping expectations for housing for the future." Younger Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans are generally more positive about owning a home than the general population. Fifty-nine percent of Generation Y (ages 18-34) believes buying a home has a lot of potential as an investment, even though this age group suffered the steepest decline in homeownership during the housing crisis from nearly 44% when home prices peaked to under 40% in 2009. More than one-third of Hispanics (34%) and African Americans (35%) say they will buy a home in the next three years, compared to only one in four (23%) of all other Americans. The percentage of Americans who believe that buying a home is a safe investment declined to 64% over the course of the year, from 70% in January 2010. This is down sharply from a similar survey conducted in December 2003, when 83% of the general population thought buying a home was a safe investment. During 2010, survey respondents increasingly expressed a strong belief that it will be harder for future generations to obtain a mortgage. Three-quarters of those surveyed (74%) believe it will be harder to get a mortgage in the future, up from just over two-thirds at the beginning of 2010. One out of three delinquent borrowers continues to say they have considered defaulting on their mortgage. However, that number fell from 39% at the beginning of the year to 31% in the fourth quarter. The number of delinquent borrowers who say they have seriously considered defaulting also has declined, from 25% in January 2010 to 19%. For more detailed findings from the survey, visit:

Tips for Finding the Best Rentals

February 28, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 28, 2011--Depending on your location, finding the best rental may be a tricky task. Between amenities, prices ranges and lease terms, some renters may have a harder time than anticipated when searching for the perfect apartment. Instead of settling for anything, follow these tips to help find the best fit for you. Know what you want. Start by making a list of everything you want the apartment to have. When viewing possible options, use your list as a checklist to compare different places. What items on your list are must-haves and what can you do without? Knowing what you're looking for is half the battle. Inquire if your rent will increase. Fewer and fewer markets offer rent controlled apartments nowadays. There is nothing worse than getting completely settled in only to find out you have to move at the end of the year. Ask the landlord or other tenants in the building. If you have a maximum rental price you don't want to exceed, this question could narrow down your hunting. Take over for a friend. One of the easiest ways to snag a perfect find is by moving into a friend's apartment when he or she moves out. Word of mouth, especially from a trusted friend, is the best resource you can have in your search. You'll receive all of the information necessary and can ask any questions regarding the lease, landlord, fees, and more. Take your time. Finding a place you will be happy in doesn't happen overnight. If time isn't a serious factor, don't rush into a decision--it is one you will most likely have to live with for a full year or more. Be friendly to the neighbors. If possible, try to meet the neighbors. Like it or not, they will soon become people you will have daily dealings with. You may even be able to tap into them for information regarding the available rental. The insight they may be able to provide may turn out to be invaluable. Keeping these tips in mind can facilitate your search for a new home. If problems arise or if you'd simply like to streamline the process, speaking with a professional REALTOR in your area could also make all the difference. Source: AOL Real Estate

Mortgage Applications Increase

February 28, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 28, 2011--Mortgage applications increased 13.2% from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Associations Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending February 18, 2011. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 13.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 14.8% compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 17.8% from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 5.1% from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 9.6% compared with the previous week and was 6.9% lower than the same week one year ago. Ongoing turmoil in the Middle East brought interest rates lower last week. Borrowers took advantage of these lower rates, bringing application activity back near levels from two weeks ago, following sharp declines last week, said Michael Fratantoni, MBAs Vice President of Research and Economics. The four week moving average for the seasonally adjusted Market Index is up 1.9%. The four week moving average is up 1.6% for the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index, while this average is up 1.8% for the Refinance Index. The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 65.7% of total applications from 64.0% the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 5.6% from 6.0% of total applications from the previous week. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 5.00% from 5.12%, with points increasing to 0.97 from 0.85 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans. The effective rate also decreased from last week. The average contract interest rate for 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.28% from 4.34%, with points decreasing to 0.80 from 0.85 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate also decreased from last week. For more information, visit

Home Sellers Fare Better in Getting Their Homes Sold Using a REALTOR, According to HomeGain Survey

February 28, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 28,, an online real estate resource that connects home buyers and sellers with real estate professionals, announced the results of its For Sale By Owner (FSBO) vs. REALTOR survey. HomeGain surveyed over 1,000 homeowners asking whether they used a REALTOR to sell their home or whether they attempted to sell it themselves. Eighty-three percent said they used a REALTOR to sell their home and 17% said they tried to sell their home on their own. Fifty-nine percent of homeowners that used a REALTOR to sell their home were successful vs. 39% of FSBOs, reflecting a 50% higher closing rate for those home sellers using a REALTOR. Eighty-one percent of homeowners that used a REALTOR to try and sell their homes said they would use a REALTOR again for their real estate needs. Eighty-eight percent of homeowners who sold their homes using a REALTOR said they would use a REALTOR again. Seventy-one percent of FSBOs who managed to sell their homes on their own said they would try and sell their home on their own again. It is especially striking that homeowners fare significantly better in selling their homes using a REALTOR than selling on their own, said Louis Cammarosano, General Manager of HomeGain. Due to that relative success, the level of satisfaction in the home selling process is also higher for home sellers utilizing the services of a REALTOR than those who try to sell their homes on their own. The survey also pointed out that 24% of FSBOs eventually enlisted the aid of a REALTOR to help sell their homes. For more information, visit

3 Little-Known Moving Scams Revealed

February 25, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 25, 2011--With millions of Americans moving every year, it bears repeating: beware of dishonest moving companies. The standard warnings apply: don't accept a "low-ball" estimate, make sure the moving company is licensed, check Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports and reviews, and insist on an in-home moving estimate. Be sure that you can identify some of the less familiar tricks and know how to prevent becoming a victim. The "Guaranteed" Moving Quote Most people rightly insist on getting a "binding estimate," which is often referred to as a "guaranteed moving quote." This estimate ensures that the customer pays no more than the quoted amount, and can actually pay less if the estimate was too high. That "guaranteed" quote is only good for the inventory that the moving company uses to come up with the estimate. If that inventory is wrong - whether on purpose or not - the "guaranteed moving quote" becomes void, and a new rate will need to be negotiated with the moving company (on moving day, no less). After the moving estimator compiles the inventory during the in-home visual estimate, double check the inventory to ensure that it includes everything you need to have moved. Many movers overlook this. Additionally, don't try to add extra items to the move after receiving an estimate; this will void the estimate and incur additional fees. Packing Pratfalls Many people choose to pack their belongings themselves to save money. However, crafty moving companies may see this as an opportunity to add unnecessary charges on moving day. There might be a few extra items that the moving company wants to go into boxes, or they insist that some of the boxes need extra tape that they charge much more for than the actual cost. Another scam is the half-filled box - the mover takes a box, puts just a few items in the bottom and fills the rest of the box with packing paper. All of a sudden, an extra $100 in packing costs is tacked onto the final moving bill. Make sure the estimate details all the charges for extra packing material from the moving company. Knowing the prices in advance may be extra motivation to make sure that every item that should be packed before moving day is indeed securely taped and packed. Also, consumers should be sure to closely monitor the movers during the process, and make sure the manager is aware. The Move Size: Cubic Feet or Weight? When estimating the size of the move, some moving companies use cubic feet instead of weight. For many consumers, trying to envision all their belongings in terms of cubic feet is often downright confusing. Why do they use cubic feet instead of weight? For an estimate based on weight, the moving company must go to a certified weighing station to see how much the inventory weighs - and that scale doesn't lie. With cubic feet, the moving company measures the final move by the amount of space everything takes up in the truck. This gives the moving company sizeable "wiggle room" to load up the truck improperly, with lots of empty spaces. The moving estimate becomes much higher because the estimated cubic foot load is much lower than the final load in the poorly packed truck. Insist on a moving quote based on weight. If you have concerns that there might be issues when the moving company weighs the load, follow the movers to the scales. Consumers have the right to do this and should feel comfortable doing so. For more information, visit

Fannie Mae Launches Servicer Accountability Program

February 25, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 25, 2011--Fannie Mae has announced the Servicer Total Achievement and Rewards (STAR) Program, a new effort designed to measure and evaluate mortgage servicers' performance in supporting the housing recovery by helping homeowners avoid foreclosure. The STAR Program provides clear expectations and specific, consistent measurements to help Fannie Mae servicers increase focus on areas of critical importance to Fannie Mae. The program directly links servicer performance to homeowners the servicer has helped, and the customer's experience with their servicer. "We created the STAR Program to promote transparency, accountability and excellence in mortgage servicing and to recognize those which consistently deliver strong, customer-driven results," said Leslie Peeler, vice president of servicing portfolio management. "The efforts of servicers are critical to preventing foreclosures and providing homeowners assistance. By creating measurable expectations for our servicers aligned with Fannie Mae's business objectives, we hope to sharpen servicers' focus and encourage them to continue to work with us toward our shared priority: keeping people in their homes." A key component of the STAR Program is the Servicer Performance Scorecard, which provides monthly performance snapshots and trends for key performance indicators to help servicers effectively assess their progress. Top-ranked servicers will be eligible to receive incentive awards and recognition. Rankings of top performers will be made available to the public in an annual scorecard. The STAR Program is part of Fannie Mae's ongoing efforts to hold servicers accountable, help homeowners and stabilize communities. Fannie Mae continues to conduct homeowner outreach across the country, which includes the opening of Mortgage Help Centers in Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dallas/Fort Worth. The company also launched and WaysHome, a free, interactive multimedia tool designed to educate homeowners about their options to avoid foreclosure, empower them to make informed decisions and motivate them to take action and seek help in 2011.

Real Estate Valuations Addressed in New Book from Appraisal Institute

February 25, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 25, 2011A new book published this week by the Appraisal Institute demonstrates valuation methodologies for controversial easement-related appraisal assignments. The Appraisal Institute is one of the nations largest professional associations of real estate appraisers. Appraising Conservation and Historic Preservation Easements addresses an area of valuation that has become contentious in recent years due to increased Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of valuations of conservation and historic preservation easements that are donated to charity. The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2002 and The Washington Post in 2004 ran series on the topic, leading to IRS and Congressional investigations. Written by Richard J. Roddewig, MAI, CRE, FRICS, the book was published in response to a recommendation from a joint task force on conservation and preservation easement appraisal issues appointed by the Land Trust Alliance (an umbrella organization for hundreds of conservation easement-holding organizations across the country), the Appraisal Institute, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Society of Appraisers and the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. The culmination of years of research and development in a specialized area of valuation practice, Appraising Conservation and Historic Preservation Easements draws on legal, regulatory and professional appraisal literature to examine the valuation of conservation and historic preservation easements from the contradictory perspectives of the IRS, the courts, easement-holding organizations and appraisers. The book explores and documents the history of easements, corresponding appraisal practices and general land-use considerations. In addition to a comprehensive analysis of this specialized area of appraisal, the book includes a series of detailed examples and sample sections of appraisal reports relating to various conservation and preservation easement properties and appraisal situations. The book is aimed at everyone involved in the valuation of conservation and historic preservation easements: appraisers, agencies acquiring easements, non-profit organizations accepting easement donations, IRS staff reviewers, attorneys, judges and hearing officers involved in conservation and preservation easement valuation cases. Roddewig is a real estate appraiser and land use and zoning attorney with more than 30 years of valuation experience. He has been involved in more than 200 assignments involving conservation and historic preservation easements, and his clients have included taxpayers donating easements, the federal Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Justice. For more information, visit

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