REMAX 440/Central Blog

New Rules for Short Sales Imposed by HAFA

January 11, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 11, 2011--Loan servicers participating in the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA) will soon be held to stricter timelines for approving or rejecting short sales and will be forbidden from deducting vendor expenses from commission paid to real estate brokers. In addition, servicers will also be given more freedom to pay off second-lien holders.

With the new rules in place, servicers will have 30 days to send a borrower a short-sale agreement that includes the list price or acceptable sales agreement with hopes of aiding distressed borrowers who fail to qualify for other government loan modification programs. Once a sales contract has been initiated, servicers will have 30 days to approve or reject the transaction.

The new timelines were created with the goal of speeding up the short sale process as a result of complaints regarding the length of time it takes lenders to review and approve short sales. Oftentimes, buyers walk away simply due to the long wait. These changes in timelines are only the second major revision to the program by the Treasury Department since its launch in 2009.

Servicers will no longer be restricted on paying second-lien holders. Servicers used to be restricted to paying second-lien holders no more than 6% of the outstanding loan balance in exchange for releasing subordinate liens. The change in second-lien policies tackles yet another hurdle to completing short sale transactions for the future.

The new rules are effective February 1, yet do not apply to mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or those that are insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Changing Trends in Residential Real Estate

January 11, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 11, 2011--With a new year comes new trends for residential real estate. Builders nationwide are changing their habits in order to meet the ever-changing needs of buyers and the fluctuating market. But to make room for new tactics, we must say goodbye to some of the old ones. Below are some of the fading trends builders are leaving behind, and some of the new ones likely to take their place.

Size Matters Although some demand for large-scale houses does remain, medium-sized homes are becoming a tough sell. There has been an increasing demand for houses in the 2,400-2,800 square foot range, as opposed to the 2,800-3,200 square foot range. Smaller homes are more cost-efficient and practical for buyers and are easier to get approved for. As the year goes on, we will see more and more homes of a smaller scale sprout up.

Shrinking Formality Exceedingly formal facades and designs may take a backseat in 2011. Turrets, corbels and colonnades are expensive and excessive given today's economy and market. Cleaner and simpler design will be favored by most new homeowners, while cluttered design, symbolic of old-fashioned culture, will start being weeded out. In a similar regard, even formal rooms such as dining rooms and living rooms are being rethought. Architects are being pressed to make every square foot usable on a daily basis. If homes are to be smaller, they must be 100% practical. This trend will see many dining rooms give way to dens, reading rooms or family rooms.

The Decline of Home Flipping According to Census figures, the average American moves 11 times throughout the course of their lives, however, that number is slowly decreasing. The days of the short-term money maker are decreasing along with it. Most buyers today are buying with the intention of staying for 10 or more years, rather than just one or two. With this frame of mind, buyers will be more concerned about the design and features of the home...if they want to take off their coats and stay awhile.

Smartphones for the Future Industry experts project that smartphones will eventually aid home buyers in controlling their homes while away. Going forward, buyers may even be expecting it. The luxury of being able to control your home entertainment, security system, lighting and appliances all with a smartphone application will be enticing to many. Some builders and development groups around the country are already working on making this luxury a reality.

Source: Builder Magazine Online

New Window Frames, Vinyl Siding Effective for Adding Curb Appeal

January 10, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 10, 2011--For homeowners looking to update their home, or add value or curb appeal, window replacements and new vinyl siding are both perfect areas to start. When deciding to update the exterior of your home, it's important to use quality materials and weigh the many different options available that fit your budget. Consider the following before starting your projects:

Window Frames Window frames are an important aspect of replacing your windows. Solid wood frames are a great insulator against heat and cold, however, they do require maintenance (scraping and painting). Since they are natural products, they are subject to the elements and may swell, contract or rot depending on the conditions. Aluminum is the opposite--it's affordable, yet doesn't require much maintenance. It's also an exceptionally strong and durable option, though it does conduct heat and cold, which is bad for insulation.

Clad window frames give you the best of both worlds, but that comes at a price. These frames have wood on the inside and aluminum or vinyl shells on the outside. The wood helps with the insulation, while the outside shell makes them low maintenance.

For those considering vinyl windows, buying high quality is a must. Depending on the quality, they may fade and could sag over time. Homeowners will save money in the long run by buying the best quality of vinyl they can afford.

Speaking of vinyl... Vinyl siding has been growing in popularity due to its attractive, low maintenance, durable and affordable aspects. Cheap vinyl siding, like vinyl window frames, will sag and warp over time. Homeowners should check siding for quality to ensure a lasting product that will brighten up their curb appeal.

The thickness of the vinyl siding is an important indicator of quality. The chemical combinations of different types vary vastly. Thicker ones will be more durable. Building codes require vinyl siding to be at least .035 inches thick, however, premium choices are available that range from .044 to .055 inches thick.

Other factors homeowners should look for are UV protection and the wind resistance level. It's important to make sure your siding can withstand direct sunlight and severe wind levels of up to 150 mph. The rain resistance of the vinyl siding is also important. This type of siding is designed to "hang" on a structure for optimal air ventilation as the air can flow behind each panel. Additionally, there are tiny holes in the bottom of the panels to release water. If not installed correctly, moisture can be trapped or water can leak into the structure. Proper flashings, builder's wrap or house felt must be installed to avoid these issues. When getting vinyl siding estimates, homeowners should inquire about the installation process.

Adding both new windows and new siding could give your home the touch of curb appeal it needs. By being knowledgeable before starting your home projects, you can ensure that you use the best quality products available for the best possible results.


FHA Issues Guidance for Reverse Mortgage Borrowers and Lenders Dealing with Outstanding Debts

January 10, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 10, 2011The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) released guidance to homeowners and lenders that use the reverse mortgage or Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program and are dealing with outstanding property taxes and unpaid hazard insurance premiums. FHAs guidance is intended to assist elderly borrowers who have neglected to pay these expenses and may face foreclosure.

We understand that some senior citizens have not paid their taxes or insurance for some time and may be at risk of losing their home, said FHA Commissioner David H. Stevens. Todays guidance is designed to establish a clear framework that protects both the homeowner and the lender who participate in our reverse mortgage program.

HUD regulations allow lenders to make tax and insurance payments on behalf of their elderly clients from the borrowers available mortgage funds. However, once those resources are exhausted, the lender must advance funds to protect FHAs interest and obtain reimbursement from the borrower.

Over time, however, these unpaid debts and lender advances have resulted in an untenable situation that could put the FHA Insurance Fund at risk and result in foreclosure proceedings against delinquent seniors. While the guidance issued today is intended to help elderly homeowners avoid foreclosure, lenders may have no choice if these defaults are not cured.

FHAs Mortgagee Letter applies to all HECM loans where the lender/servicer advanced corporate funds to satisfy an unpaid property charge on behalf of the borrower. It reminds lenders that foreclosure is to be a last resort when dealing with their elderly clients. It also includes sample letters that lenders may use to make certain borrowers understand that property tax and hazard insurance are required expenses that must be paid even though the homeowner owes nothing on their mortgage loan.

When a borrower fails to pay a property charge, the loan is deemed to be out of compliance with the provisions of the mortgage and FHA considers the loan to be delinquent. Lenders/servicers, however, must work with the borrower to try to bring the loan current at the earliest possible point. It is only after all loss mitigation strategies have been exhausted that the lender may submit a due and payable request to FHA.

Todays Mortgagee Letter precisely defines the process and reporting requirements lender/servicers must follow to collect unpaid property charges from HECM borrowers. FHA is strongly encouraging HECM borrowers who have outstanding property charges to work closely with loan servicers and approved housing counselors who can provide free assistance to help them resolve the situation and avoid any foreclosure action.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is providing nearly $3 million to housing counseling agencies to specifically help reverse mortgage borrowers facing this issue. Counselors will help elderly homeowners work with their servicer to create repayment plans that cure the outstanding balance. If keeping the home is no longer an option, the counselors will help the borrower transition to alternative housing.

Under this new guidance, lenders must send letters to borrowers who recently missed a property charge payment, borrowers who had an unpaid property charge balance for an extended period, and to borrowers with a significant unpaid property charge balance. Lenders have until February 28, 2011, to send all letters to borrowers with loans that are delinquent as of the date of the Mortgagee Letter. Thereafter, letters must be sent as soon as the mortgagee receives notice of a missed payment.

The lender must also offer loss mitigation options to allow the borrower the opportunity to cure the deficiency. These options must include, but are not limited to, establishing a realistic repayment plan; contacting a HUD-approved housing counseling agency to provide free assistance to the borrower; and refinancing the delinquent HECM to a new reverse mortgage if there is sufficient equity to pay off the existing mortgage and bring the property charges current.

To avoid problems with unpaid property charges in the future, FHA recently enhanced the HECM programs pre-closing counseling requirements. Counselors must now place a greater focus on educating borrowers on how important it is to fulfill the terms of the mortgage, including the requirement that borrowers make timely tax and insurance payments. In addition, counselors now employ a new financial tool which helps identify potential budget shortfalls. Finally, HUD will shortly publish a proposed rule that adds more preventative measures and consumer protections to the existing HECM regulations.

For more information, visit

Fannie Mae to Help Struggling Homeowners with WaysHome Interactive Video Tool

January 10, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 10, 2011Fannie Mae recently launched WaysHome, a free, interactive multi-media 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. As part of Fannie Maes Know Your Options initiative to help struggling homeowners, the WaysHome video uses innovative technology to allow homeowners to put themselves in real-life situations, make informed choices and immediately see the outcomes of those actions.

In 2011, millions of homes will be at imminent risk of foreclosure. As we enter a new year, the company is expanding its efforts to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosureWaysHome is an innovative tool to help achieve this goal, said Jeff Hayward, Fannie Mae senior vice president. Since the beginning of 2009, Fannie Mae has helped more than half a million families stay in their homes through modification or other solutions. With initiatives like WaysHome, we are determined to do everything possible to help homeowners.

Unique to the other industry-wide foreclosure prevention efforts, WaysHome was developed by Fannie Mae to educate distressed homeowners on the short- and long-term impact of their decisions. Through video reenactment, WaysHome allows homeowners to experience scenarios that address a range of options for avoiding foreclosure that include repayment plans, forbearances, modifications, deeds-in-lieu and short sales.

The WaysHome video is set in a neighborhood that has been hurt by the foreclosure crisis. Real actors play three residents of the neighborhoodeach in financial distress. Homeowners select to play one of the residents and, as their stories unfold, make important financial decisions for them and see how the consequences of these decisions play out. Fannie Mae provides helpful tips, tools and links during the process and users have the ability to go back and revise their decisions should their choices lead to a negative outcome. Most choices lead to an immediate consequence followed by a related teaching point.

With a variety of financial hardships and other circumstances affecting homeowners across the country, making educated decisions is more important than ever, added Hayward. Its a travesty when people lose their homes because they dont know or understand their options. Homeowners who are proactive about working with their mortgage company, housing counselors, or using consumer tools like WaysHome have a significantly better chance of finding a solution that allows them to avoid foreclosure.

In an effort to connect with homeowners who have not yet reached out for help, Fannie Mae will be promoting WaysHome on, through its comprehensive new consumer website,, and a series of events in partnership with local faith-based organizations, non-profits and industry leaders that include: Safeway Eastern Division; Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; Capital Area Foreclosure Network; Collective Empowerment Group; NeighborWorks America; and National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Collateral materials and website content will be made available at no cost through Fannie Maes mortgage servicing and community partners.

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 with other locations to be announced in the coming weeks. The company also uses direct mail and phone calls to encourage homeowners to pursue foreclosure alternatives.

For more information, visit and

How to Host in Small Living Spaces

January 7, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 7, 2011--Having friends and family over is one of the luxuries of having your own living space, but for small spaces, such as apartments or condos, hosting overnight guests can be a tricky feat. Sleeping on floors and dealing with large numbers of people may not be for everyone, so make sure your guests are aware of the situation and are able to deal with the temporary conditions. Here are a few tips to make sure your hosting sessions go off without a hitch.

Plan, plan, plan: Make sure you know how many guests are coming and scout out where you are going to put everyone. Futons and foldouts can double from couch to sleeping quarters, while air mattresses or sleeping bags word as well. Make sure your guests are aware of the sleeping arrangements before coming--some may want to consider getting a hotel as a result.

Be realistic: You know how many people your apartment can hold, so be realistic when inviting guests to stay. Keep in mind that your guests will also need to shower, eat and lounge at your place--not just sleep! If too many people are involved, suggest that some stay in a hotel. Everyone will be much more comfortable that way.

Budget: Be prepared for higher utility bills (depending on the length of their stay) and be sure to have extra food in the cabinets and fridge. Some guests may forge on their own, but having snacks and easy-to-prepare foods that can be ready in minutes is a key part of being a host. If necessary, budget and plan for their stay.

Bunking in a small apartment isn't for everyone. Hosts may find it only works best with close family and friends. With the proper planning and arranging, you can ensure your guests have a comfortable and enjoyable stay in your home.

Source: WilliamPaid Blog

11 Tips for Going Green in 2011

January 7, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 7, 2011--There are many ways to make the New Year greener and healthier. Just making a few small changes can have a great impact on the planet and personal health. There are many easy changes to implement into daily life to make the world a greener place.

Composting: Building a compost pile as a homeowner is an easy way to add many beneficial ingredients to the soil while reducing garbage volume at the same time. It can also benefit the community by reducing the nearly 25% of compostable landfill waste, according the Environmental Protection Agency.

Recycle paper and electronics: Recycling is beneficial in many ways and can be a convenient and an environmentally conscious step in the coming year. Anything from paper and plastics to metals and electronics can be recycled. This can save on the consumption of resources, the amount of landfill space being used and energy use. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 15-20% of e-waste is recycled, the rest of these electronics go directly into landfills and incinerators, causing dangerous heavy metals and toxins to build up with serious environmental risks.

Go plastic free: Get rid of plastic once and for all this year by switching to reusable whenever possible. One way to save money and protect our environment from the harmful effects of plastics and the chemicals used and the emissions given off in producing them is to use reusable stainless steel water bottles and always carry cloth grocery bags anytime you are shopping.

Plant a garden: With the smallest amount of outdoor space, a garden can produce a wide variety of nutritious foods. Gardening can bring you back to nature while providing you and your family fresh wholesome foods with many benefits. If you dont have room, consider a container garden or small herb garden to enhance your culinary experience.

Laundry: Whenever doing laundry, make sure it is a full load and wash clothes in cold water using a safe, non-toxic laundry soap and hang clothes to dry for a clean, fresh and environmentally way to do your laundry in 2011.

Support local farmers and eat in season: Most grocery store food has been picked in the fields, sent to distribution centers and shipped thousands of miles before ever hitting your grocery store shelf. In contrast, when you purchase from local farmers, you are not only putting a face with your food, but your food has been picked within a day or two of purchasing, making it ripe and delicious. Buying fresh local food has many advantages including, reduced vehicle pollution and packaging needed, while encouraging fresh and, oftentimes, organic and pesticide-free produce for better nutrition.

Unplug appliances and electronics: When it is time for an upgrade, consider purchasing new energy-efficient models with an Energy Star label that guarantees that the product is energy efficient. This label is sponsored by the Department of Energy and the EPA and can offer substantial savings. If you are not in the position to purchase a new appliance, unplug the one you have if and when it is not needed or in use.

Turn it off: Turn the water off while brushing teeth and the lights off every time you leave the room. Consider purchasing low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators and energy efficient CFL or LED light bulbs.

Use eco-friendly cleaning products: With just a few common household items, you can make your own cleaning products when you need them. Making your own cleaning products with ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon and tea tree oil can save you money, time and the packaging required for the store-bought brands. Homemade cleaners are also safer and healthier when using non-toxic ingredients.

Never purchase paper towels or napkins again: Instead, use old washcloths cut into smaller squares, old socks for dusting, old t-shirts cut up for cleaning and reusable cloth napkins and hand-towels while out and about.

Borrow or buy used: Borrow your books, music and movies from your local library to save money while cutting down on the paper and ink needed to manufacture new. Set up online accounts with eBay, or shop thrift stores and garage sales when looking for anything from clothing to furniture.


From Institutions to Independence: HUD, HSS Announce Joint Effort to Assist Nearly 1,000 Non-elderly Persons with Disabilities

January 7, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 7, 2011--U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a joint partnership between the two agencies to help nearly 1,000 non-elderly Americans with disabilities leave nursing homes or other healthcare facilities to live independently. This is the first time two federal agencies are offering a combination of rental assistance, health care and other supportive services targeted to this population.

HUD is providing $7.5 million in rental assistance vouchers that will help nearly 1,000 individuals with disabilities rent private apartments. Public housing authorities in 15 states will administer the rental subsidies and will work with state human service agencies to identify eligible individuals who could benefit from the program.

Individuals receiving rental assistance through the program will also receive health and social supports that will enable them to live independently. These supports are provided through the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaids Money Follows the Person (MFP) grant program, which allows individuals who qualify for Medicaid-funded nursing home or other institutional care to receive supports such as in-home nursing and personal care services while living in the community instead. In places where the MFP program is not available, services will be provided by a state-sponsored institutional transitional program comparable to MFP that includes dedicated supportive services.

The interagency collaboration is intended to allow persons with disabilities to live productive independent lives in their communities rather than in institutions.

"The administration is committed to helping Americans with disabilities live independent lives. Housing is a critical piece of the equation when it comes to transitioning out of institutions," said Donovan. "Coordinating this effort with the Department of Health and Human Services is an important step in ensuring that more Americans with disabilities will have the housing and support they need to fully participate in community life."

"Through our collaboration with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, I know that we will be able to dramatically change peoples lives," said Sebelius. "Individuals with disabilities can have a life in the community that serves their needs and supports them in leading productive, meaningful lives."

The funding is being provided through HUDs Rental Assistance for Non-Elderly Persons with Disabilities Program. It is part of the $40 million HUD made available April 2010 to public housing authorities across the U.S. to fund approximately 5,300 rental assistance vouchers for non-elderly persons with disabilities to promote independent living for this community.

Approximately 142 housing agencies applied for the vouchers. According to Donovan, eligibility was determined based on the following criteria: 1) The agencies had to demonstrate a strong partnership, or the confidence to build a strong partnership, with the local state and health agency or Medicaid; 2) the agencies had to show significant experience in working with the disabled community; and 3) the agencies had to provide a detailed description of what resources were going to be available in the local community for the disabled.

Last October, HUD awarded $33 million to support a first round of 4,300 vouchers, making it possible for non-elderly individuals with disabilities and their families to access affordable housing in communities that meet their housing needs and to avoid potential institutionalization. Todays announcement is for the second round funding to provide vouchers targeted for non-elderly individuals with disabilities currently living in institutional settings, such as nursing homes, but who could move into a community with assistance.

These vouchers will augment work already being done by HHSs Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) through its Money Follows the Person (MFP) rebalancing demonstration program. Now in its fourth year, the MFP program has made it possible for almost 12,000 individuals to live more independent lives by providing necessary supports and services in the community. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia are currently participating in the MFP program and CMS is expecting a new round of grant applications on January 7.

State Medicaid agencies and local human service organizations will link eligible families to local public housing authorities that will administer voucher distribution. To improve the connections between the housing authorities and Medicaid agencies, HUD and HHS have launched the Housing Capacity Building Initiative for Community Living Projectto assist seniors and individuals with chronic conditions who are at risk of institutionalization or who currently receive care in institutional settings, in finding appropriate housing in order to live more independent lives.

For a local breakdown of the funding announced today, visit

7 Tips for Refacing or Replacing Kitchen Cabinets

January 6, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 6, 2011--Remodeling an old kitchen is an ideal way for homeowners to get a completely new look in their home. Here are seven tips to help homeowners make this process successful and affordable:

  1. When it comes to refacing kitchen cabinets, it is usually cheaper and quicker than buying new. However, this may only be a good option when the current cabinets are of higher quality. If they are of solid frames, doors and drawers are fully self-contained with closed backs and reinforced corners. Painting the current cupboards is also an option if they are of high quality wood. Refacing usually takes one or two days.
  2. If interested in completely replacing kitchen cabinets, stock cabinets are a good choice because they are the least expensive but still have a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors and materials.
  3. Solid hardwood cupboards made of cherry, maple, oak and birch are usually more expensive than laminate or veneer finished options. Custom cabinets can also be bought, but at a much higher price point.
  4. Homeowners should always check to make certain the cabinets have high-end hinges and mechanical hardware. Cheap ones may not function properly or could break and need to be replaced.
  5. Before finalizing a purchase, costs should be compared with a variety of vendors before making a sale final.
  6. If interested in refacing over replacing, hardware can be tricky. If painting the surface and replacing just hardware, ensure the new hardware has the same drill centers as the previous ones. Otherwise, old drill holes will need to be patched before painting.
  7. Knobs are easier to install over handles because only one screw is needed and the spacing, therefore, does not need to be exact. These door handles or knobs should match the finish of the appliances and other kitchen features. When buying hardware, homeowners should pick up a couple of additional pieces in case any need to be replaced in the future.

If you're thinking about selling or just want a new look, a kitchen fix-up is an inexpensive and easy way to modernize your home and give it a fresh appeal.


How to Appropriately Manage the Landlord/Tenant Relationship

January 6, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 6, 2011--When renting an apartment, house or condo, keeping the peace with your landlord and managing that relationship is important to your overall happiness and housing stability. Sometimes, that relationship falters, putting the renter in an unpleasant struggle for power. By knowing your rights and what you can do in the case of an increasing problem with your landlord, you can deal with the situation and alleviate it as soon as possible. Here are some facts and tips that can help:

It is your right to live in a properly repaired and habitable property. Your lease most likely requires that your landlord keep your housing in a habitable condition. If there is a problem, don't hesitate to contact your landlord and request a repair. If the landlord refuses, then you have a problem. Contact your state's Department of Housing Preservation and Development with complaints. The state will then send an inspector to check out the problem and, if serious enough, can impose a violation upon the landlord.

To maintain a stable rent, negotiate sooner rather than later. Tenants rarely have control over the cost of rent or subsequent rent increases. Talk to your landlord early. If his or her rental income is secured for an elongated period of time, your landlord may be open to a stabilized or lower monthly rent.

Protect yourself against landlords holding your security deposit. Oftentimes, renters take issue with extra charges that end up coming out of security deposits upon vacating. To prevent any such issue, be sure to take photos of the apartment or condo before you move in. If any problem arises, tell the landlord that you have detailed photos of the place in its vacant state and start the negotiation from there.

Never withhold rent as a revenge tactic. By withholding rent, your landlord has all he or she needs to begin an eviction case against you for failure to pay. Two wrongs won't right your situation. By continuing to pay on time, you still have the upper hand in a legal or verbal conflict with your landlord.

Obviously, every renter hopes to never take issue with the landlord. However, if a problem arises, know your rights and exercise them whenever necessary.

Source: AOL Real Estate

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