REMAX 440/Central Blog

Condos Face FHA Deadlines

December 15, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 15, 2010--An estimated 2,200 condominium projects nationwide last week lost their eligibility for Federal Housing Administration-guaranteed sales and refinancing.

Unless condo officials take action, another 23,000 residential condos with housing units numbering in the tens of thousands will lose their eligibility by spring, reports The Charlotte Observer. That means that buyers of units in these buildings wont be eligible for FHA financing.

This situation was the result of an effort by the FHA to guarantee that condos and their underlying homeowners associations have adequate budgets, legal documents and other requirements that lead to financial stability.

In 2009, the FHA spelled out tough standards that required that condo projects approved for FHA financial before 2007 have their approvals renewed by December 7, 2010. About 25,000 projects missed the cutoff. Due to this high number, the FHA extended the deadline, setting new deadlines throughout 2011. The only losers were the 2,200 projects that had the oldest approvals.

The FHA urges all condominium owners to get in touch with their associations and push them to meet the revised deadlines.

For more information, or to check the status of a condo project, visit (select by state): https://entp.hud.gov/idapp/html/condlook.cfm.


Price-Reduced Listings Continue to Soar Over Last Year, According to ZipRealty's Monthly Price Reduction Index

December 15, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 15, 2010--The number of price-reduced homes on the market this November increased dramatically compared to the same time last year, rising 24.1% according to ZipRealty's Price Reduction Index, a monthly review of MLS-listed properties in 26 markets surveyed by the real estate brokerage.

San Diego, Calif. shows the most dramatic change in price-reduced inventory, doubling from 2009 (5,396 listings) to 2010 (10,794 listings) with a 108.4% change. Three other California districts have also seen a huge year-over-year increase in the amount of reduced inventory, including San Francisco (100%), Orange County (91%), and Los Angeles (79%).

For the second straight month, total inventory dropped with November seeing a 3.8% decrease as compared to October. The percentage of inventory that has been reduced edged up 0.1% as the number of price-reduced listings fell at a slightly slower rate of 3.7%.

"Typically, November is a slower month for sales," said John Oldham, Director of Marketing for ZipRealty. "Inventory peaked in September and has dropped over the last two months. The increase in price-reduced listings is evidence that sellers are still trying to find the right price point to get the property to sell."

While some homeowners may wait until after the holidays to sell; those selling now are listing homes for lower prices as the median list price dropped 2.8% from October to $234,484.

Highlights of ZipRealtys November index include:

-Nearly half (48.4%) of listed homes in November included at least one price reduction, an increase of 24.1% over last year and 0.1% over October

-Compared to November 2009, price-reduced inventory grew by over 75% in five major markets: San Diego, San Francisco, Orange County, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas

-Inventory dropped 3.8% and the number of price-reduced homes on the market fell 3.7% compared to October

-The median list price dropped by 2.8% from October to $234,484, and the average percentage of price reduction amount-to-list price rose to 7.6% in November, a 1.7% change from October

-In 17 of the 26 markets surveyed, listings have experienced an average of two price reductions

-In 11 markets, more than half of homes for sale in November included at least one price reduction: Jacksonville, Phoenix, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago, Baltimore, Orlando, Seattle, Orange County, Boston, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas.

For more information, visit www.ziprealty.com.


Simple Tips for Winter Concrete Care

December 14, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 14, 2010--With harsh temperatures on the inevitable horizon, a few hours of work now could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars later down the road.

Freezing rain, snow, ice and raw temperatures have been known to weaken concrete surfaces if left unattended. Saturation and freezing of concrete surfaces can lead to cracking and surface deterioration, but the spreading of various salts on the surface can also lead to larger structural issues and unprotected concrete.

Repairing and sealing cracks as they occur is a cost-effective way to prevent pricey projects in the future. According to Quikrete, waterproofing sealers are a great way to make these repairs, offering durable finishes for a variety of surfaces including concrete, masonry, stucco and brick. Acrylic sealers are highly water resistant and provide a coating that protects the surface from cold weather freezing and thawing--a common cause of cracking over time.

If properly maintained, concrete has the ability to last for generations, but homeowners should know what to look for around the home. Look for cracks and missing concrete in the driveway, garage and exterior walkways. Though cracks can be unobtrusively small to start, these eventual problem areas can spread and worse over time.

Concrete Treat recommends checking for spalling, which occurs when too much freezing and thawing causes water to erode the surface layer of the concrete. Salts cause further erosion of this surface area and can really compromise the structural integrity.

The longer this problem is neglected the bigger of a repair it will be. Visible water leaks on concrete walls are other signs that water is seeping in from the outside. If left unfixed, this water can cause extensive damage to interior surfaces. Be sure to check around your home for any potential concrete leaks.

By being aware of possible concrete issues, you may be able to prevent catastrophic damage to your property in the future.


Protect Your Belongings with Self-Storage Insurance

December 14, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 14, 2010--Whether you're in between moves or simply need the extra space, self-storage is a fantastic option for those who find they need to temporarily unload some personal belongings. To further protect your property, renters should look into and purchase storage insurance. At some facilities, it may not be an option. However, if you are not required to purchase it and think that your property is automatically safe, think again. Most times, if your property is worth seeking extra storage space for, it's worth insuring.

According to StorageFront.com, renters generally have three different options in terms of insurance:

1) Some homeowner's or renter's insurance may allow for additional coverage for your storage unit, however, you must check with the facility to ensure that they accept this type of coverage. When you go to rent your unit, proof of insurance will be required by the storage facility. Make sure to have that on hand.

2) Facilities may offer their own insurance premium ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. Although there may or may not be a deductible, rates may be higher and coverage lower compared to insuring through your homeowner's or renter's policy. Be sure to inquire about what types of damages are covered and if any items are excluded from the policy.

3) Independent self-storage insurance may be your best bet. Outside insurance companies may have a partnership with particular storage facilities, but oftentimes they operate independently. This type of insurance will insure higher-valued items and may protect against damage that other policies may not cover.

Though prices per plan vary, insurance typically runs $8 for $2,000 coverage; $12 for $3,000 coverage; and $20 for $5,000 coverage. Some providers may even provide coverage for 50% in case of burglary. (Taking pictures of all your items in the storage unit is highly recommended. If items are damaged during a burglary, snap photos of them as well along with a broken lock or a damaged door).

As always, it's best to understand whatever policy you sign up for. Make sure you acquire all of the details at the time of signing so that you can be prepared and knowledgeable in the worst-case scenario that you need to put a claim in.


NAHB'S Multifamily Production and Vacancy Indices Show Increased Confidence

December 14, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 14, 2010--Serving as leading indicators for the sector, two composite multifamily indices produced from NAHB's survey of multifamily builders and property managers showed improvement in the third quarter of 2010. The NAHB Multifamily Production Index (MPI) increased to a value of 35.6, up from the 26.6 level reported for the second quarter. This is the highest the MPI has been since 2007.

The MPI is a weighted average of three seasonally adjusted components based on respondents' ratings of starts currently vs. the previous quarter. All three MPI components increased in the third quarter: lower rent apartments rose to 45.7 from 32.8; market-rate apartments rose to 38.6 from 34.4; and for-sale units (condos and co-ops) rose to 23.5 from 14.5.

Similarly, the Multifamily Vacancy Index (MVI) is a weighted average of three seasonally adjusted components based on respondents' ratings of vacancies currently vs. the previous quarter. MVI components for Class B and Class C apartments showed improvement (a reduction, indicating fewer vacant apartments) in the third quarter, while the MVI component for Class A apartments increased slightly.

Previously, NAHB had reported multifamily index components individually. Beginning with this quarter, the components are being combined into summary indices based on the ability of the series to predict U.S. Census Bureau data one to three quarters ahead. For example, the Census Bureau's multifamily starts rate, after an extended decline, has been increasing since the fourth quarter of 2009. NAHB's MPI surged one quarter earlier. The Census Bureau's rental vacancy rate in buildings with five or more apartments has been generally declining since reaching a peak of 13.1% in the third quarter of 2009, a quarter after NAHB's MVI reached its peak.

"Since 1985, NAHB has been producing the Housing Market Index, which gives an indication of what the coming months will bring in the single-family market," said David Crowe, NAHB's chief economist. "We are confident that the MPI and MVI will provide equally useful information for the multifamily sector."

"It is important to remember that, although both the MPI and the Census Bureau's measures of multifamily production are increasing, they are rising from historically very low levels," Crowe added, "with multifamily starts remaining well below a rate that would be sustainable under more normal market conditions. Further improvement in multifamily production depends upon resolving the formidable problems that currently exist in accessing credit to develop and build economically viable multifamily projects."

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.


'Tis the Season to Have a Renter's Insurance Policy

December 13, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 13, 2010--Christmas tree fires, which can tear through an apartment; burglaries, which spike when gifts are under the tree; and improper fireplace use can turn the most wonderful time of the year into a nightmare.

Many renters may not have renters insurance to cover fire damages or theft losses, while many of them are not typically covered by their landlord's insurance policy. The costs of a quick break-in or small holiday fire can add up quickly: a shiny new iPhone4, a MacBook Pro, a 52" HDTV and a decent shoe collection can easily add up to $25,000 to $50,000 or more.

"A holiday home or apartment fire is devastating," says Jeffery Schneider, president of a New York insurance brokerage. "Without the right coverage, tenants lose everything."

According to the National Fire Protection Association, heaters and radiators ignite 26% of Christmas tree fires. Decorative lights spark 23% of such fires, and burning candles account for another 14%.

Add in cooking-related fires, which can cause extensive smoke damage, and other mishaps and the holidays can be downright hazardous. "We have people trying to start wood fires in gas fireplaces every year," Schneider adds. "Or the flue is shut and smoke fills the apartment or they incinerate the turkey."

Beyond replacement of valuable goods, a renter's insurance policy defrays the cost of other lodging if fire or smoke damage makes the apartment uninhabitable. Best of all, renters insurance is surprisingly affordable and makes a good gift for those folks who have great stuff but don't appropriately protect it.

"For less than the cost of a latte a day, renters can insure their personal belongings and protect themselves against potential liability claims," says Schneider. "The small investment can pay off handsomely if something goes wrong."


FHA Loan Limit Remains Unchanged for 2011

December 13, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 13, 2010--The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) released its approved loan limits on mortgages for the 2011 year with an unchanged ceiling of $729,750. This amount was originally raised by the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 as a means to help stabilize the housing market, reports HousingWire.

In addition, the national floor remains unchanged as well at $271,050. These limits apply to all mortgages originated between January 1, 2011 and September 30, 2011.

The FHA reports insuring $319 billion in single-family mortgages and 40% of all purchase mortgages originated over the past year.

Some areas, including Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Virgin Islands, have a higher ceiling in order to account for the higher costs of construction. For these areas, the limit is set at $1,094,625 for 2011. The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program (aka, reverse mortgages) remained steady at its current limit of $625,500.

For more information, visit http://portal.hud.gov/portal/page/portal/HUD/federal_housing_administration.


HUD to Investigate Allegations of Discrimination Against African American and Latino Loan Seekers

December 13, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 13, 2010--The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it is launching multiple investigations into the practices of certain mortgage lenders to determine if their home loan policies illegally deny qualified African American and Latino borrowers access to credit.

The investigations are in response to 22 complaints the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) filed with HUD alleging that the loan activities of the mortgage originators showed that their home lending practices deny FHA- insured loans to African Americans and Latinos with credit scores as high as 640. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) guidelines allow mortgages to borrowers with credit scores above 580, provided the borrowers have down payments equaling 3.5% of the loan amount, or above 500, provided the borrowers have down payments equaling 10% of the loan amount.

"FHA is an important vehicle for Americans who want to purchase or refinance a home. We thank NCRC for bringing these complaints to HUD. For lenders to deny responsible home seekers this source of credit, without regard for their capacity to repay the loans, would raise serious fair housing concerns and, if proven, undermine our nations recovery efforts," said HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity John Trasvia. "HUD will take appropriate action against any lender found to be engaging in discriminatory practices."

Prior to the recent downturn in the economy, FHA-insured mortgages comprised less than three percent of new home loans. Since the economic crisis, FHA and the Government-Sponsored Enterprises have insured or guaranteed nearly 95% of new mortgage loans being originated. By the end of 2008, almost half of new home purchase loans and one quarter of new refinance loans were FHA or Veterans Administration (VA) insured.

According to NCRC, an association of more than 600 community-based organizations that promote access to basic banking services, their fair lending "testers" evaluated the practices of national lenders, financial services corporations, and other regional and local FHA-approved lenders. In the complaints filed on December 7, NCRC states that lenders were chosen according to their market share and volume of FHA loans, as well as through discussions with community leaders.

Under the Fair Housing Act, HUD impartially investigates allegations of housing discrimination and, during every phase of investigations, attempts to settle complaints through conciliation efforts.

FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY).


Post-holiday Clean-up: How to Properly Load the Dishwasher

December 10, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 10, 2010--After the roast beast has been sliced and the cookies consumed, it's time for a solid clean-up session. Debate with helpful family members offering to do the dishes can sometimes be more stressful than doing it yourself. Loading your dishwasher can involve many various techniques as everyone offers his or her own two cents on how to get the job done. Careful placement and selection can be the determining factor of whether or not your fine china comes out unharmed and intact. From Consumer Reports, here are six tips to get your dishes as clean as possible:

  • Skip the pre-rinsing--it's a big waste of water and is unnecessary, especially if you plan to immediately run your dishwasher.
  • Use the side and back of the machine for larger items. Failure to do so will block the water stream and detergent from hitting the other dishes.
  • The dirty sides should always face inward, and never let plates rest against each other.
  • Delicate items should always be placed on top to prevent them from banking.
  • Load your forks and spoons with the handle down, but do the opposite for knives. If your utensil basket is open, mix up utensils so that none of them stick together.
  • Avoid putting brass, bronze, cast-iron, wood or gold leaf china in the machine.

Hopefully your post-holiday mess won't leave you regretting your title of host!


Tips for Maintaining Safe Food-Handling Practices in the Kitchen

December 10, 2010 10:29 am

By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, December 10, 2010--Whether its just for yourself, for your family, or for any guests or business associates you might be entertaining over the holidays, be sure you are maintaining safe food handling practices in the kitchen.

A recent report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that although consumers recognize the potential seriousness of food-borne bacteria, they lack information on safe handling and storage of food products. A survey published by the CDC found that consumers under 35 years of age knew less about food safety terms and concepts than those over 35. Specific safe food handling was not practiced by 15% to 30% of survey respondents. For example, consumers did not cool cooked food rapidly, with 29% indicating they would let roasted chicken cool completely before refrigerating.

Only 32% indicated they would use small, shallow containers to refrigerate leftovers. Consumers did not know that failure to refrigerate may jeopardize safety, with 18% not concerned or uncertain about the safety of cooked meat and 14% not concerned about poultry left unrefrigerated for more than 4 hours.

The need for sanitation was not recognized, with only 54% indicating they would wash a cutting board with soap and water between cutting raw meat and chopping vegetables.

Food safety experts have identified the most common food-handling mistakes made by consumers at home:

  • Serving contaminated raw food
  • Cooking or heating food inadequately
  • Obtaining food from unsafe sources
  • Cooling food inadequately
  • Allowing 12 hours or more between preparation and eating

Whats more, according to the CDC, many factors have contributed to consumers' lack of familiarity with safe food handling and increased food-borne illnesses. Increased participation in the paid labor force has lessened the exposure of young people to food-handling practices in the home; few schools offer or require food preparation classes; and partially prepared foods may have different, less familiar handling requirements.

If you want to read a wide variety of information on food handling and all kinds of handy prevention tips, visit the CDC website (cdc.gov) and make a resolution to keep yourself and your home free of food-borne illness in the New Year!


search for homes in southeast pennsylvania search for homes in lehigh valley