REMAX 440/Central Blog

NAR Extends Operation Home Relief to Keep More Veterans in Their Homes

November 12, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, November 12, 2010--The National Association of Realtors is extending its widely successful Facebook Causes campaign, "Operation Home Relief." The campaign was launched just last month to help military families obtain foreclosure assistance, and America responded with enthusiasmwithin 20 days, NAR matched $20,000 in donations to the cause.

"NAR believes that any family who loses a home to foreclosure is one family too many," said NAR President Ron Phipps, broker/president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, Rhode Island. "Foreclosures don't just affect the families that lose their homes; a foreclosure lowers the value of every home in the surrounding neighborhood. That's why we're so pleased with America's response to Operation Home Relief, and why we're committing additional funds to support military families who need assistance."

NAR launched Operation Home Relief through its consumer website, HouseLogic.com, a free comprehensive website about homeownership for homeowners. Operation Home Relief aims to increase awareness, rally support and raise funding for USA Cares, a nonprofit that provides foreclosure assistance in the form of financial counseling and grants to post-9/11 active duty U.S. military service personnel, veterans and their families.

Initially, HouseLogic donated $1 to USA Cares every time someone "joined" the Cause page, and agreed to match donations made to the Cause up to $20,000. In honor of Veteran's Day, HouseLogic is increasing its match grant to USA Cares by $11,000.

HouseLogic also offers an online foreclosure guide to help home owners avoid the pitfalls of foreclosure, with tips and solutions to help more families stay in their homes.

For more information on sustaining homeownership, and many other housing topics, visit HouseLogic at www.houselogic.com.


Common Home Defects All Buyers and Sellers Should Be Aware Of

November 11, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, November 11, 2010--Home defects come in all shapes and sizes. From structural problems to air flow and ventilation issues, a lot of things can go wrong with your home. Whether you're buying or selling your home or simply staying put, you should be aware of some of the common home defects that abound so you can fix them quickly and easily before they become catastrophes.

Poor Drainage According to Elsa Home Inspections, poor drainage is the most common problem found by home inspectors. To improve your drainage, you may have to install a new system of eaves, troughs and downspouts to better aim water away from the house. Inadequate drainage can be a devastating defect. Water can damage basements, garages and crawl spaces, compromising the foundation of the home and creating mold. Taking care of this issue is of dire importance, and buyers should avoid purchasing homes that may have drainage problems.

Rotted Wood Another important defect to watch out for is rotted wood, both inside and outside the home. Wood exposed to excess moisture is bound to rot. This can happen in bathrooms, on flooring or even in the kitchen. The Home Team Inspection Service recommends finding these problem areas in your home and protecting them with a special paint or finish. Don't forget to check your deck and outside trim as well.

Bad Roofing Always be attentive of a structure's roof. Damaged shingles or improperly installed flashing are severe warning signs that trouble lurks ahead. Check for leaky ceilings as a sign of a damaged roof. Repairing the roof is crucial in order to prevent further damage later. Although it may be an expensive repair, it's always best to take care of it before it affects other parts of the home.

Inadequate Ventilation Without proper ventilation, a build up of moisture can attack a home's interior walls and structural components, says Elsa Home Inspections. Ventilation fans are a good idea for bathrooms without windows, and opening all of the home's windows during bouts of good weather also helps keep the air moving. Doing so can help prevent drywall replacements or other more expensive structural replacements. Find out the best way to keep your house ventilated and keep that air flowing.

Poor Overall Maintenance Has the house been properly maintained over the years? How confident are you in the previous owner's repair skills? Sometimes improper maintenance can affect many parts of the home, such as the plumbing and electrical systems. Scope out any makeshift repairs and have a professional take a look, if necessary. Faulty wiring jobs and plumbing situations are not cases to be taken lightly. If a house doesn't look well-kept, this may be reason enough to send buyers running.

With the proper maintenance, any home defect can be righted to ensure a safe living environment for any family. For sellers, make sure major problems with the home are taken care of before listing the home. This is a great way to make sure you get the most money from your investment. Buyers should ask questions regarding these common red flags and if a house has too many defects, they may want to walk away. For current homeowners, fixing these issues now will not only ensure safety for all of the home's inhabitants, but it will also help increase your home's value when it comes to selling time.

For more information, visit http://www.elsahomeinspections.com and http://www.hometeaminspection.com/.


Mortgage Applications See 5.8% Boost

November 11, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, November 11, 2010--The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports that the market composite index experienced a 5.8% increase for the week ending with November 5, riding on the coattails of a 6% rise in refinancing applications.

These numbers are quite the comeback, according to HousingWire, which reports that the prior week saw a 5% drop for the overall market composite index. Refinances were also down the week before at a 6.4% decrease.

Purchase applications have risen 5.5% last week, and have been continually rising for three-straight weeks, according to the MBA. The unadjusted purchase index increased 3.1% last week, and was 33.9% higher than one year earlier.

"Although mortgage rates were little changed following the Federal Reserves decision to purchase $600 billion of Treasury bonds over the next eight months, mortgage applications increased last week," says Michael Fratantoni, MBAs vice president of Research and Economics. "The increases in purchase applications we have seen over the past couple of weeks align with the better than expected news from Octobers employment report and other data indicating some improvement in the economys growth prospects."

In addition, 81.7% of all mortgage applications last week were comprised of refinances, while the conventional purchase index's rise led it to the highest level since May.


HUD Announces Pilot Program to Help Homeowners Pay for Energy Improvements to Their Homes

November 11, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, November 11, 2010Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a new pilot program that will offer credit-worthy borrowers low-cost loans to make energy-saving improvements to their homes. Backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), these new FHA PowerSaver loans will offer homeowners up to $25,000 to make energy-efficient improvements of their choice, including the installation of insulation, duct sealing, doors and windows, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels, and geothermal systems.

HUD and FHA developed PowerSaver as part of the Recovery Through Retrofit initiative launched in May 2009.

"HUD and FHA arecommittedtolowering the cost and expanding the availability of affordable financing for home energyretrofits," said Secretary Donovan. "PowerSaver will help more homeowners afford common sense, cost-saving improvements to their homes, and will create jobs for contractors, installers and energy auditors across the country."

More homeowners are interested in making their homes energy efficient, according to industry forecasts. Yet options are still limited for financing home energy improvements, especially for the many homeowners who are unable to take out a home equity loan or access an affordable consumer loan. HUD recently published a notice seeking the participation of a limited number of mortgage lenders in the two-year pilot program slated to begin in early 2011.

"PowerSaver provides lenders with a new product option to serve a potentially growing market," said David H. Stevens, FHA Commissioner. "We believe there are a number of lenders who will be interested in working with us to help save energy and money for homeowners, while creating jobs and cutting greenhouse gas emissions."

Lenders will be selected to participate in the PowerSaver pilot based on their capacity and commitment to provide affordable home energy improvement financing. Lenders will be required to serve communities that have already taken affirmative steps to expand home energy improvements. HUD will help lenders identify such markets which exist in many suburban, rural and urban areas across the country.

PowerSaver loans will be backed by the FHA, but with significant "skin in the game" from private lenders. FHA mortgage insurance will cover up to 90% of the loan amount in the event of default. Lenders will retain the remaining risk on each loan, incentivizing responsible underwriting and lending standards. FHA will provide streamlined insurance claims payment procedures on PowerSaver loans. In addition, lenders may be eligible for incentive grant payments from FHA to enhance benefits to borrowers, such as lowering interest rates.

PowerSaver has been carefully designed to meet a need in the marketplace for borrowers who have the ability and motivation to take on modest additional debt to realize the savings over time from a home energy improvement. PowerSaver loans are only available to borrowers with good credit, manageable overall debt and at least some equity in their home (maximum 100% combined loan to value).

For more information, visit www.hud.gov.


Safety is First Priority When Deep Frying a Turkey

November 10, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, November 10, 2010--With November in full swing, the holidays now loom right around the corner. With Thanksgiving next on the holiday docket, families are already preparing what to serve for the big meal. Although deep frying a turkey was once deemed unsafe due to burnings, fires and other mishaps around the home, there are steps you can take to ensure a safer cooking process. If you are considering deep frying, protect your home and family by preparing it with safety in mind first.

Avoid buying propane-powered deep fryers, says Consumer Reports. Propane-powered fryers usually don't have a thermostat control, leading to an overheating of the oil to the point of combustion. Cooking with over five gallons of oil at those temperatures add an even higher level of risk. Purchase electric fryers instead for a much safer indoor process.

Oil and water don't mix. Be sure your turkey is completely thawed and use paper towels to dry it off before lowering it into the fryer. If the bird isn't completely thawed, the excess water could cause the oil to overflow during cook time. Not only will this be messy, but it could also lead to fires, explosions or severe burns. This may be a small detail, but it could prevent a complete disaster.

If you must use a propane fryer, make sure to cook outdoors and out of the garage, far from any other flammable materials, says Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent product safety organization. Some have suffered extreme consequences such as a burned down garage or kitchen fire. Keep the family safe and cook outdoors, away from other people. In addition, always make sure that children and pets are far from the deep fryer.

Other UL recommendations include: cooking on a flat surface, never leaving the fryer unattended, always wearing well insulated oven mitts and safety goggles, and never dousing a grease fire with water.

Deep frying a turkey can be a delicious diversion from your standard Thanksgiving fare. By following these tips, you can ensure your family's safety and start the holiday season off right.


How to Safely Transport Your Vehicle During a Move

November 10, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, November 10, 2010-- For many families, a car is one of the largest investment they have ever made. Getting that investment safely to a new home is an important component of a smooth move. So what are the options for transporting a vehicle?

According to The Move Advocate, a vehicle can be moved with your household goods or with a separate auto transport company. To ship your car most efficiently and cost-effectively, its important to know about the different shipping techniques, such as open and closed trailers. The model of the car, as well as the intended destination, will help determine the type of trailer you will need.

An open trailer is the more popular and frequently used trailer. It carries anywhere from 10-12 vehicles at a time.

Advantage: Open trailers are less expensive than closed trailers. The cost is determined by the weight of the vehicle. Disadvantage: Open trailers are subject to the elements (i.e. rain, snow, wind, dirt and dust).

A closed trailer is a vehicle that has a covered freight area. It is commonly used for shipping expensive or classic cars that need to be protected. If you wish to protect your car from wind-blown sand and heat, this is your best option.

Advantage: The car is well-protected from the elements of nature. Disadvantage: Closed trailers cost more. Remember, the cost is determined by the weight of the vehicle.

The company that transports your vehicle should provide adequate insurance to protect against driver negligence. Ask for a copy of the Certificate of Insurance and familiarize yourself with the types of coverage provided. Consult with your current auto insurance agent to determine whether you need supplemental coverage.

Turning your vehicle over to the carrier

Prior to handing over your car to a driver or transport company, be sure you receive an Original Inspection Report, says The Move Advocate. This report provides: pick-up and delivery information, current mileage, and most importantly, shows the condition of your car at time of pick-up (pre-existing scratches and dents, cracked glass/mirrors, general paint condition, etc.).

Accepting your vehicle for delivery

At the time of delivery, inspect your vehicle thoroughly and compare the condition and mileage against the Original Inspection Report. Many transport companies also provide a copy of this report at time of delivery. If there are discrepancies, note them as exceptions and be sure the driver signs it. NEVER accept your vehicle at night if you cannot verify the report condition and without being signed by the driver.

Whats in your trunk?

As of 1990, the Department of Transportation ruled that you may not load any items in a vehicle other than clothing. Auto transporters are not licensed to carry household goods or personal items. Damage to your vehicle due to household goods shifting or breaking is not covered by insurance.

Moving can be a long process with an even longer, demanding to-do list. By knowing how to safely transport your vehicle in advance, your car will be one less thing your family will have to worry about come moving day.

For more information, visit http://www.moveadvocate.com/.


NAR Stands Up for Homeownership

November 10, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, November 10, 2010--2010 National Association of Realtors President Vicki Cox Golder on Thursday urged real estate practitioners to confront those questioning public support of homeownership.

"Its time to stand up and tell the world that homeownership is still the heart of the American Dream," Golder said to a packed ballroom of Realtors at the Realtors Conference & Expo in New Orleans.

NARs Home Ownership Matters campaign aims to help the public understand the value of responsible, sustainable homeownership, and to preserve federal homeownership incentives, such as the mortgage interest deduction. After Golders speech, 2011 NAR President Ron Phipps took the stage to interview FHA Commissioner David Stevens.

Stevens echoed Golder, saying that banks must realize the importance of making mortgage money readily available. He criticized the banks current "one-size-fits-all" approach to mortgage lending, and said lenders should look at potential borrowers' files more comprehensively, considering other factors besides a simple credit score.

"[These policies] are restricting homeownership, and we need to do something about that," Stevens said. "One-fifth of the gross domestic product of the U.S. economy is tied to the housing sector, so homeownership matters."

But Stevens cautioned that lending isn't the only challenge today. The real estate industry also must close a "trust deficit" with Americans, especially with echo-boomers in their early 20s to early 30s who represent the future of real estate demand.

"Weve got to weed out the bad players," Stevens said to loud applause. "Shed the light on anyone whos just out to make a buck. We need to have very accountable and responsible behavior."

Phipps agreed, saying that it's no longer good enough to tell customers that it's a good time to buy a home. "Yes, the market fundamentals are good," he said. "But we need to rebuild confidence."


Spruce Up Your Home with These Indoor Plants

November 9, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, November 9, 2010If you are looking for more decorative appeal for your home, look no further than a few simple indoor plants. Planets can add beauty and function to your home, brightening it up and providing a warm atmosphere during frigid winter months. They also help filter the air, giving your family a healthier environment and fresh air throughout every season.

For beginner botanists or gardening pros, try these recommended indoor plants from Relocation and iVillage to spruce up your home today.

Spider plants are fast-growing and attractive perennials with slim leaves and small white flowers. Perfect for the indoors due to its low-light tolerance, spider plants can grow in shade as long as it receives continually moist soil. It also filters airborne toxins with ease, making it a great addition to any room.

Chrysanthemums are quite the resilient flower, with colorful petals that can grow in any indoor or outdoor climate. They come in a variety of shapes and colors, matching any room or dcor with ease. With at least a half-day of sunlight, moist soil and room to breathe, chrysanthemums can be quite the eye-catching decoration for any home.

The wandering jew is a popular plant good for cleansing the air in a room. This plant tends to sprawl, so it is usually grown in a hanging basket. The leaves are approximately three inches long and are visually spotted and covered with a layer of soft fuzz. Rich, loose and moist soil is ideal for this plant, as is a dimly lit spot in the house.

Bonsai plants are easy to manage and perfect for the indoors. The cactus combo bonsai will bring a little southwestern flair to your home. Its temperature and moisture adaptability make it perfect for any sort of indoor condition. Or you can try the tropical combo bonsai to give the room a tropical feel. Bonsais are simple plants of varying sizes and can be trimmed or accessorized to fit any room you desire.

Ponytail palms are great for the forgetful. This variation of the palm sprouts its foliage rather quickly from a swollen trunk. It also needs extremely little attention to remain intact. Other types of palms can be rather larger, such as the sentry or the bamboo palms, which can reach an average of 9-10 feet. The wide variety makes this plant suitable for style or need.

Just because cold weather is upon us doesn't mean plant lovers have to wait until spring. Use any variety of these indoor plants to decorate and spruce up your dcor. Improving your home's atmosphere is just a few plants away.


From Homeowner to Renter: What You Need to Know About Renter's Insurance

November 9, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, November 9, 2010As homeowners, most people carry a mortgage and, therefore, have no choice but to purchase homeowners insurance as a requirement of their loan. For renters, the choice is their own and many people facing financial uncertainty might choose to go without renter's insurance, even though they have many of the same risks as homeowners when it comes to protecting possessions or being liable for accidents at home.

There are many misperceptions when it comes to renter's insurance. Renter's insurance is not that expensive. The average renter's insurance policy costs between $15 and $30 per month. Replacing all of your possessions or being liable for an accident on your premises will cost much more. Renter's insurance policies can cover everything from electronics to clothing to household appliances. Even a minimal number of items could add up to thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise, which can all be covered in a basic policy.

Although your landlord has insurance for structural damage to the building, and might even be protected against damage caused by tenants, this does not extend to your personal property, nor does it protect you from being liable for damage you might cause to the building inadvertently such as a kitchen fire or a plumbing mishap. By taking out your own policy, you can be sure to protect yourself and your belongings. Never assume that any clause in your landlord's policy will transfer to you or your personal property.

Consumers used to having homeowners insurance may not understand the differences between the two types of coverage. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers these tips for former homeowners who are now renting:

How much renter's insurance do you need? Talk to your insurance agent or company about the property you want to protect and the property hazards you would like to be insured from. Your agent can give you coverage policy specifics based on your state and the type of policy you want. They will answer any important questions you have regarding hazards included in the plan, roommates, value determination, additional and optional coverage, and liability coverage.

Can you get a discount on renter's insurance if your residence has particular safety features, like a burglar alarm? Many insurers will reduce your premiums if you have fire or burglar alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems and/or deadbolts on exterior doors. Some companies might also offer discounts if you have more than one policy with them. Be sure to ask about any discount you might be entitled to.

Are you covered in the case of a flood or earthquake? These natural disasters are not generally covered by a renter's or homeowners insurance policy. Ask your insurance agent or company if your policy fully protects you or whether you need to purchase additional coverage.

Could owning a pet cause your premium to be higher? Certain municipalities require that owners of select breeds of pets have insurance policies to cover damages and/or injuries caused by the animal. This liability might be covered under a standard renter'sinsurance policy, but some insurance companies might require the purchase of additional coverage. Talk with your insurance agent or company about the options and how they might affect your premium costs.

Does renter's insurance only cover you when you're at home? Many policies do not limit protection to home-based situations. For example, items you have insured often are covered if they are stolen by someone who breaks into your car or if they are damaged while not on your property.

Is personal liability included? A renter's insurance policy covers your property and your personal legal responsibility (or liability) for injuries to others and/or their property while they are on your property.

Will you receive additional living expenses if you have to live somewhere else while your apartment is being repaired? If there is damage to the building you are renting and you must live elsewhere while the building is being repaired, you will have coverage for additional living expenses incurred during the reconstruction period.

How do you expedite your renter's insurance claim? A home inventory, along with photos and proof of ownership, make it easier to file an accurate, detailed insurance claim in case your home is damaged or destroyed in a disaster. A home inventory can also help determine how much coverage you need from your renter's insurance.

If you have questions or are confused about your insurance policy, you can seek the help of your state insurance department. Visit http://www.NAIC.org and http://www.InsureUonline.org to find answers to your questions or to find contact information for your state insurance department.


NAR Home Buyer and Seller Survey Shows Value of Long-Term Homeownership

November 9, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, November 9, 2010Home buyers have affirmed a long-term view of homeownership, the typical seller is experiencing positive returns and the vast majority of homeowners see their property as a good investment, according to the latest consumer survey of home buyers and sellers

The 2010 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers is the latest in a series of large, national NAR surveys evaluating demographics, preferences, marketing and experiences of recent home buyers and sellers.

Although typical sellers had been in their previous home for eight years, up from seven years in the 2009 study, first-time buyers plan to stay for 10 years and repeat buyers plan to hold their property for 15 years.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder says the pattern of home buyers taking a long-term view has solidified over the past few years. "This underscores two simple facts: homeownership encourages stability and the longer you own, the better your investment."

Even with several years of price declines, the typical seller who purchased a home eight years ago experienced a median equity gain of $33,000, a 24% increase, while sellers who were in their homes for 11 to 15 years saw a median gain of 40%.

"Sellers who purchased at the top of the market and had to sell in a short time frame were hurt by the price correction, but the vast majority who are able to stay for a normal period of home ownership generally built enough equity to make a trade-up purchase," Golder said. "Despite swings in the housing market in recent years, the fact is most long-term owners see healthy gains in the value of their property."

Paul Bishop, NAR vice president of research, said a majority of buyers view their home as a good investment. "Eighty-five percent of recent home buyers see their home as a good investment, and nearly half think that investment is better than stocks," he says. "Even with the turmoil created by the housing boom and bust, this indicates the long-term view of homeownership as a fundamental goal and value remains sound. In fact, the single biggest reason most people buy a home is the simple desire to own a home of their own, cited by 31% of respondents, including 53% of first-time buyers."

The number of first-time home buyers rose to a record high 50% of all home sales from 47% in the 2009 study, building on success of the home buyer tax credit, which began in 2009. The previous cyclical high for first-time buyers was 44% in 1991; records date back to 1981.

The profile shows the median age of first-time buyers was 30 and the median income was $59,900. The typical first-time buyer purchased a 1,540-square-foot home costing $152,000, with 93% using the first-time buyer tax credit.

NAR mailed an eight-page questionnaire in July 2010 to a national sample of 111,004 home buyers and sellers who purchased their homes between July 2009 and June 2010. It generated 8,449 usable responses; the adjusted response rate was 7.9%. All information is characteristic of the 12-month period ending in June 2010 with the exception of income data, which are for 2009.

For more information and full details regarding the 2010 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, please visit www.realtor.org/prodser.nsf/Research.


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