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Archive for January, 2009

oxThis is the year of the OX. President Obama, born in the year of the Ox, has called upon all Americans to be steadfast and strong, hard working, to dig deep to find our resolve, tenacity, will to sustain ourselves in these extraordinarily challenging times. We are being called upon to be oxen.

Here in the Northeast, many homeowners who were thinking of putting the house on the market are now “upside down” so are staying put; homebuyers who wanted to upgrade are now needing to wait to see if they still have jobs; first-timers are worried that their credit scores are not high enough, their FICO reports aren’t squeaky clean enough. Everyone wants to know if the mortgage rates will fall lower, if housing prices will continue to decline.

The Question of the Year is: when will we hit bottom?

Many forecast that the Boston market, one of the first to plunge, is now on the upswing. So the bottom may finally be here.

It’s the Year Of The Ox. Are you ready for it?

You need honest, practical advice about the current market value of YOUR home. If you’re hoping to get started with your new home search, or if you’re thinking about renovating or staging your home to sell, you need a professional who’s in the trenches every day.

These are extraordinary times. Make sure you have an extraordinary Realtor on your team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five facts about the Year of the Ox

By GREG MORAGO Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle

The Lunar New Year, which begins today, ushers in the Year of the Ox. Those born under the Ox sign are dependable, calm, modest and stable. But the ox (or buffalo, cow or bull) takes on added significance in a year of global financial hardship, explains Nine-Min Cheng, community outreach director of Houston’s Chinese Community Center. “We need the Year of the Ox. We want a bull market,” says Cheng.

 

1. Bullish on Obama

President Obama, who has pledged to begin rehabilitating the economy, was born in an ox year. Those born in this year achieve through hard work and routine.

2. True blues

The ox, according to Chinese astrology, is the best friend you could choose. So are ox celebrities Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman, Jane Fonda and Warren Beatty good to their friends? Other ox celebrities include Meg Ryan, Bruce Springsteen, Bill Cosby, Robert Redford and Jim Carrey.

3. Know thy Ox

Ox lucky numbers, according to an online horoscope, are 1, 3, 5, 12, 15, 33, 35, 51 and 53. Ox careers include composer, landlord, doctor, cook, police officer, teacher, judge, banker, insurance broker and gardener.

4. Money talks

At Chinese New Year, elders give young people red envelopes filled with money. “In the western world, people exchange gifts,” Cheng says. “We exchange cash.”

5. Party like it’s 2009

The Chinese Community Center has its Lunar New Year Festival Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the center, 9800 Town Park. Cheng urges Chinese families to wear a traditional festival costume of bright colors. “The new year means a new dress,” she says. The festival is free and features dances and Asian food. Although, one assumes, no ox.

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This pre-Inaugural and Inaugural long weekend, the Obamas have shown us all just what the phrase “actions speak louder than words”  truly means.  Over the last few days, after a long train ride from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., an all-day concert Sunday, dinners last night, today, in honor of Martin Luther King, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are making their way through community centers and schools in Washington, D.C. for Community Service Day.  President-Elect Obama and Michelle Obama have been painting walls and handing out supplies with other “regular” people.  Right now they are at Coolidge Senior High School, going table to table, meeting and shaking hands with each and every young boy and girl, chatting at every table, hugging kids and talking to the real people of DC.  Clad in a pair jeans and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up (Michelle in jeans and a sweater) he tells the nation, “We’ve all got to pitch in.”  

All you have to do is see the faces of young black boys and girls, older black men and women, who are meeting the PRESIDENT, THEIR president – who looks like them and sounds like them – for the very first time in history, is profound and emotional.  

The time is NOW!  The time is HERE!   Get out there and VOLUNTEER, make a change, make a difference.  Do it now.  What we each do does matter.

Here are some historic, inspirational words from some of our greatest visionaries:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
April 3, 1968 — the day before his assassination
 “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963, the March on Washington

 

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Mahatma Ghandi

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by Katherine Waters-Clark

fall-cottage3The two little words, “We’re moving!” can stir up some very big emotions.  We might be thrilled — we’ve found our “dream house,” landed the job of a lifetime in our favorite city,  or finally saved enough to buy that farmhouse we’ve always loved. But it’s just as likely that we’re more than a little heartbroken – we’re empty-nesters who are downsizing , we’re relocating away from our family, we’re going through a divorce, surviving a death, or foreclosing on a house we can no longer afford. 

Whatever the reason, for better or worse, last year alone, millions of Americans changed addresses.  The transition has the potential to bring up a whirlwind of emotions, throwing us way off balance.

When we start to think about moving, most of us get frantically busy, arranging for moving vans, extra boxes, new paint, schools for the kids.  We push away the emotional pull seeing our son’s initials carved in the backyard oak tree.  We brush away tears when we drive by our favorite corner store.  We convince ourselves that we’ll be FINE – once we get THE MOVE over with.  Besides, we’re way too busy with the move to get all emotional.  Trouble is, once the SOLD sign is in the yard, and move is underway, we and our families are just that – all emotional.

We are emotional because we are human. We are deeply connected to those initials in the tree and that corner store.  This place that we’re leaving, our home, is where our daughter became an All-Star, our son kissed his future partner, our dad spent his final Thanksgiving.  Leaving our home is so much more than packing up the glasses, broom-sweeping the floors, signing the papers, and handing over the keys.  Our hearts and souls are buried deep within our homes. 

So how do we pull up those deep roots and leave our hearts and souls intact?  How do we maintain our equilibrium while handing over our home?

Perhaps if we put down the packing tape for a moment, we can gently say goodbye to our home, mourn the loss with our family, and let go before we leave. 

Where to begin?  These 5 “Goodbye” exercises will help.  Read them over, and if one or two resonate for you, then try them.  If you can, try them alone, with a close friend or partner, and with your children.

They will provide an emotional road map for the journey leading up to — and beyond — moving day.  Think of them as your Emotional Action Plan for integrating the emotions and the logistics of your moving day,  a “how-to” guide for acknowledging and embracing all the feelings that arise from leaving home.

1.    Reflect and Remember

grandparents-in-yardSpend some quiet time in each part of your home, inside and out. Try to recall 5 memories (wonderful or bittersweet) that took place in each spot — behind the garage, in the yard, in the living room.  Write a journal, create a videotape, or simply say them out loud, even if you’re alone.  Validate your memories – good and bad.

2.   Celebrate and Mourn

family-campfireMake a safe bonfire in your backyard (the barbecue grill or a candle work, too).  On scraps of paper, write down 5 things that you’ve loved and hated about your house, your neighborhood, and your life in this home.  One by one, toss those scraps of paper into the fire or barbecue, or burn them over the candle.  If you’d like, save a copy of this list before burning.  Create a saying (or blessing) to say (outloud or silently) each time a scrap of paper hits the flames.  “We love you, old home!”  “Goodbye, 12 River Street!” “I bless this house and I release it from my life.”  “We won’t forget our home!” and so on.

3.    Capture and Contain

Couple taking photos.Videotape the kids’ rooms.  Take a photo journal of the walls, the curtains, and the pictures on the wall. Ask the kids to “direct” the film.   Use this video to “recreate” or just remember the old room in the new house.  Walk around town, school, work, and photograph the local shops, your favorite teachers, the “gang” hanging out.  Make a DVD, create a photo album, or take footage of “an ordinary day” in the life of your home your town, your life here.

4.   Welcome The New

writing-letterWrite a “welcome” letter to the new homeowners (don’t forget, they’ve just moved, too).  Tell them about the secret room in the basement and the tree fort.  Let them know the best grocery store, the shortcut to the ball field, the name of a good babysitter.  Leave the letter for them on the counter, mail it to them the day you leave, or hide it in a secret place and wonder if they’ll ever find it!

 5.    Leave It Behind

dog-digging-in-yardjpg2Create an “Our Home” time capsule and bury it in the yard, in the wall, or in a secret place.  Make sure each family member puts in something special – but not something they’ll miss having later!  A note, a button from your jacket, a photo of your family, a newspaper with the date.

 

While some of these ceremonies will be difficult to start and get through, give yourself this very special Moving Day gift.  By taking the time to say goodbye to your old home, you will clear a space in your hearts and souls for the wonderful homes and lives of your future – wherever they may be!

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Wondering just HOW important your credit score is when you go to get a mortgage? One word: VERY. If you’re looking to buy a property in the next few months, get your credit pulled ASAP. Your loan officer can help you through the process. There may be leftover credit history items that are still lingering, or have never been removed, that will negatively affect your score – sometimes by 40 points! Getting credit cleaned up can take up to three months or longer in some cases.

Not sure where to begin cleaning up your credit? Contact me and I’ll be happy to help.

To give you an idea of credit score and loan rates, here are the very latest rates available according to credit score:

Credit Purchase Refinance no cash out
Score Equity 20% $400K loan Equity 20% $400K loan

740 4.625% 4.875%
720 4.750% 5.000%
700 4.875% 5.500%
680 5.125% 5.625%
660 5.625% 6.875%
640 6.250% 6.875% .5 pt
620 6.875% 6.875% .75 pts

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Hmmm. Should you stay or should you go? These days, many Homeowners, when deciding about selling,  are staying put.  
Still wish you could have a bigger kitchen, an updated bathroom, a fresh face on your old home?  check out my renovation tips!

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Harried Homeowners, listen up.  If you’re in trouble with your mortgage, if you’re behind in your payments, you are not alone.  Help is out there.  

I found this informative article and wanted to share it with you.  This blog has many authors, and great information about this topic.

Read on for more information from this fantastic blog called http://loanmodify.wordpress.com/

Here’s their email: planright@ymail.com

Short Sale, Loan Modification, Deed in Lieu and Other Options: How to Avoid Foreclosure and Get Out of Default

Written by the good folks (no name on this article but see blog for more info!) in Sacramento, CA

“Whether you’re about to have your house sold at auction, or you’ve just missed your first payment, you still have options! In fact, even if you’re still making your payments on time, but feel that in the near future, you won’t be able to keep up, it’s time to act! As any financial expert will tell you, ‘prior planning prevents poor performance.’ I can personally tell you, as President and C.E.O. of the leading loss mitigation company, Option Next, at our company, we believe that the only way you can possibly decide what to do, is by knowing your options…

This article will go through each of the best available options, and will explain the advantages and drawbacks of each one…

What Are Your Options?

1. Refinance – If you’re facing hardship because of the terms of your current mortgage, such as an adjustable rate mortgage which has started adjusting out of control, you may still be able to refinance into a fixed-rate loan. This option may not be available if you’re already far behind on your mortgage, or if your credit history is severely damaged. This is something that a qualified loss mitigation company can inquire about on your behalf. They should be able to give you a clear answer as to whether this is possible without charging you any fees. There are of course fees if you pursue the refinancing, but anyone who charges you a processing fee just to find out if it’s possible is looking to cash in on your misfortune…

Refinancing Advantages: No damage to your credit, you stay in your home and work out a payment you can afford.

Refinancing Disadvantages: Not available if your credit is severely damaged, only works if you owe less than the property is worth, the monthly payments will still be somewhat high, as you are refinancing your entire mortgage balance plus new closing costs.

Summary: Refinancing is most effective if your mortgage has an adjustable rate, and either has yet to adjust, or has just adjusted, and you are no more than 30 days late. If you don’t owe more than the property is worth, have reasonable credit, and would want to keep your property, refinancing is the best approach.

2. Loan Modification – If the hardship you’re facing is temporary; if you feel that you can reasonably continue to assume your current mortgage if only some adjustments were made, such as deferring your past due amount to the end of the loan or reducing the payment for the next few months, then it’s possible that a good loss mitigator can negotiate a solution with your bank. Banks do not want to foreclose on your property. They would rather take your money than your land. They are poorly equipped to manage ownership of real estate, and would rather find a way to salvage the loan. A qualified loan mitigation company may be able to work out an agreement that works for both you and your bank.

Loan Modification Advantages: No damage to your credit, you stay in your home and work out a payment you can afford.

Loan Modification Disadvantages: May not be available if your credit is severely damaged. Monthly payments will still be reasonably high as you are keeping your entire mortgage balance plus default amount. Also, loss mitigation companies generally charge a pretty hefty fee for this service, sometimes as much as $5,000 or more.

Summary: Loan Modification is most effective if your mortgage has an adjustable rate, or if you’ve fallen behind in such a way where you would normally be able to make your monthly mortgage payment, but just can’t keep up with the late fees and penalties. In most cases, it is only the late fees, penalties and interest rate that the bank would be willing to negotiate. If you don’t think that you’d be able to afford the mortgage at its current principal balance, even if the interest rate were reduced and the late charges removed, then a loan modification would not be a good option for you, and some fly-by-night loan mitigator may end up taking you for a ride.

3. Sell Your House – If the amount you owe on your property is less than or equal to the current market value of your property, you can always sell your house and pay off the mortgage in one lump sum. However, in today’s real estate market, that’s rarely the case. Most people in mortgage trouble today are faced with the problem of owing more on their property than it’s worth. If you are in a position to sell your home and pay off the mortgage in full, then you don’t need a loss mitigator and should simply contact your local Realtor…

Selling Advantages: No damage to your credit, your mortgage is paid off in full and you walk away..

Selling Disadvantages: Not an option if you owe more than the property is worth. You give up the house and lose any remaining equity to closing costs and broker commissions.

Summary: The traditional sale option is not available to most homeowners in today’s marketplace, as most owe more on their houses than they are worth in today’s market… If you are in a position where you owe less than the property is worth; If you’re willing to walk away from the property, this is a great option to preserve your credit…

4. Short-Sell – If you’re in that ever-growing category of homeowners who owe more on their property than it’s worth, and you’d like to sell your property, a short-sale may be right for you. In a short-sale situation, the bank agrees to take less than what you owe on the property in exchange for an immediate sale and a payoff at closing. You, the homeowner, end up walking away having settled your entire mortgage for whatever the property could sell for. The banks will report this on your credit history as ‘Settled For Less Than Owed.’ This is a negative mark on your credit score, but is nothing close to a bankruptcy or foreclosure. A short-sale, more than any other option, requires a highly competent loss mitigation company. See below for tips on how to make sure the company you pick is experienced and legitimate.

Short-Sale Advantages: Minimal damage to your credit, the entire debt is wiped away and banks will not go after you for the difference between the foreclosure yield and your debt. There will be no foreclosure or bankruptcy on your record. A legitimate loss mitigation company should be able to minimize any promisory note that the bank may request.

Short-Sale Disadvantages: You give up your house and suffer a slight black mark on your credit. The process is lengthy and somewhat complex, and a bad loss mitigator can cause it to fall apart.

Summary: Short-sales are most effective if you owe more than the property is worth, are facing financial hardship and are or will soon become unable to afford your mortgage; If you have little or no liquid assets, and are willing to sell your home.

5. Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure – This is the last resort when facing foreclosure. It means simply giving away the deed to the bank in exchange for them not pursuing a foreclosure action against you. This does significant damage to your credit score, but is still better than a foreclosure.

Deed-In-Lieu Advantages: No foreclosure on your record, and the bank will not pursue you for the remaining balance.

Deed-In-Lieu Disadvantages: You give up your house and suffer a significant black mark on your credit. It’s only available if you haven’t been able to find a buyer for over six months, and if your sale date hasn’t been set yet.

Summary: Short-sales are most effective if you owe more than the property is worth, are facing financial hardship and are or will soon become unable to afford your mortgage, and if you have little or no liquid assets.

6. Bankruptcy – This is the final alternative to foreclosure. This can be a costly process, and depending on the laws of your state may or may not be particularly helpful.

Bankruptcy Advantages: Buys you some time to come up with better options, and allows the bankruptcy trustee to act as a loss mitigator on your behalf.

Bankruptcy Disadvantages: Suffer a significant black mark on your credit. On its own, it does not provide a permanent solution, and when done properly, results in huge fees to a lawyer and a referee. The results of improper foreclosure filings are too disastrous to even discuss…

Summary: Bankruptcy is a last resort, and is often too expensive for people in financial hardship to afford. A sloppy bankruptcy filing does nothing but waste your time and money, ruin what’s left of your credit, and will often prevent you from exploring the better options most likely available to you. Never pursue a bankruptcy without speaking to a well-qualified attorney.”

 

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You’ve got good credit, you’ll GET a good tax credit, and you’ve been saving for your down payment.  You’ve even gotten pre-approved. You don’t have a property to sell, and you’re really sick of renting. You no longer want to pay someone else’s mortgage. You’re ready to make a change.

Sounds like this could be YOUR year to become a homeowner.

Not sure where to begin?  Okay, let’s back up.

Although you can certainly look for a home on your own – lots of people do – you may end up surfing the Internet till all hours for listings, dragging your missing-football-game partner, your missing-naptime new baby, or your missing-patience mother-in-law to Open Houses all winter long, trying in vain to figure out WHAT to offer for a house. What if you offer too much? How will you know?

Once you get a house “under agreement,” what happens when the Inspection doesn’t go well? What if you need a new roof or heating system and the Seller won’t pay for it? What if there are termites? What if your financing falls apart right before your P&S? What do you do then? Remember that Listing Agent? Well, they work for the SELLER, not for you. Their job is to get the BEST deal for the Seller. So who’s going to help YOU?

If you had a Buyer’s Agent, you could turn to them.

So… just what is a Buyer’s Agent? What will a Buyer’s Agent do for you? And more importantly, how much does a Buyer’s Agent cost?

WORKING WITH A BUYER’S AGENT IS FREE.   A Buyer’s Agent earns a commission at closing that is a portion of the fee that the Seller has agreed to pay an agent.  So the fee is paid from the proceeds of the sale of a home.

What Is A Buyer’s Agent?

A Buyer’s Agent is a real estate professional who works for home buyers. A good Buyer’s Agent will be your advocate, assertively guiding and advising you through every step of the complex homebuying process. A Buyer’s Agent will put your best interests first, negotiating the best price, terms for your new home.

Working with a Buyer’s Agent will save you stress, time and money.

How Much Does a Buyer’s Agent Cost?

Working with a Buyer’s Agent is FREE.

How Does A Buyer’s Agent Get Paid?

A Buyer’s Agent is paid a percentage of the proceeds of the sale from the Seller at closing. When a homeowner decides to sell his/her property with a Realtor (the Listing Agent), they agree to pay that agent a percentage of the sale as commission. The Listing Agent works for the Seller to market the home and find a Buyer. Their loyalty lies with the Seller, not the Buyer. When the house is sold, that commission goes to the Listing Agent. If there is a Buyer’s Agent (which there usually is North of Boston), then the commission is split between the Selling Agent and the Buying Agent.

So, there is NO upfront cost to you when you work with a Buyer’s Agent.

A Buyer’s Agent will help you:

  • Recruit your Home Team: lender, real estate attorney, and inspector.
  • Advise and assist you with the pre-approval process.
  • Find and preview properties for you.
  • Schedule showings for you.
  • Tour houses with you.
  • Formulate Offers and Counteroffers with you.
  • Oversee inspections, radon tests, contingencies, paperwork.
  • Manage all aspects of your purchase & sale and closing.
  • Assist in assembling your Move-In Team: home insurance company, movers, roofers, house cleaners, plumbers, electricians, and painters.

Don’t forget: unless you’re buying a home directly from an Owner (FSBO), the real estate agent that’s listing the house works for the Seller – not you. Why shouldn’t you be represented, too?!

It’s oh-so-much easier to work with a Buyer’s Agent then to go it alone.

Especially if it’s FREE.

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