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Archive for April, 2011

Surprise, Surprise! Homeowners Schooled On Mortgages More Likely To Make On-Time Payments

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

In another stunning revelation from those in the mortgage industry, we have learned that potential homeowners who participate in prepurchase education and counseling programs may be more likely to pay their mortgages on time.

Hmmm…who would have ever thought that being educated about mortgages might actually lead to better decision making when it comes time to pay the bill? Well, apparently the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) needed a study to prove that - a study that also found that homeowners who participate in default counseling are more likely to have their loans modified.

But it turns out that this study isn’t even all that trustworthy. Why would that be? “The evidence on this point is not consistent and compelling,” the MBA said in a statement.

Even though the MBA’s study is questionable, let’s just say that every potential or actual homeowner receives these varied types of mortgage education programs. The federal programs this country has in place to actually help them aren’t actually very helpful at all. What’s a homeowner to do now?

A Look At The Housing Market – Five Years After The Bubble Burst

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Even with declining home values and a market that at times doesn’t seem like it will ever recover, Americans still believe in the investment value of homeownership, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

More than three-quarters (81 percent) of consumers agree that buying a home is the best long-term investment a person can make. That’s saying a lot considering some economists think it could be a decade before the nation’s housing market fully recovers.

Pew’s research found that 37 percent of people “strongly agree” that homeownership is the best investment a person can make while 44 percent “somewhat agree.” While these numbers may not seem like anything to celebrate, I agree with the report when it states that “confidence at any level these days is notable, given that the housing market is mired in the longest and deepest decline in modern American history.”

Here’s more of what Pew reported:

· Home prices nationwide are down 31 percent from their pre-recession peak in July 2006.

· 47 percent of homeowners said their home is worth less now than before the recession began; 31 percent said its value has stayed the same; 17 percent said their home is worth more.

· Of those who say their home has lost value, 86 percent expect it to take at least three years for values to recover to pre-recession levels; 42 percent said it will take at least six years; and 10 percent said it will take more than 10 years.

There’s a lot more to the report, including how homeowners are more positive than renters about the financial wisdom of owning a home. You can see it all here.

Investigation Reveals Banks Discriminate Against Foreclosed Properties In African-American Neighborhoods

Monday, April 11th, 2011

One foreclosed home is the same as the next…right? Not so, according to a recent investigation by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA).

The investigation found that financial institutions are discriminating in the treatment of bank-owned properties, with greater care being taken to maintain and secure properties owned in white neighborhoods than they do in African-American neighborhoods.

It was discovered that many properties in white neighborhoods had well-maintained and trash-free lawns, secured entrances and generally nice upkeep. However, foreclosed homes in African-American neighborhoods and Latino neighborhoods were more likely to be viewed as blighted properties due to cracked foundations, leaky roofs and “warning” signs out front.

I think NFHA President and CEO Shanna L. Smith’s response to the findings of this investigation sums it up best:

“In the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis, we are again seeing banks behave in a way that raises civil rights concerns. By failing to maintain properties in African-American neighborhoods in the same way that they maintain similar properties in white neighborhoods, banks are undervaluing properties and helping to stall economic recovery in our nation’s neighborhoods of color. Banks that own foreclosed homes have a fiduciary duty to their investors to secure a fair price for the homes, and they have an obligation to neighborhoods and communities to maintain those homes. Following best practices will help stabilize property values, encourage community reinvestment and increase the local tax base at a crucial time in our economic recovery.”

I’d like to say that I’m surprised by banks’ actions, but in light of all the mis-doings of these financial institutions recently – including the robo-signing debacle and how Wachovia laundered millions of dollars for Mexico’s drug cartels – this is just the latest disappointment in an ever-growing list.

Mobile Home Shopping Popular In Boston

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Smartphone users love their apps. Whether it’s a game to pass the time on the train ride home or one that finds restaurants nearby, there’s no doubt that apps have invaded our lives – even when it comes to shopping for a home.

There are a few different ones out there, but it turns out that Bostonians love to browse homes using Zillow Mobile. Boston is among Zillow’s top 20 mobile cities.

So, what exactly does Zillow’s app offer for people on the prowl for a home?

  • See value of any home in the country
  • See rent estimates on most homes, condos, apartments and townhouses in the country
  • Filter searches by price, beds, baths and other criteria
  • Search by monthly payment
  • Full-screen color photos
  • You can save your searches
  • Get a Push notification when new results come in
  • Email homes to a friend
  • Share homes on Facebook and Twitter
  • View high-resolution aerial maps

Zillow’s not the only mobile phone app around. You can also check out ones offered by Move Inc., EveryBlock, Walk Score (which rates neighborhoods based on the ease of walking to shops, restaurants and other public places) and Smarter Agent. You should also ask your local real estate agent if they offer something specifically for your hometown.

Celebrate! It’s Fair Housing Month!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Every month has become known as “such and such” month, and April is no exception to the rule. But for you real estate-minded folks, April is the time to celebrate Fair Housing Month.

For those of you real estate nerds, here are some fun Fair Housing facts:

· April 2011 is the 43rd anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Fair Housing Act into law in 1968.

· 2011’s Fair Housing Month theme is “Live Free.” According to HUD, the message is that “discrimination has no home in America and that no person should be denied housing or treated differently because of their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, family status or disability.

· The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 required that buildings and facilities designed, constructed, altered or leased with certain federal funds after September 1969 must be accessible to and useable by handicapped persons.

· In January, new regulations intended to ensure housing programs don’t discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity were proposed by HUD.

How Far Would You Go To Pay Your Mortgage?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

If you think you’ve seen it all, I’m here to tell you there’s at least one thing left to see. Adzookie.com, a mobile advertisement company, will pay your mortgage if you let them paint an advertisement that covers the entire front side of your home.

I always thought it was kind of crazy when people let companies do something similar to their cars, but this is taking it to a whole other level. But when I think about it, can you really blame some people for wanting to do this? If your option was foreclosure or a huge advertisement painted for a few months on your home, what would you choose?

Tuesday is when Adzookie first started offering this deal and the company has already received more than 1,000 applications. Here’s the deal: For every month your home bears the ad, that’s a month’s mortgage Adzookie will pay for you. When you think about it … not a bad deal at all.

However, the biggest catch is what your neighbors will think and say about you behind your back. That is, if you care.

Walking Away From Your Mortgage? Not So Fast

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Defaulting on your home loan used to be a hush-hush topic … you know, back in 2004. But now it’s not uncommon for your neighbor to talk about how he just doesn’t want to pay his mortgage anymore.

What that neighbor of yours doesn’t know is that most Americans – 60 percent – don’t agree with what he’s doing, according to a recent survey from FindLaw.com, a legal information website. It turns out that most people don’t think walking away from a mortgage shouldn’t be an option for homeowners.

One-third of the population (34 percent) said it’s OK for homeowners to walk away from mortgages, but only if they aren’t able to make the monthly payments. Only 3 percent believe homeowners should be able to walk away from mortgages anytime they want.

Now, this can be a complicated issue. Some people walk away because they simply can’t afford the mortgage payments anymore. However, I know I’ve read an article or two about some of the super wealthy walking away from their underwater homes because they’d rather take loss where it stands.

What do you think? Is it ever OK to walk away from a mortgage?

Fido Wins Round One In MCAD Court Ruling

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

A Massachusetts man living with HIV/AIDS has won his battle (for the moment) against his Brighton landlord that ordered him to get rid of his emotional support dog or move.

The Boston Globe reports that Richard M. Blake was advised by his doctor to get a support dog because they can help lift a patient’s mood and improve their mental and physical health. Blake brought a dog home in May 2008 and two months later he received a letter (sent to all tenants) that a no-pet policy would be put in effect for the Brighton Gardens building on Tremont Street beginning that October.

Blake ended up filing a discrimination complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) in December 2008 after his unsuccessful attempts to get the landlords to accommodate his disability. In what some see as a landmark ruling, the commission ordered the landlords to pay Blake $25,000 for refusing to accommodate him. The landlords will also have to pay a $5,000 fine “given their utter intransigence” in refusing to discuss a “reasonable accommodation” with Blake, the Globe reports.

For some, pets can be a hot-button issue when it comes to rental housing. The Brighton landlords have said they will appeal this decision, but what do you think? I’d like to hear your opinion on this topic.