Tuesday, December 30, 2008

National Home Sales Numbers

I have had a lot of requests from people saying that they love it when I put different kinds of numbers and statistics up. So, here are some more that I have come across. Only these are national statistics.

Existing home sales in November-including single family homes, townhomes, condo's and co-op's fell 8.6% to 4.49 million units sold. Year to date, existing home sales are down 10.6% from the same time last year where there were 5.02 million units sold.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed rate mortgage fell to 6.09% in November which is down from the October rate of 6.2%. Last November the rate was 6.21%. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30 year rate fell to 5.19%-the lowest on record since the they started keeping track of this statistic in 1971. (that was when I posted saying that you might want to refi your existing mortgage).

Total housing inventory at the end of November rose 0.1% to 4.20 million existing homes available and on the market for sale, which represents an 11.2 month supply at the current sales pace. This is up from a 10.3 month supply in October.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $181,300 in November, down 13.2% from November of 2007 when the median was $208,800. This number is continuing downward due to the number of houses in foreclosure.

Existing home sales in the Northeast dropped 12.0% in November and are down 18% against last November. In the Midwest, sales declined 7.4% in November and is down 16.0% against last November. The median price in the midwest was $142,400 down 11.2% from a year ago. In the south, November was down 10.9% and are down 17.6% against last November. Existing home sales in the west were down 4.3% in November but are down 17.9% against last November.

Hopefully this scratches your itch for numbers for this week :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I hope you have a safe and Merry Christmas! I think Coca-Cola does an excellent job with advertising, here are a couple of Coca-Cola Christmas comercials from the past that I have enjoyed. I hope you do to.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


As what is a habit for me, I woke up this morning turned on my "Morning Joe" on MSNBC to see what is happening that I may have missed. The big topic of the day? How the banks that have received bailout money have $1.5 billion in corporate bonuses and vacations etc. with part of that $700 billion we gave them. Several questions popped in my head at that time. What would Jesus have done in this whole "bail out" situation? Would he have bailed out the banks or let them flounder? How would he have looked at how we have used our talents that were given to us as a nation? We are a nation founded on Christian principles, does he feel that we are following those principles or using it only in certain situations that make it easy to look in the mirror instead of on the tough decisions that make it hard to look in the mirror? Would Jesus be proud of us or disappointed in us as a nation?

I know those are deep questions, but that is what I've been thinking about today.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Read This If You Want To Save Money!

If your current mortgage is 6% or higher, you may want to pay close attention to the word that I am about to write....."REFINANCE". On a $150,000 loan you could save $100 per month, or more, on your mortgage right now by refinancing. As of 3 minutes before I started this post, I have seen rates being qouted as low as 4.75% with the highest being around 5.5%. And, those are 30 year fixed rate mortgages with no prepayment penalties and LOW closing costs! On Tuesday, Wells Fargo reported that new refinance applications equaled $5.4 Billion in real estate being refinanced. In my opinion, do not wait to see if rates are going to drop further. Refinance right now......as soon as you finish reading this, pick up the phone and call one of the people listed below. They can help you and they are local lenders that I trust and refer people to. Once again, do not wait or you could miss out. Rates can easily bounce up 1/2% to 3/4% in one morning or afternoon. Here are the lenders I told you about with how you can contact them, and please tell them that I told you to call them:

If you have any questions, you can always call me on my cell phone as well. That number is 574-370-8156. See you later, I have to go refinance now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

St. Joseph County Stats

Here are some stats for home sales in St. Joseph county thru November of this year compared to thru November of last year. In 2007, thru November there were 3,820 units sold vs. 3,008 this year which is -21%. In total $ volume thru November of 2007 it was $456,353,091 Vs. $338,558,654 thru November of 2008 which is down -26%. The average sale price for the same time period in 2007 was $119,464 vs $112,553 this year which is -6%. As I come across more statistics and numbers I will be sure to report them.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why My Wife Probably Thinks I am a Psycho......The Sauce Pan Incident

This is the 1st post of what will be a series of posts entitled "Why My Wife Probably Thinks I am a Psycho"

This time of year I tend to eat a lot of soup. My soup of choice...Progresso. In our household, we have only 1 1qt. sauce pan. So, in years past, I have usually microwaved a fair amount of soup as the pan sits in the dishwasher waiting for a full load to be washed. A 1 qt. sauce pan I have found works perfectly for a can of soup. A 2qt. pan is just too big.

This year, I have decided that I did not want to microwave my soup so I decided to buy a new 1qt. sauce pan. I figured, "I should be able to find one for about $5". I forgot that the last time I bought something like a sauce pan was about 10-13 years ago. I was stunned! Everywhere I went everyplace wanted $25 for a 1 qt sauce pan.....What's Up With That?!! Even Walmart wanted $15! I went to Target, Walmart, Kmart, Value City (which is going out of business) Kohl's and last but not least, Big Lots. I drove around to 7 places in order to find a $5 sauce pan so I could cook my can of soup (I went to Walmart twice).

My last stop was Big Lots where I found a pan that would work for $10, when it dawned on me. I have probably spent 1-2 hours looking for some stupid pan for my soup and probably spent $2-3 in gasoline driving around. So, disgruntled in my search, I bought the $10 sauce pan at Big Lots. See what my wife has to put up with? She's a saint. And this is just one reason why my wife probably thinks that I am a psycho!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Elkhart County Foreclosres-December

In December, Elkhart county will have 58 homes taken back by the bank at sheriff's auction. What was interesting, but great news, is that 46 additional homes had the foreclosure stopped by doing workouts etc.. Out of those 58 that are still being foreclosed on, only 1 owed more than $200,000 and none owed less than $50,000. Here is the breakdown by city for the homes still being foreclosed on:

Elkhart: 39
Goshen: 11
Bristol: 5
Nappanee: 1
Granger: 1
Osceola: 1

St. Joseph County Foreclosures-December

For the month of December, St. Joseph county looks to have a total of 153 homes will be taken back by the bank at Sheriff sale. Due to the holidays, the last sheriff sale of the month will be December 18th. Out of those 153 homes, 6 of them owe $200,000 or more and 19 owe less than 50,000. Here is how it breaks down by city:

South Bend: 109
Mishawaka: 25
Osceola: 7
Granger: 5
New Carlisle: 3
Walkerton: 3
Lakeville: 1
North Liberty: 1

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Inspirsational Video Clips

I'll admit it. I am such a sap for inspirational video clips. Faith based, business motivational, sports related, it doesn't matter. I like them all. And it does not stop at video clips either. One of my favorite stores was successories at the mall before it closed. You know the place that had those cool posters about Leadership and Teamwork etc. Below are a few video clips that I find inspiring. One is from a site called "Simple Truths" and the other is a speech that was given in 1993 from Jimmy Valvano about a month and a half or so before he lost his battle with cancer. He was so weak, that he had to helped up and down the stairs. The last video is of Bono from U2 (enough said). I'd be interested to hear what your thoughts are on these videos.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Someday at Christmas

Every year it seems, someone comes out with a remake of an older Christmas song that I like. This year, it is Jack Johnson. Here are the lyrics to a remake of a song that Stevie Wonder orignally wrote in 1967 followed by a Youtube audio clip so you can hear the new recording. I love listening to Jack Johnson, and this is a really well written song:

Someday at Christmas, men won't be boys
Playing with bombs like boys play with toys
One warm December, our hearts will see
A world where men are free.

And someday at Christmas, there will be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found out what life is really worth
Then there will be peace on Earth.

Someday all of our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you or for me
But someday at Christmas time.

And someday at Christmas there will be no tears
All men are equal and no men have fears
In one shining moment my heart ran away
From the world that we live in today.

And someday at Christmas, men will not fail
Take all because your love will prevail
Someday in a new world that we can only start
With hope in every heart.

And someday all of our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you or for me
But someday at Christmas time.

There will be peace on earth,
I said there will be peace on earth.

Cool Video

Sometimes you just have to dance!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Big 3

A few people have asked my opinion of "The Big 3" auto makers and what should be done. So, here it is.

I think that we need to help out the domestic automobile manufacturers because this will directly effect everyone if we do not. I don't like bailouts. But, I feel that if we do not act on this one, it will send us into a depression. That's right, a depression. GM seems to be the most vulnerable of the three right now and from what has been said, if they do not get this bridge-loan then they will have to file bankruptcy. Contrary to what some believe, this would not cause GM to close their doors, at least not right away.

If GM filed bankruptcy, they would be able to reorganize and keep the company operating. But, by filing bankruptcy, many of the suppliers for the auto industry would be forced to close because they would not be able to collect on what is owed to them by GM. This would cause hundreds of thousands of jobs to be lost if not millions. Remember, each time someone loses a job, that is one more person that is not shopping at Wal-Mart or Lowes or Burger King etc. Eventually those supplier job losses would have a ripple effect throughout communities and cause non-auto related businesses to fail causing even more job losses.

The other problem is that the suppliers generally supply all 3 of the American auto makers. So if the suppliers start to fall and go out of business, it is only a matter of time before GM would go under anyway because they would not be getting the necessary parts they need. You may see all 3 go under if one of them files bankruptcy. You actually might even see a foreign auto maker (not Honda or Toyota though) go under due to ripple effect this would cause since those same suppliers work with some of them as well.

So, we should give them the loan.

Here is my advice to the big 3 though. They need to drastically change the way they do business. The top 2 auto manufacturers, in my opinion, are Toyota and Honda--in that order. The big 3 needs to look at how Toyota and Honda does business. Toyota has 3 product lines, Toyota- Lexus and Scion. Honda has 2 lines, Honda and Acura. GM has 7 lines, Chevy-GMC-Buick- Pontiace- Cadillac- Saturn and Saab. They also own 20% of Suzuki. Ford has Ford, Mercury, Lincoln and Volvo. Chrysler has Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep. GM and Ford really need to reduce the number of lines that they currently have.

If I were GM, I would sell off Saab and the interest in Suzuki. Then combine the lines to have just Chevy and Cadillac. Most of GM's lines are duplicates anyway. Anything you buy with the GMC name on it came off of a Chevy assembly line. To cut costs with tooling etc. it would only make sense. Mercury is just a duplicate of Ford products and I would cut that line if I were Ford. GM could have high end line which would be Cadillac and everything else could be run under Chevy.

One of the other things that has never made sense to me, is why the big 3 always cut a product a product line just when the name recognition is obvious to everyone. Can you remember when we did not have the Toyota Camry or Corolla, or the Honda Accord or Civic? Ford had a good thing going with the Taurus and Escort, Chevy had the Cavalier, Pontiac had the Grand Prix and remember the Dodge Dynasty? All of those products are gone. Along with all of the money spent on Branding. The #1 selling pickup in the world is the Ford F150 and it has never changed its name. The Buick LeSabre has always been a decent seller as well, once again though it has been around forever. Keep the product lines that are recognizable and bring back some that have been dropped. Chevy did finally bring back the Malibu and Dodge brought back the Charger which were good moves.

The other thing that the big 3 could do is reduce the number of engines that go into these cars and trucks. We don't need 5 different 4 cylinder options-none of which is a hyrbid or 4 different v-8 options. We need 2-3 4 cylinders with one of them being a hybrid. Same with v-6's and v-8's. Did it make any sense to anyone that the 1st hybrid that was put in a GM vehicle was an $80,000 Cadillac Escalade? WOW, now you can get 18 miles to the gallon instead of 13.

If Today Was Your Last Day

I had a little extra time over the weekend to listen to some music for a change so there may be a couple of posts coming up about music and lyrics which of course includes this post. One of the songs I really listened to was a great new song by Nickelback called "If Today Was Your Last Day". I love songs with a message, songs that make you think about what you are doing and where you are going. Anyway, here are the lyrics. If you get a chance I highly suggest listening to it on i-tunes or where ever you listen to music.

My best friend gave me the best advice
He said each day is a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride

If today was your last day
and tomorrow was too late
could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like you last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?
If today was your last day

Against the grain should be a way of life
What's worth the prize is always worth the fight
Every second counts because there's no second try
So live like you'll never live it twice
Don't take the free ride in your own life

If today was your last day
and tomorrow was too late
could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?
Would you call old friends you never see?
Reminisce of memories
Would you forgive your enemies?
Would you find that one your dreaming of?
Swear up and down to God above
That you finally fall in love
If today was your last day

If today was your last day
Would you make your mark by mending a broken heart?
You know it's never too late to shoot for the stars
Regardless of who you are
So do whatever it takes
'Cause you can't rewind a moment in this life
Let nothing stand in your way
'Cause the hands of time are never on your side

If today was your last day
and tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?
Would you call old friends you never see?
Reminisce of memories
Would you forgive your enemies?
Would you find that one you're dreaming of?
Swear up and down to God above
That you finally fall in love
If today was your last day

Friday, December 5, 2008

Interest Rates at 4.5%?

Yesterday, the Treasury Department announced they were tinkering with the idea of reducing interest rates for new purchases to 4.5% while currently interest rates are somewhere in the mid 5% range. This new rate would only be for new purchases not refinances. I have had several people in the last 24 hours ask me what I thought about this, so here are my thoughts:

The more I have thought about this over the past 24 hours, the more I think this is a really BAD idea. I understand the thought process behind it. Lower the rates to give an incentive for people to get out and buy up the excess inventory of homes that are on the market. But, here are the problems with that I see with that thought process.

1. It would cause a short term housing bubble. By artificially flooding the market with buyers, if it actually would work, you would create a temporary demand that would raise prices. After the rates went back up, the bubble would burst and we would be back in the same position we are in now---but only worse!

2. What happens when these buyers, who have bought at 4.5%, go to resell in a few years. The new buy rate will not be that low and they will end up paying for it on the next purchase.

3. The problem in the housing market could be more easily resolved by the re-implementation of gift programs through FHA. A few months ago, our government took away the ability for sellers to do down payment assistance programs for buyers. Starting early 2009 buyers will be required to have a minimum down payment of 3.5%. There would be a large number of qualified buyers with good credit history that cannot afford the 3.5% down payment. By taking that rule off of the books, you could create an influx of legitimate buyers. This last housing bubble was caused by giving loans to people with poor credit with nothing down. Not by giving no down loans to people with good credit.

4. It might have the opposite effect. It is possible that by lowering the interest rate to 4.5% it could create even more inventory in a market that already has too much. Because this rate would be good on only purchases, you could have people trying to sell there home in order to buy and take advantage of the 4.5% rate. This would actually take housing prices even lower than what they currently are.

Well, that is what I think about that idea. I would be glad to hear your thoughts. And, just a FYI, these thoughts go 100% against what the National Association of Realtors thinks we should do. They are in favor of, and pushing for this 4.5% interest rate. To make your opinion heard, call your local congressman. Mine is Joe Donnelly and his number is 574-288-2780.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

FDIC Foreclosure Solution

I have been saying for months, to those that would listen, that we need to find a way to help owner occupant home owners stay in there home through loan modifications and forbearance arrangements. The FDIC must have been reading my mind. Recently, and with little press coverage, the FDIC has proposed a solution to the foreclosure crisis that I think will work. A couple of months ago, the FDIC took over Indy Mac Bank. Since then, they have implemented a plan with Indy Mac that they feel would work nation wide.

Through the Indy Mac experience, the FDIC found that only 4% of delinquent loans are getting help through Loan Modifications. Their solution, to reduce the 1st lien mortgage payments to as low as 31% of the households monthly income through rate reductions, extension of terms and principal forbearance. A loss share guarantee on redefaults of modified mortgages can provide the necessary incentive to modify mortgages on a sufficient scale, while leveraging available government funds to affect more mortgages. The FDIC would be prepared to serve as contractor for the Treasury Dept. and already has extensive experience in the Indy Mac modification process. In other words, the government would back part of the loans so that the banks do not suffer all of the loss in case of a redefault and would be willing to implement and run point on this so that the rest of the government does not screw it up.

The FDIC reports that there are 1.4 million loans that are currently 60 days past due and an additional 3 million loans are projected to become delinquent by the end of 2009. That's 4.4 million loans that will have gone delinquent. Of this 4.4 million loans, the FDIC projects that 2.2 million (1/2 of the loans) can be modified. This would result in helping out $444 Billion worth of loans. Assuming a redefault rate of 33%, the FDIC would prevent 1.5 Million foreclosures by the end of 2009! And, the FDIC estimates that this program will cost a total of $24.4 Billion. A far cry from these $700 billion bailouts we keep seeing.

To view the actual FDIC proposal, click here: http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/loans/loanmod/index.html

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

203K Loans

Imagine this. You are looking for a home to buy and you find one with the perfect location. It's close to the right school, close to work, close to friends and family. But, there is one big problem. You can only purchase by going FHA because you do not have the money to put down to go conventional and this house that is in the perfect location is a wreck and will never pass FHA guidelines in its current state.

That situation is a common dilema with a lot of home buyers right now. Most would, on the advice of their REALTOR, look for another home or wait until something else pops up on the market. But, I have a solution (which is why you should use me as your REALTOR). It's called a 203k loan. It is a FHA loan that will allow you to roll into your loan the repairs that are needed. And it is available on both purchases and refinances. There are 2 types of 203k loans that are available- Streamline and Regular.

A streamline 203k loan can be used for things such as new carpet, paint, appliances, furnace, ac, water heater, windows, siding or even a kitchen or bath remodel. Projects that typically "fix up" the house and have a cost between $10,000 to $25,000. These projects must be completed by a licensed approved contractor within 6 months of the purchase or refinance. The money is held in an escrow account and paid out to the contractors when the work is completed.

A Regular 203k loan works the same way that the streamline does, but it is for larger issues like foundation work or adding a room onto the house.

The benefits of doing the renovations at the time of purchase is that you only have one closing, one set of closing costs, one payment, and you get to see the house transform before your eyes into a home or your own. The appraisal at the time of purchase is based upon the completed work and added value. All work estimates must be done before the appraisal happens. The estimates are then given to the appraisor so the repairs will be taken into consideration when doing the appraisal.

There are only a couple of lenders in the Michiana area that have a proven track record for 203k loans. One of them is Michelle Zarobinski of Wells Fargo who helped contribute to the information in this blog post. If you would like to contact Michelle to discuss your options, you can contact her at 574-252-4017. Please tell her that you read about her on my blog.

First Time Home Buyers

Making the decision to buy a home for the 1st time is always a huge one. The buyer, understandably, is nervous and unsure about what is going on. So, it is important that the buyer surround them self with people that they can trust and rely on. Part of that surrounding needs to be a good REALTOR. Do your homework and make sure your REALTOR has a good reputation maybe by running a Google search to see what comes up, does he/she work for a recognizable company (like Prudential-hint, hint) or is it a company you've never heard of? You should never feel pressured to buy. Your REALTOR should be able to take you through a wide variety of homes to make sure that you are making a wise decision. They should not be there to sell you a home, but instead help you make a wise purchase. You should be able to ask your REALTOR questions and get straight answers to your concerns. They should be educating you on the buying process. The goal should be for you to have a smooth experience with as little stress as possible. A well informed buyer is a good buyer. If you don't have a REALTOR, ask your lender or someone you know to refer you to one and ask them why they are refering that person to you, why are they different?

Another important part of the people you choose to surround yourself with is your Lender. A good lender will take the time to explain different loan programs to you to help you decide which is best. Sometimes, a conventional loan is the right way to go. Other times, it may be a FHA or VA loan. It is important to know your options. By law, a lender must give you a truth in lending statement to let you know about what fees are involved. Ask if there are any prepayment penalties, that can cause a problem in a year or two if you need to refinance. Do your homework again on reputation, do they work for a reputable lender. If you don't have a lender, ask your REALTOR for the name of someone they work with. They should be able to give you a couple names. Then ask them what sets them apart from other lenders and why do they refer people to them?

Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you ask a question and do not understand the answer, ask the person to explain it again until you understand. This is the biggest buying decision you will make and you want it to be a good one! These are just some insights and questions that you can ask to get you on your way to home ownership. Good Luck!

Monday, December 1, 2008

When Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

Don't you just love good stories? I do. Stories about the underdog rising up in victory. A story about a guy that has little confidence but an Extraordinary hidden gift. In Britain, there is a show called Britains Got Talent from the creators of American Idol. A show where just everyday people attempt to show off their talent, or most of the time what they think is talent. The video below is about a guy named Paul Potts. He was an ordinary guy with no confidence that worked at a cell phone store. After some encouragement, he decided to go onto Britains Got Talent to sing opera of all things. Paul went on to win the contest and has since released an album. Over 37 million people has watched this video on You Tube. So, maybe you have already watched it. I find it amazing every time I see it. The look on the judges faces when he says he is there is sing opera is funny. The reaction on peoples faces and the cheers when they hear the beauty of his singing is awesome. Some people are shocked, some are crying, but everyone is on their feet cheering before the end. It is just awesome when ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Friday, November 28, 2008

FHA Loans

With all of the changes that have taken place in the mortgage industry, one thing that you should see more and more of are FHA loans. They offer one of the lowest down payment options available which make them a natural fit for most 1st time home buyers, although repeat buyers refquently use this loan program as well. Right now, a buyer will need to show that they have 3% of the purchase price to put down on the loan of the home (there has been debate recently about increasing that to 3.5%). This 3% must be documented, like in a savings or checking account. Every loan will have closing costs associated with it i.e. title insurance- origination fees- appraisal- among other costs. These costs can vary, but will typically be 2-4% of the loan amount depending on that loan amount. Sometimes you need to ask for 6% for closing costs. The lower the loan, the higher the % will be due to most of these costs being a fixed amount. There are ways around both of these percentages though. A very common part of purchase agreements, right now, is for the seller to pay for the closing costs of the loan. And, although down payment assistance programs are no longer available, you can have a relative pay your 3% down payment provided that they supply a gift letter and can show proof that they indeed have the 3% that is needed.

When writing the purchase agreement, a buyer must put an earnest deposit with the offer. On most FHA loans in Michiana, this will be from $500 to $1000. This amount will go towards the down payment of the home, but is needed as a show of good faith to the seller that the buyer is serious about purchasing the home. In Indiana, the deposit is held by the listing brokerage in a non-interest bearing account. In Michigan, it is held by the buyers brokerage.Obviously, the more a buyer can put down in earnest, the more serious the buyer comes across. If the sale falls apart due to the part of the seller, the buyer will get their earnest deposit back. If the sale falls apart due to something on the buyer side--like getting cold feet, then the buyer loses the deposit. Most lenders will also require a deposit for the appraisal that they will have to do on the house.

Another benefit to a FHA loan is that they can be assumed by someone. This used to happen a lot about 15-20 years ago. An example of this, is when a homeowner that had bought their home with an FHA loan has decided to sell the home. When they bought it, they may have taken out a mortgae when interest rates were low, let's say 7%. But when they decided to sell the home, rates were at 10%. The purchaser can assume the loan at 7% as long as they can get approved like they would normally have to. The catch on this though, is that usually a homeowner has built up some equity in the home, so the buyer will have to cough up the difference between what is owed and what the seller wants for the house.

Just like with any loan, you will have to have proper documentation of income and credit history in order to get approved for the loan. There are several things with your credit and income that get looked at. You will usually need a credit score of at least 580, but sometimes lower scores are accepted. You have to show a history of credit, preferably with no late payments in the past year. And you will have to have a good debt to income ratio, which will vary depending on which lender you choose. Not all lenders will do FHA loans, so if your lender says that they cannot get you approved, ask them what kind of loan they were trying to approve you for. There are several different programs available, and they may not be a FHA approved lender.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Old Memory for Thanksgiving

As we get older, we tend to reflect back on things with great fondness. Things always seemed so great "back in the day". We get caught up with things happening in our daily lives without much time to reflect in the now. There are a lot of things that I reflect about. Lately, I have been reflecting on old TV shows that I used to love to watch. Happy Days, Cheers, Welcome Back Kotter (that one is obvious for anyone who calls my cell phone), Family Ties--just to name a few. But as Thanksgiving comes tomorrow I am reminded of one show, WKRP in Cincinnati! It had a great theme song, and the cast was VERY funny. Johnny Fever, Venis Flytrap, Bailey-all were good characters. But for me, Les Nesman was the best of the characters of that show! And as I think of Thanksgiving, it always brings a smile to my face when I think of the video that is below. Please ignore the message at the end of the video-the person that posted it on YouTube put it on the video. I hope this brings back a memory or two for you and have a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Google and My Church

I love to Google. I Google myself, family and friends to see what comes up. If I don't know the answer to something, I Google the question and "poof" there is an answer. Sometimes I'm stunned by what I see, other times I'm not. Recently I decided to Google the church that I attend, Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. Some of the negative things I read really disappointed me. Don't get me wrong, I know that GCC is not a perfect church, but the negatives that I was reading from other christians--were, well, was disappointing

Granger Community Church (GCC) is a little different then your traditional church. They have a band with loud drums and guitars (a little too loud for me sometimes), they use pop culture in an attempt to reach people that a traditional church might be unable to reach. If you were to show up in jeans and a t-shirt, nobody looks down at you, there are no secret hand shakes or "christianese" that is spoken, no special kool-aid that you drink. They just teach the message of Christ in a non traditional, non threatening way that resonates with certain people that could not other wise be reached. For this, GCC is heavily scrutinized for being unconventional. But, wasn't Christ unconventional too? Would Christ use today's technology to reach people? As long as the message is correct, I don't see what the problem is. Please click on these links to see some videos that GCC has made:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Short Sale

So, your house is going into foreclosure, you know that you can't keep the house and mentally you have came to terms with the fact you are losing your home. The market is tough and you don't think that you can get what is owed on the house. So now what do you do? What you need to do is contact a REALTOR that knows how to do a short sale. A short sale is when you list and sell your home for less than what is owed on it. Most banks are very willing to do these right now. They would rather take the loss on it now rather than to let the house sit vacant and take more of a loss on it after they have taken the house back. Short sales get marketed just like any other house on the market.

The next question that is usually asked is "Who is responsible for the short?" Because it so common right now, most banks are willing to forgive the shortage if you have a true hardship. You must supply financial documentation and a letter of hardship to the bank. If the hardship or financials do not look right to the bank, they may ask you to sign a promissory note to repay the shortage at a low interest rate over a period of several years. If you have a 2nd mortgage, those can be more tricky to get cleared. It will usually depend on how big the shortage is and once again what your financial and hardship situation looks like. If your 1st mortgage is taking a short, usually your 1st mortgage company will offer a token payoff of $500 to $1000 to the 2nd in order to get them to release the loan. Also, be patient. Once an offer is written on the house it can take over 60 days to get it approved and to the closing table. I've had them take as little as 45 days and I've had them take as long as 5 months to get them closed once an offer is accepted.

Another benefit is that it does not show up on your credit report as a big negative like a foreclosure or bankruptcy does. However, not all REALTORS know how to do a short sale. Not all REALTORS want to do a short sale- in fact most REALTORS do not like to do them and want nothing to do with them because they get paid less and have to do more work. So, it is important to find the right REALTOR. If you have other questions, please feel free to ask.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mortgage Crisis and Foreclosure

Because I'm a REALTOR, I get a lot of people asking me about foreclosure since that is a big problem right now. There's a lot to talk about on this topic and it might require a few different posts to cover different aspects. One question I get asked a lot is "how we can fix the mortgage problem that caused this economic mess that we are in?" My answer usually stuns people--for the most part, it's already fixed. What we are dealing with right now is the collateral damage caused by having it broken. This is what I mean. Near the beginning of the year, subprime loans went away. These are loans that were being made to people with questionable credit. The mortgage industry also did away with 80/20 loans and then recently most 100% financing options were done away with. So that's what I meant by being fixed. There are not nearly the number of risky loans available.

I think what people mean to ask is "How can we fix the damage that has been done?" That's a question that is easy to answer, it's just that nobody likes the answer-"We are going to have to ride this wave until it stops." That's the cold hard truth. The real estate market will start to turn upward again when you-the consumer-has confidence again in the market. And confidence is a hard thing to have right now when you see so many Foreclosures out there.

If you are going into Foreclosure, the worst thing you can do, is to do nothing and just let the house go back to the bank. Information varies on this, but I've been told that a bankruptcy will take about 2 years to clear up on your credit and that a Foreclosure takes about 4 years to clear up. Both of these are not good options, but Foreclosure is clearly worse. And chances are if you have missed payments on your mortgage, you have already been missing payments on your car, credit cards and maybe even your utility bills. So, you may have to file bankruptcy no matter what.

What can you do if you are going into foreclosure? 1st--Try to talk to your bank. Depending on your bank, you might be able to get a loan modification or a forebearance. This can be challenging. The reason for this is because of the way banks operate. Let me give you a typical example of what people go through when they call into their bank when they are behind on the mortgage. You call the 800# on your statement, type in your 9 or 10 digit account number and then you get connected to a debt collector. That person's sole job is to collect any money they can from you. They don't seem to care about why you are behind, they just want $3000 from you to get your mortgage caught up. Usually this is about where the conversation ends because you do not have the $3000. If you did, you would not be behind on the payment and people don't know what else to do so they hang up. What people need to do, is keep pressing in and demand to talk to someone in the loss mitigation or workout department. That is where the solutions are.

If that does not work, find a REALTOR that has experience in dealing with this sort of thing. Write out a letter giving him/her permission to talk to the bank about your mortgage on your behalf. Why? Because if I call in, I get the same debt collector as you-only they know there's not a chance that I am going to pay them anything because I'm a 3rd party. Usually, I can get with the right people to talk to about what is going on. If the bank is willing to work things out, and most would like to, they will require certain information from you such as: your last 2 bank statements, your last months pay stubs, they may want tax information, a financial statement and they will definately want a hardship letter explaining why you are in the situation that you are in. If you can show that whatever problem you were having is over with and that you can financially afford the house, they will usually work something out with you. If you cannot show that you can afford the hosue, then they are going to encourage you to try to sell the house.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christian Leadership and the Election Results

I belong to a men's bible group that meets every Friday morning at Honkers on Day Rd in Mishawaka. This Friday (tomorrow) it is my turn to pick the topic and to lead in discussion. Part of what we will be discussing is how Christian leadership is handling the results of this years presidential election. The scripture quoted in this church sign is "You must not have any other god but me"

I am also using 1 Timothy 2:1-2 which says "I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; interced on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity"

Here are the questions that I am posing to this group:

What are your thoughts on these scriptures?

How do you think Christian leaders are handling the results of this election?

Would Jesus approve of the way that Christian leaders are handling the results of this election?

What do you think of this sign posted outside of a Christian church in Kansas?

Feel free to share your thoughts as well by clicking on the comments icon below this post.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Next Wednesday

By next Wednesday, November 26, there will 109 more families between Elkhart and St.Joseph counties that will have their homes taken away from them due to foreclosure. Sixty seven of those families are from Elkhart county and fourty-two from St. Joseph county. Houses ranging in value from $28,000 to $681,000. The house that owes $681,000 is one of only 2 that owes over $200,000. If this is not main street America, then I don't know what is.

A recent magazine artice, I beleive it was in Newsweek, pointed out that Elkhart county has had the largest rise of unemployment from one year to the next in the country. The article continued to write about a recent ordinance that was passed in Elkhart county that limited the number or yard/garage sales to one per family per month due to the large number of families that are having them. Families selling off whatever they can just to put food on the table.

This coming Thursday, November 27, is Thanksgiving. Puts a little perspective on it, doesn't it?

1st Post

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