Monday, December 21, 2009

RESPA, Why Is This Good For You?

Starting with the New Year, RESPA has been completely changed. What is RESPA you may ask?

RESPA is The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

Why should you care?

Because RESPA is what looks out for you, the consumer.

RESPA has kind of taken it on the chin a little bit over the past few years because consumers, like you, have complained that there was nobody looking out for them. And, to some degree, that was a correct assessment.

But, in January, all of that changes. RESPA had an overhaul. This overhaul has many lenders and title companies upset, it struck a nerve. That is how you can tell that this appears to be good legislation.

The changes all revolve around full up front disclosure. Nice huh?! How do they do this?

To start with, there is a massive over haul with the closing statement. Or what we REALTORs call a HUD-1. This new HUD-1 will now look the same no matter what bank, title company or closing agency is closing the transaction. By changing the HUD-1 closing statement and making it uniform, it will help on the full disclosure part.

The big changes though come on that full disclosure, which starts all of the way back at the "Good Faith Estimate". You see, this has been a problem for a while now. There was no accountability for a lender when giving you that first initial estimate of what it is going to cost you to get the loan for the house you are buying.

This initial Good Faith Estimate can only vary at closing by 10% or less. Now that may sound like a lot, but it really is not. A typical closing may have closing costs in the area of $4,800 which means a variance of only $480. This is where the new HUD-1 comes into play.

The new HUD-1 will show side by side what your good faith estimate was and what your actual amounts are. It also has to spell out everything that the title company is charging, which cannot vary in price either, which is causing some title companies to go to a flat fee per transaction charge. The new HUD-1 goes into way more detail that will even show you the yield spread that a mortgae broker is getting in profit from your transaction. Now that is disclosure!

Also, right on the new HUD-1, you will see what your monthly payment is and your interest rate. It will state whether or not you have an adjustable rate mortgage or a balloon payment or a pre-payment penalty. And, as usual, it will show what the REALOTRs are charging.

The only real variance of significance that can effect your closing costs are costs that you will be in control of, like inspection costs. Those are allowed to not be disclosed on the initial good faith estimate simply because there is no way to determine how much those are going to be until later in the process.

Monday, December 7, 2009

God Complex

I was watching this movie called Malice about a week ago, and instantly knew that I was going to use a scene from it in a blog post. The question was, how am I going to use it? I am still not sure even as I am writing this post, I just know that it is an incredible scene from a pretty good movie that was made in 1993 starring Alec Baldwin and Nicole Kidman. It is a movie that I have watched several times, and has some really good performances by some really good actors.

The scene is about a Doctor who is so good at what he does, that he has a "God Complex."

Can you imagine being so good at something that you think you are God? So good at something that the people around you worship you in a way, and just want to be around you? What a power trip that must be.

Would you want to be that good at something? I know I would like to say that I would not, but I would probably be lying.

I guess my point is, no matter whether you are a Doctor, a Pastor or simply a Realtor. We can all get caught up in thinking that we are more then what we actually are. It is important to stay humble and in awe of the actual God.

Enjoy the clip!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Parents Should Consider Homes As Gifts

Parents who are looking for a gift to give their kids this holiday season should consider a house.

With prices in the cellar, this could be a terrific year to give a down payment or even the whole home.

The Internal Revenue Service says a married couple can each give gifts of $13,000 of money or property without triggering taxes for the gift givers or the recipients. That means a married couple can give another married couple a total of $52,000 a year. To maximize that they can give $52,000 in December and another $52,000 in January for a total of $104,000 to be used on a property before the federal tax credit expires.

This would buy a house in some parts of the country and be sufficient for a down payment in most others.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, June Fletcher (11/27/2009)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Something Strange Happened Sunday

I have been a life long Detroit Lions fan and thought that I had seen it all, but Sunday, something very strange happened. Now, you might be saying to yourself..."yeah, the Lions won" and you would be right. That is strange. But HOW they won is what I am talking about.

For years and years, the Detroit Lions have been on the bad end of things. Bad calls always go against them. "Freak" plays always happen too them. Miracle comebacks, are always with the other team making them. Gritty performances are always with the other team and never someone that is on the Lions. That is just how it has been, and for better or for worse, it was expected after so many years.

So, when the Lions were down 24-7 after the first quarter to an equally bad team Sunday in the Cleveland Browns, I thought "Just another classic Lions disappointment."

But then something strange happened. The Lions started to come back. When I heard they were coming back, I thought, "they'll still fall short, after all they are the Lions."

Due to black out restrictions, hardly anyone saw the game. There were lots of empty seats, so the game was not televised locally. I had to get updates from ESPN while I was in my car working, or from CBS Sportsline while in front of the computer screen.

It was 37 -31 with Cleveland in the lead with just a few seconds left. Detroit was about 40 yards away from a TD, so in a last second desperation throw, Matthew Stafford scrambled around the pocket to avoid a pass rush and then unleashed a long pass to the end zone. Cleveland was flagged for a pass interference call as the pass went incomplete. Detroit's ball at the 1 yard line with one play left.

That in itself was amazing for Detroit Lions fans. To be on the right side of a game changing penalty for a change. But the truly amazing part was going on behind the scenes.

On that pass play, Matthew Stafford was hit as he threw the ball and was slammed on his left shoulder, later is was discovered that it was dislocated on that play. Cleveland had called a timeout to try to regroup, which gave Stafford enough time to avoid all of the team physicians and force his way back onto the field to finish what he started. He then, with a dislocated left shoulder, took the snap and threw the game winning TD.

Are you kidding me?!!

This is the type of things that legends are made of! And, it happened, in a good way, for my Detroit Lions! Now, I am not saying that Stafford and the Lions are on their way to the playoffs this year....or even next year. But, I think a few years from now, people could look back on this moment and say "this is where it all changed for the Lions"

By the way, Matthew Stafford was wired for NFL Films during the game. Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, listened to the tapes recorded from Stafford and called it "The most dramatic player wiring ever!"

Finally, Lions fans might have something to be excited about other then Barry Sanders highlights.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Adopt A Family and The Homeless Shelter

This morning, I posted on my Facebook page a Haiku. Here it is: God is with the poor----And God is with the broken----Let us be with God.

So, in the spirit of that post, here is an opportunity for all of us to impact Michiana.

There is a family in the inner city of South Bend that I was contacted by earlier this week that is in need of food for Thanksgiving and Christmas along with gifts for Christmas. This is a single mom that is on disability. She has 4 kids that are her own and 2 addition kids that she has legal custody over. The kids are ages: 12, 10, 9, 5, 5 and 4. One of the 5 year olds is a boy and the rest are all girls. I thought that it would be awesome to help this family out.

The other opportunity to impact Michiana is through the homeless shelter. Here is a list of the shelters current needs:

Aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Diapers, Swimmer-all sizes, New Socks and Underwear for both Men and Women, Feminine Hygiene Supplies, Towels and Wash cloths, Cough Drops, Laundry Soap, Umbrella's, Children's School Uniforms, x-large to xxxxl shirts, Ear plugs, Interview attire/clothing for women (sizes 18 and up), Interview attire/clothing for men (xl & xxl shirts and pants larger than size 46), Women's Dress shoes (sizes 8 and up), Men's shoes (size 9-14)

This project is something that a group of people just decided to do. It is not company sponsored in any way shape or form, so feel free to help out where you can with what you can. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

For how to donate or help, you can contact the following people in the following ways:

Barry Skalski 574-370-8156 or by email
Michelle Zarobinski 574-876-8674 or by email
Bill Calahan 574-310-0011

Starting on Monday, there will be a drop off station located inside of the building located at 202 Lincoln Way East in Mishawaka. It is the building that National City Bank, Prudential One Realty, Wells Fargo and Metropolitan Title occupy.

If we collect enough, we may be able to sponsor more than one family!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension and Changes

Today, in a vote of 403-12, the House passed a bill that the Senate had already passed that extends the Homebuyer Tax Credit and also makes some changes to the existing tax credit. Now, before I go ANY further, I need to throw out a disclaimer that President Obama still needs to sign this into law to make it official. Although that should just be a formality, it is in fact not law until he signs it. So, this is just to inform of what the bill is and what some of the changes are.

Ready? Here we go:

The proposed new law will extend the current first time buyer tax credit from November 30, 2009 to April 30, 2010. However, it only has to be under contract by April 30, 2010. It actually has to close by July 1, 2010. This will help out with short sales tremendously!

Also, current homeowners are now eligible for a tax credit upon purchasing a home, up to $6,500. The catch here is that existing homeowners have to have lived in their home for 5 of the last 8 years in order to qualify.

The proposed new law also extends the income limits. Under the old credit, maximum income for the full credit was $150,000 for a married couple. Under the new law, the maximum would be raised to $225,000 for a married couple. The maximum purchase price on a home is $800,000.

There is also a new anti-fraud rule where the purchaser must attach documentation of the purchase to the tax return.

First time home buyers are still considered someone who has not owned a home in at least 3 years.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me and I will do my best to answer any questions that you may have. My cell is 574-370-8156.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Decisions, Decisions and more Decisions

Every few weeks, it is my turn to lead discussion for my Friday morning men's bible group. This is my Friday, so I thought I would share:

We are all faced with decisions on a daily basis. Some are more basic like: What do we wear for the day? What do we eat for lunch? While others take more thought like: What kind of haircut to get next week? What do I attack first on my to-do list? And still others are more complex like: Should I go buy a new car or house? Should I get married? Should I go on that vacation? Etc…..

So, I thought we could talk about decisions that we all have to make, how we make these decisions and where does God fit in to all of these decisions.

Ronald Reagan once said: “America was founded by people who believed that God was their rock of safety. He is ours. I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it is all right to ask if we are on his side.”

1. When making a decision, how do you know that your decision is your will or if it is the will of God? Which do you listen to more, your will or God’s?

2. Seems like sometimes, we make our more important decision the same way we make our more basic decisions….more out of habit or with the flow of the day. What process(es) should be used on decisions? Should there be a difference and why? How do you decipher what is a major or a minor decision?

3. Do you believe that God sends you signs in your attempts to make a decision? If yes, how do you know? What do you look for?

4. You have made a decision, you are moving ahead with it, but you keep coming up against major road blocks. How do you handle that? Do you re-assess your decision or do you keep plowing ahead through the road blocks? Do you see these road blocks as a sign from God that you are on the wrong path or are they put there to make you stronger?

5. When is it wise to seek the council of others when making a decision? Do you see this as a sign of strength or weakness when you seek the advice of others? How do you look at the person that is asking for your advice? Do these opinions effect you when you ask for someone’s advice or not, in other words, do you care about what the other person thinks of you when you are asking their advice?

6. Is there a right time to interfere with someone else’s decision making? How do you do that without coming across as judgemental?

James 1:5-8 (New International Version)
5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Great Speech, Great Movie

Ray, people will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. "Of course, we won't mind if you have a look around," you'll say. "It's only twenty dollars per person." They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.

And they'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces.

People will come, Ray.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


As I type the name Derek Redmond, most of you probably have no idea who he is. Most people have no idea what his story is, until you hear it or read about it. Then, it all comes back to your memory.

Derek Redmond trained most of his life for one moment. That moment was to take place in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain. Derek was a world class sprinter who was one of the favorites to win the 400m sprint race. And that moment is what he will always be remembered for.

You see, Derek did not win the race, nor did he come in 2nd, 3rd or 4th place. But instead, he finished dead last....way behind everyone else in what could be the slowest time ever ran in the Olympics. So why is this so memorable?

About 150m's into the race Derek heard a loud "pop" and then fell to the ground in excruciating pain. His hamstring had tore. There was a groan from the crowd and then silence from it as everyone stared wondering what had happened.

The rest of the sprinters had already passed the finish line, and people with stretchers were on their way out to carry Derek off the track. Then, Derek got up and started to hop on one leg to finish the race that he had started. Suddenly, from the crowd, emerged Derek's father on to the track to help him get to the finish line to a standing ovation of 65,000 people.

This my friends, is perseverance.

What is there in our lives that we have been trying to accomplish that seem so close yet so far away? Are we seeking help? Are we leaning on God to get us to that finish line? Sometimes, it is not about finishing in 1st place. Sometimes, it is just about finishing the race.

Here is the video version of what happened that day in Barcelona:

Monday, October 19, 2009

10 Things I Don't Get

1. Sushi

2. Jon and Kate plus 8


4. Coffee Drinkers

5. The Ped Egg

6. Sky Diving

7. The Running of the Bulls

8. People that say "You just have to eat/drink a few of them, then it starts to taste good."

9. Churches that hate on other Churches

10. The X Games

What don't you get?

This was inspired by Tony Morgan

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Teamwork, Leadership and......Ducks?

I just got back from a 2 day leadership meeting in Bloomington that was put on by the Indiana Realtors Leadership Academy (IRLA). One of the presentations, oddly enough, was about what we could learn from the teamwork and leadership that is displayed by ducks. That's right, Ducks. I really found this interesting and thought I would share it with you along with some of my thoughts.

Did you know, that as each duck flaps it wings, it creates and "uplift" for the bird following? By following in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71% more flying range then if each bird flew alone.

Some thoughts on this were: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier they are traveling on the thrust of one another. As Leaders, we need to cast vision in a passionate way to encourage others to share in that vision. As teams, we need to help one another and to offer encouragement and support. How would this look in business? In my church?

Did you know, that whenever a duck falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone? It quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the duck immediately in front.

How often do we let ego get in our way? This "I can do this on my own attitude" will not only isolate us from others that can and want to help, but it puts that goal off into the distance and makes it harder to obtain. It is usually better to stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go.

Did you know, that when the lead duck gets tire, it rotates back into the formation and another duck flies at the point position?

How often, as leaders, do we not recognize how many other leaders we have behind us? Leaders that want to share in our burdens. Leaders that, if given the opportunity, may be able to take our group to another level not yet obtained. How often do we get so burned out, that the only way to fix our burn out is to completely step away from the situation? I see this happen in church leadership frequently. I myself have even experienced this. Sometimes, true leadership is knowing when to step aside and letting someone else lead for awhile. Then, stand by that new leader and offer support and encouragement.

Did you know, that when in formation, the ducks quack from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed?

How often do we encourage those that are leading us? We need to make sure that our "quacking" from behind is encouraging----not something less helpful or damaging.

Did you know, that when a duck gets sick or wounded, that 2 ducks will drop out of formation and follow it down to help protect it? They stay with the duck until it is either able to fly again or dies. Then, they launch out on their own with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Are we standing by the people around us when they are in need? Or, do we turn a blind eye and say "too bad that happened"? Being part of a team is being there in the good times and the bad.

Friday, October 9, 2009

An Odd Way To Wake Up Today

What an odd way to wake up today.I opened my eyes to see a news report about us bombing the moon. Huh? Then a special report about President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Huh?!

I thought I was in some sort of dream or something.

But, after thinking about it for a while, I thought I would share some of my thoughts about these news stories.

I guess I am still struggling to understand why we, meaning our government which means our tax dollars, spent 79 million dollars in an attempt to find out if the moon has water on it. The questions that come to my mind, I guess, are:

What if it does have water, then what? Are we going to spend more money to transport it here? Does that mean that we are going to send people there to colonize it? If so, I have a few I would like to send....which is not very Christian, but the truth. Why would we want to colonize the moon? Isn't there a better way to be spending our money right now? Who's idea was this anyway?

To me, "bombing" the moon just does not make a lot of sense. And I have always been pro space exploration and such. I don't know, maybe there is more to this then what I have heard etc., but it just leaves me shaking my head and shrugging my shoulders a little.

Now, on to Obama and the peace prize. This is a weird one for me as well. I have made no secret that I am an Obama supporter. But the Nobel Peace Prize? Really? Hasn't he been in office for about 9 months or so? It really had me scratching my head this morning.


He has started to change some very controversial policy that was created over 8 years that made the rest of the world pretty angry.

He has started dialogue with our perceived enemies in a non threatening way.

He withdrew a very controversial defense missle project in Europe that had Russia in a tizzy under the prior administration. And, by withdrawing it, convinced Russia to disarm more of their nuclear and missle program.

He continued withdrawing troops from Iraq.

He INCLUDED most of the European leaders in confronting Iran's secret nuclear program. And ASKED and SHARED intelligence with those countries in reaching a conclusion that Iran needed to be confronted.

He seems to have staved off a possible depression, that probably would have led to a world wide collapse of economic systems.

Now, to sort of use a Chris Rock line, I am not saying he should have won the award.....but I understand. There are many in this country that see our president as week, or a socialist, or a communist, or un-American, or even a nazi. But the rest of the world seems to see a guy that is trying very hard to create peace. And I think that is very cool.

Maybe he has not done everything that he said he was going to do, but again, it has only been 9 months. The people that seem to be complaining the most about President Obama not doing everything that he has promised, also seem to be the same people that say he is trying to do too much at one time. The same people, that if Obama created peace in the middle east, would complain about how he got peace instead of being happy that he got peace.

So, for the people that are saying that he has done nothing........ I disagree, because he clearly has. To say that he should have won the award........ I disagree, because I do think that it is too early in his presidency for such an award.

But I can see why the rest of the world is excited that we elected this man as President, maybe we should be a little more excited as well.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Full Credit Bid

I recently attended a continuing education class in Michigan and was taught some very interesting information about Foreclosure that goes against the common thought about having your house taken back by the bank. And, this applies to both Indiana and Michigan.

When your house is officially taken back by the bank is when it is sold at the Sheriff's auction. The bank does this by making a credit bid against your house. This "credit bid" is where things get interesting because of the belief out there about being sued for a deficiency judgement. The common belief, is that if you owed $100,000 and the bank takes your house back and sells it for $60,000, then the bank can sue you for a deficiency of $40,000. But that is not necessarily the true.

If the bank makes a "Full Credit Bid" on your home, then you owe nothing. A full credit bid is when you owe $100,000 and the bank makes a credit bid at, or above in most cases due to fees, the amount that is owed. This effectively negates the bank coming back on the homeowner for a deficiency judgement. Even if the house is then resold by the bank for $50,000 causing a $50,000 loss!

So, if you are in the process of having your house taken back by the bank, find out what the credit bid is on your house. This might relieve some anxiety about possible lawsuits.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It is about time

On Monday, September 28, the Detroit Tigers are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1984 World Championship team. A team that was considered one of, if not the best, Tiger teams of all time.

There will be many of the "Bless You Boys" in attendance as well. Alan Trammell (my favorite player), Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, Willie Hernandez, Darrell Evans, Lance Parrish, Dan Petry and Milt Wilcox among others.

They are all going there for one thing. No, not to celebrate old memories. Not to celbrate the 84 team and what was accomplished. Not to get one more moment in the lime light either.

They are going there for one reason and one reason only, to see Sparky Anderson one last time. You see, Sparky doesn't get around much anymore, and this may be the last time they get to see him. And it may be the last time Sparky makes it back to Detroit, which brings me to my point.

It is about time......that the Detroit Tigers honor the man that managed my beloved Tigers for 17 years.

It is about time......that the Detroit Tigers show respect to the man that managed 1331 wins which is more than any other manager in Detroit Tiger History.

It is about time......that the Detroit Tigers showed their gratitude towards the man who captained the ship of the last Tigers team to win a World Series.

It is about time......that the Detroit Tigers made ammends to the man that Tigers fans love so dearly.

It is about time......that the Detroit Tigers made things right with the man that dearly loves the city of Detroit, its Team and its Fans.

It is about time......that the Detroit Tigers did the right thing and retire the #11 jersey that Sparky Anderson once wore.

It is about time!

Now, I don't know if the Tigers will retire his number or not on Monday. But in a season where Mike Illitch has done soooo many great things for the city of Detroit, here is his chance to put a cherry on top.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Every few weeks it is my turn to choose a topic for dicussion for my Friday morning men's bible group. This week it is my turn, so here is my friday morning discussion points. If you would like to find out more about the group, go to:

Having compassion for others is something that Christ called all of us to do, so I thought we would dive into a parable that I really don’t hear preached much…the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The dictionary defines compassion as: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it

Luke 10: 25-37
25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Parable of the Good Samaritan
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

1. Why do you think the expert in religious law wanted to “justify himself”?

2. How can we explain the religious professionals lack of compassion for the beaten up stranger?

3. Jews of that day despised Samaritans who were half breed of jews who intermarried with pagans. So why do you think that Jesus made the Samaritan the hero of the story?

4. Where do you suppose the Samaritan got his compassion for the victim?

5. According to this story, what does compassion look like?

6. When answering Jesus (verse 10:37) the religious law expert skirted around saying “the Samaritan” by saying “the one that showed him mercy” why do you think he answered the way he did?

7. There are more than 90 specific references to compassion in the bible. Most Old Testament passages are about God’s compassion towards His people, while most New Testament verses refer to Jesus having compassion for all of those in need. What do you think of that comment? Is there a difference between the old and the new? If so, why is there a difference?

Friday, September 18, 2009

D.C. Dances Around Tax Credit Extension

I keep getting questions about the First Time Buyer Tax Credit and if it will be extended. Although I don't have an answer to that yet, I thought that you would be interested to read this article from the AP.

Washington is being forced to take a hard look at the expiring $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit.

Nearly a dozen bills have been proposed to extend the credit past the Nov. 30 deadline, but the top decision makers are just beginning to weigh in.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid endorsed a six-month extension. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Thursday that he hasn’t made a decision yet. And the White House economic team says it will make a recommendation to President Barack Obama by the end of Friday.

Extending the credit is a tough sell in some corners because so far the credit has cost an estimated $15 billion, twice what was projected last February.

Source: The Associated Press, Adrian Sainz (09/17/2009)

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Recent Conversation About U2

Recently, I mentioned to someone that I was going to an upcoming U2 concert. The response from this guy shocked me a bit. He said "I used to like U2 when they were a Christian rock band, I bet you did not know that they started that way before wandering off to where they are now."

"WHAT?!" I replied. He then repeated his statement.

My "WHAT?!" was not in response to the Christian rock band remark, it was in response to the statement he was making about them not being a Christian rock band anymore and that they "wandered" off to where they are now.

Now, this is a very nice guy that I have gotten to know a bit, and he was not trying to be offensive at all. It was just an observation from someone that has not followed this band for several years after the band switched to a more edgier tone in the early 90's with Achtung Baby.

But still.......not Christian anymore.

He then stated that, "Just because Bono does good deeds for Africa, doesn't mean that he is a Christian." Which I agree with, but I stated that he needs to look at the lyrics of their songs.

Their most recent release, No Line On The Horizon, has been called "their most thoroughly Christian project to date" according to a theologian in Alabama as reported by The Christian Post. The article states that 7 of the 11 songs have a Christian tone to them.

If you look over the course of their history, there are dozens of songs that have either a Christian tone to them or even quote or interpret scripture. Yahweh, All Because Of You, Grace, Walk On, Stuck In A Moment..., Beautiful Day, If God Will Send His Angels, Stay, When Love Comes To Town, 40 (after psalm 40), I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For are just a few of the many many songs that could be put into that category.

One of their more recent songs "Window In The Skies" was not a hit, but is one of my favorites. It has lyrics such as: "The rule has been disproved, the stone it has been moved, the grave is now a groove, all debts are removed" is clearly about the Resurrection of Christ. "Oh can't you see what Love has done?, what it's doing to me?" "To every broken heart, for every heart that cries, Love left a window in the skies" These are incredible lyrics. There is too much evidence to suggest that they ARE christian to say that they are not. They could just as easily have made songs about sex and made their fortune, but chose not to.

I think what gets lost with people, is that Bono and the boys have chosen this route with their music and lyrics, is that they are not pastors or preachers. They are in fact, rock and roll stars who are just trying to deliver a message. They may not always be in tune with doctrine, but they have a well meaning message that is more on point then some Sunday sermons that I have heard. Here is a video that I really enjoy watching, maybe you will too:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Making Home Affordable" Picking Up Steam

Here is a new article about how the "Making Home Affordable" plan starting to gain steam. About a month ago I posted an article on how it was failing. Although Bank Of America is still lowest on the list, it should be noted that in one month they went from 4% to the 7% that they are currently at:

The Obama administration's $50 billion "Making Home Affordable" mortgage relief plan is picking up steam, with 360,000 borrowers, or 12 percent of the eligible group, signing up for a three-month trial mortgage modification.

"There are signs the plan is working," says Michael Barr, assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions. "But we can do better."

Bank of America has enrolled about 7 percent of its 836,000 eligible loans, compared with 25 percent for JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The Treasury Department’s decision to publish these numbers is driving the banks to do better. Lenders are "concerned about the report card showing them in a worse light than their peers," says David Stevens, assistant secretary for housing and FHA commissioner at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Nobody wants to be a low performer on that score card."

Source: The Associated Press, Alan Zibel (09/09/2009)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2009 Predictions For The Detroit Lions....1st Attempt

The following is my 1st attempt at making predictions for my 2009 Detroit Lions. OK, it might be a little far fetched. But why not have some fun with it!

Sunday, September 13. Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
The Lions have an amazing start to the game led by Culpeppers 11 for 14 start for 151 yards and 2 TD passes and are up 24-3 at the half. Brew Brees is knocked out of the game in the 2nd quarter after taking a hard hit by LB Julian Peterson. In the 3rd quarter Peterson again takes out the QB, this time Mark Brunell, on a blind side blitz and returns a fumble for a TD making the score 31-6. Joey Harrington then comes in and procedes to pass the Saints on to a 34-31 victory passing for 216 yds on a 15 of 17 performance with 3 TD's. Record after week 1: 0-1

Sunday, September 20. Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Dante Culpepper gets off to a horrible start throwing 3 interceptions in the first half with one being returned for a TD. Culpepper has a better 2nd half and finishes the game 13 of 28 for 142 yds. with 3 int's and 1 TD. Brett Farve has a fair performance going 15 of 21 with 2 TD's for 172 yds. The real story of the game is Adrian Peterson who rushes for 183 yards on only 15 carries. Vikings win in a sleeper, 31-10. Record after week 2: 0-2

Sunday, September 27. Washington Redskins at Detroit Lions
Coming into the game, the Lions have a record of 2-13 against the Skins since 1983 with both wins coming in Detroit. Culpepper gets off to another rough start going 2-11 for 8 yds. before the Lions crowd starts chanting for Matthew Stafford. Culpepper responds by throwing 2 TD's to Calvin Johnson before the end of the first half to tie the game at 17. In the 2nd half, it is all Clinton Portis, as he runs like the wind through the Lions defense and ends up with 192 yards rushing and 3 TD's on the day. Culpepper finishes the day 18 of 40 for 168 yds and 2 TD's. Final score: Redskins 38 and the Lions 24. Record after week 3: 0-3

Sunday, October 4. Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
The Lions do their best to take advantage of playing in Chicago during warm weather. Culpepper has a good game going 21 of 28 for 225 yds and 2 TD's. Kevin Smith has his first good game of the year rushing for 104 yards on 21 carries with a TD. Jay Cutler looks a little lost with his new team going 12 of 25 for 138 yards. Devin Hester though is the story for the Bears. He returns a kickoff in the 2nd quarter 98 yards for a TD and then returns a punt late in the 4th quarter 67 yards to tie the game at 27 and put it into OT. The Lions lose the coinflip, where Hester promptly returns the opening kickoff 102 yards for a TD. Bears 33 and the Lions 27. Record after week 4: 0-4

Sunday, October 11. Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions
Culpepper has to leave early in the 2nd quarter with a hamstring injury after a 15 yard run for a TD. Matthew Stafford comes in and experiences how fast the NFL is with a 12 of 27 performace with 2 int's. The Steelers build a big lead of 35-9 before putting Charlie Batch in to sit on the lead. The Lions score another TD in the mop up duty. Confused Lions fans start chanting "Fire Millen" not realizing that he has been gone for a year. Final Score: Steelers 38 and the Lions 16. Record after week 5: 0-5

Sunday, October 18. Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Once again, the schedule makers were kind to the Lions by letting them play in Green Bay during warm weather. Culpepper returns for the Lions and goes 15 of 20 for 173 yards and 3 TD's before having to leave with another hamstring injury, this one much worse. Stafford comes in and performs better going 7 of 11 for 96 yards and a TD. In the end though, the Lions are on the wrong end of a bad pass interference call late in the 4th quarter and lose on a last second field goal. Final Score: Packers 30 and the Lions 28. Record after week 6: 0-6

Sunday, October 25. ***BYE WEEK***
In an attempt to turn things around, the Lions bring in Wayne Fontes as a special consultant during the bye week. He immediately suggests bringing back the Run and Shoot offense.

Sunday, November 1. St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
In a battle of winless teams, this serves as Detroit's best chance so far to win a game. Matthew Stafford gets the start as Culpepper is steal trying to heal his hamstring. Stafford seems at home in Detroit's new Run and Shoot offense going 22 of 33 for 267 yards and 3 TD's. Calvin Johnson continues his great season catching 8 passes for 124 yards and 2 TD's. Kevin Smith runs for 114 yards. Detroit wins in a laugher 41-10. Lions fans are so excited that they set cars on fire outside Ford Field. Record after week 8: 1-6

Sunday, November 8. Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks
Cocky coming off their first win in over a year, the Lions look unprepared in their cross country trip to Seattle. Stafford gets off to a horrible start going 3 of 13 with 4 int's before being pulled for a hobbled Culpepper. In the 4th quarter, the Lions put Drew Stanton in the game and he promptly goes 7 for 7 for 52 yards and a TD. But it is way too little too late as the Lions get blown out 45-13. Record after week 9: 1-7

Sunday, November 15. Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
After Brett Farve decided to retire again, the Vikings offense has a hard time against the Lions suprisingly strong defense producing only 128 yards of total offense. Culpepper is starting again for the Lions and has a respectable 13 of 20 day for 138 yards with no turnovers. After the game when asked about the impressive defense, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz says that it was a new defense suggested by consultant Wayne Fontes called "The Silver Streak". Final Score: Lions 13 and the Vikings 9. Record after week 10: 2-7

Sunday, November 22. Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions
The Lions, after winning 2 of 3, play before their first sell out home crowd of the year. Kevin Smith responds with his best game as a Lion rushing for 214 yards and 3 TD's. The Browns offense cannot seem to do anything against this new "Silver Streak" defense that the Lions are using as they only have 78 yards of total offense and only 4 first downs the entire game. The Browns score their only points off of a fumbled punt return which results in a field goal. Final Score: Lions 37 and the Browns 3. Record after week 11: 3-7

Thursday, November 26. Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
The Lions decide that the future is now for Matthew Stafford and announce that as long as he is healthy, he will be the starter for the rest of the year. Stafford has a huge game in front of a national audience in the Run and Shoot offense. Stafford passes for 348 yards and 3 TD's, all to Calvin Johnson. Kevin Smith has another good game running for 132 yards and Detroits "Silver Streak" defense holds the Packers to 174 yards of offense in a 38 to 9 win. After the game, William Clay Ford announces that all coaches and front office personnel have been fired and that Wayne Fontes will take over all positions within the organization since he seems to be the greatest football mind that Mr. Ford has ever known. Record after week 12: 4-7

Sunday, December 6. Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals
The only starter left from the Bengals opening week lineup is Carson Palmer, as the rest of the starters are either hurt or on suspension with the exception of Chad Ochocinco who decided to retire, change his name to Esteban Ochocinco and play soccer professionally where he dominates and leads his team to the championship. The Lions offensive and defensive schemes are too much for a depleted Bengals team and the Lions under new Coach Wayne Fontes win 31-12. Record after week 13: 5-7

Sunday, December 13. Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens
The Lions get off to a good start leading 17 to 3 at half time, but a season ending injury to Calvin Johnson in the 3rd quarter slows them up in the second half. With Johnson out, the Lions only score 3 points in the second half but manage to eek out a win 20-17. After the game, Wayne Fontes announces that Herman Moore has agreed to come out of retirement and sign with the Lions for the rest of the year. Record after week 14: 6-7

Sunday, December 20. Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions
Rookie QB Matthew Stafford is having an incredible game going 22 of 24 for 249 yards and 4 TD's when he suffers a season ending injury in the 4th Quarter. Kevin Smith breaks the 1,000 yard mark on the season, and the signing of Herman Moore proves to be big as he catches 12 passes for 133 yards and 2 TD's. The Lions squeak out a close one over the Cardinals 34-31. GM/Coach Wayne Fontes announces after the game that the Lions have signed Eric Hipple to come out of retirement for the rest of the season. Record after week 15: 7-7

Sunday, December 27. Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers
Kevin Smith pulls a hamstring in the 1st quarter that will keep him out the rest of the season. After Culpepper falters, Hipple comes in and passes for 189 yards on 12 of 17 passes with a TD. 49ers head coach, Mike Singletary, was kicked out of his 2nd game this year for entering the field of play and tackling another teams player. Record after week 16: 8-7

Sunday, January 3. Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
In a glorious return, Barry Sanders comes out of retirement and runs for 278 yards on only 12 carries with 4 TD's. Eric Hipple continues his good play passing for 198 yards and Herman Moore catches 10 passes for 117 yards as the Lions go on to dominate the Bears 45-10. After the game, Wayne Fontes is named executive and coach of the year. Record after week 17: 9-7

Monday, August 24, 2009

Possible Tax Credit Extension.....And My Opinion

I just read that there are bills pending in both the House and the Senate to extend the first time home buyer credit of up to $8,000 which expires on November 30 of this year. If you want my opinion, then make sure to read to the end.

The Senate version, co sponsored by Chris Dodd (D-Conn) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), would extend the tax credit to up to $15,000 and make any owner occupant home buyer eligible. Senate majority leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), is in favor of extending the tax credit as it stands currently which is 10% of the purchase price up to $8,000 for first time buyers or someone who has not owned a home in at least 3 years.

The article that I read indicates that the most likely scenario is one where a tax credit would be the same as it stands currently at 10% of the purchase price up to $8,000, but open to all owner occupant buyers instead of just 1st time buyers.

My Opinion:

As a REALTOR, I have benefited from the 1st time tax buyer credit. It has infused into the market place of home buying, a number of 1st time buyers that may not have otherwise been buying thus keeping me busy selling houses both on the listing side and on the buyers side. Maybe we needed that first credit to stave off something much larger than what we have gone through....or maybe not.

But is this new tax credit really a good idea? Was it a good idea in the first place?

We just went through a "Housing Bubble" due to putting too many unqualified buyers into home ownership. By doing this, it created a housing demand. When demand is high, prices go up. But it was an artificial demand. Putting people into homes that should not have been able to buy a home is an artificial demand. Now we are dealing with a large default rate and a saturation of the market with all of these homes that have been defaulted on.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are a lot of people that defaulted that were not in the sub-prime category. They defaulted because of rising unemployment, divorce, lack of good health care causing large medical bills....there are a lot of reasons why people default. But this mess started with the sub-prime loans.

With the sub-prime loans gone, unlike before, these new buyers are qualified buyers that probably moved up their timetable of buying to take advantage of the credit. But isn't the $8,000 credit just inflating the price again?

This "Crash" in the housing market that we are seeing, is the market adjusting itself from being over valued. If we offer $8,000 or $15,000, as one bill suggests, aren't we just inflating the market again? Causing a demand when there should not be a demand?

Why do I say "when there should not be a demand?". I know this person that is not in love with his house, he thinks his house is just ok, but he does not need to sell it. He is settled into it. If this tax credit for everyone goes into effect, especially the $15,000 credit, then his house is going up for sale and he will be building a new house somewhere. Who is this person? It is me. Isn't that artificially putting me into the market, when I had no intention on being in the market? Just because I may disagree with the government giving out this credit does not mean that I will not take advantage of it.....because I will, and others will too.

The other big question is: What is going to happen when this credit goes away? It seems to me that we just are putting off the inevitable of a really really slow real estate market. When you give people incentives like this, they grow to expect it. Just look at the car industry. For years and years, the only way American car makers have been able to sell cars is by giving huge rebates on their product-something that our government just found out with the "cash for clunkers" that brought a lot of buyers onto car lots. In the housing industry, we are in danger of creating the same type of mentality. Several times per week I am asked about a zero down or sub-prime mortgage as a way to buy a house. Most zero down and all sub-prime has been gone for almost 2 years and people are still asking for it. People are looking for the edge or the loop hole. Zero down does have a place, just not to those with poor credit. And it is typically those with poor credit that are asking for those programs.

So, what is my solution if there is no tax credit?......Smart and responsible lending programs that reward people with great credit but don't eliminate as many buyers that our current programs do. In my opinion, there is no reason why someone with an 800 credit score should not be able to buy with zero down if they would like to. I feel that someone with a moderate score, say in the 680 to 720 range, should be able to buy with very little down--like 2% down. Those with a 580 to 679 need to put 3.5% to 5% down. You reward those with the good credit with lower rates. I also feel that banks should allow closing costs to be wrapped up into the loan without a penalty in the interest rate and that down payment assistance programs were not necessarily a bad thing. I know this will not create the number of buyers that are out shopping because of the tax credit as there is right now, but is that a bad thing?

Lets use our tax dollars for giving health insurance for those in need of it. After all, it may very well be the leading cause of bankruptcy in this country which is something that we all pay for. Lets use our tax dollars to build the finest schools possible. If we do those 2 things, I think you will see far more wealth in this country. And if there is more wealth, there are more home buyers.......But that is just my opinion. And I know that this idea would not create a fast enough response in this "give me now" society that we live in. I know that this post will probably not be too popular with my fellow agents, but it is my opinion. And if the government passes a new tax credit, I will push the heck out of it because I need to make a living. But this blog was created in part to voice my opinion, which is what I have done. Feel free to let me hear yours by leaving a comment.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Strong Gain In Existing Home Sales

Here is a press release that I found from the National Association of Realtors about the current market conditions:

For the first time in five years, existing-home sales have increased for four months in a row, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 7.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.24 million units in July from a level of 4.89 million in June. Sales are 5.0 percent above the 4.99 million-unit pace in July 2008. The last time sales rose for four consecutive months was in June 2004, and the last time sales were higher than a year earlier was November 2005.

Largest Gain in a Decade

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said he is encouraged. “The housing market has decisively turned for the better. A combination of first-time buyers taking advantage of the housing stimulus tax credit and greatly improved affordability conditions are contributing to higher sales,” he said.

The monthly sales gain was the largest on record for the total existing-home sales series dating back to 1999.

“Because price-to-income ratios have fallen below historical trends, there are more all-cash offers. In some recovering markets like San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Orlando, the demand for foreclosed and lower-priced homes has spiked, and a lack of inventory is becoming a common complaint,” Yun said.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 5.22 percent in July from 5.42 percent in June. The rate was 6.43 percent in July 2008.

"First-Time Buyer Tax Credit is Working"

An NAR practitioner survey showed first-time buyers purchased 30 percent of homes in July, and that distressed homes accounted for 31 percent of transactions. NAR President Charles McMillan said the first-time buyer tax credit is working. “In addition to first-time buyers, we’re also seeing increased activity by repeat buyers. While many entry-level buyers are focused on the discounted prices of distressed homes, they’re also freeing some existing owners to sell and make a move,” he said.

“Realtors are the best resource for consumers in these changing market conditions because the transaction process has become more complex. Since it’s now taking longer to complete a home sale, first-time buyers who want to take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit should try to make contract offers by the end of September,” McMillan said. “Otherwise, they may miss the November 30 closing deadline.”

Inventory Up, Prices Down

Total housing inventory at the end of July rose 7.3 percent to 4.09 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.4-month supply at the current sales pace, which was unchanged from June because of the strong sales gain. Raw inventory totals are 10.6 percent lower than a year ago when the number of unsold homes was at a record.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $178,400 in July, which is 15.1 percent lower than July 2008. Distressed properties continue to weigh down the median price because they typically sell for 15 to 20 percent less than traditional homes.

Single-Family Homes and Condos

Single-family home sales increased 6.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million in July from a pace of 4.33 million in June, and are 5.0 percent higher than the 4.39 million-unit level in July 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $178,300 in July, which is 14.6 percent below a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales jumped 12.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 units in July from 560,000 in June, and are 5.9 percent above the 595,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price was $178,800 in July, down 18.9 percent from July 2008.

By Region:

The Northeast surged 13.4 percent to an annual pace of 930,000 in July, and are 3.3 percent higher than July 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $236,700, down 15.0 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest jumped 10.9 percent in July to a level of 1.22 million and are 8.0 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $157,200, which is 5.9 percent less than July 2008.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 7.1 percent to an annual pace of 1.95 million in July and are 5.4 percent higher than July 2008. The median price in the South was $164,500, down 7.1 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West slipped 1.7 percent to an annual rate of 1.13 million in July, but are 1.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $202,300, which is 28.0 percent below July 2008.

Source: NAR

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Believe........

I Believe.........That when Jesus said "Love thy neighbor as thyself" that this was a command and not a request. That this command crosses geographical boundaries, political views, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, the rich, the poor, the homeless and anyone else you can think of.

I Believe..........That a great way to start my day is to roll on the floor playing with my 2 pugs.

I Believe..........That the news media is more interested in making the news then they are reporting the news.

I Believe..........That it is a shame that our Government cannot find the money to help the poor, the sick, the un-educated and the homeless of our country but can easily find $700 billion when it appears a bank or two might go out of business.

I Believe..........That we should all stop watching the news for awhile.

I Believe..........That Hank Aaron is, without a doubt, the greatest baseball player to have ever played.

I Believe..........That Barry Sanders was the most exciting football player to have ever played.

I Believe..........That we try to help God across the road like he was a little old lady, when we are the ones that need his help to get across the road.

I Believe..........That whoever thought up of Little Casesars "Crazy Bread" is a culinary genius.

I Believe..........That Weird Al Yankovic is a musical Genius, and I know that I am in the minority on this belief.

I Believe..........That once in awhile a movie is made that can make you completely see something differently and "Blood Diamond" was one of those movies for me.

I Believe..........That Pete Rose should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame for what he did as a player.

I Believe..........That Pete Rose should be banned from baseball for gambling on games while he was a manager.

I Believe..........That no matter what our political beliefs are, we need to pray that the leaders of our country succeed.

I Believe..........That I need to go feed the Pugs!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Facing Foreclosure? Experts Advise Action

Here is an article that I was fortunate to participate in again that was published on the front page of the South Bend Tribune today. The photo to the right was used by the tribune in the article.

Homeowners can take steps to minimize fallout.

Tribune Staff Writer

Consumer advocates have a message for homeowners mired in foreclosure: Your situation is not hopeless.

Even if your house can't be saved, they say, there are steps you can take to lessen the fallout.

"When people see the foreclosure (notice) come to the door, they just give up," said Debra Voltz-Miller, an attorney in South Bend.

This, she said, is the time for homeowners to take action.

Those who call foreclosure-prevention hot lines, such as the one in Indiana, will be referred to local counselors who will serve as go-betweens for homeowners and lenders.

If nothing else, area experts say, homeowners should become their own advocates.

Call your lender and explain your situation, they say. Ask for a modification of the terms of your loan. And follow up to ensure the paperwork is received and your request is considered.

If you've already received a notice of foreclosure from the courts, respond to it in writing, advising that you're trying to work with your lender.

And finally, the experts say, do not pay in advance for the services of a for-profit "foreclosure-rescue" company.

What's new in Indiana?

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced recently a new collaborative foreclosure-prevention effort among multiple state agencies.

Part of the initiative is to train attorneys across the state to assist homeowners — for free — in dealing with and preventing foreclosure.

And new foreclosure-related laws have been enacted, said Judy Fox, an attorney who teaches at the Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Notre Dame.

One piece of the new legislation, she said, is a requirement that lenders give homeowners a 30-day notice before filing foreclosure.

The other new part, Fox said, is that homeowners — beginning July 1 — now have the option of taking part in a settlement conference with their lenders.

The conference offers the opportunity for the borrower and lender to settle on new loan terms, though there is no absolute requirement for the lender to make concessions, Fox said.

At the meeting, the borrower can bring a representative and though the law is ambiguous, she said, she would argue it requires the person at the conference representing the lender to have the authority to settle with the borrower.

The settlement conferences, Voltz-Miller hopes, will be able to help slow down the foreclosure problem in the state.

"If the lender and the homeowner go in (to the conference) in good faith," she said, "I think it has the potential to stop a lot of foreclosures.

"If a homeowner doesn't have a job or any monetary resources, she said, the outcome will undoubtedly be worse, though perhaps not completely unworkable.

No settlement

If a home can't be saved, Voltz-Miller said, the homeowner and lender might be able to negotiate a deed in lieu.

Essentially, the homeowner would turn over the home voluntarily, and would avoid having a foreclosure on their record. Since the ownership of the home would be transferred to the lender, the homeowner also would no longer be responsible for keeping the house up to code, she said.

But if the house is worth less than what's owed on it, a deed in lieu may not be possible.

Fox said lenders may sometimes hold the homeowner responsible after foreclosure for deficiency balances, the amount he or she owes that's above and beyond what the house can be sold for.

At the settlement conference, she said, homeowners may be able to negotiate that amount with the lender.

Also, she said, homeowners may be able to arrange a move-out date that better fits their needs.

"Saving your home is number one," Fox said, "but (if that isn't an option) it's still a good idea to go to the settlement conference.

"Voltz-Miller acknowledged the new laws won't completely solve the foreclosure issue.

"But, we've got to start somewhere. If we don't stem this problem, it'll snowball," affecting the county's tax base, and residents' quality of life, among other things. "It's this vicious circle," she said.

Another option homeowners in foreclosure might consider is trying to sell their homes via a short sale.

Barry Skalski, with Prudential One Realty, specializes in short sales.

A short sale is when the lender agrees to accept an offer on a home that's less than what the current owner owes on it.

Short sales are a way of helping homeowners avoid foreclosure, he said, though selling a home via a short sale does affect a person's credit record for two years.

Also important to note, he said, is that the shortage must be reported to the IRS as income for the homeowner. But, he said, a law was enacted that says any tax liability on that income will be forgiven through the end of this year.

Good candidates for a short sale, he said, include those who are out of work and have no prospects for employment; people who have relocated for their jobs; and homeowners who care about their credit and the neighborhoods they're leaving behind.

Homes in limbo

Fox said she's dismayed by the number of homes in the area that are sitting empty with seemingly no action being taken to formally foreclose on them and get them on the market.

There are a couple of scenarios playing out, she said.

Banks are foreclosing on properties, but are not bringing them to sheriff's sale.

In Indiana, she said, homeowners should know they're allowed to stay in their homes until the sheriff's sale has been completed.

Also, she said, "We're hearing from some banks that the housing market is too depressed. They're not filing foreclosure.

"In this situation, she said, homeowners often move out thinking the foreclosure is complete or will be completed.

Another problem is that some lenders are writing off loan balances for homeowners who have been in foreclosure.

"Consumers think they have a free house," she said, "but they don't."

The debt could be sold to a third party who could seek payment from the homeowner later. Plus, she said, there still would be a lien on the property, which means the homeowner could not sell it.

Homeowners in this situation, she said, should try to keep making payments.

Two local banks and one branch office of a national bank were contacted for this story. Two of them would not go on the record and the third did not return a phone call.

Fox, meanwhile, is not alone in noticing the number of homes in the area that seem to be in limbo.

Among other responsibilities, Jessie Whittaker, director of the LEND Homeownership Center with the South Bend Heritage Foundation, is currently trying to identify five homes in specific areas of the city that have been abandoned or foreclosed on for potential rehabilitation.

Driving around those areas on the west side of South Bend, she said, it's been difficult to find five homes that are suitable, not because there aren't enough abandoned homes but because there are too many.

"We've got to know that when we rehab it, someone is going to buy it," she said.

And one rehabbed home sitting among five or six that are boarded up is not going to look very appealing to a buyer.

So, she's considering recommending the organization buy, with special grant money that's available, all five homes on the same block.

"Maybe that'll have an impact," she said.

Staff writer Kim Kilbride:
(574) 247-7759

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Banks Express Hope for Fed Short-Sale Effort

Here is an article out of the USA Today:

The federal government is launching a program to simplify and speed up the short-sale process by providing standardized documentation, cash incentives to lenders, and a $1,500 moving allowance to borrowers. Holders of second liens will get up to $1,000 to relinquish their claims.

Banks say the short-sale process has been taking so long because both their employees and real estate practitioners are learning as they go.

David Sunlin, vice president in charge of short sales at Bank of America, says he hopes the new government plan will help. "About half of short sales never close. We see it as a big lost opportunity, and we need to improve the rate we close them," he says.

Wells Fargo says it has cut its short sale average turnaround time from 90 days to 30 days by preparing a guide from real estate practitioners and putting in place procedures to handle short-sale requests.

Source: USA Today, Stephanie Armour (08/05/2009)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More Home Owners Underwater as Prices Fall

Here is a story that I found in the Wall Street Journal:

A report from Equifax and Moody's shows that falling prices have left 24 percent of owner-occupied, single-family home owners with mortgage debt greater than the values of the residences.

At the end of this year's second quarter, more than 16 million Americans were in this predicament, an increase from 10 million a year earlier.

Almost 5 percent of owner-occupied dwellings are saddled with mortgage debt worth 150 percent of the property value. Nevada, where 40 percent of owner-occupied homes are "upside-down," is the hardest-hit state, followed by Arizona and California.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Nick Timiraos (08/05/09)

Feds Scold BofA, Wells Fargo on Loan Modifications

Here is a story that I got from the AP. It is my experience that this article is dead on accurate:

The Treasury Department on Tuesday announced that only 9 percent of eligible home owners had been helped by the federal program to modify home loans and prevent foreclosure.

It scolded banking giants Bank of America and Wells Fargo, both of which received federal bailout money, pointing out that these banks have been among the least willing to assist troubled borrowers.

Bank of American modified 4 percent of eligible loans, and Wells Fargo modified 6 percent.

Big banks that did better included JPMorgan Chase & Co., which modified 20 percent of eligible loans, and Citigroup Inc., which modified 15 percent.

The bank with the best results was Saxon Mortgage Services Inc., which helped about 25 percent of its eligible borrowers.

Source: The Associated Press, Alan Zibel (08/04/2009)

FHA Drops Lender on Suspicion of Fraud

This is a pretty big deal of a story that just broke. What it means, is that the 3rd largest FHA lender can no longer do FHA loans effective immediately, even if there is a FHA loan is progress. Locally, Mutual Bank is the biggest lender that is effected by this.

The FHA's third-biggest lender, Taylor, Bean and Whitaker Mortgage Corp., has been dropped from the agency's loan program due to possible fraud.

An independent auditor found "irregular transactions that raised concerns of fraud," but FHA said the Florida-based firm failed to file a mandatory annual financial report and indicated that there were no outstanding issues related to the audit.

Experts say it could fold as a result; and with less competition in the industry, mortgage rates could rise.

"It's just a question of demand and supply," stated Equity Now Inc. President Michael Moskowitz. "If Taylor Bean goes down, it's a pretty big deal."

Source: Bloomberg David Mildenberg and Jody Shenn (08/05/09)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


With the popularity of blogs, Twitter and Facebook etc... these days, everyone has and wants to voice their opinion . This is not always a bad thing as we all have different view points and life experiences that shape our beliefs and opinions. But, I do keep thinking back of something that the pastor of my church said back in May about being aware about what you are saying and writing for people to to listen to and read:

Stop and T.H.I.N.K. before you speak.

T = True
H = Helpful
I = Important
N = Necessary
K = Kind

He went on to say:

The wrong thing said any time misses.
The right thing said at the wrong time misses.
The right thing said the wrong way misses.
The right thing said the right way at the right time has a chance.

I don't always abide by this guideline, but I do try. There have been posts that I have taken time to write, only to remind myself of this guide which resulted in me eliminating the post. I wish that the news media would remind themselves of this guide before going ahead with some of the stories that they do.

Friday, July 31, 2009

FHA Program To Help Stuggling Home Owners

Here is a press release from the National Association of REALTORS today about the FHA Making Home Affordable Loan Modification Program:

The newly enhanced FHA Making Home Affordable Loan Modification Program will help struggling home owners—who qualify—to significantly reduce their monthly mortgage payments and stay in their homes, said NAR President Charles McMillan in a public statement.

The changes expand the Obama administration's Making Home Affordable Loan Modification Program to include FHA borrowers. NAR is optimistic that this will have positive implications for thousands of home owners, McMillan said.

“Until foreclosures have been significantly reduced and housing inventory reaches a more normal level, there can be no true housing recovery," McMillan said. "The FHA–HAMP program will go a long way in achieving these important goals by helping FHA servicers bring mortgages current, buy down loans by up to 30 percent of the unpaid principal balance, and defer these amounts until the first mortgage is paid off."

NAR will continue to call on Congress and the Obama administration to expand the first-time home buyer tax credit to all home buyers and continue efforts to streamline the short-sale process.

"Along with the expanded loan modification program, addressing these issues will help reduce foreclosures and housing inventory, and stabilize home values," McMillan said.

Source: NAR

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Believe......

I Believe..........For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

I Believe............That my wife Kimberly is awesome and that she and I need to take a day off together just to "hang out"

I Believe..........That ALL human life is precious including the unborn.

I Believe..........That if Jesus himself came down from heaven and held a press conference stating that Barack Obama was born in the United States, that there would still be Conservative Republicans claiming that he was not born in the states and immediately call for an investigation as to the authenticity of the press conference, claiming it to be some kind of liberal conspiracy.

I Believe..........That every person in this country should have adequate health care coverage and 5 years after we get that, people will wonder what took us so long to do so.

I Believe..........That there needs to be a legitimate 3rd party in politics.

I Believe..........That there was a 2nd gunman on the grassy knoll.

I Believe..........Tea Parties are one of the stupidest ideas that people have come up with to protest wasteful spending. I can think of much better ways to show your displeasure of wasteful spending then spending wastefully on Tea and dumping it into a river or whatever it is these people do.

I Believe..........That despite our mild summer here in Indiana, that there is such a thing as global warming.

I Believe..........That if Jesus himself came down from heaven and held a press conference saying that there was no such thing as global warming, that the tree huggers of the world would not believe him and immediately call for an investigation as to how "Big Oil" manipulated Jesus.

I Believe..........That the Christian Faith does not need Satan to divide us apart, we seem to do a good job of it on our own.

I Believe..........That if the Detroit Tigers do not get another good starting pitcher and another good left handed batter, that they do not have a chance on getting to the post season, let alone the world series.

I Believe..........That the Republican party is listening too much to the ultra conservative wing of their party driving away moderates like myself. After all, they don't even want Colin Powell anymore which I find ridiculous.

I Believe..........That if the Democrats keep letting Pelosi run wild, then they just might revive the Republican party by default.

I Believe..........That the big difference in Energy Policy between Republicans and Democrats, is that Republicans do not want to be dependent on other countries oil, while Democrats do not want to be dependent on any oil.

I Believe..........That we need to pay more attention to what the Bible says about the poor.

I Believe..........That I probably need to get back to work.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA)

Surprisingly, I have heard little out of the real estate community about the upcoming changes that are taking place on July 30 in regards to lending practices. This makes me a little nervous that Realtors and Lenders will not be prepared for the upcoming changes, causing confusion and frustration between Realtors, lenders, buyers and sellers. The changes, in my opinion, will create 45 -60 day closings for a while until processes are understood and implemented. Which is why, in the intial stages of this, when I write up an offer for a buyer or get an offer on a property that I have listed, I will be insisting on at least a 45 day close.

In the past, Lenders were able to collect up front fees from the buyers. These fees were mostly to cover the cost of the credit report and for the cost of the appraisal. In doing this, the lender was able to order the appraisal right away which sped up the process of getting the loan processed quickly.

With the new laws, lenders will still be able to collect the upfront fee for the credit report, but will no longer be able to collect the upfront fee for the appraisal. The reason for this, is that the new law dictates that the buyer must recieve their disclosures for the loan for review. These disclosures have always been sent out in the past, but by the time the buyer had them to review them, the appraisal may have already been ordered which could make the buyer more apt to feel obligated on going on with the loan even if they disagreed with the terms. The new law says that the appraisal fee can be collected 1 day after the buyer has received the overnight package containing the terms to be reviewed. This is meant to give the buyer more of an opportunity to ask questions before preceeding. The effect of this could be about a 5-7 day delay from how the loan was processed in the past.

The other really big change is in the Truth In Lending Dislclosure which is referred to as a TIL in the industry. The TIL will be given out at the begining of the process and again at the end of the process, which was done before as well. The TIL will reflect the lender fees that are involved with your loan so that you know exactly what you are being charged for by the lender. These "Fees" that are listed is figured into your Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for your loan. The more fees and such that are added into your loan, the higher the APR will be from the loan percentage rate that you have. An example would be that the interest rate of your loan may be 6% but the APR might show 6.375% because of the fees that are added in. The APR will always be higher then the percentage rate of the loan.

The big change in this TIL comes near the end of the transaction. In the past, the buyer may not see a new TIL until they get to the closing table. Since the first TIL you recieve usually is not the most accurate, the closing TIL will differ usually from the 1st one that you see. This can be a shock to buyers. Starting July 30, the new law says that the buyer MUST have at least 3 days to review the new TIL before closing if the new TIL will be .125% different then the first TIL. Which it most certainly will be. So, this change will cause at least a 3 day delay over the past way of closing loans. Basically meaning that the closing will be done and ready and sitting there for at least 3 days before we close on the house.

When you add up those changes, it results in a 7-14 day delay in closing over how things were done in the past. With the current economic climate we are in where everyone has cut back on staffing, 30 -45 day closings are very common right now before these laws take effect. That is why, for the time being, the new typical closing time will probably be 45-60 days.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Housing Deals Are Plentiful

Here is an article that was on today's front page of the South Bend Tribune where I was one of the Realtors that was interviewed for the story:

How to find bargains in today's distressed real estate market.

By KIM KILBRIDETribune Staff Writer

When Zach Quiett returned from serving in Iraq with the Army National Guard in May 2008, one of his top priorities was to become a homeowner.

Quiett hooked up with David Bodine, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Anchor Real Estate, and planned a marathon outing during which they'd look at a couple dozen properties in a single day.

Some of them, Quiett said, he was able to quickly scratch off his list of potentials. But the last house the pair looked at seemed perfect.

It was a historic three-bedroom in the Leeper Park area of South Bend.

And it was a foreclosure.

Quiett paid $45,000 for the house. It appraised at closing for nearly $60,000. Fixed up, his Realtor says, it likely will appraise for more than $80,000.

Because of the high number of distressed homes available for sale, local real estate experts say, there are plenty of deals to be had these days.

But buyers must be patient, educated about the market and willing to be aggressive when a bargain pops up.

Short sales

Homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments and are facing foreclosure likely will consider requesting a loan modification from their lender.

But if a modification isn't an option or if the terms can't be hammered out, a short sale is sometimes considered.

"Usually, the bank is the one saying, 'Let's do a short sale,'" said Barry Skalski, a broker associate with Prudential One Realty who specializes in short sales.

In a short sale, the lender will often agree to accept less for the property than the seller owes on it, he said.

The downside, he said, is it's a much more complicated process than a conventional real estate transaction.

"Once an offer has been submitted to the bank, you have a whole short sale package that has to be filled out," Skalski said.

Most of those items are documentation of the seller's hardship.

The process can take about 45 days, he said.

For a patient buyer, however, the process can pay off with a savings of some 25 percent to 30 percent on a home.

Last week, Skalski showed a Tribune reporter and photographer a home he has listed as a short sale in Royal Oak Estates on the south side of South Bend.

The owner, who has been relocated and no longer lives in this area, owes more on the property than it's worth, Skalski said.

In 2005, the owner bought the four-bedroom, waterfront two-story home new for $220,000.

Late last week, Skalski had it listed for $189,900 and was considering lowering the asking price.

"This is a great offer where someone could make a $170,000 to $175,000 offer and get a heck of a deal on a house," Skalski said of the home that is nearly 2,300 square feet and move-in ready.

If Skalski can sell the home and the bank agrees to take a loss, the homeowner's credit score will be negatively affected by the short sale for about two years.

If not, the home will likely be foreclosed on and the homeowner's credit will potentially suffer to some extent for seven years.

"This is a market like none we've come across before," Skalski said.

If a homeowner doesn't sell in time, his lender's next step could be scheduling the home for a foreclosure auction, giving anyone with the cash an opportunity to bid on the property.

Skalski warned, however, that potential buyers cannot inspect a home before it goes up for auction. They also inherit any liens on the property and are required to pay in full on the day of the purchase.

Bank-owned homes, aka REOs

Often, lenders will send representatives to foreclosure auctions to buy back their own properties. After that, they ask real estate agents they partner with to prep the homes and get them on the Multiple Listing Service.

That's where David and Amy Bodine with Coldwell Banker come in. The couple specialize in repossessions.

It's often David Bodine's job to give homeowners — if they're still occupying the property — final notification of the foreclosure.

Often, he said, lenders will allow him to offer the inhabitants of foreclosed homes — even if they aren't the owners — a check for cleaning up the property and leaving it in decent condition.

Then, he coordinates with the bank to have any items left behind cleared out, as well as to have the property winterized, if necessary, before putting it on the market.

The bank-owned homes he lists, he said, are priced to sell within two months.

That often means they're undervalued, he said.

A home the couple just last week sold in Forest Hills in Granger is a perfect example.

Listed at $111,750, the five-bedroom ranch features a vaulted living room and wooded lot. It does need cosmetic work, however, such as new carpet and paint and some drywall repairs.

The day after the Bodines showed it to two Tribune staffers, an offer was accepted on the bank-owned property.

The seller was able to get a loan called a 203K that will allow him to finance the needed repairs.

David Bodine said he couldn't divulge the price the home sold at because the sale had not closed.

But even at $111,750, it seemingly was a deal in a neighborhood of homes valued at $130,000 to $250,000.

Before it sold, David Bodine said the bank was potentially looking for about $100,000 for the home. In his opinion, it required about $15,000 to $20,000 in repairs and updating. Fixed up, he said, it would likely be worth $150,000 to $160,000.

The average number of days a decently priced foreclosure stays on the market here is 30 to 65 days.

"Their goal," he said of lenders who buy back properties, "is to move the property in 60 days.

"About tips for finding good deals on foreclosures, David Bodine said, "The key is finding homes that are priced well."

Don't be overly concerned about cosmetic defaults, he said, but ensure that the "big ticket" items, such as the roof, heating and air conditioning systems, foundation, and well and septic systems are sound.

And when you see a deal, be ready to make an offer.

Being realistic

Skalski, meanwhile, said the local real estate market certainly is a buyer's one right now, but it's not as depressed as some may think.

Generally, you won't pick up a $100,000 home for $50,000.

"Unfortunately," he said, "there are buyers out there who think they'll get 50, 75 percent off. This market is not like that. ... Maybe Vegas, but this (real estate) bubble was not that big.

"Instead, he said, expect to save about 25 percent to 30 percent compared to the value of other homes in the neighborhood when you buy a distressed home.

He advised buyers to always consider what they'll have to pay for a property and then start adding back in what it will cost to make it move-in ready.

"Not every foreclosure is a good deal," he said.

"Don't expect (to be able to make) a huge profit (on the home) right away," he said. "Expect to have to put a lot of work into the home. Just because you've watched a couple of HGTV shows doesn't mean you're going to be able to flip this house."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Just Don't Get It

This probably will not be a popular post, since most people drink coffee and seem to enjoy it:

Every morning, I wake up and turn on "Morning Joe" on MSNBC and "Mike and Mike In The Morning" on ESPN and flip back and forth between the two shows. I have noticed over the past few weeks, that "Morning Joe" is now "Morning Joe Powered By Starbucks". Then this morning on "Mike and Mike" they had a special guest host named Tim Kurkjian who is an awesome baseball analyst. On "Mike and Mike" Greeny kept trying to get Tim hooked on coffee. To Tim's credit, he just does not get what the big deal about coffee is. I don't either.

Why is everyone so hooked on this drink? It smells bad, it is hot (I prefer cold beverages) and you have to add all kinds of stuff to it to make it drinkable. Froca moca lattes, frapa chino's, foam, no foam. Whatever, I just don't get it!

Have you ever noticed the ugly grimace on peoples face when they take that first drink of coffee in the morning? Watch for it, it's there! Why do people drink this stuff?

Three years ago, Kimberly and I were in Hawaii and everywhere we went we kept hearing about how you had to try Kona Coffee. I had never tried coffee before, so I thought I would try a small sample. Some kind of Hazelnut flavor. It was awful! Very bitter tasting, not a pleasant smell. Just an awful taste and experience.

Everyone says, "you just have to add milk and sugar and flavoring to it and then it tastes great!" Well, I am sure that there are a lot of things that would taste great if you added a bunch of flavoring to it to disguise the disgusting taste in its purest form. So why go through the trouble? Why pay $3-4 for a cup of Starbucks? If you want something that tastes like chocolate, drink a hot chocolate. It costs less. I just don't get this whole coffee craze that people are on. Is it really that cool to have a starbucks cup in your hand? I'll just be uncool and keep drinking my Diet Coke.

OK. That's my rant on coffee. I know you have opinions, feel free to voice them.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"I Am Not A Role Model"

"I Am Not A Role Model" I remember those words caused a lot of controversy back in June of 1993 when Charles Barkley uttered those words followed by "Just because I can dunk a basketball, does not mean that I should raise your kids." At the time, and even more so now, I felt that he was unfairly criticized for those remarks.

I understand that kids look up to athletes, actors, actresses and pop singers. After all, I was a kid once and I remember looking up to Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell. But just because an athlete, a musician or an actor/actress have success in their public life does not mean that they have success in their private life. And I think that is what Charles Barkley meant by his statement, especially since Charles has been arrested for prostitution solicitation and has an admitted gambling problem.

Now, there are a lot of great people to look up to including athletes, actors, actresses and pop singers. But the point I am trying to make, is that the people you come into contact on a daily basis are the people that should be having the greatest influence. Parents, relatives, friends, pastors and neighbors are going to have far more influence in a persons life. We need to be careful and distinguish the difference between just looking up to someone because of success and fame and fortune, and idolizing someone.

Since the death of Michael Jackson, the AP has reported 12 suicides as a direct result of Jacksons death and several more attempted suicides.

"I Am Not A Role Model" has been echoing around in my head for the past week or two as I see more and more people that have fallen lately. Quarterbacks, pop singers, governors and senators. All who have had a very different public life vs. their private life. This could be a great opportunity for people to be reminded who their role models should be.
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