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Austin Real Estate Blog

Mortgage Rates Hit An All Time Low: Again

Aug. 6, 2010
In what has become an almost weekly occurrence mortgage rates hit new all time lows. The 30 year rate fell from 4.56 to 4.54 this week. Rates have either reached new lows or matched old lows for 5 consecutive weeks.

The 15 year also reached an all time low dropping from 4.03 to 4.00. It will be interesting to see if the 15 year fixed will fall below 4.0 in the next few weeks. The 5 year arm dropped from 3.79 to 3.76 just .01 points above the all time low. The 1 year arm dropped from 3.70 to 3.64 which is also an all time low. Below are rates from the weeks from July 01, 2010 to July 29, 2010

Jul 29, 2010
30-fixed 4.54 15-fixed 4.00 5 ARM 3.76 1 ARM 3.64

Jul 22, 2010
30-fixed 4.56 15-fixed 4.03 5 ARM 3.79 1 ARM 3.70

Jul 15, 2010
30-fixed 4.57 15-fixed 4.06 5 ARM 3.85 1 ARM 3.74

Jul 08, 2010
30-fixed 4.57 15-fixed 4.07 5 ARM 3.75 1 ARM 3.75

Jul 01, 2010
30-fixed 4.58 15-fixed 4.04 5 ARM 3.79 1 ARM 3.80

Jan 14, 2010
30-fixed 5.06 15-fixed 4.45 5 ARM 4.32 1 ARM 4.39

Ok so mortgage rates are one thing but let's look at mortgage payments. We took today's rates and translated them into a mortgage payment on a 200k house. For the sake of comparison we did the same thing with rates from July 15th and January 14, 2010.

Jul 29
30-year $1018.12
15-year $1479.37
5-year ARM $927.36
1-year ARM $913.79

Jul 15
30-year $1021.7
15-year $1485.39
5-year ARM $937.61
1-year ARM $925.09

Jan 14
30-year $1080.98
15-year $1524.88
5-year ARM $992.09
1-year ARM $1000.34

So for a 200k loan the mortgage payment at 1018.12 is just a little above $1000 a month. Compared to January 14, 2010 a mortgage payment today is $62.86 less for a drop of 5.81 percent. That is pretty substantial considering that rates were already pretty low by historical standards on January 14th, 2010.

So what is going to happen moving forward. Although for some time I have felt that there was more of a danger of rates going up than down (and rates in that time have gone down), I am sticking with that same basic forecast. Rates are unnaturally low. They might fall a little bit in the next few weeks. I don't the 30 year rate falling below 4.25. But overall there is more of a chance rates will rise drastically than fall drastically. And I would suspect rates will be higher in 6 months to a year from now. If rates did fall drastically there would have to be something substantially wrong with the economy like significant deflation.

But for now the current environment favors buyers. Rates are extremely low and since this is not leading to that much excitement in prospective home buyers there is not that much competition in the market. So we are seeing a lot of houses on the market, not many buyers and very low mortgage rates.

Ki works as a real estate broker in Texas. His site is a resource on Austin Tx real estate. It provides several free mortgage calculators along with a mortgage rate widget. His site also has a blog covering Austin Tx real estate.

The Jolly Area of Jollyville Road

Aug. 6, 2010
Jollyville Road has recently become a mecca for shoppers, business people, and residents, due to its varied character, which is a combination of high tech businesses, shopping venues, and nice but fairly reasonably priced homes with big, shady yards.

The relatively recent addition of the Arboretum and the nearby Domain make the area a shopper's paradise, and there are numerous strip centers, restaurants, fast food establishments, and grocery stores, among other businesses. In addition, Great Hills Baptist Church is in the center of the neighborhood, and it is one of the largest and most active churches in Austin with numerous secular as well as religious activities for all ages and lifestyles.

There is a restaurant row area as well, with a Johnny Carino's, Rudy's BBQ, Macaroni Grill, IHOP, and Fire Bowl, which is a very tasty oriental food place. Another choice for oriental is Twin Lion, which is quite popular with the locals, and P.F.Chang's, also very crowd pleasing.
The insurance industry has a big presence in the Jollyville area, with quite a few franchise agencies within a stone's throw of each other, with affordable plans available. Also, many are regularly hiring, to the delight of job seekers.

There are apartment complexes galore, but the homes are the really eye-catching residential opportunities, many of which are large one-story ranch style homes on large rolling green lawns with lots of big shade trees, many having beautiful views. There are also quite a few contemporary multi-level homes that are in great condition and very appealing. A number of small creeks permeate the area, so many of the homes have views or even access to these streams, making the homes even more desirable.

While shopping at the Arboretum, visitors have a choice of products from Barnes and Noble, Chico's, the Gap, Nine West, and the Pottery Barn, just to name a few, as well as many choices of dining options, including T.G. I. Friday's, Amy's, the Wiki Wiki Teriyaki, Serrano's, and Kenobi Sushi, among others, all within the confines of the Arboretum itself.

There are also many other types of establishments, including hair salons such as Salon 505 and accessory shops such as Sunglass Hut. The centerpiece of the Arboretum is the luxury Renaissance Hotel, but the visitor to the area has many other choices of lodging too, including the Hilton, Hampton Inn, Staybridge Suites, Hyatt, and Holiday Inn, all within close proximity to the Jollyville area.

The area is also very well supplied with medical facilities, including Seton Northwest on Research at Braker, just a few blocks east of Jollyville, and the Quarry Lake medical complex, which includes Austin Radiological Association, among others, so if one is in need of regular intensive heath care or the occasional checkup, this is a great area to consider residing.

Spicewood Springs, Canyon Creek and Bull Creek are also very accessible for residents and visitors to the Jollyville area so recreation is aplenty, especially for swimmers, walkers, hikers, and dog walkers, with the abundance of hike and bike trails and greenbelts in the neighborhood.

There is a new library under renovation, and many library branches are in close proximity, one called Old Quarry, which is adjacent to Village Drive a few miles south of Jollyville, and Spicewood Springs Branch, a larger city library on Spicewood Springs, as well as the Millwood Branch which is near Parmer Lane. In addition, the North Village Branch is on Steck, also very close, so readers and library patrons have a library in each direction, all modern and well-stocked.

The Jollyville area lately has been noted for reasonably priced, nice homes, so with all of the nearby attractions, as well as proximity to U.S. 183, Loop One, and Loop 360, and close access to the lakes and hill country, it is a thriving neighborhood. This neighborhood is very cosmopolitan, but very comfortable, so consider northwest Austin if you enjoy scenic beauty, yet also a metropolitan and modern lifestyle!

In Austin, Ki organizes information on Austin Texas real estate on a website. It furnishes a process to search for available homes in the Austin MLS by specific criteria. He has lived and worked in Austin for over a decade. His site has a blog which covers Austin real estate with market graphs and statistics.

Mortgage Rates Hold At All Time Historic Low

Jul. 18, 2010
Last week the 30 year rate fell to an all time low of 4.57. This week mortgage rates held at 4.57 so we are still sitting on all time historic lows. This is also the 4th week in a row where mortgage rates have either held steady or fallen. The expectation has been that rates were going to rise. Since the economic recovery has kind of sputtered their has been some downward pressure on mortgage rates. If the economy starts to recover we could expect rates to increase. In the meantime I would expect rates to hold steady or fall a little more. I would probably not hold out for lower rates though since there is a limited amount they could fall at this point. Its pretty unlikely rates will fall below 4.3.

Looking at the other major products, the 15 year dropped from 4.07 to 4.06. The 5 and 1 year arms rose from 3.75 to 3.85 (5 year arm) and 3.75 to 3.74 (1 year arm). Below are rates from the weeks from June 17, 2010 to July 15, 2010

Jul 15, 2010
30-fixed 4.57 15-fixed 4.06 5 ARM 3.85 1 ARM 3.74

Jul 08, 2010
30-fixed 4.57 15-fixed 4.07 5 ARM 3.75 1 ARM 3.75

Jul 01, 2010
30-fixed 4.58 15-fixed 4.04 5 ARM 3.79 1 ARM 3.80

Jun 24, 2010
30-fixed 4.69 15-fixed 4.13 5 ARM 3.84 1 ARM 3.77

Jun 17, 2010
30-fixed 4.75 15-fixed 4.20 5 ARM 3.89 1 ARM 3.82

Dec 31, 2009
30-fixed 5.14 15-fixed 4.54 5 ARM 4.44 1 ARM 4.33

So in addition to mortgage rates let's look at actual mortgage payments. We took today's rates and used a mortgage calculator to determine the mortgage payment on a 200k loan. We also did the same thing with rates from July, 01 2010 and rates from December, 31 2009

Jul 15
30-year $1021.7
15-year $1485.39
5-year ARM $937.61
1-year ARM $925.09

Jul 01
30-year $1022.89
15-year $1483.38
5-year ARM $930.77
1-year ARM $931.91

Dec 31
30-year $1090.82
15-year $1534.07
5-year ARM $1006.25
1-year ARM $993.26

Compared to 6 months ago (December 31, 2009) a mortgage payment on a 200k loan is $69.12 less a month for a drop of 6.33. That is pretty substantial considering rates were already pretty low 6 months ago.

Moving forward it's hard to know where rates are going in the short term. If the economy continues to sputter rates will probably stay where they are or decrease slightly. If the economy starts to improve, mortgage rates will likely move up perhaps drastically. So while it's hard to know where rates will be in a few months they will probably be substantially higher in a year from now.

Ki lives in Austin Texas and has a site covering real estate Austin. His site provides a mortgage rate widget and a free mortgage calculator along with general information on mortgage interest rates and the real estate market in Austin.

How to Become a Famous Real Estate Agent

Jul. 5, 2010
So, you have taken the classes and you have now become a real estate agent. Or, you already are a real estate agent. Now that you are, or already are, a real estate agent, how do you become a famous real estate agent?

Before getting into the specifics of becoming famous, you need to sit back, kick up your feet and decide on your niche. Your niche will be the springboard from which you launch your campaign to become famous. Is the luxury market your thing, or maybe being a buyer's agent is more your cup-of-tea. You need to decide where your strengths lie and then you'll be able to better focus your energy and hone your expertise.

Once you have defined your niche, you are ready to proceed with THE thing that will make you famous in your niche.

It has been said of late that 80 percent of house hunting begins on the Internet. If you are to become a famous real estate agent, you must become Internet savvy. Most major brokers nowadays provide a website for their agents. It would be a good idea if you sought out training to make your website stand out from the rest.

In addition, obtain an inexpensive web domain from one of the online providers like GoDaddy. You can name it some creative name that will make people find you and help them remember it when they need to get in contact with you.

Branding is the key to standing out from the rest. You must have a brand that makes people remember you. You'll want to link your branded domain name to your website with your broker to direct people to your listings and information. Also, find ways to use your brand to make it something that sticks in people heads. Association is a common method human beings use to retain memory. Associate your expertise or name with something related to real estate that people will remember. You want your brand to stand out from the rest.

Along with providing a web address for each agent, some brokers even provide training for their agents to learn how to set up their websites to make them individual and stand out. You'll want to either attend training or hire someone to develop your website for you.

Either way, you'll want to get your website up and running with splashy graphics and links that lead people to useful information. Make sure you insert a quality picture of yourself. Sales have been lost due to an amateur picture.

YouTube is a website where you can post videos you've created of useful real estate information. Along with posting it on your blog, some information you might want to consider teaching about on video is the rebate first-time homeowners can receive due to the approval of the federal stimulus package. Information like that is considered very valuable and would be visited many times over if you provided a professional presentation of it.

You'll need a blog on your website that provides useful information for potential homeowners, along with enabling readers to comment on your website. Comments are sometimes quite useful in finding out what your audience is really interested in. Provide links to helpful and needful information and provide stellar aesthetics to create interest in your website. Along with the blog, make sure you actually create blog posts on a regular basis that are of great importance to your audience. This will create interest and keep them coming back for more. Establish a RSS feed to enable readers to subscribe easily to your blog. If you do not know what that is, the webmaster you hire can create it for you.

You'll also want to consider signing up for several social networks, like Active Rain, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, LinkedIn and others. Make sure you include your website link on your profile of all social networking sites of which you become a member, along with your branded name.

While creating a stunning website, you'll want to discover and decide how you will distribute your listings via the web. You want your clients to be wowed at your ability to expose their listings.

The last thing you'll want to take care of is a means to determine your return on investment (ROI). You need a good method to track your marketing and advertising expenditures, so that you will know what your ROI is. Make sure you include a counter on your website that tracks unique visits to your site, along with some way to analyze the traffic your site receives in order to improve results.

Now that you've found your niche, become Internet savvy, have your website up and running and are experiencing some notoriety, make sure to keep track of how your clients found you. Ask them. Also, ask them if they have seen your website.

As you continue to promote yourself aggressively with electronic media, you will eventually become what you've always dreamed of - a famous real estate agent!

Ki works, and lives, in Austin, Texas. He maintains a website to search Austin Texas real estate. The site offers free and exhaustive information on homes in the Austin MLS to future owners. The site also has a blog covering Austin real estate.

Interested in a Condominium? Get a FHA-Insured Loan

Jul. 4, 2010
Mortgage Insurance for Condominium Units (Section 234(c)) program assists potential homeowners in purchasing a home in a condominium development. The prospective condominium must be the potential homeowner's primary residence.

The intent of this federal program managed under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to insure the loan of a borrower who buys a unit in a condominium property. HUD does not directly provide loans to borrowers. Instead, HUD insures loans through FHA-approved lenders. Some of those who take advantage of the program are low- to moderate-income renters who want to buy their unit in order to avoid displacement when their apartment building is converted into condominiums.

Some aspects of the program are as follows:

* Program insures the loan up to 30 years.
* Condominium development must be separated into a minimum of four dwelling units - can be a walk-up, a rowhouse, semi-detached or an elevator structure.
* Loan is made by a certified HUD lender.
* To be eligible, you must prove creditworthiness and meet FHA underwriting criteria.
* Down payment may be as low as 3 percent or less - FHA insurance enables homeowners to finance around 97 percent of the home's cost through the home loan.
* Some closing fees may be included in the loan, reducing up-front cost.
* FHA limits certain fees charged by lenders - e.g., loan origination fees.
* FHA limits the amount of the home loan based on the locale of the condominium and number of units being bought.

Some restrictions do apply to the program. FHA will not insure loans under this program for rental units converted to ownership except as follows:

* Units were converted over a year prior to loan application.
* Potential borrower or co-borrower was a tenant of one of the converted units.
* Property conversion is sponsored by a tenant's group that represents the bulk of households in the development - 80 percent of FHA-insured home loans must be for owner-occupants.

In order to get started, you need to find a FHA-approved lender. You may do so by contacting lenders and asking them if they are FHA-approved or by conducting a search on the HUD website. Either way, you'll want to shop around for a reputable lender with a good interest rate and low closing fees.

Compare rates and fees, and use the following as a checklist to compare lenders:

* How much is the lender charging for the interest rate and origination fees?
* Is the lender approved by FHA for your local area?
* Do you know the lender's reputation?

Ask plenty of questions and keep the following in mind:

* Interest rate is not regulated and points are not set by the FHA.
* Before signing any agreement, understand that you are responsible for negotiating with your lender regarding the terms set for the loan, to include routine and reasonable closing costs required to close on the loan.

Property developers who intend to finance the construction or renovation of properties they intend to sell as units under this program may also obtain FHA-insured mortgages.

For more information, visit the HUD website or contact your local lender.

Ki created a website to help buyers interested in Austin real estate. This is a free service for buyers interested in homes in the Austin MLS. He has lived in Austin, Texas for over ten years. He also has a blog for people to keep up with the Austin Texas real estate market.

Mortgage Rates Drop to All Time Low

Jun. 26, 2010
Rates have been relatively low over the last month. This week, they are in the news by falling to a new all time historical low.

The 30 year rate fell from 4.75 to 4.69 this week. Two weeks ago the 30 year rate was sitting at 4.72. What's interesting is that over the last month, when a lot of people have been talking about how rates are about to start rising, we are instead breaking records with mortgage rate lows. We mostly concentrate on the 30 year rate because it is the most widely used mortgage product. But in addition to the 30 year rate hitting an all time low the 3 other major mortgage products all reached new all time lows as well. The 15 year dropped from 4.20 to 4.13. The 5 and 1 year arms dropped from 3.89 to 3.84 (5 year arm) and 3.82 to 3.77 (1 year arm). Below are rates from the weeks from May 27, 2010 to Jun 24, 2010

Jun 24, 2010
30-fixed 4.69 15-fixed 4.13 5 ARM 3.84 1 ARM 3.77

Jun 17, 2010
30-fixed 4.75 15-fixed 4.20 5 ARM 3.89 1 ARM 3.82

Jun 10, 2010
30-fixed 4.72 15-fixed 4.17 5 ARM 3.92 1 ARM 3.91

Jun 03, 2010
30-fixed 4.79 15-fixed 4.20 5 ARM 3.94 1 ARM 3.95

May 13, 2010
30-fixed 4.93 15-fixed 4.30 5 ARM 3.95 1 ARM 4.02

So in addition to looking at mortgage rates it's also helpful to look at mortgage payments. We took today's rates and translated them into a mortgage payment for a 200k loan. We also did the same things with rates from May 13th.

Jun 24
30-year $1036.07
15-year $1492.43
5-year ARM $936.47
1-year ARM $928.5

May 13
30-year $1065.1
15-year $1509.62
5-year ARM $949.07
1-year ARM $957.13

So although rates were already pretty low on May 13th today a payment on a 200k loan is about $30 less a month for a drop of a little less than 3 percent.

So what is going to happen over the next few months? Its certainly possible rates could fall a little more and we could break some new records with mortgage rates. I would be surprised if rates fell below 4.25 unless the economy went into a significant tailspin. On the other hand once the economy recovers rates should increase rapidly. And in inflation spirals out of control I could see rates jumping into the double digits.

Ki is a broker working in the Austin Texas real estate market. His site has information on mortgage trends from a mortgage rate widget to a free mortgage calculator. He also provides a search for Austin tx real estate.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Reverse Mortgages

Jun. 26, 2010
Reverse mortgages are a relatively recent product on the lending scene. The approval process is somewhat abbreviated compared to a traditional home loan, but there are some conditions and requirements that make a reverse mortgage unique to other home loans.

What Is a Reverse Mortgage?

It is a home loan that enables the homeowner access to the equity built up in the home. Some borrowers prefer a lump sum when taking out a reverse mortgage. Others choose to receive monthly payments. No payment is required on the reverse mortgage until the homeowner dies, sells the home or vacates the home for more than 12 months - e.g., to go into an aged care facility. At that time, the reverse mortgage must be paid off, either through the sale of the home or reimbursement from loved ones who will be taking possession of the home.

Am I Qualified?

The primary prerequisites for a reverse mortgage are that borrowers be 62 years of age or older and have equity built up in their homes. The U.S. Department of housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that the borrowers of these mortgages obtain financial counseling from a HUD-approved third party prior to finalizing the note. Upon release of funds, the previous mortgage must be paid off. In most cases, borrowers may use the funds leftover from the equity of the home in whatever way they wish.

What Are the Advantages?

The greatest advantage of a reverse mortgage is that the borrower has full access to the equity built up in the home. With medical costs at all-time highs and diminished medical for seniors, many take out a reverse mortgages to pay for ongoing medical bills that are not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Others do not have extended family to leave their estate to, so they take out reverse mortgages for vacations and other recreational activities and products, so that they may enjoy their twilight years.

In the past, seniors often agreed to a reverse mortgage without understanding the consequences. The results were devastating to many when they realized they had little or nothing left to pass on to their children. HUD now requires all those considering a reverse mortgage to undergo financial counseling, so that seniors understand exactly what they are getting into prior to agreeing to a mortgage.

What are the Disadvantages?

There are many disadvantages of a reverse mortgage. Many seniors have worked hard all of their lives to achieve financial independence and provide a legacy and inheritance for their children. Although having access to the equity in the home will provide greater financial opportunities, the legacy and inheritance will be impeded upon and diminished through a reverse mortgage lien on the home.

Some homes are not qualified, and other homes must adhere to strict requirements - e.g., a mobile home must sit on a concrete base, among other constraints. Astonishingly, lenders can lawfully charge loan origination fees up to $6,000 for a reverse mortgage. Interest continues to accrue on the loan for the remainder of the homeowner's life, or until the home is sold, and is added to the lien on the property through the reverse mortgage agreement.

If you are considering a reverse mortgage, talk to your family members first. Include your children in the discussion. There may be other options you can pursue without having to tie up your home in a loan that will reduce the equity you've worked so hard to build up in your home.

Ki graduated from college in Austin Texas, and never left. He created a website to provide information on the Austin real estate market to future buyers. Anyone can search homes in the Austin MLS on his site. He also writes a blog looking at trends for Austin Texas real estate.

Jobs in the Mortgage Industry

Jun. 12, 2010
Foreclosures and short sales dominate the real estate market in many U.S. cities; although, the numbers seem to be evening out in certain areas. It takes manpower to process the increased workload for the mortgage industry and many companies are hiring. Not only does the lending industry need people to handle the new workload, there are various levels of employment required to run companies in the mortgage industry.

It is impressive how many different types of businesses are involved in the mortgage trade. Several related venues include banking and finance, mortgage and lending, credit unions, escrow companies and real estate agencies. Property appraisers, home inspectors and title companies are also involved in the mortgage industry. Survey and insurance companies play a part in the mortgage approval process.

Mortgage Process

If you want to logically figure out the different jobs that work in mortgage, it would be helpful to understand the mortgage process. In many circumstances, a mortgage begins when someone wants to buy a home. In a typical home buying situation, a buyer contacts a real estate agent to buy a home. The agent often will have the buyer become pre-approved for a home loan through a mortgage company, bank, credit union or some other lending institution prior to hunting for a home. After the pre-approval letter is received, the agent helps the buyer find a home.

When the buyer finds a home he wants to purchase, usually the next step is for the buyer to choose an escrow company that will secure the down payment until closing. Sometimes the title company is also the escrow company. The buyer is, then, responsible for selecting a title company to conduct closing on the home, a home insurance provider, home inspector and any other inspectors required by the lender. The chosen lender will initiate an appraisal and survey on the home, inspections will transpire and the buyer will eventually close on the home.

Job Requirements and Qualifications

As you can see from the process, there are a variety of groups that conduct work in the mortgage industry. Regardless of the area in which you choose to work, you need to find out what qualifications are necessary to apply. A certain level of education may be mandated or a specific certification. Real estate agents, brokers and professionals are almost always required to obtain a license to operate in a specific state. To obtain a state license, they must take and pass specific type classes and pay for a license and access to a multi-listing service, along with maintaining a certain amount and type of continuing education credits.

If you decide to work in a bank as a loan officer, you may have to start as a bank teller and work your way up. Title company managers may have a degree, some higher education or training in financial or legal matters. Assistants that work for title companies don't always have to have specific education. It all depends on the requirements set forth by the title company. Home inspectors, surveyors and appraisers often have to have a license from the state in which they work, which may include taking specific trade classes and serving a certain number of years as an apprentice.

Determine the job(s) in which you are interested in the mortgage industry, and make inquiries at specific businesses for which you are interested in working. Ask the businesses what the requirements are for the positions you are interested in. Tailor your education and future experience based on the information you are provided, and you will be well on your way to obtaining a job in the mortgage industry.

Ki lives in the Austin area, where he enjoys biking the hill country. His website compiles information on available Austin Texas real estate. His site has a interactive search of the Austin MLS along with a blog with analysis of Austin real estate with frequentely updated information.

Newlyweds -- Merge Mortgage With Refi

Jun. 12, 2010
Couples who decide to get married have many decisions ahead of them as to how they will live their lives after they are married. Merging finances is typically one of the first things worked out. If both own homes, that issue should fall at the top of the list. One decision might be to keep both homes - live in one and rent the other out, and then do a mortgage refinance on both. Another might to sell one, live in the other and do a mortgage refinance.

How to Determine Which House to Sell

There are several factors that need to be determined before deciding on which house to sell. See the list below for some considerations. Preface each question below with "Which home ... :

* Is closest to each one's work location?
* Has the greatest amenities?
* Has the lowest property taxes?
* Has a higher market value?
* Needs the least amount of repairs?
* Would be easiest to sell? Is in a neighborhood where homes are selling fairly fast?
* Has access to the best schools? This is only if you will be living in the home long-term and planning a family.
* Meets the needs of both individuals in the marriage? Needs versus wants may have to be further discussed.
* Has the lowest balance/principle due?
* Is closest to relatives, if this is important?

Before making any decisions regarding both homes, print off this article for each, or write the bulleted items out on a piece of paper. Include any additional related questions. Each person needs to rank each item as to the degree of importance. Put a ranking number next to each, one being the highest priority. Compare lists and see which items on which both agree. This exercise may help drill down to the most important issues, resolve them and assist in moving on to making a decision.

Refinancing the Mortgage

Once the decision is made regarding each home, the next step is to decide on whether to refinance the mortgage(s) under both names or simply add the other person's name to the deed. Prior to refinancing, find out what interest rate will be offered if the note is refinanced under both names. Obtain interest rates from several lenders and require that all fees be provided to you in writing, along with the date through which the interest rate is effective.

If a higher interest rate will be required, the easiest way to resolve any issues on the ownership of the home might be to simply add the other person's name to the deed. Some states are considered "joint property" states and require property to be divided equally in the case of divorce, regardless of whose name is on the mortgage.

It doesn't matter if only one person in the marriage is on the mortgage note, since joint property states require that both be on the deed. Check to see if the state in which you will be living has "joint property" laws regarding the division of marital property. If it is a joint property state, then state law dictates that both have equal access to marital property, including real estate like a home. With both names on the deed, each has equal access to the property. Consult legal counsel, however, prior to making this decision.

If a lower interest rate is the result, then the best financial resolve is to do a mortgage refinance using both incomes. There are a variety of mortgages from which to choose. A lender can help refine the choices to one that works best for your financial situation and needs.

Ki caters to future buyers of Austin real estate. He has a graphical Austin home search on his website. His site also has several charts and graphs showing historical mortgage rates along with information on the Austin real estate market.

The Perks of a Yard Sale

Jun. 12, 2010
There is something about the change of seasons that makes people want to get organized. With the holidays in the not so distant future, it may be time to get rid of all the junk that has been accumulating in the guest room or make space in the garage. A yard sale can be a good way to get unwanted stuff out of the house and make a little money.

A yard sale or garage sale does require some work before, during and after, but having more space and some spending money makes it worth it. Several websites giving yard sale advice point out an interesting thought to consider: Is the sale to get rid of junk or to make money? The consensus seems to be that if the focus is to get rid of unwanted belongings, the sellers actually make more money. By pricing items to go rather than to profit, sellers generally end up selling more items.

In addition to the benefits of clean space and spending money, yard sales are also good for the environment by giving unwanted items a new home rather than sending them to the landfill. In fact, many environmental and government websites offer yard sale tips. The Santa Clara County Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission in California had several helpful ideas for having a yard sale, like start preparing three weeks before the sale day.

Preparation - Pick a staging area where things to sell can be collected and kept. It may be the guest room or the garage, but it needs to be a space large enough to hold the stuff and allow some work space for grouping and pricing, etc. A good plan is to have several empty boxes and mark them with prices, like the $1 box and the .10 cents box. As things to sell accumulate put them directly in the box corresponding to the potential price of the item. Remember, pricing things to go rather than focusing on what they actually cost can be far more lucrative.

Clean things up as they accumulate because things in good shape will sell faster than dusty or dirty items. Also, consider grouping small items in bags to sell for one price, like a bag of small toys for a dollar rather than trying to sell them separately. Collect plastic bags and even asks friends to donate their plastic shopping bags so there will be plenty on hand for the day of the sale. Have plenty of newspaper on hand for wrapping breakables.

At least a day before the sale, make sure there is enough coins and bills available to make change for customers. Elizabeth Mayhew of the Today Show suggests having $100 in small change on hand the day of the sale. Other supplies that will be needed are stickers or tags for pricing and an extension cord so customers can test electronics.

Make signs and price items the night before the sale. The importance of good signage is heavily stressed by veteran yard sellers. Take advantage of sale days designated by homeowners associations or have a group sale with neighbors. Bigger sales and good signs attract more buyers.

Yard Sale Day - Get the whole family involved in placing items for sale. It is recommended to put big ticket items up front, like table sets or couches. Group like items together and display things in an attractive manner on tables, rather than piling a bunch of stuff on the ground.

Have a calculator handy for adding up the sales and feel free to enjoy the day, mingling with customers and rearranging tables as items sell. Afterwards be sure to donate any leftover items to a local charity, that way they won't end up cluttering the guest room again. A yard sale is work, but at the end of the day there will be less junk and some money for going out to dinner.

All available Austin real estate and homes are listed on Ki's website. Potential residents can search available homes in the Austin MLS for free. Ki's site also has statistics and information on marble falls texas and the Austin Texas real estate market.

The Hard Facts About Hard Money Loans

May. 22, 2010
Hard money loans have been around for quite a while, but just not so much in the forefront as are more traditional loans. There are a variety of uses for hard money loans, and they have evolved in the past several years as to how they are used and what is now required to obtain one. Although they have their advantages, hard money loans also have their limitations. Before applying for one, make sure that you cannot be approved for a more traditional loan. A hard money loan should be your last resort.

What is a Hard Money Loan?

When investors discuss money as it relates to lending, they use two terms to differentiate it - soft money and hard money. Soft money typically refers to a loan with flexible terms. Traditional and government home loans offer a variety of options for a real estate loan. A hard money loan, on the other hand, has rigid, very specific terms. It is loaned for a relatively short timeframe with a specific interest rate not necessarily determined by your credit score. Hard money is also called "private money," because it often originates from individual investors who possess a lot of money to invest.

Some characteristics that set a hard money loan apart from a more traditional one are high interest rates, a brief approval timeframe and the loan is most often for a short period of time. Low loan to value ratios are also typical of hard money loans. Often no more than 60 percent is approved for the loan. High interest rates are the hallmark of hard money loans, up to 21 percent and higher if the property goes into default. Hard money loans are borrowed for very short periods of time, and can often be obtained within a few days, as opposed to weeks for a more traditional property loan.

Uses for a Hard Money Loan

Hard money loans are most often used for flipping a home, bridge loans and construction loans where the money would only be borrowed for a short amount of time, until the property is sold or refinanced. An investor may find a home that is in need of repair at a very good price. Obtaining a hard money loan may be a way for the borrower to buy the home, repair it and make a lot of money when the property is sold.

A hard money loan is usually not used to finance property over a period of years. Homeowners who have no credit history or experienced a default in homeownership often cannot obtain approval for a traditional loan with a lower interest rate. They will sometimes borrow hard money until their credit score raises enough to be approved to refinance using a traditional loan with a much lower interest rate.

How to Get a Hard Money Loan

If you've tried the traditional route to obtain a home loan and failed, you might want to try for a hard money loan. Obtaining approval for one is not as easy as it used to be in some cases. In the past, hard money lenders based the loan strictly on the value of the property. Now, however, many of them require borrowers to fill out credit applications and provide pay stubs and income tax statements. Before applying for a hard money loan, make sure you have access to any income statements the lender may require.

The best way to access a hard money lender is to contact local lending institutions and mortgage companies. Ask them for names of reputable hard money lenders. Most loan servicers are familiar with ones they've known over a period of years.

Ki is a realtor operating in the Austin Texas real estate market. He writes about mortgage issues and his site provides a mortgage calculator widget along with several mortgage rate widgets.

Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Crackdown

May. 22, 2010
Every aspect of the real estate industry has experienced fraud at one time or another. From homeowners, homebuyers and real estate professionals to lenders, appraisers and title companies, every step of the home buying process has been tainted by fraudulent activity. A greater abundance of it came to light more recently due to the housing market bust. Most once booming markets either diminished significantly or came to a screeching halt as foreclosures began to overshadow the home sales scene.

Subsequently, the flowing streams of wealth enjoyed by many during the housing bubble slowed to a trickle or dried up altogether. The lure of quick money gained through fraudulent activity enticed a number of those still reeling from the market's blows, who felt compelled to maintain their previous standard of living. Not only has fraud increased in the mortgage process, but debt management companies under the guise of foreclosure rescue have come out of the woodwork to reap the revenues. Fed up by the cases filed in the State's Attorney General (AG) offices, AGs are fighting back with the help of motivated law makers.

Florida is a prime example of legislation passed due to urging by the state's attorney general. Some highlights of the Foreclosure Prevention Fraud Rescue Act of 2008 includes a requirement that documentation be provided to the homeowner explaining in detail what will transpire, the homeowner is provided a cooling off period, unfair terms and misrepresentation is prohibited and the homeowner doesn't pay a dime until the services specified in the contract are fulfilled. All businesses operating in the state and businesses that service Florida residents are subject to the fraud prevention statute. More stipulations regulate anyone performing rescue transactions related to foreclosure.

Referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Foreclosure and Rescue Fraud Act of 2009, H.R. 1231, would stipulate similar law only at the federal level. It has yet to be released from the committee whose responsibility is to refine, revise and determine if it is worthy of debate before the House of Representatives. Similarly, the Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue and Loan Modification Services Fraud Prevention Act of 2009, H.R. 2666, expanded to cover loan modifications fraud of those facing foreclosure.

Delaware signed its Mortgage Rescue Fraud Protection Act into law on January 1, 2009. In June of 2009, Pennsylvania signed similar bills into law prohibiting unscrupulous foreclosure rescue tactics. Among other things, the laws require full disclosure to homeowners using services for foreclosure rescue and mandate no payment be made to companies providing services until such time that all services agreed-upon in the contract are fulfilled.

New Jersey's foreclosure rescue bill was released from the Assembly Committee in March 2010. The Texas Attorney General partnered with a state representative for like legislation regarding foreclosure rescue scams in Texas. Illinois's Mortgage Rescue Fraud Act was passed in January 2007 and was another initiative of a state's attorney general.

Ki is a real estate broker helping clients interested in the Austin real estate market. There site provides a map based search of homes in the Austin MLS. It also has statistics and homes in the Austin real estate and Cedar Park real estate markets. In addition it provides statistics broken down by the different Austin MLS areas.

Five Bad Home Improvement Ideas

May. 15, 2010
When considering adding value to a home, you consistently hear from the real estate industry that updated bathrooms and quality kitchens stand out in a home sale. Those are proven sale closers. There are certain other improvements you can make to your home that will beautify it or create convenience for your family. When it comes time to selling, however, those improvements may do nothing to increase the value of the property and may even turn off potential homebuyers.

Over-the-Top Renovations

Au contraire mon frère, not all renovations will raise the value of your home. Just `cause it's bigger doesn't mean it will be perceived as better by future homebuyers. Unless your home is located in Beverly Hills or some other very posh neighborhood, don't install the bathroom with the supersized steam shower, imported Italian marble and several different spray heads ... unless you have the money to do it for your own pleasure and enjoyment only. That kind of improvement doesn't typically do anything to increase the value of the average home.

On the other hand, if you updated an old bathroom, you could see an increase of several thousand dollars to your home's bottom line. Real estate professionals suggest that homeowners pour over local home listings to see what amenities are the standard in your area, then upgrade your home to meet it. If you overdo it, however, you may not recoup your investment.

Swimming Pools

If you think installing a swimming pool in the back side of your home will draw hoards of homebuyers clamoring to make offers on your home at sale time, you'd be wrong. Some may consider it a perk, but others may perceive it as a pain with all the maintenance it will require. Homeowners have even paid to have their swimming pools buried to create more yard space. If you shell out the expense to build one, don't expect your home's value to budge. The only exception to building a swimming pool is if you live in states where they are considered the norm.

Home Office Renovations

Although, a home office is often an amenity appreciated by those shopping for a home, it should be built with frugality in mind. Overhauling an office doesn't pay off when it's time to sell your home. Don't steal usable space from another living area to create a home office. Instead, make sure the space can easily be converted back into a bedroom or other living space if needed. If you decide you just have to have the built-in Curly Maple wood shelves, know that you will only recoup around 50 percent of your cost at sale time.

Unique Builds

Home magazines are always coming up with clever and creative ways to change the look of your living space. Some are exotic and outlandish, but they can pique your interest. Tempted to put a classic disco ball with lights in your bedroom, a constellation ceiling in your family room or a peaceful Koi pond in your back yard? Avoid making outlandish changes to your home or changes that will be perceived as adding work for a future homeowner. Don't be tempted to incorporate these ideas into your own home, unless you don't plan on selling anytime soon. Homebuyers may not share your enthusiasm.

Roof Renovations

If your roof needs repair, don't hesitate to have the work done. It will be one less issue you'll have to deal with when listing your home. If in your pursuit to list your home you think replacing your roof with cedar shakes or clay tiles will increase the value, think again. Although they have the ability to make your home stand out, they probably won't inspire homebuyers to pay more for them. So, unless you have the money to burn, keep it simple when preparing your home to be listed on the real estate market.

Ki has been an investor in the Austin real estate market for several years. The website has an Austin home search for listings in Austin, Texas. It also has general statistics covering Austin real estate along with several neighborhoods in Barton Creek.

Private Mortgage Insurance Basics

May. 1, 2010
Keep in mind that when you buy a home and don't have 20 percent down, you may be required to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI gives homebuyers the ability to buy a home with as little as three to five percent down. It also provides loan servicers assurance that, should your mortgage go into default and your home is foreclosed upon, the loan will be paid for. Those are the advantages, but there is a dark side to PMI.

A good example of this involves a recent bout Bank of America experienced with the Massachusetts Attorney General's office. In November 2009, Bank of America acquired Countrywide Mortgage loans. Countrywide was already under scrutiny due to questionable mortgage tactics regarding the removal of PMI on mortgages paid below 80 percent of the original loan. Qualified homeowners were requesting that PMI be removed, but Countrywide was not complying. Bank of America settled and no further court action was initiated by the state.

Some things you may not know about PMI are that the IRS allows it as a deduction on your federal taxes if you qualify, you can legally require a mortgage company to remove the PMI and you can decide which PMI company to use. The primary requirement for deducting PMI on your federal taxes is that your adjusted gross income (AGI) fall at or under $100,000 if you are married filing jointly. To claim the full deduction, the maximum AGI for those married filing separately is $50,000. You cannot claim a deduction for your PMI if your AGI exceeds $109,000.

Congress passed a law in 1998 called the Homeowner's Protection Act (HPA), which addresses changes regarding the lawful use of PMI. Generally, this law applies to residential property and requires lenders to remove PMI if the principle of the loan equals 80 percent of either the appraised value when the loan was obtained or the original purchase price at closing. There are some considerations to keep in mind. You must be current on your home loan in order for the PMI to be terminated, and you must have been current throughout the previous year.

Under HPA, lenders are required to automatically terminate PMI once your loan is paid down to 78 percent. Again, you must be current on your payments. Another requirement of HPA is that lenders are required to provide specific disclosures to homebuyers on closing. Some specifics include the borrower's right to request that PMI be canceled, the date on which the request may be submitted and the lender's responsibility to automatically terminate PMI.

Another thing most borrowers don't know about PMI when obtaining a home loan is that you do not have to use the PMI company referred to you or suggested by your lender or real estate professional. Shop around and compare prices to get the best deal.

You will have to put forth some effort to work PMI to your greatest advantage, but if you do, you'll come out way ahead and pay far less than if you depend solely upon your lender to do the job.

Ki is an investor and broker working in the Austin real estate market. His site provides a graphical search of homes in the Austin MLS. It also has profiles of different areas in the Austin real estate market and graphs showing historical mortgage rates.

Mortgage Rates Defy Expectations

Apr. 30, 2010
The 30 year rate fell from 5.07 to 5.06 this week. This is the 3rd week in a row where interest rates have either fallen or stayed flat.

The 15 year rate stayed flat at 4.39. The 5 and 1 year arms were mixed with the 5 year arm falling slightly from 4.03 to 4.00 and the 1 year arm rose from 4.22 to 4.25. Below are rates from the weeks from Apr 01, 2010 to Apr 29, 2010 and rates from October 15th (6 months ago).

Apr 29, 2010
30-fixed 5.06 15-fixed 4.39 5 ARM 4.00 1 ARM 4.25

Apr 22, 2010
30-fixed 5.07 15-fixed 4.39 5 ARM 4.03 1 ARM 4.22

Apr 15, 2010
30-fixed 5.07 15-fixed 4.40 5 ARM 4.08 1 ARM 4.13

Apr 08, 2010
30-fixed 5.21 15-fixed 4.52 5 ARM 4.25 1 ARM 4.14

Apr 01, 2010
30-fixed 5.08 15-fixed 4.39 5 ARM 4.10 1 ARM 4.05

Oct 15, 2009
30-fixed 4.92 15-fixed 4.37 5 ARM 4.38 1 ARM 4.60

So the market has made me a liar. I thought we were going to see some volatility in interest rates over the month of April. Instead rates have stayed remarkably flat. Besides the week of April 8th mortgage rates stayed between 5.06 and 5.08. At 5.06 we are also near 4.93 which is the lowest mortgage rate seen thus far in 2010. This is kind of surprising since we have been expecting to see rates increase over the last month.

So rates are one thing but it's also informative to see actual mortgage payments. We took today's rates and using our mortgage calculator we determined the rate for a 200k mortgage. We also did the same thing with rates from April, 15 2010 and rates from October, 15 2009.

Apr 29
30-year $1080.98
15-year $1518.76
5-year ARM $954.83
1-year ARM $983.87

Apr 15
30-year $1082.21
15-year $1519.78
5-year ARM $964.07
1-year ARM $969.88

Oct 15
30-year $1063.88
15-year $1516.73
5-year ARM $999.16
1-year ARM $1025.28

So as we can a mortgage payment today is pretty similar to what we saw 2 weeks ago. In fact mortgage payments only decreased by 11/100 of one percent.

So what is going to happen moving forward? It's hard to tell. The predications that the government not putting resources into buying mortgage backed securities could steal lead to more up and down fluctuations in mortgage rates but we have certainly not seen that this month.

Overall I think that rates are either going to stay roughly flat or rise drastically. There is simply not that much room for them to fall. Rates are currently 5.06. The lowest they have even been is 4.71 (which we saw in 2009) and the highest was above 15 percent. So what is our advice? Basically if you are planning on getting a loan I would do it sooner rather than later. Also I would lean for a 30 year rate instead of an arm because we expect rates to be higher in 1 to 5 years than they are today.

Kim is a real estate broker operating in the Austin Texas real estate market. His site is full of mortgage tools including a mortgage widget and a few free mortgage calculators.

Which Home Loan Is Right for You?

Apr. 18, 2010
Depending upon several factors, some of which include geographic location, credit scores, current interest rates and current income, different loans work best for different home buyers. A good example of this is West Coast borrowers who opted for different versions of an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) for their home buying needs in recent years. At the time of many of these ARMs, the initial interest rate was significantly lower than those for traditional fixed-rate mortgages, so their payments were quite affordable at the onset of the loan.

One common theory for using an ARM is to buy a home with initial low interest and low payments. This may buy enough time for homeowners to improve their credit scores, and maybe even increase their income. The end goal is to refinance to a traditional fixed-rate mortgage by the time the ARM adjusts to a much higher interest rate and payment. There are definite risks in using an ARM for a mortgage, including the risk of interest rates climbing to the maximum allowed by your ARM contract. That could make your monthly payment unaffordable for your income level.

Other loans that present a risk, but mostly to the loan servicer, are jumbo loans and Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FHLMC) `B', `C' and `D' loans, as opposed to conforming `A' loans. A Jumbo loan is a loan that is for more than the maximum allowed by Fannie and Freddie's set borrowing limits. Any loans other than `A' loans indicate that the borrower has experienced some type of financial hardship - e.g., foreclosure, bankruptcy or late payments revealed by credit report. The use of `B', `C' or `D' loans is to provide short-term financing to these borrowers until they can improve their credit and refinance with conforming `A' financing.

There are many other loan types available that you will want to research before deciding on a home loan. Some conventional and government loans you may want to consider are traditional fixed rate loans and those available through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service (RHS), Veterans Administration (VA), Ginnie Mae (GNMA), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A conventional loan includes all loans other than those offered through FHA, VA or RHS.

A traditional fixed-rate loan is a mortgage where the interest rate and payments remain the same throughout the life of the loan. You typically, but not always, have to come up with 20 percent down, or you have to buy private mortgage insurance (PMI). Depending on your credit score and other factors, your interest rate is often higher with less down.

Most loans through the FHA, RHS, VA, Ginnie, Fannie and Freddie are fixed-rate loans; although, there are some exceptions. The advantage of obtaining a home loan through one of these entities is that you often have flexibility that you don't have through banking or other financial institutions. There are income limits, however, that disqualify many borrowers.

You won't know what's available to you unless you contact a lender for more information. To begin the loan process, contact three different lenders. Find out what each one has available, including type of loans available, interest rate offered and all fees associated with the loan. Request everything in writing. Armed with this information you will be a formidable force in obtaining the best loan that fits your family's needs.

Ki lives and works in the Austin real estate market. Buyers can search the Austin MLS for homes and properties on his website. The website also provides a mortgage calculator widget for visitors as well as general statistics on the Austin real estate market.

Strategic Home Security Measures

Apr. 18, 2010
Whether you're living in a large metropolitan city or in Podunk, USA, you'll need security in your home to protect your loved ones and personal possessions. You may not know this as a homeowner, but, just like in treating your health, prevention is the best medicine. The best way to not become victim to a security breach in your home is to exercise prevention.

One of the most important preventive measures you can use is to conduct an inspection on your home with a security specialist. You may also do this yourself if you are aware of the entry points criminals use most often. Note windows in need of repair, windows and doors that don't lock property, ladders and other items outside your home that may assist a criminal in gaining entry.

Surprisingly, one method criminals use to gain entry is a garage door opener. Do not leave your car unlocked with your garage door opener in it? A criminal could remove it from your car, follow you home and come back later to perpetrate a crime against you, a loved one or your property. Don't leave garage door openers in unlocked cars.

You may not associate auto theft with home security. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), however, reveals that 65 percent of all motor vehicle theft takes place within five miles of the owner's residence, including vehicles stolen from the owner's home garage. NCVS is the U.S. Government's main source for U.S. criminal victimization statistics, and is cosponsored by Homeland Security.

While conducting a home security check, ensure your windows are intact and do not need repair. Make sure screens are solidly installed. Check window frames and functionality. Caulk where necessary, install window locks or other hardware that is missing, and repair damage or wear. Keep all windows locked at all times when you are not in the home and at night.

Never leave windows open at night. Although, a cool breeze might feel refreshing while you sleep, your open window is a welcome mat for potential criminals. Many experts even suggest that you never leave windows open when unattended. Examine all entry points to your home, including a cellar or basement entrance. Make sure everything is securely in place and note any bolts or hardware missing. Replace missing hardware immediately.

Once you've completed a thorough security walkthrough of your home and made all the repairs and updates, it's time to consider a home security system. You may either hire a system installation through a company like Broadview Security (formerly Brinks), ADT,GE or some other mainstream home security monitoring company, or you may choose to install your own home security system. Decide whether you want a hard-wired system or a wireless security system. Broadband security solutions are now available in some areas, too.

There are an abundance of security products that may be incorporated into your security system. Some are simple such as motion detectors at entrance doors, window monitoring devices and wireless cameras. Other more elaborate security applications may be metal grills installed on windows, a video door phone to see and communicate with visitors remotely or an additional entrance door to see and communicate with visitors from a safer position.

Regardless of where you live, security should be one of your utmost considerations. Do your due diligence to ensure that your home is as secure as possible to protect your possessions, and especially your loved ones. They are irreplaceable.

Escapeso Realty helps buyers interested in the Austin market. Their website provides information on Austin real estate along with a map search of Austin homes for sale. Their site also have numerous graphs showing historical interest rates.

10 Things to Know Before Enlisting the Help of a Real Estate Agent

Apr. 11, 2010
Real estate agents are great sources of information and assistance in the housing industry. Their purpose is to serve the real estate market with integrity. Under contract they have fiduciary responsibilities to their clients. Before enlisting the assistance of a real estate agent, there are 10 things to keep in mind.

1. Before a real estate agent can successfully sell your home, you need to have it in tip top shape. All colors inside and outside of the home should be in neutral colors, including wallpaper, painted walls, and the exterior. If you are a smoker or own a pet, find a way to make the home odor-free. The best option would be to smoke outside only and buy an air cleaner. Clean spotlessly and free the home of all clutter. Nothing turns a potential buyer away more quickly than dirt, clutter or odor.

2. Not all real estate agents are created equal. There is a lot of competition in the market and some real estate agents work harder than others. When you are ready to put your home up for sale, you want an agent that will work hard for you. Your best bet is to use one referred to you by someone you know.

3. The seller pays the real estate sales commission, not the buyer. There is very little exception to this rule.

4. Your real estate agent is not responsible for ensuring that your inspections are carried out appropriately. When you find your dream home and your offer is accepted by the buyer, inspections will ensure. Your real estate agent may be in attendance at your inspections, but your agent is not responsible for following around the inspector and ensuring that everything is noted.

5. If you want to live in an adult community, within a specific religious area, particular ethnic demographic, a low crime neighborhood or one that services a particular school, your real estate agent cannot help you find those areas. It is against the law according to the Fair Housing Act.

6. Until you sign a Seller's or Buyer's Agent Agreement, your real estate agent is not bound by law to keep anything you tell the agent private between the two of you. Once you sign, your agent is legally bound by user disclosure. It explains the legal responsibilities of the type of agent applicable to your situation.

7. Once you sign a Buyer's Agent Agreement, only your agent should be showing you homes in which you are interested. In fact, you should only contact your agent when you find a home in which you are interested. Your agent is your point-of-contact when you have questions.

8. There are advantages and disadvantages to signing a Buyer's Agent Agreement for more than 60 days. The advantages are that you know your agent by now and you won't be starting on square one, redoing work already done. The disadvantages are that you and your current agent may not see eye-to-eye on the sale strategy and a different agent may work better for you.

9. Your home may not be priced at the amount you feel it is worth, and the projected price of your home may not cover what you currently owe on your house. You may have to concede on what you think your home is worth based on the agent's best estimate of your home's value. If it is less than you owe and you need to sell, you may want to consider a short sale.

10. Understand that when you finally enlist the assistance of an agent, if the situation becomes unmanageable, you can legally fire your agent. You're only legally obligated to an agent if that agent fulfills his legal and contractual obligation to you. If at any time an agent violates your confidence, continually does nothing to promote your home or in any other way violates your agreement, then you can legally fire him. It is best, however, if you and your agent can jointly agree to dissolve the contract.

Selling or buying a home is a huge undertaking and you shouldn't go into it blindly. Understand your rights and responsibilities, and your transaction will go more smoothly and be less stressful for you and your family members.

Ki is a real estate broker in the Austin real estate market. His site provides a free search for homes in the Austin MLS along with news and statistics on Austin real estate. It also provides a real estate blog with updated news and commentary.

Hope for Homeowners

Mar. 28, 2010
Hope for Homeowners program was enacted to assist homeowners either in default or at risk of foreclosure. It began in October of 2008 and will end on September 30, 2011. Those eligible for the program will be provided a new 30-year, fixed-rate FHA-insured mortgage. For homeowners finding it hard to pay their existing mortgages, this may provide an avenue to refinance their current mortgage into one that they can afford.

Both lender and homeowner must formally agree to participate before a new mortgage can be approved.

Some of the program requirements are as follows:

* Your home must be your primary residence, and you cannot have ownership in other residential property, like a second home.
* Your current mortgage originated on or prior to January 1, 2008, and you've made a minimum of six full monthly payments.
* You are unable to pay your current mortgage payments without assistance.
* Effective March 2008, your monthly payments to your mortgage company must have exceeded 31 percent of your combined gross monthly income.
* You attest that in the previous ten years you haven't been convicted of fraud; intentionally not paid any debts; and didn't deliberately or willfully submit false information when obtaining your current mortgage.

Before proceeding with the program, you'll want to know some specifics:

* You must initiate the program through your lender, or a FHA-approved housing counselor or lender.
* Your new mortgage payment cannot exceed 31 percent of your monthly gross income.
* Your new mortgage cannot exceed 90 percent of the new appraisal of your home's value.

If your home is appraised at $100,000, your new mortgage will be $90,000. The drawback, however, is that you must agree to share the original equity created - the $10,000 - and any future appreciation in the home's value. The payout doesn't occur, though, until or unless you sell your home. At that time, you will split the equity with FHA, accordingly. Year one, you would receive nothing, but the FHA receives 100% of the equity. Year two, you receive 10 percent; FHA receives 90 percent, etc.

Every year, thereafter, you will receive an additional 10 percent of the home's equity until you reach year five. Year five, and after, you will split the equity with the FHA equally at 50 percent. Keep in mind, that if your home's value diminishes when you decide to sell, you will owe nothing.

A major drawback to the program is that you have to come up with a 3 percent mortgage insurance payment upfront. You also have to pay a 1.5 percent annual premium for mortgage insurance on your outstanding balance, which will be added to your monthly mortgage payment. In addition, you will be responsible for paying closing costs on your new loan.

Your new interest rate may, or may not, be less than your current rate. It will be determined by current rates and provided to you by your lender. No second mortgage is allowed for the first five years after your new loan. The only exception is emergency repairs.

If you think this program may be able to meet your needs and keep you in your home, it might be worth looking into.

Ki helps buyers and sellers interested in the Austin market. The website has featured information and statistics for Austin real estate. The website allows future homeowners to search Austin real estate by Austin MLS number. The site also provides a graph showing recent mortgage rate trends.

Home Median Price Comparisons for Top 10 U.S. Cities

Mar. 16, 2010
You might be surprised to find out the median price homes are selling for in the nation's top ten largest cities. Below, you'll find the median price for resale, new homes and foreclosures.

CITY Resale Median Price
+/- % New Home
Median Price
+/- % Foreclosures
Median Price
+/- %
New York, NY $625,000 -6.0% $4,500,000 0.0% $489,000 0.0%
Los Angeles, CA $449,000 -0.2% $749,900 +8.7% $344,000 +1.7%
Chicago, IL $279,900 0.0% $950,000 0.0% $190,868 -0.6%
Houston, TX $162,500 +1.6% $179,990 0.0% $96,791 +0.4%
Phoenix, AZ $175,000 -2.2% $321,465 -0.2% $161,600 -2.1%
Philadelphia, PA $167,900 0.0% $399,990 0.0% $83,000 +1.4%
San Antonio, TX $149,500 0.0% $251,145 -1.5% $94,455 +1.0%
Dallas, TX $224,900 +2.7% $195,512 0.0% $88,905 +1.9%
San Diego, CA $450,000 +2.3% $575,000 -8.0% $319,802 +1.5%
San Jose, CA $450,000 0.0% $570,860 -5.2% $435,000 +0.5%

There are several results this table tells us. Taking all figures at face value, you could assume that resale home prices in New York and Phoenix have not yet hit bottom. Los Angeles (L.A.) has a significantly lower decline, so this city may be leveling out somewhat. New home median prices are relatively holding their own in all cities, except L.A. and San Jose. That's no surprise, however, due to the major overbuilding these cities were conducting prior to the real estate downturn.

New York sparkles in the median new home price, which is not a surprise, but, hey, it's New York! Other high-cost-living cities holding their own in the same area are Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. Philadelphia's foreclosure rates were lower than the national average through 2009. Los Angeles is a bit of a marvel with almost a nine percent average increase for new homes.

In most cities it appears that foreclosures are slowing down significantly; although, Dallas, Los Angeles., San Diego and Philadelphia are still climbing at an uneasy rate. New York, Chicago and Phoenix appear to shine in regards to movement in median foreclosure rates.

What this chart does not tell you is that the State of Texas has been experiencing ongoing high foreclosure rates, even higher in the last quarter of 2009 than it did the same time the previous year. That's probably why such low figures show up in the Houston, San Antonio and Dallas median foreclosure sale prices.

Philadelphia only experienced around a 10 percent decline in home values, compared to the national average of 32 percent. The city was showing notable recovery in 2009, slowing down as the year came to a close. Even still, the low median foreclosure price for Philadelphia is curious.

Fortunately, the new year has ushered in some positive movement in the housing industry. According to Freddie Mac chief economist and Vice President Frank Nothaft, the decline in home values has slowed for the first quarter of 2010, which "point to the highest level of home-purchase affordability in at least 40 years ... "

He believes the decline to be proof of a move to stabilization for the first quarter of 2010 for existing home sales and for new construction of single-family homes. He admits, however, the figures are still low. The low numbers were consistent for all nine U.S. regions. In addition, seven regions experienced a slow in depreciation. East North Central states and New England showed modest overall appreciation.

Ki lives in Austin Texas. His website covers Austin Texas real estate with a search of the Austin MLS. His site also has statistics broken down by the different Austin MLS areas and a blog covering Austin real estate.

Austin Real Estate Blog

Blog by Ki Gray
Austin Texas, Texas

A general blog about real estate with random tips and observations.


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