Offer Subject to Inspection – What Does That Mean?

As a Realtor I have a whole dictionary for just real estate jargon.  One of the most confusing terms, and often buyers will get the wrong idea about their agent, is “offer subject to inspection.”  So allow me a moment to explain what on earth this means.

“Offer subject to inspection” is a typical hurdle for buyers to overcome when shopping for homes that are tenant occupied.  The term means – the buyer can physically go in and SEE the home AFTER an offer is accepted.  Sounds a little backwards right?

And no – your agent is NOT trying to strong arm you and force you to buy a home without evening seeing it!

Generally this clause is for homes which are tenant occupied.  In order to preserve the rights of the tenant to have the quite enjoyment of their home – the tenant has the right to refuse prospective buyers to come in and see the home.  That is – until an offer is accepted by the seller, then the buyers has the right to inspect the home.

How does this work you ask?  The buyer must write a REAL offer since the terms are binding once accepted.  When the seller accepts the offer, the buyer will have a certain amount of days which is written into the contract to actually go in and see the home for the first time.  If the home is to their liking and the buyer wants to proceed with the contract – they do.  If the home is NOT to the buyers liking – for just about any reason – during the agreed upon days – the buyer will have the right to cancel the deal and walk away without any harm to both buyer and seller.

So you found a home you like – how do you write an offer?  If there are inspections available before hand – it makes our job of writing the offer a bit easier since we have a good idea of what the condition is.  If there are no inspections, and we haven’t seen the home, we drive by and gather as much info as we can with our eyes from the safety of the car.  We write the offer as best we can with the information provided and once the buyer has seen the home and had inspections we proceed with the new information – either by moving forward or discussing the new information with all parties and find a common and suitable outcome for all parties.

As strange as it seems – it happens more than you know.  For some buyers, they cannot imagine writing an offer for a home without ever seeing the home.  For investment buyers, this very typical and generally have no issues writing up a fair offer to get in.  Of course, what happens after a buyer gets to see the home is a far different story.  I have experienced both follow throughs on the contract and recessions – so truly we cross that bridge together when we get to it.

Which is truly at the root of what us Realtors do.  We are the buyers and sellers guides through Real Estate – what can The Caton Team do for you?

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at:

Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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The Home Seller Love Letter – why a buyer should buy YOUR house…

Found another great article from Inman News that I had to share.  A new twist on setting your home to shine on the market.

6 elements of a compelling home seller love letter

Recent reports suggest that the real estate market might be picking up. That said, sellers from coast to coast are still doing everything within their power to differentiate their home from the scads of other competitive listings.

As someone who has been inside probably thousands of homes with buyers over the years, I’ve always thought there was one super-simple, vastly underrated marketing technique for homes that are having a hard time standing out from the rest of the market: the seller love letter.

A seller love letter is a note, personally written or typed up by the home’s seller. Among other things, it expresses the love the seller’s family has had for the home, and explains the facts and events underlying that sentiment.

I’ve seen these be as short as a single page, and as long as a binder containing a 10-page letter and a collection of supporting pictures and other documents.

If the power of staging lies in depersonalizing the property so buyers can picture their own family living out their own lives in the home, the power of a seller love letter is that it leaves buyers with a warm feeling that the home has a positive energy and history, which is especially desirable on today’s distressed property-riddled market.

Here are six things smart sellers should consider including in their love letters about their homes to their buyers:

1. Fond family memories. Now, there’s no reason to get all “TMI” (too much information) about it, but the fact is that buyers do love to hear sweet, fond family memories about a property. I’ve watched with my own two eyes as buyers who liked a 100-year-old home fell desperately in love with it as they read about the seller’s parents’ building the home, and then raising a flourishing family there.

Even much newer homes can have their own endearing stories, whether they be about a hard-charging professional bachelor who is moving out of a loft to start a family; about retirees who raised their kids there and are now moving to downsize and be near their grandkids; or about a smart, single woman who was the first person in her family to own a home.

The goal here is to create warm fuzzies while you satisfy the buyer’s craving to know why on earth anyone would want to move from such a lovely place. And if you can tell a happy story, you can kill another bird with a single stone – distinguishing your place from all the tragic stories and sadness surrounding the short sales and foreclosures with which your home is competing.

2. Favorite neighborhood vendors and local businesses. One reason people dread moving so much is that it forces them to find new vendors for everything, especially for the practicalities and minutiae that can derail our schedules and lives if they don’t run well. If you have neighborhood businesses you love, making a list of them and including them with your love letter is very much appreciated by buyers.

Take care to include things like: dry cleaners, house cleaners, landscapers, carpet cleaners, produce markets and butchers, and especially restaurants that have great take-out and delivery services.

You get extra points if you know the proprietor and authorize the buyer to drop your name, or you include menus with your list of restaurants that deliver to the property address.

3. Lifestyle amenities that map to local buyer wish lists. Give some thought to the sorts of things people looking to buy a home like yours might be looking for, from a lifestyle perspective, and include notes about any of those amenities in the neighborhood that you and your family or housemates have especially enjoyed. Things like dog parks, playgrounds, running trails, yoga studios, libraries and bookstores, museums and outdoor recreational opportunities make great fodder for this list.

4. History of upgrades. Of course, your state-required disclosure forms will include a pithy section for relating the repairs and upgrades you’ve done in the time you owned the property, but you can take that to a new level in your seller love letter with a free-form description of the work, color commentary (if it makes sense) around why and how you had it done, and a little appendix that includes any relevant plans, permits warranties, receipts, service contracts and the like.

(Obviously, you don’t want to include the originals of these items if this love letter document will be left out in the property during showings.)

If there are any issues or repairs that are likely to come up in the buyer’s inspection reports that you want to explain in more detail, the love letter can give you your chance to do just that.

5. Property details and tricks. If you have a detailed landscape plan that identifies all the plants and trees in your yards, tricks for how to work the heating and cooling timer or the tricky downstairs doors, details on when the neighborhood trash pickup happens, or info about your alarm, termite or other service contracts, prospective buyers will feel well taken care of if you compile and include all this information with your love letter and let them see it before they even make an offer.

6. Neighbors. If you have particularly close and friendly relationships with any specific neighbors, or there are block parties, online or email Listservs, homeowners association (HOA) or neighborhood watch meetings or other favorites, ones with kids, block party, watch meetings, other things being planned/organized, let the buyers know.

You see, a good seller love letter is equal parts lovey-dovey and logistical, but the care that goes into preparing it and the love that is evident in its content can be a significant selling point to buyers weary of dealing with bank sellers or stressful short-sale situations.

Whatever you do, if you decide to write a seller love letter for your home, review your plans and thoughts about what to include with your local agent first. You want to make sure not to run afoul of any equal opportunity housing laws or disclosure laws.

As well, waxing rhapsodic about all the weekends you invested in the terrible mural on the wall might be more concerning than compelling to buyers who think they could live in your home easily — assuming they paint over the mural on day one as the new owners.

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at:

Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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Home Buying – Much Cheaper than Renting in 2012…

On the San Francisco Peninsula I have to agree with this statement – Buying makes more sense than Renting these days.

I’ve had many requests this year to help clients find a rental.  Sadly, when I get the budget and what they need – the search results come up nill.  These days, for a studio (that means one room / no bedroom) rents on the peninsula start at $1500 and go up from there.  Looking to rent a two bedroom?  Better fork over at least $2000 a month – want a house, $3200+ easy – in choice areas.  My eyes jump out of the  head – $3000 a month – now that’s a mortgage payment!

Why are rents increasing?  With the local Real Estate market hit with short sales and bank owned homes, many buyers are afraid to take the purchase plunge since buyers are unsure if we hit bottom. So instead of buying – they are renting.  When demand for rentals rise above the supply of rental property – we see an increase in rents.  It changes all the time.  Real Estate is truly cyclical.   As a Realtor – I can certainly say that Yes, on the SF peninsula we hit bottom in 2009/2010 for the single family homes market.  Condos and Townhomes are on a different level – though they too will recover.

With the future changes in FHA lending, more up front mortgage fees, buying a home now will truly be less expensive for a buyer than in the near future.  Right now Interest Rates are lovely and low – and as they increase, a buyers purchase power decreases.

So if you are on the fence, come in and chat with us.  We’ll connect you with a lender who can give you your purchase price and then The Caton Team takes it from there – finding a home where your mortgage interest is tax-deductible, instead of a renting and paying too much!

Don’t just take my word for it – below is great article from CNN Money.

http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/21/real_estate/homes-buy-rent/index.htm?iid=HP_LN&hpt=hp_t3

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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10 things to know about mortgage debt forgiveness

Came across this great article I had to share…

 

10 things to know about mortgage debt forgiveness

Over the past several years, millions of homeowners have had billions of dollars in mortgage debt forgiven, either through foreclosure, refinancing or short sales. It’s important for real estate professionals and homeowners to understand that mortgage debt forgiveness has significant tax consequences.

Here are 10 things the Internal Revenue Service says you should know about mortgage debt forgiveness:

1. Normally, when a lender forgives a debt — that is, relieves the borrower from having to pay it back — the amount of the debt is taxable income to the borrower. Thus, a homeowner who had $100,000 in mortgage debt forgiven through a short sale would have to pay income tax on that $100,000, as an example.

Fortunately, under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, you may be able to exclude from your taxable income up to $2 million of debt forgiven on your principal residence from 2007 through 2012. This means you don’t have to pay income tax on the forgiven debt.

2. The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return.

3. You may exclude from your taxable income debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in a foreclosure.

4. To qualify, the debt must have been used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence and be secured by that residence.

5. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act applies to home improvement mortgages you take out to substantially improve your principal residence — that is, they also qualify for the exclusion.

6. Second or third mortgages you used for purposes other than home improvement — for example, to pay off credit card debt — do not qualify for the exclusion.

7. If you qualify, claim the special exclusion by filling out Form 982: Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness , and attach it to your federal income tax return for the tax year in which the debt was forgiven.

8. Debt forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans does not qualify for the tax-relief provision. In some cases, however, other tax-relief provisions — such as bankruptcy — may be applicable. IRS Form 982 provides more details about these provisions.

9. If your debt is reduced or eliminated, you normally will receive a year-end statement, Form 1099-C: Cancellation of Debt, from your lender. By law, this form must show the amount of debt forgiven and the fair market value of any property foreclosed.

10. Examine the Form 1099-C carefully. Notify the lender immediately if any of the information shown is incorrect. You should pay particular attention to the amount of debt forgiven in Box 2 as well as the value listed for your home in Box 7.

The IRS has created a highly useful Interactive Tax Assistant on its website that you can use to determine if your canceled debt is taxable. The tax assistant tool takes you through a series of questions and provides you with responses to tax law questions.

For more information about the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, see IRS Publication 4681: Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments. You can get it from the IRS website atirs.gov.

Real Estate Tax Talk

By Stephen Fishman

 

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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5 Things Home Buyers Hate… oh this is a funny read especially if you are selling your home…

I had to laugh when I read this article.  Would love to hear what my readers think of this – please comment or share your stories at info@TheCatonTeam.com

5 Things Home Buyers Hate

1. Images that lie

Stretching photos to make rooms appear much larger than they actually are would be banned by listing services, if buyers had anything to do with it. And if your home is pristine and staged during the photo shoot (which it should be), it should still be pristine and staged when buyers come to see it in person.

Taking a photo of just one corner of a room that is shaped strangely or stuffed full of personal items is another way to confuse and irritate buyers, who hate nothing more than to feel like they were misled and tricked into wasting their time to see a place that is nothing like the photos.

* The Caton Team does not stretch our photos on our listings.  We do add extra photos from different angles so internet clients get the best idea of the home before they come and see it

2. Listings with no useful images at all

Listing photos of the piano or a piece of beautiful furniture that is not included in the sale is irritating to online house hunters, who might assume that the house had no other attractive features to furnish. Even worse: Home listings with no photos at all.

Nine times out of ten, when the listing has no photos buyers simply scroll or click right past those homes — even the ones that might perfectly meet their expectations.

Sellers, let’s be clear: Skilled listing agents who are getting homes sold in today’s market are putting 10, 20 even 30 photos of each listing online. That’s your competition. If a buyer only has time to see seven homes on a Sunday, and there are 20 listed in your area and price range, chances are good that those with the best, most numerous pictures will capture those valuable showing slots.

Often, listings with no photos are that way because of technical difficulties. Check on your home’s online listings on various real estate search sites and alert your agent if there’s a problem with the pictures.

* Our MLS allows 25 photos and I add them all.

3. Misleading marketing

Problems in the condition of the home that will be obvious when buyers enter, like a shifting foundation or clearly leaky roof, should be disclosed as such in the listing to minimize the inconvenience to you and those buyers who wouldn’t have bothered to visit if they knew. Disclosing such problems upfront will maximize your chances of finding the right buyer, who is willing to take them on.

Phrases like “immaculate” and “better than new” set you (and your home) up for failure when the buyer walks in and sees even normal wear and tear, or the smells and clutter of daily living.

* The Caton Team provides full up-front disclosures online so any interested party has all the information they need at their fingertips.

4. “Stalkerish” sellers

Sellers who are intrusive or follow buyers around during a showing were No. 1 on my own list, and on the lists of buyers. A seller might love the murals they’ve painted on your kids’ walls or the custom living room crafting area they’ve set up, and want to share their love with prospective buyers.

But the fact is that most buyers just aren’t interested, and would rather be able to discuss their plans to get rid of crazy customizations freely with their spouse and their agent than feel obliged to feign appreciation. (I’ve even had some buyers say they liked a house, but kept looking because they would have hated to pull out the sellers’ beloved personal touches.)

* The best way to sell your home is to not be there when buyers come through.  They are not buying YOUR home, they are buying THIER home.

5. Bizarro showings

Dogs, kids and sleeping residents all made recurrent appearances in the comments to my article. Nothing worse than showing a home and finding dog “leavings” on the interior carpets, and even once joined my out-of-shape clients on a foot chase to catch a wily little dog whose owner had left explicit instructions not to let “Fido” out (but left him roaming around the house, poised to dart out the front door the second I opened it). One reader related a showing in which she opened a hall closet door and out popped a dog that had been cooped up there for the occasion.

A short-sale buyer related the depressing tale of an 8-year-old boy who showed her the whole house, while another distressed property viewer told of the kid who ran after her and her husband, screaming, “You can’t have my house!” Multiple buyers told of walking into rooms where people were changing clothes, eating, frying up food or sleeping during the showing.  I’ve personally walked into a man coming out of the shower – and he was NO Brad Pitt – the scene still burns my retinas.

My heart does go out to the Short Sale Sellers – it is the hardest sale.   But I must be blunt – if you have your home on the market and truly want to get out from under your property – please treat your home as an equity seller would.  Present it in the best possible fashion and when an agent comes through to show this home – please leave.  They’re is nothing more uncomfortable than showing buyers a property and the buyer feeling bad for the sellers situation.  They can’t get excited and write an offer if they feel uncomfortable.

Showing bizarreness is tough for buyers to get past, even if the place is a palace.

I would love to hear your silly real estate stories – don’t be shy!  Email us at Info@TheCaton Team.com

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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This article is shared from Inman News – Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of “The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook” and “Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions.” Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com.

3.8% Sales Tax on Income for Home Sales Starts in 2013

Are you or someone you know thinking about selling their home or investment property next year?  Be aware that effective Janurary 1, 2013 there will be a 3.8% Sales Tax on Home Sales depending on your finiancial situation.  The Caton Team advises our selling clients – that if you are thinking about selling next year – it would be wise to sit down with your financial consultant and weigh the pros and cons of selling in 2013 or selling this year.

For more information please visit : http://www.samcar.org/userfiles/file/GAD_Combo-20120306.pdf

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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New Changes in FHA Loans

Just got news that the FHA mortgage is changing its up front fee!  Take a read direct from HUD.GOV…

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2012/HUDNo.12-037

Quick Overview…

FHA loans have reported high losses over the last few years, and this has brought up concerns that the FHA program may need a bailout in the future.

In a move to increase their financial standing, on Monday, HUD announced their anticipated increases in the premiums they charge borrowers. The cost of borrowing with FHA is going to go up.

FHA loans, by design, are more liberal in their underwriting guidelines than conventional loan products (in terms of credit, income ratios, required investment from the borrower, and maximum loan amount). HUD is not a lender. Rather, it is a federally-insured insurance company. They insure lenders against default on loans underwritten in compliance with their published guidelines. It is because of this insurance that lenders approve and close loans with more liberal guidelines.

As an insurance company, HUD charges two types of premiums on the FHA mortgages:

•           The UFMIP (Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium) will be raised effective April 1, 2012 from its current 1% to 1.75%. One advantage to the UFMIP is the fact that it is typically built into the loan amount and does not require additional cash outlay at closing.

•           The MMIP (Monthly Mortgage Insurance Premium) will be raised from 1.15 to 1.25% of the loan amount annually, starting on April 1, 2012 .

On a loan amount of $300,000, we will see an increased monthly payment of $36.41.

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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3 ways Homebuyers kill their OWN real estate deals…

Hello  again!  Below is a great article I read in Inman News that I thought I would share.  I truly see this often….

Got questions – the Caton Team is here to help.  We are a click away – email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com

 

3 ways homebuyers kill their own real estate deals

Mood of the MarketBy Tara-Nicholle Nelson

I recently bought a couple of spa treatment packages for a friend’s birthday (as much as a gift to myself as to her, to be sure). The package included a pedicure and a massage for the price of the massage, but had a bizarro restriction that required I pick the gift cards up at least one day prior to spa day.

The problem: The spa was across a bridge from my town. Despite my very best calculations, I hit unexpected traffic and it took me an hour’s drive just to pick them up.

It’s a good thing for the spa that I was literally stuck on that bridge, unable to turn around; otherwise, that would have been an undone deal. I was very clear that the value of my hour far exceeded the value of those two “pedis.”

In the end, the conditions I had to surmount to take advantage of the bargain negated the value of the deal — and then some.

And that happens much more frequently than you’d think in the world of real estate. Today’s ridiculously low prices and interest rates, combined, seem like the perfect storm for finding a great deal.

But some buyers run into — or even unwittingly create — circumstances in an effort to cash in on the bargain that deactivate or diminish the full value they otherwise stand to gain from buying at the bottom of the market, for both home prices and interest rates.

Here are three ways homebuyers are defeating their own deals in today’s market:

1. House hunting too long. As many as 60 percent of the homes for sale in some markets are short sales. Many other listings are bank-owned (also known as real estate owned or REO) properties, and those homes tend toward two extremes: terrible condition, or so nice at such a low price they receive multiple offers.

Even the nicer, nondistressed homes on the market can end up in and out of contract over and over again due to appraisal or other lending-related issues.

As a result, it is not at all bizarre to hear homebuyers today say they’ve been house hunting for a year, 18 months, even two or three years. When you house hunt that long, you become susceptible to house hunt fatigue, which causes irrationally extreme overbidding out of sheer exhaustion.

Alternatively, it can cause you to settle for whatever house you can get, even if it doesn’t actually meet your needs — then spend the next 10 years obsessively spending to upgrade, improve, repair and furnish the place to try to make it more like the home you actually wanted.

Both of these outcomes negate and deactivate the bargain you stood to score.

To avoid house hunting too long, it’s uber-important to get and stay clear on the differences between what you want and what you need, and to work with a local real estate professional you trust.

Look to your agent to get and keep your expectations centered in reality, so you can make more strategic decisions throughout your entire house hunt, like house hunting in a price range where you’re likely to both find homes that will work for your life and be successful in your efforts to obtain one.

2. Making lowball offers way too low. Overbidding seems like an obvious way to cancel out the bargain potential of your deal. But making excessively low offers — offers sellers couldn’t afford to take if they wanted to — can have the very same result.

Buyers who think they can operate strictly on the basis of buyer’s market dynamics — without realizing that most sellers will need to make enough to pay off their mortgage or at least receive the fair market value for their home — are cutting off their own noses to spite their faces, all in the name of trying to score an amazing deal.

Note to “lowballers”: If you don’t actually secure the home, the superlow price you offered is no deal at all.

3. Freak-outs, stress, drama and mayhem. Once was, it was mostly the buyers uneducated about the homebuying process who tended to freak out and stress the most, especially at the top of the market. These were the folks who found themselves defeated at every turn by buyers who knew what they were up against and were prepared to make their best offer on their first offer.

Fast forward, and now the norm is for buyers to spend much more time reading up on what to expect, but the inundation of information can create brand new mindset management challenges.

Almost every buyer is stressed about whether they can qualify for a loan, and about buying into a down market. Some buyers try to apply national headlines about home prices being depressed to the superlocal dynamics of their neighborhood market.

This is unwise if you happen to be, for example, trying to buy a home in the boomtown real estate markets of Silicon Valley. Others go the opposite direction and deny that the basic truths about, say, buying a short-sale listing will actually apply to them (attention homebuyers: buying a short sale usually takes a long, long time).

The emotional freak-outs that result from having your expectations shattered, sometimes brutally, in the course of buying a home often lead to panic-based and fear-based decisions, which can be costly in the short and long term. Additionally, the stress itself can take a toll on your ability to be productive at work, and can even impair your relationship with your mate, neither of which are worth any deal you think you stand to strike.

Again, managing your expectations by working with a trusted broker or agent you feel comfortable relying on to understand the market in your neck of the woods and the type of transaction you want to pull off is essential to downgrading the role emotion plays in your real estate decision-making.

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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6 Tips for a Successful Loan Modification

Below is a great article I read from Inman News that I thought I would share regarding loan modifications.  Please enjoy…

Got Questions?  The Caton Team is a click away – email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com

 

6 tips for a successful loan mod

Avoid rookie mistakes when preparing, submitting your document packageMillions of mortgage borrowers who can no longer afford their mortgage payments but can afford a lower payment can avoid foreclosure by getting a modification of their loan contract. While the path to a modification remains torturous, it is not quite as bad as when I wrote addressed the issue in a 2009 column.

Are you unqualified?

It is not possible for borrowers acting on their own to determine whether they qualify for a modification because they don’t have access to all the criteria. Some is kept under wraps by loan servicers. However, borrowers can determine that they are not qualified for a government-supported modification by accessing aquestionnaire provided by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Bear in mind, however, that servicers also offer modifications outside of the government’s program. You might qualify for one even if you don’t meet the government’s requirements.

Compiling the information the servicer wants

The single most important step in obtaining a loan modification is providing the servicer with the exact information the servicer needs to make a decision. Each servicer has its own set of forms that must be completed, and its own requirements for the documentation you must provide.

In my first stab at this problem, I placed the information required by each of the major servicers on my website. Now borrowers can access the DMM Document Wizard, provided at my request by Default Mitigation Management LLC, which is a lot better. Based on your answers to the questions it asks, you will be provided with a customized list of forms you must complete and documents you must provide. It is free and will take the guesswork out of what you need.

Don’t exaggerate your financial shortcomings

Warning: The servicer will examine your statements of income and expenses to determine whether you can afford a reduced payment. Exaggerating your financial weaknesses may open his heart but close his purse, if it makes you appear to be a lost cause.

Assuring accuracy

Having the right form is one thing, but filling it out correctly is something else. Some industry executives estimate that about 95 percent of all packages submitted are incomplete or contain errors. A package with obvious errors may fall to the bottom of the pile, or it may lead the servicer to conclude that you do not qualify for a loan modification when, in fact, you do. Remember what you were taught in second grade: Neatness counts!

In addition:

1. Use a cover sheet that identifies all documents in your package.

2. Write your name and loan number on every page.

Assuring delivery

Preparing an accurate and complete set of documents is one thing, but delivering the package to the servicer is something else. Servicer systems have been overwhelmed by requests for help, and documents routinely get “lost.” You want to minimize the chances of that happening to you.

Using fax or certified mail: Make sure you have the correct contact information. Treasury providesaddresses and fax numbers of every mortgage servicer. Certified mail is more reliable than fax, but neither guarantees prompt attention by the servicer, or even that the documents won’t subsequently be misplaced or lost.

Using the DMM portal: The best way to deliver documents to servicers is to use the DMM portal, available through the DMM Document Wizard by clicking on “Submit,” or visit www.dclmwp.com. I have no financial interest in DMM.

Using the portal, your documents are delivered to the servicer electronically, and the portal then becomes a direct communication channel to the servicer. The servicer uses the portal to acknowledge receipt of your documents and to request additional information or documents. You use the portal to make corrections, to send additional information, and to update yourself on what has been completed and what remains to be done.

Questions by you are automatically directed to the specific employee who can answer them. All communications are time-stamped and remain in the portal as a record of borrower/servicer exchanges.

Unfortunately, not every servicer subscribes to the DMM Portal. The list of those that do is shown on the DMM Wizard.

Follow up, and then follow up again

Because the process of modifying mortgages remains slow and error-prone, you may need to nudge the servicer. If you faxed your documents, you should follow up to make sure the papers haven’t been lost and the case is in an active queue. But even if you use the DMM Portal, you should follow up with the servicer regularly to make sure your application is on track.

By Jack Guttentag
Inman News®

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Shopping for the Best Interest Rates

THE lowest interest rates in decades sound enticing enough, but they are often out of borrowers’ reach.

Mortgage lenders adjust their rates based on perceptions of risk, so unless you can show you’re a low-risk borrower, you are unlikely to qualify for a rate that matches those seen in all the advertisements or headlines.

The rates quoted by Freddie Mac and others are averages drawn from a variety of financial institutions, and lenders use varied approaches to set them. As its base line, for instance, the Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union uses rates posted on the Credit Union National Association Web site for New York, according to Daniel Alejandro González, the credit union’s director of lending. Others, like Chase Mortgage, use markers like Treasury yields and agency mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae.

Consumers who want to try for the lowest rates available need to consider these basic factors.

CREDIT SCORE The ideal borrower has a FICO score of 740 or higher, said Thasunda Brown Duckett, the senior vice president of Chase Mortgage’s East Region. “That puts you in the best place for pricing,” said Ms. Duckett, whose office is based in Manhattan. According to MyFICO.com, borrowers in New York with scores of 760 to 850 could qualify for an annual percentage rate of 3.95 percent on a $500,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, while those with scores of 620 to 639 qualify for 5.53 percent.

POINTS The lowest rates usually are decreased by paying a fee called a point, or 1 percent of the loan amount. “You need to buy points in order to get the best rates at many banks,” Mr. González said. In Freddie Mac’s weekly survey on mortgage rates, points have averaged 0.7 percent on loans in the last year. Points might make sense depending on your financial situation and how long you expect to stay in a home. So ask for a zero point quote, too, and compare.

PROPERTY TYPES If you’re buying a duplex or a four-unit building, your rate will almost certainly be higher. Condominiums may also have a rate premium, especially if they are newer or your down payment is below 25 percent. Lenders charge more if you are not planning to live in the home. Commercial properties like apartment buildings have the highest rates, as they are considered riskier, Mr. González said.

DOWN PAYMENT Ms. Duckett says that borrowers who put down at least 25 percent are more likely to obtain “attractive pricing” at Chase. Lenders offer different breaks on rates if equity is higher, so you should ask what is available.

LOAN LENGTH A lot depends on how long you plan to live in a home. If you’re likely to move in a few years, an adjustable-rate loan with a low interest rate fixed for, say, three to five years, and adjusted afterward, might work best. Also, rates on 15-year fixed-rate loans are lower than those on the 30-year — 0.77 percentage points, on average, last year, according to Freddie Mac. “Some people may not need a 30-year mortgage,” said Jed Kolko, the chief economist of Trulia, the real estate information Web site.

Borrowers may also be able to reduce their mortgage rate when they enter into a “lock-in” agreement with a lender.

“Lenders typically offer a lower rate for a shorter lock period,” Mr. Kolko said.

Lenders typically agree not to change an offered interest rate for 60 days, but borrowers confident of a quick closing may be willing to accept a 45-day rate guarantee, or even a 30-day lock, in exchange for a small discount, because the transaction’s speed helps the lender reduce its risk.

Borrowers must make sure, too, that they consider the entire cost of a home, looking carefully at monthly payment calculations. According to Mr. Kolko, about a third of homeownership costs are in addition to the mortgage — among them property taxes, insurance, maintenance and repairs.

Article Shared via California Association of Realtors Newsletter and the New York Times

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email us at Info@TheCatonTeam.com or visit our website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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