SHOULD YOU BUY A HOME DURING THE HOLIDAYS?

Funny – I was just writing my own blog about our local real estate market when I came across this article from San Diego.  It’s not local – but it hits home – thought I’d share and add my two cents….

SHOULD YOU BUY A HOME DURING THE HOLIDAYS?

Once Thanksgiving is over, the real estate world starts to wind down for the holidays and it typically reawakens after the Times Square ball drops and resolutions come to life.

But if you’re a potential homebuyer who’s prepared to close in today’s competitive market, you may want to keep shopping while everyone’s waiting for spring, some real estate agents suggest.

The Caton Team has found that buyers on a concrete budget find great values if they are flexible during the holidays.  We’re ready when you are.

That advice may be especially relevant this year for consumers who have repeatedly lost out on deals because of a limited and continually decreasing supply of homes, but remain persistent. Buying intensity typically cools down at the start of fall through early January, which could increase the odds for those with more patience.

Related: Report: We’re in the midst of a housing recovery

Home sales have increased from October to November only four times since 1988, when DataQuick began to track home sales and prices locally.

In the other years, transactions have fallen from anywhere between 0.2 percent and nearly 26 percent. Home listings have dropped off from 3 percent to 11 percent during those months in the past three years.

“During Christmas, people will be focused on the holidays and nothing really happens,” said Ken Pecus, co-founder of San Diego-based Ascent Real Estate and 20-plus-year real estate veteran.

“The first week of January, the new mindset kicks in, resolutions kick in, and in the second and third week, people look at their taxes, and almost overnight, by the end of January, you have almost twice the buyers in the market,” Pecus added.

Would-be buyers historically have bowed out during the winter season because they are overwhelmed by holiday spending and commitments. There’s also the aversion of moving in the middle of a school year. Consumer interest typically picks back up again in the New Year and peaks in the spring.

Related: Demand for homes stays strong during the fall

Certain buyers may be well-served to buy during the winter because of sellers who must move because of:

• A job change or transfer.

• The possible sunsetting of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, said Donna Sanfilippo, president of the San Diego Association of Realtors. The potential expiration of the law, which lets certain home sellers get tax relief on mortgage debt forgiven by lenders, has pushed home sellers scrambling to list and short sell their homes before the end of the year.

In some cases though, the rush to do that is unwarranted. Consult a tax pro to determine if short selling is right for you.

• The fact they’ve been waiting to sell their home for a long time and need to buy something quickly. If you can wait a little longer to sell your home and want to maximize your profit, then wait until the peak spring months.

Even with the expected holiday homebuying slowdown, buyers should know that the inventory level may still be a challenge.

Right now, there are more than 4,700 active listings in the county, down 11 percent from October and down more than half from the same time a year ago, based on numbers from the San Diego Association of Realtors. The current level marks at least a three-year low.

In the San Francisco Peninsula – inventory has been low all year, fueling multiple offers on homes and driving prices up due to competition outweighing supply.   There has been moments, for example in San Carlos we had 25 listings and Redwood City had 36 – for the whole city.  That’s not enough homes for the volume of demand out here.

Buyers also may deal with the challenges of bidding against cash buyers and investors, who can look more attractive than traditional buyers.

The Caton Team has witnessed Cash Buyers at all price points – under $500,000 to over 1,500,000.  Sellers have the opportunity to pick the best offer among several.  And sellers are being savvy – taking higher down payments when possible.  When The Caton Team prepares an offer, it is more than just price.

Their share of the homebuying market has remained strong. Almost 28 percent of total homes sold in October were purchased by absentee buyers, many of whom are investors. That’s up from 27 percent logged a year ago and in September.

Hovering near the peak, almost one-third of buyers bought with cash in October.

“I’m expecting 60 to 70 people at my open house,” said San Diego Realtor Miguel Contreras before a recent Wednesday showing at a property in La Mesa. “The property is a fixer, so it’s mostly investors.”

Sounds familiar in the SF Peninsula market.  Open houses visitors are strong, and often there is enough activity to warrant an offer day before the following weekend.  I’ve seen homes have one open house and take offers on Monday.  That’s a break neck pace if you ask me, and I’m a veteran.  My first time buyers can’t move that fast.  And with prices climbing, the early bird get’s the worm if he can’t process the information fast enough.

Related: Another hurdle for short sales

Contreras, who worked during Thanksgiving week, said he’ll make himself available throughout the holidays to cater to what he expects to be a continued interest from investors, cash buyers and traditional buyers.

The same goes for Cherilyn Jones, another local real estate agent. Last week, she was preparing for two new listings to come online. Her most common clients are first-time homebuyers and investors.

“The investors have not slowed down,” Jones said. “We get holiday freeze, but not for investor clients. It’s hard to find them properties because their criteria is very, very specific … and the deals are not as good as they used to be.”

Article By: Lily Leung

Last Thoughts…

In our 25+ years of local Real Estate experience, buying during the holidays can truly benefit buyers who’ve been outbid all year.  We’ve found homes for buyers over the holiday season that would have been snapped up in a hot second during the spring or summer.  As long as buyers are flexible and open minded – there is definitely some Christmas Miracles in the making this time of year.  Keep a look out for my next Cinderella Stories about Russ and Natalie and the home we found over Thanksgiving!

I read this article at:  http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/dec/01/does-it-make-sense-buy-home-during-winter/?page=2#article

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

 

New Short-Sale Program Offers Relief for Underwater Homeowners…

Please enjoy this article I found interesting….

The Fannie-Freddie program allows short sales for owners who are current on loan payments but are encountering a hardship that could force them into default.

WASHINGTON — Though there are still some snares and drawbacks for participants, one of the federal government’s most important financial relief efforts for underwater homeowners started operating Nov. 1.

It’s a new short-sale program that targets the walking wounded among borrowers emerging from the housing downturn — owners who owe far more on their mortgages than their current home value but have stuck it out for years, resisted the temptation to strategically default and never fell seriously behind on their monthly payments.

Industry estimates put the number of underwater owners across the country at just under 11 million, or 22% of all homes with a mortgage. Of these, about 4.6 million have loans that are owned or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Eighty percent of these Fannie-Freddie borrowers, in turn, are current on their mortgage payments and meet the baseline eligibility test for the new short-sale effort.

Here’s how the program works and where the potential snares are. Traditionally short sales, where the lender agrees to accept less than the full amount owed and the house is sold to a new purchaser at a discounted price, are associated with extended periods of delinquency by the original owner. The new Fannie-Freddie program — designed by the companies’ overseer, the Federal Housing Finance Agency — breaks with tradition by allowing short sales for owners who are current on their payments but are encountering a hardship that could force them into default.

Say you are deeply underwater on your mortgage and recently lost your job or had your work hours reduced. Under the new program, you can contact your mortgage servicer and ask to participate in a Fannie-Freddie short sale for non-delinquent borrowers. You’ll need to find a qualified buyer for the house, typically with the help of a real estate broker or agent knowledgeable about short sales who will list the property and obtain an offer and communicate the details and documentation to the servicer. If the proposed short-sale package is acceptable, the deal would then proceed to closing weeks — or months — later.

Eligible hardships under the new program run the gamut: job loss or reduction in income; divorce or separation; death of a borrower or another wage earner who helps pay the mortgage; serious illness or disability; employment transfer of 50 miles or greater; natural or man-made disaster; a sudden increase in housing expenses beyond the borrower’s control; a business failure; and a you-name-it category called “other,” meaning a serious financial issue that isn’t one of the above.

Borrowers who take part in the new program can expect to rid themselves of the money-devouring albatross their mortgage has become — without going through the nightmares of foreclosure or bankruptcy — and to get a chance to start anew, better equipped to deal with the financial hardship that caused them to sell their house in the first place.

What about the snares in the program? There are several that participants need to consider.

•Credit score impact. Though officials at the Federal Housing Finance Agency are working on possible solutions with the credit industry, at the moment it appears that borrowers who use the new program may be hit with significant penalties on their FICO credit scores — 150 points or more. This is because under current credit industry practices, short sales are lumped in with foreclosures. According to Laura Arce, a senior policy analyst at the agency, the government is in discussions with the credit industry to institute “a special comment code” for servicers who report the new Fannie-Freddie short sales to the national credit bureaus that would treat participants more fairly on FICO scores.

•Promissory notes and other “contributions.” In the majority of states where lenders can pursue deficiencies, Fannie and Freddie expect borrowers who have assets to either make upfront cash contributions covering some of the loan balance owed or sign a promissory note. This would be in exchange for an official waiver of the debt for credit reporting purposes, potentially producing a more favorable credit score for the sellers.

•Second lien hurdles. The program sets a $6,000 limit on what second lien holders — banks that have extended equity lines of credit or second mortgages on underwater properties — can collect out of the new short sales. Some banks, however, don’t consider this a sufficient amount and may threaten to torpedo sales if they can’t somehow extract more.

By Kenneth R. Harney Distributed by Washington Post Writers Group.

I read this article at: http://articles.latimes.com/print/2012/nov/11/business/la-fi-harney-20121111

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Popcorn Ceilings – No Night At The Movies…

Please enjoy my candid journey through homeownership at http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com where I share my personal stories of being a young homeowner.  My newest blog is about Pop Corn Ceilings… Enjoy!

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

San Mateo County Homebuyer Assistance Program

Music to my ears.  Just came across this program to help homebuyers living and working in San Mateo County.  Please visit their website for updates.

Homebuyer Loans

Downpayment assistance loans for first-time homebuyers
in San Mateo County

Together with Meriwest Mortgage, HEART has created a customized loan package that is not offered by any other lender. Our goal is simple: to help you buy a home with a 5% downpayment.

Working with Meriwest Mortgage, a wholly owned subsidiary of the not-for-profit Meriwest Credit Union, HEART has created an entirely new loan package that helps qualified moderate-income families earning not more than $150,000 and who have not owned a home in San Mateo County in the last 3 years and meet other qualifications, buy their first home in San Mateo County, or to move substantially closer to transit in the county. This program does not apply in Daly City.

* Guidelines current as of July 2012. Subject to change based on rapidly changing market conditions. Check back often for updates, or call John Souza at Meriwest Mortgage at (408) 849-7115.

How does the Opening Doors Program work?

Together with a Meriwest Mortgage first home mortgage loan, HEART of San Mateo County offers a below-market rate second loan up to $78,225 to help facilitate a home purchase with a minimum of 5% downpayment. This program does not apply in Daly City. You may purchase a home or condo anywhere else in San Mateo County.

Based on the maximum sales price of $521,250, with a conforming first mortgage amount limit of $417,000, the maximum 2nd mortgage loan is  up to $78,225. Borrowers can put more money down on a home purchase above the $521,250 limit, however, the first and second mortgages remain at the previously described limits.

The 2nd mortgage allows for an 80% loan to value ratio on the first mortgage. The purchaser is not required to buy private mortgage insurance (PMI) for this loan. This results in significant savings to the homeowner of thousands of dollars in annual mortgage insurance premiums.

The Meriwest Mortgage first loan products that will be available for this special program are:

a 30-year fixed rate

a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) 30-year full amortizing

and a 5/1 ARM adjustable 40-year loan fully amortizing.

In combination, these loans reduce the monthly payment to the homeowner. Note the maximum loan is subject to change depending on market conditions. The first mortgage may be up to 80% Loan to Value.

Who Qualifies?

In order to qualify for this loan, you must meet a few specific requirements. There aren’t many of them, but they are important, and you must be able to prove that you meet each and every one of them. Please review the list below and check those to which you can answer “yes.”
Guidelines current as of July 2012. Subject to change based on rapidly changing market conditions. Check back for updates, or call John Souza at Meriwest Mortgage at (408) 849-7115.

Do you and your family earn $150,000 or less each year?

Do all borrowers have good credit – FICO score 680 or higher?

Is the purchase price of the property you want to buy $521,250 or less?

Do you currently live or work in San Mateo County? If you live or work in Daly City, you may apply for this program, but you cannot purchase a home or condo in Daly City.

Is the home you are purchasing in San Mateo County? This program does not apply in Daly City.

Have you NOT owned a home during the past 36 months, OR, if you have, will you be selling your current home and buying one that is substantially closer to transit in San Mateo County?

Will the total household debt to income ratio be less than 45%?

Will you be able to make a down payment of 5% of the purchase price?

Will you be able to demonstrate continuous employment for 24 months prior to application?

Do you have 5% downpayment available?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may qualify for Opening Doors. To begin the application process and find out for certain if this program is right for you, click on the APPLY NOW button. You will be taken to the website of Meriwest Mortgage, a subsidiary of Meriwest Credit Union, and you will be asked to begin an application for a mortgage loan

Click Here to Apply

If you have problems accessing the site, have questions, or need further information, please call HEART at (650) 872-4444 ext. 4#, or email pstinson@heartofsmc.org.

FAQ

Q: What do I do if I have more questions?

A: You can download a full set of Frequently Asked Questions here

Q: What are the interest rates?

A:  Please call John Souza at Meriwest Mortgage, 408-849-7115 for today’s rates.

Q: How is the program funded?

A: HEART’s donations from local employers fund the program. HEART continues to raise funds to enable this program to grow and serve even more local employees. Please click on the Donate Now button to make a gift, or contact Paula Stinson at (650) 872-4444, ext. 4#, pstinson@heartofsmc.org Thank you!

I read this article at: http://www.heartofsmc.org/programs/homebuyer-assistance/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Home Prices Rebound According to CNN Money – enjoy this shared article…

Home prices rebound

By Chris Isidore CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — In another sign of a turnaround in the long-battered real estate market, average home prices rebounded in July to the same level as they were nine years ago.

According to the closely watched S&P/Case-Shiller national home price index, which covers more than 80% of the housing market in the United States, the typical home price in July rose 1.6% compared to the previous month.

It marked the third straight month that prices in all 20 major markets followed by the index improved, and it would have been the fourth straight month of improvement across the full spectrum if not for a slight decline in Detroit in April.

The index was up 1.2% compared to a year earlier, an improvement from the year-over-year change reported for June. While home prices have been showing a sequential change in recent months, it wasn’t until June that prices were higher than a year earlier.

The July reading matched levels last seen in summer 2003, when the market was marching toward its peak in 2006. The collapse of the market after that led to the financial crisis of 2008.

“The news on home prices in this report confirm recent good news about housing,” said David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Single-family housing starts are well ahead of last year’s pace, existing home sales are up, the inventory of homes for sale is down and foreclosure activity is slowing.”

Record low mortgage rates and a tighter supply of homes available for sale have helped to lift home prices. Lower unemployment also has helped with home prices, although job growth in recent months has been slower than hoped.

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve announced it would buy $40 billion in mortgage bonds a month for the foreseeable future. This third round of asset purchases by the central bank, popularly known as QE3, is its effort to jump start the economy through even lower home loan rates.

Related: Best home deals in Best Places

Mike Larson, real estate analyst with Weiss Research, said part of the improvement in the housing market is due to investors using the low mortgage rates to buy up homes that are in foreclosure and renting them in a strong rental market.

But he said that he doesn’t think there’s much chance of housing prices forming any kind of new bubble in the foreseeable future.

“Clearly the worst is behind us for this market., but this is not a market that is going to take off again,” he said. “While you have a firming up, you still have tight lending standards and people who have been burned are reluctant or unable to get back in the market.” He predicts it will take several more years before housing prices can gain more than 1% to 2% a year.

Related: Buy or rent? 10 major cities

But that is good news for a housing market that was plagued by plunging home values and high foreclosure rates for much of the last six years. And the good news has the potential to build on itself, said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist for Deutsche Bank.

“Housing remains a rare bright spot in an economy that is otherwise muddling through,” he wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. “The price trend for housing is significant, because it provides economic stimulus via stronger household balance sheets.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that home prices had reached a 9-year high. In fact, they rebounded to the level last seen in summer 2003, before their peak several years later.

Curious about the local real estate market on the San Francisco Peninsula?  Email me! 

I read this article at: http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/25/real_estate/home-prices/index.html?source=linkedin

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

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

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

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp me at: http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

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/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp me at: http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:  http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com/