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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This Month in Real Estate (US) : December 2010

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

This Month in Real Estate: December 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Update Regarding The Mortgage and Conveyance Division's Online Data Recovery

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

Update from Dale Atkins, The Clerk of Civil District Court
The following updates took place as of December 7, 2010:


PERSONNEL:
In total, 90 men and women are working on the data recovery project as of today, and the Clerk of Court's office is continuing to add personnel to complete this task as soon as possible.

BACKLOG COMPLETED:
The backlog of documents in the Conveyance and Mortgage divisions has been eliminated. This means all mortgage and conveyance documents received between October 26 and November 18, when the system was reactivated for data entry and cashiering, have been entered in the system.

CERTIFICATES:
As it relates to Sheriff’s sales, they are current on all Sheriff Certificates through sale date of December 29, 2010. The Clerk of Court's Office forgot to mention that the houses that are going through a Sheriff's Sale at this time were marketed 45 days in advance, meaning these houses were advertised in October, before the online data crash.

RESTORATION OF DATA PROJECT: CONVEYANCE
The Clerk's office is confident the final delivery of the 60,000 conveyance instruments which are currently being re-entered by the Windward Group will be Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. Once the data is delivered, the only task will be to verify the information. The first delivery of a 1000-piece sample was successfully delivered by the Windward Group on Dec. 1, 2010 and successfully uploaded into the Clerk's database. This data is now being verified. Another 10,000 records are expected for delivery on Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. As more records are entered, more personnel will be shifted to data verification to speed this project along. The date of January 2, 2011 that the Clerk's office mentions is not a guarantee.

RESTORATION OF DATA: MORTGAGE DIVISION
The Clerk of Court's office is in the final stages of negotiating a contract for the data input of the more than 119,000 mortgage documents which need to be restored in the online system. Until the contract is signed, the work is being done internally. Nevertheless, the Clerk's office feels confident this data will be completely uploaded by mid-January 2011, but they are pushing for a commitment to an earlier delivery date of the data. Again, once data is delivered successfully into the system, the Clerk's office begins a verification process of the entries. The time frame for the verification process is about 7-14 days, but there are no guarantees on this either.

In short, this means that there will be very few closing until Mid-January 2011.

If your closing has been delayed as a result of the online data crash in Orleans Parish, here is a checklist of things that you can provide to the Title Company that may help to speed up the closing:

-Obtain Financial Statements from the Seller(s)
-Obtain Forwarding Address of the Seller(s)
-In Whose Name Is The Property Assessed?
-What is the Assessed Value?
-Any Outstanding Mortgages (1st Mortgage, 2nd Mortgage, HELOC)?
-Copy Of Appraisal
-Length Of Time The Seller Owned The Home? _____ Years
-Financial Statement Or Loan Application From The Borrower

If you have any questions regarding real estate, please contact me at 504.382.3724 or email me at AliciaLagarde@kw.com

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tips For Hiring A Contractor

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

Finding a contractor – Choosing the right contractor can save time & money.

• Ask friends and trusted associates who have already hired contractors for recommendations
• Check potential contractors out with consumer protection groups, such as the Better Business
Bureau: www.neworleans.bbb.org or 504-581-6222. BBB’s video, How to hire a contractor, can be purchased from their online resource library.
• Ask for proof that potential contractors are licensed with the State of Louisiana, and verify with the State Licensing Board: www.lslbc.louisiana.gov/findcontractor.asp or (225) 765 2301
• Ask potential contractors about their familiarity and experience with energy efficient, environmentally responsible, and healthy building practices and materials.

Hiring a contactor

• Once you have found a licensed contractor who checks out with the BBB or another consumer protection group, ask for:

o A list of references, particularly of projects similar to yours – and check them.
o Lists of subcontractors and suppliers and check to make sure they pay their debts on time.
o Proof of current insurance (should include General Liability, Worker’s Compensation and Builder’s Risk). Make sure to obtain an insurance binder with you listed as the additional insured from the insurance company before signing a contract.

• The contract should be modeled after standard American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) construction contract. Contract templates can be purchased at www.aianeworleans.org.
• Before signing the contract, make sure you understand the terms and conditions. If necessary, ask an attorney, or a neutral party familiar with the construction process to advise you.

Payment

• Ten percent (10%) of the contract is the most a legitimate contractor will request for a deposit.
• Payment should proceed according to the contract. Pay only for what is completed.
• Do not pay in cash and keep written records of all payments
• Keep written records of paperwork, conversations and activities, including photographs of work completed.
• Changes to the scope of work should be estimated and approved by the contractor and you in writing before they are begun.
• Do not make final payment until all work is completed to your satisfaction, all subcontractors and suppliers are paid, and the jobsite is clean and cleared of all debris.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tips Gleaned From the Best Credit Repair Services

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

Open New Accounts Now
A tour of the top credit repair services websites will reveal a plethora of great financial tips. One of the best is the importance of opening new accounts now, rather than waiting until your credit report is all cleaned up. New accounts show that you are capable of getting back in the game and will have a dynamite impact on your score. Are you afraid of getting denied? No worry, secured cards are a perfect credit repair tool.

Reduce Your Credit Card Balances
You have heard it a million times, but it bears repeating. All of the legitimate credit repair services stress the importance of watching your credit card balances. Do not just nod your head knowingly and move on, please heed this advice. The difference between an account topping out at over 80 percent of the limit and an account under 20 percent can be a difference of 100 points. Okay?

Add an Authorized User Account
Often recommended by credit repair services, this is an easy way to get a new credit card along with an instant bump in your FICO scores. Call mom or dad and ask them to add you to one of their perfect, low balance credit cards. In fact, they do not even have to give you a card for you to get the score benefit. This is not a replacement for opening your own cards, but it is a quick way to get credit repair traction.

Check Your Statutes of Limitation
If you are confronted by a collector, the first thing that any of the good credit repair services will suggest is to check your statute of limitation, or SOL. If the SOL is over, the collector has no legal leverage. They could try to sue you but if you raise the SOL defense they will have no case. Check your SOL and you may be excited to find that you have nothing to fear.

Negotiate Collections
The economy is rough. Most good credit repair services agree that now is a great opportunity to negotiate with collectors. Everyone is hungry, and here are some guidelines that can help you capitalize on the opportunity. Make your offer on the last Friday of a month. And make your offer as tempting as possible by figuring out how to get your settlement money to the collector instantly. Let them know that you are ready to push the money button.

Dispute Redundant Collections
It is a funny thing about credit reports. The majority of collections on all credit reports should not be reporting at all. That is right. By law, when a collector sells a debt to another collector they should remove their account at once so you are not double-hit. This little tidbit is often ignored and the result is a whole lot of bogus collections. Review your reports. Find the duplicates and dispute all but the most recent. Try this great credit repair services tip and watch your report shine.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tips Gleaned From the Best Credit Repair Services


Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

Tips Gleaned From the Best Credit Repair Services
By Ian Webber


Open New Accounts Now
A tour of the top credit repair services websites will reveal a plethora of great financial tips. One of the best is the importance of opening new accounts now, rather than waiting until your credit report is all cleaned up. New accounts show that you are capable of getting back in the game and will have a dynamite impact on your score. Are you afraid of getting denied? No worry, secured cards are a perfect credit repair tool.

Reduce Your Credit Card Balances
You have heard it a million times, but it bears repeating. All of the legitimate credit repair services stress the importance of watching your credit card balances. Do not just nod your head knowingly and move on, please heed this advice. The difference between an account topping out at over 80 percent of the limit and an account under 20 percent can be a difference of 100 points. Okay?

Add an Authorized User Account
Oft recommended by credit repair services, this is an easy way to get a new credit card along with an instant bump in your FICO scores. Call mom or dad and ask them to add you to one of their perfect, low balance credit cards. In fact, they do not even have to give you a card for you to get the score benefit. This is not a replacement for opening your own cards, but it is a quick way to get credit repair traction.

Check Your Statutes of Limitation
If you are confronted by a collector, the first thing that any of the good credit repair services will suggest is to check your statute of limitation, or SOL. If the SOL is over, the collector has no legal leverage. They could try to sue you but if you raise the SOL defense they will have no case. Check your SOL and you may be excited to find that you have nothing to fear.

Negotiate Collections
The economy is rough. Most good credit repair services agree that now is a great opportunity to negotiate with collectors. Everyone is hungry, and here are some guidelines that can help you capitalize on the opportunity. Make your offer on the last Friday of a month. And make your offer as tempting as possible by figuring out how to get your settlement money to the collector instantly. Let them know that you are ready to push the money button.

Dispute Redundant Collections
It is a funny thing about credit reports. The majority of collections on all credit reports should not be reporting at all. That is right. By law, when a collector sells a debt to another collector they should remove their account at once so you are not double-hit. This little tidbit is often ignored and the result is a whole lot of bogus collections. Review your reports. Find the duplicates and dispute all but the most recent. Try this great credit repair services tip and watch your report shine.

Friday, May 21, 2010

$65,000 Soft Second Mortgage through FANO is back!!!

$65,000 Soft Second Mortgages through FANO have been reissued!

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

The First Time Homebuyer Fund offers soft-second mortgage loans at zero (0%) per cent interest up to $65,000 and a closing cost assistance grant up to $10,000 for a homebuyer who has not owned a principal residence within the last three (3) years or is a single parent who no longer owns a home because of a divorce. This fund serves first-time homebuyers with household incomes of 120% or less of the metropolitan area median income (AMI) and who are purchasing homes primarily in the Housing Opportunity Zones. Gross household incomes of qualifying borrowers for this fund cannot exceed the following:

"New higher income limits approved!"

1 person -- $50,280
2 persons - $57,360
3 persons - $64,560
4 persons - $71,760
5 persons - $77,520
6 persons - $83,280
7 persons - $89,040
8 persons - $94,680

The borrower must also invest at least 1% of the purchase price or $1,500 from personal funds, which ever is greater.

Homebuyers who have already received payments from the State under the “sell” or “relocate” option under the Road Home Homeownership Program are not eligible to receive additional financial assistance from this program.

To learn more about the Pathway to Homeownership Soft-Second Mortgage Loan Program
call Alicia Lagarde-Craig at 504.382.3724 or Jeff Craig at 504.352.6190.

This Finance Authority will be processing an additional 164 Loans on a First Come First Served Basis, so if you are a serious buyer and would like more information regarding this program, please call Alicia or Jeff to get the process started.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

First Time Homebuyer Fund through FANO is back up and running!

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

First-Time Homebuyer Fund

The First Time Homebuyer Fund offers soft-second mortgage loans at zero (0%) per cent interest up to $65,000 and a closing cost assistance grant up to $10,000 for a homebuyer who has not owned a principal residence within the last three (3) years or is a single parent who no longer owns a home because of a divorce. This fund serves first-time homebuyers with household incomes of 120% or less of the metropolitan area median income (AMI) and who are purchasing homes primarily in the Housing Opportunity Zones. Gross household incomes of qualifying borrowers for this fund cannot exceed the following:

"New higher income limits approved!"

1 person -- $50,280
2 persons - $57,360
3 persons - $64,560
4 persons - $71,760
5 persons - $77,520
6 persons - $83,280
7 persons - $89,040
8 persons - $94,680

The borrower must also invest at least 1% of the purchase price or $1,500 from personal funds, which ever is greater.

Homebuyers who have already received payments from the State under the “sell” or “relocate” option under the Road Home Homeownership Program are not eligible to receive additional financial assistance from this program.

To learn more about the Pathway to Homeownership Soft-Second Mortgage Loan Program
call Alicia Lagarde-Craig at 504.382.3724 or Jeff Craig at 504.352.6190.

This Finance Authority will be processing an additional 164 Loans on a First Come First Served Basis, so if you are a serious buyer and would like more information regarding this program, please call Alicia or Jeff to get the process started.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

This Month in Real Estate
February 2010


...............................................................................................................................................

Commentary

January began the new decade with indications that the economy is beginning to gain traction. Real GDP grew by 2.2 percent in the third quarter of 2009 and preliminary signals point to a continued positive trend for the following quarter. GDP is a measure of total products and services produced by a country and indicates the health of the country's economy.

A dip in home sales in December was due in large part to timing. First time buyers that would have liked to close in December but qualified for the tax credit bumped their timeline up in order to cash in. News of the credit’s extension reached many of them after their plans to close in December were set.


Interest rates are back below 5% and home prices are up compared to last year. The government continues to attempt to minimize the impact of troubled homeowners by continuing to improve its foreclosure prevention program and has also taken steps to help foreclosures buyers purchase faster.


Although the unemployment rate is expected to stay high as jobs increase modestly, experts expect the economy to continue to grow in 2010.



The Housing Market

Existing Home Sales


After a rising surge for three straight months, existing home sales slowed in December after first-time buyers rushed to meet the original November tax credit deadline and evidenced by first timers accounting for 51% of sales in November compared to 43% in December. “It’s significant that home sales remain above year-ago levels, but the market is going through a period of swings driven by the tax credit,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. December sales of 5.45 million remain 15 percent above the 4.74 million-unit level last year.


Median Home Price

Existing-home price was $178,300 in December, 1.5 percent higher than December 2008 and 8.2 percent above its low in January 2009. It was the first year-over-year gain in median price since August 2007, attributable to an increase in the number of mid- to upper-priced homes in the sales.


Inventory

The supply of homes continued to shrink, falling 6.6 percent to 3.29 million, representing a 7.2-month supply at the current sales pace. Compared to a year ago, there are now 11 percent fewer homes on the market. This is the lowest level of competing homes on the market since March 2006.


Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates have moved back to less than 5 percent, which have been categorized by industry experts like Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft as “near a record low.” This move that may help boost home loan demand and lend support to the housing market recovery. On January 28, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.98 percent.


Affordability

Affordability remains at record levels, supported by the lowest mortgage rates in decades, low home prices, as well as the first-time buyer tax credit. So far this year, the home price-to-income ratio has fallen well below the historical average of 25 percent. The ratio now stands at 15 percent.

Sources: National Association of Realtors, Freddie Mac


Government Action

FHA Tightens Lending Requirements


The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured almost 30 percent of all purchase loans and 20 percent of refinances from September 2008 to September 2009, up from about only 2 percent of all loans three years earlier. The influx of loans combined with falling capital reserves, which cushion against rising defaults, has led the FHA to announce several measures to strengthen its economic vitality.

On January 20, the FHA announced it will do the following:

1. Raise Insurance Fees - In exchange for FHA backing, borrowers pay an up-front premium. Previously it was 1.75% of their loan. It’s now risen to 2.25%.

2. Cap Seller Contribution to Buyer’s Closing Costs - Sellers can contribute a maximum of 3%, down from 6%, of the sales price to the buyer’s closing costs. The higher cap created risk by incentivizing homes to sell at a substantially marked-up price to compensate for contribution. 3% is still a significant proportion to closing costs.

3. Require Higher Down Payments for Poor Credit - Beginning this summer, borrowers with a credit score below 580 will need to make a down payment of at least 10%. The FHA will still provide a viable alternative to the 1% of FHA borrowers who fall in this category, whereas most lenders’ credit score cutoff is 620.

The good news is the FHA, an integral player in the market, has stepped up to protect itself so it can continue helping first-time buyers, those with less cash for a down payment, and those with less-than-perfect credit obtain home loans. Additionally, these proactive measures aim to protect the agency from needing taxpayer funds from the government.

Source: The Wall Street Journal



FHA to Help New Foreclosures Sell Fast

FHA has announced it will lift the 90-day seasoning requirement for one year. The FHA ‘s 90-day “seasoning” provision requires that a home sold to an FHA buyer must be owned for at least 90 days by the seller before closing. This is intended to prevent buyers from purchasing property from “flippers” at an overly inflated value.


In the current climate, quickly selling foreclosures has risen in importance while the prominence of “flippers” has dramatically decreased. Acquiring, rehabbing, and reselling a foreclosure often takes fewer than 90 days. Banks have been reluctant to sell foreclosures to FHA buyers if they would need to push closing back to meet the FHA requirement.

There are additional stipulations; for more, please visit the press release.

Quickly moving foreclosures out of the bank’s hands and into those of home buyers is an important step in stabilizing home prices, neighborhoods, and communities leading toward a healthy housing market.

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development



Topics For Buyers & Sellers

Price it Right


Sellers who listed their home at the price originally recommended by their agent sold it:

38 days faster
For 2.25% higher
With 1 less price reduction
Compared to sellers who did not take their agent's recommendation.



Staging Stats

Compared to homes that were not staged, staged homes had:
more showings
a higher list-to-sell percentage
Other notable stats found include:

Only 1 in 3 sellers staged their home, even with all the commonly accepted advantages of staging.
Staging typically took between 2 - 6 hours to complete.
Including the cost of a staging professional and items purchased or rented, staging cost an average of $523.
Although it has advantages at all price points, staging was also found to be particularly important for homes priced over $600,000.

Source: Keller Williams Research

Monday, February 1, 2010

10 Home Features Buyers Want

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

10 Home Features Buyers Want

Home designers and builders speaking at the recent International Builders Show in Las Vegas say that buyers are seeking cost-effective features and rejecting things that don’t have lasting value.

“It's all about family togetherness – casual living, entertaining and flexible spaces," says Carol Lavender, president of the Lavender Design Group in San Antonio.

Paul Cardis, CEO of Avid Ratings, which conducts an annual survey of buyer preferences, identified these must-haves in new homes:

1. Large kitchens with islands
2. Energy efficiency, including energy-efficient appliances, super insulation, and high-efficiency windows.
3. Home offices
4. Main-floor master suite
5. Outdoor living space
6. Ceiling fans
7. Soaking tub in the master suite and/or an oversize shower with a seating area
8. Stone and brick exteriors rather than stucco or vinyl
9. Community walking paths and playgrounds
10. Two-car garages, but three-car garages are even more desirable