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Archive for August, 2010

Making Home Affordable Program: Help For Distressed Homeowners
August 17, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips, Real Estate

The Obama Administration’s Making Home Affordable Program (HAMP) is a critical piece of the effort to bring relief to distressed homeowners and stabilize the housing market. What the program is attempting to do is to work with loan servicers to reduce a homeowners monthly mortgage payment. Homeowners that are struggling to make their mortgage payments on time, either due to an adjustable interest rate increasing or less income, can apply for HAMP. The program will reduce a homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment to 31 percent of their verified gross (pre-tax) income to make their payments more affordable.

Are You Eligible For HAMP?

You may be eligible for HAMP if you answer YES to all these questions.

Are you the owner-occupant of a one to four-unit home?
Do you have an unpaid principal balance that is equal to or less than:

  • 1 Unit: $729,750

  • 2 Units: $934,200

  • 3 Units: $1,129,250

  • 4 Units: $1,403,400

Have a first lien mortgage that was originated on or before January 1, 2009?
Have a monthly mortgage payment (including taxes, insurance, and home owners association dues) greater than 31% of your monthly gross (pre-tax) income?Have a mortgage payment that is not affordable due to a financial hardship that can be documented?

If You Qualify

Homeowners who qualify for HAMP must complete a trial period of three to four months to demonstrate that they will be able to make their reduced payments on time before their mortgage becomes permanently modified.

To create an affordable payment, your mortgage servicer applies a series of modification steps in the following order:

  1. Rate reduction to as low as two percent.

  2. Term extension up to 40 years.

  3. Principal forbearance (or deferral).

A portion of the principal can also be forgiven, although that is optional and is based on the discretion of the servicer.

If you think you qualify for HAMP, contact your servicer.

For more information and frequently asked questions, please see the Making Home Affordable government website.

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Staging Your Home Virtually
August 13, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Real Estate

Virtual StagingTechnology has evolved to the point where you can edit and modify photographs to such an extent as to adding objects or smoothing a feature of the image. Many people are familiar with what staging a home involves. It requires someone to come in and set up and analyze the space and add furniture and objects to resolve the vacant look that an empty room has. Now, with digital editing software, this can be done on a computer by adding furniture and object directly to the image without ever setting foot in the home. Below will discuss the pros and cons of virtually staging a home.

Pros

  • In many cases digitally editing stock images taken of a vacant home is less costly than hiring someone to move furniture and other objects into the home and then taking the picture.

  • There will be less potential for damage if people are moving large pieces of furniture around the home.

  • Staged homes statistically sell for 17% more than vacant homes. Only 10% of home buyers can visualize the potential of a vacant home.

  • Virtual staging is less of a hassle as you can simply send photo’s to the virtual staging designers without moving furniture yourself.

  • Requires only a one time design fee and no monthly payment to rent staged furniture.

Cons

  • Virtual staging that is poorly done is extremely obvious and can detriment the quality of the photo for home buyers.

  • In a bright room it’s difficult to capture lighting and replicate it’s affect on imported image objects.

  • Virtual staged rooms can be made to deceive which may not sit well with alert buyers if they notice a discrepancy in the size of how an object looks in the photo vs. physically.

  • It’s difficult to produce the same effect that real furniture has on the room.

  • Buyers that visit the home may wonder where the furniture is that was furniture is that was in the pictures. Real furniture helps buyers visualize when they are walking through the home.

It will really come down to preference between how much you’re willing to spend between the two staging methods, how competent the stagers for both virtual and actual settings are, and whether or not staging is right for you.

In general, staging will often provide a needed boost to help set your home and property above the competition. For some more information on staging in general, see our other blog post concerning staging.

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The Five Most Important Traits In a Real Estate Agent
August 13, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Real Estate

It seems that in the past that only real estate agents had the knowledge of where homes were for sale, and knew the process of buying or selling a home. However, now the internet has made possible a place where anyone can go and browse for homes all across the nation. Still, an agent is an essential part of the home searching and buying process as well as the selling process. Good agents have years of experience and will do their best to make sure your interests are being represented honestly and fairly. The following are traits that a good agent will conduct themselves by in their transactions.

Honesty. Honesty is is the centerpoint of a good agent. By being up front with their client, honesty ensures that there are no surprises later in the process for both the agent and the client. Trust follows from honesty.

Loyalty. When someone approaches an agent asking for help in buying or selling a home, they place their trust in that agent. And from that trust follows the loyalty of the agent. The agent pledges to represent the client and work hard to see that their needs are met fairly. Loyalty breeds trust, and in return, the loyalty of your client.

Integrity. The consistency in which an agent conducts themselves and demonstrates the methods, measures, values, and principles is an integral aspect of being a good agent. Having an intuitive sense of truth and honesty separates a professional real estate agent from the others.

Perseverance. It’s a buyers market now. It takes extra-ordinary effort to make sure that that home get’s sold or that perfect home is found. Simply listing a property won’t work anymore. A good agent will work hard to find that perfect home, and will persevere to get your home as much exposure as needed.

Patience. If that home just won’t sell or the perfect home just isn’t turning up in the searches, a patient agent will take time to evaluate what the problem could be and adjust their methods to reflect their research. They will take the time to communicate further with their clients to determine and define their client’s needs.

A good real estate agent shouldn’t necessarily be defined by how many deals they close but by how they conduct themselves in business. A true real estate agent isn’t only in the business of selling houses. They are in the business of providing clients an honest avenue to buy or sell a home, to be loyal to that client, persevere through the difficult times, and be patient when things don’t go according to plan. A true real estate agent is in the business of helping people.

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Job Openings in Washington Increase For The First Time In 3 Years
August 12, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under General, News

The 2010 spring Washington Job Vacancy Survey Report recorded the first increase in the number of job vacancies offered since fall 2006. The survey indicated that companies were attempting to fill an estimated 38,732 open positions during the April 2010 survey period. While theses job opening indicate that the economy is improving, it is still unclear whether Washington state and the nation are indeed entering a recovery period.

This is good news for job seekers in Washington. According to the survey for this spring, it shows a 21 percent increase in openings since last fall. Most of the jobs are made up by the private sector, however, some public health care and education jobs are included.

Health Care was the leading industry in job growth. Registered nurses were the job that was most in demand with over 2,300 openings.

Software engineers were the next in terms of most needed, with almost 2,000 job openings.

For more information, please see the full survey.

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Reminder: Tax Credit Closing Deadline Extended
August 12, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Real Estate

Congress recently passed a bill that will extend the closing deadline on the Homebuyer Tax Credit. The extension lengthens the closing date to September 30, 2010. This deadline is for home purchases that had a signed contract by April 30th of this year. There will be no gap between June 30th and the date the President signs the bill into law.

Additionally, Congress has extended the National Flood Insurance Program through September 30th as well. This bill is retroactive and will cover the lapse period from June 1, 2010, to the date the law is enacted.

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Housing Trend Moving Towards Smaller Homes
August 12, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Real Estate

Small HomeThe current housing trend is to live modestly and forgo unessential large spaces for homes. First time home-buyers are leaning more favorably towards smaller homes as they’re easier to maintain, and require less energy to run. In lieu of new banking guidelines and stringent credit scoring practices large loans can be more difficult to obtain. This a contributing factor to why people are purchasing smaller, more affordable homes.

Housing sizes typically drop during recessions, however, economists expect the current downsizing and small home buying trend to continue due to the current housing difficulties and change in familial status.

Downsizing and living modestly, as well as making the most use of the space available is more sustainable. It requires less maintenance, less energy, and consequently less money. This is obviously attractive to those who are looking to downsize or for those that are purchasing a home for the first time.

Due to this shift in housing trends, the builders market has changed significantly. Coupled with the demand for smaller houses and remodeling, builders can take advantage of a new niche.

Again, it’s not just about making a smaller house, but maximizing the usable space within and also building with quality, though less expensive material alternatives. For example, instead of an expensive granite kitchen, using a synthetic material look-alike. One can also purchase a smaller home and/or remodel areas of the home to create more space.

The recession has helped many people understand the value of a home floor plan that utilizes space efficiently, as well as valuing the sustainable lifestyle of living in a smaller home.

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