Published On: January 29, 2016

Home Prices Sustain Steady Growth in Most Metro Areas in Third Quarter




WASHINGTON (November 12, 2015) — The encouraging lift–off in existing–home sales amidst ongoing inventory shortages kept home prices rising in most of the country during the third quarter, but overall price appreciation slowed to a healthier pace, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors®.

The median existing single–family home price increased in 87 percent of measured markets, with 154 out of 178 metropolitan statistical areas1 (MSAs) showing gains based on closings in the third quarter compared with the third quarter of 2014. Twenty–four areas (13 percent) recorded lower median prices from a year earlier.

There were slightly fewer rising markets in the third quarter compared to the second quarter, when price gains were recorded in 93 percent of metro areas. Twenty–one metro areas in the third quarter (12 percent) experienced double–digit increases, a decline from the 34 metro areas in the second quarter. Sixteen metro areas (9 percent) experienced double–digit increases in the third quarter of 2014.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says there's no question the housing market had its best quarter in nearly a decade. "The demand for buying picked up speed in many metro areas during the summer as more households entered the market, encouraged by favorable mortgage rates and improving local economies," he said. "While price growth still teetered near or above unhealthy levels in some markets, the good news is that there was some moderation despite the stronger pace of sales."

(National Assoc of Realtors)

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TILA ­ RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule, which is effective October, 3, 2015.

Published On: January 29, 2016

What’s Changing?

• GFE, TIL & HUD­1 are being replaced • GFE &TIL will now be the Loan Estimate • HUD & Final TIL will now be the Closing Disclosure • Disclosure delivery time frames • Lender will issue the Closing Disclosure • Lenders compliance practices and reporting • Changes will apply to all closed­ended mortgages except: 1. Reverse mortgages 2. Mobile homes 3. Homes not attached to land.

The Loan Estimate:   

• Includes key features of loan terms, payments, costs, and cash due at closing. • Must contain a good faith estimate of credit costs and transaction terms. • Creditors should exercise due diligence to obtain the necessary information to complete the Loan Estimate. • Any fees that are unknown must have a reasonable estimation and be marked as an estimate on the Loan Estimate.

Except for certain instances (Changed Circumstance), the Loan Estimate cannot be revised due to errors, miscalculations, or underestimation of charges. • No fees can be charged to the consumer (except for credit report) prior to receiving the Loan Estimate. • The creditor may not require a borrower to submit income, asset, etc. documents prior to providing the Loan Estimate.

Important Dates:  

The Loan Estimate must be delivered by the third business day after the application. The Loan Estimate must be delivered or placed in the mail no later than the seventh day before loan consummation (consumer can waive in some emergency situations).

For the purposes of delivering the Loan Estimate, a business day is a day on which the creditor's office is open to the public and carrying out substantially all of its business functions. 

Pieces of information needed for an application:

1. Name

2. Address

3. Sales Price or Value

4. Income

5. Social Security Number

6. Desired Loan Amount 

Delivery Options Loan Estimate:

If the Loan Estimate is not delivered in person, the consumer is presumed to have received it three business days after it’s placed in the mail or emailed. Loan consummation is when the borrower signs the closing documents.

Tolerance Buckets:

No Tolerance Bucket ­ fees may exceed amount disclosed without limitation. These fees include: • Prepaid interest • Property insurance premiums • Funds placed in escrow, impound, reserve, or similar account.

10% Tolerance Bucket: ­

cumulative amount of fees cannot exceed 10% of original estimate. These fees include: • Recording fees • Charges for third­party services where the consumer is allowed to shop, but selects a third­party provider on the creditor’s written list of service providers. Creditor must refund any sum that exceeds 10% tolerance within 60 calendar days after loan consummation.

Zero Tolerance Bucket: ­

fees may not increase from amount disclosed on the Loan Estimate These fees include: • Transfer taxes • Fees paid to the creditor, mortgage broker, or an affiliate of either. • Fees paid to an unaffiliated third­party if the creditor did not allow the consumer to shop. Fees that exceed original amount must be refunded for the amount above the original fee within 60 calendar day of loan consummation.  

When can a creditor charge more than what was on the Loan Estimate?

• When the charge is NOT in the zero tolerance category and the charge variation falls within an explicit tolerance threshold • When it's allowed under a Changed Circumstance.

Changed Circumstance: 

Creditors are bound to the fees listed on the Loan Estimate and may not issue revisions except in certain circumstances. • Changed Circumstances may include: • An extraordinary event beyond the control of any interested party or other unexpected event specific to the consumer transaction. • Information specific to the consumer or loan that the creditor relied upon when providing the Loan Estimate and was inaccurate or changed after the disclosures were provided. • New information specific to the consumer or loan that the creditor did not rely on when providing the Loan Estimate. The revised Loan Estimate must be delivered or placed in the mail three business days (standard days for when the creditor is open and operating) after learning about the changed circumstance. The borrower must have the revised Loan Estimate at least four business days (all calendar days except for Sunday and holidays) prior to loan consummation.

The Closing Disclosure: 

• Looks similar to the Loan Estimate • Designed for comparison • Includes the following information: Loan terms Projected payments Cash back or due at closing Fee breakdown Escrow account information AP and AIR tables (if applicable) Loan Estimate comparison Transaction Summary Loan calculations (APR, TIP, etc.) Contact information.

Important Dates:

The Closing Disclosure must be received by the consumer at least three business days before loan consummation. For a purchase transaction, the seller must receive the Closing Disclosure no later than the day of loan consummation. For the purposes of delivering the Closing Disclosure, a business day is all calendar days except Sundays and federal, legal public holidays.  

Delivery Options Closing Disclosure:  

If the Closing Disclosure is not delivered in person, the consumer is presumed to have received it three business days after it’s placed in the mail or emailed.

Closing Disclosure Revisions:

A revised Closing Disclosure should be provided if any of the following events occur: 1. Changes that occur before consummation that trigger a new 3­day waiting period. 2. Changes that occur before consummation that DO NOT trigger a new 3­day waiting period. 3. Changes that occur after consummation.

Certain changes can be made to the Closing Disclosure without delaying closing. Certain changes can be made to the Closing Disclosure after closing.

Delivery of Revised Closing Disclosure:

If the revision takes place before loan consummation, the Closing Disclosure must be delivered to the consumer by the day of loan consummation. If the revision takes place after the loan consummation, the Closing Disclosure must be delivered or placed in the mail within 30 calendar days of receiving the change information.


The material contained in this presentation is based on information provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Although we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information in this presentation, Primary Capital Mortgage does not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained herein, or speak on behalf of the CFPB. This presentation is not comprehensive and does not provide a list of all the changes and updates associated with the new TILA­RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule. This presentation is for general use only and not intended to be used or relied upon for TRID guidelines or legal advice. For the official TRID rules, please visit


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Published On: January 14, 2015

I have lots of people who are considering updating their home, hoping their will get their money back at when they sell. Nothing is 100% but some give you more than others and is really designed for the long haul unless you have owned the home for a number of years and it needs updating for saleabliltiy. Thought this grah was helpful and here is the link for the info.…/our-10-most-valuable-home-improv…/

10 most valuable home improvement ideas for 2013 | Making your home bigger or nicer always makes it worth more. But some home improvements offer a better return than others. INTEREST.COM


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Published On: August 4, 2014

Reverse mortgages are great tools for the buyer or homeowner who has certain situations currently in their lives.  It is like any other mortgage in that the home remains in the name of the homeowner and goes to the heirs.  All homes are owned jointly with your lender until it is paid off, so to speak, by virtue of the mortgage or lein.  It is the same with a reverse mortgage.  The biggest caviet is that if one of the spouces are not 62+, they cannot be on the loan, and should the older spouse pass, the loan has to be refinanced into a regular loan or the home sold.  

But it is perfect for those who want to stay in their home, sometimes it is hard if not impossible to find one that meets all your needs for the same price.  It frees up money that is being held hostage in the home, to be used for living expenses, medical, repairs, insurance & taxes etc.  The home owner just needs to keep the property taxes and homeowner's insurance paid.  The unpaid mortgage does increase by the interest not being paid, but with a 50% ratio the value of the property usually goes up faster than the loan increases (unless we go through a mortgage bubble like we had in the mid 2000's.  That is why long term is very important.    

1.  You must be 62 years old or older

2.  You must be planning to live in the home long term.

3.  Owner occupied only (not vacation homes or rental etc.)What are the Qualifications to obtain a Reverse Mortgage?

Eligibility Requirements

  • The youngest person on the mortgage must be 62 years or older
  • The home must be a primary residence occupied within 60 days of loan closing
  • The home must be a single family home or an FHA approved condo
  • Down payment is a complicatede calculation the lender makes which takes into consideration, price of the home, age of the borrower.
  • Borrower must complete a HUD approved counseling session 
Here are a couple of helpful links:

Purchasing a Home with a Reverse Mortgage

While the process of listing your current home to sell, and contracting to purchase a new home are virtually the same, seniors using a reverse mortgage to buy that house can provide a very different outcome. Following is a recap of  how using an HECM loan (reverse mortgage) to buy a home can be a much more practical and beneficial option for seniors:

  1. Qualifying for the reverse mortgage involves very limited credit requirements, and employment, income or net worth are not considered.
  2. The amount of mortgage funds available is based on the borrower’s age, the purchase price of the home, and the current interest rate, not on a preset loan-to-value.
  3. Historically, the interest rate on an HECM loan for seniors wanting to buy a house is more favorable than other types of mortgages.
  4. Based on their available down payment, the borrower may qualify for a larger mortgage than is needed, in which case a smaller down payment would be leave the home buyer with a larger retirement nest-egg. Or, they can opt to make a larger down payment than is required, and then use the remaining reverse mortgage funds as an open line of credit to be used at their discretion in the years following the closing.
  5. The homeowners will never be required to make monthly mortgage payments as long as they reside in the home and keep property taxes current and the home insured.
  6. There is no term on the loan.  By statute, the reverse mortgage does not expire until the 150th birthday of the youngest borrower. They have the option to pay down or pay the loan in full at any time with no pre-payment penalty.
  7. This is a non-recourse loan.  Regardless of the future payoff on the loan, the homeowner or their heirs cannot be held liable for any loan balance beyond the value of the home at the time the loan is being repaid; however, any profits from the future sale belong to the homeowner or their heirs.

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Published On: July 4, 2014

Many have been asking what is the market like? Are property values going up?  And many more. It has been an unusal time.  There is still a lower inventory than normal, making it somewhat of a seller's market, but....our housing market is unique with our military families so prevelant.  

So, what does that mean.  There are less homes to choose from, but the price range or market that is really being affected is the $300,000 and under.  Anything that is either priced really low, and needs work or has been redone and is new top to bottom.  They are flying off the shelf, so to speak.  

The real key to winning in our Market today, is to be sure that first and foremost  you price it right. What is right? Price it within the sold range in the last 6 months, moving over the top only slightly for additional square footage, upgrades, waterfront, and pools.  If it need work price it accordingly, not just how much it would take to fix but the labor that goes into it as well.  Remember, most fixers are being bought by professional contractors who are "flippers" and if you don't want to sell at a flip price (buying costs, repair/upgrade costs, holding costs, selling costs, capital gains taxes and profit), you need to repair, upgrade, and stage the home.  

Our market is improving, somewhat in the Hampton Roads area by about 2.5% 2013 over 2012 with Northern and Central Virginia.  Real Estate is still one of the best investments as you are making money on the Bank's money.  When the values go up 2.5% it is on the value of the home, most of which belongs to the Bank.  2.5% of $205,000 equals $5,125.  Most of us don't have that much money to put in an investment account or bank.  But even 10% return on a $5,125 investment is approximately $512 huge difference. 

Rents are averaging $1200 per month.  That payment is equivalent to a mortgage of approximately $190,000.  At a rate of 2.5% (and it may go higher) over a 5 year period, would yield approximately $24,967.  Over that 5 year period you would be paying about $72,000 for someone else's home.  It does make numbers sense.  The key is that you must be willing to hold the property at least 5 years, and if the market substantially improves, you can  adjust your plan.

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Published On: September 8, 2013

The housing market recovery is not everywhere, in fact, it seems to be "visiting" the more affluent areas, of course.  For those of us in the Middle Class, the housing is tough on so many levels.  Rates are going up on mortgages, making it increasingly more difficult to find a home in todays, still high real estate market.  While rates are going up for the average buyer, the rates are going DOWN for the Jumbo Loan market, so the wealthier can buy even more.  Also there are fewer homes on the market in the low to middle range homes, creating multiple offers again, many loosing out to those with "cash" again loosing out to those with the money.  We all need to write to our Congressional representative to let them know we need to keep rates down (below 4%) to allow the recovery to continue and the middle class to realize the American Dream.  Rents right now are actually higher than the mortgage would be on that same house.  Again, the middle class is supporting the accumulation of weath for the wealthy.  Don't be afraid to write personal notes, or use Facebook, Twitter etc. As reported in Trulia here are some numbers.


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Published On: August 10, 2012

First, the good news. With 1,164 homes sold in the region last month, Hampton Roads' housing sales are up 87 percent from November 2008, according to the Real Estate Information Network Inc., the local multiple listing service.

Now let's temper that: The competition among sellers is fierce, with an inventory of almost 12,979 houses in November, REIN reported.


Home prices in South Hampton Roads could finally have hit bottom, a report released Wednesday suggested.

For the first time in 16 months, the median price of an existing home in the region rose in March compared with the same month a year earlier, according to Real Estate Information Network, a Virginia Beach-based multiple-listing service.

The median price for a home was $180,000 last month, up 2.9 percent from March 2011, the service reported.

The median is the point at which half of all sales were for higher prices and half lower. Until last month, year-over-year median prices had not risen in South Hampton Roads since November 2010.

However, an economist at Old Dominion University cautioned that it's too soon to tell whether last month's prices were a blip or the beginning of a trend. 

Also, a report released today shows that foreclosure filings fell to a three-month low - more good news for a local housing market struggling to gain solid footing.

Lenders issued 790 foreclosure-related notices last month, down 15 percent from the 929 issued in February and down almost 39 percent from the 1,290 reported in March 2011, according to RealtyTrac, a foreclosure-monitoring service based in Irvine, Calif.

Foreclosures in Hampton Roads and across the country have been declining for most of the past year, a sign that the problem might be easing. However, some real estate experts predict more troubled properties to be pushed through the foreclosure pipeline later this year.

Declining foreclosure activity is not an indication that the problem of distressed properties across the country has disappeared, Brandon Moore, RealtyTrac's CEO, said in a news release. He said lenders have yet to make it through the backlog of delinquent loans.

In Hampton Roads, foreclosures fell in nearly every major city with the exception of Suffolk, where activity more than doubled from the previous month. Portsmouth continued to have the highest percentage of homes that received a foreclosure filing, according to the report.

The uptick in sales prices last month occurred despite a steady volume of sales of foreclosures and distressed properties, which accounted for 33.5 of all sales in Hampton Roads, the multiple-listing service reported.

By Josh Brown
The Virginian-Pilot
©April 12, 2012


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The 10 'Emptiest' Housing Markets

Published On: August 10, 2012


The 10 'Emptiest' Housing Markets

Empty homes still plague a lot of cities across the country. In fact, since 2000, vacant properties have risen by about 43 percent nationwide, according to Census Bureau data. (Homes are defined as vacant by "unoccupied rental inventory" or homes unoccupied that are for-sale.)

Vacant properties can affect home values nearby. For example, a study earlier this year found that a vacant home has the potential to decrease the value of nearby homes by at least 1.3 percent, according to the Cleveland Federal Reserve. In higher income neighborhoods, the impact can be even more drastic—possibly lowering nearby home prices by 4.6 percent. In low poverty areas, each additional vacant or tax delinquent home was found to reduce values of surrounding properties by between 1.7 percent and 1.8 percent.

The following are the six cities with the largest home owner and rental vacancies based on the last 12 months:

1. Orlando, Fla.

Home owner vacancy rate: 2.2%
Rental vacancy rate: 18.8%

The emptiest city in the United States is Orlando, Fla. The 12-month average for rental vacancies stands at a staggering 18.8 percent, while in the first quarter of 2012 this number was 22 percent, highest in the nation. Florida's third largest city also has an above-average homeowner vacancy rate, but this metric has been rising during the past two quarters, according to Census Bureau data. Despite its housing woes, Orlando has been able to avoid the financial woes of other cities, such as Harrisburg, Pa., and San Bernardino and Stockton, California.

2. Dayton, Ohio

Home owner vacancy rate: 5.4%
Rental vacancy rate: 11.3%

The good news is that Dayton's homeowner vacancy rate has been trending downward since its peak in the third quarter of 2011, when it stood at 6.5 percent. However, even this improving number gives Dayton the distinction of having the highest average homeowner vacancy rate in the country, according to the Census Data. And Dayton’s average rental vacancy rate, at 11.3 percent, is higher than the 75 city average of 9.2 percent. The Census Bureau calculations put Dayton’s gross vacancy rate at 16.9 percent, more than 6 percent above the large city average, and the highest in the country.


Memphis, Tenn.
Home owner vacancy rate: 3.1%
Rental vacancy rate: 15%

Memphis's proportion of vacant homes, both owned and rentals, puts it third overall, thanks to an average rental vacancy rate of 15 percent that is the fifth highest in the nation and the 3.1 percent homeowner vacancy rate that ranks 13th.

4. Detroit

Home owner vacancy rate: 1.7%
Rental vacancy rate: 16.9%

Detroit was one of the hardest hit cities in the recession, and with an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent as of May, it's little wonder that its 16.9 percent rental vacancy rate is the second highest in the country. Surprisingly, though, the homeowner vacancy rate remains below the 75 largest metro area's average of 2.18 percent. According to the Census Bureau, at the end of 2011, Detroit had a gross vacancy rate of 12.2 percent, a level the city has virtually maintained since 2006.

5. Richmond, Va.

Home owner vacancy rate: 2.4%
Rental vacancy rate: 15.1%

With a rental vacancy rate of 15.1 percent, Virginia's capital ranks fourth among all major U.S. cities for empty rentals over the past year, with the first quarter of 2012 showing a 19 percent rental vacancy rate. However, Richmond’s homeowner vacancy rate ranks only 27th among the country’s 75 largest metro areas, and stands just 0.2 percent higher than the average for large metro areas.


Las Vegas
Home owner vacancy rate: 3.9%
Rental vacancy rate: 11.9%

Over the past five years, the Las Vegas housing market has experienced one of the country’s most dramatic boom-and-bust cycles. The city continues to feel the pain. At the end of 2011, Las Vegas ranked second in the country for gross vacancy rates, at 16 percent, and currently has an unemployment rate of 11.8 percent. In the past 12 months, Las Vegas’ rental vacancy rates have dropped from a high of 13.2 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to a low of 11 percent in the first quarter of 2012, the most recent number available. Although Las Vegas remains one of the most vacant U.S. cities, homeowner vacancies are a bright spot, dropping from 5.5 percent over the past year to 2.3 percent in the most recent quarter.

7. Atlanta

Homeowner vacancy rate: 4.2 percent
Rental vacancy rate: 11.3 percent

Atlanta’s average homeowner vacancy rate is the third-highest among major U.S. cities, standing at 4.2 percent. Fortunately for Atlanta, the rate has been dropping since early 2011, when it stood at 5.4 percent. The trend for rental vacancies has been worse for Atlanta, however, rising from 9.4 percent in the third quarter of 2011 to 12.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

8. Houston

Homeowner vacancy rate: 1.9 percent
Rental vacancy rate: 15.5 percent

Houston is home to the nation’s third-highest rental vacancy rate over the past 12 months, standing at 15.5 percent. The city hit a three-year high for rental vacancies in 2009, when the rate rose to 18.4 percent in the third quarter of that year, according to Census Bureau data. However, Houston’s homeowner vacancy rate has been recovering, dropping below the average for the 75 largest cities for the past three quarters to as low as 1.1 percent at the end of 2011.

9. Tampa, Fla.

Homeowner vacancy rate: 3.2 percent
Rental vacancy rate: 12.8 percent

It’s no secret that the Florida real estate market has seen better times — and the situation in Tampa appears to be getting worse. In May, RealtyTrac reported that foreclosure activity in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area rose by nearly 111 percent from May 2011, with one home in every 304 in foreclosure. The rental vacancy market has been following this downward trend, with the rental vacancy rate going up or remaining flat every quarter since the beginning of 2011.

10. Toledo, Ohio

Homeowner vacancy rate: 3.8 percent
Rental vacancy rate: 11.5 percent

Of the 75 largest U.S. cities in the first quarter of 2012, Toledo recorded the highest rate for homeowner vacancies, at 5.6 percent. However, in three of the past four quarters listed by the Census Bureau, that rate has hovered between 3 and 3.6 percent, significantly bringing down the city’s 12 month average, and its overall ranking in this list. Regardless, the 3.8 percent 12 month average still ranks Toledo as the fifth highest in the country for homeowner vacancies alone.

Source: "Anybody Home? These Are America’s Emptiest Cities,"

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Published On: February 6, 2012

The rates are so good, that it is literally less expensive to own a home instead of rent.  There is still at least one program with NO money down for a non-veteran, and Navy Federal has brought back it's Veteran's Choice Loan if a Veteran has alreadys used the VA benefits. 

Foreclosures can be a great buy, or many investors are buying them and completely remodeling, so the buyer just has to bring in their suitcases.

Sellers:  Additional foreclosures are due to hit the market again, so sellers need to be verfy competitive with price and or condition.  Be sure to stage the home and get all repairs done before marketing

Buyers:  You need to compare cost of repairs for any foreclosure (whether you get a fix-up loan or not) as they it may not be the "good deal" it appears.  For example, if it is $20,000 below market, but need $25,000 or $30,000 in repairs, it is not a good deal.

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Credit Scores...How to get Yours UP

Published On: October 15, 2011

Found this in one of my site, thought you would find it interesting.  Credit Scoring is tricky, but essential to getting credit, jobs and any kind of housing. 

Tips for getting your credit score up:

Start by pulling your credit report and your credit score to see where you are. To get an estimate of your credit score. If your score is above a 760, you're in great shape. Improving your score from 760 to 800 won't get you better terms.

1.  Look for errors in the report, such as accounts that aren't yours, late payments that were actually paid on time, debts you paid off that are shown as outstanding, or old debts that shouldn't be reported any longer (negatives are supposed to be deleted after seven years, with the exception of bankruptcies, which can stay for as long as 10 years).

2.  After repairing errors, the fastest route to a better score is paying down balances on credit cards, says Watts.

Though it's not an instant cure, paying down credit lines over a two month period can boost your score a substantial amount, and may be enough to put it over the edge if you're lurking just beneath the next tier of loan pricing.

3.  Had a few late payments in your past?
Even if you've paid your bills late in the past, you can improve your credit score by paying every bill on time from now on, says John Ventura, a consumer law attorney and author of "The Credit Repair Kit."

4.  "Forget about grace periods," he says. "If you want to have a really good record with the credit agencies, pay your debt before it's due and keep your balances low."

A big no-no

5.  One thing you shouldn't do if you're just trying to boost your score is close unused accounts, Watts says.

"If someone tells you to close unused accounts to improve your score, they're pulling your leg," he says. "It won't help you and it can hurt you."

Closing unused accounts without paying down your debt changes your utilization ratio, which is the amount of your total debt divided by your total available credit.

"You appear closer to maxing out your accounts," he says. "That's why your score can drop. It doesn't mean people shouldn't close them, but don't close them to improve your score."

If you do cut up cards, though, leave the oldest one open, says Steve Rhode, former president of, a national nonprofit financial crisis center.

Read more: Bump up your credit score in a hurry

Cities With the Highest Average Credit Scores

  1. Wausau, Wis.: 789
  2. Minneapolis: 787
  3. Madison, Wis.: 785
  4. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: 781
  5. San Francisco: 781
  6. Green Bay, Wis.: 780
  7. Boston: 779
  8. Peoria, Ill.: 778
  9. Sioux Falls, S.D.: 778
  10. La Crosse, Wis.: 777

Cities With the Lowest Average Credit Scores

  1. Harlingen, Texas: 686
  2. Jackson, Miss.: 701
  3. Corpus Christi, Texas: 702
  4. Monroe, La.: 706
  5. Shreveport, La.: 706
  6. Augusta, Ga.: 709
  7. Bakersfield, Calif.: 709
  8. Las Vegas, Nev.: 709
  9. Tyler, Texas: 710
  10. El Paso, Texas: 710

Overall, the national average for credit scores was 749, according to the study. The cities with the lowest credit scores tended to also have high foreclosure rates and high unemployment. On the other hand, cities with the highest average credit scores -- which were mostly in the Midwest -- tended to have a better employment picture.

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7 Healthiest Cities

Published On: September 15, 2011

According to Forbes:

Forbes reveals the healthiest cities, taking into account such factors as clean air quality, residents’ health, and a community’s promotion of exercise and healthy living. Here are the top seven cities to make its “healthy cities” list: 

 1. Minneapolis

From Forbes: “Minneapolis residents breathe clean air, prioritize exercise, and keep their weight down, supported by a city that was among the first to add bike trails and ban smoking in public places.”

2. Washington, D.C.

From Forbes: “The plentitude of large parks is just one factor ... Capital residents are less likely to be obese and more likely to bike or walk to work or take public transportation to work.” 

3. Boston

From Forbes: “With 80 percent of the population reporting they've exercised in the past 30 days and 47 percent describing themselves as at least moderately physically active, Bostonians get out there and move.”

4. Portland, Ore.

From Forbes: “Portland ranked high for the city's vast amount of park land, high number of farmers' markets, availability of health care, and popularity of walking or biking to work.”

5. Denver

From Forbes: “Denver ranked high in the health of its residents, 61 percent of whom are ranked as in 'excellent or very good' physical health.”

6. San Francisco

From Forbes: “San Francisco residents smoke in record low numbers (8 percent compared to a national average of 18 percent), have access to a ton of open space and park land, are more likely to walk or bike to work, are less likely to be obese or have diabetes, and have access to plenty of primary care providers.”

7. Hartford, Conn.

From Forbes: “Swimming pools, ball diamonds, golf courses, and recreation centers are all available to Hartford residents in much higher numbers than average, perhaps accounting for the high percent of residents who are active and in tip-top health.“

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10 Cities to Buy A Home

Published On: September 15, 2011

Zillow looked at four factors to determine the top 10.

Affordability: How many years of income does the median home cost? If the median home costs 2.5 years of salary that area gets a better rank than a city where a home costs 4.5 years of salary.

Unemployment: Zillow looked at areas with low unemployment, using that as a gauge of the health and stability of the local economy. Zillow also looked at the change in unemployment over the past year. This is used as a proxy for the "direction" that a local economy is moving. A city where the unemployment rate dropped 2 percent in the past year will rank better than a city that's had no change.

Foreclosures: Zillow also analyzed the percentage of homes in each marketplace that have fallen into foreclosure in the past 12 months. Of course, lower is better because it suggests that the local real estate market is healthier

Price Increases: Zillow looked at areas that have seen an increase in home values over the past quarter and the past year.

Here are the Top 10 Best Places to Buy in 2011 after analyzing those four factors:

1. Utica, N.Y.
2. Oklahoma City, Okla.
3. Rochester, N.Y.
4. Pittsburgh, Pa.
5. Tulsa, Okla.
6. Albany, N.Y.
7. Lancaster, Pa.
8. Madison, Wis.
9. Green Bay, Wis.
10. Lincoln, Neb.

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Cost vs Value of Remodeling

Published On: September 15, 2011

Many people across the nation are staying put.  Timing is everything.  It may be a good time to remodel or put on that much needed addition.  But in so doing it is really important to weigh the cost of the project, the length of time you will be staying in the home, and the amount of "value" it will bring on resale. 

Remember, what buyers are looking for are those things that will save them money.  Most buyers either cannot afford major repairs or do not want to go to the expense.  The market for that type of buyer is the investment market.  The investment market is a highly discounted market.  Investors want a steep discount in order to refurbish, have money left over to sell and of course a "return on dollars spent" or profit.  It is most often much cheaper to get your home in shape, keep it in order, than to sell "as is" (that is aka for "steal me").

The most important issues, and those that come up on the home inspections over and over are:

1.  Roof, age & condition.  Most shingle roofs last approximately 15-20 years.  When replacing you may want to consider an architectural shingle roof, they have a longer life expectancy.

2.  Air conditioning and heating systems.  Again about the same life span, so keep them serviced, and filters changed monthly.  If you buy a home with an older unit, by all means get a warranty and keep it going till the unit dies.  The new federal regulation requires that the entire unit, inside and out, be replaced with a minimum 13 seer unit for efficiency rating.  This can cost upwards of $6-$8000.

3.  Updates: Kitchen & baths.  Be smart, replace the vanity, mirror, faucets & light fixtures yourself, this will be a big selling point.  It is not difficult, I even did it myself :) The kitchen remodel is more expensive, but if you either refinish by using a good cleaner (some have color in them), or paint, put new hardware on, change out your faucets for updated faucets, paint, and put in newer appliances (often scratch & dents can make it very affordable), it will bring a quicker sale at a higher price.

4.  Take down any wallpaper and paint.  Paint should be fairy neutral, staying in the varying shades of beige, even a little darker for accents, or the very popular, lighter shades of sage green, etc.

5.  Take down any heavy or dark window treatments, replace with inexpensive blinds and toppers (you can really save money here by buying some fabric and cheap rods at a discount retailer ie: Big Lots).

6.  Less is more.  You don't have to take down all the family pictures, but be sure the frames are of the same frame family, and there are not so many of them on the walls.  Clean up everywhere, put things away or box them for the move.  Rent a storage unit or if you cannot afford that, stack them high in the garage.

7.  Biggie: Curb appeal.  Get out there and put a deep, nice clean edge on the lawn with the edger, pull all the weeds, put fresh mulch, rock or other material to freshen the gardens, trim all the bushes, trees and mow the lawn.  Be sure the fence is in good repair, and clean, same with any decks, sheds or patios.  Set up the patio furniture to make it inviting.  If you don't have any, use a few inexpensive lawn chairs and some potted plants, makes it pretty and your yard a place they can see their family.  Remove any rusted items including children's play sets, and above ground pools that are not in the best of condition.

Here is a link for some additional information on home improvements that will help.  Just remember, go for the most bang for the buck on the short run, go for the best you can afford for the long haul.

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Published On: September 12, 2011

It is a sad state of affairs, but it is often less expensive monthy to own the home you are renting.  so is it better to rent or own. 

Yes if:

1.  You will own the home for at least 5 yrs.

2.  Your credit scores are above 620.

3.  If you do relocate, you can rent the home.

4.  Choose a payment based on one income if you  

     are a 2 income family.

5.  Have an emergency fund of 6 months payments.

Now is the time to buy or refinance as rates have never been lower.  The rates are staying below 5% and dipping towards 4% frequently.  Remember when you own, the fixed rate mortgage payment does not go up unless taxes or insurance go up.  You don't get told by our landlord that you have to leave because they are going to sell the home.  Moving is an expensive proposition, having the stability of your own home is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

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SHORT SALES: Who benefits?

Published On: September 12, 2011

If you are in a bind, you need to sell your home BUT it is worth less than you?  You call your lender, after numerous departments, you finally get through to the Short Sale department.  This is what you find out:

1.  You must qualify for the short sale.

2.  You have to have no way to make up the difference for the deficiency.

3.  You have to provide all kinds of personal documentation to prove you cannot: to keep the house, or pay for the deficiency.

4.  The short sale department will not approve the short sale until you get a contract.

5.  It takes 3-8 months for them to "approve" the short sale.

You put the house on the market, you find out that the buyers are slim to none because most buyers do not want to wait 3-8 months to find out whether they are going to get the house.

I closed on a short sale.  It took 3 months to even find out if we had it.  They back did their form of appraisal after the seller had agreed on a price, then just before closing renegotiated the price.

Short Sales are really FIP's (foreclosures in progress).  Most buyers avoid them like the plaque, if you wait until they go into foreclosure they are easier to deal with. 

At the end of the day, you credit is shot, you may find yourself unable to buy another house for 4 years or so, and the lender MAY be able to come after the deficiency at a later date. 

It is very important to consult an attorney, bankruptcy or some other legal action may be to your advantage.

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