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Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Beware of online real estate scams

Source: Courant Homfinder

Technology has made a lot of things easier and faster, but not always better or safer – beware of fraudulent real estate listings that reuse photos and property information available online.

When a seller lists his property for sale with a real estate company, the broker submits the listing information to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  The upside to this technology is that the information is immediately available to every other agent who is a member of that MLS.

 

Another elegant aspect of today’s  technology is that someone in Idaho, Nebraska or China, for example, can search for properties in Connecticut or any other state by looking at online real estate websites such as Realtor.com and Zillow.com.  The information is available because many MLSs have agreements with these sites to feed them listings since sellers want maximum exposure for their properties.

Fast and easy is good, but there is a downside to real estate listings being broadcast all over the planet – listings agents have no control over the information once it has left the MLS.  Those folks who are not real estate licensees, but who are technologically adept (and have bad intentions) can take listing information and modify it so that a property listed for sale on one site can become a property for rent on another.

A homeowner in northwestern Connecticut who had recently listed his property for sale with a real estate broker answered a knock at his door and found a couple asking to tour his home.  They had seen his house online and were interested in it.  The owner let them in, and as the couple was leaving,  they made an offer to rent his property. “Rent?”  The owner responded by saying that his property was not for rent, it was for sale.  The couple said they had seen the property somewhere online for rent. Apparently, a skillful hacker had taken the “for sale” listing and refashioned it as “for rent”.

Technology has also created a dilemma for real estate agents in that they have no control over who is looking at the listing once it’s “out there”.  Many listings include interior pictures or a video tout of the home that shows not only the floor plan, but the silver candlesticks, artwork and children’s names on their bedroom walls.  The possibility exists that some people viewing the listing may not be bona fide purchasers, so while internet exposure can be good, limited personal information is wise.

The technological downside doesn’t affect just sellers, it can also impact tenants.  Here’s a recent story:  A couple wanting to rent a shoreline property contacted the listing agent in an online posting.  The couple paid the agent the first month’s rent and security deposit in cash.  They went to “their” property only to find that the home had a family living in it and that it never had been listed for rent or sale.  The “listing agent” had gathered information on this home from online sources, created an ad and posted as the listing agent.  By the time the couple realized they had been scammed,, the “agent” was nowhere to be found.  In this case, technology made this transaction fast and east for the crook, but not better or safe for the tenant.

Judith I. Johansen is Assistant Counsel for the Connecticut Association of Realtors®, Inc..

 

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State Senator Len Suzio 2012 Major Acts Passed.

In the news:  The Office of Legislative Research Connecticut General Assembly – Click here to read:  OLR Major Acts

Conditions prime for home buying in 2012

Source: Courant HomeFinder Digest

With the housing market and mortgage industry gearing up for their peak season in home buying activity, a number of indications from both sectors could mean the most successful season in years.

Mortgage application activity on the rise

According to a recent report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, home loan activity rose 1.4 percent during the week ending May 4.  This overall increase was spurred by an upswing of purchase requests, as the refinancing share of the index declined.

Refinancing requests fell marginally to 72.1 percent from 72.6 percent a week earlier, the report found.  In addition, government initiatives such as the Home Affordable Refinance Program and Home Affordable requests from distressed borrowers as the Government Refinance Index fell 2.3 percent from the previous week.

These trends of rising purchase applications and decreasing refinance activity could be an indicator that the housing market is growing stronger.  The fact that the refinance share of mortgage application activity has trended lower during recent weeks could be a result of more current homeowners choosing to keep their home loans under the same structure as they gear up to sell their properties.

Home loan delinquencies declining

The mortgage delinquency rate of borrowers who were more than 60 days late on their home loan payments was down during the first quarter this year to a rate of just 5.78 percent.  This marks both an  annual and month-over-month decline, according to a report from TransUnion.  This is the lowest the rate has been since the beginning of 2009.  As a potential result, this could give lenders the confidence they need to extend more lines of credit to prospective borrowers in the coming months.

“To see that quarter-over-quarter, and year-over-year, more homeowners were able to make their mortgage payments is certainly welcome news, “said TransUnion U.S. housing financial services business unit Vice President Tim Martin.  “Before this, we saw two quarters of delinquency increases and while we are still about three times above the pre-recession norm, this should mark the start of consistent improvement each quarter.”

Prior to this decline, the delinquency rate had fallen for six straight quarters until climbing during the final six months of 2011.

Housing affordability reaches 40-year high

Due to recent changes in mortgage rates, median housing incomes and property values, a report from Fisery and Care-Shiller found that housing affordability is currently at the highest level seen in nearly four decades.  Home prices have fallen by as much as 35 percent since the housing market’s peak, according to the report.  Property values are now at the same level they were in 1998.

“The precipitous drop in home prices was an immediate cause of the last recession and the financial crises.  Falling home equity has cut into household consumption and has further constrained the economic recovery,” said Fisery Chief Economist David Stiff.

Nowadays, at the current median household income, the average American family that purchases a home will only need to allocate 12 percent of their annual income to the investment.  Typically, experts advise not pulling more than 30 percent of annual income toward housing, which makes 12 percent a real bargain.

For All Your Connecticut Real Estate Needs

Buying or Selling?

Condo Property Management

Visit www.BarberinoRealEstate.com

Email: abarberino@aol.com

Call 203-269-0284 x 110

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FHA Amy Ease Rules For Mortgages on Condos

Source:  Ken Harney

Home and Real Estate

www.Courant.com

Thousands of condo unit owners and buyers around the country could soon be in the line for some welcoming news on mortgage financing.  Though officials are mum on specifics, the Federal Housing Administration is readying changes to its controversial condominium rules that have rendered large numbers of units ineligible for low down-payment insured mortgages.

The revisions could remove at least some of the obstacles that have dissuaded condominium homeowner associations’ boards from seeking FHA approvals or recertification of their buildings for FHA loans during the past 18 months. Under the agency’s regulations, individual condo units in a building cannot be sold to buyers using FHA insured mortgages unless the property as a whole has been approved for financing.

According to condominium experts, realty agents, lenders and builders, FHA’s rules have become overly strict and have cut off unit buyers from their best source of low-cost mortgage money, thereby frustrating the real estate recovery that the Obama administration says it advocates.

Christopher L. Gardner, managing member of FHA ProsLLC, a national consulting firm based in Northbridge, Calif., that assists condo boards to obtain FHA approvals, said barely 25 percent of all condo projects that are potentially eligible for FHA financing are now approved.  That is despite the fact, says Gardner, that FHA financing is the No. 1 mortgage choice for half of all condo buyers and is crucial to first –time and minority purchasers.

Moe Veissi, president of the National Association of Realtors and a broker in Miami, says FHA’s strict rules “have had an enormous impact on individuals” across the country especially residents of condo projects who suddenly find they are unable to sell their units because their condo board has not sought to obtained approval from FHA as the results of objections to the agency’s strict criteria.  This, in turn, depresses the prices unit owners can obtain and ultimately, said Veissi, harms their equity holdings and financial futures.

FHA officials defend their requirements as prudent and necessary to requirements as prudent and necessary to avoid insurance fund losses, but have expressed a willingness to reconsider some of the issues that have upset condo owners and the real estate industry.  Among the biggest areas of criticism of FHA’s rules are its limitations on:

  • Non-owner occupancy.   The agency requires that no more than 50 percent of the units in a project or building be non-owner-occupied.  This rule alone has made large numbers of condominiums in hard-hit markets ineligible for FHA financing, where investors have purchased units for cash to turn into rentals.
  • Delinquent condo association fee payments.  FHA refuses to approve a project where more than 15 percent of the units are 30 days or more behind on payments of condo fees to the association.  Given the state of the economy, this has been a problem for thousands of associations, even in relatively prosperous markets.  Steve Stamets, a loan officer with Apex Home Loans in Rockville, Md., says some unit sellers and buyers have been so frustrated by the rule that they have offered to pay the amount of delinquent fees needed to bring the overall project into compliance “just to get the deal done. This is a ridiculous situation,” said Stamets, who added:  “When somebody calls up now and says they want to buy a condo with an FHA loan I cringe.”
  • Nonresidential space usage.  FHA has set a cap of 25 percent of the total floor space in a project for commercial use. Critics say this is too low and unrealistic for condo projects in urban areas, where retail and office revenues can be important to overall financial feasibility.

The agency has imposed a long list of other requirements on insurance and reserves, plus a highly controversial rule that associations interpret as creating sever legal liabilities for condo board officers if applications for FHA approvals contain inaccuracies.  Andrew Fortin, vice  president for government and public affairs at Dallas-based Associa, one of the country’s largest homeowner association management firms, say that many boards, facing the prospect of up to 30 years in prison and heavy financial penalties, have refused to apply solely because of this personal liability requirement.

FHA is expected to clarify and make other modifications in its forthcoming rules.  Whether the changes will be enough to convince condo boards to apply for approvals in large numbers is uncertain, but industry experts say they – and condo unit owners – are likely to welcome whatever loosening of the current restrictions FHA can offer.

For any questions relating to buying a home, Call Alan Barberino Real Estate, LLC 203-269-0284 x110

or visit www.BarberinoRealEstate.com ; your source for Connecticut Real Estate and Property Management.

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