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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

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Condo Property Management

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Email: abarberino@aol.com

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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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U.S. Home Sales Up

Source: Record Journal

WASHINGTON (AP)Americans are buying more homes in every region of the country, the latest indication that the housing market could be on the mend.

An increasing portion of those sales are from first-time buyers, who are critical to a housing recovery.  Sales of previously occupied rose 3.4 percent in April from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.  That nearly matches January’s pace of 4.63 million – the best in two years.  It is still well below the nearly 6 million that most economists equate with healthy markets.

A pickup in hiring and cheaper mortgages, combined with lower home prices in most markets, has made home buying more attractive.  While many economists acknowledge that the market has a long way to go, most said the April sales report was encouraging.

“The trend in sales is upward, and we think it has a good deal further to go over the next months as payrolls pick up further and mortgage availability improved,”, said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics.

Sales rose last month from March in all regions of the country.  They increased 5.1 percent rise in the Northeast, 3.5 percent in the South, 4.4 percent in the West and 1 percent in the Midwest.

And more first-time buyers entered the market.  In April, they made up 35 percent of sales.  That’s up from 32 percent in March.

“First-time homebuyers are slowly making their way back,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.  “That is still below the 40 percent-to45 percent range during healthy times, but the highest measures completed sales.  A sale typically closes a month or two after a buyer signs a contract to buy a home.  But a growing number of buyers in recent months have been investors who pay cash, which speeds up the process.

For questions, concerns, assistance in Connecticut Real Estate and Homes for sale or Condominium Property Management, visit www.BarberinoRealEstate.com or call 203-269-0284 x 110

In The Swim – Decisions you need to make when considering a pool for your home

Source: William Hageman – Tribune Newspapers

A swimming pool can be the crown jewel of your property, capable of turning a bland yard into an outdoor oasis.  But before you take the plunge, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons of various pools.  Here are sone things to consider:

Categories:  Aboveground and in-ground are the two main types of pools.  Above ground pools are  less expensive, less permanent and come in a choice of sidings (resin, aluminum, steel).  There are also inflatable varieties.  These are typically do-it-yourself projects.

In-ground pools – more costly, larger and permanent – come in four basic types; vinyl liner (a linter is attached to a frame built in the excavation), aluminum (a cheaper material but not as sturdy), fiberglass (a large factory into an excavation by crane) and concrete (construction on-site to your specs and available in these, professional installation is the norm.

Is it worth your while?  A key consideration – before size, depth, shape or cost is whether you are planning to stay in your home for a while.  If confronted with a foreclosure, layoff or job transfer, there are few alternatives for relocating the pool.

“An aboveground pool is not meant to be moved, but they can be,” said Dan Harrison, president of online pool and spa retailer poolandspa.com. “They have to be taken apart carefully, boxed up and moved.  With an in-ground, you’re making a very big commitment.  If you’d asked me 10, 15 years ago, those word wouldn’t have come out of my mouth, but that’s a very big concern these days.”

Design.  Harrison said have a pool design in mind before visiting and installer.  He suggested checking out pool websites or doing an online search of pool images.

“Look at 500 images, then print out five of them that you like,” he said. “Then when you’re going to the pool store, you can tell them; this is kind of what I like.  What is so important to one person might not even be on the radar of someone else.”

The design or shape of the pool will also depend on intended use.  If you want to swim laps all day, rectangular is the way to go.  If you want to host neighborhood or family gatherings with games and splashing, consider other shapes and depths.  (Above ground pools don’t provide deep and shallow ends.)

Cost.  A soft-sided, above ground pool from a big box store can cost $200 to $800.  Harrison said.  “If you took those same types of dimensions and decided on steel or aluminum sides, you’re probably talking $2,000 to $6,000 or $7,000, depending on the quality, the pattern of the lining, things like that.”

Go in-ground and the sky’s the limit.  Custom concrete can be built to any design or shape.  “You can have bar stools in it, an island, a waterfall, all that stuff”, Harrison said.  “On in-grounds you can go $15,000 to $200,000.”

Beware of additional costs such as a deck and fence. “Somebody comes to us and said they want a $30,000 pool, they have to realize you’ll have to double that for the walkway and rock and all that, “Harrison said.  “When you’re considering and aboveground, it’s the price of the pool, put it up and there you go.  An in-ground, you’re paying tens of thousands for somebody to come in and dig up the yard.  Then you need brick work, landscaping, and the deck.  You have to think of it as a total yard make-over.  There are a lot more elements to in-ground pools.  Fencing kind of gives people a heart attack.  They figure they call the fence guy because they have an acre and a half, and he tells them it’s another $12,000.”

 

Construction.  An above ground pool can be set up in a few hours if youo have capable help and have done the necessary preparation.  Tome frames for in-ground pool can vary from one to three weeks (vinyl-lined), to two weeks (fiberglass) to up to we weeks (concrete).

Life  expectenancy.  Above ground pools can last 10 or 15 years or more; their liners will need replacement in 6 to 10 years, depending on use, care and climate.  In-ground pools have longer life spans.  A vinyl liner mat have to be replaces in 10 years; a concrete pool is durable and can last for decades.  If you live in an earthquake-prone area, fiberglass may be a better choice because it has some give.

Safety.  This is one area people overlook.  Above-ground pools, protected by gates and locks are safer when it comes to children.  In-ground pools can be made safer through technology – infrared sensors, gate alarms, locks, video cameras, etc.  But homeowners are often lax.

“If you’re in the house and there are kids and there’s a pool, you have to think every second that a kids can get in that pool,” Harrison said.  “Do most people think that way?  No, but that’s the truth.”

 

For questions and to get more information about Connecticut Real Estate and Condominium Property Management, visit www.BarberinoRealEstate.com or call Alan Barberino at 203-265-7534.

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New Federal Timelines May Speed Short Sales

 By:  Kenneth Harney; kenharney@earthlink.net

If you’re one of the estimated 11 million homeowners burdened with an underwater mortgage, a new federal policy could be good news starting in June when you want to do a short sale to shed your mortgage debt load and avoid foreclosure, you may not have to wait for months to hear back from your bank when you submit an offer from a potential purchaser.  Instead, if your loan is owned or securitized by either of the dominant conventional mortgage market players – Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac – you can expect a response within 30 business days, with a final decision no later than 60 days.  If you don’t hear back during the first 30 days, the bank will be required to send you weekly update telling you precisely where the holdups are and when they are likely to be resolved.  None of this is typical of short-sale procedures today.  Banks and servicers who don’t comply will face monetary and other penalties.

The mandatory timelines, which real estate and mortgage industry experts say should help speed up what traditionally has been a glacial process, are being imposed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulatory overseer of Fannie and Freddie in conservatorship.  Short sales represent and important alternative to foreclosure, and involve the lender or loan servicer agreeing to accept less than the full amount owed by the borrower.

Though they can be complex and messy, and can take anywhere from several months to more than a year to complete, short sales are turning into a mainstay of the real estate market.  According to a report from the foreclosure data firm RealtyTrac, short sales jumped by 33 percent in January compared with the same month the year before.  In 12 states – including California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New York and New Jersey – there were more shorts sales recorded during January than sales of foreclosed properties.

This trend is welcome, say regulators, but the total time required to complete short sales is still far too long,.  The 30-day and 60-day mandates address just one of the key points of delay in the process, but regulators promise a series of additional steps during the coming months designed to speed transactions.  They include clearer guidelines on borrower eligibility, property valuations, compensation for lenders holding second liens, and mortgage insurance issues.  All of these are points of friction that can delay short0sales agreement for weeks or months.

Realty agents who specialize in short sales say setting mandatory timelines is a step in the right direction, but won’t solve all the problems.  The new rules and promises of more “are great if they really happen,” said broker Erik Berry of Erik Berry and Associates in Sacramento, Calif.  Short sales that his firm handles take an average of “about six months” from start to finish on Fannie-Freddie loans.  But FHA transactions – which will not be affected by the new regulations – average much longer, and sometimes drag on for a year.

Berry also is skeptical that banks and servicers will be able to reform their staffing practices quickly enough to meet the compressed timelines – even if penalties are imposed, In some cases, he said in an interview, banks switch personnel and negotiators five or six times over the course of a short sale. “You’re dealing with one person one day and they say, don’t worry, everything’s fine, then suddenly they’re gone and you never hear from them again,” leaving the deal stalled for weeks.

Matt Battiata, whose Battiata Real Estate Group in Del Mar, Calif., handles hundreds of short sales a year, said a reliable, 60-day decision deadline for responses to offers will be helpful – 30 days better than the 90-day average he now sees from banks – but the whole process will still take longer than traditional sales.  For clients seeking to do short sales today, Battiata estimates five to six months from offer to closing.  After June, assuming the new federal rules and penalties work, the estimate might only be cut by a month.

On top of this, some of the complications inherent in short sales are beyond the control of regulators or banks, he pointed out.  For instance, buyers put in offers to purchase but then change their minds, forcing the sellers and brokers to come up with replacement offers, and the bank to reset the clock to analyze the new package.

The takeway for potential short sales:  Be aware of the new moves afoot to streamline the process but don’t expect miracles

For questions and answers on Connecticut Real Estate, Homes for sale, Leases and Condo Property Management, feel free to visit us on the web at www.BarberinoRealEstate.com or call Alan Barberino at 203-265-7534

Thank you to all who attended the 2012 All American BBQ After Hours Business Fundraiser on May 16th.

Wallingford, CT Railroad Station

Pictured from left to right: Dana Zingarella & Mike Cody from Belfore Restoration; Carrie J. Mott from Bouvier Insurance & Alan Baberino of Alan Barberino Real Estate, LLC in Wallingford CT

Check out the photos from the 2012 Annual All American BBQ After Business Hours Fundraiser to benefit “Wallingford Holiday for Giving/Meriden Spirit of Giving” on Wednesday May 16th at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3911585304937.278981.1138527918&type=1.

 
 And what a wonderful time we all had! A special thank you to everyone who helped putting this event together – Praline’s Ice Cream, Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, Valencia Liquor and the Meriden Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, thank you to our friends, family, business associates & Rotary Members for supporting two great causes. Feel free to “tag” any photos. And LIKE US on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Alan-Barberino-Real-Estate-LLC/102859561802  ; follow us on Twitter @BarberinoREM .
 
Alan Barberino Real Estate, LLC 
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 Connecticut Condominium Property Management Companies”
 
For Real Estate Sales. Leases and Condominium Property Management, contact us at 203-269-0284 x 110 and visit www.BarberinoRealEstate.com

Get Ready for New England Condominium;s 2012 Condo Expo! Where Buildings Meet Services.

Brought to you by the publishers of New England Condominium, on May 22nd at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, MA, beginning at 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. is the 2012 Condo Expo.

In once day, one location and endless solutions, there will be over 150 exhibitors, thousands of products, educational seminars, peer networking opportunities and free advice booths.

Amongst the Guest Speakers will be:

  • Ellen A. Shapiro, Esq.
  • Frank A. Lombardi, Esq.
  • Henry A. Goodman, Esq.
  • Janet Oulousian Aronson – MEEB
  • Monica Tawfik – National Grid
  • Richard E. Brooks – MEEB
  • Vincent Graziano – Rise Engineering

 

 

Save time and build relationship – Meet with over 150 exhibitors.

Learn from the experts – Attend educational seminars

Network with your peers – Join over 2,000 attendees

Receive FREE expert advice – Visit the FREE Advice Booths

Enter to WIN great door prizes

Register for FREE for the 2012 Condo Expo!

www.ne-expo.com

Visit www.BarberinoRealEstate.com

For all your Connecticut Real Estate Needs & Condominium Property Management

Pending Home Sale On The Rise!

Source:  Carol Riordan www.HartfordCourant.com – HomeLife

 

Pending home sale for February were up significantly versus a year ago according to a study just released by the national Association of Realtors (NAR).

Their Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)* showed an overall increase across the United States to an index of 96.5, a rise of 9.2 percent compared to February of 2011.  In the Northeast, the index rose 18.4 percent to 77.7.  The Midwest also posted large gains with a 19.0 percent increase to an index of 93.8.  There was an increase of 7.8 percent in the South to an index of 105.8 and a decrease in the West of 1.8 percent to an index of 99.3.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicted a strong buying season based on recent monthly PHSI increases.  He said, “We had a very good January, now we have a nine-percent increase in February figures.  These are implying that this buying season will be a quite decent year.”

The unseasonably warm weather has encouraged people to go out and look for properties.  Potential buyers are not just browsing, however, but shopping seriously for homes as indicated by a rise in realtor confidence.  “Realtors are looking at some of the qualitative factors,” said Yun.  “Whether or not people are returning on their open house visits; whether people are examining homes very carefully or just kicking the tires.”

Another indication of the real estate market’s recovery is declining shadow inventory which is measured by seriously delinquent mortgages and homes in foreclosure.  Shadow inventory reached a high in the last quarter of 2009, but has been steadily declining since then.  There has also been a decline in bank-owned properties and properties owned by the government through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration.  In addition, visible inventory has reached its lowest level in the five years.  “So all three buckets of potential inventory…are declining and therefore, because it’s declining consistently, it’s implying that the market is able to absorb this inventory and it’s all moving in the right direction, “said Yun.

He noted that home sales have been essentially stable since 2009 and that the recent uptick in the PHSI is noteworthy.  “If activity is sustained near present levels, existing-home sales will see their best performance in five years,” Yun said.  “Based on all of the factors in the current market, that’s what we’re expecting with sales rising seven to 10 percent in 2012.”

*The PHSI is a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings.  The data reflects contracts, but not closings.  The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales.  Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org.

Visit www.BarberinoRealEstate.com for all your Connecticut Real Estate Home Selling and Buying needs.  Specializing in Condominium Property Management in CT, Leases and Sales. Go with the pro! Alan Barberino.

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