Friday, December 18, 2009

Fannie Mae Gets Tough(er) On Borrowers. Again.

Being approved for a mortgage is getting tougherFannie Mae raised the bar for mortgage applicants this past weekend.  Getting approved for a home loan just got harder.

In its official announcement, Fannie Mae says the updates minimize long-term lending risks.  If that's the case, this won't be the last guideline change Fannie Mae makes -- especially with loans defaulting at an above-normal clip.

The immediate changes are major. The first pertains to credit scores.

Effective December 13, 2009, the bulk of Fannie Mae's loans require a 620 credit score minimum.  There are very few exceptions.

A second relates to loans with private mortgage insurance. 

Homeowners whose loan-to-value exceeds 80 percent now have a choice:

  1. Pay higher mortgage insurance premiums month-after-month
  2. Pay a one-time fee paid at closing to compensate for higher risk

Both options result in higher consumer loan costs.

A third change concerns maximum debt-to-income ratio. Fannie Mae will no longer approve loans with debt ratios exceeding 45 percent except with very strong assets and very high credit scores. 

In no case whatsoever may debt-to-income exceed 50 percent.

There are other changes, too, including the elimination of seldom-used mortgage products and additional risk-based fees for "expanded level" mortgage approvals.  These updates affect just a small part of the population.

So, home prices are rebounding, mortgage rates are low, and -- for 5 more months at least -- there's a federal tax credit for qualified buyers.  You don't have to buy a home now, but with mortgage guidelines sure to tighten in 2010, now may be a better time than later.

The best "deal" won't matter if you can't get qualified on your mortgage.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Who Knew? Great Gift for Do It Yourself Guys.

Black and Decker ReadyWrench

Tools For The Home : 16-In-1 Black And Decker ReadyWrench

When it comes to DIY projects, one socket size rarely fits all.  So, for light jobs around the house, the 16-in-1 Black & Decker socket wrench can come in handy.  Its official name is the ReadyWrench.

The ReadyWrench won't replace a complete socket set, but because it features the 16 most popular socket sizes, it can simplify your work. The tool fits SAE sizes (5/16 inch, 3/8 inch, 7/16 inch, 1/2 inch, 9/16 inch, 5/8 inch, 11/16 inch, 3/4 inch) and metric sizes, too (8mm, 10mm, 11mm, 13mm, 14mm, 16mm, 17mm, and 19mm).

The head rotates to 45 and 90 degrees so the tool can be used for ratcheting in tight places, when needed.

The ReadyWrench comes with a lifetime warranty and is available at most hardware stores and on for $30. If you're looking for an inexpensive, suitable gift for a DIY homeowner, the ReadyWrench could be your fit.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Featured Listing Of The Week

This week I am featuring an exciting home in Emerald Heights.  2134 View Crest Glen, Escondido, CA. 92026.  It is located at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac with the most amazing panoramic views of the canyon and mountains.  You will be amazed at the peaceful serenity found here.  Master suite is on the lower level.  Great things come in 3's - 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, 3 car garage!  One of a kind with many designer touches.  Seller will consider offers from $499,000 to $539,000.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just for fun!

Foreclosure Activity Falls For The 4th Straight Month

Foreclosures concentrate in 4 states (November 2009)Since peaking in July 2009, national foreclosure activity has dropped through 4 consecutive months. 

On a month-to-month basis, November's foreclosure activity fell another 8 percent. 

However, national foreclosure activity continues to be dominated by a minority of states.

As reported by, more than half of November's foreclosure-related activity sourced from just 4 states:

  1. California
  2. Florida
  3. Illinois
  4. Michigan

These are the same 4 states that topped October's foreclosure activity despite three of them posting month-to-month declines last month.

The remaining Top 10 states in terms of total foreclosure activity include Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Nevada and New Jersey.

If you've been actively looking at REO lately, you've likely noticed that true bargains are harder to find.  This is because buyers of all types -- first-timers, move-ups, and investors -- are purchasing bank-owned homes aggressively and getting better at identifying the "best ones".

But just because supplies are dwindling doesn't mean you should just jump in.  Buying foreclosures isn't for everyone for two very strong reasons:

  1. Homes are often sold as-is and may have "issues"
  2. The closing process can be unpredictable

Therefore, if you're thinking of buying a foreclosed home, be sure to talk with your real estate agent about potential problem before going under contract.  Better too soon than too late.

There are still good deals in the foreclosure market, but based on November's data, they may not last through the winter.  "Distressed home" sales now account for 30 percent of home resale activity.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How To Increase Your 2009 Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction

Mail your January 2009 mortgage payment in December 2008 to get an extra tax deductionFor many American homeowners, interest paid on a mortgage is tax-deductible in the year in which it was paid.

Knowing that, eligible homeowners can increase their 2009 tax deductions just by making their January 2010 mortgage payment before the end of the year.

By paying in 2009, the mortgage interest paid can be applied against 2009's itemized tax deductions even though the payment isn't technically due until 2010.

It can reduce your tax burden come Thursday, April 15, 2010.

And lest you think you're paying the mortgage "in advance", remember that mortgage interest is paid in arrears; a payment due January 1 accounts for interest that accumulated in December 2009 anyway. 

Tax planning is a complicated issue and not all homeowners qualify for mortgage interest tax deductions. Check with your tax professional before making tax planning decisions.

If you don't have an accountant you trust, call or email me anytime; I'm happy to make a recommendation to you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Stay Safe This Winter

As temperatures turn cooler and home heating systems get fired, homeowners should learn to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to safeguard against it.

Carbon monoxide poisoning presents like the flu -- headache, dizziness, and nausea.  As a result, many people confuse the two. 

Sometimes, the consequences are fatal. Each year, carbon monoxide sends 40,000 Americans to the emergency room and, as we learn from CBS News, those that survive are far more likely to develop and die from heart disease later in life.

Stay safe in your home.

  1. Don't heat your home using your gas oven
  2. Don't leave a running car in your garage
  3. Service your gas-burning appliances annually

And, most important, install carbon monoxide detectors near every bedroom in your home.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Get Your Home Ready For Listing : How To Eliminate Home Odors Completely

Difficult home odors plague homeowners.  Ground into rugs, absorbed into walls, and clinging to furniture, some smells are slow to fade, leaving lasting impressions on both guests and potential buyers. Often, that impression is unfavorable.

Do something about it. 

In this 4-minute piece from NBC's The Today Show, you'll learn how to eliminate bad smells and prevent them from returning.  It's all basic direction, too:

  • How to use the porous nature of wood to your advantage
  • How to remove get "smoke smell" out of a wall
  • How to improve a home's air quality by cleaning carpets

For more serious offenses, the video covers in-home air purifiers, too.

"Smelly homes" are undesirable and can make your home less attractive to buyers.  Watch the video, follow the instruction, and declare your home an Odor-Free Zone.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Existing Home Sales Blow Past Expectations

Existing Home Sales October 2009Another month, another piece of evidence that the housing market is in recovery.
Existing Home Sales surged in October as the nation's homebuyers took advantage of low mortgage rates, low list prices, and, for some, a generous tax credit.
Home resales are 23 percent higher versus a year ago and home supply is down to 7 months nationwide.
Inventory hasn't been this low since February 2007.
The news shouldn't be surprising, however.  The same real estate trade group that produces the Existing Home Sales report also publishes a monthly report meant to predict future home sales called the Pending Home Sales Index.
Pending Home Sales have been through the roof since mid-May.
So, with pending home sales showing no signs of slowing and 80% of pendings turning into actual, closed sales, we can expect existing home sales volume to rise in the coming months, too.  Especially because Congress extended the home buyer tax credit to include (1) "Move-up" buyers and, (2) Buyers with higher household incomes.
It's terrific news for home sellers. The housing market turnaround means higher sale prices and fewer concessions to buyers long-term.
To buyers, on the other hand, the news isn't so good. The window to find a "deal" appears to be closing quickly.