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Real Estate Market Slow Down

July 16th, 2008 at 10:09 am

I've been in the housing market for 22 years. This year was the worst July in sales I have ever seen. I'm starting to wonder what I should do; I still make more money than I'd make in a factory or flipping burgers and I get the convenience of working out of my home. However, I'm scared that sooner or later, this is all going to completely dry up. Things are just not moving like they use to and it feels more like the winter in sales than the summer here.

I've kind of made a decision that when I move to the second home, I'm looking for a part time job waitressing or bartending somewhere. Maybe just a few nights a week for backup to help with the housing expenses.

I'm getting a check this week from the insurance company on my run away car that got dented and scratched on one side ($4,100) and I've decided to use it to buy fuel for the winter instead of fixing the car. The car is stored for the winter so I will worry about it next year. Also, the car is a 1999 convertible, if I have it fixed with paint and labor, the cost will only be about $2,000 and with the miles and the year and what I have already spent on that car, it can wait. The car doesn't look so bad I can't drive it and still enjoy having the top down and the wind blowing through my hair. Lately it has been a lot of rain in my hair; that is all it does here - looks like we are going to have a wet and damp summer and then go right back into a cold winter. Summers are never long enough here.

The house I'm in now hasn't even had a bite on it. So I listed it on line, bought some fancy signs with a brochure box to put flyers in and have been advertising it weekly in the local paper. I'm going to have an open house in another week and see how that goes. If I don't sell this house by October 1st, I'm renting it and moving. I'll wait until the market comes back next spring maybe, but I can't heat two houses all winter and the heat in this house is propane gas which is about $2.85 a gallon right now; last year I used 1100 gallons and that was for my furnace, cook stove, fireplace, dry and hot water tank. I don't think that is too bad, the fireplace uses the most gas and someone could cut back on that, but these winters are cold and long.

Let's all hope the housing market rebounds soon; maybe after the election something will change.

It is Snowing Again ....

February 15th, 2008 at 01:56 pm

This has been a long winter and I don't think I have ever seen so much snow, it has gotten to the point that when you are in the supermarket, every corner I turn there are two guys talking about all the snow and where they are going to put it next. I hear we are expecting two more feet of snow next week; I'm so tired of the white stuff, but the ski industry is counting the cash ... we needed a good year for them.

I wish I could go to FL right now, my mother was down there last week and it was 80 degrees every day and perfect weather. Such extremes and it's all just a flight away. We won't see really glorious weather here until July and then I will drive to the coast of ME ... saving myself about $2,000 ... it generally cost me $3,000 to go to FL in the winter, ME only cost me about $1,000.
A much needed low budget vacation would be very nice.

Should you Refinance? The Mistake People Make?

January 25th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

With all the news about the Feds dropping the rates (and it's not over yet), people are being encouraged by the media to refinance. I've seen several and heard several news clips about refinancing your mortgage.

While for many people who have high interest rates,this is a good idea. If you can shorten your term and keep your payments manageable, that is a huge savings. If you can even refinance your current mortgage and keep it on track and save money, that is a good thing too.

When deciding to refinance there is a mathematical way to determine if it is right for you. In my state it would generally cost about $2,300 to $2,500 for the average borrower, with no points. Closing costs must be considered when determining if there is a savings. Generally I take the current payment on their existing mortgage and multiply that by the remaining amount of payments. Otherwise borrower has 240 months left at $500 principaland interest (240 x $500 = $120,000). Then I take the new proposed mortgage and multiply the payments by the amount of months to pay, and add the closing cost and you will have the savings. Example would be 240 months at $350 plus $2,500 closing costs (240 x $350= $84,000 + 2500 = $86,500; savings $120,000 - $86,500 = $33,500). Then we decide if it is worth it? If it is only a few thousand dollars it would not be worth it.

I get concerned when a client comes in with a slew of credit card debt and they want to put it into their mortgage to make monthly total debt more comfortable. Otherwise, take unsecured debt and make it secured and jeopardize your real estate. Unfortunately, most customers that choose to do this usually come in two or three years later in the same situation again.

My feeling is that if a customer can get an unsecured line of credit to clean up their credit cards and can stick to a plan to pay off that line, they should not refinance into their mortgage and secure that debt.

Lets face it, many people live paycheck to paycheck and if there were a major loss in their life; loss of income, death of a spouse, illness and etc., they would most likely be in financial trouble. If you get in trouble financially you want to pay your mortgage first keeping a roof over your head and providing for you and your family. If you have piled all of your unsecured debt into a mortgage, then you are paying it all and may have put yourself in a worse position.

If your financial position went bad,so bad you had to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy because your income was lost or you lost an income in your household; divorce or the death of a spouse, you would not get the financial relief of wiping out the unsecured debt that gives you a "fresh start" if it is wrapped into a mortgage and secured by your real estate.

I have heard how things are economically across the country, but what I know best is what goes on here, I live in a very rural area were unemployment is the highest in the state, poverty lives here and we have a food shelf in every town to provide for the needy. Most people here have a combined income of about $40,000 to live on. We have one of the best assistance programs in the country offering affordable housing, fuel assistance, health insurance and etc. We also offer education programs to get people off assistance. For the average income, houses sell from $80,000 to $150,000, but most people I work with are living from paycheck to paycheck and have very little savings. Our state offers 100% financing on a primary residence if your credit score is 660 or better and you have had at least three tradelines (auto loan, credit card, student loan and etc.) and have paid as agreed,to low and moderate income borrowers and the state program will pay their closing costs.

Most of these clients have nothing to fall back on since they have no savings generally. They will not be eligible to refinance for about five years, they have to wait until their equity is there. So five years later when one of these clients come in with a stack of credit cards and want to refinance, I feel it is a major step backwards, putting unsecured debt on to their home and jeopardizing their financial position,when you know that one major event could put them into bankruptcy and they would not get the relief they could have gotten because their unsecured debt is hidden in their mortgage. Now the relief they could have had is gone and their mortgage payment is higher, maybe too high to pay, and they end up lossing their home in foreclosure.

That is why I feel it is my professional responsibiity, in my business, to caution each and every client that tries to refinance their unsecured debt and make it secured against their real estate. Do not do it if you can avoid it, it is usually just a bandaid that allows you to continue spending out of control and I will see you again in another five years. Being in this business for 22 years, I have a list of habitual debtors that come back time and time again.

Give them the knowledge to make a decision and sadly, many still want the refinance. Unfortunately, you cannot borrow your way out of debt, I know that better than anyone else.

These are just my thoughts on the subject of refinancing and I know there are many responsible people out there that know how to handle their finances. I'm not trying to offend anyone, I'm just trying to make an awareness of the situation.

Many lenders will not go through this exercise with their clients, they just let them do what they want without any advice because it brings in money to the bank. I guess this is my personal advice for people who are spiraling out of control in debt. Fix the problem, don't continue it by refinancing your home.

Bad things do happen to good people and you need to think through your debt restructure plan and see if is a bandaid or a fix.

What Did the Fed Do?

January 23rd, 2008 at 09:26 am

Yesterday the Fed implemented two emergency rate moves in response to the continuing weakening of our economic outlook and the tumbling of the world markets. The Fed Rate and the Discount Rate were both cut by .75 bps bringing the Fed rate to 3.5% and the Discount rate to 4.0%.

So what does that mean to you the consumer? Fed Rates impact the prime rate, auto, credit card and home equity line of credit rates. First mortgage rates will also respond to a degree. The Discount rate impacts the cost to banks to borrow directly from the Central Bank, thereby making money less expensive to borrow for them. This can help banks increase profit by giving them cheaper money to lend for business loans,mortgage loans and consumer loans.

The market is still anticipating a further reduction in the prime rates of .25 bps to .50 bps, which will effect any loan tied to the prime lending rate; usually commercial loans, some consumer loans and eventually it will trickle down and effect mortgage rates.

Did this help? You bet it did, the Asian market has rebounded this morning. Will it continue to stimulate the economy? Only time will tell as it still appears investors have concerns about recession and global market stability.

Don't look at your retirement investments right now, they are most likely going down and you are losing money. This is the same thing that happened with 911, but people did recover.

Regarding the extra rebate this year for low to moderate income families; the Government is planning on having that in your pocket by the end of May or June according to the morning news. This rebate is expected to stimulate the economy as well and give people a little relief.

I'm curious to see how all this will affect the mortgage rates in the next few weeks. Of course my hope is that consumers will have more confidence and start buying homes and refinancing their current high rate mortgages and positioning themselves while the rates are low. Many people do not realize that they can do a streamline refinance if they have had a good payment history, a streamline requires no new appraisal and no income verification and lenders just put them through to give a better rate. Mortgage rates for a 30 year rate were as low as 5.625% APR yesterday, this was in the Northeast Region, generally they are lower out west and south, finally a rate we can live with.