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Joyce’s Voice…,Buying and Selling a House during the winter months can be a PLUS!

Joyce's Voice...,Buying and Selling a House during the winter months can be a PLUS!

Think about it! So many sellers think they should wait until Spring to put their houses on the market. Typical real estate wisdom states the spring summer months are the hottest selling months of the year, because families with children prefer to move into their new homes before September. This may be true to an extent but one thing to keep in mind is that when you wait to Spring or Summer to list your house you will have much more competition and that is not a plus when you are selling. Even though there are fewer buyers and sellers out there right now, those who are active tend to be highly, highly motivated.

Buyers remember that the sellers who are willing to clear the whole family out of the house when everyone else is having warm fuzzy holiday gatherings are motivated to get their homes sold – and ready to entertain your offer to make that happen. Also seeing a house in the winter months will allow you to see how it holds up in the worst of weather. Don’t wait until Spring to buy and sell, now is the best time of the year to get your house on the market and get it SOLD!

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Joyce’s Voice..President’s administration expands foreclosure prevention program.

Joyce's Voice..President's administration expands foreclosure prevention program.

It sounds good, but in my opinion this could cause more issues than good. What are your thoughts?

The Obama administration is taking another swing at improving its main foreclosure prevention program.

The administration said it was expanding eligibility for its Home Affordable Modification Program, known as HAMP, to borrowers with higher debt loads and tripling the incentives it pays banks that reduce principal on loans.

The administration also said it would offer incentives to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce principal on loans. Previously, the government had only offered incentives to private lenders and banks. The program was also extended to December 2013. It was initially set to expire at the end of this year.

The changes were announced in a joint press conference held by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Assistant Treasury Secretary Tim Massad, and White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling on Friday afternoon.

Originally designed to help some 4 million mortgage borrowers when it was first introduced in February, 2009, HAMP has helped fewer than 1 million homeowners.

Has Obama’s housing policy failed?

With these changes, HAMP is turning into an “all of the above strategy to help responsible homeowners lower their costs and stay in their homes,” said Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council, who also took part in the press conference.

Here’s a rundown of the new changes:
•Expansion of eligibility: HAMP was designed to bring the debt ratio of mortgage borrowers down to 31% of their incomes. Those whose mortgage payments were already below that level had been ineligible for a modification. They may qualify now. The new guidelines will allow for a more flexible approach that takes other debt into account when calculating debt-to-income ratios.
•Extension of eligibility to owners of rentals properties: The old HAMP rules applied solely to owner-occupied homes but now those who own rental properties may also qualify for a HAMP modification.
•Triple balance-reduction incentives: The new HAMP will pay between 18 cents and 63 cents for every dollar that lenders take off the mortgage principal, up from between 6 cents and 21 cents.
•Pay Fannie and Freddie the same incentives: Currently, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not offer principal reduction plans as part of their HAMP modifications. To encourage this assistance, Treasury said it will pay the same principal reduction incentives to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac if they allow servicers to forgive principal in conjunction with a HAMP modification.

While the new changes could greatly expand the number of homeowners that receive help from HAMP, it could invite controversy.

Read more at:NEW YORK (CNNMoney) By Les Christie

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Joyce’s Voice..President’s administration expands foreclosure prevention program.

Joyce's Voice..President's administration expands foreclosure prevention program.

It sounds good, but in my opinion this could cause more issues than good. What are your thoughts?

The Obama administration is taking another swing at improving its main foreclosure prevention program.

The administration said it was expanding eligibility for its Home Affordable Modification Program, known as HAMP, to borrowers with higher debt loads and tripling the incentives it pays banks that reduce principal on loans.

The administration also said it would offer incentives to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce principal on loans. Previously, the government had only offered incentives to private lenders and banks. The program was also extended to December 2013. It was initially set to expire at the end of this year.

The changes were announced in a joint press conference held by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Assistant Treasury Secretary Tim Massad, and White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling on Friday afternoon.

Originally designed to help some 4 million mortgage borrowers when it was first introduced in February, 2009, HAMP has helped fewer than 1 million homeowners.

Has Obama’s housing policy failed?

With these changes, HAMP is turning into an “all of the above strategy to help responsible homeowners lower their costs and stay in their homes,” said Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council, who also took part in the press conference.

Here’s a rundown of the new changes:
•Expansion of eligibility: HAMP was designed to bring the debt ratio of mortgage borrowers down to 31% of their incomes. Those whose mortgage payments were already below that level had been ineligible for a modification. They may qualify now. The new guidelines will allow for a more flexible approach that takes other debt into account when calculating debt-to-income ratios.
•Extension of eligibility to owners of rentals properties: The old HAMP rules applied solely to owner-occupied homes but now those who own rental properties may also qualify for a HAMP modification.
•Triple balance-reduction incentives: The new HAMP will pay between 18 cents and 63 cents for every dollar that lenders take off the mortgage principal, up from between 6 cents and 21 cents.
•Pay Fannie and Freddie the same incentives: Currently, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not offer principal reduction plans as part of their HAMP modifications. To encourage this assistance, Treasury said it will pay the same principal reduction incentives to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac if they allow servicers to forgive principal in conjunction with a HAMP modification.

While the new changes could greatly expand the number of homeowners that receive help from HAMP, it could invite controversy.

Read more at:NEW YORK (CNNMoney) By Les Christie

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Joyce’s Voice…Top Seattle Real Estate Agents!

Top Seattle Real Estate Agents!

Thank you so much to all of my client who voted for me to get this award. I can’t tell you how much this means to me! I truly appreciate you allowing me to represent you in your real estate transactions in 2011 and I look forward to working with you again in the future. Thank you again for recommending me to your friends and family, my business is built upon referrals. Wishing you all a wonderful year in 2012.

To view all homes on the market go to: www.joycelowe-realtor.com

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Joyce’s Voice… What is going on in the Federal Way market place

Joyce's Voice... What is going on in the Federal Way market place

Average price per square foot for Federal Way WA was $116, a decrease of 13.4% compared to the same period last year. The median sales price for homes in Federal Way WA for Aug 11 to Oct 11 was $172,510 based on 274 home sales. Compared to the same period one year ago, the median home sales price decreased 20.7%, or $45,160, and the number of home sales decreased 6.8%. There are currently 484 resale and new homes in Federal Way on Trulia, including 1 open house, as well as 398 homes in the pre-foreclosure, auction, or bank-owned stages of the foreclosure process. The average listing price for homes for sale in Federal Way WA was $254,156 for the week ending Nov 09, which represents an increase of 0.6%, or $1,431, compared to the prior week.

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Joyce’s Voice…BANKRUPTCY AND SHORT SALES DON’T MIX WELL!

Joyce's Voice...BANKRUPTCY AND SHORT SALES DON'T MIX WELL!

This is an area that a seller can get into trouble. Bankruptcies and short sales don’t mix well. A Bankruptcy BEFORE a short sale will work. A Bankruptcy AFTER a short sale works great. If a seller files DURING short sales negotiations, well it’s a dead deal typically and the opportunity for a short sale is generally out the window.

Sellers if you are considering a short sale then please don’t do anything concerning filing Bankruptcy until after the short sale is complete and closed.

When I do short sales I always have you meet with an attorney prior to starting the short sale. The attorney will advise you on all of your options. Once you are understanding the process and feel confident to move forward then you can give me a call and I will list the property. I handle the negotiations between you and the buyer. The attorney will handle the negotiations with the bank. Working together we get the job done=SOLD

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Joyce’s Voice….Cozy Up With a Gas Fireplace, Sounds Wonderful!

Cozy Up With a Gas Fireplace, Sounds Wonderful!

Here is some information on gasfire places that you may want to consider before adding one to your home.
For centuries, homeowners have gathered around a fire to keep warm, chat and cook their meals. Today, most American homes have central heating, but the allure of a fire hasn’t diminished — whether it’s a wood-burning fireplace, a free-standing gas stove or, in a pinch, even the image of a burning log on a midnight television screen!

While there’s something to be said for the sounds and smell of a wood-burning fireplace, a lot of homeowners are opting for the ease of a gas insert. Today’s gas fireplaces look realistic, need minimal maintenance and can heat an entire room.

There are three kinds of gas fireplaces.

Gas inserts: This is gas fireplace that can be fitted into an existing wood burning fireplace.

Built-ins: A fireplace that can be installed into the wall where there wasn’t one previously

Log sets: Gas burners that sit in existing fireplaces and are more for aesthetics than heat

Gas Fireplace Cost: $2,000 to $5,000 for the fireplace and installation. This is not a DIY project and should be handled by someone who can verify that the fireplace is vented properly.

Ventilation:

Although a gas fireplace doesn’t emit the smoke or leave ashes like a traditional wood-burning fireplace, they do emit carbon monoxide and other chemicals. Many gas fireplaces and inserts are vented versions that recycle air 
and exhaust directly through an exterior opening.

However, a vent-free gas fireplace can be installed anywhere because they don’t require access to an exterior wall opening. They are required to be cleaner burning and have an oxygen-depletion sensor that will shut off the fireplace if the level of oxygen is too low in the room. Vent-free gas fireplaces are not allowed in California, New York City and a few other places.

Pros of Going Gas:

A gas fireplace can be built nearly anywhere in your home and provides a clean, low-maintenance look of a fireplace. You can control the temperature of the fire with a built-in thermostat and can start the fire with a switch or button. Unlike wood-burning fires, gas fireplaces are efficient and return as much as “75 to 99 percent of a fuel’s energy back as heat,” according to “This Old House.” Some gas fireplaces have built-in fans which can heat an entire room quickly.

Cons of Going Gas:

For most people, the cost of installation and the gas or propane to run it is a big enough turn-off due to cost. Additionally, there are some environmental concerns with gas fireplaces, specifically vent-free versions due to carbon monoxide output.

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Joyce’s Voice…Market Conditions Summary for Federal Way, Washington

Joyce's Voice...Market Conditions Summary for Federal Way, Washington

Housing and Economic Forecast Points to Rising Activity

Home sales are expected to stay on an uptrend through 2012, although the performance will be uneven with mortgage constraints weighing on the market, according to experts at a residential real estate forum today at the REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo here.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said existing-home sales have been underperforming by historical standards and will rise gradually but unevenly. “If we just hold at the first-quarter sales pace of 5.1 million, sales this year would rise 4 percent, but the remainder of the year looks better,” Yun said. “We expect 5.3 million existing-home sales this year, up from 4.9 million in 2010, with additional gains in 2012 to about 5.6 million — that’s a sustainable level given the size of our population.”

Mortgage interest rates should rise gradually to 5.5 percent by the end of the year and average 6.0 percent in 2012 — still relatively affordable by historic standards.

“A huge volume of cash sales, supported by the recovery in the stock market, show that smart money is chasing real estate. This implies that there could be a sizeable pent-up demand if mortgages become more readily accessible for qualified buyers,” Yun said. “The problem isn’t with interest rates, but with the continuation of unnecessarily tight credit standards that are keeping many creditworthy buyers from getting a loan despite extraordinarily low default rates over the past two years.”

Yun said that if credit requirements returned to normal, safe standards, home sales would be 15 to 20 percent higher. He added that some parents are buying homes with cash for their children, and offering them loans which provide better returns than bank accounts or CDs.

Yun projects the Gross Domestic Product to grow 2.5 percent this year and 2.7 percent in 2012, adding 1.5 million to 2 million jobs yearly over the next two years. The unemployment rate should decline to 8.8 percent by the end of 2011 and average 8.6 percent next year, returning to a normal level of 6 percent around 2015.

Housing starts are forecast to rise but remain below long-term trends, reaching 603,000 in 2011, up from 595,000 last year, and continue growing to 908,000 in 2012. New-home sales are seen at a record low 320,000 this year, rising to 487,000 in 2012. “A recovery in new homes will be slow because of the extra price discount in the existing home market,” Yun noted. In March, the typical new single-family home cost $53,300 more than an existing home.

Inflation appears to be relatively modest for now, with the Consumer Price Index rising 2.9 percent this year. “We’ll be closely watching the impact of fuel costs on consumer spending and inflation — that would slow economic growth, job creation and home sales,” Yun said.

Apartment rents are trending up, and are likely to rise at faster rates as vacancies decline. Following the correction in home prices, it has now become more affordable to buy in most of the country. “Twice as many renters had enough income to buy a home in 2010 in comparison with 2005, so we have a much larger pool of financially qualified renters,” Yun said. “Rising rents and excellent housing affordability conditions will encourage potential buyers who’ve been on the sidelines.”

Yun expects the median existing-home price to remain near $170,000 over the next two years, which would mark four consecutive years of essentially no meaningful price change.

Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac, holds similar views on the outlook. “Economic activity will accelerate this year — there will be no double dip in the economy,” he said. Nothaft is more optimistic on job growth, expecting 2.0 million to 2.5 million jobs created in 2011 with unemployment dropping to 8.4 percent by the end of the year.

Nothaft expects the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to trend up to 5.25 percent by the end of the year, and for home sales to rise 5 percent. “National home price indices are close to a bottom and prices are likely to bottom sometime this year,” he said.

Refinancing activity in 2011 will be only half of what it was last year. “As a result, banks may become more willing to lend to home buyers,” Nothaft said.

The National Association of REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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Joyce’s Voice….Homeownership rate is on the rise after a two year decline but it is still low compared to prior years.

Joyce's Voice....Homeownership rate is on the rise after a two year decline but it is still low compared to prior years.

After falling to a 13-year low during the second quarter, the homeownership rate posted a highly unexpected rise in the third quarter, according to a Census Bureau report released Wednesday.

With foreclosures forcing homeowners out of their homes and buyers waiting on the sidelines as home values declined, the homeownership rate has been on the decline for quite some time. In fact, according to Bloomberg, the third quarter rise is the first in two years.

However, the 0.4 percent increase, which brought the homeownership rate to 66.3 percent for the third quarter, was not enough to post an annual increase.

The current homeownership rate remains 0.6 percent below the rate recorded in the third quarter of 2010.

Furthermore, according to the Census report, when the current rate is seasonally adjusted – which brings it to 66.1 percent – it is “not statistically different from the rate last quarter” – an even 66 percent.

Homeowner vacancy rates fell 0.1 percent in the third quarter arriving at 2.4 percent.

At the same time, rental vacancies rose 0.6 percent arriving at 9.8 percent.

Despite this shift, Capital Economics says in response to the Census findings, “The modest increase in the rental vacancy rate in the third quarter does little to alter our view that rental yields will soon rise above 5.5%, comfortably beating the yields available on Treasuries and equities.”

“Meanwhile, the homeownership rate remains at a level that suggests America’s love-affair with housing is still on the rocks,” Capital Economics adds.

About 85.8 percent of housing units were occupied in the third quarter.

The region with the highest homeownership rate was the Midwest with a rate of 70.3 percent, while the lowest homeownership rate was seen in the West at 60.7 percent.

The Northeast and South feel in between at 63.7 percent and 68.4 percent respectively.

At 76.1 percent, West Virginia had the highest homeownership rate. The state was followed closely by Mississippi with a 70 percent homeownership rate.

The lowest homeownership rate was seen in the District of Columbia, where the rate for the quarter was 44.3 percent. New York followed with 54.4 percent.

Nevada and California – states hard-hit by the housing crisis – were also in the bottom five with homeownership rates of 55.3 percent and 55.9 percent respectively.
By: Krista Franks

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Joyce’s Voice…Shortsale is an option that you may have to consider…Learn more about it, is it right for you?

Joyce's Voice...Shortsale is an option that you may have to consider...Learn more about it, is it right for you?

I have read this article and find it to be very helpful. Shortsales aren’t for everyone but if you are considering one this may be useful.

There are multiple steps involved in a short sale. If you’re a buyer or seller today, it’s helpful to understand the entire process from the inside out.

Here are 10 things you should know about short sales.

What exactly is a short sale?

A short sale isn’t a foreclosure, and the property may not be anywhere near the process of being foreclosed upon. In a short sale, the seller needs to sell their home for a variety of reasons — job transfer, divorce, lost job, inability to make payments, and so on. The current market value of their property is less than what they owe the bank because its value has declined; the seller took out additional loans against the property; or both.

To complete the sale, the seller needs to go to their mortgage lender and ask permission for the bank to take less than they are owed — to get “shorted,” in other words.

In my experience, most banks actually want to work with the seller and approve the sale, as opposed to having to foreclose on the property. If the seller falls behind on their payments and the property heads for foreclosure, the bank ends up owning the property. This forces the bank to be in the business of owning real estate, which isn’t what it’s set up to do, and that costs them time and money.

The bank’s perspective

Imagine if you were owed money by someone and they came to you and asked to pay you back less. You wouldn’t be too happy about it and would only go along with it kicking and screaming, right? Well, the same is true with lenders when a customer needs to sell their property in a short sale. They don’t want to lose money, and they’re going to make sure that a short sale is the best of the worst-case scenarios they’re facing. In doing so, the banks have processes and procedures in place, some more bureaucratic than others. They’ll want a review of the seller’s finances, to be certain they truly can’t afford the payments and that their reason for selling is legitimate.

What does the bank want to see?

In order to decide whether you want to take this financial hit, the bank will require the seller to complete a short sale package, much like a loan pre-approval package when you purchase a home. The package includes (but isn’t limited to): a financial worksheet completed by the seller; the past few months bank statements; last two years tax returns; the last few pay stubs; copies of equity/brokerage accounts; and a hardship letter laying out the seller’s case for the short sale.

Additionally, the bank will want to see a purchase agreement, proof of buyer financing, authorization to speak to a third party (namely the listing agent) as well as a HUD-1 — a closing/settlement statement that lays out the finances of the sale. Finally, the bank wants to have the property appraised to confirm that they are receiving the most money for the home.

Short sale review process

Nearly every bank has a team of “negotiators” who are assigned to review each short sale application and make a decision. It’s rare that they will accept the short sale package as is. More likely, they’ll ask for a number of things including a counter offer to the purchase price and a reduction in fees/closing costs. If they lower the listing agent’s commission, it’s almost always reduced below 6 percent (but rarely below 5 percent). Often, the bank will ask the seller to make a financial contribution in order for them to approve the sale. This is generally OK with the seller, and often the seller can agree to a payment plan. Everything is a negotiation here, and the listing agent is generally the one negotiating with the bank on behalf of the seller.

The seller is often required to miss a payment

Many banks will require the seller to miss a payment in order to process the short sale. In essence, the bank is rejecting the short sale and telling the seller to come back and reapply after they’ve gotten behind in their payments. This happens all the time. If you’re a seller with perfect credit but circumstances require you to sell the property as a short sale, the bank wants you to pay for it by negatively affecting your credit with a 30-, 60-, or 90-day late payment.

This is the most troubling, misunderstood, and backwards part of a short sale and part of the reason why they take so long. This will likely set the seller and the potential buyer back by at least 30 days, and the buyer often walks away, sometimes after waiting 60 days.

If you want to avoid this roadblock, start missing your payments as soon as you know a short sale is inevitable. Yes, you heard me right: I’ve literally advised sellers to stop making their mortgage payments.

Facing up against a foreclosure

This is where things get messy and timing is everything.

If you miss your payments for 90 days, a notice of default is filed and the foreclosure process begins. The foreclosure department is likely a completely different arm of the bank and does not always have any knowledge of the short sale offer. Sometimes, they’ll work hand-in-hand to delay the foreclosure if a short sale application is in. But, many times, especially if they are so disconnected, the foreclosure department simply forges ahead. I have heard horror stories about a full price short sale offer on the table, yet the bank forecloses.

Have your ducks in a row before going on the market

Prior to listing the property in a short sale, request a copy of the short sale package from the lender. Start with the customer service telephone number; they can usually get you in touch with the loss mitigation department. Find out what’s required to complete a short sale and get everything that the bank needs up front.

A good real estate agent will have every single piece of information available and ready to send to the bank before they list the property. Once an offer is received, they can add the purchase agreement and the closing statement to the package. Short sales take a long time when the seller or real estate agent have an offer but don’t have any of the paperwork ready to send to the bank.

If you’re a potential short sale buyer, ask the listing agent if they’ve made contact with the bank. Have they received the short sale package? If so, are the seller’s documents ready to be submitted? If the answers to these questions are no, or are received with a blank stare, chances are you’re going down a long and rocky road.

Additional places the short sale gets hung up

The banks require a lot of paperwork in order to present the short sale to the negotiator. If they don’t have an absolutely complete package, they won’t send it on. This means that if you’re missing one document or one bank statement has the wrong date, there will be a hold up.

Also, even though it’s 2011, many banks require the packages to be faxed into their system. This means lost pages or missing documents. And the bank, as busy as it is, isn’t likely to call you and tell you what you’re missing. So the listing agent or the seller needs to stay on top of the bank.

Once the package (sometimes 185 pages) is faxed in, a call should be made confirming the fax was received. Within a few days, another call should be made to ensure the package has been assigned to a processor. The processor’s job is to provide the negotiator with everything needed for review. Check with the processor, to see if they’re missing anything and if not, how long it will take to be assigned to a negotiator. Most banks will tell you five, 10, or 21 days. Staying on top of the bank will help speed up the process. As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Final step is getting the approval

The waiting game begins once the file is complete and is on the desk of the negotiator. At this point, there is nothing you can do but wait for their decision/negotiation. Once the approval and all the negotiating has been completed, the regular sale/escrow process begins. Be aware that the bank prefers these to be “as-is,” so there won’t be room to add fees, request credits or adjustments. Having said that, I once went back to a short sale lender and requested (and received) a $20K reduction in purchase price due to some serious termite issues that were uncovered during the property inspection.

Advice to buyers, sellers and agents

Whatever role you’re playing in the short sale drama, be patient but persistent. I’ve seen short sales approved in less than 30 days, others in nine months. It all depends on the bank, the seller and the listing agent.

And if you’re the potential buyer, try not to get too attached to a short-sale property. If you don’t get a sense that the listing agent is familiar with the process, or if you realize the agent and seller don’t have their ducks in a row, you may need to walk away — no matter how good of a deal the short sale is.
By Brendon DeSimone