Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tampa Events Calendar - Mid September

From the arts to ZZ Top, Tampa Bay has it all!

Rowdies Tickets for as little as $10
9/16  Tom Petty & ZZ Top (Forum) 7:30 - 11pm
9/16  Rowdies vs. Austin (Steinbrenner Field) 7:30pm
9/17  Art After Dark (Tampa Museum of Art) 8pm - 11pm
9/18-19  Diego Weekend Characters at the Zoo (Lowry Park Zoo) 11:30am - 1pm
9/18  Ybor City Saturday Market (Centennial Park) 9am - 3pm
9/19  Fallen Heroes Walk (Al Lopez Park) 8am - 1pm
9/24  Zoo Boo (Lowry Park Zoo)
9/24  Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner (Convention Center) 6:30 - 9pm
9/24  Rowdies vs. Minnesota (Steinbrenner Field) 7:30pm
9/25  Children's Museum Opening
9/25  USF vs. W. Kentucky (Raymond James Stadium)
9/25  Ybor City Saturday Market (Centennial Park) 9am - 3pm
9/25  Zoo Run (Lowry Park Zoo) 7am - 10am
9/26  Bucs vs. Pittsburg (Stadium) 1pm
9/29  Hyde Park Jazz (Hyde Park)

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Website Resources for Foreclosure Help

Article From
Published: July 27, 2010

Here are some legitimate resources to help you fight the foreclosure crisis.

You've been warned about foreclosure scams. But sometimes it's really hard to tell if something is a scam or not. Some less-than-reliable outfits have even taken to including "hud" or "gov" in their URLs to fool you into thinking they are legitimate foreclosure counselors. It pays to be wary. Below are some websites from government and non-profit agencies that can help you with foreclosure. Some are seeking volunteers and donations to help stop the foreclosure crisis.

Research your options with this web form (
Find your mortgage lender (
Find a foreclosure counselor in your area (
Focused on helping homeowners in crisis, this alliance helps you determine your options

Find a foreclosure counselor (
Raise your own credit score (
Fix mistakes on your credit report (
The Federal Trade Commission has expert advice

Find a legitimate foreclosure counselor near you (
This non-profit organization was created by Congress to provide financial support, technical assistance, and training for community-based revitalization efforts

Making Home Affordable (
Making Home Affordable: short sale documents (
Making Home Affordable: deed in lieu documents (
The official government site for loan modifications and foreclosure alternatives

Find resources to avoid foreclosure in your state (
Consult state and local resources

Improve You Credit Score
( Credit Q&A (

Credit Basics (

Understand credit and your credit scores


See your credit report (
Get all the details on late payments and other information, but not your actual credit score

The Center for Responsible Lending (
A non-profit organization that works to stop predatory lending practices

Volunteer to be a credit counselor (
Non-profit agency that works to provide financial literacy

United Way (
Donate or volunteer to decrease the number of families that are financially unstable

Donate to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (
Send a donation to help NCRC "ensure that people in traditionally underserved communities are treated fairly and justly when applying for credit, opening a bank account, getting a mortgage, a loan, or other financial product or service."

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (,,id=179414,00.html)
Get the details about when you might owe taxes on any debt that is canceled through a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure

Download a PDF on identifying a loan modification scam (
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency provides detail about scams, including "10 Warning Signs of a Loan Modification Scam."

Friday, September 03, 2010

5 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Sale

Working to get your home ship-shape for showings will increase its value and shorten your sales time.

Many buyers today want move-in-ready homes and will quickly eliminate an otherwise great home by focusing on a few visible flaws. Unless your home shines, you may endure showing after showing and open house after open house-and end up with a lower sales price. Before the first prospect walks through your door, consider some smart options for casting your home in its best light.

1. Have a home inspection

Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. For $250 to $400, an inspector will warn you about troubles that could make potential buyers balk. Make repairs before putting your home on the market. In some states, you may have to disclose what the inspection turns up.

2. Get replacement estimates

If your home inspection uncovers necessary repairs you can't fund, get estimates for the work. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home and the repairs. Also hunt down warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for your furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items you expect to remain with the house.

3. Make minor repairs

Not every repair costs a bundle. Fix as many small problems-sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, dripping faucets-as you can. These may seem trivial, but they'll give buyers the impression your house isn't well maintained.

4. Clear the clutter

Clear your kitchen counters of just about everything. Clean your closets by packing up little-used items like out-of-season clothes and old toys. Install closet organizers to maximize space. Put at least one-third of your furniture in storage, especially large pieces, such as entertainment centers and big televisions. Pack up family photos, knickknacks, and wall hangings to depersonalize your home. Store the items you've packed offsite or in boxes neatly arranged in your garage or basement.

5. Do a thorough cleaning

A clean house makes a strong first impression that your home has been well cared for. If you can afford it, consider hiring a cleaning service.

If not, wash windows and leave them open to air out your rooms. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate cooking odors, smoke, and pet smells. Wash light fixtures and baseboards, mop and wax floors, and give your stove and refrigerator a thorough once-over.

Pay attention to details, too. Wash fingerprints from light switch plates, clean inside the cabinets, and polish doorknobs. Don't forget to clean your garage, too.
More from HouseLogic

Develop a Landscape Plan to Fit Your Budget (

Spring Cleaning Guide (

Article From
By: G. M. Filisko
Published: February 10, 2010

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has found happiness in a Chicago brownstone with the best curb appeal on the block. A frequent contributor to many national publications including, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

5 Tips for Buying a Foreclosure

When lenders take over a home through foreclosure, they want to sell it as quickly as possible. Since lenders aren't in the real estate business, they turn to real estate brokers for help marketing their properties. Buying a foreclosed home through the multiple listing service can be a bargain, but it can also be a problem-filled process. Here are five tips to help you buy smart.

1. Choose a foreclosure sale expert.
Lenders rarely sell their own foreclosures directly to consumers. They list them with real estate brokers. You can work with a real estate agent who sells foreclosed homes for lenders, or have a buyer's agent find foreclosure properties for you. To locate a foreclosure sales specialist, call local brokers and ask if they are the listing agent for any banks.

Either way, ask the real estate professional which lenders' homes they've sold, how many buyers they've represented in a foreclosed property purchase, how many of those sales they closed last year, and who they legally represent.

If the agent represents the lender, don't reveal anything to her that you don't want the lender to know, like whether you're willing to spend more than you offer for a house.

2. Be ready for complications.
In some states, the former owner of a foreclosed home can challenge the foreclosure in court, even after you've closed the sale. Ask your agent to recommend a real estate attorney who has negotiated with lenders selling foreclosed homes and has defended legal challenges to foreclosures.

Have your attorney explain your state's foreclosure process and your risks in purchasing a foreclosed home. Set aside as much as $5,000 to cover potential legal fees.

3. Work with your agent to set a price.
Ask your real estate agent to show you closed sales of comparable homes, which you can use to set your price. Start with an amount well under market value because the lender may be in a hurry to get rid of the home.

4. Get your financing in order.
Many mortgage market players, such as Fannie Mae, require buyers to submit financing preapproval letters with a purchase offer. They'll also reject all contingencies. Since most foreclosed homes are vacant, closings can be quick. Make sure you have the cash you'll need to close your purchase.

5. Expect an as-is sale.
Most homeowners stopped maintaining their home long before they could no longer make mortgage payments. Be sure to have enough money left after the sale to make at least minor, and sometimes substantive, repairs.

Although lenders may do minor cosmetic repairs to make foreclosed homes more marketable, they won't give you credits for repair costs (or make additional repairs) because they've already factored the property's condition into their asking price.

Lenders will also require that you purchase the home "as is," which means in its current condition. Protect yourself by ordering a home inspection to uncover the true condition of the property, getting a pest inspection, and purchasing a home warranty.

Be sure you also do all the environmental testing that's common to your region to find hazards such as radon, mold, lead-based paint, or underground storage tanks.
More from HouseLogic

What you need to know about the homebuyer tax credit (

How to claim your homebuyer tax credit (

Other web resources:

How to buy a foreclosure from Fannie Mae (

What to consider when buying a foreclosure as your first home (

By: G. M. Filisko for
Published: March 29, 2010

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who purchased a foreclosed condominium and found herself in the middle of a months-long dispute between the former homeowner and the bank over whether the foreclosure was conducted properly. Six months after paying the full purchase price, she was finally able to enter the property. A frequent contributor to many national publications including, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tampa Events Calendar - September

Summer break for the kids may be over but there's still lots of great activities to enjoy throughout Tampa Bay.

9/2  Rock the Park (Tampa Museum) 6:30 - 9pm
Visit Lowry Park Zoo for only $5!
9/4-6  Florida's Largest Home Show (Convention Center)
9/4  USF vs. Stony Brook (Raymond James Stadium)
9/4  Ybor City Saturday Market (Centennial Park) 9am - 3pm
9/9-12  Disney On Ice (St. Pete Times Forum) 
9/10-12  Tampa Boat Show (Convention Center)
9/11  Ybor City Saturday Market (Centennial Park) 9am - 3pm
9/11  Festival del Sabor (Centennial Park) 10am - 7pm
9/11  Red Bull Art of Motion (Centro Ybor) 
9/11 Old School Community Reunion Cookout (Rowlett Park) 12 - 7pm
9/12 $5  Lowry Park Zoo Day (Lowry Park Zoo)
9/12  Bucs vs. Cleveland (Stadium) 1pm
9/16  Tom Petty & ZZ Top (St. Pete Times Forum) 7:30pm
9/16  Rowdies at Steinbrenner Field 7:30pm
9/17  Art After Dark (Tampa Museum of Art) 8pm - 11pm
9/18-19  Diego Weekend Characters at the Zoo (Lowry Park Zoo) 11:30am - 1pm
9/18  Ybor City Saturday Market (Centennial Park) 9am - 3pm
9/19  Fallen Heroes Walk (Al Lopez Park) 8am - 1pm
9/24  Zoo Boo (Lowry Park Zoo)
9/24  Rowdies at Steinbrenner Field 7:30pm
9/25  Children's Museum Opening
9/25  USF vs. W. Kentucky (Raymond James Stadium)
9/25  Ybor City Saturday Market (Centennial Park) 9am - 3pm
9/25  Zoo Run (Lowry Park Zoo) 7am - 10am
9/26  Bucs vs. Pittsburg (Stadium) 1pm
9/29  Hyde Park Jazz (Hyde Park)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Buy Owner Files For Liquidation But Takes On New Clients

Buy Owner, a broker-free service for individuals who would like to sell their home without hiring a REALTOR, has filed for liquidation.  They have filed for a liquidation of the company as a whole in attempts to keep the business up and running rather than liquidate individual assets;  however, it's unclear at this time if that will happen.

It's my understanding that the basic concept of Buy Owner is to charge sellers an up-front fee to advertise their properties on the website and to assist them in completing the sales contracts.

In the article written by The Palm Beach Post and republished by the Florida Association of Realtors, Philip J. von Kahle, managing director for Michael Moecker & Associates, which is the assignee for Buy Owner, is quoted as saying, "The phones, as far as people interested in the service, remain very active, and we are signing up new clients everyday."  So the business is being liquidated but you're still taking people's money for a service which may not be around in a few months.  To me, this sounds like greed.  I wonder if they have told any of their clients that they are liquidating the company.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Ultimate Runaround With Chase Bank!

Short sale properties have become all too prevalent in the Tampa Bay market.  Their purpose is to preserve some of the seller's credit and save the lenders thousands of dollars in attorney's fees.  This sounds like a worthwhile plan for both sides but apparently the lenders don't see it that way.  They seem to enjoy giving the sellers and REALTORS the runaround.  A recent event with Chase Bank has reiterated this fact to me.

In January, a qualified first time home buyer looking to take advantage of the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit, submitted an offer on a home which I had listed.  After submitting all the paperwork, waiting, resubmitting paperwork and then renegotiating the purchase price at Chase's request, we were hopeful that the property would close prior to the tax credit expiring.  Well, rather than contacting us with a closing date, the negotiator for Chase Bank decided that he didn't have enough paperwork.  He requested tax returns which hadn't been filed because Chase Bank wouldn't send the seller a statement of interest he had paid on his mortgage in 2009.  The negotiator said that either the seller file his tax returns or he was closing the file.  The seller complied but the negotiator still wasn't happy.  He then required the seller to create a profit and loss sheet for a business, which they could clearly see from the bank statements, had only brought in $30 for the year.  Still this wasn't enough.  Now we're at a crossroads.  The seller is out of town on a missionary trip and the negotiator says that if the seller doesn't submit ANOTHER bank statement and sign his electronically filed tax returns by the end of the week he's closing the file. 

Really Mr. Negotiator, you don't have sufficient paperwork to see that this seller doesn't have enough money to pay for his $69,000 home?  We have a buyer who would love to buy the home at the price you requested so that Chase Bank doesn't have to pay thousands of dollars in attorney's fees to foreclose and this isn't good enough for you?

Chase Bank is not the only culprit.  Negotiators with many of the banks seem to be on a power trip and revel in the ability to bring even more burden upon these desperate homeowners.  They make sellers and REALTORS jump through a string of hoops and make buyers wait sometimes eight months for an answer and closing date.  The lenders and their negotiators could care less about the home owners, REALTORS or buyers.  The ridiculous part is, if lenders would get their act together and put a system in place to quickly close these short sale properties they would not only avoid the costly foreclosure fees, they would be able to hold the value on properties.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Home Buyer Tax?

Beginning September 7th, the cost of mortgage insurance on FHA loans will be increasing.  FHA loans only require 3.5% down payment which makes them a preferred loan for most first time home buyers.  To avoid the increased mortgage insurance and higher mortgage payment, you must have your FHA case number assigned prior to this change.

Here's a cheesy but informative video from the Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals (FAMB) which explains the increase and exactly how it affects the buyer.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Investors Are Back! Why Is That A Good Thing?

If you ask most people, they'll tell you that investors drove prices up and caused the housing boom. Well, that's sort of correct.
At the beginning of the housing boom investors were purchasing properties and making wise business decisions, and then the "get rich quick" amateurs came in. These are the people who saw the profits that investors were making and wanted to cash in on a quick buck. They got 100% financing on properties they knew they could flip in a matter of days or weeks. That worked out great for them for a while but these first time investors didn't bother to stop and really look at what the market was doing. They only saw dollar signs. Before the market reached its peak, the true investors had pretty much left the market and were sitting in the corner counting their money. In my opinion, these amateurs actually gave investors a bad name.
A seasoned investor will analyze their decisions and can tell you how much appreciation is expected and depending upon the market, how much rental income they can expect to receive from the property. These seasoned investors have waited their turn and are now coming back. They may be seen as vultures but a lot of times they're the only ones willing to buy the dilapidated houses and fix them up. They are once again making calculated decisions as to repairs costs, potential rental income and eventual appreciation.
As a REALTOR, I see investors as a good indicator of the market. Since investors constantly watch the market they typically can see the rise and fall of the real estate market before it actually happens. Right now, investors are seeing that it's a good time to find great deals, fix the property and rent it out until the market allows enough profit to sell it.
So, next time you're having a conversation about the cause of the real estate crisis just stop and think about whether the blame should really fall on the seasoned investors.

Monday, August 09, 2010

What the Economy Has Taught Me... And Maybe You.

As a kid, I always hated having nosy neighbors.  They always seemed to know what I was doing and if I did something wrong, the story always got back to my mom before I was within a block of my home.  Over the years, I've learned these weren't "nosy neighbors" but rather people watching out for each other.  As an adult with children of my own, I've come to miss that sense of community.
In most neighborhoods, it's rare to see kids playing in the front yards or neighbors checking on their elderly neighbors.  We tend to drive into our garages, close the garage door and never walk back outside or, if we do, we'll head for the fenced backyard.  It is great to have some privacy but can you name your neighbor two doors down?  What about the neighbor right beside you or across the street from you?  Gone are the days of welcoming your new neighbors with fresh baked pies and waving as you see a neighbor drive by, or so I thought.
Typically, the first calls that a REALTOR receives about a new listings are from the neighbors.  They always want to know how much the home is listed for.  Recently, I've started getting calls asking why they're selling.  I just chalked it up to nosy neighbors but a few weeks ago I realized these aren't necessarily nosy neighbors.  While at a new listing taking photos I was approached by one such neighbor.  This very nice gentleman inquired about the home then offered to mow the lawn for the owners.  I explained that the owner was still living in the house and was maintaining the lawn.  This kind gentleman had heard that the owners were divorcing and knew that the husband, who was still living in the home, was working lots of hours so he just wanted to offer his help since he was retired and had the time.  Then a couple weeks later, I received a call from another neighbor who hadn't seen the owner for a couple of days and knew that he had large dogs which were out in the Florida heat.  She wanted to make sure the owner was ok and to see if he needed any help with the dogs.  These were just concerned neighbors watching out for each other.
With the sluggish economy and people losing their jobs and homes, there seems to be a rebirth of that sense of community.  Neighbors are once again checking on each other so see if they can lend a hand.  So, maybe there is some good to come out of the current economy.  Maybe we'll realize we actually do need each other and that a neighbor asking how thing are going isn't just a nosy neighbor.