Monday, December 19, 2016

"Just a dog...." a reflection on Sassy

I'm sure you've heard someone say that before, it's just a dog or just a _____ (fill in the blank). I know that in our current society we toss around labels and words without even thinking but I can assure you that right now there is a dog on my mind. I am over 50 and I lost a dog today and I might as well be a toddler as my heart is broken and I am a complete mess. I am hoping that getting my thoughts down while fresh can somehow help heal my soul but I know it won't; I'll still be a basket case like I am right now. It won't fill the hole left in our family today and my daughter's heart will still be broken and it all just hurts so bad... I am hurting and I just need to say what's on my mind.

Sassy was a mutt. Somehow that makes it all the more difficult. Why? She cannot be replaced. Period. No, I know you couldn't just replace a lab with another lab and expect that to fill the hole either but at the end of the day, you'd still have a similar look and a 'comfort zone' in that you already sort of know what the new lab would be like. Sassy was a small dog with a huge personality. There are so many things I could mention; the way her tiny stubby tail would wag (her entire body) and she was such a jumper and most of all, a barker (and a nipper).

When I get home tonight, the other dogs will be waiting by the door. The little one will whine, the large one may bark (or 'woof') but there won't be any incessant yapping from Sassy. She won't jump up, she won't put more paw prints on my car and she won't nibble on my hands. Some of these things used to bug me; I can't tell you how much I wish she was there to meet me tonight...

I let the dogs out to 'do their business' this morning; they always run around the backyard or sometimes running just a few yards away. The back yard is fenced but there are places where a silly long-bodied dog can squeeze under. With the exception of one time (where a kind soul picked her up), to my knowledge she didn't get out in the road, guessing she'd usually just stick close to the house, along the sidewalk, checking out the world. Or if on the other side of our back yard, out in the neighboring (empty) side yard, where she would surely see who or what was out there amongst the overgrowth. Today? Yes, she got in the road. Or at least the side of the road, as that is where I found her. Somehow I already knew what had happened when I turned onto that road today; I don't know why. I knew when everyone came back and she didn't come running (late, as usual, but she always came back eventually). I drove out of the neighborhood so I could get to the the busy road behind our house; hoping I would find her, but not how I did.

I've never had to pick up my dog (or anyone else's for that matter) and put them lifeless into my trunk (a silent thank-you to the school bus driver who saw what was going on and stopped to let me cross the road to my car parked in the middle). God, I wish I could have opened my door and have her jump in, with her looking at me asking, "what, was I bad?" I got to see her this morning; I got to hear her bark and got to pet her and she might have even nibbled my fingers, I can't fully recall. What is going to hang in my head forever is the fact that I had to put my dog in a trash bag. A fucking trash bag... I talked to her and rubbed on her and told her how much I loved her but I still had to take her away for cremation in a trash bag. She's gone and I can't believe it...

Death spares no one. I don't think you are ever prepared to face a life without ____ (again, fill in the blank). It's when it happens so quickly, so out of the blue, that it just feels like a knife to the gut. When my Dad passed, in the eternal scheme of things, I feel it was 'for the best' (yet another cliche). Based on life events and health 'stuff' it somehow seems 'okay' how he passed. I still think about him daily and miss him but you realize that there will be 'that time' for all of us and I know he lived an incredible life (yet another huge personality). What about this little toasted coconut, Sassy? (or her given name, Sassy Britches... long story) We could search high and low and I can assure you there will be no other dog in my life like Sassy. She is my first loss and I can't believe she's gone. I cannot get her out of my head. I don't know why I'm posting this; I just have to say how much I loved that silly little dog and how much I will miss her. All of us will...

My wife always said 'Sassy wants to be good'... she actually WAS good, but damn it, why did you have to go under the fence today? Why today...? Damn it. I miss her so and I can't imagine our family without her. God bless you little dog Sassy; you brought us great joy and you were loved. Thank you for being such a great part of our life...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"Stolen" article on Flipping Houses

So I stole this article from an email I received. With all the TV shows on Flipping, you'd think it was SO easy! In all honesty, I still have clients who are flipping but this trend has come and gone (Caveat--the 'simple' picks have come and gone by now; what's left are rough properties and many are in rough areas). In essence, the tone of the article (in my opinion) is 'be careful'. The pros are doing it still and having mixed success. Do you want to risk your entire nest egg as a 'newbie'? Perhaps not... Read on!

SEE BELOW FOR HEADINGS/TEXT OF EMAIL RECEIVED...

What's the Deal with Flipped Homes?
Americans love their home improvement and design shows. With entire channels dedicated to DIY, home decor and design, and everything related to U.S. real estate, we love the possibilities that lie within the real estate market in America. One popular aspect of many shows and publications is home or house flipping. We hear a lot about flipping homes, but what does that really mean? Is it feasible for everyone? Are there risks? Should you buy a flipped home, and what questions should you ask if your property search lands on a potentially flipped property?


What is Flipping?
Flipping is a predominately U.S. term used to describe purchasing a property with the intent of quickly reselling it for profit. Most of the time, properties that are purchased with the intent to flip are those that are distressed, abandoned, or otherwise in need of repairs that make the property less desirable to other potential buyers. Flipping has become increasingly popular throughout the U.S. in the last decade, and many people have become successful real estate flippers with the vast and varied real estate markets throughout the United States.


Can Anyone Flip a Property?
Many programs on television make house flipping look easily attainable to anyone and everyone. The fact remains that flipping a property is risky business that requires a large amount of work, experience, funding (preferably cash), excellent credit and a good understanding and almost intuitive knowledge of the real estate market. If you're interested in flipping properties, the best way to get started is by talking to someone who has experience and has had success in flipping real estate. There are many things to know about flipping real estate that should be addressed before the idea is even entertained.


What are the Risks of Flipping a Home?
There are risks with any kind of real estate investment, but inexperienced flippers can make a number of mistakes. There are a number of costs that come with flipping a property, and new flippers can make the mistake of not having enough money to cover the entire project – from the acquisition of the property, to the renovations, taxes, utilities and more. Another risk of flipping properties is time, or lack of time. Finding the right property can take months, and once you own the property there is a time commitment to renovations, commuting, inspections, and ultimately the marketing and selling of the property.

Other risks that new flippers run into are not having enough knowledge about the real estate market and failing to purchase the right property for a flip; a lack of skills when it comes to working on the property and putting in the sweat equity (hard work) required to get it up to market standards; and ultimately lacking patience when it comes to the entire project as a whole.


Should I Buy a Flipped Home?
Often, flipped homes have mostly cosmetic changes done in order to attract buyers and ultimately get the property sold. You might fall in love with fresh paint and brand new appliances, and generally speaking, most flipped homes attract many buyers because they have a smaller initial to-do list than other properties on the market. If you're looking at a property that could be a flip, be sure to ask these questions: What is the home's sale history? If the home recently sold for much less than its current asking price, it's possible it is a flip. Does the outside of the home match what's inside? If the exterior of the home is older, and the interior looks brand new, it's very possible someone is trying to flip the property. Information is your best friend when it comes to a flipped home, so getting the most information up front will help guide you toward pursuing the property or not.

If you believe you're looking at a flipped home, consider asking the seller what changes have been made to the property, and check to see if any permits were issued for the work. Also, some buyers might be blinded by all the new interior cosmetic updates that they forget about the bones and foundation of the home. Regardless of whether a home is old or new, always hire an experienced and licensed inspector to check over the home to make sure you're getting the most for your money when it comes to buying a property.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

When to shop for a cheaper closing...

This article some great points but a few things to point out--title insurance rates are set by the title insurance company here in GA; we use Old Republic Title as they offer solid service/reliability and great common-sense underwriting (and fair fees too!). For the record, most title companies in GA do not offer re-issue rates so ignore that part of the story.

One other comment that needs to be 'tweaked' is about closing on the last day of the month. YES you'd save the most in interest if you close the last day of the month or close to it (call me and I will explain). BUT how much is your time worth? Or better yet-how much is your STRESS level worth? I can guarantee that MOST closing issues are due to rushed deals such as on month-end or for FRIDAY closings. If it were me (after 20 years doing closings) I'd prefer to close the week of the 25th or so on a Wednesday. Why Wednesday? People think they have to close on Friday so they can move the next day. If there is a problem with your closing (perhaps your wire didn't come in time) then you won't fund. If you have no money, you're not getting keys! Back when I closed for a National builder, if you don't have money, you don't get keys (actually the best policy). Did they care about that $150/hour moving company idling in the cul-de-sac? NO. If you close on Wednesday, you STILL move on Friday and you also have 2 bonus days to 'fix' problems like missing wires, walk-through issues, etc.

Finally, DO check into the firm where you're 'told' to close. Are they customer-service driven like us? If not, why are you closing there??? Give us a call today and schedule YOUR closing with US!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Want to shorten the length of your mortgage? Avoid Bi-Weekly payment plans!

Some of my standard closing table banter is chatting about paying down your mortgage WITHOUT using a bi-weekly payment plan. Why not? Well, as the article suggests, you typically are charged for that 'service' and at the end of the day you won't save as much interest over the life of the loan. In simple terms, most bi-weekly offers I've ever seen typically quote 5.5 to 6.5 years interest savings. If you paid ONE extra payment per year***, you'd save greater than SEVEN years worth of interest. Why choose a bi-weekly payment plan at all?

Click HERE for the article!

***As an example, if your principal and interest payment is $1200 per year, you would pay one extra payment towards principal per year OR pay an extra $100 monthly (principal/interest payment, divided by 12)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Does Closed = Cancelled?

In my last newsletter I referenced common title problems (Click HERE to read). One common title problem is definitely Open Loan Deeds, as noted. As a consumer, however, a "closed" account doesn't always mean the same thing as "cancelled" to a dirt lawyer. As an example, if you take out one purchase loan, the lender is in first lien position. If you have a second mortgage or Home Equity Line Of Credit (HELOC) taken out/recorded after that 1st mortgage, that loan is in second lien position. Quite often banks don’t cancel out the old loans once they get paid off (first OR second), but open/leftover HELOCs seem to be the more common problem.

For example, let’s say you closed a HELOC with a local bank for $25,000. You later increased the loan to $50K for some home repairs. Then it’s time for college so you raised it again to $75K. Finally, daughter is getting married so let’s just go for an even $100K (total line of credit, hopefully NOT the wedding bill!). Add all that up—even though the bank properly shows you only have an open line for $100K within their system, the public records will show (total) liens in the amount of $250,000 on their face IF they didn’t cancel each loan on the public records! SO we would need to contact the bank and work on obtaining releases or cancellations for EACH open loan (because every one of those HELOCs were secured by a Security Deed on the public records). Not every bank is this slack; I could name names but I’ll behave. At the end of the day, unless the bank has failed or been sold off, this can be somewhat simple. Sometimes (IF you have an owner’s title policy!) the Title Underwriter allows us to ‘insure over’ an open loan deed if it does not seem that they would have a valid claim against the title but that won’t work for HELOCs due to their revolving status so be vigilant!

Another HELOC example is that of the ‘free’ equity line offered at closing, back when houses actually had equity ("hey, you’ve just taken out a mortgage with us, do you want a small equity line as well, just in case?"). That’s great; so now you have a mortgage that you pay monthly, and you never draw any funds out of that equity line and it just sits there. When you go to sell your home, the attorney’s office asks for all your open loan info. Don’t fret; you’re not the only one who forgot about that 2nd loan—even if the balance is zero, all we need is a written payoff from the lender and they typically require a few dollars as junk fees to cancel out the loan on the public records. However, sometimes people want to keep that line open—if you’re selling the house, too bad. As it’s secured by the house, it has to be cancelled in the public records or you cannot transfer clear title to the new owner. At the end of the day, it's our job to make sure your title is clean so that there are no future title issues. We appreciate your business!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Common Title Issues

When we sit down to close a transaction, hopefully it’s a very smooth and simple event. What ‘should’ happen is the review of a LOT of documents, tons of signing, initialing and some witty banter around the closing table. The concept of ‘all the attorney did was shove papers at me and said sign here’ is actually somewhat how a closing should be—however, hopefully all parties walk out of my closing with some semblance of understanding what just happened and what they signed! What you may not know is how much that actually happens behind the scenes prior to closing. One major thing that I have to do is clean titles. Let’s talk about common issues (and some NOT so common ones!).

Open Loan Deeds. Open loan deeds are the bane of closing attorneys’ existence! The role of the closing attorney is to convey clear title to the buyer and insure that the lender is in the proper ‘position’ as it relates to liens. If a loan was previously closed out but not cancelled in the public records, we have to ‘get rid of it’ and get in cancelled, released or obtain clearance from our title company that we can move forward. This topic will be covered in a follow-up newsletter, but suffice it to say that this issue creates a lot of confusion with clients! As an example, you know, the bank knows, and even I know that a loan was closed out in the bank’s system—but regardless of that fact, if it’s open in the public records, it is not ‘closed’ for title purposes and we must clean it up prior to closing.

Tax Liens. Ah, death and taxes… If you don’t pay your property taxes the county gets fussy. They will file tax liens on your property and can even SELL the property in a tax sale. We have to get proper written payoffs and pay any liens to clear the title. Usually this is a simple situation; it’s a bit more work if the taxes have been sold to a collector. If you have Federal or State income tax liens, we MUST get a payoff from the proper Federal or State agency. Tax liens (both property and income) don’t ‘go away’ and have to be cleared.

HOA or Condo liens. What if you have a Homeowner’s Association and you owe them money? We have to get payoffs from that HOA. If it’s professionally managed, that can be a simple call or email. If you have to call Fred the treasurer, as long as someone can find out how to reach Fred (and if he calls back) then we can obtain a payoff or release. That can be troublesome at times.

Contractor’s liens. So you added on a bathroom and you didn’t pay the contractor. Guess what? They can slap a lien on your house! The good news for most owners is that the lien process is VERY detailed and if they screw it up, the lien is not valid. So pay your contractors on time and you shouldn’t have to worry! If not, then we’ll have to get a written payoff as well.

Divorce or other legal proceedings. These can be liens against property so we have to research to see confirm the status of any lawsuit. As long as something is ‘open’ we have to more or less ask ‘permission’ to close (ditto for Probate and Bankruptcy situations).

These are just a few items that we deal with on a daily basis, though it seems like new 'stuff' shows up every day! Even after 20 years, I am surprised to learn something new more often than you'd think. Someday I'll tell you about the gentleman refinancing who didn't own his condo... (it's a long story ; )

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mortgage Changes for 2014

I received the following info from a realtor friend's email newsletter; thought I'd share... Happy 2014! Bo

Mortgage Changes to Know in 2014


The New Year is almost here, and with it comes a bevy of legal and regulatory changes, especially for the mortgage industry. To help potential homebuyers understand how the changes will affect their mortgage processes, Don Frommeyer, CRMS, President of NAMB (The Association of Mortgage Professionals), outlines some of the regulations set to start in January 2014.

“Since 2009, the housing market has been working to create standards and regulations that minimize the risk of another mortgage industry fiasco,” says Frommeyer. “The ability-to-repay mandate is a perfect example of this and it exemplifies how mortgage professionals are taking extra caution with every customer.”

Upcoming mortgage industry changes include:

- Ability-to-Repay Mandate: The CFPB designed this regulation to set a gold-standard for lending to ensure each and every borrower is a qualified borrower. Lenders will follow a set of guidelines to establish a consumer’s income, assets and obligations before deeming them eligible. The CFPB rules establish a standard for what the government considers a “qualified mortgage.”

- Decrease in FHA Loan Limit: The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced that beginning January 1, 2014, mortgages will be limited to $625,000, down from $729,750. Homebuyers looking to obtain a larger loan will have to apply for a jumbo loan, which will most likely come with a higher down payment. “For many areas of the country this change won’t be a huge issue as average home prices fall below the established limit. However, borrowers in metropolitan areas with higher average housing prices may face challenges when applying for mortgages as the 20 percent down payment associated with jumbo loans will be an enormous increase from a traditional loan’s 3.5 percent down payment,” notes Frommeyer.

- Caps on Loan Origination Fees: January 10, 2014 brings a rule for the Qualified Mortgage that points and fees on mortgages cannot exceed 3%.

- Tighter Regulations for Self-Employed: As the rules to create a QM (qualified-mortgage) take effect, people without a W-2 will face difficulty when they apply for loans. It’s more of a task for individuals to prove their debt-to-income ratio without the proper documentation, even if they have a high net-worth and perfect credit. The income is calculated bringing into play the customer write offs to reduce taxable income.

For more information, visit www.namb.org