Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Of Michael Vick...

A friend was kind enough to take me to a Falcons game last Sunday (thanks John!) and the Philadelphia Eagles happened to be the opponent. In case you missed it (with 24/7 coverage of Tiger Woods) Michael Vick made his 'triumphant' return to ATL. When he first hit the field, there seemed to be more boos than cheers. However, a mid-game running touchdown (the Vick of old?) resulted in more cheers than jeers (how soon the fans can turn on the home team!). Near the end of the game the entire stadium erupted in "We Want Vick" chants. I was actually surprised but must admit that it was somewhat electrifying (full disclosure, I always thought Vick was a thug and HATED his AirTran ads, as I am a shareholder). He threw a beautiful pass resulting in major yardage and the ensuing touchdown resulted in huge cheers. Sigh... It was embarrassing for the Falcons, even if they were down several starters. But what about Vick? Should we hate him still? I have to admit that I am still not a fan. However, I do think that losing everything (Freedom, homes, wealth, lifestyle) can change a person. Hopefully he is a better man. I happen to have a boxer/pit-bull mix. I know the horrible reputation of pit-bulls--our Spike is the most loving dog I have ever known. Shame on Mr. Vick for ever doing anything to encourage the violence in those dogs. Shame on him for any part of the vicious world of dog fighting. Hopefully those days are behind him and soon enough he may be deserving of fans' cheers. I guess we'll just have to see! Doesn't everyone deserve a second chance? I sure hope he makes the best of his! (So does Spike!)

Monday, November 30, 2009

My annual holiday "idiot driver" rant...

I didn't take time to look into my archives here at my blog but I'd guess that I have ranted about this exact situation previously; perhaps even exactly one year ago, but I digress...

So we drove 'home' to Kentucky for Thanksgiving. Traffic all the way through Chattanooga was a trainwreck. It was backed up from about 10 miles from the GA-TN border all the way into/through the city! Horror show! While that was annoying, I have to vent about what ticks me off for holiday drivers--I call them the "Over the river and through the woods" drivers. Kind of like the people who only go to church on Easter, Mother's Day and Christmas (you know the types!) these drivers only drive on the interstate for 'special' occasions (like Thanksgiving and Christmas) and don't really know how to handle themselves on the open road.

I have driven thousands of miles over my 44 years, and have driven from ATL to OWB (Owensboro, KY, my home town) many times from when I turned 16 to the present time. The directions are easy: From Owensboro, you go south. When you get to Nashville turn left. When you get to Chattanooga go right. That's pretty much it! Well, these "holiday" drivers may know how to get from point A to point B but they don't realize why there is a left lane. People, the left lane is for PASSING. It's like this--there are times when the road is 'full' (i.e. there is nowhere to go, pure volume). But there are also times when you're driving down the road and there's a lone idiot sitting in the left lane. No clue, no reason to be there, so you just blow on by in the right lane.

Other times? In a word, "clumps". Sure, you're moving with the pack, rolling by at or barely above the speed limit. But there will be a clump of 5 cars parked in the left lane at the same speed, and the right lane is wide open. SO, you risk a ticket and get in the right lane for an 80mph (or more) sprint (as they will inevitably speed up once they see that they can block you--usually the GA drivers, of course). Once you pass all five cars, odds are they will all remain in the left lane, but you remain in the proper (right) lane until you reach the next clump of lemmings.

Another fun left-lane bandit is the type that plays 'pace car' and holds up an entire lane of traffic by jumping in the left lane to slowwwwlly pass the truck or other obstruction in the right lane. Once they finally move back to the right the entire clump gets to resume 'normal' speeds (cross reference 'clumps' above).

A final favorite (again, esp. among GA drivers, usually the "educator" license plates) is the 'race car' driver. You've been sitting behind one idiot (solo) pace car (as noted) and they finally pull into the right lane. What's this? They've been driving 72 mph for the past several miles (where you couldn't pass them). Now that the lane is free, suddenly they are pacing you or going a bit faster than you (just enough that you can't pass them without speeding up)! Once again, hit the go-pedal and suddenly you're doing 82! Why? It's the only way to actually pass them! Once they are passed they (surprise!) go back to their previous speed (as noted by their minuscule presence in your rear-view mirror), never to be seen again unless you make a pit-stop.

SO: which driver are you? If you were on I-24 or I-75 during the holidays and got passed by a gold SUV w/GA "horse" (that's equestrian to you and me) tags, YOU might be referenced in this blog post! : ) I hate to say it, but I won't be apologizing to you--I'll look forward to YOUR apology for blocking the way home for all of us! Be safe out there and watch out for idiots!

DISCLAIMER: I do not recommend being an overly aggressive driver. I do not like people who weave in and out of traffic driving unsafely, this is not condoned as well. While what I reference above does admittedly talk about exceeding the speed limit at times, I do so with a well-maintained vehicle on fresh tires, an alert driver (no cell talking/texting, eating/sleeping) and (as my family is aboard) I don't take great risks in order to save a minute or two (especially as my 'barometer' (Susie :) is sitting next to me, ensuring that I don't get out of hand!). As for motorcyclists who like to weave in and out of traffic at high speeds--your nickname (stolen from doctor friends) of "organ donors" is applicable-think about it.... Have a great (and safe) drive home today!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Home sales UP in October

We know why, right? The tax credit was set to expire next Monday but people rushed to get their home purchases handled before then. This month will be a good month but it does seem that October produced more closings. One reason is the delay in getting financing--even people with money and/or good credit are having trouble getting loans! Likewise it's very difficult to get a solid appraised value on homes right now as prices are still being skewed by foreclosures. Finally, we are NOT out of the woods as it relates to foreclosures--not until we get employment handled. But hey, at least people will have access to healthcare, right? (Yes, Virginia, that's sarcasm. We need to get the Economy back on track FIRST; get JOBS back FIRST; then worry about healthcare-and maybe take a stab at Social Security while you're at it!)

Here's a link to the story.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

RESPA changes to the GFE and HUD-1 begin January 1, 2010. Are you ready?

Are you ready for the $1,000.00 closing? Let me explain...

I have recently attended two seminars to learn about new RESPA rules taking affect January 1, 2010 as it relates to the new Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and the revised HUD-1 Settlement Statement. Be ready for some BIG changes! If this is news to you you may want to give me a call as you don't want to be caught off guard. The goal for the new GFE is to allow consumers to go shopping for the best deal on their loan. Likewise, they want consumers to be able to compare apples to apples (rates, lender fees, closing fees, state fees, etc.). Another goal is to ensure that the closing numbers (on the HUD-1) will match the GFE exactly. I have no issues with these goals; I have seen several 'surprises' at the table in my career and it is never fun for any of us--especially the borrower. Hopefully this will happen less often with these 'new and improved' (well, maybe?) disclosures.

As for the $1,000 closing comment, this speaks to line 1101 from the new HUD called "title services and lenders' title insurance". Translation: ALL of our closing fees will be lumped together. Take all of our standard purchase fees: $450 attorney fee, $125 title search, $50 title binder, $55 "Special Handling"/courier fee--add that together and you already have $680. Lender's title insurance is published by the title company as being $2.00 per $1,000 in loan value, so take a $100,000 loan and that $680 ends up being $880.00 for "attorney fees" which may create 'sticker shock' for your clients. For that matter, Owner's title insurance will be a separate line as well.

Please make note of those fees and that bottom line and compare it with other firms. We are proud of the lack of junk fees that many other firms charge over and above what is listed (no $25 wire fee, $25 tax search fee, $150 'doc prep' fee, etc.). I acknowledge that we are NOT the cheapest but I know that you won't find the same level of customer service elsewhere!

I have much more to say about this topic but I want to leave you with one more thought--IF your buyers or borrowers truly start shopping, I just want to pass along something that we've seen (remember-the law firm is the last person in the chain). Some lenders can quote a great deal--my question is "can they deliver?" I am a fan of free enterprise and low costs, but I want to be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone if I have a problem--it's no different with loans. You need to have someone you can reach as well as someone who can actually get us a package. CAVEAT: loans are no longer the 'Wild Wild West' but underwriting and/or appraisals can delay a closing--or kill it (thanks HVCC! Look for a posting on this and other reasons to contact your Congressman soon). Suffice it to say that it's not always your lender's fault; sometimes it's totally out of their control. With that being said, based on all the new disclosure requirements, choose wisely. Make sure you have a great team--lender, agent and (of course!) your closing attorney. Contact me anytime to chat about this or any other issues you may face. Thanks for your business, your interest and your friendship! See you soon!

Monday, November 16, 2009

What am I going to do on Friday now?

Unfortunately Sprayberry High School's football team lost their first round playoff game to Marist High School last Friday, thus ending our football season. It was a great game and a hard fight--a fitting end to a solid year of football. Now what? No more football, cheeseburgers and fries (or Chick Fil A), popcorn and hot chocolate. I guess we'll be back to gathering on the sofa for movie night (or we'll venture out to 'actual' movies--New Moon, anyone?). Who knows, maybe we can take in a Gwinnett Gladiators game soon or some other event? Regardless, it was great to be a part of 3 straight years of Sprayberry being in the playoffs and I look forward to our son Joey's 2010 Senior season! Go Sprayberry Yellowjackets!

Frank W. Wagner, Jr.

I thought I would add my Dad's Obituary here; I loved my Dad and I really think of him often and thank God for him and how much of a great Father he was to me. He did so much for the Owensboro community and there were so many people that were touched by him. I was amazed to see so many close friends at his funeral and the 'party' afterwards was exactly what he had asked and 'required'. It was sad, but a great way to celebrate such a unique individual!

Text follows:
Frank W Wagner, 78, of Owensboro, died Sunday, September 27, 2009, at the Owensboro Medical Health System. Frank was born on August 28, 1931, to the late Frank W Wagner, Sr., and Louise Wagner in Charleston, WV. Frank was a talented jazz pianist, a retired homebuilder and real estate developer, and an extraordinary husband, father and friend. He was a member of Settle Memorial United Methodist Church. He was a long time member, past president and Paul Harris Fellow recipient of the Owensboro Rotary Club with 36 years of perfect attendance. Frank was also past president of the Owensboro Board of Realtors and twice served as president of the Owensboro Home Builders Association. He was a past President of the Home Builders Association of Kentucky and was inducted into the Kentucky Housing Hall of Fame in 2004. More importantly, Frank Wagner enjoyed jazz music, playing the piano, spending quality time with family and friends, giving generously within the Owensboro community. Frank loved life and had an amazing ability to permanently influence those who knew him well. Frank would never want or expect anyone to mourn his death. Instead, he would challenge everyone to live life to the fullest.

Survivors include his wife and “soul mate” of 51 years, Helen S Wagner; a daughter, Dr. Elizabeth Wagner Bozeman and her husband, Dr. Gary Douglas Bozeman of Spartanburg, SC; a son, Frank W Wagner, III, “Bo” and his wife, Erie Susan Wagner of Marietta, GA; four grandchildren, Blake Bozeman, Christy McMillen, Joseph Tait, and Julia Tait; a sister, Barbara Ann Angelo and her husband Bill of Charleston, WV; and a nephew, Michael Angelo, and his wife Kelly and their daughter Sabrina of Smyrna, GA.

Services will be at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 1, 2009, in the Chapel of Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory. Friends are invited to attend a special gathering at the Campbell Club after the service to celebrate Frank’s remarkable life. Visitation will be held from 3 pm until 5 pm on Thursday at the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to:

The Daviess County Public Library
2020 Frederica Street
Owensboro, KY 42301

Settle Memorial United Methodist Church
201 East Fourth Street
Owensboro, KY 42303

Owensboro Museum of Fine Art
901 Frederica Street
Owensboro, KY 42301

Owensboro Symphony Orchestra
211 East Second Street
Owensboro, KY 42303

Rotary International Polio Plus
c/o 1735 Frederica Street
Owensboro, KY 42301

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

September 28, 2009

Yes, I know it's October 28th, but I have to relate back to my thoughts on 9/28 as it's fresh on my mind...

On September 28, 2009 I woke up for the first time without a father. I know that many other of you have lost fathers, and I hate all of our collective losses; I just felt like writing about it today from my perspective.

I have always been close to my parents; I could never relate to movies where the characters didn't get along with one or both of their parents. That's not to say that we didn't agree at all times, but I have always had a loving relationship with both of them. When I woke up in my old childhood bedroom on 9/28, I wasn't able to walk into their room and greet both of them like normal. I didn't hear my Dad's bellowing nose-blowing (think of a bull-moose in heat) or hear him hollering for Mom to warm his coffee. I didn't get to see his blue eyes twinkle or hear him say my name. As you could guess, I could keep going and fill pages of things I miss and even tell you how his pillow smelled that morning, but I think you can understand how I felt (and still feel to this day). Not a day passes without something reminding me of Dad--from a question that he could easily answer by giving him a call, to seeing a photo in a magazine that I would share with him, to knowing how he'd react to something silly on the TV (like a politician rambling on about a hot topic, etc). There is a hole in my life and it won't soon be filled. I loved my Dad and I'm not afraid to show/share my emotions.

I guess my message to you is to share YOUR love and emotions with those around you... ...TODAY... NOW. Why? You may be talking to them for the last time when you speak with them and not even know it. When I talked to him on Saturday the 26th, I knew he was not feeling well (he was definitely not himself) but we had a nice chat--I was telling him that I had picked up his wine to bring to Kentucky the next weekend (he would fax me an 'order' to go to Total Wines & More as their selection and prices were much better that in our home town). He was looking forward to seeing me and I got to say I loved him. If I didn't have that conversation with him I would be very sad today. Yes, I'm still sad over his death the next day, but somehow it was better to have talked to him under more or less 'normal' circumstances, versus saying goodbye to him as he lay on a bed in the ICU. He waited for my sister and I to say goodbye, and for that I am eternally grateful to him and to our loving God who allowed him to wait for us to get to the hospital and say goodbye before he took Dad home.

I love my family, I am blessed that my Mother is doing well, I am blessed to have married my wife Susie and that her family and children have accepted me into their lives freely. I know I don't always tell everyone how much I love them and how sorry I am for how often I hurt their feelings or bark orders, etc. (I'm a bit of a bull in a china shop if you didn't know me well enough) but I hope that they will read this and hear me say I LOVE YOU (I can assure you that I will be telling them that after I click on "Publish Post").

God bless you all, thanks for reading this and hug your family in person or over the phone/email, etc. today! Bo

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why Blog?

It's funny, you hear all the "Web 2.0" people talk about blogging because you can increase your business, your exposure, etc. (which is technically why I started blogging) but for me it has turned into a bit of an outlet. As my last post a moment ago noted, I haven't written much in a bit and it actually 'gnaws' at me a bit. I think about things I want to express but I haven't had time to write about it. Who knows, I am most likely typing for cyberspace but even if one person reads this and is entertained, that's great! For that matter if NO ONE ever reads this, it's still great because I feel better when I express myself this way. You don't have to agree with some of my comments or viewpoints (esp. on BoKnowsEconomics, where I tend to rant on more political topics) but I hope something you read will make you think (or just smile...). God bless you and have a great weekend; I just wanted to let you know how I felt. Take care, Bo

Yes, I'm still here...

I need to get back to posting. My last post was just before my father died (Frank Wagner, Jr. 8/28/31-9/27/9, rest in peace Dad!) and I've been slammed, playing catch-up, exhausted or just plain distracted (all of the above, depending on the day!). Keep in touch, I'll be back online soon. (I have posted on my other 2 blogs, BoKnowsVino and BoKnowsEconomics, but only as things 'hit' me. I have a lot I want to express so look for more posts moving forward :) Sometimes just ranting, but never dull, I promise! Chat with you soon; Cheers, bo

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Atlanta Flooding

I feel for all the people who have lost homes in all of our recent flooding. While it didn't truly affect us (except for some deep water detours and heavy traffic) our office had some intense flooding behind us. Take a look at Peachtree Creek on Monday morning (2 shots, deep water) and then Tuesday (in a word-MUD) and today (dirty and dusty). I count my blessings that this is all my family had to face in this tough situation. Please say a prayer for those who lost everything (or even people who had a bit of 'nuisance' water dribble into their homes). Have a safe and dry evening.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Atlantans cannot drive... or use their brains it seems!

What is it with Atlanta drivers? As a Southerner I'd make fun of people (read: Yankees) who now live here and brought bad habits with them, but this is actually all based on common sense-or lack thereof!

It's raining, dark, foggy or overcast--doesn't matter; it's 'kinda dark'. So what would someone with common sense do? TURN ON YOUR HEADLIGHTS. In ATL? It means continue to drive like an idiot (pick your 'annoyance'--texting while driving, cell phone chatting, no turn signals, swerving in and out of lanes or being a left-lane bandit).

Let me say this again: IT IS A LAW TO HAVE YOUR LIGHTS ON WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR WIPERS ON. Even if it's not raining (or just plain overcast/dusk) why not turn on your lights so that you can see and be seen? Just because you may have x-ray vision, the law still applies to you (especially the whiz kids who drive gray/white/silver/black cars that get lost in low-light situations).

So use your brains, ATLiens--you may save your own life in the process!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What I did for my Summer Vacation...

From my most recent newsletter...

As I opened up iContact to work on this newsletter, I was embarassed to see that my LAST email (entitled "Who Am I?") was dated June 12th. Alas, I fell victim to the Summertime blues and I did not keep up with my blogs or my newsletters. Shame on me! I trust you were able to find your own wines and figured out the economy all by yourself? Congrats! Me? I got to spend quality time with my family. My parents took Susie and I to Hawaii (along with my sister and her husband) over the 4th of July holiday and earlier this month, Susie got to celebrate her birthday in Puerto Rico (grab a great deal quickly before flights go up!). As for our kids, Julia finally got to go to 'horse camp' for a week while poor Joey had football practice just about every day. Other activities included a family garage sale and going to some great concerts (in fact, my ears are still ringing from the Jonas Brothers last Saturday--little girls sure can scream loudly!). How about you? Anything fun for you this past Summer? Let me hear from you soon!

New Website is up and running!

Check out www.harriswagnerlaw.com and see what you think! Yes, we still need to sort out a few pages, but we're finally up and running in cyberspace! Cheers, Bo

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jonas Brothers Live!

Well, I can now say that I have seen the Jonas Brothers. I don't know what month the Beatles hit ATL back in 1965, but suffice it to say that I wasn't old enough to have been there :) I WAS at the Jonas Brothers concert last Saturday night and I have to admit that I enjoyed the show. My ears, however, have a different opinion! I am not sure but if you compared the decibel level of a 747 at takeoff to the screams of teen and pre-teen girls there would be a close comparison! I read about the ATL show that the Beatles had--evidently a local engineer rigged up the first true concert sound system and the band could actually hear themselves (vs. NYC and prior concerts where they couldn't hear themselves over the screams of the girls). Ditto for ATL circa 2009--the sound quality is much better (i.e. you could hear (and feel) the music, despite the 2 gals next to us screaming "I love you Nick"). I really can't describe how the screams would reverberate throughout my head--it's like they hit some heretofore unknown frequency that made my ears bleed (okay, that's an exaggeration but it sure seemed that way Sunday morning).

It was great for Susie and I to watch our 9 year old smiling and enjoying the concert. Julia had a ball and I know she had a great time (though she was worried about being able to hear her teacher today!). Her first concert was also this year(No Doubt was at Lakewood; a great show, but horrid location and HOT)-- now she can say she's seen her idols. Susie and I may look back when we're old and gray in our rocking chairs (and the Jonas Brothers are headlining in Vegas) and we can say we saw them at their peak (who knows; they may even be bigger than they are right now; here's hoping they escape the 'teen idol' image and continue to make music years and years from now... you never know!). We'll see! In the meantime, next time I will know to take earplugs--you should too :) Cheers, Bo

Monday, July 20, 2009

John F. Kennedy Quotes

I got an email that started with a quote from JFK that I wish the current politicos would read: "An economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance our budget, just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits."

While trying to confirm that this was indeed JFK, I also found another one that amazed me (based on our current National situation): "Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future."

And another one: "The tax on capital gains directly affects investment decisions, the mobility and flow of risk capital... the ease or difficulty experienced by new ventures in obtaining capital, and thereby the strength and potential for growth in the economy."

Wow. So what the hell is our Congress up to? There is too much partisan BS going on in Washington and WAY too much spending and both parties are to blame. I can't believe the costs of our programs--it's funny how much costs to do business are rising DUE to the government. Everyone blames the current mess we're in on lack of restrictions; that is true to a degree (esp. as it relates to non-collateralized securities) but if the government would stay out of our lives, we would be in much better shape! My 2 cents and soapbox for today... Cheers, Bo

Friday, July 17, 2009

Who is Bo Wagner?

I guess the subtitle is "Who am I?" or "What do I do for a living?"

If you are an agent or loan officer, I'm sure this has happened to you before--you're talking to a long-time friend and they drop a bomb that they just closed on a home or refinance. You want to shake them and say "Hey dummy, that's what I do for a living!" Well, I'm not shaking you, and I'm certainly not questioning your intelligence, but I do want to remind you that I am a real estate attorney and 99% of what I do relates to closing transactions on real estate.
Why choose a closing attorney? I know we can sometimes be seen as a commodity, but think about some of your past closings. Were they consistent? Were they all smooth? How did the attorney handle 'interesting' situations? Were you able to reach the attorney or their staff? Did they return calls? What about issues after closing?
Yes, there are a lot of closing attorneys out there and I know that any attorney can have a bad day, have a bumpy closing or not be on their game. However, I can promise you that I return calls (why do you think I have my cell # on my card?) and emails--usually within an hour at the latest. Likewise, our team is awesome! Why not give us a shot on your next closing? You will see that there is a difference! We will go the extra mile to make sure that your clients and friends are happy after the closing. And one other thing to think about--if you made the referral, we all share the kudos when the client walks out the door with a smile on their face.
We truly appreciate your business and hope to see you again soon. If you haven't used us before (the horror!) please keep us in mind! Likewise, don't forget that we can come to you! (ask about our mobile closing services!)

Atlanta's contradictions

Two articles, two differing viewpoints. On one hand, we're one of the happiest cities in the USA. On the other, we have the most rude drivers. Go figure, eh? I guess it's kind of like our weather. Don't like it right now? Stick around a bit; it'll change. By the way, we are still #6 in the country for foreclosures...

Final silly comment of this post:

Q: What do you call Atlanta after 3 days of rain?

A: Monday

Cheers, Bo

Monday, June 22, 2009

Selling versus Listing

I know that we are still in a tough real estate market and I know that every day you need to be out there calling and working on getting new business. I do, however, find it interesting how some real estate agents work so hard at 'selling' me to list with them. I had one agent repeatedly ask me to list my house with them so we can 'get it sold'. I agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly but let's be honest--I want someone to sell my HOUSE not sell ME on listing with them. If you have a buyer, bring them to me. I guarantee you will be paid as it is right on the listing contract. If you keep your buyers to yourself (or try to push only your own listings) then you may be wasting your time. I guess that's my mindset--get a deal closed--any deal. I remember my Mom griping about a small listing she had years ago as it was turning into a lot of work. I reminded her that a lot of small listings (and SALES) = a large paycheck. There are worse things than that I guess! So as you pick up the phone to cold call expired listings, remember that your focus is on the client and getting the house sold (yes, I know that's what the agent was telling me) but you can do that any day of the week if you can just round up the right person--that rare person known as a BUYER. That's who you need to find-people who know that you are going to find them the perfect house--perfect for THEM, not perfect because it has your listing sign in the yard. That's my 2 cents as a seller! Am I missing something here?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What's it going to take? $8,000 + $1,800 tax credits are here!

If you are a first-time homebuyer, you can receive an $8,000 tax credit for your home purchase. Like the TV ads say, "But wait, there's more!" FHA is working on sorting out a way to allow buyers to use that tax credit as a loan/down-payment! Details aren't finalized, but keep that in mind as you get out there and look at houses. Likewise, eligible properties for sale in Georgia will allow you to take an $1,800 deduction on GA taxes as well!

So is $9,800 too small a sum for you? What's it going to take?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tick tock, you've got 6 months to buy a home in Georgia--TAX CREDIT IN HB 261 IS LAW!

Governor Sonny Perdue signed HB 261 into law yesterday; Georgia homebuyers now have SIX MONTHS to buy a home and 'earn' a $1,800.00 tax credit. Read the press release entitled "Governor Signs Housing Tax Credit Championed by Sen. Pearson" here

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Of Discover Card and Congressional Hearings

I hear today that several credit card companies will be called before Congress today to 'chat' about some of their current horrid practices in the face of the credit crisis. While I do understand that they are losing a ton of money with people losing jobs/not paying their obligations, I do NOT feel for them at all as it relates to people who are 'doing the right thing'. Here's the lesson for today: the credit card companies are charging fees and exorbitant rates due to OTHER people's problems and they are passing on their costs to YOU. Be careful out there with your credit and definitely do NOT end up paying late or you will face high fees AND they may randomly up your interest rate! Check out Clark Howard's website for more info on that kind of thing, but here's my beef with Discover.

Discover Card is not as popular as Visa/Mastercard and AMEX (though many people don't take AMEX due to their high fees). I had a Discover card for almost 2 decades and had a decent credit line. As you can imagine, after starting a new business we had a few bills. I took advantage of a zero percent balance transfer with Discover and had to pay it off before March 25th or I'd be hit with all the interest I deferred. Guess what? I DID MY PART. I paid it in full and felt very happy and proud to retire that debt. What did THEY do? They REWARDED me by sending a letter to say that my credit line was reduced to $500.00 (it was over 10K before). SO this is how they rewarded me for doing what I agreed to do (and I never had a blemish with them for all these years). Why? because I ran up a balance and paid it off... they considered me a credit risk because it was admittedly a high balance--but I paid it off??? Well, I rewarded THEM by cancelling the card.

Moral of the story? Do business with 'loyal' friends; don't reward people who screw you over! Even though Discover is the preferred card at Sam's club, I'll use my M/C instead! Be careful out there!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Miscellaneous Ramblings from 3/31 Newsletter

What a difference a month makes! Are we beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel (or is that light merely the train coming to run us down?)? I know all of this is just my own opinion, but I tend to think that yes, we are starting to "Turn the Titanic'. I've used that phrase for years, but it seems appropriate for our current situation. You can look below for more thoughts on the economy, but based on increased purchase traffic and what I'm reading out there, things are looking up. Hopefully we can dodge the iceberg...

I recently received a weekly newsletter from Clark Howard noting that soon mortgage rates could drop to the 3's. As I respect Clark, I read the article where he said that rates may drop to 3.875% (by MAY, and only for 15 year loans!). While he may be correct, judging from the comments to his story, people seemed to think that it may be best to wait to refinance. In a word, NO. Who knows what will happen between now and then? We are beginning to see more orders for purchases (thank goodness!) and lender friends are saying they are still slammed with refinances. Personally, I don't see the value in waiting much longer when rates are at historical lows. You may get a slightly better deal and/or save a few extra dollars, but is it worth the stress? Don't hate yourself for missing out completely!

Speaking of refinances, if you think your home value has dropped so that you can't refi, check out the HUD/Treasury Department's new website to see if you can refinance or modify your current loan.

Bo the Presidential dog?

Sigh... yet ANOTHER dog named Bo. Don't get me wrong, I like the name Bo for dogs, it's just the irony that my name is Bo as well. When people meet me I am used to the common comment "Oh, I had a dog named Bo". At least it's usually a Lab or a decent sized dog that's named Bo, not some stupid 'purse dog' like you'd see Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton carry around. So Go Bo Go! I look forward to watching you grow! (And luckily for my family, I don't shed either...)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Public Service Announcement

For all my fellow Georgians: please consider following Georgia law and TURN ON YOUR HEADLIGHTS when it is raining. It blows my mind how people (quite often in silver or white cars that 'disappear' in the rain) don't a) realize that it is a good/safe idea and b) it's the law here in GA (and many other states). I saw one clueless girl with her hazards on (white car, on her cell, BTW) but no headlights. Gee, if she had just turned on her lights, her car would be visible to other drivers! What a concept! Just a rant on a rainy day... Be safe/keep dry! Cheers, Bo

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Clark Howard is WRONG!

See my comments on his show notes... Funny, another GA attorney must have received the AM 750 email blast and put in his 2 cents as well! LOCK TODAY!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Good News/Bad News again...

Good news: February home sales are UP! Bad news: sales levels were still as low as in 1963 (for January). Bottom line? Things are starting to pick up--sales are up, prices have creeped up, rates are still low... for now! With all the money printing going on in DC, the dreaded "I" word will HAVE to rear its' ugly head someday soon. Yep, INFLATION. So, if you are on the fence, BUY NOW. If you are waiting to refi because you're waiting on another 1/8 point drop, STOP IT--go ahead and LOCK and save the drama!

Take a 100,000 loan (for this exercise, I am computing interest ONLY). At 4.875, the monthly interest portion would be $406.25. At 4.75% it falls to $395.83 and 4.5% it drops further to $375. So riddle me this-is it worth waiting and waiting in hopes that it drops to 4.5% (which it may, to be honest) or get nailed when it goes back over 5% (that would = 416.66). Why not just lock today as you a) will have a guaranteed LOW rate (i.e. don't get too greedy) and b) you can still get a loan based on current lending standards (underwriting standards change so often it can make your head spin!). I guess that would be the 'bird in hand' theory for mortgage rates. Who knows, if rates truly do drop, maybe you can refi again! But if you're sitting there at 5.75% or higher, what the heck?

While we're at it, click HERE for an AWESOME house!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Positive News Alert!!!

Who says things aren't looking up? Yesterday it was Wall Street (stocks closing over 390 points higher), today it's one of Coca-Cola's economic forecasters. I love the quote per the AJC, attributed to Carlos Herrera: "2009 is survival... If you show up at the end of 2009, you're doing well." I know that he represents a different industry than mine, but it is a positive report and you know I'm all about the positive! Another reason for the rally was positive news about Citigroup (they evidently tossed out the P word--PROFIT). Likewise, Fed Chair Bernanke's comments at the Council on Foreign Relations outlined potential new regulations for the financial markets which seemed to be confidence-inspiring. And finally, it may be time to buy some Ford stock as they hammered out some necessary concessions with the UAW. Hourly wages will drop to roughly $55/hour which comes closer to foreign builders' wages, which are in the $48-50 range. Will GM be next or will they have to file Chapter 11 (reorganization) Bankruptcy? One odd thing--it's funny to start beating on your chest and say "Buy American". Do you know that the auto with the highest percentage of US-made parts is actually build in CANADA? (that would be the Ford Crown Victoria). Hondas built in Ohio have over 50% US-made parts/assembly (but it's still considered "foreign" to the masses). Ditto for Toyota's Camry and Avalon built in Georgetown Kentucky. Crazy stuff, eh?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fun times with Newsletters

I just tried iContact to send my newsletters. So far I am pretty pleased! I hope that you are signed up to receive it (if not, click on the link at the bottom of the page) and I will get you added! It's better looking than my old newsletter and it allows me to track results. So far so good. If you end up joining them, make sure to use me as a referral : ) I will be putting more content on my blogs (info from my newsletters, at a minimum). I often blog 'between newsletters' if something gets me excited (positive or negative). Heading out for the evening; looking forward to that crisp, clean air (esp. since we're back in the 50's here in ATL : ) Cheers, Bo

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Some Happy stuff for today...

See my Economics Blog for some HAPPY NEWS :) Have a lovely day, y'all! Bo

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What is a “Homestead Exemption” and how do I get one?

In Georgia, a homeowner is entitled to a homestead exemption on their home and property as long as 1) the home was owned by the homeowner and 2) it was their legal residence as of January 1 of the current tax year. That’s great, but what does that really mean? Let’s break it down, step by step.

“Homestead” historically meant the dwelling house and the adjoining land (as well as the land underneath the home) where the head of the family dwells—this came from the concept of a traditional “family farm”. “Exemption” more or less means that the person making the claim of homestead will be exempted or immune from a portion of the ad valorem property tax on their real property (ad valorem means “according to value” if you’re curious). To sum it up, a homestead exemption gives you a tax break on your principal legal residence—you must actually occupy the home and use it as your legal residence. A second home or rental property would obviously not apply.

To obtain this exemption you will need to apply at your local county’s Tax Commissioner OR Tax Assessor’s office. To further confuse the issue, some counties will allow you to do this online, whereas many will make you file the paperwork in person. The process is quite simple—you need to obtain the proper form (usually available online or at their offices) and you will need to provide proof of ownership. That can also differ per county so you definitely need to contact your county to confirm a) what they need and b) where to go. The key is that you own and occupy the property as of January 1 of the current year. Let’s look at a few examples:

You bought your new home December 31, 2008 (Congratulations!) and it will be your primary legal residence. You may file your homestead exemption in 2009 for property taxes for 2009. Note-you have until March 1st to file this exemption for 2009.

You buy your home February 13, 2009. You can actually file your Homestead Exemption at any time in 2009, but it will not take affect until 2010 (translation: you can file in 2009 to get it over with, but there will be no affect on your tax bill until 2010). Note: some counties require a copy of the recorded Warranty Deed to your home in order to process the Homestead exemption, so be aware that you may have time constraints when filing as it can be weeks before the deed is on the County Clerk’s records.

Again, contact your county directly as some will only require your declaration, a copy of your closing HUD-1 Settlement Statement and/or a current utility bill. Other traditional requirements are further proof of Georgia/County residency such as your driver’s license, car tag information and proof of automobile registration.

For more information, go to the Georgia Department of Revenue’s website and also use this link to find out more info about your particular county.

Remember--it's a GREAT time to buy a home; hopefully the GOP will get some of their tax cuts for homebuyers in this new economic "Gimme" bill (God help us) to actually do something to stimulate home sales further (like in December--check out my Economics Blog for more info!).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day 1 of # 44

Love him or hate him, we have a new President now. As you most likely know, I did not vote for Obama, but as far as how I think of his performance (let's see, he's been President for 4.5 hours or so : ) I was impressed. Yes, his speech had some undertones that I expected but overall I think his message was that of inclusion and "healing". We have had nothing but devisive politics for the last 8 years (as a sidenote, what are all the Bush haters going to complain about now??? : ) and Obama's tone was that of inclusion and 'let's all get along'. Bravo! We need that, not more to split us apart. I contrast that with Sean Hannity today--I still had my radio on AM (from listening to the entire inaugural address) when Hannity came on. I figured it would be entertaining to hear his take (figuring it would be 'middle of the road' and 'let's wait and see') but was disappointed to hear him trash PO's speech (PO=President Obama : ) and talk incredibly negative about him. How disappointing! I will try to listen to Boortz tomorrow--he's actually quite sensible; will be interested to hear his take as well. Today's "Neal's Nuze" was spot on in my opinion (you may have to look up "archives" and 1/20/09; not sure how the link will work).

Bottom line: He's my President even though he wasn't my Candidate. I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I hope for our country that he actually took his "swear words" serious as he held his hand on Lincoln's bible. We'll see. Four years, President Obama; you've got that much time to prove the naysayers wrong. Make us proud! God Bless America!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thoughts on Home Warranty Companies

I was surprised to read this story in the news today--while I was not surprised at the issues presented, I WAS surprised to read about companies that were previously unknown to me. My wife used American Home Shield for years at her prior home (a lovely 1970's "cottage") and was able to keep her ancient 1970's HVAC system running. It's funny-they did the typical 'band-aid' style warranty work versus spending more to actually FIX something for good. They fixed bits and pieces of her HVAC but her original compressor remained outside as well as some other internal bits. To contrast that, I pass signs on I-75 noting they can replace an entire system for $1599--so AHS spent more than that to fix the "single" problems piecemeal. Oh well, I'm sure they have some CPA figure all that out... We now have Old Republic Home Warranty and to date we've had no issues with them at our new home (fridge repairs, HVAC fuse, and oven element repair). I bought a warranty for my old house (rented through March, so make me an offer : ) with HSA--they were not so helpful. All I will say is make sure to read the fine print with any/all warranty company. As an example, I think HSA was the only one of the 'biggies' used in metro-ATL (ORHW, AHS, First American, HSA) that did not cover the ductwork with an HVAC repair, so to compare apples to apples, repairs using that warranty would cost me more out of pocket (then there is the issue of customer "service" from them). Suffice it to say that I will offer a different home warranty when I market it this Spring!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Random 2009 thoughts

Yep, I'll join the masses in saying GOOD RIDDANCE to 2008 (though I cannot complain as we opened our new firm last year and saw some decent success out of the starting gate!). So HAPPY NEW YEAR, right? Sure! Rates are under 5% (as of this afternoon that is) and I see that the Metro Mike billboard shows that home sales have dropped the inventory down to a little over 81,000 homes in the metro ATL area. What's the big deal? Well, it was over 113,000 at one point last year! Yes, we have a glut of empty lots ready for new homes (try an 18 month supply???) but if you want to buy there are huge opportunities! Stocks are up a bit, we're getting rain again, heck, I'm thinking it's all pretty great right now! With that being said, we're not out of the woods as of yet. Good things may be on the horizon, but we're all apparently 'hunkering down' and spending less (or not as the case may be, take a look at my Economics blog). I know, that's "un-American" but it's a great change from the go-go 00's, mortgaging to the hilt. I think that 'hangover' is almost over and we'll be in good shape again by the end of this year. So mark my words down today: 2009 is going to be a great year! I look forward to hearing YOUR thoughts on this! Cheers, Bo