Friday, March 24, 2006

Ways you can lose your home

There are times and ways that people lose their homes through foreclosure or possession. The way many rags-to-riches seekers pursue the quick buck is through the foreclosure sales. Nevertheless, there are several other ways homeowners or investors can lose property. Below are at least six ways a homeowner can lose their property to the auction block.

*Don't pay your mortgage. Generally, quit paying your mortgage and you'll end up getting past due notices, followed by foreclosure proceedings notices and then a visit from the sheriff's office to "assist" you in removing all your property from the household.

While there may appear to be a lot of foreclosures out there, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports that less than 1 percent of mortgages in 2005 went into foreclosure (down 12 basis points from the year before.) However, the number of mortgagees in default rose the last reporting quarter to 4.70 percent.

The increase comes as no surprise to the group's chief economist, Doug Duncan. "We have been expecting an up-tick in delinquencies due to a number of factors: the seasoning of the loan portfolio, the increased shares of the portfolio that are ARMs and subprime mortgages, as well as the elevated level of energy prices and rising interest rates," he said on the group's website.

*Don't pay your taxes. For homeowners who pay their own taxes, (not paid through a mortgage service provider), a tax sale could be in their future if they fail to pay taxes on the property. Though most tax sales are through local governments, both state and federal revenue agencies can confiscate real estate for not paying taxes.

If this happens, it's not as simple as just paying the back taxes and getting your property back. For some, it includes also paying penalties and interest, which many times can bypass the actual amount of the back taxes balance.

If your local taxing jurisdiction is anything like mine here in good old Fairfax County, Virginia, then the confiscation of your home is a last resort -- first they will have tried various other methods of tax collection, such as garnishing wages, confiscated money from your bank, booting and towing your car, then of course, selling your house on the auction block.

*File bankruptcy. In the past, filing bankruptcy usually gave the homeowner some protection from losing his home to creditors. With the revamped bankruptcy laws passed last year, creditors may now have the upper hand in bankruptcy situations, according to Herbert Addison, co-author of "How to Save Your Home" and a certified housing counselor. He contends on that while the new law allows for 180 days for the consumer to work out payment plans with the creditor, it does not stop the foreclosure process, which could be a shorter period of time than the payment workout plan.

*Surety for other debts besides mortgage. Creditors are in business for one thing -- to make money off consumers through interest and fees collected during payback of loans. If the consumer fails to pay off those loans, the creditors can go after assets to satisfy the debts. Your house could be one of those assets.

*Failure to pay homeowners dues. If you get into an argument with your homeowners association, withholding the homeowners dues paid each month should not be one of your strategies. HOAs can also auction your house to satisfy past due homeowners HOA fees.

*Illegal activity. The American Civil Liberties Union contends that 80 percent of homeowners who have had property forfeited by the federal, state or local government have never been convicted of a crime, rather law enforcement officials only need to prove probable cause that the homeowner either used the property in committing a crime or purchased the house through funds created through illicit behavior.
(Realty Times)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why St. Patrick's Day Is Important To Americans

Green beer and buckled hats aside, St. Patrick's Day is not a bank holiday, but most Americans celebrate it with gusto anyway. What is St. Patrick's Day and what does it mean to Americans? Here are some ideas, courtesy of research by the U.S. Census.

March is Irish-American Heritage Month, and March 17 is St. Patrick's Day. He was the saint who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century, and March 17 is the day that St. Patrick is believed to have died.

The day is chosen for many Americans to celebrate their Irish lineage, and although it isn't an official federal holiday, many communities participate in the fun with parades and other celebrations. The reason? About 34.5 million U.S. residents claim Irish ancestry (roughly nine times the population of Ireland itself (4.1 million.)

Here are some of other facts for your "Top 'o the mornin'":
Nearly one in four (24 percent) Massachusetts residents claim Irish ancestry -- about double the national percentage. (Source: American FactFinder)

In three states, Delaware, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Irish is the leading ancestry. The number one ancestry named by U.S.residents is German. Irish is among the top-five ancestries in every state but two (Hawaii and New Mexico). (Source: U.S. Census)
About 25,870 U.S. residents speak Irish Gaelic at home (Source: U.S. Census)

There are about 128,000 U.S. residents who were born in Ireland, excluding people living in group quarters. (Source: American FactFinder)

Since 1820, the earliest year for which official immigration records exist, there have been 4.8 million Irish immigrants lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence. By fiscal year 1870, about half of these immigrants were admitted for lawful permanent residence. Only Germany, Mexico, Italy and the United Kingdom have had more immigrants admitted for permanent residence to the United States than Ireland. (Source: Department of Homeland Security Table 1)

Four places in the United States are named Shamrock, the floral emblem of Ireland. Mount Gay-Shamrock, W.Va., and Shamrock, Texas, were the most populous, with 2,623 and 1,821 residents, respectively. Shamrock Lakes, Ind., had 162 residents and Shamrock, Okla., 126. (Statistic for Mount Gay-Shamrock is from Census 2000; the other statistics in this paragraph are 2004 estimates.) (Source: American FactFinder and

Nine U.S. burbs are named after Dublin, the capital of Ireland. Since Census 2000, Dublin, Calif., has surpassed Dublin,Ohio, as the most populous of these places (36,995 compared with 34,301, respectively, as of July 1, 2004). (Source: American FactFinder and

Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional St. Patrick's Day dish. The corned beef celebrants dine on may very well have originated in Texas, which produced 7.3 billion pounds worth of beef, while the cabbage most likely came from California, which produced 558 million pounds worth. In 2004, the U.S. produced 41.5 billion & 2.5 billion U.S. beef and cabbage production, respectively, in pounds. (Source USDA)

On St. Patrick's Day, you may be able to order green-dyed beer at one of the nation's 48,050 drinking places, some of which may be Irish pubs. See Table 201, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2006 .

About 93.3 million people planned to wear green last St. Patrick's Day.(Source: National Retail Federation, via Hallmark.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Selling your home in a shifting market

March 2006
The bidding wars are dying down. Cat fights, heartbreaking personal letters and other strategies employed by desperate buyers are fading into the past. While a freakishly warm winter in the Midwest and East has kept sales hotter than we'd expect to see in January, there have been plenty of signs that things are cooling down. Most economists expect sales of existing homes as well as new construction to sink from last year's record levels. Mix in rising interest rates, and things may start to look grim to anyone pondering a home sale.

But this doesn't mean you have to stay put. You may just need to work a little harder to reel in your buyer. Fortunately, there are plenty of creative, crafty, and just plain logical things you can do to help your home look exceptionally appealing in an inventory-heavy market.
Make a good first impressionYou want potential buyers to fall in love with your home the instant they pull up in front, which is why curb appeal is everything. It's absolutely vital that the yard is immaculate, the flowerbeds are fresh, and the garbage cans are nowhere in sight. Little improvements make a big difference. Freshen up paint, and buy a new welcome mat, doorknocker, and mailbox.

Get lostWhen an agent calls to say they're bringing someone over to see the house, get out. Take a walk, do an errand, get a cup of coffee, twiddle your thumbs, whatever it takes. When the owner is in the home, potential buyers feel uncomfortable exploring and asking questions, and will likely cut their visit short. While you may desperately want to provide a guided tour, listing all of the wonderful things about the house and improvements you've made, that's the agent's job.

De-clutterYou have too much stuff in your house. We're sure of it. We're not just talking about those jeans that haven't fit since college. We're talking big stuff, too. Thinning out furniture will make the home look larger and brighter. Get rid of extra chairs, messy bookshelves, unnecessary end tables, and anything else you can shake loose.

Donate or discard everything you don't need any more, and store the rest in a kindly neighbor's garage, if possible (don't put it in yours—that's what we call cluttershifting, and it doesn't fool anyone). If you need to, rent a storage unit.

De-stinkA less-than-pleasant odor—or really any odor at all—can make your home an instant no-thank-you. If you smoke, do it outside. If you have pets, take them with you during showings. Clean litter boxes religiously. Even the idea of animals is enough to make some buyers flinch.

Throw in a perkEven a small freebie can turn a ''looky-loo'' into an ''offer-loo,'' and make them feel really good about the deal they're getting. In the long run, it's sure to cost you less than the stigma of having your home sit on the market another month. While you'll want to work with your agent on the details, here are a few ideas to get you started:
Got a large yard? Offer to cover your buyer's landscaping fees for a year.
Kitchen hopelessly dated? Have a kitchen designer draw up some plans, and place them in a notebook on the kitchen counter. Provide a ''get started'' bonus for the remodel.
Moving to a smaller home, or one with a different configuration? Grab the opportunity to be generous with your existing furniture. If you won't need that gigantic dining room set in your new place, leave it behind.

While nobody knows exactly what the market will do, those mythic folks in the know feel fairly confident that we're headed for a dose of reality. But an impending slowdown doesn't mean you can't get a fair, or even favorable, price for your home. A little ingenuity, mixed with a bit of elbow grease can put you on the road to a successful sale.
(Courtesy of Washington Mutual)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Homeowners anticipate further home price appreciation


Americans believe home prices will continue rising in the coming years, according to a recent "Los Angeles Times"/Bloomberg poll. Nearly 50 percent of respondents believe their home values will increase by 5 to 15 percent in the next three years, while 25 percent expect home prices to rise 16 percent or more over the same period. "I think the 'bubble' talk is hyped," said Diane Harvey of Foster City, Calif., one of the participants in the poll.

Though the majority of respondents showed optimism about future home price growth, the poll revealed some concern about the impact of rising mortgage interest rates on adjustable-rate mortgages. Roughly one in seven respondents have an adjustable-rate mortgage, and more than 25 percent stated they are "not too confident" or "not at all confident" about their ability to make their mortgage payments if adjusted higher.

The "Los Angeles Times"/Bloomberg poll also found that 16 percent of respondents had tapped into their home equity in the last two years. Completing home improvements, paying off other debts, and buying new cars were among the top uses for the cash obtained.