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First-Time Home Buyers

Mar 5

Foundation Repairs–Should You Flee or Stay?

by Mary Teresa Fowler
House Foundation Repairs

When a home inspector lists 'foundation repairs' in the inspection report, those two words shock home buyers. Yet knowing that your potential new home has foundation problems puts you one step ahead in the game. At least, home inspections alert buyers to major (or minor) concerns about a home's condition.

Professional Help

Buyers need professional advice before they buy a home in need of foundation repairs or a house with a repaired foundation. In both cases, a buyer has reason for concern. Before home buyers commit, they have a choice whether or not to purchase the home. They can weigh their options and explore the solutions.

Second Home Inspection

For peace of mind and a sense of security, buyers could consider getting two home inspections completed before closing. Sometimes, a second home inspection is required as part of the official process of buying a home. A second inspection carries an extra cost but it will give the home buyer another professional opinion. Home inspection is not regulated in all U.S. states. Especially in these unregulated regions, a second home inspection is a smart decision.

Inspections help avoid unpleasant surprises

Repaired Foundation

A home inspection in a previously owned home could reveal foundation repairs. Buyers should not feel at ease with that report. Finding foundation repairs means that a repair has been done to correct earlier damage.

Early failing of a foundation is not a good sign and could be an indication of future damage. As well, surface water and plant life cause foundation damage. While these conditions remain, the foundation is in danger.

Home foundation repair information

Foundation Repairs

When a home inspection reveals a need for foundation repairs, buyers cannot ignore these findings. The problem cannot be delayed and a repair completed somewhere down the line. Foundation repairs are expensive but a St. Louis engineering firm warns buyers not to ask sellers about fixing foundation repairs. The engineers advise that many sellers will choose the cheapest repair option. With a foundation settlement concern, that move could be catastrophic for a new home owner.

Foundation Problems

Complete Fix

Buyers can choose to buy a home with foundation repairs or in need of foundation repairs but they must be prepared for a substantial repair bill. Earlier problems could resurface and current problems must be addressed without delay. Engineers explain that partial piering is not a smart solution. The rest of the piers will have to be replaced at a later date. Choose a reputable company because inadequate piers will cause problems in the future.

Winter Inspections

The Challenge

Sharon Marinaccio, of LeConte Realty in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., raises the issue of home inspections in a wintry climate.

"Home inspections can be more difficult if snow covers decks and the home's foundation. And buyers won't be able to have the air conditioning tested or the pool inspected," says Sharon Marinaccio ~ realtor

The Solution

If a complete home inspection becomes an issue because of extreme winter weather, the buyer does not have to be left out in the cold. Marinaccio explains the solution.

"Agents recommend that buyers ask the seller to put aside money in escrow or supply a home warranty in case repairs are needed later." ~ Sharon Marinaccio

Winter needn't freeze out home sales

Would You Buy A Home In Need Of Foundation Repairs?

Image courtesy of foundationrepairdallas.biz

Feb 22

Buying a Home – Basic Steps

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Buying a Home - Basic Steps

Buying a home is a big decision and step-by-step process. Real estate agents can handle the details and see if a purchase suits your needs. Yet ultimately, this house will be your home so you should prepare yourself for the process. Be ready to invest the necessary money, time, and effort. The investment is well-worth taking the time to follow a few careful and considered steps.


Buying a home should not be one of those 'spur of the moment' times in life. These spontaneous times have their place but not when it comes to purchasing a home. A huge commitment requires careful consideration of various issues.

Do you have your finances in order? Can you access the necessary funds for the entire process – down payment, purchase, closing? Can you handle the commitment beyond the closing including maintenance and mortgage payments? The decision to buy a home has to be right for you.

Of course, home ownership has advantages but the buyer has to be able to handle all aspects of the commitment. Home ownership has benefits including building home equity and receiving tax benefits. If buying a home suits you at this time in your life, it has an advantage over renting in that the monthly payment goes towards your mortgage.

Real Estate Agent

A reputable real estate agent will be one of your most valuable resources throughout this process. Choose carefully from excellent sources. Try to find an agent that you feel comfortable working with through these important steps. Actually, finding a real estate agent whom you feel at ease with should not be too much of a problem. Reputable agents will treat you with the utmost professionalism and have your interests as their priority.

They have a valuable and varied role to play in this purchase. Agents will let you know about the market, discover your preferences, and find a property to match your needs. They are familiar with the neighborhoods and prices and have a whole list of professionals they can draw on for any reason. Real estate agents should have expert negotiating skills and be diligent about checking documents and dealing with any issues in a timely manner.


Buyers must be able to get the necessary financing. In order to receive funding, you have to find a lender, submit an application, and get pre-approval. There are various financial steps to go through before you own your dream home. Figuring out manageable payments and loan options, forwarding an accepted purchase offer contract to your banker, appraisal, title commitment, and money for closing – all are examples of financial-related steps in buying a home.

Pre-approval should be square one for home-buyers


Obviously, you need to have a fixed idea about your preferred neighborhood. You do not need to know from the start about the exact street for your perfect home. Yet you do need to know your general preferences for the area such as near schools or public transporation.

Home Inspection

A home inspection done by a professional who will look for hidden problems in a house is an invaluable service for homeowners. The living room might look fashionable but it will lose its appeal quickly if you move in and discover a faulty foundation. Every step in the home buying process exists for a reason. Don't try to rush, bypass, or ignore any significant details in this monumental purchase – your new home.

Do You Have Any Tips To Offer About Buying A Home?

Image courtesy of realestatecare.co.uk

Feb 19

Real Estate Values - Think Green

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Energy Efficient Home

Doug Overholt of BC (British Columbia) Hydro's Power Smart New Home Program is the latest official to encourage home owners towards energy-efficient products. Overholt points out the benefits of 'green' homes and insists that energy-efficiency is a factor in resale real estate value. The greener the house, the higher the resale value.

Think Green

Of course, saving energy also translates into more comfort, extra savings in the short and long term, and taking care of the environment. The BC Hydro representative makes a point that we discussed here previously at estaterebate.com. Despite the fact that almost everyone understands the benefits of being green, sometimes we get sidetracked with other purchases. Our earlier post referred to them as "eye candy." Several home owners would sooner pay extra for the gorgeous granite countertop than high-performance windows.

Are 'Green' Homes Worth The Price?

Overholt says that green homes are worth the price. He explains how rising energy costs will cause more homeowners in the future to look for energy-efficient homes. Even though if a homeowner makes simple alterations, they can save on energy bills in the meantime.

"Sometimes new home buyers overlook two important aspects of energy efficiency. First, an efficient home is going to cost you less to operate every month. That's money in your pocket - you can pay down your mortgage faster. Second, we live in an era of rising energy costs. Down the road, a house that's an energy pig won't sell as easily, or appreciate as well as one that costs less to operate," says Doug Overholt of BC Hydro's Power Smart New Home Program.

Sometimes people get off track because they think that green homes will cost more. No doubt, certain features such as heat pumps can come with considerable initial cost. Yet these smart purchases pay for themselves with savings in the long term.

Anyway, everything 'energy-efficient' does not have a high price tag. Usually, extra insulation or air sealing will not break your budget. As well, there are energy-efficiency grants out there to help Canadian and American homeowners. With high energy costs and an economy emerging from a downturn, many people need help and providing energy grants goes in the right direction.

Energy-Efficient Programs

Sometimes the programs may not go far enough, however, in the right direction or the path may be too complicated for certain groups. For example, specific programs encourage homeowners to buy energy-efficient products and receive reimbursement from the government. That plan does not always work for families living on low incomes because they cannot pay the upfront cost. That won't be because they are spending it on "eye candy." Their income covers only (or maybe does not even cover) the basics.

Yet everyone should check with state (provincial in Canada) and federal officials to see if there is an energy-efficiency program to suit your needs. Thinking green can save you money today and in the future.

For resale real estate value, think energy efficiency

estaterebate.com has also provided information in another post about Prince William's new 'green' home at Harwood Park Estate. A few interesting green details here! Let us not forget, however, that every family, regardless of income, should be able to live in a comfortable and energy-efficient home.

At Home with Prince William & Kate Middleton

Are You Planning Energy-Efficient Improvements?

Image courtesy of immaterial-labor.com

Feb 15

Housing Plan – Will Middle Class Miss Out?

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Obama Mortgage Plan

Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) believes that the new proposal from the Obama administration will end the American dream of home ownership for the middle class. The plan points to the eventual end of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Now this initiative does not go into effect tomorrow. The changes have to pass through Congress. Actually, it could take several years for certain modifications to be in place.

Proposed Reform

Cardoza admits that there are problems with both government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). He would agree to reforming them but opposes eliminating the GSEs. Cordoza insists that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have helped a huge percentage of middle class homeowners to buy homes. In fact, he mentions his own state of California, its high housing costs, and the fact that almost every mortgage is backed by the GSEs.

A former realtor, Cardoza points to the pre-Fannie and Freddie days. At that time, homeowners needed a 50% down payment and repayment time was five years on average. Presently, he is seeking support for his own legislation - the Housing Opportunity and Mortgage Equity (HOME) Act, H.R. 363 – a bill capitalizing on market-based solutions to keep people in their homes.

Cardoza is not shy about expressing his opposition to getting rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He was invited to speak at a think tank panel discussion - Underwater Housing and Recovery - sponsored by the Third Way. Cardoza'a Congressional district in California's Central Valley is in the midst of a serious housing crisis. Modesto, Stockton, and Merced have some of the highest rates of foreclosures in the country. Three out of five homeowners are 'underwater' carrying loans more than the value of their house.

"In America, homeownership is at the core of middle class prosperity. In fact, it is the American dream. If the government withdraws assistance to the GSEs that make this dream accessible, average working Americans - teacher, plumbers, and journalists - will no longer be able to get a mortgage to buy a home. We will become a rental society, instead of an ownership society." ~ Congressman Dennis Cardoza

Cardoza: President's Plan the "Most Irresponsible Housing Proposal Yet"

Private Sector

More representatives than Cardoza see problems with the GSEs. A few people even hoped that the administration would abolish the GSEs. Yet Obama's latest proposals were still a shock to many individuals and groups. Part of the new proposal plans a housing-finance system that would rely almost exclusively on the private sector.

Currently, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back private mortgages. Consumer advocates worry about the proposed changes. If the government does not get behind these mortgages, maybe more lenders could back away, and consumers will have fewer options. Of course, it is not advisable to help people get into houses if they cannot afford a home.

Balanced Approach

The past housing crisis is evidence that a situation can get out of control. Yet government must provide a balanced approach. Often people need a helping hand. There is a promise, however, that this new proposal will not eliminate all help for low-income families. Apparently, there will be programs to help with housing even if they are not the familiar Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Why You Should Buy That Home Now

What Do You Think Of Obama's New Housing Plan?

Image courtesy of stopfreclosure.com

Feb 12

First-Time Home Buyer – Fix Up or Move In

by Mary Teresa Fowler
First Time Home Buyers

Do first-time home buyers prefer to buy a "fixer-upper" or a "ready to move in home?" Obviously, the choice will vary from buyer to buyer. Yet it is an interesting topic to explore on different levels.

Fix Up or Move In

On the average, do today's first-time buyers respond differently than a generation ago? Do urban buyers make different choices than rural buyers? Does modern society encourage home owners to want 'instant' results – the perfect home right from the start – no "fixer-uppers."

Starting Out

The traditional perception of the 'first-time buyer' is the newly-married bride and groom just starting out in life. Of course, in our enlightened world, we don't (or shouldn't) put limits on our definition of couples. Yet still, many of today's first-time home buyers are young couples who are just setting up their first home together. Others might have lived previously in apartments as a family.

First-time home owners, however, are not always couples. Three friends could purchase a home. Individuals could even just pool their resources together and buy a home as an investment. Obviously, people must exert caution in all steps of such a major transaction.

First-Time Home Owner

Regardless, buying a home for the first time is a new and 'starting out' experience – whether you are 20 or 40. Remember that not every first-time home buyer is just a few years out of high school. First-time home owners can be nearer middle age. Many people rent for years before buying that first home. Actually, for the purposes of qualifying for the expired Federal First-Time Home Buyers' Tax Credit, home owners could be real first-timers or people who had not owned a principal residence for three years.

First-Time Survey

The results of a recent Coldwell Banker Real Estate survey shed a little light on the contemporary first-time home buyer. In many housing markets with low prices, first-time buyers can afford to pick and choose, and they do not have to select that home in need of renovation. If prices were higher, maybe first-timers would make a different choice. For example, young families could be carrying a heavy financial load. Probably they would go for the 'fixer-upper' in a market with more expensive houses.

With affordable prices, however, starter homes with imperfections get left behind for a more 'ready to move in' type of home. According to the Coldwell Banker Real Estate survey, first-time buyers are not even searching for homes in need of repair. Eighty-seven percent of home owners who purchased their first home in the past year mentioned that a move-in-ready house had mattered to them.

Almost all of the 300 first-time home owners in the survey said that they had been pleased with the purchase price. The new home owners found that they could stretch their dollar and get a home to suit their lifestyle. Sixty-seven percent said that market conditions allowed them to buy a home sooner than their original expectation.

Half of the home owners found homes in a better neighborhood than they expected and 61% bought a home at a more affordable price. Many home owners (40%) said they got more space for their dollar and 43% of respondents locked in a lower mortgage rate. According to this survey, first-time buyers do not have to fix up before they move into their new homes.

First-time buyers forgo starter homes: survey

Do You Prefer A "Fixer-Upper' Or A "Move-In-Ready" Home?

Image courtesy of house2uonline.com

Feb 8

Real Estate Values – What Do You Value?

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Real Estate Values

Everyone knows that neighborhoods affect real estate values. When it comes to property values, location, location, location, seems to be a true statement. ZIP codes matter in the real estate game.

Positive and Negative Factors

Living close to a beach or residing in the trendy part of town can be considered a plus. Having a home in a flood zone or near major traffic will not be viewed in such a favorable light. The market value of your home will reflect the location. Your neighborhood can affect property values in a positive or negative manner.

Generally, people can agree on whether specific factors are good or bad for real estate values. Usually, the decision does not require much thought. A high crime neighborhood harms real estate values. Being voted 'the city's best neighborhood' would be an asset.

Confusing Factors

Sometimes though it can be difficult to decide whether a factor is a benefit or a detriment to a neighborhood. Even the official spin on the story can be confusing for homeowners. For example, wind turbines are an addition to a neighborhood that can cause intense debate.

Of course, most homeowners will never be faced with decisions about wind turbines in their neighborhood. Yet for those homeowners who encounter this circumstance, the situation can be confusing on many levels. Of course, environmentally-conscious homeowners can recognize the green benefits.

Be Green or Be Gone

Questions surface, however, even for the 'greenest' homeowner. Do I want the wind turbines in my neighborhood? How will they affect the look of the area? How will they affect my property values? On the other hand, isn't a green project a positive development for a neighborhood?

Looking for answers can be as turbulent as the wind itself. Green groups will welcome the development. Other parties will worry about the possibility of the turbines causing harm to birds. Health associations could be concerned about possible health risks associated with living too close to wind turbines.

The municipality in question might be pleased with the extra revenues. The company in charge of the turbines will claim that there is no negative effect on real estate values. Will wind turbines be an advantage or disadvantage to a neighborhood?

Sometimes it is not so easy to figure out how a factor is going to influence a neighborhood. Most likely, a homeowner's individual position will be determined by one's own values and the information at their disposal. People will be forced to debate issues such as green vs. aesthetics, revenues vs. animal protection, and much more.

Real Estate Values

In the meantime, how would wind turbines affect real estate values? The answers to that question are a mixed lot. Yet the National Association of Realtors has recognized that the issue is of utmost importance to many homeowners. The association has organized a wealth of resources on the topic. There were enough wind turbines in operation in the U.S. at the end of 2009 to generate electricity to power 10 million homes.

Field Guide to Wind Farms and their Effect on Property Value

Will Wind Turbines Affect Property Values?

Do You Think Wind Turbines Would Affect Real Estate Values?

Image courtesy of claycreekdecor.com

Feb 1

2011 – Year of the Landlord

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Year of the Landlord

2011 is shaping up to be the "Year of The Landlord." As many people face the winter winds, we are reminded of a wise old saying.

"It's an ill wind that blows no good." ~ John Heywood (1497-1580)

In the case of the winds of change in real estate, falling house prices and slow sales have challenged many sellers but benefited more than a few apartment building landlords. More people are choosing to rent but others can find no suitable alternative to apartment living. Everyone has their own reason for deciding to rent property rather than buy a home.

Rent or Own

Sometimes renting is the best choice for an individual. Indeed, many renters prefer the apartment lifestyle. After all, renting a luxurious NYC condo does not seem like such a bad deal. Even renting any apartment has its perks such as more flexibility in relocation and less maintenance responsibilities.

Of course, other renters would sooner own a home. Often foreclosure forces homeowners to become renters. Sometimes potential first-time buyers discover that they cannot afford the financial commitment of a home. The Federal First-Time Homebuyers' Tax Credit is no more and not everyone has an "angel investor."

Whether people choose to rent or have no other choice, landlords are gaining tenants. Banks and lenders are also smiling – especially if the apartment building owner had been previously under financial duress. Borrowing has become less expensive with low interest rates.

This effect is noticed with commercial real estate of all types. The low rates have a positive effect on borrowing for office buildings, retail outlets, and company warehouses. The apartment market, however, is the healthiest of the commercial categories – mainly because of cheap financing.

Investing in Apartments

Obviously, investors are interested in apartment buildings. Actually, 'flipping' properties is coming into vogue again. The practice of reselling quickly for profit is somewhat prevalent at all times.

Yet 'flipping' is as popular now as in earlier thriving economic periods. This practice can have its place - if done responsibly for the right reasons. Illegal flipping, however, is a different matter. It involves scams, disregard for others, and a goal of profit at any cost.

Higher Values

Apartment building values have risen to levels not seen since the middle of 2007. According to the brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap, values of apartment buildings rose 16% in 2010. Green Street Advisors, a research company tracking REITs, say that present values are now within 10% of their 2007 peak value.

Of course, apartment values in major centers such as New York and Washington, D.C., have shown signs of recovery since 2009. Currently, increasing apartment values can be seen in additional markets including Los Angeles and Seattle as well as other U.S. cities. At the end of 2010, TIAA-CREF paid $62 million for the 261-unit Newbury Commons in Stamford, Connecticut. According to Real Capital Analytics, this sale price was 65% more than the amount paid by Seaboard Properties in February 2009.

Apparently, even Las Vegas is seeing the high values. Keep in mind that Las Vegas was affected greatly by the economic downturn. Yet in December 2010, the Croix Townhomes complex in the Las Vegas Henderson suburb sold for nearly $20 million - $143,000 for each unit – a price even far above the national average. The 'apartment advantage' might be the start of the next big trend in investment property.

Housing Woes Fuel Apartment Surge

Will 2011 Continue To Be The "Year Of The Landlord?"

Image courtesy of architecturelist.com

Jan 27

Google Gives Up The Search

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Google Real Estate Search

Ok, Google fans, no need to panic, you can still search for everything though your favorite search engine. You can no longer search for real estate listings, however, on its Maps portal. Everyone can continue to find real estate websites and related content via Google. Maybe that's even how you found this blog!


Actually, interested parties can still find real estate listings on Google Maps - until February 10, 2011. After that date, everyone has to revert to their previous method of searching for property. Yet Google does not expect potential home buyers to be too upset with the loss of this service.

Despite the search engine's tremendous popularity, few people were using the real estate feature. Now the news about low usage might seem odd to many observers. After all, Google holds a dominant market position. Yet in their recent statement, the corporation acknowledged the reason behind the lack of response to real estate listings on Maps.

"We recognise that there might be better, more effective ways to help people find local real estate information than the current feature makes possible. We'll continue to explore this area, but in the meantime, Google offers other options to home-seekers." ~ Google Inc.

Tough Competition

As well, Google's response noted "the proliferation of excellent property search tools on real estate websites." There is much truth in that statement – at least real estate statistics point in that direction. A 2009 National Association of Realtors survey showed that 90% of modern home buyers use the internet in their property search. Buyers sift through photos and take virtual tours of properties in their preferred location and price range. Consumers make short lists for viewing based on their online observations.

Although Google is a force to be reckoned with, this corporation has competition. Yet in this instance, the presence is not Yahoo or another search engine. Google is forced to compete with quality real estate websites.

Indeed, it makes sense that real estate websites can challenge Google in this area. Expert realtors and industry leaders know real estate. There is truth in saying - knowledge is power.

Of course, Google executives are not shocked by this recent development. They knew the score going into the game. As well, officials in the real estate industry expected this result. Former REA chief executive Simon Baker mentioned the probability of failure in recent days as well as at the time of the original announcement about the venture.

"The issue is that it's hard, but not necessarily impossible, but the thing is you need to have a coordinated and thought-out approach. I think they had something partially thought out, but there were elements they didn't understand," says Simon Baker, former REA chief executive.

Revised Feature

Yet Baker thinks that a revised model could meet the needs of the consumer. To a certain extent, this venture was an experiment for Google – complete with experimental apps and programs. In reality, the elements of search with this feature were not as advanced as on popular property sites.

Bad Timing

Timing is a big deal in real estate. With Google's real estate feature, confusion cropped up about the status of the listings. Is this a current listing?

Up-to-the minute data matters in the real estate industry. It matters to the person conducting the search. Finally, the consumer's needs decided the fate of Google's real estate feature.

Friendly Realtors

Of course, do not count Google out of the real estate game. Such a powerful entity does not reach its present position by ignoring facts or not learning from failures. If Google does try again, they will have to convince the real estate industry that listing on their Maps portal will bring in more sales. Many leading realtors did not participate in this initial project. Maybe next time, Google Inc. will find what they were searching for in the real estate listings.

Real Estate Search

Just one question! Recently, Google bought the former Port Authority Building at 111 Eighth Avenue in New York City for $1.9 billion. Did they use their Maps feature to find the listing or did they search at a real estate website?

Google dumps real estate research on Maps

Would You Search For Real Estate Listings On Google Maps?

Image courtesy of distilled.co.uk

Jan 22

Local Real Estate

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Local Real Estate Market

Let's face facts! When someone is thinking about buying a home, they are more interested in the news about local real estate than global real estate trends. They care about the price of the house across town. Interested buyers pay less attention to long-term predictions or the housing market in another state.

The buyer has eyes only for the dream home around the corner. Yet the truth is that the overall picture affects that dream as well as the future reality for the new homeowner. Housing markets differ but they do not exist in isolation.

Local markets are affected by external influences. Therefore, potential home buyers should arm themselves with detailed information about real estate conditions. Of course, a great deal of that data should focus on the state of local real estate.

Various organizations in different states release real estate information organized from data at regional multiple listing services. As well, housing reports are available based on data collected from county governments. Yet current statistics have to be always examined with care. Today's numbers can tell a different story if looked at in comparison to a previous period.

What Is The State Of Local Housing Markets?


According to the California Association of Realtors, the housing market in the Golden State recorded a 5.9% rise in sales from November-December 2010. Yet year over year, the number of transactions fell 6.8%. The median price for an existing single-family home in the state was $301,850 - up 1.7% during December - but down 1.6% from the same month in 2009.

California home sales rose in December but dragged slowly earlier in the year – especially after the expiry of the Federal First-Time Homebuyers' Credit. Within certain areas of California such as the Santa Clara Valley, median home prices were flat in 2010. Other parts of the state experienced a drop in house prices. Los Angeles, Orange County, Sacramento, and Santa Cruz County experienced a decline.

The San Francisco Bay Area and High Desert regions had median gains. Regarding sale prices, three Silicon Valley communities received top ten ranking during December 2010. Los Altos made the list with median sale prices at $1.3 million, Cupertino at $904,500, and Los Gatos was at $840,000.

The Best And Worst Cities For Home Values In 2011


The Florida Realtors Association has just released the final figures for home sales in 2010. Within Florida, local real estate results were a mix of increases and declines. Overall, sales of single-family existing homes and condos were up but prices took a fall.

Yet conditions varied drastically from one location to another. Across the state, home sales increased by five per cent. The biggest gain was in Ft. Walton Beach – a rise of 7 % - while the largest drop was in Panama City – a drop of seven per cent.

In 2010, the median sales price for a Florida home decreased 4% from 2009 figures. House prices in the four major regional markets in Florida stayed near the average. Once again, Panama City was the exception – with a 9% decrease. As you browse through the headlines about local real estate, you will discover that each page can tell a different story.

Florida And The Local Real Estate Mixed Results for the Year

What Is The State Of Real Estate In Your Local Area?

Image courtesy of realestateblackbook.com


Jan 19

Mortgage Changes – Helpful or Harmful

by Mary Teresa Fowler

Mortgage Changes

Many potential home owners in Canada are reeling from recent mortgage changes introduced by their federal government. Yet the Canadian administration believes that the modifications will make a positive difference in people's financial health. The regulatory changes are meant to save consumers from themselves in terms of debt load. The government is hoping to discourage potential home owners from taking on debt that they cannot handle in reality. As well, the regulations aim to discourage unwise use of home equity lines of credit.

Helpful Advice

Now many people will argue that consumers should not be prompted in one way or another; they should make their own decisions and live with the consequences. Of course, too little regulation can also cause financial woe. Consider the recent U.S. dilemma. Mortgage approval might have been too easy in some instances; many consumers became homeowners but lacked the financial means to handle the commitment.

Mortgage Changes


According to Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, effective March 18, 2011, the term of government-backed mortgages has been lowered to 30 years from 35 years. As well, the maximum amount of equity for refinancing will drop to 85% from the previous 90 per cent.

Many hopeful first-time home buyers are not pleased with this recent development. Yet the government insists that they are helping consumers. Eventually, homeowners will be faced with a rise in interest rates. This latest intervention is designed to discourage buyers who will not be up to the challenge.

Massive Debt

According to recent statistics, Canadian household debt has soared to 148% of disposable income. Of course, shopping trips and house sales fuel the economy but there is an 'elephant in the room' with such a high percentage of debt. The Canadian government has chosen not to ignore the massive amount of debt carried by many home owners.

Beginning April 18, the Canadian government will stop insuring newly issued home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). An ever-increasing number of home owners in Canada are using these lines of credit. In fact, HELOCs account for 12% of consumer debt.

Home Equity Lines of Credit

Actually, 50% half of these variable-rate loans are spent on consumer goods including new cars and boats. Only one third of the loans go towards paying down other debt. Therefore, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation has reconsidered its practice of insuring home equity lines of credit.

Government Regulations

With recent mortgage changes, the Canadian government claims to have considered the best interests of consumers. Of course, distancing themselves from the inevitable future rise in interest rates might be a wise move for this government – especially with a possible election in the near future. As well, in 2006, this government allowed the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. to lift its 25-year limit on mortgages and insure up to 40 years.

In 2008, Flaherty rewound the 40-year term back to 35 years. Maybe this latest move is an attempt to distance themselves further from that original rash decision of extending limits to 40 years. The Canadian government, however, has to be prepared for their new regulations to have a few undesirable effects on the economy. Almost one third of Canadian mortgages in 2010 were for 35-year terms.

Mortgage changes sensible

Do You Think The Canadian Government Made Sensible Mortgage Changes?

Image courtesy of dallastexasrealestateblog.com

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