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Housing Bubble

Oct 15

Foreclosures – Exposing the Flaws

by Mary Teresa Fowler

The word 'foreclosure' strikes enough fear into people's minds without adding 'flawed' into the mix. Yet the nation is now facing the issue of "flawed foreclosures." What a mess!

Flawed Mess

Most of us have been faced with the issue of messy paperwork in our offices from time to time. This latest fiasco makes it evident, however, that even banks let their paperwork get out of hand. A scary thought – considering how much trust we are required to put in our financial institutions.


Vermont was one of the latest US states to become part of the joint investigation into the banks' use of flawed disclosure documents. The banks are been accused of "robo-signing" foreclosure documents. Supposedly, many recent foreclosures might have been based on false affidavits. A person signed the documents confirming that they had knowledge of the situation. The claim is that many officials had no knowledge of the circumstances regarding specific foreclosures.

Vermont joins other states in foreclosure investigation

Checking Signatures

Suspected incidents of flawed foreclosures have cropped up across the country. This flawed process comes as a surprise to everyone who trusted the system. One would think that all documents were double checked during a foreclosure. One would also expect officials to know the score when they sign their name to a document. Unfortunately, the whole process has to be rechecked because there seems to be monumental mistakes.

Foreclosure Moratorium

Despite the flaws that have come to light, the Obama administration does not want to issue a national moratorium on foreclosures. Their reasoning is that it might backfire and cause a decline in housing prices. Yet industry experts disagree and think that it might restore confidence in the market.

"...If you buy a foreclosed home, you would have confidence there would be no title fights down the road and someone else couldn’t make a claim to the house you are living in,..." says housing expert, Dean Baker."

Of course, a few banks, including GMAC’s Ally Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America have issued their own moratorium on foreclosures. If you take comfort in that fact, don't let it make you feel too relaxed about the system. Obviously, banks are looking out for their own interests. If they were certain that they have no flawed foreclosures, the banks would proceed with normal business.

Most likely, they are not 100% sure about their practices. Did we double check these figures? Did our officials know the score? Inefficiency within a bank is cause for concern at the best of times. When you consider how tied up people's lives are in foreclosures, these flaws take on nightmarish proportions.

What You Need to Know About Flawed Foreclosures

Home Owner Response

Home owners are now left wondering if they have clear titles to their home – and they have to find the answers. Many people do not even know the details of their title insurance policy. Home owners need to know what is covered by that policy. A good real estate lawyer can be well worth the investment if it helps you to figure out this flawed process.

An Honest Mistake

Different sources have classified the flawed foreclosures as everything from technical mistakes to deliberate actions. We can expect the banks to favor the 'technical mistake' angle. U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson thinks that the 'mistake' was a deliberate action. Grayson has called for a criminal investigation.

"These banks are still claiming that the massive fraud they have perpetrated amounts to nothing more than a series of technical mistakes," says Grayson. "This is absurd. This is deliberate, systemic fraud, and it is a crime."

Grayson calls for criminal foreclosure probe

Do You Think That Flawed Foreclosures Were Honest Mistakes?

Oct 13

Home Ownership - The Dream That Never Dies

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Home Ownership Dream

Home ownership – an integral part of the American dream - is the "dream that never dies." Despite a difficult economy, the dream of home ownership is alive and well and living in the hearts and mind of potential home owners. Actually, there are plenty of reasons to continue to live the dream.

Heart's Desire

Home ownership starts in the heart. The need for home and family is at the core of our being. If you are located in eastern Canada, you can even buy a home in Heart's Desire or live at your home at in Heart's Content.

Low Pricing

When house prices are at their lowest, it is the perfect time to pick up a home. Whether you are buying for the first time, moving to a bigger place, or planning an investment, buying during favorable conditions is a wise move.

No Mistake

Buying a home is hardly ever a mistake - if the buyer is aware of and prepared for the real deal. The smart home buyer checks into all important details before buying a home. They review the condition of the property and state of the neighbourhood as well as their financial obligations. When home buyers are ready for home ownership, only unforeseen circumstances can wreck their "perfect home."

Home Equity

Home equity is an invaluable asset. Home owners hope to benefit from that equity in the future. Having home equity beats paying rent - where you are just helping to feather someone else's nest.

Better Deal

According to recent studies, home owners, their families, and the community do better with home ownership. People who buy a home have a substantial investment and, according to research, better health. Children do better in school and communities grow and benefit from the participation and involvement of the home owners in the neighbourhood.

Long Term Gain

Home ownership is a long term commitment but there are long term gains for the home owner. And actually, little pain in the process, when you consider the comforts of home! It helps home owners to think of ownership in the long term. That perspective gets them in the frame of mind to live within their means and contribute to their savings.


Sometimes people buy homes as an investment. Even then, home ownership should still be seen as a long term investment. For the maximum investment possibilities, do not view home ownership in the short term.

Although many investors think about 'flipping' homes, sometimes you have to stay longer to make it pay for you. It is wise to look at buying a home as a 7-10 year investment. As well, there are tax deductions for home owners, but buyers need to be aware of the type of savings.

Home Sweet Home

Home ownership is about feelings and emotions. Of course, potential home buyers have to temper these thoughts with reality. Home ownership involves mortgages and maintenance.

You can't go to sleep in this dream. A home buyer has to be on their toes. They have to see things in the cold, harsh light of day. If home buyers are prepared for the deal, they can live the dream in their home, sweet home.

Realtors Weigh In: Is Home Ownership Still Part of the American Dream?

Are You Dreaming Of Home Ownership?

Image courtesy of enewhomesandliving.com

Oct 8

Real Estate Therapy

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Real Estate Therapy

Real estate therapy is an extension of retail therapy – except the stakes are higher and there are not as many players. You will find more people buy clothes or gadgets for 'feel-good' therapy than stack up houses on their shopping list. Yet real estate therapy is a reality.

Psychological Issues

Real estate – buying and selling – is tied up in psychology as much as it is in money. More than one person moves – and moves again – and again – not out of necessity – but for psychological reasons. Often people move because they need a bigger home or they see it as an investment. Some home owners keep buying and renovating and making a profit.

On The Move

Yet there is another group of home buyers that stay 'on the move' for other reasons – a need to keep moving forward, a desire to keep up, a drive to acquire more "stuff" ( in this case, houses). Another possibility is that real estate therapy is just retail therapy - gone out of control. Of course, buyers who trade houses like shoes might be in the minority.

Playing It Cool

You cannot, however, take the psychology of 'buying and selling' out of real estate. Sellers do not want to seem too desperate to get rid of their home. Buyers do not want to seem too eager to close the deal. Both sides have to play it cool throughout the process.

Nobody wants the other side to sense their urgency or excitement – depending on your position. Buying and selling is a delicate dance. Nobody should try to step on anyone's toes. Everyone wants to come out of this 'feeling good' about the deal. It is human nature to want to feel that you got the best deal.

Buying and Selling 

'Buying and selling' is influenced by emotions. Over–priced houses belong to people who cannot let go of their emotional attachment to their home. Often sales happen because buyers have a specific vision of the 'perfect' home. Of course, they envision a "perfect life" in a "perfect home." No matter how practical you think you are, your reaction to a home has a psychological basis.

The Psychology of the Sale

Housing Bubble

Indeed, industry experts even refer to the 'psychological' stages of the market as it works off a housing bubble. The distinct stages of a housing bubble include enthusiasm, greed, denial, worry, capitulation, and loss of hope. In the 'enthusiasm' stage, lenders extend a welcoming hand to buyers.

Everyone feels feverish, everything is looking great, and everyone makes money in the second stage of the housing bubble. Yet as prices decline, people go onto denial. With regards to market psychology, there is not much distinction between the capitulation (surrender) stage and the state of despair.

Psychological Stages of a Bubble


Foreclosure can be the end stage for many home owners. Since people have such intense attachments to their homes, foreclosure can be a devastating experience. On the positive side, foreclosure allows people to let go of a burden, move forward, and rebuild their lives. Yet few home owners who are in danger of foreclosure can see the positive angle. Home ownership is a psychological issue.

Psychological Obstacles of Selling

Are You Planning A Little Real Estate Therapy?

Oct 6

Home Renovation – A Real Dilemma

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Home Renovation Dilemma

'Renovation' is a powerful word. It can send chills down your spine or fire up your creative urges. Yet renovation is not a 'black and white' issue. Even a minimalist style can have a touch of drama! There is always a grey area. Should I or shouldn't I?

A Real Dilemma

Whether you are a home buyer or home seller, nobody escapes the 'renovation' question. Will I renovate before I sell my home? Should I buy a bargain and bring it back to life? Will I be able to afford this home when I factor in improvements? Home renovation poses a real dilemma.

Home Buyers

If you buy a home and plan to fix it up, you have to be prepared to live with chaos. The home buyer must be able to handle the 'process' and renovation can range from a mild inconvenience to an intolerable situation. Bathroom renovations come to mind.

'Fixing up' a home can take its toll. Sometimes home owners have to seek out other accommodations while the work is in progress. If individuals have allergies or breathing problems, hotel costs seem a small price to pay to protect one's health.

Yet all renovations come with a cost – quite possibly, a considerable expense. Home buyers need to think about resale values – especially in an uncertain economy. Before home buyers decide on improvements, they must be clear about the cost.

A home inspector can shed light on that area. Be warned, however, that it can be difficult to get enough financing to handle a massive renovation. FHA 203k loans are available (with certain restrictions) for homebuyers who want to make immediate home improvements.

"In this market, you need to be very careful about how much cash you invest to make sure you get that back in resale value," Valerie Huffman, a regional vice president and manager of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase office of Weichert Realtors.

Cost-saving found in more than price

Home Sellers

Home sellers also have to confront the renovation dilemma. Should they renovate before selling or will they just sell at a bargain? If a house is not up to the standard of neighborhood homes, renovation is a wise idea.

If your home is on the market, you do not want to have the worst house on the street. Even when a home is selling for a lower price, the 'below standard' house might not attract buyers. They might decide to pay a little extra and avoid the hassle of renovations.

Removing 'dated' features is a good plan. A 1970s kitchen will not excite the 2010 home buyer. Of course, kitchen renovations are a huge commitment. You have to consider your budget, time constraints, and willingness to live with the upheaval.

Minor renovations can make a big improvement at a low cost. A 'lighter' look is always appealing to home buyers. A fresh and airy feel is a welcoming touch but go easy on bold and bright shades.

You might think that vibrant red would jazz up your space. Remember though that you are the seller and therein lies the root of the real dilemma. People tend to decorate in their preferred style but home sellers must renovate to attract home buyers.

Renovating to Sell

Are Home Renovations Posing A Real Dilemma For You?

Sep 1

Bubble or No Bubble

by Mary Teresa Fowler

"A 15 per cent to 40 per cent crash in prices, depending on the market -- with Vancouver and the Lower Mainland most at risk - is now a certainty," Turner told ctvbc.ca."

Conflicting reports came out recently about the Canadian housing market. Is a real estate bubble about to burst or is there even a bubble in the first place? The answer varies depending on the source. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) believes in the bubble but the University of B.C. business professor, Tsur Somerville, who specializes in real estate, does not agree with that theory.

"I would have thought maybe two and a half years ago this was more of the story," says Somerville.

Somerville suggests that the bubble scenario was more suited to two years ago at a peak in pricing. Actually, Somerville is not alone in his opinion. Cameron Muir, chief economist for the B.C. Real Estate Association, also questions the CCPA report. All major Canadian centres (Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, and Ottawa) are quoted in the report. Vancouver is said to be headed for the worst situation with an expected loss of $200,000.

The numbers in the report (15%-40% crash in prices) are making real estate experts take notice and offer some opposition to the CCPA conclusions. Of course, booms are generally followed by busts and house prices have been high in Canadian cities. The report referred to the model of the 2006 US housing crisis. Yet experts who oppose the CCPA report point out the differences between the Canadian and US real estate markets.

It does not necessarily follow that Canadian real estate will experience the same crisis as its American counterpart. Some experts do not envision the meltdown predicted in the recent report. They can accept the possibility of 'levelling out' in the future or 'correction' in the market. Yet an all-out 'crash and burn' is not in the cards for Canadian real estate – at least not according to some knowledgeable experts.

House prices in Canada are, however, way above median incomes. During the last decade, housing prices were three or four times the median income. Yet in 2010, prices are in the range of 4.7-11.3 times the same amount. The CCPA believes that if there is a rise in mortgage rates then affordability will go out the window. The report indicates that Canadian housing has not been such a state in the last 30 years.

It suggests that the most important factor is not whether or not a bubble exists but what will happen next with Canada's housing. The previous strength of this market served as a type of protection for the banks from financial crisis. The strong housing market contributed to the success of Canadian banks when those around them were in turmoil.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives points to the fact that Canadian households are carrying considerable debt. When home owners are debt-ridden, even the slightest change can cause a calamity. Job losses or higher rates can impact the prices of homes and the borrowers themselves.

Doom and gloom predicted for Vancouver house prices

A housing market that is out of step can affect the whole economy. Yet it would take something drastic to trigger a huge decline such as the CCPA predicted for Vancouver. We need to keep our eye on this one!

Do You Think The Bubble Is About To Burst In Canadian Housing?

Image courtesy of aboutnwrealestate.com

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