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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?

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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?

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Dec 17

Confusing Real Estate Statistics

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Real Estate Statistics

Many people find it difficult to sort through the barrage of real estate statistics. After all, there are real estate numbers released on a quarterly, monthly, bi-weekly, and even weekly basis. Potential home buyers and home sellers must wade though scores of information before making a final decision.

Confusing Stats

It is not surprising that real estate numbers can be a confusing lot. After all, real estate is full of statistics. Remember Mark Twain's classic quote.

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." ~ Mark Twain.

No doubt, statistics have a questionable reputation. Generally, they are not 'lies' but Mark Twain (and others who have used this quote or a similar version) was probably referring to the persuasive power of numbers. Statistics can be used to bolster weak arguments. On the other hand, they might be dismissed by people on the opposing side of the statistics.

In addition, there is the odd journalist who goes out of their way to make an extraordinary headline out of ordinary statistics. Writers need to grab the readers' attention. Shocking or scary statistics are bound to garner interest and publications are not blind to that fact.

If there were 4,000 home sales in October and 3,800 home purchases in November, readers can expect the headline – Home Sales in Definite Decline. The journalist has published correct information. In this fictional example, home sales declined in November but the article might leave out a few important numbers. The author might not refer to the 5,200 sales in September or the 3,700 home purchases in August.

Statistics show the facts but they can hide the 'ebb and flow' of events. Long-term effects can be influenced by several external factors. A short-term statistic shows a more narrow perspective. They represent the "here and now."

Long-Term Commitment

Home buyers and sellers are facing decisions with long-term effects. They have to take a look at today's statistics but they must also examine tomorrow's outlook and future possibilities. A long term commitment requires exploring a broader range of statistics than this week's numbers. Home buyers and sellers must decipher overall trends and year-to-year comparisons.

They should view and review real estate statistics. Buying a house is a serious decision because you are buying "your home." Even if you are just looking at a home purchase as an investment, it requires commitment. If you hold on to the house for the long term, it can be a worthwhile investment – no matter which shocking statistics appear in the interim.

Through extensive research, individuals can get a better feel for the real estate market. Buyers and sellers need to ignore all the hype and stick with the basics. For example, a home buyer should be able to answer 'yes' to a few basic questions before they decide on home ownership.

Basic Questions for Home Buyers

  • Do you have a good credit score? 
  • Do you have a steady job or career? 
  • Do you have a stable income? 
  • Do you plan on being in this location for more than 4 years? 
  • If you own a home, have you owned it for longer than 5 years?


Are You Ever Confused By Real Estate Statistics?

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Dec 14

US and UK Home Sellers - Chilly Sales

by Mary Teresa Fowler
End of Year Slowdown in Home Sales

Unless you are in a hot climate, November and December can be chilly months. This year, parts of the US and the UK are living through an early winter. Home sellers in these countries have also been experiencing a chilly period.

Los Angeles

Although Los Angeles might have warm temperatures, there has been a cooling down period in the housing market. During November 2010, the Los Angeles County housing market saw quite a slowdown. Home sales fell 21% compared to purchases in 2009. Condos sales had even a worse showing. Last year, 4,315 homes had sold in this region throughout November. Only 3,423 homes were purchased during the same period in the current year.

Sales were down 9% from October. Often home sales will decline somewhat in late autumn as the market heads towards winter. Yet the median price in Los Angeles County did not show much movement. In fact, median price was at almost the same place as in summer.

In a November 23 report, the California Association of Realtors suggested that the average home seller is not prepared for these chilly times. The housing market is in the midst of change. People must be willing to participate in a different game on an unfamiliar playing field. Leslie Appleton-Young, association chief economist, explains the "new reality."

"We're really seeing two different housing markets: one at the lower end driven by first-time buyers and investors, which is keeping prices stable, and one with nostalgic sellers who set unrealistic asking prices," says Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist of the California Association of Realtors.

As well, Michael Nourmand, president of residential brokerage Nourmand & Associates, has noticed that buyers and sellers are finding it hard to adjust to a new market. Home sellers tend to think about the previous popularity of an area or earlier neighborhood prices. Yet sellers must think in the "here and now." In uncertain times, affordable options (such as fixer-uppers) are a big draw.

November Ushers In a Big Chill for Home Sellers


In the UK, home sellers cut asking prices by 3% in December. These figures represent the worst December performance for home sale prices in three years. The statistics show the steepest decline since the 3.2% drop in 2007. Home purchase prices have now fallen during five of the past six months in all regions of England and Wales. The West Midlands saw the worst fall at 5% but Wales escaped with a mere 1.3% decline.

Despite a demand for homes and interest in quality homes and popular neighborhoods, dreams do not always translate into actual sales. Negative factors can come in to play to outweigh positive circumstances. Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove, explains part of the problem in the current UK housing market.

"The fact that many would-be buyers do not have the ability to proceed, and some homeowners find themselves in a position where they are forced to sell, drives prices down," states Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove.

Rightmove believes national home sales prices will at least remain flat in 2011. In fact, they predict the worst scenario could be a 5% decline because many homeowners are facing repossessions.

Home Sellers Forced To Slash Asking Prices

Are Home Sale Prices Experiencing A Chill In Your Neighborhood?

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Dec 8

The Falling Prices of Foreclosures

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Home Foreclosure Bargains

Home buyers might expect to purchase a foreclosure for a bargain. Yet probably few buyers would be hoping for a 45% discount. According to Realty Trac, however, sales prices for Ohio foreclosures reached that low point in the third quarter of 2010.

Falling Prices

Purchase prices for foreclosures did not fall to that extent in every state. Yet foreclosures sold on the average for 32% less than non-foreclosure sales. In the second quarter, foreclosures sold for just 26% less than other homes. They could be purchased for 29% less in 2009. Realty Trac CEO, James Saccacio, said that he had never seen such disparity in prices of foreclosures and non-foreclosures since 2005.

The overall best deals went to buyers who picked up REOs (real estate owned by the bank after repossession). REOs were selling 41% lower than non-foreclosures in the summer and early autumn of the current year. That percentage means that a $300,000 foreclosure was selling for $177,000. A huge discount!

Distressed Properties

Of course, REOs may not be in prime condition. That factor is at play in the discount prices for certain foreclosure sales. Home buyers must always be realistic about purchasing distressed properties. These homes will need extra tender loving care – an investment of time, effort, and money. Home buyers must understand the implications of buying homes in less-than-mint condition.

If buyers are willing to take on the challenge, however, they will be getting a good deal in the current market. While the average price of homes rose 6.4% from the second to third quarter in 2010, distressed property prices fell 2.5%. Non-foreclosure sale prices rose to an average of $250,000 and foreclosure purchase prices fell to $170,000.

Behind the Scene

Home sales had dropped after the end of the Federal Homebuyers' Tax Credit. As well, more foreclosures came on the market. Buyers had plenty of choices. If homes were not set at favorable prices, they could just sit on the market for an indefinite period.

Getting Rid of REOs

REOs have been returned to lenders but they are still eager to get rid of the properties. REOs come with a cost for bankers. Actually, lenders would prefer to take a low price rather than carry the cost of the home for months.

Buy A Foreclosure - Save 30% On The Price

REO Statistics

Even with the deeply-discounted prices, however, REO sales dropped during the third quarter. Since home sales also fell, foreclosures still occupy the same share of the market. Yet REOs remained popular with many home buyers.

Nevada had the highest percentage (54%) of REO sales in the third quarter of this year. Yet these figures were 2% lower than sales for the second quarter. Other states also showed high numbers of foreclosure sales. In Arizona, foreclosures accounted for 47% of home sales. Foreclosures within California made up 40% of all home purchases.

In Massachusetts, more than one third of home sales during July-September were foreclosures. The fourth quarter statistics will be released in the new year. These figures will reflect the impact of the robo-signing fiasco.

Already dirt cheap, foreclosure prices dive

Will You Be Taking Advantage Of The Falling Prices Of Foreclosures?

Image courtesy of blog.foreclosure.com

Nov 22

First-Time Home Buyer Programs

by Mary Teresa Fowler
First Time Home Buyer Programs

The Federal First-Time Home Buyers' Tax Credit has expired but there is still help out there for first-timers. No doubt, the federal tax credit had encouraged people to become home owners and increased home sales. When this assistance ended, sales fell flat and first-time home buyers turned to other sources of help including 'angel investors' (family and friends). Yet there are still 'official' programs in place for first-time home buyers – at least on the municipal level.

Visalia, California

The City of Visalia, CA, is in the habit of helping home buyers. The city has offered assistance for home renovation as well as help with housing for lower-income, working families. Now Visalia is throwing its support (and funding) behind first-time homebuyers. The details of this latest program were spelled out in a recent city report.

"First-time homebuyers or those who have not owned a home in the last three years may be eligible to receive as much as $20,000 to help purchase a brand-new home with a maximum purchase price of $200,000," stated a City Of Visalia report released on November 19, 2010.

Workshops are planned for December 11 allowing Visalia residents to learn more about the program. The city is being supportive of their first-time homebuyers but, ultimately, there is a hope that the initiative will have a positive effect on Visalia's economy. The city expects that first-time home buyer assistance will encourage building in already-approved subdivisions. The program is expected to inspire first-timers and inject energy into the local housing market.

Visalia, builders to aid homebuyers with $20k stimulus program

Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Cambridge Financial Assistance Program offers a grant to potential first-time home buyers. This program helps with their down payment and closing costs. The home must be the buyer's primary residence. As well, the buyer must agree to restrictions limiting the sale of the property. Buyers must have been lived in Cambridge for at least one year.

Applicants must reveal their gross family income, amount of monthly debt, savings for a down payment, and the estimated purchase price of the property. A financial assistance program also allows eligible first-time homebuyers to “buydown” the purchase price of a home. Applications are available through the Cambridge Community Development Office.

Taunton, Massachusetts

The city of Taunton, MA, assists eligible home buyers with down payments (half of 5% down payment cost) and closing costs (up to $10,000). Eligibility is tied to income guidelines set forth by HUD (Housing and Urban Development Department). Applicants must have proof of income and debt. In addition, they must attend pre-purchase and post-purchase home buyer training courses. Applicants must be planning to reside at the property.

First-Time Home Buyer Grants in Massachusetts

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN, offers various first-time home buyer programs. The Minneapolis Advantage Program (MAP) offers a $10,000, zero-percent interest loan that is forgiven over five years. The Home Ownership Works (HOW) program gives first-time home buyers an opportunity to move into recently remodeled homes. Check out other programs for first-time home buyers in Minneapolis.


There are excellent programs available across the country for first-time home buyers. The guidelines may vary slightly according to the municipality. Generally, the programs are available to first-time buyers or those who have not owned a home within three years.

Most municipal programs are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The best advice for first-time home buyers is to check into these initiatives at the earliest possible date. Funds can run out for municipal programs. When cities reissue funds for a program, they may change its rates and parameters.

Have You Received Help Through A First-Time Home Buyers' Program?

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Nov 8

Housing Market – Examining Buyer Behavior

by Mary Teresa Fowler
First Time Home Buyers

According to the National Association of Realtors' annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers survey, the current housing market is a kinder, gentler environment for first-timers. That result might surprise a few Americans who wonder about the 'when and how' of market recovery. Coupled with uncertainty about the market, first-time home buyers can no longer take advantage of the First-Time Home Buyers' Tax Credit.

Home Buyers

Yet first-time home buyers are buying in this market. Fifty percent of home sales between July 2009 and June 2010 can be attributed to first-time home buyers. Only 47% of home sales in the previous year were made to first-timers.

Why are there so many first-time home buyers - despite the obvious challenges? Apparently, they are getting help from a group referred to often as 'angel investors' – family and friends. These 'angels' are not only encouraging first-time buyers but they are providing down payments.

Family and Friends

According to this recent survey of 8,449 home buyers, 27% of first-time buyers between July 2009 and June 2010 received a gift from family or friends to help with their down payment. That percentage is up by five points over the previous year and now stands at the highest in more than 20 years.

Nine per cent of first-time buyers in this 2010 National Association of Realtors' survey received a loan from relatives or friends. According to NAR, only 6% of first-time buyers in last year's results went that route. The reason why family and friends want to help is a timeless one. It's about family and friends! In fact, a little help extended to loved ones in the housing market is not a new phenomenon. The degree of help – the number of people offering assistance and the number of buyers accepting – is the astounding statistic.

The more eye-popping revelation revolves around why first-timers need help. Is the present housing market so unfriendly to first-time buyers? Actually, without an 'angel' or two at your side, the housing market can be an intimidating place for a home buyer. A study of all types of home buyers looking for a mortgage shows that people find the process to be a difficult one. Forty percent of all buyers and 42% of first-time home buyers were surprised by the complicated challenges encountered along the way.

First-Time Home Buyers – The Challenges

  • The First-Time Home Buyers Tax Credit is past its expiry date.
  • Even with low mortgage rates, today's homes cost a substantial sum.
  • 'No-down-payment mortgages' do not exist in the current marketplace.
  • First-time home buyers need a significant down payment – even if they have good credit.
  • Banks and lenders have strict standards.
  • Financing is a problem if a potential buyer does not have a favorable credit score.
  • Lenders have a 'one size fits all' approach – lack of consideration for individual circumstances.

Family and friends step in where lenders leave off and lack of consideration is replaced by consideration and support. Yet the reality is that despite their best intentions, many families and friends are not in a position to help first-time home buyers. This group of first-timers will be examining the housing market carefully before they enter into any transactions. If you have the means and qualifications, however, James J. Driscoll, with Auburn Sherlock Homes Real Estate in Auburn, N.Y., makes a good case for buying a home.

"..If a person's choice was between a $1,000 rent and a $650 mortgage payment, why wouldn't you buy if you're qualified and have the means to make the purchase," says James J. Driscoll, with Auburn Sherlock Homes Real Estate.

CONSUMER FINANCE: Housing-Market Bust Changes Buyer Behavior

Are You Planning To Buy A New Home?

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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?

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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?

Tips and Advice for Home Buyers and Sellers

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