Author: Coops Coffee - Zackry Cooper TEAM COOPER

As Team Leader, it’s my job to play to people’s strengths and in turn offer exceptional service to our borrowers, referral partners, and national builder accounts. My goal is to create a “Client For Life” by offering exceptional service and creating “Wow” moments with everyone I encounter. I believe there is no such thing as over communication and stress the importance of “under promising and over delivering.” Because of this, our team is 100% referral based. I am a passionate person and play at 100% in all areas of my life. Knowing the importance of balance between work and play, I practice living in the moment, spending time with real people, and I’m grateful for all the gifts I been given – most of all my wife Terri and son Brody. I work hard, play hard, and laugh often.

APRIL 15th is Right Around the Corner!

For most people, the biggest tax break from owning a home comes from deducting mortgage interest. You can deduct interest on up to $1 million of debt used to acquire or improve your home. Want to explore YOUR options? Contact me TODAY!

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The Must Have Home Buying Guide For Anyone Thinking of Buying A Home

Buying  A Home Guide    I wanted to let you know I have completed a guide for individuals wanting to buy a home.  Whether you are a first time  homebuyer or a repeat buyer there is a lot of great info for you to review.  If you would like me to email me you a FREE COPY of the guide just let me know.  This is a MUST HAVE for all buyers thinking of buying a home in 2015.    – Zackry Cooper  925.338.9225

Appraisal Changes Coming January 2015. Read This and Understand How To Be Prepared. Don’t Read This and Learn The Hard Way!

I have had a lot of questions lately in regards to the upcoming changes to the appraisal process, known as the CU Program, with Fannie Mae.  Many of you watched this link:

http://thenationalrealestatepost.com/appraisal-time-bomb-coming-in-january-2015/

and after watching my email was full of questions on how this would effect upcoming transactions.  I decided to dig in and talk to the head of our appraisal department.  The key item to remember when dealing with HomeStreet is we own and operate our appraisal department, so our appraisers are hand selected by HomeStreet for the panel and have to pass rigorous standards in order to be a part of our panel.  “Our appraiser panel nearly rejects 1/3 of its applicants, so most of our panel has already been weeded out” as  per our head of appraisal department.  With that said what we believe at HomeStreet is the companies that do not own/operate their AMC’s, Appraisal Management Companies, will have issues due to lack of experience and whom is sitting behind the desk trying to review these appraisals and interpret this new change.  Below you will read the commentary straight from the head of all appraisal at HomeStreet and how we interpret the changes. Bottom line, HomeStreet Bank is positioned very, very well to tackle these changes and we can protect your sellers and buyers.

Tip:  If you are listing agent accepting offers you are looking pre approval letters from lenders whom own operate their appraisal panel.  Typically your large banks, brokers, and most correspondent lenders do not.  They use a 3rd party AMC typically.

Tip#2:  If you are working with buyers I would also make sure the lenders they are pre approved with have the above criteria as well.

Tip#3:  If you are working my team and HomeStreet Bank we will make sure to let the listing agents know on the offer going in we can help both their seller and agent navigate this new uncharted territory.

Here is the email from the head our appraisal department, Clark Dickson, in response to the upcoming CU changes:  (READ THIS)

My thoughts are that it is simply too early to determine how this all will affect appraisals/appraisers/mortgages, going forward.  As usual, there are always “The sky is falling” folks in the mix who always predict doom and gloom.

 

None of us here at the bank in the appraisal department has actually “seen” what CU will actually be.  All of us are aware of it and our compliance officer has been in any number of meetings and seminars to determine how it may affect us moving forward.

 

When I was in Las Vegas in November listening to the head FNMA appraiser discuss the implications of this “CU” program, he was downplaying it’s immediate influence.  The way he described it was as a double-check against appraiser’s choosing inferior comps, to inflate values and additionally, some minor level of insurance that the appraisers at least considered the most appropriate comps.

 

Generally, I believe that good appraisers, doing good appraisals, will be just fine, doing what they have historically done, provided that they explain what they did and why they did it.  To that end, we just finished an all-day seminar in both Carlsbad and Pasadena (and Fairfield/Dublin-Cathy), where we strongly encouraged appraisers to stop being form-fillers and gave them permission to become appraisers again.  This seminar was CA-approved for continuing education credits for appraisers.  We gave them specific language and techniques to more-strongly support their appraisals, along with a myriad of other issues.  Between the four venues, we had nearly 300 HomeStreet-only appraisers in, to re-learn how to work for us and provide well supported, credible appraisals for the secondary market.

 

FNMA appears to be trying to weed out weaker appraisers.  Our appraiser panel rejects nearly 1/3 of it’s applicants, so most of our panel has already been weeded out.

 

One of the assumptions made by the article below, is that AMC’s don’t have access to local data for ROV purposes and won’t be able to respond to the now-available 20 additional “low risk” comps.   Our experienced appraisal review team all have over 20 years of technical appraisal experience each, and we have MLS access to data for almost every area that we service.  In addition, our review team is residentially certified in all states that we serve.  We have three dedicated, experienced review appraisers stationed in or near Southern CA with MLS data for all So Cal counties.  We have three more in Northern CA.

 

It is a sure bet that many cost conscious AMCs will use low cost unlicensed staff to ‘review’ these computer generated comparables and ask for the originating appraiser to respond to any that have a lower ‘risk rank’ than the comparables selected by the appraiser.  This is not the case with us.  We will read the appraisal to determine if the appraisal has performed a reasonable analysis and supported his/her assertions in a credible manner, irrespective of computer generated printouts.  Based on all of the appraisal, we will question or have the appraiser respond to issues, based on sound reasoning and not a printout.

 

The directives from FNMA are that the neighborhood IS the neighborhood and that the data from the 1004MC (market conditions report) is dependent upon the actual sales data.  Irrespective of how they think they will be able to use CBG (Census Book Groups) to determine neighborhood data, they won’t.  It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison, which will never fit.

 

Every one of our HomeStreet appraisers on staff is already registered for THREE different units of FNMA training in January/February to become expert in CU.  Our compliance officer will keep us up to date and compliant.  But the sky is not yet falling and there is always a knee-jerk, over-reaction when these edicts come out from FNMA.

 

If there are truly issues to be addressed, then we will do so in a rational, compliant manner, leaving the sky where it belongs.  There is truly no need to panic at this point, although the dooms-dayers are already at it.

 

“The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.”

— Brian Tracy: is a self-help author and motivational speaker

In a Strengthening Market, Appraisals May Not Keep Up With Prices

Some people  live in one of those pockets of the U.S. where home prices never dropped as dramatically as elsewhere and in some instances, appear now to be rising. Other such pockets exist across the U.S. — just look at your local (not national) headlines to see whether you’re in one of them. But even if you’re not, keep reading to see what growing pains your own market might soon endure.

We’re only at the tentative beginnings of this mini-trend. And that very transition is leading to complications at appraisal time. The situation was summed up recently by Realtor Julie Scheff as, “multiple offers  driving prices upward and conservative appraisals [] dampening them downward (in an April 20 article in the Montclarion called “Multiple offers signal a strengthening realty market”).

By way of reminder, most home buyers take out a loan in order to buy a home, thus making the bank or other lender a key player in closing the sale. What the bank says, basically goes. And the bank will nearly always require an appraisal, in order to make sure that the house is worth the amount of the loan in case it ends up foreclosing.

Appraisers, meanwhile, have become a conservative lot. They got burned in the real estate meltdown, collectively accused of having willingly gone along with insane levels of home price inflation. So they take a much closer look at properties now before proclaiming their value, and if they don’t see comparable sales supporting the amount the buyer wants to pay, they may not sign off on the magic number.

The last thing you want in a market that still isn’t exactly superheated is to have the deal fall apart because the appraiser, having looked around at all the low comparables, says that property isn’t worth what the buyer and seller have agreed upon. Fortunately, there’s no reason to just sit back and wait for that to happen.

Avoiding a low appraisal in advance. It’s possible to forestall a low appraisal by helping the appraiser recognize the property’s value. Whether you are the seller or the buyer, you can commission your own, independent appraisal of the property, and give those to the lender’s appraiser ahead of time.

You (or your real estate agent) can also research and advise the appraiser of any local short sales or foreclosures that might artificially bring down the numbers. (Contrary to rumor, you are allowed to speak with the appraiser, though the lender may not do so.) Give the appraiser a list (with before-and-after photos, if possible) of interior features, upgrades, and improvements, all of which can boost the property’s value. And by the way, sellers, keeping the property looking good through appraisal day doesn’t hurt, either.

Your real estate agent’s industry connections can help here, too. Your agent can speak to other agents with homes in escrow and ask for the sales prices, then — assuming they reflect rising values — prepare a list of these homes with their agents’ contact information for the appraiser.

Dealing with a low appraisal. If providing advance information doesn’t work, and the appraisal still comes in low, the seller and the buyer can call up the appraiser and question the bases for the appraisal, hoping for a reevaluation. You can also commission a second appraisal, and (assuming it’s better) show that to the lender — though the lender has no obligation to accept it.

If you’re the seller, your main hope may end up being that the buyer is willing to pay the original price (particularly likely if you were in a multiple bid situation) but increase the down payment and take out a smaller loan. That just heightens the importance of sellers carefully scrutinizing the buyer’s financials before accepting an offer, and asking for detailed information on the buyer’s income and savings. Yes, it may feel like the seller is delving for private information, but the buyer has good reason to consent to share it in this situation. (It’s also another good reason for sellers to prefer a buyer who offers a large down payment to begin with.)

Barring this, a price drop (or failed deal) may be your only option. But buyers, don’t be overly alarmed if an appraisal comes in low, particularly if you did your research or were in a competitive bidding situation. While the appraiser is a professional, and the process is backed up by evidence, every house is unique. A house’s value comes down to what a buyer is willing to pay and a seller is willing to accept.

TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Feb 2; Who’s The Quarterback?; Is It Time For Young Families To Buy A Home?; Obama Refi Plan Would Help Non-GSE-Backed Borrowers; First-Time Buyers More Willing to Compromise

“Conventional wisdom is not to put all of your eggs in one basket. 80/20 wisdom is to choose a basket carefully, load all your eggs into it, and then watch it like a hawk.”

— Richard Koch: is a former management consultant, entrepreneur, and writer

WHO’S THE QUARTERBACK?

Given that it’s Superbowl Week, I thought we might go with a football theme today. I can’t tell you how many different people I hear proclaim that they are the quarterback of the real estate transaction – the agent, the loan officer, an attorney, accountant or financial planner. But for goodness sake, the buyer/borrower had better be the one calling the shots. Not that everyone else doesn’t play an important role, but the buyer/borrower is the one most impacted by the choices made.

How the team works best:

• Head Coach (Your Loan Officer) – Your loan officer should be the Head Coach. After careful analysis of your income, credit and assets, this is the person in the best position to make sure you are playing to your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. Your loan officer can discuss the economic realities of homeownership, while listening to your quality of life concerns. (How often you’ll be able to eat out or vacation, for example.) The loan officer can set up the game plan.

• Offensive Coordinator (Your Real Estate Agent) – Your real estate agent is your offensive coordinator. Armed with the game plan (which includes your limitations), the agent calls the plays, counseling you on the geography, the competition, the best ways to negotiate your way to your personal touchdown. Agents know the playing field (the inventory and the market). If you hire them to represent you, they can disclose the weaknesses of your competition (the seller).

• Offensive Line (Your Attorney, Accountant and Financial Advisors) – Your attorney, accountant and financial advisors are your offensive line. They are there to protect you from the blitzes that come from outside (sellers, title issues, tax consequences, and protecting your assets). Not the glamour positions, but vital to any success you are going to have.

• Running Backs and Wide Receivers (Your Friends and Family) – Your friends and family are the running backs and wide receivers. They often receive the glory and attention, but honestly, if everyone else doesn’t do their job, they rarely ever see success. Bad game plans, weak play calling, poor execution on the offensive line or by you, as quarterback, leave them merely as names on the roster.

As with any team, communication is the most important component to getting the desired results. Being the center of the action on the field, the quarterback (you) needs to honestly talk with your coaches and coordinators, so they can help direct you on the proper play calling. Simultaneously, you need to heed the feedback from your offensive line, running backs, and receivers to filter wise advice from emotion. Be the quarterback of your own home-buying process and you’ll be more likely to realize your dreams (and not the dreams of someone else).

 

IS IT TIME FOR YOUNG FAMILIES TO BUY A HOME?

It has been reported that almost six million adults between the ages of 25 to 34 are currently living with their parents. That number reflects an almost 50% increase since 2003. These young adults are now being advised to jump into homeownership.

Who are the people selling them on the American Dream? Their parents! It seems that parents of some adult children are strongly suggesting that their children take advantage of the low cost of homeownership available today. Some moms and dads are helping financially and are even co-signing for the mortgage. Middle age parents who have owned a home understand its true value. A home has always been a good long term financial investment. However, homeownership also has many other benefits.

In Fannie Mae’s most recent National Housing Survey, they asked the question directly: Is this a major reason to buy a home?

The study broke up the answers into financial and non-financial reasons. The top four reasons and six of the top ten reasons were NON-FINANCIAL. The top four are below:

1. It means having a good place to raise children and provide a good education.

2. You have a physical structure where you and your family feel safe.

3. It allows you to have more space for your family.

4. It gives you control over what you do with your living space (renovations & updates).

Should this surprise us? Aren’t these the same reasons our parents bought their home? Aren’t these the same reasons we purchased our home? These are the same reasons parents have suggested their children buy a home. They want the same things for their grandchildren that they believed to be important for their children.

And today, the cost of homeownership is at all time lows:

J.P. Morgan

“The numbers on housing have an important message for American families today, and particularly younger families setting out on life’s great adventure: Five years ago, at the peak of the home-buying euphoria, it was emphatically a time to rent. Today, when home ownership is depreciated more than ever before, the numbers tell us it is a time to buy.”

MSNBC.com

“[S]omeone who plans on staying put for seven years would come out ahead by about $9,000 if they bought a median-priced home rather than being a tenant in a median-priced rental.”

HUD

“Homes today are more affordable for average families than they have been since 1971. Median-income families today have nearly double the funds needed to purchase the average home.”

Bottom Line

Now that the economy is beginning to show signs of stabilizing, people are getting back to the core values that families have always embraced. Homeownership is definitely high on that list. And today, from a financial standpoint, it may be the opportunity of a lifetime.

 

OBAMA REFI PLAN WOULD HELP NON-GSE-BACKED BORROWERS

In the details released today, President Barack Obama fleshed out a proposal he announced in his State of the Union speech to boost the housing market by helping more underwater home owners than are currently being served by lenders.

The President said he wants to make the federal government’s existing mortgage refinance program, called HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) available to more home owners. It’s currently available to struggling borrowers with loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. For these borrowers, incentives are provided under certain conditions to make refinancing more attractive.

Key points:

1.) More underwater home owners would be able to tap federal refinance assistance than can do so today,

2.) mortgage servicers would be restricted in their ability to foreclose until after they’ve exhausted efforts for borrowers who’ve make a good-faith effort to modify their mortgage, and

3.) efforts to reduce the inventory of foreclosed homes through bulk sales to investors for use as rental housing would be tried in a pilot program.

Under the new proposal, HARP would be expanded to include borrowers with loans that aren’t backed by Fannie and Freddie. These are the borrowers whose loans were securitized in private-label securities without any federal backing, and they would be allowed to refinance into FHA-backed loans, the same as the Fannie and Freddie borrowers. The administration has estimated that borrowers would save $3,000 a year in mortgage costs.

To be eligible, borrowers would have to have made their mortgage payments over the last six months with only one delinquency, and their loan amount couldn’t exceed the FHA loan limit for their area. If borrowers owe more than 140 percent of the value of their home, the lender has to agree to reduce the loan balance. Also, borrowers wouldn’t have to submit a full file of paperwork for the refinancing as long as they can verify their employment. The proposal also would enable borrowers who still have equity in their home — up to 20 percent — to participate.

The changes will require legislation, so Congress will have to agree to them for the expanded program to take effect.

In his State of the Union speech last week, Obama said he would pay for the expanded program using a fee charged to the country’s largest banks so the initiative wouldn’t add to the deficit. But some members of Congress have said they oppose charging banks a fee to cover the cost.

The Obama plan would also introduce a Bill of Rights for home owners, part of which is intended to smooth the mortgage modification and foreclosure processes, which today can be contentious and difficult for borrowers to understand. A key part of this is an effort to curb banks’ practice of undertaking a mortgage modification while at the same time proceeding with a foreclosure — a process called dual tracking. Before they can start foreclosure, banks will have to show they took all reasonable steps to modify a borrower’s mortgage.

To help ease inventories of foreclosed homes, the plan would give a green light to Fannie Mae to implement a pilot program to make foreclosures available to investors in bulk purchases for conversion to rental housing. Under the pilot, Fannie would package for sale foreclosed homes in a limited number of markets and require them to be used as rental properties for a period of time.

NAR has concerns with this proposal and has been talking with federal regulators to ensure that the program is carefully tailored to the communities who can truly benefit from it, that small- and medium-sized investors be able to participate, and that real estate professionals continue to play a role in the disposition of the homes.

In a statement released after the President outlined the details of his proposal, NAR said it’s urging the regulator of Fannie and Freddie, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, “to proceed cautiously with the REO-to-rental program since housing markets are complex and varied.

“NAR believes an overly aggressive REO-to-rental program that is not privately administered by local entities and does not involve substantial participation of local market experts, especially licensed real estate professionals, could be disruptive and counterproductive to communities already suffering from high foreclosure inventories and lower housing values.”

 

FIRST-TIME BUYERS MORE WILLING TO COMPROMISE

When it comes to space and upgrades, first-time home buyers are more willing to compromise than repeat buyers, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2011 “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.”

While they have big wish lists too, first-time buyers seem to be most driven by finding a home that offers a reasonable monthly mortgage payment.

“Single home buyers tend to value affordability above all when they are choosing a home and a neighborhood,” says Jessica Lautz, NAR’s manager of member and consumer survey research. “They also focus more on living some place convenient to friends and family, as well as entertainment and leisure activities.”

The median age of first-time home buyers is 31, and about 26 percent are married with children.

First-time home buyers tend to rate energy efficiency high on their wish list, as well as simple, no-hassle technology use in their house, the study finds.

But “even if they like the idea of solar panels, first-time buyers are not likely to spend an extra $20,000 to have them,” says Stephen Melman, director of economic services for economics and housing policy for the National Association of Home Builders.

First-time buyers also are willing to compromise on space: The median-size of a home purchased by a first-time buyer is 1,570 square feet.

Overall, “the top three things that buyers want are a great room instead of a formal living room, a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, and a laundry room,” says Melman. “First-time buyers want the same thing, but they are more likely to be satisfied with a small laundry room without an attached mudroom and with a smaller master bedroom and a smaller walk-in closet.”

But one thing first-time buyers aren’t as willing to compromise on: Buying a home that needs a lot of repairs.

“Buyers that don’t have any experience with home maintenance tend to be afraid of renovations, so home sellers should be sure to fix everything they can and make minor home improvements in order to appeal to first-time buyers,” Melman says.

TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Feb 2; Who’s The Quarterback?; Is It Time For Young Families To Buy A Home?; Obama Refi Plan Would Help Non-GSE-Backed Borrowers; First-Time Buyers More Willing to Compromise

TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Jan 23; 10 Surprising Reasons You Can’t Get A Home; Are Home Owners Happy with Home Ownership?; How To Help Your Clients Buy a Foreclosure; Gov’t Near Deal on Foreclosure Settlement; Don’t Lag on Winter Maintenance

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

— Abraham Lincoln: was the 16th President of the United States

 

 

10 SURPRISING REASONS YOU CAN’T GET A HOME

Getting a home signifies financial security and an investment for the future. Owning a home is part of the American Dream. There are some surprising reasons why you can’t get a home.

1. Down Payment – You may have the required 10%-25% on the asking price of the home you are interested in but how you acquired it and how long you’ve had it could keep you from getting the home. Many times relatives offer young couples the down payment. Lending institutions take this into consideration when looking at the ability of a homeowner to keep up with mortgage payments. Saving the down payment over time lends to the credibility of money management.

2. Credit– Credit history is an ongoing process. Student loans are one of the first obligations a person may have as an adult. Late payments may have a bearing on your ability to acquire a home later in life. Credit scores are also affected by utility payments. Any recurring bill that is paid late may come back to haunt you even though your financial situation is now more sound. Your debt to income ratio ideally needs to be under 45%. Less than a 3 month asset reserve in a bank account will generally keep you from getting a home. Check your credit score with all 3 agencies and make sure there is nothing being reported incorrectly. You need to aim for a score of 660 or better.

3. Job Security – Your job history may be why you can’t get a home. Lenders look for stability. If you jump from job to job, regardless of monetary or career improvement, lenders see you as a financial risk. When the economy takes a downward turn, employers tend to retain employees with seniority. Also taken into consideration is the risk of the job.

4. Parent History – If your parents have a questionable credit history, you may be dealing under their shadow. If parents foreclosed, you may be affected. If they were late with mortgage or credit card payments, you may be looked upon as having the same traits. If you are asked information on parent particulars, you may need to look elsewhere for home financing.

5. Location – The location of a home may affect whether or not a lender is willing to risk mortgaging it. LNG routes, Super Site areas, fault lines, destructive weather patterns all have bearings on mortgage risks lenders are willing to take on.

6. Inspection – More and more, home inspections are being required to seal the closing deal. Hopes have been dashed to learn major expenses must be incurred to pass inspection for the approval of the sale.

7. Condition – Fixer-uppers may offer pricing that appears affordable. If you have no background of construction or home improvement projects completed, lenders are leery to finance such undertakings. They may require a lump sum amount be in an account to cover the improvements necessary to ensure the property does not result in a loss to the lender.

8. Liens – If you owned property before and were subject to liens for unacceptable reasons such as credit card debt or unpaid taxes, you may not get the home you desire. A current homeowner may also have substantial liens that need to be satisfied at closing either from the sale itself or as additional costs to the buyer.

9. History – The history of the home may be the deciding factor that keeps a lender from financing in your behalf. A murder, haunting, nearby sinkhole, or other less favorable activity, bear upon the lender’s willingness to finance such a home.

10. The Bank – Economic conditions and bank lending history may be the reason you can’t get a home. Banks may be leaning toward only very secure clients to up their lending credibility. If a bank turns you down, look to other options before you decide to settle on thinking you can’t get a home. FHA, VHA, or a first time buyer program offer other alternatives for which you may qualify.

If you can’t get a home loan with one lender, chances are good that another institution will also turn you down. You should take some time and work at increasing the good points that will work in your favor. Try again when your situation has improved.

 

ARE HOME OWNERS HAPPY WITH HOME OWNERSHIP?

Seventy-two percent of home owners say they are satisfied with owning a home, mostly attributing their satisfaction to the pride home ownership brings them as well as the freedom to control what type of home improvements and upgrades they can do to their homes, according to HomeGain’s 2012 Home Ownership Satisfaction Survey of more than 1,400 home owners across the country.

The survey shows that “in spite of declines in the values of homes nationwide, satisfaction among home owners remains high … with nearly 3 of 4 home owners satisfied with home ownership.” Louis Cammarosano, general manager of HomeGain, said in a statement.

The Northeast had the highest percentage of satisfied home owners at 77 percent, followed by the Southeast (73 percent), West (71 percent), and the Midwest (68 percent), according to the survey.

But for those 28 percent of home owners who say they aren’t satisfied with home ownership, the majority blamed it on the price depreciation of their home as the chief reason.

Here are some other differences the survey uncovered for home owner satisfaction verses dissatisfaction:

–The survey found that home owners who purchased their homes three to eight years ago tended to be the most dissatisfied. On the other hand, home owners who purchased their home in the last three years, or more than eight years ago were found to be the most satisfied.

–The home owners who were the most satisfied with home ownership paid less than $75,000 for their home, whereas home owners who purchased a home for more than $800,000 were the least satisifed.

–Home owners purchasing a foreclosed home or a home in a short sale also had some of the highest home ownership satisfaction rates, according to the survey.

 

HOW TO HELP YOUR CLIENTS BUY A FORECLOSURE

Home buyers can be attracted to the big bargains that foreclosures and pre-foreclosures can offer, but these can be tricky, lengthy transactions to negotiate and there’s a lot to think about before jumping in, real estate professionals say.

Make sure you get a good value: Before a buyer makes an offer on a foreclosure or short sale property, real estate agents say buyers need to carefully review with their agent’s comparable sales prices in the area, the number of nearby foreclosures, the school districts, and close-by amenities–which all can be important factors that can influence home values, says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

“You want to be careful if every house is in foreclosure,” Blomquist says. “When you purchase a property in this market, the value will probably go down before it goes up. If it’s the only property in a market, you can probably get a good deal.”

Generally, Alexis McGree, co-founder and president at ForeclosureS.com, says that buyers need to be realistic and shouldn’t expect any more than a 10 percent to 20 percent discount on a bank-owned property.

Watch the condition: Foreclosed homes often are sold as-is, but experts urge buyers to get a home inspection done prior so they know the cost estimates of any repairs needed. “Getting a home inspection is not a requirement, but you can make it a requirement by including an inspection contingency clause in your offer agreement,” says Marvin Goldstein, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors. “No one wants surprises on the last day.” Plus, you may be able to use any condition problems uncovered in the home inspection in negotiations to justify a price discount.

Look for special financing: The Department of Housing and Urban Development offers some options. For example, “the Federal Housing Administration Section 203(k) program is great for foreclosed home buyers,” says Blomquist. “The FHA loans give you more money to help fix up the property.” The loans, which are insured by HUD, allow borrowers to use some of the loan for any needed repairs. The loans require a down payment of 3.5 percent of the purchase price.

Run a title search: Experts also recommend running a title search on the property to find out if the property has any liens from other lenders or whether any property taxes are owed.

 

BANKS, GOV’T NEAR DEAL ON FORECLOSURE SETTLEMENT

Up to 1 million at-risk, underwater borrowers may be eligible for a reduction on their mortgage principal, if a settlement between big banks and government officials gets the final approval.

The mortgage aid is reportedly on the table as big banks and federal and state government officials are nearing an end to months of settlement talks stemming from foreclosure abuses allegedly made by banks that caused many home owners to lose their home.

“We’re very close to a settlement that would both fix the servicing problems, but also help over a million families around the country stay in their homes and get help,” Shaun Donovan, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, said during a recent forum at the Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington.

Under the proposed settlement, major lenders J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Financial would pay between $20 billion to $25 billion to settle alleged foreclosure abuses.

Donovan also said banks also would reduce the mortgage principal of up to 1 million borrowers by about $20,000 each. Furthermore, he noted that some families who were wrongly foreclosed upon may get compensated as a result of the settlement.

 

DON’T LAG ON WINTER HOME MAINTENANCE

Homes may require some extra attention when it comes to maintenance to protect itself against the cold, harsh weather.

A recent article at Realty Times offers up some maintenance tips for the winter months:

Keep out drafts. Twice a year check your windows and doors for any air leaks, and add caulking, if needed. If extra caulking won’t suffice and you don’t have the money for a replacement, consider adding a storm door to keep out drafts or at least purchasing a draft blocker, which lies at the bottom of your door to block out the cold air.

Check the heating system. “Central heat and air units need to be checked over,” the Realty Times article notes. “When a unit is well-serviced it will save you fuel and thus money.”

Assess the ductwork. Make a trip to the attic to ensure that any parts haven’t become disconnected as well as a critter hasn’t chewed through any duct work.

Clean the gutters. Gutters can become clogged of leaves or other debris. When that happens, they can hold water, which can eventually rot away the siding or roof of your home. Make sure to keep the gutters clean.

Prevent freezing pipes. “When the weather drops below freezing you need to keep your pipes from freezing,” the Realty Times article notes. “Let faucets drip and unhook all outdoor hoses.”