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TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Dec 14; Better Indicator of a Healthy Market: Liquidity; The Need for a True Real Estate Professional; 4 Tips to Help Your Buyers Refine Their Home Search; QR Codes: Give Them A Reason to Scan; Flippers to Blame for Downturn

“Potential is all of the resources you have in front of you. Efficiency is putting those resources to use effectively.”

 — Garrett Gunderson: is an entrepreneur and author


Blog brought to you by: Ken H. Johnson, Ph.D. — Florida International University (FIU) and Editor of the Journal of Housing Research

What is the definition of a healthy housing market? Is it a housing market in which home prices are decreasing? Few would agree with this. Is it a market in which home prices are increasing? At first glance, many would agree with this definition. However, increasing prices cannot be used to diagnose a healthy housing market. If increasing prices indicate market health, then in 2005 housing markets were “very” healthy, and we know that this is not true.

If pricing does not indicate market health, then what does? The answer is simple: it is market liquidity and not pricing that indicates the health of a housing market. Liquidity has been defined in many ways but it basically boils down to: can an individual seller, at a time of their choosing, successfully market their property at or near market value? We often hear of rates (turn-over and absorption) that are related to this concept. Unfortunately, these measures are difficult to estimate and they all have something to do with outstanding inventory. What really matters, regardless of outstanding inventory, is the likelihood that a property will close. This is the most basic meaning of market liquidity and it can easily be proxied.

All of the data necessary to proxy a particular market’s liquidity (and thereby its health) is available on the daily “hot sheets” of almost every MLS in country. Since liquidity is really just a batting average all that needs to be done is total the successful transactions (closed properties) and divide these by the failed listing transactions (Expireds + Withdrawns + Cease Efforts + Cancelled)[1][2]. The resulting number is a very close approximate to the probability that any given property listed in that market will close and an increasing trend in this number indicates improving market health.


Pricing trends do not indicate the health of a housing market. Keep in mind. For almost every sell in an increasing market, there is a repurchase at a higher price. For almost every sell in a decreasing market, there is a repurchase at a lower price. Thus, pricing is a “double edged sword”. Gains/Losses on a sell are almost always accompanied by higher/lower repurchases. Thus, pricing trends can never indicate the health of a particular real estate market. Instead, it is market liquidly, which can be easily proxied, that actually indicates market health. After all, the real goal is for a seller of property to be able to transact at or near market value with a high degree of certainty. Fortunately, most MLS’s around the country have the information at their fingertips to estimate the health of their particular market.

It is liquidity (not price) that matters.


[1] Different MLS’s have similar but not exact designations for these various categories. The goal is simply to divide successes by failures.

[2] The timing of the calculation will depend on the number of outcomes each day on a particular market’s MLS hot sheet. The goal is to avoid a mathematically undefined estimate. Thus, larger markets might do this average daily, while smaller markets might only calculate this average on a monthly basis.



Anyone in the real estate industry for any length of time realizes that the education required and the resources necessary to be a true industry professional have dramatically increased over the last two decades. In today’s volatile market, it is necessary to have a true real estate professional if you want to sell your home for the best possible price in the shortest amount of time – and make sure the deal gets to the closing table!

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) explained in a recent Existing Sales Report that 18% of all contracts were cancelled in the previous. This compares to 16% the prior month and 9% in August of 2010.

The good news is homeowners have realized that attempting to sell their home on their own is an arduous process best left to an industry expert. According to NAR’s 2011 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the percentage of sellers selling on their own, known as For Sale By Owners (FSBOs), has dropped almost in half over the last 20 years:

Bottom Line

If you are selling a home in today’s confusing real estate market, it is best to take on the services of a local real estate expert. He/she will guide you through each step of the transaction thereby increasing the likelihood that there will be fewer inconveniences for you and your family.



Are your buyers having a tough time wading through the inventories of homes to find the right home? Kelly O’Ryan, an office manager with Coldwell Banker in Lexington, Mass., offered some of the following tips in a recent article at RISMedia to help your home buyers narrow their search when looking for properties:

1. Have your home buyers make a list of all the must-haves for their future home, such as the number of bedrooms and school district they must have.

2. Make sure your buyers get pre-approved for a mortgage by a lender. This will help ensure they don’t look for homes that are only within their budget.

3. Encourage your buyers to research available homes on the Internet so they get a feel for what’s available. You can help them sort for properties within their price range and locate homes that fit their criteria. But have them review photos and videos of multiple homes on the Internet to help them narrow their search before you take them to view homes in-person.

4. Remind your home buyers to not get sidetracked when viewing homes at aesthetics that can be changed out easily, such as paint colors and light fixtures. Help them to see past any bad decor and focus in on items in the home that can’t easily be changed, such as the home’s location and lot size.

Source: “How To Lead a Refined Real Estate Search



QR (Quick Response) codes must be used correctly to serve as valuable marketing tools.

QR codes should direct consumers to a mobile landing page, otherwise they load slowly, do not format correctly, and do not allow for easy browsing. They also must be accompanied by a clear call to action, encouraging consumers to scan for a discount or to receive useful information. After consumers scan the QR code, there must be an exclusive offer or important content or information waiting for them.

Although QR codes can be had for free, experts say it is important that they come with reporting tools, which can help real estate agents gauge the success of their marketing campaign. Free codes also prevent changes in content, requiring that a new QR code be created.

Finally, agents should keep the URL short to make the code easier to scan.

Source: The 5 Rules of QR Codes



House flippers — made up of investors who bought up homes during the housing boom, possibly made a few upgrades to the home, and quickly resold the homes for high-dollar profit — played a larger role in causing the housing bubble than previously thought, according to a new federal report out by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The impact that speculative real estate investors played in driving the housing downturn has mostly been overlooked until now, the researchers note.

The speculative investors used low down payments and subprime credit in buying up multiple homes at once, the report says. Their actions attributed to home prices in some areas being inflated, researchers say.

“This may have allowed the bubble to inflate further, which caused millions of owner-occupants to pay more if they wanted to buy a home for their family,” researchers note in the report.

House flippers made up a big piece of the real estate market during the housing boom. According to the report, more than one-third of all home mortgages from 2006 were to people who already owned at least one home. What’s more, “in Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada, where average home prices more than doubled from 2000 to 2006, investors made up nearly half of all mortgage-backed purchases during the housing bubble,” the Associated Press reports. “Buyers owning three or more properties represented the fastest-growing segment of home owners during that time.”

When home values began to fall in 2006, investors defaulted on their loans in large numbers, accounting for more than 25 percent of seriously delinquent mortgage balances, according to the report. In investor hot-spots like Arizona, California, Florida, and Nevada, investors accounted for more than a third of seriously delinquent mortgage balances from 2007 to 2009.

The report urges lenders and regulators to take action to limit speculative borrowing in order to avoid a future housing downturn.

Source: “Flippers’ Housing Bust Role Larger Than Thought

TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Dec 12; Banks Spend Money to Spruce Up REO’s; Where Are The Gen “Y” Home Buyers?; BofA Considers Renting REOs Back to Former Owners; Housing Still Great Investment, Americans Say; Low Rates Keep Housing Affordable

“A resourceful person can see opportunity when others only see obstacles.”

— Garrett Gunderson: is an entrepreneur and author




Foreclosed homes continue to hamper nearby property values. In some cities, foreclosures were found to decrease nearby property values up to $17,000, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

More programs are being aimed at rehabbing foreclosed homes so the harm to property values won’t be as great.

According to the GAO report, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac doled out $953 million last year to maintain and fix up vacant homes.

“We are committed to stabilizing communities and helping the housing market recover,” a Fannie Mae spokesperson told HousingWire. “Our goal is to sell REO properties at a competitive market rate, and maintaining our properties is an important part of achieving that goal.”

Since 2008, investors and nonprofits received $6 billion in grant money from HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program to maintain and fix up vacant homes. In Detroit, the city spent $20 million last year demolishing vacant homes or rehabbing ones that could still be saved after neglect.

Wells Fargo & Co. said recently it will donate $5.53 million to 52 nonprofit groups through its Leading the Way Home Program Priority Markets Initiative so that the groups can purchase and redevelop foreclosed and abandoned homes.

“These grants will help stabilize and rebuild local communities,” Kimberly Jackson, executive director of Wells Fargo’s Housing Foundation. “We want to do what we can to make resources available to support efforts led by nonprofits to revitalize neighborhoods in cities that have felt the effects of financial difficulties and a challenging economy.”



Many buyers are delaying a decision to purchase a home because of the volatility of the real estate market. There is no larger category exhibiting this behavior than those of Generation Y. To define this segment of the population, we go to Wikipedia:

Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation (or Millennials), Generation Next, Net Generation, or Echo Boomers, describes the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when the Millennial generation starts and ends, and commentators have used birth dates ranging somewhere from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s.

Does this generation wish to own a home?

Yes. A recent survey completed by Trulia shows people between the ages of 18-34 still believe in the concept of home ownership. 65% of those surveyed said “their American Dream includes owning a home”.

Where are these adults living?

Recent research form John Burns Real Estate Consulting shows the number of adults living with their parents has dramatically increased over the past eight years. Below is a graph showing the numbers:

Bottom Line

Generation Y believes in homeownership. Yet, they are delaying the decision to purchase a home of their own. When they do decide to buy, they will impact the housing market in a big way.



In facing large inventories of foreclosures, Bank of America is considering a program that would allow investors to buy a foreclosed home and then rent it back to the former home owner, HousingWire reports.

Bank of America is looking for ideas on how to handle the large inventories of foreclosures in some areas where demand hasn’t picked up.

“We are looking at programs where you can capture somebody before the REO process and offer a deed-for-lease,” Ron Sturzenegger, who leads the bank’s legacy asset servicing division, explained to HousingWire. “We would go to the customer and say, ‘We’ll do a short sale. Will you be interested in leasing your property back? We’re still going to sell the property. You will no longer be the owner. But you can be a tenant now in that same property and save you from moving on.”

The program is still in very early stages and more details need to be worked out, Sturzenegger noted.



Sixty-two percent of Americans say that purchasing a home is a good investment over the next 10 years, according to the Mortgage Index Study conducted on behalf of Bank of America.

Affordability ranks high among the 1,104 consumers surveyed nationwide. For those considering a home purchase within the next year, 62 percent reported contacting a lender or using online tools to determine affordable monthly mortgage payments, according to the survey. Seventy-four percent also said they plan to use their personal savings for a down payment on a home.

According to the survey, consumers most popular piece of advice for others looking to buy a home soon: Don’t “buy more house than you can afford.”



Mortgage rates continued to be near record lows this week, keeping housing at affordable levels for most households.

“Thirty-year fixed-rate loans have declined 0.62 percentage points from a year ago, and median sales prices on existing homes are off 4.7 percent in the year ending with October,” Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement. “These low rates and home prices have pushed housing affordability to record highs this year.”

Monthly principal and mortgage interest payments accounted for 12.6 percent of a median family incomes in October, Nothaft notes. For the sixth time this year, the National Housing Affordability Index reached another all-time record high, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Here’s a closer look at mortgage rates for the week ending Dec. 8.

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.99 percent, with an average 0.7 point, down from last week’s 4 percent average. A year ago, 30-year rates averaged 4.61 percent.

• 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.27 percent, with an average 0.8 point, just slightly above the all-time low of 3.26 percent it reached on Oct. 6. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 3.96 percent.

• 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.93 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, ticking up slightly from last week’s 2.90 percent average. Last year at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.60 percent.

• 1-year ARMs: averaged 2.80 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, edging up slightly from 2.78 percent last week. A year ago, 1-year ARMs averaged 3.27 percent.

TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Dec 9; Holidays are Here: Don’t Let Work Get In The Way; Bill Seeks 1-Yr Cap on Foreclosure Delinquencies; Words Used In Real Estate Listings; 3 Ways Client Overconfidence Sabotages Deals; Delinquencies Drop Next Yr

“The thing is, we have to let go of all blame, all attacking, all judging, to free our inner selves to attract what we say we want. Until we do, we are hamsters in a cage chasing our own tails and wondering why we aren’t getting the results we seek.” — Dr. Joe Vitale: Motivational author and speaker




Turn back the calendar to 2009, and my house is dark, treeless and quiet. I am sitting the first of two open houses, enjoying someone else’s Christmas decorations and platter of homemade wreath cookies. My phone is sited within a one-ring “hello” next to my laptop — which is open, the screens flipping from Constant Contact to Facebook, and from blogs to the multiple listing service.

I waste no time in sending out “VERY IMPORTANT MARKET UPDATES,” replete with the latest price-reduced homes and sales statistics for each quadrant of the city. I scroll through my cell phone and invite fellow Realtors and neighbors to come over and enjoy some hot tea and a biscuit; one more “Holiday Party” on a Sunday afternoon.

Sounds joyful, doesn’t it? Not really.

I would place cash bets that most Realtors reading this have spent the holidays in likewise situations. And all of us would say it was necessary. We live on commissions, and if we’re not working we’re not making money. And then what?

I’ll tell you.

We miss precious and irreplaceable time with our families.

Hey, the best part of being a Realtor is supposed to be the flexible schedule! Right? Right! So make it so! You still have time this month to sit down with your calendar (or smartphone) and decide when you will show houses and when you will play Scrabble. Just because we can work 24 hours a day doesn’t mean we should. A person does have her limits.

So my point is this: Don’t let the fear of a missed sale or the nagging calls of a vacation buyer ruin this seaso. Instead, make a point to have hot chocolate with the kids (with big marshmallows and whipped cream). Put lights all around your house … on the tree, in the kitchen — heck, around the bathroom ceiling. Turn on the 24-hour Christmas radio station. And hug your family.

Happy holidays!

Brought to you by: Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist.



A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday aims to limit and standardize the timeframe that a mortgage company can go after a home owner following a foreclosure for a deficiency judgment.

Known as the Fairness in Foreclosures Act of 2011, H.R. 3566, the bill seeks a one-year cap on any deficiency judgment, except in states that already have shorter time limits already in place. The bill also proposes that mortgage lenders not be allowed to go after “low-income” borrowers for a deficiency judgment.

Deficiency judgments vary greatly by states. In some states, when a bank does not recover the money owed on the mortgage after a foreclosure or short sale, the bank may pursue the former home owners and require them to make up the loss. In some states, lenders can pursue borrowers for deficiency judgments up to six years after a foreclosure sale, HousingWire reports. Other states, such as California and Nevada, have banned deficiency judgments in some circumstances.

“A deficiency judgment after foreclosure seems to be one of the greatest injustices that occur to home owners after they have gone through the arduous foreclosure process,” Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, D-N.Y., who introduced the bill, said in a release. “Not only are they behind by thousands of dollars on their mortgage payments and facing public auction of their houses, the ordeal may continue indefinitely.”



Does everyone have a catchphrase? And further, does our industry have its own unique overused phraseology?

The answer? Oh yes. Besides our flippant throw-around of acronyms — “MLS” (multiple listing service), “SS” (stainless steel appliances), “CMA” (comparative market analysis), “FP” (fireplace), “4B/2B” (four-bedroom, two-bathroom home) — each MLS speaks its own vernacular.

In Central Oregon, a half-bath was denoted with a decimal of “0.5” — pretty straightforward.

In the valley, though, one half-bath is a “0.1.”

Elsewhere, anything with a sink and a toilet is a whole bath, shower be damned. Confusing? Yes.

Descriptors matter, too. In the city of Eugene, Ore., I notice a preponderance of “cream puff” listings. A cream puff? After thorough indoctrination, I now understand that to mean a home of impeccable regard.

And then there are your old standards: “turnkey,” “good bones,” “great potential” — gag me.

Please, if you use these phrases in your listings, you deserve a good lashing. But instead of retiring them, we add to the list of gag-me words until we have a whole paragraph of meaninglessness: “HOLY COW! Look no further!!! This Tuscan Old World home features cathedral-vaulted ceilings, a designer color-palette, gourmet kitchen and a park-like yard. Turnkey and ready for move-in today!”

How many real estate listings in your area read exactly like this?

It’s better we should just start using real words with real meanings.

“The previous owner built this house himself from pictures he cut out of Architectural Digest. No, he didn’t get permits. It’s very “Old World” (i.e., one sink). High ceilings (10 feet high, to be exact) and an even higher ceiling in the entry (12 feet). Wife designed the kitchen and picked the colors (mint green and chartreuse). All the GE appliances work. Yard has one tree and a large flowering rhododendron.”


The difference? There are 25 homes in your area currently on the market with the first description. And none of the 25 will look anything like a “Tuscan” home. But I guarantee there will be only one listing as spot-on as the second description.

OK, so I jest (a little). I realize we often need to put a positive spin on some less-than-desirable listings. But my point is that the words we use in our marketing materials matter.

They introduce our product to the buyers before they ever walk in the door. So instead of putting every Realtor in your area code into a coma, why not try using new words? There’s a reason we have limited space for descriptions. The words we use are important.

Brought to you by: Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist.



Overconfidence in financial decisions regarding real estate can serve as a deal-killer, says Inman columnist Tara-Nicholle Nelson.

In a recent column at Inman News, Nelson offers some of the following most common offenses that stem from “overconfidence”:

Overpricing: Sellers may be overconfident in their home’s appeal. “Overpriced homes don’t get shown to buyers nearly as much as they would if they were properly priced, because buyers see them online up next to much bigger, better homes in the same price range, or next to similar homes that are much better priced, and decide to not even bother coming to see them unless and until the seller’s overconfidence is cured,” Nelson writes.

Lowball offers: Buyers may not fully understand the market. They read national headlines from the media that home prices are down and they think it’s reason enough to submit an offer on a home way below the asking price. “There are plenty of buyers out there who don’t understand that the down market does not mean that sellers are giving homes away — nor does it mean that banks are desperate to offload foreclosed properties,” Nelson says.

Ignoring the data: Buyers and sellers today have access to a variety of data to find out what recent similar homes have sold for, including even photos of the homes. They can use such data to make smart decisions on setting list prices and submitting reasonable offers that are “based on the facts and strategy, not emotion and guesswork.”


The number of borrowers behind on their mortgage payments is expected to drop sharply by the end of next year, according to a new report released by TransUnion.

Mortgage delinquency rates reflect the ratio of borrowers 60 or more days behind on their loan payments. Rates are expected to rise to about 6 percent during the first three months of 2012 before dropping to 5 percent by the end of the year, TransUnion forecasts. At its peak in the fourth quarter of 2009, mortgage delinquencies stood at a 6.89 percent rate.

An improving jobs picture, along with a stabilizing housing market, are expected to be the main contributors in curtailing mortgage delinquencies in 2012, TransUnion says.

But there’s still a long way to go. Even at a 5 percent rate forecasted for 2012, mortgage delinquencies will still be well above the pre-recession average of 1.5 to 2 percent, according to TransUnion.

“We have a long way to go to get back,” Steven Chaouki, a TransUnion vice president, told the Associated Press.


TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Dec 6; Real Estate as a Hedge against Inflation; Prices Mostly Stabilize: Why Aren’t More Talking About it?; Record Number of Homes in Foreclosure; Winter-Selling Tips for Overcoming the Gloom

“Income is derived by what value we can create for others, therefore do what you enjoy, do it the best, and this will allow you to create the most value.”

– Garrett Gunderson: is an entrepreneur and author




We haven’t heard a lot about inflation recently. However, prices have started to creep upward over the last year. As examples, here are a few categories that increased from

November 2010 to November 2011:

• Food at home – up 6.2%

• Housing fuels and utilities – up 3.5%

• Transportation – up 9.2%

Today, we want to address the issue of inflation and the advantages of owning real estate. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) took an historic look at the impact of inflation. Here are some inflation numbers over the past 30 years:

We can see that real estate has fared very well. The most important number is the $0 increase in mortgage amount. The study assumed that the homeowner took a 30 year fixed rate mortgage thereby locking in the housing expense for the thirty years.

NAR then looked at inflation moving forward over the next thirty years. Obviously, if it remained the same as the last thirty years the percentage increase would be the same. They looked at a low inflation scenario and a high inflation scenario. The graph below shows the findings:

Bottom Line

We can lock in the housing costs of our primary residences and vacation homes at all time lows if we purchase today. Either would be a great hedge against future inflation.



An improving job picture and prices stabilizing for non-distressed homes are all signs that point to a housing recovery taking shape, Barclays Capital analyst Stephen Kim told HousingWire.

“In the absence of a government home buyer incentives, prices for non-distressed home sales have stabilized for almost a year,” Kim said. “This is the most important trend in the housing industry right now, and we are amazed at how little attention it has been getting from the media and the street. This stability on the part of non-distressed prices has occurred despite a very high share of distressed activity and continued declines in overall prices.”

The key to when the housing recovery will largely take off “depends primarily on when these first-time buyers decide it is safe to buy a house,” Kim told HousingWire.




The foreclosure pipeline has never been more crammed, with lenders attempting to push 2.2 million homes through the process as of the end of October, according to a monthly report issued today by Lender Processing Services Inc.

Foreclosure starts jumped 5.7 percent from September to October, to 232,865, LPS said. But the report also showed significant improvement in the long-term outlook for foreclosures.

The number of borrowers who were behind on their loans by at least 90 days but who were not yet in foreclosure at the end of October dropped by nearly 19 percent from January, to 1.76 million. That’s a 42.5 percent drop from a peak of 3.06 million in January 2010.

Compared to January, the number of homeowners behind by just one payment also dropped 7.4 percent, to 1.66 million, and 60-day delinquencies were down 11.8 percent, to 665,804.

Delinquencies of all types (30-day, 60-day and 90 days or more) were down 13.6 percent from January to October, to 4.08 million, while the number of homes in foreclosure increased by less than 1 percent.



Selling a home in the cold, dreary winter months may not be ideal but there’s still plenty you can do to get a home to standout.

“Buyers out looking at homes in December or January are, as a group, quite serious about buying,” Laura Ortoleva, a spokesperson for the RE/MAX Northern Illinois, told RISMedia. “Therefore, sellers tend to benefit because each showing is more productive, and fewer showings are needed to sell the property.”

RE/MAX agents offer some of the following tips when selling a home in winter in a recent article at RISMedia.

Turn on the lights: Counter winter’s cloudy and short days by turning on all of the lights in a home for each showing. “Also, it’s a great idea to keep the lights on in the front of the house even if no showings are scheduled,” says Marlene Granacki of RE/MAX Exclusive Properties in Chicago. “People are always driving past the house, and keeping it lighted makes it look happy and welcoming.”

Have a place for shoes: Prospective buyers may arrive at the front door with shoes coated in snow or salt. “Make it easy for buyers to deal with their shoes when they arrive,” says Barbara Hibnick of RE/MAX Showcase, Long Grove, Ill. “Put a festive area rug at the front door for a great first impression and so visitors can wipe their feet. Have slippers or disposable booties available, along with a bench or chair, if there is room for one, where a visitor can sit and easily remove or put on their boots.”

Watch for odors: Homes can get stuffy in the winter. “Pet odors can be especially worrisome in winter,” says Mike Mondello of RE/MAX Synergy in Orland Park, Ill. “Use a room fragrance if needed, but nothing too strong, and I recommend that in winter sellers clean more often.”

Don’t make it too toasty: “Don’t blast buyers with hot air,” the RISMedia article notes. Keep the temperature at a comfortable 65 degrees during your showings (although keep in mind that a comfortable temperature for your thermostat can vary form house to house.) Potential buyers will most likely be wearing their winter coats when they tour the house so no reason to make them sweat.



Fannie Mae says it will suspend evictions for single-family foreclosures and two- to four-unit properties during the holiday season, from Dec. 19 through Jan. 2, 2012.

“The holidays are meant for families to spend time together, especially if they’ve gone through the stress of financial challenges and foreclosure,” Terry Edwards, executive vice president of Credit Portfolio Management for Fannie Mae, said in a statement. “No family should have to give up their home during this holiday season.”

While the holiday moratorium is in place, legal and administrative proceedings for evictions may continue, but”families living in foreclosed properties will be permitted to remain in the home,” Fannie Mae announced in a statement.


TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Dec 5; Are the Holidays a Good Time to Sell?; …And the Changes Keep Coming; 1st Time Home Buyers Scared Off?; The Proper Short Sale Application; 6 Ways to Go the Extra Mile

“If you turn it over to the universe you will be surprised and dazzled by what is delivered to you. This is where magic and miracles happen.”

– Dr. Joe Vitale: Motivational author and speaker





Sixty percent of real estate professionals advise their sellers to list a home during the holidays because it’s a good time to sell, according to a new survey conducted by Realtor.com.

Why are the holidays such a good time to sell? Seventy-nine percent of the agents surveyed said that more serious buyers come out during the holidays, and 61 percent say less competition from other properties make it a great time to sell. Plus, 17 percent of agents say the cold weather is actually a benefit, making homes feel more cozy.

But online listing photos become even more crucial during the holiday season, according to the survey. Slightly more than half of agents say that the photos are more important because sellers tend to offer less open houses around the holidays, and so the online photos help buyers decide the properties to see and which ones to possibly bypass.

The biggest hurdles sellers face during the holidays, however, are keeping a home ready to show (clean and staged) as well as winter weather conditions and buyers’ vacation schedules, the Realtor.com survey found.



With an election year right around the corner, it seems obvious that the world is full of flip-floppers, so why should housing and mortgage policy-makers be any different?

• Remember when the Federal Government was trying to ease its way out of being the dominant provider of mortgage financing (and trying to move people more into the private sector and Private Mortgage Insurance)?

• Remember the days when government insured financing (through FHA loans) was capped at 85% of their conventional counterparts (from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)?

• Then, the government recently decided to LOWER the conforming loan limits in high cost areas from $729,750 back to $625,500. The logic was sound. Home values have declined, therefore, so should conforming loan limits.

But then comes the reality that the home buyers buying between $650-750,000 are going to suffer with higher rates. How can we fix it? The flip flop. That’s how. The government’s solution-raise FHA loan limits back up. More government involvement in housing finance. None-the-less, it’s good news for a segment of the home buying population who can still enjoy great rates with as little as 3.5% as a down payment.

In the constantly changing world of mortgages, it is imperative that you work with a loan professional who knows how to properly position you, taking into consideration numerous factors – from loan program, to costs, to eligibility.



Home prices have fallen to 2002 levels and mortgage rates are at record lows – so why are the number of first-time home buyers decreasing instead of increasing?

First-time home buyers used to account for about half of all housing sales, but over the past year, they’ve made up only about a third of buyers, according to a recent New York Times article.

“The obstacles facing first-time buyers are big, and it’s changing the way they look at home ownership,” Dan McCue, research manager at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, told The New York Times.

Higher down payment requirements, job insecurity, and tougher credit standards may all be holding back first-time home buyers – which tend to be dominated by young professionals. The median down payment for a single-family home in 2002 was 4 percent in nine major metro areas, but now stands at 22 percent, according to Zillow.com.

What’s more, while mortgage rates are hovering at record lows, fewer buyers are able to qualify. About one-third of households have credit scores that aren’t good enough to qualify for a mortgage. The median required credit score from FICO Inc. has increased from 720 in 2007 to 760 currently, according to The New York Times article.




Brought to you by – Christopher Reale, Director of Short Sale Operations at Lepizzera and Laprocina Title and Escrow Services, as today’s guest blogger

In any business, whether it be real estate or other, in order to be successful one must have a systematic approach to their craft. This holds true when putting a short sale transaction together. During our 5 year tenure negotiating short sales, we have found that some Real Estate professionals lack such an approach.

I learned early in my mortgage career that if I submitted a lackluster credit file to my underwriting department I would receive lackluster results. These results included denied files, upset underwriters and a processing department that wanted to throw the file back on my desk faster than I wanted it submitted. I quickly remedied the situation after a conversation with a very good friend who is a million dollar producer in the financial services industry. He shared with me his systematic approach when handling his clients. He did not sway from this system. He applied the approach to every client that he spoke to. He did the work up front, asking every detailed question imaginable on his fact finding sheet. He left no stone unturned. Though sometimes monotonous in nature, this systematic approach allowed him to implement a solid financial plan for his clients and provide the bridge to a solid financial future.

I quickly adopted a similar approach with my clients. I was able to come up with a systematic approach to my origination method that was both trackable and attainable. I left no stone unturned when speaking to my clients. I made sure I over documented the credit file and provided a complete and accurate credit profile to my underwriting department for every client I had the pleasure of writing a loan for. The results were amazing. I was pushing files through underwriting with transaction speeds never seen before and I was making allies doing so. When the processing and underwriting departments received a file from me, they knew it would only have to be touched one time and a conditional approval would be granted. They actually wanted to receive files from me rather than wanting to throw them back on my desk. Success!

I share this information because the short sale application process is very similar to the loan origination process.

However, if you take a shot gun approach rather than a targeted systematic approach to the process, you will set yourself up for failure. Below are the documents one must attain to make sure the short selling bank does not throw the file back on your desk when submitting the file for short sale approval:

Financial Information

• Tax information

o Two most recent 1040’s

o Two most recent W2’s

• 60 days of current bank statements

• 30 days of current pay stubs or commission check stubs

• If self employed-pay stubs or YTD profit and loss statement

• Monthly budget/financial statement signed and dated same day as P&S

Hardship information

• Hardship letter dated signed same day as purchase contract

• Any docs supporting the actual hardship

• Medical bills

• Child support or alimony payment information. Divorce decree or child support order

Mortgage & Other Relevant Property Information

• 1st Mortgage statement

• 2nd Mortgage statement if applicable

• Recent Real Estate tax bills

• Recent condo association bills if applicable

• Any recent water or sewer bills

Other Pertinent Documentation

• Authorization form

• Short sale disclosure

• Waiver of conflict if representing the buyer

• 3 recent comps

• Listing agreement

• Offer/P&S

• Listing history

• Buyer proof of funds letter or Pre Approval letter

It is important to understand that the above documents are required for almost every short selling bank. There are also bank specific forms that, in most cases, must accompany the above. You may contact your negotiator or the bank directly to obtain the bank specific documents. However, if you make an attempt to structure a document checklist with the above documents and systematically approach every short sale file with the idea of fulfilling that checklist, you will soon see that the short sale process will be one which will prove to be lucrative. The end result will be a happy buyer, seller, production team and, of course, bank negotiator. After all, a systematic approach to the short sale process will alleviate the negotiator throwing the file back on your desk for deficient information. In fact, they will be eagerly awaiting the next file with your name on it!




Salespeople can outdo competitors by taking one of two avenues: lowering prices or boosting the quality and quantity of service they provide to customers. All too often, however, they make the mistake of dismissing customer-service requests as an administrative burden rather than embracing them as an opportunity to distinguish themselves from the rest of the field.

Consumer polls have shown time and time again that customers will pay more for a product when impressed with the level of post-transaction service they receive. Real estate professionals who get into the habit of providing stellar service will reap the benefits in the form of increased sales, improved customer loyalty, and more business due to positive word-of-mouth advertising from happy clients.

Practitioners can ramp up their customer service by:

1. Responding to customer calls and e-mails within an hour.

2. Mailing a handwritten thank-you note to new customers once a transaction closes.

3. Proactively contacting customers to see if they have any service needs.

4. Handling customer requests expeditiously.

5. Building rapport and strengthening relationships with top clients by taking them out for a casual meal.

6. Keeping in touch with customers by mailing out a motivational or business article every six months or so.


TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Nov 29; Does Your Client Want to Dump You? Housing Affordability Hovers Record Levels; Group Saves Pets from Housing Crisis; Recovery Taking Hold in New-Home Market; Home Sales Increase Across the Country

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” – Steve Jobs: was an American Inventor and Businessman




Sometimes a relationship between a home seller or buyer and a real estate agent can turn sour. One of the most common reasons? Poor communication, Jennifer A. Chiongbian, a broker with Rutenberg Realty in New York City, told Bankrate.com.

Unresponsive agents “plagues our industry,” says Chiongbian.

You may have a hunch that your client is starting to lose confidence in you. “Most agents know when the seller doesn’t like them or doesn’t want to deal with them any longer as their real estate agent,” Joe Adkins, owner of The Realty Factor in Altamonte Springs, Fla., told Bankrate.com “So if the seller asked nicely and explained the reasons why they want to cancel the listing contract, most real estate agents would honor their request. I know I have in the past.”

If you’re going to cancel an agreement, be sure to do it in writing to avoid any misunderstandings later on if the house does end up selling, experts suggest.

But before you throw in the towel, realize that sometimes the relationship can still be salvaged.

“Good agents, companies and brokers will discuss solutions based on market data to resolve the client’s queries,” Jerry Grodesky, owner of Farm and Lake Houses Real Estate in Buckley, Ill., told Bankrate.com. Solutions may include everything from price reductions, open houses, or doing more marketing on the home.



Ultra-low interest rates mixed with stabilizing home prices continued to push housing affordability in the third quarter near its highest levels in more than two decades, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.

For the third quarter, 72.9 percent of all homes sold were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,200, according to the index. This marks the 11th consecutive quarter that the affordability measure was above 70 percent; prior to this it rarely was above 60 percent.

“With interest rates at historically low levels and markets across the country beginning to improve, home ownership is within reach of more households than it has been for nearly two decades,” Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said in a statement. “However, tough economic conditions – particularly in markets that experienced major changes in house prices and production – as well as extremely tight credit conditions confronting home buyers and builders continue to remain significant obstacles to many potential home sales.”

The most affordable major housing market nationwide? Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., in which 92.5 percent of all homes sold were found to be affordable to households earning the median family income of $53,800 for the area. Other affordable major markets included Toledo, Ohio; Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.; Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind.; and Ogden-Clearfield, Utah. For smaller housing markets, Fairbanks, Alaska, ranked the highest, in which 97.8 percent of homes sold during the third quarter were found to be affordable to families earning the median income of $91,700.

Meanwhile, the least affordable major housing market continues to be New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J., in which 23.3 percent of all homes sold were affordable to those earning the area’s median income of $67,400.



A growing number of real estate professionals are finding pets left behind in vacant homes after families have moved on.

Pets are being increasingly left behind in homes for any number of reasons, not just in cases of foreclosure, agents say. For example, pets are sometimes found in homes when the home owner has passed away and the relatives didn’t want to deal with the pet, or home owners who believe that by leaving their pets in a home they’ll have saved the animal from being euthanized at a pound.

In any case, it’s real estate professionals who are increasingly finding the abandoned pets when touring homes.

A group of real estate professionals in Chicago, for example, is reaching out to real estate professionals to help them provide information or assistance for families with pets they no longer want. For example, agents may also be able to provide guidance to these families’ who face foreclosure on what to do with their pets.

Suzy Thomas, a real estate professional for Dream Town Realty in Chicago, found REALTORS® to the Rescue in 2005. Originally, the group helped find new homes for animals abandoned in homes, but the group has now refocused its efforts on raising funds for animal-protection groups.

“We began to wonder, how can we network to help the shelters?” Thomas told the Chicago Tribune. “Because they have the experts. Or maybe we could help them get volunteers for events. Lately, we did a food drive to provide food for people who can’t afford to feed their pets. We volunteered at a 36-hour animal-adoption event. … We focus now on helping the shelters and rescue groups.”

Another group – No Paws Left Behind – was formed by a mortgage broker in Houston. Since 2008, the group has rescued at least 1,000 animals nationwide.



Single-family housing starts rose 3.9 percent in October with permits, a gauge for future home building, also seeing a sizable jump, the U.S. Commerce Department reports. Housing permits on single-family homes rose 5.1 percent in October to 434,000 units – its highest level since December 2010.

“While we still have a long way to go toward a recovery, some signs of hope are emerging in certain markets where economic and job growth is occurring and where foreclosures have not been an overwhelming obstacle,” Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said in a statement.

Single-family housing starts rose to an annual rate of 430,000 units in October. However, after a very large “unsustainable” gain last month, multifamily starts saw an 8.3 percent decline in October.

Housing starts in October by region, as reported by the Commerce Department:

  • Northeast: +17.2%
  • Midwest: +9.7%
  • South: +1.6%
  • West: -16.5%

The future is looking brighter for home builders. Housing permits for both single-family homes and multifamily rose 10.9 percent in October. For single-family homes alone, permits rose 5.1 percent, and for multifamily permits they jumped 24.4 percent – its highest level since October of 2008.

“The three-month moving averages for both housing production and permitting activity have been gradually rising since this spring, which is consistent with our forecast for slow improvement in market conditions through the end of this year and a positive sign that a more solid recovery will begin to take hold in 2012,” NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said in a statement. “That said, the improvements we are seeing are still limited to scattered local markets where economies are improving, and obstacles such as tight credit conditions for builders and buyers, appraisal issues stemming from new homes being compared to distressed properties, and consumer concerns about job security are definitely slowing the progression of both a housing and economic recovery.”



The National Association of Realtors recently released their 2011 3rd Quarter Housing Report. In the report, they showed that combined sales of single family homes, condos and co-ops increased in EVERY state as compared to the 3rd quarter of last year. Here are the state-by-state numbers.


The next time someone says houses aren’t selling, ask them which state they live in and show them the chart.


TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Nov 28; Rent or Buy? The Research Is In!!; Understanding The Impact of Shadow Inventory; 4 Tips to More Successful Negotiations; Freddie Expands REO Winter Sale to More States; ‘Green’ Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Clients

“A resourceful person can see opportunity when others only see obstacles.” – Garrett Gunderson: is an entrepreneur and author




Should individuals buy or rent? What is the evidence on this question? What is the present condition of the U.S. housing market? Relatively speaking, how affordable is housing today? Is the market turning around or are we headed for another dip? These and other questions are answered in the attached PowerPoint presentation.

This is recently shared information at the National Association of REALTORS® annual conference in Anaheim, CA. If you are a practitioner, the presentation should assist in your daily practice. If you are a consumer (buyer, seller, renter or landlord), the information contained within should prove to be very informative. If you are a policy maker, the presentation presents several findings that should influence current housing policy.

The goal is to create an aware and thinking market place. To download the presentation, go to http://realestate.fiu.edu/buyer-or-renter-nation.html.



What is shadow inventory?

It is an inventory of houses that will come to market as a distressed properties at a discounted price. Each of the data companies define shadow inventory in slightly different ways. Standard & Poors defines it this way:

“We include in the shadow inventory all outstanding properties for which borrowers are 90 days or more delinquent on their mortgage payments, properties in foreclosure, and properties that are real estate owned (REO).

We also include 70% of the loans that “cured” from being 90 days delinquent (loans that once again became current) within the past 12 months because cured loans are more likely to re-default. Our calculation of the months to clear the shadow inventory is the ratio of the total volume of distressed loans to the six-month moving average of liquidations.

Is this inventory increasing?

The report shows that shadow inventory is decreasing in many parts of the country as banks are starting to release distressed properties to the market. From the report:

“We estimate that it will take 45 months to clear the national shadow inventory. This is seven months below our peak estimate but three months longer than our estimate a year ago. Twelve of the top 20 MSAs recorded declines in months-to-clear during the quarter, while eight reported increases.

What impact will shadow inventory have on real estate?

One of two things will happen:

  1. The inventory will continue to mount and be a hindrance to a housing recovery
  2. The inventory will be placed on the market and impact prices

As the report states:

“Despite the recent stability of our months-to-clear estimates and liquidation rates, these distressed loans continue to loom over the housing market and threaten to further depress home prices. Though fewer additional loans are currently defaulting, the overall volume of distressed loans remains huge. Low liquidation rates over the past two years allowed the shadow inventory to grow as distressed homes have remained tied up in foreclosure proceedings.

The shadow inventory will continue to jeopardize the housing market’s recovery until servicers are able to improve liquidation times. However, if and when that happens, an influx of homes will likely enter the market, increasing supply and driving prices down further.”

Bottom Line

We believe the inventory will come to market impacting prices now but bringing about a housing recovery in a much shorter period of time.



Negotiations are increasingly becoming a big part of a real estate agent’s job. Arthur Wylie, author of “Only the Crazy and Fearless Win BIG!: The Surprising Secrets to Success in Business and in Life,” offered some of the following basics to becoming a better dealmaker at Realty Times:

Know your value. Understand what your offer can do for the other party. You want them to understand the benefits of your offer, such as whether it may solve a problem, increase earning potential or make their life more convenient. “You want the other party to feel like you understand their needs and that you structure the agreement in their best interest too,” Wylie notes.

Articulate your ideas clearly. Once you’ve identified the value for both parties, be able to convey your vision of the offer in a way that the other party will want the same outcome. Rely on the “what’s in it for me” factor to present your position clearly.

Be humble, but firm. Respect the positions of the other party, regardless how bad of deal it is. “It’s important to be fair and honest about the negotiation and to keep your intentions pure,” Wylie notes. “At the same time, you must express genuine respect and appreciation for what the other parties, what they have done and who they are–even if they’re, well, jerks.”

Have some swagger. Wylie describes swagger as having “commanding and authoritative disposition and demeanor but without being pretentious or arrogant.” You want to be able to hint at what you’re capable of without coming across as bragging, he notes.



Six more states — now bringing the total to 33 — will participate in a winter sales promotion as Freddie Mac’s HomeSteps looks to unload its high REO inventory.

The six states added are Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon, and Washington. To view a complete list of all states participating in the winter promo as well as eligibility requirements, visit http://www.HomeSteps.com/smartbuy.

“We’re expanding our winter promotion to focus additional incentives to encourage strong sales activity in our ‘cold weather’ states over the next several months.” HomeSteps executive Chris Bowden said in a statement.

HomeSteps’ Winter Sales Promotion for buyers includes paying up to 3 percent of the final sales price toward a buyer’s closing costs for offers received between Nov. 15 and Jan. 31, 2012. (To qualify, escrow must be closed on or before March 15, 2012.) Selling agents may also be eligible for a $1,000 selling bonus through the program.


Save your clients money on their utility bills by giving an energy-saving gift this holiday season. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel recently highlighted several Earth-friendly holiday gift ideas, including:


  • Faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads: Help your clients reduce how much water they use and the amount of energy required to heat it. You can find these for under $10 and $25.
  • Pressure cookers: Pressure cookers can use up to 70 percent less energy than a conventional pot and you can cook your food faster, according to Energy Smart.
  • Artistic energy-efficient light bulbs: Give those CFLs an upgraded look. Hugler, a London-based company, makes a CFL called Plumen that can be used without a lamp shade. CFLs can last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
  • Ecobuttons: You can attach these to your computer so you can instantly put your computer on energy-saving mode with one press of a button. The ecobutton also displays how much energy and money was saved.
  • Solar lawn gadgets and art: Help your home owners decorate their lawns by using energy-efficient products, such as solar-powered water fountains, bird feeders, mosquito zappers, and lanterns.
  • Energy tester: Give your clients an energy tester, like the hand-held Kill A Watt energy meter for about $20, which will reveal what home and office appliances are the biggest energy wasters.


TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Nov 21; The Price is the Same, but The Cost is Less; Freddie Issues Rule Changes on Short Sales; You Need an Industry Expert in this Market; Foreclosures Are Selling Quicker, BofA Says; Housing Affordability Hovers Record Levels

“All of us need to grow continuously in our lives.” – Les Brown: is an author and motivational speaker


 Join us for our monthly Lunch & Learn, every 1st Wednesday of the month. Bring your lunch & come learn with us! We’ll provide details once we have more for you. It will always be held here in our office conference room (2175 N. California Blvd., Ste. 1000, Walnut Creek) from Noon – 1:00 pm (come 15-30 minutes early and you MUST RSVP due to limited seating)

Do you have an open house this upcoming weekend? If so, we’d love to create an open house flyer for you. Simply email my assistant, Sherrell Ayers by Thursday at 3:00 pm to have this created for you! Provide her with the property address, sales price & any other additional information/pictures for your listing. You can reach her at sayers@rpm-mtg.com.

First Time Homebuyers Seminar – get your buyers ready for our upcoming event in January (1/18/12). More Details Soon!


There is more and more research coming out showing that it makes great financial sense to purchase a home today . Whether it be rent vs. buy ratios, income-to-price ratios or income-to-mortgage payment ratios, purchasing a home right now is a bargain compared to historic norms. Now we want to look at the COST of a home today compared to pre-peak prices.

According to the most recent S&P Case Shiller price index, residential real estate values have returned to 2003 1Q PRICEs. That, in itself, says something. However, when you factor in mortgage rates, the case for buying a home today becomes even more compelling.

In 2003, 30 year mortgage rates stood at 5.88%. Today, they are 4%. How does that impact the actual COST of a home? On a home purchased for $250,000, here is the difference in monthly cost:

That means you save $285.30 a month, $3,423.60 a year and $102,708 over the life of a 30 year mortgage! You buy the home for the same PRICE but the COST is over $100,000 less.

Bottom Line

This is why so many financial advisors are saying that this may be one of the greatest times in history to purchase a home.



As of Jan. 1, Freddie Mac will require parties involved in a short sale to sign affidavits that will make them liable for any negligent or intentional misrepresentations in the transaction, HousingWire reports. Mortgage servicers are being urged to implement the change immediately before the Jan. 1 mandate, however.

The move is part of Freddie Mac’s effort to crack down on the rising incidences of short-sale fraud.

“With this change, you will have more information to identify potential mortgage fraud and a clearer understanding of the intent of all parties involved in the real estate transaction,” Freddie said in a statement announcing the rule changes to mortgage servicers last Friday.

In its guidance, Freddie also eliminated a requirement that borrowers who are more than 120 days delinquent are required to list their home for sale before becoming eligible for a deed-in-lieu. The rule changes also included efforts to help mortgage servicers speed up the loss-mitigation process.



In today’s real estate market, it is easy to get confused. There seems to be an overabundance of information and much of it seems to be conflicting. As an example, we offer you two headlines that appeared within 24 hours of each other last week.

National Delinquency Rate Falls to Lowest Level in Three Years

– Mortgage Bankers Assoc. 11/17/2011

Second Consecutive Increase in First Mortgage Default Rates

– Standard & Poors 11/18/2011

(Remember, foreclosures impact home values and the cost of mortgage money. This makes current delinquency rates an extremely important data point.)

Though these headlines seem to be saying opposite things, both are actually correct. Each report was looking at different data points over different periods of time.

In their article regarding the MBA report, DSNews explains:

“Industry data released Thursday indicates the number of borrowers in the United States behind on their mortgage payments is showing signs of improving. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported that the national delinquency rate for residential home loans fell to 7.99 percent in the third quarter.”

In their post, S&P claims:

“First mortgage default rates rose from 1.99% in September to 2.08% in October.”

Bottom Line

Make sure you are dealing with local real estate and mortgage professionals. They will help you and your family decipher the hordes of information available so you can truly understand your best options.


In several markets, Bank of America is reporting that it has picked up its pace in moving through its inventory of foreclosed homes faster than it has in the past, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Brian Moynihan, Bank of America Corp.’s chief executive, said at a press conference that in cases where banks can take ownership of the properties quickly and get them cleaned up, they are able to get them back on the market and selling the fastest.

“It moves as fast now as it’s ever moved,” Moynihan said at a press conference.

However, some areas–such as Florida, which is a judicial state for foreclosures–continue to see delays, as foreclosures inch along at a slower pace, Moynihan says.

But, overall, Moynihan says mortgage delinquencies are dropping in its portfolios and that home prices seem to be hovering at “a bottom” as the backlog of unsold homes reaches the market.


Ultra-low interest rates mixed with stabilizing home prices continued to push housing affordability in the third quarter near its highest levels in more than two decades, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.


For the third quarter, 72.9 percent of all homes sold were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,200, according to the index. This marks the 11th consecutive quarter that the affordability measure was above 70 percent; prior to this it rarely was above 60 percent.


“With interest rates at historically low levels and markets across the country beginning to improve, home ownership is within reach of more households than it has been for nearly two decades,” Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said in a statement. “However, tough economic conditions – particularly in markets that experienced major changes in house prices and production – as well as extremely tight credit conditions confronting home buyers and builders continue to remain significant obstacles to many potential home sales.”

The most affordable major housing market nationwide? Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., in which 92.5 percent of all homes sold were found to be affordable to households earning the median family income of $53,800 for the area. Other affordable major markets included Toledo, Ohio; Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.; Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind.; and Ogden-Clearfield, Utah. For smaller housing markets, Fairbanks, Alaska, ranked the highest, in which 97.8 percent of homes sold during the third quarter were found to be affordable to families earning the median income of $91,700.

Meanwhile, the least affordable major housing market continues to be New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J., in which 23.3 percent of all homes sold were affordable to those earning the area’s median income of $67,400.


TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Nov 15; Know Yourself, Know Your Clients; Freddie Mac Hits REO Selling Record; One Thing That Still Concerns Us; 6 Low-Cost Marketing Ideas to Get Noticed; Tips for Selling a Home in the Winter

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the

product or service fits him and sells itself.”

— Peter F. Drucker: was an influential writer and management consultant


People like to interact with others who are like them. This basic premise is a key to successful interactions with buyers and sellers. At the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Anaheim on Sunday, real estate trainer Jackie Leavenworth walked a crowd of about 80 REALTORS® through the DISC system – a method of understanding behavior and personality – and how to use it to meet clients’ needs.

DISC identifies four major elements of personality: dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance. Dominance is the need for control and challenge; influence, the need to interact and persuade; steadiness, the need for security and stability; and compliance, the need to follow standards and be accurate and cautious.

To start, know yourself (Leavenworth recommended taking a DISC test online), then marry your natural behavior and style to match those of your client.

Buyers and sellers give clear indications of their personality type in the way they answer open-ended questions (influencers will talk about how party-friendly their home is, while those high in the compliance aspect will list the facts about the house, for example), their voicemail message, their home decoration choices, and even level of clutter.

Shape your tactics and approaches to match those of the clients you are working with, Leavenworth advised. She suggested tactics that are effective for each personality type:

  • For sellers high in dominance, lay out the process and ask how they’d like to be involved.
  • For influencers, make the process fast and easy.
  • For steadies, provide frequent updates about how the process is going.
  • For compliers, be fact-based.

Do you need to change who you are to work with clients whose personality is very different than yours? Not necessarily, Leavenworth explained. You can learn how to adapt to provide what they need. If that won’t work for a particular client, the smartest approach might be to partner on the listing with another agent and share the commission, she said.



Freddie Mac has sold a record number of single-family REO homes in the first nine months of 2011, and the homes are selling for an average of 94 percent of market value, Tracey Mooney, Freddie Mac’s vice president of single-family servicing and real estate owned properties, said in a blog post.

“Because our homes are well maintained and priced right for the local market and home buyers, most of our homes sell close to full estimated market value,” Mooney says.

Freddie Mac sold more than 80,000 REOs in the first nine months of 2011.

“We are selling more homes than we are taking in through foreclosure,” Mooney wrote in the blog post. Mooney says Freddie’s REOs are selling in about 4 months or about 120 days, on average.

Most of the REO sales are to owner-occupants. “While we have always been open to selling to investors, our strategy is to limit the concentration of investor sales in any given area,” Mooney wrote. “In addition, we do not typically consider any offers that require significant discount pricing.”


There is no doubt that the housing market is stumbling to a recovery. This past week Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, predicted a 4% increase in sales next year. Last month, Celia Chen of Moody’s Analytics projected sales to increase over 20% in 2012. Any increase in transactions will be welcomed.

However, we believe there is one headwind that could jeopardize a recovery: fragile consumer confidence. Consumer sentiment, as measured by the University of Michigan, has seen modest improvement in the last few months after nose diving over the previous several months. Moving forward, any hit to consumer confidence will impact a real estate rebound.

Prices are predicted to soften through the first two quarters of 2012 before reaching modest levels of appreciation by year’s end. Falling prices will force more homeowners into a position of negative equity. Being underwater is one of the triggers that cause people to strategically default on their mortgage obligations. If this happens, there will be an increase in the number of foreclosures. This, in turn, could cause a relapse in consumer sentiment.

Bottom Line

We believe that there will be a dramatic increase in residential real estate transactions (both existing sales and new construction sales). The only thing that may stand in the way is a loss of confidence in a housing recovery. The next six months will tell us a lot regarding this possibility.


You don’t need to break the bank to expand your marketing efforts and build connections, marketing expert Julie Ryan, e-PRO, with Strategic Thinking in Australia, told a crowd at the Marketing Without Money session during the 2011 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Anaheim. “If you have a tight budget, you tend to be more focused on making sure every single dollar works harder,” Ryan said.

Regardless of how large or small your budget is, make your marketing message stick by focusing on three core areas: Impact (offering up a message of value to clients), frequency (making contact a minimum of at least three times in three weeks to get people to remember you), and building relationships to form lasting connections, Ryan said.

She offered up some of the following low-cost marketing ideas at the session:

1. Offer congratulations: Scan the local newspaper in search of good-news stories, such as people in the community earning an award or a job promotion, and then send a note congratulating them on the feat. That pat-on-the-back recognition makes you memorable and helps you build connections with people in your market, Ryan said.

2. Provide a special touch: To give your message more impact, print out an invitation to an open house for your listing and roll it up and tie it with a ribbon. Then, place it in door hangers on neighbors’ doors, mail the rolled-up invitation in a cylinder, or even hand-deliver it.

3. Show time: Create videos showing off your listings and post them on sites like YouTube to expand your reach. Also, consider creating videos of your community that explain what it’s like to live and work there, or that answer common real estate questions, Ryan suggested.

4. Try location-based social media: Sites like Foursquare aren’t just for checking-in to local areas, but you can use them to leave tips and relevant, helpful information at every single location your customers are likely to frequent (such as local restaurants or where to find the best views in the city).

5. Be a valuable resource: Once you’ve identified something your customers are interested in, set up a Google Alert to monitor that topic so you’ll get a notification when something matching those keyword terms surfaces on the Internet. You can then pass the message along through an e-mail or quick phone call to let your client know about something they may not know about yet. It’ll help you build stronger connections with consumers, Ryan said.

6. Reach out to the community: Instead of just writing a donation check to schools or charitable groups, try offering up an award that you can present or hosting a special event with community involvement. For example, present a book award at a middle or elementary school to a student for a job well done, or hire the local elementary school band to play at your upcoming auction or as part of a special event at your office.



Traditionally, the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day can be some of the slowest time of the year for home buying due to the holidays and the often less-than-perfect weather. But that doesn’t mean sellers can’t sell during the winter months. In fact, with decreased inventories, sellers may have a better chance to standout and face a buyer pool with more urgency to settle down.

Experts offer some of the following tips for selling a home in the winter:

Stage it: Stagers can arrange furniture so that selling-points in a home don’t get overlooked, paint rooms inviting colors, and have the know-how to give a home a cozy winter feel. Display photos of the home that also show it in warmer summer months. And don’t forget to turn up the thermostat in the home so buyers are comfortable from the moment they step through the door.”If you have a vacant house in winter with the heat turned down to 50, chances are someone will make a very low offer,” Loren Keim, a real estate broker, told the Associated Press.

Price it right: “If it’s priced properly, it will sell any day of the year,” Katie Severance, a broker for RE/MAX in Upper Montclair, N.J., told the Associated Press.

Show the way: Keep sidewalks and driveways clear of snow, ice, and leaves–giving potential buyers a clear path to your listing’s front door.

Light it up: There’s less daylight in the winter months so it’s even more important to keep all the lights on as well as open blinds and drapes for natural light. Keep the home well-lit even when you’re not there so the home still looks inviting to passersby who drive by in the evenings after work.

TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: Nov 10; Americans Still Believe in Value of Homeownership; Housing is Key in 2012 Elections; Real Estate Prices Continue Slide; Federal Gov’t Properties Hit Auction Block

“Advertising is the ability to sense, interpret..to put the very heart throbs of a business into type, paper and ink.” – Leo Burnett: was a renowned 20th century advertising executive




Last week, Fannie Mae released their National Housing Survey for the third quarter of 2011. They survey the American public on a multitude of questions concerning today’s housing market. Each quarter, we like to pull out some of the findings we deem most interesting. Here they are for the most recent report:

Most Important Reasons to Buy a Home

The study shows that the four major reasons a person buys a home have nothing to do with money. The top four reasons, in order, are:

  • It means having a good place to raise children and provide them with a good education
  • You have a physical structure where you and your family feel safe
  • It allows you to have more space for your family
  • It gives you control of what you do with your living space (renovations and updates)

When we talk about homeownership today, it seems that the financial aspects always jump to the front of the discussion. There is no doubt that families must justify a home purchase from a financial point of view today. However, the reasons they actually buy are the same reasons our parents and grandparents purchased their home – to create a better lifestyle for their families.

The Home as an Investment

Though most people purchase a home for non-financial reasons, everyone realizes there is a money component to homeownership. Here is what they said on this issue:

  • 64% of the general population (and 69% of homeowners) believe that homeownership is a “safe” investment.
  • 55% believe that homeownership has more potential as an investment than any other traditional asset class.
  • 68% think that now is a good time to buy a home

Rent vs. Buy

We are always interested in the difference people see in renting vs. owning.

  • 63% of renters have aspirations to someday own their own home
  • 70% of renters think that owning is superior to renting
  • 96% of homeowners see homeownership as a positive experience (4% see it as a negative experience) while 83% of renters see renting as a positive experience (15% see it as a negative experience)
  • 97% of homeowners live in a single family residence while 53% of renters live in a multi-unit building

Bottom Line

Even in these difficult times, Americans still realize the value of homeownership both from a financial and social standpoint.


Nearly seven out of 10 Americans — even more so for the millennial younger generation–say that candidates’ positions on housings will be very important to them in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, according to a new survey by Move Inc. of 1,000 adults.

Survey respondents identified the following top housing priorities for the next president’s first 100 days in office:

  • Helping home owners avoid foreclosure;
  • Keeping interest rates low; and
  • Making more affordable mortgage credit available.

The survey also found that four out of five Americans say a strong real estate market is key to an economic recovery.

“After four years of living in a housing downturn, American voters clearly want answers and are looking to our elected leaders for solutions,” Errol Samuelson, chief revenue officer of Move, Inc., said in a statement. “Our survey found that while some people may be frustrated or pessimistic, 27.3 percent of Americans still plan on buying a home. The survey illustrates candidates who share the concerns of the American people and make housing a top priority will win their confidence.”



U.S. single-family home prices declined on both a monthly and annual basis in September — the second straight month that property data firm CoreLogic reported a decline in both measures.

CoreLogic’s price index fell 4.1 percent year over year and dropped 1.1 percent on a month-to-month basis in September, according to a company report released today. That follows a 4.4 percent annual decline and a revised 0.3 percent monthly decline in August.

Excluding distressed sales, defined as short sales and real estate owned (REO) sales, the national index fell 1.1 percent year over year in September and fell a revised 2.2 percent year over year in August.

In a statement, Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist, said the company expects “declines to continue through the winter.”

“Distressed sales remain a significant share of homes that do sell and are driving home prices overall,” he added.

Among the 10 most populous metropolitan areas in the country, all but two saw index declines in September: Washington, D.C.; and New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J. When distressed sales were excluded, half experienced index declines.

As in August, 38 states experienced year over year index drops in September. Eight states and Washington, D.C., saw index rises of more than 1 percent. West Virginia led the way with a 7 percent annual rise.

At the other end of the spectrum, Nevada was the only state to see a double-digit index drop in September, down 12.4 percent. When distressed sales were excluded, 33 states and Washington, D.C., saw flat or rising home prices.

The index incorporates 30 years of data for repeat sales transactions, and “price, time between sales, property type, loan type and distressed sales.”



The federal government is trying to unload some real estate, and your buyers can now start the bidding in online auctions on various government properties, including residential homes in sought-after areas.

GSA (the U.S. General Services Administration), which assists federal agencies with unloading properties that they no longer need, is selling government properties through its online auction site, realestatesales.gov.

The auction site includes all types of property for-sale, ranging from residential homes and vacant land to commercial buildings, warehouses, and even historic lighthouses. You can use the site to search by property type and state.

“In addition to giving the public an opportunity to bid on government assets, the disposing of unneeded properties is helping to create a more sustainable government by reducing the federal real estate footprint,” writes Ralph Conner, director of GSA’s Office of Property Disposal Utilization, in a recent blog post announcing the auction site.

Recently, the site auctioned off a former U.S. Coast Guard Admiral’s 3,000-square-foot home in the Seattle area suburbs for $635,000. The home featured views of Lake Washington, Mount Rainer, and the Seattle skyline.

Last year, President Obama directed federal agencies to get rid of unneeded government properties in an effort to curb costs. The goal is a $3 billion in savings from government properties by Sept. 30, 2012.