Fair Housing

Written by Shardae Griffin on . Posted in Home Buyers and Mortgagors

fair-housing-poster-winner-The primary purpose of the Fair Housing Law is to protect the buyer/renter of a dwelling from seller/landlord discrimination. It’s primary prohibition makes it unlawful to refuse to sell, rent to, or negotiate with any person because of that person’s inclusion in a protected class.  The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. It exempts in some circumstances owner-occupied buildings with no more than 4 units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. If you think  that your rights have been violated, you are able to file a complaint by completing the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form. This form is available to you to download. You may also write HUD a letter, or telephone the HUD office nearest you. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file as soon as possible.  When completing the complaint form you should include your name and address, the name of the person your complaint is against, the address or other identification to the housing involved, a short description to the alleged violation and the dates to the alleged violation. Once your complaint is received, the alleged violator of your complaint will be notified and given the opportunity to respond. An investigation will be done to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe the Fair Housing Act has been violated. An agreement with the person your complaint is against will be first attempted. A conciliation agreement must protect both you and the public interest.  If an agreement is signed then HUD will not take further action on your complaint. If  there happens to be a reasonable cause to believe that a conciliation agreement has been breached then it will be recommended that the Attorney general file a law suit.

How to choose an Appraiser

Written by Lynn Nunez on . Posted in Home Buyers and Mortgagors, Mortgage Economy and Market, Mortgage Services and Providers

houses_and_dollar_signThis all-important step in getting the financing you need is the home appraisal — an oftentimes-confusing part of the mortgage process in which both buyer and seller must depend on the expert opinion of a stranger. A common misunderstanding is that the appraisal amount is only for the house itself. In fact, the figure appraises the total value of the home and any other permanent structures, along with the land that the house is built on. This appraisal figure also determines the loan amount you can get to buy the property.

A qualified appraiser has formal education in appraisal theory, principles, procedures, ethics and law. The appraiser should be up to date on the latest appraisal standards. Continuing education and testing are the only ways to ensure this competence. The appraiser you hire should be familiar with the type of property you want appraised and know how to value it correctly. There are many self-acclaimed personal property appraisers who have not completed any professional education. It is important to ask the prospective appraiser what type of formal appraisal education training he or she has received.

Do not hire an appraiser who charges a percentage of the appraised value, or charges a “contingency” fee. These practices are clearly conflicts of interests, and may result in biased values. Hourly fees, flat rates or per item charges are acceptable. It is a good business practice to have a contract stating in writing the expectations of both parties.

A home appraisal is not the same thing as an inspection. If you’re buying a home, you’ll want to hire an experienced home inspector to point out any potential problems that could turn into costly nightmares in the future. Property appraisers will likely make note of any obvious issues, but they won’t test your heat and air, check the chimney, or determine if your plumbing is up to code. That’s the job of the inspector.

Home Insurance

Written by Shardae Griffin on . Posted in General

homeowners-insurance-9Before finalizing a mortgage loan, lenders require that home buyers purchase a least of minimal level of homeowner’s insurance.  The homeowner’s insurance will cover unintentional damage or destruction by fire, smoke, wind, hail, theft, vandalism, or other similar events. To better protect your home you may want to consider acquiring more complete coverage than what your lender requires. You want to know exactly what the policy you purchase will and will not cover. In addition to the house itself, homeowner’s insurance will typically protect furniture and other personal items, as well as any other structures on the property such as a poor or separate garage. Most policies will not cover business equipment, damage caused by natural disasters or loss of art or jewelry over a certain amount.  That is where the additional insurance comes in handy. When you are purchasing insurance you want to decide on how much coverage you need. The better your coverage, the less you will have to pay out of your own pocket if disaster strikes.  Finding out what can be included can be surprising. For example, there are some policies that will provide coverage for mandated upgrades and spoiled food coverage such as if your home were to burn down and a new law requires for sprinklers to be installed, or if a power outage spoiled all your freezer and fridge items. The insured has coverage for up to $500 under this particular policy. Comparing other insurance companies is recommended. You are not required to purchase insurance from the company your lender suggests. There are a number of unbiased sources available to find out what different insurers charge for identical products and services. You can consult your state insurance department, consumer publications or your public library. Last but not least you want to make sure that you read your policy carefully. You should be aware that a home insurance policy is a legal contract. It is written so that your rights and responsibilities as well as those of the insurance company are clearly stated. You should read that policy and make certain you understand its contents.  

How to Market Yourself as a New Agent

Written by Christina Green on . Posted in General

imagesIf you are a new agent in the business, you do not need to announce this fact to the world. Sending out an announcement that you just got your real estate license and are looking for business won’t give anyone much motivation to call you.

Make the announcement that you are “in real estate” not that you “just got your real estate license” and are “looking for business.” Simply start communicating with people you know and remind them that you’re in real estate.

Here are some other ideas for getting the word out:

1. Send out an email offering your friends some promotional item or service. Don’t mention that you just got your license. Pretend that you’ve been selling real estate for a while now.

2. If it’s holiday time, send out holiday cards with your business card enclosed. Write a personal note in each.

3. Send out a “Happy New Year” (any time of year) family newsletter with all the happenings in your life, including your venture into real estate. Don’t be specific as to when your career started, and be sure to include your business card.

4. Put together a mini-newsletter with a description of special services you offer as a local real estate professional. If you have a digital camera, you could offer to take pictures of your client’s properties for their online marketing, or before-and-after shots for clients who are doing remodeling.

5. Send thank-you cards every day to anyone who helped you out that day. Some sales trainers advise sending out five thank you cards every single day. Not only does this practice put you in a grateful frame of mind, it also gets your business card out there in the hands of the public.

You don’t have to send the same thing out to everyone. If you belong to a special interest group, you can clip a relevant magazine article and send out copies along with your card and a short note.  

Need to know…

Written by Lynn Nunez on . Posted in Field Services, Mortgage Closing Services, Notary signings

handcuffed man Some simple mistakes can be misconstrued into big business issues, such as using the correct verbiage or keeping your stamp secure. Some notaries had to learn the hard way. When in doubt always do your research and then do more research. Other times you just have to stand up for the truth to be heard. When advertising your business, whatever the type do your research before committing to a template or specific verbiage. A notary in Arkansas (AR) had to learn the hard way. In the state of AR the Consumer Protection Act requires notaries to advertise in Spanish and English that they are not licensed attorneys. Apparently in many Latin American countries “notario publico” (notary public) is a specially trained lawyer, the misconception is taken as a scheme here in the states. “The suit in Washington County Circuit Court seeks an injunction to make Nimroozi follow the disclosure law. It may seek restitution if it is learned that Nimroozi charged fees for legal advice.” Posted the ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE. In 2008, Sacramento, CA the State Senate Appropriations Committee passed AB 886, a bill that will strengthen notary law and fight real estate fraud. Essentially this bill will has made it easier to investigate unethical and criminal notary practices. In these types of cases, notaries aid and abet fraud by loaning their journal to a non-notary, by notarizing documents without all of the parties present or by failing to properly secure their journal and stamp. Legislators approved a constitutional amendment in 1964 designating notaries public as officers of the state. According to the “Handbook of Maryland Notaries Public,” notaries are “held to the same high standards of public trust as other appointed and elected state officials,” and unlike other state officers, may hold another public office. Since then, notaries have administered oaths and affirmations, both of which are solemn statements of truth made under penalty of perjury.

Protecting Your Home

Written by Shardae Griffin on . Posted in General

a thiefOne of the biggest worries that homeowners face nowadays is being able to secure their home. You want to be able to feel safe and at peace when your not only inside but away from your house. It can get a bit expensive sometimes trying to protect your home with high tech alarm systems and security cameras. However, you can protect your home a lot more with little to no money and that’s because the best home protection simply involves smart thinking and good habits. One simple way of  keeping your home safe is to lock your doors.  People who live in friendly communities feel that they are generally safe and think that they do not need to lock their doors. This is one of the biggest mistakes that’s made.  Making a nightly routine to ensure that all doors are locked before going to bed can be helpful.  Also never open the door to uninvited strangers. Another way to protect your home is to make it look less approachable. Getting a dog to guard your house can be one option to do this. If you are not a dog person then that is okay. You can post a “Beware of Dog” sign  and even without actually having a dog makes intruders think twice before entering your property. Motion-sensor lights are great for this as well and they are affordable. When you are away from your home you want to try your best to not make it obvious to others. Leave a vehicle in your carport or in the front of your home if it’s possible.  You can set electronics (televisions, wall lamps, digital timers, etc)  to switch on and off during a  specific time in the day.  Have your post office hold your mail delivery so that while you are gone for longer duration’s you won’t have days worth of mail sitting in your mailbox, giving an obvious sign that no one is home.

HOA

Written by Shardae Griffin on . Posted in General

uncle_scamA homeowner association is by definition, a corporation formed by a real estate developer for the purpose of marketing, managing and selling of homes and lots in a residential subdivision.  They provide services, regulate activities, levy assessments and may, as delegated by the states legislature, impose fines.  HOA can enforce its actions through the threat and levying of fines and private legal action under civil law.  Annual, quarterly or monthly dues are required in addition to your monthly mortgage payment. These dues are typically established to cover the amenities in your community and can include things like lawn maintenance, playgrounds, golf courses, pools and in cases of condos or townhouses, these fees often include any exterior maintenance required on your home. You can pretty much get an idea of what the purpose of an HOA is supposed to be. It may not be the best idea to put yourself in the position to purchase a home in an HOA community.  A lot of homeowners will agree that the people who sit on their boards are often petty and vindictive.  Lane’s, a North Carolina man who’s caught up in a dispute with his HOA because he planted some pansies in a community common area. He “felt the flowers would spruce up the park”, which he viewed as unsightly and unkempt. For his act he was fined and when he refused to pay the HOA placed a lien on his home. This brings up one major disadvantage . A homeowners association can foreclose a member’s house without any judicial procedure in order to collect special assessments, fees and fines or otherwise place an enforceable lien on the property. For example, a case involves a soldier who, in 2008 was informed that his fully paid-for $300,000 home in Frisco, TX had been foreclosed on and sold for $3,500 by his HOA over unpaid dues of $800 while he was serving in Iraq. This case was eventually settled in 2010 and the soldier regained ownership.  

Real Estate Websites

Written by Christina Green on . Posted in Home Buyers and Mortgagors, Mortgage Services and Providers

Websites2Local Real Estate websites are better than national ones. National Real Estate websites do not always have accurate information.

They use it as a free ad platform to get people’s attention and for free web traffic. National websites are an open platform, without regulation. The major problem is that homebuyers do not know whether a listing on them is a legitimate deal or a scam. Innocent online home shoppers will simply assume that a property for sale, and may begin to get attached to it before finding out that it is a scam. Craigslist is known for having this same problem.

Anyone can go and list their house for sale on Zillow or Craigslist for free without consequence. If their data is bad, it doesn’t matter, since there is no one there to regulate it. Anyone can list a house for sale and put any price and information that they want to get people to contact them or visit their website, but their motivation for advertising this data may have nothing to do with actually selling a house. This is one of a few major problems that causes the data to be inaccurate. Other websites are not allowing the public to add listings to their websites at this time, but their data can be equally as inaccurate, since they pull data from hundreds of different MLS services across the country. They have all been known to show homes for sale weeks after they have been sold.

The best way to find accurate data on homes for sale in any given area is to search for local real estate websites that pull the data directly from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Usually, top REALTORS in the area will spend thousands of dollars every year to develop websites that will display the local MLS data, along with other relevant local area information. It may not be as technically advanced as Zillow or Trulia, but the data will most likely be much more accurate and most of the time you will find much better results from the REALTORS maintaining and servicing the website.

The national real estate websites pull data from hundreds of different MLS sources, along with multiple for sale by owner websites and other real estate listing services. They do not pull data from all of these services daily and the amount of data that they process is extremely large. This means that you can be looking at the perfect house for sale on their website, but it may already be under contract and not displaying that information yet. It also means that if a house is listed for sale, it may not show up on the national real estate websites for several days after listing. In a market where homes are selling in a day or two, this information delay could cause a homebuyer who is using their site to miss out on the best properties.

Set the Date for the Wedding!

Written by Lynn Nunez on . Posted in Mortgage Closing Services, Mortgage Economy and Market, Mortgage Services and Providers, Notary signings

WeddingPlanning Currently, only Florida, South Carolina, Maine and Nevada authorize Notaries to perform weddings as part of their official duties. However, entrepreneurial Notaries in other states are finding innovative ways to add “wedding officiant” to their growing list of client services.

“I sit down with my couples to ask questions, such as how they met and what is most important to them,” says Barrett, who then uses this information to write the couple’s vows and to personalize the ceremony. She then inquires whether they need a certified copy of their wedding license (which California requires if the couple wishes to receive a confidential marriage license), if they’ll be doing a legal name change, or if they’ll require any other documents or notarizations — all of which she can provide.

“These are the last things most couples are thinking about,” says Barrett. Combining her Notary and officiant services allows her to offer clients a customized approach.

“I complete all the paperwork, get their signatures and pop it all in the mail,” says Barrett. “It’s my job to make sure it is done correctly. They trust me to do the job right.”

Notaries interested in becoming wedding officiants should begin by checking state wedding laws. For example, licensing requirements vary greatly from state to state. Contact the county clerk in the counties in which you want to perform weddings for more information. A simple Google search on “How to become ordained” yields numerous links and organizations, but be sure to vet each carefully to find out if they are reputable, what the fees and requirements are, and where, exactly, the ordination is recognized. Some ministries will ordain you for life; others require annual license renewals.

By following Barret’s approach you can be sure the happy couple will contact you when the time comes to buy or refinance their home. So let’s help them set the date!

Timeshares

Written by Shardae Griffin on . Posted in General

Tieshares-Ball-and-Chain-jpeg1 Timeshares are one of the top sellers in the travel and hospitality industry. Thousands are available and millions of people own them. But having a timeshare may not be the best idea.  Spending money on a timeshare is not an investment and will not generate money for you.  With timeshares, you are pre-paying your hotel bill for the next 20 years whether or not you use it. You also will have to worry about paying maintenance fees. Instead of worrying about maintenance, you must pay large fees to provide upkeep for your unit, and they are known to increase by up to 4% every year. So, although you do not physically have to write up taxes, fix leaks or get cable TV, you end up paying for these things anyway. The cost can range from $200 to over $500 US, depending on the location and type of property. I’m sure it’s becoming evident that networking is key in time sharing, but it can catch up to you; another con appears when owners of floating timeshares have to battle it out over who gets the unit at a given time in the year. Usually, the majority of vacationers want the space at the same time, and compromises are hard to come by. There is a specific period of the year that your Floating Week can be used. This requires you to make a reservation for your resort for a week within your assigned floating period. If you do not make your reservation soon enough, there is a possibility that all the units will be taken for the week you are requesting, and you will have to look at a different week. If you purchase a timeshare that includes a point system, they never end up being enough and they are always trying to sell you more. This is especially true if you are trying to vacation in high season. Be careful and investigate before you make the same mistake.