Monthly Archives: May 2016

Infographic: Existing-Home Sales Rise in April for Second Straight Month

Despite ongoing inventory shortages and faster price growth, existing-home sales in April 2016 sustained their recent momentum and moved higher for the second consecutive month, according to the National Association of Realtors®. A surge in sales in the Midwest and a decent increase in the Northeast offset smaller declines in the South and West.

April 2016 Existing-Home Sales

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Madera REALTORS Helping Homeowners To Secure Down Payments

Madera Association of Realtors Down Payment Assistance Grant

Grants will be awarded by the Madera REALTORS ® during the Madera Business Extravaganza and Home Expo on Thursday, June 16, 2016

The agriculture rich Madera County is known for it’s strong sense of community, so it’s no surprise that The Madera Association of REALTORS® (MAR) would go the extra mile to support residents and newcomers. The association just secured a $25,000 grant from the National Association of REALTORS® that will help prospective Madera homeowners to fund their down payments.

The $25,000 grant will be awarded during the Madera Business Extravaganza and Home Expo at the Madera Fairgrounds on Thursday, June 16, 2016 from 4 to 8 PM. MAR will be giving out three $5,000 and four $2,500 grants.

Prospective homeowners can apply for a grant at the Home Expo website or at the MAR offices on 411 N. I Street. The only stipulation by the association, is that eligible applicants use a Madera Association REALTOR®, lender and title company.

The association is working hard to spread the word, so that everyone has a chance to apply for the grant. There will be televison and radio commercials promoting the grant and the Home Expo awards will be featured on Univision, as well as channels 24 and 47.

Here’s what you need to know about the Fair Housing Act

Fast Fact: The Fair Housing Act is supposed to protect us from discrimination when we buy, rent, or finance a home. Almost 50 years after its enactment, we still need it.

Americans value their homes, perhaps more than any other nation. After all, homeownership is a cornerstone of the American dream.

Anyone who works hard and qualifies for a mortgage should be able to buy a home where they choose. If they don’t qualify, or prefer not to own, having fair access to lease a home is equally important.

But, sadly, discrimination and segregation, have historically been embedded in American land ownership. Not too long ago, it wasn’t uncommon for deeds to restrict non-Caucasian, Jews, and other minorities from owning or living in a particular home or neighborhood. Women were excluded from applying for a home loan. Americans were routinely denied access to certain rental homes or rejected for mortgages based solely on their race, color, religion, sex, national original, disability, or familial status.

That’s why, in 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act. In keeping with contemporary realities, the Act, which prohibited discrimination in the rental, sale, or financing of a home based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status, has been expanded over time to encompass other protected classes and circumstances. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court recently expanded application of the Fair Housing Act to allow a party to prove violations of the Act by either showing intentional discrimination or by showing that a challenged practice has an unintentional disparate impact on a protected class.

And the proposed Housing Opportunity Thru Modernization Act of 2016 amends the United States Housing Act of 1937 and other housing laws to modify rental assistance and public housing programs, FHA’s requirements for condominium mortgage insurance, and the USDA’s single-family housing guaranteed loan program.

Yet, recently, some folks have begun questioning whether the Fair Housing Act goes far enough. And some are even suggesting a nexus between the Act’s failure to deliver on its promise and contemporary civil unrest in neighborhoods most impacted by that alleged failure.

Since the real estate crash, the housing gap between whites and minorities appears to have been further exacerbated. Minorities were amongst the hardest hit when the bubble burst, but seem to have been excluded from the recovery.

Take, for example, the riots in Baltimore, the one-year anniversary of which was recently recognized. Baltimore’s whites submit about twice as many mortgage loan applications as Blacks, even though Baltimore’s Black population is twice that of whites.

But those numbers also show another discrepancy: White mortgage applicants in Baltimore appear to have a decided advantage over Blacks. Of over 2,600 mortgage applications filed last year by whites, a whopping 75% were approved. Compare that to only a 61% approval rate of the mortgage applications submitted by Blacks.

Pinpointing whether this disparity is due to minorities having lower credit scores or otherwise being financially less qualified for mortgage loans than whites, or simply being denied on the basis of race is difficult because of a lack of data. This challenge is being addressed with a new rule which would require banks to provide more information, but reporting would not be required until 2018.

In the meantime, it appears the racial composition of neighborhoods is now the most significant single predictor of whether or not a mortgage in Baltimore will be approved, a practice commonly referred to as “red-lining.” Even higher income borrowers are routinely denied in neighborhoods with higher minority populations than in neighborhoods with lower minority populations, implying that neighborhood racial composition may play more of a role than a borrower’s creditworthiness, a clear violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Even worse, it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy; lenders allegedly don’t want to make mortgage loans in minority neighborhoods due to perceived risk that property values there will fall. Yet, when lenders don’t make mortgage loans in neighborhoods, property values there indeed do tend to fall. Moreover, opportunities for folks in those neighborhoods to build equity and work their way up becomes severely limited.

According to federal analysis, a borrower’s credit history is the reason behind 30% of mortgage loan denials for Black applicants. Which begs the question: what is behind the denial of the remaining 70%?

You can tell us about your experiences and thoughts concerning the Fair Housing Act. Or e-mail your questions to asktheexpert@shariolefson.com

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REALTORS® Make Good Neighbors

REALTORS® advocate for homeowners. We live in the areas where we work, representing every community in Washington State. Like you, we care about great schools for our children, parks, clean water, transportation, the environment and a strong economy. REALTORS® make good neighbors.

4 Steps To Help You Protect Your Home Investment

Protect Your Investment

Congratulations homeowner! You’ve closed on your mortgage and are now the proud owner or owners of a new home. Whether you plan on staying in your new place for five years or fifty, it’s important to make sure you are protecting the investment you’ve worked hard to acquire.

The following excerpt from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Home Loan Toolkit can help you take some key steps towards securing your status as a homeowner. The complete toolkit, including financial worksheets and valuable tips, can be found at ? The complete toolkit, including financial worksheets and valuable tips, is available as a download (in PDF).

Step 1 – Act Fast If You Fall Behind On Payments

Life happens and unexpected expenses can throw your budget off track. Here’s what to do in order to protect your home if you fall behind on your mortgage.

Talk To Your Mortgage Servicer.

The company that accepts payments on your mortgage, known as your mortgage servicer, is likely to  contact you when you fall behind. Your servicer does so not only to remind you to bring your payments current but because they are required to let you know what options are available to avoid foreclosure.

Don’t ignore your mortgage servicer’s calls because you feel overwhelmed. Talk to your mortgage servicer, and find out your repayment options.

Contact A Housing Counselor For Guidance.

HUD-approved counselors are professionals who can help you, often at little or no charge to you. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country to provide free or low-cost advice.

o find a HUD-approved housing counselor visit consumerfinance.gov/find-a-housing-counselor or call HUD’s interactive voice system at (800) 569-4287.

Don’t Fall Prey To Repayment Scams

Homeowners struggling to pay a mortgage should beware of scammers promising to lower mortgage payments. Only your mortgage servicer can evaluate you for a loan modification. If you suspect a scam you can call (855) 411-2372 or visit consumerfinance.gov/complaint.

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Step 2 – Keep Up With Ongoing Costs Too

Your mortgage payment is just one part of what it costs to live in your new home. Your escrow account typically holds your monthly taxes and homeowner’s insurance payments. However, if your loan arrangement did not include an escrow account, you need to keep up with these costs

on your own. Be sure that when those tax and homeowner’s  insurance bills land in your mailbox you have the funds set aside in a savings account to cover them.

It’s Murphy’s Law that when one thing in your home needs repair, another is sure to shortly follow. Make sure that you have funds set aside for maintenance and repairs as well so they don’t derail your budget.

Step 3 – Determine If You Need Flood Insurance

Flooding causes more than $8 billion in damages in the United States in an average year.

Depending on your property location, your home is considered either at high-risk or at moderate-to-low risk for a flood. Typically, your insurance agent should have that information for you. However, you can also go to FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center to look up your address. Your insurance premium will vary based on how close you are to floodplains. To learn more about flood insurance visit FloodSmart.gov. Private flood insurance could also be available to you.

Although you may not be required to maintain flood insurance on all structures, you may still wish to do so, and your mortgage lender may still require you to do so to protect the collateral securing the mortgage. If you choose to not maintain flood insurance on a structure, and it floods, you are  responsible for all flood losses relating to that structure.

It’s important to be aware that most flood insurance will not cover basement damage due to sewer backups that have occurred from heavy rains. Most home insurers will also offer Sewer Backup Insurance as well. If you are planning on storing valuables in your basement or enjoying a finished basement this is an additional coverage you may want to consider.

Step 4 – Understanding Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCS) and Refinancing

Homeowners sometimes decide they want to borrow against the value of their home to help remodel or pay for other large expenses. One way to do this is with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). You can learn more about HELOCs at files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201401_cfpb_booklet_heloc.pdf.

Financial counselors caution homeowners against using a HELOC to wipe out credit card debt. If you use a HELOC as a quick fix to a serious spending problem, you could end up back in debt and lose your home.

If you do decide to take out a HELOC or refinance your mortgage, the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) gives you the right to rescind, meaning you can change your mind and cancel the loan. But you can only rescind a refinance or HELOC within three days of receiving a proper notice of the right to rescind from your lender. It is important to note that you cannot rescind if you are using your HELOC to buy another home.

In the case of a refinance, consider how long it will take for the monthly savings to pay for the cost of the refinance. Review the closing costs you paid for your original loan to purchase the home. Refinancing costs can be about the same amount. A common rule of thumb is to proceed only if the new interest rate saves you that amount over about two years (in other words, if you break even in about two years).

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a federal agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.  Have a question about a common consumer financial product or problem? You can find answers by visiting consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb.