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The latest news from AOL Real Estate - Blog

Found a Job? Next, New Grads Must Find an Affordable Home

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portrait of a group of young graduates standing holding their degrees
Getty ImagesIn the 25 largest rental markets, fewer than 19% of listings are affordable for recent college graduates.

By Ralph McLaughlin

School is (nearly) out for the summer. That means millions of newly minted college graduates will strike out on their own to find a job and a place to live. Here is a guide from Trulia, an expert source for information on rentals and real estate, to help new grads find areas where they can afford the rent and still have some money left to pay back their student loans.

Trulia measured graduate affordability as the share of rental homes on Trulia on May 7 that were within reach of an employed college graduate who was 22-25 years old. The standard was whether the total monthly payment, including rental payment and insurance, was less than 31 percent of the metro area's median income for recent grads. Trulia calculated affordability based on the local median graduate income and rents for the 25 largest U.S. rental markets. For that reason, what was considered "affordable" for a recent graduate varied from market to market.

For instance, in metro Atlanta, the median salary for a new grad is $25,571 a year. Making that much (or that little) money, you could only afford to rent a place that cost less than $661 a month, based on the 31% guideline. Sadly, that meant just 8.7 percent of the homes for rent in Atlanta (those listed for less than $661) were within reach.

Affordability is even worse for new grads looking to rent in large coastal cities.


TruliaThe gap between median earnings and the income required to afford the median rent is highest in San Francisco.

Want To Pay Less In Rent? Move Inland

Generally, the picture isn't pretty for recent grads who want to find an affordable place on their own. Those who head to the Midwest and the South can save the most on rent. But even in St. Louis, which topped the list of most affordable metros for new grads, just 18.6 percent of rental units were affordable. And it's all downhill from there: In the next most affordable areas, less than 15 percent of units rated as affordable. The good news is, you would need no more than one roommate to make the median rental unit affordable in each of five least expensive metros for grads.

Top 5 Most Affordable Rental Markets for Recent Grads

U.S. Metro

Affordable Rentals

Maximum Affordable Rent

Roommates Needed for Median Rental

Median Bedrooms

St Louis

18.6%

$666

0.3

2

Dallas

14.9%

$799

0.5

2

Houston

10.4%

$746

0.7

2

Atlanta

8.7%

$661

0.5

2

Phoenix

8.0%

$613

0.7

2

Note: Statistics are for the 25 largest rental markets. Trulia counted any fraction of a roommate needed to make rent affordable as a whole person. For example, to not break the 31% affordability criteria, a recent grad in St. Louis would need at least one roommate to make the median rent affordable. Income estimates are inflation-adjusted to 2015 dollars and originate from the 2013 American Community Survey for college educated graduates ages 22-25. Download the full dataset for the 25 largest U.S. rental markets here.


Go West Young Grad? Only If You Can Pay More

If you plan to head to the West Coast after graduation, then you might want to take a crash course in sticker shock. Less than one percent of all rental units in the bottom five are affordable, and almost all are in expensive California markets. Portland (Ore.) ranks the least affordable with 0.1% of units affordable, followed by Riverside-San Bernardino (Calif.) at 0.2%, Orange County (Calif.) at (0.2%), Miami at 0.4% and San Diego at 0.4%.

So what's a grad to do? Although it's an exciting prospect to get a place of your own right out of college, the cost of doing so may be too high. For those not wanting to live with Mom and Dad, there are two options: You can spend time searching for the few affordable units that are out there (Trulia can help with that) or find roommates.

To help with the latter, we've crunched the numbers to find out how many roommates a recent grad would need to afford rent, and whether that means sharing a bedroom. In the five least affordable rental markets, a recent grad would need at least two roommates to make the median rental unit affordable, and in Riverside-San Bernardino, that number jumps to three. Think about it: In some cities, two individuals would need to share a room -- just like freshman year.

Top 5 Least Affordable Rental Markets for Recent Grads

U.S. Metro​

Affordable Rentals

Maximum
Affordable Rent

Roommates Needed for Median Rental

Median
Bedrooms

Portland (Ore.)

0.1%

$479

1.5

2

Riverside-
San Bernardino
(Calif.)

0.2%

$426

2.3

3

Orange County
(Calif.)

0.2%

$666

1.9

2

Miami

0.4%

$666

2.3

2

San Diego

0.4%

$666

1.6

2

Note: Statistics are for the 25 largest rental markets. Trulia counted any fraction of a roommate needed to make rent affordable as a whole person. For example, to not break the 31% affordability criteria, a recent grad in Portland (Ore.) would need at least two roommates to make the median rent affordable. Income estimates are inflation-adjusted to 2015 dollars and originate from the 2013 American Community Survey for college educated graduate ages 22-25. Download the full dataset for the 25 largest U.S. rental markets here.


San Francisco, Washington and NYC: The Big Challenge

Want to live like a young professional and not like a fresh-faced graduate? You might want to think twice about moving to a high-wage metro. For recent college graduates looking to live comfortably, moving to a metro where the young and educated earn the most might be tempting. After all, in San Francisco, Washington and New York, the starting salaries for recent graduates aren't too far from the salaries of more experienced workers in other metros. These areas also have high rates of employment. So why not pack up and move to the City by the Bay, the District, or the Big Apple? Two words: high rents.

Many of the metros that pay the highest salaries also come with hefty rental price tags. Here's a look at how new grads' salaries stack up to the salaries needed to afford median rents. So take notice, grads, bigger isn't always better -- 'cause that big salary may not seem so big after you start writing that monthly rent check.

Where Grads Need to Earn the Most to Afford Median Rents

U.S. Metro

Median Income for Recent College Grads

Income Needed to Afford Median Rent

Median Rent

San Francisco

$41,244

$137,272

$3,500

New York

$32,995

$121,584

$3,100

Boston

$31,552

$98,052

$2,500

Miami

$25,778

$86,285

$2,200

Los Angeles

$25,778

$85,697

$2,185

Cambridge (Mass.)

$31,552

$82,363

$2,100

Washington

$37,120

$77,461

$1,975

Oakland (Calif.)

$27,841

$76,971

$1,963

Orange County (Calif.)

$25,778

$74,794

$1,907

Chicago

$25,778

$69,421

$1,770

Download the full dataset for the 25 largest U.S. rental markets here.


The Cliffs Notes on Rental Affordability

The lesson here for recent grads is that although it may be tempting to seek out metros with the highest wages, doing so may not necessarily lead to a better quality of life because these metros also have high rents.

Recent grads need to balance both wages and rents, so such places as St. Louis, Dallas and Houston fit the bill for affordability. Although the percentage of units in these areas that are affordable is under 19%, finding just one roommate is enough to make the median-priced rental unit affordable. However, in such places as Portland and Southern California, not only are affordable units few and far between, it also takes living in dorm-like quarters to make the median priced rental unit affordable.

Ralph McLaughlin is a Housing Economist at Trulia and conducts research on housing market trends and real estate search patterns. His academic background includes a degree in Regional Development from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. in Planning, Policy, and Design from the University of California, Irvine with a specialization in Urban Development).

 

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Posted on 23 May 2015 | 1:18 pm

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Selling Home in New Orleans

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Angelina Jolie Joins The Children's Health Fund To Raise Awareness For 55,000 Children Still in Crisis in the Gulf
WireImage/GettyAngelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, shown here with local children in 2007, bought their New Orleans home in 2006.

By Melissa Allison

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have listed their prime French Quarter mansion for $6.5 million, but a rep tells US Weekly the couple remain committed to New Orleans and will look for "something off the beaten path down the road."

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Are Selling Their New Orleans Mansion


Pitt and Jolie became involved in philanthropic efforts in the city after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and bought the renovated 1830s home in late 2006 for Pitt's filming of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." In 2007, Pitt cofounded Make It Right, a non-profit organization based in New Orleans that builds environmentally friendly homes and other buildings for people in need.

The home the Jolie-Pitts put on the market has five bedrooms, five baths and all the grandness you'd expect from a Big Easy mansion: Venetian plastered walls, marble mantles and fireplaces, crown moldings, a grand spiral staircase and -- bringing it into the modern era -- an elevator. There's also a two-story guesthouse.

The couple let actor Jonah Hill crash at the home when he was filming "21 Jump Street."
Hill, a months-long guest, called Pitt "the nicest guy" for letting him stay there but said it came with some fan baggage.

"I would go home every day from work, and there'd be a tour outside and they'd be freaking out," he told Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show." "I'd get out of the car, and you could hear a collective audible sigh of annoyance when it wasn't Brad Pitt."

The listing photos, alas, include only exterior shots.

 

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Posted on 21 May 2015 | 8:01 pm

Live Like F. Scott and Zelda: 'Great Gatsby' House for Sale

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F Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby Home on Sale for $3.8m



By Melissa Allison

If F. Scott Fitzgerald was right that we're "borne back ceaselessly into the past," then it's fortunate when there are photographs to go with those backward glances.

And there are photos to accompany the $3,888,888 listing of the Long Island estate where Fitzgerald began writing "The Great Gatsby," as first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, rented the seven-bedroom, 6.5-bath home for two years in the early 1920s. It has since been remodeled.

Zelda called it "our nifty little Babbit-home at Great Neck," and it became their base for parties and visits to even more luxurious homes in the vicinity, which eventually became the class-conscious West Egg and East Egg of "Gatsby."

The Fitzgeralds' raucous parties here spurred the writing of half-facetious house rules such as, "Visitors are requested not to break down doors in search of liquor, even when authorized to do so by the host and hostess," according to Andrew Turnbull's biography of Scott Fitzgerald.

Scott and Zelda left this home in Great Neck for France, where he finished "The Great Gatsby."

The listing agent is Nurit Weiss of Coldwell Banker.

 

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Posted on 21 May 2015 | 12:29 pm

Robin Thicke Singing a New Tune, Buys a New Spread in Malibu

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De Grisogono Party - The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Getty Images

By Megan Johnson

Looks like someone's got a new bachelor pad.

"Blurred Lines" singer and legendary lothario Robin Thicke has dropped $2.395 million on a four-bedroom California spread in tony Malibu. The R&B star, the son of one of the 1980s' best sitcom fathers, Alan Thicke, has moved in with his 20-year-old girlfriend, April Love Geary. (Alan, by the way, just confessed that he and his wife like to get it on to his son's music. Yeah, we're a little disturbed too.)

Chopard - Annabel's In Cannes
David M. Benett/Getty Images for Annabel's/ChopardRobin Thicke and girlfriend April Love Geary at a party during the Cannes Film Festival in France.

The 2,359-square-foot home may be just the place that Thicke needs after his tempestuous split from ex-wife Paula Patton. A single-story, midcentury-style house, it's the picture of relaxation with ocean and mountain views, a 7,000-square-foot lawn, and 60 fruit trees. The property is also a fully-functioning equestrian compound, with almost two acres of gated land plus a four-stall corral, tack room, and full-size arena.

The house boasts some other interesting aspects: It has a recent "seismic retrofit," which means it's prepped to be sturdy in case of earthquakes. And then there's the eight-line phone system with an intercom, which really isn't all that surprising if you think about all the girls Robin probably needs to keep in touch with. A beautiful chef's kitchen with bird's-eye maple cabinets and quartz countertops complements ash and granite floors.

It hasn't been all smooth sailing since moving to this chill location at the beach, however. Turns out, Robin's pet dog likes to party almost as much as he does: The pup apparently got into Robin's weed stash multiple times and had to be brought to the vet for treatment, Page Six reported.

 

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Posted on 21 May 2015 | 10:57 am

The True Costs of Owning a Pool

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ZillowThis California home on a hillside in Laguna Beach has a swimming pool as well as views of the Pacific Ocean.

By Susan Johnston

As summer approaches, perhaps you're daydreaming about putting in a swimming pool or buying a property with a backyard pool. That way you can take a dip and cool off in your own pool whenever the mood strikes, never mind piling the kids in the car on a hot summer day or jockeying for space at a community pool. (Plus, a beautiful pool can make you feel like you live the glamorous life.)

But before you dive in (pun intended), consider these financial implications of a swimming pool.

Upfront Cost

If you're planning to install a pool, be prepared to open your wallet. PK Data reports that the average cost of a residential in-ground swimming pool was $39,084 last year. Don't expect to recoup all of that money when you sell your house in the future, cautions Sabine H. Schoenberg, a home improvement expert and founder of SabinesHome.com. "It's not something that's value-enhancing to a lot of people," she says. "Just as there are people with positive feelings towards pools, there are those with negative feelings. I would never put a pool in as a speculative builder." Whether to buy an investment property with a pool is another decision to consider carefully.

If you decide to move forward with a pool installation, Schoenberg suggests thinking carefully about the placement of the pool in your yard. "If it's in one faraway corner, people aren't going to use the pool," she says. "You need to look at the natural daylight as it travels around the house. I don't think it's a good idea to put a pool into a dark, shadowy place." She also suggests finding an installer who offers a five-year warranty, not just a one-year warranty.

Also investigate your town or municipality's regulations around pools. "Each town will have its own definition of a 'pool,' often based on its size and water depth," says Loretta Worters, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry organization that provides insurance information to the public. "If the pool you are planning to buy meets the definition, then you must comply with local safety standards and building codes. This may include installing a fence of a certain size, locks, decks and pool safety equipment."

Ongoing Maintenance

Before you buy a home with a pool, try to get the pool inspected. "The best way, I find, is to get a pool company to come and look at the pool closely," Schoenberg says. "Sometimes that's a challenge if it's the winter, and the pool is partially drained down, so you may not be able to do a full inspection."

Also, find out if the previous homeowner had a pool company servicing the pool so you can find out if it's been serviced regularly and what that company charges. Peter Wingskam, owner of Crystal Clean Pools of New York, says the quality of a pool's construction matters more than its age. "You might have above-ground pools where you've got ladders pulling on the side and ripping the vinyl," he says. "Some people cut costs, and there's thicker vinyl or better grade vinyl available." In-ground pools can also get cracks, he adds.

 

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Posted on 20 May 2015 | 3:00 am

Mortgage Rates Edge Downward to 3.77%

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ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.77 percent, down 5 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell early in the week, then hovered around 3.71 percent before rising to the current rate on Tuesday. Hawaii saw 30-year fixed rates as low as 3.67 percent.

"Rates fell late last week as a string of weak data raised concerns about the underlying strength of the U.S. economy," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "This week markets will look to a few Fed speeches and minutes from April's Federal Open Market Committee meeting for further guidance."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.91 percent, For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.84 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to check monthly payments at the current rates.

 

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Posted on 19 May 2015 | 2:25 pm

3 Strategies for a Quick Home Sale

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Sold Home For Sale Real Estate Sign and Beautiful New House.
Feverpitched/Getty

By Brendon DeSimone

Most sellers have a specific goal when it comes to their transaction: a quick sale and top dollar. But sometimes fast action doesn't align with achieving the highest and best value.

There are multiple schools of thought on this subject and the perspective varies not only with where you are in the country, but also by price point, neighborhood and even down to the block. When it comes to pricing and the search for a quick sale, it's always best to get help from a local agent.

Here are some strategies you can use to get offers fast.

1. The Theory of Under-Pricing

Under-pricing means that you go to market with a list price that is just below what the comparable sales in your area support.

You can't pinpoint the exact market value of a home until it sells. But before you list, there's always a range. If you price your house at or below the bottom of the value range, you are under-pricing the home.

In many West Coast markets this strategy will work effectively. Take this San Francisco home, for example: priced at $1.1 million, it received 10 offers and sold for $1.425 million in less than a week.

Risk alert: If you price your home low, this plan could backfire -- big time. If you don't know your market and this strategy doesn't work, you'd better be ready to accept that list price.

2. Staging and Market Presentation

Well-priced homes that also show well sell quickly. If you want a quick sale, you need to invest some serious time in getting the house ready.

Prepping the home means taking out large pieces of furniture and personal items, painting, replacing carpets, finishing floors and even doing some minor renovations.

Enlist the help of a home stager and take their advice, and you can be assured a quicker sale. The investment of time and money will pay itself back.

Risk alert: If you go overboard on staging or you don't spend the time and money in the right places, it could be a waste. Don't make staging decisions in a vacuum. Focus on kitchens and bathrooms, de-cluttering and cleaning. When in doubt, ask for help.

3. Disclose and Inspect Upfront

In most of the country, sellers complete real estate transfer disclosures and present them to the buyer, and the buyer simultaneously inspects the home -- all once they are in escrow.

What often happens is that buyers discover things they don't like, or uncover issues. When this happens, they may lose confidence in the home or the deal.

By presenting disclosures upfront, and even providing buyers with a copy of a recent inspection report, you can help them get more comfortable with the home. If you price the home to account for whatever work needs to be completed or for disclosure red flags, buyers will feel more confident, and may make an offer much more quickly.

Risk alert: There is little risk in disclosing and inspecting. If you try to hide something and the buyer discovers it later, you can expect the deal to fall apart -- or maybe even face a lawsuit down the road.

Selling your home is a major undertaking. Spend time strategizing and preparing the home for the market. Pricing, staging, presentation and disclosure go hand in hand. If you want a quick sale, price it right, present it in its best possible light, and go out of your way to make buyers feel comfortable with all aspects of the home.

 

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Posted on 19 May 2015 | 2:19 am

House Hunting for Two: How to Find Your Happy Home

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hispanic couple outside home...
Shutterstock

By Vanessa Nix Anthony

While it can be tough enough to find just the right spot to rest your head at night on your own, it can be even more difficult when searching with a partner. Choosing where you'll live, whether you're renting or buying a home, is one of the most important and personal decisions you'll ever make.

It's the definition of complicated: the extra weight of the long-term commitment that sharing a living space brings. That means good communication is key.

"Moving in together is a huge commitment, perhaps more than a marriage itself, because it's a substantial financial commitment to each other," author and counselor Kerry Cohen says. "Any issues each person has around commitment, both in general and with each other, are surely going to come up."

She advises couples to be prepared when looking for a place together.

"There will likely be arguing or maybe even hurt feelings," Cohen says. "A lot of who a person is comes to the surface when buying a house -- how detail oriented, how controlling, aesthetics, etc."

Just because the potential is there for emotions to run high doesn't mean they have to. Not if you take the time to do a little home-shopping prep. Here are a few do's and don'ts, straight from the experts.

DO: Expect Feelings to Be on the Surface

Every expert we talked to brought up how emotional the home-selection process can be. And that makes sense, especially for buyers. C'mon: we're talking about one of the biggest investments you'll ever make, in both time and money. Things are guaranteed to get heated.

Setting clear expectations and communicating clearly and kindly throughout the process will go a long way toward defusing volatile emotions.

DO: Communicate Openly and Often

Joan Rogers, a principal broker at the Portland agency Windermere Stellar in Oregon, recommends that clients identify their old emotional pulls before starting the home search. "As with most other emotional processes, people carry all kinds of baggage into buying a home." Use collaborative tools such as Trulia's new boards to share properties that you find in real time.

DO: Understand What You Both Want in a Home and Why

Amber Salvador, a clinical psychologist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital in San Diego, suggests both parties make a list of their top three to five must-haves, then compare their lists and prioritize for budget and neighborhood before heading out on the search.

When searching for homes, make sure your list reflects who you are now as well as who you think you'll be in five years, rather than clinging to old ideas of who you once were. The key component to success in agreeing on living arrangements is to make sure you truly understand why you want what you think you want.

DO: Be Willing to Compromise

"Be flexible. It's important to be collaborative and work together versus against one another," offers Salvador.

As Mick Jagger sings, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes," with a little compromise and understanding, "you might find, you get what you need."

DON'T: Be Impulsive

"Impulsive decisions are typically made based on emotions," says Salvador. "A major financial decision such as buying a home requires thought, preparation, and planning to carefully decide the most appropriate home given the couple's budget, lifestyle, and needs."

DON'T: Spend More Than Your Budget

The heightened emotions during the home search can also persuade you to spend more money than your budget may be able to bear. This can lead to long-term consequences in the partnership. Salvador says it's essential that you choose a new home together based on rational decision making instead of emotional desires.

DON'T: Manipulate Your Partner to Get What You Want

Your home should be a place where you both feel comfortable. Manipulating, lying, or bullying your partner to get more of what you want in a home can lead to resentments down the road when money is needed for repairs or upgrades to features that weren't jointly agreed upon.

 

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Posted on 15 May 2015 | 2:14 am

Paula Deen's Savannah Estate for Sale for $12.5 Million

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ZillowIn addition to a main house in the French Caribbean style, there are two guest cottages and an eight-car garage.

By Melissa Allison

Celebrity chef Paula Deen is asking $12.5 million for her Savannah estate in the city where she cooked up her Food Network shows. "When Paula is in Savannah, she wants an easier and simpler life," a source told People magazine of the listing.

The large riverfront estate called "Riverbend" is set up like a private resort with an outdoor kitchen, a pond and a swimming pool with a dive-in theater.

It boasts a main house built in the French Caribbean style, two guest cottages, a dock house and a barn with an eight-car garage. Altogether, the 2009 estate includes eight bedrooms and 8.5 baths across 28,000 square feet of living space.

The doyenne of Southern cooking has been off the Food Network for almost two years and is now hawking her subscription-based Paula Deen Network, a mobile game and a line of food including chocolate butter sticks.

Elaine Seabolt of Seabolt Brokers has the listing.

 

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Posted on 14 May 2015 | 2:00 am

Buying a Home When You're Not a U.S. Citizen

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comks82479Comstock Images(Royalty-free)   Couple consulting with a businesswoman in her office, both man and businesswoman are s
Getty Images

By Kirk Haverkamp

Immigrants are having a significant impact on the U.S. housing market. According to the Research Institute for Housing America, immigrants accounted for nearly 40% of the net increase in U.S. homeowners from 2000 to 2010. Meanwhile, the same group estimates that U.S. homeownership rates among Latino immigrants will hit 50% by the year 2020.

Overall, the number of immigrant homeowners is still relatively small, representing only 11.2% of owner-occupied homes in 2014, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies. Even so, that's up from 6.8% 20 years earlier.

So immigrants are clearly buying homes. But what sort of obstacles and challenges do they face that native-born homebuyers do not?

There are no legal barriers to foreign nationals buying property, owning homes or obtaining loans in the U.S.

Foreign investors buy U.S. property and do business with U.S. banks all the time -- getting a mortgage and buying a home is simply more of the same, on a smaller scale.

"Residency of any kind is not a requirement for home ownership in the U.S.," said Jason Madiedo, president of Alterra Home Loans, in Las Vegas. "The challenge for the consumer is to gain financing."

Documenting Foreign Financial Info Can Be a Challenge

For a legal immigrant with an established employment and credit history in this country, the process of buying a home is much the same as it is for a citizen. However, there are still certain challenges that non-citizens may face when seeking to buy a home in the U.S. that native-born borrowers are unlikely to encounter.

"It becomes a little more difficult for a foreign national to buy an owner-occupied property unless they're here with a job in the U.S.," said Bill Ashmore, president of IMPAC Mortgage in Irvine, California. "The longer somebody's here and the more they can document their income through tax returns, the better off they are."

Even if they've established themselves professionally and financially in their home countries, recent arrivals may find it challenging to get a mortgage in the U.S., Ashmore said.

One of the major reasons is because the information needed to document income and credit is coming from abroad. That means the information may need to be translated into English, or may be in a different format or based on different conventions than American bankers are used to -- for example, there will be no W-2s for earnings abroad.

There's also the matter of verifying the validity of information provided by unfamiliar individuals or institutions.

"Are you going to accept the profit and loss statement of the accountant?" he asked.

As a result, many foreign nationals tend to simply pay cash for home purchases, which Ashmore termed the "path of least resistance."

That's not to say that foreign financial information can't ever be used in obtaining a mortgage from a lender in this country. Ashmore said his company is developing a program in cooperation with about 25 foreign banks to enable borrowers to document assets abroad. However, potential borrowers would need to have accounts with a participating bank to benefit.

Alternative Measures of Credit, Income Sometimes Needed

Non-citizen homebuyers tend to fall into two groups, according to Madiedo, who is past president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. The first group, he said, are affluent foreign nationals with the financial resources to buy property in the U.S. and the ability to come and go as they wish.

The second, he said, are the ones who come here seeking work and opportunity, people he calls "the type that this country was built on."

"These folks have a much harder time obtaining financing," he said.

The way some immigrants handle their finances is part of the issue, Madiedo said, given that some prefer to do their transactions in cash. As a result, they don't build a credit history. (If you want to see if you have a credit history, you can check your free annual credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can check your free credit report summary every month on Credit.com.)

"What we run into is, number one, a thin-credit or no-credit situation," he said. "Many immigrants tend to be credit-adverse, which limits their options."

For borrowers who haven't established traditional credit, some lenders will use alternative methods of qualifying them for a loan, such as looking at rent payments, or phone and utility bills. But doing so is more labor-intensive for the lender and the loans carry higher interest rates than those done with conventional underwriting.

Another issue that sometimes arises with immigrant families is that many people may contribute to the household income, rather than the one- or two-earner households that lenders are more accustomed to evaluating.

"One of the challenges we're seeing from an underwriting perspective is the multigenerational family," Madiedo said.

In such a household, you may have grandparents, parents and children all working and contributing to the loan payment. Documenting all that income, and proving that everyone will be an occupant in the home, is a challenge in today's lending environment, Madiedo said.

Not all lenders will be willing to go through the extra steps needed to underwrite such loans, although Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA do have certain loan products that accept both nontraditional credit and varied income sources.

"The key for consumers is to be working with the right lender who understands their cultural nuances and packages the loan into whatever (product) works for them," Madiedo said.

Nonpermanent Residents Can Still Get Loans

Another type of immigrant borrower is one who does not have permanent residency (green card) status, but who has come to the U.S. on a temporary visa because he or she has special professional skills that are in demand.

From a lender's perspective, one concern with such borrowers is how long they will be able to remain in the country. As such, they may need to provide a statement from their employer/sponsor attesting to the expected duration of their employment, Ashmore said.

Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer mortgage programs that are available to nonpermanent residents from other countries who are here on a temporary work visa (H1B or H2B). Down payment requirements are higher than the minimums allowed on other Fannie and Freddie loans, however, and other restrictions may apply.

Nonpermanent residents from other countries may also be able to go outside of the Fannie/Freddie structures for what are called non-agency loans, which have fewer restrictions but also have higher interest rates and higher down payment requirements.

What About Undocumented Immigrants?

What about undocumented immigrants? Many are surprised to learn that even in that situation, it's still possible to get a mortgage and buy a home.

A standard loan application will require the borrower to provide a Social Security number and indicate their citizenship or residency status. But those requirements aren't established by law -- those are requirements imposed by the agencies backing those loans, such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the FHA. And there are certain types of non-agency loans that don't have those requirements.

For some loans, a borrower may use what is called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number. This is an alternative form of taxpayer identification that is issued to foreign nationals working in the U.S. who are ineligible for Social Security.

Lenders themselves aren't equipped to check a person's immigration status -- Ashmore said that if a person has their financial and credit information in order, the lender really doesn't have a way of knowing what their immigration status might be.

"If somebody's going to come to me, I'm not going to check that their driver's license is right, I'm going to do a fraud check," he said. "It's more documenting your ability to repay, rather than whether you're illegal or not," he said.

ITIN mortgages aren't widely available, and are generally offered by small community lenders who are willing to put in the extra effort needed to underwrite them, according to Madiedo. Interest rates typically run about two to three percentage points above what someone would pay on a conventional 30-year loan, he said.

Madiedo said that undocumented immigrants who obtain mortgages tend to be dependable borrowers with low default rates. They also tend to keep their loans for a long time, being less likely than other mortgage borrowers to refinance to a lower rate or sell the property before the note is paid off.

"The loans perform extremely well, so it's a good investment opportunity," he said.

 

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Posted on 13 May 2015 | 6:28 am

Mortgage Rates Continue Modest Rise to 3.82%

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ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.82 percent, up 9 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell Friday, then hovered around 3.69 percent before rising and settling at 3.82 percent Tuesday morning.

"Rates surged over the past week due to strong European data," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "Looking ahead, we expect mortgage rates to continue in their gradual march upward."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.98 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.78 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

 

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Posted on 12 May 2015 | 10:59 am

Sticker Shock: San Francisco 1-Bedroom Sells for $2.3M

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ZillowThe view from one of the apartments in The Comstock, one of San Francisco's most prestigious residential buildings.

By HotPads.com

It may have sold for eight percent under the original asking price, but when you're talking about an 1,800-square-foot San Francisco condo playing in the $2.5-million club, who's really counting by the tens of thousands?

When it debuted on the market last month, the Nob Hill apartment at 1333 Jones instantly became San Francisco's most expensive one-bedroom listing -- as in, of all time -- at $2.495 million.

Granted, the apartment is in The Comstock, one of the city's most prestigious residential buildings. But when it comes to San Francisco co-ops, a fancy address only gets you so far.

So what does this elaborate eighth-floor beauty have that (no offense) you probably don't? For starters, the completely remodeled unit features hardwood floors throughout, as well as a modern, open-concept kitchen.

From there, turn your attention to two slab-marble bathrooms and a walk-in closet off the master bathroom. Finally, take in the northwest-facing floor-to-ceiling windows that give way to panoramic views of the Bay -- the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, yada yada yada.

Some might say the ultramodern work-of-art/apartment does slightly resemble a life-sized fishbowl, but its sleek architecture and design are awe-inspiring. And there's a bonus: The open floor plan includes frosted sliding glass doors that can be used to convert the office/den into a makeshift guest room.

Regretting not having put in an offer? Not to worry: another unit in The Comstock just popped up on the market. Measuring in at a cozy 1,200 square feet, but with larger balconies and a smaller price tag ($1.75 million), it's a steal. Gregg Lynn of Sotheby's International Realty - San Francisco Brokerage has the listing.

 

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Posted on 11 May 2015 | 2:00 am

Report: Beyoncé Buys a Converted Church in New Orleans

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ZillowOriginally a Presbyterian church,the 13,000-square-foot building has been divided into a home and three apartments.

By Melissa Allison

Are the queen and king of hip-hop planning to spend more
time in jazz territory? Beyoncé and Jay Z appear to have bought an old church in New Orleans' Garden District that has been transformed into living quarters, Curbed reports.

2015 MET Museum Costume Institute Benefit Gala
Charles Sykes/Invision/APBeyoncé and Jay Z arrive at a New York gala in early May.

The 1925 home, built as a Presbyterian church, also has been a ballet school and now is a large home with 26-foot ceilings, plus three 1,000-square-foot apartments.

A light-filled great room serves as a hub with lots of nooks and crannies, including a step-up dining room, a loft-style sitting room and a library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The master suite, which manages to be cozy while also exuding a royal vibe, adjoins a walk-in closet and a bathroom that's decked out with a massive, old-style wooden vanity, a large antique bathtub and a separate shower.

Just one house off the main Mardi Gras parade route, the home has hosted weddings and major recording stars. According to the former listing, one Grammy winner said the "acoustics and vibes are great. I did my best writing ever, while watching the sunset from the rooftop garden."

In January, a company with ties to Beyoncé took ownership of the home. It had been listed for $2.6 million. Her sister, Solange Knowles, co-owns a clothing boutique called Exodus Goods in the French Quarter.

Beyoncé and Jay Z also have spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, renting a $150,000-a-month home and bidding unsuccessfully on another.

 

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Posted on 9 May 2015 | 9:09 am

Living Large in a Tiny Home on San Juan Island Near Seattle

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tom Hanny/ZillowBrady Ryan and Leah Wymer's tiny home measures less than 100 square feet but they have room to roam on the island.

By Catherine Sherman

Our boots sloshed around in the mud. It was a dreary Pacific Northwest day filled with slate-colored clouds and the feeling it could downpour any minute.

After several calls of "pardon me" and "coming through," we got the tripod inside and forgot about the looming storm. We settled into a world of nooks and crannies, warm blankets -- and the smell of chocolate.

It's what you do when you live in a tiny home. You get cozy. And you make brownies on a rainy day.

Leah Wymer and Brady Ryan's house-on-wheels wasn't some big, planned project. Wymer's dad, a carpenter, thought it would be fun, so they bought a used trailer off Craigslist for $500 and started building.

Two years later, the tiny home named Tina developed into "this huge thing." Not a huge footprint -- she's only 98 square feet -- but a huge, move-to-the-island and start-your-own-business thing.

Tiny Home Feature Final
Video by Tom Hanny/Zillow

Ryan insists they aren't "hardcore tiny homies" because his parents' house is nearby. But for many owners of tiny homes it isn't about escaping normal life or community, anyway.

"We've had many times where we'll sleep upstairs and then our friends, usually a couple, will sleep down here on the pullout and it's like a sleepover," Ryan says. "I love sleepovers. I'm still a little kid at heart."

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tom Hanny/Zillow

Wymer says it instantly brings you closer because your proximity is so close, but she's the first to admit living "tiny" isn't for everyone.

"If you leave your laundry on the ground, it's in the kitchen," she says. "Everything kind of overlaps a little bit."

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tom Hanny/Zillow

But if you don't mind things -- and people -- overlapping, making do with less can be life-changing.

"Things don't bring you happiness," Wymer says. "Our lifestyle brings us happiness."

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tom Hanny/Zillow

It's not easy making money on an island. Wymer has her own wedding-flower business, and Ryan keeps busy making honey and sea salt.

"The tiny home is like the cog in the wheel that allows the whole thing to spin," Ryan says. Not only are the couple's living costs reduced significantly, but they're able to do what they love most right in their backyard.

"There have been a lot of times where I wonder if I'm dreaming, really, because of the beauty that is all around us," Wymer says. "I love when it gets later in the season, and the grass comes up to your waist. ...There is nothing like walking out there and brushing your hands against it."

 

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Posted on 8 May 2015 | 8:11 am

How to Shop for a Mortgage Online

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businessman earning lots of...
Shutterstock

By Gerri Detweiler

Ron Milman refinanced his mortgage in early 2015. A resident of an Atlanta suburb, Milman says he saved money, closed quickly, and except for one quick trip to a local bank to meet a local attorney to finalize paperwork, he never left his home office. Working strictly online and by phone, he says getting his mortgage online was a painless process for him. "I really don't like going into an office," he says. "It's so much wasted time and effort."

If you're in the market for a home loan, whether for a purchase or refinance, you may have toyed with the idea of using an online lender. But you may be wondering what getting a mortgage online is like. How is the process different?

"The Internet provides the most convenient way for consumers to compare mortgage service offerings; as a result, a growing portion of mortgage originations are anticipated to be completed online in the years to come," says Stephen Hoopes, an analyst with research firm IBISWorld.

It's important to first understand that shopping for a mortgage online can be different than getting a mortgage online. In the first scenario, you may be using a service that doesn't actually make loans but helps connect you to lenders. In the latter case, you actually apply for and complete the process largely online.

With that in mind, here are some of the differences when you get an online mortgage:

The Internet Holds Answers

Aren't sure about a mortgage term? Need help deciding which type of loan to get, or whether to go for a longer-term loan or a shorter one? You can take a break to research it before you decide without giving a loan officer a blank stare or feeling like you are being put on the spot. Not that you can't do that before you shop for a mortgage anyway, but apparently quite a few consumers don't fully educate themselves on all their options when getting the largest loan of their lives.

A recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that almost half of borrowers seriously consider only a single lender or broker before deciding where to apply. The CFPB also says that most borrowers rely heavily on those who have a financial stake in the transaction, and less than half get a lot of their information from outside sources such as websites, financial and housing counselors, or friends, relatives or co-workers.

Of course, researching online can be a double-edged sword. You need to make sure you are getting information from reliable sources, such as independent educational websites. The CFPB is one source of free education through its Owning a Home initiative.

Do It on Your Own Time

Need to dig up a bank statement for your lender? Want to check on the status of your appraisal? With an online lender you can usually take care of those things whenever it's convenient for you. Information about the status of your loan will be available to view online, and if you have a question, employees may be available to review your loan file and answer questions outside of the standard banking hours. "You can see (your information) 24/7 and you are not locked into business hours getting a hold of your loan officer or processor," says Bob Walters, chief economist at Quicken Loans.

Whatever Works

While virtually the entire process can take place online, you aren't tied to your computer. If you have to provide documentation and don't have a fax machine or scanner, you should be able to overnight bank statements, tax returns or other documents to the lender. Certain documents will have to be notarized, and the notary will come to you or meet you in a convenient location, such as a local coffee shop. Most closings for purchase transactions take place at a title company, while closings for refinance transactions can take place anywhere you choose.

Some Things Never Change

Of course, whether you decide to work with a local lender or an online mortgage company, certain things don't change. You will want to get your free annual credit reports to make sure they are accurate. Do this at least six weeks before you plan to apply, or earlier if possible, to give yourself time to correct mistakes. In addition, getting a free credit score will help you understand whether your credit is excellent, fair or poor. (You can get two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) While you are at it, if you hope to buy a home, it's a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

And be prepared to be 100% truthful and supply documentation your loan officer may need -- including copies of bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, etc. Just because you scan documents doesn't mean you won't have paperwork! But you may save a few trees -- and save yourself a few headaches -- this way.

It goes without saying that you should make sure you are dealing with a reputable lender with a secure website. No one should be emailing a copy of your tax return or credit report back and forth to you. The last thing you want is for this kind of sensitive information to fall into the hands of a scammer.

And while rates are very important, Scott Sheldon, a loan officer with Sonoma County Mortgages and a Credit.com contributor, warns that you may get what you pay for. "Internet lenders are priced incredibly thin. Their pricing and rates can be fantastic, but they operate solely off of volume."

He is concerned that going this route can be especially risky for homebuyers with unique circumstances or a less than "squeaky clean" file. What happens to your home purchase if the "underwriter denies your file because it wasn't packaged properly upfront by the loan officer whose is also working on 50 other loans simultaneously?" he asks.

For Milman, at least, the process that started with a phone call in December resulted in a closed loan by mid-January. "It makes a whole lot of sense to do this online," he says.

 

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Posted on 6 May 2015 | 8:38 am

Mayweather, Flush With Fight Money, Will Keep Florida Condo

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APTOPIX Mayweather Pacquiao Boxing
ASSOCIATED PRESSFloyd Mayweather Jr., left, defeated Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision on May 2 in Las Vegas.

By Melissa Allison

UPDATE: As GossipExtra.com promised he would, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has taken his Florida condo off the market. He had been trying to sell the place since last summer and recently dropped the price by $600,000.

ORIGINAL POST 5/4/2015: Welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s boxing creds may be rising, but the price on his Florida penthouse just keeps falling.

The boxer, who remains undefeated after beating Manny Pacquiao, is asking $1.999 million for his condo high above Sunny Isles Beach, which is on a barrier island north of Miami. That's down from $2.599 million last July.

The penthouse weighs in at 3,020 square feet with four bedrooms, five bathrooms and comes furnished, listing agent Tanasha Pettigrew of Galleria International Realty told GossipExtra.

"He wants to leave condo life for a house," Pettigrew said. "His four children are getting older -- they are now 12 to 15 years old -- so he wants them to be able to run around."

Meanwhile, his opponent Pacquiao recently picked up Sean "Diddy" Combs' former home in Beverly Hills.

 

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Posted on 5 May 2015 | 1:11 pm

Zillow Report: Mortgage Rates Rise to 3.73%

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ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.


By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.73 percent, up 12 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose early in the week, then hovered around 3.67 percent before rising to the current rate Tuesday.

"After rising early last week, rates flattened as weak Q1 GDP data gave markets another reason to believe the Fed's first interest rate hike is further away," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow, citing the first quarter gross domestic product report. "This week, markets will focus on Friday's jobs report and a couple Fed speeches. We expect rates to remain flat or increase slightly."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.90 percent Tuesday. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.79 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

 

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Posted on 5 May 2015 | 12:59 pm

Zooey Deschanel Trades Hollywood Hills for the Beach

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Westside Estate Agency via TruliaThe Hollywood Hills home features traditional styling and three bedrooms in 3,000 square feet on half an acre.

By Megan Johnson

The "New Girl" star is selling her quirky 1930s bungalow after buying it from Mark Ruffalo in 2009.

Just don't say this house is "adorkable."

Zooey Deschanel, known for her role as Jess on "New Girl" (you can watch Trulia's video series with her co-star Max Greenfield here), has listed her Hollywood Hills home as she prepares to become a mom. It's a time of change: The season finale of "New Girl" airs Tuesday.

Zooey, who recently declared that she's over the "adorkable" nickname she was given thanks to her quirky nature, is now saying goodbye to this three-bedroom, 3.5-bath home.

zooey deschanel at the
ShutterstockZooey Deschanel

Measuring almost 3,000 square feet, the house is priced at $2.195 million. Zooey bought the home from Ruffalo, star of the "Avengers" movies, back in 2009 for $1.69 million. (See the trailer for the new "Avengers: Age of Ultron.")

Located behind gates (for optimal paparazzi protection), the mini-estate is on a half-acre in the western section of the Hills, right off the Sunset Strip.

Original details and French doors throughout the home allow light to stream inside while also providing beautiful views of the surrounding gardens. A recently remodeled chef's kitchen, where no doubt Zooey decided to cook up some "quirky" meals, features marble counters, a center island, and a farmhouse sink.

A spacious breakfast area provides a great spot for a casual hangout, while the formal dining room and living room featuring exposed beams and a wood-burning fireplace are ideal for more formal occasions. The backyard is a prime location for entertaining guests, as is the separate guest unit with its own bath.

But there's no question where Zooey is heading this summer. She picked up a six-bedroom home in Manhattan Beach for $4.659 million back in February. The 5,166-square-foot home, which has a sunny backyard, a sports court and a swimming pool, is certainly big enough for her burgeoning family. It features panoramic views of the Hills as well as the neighboring trees and woods.

Zooey, who was previously married to Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard, is expecting her first child with fiancé Jacob Pechenik.

No doubt, the baby will be named something extra quirky, like "Olive" or "Atticus."

Home images courtesy of Westside Estate Agency via The MLS/CLAW and Trulia. The listing agent is Sara Berger.

 

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Posted on 2 May 2015 | 8:49 am

How to Handle Living in a Community With a HOA

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people
apostol_8/GettyCondos and many newer communities require paying dues and following the Homeowners Association's rules.

By Teresa Mears

If you buy a condominium, townhouse or single-family home in a newer development, you're likely to become a member of a community association.

About 20 percent of Americans live in a community governed by a condo association, homeowners association or co-op board, according to the Community Associations Institute, which educates volunteer board members and association management professionals. The number of communities covered by associations has grown from about 10,000 in 1970 to more than 333,000 today.

Community associations come with rules that determine everything from the number of pets you can own to what color you can paint your front door. Some include amenities such as pools, clubhouses and golf courses, while others provide services such as road maintenance and streetlights.

The associations are set up by developers and then turned over to a volunteer board of homeowners once all the units in the development are sold. Those volunteers are responsible for making sure facilities are maintained, collecting maintenance dues and enforcing the rules.

"This is the ultimate form of democracy," says Frank Rathbun, vice president of communications for the CAI.

While stories of homeowners associations that deny permission for a disabled child's playhouse or won't allow veterans to fly flags on the wrong kind of pole may steal the headlines, CAI statistics show that 64 percent of residents are satisfied with their community association experience and 26 percent are neutral, with only 10 percent dissatisfied, according to a 2014 survey.

But the same survey shows that almost a quarter of residents have experienced a significant disagreement with their association, with landscaping and parking being the two most common causes, followed by finances and architectural issues.

Whether you like or hate the rules that come with community association life, once you've bought or rented in an association, you're committed to it. Being a member of an association ties your fate to your neighbors in ways that living in a traditional neighborhood does not.

"You have to overcome that 'my home is my castle' issue," Rathbun says.

Rules are designed in part to protect property values, and 70 percent of the respondents in the CAI survey believe they do, while 26 percent believe they make no difference. Disagreements over which rules are required to protect property values often lead to conflicts that can cost residents both time and money if they're handled poorly.

"People ought to know that being in a condo is a give-and-take kind of thing," says Patrick Hohman, author of "Condos Townhomes and Home Owner Associations: How to Make Your Investment Safer" and a longtime volunteer board member who is now a part-time, on-site manager at a condominium near Louisville, Kentucky. He also runs an educational website called www.CondoHOAinfo.com.

"It's a nonstop process of building trust and maintaining trust," Hohman says. "You learn to be forgiving of others and forgiving of yourself. You deal with people where they are and as they are. It's kind of like dealing with your extended family at Thanksgiving."

One challenge for associations is that volunteer board members with no property management experience are charged with maintaining hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of property. About two-thirds of associations hire professional managers, but the rest are managed by the residents themselves.

"Board members are almost never trained in property management," says Richard Thompson, who publishes The Regenesis Report, a weekly newsletter for board members and developers. He also writes a syndicated column for Realty Times and just published the book "Trade HOA Stress for Success." He recommends professional management -- hiring trained and experienced property managers to oversee operations -- for most associations. "If the board hires competent people, they're going to stay ahead of the curve and not put fires out," he says.

Communities are dependent upon the skills and personalities that residents and board members bring to the table. Some people are better than others at working with their neighbors, and residents with poor people skills can create problems for everyone, especially if they are elected to the board.

Experts say that communication and transparency -- being very clear about where the money goes, welcoming residents at board meetings and sharing information about how decisions are made -- go a long way toward building community harmony.

"There is no substitution for communication between the association and the residents," Rathbun says.

Here are seven tips for getting along in a homeowners association.

1. Know the rules before you move in.

Too few prospective residents understand the rules before they buy or rent. It's particularly important to be able to live with policies on pets, parking, rentals, noise and architectural guidelines. "Folks buy into a homeowner association without any clue of what they're obligated to do," Thompson says. "Few prospective buyers research these things before they close the deal."

2. Follow proper procedures.

Boards should set up clear procedures for everything from getting permission to paint your front door to rental applications to installing a satellite dish, and homeowners should expect to follow those procedures.

3. Go to your neighbor before you go to the board.

The board is there to make sure the rules and regulations of the development are followed, but if your neighbor's loud music annoys you, talk to your neighbor first before taking your complaint to the HOA board.

4. If you don't like a rule, get your neighbors together to change it.

Changing circumstances may make some rules outmoded, and boards should review the rules every few years to make sure they're all serving the community. If you don't like a rule, talk to your neighbors and petition the board collectively for a change.

5. Volunteer to help your community.

It's not always evident from the outside exactly what work the board of directors is doing and what issues the community faces. Once you move in, volunteer to help with a project or serve on a committee, and expect to serve on the board at some point. "Get involved. Don't wait until you're dissatisfied about something," Rathbun says.

6. Try to stay out of court.

Every community has a few people who think the rules don't apply to them, and some would rather fight than comply. A court battle can be costly, both in money and in emotional turmoil within the community. "Win, lose or draw, we are still talking about neighbors who have this bigger wall between them," Thompson says. Adds Rathbun: "Be reasonable: That applies to both the homeowners and the volunteer homeowners who serve on the board."

7. Have a long-range plan. State laws regarding reserves and planning vary, but it always makes sense to plan for items you know will have to be replaced or repaired, such as roads, roofs and pools. If the community has no reserves and no plan, a roof leak at a condominium complex could mean a surprise assessment of thousands of dollars for each homeowner. "If the board had been collecting money and planning for this ... every member along the timeline would have been paying some portion," Thompson says.

 

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Posted on 30 April 2015 | 10:05 am

Mortgage Rates Rise, but Predictions Remain Steady

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ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.61 percent on Tuesday, up 8 basis points from the same time last week. On Thursday morning, the national rate was at 3.71%.

However, the long-predicted rise in mortgage rates still appears to be on hold. After a report that economic growth slowed during the winter, the Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday it will not raise its benchmark interest rate in the near future.

According to Zillow Mortgages, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose early in the week, then hovered around 3.60 percent before rising to 3.61 percent Tuesday.

"Rates were essentially flat last week, remaining in the range they have been in for the past month," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow.

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.84 percent, and the rate for 5/1 ARMs also was 2.84 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

A look at the broader mortgage rate trend for the past six months:

 

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Posted on 30 April 2015 | 6:07 am

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