Insightful thoughts on Florida Real Estate

Posted on July 9th, 2012
by Greg Ellingson

Rental Scams Could Cost You Time and Money

A homeless man in Ormond Beach duped two renters, collecting deposits for a foreclosed home.  Beware rental ads on message boards and sites such as Craigslist.

ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – July 6, 2012 – A homeless man posted a foreclosed home ad on Craigslist, but he didn’t own the home. He then pocketed the deposit cash from potential renters so that he could afford a place to live for himself, according to police reports.

Eric Sisson, 27, posted the rental ad for a home in Ormond Beach, Fla., on Craigslist, saying that he just recently purchased it and wanted to rent it out. Two people responded to his ad, agreeing to rent the home and giving Sisson a total of $1,375 for the “fake” rental agreements, police say.

One victim soon asked for her deposit back, and Sisson sent her a check. But when she went to deposit it, the bank said the check was from a closed bank account.

Both women, realizing they had been duped, eventually contacted police.

Police arrested Sisson when he showed up at the house to collect the rest of the deposit from one victim. He faces charges in connection with obtaining property by fraud, issuing a worthless check, unarmed burglary, and grand theft.

In recent months, real estate professionals have been warning others about similar rental scams, in which scammers are using sites like Craigslist to post homes for rent that they don’t really own.

Source: “Homeless Man Rents Out Vacant House,” (July 2, 2012)

© Copyright 2012 INFORMATION, INC.

Posted on July 6th, 2012
by Greg Ellingson

Homeowners Beware: “Securitization Audit” Scam Costs More than Just Money

Scammers take advantage of homeowners going through foreclosure with the "securitization audit" scam, which promises to reveal the actual owner of a promissory note; but these audits do much more harm than good.

RESTON, Va. – July 5, 2012 – A new foreclosure rescue scam promises to help distressed homeowners reveal the actual owner of a promissory note through a “securitization audit.” But the scammers are charging fees for information that’s free.

“These questionable outfits are targeting desperate families, giving them the impression they can make their mortgages disappear if they just pay for a securitization audit,” said Mortgage Fraud Examiners founder Storm Bradford.

Owners are told that a securitization audit finds the true owner of their mortgage, and that can be used to convince the court that the mortgage servicer doesn’t have a legal right to foreclose.

“But here’s the thing: Anyone can find out who owns his or her note with just a little digging,” says Bradford. “There’s absolutely no need to pay a company for a securitization audit, but the peddlers of this scheme count on the fact that the average homeowner doesn’t know that.”

In addition to the financial hit, securitization audits usually deal homeowners another blow: They’re not typically admissible in a court of law.

Attorney Gregory Bryl, who practices in Florida and Virginia, says that most securitization audits are merely the opinions of the people writing them, and those people have no way of knowing exactly what happened with a mortgage after it originally closed.

Attorney Thomas K. Plofchan, Jr., who practices in Sterling, Va., contends that the only proven method for securing evidence critical to a homeowner’s claim against the lender is a thorough examination of the mortgage contract.

“Every homeowner facing foreclosure has fantasized about getting his home free and clear because his lender screwed up,” said Bradford. “It’s only natural, but the fact is the only homeowners getting a home free and clear, and/or been granted other compensation have succeeded after a thorough analysis of their mortgage transactions … A securitization audit can’t provide that level of scrutiny.”

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Posted on July 5th, 2012
by Greg Ellingson

New Rules for Underwater Home Sellers Reduce Short Sale Decision Time to Two Months

Underwater home sellers whose mortgages are backed by Freddie or Fannie can now expect a short sale decision within two months, but it is important to properly complete all paperwork to expedite process.

WASHINGTON – July 5, 2012 – Under new rules that took effect June 15, underwater home sellers with Freddie Mac- or Fannie Mae-backed mortgages loans can expect a short sale decision from their lender within 60 business days. The new guidelines should speed the short sale process, which once averaged eight months, according to RealtyTrac. The wait was so long that many potential buyers walked away from the deal.

Despite the faster deadlines now in place, however, the process can still be delayed if all the necessary paperwork isn’t submitted to the lender, and that includes something as simple as a photocopy of the borrower’s driver’s license. In many cases, it’s not enough to simply submit the missing piece of paperwork if one is missing. Many times, the entire submission must be redone, banks say.

“The way short sales are packaged and presented by real estate agents is more than half the battle,” Ed Delgado, who trains agents how to package short sales, told the Chicago Tribune. “The more agents understand about how the process works, the fewer the delays and the faster the closings.”

One critical document in the short sale package: The hardship letter. In this letter, homeowners explain to the bank why they need to short sell the property.

“You don’t need a novel … Be precise; be clear,” says Karen Mayfield, national sales manager at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “Offer a bullet-point list in your own hand of the events that led to your hardship. If the lender can’t understand how you got into trouble, he may close your file and move on to the next one. Or he may suspect you are trying to pull a fast one.”

Lenders also usually require tax returns for the last two years, bank statements for two to six months, pay stubs for the last 60 days, proof of residency (such as a paid utility bill), a listing agreement, and a third-party authorization allowing the bank to work with the real estate agent.

Sales trainer Gee Dunsten says he advises agents to bind all of these required documents together with a cover letter and table of contents that clearly lists everything included to let lenders know right away everything is there. Dunsten also says he writes a personal letter to the lender that explains the details of the transaction.

“When it comes to short sales, the devil truly is in the details,” Dunsten says.

Source: “It Pays to be Proactive in a Short Sale,” Chicago Tribune (June 22, 2012)

© Copyright 2012 INFORMATION, INC

Posted on July 4th, 2012
by Greg Ellingson

Going on Vacation?  Important Safety Tips for Homeowners to Remember While Away

Many homeowners will take advantage of this warm summer weather and go on a well-deserved vacation.  Here are a few tips to keep your home safe while you're away.

ORLANDO, Fla. – July 3, 2012 – Many families across Florida and the nation will spend the Fourth of July holiday away from home, basking on the state’s beautiful beaches, traveling to see relatives or maybe just visiting friends for a backyard barbecue.

To fully enjoy those activities and other summertime pursuits spent away from home, Florida Realtors®  suggests that homeowners take precautions to safeguard their residences when they’re not around. Crime rates across the country often start to peak as temperatures rise during warm weather months – the same time that many families leave their homes unoccupied and unprotected.

“A home is the place where people raise their families, make memories of their lives and build on their dreams for the future – and it’s also the biggest financial investment that most people will make in their lifetimes,” says Florida Realtors  2012 President Summer J. Greene, regional manager of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Florida 1st in Fort Lauderdale. “It just makes sense to take steps to protect something so priceless.”

Homeowners can take these simple precautions to make their homes less of a target for criminals:

No “Home Alone”: Before leaving your home during the day, make it look as if someone is still at home by using timers on lights in various rooms. Even though daylight hours are longer during the summer, it may still get dark faster than you expect or you may return home later than anticipated, and taking this step ensures that your home appears occupied at all times.

No Open Door Policy: Ensure that all doors leading to the home and garage are locked, even when leaving for short periods of time. The typical burglary takes less than five minutes, and unlocked doors, combined with an empty home, put out the “welcome mat” for crime.

Someone to Watch Over Me: Be landscape smart. Shrubbery and other plants can grow very rapidly during the warm, wet summer months. Keep them trimmed so neighbors can easily see your home. Also, an unkempt yard could be viewed as a sign of an empty home to a burglar.

A Key Reminder: When leaving home, take your house keys along or leave a spare set with a trusted neighbor. Never leave a key under a welcome mat, in a mailbox or other hiding spots – most burglars know where to look.

Crime Doesn’t Take a Vacation: If you’re planning to be away from home for more than a day or two, ask a neighbor to park a car in your driveway and pick up your mail and newspapers – or make arrangements to cancel the paper and hold the mail. Disable your garage door opener and manually lock it from the inside, and don’t forget to check that the door leading from the garage to the home is locked, too.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Posted on July 3rd, 2012
by Greg Ellingson

Realtors Now Able to Earn Certification to Specifically Aid Military Personnel and Families

Florida Realtors has introduced a new military specialist certification program, teaching realtors to address the specific and challenging needs of military personnel and their families when looking to buy or sell their homes.

ORLANDO, Fla. – July 2, 2012 – Just ahead of America’s Independence Day, a fitting time to call attention to the men and women who defend the U.S., Florida Realtors® announces its new military specialist certification program.

“The goal of the military specialist certification program is to educate Florida’s Realtors so they can help active military, reservists, military retirees and their families with the complex issues they may face when it comes to buying or selling a home, finding a place to live or dealing with home loans,” said Dr. William Campbell, director of education for Florida Realtors. “They served us with honor, let’s serve them with pride – that’s the mission of the program, as defined by members of the development work group who brought it to life.”

The idea for the certification began in 2010 when Patricia “Pat” Fitzgerald was president of Florida Realtors, Campbell noted; Fitzgerald, members of the leadership team and the development group worked for more than a year to create the program.

“There are nearly 110,000 military personnel right now in Florida including both active and reservists, which doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of military retirees and veterans who live here – and more are coming,” said Phil Riek, a broker-associate with Future Home Realty in Seminole and a member of the work group. “The Florida military specialist certification will provide students with practical education on the unique real estate needs of Florida’s military personnel and their families. It will explore special financing options and skills to make the purchase, sale and renovation of real estate as efficient and accommodating for the military client as possible.”

The military specialist certification program will cover:

• Florida’s military demographics

• Laws associated with VA (Veterans’ Administration), ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and various tax implications

• Military branches, ranks and acronyms

• Unique financing options and general eligibility requirements for the military

• Solutions for challenges facing Florida’s disabled veterans, including housing requirements, housing assistance and government programs

• Property leasing or management considerations for military customers and their families

Understanding and communicating the intricacies of the home loan programs available to the military is key for Realtors who want to assist veterans achieve homeownership, said Paul Marek, a licensed mortgage originator in Satellite Beach and Florida Realtors instructor. He also served as a member of the military specialist certification development group.

When his son Russell came home after serving in the military, Marek realized how important it was for his son to understand his military benefits and housing options.

“They (retiring military or those who choose not to re-enlist) go through a program, but they don’t remember all of the details, so they’re often uninformed about their benefits, especially in regard to housing,” Marek said. “Realtors who are exposed to this information and criteria, and who develop an understanding of the military, are able to talk their language and demonstrate they can serve as a valuable resource for our veterans, active and retired, as well as their families.”

Earning the military specialist certification demonstrates to a veteran that he or she is “working with a true professional who has specialized in serving their real estate needs,” said Riek. “Active military and veterans have confidence that their Realtor fully understands the unique situation and challenges they face acquiring, selling or renting a property.”

A “Train the Trainer” session on the new military specialist certification is planned for Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 8, 2012, during the Florida Realtors 2012 Convention and Trade Expo at the Marriott World Center in Orlando. Current Florida Realtors instructors are eligible to go through the program at convention, according to Campbell. Those interested in more information or who want to register should contact him at Florida Realtors professional development department,

Beginning Sept. 1, the military specialist certification program should be available for local Realtor associations to request and schedule, Campbell said.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Posted on July 2nd, 2012
by Greg Ellingson

Websites that Help Ease the Refinancing Process

Refinancing a mortgage can be a daunting task. The following websites offer plenty of advice and assistance to help simplify that task.

PHILADELPHIA – July 2, 2012 – Refinancing is making up the majority of new mortgages right now, and with mortgage rates at historic lows, you may be thinking of jumping into the pool. These sites offer guidance.

• Ask the “mortgage professor.” The details of refinancing – and options that many borrowers never get to hear about – are explored here. Example: Instead of getting a new mortgage, would your current mortgage holder modify your existing loan by lowering the rate? Who would even know to ask? The professor is Jack Guttentag, professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also covers some of the scams to watch out for in the refinancing world.

• The refinancing page at gives an overview of mortgage and refinancing rates and has calculators to help you decide whether refinancing is a good idea, or whether a 15-year loan is better for you than a 30-year mortgage. In addition, a “mortgage refinance break-even calculator” tells you how long – if you refinance a mortgage – it would take to see actual savings, considering closing costs and other expenses. In many cases, it can take several years, even at the current low rates.

• A consumer guide to mortgage refinancing, published by the Federal Reserve Board, is an easy-to-follow list of frequently asked questions on the subject. It explains why refinancing may not be a good idea. For example, refinancing might lower your monthly payment, but it might also extend your repayment for many more years than if you had not refinanced. The page also details the many fees that lenders may tack on to a refinancing that could spoil the savings.

• At the Guide to Lenders website, writer Richard Barrington outlines ways to streamline a refinancing. Start with knowing yourself – understanding your reasons for wanting to refinance – and define your own parameters, such as what rate you intend to get and the length of the loan. He also reminds readers to find out right away whether the current mortgage has a prepayment penalty, and to ask whether the new loan terms include such a penalty. That’s a limitation you’ll want to avoid.

Copyright © 2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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