Foreclosure Rescue Scams

The possibility of losing your home is terrifying.   Scam artists prey on the hopes and fears of desperate owners by claiming they can save your home.  These criminals want to trick you into giving them your money and your home.  They will then disappear, leaving you worse than they found you.  The Federal Trade Commission publishes a "Facts for Consumers" sheet describing the danger signs that you are dealing with a scammer.  Red Flags.   If you’re looking for foreclosure prevention help, avoid any business that: guarantees to stop the foreclosure process – no matter what your … [Read more...]

Pimpin’ Your Credit Score

Buying a house is probably the biggest debt you will ever incur.  The lifetime cost of your mortgage greatly depends on your credit score because that determines the interest rate .   You should check your credit reports about 6 months before applying for a mortgage.  This allows enough time to correct any significant errors.  The three credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  Each issues their own score but in general,  you want a FICO score of 720 or higher to get the best interest rate.  And since many lenders use the middle figure from the three bureaus as the "correct" … [Read more...]

Dangerous Deficiencies

A common question posed by homeowners in financial distress is "Can the lender get a deficiency judgment against me?"  A deficiency judgment is a charge imposed on the owner when the foreclosure sale price fails to fully pay the mortgage balance.   Whether such a judgment is possible depends upon the property's location because each state has crafted its own rules for this situation.    Numerous websites attempt to explain the mortgage foreclosure process and often provide a list of the states where deficiency judgments are allowed.  Unfortunately, these lists can be wrong.  Many … [Read more...]

Ten Things We Forget to Clean

A clean house improves the chances of selling faster and at a higher price.  You may have also heard the real estate maxim that "the way we live in our house is not the way it should be staged when up for sale."  Similarly, properly cleaning a house that's on the market differs from routine cleaning.   Sellers too often become oblivious to the details in their familiar surroundings while buyers are on high-alert to spot anything dirty.  So after your thorough cleaning is done, check the list below to see if you should keep scrubbing. Clean all lighting fixtures, both inside and outside.  … [Read more...]

The Pants of Truth

A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put on its pants. Mark Twain It's Halloween and there's nothing more frightening than the damage caused by lies masquerading as truth. The lies spawned during election season are especially dangerous because they feed on ignorance and incite fear. And the most effective political lies contain a drop of truth in the vat of swill. One such currently-circulating lie concerns a new tax on home sales. The claim is that all home sales are now subject to a 3.8% tax due to the new Health Care Bill. And the Democratic … [Read more...]

Showing Prep for the Truly Clueless

OK, most of you can skip this post.  You already know this stuff.  But some people don't and they also don't know just how clueless they are.   So here are some of the most basic rules to prepare for a showing: A pile of dirty dishes is not a "domestic sculpture" that will be appreciated by others.  If there's no time to wash and put them away before a showing, at least hide them in the dishwasher.  Better yet, put the dirty dishes in a plastic bin and take them with you.  Ditto for that basket of dirty laundry.   Sinks.  Clean.  No hair, toothpaste residue or soap scum allowed.  And use … [Read more...]

Rant on Private Transfer Fees

Yesterday's post provided a definition of private transfer fees and the rationale of developers who use them.  Here are a few reasons why they are a terrible idea: The fees are supposedly to fund the development's infrastructure elements - the original infrastructure.  Minnesota's freeze/thaw cycle is very tough on exposed elements.  Most infrastructure cannot last even 20 years without needing a major rehab or replacement.  That replacement cost will be borne by either the current homeowners and/or the local government.  So what is this 99 years nonsense? If the development pro forma shows … [Read more...]

A New Way to Screw Real Estate Buyers and Sellers

Private Transfer Fees are a relatively new device in the real estate developer's toolbelt.  A private transfer fee results from a covenant filed in the property records that requires a payment to the original developer each time the lot is sold.  The typical fee is 1%  percentage of the purchase price and the requirement can last as long as 99 years!!!   This covenant creates a lien on the property, so title companies must collect the fee at closing or absorb the cost if they fail to do so. Developers justify the fee by saying it allows them to spread the costs … [Read more...]

That’s a Bedroom?!?

Buyers often narrow their on-line search for homes by specifying the desired number of bedrooms.  So when is a bedroom not really a bedroom?  It's not unusual to see an MLS listing proclaiming that the featured house has "X" number of bedrooms but the less prominent text reveals that the existing number of bedrooms is actually "X-1".  People (and building codes) differ on whether it's proper to count a room as a bedroom if it : lacks a closet and/or an egress window; or was structurally converted to a dining room but could become a bedroom again; or lacks a heat source (yep, … [Read more...]

10 Reasons to Put a Lid on It

Everyone has a few pet peeves - things about everyday life we find especially annoying, but that other people wouldn't notice.  Sometimes we know exactly why that thing irritates us.  Other times, we just know that it irritates, and that's all we care to know.  One of my pet peeves is the commode lid left in the "up" position.  I wasn't always that way.  Growing up, no one in my family … [Read more...]

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