Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS
 
Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS

Jeff's Blog

Final Week for New Emergency Homeowners' Loan Program Applications

July 19, 2011 8:57 pm

Homeowners will need to act fast if they intend to submit paperwork for the Emergency Homeowners' Loan Program (EHLP). The deadline is Friday, July 22, 2011.

"The application process ends this Friday, July 22, and is the first step in providing $1 billion to help an estimated 30,000 homeowners in 27 states and Puerto Rico avoid foreclosure," says Setina Briggs-Kelly, housing manager for GreenPath Debt Solutions. "The program will assist homeowners who have experienced a reduction in income and who are at risk of foreclosure, due to involuntary unemployment or underemployment, economic conditions or medical condition."

Under EHLP program guidelines, eligible homeowners can qualify for an interest-free loan, which pays a portion of their monthly mortgage for up to two years, or up to $50,000, whichever comes first. The EHLP program will pay a portion of an approved applicant's monthly mortgage including missed mortgage payments or past due charges including principal, interest, taxes, insurances, and attorney fees. The loan does not have to be repaid, as long as the homeowner continues making mortgage payments on time for five years.

Homeowners have less than a week to see if they are eligible for the program, as open enrollment ends Friday, July 22. Briggs-Kelly stresses that homeowners should call as soon as possible.

For more information, visit www.greenpath.com.
Tags:

HUD Issues 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress

July 19, 2011 8:57 pm

According to its latest national homeless assessment, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports the number of homeless persons in the U.S. held steady between 2009 and 2010, despite the economic downturn. For the first time, HUD’s annual report reveals how the Recovery Act’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) helped to mitigate homelessness in America, assisting nearly 700,000 persons in the first year of the program.

Based on data collected from thousands of local communities, HUD’s 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress finds a continued decline in the number of persons experiencing long-term homelessness due to the dramatic increase in the number of permanent supportive housing units. Those who were chronically homeless—persons with severe disabilities and long homeless histories—decreased one percent between 2009 and 2010, from 110,917 to 109,920. Since 2007, the number of people who are chronically homeless has decreased by 11 percent, partially due to the 34 percent increase in permanent supportive housing beds during that same timeframe.

Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program – Approximately 690,000 people received assistance in the first year of the HPRP, including 531,000 (77 percent) individuals who were prevented from becoming homeless in the first place. The remaining 159,000 (23 percent) persons received ‘rapid re-housing’ assistance to move from the streets or shelters into permanent housing.

Most HPRP participants (59 percent) received assistance for two months or less. Participants receiving homelessness prevention assistance had slightly longer lengths of participation than persons receiving rapid re-housing assistance because prevention assistance was more likely to be provided on a recurring basis, while rapid re-housing was more likely to be one-time assistance—such as a security deposit.

HUD’s annual assessment is based on two measures of homelessness:

Point-In-Time ‘Snapshot’ Counts – These data account for sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single night, usually at the end of January. The number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night increased by 1.1 percent over the last year: from 643,067 in January 2009 to 649,879 in January 2010. A total of 79,344 family households and 241,621 persons in families were homeless on the night of the 2010 PIT count. Since 2009, the number of homeless families increased 1.1 percent, and the number of homeless persons in families increased 1.5 percent

12-Month Counts – Using Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS), these data provide more detailed information on persons who access a shelter over the course of a full year. In 2010, 411 communities covering over 4,700 cities and counties submitted useable HMIS data resulting in a 23 percent increase from 2009. This increase is tied to more precise results as HMIS data collection and reporting capacities continue to improve. HUD estimates that 1.6 million persons experienced homelessness and found shelter between October 1, 2009 and September 30, 2010, a 2.2 percent increase from 2009. The characteristics of sheltered homeless individuals are very different from the characteristics of sheltered persons in families. Individuals are more likely to be white men, over 30 years old, and have a disabling condition, while adults in families are more likely to be younger African-American women without a reported disability. Of all those who sought emergency shelter or transitional housing during 2010, the following characteristics were observed:

• 78 percent of all sheltered homeless persons are adults.
• 62 percent are male.
• 58 percent are members of a minority group.
• 37 percent are 31-to-50 years old.
• 63 percent are in one-person households.
• 37 percent have a disability.

HUD’s report also reveals the following trends:

From 2007-2010:

• Since 2007, the annual number of people using homeless shelters in principal cities has decreased 17 percent (from 1.2 million to 1.0 million), and the annual number of people using homeless shelters in suburban and rural areas has increased 57 percent (from 367,000 to 576,000).

• The number of homeless persons in families has increased by 20 percent from 2007 to 2010, and families currently represent a much larger share of the total sheltered population than ever before. The proportion of homeless people who are using emergency shelter and transitional housing as part of a family has increased from 30 percent to 35 percent during this same period. The increase in sheltered family homelessness is almost certainly a consequence of the economy.

• Despite increases over the past year, there has been a 3.3 percent decline in the number of homeless persons from 2007 to 2010: a 3.6 percent decline for individuals and a 2.8 percent decline for persons in families. The overall decline in homelessness during this period can be attributed to a steep drop in homelessness in Los Angeles between 2007 and 2009.

• There were almost 94,000 more sheltered homeless persons in families in 2010 as there were in 2007, and almost 72,000 fewer sheltered homeless individuals. The number of sheltered homeless individuals has declined six percent since 2007, from 1.15 million to 1.04 million.
Tags:

Increasing Mosquito Prevention Curbs West Nile and Other Diseases

July 18, 2011 8:57 pm

Health officials all over the country warn about the West Nile Virus throughout the hot summer months. Rain and summer heat waves are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which can spread the West Nile Virus, dengue fever, encephalitis, canine heartworm and other diseases.

Because mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, Health Department officials are asking everyone to take steps to reduce standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying. To reduce mosquito populations:

• Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
• Remove and discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items left outdoors that can collect water.
• Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls at least once or twice a week.
• Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
• Maintain swimming pools in good condition with appropriate chlorination. Empty kids’ swimming pools when not in use.

Where standing water collects, use a product with all-natural Bti to disrupt mosquitoes’ breeding cycle. The Bti in a Mosquito Dunk will kill mosquito larvae in birdbaths, ponds, animal watering troughs and other standing water before they become biting, disease-carrying adults. Mosquito Dunks are safe for pets, wildlife and fish, and they are approved for organic use.
Tags:

New Study Unveils Americans' Bathroom Behaviors

July 18, 2011 8:57 pm

Would it surprise you to know that one in five adults leaves the washroom without washing their hands? The busiest room in the house may also be the least efficient, according to a recent study conducted by Delta Faucet.

According to the results, nearly 75 percent of households have at most two bathrooms, which each person uses more than 5-10 times each day. Recent U.S. Census data shows the average American household has 2.6 residents, meaning those rooms are visited 13-26 times daily. Suffice it to say, the bathroom is one of the most frequented places in the whole house.

"People forget that the bathroom is an integral part of their at-home experience," says family lifestyle expert Savvy Mommy® Victoria Pericon. "Whether it serves as a private sanctuary for mom, a place to showcase your design style to guests, or a room where kids learn everyday habits, the bathroom is one space in the home that gets used consistently, every day."

Pericon suggests putting out inviting hand towels and fragrant or colorful soaps to help encourage hand washing and make the experience more special. She also notes that new technologies for the bathroom, such as touch-activated faucets, can cut down on the transfer of dirt and mess from the hands to the faucet, helping to make the bathroom and home a cleaner place.

"By integrating some special touches and making a couple of simple updates, the bathroom can become a welcoming place that enhances the design and feeling of the entire home. It can also help promote good hygiene," adds Pericon.

While many Americans heed expert advice to wash hands frequently to cut down on the spread of germs, these consumer study results showed that nearly one in five Americans neglect to wash their hands after using the bathroom, with women only slightly more likely to wash than men. The study also found that:

• Respondents who were married wash their hands less compared to those who were single.
• Other groups who wash their hands less frequently include those among the highest income bracket ($75K+) and parents with young children.
• Despite all the education available today, Millennials wash their hands the least, lathering up 10 percent less than Baby Boomers.

In addition, the study revealed that, despite increasing emphasis on water conservation, behind closed bathroom doors the majority of people (57 percent) consistently neglect to turn off the water while brushing their teeth or shaving. And in spite of movements, such as the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) WaterSense® program, designed to help consumers identify high quality water-efficient fixtures, most consumers responded that they have not installed a water-saving faucet or aerator in their home. In fact, most Americans have not even replaced their bathroom faucet in more than 10 years.

For more information visit www.deltafaucet.com.
Tags:

Owning a Home Is a Top Priority for Renters

July 18, 2011 8:57 pm

Most Americans still believe that owning a home is a solid financial decision, and a majority of renters aspire to homeownership as a long-term goal. According to the 2011 National Housing Pulse Survey released recently by the National Association of REALTORS®, 72 percent of renters surveyed said owning a home is a top priority for their future, up from 63 percent in 2010.

Seven in 10 Americans also agreed that buying a home is a good financial decision while almost two-thirds said now is a good time to purchase a home. The annual survey, which measures how affordable housing issues affect consumers, also found that more than three quarters of renters (77 percent) said they would be less likely to buy a home if they were required to put down a 20 percent down payment on the home, and a strong majority (71 percent) believe a 20 percent down payment requirement could have a negative impact on the housing market.

"Despite the economic setbacks Americans have experienced in today's current climate, it is clear that a strong majority still believe in homeownership and aspire to own a home," says NAR President Ron Phipps. "However, achieving the dream of homeownership will become increasingly difficult for buyers if they are required to make a 20 percent down payment, which may be a reality for many of tomorrow's buyers if a proposed Qualified Residential Mortgage rule is adopted. That is why REALTORS® are strongly urging regulators to go back to the drawing board on the proposed rule."

Defining the QRM rule is important because it will determine the types of mortgages that will generally be available to borrowers in the future. As currently proposed, borrowers with less than 20 percent down will have to choose between higher fees and rates today—up to 3 percentage points more—or a 9-14 year delay while they save up the necessary down payment.

Over half—51 percent—of self-described "working class" homeowners as well as younger non-college graduates (51 percent), African Americans (57 percent) and Hispanics (50 percent) who currently own their homes reported that a 20 percent down payment would have prevented them from becoming homeowners.

Pulse surveys for the past eight years have consistently reported that having enough money for a down payment and closing costs are top obstacles that make housing unaffordable for Americans. Eighty-two percent of respondents cited these as the top obstacle, followed by having confidence in one's job security.

The survey also found respondents were adamantly against eliminating the mortgage interest deduction. Two-thirds of Americans oppose eliminating the tax benefit, while 73 percent believe eliminating the MID will have a negative impact on the housing market as well as the overall economy.

"The MID facilitates homeownership by reducing the carrying costs of owning a home, and it makes a real difference to hard-working American families," says Phipps. "Homeownership offers not only social benefits, but also long-term value for families, communities and the nation's economy. We need to make sure that any changes to current programs or incentives don't jeopardize our collective futures."

When asked why homeownership matters to them, respondents cited stability and safety as the top reason. Long-term economic reasons such as building equity followed closely behind. On a local level, respondents said neighbors falling behind on their mortgages and the drop in home values were top concerns. Foreclosures also continue to remain a large concern, with almost half of those surveyed citing the issue as a problem in their area.

The 2011 National Housing Pulse Survey is conducted by American Strategies and Myers Research & Strategic Services for NAR's Housing Opportunity Program. The telephone survey polled 1,250 adults nationwide, with an oversample of interviews of those living in the 25 most populous metropolitan statistical areas. The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

For more information visit www.realtor.org.
Tags:

Lacking Space? Try These Smart Storage Tips

July 15, 2011 8:57 pm

For renters or homeowners with limited space, packing all of your belongings to fit can be a daunting task. When space is limited, creativity is necessary to make sure you can comfortably and properly store your things in your house or apartment. If you think you're running out of room, try these smart storage tips:

The first step toward being creative is to think vertically. Ceiling-tall book cases are great ideas to store all sorts of knick-knacks, books, CDs and DVDs. Photo albums or framed photos can also be placed on it. There really is no limitation as to what can be stored. If space allows for it, get two or three bookcases, one for each room. By doing so you'll eliminate any sort of clutter and be well on your way toward organization.

Use underneath storage space. Always use the space below coffee tables, end tables or even your bed as possible locations for some of your things. Large plastic containers can be used to protect from dirt or dust. These are stackable and will help you keep your belongings organized and clean.

Always utilize the insides of doors. Cabinet or closet doors can be a great place to hang items. Shoe-holders can be placed on every door in the residence and you don't have to store only shoes in them. Utensils, toiletries and more can be stuffed into these door-hanging pockets, clearing up your drawers, floors and counter-spaces. (Another similar idea for bathrooms: store towels and linens in a small wine rack).

Never underestimate the value of a few good old-fashioned hooks. Place them on the walls to hang pots and pans, utensils, or any other hanging artifact in your home. Not only will you save some space, but these hanging items will also double as decoration in your dining or kitchen area.

Most importantly, items that double as storage should always be incorporated. The best items: ottomans, stools or chests that can store items inside while also being used as seating or a footrest. Keys, umbrellas, footwear, magazines and more can be stored in these types of spaces, further de-cluttering your home or apartment.

For those with cramped quarters, deciding where to put things makes all the difference. With a little planning and clever placement, you can store all of your belongings and make the most of the space you have.

Source: Relocation.com Blog
Tags:

Barbecue Bliss: Keeping Bacteria at Bay

July 15, 2011 8:57 pm

Summer brings out barbecue grills—and bacteria, which multiply in food faster in warm weather and can cause foodborne illness (also known as food poisoning). Following a few simple guidelines can prevent an unpleasant experience.

Wash your hands
Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. If you're eating where there’s no source of clean water, bring water, soap and paper towels or have disposable wipes/hand sanitizer available.

Marinate food in the refrigerator
Don’t marinate on the counter—marinate in the refrigerator. If you want to use marinade as a sauce on cooked food, save a separate portion in the refrigerator. Do not reuse marinade that contacted raw meat, poultry, or seafood on cooked food unless you bring it to a boil first.

Keep raw food separate
Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a separate cooler or securely wrapped at the bottom of a cooler so their juices won’t contaminate already prepared foods or raw produce. Don't use a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless you wash them first in hot, soapy water. Have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side for serving.

Cook food thoroughly
Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked thoroughly to destroy harmful bacteria. Partial precooking in the microwave oven or on the stove is a good way to reduce grilling time—just make sure the food goes immediately on the preheated grill to finish cooking.

Keep hot food hot and cold food cold
Keep hot food at 140°F or above until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill, or wrap well and place in an insulated container.

Keep cold food at 40°F or below until served. Keep cold perishable food in a cooler until serving time. Keep coolers out of direct sun and avoid opening the lid often.

Cold foods can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a pan of ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.

Don’t let hot or cold perishables sit out for longer than two hours, or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F. When reheating fully cooked meats, grill to 165°F or until steaming hot.

Transport food in the passenger compartment of the car where it’s cooler—not in the trunk.

Put these items on your list

These non-food items are indispensable for a safe barbecue:
• food thermometer
• several coolers: one for beverages (which will be opened frequently), one for raw meats, poultry, and seafood, and another for cooked foods and raw produce
• ice or frozen gel packs for coolers
• jug of water, soap, and paper towels for washing hands
• enough plates and utensils to keep raw and cooked foods separate
• foil or other wrap for leftovers

For more information, visit http://www.fda.gov.
Tags:

Housing Starts Gain 3.5 Percent in May

July 15, 2011 8:57 pm

Nationwide housing starts rose 3.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 560,000 units in May, according to newly released figures from the U.S. Commerce Department. The gain partially offsets a larger decline that was registered in April.

"While the upward movement registered in the report is somewhat good news, housing production continues to bounce along the bottom near historic lows, and is only running at a level necessary to replace dilapidated or destroyed units," says Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Reno, Nev. He also noted that "Amidst this fragile marketplace, the nation's policymakers should be aware of a recent poll that confirms the strong value that most American voters continue to place on homeownership and housing choice."

Conducted this May on behalf of NAHB by Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Va., and Lake Research Partners of Washington, D.C., the poll asked 2,000 likely voters about their attitudes on homeownership and housing policy. It found that the vast majority of current homeowners are happy with their decision to own a home and believe that owning their own home is important, while nearly three-quarters of those who do not now own a home consider it a goal of theirs to eventually buy one. Additionally, the poll determined that 73 percent of owners and renters believe the federal government should provide tax incentives to promote homeownership.

"Like consumers, builders remain very concerned about the pace of economic growth and are awaiting signs of improvement before moving forward with new projects," notes NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "The relative bright spot in new-home construction is on the multifamily side, where improving demand for rental apartments is spurring gains in that sector. However, access to construction credit remains a limiting factor for new building."

Single-family housing starts rose 3.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 419,000 units in May—their strongest pace since this January. Multifamily starts rose 2.9 percent to a 141,000-unit rate in May.

Regionally, housing production rose 1.5 percent in the South and 18.1 percent in the West, but declined 3.3 percent in the Northeast and 4.1 percent in the Midwest in May.

Issuance of building permits, which can be an indicator of future building activity, rose 8.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 612,000 units in May. This was the strongest pace since December of 2010. Single-family permits were up 2.5 percent to a 405,000-unit rate, while multifamily permits rose 23.2 percent to 207,000-units—their best pace since October of 2008.

Permit issuance posted double-digit gains in the Northeast and West in May, rising 35.6 percent and 15.1 percent, respectively. The South also posted a gain of 3.5 percent, while the Midwest registered a 1.1 percent decline.

For more information, please visit www.NAHB.org.
Tags:

Tips for Choosing the Right Dog for Your Family

July 14, 2011 8:57 pm

Choosing a dog—especially a puppy—on a whim, or because a child is begging for one, is rarely a good idea. Since the lucky pup you choose will likely be a member of the family for some years to come, the decision should be made carefully and properly.

“Evaluate your lifestyle first,” suggests Ken Ribisi, a dog trainer from San Diego, Calif. “Is the family away for much of the day or is someone at home much of the time? The answer says a lot about the kind of dog you choose. Some breeds are better left alone a lot than others – and since puppies require house-training, you may want to consider an older dog that is already trained.”

Consider the expense as well, said Ribisi. Believe it or not, owning a dog will cost the best part of $1,000 a year including food and vet bills. If that is a hardship, you may want to rethink the whole idea.

Once you have decided to move forward, Ribisi suggests the following cautions:
Do the research to learn which breed of dog most closely fits your lifestyle and requirements. Do you want a large dog or a small one? An active one or a companion by the fire? There are plenty of books on the subject, or you can do the search online.

Look for a reputable local dog breeder or adopt from a shelter or a private party. In general, avoid pet stores, as many get their animals from inhumane “puppy mills.”

When possible, get to know the dog a bit before adopting. Its basic personality and energy level will be apparent early on. If you buy from a breeder, you may be able to “meet the parents” as well.

Read up in advance on house-training, so you are prepared to begin as soon as the dog is home. Also make sure you have the time and make the effort to begin obedience and socialization training – or call on a dog trainer to help.

Try to avoid unwanted strays if you can, unless you plan to formally adopt it, and always spay or neuter your pet as soon as feasible. If your family can follow the tips above, a pet can be a great addition to any family.
Tags:

Help Regulators Take Proper Aim, Appraisal Institute Tells Congress

July 14, 2011 8:57 pm

Testifying before a Congressional subcommittee, the Appraisal Institute’s president-elect told lawmakers their intent was “right on target” and asked them to “guide the regulators’ aim” in implementing consumer-friendly real estate appraisal guidelines.

Sara W. Stephens, WAI, told members of the House Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity that the Dodd-Frank Act passed by Congress last year is not being properly implemented by federal regulators.

Among other highlights, the Act calls on appraisal management companies (AMCs) to pay “customary and reasonable” fees to residential appraisers. While lenders can manage appraisal operations with internal staff, some choose to outsource these functions to third-party management companies called AMCs. These firms act as “middlemen” between lenders and appraisers.

“Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve’s Interim Final Rule is not faithful to Congressional intent,” Stephens told lawmakers. “The Appraisal Institute thinks Congress’ intent was right on target. We urge Congress to guide the regulators’ aim, directing them to correct the Interim Final Rule to promote credibility over speed and cost.”

She added: “Many lenders have chosen to outsource the appraisal management function to third-party management companies who pass only a small percentage on to the appraiser actually performing the appraisal service. Current policy leaves consumers completely in the dark. Here, we need transparency between appraisal and appraisal management fees, especially since it is the consumer who pays these fees in nearly all transactions.”

Due to the low fees many AMCs pay appraisers, consumers often have to rely on valuation services from some of the least qualified and least competent appraisers hired by some AMCs. Congress intended to protect consumers by requiring AMCs to pay “customary and reasonable” fees to appraisers.

“Last year, Congress passed the most significant legislative update of the appraisal regulatory structure in two decades. In our view, this was only a beginning,” Stephens told the House subcommittee. “Moving forward, Congress must maintain an active role in oversight of appraisal regulators and build on these reforms to address ongoing weaknesses. We can ill afford to allow another 20 years to pass without a thorough audit of appraisal regulations. Consumers, lenders and taxpayers deserve much better than they have been given to date.”
Tags: