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

HUD Secretary Donovan Announces $216 Million in Homeless Grants

May 19, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 19, 2011-Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan awarded more than $216 million to nearly 700 new homeless programs across the country. The grants announced are $26 million more than last year's grants and, combined with renewal funding announced earlier this year, represents the most homelessness assistance ever awarded by HUD. HUD is also continuing to confront rural homelessness by targeting a record $16.4 million to 87 never-before-funded programs in less populated areas of the country.

In January, HUD awarded more than $1.4 billion in Continuum of Care grants to renew funding to 7,000 existing local homeless programs. The funding announced today will invest in local projects that have never before received HUD homeless funds, providing critically needed housing and support services to an estimated 21,000 homeless individuals and families. Though homelessness is largely an urban phenomenon, HUD is reserving record funding to meet the unique challenges faced by homeless individuals and families living in rural areas.

"Today, we build on the goal to prevent and end homelessness in America," says Donovan. "This funding will make a significant impact in the lives of thousands of people and provide resources to bring them towards the road of independence."

HUD's Continuum of Care grants fund a wide range of transitional and permanent housing programs as well as supportive services such as job training, case management, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care. Street outreach and assessment programs to transitional and permanent housing for homeless persons and families are also funded through these grants. Continuum of Care programs include:

  • Supportive Housing Program (SHP) offers housing and supportive services to allow homeless persons to live as independently as possible.
  • Shelter Plus Care (S+C) provides housing and supportive services on a long-term basis for homeless persons with disabilities, (primarily those with serious mental illness, chronic problems with alcohol and/or drugs, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS or related diseases) and their families who were living in places not intended for human habitation (e.g., streets) or in emergency shelters.
  • Single-Room Occupancy Program (SRO) provides rental assistance for homeless persons in one-person housing units that contain small kitchens, bathrooms, or both.

Last year, 19 federal agencies announced a plan to end all homelessness through Opening Doors-an unprecedented federal strategy to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015-and to end homelessness among children, families and youth by 2020. In addition to the Continuum of Care grant program, HUD's new Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing (HPRP) Program made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is making a major contribution to the Opening Doors strategy. To date, HPRP has allocated $1.5 billion to prevent more than 875,000 people from falling into homelessness or to rapidly re-house them if they do.

HUD's homelessness grants are reducing long-term or chronic homelessness in America. Based on the Department's latest Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), chronic homelessness has declined by 30% since 2006. This decline is directly attributed to HUD's homeless grants helping to create significantly more permanent housing for those who might otherwise be living on the streets. It was also reported in the AHAR that the number of homeless families increased for the second consecutive year, almost certainly due to the ongoing effects of the recession.

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Update Interiors with Wisdom Rather Than Big Budgets

May 18, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011--For homes in dire need of a brightened d cor, a large budget isn't necessary to give the property a fresh look.

"As real estate values have fallen, many people are concerned with how much money to put into their homes. Yet, discerning clients recognize that a dated interior really lowers the value of their home," says Donna Hoffman, a Philadelphia-based interior designer.

In fact, homeowners can update their interiors without starting from scratch and without incurring sky-high expenses. To reclaim enjoyment of your home, Hoffman offers five fool proof and fiscally prudent design secrets that are the budget-savvy penicillin for outdated interiors:

  • Deconstruct the color palette. Don't throw out an existing color palette; deconstruct it. To do this, create a new color strategy that flips the existing main room color into the secondary position of "accent color." For example, if it's a blue and mauve interior that's at issue, turn the blue into the new accent color.

  • Neutralize the room. Now that you've isolated your new accent color, remove all strong colors in the room except for your one accent. "This includes removing area rugs, throw pillows, accessories, dated wallpapers-anything that sings too loudly in the old color palette," Hoffman says. Keep only the 'new' accent color, letting everything else go neutral. By project's end, you'll be left with an 'accent' color that gorgeously pops amidst a new palette of neutrals. Paint the walls in a rich neutral like latte or one of the new chameleon neutrals of 2011 for a crisp current look.

  • Elicit the power of throw pillows. "Custom is ideal for variety and impact, but if it's beyond your budget, look for little jewels at retail," Hoffman explains. "Sprinkle mostly neutral accent pillows in varied shapes and sizes through the room to move classic color, create interest and reinvigorate older upholstery."

  • Evaluate draperies. If draperies boast the old color scheme, look tired or overly sagged and dated, take them down. "Go bare if you must," Hoffman cautions, "because nothing in a room is better than something bad." If you can afford to do custom in the new color strategy, this is the place to invest. "Custom draperies give tremendous aesthetic return on the dollar," Hoffman explains. "But if custom is out, then to go for the best quality you can afford at retail, not the cheapest."

  • Examine the sofa. Pillows can tone down a loud sofa, but they can't hide a worn eyesore or a thoroughly outdated silhouette. Opt to update a dated sofa, even if at a budget retailer. Select a solid in a classic style, like a Track Arm or English Arm. "These have the staying power of that little black dress. Keep it simple and dress it with accessories. In our case we're doing pillows instead of pearls."

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Should You Start Planning Your Kids' Retirement? How to Secure Your Children's Retirement Fund Today

May 18, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011--When our generation was growing up, we were taught about Social Security, and many of us had grandparents who were reasonably comfortable with a combination of their investment income and their government checks. Today, that may not be the case.

Over the last few years, we have seen the market waver, and Social Security is on its way toward doing the same. If we're scrambling to salvage our retirement income, imagine what it will be like for your kids.

That's why Rick Rodgers, a retirement counselor and author of the new book The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning believes that parents can help their kids safeguard their retirement by starting now.

"When we were just starting out in life, our parents told us to start saving money right out of the gate, but we didn't listen," he says. "Instead, we ran up our credit card debt, spent more than we earned and bought more house than we could afford. But our kids can and should learn from our mistakes and helping them to start saving now could give them a nest egg of millions instead of thousands."

Rodgers' advice includes:

  • Start at 16 Just $5,000 contributed to a Roth IRA each year for five years starting at age 16 could be worth more than a million by the time they reach age 65. In a Roth IRA all that growth would be tax-free when withdrawn.

  • 10% Rule Everyone should save a minimum of 10% of their take-home pay.

  • Shelter Early - Ideally, you should save in a Roth IRA account at the beginning of your career. When you reach your peak earnings (usually around age 40), switch to a tax-deferred account like a 401(k).

  • Fun or Fund? Take half of what you have been spending on gifts (toys, games, etc.) and invest it in a mutual fund for your child.

  • Birthday Booster - Encourage friends and relatives to contribute to the mutual fund account you've started instead of buying gifts for birthdays and holidays.

  • Every Little Bit Helps Contributing small amounts on a regular basis is a better strategy than waiting to accumulate a larger sum. Get in the habit of saving something regularly.

  • Use the Refund Let the government help. Currently the child tax credit is $1,000 per child until they reach age 17. Discipline yourself to save the credit when it is returned to you as a refund.

"It doesn't take a lot to give your kids long-term security," Rodgers says. "The magic of compounded interest can do more of the heavy lifting as long as you start early and contribute often."


Updated Framework for Delinquent Mortgages to Include Servicer Incentives and Penalties

May 18, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011-Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) to align their guidelines for servicing delinquent mortgages they own or guarantee. The updated framework will establish uniform servicing requirements as well as monetary incentives for servicers that perform well and penalties for those that do not.

"FHFA's directive to align Enterprise policies for servicing delinquent mortgages should result in earlier servicer engagement to identify the best solution available for homeowners, given their individual circumstances," says DeMarco.

The updated guidelines also address the so-called "dual track" by requiring servicers to contact borrowers as soon as they become delinquent and focus solely on remediating that delinquency. The foreclosure process may not commence if the borrower and servicer are engaged in a good faith effort to resolve the delinquency. The servicer must conduct a formal review of each case to ensure a borrower has been considered for foreclosure alternatives before the loan is referred for foreclosure. Even after foreclosure processing begins, financial incentives are provided to encourage servicers to continue to help borrowers pursue a foreclosure alternative.

Consistent with statements recently issued by federal and state regulators, this initiative is intended to deal with identified problems in mortgage servicing. The updated framework will streamline and expedite borrower outreach, align mortgage modification terms and requirements, and establish a consistent schedule of performance-based incentive payments and penalties. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will each issue detailed guidelines to their servicers in the second and third quarters of 2011.

"Once fully implemented by the servicing industry, the Enterprises' aligned policies should give homeowners a greater understanding of the process and faster resolution by requiring earlier contact, more frequent communication, and prompt decisions," says DeMarco. "Equally important, the newly aligned policies will minimize taxpayer losses by ensuring that Enterprise loans are serviced efficiently and fairly."

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Top 5 Home Improvement Projects Based on Average Cost and Return on Investment

May 17, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011- Nearly 600 real estate professionals were polled nationwide in a study conducted by, configuring a list of the top 10 do-it-yourself home improvements that cost under $5,000 and benefit sellers most when they sell their homes.

According to the findings, the top five home improvements that real estate professionals recommend to home sellers based on average cost and return on investment (from highest to lowest ROI) are:

1. Cleaning and de-cluttering - ($290 cost / $1,990 price increase / 586% ROI)

2. Lightening and brightening - ($375 cost / $1,550 price increase / 313% ROI)

3. Home staging - ($550 cost / $2,194 price increase / 299% ROI)

4. Landscaping - ($540 cost / $1,932 price increase / 258% ROI)

5. Repairing electrical or plumbing - ($535 cost / $1,505 price increase / 181% ROI)

Cleaning and de-cluttering continues to rank as the top suggested home improvement (since the survey was originally conducted in 2000), recommended by 99% of real estate professionals, costing less than $300 and returning a value of nearly $2,000 to the home's sale price, or a 586% return on investment.

"Sellers need to prepare their homes for sale before putting them on the market," says Louis Cammarosano, general manager at HomeGain. "Homes that have initial appeal have a better shot at selling faster and closer to the asking price than homes rushed to the market with no improvements."

Rounding out the top 10 low cost, do-it-yourself home improvements include: updating electrical systems and/or plumbing, updating the kitchen and bathrooms, replacing or shampooing carpets, painting interior walls, repairing damaged floors, and painting the outside of the home.

The home improvement projects with the highest price increases to a home's resale value are updating the kitchen ($1,265 cost / $3,435 price increase), followed by painting the outside of the home ($1,467 cost / $2,222 price increase) and home staging ($550 cost / $2,194 price increase).

For more information, visit


REALTORS Urge Regulators to Rethink Mortgage Requirements

May 17, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011-- A proposed rule to define qualified residential mortgages (QRM) under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the Dodd-Frank Act) would unnecessarily restrict access to homeownership. REALTORS at the Real Estate Services Forum The Impact of Dodd-Frank on Real Estate session at the REALTORS Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo gained insights into the implications of a narrowly defined QRM.

"As the leading advocate for housing and homeownership, NAR firmly believes Congress intended to create a broad QRM exemption strong evidence shows that responsible lending standards and ensuring a borrower's ability to repay have the greatest impact on reducing lender risk, and not high down payments," says NAR President Ron Phipps. "Saving the necessary down payment has always been the principal obstacle to buyers seeking to purchase their first home. Proposals that require high down payments will only drive more borrowers to FHA, increase costs for borrowers by raising interest rates and fees, and effectively price many eligible borrowers out of the housing market."

The Dodd-Frank Act was enacted on July 21, 2010. A provision in the Act requires that financial institutions retain 5% of the risk on loans they securitize. The purpose is to discourage excessive risk taking and create strong incentives for responsible lending and borrowing. Exempt from the requirement are certain QRMs; FHA and VA mortgages are also exempted.

Six agencies are developing the risk retention regulation the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The proposed rule narrowly defines QRMs, requiring an 80% loan-to-value, which necessitates a 20% down payment. The rule would also limit mortgage payments to 28% of gross income, a very tight standard.

According to NAR Research, 60% of recent home buyers made less than a 20% down payment, and it would take 14 years for a typical person to save up a 20% down payment to buy a median-priced home.

NAR wants federal regulators to honor Congressional intent by crafting a QRM exemption that includes a wide variety of traditionally safe, well-underwritten products such as 30-, 15-, and 10-year fixed-rate loans; 7-1 and 5-1 ARMs; and loans with down payments in the 5- to 20-percent range with mortgage insurance, where required, and with other features found in low-risk loans such as no prepayment penalties or balloon payments.

"The definition of QRM is important because it will determine the types of mortgages that will generally be available to borrowers in the future," says Phipps. "Borrowers with less than 20% 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. REALTORS are working hard to make sure that this doesn't happen, and that those creditworthy buyers who are able and willing to assume the responsibilities of owning a home can continue to achieve their homeownership dreams."


Remodeling Market Index Reaches Highest Level in Four Years

May 17, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011-According to the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI), the remodeling market is heading into recovery with an increase to 46.5 in the first quarter of 2011 from 41.5 in the fourth quarter of 2010. This marks the highest level for the RMI since the fourth quarter of 2006. An RMI below 50, however, indicates that still more remodelers report market activity is lower (compared to the prior quarter) than report it is higher.

The overall RMI combines ratings of current remodeling activity with indicators of future activity like calls for bids. Current market conditions for the first quarter of 2011 rose to 46.1 from 43.3 in the previous quarter. Future market indicators climbed to 46.8 from 39.7 in the previous quarter.

"Remodelers report a jump in activity so far this year and have been receiving more calls for work and appointments," says NAHB Remodelers Chairman Bob Peterson, CGR, CAPS, CGP, a remodeler from Ft. Collins, Colo. "However, many homeowners are still slow to commit to remodeling due to feeling uncertain about the economic recovery and difficulty obtaining loans."

Regional break downs for current remodeling market conditions showed growth in all but one area: Northeast 46.1 (from 38.8 in the fourth quarter), South 46.1 (from 45.8), and West 46.1 (from 39.7). Only the Midwest experienced a decline to 47.1 (from 54.3).

All current remodeling market indicators increased: major additions to 50.3 (from 48.6 in the fourth quarter), minor additions to 48.0 (from 43.9), and maintenance and repair to 39.5 (from 37.0). Future market indicators also improved across the board: calls for bids rose to 53.1 (from 47.2), appointments for proposals to 52.4 (from 43.1), backlog of remodeling jobs to 49.7 (from 42.6), and amount of work committed for the next three months to 32.1 (from 25.9).

In an additional special question remodelers reported the top reasons prospective customers are holding back from remodeling their homes:

Customers think it is hard to get financing (90% of remodeler respondents);

Customers have lost equity in their homes (81%);

Customers are uncertain about their future economic situation (74%);

Reluctance to invest in home when not sure home will hold its value (67%);

Negative media stories making customers more cautious (62%); and

Inaccurate appraisals are making financing more difficult (54%).

"Home remodeling continues to slowly increase and continued growth through the year is expected," says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "The fact that some indicators are breaking 50 means remodelers are seeing improving activity in their markets. While credit scarcity and economic uncertainty continue to weigh down remodeling, signs of increasing consumer interest are promising."

For more information about remodeling, visit


Important Tips for Seeking Senior Housing

May 16, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 16, 2011-People are living longer today. The century-long expansion in the world's population that is 65 and older is the product of dramatic advances in medical science and health lifestyles. Currently, 13% of the U.S. population is 65 and older, up from 4% in 1900. As Baby Boomers turn 65 in high and higher annual numbers, it is estimated that one in five Americans will be over age 65 and about 5% over 85. All this calls for growing care and services for the elderly population and pre-planning for lifestyles in the future.

The senior housing industry has been growing dramatically over the last 15 years as many adult children are now in the workforce and unable to provide the attention to their parents' needs, whether physical or social. There are a number of things to be considered when choosing lifestyle alternatives.

-Location. Keeping your parents close to home should not be the number one consideration. Although it is important that the community be convenient for family and friends to visit, being close to amenities they need and trust will make their senior living experience rewarding and more fulfilling.

-Type of community. Visiting to make sure the current residents have similar interests, backgrounds and values will allow for a more enriching life in the golden years. Many communities invite prospective residents to tour their community and enjoy lunch with the community which is a wonderful way to ascertain if the culture is a fit. Many communities offer a weekend stay to experience more fully what the community has to offer.

-Staff. Is the staff appropriately dressed, personable and outgoing? Do the staff members treat each other in a professional manner? Does the staff call residents by name and interact warmly? The answers to these questions will determine quite a bit toward whether the community is right for your loved one.

-Medical needs. Does the community have on site medical supervision? If not, is there an agency that is associated with the community that can help when needed?

Finding and choosing a housing option for an aging loved one can be a difficult process. Be sure to keep seniors' needs as your top priority in order to find a community that properly suits them.

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Homeowners Ignore Advice to Use a Good Faith Estimate as Mortgage Shopping Tool

May 16, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 16, 2011-Men and women may not share in the joys of shopping, but when it comes to financing the biggest purchase of their lives, neither is a shop-a-holic. That's because, according to a new survey from ING DIRECT USA, 56% of people buying a home do not use the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) for its original purpose to shop around and compare mortgage offers.

Despite the federal government's multiple revisions to the GFE to make it easier to understand and comparison shop for mortgage estimates, 70% of homeowners chose a mortgage provider without doing any personal research beforehand, the survey said. The GFE clearly states that consumers should "compare this GFE with other loan offers, so you can find the best loan."

"The Good Faith Estimate is one of the most crucial documents a homebuyer will receive before making the biggest purchase of their life," says Arkadi Kuhlmann, president and CEO of ING DIRECT USA. "If it is too complicated and not being used to help homeowners find the right mortgage for them, then the GFE is just a waste of three pieces of paper."

New Look GFE Still Complicated

The Good Faith Estimate itself could be partly to blame for homeowners' lack of enthusiasm to comparison shop for a mortgage. Even after the federal government's attempt to streamline the GFE, more than one in three (36%) homeowners described the GFE as being "complicated" or a "waste of time." Although some homeowners described the GFE as being "simple" or "easy to understand," 68% of homeowners surveyed were unable to correctly identify, for example, the purpose of the Title Services charge on the GFE. Additionally, 53% of homeowners spent 30 minutes or less reading and reviewing the GFE. One in ten homeowners never reviewed the document.

"On average, homeowners ranked buying a home as being more stressful than changing jobs, getting married or having kids," says Kuhlmann. "Buying a home should be exciting, not stressful. We hope to clear up some of the confusion about buying a home."

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NAR Study Finds Americans Prefer Smart Growth Communities

May 16, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 16, 2011-Americans favor walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, with 56% of respondents preferring smart growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation. That's according to a recent study, the Community Preference Survey, by the National Association of REALTORS .

"REALTORS care about improving communities through smart growth initiatives," says NAR President Ron Phipps. "Our members don't just sell homes, they sell neighborhoods. REALTORS understand that different home buyers are looking for all kinds of neighborhood settings and that many home buyers want walkable, transit-accessible communities."

Walkable communities are defined as those where shops, restaurants and local businesses are within walking distance from homes.

According to the survey, when considering a home purchase, 77% of respondents said they would look for neighborhoods with abundant sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly features, and 50% would like to see improvements to existing public transportation rather than initiatives to build new roads and developments.

The survey also revealed that while space is important to home buyers, many are willing to sacrifice square footage for less driving. Eighty percent of those surveyed would prefer to live in a single-family, detached home as long as it didn't require a longer commute, but nearly three out of five of those surveyed-59%-would choose a smaller home if it meant a commute time of 20 minutes or less.

The survey also found that community characteristics are very important to most people. When considering a home purchase, 88% of respondents placed more value on the quality of the neighborhood than the size of the home, and 77% of those surveyed want communities with high-quality schools.

The survey of 2,071 adult Americans was conducted by Belden, Russonello and Stewart from February 15-24, 2011.

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