Thinkng about buying a second home? Ask yourself these questions as you look at properties:
How accessible is the property? Gas prices dim the appeal of a place that’s hundreds of miles away. You can usually hop a cheap flight to Florida, but that’s not necessarily true of Corpus Christi, Tex., or Durango, Colo. Make sure that you don’t break bank just trying to get to your vacation home.
Is the community well planned? In rural areas, a beautiful new cabin may adjoin a cluster of rusting trailers. Think about things you want to have in the community: parks, golf courses, beaches, etc. If you are considering using the second home as an income property while you aren’t using it, you want to make sure that the community is attractive to renters.
Is the house in good shape? New construction is fine, but an older place or summer home is likely to be the victim of deferred maintenance and premature wear. Instead of asking for a price concession, you may be better off asking the seller to hire a carpenter and a painter.
Will you feel at home there? Start your search at Web sites such as escapehomes.com and lakeplace.com to see models of what can be built. But don’t rely solely on internet searches– as in any home search, visiting the local community and home is the best way to see if it is the right fit for you.
Nearly 700,000 mortgage holders may be eligible for significant monthly savings by refinancing through the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). More than 3 million loans have already been refinanced through HARP, a popular federal program designed to help homeowners refinance at today’s low mortgage rates, even if they owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. However, despite the program’s success, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) believes 675,694 more loans may benefit from refinancing through HARP.
According to FHFA Director Mel Watt, there are “hundreds of thousands of borrowers who can still benefit from HARP and are essentially leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of the program.”
To illustrate the number of homeowners who likely qualify, the FHFA recently unveiled a map showing the numbers of eligible borrowers by ZIP code, county and metro area. The map is accessible through HARP.gov and by clicking on the image below.
The FHFA is hosting a series of town hall-style events in several of the cities hit hardest by the housing crisis including Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit and Miami. The Chicago event took place earlier this month, and the other events will take place in the near future. To find out more about the events, click here.
Why refinance through HARP?
HARP allows borrowers to refinance into a more affordable or stable mortgage. Most homeowners eligible for HARP reduce their monthly payments by lowering the interest rate, while other homeowners use HARP to convert their adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) into more predictable, fixed-rate home loans. Additionally, homeowners can shorten their loan terms, helping them build equity faster.
In Chicago, it is estimated that 36,000 residents are eligible to participate in HARP and could save $2,000-$3,000 annually by refinancing their mortgages.
How do I find out if I’m eligible?
To qualify for HARP:
You must be current on your mortgage: You must have no late payments made 30 or more days past the due date in the past six months, and no more than one late payment made 30 or more days past the due date in the past 12 months.
You must have a qualifying property type: Your home must be a primary residence, a 1-unit second home or a 1- to 4-unit investment property. Condos, PUDs and manufactured homes are eligible.
Your mortgage must be backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae (most home loans are): Use the Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae online lookup tools or call Fannie Mae at 1-800-7Fannie or Freddie Mac at 1-800-FREDDIE to determine who owns your loan.
You must have a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 80 percent or higher: To calculate your LTV, divide the amount of money you owe on your house by its value.
Your current loan must have closed by May 31, 2009.
The percentage of homes that are being sold as distressed properties (foreclosures, short sales, etc.) is steadily decreasing. In the past year, sales of distressed homes has gone down from 18% to 11%, meaning that fewer and fewer Americans are foreclosing their homes. This is a sign of a rebounding market. Check out the graph below to track the sales of distressed property over the last two and a half years.
UB has announced the lineup for its 28th Distinguished Speaker series, which brings activists, authors, business-people, celebrities, comedians, and politicians to Buffalo to discuss their work. This year’s lineup is once again impressive and will certainly delight many Buffalonians.
September 10: Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
October 15: Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore: Two Fates
November 18: John Oliver, comedian
February 12: Earvin “Magic” Johnson, former NBA basketball star
April 1: Robert Ballard, oceanographer who found the wreckage of the RMS Titanic
April 29: Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers