Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is the Home Affordable Modification Program Reducing Foreclosures?

Just about a year ago we wrote about this program. The HAMP program is intended to assist those going into foreclosure to modify their mortgage and retain their home ownership. At that time, 230,000 loans had been permanently modified, and some were questioning its effectiveness since it was supposed to assist 2 to 3 million people. A year later, 540,000 mortgages have been permanently modified and the expectation now is that 3-4 million should have been assisted.

Brookings reports that these numbers are unlikely to increase much since only 30,000 people are applying for this program monthly. Additionally they report that many of the loans that have been modified still place the borrowers with payments as high as 60% of pretax income. The normal ratio used to be 36% on the high side.

Brookings went on to say "Furthermore, it is not clear what better alternatives we have for preventing foreclosures. It has long been recognized that a key limitation of HAMP is that it does little to prevent households from defaulting because they owe more than their homes are worth. The main proposed solution to this “underwater” mortgage problem is forcing or attempting to incentivize lenders to write down the principal value of loans. But, some experts are arguing that the costs per foreclosure prevented under such a scheme could be exorbitant—implying that the idea, at best, raises fairness questions and, at worst, could damage the financial system in a way that would have far-reaching repercussions for the rest of the U.S. economy."

Not a real pretty picture for this particular remedy for the housing market.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wallet Pop's 10 Best Places to Buy a home in 2011

Thinking of moving to where might be the best place to buy a home this year? The article was published by Wallet Pop at the end of 2010, and assumed that housing prices were and will be "stuck in neutral" in most parts of the country. Not sure that is the case, since it really seems to vary widely by pockets, and sometimes very localized ones where values are moving in one direction or staying stagnant.

Anyway, there take on the best places to buy are in the following article.

1. Austin, Texas: Best All-Around City
Population: 799,267
Median home price: $119,788
Why here: Texas' capital and a great college town, Austin is beautiful and the 12th-most-affordable American metro area. Job growth from 2000 to 2010 was 14.1%, according to Trulia; unemployment currently is 7.1%, compared with 9.8% nationwide. The city's population is growing too. These positive indicators are expected to continue in the coming decade. Fortune 500 companies abound here; it's home to more than 2,000 tech companies. Home prices are reasonable for the $73,747 median family income and let's face it, nobody does BBQ better than Texas.

2. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Most Affordable Town With a View
Population: 74,584
Median home price: $89,400
Why here: There may be cities with lower median prices (not many), but I'm guessing you need a down coat to live there. This burg comes complete with year-round warm weather and beachfront properties that not too long ago cost a bundle ($400,000+). It's close to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, where residents can go for professional sports and cultural events.

3. Broomfield County, Colorado: Best Jobs
Median home price: $239,000
Why here: Jobs! It also doesn't hurt that the county is tucked between Denver and Boulder, so the scenery is nice too. Job growth in this area exploded 50% during the last decade. High-tech giants Oracle, Ball Corporation and VMware employ lots of folks, and IBM and Avaya are nearby. If you're college-educated, you're in good company: About 38% of the county's residents hold a bachelor's or higher degree, according to the Broomfield Economic Development Corporation. If you ski and hike, we're talkin' bliss!

Best place to retire Durham North Carolina4. Durham, NC: Best City to Retire In
Population: 223,284
Median home price: $178,700
Why here: Since we're talking about retiring, first on the list of pluses is Duke University's renowned medical center. Also, Duke's popular senior learning program offers 100 courses every term, on campus. So if golf's not your game, but mathematics is, there you go. If, however, golf is your game -- you've got that too. Plus Broadway hit shows, concerts and lots of places to hike. Home prices are a steal for what you get.

5. Woodbury, Minnesota: Best Place to Raise Kids
Population: 58,515
Median home price: $240,100
Median home price: There are so many great places to raise kids, but this suburb 10 miles from St. Paul has a lot going for it. Yes, winters are cold (not a small thing), but it's Minnesota -- we're talking thousands of lakes. Woodbury has 100 miles of trails for hiking and biking, and is a stone's throw from thousands of acres of parkland. The schools are great, including the Math & Science charter school. 3M employs multitudes, as does state government. What's not to like? OK, the winters. Deal with it.

6. Warner Robins, Georgia: Best Military Town For the Buck
Population: 53, 629
Median home price: $110,400
Why here: Located midway between Atlanta and Savannah, Warner Robins' housing affordability is the big draw. The median price of a home is $110,000, while the median family income is about $63,000. That leaves some extra dough to hit the local aviation museum, motor speedway and golf club. The city's main employer is the military (home of Robins Air Force Base), bringing engineers and employees from around the globe, so the population is eclectic. The city fared well during the recession.

7. Madison, Wisconsin: Best College Town
Population: 562,000
Median home price: $209,400
Why here: A gem of a city located between two lakes, Madison is where it's happening in the Midwest. Home of the state's capital, it's got a top-rated, Big 10 university (with all the sports and cultural events that come with it); affordable housing; tons of eateries and shopping; smart people; friendly atmosphere. You don't have to be a student or the parent of one to buy a home here. A never-ending supply of renters keeps your investment solid. You may end up living here yourself.

8. Pocono Mountains, Pennnsylvania: Best Vacation-Home Location For the Price
Population: 340,000 for the whole region
Median home price: $110,000 for Pocono Lake; prices vary throughout the region
Why here: Year-round playground, with skiing in winter, equestrian activities in spring, summertime sailing and hiking in autumn. You can get a two-bedroom home with 1,256 square feet for $99,999 in Mount Pocono; a three-bedroom cottage in 1,255 square feet is listed for $139,000 in Pocono Pines, according to

Portland Oregon Best city for Gen-Y9. Portland, Oregon: Best City For Gen-Y
: 551,302
Median monthly rent: $1,200
Why here: It's green (literally and figuratively) and it's gorgeous. Rents are a bit higher, but some big companies pay well, such as Intel, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Legacy Health System, Fred Meyer Stores. The attitude is way-laid back and there are tons of venues for merry-making: music clubs, coffee shops and art galleries. When it's not raining, you can bike through the city, hike Mt. Hood and hit the zillions of hiking trails nearby.

10. San Francisco: Best City, Period, Price Be Damned
Population: 815,358
Median home price: $628,000
Why here: If you have to ask ... The Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, the Bay, the hills, the views, the museums, street cars, cable cars, clubs, nightlife, architecture, coffee houses, bookstores for bibliophiles (City Lights, anyone?), hiking and biking everywhere, Tony Bennett (OK, just in your head), famous hotels and restaurants. Yes, it's foggy in summer, but who cares?

Sources, median home prices: and

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Housing Recovery?? When?? Wow

Headlines this week

(Reuters) - Sales of previously owned U.S. homes plunged in February and prices hit their lowest level in nearly nine years, indicating a housing market recovery was still a long way off.

The National Association of Realtors said on Monday sales fell 9.6 percent month over month to an annual rate of 4.88 million units, snapping three straight months of gains. The percentage decline was the largest since July.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Sales of previously owned homes dropped 9.6% in February and prices fell to their lowest level since 2002, reflecting a continued slump in the U.S. real estate market.

(Paper Economy)
Today, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Existing Home Sales Report for February showing a notable triple blow to the nation's housing market with declining sales, falling prices and increasing inventory clearly indicating that housing remains historically weak and adds further evidence that a double-dip has materialized in the wake of the governments housing tax scams.

It still appears people and families are moving! Our phones are ringing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Most Typical Household Goods Moving Policy

Now that the economy appears to be making a rebound, many small to mid sized companies are hiring or planning to reposition employees. In many cases the jobs effected require a relocation. A number of these newer companies are searching for information on where they should start in assisting their employees in the move. Most start with the most obvious activity which is shipping their household goods and personal belongings.

During the past several weeks we have been asked to advise companies on the most typical policies covering the household goods shipment side of a move. We have combined a number of policies into what we believe represents most current thinking.

Most companies are considering or using a tiered policy which reimburses by category of employees- what follows is a good example of this type of policy and is readily used in many industries.





Household goods shipment

Services paid for include-

-Household goods shipping and delivery

Services paid for include-

-Packing- (fragile only)

-Household goods shipping and delivery

Partial unpacking

Services paid for include-

-Full packing

-Household goods shipping and delivery

-Partial unpacking


Up to 30 days of storage

Up to 30 days of storage

Up to 30 days of storage. An additional 30 days when necessary with prior approval

Shipment of Auto

One auto shipped when over 300 miles

One auto shipped when over 300 miles

Two autos shipped when over 300 miles

Additionally companies will offer a miscellaneous allowance ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 to cover the cost of items not directly serviced by the moving company. Most companies in the small to medium size are asking their employees to get 2-3 estimates, or use a service like Consumers Relocation which has 3 estimates performed under our national account agreements with the movers. Consumers Relocation takes the leg work out of this process, applies special prenegotiated terms and pricing to each estimate, and acts as the employees/company's advocate throughout the move. For more information call Consumers Relocation at 800-839-6683

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Move Up or Save Up

In 2009 my fiance and I thought the housing prices were the lowest they were going to get, the first-time home buyers credit was about to run up and interest rates were crazy low. It was the perfect time for us to buy.... or was it? It is always difficult to tell exactly what the market is going to do and how it will change, but there are thousands of couples and families out there right now debating on what to do. Do they purchase their first home? Do they purchase a bigger, newer home? Do they continue to save and see what comes their way in the next year or so? It is still a buyers market with home prices continuing to fall, but it is unnerving to think that they are still falling and you wonder when they are going to stop. If you plan to purchase your home and live in it inevitably, than maybe it is the right time to buy a home. If you are looking to flip your house, now is probably not the time as we have no idea when house prices will begin to rise.

There are several cities across the country where home prices are at an extreme low, and some cities where home prices have begun to creep up. Before you think about purchasing a house, look into the rental market. If purchasing a home is going to be less than renting, purchasing is a great idea if you have the 20% to put down. If you don't have the full 20% down payment, you will be hit with a monthly private mortgage insurance fee that may increase your monthly payment. There are several factors that you should consider before purchasing a home in this market. Although it sounds appealing because the prices of homes are low, you need to think about your future. If you find your dream home, the price is right and you don't think you can beat it, take the chance, especially if you plan to be in that home for a long time. If your dream home has not crossed your path, hold out and see what comes up. It it probably out there and you just have to wait for the price to be right.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Housing and moving going to pick up this Spring?

We are hearing and actually seeing first hand some positive signs that the pent up demand for moving and home sales may turn around some this year. In a previous post we reported that Warren Buffet felt 2011 would bring an improved real estate market. Recently in a letter to shareholders he reiterated that and went on to say his "elephant gun was loaded " for acquisitions. Pretty positive.

Southern California and the New York metro areas are picking up for us with newly initiated moves. The northwest and Rocky Mountain areas are starting to show some signs of life. One of our real estate accounts in Massachusetts is also showing signs of improved activity. So maybe the snowy scene above will soon look like the one below.

Our corporate business has picked up alot this year indicating the loosing by companies. The movement is in a number of different industries.

I have felt that despite the reports and numbers we hear, that our business would get the initial indications of an improvement in the moving and real estate markets. Alot of the numbers that are reports take into account foreclosures, short sales, investors, speculators, and all of those groups. We just see moving families in the general market and corporate transfers.

Disaster Resistant Real Estate Locations

It seems like nearly every time I turn on the news there is another breaking story about some natural disaster that has struck again, destroying cities, towns, houses, people. Looking to relocate to a place off the natural disaster map? Jason Notte of TheStreet has compiled a list of 5 disaster-resistant real-estate locations on

Although you are susceptible to natural disasters at every point on this earth, there are places that are not located in exposed wind patterns or popular fault lines are less likely to see any type of natural disaster. So these 5 locations are not only beautiful, but safe!

1. Palau- You may recognize this name from the show Survivor. Dwindling agriculture, rising seawater and worrisome waste-removal efforts are more of a concern than disasters. Real estate however is scarce and comes at a premium.

2. Marshall Islands- The good news is that the Marshall Islands have declared fewer than 10 major disasters in the past five decades. The bad news, the islands were a nuclear test site and residual radioactivity remains on islands including Bikini Atoll where locals mark each March 2 as Nuclear Victims Day. Real estate can be hard to find without visiting first, so disaster dodgers should stay at the local Marshall Islands Resort in Majuro while house hunting.

3. Rhode Island- RI has only declared 5 disasters in the past quarter-century. Yes, they have experienced some heavy snow and flooding in the past few years but in comparison to its neighboring New England states, it is less prone to disasters. There are several different real estate options ranging from the low $100,000 to the millions.

4. Utah- UT has declared only 7 major disasters in 57 years and none within the past five years. Of those, the overwhelming majority of Utah's disasters stem from severe storms and ensuing floods, so heading to the high country may be a disaster-conscious newcomer's best bet.

5. Wyoming- Want to live tax-free, but don't want to deal with hurricanes? Welcome to Wyoming, where individual and corporate taxes are as nonexistent as oceans and gulf currents. With only 8 major disasters declared since FEMA started keeping tabs back in 1953, the least-populous state takes calamities including floods, tornadoes and winter storms in stride.

So whether you are looking for the ocean and beaches or the mountains and desert, there is a disaster-free place waiting for you!