Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for the 'Foreclosures' Category

Five things that can be done right now to stimulate Pinellas County real estate sales (and real estate sales everywhere)


We’re around five years into the recession, and the real estate market has been suffering all of that time. There were a lot of reasons for the downturn, just as there are lots of reasons for the slow recovery.

balancing houseWhile I don’t have a magic bullet to right the ship and make everything okay real estate-wise, I think there are some things that could be done right now to stimulate sales and make things better, here in Pinellas County and really everywhere. Nothing is going to make up for nine percent unemployment or for the under-employment of millions more people, but I think we could do a lot for the national and the Pinellas County real estate markets to make home ownership more possible for thousands of would-be home owners by taking a few simple steps.

Here they are:

  1. MAKE CREDIT STANDARDS MORE REASONABLE: Much of the problem in the first place resulted from very easy-going credit standards when it came to home mortgages – things such as incomes that didn’t have to be verified or 100 percent (and even 110-percent) financing. Lenders have reacted to those transgressions by tightening credit requirements to a ridiculous level. So let’s find a happy medium that works for buyers while protecting the interests of lenders.
  2. BRING BACK THE 90 PERCENT MORTGAGE:  Where we once saw no-money-down mortgages, we now see lenders who want 20 or 25 percent down. There are many very qualified buyers with good incomes who should be able to buy homes with 10 percent down. Let’s make that possible for the right buyers.
  3. STREAMLINE THE UNDERWRITING PROCESS:  Underwriting has become extremely tight and difficult, and it is not unusual for lenders to come back repeatedly for additional documentation. That takes extra time, and deals can fall apart during those long waits. Good, effective underwriting shouldn’t have to take weeks or months.
  4. GENERATE MORE JOBS: Probably the biggest impediment to a housing market recovery is a lack of good-paying jobs. If people can’t earn adequate incomes, they can’t afford to buy new homes. This is something the government can help with by instituting encouraging policies; the private sector can contribute to it by investing in themselves in ways that encourage job creation.
  5. CLEAR OUT THE FORECLOSURE INVENTORY: Banks have been slow to clear out the inventory of foreclosed homes. Short sales can take forever, and lenders seem to be in no hurry to get their foreclosed-upon properties off their books. Some observers even say that banks have withheld significant numbers of foreclosed properties in order to keep home values from falling even further.  If banks want to get back to the business of lending money for home purchases, they have to do their part, take the hit, and get that inventory back into the hands of private owners.

Got any ideas of your own? Send them along and I’ll post them on the blog.

In many ways, this is a great time to buy Pinellas County real estate, especially in certain market segments. Give me a call and we’ll discuss: 727-643-7100, or e-mail me at [email protected] .

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Guardian Angel places cats left homeless by foreclosure

Who are the victims of foreclosures? Well, families, of course. Children. Working people.

termiteBut what about pets?  Not much has been written about that. If a family loses their home to foreclosure, what happens to the pets they may own? Families can move into apartments, or even move in with friends or other family members.  But that doesn’t mean that the pets can come along.

Pet shelters and humane societies have been reporting that their facilities have been strained to the breaking point as families turn in their pets that they can no longer afford, or pets that cannot go along to smaller quarters.

One group on the west coast of Florida is trying to do something about that.  Guardian Angel Cat Rescue and Adoption is based in Hudson in Hernando County, but they serve all of Tampa Bay. Guardian Angel does not have a shelter, but instead places cats in foster homes until permanent homes can be found.

“Our goal is to help cats that are in danger of being euthanized or abandoned due to owners moving, foreclosure, job loss…” their flyer says.

We ran into representatives of Guardian Angel last weekend at the Palm Harbor Arts & Crafts Festival, where they were operating a small booth.  

The accompanying picture shows one of the cats, Termite, who is being being cared for by the Guradian Angel folks. If you’d like to see more, go to and search shelters for Guardian Angel Cat Rescue.  Or just e-mail them at [email protected], or call them at 727-859-2208.

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Mortgage rates are lowest they’ve been in 38 years

Do you need another reason (besides the low prices and the big tax credit) to think about buying a new home? Okay, here it is: Mortgage rates came down again this week and are now at the lowest point IN THE PAST 38 YEARS!
Freddie Mac does a survey of mortgage rates every week, and this week’s survey shows that rates are at historic lows for 30-year fix rate mortgages.
The rates on 30-year (and 15-year) mortgages came down for the fifth week in a row, according to Freddie Mac. Rates on five-year adjustable rate mortgages came down to record levels a week earlier, and they stayed in that very low range during this most recent week.
Why the low rates? Well, demand for mortgages (and, of course, demand for housing) remains weak; also, foreclosures continue to be a factor.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate for the week was 4.71%, down from  4.78% during the previous week. A year ago, the average rate was 5.53%.

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New IRS form lets loan officers see your IRS income info — twice

     Are you going to be applying for a mortgage anytime soon?  Here’s something you need to know:
     Your loan officer may ask you to sign IRS Form 4506-T. If you do, you will authorize the loan officer to get IRS electronic transcripts of your federal income tax filings.
 IRS logo    This may not seem like anything terribly new — the IRS has been giving lenders tax-return info for years. In the past, however, that information wasn’t requested until settlement, and it usually was requested only in the case of people who were self-employed.
     What’s changed is that Fannie Mae is working harder to spot fraudulent claims of income, and to limit losses from bad loans. So… Fannie Mae now wants lenders to get two sets of electronic IRS transcripts for all borrowers, no matter what their sources of income are.
     One copy is pulled at the time of the application, while the other gets requested before the closing.
     All of this seems to be a response to the old “stated income” or “no-doc” loans, in which borrowers were asked to simply say what their incomes were without providing any evidence. Some people inflated their incomes, and a percentage of those loans went bad when the market deflated.
     Because of all that, Fannie Mae (and other lenders) are tightening up their requirements, and IRS Form  4506-T is one of the consequences. Lenders now want to verify those income claims — not once, but twice.
     Remember, you need to take this form seriously when the loan officer puts it in front of you. Make sure that the information you provide is accurate, and make sure the years you specify are the years you actually want the loan officer to see.
     You are going to see a request for a Form 4506-T request twice during the mortgage loan application process, so be ready for that, too.
     If you would like to see a copy of the form before the loan officer actually presents it to you, you can get one on the IRS Web site, which is

Home refinance program expanded

     We’ve written here in the past about tax credits and about government programs aimed at saving homes from foreclosure and making home payments more affordable. Now, it looks as though the Obama Administration wants to expand those programs to make them apply to more borrowers than before.


    Until now, those government programs have been available to people whose mortgage amounts are up to 105 percent of a home’s value. This week, the administration announced that it wants to raise that limit to 125 percent of value.
Here are some of the conditions that apply:

  • The mortgages in question must be owned or backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
  • The applicants for new financing must be current on their mortgage payments.

     It is estimated that 30 percent of all mortgages are for amounts that exceed their homes’ values.
     The expansion of this federal home refinance program is an acknowledgement that the original program fell far short of expectations. When it was announced in March, the Obama Administration said it hoped that it would help 4-5 million homeowners who were upside-down on their mortgages. But in the middle of June, the administration admitted that only about 20,000 homeowners had applied to refinance their mortgages under the plan.
One problem has been rising interest rates. Current rates are around 5.5 percent, up from 4.84 percent in April. That rate increase has put a damper on refinances. The government hopes that the new expansion will encourage more homeowners to refinance their homes, and those refinances will make the homeowners less likely to default on their mortgages.
     Got a home in Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, or anywhere else in Pinellas County with a mortgage bigger than the home’s value? This expanded program may be for you.

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Lost your home? We want you!

Bad credit? No problem!

Bad credit? No problem!

I spotted this sign on a fence surrounding a large apartment complex down in the mid-county area.

If you’ve lost your home to foreclosure, banks won’t be giving you the time of day for a new mortgage. However, there seem to be landlords who will view you as a profit opportunity, and welcome you with open arms.

When it comes to economics, every down has an up.

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Federal government offers mortgage help



Okay, so you’ve been living in your home in Pinellas County and faithfully making your mortgage payments, but your home’s value has been steadily slipping and now you owe more than the place is worth. You keep reading about new government programs that are supposed to help, but you need to find out more.

Fear not – there’s a place you can go to find the help you need.

That place is It’s a website designed to describe the benefits of a federal program called, well, Making Home Affordable. It offers homeowners a number of opportunities to either refinance their mortgages, or modify the mortgages they already have.

The Making Home Affordable program is financed with $75 billion for loan servicers and borrowers. Its designers say that it should be able to offer mortgage help to four million homeowners who need to modify their loans to make them more affordable, or who need to negotiate short sales of their properties with their mortgage providers.

Officials say that the money will allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance up to five million loans they own (or guarantee). Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have set up web sites and toll-free hotlines for borrowers who need to determine if their mortgages fall under Fannie or Freddie. Fannie Mae’s is (phone number (800) 732-6643); Freddie Mac’s is (phone number (800) 373-3343).

Some borrowers might prefer to get information first from their own mortgage servicer. To do that, go to and fill out an application. That web site is operated by an alliance of mortgage servicers and nonprofit counselors. You can talk to them on the phone at (888) 995-4673.

No matter where you live in North Pinellas County – Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor, or anywhere else, for that matter – the information offered applies to you.

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NAR says foreclosure sales way up from previous year

big-realtor The National Association of Realtors held its annual convention in Orlando earlier this month. One thing that’s always interesting to review is the statistics that NAR collects.

The statistics that they released at this convention were based on a massive survey that NAR conducted between July 2007 and June 2008. In all, NAR asked a number of questions of people who bought or sold property during that time frame. In all, 133,000 people were questioned.

One question asked of buyers was: Did you purchase a home that was in foreclosure? Six percent of the buyers responded affirmatively, and a whopping 38 percent said they considered buying a forclosure property but just couldn’t find the right one.

That six percent number is up from just one percent in the previous year.

It ought to be very interesting to see what that answer is next year.

I’ll be providing answers to more questions in the NAR survey in the coming days.