Real Estate Foreclosures in Decline, But Impact is Highly Local

by Rebecca Chandler

Main Street signPhoto: kjelljoran

Foreclosures data, from a national perspective, are indicating some encouraging trends in housing news, but those numbers vary widely from market to market. What’s really important is what is happening locally.

Nationally, there were 19% fewer completed U.S. foreclosures in February 2013 compared to February 2012 — down to 54,000 vs. 67,000 according to CoreLogic®’s recently released National Foreclosure Report for February. This was the 16th consecutive month with a year-over-year decline.

The report defines completed foreclosures as the total number of homes actually lost to foreclosure. Comparing month over month, completed foreclosures also fell from 58,000* in January 2013 to the February level of 54,000, a decrease of 7 percent.

And while that’s good news and a step in the right direction, between the beginning of the financial crisis in September 2008, there have been approximately 4.2 million completed foreclosures across the country to date.

And, prior to the housing market decline in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 monthly nationwide between 2000 and 2006, so we still have a way to go.

However, this information is highly local and does not apply to all markets:

The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in February 2013 account for almost half nationally

  • Florida (95,000)
  • California (90,000)
  • Michigan (73,000)
  • Texas (57,000)
  • Georgia (49,000)

The lowest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in February 2013 show quite a different story.

  • District of Columbia (96)
  • Hawaii (469)
  • North Dakota (482)
  • Maine (542)
  • West Virginia (588)

But, population obviously impacts these totals. After all, there are fewer home owners in Maine than in California.

As a percentage of all mortgaged homes, the five states with the highest foreclosure were:

  • Florida (9.9 %)
  • New Jersey (7.2 %)
  • New York (5.0%)
  • Nevada (4.6%)
  • Illinois (4.5%)

In contrast, the five states with the lowest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes were:

  • Wyoming (0.5%)
  • Alaska (0.6%)
  • North Dakota (0.7%)
  • Nebraska (0.8%)
  • Montana (0.9%)

Bottom line? Looking at national foreclosure statistics is like viewing a national weather forecast. Just because it’s raining in Miami doesn’t mean you should carry an umbrella in Montana.


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Reacceleration Forecasted in Second Half of 2013

By Pete Bakel

The year’s strong start faded late in the first quarter across many key economic indicators, but the recent set-back likely is a temporary one, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group. Economic growth accelerated in the first quarter as expected, boosted by inventory replenishment following a sizable drawdown in the prior quarter, as well as the strongest increase in consumer spending since the end of 2010.

Activity slowed in recent months, partly due to ongoing fiscal drags including the sequester. However, a modest reacceleration is expected in the second half of the year as the labor market regains traction amid further forecasted improvement in financial and housing market conditions. Overall, the Group expects growth of 2.2 percent for all of 2013, continuing a modest recovery following 1.7 percent and 2.0 percent growth in 2012 and 2011, respectively.

“Our May forecast predicts that the second half of 2013 will be a little stronger than the first half, despite the slowdown during the past couple of months,” says Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “Employment numbers are getting better, albeit it at a relatively slow pace, and the April employment picture should help boost consumer sentiment toward the economy overall. Spending grew in the first quarter at a surprisingly strong pace, and although this rate is unlikely to hold up, consumers continue to show signs of resilience in the face of fiscal concerns. However, we continue to keep an eye on potential headwinds to our forecast, including the long-term effects of sequestration, spending constraints, the sovereign debt crisis, and the impending debt ceiling.”

The housing market continues to grow at a sustainable, if not yet robust, pace. Housing is expected to act as a tailwind for the economy throughout the year and into 2014, even though there may be short-term ups and downs in overall economic activity. The Group notes some improvement in home purchase demand. If demand awakens further and more jobs are added each month economic activity should step up compared to 2012 levels with housing acting as a significant contributor to growth.

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5 Tips to Prepare Your Home for a Successful Sale.

Want to sell your home quickly and for the best price? Making some small improvements can give buyers the best first impression and make a world of difference when selling your home.

Here are 5 tips for getting the best offer sooner.

1. Curb Appeal. The first thing that buyers will see is the outside of your house. Does the outside make them want to see the inside? A well kept yard, an inviting porch, a clean driveway – all increase the likelihood that buyers will want to see more, so start here. Clean up the lawn and the driveway. Touch up or repaint the exterior. Clean gutters and keep the porches swept and inviting. Showing that the exterior of your home is well-kept will lead buyers to the assumption that the home is well-kept in general.

2. Clean, de-clutter and simplify. Do a deep clean or hire a professional cleaning crew to make sure everything looks its best. Keep carpets vacuumed and beds made. Make the rooms look larger by removing clutter and large furniture.

Packed closets and cabinets also lead others to believe there is inadequate storage, so clean those out, too. Make sure to keep all the dishes away, hang clothes neatly in closets, make sure all light bulbs work, and towels in the bathroom and kitchen need to be clean and folded neatly.

Help buyers imagine their own things in your home by storing personal items such as photos and knick-knacks.

3. Update. This includes fresh paint, replacing outdated appliances and fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom. If it’s not in your budget to replace, you can add new hardware on cabinets and sinks. If you can, replace outdated flooring or stained carpeting – or at least have them professionally cleaned.

Interior paint is one of the easiest ways to freshen up your home and increase its value. And, while that dramatic purple wall in the dining room may have matched your chairs, it may be hard for buyers to imagine with their furnishings. Use light, neutral colors that make the rooms look bright and large and that match any decor.

4. Consider hiring a home inspector. It’s very likely that a buyer will hire one anyway – after they’ve made an offer, so being honest about your home’s condition will help you avoid any surprises or complications with the contract and closing later. And, although you don’t have to make any non-essential repairs, you may discover essential ones of which you may be unaware.

5. Interview real estate agents and ask them about their marketing plan for your home. After you’ve done all the work to get it ready to list, an aggressive marketing plan will ensure that as many buyers as possible see it.

Most agents will list the home in the Multiple Listing Service database, on their website and on their company website. Ask them about also putting it on other top ranked real estate sites. Also, according to the National Association of REALTORS, most buyers move within 11 miles of their previous residence – so ask about local advertising as well.

The sign in your yard should include the agent’s information. Many add a brochure box, but it’s difficult to keep it full. Ask about adding a text code that leads buyers to a mobile site for your home that shows more information and photos, so the information is always readily available to interested buyers.


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Emily’s Corner – Mortgage Interest Rates are heading up higher and higher



Mortgage interest rates have been rising steadily during the month of May and spiked yesterday.

The primary drivers behind the rise in rates are-

1. Consumer confidence is reported to be at its highest level since February of 2008

2. The Case Shiller index reported a gain of 10.9% in March, the greatest gain in 7 years.

3. Moody’s has upgraded the US banking system from negative to stable.

4. The Federal Reserve has begun to tapper their purchases of Mortgage loans (QE 2)

The 10 year Treasury bond has increased over the past month from a yield of 1.62% to 2.135%,

which equates to the zero point 30 year rate going from 3.25% to 4.125%.


Emily Hamilton

Mortgage Originator

NMLS # 809305

Union Community Bank, FSB

ph. 717-492-2293

cell 717-830-0717

4 Reasons Your Home Isn’t Selling

There are exceptions to every rule under the sun. So, even though the current market climate is hot in most places, every neighborhood, town and county has those homes that simply sit on the market for days, weeks, even months longer than average.

These are the outliers. And being the outlier, in this particular context, is not a fun place to be. When all the other listings seem to be flying off the market and yours seems to be stuck, it’s easy to delve into fear, panic and even depression.

Here’s a glimmer of hope: there is a pretty short list of reasons that most slow-to-sell homes lag on the market. You’ve probably heard at least a couple of them before, maybe even from your real estate agent. But sometimes hearing things a few times, from different people and at the right moment in time can cause the shift in position that will power a shift in the situations that are keeping your home sale stuck – and your life plans stuck with it.

1. You’re stuck on a too-high price.

If your home has been sitting on the market for significantly longer than average, the market has spoken. And it’s saying: the price is too high vis-a-vis the current condition of the market and the property. Period.
There are only three variables in this equation – which is helpful, because it means there are really only three ways to fix this situation:

  • change the condition of your property
  • wait until your market conditions change to support a higher price
  • change the list price.

That’s it. That’s all there really is. For most sellers the simplest, most sensible of these three variables is to modify is the list price. This is especially so in cases where the home is in good basic condition, is well-staged, and other homes nearby are flying off the market. The fact that you don’t want to hear that your home is overpriced doesn’t mean it’s not the truth.

Today’s market is ascending in most areas, which simply means that prices are on the rise. Some sellers are waiting to list their homes, hoping that prices will be higher in the years to come. But if you want and need to sell your home sooner than later or you are hoping to sell in time to buy your next home before prices rise much higher, holding out for a higher price probably doesn’t make sense.

In fact, your resistance to making a necessary price cut could backfire. Buyers often keep their eye on overpriced but otherwise nice homes, waiting until they suspect the seller’s desperation will make them more receptive to a lowball offer.


2. Your home is not be fully exposed to the market.

So the truth that the market has spoken on the matter of overpricing does have one caveat: it assumes the market has actually been exposed to your home. If your home’s marketing plan has been limited to that red-and-black For Sale sign you got at the hardware store and stuck in the lawn, chances are good that your home is lagging because your area’s community of buyers and brokers have no idea it is on the market!
Other common conditions of home sale-preventing underexposure include:

  • Homes that are not listed on the area’s Multiple Listing Service or MLS
  • Homes that are not listed on major real estate search engines, like Trulia
  • Homes that are very difficult to show or are rarely made available for viewing
  • Homes that are listed online with no, few or poor quality property photos.

If your home is lagging on the market and any of the above apply to your listing, they could be the culprit. If you chose a listing agent who has a strong track record of success selling homes, these sorts of listing issues can sometimes reflect a glitch in the system. So, do a double check – Google your address and see how your home is represented online. If you find any of these issues, work with your agent to get them fixed.

If you didn’t engage a listing agent at all and your home is simply not moving, it might be time to reconsider and course-correct your home-selling plan.

3. Your home has a glaring issue that needs resolving.

Many times, a big condition issue can cause a home to sit on the market unless and until the seller either (a) fixes the issue, (b) offers a credit or incentive to offset the issue or (c ) reduces the price so low that a buyer thinks the bargain is worth the hassle. Some situations are too costly for a seller to fix (e.g., foundation needs replacing), and others are not fix-able (nuclear power plant next door). In these situations, reducing the price might be the only resolution.

But other listings are sabotaged by highly fixable issues the seller simply might not be willing to admit are at the root of the problem. You might love the highlighter yellow you chose to paint all of your home’s interior walls, the wall-to-wall powder blue sculpted carpet or the “rustic” look of the weathered paint, fences and trims on the exterior. Or maybe you don’t love them, but you think buyers should just look past these issues.

Your home’s slowness to move is a wake-call. The average buyers’ tastes might simply differ from yours. Or maybe in your area and price range, buyers don’t have to look past issues to find a home that is move-in ready. To concern yourself about what buyers “should” be willing to do is to live in a fantasy world – and as long as you’re there, your home won’t move in real life.

4. You’re not really ready to move on.

If none of your agent’s advice about how to shift your home’s fate makes sense, if everything on this list strikes you as outrageous, if even your friends’ and family members’ urgings to cut the list price makes you think the whole world must be crazy, ask yourself this question: are you really, truly ready to move on?

It’s not at all bizarre for home sellers who are deeply attached to a longtime family home, or somewhat fearful about the next phase of their lives to make decisions around their home’s listing that keep it from selling. I once showed a house where there were people still sleeping, in beds that were – bizarrely – in the living room, while the listing agent walked my buyer and I through the place. If you find yourself in a situation where your head is telling you that cutting the price is the right thing to do, but your heart makes you do everything possible to keep the home from being shown, consider whether you are truly ready to move on.

If you ultimately decide that you do want or need to sell the home and move on, but are anxious or fearful for whatever reason, don’t take your fear out on your listing. Notice where your decisions and behavior might be sabotaging the higher purpose of getting your home sold and manage your own mindset so you can get out of the way of your own progress.

Past Sellers:
Did your home lag, even in a hot market? What was the game-changer for your home?

Buyers + Agents: What issues do you see that keep homes from selling?

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Credit Repair and Building Your Fico Score to Buy a Home

Hello Everyone,

Clients and Customers ask me all the time “what can I do to build my credit.”

Banks are looking for 3 lines of open credit for a min. of one year. This could be three credit cards, school loans, auto loans, other types of loans, or any type of item where they report to the credit reporting agencies.

Most people after having a hardship have little to no credit lines on there reports. Why, people close there credit cards to keep them selves from getting in more trouble with money. This is not always a good thing. It is harder to get credit cards when you don’t have any of them.

When you have 3 lines of credit open you will see your credit score climb some what fast. You still may take a hit if you go around trying to open lines of credit at 100 places and get turned down from them. These hard inquires on your credit report can hurt your score.

What I have done it come up with a few companies that you can get credit from.

1.) Matrix Discover card- For the most part they don’t even pull your credit score other then to find out your still alive. They will give almost every one a credit card for with a 300 credit limit on the card. This is an unsecured card. Based on your credit they may charge you a set up fee that would be put onto the card. If you credit is a little better they will wave that fee.

Ok, how do you get the card. You can go online to there website at or call them at 1-866-449-4514. I have found that they are not the most customer friendly on the phone but they will help you get the card.

2.) Merrick Bank Visa – This is a nice card for every one. They will start your credit line at 600.00 or less and after you have the card for one year they will double your credit line. I have not found they they charge any one any kind of crazy set up fee’s or monthly fees. They just want you to use the card and pay it off.

Next how can you get this card. Well go to and apply for it or call them on the phone at 1-800-253-2322

3.) Capital One Master Card – This card is not your normal Capital One card it’s for people with less then perfect or no credit. You will need to go online to Once there your going to have to click on the credit card link. Then your doing to have to click on “See if you’re pre-qualified for a card now” or go to this webpage

Fill in the information they ask for and then they will give you the cards that you can apply for. The Capital One Platinum Card is a gray and white card. This is for those that are looking to build credit. If your credit is toasted they will ask you to make a 200.00 deposit into an account with them and then they will give you 100.00 line of credit for a total of a 300.00 credit line. If your credit is low or you have none they will normally just give you a 300.00 credit line with out a deposit account. Or you can call them at 1-800-955-7070

4.) Orchard Bank MasterCard – This is the last card I have to recommend to customers and clients that I know is a good way to build credit. They will give you a 300.00 unsecured sometimes they charge a start up fee and other times they don’t. If your credit is toasted they will ask you to deposit 249.00 into an account and then they will give you a 350.00 credit line. Orchard Bank Credit Cards are owned by HSBC Bank. HSBC Bank has recently sold there credit card line to Capitol One. So just a heads up that they may send you a new card at some point with the Capital One name on it.

So for every one looking to build there credit back up or to make a credit score that has none. Above is the list that I tell every one about. Open 3 of them and in a short period of time you will see your score go up.

I had a client that came to me with a 480 credit score she had worked with some credit repair places in the past but could not get the score over 480. I helped her like I am you with my information. She opened 3 credit cards up one or two made her put a deposit in due to the credit score. In 6 months she had a 654 credit score.

Things to remember, to get the best credit score possible you need to use the credit card the first month carry the balance till they bill you. Then pay it off and never go over 30% of the credit cards line of credit. So if you have a 300.00 credit line do not ever put more then 90.00 on the card. This will get you the best score from the card. If you go over 30% you don’t get as good of a boost to your credit score and if you go over 50% it will hurt your credit score.

Little hint before I end. Your first month when you get a bill. Look at the due date. This is normally the 15th of the month. Write that date down and never forget it. Here is a trick for using the credit card. If you need to use it let’s say your car breaks down. You do to the shop and have your car fixed and they put 180 dollars on your card. this takes you over your 30% and over your 50% credit line. This will hurt your score. But wait there more. If you go online 5 days prior to the billing date of the 15th and make a payment (remember billing date not due date) and pay it down online to 89.00 now your going to be under 30% when the bill is printed that is the number going to the credit reporting companies. Then you can make payments on the other 89.00 or pay it off when you get the bill. Just so that you have the payment in online 5 days prior to the statement date. Your statement will show less then 30% used on your line and this will give you the best score on the card.


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5 Ways to Spring Clean Your Credit Report (Buyer Prep)

Have you noticed your Facebook friends posting pics of their newly cleaned, organized, spruced, and shampooed closets, rooms and carpets? I certainly have – seems like the urge to tackle those big Spring Cleaning projects is in the air! Seeing those photos on social media is strange, as without the before, the after is not necessarily too exciting (looks like a big empty garage to me!).

But I understand the urge to post them — Spring Cleaning is one of those tasks that is daunting and dread-making until you’re done, and you feel the great sense of accomplishment, freshness and possibility of your post-cleaning space.

Removing clutter at home removes obstacles to mental clarity by stopping up those little nagging drains that leak a little bit more of your energy every time you see that pile of papers that need shredding or the boxes of toys your kids no longer use. And the same goes for Spring Cleaning your credit report in advance of kicking off your house hunt. It’s stressful to have little credit report glitches get in your way and hold up the process after you’re already in heated house hunt mode.

Getting out in front of potential financing issues by doing a DIY credit cleaning gives you the chance to remove all those glitches and obstacles to a smooth loan approval, underwriting and home buying transaction.

Here’s how to do-it-yourself:

1. Do one scan for flat-out errors. Go to and order your credit reports from all three reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Look for accounts that aren’t yours, that have long been closed or otherwise are erroneously reported (e.g., payments listed as late that were actually on-time, a short sale listed as a foreclosure, etc.). Follow the instructions on the reports to dispute such report errors immediately – both online/on the phone and in writing.

Be prepared that it might even take several rounds of disputes and submissions of documents proving your case to ultimately clear everything up – if you experience this, make sure to loop your mortgage pro in after the first dispute round, rather than waiting months and months to even make the first call. It might be the case that the hard-to-dispute items are simply not making much of a difference to your ability to get a home loan.

2. Do another scan for small reporting inaccuracies you think don’t make a difference – but do. In particular, you’re looking for things like:

  • delinquencies that should have aged off
  • balances listed as higher than they truly are
  • limits listed as lower than they really are, and
  • short sales/foreclosures that are improperly dated, among other things.

Paying bills late or not at all is only one thing that dings your credit report and score. Having a maxed out credit account (loan, line or card) limits is another. So, if your credit report shows your balances as higher than they actually are or your limits as lower than they actually are, this by itself can actually impair your credit score.

These sorts of little, technical errors can, cumulatively, create a serious, negative impact on your credit score. They are very common – and commonly overlooked by consumers who are looking primarily for big, bad errors and wrong reporting that might indicate identity theft or other nefarious goings-on. So take a second tour through your credit reports looking for inaccurate balances and limits.

In the same vein, triple-check the dates of any delinquent payments, collections, short sale(s), foreclosure(s), or bankruptcies that are legitimately reported. Another common error is for these sorts of derogatory credit marks to have been dated inaccurately. Delinquencies should age entirely off your report after 7 years, and bankruptcies after 10. The precise date of a short sale or foreclosure can actually make or break your ability to qualify for a home loan – so make sure it is reported accurately.

3. Pay the right things off – and take care not to pay off accounts you need to show your responsible use of credit. A few things that most lenders will demand you settle, bring current or pay off entirely before you can buy a home:

  • accounts in collections
  • state and federal tax liens
  • past home loans or lines of credit in default that were not extinguished through foreclosure or short sale (e.g., second loans, home equity lines of credit, etc.)
  • defaulted federal student loans (for FHA loan applicants).

If you do have to negotiate with any such creditors for settlements or repayment plans, consider including the way they report the account as one of the negotiables in your settlement deal. Consult with your mortgage professional about how you should ask the creditor to report the resolution as part of the settlement – you might not get it, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

Your mortgage pro can also help you understand how you should sequence and prioritize the various items on this little laundry list. For example, some lenders might allow you to simply extinguish a tax lien at closing, while most FHA loans won’t allow for a credit pre-approval while you have a defaulted federal student loan on your report.

But do exercise some caution when you start paying off debt in preparation for home buying. Some house hunters take the opportunity to pay all their debt off and close out old, unused accounts, thinking it will document their readiness for the financial responsibilities of homeownership. Not so: credit scores are optimized when they show that you (a) have credit available to you, and (b) are responsible in how you use it. The ideal for the FICO score calculations is to be using roughly 30 percent of the credit available to you on your accounts. So don’t pay them entirely off, and whatever you do, don’t close accounts that are open and/or current.

That said, don’t go out charging up a storm trying to bring zero balance accounts up to 30 percent credit limit usage. A flurry of new charges can upset your debt-to-income ratio and be seen by the FICO calculating robots as a sign of potential financial distress.

4. Get your mortgage pro to help. Up to now, you’ve been working on the reports that you can pull yourself, for free, as mandated under the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) through These reports are free and are the smart starting point for your credit Spring Cleaning, but they have two important shortcomings:
(1) They are almost never identical to the report your lender will actually use as the basis of your mortgage application, and
(2) They do not include the FICO credit score on which lending decisions are based.

So, once you’ve dealt with any major or minor reporting errors you detect on the free reports, get your mortgage pro in the loop (if you haven’t already) and ask them to pull your report and FICO score, and help you to troubleshoot it. From the report, they can tell you whether you’ll have any challenges qualifying at the price range you desire and, if so, they can help you put a plan of action into place for finishing up your credit fitness program.

Many mortgage pros have software or expertise that can power a set of recommendations about what you need to do to complete your credit report Spring Clean, like paying 3 particular accounts down by a specific dollar amount, each. Also, they generally have access to Rapid Rescore or similar programs that will have your report updated and your credit score revised within a day or two after you pay a bill down or execute your mortgage broker’s other score-boosting advice. (By contrast, it can take 30 days or more it can take for your score to be updated if you dispute your report on your own.)

5. Ask about augmenting your report with non-traditional “tradelines,” if needed. If you simply don’t have much credit because you like to pay cash, kudos to you for managing your finances responsibly. Increasingly, lenders will allow borrowers to use non-traditional accounts to document their credit history. If you can document your history of paying your rent, health insurance, or even child care bills on time, every time, for at least 12 months, talk to your mortgage professional about whether you can use any of these accounts to prove yourself creditworthy to mortgage lenders.

Is anyone Spring Cleaning their credit report right now? What have you found – any tips or insights you can share?

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