Bush Signs Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 Into Law

For release:
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

LOS ANGELES (July 30) – The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) applauds President Bush’s decision to sign H.R. 3221 into law. For the past several years, C.A.R. and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® have aggressively lobbied for Congress to pass numerous provisions found in this historic bill.

The legislation, called the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, will assist an estimated 400,000 homeowners facing foreclosure, many of whom reside in California, by allowing them to refinance their current mortgages with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-backed loan. The bill also will permanently increase FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac loan limits in high-cost areas.

“This federal housing bill is a significant move in the right direction for California homeowners,” said C.A.R. President William E. Brown. “It will aid in stabilizing our economy and help stem foreclosures, while also providing support to first-time homeowners.”

The bill permanently increases the conforming loan limit to $625,500. C.A.R. has long advocated for higher conforming loan limits. In February, the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 was signed, temporarily raising the conforming loan limit in high-cost areas to $729,750 from $417,000 until December 31, 2008.

“Although we would have liked Congress to make permanent the current $729,750 loan limit, C.A.R. is pleased with the new permanent loan limit of $625,500. It will allow California homeowners to refinance their loans into safe affordable loan products and allow first-time home buyers to enter the market,” said Brown.

The new loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the greater of either $417,000 or 115 percent of an area’s median home price, up to $625,500. The new FHA loan limit will be the greater of $271,050 or 115 percent of an area’s median home price, up to $625,500. Both new loan limits will be effective at the expiration of the economic stimulus limits on December 31, 2008.

C.A.R. also supports the following bill provisions:

. A temporary increase in mortgage revenue bonds to refinance subprime mortgages.

. New regulator for Government Sponsored Enterprises to restore investor confidence in GSE loans and help the market and economy stabilize.

. First-time home buyer tax credit, which allows first-time home buyers to receive a tax refund worth up to 10 percent of a home’s purchase price, up to a maximum of $7,500. The refund serves as an interest-free loan and the homeowner is required to repay it in equal installments over 15 years.

. Temporary raise in the loan limit for the Veterans Affairs home loan guarantee program to the same level as the economic stimulus limits until the end of 2008.

. Adjustment to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA), allowing sellers to provide the non-foreign affidavit to a qualified closing entity and not just the buyer.

. The setting of minimum requirements for mortgage originators, which mandates fingerprinting of loan originators and establishes a nationwide loan originator licensing and registration system. The requirements do not apply to those only performing real estate brokerage activities unless they are compensated by a lender, mortgage broker, or other loan originator. States will have the ability to implement more stringent laws.

. The creation of a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help cover the cost of the FHA rescue plan for the first five years and develop affordable housing in subsequent years.

Other provisions in the legislation include:

. The Treasury Department’s proposal to create a federal backstop program to ensure the financial well-being of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

. The FHA’s inability to insure loans that utilize a seller-funded down-payment assistance program. Down-payment assistance from family, employers and other nonprofits is still allowed.

. The Community Development Block Grant Programs’ $4 billion allotment for communities to purchase and refurbish foreclosed homes.

Leading the way…® in California real estate for more than 100 years, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (www.car.org) is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States, with nearly 175,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles.


Althea Garner
The House Of Homes Online


Not all property sales are easy!

I commented to my selling clients today, how much I was going to miss them when they move. I have grown very fond of this family, during the short time that their home has been listed (sold in 9 days) and during the Escrow period (30 days). They said “Aw, we bet you say that to ALL your sellers!”

Not really!

I had occasion to assist another Realtor with a listing that has left an indelible mark on my psyche resolving to NEVER deal with that kind of seller again!

True, it was the holidays and true, there was a lot of emotion attached to the house for the seller. Anguish, bitterness and a couple of deaths in the family, all led to the crescendo of 48 hours before Close of Escrow.

The agent in question, under her own personal distress, miscalculated the ‘move out’ date – she also did not attend to repairs or termite work, rather taking the sellers word for it that it had been done… it had not and this involved having the house tented after the buyer took occupation. This meant paying for the accommodation of the buyers and family for the three days of tenting. It also involved a credit back to the buyer for repair work not done during Escrow and an incentive of $1,000 to the seller to co-operate. This was not the way I like to see an Escrow progressing, but it was not my listing and I was simply there to help IF needed and IF called.

I was called in 48 hours prior to Close of Escrow, in the thick of the seller shrieking out that she refused to move, threating attornies etc! Huh? I pointed out to her that she had signed the acceptance of the Purchase Offer, agreeing to move out 3 days after Close of Escrow. The trouble was that the Listing Agent had added three days onto the ‘Close of Escrow + 3 days’!

What a mess! The buyer was threatening to sue – the buyers agent was threatening to sue – the seller was refusing to move and threatening to sue and we were caught up right in the middle! The seller said that she didn’t CARE if we all got sued – well I did and I let her know this!

Now I am normally fairly even tempered and I can take a lot, being a patient person, but when I see unfairness and self centeredness, I tend to lose my good nature and I let the seller know that if I had to pack her stuff and move her myself, she WOULD move out according to her own signed agreement!

We started packing her stuff – 30 years of clothing, cosmetics, shoes, memorabilia, family memories, 6 children’s memories and all the stuff they left behind, grandchildren’s incidentals and a deceased parents belongings that the seller just couldn’t part with.

Add to this the fact that the seller was leaving her husband, without a forwarding address and no provision for his care. The man was 82! How do you throw out an 82 year-old spouse without a cent?

There was not one part of this disaster that sat well with me and I certainly did not enjoy those 48 hours. Not the least of which, was dropping a plastic cup which rolled under the fridgerator…. I reached down to retrieve it, when my wedding ring caught the fridgerator door – EXCRUCIATING PAIN!

I rushed for the cold water faucet and as the water ran over my hand, I watched as my finger ballooned around my wedding rings. I knew that something was not right and headed to the nearest Urgent Care. I got about a half mile from the sellers home, when I noticed that my finger had turned black and I stopped into a jeweller who dropped everything, to cut my rings off.

At Urgent Care, X-rays were taken, confirming that my finger was indeed broken in two places ($1,000 bill ensued). While my finger healed, it was a full two months before I could wear wedding rings again and then a full two sizes bigger, to accommodate the now permanently crooked finger – the pleasure of having my rings rebuilt (not reset) was $375.00!

As we continued to pack the sellers things, she walked around supervising, and all she could say about my broken finger was ‘Bad luck!’

Well, we closed on time and the buyer took occupation of their new home. The seller called the next day to ask in which box her sheets were packed….. duh? If she had packed her OWN things, she might have known, right?

This is truly one seller that I will never forget – although I’d LIKE to and although some may say that it comes with the territory, I don’t think so. A professional Realtor will keep his/her eye on the timeline of an Escrow, paying close attention to what needs to be done and when. A professional Realtor KNOWS when Escrow is due to close and works to ensure that it happens on time, liaising closely with the other agent (I should have seen disaster when this agent told me that ‘Escrows that close on time are the exception to the rule and not the norm’ – uh…. I have never had an Escrow that DIDN’T close on time – otherwise, why bother to set a Close date?

A professional Realtor also knows when to ask for assistance when he/she becomes overwhelmed or overcome by personal issues, so that buyer and seller are not affected.

You know, stuff happens and if anything is going to go wrong, it’s going to go wrong during the Escrow period. Things going wrong, is normal – letting it get completely out of hand is not!

Still, that experience taught me a great deal and one of those things is that not all sellers are easy or flexible. Basically, not all sellers WANT to sell! They want their house sold but they don’t want to move or let go and the conflict sets in. It is at times like these that a strong agent is needed – one that can guide the seller to reason.

Make no mistake, having sold my own home this year, I KNOW that selling one’s home is not easy, but as a seller, one must accept that from the moment the Listing Agreement is signed, the home becomes a product – it is no longer the loving home that houses a lifetime of memories… it has become a marketable product and the listing agent spends a small fortune on the marketing.

No more than the Mother cow or chicken comes to the supermarket to tell you that her baby was with them  for X months and now you’re simply wanting to grill its body parts….. do YOU consider the mother cow or chicken or even the baby cow or chick for that matter, when you fire up that bar-b-q? No! It’s a product! No more – no less and it’s part of the cycle of life.

Buying or selling a home is an extremely emotional experience so, when YOU choose to list your home or even buy a home, make sure that you enlist the services of an agent who is not only going to represent you well, but also one who will stand BY you, ensuring that he/she keeps his/her head, when you might be losing yours!

Happy house-hunting!

Althea Garner
The House Of Homes Online


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Summer is here and so is the heat!

Oh, my gosh! I come from Equatorial Africa and one would expect that this heat would be something that I’d be used to? NOT! Since moving from Orange County to Signal Hill, I have discovered that things are a good TEN DEGREES HOTTER here!

Now add to that the fact that I am a woman and you have ten MORE degrees! Menopause will add another ten degrees and Signal Hill is 120 degrees, to me! (she says as she reaches for the packaged frozen peas to place on her forehead!)

I kept telling my husband that the air conditioner was not working, but when I finally threw open all doors and windows and removed all screens, he called in the experts! Sure enough, Matt at Waltons A/C verified that although the air was blowing (that’s what made the noise), the air was not being cooled. My hormones could have told them that!

So, 4 tons of furnace and 3 tons of cooling system, later and I am in hog heaven!

Why 4 tons of furnace if I want to be cool? Well, the way it was explained to me, is that it’s the furnace that does the blowing but the cooling system that does the cooling (or is it the other way around?). If you have insufficient furnace to do the blowing, the cooling system has less air to cool! I am told that you always have to have equal to or more furnace to blow that that which is cooling.

In some twisted way, although I am not a heat/cooling expert by any stretch of the imagination, that made sense to me, but whatever the case, I am a happy camper with my new air system. Oh, and my office also has a swamp cooler AND a fan for those periodic ‘Power surges’!

Whoo-Hoo……I’ve got it ALL, Baby and it only cost us $4,500! Thanks Waltons (888) 992-5866)!

Althea Garner
The House Of Homes Online

Buyers and Sellers beware!

Despite the mass exodus of Realtors from the local market,  I am still appalled at the number of so-called ‘seasoned’ agents, remaining, who don’t know how to draw up a simple contract!

Let’s back-track a little:

There has been much comment regarding the bar being too low – that it is too easy for Real Estate agents to obtain a license,  thereby leaving unsuspecting Buyers and Sellers at the hands of inexperienced and unknowledgable agents.  To be sure,  the DRE has tightened up the exam requirements, but in my opinion,  they have still not done enough to furnish the industry with qualified agents who are, in fact ready to go into the field.

Realistically, would YOU be comfortable with a new agent representing you, who has never drawn up a contract before, ?  One can argue that everyone must start somewhere, but as a consumer of the highest priced commodity in today’s market,  wouldn’t you feel better if your ‘Rookie Agent’ had an experienced agent – or better yet, the responsible Broker – with them?  I know that I would!

How do you know that your new agent isn’t leaving you at risk of lawsuit?  When you list with a new agent, has he/she put the commission rate in the correct place/s,  or are you being left wide open to pay the full and agreed commission to BOTH agents, thereby doubling your commission overhead?

Any new agent (assuming that you KNOW that they are a new agent) will tell you that their strength is in the Brokerage and yes,  as the listing belongs to the Brokerage (and not to the agent) this is partially true, but not all Brokers read the contracts until it is too late!

So yes,  there has been a drop in the number of agents servicing the Real Eastate industry but they have not left because they didn’t make the ‘experience’ grade – they left because they ran out of money and could no longer sustain themselves!  There are too many part-time agents out there,  who are working at Target or waiting tables, in order to keep themselves afloat, until another unsuspecting Buyer or Seller comes along!

I have always believed that a new agent should ‘under-study’ a seasoned agent for a period of 6 months, however, seasoned agents are not in favor of doing this – after all,  in that 6 months, the new agent would become privy to all the marketing secrets that bring business to the seasoned agent!

So back to my original statement, that I am appalled at the number of so-called ‘seasoned agents’ that still don’t know how to draw up a simple contract! While challenging an agent, recently,  I was told:  “He (the Broker) is wrong!  I’ve always done it this way!”  Well,  that doesn’t make the mistake, right and when choosing to believe a Broker or an agent,  I will believe the Broker every time – especially one with 30 years Brokerage experience!

Does this mean that in choosing your real estate professional,  that you should select one who is a Broker?  No! But you SHOULD both READ and QUESTION the contract before signing it! If there is a paragraph that you don’t fully understand, insist upon it being explained to you and don’t be fobbed off with: ‘It’s standard’! No one person has the answers to everything and your agent might admit to not having an answer to one of your questions.  The ideal answer would be “I don’t have the answer at this time, but I can get back to you in 24 hours”.  This would enable the agent to take the expert advice of his/her Broker, however,  when that answer comes back to you, make certain that it is in writing! A verbal answer to a key question, could cost you a lot of money and a verbal answer might result in ‘He said/she said’ at a later stage, leaving you out in the cold!

Your home,  whether you are buying or selling,  is the single most expensive investment that you will ever make – don’t leave yourself open to agent error. Rather have the agent draw up the contract and spend a little money in having a legal expert read through it first. Remember that buying or selling a home is an emotional transaction and nothing this expensive should be signed, emotionally! At the very least….  sleep on it!

Althea Garner
The House Of Homes Online