December Housing Scorecard Shows Continued Home Affordability

RISMEDIA, December 27, 2010—The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury released the December edition of the Obama Administration’s Housing Scorecard. The latest housing figures show continued home affordability in the housing market, with interest rates near record lows, but the market remains fragile, as prices are unsettled. Foreclosure starts and completions dropped significantly in November, as lenders review internal servicing procedures. The housing scorecard is a comprehensive report on the nation’s housing market.

“The Obama Administration’s broad set of programs have helped promote stability for the housing market, neighborhoods, and the nation’s homeowners, but there is much more work to be done,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Raphael Bostic. “Since taking office in 2009, the Administration’s efforts have helped millions of families stay in their homes and helped millions more refinance, but the data clearly show that the market remains extremely fragile. That’s why we’re continuing to focus on successfully implementing the programs we’ve put in place—such as additional refinancing assistance and emergency loans to help unemployed homeowners—and ensuring that help is available to homeowners as early as possible.”

“While much work remains to be done to help families that have been hurt by this crisis, the Administration’s programs have benefitted many homeowners directly while setting standards for the entire industry,” said acting Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Tim Massad. “This is a major reason why there have been more than twice as many modifications and other foreclosure alternatives as foreclosure completions since April 2009.”

The December Housing Scorecard features key data on the health of the housing market including:

-Foreclosure starts and completions dropped significantly in November. As lenders review internal procedures related to foreclosure processing, many foreclosure actions have been delayed, leading to a 21% drop in foreclosure activity in November. While this is the biggest month over month decrease since 2005, the decline is likely to be temporary as lenders eventually revise and resubmit foreclosure paperwork in the coming months.

-As expected with the expiration of the Home Buyer Tax Credit, new and existing home sales have remained below levels seen in the first half of 2010. However, this month’s report also shows that home prices and home equity declined moderately, as prices remain unsettled at this fragile stage of the recovery.

-More than 3.9 million mortgage aid offers were initiated between April 2009 and the end of October 2010—more than double the number of foreclosure completions during that time. These actions included over 1.4 million Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) trial modification starts, more than 600,000 Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loss mitigation and early delinquency interventions, and nearly 1.8 million proprietary modifications under HOPE Now. While some homeowners may have received help from more than one program, the number of agreements offered were more than double the number of foreclosure completions for the same period (1.7 million).

Data in the scorecard also show that the recovery in the housing market continues to remain fragile. While the recovery will take place over time, the Administration remains committed to its efforts to prevent avoidable foreclosures and stabilize the housing market.

Althea Garner
Preferred Realty Executives (Florida and California)
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817
772-626-1768

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:
http://www.isellpslhomes.com

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
President-Elect – 2011 (Saint Lucie County)
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

REALTORS(R) Association of Saint Lucie
Vice Chair, Global Business – 2011

Florida Governor

I have just finished watching the gubernatorial debate on TV. Here is my post on Rick Scott’s web site: (Rick Scott has several websites that do not allow comment – this was the ONLY one that allowed comment – we wonder why!)

Sir:

I have just finished watching your debate against opponent Alex Sink and to be quite honest, I don’t know who is worse…. you or her!

Number one: Your body language is appalling and you falter with every statement. This does not foster confidence in your voters. Neither of you have confidence in what you are feeding the voters and this leads me to believe that BOTH of you are simply currying favor with the voters, only to feed your own egos after elections!

Number two: You did not answer A SINGLE QUESTION! All you did was to attempt to discredit your opponent. Now don’t get me wrong ~ I am not convinced that she is the right choice either but by gosh…. you did a great job of playing right into her hands with your hell-bound mission to bring out every single infraction in her career! If you are so religious (as you claim to be), then you will respect the notion that they crucified the last perfect person!

Number 3… and more to my point: You blatantly state that you will reduce unemployment. Exactly how do you plan to do that, Sir? What is your plan as this was never addressed in the debate? And BTW… I expect a tangible answer to this question – in detail – not the waffling and evasion that you employed on television.

As a REALTOR(R) in both California and Florida, having suffered through the bad decisions and laws passed by government which has simply taken us from a bad economy to a WORSE economy, I would like to know what you plan to do to resolve the distress sale issues that we have in this State.

How strong will you be in representing the distressed owners against government officials and representatives who are so far removed from the problem, as to not care about it. PLEASE tell me that you do NOT favor a bank bailout because I cannot see why banks should receive funding – they are the ONLY ones making money out of this recession and the ONLY ones that have not had to make any sacrifices.

What do you plan to do about the banks who are grossly overcharging customers to the point where homeowners have no alternative BUT to go into foreclosure?

What do you plan to do about banks that encourage homeowners to stop paying their mortgages while they assess a loan modification, only to foreclose on them for non-payment of their loan?

What do you plan to do about fraudulent charges that banks bring to their customers, that they cannot reverse, due to the change in dispute law?

What will you do to combat the inflated appraisals that banks obtain through THEIR appraisal companies (at listing), which are then low-balled at a later stage (after sale), so that banks can sue to get the appraisers insurance money and put them out of business?

Education in this country, but moreso in this State is a JOKE! I have no faith in the next generation of so-called leaders, who have been schooled and graded, not on merit, but graduated on multiple choice question papers, marked by teachers who fear their students.

Oh…. and what would you do about curbing government spending on unnecessary staffing? Government – Federal, State and local – is fraught with staff that spend 20 years with nothing to do only to draw healthy government retirement plans (yes, I have known a few)! Are you prepared to CUT those members of staff to save tax payers money? And while we’re talking about it, how much clout DO you have? … Do tax payers REALLY have to foot the bill for past Presidents and other Officials, to live out their lives on pensions to the standard that they have BECOME ACCUSTOMED TO, when the taxpayer can’t afford their own retirement?

I have SO MANY QUESTIONS that I, my collegaues and our clients have brought forth, that this post could never be long enough. If you could answer just 1% of these questions satisfactorily, you might be successful in getting my vote – although I very much doubt it, because I am of the opinion that you have not thought further than the day of elections.

Furthermore, you state that with regard to marriage between homosexuals (that was how the question was put to you), is concerned, you believe that marriage is a state that exists between a man and a woman. You said this TWICE! Are you aware that gay people do not wish to live in Florida BECAUSE of that archaic belief? Because they KNOW that GOVERNMENT opposes same sex relationships? Are you aware that this drachonian belief is the very reason that our State is not more prosperous than it is now? If you believe that this is what your Bible says, then, Sir…. why do you shave your head? There was a time when Biblical law provided that men should not cut hair/shave their heads OR their faces! I mean…. if you are going to take the Bible at the very meaning of the letter, then please, Sir, do so in entirety – don’t pick and choose according to what suits you at the time. If, however, you are progressive enough to shave your face and shave your balding head, wear a red tie (which, incidentally was ALSO not dictated by your Bible), then at least have the progressive nature to allow the same courtesy to others! Live and let live!

Oh, and incidentally, I am a US Citizen who was once an immigrant. Secure our borders? What a stupid statement! Have you ANY idea how many THOUSANDS of miles constitute our borders (hint: look at a map of the US… um… Google?)? Clearly you have NO idea what this issue involves! Believe me, having come through the process of what took me 25 years at a cost of over $100,000, you cannot teach me anything about the immigration laws that I don’t already know and which NEED REVISING! You, Sir, have never been an immigrant, know nothing of the process and cannot even begin to understand how to improve the situation!

Please understand that I have not yet made a decision as to who I will vote for, but vote I will! I will not vote for a party – I will vote for the BEST person for the job, but help me out here…… at least give me A LITTLE SOMETHING to work with!

(I came to this country with the intention of having a beneficial input into the lives of the people – I will not be silenced when so much needs attention! I have no doubt that this post will never air on this site, so I am posting it on other sites, so that the people of Florida may be better informed).

Althea Garner
REALTOR (R) MBA, MCI, e-Pro
Exit Beach Cities Realty (California)
Preferred Realty Executives (Florida)
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817
772-626-1768

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:
http://www.HouseOfHomesOnline.com
http://www.isellpslhomes.com

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
President-Elect – 2011 (Saint Lucie County)
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

REALTORS(R) Association of Saint Lucie
Vice Chair, Global Business – 2011

Hormone Replacement Therapy and Cancer

Most of my blogs are about or connected to the real estate world, in some way shape or form, but when I saw this news article today, I felt compelled to take a different direction:

ABC News ~ Combination hormone therapy linked to breast cancer deaths

You see, for many years, I have believed that the US is killing its people!

Prior to coming to the US, I lived in Africa and was happy, healthy and of normal weight. Within the first 8 months of being in the US, I lost 54 lbs and finally, when I collapsed, my son begged me to stop eating meat – ‘Just for a little while’, he pleaded. For two years, my diet was completely meat-free (not vegetarian) and surprisingly, I gained in both strength and weight. Then I gradually reintroduced meat into my diet and now 15 years later, I am overweight!

My initial massive weight loss was caused by an allergic reaction to hormones injected into food-producing animals, intended to raise the meat-to-bone ratio, so that the food industry may get a better return on sales. Continued ingestion of these hormones, increases the meat-to-bone ratio in people, resulting in weight gain and osteoporosis – both of which are conditions that are epidemic in the US!

Is it any wonder why the US is overweight? With a society of people eating cheap fast food, which is heavily laden with hormone-filled meat, deep-fried in cholesterol-increasing oil and pumped full of salt (for taste) and preservatives, we should not be surprised at the death toll! But this menu is encouraged because it supports the pharmaceutical industry, which churns out billions of dollars in pills prescribed for the health issues caused by ‘affordable’ meals!

The indoctrination starts at a very young age, with parents taking their children to fast food outlets for breakfast and entertainment. It follows them through their school years as parents provide children with lunch money – two fast food burgers quell hunger pangs better than one over-priced salad. You only have to witness the road verges, where students get off the bus – go ahead…. just count the fast food containers that litter your suburb on a daily basis!

Doctors are too quick to prescribe chemical drugs for simple disorders, many of which create more issues than they are intended to cure. A colleague recently commented “So you’re a Lipitor survivor, are you?” … it was only when I stopped taking Lipitor for high cholesterol, that I realized how sick it had made me and how extremely well I felt without it!

In an attempt to control the rising population, women are encouraged to take birth control pills – hormones. Then, when they reach menopause and all its debilitating effects, doctors are quick to provide relief in the form of hormone replacement therapy. When my doctor suggested HRT for my frequent and extremely uncomfortable hot flashes, I declined, suspecting that there might be a link between hormones and breast cancer and since my sister had lost a breast to the disease, I believed that I needed to be cautious.

Is there any way to get away from hormones and chemical cures? And is it any wonder why cancer deaths are so frighteningly high? There is no medical confirmation of this, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if one day soon, we are informed that there is a link between chemical drugs and Alzheimer’s disease!

Is it remotely possible that the US is killing its people in an attempt to boost the pharmaceutical industry?


Althea GarnerREALTOR (R) MBA, MCI, e-Pro
Exit Beach Cities Realty (California)
Preferred Realty Executives (Florida)
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817
772-626-1768

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:
http://www.HouseOfHomesOnline.com
http://www.isellpslhomes.com

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
President-Elect – 2011 (Saint Lucie County)
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):Education Vice Chair – 2009

Murder ~ The New Plague On REALTORS(R)

More and more we read about real estate agents found murdered at vacant properties and with the rising number of foreclosed properties, agents have become easy targets for rapists and killers!

A California agent was found stabbed to death a couple of months ago … two weeks ago two agents were murdered in Ohio and we have to ask ourselves what we are doing to protect ourselves and our clients? How many agents carry mace or weapons?

One can argue that our GE keys can track our whereabouts, based on the last Supra I-box that was opened, however, most vacant foreclosed properties have combo boxes, which do not have radio frequency.

Ted Cernak, of Costa Mesa, California designed a GPS ‘fob’ device compact enough to attach to one’s key chain, which would silently summon law enforcement at the press of a button! This device can be used anywhere, at any time: in the parking lot late at night, on vacation in a foreign country or in the event of a fall, heart attack or car accident.

I would invite Mr Cernak to give readers more information on this life-preserving device, by posting his response at this blog.

Althea Garner
REALTOR (R) MBA, MCI, e-Pro
Exit Beach Cities Realty (California)
Preferred Realty Executives (Florida)
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817
772-626-1768

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:
http://www.HouseOfHomesOnline.com
http://www.isellpslhomes.com

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

Will work for food!

There’s just nothing like standing on the center median of a busy intersection, holding a sign that says “WILL WORK FOR FOOD!”, but I did! It didn’t feel good, but this really IS what our economy has brought us to and there’s no escaping the fact that some folks can’t afford to feed their families.

Last week, a Huntington Beach, CA teen (18) went to school on his birthday and returned home to find that his parents had moved – without him! To be sure, it’s not just pets that are being abandoned in these troubled times.

Two months ago, 12 real estate agents at Exit Realty All Professional, Port Saint Lucie, got together to organize a food drive in conjunction with the Treasure Coast Food Bank – We called it ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors’. Two weeks ago, there were only 5 of us left. At set up this morning, there were only four us involved and by 10am, three of us remained, not counting the management.

Having handed out over 2,000 flyers in the community, advertised on radio, social networks and in the newspaper, the ONLY people who turned up to this free bar-b-q event, were two vendors who arrived heavily laden with food for the needy. This is so sad! A dollar…. that’s all it would have cost to support needy neighbors!

I will say this: Standing on the corner of Port Saint Lucie Blvd and Airoso, twirling my hand scrawled “Will work for food” sign, brought some quizzical looks! Most of those who stopped and handed me a one dollar bill, did not make eye contact, but I was grateful, all the same. For those readers who live outside of Florida, let me tell you that it was H-O-T out there and extremely humid and I now have far greater respect for the homeless people on various corners who do this daily!

Yes, we have to walk a mile in their shoes, to understand just how hard it really is, so next time you see someone begging for food, offer a cheery smile and cough up a dollar – they might not be the dead-beat you thought they were and who knows ~ God forbid that next week, next month or next year we could be collecting food for you!

My very sincere thanks to Beckie and Robert Fordin of ABOVE & BEYOND CLEANING SERVICES (772) 237-2267 and Danielle and Howard Schweitzer of Kleen-Rite Restoration Inc.. (561) 997-2212, for their tremendous support and very generous donations!

Althea Garner
REALTOR(R)
(772) 626-1768
http://www.isellpslhomes.com

Last Week In The News

New home sales rose 23.6% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 330,000 units from a revised rate of 267,000 units in May. Economists had expected a pace of 310,000 units. On a year-over-year basis, sales of new homes have fallen 16.7%.


The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city housing price index — on a seasonally adjusted basis — rose 1.3% in May after a 0.9% increase in April. On a year-over-year basis, property values increased 4.6%, the largest gain since August 2006.


The consumer confidence index fell to 50.4 in July from an upwardly revised 54.3 in June. Economists had anticipated a reading of 51. The index was benchmarked at 100 in 1985, a year chosen because it was neither a peak nor a trough in consumer confidence.


The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending July 23 dropped 4.4%. Refinancing applications fell 5.9%. Purchase volume rose 2%.


Orders for durable goods — items expected to last three or more years — fell 1% in June after decreasing a revised 0.8% in May.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 11,000 to 457,000 for the week ending July 24. Continuing claims for the week ending July 17 rose by 81,000 to 4.57 million.


The Commerce Department announced that gross domestic product — the total output of goods and services produced in the U.S. — increased at an annual rate of 2.4% in the second quarter of 2010. Economists had expected a slightly larger 2.5% increase. This follows a revised 3.7% pace of growth in the first quarter of 2010.


Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on construction spending on August 2, pending home sales on August 3 and consumer credit on August 6.


Althea Garner
REALTOR (R) MBA, MCI, e-Pro
Exit Beach Cities Realty
Exit Realty All Professional
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817
772-905-9133

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:
http://www.HouseOfHomesOnline.com

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

Lipitor and Insomnia

Since being mugged and severely beaten in my driveway in 1983, I have not been a particularly good sleeper. I never had difficulty getting to sleep, but tended to wake anywhere between 1am and 3am and then it seemed impossible to get back to sleep until around 5am. This would continue for about 4 days and then I would collapse into a 12 – 14 hour sleep and be OK again. Over the years, getting by on less sleep, just became a way of life, until recently…….

The lead-up to our move to Port Saint Lucie, Florida, recently was naturally hectic – filled with late nights and early mornings, while I packed, organized and continued to work full real estate days. Prior to leaving California, I had my annual check-up and ensured that all my meds were revised and re-upped.

When we arrived in Florida, life became a lot simpler and I couldn’t get enough sleep. I would sleep for 9 hours at night and then for another 6 hours in the afternoon! Despite having driven from coast-to-coast, I put this down to ‘jet lag’ or time zone changes. I also experienced morning nausea, which prompted me to start eating breakfast – something I haven’t done with any regularity since high school!

About 2 weeks ago, I turned out the light at about 11pm and tossed and turned ALL NIGHT, finally falling asleep at 5am! This was naturally followed by an afternoon nap and another sleepless night – and then another and another. I stopped the afternoon naps, trying to ‘push through’ till midnight in an attempt to force sleep, but still felt like a rotisserie chicken, turning, turning, TURNING, all night!

My son gave me a bottle of Melatonin but when one tablet didn’t work, I tried two. When this didn’t help, I tried Tylenol PM – first a half a tablet and the following night a whole tablet! After two weeks of being sleep deprived, I was exhausted by 11pm, but wide awake for several hours every night after turning out the light!

At 1am this morning, when sleep eluded me – AGAIN, I had the realization that a whole Tylenol PM, had in the past knocked me out for 24 hours – why wasn’t it working, now? I wasn’t even remotely drowsy! I cast my mind back over the preceding two weeks and it occurred to me that this was about the time that my Simvastatin (medication to combat high cholesterol) ran out and I started taking the new prescription, Lipitor! During my ‘medical’ my ‘bad’ cholesterol had peaked at 250 – the highest it had ever been, despite the Simvastatin, and my doctor put me on the stronger product, Lipitor. I wasn’t concerned as my husband has been taking Lipitor for several years since his heart issues began.

During our ‘trans-US’ trip, my routine had been a little off and I had been taking my meds in the morning instead of last thing at night. Before starting the Lipitor, I had read the instructions that said that it should be taken prior to sleep – I immediately made the change.

So, now wide awake at 1am, I moseyed on through to my computer and started some research on the side effects of Lipitor – and there it was! Insomnia, nausea, joint pain, irritability, depression… all symptoms that I had had since starting this medication! At 58, one doesn’t question joint pain! I put the irritability down to lack of sleep and the depression to the relocation.

As with most medications, Lipitor comes with the warning that if any side effects are experienced, one should ‘consult their doctor’, but most cases result in the doctor simply adding another prescription to deal with the latest complaint and before you know it, you are a walking pharmacy!

As I read on, I noticed that there were some conflicts: Tiredness and insomnia …. weight gain and loss of weight …. depression and anxiety, depending on the dosage and the way that the individual processes the drug – basically the interaction of the drug (a chemical) with the individuals natural body chemicals which would naturally vary from person to person, depending on age, weight, diet and dosage.

My mind went back to celebrities who have overdosed on drugs – many of them prescription drugs. These are folks who have become dependent on drug usage, just to function, but there it was… in black and white: some patients who suffer insomnia and who take sleeping pills, find that they cannot function with day-to-day activities (their work) and start to take ‘uppers’, just to get through the day!

OMG! I was shocked! I could TOTALLY understand why Michael Jackson took pain pills after his fire accident and ended up self administering anesthetic, just to be able to sleep. Believe me…. I was pretty close, myself!

What I don’t understand, is how some doctors simply prescribe another medication to counter the effects of the last prescription – each with its own set of side effects. Then there’s the problem of the medical insurance rejecting some medications, forcing patients to take those that don’t agree with them! Finally, we dip into depression and irritability that affects our families and friends as they react to our moods without understanding, our jobs and finally, we find ourselves confused, lost and alone! (Unfortunately, family and friends seldom relate changes in behavioral patterns with medication and one is just regarded as ‘cranky’ or difficult to live with – some simply regard the person as ‘just not nice’!)

My motto has always been ‘physician, heal thyself’, before resorting to drugs of any kind, so when I was told that my blood pressure was extremely high, I opted to drink more water, get more exercise and lower my sodium intake. While this worked for my blood pressure which is now normal, I was stuck with the cholesterol meds because my high count is hereditary rather than dietary.

My family’s reaction is for me to stop the medication because I have apparently not been very easy to live with lately, but this puts me back to starting a new prescription and who knows what the side effects of THAT could be?

My research showed that cholesterol medication is prescribed to be taken last thing at night because apparently more cholesterol is manufactured by the body during sleep (yeah, right… what sleep?) My first step will be to take my meds at 5pm, since I have been falling asleep about 6 hours after taking Lipitor. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try taking it in the morning and just dealing with the nausea.

The human body is a delicate chemical machine, that when another chemical is added, runs the risk of imbalance. Add another chemical to the mix and one runs the risk of swinging in the opposite direction or, worse still, plummeting deeper into further imbalance.

My quest now, is to attempt to restore that delicate balance, despite Lipitor.

Althea Garner
REALTOR (R) MBA, MCI, e-Pro
Exit Beach Cities Realty
Exit Realty All Professional
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817
772-905-9133

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:
http://www.HouseOfHomesOnline.com

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

What’s happening to America?

I arrived in this country almost 17 years ago from Africa. Images that one conjures up would be that of jungles, wild animals and mud huts, however, I was very much part of the corporate scene in a large city, much the same as Los Angeles. For years I had dreamed of one day living in the greatest country in the world – the land of opportunity…. the United States, and on the morning that I arrived, I kissed the ground in gratitude!

In order to be accepted by the US, I had to have substantial qualifications, a letter of tax clearance, AIDS clearance and Police clearance. Clearly, the US did not tolerate felons and in order to ‘fit’, I had to meet the high standard required by the greatest country in the world!

I noticed it immediately! The deterioration in the roads, the neighborhoods and it seemed as though many people were out of work – a huge contrast to my first visit, 10 years earlier, however the nation pulled itself out of that recession, so what makes this recession so different? One can lay blame at the feet of the mortgage industry and certainly I questioned it when a friend said ‘My son is a police officer by night and sells mortgage during the day’. This young man was not qualified in the mortgage industry, but I was assured that all he had to do was to sell the concept – someone else signed the client up!

What I was seeing was the start of greed. The land of opportunity had morphed into ‘the land of con artists’ and people who bent the rules to get what they wanted – money!!

With 2.9 million foreclosures in the last year, one has to ask oneself if all those foreclosures were necessary? Isn’t a roof over ones head, a necessity? As an active REALTOR(R), I tried to get inside the head of a foreclosed owner, to fathom the motivation – after all, I had worked hard and saved for years to afford our first home, and strived everyday to ensure that I kept it. Paying my bills was paramount in my life, to preserve the good name I had fought for, for over 50 years, so why were some people giving up? It just didn’t make sense, until…….

One of the reasons I am where I am today, is because I never stopped learning. To me education is vital, in order to remain competitive in my market. One of those training classes made me a Foreclosure Prevention Specialist and I was thrilled to be able to legally, consult with families, to help them keep their homes. Sadly, the more consultations I held, the clearer the picture became: since the last recession, America had become dependent on plastic – a society of people who could keep up with the Jones’s without having to afford it!

Wherever I looked, there were ads offering credit cards at zero interest, student loans and people soliciting credit availability from cars to clothing! Consumers found it easier to use plastic for their purchases, which were now so easy to come by. Gamblers purchased casino chips on-line… pornography became easy to obtain with a credit card and late night TV offered the latest in fashion and jewelry at the click of a button – all on credit card! We had entered an era where bad habits were easily hidden by the use of plastic!

Pretty soon, boats and cars entered the mix and one seminar I attended, encouraged the purchase of investment property, using credit card for the down payment! As a REALTOR(R) I can tell you that from the examination to the marketing, NOTHING happens without a credit card! Apparently, suppliers no longer use cash or check and plastic is ‘king’!

As I consulted with each family, I generated an income and expenditure account, to determine if they were eligible for a loan modification and more and more I noticed the trend – good living is what had led them to this point!

I asked one single lady what her car payment was: $950/month …. and she assured me that she couldn’t survive without her Mercedes or her entertainment budget of $500/month! That’s a mortgage payment right there, and yet when we were done, she said that she’d rather walk away from the property than change her lifestyle! I hated telling them that in order to get a loan modification, one has to prove hardship and having two luxury vehicles in the garage (both on lease) did not constitute hardship to the lender!

Another client had been on a ten year spending spree: a brand new Mustang convertible, a new career (and the training that he needed). With his HELOC (Home Equity Line Of Credit), he borrowed money to invest into a business, went on luxurious vacations and employed the services of a friend who constructed unpermitted modifications to enlarge his home! As a loving son, he set his mother up in a condo and maintained her – all on borrowed money and without a thought for either the future or of repaying the loan. When the HELOC was exhausted, he maxed his credit cards and when all else failed, he called me!

OH MY GOSH! What had happened to this great country, where status symbols and grandiose lifestyles had become more of a priority than a roof over their heads?

As a REALTOR(R), my business quickly slid from helping people to increase their investments, to helping them get out from under debt and day after day, I was dealing with those who had allowed debt and good living to place a stranglehold on them. These were desperate people who no longer answered the phone or paid their bills, allowing them to overflow from duffel bags in the corner of the room – unnoticed and ignored and when I (and REALTORS(R) like me) arrived, the demand was to ‘help’ them.

It never ceases to amaze me how we are not part of the problem, but we have to be part of the solution and the demand is almost always the same: “It’s YOUR JOB to get us FULL FORGIVENESS of debt!” and yet many of these home owners resent the commission that we earn whilst doing just that! Understand that a desperate person is very often a hostile person, so our job is never easy, and yet, we try to remain non-judgmental, positive and pleasant. (Interestingly enough, this same client did receive FULL forgiveness of his debt and still demanded $1,500 from us (REALTORS(R) towards his moving expenses!)

I was dealing with people who had stopped paying their mortgage, yet were still eating in restaurants, buying new clothing and going on vacation! What was I missing? Then the penny dropped! When the HELOC ran out, they lived on their credit cards and when those were maxed, the unpaid mortgage payments became their lifeline! These were people who CHOSE to not pay their mortgage!

Now, I hasten to add that MANY people suffered true hardship, loss of jobs, divorce, illness – those things that genuinely prevented them from making mortgage payments, however, not all 2.9 million foreclosures were due to hardship! Many were due to greed, convenience and the government stimulus programs that made it easy for them to walk away with full forgiveness, affording them a fresh start and a clean slate! These were people who made a broken system WORK for them! There are families who have lived in their homes for 18 months, without a mortgage payment and without eviction, exacerbating the problem suffered by most of the lending companies – the lack of staff to process the ever-growing piles of foreclosures, which is taking longer and longer to process due to the increasing number of defaults!

And what is so amazing is that they don’t feel the least bit guilty! Their argument is that their loans are insured, they paid interest and that the bank gets the house at the end of the day. True, true and true! Not only is the home-owners system broken – the mortgage industry’s system is also broken!

Watch this video: (not for the feint-hearted!)


Unfortunately, this blasé attitude doesn’t stop there!

In 2008, a friend and colleague of mine sat in her office, crying. When I asked, she said that her husband had spent their rent money on car repairs – it was just before Christmas and her kids would have no gifts. I took her to my bank, had her open her own bank account and she signed a promissory note for the $2,000 that I deposited for her from my account. Three months later, because she had helped me sell my home (probably 6 or 8 hours work), I reduced her loan to me by $1,000! When the promised six months passed and her loan (now only $1,000) became due, she avoided me and did not return my calls. After another year of dutifully sending her monthly invoices, I received an e-mail stating that she had no intention of EVER repaying the loan – ‘You can garnish my wages, if you like’ was her response!

In June of last year a fellow REALTOR(R) who had fallen on hard times, joined our brokerage, but she didn’t have the $295 for the franchise dues. I offered to help her by lending her the money. She left after two months to join another brokerage and now, a year later, has told me that I will have to wait until she closes a ‘deal’ before repaying me!

Another REALTOR(R) asked me to build a website for her – the cost quoted was $790 (considerably less than most web developers), to be paid in two payments, the second payment a month after the first. The deposit was paid and the site went up. Three months later, she, too has told me that I have to wait for her next ‘close’, before she can settle her debt.

Am I the only one who fails to understand the new rules of engagement? What has happened to our great country and why has honor fallen by the wayside? Why do people not care about their reputations, any longer and more importantly, what can we do to fix it?

Althea Garner
REALTOR (R) MBA, MCI, e-Pro
Exit Beach Cities Realty
Exit Realty All Professional
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817
772-905-9133

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:
http://www.HouseOfHomesOnline.com

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

Orange County infrastructure gets C+

 

But the region is still faring better than the nation, which earned a D.

By Kristen Schott
Published: April 07, 2010 09:29 AM
 
Orange County’s public infrastructure system has received a C+ but the region is still faring better than the nation, which earned a D, according to a new report conducted by a group of engineers and business leaders.The Orange County Leadership Symposium will unveil the 2010 Orange County Infrastructure Report Card tonight at the Costa Mesa Hilton. The study was produced by a partnership of UC Irvine’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Affiliates, the Orange County Business Council, and the Orange County Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

This is the third time that local officials and leaders have collaborated on such a project – in 2005, the last time the report was conducted, Orange County also netted a C+.

The region outperforms the nation for a number of reasons. The report cites freezing winter weather in other parts of the country that causes the systems to age more quickly; a younger infrastructure in O.C.; and a willingness to set aside funding for the development of projects.

Yet the county has three key problem areas: water supply and quality; flood control; and electrical supply.

Water supply and quality: More than half of the water O.C. relies on comes from the Colorado River and the San Francisco Bay Delta. The report notes that despite reservoirs, a major disaster could lead to an interruption in the supply. Plus, an increase in beach attendance, the population, and tourism has begun to make an impact on the region’s surface water quality.

The report gave O.C. a B- for its water supply and a D for its surface-water quality, which includes beaches and water parks, saying the region needs to work with the state and federal governments to receive support on new projects.

Flood control: These systems need to be continually upgraded in order to provide the highest level of safety for the public, but the report notes that it is a “challenge” to do so, especially during the economic downturn.

“Current flood-control funding deficiencies in Orange County for regional flood control facilities alone are in excess of $2.5 billion,” notes the report, which says that it is projected to take more than 90 years to upgrade the local system to be free from such problems.

The flood control system garnered a C-.

Electrical supply: The survey notes that recent rate increases approved by the California Utility Commission may not be enough to fund the needed work to replace and modernize the systems currently in place in the county and the larger region.

“As the infrastructure continues to age, the potential exists for less reliable service.”

The energy condition received a C+.

Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the ratings:

Aviation: B
Demand in O.C. will reach about 37 million in the next 15 years – but the current passenger limit is just under 11 million, according to the study, which suggests developing high-speed rail transportation to area airports. The report does make note of John Wayne’s “excellent” condition.

Ground transportation: B-
Measure M sales tax offers needed assistance, but not enough funding needed to perform many of the improvements needed for O.C.’s ground systems. The report again highlights the possibility of a high-speed rail to meet future transportation needs.

Parks/Recreation/Environment: C+
The economic downturn stopped more than 100 projects totaling $70 million for local recreation areas in 2008 and 2009, and O.C. lacks the $680 million needed for new projects in the next five years.

School facilities: C+
Despite improvements over the past five years, school districts have seen enrollment drop or remain the same, which lessens the need for renovating the grounds. “Deferred maintenance and upgrading of older school buildings continues to be a daunting problem to solve,” notes the report.

Solid waste: B+
The overall picture for solid waste was pretty positive, due to the region’s recycling and waste diversion projects. O.C.’s three landfills have more than 40 years of life among them.

Wastewater: B
The systems in place are “generally well run,” and funding and planning to replace older parts of the infrastructure are “generally adequate.”

Looking ahead, the report notes that local businesses and individuals can support the region’s infrastructure a number of ways, including conservation and reuse, and supporting key bond and fee proposals.

“Without funding to maintain our infrastructure, the water, roads, electricity and other necessities of daily life may not be there at the moment you need it, or at the quality level you’ve come to expect,” notes the report. “Without it, the high quality of life that we enjoy here in Orange County will diminish.”

Courtesy of OCMetro

Should She Worry?

I received a frantic calls the other day from a lady who came home to find a notice tacked to her front door. Her question was: “Should I be worried?”

Background:
According to the caller, her husband had stopped paying their mortgage in February 2009, but didn’t tell her until documents had to be signed by them both for a loan modification 2 months ago. Needless to say this put great strain on a long standing marriage.

The loan modification was started – or so they were told….. nothing was received in writing .

The document stated that the house was to be sold on the steps of the Courthouse on September 30th – My answer was short and sweet: YES, YOU NEED TO BE WORRIED, but she insisted that her husband had been told just that morning by the loan modifier, not to worry.

In a situation like this, the property owner should have received a running record IN WRITING, of contact that the modifier had had with the lender. After all, what proof do they have that the modifier has done anything at all? Based on the Notice of Trustee Sale, it would be a fair guess that little or nothing had been done and certainly nothing had been achieved. The home owner has the right to know what progress if any, has been made.

Another distraught home owner listed his home with me as a short sale, as he too had not made mortgage payments since February 2009. I was encouraged, due to the shortage of time, to engage the services of a short sale attorney. I was assured that neither I, nor the seller would have to pay for this service, being told that the payment would be “a line item on the Escrow statement”. This led us all to believe that the lender would cover the attorneys costs.

From the outset, this proved to be a debacle! The first person I dealt with didn’t keep me abreast of progress, and requested the same documents of me three times. Three times I sent the documents to him and finally asked my Title rep to contact him.

Having received no information for three weeks, I found that I had been passed to another person, who also relied on me calling HER! Five weeks passed, with only three successful contacts which revealed little or nothing.

Now, two months in, I learned from the attorney in a round table meeting, that if the lender refuses to pay short sale attorney costs, and the seller CAN’T pay short sale attorney costs, these costs would be tacked onto the BUYERS costs! This means that the buyer would be paying an additional 3% for the property! This fact had not been disclosed to myself, my broker, the seller OR the buyer!

At this stage, (as his deadline date was growing closer) the seller fired the attorney and I took over the negotiations at no additional cost to anyone. From my very first call with the adjuster, I discovered that the lender had sent documents of approval to the attorney who had neglected to let me know DESPITE MY CONVERSATIONS WITH HER!

Three weeks after releasing the attorney, I received an abusive and threatening call from the attorney. When I tried to speak, he simply shouted over me – I hung up! My seller received a similar call, threatening him with a lawsuit.

What right do attorneys have to bully people, when they are guilty of lack of communication, lack of performance and with holding information? Sadly, this tactic usually works with the home owners because they are scared and confused, however it is at this time when they deserve understanding and assistance.

Home owners are falling victim to this sort of dealing, on a daily basis. It is ‘easy money’ for attorneys and fly-by-night loan modifiers – many of whom are attorneys. I don’t know what the loan modifier charged, but the short sale attorney would have charged 3% of the sale price, for making a few phone calls!

Although I couldn’t help the lady whose home was to be sold on the Courthouse steps, I did put her in touch with a colleague who arranged for FHA to take over. Once FHA steps in, there is a good chance that the auction process will be arrested, while they apply for a loan modification on behalf of the home owner. This is a free service.

Althea Garner

REALTOR (R) MBA, MCI, e-Pro
Exit Beach Cities Realty
Your House Of Homes Online
(714) 264-3458

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:
http://www.HouseOfHomesOnline.com

http://www.BuyCheapHomesToday.com

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Education Chairperson – 2009 (South County)
VP of Membership – 2010 (South County)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009