FORECLOSURE SCAM: WATCH OUT FOR PHANTOM HELP
By: Donna Fuscaldo
In the phantom help foreclosure scam, con artists promise you assistance, but they're just helping themselves to your money.
Phantom helpers may target a neighborhood with a direct-mail campaign promising help for those facing foreclosure; but don't get taken in by a scam. Few things are scarier than the prospect of losing your home to foreclosure. Scam artists know that and will test your vulnerability by offering "phantom help" as part of a foreclosure scam. Knowing the difference between legitimate help and a foreclosure scam can prevent you from losing your home.
How do they hook you?
Phantom helpers may blanket a hard-hit town or neighborhood with a direct mail campaign promising relief for those threatened by foreclosure. When you're feeling desperate - and when panic sets in - good judgment goes out the door.
What do phantom scammers do to you?
Of course, just because they seek you out when you're feeling vulnerable doesn't mean you have to yield. A cool head and education are your best protection when foreclosure scam artists show up with reassuring words. They'll start by telling you they can negotiate a deal with your lender - but they have no intention of doing so.
Instead, phantom help scammers may:
- Isolate you, telling you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or a credit counselor.
- Demand upfront fees.
- Tell you to make all the mortgage payments to them instead of your mortgage firm - before they disappear.
- Trick you into signing over the deed to your house and, when it's too late to save the home, sell it for whatever they can get.
- Use the government's name to dupe you into making payments to them, by using official-sounding acronyms like "TARP" or official-looking website addresses.
- Try to charge you for access to free government assistance.
- Extract enough personal information to commit identity theft.
Educate yourself to protect yourself
Tip off: You never need to pay to find out about legitimate government programs. A housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can point you in the right direction - for free.
MORTGAGE RATES DIP, REACHING ANOTHER RECORD LOW
Daily Real Estate News
For the second time in a month, fixed and adjustable-rate mortgage rates set new record lows this week, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey. The previous record lows were set Aug. 18. Economic uncertainty and employment concerns are continuing to keep rates low, says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.
Here's a closer look at rates for the week ending Sept. 8:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.12 this week, down from last week's 4.22 percent. The 30-year rates' previous low was 4.15 percent, set on Aug. 18.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.33 percent this week, down from last week's 3.39 percent average. Its previous record low was 3.36 percent.
- 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.96 percent, holding steady at the same record low it set last week.
- 1-year ARMs: averaged 2.84 percent this week, down from last week's 2.89 percent average. Its previous record low was 2.86 percent.
Despite the low rates, mortgage application volume remains low, dropping for the third straight week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported this week. The volume of mortgage applications for purchase remained relatively flat this week at "extremely low levels, close to lows last seen in 1996," says Mike Fratantoni, MBA's vice president of Research and Economics. Refinance application volume was also down, dropping more than 35 percent below levels last year at this time.
5 KEY HOME UPGRADES FOR AGING IN PLACE
By Paul Bianchina
It's something we'd all just as soon avoid, but there's no getting around it: We're all getting older. And that's something worth keeping in mind as you plan and remodel your home. The concept of "aging in place" -- making changes to your home to make it more comfortable and more adapted to your needs as you age -- is one that's been gaining a lot of popularity, especially in these tough economic times.
There are a number of things you can do, large and small, that will help make your home work for you instead of against you as you age. And many manufacturers are taking note of this trend as well, offering a wide range of innovative and attractive products so your home can also remain every bit as stylish as you'd like.
Doors can be one of the biggest obstacles to easy movement in the home. Consider opening up smaller doorways to create 34-inch or 36-inch doorways wherever possible. Another alternative is to use a pair of 18-inch or even 24-inch pocket doors to make a nice wide opening that's also very attractive.
To make doors easier to open, replace doorknobs with levers. Replace exterior steps with simple ramps, or combination step/ramps. With more extensive remodeling projects, also consider making hallways wider -- ideally 48 inches.
Many companies are now offering "comfort-height" toilets, which are about 2 inches taller than standard toilets. These are easier to get on and off of, especially for people with sore backs or weaker legs. Wherever possible, plan on more free space in front of and to the sides of the toilet to allow for easier movement, especially for a walker or wheelchair.
Grab bars are a very useful addition in the bathroom: in the tub, shower and around the toilet. For safety and security, they need to be properly anchored to solid wood, so if you're remodeling your bathroom, be sure to install some blocking in the walls; it's a simple and inexpensive thing to do, even if you're not planning on installing grab bars right away.
Don't like the institutional look of chrome grab bars? A growing number of companies are offering them in colors, ranging from bright white to shiny black and everything in between, in both acrylics and powder-coated metal. There are also some sleek new styles available.
Tubs and showers
There are some simple things you can do to make using your tub or shower easier to use. In addition to grab bars, a seat can be a real plus. These can be portable, or one of the fold-up versions that are attached to the wall. There are many different styles available, in everything from plastic to very stylish teak.
Lever-handle controls are easier to grip and turn than ones with smooth knobs. That applies to the sinks as well as shower and tub controls. Think about where you'll be standing -- or sitting -- in the tub or shower, and place the controls at a convenient location. Make sure that you install anti-scald valves, and install hand-held spray heads. Also, install a shelf at a convenient location for soap and shampoo, to prevent dangerous reaching or stooping over.
Barrier-free shower stalls are well worth considering if you're redoing your bathroom. One company I spoke with at the recent Pacific Coast Builders Show was demonstrating a very innovative, dam-free shower pan that's installed on the floor, then sealed in place with a membrane. The entire bathroom floor and pan are then tiled over, creating a seamless, barrier-free installation that's sleek, attractive and anything but institutional. You can check them out at www.designwithoutbarriers.com.
Another innovative idea comes from the folks at Kohler, with their new Elevance bathtub. This truly unique tub has a vertically sliding wall in front. The wall drops down to create a chair-height seat for easy access into the tub. Sit down, swing your legs in, then raise the wall -- it takes only 5 pounds of force to lift. Fill the tub, and the special double seals snap into place to seal the wall against leakage. When you're done enjoying your bath, drain the water, then lower the wall for easy access to get out. You can see it here and also get a link to a video of it in action.
This bar graph represents the Single Family Home Sales each quarter for 2011. The Bank Owned Sales continue to rise each quarter as cash buyers still comprise at least half of the sales reported. Traditional & Short Sales continue to hold steady, but Traditional Sales have definately risen since the first quarter of 2011.
The columns as shown above portray the median sales price for Single Family Home sales for each quarter of 2011. The median sales prices continue to be consistent throughout 2011.
Call 702-604-7739 to BUY a home, Call 702-482-7739 to SELL a home. YES - We are Las Vegas Real Estate specialists with Keller Williams Realty Las Vegas and specialize in Las Vegas Short Sales. http://www.ballengrouphomes.com
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Pending Home Sales Decline in August but Remain Above a Year Ago
Washington, DC, September 29, 2011
Pending home sales slipped in August with a mixed regional performance but are higher than a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, declined 1.2 percent to 88.6 in August from 89.7 in July but is 7.7 percent above August 2010 when it stood at 82.3. The data reflects contracts but not closings.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the decline reflects an uneven market. "The biggest monthly decline was in the Northeast, which was significantly disrupted by Hurricane Irene in the closing weekend of August," he said. "But broadly speaking, contract signing activity has been holding in a narrow range for many months."
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6 Favorite Home Improvement Apps for the iPad, iPhone, iPod
By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
If you've jumped on the Apple "i" bandwagon, you're never far from iPhone, iPod, and iPad apps that help maintain and improve your home - values near and dear to our hearts.
Here are a few of our favorites:
ColorSnap Sherwin-Williams (free)
Snap a picture of anything and this app tells you which Sherwin-Williams color most closely matches your photo subject. The coral shade in my kitchen curtains, it turns out, is Redbud. I press another button and coordinating colors - Palm Leaf and Cargo Pants - pop up. Browse color families to find ones you love, and then adjust for lightness and saturation.
Home Improvement CALCS ($2.99)
This handy app has more than 115 calculations for every home improvement project imaginable - from determining how much asphalt you'll need to repave your 10-by-10-ft. driveway (3.75 tons) to how many bags of mulch will cover a 40-by-6-ft. yard, 3 inches deep (30 2-cubic-foot bags).
Ruler 2 (99 cents)
This app is for emergency measuring when no ruler or tape is handy. Ruler 2 includes a pointer you drag along the length of an object smaller (preferably) than your i-gizmo. A digital readout gives you the length. To measure longer objects, you have to swipe and move the iPhone/iPad/iPod, and things get a little complicated, so Ruler 2 works best measuring smaller things, such as screws.
iHandy Carpenter ($1.99)
iHandy is a digital toolkit that turns your Apple device into a plumb bob, surface level, bubble level bar, steel protractor, and ruler. All tools, except the ruler, have digital readouts.
Dream Home ($1.99)
Dream Home contains hundreds of design ideas for your remodeling project: It's all the fun of shelter magazines for a fraction of the cost and weight. The app presents pages and pages - I mean screens and screens - of photos of high-design rooms in real houses. Photos are sorted by color, style, and popularity. For an extra $1.99, you can add photos of rooms decorated for the seasons. If you feel like sharing, upload pictures of your home improvement project and they'll become part of the app in 48 hours.
I.D. Wood: Your Pocket Guide to Woods From Around the World ($4.99)
This pricey app provides everything you need to know - and a few things you don't - about 160 species of wood, from the common (white oak) to the exotic (Australian black bean). The pictures are beautiful and true-to-life, and the tips for working with each species are useful: Did you know beech wood has one of the highest shrinkage rates of all hardwoods? Now you do.
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