The Virginia Homeowners Alliance is inviting Virginia's homeowners to an official Web-based launch event, "The Housing and Mortgage Crisis in Virginia" on Monday, January 12 at 11:00 a.m.
This event is being broadcast live at www.VAHomeownersAlliance.com. They have assembled several economic and housing experts to participate in a lively roundtable discussion. The panel will answer questions from homeowners and provide valuable insight and analysis to assist them as they weather this economic downturn.
Here's some more information about the Virginia Homeowners Alliance:
What is the Virginia Homeowners Alliance?
- The Virginia Homeowners Alliance (VHA) is an exciting new Web site provided by Virginia's REALTORS® to better inform homeowners and help them protect their homes
- It's not an organization with boring meetings and a bunch of bureaucracy. It's an organization composed of a free, one-stop online shop (www.VAHomeownersAlliance.com) for improving the value of your home and keeping up with local issues that affect your community and your quality of life
- By joining VHA, you can stay informed of all the latest news relating to real estate taxes, property assessments, residential and commercial developments, transportation, school construction and a host of other issues affecting your home, family, and neighborhood
What other features can you find on www.VAHomeownersAlliance.com?
- Easily contact local government bodies including your city council, board of supervisors, school board, planning commission, and housing authority to name a few
- Lawn care and other valuable home maintenance tips
- Local school report cards
- Energy saving pointers
- "Kids' Room" where children and parents can access practice SOL tests
How do you join the Virginia Homeowners Alliance?
- Visit www.VAHomeownersAlliance.com and register as a new member. Membership is completely FREE
If you're a homeowner who has an existing mortgage, beware (and if you're an agent or broker, you may want to pass this on to your clients). A mortgage scam going around the country has made it to Loudoun County.
The scam involves receiving a "hello" letter in the mail saying something like,
Dear (insert your full name here),
Your mortgage has been sold to (insert name of a reputable lender here). Beginning (the first of next month), please remit payment to the following address:
(insert name of reputable lender here), P.O. Box (XXX), (city, state and zip code)
The letter may seem valid and very real with further language such as,
"Your terms and rate will not change whatsoever. The only thing that will change is the address where you send your payment. If you have any questions, feel free to call (insert phone number here)."
What may actually be happening is that you're sending your mortgage payment to a scam artist that collects your check, cashes it and runs off with your money. Often times, the P.O. Box is forwarded to an overseas "boiler room" address controlled by scam artists. You will not only lose your money, but your existing mortgage company will come after you for non-payment.
Your mortgage being sold to another lender or servicing company is not uncommon. But you should receive a "goodbye" letter from tyour existing lender before you receive a "hello" letter from the new lender/servicing company.
If you have not received a "goodbye" letter from your existing lender prior to receiving a "hello" letter, contact your existing lender to confirm that your loan has been sold before you send any payments to the new lender. You will need your loan number to confirm the change so have that ready before you call.
And don't worry…you have up to 60 days after your loan has been sold to send payments to the original lender before having to send it to the new lender. That gives you plenty of time to contact your existing lender to confirm the change while continuing to pay your mortgage payment on time to your existing lender.
Note: Even if you have received a "goodbye" letter, it may be a good idea to verify your loan has been sold prior to sending a payment to the new lender/address.
And if you do find out that you've received a bogus letter that's actually a scam, let your lender know immediately.
2009 Loudoun County residential property assessed values are estimated to go down an average of 12.8 percent, according to a Jack Brown, Economist for Loudoun County, during a presentation he made at the DAAR Economic and Housing Forecast Summit.
Mr. Brown did say that these were preliminary estimates from the Loudoun County Assessor's Office and that they could change. But I doubt the average percentage drop will be much different once the 2009 assessments come out early next year.
Wonder what the Loudoun County tax rate will end up being with a 12.8 percent drop in assessed values…Loudoun residential taxes are already the highest in Virginia.
If you're buying a condo or own one already and think that the master insurance policy provided by your condominium association provides you with all the protection you need, you may want to read the fine print. Master insurance policies cover "limited common elements" and "general common elements", but do not cover your personal belongings nor improvements. You still need your own insurance to protect your valuables and any improvements you've done within your home.
So what exactly does the master insurance policy cover? It covers problems and issues relating to "limited common elements" and "general common elements". Here's the definition of each:
- "Limited common elements" refers to space outside your unit that is not accessible to everyone living in the condominium property, and is reserved exclusively for use by one or more, but less than all, of the unit owners in the condominium. Examples include balconies, roof decks, parking spaces and storage areas.
- "General common elements" refers to those portions of the property used by all the unit owners in general. Everything that is not a unit (the space where each owner lives and owns) or a limited common element is a general common element. Examples include foundations, roofs, slabs, boiler rooms, laundry rooms, perimeter walls, common stairs, building lobby, trash areas, water mains, utility rooms and the land the condominium property is on.
Notice that nothing in either definition mentions personal property or improvements being covered.
For example, let's say water flooded into your property, damaged your walls, ruined your newly-installed hardwood floors and your 42-inch plasma and you had to rent temporary housing while the repairs were made. The damage to the walls would be covered by the master insurance policy, but your newly-installed hardwood floors, 42-inch plasma and temporary housing would be your own problem to deal with (and pay for).
To cover yourself, you need an insurance policy knows as an "HO-6". This a separate policy that cover personal losses. It should also cover things that your master insurance policy does not such as vandalism, theft in your property and personal liability coverage.
How much does an HO-6 policy cost? Generally between $250 and $350 per year. That's a small price to pay considering what typical replacement costs are for items such as floors, tv's, computers, appliances and temporary housing.
If you don't have your own insurance already, the first step is to take a close look at the terms and conditions of your master insurance policy (your condo association can provide you with that) and see what is and what isn't covered. Then talk with your insurance agent to see what kind of supplemental coverage you need in the form of an HO-6 policy.
Don't be like most and wait until something bad happens. With an HO-6 policy being relatively low in cost yet, covering so much, it's well worth it and every condo owner should have one.
Tip: When looking for HO-6 policy providers, start with the company that issued the master insurance policy for your condominium property. The reason to start there is because, should a claim on both the master insurance policy and the HO-6 policy be made, the same company covers both claims rather than two different companies having to litigate the issue of who covers what.
Though this information came from credible sources, make sure that you check with an insurance professional for guidance on this issue.
Every time there's turmoil, the scum of the earth come out of their holes to prey on people. This time around, they're preying on troubled homeowners by pretending to part of the foreclosure prevention program "Hope Now" (which is a completely legit government program that actually works).
Here's how far these scam artists have gone…
They've copied the Hope Now web site and then send those looking who land on it looking for help to a different pay site. They're also sending out mailers almost identical to the ones Hope Now sends out that direct homeowners to a site that charges for advice.
HOPE NOW Executive Director Faith Schwartz told the meeting of the Fed’s advisory panel that one scam involved the creation of a Web site that mirrored the alliance’s own site down to small details. That Web site has since been shut down.
She also said ‘copycat’ mailings had been going out that match letters HOPE NOW sends to distressed homeowners, but which contained a different toll-free number to call for assistance. The homeowner is then charged a fee for making the call.
“All of the regulators and all of us need to be vigilant about making sure that all services are free. We have to get out to the media and the public that counseling should be free, validate who you are talking to,” she told Reuters. via Reuters.
So be careful out there and always double-check everything so you don't get swindled by some of these scam artists and scum of the earth.
And yes, the Hope Now web site linked to at the top of this post is the real-deal Hope Now web site.
Hat tip to The Real Estate Bloggers
Though we had some awesome 70 and even 80 degree weather in Loudoun County over the last week, the colder fall weather has officially arrived. That means that it's time to prepare your home for winter. Even though we may not get as much snow as you see in the picture above, temperatures are sure to drop below freezing. If you don't prepare your home for those cold temps, you may be dealing with burst pipes, lots of money in repairs and a headache you don't need during the holiday season.
Here are some tips on what to do in order to prepare your home for winter:
- It's a good idea to locate and clearly mark your main water-line valve and check it for proper operation (make sure it opens and closes easily and all the way). This valve controls water flowing into your home from the public water supply outside. Marking the valve will allow you to quickly turn off the water if a pipe should burst or you have other water problems.
- Water lines exposed to freezing air, such as lines in a crawl space or other unheated space, should be insulated and wrapped in heat tape.
- Never try to thaw frozen pipes with an open flame or torch.
- If you cannot maintain heat inside your home, take further precautions to prevent damage, such as turning off the main water supply and draining the plumbing.
- If you'll be away from home for an extended period of time, keep the thermostat at a reasonable temperature to make sure all areas with water pipes are kept above freezing.
And most importantly…follow these steps in order to ensure the pipes to your outside spigots don't burst)
- Turn off the valves to your outside spigots inside your home.
- Go outside and completely open the valves on the outside of the home and let the water totally bleed out of them.
- Once the water has completely bled out, close the valves up again.
- Go back inside the home and open up the little bleeder valve located on or directly next to each outside spigot valve.
If you follow these simple steps, you'll reduce your chances of a burst pipe and hopefully not have to spend any more money this holiday season than you already have to.
Hat tip to Larry Hays, Home Inspector with Phase Systems and a member of ASHI.
Many home buyers wonder why they should purchase Owner's Title Insurance. Afterall, it's anywhere from several hundred to a few thousand dollars, which is definitely not chump change. To be honest with you, most of those who purchase Owner's Title Insurance will never need it.
But the reason why you should always purchase it is because a title issue could cost you tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars and possibly your home.
Here's a recent real life example of Owner's Title Insurance coming to the rescue:
My buyer clients submitted an offer on a foreclosure/bank-owned property in Broadlands. The seller, Wells Fargo, accepted the offer and we continued on with the closing process.
At the 11th hour, the settlement agent, Mike McFarlane from Highland Title and Escrow, and the seller's title agent, Samuel I. White, PC, noticed that there was a discrepancy on one of the forms. The form, which was signed by the previous owners (who were foreclosed on), took the wife's name off the deed and gave the husband sole rights to the property. The husband had signed for the wife using a Power Of Attorney. The problem was that the Power Of Attorney was dated the day AFTER the deed was signed. This meant that the deed was invalid.
This presented a huge problem for everyone because it meant that the wife may still have claim to the property. But…that's where title insurance comes in.
Since Wells Fargo had foreclosed on the property and had title insurance on the property, the title insurance company was responsible for previous owner's issue and Wells Fargo and the buyers were off the hook. The sale could go on.
Had the seller not purchased title insurance, the sale would most likely not have gone on and the buyers would have been without a home. In addition, Wells Fargo would have been stuck with a huge legal mess.
Here's another real life example:
Years ago, there was a plot of land in Countryside that was bought by a developer. The developer built a community of town homes which were all sold to home buyers. Once the development was complete, someone contacted the developer and all of the homeowners in that community saying that they had rights to that land and they were illegally on it.
It turns out that this person, a Native American Indian, provided proof that this land was rightfully theirs based on an 100+ year old written contract. In fact, the land the community was on was a Native American Indian burial ground with some of their ancestors buried in it.
The story ends as such…each home owner's title insurance company got together with the other and they ended up settling with the person for millions of dollars.
But what if one of the home owners did not have title insurance? That homeowner would have to come up with their share of the settlement on their own or give up their home, neither of which are good.
As you can see, once a title issue arises, it's usually not small. Though the possibility of it happening is very small, are you willing to gamble your greatest asset and your family's home on it not happening to you? Several hundred to a couple thousand dollars is a small price to pay when compared to what could happen (IMHO).
NOTE: There's a way to save up to 30 percent off of Owner's Title Insurance. Click here to find out how.
Already behind or about to be behind on your mortgage payments? Facing foreclosure? If so, check out this post over at LoudounForeclosures.com regarding a new Virginia law that took affect July 1.