Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Housing and Mortgage Relief Bill


President Bush just signed the new bills passed by Congress.

Essentially it will:

Provide FHA $ 300 billion authority. Standard requirements for FHA lending will be relaxed. Fixed rate mortgages and affordable mortgages will be the focus of the Federal Housing Administration, to assist at least 400,000 distressed homeowners.

Relief to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by the Treasury Department will be allowed, in the form of loans or buying stocks in these government-sponsored corporation. Concurrently it will put in place regulations and tight controls on both corporations, as authority to approve pay packages for their executives. A new fund will be created called the "affordable housing fund" which will be drawn from their profits.

Loan limits will be raised up to $ 625,000 in many high-cost areas. FNMA and Freddie Mac will be allowed to buy loans up to 15% more than the median home prices in some cities.

FHA will be modernized and allowedinsure loans to less qualifying borrowers. Loans up to $ 625,000 in some areas will be included.

Up to $3.9 billion to some of the most troubled communities will be granted with the purpose of buying and reconditioning foreclosed properties.

$15 billion in tax breaks for housing. Credits of up to $7,500 to first-time-homebuyers will be granted for home purchases till July 1, 2009. A deduction of $500 to $1,000 on property taxes will be allowed on returns which do not itemize.

$ 11 billion in additional tax-free municipal bonds are allowed to States so that they can provide low-interest loans to first time homebuyers.

Protect mortgage holders from investors' lawsuits when they accept to modify the terms of their loans to troubled borrowers.

$ 180 million aid for pre-foreclosure counseling to distressed borrowers.

One of real estate's major problems is the tightening of loan standards by most lending banks and institutions.

One can expect that these new rules will help establish new standards in lending and facilitate the financing of home purchases that has been a major factor in real estate downturn.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc. and a Florida Licensed Mortgage Broker.
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where you can search for Miami Beach Condos, Sunny Isles Condos

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A curious case of foreclosure

A curious case. Read on.

Foreclosure halted for couple who say they were tricked into selling home

From Daily Business Review (again) July 24, 2008

By: Vesselin Mitev

Applying a recently passed New York state law to a "questionable"
transaction, a Nassau County judge has halted a foreclosure to give
the homeowners a chance to prove they were tricked into selling their

In Washington Mutual Bank v. Sholomov, 021490/07, Supreme Court
Justice Daniel R. Palmieri denied a motion by Washington Mutual to
foreclose and sell the Glen Cove, N.Y., residence of Frank and Vincenza Dizazzo.

Noting "inconsistencies" in the homeowners' arguments, Palmieri suggested that Washington Mutual Bank ultimately might prevail and rejected a motion to dismiss the action. But he gave the Dizarros 30 days to submit an answer and allowed discovery to go forward.

According to recent news reports, a surge in foreclosure actions has prompted courts to take a variety of actions to slow the pace.

Here, the decision required Palmieri to apply New York's Home Equity Theft Prevention Act, which went into effect on Feb. 1, 2007. In doing so, the judge weighed "the rights of both homeowners claiming to have been duped out of their home and the lending institution now seeking to foreclose on a mortgage made to the party the homeowners claim was part of the scheme."

The Dizzazos claim they were "defrauded" into signing over ownership
o f the home where they still live to Oleg Sholomov. Their allegations are detailed in affidavits filed in connection with the foreclosure action and in papers filed in Dizzazzo v. Capital Gains Plus Inc., 523/08, a separate fraud action. Washington Mutual is not named in the fraud action.

According to Palmieri's decision, the Dizazzos' home at 39 Titus Road
in Glen Cove was in foreclosure under an action started in February 2007 by Wells Fargo Bank.

With that action pending, Vincenza Dizazzo sought another loan. She was referred to Stanley Shvartsman, a representative of an entity she identified as the "Home Funding Group." On April 16, "under circumstances not fully explained by the Dizazzos," she was faxed a contract of sale with Sholomov as the buyer. She reported that she had signed the document and returned it.

Palmieri pointed out that the Dizazzos stated in one part of their moving affidavit that they thought they were merely getting a mortgage and did not realize they were selling their home. But the judge said another section of the affidavit indicated that the possibility of a sale had been discussed earlier but not represented in the agreement.

On May 22, Ms. Dizazzo said she was driven to a location in Queens for a closing she had been told her husband need not attend. She was represented by attorney Diego A. Estrada, while Terence Scheurer represented Sholomov, who also was present. Estrada and Scheuer could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Dizzazo allegedly signed "a series of papers without knowing what they were." She claimed that she was driven to a location in East Meadow, N.Y., where her husband's forged signature was allegedly notarized onto several documents including a deed to Sholomov. She said she was then driven back to the closing where the transaction was completed.

According to the decision, the forged signature also appeared on a settlement statement issued by Kaufman & Khaldarov, a Mount Kisco, N.Y., law firm.

"I was there on behalf of the bank and the other parties all had attorneys who instructed me how to distribute the loan," said Harry Kaufman, a principal in the firm.

Kaufman said that the entire transaction "looked legit" as all parties were represented by lawyers, who dealt with one another.

The stated purchase price of the house was $615,000, of which Sholomov made a $1,000 down payment. Washington Mutual loaned $584,250. The sale netted the Dizzazos $217,766, according to the decision, but they received only $156,126.

The foreclosure was commenced on Dec. 3, 2007, but the Dizzazos defaulted. The bank then moved for a judgment of foreclosure.


While the documentary evidence presented "only pieces of a puzzle, it is sufficient for the Court to conclude that the defendants may have a defense to this action based upon a questionable mortgage transaction," Palmieri wrote.

Among the "substantial irregularities" listed by the judge were the absence of Frank Dizzazo from the closing, despite his purported signature on closing documents; "the disappearance and return of Vincenza with the documents now bearing Frank's signature, including a deed, with no independent question of identity being raised by the plaintiff," and the absence of more than $52,000 purportedly due the Dizazzos.

Moreover, the judge said these factors had to be seen "in light of the pending foreclosure action, knowledge of which the plaintiff bank must be charged."

In his analysis, Palmieri focused on Real Property Law 265-a, otherwise known as the Home Equity Theft Prevention Act. He noted that the statute was enacted to protect homeowners against "aggressive equity purchasers'" who, using deceitful practices, could induce the sale of a home for a fraction of its market value.

Palmieri said that the law was enacted to provide the homeowner with the information needed to make an "intelligent and informed" decision. Here, a number of requirements under the statute were not followed, among them a written notice of rights to the seller in the contract of sale and a separate writing containing notice of the right to cancel the transaction.

It is "certainly questionable" that Sholomov, who also was in default, was a "bona fide purchaser for value," wrote the judge, as the Dizzazos continue to reside in their Glen Cove home, and the transaction only required a down payment of $1,000 for a home worth roughly 600 times more.

In turn, while Washington Mutual "is not directly implicated as 'equity purchaser'" because of its loan to Sholomov, Palmieri held the bank "still must be charged with knowledge, through its agent, of the possible application of the statute and of its violation."

The judge noted that the Dizzazos' arguments had "inconsistencies" which may ultimately prove fatal to their case if it is shown that they willingly took part in a scheme to save their home.

However, the evidence presented by Washington Mutual, consisting solely of an attorney's affirmation, did not explain away the irregularities in the transaction and lacked "any probative value."

The court set a conference date of Sept. 30. After discovery is completed, the judge said that the bank could reapply for its judgment by means of a summary judgment motion.

Jace McColley of the New Jersey office of Fein, Such, Kahn & Shepard,
represented Washington Mutual. McColley did not return phone calls.

Frank Mitchell Corso of Jericho, N.Y., represented the Dizzazos.

In an interview, Corso characterized the decision as important to banks that lend money to purchasers who may be involved in mortgage fraud schemes, as delineated in the state act.
"The banks now have to be extremely careful as far as following procedure because they may become a party to the fraud," Corso said

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
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where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condo

Hard Times for Condo Associations

We read this article in the Daily Business Review on July 22, 2008

Before you examine it, let me make my point.

Most Condo associations I know are in a healthy financial condition, are well managed and do not experience the kind of problems faced by those mentioned in this article. This story is about specific cases and does not convey the general picture.

However, we must admit that the rate of delinquency in condominium fees payment is at historic highs, as is the rate of mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures.

This is a nationwide problem, and is accentuated in Florida due to overbuilding, real estate speculation, and all what we already know about the present real estate crisis. However, condominiums are here to stay. Their legal structure and management rules are being improved by new laws and regulations. Legislature has recently rewritten them to address many issues. Abusive condo boards can still be a problem in many cases, as well as issues in condominium management. However, they are the exception.

This is the text of the article:

Condo Meltdown
Desperate times call for desperate measures for condo associations
As bills mounted and revenue shrank, the board of Miami Beach's luxury Bentley Bay condo knew it had to take drastic action.
Facing a spike in delinquencies and the need to pay the bills, the Bentley's condo association opted to take a hard line with lendersthat took over units there - many from investors who went intoforeclosure.
In one instance, the condo association took legal action against alender that it said was dragging out the foreclosure process to avoidpaying maintenance fees.
Condos like Bentley Bay are increasingly resorting to such desperate measures to collect enough money to keep their buildings operating.It's also proof that even upscale condos in areas considered insulatedto a market downturn are feeling the pinch.
As more units go into foreclosure, communities - especially newlybuilt or converted projects - are struggling with rising nonpayment ofassociation fees. Beleaguered board members are ratcheting up legalpressure on lenders who've launched foreclosure action against unitsbut are slow to take title to the properties - a move that helps lenders delay taking on responsibility for condo fees. Unit 212 at the Bentley was mired in a drawnout foreclosure process,and fees were mounting.
The cashstrapped condo association finally asked Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Daryl Trawick, who was overseeing theforeclosure case, to force U.S. Bank to take title to the unit or immediately start paying maintenance fees.In his June 1 order, Trawick gave U.S. Bank, the trustee for CitigroupMortgage Loan, two choices: Don't foreclose and start paying maintenance fees on a unit it doesn't actually own, or foreclose andpay thousands of dollars in pastdue fees.Even with the first option, U.S. Bank would have to eventually pay thepast due fees if it later foreclosed.
When a lender forecloses on a condo unit, it is responsible for six months in past due maintenance fees or 1 percent of the mortgage. Lenders are also responsible to pay maintenance fees for as long as they own a unit. The maintenance fees on Unit 212 are more than $1,000 a month - $807 in regular maintenance fees and $208 for a special assessment. Unit 212 had been behind in payments since September.
Condo boards are also moving to force lenders who aren't paying thecondo dues to auction off properties they've taken back. Other boardsare putting delinquent owners on a fast track to collection.
One option apparently not on the table for condo boards: bankruptcy,since it's intended to help organizations that are swamped with debt,not those suffering from large revenue shortfalls.Newer condos and conversion projects are suffering the most becausespeculators flocked to those buildings during the housing boom.
But now that the market has imploded, many can't afford their mortgage and condo due payments. Those buildings are also more likely to haveborrowers who used exotic mortgages and adjustable mortgages that havehelped push more homeowners into foreclosure. Older communities are hurting, too, because owners refinanced at thetime of easy credit, and now they can't afford higher condo fees and adjustable mortgages that are resetting higher.
It becomes a vicious cycle, too, as condo associations pass special assessments to make up for late payments, only to send more owners over the brink.When banks begin foreclosure proceedings against condo owners, the units often end up in a financial limbo. U.S. Bank filed a lis pendens- a notice of pending foreclosure - on the unit in September 2007,according to MiamiDade property records. By May, the association was owed $8,557 in condo fees, and U.S. Bank still hadn't taken over theunit.
That's when the U.S. Bank was ordered to start paying. Despite the ruling, the bank has yet to take action, according to I. BarryBlaxberg, who represents the Bentley Bay. He said the condo plans toask the court to enter a judgment against the bank to collect the debt. Blaxberg, of Blaxberg Grayson Kukoff & Strauss in Miami, began taking slow-acting-lenders to court six months ago and has seven similar cases pending among different condo associations, he said."It shows the evolution of what is going on in the condo world," he said. "Necessity is the mother of all inventions."
Historically, lenders have taken about four months to seize condosfrom nonpaying owners. But as the foreclosure crisis worsens, lendersare taking up to a year to take title of a property, real estate experts said.
Colin Hendrick, president of Surfside's Carlisle On the Ocean, a former apartment building converted to condos in 2004, is also goingafter delinquent lenders. About 30 of the 115 units in Carlisle areowned by banks or in the process of being taken over, he said.
Last month, the association began foreclosing on five condos owned by delinquent lenders, said attorney Ralph Ruocco, with Glazer &Associates in Hallandale Beach. The lenders - who are often trustees for the bondholders who invested in a securitized mortgage pool - include Wells Fargo, Regions Bank and HSBC Mortgage Services, according to public records.
His firm represents the Carlisle. Glazer & Association last month successfully forced the sale of abankowned condo at the luxury Residences at the Bath Club in Miami Beach. The sale helped the Bath Club 's condo association collect morethan $32,000 in overdue fees from Wells Fargo, as trustee for aninvestment pool that owned the mortgage on that unit.
The condo at the Bath Club sold for $1.45 million during the height ofthe condo boom. At last month's foreclosure auction, the unit sold for$438,100.Ruocco predicts more lenders will lose properties to auctions because they didn't make maintenance payments on time.
He blames it on disorganization rather than a lender's strategy to avoid paying fees."Their organization is horrible," he said. "Their left hand doesn't seem to know what the right hand is doing.
Banks' representatives call me to ask me who the prior owner of a unit was because they are trying to figure out who internally is responsible for talking with me." Hendrick hired Ruocco's firm more than a year ago, when the Carlisle was $300,000 in debt. At that time, only 30 owners were paying themaintenance fees, Hendrick said."It was so bad, we had no idea how we were going to pay the electricalbill," he said.
To cope with the shortfall, the Carlisle board has reduced the hours of its maintenance staff, renegotiated contracts with service providers, charged each unit about $3,000 in special assessments andincreased the condo dues, which average about $500 a month per unit.
The board is still dealing with a deficit of more than $12,000 amonth.At the 358-unit Shaker Village condo in Tamarac, more than 80 ownersare late with their monthly payments. Many refinanced during theheight of the condo market and are now struggling with mortgagepayments and the maintenance fees of $370 a month, according to Bernice Klayman, president of Shaker Village association.
Hoping to pressure delinquent owners, the board is giving owners 45days to pay up or else. The board is no longer willing to wait three months before it moves to put a lien on a unit, Klayman said."We had no choice but to become more aggressive," she said. "It isunfair to the people who are paying."Klayman said the board is open to payment plans when owners want topay but are having financial troubles.
Monte Kane, a certified public accountant and adviser to condoassociations, said condo boards need to work with each delinquentowner and draft payment plans that will work for them, before moving to foreclose."Meet with the owner, try to understand their problems and have a discussion on whether a payment plan can be conceived," said Kane,managing director of Kane & Co. in Miami Condo attorney Donna Berger, with Katzman Garfinkel in Fort Lauderdale, said she represents associations where nearly 80 percent of the units have fallen behind.
In one instance, a unit owner lent money to the association to help pay the bills, she said."Desperate times call for desperate measures," Berger said.Tom Roses, president of the Continental Group, one of Florida's largest property management companies, said his firm is trying to come up with ways to help its condo boards speed the collection process.
Continental is giving attorneys for boards realtime access to association books to quickly identify the owners who are late in their payments and began the collection process immediately, Roses said."We're [also] looking into bridge loans as a future option for our clients, but at this point, the idea is very much in its infancy," he said.

One tactic attorneys say won't help most cash strapped associations is Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is intended to keep creditors at bay until a company restructures its finances." If it's an income problem, not an expense problem, then Chapter 11 won't work," said bankruptcy lawyer Arthur Rice, with Rice Pugatch Robinson & Schiller in Fort Lauderdale.Bankruptcy works for associations that were victim of a onetime event,and need to restructure their debt as they recover financially.
Chapter 11 won't help an association keep the lights on and the insurance current if fees are drying up, several bankruptcy lawyers said.Under rare circumstances, some associations do turn to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.View West Condominium Association in Kendall filed for Chapter 11 in February to buy time to collect a special assessment to pay a roofing company that worked on its roof, according to court documents.
It also gives the association time to resolve a dispute over the contractor's work performance.Douglas Snyder, View West's attorney, said the filling was not related to high delinquencies. "If something can get fixed with Chapter 11, then bankruptcy is an option," Snyder said. "But if people aren't paying the maintenance, then Chapter 11 won't cure the problem."

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condo

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Rules for Home Mortgages

New mortgage rules released July 14th, 2008

I just read the new regulations. I believe that they address lots of issues that have been plaguing the consumer.

The prepayment penalties have been always a big hurdle for people trying to get off high-cost mortgages. They often extend through five years.

I remember a case when we wanted to pay off a mortgage. We were only missing one month from the three years penalty to expire.

I offered the bank to pay them the month in advance, just to avoid the penalty. I begged and talked to a few officers, to no avail. I tried to explain that the bank would in fact benefit from it, since we would be giving them a full extra monthly payment which would be the equivalent of waiting for the penalty to be up. They coldly refused.

This is the kind of situation that could be avoided with the new rules.

The new rules put on the lender the burden of verifying that a borrower will be able to repay a loan from his income or own assets, rather than counting on the revaluation of the home value. Three or four years ago, such a measure would have prevented more than a "flipper" to speculate and cause economic harm to the lender, the builder or himself.

I have to do some research about the "no-income-verification" loans, and if they will still be available when a large down payment is proposed, and the borrower's high credit score could justify it.

I am sure that these are essential steps that had to be taken to avoid future mortgage crisis. As usual, they are too late and might negatively affect lenders' flexibility.

I had recently noted the growing difficulties in obtaining a mortgage. These new regulations could further deteriorate Florida real estate market and delay its recovery. But no one can discuss the necessity of bringing back to reality what was once a solid industry that went completely off course.

The real estate wild ride started around 2001, which effects are been suffered today, would have in good part been avoided had lenders applied some of these rules. Meanwhile, big money has been made by players in the mortgage industry and big money has been lost, mostly by homeowners and small investors.

In reality, I believe that the real estate "boom" allowed US economy to survive a few years feeding on the ability of homeowners to draw funds from their inflated and unreal home equities, using the recourse of refinancing.

The fact is that America and Americans are deeply in debt. We are surviving by selling out our country, our jobs, and our currency to all the countries that have financed our madness during the last decades.

One "boom" after another have only prolonged the agony, putting meanwhile millions or billions in the pockets of a few, while sinking a majority of our citizens in credit card debt, stock market losses, and home foreclosures.

My opinion is that America will only be as strong as its real economy can be. Not the Wall Street and hedge funds economy, but our industrial force, our human resourses, technology, industrial and agricultural production.

While we are exporting our jobs, losing our technological advantages in manufacturing know-how, closing our factories, replacing our food production with ethanol production, selling our major corporations, selling our land, selling our prime real estate to foreign corporations, just to pay off our huge trade deficits and the outrageous oil prices, we will be on the wrong path.

Job losses and underpaid jobs are increasingly undermining middle class. Outsourcing started by affecting lower-paying jobs, but has extended, and now affects our college graduates, our engineers, the core of our workforce and even the higher spectrum of our society. Unemployment, inflation, and stagnation have to be reckoned with as ominous threats, and no more be ignored.

The cold fact is that the famous American dream of home ownership is fading because most people simply cannot afford it any more.

Here are the new mortgage rules - July 14, 2008

The Federal Reserve Board on Monday approved a final rule for home mortgage loans to better protect consumers and facilitate responsible lending. The rule prohibits unfair, abusive or deceptive home mortgage lending practices and restricts certain other mortgage practices. The final rule also establishes advertising standards and requires certain mortgage disclosures to be given to consumers earlier in the transaction.

The final rule, which amends Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) and was adopted under the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA), largely follows a proposal released by the Board in December 2007, with enhancements that address ensuing public comments, consumer testing, and further analysis.

"The proposed final rules are intended to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts and practices in mortgage lending, while keeping credit available to qualified borrowers and supporting sustainable homeownership," said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. "Importantly, the new rules will apply to all mortgage lenders, not just those supervised and examined by the Federal Reserve.

Besides offering broader protection for consumers, a uniform set of rules will level the playing field for lenders and increase competition in the mortgage market, to the ultimate benefit of borrowers," the Chairman said.

The final rule adds four key protections for a newly defined category of "higher-priced mortgage loans" secured by a consumer's principal dwelling. For loans in this category, these protections will:

  • Prohibit a lender from making a loan without regard to borrowers' ability to repay the loan from income and assets other than the home's value. A lender complies, in part, by assessing repayment ability based on the highest scheduled payment in the first seven years of the loan. To show that a lender violated this prohibition, a borrower does not need to demonstrate that it is part of a "pattern or practice."
  • Require creditors to verify the income and assets they rely upon to determine repayment ability.
  • Ban any prepayment penalty if the payment can change in the initial four years. For other higher-priced loans, a prepayment penalty period cannot last for more than two years. This rule is substantially more restrictive than originally proposed.
  • Require creditors to establish escrow accounts for property taxes and homeowner's insurance for all first-lien mortgage loans.

"These changes have made for better rules that will go far in protecting consumers from unfair practices and restoring confidence in our mortgage system," said Governor Randall S. Kroszner.

In addition to the rules governing higher-priced loans, the rules adopt the following protections for loans secured by a consumer's principal dwelling, regardless of whether the loan is higher-priced:

  • Creditors and mortgage brokers are prohibited from coercing a real estate appraiser to misstate a home's value.
  • Companies that service mortgage loans are prohibited from engaging in certain practices, such as pyramiding late fees. In addition, servicers are required to credit consumers' loan payments as of the date of receipt and provide a payoff statement within a reasonable time of request.
  • Creditors must provide a good faith estimate of the loan costs, including a schedule of payments, within three days after a consumer applies for any mortgage loan secured by a consumer's principal dwelling, such as a home improvement loan or a loan to refinance an existing loan. Currently, early cost estimates are only required for home-purchase loans. Consumers cannot be charged any fee until after they receive the early disclosures, except a reasonable fee for obtaining the consumer's credit history.

For all mortgages, the rule also sets additional advertising standards. Advertising rules now require additional information about rates, monthly payments, and other loan features. The final rule bans seven deceptive or misleading advertising practices, including representing that a rate or payment is "fixed" when it can change.

The rule's definition of "higher-priced mortgage loans" will capture virtually all loans in the subprime market, but generally exclude loans in the prime market. To provide an index, the Federal Reserve Board will publish the "average prime offer rate," based on a survey currently published by Freddie Mac. A loan is higher-priced if it is a first-lien mortgage and has an annual percentage rate that is 1.5 percentage points or more above this index, or 3.5 percentage points if it is a subordinate-lien mortgage. This definition overcomes certain technical problems with the original proposal, but the expected market coverage is similar.

One element of the original proposal has been withdrawn. The Federal Reserve Board had proposed for public comment certain requirements pertaining to so-called "yield-spread premiums." During the intervening period, the Board engaged in consumer testing that cast significant doubt on the effectiveness of the proposed rule. As part of its ongoing review of closed-end loan rules under Regulation Z, however, the Board will consider alternative approaches.

In finalizing the rule, the Board carefully considered information obtained from testimony, public hearings, consumer testing, and over 4,500 comment letters submitted during the comment period. "Listening carefully to the commenters, collecting and analyzing data, and undertaking consumer testing, has led to more effective and improved final rules," Governor Kroszner said.

The new rules take effect on October 1, 2009. The single exception is the escrow requirement, which will be phased in during 2010 to allow lenders to establish new systems as needed.

In a related move, the Board is publishing for public comment a proposal to revise the definition of "higher-priced mortgage loan" under Regulation C (Home Mortgage Disclosure), which requires lenders to report price information for such loans, to conform to the definition the Board is adopting under Regulation Z.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
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where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condo

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Golden Isles - A neighborhood of choice

I have been a resident of Golden Isles since 1986. These have been 22 years of quiet and peaceful life. Only a few changes: the famous Golden Isles arch is still in the same place, the guardhouse has been rebuilt within the new entrance to the neighborhood. The Tennis courts and the park have been nicely redone and improved since the time I was taking my daughter to play in the sandy playground.
On the corner, at the end of Layne Blvd, the shopping center has seen the Albertson supermarket move out, many stores have come and gone, but the Publix is still very alive. An upscale restaurant and night club caters to a Russian clientele among real estate offices, an outpatient medical center, a boat supply business and many other stores.
Across Hallandale Beach Blvd. an even more active shopping center where the Diplomat Mall used to gather elderly patrons, is now the center of entertainment in Hallandale: Burlington and Ross department stores, a Winn Dixie supermarket, the Panera bakery, many cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating, a Starbucks, Officemax, a Bank, and more. All this has enhanced life at Golden Isles without taking away the sense of an enclosed community.
Conveniently located in Hallandale, Golden Isles consists of about 304 single family homes, in a 24-hour guarded community. Most are waterfront lots with deep water docks, on wide canals, and easy access to the Ocean. Amenities include a park, tennis center, and a playground.
If you like the water, Golden Isles is one of the best choices of waterfront homes for boaters. A family neighborhood with superbly landscaped homes, some with architecturally stunning designs, this is one of the best options, a short distance from Haulover Cut, minutes from Hollywood Beach and easy access to both Fort Lauderdale and Miami International airports.
Aventura Mall is a five minutes drive, Hollywood Circle about the same distance with many dining and entertainment choices.

The Gulfstream Racetrack and Casino, which its promptly opening an expansive shopping and entertainment complex, the Dog Track and its adjoining casino, there are enough options to keep at a convenient distance all what one can ask for.
And of course... the beach: Hallandale Beach just some blocks away across the bridge, and the famous Hollywood board walk and beach, which you can reach after driving past the superb Diplomat Hotel complexm and quite a few waterfront cafes and restaurants on the Intracoastal canal. You can watch the Hollywood Lakes while having breakfast at the Giorgio's bakery, a beer at the Las Palmas, a pizza at Capone's, stop at Le Tub, which won the "best US hamburger" award despite its modest appearance, or savor some stone crabs at Billy's.
I don't think you can find a more expert real estate agent in Golden Isles. I live and work here, I know about every house, corner and canal in this neighborhood.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condo

Friday, July 11, 2008

Will Foreclosure Rescue Plan pass Congress and White House?

Is there some hope here?

A plan to help distressed homeowners and bank stuck with bad loans is being proposed in the Senate today, with bipartisan support. The House is planning his own version, and there is the threat of a White House veto if some significant changes are not made.

The Senate will possibly approve it by a wide majority. The main part of the new rules would allow FHA to guarantee up to $ 300 billion in new loans, which would help struggling homeowners to replace their existing loans with fixed and lower interest rates.

That would allow lenders to avoid costly foreclosures as long as they agree to take a sizeable loss on their troubled loans. .
The House version would apparently be known in a few days. A coordinate effort is being made between the House and the Senate to come up with a bill that would avoid President Bush’s veto. The Senate’s proposal would divert any possible losses from taxpayers to be covered instead by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac profits.

Included are new government controls, monitoring and regulations on Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, as well as restructuring the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).A $ 8,000 tax break first-time homebuyers is also being considered. .
A difference between Senate and House plans is the cap on conventional and FHA loans, which could be set at between $625,000 and $ 730,000. Conservative Democrats in the House oppose the $ 3,9 billion the Senate is providing for the purchase and rehabilitation of foreclosed homes, unless it is accompanied by tax increases to cover it.

However a considerable number of Democrats, especially the members of the Black Caucus strongly support the measure which would prevent the downfall of many communities heavily hit by foreclosures. .This is also one of the points the White House is opposing and threatens with a veto, with the argument that it will bail out the same banks and lenders who are at the origin of the crisis.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condo

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Strenuous obstacles to short sales compound headaches for homeowners

Read in the Palm Beach Post

Strenuous obstacles to short sales compound headaches for homeowners

Reggie Capiro had reached his breaking point.

Gas prices were climbing ever higher, and his 200-mile round-trip commute from Palm City to Miami had become too costly and too grating.

"Every day, it just wore on me a little further," the 49-year-old motorcycle salesman said.

So in October, he and his wife, Noelvis, 46, stopped trying to avoid the inevitable. Unable to find decent-paying jobs closer to home, they decided to move south and put their three-bedroom, three-bath Palm City dream house on the market.

They hoped to find a buyer willing to pay at least as much as the balance on their mortgage. The Capiros paid $406,000 in 2003 but owed about $440,000 after refinancing to pay down credit card debt. They got into a bigger hole than expected when Reggie's commissions as a Martin County boat salesman dried up after the 2004 hurricanes.

The Capiros were pleased when a buyer emerged - but the deal fell through because of a title dispute. Meanwhile, the market continued to sour.

"We realized we'd be lucky to get out," Reggie said.

So he and his wife petitioned their lender for a short sale - when a bank consents to selling a home for less than the outstanding mortgage balance.

About six months later, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and its servicing company have yet to accept an offer. Instead, the Capiros' home is on the brink of foreclosure and scheduled to be auctioned on the courthouse steps July 15.

"It's just asinine," said Dave Derrenbacker, the Capiros' real estate agent and owner of Water Pointe Realty Group in Stuart. "We've got a ready, willing and able buyer sitting by, patiently, to get qualified." The bank has rejected several offers and asked him to submit the same paperwork again and again, Derrenbacker said.

If the foreclosure is finalized, the bank stands to lose more money than it would if it allowed the short sale for $400,000. The Capiros' credit is likely to take a far bigger hit than it would with a short sale. And yet another foreclosed-on home will sit available in the region's oversupplied housing market.

"The problem is there's no standard of practice," Derrenbacker said of short sales. "If the government wanted to help out, it would set timetables and standards for these things."

Most agents cite snags in process

Of the 4.99 million existing-home sales expected to close between May 2008 and May 2009, about 400,000 of them will be short sales, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The term short sale wasn't part of most buyers' and sellers' vocabularies a few years ago. Now, 54 percent of Realtors have participated in at least one short sale, according to an informal survey of 3,265 agents the association conducted this spring.

Short sales can sound like a dream way to walk away from a mortgage nightmare: The seller escapes foreclosure. The buyer gets a bargain price. The bank holding the home loan eats the difference.

But as the Capiros' plight shows, the deals can be incredibly cumbersome to negotiate.

Of the agents polled who had participated in a short sale, 94 percent said they faced obstacles. The issues included disagreements about market value, uncertainty about documents needed, the lack of response by a lender or servicer and other problems.

"Some of the Realtors suggested that the short-sale process could be improved with clearer contact information for lenders and servicers, standardization of the documents and faster decisions," said Jed Smith, the National Association of Realtors' managing director for quantitative research.

In the Capiros' case, "they showed hardship, they showed all they were supposed to show," said Derrenbacker, who serves as president of the Realtor Association of Martin County. But the bank still wouldn't make the sale happen. Des Moines, Iowa-based Wells Fargo Home Mortgage declined to comment specifically on the Capiros' case, citing customer confidentiality.

When it receives an offer to take a short payoff on a loan, the company has to clear the amount with several parties, such as mortgage insurers and second-lien holders, the bank said in a statement.

"If one or more of these stakeholders says the offer price is below fair market value - or the minimum amount they are willing to accept in a short sale - Wells Fargo has no choice but to communicate the offer is denied," the bank said in an e-mailed statement.

Because lenders want so many documents to justify a short sale, it can take 25 to 40 hours to assemble a single short-sale file, said Michelle Jones, a foreclosure counselor at West Palm Beach's new Foreclosure Assistance Center. Phone calls to the lender can be another ordeal. "We'll be on hold 20, 25, 30 minutes just to get through to the lender," she said.

Of the center's 300 or so clients, about 32 were pursuing a short sale this summer. Only 17 of those got the go-ahead from their lender to even give it a try.

"When you are conducting a short sale, somebody is giving up a significant amount of money, so you would expect there to be problems," Smith said.

Flawed system 'getting better'

Still, there are some signs that short sales will get easier to navigate.

Hope Now, an alliance of mortgage industry players offering support for troubled homeowners, last month announced its first set of uniform guidelines for dealing with short sales. Among other things, the guidelines say Hope Now members - mostly loan servicers and banks, including Wells Fargo - "may suspend foreclosure action for a reasonable period of time" to allow time for review of a short sale.

Most real estate agents don't have the time to invest in short sales, said Greg Addeo, a Stuart-based real estate broker and executive vice president of East Coast operations for Yorba Linda, Calif.-based Addeo's company works with banks and real estate agents to help make short sales a reality. For a $600 upfront fee, it will create a short-sale file with a lender, get the third-party price estimate (a broker price opinion) and handle other administrative work. The short-sale system isn't perfect, Addeo said, "but it's getting better."

With an estimated 9 million Americans upside down on their mortgages, short sales also are more alluring than they used to be.

"I certainly talk to more people that are upside down in their homes than right-side up," said Jessica Cecere, president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service's Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast operations. "And they either have to ride that out or do something about it." In the last six months, she's seen far more strapped homeowners considering short sales as an option.

Another enticement: Last year's Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act excludes debt forgiven in the short sale of a primary residence from being subject to federal income tax. Short sales tend to be less damaging to people's credit scores than foreclosures, but it depends on how lenders categorize and report the unpaid debt, Cecere said.

Reggie Capiro worries about the blemish a foreclosure will leave on his record. The lease on his car is almost up, and he fears he won't be able to qualify for a new vehicle.

"This is devastating," said the father of two daughters, ages 20 and 11. He and his wife are now renting a home in Miami for $1,600 a month. Capiro still has keys to their empty house in Palm City, but he and his family never make the drive back.

It's too painful. "I tried my damnedest to keep my house up there," he said,"because I loved it."

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
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where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condo

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Florida Condo Association Laws now effective

Changes address flags, religious object display

Read July 6th in the Sun Sentinel.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel July 6, 2008

Homeowners who flew their American flags on the Fourth of July won't have to wait until Veterans Day to fly them again. A new state law says they can fly their flags every day of the year รข€” even if their association rules say they can't.

Another new law says condo owners no longer have the right to put solar panels on the roofs of their low-rise buildings. Associations feared that without regulation, owners could damage the roof over everyone's head. Now, they can only put up a solar panel if it is solely "within the boundaries of a condominium unit."

Five condo and homeowner association bills approved during the two-month legislative session that ended in May have been signed by Gov. Charlie Crist and became effective on Tuesday. Some are considered so confusing, however, that they may be changed next year.

Crist on May 1 signed a major condo reform bill that is effective Oct. 1.It does several things, from letting owners display small religious objects, such as Jewish mezuzahs, on their doorposts despite association bans, to preventing owners who owe money to the association from running for the board.

Last week, Crist vetoed a homeowner association bill because it included a provision he said would have weakened state regulation of association swimming pools.

One of the five bills that Crist signed into law is considered especially confusing. It involves the rewrite of condo insurance law, and includes everything from the responsibility of unit owners after a hurricane to how a board must rebuild a building. The law appears to contradict itself and other laws.

Although they are on opposite sides of nearly every issue, attorney Gary Poliakoff and Cyber Citizens for Justice President Jan Bergemann agree about the confusion.

"I doubt that those who drafted the amendment, and those who voted for it, can explain the consequences of their actions," said Poliakoff, whose law firm represents 4,300 associations.

Said Bergemann, whose organization seeks to protect owners from associations: "In this case I agree with [Poliakoff]."

The insurance law may accomplish something, however, said Yeline Goin, Fort Myers-based executive director of the Community Association Leadership Lobby, which represents boards in Florida.

She said that after recent hurricanes, disputes arose between associations and owners over responsibility for payment. The new law, she said, establishes a "fairly easy-to-follow rule, which is: if you insure it, you are responsible for repairing it after a casualty, and also for any shortfalls that arise because of a deductible."

The law makes several other changes, such as giving a new name to the state agency that enforces condo law: the Division of Condominiums, Timeshares & Mobile Homes.

Here are other highlights:

Foreclosures. SB 1986 says that a bank or holder of a foreclosed first mortgage may be liable to a homeowner association for up to 12 months of past due assessments or 1 percent of the original mortgage amount, whichever is less. This could help take the burden off owners who would be forced to make up for the foreclosed owner.

Liens and receivers. Condo associations can't file a lien against an owner without giving the owner 30 days notice, a change that prevents associations from filing a lien the day after it says a payment is due (CS, HB 1105). Homeowner associations are already required to give owners 45 days to pay a debt before a lien can be filed for unpaid assessments.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos,