Listing Your Home? Get The Smells Out With Deep-Fried Apples.

June 30, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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Removing kitchen odors can be as simple as coring an apple and frying them

Neutralizing home odors is an important part of preparing a home for sale but it’s not always so easy. Every home has a unique odor that’s ground into carpets, walls, fabrics. Cooking at home plays a big role, too.

But just because a home is listed for sale doesn’t mean that the kitchen is off-limits.

This 2-minute video from offers a bunch of smell-related kitchen tips, including:

  • Removing “the fish smell”
  • Fighting the aroma from deep-fried foods
  • Getting stubborn smells from hands

When your home for sale, the last thing you want buyers paying attention to is your dinner from the night before. Watch the video, read the transcript, and cook fear-free in your own home — listed for sale or just planning on company.


What To Do When The Bank Reduces Your HELOC

June 27, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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HELOCs are shrinking with real estate pricesA Home Equity Line of Credit is bank product that grants homeowners access to the equity in their home at anytime, usually using checks.

Often called a HELOC, these equity-based credit lines function very much like credit cards:

  • The rate is adjustable, tied to Prime Rate
  • There is a minimum monthly payment
  • There is a pre-set spending/credit limit

But different from credit cards is that a HELOC is “guaranteed” by real estate and with real estate values in question nationwide, many banks are exercising a little-known clause in the HELOC contract.

With alarming frequently, banks are reducing the pre-set spending limits on their active equity lines. Via USPS, lenders are notifying homeowner with $100,000 HELOCs that their new HELOC limit is $25,000, for example.

And the banks aren’t being discriminate based on payment history or local real estate conditions, either — it’s happening everywhere with equal force.

The good news is that banks will accept appeals on HELOC reductions on a case-by-case basis.

One way to appeal a HELOC reduction is:

  1. Call your lender’s Customer Service line. Do not send an email.
  2. Politely ask why the HELOC limit was reduced. Listen carefully to explanation.
  3. Explain why you would like your HELOC reinstated. Acceptable reasons may include home improvement projects or improper home valuation by the lender.
  4. Be prepared to write a formal letter, if asked. Address the issues explained in #2.

Banks will typically not reinstate a HELOC if a borrower has been delinquent on payments, or lives in a severely depressed neighborhood. However, because lenders rely on computer models to assess risk, it’s always a good idea to ask.

Sometimes the Human Element of an appeal can work in your favor.


Making English Out Of Fed-Speak (June 2008 Edition)

June 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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The Federal Open Market Committee left the Fed Funds Rate unchanged at 2.000 percent this afternoon, as expected.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted the co-existence of inflation and recession.

On inflation, the Fed said that energy and food prices are contributing to an “elevated state” of inflation, but that it expects price pressures to ease “later this year and next year”.

On the topic of recession, the Fed seemed a bit more concerned.

Overall, markets reacted favorably to the press release; both stocks and mortgage rates showed signs of improvement in the statement’s wake.

Parsing the Fed Statement
The Wall Street Journal Online
June 25, 2008


How Your Home Payment Is Tied To The Federal Reserve’s Press Release Today

June 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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The Federal Open Market Committee adjourns from its 2-day meeting at 2:15 P.M. ET today. It’s widely expected that the group will leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged at 2.000 percent.

However, it’s not what the Fed does today that has markets so interested. It’s what the Fed will say.

One of the Federal Reserve’s roles is to promote stability in the U.S. economy by protecting it from two major threats:

  1. Inflation
  2. Recession

The Federal Reserve’s primary weapon against both of these hazards, though, is the same — the Fed Funds Rate. To combat inflation, the Fed raises the Fed Funds rate. To fight recession, it lowers the Fed Funds Rate.

But in today’s economy, there is evidence of both inflation and recession meaning that the Federal Reserve is likely to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged for fear of setting the economy too far towards either threat.

Therefore, markets will be left looking for clues in the carefully-worded press release signed by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and the other voting members of the FOMC.

If the Fed admits added vigilance against inflation, it’s expected that mortgage rates will fall because inflation causes rates to rise. By contrast, if the Fed harps on the downside risks in the economy, it’s expected that mortgage rates will increase.

Either way, today’s press release should be a market-mover.

If you’re currently floating your mortgage rate or are deciding between different lenders, be aware that mortgage rates will enter a period of extreme volatility this afternoon.

It may be prudent to complete your rate shopping before 2:00 P.M. ET.


Simple Real Estate Definitions : PITI

June 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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PITI stands for Principal, Interest, Taxes, and InsuranceMost homeowners make four housing-related payments each month:

  1. Principal on a mortgage
  2. Interest on a mortgage
  3. Taxes on the real estate owned
  4. Insurance for the real estate owned

Collectively, these payments are known by the acronym PITI but don’t let it fool you — a homeowner’s monthly expenses are still called PITI even if one or more of the elements doesn’t apply.

For example, a homeowner with an interest only mortgage does not pay principal each month.

Additionally, condo owners typically don’t pay homeowners insurance — they pay a monthly assessment and/or maintenance fees to an association instead.

But regardless for what it stands, determining a comfortable PITI should be every homeowner’s starting point when looking for a new home. PITI is the monthly housing cost, after all, and by knowing what fits in your budget, it’s a lot easier to compare homes and their related expenses.

It’s certainly better than asking the bank “how much home can I afford” — all that’s going to tell you is the P and the I. As a homeowner, you need to know all four.

PITI is most commonly pronounced pee-eye-tee-eye.

(Image courtesy:


The Surprising Truth About How Buyers View Your Linen Closets

June 23, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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In this 4-minute video, real estate maven Barbara Corcoran reminds us that homes are bought and sold within 8 seconds.

And, although the clip features a suburban home in New York, the Lessons of Good Presentation apply to every home looking for a buyer.

Some of the video’s key take-aways include:

  • Let your home’s natural light shine in
  • Your home’s hardware reflect the home’s condition
  • Don’t replace your kitchen — clean it up instead
  • Linen closets can sway a buyer’s attitude about your home

With excess supply in the market, making a positive first impression on home buyers can mean all the difference.

Preparing a home the right way can be the difference between getting an offer, or just getting lots of traffic.


The Midwest Flooding And Its Impact On Your Home Mortgage

June 20, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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Flooding in the Midwest has displaced thousands of families and caused billions of dollars in damages.

It may also cause mortgage rates to rise.

As the extent of the damage becomes more clear, prices for grain and livestock are soaring. For example, a host of dietary staples are suddenly more expensive at the supermarket, including:

  • Meat
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Dairy
  • Eggs

Rising food prices are considered inflationary and inflation tends to make mortgage rates rise.

But of all the foods that are increasing in price, it’s corn whose price is rising the most — up 70 percent so far since January. This is mostly because flood waters damaged up to 3 million acres of harvest in Iowa, our top-producing state.

Corn, of course, is a primary feed for livestock, so rising prices make it more expensive for farmers to raise hogs, cows and chickens. These higher costs get passed along to consumers and contribute to a higher Cost of Living around the country.

After facing (and adjusting) to rising gasoline prices, Americans are facing higher costs again — this time at the supermarket. And if food prices don’t recede with the flood waters, Americans may find that they’re getting hit in a third place — right in their mortgage rates.

Hog Farmers Face a Perfect Storm
Ilan Brandt, Joe Barrett
The Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2008


What You Need To Know About Mortgage Rate Quotes

June 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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Mortgage rates expire like stock pricesHome buyers are often surprised when a “rate quote” from the morning won’t be honored in the afternoon. Sometimes, the assumption is that the loan officer is just being sneaky.

This couldn’t be less true.

Rate quotes change in the middle of the day because mortgage markets are in constant flux. All day, every day — just like stocks.

And like stocks, a mortgage bond’s morning price will likely “expire” before the day ends.

One way to visualize this is to look at today’s Microsoft’s stock price:

  • At 9:30 A.M. ET, the price was $28.46
  • At 9:38 A.M. ET, the price was $28.72

Over the course of 8 minutes, the stock rose by 26 cents and the “9:30 A.M. quote” was no longer available. For example, you couldn’t call your stock broker at 9:38 A.M. and place an order for the 9:30 A.M. price because the price had changed.

Mortgage rates behave the same way.

Throughout 2008, mortgage rates have changed mid-day more frequently than in the past. On more than half the days, morning rate quotes were no longer valid in the afternoon. And, on at least 5 separate occasions, rates changed 4 times in just one day.

It’s not typical, but it does happen.

So, if you’re talking with your loan officer in the morning about a rate quote, be prepared to do all of your shopping in a compacted amount of time, and then be ready to make a decision.

By the time the afternoon rolls around, after all, that rate quote may well be expired.


Why Home Values May Rise When Home Building Falls To A 17-Year Low

June 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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A “Housing Start” is a new home on which construction has commenced and in May, Housing Starts fell to a 17-year low nationally.

At first glance, this may seem like a negative for the already-battered U.S. housing market.

It’s not.

Falling Housing Starts reflects the broader real estate market and shows us that builders are working hard to get their already-built homes “off the books”.

It would be foolish for them to build new homes now — each new unit makes selling the existing ones tougher.

So, when we look at the figure objectively, we can see that Housing Starts reaching a 17-year low is actually good news — real estate prices are based on Supply and Demand, after all.

With Housing Starts touching new lows, we can infer that there will be fewer new homes coming on the market in the coming months and that should help support higher home values nationwide for everyone.


Do-It-Yourself : Garbage Disposal Repair

June 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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Expert Village DIY video on Garbage Disposal Repair

A jammed garbage disposal is one of the most common household plumbing issues and, despite its mechanical simplicity, fixing one can cost up to $300 in labor and parts.

Try saving some money next time by doing it yourself.

Courtesy of Expert Village, this short, 2-minute video walks you through the steps in troubleshooting your own in-sink disposal system, complete with safety steps.

Repairing most garbage disposal problems is as simple as turning a wrench, pushing a button, or both. There’s no “technical skills” or elbow grease required and you may save yourself a few hundred bucks.


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