Where the Stars Stash Their Statues: Homes of Academy Award Nominees

February 17th, 2012

The movers and shakers of the movie-making industry have checked off most of the red-carpet events this awards’ season: Critics’ Choice Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards and Golden Globes. Next up? The granddaddy of ‘em all: The Academy Awards. This year, “The Oscars” will be broadcast live Sunday, Feb. 26 (ABC, 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST.)  And while the media is abuzz with predictions of who’ll win and what they’ll wear, we are more interested in the homes where this year’s potential winners will stash their golden statues.

Best Picture

Source: IMDb Steven Spielberg, “War Horse”

 As far as famous producers and directors go, Steven Spielberg tops the list. The Best Picture nomination for “War Horse,” which he co-produced, is just another notch in the belt of the prolific director. He has won three Academy Awards and has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Director over 10 times.

 When Spielberg isn’t directing or producing his blockbusters, he splits time between his homes in Pacific Palisades, the Hamptons and Malibu. Unlike other celebrities, the director isn’t one to buy and sell properties on a whim; most of his homes he’s owned for over 20 years.

 

 His Malibu home (above), in particular, is a spectacular ocean-side property he bought in 1989 for $3,375,033. The 7,000+-square-foot-home, pictured above, sits on nearly an acre of beachfront property and has 7 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and the must-have celebrity amenities like an in-ground pool.

 Actor in Leading Role

Source: IMDb Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

 Although Brad Pitt has been nominated three times previously for an Oscar, the actor has yet to take home a gold statuette. Could the fourth time be the charm?

 If Pitt does take home an Oscar, chances are he won’t be stashing it in a home in the U.S. Pitt and his leading woman, Angelina Jolie, as well as their six kids, spend most of their time abroad, specifically in a rental home in southern France. They also own multimillion-dollar homes in Cambodia, and Berlin in addition to homes in New Orleans, and L.A. Pitt also previously owned a home in Malibu he purchased shortly after his divorce to Jennifer Aniston in 2005.

 

 A self-professed architecture buff, Pitt spent months renovating the mid-century modern, pictured above. Although the home has 4,088 square feet of living space with 4 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, it was on the small side for the 8-person Jolie-Pitt clan. Pitt sold the prime piece of Malibu real estate to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi in December 2011.

  Source: IMDb

 George Clooney, “The Descendants”

 Although he’s one of the most recognizable faces on the big screen, Clooney spent the early part of his career in bit roles on TV shows until he hit international stardom with his role of Dr. Ross on “ER” in 1994. He made the switch to movies in the late 1990s and added directing, producing and screenwriting to his repertoire. This Oscar season, he’s not only nominated for Best Actor, but also Best Writing, Adapted Screen Play for  ”Ides of March.”

 

 Clooney purchased his home in Studio City at the beginning of his success on “ER,” in 1995. The sprawling Studio City home sits on over 3 acres below a nature preserve. The 8-bedroom, mock-Tudor house has a pool and tennis courts. Clooney also owns a home in Laglio, Italy on Lake Como — and it’s often there he meets up with fellow actor and good friend Brad Pitt.

 Actor in a Supporting Role

Source: IMDb Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”

 Although Jonah Hill became famous for his roles in comedy films, this Oscar nomination is for his first dramatic performance in “Moneyball.” The actor has had his hand in many projects that called on his many talents, ranging from directing, writing, and producing.

 

 Jonah Hill’s home is located in the Los Angeles suburb of Tarzana and was listed as a “natural entertainer’s estate” featuring party-friendly amenities like a pool and spa, endless patios, tennis and bocce ball court. This isn’t Hill’s first foray into real estate; he sold a Hollywood condo in 2008 for $835,000 and still owns a home on Mulholland Drive.

 Actress in a Leading Role

Source: IMDb Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”

 Glenn Close began her acting career on Broadway and didn’t break into the film industry until she was 35 with her role in “The World According to Garp” alongside Robin Williams. The Emmy, Tony and Golden Globe-award winning actress has yet to win an Oscar, but her nomination for Albert Nobbs is her sixth nomination.

 Born and raised in Greenwich, CT, Close spends her time on the East Coast in both Manhattan, and Bedford Hills, NY.

 

 Her Bedford Hills estate, pictured above, sits on 10 acres. Just north of Manhattan, the hills of Westchester County, and in particular,  Bedford real estate, is appealing to many celebrities. Close can count Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren and celeb couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones among her Bedford Hills neighbors.

Source: IMDb Viola Davis, “The Help”

 Like Close, Viola Davis rose to prominence with roles on the stage and has two Tony awards to her name. Since her move to the big screen, she’s been nominated for numerous awards, including best supporting actress for her role in “Doubt.”

Davis purchased a suburban home in Granada Hills, CA, pictured above, in 2005 with her husband Julius Tennon. The 5-bedroom, 5-bath home sits on a quarter acre with 3,917 square feet of living space.

Source: IMDb

Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”

Michelle Williams first swept audiences and critics off their feet with her performance in the 2005 film, “Brokeback Mountain,” for which she earned her first Academy Award nomination. Her role opposite Ryan Gosling in the romantic drama “Blue Valentine” caught critics’ eye, too, nabbing her both a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She earned both Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for her role as Marilyn Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn,” for which she already picked up the Golden Globe.

Williams spends her time off the big screen with her daughter, Matilda Rose, in their cozy, 4-floor house in Brooklyn, NY (pictured above). Williams’ slice of Brooklyn real estate was purchased with late actor and ex-fiance, Heath Ledger, in 2005 for a reported $3.6 million. Ledger, also Matilda’s father, passed away from a reported drug overdose in January 2008.

Source: IMDbMelissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”

After performing for 10 years as a stand-up comedienne, Melissa McCarthy made her big break into acting in a supporting role on TV’s popular show” Gilmore Girls.” She then took first billing in the TV show “Mike & Molly,” for which she received an Emmy award. Her role in the comedy “Bridesmaids” is her first Oscar nomination.

McCarthy and husband fellow actor and writer Ben Falcone purchased a modest (by celebrity real estate standards) Toluca Lake home, above, for $780,000 in 2009. The 3-bedroom, 2-bath home is only minutes from network studios,making it an easy commute for both McCarthy and Falcone.

 (Taken from Zillow® Blog)

Federal Mortgage Servicing Settlement FAQ | How To Make Your Claim

February 17th, 2012

Q:  What is a mortgage servicer and how do I know who services my loan?

A: A mortgage servicer administers mortgage loans, including collecting and recording payments from borrowers.  A servicer also handles loan defaults and foreclosures, and may offer loss mitigation programs to assist delinquent borrowers.

The company that you make your monthly payment to is your mortgage servicer.  Your mortgage servicer may or may not be a lending institution and may or may not own your loan.  Many of the loans administered by servicers are owned by third-party investors.

This settlement involves the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers and you may reach them at the Web sites and phone numbers below:

Loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are not impacted by this settlement.  You may visit the following websites to learn if your loan is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac:

These sites will also include information about mortgage and foreclosure programs you may be eligible to access.

Q: How will I know whether this settlement affects my situation?

A: Only homeowners in the states who joined the settlement are eligible for benefits under this settlement. Borrowers from Oklahoma will not be eligible for any of the relief directly to homeowners because Oklahoma elected not to join the settlement.

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Because of the complexity of the mortgage market and this agreement, which will be performed over a three year period, borrowers from the settlement states will not immediately know if they are eligible for relief.

For loan modifications and refinance options, borrowers may be contacted directly by one of the five participating mortgage servicers.

For borrowers who lost their home to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2011, a settlement administrator designated by the attorneys general will send claim forms to persons eligible for cash restitution.

Even if you are not contacted, if your loan is serviced by one of the five settling banks, you are encouraged to contact your servicer to see if you are eligible.

In any event, borrowers may contact their mortgage servicer to obtain more information about specific loan modification programs and whether the borrower may be impacted by this settlement.  You may reach them at the Web sites and phone numbers below:

More information will be made available as the settlement programs are implemented. For more information on the proposed agreement:

Q: How does this settlement hold the banks accountable?

A: This is a settlement that primarily addresses the banks’ servicing of loans, including their handling of foreclosures.  One of the primary areas of attention was the practice known as “robo-signing” where the banks submitted foreclosure documents that were not properly reviewed or notarized.  This settlement holds the banks accountable for their servicing violations through substantial financial penalties and extensive consumer relief.

This is the second largest civil settlement ever obtained by the state attorneys general.  It’s second only to the tobacco settlement that has spread payments to the states over 25 years.  The settlement will cost the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers, which control about 60 percent of the mortgage servicing market, an estimated $25 to $32 billion.

The settlement will require the banks to accomplish a massive undertaking – changing their broken system of servicing loans into one that is functional.  The banks will reduce the principal on many of their loans – something that they have resisted for years – to allow homeowners to keep their homes.  They will also refinance loans for “underwater” borrowers who have been unable to refinance due to negative equity.  They will pay billions of dollars to the states, and, most importantly, commit billions more to consumers.

The banks will be subject to a federal court order enforceable by a federal judge.   In addition, a special independent monitor will have the authority to oversee the banks and require their compliance.  Federal agencies and state attorneys general can enforce compliance if there are violations.

The agreement holds the banks accountable for their wrongdoing on robo-signing and mortgage servicing.  This settlement does not seek to hold them responsible for all their wrongs over the past five years.

The agreement and its release preserve legal options for others to pursue.  Governmental entities and private parties are aggressively pursuing securities cases against the banks.  A joint federal-state task force has been formed to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the collapse of the mortgage lending and investment markets.

Q: Did you conduct an investigation?

A: Yes.  The attorneys general launched a robo-signing probe in October 2010, to investigate the alleged false affidavits submitted in foreclosure proceedings.  The scope of the investigation soon broadened to encompass a long list of mortgage servicing issues, such as lost paperwork, and long delays and missed deadlines for loan modifications.  Long before they announced their investigation, attorneys general and state banking regulators across the country fielded thousands of mortgage servicing complaints.  Many states took part in mortgage-related working groups, launched foreclosure prevention efforts, and took action against subprime and predatory lenders.  Attorneys general have probably had more front-line experience with mortgage servicing than any other governmental entity.

After the states began their investigation in this case, they partnered with the U.S. Justice Department, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Federal agencies provided the joint state-federal legal team with strong and detailed evidence concerning robo-signing and other servicing abuses.  The state attorneys general also partnered with state banking commissioners who conducted thorough examinations of mortgage servicers under their jurisdiction.  The level of cooperation among the states and between the states and federal government was unprecedented, and gave the joint state-federal negotiating team substantial leverage in this extraordinary settlement.

Q: Will this settlement fix the entire mortgage industry breakdown?

A: No.  This is a mortgage servicing settlement that addresses only a portion of the mortgage lending system.   However, the settlement’s tough, new mortgage servicing standards will have a widespread impact on future mortgage loan servicing.

States and federal agencies that sign onto the agreement are not restricted from investigating and pursuing many other mortgage-related issues, including securities-related cases, criminal cases, and other matters connected to the mortgage crisis.

On January 27, 2012, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder along with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the formation of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group.  The working group will investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.

Q: Why don’t you sue the banks and try to get even more money?

A: Litigation takes time, it carries substantial risks, and it expends significant resources.  While legal cases drag on, homeowners in desperate need of relief are left to watch and wait for an uncertain outcome.

Millions more homeowners will likely lose their homes long before the court battles end.  The outcomes of litigation, win or lose, are anything but certain.  Even if the cases were successful, it is unlikely that the recovery would exceed $25 billion and produce the major servicing reforms obtained in this settlement.

And a money judgment could not realistically include principal reduction requirements, refinancing for underwater borrowers, and many of the other significant components of this agreement.

Q: A majority of mortgages are unaffected by this settlement. When will you work to obtain relief for the vast majority of homeowners?

A: This settlement primarily affects mortgages that are owned and held by the nation’s largest bank servicers.  Those homeowners may receive benefits such as modifications, principal reductions or direct payments from lenders.

Two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, control a majority of the nation’s mortgage loans.  GSE loans are not eligible for parts of this settlement because of positions their regulator, theFederal Housing Finance Administrator (FHFA), has taken.

However, homeowners with GSE-controlled mortgages who won’t directly benefit from settlement-related programs – that’s most of us – will still see benefits through reduced  foreclosures, stabilizing home values and significant new mortgage servicing standards and consumer protections.

This settlement, in addition to recent federal efforts to modify Freddie and Fannie loans, means that the majority of distressed borrowers might qualify for some level of help.

Q:  Will there be payments to foreclosure victims?

A: Yes. Approximately $1.5 billion of the settlement funds will be allocated to compensation to borrowers who were foreclosed on after January 1, 2008 and before Dec. 31, 2011.  These borrowers will be notified of their right to file a claim.  Borrowers who were not properly offered loss mitigation or who were otherwise improperly foreclosed on will be eligible for a uniform payment, which will be approximately $2000 per borrower depending on level of response.  Borrowers who receive payments will not have to release any claims and will be free to seek additional relief in the courts.  Borrowers may also be eligible for a separate restitution process administered by the federal banking regulators.

Q: What about those of us who keep making our mortgage payments?

A:  Borrowers who are current in their payments but are “underwater” on their mortgages may qualify for refinancing relief under the settlement.

Beyond that, the mortgage servicers involved in this settlement broke the law, the conduct harmed borrowers, and this settlement addresses that conduct.  If the mortgage servicers followed the law, many foreclosures likely could have been prevented.  Foreclosure has a profound impact beyond the borrower and the creditor.  A foreclosure affects homeowners, families, neighborhoods, communities, the housing market and our overall economy.

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When a house is subject to foreclosure, it creates a ripple effect that lowers the value of nearby single-family homes and other properties.  In 2009 the Center for Responsible Lending projected that homeowners living near foreclosed properties, on average, would lose $7,200 in property value, and projected a four-year increase in losses to $20,300 per household.

Foreclosures contribute to unstable family and social environments.  They increase stress on homeowners, their families and their neighbors.  These deteriorating, neglected properties and neighboring property value losses create neighborhood blight, cut a community’s tax base, and can contribute to crime.  Displaced homeowners put other stresses on communities, including the need for shelter and social services.

Foreclosures affect everyone and affect our economy – even those who play by the rules and pay their monthly mortgage on time.

Q: Why force banks to forgive large portions of peoples’ loans?

A: The states and federal agencies established that the servicers have done wrong – through improper lending practices, improper foreclosures, etc. – and in response the banks have agreed to a settlement that helps many homeowners who have been hurt by misconduct in the marketplace.

Some banks have already acknowledged that principal reduction can be effective tool in stabilizing the housing market and have already been forgiving portions of some loans.  The idea is to keep people in their homes.  The banks lose, on average, about $60,000 on each foreclosure.  It is a win-win proposition for the banks to give up some principal – instead of that $60,000 cost of each foreclosure – and allow people to remain in their homes.  As a matter of pure economics, principal reduction is often better for the bank than the massive losses associated with foreclosure.

The huge number of foreclosures impacts all of us: our nest eggs erode, we may no longer borrow against our homes, and we can’t sell them when we need to.  Principal reduction is one of the tools we’ve negotiated to help keep more people in their homes and help stabilize the housing market — which helps all of us. It’s true that principal forgiveness at this level is extraordinary.  But so is the mortgage crisis, which affects families, our neighborhoods and our economy.  Big problems require big solutions.

Q: Will investors in mortgage-backed securities ultimately pay for part of this settlement?

A: Participating banks own the vast majority of the mortgage loans that this settlement is expected to affect.  The settlement could affect some investor-owned loans, depending on existing agreements servicers have with those investors.

When banks weigh which mortgage loans to modify as part of this settlement, they will do so based on first analyzing the costs and the benefits of minimizing their losses.  If a loan modification, including principal reduction, is projected to cost the creditor or investor less than foreclosure, the creditor will earn more on that loan.

In other words, this settlement will not force investors to incur losses.  That’s because any loan modification tied to this settlement will result in more of a financial return for an investor than a foreclosure would.

Q: Will taxpayers ultimately pay for this settlement?

A: No, the settlement is not funded by taxpayers.

Q: Why are you releasing the banks from some claims?

A: The release of claims relinquishes particular state and federal claims on issues addressed by the settlement. The release is narrow and is limited to mortgage servicing and origination claims.  States that sign on may still pursue other claims against the banks, such as securities and securitization claims.  States could also sue financial institutions that are not part of the settlement.

States that opt not to sign the agreement are free to pursue their own legal actions.  However, those states would give up all the funds designated specifically for their state and its citizens who were foreclosure victims.  Homeowners of those states would also only qualify for a significantly reduced amount of loan modification and other benefits being distributed as part of the settlement’s national programs.

The agreement does not affect any individual’s rights.  A consumer may still bring an individual action, be a part of a class action, or seek further review/relief from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

Q: Does this immunize banks from prosecution?

A: No.  There’s no criminal immunity whatsoever.  State attorneys general are using their civil law enforcement authority to fight for homeowners.  They are not immunizing any individuals or institutions from prosecution.  Criminal prosecutions are an entirely separate matter from a civil legal matter.  This is a civil, not a criminal, settlement, and this settlement does not prevent state or federal prosecutions.

Q: How will this settlement protect consumers in the future?

A: The banks have agreed to major reforms in how they service mortgage loans.  These new servicing standards require lenders and servicers to adhere to a long list of rights for those facing foreclosure.  For example, borrowers will have the right to see all of their loan documents to make sure any potential foreclosure is legal; they will be given every opportunity to first modify their loan before facing foreclosure; lenders and servicers will be required to have an appropriate number of well-trained staff members to promptly respond to the needs of distressed borrowers; and finally, borrowers will have the right to deal with a reliable, single point of contact so they have access to a person from whom to obtain information throughout the process.  This is very important because, throughout the foreclosure crisis, borrowers have lodged widespread complaints about their frustrations in trying to work with their lenders.  They’ve complained about unresponsive employees, lost documents, and conflicting information.

Q: Why doesn’t this settlement deal with the banks’ conduct in securitizing loans?

A: This case began with robo-signing and was later expanded to foreclosure conduct and other mortgage servicing abuses.  These are major, complex issues in themselves. What the state attorneys general have received in return for releasing  claims on these matters is huge – billions in loan modifications and other benefits for borrowers who have been harmed as well as significant new protections for homeowners.

This case has focused on getting relief for homeowners, not for hedge fund investors.  Expanding the reach to securities and securitization would have slowed the case considerably and massively increased the complexity of an already complex situation.  It would have pitted the interests of homeowners against powerful investment funds, insurance companies and other private investors.

Nothing in this settlement prevents attorneys general or others from investigating, pursuing legal action, or seeking settlements related to securities.

Q: How can we be assured that the banks will comply with the new servicing standards?

A: This settlement is backed by a federal court order.  State attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice can seek redress if the banks don’t follow the settlement terms.

The settlement also includes an independent monitor.  The monitor, who will work from a strict set of objective measuring standards, will oversee the carrying out of this agreement and will report to the states and federal agencies on the banks’ compliance.  There are significant penalties if the banks violate the court judgment.  A court ordered settlement is very different from the voluntary, foreclosure prevention efforts that have been tried to date.

Q: How does this settlement affect members of the military?

A: The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides protections for active service members, including postponing or suspending certain civil obligations, such as mortgage payments and foreclosure.  This settlement provides enhanced safeguards for military personnel that go beyond SCRA protections, including extending the window of protections for qualified service members, and not requiring service members to be delinquent to qualify for a short sale, loan modification, or other loss mitigation relief if the service member suffers financial hardship and is otherwise eligible for such loss mitigation.

(Taken from Real Estate Insider News)

Study Calls Today’s Market Good Time to Buy

February 17th, 2012

Researchers from several universities have just completed a paper that looks at what they call the hurdle rate. This is the point at which it’s equally smart to rent or buy if your only criterion is to build wealth. Based on today’s hurdle rate, it’s a better time to buy than to rent, because you can build more wealth owning than renting.

The study looks at what they call an indifferent renter. This is someone who is just as happy renting as buying depending on which choice is better at building wealth over a holding period, in this case eight years. The study assumes the renter puts the savings from renting into an investment to earn a return.

The hurdle rate is the point of equilibrium between renting and buying where it’s a wash in terms of wealth building. If today’s hurdle rate rate is lower than the average past property appreciation rate for a particular market, then it makes sense to buy, because future property appreciation should be such that an individual will, on average, create more wealth through owning rather than renting. On the other hand, if today’s hurdle rate is higher than the average past property appreciation for a particular market, then this is a sign that ownership can be a drag on wealth creation.

“It’s not a perfect reason to buy, it’s just a test,” says Ken. H. Johnson of Florida International University in Miami, one of the authors of the study, called “The Rent vs. Buy Decision,” released about two weeks ago. “But it’s a good sign that the market’s turning.”

The paper is part of a series Johnson and some other researchers have been doing on the rent vs. buy decision. This paper just looks at the narrow topic of the hurdle rate; other papers look more broadly at whether it makes sense to rent or buy based on financial considerations. In one earlier paper, renting can make more sense in some instances, at least in the short run, if renters invest all of their savings over a period of time in an instrument that generates a yield comparable to what they would earn in appreciation on a house in their market. But since few renters could realistically invest all of their savings from renting, it’s more appropriate to assume renters don’t invest all of their savings. And in these cases, owning is the overwhelmingly better investment over the holding period.

You can learn more about the paper that looks at the hurdle rate in the two-minute video above. The paper was sponsored by the REALTOR® University Research Center, which is part of REALTOR® University.

(Taken from National Association of Realtors; Realtor® MAG Blogs)

Mortgage Settlement, State AG Contact Info | Are YOU Owned Money?

February 17th, 2012

Mortgage Settlement, State A.G. Contact Information.

HARRIS REAL ESTATE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS (and future students) share this information with all of your clients, share on Facebook, your blog…everywhere.

Everyone who owns a home or has ‘lost’ a home in the past 5 years needs this information.

Read the Settlement FAQ here to learn if you qualify for any form of financial relief from this settlement.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R)
501 Washington Ave. P.O. Box 300152 Montgomery, AL 36130-0152
(334) 242-7300
http://www.ago.state.al.us/

Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty (R)
P.O. Box 110300 Juneau, AK 99811-0300
(907) 465-2133
http://www.law.state.ak.us/

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (R)
1275 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
(602) 542-4266
http://www.azag.gov/

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D)
200 Tower Bldg., 323 Center St., Little Rock, AR 72201-2610
(800) 482-8982
http://www.ag.arkansas.gov/

California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D)
1300 I St., Ste. 1740, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-9555
http://ag.ca.gov/

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (R)
1525 Sherman St. Denver, Colorado 80203
303-866-4500
http://www.ago.state.co.us/index.cfm

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen (D)
55 Elm St., Hartford, CT 06141-0120
(860) 808-5318
http://www.ct.gov/ag/

WARNING: Short Sales…love em or hate em…they are here to stay! Go beyond the basic ‘expert’ short sale designation. Watch the FREE 2012 Agent Short Sale Secrets video and download the FREE Short Sale training guide.NOTICE: Free book guaranteed for the first 100 agents only

Delaware Attorney General Joseph R. “Beau” Biden, III (D)
Carvel State Office Bldg., 820 N. French St., Wilmington, DE 19801
(302) 577-8338
http://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/

District of Columbia Attorney General Irvin Nathan
John A. Wilson Building, 1350 PA Ave, NW Suite 409, Washington, DC 20009
(202) 727-3400
http://occ.dc.gov

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R)
The Capitol, PL 01, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
(850) 414-3300
http://myfloridalegal.com/

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens (R)
40 Capitol Square, SW, Atlanta, GA 30334-1300
(404) 656-3300
http://law.ga.gov/02/ago/home/0,2705,87670814,00.html

Hawaii Attorney General David Louie (D)
425 Queen St., Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 586-1500
http://www.hawaii.gov/ag/

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden (R)
Statehouse, Boise, ID 83720-1000
(208) 334-2400
http://www2.state.id.us/ag/

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D)
James R. Thompson Ctr., 100 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 814-3000
http://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller (R)
Indiana Government Center South – 5th Floor, 302 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 232-6201
http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D)
Hoover State Office Bldg., 1305 E. Walnut, Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 281-5164
http://www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R)
120 S.W. 10th Ave., 2nd Fl., Topeka, KS 66612-1597
(785) 296-2215
http://www.ksag.org/home/

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D)
700 Capitol Avenue, Capitol Building, Suite 118, Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 696-5300
http://ag.ky.gov/

Louisiana Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell (R)
P.O. Box 94095, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-4095
225-326-6000
http://www.ag.state.la.us/

Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider (R)
State House Station 6, Augusta, ME 04333
(207) 626-8800
http://www.maine.gov/ag/

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D)
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202-2202
(410) 576-6300
http://www.oag.state.md.us

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D)
1 Ashburton Place, Boston, MA 02108-1698
(617) 727-2200
http://www.mass.gov/ago/

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R)
P.O.Box 30212, 525 W. Ottawa St., Lansing, MI 48909-0212
(517) 373-1110
http://www.michigan.gov/ag

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson (D)
State Capitol, Ste. 102, St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 296-3353
http://www.ag.state.mn.us

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D)
Department of Justice, P.O. Box 220, Jackson, MS 39205
(601) 359-3680
http://www.ago.state.ms.us/

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (D)
Supreme Ct. Bldg., 207 W. High St., Jefferson City, MO 65101
(573) 751-3321
http://ago.mo.gov/

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock (D)
Justice Bldg., 215 N. Sanders, Helena, MT 59620-1401
(406) 444-2026
http://www.doj.mt.gov

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R)
State Capitol, P.O.Box 98920, Lincoln, NE 68509-8920
(402) 471-2682
http://www.ago.state.ne.us/

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D)
Old Supreme Ct. Bldg., 100 N. Carson St., Carson City, NV 89701
(775) 684-1100
http://ag.state.nv.us/

New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney (D)
State House Annex, 33 Capitol St., Concord, NH 03301-6397
(603) 271-3658
http://doj.nh.gov/

New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa (R)
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, 25 Market Street P.O. Box 080 Trenton, NJ 08625
(609) 292-8740
http://www.state.nj.us/lps/

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King (D)
P.O. Drawer 1508, Sante Fe, NM 87504-1508
(505) 827-6000
http://www.nmag.gov/

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D)
Dept. of Law – The Capitol, 2nd fl., Albany, NY 12224
(518) 474-7330
http://www.ag.ny.gov/

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D)
Dept. of Justice, P.O.Box 629, Raleigh, NC 27602-0629
(919) 716-6400
http://www.ncdoj.gov/

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R)
State Capitol, 600 E. Boulevard Ave., Bismarck, ND 58505-0040
(701) 328-2210
http://www.ag.state.nd.us

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R)
State Office Tower, 30 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43266-0410
(614) 466-4320
http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger (D)
Justice Bldg., 1162 Court St., NE, Salem, OR 97301
(503) 378-4732
http://www.doj.state.or.us/

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda L. Kelly
1600 Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, PA 17120
(717) 787-3391
http://www.attorneygeneral.gov

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin (D)
150 S. Main St., Providence, RI 02903
(401) 274-4400
http://www.riag.state.ri.us

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R)
Rembert C. Dennis Office Bldg., P.O.Box 11549, Columbia, SC 29211-1549
(803) 734-3970
http://www.scattorneygeneral.org

South Dakota Attorney General Marty J. Jackley (R)
1302 East Highway 14, Suite 1, Pierre, SD 57501-8501
(605) 773-3215
http://atg.sd.gov/

Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr. (D)
425 5th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37243
615-741-3491
http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R)
Capitol Station, P.O.Box 12548, Austin, TX 78711-2548
(512) 463-2100
http://www.oag.state.tx.us

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R)
State Capitol, Rm. 236, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-0810
(801) 538-9600
http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/

Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell (D)
109 State St., Montpelier, VT 05609-1001
(802) 828-3173
http://www.atg.state.vt.us/

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R)
900 East Main Street Richmond, VA 23219
(804) 786-2071
http://www.oag.state.va.us/

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna (R)
1125 Washington St. SE, PO Box 40100, Olympia, WA 98504-0100
(360) 753-6200
http://www.atg.wa.gov/

West Virginia Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw, Jr. (D)
Project: Save Our Homes
PO Box 1789, Charleston, WV 25326
(800) 368-8808
http://www.wvago.gov/

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R)
State Capitol, Ste. 114 E., P.O.Box 7857, Madison, WI 53707-7857
(608) 266-1221
http://www.doj.state.wi.us

Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips (D)
State Capitol Bldg., Cheyenne, WY 82002
(307) 777-7841
http://attorneygeneral.state.wy.us

(Taken from Real Estate Insider News)

Big Bank Foreclosure Fraud Settlement: How To Collect Your $2000 (Video)

February 17th, 2012

Big Bank Foreclosure Fraud, Robo-Signer Settlement

Now the big question is….

Who gets what?

At least $10 billion will go toward reducing the principal for borrowers who are delinquent or underwater borrowers at risk of default. That is in stark contrast to President Obamas recently proposed housing re-fi program that disallowed owners who missed more than one payment.

Remember, its estimated that in order to completely wipe out ALL of the negative equity for the 11,000,000 underwater owners it would cost…700-800 BILLION. Cold hard fact is that one in five Americans with mortgages are underwater.  On average, these homeowners are underwater by $50,000 each.  With this settlement, at least $3 billion will go toward refinancing. Other payments will go toward state governments, and the federal government.

What does this mean to you…?

Roughly one million underwater owners are expected to have their mortgage debt reduced by lenders or able to refinance their homes at lower rates. Another 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure from September 2008 to the end of 2011 will receive checks for about $2,000. The aid is to be distributed over three years. The settlement money will be doled out under a complicated formula that gives banks varying degrees of credit for different kinds of help. As a result, banks are incentivized to help harder-hit borrowers with homes worth far less than what they owe.

Is this the end of it…housing crisis over? You tell me…

4,000,000 have already lost their homes to foreclosure.

6,000,000 are currently IN default

11,000,000 are underwater (NOT including those who are termed, “near-underwater”. They would be underwater if they were to list their homes for sale factoring in normal selling fees etc)

WARNING: Short Sales…love em or hate em…they are here to stay! Go beyond the basic ‘expert’ short sale designation. Watch the FREE 2012 Agent Short Sale Secrets video and download the FREE Short Sale training guide.NOTICE: Free book guaranteed for the first 100 agents only

(Taken from Real Esate Insider News)

What To Do If You’re Facing Eviction

February 17th, 2012

Unfortunately, during this real estate downturn, many people have found themselves in places they never expected to end up — sometimes even being evicted from their home.  Evictions can be the result of job loss, which leads to foreclosure or other some misfortune that has added to the statistics of this troubling U.S. economy.

[See "Why Landlords Charge High Security Deposits"]

While it’s never nice to be presented with an eviction notice, there are ways to deal with it gracefully.  Even though eviction laws vary from state to state, and every situation is different, there are some things you can do if you find an eviction notice taped to your door.

  1. Don’t ignore the notice.  Whether the notice is considered a legit, court-ordered notice posted by the sheriff or an “empty threat” note posted by an angry landlord, you MUST respond.
  2. Respond with common courtesy.  If you feel that the eviction is unfair, then the beauty of this country is that you can have your say in the matter in front of a judge.  However, if you really are behind on your payments and/or have broken some sort of agreement to pay (i.e., a lease or mortgage agreement), then you will likely need to have a really good reason for non-payment.  But you can’t go screaming, yelling or cussing at the landlord or the judge.  Be professional, you’ll get farther with both and maybe find some leniency that is fair.  Just be sure that you have your ducks in a row and have documented everything.
  3. Initiate a conversation with the landlord and propose some sort of payment arrangement.  Maybe you can’t make the entire $1,000/month payment, but you can make it in pieces.  Chances are your landlord doesn’t want another vacancy, so maybe they would be willing to make arrangements in which you would pay $500 at the beginning of each month and $550 in the middle of the month for a short term.  If possible, show good faith by offering to pay a little more to the landlord (call it capped late fees) for their efforts.
  4. Follow through.  Whether you make payment arrangements or some other sort of agreement, you must follow through.  If you can’t keep the arrangement that are agreed to, then ask the landlord if they have another rental that is less expensive for you to move into that will meet your budget.
  5. Accept that truth is truth.  Maybe there is no way of working something out and you must really vacate your home before the landlord and sheriff physically move you and your stuff to the curb. There is nothing wrong with downsizing until you get back on your feet.  Your landlord knows that sometimes people fall on hard times and chances are they are not completely heartless, especially if they see that you are trying.  Therefore, be cooperative and when you are back on your feet, you may still be able to use the landlord as a future reference.

[See "Why Renter's Insurance is Important"]

Notice that every single one of these tips are related to some sort of communication.  Evictions aren’t pretty, but if you do find yourself in one then take a deep breath and let all the parties know what is going on.  Whether it be an exit plan on how and when you are moving out of the property or a payment arrangement plan, good communication will make a sour situation easier to handle.

Jessica Hickok is a REALTOR® Broker and Property Manager/Landlord with Dizmang Properties, Inc. (www.getpaul.com) in Springfield, Missouri. She can also be found on Twitter as @SugarCube.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

(Taken from Zillow® Blog)

Breaking News: Dramatic Increase In Defaults | Wave Of Foreclosures Expected

February 17th, 2012

The rate of defaulting owners is INCREASING….

No surprised when you consider:

* 4,000,000 have already lost their homes to foreclosure

** 6,000,000 are in default. Headed to become tomorrow’s foreclosure (unless they make the smart move to short sale)

*** 11,000,000 owners are considered ‘underwater’. The average underwater owes $50,000 more on their homes than current market value.

****  The actual number of underwater owners is actually closer to 20,000,000 when those who are ‘near underwater’ are factored in. For example, someone owes $300,000 on a house that is worth $300,000. Any downward market fluctuation they are underwater. If they have to sell assuming market commissions, normal selling fees etc they are underwater.

What is happening to drive up the delinquency rate?

Strategic default. Owners are making the financial decision to deleverage themselves out of a sinking asset. Many owners have been waiting to see if the market would improve or if there would be any sort of meaningful underwater owner bailout out program. Now that they know neither will happen millions are strategically defaulting..or at least considering it.

Agents, help those owners transition from their underwater home by doing a short sale vs a foreclosure.

Source: Transunion Press Release.

The national mortgage delinquency rate (the rate of borrowers 60 or more days past due) increased for only the second time since the end of 2009, edging upward to 6.01% at the end of the fourth quarter in 2011. This information is reported by TransUnion and is part of its ongoing series of quarterly analyses of credit-active U.S. consumers and how they are managing credit related to mortgages, credit cards and auto loans.

Between the third and fourth quarters of 2011, all but 13 states experienced increases in their mortgage delinquency rates. On a more granular level, 64% of metropolitan areas saw increases in their mortgage delinquency rates in Q4 2011. This is the same percentage as found in Q3 2011, but up from Q2 2011 when only 21% of MSAs experienced an increase.

WARNING: Short Sales…love em or hate em…they are here to stay! Go beyond the basic ‘expert’ short sale designation. Watch the FREE 2012 Agent Short Sale Secrets video and download the FREE Short Sale training guide.NOTICE: Free book guaranteed for the first 100 agents only

“To see that, quarter over quarter, fewer homeowners were able to make their mortgage payments is not welcome news,” said Tim Martin, group vice president of U.S. Housing in TransUnion’s financial services business unit. “However, it was not unexpected. First, there tends to be a natural seasonality, evident well before the recession, of higher delinquencies in the fourth quarter; perhaps explained by borrowers balancing holiday spending vs. debt payments. Secondly, on the economic front, house prices continued to deteriorate in the fourth quarter and unemployment remained stubbornly high. This combination leads to more negative equity in homes and reduced real personal income that can affect borrowers’ ability and willingness to pay their mortgages.

“The more encouraging news is that, when looking year over year, more homeowners are making their mortgage payments and the delinquency rate dropped over 6% since Q4 2010. While it is certainly good to see the rate dropping, at this pace it will take a very long time for mortgage delinquencies to get back to normal.”

Many see the economic environment beginning to brighten, although modestly. Therefore, TransUnion’s forecast predicts mortgage borrower delinquency rates to drift downward marginally in 2012, but in the meantime we may still see a quarter or two of slightly elevated nonpayment rates as some consumers are not able to, or decide not to, repay their mortgage debt obligations in light of the uncertain economic outlook.

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TransUnion’s forecast is based on various economic assumptions, such as gross state product, consumer sentiment, unemployment rates, real personal income, and real estate values. The forecast would change if there are unanticipated shocks to the economy affecting recovery in the housing market or if home prices fall more than expected.

Q4 2011 Mortgage Statistics — Delinquency Rates

        Quarter over Quarter             Q3 2011         Q4 2011       Pct. Change
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        USA                                    5.88%           6.01%           2.21%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Year over year                   Q4 2010         Q4 2011      Pct. Change
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        USA                                    6.41%           6.01%         (6.24%)
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Highest Mortgage Delinquency States                                  Q4 2011
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Florida                                                               14.27%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Nevada                                                                12.08%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        New Jersey                                                             8.32%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Arizona                                                                7.50%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Lowest Mortgage Delinquency States                                   Q4 2011
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        North Dakota                                                           1.50%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        South Dakota                                                           2.45%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Nebraska                                                               2.57%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Alaska                                                                 2.77%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Top 3 Year-over-Year
        Increases                        Q4 2010         Q4 2011       Pct. Change
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        New Jersey                             7.43%           8.32%          11.98%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Vermont                                3.06%           3.40%          11.11%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        South Dakota                           2.22%           2.45%          10.36%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Top 3 Year-over-Year
        Declines                         Q4 2010         Q4 2011       Pct. Change
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Arizona                                9.70%           7.50%        (22.68%)
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        California                             9.14%           7.14%        (21.88%)
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Wyoming                                3.42%           2.79%        (18.42%)
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q4 2011 Mortgage Statistics — Mortgage Debt Per Borrower

        Quarter over Quarter             Q3 2011         Q4 2011       Pct. Change
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        USA                                 $190,382        $188,194         (1.15%)
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Year over Year                   Q4 2010         Q4 2011       Pct. Change
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        USA                                 $189,046        $188,194         (0.45%)
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Highest Mortgage Debt States                             Q4 2011
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        District of Columbia                                                $375,563
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        California                                                          $332,021
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Hawaii                                                              $311,099
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Maryland                                                            $249,148
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Lowest Mortgage Debt States                              Q4 2011
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        West Virginia                                                      $100,982
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Mississippi                                                        $107,755
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Oklahoma                                                           $111,869
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Arkansas                                                           $114,345
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Top 3 Year-over-Year
        Increases                        Q4 2010         Q4 2011       Pct. Change
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        South Dakota                       $130,309        $135,999            4.37%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        North Dakota                       $114,557        $118,147            3.13%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Iowa                               $120,371        $123,488            2.59%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Top 3 Year-over-Year
        Declines                         Q4 2010         Q4 2011       Pct. Change
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Nevada                             $228,990        $219,095          (4.32%)
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Arizona                            $202,976        $197,319          (2.79%)
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        California                         $339,088        $332,021          (2.08%)
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Supporting Resources/Links TransUnion Trend Data Interactive U.S. Map

TransUnion 2Q11 Mortgage Statistics TransUnion Payment Hierarchy Study TransUnion Deleveraging Analysis TransUnion on Twitter

TransUnion’s Trend Data database TransUnion’s Trend Data is a one-of-a-kind database consisting of 27 million anonymous consumer records randomly sampled every quarter from TransUnion’s national consumer credit database. Each record contains more than 200 credit variables that illustrate consumer credit usage and performance. Since 1992, TransUnion has been aggregating this information at the county, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), state and national levels. For the purpose of this analysis, the term “credit card” refers to those issued by banks.

About TransUnion As a global leader in information and risk management, TransUnion creates advantages for millions of people around the world by gathering, analyzing and delivering information. For businesses, TransUnion helps improve efficiency, manage risk, reduce costs and increase revenue by delivering high quality data, and integrating advanced analytics and enhanced decision-making capabilities. For consumers, TransUnion provides the tools, resources and education to help manage their credit health and achieve their financial goals. Through these and other efforts, TransUnion is working to build stronger economies worldwide. Founded in 1968 and headquartered in Chicago, TransUnion reaches businesses and consumers in 23 countries around the world. www.transunion.com/business

Image Available: http://www2.marketwire.com/mw/frame_mw?attachid=1885311

        Contact
        Dave Blumberg
        TransUnion
        E-mail: Email Contact
        Telephone: 312-985-3059

SOURCE: TransUnion

http://www2.marketwire.com/mw/emailprcntct?id=98BD290B5A397C93

(Taken from Real Estate Insider News)

Billboard House Advertises a Way Out of the Housing Crisis

February 17th, 2012

Scott Hostetler didn’t bother to tell his family that he’d applied online to have their house in Buena Park, Calif., turned into an advertising billboard for the price of their monthly mortgage payment. He figured that it was like taking a chance on the lottery — and who ever expects to win the lottery? Then, about three weeks ago, he got the call from Romeo Mendoza, head of the advertising company that made the offer, Brainiacs From Mars.

Mendoza delivered the shocking news: The Hostetlers’ home had been selected out of some 38,000 applications to be the first to be branded with a very special custom paint job, a deal that would cover the monthly mortgage payment of $2,000 for at least three months and perhaps up to a year — depending on when either the homeowners or the ad company wants to end the contract. At the end of that time, the company promised to restore the home’s exterior to its original appearance.

Until then, though, it would display the bright orange and green colors of Brainiacs From Mars (formerly known as Adzookie). The company signage in the photo above is just temporary; while Buena Park is OK with the paint job, city zoning laws prohibit permanent advertising signs on residences.

Hostetler and his wife, both of whom are deaf, have lived in the home for about 18 years. They both work for Goodwill Industries — he’s an information technology manager and she’s a rehabilitation counselor. Their 17-year-old daughter (pictured with her parents) lives at home; they also have a son who is a freshman at New York University.

The Hostetlers say that they plan to use the extra money sent directly to them monthly from Brainiacs to pay down some bills, replace Scott’s old Chevrolet Suburban, and maybe go on vacation.

Getting Help Into the Hands of the People Who Need It Most

The idea for the Billboard House came to Mendoza, the company’s chief executive, as he picked up his 7-year-old from school. Every day they would pass a sign that advertised a bank-owned property. And when he visited his mother in Las Vegas, there were areas so hard hit by the housing crisis that, he says, they seemed to him like ghost towns. Government can only do so much, he says, while corporations have the money, and this seemed to him like a promising way to get some of that into the hands of people who needed it the most.

While Mendoza figures that about 10 percent of those who applied to have homes turned into billboards “wanted to have a good time” with it and were attracted to the novelty, he insists that “we’re here to help the homeowners.” Applications “have come from literally everywhere,” he says, though he has noticed a higher amount from the “foreclosure states” — Florida, Nevada, and California. Applications have also come from Japan, Spain, Russia, the Czech Republic and many other countries. One city councilman reportedly invited Brainiacs From Mars to paint an entire row of homes in his town.

The advertising company has plans for 100 such homes, Mendoza says, but a goal of 1,000 if they can attract the advertisers. In areas like Buena Park that prohibit advertising signage, they’ll stick to the brand’s colors, but where community zoning allows more, signs would go on the homes.

What Will the Neighbors Think?

While there is no set of particular qualities that Brainiacs is looking for in a homeowner, Mendoza says the Hostetlers are the kind of close-knit family that “felt right” to help debut the promotion. As for official requirements, the applicants must own the home, and local zoning laws must allow the paint job. Selected homeowners also have to be prepared for neighbors’ reactions.

You might think the company would be looking for homes in high-traffic areas, but the Hostetlers’ 1960s house is inside a quiet development of tract houses, at least a block away from main streets and within view of a neighborhood park. You might get a glimpse of the back of the home from nearby Knott’s Berry Farm, though, as you prepare to plunge from the top of its Xcelerator or another towering thrill ride. The house is practically in the shadow of the amusement park, one of Southern California’s top tourist attractions, whose roller coasters serve as a backdrop for the neighborhood.

After its official unveiling recently, the house could become its own neighborhood attraction — along the lines of a elaborate Christmas display, the Hostetlers say. While AOL Real Estate was there on Sunday, members of a motorcycle club that was gathered at a house across the street were taking pictures, and a quartet of teens on skateboards stopped to take a look.

As for the neighbors, they found out last week, on the first day of painting, when Brainiacs From Mars went door-to-door to the closest houses to explain why the olive green and chocolate brown color scheme that the Hostetlers say had earned them compliments and admiring inquiries was dramatically changing. The neighbors were shocked at first, the Hostetlers say, but “that went away, and now they understand.” One neighbor even wanted to have his house turned into a billboard, too. Though another walked by and said, “Your house was so pretty before, what did you do to it?”

Vivian Largent, who lives across the street and a few doors down, says that she thinks the new paint is fine as long as it’s temporary. She would have some concerns about property values if it stayed up for the long term, though.

Largent said that she knows people who could really use some help on their mortgage right now, and had asked Brainiacs how those she knows could apply. (You can find the application on the Brainiacs website.)

She also wondered why the advertising sign that the roofers has posted in her front yard, as they’d worked on her home, was allowed, while the signage that Brainiacs From Mars attached to the Hostetlers house for media photographs had to be taken down.

(Taken from Zillow® Blog)

Jennifer Hudson Backs Out of Chicago Home Sale

February 17th, 2012

One, big Chicago real estate deal has hit a sour note.

At the end of November, Jennifer Hudson was reportedly under contract to buy a 12,000-square foot home in Burr Ridge, Il, but somewhere the music stopped. The award-winning singer and actress backed out of the home purchase, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The 6-bedroom, 7-bathroom castle-like home was last listed on the Burr Ridge real estate market for $2,795,000. At the time, NBC Chicago reported the 30-year old star “will get the house for 33 percent less than the original asking price of $4.2 million.”

Why would the Academy-Award winning star back away from the discounted mansion? While the home inspection could have revealed something, the Tribune speculates that Hudson ended the contract due to publicity surrounding her home purchase.

“It had nothing to do with the house or the price,” listing agent Chuck Ivas of Re/Max Elite told the Tribune.

Described as a “majestic estate,” the massive property was custom built in 2007 and features Brazilian cherry floors, a floating staircase, heated garage, two laundry rooms, a third floor bonus room, formal living and dining rooms, theater, eat-in kitchen, and finished walk-out basement.

For Hudson, who sang a tribute to Whitney Houston during the 54th Grammy Awards a day after the troubled singer’s death in Beverly Hills, there’s still time to find a place to extend her roots in her native Chicago.

(Taken from Zillow® Blog)

Reminder: 3.8% Tax to have Minimal Real Estate Impact

February 17th, 2012

Tax time is nearing and once more rumors are circulating on the Internet and by e-mail that the health care reform law enacted two years ago includes a 3.8 percent transfer tax on real estate starting in 2013. That rumor is not true and NAR has material available to explain how that 3.8 percent tax works.

It’s a tax on a very narrow band of investment income for high-wealth households (those who earn $250,000 in a joint return or $200,000 as an individual) that could come into play on the sale of a house if the sales gain is more than $500,000 for a married couple or $250,000 for an individual.

Even in the unlikely event the sales gain is more than that amount, the tax would only apply based on other considerations having to with the household’s income and its tax situation.

The bottom line is, the tax, which was imposed to help shore up Medicare, will only hit some portion of investment income.

Video and explanatory article.

Free downloadable brochure.

FAQ.

(Taken from National Association of Realtors; Realtor® MAG Blogs)