General Interest

Top Technology Time Savers Worth Checking Out (Part 2 of 2)

Technology for Real Estate

Technology for Real Estate

We need a license before driving a car, practicing real estate or getting married. As technology pundit David Pogue noticed, there is no official certification required to navigate a computer. So most people don’t know what they don’t know about navigating a keyboard.

This is the second in a 2 part series unveiling top time-saving tips for working smarter in cyberspace.

  • Have you ever given a slide presentation and caught the audience gazing at your slides instead of looking at you?  In PowerPoint strike the “B” key to momentarily black-out the slide. Click “B” again to restore the view of the slide. To white-out the slide, click “W”.  Hit “W” a second time to restore it.
  • Need flight status. Google is an FAA database. Go to Google type the name of the airline and the flight number to get: aircraft location, terminal, gate, and estimated landing time.
  • Want to know how long it would take to fly from point A to point B? In the Google search bar type “flight time from city X to city Y”. The resulting list will even throw in a quick overview of the range of prices.
  •  Taking a trip and need a currency conversion?  In Google search bar type “convert” then enter the currency type and amount.  Example: “Convert 5000 dollars to British pounds.”
  • To highlight a word don’t drag the cursor across it, just double click the word. Drag the cursor to highlight additional words in a continuous stream.
  • Triple click to highlight an entire paragraph. This also works in Word docs.
  • Don’t delete highlighted unwanted content, to save time just type over it or paste over it.
  •  Shutter lag is common occurrence in cameras that cost less than $1000.00.  To photograph an object in mid-motion, pre-focus on the object before it is in motion by holding the shutter button half-way down.  When the object moves, press the shutter the rest of the way down to capture the action. This addresses the delay most cameras experience between the time you press the shutter button and the time the camera actually records the image.

To see a video demo of most of these tips check out the 5 minute video. The presenter keeps it fun. Feel free to share some of your favorite keyboard time-savers as well.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual real estate portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Remember to Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Source: TED Talks as published by Inc. Christina Desmarais.

Loan Limits Announcement Good News for Real Estate Professionals and Homebuyers

Team ApplauseOn November 26th, The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced conforming loan limits for 2014. According to a press release,  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conforming limits will remain at $417,000 for one- unit properties in most areas of the nation. For high-cost markets, one-unit property loans will remain capped at a maximum of $625,500.

FHFA’s earlier announcement signaling their intention to lower loan limits, ignited a firestorm of protests from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the California Association of Realtors (CAR) among others. CAR President Kevin Brown expressed his organization’s concern that “lowering the loan limits would have reversed the housing recovery;” in a press release from CAR he applauded the decision of Congressional lawmakers to make permanent the current loan limits of $417,000 for most markets  and $625,500 for high-cost markets.

“The 2014 loan limits are higher than 2013 HERA limits in several counties,” according to the National Mortgage Professional.  For a list of loan limits for one-unit to four-unit properties for your county, review the FHFA news release. The link  to the list is in paragraph #5.

For details on how the loan limits were calculated see pages 2-3 of the FHFA release.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Remember to Like us on Facebook and  Follow us on Twitter.


Federal Housing Finance Agency Press Release

California Association of Realtors Press Release

Mortgage Applications Dwindle

Prospective Fed Chairman, Janet Yellen, continues to ensure members of the Senate Banking Committee that she favors robust QE measures until the economy and labor market can exhibit strong growth.  She told the panel on Thursday “I consider it imperative that we do what we can to promote a very strong recovery.”  This has helped to send the equity markets soaring to new record highs but strong improvements elsewhere remain to be seen.  While the Fed believes the asset purchases have been nursing the economy back to health, the housing market has flat-lined or in some cases started to retract.

Mortgage Applications DropNotably in housing, mortgage applications continued to dwindle from the prior week’s report.  Applications dropped 1.8 percent according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) for the week of November 8th.  The prior week’s report was revised down from -7 percent to -2.8 percent.  These numbers come of the heels of a higher 30-year average fixed mortgage rate for conforming loans of 4.44 percent compared to 4.32 percent in the prior week.  The 30-year fixed mortgage rate averages for Jumbo loans and FHA backed loans also experienced increases that reached monthly highs.

Home builder confidence was reported flat due to rising construction costs this month.  The recent spike in interest rates over the last few months has hurt mortgage applications and construction costs are affecting the housing supply.  Other factors besides interest rates are influencing home buyers.  Rick Judson, NAHB Chairman, said in a release, “Given the current interest rate and pricing environment, consumers continue to show interest in purchasing new homes, but are holding back because Congress keeps pushing critical decisions on budget, tax and government spending issues down the road.”

The number of people looking to purchase a home dropped half a percent according to the purchase index put out by the MBA which is typical in a rising rate environment.  Interest rates are still historically low but the continued uncertainty from the Fed and Washington will continue to keep home buyers on the sidelines until more clarity can be seen.  The high unemployment numbers also add to the problem.  Inevitably this will hurt mortgage application numbers as home buyers sit on the sidelines.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Top Technology Time Savers Worth Checking Out (Part 1 of 2)

Technology for Real Estate

Technology for Real Estate

Did you know you could check a flight status by typing the airline name and flight number into Google? It also converts currency and translates foreign words.

Technology guru David Pogue says there are numerous time saving tips and resources that most users were simply never taught.  They are not apps or new devices, but simple shortcuts that save key strokes, solve problems and allow you to work smarter.  We tested them out and decided to share some of our favorites.

To keep it short, we’re sharing our favs in a 2 part series. Here’s the first batch.

  • In your browser, instead of using the scroll bar to roll up and down the page; try the spacebar to scroll down 1 page per tap. To scroll back up hold shift button+ the space bar.
  • To enlarge the online screen view hold the “Ctrl key” down and tap (+) to enlarge the screen; hold the Ctrl Key and tap (-) to make the screen view smaller.
  • When entering a text on a phone, when you get to the end of a sentence, press the space bar twice.  It will insert a period and cap the first letter of the next sentence.
  • To redial someone just hit the call button. The last number dialed will display. Click “call”   to initiate the call.
  • To leave a message on a cell phone and bypass the instructions on “how to leave a message”, hit the # sign (AT&T customers). This will not work for all carriers. Experiment to learn the skip symbol works for various carriers.
  • Need a dictionary? Go to the Google search bar. Type “define” and the word.  Google will provide the definition as you enter the word. No extra clicks necessary.
  • Need to translate a French or Spanish word to English? Go to Google and type “translate” + the word. The translation will appear in a large box at the top of the page.

What are your favorite free technology time savers? Let us know and we may be able to publish them in a future segment.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual real estate portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Remember to Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.


Source: 5 Ted Talks That Can Help You Work Smarter. Christina Desmarais. Inc.

Bridging the Down Payment Cash Gap — (Part 2 in a 2 Part Series)


Improving Real Estate Markets

While most Americans see homeownership as a good financial choice, many are sidelined by 20% down payment requirements.  Recent surveys indicate that 31% of Boomers and 31% of Gen Y respondents consider 20% down payments a major obstacle.

According to a recent CNBC report, the housing industry activity has seen better days. Investor demand has catapulted prices up 12% year-over-year to “unsustainable levels” in some markets according to Fitch Ratings. Prior month mortgage applications fell 7%, refi apps swooned 8%, and home purchase applications tanked by 5% according to latest reports. Perhaps these trends and others have inspired the lending industry to showcase alternatives to the 20% down payment rule.

A large down payment, low debt ratio and a top credit score can typically qualify buyers for lowest interest rates and best mortgage terms. For well qualified buyers who don’t have a 20% down payment, banks are now showcasing conventional loans with 5% down payment options; while private and governmental sources fund and spotlight over 1500 home buyer assistance programs.

This is the second segment of a two-part series. We’ll spotlight seven down payment resources to help bridge the down payment cash gap.  First Time Homebuyers

Down Payment Assistance –Have you ever wished that there was a one-stop resource combining all of the available forms of down payment assistance in one place? Down Payment Resource (DPR) is a national databank of various forms of down payment assistance available throughout the country, including local, county, state, and federal programs in all 50 states. Programs include those reserved for teachers, veterans, healthcare workers, etc., as well as a multitude of private programs.

Multiple Listing Services across the country opt-in to the service, connecting local members who then provide access to their homebuyer clients. DPR Vice President of Business Development Beverly Faull states, “This is the only nationwide resource which aggregates more than 1,500 programs from over 1,000 providers into an integrated, online program finder.”

Major Banks & Credit Unions — Credit Unions, are jumping into the mix, offering attractive terms for qualified borrowers.

According to CNN news, several major banks such as Wells Fargo, TD Bank and Bank of America,  have begun offering loans with down payments as low as 5%. Some will even allow gifted funds to cover 2% of the sales price, leaving the buyer with a 3% down payment opportunity. Even million dollar property purchasers seek out lower down payment alternatives.  Market dynamics have shifted and it’s worth taking a second look at traditional lender offerings.

HomePath Mortgage—Available only on real estate owned by Fannie Mae, a HomePath mortgage is a conventional mortgage requiring 5 percent down with no private mortgage insurance.

 Shared Equity Financing Arrangements (SEFA)—First-time home buyers are again turning to the traditional parent-backed loan, but with a twist. Loans are now formalized with a profit-sharing clause for parents.  A legal agreement spells out the particulars such as who pays taxes insurance, maintenance, etc. and the length of the agreement. Profits are divided when the property is sold.

Veterans Administration (VA)—VA Loans, great for qualifying veterans, feature low or no down payments. It is possible to bypass private mortgage insurance.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Loans)—Rural property USDA loans may cover 100% of the price of the property. Mortgage insurance is required, however at lower rates than many other funding types. Buyers are often surprised to find that non-farm properties may qualify.

Good Neighbor Next Door Loans (—Qualifying applicants can receive a 50% discount on home prices. There is a 3-year residency requirement. The program is designed for law enforcement, pre-k through 12th grade teachers, emergency medical techs and firefighters.

While 20% down payments  dominated the lending scene for the last few years,  conventional lenders now signal a willingness to be more flexible on down payment options for well qualified buyers.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual real estate portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Bridging the Down Payment Cash Gap | 10 Evolving Resources

While most Americans see homeownership as a good financial choice, many find that buying is easier said than done.  Recent surveys indicate that 31% of Boomers and 31% of Gen Y respondents consider 20% down payments a major obstacle.


Improving Real Estate Markets

Creative down payment options are emerging and so is the debate about whether low down payments lead to default. The benefits of a sizeable down payment are well documented. As home price appreciation outpaces wage growth however, prospective buyers worry that while waiting to save a 20% down payment; home price appreciation and rising interest rates will price them out of the market.

One thing is certain; buyers at both ends of the price spectrum are now exploring ways to conserve cash while pursuing the home of their dreams.  Today’s segment spotlights four of ten financing options qualified buyers are exploring to help bridge the down payment cash gap.

Shared Appreciation Mortgages—In the luxury home market, shared appreciation mortgages are emerging as a way to own without exhausting cash reserves for hefty down payments.  Bloomberg BusinessWeek showcased buyer Jeff Uter, a business consultant purchasing a $780,000 property in Orange County, CA. Instead of investing the $156,000 down payment from personal assets, Uter funded half the down payment and accepted the remaining $78,000 from San Francisco –based investor FirstRex. The investor agreed to a 40 percent share of proceeds from the future sale of the property. This approach is limited to high-dollar properties primarily in California, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts and Connecticut. A number of luxury home lenders now allow such participation.

Navy Federal—Located in Vienna, VA, Navy Federal is reportedly the nation’s largest credit union. Members include the military, plus many but not all civilian employees of the military and Defense Department members and family.  Loans do not require private mortgage insurance (PMI). Spokesperson Dana DeSarno reported that their “Homebuyer’s Choice Program” provides 100% financing, for members not eligible for VA loans. Many of their borrowers are first-time homebuyers.

FHA Loans— FHA’s $100 Down Payment Program is still available in designated states. (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands). The program is available to qualified owner-occupant buyers, only on HUD properties which meet condition requirements for FHA financing.

In other states, qualified buyers can purchase HUD homes for 3.5% down with an FHA loan.  Mortgage insurance is required.

In the next segment we will review six additional funding options plus an online resource containing more than 1,500 down payment programs from over 1,000 providers.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual real estate portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Government Re-opens But Builder Confidence Drops

After days of meetings, discussions and negotiating, the government finally came to a short-term resolution to allow the government shut-down to conclude and ensure default would not ensue.  But this “my way or the highway” mentality on both sides of the political isle has damaged Washington’s credibility and confidence ratings among Americans.  The lack of leadership in Washington and the “kicking the can down the road” ideology has affected several parts of the economy; both macro and micro in scope.

Reports released this Wednesday from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) showed a weakening in home builder confidence.  In the market for new single family homes, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) reflected a two point drop from an already downward revised report in September.  NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe noted, “A spike in mortgage interest rates along with the paralysis in Washington that led to the government shutdown and uncertainty regarding the nation’s debt limit have caused builders and consumers to take pause.  However, interest rates remain near historic lows and we don’t expect the level of rates to have a major impact on sales and starts going forward. Once this government impasse is resolved, we expect builder and consumer optimism will bounce back.”

Builder ConfidenceThe NAHB describes the HMI as a an index that “gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.”  The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.”  Current sales, sales expectations and traffic of prospective buyers all experienced a two point drop showing confidence is waning.

It appears that home builders aren’t the only ones lacking confidence.  Consumers are showing signs of caution in the midst of Washington’s uncertainty.  Last week during the partial shut-down, mortgage applications for government mortgage products dropped to a six-year low according the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).  Mortgage applications to purchase a home declined by 5%.  “The government shutdown had a notable impact on the mortgage market last week. Purchase applications for government programs dropped by more than 7 percent over the week to their lowest level since December 2007, and the government share of purchase applications dropped to its lowest level in almost three years. FHA lenders with delegated authority have been able to continue, but those that rely on the regional homeownership centers have not. Additionally, HUD staff at headquarters are generally furloughed and not able to answer questions,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s vice president of research and economics.

It will no doubt take time to re-instill confidence that the American people had in their government’s elected officials.  The negative impact of these past few weeks might haunt the economy and consumers for some time.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.


Boomerang Buyers | The Next Big Wave?

ID-10076536Are “boomerang buyers” the missing link needed to accelerate the housing recovery? How many are eligible to purchase sooner as a result of recent changes to FHA guidelines and are they even interested in owning a home again? Could this impact the profitability model of reo-to-rental investors?

If interest rates remain low, the stage may be set to see a new wave of homebuyers take center stage. It is estimated that new FHA guidelines made it possible for 2.5 million former homeowners to re-enter the market two years earlier than expected. Often referred to as boomerang buyers the 2.5 million new prospective shoppers are former home owners who experienced foreclosure, short sale, or deed-in-lieu agreements between September 2010 and August 2012.

The August 15thFHA Mortgagee Letter 2013-26, entitled, “Back to Work—Extenuating Circumstances,”  made it possible to shorten the required waiting period for former  FHA borrowers from 3 years to as little as 12 months, given certain circumstances.

On October 4th, Fannie Mae issued a major “Desktop Underwriter” upgrade announcement which will take effect November 16th. The change may allow short sale (“preforeclosure sale”) participants to re-enter the market after just two years instead of seven. Many borrowers who underwent preforeclosure sales discovered afterward that credit bureaus recorded both a preforeclosure and a foreclosure sale; imposing a seven-year penalty (standard for foreclosures) instead of appropriately applying a 2 year wait. This correction alone may create an additional wave of eligible buyers sooner than expected. During the housing crisis, 4.8 million home-owners forfeited homes due to foreclosure and 2.2 million opted for short sales, as reported by RealtyTrac and cited by CNN Money.

Many of the 7 million former owners who underwent foreclosure, short sale or deeds-in-lieu early in the housing crisis, have already rebuilt their credit and their finances and are eligible to re-enter the market even under the former guidelines.

The question is will boomerang buyers re-enter the market or remain renters?  So far this year one in ten homebuyers is a boomerang buyer. And that was prior to FHA and Fannie Mae announcements.   According to research firm John Burns Real Estate Consulting, the pace has doubled since last year. According to the 2013 National Association of Realtors (NAR) National Housing Pulse Survey 51% of renters say that “eventually owning a home is one of their highest personal priorities.” Eighty percent of Americans believe that buying is a sound decision.

Boise, Idaho Broker Mike Edgar coaches boomerang buyers back to eligibility. He consulted with more than a dozen such buyers in 2012 and expects  twofold growth this year.

The news from FHA and Fannie Mae could be the spark that millions of former owners hoped for and the lift the housing recovery needs.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter .

Who Throws The South’s Best Tailgate Party?

Fabulous food. Spirited Refreshments. Passionate Rivalries.  And a $2,500 Sweepstakes for voting fans. It’s time to decide who takes home the prize for The South’s Best Tailgate 2013.

 Southern Living University of Texas burgerCaptureIt’s official. The coin has been tossed. We’ve officially entered the, Football Standard Time Zone (FSTZ) across America. Nowhere is it a more revered ritual than in the south where a football game is a perfect excuse to throw a party and the bigger the better.  

Southern colleges have perfected the art of Tailgating. Imagine a combination cook-out, portable feast, cocktail party and pep rally all rolled into one. Typically held near the site of the game; some draw more attention than the action on the field.  From flatbed pick-ups to elegant RVs, there’s a tailgate style to suit every fan.

For southern charm it’s hard to beat the linen table cloths and tents with chandeliers at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). Their gathering spot, (The Grove) hosts ladies in cocktail party attire and tents with candelabras.  

One of this year’s contenders has a waterfront stadium invaded weekly by a flotilla of partying fans. The University of Tennessee boasts a 200 vessel “Vol Navy” with amenities like hot tubs, waterslides, and flat screens.

 Each region has perfected its own miniature or jumbo delicacies and spirited refreshments. For Jambalaya and alligator stew, try the purple and gold of LSU. Gourmet burgers like the Texas Tackler featured here, tackle pre-game appetites of Longhorn fans.

Alabama’s game day crowds have been known to top 100,000 for high stakes rivalry match-ups.

A major lifestyle magazine searched the south to discover “The South’s Best Tailgate.” They compiled a list of 15 top contenders.  Your votes are needed to determine who will win this year’s bragging rights as “The South’s Best Tailgate”. Voters get a chance to win $2500—just for voting. Clemson took 2012 honors.

If you don’t see your #1 candidate on “The South’s Best Tailgate” list, reply with the name of your favorite and tell us why they should be on the next list. We’ll relay the results and watch for your picks in next year’s top crop.

Here’s a list of the “15” finalists. Vote early and vote often (daily), through September 30 by clicking on the links below. If you’re new to our social community remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

  1. University of Alabama
  2. Appalachian State University
  3. Clemson University
  4. Florida State University
  5. University of Georgia
  6. Louisiana State University
  7. University of Mississippi
  8. Marshal University
  9. Oklahoma State University
  10. University of Tennessee
  11. University of Texas
  12. Texas A&M
  13. Vanderbilt University
  14. Virginia Tech
  15. West Virginia University

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT   .