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Pick Up After Your Pet!

by Mark Rieger, Duke Warner Realty
 

We had a slight increase in temperatures this week, so I took advantage of the sunshine and headed outdoors. As I walked into my yard, I began dodging countless piles of animal waste before I even hit the sidewalk. And I don’t own a dog or a cat.

Don’t get me wrong; I love animals, but it’s infuriating and unnecessary to have to clean up after someone else’s pet.

Have you reached the end of your leash because your neighbor lets his dog defecate on your lawn? Here are some tips for dealing with pet poop:

If your own yard is suffering from someone else’s pet:

  • The best approach is to confront your neighbors directly. Respectfully and politely approach them (and it wouldn’t hurt to take them some goodies), and let them know you enjoy their friendship, but you don’t enjoy cleaning up after their pet.
  • There are some safe, non-toxic, effective, eco-friendly repellents you can consider using on your lawn, garden, trees, and shrubs. They include: BioDefend’s natural animal repellent, Liquid Fence animal repellent, and Ropel animal repellent. These products have an unpleasing scent to animals and deter them from hanging around your yard.
  • Most communities have strict rules regarding cleaning up after pets. If the offense doesn’t stop, contact your homeowners association or non-emergency city police department to inform them of the situation. Use this as a last resort, though, because it could affect your neighborly relations.
  • Never blame the animal. They are only doing what comes naturally. The behavior needs to be controlled by the pet’s owner or discouraged by you. There is never any excuse for animal cruelty.

If your pet is a potential culprit:

  • Be aware of your community’s rules regarding pet clean up and follow them.
  • Bag it. Take a large enough bag with you when you are with your pet. Once your dog does his business, put the bag over one hand, pick up the poop, then turn the bag inside out with your other hand, leaving the poop inside the bag. Knot the bag and toss it in the trash.
  • Scoop it. There are many pooper-scoopers available for animal owners. Check out your nearest pet supply store.
  • Many dogs can be trained to go to the bathroom in the same place, leaving clean up an easy task.
  • Never let your animal roam around the neighborhood without a leash.
  • Don’t rely on curbing. Curbing is when a dog is trained to defecate in the street near the curb, so the next rainstorm can sweep the deposits into the nearest gutter. Curbing is questionable because dog poop is a major cause of water pollution, which poses a significant hazard to us. Curbing can also jeopardize your dog’s safety putting him dangerously close to fast-moving vehicles.

Being a responsible pet owner includes taking responsibility for your pet’s messes.

6 Ways to Help Victims in Japan

by Mark Rieger, Duke Warner Realty
 
 

Japanese news services have announced that the death toll from last Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami is expected to exceed 10,000. Search and recovery teams from many different countries are working in conjunction with the Japanese government to provide aid in the heavily devastated areas.

If you have wondered what you can do, here are 6 simple ways to help the victims in Japan:

1.     Charity watchdog Charity Navigator has published donating tips and a list of responding charities. This list will continue to be updated as the group learns of more charities assisting with the relief efforts.

2.     The American Red Cross is accepting online donations for disaster relief efforts.

3.     If you prefer to donate via text, here are a number of reputable charitable causes that will charge the donation to your next wireless phone bill:

Text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross.

Text "JAPAN" or "TSUNAMI" to 20222 to donate $10 to Save the Children’s Children’s Emergency Fund.

Text "4JAPAN" or "4TSUNAMI" to 20222 to donate $10 to World Vision’s Disaster Response Fund. 

Text “JAPAN” or “QUAKE” to 80888 to donate $10 to the Salvation Army.

Text “TSUNAMI” to 50555 to donate $10 to Convoy of Hope.

Text "MERCY" to 25383 to donate $10 to Mercy Corps.

4.     Doctors Without Borders sent a team to the area and is assisting in the relief effort. If you’d like to support their efforts, you can donate online.

5.     GlobalGiving is working with other organizations such as the International Medical Corps and has launched the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund, which will give aid to organizations providing emergency services. They are accepting online donations with a funding goal of $2,000,000. 

6.     If you have a Facebook page, and you’re a FarmVille fan, you can support children affected by the earthquake and tsunami by playing certain games on Facebook. Zynga, the company behind some of the most popular social media games, is partnering with Save the Children to support relief efforts. Through playing the company’s most popular games including Café World, CityVille, FrontierVille, FarmVille, YoVille, Zynga Poker, Words With Friends, and zBar, players have the opportunity to donate to Save the Children’s Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami Children Emergency Fund.

5 Mortgage & Foreclosure Myths

by Mark Rieger, Duke Warner Realty
In a mortgage market that changes as quickly as this one, today’s fact is tomorrow’s fiction.  For buyers, misinformation can be the difference between qualifying for a home loan or not. Sellers and owners, knowledge is foreclosure-preventing, smart decision-making power! Without further ado, let’s correct some common mortgage misconceptions.

1.       Myth: Buyers with bad credit can’t qualify for home loans. Obviously, mortgage guidelines have tightened up, big time, since the housing bubble burst, and they seem likely to tighten even further over the long-term. But just this moment, they have relaxed a bit.  In the last couple of weeks, two of the nation’s largest lenders of FHA loans announced that they’ve dropped the minimum FICO score guideline from 620 (which allows for some credit imperfections) to 580, which is actually a fairly low score.

At a FICO score of 620, buyers can qualify for FHA loans at many lenders with only 3.5 percent down. With a score of 580, the lenders are looking for more like 5 to 10 percent down – they want to see you put more of your own skin in the game, and the higher down payment lowers the risk that you’ll default.  However, if your credit has taken a recessionary hit, like that of so many Americans, this might create a glimmer of hope that you’ll be able to take advantage of low prices and interest rates without needing years of credit repair.

2.     Myth: The Mortgage Interest Deduction isn’t long for this world.  Homeowners saved over $85 billion in 2008 by deducting their mortgage interest on their income tax returns. A few months ago, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform caused a massive wave of fear to ripple throughout the world of real estate consumers and professionals when they recommended Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) reform, which would dramatically reduce the size of the deduction.

Fact is, the Commission made a sweeping set of deficit-busting recommendations to Congress, a few of which are likely to be adopted.  Fortunately for buyers and sellers, MID reform is not one of them.  Very powerful industry groups and economists have been working with Congress to plead the case that MID reform any time in the near future would only handicap the housing recovery.  Congress-folk aren’t interested in stopping the stabilization of the real estate market.  As such, the MID is nearly universally thought of as safe – even by those who disagree that it should be.

3.       Myth:  It’s just a matter of time before loan guidelines loosen up. 
The US Treasury Department recently recommended the elimination of mortgage industry giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I won’t get into the eye-glazing details of it here, but the long and the short is that (a) this is highly likely to happen, and (b) it will make mortgage loans much harder and costlier to get, for both buyers and homeowners.   It’s possible that loans are as easy to get as they’re going to get.  So don’t expect that if you hold out, zero-down mortgages will come back into vogue anytime soon. Fortunately, Fannie and Freddie aren't likely to disappear for another 5-7 years, so you have a little time to pull your down payment and credit together. If you want to get into the market, the time to get yourself ready is now!

4.       Myth: If you don’t have equity, you can’t refi. Much ado is being made about how stuck so many people are in their bad loans, because they don’t have the equity to refinance their way out of them.  If you’re severely upside down (meaning you own much, much more than your home is worth), stuck may be the situation. But there are actually a couple of ways homeowners can refi their underwater home loans.  If your loan is held by Fannie or Freddie (which you can find out, here), they will actually refinance it up to 125% of its current value, assuming you otherwise qualify for the loan.  That means, if your home is worth $100,000, you could refinance a loan up to $125,000, despite the fact that your home can’t secure the full amount of the loan.

If your loan is not owned by Fannie or Freddie, you might be a candidate for the FHA “Short Refi” program. While most mortgage workout plans are only available to people who are behind on their loans, the Short Refi program is only available to homeowners who are current on their mortgages and need to refinance up to 115 percent of their homes’ value.  So, if you owe $250,000 on your home, you can refinance via an FHA Short Refi even if your home’s value is as low as $217,000. If you think you’re a good candidate for a short refi, contact your mortgage broker, stat – there are some in Congress who think that this program is so underutilized (only 245 applications have been submitted since it rolled out in September – no typo!) that its funding should be diverted to other needy programs.

5.       Myth: 
If you’ve lost your job and can’t make your mortgage payment, you might as well mail your keys in.  Until recently, this was essentially true – virtually every loan modification and refinancing opportunity required that your economic hardship be over before you could qualify. And documenting income has always been high on the requirements checklist. But there are some new funds available in the states with the hardest hit housing and job markets, which have been designated specifically for out-of-work homeowners.

The US Treasury Department’s Hardest Hit Fund allocated $7.6 billion to the states listed below – all of which are now using some portion of these funds to offer up to $3,000 per month for up to 36 months in mortgage payment assistance to help unemployed homeowners avoid foreclosure.  Contact the state agency listed below if you need this sort of help:

If you have any questions, I will do my best to find you the answers. And if you are looking to Buy or Sell real estate anywhere in Central Oregon, please let me know.

Will My Home Appreciate In Value?

by Mark Rieger, Duke Warner Realty
 

The bad news: It’s unlikely that we will ever see homes appreciate the way we did leading up to 2006.

The good news: It’s likely home prices will eventually rise, albeit modestly, and your home could appreciate.

So what do you look for in a home when buying to increase the chances of appreciation?

  • Location, location, location! It’s a real estate cliché, but it makes sense once an investor understands the impact of land value on appreciation.

The reason that land is an appreciating asset is because of supply and demand. Land is in limited supply, and no one is producing any more. The demand for land is constantly growing as the population increases. The reality is that the physical structure will likely depreciate over time. With regard to appreciation, homebuyers should look past the physical attributes of the home and focus how its location in the market will affect overall return. 

Other considerations regarding the location of a home that is more likely to appreciate: Is the home in a more private and desirable cul-de-sac or on a more frequently used street? What is the condition of the neighborhood? What is the proximity to recreation such as golf courses, parks, and colleges?

  • Buy during the winter. Often, many sellers who choose to Sell during the wintertime are looking to sell quickly. Also, many homes listed for sale in the winter are generally not new homes and may consequently have price reductions. You will have less competition during the winter because most people don’t want to move during cold months. If you Buy your home during a time when there is less competition, the chance of appreciation will increase.

 

  • Be mindful of potential future development. Future development can change your property’s value for better or worse. Be mindful of the present state of local amenities as well as the future prospects for commercial and governmental development. The demand for real estate is affected by the availability of jobs, the availability of land, proximity to shopping, schools, parks, churches, population changes, desirability of an area, crime levels, zoning changes, etc.

 

  • Consider cost-effective improvements. Certain improvements can increase the value of your home. However, other improvements, dollar for dollar, produce a low return.  Plan carefully and make improvements that result in the highest level of appreciation for the money that you spend.  If you make too many costly improvements, you will likely not recover those costs when you Sell. Adding a garage door can get you a higher return on your investment than some other upgrades. A wood deck or a minor kitchen remodel can recoup a higher percentage of their costs than major remodeling projects such as adding a wing to your home. Remodeling your basement or adding an attic bedroom can also generally get you a high return. 

When asking yourself, “Will my home appreciate?” it’s important to look beyond the physical attributes of the home and focus on the potential for land appreciation. When buying a home, concentrate on properties that provide opportunities for improvement to enhance the value of the land. If you are interested in tracking appreciation, visit the site of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (http://www.fhfa.gov/), which allows you to check the housing appreciation in your area.

I'm here to help you with all of your real estate needs. So if you're looking to either Buy or Sell a property in the Central Oregon area, please let me know.

The APR Explained

by Mark Rieger, Duke Warner Realty
 

Many of you have heard the term APR (Actual Percentage Rate) when buying a new home, but not everyone actually knows what APR means. APR is more comprehensive than the interest rate that is generally quoted. It takes into account not only the points that you paid to “Buy down” the nominal interest rate but also any additional upfront costs (such as closing costs, origination fees, etc.) that you paid. 

Here’s how APR is calculated: First, the nominal interest rate, loan amount, and loan duration are used to determine the actual monthly payment that you will be expected to remit to your lender every month. Then, the loan amount is increased by the additional upfront costs, and the actual interest rate (APR) can be calculated. Because your loan size has been inflated by the closing costs for the purposes of this calculation, your APR will always be higher than your interest rate.

You can use the APR to compare two loans that have different fixed interest rates and closing costs/points but are otherwise identical.

You cannot use APR to compare a variable rate loan with a fixed rate loan because the variable rate used in the calculation will, in reality, fluctuate over time. In addition, you can’t use APR to compare loans of different duration, since allocating the closing costs over a longer time period (30 years instead of 15 years) will automatically reduce the APR. Finally, you can’t use it to compare a cash-out refinancing with a second mortgage because the APR calculation doesn’t take into account your existing loan. 

Having a better understanding of the APR can help you compare two loans that are identical in nearly every respect except for the interest rate and points.

If you need more information, or if you are looking to either Buy or Sell real estate in the Central Oregon area, please let me know. I am here to help!

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