The Check Is in the Mail
If you are an active agent that works in the distressed property arena, you will undoubtedly receive phone calls or emails from past and present clients about an interesting little mailer that just hit mailboxes across America. The mailer is one piece and sealed on three sides; it’s small and white and looks a bit like a piece of junk mail that you’d throw away without opening. The thing is… it’s not junk mail. And for many folks that were involved in a loan modification, a short sale, or a foreclosure, it’s an alert stating that “the check is in the mail” (in about eight more weeks).
On March 18, 2013, approximately 4.2 million people were sent notices that they will receive remuneration as a result of an agreement between federal banking regulators and 13 mortgage servicers. The mailer comes from the paying agent, Rust Consulting (1-888-952-9105), and Rust Consulting is the only agency that should be contacted if (previously) distressed borrowers have any questions or concerns.
What Is Independent Foreclosure Review?
As you may recall, the Independent Foreclosure Review is part of the settlement associated with the robo-signing debacle of 2010 (title my own). As part of this review, thirteen mortgage servicers and their affiliates identified customers who were part of a foreclosure action on their primary residence during the period of January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2010.
These 13 mortgage servicers sent solicitation letters to 4.2 million potential victims of robo-signing and other foreclosure-related (and potentially fraudulent) matters. These letters provided homeowners the opportunity to request an independent review of their foreclosure process (a.k.a. Independent Foreclosure Review). If the review found that financial injury occurred as a result of errors, misrepresentations, or other deficiencies in the servicer’s foreclosure process, the customer might receive compensation or another remedy.
The deadline to request an independent review was December 31, 2012.
Eligibility for Independent Foreclosure Review
According to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, borrowers were eligible for an Independent Foreclosure Review if they met the following criteria:
- the property securing the loan was the borrower’s primary residence
- the mortgage was in the foreclosure process (initiated, pending, or completed) at any time between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010
- the mortgage was serviced by one of the following mortgage servicers: America’s Servicing Company, Aurora Loan Services, BAC Home Loans Servicing, Bank of America, Beneficial, Chase, Citi (Bank, Financial and Mortgage), Countrywide, EMC Mortgage Corporation, EverBank/EverHome Mortgage Company, Financial Freedom (OneWest), GMAC, HFC, HSBC, IndyMac Mortgage Services, National City Servicing Company, PNC Mortgage, Sovereign Bank, SunTrust Mortgage, US Bank, Wachovia Mortgage, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo, and Wilshire Credit
The Best Things in Life Are Free
Distressed borrowers did not have to hire an attorney or other consultant to assist them in their completion of the Independent Foreclosure Review paperwork. In fact, there were no costs associated with being included in the review; the review was a free program. According to Rust Consulting, “borrowers should beware of anyone requiring payments for assistance in connection with the Independent Foreclosure Review or any other foreclosure assistance program.”
As scams seems to arise under just about every rock, it’s a good idea to assure that your past clients that may be receiving a check in the mail are aware of what’s about to come. In fact, why not give your past clients a call and let them know. Since it’s been a few years since they were distressed borrowers, maybe they are ready to buy again?
Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home
When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?
Looking at the bigger picture
(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).
That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).
They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.
“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”
Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?
With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.
The average home age is higher than ever
(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.
With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.
Prices of new homes on the rise
Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.
Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?
The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.
Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes
(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.
Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.
So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.
1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues
It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.
Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.
2. Two major media brands emerge
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