Patrick, a single homeowner with a century old 6 bedroom 3 bath Tudor home bought for $180,000 in 2002 has paid his mortgage on time for seven years. A few years ago, he opens his mail to find a notice that his premiums are doubling, requiring a $1,000,000 insurance policy in the event the home is destroyed and needed to be rebuilt. Patrick cannot afford such an increase in his monthly budget.
Loan holder Wells Fargo also added extra “inexplicable fees” to his account. One of the mystery fee line items was two home inspections in a single month despite zero inspections occurring. He was offered no explanation. Two years ago, Wells Fargo stopped responding to his letters requesting more information.
Patrick did what most people do in modern times- he hopped online. He learned about RESPA which allows a Qualified Written Request (QWR), a letter that a loan holder can send to their mortgage servicer who is legally obligated to acknowledge within 20 days and take action within 60.
If no response or action is taken, loan holders can sue for actual damages, costs and attorney fees, plus $1,000 in additional damages if there is a pattern of noncompliance.
Wells Fargo did not respond to the QWR, so Patrick filed a claim in small claims court where he represented himself after no lawyer would take his case and Wells Fargo sent no representation, thus a default judgment for $1173 was granted (which he eventually recovered). But still, no response to his letters or change to his premiums, both of which were legally required.
Patrick didn’t quit. He filed for a Sheriff’s levy on the local Wells Fargo branch that had ignored him over these past years. By paying a simple $50 deposit for administrative costs, showing the county clerk his default judgment, he got the Writ of Execution, Instructions for Levy, and a handful of Sheriff’s Sale posters to put up around town.
Patrick happily hung the posters around town and sent copies to the media.
This brings us to today:
Last week, the court put a temporary hold on the sale and ordered a hearing for February 23. Meanwhile, a “high ranking” Wells Fargo executive has agreed to meet with Patrick but we have not yet heard if he has taken the meeting.
The industrial music promoter slash goth enthusiast is being called a folk hero for fighting the Wells Fargo/big bank machine.
Last fall, Austinite Jaime Furtado went on a hunger strike for the very same reason– Wells Fargo ignored him and his requests for an explanation and for help sorting out his account.
Wells Fargo has had many fingers pointed their way for various abuses but the common factor is an inability and what seems to be an unwillingness to address the little people- those pesky loan holders (the ones who pay their salaries). Something is seriously wrong with this picture… this feels like when an entire city knows that an intersection is dangerous but city council is waiting for someone to die before they take action.
Do YOU have a local story along these lines that you believe deserves attention? Email the editor.
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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