October 27, 2011 9:08 pm
If you’re on the verge of losing your home, or you know someone who is, then you also know about the long, bureaucratic process involved in applying for a loan modification from a lender. The most common approach is to apply under the new Home Affordability Mortgage Program (HAMP), but lenders also accept modifications from mortgage holders because lenders really don’t want to take the house – they just want their money.
In many cases, however, the approval process takes longer than many homeowners can afford. But one expert believes it doesn’t have to be that way, and that there are solutions for homeowners whose applications seem stuck in the mud.
“Applying for a loan modification can be an extremely stressful process,” said Stephfan Nurse, CEO of Consumer Education. “Even if you send in your documents and your lender tells you everything is okay, you may still have a great amount of anxiety because you have no idea what the lender is doing with your file. You may not know what the next step is and how long it takes to move through each step in the process. Your lender may tell you what the next step is, but you may not understand why it will take so long. There are reasons, however, why the process can get stuck, and there are ways to move that process along, if you understand what goes on behind the scenes.”
Nurse’s tips for making the process smoother include:
Account Numbers – It often happens that when you fax your paperwork to your lender, the lender either says they lost your paperwork or they just didn’t receive it all. This isn’t because they are incompetent. It’s because they receive thousands of faxes each day, and they use an image scanning technology to capture them all and place them in the appropriate file. In that system, a cover sheet that has your account number on it will get placed correctly, but the following sheets that lack your account number can be easily misplaced. The solution is to put your account number on every page of your paperwork, so they have a better chance of placing all your paperwork in your file.
Complete the Paperwork – When your file gets assigned to a document manager, typically about 30 days after you first applied for the modification, the document manager’s job is to check to make sure all your required documents are ready to be submitted to the negotiator/specialist for review. If you have an incomplete file, even if you’re missing just one single required document, the document manager will note your account as having an incomplete file and move on to the next file to review. At this point, a generic letter is automatically mailed to your home requesting the additional information your file lacks. This letter can take up to two weeks to get to you, and then another two to four weeks before they look at your updated information. The key is to never send an incomplete package to your lender. It can lead to a delay or even a flat out denial.
Follow Up – Finally, follow up every week with your lender to make sure all the documents they have are up to date. Don’t worry about being a pest. After all, it’s your house on the line if things get stuck in neutral. If you do this consistently, you will avoid getting caught in the delay cycle.
“The process is like any other, and it can be rife with mistakes and bureaucratic snafus,” Nurse added. “But if you take the steps to reduce the opportunities for error, your application can move through the process much faster and you’ll have a much better chance at being approved.”
October 27, 2011 9:08 pm
One of the most exciting design and decorating experiences a couple can have is preparing a room for a newborn. There is a wealth of great ideas and inspiration for designing and painting a nursery - for both DIYs and those hiring a professional painting contractor.
The first step is to decide if the nursery will have a theme or simply a mix of colors and details you like, points out Sara McLean, a color expert from a paint manufacturer. "Some current trends in nurseries include modern baby chic, vintage nostalgia, Bohemian, school themes such as science and tech, and fun twists on nature including beach and woodland themes," she says. "Or even when opting for a traditional theme, like nautical, carousel or cowboy, you can add your own sense of playfulness, creativity or whimsy."
The color palette is the next step, thinking beyond just pink or blue. McLean says that the tradition of using blue in a boy's nursery has evolved into combinations of blue - particularly turquoise - with other colors such as red, green and orange. Pink for girls has evolved into fuchsia tones with elements of aquamarine, lilac, white and orange. In fact, aqua and orange have become popular choices for both boys and girls. There is a new boldness in the way colors are combined in the nursery - pink and purple with green or blue and yellow with green, for example. Striped ceilings can help stimulate the room, and a touch or slight accent of black is trendy right now, to add a little sophistication.
Today's baby rooms include bold and brightly colored carpets, wall decals, maps, figurines and "monster dolls" that are so ugly, they're cute; owls and other woodland critters; and elephants. "Be sure to keep an open mind and eye out for items and styles that can make your nursery unique," adds McLean.
When decorating a nursery, it's important to use non-toxic products - from the paint to the rugs, to the furniture. Opt for biodegradable timber and certified formaldehyde-free furniture, and take special care with any antique baby furniture.
For more tips and ideas for decorating a baby's room, visit www.dunnedwards.com.
October 27, 2011 9:08 pm
Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) announced that it auctioned a $500 million reopening of its 3.75% 10-year USD Reference Notes® security that matures on March 27, 2019. The stop yield for the issue, CUSIP 3137EACA5, was 2.086%, priced at 111.373941, or approximately 35.5 basis points more than 10-year U.S. Treasury Notes. The bid-to-cover ratio was 4.9 to 1.
After the reopening, which was conducted via an Internet-based auction, the outstanding size of the 3.75% 10-year Reference Notes security will be $3.5 billion. The issue will settle on Friday, October 28, 2011, and is listed on the Euro MTF market of the Luxembourg Stock Exchange. All auction details can be found on Freddie Mac's Debt Securities Web page, www.FreddieMac.com/debt/auctionrepurch/auctions.html.
This announcement is not an offer to sell any Freddie Mac securities. Offers for any given security are made only through applicable offering circulars and related supplements, which incorporate Freddie Mac's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2010, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") on February 24, 2011, and all documents that Freddie Mac files with the SEC pursuant to Section 13(a), 13(c) or 14 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, excluding any information "furnished" to the SEC on Form 8-K.
For more information, visit www.FreddieMac.com.
October 26, 2011 9:08 pm
Residential electricity costs have risen 35% in the past decade, and as temperatures begin to fall, homeowners are bracing for another long, cold and expensive winter. Many homes are improperly prepared for the elements as drafty windows, leaking roofs and uninsulated spaces allow warm air to escape. As winter quickly approaches, homeowners should prepare with do-it-yourself weatherization tips for the five most energy-important areas of the home:
• Windows and doors: Warm air in the home escapes to the outside through leaks in older doors and windows, known as "convective heat loss." Single pane windows are the most inefficient, but older double-pane vinyl designs can also leak warm air, particularly if they were installed incorrectly. Though replacing older windows and doors is the most energy-efficient way to go, a few DIY options can also help make an impact. Seal window and door frames with caulk, and utilize air blockers like shrink wrap and weather stripping to keep cold air out. If larger cracks exist around the frame, use an expandable foam spray insulation.
• Roof and gutters: What may seem to be small problems with a roof and/or gutter system can become a huge headache in rough winter weather through a process called ice damming. Ice damming occurs when heat escaping from the attic melts ice and snow. As this water refreezes, it expands, oftentimes under your shingles or in your gutters. The force of ice as it refreezes is tremendous and can wreak havoc on roofing materials such as wood, aluminum and asphalt shingles. To guard against ice damming, be sure to replace any missing roof tiles, fix leaks and unblock gutters to allow melting ice to easily flow away from the home. Most manufacturers carry a specialty product called Ice and Water Shield ™ to prevent ice damming, which is applied during a roofing installation.
• Attic: A lack of insulation in the attic will have money escaping from your wallet as quickly as the heat is escaping from your top floor. Attic insulation is also a huge factor in preventing ice damming. Easily install insulation by laying sections of batting between floor joists. Always remember to wear a protective mask, glasses and gloves when handling insulation, especially fiberglass.
• Pipes and ducts: The expense of heating air and water in the winter can quickly rise if pipes and ducts aren't properly sealed and insulated. First seal any air leaks with duct tape. Then, cut insulation batting to fit around the pipe or duct, put it in place and secure with more duct tape. Consider wrapping your hot water heater in insulation, or turn down the thermostat on your water heater by just a few degrees to pack an even bigger punch throughout the winter months.
• Heating system: Installing a programmable thermostat is one of the easiest and most cost effective weatherization tactics available to homeowners. By adjusting the temperature of rooms when you're sleeping or at work, programmable thermostats ensure your house is only using heat when necessary, saving about $180 on average per year in energy costs. Have your heating system serviced at the beginning of each season to ensure it is working as efficiently as possible. Close heating vents to unused rooms and put air conditioning vent covers in place.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) suggests homeowners knowledgeable in weatherization tactics can save up to 20% on heating costs by simply sealing and insulating their home.
For more information, visit PowerHRG.com.
October 26, 2011 9:08 pm
With November right around the corner, we're getting closer and closer to the holiday shopping season. With the economy still in turmoil and unemployment rates remaining high, it’s reasonable to assume that holiday shoppers may continue to reign in their spending habits. However, it is suggested that people guard their wallets in more ways than one, as the economic downturn can be tied to increased theft during the months of November and December.
“We see a strong correlation between a weak economy and rise in theft,” says Reed Nyffeler, chief executive officer of nationwide security company. “People become desperate and commit crimes because they don’t know how else to provide for themselves.”
The types of crimes that increase during the holiday season are often preventable, if you take extra holiday theft precautions. According to Nyffeler, the following holiday safety tips can reduce the likelihood of being targeted by a thief:
• Remove holiday gifts from your car after a shopping trip; otherwise you could be an easy target for a holiday thief. If you must keep gifts in your car, secure them in the trunk or cover them with a blanket. And always lock your car doors.
• If you have a walk-out basement with accessible windows or a sliding glass door, consider adding extra DIY home security measures to keep your family and holiday gifts safe. Keep the shades drawn, especially at night, and consider using PVC pipe or a piece of wood to ensure sliding glass doors can’t be opened.
• When you’re shopping, keep a tight hold on your purse or wallet. Also, try to avoid carrying cash. Visible bills can entice a holiday thief to snatch your purse or pick your pocket.
• If you do your holiday shopping at night, be sure to park your car in a well-lit section of the parking lot. If you feel at all uncomfortable walking to your vehicle alone, enlist the help of the business’ security personnel.
While taking extra holiday safety precautions may seem like an unnecessary burden, ensuring the security of your family, home and possessions is worth the effort.
October 26, 2011 9:08 pm
Prior to the 1950s, clover was a part of most grass seed mixes for lawns. Clover’s ability to reseed itself and stay green was considered an advantage in the pursuit of a beautiful, green lawn. Over the years, lawn seed mixes have generally dropped the clover and gone with all grasses, but this is not necessarily a good idea. Clover lawns are making a comeback due to clover’s drought-tolerant and low-maintenance qualities.
Clover used to be added in grass seed mixtures because it held so many nitrogen nutrients that helped lawn grow lush and full. In fact, every time you mow your lawn you are adding the clover clippings back into the ground and spurring incredible growth.
White clover has flowers that bees love. That’s where you get clover honey. That’s also why a clover yard is best in low-traffic areas—you wouldn’t want to step on those bees. Clover grows two to eight inches tall and needs little to no mowing. Clover is rich in nitrogen and successful at crowding out other weeds. It also naturally helps to keep out chinch bugs that eat grass—especially St. Augustine, bermuda, and zoysia grasses.
Clover’s sweet smell attracts bees during the spring and summer months. More bees on your lawn mean that there will be an increase in cross-pollination of flowers, which is beneficial to your garden.
Clover is lush to walk on, and you can keep it mowed to avoid the white flowers that attract those bees that can sting bare feet. However, due to colony collapse, clover fields do a great job to help bees survive. Parkways or perimeters landscaped with clover might offer a perennial green look that you love.
Clover is not in the same category as the dandelion (looks beautiful but is really harmful). Clover looks beautiful, smells great, and is a virtual nutrient bank for your lawn. Instead of getting rid of the clover, you should appreciate it for the many life-giving benefits that it offers your lawn.
One of the overlooked benefits of a clover filled lawn is that the clover actually crowds out a lot of the other weeds that are more harmful to your lawn. Clover takes up the space that various molds and mildews might otherwise occupy.
October 25, 2011 9:06 pm
With Halloween season kicking off this week, cocktail-creating applications for the iPhone and iPad have sprouted up with updated features and spooky collections of new drinks just waiting to please your guests and taste buds.
Pocket Cocktails for the iPhone is a great place to start. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and Pocket Cocktails has a plethora of them. In fact every cocktail in this app has an accompanying photo. So when preparing a Bloody Brain or Eyeball Martini there's a handy picture to help illustrate how the drink should look as its prepared. The Random Mode turns the phone into a shaker complete with sound effects, which can be a great conversation starter. Pocket Cocktails is available from iTunes and costs 99 cents.
Cocktails HD is the iPad equivalent of Pocket Cocktails. Hosting a big party? Cocktails HD takes full advantage of the iPad's giant display area and delivers with mouth watering drink images and recipes along with everything needed to make your soiree a night to remember. Cocktails HD also includes a full bartending guide detailing how to prepare and garnish the libations. The latest update has 20 new high def Halloween recipes including the Bayou Slime, Draculade and, if you dare, the Bloody-Tini. This app is available for $2.99 from iTunes.
Cocktails for Mac is another cocktail app tailored for wide screen displays. Cocktails for Mac is chock-full of hundreds of drinks, including several Halloween surprises. The app features impressive "Cocktail Cards" including LOLs (Late October Libations). Check out the PumpkinTini, Spider Cider and White Ghost Martini. The app is also great year-round with additional Christmas, Valentine and St. Patrick's Day creations available as well. Cocktails for Mac costs $4.99 through the Mac App Store.
For more information, visit www.pocketcocktails.com, www.cocktailshd.com or the iTunes App Store.
October 25, 2011 9:06 pm
For any buyer in the market for a new home, it's a critical time period for your credit to be in great shape. While filling out applications, your personal data and credit score will be as important as ever. Protecting your credit now before you buy will help set you up to take advantage of the best mortgage rates possible so you can secure the home of your choice as soon as possible. Here are a few tips for protecting your credit:
Apply with care: Be mindful when applying to multiple lenders. To some versions of the FICO software, all applications submitted within 30-45 days of each other only count as one hit on your credit report. However, this isn't always true. Many lenders may still use older versions of the software. Play it safe by submitting all applications in a 14-day period. This will ensure that your credit report doesn't show multiple hits, which will in turn better your overall score.
Pack up to prepare: When selling a home, pack up some of your belongings to prepare for strangers walking throughout the home. Any bills or financial papers should be put into a locked box or drawer. Protecting your finances and account numbers should be your number-one priority. You won't always know who is walking through your home and identity and credit theft are unfortunately extremely common.
Protect your documents: When buying a new home, only potential mortgage lenders need to see all of your personal information. Agents and sellers only need to know how much you can afford. When dealing with a lender, stick to the same representative to minimize the number of people who have access to your documents. Avoid sending any files with your social security number through email. Opt for mail or fax.
Stay on top of your finances: Even if you are on top of bills on a monthly basis, you may want to consider checking into your accounts weekly. By logging into your credit card accounts regularly, you can make sure that all of the charges are legitimately yours. Credit watch services are also a good idea. If a fraudulent charge is made, the service will pick up on it and alert you of the charges. It's important to act quickly with regards to your credit. You can never be too careful.
By keeping a close eye on all of your finances, you can be sure to protect your credit so that there won't be any problems when you need to apply for a loan.
October 25, 2011 9:06 pm
While the nation may have added 103,000 new jobs in September, the employment report showed relative weakness, particularly as it relates to the residential construction sector, which remains far below its job-creation potential in the absence of policies to restore the health of the housing marketplace, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
"We are seeing now what an economic recovery looks like without housing, and the picture is hardly encouraging," says NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev. "We need to address anti-housing impediments to home builders creating jobs in countless communities across the land."
The inventory of new homes for sale is at a record low and there are many areas of the country that are approaching a housing shortage. Tight credit conditions are preventing builders from meeting this emerging demand, putting workers back on the job and helping the economy move forward.
Further exacerbating the situation is today's pervasive anti-housing climate in Washington, says Nielsen.
"Leaders in Washington must stop scaring consumers by talking about eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, ending a federal backstop for housing and calling for a minimum 20% down payment on home loans," says Nielsen. "This is counterproductive and harms consumer confidence, the housing market and the nation's economy."
Housing normally accounts for more than 17% of Gross Domestic Product and building 100 single-family homes creates 305 full-time jobs and $8.9 million in taxes and revenue for state, local and federal governments.
"Getting housing back on its feet would be a shot in the arm for consumer confidence, boost job growth and lead to a long-lasting economic recovery," says Nielsen.
October 24, 2011 9:06 pm
Forget imaginary tales of vampires, mummies and witches this Halloween. Brace yourself for a fight against the real monsters waiting to invade your home and protect yourself from what may hide inside your mattress, waiting to feast on your flesh and blood.
In the 2011 "Bugs Without Borders Survey" conducted by The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky, 99% of professional pest management companies based in the United States reported encountering bed bug infestation during the past year. In addition, the 2011 "Bed Bugs in America" survey by the NPMA found that one in five Americans reported these creepy blood suckers infesting his or her home or knows of someone who has encountered them at home or in a hotel. They have been found in all 50 states, from apartments, to libraries, to schools to five-star hotels. You can run, but you can't hide from these scary hitchhikers.
Bed bugs look much like an apple seed and are typically 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch in size and a rust brown color. Bed bug nymphs and eggs are clear/white, much smaller and very difficult to see. From the moment a bed bug hatches, its only goal is to find its next meal – human blood.
The best weapons to combat these nocturnal nuisances are mattress and box spring encasements. Bedding protection with a three-sided zipper system won't allow the bloodsucking monsters to take up permanent residence within a mattress, making it easier for pest control companies to identify and eliminate them.
Dust mites are other invisible creatures that feed on your discarded dead skin. It can be easy to overlook them since you can't see them with the naked eye and they don't eat the skin you're still using, but they can create chaos for those with allergies. According to The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma and about 70% of those individuals also have allergies.
The fecal matter dust mites produce is a significant cause of allergy symptoms like itchiness, sneezing, inflamed or infected eczema, watering eyes, congestion and runny nose. These symptoms are particularly problematic for those with asthma. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology also reports that in a recent survey of U.S. homes, about 1/4 had levels of dust mite allergens present in a bed at a level high enough to trigger asthma symptoms.
Just like bed bugs, dust mites are scarier in numbers. According to a Johns Hopkins University study, "Dust mite population and allergen levels decreased by 90% or more within a month of placing mattress and pillow covers and treating bedding." These products create an impenetrable barrier between dust mites and the bedding, preventing them from multiplying in your mattress and feasting off of dead skin cells.
For more information, visit www.protectabed.com.