Friday, December 18, 2009

The Grinch Loses One!!!


Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will suspend foreclosure evictions from December 19, 2009 through January 3, 2010. To help struggling families over the holidays, both owner-occupants and tenants living in properties foreclosed upon by Fannie Mae will not be evicted. Freddie Mac's suspension of evictions will be limited to properties up to four units.

In a similar move, Citigroup Inc. will suspend foreclosure sales and evictions for 30days through January 17, 2010 for loans it owns. Citigroup's foreclosure moratorium, however, does not extend to loans it services on behalf of other investors. Given these developments, other lenders may follow suit, so check with the lender if appropriate.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cash for Caulkers Could Seal $12,000 a Home

Under President's proposal, homeowners would be reimbursed for energy-efficient appliances and insulation.

NEW YORK ( -- President Obama proposed a new program Tuesday that would reimburse homeowners for energy-efficient appliances and insulation, part of a broader plan to stimulate the economy.

The administration didn't provide immediate details, but said it would work with Congress on crafting legislation. Steve Nadel, director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, who's advising on the bill, said a homeowner could receive up to $12,000 in rebates.

The proposal is part of the President's larger spending plan, which also includes money for small businesses, renewable energy manufacturing, and infrastructure.

We know energy efficiency "creates jobs, saves money for families, and reduces the pollution that threatens our environment," Obama said. "With additional resources, in areas like advanced manufacturing of wind turbines and solar panels, for instance, we can help turn good ideas into good private-sector jobs."

The program contains two parts: money for homeowners for efficiency projects, and money for companies in the renewable energy and efficiency space.

The plan will likely create a new program where private contractors conduct home energy audits, buy the necessary gear and install it, according to a staffer on the Senate Energy Committee and Nadel at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Big-ticket items like air conditioners, heating systems, washing machines, refrigerators, windows and insulation would likely be covered, Nadel said.

Based on earlier bills, consumers might be eligible for a 50% rebate on both the price of the equipment and the installation, up to $12,000, said Nadel. So far, there is no income restriction on who is eligible. That would mean a household could spend as much as $24,000 on upgrades and get half back.

Homes that take full advantage of the program could see their energy bills drop as much as 20%, he said. The program is expected to cost in the $10 billion range.

It's not clear how the home efficiency plan would be administered - the government may issue rebates to consumers directly, homeowners might get a tax credit, or the program could be run via state agencies.

If consumers have to spend a lot of money up front to get the credit, it could throw a wrench in the works, David Kreutzer, an energy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told CNN.

"This will not be something that's attractive to people who are having trouble already making their budget payments month to month or week to week," he said.

To keep consumers from having to spend thousands of dollars before getting reimbursed, Nadel said, one idea is to have contractors or big box retailers pay part of the cost up front.

Fraud issues could also come up, Kreutzer said.

"Any program that is going to run through a third party and is going to distribute billions of dollars needs to have lots of checks and balances to make sure there's not abuse," he said.

Nadel noted that as a way to guard against fraud, contractors would have to be certified to participate.

Energy company boost
Obama's new spending plan also calls for renewable energy companies to get additional support. That could come in the form of loan guarantees - basically, money the government uses to secure loans for startups.

In the original stimulus bill passed earlier this year, $6 billion was earmarked for such loan guarantees. But then lawmakers took away $2 billion to fund Cash for Clunkers - the popular program that paid people to turn in their old cars.

The $4 billion from the original bill has funded about $40 billion in loans, said the staffer on the Senate Energy Committee. Meanwhile, firms are hoping for another $4 billion in loan guarantees, since they have another $40 billion worth of projects that need funding.

A bill on energy efficiency reimbursements already has supporters in the Senate.

"Not only will [such legislation] increase our energy security and transform our energy infrastructure to a modern, clean and efficient one," Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., wrote in a recent op-ed column in the Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper. "But it also will position the United States to lead in the development of clean energy technologies."

Source: Steve Hargreaves,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fondly Remembering the 50's and 60's

What were we thinking?

How could these pastel tubs have ever seemed like a good idea? Was it just the novelty of not being "white"? It makes me wonder what the next big design goof is or will be...

Source: Sunset at Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Benefits of a Buyers Agent

For most of us, buying a home is the biggest single investment we’re likely to make and we’re only likely to do it maybe once or twice in a lifetime. The process is, by nature, filled with checks and balances – and many complex details. Traditionally, agents were legally obligated to protect the interests of the home seller. Today preferences are changing. One of these changes is that more homebuyers are choosing to have their own real estate agent, known as a buyer's agent, to legally represent them.

A buyer’s agent represents you, the buyer, not the seller, and has full fiduciary duties, including loyalty to you. By definition, the buyer’s agent has your best interests in mind throughout the transaction. The percentage of homebuyers with buyer representation has grown significantly in the past decade. According to a recent National Association of Realtors® survey, nearly half (46%) of home buyers used the services of a buyer’s agent last year, and four out of every five buyer’s agent agreements were in writing.

The benefits of buyer representation is the dedication of a buyer’s agent to the home buyer. The buyer’s agent and homebuyer establish a mutual agreement, known as a buyer agency agreement, that will entitle the homebuyer to, but is not limited by:

Loyalty The real estate agent must act in the best interest of the buyer.

Disclosure All material facts such as relationships between agent and other parties, existence of other offers, status of earnest money, seller’s financial condition, property’s true worth, commission split with other brokers, and legal effect of important contract provisions.

Confidentiality Any discussions, facts, or information that should not be revealed to others but does not include responsibility of fairness and honesty in dealings with all parties.

Accounting in dealings Reporting of where any money placed in the hands of the broker is kept.

Reasonable Skill and Care Arriving at a reasonable purchase price and advising the buyer of such, affirmatively discovering material facts and disclosing them to the buyer, investigating the material facts related to the sale. With a buyer agency, the interests of the homebuyer will be represented in the purchase of the home. This scenario is different from a typical transaction where the buyer is not technically represented.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Fed’s all in and throwing in the kitchen sink for good measure

"The Federal Reserve will employ all available tools to promote the resumption of sustainable economic growth and to preserve price stability"

Stock and bond markets are celebrating in the wake of an FOMC statement that exceeded nearly all expectations for a substantial easing of policy today. At the time of this writing, the Dow is up about 340 points, and the 10-Yr Treasury yield has plunged to 2.36 percent from 2.50 percent yesterday. Throwing all caution to the wind, the Fed is betting that drastic rate cuts are needed immediately in order to support consumer and business borrowing in the face of a rapidly deteriorating economy and the specter of deflationary forces afoot. Such drastic measures only highlight the scale and scope of the current economic and financial crisis that still lies ahead. The Fed is now pulling nearly all its policy levers and only time will tell if it is pushing on a string, or if monetary policy still has a viable channel in which to operate.

For the first time in its history the Fed has decided to establish a target range for the Fed funds rate of between zero and 0.25 percent, effectively making 0.25 percent its interest rate ceiling. This is also an admission that the Fed has been having trouble maintaining its target as massive injections of about $1.0 trillion into various credit facilities, bank re-capitalization, and the payment of interest on bank reserves make an explicit target nearly impossible to achieve. The movement to a target range also rightly puts the focus of additional policy actions on the scope and scale of outright purchases of MBS, and agency debt. The committee is also exploring the potential benefits of purchasing longer-term Treasury securities as well.

Moreover, the FOMC signaled that they expect to maintain an exceptionally low fed funds rate target of some time. This signal is designed to push longer-term Treasury yields even lower, and from today’s action it seems to have worked.

The FOMC statement begins by describing an economy mired in a deepening recession, with little prospect for near-term relief, stating that labor market conditions have deteriorated, and consumer spending, business investment, and industrial production have declined. The Fed’s view of credit market conditions has not improved, and their outlook for the economy has weakened further.

Finally, the Fed doesn’t mention the prospect of deflation in the statement, but did highlight the prospect for inflation to moderate further in the coming quarters.

Expect further expansion and utilization of the Fed’s existing credit facilities, as well as the addition of new ones in 2009 as the Fed moves further down the path of quantitative easing.

Source: Scott A. Anderson, Ph.D.
Senior Economist, Wells Fargo Economics