Getting Ready to Vote Ocala? | Obama’s Housing Initiatives: A Timeline

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty
3200 SE 20 Ave. Ocala, Florida 34471

In their platform, Democrats tell it this way: President Barack Obama’s “swift action” stabilized a crisis-stricken housing market and helped millions of American families stave off foreclosure through restructured loans that shaved hundreds of dollars off their mortgage bills. The president “cracked down” on abusive lenders, held financial giants accountable and leveled the playing field for home buyers.

Mitt Romney paints a somewhat different picture.

“President Obama’s only plan to address the housing crisis was the same plan he used to try to fix the economy: Spend more taxpayer money on big-government programs,” Romney says on his campaign website. The Republican presidential candidate blames Obama for cooking up an “alphabet soup” of “big-government programs” that hindered the housing recovery, saddled taxpayers with a risky glut of government-backed mortgages and created a marketplace of uncertainty where credit-worthy borrowers too often left banks empty handed.

The housing market was on a calamitous trajectory when Obama took office. Perhaps the most common criticism is that Obama was over-cautious in trying to reverse its course. During his term, millions of homeowners have received foreclosure notices, and home values continued to erode through 2011, pushing the nation’s borrowers deeper underwater. At a July 2011 town hall meeting the president acknowledged misreading how long it would take for the housing market to bottom out. Despite having already revamped his housing programs, Obama admitted a need to again go “back to the drawing board.”

A little over a year later, home values just saw their biggest quarterly gain in six years, and foreclosure filings hit a five-year low in September. Negative equity levels, while still distressing, are improving.
Zillow’s chief economist, Dr. Stan Humphries, said the trajectory of the housing recession was fixed long before Obama took office. Home values relative to income levels had ballooned to 50 percent greater than historical norms. When markets felt the first tremors of home-value declines in 2006, Humphries said, a market correction was already inescapable.

“To suggest that something could have prevented this correction is like saying one can defy gravity,” Humphries said. “I believe Obama’s housing policies have been more about helping people caught up in the maw of this correction, and it was a mistake to perceive these initiatives as having the ability to change the overall trajectory of home prices.”

“Simply put, these economic forces needed to play out,” Humphries said.

Below are highlights of the Obama administration’s housing initiatives:

March 2009

The Obama administration created the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), designed to help as many as 4 million homeowners at risk of foreclosure reduce their monthly mortgage payment through modified loans. By offering financial incentives to lenders, the administration hoped participation would be swift and widespread. It wasn’t. Three and a half years later, the number of homeowners to receive a permanent modification recently surpassed 1 million, according to the U.S. Treasury, which puts their median monthly savings at $539.

March 2009

The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) was launched to help underwater — or nearly underwater — homeowners refinance into lower-rate loans without having to buy mortgage insurance. Only homeowners with government-backed loans are eligible. The program, roundly criticized early on, was initially limited to homeowners who owed at least 80 percent of the value of their home but no more than 105 percent. Participation was meager. In response, the administration raised the negative equity cap to 125 percent, then eliminated it altogether this year. As a result, HARP refis surged from 93,000 in the last quarter of 2011 to more than 180,000 in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

November 2009

Obama extended an $8,000 tax credit to first-time home buyers, a program begun under the previous administration, giving home buyers until June 2010 to close on their purchase and still remain eligible. Humphries has referred to the program as a $30 billion “waste of taxpayer money.”

July 2010

Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which included provisions meant to reform the mortgage lending industry and protect consumers from aggressive lending practices. For starters, lenders will soon face penalties if they fail to consider a borrower’s ability to repay a loan. The law’s effectiveness ultimately depends on a watchdog agency the law created, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. So far the bureau has made strides to help home buyers more effectively shop for mortgages by requiring lenders to provide simplified disclosure forms that clearly spell out the cost and risks of a loan. And the bureau is soon expected to define criteria for “qualified mortgages,” which will guide mortgage companies in deciding which borrowers are able to repay a loan.

January 2011

The U.S. Treasury rolled outs its Second Lien Modification Program — 2MP. Like HAMP, it offers incentives for lenders to reduce principal payments, but on second mortgages. To qualify, homeowners must have a HAMP modification on their first mortgage. To date, almost 94,000 homeowners have received second-mortgage modifications, saving a median $159 per month, according to government figures.

December 2011

HARP 2.0 took effect, expanding eligibility to deeply underwater homeowners and lowering, or eliminating, fees for some borrowers. Mortgage lenders were given protections against responsibility for any fraud committed on the original loan. Participation has increased.

January 2012

Obama announced in his State of the Union address that he was sending to Congress “a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low rates.” The plan, nicknamed HARP 3.0, would expand the program to homeowners with privately held loans and be paid for through a new fee on large financial institutions. It has not passed.

January 2012

The administration expanded HAMP eligibility to borrowers with higher debt loads and tripled incentives to banks for cutting principal on loans. Extending the program through 2013, the administration also pledged to offer incentives to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make principal reductions on certain loans instead of continuing to limit the program to private mortgage lenders.

February 2012

The five largest mortgage lenders agreed to a $25 billion government settlement over alleged foreclosure abuses. The settlement called for the banks — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial — to collectively set aside $20 billion in write-downs for underwater borrowers in danger of foreclosure. The remaining $5 billion would be paid to federal and state governments, with roughly $1.5 billion being redistributed in $2,000 checks to 750,000 homeowners who were wrongly foreclosed upon during the housing crisis. After four months, the banks had given $10.56 billion in relief to around 138,000 borrowers. A report found that the vast majority — nearly $8.7 billion — went to forgiven debt in short sales, while loan modifications accounted for roughly $750 million in principal reductions.

October 2012

The Justice Department sues Bank of America for $1 billion, the latest in a string of civil lawsuits brought against the country’s largest financial firms. The case accuses Bank of America of running a reckless mortgage scheme called “hustle,” in which it allegedly off-loaded “defective” loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, effectively saddling taxpayers with the risky loans.

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty has Helped many home owners in Ocala and Marion County with all of there Real estate needs! Give her a call at 352-266-2637 and she can answer all of your real estate questions

Looking for a Great Deal on a Home In Ocala? | How to Buy a Home Below Current Real Estate Value

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty
3200 SE 20 Ave. Ocala, Florida 34471

Want to increase your chances of buying a home below current real estate value? Just look for a seller who didn’t listen to his agent.

The best real estate agents encourage their sellers to do whatever it takes to get the home in its absolute best condition before going to market. The better the home shows, the more likely the seller will get top dollar.

Sometimes, this could be as simple as removing personal items or decluttering. Other times, an agent will suggest bigger fixes, such as painting, replacing carpet or upgrading countertops or cabinets. Savvy sellers listen to their agents, make the changes suggested and go to market in top form. That’s not always how it plays out, however.

For any number of reasons, many sellers protest suggested fixes. Either they don’t want to be inconvenienced, don’t believe the fixes will matter or don’t have the financial resources to make it happen. Inevitably, this means the buyer will get a discount on that property.

How to spot a home that might sell below its value

Is there a home for sale in a good neighborhood and in the desired school district that seems to be well-priced but for some reason isn’t selling? This is the home you want to investigate, because chances are the seller didn’t listen to his agent. Specifically, here are some tell-tale signs to look for.

Big furniture or a lot of furniture

Most people don’t buy furniture to use when staging their home. Often a seller may have a lot of furniture in one room, which makes the room look small to potential buyers. Real estate agents and professional home stagers know this all too well. For example, stagers always suggest a small loveseat over a full-blown couch or sectional sofa. Also, in the bedrooms, king beds often take up too much space. So a stager will often push the seller to swap it out for a queen or full-sized bed.

When you enter a house that seems crowded with furniture, imagine the rooms with fewer or smaller pieces. Be aware that plenty of potential buyers won’t get past the sense that the rooms are too small, and they’re likely to move on to a home that feels bigger. In turn, this could give you room to negotiate a good deal with the seller.

Dark rooms

There was a home in West Hartford, CT on a great block, but the interior was dark. Three large French doors in the living room led to a deck, but the doors were stained black, and the carpet was brown. On top of that, the window coverings were big, heavy and overtook the room.

The house sat on the market for months, even though the price wasn’t far off the real estate market value. Here’s why: Every buyer walked in and out because the house was so dark. After the home had been on the market for three months, a smart buyer made an offer $40,000 below asking and ended up getting it.

Before the buyer moved in, he removed the window coverings, stripped the stain on the doors and painted them white, pulled up the old carpet and had the floors stained to a lighter oak. Right away, the dark room became light, bright and welcoming. The buyer’s total cost: $9,000, which instantly added $31,000 to his equity.

Grandma or Bambi staring down from the walls

Buyers are looking to see themselves — and not the current owners — in a home. Too often, however, the seller hasn’t “depersonalized” his home enough, or at all. Even though the listing agent may have told the seller to clear the house of his possessions, the seller may be proud of his accomplishments and resist.

And so potential buyers are treated to walls decorated with diplomas, family photos, awards and trophies. Moose and deer heads hanging on walls are surefire deal killers, especially when the hunting rifle used to kill Bambi is proudly displayed, too. At best, buyers tend to see such highly personal stuff as clutter that takes the focus away from the home. They’re turned off by it all, and they walk away.

They might also be walking away from a great deal. Are the bones of the home good? Does it have the floor plan you like? Are the kitchens and baths in acceptable condition? Is it in the area where you want to live? If you say “yes” to all of these, hang around a little longer. Imagine the home without the seller’s junk. Picture yourself living there, without Bambi.

A good home that doesn’t show well = a great opportunity

Ultimately, sellers who don’t listen to their agents or stagers inadvertently give savvy buyers a discount. For you to see that potential, try to understand as much as you can about why the seller is selling. Look for sellers who have ignored their agent’s advice. While conventional wisdom says that a buyer would be turned off by a home that shows poorly, go against this. Imagine the potential. And then, once the home is yours, make those small changes the seller should have made. Right away, you’ll have a little bit (maybe even a lot) of equity, thanks to the seller.

Call Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty at 352-266-2637 for all of your Real Estate Needs.

Ocala | Marion home sale prices jump; pending sales increase

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty
3200 SE 20 Ave. Ocala, Florida 34471

Marion County home prices climbed briskly in September, continuing a trend that has pushed the median price to just under $100,000.

The median sales price of a single-family home during September was $97,500, $7,500 higher than in August, according to an Ocala/Marion County Association of Realtors report released on Friday.

It was the second-largest jump in the past year. The largest occurred from October 2011 to November 2011, when the median price darted up from $81,950 to $93,000. Prices slumped to $81,000 the following month before beginning a steady rise in February 2012.

The median price represents a 17 percent jump since Jan. 1, and a 30 percent increase since September 2011.

In another welcome sign for real estate sellers, the county’s housing inventory also continued to shrink, dipping to 3,497 properties, according to the Association of Realtors report. The inventory was nearly 20 percent lower than what it was during the same month a year ago.

Home sales closings, however, dropped to 325 homes, the lowest during the past 10 months and nearly 4 percent less than September 2011.

Pending sales climbed to 463, the second highest during the past 12 months.

The September sales information does not include properties sold by homeowners, only real estate agents.

Judy Ray, president of the Ocala/Marion County Association of Realtors, said the latest figures are all positive and part of a trend in which the housing market is improving.

Ray thinks the median sales price increase is primarily due to a shortage of inexpensive homes in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.
She said those were scooped up when prices were at their lowest and in many cases by investors able to make repairs.

Now families are buying three-bedroom, two-bath homes costing $80,000 to $100,000 because that’s what’s left, she said.

Of the pending sales increase, Ray said banks are still taking longer to approve loans for home buyers and still taking longer to approve short sales for homeowners unable to make their mortgage payments.

A short sale is one in which the homeowner sells his home for less than they still owe on the property. To make the sale, however, the mortgage owner must approve the sale. That approval can often take months.

Closings are down slightly because in many cases owners are watching home prices rise and are putting off selling their homes in hopes of selling at a higher price later.

“And a lot of people are waiting to see what’s going to happen in November,” Ray said.

Meanwhile, single-family home inventory continues to drop, shrinking this time to 3,497 properties, a nine-month supply. During the depths of the recession, single- family home inventory was at about 5,500.

The amount sellers are getting for their properties during September was 89.2 percent of the original asking price. That was down from 89.4 percent during August 2012, but still above the 12-month average of 88.1 percent.

The amount of days single-family homes were on the market before selling was 113 days, about 5 percent less time than during September 2012.

Ray said buyers and sellers are still a little apprehensive about the economic future, which plays a role in deciding whether to buy or sell a home.
“People are still wondering if they’ll have a job,” she said.

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty has been selling homes in Ocala / Marion county for many years give her a call at 352-266-2637 and she can help you with it all!

Looking to Buy a Home In Ocala | How Much Income Do You Need to Buy a House?

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty
3200 SE 20 Ave. Ocala, Florida 34471

If you’re in the market for a new home, chances are you’ll have to compromise at some point along the way. Maybe you’ll have to commute a little farther than you’d like in order to get the best value for your money. Or perhaps you’ll forgo a huge backyard to be closer to the city.

And when it comes to finances, you might find a disparity between how much house you want and how much house you can purchase given your gross monthly income and other factors.

Home loans are made against your ability to repay. While the mortgage loan is secured against the house, it is really made against your income. That’s what mortgage lenders look for — income to offset liabilities.

Simply put, the amount of income you need to purchase a house will vary by your payment comfort level, including any other monthly debt obligations you might have.

Important terms

Mortgage payment: Principal, interest, property taxes insurance and mortgage insurance, if needed

Consumer debts: Minimum payment obligations on things such as auto loans, credit cards, student loans, personal loans and installment loans

Other debt obligations: Alimony and/or child support or any other court-ordered repayment obligations

Running the math

Here’s a simple formula to calculate the amount of income you’ll need to purchase a home:

Target mortgage payment + consumer debts ÷ .36 = Gross monthly income needed to qualify

Most lenders limit your debt-to-income ratio (how much of your monthly income pays debt) to between 36 percent and 45 percent. While the exact ratio varies by lender and loan type, it’s best to base your calculations on the lower end to ensure that you won’t overextend yourself financially.

So, if your target mortgage payment is $2,000 per month and you have consumer debts of $300 per month, you will need $6,388 gross monthly income to offset your housing expenses and consumer obligations.

Down payment

Your down payment is another important factor in determining how much income you’ll need to buy a home.

Consider the following loan scenario using a purchase price of $300,000 (assuming no other debts) and the current rates on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace.

Conventional loan

Down payment: 5 percent ($15,000)
Interest rate: 3.26 percent
Approximate mortgage payment: $1,770
Gross monthly income needed: $4,916
So at the end of the day how much income you need to purchase a home is predicated on your monthly income, consumer debt obligations and down payment.

Impact of debt

For every dollar of debt, you will need double that in income. So if you have a $300 car payment, you’ll need at least $600 per month or more in income to offset that debt.

Debt erodes income, and less income translates to less purchasing power.

So, does buying a home make sense?

Yes, so long as the amount you can borrow for your desired purchase price is in sync with your debt obligations and, of course, your down payment.

With years of helping hundreds of buyers and sellers Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty can help you with all of your real estate needs! Give her a call at 352-266-2637

buying a House in Ocala? | Backyards are highly overrated

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty
3200 SE 20 Ave. Ocala, Florida 34471

WASHINGTON – Oct. 8, 2012 – After a dreary few years, the housing market is showing signs of life. A mid-September report from the National Association of Realtors found that home resales rose 7.8% in August from a year before. New housing starts are up, too, which has people thinking about what kind of space they’d like to live in. One major focus of this question? The great outdoors.

According to a survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), 64% of architecture firms are reporting increased interest in outdoor living spaces: places for adults to relax; places for the kids to play. People want “a luxurious outdoor world, to get away from their everyday lives at home instead of having to go somewhere,” says Janet Bloomberg, with KUBE Architecture.

There’s just one problem: Evidence shows that for all we lust after outdoor sanctuaries, such retreats have little to do with the lives we actually live. Neither adults nor children spend much leisure time outdoors, and in making the trade-offs to have private outdoor space, we could be making ourselves less happy overall.

Mistaken impression

Anyone who studies how Americans spend their time eventually comes to a stark conclusion: Impressions and reality differ a great deal. A fascinating book published this summer, which came to a similar discovery, was Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, the result of an anthropological study of middle-class Los Angeles families. Researchers from UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families recorded hours of footage, documented possessions, and clocked how people spent their days to the minute.

Few of those minutes turn out to be spent outside.

Children averaged fewer than 40 minutes per week in their yards. Adults spent less than 15 minutes of time per week in their yards. These families had sunny Southern California weather. They had nice porch furniture, trampolines, even pools. They just didn’t use them. Many families told researchers that they used their backyards all the time, but then were rarely observed out there in this multiyear study.

The great indoors

Jeanne Arnold, one of the lead researchers, pinpoints two main culprits: first, general busy schedules (work, school, activities); but second, the prevalence of media options, which “seem like magnets, whether it’s television or computers or video game consoles.” Rather than use their outdoor retreats, people would retreat by turning on a screen. People don’t like this image of their lives. So they don’t acknowledge it — to researchers, or with their budgets.

“They’re willing to spend to sort of perpetuate that illusion,” says Arnold. By having nice yards, pools and decks, they could “attempt to project something that’s not necessarily going on, but is clearly ideal” — a family that spends time together outside.

All this would be humorous, except that yards come with externalities. A family moves to the exurbs for a private patch of green. But to buy less than six minutes a day of play and 2 minutes of adult leisure, the parents pay with increased commutes. The Census reports that the average commute is about 50 minutes a day, and battling traffic seldom makes people happy. One 2004 study in Science of Texas working women found that commuting ranked at the absolute bottom of the happiness scale on any given day.

To be sure, even if a backyard isn’t used, it can still bring happiness. Leonard Kady, chairman of the AIA’s Small Project Practitioners group, notes that “you’re always looking into the space.”

But the broader point is that, while a private, beautiful yard seems part of the American dream, Americans spend little time using those yards we pay dearly to get and upgrade. If the kids are just going to play Nintendo, or you’re just going to watch TV, better to live close to work, even if there’s no yard, so you can be home more to enjoy the screens.

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty can help you find that home that has the perfect backyard for you give her a call at 352-266-2637

Facing Foreclosure in Ocala? | The Foreclosure Report – September 2012

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty
3200 SE 20 Ave. Ocala, Florida 34471

Dramatic Declines in Foreclosure Activity
September 2012 California Notice of Defaults were down 20.7 percent from the prior month, and down 48.1 percent compared to last year. There has been speculation that the banks would rush to clear inventory before the CA Homeowner Bill of Rights takes affect in January 2013, causing an increase in the number of foreclosures. Clearly this is not the case as we continue to see the number of Foreclosure Starts decline. Notice of Trustee Sales remains basically flat, up 1.9 percent from the prior month.

September 2012 California Foreclosure Sales are down 17.9 percent from the prior month, and down 30.4 percent compared to last year. However, a larger portion of Trustee Sales, 39.2 percent, are being purchased by investors compared to 27.2 percent last year.

In the other states in our coverage area, Foreclosure Starts are down with Arizona down 37.1 percent, Nevada down 40.1 percent, Oregon down 40.0 percent, and Washington down 31.2 percent from the prior month. Sales are also down with Arizona down 24.3 percent, Nevada down 19.5 percent, Oregon down 0.3 percent, and Washington down 33.5 percent from the prior month.

“It was recently reported that the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers have implemented all of the 320 servicing standards required under the national mortgage settlement,” stated Sean O’Toole, Founder & CEO of ForeclosureRadar. “The continued decline in Foreclosure Starts clearly shows that even though servicers are now apparently in compliance and clear to move forward with foreclosures, they are still in no rush to foreclose on the majority of delinquent borrowers.””

Avoid Foreclosure and Short Sale your home Call Rhonda Buckner, Ocala’s Short Sale Specialist at 352-266-2637

Are You an Ocala Veteran? |Veterans Benefits Bill Brings Big Changes to VA Loan Program

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty
3200 SE 20 Ave. Ocala, Florida 34471

President Obama will sign a wide-ranging veterans benefits bill today that provides greater access to the VA home loan program for disabled veterans, single-parent soldiers and surviving spouses.

The “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act” contains provisions affecting everything from health care and homelessness to education and even service animals. Most of the headlines will focus on health care benefits now available to people who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina.

But some key updates and changes to the VA’s longstanding loan guaranty program will be good news for thousands of military members and their families. Here’s a rundown of some of the most important changes:

VA Funding Fee

Seller-financing options generally mean VA borrowers pay little to nothing in closing costs. But one expense they’re usually on the hook for is the VA Funding Fee, a mandatory charge the Department of Veterans Affairs applies to every loan. This fee, a percentage of the loan amount, helps pay for the loan program and keeps it self-funding. The VA waives the fee for borrowers with service-connected disabilities.

But congestion and long waits within the VA medical system have clouded the benefit. Military members preparing to leave the service may undergo a pre-discharge disability exam but wait months before receiving an official diagnosis and disability rating. In the mean time, those who use their VA loan entitlement to purchase a home are assessed the VA Funding Fee, which is usually financed into the loan.

This new law will exempt from the funding fee any service member who is found eligible to receive compensation during a pre-discharge exam.

Single Parents and Married Couples in the Military

VA loans have occupancy requirements meant to ensure these no-down payment, government-backed loans are used only for primary residences. Spouses are allowed to fulfill this requirement for a service member who is deployed or who can’t otherwise reside in the home soon after closing. But that clearly isn’t an option for single people and married military couples serving elsewhere.

Under this veterans omnibus bill, single parents and married military couples can have a dependent child fulfill the occupancy requirement.

Surviving Spouses

The VA provides access to the loan guaranty program for spouses of veterans who died in the line of duty or of a service-connected disability. Military groups and recently some elected officials have lobbied to extend the opportunity to more military widows and widowers. Moving forward, VA loan eligibility will now extend to spouses of veterans who lived at least the last decade of their lives with a permanent service-connected disability, regardless of whether it led to their death.

VA Loan Limits

After three years at higher-than-normal levels, the VA’s loan limit in high-cost counties fell back to $625,500. That made purchasing a home in expensive parts of the country more difficult for some veterans, who either had to scale back or come up with cash. Veterans who buy above the county loan limit have to pay 25 percent of the difference in a down payment.

This bill will bring those new, higher loan limits (up to $729,750 in most high-cost counties) back into play through Dec. 31, 2014.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) and hybrid ARMs have been an off-and-on part of the VA loan guaranty program for more than two decades. Part of the Bush Administration’s veterans bill of 2008, these loans were slated to disappear from the VA’s lending options at the close of this year.

This new act will install ARMs and hybrid ARMs as permanent parts of this nearly 70-year-old loan program.

Call Rhonda Buckner at 352-266-2637 for all of your real estate needs

Way out your Options! | Tips to Help Prevent Foreclosure

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty
3200 SE 20 Ave. Ocala, Florida 34471

In early 2011, you may remember there was a lull in foreclosure activity – a lull that was prompted by nationwide scrutiny into lenders’ home-seizure practices. But in more recent months, as barriers that have been holding foreclosures back have been removed, banks, anxious to rid their books of long-delinquentmortgage loans, have been stepping up foreclosures — all over the country.

Granted, we’re well below the peak levels we saw from 2007-2010, but even so, consider this: In March, 2012, foreclosure filings were reported on nearly 200,000 properties — that’s 7.4 out of every 10,000 homes.  With many more foreclosures in the pipeline, here’s how to avoid becoming a statistic:

Buy a home you can truly afford

Ok, so this is an obvious point, but reiterating the numbers is never a bad idea: Your housing costs (mortgage, insurance, taxes) should be no more than 25-28% of your monthly take-home pay. Use Zillow’s affordability and mortgage calculators.  They’ll estimate the monthly costs of home ownership within the context of your monthly budget. If the payments seem too unruly (Give them a test drive!), you may need to come up with a larger down payment or shelve your purchase plans altogether.

Contact your lender immediately!

Doesn’t look like you’re going to be able to make that payment .. again? You need to let your lenderknow about your financial woes immediately, and, ideally, while your head is still above water and your credit is in tact.

Consider temporary relief

If you think that your inability to your make your mortgage payments is going to be temporary, see what kind of temporary relief your mortgage servicer can offer.  They may be willing to accept reduced payments over a certain period of time; they may allow you to skip payments over a certain period of time; they may extend the grace period for late payments.  Just remember:  these solutions are temporary, so in the interim, try to find new ways to slash spending and save more. You must also prioritize your bills, paying attention to the ones that are the most essential.

Look into a modification

If your financial situation has permanently changed, then temporary relief is not going help much. You may need to have your loan modified.  And while there are many different ways to do a modification, they generally incorporate interest rate cuts, term extensions and principle reductions –  or a combination of these methods.  Yes, there is a lot of paperwork involved, and yes, it can be complicated, but banks are under pressure to do these modifications and as a result, we are seeing higher success rates: the average savings, per modification, is about $500 a month. To see if you are eligible for a modification, go to

Explore a short sale

If you’re underwater (as 23% of homeowners are today), cash-strapped, desperate for relief, and foreclosure is looking imminent/speed is of the essence, then you might want to consider a short sale.  This where you’re selling your home, for less than what you owe on it, to your mortgage lender. The upside: No more negative equity burden; it’s not as damaging to your credit as a foreclosure is; you can purchase a home again in as little as 3 yrs; and you’re selling your home with your pride in tact.

Rhonda Buckner has helped several families in Ocala and is a certified short sale specialist. She has the answers to your questions give her a call at 352-266-2637

Do You Rent a Home In Ocala?| Should Lifelong Renters Consider Buying a Home?

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty
3200 SE 20 Ave. Ocala, Florida 34471

Isra Hashmi is one of the lucky ones.

And even so, she’s watched her mother sink under a $700,000 mortgage for a home in California that she never could afford to begin with on a physician’s income. Hashmi’s mother eventually had to walk away from the house. She’s seen her brother have to abandon his home, too, after his clothing business failed and he was foreclosed on. She stood by a friend who lost tens of thousands of dollars in a short sale when it was the last option to get out of a mortgage that was burying her in debt.

But Hashmi herself has never had to face what her friends, family and millions more Americans have as the crippling housing crisis unfolded. She might be the only one she knows who hasn’t.

That’s because, even at the age of 39, Hashmi has never owned a home — and she may never after seeing what’s happened to everyone around her, she said.

Isra Hamshi and her husband with three children.
A lifelong renter, Hashmi (pictured at left with her husband and three children) is in the minority of Americans who have never taken the plunge into homeownership. (Despite slumping to a 50-year low, the rate of U.S. homeownership was estimated to be 62.1 percent in the second quarter of 2012.) But she’s likely among a majority of lifelong renters who today count themselves blessed or lucky that they’ve never owned a home. These are the few who have made it through the housing crash and resulting foreclosure crisis virtually unscathed.

“I’m still the only one I know who has never owned,” Hashmi told AOL Real Estate.

It’s not that she hasn’t come close. Eight years ago, when Hashmi and her husband lived in Tucson, AZ, they were on the verge of buying a home there.

“It was the middle of the housing boom, and homes were popping up everywhere,” she said.

But when it came time to make an offer, Hashmi’s husband raised a red flag. He realized that the mortgage their bank was offering them was way out of their budget.

“He said, ‘This is freaking me out. I don’t make enough money to afford this,’ ” Hashmi recalled. “He had the sense to realize that we couldn’t afford it. And then we couldn’t understand why we would even be offered this loan.”

Relief when the housing bubble burst

The couple decided against buying. A few years later, the housing crash would hit, as millions defaulted on loans that they couldn’t afford and shouldn’t have been able to qualify for in the first place. Four million people would lose their homes to foreclosure, and more than double that would face the same possibility.

“We looked at each other in relief and said, ‘Do you realize what we just escaped?’ ” Hashmi recalled.

Today, the couple rents an apartment in Boston with their three children, and Hashmi said that they don’t have any plans to buy in the future, even amid record-low mortgage rates and far lower home prices.

Even though renting might have saved people like Hashmi from deep pain as the housing bust took hold, is shying away from buying a home a winning strategy for the future? Not necessarily.

Analysts say buying better financial option

According to Zillow’s breakeven horizon analysis, buying has become a better financial option than renting in 75 percent of U.S. metros, where it takes an average of three years or less of owning a home to break even with what you’d pay in rent over the same time period. (Home prices are down about 30 percent from their peak in 2006.) In Boston, where Hashmi lives, it would take awhile longer to break even: 4.3 years.

Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said that lifelong renters “have played the smart money for the last five years” by staying out of the buyer’s market, but the fortune in that decision is turning a corner.

He pointed out that historically, over the last century, home prices have risen at an average rate of 0.5 percent to 2 percent per year.

“Despite what’s happened in recent years, housing is generally a non-depreciating asset,” Humphries said. “We think we’ve hit bottom on home values … The steep drops are behind us.”

The renters who avoided catastrophe during the housing slump have a golden opportunity to gain wealth by buying now as home pricesare climbing back, Humphries added.

Gerald Poindexter
Golden opportunity?

That’s an argument that could potentially persuade Gerald Poindexter. The 43-year-old San Diego resident (pictured at right) has been a renter all his life, and he said he felt like he “dodged a bullet” during the housing crisis.

“But never say never,” he said about the possibility of buying a home in the future.

Poindexter said he mostly has stayed away from buying because of the overwhelming responsibility of owning a home.

“Your home starts to dominate every aspect of your life,” he said. “You stay in a job you hate just to keep up with the house.” And when the housing bubble burst, it only affirmed his decision to remain a renter.

But “I love a good deal,” Poindexter said, referring to the deals available because of battered home prices. “If the right opportunity came along, I wouldn’t say no.”

Then again, have longtime renters really survived the housing bust without a scratch? After all, rental prices have soared across the country as ex-homeowners who lost their homes have flooded the rental market.

Rents soar in some key markets

Gary Malin, president of New York City-based realty firm Citi Habitats, has seen some of the worst of it. Rental prices in the market that’s already America’s most expensive have beaten record highs multiple times over the last couple of years.

Still, Malin said, judging whether a renter has gotten off scot-free during the housing crisis depends entirely on individual circumstances.

“If you were in a position to buy at the height of the market but didn’t, then you’re still way ahead of the game,” he said. But if you were only financially capable of paying average rents at the height of the market — when they were much lower than they are now — then today’s surging rental costs are likely hurting your bottom line a lot more, he added.

Hashmi admitted that rising rents have been a struggle for her family. Their rent has gone up every year for the past three years that they’ve been in their Boston apartment. She said they are considering moving outside the city to find cheaper rental rates. But for her, that still doesn’t outweigh the comfort of being free of mortgage debt.

“It’s the most amazing feeling to go to bed at night and be debt-free,” Hashmi said. “There’s nothing else like it.”

If you are ready to think about purchasing your first home give Rhonda Buckner a call at 352-266-2637 for all of your real estate needs

Thinking of Selling Your Ocala Home | Is Pricing Low the Way to Go?

Rhonda Buckner with Buckner Homes Realty
3200 SE 20 Ave. Ocala, Florida 34471

It may seem logical that if you price your home low, it will sell quickly. Some real estate agents believe everyone should price low. The truth is, there are a lot of things to consider when pricing a home. And it helps sellers and buyers to understand clearly the factors that typically influence the asking and the actual selling price.

It’s not an exact science

There’s no exact science to pricing a home to sell. When working with a potential seller, the best an agent can do is provide them with a “range” of value. The range is based on timing, the competition and the most recent comparable sales (or “comps”).

2 similar homes, 2 different prices

Unlike the local grocery store or big-box retailer, which set product prices based on such factors as inventory and past sales of the same product, every seller and every home is unique. In most cases, the seller has only one home to sell. Ultimately, the seller, who may or may not be as experienced as their agent or an active buyer in their local market, sets the selling price. So you could have two similar homes on the same block, yet there’s a 10 percent price difference between them.

In Daly City, CA, not long ago, two single-family homes of similar designs and layout, and in a prime neighborhood, went on the market around the same time. Separately, the sellers’ agents suggested that the value range of their homes was between $425,000 and $450,000. At that time, the market was strong, and inventory was low.

Seller A chose to list his home at $489,000, hoping a buyer would negotiate him down to a figure in the high end of the range. Seller B listed her home at $425,000, wanting a quick sale. She received multiple offers and sold her home quickly — at the top end of the range. Six weeks later, Seller A’s property was sitting on the market … no offers.

The herd mentality

Why such different outcomes for essentially the same house? Answer: The herd mentality.

Buyers tend to flock to where other buyers are hovering. If three people seem serious about a property, then it must be a good value, location or both. Other potential buyers will likely become interested, too. In fact, the home will seem so desirable, or such a good value, to them that they’ll compete for it, ultimately paying the top of the value range — or higher.

On the other hand, if they go to the open house of the overpriced home and don’t see anyone there, they’ll think there’s something missing — or wrong. They don’t want to be the only one at the party. They move on to another property or make a low offer, because they appear to be the only interested party.

Advice for sellers

The example of Seller B, who priced low and yet got top dollar, may seem to suggest that pricing low is indeed the way to go. But not so fast.

For one thing, it’s not a good idea to market your home at a price you aren’t willing to take. And in slower markets, it may make more sense to price at the higher end of the range so you don’t leave money on the table. Is your home on a busy street, in a bad school district? Probably not worth the risk to price it low.

The point is, every seller and situation is different. You can’t simply assume that in a strong market, if you price your home low, you’ll receive multiple offers and it will sell for more than what you asked. The important thing is to work with an experienced local agent and to understand that, ultimately, the market will take the sale price where it needs to go.

Advice for buyers

If you’ve been in the market awhile, you likely have a good feel for values. If a price seems high, but there are still tons of people circling around, don’t be afraid to go in with a full-price offer or even under asking. There have been hundreds of examples where it seems like there were going to be multiple offers. Then, on the “offer day” (the day the listing agent sets to review all offers), the seller gets zero bids. Or one offer comes in at the list price.

Look at overpriced homes that aren’t getting any action. Some homes have languished on the market for six months with no offers. Then the seller makes a major price reduction and receives four offers, and the place ends up selling for more than the original list price. You want to be the one who makes an offer before the reduction.

Ultimately, look at the comps, talk to your agent, trust your gut and go in with your strongest, cleanest offer.

With many years of Real Estate experience let Rhonda’s knowledge of the market help you make the perfect pricing decision and get your home sold! Call Rhonda Buckner at 352-266-2637