Determining a home’s value

The New York Times – Declining property values are preventing some homeowners from taking advantage of today’s historically low-interest rates and refinancing.

 Many homeowners nationwide have either no equity or are in a negative equity position in their homes. This leaves them with two options for refinancing, paying extra at the closing or what’s known as a cash-in mortgage.

 Those considering refinancing will need to determine the current valuation, comparing it with the mortgage balance. If the balance is at least 15 to 20 percent higher than what is owed, a refinance without a second down payment is possible.

 To obtain a good valuation, some homeowners hire an appraiser, at a cost of $300 to $600, or more on a large or expensive property. While this may be informative, most lenders require an official appraisal anyway, and that will have to be conducted by someone on the lender’s approved list.

 Another, less costly, option a homeowner can use prior to approaching a lender, is to check the comparable sales in the neighborhood and see which homes and for what amounts homes have sold in the last three to six months.

 Homeowners also can go to the county assessor’s office and look up specific homes that have sold recently in the neighborhood.

 When looking at comps, homeowners should consider homes with similar amenities and square footage as the property in question.

 Just before the home is scheduled for its official appraisal, homeowners should spend a few hours touching up and making sure it looks well maintained. Hiring a cleaning crew, repairing any broken windows, and providing documentation on upgrades also can help the appraiser.

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New discounts for mortgage borrowers

SmartMoney – As mortgage rates continue to fall, lenders are rolling out splashy discounts and promotions to inspire reluctant home buyers. But critics say the newest offers still stop short of the best deal for borrowers: Lower rates.

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Mortgage delinquencies increase

The Wall Street Journal – Mortgage delinquencies ticked up during the second quarter after declining for five consecutive quarters, according to a report by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

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Buyers, sellers chafe at low home appraisals that hurt sales

The Mercury News – Low appraisals continue to block people from selling homes or refinancing mortgages, leaving many sellers and real estate agents unhappy.

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Freddie, Fannie reject debt relief

The New York Times – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have decided not to participate in debt reduction programs due to their policies against debt forgiveness and principal reduction.

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Mortgage help for unemployed disappears

CNNMoney – A $1 billion program to assist the jobless will likely end up spending only half the funds, at most, because so few people met the strict criteria.

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California quits states’ talks with banks on mortgages

The New York Times – A decision on Friday by a California official to withdraw from negotiations with large banks over their mortgage practices threatens to derail a broad settlement that the Justice Dept. has been brokering for nearly a year.

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Number of permanent mortgage modifications rises

Los Angeles Times – A total of 15,522 borrowers received permanent modifications through the Home Affordable Modification Program in August, up 2.3 percent from July.

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Consumer confidence essentially unchanged

The San Francisco Chronicle – The Conference Board said last Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index was at 45.4, up slightly from a revised 45.2 in August.

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What you should know about the market

 As the warm summer days begin to turn into cool fall and winter nights, many homeowners see increases in their electricity bills as they try to keep their homes warm.

 To help lower the cost of heating a home this winter, homeowners can weatherstrip their homes. According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, there are many kinds of weatherstripping products on the market. Since each product is designed to work in a different area of the home, homeowners should read product packaging carefully to determine if it is best suited for windows or doors, as well as indoor or outdoor use.

 Another tip for “winterizing” a home is to get a furnace or heating system inspection, which most professionals recommend homeowners do at least once a year. An inspection of the working parts can ensure that the house has heat when needed and can prevent costly repairs in the future.

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