Crowd Funding Your Down Payment?

Crowd Funding Your Down Payment?

You may have heard about a new option for home buyers- using the concept of Crowd Sourcing your down payment, much like GoFundMe. In California where the down payment requirements are typically higher than in other states, and the cost of rent makes saving it even more difficult this option may be attractive to many young home buyers.

 

 

How it works is that the prospective buyers sign up for the account and then begin to raise funds from friends & family, often promoting the cause on social media.  They are required to get prequalified for the mortgage, and to make the purchase within 12 months of starting the campaign. Donors can be virtually anybody, but pretty much 99% of the time the significant donations will probably come from family or close friends. Donors may give conditionally-with a requirement that the funds be used only for a home purchase, or unconditionally.

Using gift money for down payment isn’t new.  You could always use a gift from a family member and in some cases a non-profit organization to provide a down payment, and there have also been government subsidized down payment assistance programs.

There have also been people who were able to skirt the issue by thinking ahead. Lenders verify funds by requesting copies of bank statements for the most recent two months. If the gift is deposited more than 2 months before the process is started it likely won’t show on those bank statements, and is a non- issue.

The reason the issue of where the funds come form is that the lender is concerned that the buyers might not be invested significantly in the home, or may be borrowing the money from an undisclosed source, which would put them, and the lender, at greater risk.

Whatever your situation, the best first step is to discuss your situation with a mortgage professional and review all of your options.  Ask if this sort of thing would work well for you, and if there are others you may consider in conjunction with or instead of crowdfunding your down payment.

Questions? Call me! 

800-200-9329

Leo L Linn 

Pegasus Financial Mortgage Lending.

More on the Equifax Hack

More: What you should know about the Equifax Hack.

 

Equifax Chairman Rich Smith announced the hacking of Equifax.

Rick Smith, Chairman and CEO of Equifax, on of the 3 largest credit reporting/data firms in the nation announced that the data of approximately 143 million Americans was compromised.

They have announced complementary identity theft protection on their website.

They have also given an update (see link below) and have a Potential Impact  check available. All links in this post were taken directly form the Equifax site, but feel free to navigate directly from www.equifax.com

A Progress Update for Consumers

So what can you do? Follow the link above to see the Equifax update and/or click in the link below to go to their enrollment page. You can also navigate from www.equifax.com

For more information visit the FAQ page.

ENROLL in Identity Theft Program 

         TrustedID Premier

https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/enroll/

See full 9/11 update below:

A Progress Update for Consumers

September 11, 2017

We are committed to keeping consumers updated on the steps we are taking to provide them with the support they need and address any issues they are facing in response to this incident. We recognize that some consumers continue to face challenges and in response we have made the following updates:

1) Adjusted our PIN Generation for Security Freezes
We understand and appreciate that consumers have questions about how a PIN is currently generated for a consumer initiating an Equifax security freeze solution. All consumers placing a security freeze will be provided a randomly generated PIN.

2) Call Center Support
When we recognized that Hurricane Irma could impact some of our call center wait times, we arranged to ramp up agents quickly to replace agents impacted by the storm and updated our website to make consumers aware of the situation.

3) Clarification Regarding Automatic Sign-Up to TrustedID Premier
We are not requesting consumers’ credit card information when they sign up for the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection we are offering to all U.S. consumers. Consumers who sign up for TrustedID Premier will not be automatically enrolled or charged after the conclusion of the complimentary year of TrustedID Premier.

4) Obvious Link from Equifax.com
To make it easier for consumers to find the website dedicated to providing information about this incident, we have reconfigured our website, www.equifax.com, to feature the link more prominently.

5) Adjusted the TrustedID Premier and Clarified Equifax.com
We’ve added an FAQ to our website to confirm that enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection that we are offering as part of this cybersecurity incident does not waive any rights to take legal action. We removed that language from the Terms of Use on the website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. The Terms of Use on www.equifax.com do not apply to the TrustedID Premier product being offered to consumers as a result of the cybersecurity incident.

What you should know about the Equifax Hack.

What you should know about the Equifax Hack.

First of all: Reality check. Very little is private anymore, but what is most disconcerting about this is not that someone has all this data, it’s who has it and how they got it.  It was stolen, which means that whoever has it is up to no good. 

On the good side, Equifax says that their credit reporting database was not affected, and that only 200,000 credit card numbers were stolen, which is a small number considering the number of credit cards there are in the world. Still, odds are someone has data you would  rather them not have regardless of if they got it from this hack or from another source.

So what can you do? 

Probably what you should be doing anyway. Check your credit report at least once a year or if you suspect any foul play at AnnualCreditReport.com and get another one in about three months.  There are some look-alike sites that aren’t exactly free, so be careful. They will ask you a lot of questions when you order the report including some about what’s on your current credit report, so be prepared

Also, Equifax has set up an online registry you can check using your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. 

Keep an eye on your mail-or email- for anything suspicious.  Read your bank and credit card statements carefully.  Get your annual Social Security benefits statement online and look for anything unusual.

You could also put a security freeze on all your accounts and/or fraud alert on your account.  If you plan to shop for a loan any time soon you should put this off, because security freezes lock credit report files so no one — not even you — can open a new credit account in your name.

Fraud alerts are for those that suspect they have been the victim of identity theft. If you suspect something phishy you may want to look into this. You can start the process here. Military personnel can also put an Active Duty Alert on their credit file.

Don’t panic, but don’t ignore the potential either.

If you would like additional information on credit I have a video series you can sign up for below.  Leo Linn  800-200-9329

Will your pet pick you next home? (OK, I get it. Mortgage rates are boring….What about Cats, Dogs ,Turtles, Goats??)

Will your pet pick you next home? 

A friend of mine runs an animal assisted therapy ranch in Colorado. The Barking CAAT Ranch (Colorado Animal Assisted Therapy) …or something like that.  They train professionals on how to use animal assisted therapy in their practice to treat conditions like PTSD and other psychological disorders.

So while it is true that pets can occasionally drive you crazy- like the other members of your family sometimes may- it is also true that there are times when they help you maintain your sanity and uplift your spirits. How else would you explain the affinity many of us have for our pets? Some of us include our pets in our wills & divorce settlements, and a lot of us will pass on a house that doesn’t have a big enough yard for our favorite canine companion.

Including my family. Of course, I enjoy a nice backyard, but having room for the dog was at least a good excuse. I do remember thinking “wow, I am really going to base my selection of a home based upon what the dog wants?” Uhh… pretty much, especially when my spouse is on board too.  Most of us that have pets consider them a part of the family and a condo with no yard is not the place to an 80 pound pooch.

The NAR (National Association of Realtors) says that 81% of home buyers consider the needs of their pet(s) when choosing a home. That’s most of us in case you are really bad with math. The point is that pets are important to us. What kid doesn’t want a puppy? (which of course grow up into a DOG…) We love them, laugh at them, and like our kids sometimes even get angry with them.

And, of course, we need a place to keep them. That would be home for most of us which make pet owners excellent candidates for home ownership.

Renting is not necessarily easy for pet owners.  Rental units often limit or forbid pets, and/or have a requirement that a large pet deposit be provided. But if you own your own home you ARE the landlord, and get t make the rules. Well, other than  zoning and possibly HOA  restrictions.  So… pet owners- are often good prospects for Realtors. Usually cats, dogs, and small non-hazardous animals are not a big problem.  If you want to keep an exotic animal you may need to get a permit-or not get the animal, and in some areas farm animals are not acceptable.  You know, goats, pigs chickens, etc.   There may also be a limit to how many animals may be kept at a residence.

So go get that pet-and then call you favorite realtor to help you find a home that will accommodate both of you!

Leo

Why and how do mortgage rates vary?

What affects the rates you pay?

In all the years I have been doing this I haven’t written an article specifically on why and how mortgage rates vary. The short answer is that the higher the perceived risk to the lender, the higher the rate. The rates quoted in ads and online are generally bets case scenarios, and you may or may not be one of those. So here are the major categories of why and how mortgage rates vary.

  1. Loan purpose. Purchase loans are the lowest, with a slight variance for no-cash out Loans. You can actually work in many of the costs involved and get a little cash out (up to 2% of the loan amount) in most cases without triggering the pricing increase. Cash out loans are also more affected-and limited- by your equity position.   If you have a good rate already you may be able to get additional cash with an equity line or loan.
  2. Property type. An owner-occupied SFR will be given the best rate, but there may be adjustments for condominiums, multiple units, rental properties, manufactured and/or modular homes.
  3. Loan to Value and Credit score. I list these together because they do affect each another. If you have a great credit score the LTV penalty is less and vice versa.  If you have a lower LTV your credit score matters, but not as much and you will find the interest rate adjustment is pretty small.  A great credit score is 740 or above (we go off the middle scores of the 3 major credit bureaus).  You won’t get hit too hard for scores between 680 and 740, but below that you may have a significant adjustment, especially if there are other risk factors.
  4. Loan Type: Most government loans target people who might have a hard time getting a conventional loan.  Government guaranteed FHA, VA and USDA loans are typically higher LTVs, and while they do have adjustments they are often far less than what the conventional adjustment would be for the same risk factors. While they were designed for purchases, refinances are possible and there are even streamline versions that may not require much verification of anything. Generally if you have a combination of factors such as high LTV and moderate credit scores you should at least look into a government loan to see if it might work better. Also, shorter term rates tend to have a lower base rate and may have fewer adjustments as well, so check out a 15 year rate
  5. Escrow or Impounds. Lenders want you to pay the prorated amount of your taxes and insurance with your monthly payment. Some loans require it. Those that don’t will probably encourage you to have escrows on your loan by charging you an extra one-time fee, usually 0 .25% of the loan amount, if you elect to waive escrows.
  6. Combination of factors. All of these factors-and others- may contribute to the rate you actually pay.  A couple others are loan amount and subordinate financing (2nd mortgage or equity line).  These factors can have a large cumulative effect. Obviously you can’t control all of these, but keeping your credit score up is a good place to start.

I have recorded a series of videos on loan qualifications and credit if you are interested.

LEARN  MORE

Leo Linn

800-200-9329 or 714-782-7345

Use It or Lose It- 3 Basic Truths of maintaining your health

3 truths of health-Part One-Use it or lose it.

I am sure you have noticed that skills you don’t use tend to fade over time. The goes for both physical and mental, and often these are intertwined. AND…the assets you use every day tend to become enhanced. If you play piano or guitar every day you get better… but if you neglect your instrument you start to get rusty.

One of the reasons we get old is that we stop doing the things that keep us young.  We sit at a desk all day and eat and maybe drink too much as our recreation.  And we don’t play enough physical games.  In the days before humans became such a dominant species you probably wouldn’t see too many slow physically weak people.

These people were probably called “Lion Food” instead of CEO.

But I digress.  The point is that we need to exercise our minds and bodies to keep them functioning.  We no longer have to run to keep from being eaten, but keeping moving is still essential to good health. Also, working most or all of our bodies is really helpful when faced with typical physical tasks that we occasionally encounter. Doctors and chiropractors are particularly busy around  and after the holidays because so many of us are climbing ladders or bringing stuff from the attic and/or basement and putting it back when we haven’t  done much of that sort of stuff in almost a year.

So, unless you are a fitness nut already, make some time to up your game. It’s better if you have some fun. Play with the kids or grandkids, and if you don’t have any I am sure you have friends or family that will let you borrow theirs periodically. Take a hike, walk at-or to- lunch, or heaven forbid, make a goal to run (or walk)a 5K.  Then pick something and make a habit of it.

There is hardly a soul alive that can’t find 5 minutes a day to do something important.  See how it goes.  The rest of your life depends on it!  Don’t be a NYRDO (New Years Resolution drop out)  who comes to the gym for a few weeks and then stops.

Find something you can stick with and make it a habit. Make a commitment!

LL

Coming Up: More on what to do and how to do it, Going to extremes, Take your Mom’s advice.

 

 

 

Adventures in Property Management: The Great Flood

The Great Flood: Adventures in Property Management

I am often heard touting investing in real estate. It generally works pretty well, but while developing and managing your portfolio you may occasionally encounter some bumps in the road. Such a bump occurred last night.

10PM the phone rings. It’s Tom. Tom just moved into one of our rentals. He is a really nice guy. He doesn’t normally call at 10PM. This is the first clue that something is awry.

The hot water isn’t working. At all. Not a good sign. It stopped working just a little while ago. I can hear his wife saying something in the background about hearing the sound of running water when nothing is on.  This is also not a good sign. The ONE gadget we did not replace or service was the water heater. I am concerned.

“Uh… I am on my way.” Partially because this particular rental house is 5 minutes away, and partially because the last thing I want at a house we just completely renovated is a flood. When I arrive I walk towards the crawl space opening in the yard and see a large amount of water flowing out. Not unexpected, but disturbing just the same. After wading through 6 inches of water in the crawl space with a flashlight I come to grips with the gist of the matter; The fitting at the top of the water heater has come off and we essentially have an open pipe spewing water under the house. Sometimes things just suck.

The good news is that it did not take very long to get the gusher under control enough to wait for a plumber in the morning. It did take me a while to get calmed down enough to get to sleep. Woman & Leaky water heaterOf course, when my partner & the plumber get involved the following morning there is more. The water pressure is low. Very low. The plumber had no problems getting the fittings together, but there is obviously still a problem. He tries this and he tries that, and eventually comes to the conclusion that there is a mismatch between some old plumbing and new plumbing. The old copper pipe should be a different size. Of course, it couldn’t be the water heater, could it?  No.  He wants to replace and reorganize all the plumbing with different size pipe.

But the water heater is who knows how old. We get a 3rd opinion (2nd opinion was no help). We end up replacing the water heater. Pretty much figured that the rust in the old water heater kept clogging up the pipes. That worked. I guess we should have replaced it when we were putting in the new bathrooms and kitchen. Yes, we had replaced all the sinks and tubs and faucets and left that rusty old water heater pretty much as is, trying to save a few bucks.

How could this scenario be avoided? Well, not managing your own properties might be a good start. Let someone else take that call. If… you have someone you can trust them enough to protect your investment and take care of the tenants in your stead. Having an all night plumbing service on speed dial and on a list you give to your tenants is another good idea.  Most disasters can wait until morning, but water leaks are not one of those. If you own properties that you rent out sooner or later a pipe will burst or a fixture or fitting will malfunction, just like in your own home.   Know where the shutoff is, make sure your tenants know where they are, and be sure both of you have access to an emergency plumber without having to think about it much.

This is not the time to have to do a Google search.

In all likelihood plumbing issues will be the most urgent call you get as a property manager or landlord. Fire might be more dangerous, but chances are if the house is on fire you will be their second call, not the first.

I hope you  find this mildly entertaining. If there is anything I can help you with, please give me a call, and share us with your friends and family!

LL  800-200-9329

Raspberries…

driscoll-raspberries ON LINEN

RASPBERRIES!

I have a raspberry bush?… next to my house. It’s not really much of a bush.  It’s more an odd collection of vines that emanate from the ground. It produces enough fruit daily to provide a nice topping for cereal and the occasional fruit salad. Very tasty, but somewhat labor intensive as raspberries are quite small and you have to pick a lot of them to have much of anything.

The other trick is that they are very good at hiding. You can be looking right at them and not see them, even though they are bright red in a sea of green. This is usually because from any particular angle a leaf is precisely where it needs to be to obstruct your view of that particular berry. They grow all over the bush, and aren’t exactly trying to make your job easy.

To get all the berries you have to change your point of view. Your perspective needs to be adjusted by leaning over, kneeling down, or standing up tall. As soon as you do that you see a whole bunch of berries you didn’t know existed.

It occurred to me that people are much like that. Sometimes their gifts are hidden from immediate view. Once you get to know them and see them from a different perspective you may start to see their true potential.

Just a thought.


Leo Linn
800-200-9329
Pegasus Financial Mortgage Lending

 

 

A casual introduction to “The Bear”

Bear High fiveEven if you are not a runner you may find this amusing.

Middle distance runners inevitably encounter some pain when competing, and refer to a particular type of discomfort as “the Bear”. I imagine it happens in other sports as well.

“The Bear” is usually encountered in the medium length runs in which the body’s energy is used up at a quick pace, and simply put the muscles start shutting down. Distance runners feel the same thing, but the onset is usually more gradual and they back off before it really gets them.

But for sprinters with no experience in pacing the story is a little different. I was in college we had a 4X 400M relay race for fun between the high jumpers and the pole vaulters.  Paul vaulters in Division I are usually fast and athletic, so I figured we had an edge.

John had a lot of raw talent, but not a lot of training other than for the short bursts of speed required for his primary event. He was the 2nd leg of our race. The high jumpers had a commanding lead after the first leg, and he took off like a bolt of lightning, catching the other runner by the first turn, and building a lead down the back stretch.

Then came the final turn.  This is where The Bear lives.

You see, our muscles can work with or without oxygen.  When they work without oxygen they burn up certain chemicals and create certain chemicals. At full throttle it may take about 40 seconds in a sprinter before the muscles start to shut down. 400 meters, approximately a quarter mile, takes a little longer than that.

I would have laughed if John hadn’t been on my team. We were yelling for him to slow down, but he just heard us yelling and went even faster. For a while.

In the 2nd turn he hit “The Wall”, and was jumped by “The Bear” all at the same time. It looked like he ran into a tidal wave of Jell-O that we couldn’t see. It was about then he figured out why we were yelling. He slowed from sprint to run, then to a jog, walk, and then he crawled for a while. At least that’s how I remember it.

I think he literally got down on his hands & knees to cross the finish line, but the race was effectively over by then.

John was a smart guy. In fact he may be a Doctor by now. He was biology major and confessed to realizing what was happening, but it was too late.

He named his Bear “Riggy” as in rigor mortis, which is what it feels like when the bear gets you. I think he was OK by the weekend, but it’s hard to be sure.

This is the type of mistake you make once.

Leo Linn

800-200-9329           Got questions about Real estate Finance?

The best and the least

All children can learnThe best and the least among us.

Most of us don’t think about disabled and special needs kids much. Most of us don’t actually see them very often, partially because they and their families don’t get out much.

When you have a special-needs child in the family all of that changes. You see not only your child, but many others with both similar and more severe situations, and it seems there is always someone who has a more difficult path than yours. I say this as the parent of a child that can’t talk, tie his shoes or change his own clothes.

Then there are the Special teachers, therapists, volunteers, and case workers. These are the people who see that these special kids get special treatment, have a good time, and learn something.  They, more than anyone, realize how different we all are because they deal with a vast array of abilities and disabilities. Most of them seem to love what they do, even though it is about the hardest work for the smallest paycheck you could imagine. Many of them have actually adopted or fostered special needs kids themselves. I am continually amazed by their dedication and heart.

Whenever I am tempted to  think that the human race is a corrupt and insensitive species, I try to think of the people in my life that have taken on  this noble challenge with smile on their face.

If you know a special education teacher or therapist take a moment to appreciate what they do, and thank them for it.

If you’d like  us to contact you, use the form below!

The return of EZ doc loans…?`

Is EZ Doc Making a Comeback?

Well, sort of.  Remember all the EZ doc loans we used to have? We are starting to get  programs that offer alternative documentation, specifically, documentation of income by using bank statements. If the self-employed borrower can show income flowing into their personal bank accounts the may be able to use that income to qualify. Keep in mind that credit scores must be good, and there must be a good equity position.

This will help many, but certainly not all self-employed small business owners become home buyers. Obviously not all of them have the down payment to make this happen, but this is a step in the right direction.

The self-employed have always needed a little different treatment than the average salaried employee.  The same creative accounting that keeps their taxes low also often keep them from qualifying for mortgages and that hurts the housing market. There are hundreds of thousands of small business owners who are perfectly capable of making mortgage payments that have been shut out of purchasing a home because of the scrutiny given to their tax returns. If you have been a home seller over the last 5 or so years their absence from the housing market has probably hurt your bottom line. Of course, if you were a home buyer you may have appreciated the opportunities their absence helped create, but overall it has contributed to the general malaise of the economy. A sluggish housing sector drags on the whole economy.

While we don’t want to see the excesses of the past return in which any borrower that can fog a mirror gets 100% financing, it is good to see some alternatives surface that make sense. I’d like to see underwriting guidelines that take into account the balance sheets and other evidence of success of a business, rather than simply adopting the one-size-fits-all underwriting practices that up until now dominated the mortgage industry.

Any comments? Questions?

 Leo Linn 800-200-9329

Red roof on gold coins - Copy

 

Shoes R Shoes

Shoes. Being a runner you’d think I’d pay more attention to shoes, but unless my feet hurt or there are holes in my soles I really don’t pay much attention. Shoes are there to take up the space between your feet and the ground, and maybe look better than bare feet.Multi colored sneakersWhen I go into the sporting goods store I am amazed at the virtually infinite variety of shoes. Running shoes, walking shoes, training shoes, minimum shoes, maximum support, high arches, spike, cleats and rock climbing shoes.

I know that there are reasons for the different types. I have played enough basketball to know that a little ankle support is a good thing.  Most of the people I know that have played a lot of BBall have rolled an ankle or three at some point, and my own ankles have been damaged since I was teenager. I am just waiting for the arthritis to completely lock up my right ankle.

I don’t think shoes make you much faster or slower, but a good pair can help prevent injury. I think. Well, at least they can help your feet feel better while you are torturing the rest of your body.

But really, how many kinds of shoes do we need? The girls need the styles, but guys are not far behind when it comes to sports shoes. They come in every shape & color of the rainbow, and a few that aren’t in the rainbow. There are also a few combinations that should be reserved solely for gumball machines.

One thing I’m sure you never see. High heel basketball shoes. That’s just wrong

Leo Linn 800-200-9329

Red Hightops

Is it October again, or is Barbie on a rampage?

breast-cancer-ribbon

It’s pretty easy to see that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month around here. All that pink really stands out, and a lot of merchants and the media have taken up this one and those pink bows are everywhere.  My wife had surgery two years ago in October, and just had another one, so it seems like déjà vu for us.

The number of people affected by breast cancer is astounding. The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer during her life is about 1 in 8. If you add the non-invasive cases the rate goes to about 1 in 6. Heredity has lot to do with it, but regardless of the family history the chance always exists.

Unfortunately I have about as much awareness of this disease as a man can have. Many of the women closest to me, including my wife and 3 sisters, have been touched by it.  So in my generation on my side of the family the rate is 100%. I never knew my maternal grandmother because of it.  While 75% or so  of those afflicted recover, it takes its toll on the survivors and their families in terms of the physical, emotional, and financial health. I invite you to support those families you know that have been touched.  Chances are you know more than one.

Prevention often seems to be a matter of choosing your parents well, a little luck, and some common sense. Like a tornado it sometimes seems to have its targets picked out, and can skip a generation, hit one side of a family and not the other, and strike out of the blue.

It doesn’t hurt to take care of yourself.Cancers can be fueled by things like sugar, animal proteins, and estrogen, so moderation in the consumption of these is at the very least is a good idea.  Smoking, drinking, and being overweight are also contributors, not just to breast cancer, but other cancers and health in general.  There are unconventional treatments, including things like a strict vegan diet.  If it’s your turn to be touched by this, by all means search for that which works even if it seems a bit odd.

The good news is that no one in my family has lost their fight with it in the past 50 years, and we intend to continue that streak. Our prayers go out to those who are going through it now, or who have lost loved ones in the past.

LLbreast_cancer_ribbon

Going Gluten Free…

bread assortmentOn going gluten free.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a lot of people are sensitive to a thing called gluten. Several members of my family fall into that category, including my son and my niece. Many who have some sensitivity to gluten don’t know it because it is not routinely tested for. When it hits in your immediate family all of a sudden you are looking at what’s in your kitchen and in your freezer going: “A lot of stuff in here is now off the table”. Literally.

For those of you who don’t know, gluten is a protein complex that has its source in wheat and barley. This means that anything that has wheat or barley-or has touched wheat or barley- is off limits. Gluten is in breads, pastas, sauces cereals, and a whole lot of foods that would never dream of checking-unless someone in your family can’t eat it.
We have hot dog buns, wheat bread, sourdough, pizza kits, cereals, broth, gravy, seasonings…not to mention all the stuff that is processed in facilities that also process wheat products and may have traces-crumbs if you will- of gluten. All of a sudden you realize just how much wheat is in our lives and how hard it is to avoid, and it staggers the imagination.

Eating out? Now there’s a challenge! Sandwich? Out. Croutons? Uh…No! Fried chicken? ‘Afraid not. The mildly sensitive you can take a few chances with things like burgers that are prepared minus the bun, but for those with celiac disease-who’s sensitivity is such that there is damage to the digestive tract-just the fact that there are wheat products in the kitchen can be a problem. Just a few crumbs can trigger a reaction. Many restaurants have a list of which foods have and do not have certain allergens, so that makes it a little easier, but the gluten-free section of the menu is likely to be limited.

So, if you have recently been added to the list of families who have gluten-free members, I empathize. If you’re having digestive issues or frequently just don’t; feel right, you might want to get tested.  If you have celiac disease, which may mean your gluten sensitivity results is intestinal damage, it would be good to know sooner rather than later.

Some have blamed at least some of the current generation’s problem with gluten on the genetic engineering that has taken place with respect to wheat. We have become marvelously efficient at growing, harvesting, and processing wheat.  It is cheap and abundant in this country. For most of us the allergy is not a problem, although the more rotund among us may want to back off a bit.  Wheat is somewhat of an appetite stimulant and provides a lot of energy. If you don’t use that energy it sticks with you for awhile, if you know what I mean. It can also lead to elevated levels of bad stuff in the blood, including certain fats and cholesterol.

But I digress.  There’s a lot to know about gluten sensitivity, so if you would like some information or have some info to share- please feel free to comment or contact me. I’ll also put in some links to some helpful sites, should you feel you would like additional information.

Leo

Celiac Disease Foundation  www.celiac.org

She’ 15. She’s a girl, she’s BLIND… and pole vaulting at state championships…

873187-pole-vault

Pole vaulter to go to state championships.


Charlotte Brown is in the process of getting a guide dog,  but she runs down a 2 foot wide runway at full speed and plants a 13 foot pole in a space about the width of a shoebox and throws her body 12 feet in the air. 

 She’ 15. She’s a girl, and she’s BLIND.

O.K. I’m officially impressed, and I’m a former NCAA Pole  vaulter. I had 20-20 vision and I can only imagine what it takes to do it all by feel. This is amazing.

Those who know her say she is persistent. I’d bet there are those who would  say stubborn, but it’s a good stubborn. The discipline it takes to be good at the  pole vault is significant, even if you are fully sighted. There’s a link to the ABC story below.

I can see-no fun intended- why she likes it. It is about the most fun event in track and field. It does feel like you are flying, and it’s one event where you get oohs and ahs if you do it well.  And sometimes if you don’t.  The last oohs I remember getting were at the NCAA finals when I about killed myself in front of several thousand people, but it was a rush anyway.

Anyway, check out her story.

It’s quite inspirational, even if you can’t quite relate to the sport.

Leo Linn  800-200-9329

 Charlotte Brown

ABC story

827984-pole-vault

Looking for work?

Are you looking for work?  I am!

I am always looking for work. While I don’t think of myself just as a salesperson, the fact is without business coming in every month there wouldn’t be much for me to do. Here are my suggestions for the not-so-chronically unemployed.

Think of this as an opportunity to find something better than what you had before.  While many of us do not relish starting over, sometimes a fresh take on your career can be very beneficial.  Is there a job you’ve thought about that might may you reconsder your career choices? Have you thought of starting a business of your own? Did you ever think that you could do your boss’s job better than he did?

2. Widen your options and opportunities and cast a bigger net. You don’t quite have a blank slate, as you have developed skill and knowledge sets from your previous employment, but everything is now in play, especially if you set aside money for that inevitable rainy day which now presents itself.  Don’t discount the idea of getting additional training or education.

3.Take at a little time to reboot and re-access your life. Take into account what you are good at, as well as what you are qualified for. Don’t neglect things that you love doing.

4. Put the word out.  A few well-placed phone calls to people you know may have more effect than a thousand resumes. I’m not saying don’t put the resume’s out there, but be sure to make those phone calls and make personal contacts.

5. Be at least a little practical. For those of you who don’t know, my degree is in music composition.  While I have a little talent, a little talent in that field is a little like being a pretty good football player and trying to make it in the NFL.  Some careers are a tough go. I still write and record, of course, but in the absence of divine intervention I’ll have to find another way to make a living.  Make your living doing something that you enjoy and are good at.

6. Don’t get used to it. Don’t give up. Every salesperson that has any degree of success knows that you win some and you lose some, and that if you keep at it good things will happen. This means you adjust your approach, re-evaluate your target audience, and know that if you keep talking to people you will get results. If you are in a line of work that doesn’t emphasize personal interaction this may be uncomfortable for you, but most of us in sales, even grizzled old veterans, get uncomfortable from time to time.

You might even find that you like talking to people.    LL

I am an expert in aswering questions about mortgages. If you have one, the number is:

800-200-9329

The rest of this stuff is moonlighting!

 

Is the mortgage interest deduction a big deal?

The standard deduction is $11,900, for a married couple filing jointly in 2012 as released by the IRS and reported by CBIZ. It is used in the absence of itemizing deductions and can be applied whether you have deductible expenses or not.Of course the answer is different based on who you are and what your circumstances are. The national average mortgage balance is around $172,000. If you figure a 5.5% interest rate on that amount the annual interest is $9,460. That same property might have property taxes in the range of $2,000, which are also deductible.

That totals $11,460 in dedcutible costs for our “Average” homeowner.  So, if our “average” couple doesn’t have any other deductions, it’s pretty much a wash. I have to wonder if it was designed that way.Click the picture to see my latest inept attempt at video…

Of course, very few households are actually average. Most of us have a whole bunch of other stuff going on in our lives. If you live in Manhattan or San Francisco where a crackerbox is million dollars your take on this might be different than someone living in rural Nebraska. In the larger, more expensive cities the taxes are high, and because of the cost of living in many places a six figure income is pretty much below the poverty line. (That’s a joke…sorta…) If you have mortgage payment of $5,000 a month you would definitely feel the pinch if the mortgage interest deduction were removed.

It’s also a bit of a double-whammy. The mortgage deduction reduces the cost of ownership, conversely increasing the value of these homes. Removing it will decrease the value of these homes for the folks already living in them. New buyers will make their decisions based upon the anticipated costs, and will pay lower purchase price because of the increased cost fo wonign a home. I don’t think that a lot of people will be shut out of the purchase market because of the tax hike, they will just allow for it whenlooking for a home. This means that the current owners may get a little less for their homes when they sell than they otherwise would.

So not only would they pay higher taxes, their asset has been devalued as well.

However…there are probably more people who would hardly notice. The bigger your mortgage and the higher your tax bracket the more you would feel the impact.

I’d really like to hear some comments on this one! What are your thoughts?

Would this be a good way to raise revenue, or is it simply changing the rules in the middle of the game for no apparent reason?

Leo Linn  800-200-9329

Do you need a backup plan?

Time for a backup plan…

If you didn’t include “Implement a plan to back up my computer files on a regular basis” in your New Year’s resolutions, hopefully it’s because you already have a plan in place.

But then maybe your one of the few has never experienced a computer failure. If so, I’ll take this opportunity to remind you that you are one virus, power surge, or spilled cup of coffee from losing everything you have on your computer.  If it’s your vacation photos, it’s bad enough, but if you run a business you probably just had a chill go up your spine. Payroll, business letters, emails, tax returns-all gone. It’s bad enough when you have to stop what you are doing on go buy a new computer, but not having a backup could add insult to injury.

If you’re a casual user and you keep your contacts and photos on your computer and not much else of consequence backing up periodically may be all you need.  They can be burned to CDs, DVDs, or portable drive. For those of you who have forgotten about your music library you can include this in your backup.  The backup media should NOT be kept IN your computer. One of the causes of data loss is theft. If they steal your computer they will steal the whole thing, and probably not bother to remove your backup disk before they make off with your desktop. I know it’s inconsiderate, but that’s kinda the way thieves are.

 ANOTHER KEY IS REMEMBERING TO ACTUALLY DO THE BACKUPS. Most of us who back up manually forget from time to time, and the typical time for disaster to strike in right before you were going to do a manual backup.

Of course, this is why there are automatic backup systems.

You can have this set up to do locally, generally to a secondary hard drive. This hard drive can either be a portable drive, or a second hard disk drive that is in your desktop computer. As I mentioned earlier, this is protection against data loss due to hardware or software failure, but does not necessarily protect against theft or natural disaster. You can swap out your drives periodically and keep one off site or in a fireproof, waterproof safe as additional protection.

A third option would be an automatic, offsite backup such as Carbonite ,Mozy, or other services provided by  various companies that are entering the market.  These are set up to automatically and continuously backup your chosen files to their remote servers, which are pretty well backed up themselves. That way if your house or office is hit by lightning, flood, or burns down you can still recover your files and re-install them on another machine. The cost per year is about what you’d pay for that 2nd hard drive, maybe less.

Whatever you do, do something.  That novel, term paper, photo catalogue, or letter to Dad is a heartbeat away from oblivion if you don’t.

Leo Linn

Mold and Moisture in your home- Uninvited guests?

Mold is generally thought of as a bad thing. Much of the time it is, but is also normal to have mold in varying degrees, and to avoid it completely is pretty difficult.

Mold can cause a lot of ailments. Some forms of mold are harmless, but some are toxic, and some merely irritating if you happen to be sensitive to it. Respiratory ailments especially can be caused or exacerbated by the presence of mold and mold spores, which is the equivalent to its seeds or eggs. These spores in themselves can be toxic to humans and animals if inhaled or absorbed in high enough concentrations.  I had two dogs that became quite ill an developed severe skin rashes and infections when exposed to mold. We ourselves were generally sneezing, tired, grumpy and congested, and eventually came tpo the conclusion that all of these symptoms were attributable to the presence of mold.

Not really understanding what was going on, we suffered for years until be purchased our first new house. Since it was new construction mold had not yet developed to an extent that we had previously experienced in a 30 year old home-with moisture issues, and our allergies and other ailments disappeared shortly after the move.

Mold needs moisture and some sort of food to grow. Wood, linoleum, and vinyl can be food for it.

A dry, arid environment is most hostile to mold growth. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to maintain such an environment in your home, even if you live in an arid region.  We bring in food, drink, and ourselves into it, and most of us use water to clean things, like laundry, surfaces, and of course, our selves.  This is why mold in the bathroom is generally the rule and not the exception.

How does moisture get in?

One way is moisture intrusion through the foundation…

Many people think that concrete is waterproof. After all it is used in pools, sidewalks, foundations  and roads, and even under your bathroom shower. Well guess what, concrete is porous.  Not only isn’t it waterproof, it actually can conduct moisture from the outside world into your home.  This is why there is a moisture barrier installed under most slab foundations, often in the form of clear plastic sheeting.

Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t…

There are various grades and types of concrete used in foundations. Some are more likely to promote moisture intrusion than others. The cost differential is not extreme, at least for the material, but the better concrete takes longer to cure which may delay construction time. On a large project this can be very costly to a builder, so there are times when the builder will take a shortcut. It doesn;’t always cause problems.  The type of concrete used is dependent upon the soil and moisture conditions present, along with other factors. However, there have been serious problems that have resulted in soem very sick people and very serious damage that also resulted in tens of millions of dollars in settlements at the expense of major builders because they took these shortcuts in the wrong place at the wrong time.

How do I know all this? Uh, I learned about it the hard way. I purchased a home that was involved in one of these suits, after deciding it was worth the risk.  We had been looking for months, and decided that the situation was manageble, especially if we won the suit. Actually had we known all the facts when we made the offer we may have passed on it, but we sure learned a lot as we went through the process.

We ending up making significant modifications to the home, all aimed at keeping moisture out of the house in critical areas.  For starters, we replaced the sprinklers that were shooting water up against the wall of the house with ones pointing the other direction.  Pretty simple, and pretty effective.

This was in southern California, and irrigating the lawn was an almost daily occurrence. The exterior was stucco, which is essentially a layer of colored concrete.  While it is fine to get it wet, the constant bombardment inevitably lead to some moisture intrusion, and imperfections or holes in the surface can exacerbate this. Also, the water obviously enters the soil and can be absorbed into the foundation, which in our case would then wick the moisture through the foundation causing problems with the vinyl flooring, carpets, and under the cabinetry. There was a moisture barrier which apparently was not getting the job done.

I am not sure why or how, but somehow water was being absorbed by the concrete and transmitted through the foundation into the home. The flooring in the laundry room had to be replaced twice in 5 years, and had a severe mold problem.  There was also mold under the kitchen cabinets, and probably elsewhere.

Sealing the foundation.

A foundation can be sealed with on the top surface or on the bottom. Obviously it’s better done from the bottom, but this is hardly practical after the home is built, especially on a slab foundation that contains the pipes. There is a process that involves boring holes in the foundation and injecting waterproof material to seal it form the bottom, but because of the number of holes required the remaining foundation resembles Swiss cheese and it is near impossible to guarantee that the surface is properly protected. Not to mention that this is really, really expensive. Also some slab foundations have cables running through them that strengthen them, and this feature is disturbed by the process.

Sealing the inner surface is much easier and far more cost effective. Still, it’s not cheap and probably is only appropriate if you have identified a problem. You may have observed a similar process applied to sores with exposed concrete floors.  The concrete surface is thoroughly cleaned and textured. Basically either sanded or in our case treated with what amounts to sand blasting the surface. The surface is bombarded with small iron balls, sort of like ball bearings or bee bees, which removes a layer of concrete making it an excellent surface to apply the sealant or sealants to. This is very helpful in achieving a stable long term bond. The surface was guaranteed for minimum of 10 years, and projected to last much longer.

Of course, all of the flooring has to be removed and replaced. We elected to not replace the few areas that had tile, as the process of securing tile to concrete seals it pretty well anyway.  We did take out ALL the linoleum floors and carpeting.  The entire slab was treated and sealed, with an extra layer of sealant installed under the new tile. It turns out that the material used for the initial layer is not something that tile adhesive sticks to, so an additional layer is required before laying tile.

Under the kitchen cabinets was another story. We got estimates for removing and replace the cabinets, and the cost was hard to accept. We removed the toe kicks (the3” of wood at the base of the cabinets) and found mold, but not to the extent that the rest of the cabinets were not salvageable. The house was only about six years old, so anything not directly in contact with mold was not severely damaged.

We elected to seal the concrete under the cabinets after cleaning and sanding and treating and letting the surface dry for several weeks.  We couldn’t get a contractor to do it, so we did it ourselves with the best coating we could find.  We didn’t want to have to open it up again and it was a relatively small area, so we did not go cheap here. Replacing the toe kicks was far less expensive than replacing the entire cabinet array, especially since we were having other work done that involved similar wood and the craftsman was a friend.

So does any of this sound like fun? In another environment we might have delayed the purchase until we found a non-affected home, but at that point home prices were escalating rapidly and we were under time constraints. The actions we took appear to have been successful, and we noticed no further moisture damage.

You may not have to go to these lengths to protect your home, but if you find mold or moisture be sure to have it checked out by a pro. Mold is usually not a death sentence, but it is definitely to be taken seriously. We did nto go into this without the advice, both official and unofficial, of several experts in different fields. It would have been very easy to over-or under-react, but looking back we feel like we followed the right course.

My advice? Do reaserch, get information, and listen to both your head and your heart. I hope I’ve given you some good information to help you get to where you need to go.

Comments?

Do you need to know the difference between FannieMae and Freddie Mac?

Zero equity refinances

   Did you know…

Qualifying Fannie and Freddie loans may be refinanced without regards to equity, or lack thereof. The Home Affordable Refinance Program is open to those who have loans currently owned by one of the two, who collectively own most of the mortgages currently and recently being written, regardless of who the payments are made to. You might have one of these babies and not know it.

If you have a Fannie Mae loan instead of a Freddie Mac loan you might be better off. FNMA loans are rewritten based upon the DU Refi-Plus Program, and Freddie Mac loans must be completed under the Open Access Program, both of which are products of HARP (Home Affordable refinance Program)

Both programs still have elements being rolled out, but the rollout for Open Access has been slower and fewer lenders are participating. Those that do almost universally have put restrictions on the loans they will accept in addition to the restrictions placed by the respective Government Sponsored Entities (GSE’s)

So everyone who has the need to refinance a Freddie Mac loan that is upside down is going to be looking at the same lenders, whether the go directly to that lender, or through a Broker.

Most lenders that are offering the program are putting additional restrictions on who can get it. Most limit the LTV (Loan to Value ratio) to a maximum of 105% of the property value, but a few have either higher or NO restrictions on how far a borrower can be “under water”. As you might guess, the higher LTVs come with restrictions and some price adjustments, meaning that the rate and/or closing costs will be higher. If you need to get permission (in the form of a subordination agreement) from a 2nd mortgage or HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) you can expect their to be some modifications as well. These things are considered risk factors, and the cost of the loan is affected when they are in play. Also, if your loan needs to have been sold to the GSE prior to June 1st,2009 to be eligible.

Some qualifications have been relaxed, but since this is still a new program there are plenty of changes going on behind the scenes. Don’t assume that your loan is approved until it actually is.

But until more lenders come on board we just have to face the fact that things might go more slowly than we would like. If you are in the “High LTV” category you should be prepared to be patient, at least until things cool down a bit. Still, you never know when the rates are going to go south, so its’ probably best to get on the bandwagon. If it looks like rates are going down again you can always out the brakes on.

In other words: Get started! The sooner you start the sooner you will finish.