A Dozen Morris County People Talk With Realtor Kelly Holmquist, Attorney Marty Eagan About Avoiding Foreclosures

(We just issued the following release:)

The Holmquist Team, Kelly Holmquist, Morris County Realtor, houses for sale in Long Valley, houses for sale in Chester, houses for sale in Mount OliveCHESTER – The headlines may be shouting about an improving housing market, but for a dozen people at a workshop in Chester earlier this month, the topic of a quieter discussion is avoiding foreclosure. They heard two experts – Kelly Holmquist of The Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams-Towne Square Realtors and Morristown Real Estate Attorney Martin Eagan – talk about ways to do that.

Ms.Kelly Holmquist, the Holmquist Team; Morris County Realtor, Long Valley Realtor, Chester Realtor; short sales, foreclosures Holmquist and Mr. Eagan work together to help people sell homes short, meaning the bank agrees to allow a house to be sold for market value, even when that sum is less than what is owed to the bank.

“It’s a traditional sale,” explained Eagan. “You’re selling to a buyer. It’s not a foreclosure. It’s just the bank agrees to take less than you owe.”

As they have at several previous workshops, the duo explained to those around the table how a short sale works and the role of the attorney and the Realtor in the sale. The bank agrees to accept the lower price, but it does want market value. It’s a tight rope, said Eagan.

“We want to upsell it to the buyer and downsell it to the bank,” said Eagan. “Kelly’s great at that.”

Ms. Holmquist explained that the home will be appraised by the bank, which will set a target asking price. The house is then aggressively marketed like any other home. It must be listed on the MLS, for instance. And home sellers are encouraged to properly stage their homes so it sells quickly. When an offer is received, the bank has to approve the offer.  In fact, said Ms. Holmquist, the only difference between a short sale and regular sale is the negotiations are done by the attorney with the bank and others owed money from the proceeds of the sale.

“On the front side, everything appears to be a traditional sale,” said Ms. Holmquist. “It’s on the back side that it’s different.”

While past workshops have been attended by an array of people, many of them have been younger homeowners who can no longer afford their mortgages or who need to move for a better job, but can’t sell their depreciated homes. This group was a different, said Ms. Holmquist and Mr. Eagan. One couple, for instance, was collecting information for their daughter who is going through a divorce. Another couple is trying without success to sell a home owned by the woman’s mother, now in her 80s in assisted living and with no income. A third woman, in her 70s, had taken multiple mortgages to pay medical expenses. Although she’s never missed a mortgage payment, the failure of the real estate market and the devaluation of her savings now has created financial problems.

“All sorts of people are facing foreclosure or are so far underwater that they may never recover, even though they’re making their payments,” said Ms. Holmquist. “It’s not at all uncommon.”

In fact, she said, about 29 percent of the homes being sold in Long Valley and Mount Olive are short sales. In the Chesters, that number is about 9 percent.

“Working with an established team of an attorney and a Realtor to sell short offers a good way out for many people,” said Ms. Holmquist. “The improving real estate market improves their chances of selling short, but it’s still the best answer for some people.”

Ms. Holmquist said people with questions about short sales or any other facet of buying or selling real estate can call her office at (908) 867-7109 or by sending her an email at kholmquist@comcast.net.

Ms. Holmquist is the team leader for the Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams Towne Square Realty, and one of the top-producing real estate teams in Morris County, N.J.  She has been in real estate since 1997, specializing in residential home sales. After working at other agencies, she founded The Holmquist Team in 2008. A Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), she holds a bachelor of science from PennStateUniversity. More information is at http://www.kellysellshouses.com or by calling (908) 867-7109.

Eagan heads an office that focuses on real estate and is one of New Jersey’s fastest growing specialty law firms. The firm has successfully represented thousands of individuals and business clients across the state in residential and commercial real estate transactions. More information is available at (973) 898-7300 or www.martyeagan.com.


Holmquist Team, Other Realtors, Will See More Short Sales In Coming Days

Short sales a way out for those swamped by mortgages

For those swamped by their mortgages, short sales may help avoid the coming tide of new foreclosures.

Although the news media and real estate blogs have been talking about the improving real estate market, there’s an unpleasant fact that people in the market have to face: Even as home sales are increasing, The Holmquist Team and other Realtors in New Jersey soon will see many more foreclosures and short sales.

The housing marketing is improving. Home sales in theNorthwesternMorrisCounty area up, days on market are down and the number of buyers per home is increasing. But a recent report by the Mortgage Bankers Association saysNew Jersey now has the second highest percentage of mortgage loans in foreclosure in the country. With 8.4 percent of homes in foreclosure,New Jersey is second only behindFlorida.

The problem is a 2010 court-ordered moratorium on foreclosure filings as part of the “robo-signing” scandal. Banks and mortgage companies were signing so many documents so quickly, that they often didn’t have proper documentation when a home was sold and couldn’t prove ownership when foreclosures were challenged. Add to that New Jersey’s court process that stretches out for more than a year, and you loans due for foreclosure just piling up.

Now the courts have cleared the way for the floodgates to open. While Realtors, economists and government officials will say that the housing market can’t stabilize until the foreclosures are dealt with, it doesn’t help those who are drowning in debt and facing foreclosure.

For some, foreclosure can’t be avoided. But for others, there are ways out. For those behind in the mortgages or barely keeping up, the issue may soon be unavoidable.

For those folks, attorneys and knowledgeable, experienced Realtors can provide information about the many federal, state and non-governmental programs that are available.

There are programs to help people in foreclosure. Others help people readjust their mortgages. For many, short sales are a good answer. In fact, several experts are predicting an increase in the number of short sales.

A short sale is when the bank allows a homeowner to sell a home for less than what’s owed on it. The seller gets to stay in the home until closing. Short sales have less of an impact on the seller’s credit rating.

On the other hand, there are complicated negotiations and there could be tax implications to a short sale.  It takes a team of experienced Realtors and attorneys to do a successful short sale.

If a short sale seems like a good idea, talk with your Realtor or attorney. Make sure they are experienced in dealing with short sales.

And plan on spending Monday evening, June 11, with us at Cinders on Route 46. I’ll be there with attorney Marty Eagan, an attorney who specializes in short sales and other distressed sales. Call (908) 867-7109 or email me at kholmquist@comcast.net.net for more information about our free workshop.

Holmquist Team Helping Homeowners Take Advantage of Federal Program That Helps Avoid Foreclosure

Area homeowners are turning to Realtors like the Holmquist Team to take advantage of a federal program designed to help homeowners who are drowning in debt and facing foreclosure. That program is slated this year.

New Jersey ranks fourth in the nation in homes with delinquent mortgages, according to the Otteau Valuation Group, a well-respected real estate appraising company. One in six home loans is “underwater” in New Jersey. Homeowners in this situation, however, should be reaching out to knowledgeable Realtors who can help them navigate various private, state and federal programs to help them reduce their loans or sell their home before losing it foreclosure.

Holmquist Team, real estate agents and  home sellers in Long Valley, Chester and Mt. Olive, an help homeowners who are having difficulties with their mortgage and are underwater with their mortgages.

Homeowners who are overwhelmed by their mortgage should contact the Holmquist Team or another Realtor to explore their options before they lose their home to foreclosure.

Short sales are one tool to get homeowners out from under an oppressive mortgage. For qualifying homeowners, a group of federal programs called Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives is an excellent way to get out of a home you can no longer afford and still be able to move on with your life. Under the HAFA program, you may be able to sell your home through a short sale or through a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, where you give the home back to the bank.

The program applies to homes that are principal residences with a mortgage under $729,750 that was obtained on or before Jan. 1, 2009. The homeowner also has to be able to document financial hardship.  The program applies only to homes with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, although there are other programs available for in-trouble homeowners with VA, FHA and USDA mortgages.

Qualifying has excellent benefits:

  • You’re completely released from your mortgage debt after the property is sold,
  • A HAFA sale has less negative impact on your credit score than a short sale,
  • HAFA gives you $3,000 in relocation assistance.

While there’s some discussion of the program being extended, right now the program is slated to end Dec. 31, 2012.

If you’re a homeowner in trouble, now is the time to make a move. You should start by contacting The Holmquist Team or another Realtor who is knowledgeable in distressed sales and in HAFA.  He or she can help you understand what options you have, what you need to do to get your home ready to sell and, perhaps, where you can live next. An agent also should have the proper contacts to work on your behalf with lenders and attorneys.

You may also wish to attend a workshop on short sales and other tactics to avoid foreclosures that is slated for 7 p.m. March 5 at the Publick House Restaurant in Chester. It will feature Kelly Holmquist, broker-sales associate and leader of The Holmquist Team of Keller Williams Towne Square Realty. Also featured will be Martin D. Eagan, a Morristownattorney who specializes in distressed real estate sales. The pair will discuss the HAFA program and other alternatives. Information is available at www.theholmquistteam.net or by calling the office at (908) 867-7109.

There are many alternatives to having a home taken by foreclosure, but homeowners need to give themselves ample time to investigate and take advantage of those programs.  Those who need to get out of a mortgage that has them “underwater” should call a Realtor today to explore their options.


Be Careful Of This Blast From The Past

Lately, The Holmquist Team members have been noticing some advertisements for mortgages that make us feel like we’re back in the early 2000s.  I’m referring to the so-called hybrid loans that promise a very low fixed mortgage rate for a few years, and then become an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Be careful. Don’t let a mortgage calculator lull you into a mistake.

If you’re considering buying a home, an adjustable mortgage might work for you or you may be better off with a fixed-rate mortgage, especially with rates as low as they are. The trap, for many people, is their credit score and the belief that they can buy cheap now and refinance or sell before the mortgage balloons. A Holmquist Team Realtor can help you avoid the trap.

Your house-hunt should begin at your dining room table with some planning and it shouldn’t be impacted be promises of extra-low interest rates. As in everything else, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

There really hasn’t been a better time in a generation to buy a home if you can afford it. I know: Realtors say that all the time. But, with interest rates low and a good selection of homes, it’s very true. If you’re thinking about it, here’s how to plan it:

  • Start by looking at your financial situation, including your credit. Lending standards are high, these days. Get copies of your credit scores from the three reporting bureaus and make sure there are no errors or issues. Look at your own financial situation. How secure is your income? What can you afford? A financial planner or a Realtor can help you with this if you need it.
  • If you decide it’s time to be a homeowner, talk with a financial planner or a Realtor if you haven’t already.  They can help you determine whether you’ll qualify for a mortgage and help you figure out what you can afford. If you can’t qualify, don’t lose hope. Find out what needs to be fixed and spend the time you need fixing your credit, waiting until you’re earning more or doing what you have to do. Home ownership isn’t something to be rushed, and it simply isn’t for everyone. You may never recover if you get in over your head.
  • If you can qualify and you know what you can afford, shop around for a mortgage. Some experts suggest talking to three banks and three mortgage brokers. A Realtor can help you find banks and brokers with good programs. Look at interest rates, closing fees, other costs and programs. An adjustable might be right for you, but be careful and review all your options.
  • Once you’ve prequalified, work with a Realtor to find the home that’s closest to your dreams. You need to move carefully, but quickly.
  • A warning: Once you qualify for a mortgage, don’t do anything that will change your status. The most common mistake is to take on new debt. Avoid new credit cards, lines of credit, major purchases and be sure your bills are paid on time.

It is truly a great time to become a homeowner, but do it the right way. Plan it carefully and find a home where you and your family can comfortably grow, create memories and become part of a community while enjoying the financial and taxation benefits of home ownership.   Give us a call or shoot us an email today and we can show you why homeownership is such an integral part of our American Dream.

Interest Rates Continue to Fall Creating Opportunities

CHESTER, N.J. (Oct. 13, 2011) — Loan rates hit record lows last week. According to bankrate.com, which is a well-respected chronicle about all things financial, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.21 percent, although they started back up this week. A year ago it was 4.45 percent and a month ago, it was 4.34 percent.

Rates have never been better on mortgages, but the rate you get will depend on a lot of individual factors: what are you buying, what’s your credit score, how much money are you putting down, what kind of mortgage you are applying for.

My friend Bob Davis, who is a mortgage broker with Black River Mortgage in Chester, says if you’re looking for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, you have a high credit score and a 20 percent down payment, you’ll get “about 20 percent.” The rate is less for a 20-year or 15-year mortgages.

“If you have a 20 percent down payment,” he told me, “you’re going to get a good deal.”

So what can you do to take advantage of these low rates?

  • Get yourself prequalified before you start looking for a home. Your Realtor, banker or a mortgage broker like Bob can help you do that. It lets you know what you should be looking for and gives you a lot of negotiating power.
  • Check your own credit scores. You can do it free through government-sponsored Web sites.
  • Work with a Realtor to find a home that fits your needs and lock in a price.
  • While you should definitely shop for the best rate, don’t get frustrated if you can’t find rates as low as those touted in news stories. The rates we’re seeing are incredibly low and there’s so much involved in setting a rate, that you may never see the 3.94 percent the Daily Record mentioned last week.
  • Don’t wait. It’s a long process to get a mortgage and the tiny bit you save or lose won’t make a different. Besides, most experts say mortgages won’t drop much lower.
  • Similarly, if you have a commitment, don’t throw it out for a few tenths of a percent. You have to start the entire process over again, including all of the application fees.

Another impact of low rates is increased buying power and affordability. If you want to be a homeowner but you’re not sure you qualify, call a Realtor and discuss your situation with him or her.

Meanwhile, I just returned from a meeting in Texaswhere Keller Williams agents from around the world talked about what’s working and what’s not in this crazy real estate market. We talked about giving buyers and sellers better service, responding more quickly to your phone calls and emails and using technology to make the home-buying experience easier. New technology, for instance, makes it easier to give a virtual tour of a home that’s for sale. If you’re selling your home, you need all the advantages you can get, and a virtual tour is a good advantage over nearby homes without one.

Talk to your Realtor about interest rates, virtual tours and other developments in buying and selling homes, or call me and I’ll answer your

Interest Rates Hitting Lows Not Seen in a Generation

CHESTER, N.J. (Sept. 16, 2011) — A piece of news announced Thursday should add a bit of excitement to your hunt for a new home this weekend: Interest rates have hit lows not seen since the Ozzie & Harriett looked for a new home in the same neighborhood as the Nelson Family.

Of course, it’s been almost as long since mortgages required as much paperwork as they do today!

Freddie Mac Thursday said rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage averaged 4.09 percent, the lowest since 1950 and 1951. Rates back then went to 4.08 percent for several months. Bankrate.com, a well-respected mortgage news Web site, cited rates that were a bit higher, but still at the lowest level since its weekly survey started 26 years ago.

While the pundits are debating the reasons for the low rates, homebuyers should take advantage of them.  The pundits agree that the current spate of bad economic news is what’s keeping the rates down, and as soon as some positive news hits the market, they’ll go back up.

While mortgage rates seem to move only little bits at a time, those small figures can mean a lot in what you pay. For instance, if you took a mortgage for $250,000 at the 4.08 percent rate cited by Freddie Mac, you’d pay $1,206.55 per month, principle and interest only. If the rates went up to just 4.19 percent – still a great rate – you’d pay $1,221.08. It’s only $14.53 a month more – dinner at a restaurant, maybe – but over the course of the mortgage, you’d pay more than $5,000 more. And that’s enough to change your qualification status.

If you haven’t already done so, talk with your Realtor, banker or mortgage broker about what rates are available to you in this area, and how you can lock in that rate now…

…Which brings us to the other piece of this discussion: The hoops to jump everyone must jump through to get a mortgage. Anybody who’s stuck a toe into the housing market knows that rates may be low, but it’s not as easy getting them as it was just four short years ago (Making mortgages available without any qualifications is one of the ways we got into this mess to begin with). This, again, is a conversation you need to have with your Realtor, banker or mortgage broker. And, again, it’s time for a cold, hard and unemotional assessment of your situation.

There are some things you can do to take advantage of the low rates.

First, check your credit score for inaccuracies. Each of the credit agencies – there are three — are required to show you your score once a year for free. A good place to start is the Annual Credit Report Service, www.annualcreditreport.com.

Second, be realistic about what you can afford. One guideline is that your proposed housing expenses, including monthly mortgage payments plus all monthly debt payments, should not exceed 45 percent of your gross income. Like all such guidelines, it merits some discussion and a look at your situation. Your Realtor has special training, tools and insights to help you figure this out.

Finally, see if you can be pre-approved for a mortgage. Again, your Realtor, banker or mortgage broker can help you with this. Having a mortgage commitment in your pocket takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process. You know what you can afford. And a seller would rather negotiate with someone who has already been approved than someone else who’s willing to pay a higher price, by doesn’t have a mortgage locked in.

By the way, this isn’t the time to buy cars or take on other big expenses. Wait until you close on your home and then do another assessment.

It’s true that the banks have tightened the mortgage criteria, but it’s not as bleak as the folks on television would have you believe. Banks are looking for people to give mortgages to.

It may sound trite, but it’s very true: There’s no better time to buy a home. Take the first steps by talking to us or any other Realtor about what you can afford and what homes are available in that price range.

Who knows? You could be celebrating the winter holidays in a new home!