Monday, April 27, 2009

Atlanta Lease-to-Own Home Program Begins to Reap Results for Participants

Pride of Ownership Partners, an Atlanta-based company that started a unique, new lease-to-own program in July 2008, is already seeing results for its clients.

The program is designed to put metro Atlanta families into renovated rental homes and receive half the monthly rent set aside for up to three years to put toward buying that home. At the end of the lease period, renters will have thousands saved toward purchasing that home. With the program less than a year-old, Pride of Ownership Partners is already seeing phenomenal successes. Several of its tenants are in the process of becoming homeowners, completing the program while repairing or improving their credit rating in less than 12 months, with the first closings set for the end of this month.

“My business partner, Jeffrey Britz, and I firmly believe we are helping to stabilize neighborhoods,” explained Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cabrera. “Homes that might otherwise sit vacant or go into foreclosure and disrepair, are getting a facelift and families are moving in almost as quickly as we can purchase these properties and put them back in like-new condi tion.”

Another unique feature about Pride’s lease-to-own program is that the firm is allowing the full three-year rent credit even when the client goes from tenant to homeowner in less time. So, for example, on a $1,000 a month lease, three years of rent would total $36,000. Half of this, $18,000, would be reserved as the tenant’s down payment, creating instant equity in the home. However, if the tenant can get qualified for a mortgage in less time—and more than half of Pride’s tenants are currently accomplishing just that—the full $18,000 credit would still apply. The home’s price is also locked in at the time of the lease to help avoid surprises later.

“We also do comparisons for the client so they can see the cost difference of owning vs. renting. It’s always less costly for them to own and I have seen the difference be as much as 30 percent.”

People entering the Pride of Ownership Partners lease-to-own program are not required to spend thousands to get into their lease options. The firm simply requires the standard one month’s security20deposit and first month’s rent. One Pride client (one of numerous glowing testimonials at http://www.prideownership.com/testimonials) mentions getting ripped off $4,000 on a previous lease-purchase. In just 12 days, this person was in a lease-to-own Pride property and he expects to be able to qualify for a mortgage within the next six months and exercise his purchase option.

With homes purchased, renovated and leased in DeKalb, Gwinnett, Paulding, Cobb and Henry counties, Pride of Ownership Partners is looking to expand the lease-purchase program into other metro Atlanta counties and beyond. To learn more about Pride’s lease-to-own program, to submit a free, no obligation online application, to see current homes available or to read additional customer testimonials, visit www.prideownership.com or call 770-484-8317.
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bullard Organizations Had 46 Million Dollar Agents for 2008

Forty-six current agents with the Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty organization have been recognized by the company as Million Dollar Agents for having $1 million or more in sales during 2008.

Included in the group are 42 agents from Bullard Realty offices and four agents from Coldwell Banker American Land Mart in Conyers, an affiliate company of the Bullard organization.
Conyers/Rockdale County office - Brenda Waldrop, Jackie Papallo, Kenya Robinson and Sheri Sears.

Jonesboro/Clayton County office and Griffin/Spalding County office - Sherry Mattox, Cynthia Brown, Annette Hatcher, Nancy Hollis, Patricia Ramsey, Shonda Sims, Pat Winston, Joan Presley, Sharron Williams and Michelle Munda.

McDonough/Henry County office - Susan Clowdus, Tammi Lamb, Phil Wagner, Duane Lockwood, Penny Henderson, Linda Jones, Sandra Stephens, Brian O’Neal, Brooks Brackett, Carrie Davis, Bobbie Roper and Melissa Stephens.

Newnan/Coweta County office - Shannon Scott, Linda Scott, Steven Dickens and Bette Murphy.
Peachtree City/Fayette County office - Donna Lasseter, Janis Kraft, Dianne Maney, Debbie Lowe, Donna Blade, Donna Daniel, Cheryl Dunson, Minka Fulton, Erin Hawkins, Ann Johnston, Virginia Pigue and Pat Roman.

Coldwell Banker American Land Mart - Ann Bell, Betty Denio, Linda Lindsey and Victoria Willis.
In recognition from realty boards in the area, Keith Harris was elected president of the Metro South Association of Realtors, which serves Clayton, Henry and Butts Counties. Harris, currently an associate broker with the Bullard Jonesboro office, previously served as managing broker of the Griffin office, who recently merged with the Jonesboro office. Stephan Curcio, who is with Bullard’s Peachtree City office, was named Rookie of the Year by the Fayette County Board of Realtors.

The oldest and largest real estate company headquartered in the Metro South area of Atlanta, Coldwell Banker Bullard is currently ranked No. 12 among “Atlanta’s Top 25 Residential Real Estate Companies” and No. 9 among “Atlanta’s Top 10 Residential of Real Estate Organizations” in the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s recently-released listing of the metro area’s largest residential real estate companies.

The Bullard organization, founded in 1956 by the late Cliff Bullard, is headquartered in Jonesboro. The company worked out a franchise agreement with Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation in early 1998 and is the largest Coldwell Banker franchise in Georgia. Current Owner and President Steve Bullard has been with the company for more than 35 years.
Even during a challenging real estate market, the Bullard organization has continued to grow, having added three companies, Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Realty, Coldwell Banker Fulton Realty Associates and Century 21 Southern Crescent, through acquisitions since September of 2007.
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Friday, April 24, 2009

Rowell Auctions Announces 38 Premier Foreclosed Properties Available in Georgia via Online Auction

/PRNewswire/ -- Rowell Auctions Inc., one of pioneers of multi-property online auctions throughout the nation, has announced a 38-home auction in Georgia available now through May 5, 2009.

The highly anticipated foreclosure auction has many sought-after properties ranging from new homes to townhouses to subdivisions. The lots are spread throughout the state of Georgia and come in variety of sizes and prices, ensuring that everyone looking for a steal on their next home will have something that peaks their interest.

All bidding will be conducted exclusively via the internet online at RowellAuctions.com where complete property information and bid closing times for each property can be found. The auction has no dollar minimums or reserves, which can lead to amazing deals, said Mark Manley, a CAI, CES and AARE with Rowell Auctions.

"While the economic climate is unfortunate, the current market has ensured this will be one of the most intriguing auctions we have ever seen." Manley said. "The quality of properties that are available in this auction really is outstanding."

Manley stated in recent years online auctions have become one of the preferred ways for investors and individual families to get outstanding deals because they can bid from the comfort of their home rather than being forced to attend a live auction.

Manley said: "The early indication is this auction is going to have some competitive bids, but I anticipate there will be even better bargains."

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Group VI Welcomes Two New Agents

Group Six Real Estate, LLC, one of Metro-Atlanta’s top producing commercial real estate companies, is pleased to announce the addition of two agents to their team of dedicated professionals. Ann Owenby and Carrie Guthrie join Group VI and bring with them many years of experience not only in real estate, but also private industry, sales, and US Government information.

Carrie worked with Home Depot Corporate and The Weather Channel for six years. Ann was the manager of the superintendent of documents, US Government printing office bookstore for 36 years. They have lived in Fayette County for 24 years. Carrie and Ann work together as a team and bring with them many years of experience in both commercial and residential real estate.

Group VI is happy to have these two extraordinary agents on the team, both of which belong to the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors. Group Six Real Estate, LLC is a leading real estate firm located in Peachtree City, Georgia. The firm specializes in commercial real estate. For more information regarding Group Six Real Estate, LLC please visit www.groupvi.com.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sell More Homes with Social Media

mRELEVANCE founders Flammer and Levinson Present at SBS

Social media is not just for teenagers anymore. National Speakers, Carol Flammer, MIRM, CAPS and Mitch Levinson, MIRM, MBA will present “Sell More Homes with Social Media” at the Southern Building Show on Thursday, June 4, 2009 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, Ga.

Learn how home builders, developers and others in the home building industry use social media for a competitive advantage. From social media to social networking, blogging and social bookmarking, see case studies of how builders, developers and new home communities are benefiting from social media optimization. Find out how to incorporate a blog and sites such as Active Rain, FaceBook, My Space, Blogger and others into an effective Internet marketing program.

The Internet is rapidly evolving. Do not miss this opportunity to learn how to maximize your return on investment (ROI). Social media marketing and optimization, search engine marketing, an effective Web site, email marketing and social networking are all components of a successful Internet marketing program. Learn how to take your traditional public relations online as an integral part of reputation management.

Carol Flammer, creator of Atlanta's most successful real estate blog, Atlanta Real Estate Forum will demonstrate how home builders can claim their spot in the search engine rankings with careful placement of keywords, search terms and incoming links. Flammer says, “Corporate brands are now built online. Are your prospective buyers finding you where they are looking?” She continues, “Better yet, When you Google your name, do you like what you see?”

mRELEVANCE has created successful social media programs for a number of builders and developers. Find out more about their successes at TopBuilderBlogs and mRELEVANCE.The Southern Building Show and Conference is one of the housing industry’s top overall educational experiences. To register to exhibit or attend this year’s event, visit www.southernbuildingshow.com.

About mRELEVANCE:
mRELEVANCE, LLC, is a public relations, Internet marketing and social media firm designed to meet client needs in a changing marketplace by building online and off line relationships that are relevant to client success. Combining the talents and resources of public relations and social media firm Flammer Relations with the power of Internet marketing services at MLC New Home Marketing, mRELEVANCE implements a combination of traditional PR services and up-to-date Web 2.0 tools (e-mail marketing, search engine optimization, social media, blog building and others) to create relevant results for clients. With offices in Atlanta and Chicago, mRELEVANCE can connect your company with buyers and build relevant relationships nationwide. For more information, visit www.mRELEVANCE.com or call 770-383-3360 or 847-259-7312.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Finally, Good News for Home Sales

/PRNewswire/ -- First time home buyers can now take advantage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Tax Credit without waiting. A tax credit of up to $8000 is available for first time homebuyers. The problem for most first time home buyers is the down payment. The Tax Credit is only available to purchasers that have already closed on their home.

An Alpharetta firm, Metro Buyers Group, LLC has solved the problem. They will purchase the tax credit prior to closing, thus allowing a purchaser to have the funds for their down payment at closing. The tax credit is a great idea. This program will allow more potential home purchasers to take advantage of the tax credit. The program is available through several mortgage lenders throughout the southeast. "This is a legitimate monetizing program that actually works" says David Abrahamson Vice President of S.E. Operations for American Home Key Mortgage Company. There may be no better time than now to buy a home. With home inventories at record high levels potential home purchasers have a great selection from which to choose. In order to take advantage of the Tax Credit a purchaser must close on their home by November 30th, 2009. "The Tax Credit is working and helping sellers attract more home buyers," says Buck Denton, Area Manager and Asst. V.P. for Colonial Bank.

As part of the stimulus package approved by Congress, one of the goals of the tax credit is to jump start home sales. The Metro Buyers Group Tax Credit Purchaser program was created to encourage hesitant home purchasers to get off the fence and purchase. Doug Cotter, past president of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Assoc. says, "This program will have an immediate positive impact for builders." The program will help reduce the enormous housing inventory by bringing many new purchasers into the market. Chad Lane with Re/Max Greater Atlanta, The Mark Spain Team, says, "I have seen the program 'take off' for both New Construction Homes as well as the Re-sale market. We are anticipating a record number of closings for 2009." With the reduction in existing inventories, builders will be able to start new homes which will have a stimulating and stabilizing effect on the economy.

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Lakeland Floorplan Features Special Pricing at Bowen Family Homes’ Hanover Pointe

Full appliance package available with purchase of featured home

Bowen Family Homes’ Hanover Pointe community welcomes spring with a special promotion on their Lakeland floorplan. The featured townhome, originally priced at $224,015, has been reduced to $199,015. In addition to the special pricing, the home buyer that purchases this beautiful home will receive a side by side refrigerator, washer, dryer, two-inch blinds throughout and a garage door opener. This special pricing is available for a limited time only. For more information, call Bonnie Marshall or Brandi Helvey at 678-893-0858.

The spacious Lakeland floorplan features approximately 1,829 square feet of living space and has three bedrooms with two and one half bathrooms. Elegant interiors include a two-story foyer with rod iron banisters, a spacious kitchen with maple cabinets and granite countertops, hardwoods throughout the main floor, oversized owner’s suite, upstairs laundry and much more. The openness between the kitchen, dining room and family room makes the Lakeland floorplan perfect for everyday life as well as entertaining family and friends.

Residents at Hanover Pointe enjoy an active lifestyle with a variety of amenities to choose from including a neighborhood pool with mushroom fountain and cabana, four lighted tennis courts, clubhouse, playgrounds, neighborhood parks, walking trails and lighted sidewalks. Hanover Pointe is located in sought-after South Forsyth providing residents easy access to GA-400 as well as local shopping, restaurants and entertainment.

To visit Hanover Pointe take GA 400 North to Exit 12B West (McFarland Parkway). Travel West on McFarland Parkway and turn left on Union Hill. Hanover Pointe will be located on the left. For more information on Hanover Pointe, call 678-893-0858 or visit www.BowenFamilyHomes.com.

Since 1969 the Bowen name has stood for excellence in new home construction and community development. Recognized as the 25th largest privately owned builder in the country by Builder Magazine for 2005, Bowen Family Homes is a dynamic homebuilder with operations in Georgia, Florida and Texas. The Atlanta Business Chronicle ranked Bowen Family Homes 5th among metro Atlanta builders in 2007 and 40th among Atlanta’s Top 100 Private Companies for 2007.

Additionally, Bowen Family Homes was named the Georgia Family Business of the Year for medium sized companies by Georgia Trend and the Cox Family Enterprise Center at Kennesaw State University in 2006. Bowen Family Homes was ranked 83rd on the 2007 Professional Builder Giant 400 largest homebuilders in the United States list. These successes have been achieved by simply offering the best new home value in all price ranges. Earlier this year Bowen Family Homes launched their social media marketing plan with a new company blog, www.bowenfamilyhomesblog.com and presence on several social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. For more information about Bowen Family Homes, please call their Atlanta region headquarters at 678-325-4554 or 1-877- MY BOWEN or visit online at www.bowenfamilyhomes.com.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Enter Now for Your Chance to Win the Southern Living and MyHomeIdeas.com "Choose Your Home Giveaway"

Southern Living and MyHomeIdeas.com are giving away a home of your choice. Beginning today, when site visitors enter the “Choose Your Home Giveaway,” they are able to select the home they’d like to win.

To enter visit:
http://www.southernliving.com/chooseyourhome or http://www.myhomeideas.com/chooseyourhome.

Southern Living and MyHomeIdeas.com are partnering with local developers to build beautiful homes, showcasing extraordinary design, in four communities across the South:

Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia;
Habersham, outside of Beaufort, South Carolina;
Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas; and
Whisper Mountain near Asheville, North Carolina.

Each community has been chosen for its unique style and the variety of family activities and cultural opportunities offered in the area. Users can enter once daily on each site (a total of two entries per day) through June 30, 2009. Each time they enter they are asked to choose which one of the retreats they would like to win. Tours of the four homes and communities, plus complete sweepstakes details are available online as well.
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Your Next Home in the Palm of Your Hand

Prudential Georgia Realty turns cell phones into the ultimate real estate finder

Prudential Georgia Realty, recognized as one of the Top Real Estate Companies in the US with 1,200 full-service agents and 23 locations, announced today a new mobile tool to simplify the consumer’s search for real estate. The brokerage is the first agency in the Atlanta metro area and northern Georgia to offer Homes for Sale, a new patented mobile application powered by Smarter Agent.

Consumers will be able to search almost every listing in the region, using their personal cell phone, iPhone or BlackBerry whether it is listed by Prudential Georgia Realty or another broker/agent.

From where they stand, consumers can view detailed property information on almost any home for sale in that market at the touch of a button - including sales price, square footage, tax information, beds/baths, interior and exterior features—even pictures!

The application also features a “Call to See” button. With one click, the consumer will be transferred to an experienced Prudential Georgia Realty professional who can answer in-depth questions or schedule a tour of the property.

“Today, most consumers use the Internet extensively for real estate searches. Powerful new mobile devices are the next natural extension of the Internet. Our PGR Labs team researched all the available options and determined that Smarter Agent has built a best-in-class platform. This allows us to bring real estate listings directly to our consumers when and where they want them,” said President and CEO of Prudential Georgia Realty, Dan Forsman. “The Smarter Agent application is easy to use today and will become better and better over time as mobile devices continue to evolve.”

Dan Forsman is a well-known leader and innovator in the real estate industry. He is a member of numerous national advisory boards including Realtor.com, Trulia.com, Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, The Realty Alliance and others. Dan is a popular speaker and has been recently featured on 11Alive News, Fox 5, numerous radio interviews plus many real estate industry events. He has become known for the market report video series AtlantaRealEstate2009.com, updated quarterly.

The application is availa ble for download from the Prudential Georgia Realty website, http://www.prudentialga.com/. There, consumers will find a “Go Mobile” tool which will provide instructions on how to send the application to their personal cell phones. Users simply select their cell phone carrier, the make/model of their cell phone and their cell phone number. Instantly, the application is sent via text message and downloaded to the cell phone, in the same way as a ringtone or game.

Smarter Agent is the most comprehensive mobile real estate tool in the Atlanta region, as well as the nation. Homes for Sale is available on hundreds of cell phone models on AT&T and Sprint as well as the BlackBerry devices across all four major carriers and the iPhone. Windows Mobile versions, as well as other devices and major carriers, will be added over the coming months making the application available to all consumers regardless of their cell phone carrier or device.

The Homes for Sales application can be downloaded for free on all BlackBerry devices and the iPhone. For other devices, nominal monthly charges may apply dependent on your carrier, just as they would for a game or ringtone, billed directly to your carrier statement.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Buy Your First Home-Get $8,000

(NAPSI)-First-time home buyers may find that buying a home-sweet-home is just a little sweeter this year.

They can now claim a tax credit of up to $8,000 through November 30, 2009. The credit is a crucial component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed into law by President Obama earlier this year, designed to entice buyers off the fence and into the neighborhood.

"Homeownership offers immediate benefits and long-term value," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®. "Those who qualify can reduce their tax burden and realize their dreams of homeownership."

So just who is eligible to receive this credit? Qualified first-time buyers include those who have never owned a home or haven't owned a home in three years. If you're married and filing joint returns, both you and your spouse must meet the first-time buyer requirements to enjoy the benefit.

Buyers should also keep in mind the home purchased must be their principal residence, where they plan to spend 50 percent or more of their time, and be located in the U.S. Unfortunately, vacation homes and rental properties aren't eligible.

To take full advantage of the credit, the buyer must remain in the home for at least three years. If the buyer sells the home before the end of the three-year period, he or she will have to repay the credit. This is to discourage short-term buying.

Although the $8,000 credit is an incentive for first-time buyers, there are currently several benefits all buyers can enjoy, including:

• Lots of choices-Increased inventory of homes on the market means buyers can negotiate better prices and terms.

• Low interest rates-Mortgage rates remain historically low, making borrowing more affordable for potential homeowners.

• Affordability-Home prices are more affordable now than they have been since 1970, according to NAR research.

"The tax credit, hopefully, will bring buyers into the market to help stabilize prices and reduce inventory," said Yun. "Because the real estate market is cyclical, those who are eligible should take advantage of this window of opportunity before it closes."

For more information, contact a Realtor® in your area or visit www.realtor.org/2009housingtaxcredit.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Federal, State Partners Announce Multi-Agency Crackdown Targeting Foreclosure Rescue Scams, Loan Modification Fraud

/PRNewswire / -- As homeowners and communities throughout the country continue to face devastating consequences from the deep contraction in the economy and the housing market, the Obama Administration today announced a new coordinated effort across federal and state government and the private sector to target mortgage loan modification fraud and foreclosure rescue scams that threaten to hurt American homeowners and prevent them from getting the help they need during these challenging times. The new effort announced today aligns responses from federal law enforcement agencies, state investigators and prosecutors, civil enforcement authorities, and the private sector to protect homeowners seeking assistance under the Administration's Making Home Affordable program from criminal actors looking to perpetrate predatory schemes.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Attorney General of Illinois today discussed new initiatives to coordinate information and resources across agencies to maximize targeting and efficiency in fraud investigations, alert financial institutions to emerging schemes, step up enforcement actions and educate consumers to help those in financial trouble avoid becoming the victims of a loan modification or foreclosure rescue scam.

Earlier this year, in an effort to stabilize the housing market and ensure responsible homeowners can afford to stay in their homes, the Administration announced Making Home Affordable, a program to help eligible homeowners refinance or modify their mortgages. The plan will help up to 7 to 9 million families restructure or refinance their mortgages to lower their monthly payments and make their mortgages affordable now and in the future -- an opportunity for relief that unfortunately also brings greater opportunity for criminal actors to prey upon consumers seeking assistance.

The FTC recently surveyed online and print advertising for mortgage foreclosure rescue operations nationwide and identified approximately 71 distinct companies running suspicious ads. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) also conducted recent studies on mortgage fraud that found that between July 2002 and June 2008, depository institutions filed nearly 180,000 mortgage fraud suspicious activity reports (SARs), with those involved in mortgage fraud often involved in other types of crime as well.

"The Administration's Making Home Affordable program is a critical piece of our efforts to stabilize the financial system and ensure that it works with our efforts to grow the economy," said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. "American homeowners desperately need the relief this program offers, but the very last thing they need is to be taken advantage of as they try to hold on to their homes. This Administration is deeply committed not just to providing at-risk homeowners with assistance but also to cracking down on anyone who seeks to defraud them."

To this end, Treasury and FinCEN announced an advanced targeting effort already underway to combat fraudulent loan modification schemes and coordinate ongoing efforts across agencies to investigate fraud and assist with enforcement and prosecutions. In less than a week, FinCEN's new targeting effort has produced leads that have helped various agencies to halt the illegal practices of those offering loan modification or foreclosure scams. In undertaking this effort, FinCEN will marshal information about possible fraudulent actors, drawing upon a variety of data available to law enforcement, regulatory agencies, and the consumer protection community, for the purpose of identifying and proactively referring potential criminal targets to participating law enforcement authorities.

Through FinCEN, Treasury is also issuing an advisory alerting financial institutions to the risks of emerging schemes related to loan modifications. The advisory identifies certain "red flags" that may indicate a loan modification or foreclosure rescue scam and warrant the filing of a SAR by a financial institution. Examples of possible signs of fraudulent activity, such as requiring that fees be paid before services are provided, are listed in the advisory. In addition, the advisory requests that financial institutions include the term "foreclosure rescue scam" in the narrative sections of all relevant SARs.

As part of the multi-agency effort, Attorney General Eric Holder outlined ways in which DOJ has been cracking down on mortgage fraud schemes, including several successful convictions of scam artists in recent months. He also emphasized the Justice Department's commitment to working with federal and state law enforcement and regulatory partners to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive response to the problem, describing the department's work with the FTC and state attorneys general to reinvigorate the Executive Working Group, which allows partners to coordinate and exchange intelligence on competition and consumer fraud issues. The Attorney General also discussed DOJ's focus on investigating and prosecuting lenders who discriminate against borrowers based on race, national origin, or other prohibited factors.

"For millions of Americans, the dream of home ownership has become a nightmare because of the unscrupulous actions of individuals and companies who exploit the misfortune of others," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "The Department of Justice's message is simple: if you discriminate against borrowers or prey on vulnerable homeowners with fraudulent mortgage schemes, we will find you, and we will punish you."

On the civil enforcement side, the FTC has filed five new cases to halt the illegal practices of individuals and companies offering loan modification or foreclosure scams -- including one company that spent 9 million dollars on TV and radio ads in less than one year. The FTC is also joining forces with a wide array of government, non-profit, and mortgage industry members to launch a new consumer education campaign to help those in financial trouble avoid becoming the victims of a loan modification or foreclosure rescue scam.

"Today the FTC announced five law enforcement actions and sent 71 warning letters to operations using deceptive tactics to market their mortgage loan modification and home foreclosure relief services," said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. "We're enforcing the law against these scam artists who are deceiving consumers while they're down; we're putting others on notice that unless they change their ways, they're next; and we're working with other government agencies, non-profits, and mortgage servicers to reach out to our neighbors in distress with the details of how and where to get help."

Under the new campaign, several private sector national loan servicers, including Chase Home Finance, Suntrust Mortgage, GMAC Mortgage, and American Home Mortgage Servicing, are distributing FTC consumer alerts that provide consumers with tips for avoiding mortgage relief scams and direct them to free, legitimate counseling services for at-risk homeowners. The servicers will distribute the materials in monthly statements, in correspondence to delinquent borrowers, in counseling sessions, and on their Web sites.

Bolstering new outreach efforts to protect homeowners against fraud, HUD Secretary Donovan announced that HUD would begin distributing literature today to all of its housing partners -- HUD field offices and staff, housing authorities, state and local agencies, and non-profit organizations -- warning consumers nationwide about loan modification fraud. This and other targeted outreach efforts will help alert communities hard-hit by foreclosure about the legitimate foreclosure assistance available to them.

"We have families on the edge of foreclosure that are being offered things that are too good to be true, and we will take every measure we can to educate and protect consumers and homeowners, bring these scams to light, and work to prevent con artists from exploiting the housing crisis," said HUD Secretary Donovan. "There are legitimate people, places, and agencies that American families can turn to when they are facing foreclosure, starting with www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov and the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE for free foreclosure counseling assistance."

Under the new multi-agency initiative, there will also be strong coordination between federal and state governments that are battling foreclosure scams. The FTC released today a list of more than 20 states that have already taken law enforcement action on loan modification or foreclosure rescue scams. For example, today in Illinois, Attorney General Madigan is filing lawsuits against two Chicago-area mortgage rescue fraud schemes seeking temporary restraining orders to immediately stop the defendants from providing mortgage rescue services.

The numerous rescue fraud lawsuits filed in Illinois -- 24 to date -- illustrate how Attorney General Madigan and other state attorneys general are using their enforcement authority to prosecute mortgage foreclosure rescue fraud across the country. On the state level, more than 150 enforcement actions have been brought against mortgage rescue companies.

"We have repeatedly found that these foreclosure rescue operations are swindling desperate homeowners out of money they can't afford to lose," said Attorney General Madigan. "Struggling homeowners need to know that free help is available. The 24 lawsuits I have filed prove foreclosure rescue operators don't help. They don't call your lender, they don't modify your loan, and they don't represent you in court if you're in foreclosure. All they do is take your money. By combining our powers, state and federal authorities are sending a clear message to these mortgage rescue scammers: It is not a question of if we'll come after you; it is only a question of when."

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fannie Mae Refinancing Volume Jumps to $77 Billion in March

/PRNewswire / -- Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) announced today that the company's refinancing volume jumped to $77 billion in March, nearly twice the refinancing volume the company experienced during the month of February and the company's largest refinance month since 2003.

"The volumes we are seeing are very encouraging," said Tom Lund, Executive Vice President, Single-Family Mortgage Business. "A majority of our business volume in March was in refinanced loans, and we anticipate that volumes will increase even more as millions of additional homeowners become eligible to refinance under the President's Making Home Affordable plan. Providing broader access to affordable, sustainable mortgages through expanded refinancing opportunities is a critical part of preventing future foreclosures and hastening recovery."

The company also disclosed that more than 500,000 borrowers have accessed Fannie Mae's online assistance to inquire about the possibility of refinancing their loan under the Obama Administration's refinancing plan, and more than 80,000 callers have contacted Fannie Mae's national hotline since the plan was announced.

Home Affordable Refinance

Fannie Mae launched its Home Affordable Refinance initiative last month as part of the President's Making Home Affordable plan. Key features include:

Additional Flexibilities: Most borrowers refinancing an existing Fannie Mae loan will not be required to buy new or additional mortgage insurance if the loan at the time of the refinance is more than 80 percent of a home's value. Any existing mortgage insurance may be carried forward to the new loan. In addition, Fannie Mae can refinance loans up to 105 percent of a home's value with this new flexibility, so even borrowers who are "underwater" -- who owe more than their home is worth -- may be able to refinance. This will expand the number of borrowers able to take advantage of lower interest rates that reduce monthly payments, or refinance into a more sustainable mortgage.

Streamlined Processing: Beginning April 4, the 1,600 lenders and 29,000 mortgage brokers using Fannie Mae's Desktop Underwriter(R) platform will be able to process an application to refinance an existing Fannie Mae loan, allowing for greater lender origination capacity and easier refinancing for borrowers.

What Borrowers Need to Know:

-- To qualify, your mortgage loan must be owned by Fannie Mae.
-- You must have a solid payment history on your existing mortgage.

-- The expanded refinance flexibility ends in June 2010.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta Announces the Opening of Its 2009 First-time Homebuyer Program Offering

/PRNewswire/ -- Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta (FHLBank Atlanta) announced yesterday that it will continue its initiatives to spur home purchases by providing potential homeowners with access to $9.9 million as part of its 2009 First-time Homebuyer Program (FHP). FHLBank Atlanta offers the matching funds through its member financial institutions for the down payment and closing costs of eligible first-time homebuyers in the Bank's district, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

By participating in FHP, FHLBank Atlanta members can access up to $1 million annually and distribute matching FHP awards of up to $10,000 per household to eligible homebuyers. FHLBank Atlanta member institutions are able to access a wider customer base, originate new mortgages, and attract homebuyers into the market thanks to the available funding. The FHP offering cycle opens April 1, 2009, and continues through Dec. 31, 2009 or until the available funds are disbursed, whichever occurs first. Funds are provided to member institutions on a first-come, first-served basis, and applicants must request the funds from a member institution.

Since the program's inception in 1997, FHLBank Atlanta has contributed more than $50 million to first-time homebuyers, directly resulting in more than 8,000 families and individuals being able to purchase a home. FHLBank Atlanta estimates that for every $1 of FHP funding awarded, $17 is generated in new mortgage business for its members.

"First-time homebuyers are critical to stimulating much needed home sales in local markets. There has never been a better time for member financial institutions to participate in the First-time Homebuyer Program," said Arthur Fleming, first vice president and director of Community Investment Services, FHLBank Atlanta. "FHP funds offer a very attractive incentive for first-time homebuyers to work with FHLBank Atlanta lenders, representing a 'win-win' for both lender and homebuyer."

Individual participants receiving FHP funds must complete a homebuyer counseling program that includes educational training on the home-buying process including courses on budgeting, mortgage financing, lending laws, and home ownership fundamentals.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Senate Unanimously Approves Isakson Amendment to Stimulate Housing Market

The U.S. Senate today unanimously approved an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Resolution by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., that seeks to stimulate the nation’s declining housing market by providing for a $15,000 tax credit to individuals who purchase a home in the next year.

“Our economic crisis started with housing, and our economy will continue to suffer unless we do something now to immediately fix the housing problem,” Isakson said. “I’m pleased my colleagues in the Senate understand the importance of creating targeted incentives that will encourage Americans to buy homes again.”

Isakson’s amendment to the Budget Resolution would create a deficit-neutral reserve fund for providing a nonrefundable federal income tax credit for the purchase of a principal residence during a one-year period. It would also ensure that there is room available in the Fiscal Year 2010 budget levels for a homebuyer credit to be passed at a later date. Isakson plans to introduce his $15,000 tax credit as a stand-alone bill in the next few weeks.

On Feb. 4, 2009, the Senate unanimously approved an amendment by Isakson to the economic stimulus bill would have provided a direct tax credit to any homebuyer who purchases any home. The amount of the tax credit would be $15,000 or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is less. During conference negotiations between the House and Senate on the final version of the bill, Isakson’s $15,000 tax credit for all purchasers of any home was removed. Instead, House and Senate negotiators made only small modifications to the first-time homebuyer tax credit that was enacted in 2008 as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

Isakson has pushed hard for a non-repayable tax credit for homebuyers because he knows that it will work. In the mid-1970s, America faced a similar housing crisis when a period of easy credit and loose underwriting flooded the market with new construction. Interest rates rose, the economy slowed and America was left with a three-year supply of vacant homes. Congress responded by passing a $2,000 tax credit for anyone purchasing a new home for their principal residence. Isakson, who was in the real estate industry in Atlanta at the time, says the results were clear and swift as home values stabilized, housing inventory dropped and the market recovered.

Last year, Isakson introduced legislation to specifically target those homes that were causing the unprecedented increase in housing inventory by offering tax credits to individuals purchasing a foreclosed home or a home where foreclosure is pending. In April 2008, the Senate passed legislation to stimulate the nation’s declining housing market that included Isakson’s proposal. However, the final version of the legislation that was signed into law included only a $7,500 tax credit for first-time homebuyers that must be repaid over a 15-year period. Isakson spent more than three decades in the real estate business, beginning his business career in 1967 when he opened the first Cobb County, Ga., office of a small, family-owned real estate business, Northside Realty. Isakson later served as president of Northside for 20 years, presiding over the company’s growth into the largest independent residential real estate brokerage company in the Southeast and one of the largest in America.
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