Monday, November 30, 2009

Tweaking Voluntary Measures Won't Stop Foreclosures

/PRNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by Michael Calhoun, President, Center for Responsible Lending:

"The Obama administration's latest adjustments to its nine-month-old foreclosure prevention program do little but highlight the continued failure of lenders' voluntary efforts to stop the foreclosure crisis. The number of Americans in foreclosure continues to rise dramatically, with up to three million new foreclosure starts this year alone, a trend that undermines economic recovery.

To address the foreclosure crisis that's at the root of the current slump will require more comprehensive action. Specifically, Congress must:

-- Require loan companies stop foreclosure proceedings while loan
modifications are under consideration.
-- Require loan companies to work with homeowners in distress.
Recognizing that the current voluntary system has failed, the House
and Senate currently are considering bills to make loss mitigation
efforts mandatory.
-- Create a low-cost, short-term loan program for unemployed homeowners
who have no other option for keeping current on their mortgage.
-- Require Treasury to go beyond selectively publishing loan servicing
data and make all data available so the public - including taxpayers -
can better evaluate the program and the efforts of individual
companies.
-- Allow stressed homeowners the option of lowering their principal
mortgage balance, including through bankruptcy courts.


Lenders have insisted for almost three years now that they will voluntarily address the foreclosure crisis, but the record shows they've made too few long-term modifications. The HAMP program the administration introduced last spring was an improvement, but it was originally designed as just one part of the solution, along with allowing homeowners to seek loan modifications through the existing court system.

Without mandatory requirements and fully disclosed results, foreclosure prevention efforts--no matter how well-intentioned--will not succeed. And the cost of failure will be borne by not just struggling homeowners, but by their neighbors, communities, and the larger economy."

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Housing conference set for Dec. 17

Real Estate Solutions: Best Practices for Today’s Housing Market—a daylong conference designed to help community leaders throughout Georgia return to the tax rolls abandoned, foreclosed and vacant homes, unfinished subdivisions, and abandoned developments—will be held Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

“Few communities in Georgia have been spared from the housing crisis,” according to Anne Sweaney, chair of the department of housing and consumer economics and director of the Housing and Demographics Research Center in the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “Most communities have large numbers of unsold, unoccupied houses, and many have one or more partially developed subdivisions with vacant lots and vacant homes. In planning this conference, we have found some excellent strategies to deal with these challenges. Vacant homes and vacant lots take a toll on property tax revenue and can result in blight. Many communities, though they would not have chosen the crisis, are making it work for them.”

Among the speakers at the conference will be Dan Immergluck, associate professor of city and regional planning at Georgia Tech. Immergluck is the author of “Forclosed: High-Risk Lending, Deregulation and the Undermining of America’s Mortgage Market,” which was published this year. He has also conducted extensive research in the areas of housing and mortgage market finance; subprime lending, foreclosures and their community impacts; community reinvestment and fair lending; and the impacts of tax increment financing and related policies.

The conference will also include talks by Patricia Hoban-Moore, deputy regional director of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development department, and Shirley Sherrod, who is the state director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They will each provide their perspectives on housing issues following a video presentation by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Several speakers from throughout Georgia will discuss how they are restoring properties to the tax rolls in their communities, Sweaney said, such as the city of Fitzgerald, which has taken advantage of the reduced price of foreclosed properties to improve housing affordability.

“Because Georgia benefited so greatly from the housing boom, we’re also in the top percentage nationwide in foreclosures,” she said. “However, leaders throughout the state have developed effective, sustainable strategies are addressing these issues and are eager to share their successes and discuss their challenges with their colleagues.”

In addition to local elected officials and government employees, the conference will also benefit real estate agents, mortgage bankers and lenders, homebuilders, developers, apartment property managers, non-profit housing organizations and others interested in housing and community development. Elected municipal officials attending the conference will receive a six-hour credit that can be applied toward certification from the Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute.

Registration for the conference is $45 on or before Dec. 1 and $55 after Dec. 1. To register, call 1-800-884-1381 or 706-542-2134 or go to http://www.georgiacenter.uga.edu/conferences/2009/Dec/17/housing.phtml.

In addition to the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, the conference is sponsored by the UGA Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and the Georgia Department of Labor. Additional partners include U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Georgia State Trade Association of Non Profit Developers.

For more information, call Karen Tinsley, 706-542-4949, or email her at klt@uga.edu.

By Denise Horton
University of Georgia

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Leslie Binion and Andy Rice Join Parks & Mottola Realty

Local real estate brokerage adds experienced agents to its team

Parks & Mottola Realty welcomes two new REALTORS® to its ranks. Leslie Binion and Andy Rice recently joined the Newnan-based firm. Though new to the Parks & Mottola team, neither is new to real estate.

Newnan native Leslie Binion has been a licensed real estate agent since 2006. She holds a BA from Florida State University. Leslie also attended Southern College of Technology (now Southern Polytechnic Institute). Prior to real estate, Leslie worked at her family’s business, Brown Steel Contractors, owned and operated by her parents, Mrs. Pat Brown and the late Sam Brown. Leslie also worked in the technology field as a software engineer and a technical writer.

An equestrian enthusiast, Leslie has competed in eventing, dressage, and amateur Point-to-Points. For ten years she owned and operated Hidden Creek Farm, training and boarding horses. Leslie is a member of the Newnan Coweta Board of REALTORS®. She resides in Moreland with her two daughters, Kendal and Samantha.

Andy Rice is a life-long resident of Coweta County. He attended the University of Georgia and later earned degree in real estate from the State University of West Georgia. Andy has been an active Certified General Appraiser with over 12 years of experience appraising land, commercial, industrial, residential and special purpose properties. He is a MAI Designation Candidate. That professional designation is held by appraisers experienced in the valuation and evaluation of commercial, industrial, residential, and other properties, and who advise clients on real estate investment decisions.

Andy and his wife Rachel are active members of Newnan First United Methodist Church. They have two daughters and make their home in Newnan. In addition to real estate, Andy continues his work as an appraiser. He is a member of the Newnan Coweta Board of REALTORS®.

Parks & Mottola Realty, LLC, is a Newnan-based real estate company serving Coweta, Fayette, Heard, South Fulton, Meriwether, Troup and other counties for more than 24 years. Founded in 1985, Parks & Mottola employs more than 30 licensed salespeople specializing in residential, land, commercial and investment properties. The company has a full-time marketing and relocation director and is a member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, a global network of 150,000 associates assisting individuals and corporations in the relocation process. Parks & Mottola also offers land-planning services through a Certified Land Planner and Registered Landscape Architect.

To contact Leslie or Andy or for more information on services or available properties, call 770.253.7005 or visit www.ParksandMottola.com.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Isakson Praises Senate’s Unanimous Passage of Legislation to Extend, Expand Home Buyer Tax Credit

This Bill in the End Is a Jobs Bill’

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today praised the Senate’s unanimous passage of his legislation to extend and expand the first-time home buyer tax credit. The legislation passed by a vote of 98 to 0.

“The key to returning stability to the economy lies within the housing market, and we have crafted a meaningful credit that will create a strong foundation for future growth and make a measurable difference over the next seven months in our economy,” Isakson said. “Tax credits like this only work by creating the sense of urgency to take advantage of them. This is the last extension of the home buyer tax credit, and I urge all Americans whether they're first-time buyers who’ve always dreamed of having a home of their own or someone who's been gridlocked in the failure of our move-up market to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Isakson has worked with Senate leadership over the last two weeks to expand the home buyer tax credit to include buyers in the “trade-in” or “move-up” market, because he believes the real housing recession is with homeowners who are delaying purchasing their next home. The amendment would establish a new $6,500 tax credit for “move-up” buyers so long as the home they are leaving has been their principal residence for five years or more.

“We are about to do something very meaningful for the American economy,” Isakson said shortly before the vote. “This bill in the end is a jobs bill.”

Isakson added his extension and expansion of the home buyer tax credit to legislation to extend unemployment benefits. The bill now goes back to the House.

Both the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit as well as the $6,500 tax credit for “move-up” buyers would sunset on April 30, 2010. However, individuals who have contracts as of April 30, 2010, would still qualify for the credit so long as they complete the transaction within 60 days. The amendment establishes income limits of $125,000 for an individual or $225,000 for a couple for both credits. The cost of the home being purchased may not exceed $800,000 in order to be eligible for the credit.

For purchases made in 2010, taxpayers would be able to claim the credit on their 2009 income tax return. Home buyers would not have to repay the credit, provided the home remains their principal residence for 36 months after the purchase date. However, this recapture provision would not apply in the case of a member of the Armed Forces, military intelligence or Foreign Service who is on qualified official extended duty. In addition, members of the military who have been deployed overseas for 90 days or more in 2008 or 2009 would have until April 30, 2011, to claim the home buyer tax credit.

The amendment also includes anti-fraud language that gives the IRS the authority to do greater oversight during the processing of the return rather than waiting for an audit situation. The amendment requires the taxpayer claiming the credit to be 18 or older, and requires a HUD-1 settlement statement to be attached when claiming the credit.

Isakson has pushed hard for a tax credit for home buyers since January 2008 because he knows that it will work. In the mid-1970s, America faced a similar housing crisis, and 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.

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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