Online Guides Help Buyers Choose a Mortgage: Daily Real Estate News March 19, 20

With subprime mortgages making headlines over the past few weeks, buyers can be ambivalent about their lending options. New online guides and free brochures help to clear up any confusion and help consumers find a loan that suits them.

“Given the current real estate climate, home-buyers are faced with considerable decisions that could affect their financial state for years to come,” said Thomas R. Evans, President and CEO of, which released a financial literacy guide that explains the lending process.

In addition, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, the Center for Responsible Lending, and the Federal Housing Administration offer online resources for consumers. Here are links to the latest guides:

  • Understanding Mortgages Information on the different types of mortgages available, choosing the right mortgage according to lifestyle, the importance of credit scores, mistakes to avoid, a real-life mortgage makeover and self-help tools and calculators. The guide is the third installment in the company’s year-long Financial Literacy Project.
  • Specialty Mortgages: What Are the Risks and Advantages? Produced jointly by NAR and the Center for Responsible Lending, this brochure can help prospective buyers assess the risks and advantages of interest-only, negative amortization, payment option ARM, and 40-year mortgages. Available in English and Spanish.
  • Traditional Mortgages: Understanding Your Options While specialty mortgages may help make homeownership more affordable, they generate more risk and consumers should understand these risks before they choose a mortgage. This brochure, also produced jointly by NAR and the Center for Responsible Lending, explains that for most consumers, traditional fixed-rate mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages continue to be excellent options.
  • How to Avoid Predatory Lending Home buyers need to be aware that some lenders offer predatory loans that take advantage of consumers. This brochure, produced jointly by NAR and the Center for Responsible Lending, identifies the warning signs of predatory loans. It also gives consumers tips on how to avoid them, including questions they should ask when shopping for a loan.
  • Learn About FHA Mortgages The Federal Housing Administration has made significant improvements to its mortgage insurance programs. Many aspects of the FHA application process have been streamlined to make it more user-friendly and efficient. This brochure outlines the changes and how to qualify for an FHA mortgage, plus other resources available from FHA, HUD, and NAR.

An alternative House Republican plan to swap property taxes for sales taxes began to gather steam Friday. The idea is to eliminate the portion of property tax bills that go to school districts and pay for education through a higher sales tax.
Read the full story: __________________________
A flock of Canadian snowbirds are banning together to call for property tax reform in Florida. Snowbird Phyllis Turek says she doesn’t expect the same concessions as full-time residents, but believes snowbirds should get some credit for paying taxes year-round and using services for only a few months.
Read the full story: __________________________
It’s not just Florida: At least a dozen states have legislation in the hopper this year to provide property tax relief, on top of at least eight that acted last year, according to the online news service
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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE GROWTH HOLDS STEADY: WASHINGTON, February 22, 2007 A forward-looking index for the commercial real estate market, the Commercial Leading Indicator for Brokerage Activity, has increased for seven consecutive quarters and is holding at the highest level on record, NAR says. David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, says growth in the commercial real estate sectors appears to be reaching a plateau. “The rate of expansion has been fairly tame over the last three quarters, which means that growth in commercial real estate sectors is likely to be modest,” he says. The index rose 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter to a level of 120.1 from an index of 120.0 in the third quarter, and is 1.8 percent above the fourth quarter of 2005 when it stood at 118.1. Learn more.

Vertical Neighborhoods a Solution to Sprawl New high-rise developments feature residential units, retail space, and scores of amenities, aiming to ensure that occupants are in the middle of the action.Read more >

Buyers Splurge Where It Counts: Kitchen, Bath The housing market slowdown hasn’t curbed America’s appetite for upscale kitchen and bath amenities, says the American Institute of Architects.Read more >

Neighbors Seek Lower Prices for Solar Equipment Home owners in California communities are banding together to negotiate discounts on solar energy equipment, which can cost as much as $34,000.Read more >

Zero-Down Mortgages Get Harder to Find Countrywide joins companies such as General Electric’s WMC Mortgage and Washington Mutual in requiring that loan applicants have at least a 5-percent stake in their homes.Read more >

7 Ways to Get Rid of Pet OdorsNo one wants a smelly house, especially prospective buyers. To identify the source of an offensive odor, and then eliminate it, follow these helpful pointers.Read more >

REAL ESTATE FORECAST: GAINESVILLE, Fla.Saturday, March 09, 2007: UF study: The price is right, so buy now.– Hopeful homebuyers in Florida should act now: The price is right as the state’s single-family residential housing market bottoms out, according to a University of Florida study released today.“If you’re thinking of buying a house, there’s probably not much to be gained by holding out at this point,” says Wayne Archer, director of UF’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. “It doesn’t look like prices are going to fall anymore.” Read Full Story

Sierra Club backs amendment to toughen zoning change decisions
March 1st, 2007 8:33 PM
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – March 1, 2007 – Hometown Democracy – a nickname for a constitutional amendment proposal that would force all new subdivisions, shopping malls and other growth proposals to seek approval from voters rather than local leaders – received support yesterday from one of Florida’s largest environmental groups. The Sierra Club announced it would contribute $35,000 to the effort and enlist its 30,000 members in securing the signatures needed to get the proposal onto the Florida ballot. Full Story

TOKYO (AP) – March 1, 2007 – Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told a Tokyo seminar on Thursday that he does not think an economic slowdown in his country is “probable,” toning down his earlier warning over a recession later this year.
“It is possible we can get a U.S. recession toward the end of this year, but I don’t think it’s probable,” Dow Jones Newswires quoted Greenspan as saying in his speech at a Tokyo forum organized by international brokerage CLSA. Full Story