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Save that house! Streamlined Modification Program

January 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured

Let's avoid Foreclosure!

There is a new program that is now available for delinquent mortgage holders. The program is called Streamlined Modification Program, it is an attempt to help as many as possible to keep their home from foreclosure.  The program is available to loans owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Hope Now and it’s 27 service partners.

The mortgage servicer will work with the homeowner to adjust the monthly payment to be 38% of income.  The monthly payment would be principal + interest  + taxes + (homeowners  insurance, mortgage insurance, homeowner dues, condo dues).

There are several ways that they can make the adjustment:

  1. One way is to extend the term, up to 40 years. 
  2. Another way is to reduce the interest rate.  They can reduce it to as low as 3%.  This reduction will last for five years and then the interest rate will adjust up by 1 % per year until it maxes at the current market rate or the original interest rate whichever is lower.
  3. They can even reduce the principal balance to the current market value for the house.  This would only be available if the principal loan balance exceeds the current market value.  The reduction of the principal balance is not completely forgiven, it will become a balloon payment that will be due at the end of the loan term. And if the owner sells prior to the end of the loan term, it would be due at settlement to satisfy the loan.

Any or all of the methods can be used to get the monthly payment down to the 38% of income.

Criteria to qualify:

  • The loan must be at least 90 days delinquent and
  • The amount owed must be at least 90% of the homes value.

The program started on December 15th, and I have seen banks offering it to their delinquent mortgage holders by way of a letter.  So go ahead and open up that correspondence from the bank!  And if they do not send a letter about the program, give them a call.  They have been offered an incentive for every loan that they can enroll into the program, they are going to try to make it work. 

The mortgage holder should call their servicer and ask about it. 

The servicer will ask for

  1. Proof of income, and amount of income.
  2. A statement of hardship. Mortgage holder should be willing and able to explain the circumstances that lead to falling behind, (for example such as job loss/change)
  3. They might ask monthly expenses.

Here are some links that go into detail about the program:

Washington Post article

CNN Money article

The FHFA’s (Federal Housing Finance Agency) press release about the program and FAQ:

I have set up a detailed spreadsheet to help my clients who are in a short sale position to figure out if they would be able to have their loan adjusted to an affordable payment.  I would be happy to help anyone else who is contemplating it, just give me a call or email.  The loan servicer can also help to figure out if the loan can be adjusted to be affordable.  The most important step is to get started, and work through it one phone call at a time.

Spread the word and help folks save their houses.  Think Stability.



(410) 852-9524

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We can also help find rentals.  And we can help to sell a house in a short sale if the loan modification isn’t possible.  A short sale is better on the credit report than a foreclosure.  If someone you know could use our help contact us.

Photo credit, Jeff Turner

The truth behind the Internet cellphone popcorn video. A Hoax.

January 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Quick

This video makes it look like you can pop popcorn with several cell phones receiving calls at the same time. It is not true. This is a hoax that was created to promote someones product. It is a little scary though and reinforces peoples worries about technology. The fear makes you want to warn your friends and avoid your phone. Well the video was created with digital editing. First look at the hoax:

The viral marketing worked. I learned of the company because of it. I feel a bit negative towards them for the moment however. How many people will remember the original video, never learn about the company, and never find out it was a hoax? This seems a bit irresponsible to me. It doesn’t earn my trust. I thank CNN for getting us the truth:

As a Realtor, I use my cell phone quite a bit. I am quite happy they were invented. I have the iPhone, and now I can check listings when I am out and away from home or the office. It is really quite enabling.

Take DIY Decorating to the next level with 8 sources for custom wallpaper printing

January 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured

Vintage Wallpaper

Making your home your own includes decorating it to your taste. A fun way of expressing your artistic vision when you are not a painter, is to design what you want on a computer, and get it printed. Why print your photos at 4″ x 6″ when wall size is now possible! There are a lot of nuances to succeeding at this. If you are going to use a photo, then the more megapixels your camera captures, then the less blurry your image will be when you blow it up.

First you need an image.

  • Take a photo yourself.
  • Download a photo from flickr
  • Design your own pattern or image with free Inkscape or free Gimp

Next you need to order your custom wallpaper. Here are six providers:

  1. DesignYourWall
  2. Murals Your Way
  3. MegaPrint
  4. Great Wall Online
  5. Rollout
  6. shop 4 wallpaper

Another option is tiling lots of small sheets of paper together. You can do this in black and white on your own laser printer, or in color if you can afford all that toner or ink!

  1. The Rasterbator
  2. Block Posters

The downside to this idea, is wallpaper and highly individual decorating schemes are not a good idea in most cases for getting your home ready to sell. Use these ideas for yourself since you are going to live there. If you have plans to sell soon, then talk to me about getting a professional staging consultation. If your house is for sale, you need to think of it as a product, and no longer your home. This will help you get top dollar, and in a slow market this can be essential to get noticed. Professional staging does not have to be expensive. In some cases when our sellers and the homes they want to sell meet certain criteria, we will pay for an expert professional staging plan. Then that plan can be used as a roadmap, or the stager can be hired to implement the plan.

If anyone does create a custom wall, I would like to see it. Send me a photo with

The above vintage wallpaper photo is provided by Anne Norman via

A tip for negotiating on new construction and getting the best deal.

January 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Quick

New Construction

Q: Can you negotiate price on new construction homes?

A: Yes you can, but you are fighting an uphill battle. One thing I suggest when negotiating new construction, is to ask for free upgrades. In a development, the builder has constraints other sellers don’t. Price is very important to maintain so existing owners don’t feel like they bought at the wrong time. A common strategy is to hold the best lots for last. The other strategy is to include more upgrades. So ask for the upgrades, and you are speaking the builders language. Ask for price reductions, and the builder has more than this deal to consider.

Photo credit, Bart Everson

Kitten Taming

January 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured

I have some experience with rescuing kittens and socializing them to become affectionate lap kitties.  I decided to share some of that knowledge in its very own blog post, so here it is.

We currently have 5 kittens staying in our mudroom becoming socialized.  This is our 3rd go round with socializing a litter of feral or semi-feral kittens so I am going to dispense advice for anyone undertaking similar tasks. 

One of our clients had a stray momma show up and have babies.  We coached them about feeding the kitties each day and getting the cats used to humans providing food.  Little things like shaking the food and making some noises when pouring it out, clinking the bowl, even calling “here kitty, kitty”, putting the food bowl near the house entrance, to help them associate humans as food providers. 

After a few weeks of our client feeding they became able to pet them while eating, so we decided it was time for kitten “finishing school” and brought our cat carriers and a have a heart trap.  We had one carrier for each kitty.  Once you get one kitten inside the cage and the door closed, do not count on being able to open it to get another one inside.  We also brought a have a heart trap, just in case.

Semi feral kittens decide that they like chicken babyfood.

Semi feral kittens decide that they like chicken babyfood.


A food that cats cannot resist is babyfood, the pureed meat kind.  Any meat flavor seems to work, chicken is especially tasty to them.  We put some on a spoon and have the kitties lick it off, they love it, once they get brave enough to try it.  For this litter, they had developed a liking for mackeral (what cat can resist?) so our client opened a can and put some on a plate and was able to lure most of them into one carrier. 

Then we had the 2 hold outs, luckily each was lured into its own carrier, the last one with some man handling.  This one did a spread eagle and made the task difficult but not impossible.  If this happens to you, put a towel over him while still holding firmly by the scruff, (covering their face can get you a couple moments of calmness).  Be sure to wear gloves, make sure you can grip them firmly by the scruff with the gloves on.  Holding firmly by the scruff makes their body release endorphins and may help calm them somewhat.

Once they are inside the carriers cover the carriers with a towel – it calms them and they won’t try to dig their way out.  They can do some damage to their paws in a desperate attempt for freedom, so remove that temptation by covering the openings (or better yet the whole carrier) with a towel or sheet.  It also might be a good idea to have small towel in the carrier in case they have an accident on the drive home. 

When you first take them indoors they are understandably freaked out.  The best place to start is in a small room, a small bathroom can work wonderfully.  Cover any windows or mirrors so they don’t try to throw themselves through or claw their way through, we have taped cardboard over them.  You can probably uncover the windows after 4 or 5 days, but err on the side of longer.  

Also make sure any hard to reach spots are closed off or the shy ones will have a place to avoid you.  We had to tape cardboard over places like the chest freezer so they can’t hide behind it.  They do like having a box that they can hide away in, so have one or two available for them.  I used a BIG dog crate in my mudroom, and had a litter pan and a box in there. 

Have minimal interaction for the first night, just let them get their bearings without having to deal with strange humans.  Keep them in the crate (if you have one) for a couple days and talk nicely to them when you go in to attend to the food, water and litter.  And you can leave the dry food out but only put down wet food when you are in there, and try to feed them from a spoon, they will get brave after a day or two.  Having a radio playing talk shows might help them become accustomed to human voices also.  I try to sit in there and just read a magazine or my email or make phone calls to get them used to me.

Bear, Goose, Little Romeo, and Scout get comfortable with me.

Bear, Goose, Little Romeo, and Scout get comfortable with me.

About litter training, I have never had to show a cat how to use the litter, it is a natural inclination of theirs.  The main issue is to keep it clean as often as possible, then they will not develop any bad habits.  They are pretty tolerant, I have been busy and not gotten to it until late at night and thankfully no accidents.

After a few days of this new confinement situation they will become a little more relaxed so you can start petting them when feeding, and eventually you will be able to pick them up.  Try not to force things, you will win them over gradually.  For our current bunch at this point, after about 3 weeks of having them in our mudroom, they are little purr machines, and are all over me once I walk in the door.  There is one hold out (little Princess Buttercup) that is still afraid of my husband who only visits once a day, but she is slowly becoming more trusting, she loves petting from me, it is only a matter of another week or so before Peter charms her.

Keep them confined to the small room for a couple of weeks or until they start coming to you when you call.  You do not want them finding some hiding place in your house where they will not have to interact with you.  We are just starting to open the door from the mudroom to the rest of the house and they explore a little, until our “real” kitties (the first litter that we socialized) hiss at them and scare them back to the mudroom. 

We are hoping that a no kill shelter “Defenders of Animal Rights” will have some space in their kitten room soon.  Their kitten room is awesome, the kitties and people roam freely so you can get a better feel for how the personalities will match.  And I can go and visit my “graduates” once a week and pet them and quiz them on their lap cat lessons, until they get adopted. 

Be strong about finding a home, be sure to question the responsibility level of any prospective cat parents.  Never let someone get them as a present for somebody else, that rarely works out.  Many rescue organizations have applications and adoption contracts that they will share to give you an idea about how to interview and choose a permanent home for your little ones.  And always Spay and Neuter!  There are some low cost programs, in our area there are SNAP certificates and the Humane Society has a low cost program.  Some vets will give you a break on price so be sure to ask and let know about your project.

Good luck, it is a very rewarding commitment of about 3-6 weeks depending on how old they were when you caught them, the younger the better.  Our current bunch was probably 4-5 months when we captured them.  They did have human interaction with the daily feeding, so that probably helped quite a bit.  They are very happy chappies and love when I show up and pet them, they jostle for position under my hand and a couple jump in my lap on their own. 

Bear is twice the size of his siblings, has an impossibly soft coat and loves any attention, trying to convert it to a belly rub.  Romeo is a bit of a momma’s boy, he loves to be in my lap and to rub his head against my head, a very endearing move.  Goose (the handsome gray one)  looks meaningfully into my eyes and becons me to pet his irresistable belly, he is pretty attached to me but in a more grown up way than Romeo.  Scout is the fluffy one, he is first one to the door, has to inspect anything new and chirps a lovely good morning; he is kind of the benevolent boss of the operation.  Buttercup tilts her head to the right when she is intrigued by some new toy or even my sweeping activities; she is tiny, adorable, a bit shy and purrs as loudly as her brothers. 

They all love petting and are coming along very nicely, ready for some permanent kitty parents.  And they are all gorgeous, an opinion backed up by my mom, so it has to be true.

Support your local shelters, they are all under the same economic strain and at the same time they are getting filled by pets that have been foreclosed upon. 




And of course if you need a bigger house for your cat rescue projects just give me a call, we have some great bargains in the area right now. 

Search for house Bargains in Maryland at


My name is Scout

My name is Scout

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