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Showing posts from 2014

Sign the ATA petition to separate bicyclists and pedestrians on the Lakefront Trail

by: Michael H. Wasserman

According to Active Transportation Alliance, the 18-mile Chicago lakefront path is the busiest trail in the country, with peak usage at more than 30,000 users per day during the summer. (Lucky me) it is also the main artery of my commute to work most days. Even the most occasional user can tell you - it is simply not engineered/able to accommodate such a large volume of mixed mode users all travelling at different speeds. ATA is campaigning  to support increased investment in separating pedestrians and bicyclists on the trail and other safety improvements. Everyone should enjoy the lakefront. Often. It is one of the City's great assets. Improving park facilities like trail improvements will only enhance the experience for us all.

FNMA Extends Spring First Look Closing Cost Promo

by Michael H. Wasserman

The spring 3.5% closing cost credit incentive offered on newly listed Fannie Mae “HomePath” properties has been extended for one more month.  Introduced back in February, the original program applied to offers submitted by March 31st for contracts closing by May 31st. The deal now applies for offers submitted by April 30 that close by June 30th. This appears to be a highly popular incentive program. I am working with several clients on FNMA purchases fortunate enough to participate here. These are great opportunities to boost buying power for select Chicago area home and condo purchases. More information available from FNMA here,

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: Return of the Sub-Prime Loan

The mortgage industry is poised to start making sub-prime mortgage loans again. CNN Money reports that several smaller lenders are now offering loan products to borrowers with credit scores of 640 and lower. Last month, Wells announced it would offer FHA guaranteed loans to borrowers with credit scores as low as 600. Now Carrington Mortgage (a firm I have not seen funding Chicago area home mortgages) has announced it will lend to consumers with credit scores as low as 540.

In fact National Mortgage News reports that the average minimum FICO score for the 15 lenders with the lowest minimums in fourth quarter 2013 was 571, down from 599 one year ago.

Lenders are aiming principally at two market segments - young first time home buyers and former owners who were wiped out in the market collapse. Why? two forces seem to be driving the softening of the lending standards: A shrinking pool of new loan applications and rising costs associated with adaptation of the new QM (qualified mortgage) …

Say it Ain't So: Low (No) Down Payment Real Estate Investing Making a Comeback ?

by Michael H. Wasserman

Apparently, we have learned nothing over the last 8 years. Folks are actually starting to tout no and low down payment loans again. Worse yet, many consumers seem ready to follow their suggestions.

Back before the bubble burst, the markets were giddy with buyers purchasing homes and investment properties with no (or next to no) down payments. Conventional wisdom at that time held that property values could only go. up. Huge equity gains were inevitable. Profits would flow to anyone smart enough to buy a home - even more so for those who bought without actually paying anything out of pocket.

Then the market collapsed in 2007 and the fallacy of that theory became painfully apparent. Property values plummeted. Owners went from no equity to negative equity. Severely. HELOCS were frozen or worse yet, called due by lenders. Properties became unsalable - sellers could not afford to pay out the shortages. You remember, don't you?

The after-effects from all of the r…

FREDDIE, FANNIE both Offering Incentives to (some) REO Buyers, Brokers

By Michael H. Wasserman


You might not know it from a look out the window or a walk around the block just yet, but the spring real estate market is upon us, and home buyers are out en masse in Chicago searching for the right opportunities.  Everyone’s favorite semi-governmental real estate entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both seem intent on capitalizing on this now to further reduce their respective REO inventories. Each has announced new incentive packages to try to entice prospective buyers. Notable in the two announcements is the differing strategies they are using. Fannie Mae is offering fairly sizeable incentives to buyers themselves. Freddie Mac, while offering a token to buyers seems to be much more focused on motivating the sales agents that guide buyers. 

FHA OKs expanded use of E-Signatures in Loan Process

By Michael H. Wasserman

Closing on residential properties in Chicago generates a lot of paperwork. Particularly if when mortgage financing is involved. Part of my job as an attorney for home and condo buyers is to help with loan application/documentation and to review the at-closing loan package with them. The number of documents presented at closing seems to grow every year. It can take a while to slog through the reams of disclosures, authorizations and certifications most lenders send to the closing table. Pens run out of ink. Rest breaks are often needed. Stacks of paper get pushed from one end of the table to the other and then back again.

The two most typical reactions to all of the signing are (A) recognition of all the trees that "give their lives” in service to the lenders and title companies, and (B) Hopes / wishes for paperless closings.

The mortgage financing process for some home buyers is getting a bit "less inconvenient" and a step closer to paperless.  E…

AP: Illinois Title Company Owner Admits Defrauding Clients

by Michael H. Wasserman

I review title company charges and all other closing costs with the Buyers and Sellers i represent. Many (often rightfully) comment on the vast array of different fees that must be paid and the total cumulative effect these charges have on their closings. Akin to all the regulatory charges on a telephone or cable bill. Industry jargon and abbreviations provide an easy short hand to us practitioners but does not make the numbers any clearer to consumers.

One such charge / classification is the CPL (Closing Protection Fee). This state mandated collection obligates a title insurance company's underwriter to cover any losses suffered to a buyer, seller, and lender in the event that the closing agent either does not follow closing instructions or misappropriates funds from the closing.  In Illinois, Sellers pay $50.00 per transaction. Buyers pay $25.00 ($50 if there is a mortgage loan).
This is a relatively new charge, so many buyers and sellers who do not remem…

COOK COUNTY PROPERTY TAX BILLS DUE MARCH 4

By Michael H. Wasserman

Nothing gets the phones ringing in my office quite like property tax bill season.  Cook County mailed out 1st installment bills this past week. They are due by March 4th. The taxing system is dreadfully complicated and consumers, particularly new property owners, have questions.
Here are some of the most common questions received in my office and, of course, some answers too!

WHAT TAXES ARE WE PAYING? All Illinois property taxes are paid one year in arrears. In other words, the bills we all just received in 2014 are actually taxes due from 2013. This presents an obvious question for anyone who closed last year or earlier this month - is this my bill or the sellers?

Reuters: 70% of HOAs Are Underfunded

by Michael H. Wasserman, Attorney at Law

A startling number of condominium and homeowners associations do not keep reserve funds on hand. Reuters reports that 70%. of all American associations. are underfunded, a 12.5 percent increase compared to 10 years ago. That number seems to be rising.

Certainly, there are plenty great reasons why home buyers might consider condominium projects or houses that are part of a planned community or homeowners association.  Common expenses are spread among the community members, which can blunt the costs of maintenance and can also make available more & nicer amenities for all to enjoy. How popular are association communities? Four of five buyers of new homes, including condos buy into an association. 63 million Americans live in community. By contrast, only 2.1 million did so in 1970. 

WITH THANKS TO YOU - Another Stellar Year

by Michael H. Wasserman, Attorney at Law

My clients and the friends & colleagues that refer them, mean the world to me.

In their honor, a portion of the fees generated from each successful Chicago area real estate closing is donated to a worthy charitable organization, as selected by the Client.

The Thanks to You program - now in its fourth year - is both an expression of my gratitude to clients and friends of the program, and a statement of our collective efforts to build stronger communities.

In 2013, ten select organizations collectively received well in excess of $7,500 to promote better education, better health, and the fine arts.  The running total over the past three years, has now surpassed $18,000.

What Are Your Gripes About Closings?

by Michael H. Wasserman, Attorney at Law

The National Association of Realtors is reporting that our Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is asking for feedback on the most stressful, confusing, and problematic areas for consumers when it comes to the closing process in a home purchase.  Responses must be submitted on or before Feb. 7. The agency is hoping to identify the main consumer “pain points” at closings as part of its “Know Before You Owe” initiative, which is aimed at improving the mortgage process for consumers.  CFPB is also looking for  answers to 17 specific questions about closings and consumer preparation, common errors, the role of other parties in the process, and about consumers’ comfort with the overall closing process. The public is encouraged to comment on the common problems consumers face at closing; where consumers turn for advice during closing; and what documents and terms are the most confusing during the process.

2013 Cook County Property Tax Exemption Applications now Avalable

by Michael H. Wasserman, Attorney at Law

Applications for the Cook County property tax Homeowner, Senior Citizen and Senior Freeze Exemptions are now available from the County Assessor's Office.

Homeowners who apply & qualify for exemptions will receive deductions off of their second-installment property tax bills - which are expected to be issued by summer 2014.

Forms are available as follows:

2013 Homeowner Exemption2013 Senior Citizen Exemption2013 Senior Tax Freeze2013 Disabled Persons Exemption2013 Disabled Veterans Exemption2013 Returning Veterans Exemption2013 WAIVER of Exemption 
More information is available from the County Assessor

CITY of CHICAGO CONDOMINIUM REFUSE REBATE DEADLINE APPROACHING

by Michael H. Wasserman, Attorney at Law

The City of Chicago offers refuse rebates to condominium and homeowner associations that have give or more units. Rebates are paid one year "in arrears" so that the next round of rebates will be against waste collection costs incurred in 2013. The 2013 rate is $25.00 per unit. .

Applications for the rebate must be submitted to the associations' local aldermanic office ASAP (eg, in the 48th ward, no later than January 12, 2014).

A full description of requirements, qualifications and forms needed to request the rebate is available from the Chicago City Council, Department of Finance.

WSJ: Banks easing down payment requirements for JUMBO loans

by Michael H. Wasserman, Attorney at Law

The Wall Street Journal reports that lenders are offering lower down-payment requirements to lure more borrowers wishing to purchase more expensive homes.  Many small lenders, (primarily community banks and credit unions), are now willing to cover jumbo loans with 5 percent to 10 percent down payments. In Chicago, jumbo loans are those that are $417,000 or higher.  These opportunities are being made possible by mortgage lenders wishing to increase market share as real estate property values are on the upswing coupled with the re-emergence of mortgage insurance companies will to insure against the risks of borrower defaults. 

Inman News: Fannie, Freddie now giving homebuyers 20-day ‘First Look’ at REOs

by Michael H. Wasserman, Attorney at Law

Starting today, Fannie Maehomebuyers who plan to be owner-occupants get a 20 day “First Look” at foreclosed homes without competition from investors. Freddie Mac has been offering the 20 day first look since December 17th.

The first look window for Chicago area properties had previously been 15 days,

Homebuyers shopping for homes can see which properties are restricted to First Look bidders in Fannie Mae’s “real estate owned” (REO) inventory at HomePath.com and for Freddie Mac REOs at HomeSteps.com

Source: fanniemae.com and freddiemac.com. - See more here.