Sunday, August 30, 2009

More About Foreclosure Rescue Scams

Houston homeowners (and not only Houston homeowners), be aware of Foreclosure Scams!
In addition to my previous blog regarding Foreclosure Scams, here is a very good article regarding this topic

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Houston Association of REALTORS® Becomes Largest Local REALTOR® Organization in the USA

Houston Association of Realtors has officially become the largest local REALTOR® board in the United States following a recent rise in membership and a decline in membership at the Long Island (New York) Board of REALTORS® (LIBOR).

HAR currently has a total REALTOR® membership of 23,354, surpassing LIBOR’s REALTOR® membership total of 23,236 by 118 REALTORS®. HAR and LIBOR are by far the largest local REALTOR® associations, as the Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS® is currently third with nearly 10,000 fewer members.

“The Houston Association of REALTORS® is thrilled about achieving this milestone, which demonstrates that our members are deeply committed to the real estate business and have been bolstered by the stronger greater Houston real estate market,” said HAR Chair Vicki Fullerton. “REALTORS® have also come to appreciate the tremendous value they derive through HAR membership, including a host of services such as free member Web sites, free member blogs, free agent newsletters, legislative support, award-winning communications campaigns, the pre-eminent local public real estate Web site,, and a host of other offerings for which other associations either charge additional fees or do not offer at all.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Be aware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams

In a current real estate market, when people are not able to pay their mortgage on time,
scam artists prey on struggling homeowners and often target defendants named in foreclosure proceedings. Don't let them take advantage of you, your situation, your house or your money. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to get informed and ask a lot of questions. If you receive an offer, information or advice that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Here are some tips based on :

* Help is free! There is never a fee to get assistance or information from your mortgage company or a HUD-approved housing counselor.Beware of any person or organization that asks you to pay a fee in exchange for housing counseling services or modification of a delinquent loan. Do not pay—walk away! Call 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) for free housing counseling.

* Be aware of anyone who says they can “save” your home if you sign or transfer over the deed to your house. Do not sign over the deed to your property to any organization or individual unless you are working directly with your mortgage company to forgive your debt.

* Don't sign papers in exchange for a promise that someone else will pay off your mortgage. ALWAYS be sure to read and understand all paperwork before signing to ensure that you are not unknowingly giving someone else ownership of your home.

* Never submit your mortgage payments to anyone other than your mortgage company without your mortgage company's approval. Scammers might ask you to make your payments to them; however, they pocket your payments instead of sending them to the lender.

* Beware of anyone who says that you don't need a real estate professional or title company when selling your home. You should always have a real estate professional, attorney or a title company to help you with any transaction involving your home. Know the person you do business with.

* Before responding to any person or organization offering to "save" you from foreclosure, find out if the organization is HUD-approved. Check also with your lender.

Finding a Credit Counselor: Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a U.S. government agency that provides assistance to home buyers and homeowners. HUD offers free or low-cost credit counseling throughout the country. To find the nearest counseling agency in your area, call (800) 569-4287.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What you should do if you become a victim of identity fraud

This is a very useful information I found on
As soon as you suspect that you've been victimized, taking these steps immediately will help you clear your name and your credit.

12-step program for ID theft victims:

1.Notify affected creditors or bank
If a bank account or existing credit line has been affected, shutting it down should be the first order of business. Working with the credit card company or the bank as soon as possible can save you money. In general, most credit cards have zero-liability policies, but the Fair Credit Billing Act specifies that your maximum liability for unauthorized charges is $50.
ATM or debit cards and electronic transfers from your bank account fall under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. Under this act, consumers have to move fast. Reporting a lost or stolen ATM or debit card before any fraudulent transactions means the victim is off the hook for any that happen afterward.

But if purchases or withdrawals are made, consumers have a small window of two business days to report the unauthorized charges or transfers and get a $50 liability limit. After that, there is a $500 liability limit for up to 60 days after the statement reflecting the fraud is mailed. After 60 days, consumers are exposed to unlimited liability.

Consumers should also notify banks of any lost or stolen checks.

2. Put a fraud alert on your credit report
"Contact any one of the three credit reporting agencies and request a fraud alert. By doing so, a fraud alert will be put on all three of your credit files," says Steven Katz, director of consumer education for TransUnion's
The fraud alert will last 90 days. After you've filed a police report or filled out the ID theft complaint form from the FTC, you can put an extended fraud alert on your credit file which will last seven years.
"Filing a fraud alert is probably the best step for someone who is unsure if they are a victim," says Katz.
A credit freeze will provide more protection but can be restrictive when applying for credit.

3. Check your credit reports
After installing a fraud alert in your credit file, you'll automatically receive a free credit report from each of the three agencies and you will be opted out of preapproved credit card and insurance offers. After you receive your reports, make note of the unique number assigned to your account. This will be valuable in all your communications with the agencies.
Check your reports for signs of fraud -- new accounts you didn't open, hard inquiries you don't recognize, payment history you can't account for, an employer you never worked for and personal information unfamiliar to you. Pull each of your credit reports at least once over the course of the next year to check for fraudulent activity. Use an identity theft report to get fraudulent information removed from your reports.

4. Consider putting a credit freeze on your reports
"A credit freeze is a good thing to do if you know you're a victim, as it will completely lock down all your credit information," says TransUnion's Katz.
A credit freeze prevents the credit-reporting agencies from releasing your credit report to new creditors. The cost is $10 in most states to place a freeze at each bureau, and is usually free if you can prove you're an ID theft victim.

5. Contact the FTC
Contact the FTC at (877) 438-4338. While federal investigators only tend to pursue larger, more sophisticated fraud cases, they monitor identity theft crimes of all levels in the hopes of discovering patterns and breaking up larger rings.
More importantly, fill out the ID theft affidavit at the FTC's Web site, make copies and send them to your creditors. The agency also has an online complaint form. After filling it out, print out the ID theft complaint form for your records. Together with a police report, it serves as your ID theft report, which will help you dispute fraudulent accounts.

According to the FTC Web site, an ID theft report is more comprehensive than a police report alone. Your local police department may incorporate the ID theft complaint form into its report or they might have another way of providing the full details needed for an ID theft report.

6. Go to the police
Alert the police in your city. You may also need to report the crime to the police departments where the crime occurred.
Securing a police report is of utmost importance. But not all states have legislated that local law enforcement must take a police report on identity theft from consumers. A report released in November 2007 by the Identity Theft Resource Center, "The Aftermath," found that 24 percent of the victims of identity theft who answered the survey could not get the police to take a report.

The FTC provides a cover letter to give to local law enforcement which stresses the importance of police reports for consumer victims.
Make sure the police report lists all fraud accounts. Give as much documented information as possible and give them a copy of the ID theft complaint form from the FTC.
If the police cannot give you a copy of their report, request that they sign your FTC complaint form and provide the police report number in the "Law Enforcement Report" section. Keep the phone number of your police investigator handy on a contact sheet for future reference.

7. Send creditors a copy of your ID theft report
Notify creditors in writing that you have been a victim of fraud and include a copy of your ID theft report.
Further, ask each affected creditor to provide you and your investigating law enforcement agency with copies of the documents showing fraudulent transactions. You may have to fight to get this documentation, but don't give up. You'll need these to help track down the perpetrator.

Informing creditors of the fraud should get them to stop reporting the information to the credit reporting agencies.

"We always advise that you contact the creditor first because they will continue to report that information that they have. But we take steps on our end to make sure that the fraudulent information doesn't show up on the credit report," says Katz.

8. Contact credit reporting agencies
By sending a copy of your ID theft report to the consumer reporting agencies, fraudulent accounts should be blocked from appearing on your credit report.
Nonetheless, consumers must keep a close eye on credit reports to make sure that erroneous information doesn't get added again. Watch related video

The Identity Theft Resource Center's report, "The Aftermath," found that 43 percent of victims questioned had bad information added back onto their credit reports, and 39 percent found that the credit reporting agencies would not remove the information.

"Often the bad information that they thought they had cleared up mysteriously reappears," says Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG consumer program director.

9. Change all account passwords
If an account doesn't have a password, put one on it. Avoid using obvious passwords such as the last four digits of your Social Security number or your birth date.

10. Contact the Social Security fraud hot line
Notify the Office of the Inspector General if your Social Security number has been fraudulently used. Ask for a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement and check for accuracy.
11. Get a new driver's license
You may need to change your driver's license number if someone is using yours as an ID. Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new number.
12. Contact your telephone and utility companies
They need to be alerted in case an identity thief tries to open a new account in your name, using a utility bill as proof of residence.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why home sellers will not accept buyers with FHA loans?

There are few reasons why sellers will either not accept buyers with FHA loans. First reason is that this is much longer and more complicated process than with conventional loans. Second is the risk which home sellers are facing of taking house off the market for a month or longer
(with recent regulations effective July30, 2009 it is recommended to have closing date of at least 30 days from effective date of the contract.For FHA loans it may take even 2 months) and if house is not sold then home sellers lost not only valuable time, but also have no any recourse toward home buyers, because accepting buyer's offer with FHA loan, home sellers are obligated to sign FHA/VA Amendatory Clause which says " It is expressly agreed that, nothwithstanding any other provisions of this contract, the purchaser shall not be obligated to complete the purchase of the property described herein or to incur any penalty by forfeiture of earnest money deposits or otherwise unless the purchaser has been given in accordance with HUD/FHA or VA requirements a written statement issued by the Federal Housing Commissioner, Department of Veterans Affairs, or a direct endorsement lender, setting forth the appraised value of the property of not less than $..... (here goes the sales price of the house). The purchaser shall have the privilege and option of preseeding with the consumation of the contract without regard to the amount of the appraised valuation....."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Home Listings on Google Maps

Google Maps includes all the are homes for sale. You can simply go to Google Maps, enter in a zip code and/or name of the city and you will see the map of the local area including all the home for sale. Below is a sample of this map. The only thing is that I checked and found out that information about houses for sale in many cases is outdated. When I checked on HAR MLS some of the houses shown on Google Map, I found out that some of them either have pending status, some of hem went off the market months ago. So if you would like to get the most current information about houses for sale, my advice is: check with local real estate agent. If you are looking to buy or sell a house in a greater Houston area, please check Houston real estate web site.

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