Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Have Bad Credit? What Are My Options For Buying a House?

I Have Bad Credit? What Are My Options For Buying a House?

FHA MortgageAtleast once a week, I get an email that sounds something like “I have bad credit and I want to buy a house” or “…I want to lease-to-own” or my favorite “I have bad credit and I want to buy a bank owned property.”
It wasn’t that long ago that you could purchase a house with a credit score less than 600 however as we have all experienced over the last five years, that isn’t a recipe for success. Some sub-prime loans were made to borrowers that were less-than-mortgage worthy and those borrowers quickly defaulted as a result of not having savings or an adjustable rate mortgage.
Bad credit is a fairly subjective term. If you’ve had a home foreclosed upon or declared bankruptcy and had that discharged in the last 7 years, you are most likely not mortgage-worthy yet. Same holds true for borrowers that have had a car repossessed or faced eviction from their landlord.
Judgments, wage garnishments, unpaid tax levy’s are also items that will prevent most home buyers from obtaining a mortgage – but that can change as these items are paid in full.
For buyers with low credit scores, the best solution is to pay bills on-time, open a credit card and keep your balance below 1/3 your credit limit (best not to keep a balance at all). Low credit may not be your only obstacle to purchase so it’s a good idea to speak with a mortgage banker to find out what it will take to become eligible for a mortgage.
You will also need savings to use a down payment on your new home. For a government-insured FHA mortgage, borrowers will need atleast a 3.5% down payment ($3,500 on a $100,000 home) plus closing costs (varies by lender).
Lisa Ekanger Your Preferred Realtor!

Repulsive Racial Profiling

Austin PD’s Repulsive Racial Profiling

I’ve been writing about police misconduct for a long time. Not much is going to shock me anymore. But this story will make your blood boil. It’s the story of the police in Austin, Texas harassing the hell out of a man walking home with his 5-year old granddaughter solely because he’s white and she’s black.

Our story began at the Millennium Youth Center in central east Austin, which is a city-owned rec center just a few blocks from my home of 22 years. Ty, age 5, often spends the night with us on Fridays to give Mom and Dad a night off, and we’d taken her there to go roller skating after dinner out as a reward for a week’s worth of excellent behavior scores in kindergarten.
Perhaps at 7:40 p.m. or so, after she’d had her fill of skating (if the event were put to music, the appropriate theme song would have been “Slip Slidin’ Away”), I asked Ty if she’d like to walk home and let Grandma take the car. It was cool but pleasant out, and we were just a short distance from the house, with a city-bike path where we often walk dogs together taking us most of the way there. She was elated: This sounded like a big adventure, and within moments she was bouncing off the walls with excitement, making me think a walk home was just the thing to burn off some energy before bed time.
This was a terrible mistake on Grandpa’s part. Not because we live in a relatively rough neighborhood. I know many of my neighbors, saints and scoundrels alike, and I did not and do not fear becoming a crime victim walking that route, even with a five year old in tow. No, apparently the only folks Ty and I had to fear were in uniform.
Our interaction with law enforcement began after we left the Millennium Center on foot, with the giddy five year old racing ahead and me trotting along behind admonishing her to stay out of the parking lot and stop when she gets to the sidewalk, don’t run into the street, etc.. She was in a good mood, obeyed, and we held hands crossing the street and as we walked down the bike path toward Boggy Creek and back home.
Then behind us I heard someone call out, though I couldn’t make out what was said. We stopped to look back, and there was a dark silhouette crossing the street who Ty thought was calling out to us. We waited, but then the silhouetted figure stopped, crouched down for a moment, then took a few steps back toward the rec center, appearing to speak to someone there. I shrugged it off and we walked on, but in a moment the figure began walking down the path toward us again, calling out when she was about 150 feet away. We stopped and waited. It was a brown-suited deputy constable, apparently out of breath from the short walk.
She told me to take my hand out of my pocket and to step away from Ty, declaring that someone had seen a white man chasing a black girl and reported a possible kidnapping. Then she began asking the five-year old about me. The last time this happened, Ty was barely two, and I wasn’t about to let police question her. This time, though, at least initially, I decided to let her answer. “Do you know this man?” the deputy asked. “Yes,” Ty mumbled shyly, “he’s my Grandpa.” The deputy couldn’t understand her (though I did) and moved closer, hovering over the child slightly, repeating the question. Ty mumbled the same response, this time louder, but muffled through a burgeoning sob that threatened to break out in lieu of an answer.
The deputy still didn’t understand her: “What did you say?” she repeated. “He’s my Grandpa!,” Ty finally blurted, sharply and clearly, then rushed back over to me and grabbed hold of my leg. “Okay,” said the deputy, relaxing, acknowledging the child probably wasn’t being held against her will. (As we were talking, a car pulled up behind her on the bike path with its brights on – I couldn’t tell what agency it was with) Then she pulled out her pad and paper and asked “Can I get your name, sir, just for my report?” I told her I’d prefer not to answer any questions and would like to leave, if we were free to go, so I could get the child to bed. She looked skeptical but nodded and Ty and I turned tail and walked toward home.
Ty was angrier about this, even, than I was. “Why is it,” she demanded a few steps down the path, stomping her feet and swinging her little arms as she said it, “that the police won’t ever believe you’re my Grandpa?” (Our earlier run in had clearly made an impression, though she hadn’t mentioned it in ages.) “Why do you think it is?,” I asked, hoping to fend her off with the Socratic method. She paused, then said sheepishly, “Because you’re white?” I grinned at her and said, “That’s part of it, for sure. But we don’t care about that, do we?” “No,” she said sternly as we walked across the bridge spanning Boggy Creek just south of 12th Street, “but the police should leave you alone. It’s not right that they want to arrest you for being my Grandpa.” More prescient words were never spoken.
Just as Ty uttered those words, I made her hold my hand so we could trot across 12th Street amidst the sporadic, Friday night traffic, waiting for a police car to pass before heading across just west of the railroad tracks. Literally my intentions were – the moment we made it safely across the street – to resume our conversation to explain to Ty that nobody wanted to arrest me for being her Grandpa, that that wasn’t against the law, and that the deputy had only stopped us to make sure Ty was safe. But we never got a chance to have that conversation.
As soon as we crossed the street, just two blocks from my house as the crow flies, the police car that just passed us hit its lights and wheeled around, with five others appearing almost immediately, all with lights flashing. The officers got out with tasers drawn demanding I raise my hands and step away from the child. I complied, and they roughly cuffed me, jerking my arms up behind me needlessly. Meanwhile, Ty edged up the hill away from the officers, crying. One of them called out in a comforting tone that they weren’t there to hurt her, but another officer blew up any good will that might have garnered by brusquely snatching her up and scuttling her off to the back seat of one of the police cars. (By this time more cars had joined them; they maxxed out at 9 or 10 police vehicles.)
I gave them the phone numbers they needed to confirm who Ty was and that she was supposed to be with me (and not in the back of their police car), but for quite a while nobody seemed too interested in verifying my “story.” One officer wanted to lecture me endlessly about how they were just doing their job, as if the innocent person handcuffed on the side of the road cares about such excuses. I asked why he hadn’t made any calls yet, and he interrupted his lecture to say “we’ve only been here two minutes, give us time” (actually it’d been longer than that). “Maybe so,” I replied, sitting on the concrete in handcuffs, “but there are nine of y’all milling about doing nothing by my count so between you you’ve had 18 minutes for somebody to get on the damn phone by now so y’all can figure out you screwed up.” Admittedly, this did not go over well. I could tell I was too pissed off to say anything constructive and silently vowed to keep mum from then on.
There’s much more to the story, please read it all. Here’s the part that kills me:
Ty was understandably shaken by the incident, and as we walked home she told me all about her interactions with the officers and peppered me with questions about why this, that, everything happened. She said she tried to be brave because she knew I’d get into trouble if the police didn’t believe her (she was right about that!) and she was especially scared when she thought they weren’t going to accept her word for it. Poor kid.
As we turned onto the last block home, two of the police cars that had detained us passed by and Ty visibly winced with fear, lunging toward me and wrapping her arms around my leg. I petted and tried to comfort her, but she was pretty disturbed and confused by the whole episode.
To make it even worse, this isn’t even the first time this has happened to these same two people. It happened when Ty was only two, by the same department.
Lisa Ekanger Your Preferred Realtor!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Weekly Housing Report

Weekly Market Activity Report

For Week Ending January 28, 2012 ~ Publish Date: February 6, 2012 ~All comparisons are to 2011

Whether motivated by the election cycle, a jump in employment, improving housing market metrics or the best start to a year for the S&P 500 since 1989, home buyers posted increased activity levels compared to last year. Consumers signed more purchase agreements but sellers entered into fewer listing contracts. Changes in supply-side metrics confirm this, suggesting that relatively less new product is entering the market compared to buyer demand. That's helped other metrics return to
more friendly territory. Whatever the reason, it's good to see that vote of confidence. In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending January 28:

• New Listings decreased 17.5% to 1,090

• Pending Sales increased 22.9% to 833

• Inventory decreased 23.5% to 17,762

For the month of December:

• Median Sales Price decreased 6.5% to $145,000

• Days on Market decreased 2.3% to 141

• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.7% to 90.6%

• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 33.3% to 4.

Lisa Ekanger Your Preferred Realtor!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Is My Kid Entitled? How to Tell

Is My Kid Entitled? How to Tell

'A child who is shocked to be told no … is definitely feeling entitled.'
Is My Kid Entitled? How to Tell -- Mom's Homeroom -- © altrendo images/Getty Images
By Martha Brockenbrough

Maybe you missed the recent news out of Washington, D.C., where a restaurant called Serendipity 3 sold its first $1,000 sundae — a bowl of ice cream made with dueling vanillas from Tahiti and Madagascar, topped with caviar, truffles and edible gold.

Given the hard economic times so many people are facing, the situation is mind-boggling. The kicker? The inaugural eater was a 9-year-old boy celebrating his birthday.

Ignoring the fact that most little boys would gag at the thought of fish eggs and fungus on his dessert, is this really what a kid needs to feel special?

Chances are most of us haven't sailed this far over the top of the parenting fence. But it doesn't mean our kids aren't at risk of feeling entitled, something we should worry about. A lot.

Consider what's happening with the generation of kids before ours, Generation Y. Born between roughly 1980 and 2000, these kids have been dubbed the Entitlement Generation by the media.

Though there are always exceptions, many Gen Yers struggle at work because their expectations are so out of line with reality. As the subhead to a 2007 Boston Globe story put it, "The crop of talented recent graduates coming into today's workforce is widely seen as narcissistic and entitled. And those are their best qualities."


Will our kids fare any better? When you look at the material expectations some have for cell phones, gadgets and fancy clothes, there's reason to worry.

We want our kids to have everything, of course. But we don't want them to be spoiled. It's a delicate balance to strike. So how can you tell when things are out of whack for your family?

What entitlement looks like

There are a number of ways to tell if you're giving your kids too much, experts say.

"Deny a request and observe the reaction," says Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a family physician and mom of four. "A child or teen who asks 'Why?,' even if [he or she sounds] very annoyed or whiny, is not acting entitled, merely self-interested in an age-appropriate way. A child who is shocked to be told no, or who immediately lashes out with accusations or insults, is definitely feeling entitled."

She defines entitlement as the notion that a child's wants should be fulfilled and his opinion should be the deciding factor in any situation "simply because he is … himself."

Another way of looking at it: An entitled child feels he or she should receive without giving or working, says Edie Raether, a behavioral psychologist and family therapist. Other common signs of entitlement in children include:

- not taking turns
- impatience
- a tendency to put themselves first
- insensitivity to or a lack of compassion toward others
-temper tantrums when they don't get what they want
- not saying "please" or "thank you"

While it's not uncommon for kids to view themselves as the axis of the universe, it's a parent's job to help kids see beyond themselves, and some of us aren't doing it very well.

When our kids create conflict and chaos to get their way and we give in, we're letting them manipulate us. This can be cute when kids are young, according to Raether. It gets less so later.

"If you have an entitled child, it is because you created one," Raether says.

It's not that we set out to do this. We love our kids. We want them to be happy so we buy them things. We want them to do well in school, so we pick up the slack with their chores or run out to get that necessary book or glitter stick the night before a project is due.

This is a huge problem, Gilboa says. "We build false expectations that their needs and desires will be at the center of all future relationships."

Am I giving my child too much?

It's not always easy to tell if you've overindulged your child. The line keeps moving. When we were growing up, for example, computers were a luxury.

Today, though, "Computer access is almost a necessity, especially at the high school level, for research and written assignments," says Jennifer Little, Ph.D., who runs the website Parents Teach Kids.

So what are other necessities? The basics of clothing, food and a bed are a given, she says. Kids also need social outlets. Sports are good ones because they let kids be both physically active and social.

Beyond that — designer clothes, gourmet meals out, piles of toys, concert tickets, expensive vacations, huge bedrooms — these things are all frills.

"If there's no room in the closet in his or her room, there's too much," says Little. "If you don't know anyone who provides those 'luxuries' to their kids, what you're giving is too much. If you didn't have it when you were growing up, it's probably too much."

Our kids especially need us to set limits on how much time they spend with their friends and how much money is spent on clothing and gifts at holidays and on birthdays, Little says. And instead of us providing them with material things, they need us to find ways for them to earn their own money and opportunities. As teens, for example, they should help pay for their own cars, insurance and college tuition.

It's a matter of shifting our priorities

The good news is, "This is an entirely solvable problem," Gilboa says.

It's not about saying no to everything. Rather, it's a matter of understanding what we need to be focusing on. Our kids' happiness isn't it, Gilboa says. Rather, it's their resilience — their ability to cope with stress and adversity.

"As we think of each request with the goal of building resilience, it becomes much clearer how we can say no with love and confidence," Gilboa says. "Clear, repeated explanations to our disbelieving children can bolster our will and spirit to give our children less things than they want, and more of the initiative to get those things themselves."

True enough. No 9-year-old who'd earned $1,000 would blow it on a bowl of ice cream, which ought to give all of us parents the reassurance that our kids do have the wisdom they need already — provided we don't get too much in the way.
Lisa Ekanger Your Preferred Realtor!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Work harder. Then work harder. Bounce back even after you’ve been knocked down. On his desk, he has the saying: “Either lead, follow or get out of the way.

Over the years, Ted Turner has been scrutinized in multiple biographies, autobiographies and documentaries. There really aren’t many secrets left about him.

But if you want a quick, selective overview of the Atlanta mogul, Turner’s offering a “Master Class” Sunday at 10 p.m. on the OWN Network. It’s part of a series created and hosted by Oprah Winfrey in which celebrities, in their own words, offer life lessons.

“Ted has gone with his gut but has always done his homework,” Winfrey said on the show, which I previewed today. “That combination never let him down.”

While the 72-yaer-old’s story is fascinating, his life lessons are not too surprising. Work harder. Then work harder. Bounce back even after you’ve been knocked down. On his desk, he has the saying: “Either lead, follow or get out of the way.

Do research and seek holes in the market. That’s why he created TBS Superstation, bought the Atlanta Braves for $10 million to fill TBS with content, then started CNN in 1980.

“If Alexander the Great could conquer the known world, why couldn’t I start CNN?’ he said with that classic twinkle in his eye.

He also said to follow through on promises. He announced in July, 1979 that he’d launch CNN June 1, 1980 and he pulled it off. “If you piddle around,” he said, “someone else will beat you to it.”

Turner takes pride in being ethical. “I’ve never been indicted or accused of anything,” he said. “None of my previous partners, nobody would tell you Ted Turner took advantage of them or pulled a fast one.” He then quotes Shakespeare:

Mine honour is my life; both grow in one; take honour from me and my life is done.

Turner recounted his time in competitive yachting, reaching the pinnacle of winning the America’s Cup. He compared running a boat to running a business. “You have to ride it out the best you can,” he said. “If you panic, it’s a good way to lose. You have to stay in control.”

He also likes to try to turn enemies into friends. He cited buddying up to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in the early 1980s as CNN was in its infancy. Later in the decade, he created the Goodwill Games as an alternative to the Olympics, which was not really a financial success but a moral one in his mind.

One interesting lesson: his dad had reached his material goals when he was relatively young and ended up committing suicide. He told Ted to reach for goals well beyond what he could do in a lifetime. The would keep him striving. So Ted wants world peace (thus, the $1 billion donation to the United Nations) and complete nuclear disarmament.

He of course is best known for his environmental work. He prides himself on saving the bison. In the program,h e describes creating a huge ranch without using pesticides and allowing predators like grizzly bears to roam. (Interestingly, his bison restaurants are never referenced.)

“He may think of himself as mainstream,” Oprah said at the end of the hour. “But to us, Ted’s a trail-blazing master. He revolutionized the way we watch television and the way we see the world.

Lisa Ekanger Your Preferrred Realtor!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mitt Romney Doesn’t Care About Poor People: Do You?

Mitt Romney Doesn’t Care About Poor People: Do You?

February 1, 2012 5:22 PM EST

Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney prompted outrage and derision Wednesday with a comment he made on CNN suggesting that he’s not interested in the problems of poor people.

Following his big primary triumph Tuesday in Florida -- a victory that probably sealed the fate of rivals Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul -- Romney told CNN: “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich. They’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”

Enlarge Close (Photo: Reuters)

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The media (as well as the Democrats) have somewhat twisted Romney’s remarks by claiming the “very poor” as the principal target of his neglect. What Romney meant to say was that the country’s vast and once-dominant middle class is now endangered by massive job cuts, loss of insurance, outsourcing and the housing collapse, among other ills.

No one can argue with that.

But since these words came from a very wealthy former venture capitalist (Romney has a net worth of some $200 million, according to some reports), he clearly was the not right person to make such a remark.

Romney backtracked a bit later from his incendiary comments, but the damage has already been done.

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"My focus in the campaign is on middle-income people,” he said later.

“Of course I'm concerned about all Americans -- poor, wealthy, middle class, but the focus of my effort will be on middle-income families who I think have been most hurt by the Obama economy."

The Democrats will likely use Romney’s own words against him to suggest he is out of touch with reality and is unfit to govern a country in which poverty is soaring.

Indeed, according to the U.S. Census, more than 46 million people in America are now living below the poverty line – the highest level ever recorded -- with the ranks of the indigent having swelled by 2.6 million in 2010 alone.

The poverty rate has increased three years in a row through 2010 -- it is now at 15.1 percent. Moreover, 49 million Americans (about 16.3 percent) are lacking health insurance coverage.

That’s a lot of misery, poverty and suffering in the wealthiest nation that world has ever known.

However, I have noticed that Romney is hardly the only person who “doesn’t care” about poor people.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the most despised minority group in the U.S. are not the blacks, nor the illegal immigrants, nor the gays, nor the Hispanics – it is poor people.

Being poor is considered a “crime” in this country and many (non-poor) people blame the poor for their own poverty.

I think I understand the mentality behind this attitude – the very basic premise of the so-called “American Dream” is that anyone, regardless of background, ethnicity, race or class, can succeed if they work hard and stay sober and focused. This is particularly true of immigrants who have fled poverty or repression (or both) in their native countries and struck it rich in the U.S.

Friends of mine in New York City -- many of whom are liberal Democrats and loathe the Republicans -- have themselves made comments about the poor that would even make Romney cringe.

One man said: “People are poor because they want to be poor.”

Another fellow, a wealthy investment banker, once told me: “Poor people deserve their fate. They’re lazy, they don’t want to be educated or work at a job and they want the government to hand them everything.”

A woman I know, who is actually a very caring and compassionate person in most matters, has called homeless people “disgusting vermin” and “parasitic losers.”

And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Interestingly, the most vociferous attacks upon the poor have come from people who themselves came from a modest background. One man I know who grew up in rural poverty in the Deep South (and is now an attorney) cites himself as an example of someone who overcame disadvantage and despair to achieve material success.

Strangely, the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession (which has thrown millions of hard-working, once upwardly mobile Americans out of work and out of their homes), doesn’t appear to have softened this animosity towards the poor. In fact, it may even have strengthened it.

Thus, Romney likely lost the support of at least 46 million people with his callous remarks, but he will probably enjoy a lot of support from the other 250 million or so.

Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!