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Suzanne Macdowell's Blog

By Suzanne MacDowell | Agent in 07856
  • United Law Center Defeats Bank in Mortgage Mod. Trial, Yields $15.7 M punitive award

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent in Morris County  |  August 15, 2014 5:58 AM  |  38 views  |  No comments
    "...the ruling is a message to all banking institutions that they’ve taken advantage of folks long enough and the country is really tired of it."

    There is only ONE way to 'punish' a big corporation and that is to hit them where it hurts, in the pocketbook! The award, while it seems excessive, is probably miniscule in comparison to the profits made each year by the mortgage servicer. Meanwhile, the mortgage industry is going nuts and making all sorts of inaccurate claims, going back to blaming borrowers and saying it is all the government's fault, and pay no attention to the lobbyists we sent to influence government actions. Well, guys, apparently the jury felt differently.

    Here are two different viewpoints on the verdict:



  • Dear Colleagues - Please do not text in the middle of the night!

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent in Morris County  |  August 11, 2014 5:36 AM  |  33 views  |  7 comments
    I keep my phone on all night and leave it next to my bed.  I have a very good reason for doing this, I have friends and family who have ongoing health issues and who may need to reach me on an emergency basis.  This makes the current trend of clients and colleagues texting in the middle of the night particularly annoying. 

    I have a colleague who, in my opinion, abuses text messaging.  We are currently working on a transaction together.  This morning, Monday, at 7 am he began texting me about the mortgage commitment.  Now, I certainly know, as I am sure he does, that the bank does not open until 9 am.  There is absolutely nothing I can do for him until 9 am.  Nevertheless, he insists on texting me repeatedly asking, 'should we be worried' and even after I said 'no', he continues to text.  If this were the telephone and not a text it would be considered harassment.

    I understand some people think the beauty of texting is that the recipient can answer at their leisure.  Well, this particular colleague does not, apparently, see it that way. I have tried ignoring him until I have an answer, however, an unanswered text will result in two, three, four or more follow up text messages. 

    Dear colleagues, I value our relationship and communication very much, however, please, please, please do not text me in the middle of the night or at a time when you know there is nothing I can do to help you.  There is nothing so important that it can't wait until morning, and after 9 am.  If you are afraid you will forget, write it down.  Just, please, do not interrupt my sleep or my morning coffee. 
  • The State of the Union -- depends a great deal on real estate

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Morris County, Agent2Agent in Morris County, Foreclosure in Morris County  |  January 28, 2014 10:22 AM  |  477 views  |  No comments
    In all the talk of budgets and jobs one thing seems to have gotten lost, the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act of 2007.  Yes, the housing market is strong and getting stronger, but jobs are lagging and as a result many families still face foreclosure and/or short sale of their homes.  Unless this Act is extended, they will also face tax liability on the forgiven debt.  In New Jersey, because our home prices are relatively high, it is not unusual to have $100,000 of the debt forgiven in a short sale situation.  If the client is in a 30% tax bracket (also not unusual) that means they would, in effect, have an additional $100,000 of 'income' and incur a tax liability of $30,000 on top of losing their home.  This is unconscionable, unforgivable and unacceptable.

    I called both my Senators and my Representative in Washington today and encouraged them to have some compassion, show some mercy, and work to extend the Act.  Won't you please join me?
  • La Vie En Rose

    Posted Under: Rental Basics in Morris County, Rentals in Morris County, Investment Properties in Morris County  |  January 23, 2014 4:41 AM  |  471 views  |  No comments
    Yesterday I took a rental client out to look at high end townhouses and single family homes in a very upscale town here in Morris County, NJ.  These were expensive units, asking $3000 approximately, per month for rent.  And what did we find?  Pink!  Lots and lots of pink!  Pink bathrooms, pink carpets, pink, pink, pink.  Oddly, at least one of the kitchens had been updated, but the bath was still pink.  And in the others, pink carpets. 

    Landlords, take note, nothing screams DATED like pink.  Get rid of it!  Yes, we like looking at the world through rose colored glasses, but not in the bathroom!  LOL!
  • Bed Bugs, Yuck!

    Posted Under: Rental Basics in Morris County, Rentals in Morris County, Investment Properties in Morris County  |  October 11, 2013 3:30 AM  |  544 views  |  4 comments
    Every body has heard of the recent outbreak of bed bug infestation, but how much do you know about protecting yourself and your rental properties?  Or for that matter, about potential remediation should an infestation occur?  Any idea as to what methods actually work?  Cost?  Or whether those costs can be passed on to the tenant who brings the bugs with them when they move into your rental property?

    Bed bugs are nasty little creatures!  They feed off of human blood and, once they invade your property, they can be very difficult to get rid of.  Interestingly, cleanliness has little to do with whether or not you and your tenants will be infested.  You walk into a home or property that has been infested, the bed bugs 'hitch a ride' perhaps on your pant leg, perhaps in your luggage and, when you get home, instant infestation!

    Once in your home, the little buggers like to hide deep inside mattresses, furniture and, of all places, electrical switches and receptacles.  The best indicator you have an infestation is the bites themselves.  Oh, sometimes you will see the 'carcass' or even a live bug, but most likely you will just wake up bitten and itching. 

    Chemical sprays are only sometimes effective in getting rid of the problem.  The reason is the females, and the eggs they carry, will go running for the walls, trying to get as far from the killing spray as possible, even going into the adjacent apartments, until the danger is past and then they will come right back out.  For any significant infestation, the treatment should include the one thing we know will kill these creatures, and their larvae and their eggs, HEAT! 

    An exterminator will likely bring in a 'bug sniffing dog' to confirm the presence of bed bugs. They will likely recommend that adjacent apartments be evaluated and treated as well to prevent the bugs from simply changing locations. Once confirmed they will start with a pre-treatment spray of chemicals along baseboards and electrical outlets and switches.  Furniture will need to be moved away from walls, electrical appliances unplugged and switch plates removed.  Bedding will need to be stripped and switch plates drawers removed from dressers, etc. It's quite a procedure!  Then, several days later, the infected area will be sealed off and heated to between 130 and 150 degrees and kept at that temperature for several hours.  Anything and everything that can be affected by the heat will need to be removed, pets, plants, candles, medicines, aerosol cans, and anything sweetened with artificial sweeteners.  But, the heat will kill the bugs, their larvae and eggs.  It is the ONLY truly effective treatment for larger infestations. 

    Finally the exterminator will return within 10 days for a final spray of chemicals, just to be safe.  Some will even provide special mattress covers that will seal any bugs that may have managed to survive inside so that they either suffocate of starve.  Most treatments are NOT guaranteed and the cost can run into the thousands of dollars. 

    Some State and local governments are considering requiring landlords to have apartments evaluated by a licensed extermiantor at every change in tenants.  Even if not required this is probably a good idea.  It establishes that the unit is not infested at the time the tenants move in.  The cost is somewhere around $200 which is a bargain compared to the approximately $2000 per unit it will cost to exterminate adequately.  At that point, if tenants bring bed bugs with their furniture and belongings, it will be their responsibility to arrange for and pay for the extermination. 

  • Time to fight back against bad appraisals and manipulative banks

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Morris County, Financing in Morris County, Agent2Agent in Morris County  |  September 26, 2013 4:19 AM  |  554 views  |  4 comments
    The biggest complaint I hear lately from realtors is that, with the rising market, their transactions are being derailed by appraisal issues.  Some of those issues are legitimate, some are not.  The question is, how do we deal with the ones that are not.

    I have such a situation right now.  The appraiser missed a bedroom, missed a full bath and used comparable sales outside the (very desireable) lake community where the home is located.  As a result, the home was undervalued, according to the recent sales I have seen, to the tune of about $20,000. 

    First, we asked the appraiser to reconsider based on comparable sales.  We had to do this without being able to even see the appraisal.  He refused.

    When we got the appraisal the problem was readily apparent.  We asked the bank to review the appraisal and make adjustments for the bedroom, bathroom and community, among other glaring mistakes and omissions.  The bank refused.

    I reached out to HUD directly, since this is an FHA loan and the appraisal will follow us for the next three months at least, and asked what could be done.  They said, contact the bank, and they emailed me HUD guidance that says the bank AND the appraiser are EQUALLY responsible for the integrity of the appraisal. 

    Then, I happened to be speaking with another appraiser who needed my help, so I asked if he would give me some advice as well.  I explained the situation.  He asked which bank and when I told him, there was a brief moment of silence after which he said three words, "Find another bank".

    It seems the bank in question has a reputation among appraisers for having such stringent and unreasonable requirements that they are often required to ignore such things as quality of the neighborhood and number of bedrooms in order to match those criteria.  He said the one thing he could advise is that missing a full bath was a HUGE mistake and should be addressed by the bank, however, they had already refused.

    I have also heard from more than one attorney that this same bank created huge issues for their real estate clients that derailed purchases.   

    I am considering taking this appraisal to our State's Department of Insurance and Banking.  It is clearly inaccurate and if this particular bank is manipulating their criteria to force low appraisals, isn't that as bad as what they were doing a few years back, colluding with appraisers to inflate appraised value?  It's a huge disservice to the home buyers and sellers who are getting trapped in these transaction issues.

    I am also considering publishing the name of the bank.  No, it is not one of the big three, but it's still a pretty big bank.   I wonder if there is any liability for telling my story and naming names?  I can assure you that, if one of my clients receives an offer with a pre approval from this particular bank, I will suggest they refuse the offer unless and until the buyer agrees to use a different bank.  I think it's only fair to warn my fellow agents that they will face similar issues with this bank.

    What do YOU think?
  • Guard those closing documents well!

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Morris County  |  August 3, 2013 5:13 AM  |  395 views  |  No comments
    When you close on your new home, you should receive a copy of every single document you sign.  Generally they are put into a nice folder for you, sometimes a colorful folder with the name of the Title Insurance Company embossed on it.  Guard that folder well, never lose track of it, put it in a safe place.  That folder has valuable information and documents you may need in order to sell the home when the time comes for you to upgrade, or downgrade to a smaller place.

    We are about to close on a home, a short sale, and the owners have already moved into their rental home.  One week prior to closing we discovery judgments against the prior owner of the home.  How do we clear those judgments so that the new owner can get his mortgage?  We need the Title Insurance Policy which shows those judgments were paid years ago.  However, the current owner cannot locate the title insurance policy or even remember the name of the title insurance company.  He remembers the name of the attorney who did the closing, but that was nearly 10 years ago and the attorney is gone.  So now we are scrambling, trying to work with a new attorney to locate a file in his archives that is more than 10 years old, just to find a copy of the Title Insurance Policy that would guarantee those judgments were paid.

    The moral of the story is this, take that folder, put it in a safe place, never lose track of it.  You don't have to look at it again for years and years, but never, ever lose track of it, those documents will one day save you a lot of time and trouble.
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