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July 2007

Enough Already!

Ok, I've had all I can take, I can't take anymore...the Pocono Record strikes again!  Has anyone else noticed the negativity of our local newspaper?  The articles they print, and especially the ones that make it to the front page, are awful.  You'd think that none of the staff over there live here and want the best for our area, our home values.  And any BIG (read 'the most negative they can find') news is continually reprocessed, rewritten, regurgitated and otherwise repeated over and over and over again-to make sure, I guess, that everyone has heard how awful things are around here.  Whether it is the unfortunate escapades of local political figures, criminal activity by our own residents or those that happen to land here via Route 80, homebuilder scams, or whatever, they sink their teeth in and don't let go until it's dead 10 times over.  I'm tired of it.

What has pushed me over the edge is the recent rash of articles which SCREAM about our real estate market falling into the toilet...

July  8:  'Monroe Home Foreclosures Through The Roof' (front page, Sunday paper): this article is an awesome example of twisting data to suit the purpose of generating hysteria.  What the article didn't say is that no one can figure out where they got their data...the only thing some of us can figure is that they are quoting the nmber of foreclosure filings that occur before that first notice of foreclosure gets sent out to people.  This number is always artificially high.  Homeowners get the notices and a big percentage of them pay up and get current and are no longer in foreclosure.  To compare this number to the number of foreclosures that actually happened in previous years is pure falsification which should be illegal IMO. Our foreclosure rates here are high enough without puffing them up even more to generate readership of the paper.  Luckily for us all the real estate investors out there apparently don't read the Pocono Record and are continuing to put there money into property here.

July 24:  'Home Sales Drop 29 Percent' (Tuesday morning, front page):  sure, the number of home sales is behind from last year, but the average sale price is up.  Why isn't that the headline??  I just did the figures for the community I live in, and the average sale price is up a healthy 5.6% from the same time period last year.  Is that a bad market?  Or is it just that seasonably high inventory coupled with buyers who are scared to death by the media and feel like they have to shop and wait and shop and wait and see what happens with the 'precarious' situation here, are keeping the number of sales down?  My crystal ball tells me that we are going to finish off the rest of the year with very brisk sales and make up alot of this deficit.

July 27:  'New Home Sales Slump' (Friday):  well yeeaahh...who the heck would buy in the Poconos now?  What with every other house going in to foreclosure and the builder scams going on and the death of the subprime lenders, which of course all originated in the Poconos, don't you know!!  I'm getting worked up here.....

And then yesterday (Sunday, front page, big picture making it REALLY stand out), the creme de la creme 'Construction Continues in Monroe, Despite Housing Slump': 12,000+ lots in various phases of subdivision and approval across the county.  Various builders and owners are going through all this while the market sux (according to them, not me).  And the clinching last line...'Will you still want to live here?'  AARRRGGGHHHHHHH

How much is one supposed to endure? 

New Facebook Groups-Join Us!

If you are not familiar with Facebook, you really should check it out.  It is a social utility, similar to MySpace in that you post information about yourself & your interests, but different because it offers many cool applications and unique customization options.  It is becoming a popular tool for business people to promote themselves in a new way, too.  I think they reached 30 million members this month.

So I joined and I am already liking the way it funnels relevent information to you based on the groups you join and the friends you have, and have already found a few cool links and tools  to use on my real estate websites.  For a more thorough explanation of what it's all about, read this article.

I've not found a whole lot of local stuff on the site yet, aside from groups from the local high schools and ESU, but I am hopeful that this is only because I haven't looked hard enough.  To help get this rolling, I have created two new groups (so far!), Pocono Mountains Business Network and Living in Penn Estates, PA.  I invite any of you readers to sign on and join either of these groups if they are relevant to you.  The Business group is intended to be a networking group for local business people to learn, share and refer business to/with each other.  The Penn Estates group is intended for residents of my community to meet, get to know each other and communicate.  I already have lots of ideas for other groups both business related and personal/family ones.  I imagine using this site for planning group trips and all kinds of things!

The Definition of Community

Yesterday Penn Estates had its 4th (I think...) annual Community Day picnic and I have to tell you:  this is what it's all about!  What a day!!  I have not seen so many smiling faces at one time, ever.  We enjoyed games for all ages (I think I heard them announcing sack races, scavenger hunts, a horseshoe tournament, and all sorts of jollity!), food, displays and giveaways from local businesses, food, music, and of course an awesome presentation by the Penn Estates Teen Steppers (our very own stompin' super-group of teen ambassadors, whipped into shape by Ms. Stephanie herself).  And did I mention the food?  We were treated to burgers and dogs grilled with love by the Board of Directors, cotton candy, sno-cones, and then the feast of all feasts: pig roast, roast beef and all the trimmings.  mmmmmmmm  What is the date for next year's picnic?  I am definately marking my calendar.

The idea of Community Day is to provide our residents a day of fun, food & friendship, at no charge, and in return we get the benefits of an increased awareness of what it means to live in a community and, hopefully, increase our corp of volunteers available to help out every other day of the year.  This is our single most attended event, consistently!

Each time, this party gets better and better thanks to the efforts of our all-volunteer Community Day Committee.  This group works year-round planning and fundraising to ensure that we get an awesome picnic, free and without the support of homeowner dues.  That is what makes this so special-that it is truly the loving work of dedicated neighbors and friends, for the sole benefit of neighbors and friends here in Penn Estates.  Is there any other place to live in the Poconos that has people who care so much to so carefully cultivate this sense of community? 

I am so very proud to be a part of this Penn Estates family!

Buying a Home with No $$

'Seller assist' is a term used when the seller of a property pays some or all of the closing costs for the buyer of their property.  Seller assistance is becoming more common with the advent of 100% financing and low down payment loans.  As these types of programs have gained popularity, seller assistance has increased to meet the demand of today's cash-poor borrowers.  Please note:  These are not the sub-prime loans (for the credit-challenged customer) that have been in the news lately, rather these programs are best suited to borrowers with good credit histories and steady employment track records.

Typically a buyer puts in an offer to purchase a home and in the offer asks the seller to assist with closing costs.  It is then up to the seller to accept, reject or counter the buyer's proposal.  While these kinds of offers are not always considered the most desirable because of the potential for appraisal problems, in a slower market they can be taken more seriously.  In a hot seller's market, however, these kinds of offers are harder to get accepted because of the competition with more traditional offerings.  But in today's 'normalizing' market, credit-worthy-but-cash-poor buyers have better chances of winning contracts for the homes they want.

The maximum amount of seller assistance is determined by the type of loan the purchaser is applying for.  Most 100% financing programs allow up to a 6% seller contribution to the buyer's closing costs.  In most states this is sufficient to pay all of the buyer's costs, allowing them to get in to their new home with minimal out of pocket expense.

FHA loans also allow buyers with limited funds to purchase homes.  This program requires a 3% down payment but does allow the seller to pay a full 6% towards the closing costs.  Therefore, a buyer only needs 3% of the purchase price in order to close the transaction.  But even still, this program allows the down payment to be obtained through a 'gift' (monies not expecting to be repaid from parents, grandparents, etc) or through a grant.  Grants are obtained from organizations helping buyers (usually first-time buyers) purchase a home with little money out of pocket.  Usually these grants come with conditions such as the buyer taking a homebuyer counseling course, or repayment of the grant if the home is re-sold within a certain timeframe.

There are many mortgage financing programs available for buyers with limited funds.  Your loan officer will know all of the guidelines and requirements for them, and will be able to advise you accordingly.  For more information, please contact [email protected]

Andy Williams, President
Abacus Regional Mortgage