Friday, February 24, 2012

Tips to Lower the Price of Your Property Tax

For anyone struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments, saving money on other bills can be crucial when it comes to keeping their homes. One very common, yet fairly unknown way to achieve that savings is by lowering your property tax.

Property taxes are often set at a fixed amount when the property is purchased; however social, economic and environmental changes in the neighborhood can cause the taxes to fluctuate.  In order to see that change reflected in your property tax payment, homeowners must file an appeal with their state.

The following are some tips to help you through the tax appeal process:

1. Keep your payments up-to-date.
Before even beginning the process make sure you check that your current property taxes are paid up. Most property tax assessors will not even consider an appeal if the homeowner has past-due payments.

2. File on time.
Most states have strict guidelines for when tax appeals can be filed. Be sure to check your states laws to make sure yours is filed on time, if not the appeal may be thrown out.

3. Be prepared for a battle.
With sweeping budget cuts and rampant downsizing affecting all areas of government, giving up income collected from taxes is the last thing your state wants to do. In other words, be prepared to fight for the fair taxes you deserve and be sure to provide substantial evidence as to why they should be lowered.

4. Appeal the appeal.
If you receive an unfavorable reassessment of your property taxes, it is possible to appeal the review. However, because this process can be somewhat complex, it is really only recommended when the newly appraised value of the property is significantly higher than the fair market amount. 

Even if you’re currently not financially distressed, you may want to consider lowering your property tax anyway. The money you save could be your lifeline in the future. For more information on restructuring your finances and other ways to help you keep your home, please call The Mortgage Law Group today. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tips on Getting Your Underwater Home Sold

There’s no doubt about it, since the burst of the housing bubble homeowners looking to sell their properties have faced a constant struggle. With prices at an all-time low, it is estimated that nearly one out of five American homes is underwater. Here are some tips to get above water and quickly sell your home at the best possible price:

1. Appraise the home
The first thing you should do before putting your home on the market is to have its value determined by an appraiser. By having the home appraised, sellers can get a realistic idea of what price a bank would value the home at before entering into a sale, saving them both time and money.

2. Conserve utilities
Cutting back on utility usage while your house is on the market is an easy way to make the home more attractive to potential buyers. Many times buyers will ask to look at the home’s utility bills to determine if they can afford the “entire package,” and in this economy having lower bills can definitely tip a sale in your favor.

3. Conduct your own inspection
Many buyers will want to have the home inspected before settling on a sale. Having your own inspection done allows you to know what red-flags the buyer may use to negotiate the home’s price and also gives you a chance to get them fixed for a lower cost beforehand.

4. Rev up your curb appeal
The first thing a buyer sees when checking out a new house is the view from the street, so make sure to pay extra special attention to your home’s outer appearance. Take a walk around your block and see what other homes look like on the outside, then try to make yours stand out. Revving up your curb appeal can be as simple as cleaning out your gutters or edging your lawn, both which can be done for practically next to nothing.

Following these tips could be the difference between selling your home fast or watching it flounder. Keep in mind that today’s market is unpredictable and even the most attractive homes sit untouched. If you’ve exhausted all of your resources to sell your underwater home, it may be time to consider other options such as a short sale or a deed-in-lieu arrangement. In either case, always be sure to educate yourself first before making any major decisions as it will save you time and money in the long run.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How Does A Mortgage Modification Work?

It’s no surprise that a majority of Americans have gone through ups and downs when it comes to their financial situation.  Some have lost jobs.  Some have suffered depressed home values, an unplanned medical expense, even an unfortunate death of a spouse that could have left an unpaid mortgage.
Fortunately in the United States struggling homeowners may qualify for one of the several mortgage modification programs available to help them pay off their mortgage and save their home.   So if you can demonstrate the factors (detailed below) and continue to stay current on your loan, your lender could reduce your payments, and/or spread out your payments.  Not making a new loan—modifying your current terms on your existing loans.
How does it work do you ask? Will you actually get the relief you need? Here’s what you need to know:
How Many Mortgage Modification Programs are Available?
The leading mortgage modification program is the Making Home Affordable Program, financed by the federal government, but also offered through individual lending banks.  Alternatively there are other programs such as Federal Housing Finance Agency Loan Modification, offered by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, available to homeowners who have a mortgage held by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. Lastly, some popular lenders offer their own programs; Citigroup, JP Morgan, Chase, Bank of America all offer their own loan modification program. 
Although there are quite a few different mortgage modification programs available, a majority of homeowners seeking them go through the Making Home Affordable Program.
Are You Eligible for a Modification?
There are several guidelines and restrictions to follow in order to be eligible.  A couple questions to ask yourself:
·         Is the home you are seeking a modification on your primary residence?
·         Are you current on your mortgage payments?
If you answered yes to both these questions, then your best bet is to set up an appointment with your lender’s modification department. Get prepared and be sure to collect and bring in at least 2 months of current pay stubs, tuition bills, utility bills, mortgage statement, auto loan papers, and unemployment checks, anything that illustrates your current situation.
Additionally, be willing and prepared to talk about changes including loss of income, unexpected expenses and depressed home value.  You will be expected to have your modification application and a hardship letter fully prepared including:
·         An explanation and proof you have made an effort to pay your current mortgage payment
·         Demonstrate that you are being cooperative with your bank
·         Be able to fully describe your financial circumstances
·         Be willing to talk and provide all requested documentation.
If granted a modification, it is likely to be granted a trial period during which you will be obligated to make lower mortgage payment.  If you miss a payment during the trial period, your modification could be denied.
Obtaining a mortgage modification can be a lengthy process depending on your individual case, however, it typically varies between 4-6 months.  Trial periods can range from 6-18 months.  So from start to finish, the whole process could take up to 2 years.
The process will be frustrating but try to keep calm and stay on top of your application process.   Keep a log of all the interactions, dates, times, and banker’s name for your records.  Try to remember that you are not alone and that your banker is trying to help.  If you have any doubts or questions do not hesitate to seek the answers you need.