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Mary Mastroeni

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Word of the Day

October 3, 2011 5:03 pm

Lease. Contract that conveys the right to use property for a period of time in return for a consideration, usually rent, paid to the property owner.

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Question of the Day

October 3, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: What happens at a trustee sale?

A: When a homeowner falls behind on three payments, the bank will record a notice of default against the property. When the owner fails to pay up, a trustee sale is held, and the property is sold to the highest bidder. The lender that initiated the foreclosure proceedings will usually set the bid price at the loan amount. Successful bidders receive a trustee's deed as proof of ownership.

Trustee sales are advertised in advance and require all-cash bids, which can include cashiers’ checks. Normally, a sheriff, constable, or lawyer conducts the sale and acts as the trustee. Because these sales typically attract savvy investors, inexperienced buyers should come extremely prepared.

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Word of the Day

September 30, 2011 8:03 pm

Junior mortgage. Any mortgage, such a second or third mortgage on a property, which is subordinate to the first one in priority.

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Question of the Day

September 30, 2011 8:03 pm

Q: How do lenders define bad credit?

A:
It is all those things that appear on your credit report that are unflattering. They include: missing a credit card payment, defaulting on a previous loan, filing for bankruptcy in the past seven years, or not paying your taxes.

Other black marks include a judgment filed against you – perhaps for non-payment of spousal or child support – or any collection activity.

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9 out of 10 Americans Still Believe in “American Dream

September 30, 2011 5:03 pm

Despite the ups and downs across America’s Real Estate landscape, I was buoyed by a recent New York Times/CBS News poll that affirmed home ownership is still the American dream. In fact, nearly nine in 10 Americans say an important part of their American Dream is owning their own home.

This point was brought to my attention by Scott Cooney with ERA Goodfellow Homes, a leading real estate brokerage serving western Connecticut. He recently blogged that he has never witnessed real estate market conditions quite like what the U.S. and the region is experiencing today.

So is that good or bad news for consumers who are currently in the market for a new home? Cooney seems optimistic in offering these insights:

1. Homes are More Affordable - Current housing prices are down 27% on average across the nation from peak values five years ago according to the Freddie Mac House Price Index (June 2006 to March 2011), and the national housing affordability index continues to hover at record levels.

2. Rates are Low - With interest rates hovering around 4%, 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates remain near historical lows, based on an average 30-year fixed mortgage rate with an average 0.7 point as shown in the Primary Mortgage Market Survey data according to Freddie Mac as of July 7, 2011.

3. Timing is Everything - While conforming loan limits were set to be reduced on Oct. 1, (2011) many sources said the effects would be minimal and would only affect a narrow percentage of the housing market.

4. Financing is Available - If you have stable employment of at least two years; sufficient income to cover the monthly mortgage payment and living expenses; adequate savings to make at least a 3.5% down payment; and, in general, a credit score of at least 620, Cooney says you are well on your way to the American dream.

Just remember, according to Cooney, the FHA requires a minimum 3.5% down payment; while conventional mortgages will require a down payment of 5% or more. FICO score minimums may be higher or lower depending on loan type, income history, property type and other factors.

So take stock in Cooney’s advice, and don’t let those sensational headlines about the current real estate market dissuade you from pursuing your American dream of home ownership.

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Homeowners Should Act Now, Debt Relief Act of 2007 Expires 2012

September 30, 2011 5:03 pm

According to Expert Home Solutions, the difference in the loan modification payment is often not different enough from the original. Sometimes the modification is canceled because there is no grace period and the homeowner misses his due date. 

According to an article on CNN only 1% of homeowners in negative equity have received modifications. There have been 1.5 million HAMP trial modifications since the program began in March, 2009. 50% of the trial modifications have been canceled due to borrowers defaulting or banks rejecting homeowners after the trial period. Only 152,289 of the trial modifications converted to permanent status were active in 2010. 15 million homeowners are in default and only 1% have been able to get a modification that is still in force.
According to walletpop.com, only 4% of loan modifications get a principal reduction. With only 1% of the 15 million homeowners in default getting a loan modification that means that about 7,000 homeowners received a principal reduction by April 2010. 

While this trend continues today, some homeowners want retirement with a reverse mortgage or want to leave a legacy to their family. In a modification with no principal reduction they will not be able to do either. Equity normally increases about 3% per year. If a home loan is $500,000 and now the home is worth $300,000, it will take 18 years to reach $500,000. This homeowner breaks even in 2029. If the owner short sales now, he can buy in two years and start building equity in 2013.

For more information, visit http://www.experthomesolutionsincusa.com.

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Medicare 2012: What You Need to Know

September 30, 2011 5:03 pm

The Medicare program can be confusing because of its many different parts, supplemental coverage options and specific Medicare enrollment periods for different products. All of these nuances can make Medicare hard to understand for new enrollees as well as for those who have been on the program for a number of years. 

If you're new to the program or even if you're a seasoned Medicare veteran, here are a few things you should know about the program heading into 2012. 

Be aware of deductibles, co-insurance, out-of-pocket limits and prescription drug costs
If you're new to Medicare it's important to know that both parts of Original Medicare (A and B) have deductibles. And, the Part A deductibles are not tied to a calendar year like they are with traditional health insurance. Instead, they're tied to a 90-day benefit period, with some exceptions. 

The Medicare Part B benefit also includes coinsurance after you meet your deductible. With coinsurance, Medicare pays a percentage of each bill (typically between 20 and 45 percent, depending on the service) and you pay the rest after applicable premiums and deductibles. 

Original Medicare also has no limits on the amount you could pay out of your own pocket for covered medical services each year. And, original Medicare does not cover the cost of most prescription drugs.
People concerned about some of the gaps in original Medicare have the option to enroll in insurance products regulated by the government but provided by private companies. These are products designed specifically to fill some of the different gaps in Medicare. They include:
• Medicare Part D stand-alone prescription drug plans, which cover the cost of most prescription drugs. New Benefit: In 2012 part D recipients get a 14 percent discount on the cost of generic drugs when they reach Medicare's coverage gap, or "donut hole," on top of the 50 percent discount they got last year on the cost of brand name drugs when they reach the donut hole.
• Medicare Supplement plans, which cover portions of the deductibles, coinsurance and out-of-pocket costs not covered by original Medicare.
• Medicare Advantage plans, which bundle together the Part D drug benefit with some additional coverage for deductibles, coinsurance and out-of-pocket costs. New Benefit: Starting in 2011, health care reform requires all Medicare Advantage plans to have a maximum limit of $6,700 on how much a customer can pay out of their own pocket for medical services, excluding the cost of prescription drugs. 

Each type of supplemental coverage has different guidelines for when you can enroll, change and cancel your coverage. 

Most beneficiaries can change a Medicare Advantage plan or stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan once per year during Medicare's annual enrollment period (AEP). The dates for AEP changed this year, and run from October 15 to December 7 in 2011. 

Medicare Supplement plans have an initial enrollment period, which occurs in the first 6 months after you enroll in Medicare Part B and are 65 or older. During that time, you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan and not be declined. But, if you try to enroll after the initial enrollment period, your application could be declined based on a review of your medical history. 

But, if you want to switch from a Supplement plan to an Advantage plan, the AEP is a good time to make that switch. 

New to Medicare?
Many people who are new to Medicare may have to deal with the complexity of the program. Here are some basics:
• Medicare is comprised of four major programs: Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D. Medicare Part A and Part B are often referred to as "Original Medicare." There are also Medicare Supplement plans, which are designed as an alternative to Part C to fill gaps in Parts A and B.
• Generally speaking, Part A covers in-patient hospitalization while Part B covers outpatient services and other medical care.
• Part C denotes the "Medicare Advantage" program where private insurance companies deliver Medicare Part A, Part B and -- in most cases—Part D benefits to plan enrollees.
• Part D is the Medicare prescription drug benefit that provides insurance coverage for medications.
• Your circumstances determine when you can enroll in or change Part D and C plans.

This and other food and lifestyle content can be found at www.editors.familyfeatures.com.

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Fun Foods That Fuel the Family

September 30, 2011 5:03 pm

For a lot of busy moms, it seems that kids' activities dominate the family calendar. Between school, soccer practice, ballet rehearsal and everything in between, sometimes you need to have a plan of attack for keeping the family satisfied. 

Eating right goes a long way to giving everyone the energy they need to fuel all those activities, but it can be tricky coming up with new ideas for meals and snacks the kids will actually eat. 

Blogger Meagan Francis, from The Happiest Mom, shares a few of her ideas for satisfying hungry kids and keeping them going throughout the busy day. 

Quick Breakfast Bites
• Wrap up the first meal of the day in a tortilla with scrambled egg burritos. If you're in a hurry, they can be a great on-the-go breakfast.
• Make a fruit smoothie or a toasted whole grain English muffin with peanut butter and no sugar added jelly.
• Skip the sugar-bomb-in-a-bowl cereal and go for whole grain cereal with strawberry or banana slices. 

Stock Up On Easy-to-Cart Snacks
• Pretzels dipped in peanut butter (or your favorite nut butter) is a creamy, crunchy snack that gives kids a little protein to fuel their afternoon activities.
• Let the kids help make a custom blend of homemade trail mix using their favorite ingredients. Try walnuts, almonds, yogurt covered raisins, sunflower seeds, and mini chocolate chips.
• A delicious, low fat—and fun to eat—portable snack, string cheese pleases just about every kid. 

Pack Some Lunchbox Fun
Stuff it - Fill pita pockets with their favorite chicken salad, low-sodium deli meat, or peanut butter and a banana.
Dip it - Give them finger foods to dip, like apples and peanut butter; baby carrots and ranch or yogurt dip.
Build it - Let them build their lunch by packing the ingredients in separate baggies or containers. Try a stacker with crackers, cheese and deli slices.

This and other food and lifestyle content can be found at www.editors.familyfeatures.com.

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Word of the Day

September 30, 2011 5:03 pm

Judgment. Court decree stating that one person is indebted to another. Also specifies the amount of the debt.

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Question of the Day

September 30, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: What if I am turned down for a loan?

A: Unless your credit is absolutely abysmal – with all kinds of judgments, liens, excessive delinquencies or non-payments, foreclosures and bankruptcies that show no attempt on your part to make progress – you can generally get a loan.

More and more borrowers are finding ways to become homeowners despite past credit problems, a lack of a credit history, or debt-to-income ratios that exceed traditional limits. This is because a greater number of lenders are willing to take a chance with borrowers today that they once turned down for home loans.

If you are denied a mortgage, ask the lender for a full explanation. If you feel you are creditworthy, then appeal the decision in writing.


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