Headlines: Consumers don't shop for mortgage, title services enough

Here's a look at what's happening in real estate in the District of Columbia and beyond. 

Why DC's housing inventory shortage will continue 'for the foreseeable future'

A recent uptick in the number of homes on the market hasn’t been enough to balance an inventory shortage in the DC metro, and low inventory will likely continue to be a theme through the year. -Urban Turf

How to negotiate closing costs on a newly constructed home

Today, many builders offer incentives to the buyer in the form of either upgrades to the house or credits given at settlement that help reduce the closing costs. -Washington Post

How much for a Georgetown condo under 440 square feet?

This zero-bedroom condo thinks a lot of itself, and it should with how well it's able to transform a potentially cramped abode into a well-lit, well-furnished space. -Curbed DC

JBG acquires majority of Akridge's Half Street project by Nationals Park

DC developer Akridge has sold the majority of its Half Street parcel across from Nationals Park to The JBG Cos., which is expected to redevelop the site with two new residential buildings and a large amount of what one executive called "dramatic" retail. -Washington Business Journal

Study shows consumers spend too little time mortgage shopping

According to a recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in conjunction with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, a significant number of consumers may not be shopping enough to ensure they are receiving the mortgage that best fits their circumstances. -Washington Post

Equity One unveils Westbard development plans

The condo building proposed for the Manor Care site would have 75-foot heights facing River Road, but rise 50 feet in the back to better fit in with the single-family homes in the neighborhood. The company is planning about 250 units for the two buildings. -Bethesda Magazine

Hazard Insurance – If I change it, will it affect my mortgage?

If you are like everyone else, you have at least one New Years’ resolution.  Some choose weight loss, others fiscal awareness, other personal awareness, etc, etc.  If one of your resolutions is to lower your monthly costs and you are looking at changing your hazard / homeowner’s insurance, make sure you talk to your mortgage company.  

Why, you ask?  Well, you want to make sure you have enough insurance to meet the lender’s guidelines and the lender has notice of your insurer.  

What do you mean by "having enough insurance to meet the lender’s guidelines"?

If you change your insurance (lower your coverage), then there is a possibility you no longer have the amount of coverage required by your lender. Your lender is guided by the type of loan you have and specific guidelines provided to the bank either internally or by the government. You can contact your lender to get the list of requirements/guidelines for your coverage, so you can make sure you get the insurance that is best for your budget AND meet those requirements.

Why does it matter is I change insurance companies as long as I have the same or better coverage?  

In the documents you typically sign when getting a loan, there is typically a document stating you will keep your insurance intact and you will provide the lender proof of insurance – regardless of whether you have your insurance paid out of escrow or you pay the insurance directly. The lender will need to make sure the new company and the new policy meets the appropriate guidelines. The lender will also be checking to make sure it is listed on your policy as a mortgagee and the mortgagee clause is correct.

(Please note that the lender is focused on the fact that you are changing your insurance company. Does not matter if you are leaving your coverage the same, increasing coverage or decreasing coverage.)  

What happens if I do not contact the lender when I change to a new insurance company?  

The lender usually checks on insurance annually – whether you have a current policy and it has the appropriate coverage. If the lender checks in with the old company, it is likely the old company will report they no longer insure your property. When this happens and no new insurance company information has been provided to the lender, the lender will send a letter to you allowing you to provide proof of insurance. If you do not respond to this letter, the lender will put into place its own insurance – forced-place insurance is not easy to get removed.  

What is the bottom line?

When and if you change your hazard/homeowner’s insurance, call your lender to make sure those changes will not affect your loan servicing.

FHA to reduce cost of mortgage insurance

In an attempt to bring more First-Time Homebuyers back into the housing market, the Federal Housing Administration ("FHA") recently announced that it would reduce its annual mortgage insurance premiums from 1.35 percent to 0.85 percent.  

This is estimated to save borrowers approximately $1,000 per year on a $200,000.00 loan, for example.

After requiring a $1.7 billion bailout from the federal government as a result of a high number of loan defaults during the financial crisis in 2013, FHA more than doubled the mortgage insurance premiums to rebuild its funds and raised the average credit scores required in order to qualify for an FHA loan.  

Now that FHA has started to earn profits, industry insiders called for FHA to reduce the insurance premiums to allow more borrowers back into the market.  FHA has also stated that they will take additional steps over the upcoming months to reduce additional mortgage costs by cutting red tape and making lending standards more clear.

The new policy is expected to go into effect by the end of January 2015.

Not all Power of Attorney documents created equal

The topic of "Power of Attorney" comes up pretty frequently in our office. On an almost daily occurrence, clients ask whether or not a Power of Attorney is sufficient for a client’s upcoming real estate settlement.  

Or, at the 11th hour we are informed someone who should be at settlement will not be attending settlement, and then come to find out their Power of Attorney is insufficient.  

Government mortgage entity Fannie Mae also issued new guidelines regarding the use of Powers of Attorney for purchase transactions earlier this year, so it seems like a good time to revisit the topic of Power of Attorney and discuss the differences between various types of Powers of Attorney.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a written document which grants authority to an agent to act on behalf of a principal, in the event that the principal is unable to make decisions or act on his or her own behalf.  

There are several different kinds of Powers of Attorney, and it is important to understand the differences between them.

A General Power of Attorney is one that allows an agent to make all personal and business decisions on behalf of the principal.  It gives the broadest authorizations to the agent, and it is often used to allow the agent to make medical, legal, financial or business decisions for the principal.

In stark contrast, a Specific or Limited Power of Attorney is one that is narrowly drafted to give an agent power to conduct a specific transaction with specific powers.  For example, a principal could have a specific Power of Attorney drafted authorizing his agent to sell his property at 123 Main Street, Washington, DC, including the authority to sign all documents related to the sale, to include the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, Deed, etc.

In addition, a Durable Power of Attorney is one that remains in effect even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated.  In order for any Power of Attorney to be accepted as a Durable Power of Attorney, specific language must be included in the body of the document (not just the caption of the document) stating that it shall "not be affected by subsequent disability or incapacity of the principal, or lapse of time."  If the specific language is not included in the document itself, the agent’s power to act on behalf of the principal will end if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated.

As each of the jurisdictions in the DC metro area have different requirements for drafting a real estate power of attorney, we strongly recommend that if you require the use of a power of attorney for an upcoming real estate transaction, you contact our office so that we can provide you with the required form for that particular jurisdiction.  

Or, if you already have a power of attorney, please forward a copy to our office for review, well in advance of settlement, to ensure that all the statutory requirements have been included for that jurisdiction.

New law will eliminate subordination agreement requirements for some Maryland residential refinances

A homeowner who wants to refinance his or her first mortgage when there are two mortgages on the property is typically required to obtain a subordination agreement for the existing second mortgage.

This is because without such an agreement, when the existing first mortgage is paid off, the existing second mortgage would move up to "first lien" position, which would mean that the refinance first mortgage would end up in "second lien" position, which would not be okay with the refinance lender.

A subordination agreement is an agreement from the existing second mortgage-holder that they will be in second place, behind the refinance first mortgage. 

There is a new law in Maryland that will go into effect on October 1, 2013 that will eliminate the need to obtain a subordination agreement for a second mortgage for certain residential refinances. If the requirements of the law are satisfied, upon recordation, a refinance first mortgage will automatically have the same priority as the existing first mortgage that it replaces.

The requirements are:

  1. The interest rate for the refinance first mortgage must be lower than the interest rate for the existing first mortgage;
  2. The principal amount secured by the refinance first mortgage must be no more than the unpaid outstanding principal balance of the existing first mortgage plus an amount to pay closing costs of up to $5,000;
  3. The principal amount secured by the existing second mortgage must be no more than $150,000; and
  4. The refinance first mortgage must contain in bold or capital letters specific language that is set forth in the law.

Virginia already has a similar law.

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