Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Winter driving classes scheduled

As winter approaches many motorists new to North Idaho’s winter driving conditions may want to touch up their driving skills.
To assist in the effort, the Idaho State Police will have two Road Safe Classes for the 2013 winter season.
The classes are scheduled Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. and Saturday, December 7, 2013 at noon
.Both classes will be at the Idaho State Police District Office at 615 W. Wilbur Ave. in Coeur d Alene.

In their tenth year these award-winning programs have been offered year round to the public in a classroom setting designed to educate drivers on the typical problems associated with winter road conditions in Idaho.
ISP driving instructors use a power point presentation and video on safe driving tips as well as how to prepare for the winter driving season The free classes last for approximately 3 hours.

To enroll, call Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at (208) 209-8620, Class size is limited to 60 people, 


-Ralph Bartholdt

Fewer homes, higher prices, higher rates

Existing home sales declined in September but low inventory pushed prices up in North Idaho’s urban areas such as Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, as well as in much of the country, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Mortgage rates also crept up. The national average commitment for a 30-year fixed-rate conventional mortgage rose to 4.49 percent in September from 4.46 percent a month earlier. The rate is the highest since July 2011 when it was 4.55 percent, according to Freddie Mac.
The median existing home price was $199,200 in September nationally, an increase of almost 12 percent from last year.
Fewer than 10 percent of home sales were foreclosures.
The median time on the market for all homes was 50 days in September, up from 43 days in August.

In the Coeur d’Alene Market Center the average price of a sold home increased from $199,000 in May to $245,000 in September, and about 10 percent fewer homes sold in September than August, according to statistics compiled by the local MLS.
Economists think sales may slow further as the previously-enjoyed affordability of homes falls and prices increase, outpacing income growth in many areas. Mortgage rates could also lower the affordability of homes in upcoming months, according to the NAR.

-Ralph Bartholdt

Monday, October 28, 2013

FEMA flood insurance impacting Idaho homeowners

Idaho homeowners who live along some lakes and rivers are finding that changes made to the National Flood Insurance Program are causing their insurance premiums to increase.

Earlier this year part of a new law, called the Biggert-Waters Insurance Reform Act, went into effect phasing out flood insurance subsidies on many older homes. In addition, the federal government has been revising its flood zone maps and reassessing the level of flood risk for various areas.

As a result, many homeowners are being required to buy flood insurance for the first time or pay higher premiums on existing policies.
In some cases premiums of less than $1,000 a year may jump to $8000 over the next five years. FEMA, which monitors the program, said premiums are expected to jump to a level that FEMA estimates to be the property’s true value of coverage.
Because of the re-mapping, an effort that took place over the past 5 years or more, some homes that were not before considered to be in a flood zone are now designated as flood zone properties.
Critics of the program say that the spike of increased rates could have been avoided if FEMA had updated its maps regularly. The previous maps were 20 years old.  Map upgrading every few years would have prompted gradual rate hikes of around 5 percent.
The hikes are meant to shore up the coffers of FEMA’s federal flood insurance program which is $300 billion in debt due in part to disbursements made to property owners who fell victim to the Sandy and Katrina Hurricanes.

-Based on wire reports 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

USDA loans for entrepreneurs, small business owners


Entrepreneurs and business owners who have been turned down for conventional or SBA financing have another option:
Because we’re lucky enough to live in what the federal government calls a rural or underdeveloped area, it offers USDA commercial loans for areas like North Idaho.
USDA commercial loans can finance commercial ventures in areas with populations under 50,000 inhabitants. That means that Coeur d'Alene, with a 2010 census population of 44,137 has a low enough density that USDA will insure qualified loans, freeing up financing options for entrepreneurs, according to Kim Cooper, spokesman for the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors.
The USDA Business and Industry Loan program – it’s loans are often called B&I Loans – is designed to create and save rural jobs, and improve the economic and environmental climate of rural communities.
Applicants must qualify and the funding isn't 100 percent, but there is no minimum loan amount so even small operations that need minimal cash may apply. Fees must be negotiated with the lender because USDA does not actually loan the money – they just insure the bank that the money will be repaid.
With a B&I loan you can obtain working capital - not lines of credit - over a seven-year term. Expand or buy equipment and pay the loan back over 15 years, or finance real estate for a 30-year term. This is great news since many commercial loans only amortize over a maximum of 20 years, Cooper said.


A version of this article appeared in the CDA Press


Foreclosure doesn't mean unoccupied

Almost half of the nation's foreclosed homes are still occupied.
In some big housing markets, like Miami and Los Angeles, the percentage jumps to 60 percent or higher, real estate statistics show.

People living in repossessed homes, including renters or former owners, aren’t paying a dime because the mortgage and rent is free, according to RealtyTrac, which used postal records to see if change-of-address forms had been filed, or if mail was still being picked up at foreclosed homes.

A recent article by CNN Money showed that old owners typically took about two months to leave and renters took a year or more according to their rental agreement, which must be honored by banks.

"If someone has a bona fide rental agreement, we have to abide by that," Amy Bonitatibus, a spokeswoman for JP Morgan Chase, told CNN Money.

The eviction process can take months as it winds through the legal process. The timing varies based on local laws and the backlog of cases in individual courts. Some states allow former owners time to secure financing to get back their homes.

In other cases, banks may be in no rush to kick people out, according to CNN Money. Markets with a lot of homes for sale and depressed prices make it hard for banks to sell a home, and recoup losses, so they wait for prices to come up to start the eviction process.

"Many foreclosed homes get vandalized or squatters move in," Pauliana Lara a homeowners activist who fights foreclosures, said.

A home recently lived-in sells better than one that has been left vacant for a long time, she said.

Article based on a report by CNN Money


Monday, October 14, 2013

Lenders process applications without IRS


Lenders are processing mortgage applications despite the government shutdown, which has furloughed the IRS income verification process.

Lenders, such as Wells Fargo the nation’s biggest mortgage lender, are telling underwriters to move ahead with mortgage applications without the completed IRS income verification.

Other banks, still recovering from the flood of defaults resulting from the housing bubble burst are wary of borrowers with less-than-thoroughly documented income sources. In some cases, they are requiring a borrower’s 1040, or asking for copies of bank deposits for the month they collected their 2012 tax refund, or copies of the checks sent to the IRS to pay their taxes.

A small percentage of lenders are waiting out the shutdown – deciding that lending without IRS income verification is too risky.


-From CNN Business Watch

Freddie and Fannie ease lending rules




Some government backed loans won’t be hamstrung by the government shut down.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have relaxed rules requiring lenders to verify a borrower’s income with the IRS before closing on a mortgage, a process that because of the U.S. government shutdown would have kept banks from approving mortgages.

When some lenders reported last week that they could not approve mortgages because the shutdown had severely curtailed the IRS's operations the two government-backed mortgage giants loosened their otherwise stringent requirements.


They allowed lenders to continue to issue new loans without the IRS's confirmation. Borrowers will still need to sign an income verification request with the IRS, but verification will wait until the IRS is back to full work mode and lenders can verify a borrower's income.

-From CNN Business wire