Australian Treat at Boone Hall Plantation

Thu, Jul 16th 2009 6:12 pm by Alan Donald General

Little River BandBoone Hall PlantationBoone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant holds the Boone Hall Summer Concert Series.

This Sunday, July 19th at 5:30 pm (music starts at 7 pm) The Little River Band will animate the beautiful oaks and gardens of this Southern plantation.

You can come buy wine, beer and food, and enjoy a picnic-concert in a joyful summer evening setting under the oaks.

Tickets are $20 if you purchase them in advance, or $25 at the gate. You can also reserve seats. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

A Loan With No Income Verification? In Today's Market?

Thu, Jul 16th 2009 9:45 am by Alan Donald General

Down MarketI thought that we had seen the last of the loans without income verification!

I just received a promo email advertising a "Stock Loan" for those who have a stock portfolio but don't have two years' tax returns as independent contractors, or lack the ability to show supporting income from employment or investments.

Has your stock portfolio tanked? You may still be able to use it to make some savvy investments!

With the recent tightening of the "traditional" mortgage loan markets, this could be the perfect solution for people seeking bridge loans, new construction purchase, lot purchase, home purchase, refinancing, investment property purchase, commercial property purchase & develop...

Mt. Pleasant Executive Marshfront Home $475K

Wed, Jul 15th 2009 9:15 am by Alan Donald General

3571 Stockton DrThis 4-br. elevated home facing the marsh has great advantages!

  • Quiet and serene natural setting;
  • Close to schools and shopping;
  • Within 30-min. drive of Downtown Charleston;
  • Right across from new hospital (under construction)

Golf community with pools, clubhouse, tennis courts, walking trails. Very close to the beach!

Click here for more details or to arrange a showing!

HVCC, HERA, HOEPA - New Regulations for Mortgage Industry

Wed, Jul 15th 2009 5:45 am by Alan Donald Mortgages

Magnifying Glass on HouseThe Federal Government has been busy trying to regulate the mortgage industry to try to avoid the continuing debacle caused by the sub-prime mortgage debacle. In 2008, Congress passed the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA). In addition, semi-public Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adopted the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC). While better regulation is welcome (Canada, for example, had a better regulated banking/mortgage industry and as a result they are not experiencing the same problems the US is experiencing), but their implementation timing may affect (adversely) the swift recovery of the real estate industry. Here is a bri...

Buying A Home For Your Son/Daughter?

Mon, Jul 13th 2009 5:30 am by Alan Donald Personal Finance

Older coupleMany parents would like to help their offspring become homeowners and realize the "American Dream". Here are a few tips that may help:

  1. When they go off to college: Parents can buy a condo or home as an investment. Set up their child in one bedroom, rent out the other rooms to other students and get the benefits of owning an investment property. Even better: Instead of sending their son/daughter pocket money, hire him/her as the property manager - responsible for upkeep and rent collection - and pay them tax-deductible compensation..
  2. When the children are ready to own their place:
  • You can give them a cash gift. Individuals are allowed a maximum gift of $13,000 per year tax-free. ...

Are We Attuned to Our Market Reality?

Sat, Jul 11th 2009 7:00 am by Alan Donald Real Estate just completed a quarterly national homeownership survey that uncovered interesting findings that may be useful to know:



• 76.4% of consumers think a median-income family can only afford 50% or fewer of the homes for sale in their area. In reality, a family earning the national median income can afford nearly 75% of the homes for sale today on


• 20.1% who say they or someone they know may be facing foreclosure haven't taken steps to resolve their situation, while 22.4% haven't taken steps but plan to before the Administration's refinance program expires next year.

• While 66.3% of respondents said they...

Renters Beware!

Thu, Jul 9th 2009 4:30 pm by Alan Donald Renters

Online ScammerI just learned of a new version of a scam targeting prospective tenants and using real listings - here is how it works:

Scene 1: A Realtor lists an REO (lender-owned) vacant home for sale online (MLS,, etc.)

Scene 2: The scammer picks up the pictures and address of the property, and uses them to place a "For Rent" ad on Craigslist or another online marketplace, at a below-market rental, saying they are the owners, that they were transferred out of town for work, that they tried selling, but since the economy is so bad, they are just going to rent it out.

They even send full applications and real contracts by email, ask the prospective tenants to email the application, act ...

Are Banks Socially Responsible?

Wed, Jul 8th 2009 3:24 pm by Alan Donald Mortgages

On May 1st, Wells Fargo, one of the nation's largest mortgage lenders, decided to tighten its underwriting standards for 200 markets they considered as distressed or soft, requiring higher down payments and making state-income loans off limits in most of these markets. I believe this will cause other banks to follow suit (the bandwagon effect).

This is one more action that shows that the stimulus money provided by the Federal Government and intended to loosen up credit and provide funding to stabilize the real estate market is not working as intended. The government should have required the banks to lend this money out, instead of playing conservative and padding their balance sheets wit...

Showings & Pets

Wed, Jul 1st 2009 1:45 pm by Alan Donald Sellers

PetsMost of us REALTORS® are animal lovers and have pets of our own, but we also share many stories about showing homes where our clients went into a sneezing fit, we got bitten by a cantankerous furry creature, or opened the front door only to helplessly see a cute kitty scoot toward the nearest busy street.

It is essential to take pets into consideration if you put your house on the market. Make sure you work out the showing arrangements/instructions carefully with your REALTOR®, since it is important for showing agents to know what to expect inside your home. Buyers could potentially be allergic or scared of cats or dogs (especially if they bring children along).

Although most pets are h...

Sellers - Listen Carefully!

Mon, Jun 29th 2009 12:15 pm by Alan Donald Sellers

The current declining market has put sellers (and listing agents) in a difficult position, since many factors are now coming together to place additional downward pressure on real estate prices.

  • Inventory levels are very high, forcing motivated sellers to compete by lowering their price to stay competitive.
  • Distressed sales (short sales, foreclosures, lender-owned) have increased dramatically and have reduced values markedly in some areas.
  • The sub-prime debacle has caused lenders to be overly cautious and "raise the bar" for loan applicants, to the point where it has become challenging to qualify for conventional loans. Fortunately, FHA came to the rescue.
  • Loan underwriters appear ...

Banks Don't Get It (or do they?)

Sat, Jun 27th 2009 10:00 am by Alan Donald Short Sales

Money PathExperts agree that the inventory levels have to come down fot the housing market to start recovering. Short sales offer a win-win solution for buyers, sellers, lenders and agents, to speed up this recovery by selling inventory faster than by going the foreclosure/REO route.

While short sales have been on the rise, I believe that lenders are not really prepared (and willing?) to approve these transactions in a timely manner. Extensive delays of six weeks to six months are not uncommon, and banks may reject an offer 20% below appraisal, only to sell after foreclosing on the property for a higher discount.

I believe that the Obama recovery plan was well intentioned, but lacks accountabilit...

Consumer Confidence Up Slightly

Wed, Jun 17th 2009 11:00 am by Alan Donald General

Reuters and the University of Michigan conduct a monthly consumer confidence survey, to gauge the attitude and expectations of U.S. consumers - measuring what people think will happen in the coming months.

The latest survey results shows the consumer confidence index rising to 69 in June (up from 68.7 in May), its highest since September of '08 when Lehman Brothers collapsed. The slighlty improvement in attitude is great news, but came dampened by job and income uncertainty which still has consumers on hold for certain planned purchases. This economic recovery is thought to be slower than originally anticipated, so consumers are expecting a longer period of time before things really star...

New Appraisal Law Causing Troubles for Buyers

Tue, Jun 16th 2009 8:45 am by Alan Donald Buyers

The new Home Valuation Code of Conduct, or HVCC, became law May 1. This new law that forces Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac to follow new guidelines for appraisals has casued more trouble for the already beleaguered housing market, and has dampened the effect that the first-home buyers' tax credit has had on the demand for homes.

Although the principle behind the law is sound (to prevent collusion and fraud between appraisers, lenders and investors), the practical application of it creates the following problems:

  • Lenders are prevented from ordering appraisals directly. Instead, they now have to use "appraisal management" companies who handle all communications with the appraisers. If the mo...

Global Real Estate Markets - Performance Varies Across Countries

Sat, Jun 13th 2009 2:45 pm by Alan Donald International Real Estate

Recent research by international real estate firm Knight Frank revealed that in some countries real estate is still performing very well (like in Israel), while others like Dubai and Singapore have performed dismally. Here are the highlights of the study:

  • Global housing markets continue to struggle in a recessionary environment 
  • The rop performing markets over the 12-month period ending in March 2009 were Israel (+10.9%) and Czech Republic (+9.9%)
  • The weakest markets were Dubai (-40%) and Singapore (-16.2%)
  • The short term economic outlook suggests that the world housing markets will continue weak for the rest of 2009.

Knight Frank International Housing Markets

Read the full article here....


Tips for First-Time Buyers

Fri, Jun 12th 2009 7:15 am by Alan Donald Buyers

First Home Buyer FamilyAs a first time home buyer, you need to maintain a balance between money and lifestyle in a way that makes sense for you and your family. Buying a home comes with great benefits, but also with added responsibilities. Many first home buyers are very apprehensive and fearful of the process of buying a home. They need not be. Although the process is not complex, it includes a myriad of steps that have to be done in the right order to avoid problems. Hiring a Realtor who can recommend the right team of inspectors, attorneys, lenders, surveyors, insurance agents, painters, handymen, etc. will save buyers lots of time and headaches.

I recommend to all my first-home buyer clients that they foll...

Mythunderstandings of the Housing Market

Wed, Jun 10th 2009 3:30 pm by Alan Donald General

Expert Barbara Corcoran appeared in the Today Show a while back, talking about some of the myths that the slow property market has created. She's right: I have come across most of these during my dealings with buyers and sellers:

Growing FamilyBuyer mythunderstandings:

1. "The longer a house has stayed on the market, the more you can negotiate on the price" - This is not always true. More typically, if a home has stayed on the market it is because the seller is unrealistic on the price, and holds on stubbornly to his/her idea of value. However, personal situations do change and I have found sellers that were once "ice fishing" for a buyer with no real motivation can suddenly get some urgency to sell...

Feeling Crammed?

Tue, Jun 9th 2009 10:15 am by Alan Donald Market Opportunities

Woman Crammed in a BoxIs your family growing? Do you wish you had that extra bedroom or playroom to accomodate your needs?

The current "soft" real estate market is ideal for those who want to upgrade their home. While it is true that to sell your current home you will have to price it aggressively and possibly lose some of the potential capital appreciation, you will also pick up a substantial discount on the buyig side, with a higher value property.

So in the long run, you will be better off when the real estate market bounces back (it will- the basic economic principles are solid: more people, same amount of land...) because you will start from a larger base price...

You need to determine:

  • What are you...

Credit Scores vs. Mortgage Rates

Mon, Jun 8th 2009 6:30 am by Alan Donald Mortgages

Recent changes in the mortgage industry has made Fannie Mae (and most lenders) to review their pricing for conforming loand (under $417,000) to better reflect risk by adjusting their pricing (i.e. the interest rate charged on mortgage loans) according to the applicant's credit score, and loan-to-value ratio (LTV).

The lower the credit score, or the higher the LTV, the higher the interest rate a borrower will be charged. Many clients call me excited about low interest rates they see advertised by lenders. However, those are the interest rates that PREFERRED risk borrowers will get - those with a credit score above 720 and an LTV below 80%.

Kathy Durham from Raven Mortgage sent me an exam...

Getting Ready for Hurricane Season

Sun, Jun 7th 2009 9:30 am by Alan Donald General

Nature is powerful: No matter where you live on the planet, there is always a danger of some sort. Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, droughts, mudslides, tsunamis and - hurricanes. June 1st was the start of the Hurricane Season for the East Coast of the U.S.

In the Lowcountry we must be prepared for the eventuality of a hurricane. Although none have had a direct hit on Charleston since Hurricane Hugo did in 1989, we need to be prepared for this potentially devastating event. From a personal point of view, hurricanes are predictable, pepole can evacuate and get out of the way. From a real estate perspective there are a few things that property owners should plan for in advance:

  1. Check you...

The Ravenel Bridge

Wed, Jun 3rd 2009 10:00 am by Alan Donald General

About two years ago, the Charleston and Mount Pleasant landscapes changed for good: Old Bridge over Cooper RiverThe two old, ricketty bridges that connected the Charleston Peninsula with Mount Pleasant were permanently replaced with a gorgeous new structure that altered the city's skyline forever and has become an identity icon for Charleston.

Ravenel BridgeThe Ravenel Bridge is a cable-stayed structure spanning the Cooper River. Its main span is 1,546 feet (471 m) long (the longest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere) and carries 8 lanes of traffic, plus a pedestrian and bike path.

The new bridge not only improved traffic dramatically. The following Post & Courier video talks about the positive effect the bridge has had on l...

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