What you need to know about rates & down payments…
A person “can get a conforming, conventional mortgage with a down payment of as little as 5 % (sometimes with as little as 3 % coming out of their own pockets)”.
Freddie Mac’s purchase of mortgages with down payments under 10 % more than quadrupled between 2009 and 2013.
More than one in five borrowers who took out conforming, conventional mortgages in 2014 put down 10 % or less.
The money experts at Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and the Mortgage Bankers Association as well at the National Association of Realtors all expect mortgage rates to climb up to one point over the next year. [Read more…]
Lobbying for change in your homeowners association’s rules requires procedure, compromise, and perhaps joining the board.
If you live in a newer suburban community or planned unit development, you — like some 63 million other Americans, according to the Community Associations Institute — are probably a member of a homeowners association. It’s also a good bet that you haven’t given your HOA much thought until you have a problem.
Since HOAs make and enforce the community rules, it’s smart to understand what you can do if you can’t or don’t want to follow them.
Each HOA, a volunteer group of neighbors who manage common areas and community property, creates its own covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). These CC&Rs cover:
- Resident behavior (no glass containers around the pool)
- Architecture (no fences higher than 8 feet)
- Common responsibilities (fee schedules and fines for non-compliance)
Average annual dues for a homeowners association is $396, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And there’s value in the fee. A 2005 study, which appeared in the Cato Institute’s “Regulation” magazine, compared a group of Washington, D.C., area HOA properties with similar homes without community benefits — a total of about 12,000 homes. The HOA house values were found to be 0.54% higher. That’s $969 on the average U.S. home value of $179,500.
When You Don’t Like the Rules
Some boards can impose what some homeowners believe are invasive, silly, or elitist rules. In 2014, a Myrtle Beach association decided homeowners could have only two pets. A couple who’d had three dogs for the past 14 years were threatened with a $100 a day fine unless they got rid of one of their dogs.
There’s even an older story some years back, reported in news outlets, about a homeowner in an upscale gated community in Frisco, Texas, who was threatened with fines for parking his new Ford F-150 series truck in his driveway overnight. The board made exceptions for several luxury brands, but his mid-range truck was ruled “not classy enough.”
Related: The 7 Craziest Local Laws and HOA Rules
Even if you disagree with the rules, keep paying your dues. HOAs have broad legal powers to collect fines and fees and regulate activities. If you don’t respond to letters from the board, property manager, or a collection agency, the HOA can and will turn to small claims court or file a lien against your property.
You can handle some issues with a phone call. For example, adding recycling to the garbage collection route is a budget, not a rules, issue. Call the board member who oversees trash collection to find out if there’s leeway in the budget. If you want to do something that’s against the rules — like flying the American flag in your yard — start by:
- Making a written request for variance, using the appropriate HOA form in your CC&R documents. A variance gives you permission to be the exception to the rule. Submit your request to the board and property management company.
- Seeking a compromise: That you’d like to fly the American flag, but only on national holidays.
Don’t Expect a Quick Solution
Some HOA boards meet as little as twice a year. If the board decides the issue is worth pursuing, it may require a community vote. If it passes a majority, the board will adopt it. Board members also may consult the HOA attorney to see if there’s a legal liability if they rule against you.
If you don’t get a timely response, request a hearing and resubmit your request for variance with as much support for your cause as possible.
If the board rules against you without a community vote, you can appeal the ruling with a petition signed by a majority of other homeowners.
But if you fly your flag without permission, expect to get fined. Fines can range from a nominal $25 to a painful $100 or more depending on the issue. Your CC&Rs will indicate the fine schedule — per day, per incident, etc. Interest for nonpayment can accrue, and the HOA can sue you in small claims court.
If you feel the ruling or the fines are unjust, the last resort is to hire an attorney and sue the HOA, as a flag-flying couple did in 1999. They battled their HOA in court for nine years before the case was settled in their favor.
Become the Rule-Maker
If you don’t like the rules, the best way to change them is to become part of the process.
1. Know your CC&Rs, annual budget, and employee contracts. Do you see areas where expenses can be cut? Are service providers doing their jobs?
2. Volunteer for a committee or task. If the board needs to enforce parking rules, for instance, you can volunteer to gather license plate numbers of residents’ vehicles. In addition, put your professional expertise to work: Assist the board with data entry, accounting, or website design.
3. Stand for election to the board. When a position becomes open, the board notifies the members, and you can put your name forward. New board members are elected at the annual meeting by member majority vote. Many boards are three to nine members large, with terms of one to two years.
As a board member, be prepared to spend two to four hours a month:
- Reviewing property management reports
- Monitoring budgets
- Talking to other board members and residents
Most boards meet quarterly; small boards only meet twice a year for a couple of hours.
Accept that you might become less popular if homeowners don’t like your decisions. In the worst case, you could be sued, along with the rest of the association.
But there are rewards. You’ll feel more in control of your community’s fate. You may find that some rules you didn’t support have merit after all. But most of all, you’ll know you’re doing all you can to protect your quality of life and your home’s value.
Related:Can You HOA Tell You Not to Post Political Signs?
Published: July 1, 2011
The Fourth of July — Independence Day — is a great time to reflect on how lucky we are to live in the United States of America, and what we can do to make our nation better, stronger, and more prosperous. As President Kennedy famously said many years ago, “Ask what you can do for your country.”
We’d all like to do our part. But our individual efforts sure seem small compared with the goings-on of world politics and global economies.
How can we — average American home owners — really achieve big goals, such as influencing national energy policy and building a strong economy? After all, we’ve got our own daily stuff to deal with: work, home repairs, getting the kids to softball practice, and the dog to the vet.
One good way is to reduce energy consumption in our own homes. This simple act can have a major impact. Not just in terms of helping hold the line on the family budget, but in slowing the ever-spiraling costs of energy. Lessening demand — even incrementally — eases the price of energy, which can free up capital that creates jobs and helps get our economy kicking.
Here are examples of small contributions you can make that add up:
- Ask cable or satellite providers for an energy-efficient set-top box, (the device that receives and dispatches TV signals to your DVR). Set-top boxes, which run 24 hours a day, have become a leading energy drain in the home. Newer Energy Star-rated models are at least 30% more efficient. If all set-top boxes sold in the U.S. were Energy Star-rated, energy savings would total $2 billion each year, and greenhouse gases would be reduced by an amount equivalent to 3 million cars and trucks.
- Replacing an old, kaput dishwasher with an Energy Star-qualified model cuts the annual energy cost of the machine by 50% — to $60 from $120. If every clothes washer purchased in the U.S. this year were an efficient Energy Star model, the national energy savings would total $350 million, not to mention conserving 32 billion gallons of water.
- Buying a high-efficiency gas or electric water heater, when yours reaches the end of its useful life, saves 3% to 4% on the average home’s hot water bill. Energy standards enacted by the U.S. Dept. of Energy in 2010 were designed to cut energy usage of new water heaters by 3% to 4%. Over a 30-year period, U.S. consumers should save $8.7 billion and reduce CO2 emissions by 170 million tons — that’s equal to the yearly emissions of 30 million cars.
- Replacing a 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a 13-watt compact fluorescent equivalent saves $30 over the life of the bulb. Alternative: LED bulbs, although costly ($30 for 7-watts), last 3 to 4 times longer than CFLs, burn cooler, and — unlike CFLs — contain no mercury. If every home in America replaced just one incandescent bulb with an Energy Star-qualified CFL, the savings would be enough to light more than 3 million homes. The savings would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by fossil-fuel energy production equivalent to 800,000 autos.
More easy ways to be patriotic (and save):
- Create a breeze with a ceiling fan instead of using the AC. For every degree you raise the air conditioning thermostat above 78 degrees, you can save 3% to 8% on cooling costs.
- Install a programmable thermostat and save as much as $180 per year.
- Plump up attic insulation from R-11 to R-49 and save up to $600 per year.
- Turn down the thermostat on your refrigerator and save $22 per year.
- Outsmart sneaky energy vampires by turning off (or putting “to sleep”) computers, printers, and other electronics when not in use: Shave another $100 from your annual energy bill.
Let’s put the independence in Independence Day.
In what ways do you save energy in your household?
You don’t have to switch on the air conditioner to get a big chill this summer. These tips will help you keep your house cool without AC, which will save energy (and avoid AC wars with your family). [Read more…]
Chicago is a vibrant and friendly city, a city of neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has it’s own identity and feel, and something different to offer. [Read more…]
2014 has started off to be a really good year, and experts predict that on a national level we are headed back to a more normal (3-5%) appreciation year over year through 2018. This is stable, predictable growth and back on track.
The Home Price Expectation Survey done first quarter this year breaks down what the experts are saying. In green: look at the pre-bubble trend which predicted appreciation up by 19.4% which is very close to the blue column which is is an average of what all the experts said. The bulls in the market are very optimistic, forecasting over 28% appreciation. The most exciting news is that even the bears in the market predict over 10%. Remember these projections are on a national level, and our Near North Chicago neighborhoods are trending very well too. Watch for my next Market Profile coming out soon as we just closed on the end of first quarter sales data.
Happy Birthday Chicago – 177 years old today!
“It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago. She outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them.” – Mark Twain, 1883
A vibrant city with a friendly hometown feel, and one of the most iconic metropolitan flags in the country.
There is meaning to each aspect of our flag. The white stripes represent the north, south and west sides of the city. The top blue stripe represents Lake Michigan and the North Branch of the Chicago River. The bottom blue stripe represents the South Branch of the river and the Great Canal, and the Chicago Portage. The four six-pointed red stars represent major historical events: Fort Dearborn, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and the Century of Progress Exposition of 1933–34. Each of the 6 points represent a concept. Click here to learn more.
Love this town! Share if you do too!
First Friday is the Old Town School’s monthly night of music, dance, and community. Bring your instrument, your voice, dancing shoes, a date, your family, or a few friends. The bar is open, and we welcome the public to participate in many ways!
Join a jam, sample class, or, for beginners, we have an open rhythm circle with instruments provided, performances, and square dances with live bands.
Admission is $5 for individuals and $10 for families, and activities happen on the West side of the street, at 4544 North Lincoln Avenue. The first event, a family jam called the Gather-All, begins at 6:00 PM.
Old Town School of Folk Music