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December 3, 2009

Economy: Why NOW May Be A Good Time To Refinance A Mortgage

Why Now May Be a Good Time to Consider Refinancing a Mortgage

By JENNIFER SARANOW SCHULTZ

 

With mortgage rates hitting record lows, it may be time to think about refinancing.

The rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage with no points hit 5.01 this week, slightly up from 5 percent last week but down from 5.97 percent this time last year, and the 15-year fixed mortgage rate hit 4.46 percent, compared with 4.47 percent last week, according to the latest data released Wednesday from Bankrate.com. These rates are at, or close to, the lowest levels since the company’s tracking began in 1985.

At the same time, the Mortgage Bankers Association said interest rates on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgages it tracks fell for a sixth straight week, remaining below the 5 percent level, “widely viewed as a psychological tipping point” according to this article.

The record lows are thanks to a combination of the Federal Reserve showing no inclination to raise short-term interest rates and investors and foreign central banks maintaining a healthy appetite for debt issued or guaranteed by the United States government, said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com’s senior financial analyst. And they come as many homeowners are finding themselves owing more than their house is worth and are having trouble making mortgage payments.

There is also a limited-time government program that helps people to refinance if they are slightly underwater. The “Home Affordable Refinance Program” is not as widely discussed as the related loan modification program. And it has been criticized by some housing experts for helping financial players profit. Still, it aims to help homeowners who have a mortgage balance equal to or greater than the value of their home refinance and obtain more affordable monthly mortgage payments.

The program is available until June of next year to homeowners who meet certain qualifications, including having loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and having a first mortgage that does not exceed 125 percent of the current market value of the home. (See if you qualify and find out how to apply if you do here).

With the risk that rates may not stay this low for long and that the government program will end, “there is a window of opportunity” for refinancing that will not be available for long, Mr. McBride said. He recommended that those who think they may not qualify for the program to double check what their home is worth to confirm this. Then, even if you don’t ultimately qualify, he suggested considering trying to refinance anyway if you are paying a higher rate on a fixed-rate mortgage or have an adjustable-rate mortgage.

“Today’s record low mortgage rates represent an opportunity for homeowners to refinance at lower fixed rates or to trade out of an adjustable rate mortgage before an inevitable increase in rates and lock in permanent payment affordability,” he said.

Are you considering refinancing in this environment? Why or why not? If so, what kinds of problems and hurdles, if any, have you run into trying to refinance? (Find more information about mortgages here and more information about loan modifications here).

Original link: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/why-now-may-be-a-good-time-to-consider-refinancing-a-mortgage/

November 29, 2009

Economy: Obama Wants Mortgage Firms to Reduce More Loan Payments

The Obama administration in a proactive move plans to announce a campaign on Monday, November 30 to pressure mortgage companies to reduce payments for many more troubled homeowners since the $75 billion taxpayer-financed effort aimed at slowing down foreclosures is stalling.

In an interview the Treasury Department’s Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Michael Barr said: “The banks are not doing a good enough job. Some of the firms ought to be embarrassed, and they will be.”

In recent months even as lenders have accelerated the pace at which they are reducing mortgage payments for borrowers a vast majority of loans modified through the program remain in a trial stage lasting up to only five months but only a tiny fraction of loans have been made permanent.

Mr. Barr said the government would try to use shame as a corrective, publicly naming those institutions that move too slowly to permanently lower mortgage payments. The Treasury Department also will wait until reductions are permanent before paying cash incentives that it promised to mortgage companies that lower loan payments. “They’re not getting a penny from the federal government until they move forward,” Mr. Barr said.

Lawyers who defend homeowners against foreclosure insist that mortgage companies amass ridiculously profitable fees from long-term delinquencies and that is more beneficial to them than lowering mortgage payments to affordable levels. In October an oversight panel created by Congress reported that less than 2,000 of the 500,000 loan modifications being processed had become permanent under the Making Home Affordable program. When the Treasury releases new numbers next month, it is expected to report a disappointingly small number of permanent loan modifications, with estimates in the tens of thousands out of the more than 650,000 borrowers now in the program.

Even as our economy tries to find its footing the Treasury department is under pressure to help every day Americans who should have been helped by the banks and financial institutions who benefited from the bailouts on Wall Street.  These financial institutions seem not to feel that they have any moral responsibility to help the hundreds of thousands of households falling into delinquency daily because of the economy and high unemployment numbers. These financial institutions are reporting massive profits but are not helping everyday Americans – they are lining only their own pockets.

The administration’s Making Home Affordable program was put into operation as a means of helping three to four million households from foreclosure but because of the greed of some financial institutions it seems that only 50% of those households will receive the help they should have received. The Obama administration is trying to outwit the financial institutions they helped by publicly putting pressure on these institutions to do what they promised to do.  A White House aide said that they will continue to refine the program as needed and will not be satisfied until more program participants are transitioned from trial to permanent mortgage modifications.

November 8, 2009

Health Care Reform: House Vote Brings Us One Step Closer To Success

us-congress-building  This morning, we are one step closer to achieving health care reform in the United States of America.  Can I get a “hip, hip!”

Nancy Pelosi and The House voted 220-215 on Saturday night on health care legislation that would provide way past due relief to Americans struggling to buy or hold on to health insurance.  One Republican, Representative Anh “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana voted with the Democrats.

Some Democrats said they voted for the legislation so they could seek improvements in it. “This bill will get better in the Senate,” said Representative Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee who has been outspoken in his criticism of some provisions of the bill but decided to support it. “If we kill it here, it won’t have a chance to get better.”  “Our plan is not perfect, but it is a good start toward providing affordable health care to all Americans,” said Representative Peter A. DeFazio D-Oregon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and The Senate still have to bring their health care plan to the floor for debate. Once their decision is made then the House and Senate will bargain and hopefully reach a deal on a final bill that will go to President Obama for signing.

The health care legislature passed last night will be paid for through new fees and taxes along with strategic cuts to Medicare.  The plan will extend coverage to 36 million people now without insurance while creating a government health insurance program. It would end insurance company practices like not covering pre-existing conditions or dropping people when they become ill.  Most employers would have to provide coverage or pay a tax penalty of up to 8 percent of their payroll. The bill would significantly expand Medicaid and would offer subsidies to help moderate-income people buy insurance from private companies or from a government insurance plan. It would also set up a national insurance exchange where people could shop for coverage.

“We did what we promised the American people we would do,” said Representative Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, but he also warned, “Much work remains.”

The successful vote came after President Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to make a personal appeal for lawmakers to “answer the call of history” and support the bill.

During the private meeting with Democrats in the Cannon Caucus Room, the President acknowledged the political difficulty of supporting major legislation in the face of unanimous Republican opposition and tough criticism from conservatives.

Lawmakers credited President Obama with converting a final few holdouts during his appearance at a closed-door meeting with Democrats just hours before the vote. Democratic officials said that the President’s conversation Saturday with Representative Michael H. Michaud, D-Maine, was crucial in winning one final vote.

After the vote, Mr. Obama issued a statement praising the House and calling on the Senate to follow suit. “I am absolutely confident it will and I look forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year.”

But don’t forget, there’s lots of work still to be done.  We will have to make calls, send letters and send emails to our Senators in the upcoming weeks so that they will pass a health care plan.

November 1, 2009

VOTE!!! IMPORTANT Elections on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Do you have an election in your community this week?  If you do, go out and VOTE and take a friend with you.

Folks, there are elections all across the country on Tuesday, November 3 and THEY MATTER. 

We’ll see important elections for Governor in New Jersey and Virginia and important Mayoral elections in Atlanta, Houston, New York and other cities and we should be focused on them.  Plus races for City Council, State Legislature and other positions are also up for grabs.  These elections might not receive as much publicity and hype and may not seem to be as ‘sexy’ as the Presidential elections but they are more important in many ways.

These elections will affect our daily lives: The raising of fees, property taxes, making our schools more effective, fighting disparities in our criminal justice system are all determined by the City Council, Commissioner’s Court, Sherriff’s office and by local and state judges yet we ignore these elections.  We should gladly spend time in lines to make sure our votes are counted in our local elections.

Even though President Obama is the leader of our country and the leader of the Democratic Party, once he authorizes monies to go to our communities our local elected officials are the ones who decide HOW to spend the monies. 

Our President is VERY important but our local elected officials are the people who allocate these funds in a meaningful way or waste it to serve their own personal agendas.

In order for President Obama’s policies to be effective, we need local politicians in office who have a similar vision.

Know which local politician(s) in your community will do the most for you and your family.  Share this information with your neighbors and friends and please make sure everyone in your household go out and vote and make sure each person takes a friend with them to the polls.

Keep your eyes on the prize — vote on Tuesday!!!

October 5, 2009

Elizabeth Edwards — Divorcing John Edwards?

Elizabeth and John Edwards  Supposedly Elizabeth Edwards has threatened to divorce John Edwards and claim her share of their $53 million estate amassed over 32 years of marriage.

The National ENQUIRER has learned Elizabeth dropped the divorce bombshell after learning a former campaign aide is claiming Rielle Hunter, the mother of Edwards’ love child, isn’t the only woman he seduced on the campaign trail.

“Elizabeth had always sworn she wouldn’t divorce John. But every person has a breaking point, and Elizabeth’s friends believe she’s reached hers,” an insider told The ENQUIRER.

 “Elizabeth knows every dirty little secret in her husband’s political past. She’s been his confidant for years, and she’s always kept quiet. But now she’s prepared to reveal all his secrets in open court.”

Elizabeth’s patience finally ran out when she learned about the scandalous claims in a tell-all book by her husband’s former campaign aide Andrew Young, the married father of three who once claimed that he’d fathered Edwards’ love child that Edwards had other affairs on the campaign trail over the years.

“Elizabeth was read portions of Young’s book proposal, and she flipped out,” said the source.

“Elizabeth basically told John that if she found out that was true, she’d have to divorce him because then he’d be a ‘serial cheater.’

“John claims Young’s book is a pack of lies.”

How sad that Elizabeth is going through this at this stage in her life.  This is so sad, but is it even true that she’s contemplating a divorce? 

I am NOT defending John Edwards in any way but would Elizabeth want all of John’s crap exposed for her children to see when they will have to depend on their father when she passes? 

If their children end up hating John it would almost be as if they have no parents.

This is so tragic and beyond sad.

September 23, 2009

Important Facts About Healthcare Reform

Benefits of Healthcare Reform:

So what does reform mean for you? In short, it means stable, quality, affordable care that you can depend on when you need it.

Here are five ways that health care reform will help lower costs, improve quality and bring stability to your health care.

  1. You & Your Doctor Make Decisions
    Health Care Reform Means You and Doctor Will Make Health Care Decisions
     
  2. Stable Coverage If You Have a Pre-Existing Condition or Get Sick
    Health Care Reform Means Stable Coverage for You and Your Family if You Have a Pre-Existing Condition or Get Sick.
     
  3. Lowers Cost & Caps Out-of-Pocket Expenses
    Health Care Reform Lowers Costs, Caps Out-of-Pocket Expenses and Eliminates Limits on Annual or Lifetime Care.
     
  4. Focuses on Preventive Care
    Health Care Reform Focuses on Preventive Care to Fend Off Illnesses and Save Costs.
     
  5. Relief to Employers
    Health Care Reform Provides Relief to Employers.

For more information go to: http://www.factsaboutreform.org/index.html

August 5, 2009

Republicans LOVE Their Government Run Healthcare

Millions of middle-class families across the country are one illness away from financial ruin including me, maybe you as well; but we can prevent that from happening.

The Healthcare Reform that President Obama wants to sign is pretty easy to understand — it is designed in such a way that it will enable Americans who have coverage to keep it and Americans who need coverage to purchase it. It is designed to build on the healthcare system we have today by getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse.

Opponents of healthcare reform are making outrageous claims about healthcare, twisting words and facts to scare many non-thinking Americans.  Republicans are even claiming that healthcare reform will kill seniors?! W.T.H!  Does anyone exist in America who really believes that absurdity?  That ludicrousness?  That joke?  Really, does anyone believe that healthcare reform will kill seniors!?

Last week was the 44th anniversary of another landmark moment in our nation’s health-care system. President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law 44 years ago but before the bill was signed he was taunted, criticized and ridiculed by political hecklers of health-care reform who claimed that Johnson and our government would takeover healthcare and create a socialist healthcare system and it would be the worst possible healthcare system in the world.  We are in the middle of what seems like déjà vu.

Forty-four years later our 44th President is hearing the same ‘echo’ from Republicans who have AND ENJOY a government run healthcare system similar to Medicare for themselves and their families.  How hypocritical.

1.  Medicare ensures that our parents and grandparents have access to affordable health care.

2.  Medicare protects seniors and their families from backbreaking health expenses.

3.  Medicare operates more efficiently than any other health care coverage – public or private – in our country.

4.  Medicare is a government run healthcare system.

President Lyndon Johnson’s Medicare experience with Republicans taught us that progress does not come easily – especially in the face of big-name campaign contributions and big-dollar ad campaigns.  

President Lyndon Johnson’s Medicare experience also taught us that progress is not always a function of bipartisanship.

Of the key congressional votes on Medicare 44 years ago only 13 Republican senators and only 70 House Republicans joined the overwhelming Democratic majorities to vote for it.

We’re seeing the same kind of opposition today as we fight for healthcare reform. Republicans in Congress are claiming that defeating healthcare reform would break President Obama; that a defeat on this issue will be Obama’s Waterloo.

I don’t care about Obama’s Waterloo (I hope he never gets one though); I care about millions and millions of Americans having access to healthcare that is affordable and healthcare that will make us healthier.  I believe that’s what thinking Americans want.

The drug industry and the health insurance industry are spending millions of dollars to influence Congress. The health insurance industry is camping out at the Capitol and spending lots and lots and lots of money to organize non-thinking Americans to go to town hall meetings and scream and shout and ‘protest’  healthcare reform and the public insurance option.

These non-thinking Americans fail to realize that private insurers will have to cut premiums and increase the quality of healthcare if there is a public insurance option since Americans will have a choice and can decide who we want to give our business to.

Despite being mocked by Republicans 44 years ago, Medicare has proved itself.

1.  Medicare has pulled millions of seniors out of poverty.

2.  Medicare has helped retirees live long and healthy lives.

3.  Medicare has helped to fuel our economy.

4.  Medicare has proved just how important health insurance is.

5.  Medicare works.

And healthcare reform will work.

1.  Healthcare reform will cut healthcare costs for millions of middle class families and small businesses across the country.

2.  Healthcare reform will end uncertainty about health coverage because both private and public insurance will always be available.

3.  Healthcare reform will confront the needless red tape, medical errors, and fraud and abuse that inflate health-care costs and compromise health-care quality.

4.  Healthcare reform will prevent insurance companies from covering you when you’re healthy and dropping you when you’re sick, and from denying you coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

5.  Healthcare reform will keep the insurance industry honest and will make Americans healthier.

We have work to do to get healthcare reform signed and we must do it together.  Inaction doesn’t protect your health coverage or push healthcare costs down.

We must take action to turn things around. Special interests, worn-out cynical politicians, and insane talking heads are going to pull out all the stops to freeze our health-care system in time.

Don’t let them win; fight for your right to have a good healthcare system with a public option.

Go to http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml and contact your Senators and Congresspersons.

Let your elected officials know that you want healthcare reform with a public option.

Watch Rachel Maddow take on the hypocritical Republicans:

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