Friday, November 18, 2011

FHA Loan Limits Restored says NAR

Last night Congress restored the loan limits for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) for two years.

As you know, in late September the FHA, Fannie Mae; and Freddie Mac loan limits were reduced in 42 states pricing potential home buyers out of the American Dream of home ownership and holding back the housing recovery.

NAR immediately went to work with the goal to get the loan limits restored in Congress. For weeks that goal seemed unlikely.

You, and countless other REALTORS® like you along with YOUR leadership and YOUR management team worked to educate Congress that well-qualified buyers didn't need yet another hurdle to access affordable mortgage financing.

They finally listened. Because we were persistent. And because we were right.

The reinstated FHA loan limit formula and cap change will help make mortgages more affordable and accessible for hard-working, middle-class families in 669 counties in 42 states and territories, where the average loan limit reduction after the reset last month was more than $68,000. The provision reinstates the FHA loan limits through 2013 at 125 percent of local area median home prices, up to a maximum of $729,750 in the highest cost markets, the floor will remain at $271,050. However, Congress chose not to apply the loan limits restoration to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie-and-Freddie-backed mortgages will remain at 115 percent of local area median home prices up to $625,500.

The bill also provides for a short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program through December 16, 2011. NAR will continue to press Congress to use the additional time to complete their work on a five-year reauthorization of the program, which ensures access to affordable flood insurance for millions of home and business owners across the country.

I know that when we work together we can accomplish anything we set our minds to in order to preserve, protect and defend the American Dream of Home Ownership.

Because of your excellent work, I am continually reminded that “REALTORS® are the Heart of the Deal.”
With much appreciation,

Moe Veissi Signature

Moe Veissi
2012 President

Monday, November 14, 2011

HARP Program Courtesy of MakingHomeAffordable.GOV

Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)

If you are current on your mortgage and have been unable to obtain a traditional refinance because the value of your home has declined, you may be eligible to refinance through HARP. HARP is designed to help you refinance into a new affordable, more stable mortgage. The HARP loan is a new loan and will require a loan application and underwriting process. Loan refinance fees will apply.


You may be eligible to apply if you meet all of the following:
  • You have a mortgage owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
  • You do not have an FHA, VA or USDA loan.
  • You are current on your mortgage payments and have not been more than 30 days late making a payment over the last year.
  • Have a first mortgage not exceeding 125 percent of the current market value of your home.
  • The refinance will improve the long-term affordability or stability of your mortgage.
  • You have the ability to make the new payments.
*Eligibility criteria are for guidance only. Contact your mortgage servicer to see if you qualify for HARP.

Program Availability

The HARP program is offered by many servicers. Homeowners should check with their mortgage servicer (the company to which homeowners make their mortgage payments) to determine if they are participating in HARP. If their mortgage servicer is not participating, the homeowner may contact other lenders that participate in HARP to determine if they are eligible for a refinance. 

Steps to HARP Refinance

  • Determine whether your mortgage is owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac by visiting their respective Loan Lookup tools.
  • Contact your current mortgage servicer or another that is approved by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to inquire about HARP.
  • Compare rates and costs with additional mortgage companies to ensure best refinance terms.

For More Information

  • Visit or call (800)7Fannie.
  • Visit, call (800)Freddie, Option 2
  • If you have additional questions about getting mortgage help, contact one of our housing advisors at (888) 995-HOPE (4673). These HUD-approved housing counselors will help you understand your options, design a plan to suit your individual situation, and prepare your application. Research shows that homeowners who work with housing counselors like these are more successful and have better long-term outcomes. There is no cost to you for this valuable, around-the-clock service. Help is available in more than 160 languages.

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Last Updated: 10/28/2011 12:14 PM

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Appealing Your Taxes


Property owners sometimes feel that the department's estimate of their property value is wrong. The assessment appeal process is available to allow property owners the opportunity to dispute the value determined by the department. Property values rise and fall to reflect the market. A property owner should file an appeal when they believe that their property is not valued at its current market value.

Appeals may be filed on three occasions:

upon receipt of an assessment notice;
by a petition for review; and
upon purchase of property between January 1 and June 30.


Property owners will normally receive a Notice of Assessment every three years that shows the old market value as well as the new market value. The new value reflects the market influence and other conditions affecting the property from the time of the last assessment.

If you decide to appeal, the first step is to reply to the Notice of Assessment by signing and returning the appeal form within 45 days of the date of the notice. Following this, a personal or telephone hearing will be scheduled. Appeals can also be made in writing, eliminating the need for a hearing.


You may file a petition for review by January 1 in the two years your property is not valued when events have occurred since your last regular assessment that you believe have caused your property value to decline. If you fail to respond to the Notice of Assessment within the required time frame, you may file a petition for review by January 1 for the following year. Click here to obtain a Petition form. The completed form should be mailed to your local assessment office. After filing the petition, you will be scheduled for a hearing, or, if you prefer, your written submission can be reviewed eliminating the need for a hearing.


If you purchase a property and the property is transferred after January 1 but before July 1, you may file an appeal within 60 days of the transfer. After filing a written appeal, you will be scheduled for a hearing; or, if you prefer, your written appeal can be reviewed instead of having a hearing.


The first level of the appeal process, known as the Supervisor's level, is informal. You will present your case to an assessor designated by the Supervisor of Assessments. Typically, hearings at this level take approximately 15 minutes.

You can obtain a copy of the worksheet for the property free of charge from your local assessment office. The information on the worksheet will be reviewed at the time of the hearing to assure its accuracy.

For assistance in estimating the value of your property, you can obtain sales data from various sources, including: sales listings located in the local assessment office; commercially available sales reports and other information available at local libraries; local Real Estate offices; personal surveys of recently sold comparable properties in the area; and local listings of sales transactions in the newspaper. For a nominal fee, worksheets of comparable properties may be obtained from the assessment office.

To be most effective, you should:

Focus on those points that affect the value of your property.
Indicate why the Total New Market Value does not reflect the market value of the property.
Identify any mathematical errors on the worksheet or inaccurate information describing the characteristics of the property (such as the number of bathrooms, fireplaces, etc.).
Provide examples of sales of comparable properties which support your findings as to the value of the property.
Avoid the following issues since they are not relevant to the value under appeal: comparison to past values, percent of increase, additional metropolitan costs, the amount of the tax bill, properties in other taxing jurisdictions, and services rendered or not rendered.
Your first level hearing should be viewed as an opportunity to present evidence which would indicate that the department's value of the property is inaccurate.


Following the hearing, you will receive a final notice. If you disagree with the decision, you can appeal to the next step which is to the Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board. The second step appeal must be filed within 30 days from the date of the final notice from the Supervisor of Assessments.

There is an independent appeal board comprised of 3 local residents in each of the counties and Baltimore City. Property owners generally need no assistance at this step, no fees are required, and they are free to present any supporting evidence. You can obtain a list of the comparable properties that will be used by the assessment office before the Board if you file a written request to the assessment office at least 15 days before the scheduled date of the hearing.


If you are dissatisfied with the decision made by the Appeal Board, you can file an appeal within 30 days of the date of the board's decision to the Maryland Tax Court. The Maryland Tax Court is an independent body appointed by the Governor. Although the proceedings are more formal than the first 2 levels, it is still considered to be an informal, administrative hearing. Property owners who are in disagreement with the Tax Court's decision can appeal further through the regular judiciary system. Here you will probably need legal counsel.


The assessment appeal process is a mechanism intended to assure an accurate property valuation. If you believe that the value placed upon your property is higher than it should be and if you can provide supporting evidence (such as sales information for properties comparable to your own), then it is in your best interest to appeal.