Thank You Very Much!

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Thank you all very much for your friendship, support and love this year and always. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and warmest wishes for the most wonderful, prosperous, healthy and happy New Year ever!

From the movie Scrooge with Albert Finney, Alec Guiness, Dame Edith Evans and a wonderful cast – highly recommended watching, but has some scary “ghost” parts – I suggest parents watch it first and decide.

Flash Mob – Italian Style – Merry Christmas To All!!

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Thought you might enjoy this! Merry Christmas and to all!

Thanks to my good long lost friend Steve Kampff for forwarding this to me!!!

5 Real Estate Scams You Need to Know About | Realtor Magazine

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5 Real Estate Scams You Need to Know About

Don’t be duped by mortgage fraud. Here are a few common scams and the red flags you should look for in a transaction.

July 2010 | By Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Mortgage fraud is pervasive: An estimated $4 billion to $6 billion in annual losses result from mortgage fraud, according to FBI reports. “An entire community can be damaged by mortgage fraud,” says Rachel Dollar, a lawyer from Santa Rosa, Calif., and editor of the Mortgage Fraud Blog. Mortgage fraud can lead to a spike in foreclosures, home values plummeting, and lenders raising their rates and fees to recover losses.

The crimes are often complex, involving several parties and occurring over multiple transactions. To protect you and your clients, educate yourself about mortgage fraud and be on guard for any warning signs in a transaction. You can start by reviewing these five scams, and then test your knowledge by taking our Mortgage Fraud Quiz.

1. The Foreclosure Rescue Scheme

The Scam: “Rescuers” promise cash-strapped home owners that they can save their home from foreclosure. The rescue, which involves paying upfront fees, can take multiple forms, such as the perpetrator obtaining a new loan on behalf of the owner or by having the owner sign over the home’s deed and then rent the home until they can repurchase it. Eventually, the home owner loses the home, either to foreclosure or the fictitious rescue company.

Red Flags: With foreclosure rescue programs, borrowers are often advised to sign over the title of their house to a third party, become renters of their home, not contact their lender, or send mortgage payments to a third party, according to Fannie Mae, which provides fact sheets on mortgage fraud.

2. Loan Documentation Fraud

The Scam: This fraud involves numerous schemes in which a borrower provides inaccurate financial information — such as about their income, assets, and liabilities — or employment status in order to qualify for a loan with lower rates and more favorable terms. Occupancy fraud is one growing area: Borrowers say they plan to live in the property when they actually intend to rent it.

Red Flags: Documentation may raise suspicion if the employer’s address is shown as a post office box, accumulation of assets compared to the person’s income appears too high or low, the new house is too small to accommodate occupants, the person has no credit history, or the application is unsigned or undated, according to Fannie Mae.

3. Appraisal Fraud

The Scam: A faulty appraisal — saying a property is worth more than what it really is — is connected to many types of mortgage fraud. It entails manipulating or overstating comparables, market values, or property characteristics in order to obtain a higher appraisal. The higher property appraisal, which generates false equity, is done by falsifying an appraisal document or using an appraiser accomplice to obtain the higher value.

Red Flags: Be skeptical of appraisals that are dated prior to the sales contract, list comparable sales that do not contain similarities to the property or are outside the neighborhood, the owner is not the seller listed on the contract or the title, or a third party participating in the transaction orders the appraisal, Freddie Mac warns.

4. Illegal Property Flipping

The Scam: This entails purchasing properties and reselling them at inflated prices. These scams usually involve faulty appraisals and inaccurate loan documents. The property is then refinanced or resold immediately after purchase for an inflated value. The home is purchased at a higher price, often by straw buyers working with the “flipper,” and eventually falls into foreclosure.

Red Flags: Some key things to look for are rapid refinancing of a property; the seller recently having acquired the title or acquiring the title concurrent with the transaction; an appraisal that comes in too high; a property that was recently in foreclosure being purchased at a much lower price than its sales price; or the owner listed on the appraisal and title not matching the seller on the sales contract, according to Fannie Mae.

5. Short Sales Schemes

The Scam: Borrowers owe more than the current value of their home so they fake financial hardship and no longer make their mortgage payments. An accomplice of the borrower then submits a low offer to purchase the property in a short sale agreement. The lender agrees to the short sale, unaware that it was premeditated. The property, after being purchased at the reduced price, is then often resold at the home’s actual value for profit.

Red Flags: The borrower suddenly defaults on the mortgage with no workout discussions with the lender, an immediate offer is made to a lender at a short sale price, the short sale offer is less than current market value, or a cash back is offered at closing to the delinquent borrower (disguised as “repairs” or other payouts, for example) and is not disclosed to the lender, according to Fannie Mae.

You can report instances of suspected mortgage fraud to Stopfraud.gov.

via 5 Real Estate Scams You Need to Know About | Realtor Magazine.

Did You Get A Fire Prevention Fee?
Here’s How To Fight It!

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Stop!What The Heck Now?

If you are one of the 825,000 property owners who recieved Fire Prevention Fee for the first time this year, you probably wondered like we did – what the heck now? I mean, we already pay taxes for this, and why am we being singled out for this “fee”?

A bill passed by the Legislature (all Democrats in favor, all Republicans opposed) and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in July 2011 established a new annual Fire Prevention Fee to be collected from the owners of private property located within the State Responsibility Area. The fee is $150 per habitable structure.

Is This A Fee or A Tax?

My friend and neighbor Jerry Williams and I were talking about this at the mailboxes the other day, and he pointed me the right direction to get some answers on this –  the Howard Jarvis Tax Association (HJTA) . According to the HJTA website article here “Fees are charged to recover the government’s cost to provide some service to the person paying the fee, or to regulate the activities of a business.  Taxes, on the other hand, are revenue raising devices and need not be related in any specific way to benefits received by, or risks posed by the payer.  The Legislature can enact fees with a simple majority vote, but needs a two-thirds vote of each house to enact taxes.”

We agree with the HJTA opinion that “Under the definition above, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association believes the new Fire Prevention Fee is really a tax that needed (but did not receive) two-thirds legislative approval.  “This tax was dreamed up by politicians in Sacramento who are so desperate for revenue that they were willing to ram this through the Legislature without the proper two-thirds vote,” said Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “The fire tax is a direct violation of Prop. 13. It is our goal to overturn this tax, prevent the politicians from taking more money from hardworking people for a program they were already paying for, and help taxpayers to get a refund from the government.”

What Can You Do?

The HJTA will be filing suit to challenge the fee and seek refunds for people who have filed a Petition for Redetermination.

To be eligible for a refund, property owners must first pay their bill, then file a protest with the State. HJTA has established a website that shows how to protest the fee and provides the necessary forms. Property owners can also sign up for free e-mail bulletins that will keep them informed of the progress of the class action suit.

For more information on how you can fight this unfair tax and possibly get a refund, visit the sites below.

General Info: FireTaxProtest.org
Directions On How To File Your Refund Claim
FAQs:

via (PR) HJTA Files Class Action Lawsuit against Fire Tax | Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Do Something Now
To Stop The Changes To The Mortgage Interest Deduction

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Before It’s Too Late

Stop!

By now you have seen numerous news reports concerning the “Fiscal Cliff.”  Many of these reports speculate that a change to the long-standing policy that allows homeowners to deduction mortgage interest payment from their income taxes could be part of a “Fiscal Cliff” deal.

We believe  – along with the National Association of Realtors – the mortgage interest deduction is vital to the stability of the American housing market and economy and we will remain vigilant in opposing any future plan that modifies or excludes the deductibility of mortgage interest.

How This May Effect YOU

We believe losing the mortgage interest deduction negatively effects EVERYONE – whether you own a home or are currently renting and have the American dream of someday owning your own home.

For homeowners,  it will reduce the value of what is probably your biggest investment, something you have been working on and paying for for years. Of course, it may also effectively increase your income taxes – and we believe we are already paying more than our fair share of taxes – all of us.

For future homeowners that may sound like a good thing, possibly making it more affordable to buy a home, but please keep in mind it may also make it more difficult to see your future home appreciate, limiting the present and future value one of the the biggest investments you will ever make for you and your family.

And while we will probably here more about how this only effects “the rich”, we feel that effectively lowering the values of homes ANYONE owns effects us all ultimately.

What Can You Do?

Please send the short message below to your Senators and Member of Congress to remind them where YOU stand and that YOU will be watching to see who stands with YOU (click here for contact info).

Dear [Decision Maker],

I am writing to you, as a concerned citizen concerning an issue of critical importance to the United States housing market and the economy.

As my elected official, it is imperative you remain vigilant in opposing any plan that modifies or excludes the deductibility of mortgage interest.The mortgage interest deduction is vital to the stability of the American housing market and economy.

I am sending this message to ask you to stand with 70 million American homeowners. I will be watching to see who stands with us.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]

 

Fraud Alert – Pre-Paid Rental Listing Services (PRLS)

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Beware!The California Department of Real Estate (DRE) is issuing this alert and fraud warning because of the growing number of scams being perpetrated against consumers seeking to rent homes and apartments by persons offering rental lists for a fee and businesses operating Prepaid Rental Listing Service (PRLS) companies.

As a result of the current economic climate, a significant number of consumers have the need to move into residential rental properties due to income and/or credit issues, foreclosures, short sales, or some other inability to own homes or maintain homeownership. Moreover, some existing renters are forced to look for alternative rental space due to foreclosure of their existing rental properties.
These realities have created an environment perfect for PRLS scams.

As the name suggests, a PRLS company offers a list of available rentals in exchange for an
upfront fee. A typical scam involves the promise of a list of available rentals in a location and
price range desired by the prospective tenant; however, the prospective tenant must pay an
upfront fee in order to obtain the list. The list paid for by the prospective tenant, however, often
proves fruitless or useless and the list provider refuses to give a refund to the victim.

When looking for a rental, a PRLS may seem attractive and, if it is legitimate, licensed, and in
full compliance with the law (see sections 10167 to 10167.17 of the California Business and
Professions Code), a PRLS can be a resource for a renter seeking housing opportunities. PRLS
service providers charge varying fees for lists of rentals. Paying a fee to avoid the hassle of
sifting through hundreds of ads displayed online can appear to be a good deal on the surface.
However, it is important for consumers to be aware of common problems associated with the
PRLS industry.

COMMON ISSUES

 

Each year, the DRE receives complaints against PRLS providers for false advertising issues, lists
of rentals that are not available as suggested, refund problems, and more. In some cases:

  • Potential renters find that the properties featured in listings are not for rent, have already been rented to someone, or do not exist;
  • The landlord may actually be renting out the space, but may be unaware that his or her property is featured through the PRLS service;
  • PRLS companies compile listings from newspapers, online classified sites and real estate websites with no regard to whether the properties are still available, the rental prices have changed, or that the details are factually correct;
  • Other prospective renters have found that the listing service, after the consumers have paid for the list(s), cannot provide rental properties that meet their (the consumers’) desired specifications and qualities;
  •  The company fails to provide refunds as specified in its contract.

 

To avoid these common problems, consumers should familiarize themselves with their rights as consumers and the requirements of PRLS operators.

LICENSING

Anyone conducting business as a PRLS in California must be licensed by the DRE as a real
estate broker or maintain a Prepaid Rental Listing Service license issued by the DRE. Those
companies operating under a PRLS license must maintain a $10,000 bond or cash deposit.

  • Checking the company out through the DRE’s website before doing business with the company is critical, and will let the consumer know if the company is properly licensed and if there has been any disciplinary action taken.
  • Even if the PRLS is licensed by the DRE, consumers are well advised to check on the PRLS with the Better Business Bureau in the geographic area in which the PRLS operates.
  • See what information is provided by the company by doing a Google, Yahoo or Yelp search on the Internet.
  • If the PRLS company is not licensed, consumers should not use that company, and report the company to the DRE, and should find an alternative DRE-licensed PRLS option or some other avenue for their rental hunt.

CONTRACTS

To avoid being scammed by untrustworthy businesses, consumers must read all PRLS contracts
closely and carefully. Before any PRLS company accepts a fee for rental listings:

  • It must provide a contract stating the amount of the fee and specify what services will be performed in exchange for the fee;
  • The contract must include a description of the kind of rental unit the consumer wants to find;
  • Even if the contract is signed electronically, consumers can and should still request a printed copy of the contract. This must be provided within five working days of a request;
  • Consumers need to ensure that the contract specifies what sort of rental listings will be provided. For instance, if a consumer is looking for a specific number of bedrooms, a maximum rent amount, or listings in a specific area, this must be written into the contract;
  • The contract must state an expiration date of no more than 90 days from the date it is signed;
  • The PRLS company must also disclose small claims court remedies available to you should any issues arise.

 

If the PRLS company fails to provide the specified features, this is one of several conditions that
would form a basis for the customer to receive a refund. Prospective renters using a PRLS must
carefully review the refund section of the contract. It is important to understand what rights you
have should a refund be requested.

 

REFUNDS

California law entitles customers of PRLS services certain rights regarding refunds.

  • Within five days: If a consumer has not received three “available” rental listings meeting all property specifications listed in the contract within five days of signing the contract, he or she is entitled to a full refund. To receive the refund, the consumer must deliver or send via certified mail a written request within ten days after the five-day period expires.
  • Within the term of the contract: If the service does not locate a rental for a consumer or if the PRLS consumer finds housing on his or her own within the time-frame of the contract, that consumer is entitled to a refund of all fees paid except for $50. To obtain a refund under these circumstances, a consumer must submit a request for a refund within ten days of the expiration date of the contract through certified mail or in-person.
  • If the service failed to locate a rental property for a consumer, the consumer needs to provide documentation proving that the consumer has not moved and still resides at the same address.
  • If the PRLS consumer found housing without the services of the PRLS, the consumer must include documentation of their new address. If documentation cannot be provided, a statement of the facts should be prepared and submitted to the PRLS.
  • If a refund is not issued: A court of law can award up to $1,000 for damages, and the quickest way to obtain a judgment is through a Small Claims Court.

ALTERNATIVES

Should consumers wish to pursue other avenues when seeking a new rental, they should consider
the following services:

  • Real Estate Brokers: A licensed real estate broker or salesperson working under a broker may know of properties currently for rent. As with any real estate service, check the license of the individual or entity (through the DRE) before doing business.
  • Property Management Companies: Property management companies are often hired by homeowners and apartment owners to manage homes and commercial properties which are available for rent. These companies may often manage several sites, making it convenient to view listings of different sizes, prices and locations through a single property manager. These companies must also be licensed through the DRE.

 

WARNING SIGNS!

  • The PRLS company only accepts cash (credit cards allow for disputing charges);
  • Guarantees the prospective tenant will get a rental in his or her price range and desired location;
  • The list of rentals is handwritten and not computer generated;
  • The company does not provide property management or owner contact information for a prospective renter to schedule an appointment to visit the property;
  • The company asks the consumer to contact them instead of the property manager or owner if there is an interest. (Typically, a PRLS company will provide you rental property addresses and property manager or owner information so that direct contact can be made by the client).
  • Company representatives use only first names (note that last names may be omitted and first names are often changed to avoid detection of law enforcement or from being sued);
  • The company has only been in business a few months (some PRLS companies open, quickly close, and move around a lot to avoid customers seeking refunds).

 

CONCLUSION

It is unlawful for any person to engage in the business of a PRLS unless licensed by the DRE in
that capacity or unless licensed as a real estate broker. A licensed PRLS who follows the rules
will have a cash deposit or a bond in place to reimburse consumer losses.

However, consumers must first obtain a “Small Claims” Court judgment against the business or
individual and then make a claim to DRE for payment out of the cash deposit or bond.
Consumers should be advised that the DRE’s Consumer Recovery Account is not available as a
remedial source for any PRLS losses since PRLS activity is not considered to be “real estate
licensed activity”.

Finally, if a consumer has been scammed by a PRLS, or a PRLS has failed to follow California
law, you should report the PRLS to the DRE, to the Better Business Bureau, your local Police
and/or Sheriff’s Department, and to such police agencies where the PRLS business is located (if
different from where you reside).

No matter the route, DRE always encourages consumers to research companies thoroughly
before doing business. Consumers are encouraged to log on to DRE’s web site (www.dre.ca.gov) to verify a license, and further diligence should be undertaken to check out the individual or company via a Better Business Bureau, and through an Internet Google and/or Yahoo or Yelp or similar search. In addition, consumers should request references from the PRLS, and get all agreements in writing.

Article Supplied By:
DEPARTMENT OF REAL ESTATE
CONSUMER FRAUD ALERT AND WARNING
PRE-PAID RENTAL LISTING SERVICES (PRLS)
By Phillip Ihde, Managing Deputy Commissioner IV