FHA Easing Condo Restrictions

This is IMPORTANT for condominium sellers, buyers and owners. FHA has changed its requirements for condos to be certified, making it easier for sellers to sell and buyers to get financing.

Today’s news is a major and positive change.

History: If someone wants FHA financing for a condo, not only do they have to be approved for the loan, but the condo itself has to have been “certified.” In 2011, FHA, tired of having so many delinquent and foreclosed condos on its books, de-certified all of them and required all of them to reapply. The problems:

(1) not every condo board went through the trouble, either because of laziness, confusion, or fear of making a mistake on the paperwork (the regulation threatened prison terms for inaccuracies);

(2) the condo requirements were made more onerous. For example, at least half the units had to be owner-occupied, no more than 15 percent of owners could be delinquent on their condo fees (defined as 30 or more days behind), and three-quarters of the space had to be residential.

No recertification, no FHA loans for potential buyers. Fewer potential buyers, prices tank. Commence uproar by buyers, sellers, Realtors and lenders.

So, the new rules:  investors can own up to half of the units (not just 10 percent), and half the space can be commercial (instead of 25 percent). And delinquency is now defined as 60 or more days behind on condo fees instead of 30.

Some significant hurdles remain. Half a project’s units must still be owner-occupied, although the rule is waived for foreclosed units. Only half of a condominium’s units can be financed through FHA. And the boards are still liable for incorrect information, although less so if they’re following attorneys’ advice.

It should make things easier for  condo owners to sell, and for some buyers to get financing.

Talk Like A Pirate Day . . . is Coming!

Yes, it will soon be September 19 (a Wednesday this year), the annual Talk Like A Pirate day,  so be watching your back, sides, front and overhead for all sorts of piratical shenanigans and your in-on-the-joke friends coming at you with “Aye, matey, avast ye lubber!” and related phrases. In advance celebration, I post the birthday card received from my wife the other day:


And of course, the “back” side (haha):

Have a great day and remember to Talk Like A Pirate!

I-66 Ramps to Fairfax County Parkway CLOSED ALL WEEKEND

According to Dr. Gridlock:

The ramps connecting eastbound and westbound I-66 to the southbound Fairfax County Parkway will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Monday.

The ramps will be closed for paving as part of the interchange project at the Fairfax County Parkway and the Fair Lakes Parkway, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The following detours will be in effect:

— Westbound I-66 drivers will be directed to Route 29 north (exit 52) so that they can get to the Fairfax County Parkway.

— Eastbound I-66 drivers will be taken to Route 50 west (exit 57B) to southbound West Ox Road and onto the Fairfax County Parkway.

Another option, suggested by VDOT, is to take the northbound Fairfax County Parkway (exit 55). From that point, make a right on Fair Lakes Parkway, a right on West Ox Road and head back to the Fairfax County Parkway.

Driveway Cracks? Seal Them Up!

How serious are those cracks in your driveway?  Proper sealing will prevent water penetration which is especially important because our area experiences seasonal freezing and thawing. Nothing can destroy a driveway faster.

Driveways should be inspected annually and cracks less than ½ inch should be sealed with a polyurethane caulk, designed to bond with concrete, only after the concrete has been thoroughly cleaned. Also, consider adding a backer rod before caulking for the larger cracks. This will drastically reduce the total amount of caulk needed.

Don’t forget to check your driveway expansion or control joints. They are intended to allow expansion and contraction, but if and when they crack, they also need to be filled.

Here’s a video that shows you how to do it:

[youtube width=”480″ height=”270″]http://youtu.be/yH-PqosqFjk[/youtube]

A/C Busted? Good Luck.

Fraudulent air conditioner repair contractors making the rounds have become just as relentless as this summer’s heat waves.

A little while ago, the Today Show set up hidden cameras in a house in New Jersey. Several certified air conditioning experts first verified the home’s central air conditioning unit was in excellent working condition. Then they set up a common and easy-to-fix problem: a simple broken wire that shuts the unit down. The cost to repair it should have been less than $200.

Every repairman they called tried to charge for repairs the air conditioning unit didn’t need.

One contractor fixed the broken wire and the unit was working, but the contractor lied and said the air conditioning unit was leaking and would cost $692 to repair.

Another contractor tried to charge $850 for several new unnecessary parts.

Still another contractor likewise tried to charge for unnecessary parts, including one that didn’t even exist in the unit, for a total charge of $950.

Here’s a “Behind the Scenes” look at the sting.

You are most vulnerable to fraud when a system fails in the middle of a heat wave and you don’t already have a contractor relationship. At that point you rarely sweat the extra steps necessary to find a trustworthy professional.

Do it while your system is still working. Don’t wait until you find yourself stranded in 100-degree heat, feeling pressured to make a decision quickly. Find the right contracting business, and sign up for their maintenance agreement program.

Regular maintenance, inspection and cleaning twice a year is recommended to keep HVAC systems in tip-top shape. In the middle of the summer, especially during heat waves, the best contractors are busy taking care of their regular customers and may be delayed before they have time to visit your home. Steps to finding the right contractor include:

Get referrals from family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others you trust who already have a solid working relationship with an HVAC contractor. Consider the help of screening services like Angie’s List, Consumer’s Checkbook and others.

Be sure the contractor employs North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certified technicians. NATE is the industry’s baseline technician certification trade group.

If your jurisdiction requires HVAC licensing, verify that the contractor is properly licensed. Also check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure a contractor doesn’t have a string of complaints.

Verify that the company belongs to a reputable non-profit trade organization, like ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America). Membership can demonstrate a commitment to ongoing education.

Ask the contractor to describe their employee training program. If they’re not able to answer this question, they probably don’t have one, and that’s a red flag.

Verify that the contractor provides a regular maintenance or service agreement program.

My family has a HVAC service agreement with Cropp Metcalfe. It costs about $300-400 a year. They serviced our heat pump in June, but in the absolute hottest week of the year, July 4, it went kaflooey. But they replaced the motor and condenser, a $1000-plus repair, at no charge.

How’s Your Honey-Do List?

Do you have a long list of honey-do jobs? If you’re like many homeowners, a lot of those won’t get addressed until  it’s time to sell the house, if at all. In hot real estate markets, you can sometimes ignore the fixes—remember bidding wars over properties that needed work? Well, today sellers are looking to make their home stand out. Even though housing inventory has been down this year, some homes just won’t sell without repairs.

Pretend you’re going to try to buy your own home; what do you see that you wouldn’t tolerate? Buyers don’t want to fix those problems any more than sellers do.

While fixing up a home to sell can be costly, you can find ways to minimize the pain in your wallet. Important repairs that shouldn’t be overlooked include changing your furnace air filters regularly, fixing leaky faucets/toilets, repairing caulking issues in the bathroom and replacing defective electrical outlets and wiring.

Experts in the HVAC industry say that 60 percent of all their service calls start because of dirty filter issues. If you have a dirty filter, it affects the efficiency of your furnace. It’s an easy repair that improves the air quality and saves you money. You can save about $100 a year if you just change those filters when you should.

The second important repair is easy to spot. A leaky faucet or running toilet is going to cost you—if you don’t get it fixed you’re going to be paying more and more. It can also lead to mold damage. It can lead to the flooring in your cabinetry rotting away, and that can affect your floor underneath and the walls.

If there are problems with your home when you start to show it, buyers will spot them. People who come to your house to check out whether they’re going to buy it or not are looking really closely and they’re listening really closely too. Most buyers are likely to move on if they feel the house needs a lot of repairs. You have to put forth your best impression. These small relatively inexpensive fixes are really important.

Dirty tiles and damaged caulking tell buyers that the house may be in need of even bigger repairs. Not only is it an aesthetic issue,it’s also an indication that you’ve got a problem that could lead to mold—and nobody wants mold in their house anywhere at all—it will grow if you don’t have proper seals in your bathroom. Sometimes we get so used to seeing the dirty tiles or missing grout that we forget about them—however, buyers don’t.

Who should do the job? Saving money is always key, but be sure that the level of the repair matches the expertise of the person you hire. You’re going to pay more in the end if you don’t check out the person you hire to help you. Make sure they have a good reputation, and if it’s required to be licensed in your area, use a licensed person, even if it’s more expensive.

Shoes . . .

Janet converted one of our empty bedrooms into a walk-in closet. That’s right, a closet. With special shelves for shoes. These are the shoe boxes she got rid of –  which constitute about half her collection of shoes. When people ask me what our investments are, I tell them we are heavily invested in two things – education futures (i.e. our kids’ college educations), and shoes.

She takes pretty good care of her clothes, so the collection has built up over time even though I know she’s given away dozens of pairs over the years.