Saturday, November 22, 2008

If I Were a Rich Girl - What building would I buy?

These are the times that will come back to haunt me - there was a time a few years back when I knew I should invest in Real Estate in a REALLY up and coming area and I made up one excuse or another and then kicked myself for years thereafter!

It is now the year 2008, and we are making history. Obama has proved that we are no longer minorities vs. majorities. We are also looking at a market that is highly volatile and can easily slip into a Depression according to some experts while others claim that at least on a local NYC level, we are much more equipped to weather this storm as opposed to the last one due to Giuliani's and Bloomberg's clean up efforts where the crime rate in NY is at a historic low!

I am looking at new listings on the market every day, the ones anyone can see and then there are the insider leads - the quiet sales that come in - and these are the times that I know we ALL wish we had some liquid assets to pour into the market! No, not that market that likes to yo-yo up and down and goes from crash to burn...but the real estate market - it's all about equity folks.

Remember, while the economy can be in a really bad place, people still need a place to live and I don't believe we will see the entire world homeless anytime soon...

Invest for your future or invest for a living - invest on a small scale or invest on a grand scale - regardless of which route you can afford to go it is imperative that people realize that this is where long term financial security lies. You can start by buying an apartment or house as low as $250,000 and a building as high as 70 million and every kind of property inbetween - for everyone there is a piece of the Big Apple waiting to be claimed.

Finally, always be aware that your real estate professional is there to help. If you are not happy with one keep looking until you find the one that will understand your investing needs and help you find the property or properties that will be a perfect addition to your starter or current portfolio. In this market especially, it really may make a big difference to have the real estate professional 100% loyal to you - a Buyer's Agent is definitely recommended.

In New York City it is not as popular as all over the rest of the country but this IS a Buyer's Market so it's a good idea to insist on a Buyer's Agent when you walk in to your local realty.

Aside from matching you with the listings that you can really see yourself appropriating - there are also the many creative financing methods that is a priceless service, as it may mean the difference between walking away from a deal or signing on the dotted line at closing - what with the current situation where getting a mortgagge is something akin to obtaining an artifact of holy grail proportions.

I personally practice Buyer's Brokerage - feel free to contact me if you have any questions, irregardless of whether or not you work with me - I am always happy to help...even if just in the capacity of a sounding board or lending a bit of guidance.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Credit Doc Is In - Credit Repair - Myth or Reality?

We are playing with a great Buyer's Market right now. We are seeing deals that we have not seen in a very long time especially in what was the seemingly eternal bubble that enveloped the heart of the city - Manhattan.

That said, every day we hear of banks that are either raising their standards so high that even the "good credit" guy can't get a loan, only the lucky few with "excellent credit". Worse yet, other banks are starting to simply refuse no matter what your credit score is. I have to say it's imperative that you know what you can do to take advantage of this awesome chance at getting a piece of the Big Apple and in that spirit, I felt I had to share the article below as soon as I saw it! Having been one of those people that was wronged by an unscrupulous credit card company, over 10 years back, (which has kept my credit score at under 700 over the years, and only NOW started to move up slowly) I can empathize with anyone that has had unjust black marks on their credit, and if this is the way to help it then more power to on!
P.S. Beware that "credit fixes" can also go bad so you really need to be careful on that side too.

Can 'credit docs' cure bad scores?

The credit repair industry is exploding as tighter lending rules prompt many consumers to seek ways to push up their ratings. But beware: Unscrupulous practices are common.
By SmartMoney

Thanks to the credit crunch, lenders only have eyes for borrowers with near-perfect credit -- and that comes as welcome news to Edward Jamison. A credit-repair expert in Los Angeles, Jamison helps improve consumers' credit scores by quickly removing such blemishes as old collection accounts and credit report errors. Needless to say, business is booming. These days, Jamison is focusing on an even more lucrative opportunity: selling startup packages to those who want to become credit repair experts themselves.

His Web-based system automates the entire process, from finding clients to flagging negative information on their credit reports and generating requests that the credit bureaus remove it. Anyone with $15,000 (the cost of the package) and 25 hours of training can enter the field, he says."They can learn everything there is to know about the credit repair business and credit scores and almost be a credit expert in a matter of a week," Jamison says. Started about two years ago, his company, Credit CRM, already has more than 300 affiliates using his system.

As lending requirements tighten, hiring a credit repair expert, or "credit doctor," to help improve your scores in a matter of weeks or months sounds enticing. But consumer advocates such as Ed Mierzwinski, the consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, warn that the industry is rife with shady practices and high fees ranging from several hundred to thousands of dollars.

"Your money will be better spent paying your bills," Mierzwinski says.

Unfounded disputes are a common technique

The industry has a bad reputation, Jamison confirms. He's trying to change that by checking references for anyone interested in becoming an affiliate and even testing his business owners on their credit knowledge before he certifies them. He runs a clean shop and does his best to ensure that his affiliates do as well, he says.
Some credit repair shops, though, use loopholes in consumer-friendly laws in ways that only temporarily boost a person's credit scores. The most common technique is to dispute negative but accurate information on consumers' credit reports. A provision in the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows consumers to challenge and remove anything from their credit report that's incorrect, misleading, outdated or unverifiable, explains John Ulzheimer, the president of Educational Services. If a person finds, say, a paid collection account reported as unpaid or a delinquent credit card account that he or she actually paid on time, that person can send a dispute letter to the credit bureaus, which then request that the creditor verify the account. Unless verified as accurate within 30 days, the bureaus have to correct the information on the consumer's credit report.

Many credit repair companies know that by burying the credit reporting agencies with dispute letters, they can remove negative items -- even if they're accurate, Ulzheimer explains.

"If you have a credit report with 15 negative items and send 15 dispute letters, the odds are that some of those 15 letters aren't going to come back -- either the data (are) too old to dig out or the data furnisher's response will get lost in the mail," he explains.

The Credit Data Industry Association, a trade group for the credit bureaus, estimates that roughly one-third of the disputes that the bureaus receive are from credit clinics. "Our members tell us that almost all identified credit repair correspondence concerns adverse but accurate data," said Norm Magnuson, an association spokesman, in a written statement.

But when accurate information is deleted from a consumer's report -- especially if it's an outstanding debt -- there's often a good chance it will be re-reported the following month.

"There's no miracle work," Jamison says, adding that he disputes accounts only if a client says they're not 100% accurate. "If someone has a bunch of unpaid collections or charge-offs, you can get them off, but they're just going to come back on. A lot of companies out there will lie (that it can be done), but that's not the way it goes," Jamison notes.

Because only accounts that are paid off can be permanently removed, he says he turns away consumers who can't pay off their debts. "They're better off trying to get their finances in order and then try to get their stuff settled," he explains.

Mortgage brokers can speed up changes

For those shopping for a loan, there are some perfectly legit ways to improve your credit scores quickly. Though disputing errors with the credit bureaus typically takes about 30 to 60 days to resolve, a mortgage broker can help clean them up in a matter of five to seven days with a service called Rapid ReScore.

At $25 or $30 per credit line per bureau, however, it's a pricey option. (Mortgage brokers aren't allowed to charge clients for this but can pass along the costs in the form of higher fees elsewhere.) To successfully use Rapid ReScore, a borrower needs to submit a letter on the creditor's letterhead that proves his or her claim is correct, explains Juan Boldiszar, a Chicago mortgage broker. "Rapid ReScore really only works for people who have errors on their credit report and the documentation on hand (to prove it)," he notes.

Borrowers who fit that profile, however, can see quick results. Scott Yonehiro, a mortgage planner in Burbank, Calif., has helped improve clients' credit scores by 20 to 30 points in a matter of days. He works with borrowers who want to raise their scores from the 690-to-695 range to above 720 in order to receive better interest rates and pay less in mortgage fees, he notes.

Some mortgage brokers also employ so-called credit simulators that identify specific strategies to boost a client's scores. Justin Lopatin, a mortgage broker with American Street Mortgage in Chicago, uses software from CreditXpert that analyzes credit reports and provides specific solutions. Recently, he helped a borrower increase his scores from 620 to 695 within six weeks by paying three of his credit card balances to below 50% of the available credit limit, opening two new credit cards and clearing up two collections accounts. (The service is free to customers.)

That sounds like a great quick fix, but even consumer advocates such as Ulzheimer question the impact of such strategies in today's ailing lending environment.

"I don't see how that's good for the industry," he says. "If you have a score of 650 and you go through one of these services and are able to jimmy your credit to 710, are you really a 710 -- or 650 with makeup on? And are you really going to behave like a 710 risk-wise? I'd say you're definitely a 650 with some makeup on."

(Fannie Mae, which sets credit score criteria for mortgages that it purchases from lenders, declined to comment for this story. Freddie Mac did not return our calls.)

Of course, the best way to improve your scores is to learn the rules of good credit and stick to them for the long run. "Without proper counseling, as far as taking financial responsibility, credit repair is just a Band-Aid," says Brian Smith, a mortgage banker in Seattle.

Credit repair warning signs

Not all credit repair companies are unscrupulous, but it pays to keep an eye out for those that will take your money without delivering much in return. The Federal Trade Commission advises consumers to watch out if companies:

  • Demand upfront payment for credit repair services. Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies cannot require you to pay until they complete the promised services.

  • Don't tell you your legal rights and what actions you can take on your own for free, such as contacting the creditors and credit bureaus yourself to dispute any errors in your credit report.

  • Suggest that you create a new credit identity by applying for an Employer Identification Number to use instead of your Social Security number.

  • Tell you not to contact a credit reporting company directly.

  • Advise you to dispute all information in your credit report, even if it's accurate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Purchase CEMA - Possible Deal Maker

As I delve into the many intricacies that is the financial and real estate market I am processing every tidbit I hear and instantly checking the folders in the computer of my mind to see if I can use the information before filing it away for future use.

I also have this habit of getting excited and acting like Columbus - discovering America - when we all know he technically re-discovered it. Take the Purchase CEMA for example. We had an attorney bring that up to us today and we all ooohed and aaahed like it was a heavenly revelation. And you know WAS a revelation to US but as usual I do my research and lo and behold, there are many others that have not only heard about it but put it in practice. Still...there are many out there that do not it's always worth posting it for the benefit of the latter...

Bottom line a real estate professional, IF and WHEN this great tool can be used, it should always be something you keep in the arsenal of weapons against a stubborn deal or weak economy. It can save money to both seller and buyer and really make that difference between getting the deal done or letting it fall through the cracks at one time or another. It is also one of the FEW things you can do that will please EVERYBODY in the transaction, because everyone either saves money or gets paid!

I will leave it to others to explain how it works since they have already written it and pretty well I might add...

Purchase CEMA – posted by Miriam Bernstein

A Guide to Purchase CEMA's

Again, this may not be an option in all cases, but it sure is a great thing to use every time possible. It's more work for the professionals involved, but after all, we ARE here to work towards the best interest of the client aren't we?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fighting predatory lending...

In these times of foreclosures and economic distress it cannot be stressed enough that where the lambs scatter the wolf is ready to nab the slowest, weakest or most unaware of the world of real estate that wolf is the predatory lendor. Very aptly named too - I found this article written way back when on CNN and thought it worth to re-post it here...

5 Tips:
Protect yourself from predatory loan practices.
September 27, 2004: 3:23 PM EDT By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Predatory lending can take many forms -- from pushing unjustifiably expensive loans on consumers to charging excessive fees for lending services.

Historically, predatory lenders have targeted less affluent neighborhoods as well as the elderly and minorities, the people least able to defend themselves.
How can you protect yourself? Here are today's 5 Tips.

1. Avoid high-pressure salespeople.

Let's say you're on the cusp of qualifying for the mortgage you need to get into the home you want. It's just slightly beyond your reach. A crooked mortgage broker may encourage you to lie about your finances in order to qualify for a loan they may not otherwise be able to get.

"Run for the hills if anyone asks you to inflate your income or deflate your debt," says Brian Sullivan, a HUD spokesman.

These characters may say, "Hey listen, let's not talk about this other debt you've got or -- let's bump your income up by another $5,000."
Sullivan warns this is a recipe for disaster. If you sign on to a mortgage you can't afford and fall behind on your payments, you risk losing your house, your down payment and your good credit.

Also, don't fall prey to the pressure cooker. If a broker/lender tells you they are your only chance of getting a loan, walk away. And don't be talked out of taking time to think over the terms of your loan.

2. Know your home's value.

According to HUD, some predatory lenders lure vulnerable borrowers with cash-out refinances offers when they know borrowers are in need of cash.

These refinances are most often promoted for debt consolidation or to provide money for personal needs. This disastrous situation can play out a number of ways. Once you've taken the bait, the predator may tell you your home has been appraised for more than it's really worth. Why? So you'll take out a bigger loan.

In other cases, homeowners are sold refinance loans based on inflated appraisal values carrying high fees and harmful terms-like pre-payment penalties. To protect yourself, get an independent appraisal if you can afford it. Appraisals can cost anywhere from $300 to $600.

You should also check prices for comparable homes in the area. That way, you'll have an idea what real home values are where you live.

Log on to or local real estate Web sites to get a sense of what homes are going for. Another resource,, will help you find actual purchase prices of homes in your neighborhood (its database does not include Texas and a handful of other states.)

3. Don't get steered.

Some unsavory individuals often engage in a practice known as "steering."
According to the National Training and Information Center, an advocacy group, this is when unsuspecting borrowers with credit good enough to qualify for prime-rate loans (8% to 9%) are steered toward loans with sub-prime rates (9% to 20%).

If you suspect you might qualify for loan rates lower than ones you're being charged, there are ways you can comparison shop. Web sites like can give you rates by state for home loans, refi's and even auto loans. Another one to try is
It's always a good idea to know just how creditworthy you are. Credit scores in the range of 620 to 650 indicate basically good credit. If you have a credit score of 680 or higher you will likely qualify for the lender's best rate.

Check out your credit history at the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. The cost to get your report can range from $9.00 to nearly $30 but qualifying individuals can get one a year for free. One reason everybody should do a preemptive credit-check is that sometimes there are mistakes on your record that could cost you. So check before you apply for any loans.

For more information on tactics used by predatory lenders use, check out Another helpful resource is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the nation's largest community organization of low and moderate-income families. Their Web site is

4. Fight junk fees.

According to Laurie Maggiano at HUD, lenders can only charge fees for the services they provide. "The bottom-line [is] if you see charges you don't understand, find out what they're for and if they're necessary. If you see a charge for a credit report that totals $200, ask about it! The going rate for a credit report is only about $15."

Be on the lookout for things like "payment processing fees," "document prep fees" or "administrative fees" -- these could be "junk fees" in disguise. Ask about them. If you're not satisfied with the answers you get, tell your lender you want a reduction -- or better yet, try to get them eliminated all together.
According to, lenders are often willing to heed these requests in order to keep a deal together. Before you sign on for any loan, ask for a Good Faith Estimate, a written estimate of your settlement costs. Lenders are required to give you one within three days of application. So shop around.

5. Get free help.

If you're an inexperienced homebuyer, there's help out there.
On the HUD Web site, you'll find online brochures and information meant specifically for beginners and first-time homebuyers unfamiliar with the process. Log on to to find an agency location near you, or call 1-800-569-4287.

If you're having trouble understanding the jargon in your real estate paperwork, take your documents to a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. In many cases they will review your documents or refer you to an attorney who will help you for free or at a reduced cost.

Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News. Willis also hosts CNNfn's Open House, weekdays from Noon to 12:30 p.m. (ET).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Proud to be a NYC Real Estate Mom!

I am happy to report that I have affiliated myself with Mommies Who Know, a specialized division of Metropolitan Residential - an exceptional group of people that are more than willing to help me break into the industry and have already shown me the ropes and seem duly impressed by what I am capable of in my recent dealings with helping my friend buy his home even before I had a license! I love the idea of using my people skills as well as familial status to help other people in this niche market find their next cozy home, be it an apartment or actual house.

As the website states:
Mommies Who Know is a truly fresh and refreshing new concept! We've created a division unlike anything else in NYC - Mommies Who Know is the first and only family-focused real estate practice.

Seeing MY name there on their website is seriously so exciting for me! Yes, I am THAT passionate about my new career move! I can't wait to sift through all the listings and generate new leads and listings and make sense of some of the things that are still a little bit abstract to me. All I know is, I am absorbing everything much like the proverbial sponge!

Yes, I am finally a bonafide NYC Real Estate Mommy - how cool is that?!

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's Official!!!

I passed the State! So now I have both tests done on the first shot without paying for those extra sample exam software or tutoring mithingies and I did not even have time to really study just focused on areas I thought I'd need most for real life Real Estate professional use (in school they have a bad habit of focusing on things that are not even practiced in REAL life real estate go figure, hence my uncertainty in terms of whether I'd pass on the first try or not!)

Did I mention I did this one in 20 minutes too? I don't know what it is about that time frame but I guess it makes sense 75 questions, on both tests, 20 minutes on both tests...though the State exam had a few math questions...yes I guessed...I did not even bring a calculator! I wish they told us by how much we passed so I could get an idea what I got wrong...though interestingly enough, I did want to be cautious so did not say anything to anyone so as not to jinx myself, I thought that the state test was easier than the school test overall! I think Exam 605 is the easiest saw some questions other students came back with from Exam 601 and others and it seemed mine was the easiest...hey, I'm not complaining it's all good!

Now it's on to getting the license and I'm ready to go out there and truly learn the ins and outs of the market in the field...

Yes...I am excited!

Monday, November 3, 2008

One to go!

Don't know if you folks have seen it, but I love watching this really cool program on TV, The Human Body on the Discovery Channel.

In one segment, the featured topic was the fascinating stuff that goes on when our subconscious wakes up as our conscious mind goes to sleep. The part that I recalled the other day is that when you learn something, and then sleep, the subconscious mind, helps you store the data and make sense of it, so that when you wake up you are now equipped with info that you are not even aware you have stored in your memory. Since my memory really sucks, and because of my bad back and all I have not had a full night of sleep since 16 years of age…I figured I am screwed with the test today. This, especially after I took some “sample tests” online and got scores of 2 right out of 10 and 30 out of 100 on another test…suffice it to say I needed to do something and fast!

There are a few of them online…DON’T pay for it…it’s not necessary…you can just do the FREE TRIAL versions they offer and it’s enough believe me! This first one is the best because it has 100 questions for the free trial but the second one is nice too…


Online Real Estate Review

Then I got the idea…I slept my usual 4 to 6 hours last night, and finally got out of bed at 7a this morning and took those tests again…looking at the sections that I had gotten wrong and checking out the explanations and I am not kidding you…the info already started to stick…so I did a few more “sample” exams, read up on what I got wrong again and headed off to bed again. This time I slept for 1 ½ hours…I woke up refreshed and got on the train and did some more of those practice tests from the textbook…

Got to school a little late but they let me take the test anyway. It is comprised of 75 questions and is timed at 1 ½ hours. Again, I kid you not, I KNOW some of those things I had not gone over and knew exactly which questions I’d get wrong (though as always I do get lucky and some I get right by the “law of fluke”). But I felt my brain work like a whirring computer…my eyes scanning the questions and my hand filling in the responses almost as if in a robotic, swift rhythm…and 20 minutes after I sat down, I got up and gave in my test. I passed with an 80%. I figured as much since I knew I was lacking some of the info for the other questions…but really folks…this sleep thing…it’s TRUE!

I don’t know how but I promised myself I’d make it a point to start and get my sleep from now on…even if I have to do it bursts!

Now, here’s the kicker, I am NOT sleepy and my little one is home from school tomorrow…so I don’t know if I am going to have time to go over anymore stuff…and I am not comfortable with the fact that I got an 80% on today’s school test (passing grade is 65% for the school) and the passing grade is a 70% on the State test! That percentage does not leave me much room for error.

Yes, tomorrow the world holds their breath as American citizens mill in and out of voting booths to choose our next puppet in office, but for me…tomorrow is my chance at a new beginning, a new career…while the new president may or may not screw us in the coming years…let’s be optimistic and hope for the best!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Comedy Break - Palin On Prank Call

Ok ok...I am cramming for the 2 tests coming up and going nuts trying to figure out where to start as soon as I pass the tests, and get to work...but for now, took a quick break from real estate and took a peek at the funny side of politics.

Apparently McCain was a hoot on SNL and Palin was the unwitting butt of the joke when she got a prank call...see the article below on that one...enjoy!

The written version is below...for those not fond of reading here is the Youtube version.

Palin takes prank call from fake French president
November 02, 2008 7:26 AM EST

TORONTO - Sarah Palin unwittingly took a prank call Saturday from a Canadian comedian posing as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and telling her she would make a good president someday.

"Maybe in eight years," replies a laughing Palin.

The Republican vice presidential nominee discusses politics, the perils of hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney, and Sarkozy's "beautiful wife," in a recording of the six-minute call released Saturday and set to air Monday on a Quebec radio station.

Palin campaign spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt confirmed she had received the prank call.

"Governor Palin was mildly amused to learn that she had joined the ranks of heads of state, including President Sarkozy and other celebrities, in being targeted by these pranksters. C'est la vie," she said.

The call was made by a well-known Montreal comedy duo Marc-Antoine Audette and Sebastien Trudel. Known as the Masked Avengers, the two are notorious for prank calls to celebrities and heads of state.

Audette, posing as Sarkozy, speaks in an exaggerated French accent and drops ample hints that the conversation is a joke. But Palin seemingly does not pick up on them.

He tells Palin one of his favorite pastimes is hunting, also a passion of the 44-year-old Alaska governor.

"I just love killing those animals. Mmm, mmm, take away life, that is so fun," the fake Sarkozy says.

He proposes they go hunting together by helicopter, something he says he has never done.

"Well, I think we could have a lot of fun together while we're getting work done," Palin counters. "We can kill two birds with one stone that way."

The comedian jokes that they shouldn't bring Cheney along on the hunt, referring to the 2006 incident in which the vice-president shot and injured a friend while hunting quail.

"I'll be a careful shot," responds Palin.

Playing off the governor's much-mocked comment in an early television interview that she had insights into foreign policy because "you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska," the caller tells her: "You know we have a lot in common also, because ... from my house I can see Belgium."

She replies: "Well, see, we're right next door to different countries that we all need to be working with, yes."

When Audette refers to Canadian singer Steph Carse as Canada's prime minister, Palin replies: "Well, he's doing fine and yeah, when you come into a position underestimated it gives you an opportunity to prove the pundits and the critics wrong. You work that much harder." Canada's prime minister is Stephen Harper.

Palin praises Sarkozy throughout the call and also mentions his wife Carla Bruni, a model-turned-songwriter.

"You know, I look forward to working with you and getting to meet you personally and your beautiful wife," Palin says. "Oh my goodness, you've added a lot of energy to your country with that beautiful family of yours."

The Sarkozy impersonator tells Palin his wife is "so hot in bed" and then informs her that Bruni has written a song for her about Joe the Plumber entitled "Du rouge a levres sur une cochonne" - which translates as "Lipstick on a Pig."

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama derided his Republican challenger John McCain's call for change in Washington as "lipstick on a pig," days after Palin made a lipstick joke at the Republican convention. The McCain-Palin campaign then released an ad implying Obama was calling Palin a pig with that remark.

The caller asks Palin if Joe the Plumber is her husband and adds: "We have the equivalent of Joe the Plumber in France. It's called Marcel, the guy with bread under his armpit."

He also tells the Alaska governor that he loved the "documentary" made about her and referred to a pornographic film with a Palin look-alike made by Hustler founder Larry Flynt.

She answers tentatively, "Ohh, good, thank you, yes."

The callers then reveal the prank and identify themselves and their radio station.

"Ohhh, have we been pranked?" Palin asks before handing the phone to an aide who ends the call.

Obama's campaign spokesman Robert Gibbs, commenting on the prank, said: "I'm glad we check out our calls before we hand the phone to Barack Obama."
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