Read before you refinance
18:54 EDT, October 14th, 2011


Friday, October 14, 2011

FHA Refis on Original Low Monthly MI Terms Could Give Borrowers Higher Savings

An idea that is taking capture of the industry is that of FHA streamline refinances calculated with the original terms of lower monthly mortgage insurance. Originally, Monthly MI through FHA was set at .55% with financed MI at 2.15% while currently FHA has it monthly set at 1.15% and financed at 1%. Sure, financed MI has dropped but monthly has increased and this is truly what effects your payments the most of the entire life of the loan. If FHA were to create a new structure of streamline refinances that would allow borrowers to calculate the monthly MI based on the factor at the time of purchase, this would allow them to gain a greater savings on their refinance.

Renter caught up in foreclosure

Q. In Foreclosure!  I live in a house that had a lis pendens delivered for foreclosure with 20 days to respond. I have no interest or involvement with the owner or the house. Aside from moving out as soon as possible, is there anything else I have to do? Do I have any legal issues to worry about?

Unfortunately, the financial and mortgage crisis has been a wave that has taken many innocent people along with property owners and lenders.

You, it seems, are a renter in a property that is in the process of being foreclosed. The owner of the property you live in has either fallen behind on his payments to his lender or has simply stopped making the payments.

Now the property’s lender is trying to recover what it can by foreclosing on the property to sell it off and get the loan repaid.

You, on the other hand, may have a lease with the owner of the property. That lease obligates you to make payments to the landlord for your rent.

During normal real estate markets, a lender forecloses on a building or home and wants the place empty for resale purposes. The lender doesn’t want to be in the business of being a landlord. So the lender moves to foreclose and notifies all occupants of the property of the foreclosure proceedings and follows through to evict all occupants.

Recently, however, more and more lenders are coming to the realization that tenants are good for properties and are a good source of income for the thousands of properties these lenders are foreclosing on.

Where does that leave you? There are several possibilities:

If you live on a month-to-month lease at the property and the property owner has effectively abandoned the building, most people in your shoes do what you are doing now and pack up their things to find another place to live.

But if you like where you live, you might want to see if the lender wants you to stay at the property. You should contact the lender directly to see if the lender would want the rent payments to continue or if there is some way the lender can finance your purchase of the property.

Until the lender forecloses on the property, the property is still owned by (and managed by) the current owner. But lenders have the ability to take possession of the property without becoming the owner by getting the court to allow them to operate the building until the foreclosure is final. If the lender goes this route, you may find that the lender will be eager to keep you at the property.

If you have no lease but lived in the property as a guest of the owner of the property, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about with either the owner of the property or the lender when you move out. You’re free to move out whenever you have to or want to.

If you are a tenant on the property, your lease continues to be valid until it is canceled through the foreclosure process.

If you’re in a situation where your landlord no longer collects rent and is nowhere to be found, and you receive court papers that order you to vacate the property, you should be able to leave the property without worrying that someone is going to sue you down the line.

However, if your landlord continues to collect rent from you and is actively managing the property, you need to review the documentation you received from the court to determine if that documentation is sufficient to cancel your lease and allow you to move out without creating a Catch-22 situation for you in which you move out and the landlord sues you for non-payment of rent.

As a tenant, you need to make sure that the information given to you by the lender is accurate and that you do, in fact, need to forward rent payments to the lender.

How to Avoid Foreclosure

How to avoid foreclosure

A tidal wave of anxiety is washing over America, propelled by the mortgage industry collapse. BLOOMBERG NEWS

Worried about losing your house? This advice might help:

If you lose your job and know you’ll have trouble making your mortgage payments, call your lender immediately and follow up in writing. Above all, don’t ignore letters from the lender.

Stay in your home as long as possible. If you move out and the home is vandalized, the bank can charge you a fee to repair the damage.

Beware of predators. One red flag is someone who wants a fee upfront for something you can do yourself or get for free. For instance, if you’re having trouble getting through to your lender on the phone, don’t pay someone else to call. Ask yourself, “Is anyone going to profit from this?” If the answer is yes, proceed with caution. See whether a nonprofit group can help you first.

Under no circumstance should you sign over your house to someone who agrees to pay the mortgage until you get back on your feet. This is one of the most common scams going, and it typically ends with you renting back your home until the new owner decides to sell and evicts you.

Know whether a short-term fix will give you the time you need to catch up on your payments. Several programs offer one-time assistance, often only for a single month. They might only postpone the inevitable.

Use a Housing and Urban Development-approved foreclosure-prevention counselor. To check credentials, call 1-800-569-4287 or go to

On the Web, see;; and, the government-led alliance of lenders, mortgage servicers, investors and advocacy groups.

The Orlando Sentinel

Pay your HOA or risk losing their home

Pay Your HOA- Residents are falling behind on association fees, and one family faces foreclosure.

By Nancy Stancill

April and Richard Maher are homeowners in Indian Trail whose home is slated to be auctioned off because they owe homeowners dues. T.ORTEGA

More Information

  • 15% of U.S. spend half of income on housing
  • Overdue Dues
    Homeowners and condominium associations often begin legal action if dues are more than 90 days late.
    They can file a lien against the property if they follow state law by properly notifying the owner. Lawyers advise not to let the matter get that far.
    Most associations are willing to negotiate a payment plan with owners having difficulties. Communicate early and often.

An unprecedented number of Charlotte-area residents are failing to pay dues to their homeowners and condominium associations, driving worries that pools will close, maintenance will suffer and property values will fall.

Lawyers and management companies for hundreds of community associations in the region say dues delinquencies have risen sharply with the foreclosure crisis and the sour economy. Although they don’t know exactly how many home and condo owners are in arrears, they say it has likely doubled in the last two years.

Some troubling signs:

Mike Hunter, a Charlotte lawyer for about 500 associations, estimates that about one-fifth have serious delinquency problems. His firm files more than 100 liens a month against owners whose dues are more than three months late, he says.

Foreclosing on owners with unpaid dues is rare – but more likely as associations get squeezed. An Indian Trail family’s home is scheduled for public auction Oct. 8 because the couple owes $2,200 in dues.

More than 30 percent of the owners in some starter-home communities aren’t paying their dues, an unprecedented number, says Gail Pizetoski, whose Davidson-based Jorel Association Management works with 45 associations.

“One neighborhood fired the landscaper and has volunteers mowing the lawns,” she says.

Spreading to affluent areas

Hunter says he’s seeing the highest delinquency rates in starter-home neighborhoods and older condo complexes that have a lot of absentee owners. “But there are beginning to be more homes in affluent neighborhoods.”

Hunter declined to identify clients and said associations fear that publicity about dues problems could affect values.

It’s a combination of factors, he and others say. Homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages get stretched when the rate goes up. Gas and food prices are higher, and people are losing jobs and income in a rough economy. It’s easier not to pay the homeowner dues than to skimp on food or daycare.

Owners associations collect dues and provide services for hundreds of thousands of people in the Charlotte region. State law allows legal action – even up to foreclosure – when owners don’t pay dues. Hunter says he sees dues ranging from $175 a year to maintain small subdivision common areas to $350 a month for extensive services in a high-rise condo.

Associations represented by Hunter and two management companies declined to be interviewed by the Observer, saying those officials could speak for them.

Frank Rathbun, a spokesman for the Community Associations Institute, a national trade organization for about 300,000 associations covering nearly 60 million Americans, says dues delinquencies have climbed across the country for two years. It’s especially bad in places like Florida, California and Nevada where foreclosure problems have mounted.

“Delinquency rates are 10 or 20 percent or even higher in some places,” he says. “If you have that many not paying their dues, it puts the association in a difficult situation.”

Dennis Abbott, whose Charlotte-based Abbott Enterprises provides management services for 80 associations, says a 3 percent delinquency rate used to be typical for those communities. But in the last year, it’s averaged 41/2 percent, with more associations crossing the 5 percent threshold – and one at 10 percent.

At 5 percent, he says, communities need to take more serious steps to keep services up to par.

Food took precedence

April and Richard Maher moved to Indian Trail two years ago from Florida and bought a house in the Taylor Glenn subdivision for $289,900. Because they had an adjustable rate mortgage, their payments have gone from $2,400 to $3,600 a month. They have three children, including a 3-month-old daughter. They’re employed at lower-level jobs than they had in Miami, she said.

April Maher said they received notice last year that they owed $2,200 in homeowners association and legal fees and didn’t pay it “because food for the kids was at the top of my list.” Their annual fee is $795 a year. She said their interest rate has jumped from about 9 percent to 13.6 percent and is due to go up again. At the moment, she said, they are current with their mortgage payments.

She said they didn’t know the homeowners association had the power to foreclose on their home until it was too late. She said she has tried to negotiate, but the law firm handling the legal action rejected her payment plan offer of $100 a month. A public auction of the Mahers’ home is scheduled for Oct. 8.

Tim Sellers, an attorney for the firm that’s representing the Taylor Glenn association, said he wasn’t familiar with the details of the Mahers’ case. But he defended the association’s action.

“When the matter has moved along to this point, there have been a number of opportunities to make things right,” Sellers said. “It’s understandably an upsetting thing. But associations can’t just stop providing landscaping or other amenities when people don’t pay.”

Charlotte: A Friendly Place

In Charlotte:  Think we talk funny? Well, bless your heart

Mark Washburn


You’ll love this if you moved here from Atlanta.

Or New York. Or Miami. Or Washington, D.C.

Or San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia or Boston (particularly Boston).

We have baaaaad traffic here.

Yep, that’s what we think. Welcome to Charlotte, bad-traffic city.

See, we’re an ambitious place and it’s part of the city’s personality to fret about how much we’ve grown. We want to think of ourselves as a big city. We just don’t want any big city problems.

Lots of people move here expecting to find a big hick town in bib overalls. Sometimes we oblige their expectation.

Drive down Interstate 77 and go hunting for the airport. Think we’ve got any signs saying “Airport”? Nah.

There are a couple symbols of planes bolted to overhead signs (they sort of look like a Girl Scout badge sash), but that’s about it. One reason our population is growing so fast is because people fly here to visit and can’t find their way back to the terminal. Your average real estate open house is better marked than Charlotte/Douglas International.

Manners are still in fashion here. You’re expected to nod or say hello to strangers you encounter on the street. Don’t take that habit with you when you go back to Boston or Miami. People will hand you money like you’re a beggar. If you try to chase them down to give it back, they’ll spray mace in your eyes.

People here still offer their seats to old people on a crowded bus, say thank you to the cop when handed a ticket and let you know slyly when your kids act up (“Little Johnny just said the oddest thing that he must have picked up from some child at school, though I can’t repeat it”).

Our uptown is a spiffy thing, thick with tall buildings slathered with glass. From afar, it looks like the Emerald City from across the poppy fields.

But architecture isn’t our strong point. Most cities have old buildings full of character from the age of their birth. Our city center is over-endowed by designs from the linear 1970s. New York’s great spires owe their appeal to the art-deco period. Our skyline is inspired by major appliance boxes.

Our two tallest buildings, however, do their work well. Bank of America’s headquarters is a stately thing, from its lobby murals to pleasing spire. Down the street, the Hearst Building intrigues with padded shoulders. It’s nice symmetry – they look like dance partners.

We’re not the genteel South of olden times, of course. It is possible sometimes to go all day without hearing a Southern accent, which appeals to some but not to me. It’s a rich dialect full of frills and ornaments and one of the attractions of living here.

One phrase you need to learn is “Bless his/her heart.” This is a good one. You can say anything about anyone as long as you cap it off with “Bless his/her heart.”

“He had so much fun at that party, he could barely stand, bless his heart.”

“She always finds the most alarming qualities in others, bless her heart.”

So welcome to our world, and all its oddities. They’ll grow on you, believe me. Before long, even you folks from Boston will be complaining about the traffic, bless your hearts.

Mark Washburn is a local columnist for the Observer. Reach him at 704-358-5007 or

International flavor spices up Southern charm

Ethnic festivals highlight some of the rich cultural experiences that you can find, if you take the time to look.

By Franco Ordoñez
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  • Alfredo Molimia and Zenaida Villa dance the polka with the Ballet Folklorico Mexicana de Greenville at the 2003 Latin Festival at the Mint Museum. CHRIS KEANE/STAFF

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  • 5 months with ethnic festivals

    1. September: Oktoberfest Starts Sept. 26 and continues weekends through Oct. 12. Waldhorn Restaurant, behind Carolina Place Mall; 704-540-7047;

    Yiasou Greek Festival is early in the month. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 600 East Blvd. 704-334-4771

    2. October: Taste of the World: Oct. 9. Twenty participating restaurants in East Charlotte International District. Eastland Area Strategies Team; 704-716-6600 Latin American Festival: Oct. 12. Symphony Park at SouthPark. Latin American Coalition; 704-531-3848;

    3. November: Beaujolais Nouveau celebration Nov. 21. Levine Museum of the New South; Alliance Française de Charlotte; 704-236-4863;

    4. May: Charlotte Dragonboat Festival: May 16. Location TBD but likely Ramsey Creek Park; Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce; 704-540-6808;

    5. July: Bastille Day Festival takes place mid-month. French-American Chamber of Commerce of North Carolina; 704.225.3910;

One of Charlotte’s best kept secrets is its rapidly growing international community.

Perhaps not immediately apparent like in other larger cities, but those willing to branch out a bit will be rewarded with rich cultures and tastes from almost every corner of the world.

Discover hand-made Turkish pottery, for example, or catch an African Kalimba performance, otherwise known as African thumb piano, at Pura Vida World Art – a folks arts store, café and art gallery in Plaza Midwood. Talk Paris, Berlin, and Rome at a free conversation hour in French, German, or Italian at the International House in Elizabeth.

More than 10,000 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students come from 102 countries and speak 83 languages.

Your neighbors could as easily hail from Chile or Vietnam as Boston or Buffalo.

“The thing that is so unique to Charlotte is that you continue to have the traditional southern charm genre,” said Andrea Lee, a board member of the Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce, “But now you’ve added all these elements of intrigue – all these cultures from all over the world – make it so much more.”

Ever dream of being a champion Dragon Boat racer? Then don’t miss the spring Asian festival when teams of 21 – and a drummer – compete against each other in 40-foot dragon boats on Lake Norman.

The city hosts as many as 70 ethnic festivals a year, including the widely popular Yiasou Greek Festival where attendees can watch traditional dances on three stages while eating a succulent souvlaki sandwich. Try the drive-thru if you’re pressed for time.

Franco Ordoñez writes about minority affairs for the Charlotte Observer. 704-358-6180;

Why live in Charlotte?

Here’s how to embrace your new home


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  • Family found its spot in Charlotte

What’s a Charlottean?

In a region with tens of thousands of newcomers a year, if you’re a transplant, the answer is you.

My job is to write about newcomers – what brought them here, why they chose Charlotte, how they’re adjusting, what they like and don’t like – and answer their questions about living here. I do that in my Living Here columns in the Observer and New Around Town blog on

My loose definition of a newcomer is someone who moved here in the last two years. But as a relative newcomer wrapping up my fifth year in Charlotte, I know it takes a while to feel at home. As much as I hear from new residents, I also hear from natives or those who have been here for decades, and I appreciate their perspective on how much Charlotte has changed.

No matter when you settled in the Charlotte region, if you have a question or comment or story to share, I want to hear it. Please be in touch.

Throughout this magazine you’ll find suggestions for getting to know the area, making friends, networking and picking a doctor or school.

So, want to be a Charlottean or at least pass for one? Here are five tips for making that happen.

1. Experience uptown. Try taking a walk around uptown at the beginning of the workday or during lunch and ask yourself if you have ever been in a mid-sized city with so many professionals bustling about the center city. But you’ll see more than just people earning a living uptown. You’ll see people living there too – runners out pounding the pavement, dog owners walking their pooches and couples pushing baby strollers.

Wonder what the four statues at Trade and Tryon represent? Call the Charlotte Chamber for a tour. Local history enthusiast and volunteer tour guide Russ Ford gives free two-hour walking tours on Fridays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Registration is not required, but big groups should call ahead to arrange a special tour time. 704-331-2753, 704-847-3302.

2. Learn some local history. Don’t let the phrase “New South” or all the construction crews and cranes make you think there isn’t any.

Mecklenburg declared its independence from Britain a year before the colonies did – though some folks here dispute this. And Charlotte had a gold rush that preceded the more famous one in California.

Best bet for where to get schooled in local history: Levine Museum of the New South (, 200 E. Seventh St.).

The permanent exhibit, “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers: Charlotte and the Carolina Piedmont in the New South” covers 8,000 square feet and takes visitors through the Charlotte area from the post-Civil war era to now. It’s an interactive tour. Visitors can step inside a one-room tenant farmer’s house and run their hands through a pile of seed cotton. They can sit in a pew from Good Samaritans Hospital Chapel, one of the first African-American hospitals in the South, or at a lunch counter and listen to personal accounts from the Piedmont’s civil rights era sit-in leaders.

3. Go to a NASCAR race. Again, set aside any preconceived notions (you know what they are – just a bunch of guys turning left, huh?) and just do it. Racing was born in North Carolina. Living here and not seeing a NASCAR race would be like living in Kentucky and never seeing a thoroughbred horse race.

You might be surprised and – gasp! – like it. At the very least, you’ll appreciate experiencing the sound of 43 cars revving their engines at the same time and the excitement of the crowd when a favored driver takes the lead. Besides, what other sport allows you to bring in your own food and drinks?

For more on racing, go to or check out racing writer David Poole’s story on page 141.

4. Go on a barbecue tour. There are three styles of barbecue in the Carolinas but one thing stays the same: it’s always pork. Eastern style has a vinegar-based sauce and is slow-cooked from the whole pig. Lexington style is known for a redder (that’s usually ketchup) vinegar sauce, and the pork typically comes from the shoulder. South Carolina style is known for golden-colored mustard-based sauce.

If nothing else, remember barbecue is a noun, not a verb. Cooking food on the grill does not equal barbecue.

Some places to start your barbecue tour: Bill Spoon’s (Eastern style) on South Boulevard in Charlotte, Lexington No. 1 in Lexington and Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby (Lexington style), and Sweatman’s in Holly Hill, S.C. (mustard style). Holly Hill is a three-hour trek. Lexington and Shelby are each about an hour away.

Attention foodies: Want more? Read food editor Kathleen Purvis’ stories on top local food experiences on page 30 and how to cook like a Southerner on page 134. Also check out her column Wednesday’s in the Observer’s food section and her online Q&A at

5. Get outside. One of the best things about living in Charlotte is the relatively mild weather, though summers are hot and humid. You can golf, play tennis, run and ride your bike year round. Mecklenburg and the surrounding counties have an array of parks and greenways. In the summer, take the kids to cool down at one of five spraygrounds in Mecklenburg.

For more info on Mecklenburg’s public parks, greenways and spraygrounds:

Do all these things and give it a year or two and you might just start feeling like a Charlottean. Have fun exploring. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Got a question or comment about Living Here? Amy Baldwin writes about newcomers. Reach her at 704-358-5179 or