Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Flood Insurance Drowning in Government Bureaucracy

If you’ve watched the news over the past several weeks and seen some of your neighbors across the nation watch in horror as their homes literally washed away in a flood, it may have gotten you to thinking that now might be the time to purchase flood insurance. Or perhaps you HAVE flood insurance, but it's up for renewal. Afterall, you don’t have to live in a flood plain to get flooded, just look at what happened when Tropical Storm Allison blew through a few years ago. Or even more recent, the havoc caused by Hurricane Ike’s torrential downpours. If you picked up the phone to call your trusty insurance agent you were no doubt surprised to hear the voice on the other end tell you in so many words, “Sorry. There IS no flood insurance right now.”

Read on for the latest update regarding flood insurance and our government at work for us: From the Insurance Journal – National News dated June 30th, 2010


The future of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) remains in limbo even as Hurricane Alex makes its way to the Texas coast today. Washington lobbyists say a vote could come today but if that doesn’t happen, it could be until July 12th or thereafter before another vote is possible since Congress will not be around during the July 4th holiday.

The NFIP expired on June 1st, the official day of hurricane season. Since then, flooding has occurred in several states. On June 23rd, the House of Representatives passed another temporary extension of the NFIP, good through September 30, 2010, but the Senate has failed to take action so far.

Even if the Senate passed an NFIP extension, a flood insurance policy normally does not go into effect for 30 days after the policy is purchased, further underscoring the importance of renewing the program as quickly as possible, says the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The NAIC has sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging immediate action to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In a letter, regulators stressed that timing is negatively affecting consumers.

“As state regulators, we are deeply concerned with the impact the nearly month-long lapse has caused for consumers and future flood victims across the country,” said Jane C. Cline, NAIC president and West Virginia Insurance Commissioner. “It is imperative that Congress act quickly to extend the program so that consumers can protect themselves.”

Blain Rethmeier, senior vice president for public affairs for the American Insurance Association, says right now the future of the NFIP remains in limbo with no clear legislative path for a retroactive extension of the program.

“There is a slim chance the Senate will have an opportunity to pass the short term extension, but with Senator Byrd’s funeral, it looks unlikely,” Rethmeier said. “We very well could go into July 4th recess without any resolution.”

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana brought the NFIP extension through September 30th to the Senate floor for unanimous consent yesterday, according to Matt Brady, director of media relations for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. (NAMIC). But Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois objected and offered the “extenders” bill, legislation that would extend the program through the end of the year but also includes other provisions that have drawn objections for increasing the budget deficit, according to Brady. Brady said Sen. Vitter then objected to the extender’s bill.

“It’s possible that it could be brought to the floor for unanimous consent again today,” Brady said, but cautioned that if nothing happens today, the Senate would be less likely to take action tomorrow because of the memorial service planned for the late Sen. Robert Byrd. “They’re also out all next week, so if they adjourn without extending the program nothing can happen until July 12th or 13th at a minimum.”

The program has been unable to issue new or renewal policies since it was shut down May 31st, although it is still paying claims. It is the fourth time in the past year that the program has been interrupted due to the failure of Congress to reauthorize it for an extended period.

Yep....our government at work for us. Bless their hearts.

Bad Home Warranty Experience

As a Realtor, I generally refer clients to 3 vendors in any particular category. 3 Lendors, 3 insurance companies, 3 painters, and so on. That way they can make their own choice who to go with. Same true with Home Warranty Companies. But 9 times out of 10, they figure the company I have personally must be the best, after all if it's good enough for me, it's gotta be good enough for them. NOT SO!

I'm only in my 2nd year with Old Republic Home Warranty but have referred them to clients for years. Since my rep left (who was wonderful), all they want is my payment. I've been trying to get my washing machine fixed for months. And my oven that I called in was flat denied stating it was due to "excessive force". Give me a break!

Mine's a long story but in short, they will find any excuse not to take care of something and I think their contractors work with them because otherwise, they wouldn't have any customers. They are THAT bad. I would like to hear from anyone else if you've had a similar experience with YOUR home warranty company. And if you're happy with yours, I would like to hear that too. I'm canceling my contract and shopping around.

Oh, and if you happen to be one of the powers that be with ORHW and are reading this...then good. Maybe I've finally gotten someone's attention. Nothing else has worked!

Just Who Are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

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Deer Overruning Your Neighborhood?

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Energy Tax Credits - Beware of False Promises!!!!

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Tax Tips For Planning Your 2010 Tax Return

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The Possible Costs of Renting Your House Out

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How Foresclosures Can Affect Your Credit Scores

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Do You Scour the Sex Offender Registries?

As a Real Estate professional, I’m often asked about the probability of a particular neighborhood’s housing of registered sex offenders. The concern is the same as mine, and rightly so. We want our children and families as safe as possible. I often refer these families to one of several sex offender registries. There is a growing number of Web sites that make it simple and easy to find out how many registered sex offenders live in a given area. Many of the Web sites are a result of Megan’s Law which went into effect in 1996 requiring states to make information on registered sex offenders public. Web sites such as Family Watchdog ( and the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website ( are free while some mobile apps can cost a few dollars.

What concerns this writer is how diluted the list has become. Round-the-clock media coverage of high profile abductions and murders have contributed to a general sense that society has run amok, when in fact violent crime rates in most areas are generally lower now than they’ve been since the 1970s, according to Lenore Skenazy, author of "Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry" (Jossey-Bass, 2009).

According to Skenazy, the number of people registered as sex offenders has been exploding for 15 years, and not because of the escalation of high-risk perpetrators. She notes that while there are still plenty of creepy criminals on state registries, the MAIN reason the list has grown so large is because we’ve “dumbed-down” the notion of what constitutes a sex offender.

Did you know that a person can wind up on the registry for urinating public, visiting a prostitute or in 32 states, taking part in the silly prank of streaking? I sure didn’t. But perhaps the most problematic group of “sex offenders” according to Skenazy is TEENS. Teen boys getting caught having sex with their girlfriends, and more times than not, consensually. In Texas alone, 4,000 registrants ended up on the list as juveniles. And in Georgia, it was found that less than 1% defined as “predators” were actually considered driven by compulsion to commit sex crimes.

Skenazy states that adding to the registries to “keep our children safe,” they’d likely be safer if registries were smaller and more meaningful. She further argues sex offender registries contribute to an irrational fear of “stranger danger” when in fact nearly 90% of all crimes against children are committed by a family member or other people they know, according to David Finkelhor, who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

So what is a concerned parent or Realtor to do? I know I’ll continue checking out the Web sites myself and when asked, I’ll refer them to my clients. After all it only takes one individual to cause real fear in a community. I guess it really is better to FEEL safe than BE sorry.

Housing Shortage in the Cards?

In the current market, the idea of a housing shortage may be hard to accept. There are simply too many For Sale signs and delinquent mortgages threatening to turn into foreclosures to make a housing shortage seem like a serious possibility. But the big drop in home construction over the past few years suggests that it COULD become a real issue.

Home builders must add 1.6 to 1.7 million housing units each year to accommodate typical U.S. population increases and replace demolished homes. During the boom years of 2003 to 2006, production far exceeded the historical average, with builders producing a cumulative surplus of 1.3 million units.

That overproduction remained hidden, though, because investors flush with easy money were gobbling up property. Once the easy money dried up and prices headed down, investors were forced to dump properties. Today, there might be as many as 700,000 empty units ABOVE normal levels.

Still, the great underproduction in the past three years is an issue that will need to be reconciled, especially if the trend continues. Once we start seeing new household formation again, a housing shortage is something we won’t be able to dismiss too quickly.

(June 2010) Lawrence Chun, Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Negotiate Your Best House Buy

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Priorities to Consider When Negotiating Repairs (For Buyers)

I always stress the importance for Buyers to attend the inspection of a home they plan to purchase. Doing so enables them to be shown specific items of importance and allows them to ask questions of the inspector. The following information is coming straight from the horse's mouth (so-to-speak), a REAL inspector...and a very thorough one I might add. Please read on....

In the words of Glenn Wharten, Texas Inspection Partners: It happens during nearly every inspection. The buyer will ask me if the seller “has to” repair a particular item or they will ask which items they should ask the seller to repair. Repair negotiations are of course, the responsibility of the buyer’s agent. The agent however, is not supposed to be making value judgments in regard to repairs. It therefore falls to the inspector to give every buyer some level of guidance as to how to set priorities among all of the items found.

I first advise buyers that much of the repair negotiation process rests on the seller’s attitude towards the process. If the seller believes he “took a bath” or is financially stressed, he may have little interest in conducting repairs. At the other end of the spectrum is the seller that thinks he did well during initial negotiations or earnestly wants to leave the home in a tidy manner. The normal scenario tends to be somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

To prepare for repair negotiations you need to accept two facts. First, a seller will not repair the entire list. The simple explanation that I use is that you have to accept that there is a normal level of wear and tear on any home. Secondly, the buyer must make a serious decision about what he is unwilling to accept and what he can do himself. Homeownership is a responsibility; it comes with an obligation to conduct upkeep. Items found by the inspector that fall into the normal upkeep category are poor choices for repair negotiations.

Finally, consideration must be given to the buyer’s personal situation. Factor in buyer skill set, the age of the new occupants and any mobility issues with the new occupants. Priorities 1 through 3 (below) can routinely become part of a negotiating process, while 4 normally does not. This is what I give to my buyers:

Priority 1: Safety - Repair any item that can be construed as harmful if not fixed. Opinions on what is a safety issue will vary. Good examples include GFCI repair or the replacement of a copper gas line.

Priority 2: Structure - Repair any item, which causes a weakening of the structure or opens the structure up to environmental damage. Rotted wood, plumbing leaks or ineffective flashing.

Priority 3. Mechanicals - Repair any mechanical or appliance needed for home comfort or functionality. AC or heat, which is not working.

Priority 4. Routine Repairs - Items that are part of a normal maintenance program but need attention now. Caulk repair around windows, trimming vegetation.

See who's coming to Dosey Doe's!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 - EZRA CHARLES 8:00 PM $40 Dinner
He is firmly rooted in every type of music that ever came out of Texas; Boogie-Woogie, Swing, Rockabilly, and Blues. Famous for his flashy piano antics and girls in the horn section, Ezra spends the evening talking & playing with host Kyle Hutton for this recorded for radio event.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 - MARK CHESTNUTT 8:00 PM $70 Dinner
With one of “the” voices in Country music, Mark is the heir apparent to both of
the Georges! Success came early in the ‘90s and continues as he is always on top of the charts & winning awards. Mark spends the evening talking & playing with host Kyle Hutton for this recorded for radio event.


Looking for something FUN to do?

CrĂș in The Woodlands is featuring live jazz, spectacular wine country cuisine, artisan cheeses, wood-fired pizzas and nightly seasonal Chef Specials. Each night their in-house wine specialist will select and open a rare large format bottle to offer by the glass at exceptional value for your enjoyment.

Friday, June 18, 2010

There's much more here than beer!

Coming to Town Green Park on The Woodlands Waterway - 2010 Oktoberfest!

September 24th - 26th
Times: Fri: 5-9pm | Sat: 12-9pm | Sun: 12-6pm
Cost: Children under 10 - $Free | Adults and Children 10 and up - $10.00

2010 Entertainment Schedule coming soon!

Food & Drinks There will be much authentic German food to be sampled including:
•bratwurst•sauerkraut•strudel•a wide variety of other tastes

Also, two-fisted Oktoberfest pretzels will tempt the taste buds of festival goers.

Oktoberfest 2010 beer mugs and Bavarian souvenirs will also be for sale in the festival's craft vendor fair.

All proceeds will go directly to The Woodlands Rotary Club Foundation raising funds for student scholarships benefitting local students and their families.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Many of us have been very concerned about the implementation of federal legislation known as the SAFE Act that would severely limit an individual’s ability to seller finance their property in Texas.

We are working on numerous regulatory and legislative solutions to this affront to private-property owners, and have some good news to report. At our urging, the chief regulator over the SAFE Act in Texas, the commissioner of the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending, has taken significant steps to allow Texas property owners to continue to seller finance up to five transactions in a 12-month period.

More specifically, the commissioner has delayed the implementation of the SAFE Act requirement for licensure in seller-financed transactions in Texas until August 31. This will give us time to implement regulatory and legislative changes during the coming months. For now it is important for you to know that the long-standing law of allowing a Texas seller to finance up to five transactions in a consecutive 12-month period is still in effect and the Texas Association of REALTORS® will continue to work at the federal and state level to see that this is a permanent solution.

Finally, this action would not have happened if not for the thousands of Texas REALTORS® who participated in our grassroots efforts to correct this abuse to private-property owners in Texas.

Information provided by Governmental Affairs, The Texas Association of Realtors, Bill Jones, 2010 Chairman of the Board
Home Buyer Tax Credits Brought to you by the National Association of Home Builders
Special Rules for Members of the Military, the Foreign Service
and the Intelligence Community:

Congress has acknowledged the unique circumstances affecting members of the military, the foreign service and the intelligence community by making the following exceptions that apply to both the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers and the $6,500 tax credit for repeat home buyers.

Exemption From Tax Credit Recapture Rules

Typically, homes that are sold or that cease to be used as a principal residence within three years of the initial purchase are subject to recapture of the tax credit. However, qualified service members who sell or move from a tax credit home within three years of the initial purchase due to official extended duty are exempt from the recapture rule.

Extension of Tax Credit Deadlines

The home buyer tax credit is available for qualified purchases with a binding sales contract in place on or before April 30, 2010 and closed by June 30, 2010. However, for qualified service members who are ordered on a period of official extended duty, these dates are extended for one year. For these home buyers, the tax credit applies to sales with a binding sales contract in place on or before April 30, 2011 and closed by June 30, 2011.

A person who is forced to return to the U.S. for medical reasons before completing an assignment of at least 90 days of qualified official extended duty outside of the United States may qualify for the one-year extension.


“Qualified service member” means a member of the uniformed services of the U.S military, a member of the Foreign Service of the U.S., or an employee of the intelligence community.

“Official extended duty” means any period of extended duty outside of the United States for at least 90 days during the period beginning after December 31, 2008 and ending before May 1, 2010.