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AOL Real Estate - Blog

older | 1 | .... | 26 | 27 | (Page 28)

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    Though tales of booming housing markets have pushed foreclosure horror stories out of the headlines, the problem persists in those stubborn pockets of the economy still mired in crisis. That includes California, which has seen a dramatic turnaround in the past year, but where rapid growth -- followed by a high rate of unemployment second only to Michigan -- still leaves many homeowners in economic distress, and vulnerable to schemes that promise to rescue them from default.

    Jewel Hinkles foreclosure rescue fraudster
    KCRA/AOL On
    Suspected to be among the most successful there was one that preyed on homeowners across California by claiming to put them in touch with investors willing to purchase their distressed properties. The mastermind of the fraud, Jewel Hinkles (right), swindled an estimated 1,300 hundred victims out of about $5 million through a network of companies, with names such as Save My Home and Pacifica Group, in locations including Beverly Hills and suburban Sacramento.

    "We have prosecuted quite a number of these and by their nature they have large numbers of victims," U.S. attorney Benjamin Wagner told Sacramento TV station KCRA. "But this is certainly among the worst of these kinds of cases that we've seen."

    As described in the video above, even though Hinkles eventually was convicted in the case, many of her victims remain in her grasp and unable to sell their homes -- and still at risk of losing them -- because Hinkles' name is on the deeds to those properties.

    And they're finding it much more difficult to get her name off the deed than it was to put her name on.

    From one of AOL Real Estate's guides on avoiding fraud, here are some ways to avoid being victimized in a foreclosure-rescue scam in the first place:

    o. The golden rule of avoiding fraud: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that foreclosures are public information, so details about them can easily be gotten by scammers who will use that knowledge to misrepresent themselves as able to rescue homeowners in distress.

    o. Avoid foreclosure counseling companies that solicit business with fliers or by going door-to-door.

    o. Know what you're signing. A common "bait-and-switch" involves documents that purport to applications for a new, more-affordable home loan but that actually surrender the home's title. Also, don't sign any blank forms or allow forms to be filled out for you.

    o. Resist pressure tactics. As seen in the video, one of HInkles' victims describes being rushed to come to one of her offices to sign papers, under the threat of foreclosure.

    o. Be wary of the rent-to-buy scam. Represented as a refinance at a lower rate, it actually involves a transfer of deed from the homeowner to the foreclosure counselor, and the homeowner unknowingly becoming a renter and subject to eviction.

    o. Talk with a state board licensed attorney before signing anything that transfers the title of your home to another party.

    o. Work only with HUD-approved counselors. Consult the Department of Housing and Urban Development's list of approved agencies, or call 877-HUD-1515 for more information. o. Don't work with a counselor who collects a fee before services or who accepts payment only by cashier's check or wire transfer.

    o. Hire licensed attorneys to represent you. Check with your state bar association to see if the person is licensed to practice in your state and is subject to any pending investigations. But still attend court hearings about your property and get your court file number so you can obtain copies of documents at the courthouse or check the case's status online.

    More about foreclosure fraud:
    How to Avoid Falling for a HARP Scam
    Foreclosure Scam Could Cost You Your Home
    Short Sale Fraud Plagues Housing Market

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
    homes for sale in your area.
    Find
    foreclosures in your area.

    Find homes for rent.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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    medical marijuana
    Shutterstock
    In another sign that the battle over legalized pot is heating up on the home front, a bill introduced in Michigan would bar medical marijuana patients and caregivers from growing or smoking the drug without landlords' permission. The issue, reports the Michigan news media, is the damage that can result.

    The bill was introduced by state Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican from Grand Ledge, who told Lansing TV station WILX that the law is needed because pot-grow operations have caused water damage to property "and we've even had a light turn over and start a fire." His bill would exempt those who use pills or creams containing the drug, however.

    Another issue is the drug's odor when smoked. "I had a resident that when I asked him to remove it he stated he had a medical marijuana card," landlord Michelle Foley of Ann Arbor reportedly testified this week at a hearing on the bill. "I had to wait until the lease was up and then it was costly for us to turn the unit. We had to dissipate the smell and clean the ducts. It took us two months to clean."

    Other reports on AOL Real Estate have shown that Michigan landlords are hardly alone in pushing back against pot use. In California, a state at the medical-marijuana forefront, landlords can prohibit its use for that purpose on their property. And even in Colorado, where this year it became legal to possess and use limited amounts of marijuana recreationally, landlords have the right to bar it from their property, along with anything else they choose to prohibit.

    Those marijuana users who can afford to buy their own homes still might find themselves subject to local restrictions that limit or bar its growth or use. Colorado real estate broker Bob Costello, who describes himself as "the 420-friendly realty broker," recently told CNBC, "I'm bursting people's bubbles on a daily basis."

    Speaking in opposition to the Michigan bill, renter and caregiver Maria Green told WILX that Jones' legislation would give "more ammunition to the police and prosecutors.

    "They'll to be able to prosecute these caregivers and patients who are sick," she said. Green suggested that landlords who are worried about damage to their property from marijuana growing and smoking could instead increase the amount of security deposits required by renters using the drug.

    An attorney for a Detroit law firm that specializes in marijuana-related cases called Jones' bill "discriminatory."

    "It would end up so some people couldn't even use it in their own residence," Mark Able of Cannabis Counsel was quoted as saying by the news site MLive. "People who can afford their own home don't have to worry about it, but people who are less fortunate and rent would be subject to the predilection of their landlords."

    On that point Able and Jones appear to agree, somewhat. "If you're going to smoke and bother people, you need to own your own home," the state senator told WILX. "If you're growing a mini farm, you need your own home."

    More about marijuana and property rights:
    Family's Rental Home Turns Out to Be a Grow House
    Police Can Install Hidden Cameras on Private Property Without a Warrant, Judge Rules
    $175,000 Marijuana Stash Found Under a Hot Tub

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
    homes for sale in your area.
    Find
    foreclosures in your area.

    Find homes for rent in your area.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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    derossett house lifted above floodplain
    WBAL/AOL On
    Instead of letting the threat of another Hurricane Sandy-type flood get him down, a homeowner in suburban Baltimore is building up. Derek Derossett of Middle River, Md., has joined many other American homeowners by literally lifting his house out of the flood plain -- in this case by raising it more than 17 feet high. But as TV station WBAL reports in the above video, it wasn't a quick fix. Derossett's 86-year-old house had to be lifted from the existing foundation by a foot at a time, over a period of eight hours.

    And the job is far from over. The next steps, Derossett told the Baltimore station, involve building a new foundation in place of the present one, then building a new floor beneath the raised house. Along with reducing the risk of flood damage, the homeowner should see lower insurance costs which could eventually recoup his investment.

    Though the cost of lifting a house can, says The Associated Press, exceed more than $100,000, many homeowners are seeing annual flood insurance costs skyrocket by as much as 800 percent. So the cost of lifting a house above the flood line might bring returns in a decade -- not to mention eliminate the additional expenses and frustrations that can result from storm tides inundating your home. (Among the many horror stories that followed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy were complaints about insurers being slow to honor policies, and offering far less in payouts than homeowners expected or needed to rebuild.)

    It might come as no surprise then that, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, lifting a house above the flood plain is the most common way in the U.S. to reduce flood risk.


    THOSE SUBJECT TO FLOOD INSURANCE HIKES:

    Previous posts about flood insurance:
    New Laws Set to Hit Home in 2014
    Move to Delay Flood-Insurance Changes Falters in Congress
    Storm of Protest Over Rising Flood Insurance Rates

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
    homes for sale in your area.
    Find
    foreclosures in your area.

    Find homes for rent.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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    derossett house lifted above floodplain
    WBAL/AOL On
    Instead of letting the threat of another Hurricane Sandy-type flood get him down, a homeowner in suburban Baltimore is building up. Derek Derossett of Middle River, Md., has joined many other American homeowners by literally lifting his house out of the flood plain -- in this case by raising it more than 17 feet high. But as TV station WBAL reports in the above video, it wasn't a quick fix. Derossett's 86-year-old house had to be lifted from the existing foundation by a foot at a time, over a period of eight hours.

    And the job is far from over. The next steps, Derossett told the Baltimore station, involve building a new foundation in place of the present one, then building a new floor beneath the raised house. Along with reducing the risk of flood damage, the homeowner should see lower insurance costs which could eventually recoup his investment.

    Though the cost of lifting a house can, says The Associated Press, exceed more than $100,000, many homeowners are seeing annual flood insurance costs skyrocket by as much as 800 percent. So the cost of lifting a house above the flood line might bring returns in a decade -- not to mention eliminate the additional expenses and frustrations that can result from storm tides inundating your home. (Among the many horror stories that followed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy were complaints about insurers being slow to honor policies, and offering far less in payouts than homeowners expected or needed to rebuild.)

    It might come as no surprise then that, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, lifting a house above the flood plain is the most common way in the U.S. to reduce flood risk.


    THOSE SUBJECT TO FLOOD INSURANCE HIKES:

    Previous posts about flood insurance:
    New Laws Set to Hit Home in 2014
    Move to Delay Flood-Insurance Changes Falters in Congress
    Storm of Protest Over Rising Flood Insurance Rates

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
    homes for sale in your area.
    Find
    foreclosures in your area.

    Find homes for rent.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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  • 03/01/14--06:49: Oscar-Worthy Home Theaters
  • Filed under: ,,,

    home theater frank, teresa viola
    Zillow
    Among the highest priorities now for homebuyers with high incomes is that their dwellings have home theaters. According to a survey last year of homebuyers with incomes over $250,000, home theaters ranked above wine cellars, safe rooms, tennis or sports courts and even servants quarters. Of course, what qualifies as a "home theater" is in the eye of the viewer, but it's likely that what these luxury homebuyers have in mind is something more than a big screen and a couple of easy chairs with cupholders. As evidenced by some of the home theaters in the slideshow below, variations include rooms that recreate the movie-show experience as well as spaces adapted to a home's design.

    Think nothing beats the experience of sitting down with a bucket of popcorn in a reclining seat at a modern cineplex? What about reclining in a hot tub? In honor of this weekend's Academy Awards presentation, here are AOL Real Estate's picks for the best home theaters we've seen in the past year.


    More about luxury real estate:
    Most-Expensive Views in the U.S.
    NFL Coach Puts Texas-Size Mansion on the Market
    Las Vegas Bomb Shelter for Sale: Luxurious Blast From the Past

    More from AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
    homes for sale in your area.
    Find
    foreclosures in your area.

    Find homes for rent.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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    Nearly a year after their home was destroyed in the massive tornado that struck Moore, Okla., last spring, a family says that they've now fallen victim to a contractor who's left their house stuck in the early stages of rebuilding, with no end to the project in sight. And they suspect that they're not the only ones left in limbo by the builder.

    oklahome tornado home left unbuilt
    KOMO/AOL On
    As seen in the above video, Lesly Flood and her mother, Becky, tell Oklahoma TV station KOCO that they're in the process of hiring a lawyer as work on the house has come to a standstill, after being promised that the job would be done by Thanksgiving. "He hasn't paid electricity, he hasn't paid plumbing, he hasn't paid anybody," Lesly Flood says. That might explain the graffiti (pictured at right) apparently left by construction workers at the building site.

    Adding to the family's concerns, they say, is the discovery of a lien against their house, and that there might be at least two other families in the same fix. (See more on their story -- including the contractor's response -- in the video above.)

    While at this point, the blame for the Flood family's predicament isn't clear, it's often the case that those hit hardest by natural disaster are victimized even further by those offering to help. Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, East Coast residents were warned by officials to be on the alert for scams. They were particularly told to avoid contractors offering on-the-spot estimates, and requiring cash only or upfront payments, whom the Better Business Bureau calls "storm chasers." But a year after the hurricane the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs reportedly had received hundreds of complaints of unscrupulous contractors, many involving those who took down payments in the thousands of dollars and then failed to do the work.

    The key for homeowners is to do research. Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, told AOL Real Estate in 2012 that a survey of Angie's List members then found that a third of homeowners admitted that they don't verify contractors' license status before hiring them. One of the risks of not checking: Unlicensed contractors can disappear with consumers funds without fear of being fined or having a license revoked by regulators.

    When possible, consumers should look for referrals from those they know and trust. And along with looking at reviews online at resources like Angie's List and the Franklin Report, it's also important tp check a contractor's rating at the Better Business Bureau and local office of Consumer Affairs. And of course to check references.

    Among other recommendations from the BBB:

    o. Get at least three bids in writing and compare the bids based on the same warranty, specifications, labor and time.
    o. Check to see if the company you plan to hire is properly licensed.
    o. Be sure to verify the company's liability insurance to protect you against any damage. You can also check them out with your state's department of insurance.
    o. Never allow work to begin without a signed, written contract that includes start and completion dates, exact costs, specific work to be done, and warranty information. Read the fine print carefully.
    o. Deposit required and payment -- Never pay a deposit of more than 25 to 33 percent of the total job cost. Final payment should only be due when the job is completed. Pay by check and credit card, and never by cash.
    o. Obtain warranty information in writing on all products and installation and read the fine print carefully.
    o. Be sure all workers are employed by the contractor are bonded to protect you against theft and damage.
    o. Check out anyone you allow into your home to see if they have a criminal record.

    More about home improvement:
    Chimney Sweep Scams: How Not to Get Burned
    Don't Move -- Improve: How to Rethink Space in Your Home
    Home Improvements That Get Your House Sold

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
    homes for sale in your area.
    Find
    foreclosures in your area.

    Find homes to rent in your area.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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    The hottest home design trends for 2014 include sleek ergonomic design, organic materials and customization, says designer Campion Platt. As Platt comments in the video above, "One of the big
    black interior of ergonomic refrigerator
    AOL On
    trends is where you have ergonomic functionality, but also things feel good to the touch. They look good obviously, and they fit seamlessly into your kitchen."

    An example from the recent Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York is the black flat-panel design refrigerator (pictured at right) that opens to reveal a black interior. (See more from that show in the video.)

    More recent posts about home design:
    Retractable-Roof Pergolas: Made for the Sun and Shade
    Why Sears 'Kit' Homes Are Cataloged as American Classics
    Sorting Truths From Myths About Home Storage

    More on AOL Real Estate:
    Find out how to
    calculate mortgage payments.
    Find
    homes for sale in your area.
    Find
    foreclosures in your area.
    Find homes for rent in your area.

    Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.

     

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    ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

    Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.61 percent on Tuesday, up 8 basis points from the same time last week. On Thursday morning, the national rate was at 3.71%.

    However, the long-predicted rise in mortgage rates still appears to be on hold. After a report that economic growth slowed during the winter, the Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday it will not raise its benchmark interest rate in the near future.

    According to Zillow Mortgages, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose early in the week, then hovered around 3.60 percent before rising to 3.61 percent Tuesday.

    "Rates were essentially flat last week, remaining in the range they have been in for the past month," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow.

    Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.84 percent, and the rate for 5/1 ARMs also was 2.84 percent.

    Check Zillow Mortgages for rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

    A look at the broader mortgage rate trend for the past six months:

     

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