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Leopard Spots

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Friday, October 26, was a day highly anticipated by Macintosh users everywhere. At 6:00 PM, Apple unveiled the latest version of its operating system, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Two and a half years in the making, Leopard is packed with over 300 new features offering something for everyone — users and developers alike. This Leopard is spot on. Some primary selling points are...

The interface has been spit polished. The desktop sports a translucent menu bar and reflective 3D Dock to perfectly frame one’s desktop picture. Stacks enable quick access to a folder of files. Finder windows have been unified so there is now only one window look having an elegant gray band at top with optional tool bar below. Spaces group application windows to banish clutter completely.

The Finder has been totally revamped. Now browsing files on a Mac can be much like browsing in iTunes — access everything on a Mac by using Cover Flow or by clicking on items in the sidebar. Never has it been so easy to work with documents and media files. Spotlight is beefed up. It works much faster now, and offers boolean searching.

Time Machine automatically backs up everything on a Mac, transparently in the background. It keeps a copy of every file ever made. Now a Mac can be restored back to its original state from any point in time. Or just restore a single file. Quick Look provides a sneak peak to a file without opening it, even when searching for files in Time Machine.

Front Row works like an Apple TV to control digital media on a Mac using a remote. DVD Player sports a new full-screen interface. Video quality is enhanced, and can smoothly play back DVDs that may be damaged.

Mail transforms email into personalized stationery. Notes offer access from anywhere. A dictionary and grammar check is built in, providing services system wide. iChat uses an advanced audio codec to deliver the clearest possible sound during audio chats. And text messaging has been streamlined.

Safari is the fastest web browser today. It features movable tabs and resizable text fields. Parental controls makes it easy to set limits on how one can work with a Mac. And security is ironclad — application signing, sandboxing, and library randomization fortify a Mac using the latest security techniques.

Boot camp turns an Intel based Mac into a PC such that one can run Windows at native speed. Now it’s possible to boot in either Mac OS X, Windows XP, Windows Vista, or many flavors of *nix. Never has a personal computer been so flexible.

Developers have never had it so good. DTrace can monitor system activity from a high-level application behavior down to the operating system kernel. Xcode compiles much faster and supports real-time debugging. And Objective-C has been enhanced with automatic garbage collection. Interface Builder is completely rewritten and makes it a breeze to construct a user interface for an application.

Leopard is now a fully certified UNIX operating system, thus can be deployed in environments that demand full UNIX conformance. Fully 64 bit, it also runs 32 bit code transparently without user intervention. Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and Python are built in. And AppleScript has been polished.

These are but a few of the features that make Mac OS X Leopard the finest personal computing operating system made today. Learn more about Leopard by visiting the Apple website (www.apple.com), and by reading the review by Jon Stokes at Ars Technica (www.arstechnica.com). Then head out for your local Apple Store at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh or The Steets at Southpoint in Durham. There you can test drive the latest goodness from Apple. Just know that once you go Mac, you’ll never go back.

Anthony Williams

Raleigh - Fall Trip?

by Anthony Willams

Submitted by Bob Rodwell

It’s mid-October in Raleigh.  The State Fair is in full swing, college football every Saturday, Hurricanes hockey, the kids are in school, Halloween approaches – there is just so much to do here.  But my mind, of course, turns to ROAD TRIP!  Mid-October means the mountains to me, such a fabulous time to get outside and see the best show around.  And that reminds me of one of the many reasons I enjoy living in Raleigh – it is just a short drive from so many great other places to visit.  Obviously the beaches, from Virginia to South Carolina with lots of choices in between, are close.  So are major cities like Washington and Atlanta, with other prime selections like Charlotte, Columbia, and Charlottesville all within just a few hours.  But this time of year we have to think mountains.  We’ve spent quality October days and nights in years past in several great spots, and I’ll give you my top three right now.  They each offer very different treats, but all offer superb scenery, fine people, good eats, and reasonable drive time to and from Raleigh.  And each offers fun side trip possibilities.  Try them all and others!

#3 – Lake Chatuge, GA – just across the NC state line (actually, some of the lake is in NC), where the Blue Ridge Mountains are a little lower but still gorgeous, and the lake is clear and clean and offers a wide variety of activities while it is still warm enough to get out on the water.  All the websites I looked at promote a specific place to stay or play, so I won’t promote one here, but I will say that we stayed in Hiawassee and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.  Lots of outdoor activities, but for the shoppers in your crowd, it’s a short drive to Highlands and Cashiers, or just 2 hours to Atlanta.

#2 ­– Asheville, NC – so much to see and do it deserves multiple visits, and not just for the fabulous Biltmore house, where I love the grounds even more than the house.  Learn more about Asheville happenings at www.exploreasheville.com.  But the Asheville area offers one of my favorite things – a two-fer-one – because it is a very short trip to Hendersonville, NC – just south of Asheville, this laid back town offers apple festivals and an active downtown nightlife, with lots of B&B’s, and of course has historical appeal, as detailed in www.historichendersonville.org.

#1 – anywhere from the middle to the north end of the Shenandoah Valley in western VA – Lexington, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Strasburg are all great.  A short drive, incredible views, so much historical interest, deer, waterfalls, hiking trails, antiques, … check out www.visitshenandoah.org and www.nps.gov/shen.  Massanutten Resort outside Harrisonburg has a lot to offer, including an indoor waterpark for the kids.  Did I mention good eats?  Check out the Hotel Strasburg, in (surprise) Strasburg.  Trust me.  Another reason we like Strasburg is it is a great jumping-off point for half-day or all day visits to Harpers Ferry, Antietam, caverns (lots of them), and my absolute favorite drive – the Skyline Drive.   We’ve viewed a Civil War battle re-enactment just outside Strasburg that rivaled the State Fair for entertainment.  Another fun drive is 340 as it meanders down the valley near the Shenandoah River – truly peaceful.  We drove from Luray to Elkton one rainy afternoon and counted 10 distinct rainbows – so even a rainy day drive can be fun! 

 

There are so many great places to see and things to do in our Blue Ridge Mountains or in the Shenandoah Valley in the Fall.  And then you can come back home to Raleigh - a great place to live, work, and raise a family, and just another ROAD TRIP from …

 

Will Congress Help with Short Sales?

by Anthony Willams

Posted by Tim Burrell - A short sale is one where the bank agrees to take less than what is owed to them to allow the home to sell.   This is for homeowners who are in financial trouble and cannot make their loan payments, much less pay off the rest of the loan when it sells.  One problem with short sales is that the amount that is forgiven by the bank may be taxed as ordinary  income.  There are some exceptions for non-recourse debts, loans where the borrower is not personally liable for the debt and the lender can only foreclose on the security, and exceptions if you are in bankruptcy or insolvent under the IRS definition.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 3648 The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 whose summary states it will :

The bill would amend current law, which requires taxpayers to include discharges of mortgage indebtedness as income and to pay tax on this income. The bill would provide a permanent exclusion for discharges of up to two million dollars of indebtedness (on or after January 1, 2007) which is secured by a principal residence and which is incurred in the acquisition, construction, or substantial improvement of the principal residence. Instead of including this amount as income, the basis of the individual’s principal residence would be reduced by the amount excluded from income under this bill.

There is a lot more to this bill than the summary states, but the main issue is avoiding a double whammy where a homeowner has to sell their home at a loss, gets no money from the sale, then pays taxes on the money the bank did not get.   This relief is not proposed for high income taxpayers and the other exclusions are being debated.

The bill has only passed the House of Representatives, not the Senate, so it is not law.  But, it may help people around the United States who have gotten themselves "upside down" on their property.  This should be a rare event in the Triangle, as the homes are appreciating well at a general rate of 6% to 10%.  So there should be plenty of equity to allow the bank to be paid and hopefully make the homeowner some money.  This could be affected if you have a sudden financial disaster and have to sell quickly, which may give you a low sales price.  If you know someone with such a problem, urge them to act quickly because the additional time to sell may mean a higher sales price.  Since this law is not passed, and may never become law, you have to deal with the current reality.

I support the change in the law, as one of the cruelest thing our tax laws can do is to is to take a family that has been financially ruined, then push them further down.

"Short" Sales

by Anthony Willams

A "Short" Sale is where a lender takes less money than what is owed on the loan, so the amout paid is "short".   This is done by the lender instead of foreclosing on the property, when the borrower is having trouble making the payments.  If the property can be sold, but sold for less than what is owed, the lender may prefer to take whatever money remains after paying for the cost of the sale instead of going through the foreclosure process which may result in the lender getting the home after foreclosure.

The security of a loan depends on whether its lien, normally a deed of trust, is recorded in first position, second position or any position after that.  In other words, the loan that was put on first is recorded in first position, the one that is put on second is in second position, and so on.  If there is only one loan, the homeowner and their Realtor need to try to persuade that lender to take less than what is owed.  If there is more than one loan, the loan in first position will rarely give up anything, as they have better security than the other loans.  The reason for that is that in most states when the first loan forecloses, the second and all subsequent loans, have no security interest in the property i.e. they get nothing out of the sale of the property unless the foreclosure sale at the courthouse results in a bid that is higher than the amount owed on the first loan (a rare occurance).  Since the ability of the second lender to collect from the sale of the home is much worse than the first lender, the junior lender is the one to talk to about taking less than what is owed.

As you might imagine, lenders will not take less than what they are entitled to unless they have no better choice.  So, the borrower has to show that they do not have the ability to pay the rest of what is owned on the loan.  If you are starting the sale of a home where you expect to go "short" you will need to gather information that shows that the borrower cannot pay the balance due.  Start with a "letter of woe" i.e. a letter that describes the difficult financial situation to the lender.  Then, gather tax returns and at least two recent pay stubs.  Information on bank accounts and other debts can be helpful.  You might also get the form that the lender will require the borrower to fill it out before an offer comes in so that you can be ready to present it to the lender.

When an offer comes in to sell the property, be sure you put a contingency in the contract for the approval of this sale by the lender (s) that will need to accept the short proceeds.   Something like "This contract is contingent upon the approval of this sale, and the net proceeds of this sale, by (insert name of Lender(s)).  In the event that (name of Lender(s)) does not approve, this contract may be terminated by Seller."   If you do not have that contingency in the contract, the Seller is signing an agreement to sell the property at a price where the Seller will have to come up with the extra money to pay off the balance owed to the bank  If the Seller does not have that money, you will have created a serious problem if you do not phrase the contract correctly.

There may be other issues for the seller in selling "short".  The amount of the principal portion of the debt that is not paid back to the lender may be taxed as ordinary income.  So, if the lender does not get $50,000 of the principal on the loan, the seller may be taxed as though he/she made income of $50,000.  This depends on whether the loan is Recourse or Non-Recourse.  We do not have space here for a full discussion of the Recourse concept, but the short version is if the bank cannot go after the borrower for any balance of the loan that they do not get at the foreclosure sale, it is probably non-recourse.  These laws vary from state to state.  A good example is that in California, a "purchase money" loan to buy an owner occupied home (1 to 4 units) is non-recourse, as the lender's only remedy is to foreclose.  If that loan has been refinanced, it may be a recourse loan where the lender can go after the proceeds.  The IRS is not particularly kind in their interpretation of this concept.   For example, in California if a lender forecloses using the Power of Sale in the Deed of Trust, instead of going to court to foreclose, the lender cannot go after the borrower after the foreclosure sale.  But, the IRS says that if the lender could have gone after the borrower if they had not foreclosed using the Power of Sale (i.e. if they had gone to court to foreclose), the loan is recourse and the "short" amount is taxable.  There is a bill that has passed the U.S. House of Representatives that would change this for people who do not have high incomes.  This bill has not become law, as it still has a long way to go.

The other problem with selling short may arise if the borrower did a stated income loan.  If the borrower told the bank that his/her income was huge,  then submits tax returns and other documentation to show that it was nowhere near that amount, the lender may have proof that there may have been loan fraud.

The advantages of this process for the buyer is that they get a home at a great price, below the value of the mortgage balance.  However, the buyer gets a bumpy ride.  It will take the lender some time to review and approve or disapprove the short sale.  Until that is done, the buyer does not know if he/she has bought a house or not.  There may also be other requirements that the lender will put into the transaction as a condition of approving the loan.  Also, if the seller does not have any money to pay the balance on the loan, he/she probably has no money to do any repairs, so the buyer is probably taking the house "as is". 

The short sale will allow the seller to have less of a problem with his/her credit than a foreclosure, although the short sale normally shows as a blemish on the credit reports.  Some lenders will be kinder than others on how they report it.  The sale also allows Realtors to accomplish a sale that would not otherwise happen, although the lender who is short frequently tries to negotiate the commission down.  Finally, the short sale allows the buyer to get a home at a good price and one that has not gone through the distress of a foreclosure process.

In the Triangle area, it is rare to see a short sale, as most properties are appreciating nicely, so they can be sold for more than what is owed.  Every now and then the amount of the loans on a property exceeds that it can be sold for, and the short sale is a tool that an experienced Realtor can use to get the house sold.

New Home Warranties

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Wake county is an area thriving with new construction. A great selling point for new residential construction lies with its warranty, as any new home purchase is protected by a comprehensive program lasting one year, much like the three year warranty offered with a new car. Everything is covered but for cosmetic issues, though some may take slight offense to the residential performance guidelines which most builders rely upon. Also, keep in mind that many products used in the construction of a home will include a longer warranty period direct from the manufacturer.

Some builders go a step further and offer an extended warranty, such as a 2-10 which declines in coverage as the home ages. For example, during the first year everything is covered (as standard); during the second year perhaps electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and roofing are covered; and during the remaining years only serious structural failure is covered.

A builder wants to deliver a perfect product. But building a home is a complex process with many variables, and our good friend Murphy dictates if something can go wrong then it will. The builder offers a year warranty knowing that a product usually will fail during this period if defective or improperly installed. But what happens if a product fails after the warranty period? Most times that means a quick look at the Yellow Pages for a vendor who can make the repair.

But sometimes a defect can take a long period to manifest itself so the problem is visible. When this happens, a buyer should contact his builder and explain the problem, asking for help. Just keep in mind that the builder generally is not obligated to correct the problem, and that honey attracts more flies than vinegar. In other words, ask nicely as you just might get what you want. Act rudely and I'm willing to wager that your request will be denied.

This all came home for me lately. I bought a new townhome about three years ago from David Camacho, a local builder in Wake Forest. It's been a great home having but a few minor issues. However, I recently noticed drywall rot and discoloration under the microwave. My first thought was steam was somehow being trapped while cooking on the range, but the wall continued to deteriorate no matter what I did. Finally, I removed the microwave only to find that several screws had inadvertently penetrated the main drain line (from upstairs) when the appliance was installed.

I took pictures of the damage and sent them to my builder, explaining the situation and asking if he would help with the repair. The builder contacted the electrical subcontractor who installed the microwave, but they declined to fix the problem under warranty. The builder acknowledged the pictures suggested the damage was due to faulty installation, however, and he would personally take care of the problem. Within a week the drain line and subsequent damage was repaired at no cost to me, and I cannot be more pleased. My hat is tipped to David Camacho and his warranty department for excellent customer service, as this is as good as it gets!

Anthony Williams

Displaying blog entries 1-5 of 5

Contact Information

Photo of Team For Your Dreams, Inc. Real Estate
Team For Your Dreams, Inc.
REMAX United
7721 Six Forks Road, Suite 110, Raleigh, NC 27615
Raleigh NC 27615
919-846-3272
919-812-5111
Fax: 310-347-4041