Don't Be A Victim

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March 21, 2008 8 min read

REAL ESTATE 2008

Tips and trends for home buyers and sellers

Copley News Service

DON'T BE A VICTIM

Freddie Mac is turning to YouTube, a video-sharing Internet site, to educate homeowners about the dangers of losing their dwellings in foreclosure scams.

Freddie Mac, one of the largest U.S. investors in residential mortgages, recently produced a two-minute video to dramatize some of the deceptive practices that are used to commit foreclosure fraud.

The cautionary tale begins with the question, "Are you the potential victim of a foreclosure scam?" It features an actor playing a foreclosure consultant who offers to help homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments. The problem is that the "consultant" has no intention of paying off debts or renegotiating the terms of delinquent mortgages. Instead, he pockets the homeowners' money.

Dishonest foreclosure consultants often charge large upfront fees and do little or nothing to renegotiate loans. They sometimes ask homeowners to sign over the deeds to their homes on the false promise that they can continue living there as renters and eventually regain ownership.

"If you're having mortgage trouble talk to your lender," the narrator of the video states. "Avoid foreclosure heroes who want the deed to your house. They may be trying to steal your home, even if they promise to rent it back to you."

Because foreclosure fraud reports are rising, "we are using every communication channel out there to warn borrowers about these fraudsters and urge borrowers to call their lenders when they fall behind on their mortgage," said Ingrid Beckles, Freddie Mac's vice president of servicing and asset management.

The video can be found online at youtube.com/AvoidFraud. (CNS)

GET IT SOLD

Designer Sabrina Soto, star of the HGTV series "Get It Sold," knows a thing or two about staging your home to attract buyers and bring in quick offers. Here are 10 of her best staging tricks and tips for getting your home off the market fast.

- Make room for the buyers. You always want at least 3 feet of walk space so buyers could walk around freely. Take our unnecessary furniture to free up space.

- Never have more than two kitchen appliances on your countertops. You don't want to hide them.

- Remove any area rugs on top of your carpets; buyers sometimes assume you are hiding a stain.

- Make sure to remove all papers and photos from the refrigerator.

- Turn on all lights for the open house, even if it's during the day. Also make sure your shades or blinds are open. The more light, the better.

- Do not cook anything in the house a few hours before a showing and do not smoke indoors while your house is on the market.

- Closets should always look spacious. Pack up seasonal clothing and organize the rest. Your never want your closets to look full, so less is more.

- Fresh flowers displayed at the open house make your home feel inviting.

- Make sure your bills are hidden and not in the mail tray and cleaning supplies are put away. It may seem silly, but you don't want buyers to think your home is expensive or difficult to maintain. Give them a sense of harmony during a showing.

- Change out dated light fixtures. They don't have to be expensive, and will give your entire house an updated look. (CNS)

WOMEN RULE

Recognizing that women exert strong influence over most home purchases, author Tara-Nicholle Nelson has written a book designed to guide them through the house-hunting process.

"Women hold the purse strings when it comes to these major home-buying decisions, and this book will make them better educated, more confident consumers," said Nelson, the author of "Trillion Dollar Women," (BuilderBooks.com, $24.95).

According to a recent Harvard University study, women control 91 percent of home buying or remodeling decisions. Nelson, an attorney and a real estate investor, holds a master's degree in psychology. She says women think about housing in different ways than men.

Men tend to focus on one goal at a time, but women approach the search for a home like putting together a complex puzzle. Every aspect of the dwelling matters to them. She compares it to sorting through information while surfing the Internet.

"I have done a fairly extensive amount of research into the psychology of how women think about purchases," Nelson said. "Women have a hypertext mind. You click on one thing in their head and all these other things open up. Women take a 360-degree perspective on how every single element of the home will affect everyone in their lives."

A half-century ago, married women typically accompanied their husbands to view model homes and focused their attention primarily on kitchens and family rooms, Nelson said. Today they are involved in all aspects of home buying and remodeling.

Although it was written for female consumers, the book could be a resource for housing professionals, she added. (CNS)

BACK TO THE FUTURE

Disneyland is bringing back its House of the Future with a decidedly present-day bent. Taylor Morrison, a noted home builder, is constructing a $15 million, 5,000-square-foot house inside Tomorrowland's Innoventions building, original home to the Carousel of Progress show.

But unlike Monsanto's all-plastic, futuristic house that graced the entrance to Tomorrowland from 1957 to 1967, the "Innoventions Dream Home" will carry a contemporary design inside the wood and steel structure when it opens in May.

And the contents - from Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and software maker LifeWare - are mostly available currently, just over the horizon, or as Disney spokesman Dave Miller said, "Disney magic thrown in."

"Our goal is for the guests to walk in and feel exactly like (this is) the home they or their neighbors could own," Miller said.

Under a five-year agreement with the corporate sponsors, the Dream Home for a family of six (Disney cast members plus an offstage dog) will display how the real world will interact with the digital universe by means of wireless connections and TV screens.

Visitors will be able to test some of the systems and walk away with a password key that allows them to design their own dream home using the high-tech products.

"One of the things that's really critical in the concept is that we keep it updated and fresh," Miller said. "We've built in cycle time to update the software and modifications as we move forward in the project to ensure we keep it fresh and up to date."

For a look back at the 1950s House of the Future, visit yesterland.com/futurehouse.html or check out an online clip from a vintage Monsanto movie about the house at David Oneal's Extinct Attractions Club Web site. (CNS)

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