Dwellworks, LLC Awarded Destination Services Provider of the Year at 2011 EMMAs

Dwellworks, LLC was recently honored with the  ‘Destination Services Provider of the Year’ award at the 2011 EMMA Awards, presented by the Forum for Expatriate Management (FEM).  Presented at the FEM Global Mobility Summit at the prestigious Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile inChicagoon September 12, the EMMA Awards are considered the ‘ultimate recognition of professional excellence’.

“We are thrilled to receive the EMMA Award for Destination Services Provider of the Year from The Forum for Expatriate Management,” says Andrew Horvath, Vice President of Operations, Destination Services at Dwellworks.  “It is a testament to the service provided by our internal team here at Dwellworks as well as our nearly 700 destination services consultants across the country.”

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Are Mortgage Industry Standards Hurting the Housing Market Recovery?

A recent article by Julie Schmit in USA TODAY relays some real-life examples where extremely tight lender standards impacted potential borrowers who only a few years ago would have experienced no issues and a smooth loan application process based on their credit scores, job history and economic situations.  The mortgage industry is understandably being very selective to avoid the pitfalls we are living through today and their fear of still-declining house values and a shaky economy is legitimate.  But the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and borrowers in general, are frustrated by the tight standards as they see it hurting the housing markets recovery and keeping many from taking advantage of the currently low interest rates; these concerns are also justified.

Lenders are looking for home prices to stabilize before they can relax some of these standards, but the NAR is looking for more buyers to enter to the market to help stop the downward spiral on house values.  It will be interesting to see if we can find some common ground that will see more potential buyers qualify for loans without opening the lenders and their investors up to the risks that they took previously.

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New Mortgage Limits Affecting the Housing Market

It really seems as if there is not much good news when it comes to the real estate market these days, and Meg Handley’s recent article for the U.S. News & World Report reveals another change on the horizon that will negatively affect the housing market.   Her discussion on the scheduled lowering of conforming loan limits (from current highs of $729,750 in some markets to a new high point of $625,500) raises some excellent points regarding the potential for discouraged buyers taking on higher interest rates through jumbo loans and nervous sellers looking to lower house values to increase their pool of perspective buyers.

While this change only impacts the higher end of the market, it is still not a welcomed addition to the mix of issues already facing a challenged real estate market.

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Mortgage Vs. Relocation Appraisals: What’s the Difference?

Transferees and clients who are new to the relocation process often ask for an explanation of the differences between a mortgage appraisal and a relocation appraisal.  There are a number of differences; however the primary distinctions are the intended use, purpose of the appraisal reports, and marketing time considered.

A mortgage appraisal is used by a lender to facilitate a mortgage lending transaction, such as the purchase or refinance of a home.  In most cases, the mortgage appraisal is completed on a Uniform Residential Appraisal Report (URAR), and its end result is an estimate of the property’s Current Market Value.  In other words, the mortgage appraisal answers the question: “What is this house worth today?”, or from a lender’s perspective, “How much am I willing to lend on this property?”   In order to determine the current market value, a mortgage appraiser uses a historical approach, considering past sales of properties similar in type, price and proximity to the subject property.

The relocation appraisal, on the other hand, is used to assist an employer and/or a Relocation Management Company in facilitating the employee relocation process.  A relocation appraiser uses the Worldwide ERC® Summary Appraisal Report to estimate a home’s Anticipated Sales Price, answering the question: “What is the probable selling price of a home, given a reasonable marketing time?”  To establish a property’s anticipated sales price, a relocation appraiser not only considers similar homes that have recently sold, but also competing listings that potential buyers may consider as an alternative to the subject property.  

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August Appraisers of the Week

As part of our ongoing recognition of mortgage and relocation appraisers who deliver exceptional services to Dwellworks and our clients, we issued Dwellworks Team Awards in August to the following appraisers:

  • Huibin Lan of Fremont, CA
  • Barry Barnhorn of Barnhorn Appraisal Services in Cincinnati, OH
  • Naomi Estrada of NKE Appraisals in Antioch, CA
  • Terry Wood of  Terrence F. Wood & Company in Corpus Christi, TX
  • Mike Hatch of Michael H. Hatch Real Estate Appraisal in Las Vegas, NV
  • Ken Stetter of Stetter & Tiano, Inc. in Farmington Hills, MI
  • Ron Aniel of Aniel Realty, Inc. in Shelby Township, MI
  • George Cuilla of Cuilla Appraisals in Santa Clara, CA
  • Lou Lemieux of American Eagle Appraisal & Consulting, Inc in Duxbury, MA
  • John Hannahan of Capital Appraisals, Inc. in St. Paul, MN

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Possibility of a Mortgage Relief Program

It appears there is strong consideration within the Obama administration to rollout a mortgage relief program in the near future. Some insights into the potential program were outlined in a recent Reuters article.  While the details on who would or would not qualify for such a program still need to be worked out, the goal of the program is to allow more borrowers access to the currently low interest rates.  Ideally the resulting lower monthly mortgage payments would increase spending in other areas of the economy.  As the article notes, the experts are divided on the how successful such a program will be and how impactful (positively or negatively) the results would be the economy as a whole.

From an appraisal perspective, it will be interesting to see how things unfold. With appraisers and management companies already seeing increased volume as a result of the current low rates, a wide-spread mortgage relief program could potentially see dramatic increases in appraisal orders.

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Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricane Irene is growing and gaining speed.  Much of the east coast is threatened with heavy rain and damaging winds. For those unfamiliar with Hurricanes the mantra is “prepare for the worst and hope for the best”. The article attached provides helpful basic information to help that preparation.

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Sickest Housing Markets in America

A recent Yahoo! Finance article by Charles B. Stockdale, Douglas A. McIntyre and Michael B. Sauter discussed the issues that still continue to impact the nation’s housing market. The article illustrated how real estate markets differ from place to place and indicated that 18 of the 20 housing markets in the U.S. showed modest improvements in sales prices during May, according the S&P/Case-Shiller Index. The article went on to indicate that Washington, D.C. and Boston have started to see true price stabilization.

Unfortunately, very few markets can match the performance of Boston and Washington, D.C. 24/7 Wall Street conducted an analysis by pulling Census data on the 75 largest US metropolitan areas and ranked the cities with the overall highest vacancy rates and compared these numbers to unemployment rates in each location. The report ranked the following U.S. cities as the 10 sickest housing markets:

  1. Tucson, AZ
  2. Indianapolis, IN
  3. Memphis, TN
  4. Atlanta, GA
  5. Baton Rouge, LA
  6. Dayton, OH
  7. Detroit, MI
  8. Kansas City, MO
  9. St. Louis, MO
  10. Oklahoma, OK

You can read the full report here.

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Social Security Office Hours Change

Social Security Field Offices to Begin Closing to the Public a Half Hour Early
Congressional Budget Cuts Force Reduced Public Hours

Effective August 15, 2011, Social Security field offices nationwide will close to the public 30 minutes early each day.  For example, a field office that is usually open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. will close daily at 3:30 p.m.
“While agency employees will continue to work their regular hours, this shorter public window will allow us to complete face-to-face service with the visiting public without incurring the cost of overtime for our employees,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security.  “Congress provided our agency with nearly $1 billion less than the President requested for our budget this fiscal year, which makes it impossible for us to provide the amount of overtime needed to handle service to the public as we have in the past.”  

Most Social Security services do not require a visit to an office.  For example, anyone wishing to apply for benefits, sign up for direct deposit, replace a Medicare card, obtain a proof of income letter or inform us of a change of address or telephone number may do so at www.socialsecurity.gov or by dialing our toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
# # #
SSA Press Office  440 Altmeyer Building  6401 Security Blvd.  Baltimore, MD 21235
410-965-8904  FAX 410-966-9973

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Homeowners Levels Declining

A recent MSN Real Estate blog posting provided U.S. Commerce Department data showing that homeownership has declined again.  Currently, only 65.9% of Americans own their own homes, which is at the lowest level since 1998.  Experts predict that this declining trend will persist as we continue to experience high unemployment, real estate market uncertainty and continual strict lender guidelines.

From a relocation industry perspective, it will be interesting to see how declining homeownership impacts the mindset, focus and policies of corporate clients, government agencies and the relocation management companies that are assisting them with their relocations.  The home sale component has always been central to the relocation transaction.  If this transition to a “rentership society” is accelerated, we will likely see a more renter-focused relocation transaction become the norm.

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