National Compensation Fund for U.S. Bank Foreclosure Fraud Victims Is Currently Undergoing Negotiations

Negotiations are currently underway in regards to a national compensation fund for bank foreclosure victims. The negotiations are taking place between all 50 of the state attorney generals, bank regulators, and several of the country’s biggest lenders.  These lenders include J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Financial (formerly known as GMAC Mortgage).

The fund is supposed to compensate homeowners who may have been illegally foreclosed upon by banks and other lenders.   This solution is also designed to help the lenders to avoid lengthy and costly court cases.  Additionally, it’s supposed to help stabilize the housing industry by removing the current foreclosure freeze.  Moreover, it’s supposed to help clear up the congestion of court cases clogging the judicial system in all 50 states and downscale any future lawsuits involving foreclosure fraud.  The current judicial system isn’t set up to properly adjudicate the massive amount of foreclosures that are occurring nationwide.

Details still need to be worked out

The state officials and mortgage lending industry representatives agree that a financial remedy is essential to preventing further homeowner turmoil.  However, it may take  several months to reach an agreement and work out all the details.  Each side has a different viewpoint as to how the fund should be administered, who should benefit from it, and what proof they’ll need.  The two sides also have differing views as to how much each lender should contribute to the fund and what size the fund should be.   Moreover, they have varying ideas of how much time should be allowed for filing claims and the payment of claims.

Both sides want to end the housing crisis as soon as possible.  Both sides also want to see improvements made to the foreclosure and mortgage servicing processes.   However, this also leads to more unresolved issues.  For instance, reduction of principle for homeowners who are now “under water” is one of the unresolved issues.  Additionally, many officials would like to see bankruptcy judges be permitted to order loan modifications.  Basically, the main differences arise from the state officials wanting the lenders to reform their loan and foreclosure processes to be more fair to homeowners, while the banks want the legal end of the processes to be modified in order to expedite foreclosures.  Expediting the legal process of foreclosure could cover up vast amounts of fraudulent and illegal banking activities, as well as make it even easier for banks to foreclose on property they may not even own a lien to.

Numerous state officials think these types of issues should be addressed by the fund along with several other mortgage fraud issues that have led to the massive amount of foreclosures. Another unresolved issue is how all the foreclosure cases that involve sloppy or fraudulent paperwork should be dealt with on a legal basis.  Yet another unresolved issue is how the loan modification process will work in conjunction with foreclosure processing.   Currently, many lenders initiate both procedures simultaneously, rather than waiting to see if a loan modification will make foreclosing unnecessary.  Moreover, the state officials want lenders to address the issue of servicing fees during the loan modification process.

Why big banks are agreeing to create a compensation fund

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Taking a Staycation in Your Luxruious Backyard Resort

People are currently discovering staycations. Staycations are similar to the old-fashioned poor man’s style of vacationing. Only now, instead of being the poor man’s style, it’s the in-crowd’s style of trendy vacationing. There are a few differences between the old and new trends though, besides the new name. For instance, the new trend involves converting backyards into luxurious staycation resorts. The new trend also involves staying home by choice rather than through necessity.

There have always been several reasons why people stayed home during their vacations otherwise than simply being poor. Many more have been added to the list in recent years. Some of the past common reasons for staycations were conflicting work schedules, high fuel prices, lack of affordable transportation for large families, and lack of vacation funding. More modern reasons include these past reasons with the addition of conflicting social engagements, such as the children’s involvement with local summer programs and sporting activities.

The fear of terrorist activities and the hassles of flying have also been added to the growing list of reasons why staycations are chosen. The recession has had a major affect on vacations, as well. Not only because the recession affects whether or not a person can finance a vacation, but also because it has forced many resorts to close due to bankruptcy. The most recently added reasons have been pollution, natural disasters, and inclement weather ruining favorite vacation spots.

The recession also makes staycations a wiser choice because it involves investing in home and backyard improvements. The whole idea behind staycations is to adopt a vacation theme, and then convert an area of your backyard or home into a resort that matches the theme. These improvements help to create the vacation atmosphere, while increasing the value of the property. The best part is that you can enjoy the vacation repeatedly any time you choose throughout the year, since you own the resort. Moreover, you can adapt the staycation resort to host a wide variety of themed vacations and social events simply by altering a few elements, such as patio furniture styles and plants.

Numerous chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus are also encouraging people to stay home for vacations, hoping to keep the spent vacation funds circulating within the community. They suggest using the time for taking day trips to local state and city parks, museums, and other local attractions. The tourism agencies also recommend immersing yourself and your family in the local cultural activities and special events occurring in the area.

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac don’t want to keep up the energy-efficiency PACE

Scientists and other authorities have been telling us for decades that we need to a start using cleaner, renewable energy sources. In response to this necessity, the Department of Energy began promoting the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs, which helped homeowners to retrofit their homes with renewable energy technology. The Obama administration has set aside $150 million in stimulus funds to help the PACE programs, as well as funded a stimulus worth close to $2 billion to guarantee loans for solar energy production. Twenty-two states, numerous cities, and several private investors have also helped to fund these programs.

Solar Panels

The PACE programs seemed to be an ideal solution to several major problems. The programs helped homeowners to invest in ways to reduce their energy consumption while saving on the cost of their utilities. The installation of the solar panels and wind turbines, as well as other home retrofitting projects provided much needed employment, and helped stabilize local and state economies. However, the PACE financing programs are now being blocked by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two federal government-sponsored mortgage companies. Or more accurately, PACE is being counteracted by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees the two mortgage giants, as well as the twelve federal home loan banks. So on one hand, the government is promoting renewable energy and on the other hand, is seemly discouraging its use.

In reality, The FHFA isn’t trying to discourage the promotion of renewable energy sources. The FHFA is only protesting the method used to finance the PACE programs. The FHFA is responsible for getting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac out of the financial mess they are in due to the housing crisis. With these two companies securing the largest percentage of home mortgages in the United States, the FHFA has to consider what happens if the homeowners default on their mortgages and/or the PACE loans.

Under the current system, annual property tax surcharges are created by the PACE loans, which can cause liens to be placed on the property for up to twenty years. These liens would give PACE lenders first priority to the property rather than giving it to the mortgage lenders. With the housing industry still being so fragile, the FHFA is concerned that even more defaults and foreclosures are imminent, and that the mortgage lenders will have even lesser chances to recoup their losses.

Thus, the debate comes down to which has higher priority for the federal government and Americans. Which offers the greater rewards in the long term, with the least amount of risks? The PACE program offers an increase in clean, renewable energy sources, and helps to reduce the rapid depletion of high priced fossil-based energy sources. It offers an unemployment reduction, especially for the construction and renewable energy industries. This in turn helps to stabilize local and state economies, which helps to stabilize the national economy. The PACE programs offers hope for a better future, as well as more immediate socio-economic relief.

However, the FHFA also has some valid concerns. The housing industry is still highly dependent on first-time home buyer tax credits, refinancing programs, and loan modifications for its recovery. With the slow economic recovery and high rates of unemployment in most of the nation’s industries, it’s quite likely that even more homeowners will default on their mortgages and loans. This defaulting would lead to more foreclosures, short sales, and bankruptcies, which would contribute to the housing crisis cycle repeating itself, with even worse consequences. A repeated housing crisis cycle creates more poverty, homelessness, and socio-economical castrophies.

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Carbondale NeighborWorks Week, Sponsored by the Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Lackawanna County

We live in a world where we’re constantly being bombarded with negative news. We hear about natural disasters, man-made disasters, financial crises, deadly diseases, crimes, fatal accidents, and violence on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that there are people working daily to make the world a better place for all of us to live in.

However, at least 60 residents in Carbondale, Pennsylvania got reminded of this niceness during the past week. On June 28th, more than 400 adult and teenaged volunteers converged on Carbondale to carry out various small home repairs and improvement projects for the residents. All the work was done cost-free to the homeowners.

The volunteers and homeowners were taking part in the Carbondale NeighborWorks Week, which was sponsored by the Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Lackawanna County. Believe it or not, the majority of volunteers came in from out of state just to help the Carbondale residents. The volunteers came from various areas of the northeastern United States. They provided services to residents who were elderly, living on low-incomes, or who were disabled. The projects included weatherization, painting, porch/deck installation or repair, and wheelchair ramp construction, as well as other minor home repairs.

Carbondale NeighborWorks Week came about due to the NHS’s desire to directly connect homeowners who needed help with those who wanted to provide help. They wanted to do a large scale service project that would have an immediate positive impact, and knew that Carbondale had an older housing stock that needed attention. The recipient homeowners were chosen after a review of the applications they submitted to NHS earlier in the year.

According to NHS executive director Jesse Ergott, NHS is a private, non-profit organization that has been around for about 30 years. NHS helps people to buy their first home, finance major home repairs, and to work with their lender in order to avoid foreclosure. They hope doing so will strengthen the financial stability of the families involved, thus improving the community at large.

Since the Group WorkCamps Foundation (GWF) was set up specifically with this type of volunteer work in mind, NHS asked GWF to join in carrying out the large scale service project. Once GWF agreed to provide volunteers, NHS approached the City of Carbondale with the idea. The NHS expected to spend at least $25,000 on construction materials alone. NHS estimated the volunteer labor was worth about $80,000.

GWF is also a non-profit organization that has been around for over 30 years. It was founded in Loveland, Colorado, after a major flood hit the area in 1977. The faith-based organization provides volunteers for various community sponsored projects on an international level. So far, GWF has organized over a quarter of a million volunteers and have provided about 6 million hours of volunteer services. They have completed over 210,000 projects in Canada, Central America, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, as well as in various areas of the United States.

Many of GWF’s young volunteers actually pay to participate in a GWF youth summer camp that puts them to work in a community project. They claim the work is very rewarding and a great way to spend a summer vacation. GWF will be hosting 64 more similar community work camps this summer. The camps will be located ranging from Wisconsin to Carbondale. An estimated 30,000 youth and adult volunteers are expected to participate in these group workcamp projects.

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How much does a Porch Cost?

“How much does a porch cost?” is a frequently asked question among homeowners. This is primarily due to the fact that adding a porch to a home provides numerous benefits to the homeowner. If the house is sold within one year of the porch’s completion, the homeowner may recover as much as 80-120 percent of the investment, according to real estate experts. However, porches make a good investment even if the homeowner does not plan on selling the house. Porches can also create additional living space, add beauty and increase the home’s overall aesthetic value.

National Average Cost

The cost for adding porches greatly varies among the projects due to numerous factors. Homewyse states the 2013 national average price runs approximately $4.74-$6.83 per square foot, with the materials and hourly labor wages included. This would make the cost for a 200-square foot porch range around $948-$1,366. This total concurs with Redbeacon’s estimate of $1, 280 for a 100-200 square foot porch. According to Redbeacon, the average person spends $1,272 for a porch, with the prices ranging from $382 to $4,230. However, several other experts claim the average price runs between $500 and $2,000 for basic, non-masonry porches. The average cost goes up to around $67-$70 per square foot if the porch design is complex or requires modifying or reinforcing the home’s exterior surfaces. For customized porches, the national average cost range is $10,000-$45,000, with the average person spending $21,000-$21,500.

Cost-affecting Factors

As with most building projects, the porch’s size, as well as the quality and the type of materials used will largely influence the total cost. Home location, local climate conditions, complicity of design and the building’s structure will also affect the price. The expenses will also vary according to the fees for permits/licenses, building inspections, contractors and laborers. Some designs may require the services of an electrician, as well as a general building contractor and roofing expert.

Best Ways to Reduce Costs

The best ways to reduce the costs of adding on a porch are to keep the design as simple as possible and to do comparison-shopping. Careful planning prior to beginning the actual build will help reduce the overall expenses. Getting quotes from several contractors, even if planning to make it a do-it-yourself project, can save money, time and labor. Including handicapped accessible features is another way to increase the value of the porch and home, and reduce the cost of adding these features later. Another way to reduce the price is to have the porch installed during the contractor’s off-season, when business is slow and the contractor is more likely to be willing to negotiate the price.

Numerous websites offer free cost estimators and advice on how to build porches. Many local home improvement stores can also help estimate the cost of materials. Therefore, now that you know how much a porch does cost, you can begin to start budgeting for the project. Whether you choose a basic porch or a complex masterpiece, the enjoyment of outdoor living that a porch provides makes it well worth the investment.