Archive for August, 2008
One of the costs, or settlement costs, borne by the buyer when purchasing real estate is title insurance. It is one of the many “Title Charges” on the HUD-1, or Settlement Statement the buyer and seller reviews at the closing table during the real estate settlement. Title insurance is further broken down into lender’s coverage and owner’s coverage. Each of these serve an important purpose, as indicated, the former for the lender, the latter, the purchaser. And, as mentioned earlier, since this cost is normally the purchaser’s, it is an expense that needs to be understood clearly.
Title insurance is protection, plain and simple. Protection against what? Simply put, it protects those covered against claims against the property, or, more accurately, against the title to the property. These claims can range from unpaid real estate taxes, liens due to unpaid work done to the property, to a forged signature during the tranferrence of title. So, as you can see, the coverage can be characterized as an ”umbrella of sorts” insuring against many title problems. If there are any claims against the title, the insurance insures against the claims and any legal fees that arise.
Is title insurance required? Well, unless you’re paying cash, lenders want protection too. In this case, they want to protect the amount of the loan. So, yes, you’ll be required by your lender to get title insurance coverage. As a purchaser, it’s important to remember that this protection covers the lender but doesn’t protect your equity in the property. That’s where the owner’s coverage comes in.
Remember, the insurer has searched the title. But, nothing is 100% fool proof. That’s why insurance is needed.
Lastly, title insurance exists for both the property owner and the lender. The owner’s policy lasts as long as the insured owns the property, and is typically the purchase price paid. On the other hand, the lender’s policy is issued to lenders, and follows the assignment of the mortgage loan, thus facilitating the sale of mortgages in the secondary market to high volume purachers like Fannie Mae and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation(Freddie Mac).
The “closing table” is a welcome sight for all involved in the sale of a home transaction. After weeks or months of hard work, it is a “finish line” of sorts. For many, it represents a destination finally arrived at. The Settlement Statement or HUD-1 is used to explain who pays what, and is used by the Settlement Agent to itemize all charges to buyer and seller. Additionally, the agent is charged with clearly explaining to all parties involved who pays what, and why. One of those expenses paid by the purchaser is title insurance. Hopefully, the next time you’re sitting on the buyer’s side of the settlement table, you’ll know exactly what your title insurance is paying for. If not, please ask!
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“Judgment is absolutely the most essential element in presidential decision making…I cannot emphasize enough how important that elusive quality is; far more important than organization, structure, procedures, and machinery. These are all important, yes, but nothing compared to judgment”
These words, spoken by President Kennedy’s friend and longtime advisor Ted Sorensen, were in response to a question about Kennedy’s exercise of judgment during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As you can see, Mr. Sorensen emphasizes the importance of proper judgment in times of crisis. He goes on to include decisiveness as another necessary leadership trait. While Sorensen was focusing on Presidential Leadership, these traits, and judgment specifically, are “must haves” for any leader. Recent words and deeds from Stafford County’s Supervisors makes one wonder if the word “judgment” was absent from their job application.
First, we had the Business, Professional, and Occupational License (BPOL) tax approval by the Supervisors, despite overwhelming opposition (reported to be 9 to 1 against) from their constituents. Following this vote, most of the county’s residents were asking themselves, “Did we really elect this group?” The BPOL is a tax on gross receipts with no deductions and must be paid even if the business is losing money. Advocates see BPOL as an untapped source of revenue. Those opposed regard it as grossly unfair. The public hearing on the tax was long and heated, but at the end of the day (actually, the meeting ended about 3:00AM), the supervisors voted 4-3 in favor of the measure. While innocent observers may wonder how occurred, a simple viewing of this short video of the meeting speaks volumes. In other words, it kind of says it all…and, it ain’t pretty!
Last week another public forum discussion took place, another Supervisor’s public hearing, to discuss a controversial proposal to shrink the Urban Services Area (USA), portions of the county where public sewer lines can be extended and high density development is recommended. Current USA boundaries encompass about 46,000 acres. The new boundaries would remove over half – 26,000 acres – from the USA, and phase in another 5,000 acres by 2019.
A recent study by George Mason economist Stephen Fuller found if the boundary changes are adopted, Stafford County could potentially lose around $100 million in net revenue from business. While real estate taxes could rise to make up for the loss, it would essentially make the county a “high-cost location” from resident and businesses. Instead of attractive new residents and businesses, higher costs would have the opposite effect. Fuller’s study was paid for the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce who want supervisors to review it closely. Supervisors indicated they plan on evaluating the boundary proposal during next month’s work session.
For many Stafford County residents, there’s still plenty of room to grow. For others, any growth is bad growth. With any prospective venture, before we jump to conclusions, let’s try and make this a Win-Win resolution.
One of the first steps in getting there might be by making a stop at Smart Growth, the site of some of the best and brightest ideas for smart community growth. As they indicate, “In general, smart growth invests time, attention, and resources in restoring community and vitality to center cities and older suburbs. New smart growth is more town-centered, is transit and pedestrian oriented, and has a greater mix of housing, commercial and retail uses. It also preserves open space and many other environmental amenities.” So, as you can see, it attempts to use the strengths and objectives of both sides of the argument to improve and expand communities.
It might be a good idea if that and other useful sources of information were “required reading” before next month’s Stafford County Supervisors get together. Judgment may be important, but it sure makes decision making a lot easier when you have the information you need before making a decision.
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As many of us know, a Home Owners Association (HOA), within a neighborhood or subdivision, is made up of property owners within that subdivision, and is established to govern relations between the owners, and administer the rules, bylaws, and covenants of the complex. These guidelines or governing rules are normally covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs – not to be mistaken for the more popular CCR!) that restrict ownership rights.
For those looking to purchase a home, the HOA covenants can be both a relief and a concern. One of the considerations we face when purchasing a home in a particular neighborhood is, what do the HOA covanents cover? Are there restrictions on the number of people who can live in a home? How about the size of color of the fence? Pool hours? Will it help to keep the subdivision looking good? As a matter of fact, HOA covenants are as restrictive as the home oweners decide they will be. But, more than anything else, HOAs are designed to provide a neighborhood that its occupants enjoy living in, by maintaining standards that are theirs.
But, two recent cases have put the focus on the enforcement powers HOAs exercise. The first case involved a California owner whose subdivision sent him a notice informing him that he was vioalating a subdivision rule prohibiting pickup trucks in the driveway. And his pickup was new! A Ford F-150.
According to the HOA, luxury pickups like the Cadillac Escalade, Honda Ridgeline and Lincoln Mark LT are allowed, but not the the tried and true F-150. Their belief is that these “luxury” pickups market to “a different class of people.” The F-150 has to be parked out of sight and in the garage.
Last week, in another HOA exercise of power, a local Stafford home owner was ordered by the St. George’s Estates neighborhood HOA to remove political election signs from their yard or face a fine. The home owners, Pat & Heather Stefl, responded by citing their consitutional right to free speech. “I did not sign away my constitutional rights by buying into this home, and I do see this as a First Amendment right”, said Heather. But, the Stefls may be out of luck. While state law prohibits localities from banning the disply of political signs on private property, the law DOES NOT apply to HOAs. The Stefls have until August 29th to comply.
Guidelines and controls on what we can and can’t do with our property, aren’t restrictions to be taken lightly. But, before we sign that contract for the purchase of your new home, or, more specifically, before we actually agree to the HOA covenants we’re handed to review as part of the home buying process, make sure you read and understand what you’re agreeing to. As they say, ignorance is no excuse!
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A couple of days after my last post, I received a call from a Mayflower employee. As a matter of fact, he happened to be one of those travelling in the subject of my last post; the Mayflower Hot Air Balloon. He called to say he’d seen the post and was glad we’d (yes, I wasn’t the only individual spying the balloon that afternoon) noticed! Additionally, he mentioned that more information about the balloon, and its’ pilot, could be found on Mayflower’s home page.
I’ll provide a bit of that information here, just in case you aren’t able to take a look at their page. But, you ought to, you may find, as I did, some items of interest! Here are some balloon facts (straight from Mayflower’s Hot Air Balloon page) you may find interesting:
2005 marked the inaugural year of flight for the Mayflower Transit balloon. The balloon is made of ripstop nylon and sports a bright, green, yellow and red design with three Mayflower ship inflatable appendages that give the balloon a special shape. The balloon is fueled by propane, which heats the envelope. Variation in the envelope temperature provides vertical movement, but the direction of the flight is completely dependent upon prevailing wind currents.
While the ballon’s specifications were of interest, this military retiree found the balloon’s pilot’s background a bit more compelling. Flying “hot-airs” since 1989, Kevin Niels Knapp is a retired Army major who is a full-time commercial balloon pilot, has owned and operated the “ARMY” hot-air balloon since 1994, and owns Airborne AD-Ventures, a full-service, hot-air balloon company. So, as you can see, Mr. Knapp is anything but ”retired”.
As far as the the phone call, the Mayflower representative informed me the balloon is an interesting and valuable marketing tool that normally elicits more than a few inquiries from the public.
For those of us outside that day watching it float by, seemingly without a care in the world, we wondered what it might be like floating up there, so high and so free…..
And, while Mayflower may be on my list of vendors to call next time I move, I don’t think I’ll be calling them anytime soon for a my first ”Hot Air” trip. But, then again, if the mood strikes me, maybe so. It sure looks fun.
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One of the challenges of the military life is the moves. For most military families, moving or a Permanent Change of Station (PCS), come every three to four years, and oftentimes even sooner. Combine the necessity of moving, and the traffic cogestion in Northern Virginia, and something has to give, right? Well, as you can see, it looks like someone has come up with a practical solution. Let’s move by air!
Although I doubt this is an actual move of what we call “household goods“, it certainly is a novel idea. When I saw this hot air balloon floating over the Massaponax area of Fredericksburg, it was a picture too good to pass up. But, as far as an alternative to the moving van, I doubt that Mayflower, or any other mover, is offering this as an alternative to their van fleet.
But, if you’re PCSing to the Stafford or Fredericksburg area, and you’ve had enough of those ground moves, give Mayflower a call. As they say, “you never know, unless you ask.”
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Years ago, many of us got a bit of a laugh when we heard a prominent U.S. politican remark that “it takes a village” to raise a child. Although, little did we know at the time that the remark was hardly original. It originated as an African proverb before finding its way the US political scene. But, village life does have its advantages, especially for those living the good life in Ladysmith Village (LSV), just South of Fredericksburg.
Ladysmith Village is an ideal location for just about anyone, regardless of family size, commuting choices, or home style. There are plenty of options for almost any desire.
For commuters, Ladysmith Village is perfectly situated between Richmond and Fredericksburg, making sense for those that work in the city but would rather live apart from the hustle and bustle that normally accompanies it. “Beltway Bandits” can take advantage of many of the same commuting options common to I95; car & van pools, buses, and just north in Fredericksburg, the train. For military personnel, LSV’s central location makes it an easy option for those stationed north on I95 at Quantico, Ft. Belvoir, Ft Myer, the Pentagon, or other locations, or those who heading East towards NSWC Dahlgren.
Communtiy amenities abound. The Residents Community Center is second to none and includes:
An eight lane pool surrounded by an expansive deck , a kiddy pool & spray fountain, and large barbecue area.
An ideal location for wedding receptions, business meetings, or community get-togethers.
Other community attractions include the Ampitheater, Public Library, Elementary School, and walking and hiking trails. Additionally, the Village’s South River Sanctuary is the perfect get away for those looking to enjoy the beauty of the Virginia countryside.
The community’s home styles range from ranchers to colonials. One plan includes an optional one bedroom apartment above the garage. You can choose from five participating builders and their various models:
The abundance of home choices makes it easy to find something suitable for just about anyone. Prices range from $180,000 – $500,000+. So, as you can see, there are plenty of options.
Ladysmith Village offers location, convenience and community. With so much at the tip of your fingers, whether it’s recreation, community get-togethers, or just relaxing, its small town charm makes this an attractive place to call home.
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