transparent real estate
strategy / innovation / economy / intelligence / technology

How to Qualify for the New Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)?

Late last year Obama Government released the guidelines for the new and expanded HARP 2.0 (Home Affordable Refinance Program). The program is called by several names - 
  • Upside Down Mortgage Refinance
  • Underwater Home Mortgage Refinance
  • Obama Government Refinance Program

While this will help homeowners in several states, some states that could benefit the most are California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. If you are in a situation where there is little to no equity in your house and would like to reduce your mortgage payments by availing of historical low interest on.

To be eligible for the New Home Affordable Refinance Program, you need to meet the following guidelines:
  • Your current Loan should be owned/serviced by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Loan Look up.
  • Your current Loan should have closed before June 2009.
  • You should not have refinanced using a HARP loan before.
  • You should have no mortgage late in last 6 months and no more than 1 late in 7-12 months. However, if you dont meet this criteria, you could wait for few months without making any further default and may become eligible.

A full blown launch by most of the lenders are expected in 3rd week of March, 2012. The program will continue till end of 2013. Go to this link to find out more about the California HARP Loan Guidelines. To get the latest news on HARP and get quotes for best HARP Refinance Rates - visit or the California HARP Refinance Facebook Page.

You can also contact Arcus Lending, a California HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) Approved Mortgage Lender at 408.615.0655 or

New Book for Realtors - Real Estate Unleashed

Real Estate Unleashed - The Game has changed! Do you know How to win it?
- A Book for Realtors was recently published by Create Space, an Amazon company. The book was launched at Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, San Jose, CA and San Mateo County Association of Realtors, San Mateo, CA. There are more book tours planned across several Real Estate Boards across Northern California.

About the Book:

Real Estate Unleashed is about the new wave of real estate - the steak and not just the sizzle. Too many Real Estate Agents don’t get the big picture. They are so immersed in what’s happening on a daily or a weekly basis that they fail to plan for what’s ahead. This book (probably the only one of its kind) tries to rectify that problem. No other book on this topic provides the bigger picture. The book starts by giving you the fundamentals of Economy, Real Estate and Lending. The authors then delve into some of the major changes that are going to impact the industry in a BIG way. It also provides you step-by-step instructions on how you can win this new game of Real Estate, the rules of which has been completely changed.

Among other things, in this book you will learn:


  • How to master the REO Business
  • The fastest growing demographics
  • The Buyers and Sellers of Tomorrow
  • How to generate business on the web
  • How to create a mega brand called YOU
  • How to plan and execute the right way to guarantee success
  • Little known No to Low downpayment loans that can help you close more transactions 
The book is available in both Paperback and eBook format and is priced at $9.70. Go to the book's webpage to get the details. The book is also available for sale on



About the Authors:

Shashank Shekhar - Shashank is widely considered SF Bay Area's #1 Mortgage expert. He is a mortgage broker/banker with Arcus Lending and CEO of Web Lunch Box, an online marketing training company for Real Estate agents. He is the author of one of the top rated mortgage blogs in the country and has been featured on several TV and Radio shows. He was named by National Mortgage Professional Magazine as one of the top 25 most connected mortgage professionals in the country. Shashank has previously published the book "First Time Home Buying 101 - a step by step guide of the home buying process".

Carole Rodoni - Carole has been in the real estate business for well over 20 years including as President of Fox and Carskadon Real Estate, COO of Cornish & Carey Real Estate and as President of Alain Pinel Realtors where she headed up a firm that did well over $1B in annual sales and had somewhere around 1,000+ people working for the firm. She currently spends her time consulting for various title companies and other real estate offices all over the country and is often quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Examiner, and other local papers in the SF Bay Area.


What is causing Mortgage Rates to spike and what's the outlook?

Mortgage rates have gone up every single week for last 5 weeks - now up ~.75%. (Get the mortgage rate update in this post).  It all started with Fed announcing Quantitative Easing 2. The big question is why so sudden and why so steep! There are several possible reasons:

  • Markets are increasingly more optimistic that 2011 economic growth will be stronger than what had been expected. Expectations until a couple of weeks ago were for GDP growth in 2011 to be 3.0%, now the consensus is for growth to be at 4.0% and a decline in the unemployment rate from the present 9.8% to 8.7% by the end of 2011.
  • The extension of the Bush tax cuts, the 2.0% cut in workers contribution to social security will put more cash in consumers' pockets.
  • Also driving rates higher, the end of safety moves generated by issues in Europe and in the US and Congress's unwillingness to cut federal spending. The $858B tax cut bill now moving through Congress is yet one more Christmas tree filled with earmarks (pork), politicians can't do anything that doesn't end up in more unnecessary spending. The fiscal budget bill also moving through Congress is hung with earmarks driven by Democrats and with not a lot of strong resistance from Republicans.

Outlook for Mortgage Rates:

Since Real Estate recovery is key to overall economic recovery, you might think that the Fed won't allow the rates to continuously go up. But surprising as it may sound, the Fed doesn't directly control mortgage rates.  Ben Bernanke & Co. directly control the Federal Funds rate -- i.e,.  the rate at which banks lend to one another on an overnight basis and that serves as a benchmark for short-term credit. But the longer the term of the debt, the less direct control the Fed has over the interest rate, and the more other factors and emotions come into play. That's where the factors mentioned above are taking over and hence the sudden rise in rates.

In a nutshell, Investors in fixed income are not willing to hold low rate treasuries with the deficit increasing, inflation concerns, and a better economic outlook. Interest rates climbing as rapidly as they have is confirmation that the end of inordinate low rates is over. Having said that, we are still under 5% for long term fixed rates and under 4% for ARM (variable rate mortgages). These are some of the lowest mortgage rates we have seen in our history.

For the Real Estate industry, it could even turn out to be a good thing; since most potential home buyers who have been sitting on the fence could now decide to finally make a home purchase because of the fear of rates going further up.

One thing constant about mortgage rates is - it never remains constant. But I will be sure to update you when the change is worth talking about. If you are someone who would like to remain updated more frequently, follow me on Twitter where I tweet live about changes to Mortgage Backed Securities and hence the mortgage rates.

Contributed by Shashank Shekhar, a San Jose, CA based Mortgage Broker and Direct Lender. This post was originally written on his widely acclaimed mortgage blog.

Homebuyer Tax Credit Extended for Some Military Personnel

Due to the U.S. military’s involvement in overseas conflicts from 2008 to the present, the government has extended the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit until April 30, 2011, for some military personnel.Those who have been unable to receive this benefit due to military service now have the opportunity to utilize the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers or the $6,500 tax credit for existing home buyers.Qualifying for the Tax CreditActive-duty military members who served at least three months outside the U.S. during the last year may be able to purchase a home with the tax credits. Service members have until April 30, 2011, to sign a purchase agreement on a home and until June 30, 2011, to close on the property.

The requirements to qualify for the tax credits are the same for military member as they were for the general public, including:* The home’s purchase price cannot be greater than $800,000* Individuals can’t make more than $125,000 per year; married couples can’t have a combined income greater than $225,000* First-time buyers and their spouses cannot have owned a home in the last three years* To qualify for the $6,500 tax credit, military members must also have lived in the same house for five of the last eight years.Why is a VA loan beneficial?With a VA loan, qualified borrowers will not only be eligible to take advantage of the tax credits, but they will also have access to the numerous financial benefits the VA loan program offers.The VA loan program has helped over 18 million veterans and active duty service members achieve homeownership since 1944. VA loans allow military buyers the opportunity to purchase a home with no money down and without the need for mortgage insurance. The program also offers competitive rates and no penalties for early loan repayment. Unlike most conventional loans, VA loans allow for a higher debt-to-income ratio and even permit borrowers with a history of bankruptcy or foreclosure the chance to obtain a VA loan.About a quarter of each loan provided by the VA Loan program is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. That guarantee gives VA lenders greater confidence when lending to borrowers. This confidence means qualified borrowers are more likely to receive lower loan rates, which can save a family thousands over the life of the loan allowing for greater quality of life.

This article was written by James Kelley, who focuses on VA benefits for real estate at

Engage your community by giving them what they want: Daily Deals!

Groupon Gap

You may have been introduced to Groupon from last week's $25 for $50 worth of Gap clothes offering. It sold 441,000 coupons across America and made "Daily Deals" the war cry of the new local advertising model for the Great Recession. We've always believed the best way to engage your community is to give them what they want. In today's economy, deep discount daily deals makes complete sense. Yet, most consumers don't know hundreds of these great deals exist right in their own neighborhood. Well, give the people what they want to see:

We've added a Deals! page onto our Breaking News Network that aggregates and lists all Daily Deals from Groupon, Living Social,, etc. for every specific Breaking News city in map format. is the first place Centennial Colorado's citizens need to go to find every discount in their city. We also broadcast special deals automatically across the social media via Twitter and Facebook feeds:

CentennialBuzz Twitter feed

Finally, heard of "365 Things to Do" on Facebook? It's a great way to engage your community on a personal level by providing valuable lifestyle tips. What's next? We think the community wants to know about deals, so we're developing "Daily Deal" Facebook feeds (like Centennial Daily Deals) across the Network. It's an automated ticker tape of every new deal that happens in a city, and we hope consumers will monitor it and "like" it.

Centennial Daily Deals

How to Leverage Daily Deals for Community Engagement

How do you build strong relationships with your business community that translates into deal flow and referrals to your business? Give your business community what it wants: free advertising and promotion via Breaking News, and its associated Twitter and Facebook feed. There's a link on the Deals! page that allows businesses to develop their own coupon deals and have them displayed on the Deals map. Just direct them to the link, it's all self service so you don't need to help out with developing the coupon deal. You'll generate referrals from others who want to also add their own coupons and get promoted through Breaking News.

Add a Deal

Best of all, all this is automated so you're not spending time with activities unrelated to real estate. We're believers in automation and syndication, and it's far more fruitful to engage your community by offering true value to them. We bluntly call it quid pro quo marketing; if you provide tangible marketing and financial benefits to your community, you'll get hired because you're valuable to your clients in the long run.

Next step: we're working on broadcasting daily deals of our own across the Breaking News Network. We'll start off by syndicating deals sourced by other couponing services like Groupon, and later, it will be easy to add deals from your business community (after all, you're now positioned as a local media resource like a city newspaper). It all creates revenue, and is just the beginning of a local media based business model.


For more information on Daily Deals and how to leverage this for real estate business development:

Follow my blog Media

Our example above, is developed by Vickie Hall-Drake, you may contact her via Facebook or Twitter.

For those who want to know more about setting up Daily Deals, please contact me at or on Facebook @pkitano

We hold free webinars every Tuesday afternoon that explain the basic mechanics and tools of community engagement - Breaking News, 365 Things, Daily Deals - and we're opening up registration to 20 more. You may register at

Why HOW (Home Ownership Workshop) is the new WOW!

Real Estate and Lending industry has always been ridiculed for not doing enough towards educating the home buyers. In fact a lot of blame for the mortgage meltdown was placed on the fact that the buyers were not made aware of "what they were getting into." Now real estate professionals across 15 states have come together to put Home Ownership Workshops (called HOW in short) for First Time Home Buyers. These professionals are part of Breaking News Network and are already providing value to their communities by being their real time media resource.

Home Ownership Workshops are a series of web classes designed to educate the home buyers on different aspects of the buying process. The goal is to empower the buyers by providing them the knowledge so that they can take informed decisions. And the best part is - it's free. The topics for next 6 classes are:

  • Financing options for First Time Home Buyers 
  • How to buy a Foreclosure or Short Sale property 
  • How to get your credit in shape before buying your first home 
  • How to choose your Real Estate Agent and Loan Officer 
  • What are the closing costs involved in buying a home 
  • 6 things you should know before you make an offer on a house 

A one time registration for all these 6 classes can be done at -

Classes will be taught by Shashank Shekhar who is a Mortgage Broker/Banker in San Jose, CA. He is a national expert on Lending and Real Estate and is the author of the widely acclaimed book - "First Time Home Buying 101". If you have any questions about this free workshop, contact Shashank by emailing him at

The Breaking News Network is meeting at Inman Connect in San Francisco

We're having our first face-to-face gathering of our Breaking News Network participants at Inman Real Estate Connect between July 13-15 in San Francisco. Inman has generously offered us a 25% discount if you register here with the code BNN .

Register before the prices go up this Friday, May 21!

Guest post: Buying Real Estate While in College: A Very Possible Dream

Melissa Tamura approached me to write an article about a collegiate perspective on real estate. The best thing Melissa has done in this article is to tangibly describe how college students think about real estate, and she has outlined a mission statement that can be applied to any college student. I wish Melissa all the best. In the future, with the experience of purchasing a home under her belt, she could use her blog Zen College Life to guide other college students to do the same. In fact, we have a national network of Breaking News sites run mostly by Realtors that can support her message.

What do many college students desire? Freedom, independence, and perhaps, some cash in the bank. One of the best ways college students can achieve these ideals is by purchasing real estate. Yes, what once was impossible is now a very possible reality for many college students. Real estate can allow college students to be savvy investors and gain incredible amounts of money by renting rooms out to other students. This article will explain how you too can buy real estate while in college.

As a future law student, personally, researching real estate in Florida has become my own hobby. My goal is to purchase a property, rent it out to other students, and thus grow a healthy profit on the property while I am in law school. Investment properties can help students pay off hefty student loans later in life.For students without a regular income, purchasing a home may seem impossible. However, it does not have to be. The key is to get your parents involved. Parents can take out a mortgage on a home, and then you pay your parents back on the mortgage payments. Of course this plan holds some risk, however, risk is what life is all about. Your parents will be the ones able to most likely qualify for a mortgage, and then you can simply hand cash over to your parents every month when the payment is due.Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the mortgage system and this seems confusing. Don't worry, this was once very confusing to me as well! The bottom line is, a mortgage is a type of loan you take out on a home.

Mortgages can come in two kinds of terms: 15 or 30 year mortgages. This simply means you pay back the loan over 15 or 30 years. People often stress out about mortgages when they take out loans that are too expensive for them to afford.As a student, however, in your case you are in a great position. As the only individual in your home, you can purchase smaller starter homes. With the current housing crisis, many sellers are putting homes on the market with incredibly low prices. For example, in Florida (where I'm researching real estate as a student), you can find gorgeous 3 bedroom condos and homes in Fort Lauderdale for anywhere between $50,000 to $120,000. For homes only 5 minutes from the beach, this is incredibly cheap!So, let's start with a hypothetical case, to illustrate how this works for college students. Let's say I want to purchase a home that is $100,000 as a student. Typically, a person needs to place 20% of the price as a down payment on the home. Since I am a hard working student, I have been able to save up and accumulate $20,000 over a couple summers of working. This would mean I pay $20,000 in cash or check to the seller which I have. Then, let's say that $20,000 totally wiped out my account. Here is where I would need to take out an $80,000 loan or "mortgage" as it is called.Over 30 years, if I had my mom or dad take out the $80,000 mortgage, I would pay about $250 to $300 in monthly payments on my new 3 bedroom home. Typically for the Fort Lauderdale area, however, renting a 3 bedroom home would cost me anywhere between $1,000 to $2,000 a month. Not only are my payments incredibly cheaper, but I am able to own my own home.If students are really savvy, they will find roommates on campus to live with them. Having only 1 or 2 roommates can mean you make your monthly payments in excess and can pay off your loan sooner! Or, if you have already paid off the home, you can make a healthy $600 to $800 in profit every month!Buying real estate in college is a very possible dream for many students these days. The key is to be open to letting your parents be involved and to have drive and determination to pay off your mortgage.

Melissa Tamura writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. She most recently ranked the best online colleges.

Our sponsor charity at Mortgage Revolution

The contraction of the news reporting industry has been well documented, and leaves behind a nagging social question.  Who is funding the stories that will illuminate the good causes going unnoticed, and the investigative reporting that uncovers the Watergates. Even more important, who is charged with this kind of reporting at the local level when salaried local journalists go by the wayside?

I've chosen to support a nonprofit organization developing the new journalistic models to present the stories that need to be heard and funded. "crowdsources" reporting from an engaged community of individuals and organizations who vote with micropayments.

The missions of and Mortgage Revolution are aligned. At the core, both organizations are about making sure the channels for information distribution remain intact, for mortgages and for journalistic reporting.

I'm proud of be associated with Mortgage Revolution and the contributions from all of you will help to develop a new model to engage our communities through other organizations just like Mortgage Revolution. We ask you to stay tuned as we unveil this new model after the conference.

Still time to register for Mortgage Revolution:

Mortgage Panel at Virtual RE Bar Camp

At the recently concluded Virtual RE Bar Camp, I was on the Mortgage Panel with Mark Madsen, Chris Brown, Scott Schang and Justin McHood.

The purpose of the panel was to show real estate agents who are active bloggers why it makes sense to have mortgage content on their blog. From the Loan Officer's perspective we talked about that the main purpose of contributing on their agent's blogs and also how should they decide on what blog to contribute at and how frequently. Below are the slides from the presentation. Feel free to connect with me by following me on Twitter or visiting my Mortgage Blog.