April 2009 Vol. 4 No.3
• Be Prepared for what a Divorce Could Mean for your Mortgage • April's Home Value Improver • About Us

Be Prepared for what a Divorce Could Mean for your Mortgage

If you're listening to Dolly Parton sing about d.i.v.o.r.c.e, you might always want to do some due diligence on your m.o.r.t.g.a.g.e. Divorce is never an easy situation, but you can make it a little easier on yourself if you get your finances in order before you proceed with any actions.

There is a lot to consider financially before you get a divorce. However, if you only remember one thing from this newsletter, remember this: mortgage companies do not recognize divorce decrees. That means that if you sign legal documents stating that you are no longer responsible for paying your mortgage because you ex-spouse lives there now, you are still not off the hook! If your ex-spouse defaults on the mortgage, it is your credit that will suffer, too. Take your name off the mortgage if you are no longer going to contribute to it. The same holds true for credit cards and other debt in both spouse's names.

However, before you take any steps toward dividing up your assets, know the following:

  • Know which bank holds your mortgage and what is owed on it. You should understand what portion of your payment goes to interest and what goes to principle.

  • Think hard about who will keep the house. Get the other person off the mortgage.

  • Don't walk away and let the house go into foreclosure. A judge will not grant you the divorce if you do.

  • Be sure to know how much is in you and your spouse's 401 (k), life insurance, pension, etc.

  • The state of your credit. (Pay special attention to joint accounts. Like the mortgage companies, credit card companies don't recognize divorce decrees.) Identify your goal. If you have kids, are you trying to keep them in the family home, same schools? Or do you just want to sell the house and split the difference?

  • If you are on good terms with each other, talk to a financial planner together.

  • Talk to a mortgage brokerage to get the house assessed.

  • Talk to an accountant. Understand the tax ramifications of your decision.

  • Gather together the last five years of your joint tax returns.

  • Put together a list of your expenses, and perhaps even run a couple of scenarios - if you go back to work, how much will you have to pay in child care?

April's Home Value Improver

Regardless of whether you're going through a divorce or not, spring is the time when a lot of homes go on the market. Here is some advice to help you sell - at the price you want!

8 Steps to Successful Home Staging

Ah, the simple days of yesteryear when you would clean the house, bake some cookies, and plant an open house sign out front. Sorry guys, those days are gone. With houses sitting on the market for longer than they have in a while, your house must look like just what the buyer wants. Fortunately, we human beings are fairly predictable creatures and most of us want a clean, open home that feels good to be in.

  1. Staging starts before you open the front door.
    If you can't entice someone to walk into your front door, they'll never know how much time and effort you put into that front hallway. Think neat and clean. Get rid of dead plants. Keep plants and shrubs cut back, and it wouldn't hurt to add some color.

  2. Clutter is your enemy.
    Avoid clutter at all costs, as it makes a house seem cramped and unkempt. Even if a room is beautiful and spacious, clutter will ruin it.

  3. Arrange items in groups of 3.
    Three is pleasing to the eye. Don't believe me? Try putting three knick knacks in a group and then try the same with two or four.

  4. Remove all personal photos or artwork.
    Although experts say that it makes a house feel less like "home" to a prospective buyer, I find it gets the nosey juices flowing, and buyers are simply distracted.

  5. Look at furniture placement.
    Make sure furniture is arranged in such a way that it feels comfortable and spacious. Furniture shoved in a corner may open up some floor space, but it can also look crammed.

  6. Balance the room surfaces.
    A room should not be all hard surfaces, nor should it be all cushy furniture. For instance, if a room is all hardwood flooring, soften it up with a throw rug. On the other hand, if it is all carpet and couch, add a hard coffee table.

  7. Put out fruit and books.
    Put large bowls of colorful fruit on the kitchen counter, and showcase some beautiful cookbooks. If you have ever been to the model home of a new development, you know this trick well.

  8. Showcase a room's best feature.
    If your fireplace is top notch, make sure that shows. If your woodwork is gorgeous, shine a light on it.

Are you have trouble making sense of the housing industry news you're reading, watching and hearing these days? You're not alone.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you weed through the news:

1. Job News
Living in New England - and specifically in Massachusetts - we have been somewhat insulated from the huge layoffs we read about and hear about on TV. We have a solid base in Massachusetts, unlike Michigan (that relies heavily on automakers) and Florida (that has relied on construction and real-estate development).

2. Suffering Industries
We have very little manufacturing in Massachusetts and are more heavily based in biotech, education, technology, research and healthcare. These intellectual services have fared better than construction and manufacturing in this economy.

3. Foreclosures
The numbers being published regarding foreclosures are trigged when the Soldiers and Sailors Notice goes out to homeowners. A Soldiers and Sailors Notice does not mean a house will go to auction - it simply means that foreclosure proceedings have started. Usually the homeowner can work something out with the bank.

If you have a specific question about something you've heard or read lately, I'm always happy to do some research and get you the facts you need!

Best regards,
Debbie Siegel
Westchester Mortgage

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