Real Estate Information Archive


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Why Pay Full Price?

by John Riggins



Why Pay Full Price?

No one wants to pay more than its value regardless of the product. When you buy bananas for 49 cents a pound at one store and see them for 39 cents a pound at another store, it's not the ten cent difference as much as it is about overpaying.


It seems like the natural way to start the negotiation process is to offer less than the asking price for the home. However, instead of the price, a buyer could negotiate condition, timing or terms. A few thousand dollars off the price may not make much difference in the monthly payments but it might make a big difference if it was negotiated in one of the other areas.


A buyer who only has enough available funds for down payment and closing costs will have to live in a home exactly the way it is for some time. They may not be able to make the changes that would really make it feel like home until they've saved more money.

Let's say you found a home that needed $5,000 worth of improvements and the seller would lower the price by that amount. Financing those improvements with a separate bank loan will result in higher payments due to a higher interest rate and shorter term than your mortgage.

Offering full price and asking the seller to make the improvements will result in lower monthly payments based on today's low mortgage rates and 30 year term. Another alternative is to negotiate with the seller to pay your closing costs so you'd have the cash to make the improvements.

Paying full price may cause the seller to consider concessions regarding condition or terms which can be balanced to affect the value of the property. Buyers can and should negotiate to acquire the home that meets their needs at the lowest possible cost of housing.

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

by John Riggins


8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

Article From
By: G. M. Filisko

A solid game plan can help you narrow your homebuying search to find the best home for you.

House hunting is just like any other shopping expedition. If you identify exactly what you want and do some research, you'll zoom in on the home you want at the best price. These eight tips will guide you through a smart homebuying process.

1. Know thyself

Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home? A ranch or a multistory home? If you're leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors?

2. Research before you look

List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you'd like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto ( to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you'd like to view.

3. Get your finances in order

Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you're comfortable spending each month on housing. Don't wait until you've found a home and made an offer to investigate financing.

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you're eligible to borrow. The lender won't necessarily consider the extra fees you'll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you're comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4. Set a moving timeline

Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up? If you already own, have you sold your current home? If not, you'll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up? Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon? All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5. Think long term

Your future plans may dictate the type of home you'll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years? With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you'll still love years from now.

6. Work with a REALTOR®

Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you're interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent's style meshes with your personality.

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers' reps work only for you even though they're typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they're members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7. Be realistic

It's OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don't be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded.

On the flip side, don't be so swayed by a "wow" feature that you forget about other issues-like noise levels-that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there's no such thing as the perfect home.

8. Limit the opinions you solicit

It's natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you've identified as important.


Fannie and Freddie Detail New HARP Guidelines

by John Riggins

Fannie and Freddie Detail New HARP Guidelines

11/15/2011BY: CARRIE BAY Printer Friendly View

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have released highly anticipated guidelines for the revised Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP).

Both GSEs have posted details of the program modifications and procedural changes on their respective business sites for mortgage servicers to follow (Fannie’s,Freddie’s).

Among the key program revisions, the GSEs have eliminated or raised the loan-to-value (LTV) cap, and relaxed representation and warranty stipulations – changes that officials expect to at least double the number of homeowners with a HARP-refinanced mortgage. Since the program was launched in 2009, just under 900,000 borrowers have participated.

Negative equity typically excludes a homeowner from refinancing through traditional channels. Removing previous LTV ceilings will allow homeowners who are severely underwater due to plummeting property values to take out new loans at today’s lower interest rates. There are, however, some LTV conditions depending on loan type.

There are no LTV restrictions for fixed-rate mortgages with terms up to 30 years, including those with terms of 15 years.

For fixed-rate loans with terms between 30 and 40 years,LTV is limited to 105 percent. Likewise, a 105 percent LTVcap has been placed on adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) with initial fixed periods of five years or more and terms up to 40 years.

Any borrower with an LTV ratio below 80 percent is not eligible for HARP.

As previously announced, across the board, the original mortgage must have been sold to Fannie or Freddie prior to April 1, 2009.

In the October notice announcing their intent to modifyHARP to increase participation, the GSEs said they would “waive certain representations and warranties” on loans refinanced through the program. Analysts said at the time

that depending on what exceptions would be made, such a move could spark increased competition among lenders to refinance borrowers through HARP.

In Tuesday’s guidance, the GSEs provided specifics on which liabilities would be lifted and noted that the rep and warranty adjustment is one of the most important components of the new program.

The lender will not be responsible for any of the representations and warranties associated with the original loan.

The lender is also relieved of the standard underwriting representations and warranties with respect to the new mortgage loan as long as the data in the case file is complete and program instructions are followed for collecting information on income, employment, assets, and fieldwork.

The lender is not required to make any representation or warranty as to value, marketability, or condition of the subject property unless they obtain a new appraisal.

Lenders will, however, be held accountable for any fraudulent activities.

Administration officials are hoping that eliminating the risk associated with reps and warranties – whether transferred from the original loan or on the new loan – will spark healthy competition among lenders to help homeowners get into the program. And Fannie and Freddie are making it easier for the competition to flourish.

The GSEs are modifying their policies to allow lenders to solicit borrowers with Fannie- and Freddie-owned mortgages for a refinance. The only condition is that the lender “simultaneously applies the same advertising and solicitation activities” to borrowers of both GSEs, and for loans both owned or securitized by the GSEs.

In the new guidelines, the GSEs detail specific language that must be included in any borrower solicitation material.

Regarding program eligibility as it relates to delinquencies, the borrower must not have been behind on their payments at all within the most recent six-month period, and had no more than one 30-day delinquency within the last year.

The GSEs are also removing the requirement that the borrower (on the new loan) meet the standard waiting period following a bankruptcy or foreclosure. The requirement that the original loan must have met the bankruptcy and foreclosure policies in effect at the time the loan was originated is also being removed.

The new HARP program has been extended through December 31, 2013.



Property tax exemptions in peril as panel tries to make system fair

Members of a city advisory commission want to end levy breaks for homeowners as well as for schools, churches and charities

By Rob Perez

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 14, 2011

An independent review panel is leaning toward recommending that the city abolish property tax exemptions for roughly 150,000 Oahu homeowners, including the blind, elderly and disabled, as part of a major but controversial effort to bring more fairness, efficiency and accountability to the tax system while generating additional revenue for city services.

The Real Property Tax Advisory Commission also is leaning toward proposing to the City Council that exemptions for charitable organizations, credit unions, schools, churches and other groups be eliminated or substantially pared.

The reforms being discussed are meant to provide tax relief that is more closely linked to a landowner's ability to pay rather than giving such breaks simply because one belongs to a particular category, such as homeowners or disabled veterans, according to the commission's chairman, Lowell Kalapa, who heads the Tax Foundation of Hawaii. The reforms also would more equitably spread the burden of funding city services, he said.

The commission, formed by the Council in the wake of several recent property tax controversies, has been meeting since August to discuss ways to reform the system. Despite the potential impact of what's being considered, the discussions so far have drawn little public attention.

But that's likely to change once the panel makes its recommendations to the Council before the end of the year.

Politically influential groups that have long benefited from the exemptions — many have been on the books for decades — are expected to intensely lobby the Council, arguing that the tax breaks are justified. And with five of the nine Council seats up for election next year, the chances of anything especially controversial passing are slim, some say.

Kalapa, a tax policy expert, acknowledged the political storm that could be created but said the commission's task was to propose ways to improve the system without regard for political consequences.

"We were created to take the political heat off elected officials," he said.

Council Chairman Ernest Martin said he expects the commission's recommendations to get serious consideration by the Council, and agrees that some exemptions are obsolete and should be eliminated. But he said he doubts the Council would support abolishing the homeowner exemption.

"No doubt, it'll be very contentious," Martin said.

The main focus of the advisory commission thus far has been the 40-plus property tax exemptions that economist Paul Brewbaker, vice chairman of the panel, described as a "gobbledygooky hodgepodge with seemingly no rational pattern."

The exemptions, amounting to roughly $100 million in lost revenue annually, cover a range of categories, from slaughterhouses, crop shelters and for-profit child care centers to historic homes, cemeteries and foreign consulates.

"I had no idea how complex and convoluted some of these things were," said Brewbaker, who questioned the need for any exemptions.

ELIMINATING the homeowner exemptions, claimed by more than 144,000 owners and amounting to nearly $50 million in lost city revenue annually, is the most controversial proposal being discussed. The main exemption reduces the taxable value of a residence by $80,000, saving occupant homeowners who apply $280 a year based on current tax rates.

Additional exemptions are permitted if the homeowner is 65 or older, blind, deaf, a disabled veteran or in a variety of other categories.

Kapolei homeowner and Realtor John Riggins said eliminating the standard exemption wouldn't be fair because many homeowners made their retirement plans partly based on the tax breaks. He also said removing the exemption would exacerbate Hawaii's already serious housing affordability problem.

"I just don't think that's a good idea at all," Riggins said.

But Kalapa and other commission members questioned the fairness of giving tax relief without regard to one's ability to pay, noting that multimillionaires living in mansions are getting the same breaks as homeowners living in modest homes struggling to pay their bills.

Kalapa also questioned the fairness of homeowners getting tax relief while renters — who make up nearly half of Oahu's households — get none.

"There is no equity for people who don't own their own homes," he said.

Similarly, some commission members noted that wealthy nonprofits pay the same $300 minimum tax for parcels valued at more than $100 million as cash-strapped nonprofits owning small patches of land assessed at fractions of that value.

Property taxes generate the bulk of the city's revenue and are used to pay for fire, police, ambulance and other services.

The idea behind the reforms is that everybody uses those services, so everyone should pay their fair share, with adjustments made for those who can't afford their tabs or those who provide services that benefit the city, Kalapa said.

"If you don't pay for it, then someone else does, subsidizing your share," he added.

And if people forgo paying their fair share, they still get the same level of city services, but the accountability link — making sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely — becomes obscured because they aren't footing the bill, according to Kalapa.

For homeowners who can't afford their property taxes, the city has a low-income tax credit program that reduces the tab, assuming the homeowner meets the eligibility criteria. If the exemptions are eliminated, Kalapa said, that program can provide relief for those in need.

The commission was not asked to consider the city's budget challenges in coming up with recommendations, but panel members understand that eliminating exemptions will result in more tax revenue.

"We're keenly aware of the fact that there's a $100 million shortfall," Kalapa said.

While the commission is not evaluating the city's property tax rates, some members say the Council should consider lowering the residential rate in conjuction with eliminating the homeowner exemptions.

Natalie Iwasa, a certified public accountant and member of the commission, described the current property tax and exemption system as a mess that needs to be overhauled.

Holly Huber, a database specialist who has been examining the city's system for more than a year, said she continues to find numerous errors or inaccuracies because of a lack of oversight.

"Every time I look at something, I just shake my head," she said. "I can't believe what a nightmare it is."

She noted, for instance, that the city assessed the land for Punahou School's 74-acre campus at only $37,000, while ‘Iolani School's 22-acre parcel is valued at $105 million.

City Budget Director Mike Hansen explained that assessments for tax-exempt property owned by nonprofit groups, including schools, have not been a top priority because those organizations pay only $300 regardless of the value of their parcels. The city has focused its limited staff on taxable properties, he said.

That would have to change, though, if one of the proposals under consideration by the commission is adopted. According to the proposal, only nonprofits with a 501(c)(3) designation would be eligible for an exemption, and the relief would be based on a percentage of the value of the organization's parcel.

Commission member Lisa Maruyama, president of the Hawaii Association of Nonprofit Organizations, said land values don't reflect an organization's ability to pay, given that some nonprofits are land rich but cash poor. She opposes changing the existing nonprofit exemption.

Kalapa acknowledges that whatever the commission decides, the proposed changes will face tough going at the Council. "People won't like what we're going to say, but at least it'll be out there for people to talk about and debate."

One Size Doesn't fit all

by John Riggins


One Size Doesn't Fit All - 

Rarely, does one size fit everyone and the same goes for advice. The following suggestion is not right for everyone. However, for people with job security and who don't own a home; for people with good credit and enough savings for a down payment, there may never be a better time to buy a home.

Homes have had a significant price correction but in many markets, they have started to rise again. The lower prices combined with historically low interest rates make this an opportune time to buy a home if you can afford it.

One of the reasons homes are an attractive investment is that fact that you can use a small down payment and finance the balance for 30 years. The principle, called leverage, allows you to earn a return on the value of the home rather than the actual cash investment. Small appreciation can create a large rate of return on the initial investment of the down payment and closing costs.

The following example is a projection at the end of five years for a $175,000 home with 3% closing costs and a 5% interest rate for a 30 year term. The rate you see in each column is an annual rate of return based on the equity of the home at the end of the five year period due to both appreciation and amortization of the loan.

The nature of positive leverage will cause the returns to be higher with a smaller down payment. As you see in the table, the return is higher on the 3.5% down payment than with the 10% or 20% down payment.

If you're curious to see if this advice might fit your situation, you really need to sit down with a knowledgeable real estate professional who can help you assess your position. It's worth the time because there may never be a better opportunity than now.


Family & Friends' Mortgages

by John Riggins


Family & Friends' Mortgages

It all seems perfectly reasonable: one person is not satisfied with what he can earn currently in the market and another wants to find the most attractive mortgage to purchase their home. It can be a good match but the IRS has specific rules that govern the transaction.

The loan must be done in a business-like manner with a written note specifying the loan amount, interest rate, term and collateral. IRS requires that the mortgage be a recorded lien in order to allow the interest deduction.

Sometimes, these friends and family situations have a less than normal interest rate on the mortgage. However, the rate charged in the note is regulated by the minimum applicable federal rate which is published monthly by IRS according to current Treasury securities. For October 2011, the rate is 2.95% for terms over nine years.

The seller must report the interest paid to them along with the name, address and Social Security number on schedule B when the buyer uses the property as their principal residence.

A mortgage between family and friends can be good for both parties. It may allow the borrower a slightly lower rate without the expenses of a traditional lender while giving the note holder a higher rate than they can earn in available investments. Your tax professional can guide the transaction whether you're a buyer or seller and your real estate professional can help arrange to have the documents drawn and filed.

Free Veterans Day Meals and More

by John Riggins


Two notes before jumping in:

  • Proof of Military Service. First, most companies require some form of military ID – including a U.S. Uniform Services ID Card (active/reserve/retired), Current Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), Photograph in uniform, be wearing uniform (if your service permits), Veterans Organization Card (e.g., American Legion and VFW), DD214, discharge paperwork, or other form of identification. Other restaurants and companies may only require a photo of you in uniform, or go by the honor system.
  • Participation. Second, always call ahead to verify locations, times, and participation. Many of the listed companies are franchises and may have different policies.

2011 Free Veterans Day Meals


Applebee’s – free meal, Friday, Nov. 11:Last year, Applebee’s served 1,024,000 million free meals to military veterans and active servicemembers. Applebee’s is again offering a free meal to military veterans and active-duty service members on Veteran’s Day, Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. There will be 7 entrées to choose from. Military ID or proof of service required. Find locations at

Chili’s – free meal, Friday, Nov. 11. Chili’s is offering all military veterans past and present their choice of one of 6 meals. This offer is available during business hours on November 11, 2011 at participating Chili’s in the U.S. only. Dine-in from limited menu only; beverages and gratuity not included. Veterans and active duty military simply show proof of military service. Visit their website to find locations.

Golden Corral – Free meal, Monday Nov. 14: The 10th annual Golden Corral Military Appreciation dinner will be held on Monday, November 14, 2011 from 5 pm to 9 pm in all Golden Corral Restaurants nationwide. The free “thank you” dinner is available to any person who has ever served in the United States Military. If you are a veteran, retired, currently serving, in the National Guard or Reserves, you are invited to participate in Golden Corral’s Military Appreciation Monday dinner. For more information visit

Special thanks to Golden Corral: To date, Golden Corral restaurants have provided over 2.5 million free meals and contributed over $4.3 million to the Disabled American Veterans organization.

Hooters – Free Meal, Friday, Nov. 11. Hooter’s is serving up a free meal to military veterans all day on Veterans Day. Offer good for all veterans and active duty military personnel. Choose one of the new specialty items on the Hooter’s menu. Offer valid at participating Hooters only; open to all active duty and military veterans with valid military ID or proof of military service. Drink purchase required. For more information, visit,

Krispy Kreme – Free doughnut. Available only at participating Krispy Kreme stores. Offer available to all active-duty, retirees & veterans on Friday November 11th. Be sure to call ahead to verify your local Krispy Kreme is participating.

McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants – free lunch or dinner, Sunday Nov 13, 2011: McCormick & Schmick’s is celebrating their 13th annual Veteran’s Appreciation Event on Sunday, November 13th. Veterans will be able to choose a complimentary lunch or dinner entrée. Veterans must provide proof of military service. Be sure to contact your local McCormick & Schmick’s as this is valid at participating restaurants only. Also, Space is limited and reservations are highly recommended. For more information visit: M&S Veterans Appreciation Event.

Outback Steakhouse – A week of Free Bloomin’ Onions and Cokes Monday Nov. 7 – Friday Nov. 11. Outback Steakhouse is honoring America’s military veterans by offering active duty military and veterans a free Bloomin’ Onion and a Coca-Cola product during the week leading up to Veteran’s Day. This offer is available to Military Personnel who have one of the following forms of identifications: U.S Uniform Services Identification Card, U.S Uniform Services Retired Identification Card, Current Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), DD form 214 Veterans Organization Card (i.e., American Legion and VFW), Photograph in Uniform, Wearing Uniform. For more information, visit,

The Outback understands commitment. For the past two years, The Outback, with the help of their patrons, has donated $2 Million to Operation Homefront, a non-profit organization providing everyday and emergency support for active troops, wounded warriors and their families.

Subway – Free Six Inch Sub. Select Subway locations offer a FREE six inch sub to military veterans on Veteran’s Day. However, Subway restaurants are franchises, so this offer may not be available everywhere. Please call ahead.

Texas Roadhouse – free meal, Friday, Nov. 11. Offer varies by location; our local Texas Roadhouse is offering a free meal from opening until 4pm. Other locations may vary in offer, hours, or availability. Call ahead to your local restaurant for more information.

T.G.I. Friday’s – Buy one get one free Nov 11-14. At participating locations for anyone with an old or current military ID. November 11-14.

Uno Chicago Grill, Friday, Nov. 11. Uno’s is offering a free entree or individual pizza with a purchase of an entree or pizza of equal or greater value. Offer good for all military for veterans and active duty military. ID or proof of service required: Show up in uniform (if your service permits), provide military ID, show a picture of yourself in uniform, or have other ID showing proof of service. More info here.

Home Depot and Lowes Coupon Updates

Update: Home Depot and Lowes 10% Military Discount Available Everyday.

Home Depot: The Home Depot(R) is offering all active duty personnel, reservists, retired military, veterans and their families a 10 percent discount off their purchases in honor of Veteran’s Day. The offer is valid on purchases of up to $2,000 for a maximum of $200 and is available at The Home Depot stores, The Home Depot Design Center locations, Yardbirds and EXPO Design Center(R) locations. The 10% discount is available everyday for active duty and retirees, but not all veterans. Home Depot makes this offer available to all veterans on most military holidays. You can also find Home Depot discounts online.

Lowes: Lowe’s Companies, Inc. will offer all active, reserve, honorably discharged, retired military personnel and their immediate family members a 10 percent discount on in-store U.S. purchases made during the Veterans Day holiday. The discount is available Nov. 7 – Nov. 11. The discount is available on in-stock and special order purchases up to $5,000. To qualify, individuals must present a valid military ID or other proof of service. Excluded from the discount are sales via, previous sales, and purchases of services or gift cards. Like Home Depot, Lowes offers this discount daily to active duty military members, but not to veterans. However, they extend the offer to military veterans on military holidays. You can also find exclusive discounts at Lowe’

Free Park Admissions for Veterans Day

Fee Free Day at National Parks. To honor America’s service men and women, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that areas managed by the National Park Service would not charge entrance fees for Veteran’s Day weekend – November 11-13, 2011.Over 100 national Parks will be participating in this event.

Bed and Breakfast for Vets

In the third year of the program, B&Bs for Vets has organized over 485 (and counting) participating Bed and Breakfasts and Inns across the US and Canada which will be offering veterans a free night’s stay on November 10th, the night before Veterans Day. This offer is available to both active duty military members and veterans with ID, but space is limited. Each Inn and B&B has at least one room available for this promotion and reservations must be made directly through the participating Inns and B&Bs. For more information visit B&Bs for Vets.

Free Hugo® Canes for Veterans.

Sam’s Club® locations nationwide will distribute 36,000 Hugo® canes free of charge on November 9th, 10th, 11th, 2011 to U.S. military veterans in need of mobility assistance. Limited quantities available, while supplies last. Sam’s Club® Membership is not required, but proof of military service may be required. For more information, visit

Jos. A. Bank Veteran’s Day coupons:

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Displaying blog entries 1-7 of 7

Contact Information

Photo of John Riggins REALTOR RB11175 Real Estate
John Riggins REALTOR RB11175
John Riggins Real Estate
1003 Bishop Street, suite 2700
Honolulu HI 96813
Fax: 888.369.3210