Mold Information & EPA Links

Recently, I had an agent email me that there was mold in one of my homes listed for sale.

Being a blue cheese loving, scientific, germ-a-phobic, hypochondriac, and having several clients with severe mold and respiratory issues, I have spent considerable time studying “mold issue”. But I forget that other people are not as diligent when they say “THERE IS MOLD!”

Two recent experiences, opened my eyes to the lack of facts that most professionals have when they make these statements and what to do about them. So I began compiling research from the EPA Environmental Protection Agency.

Here is a link to the the epa mold document with the facts on mold and cleanup they give the recommendations on how and who can do mold cleanup.

here is the EPA link concerning mold cleanup

here is another epa link concerning mold cleanup –

here is another epa link concerning mold cleanup and testing

These are just a few guidelines to what the epa says about mold.

The EPA says “Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.”

Also according to the EPA, “There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. ”

Mold is complicated, the best resource I have found is the EPA website –

If mold is concern, I strongly advise any buyer to have it tested by an expert. Especially if they has asthma or allergic reactions to mold or any other indoor air pollutants.

According to the EPA – “Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals with asthma. People with asthma should avoid contact with or exposure to molds.”

Kansas City Mortgage Rate Update

Mortgage Rates are still under 5% according to Mortgage Daily News

CURRENT MARKET: The “Best Execution” conventional 30 year fixed mortgage rate has fallen BACK to 4.875%.

For those looking to buy down their rate to 4.75%, this quote carries higher closing costs. The upfront cost of permanently buying down your rate  to 4.75% is not worth it to many applicants. We would generally only advise the permanent floatdown if you plan to hold your new mortgage for longer than the next 10 years.  Ask your loan officer to run a breakeven analysis on any origination points they might require to cover permanent float down fees.

On FHA / VA 30 year fixed “Best Execution” is still 4.75%. 15 year fixed conventional loans are best priced between 4.125% and 4.25%, but 4.25% is more efficient in terms of the floatdown breakeven cost.

Five year ARMS are best priced at 3.625%.

FHA Mortgage Insurance Rate Increase After 4/18/2011

FHA has increased Annual MI premiums across the board by .25% effective with case numbers issued on or after 4/18/2011.

The FHA is boosting the annual mortgage insurance premium charged on its home loans, a move that will increase the cost of an average FHA mortgage by about $30 a month.

Effective April 18, the FHA is increasing the annual mortgage insurance [Read more…]

Home Upgrades With Appeal for Retirees

Home Upgrades With Appeal for Retirees

If you plan to live out your retirement years in your own home, adding universal design features will make aging in place safer and more comfortable. And if you should later sell the house, you’ll find that buyers appreciate how these upgrades anticipate their future needs.

Unlike home improvements designed to make an immediate impression, universal design additions with the most sales appeal are those that go unnoticed until you point them out.

“The beauty of universal design is when you’re able to incorporate something that looks great and doesn’t jump out at you,” says Paul Sullivan, a remodeling contractor in Newton, Mass.

In other words, says Armand Christopher, a Realtor who is designated a Seniors Real Estate Specialist: “You don’t put in hospital-grade grab bars in a bathroom when you are remodeling.”

Fortunately, you don’t have to settle for the institutional look. From ergonomically designed faucet handles to skid-free flooring, today’s universal design products are stylish and subtle. Financing options include home equity loans and reverse mortgages.

The best time to add aging-in-place upgrades to your home is before you need them, says Pat Rowen, an interior designer and Certified Aging in Place Specialist in Hillsdale, Mich. Rowen had to tackle a rush job when a client in his 80s fell and broke his hip just before Christmas, and she scrambled to track down materials and workers to do the needed remodel. She says the experience underscored the importance of planning ahead.

“If you have to do it under the gun at Christmastime, and you know that your husband is coming home in two weeks and you have a bathtub that he can’t get into — that’s not the time to do the remodeling,” Rowen says.

Here are nine ideas that can boost the value of your home and the quality of life you enjoy while you’re living in it.

Make It Easier to Get Around

Create zero-step entries. If your home has a basement, Rowen suggests grading the landscape to create a new entry at the lower level. If you’re thinking of building a ramp to an existing entry, consider placing it inside your garage instead of at the front door.

Make your doors easier to open. Sullivan recently installed several doors with levers instead of knobs for one of his clients. “It’s for a young, single woman, but she loves it because if she’s coming in with groceries in her arms, she can elbow the door handle and get through the door,” he says.

Create clear 3-foot passageways to make it easier to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. This might mean widening your interior doorways as well as rearranging and de-cluttering rooms. “As people get older, they have a lot of stuff,” Rowen says. “They need to think in terms of ‘How can I get to and from everything I do without any furniture or clutter?'”

Improve safety and comfort

Swap out your old stove and faucet to reduce the risk of burns. An accidental scalding is less likely with a single-lever faucet than with one that has separate handles for hot and cold, Sullivan says. Therese Crahan, executive director of NAHB Remodelers, a division of the National Association of Home Builders, recommends buying a stove that has the controls in the front, so you won’t have to reach over the heating elements.

Fall-proof your floors. Look for products such as nonslip vinyl and nonglossy tile in small patterns (the extra grout lines provide more slip resistance), Rowen says. It’s also a good idea to eliminate variances in floor height from room to room, she says.

Add features that lessen the need for reaching up and bending over. Christopher suggests shopping for items such as kitchen cabinets with pull-down shelves, refrigerators with middle drawers and washers and dryers with raised platforms.

Upgrade the Bathroom

Prep your bathroom for grab bars, even if you’re not ready to install them yet.“You can either put plywood on the wall before you put the drywall up or put blocking between the studs,” Rowen says. Without that preparation, you are limited to installing the grab bars at the location of existing studs, or tearing out drywallto fit them in.

Put in an easy-to-use shower. Rowen likes the ones from Best Bath Systems, which offers a model with grab bars, a folding seat and hand-held sprayer for about $3,100. Curbless showers are another option. They are wheelchair-accessible and eliminate the need to step over a threshold. “The bathroom floor just rollsseamlessly into the shower,” Sullivan says.

Sullivan adds that for experienced contractors, installing a curbless shower costs no more than doing a conventional one. “The one thing we have to do is waterproof the floor underneath,” he says. “You’re talking maybe 15 (additional) minutes of labor and $50 worth of materials. And you’re not building and tiling the curb, so it’s pretty much a wash.”

Get a comfort-height toilet, which will raise you up about 17 inches off the floor and set you back $200 to $300, Rowen says. Those seat booster rings aren’t nearly as efficient, according to Rowen, because they slip easily and are difficult to clean


HUD No. 11-007 | Friday January 28, 2011
WASHINGTON – In an effort to continue stabilizing home values and improve conditions in communities experiencing
high foreclosure activity, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner David H. Stevens [Read more…]

VA Home Loans – A Quick Guide For Homebuyers & Real Estate Agents


The more you know about our home loan program, the more you will realize how little “red tape” there really is in getting a VA loan. These loans are often made without any downpayment at all. Aside from the veteran’s certificate of eligibility and the fact that the appraiser is assigned by VA, the application process is not much different than any other type of mortgage loan. And if the lender is approved for automatic processing and the Lender Appraisal Processing Program (LAPP), as more and more lenders are now, a buyer’s loan can be processed and closed by the lender without waiting for VA’s approval of the credit application or for VA to review the appraisal.

Lenders are also able to use VA recognized automated underwriting systems, such as Loan Prospector and Desktop Underwriter, to facilitate the underwriting process.


Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

A veteran can obtain a COE by completing VA Form 26-1880, Request for a Certificate of Eligibility, and mailing it, along with proof of military service, to the eligibility center (see office list at back of pamphlet). Also, veterans who have already begun the loan application process with a lender may request the lender obtain a COE through webLGY, which is accessed through the VA portal. More information about this online system can be found at the VA website which is:
Decide on a home to buy and sign a purchase agreement.

Order an appraisal from VA. (Usually this is done by the lender.)

Ordering an appraisal can be done via the Internet using TAS (The Appraisal System). This is a centralized system that allows lenders easy and quick access to order an appraisal.

Apply to a mortgage lender for the loan.

While the appraisal is being done, the lender can be gathering credit and income information. If the lender is authorized by VA to process loans on the automatic basis (and approx. 99 percent of all VA loans are processed this way), the loan can be approved and closed upon receipt of the appraised value determination without waiting for a VA review of the credit application. VA has also approved the use of several automated underwriting systems for lenders to use in connection with VA loans. The two main systems are Loan Prospector and Desktop Underwriter. For loans that must be approved by VA, lenders send the credit package to VA. VA staff will then review it and notify the lender of the decision.

Close the loan and move in.

More than 27 million veterans and service personnel are eligible for VA financing. Even though many veterans have already used their loan benefits, it may be possible for them to buy homes again with VA financing using remaining or restored loan entitlement.

Before arranging for a new mortgage to finance a home purchase, veterans should consider some of the advantages of VA home loans:

Most important consideration, no downpayment is required in most cases.
Loan maximum may be up to 100 percent of the VA-established reasonable value of the property. Due to secondary market requirements, however, loans generally may not exceed $417,000 ($625,500 for loans in Hawaii, Alaska, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands). This figure is subject to change each year.

Flexibility of negotiating interest rates with the lender.

No monthly mortgage insurance premium to pay.

Limitation on buyer’s closing costs.

An appraisal, which informs the buyer of estimated property value.

Thirty-year loans with a choice of repayment plans.

Traditional fixed payment: (constant principal and interest: increases or decreases may be expected in property taxes and homeowner’s insurance coverage); Graduated Payment Mortgage-GPM (low initial payments which gradually rise to a level payment starting in the sixth year); and in some areas, Growing Equity Mortgages-GEMs (gradually increasing payments with all of the increase applied to principal, resulting in an early payoff of the loan).

Hybrid ARMs: VA is authorized to guarantee hybrid ARM loans where the initial rate remains fixed for at least 3 years. The initial adjustment can be as much as 2 percent if the fixed rate period is 5 or more years. Annual adjustments thereafter are limited to 1 percent if the fixed rate period is less than 5 years, and 2 percent if the fixed rate period is 5 or more years. If the fixed rate period is less than 5 years, the initial adjustment is limited to 1 percent and the annual cap to 5 percentage points. Traditional ARM loans: VA can also guarantee traditional 1-year ARM loans where the rate is adjusted annually. Annual adjustments are limited to 1 percent and the maximum interest rate increase over the life of the loan is limited to 5 percentage points.

New homes, which are appraised before or during construction, are inspected to help ensure compliance with the plans and specifications used for the appraisal and with VA minimum property requirements. All new houses, regardless of when appraised, are covered by either a 1-year builder’s warranty or a 10-year insured protection plan.
An assumable mortgage, subject to VA approval of the assumer’s credit.

Right to prepay loan without penalty.

VA performs personal loan servicing and offers financial counseling to help veterans avoid losing their homes during temporary financial difficulties.


These loans are made by a lender, such as a mortgage company, savings and loan, or bank. VA’s guaranty on the loan protects the lender against loss if the payments are not made, and is intended to encourage lenders to offer veterans loans with more favorable terms. The amount of guaranty on the loan depends on the loan amount and whether the veteran used some entitlement previously. With the current maximum guaranty, a veteran who hasn’t previously used the benefit may be able to obtain a VA loan up to $417,000 ($625,500 for loans in Hawaii, Alaska, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands), depending on the borrower’s income level and the appraised value of the property. Your VA Regional Loan Center can provide more details on guaranty and entitlement amounts.


To buy a home, a condominium unit in a VA-approved project, or to purchase a unit in a cooperative (co-op).
To build a home.
To simultaneously purchase and improve a home.
To improve a home by installing energy-related features such as solar or heating/cooling systems, water heaters, insulation, weather-stripping/caulking, storm windows/doors, or other energy efficient improvements approved by the lender and VA. These features may be added to the purchase of an existing dwelling or by refinancing a home owned and occupied by the veteran. A loan can be increased up to $3,000 based on documented costs or up to $6,000 if the increase in the mortgage payment is offset by the expected reduction in utility costs. A refinancing loan may not exceed 90 percent of the appraised value plus the costs of the improvements. Check with a lender or VA for details.
To refinance an existing home loan up to 90 percent of the VA-established reasonable value or to refinance an existing VA loan to reduce the interest rate.
To buy a manufactured home and/or lot.


Veterans with active duty service, that was not dishonorable, during World War II and later periods, are eligible for VA loan benefits. World War II (September 16, 1940 to July 25, 1947), Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955), and Vietnam era (August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975) veterans must have at least 90 days of service. Veterans with service only during peacetime periods and active duty military personnel must have had more than 180 days of active service. Veterans of enlisted service which began after September 7, 1980, or officers with service beginning after October 16,1981, must in most cases have served at least 2 years.

Gulf War. Basically, reservists and National Guard members who were activated on or after August 2, 1990, served at least 90 days and were discharged honorably, are eligible. VA can assist with eligibility questions.

Members of the Selected Reserve, including National Guard, who are not otherwise eligible and who have completed 6 years of service and have been honorably discharged or have completed 6 years of service and are still serving, may be eligible. Contact the VA Eligibility Center to find out what is needed to establish eligibility. Reservists will pay a slightly higher funding fee than regular veterans. (See paragraph entitled “Costs of Obtaining a VA Loan.”)


Remaining Entitlement

Veterans who had a VA loan before may still have “remaining entitlement” to use for another VA loan. The current amount of entitlement available to each eligible veteran is $36,000. This was much lower in years past and has been increased over time by changes in the law. For example, a veteran who obtained a $25,000 loan in 1974 would have used $12,500 guaranty entitlement, the maximum then available. Even if that loan is not paid off, the veteran could use the $23,500 difference between the $12,500 entitlement originally used and the current maximum of $36,000 to buy another home with VA financing. For certain loans in excess of $144,000, the basic $36,000 entitlement can be increased to a maximum guaranty equal to 25 percent of the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit for a single family residence, minus any previously used entitlement.

Most lenders require that a combination of the guaranty entitlement and any cash downpayment must equal at least 25 percent of the reasonable value or sales price of the property, whichever is less. Thus, in the example, the veteran’s $23,500 remaining entitlement would probably meet a lender’s minimum guaranty requirement for a no-downpayment loan to buy a property valued at and selling for $94,000. The veteran could also combine a downpayment with the remaining entitlement for a larger loan amount.

Restoration of Entitlement

Veterans can have previously-used entitlement “restored” to purchase another home with a VA loan if:

The property purchased with the prior VA loan has been sold and the loan paid in full, or
A qualified veteran-transferee (buyer) agrees to assume the VA loan and substitute his or her entitlement for the same amount of entitlement originally used by the veteran seller. The entitlement may also be restored one time only if the veteran has repaid the prior VA loan in full, but has not disposed of the property purchased with the prior VA loan. Remaining entitlement and restoration of entitlement can be requested through the VA Eligibility Center by completing VA Form 26-1880.


VA Appraisal

Because the loan amount may not exceed VA’s estimate of the value of the property, the first step in getting a VA loan is usually to request an appraisal. Although anyone (buyer, seller, real estate personnel or lender) can request a VA appraisal, usually this is done by the lender via the Internet using TAS (The Appraisal System). The appraiser will send a bill for his or her services to the requester according to a fee schedule approved by VA. To simplify things, VA and HUD/FHA (Department of Housing and Urban Development/Federal Housing Administration) generally use the same appraisal forms.

It is important to recognize that while the VA appraisal estimates the value of the property, it is not an inspection and does not guarantee that the house is free of defects. Homebuyers should be encouraged to carefully inspect the property themselves, or to hire a reputable inspection firm to help in this area. VA guarantees the loan, not the condition of the property.


The application process for VA financing is no different from any other type of loan. In fact, the VA application form is the same as that used for HUD/FHA and conventional loans. The mortgage lender verifies the applicant’s income and assets, and obtains a credit report to see that other obligations are being paid on time. If all is well and the appraised value of the property is enough to cover the loan needed, the lender, in most instances, can then close the loan under VA’s automatic procedure. Only about 1 percent of VA loan applications have to be submitted to a VA office for approval before closing.


To obtain a VA loan, the law requires that:

The applicant must be an eligible veteran who has available entitlement.
The loan must be for an eligible purpose.
The veteran must occupy or intend to occupy the property as a home within a reasonable period of time after closing the loan.
The veteran must be a satisfactory credit risk.
The income of the veteran and spouse, if any, must be shown to be stable and sufficient to meet the mortgage payments, cover the costs of owning a home, take care of other obligations and expenses, and have enough left over for family support. An experienced mortgage lender will be able to discuss specific income and other qualifying requirements.


Funding Fee
A funding fee must be paid by all veterans using the VA home loan program, except those exempt due to receipt of disability compensation.

The funding fee can range from 0.5 percent for Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loans (IRRRLs) to 3.3 percent for veterans who are subsequent users of the VA home loan program.

For all VA loans, the funding fee may be paid in cash or included in the loan.

For more information on the VA funding fee, contact your VA Regional Loan Center.

Other Closing Costs

Reasonable closing costs may be charged by the lender. These costs may not be included in the loan. The following items may be paid by the veteran purchaser, the seller, or shared. Closing costs may vary among lenders and also throughout the nation because of differing local laws and customs.

VA appraisal
Credit report
Loan origination fee (usually 1 percent of the loan)
Discount points
Title search and title insurance
Recording fees
State and/or local transfer taxes, if applicable
No commissions, brokerage fees, or “buyer broker” fees may be charged to the veteran buyer.


Veterans seeking more detailed information concerning the VA home loan program may request VA Pamphlet 26-4, VA-Guaranteed Home Loans for Veterans, or VA Pamphlet 26-6, To the Home-Buying Veteran, from VA.

Remember, VA-guaranteed financing is a benefit which Congress intended eligible veterans should have. If you are a veteran home buyer or know of one, it makes sense to look into the VA loan program as a good way to finance a home purchase.

To locate a VA facility, or to obtain more information on the VA Loan Guaranty program, visit and click on Facilities Locator.

Real Estate Closing Instructions & Possession

Closing procedures vary by state, region and lender. In Kansas and Missouri sellers and buyers do not close together in the same room at the same time. The seller typically closes a couple of days before the actual closing date. The buyer normally closes on the agreed contract date.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE – about 30-45 minutes [Read more…]

USDA RD Property Eligibility

USDA Rural Development ( RD ) Loans allow buyers to purchase homes with little or no money down. There are some restrictions, mainly the property has to be in an approved area and the buyer has to be qualified.

It is not as complicated as some other government loan programs as well. The key to closing and closing on time is finding a [Read more…]

Final Walk through

Final Walk through

Normally the day before or the day of closing a buyer has a “final walk through”. The purpose of this is to:

1) see that the home’s condition has not significantly changed. Such as flooded, burned down, gotten hit by a tornado, or the sellers moving truck did not back into it.

2) Check that the sellers did perform the repairs they agreed to perform. This might be done a week before closing.

3) Pick up the keys from the lock box.

4) House is clean. In Kansas & Missouri, when a transfer of possession occurs a home is required to be “broom swept clean” and all personal property is to be removed from a property. That means if the buyer and seller have not agreed to leave a piece of personal property, and the buyer wants it removed, the seller my remove it or pay to have it removed.

Let me know what time is convenient for your final walk through.

PS. A  new home is a bit different.

Insurance and Utilities


The next steps are getting the utilities set-up and a home owners insurance “binder”.


You are responsible for the utilities from midnight the day of closing. In other words, the seller pays until 12:01am the day after closing.

Here is a link to the local utility companies –


Insurance can vary significantly from client to client and company to company. On day one company can give great rates for one client the next day they can be much higher. The company’s change their rating procedures all the time so it is hard to keep up with them.

I have a few trusted people that I recommend. I suggest you contact a couple to get quotes. Be careful to see what each actually covers. Coverage and premiums really do vary. Be sure to ask about roof coverage, sewer backup, and basement flooding.

Here is a link to some of my trusted insurance friends –

You do not have to pay the premium. It can be paid at closing from the title or lender company. Please have the insurance company furnish an insurance certificate/binder for the title company and lender. We cannot close without it.

Let me know if you have any questions or need more information.

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