A couple facing foreclosure is accused along with three others of torturing two loan-modification agents who they allegedly believed weren't helping them. Next time, just call the cops.
There's no way I can understand the agony that borrowers desperately trying to get a loan modification are going through. I hear about it from friends dealing with the process, and I read about it on a daily basis, so I'd like to think that my empathy goes a long way.
But apparently, it only goes so far, because I simply can't understand how a couple who allegedly suspects their loan-modification agents of swindling them might think it's acceptable to take justice into their own hands.
In Los Angeles County, a couple and three other suspects have been accused of luring two such agents to an office where they were tied up and beaten for hours, then robbed of their loan paperwork and personal belongings, according to the District Attorney's Office.
A news release says the couple, Daniel Weston and Mary Ann Parmelee, were facing foreclosure and had been seeking loan-modification help from the two agents, Lamond Dean and Luis Garcia. But they believed nothing was being done and they wanted their money back.
OK, so they're upset. But why didn't they just call the cops?
Values still are about 30% lower than they were during the peak, but rates of decline continue to show signs of improvement.
Existing-home prices may be suffering because of the high number of foreclosures and other distressed homes on the market, but overall home sales aren't doing quite so shabbily these days.
A closely watched index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas showed a 1% increase in home values from July to August, the fourth consecutive monthly increase for the index.
Even though prices were still below where they were a year ago, the rate of decline continued to improve for the seventh month in a row, according to Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price indexes.
"While many of the markets remain down versus this time last year, the relative rate of decline has shown some real improvement," said David Blitzer, chairman of S&P's index committee. "California, in particular, has seen some real positive prints in recent months."
Could this be the end of the McMansion era?
As we all know by now, it's a buyer's market out there. And as the first-time homebuyer tax credit nears its Dec. 1 deadline, it is becoming less and less of a builder's market.
So why should you care? Because it could seriously limit your choice of homes, especially as the housing inventory continues to fall.
With foreclosures and other distressed homes driving down prices across the board, it's no longer worth it for many builders to start a home from scratch, The Journal writes. And talk about losses. A recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that 56% of its builders said the cost of building their homes is higher than the appraisals that are coming in.
Loan modifications, the new homebuyer tax credit and other efforts to help boost the housing market may have artificially driven up prices 5%.
Nobody's denying that the government's $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit contributed to a miniboom of home sales that continues to see a rise in transactions.
But is it possible that the tax credit, as well as some of the government's other efforts to help push the housing market in a more positive direction, may have artificially boosted housing prices?
According to The Wall Street Journal, Goldman Sachs estimates that housing prices are 5% higher than they would have been without all the government intervention.
We'll help prepare you for Halloween with a few homes to put you in the mood.
With Halloween just around the corner, we've cooked up a list of spooky homes for sale with the help of MSN partner Move.com.
If the home shown here tickles your imagination in a way that sends chills down your spine, it may be because it's the mansion that stars in the book series that begins with the "The Witching Hour."
It also happens to be the former New Orleans home of its author, Anne Rice, who is best-known for the book "Interview with the Vampire," which inspired a movie of the same title that starred Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Kirsten Dunst.
But home prices continue to fall, and one research firm predicts that the market won't bottom out until March.
Advocates of extending the first-time homebuyer tax credit may have gained more government support with the National Association of Realtors reporting that existing-home sales in September rose to levels not seen for more than two years.
Its monthly survey found that sales of existing single-family homes, town houses, condos and co-ops in September grew 9.4% from August, counteracting that month's first drop in sales in four months.
But the Realtors group also found that home prices continued to slide, with the median price paid for an existing home down from $177,500 in August to $174,900 in September, which also is 8.5% lower than the price paid for an existing home in September 2008.
The lower prices, however, are probably one of the pushes behind this rebound in the market.
San Jose has been hit the hardest, with monthly rates in the third quarter falling 10% from a year earlier.
In the third quarter of 2008, the average price renters paid per month to keep a roof over their head in the U.S. was $1,002. But just a year later, the average rent had dropped to $965, according to a report from RealFacts.
That's good news for apartment seekers, who seem to be getting ever-increasing power to negotiate for better deals from their landlords.
"Renters are in a great position to secure favorable terms," RealFacts said in its report. "The conditions in the rental market reflect people’s attitude throughout the country. People are tightening their belts by reducing their spending."
But it's also bad news for landlords and owners, especially in the West and in the South, where rents have fallen the most.
All you have to pay are the exorbitant moving costs, and this 1930s Foursquare is yours.
It's hard to not be tempted by the allure of a free home, especially a 1930s classic American Foursquare that was once part of a working farm in Sagaponack, N.Y.
But just as there's no such thing as a free lunch, turns out there's also no such thing as a truly free home; the strings attached to this freebie could cost as much as building a new house from scratch.
You see, the home doesn't actually come with the property it's on, so the lucky taker also would be the burdened mover of the home, and since distance equals dollar signs, it certainly wouldn't hurt to already have property nearby in the Hamptons.
Hamptons Online writes that Paul Brennan, a real-estate broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman who is involved in the deal, has been heavily advertising the free house, but so far has received only about a dozen calls from people interested in the home.
"Once they talk to the house mover and find out what's involved, they back off," Brennan said.
Or, as it was put by Curbed Hamptons: "House movers tend to scare people off."
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.