808 Oahu Realtor (Ryan Riggins) License #RS-74740

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PCS – Before and After arrival

You know when it comes to getting the correct info this is a great blog. Big Mahalo for sharing your info and your viewpoint on PCS here to Hawaii

PCS to Hawaii - a Military wife's Journey

We arrived in Honolulu on May 31 and I have a lot to share.  I’m going to start with the flight and finish up with what I’ve learned so far about  temporary lodging allowance (TLA), entitlements and reimbursements.

As I posted in my previous blog, animals traveling between May 15 and September 15 will need to be shipped as cargo.  Because of this, we had to be at Air Cargo 2 1/2 hours before our flight left.  We had a rental car since we shipped our POV out the day before we left.  We had intended to use curbside check in for our luggage, but when we tried, we were told by the Sky Valet that unless we checked our bags at the ticket counter, we would incur extra baggage fees even though we were allowed 4 checked bags each since we were traveling on orders.  I’m going to spare…

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PCS to Hawaii?

It seems so many military families are PCS’ing to Hawaii . It is because of this, that even though I absolutely hate this place that I feel it important to discuss some of the most important questions in relation to coming here. Throughout the months I have been listening and watching the Army Wife 101 fan page and I have compiled many of your questions for these types of posts. I hope you find it helpful.

In this post I will discuss questions in relation to housing and living offpost.

How long is the waiting list for housing onpost?

As I always tell spouses never ask another spouse that only because the wait time varies greatly. You will hear stories of people who PCS’ed here and within a a week they had housing. Then you will hear from those who moved here and lived in lodging for 2 -3 months. Your best bet is to call the housing office and they can give you a round about estimate. You can be placed on something close to a waiting list. When you arrive you will jump ahead of those who have NOT arrived on island yet.  As of the time this post was written you can call the main housing office at 877-487-4323 or visit their site at http://www.islandpalmcommunities.com

Where will I stay while I am waiting for housing?

This is a common question and in my experience I’ve learned you will hear various answers. The first place you definitely want to contact is Schofield Lodging. You can visit them atwww.innatschofield.com. The way it goes is that you need to contact them first and see if they have space available, if they don’t then they will issue you a statement of nonavailability and you will usually wind up at a hotel close to Honolulu Airport. You will hear some people say that they went and stayed at the freaking Ritz Carlton or the Hilton Hawaiian and the Army paid for it. My advice, do it the proper way this way you are guaranteed to receive your TLA and have no issues. PCS’ing to Hawaii is not the time to play around financially.

What does housing look like on Schofield?

Fortunately for me I live in new housing and I will post a few pictures of that below.  Unfortunately you have a great chance of being put in what they call “New Old Housing” which is not that bad in comparison to the old stuff that let’s just say you have to see it for yourself. Housing can also place you in what is known as military reservations. Wheeler is Schofield’s airfield and is right outisde the main gate. They have very new housing and extremely old housing. Let me just say when I say old housing I am talking about Pearl Harbor Era. Some of the housing on Wheeler are considered of historical value and cannot be torn down. At that point they try to revamp the inside but their is only so much revamping you can do to a house that old.

Helemano Military Reservation is about 15 minutes from post near the North Shore. I hear mixed reviews on it but personally Schofield is far enough , I wouldn’t want to be even further at Helemano. The other place they can place you at is AMR. I have friends who live there and they have new housing but there is old housing there as well. AMR is very hilly and high up , but the good thing is you are right near Honolulu . It seems like you have to go to Honolulu to have any kind of life here. Keep in mind in Hawaii military can live in any branches housing, but there are always stipulations on everything . For instance Army can live in Navy housing but they might not be able to get new navy housing.

Many wives ask me what housing areas on Schofield they should ask about when at the housing office. I always say Kaena, Porter, Moyer and Kalakua. Those are the newest housing areas to my knowledge.

Here are a few pictures of a new 3 bedroom home on Schofield in Kaena (my home)

You can view more here if you have Facebook

Do I keep my BAH when I live onpost?

Uh No…I wish! Now when I first arrived here, there was some pretty crappy housing that they actually were giving some onpost residents 15% of their BAH back. Generally speaking your BAH is taken out of your check and that’s that. if you live offpost you get to keep your BAH and utilize it as you wish for a mortgage or rent and possibly utilities.

Do we pay utilities onpost?

You can read my previous post about Mock Light Billing here.

In regards to other utilities it’s the same as any other post. You pay for your cable and phone. Water is free  I wonder for how long.

Who takes care of the lawn maintenance onpost?

I am still trying to figure that out myself because since my husband has returned from his deployment we have cut our own yard, Yet and still we see the landscaping guys in our backyard and cutting our bushes.

Best places to live offpost?

If had to live offpost the 4 places I would look into are Mililani, Ewa Beach, Pearl City, and Kapolei. If you wanna know about the site . Read my post about Offpost Housing. I know many people are quick to want to live off post but please be aware Hawaii is very expensive. I know because we looked and I gladly would take on post housing considering the prices, and the utility cost I have heard about here.

See there look at how fair I was and I didn’t even talk about how much I hate it here 🙂

I think I just about covered all the common housing questions. If I missed one feel free to share it in the comments section.

Thank you Army Wife 101 for this awesome post.


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Should I Short Sell My Home? – Truths and Myths About Short Sales

If you’ve talked to any real estate agents recently, you’ve probably heard about the increase in short sales currently taking place. Surprisingly, there are people who short sell their home and are able to buy another home soon after. How can this happen?

If you’re finding yourself “underwater” in your mortgage, meaning that you owe more than what your home is worth, you’ve probably asked yourself the question – “Should I short sell my home?”

Short selling your home may be a difficult decision to make since it may affect your credit and potentially prevent you from getting another loan for several years. However, if you decide to short sell your home it may be the best time to do so now.

As a homeowner, who bought a home before the housing bubble burst, I’ve been doing a lot of research in terms of options available to people like me, who are underwater. Unfortunately AND fortunately, I’m not in a financial hardship and there aren’t many options for those of us who can make the house payments but want to sell their home due to other circumstances (new job).

I’ve worked hard on having a good credit score, after all, credit is everything nowadays. So, not making my mortgage payments is not an option for me. A loan modification seems not to be an option either, unless I’m late on my payments or in a financial hardship. So, my only option left is trying to short sell my home.

After speaking with several other real estate agents, I learned about some facts and myths that are out there about short sales that I wanted to share.

Myth: I won’t be able to buy another home for several years after short selling.

Truth: You may be able to buy an FHA-approved home after a short sale only if you’ve never been late on your payments and your new home is cheaper than the one you’ve just sold.

According to a letter by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued in December 2009, Borrowers are considered eligible for a new FHA-insured mortgage if 1) they were current on their mortgage and other installment debts at the time of the short sale of their previously owned property, and 2) the proceeds from the short sale serve as payment in full.”

It’s also important to note that a person who is interested in short selling their home in order to buy a new one, will need to buy a smaller and cheaper home if they’re interested in buying soon after the short sale took place. Also, keep in mind that if you decide to buy a home right after a short sale, you’ll most likely have to pay a higher interest rate than someone who has never defaulted on a debt.

Guidelines are different for each lender. For example, Fannie Mae will not allow you to buy another home for a minimum of two years, even if you’re current on all your payments.

Myth: I will need to pay income taxes on the forgiven mortgage debt.

Truth: According to the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, if you’ve sold your home for less than what you owe, you won’t have to pay income taxes on the difference. (There are certain restrictions.)

According to the IRS, if you sold your primary home (you’ve lived in this home for at least three out of the last five years) through a short sale, you may not owe any taxes on the canceled debt. However, this act expires in December 2012. So, if you decide to list your home on November 2012 but your home doesn’t sell until February 2013, you won’t be covered under this act and you will most likely owe taxes on the difference.

However, it’s always wise to consult your tax advisor before making any tax-related decisions. A real estate agent familiar with short sales will also be able to give you more information about the Mortgage Debt Relief Act.

Myth: My credit will be ruined if I short sell my home.

Truth: Your credit score will suffer as a result of a short sale but the impact is different for everyone.

There isn’t a sure way to know exactly how much your credit score will suffer if you short sell since there are many factors that determine your score. Generally speaking, if you’ve never been late on a payment (credit card, mortgage or car payment, for example), then your credit score will decrease as a result of a short sale but not as much as if you had missed payments.

Also, the way that the bank reports the short sale to the credit bureaus will make a difference in the severity of the impact on your credit score. This is why it’s very important that you understand the lender’s terms BEFORE you agree on how the mortgage loan will close and be reported to the credit bureaus. If your mortgage lender reports that your mortgage has been “paid in full,” then your score won’t be hurt as much as if it was reported as “settled for less than full balance.”

Myth: I won’t be able to short sell my home unless I’m late on my payments.

Truth: You may still be able to short sell if there are other circumstances that prevent you from keeping your home, such as relocating for a job.

It’s true that lenders will give more consideration to homeowners that are late on their payments since it shows a hardship. However, if you are able to explain to your lender in your “hardship letter” why you need to sell the house (e.g. lost your job and had to relocate to another area to find another job), your lender may approve your short sale.

All these guidelines mentioned above could change at any time. Consulting a tax advisor, real estate agent and an attorney before making a decision will help you make a more educated decision.

We hope that this article helps you come up with questions to ask as you determine whether a short sale is for you. If you have other questions feel free to let us know.

 

Aloha


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What Is a Short Sale?

As missed payments and mortgage defaults continue to rise, many homeowners are looking for a way out, hoping to avoid foreclosure along the way. One such way is with a “short sale.”

So what is a short sale anyways?  Well, in short, it’s a carefully agreed upon sale of a property for less than the amount of the mortgage balance, executed as a means for both a homeowner and a mortgage lender to essentially cut their losses.

Although not normally a common practice, short sales have surged in popularity as a result of the most recent mortgage crisis. Typically, short sales are reserved for extreme cases when the bank or lender decides that it is in their best interest to take an early loss instead of enduring costly foreclosure proceedings. Yes, foreclosures cost banks and lenders money too.

If you’ve missed a few mortgage payments, and recently received an NOD, or Notice of Default, you may be seeking out foreclosure alternatives. But if your existing mortgage balance is greater than the value of your property (underwater mortgage), and you don’t have the ability to make your mortgage payments in full, you could have few places to turn aside from foreclosure.

The reason foreclosures weren’t an issue in the preceding few years was due to appreciating home prices. Even if homeowners fell behind on payments, their homes would be worth more than what they bought them for, so a standard sale would be possible because they gained equity in their home beyond the mortgage balance.

Nowadays, with home prices moving sideways or dropping, homeowners aren’t so lucky. That’s why many borrowers who got into negative amortization loans or even high loan-to-value loans are finding themselves with a mortgage balance that exceeds the value of their home. Even if you put 20% down and made all your payments on time, you may have just purchased a home at exactly the wrong time, which eventually pushed your loan underwater.

Let’s look at an example where a short sale isn’t necessary:

2003 Property Value: $500,000
Existing mortgage balance: $490,000
2012 Property Value: $600,000

In the above situation, though very little of the mortgage has been paid off, there is still $110,000 in home equity, so a short sale is not necessary, as the owner could sell the home and cover the cost of the mortgage with plenty of room to spare.

The homeowner in this example may have pulled cash out or opened a home equity line of credit, but because they didn’t fully tap out their equity, they’ve still got breathing room to avoid a short sale if they’re unable to make payments.

Here’s an example of when a short sale may make sense:

2006 Property Value: $650,000
Existing mortgage balance: $675,000
2012 Property Value: $655,000

In this example, though the home appreciated ever so slightly, the borrower was making 1% payments each month via an option arm, thus tacking additional interest on top of the existing loan balance. The result is a mortgage balance greater than the value of the home, making the situation ideal for a short sale if the borrower falls seriously behind on payments.

Of course, even those who made fully-amortized mortgage payments each month have found themselves upside down on their mortgages thanks to the precipitous drop in home prices over the past few years. This was mainly due to the zero down mortgages that were popular just at the height of the housing boom.

Clearly this was a deadly combination for even the most responsible of homeowners, which explains why short sales and foreclosures have become so prevalent.

Short Sales Are Complicated

So are short sales the answer? Before you think you’ve got the magic bullet, think again. Short sales are complicated, just like foreclosures. They take a lot of time and work, as well as cooperation from a number of interested parties, including the bank or lender, a home buyer, real estate agents, and you.

If you’ve missed multiple mortgage payments and are facing foreclosure, the bank or lender won’t automatically offer a short sale. You need to prove that your situation merits a short sale, which typically involves providing documentation that proves you are indeed in dire straits (not the band) with no other viable options. And even if your situation fits, the bank or lender must still decide if your particular situation works for them financially.

As the ailing homeowner, you’ll need to find a prospective buyer for your home. And as you already probably know, selling a home takes time, especially in today’s market. Couple that with the complicated process of assessing comparable sales in the area and the fact that the lender must decide if the price is right, and you’ll realize that things could take a while.

Short Sales Are a Last Resort

Though short sales can be a blessing to some homeowners, as they don’t do nearly as much credit score damage as a foreclosure (assuming you do them right), they should still be treated as a final option before foreclosure. Do you really want to lose your home and have difficulty buying another one in the future?

There are other options out there to stop loan foreclosure, such as a short refinance or a loan modification, and if you speak with the bank or lender servicing your loan, they’ll likely point out other alternatives first.

Ultimately, banks and lenders want to cut their losses, and they’ll do whatever is in their financial interest, first and foremost.

So if you do decide to pursue a short sale, you’ll need to make a strong case for yourself or you’ll likely be denied. Though the volume of short sales is picking up, it won’t always be an option. Make sure you consider all of your alternatives before making the huge decision to sell your home.


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Making an Offer on a Short Sale? What You Need to Know

Are you looking to buy a new home? Are you thinking that now’s a great time to find bargains? Before you make an offer, it pays to know a little about the seller’s situation.

If a home is being sold for below what the current seller owes on the property—and the seller does not have other funds to make up the difference at closing—the sale is considered a short sale. Many more home owners are finding themselves in this situation due to a number of factors, including job losses, aggressive borrowing against their home in the days of easy credit, and declining home values in a slower real estate market.

A short sale is different from a foreclosure, which is when the seller’s lender has taken title of the home and is selling it directly. Homeowners often try to accomplish a short sale in order to avoid foreclosure. But a short sale holds many potential pitfalls for buyers. Know the risks before you pursue a short-sale purchase.

You’re a good candidate for a short-sale purchase if:

  • You’re very patient. Even after you come to agreement with the seller to buy a short-sale property, the seller’s lender (or lenders, if there is more than one mortgage) has to approve the sale before you can close. When there is only one mortgage, short-sale experts say lender approval typically takes about two months. If there is more than one mortgage with different lenders, it can take four months or longer for the lenders to approve the sale.
  • Your financing is in order. Lenders like cash offers. But even if you can’t pay all cash for a short-sale property, it’s important to show you are well qualified and your financing is set. If you’re preapproved, have a large down payment, and can close at any time, your offer will be viewed more favorably than that of a buyer whose financing is less secure.
  • You don’t have any contingencies. If you have a home to sell before you can close on the purchase of the short-sale property—or you need to be in your new home by a certain time—a short sale may not be for you. Lenders like no-contingency offers and flexible closing terms.

If you’re serious about purchasing a short-sale property, it’s important for you to have expert assistance. Here are some people you want to work with:

  • A qualified real estate professional.* You may have a close friend or relative in real estate, but if that person doesn’t know anything about short sales, working with him or her may hurt your chances of a successful closing. Interview a few practitioners and ask them how many buyers they’ve represented in a short sale and, of those, how many have successfully closed. A qualified real estate professional will be able to show you short-sale homes, help negotiate the purchase when you find the property you want to buy, and smooth communications with the lender. (All MLSs permit, and some now require, special notations to indicate that a listing is a short sale. There also are certain phrases you can watch for, such as “lender approval required.”)
  • Title officer. It’s a good idea to have a title officer do an initial title search on a short-sale property to see all the liens attached to the property. If there are multiple lien holders (e.g., second or third mortgage or lines of credit, real estate tax lien, mechanic’s lien, homeowners association lien, etc.), it’s much tougher to get that short sale contract to the closing table. Any of the lien holders could put a kink in the process even after you’ve waited for months for lender approval. If you don’t know a title officer, your real estate attorney or real estate professional should be able to recommend a few.

Some of the other risks faced by buyers of short-sale properties include:

  • Potential for rejection. Lenders want to minimize their losses as much as possible. If you make an offer tremendously lower than the fair market value of the home, chances are that your offer will be rejected and you’ll have wasted months. Or the lender could make a counteroffer, which will lengthen the process.
  • Bad terms. Even when a lender approves a short sale, it could require that the sellers sign a promissory note to repay the deficient amount of the loan, which may not be acceptable to some financially desperate sellers. In that case, the sellers may refuse to go through with the short sale. Lenders also can change any of the terms of the contract that you’ve already negotiated, which may not be agreeable to you.
  • No repairs or repair credits. You will most likely be asked to take the property “as is.” Lenders are already taking a loss on the property and may not agree to requests for repair credits.

The risks of a short sale are considerable. But if you have the time, patience, and iron will to see it through, a short sale can be a win-win for you and the sellers.


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What to put in your hurricane kit

Hawaii has a history of hurricanes and more are sure to come. Officials recommend preparing for disaster now by making a family emergency plan, researching hurricane insurance coverage and putting together an emergency supply kit.

Getting supplies shouldn’t be a daunting or time-consuming task. Start with a week’s worth of non-perishable food and water per person in each household.

Then, visit your local drug and hardware stores. Most hardware stores will group things together like flashlights, batteries, butane stove and butane fuel. Even a generator is available for purchase.

Recommended items to include in a basic emergency supply kit:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least seven days for drinking and sanitation
  • At least a seven-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food
  • Local maps

Download the full emergency supply kit list here.

It’s important that families review the list and tailor it to their location and unique needs. Individuals should also consider preparing two emergency kits — one full kit at home and a smaller portable kit for the workplace or vehicle.

If finances are tight, buy a few things at a time until your kit is complete.

Beyond the basics, consider the following: cash in case credit cards or ATMs cannot be accessed, games and puzzles for kids to pass time, solar-powered cell phone chargers, extra infant formula and pet food, and family documents stored in a portable, waterproof container.

If you have a strong home with extra room, consider letting other family and friends come over to ride out the storm.

If you feel your home is weak, there are steps you can take to protect its roof, wall and foundation. Hurricane clips can prevent your roof from blowing off during a storm, especially if you have an older home with single-wall construction.

Hurricane clip
Hurricane clip

“The idea is to take a look at your house. What you want to ensure is a continuous load path, as the engineers say, between the roof, walls and foundation,” explained former State Civil Defense vice director and disaster expert Ed Teixeira.

Hurricane clips are inexpensive — most cost under a dollar a piece — and can be found in any hardware store.

They can be installed in about three to four days, or a carpenter or contractor can do it for you.

In 2009, Teixeira, along with other state and federal agencies, completed a catastrophic hurricane plan using a grim scenario — a category 4 hurricane directly hitting Oahu with damage to Kauai and Maui counties. The consequences would be disastrous, even for basic needs like food.

“A storm like that would require government to furnish two million meals a day,” Teixeira said. “Think about that. Two million meals per day, because of the number of residents and visitors who are still here who would be affected by the storm, can’t go back to their homes, will have stay in shelters and all of that… It’s just going to take some time.”

Time we might not have when a hurricane’s sights are on Hawaii.


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What Homeowners Insurance Does Not Cover

A homeowners insurance policy offers basic protection from the most common disasters. But because it’s built with the average American household in mind, your policy might not account for some risks associated with your location or cover all your possessions.

Floods

Flood insurance is mandatory when you have a mortgage on a home in a high-risk flood area. Even if you live outside a high-risk area, don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ll never experience a flood. In fact, nearly 20% of flood insurance claims come from areas of moderate to low risk, according to the National Flood Insurance Program. Whether it’s a flash flood or just a few inches from a storm, water can cause massive damage to your home and belongings. If you’re not financially prepared, the effects can be devastating. The National Flood Insurance Program has joined with insurers to offer flood insurance. Premiums, which vary depending on where you live, start at just $129 a year.

Earthquakes

Basic homeowners insurance policies don’t offer earthquake coverage. Fortunately, in many states, special earthquake coverage can be added to your policy.

Anyone who has seen the aftermath of an earthquake understands the devastation one can cause. The extensive shaking and cracking can demolish entire buildings, destroying your home and possessions. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, consider strengthening your policy with this coverage.

Home Businesses

Your homeowners policy provides limited coverage for business equipment. Also, you are not covered for liability related to your home business — if, for example, someone gets food poisoning through your catering business or if a student visiting your home trips and breaks an ankle while leaving a piano lesson. If you run a business from home or have expensive office equipment, you may need additional coverage.

Valuable Personal Property

Homeowners policies can offer sufficient coverage for most personal property, but there are limitations. Valuable personal property insurance can take over where homeowners policies leave off. VPP insurance can provide coverage for losses due to fire or theft. It also covers damage or if an item gets lost — say a stone falls out of a ring or the ring falls down the drain. If you own valuable items such as artwork, jewelry, musical instruments, firearms, furs or silver, consider obtaining a VPP policy.

Broader Personal Liability

Homeowners policies offer limited coverage for liability protection. Given the litigious world we live in, an umbrella insurance policy can provide additional peace of mind. An umbrella policy helps protect you and your earnings if someone, such as a baby sitter or handyman, is injured at your home. It also helps provide protection if you (or a family member) are found liable in a serious automobile accident.

This type of insurance can provide extended liability coverage beyond your home and auto policies. Consider shielding your personal financial assets with additional liability insurance.