I grew up in poverty, raised by a single mother. Our meager food was paid for with food stamps and I remember well the taste of government cheese.
I know what it's like to rely on extended family for shelter. I'm all too familiar with trailer-park life and I know what it's like to live in a dangerous neighborhood where there is theft, fighting, and constant noise. I know what it's like to walk past X-rated movie theaters, pool halls, strip clubs, seedy bars, passed-out drunks, and sleeping homeless on the way to school each morning. I know what it's like to beg for change along a street made famous by the number of working prostitutes.
I know what it's like to be looked-down upon as a poor little waif. I know what it's like to be defined by your circumstances and to have adults despise you because they can't look through the grime and see your tender little heart. I know what it's like to have them look past you because they don't know what to do, or are too uncomfortable to look into the shameful face of the truly poor. I know what it's like to live in a world that places zero expectations on you because it assumes that you will always be where you are and will never amount to anything. I know what it's like to be without hope.
Yet, I remember a good day. I remember a tremendously kind act and the hope that stemmed from it. I remember the day, about a week before Christmas, that two Marines came to my front door.
I remember that their uniforms were pressed and clean and their shoes shone. They were strong and serious, and they seemed larger than life in the eyes of this little 8 year old girl. I had no idea what a Marine did, or that they were Marines at all, but I remember their presence, their being, the indescribable mix of confidence, strength, duty and honor that makes up a Marine. I remember thinking that they were important men, and that they were extremely good and that I could trust them. They seemed to me to be like gods walking among men.
They came into our living room with boxes of food, and clothing... and presents! I was so excited to have presents under our tree and to know that we would have a real Christmas feast. It was pure joy to me; these Marines had brought a miracle to my front door. Then, one of them took a knee and looked at me. He didn't look down upon me, nor were his eyes devoid of hope for my future. He looked right at me, and there was hope in his eyes. He wished me a merry Christmas, and I couldn't stop myself from aggressively hugging him. He didn't seem concerned about this poor little waif wrinkling his uniform as he hugged me back!
That was the day that I learned the truth about Santa Claus, because I met him in person. He is real, but he no longer wears the red suit. He wears a starched and pressed uniform and shiny shoes. He is a United States Marine and he brings miracles to tens of thousands of children every year. Through the Toys for Tots program, his elves collect toys for children who otherwise might have nothing under their tree. He shows up where he is needed most and brings HOPE and presents with him.
This is why I give to Toys for Tots every year. I love having the opportunity to give back to an organization that has given so much to me and undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of children over the years. There have been years where there are not enough toys to be given to the children who are without, and it's heartbreaking to think of those innocent children without hope in their hearts and presents under their trees. I invite you to join me in giving to Toys for Tots this year. They accept presents at many drop-off locations and monetary contributions through their website at www.ToysForTots.org Help Toys for Tots give presents and hope to those who need it so much.
It was wonderful to spend some time with Natalie Bogard, Development Coordinator for the American Red Cross, learning about the ongoing efforts taking place throughout Colorado. There is still such need; many have been completely devastated and have lost all that they have due to the unprecedented flooding which followed a summer of severe fires that have swept through our fair state. But the Red Cross is there, providing healthcare, mental healthcare, casework services, assessing needs and making recommendations and referrals for other services such as cleaning out flooded homes, finding new homes, and replacing lost documents.
Colorado will be rebuilt. Fire cannot burn our spirits out, and floods cannot dampen them. We are a hardy bunch of folks possessing great determination and strong spirits. We are great neighbors as well, eagerly jumping in to take care of our own. That was evidenced today by a group of property managers taking out their checkbooks in order to present their gift of love in aid to our neighbors.
Those of us who choose to live the life of a Short Sale Listing Agent are constantly plagued with the task of deciphering and living by new governmental regulations. There seems to be a general panic about MARS regulations (Mortgage Assistance Relief Services) and extremely little information about it. We hear tidbits about complying with this cumbersome new law, and due to the darkness that seems to shroud MARS, the panic is multiplied.
Let's see if we can shed some light on MARS. Here are the major MARS compliance points:
· Disclosure- Mortgage Relief Companies and Individuals must disclose key information to consumers to protect them from being misled and to help them make better informed purchasing decisions. The Rule covers Real Estate Agents who promote their services as a way to help consumers to avoid foreclosure. The Rule doesn't cover Real Estate Agents who only provide services to help people in buying or selling homes- like listing homes for sale, showing homes, or finding homes that meet buyers' needs, even if they deal with short-sale listings. Be careful to provide the proper disclosures if you are marketing yourself as a foreclosure avoidance expert or counselor.
· Advanced Fee Ban- Under this provision, Mortgage relief companies and individuals are banned from collecting an up-front fee for their services. Only attorneys who have met certain guidelines are exempt from this ban. So, don't collect any retainers or up-front fees. That's easy enough.
· Performance Representations- The Rule prohibits Mortgage Relief Companies and Individuals from making and false or misleading claims about their services. They must have reliable evidence to back up any claims they make about their services. No puffery or misleading. Again, easy enough.
· Recordkeeping- Keep copies of ads, sales records, and written communications with customers for 24 months. But we already do that, right?
It seems to me that if we are being honest and ethical, MARS has little to fear. HOWEVER, many states have not yet provided Realtors with the proper forms and disclosures even though certain disclosures have been required since January, 2011. The FTC has provided sample language for disclosures that meet the requirement of the MARS Rule.
Cookie Hooper and her team at True Blue Realty help Sellers, Buyers, Renters and Homeowners in Arvada, Brighton, Broomfield, Lafayette, Northglenn, Superior, Thornton, Westminster, Wheatridge, and other surrounding cities in the Northern Denver Metro Area in Colorado. For immediate assistance, go to www.TBRHomes.com or call 720-279-9871
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact Person- Cookie Hooper
Company Name- TRUE BLUE REALTY
Telephone Number- 720-279-9871 x701
Email Address- Cookie@MyTrueBlueHomes.com
Web site address- www.TBRHomes.com
Colleen “Cookie” Hooper Earns NAR Short Sales and Foreclosure Certification
Buyers and Sellers Benefit from REALTOR® Expertise in Distressed Sales
Denver, CO, November 8, 2010 — Colleen “Cookie” Hooper with TRUE BLUE REALTY, LLC has earned the nationally recognized Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource certification. The National Association of REALTORS® offers the SFR certification to REALTORS® who want to help both buyers and sellers navigate these complicated transactions, as demand for professional expertise with distressed sales grows.
According to a recent NAR survey, nearly one-third of all existing homes sold recently were either short sales or foreclosures. For many real estate professionals, short sales and foreclosures are the new “traditional” transaction. REALTORS® who have earned the SFR certification know how to help sellers maneuver the complexities of short sales as well as help buyers pursue short sale and foreclosure opportunities.
“As leading advocates for homeownership, REALTORS® believe that any family that loses its home to foreclosure is one family too many, but unfortunately, there are situations in which people just cannot afford to keep their homes, and a foreclosure or a short sale results,” said 2009 NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth. “Foreclosures and short sales can offer opportunities for home buyers and benefit the larger community, as well, but it’s extremely important to have the help of a real estate professional like a REALTOR® who has earned the SFR certification for these kinds of purchases.”
The certification program includes training on how to qualify sellers for short sales, negotiate with lenders, protect buyers, and limit risk, and provides resources to help REALTORS® stay current on national and state-specific information as the market for these distressed properties evolves. To earn the SFR certification, REALTORSÒ are required to take one core course and three Webinars. For more information about the SFR certification, visit www.REALTORSFR.org or call 1-877-510-7855.
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Today’s Headline: “Bank of America and GMAC to Resume Foreclosures”
It seems that after their internal investigations, these banks have found no significant problems with their foreclosure cases and are once again proceeding with foreclosures. No significant problems? Really?
I sold a lovely home last December through a bank approved short-sale. It only took 8 months and 6 days from contract to closing. Well, I guess 8 months waiting to close is not so significant to Bank of America or GMAC. It was to my Seller and the Buyer who were waiting, waiting, waiting, and signing extension after extension while the bank delayed. It was also significant to me as the Seller’s Agent, contacting the Short-Sale department, Foreclosure department, customer service, and/or negotiator at least weekly for 8 months, often on hold for 30 minutes at a time, often being transferred from department to department in order to speak to anyone who was competent to answer a question, then getting a completely opposite answer the next time I called. Nope, not a significant problem. But we did get it closed.
Flash forward to September of this year, 9 months after our closing. The Buyer’s Agent alerts me to the fact that the Buyers are now getting foreclosure notices on their front door and people taking photos of the house, “for the bank”. Foreclosure notices that are not in their name, but in the name of the Sellers. Well, I just can’t imagine why that would be significant to the current Owners, especially when they are seeing news reports of people who are not in default having their belongings removed and locks changed by the banks as they foreclose a home that is not in foreclosure. Nope, no significant problems there, either.
I guess it’s also not significant that the bank is also sending letters and billing statements to my Seller, even threatening to foreclose on the home that they are now renting in another state. No problem there!
As a busy Realtor, 9 months after closing, I have spent the last 2 months still attempting to straighten out this situation. Again getting the run-around; again holding, being transferred, and waiting, waiting, waiting. Because I care, because I want the bank to get it right and figure out their mistake and correct it. But I am not being compensated for my time, and these large banks see no significant problem there, either.
Apparently, the time of a Realtor, the heartache and worry of a Buyer or Seller, constant frustration to Title Companies and Lenders, dealing with incompetent negotiators, losing Buyers due to the length of the process, and the other pitfalls of short sales are not a significant problem. So, why did they even bother to create a moratorium on foreclosures to perform internal audits when they won’t take their blinders off? Isn’t that in itself a significant problem?