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Stay Warm This Winter!

By mtnvalleyrealestate
Nov 18, 2010

RISMEDIA, November 18, 2010—The cold weather will be here (if not, already) before you know it. And with it comes the likelihood of rising heating bills and drafty windows, doorways and spaces.

To help you make your home more energy-efficient this year, here are some tips from ComEd:

• Have home heating systems cleaned and inspected by a professional each year to ensure safety and optimum efficiency. Be sure to change the filter prior to the heating season, and check its condition monthly.

• Inspect the caulking and weather-stripping around all windows, doors and any openings for utility services. Replace caulking and weather-stripping as necessary. A drafty house lets warm air escape and is much more costly to keep warm.

• Remove window air conditioners if possible, or install an air conditioner cover to eliminate drafts.

• Keep fireplace dampers closed tightly when not in use.

• Reverse the rotation of ceiling fan blades. During the winter, blades should spin so the warm air that has risen can be re-distributed around the room.

• Switch to more energy-efficient lighting, such as CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs), which use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

Energy-Saving Tips for Fall

By mtnvalleyrealestate
Nov 12, 2010

By Monica Eng RISMEDIA, November 12, 2010--(MCT)--As autumn settles in and we set back the clock, rake the leaves and stoke the furnace, we have a lot of assumptions about the most environmentally friendly ways to proceed.

But are those assumptions right? We've gathered a bushel of answers to some autumn household eco questions.

Question: What is the most environmentally friendly way to dispose of my leaves? Answer: The best option is to leave a coat of leaves on your lawn and chop them up with your lawn mower to create a layer of mulch that will break down and give your lawn nutrients. This is most easily done when the leaves are dry and crunchy rather than when they are thick and soggy.

Place the rest of the chopped leaves around outdoor plants as ground cover and in your compost heap.

Burning leaves creates undesirable emissions, and it's illegal in most municipalities. Tossing them out in sealed non-biodegradable plastic bags sends them to landfills where they can't decompose properly and will leak harmful greenhouse gases.

Blowing them around with a leaf blower creates carbon emissions and noise pollution while eating energy and stirring up allergens. If none of this bothers you, a leaf blower can be useful to push foliage to the street or curbside in municipalities that offer street leaf sweeping. A rake also works just fine for this, however. Collected leaves are taken to farms or composting sites, according to local officials.

In municipalities that don't have leaf-sweeping days, pushing leaves into the street "can clog the drains in the street creating blockages and other problems," Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation spokesman Matt Smith said.

Q: What's the best way to save electricity on lighting despite fewer hours of daylight? A: In these darker months the No. 1 thing you can do to save money on your lighting bills, experts say, is switch from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. CFL bulbs can reduce your lighting energy usage up to 75 percent. Still, some consumers worry about potential mercury exposure if the bulbs break and are bothered by the harsh white glow of fluorescent bulbs. Some of these concerns are allayed by widely available plastic-coated, shatterproof CFLs and bulbs on the lower end of the lighting spectrum that are designed to mimic the warmer tones of standard incandescent bulbs.

CFL bulbs, however, cannot be thrown out in the regular garbage. Instead they must be recycled properly through municipal hazardous-waste collection programs or brought to participating stores, like Lowe's. The EPA offers recycling locations on its website.

Q: I like saving money by cooking cheaper cuts of meat in a slow-cooked stew. Are slow cookers the most energy efficient way to do this? A: Slow cooker users may assume that because the appliance has a lower wattage (70 to 250) than a conventional electric oven (roughly 2,000), that they save energy. But Doug Cote (, a writer for the "Dollar Stretcher" Web site, notes that while slow cookers' heating elements stay on continuously, electric ovens cycle their elements on an off as needed to maintain temperature, often only about one-fourth of the actual cooking time.

Assuming you would use a slow cooker on high for twice as many hours as you would use your electric oven, the energy usage could come out equal. Efficiency also can be affected by the number of other things you can cook simultaneously in your oven, how much heat you lose when you open it and how efficient and well insulated the oven is. The short answer: there is no clear winner in this fight.

Even more energy efficient for cooking smaller dishes is the toaster oven. And most energy efficient of all, for things that it can cook well, is the microwave.

Still, as online energy adviser Michael Bluejay (aka Mr. Electricity) points out, in terms of preserving money, energy and the environment, what you eat matters much more than how you cook it. Meat and dairy require much more energy to produce than plant-based foods, and switching to a plant-based diet, even once a week, can make a significant impact on your pocketbook, energy usage and carbon footprint.

Q: I love using a fireplace but have heard that you actually lose more heat than you gain. How can I make my fireplace more efficient? A: While fireplaces can be aesthetically pleasing, they are one of the most inefficient heat sources available, according to the EPA. Because most of your warm air goes up the chimney, experts have typically seen only a 10 to 20 percent heat return from wood logs, in the best-case scenario. Burning traditional logs also can greatly diminish indoor air quality with unhealthy gases and particulate matter, even when the fireplace is properly maintained. How's that for throwing water on your fire?

Better options: If you choose to build a fire in your home, make sure your fireplace is good shape and equipped with heat-retaining features (including blowers, intake tubes and radiant grates and inserts). And use fake logs. Now that many artificial logs have gone "green," turning from petroleum-based binders to vegetable paraffin, they release 75 percent less carbon monoxide and 80 percent less particulate matter than real wood, according to the EPA. Plus they burn hotter, giving you a better chance of deriving some heat from them.

If you want to use recycled material, consider buying so-called "java" logs made out of used coffee grounds. Or roll your own logs using old newspapers, a broom handle and some water, as recommended by the EPA. But be sure to first remove glossy inserts that can emit unhealthy fumes.

Q: What's the best way to stay warm in my house while saving money? A: Other than closing leaks, changing air filters once a month, insulating well and sealing your doors and windows, the best and most efficient way to stay warm, experts say, is by keeping the heat local. Set your programmable overall thermostat very low — especially at night while you are sleeping and during the day when you are out of the house — and keep your personal space cozy with space heaters, warming bricks, hot water bottles, heating blankets and heated slippers.

That said, space heaters should be used with extreme caution — especially around small children — and you should opt for those with the latest safety features, such as automatic shut-off when they tip. Keep them away from combustible materials and high-traffic areas of your home, and plug them directly into the wall instead of using an extension cord. Oil-fueled radiant heaters are considered to be some of the safest because they never get hot enough to ignite a fire. If used properly, the energy used by space heaters will amount to far less than it would cost to heat an entire home.

This doesn't mean you should shut off central air registers in certain parts of the house. That can damage your HVAC system by creating too much pressure and overheating your furnace. If you want to close off some rooms, consult a specialist to see what works best for your particular system.

If you think it's cheaper to maintain a constant temperature rather than letting your house cool when you're out and then warming it up when you're home, think again. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that for every degree you turn down your thermostat for an eight-hour period in the winter, you can expect a correlating percentage of energy savings.

(c) 2010, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Census: Couples Marrying Later, Affects Household Size

By mtnvalleyrealestate
Nov 11, 2010

The median age at first marriage increased to 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women in 2010, an increase from 26.8 and 25.1 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This increase is a continuation of a long-term trend that has been noted since the mid-1950s. In addition, the overall percentage of adults who were married declined to 54.1 percent in 2010 from 57.3 percent in 2000.

According to America's Families and Living Arrangements, the average household size declined to 2.59 in 2010, from 2.62 people in 2000. This is partly because of the increase in one-person households, which rose from 25 percent in 2000 to 27 percent in 2010, more than double the percentage in 1960 (13 percent).

These data come from the 2010 Current Population Survey, which provides a look at the socioeconomic characteristics of families and households at the national level.

"This series of tables highlights some of the changes in household composition over the last decade," said Rose Kreider, a family demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau.

Even though the overall household size declined between 2000 and 2010, some household subgroups increased in size. For example, households where the householder had less than a high school degree increased to an average of 2.87 people in 2010 from 2.67 people in 2001.

Editor's note: The information can be accessed at population/www/socdemo/hh-fam.html. Other highlights:

* The percentage of households headed by a married couple who had children under 18 living with them declined to 21 percent in 2010, down from 24 percent in 2000. * The percentage of children under 18 living with two married parents declined to 66 percent in 2010, down from 69 percent in 2000. * In 2010, 23 percent of married-couple family groups with children under 15 had a stay-at-home mother, up from 21 percent in 2000. In 2007, before the recession, stay-at-home mothers were found in 24 percent of married-couple family groups with children under 15. * The percentage of children under 18 who lived in a household that included a grandparent increased from 8 percent in 2001 to 10 percent in 2010. Of the 7.5 million children who lived with a grandparent in 2010, 22 percent did not have a parent present in the household.

Timberlakes Water Assessment 2010 Notice

By mtnvalleyrealestate
Nov 08, 2010

Dear Timber Lakes Property Owners,
It is with pleasure that we provide this update regarding the completion of our long awaited water project.As those on the mountain well know, two contractors, Sunroc and Build Inc. have been working on ourpipeline and storage tank projects over the last three years. Sunroc has had the responsibility forcompleting 18 miles of pipeline replacement, while Build Inc. has been responsible for the construction oftwo new water storage tanks. These system upgrades were approved through public hearings held inAugust and October of 2007, followed by a County administered hearing and subsequent bond election.The approved bond will be paid back through an assessment on each lot within the Timber Lakes WaterSpecial Service District (TLWSSD). As the project comes to a close we are pleased to announce that thetotal project costs and assessment to each lot owner are significantly less than originally thought.During public hearings held in 2007 it was estimated that the total cost of the project (includingreplacement of pipelines and the construction of needed water storage) could be as much as$12,232,000. Assuming 1415 lots, this translated to a total estimated cost of $8,644/lot, or $60/monthover a 20 year period. Just prior to the County hearings these costs were re-evaluated and the projectrefined to reduce costs resulting in a bond approval of up to $8,500,000. With bond approval, the projectdesign was completed and the contracts awarded. As the project now comes to a close we are happy toannounce that total project costs have come in lower than originally expected. Total project costs havebeen determined to be $7,224,758.52, 41% lower than the original project estimate, and 15% lower thanthe approved bond amount. The cost decrease has resulted from (1) lower than projected constructioncosts and (2) low financing rates.Each property owner should have received by mail a letter from the TLWSSD and/or Wasatch Countysummarizing the bond and project costs. Although the exact amount of the final assessment has not yetbeen determined, it is estimated that the assessment placed on each lot will be less than or equal to$4,778.28 to be paid back over the life of the bond. If desired, lot owners can make a one-time lump sumpayment currently estimated to be $4,222.72 rather than make monthly bond payments. A final cost andinstructions on repayment terms will be provided within the next few weeks as the bond is finalized.Prior to bond finalization, the County is required to hold Board of Equalization and Review meetingswherein members of the Timber Lakes Water Assessment Area may voice their objections regarding theassessment. This being said, we remind each lot owner that the bond was approved and the hearingsare not for the purpose of objecting to the bond or the water project, but for the purpose of identifyingindividual specific objections or requests for adjustments which are believed to be unequal, inequitable, orunjust. The meetings will be held between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm on November 3rd, 4th and 5th at theCounty offices at 25 North Main, Heber City, Utah.We appreciate your patience as we have worked over the past few years to make critical improvements toour water system. Through the efforts of the water board and our system operators, and with thecooperation of TLPOA we have an upgraded water system that has added water storage capacity whichwill provide better service, have fewer winter flow interruptions, provide enhanced fire flow protection andallow better system operation through a computer monitored data telemetry system. Outside the bond,and in cooperation with TLPOA, we have also been able to construct a new building for our crews andequipment that provides better service and response to all lot owners.We are grateful for your patience, and for the efforts put into this project by the TLWSSD Water Board,especially Adam Hagan who has worked the last two years as Board Chair to help coordinate andcomplete the project. We are also grateful to the Timber Lakes Property Owners Association with whomwe have coordinated regarding roads and mountain access. And finally, a special thank you goes tothose lot owners that took the time up front to understand the need for the project and for their support inhelping us provide much needed water system upgrades. We will all benefit from this project for manyyears to come.

Winterizing Your Home: Preparing Your Home for Winter

By mtnvalleyrealestate
Nov 01, 2010

The fall Equinox is a good time of year to start thinking about preparing your home for winter, because as temperatures begin to dip, your home will require maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape through the winter.Autumn is invariably a prelude to falling winter temperatures, regardless of where you live. It might rain or snow or, as David Letterman says, "Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees." Did you know there is only one state in the United States where the temperatures have never dipped below zero? Give up? It's Hawaii.

Here are ten tips to help you prepare your home for winter:

1) Furnace Inspection

  • Call an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts.
  • Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
  • Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.
  • If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.
  • Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

2) Get the Fireplace Ready

  • Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
  • If the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
  • Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
  • Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
  • Check the mortar between bricks and tuckpoint, if necessary.

3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows

  • Inspect exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes; seal them.
  • Use weatherstripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home and caulk windows.
  • Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you end up replacing the entire window, prime and paint exposed wood.
  • If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields.
  • Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.

4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts

  • If your weather temperature will fall below 32 degrees in the winter, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
  • Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
  • Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
  • Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
  • Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.

5) Service Weather-Specific Equipment

  • Drain gas from lawnmowers.
  • Service or tune-up snow blowers.
  • Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
  • Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
  • Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand.

6) Check Foundations

  • Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation.
  • Seal up entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
  • Tuckpoint or seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through space as thin as a dime.
  • Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.
  • Secure crawlspace entrances.

7) Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

  • Some cities require a smoke detector in every room.
  • Buy extra smoke detector batteries and change them when daylight savings ends.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and / or water heater.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher or replace an extinguisher older than 10 years.

8) Prevent Plumbing Freezes

  • Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
  • Drain all garden hoses.
  • Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
  • Drain air conditioner pipes and, if your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
  • If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.

9) Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces

  • Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires.
  • Ask a gardener when your trees should be pruned to prevent winter injury.
  • Plant spring flower bulbs and lift bulbs that cannot winter over such as dahlias in areas where the ground freezes.
  • Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.
  • Don't automatically remove dead vegetation from gardens as some provide attractive scenery in an otherwise dreary, snow-drenched yard.
  • Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area.

10) Prepare an Emergency Kit

  • Buy indoor candles and matches / lighter for use during a power shortage.
  • Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and tape them near your phone or inside the phone book.
  • Buy a battery back-up to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment.
  • Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.
  • Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.
Don't forget to winterize your Timberlakes Utah Cabins too! For more information about Timberlakes, visit

For Your Clients: 6 Reasons Why It's Smart to Buy a Vacation Rental Home

By mtnvalleyrealestate
Oct 21, 2010

RISMEDIA, October 21, 2010—Lately, you've been thinking a lot about investing strategies. You have a small nest egg that needs to grow, but frankly you don't trust the stock market. (If you're like many investors, your 401(k) hasn't fared well in recent years.) And while real estate has been somewhat of a rocky road in recent years, it's still a solid long-term investment strategy—and clearly we're in a buyer's market. But you aren't really interested in being a landlord. What to do?

Christine Karpinski has a suggestion: Purchase a vacation home and rent it out to travelers.

"Vacation homes are almost always a good investment," says Karpinski, director of Owner Community for HomeAway—te the world's leading vacation rental marketplace—and author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment (Kinney Pollack Press, 2007, ISBN: 0-9748249-9-2, $26.00).

"First, if you're looking for a good long-term investment, real estate tends to be a good bet," she adds. "Second, vacation properties have the ability to pay for themselves, and owners often earn a profit in rental income. Third, the investment comes with the desirable perk of having a place at the beach or in the mountains to call your own. And finally, there has never been a better time to buy a vacation home—it's like the planets have all lined up perfectly."

Karpinski, who owns vacation homes in several parts of the country, says she herself is looking for new properties to invest in. Overall, she says, the vacation home rental market is a burgeoning segment of the economy.

Want to know more? Read on for a few reasons why there's never been a better time to go vacation rental house hunting:

There have never been so many properties on the market. For potential home buyers, there is a silver lining to the slow economy and the housing crisis: Most vacation markets are chock-full of buying opportunities. Once you've pinpointed the vacation rental market that is right for you—The coast? The mountains? A ski resort area?—you will likely have a lot of properties to choose from.

"There are many properties available right now in many different areas," says Karpinski. "Once you start hunting, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you find. But I must offer one caveat: Before you let yourself fall in love with a property, make sure it is legal to rent it out as a vacation home. Some areas and homeowners' associations do not allow short-term rentals."

Prices aren't going to get much better. In fact, they're the lowest they've been in five to ten years. If you're pretty sure you want to buy a vacation home "someday," you might want to quit procrastinating and pull the trigger, says Karpinski.

"Prices should increase eventually," she points out. "Now is the perfect opportunity to make a really sound investment. In fact, speaking from my own perspective, I'm afraid that if I don't take the plunge now, I'll look back ten years from now and say, 'Why the heck didn't I buy back in 2010?'"

Interest rates are very favorable for purchasing. Today, mortgage interest rates are low. Bottom line: Take advantage of them while they last. These days, you have access to the best real estate professionals. Anyone connected to the housing market who managed to survive the housing crash had to be at the top of his or her game. That means the agents left standing today—including the ones you'll be working with in your search for the perfect vacation home—are possibly the best of the best.

"Quite simply, the real estate professionals still working today are the top in the business," says Karpinski. "And because vacation home renting has become so popular, they are more knowledgeable than ever. Use their knowledge to your advantage. They are at your service when it comes to helping you hunt down the best property for you."

It's never been easier to rent your vacation home. As mentioned earlier, vacation home rentals have never been more popular. More and more consumers are choosing to stay in cozy condos, cabins, and chalets instead of cramped, impersonal hotel rooms when they travel. And as market demand has surged, organizations have sprung up to help connect vacation homeowners with these potential renters. If you buy now, you can be ready for the 2011 peak season. It's true that the longer you wait to buy, the likelier it is that interest rates could rise. But there's another reason not to procrastinate: If you buy now, you'll have time to get your property ready for peak rental season. Experienced vacation homeowners often find that the rental fees generated during the twelve weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day pay their mortgages for an entire year—and most inquiries come in between January and March.

"Even turnkey properties aren't really turnkey," notes Karpinski. "To get your property up to your standards, there will very likely be things that you will want to spruce up. Rooms might need repainting. Decorating will need to be done. And the yard might need some work. By buying now, you will have a cushion of time to get the home ready for your guests, take great photos for your property listing, and start marketing it to potential renters."

"Someone is going to be smart enough to take advantage of the great buying opportunities available today," says Karpinski. "That person might as well be you."

Home starts rises slightly, building permits fall

By mtnvalleyrealestate
Oct 19, 2010

October 19th, 2010 @ 7:23am
WASHINGTON -- Home construction rose slightly last month on the strength of single-family homes, but the market was still too weak to propel growth in the battered industry.

The Commerce Department says construction of new homes and apartments rose 0.3 percent in September from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000. August's figure was revised upward to an annual rate of 608,000 from an earlier estimate of 598,000.

Construction was driven by a 4.4 percent monthly increase in single-family homes, which are about 80 percent of the market. Construction of condominiums and apartments fell by nearly 10 percent. The number of building permits issued to build new homes, a sign of future activity, fell 5.6 percent from a month earlier.

A MarketWatch survey of economists had predicted housing starts to move slightly higher. Still, Tuesday's increase was not expected to be great compared to what the numbers were before the homebuyer tax credit expired.

Regardless, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other top economists have viewed these numbers as very important in gauging just how "depressed" the housing market really is.

Monday the National Association of Home Builders' index of builders' sentiment rose to 16 in October. Economists had been expecting to see 13.

But putting that into perspective -- a number above 50 is considered a positive reading, so builders are still very pessimistic.

Bernanke has been considering whether to take additional counter-measures to jump-start the economy. Lower home prices and low mortgage rates haven't been doing enough to get the housing market back on track.


Story written with contributions from Associated Press writer Alan Zibel and Andrew Adams.

Pay Off Debt Before Saving for Retirement

By mtnvalleyrealestate
Oct 19, 2010

RISMEDIA, October 19, 2010--(MCT)--Hard times elicit tough choices. This week, Steven Zeller, a Gold River, Calif.-based investment adviser, tackles a reader's question on credit card debt and mortgage loans.

QUESTION: I've entered into a hardship payment program with the six banks that issued my 10 credit cards. I'm paying off $80,000 at an overall interest rate of 6 percent (down from an average of 20 percent). Due to the reduced payments, I now have $3,000 in monthly surplus income to either invest with, or pay down the credit cards.

I also have an upside-down mortgage on a rental house owned as income property. The bank seems (unwilling) to either modify or reduce the principal so I can sell it.

In time, this will all find its way into (Chapter 11 bankruptcy) courts. Life would be simpler if I pay down the credit cards and concentrate on (getting) the house above water. Instead, I've decided to invest the surplus in ERISA retirement vehicles and Roth IRAs. They would be exempt from collections but available as bargaining chips when negotiating with creditors. What is your opinion?

ANSWER: I would not encourage anyone to go into bankruptcy proceedings if he or she can help it. It creates a lot of stress and is not the best for your self-esteem.

If you have 10 credit cards to pay off, 6 percent is a pretty good deal instead of 20 percent.

I would begin paying off the credit cards, starting with the smallest one first, until they are all gone for good.

It may be painful at first, but you will increase your cash flow over time by (eliminating) the monthly payments.

Then I would attack the upside-down situation with your rental. In the long run, it is better, financially and emotionally, to be debt-free. And if the (credit card issuers) are giving you that opportunity, I would jump on it.

At the end of the day, if you pay into an IRA and Roth IRA instead of paying down your credit card debt, you will still have debt. As far as negotiating with the (lender) on your rental property, I'm not sure it would look at the situation very positively if it saw you were fully funding your IRAs.

(c) 2010, The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.).By Claudia Buck

Utah joins nationwide foreclosure investigation

By mtnvalleyrealestate
Oct 18, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's Attorney General is joining officials in all 50 states to launch an investigation targeting possible fraud in the mortgage industry.

The probe will examine allegations mortgage companies mishandled documents and broke laws in foreclosing on hundreds of thousands of homeowners. It targets major U.S. lenders, but some analysts worry that it could add strain on an already distressed housing market.

The allegations are that lenders repossessed homes without ever verifying key details. Agents signed off on hundreds of thousands of foreclosures without reviewing critical documents -- a process known as "robo signing."

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is one of those leading the investigation.

"The robo signing is the key issue -- the issue that triggered this investigation -- and is a very significant problem that has to be solved," Miller says.

Julia Borst, president of Utah Mortgage Lenders Association, says while the problem may be large she does not think there was criminal intent behind it.

"Do I think it's widespread? I don't think it's widespread fraud, no I don't," Borst says. "Do I think that there could be paperwork issues due to the sheer numbers? I do."

Utah's attorney general's office says one of the objectives of the preliminary investigation is to evaluate potential remedies for victims.

"We just want to insure, from a state perspective, that the companies in this business are following the law and that every Utahn who has a mortgage problem is able to count on the fact that the rule of law will prevail, that people will be required to follow those rules," says Chief Deputy Attorney General John Swallow.

Swallo says it's very early in the process and emphasized that Utah does have many professional financial institutions.

Meanwhile, Borst says beyond the 50-state probe, struggling homeowners should realistically assess the situation.

"Figure out for you, can you afford your house?" she says. "And if you can make your payments, figure out how to make your payments. If not, figure out what life after is going to look like and move on down the road."

In August alone, a record 95,000 U.S. homes were repossessed. Currently, nearly one in every seven Americans with a mortgage is either behind on payments or currently in foreclosure.


Story compiled with contributions from John Daley and Marc Giauque.

October 13th, 2010 @ 5:31pm

Few Utah cities raise property taxes

By mtnvalleyrealestate
Oct 18, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Fewer than three dozen of the state's more than 500 local governments raised property taxes this year.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that only 28 cities, counties, school districts and other local governments chose to go through the truth-in-taxation process to raise their overall property-tax revenues.

That is half the number that boosted them last year, and is down from the 81 that did so in 2008.

Local governments recently finalized their tax rates in preparation of mailing property tax notices by Nov. 1. Payment of those taxes is due by Nov. 30.

BY October 17th, 2010 @ 5:15pm Associated Press