December, 2018 NewsBlog

It should be time for some good news, being TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY, so here we go

December, 2018 NewsBlog


Hoping that your property will appreciate in the next year? There is a forecast out on the appreciation of residential market values over 358 metropolitan areas. The top 10 and bottom 10 markets are listed in this report. Let’s see, if you live in Washington State, you should be thrilled to know that the top #1 location plus 3 more are in your state. The appreciation is around the 10.3% mark. The probable reason for this good showing is a migration of tech people from California’s Bay Area, where housing is unaffordable, to Washington State where housing is still cheap….

If you live in Illinois, however…… well, your state has taken up 3 spots on the bottom of the list. Not good news, but those areas will need to work harder to bring in new business opportunities, which will bring in more employment, more new people, more need for housing and thus raise the values.

Merry Christmas


Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are raising conforming loan rates in almost every part of the country as the residential market values have appreciated. In 2019 look for the limit to be $484,350.00, a 6.9% increase from the 2018 limit of $453,100. For high-cost areas the increased limit will be $726,525. Here is the article. And here is a reference table for you to track the 47 counties that have the change.

Joyeux Noel


This may be good news in many parts of the country to homeowners, but not all industries are happy. Not only are loan limits raised, but the FDIC and the Comptroller of the Currency are proposing a rulemaking that would increase the threshold for residential real estate transactions requiring an appraisal from $250,000 to $400,000. Read it all here and directly from the source.

Of course, the appraisal industry is not too happy, right? Not only fewer appraisal jobs, they also fear (and rightfully so) that the raising of the required limit will bring us back to shades of the 2007-2008 housing real estate crisis when outrageous appraisal valuations sent to Lenders was one important factor that caused the crash. Here is their response article.

Feliz Navidad


From an Escrow Officer’s standpoint, For Sale By Owners (FSBO) transactions are tough to handle. The customers don’t know what they are doing and rely on the escrow officer as their “real estate agent” to walk them through the transaction. But good news! Seems that more people are realizing the advantages of using real estate agents for their transaction, including Millennials!!! According to a variety of pundits, as reported here, 90% of consumers do employ a real estate agent to handle their real estate purchase and sale.

Of course, the follow-up question then becomes: Are more consumers using the discounted brokerage firms which offer payment of 2% commission instead of 6%?

Feliz Natal

Meanwhile, in other news around the world…


Earlier this year FICO put out the results of a survey that they did on a small cross-section (2,000) of consumers. I am not saying that the number polled was large enough, but it does present some interesting findings: 80% felt that the security procedures instituted by organizations to prevent personal information from being hacked were “unnecessary” and a good 47% were not happy with the gamut of personal questions that they had to answer.

Here I am in this escrow industry that is so fearful of fraud and hacking and stolen identities that we sometimes go overboard to make sure our information is safe. And yet, there are those who want the security but do not like to go through the steps that are put in place to make it so. I know I struggle with remembering passwords but every time I think of the fraud that I was subjected to at my personal bank some years ago, I grin and bear it and make my password even longer than the recommended 8 digits.

Take a short minute to look at the video that is in the article. Don’t complain, it is good for you!


For those of you who are techies and keep abreast of vicious worldwide cyber attacks on private, national and international computer systems, this story from Wired Magazine is a fascinating read. This is why the Russian cyberattacks against the U.S. is such a horrifyingly serious threat to all of us. The cyber attack story starts with the recounting of what happened at the headquarters of A.P. Moller-Maersk of Copenhagen and as said in the article, “ It’s the story of a nation-state’s weapon of war released in a medium where national borders have no meaning, and where collateral damage travels via a cruel and unexpected logic: Where an attack aimed at Ukraine strikes Maersk, and an attack on Maersk strikes everywhere at once.

For those of you who have some time to read this story, (it is pretty long) it truly reads like a cyber thriller. Unfortunately, it is a thriller that happened and it is a gut punch to know that the cyber world is real, not “theoretical”, and it is not safe.

Perhaps a movie will be made out of it and then everyone will believe it and then awareness will be raised.


The affordability of rent is a subject that I have raised time and time again, given that my daughter pays a good 40% of her monthly income towards rent. The midterms saw the increase of Millennials participating in the election and brought Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest Congressperson and Millennial to a seat at the table. She talked to the New York times about many issues and challenges that she sees as she takes her job in the House. One of them is the affordability of rent by Millennials. See the questions that are raised in this article.
Perhaps she will be able to bring some discussion to her new (and older!) peers to the problem that affects a huge swath of our younger population. Go Alexandria!


Or is this a flash in the pan? Given how quickly the value of bitcoin fell from its seemingly stratospheric high of $20,000/unit in the middle of the year to its present $3,500/unit, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) released a short video which everyone should watch before jumping in. Crypto currency offerings – volatile, no regulatory oversight, untraceable, uninsured. What’s there to worry, right? Here is the cautionary video for the investor. Do your homework first!

(Real questions left on our website- verbatim!)


As a general law, can a buyer cancel the contract at closing time with a non resident alien seller, if at time of closing the alien seller does not have yet ITIN but has applied to get it.

In other words, can a closing with a non resident Alien seller be cancelled out if the seller has not got yet his ITIN? Or can they still close the sale without the ITIN at closing?


We handle a number of transactions that have this scenario: The Seller is a foreigner, the withholding applies, and the Seller does not have an Individual Taxpayer’s Identification Number (ITIN). We ask the Seller to immediately apply for one, BEFORE THE TRANSACTION CLOSES. We will do an instruction signed by all parties that the Seller is obtaining the ITIN. We will close the transaction and send to the IRS the required 10% – 15% withholding. It is up to the Seller to finish his application and then submit the ITIN to IRS to match the withholding paperwork that was sent.

So to answer your question, we do not look at the fact that the Seller does not have an ITIN at closing as a cause to cancel the transaction. During the transaction, we would make full disclosures to all parties as to what needs to happen. We would still hold the funds needed and send that to the IRS at closing.


If you like to scroll forward to the end of my Newsblog to look at what funnies I have for the month, here is one video that describes what the “Cloud” is for those of us who are totally tech challenged. Audio is highly recommended! Ya gotta love it!

Let me end this last newsletter of the year with my best wishes for a WONDERFUL HOLIDAY SEASON for you and your family. It is also our devout wish that you will have a FANTASTIC NEW YEAR! See you in 2019!

December, 2018 NewsBlog


Your Hardworking Escrow Officer