Archives: December 2011

HIGH on LOW

Jetskiing on New Year's Eve at Lake of the Woods


I am a creature of habit. I love iced tea from McDonald’s-unsweet, light ice, with lemon. Each morning, my routine is to exit Lake of the Woods through the front gate, get my tea, chat with my McDonald’s friends, and then re-enter through the back gate, and then drive completely around the lake. I preview homes from the exterior that have just come on the market and simply take in the beautiful sights. Today was no different, except that I was later than usual. Because of this, the lake was buzzing with activity. The usual traffic-squirrels, chipmunks, and the occasional car-was accompanied by many walkers, some with dogs, joggers, bicyclists, and golfers enjoying the course! In addition, I saw water skiiers, fishermen, and kayakers on the lake! While these may be typical sights…they certainly are atypical for New Year’s Eve! How incredible is that!!
On this morning’s trip, I found myself reflecting upon my experiences and accomplishments in 2011. What a great year it was! I arranged Lake of the Woods’ well-deserved recognition in the Washington Post (which took at least 5 months from contact to print); I had a fabulous year finding the perfect home or perfect buyer for my clients as a REALTOR; I wrote articles on distressed property sales; I rescued a permanently injured swan from sure death and found a new home for her in Chicago (thus adding swan-REALTOR to my title); I rescued a cat stuck in a kitchen cabinet of a vacant home for 3 weeks; I was honored to loan the eagle collection my husband and I own to the Locust Grove Elementary school; I launched my website and had my logo created; I won my office’s “Shining Star Award;” I made many new, incredible friends; I became deeply involved in the Lake of the Woods Association, serving on the External Affairs and Communications Committees; I received the go-ahead for my own column in Lake Currents, my community newspaper; I was chosen as a participant in the Association Leadership Development Program at FAAR (Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS) and also serve on the Education and Member Outreach Committees at FAAR. While I am proud of all of these accomplishments, I absolutely recognize that they would not have been possible without the support of my community and so many people, especially my husband, John. I am so very thankful. But there’s more…
When I reflected more deeply, I realized that my catalyst is my love of, and passion for, the people of Lake of the Woods and the true community it is. This community has provided me the opportunity to commune with nature in a way I never thought possible, become involved, and truly make a difference. I am PROUD to live here. This is what enables me to get up in the morning with a smile on my face each and every day…even before 5am! I’m sharing my accomplishments not to boast, but to express that we all can rise to new heights by becoming involved and feeling good about what we do and who we are!
What inspires you? Ignite your passion inside the gates! Our community offers so much-get involved; take advantage of the fabulous amenities; join a club, group, organization or committee…or start your own; promote Lake of the Woods both internally and externally. Together we can make LOW even better!
My 2012 goal is simply to top 2011! I love the direction my life is taking. I love my involvement in Lake of the Woods. I love sharing my passion as a REALTOR. I love being HIGH on LOW!
Until next time…It’s another beautiful day at the lake!
 
 

The Licata Logo

Many people have asked me about the history of my logo. In case it isn’t apparent to you, my logo is comprised of my initials, P and L, that form a swan. Immediately upon moving to Lake of the Woods, I was adopted by a lone mute swan that I named Carl (for the star of Alexandra Day’s childrens’ “Good Dog, Carl” books). Carl was a character! He amused me daily with his antics, which you can read about here. To me, Carl represented everything great about this community-nature and wildlife, caring people, and a true sense of community.
A professional image to convey the level of real estate service I provide my clients is important to me, so I pursued commissioning a personal logo. And not just any logo. If you know me, you know that I am a thinker, and I am a perfectionist. I drive myself crazy; I drive others crazy in pursuit of perfection.  My logo had three criterion: to represent something personal about me,the Lake of the Woods community I serve, and my professional ethics. The swan logo did just that! I love swans (which is personal), and when I think of them, I think of loyalty. And had I never moved to Lake of the Woods, I never would have had the pleasure of experiencing Carl, and learning more about me in the process. I am loyal to my clients, providing them with the best real estate service possible, whether buyers or sellers. They, in turn, are loyal to me. So the end result, for me, was perfection!
So now you know the journey to the logo, as well as a little more about me!
It’s another beautiful day at the lake!
Pat Licata, REALTOR
Licata on the Lake

 

Lake of the Woods, VA, Featured in the Washington Post!

In October, I had the privilege of sharing Lake of the Woods with fabulous Washington Post freelance writer and nature photographer, Ann Cameron Siegal. An avid wildlife person like me, Ann, my husband John, and I trolled around the lake, and Ann was able to take some incredible photos of her favorite, the Blue Heron, and my favorite…the swans. Ann spent the weekend with me and was truly able to gain the “Lake of the Woods experience.” We had a great dinner at Clearwater on Saturday night and a great brunch at the Clubhouse on Sunday. Ann stopped people walking their dogs and kids fishing to learn how they felt about life at the lake. Overwhelmingly, residents love the community! I believe that Ann captured the essence of Lake of the Woods extremely well in her feature. But don’t take my word for it: please click on the link to see why “It’s another beautiful day at the lake” each and every day at Lake of the Woods!
Where We Live: Behind the gates, a quiet escape
 
 

Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Bella's in the Tub!

Another swan rescue! A few days after my article in Lake Currents appeared with my contact information for residents seeing swans in distress, I received a call from Holly Marshall! Thanks to the keen eyes of her dad, Fred, and Holly’s having read that article in Lake Currents, Holly called me about an injured swan. The following day, I was able to rescue Bella, another female mute swan, which wasn’t easy. I found her in Section 1 off of Mt. Pleasant, in the creek that leads to the lake that goes under Mt. Pleasant. The embankment was about 5 or 6 feet above the creek, and it was pouring rain. Thanks to Bella for her cooperation, Walt Benton, Don Roth, a helpful passerby, and especially Jim Simprini, who loaned me his waiters to climb into the creek and provided a loaf of bread, the rescue was accomplished!
Bella and I made the trip to rehabilitator Kaylee, who advised that she believed Bella had a fractured leg that healed improperly. Bella spent the night in a crate in my car, and the next morning we were then off to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, where we learned later that day that, in fact, Kaylee was correct, and nothing could be done.  The trip to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center was a trip I hope I don’t have to repeat anytime soon. Bella having been in my car all night (and, well, you know, Bella exhibiting normal swan bodily functions), I almost gagged when I opened the car door! Unfortunately, it was absolutely pouring down rain, so I barely opened the windows! I alternated between holding my nose and opening the windows anyway, with the rain coming in! The next day, I picked Bella up from Blue Ridge and transported her to Rikki’s Refuge,  a fantastic place for many animals, but Rikki’s just simply wasn’t a great fit for Bella. Due to her injury, it’s best for her to be in water as much as possible, and Rikki’s doesn’t have a pond. So…more calls…
Well, if you know me, you know that I am extremely persistent! As a full-time REALTOR, I am successful in finding either the perfect new home or the perfect buyer for my clients. Why not put these skills to work for the permanently injured swan? I did just that!
After countless hours of additional phone calls, Sheila Bolin of the Regal Swan Foundation found a forever home for Bella…in Chicago! At first, the plan was to fly her to Chicago on Delta, but the regulations changed. So…I’m basically putting a stamp on Bella’s butt and sending her Express Mail through the US Post Office!! This is by no means a great way for her to travel, but the only alternative is euthanizing her. Frankly, she is totally healthy except that one leg and foot simply do not work. In the water, she’s fine. But because the lake at LOW freezes, she would freeze to death in the water, since she is unable to get out.
Bob Knox, the fabulous man who is taking Bella, is a swan breeder. He has all species of swans (whoopers, trumpeters, tundras, blacks), and a pond that he uses for those that are handicapped. The conditions are perfect! This pond is only 3 inches lower than the shore, so Bella won’t have any trouble thrusting herself out to dry off. Bob keeps a bubbler in the pond so that it doesn’t freeze in those cold Chicago winters. AND he has a male…so who knows? Bella may find a mate in addition to a perfect, forever home!
As I write this, Bella is swimming in my bathtub, patiently awaiting her “flight!”
My interest is swans began when I moved to Lake of the Woods and was adopted by Carl, an old, lone swan. It is in his honor that I do whatever I can to assist our swans at Lake of the Woods. Click here to read about my adventures with Carl; I hope he is proud!

LOWA Assessment Delinquency Correction

At the Lake of the Woods Board of Directors meeting held on December 3, apparently the HOA/assessment delinquencies were mis-stated. Below is a correction that was made by Pat Rowland, President.
Delinquency Report Corrections
The percentage of delinquencies of FY 11 LOWA assessments reported by the Treasurer at the December 3, Board meeting and then subsequently reported in the Free Lance Star was incorrect. At the end of October the delinquency rate was 4.2% not 11%. A rate under 5% is considered in the normal range according to our Director of Finance.
Pat Rowland
President, LOWA Board of Directors

Short Sale = Long Wait

The term short sale refers to the loan investor allowing a sale for less than is owed on a home, and certainly not that the transaction will be completed in a short amount of time! Whether you are selling or buying a “short sale,” patience is absolutely required. So sit back…and be prepared to wait!
A short sale transaction differs from a traditional sale in that once the seller and purchaser agree to the terms of the sale for the home, the loan investor must also approve those terms (purchase price, closing cost assistance, closing date, etc.). In the last article, we focused on the HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative) program for those homeowners whose loans are owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The advantage here is that once qualified for HAFA, the seller knows what amount is needed from the sale by the investor. Therefore, acceptable contract terms can be negotiated by the seller and buyer at the onset of the transaction, which typically reduces the amount of time required for the transaction.
But what if a homeowner’s loan isn’t owned or backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac? A traditional short sale may then be the answer. This means that the seller and buyer agree to terms, and then the contract, along with all of the seller’s documentation as to why a short sale is necessary, is forwarded to the investor for approval. And then the wait begins…
The primary benefit to a seller is what is reflected in the credit report. A short sale seller is much more likely to be able to secure financing within 2-3 years for a future home purchase, as a short sale is less damaging to the credit than a foreclosure. The second benefit is merely timing. Due to the overwhelming amount of short sales, The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act has been instituted by the government through 2012. This means that short sale sellers will be forgiven the potential tax burden that otherwise would have occurred due to debt forgiveness. However, there are exceptions to this act, so it is advisable to consult with an attorney and/or financial advisor about a particular situation.
While the bank (investor) agrees to accept less than is owed to get the property sold, sometimes the seller is asked to sign a promissory note for a smaller part of the difference while the bank forgives a greater portion. Often an interest-free or low interest long-term loan is offered to the seller. This potential situation, where the seller is asked to re-pay part of the difference, can be mitigated best by dealing with a real estate professional that is experienced in listing short sales and/or utilizes the services of a short sale negotiator.  Many of the realtors who serve Lake of the Woods have taken specialized classes in short sales, and/or utilize a short sale negotiator, and are excellent resources to homeowners.
In order to increase the likelihood of getting short sales approved by the investor in the shortest amount of time possible, many real estate brokerages have enlisted the services of a short sale negotiator. A short sale negotiator is an experienced agent dedicated to working with short sales. The advantage of a negotiator is that he or she possesses expertise in working with the various investors and is familiar with their differences; in short, he or she knows how to “work the system” for each.
To most easily understand the short sale process, it is helpful to think of the process for qualifying for a mortgage. When you apply for a mortgage, your ability to repay that mortgage is reviewed by the lender through your bank statements, pay stubs, tax returns, etc. When you apply for a short sale, the lender will review the same documentation, along with the important hardship letter, to determine your inability to pay.
The first item a homeowner needs to address when requesting a short sale is the reason for the hardship (why the bank should allow a short sale). A decrease in a home’s value alone is simply not a valid hardship.  Since a homeowner originally qualified for the loan, the bank is interested in evaluating what has changed in the financial picture. Several examples of valid financial hardships are:

  • Reduced income
  • Loss of job
  • Mandatory job relocation
  • Business failure
  • Death of a spouse or  family member
  • Medical bills
  • Divorce or separation payment increase
  • Mortgage adjustment
  • Military service
  • Too much debt

Once the homeowner has made the determination that a short sale is the best option, the next step is choosing a qualified REALTOR to list the home. When a contract is obtained, the seller and purchaser agree to the terms (sales price, seller concessions, etc.), as in any sale. However, in a short sale, the next step is for the short sale package, comprised of the ratified contract, along with the seller’s bank statements for prior two months, pay stubs for prior 30 days, IRS tax returns for prior two years, hardship letter, authorization to release information, listing agreement, lender pre-approval letter or proof of funds from the purchaser, and preliminary settlement statement, to then be forwarded to the bank for approval. And this is when patience is required by all parties!
Short sales can typically range from 6 weeks to 6 months to be completed, although some have taken 2 years! There are a combination of reasons for this: the banks are overwhelmed by the number of short sale requests being received; the banks sometimes require a BPO (broker’s professional opinion) to ensure the sales contract is for market value; often a second trust, third trust, or home  equity line is involved and also needs to be negotiated.
Purchasing a property being offered as a short sale is not for everyone. The unknown timeframe in which a sale is completed makes it difficult for a purchaser who may need to be in a home by certain date or has a lease expiring on a certain date and cannot extend month-to-month. Also, most short sales are sold “as is,” meaning that the seller will not make any repairs. A home inspection is a “must,” in my opinion, as the purchaser is best served by knowing as much as possible about the property, especially since the current owner will most likely not be making any repairs.
In “short,” a short sale is a preferred means of selling a home for the homeowner whose financial picture has changed and who is unable to keep up with the mortgage. This sale benefits the community as well, as the homeowner typically stays in the home and provides at least minimal upkeep while awaiting the sale, thus eliminating a huge drop in value, which affects all residents.
My plea is simple: let’s talk openly about short sales and de-stigmatize them so that Lake of the Woods benefits from fewer foreclosures and the ramifications from their low sales prices and typically poor property conditions.  Let’s reverse the trend of more foreclosures than short sales. Knowledge is power; now that we know, let’s act on it! The key is facing the fact that there is a problem and being proactive. We live in a fabulous community and have the ability to keep it that way!