Author Archives: Hallmark Abstract Service

About Hallmark Abstract Service

Hallmark Abstract Service provides title insurance for residential and commercial real estate transactions in New York State and nationwide, underwriting through Chicago Title. HAS opened its doors in 2008 with two primary goals in mind! Number one was to create a title insurance company that would provide our clients with a superior finished product while affording them a seamless and stress-free process. Number two was to make the experience of working with Hallmark Abstract Service as easy and as pleasurable as obtaining title insurance for a real estate transaction could possibly be! From the sheer number of satisfied clients who keep coming back to Hallmark Abstract Service for their title insurance needs, I believe that we have accomplished our goals in the past, and we will continue striving to improve on them in the future! My Background In 1980 I earned an undergraduate degree in economics followed in 1984 by an MBA in finance with a concentration in the tax-exempt market. With this focus on the municipal market I became a municipal bond analyst at Shearson/Lehman Brothers tasked with following both general obligation issuers on the city and state level as well as housing bonds secured by mortgage pools. This experience at Shearson/Lehman Brothers followed by stints at PaineWebber and Citigroup provided a broad framework of understanding concerning the mechanics of mortgage debt in terms of prepayment experience, mortgage quality and the expected duration of a portfolio. Leaving Wall Street I started Exeter Commercial which funded commercial mortgage loans. Title insurance was a critical part of the underwriting and closing process. At the peak of the financial crisis, I recognized both an opportunity and need as many title firms, for a variety of reasons, closed their doors. Out of this, Hallmark Abstract Service was born.

The Federal Reserve Rate Hike And Its Impact On Consumer Debt!

Aggregate household debt balances

Source: New York Federal Reserve

Yesterday the Federal Reserve raised its key fed funds rate by .25% and signaled that they would likely raise two more times in 2018!

For consumers who have a record amount of debt outstanding (a level over $13 trillion that’s $280 billion higher than the 2008 peak and 16.2% above the 2013 trough), the good times relative to borrowing have most certainly been rolling during this period of a virtual 0% Fed-induced rate environment.

And for those reading this who are somewhat sad that those 0% good times have ended, remember that the Fed is raising rates because the economy is doing well, employment is strong and inflation is tame. At least that’s how the Fed sees it although there are others who may disagree.

And, while interest rates are far from being normalized, this is a summary of the impact that a move-up will have both good and bad…

Impact Of Higher Interest Rates

Savers – Some of the hardest hit by Fed policy post-financial crisis have been savers and retirees. With little return available from the safest segments of the fixed income market, many have been forced to move further out on the risk spectrum. This may have meant buying corporate bonds instead of treasury bonds or possibly even junk bonds as the reach by so many for yield compressed the spread between the safest and most risky of fixed income.

In some instances, these traditional savers were in many cases ‘forced’ to abandon fixed income altogether and instead invest in the riskier asset class of equities.

Now this group can once again start looking towards bonds.

Mortgages, Variable-Rate Student Loans, HELOCs (home equity lines of credit) and Credit Cards – Those consumers with adjustable-rate debt outstanding will be squeezed as rates will likely continue to rise. And, for those looking to take on new debt whether fixed or variable, they will face a climbing rate environment.

For those with credit card balances (already at a record with outstanding balances on average over $6,000) you likely already feel the pain paying about 17%. This .25% increase will tack-on approximately another $1.6 billion of 2018 finance charges.

Mortgage rates both fixed and variable have been steadily climbing and will likely continue to do so in the face of the Fed raising its key rate in the future. If you are looking to buy, now may be better than later in terms of financing costs, but a lack of supply in some markets is making that difficult for even the most motivated of buyers. Remember, however, that for potential homebuyers while rates are certainly higher than they were in the recent past, taking a longterm view they are still relatively low.

For homeowners with a HELOC outstanding, it may be worth speaking with your banker about potential options.

Adjustable student loan debt, already possessing a significant delinquency rate, will be negatively impacted by this rate hike along with any hikes in the future.

Finally, for car buyers leasing or taking out auto loans, the increase in rates will not have a significant impact in terms of additional monthly costs, but for those with adjustable rate debt outstanding the increase may cause the delinquency rate that already has been climbing, to climb further.

There potentially are steps that consumers with outstanding debt can take to try and mitigate the impact of higher rates, and whether any are available to individual consumers is something that should be discussed with your financial advisor.

Michael Haltman, President
Hallmark Abstract Service
Phone: (646) 741-6101
Email: mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com

Five Critical Considerations For Homebuyers And Mortgage Shoppers Alike, Before They Pull The Trigger!

white picket fence photo

Photo by Jim Bauer

When you are planning to buy a home, and perhaps acquire a mortgage, what are some of the key considerations that should go into the decision-making process?

Some advice from Warren Goldberg, President of Mortgage Wealth Advisors in New York…

For most Americans, homeownership is the American Dream and has provided the cornerstone to building wealth. Yet countless Americans shop for a home and then a mortgage without considering many critical factors. These factors can mean the difference between enjoying your home while building long-term wealth versus financial disaster.

#5 – Owning vs. Renting – While owning a home will help you build wealth over the long-term, homeownership is not always the right choice. Buying a home usually requires more upfront capital, more ongoing expenses, and a longer-term commitment. If you foresee your place of residence changing within the next three years or so, the costs of buying and selling a home could outweigh the equity you’ve accumulated.

#4 – Be Realistic About Your Budget – Regardless of what you may qualify for, considering your lifestyle and budget, how much do you feel you can comfortably carry every month? Everyone lives a different lifestyle. Some people unfortunately have more fixed expenses than others. These should all factor into you budgetary decision on a housing payment.
In addition, consider other factors such as saving for retirement, funding college for your children, and potentially caring for elderly parents or other ailing family members. Don’t forget about utilities, costs for improvements, and ongoing maintenance expenses.

#3 – Home Shopping Before Getting a Solid Mortgage Approval – Once you’ve created your budget and you’re confident you can carry that mortgage payment, are you certain you will qualify for a mortgage?? While YOU may think you’re perfectly qualified, lenders must follow strict guidelines regarding how you derive income, where your down payment comes from, and what your credit history looks like.
Low housing inventory in many markets means you’ll be competing with multiple offers once you find a home. Obtaining a Pre-Approval before you start shopping makes you a stronger buyer than many of your competitors. This combined with our Proven and Unique Negotiating System, the likelihood of you getting the accepted offer just multiplied significantly. Contact me and let me show you how we can position you to be “The Best Buyer” for any given seller.

#2 – Shopping for “Wants” vs. “Needs” – Shopping for a home is an emotional rollercoaster. You’re comparing neighborhoods, home styles, and the “look and feel” of the block. While you may fall in love with a house because of the inviting front porch or the beautiful backyard, is the house layout conducive to your family’s needs? Is there enough living space – or too much? Are you comfortable having the Master Bedroom on the second floor, while the nursery is downstairs? Before going out shopping, make a list of the traits a house must have. These are the “needs” that are not negotiable. The “wants” such as the front porch and white picket fence should be considered added bonuses.

The Number One Factor – and probably the most critical one – many don’t even realize should be considered! This One Factor could be the difference between the extremes of fiscal landmines, hidden expenses, and financial disaster, compared to enjoying your home and building wealth over time. What is this all-important factor? You’ll have to contact me to find out.

Warren Goldberg is the President of Mortgage Wealth Advisors, Inc., a Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist®, and a published author. His interviews and presentations include Blog-Talk Radio, Newsday, the Daily News, the Long Island Herald, and even the Nassau County Bar Association.  His mortgage Industry newsletter is published bi-weekly and is read by thousands of subscribers.

Here’s How The Belmont Stakes Winner And Your New York Title Insurance Company Are Similar!

Or, at the very least, how they should be similar!

The Belmont Stakes Winner vs. Your Title Insurance Company

How would you compare the title insurance company you use for New York real estate transactions to the difference between a Kentucky Derby winner only and a Triple Crown horse like Secretariat?

This was an equine who not only won at the grueling Belmont Stakes distance of 1 1/2 miles, but did so by 31 lengths and in the record time of 2:24 that has not been challenged since 1973!

What would that Secretariat-equivalent title insurance provider look like?

Simple!

The title insurance company you choose will have the real estate pedigree and past performance required to go the distance with any transaction whether large or small, simple or complex.

And, of course, they will need to possess the heart, dedication, perseverance, stamina, focus, integrity and desire to fight to the finish line for their clients!

Meet Hallmark Abstract Service!

Learn more about us here: https://www.hallmarkabstractllc.com/ or contact the firms President, Michael Haltman, here:

Phone: (646) 741-6101

Email: mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com

Fax: (516) 741-6838

Inflation And Mortgage Rates (Charts)

The Federal Reserve has two fundamental mandates: maximum employment and stable prices with an upper limit it sets for an acceptable inflation rate!

When employment reaches a level that’s known as full and a strong economy results in a shortage of available qualified workers, upward wage pressure can cause the inflation rate to rise.

Similarly, when commodity prices rise, the components that go into finished products become more expensive and if manufacturers and retailers are able to pass the increase along to the consumer, inflation will also increase.

The monetary policy solution at the disposal of the Fed to fight inflation and cool an overheating economy is to raise short-term interest rates which they accomplish through fed funds.

Any increase in the fed funds rate will typically be felt in most of the interest rates that consumers are subject to, such as mortgages.

From the website Wealth Management

‘It’s troubling how little we understand inflation even as the Federal Reserve is busy boosting interest rates. Consensus is far from settled on what causes inflation, how to measure it, what the optimum rate of inflation should be and how to move the rate up or down.’

The charts below (courtesy of http://KathleenKowal.com) help provide an overview.

 

Marketing And The Law

business marketing photo

When we think about marketing for our business, whether title insurance, a law firm or anything else, often the first instinct is to focus on what it is we bring to the table! 

Instead what if marketing was developed to be client-centric, and addressed how our firm will help solve customers specific ‘pain points’?

In this article that appeared at the Legal Marketing Blog, the bottom-line is that…

Your Marketing Shouldn’t Be About You

Most lawyers focus their marketing on the wrong person – themselves. Legal marketing, often, is all about the lawyer. His or her experience, qualifications, education, etc.

But the best marketing isn’t focused on the lawyer. It’s focused on the client. 

Instead of talking about yourself, your marketing should show your prospective clients how you are going to make their lives better. How you’re going to help them achieve success and/or avoid disaster. How you’re going to help them become a better version of themselves and achieve whatever goals or objectives they are pursuing.

A couple of examples…

As a business attorney, you’re helping your clients protect their investment and their life’s work. You’re creating a secure foundation for their family and their future generations. You’re helping them avoid legal and financial disaster. You’re enabling them to become confident, secure, and decisive as they pilot their business.

As a divorce attorney, you’re helping your client close a messy chapter of their life and move towards an exciting fresh start. You’re helping them to create that fresh start with confidence, knowing that they have the resources they need to thrive. You’re enabling them to re-discover themselves and live the next chapter of their life without fear.

Here’s a great commercial that illustrates this concept. The advertiser is Procter & Gamble – and they’re promoting diapers, batteries, laundry detergent, and paper towels. (And you thought your law practice was boring?!)

Yet, there’s not a word spoken about how absorbent the paper towels are, or how the diapers won’t leak. Instead it’s all about their target audience – Moms – and how their products enable mothers to become the person they want to be. The rock for their kids, helping them reach for the stars and achieve the impossible, even when it’s tough.

Just try to watch this without tearing up:

Great marketing isn’t about you. It’s about your clients – how you’re going to help them achieve their goals and become the people they want to be.

1st Quarter GDP Growth Disappoints And Non-Farm Payrolls Surprise To The Upside…Imagine That, The Forecasts Were Wrong!

In the past the Hallmark Abstract Service blog has opined on the professionals whose job it is to forecast a variety of different outcomes whether economic or something else, and for better or worse the tendency for them to miss the mark that they have predicted!

The article ‘Predicting The Weather, Mortgage Rates, Commodity Prices Or Most Anything Else Is Not For The Faint Of Heart!‘, points out that forecasting is a difficult endeavor at best (i.e. weather) and that in many cases the ‘experts’ are actually ‘talking their book’ concerning an outcome they want to see occur (i.e. Bitcoin going to $25,000 or higher).

We see and hear these types of headlines all of the time:

  • Amazon beats/misses earnings forecasts,
  • Analysts predict Apple will miss/beat earnings forecasts,
  • Bitcoin will go to $100,000,
  • GDP will be 3%+ or not 3%+,
  • It won’t/will rain today,
  • Gas prices will stay low/skyrocket for the foreseeable future,

You get the idea. Sometimes incorrect predictions have little impact on those who rely on them as, for example, when we wake-up and it’s unexpectedly raining. In this circumstance so we simply bring an umbrella to work or change plans from a picnic to a movie.

Other times, as in the Bitcoin example above, those who choose to rely on a given prognosticators prediction and take undo risks in the process (borrow money in order to invest) have the potential to experience serious financial pain (current price approximately $7,500 from a high of over $19,000). Or, conversely, experience exuberance when the prediction happens to come true.

What If Government Predictions Are Wrong?

When the government (state or federal) predicts a specific financial outcome and it misses the mark, the ramifications will unfortunately be felt by the people who always end-up footing the bill for every government misstep or miscue…The Taxpayer!

We see this all of the time whether it’s the number of people who were expected to enroll in Obamacare or a program like Cash for Clunkers that was estimated to have cost the taxpayer $24,000 per vehicle.

Now the federal government has embarked on a tax cutting program with the expectation (depending on who you listen to) that increased consumer and business spending will push GDP growth north of 3%, mitigating any loss in tax revenue.

But, what if that expectation does not come to fruition and GDP growth is below 3% and as a result tax revenues miss the mark? Deficits will of course increase, an occurrence that will in some way need to be addressed. In the end, this will undoubtedly mean financial pain for the aforementioned taxpayer who will ultimately foot the bill.

On the optimistic side, however, growth will hopefully explode to the upside and revenues to the federal government will exceed expectations!

What Story Is The Citigroup Economic Surprise Index Telling?

The Citigroup Economic Surprise Index below, developed by Dr. Edward Yardeni, tracks whether the economic forecasts have exceeded or lagged the actual data releases. A positive number indicates that actual data has exceeded forecasts while a negative number indicates that actual data has been below forecasts.

While the number is still positive and well above the 2017 lows, the distance above -0- is declining indicating that the economy may not be as strong as had been expected given the tax cuts provided.

The trend may certainly revert upward once again or continue declining to negative territory but, with the American taxpayer on the hook if tax revenues disappoint, it is definitely something to keep an eye on!

Citigroup Economic Surprise Index

Michael Haltman, President
Hallmark Abstract Service
Phone: (646) 741-6101
Email: mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com

We Need You…On June 18th!

charity golf for combat veterans in New York

On June 18th, The Eighth Annual Heroes To Heroes Foundation Charity Golf Outing!

THE EVENT AND LOCATION: June 18th, at the historic Saint Andrews Golf Club in Hastings-On-Hudson just north of NYC, the Eighth Annual Heroes To Heroes Foundation Charity Golf Outing will be taking place.

Event and Registration details can be found here: https://heroestoheroes.org/2018-golf-classic/,

THE ORGANIZATION: Heroes To Heroes Foundation is a nondenominational 501(c)(3) that, through a program based in spirituality, successfully saves combat veterans at-risk for suicide,

MY ORGANIZATIONAL ROLE: I have the honor of serving as Board Chair of this organization that literally has saved the lives of more than 200 American heroes who served to protect our way of life here at home,

THE HEROES TO HEROES MISSION: The HTH mission is accomplished (more than 200 saved to date) through journey’s of 12-14 combat veterans at a time traveling to Israel. There, these American heroes reconnect with the faith they have lost due to their combat service and what they have seen and potentially have had to do through simply doing their jobs. Critically, approximately 85% of donations going directly to the mission and the veterans!

THE HEROES TO HEROES STORYThese links to short videos and the Founders story will give an overview of the organization:

A Heroes To Heroes Foundation program ‘graduate’ tells his story of healing here (short WPIX11 video)http://pix11.com/2015/11/12/heroes-to-heroes-organization-takes-veterans-to-israel-for-spiritual-and-emotional-healing/

A short video overview of Heroes To Heroes can be found herehttps://youtu.be/RxVAe7Tm1vw

Founder Judy Schaffer’s story of how Heroes To Heroes came to be, can be found herehttps://heroestoheroes.org/our-story/

Please let anyone who you think might have an interest know about this event that can be found at the Heroes To Heroes website here: https://heroestoheroes.org/2018-golf-classic/

For anyone who has questions or may want to learn more, please contact me at…

Mike Haltman
(646) 741-6101
mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com

Predicting The Weather, Mortgage Rates, Commodity Prices Or Most Anything Else Is Not For The Faint Of Heart!

forecasting photo

When it comes to forecasting the majority of things, the art of prediction is not an endeavor consistently done well by most who attempt it!

For anyone who has listened to economists forecast data releases and future GDP growth or meteorologists forecast this weekends weather, we know that they are typically wrong as often as they are correct. And yet, as the joke goes, there are few jobs like these where accuracy can be rare and job security fairly certain.

Making the job of prediction even more difficult is the fact that there are currently so many geopolitical wild cards along with domestic issues that can have a very large impact through as little as one headline.

Today it’s an unstable Italy impacting U.S. stocks and bonds in the form of a flight to quality while last week Russia and Saudi Arabia unexpectedly announced plans to increase crude oil production pushing the price for oil lower. Before that, the uncertainty swirling around whether a North Korea summit would actually occur caused markets to whipsaw. In other words the only certainty we have at the present time is uncertainty.

Consensus was that a strong U.S. economy was going to result in multiple Federal Reserve rate hikes leading to a 10-year U.S. treasury yield of possibly 3.5% or higher. And, once the yield pierced 3.0% surging to 3.11%, it was generally felt that a 2-handle would not be seen again.

Similarly, listening to the talking heads they felt that a strong economy would lead to greater demand for crude and that the next stop after WTI crossed $70/barrel was that it would be $80 before it was $60.

But obviously when it comes to forecasting, the two charts below show that there are no sure things when investing or speculating (i.e. Bitcoin)!

In other words the only real ‘locks’ are on doors and, often, you need to closely consider whether a forecaster is objective or actually has a vested interest in a particular price move being long or short the market!

So What’s An Investor To Do?

Basically it’s often a good idea to avoid chasing any market as nothing typically goes up or down in a straight line. If an investor is patient and selects entry points they are comfortable with whether it be for a stock or a home, an opportunity will at some point typically present itself.

This is true whether one examines the price action in Bitcoin or New York City real estate.

Sometimes it simply requires patience and, in the unlikely scenario that a price keeps running higher and never pulls back, the knowledge that you will sometimes agree to miss the boat.

Michael Haltman, President
Hallmark Abstract Service
Phone: (646) 741-6101
Email: mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com

Memorial Day +1

military veteran suicide

MD+1

On Memorial Day 2018, Americans hopefully spent some part of the day remembering those who gave their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces protecting those at home.

These fallen heroes from all wars made the ultimate sacrifice so that those at home and the future generations could hopefully live in peace!

When It Comes To Giving Thanks, However, There Should Be More Than One Day!

Did You Know: 22 Military Veterans Take Their Lives Each And Every Day!

Given the fact that currently only .40% of U.S. citizens are active military, on the day after Memorial Day thoughts of those who serve and sacrifice may be shelved until the next significant ‘patriotic’ holiday!

The reality, however, is that each and every day it’s critical that we remember and seek to do whatever we can for active duty military and combat veterans who may have left a great deal more on the battlefield than most people realize.

For many of these combat veterans their injuries are clearly visible, while for many the injuries are hidden yet no less significant.

Depression, traumatic brain injury, PTSD and moral injury are major contributing factors to the startling statistic that 22 veterans take their lives each and every day!

A common approach for dealing with these issues is to prescribe medicine that may help, may or may not actually be taken and that may have serious side effects. This is not to say that approach should not be used, but the Heroes To Heroes Foundation founder Judy Schaffer felt that there had to be more that could be done.

Given the fact that loss of faith is a key contributing factor in many suicides combined with Judy’s strong connection to Israel, she felt that a nondenominational program based in spirituality would help reconnect combat veterans with the faith they lost simply by doing their jobs in the course of combat.

Jobs that entail seeing and experiencing horrific things that 99.6% of Americans who have not served could not even conceive of!

SPIRITUALITY and the Heroes To Heroes Foundation!

Simply this 501(c)(3) founded eight years ago takes groups of 12-14 veterans at a time to Israel where they travel to the most spiritual sites of all religions. At some point, some event will trigger a rekindling of lost faith and set the veterans back on a path of beginning once again to live their lives.

Whether it’s at the Western Wall, while being baptized in the Jordan River, touring Yad Vashem, visiting one of the many fantastic sites developed by the Jewish National Fund, walking in the steps where Jesus walked or at one of many other sites, these American heroes begin to see a light they may not have seen in a long, long time.

Heroes To Heroes Foundation has sent over 200 men and women on this spiritual journey and all are with us in various stages of healing!

Further, with an annual budget currently at approximately $1MM, those who become involved with us as donors can actually help move the needle in a significant way.

And, Heroes To Heroes is very proud of the fact that approximately 85% of donated funds go directly towards helping our veterans.

How Can You Become Involved?

  1. Make a donation here: https://heroestoheroes.org/donate/
  2. Hold a parlor meeting where a Heroes To Heroes Foundation alumnus will speak,
  3. Run a fundraising event such as tennis, canasta or anything else that will bring a group of people to one location,
  4. Volunteer to join a Heroes To Heroes committee for an event such as our upcoming June 18th golf outing,
  5. Speak about and represent Heroes To Heroes at your church or synagogue,
  6. Participate by attending or sponsoring a Heroes To Heroes event such as the June 18th golf outing mentioned in #4,
  7. Make Heroes To Heroes the beneficiary of a bar/bat mitzvah project,
  8. Save a life by recommending the Heroes To Heroes Foundation program to a veteran who you believe may be suffering and at-risk for suicide.

Learn More In These Short Video Overviews Of The Heroes To Heroes Foundation And Its Mission!

  • A Heroes To Heroes Foundation program ‘graduate’ tells his story of healing here (short WPIX11 video): http://pix11.com/2015/11/12/heroes-to-heroes-organization-takes-veterans-to-israel-for-spiritual-and-emotional-healing/
  • A short video overview of Heroes To Heroes can be found here: https://youtu.be/RxVAe7Tm1vw
  • Founder Judy Schaffer’s story of how Heroes To Heroes came to be, can be found here: https://heroestoheroes.org/our-story/

Questions or interest in learning more? Contact Hallmark Abstract Service President Mike Haltman who is also proud to serve as Board Chair of the Heroes To Heroes Foundation:

Phone: (646) 741-6101
Email: mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com

Grownup Real Estate Decisions Are Often Swayed By Children!

home sweet home photo

When it comes to purchasing a new home, 55 percent of U.S. homeowners with a child under the age of 18 at the time of home purchase say the opinion of their child was a factor in their home buying decision!

‘For millennial parents between the ages of 18 and 36, the influence of children is even higher at 74 percent.’ (Source)

Back in 1993-1994 when my wife and Hallmark Abstract Service CFO Linda Haltman pursued the purchase of a home on Long Island after many years renting in NYC, the process then pre-internet was certainly much different than it is today with internet searches serving as the basis for what can most certainly be a tedious chore!

At that time we had two children aged 3 and 1 so any input that they had into the decision was non-existent. But I’m actually not sure whether there was an age when the decision-making process would have taken their opinions into account.

After all, and as I often say during any pitch I may make about the critical nature of choosing the right title insurance company, the purchase of a home may likely be the largest financial decision that a buyer will have made to that point in their life.

That said should children, even teenage children, have much of a voice in the process? I don’t think so, but apparently 55% of prospective homebuyers do not agree with my position and that number is vastly higher for millennial parents.

Fully 74% of home buying millennial parents will take the opinion of young ones into account when deciding whether a home is the right one.

What’s your opinion?

children and the home buying decision

Michael Haltman, President
Hallmark Abstract Service
Board Chair Heroes To Heroes Foundation
Email: mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com
Phone: (646) 741-6101 (NYC)
(516) 741-4723 (Long Island)