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.

Hallmark Abstract Service: Our Laser Focus Is On YOU And YOUR Real Estate Transactions Success!

Hallmark Abstract NY title insurance

In Every Transaction Hallmark Abstract Serves Two Major Constituencies, While Focusing On One Overriding Mission!

The overriding mission and laser-focus of Hallmark Abstract Service when entrusted with the title insurance portion of a residential or commercial real estate transaction, is very simple…

Ensuring that the buyer will never have an issue with a third party attempting to claim that there is any question about their ownership of the property. A purchase that may represent the single greatest financial transaction they’ve entered into in their life!

Having opened Hallmark Abstract during the 2008 financial crisis, a time when deal flow for attorney’s and lenders had dropped precipitously, we learned very quickly that striving for perfection on each and every transaction was what would be a key to our achieving long-lasting success and growth.

We learned that, at the end of the day, the key to our business development wasn’t about giving ‘stuff’ to potential clients, aka quid pro quo. But, it was about making sure that we protected a buyer’s interests while at the same time doing all that was in our power to ease the deal burden on their attorney to as great an extent as possible!

Finally, we provide the following for the buyer:

  1. Title policies are underwritten by companies who possess the greatest financial strength metrics,
  2. A stellar record of having no valid title claims over the 10-years we’ve been in business,
  3. While the title insurance premium will be the same regardless of the Tirsa-member firm being used to underwrite a title policy, the ancillary and ‘other’ fees charged by Hallmark Abstract Service are among the lowest in the industry! A further example is that if a new survey is required, and the surveyor’s cost is $700, $700 is the amount that we charge our clients.

How Do You Measure Client Happiness And Satisfaction In A Title Insurance Provider?

For the two constituencies involved in the purchase of real estate that Hallmark Abstract Service is serving (the buyer and their attorney), how Hallmark Abstract Service makes each happy with the title insurance aspect of the transaction will take different forms.

But, as a firm, we strive to address them all!

The Commercial or Residential Real Estate Buyer:

  • The buyer is often unaware of the title insurance portion of their deal until they get to the closing table and are asked to write a check. When that’s the case, the fact that this aspect of the deal did not delay the transaction from being completed is the measure of our success. In other words, the fact that their attorney never had to say that ‘the seller and lender are ready to close, but we are waiting for XYZ from the title company’ is what Hallmark Abstract strives for,
  • On the other hand, if the buyer is knowledgeable about title insurance, they may have actually chosen the title insurance company being used, as is their right. Or, they relied on their attorney to make the selection. Given this fact, knowing that numbers 1, 2 and 3 above exist will provide the buyers with a great deal of comfort!

The Real Estate Attorney (Buyer):

  • One point-of-contact at Hallmark Abstract throughout the deal, who is knowledgeable about every aspect of the transaction,
  • Extreme responsiveness concerning issues and questions that may arise throughout the transaction, and potentially after,
  • Proactive problem solving, if and when any issues arise,
  • Work to take as many issues as possible requiring attention, off of the attorney’s plate. We view this as our responsibility, freeing the attorney up to work on other aspects of the deal or on other deals,
  • Making clients aware of the points numbered 1,2 and 3 above, can potentially help an attorney in the area of business development potentially generating introductions to new clients,
  • As long as the client is fully protected, we view our role as deal facilitators,
  • Always a timely recording of documents, post-closing,
  •  Strive to make introductions to people with whom the attorney and their practice have good potential synergies.

Questions or comments?

Please contact Hallmark Abstract Service CEO Michael Haltman at
Email: mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com
Phone: (646) 741-6101

Related Article

New York Title Insurance: Always Compare Apples To Apples!

Your Business Can Help Move The Philanthropic Needle In A BIG Way, Joining Forces With A Military Veteran 501(c)(3) That Literally Saves Lives!

The Heroes To Heroes Foundation

Because 22 Veterans A Day Commit Suicide!

Over 200 veterans at-risk for suicide, suffering with moral injury, are once again living their lives and in various stages of healing! This, after participating with the nondenominational Heroes To Heroes Foundation and it’s lifesaving mission that’s based on spirituality!

HTH successfully helps these American heroes reconnect with the faith they had lost due to the horrors of war they have experienced, sending groups of 12-14 at a time on journeys to Israel!

And, with a current annual budget of about $1.3MM, individuals, businesses, and foundations who partner with us, can actually move the needle as we pursue our critical mission!

Please read the bullet points below that describe the critical mission of Heroes To Heroes Foundation!
Then, if you would like to learn more about how you or your company can get involved, please contact Hallmark Abstract Service CEO Michael Haltman, who has the honor of serving as the organization’s Board Chair, at mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com or (646) 741-6101!

Heroes To Heroes Foundation, a non-denominational 501(c)(3), successfully helps combat veterans (men and women) from all wars, suffering from moral injury, who have attempted suicide or are on a path towards self-destruction, heal!

The program, based on spirituality, helps these American heroes reconnect with the faith they have lost due to the horrors of war they have experienced. Loss of faith is a critical factor for a great many who attempt suicide.

HTH achieves our phenomenal results by sending groups of 12-14 veterans to Israel. There they visit the holiest sites of all major religions and travel with 3 IDF soldiers who fully understand depression and moral injury.

At some point during the journey this reconnection with faith will typically be achieved and, as a result, all of the 200+ veterans who have come through our program are with us and in various stages of healing.

Billy’s Story

Israel Western Wall

Billy didn’t leave his home for five years. What he saw and was forced to do while serving in Iraq made him hate himself, everything, and everyone around him. Billy needed to forgive. He needed to be forgiven. Billy found forgiveness at The Western Wall during his journey with Heroes to Heroes. Your support has already made a difference. The veterans on our waiting list of over 400 and their families are counting on us. Heroes to Heroes is the last resort for many. Please continue to help….

Heroes to Heroes continues to accomplish so much with your support:

  • Close to 250 veterans have taken our lifesaving journeys to Israel
  • Dozens of marriages were saved, hundreds of children have both parents in their homes
  • Scores of lives were saved
  • 244 veterans have made the commitment to continue to ‘be’
  • Heroes to Heroes alumni have spoken on over 75 campuses across the country to tell their stories and explain how Israel’s saved/had an impact on their lives
  • Heroes to Heroes’ spouses bond as they take part in our spousal retreats
  • Alumni stay active through reunions and regional team support programs

Your support will increase our impact in 2019 as we:

  • Send 8 Teams of 12 on our life-saving journey to Israel (96 veterans)
  • Increase our campus program to 100+ campuses across the United States
  • Run 8 spouses’ programs to create even better outcomes for our participants
  • Hold 6 regional reunions to increase peer support

How can you help?

  • Join a regional Heroes to Heroes committee to have a direct impact on our veterans
  • Sponsor a Veteran – directly save a life
  • Sponsor an Israeli Veteran – help IDF veterans have better outcomes
  • Set up speaking engagements for Heroes to Heroes’ representatives at your church, synagogue, or organization
    Donate today!

Please go to www.heroestoheroes.org and donate today! Please be our partner in saving lives.

Related Article

Heroes To Heroes Foundation – Because 20 Veterans A Day Commit Suicide!

 

 

Beware The Phrase That ‘Stocks Are On Sale’!

stock market photo

Once again stock market investors have borne witness to a significant selloff, occurring soon after equities reached record highs!

So why, you may be asking yourself, is the owner of a title insurance company writing and opining about investing in any asset class other than real estate? Because, said owner needs to vent a little bit about the commentary that he sees and hears on the subject of stock prices and stock market gyrations!

Owners Expertise? He’s A Former Wall Street Analyst And Trader In Bonds And Stocks…

Throughout my career, pre-title insurance, I have worked in the role of bond analyst and bond trader for some of Wall Streets largest firms, some of which no longer exist.

I was also a proprietary equity trader for what at the time was the largest prop trading company in the United States. At this firm, I was also tasked with training traders on techniques for committing capital as well as the controlling of emotions. Critical was the lesson of buying on dips, never as a stock was running as nothing goes up in a straight line. Additionally, shorting rallies as nothing goes down in a straight line either.

Finally, one of the constants in all of these jobs were televisions trained on CNBC and later Fox Business News as well. I have business news on in my office now too.

Investors will hear phrases uttered by strategists, experts, commentators and shills that have a vested interest in stocks (or any other trading vehicle such as cryptocurrency) resuming their upward trajectory such as:

  • If you liked XYZ Corporation at $230/share, you must love it now that it’s on sale at $175/share,
  • This selloff provides an incredible buying opportunity in stocks that investors said they would buy, only after they pulled back from their highs,
  • The market has seen its low (typically said by business news guests AFTER the market has bounced significantly),
  • Stocks sold off because of algos (algorithms that instantaneously recognize small profit opportunities and execute trades) that were triggered and that often are programmed to execute trades across various asset classes. Not due to any fundamental reasons,
  • The consumer remains optimistic and this will be a record-setting holiday retail selling season,
  • The consumer is in great financial shape, despite the fact that there is a ‘Rising Rate Of Subprime Credit Card Delinquencies And Charge-offs…An Economic Canary In The Coal Mine?‘,
  • The fall in crude oil is like a tax reduction that will help to spur consumer spending,
  • Recession, despite any of the signals such as plunging crude oil and a 10-year yield declining into Fed rate hikes, is definitely not in the cards,
  • Retail investors often sell at the exact wrong time (i.e. the bottom) and buy at the exact wrong time (when emotions have stocks running to new highs). This is an opportunity to join with the professionals and buy low,
  • Trump will cut a deal with China at the G-20 this week and stocks will fly,
  • The Fed, meeting this week, will moderate and raise rates less aggressively,’
  • GDP growth, while potentially declining from the 4% range, will still be in the 2.5% range which is strong enough for stocks to move higher,
  • Trillion dollar federal deficits will not impact the economy.

Conclusion

Let’s be clear that this may indeed be a dip that represents a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ buying opportunity. Only time will tell and this morning major indices are higher by more than 1%.

That said, I listened recently as one of the commentators on Fox ‘guaranteed‘ that investors buying Apple when it dipped to $210 would not be wrong.

He reiterated the same at $204. Apple is now trading in the mid-$170s.

Of course, today may indeed be the buying entry-point opportunity in Apple (and other beaten-down companies), but investors need to do their own research and come to their own conclusions.

Also remember that strategists who come on business shows, in addition to those who own investment firms, typically have a vested interest in what they recommend.

Remember also that buying on dips has been a great strategy for some time, but that at some point it does not work. This bull market in stocks has been around for close to 10-years, historically old age.

For anyone who watched during the tech-wreck around the turn of the century, they know that buying dips does not always work (‘Historic Look At Following The Herd Or Worse, The ‘Experts’, When Investing!’)!

Focus on stocks with provable fundamentals going forward, as anyone who has invested in the iconic former Dow 30 stock General Electric knows only too well.

In the same way, try to avoid buying merely on emotion and momentum as those who jumped into the cryptocurrency craze, some borrowing on their credit cards to do so, have found out. Bitcoin topped out at around $20,000 and is now trading below $4,000.

These are my thoughts and we would love to hear yours.

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

Rising Rate Of Subprime Credit Card Delinquencies And Charge-offs…An Economic Canary In The Coal Mine?

canary photo

Photo by jmegjmeg

As a title insurance company, our business relies on a robust commercial and residential real estate market that’s being spurred on by a strong consumer!

A consumer who’s confident about the country’s (and their own) economic prospects!

Certainly, we have seen good recent economic growth as measured by GDP, but post-tax cut have we already seen the best or is the best yet to come…

historical U.S. GDP rate

Source: MarketWatch

Consumer Health, Consumer Debt And U.S. Economic Strength Measured Through Credit Card Delinquencies And Charge-offs

During the 2008 financial crisis, many consumers faced unmanageable levels of debt that led to real estate foreclosures, an inability to pay other debt and ultimately bankruptcy filings.

The charts below show how those rates began to spike in 2008 at the banks outside of the largest 100, then declined and now are once again on the rise. Some consider that these smaller banks, who cannot necessarily compete with the largest banks for customers, have more of a subprime customer base.

So is the financial angst being felt in the other-than prime borrower segment a signal of a consumer that’s weaker than the pundits and ‘talking heads’ are telling us or, is this no issue at all?

STAY TUNED!

Historical Credit Card Charge-off Rates (Source: Federal Reserve)

credit card charge-off basket

charge-offs other-than Top 100 banks

Historical Credit Card Delinquency Rates (Source: Federal Reserve)

 

historical credit card delinquency rates

Real Estate, Title Insurance And A Reduced Stress Journey!

blood pressure photo

A commercial or residential real estate attorney in New York focused on transactional work, understands the pressure of bringing a deal from contract signing to the exchanging of keys at the closing table!

This process of getting from Point A to the finish line can be fraught with obstacles and stumbling blocks, any one of which having the potential to be a deal killer.

And while this winding journey towards deal consummation moves along, there are numerous aspects of the deal that need to be addressed and handled. The title insurance piece is certainly key among them.

Peace Of Mind, Relative Calm And Maintaining Heart Health!

At Hallmark Abstract Service we recognize that every deal is precious and, if we happen to be in a slowing real estate market, that fact will be magnified.

But while the pressures felt on the legal side of the transaction are great, to some extent that pressure can and should be reduced through the transaction partners that you choose.

Understanding that fact, Hallmark Abstract Service does all we can to ensure that the title insurance portion of the real estate transaction is being managed and handled so that the attorney can focus on other things.

Other things for an attorney may include other aspects of the current deal, another deal being worked on or, maybe business development activities!

Remember That Title Insurance, And Title Insurance Providers, Are Not All The Same!

Briefly, these are just some of the things that Hallmark Abstract Service brings to the table, and we would love the opportunity to have a conversation to determine if our firm is a fit with your firm!

  • Everyone Of Your Deals Is Precious! And given the time when Hallmark Abstract opened its doors in 2008, we completely understand that fact! At that time the financial crisis had hammered the real estate market, and the economy was suffering in an extreme way. In order for Hallmark Abstract to build a trusting relationship with a client, we needed to be perfect in every way! Not one time, but each and every time we were entrusted with a deal!We have never forgotten this commitment to excellence, and continue to operate our business in that same way today. This the case, whether a client has been with us since the beginning or we are working on our first deal together! It is the only way that we know how to do things.
  • Extremely Low Fees Help You Provide Even More Value-Added For Your Clients! Beyond the legal expertise that you are bringing to the table of course. As a transactional real estate attorney, where referrals from current clients are key to future business and where your client’s expenses seem endless, imagine telling them that you are focused on saving them many hundreds of dollars while still providing them with the highest degree of protection! At Hallmark Abstract we charge among the lowest ‘junk’ and ancillary fees in the industry and pass the savings along to your clients. If a survey is required, we bill the buyer exactly what the surveyor charges us.
  • Single Point Of Contact At Hallmark Abstract Service! When you call our firm you will have a single point of contact who will know every aspect of your deal. Some firms call it service, we call it business as usual.
  • An Unblemished Claims Record! In the 10-years that this firm has been in business, Hallmark Abstract has not faced any valid title claims, a remarkable record! This fact will provide your clients with the utmost of confidence that they are being protected by all involved with their transaction. After all this protection, whether for a residential or commercial transaction, could be for the single greatest financial transaction your client may ever be involved in!
  • A Tuxedo With A Belt And Suspenders! While clients will be protected by the expertise that Hallmark Abstract brings to the table, the title insurance policy they receive will be from some of the largest and best-capitalized underwriters in the industry!

If you have any questions or might like to speak, please contact Hallmark Abstract Service CEO Michael Haltman at mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com or by phone at (646) 741-6101.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all!

turkey photo

Related Article

Transactional Real Estate Law And The Art Of Maintaining Your Heart Health!

 

 

 

Homebuying Tips And Overcoming Stress!

homebuying psychology

Or, at the very least, trying to minimize the stress as much as possible!

For anyone who has bought or sold a home, attempted to buy or sell a home or maybe just thought about doing one or the other or both, in many ways the process can be overwhelming on both an emotional as well as practical level. After all, neither one is an activity that most of us do very often.

Fortunately, the article below that was written by Natalie Jones from the website HomeownerBliss.info, addresses some of the issues from the perspective of a couple who went through the process and want others to learn from their experience.

Save Yourself a Few Headaches When Moving to a New Place

Overwhelming. That’s the word to describe selling your property, buying a new one and relocating to a different locale all in a matter of months. There’s a lot of money involved in the process, but also many emotions. After all, that old house is full of memories, and it’s not easy to let go of something that meant so much.

Whatever sadness you feel should be offset by the promise of a new life elsewhere. This is going to be an adventure. You’re going to meet new people while exploring new places, creating the home of your dreams and filling it with love. Best yet, it need not be too complicated with some careful planning and a can-do attitude. Here are some suggestions to move forward.

Start Planning Early

Just finding the right house could take a few months, and that’s followed by another month for mortgage approval and two more for transfer of ownership. This is going to take a while, so get started well in advance of the big day when you hope to be settled into your new piece of paradise. Half a year wouldn’t be too much at all.

Narrow Down the Search

That means choosing the right neighborhood, which is never easy, as there are many factors to consider. Ask yourself what you really want, recommends a writer with the Spruce. Are you looking for peace and quiet, or things to do? How about trees and parks? Don’t forget the crime rate, either, or the school district if you have kids.

Choose the Right Home

You’ll need enough space for your whole family; that goes without saying. However, it also has to meet your personal tastes and have an emotional impact. First off, you should feel drawn inside, says a contributor to the Balance, then filled with warmth and comfort as you begin looking around. A sense of possessiveness is also a good sign.

Purge Old Belongings

You can, and should, begin this arduous task long before you’ve signed on the dotted line for the new property. Sorting through your old possessions takes time as you decide whether you really need or love each object, which is the basis for the touted KonMari Method of decluttering. Anything that doesn’t make the cut can be sold at a garage sale to make money for the move.

Pack Everything Properly

Before you even begin, make a list of things of valuables and things you’ll need during the move, such as jewelry, documents, wallets, phone charges and overnight items. Those go with you, not in the truck. As for the rest, be sure to place it in labeled boxes so you know where the contents will go in your new home. That’ll make unpacking much easier.

Change Your Address

Do this soon after you arrive to make sure your mail gets delivered, and more. The United States Postal Service is just the first place you need to alert when changing your residence, and Redfin has a list of all the rest. It includes your bank, credit card companies and insurer, among many, many others.

Locate Safety Features

This seems like a minor thing, but you’ll sleep better knowing that your family and property are out of harm’s way. Locate and test all of the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors before moving on to the water and gas shutoff valves. Also, a change of door and window locks comes highly recommended.

Redecorate in Your Style

Safety taken care of, you can turn your eye to style. This is a great opportunity to do things with your home that you’ve always wanted, and that could be anything from painting rooms in your favorite color to creating an art space for the kids. Don’t rush out to buy anything new, as this would likely be an impulse that just wastes money. Take your time and consider the options.

It won’t be long until you become a part of the neighborhood. As the time goes by, you’ll feel cozier there than you did at your old place.

Image via Pexels.

Natalie tries to help others learn from her personal experiences in applying for a mortgage, pulling together the funds for a down payment, and finding a home within their set budget. That’s how her site homeownerbliss.info was born.

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Remember that buyers of real estate have the right to choose their title insurance provider and, that all title insurance providers are not the same!

Read, ‘New York Title Insurance: Always Compare Apples To Apples‘ to learn more.

The 2018 Midterm Elections: What The Outcome Could Mean For The Residential Real Estate Market!

blue wave photo

Seldom has a midterm election conjured up the level of anticipation, angst, and uncertainty that the 2018 edition has, including for the nations real estate market!

Politicians and pundits alike are speculating about Blue Waves and Red Waves along with the potential ramifications of each, both real and imagined, that may or may not occur.

Real estate will likely not be exempt from the 2018 midterm election fallout, whichever way the results go.

What are some of the issues to be aware of? The following article that appeared in MReport, written by Radhika Ojha, tells the story…

The American Dream Depends on You

America goes to vote on November 6, in a mid-term non-presidential election whose outcome is likely to impact the housing market in more ways than one—much of which will depend on who votes during this election, especially since early voting is already open.

Demographics at Play

According to a new report on voter demographics by Apartment List, homeowners are more likely than renters to be voting eligible and historically speaking, the report revealed, even among eligible voters only 49 percent of renters cast a ballot in 2016 compared with 67 percent homeowners.

“Renters represent a unique cross-section of the American population—the net worth of the median renter is just $5,200, compared to $231,400 for the median homeowner, and the minority share of renters is twice that of homeowners,” said Chris Salviati, Housing Economist at Apartment List and the author of the report. “A coalition of renters could swing elections for politicians offering a vision of inclusive economic hope for the millions of diverse renters struggling in today’s economy.”

Whatever the demographic, it’s only the election results and how dramatic the shift in power will be in Washington as a result, that will determine the effect of this mid-term election on housing. “But there are three fairly obvious issues that will be affected one way or another,” Rick Sharga, EVP, Carrington Holdings told DS News. “The fate of the GSEs, the make-up of the BCFP, and affordable housing.”

The first issue that Sharga mentions is one that the current administration has clear views about.

The Fate of GSEs

After a decade under the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA’s) conservatorship, the current administration has indicated its intentions to end the conservatorship for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In a recent memo Laura S. Wertheimer, Inspector General at the FHFA, identified four serious management and performance challenges that the agency faced in its role as a regulator and supervisor of the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). They included, the agency’s inability to improve oversight of both GSEs while strengthening internal review processes for non-delegated matters; upgrading supervision of the GSEs and Federal Home Loan Banks; oversight in cybersecurity, ensuring an effective information security system will protect the highly sensitive data gathered by the GSEs on borrowers; enhancing oversight over the GSEs’ relationship with counterparties and third parties.

Recent reports also point to the fact that the idea of scaling back Fannie and Freddie without legislative approval is gaining traction, making the results of this mid-term election even more important in determining their fate moving forward.

“It’s possible that the conservatorship will be unwound over the next year or two regardless of the midterm election outcomes, but if the Democrats take control of the House, they’ll look to build language into the agreement that provides funds for affordable housing, and offers expanded credit provisions for underserved borrowers–both of which Democrats included in the last bipartisan attempt to end the conservatorship a few years ago,” Sharga said. “The size, scope and specific roles of the two GSEs once out of the conservatorship could also vary wildly depending on whether the Republicans continue to control all three branches of government or the Democrats take back the House and/or Senate.”

The stewardship of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP) is another area that is likely to get affected by the election results. “Who replaces Director Mulvaney—and whether that new director will continue to take the Bureau in the same direction—will depend to a certain extent on which party controls the House and Senate. A more stridently conservative director, for example, is unlikely to be approved by a Democratic House,” Sharga said.

He also said that while the BCFP was currently working in tandem with the mortgage industry by soliciting input from practitioners and creating an environment where qualified borrowers got a better chance to secure a loan, “a return to more of an “enforcement” mentality could cause the pendulum to swing back once again, and make it more difficult for borrowers to achieve their dreams of homeownership.”

Legislation at Stake

Affordable housing legislations are also at stake this election season, with the success of bills such as the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Extension Act, the Historic Tax Credit (HTC) Enhancement Act, and others depending on who wins the House and Senate seats.

According to a report by Michael Novogradac of Novogradac & Company LLP, “History suggests Democrats will gain seats in the House, although whether they will gain enough to take control is an open question–partly because the redrawing of Congressional maps after the 2010 census created a large number of safe districts for Republicans, reducing the number of swing districts.”

The report, which looks at results where Democrats take one or both houses of Congress also projected the leadership changes that were likely in the House should that happen. “If the Democrats take either or both houses of Congress, significant legislation will need to be bipartisan to be enacted,” Novogradac wrote. “If the Republicans hold both houses, we may see another run at tax reform (perhaps making the temporary changes implemented in 2017 permanent) and other changes that might not be friendly to the tax credit community.”

Nine months in, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 appears to have had an impact on home value growth. Some of the changes brought by the December 2017 Act were a $10,000 cap on total state and local tax (SALT) deduction, lower threshold for full mortgage interest deductions, and higher standard deductions for most filers. According to a report by Zillow, following the introduction of the Act, home growth appeared to have slowed particularly in areas with homeowners that historically used the SALT deduction, compared to areas with a lower percentage of homeowners who use the SALT deduction.

Tax cuts, in fact, could be something that the Democrats might also look at, according to Robert Hockett, Edward Cornell Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, who recently spoke to Yahoo Finance about how the elections’ outcome could impact Tax Cuts. “The progressive wing of the party, which has all the momentum, is not as concerned about the deficits,” he said. “They would look to keep the corporate tax cuts (instead of repealing them), but also add tax cuts for the middle class and those who need it the most.”

The Question of Affordable Housing

Speaking of the middle class, the outcome of this election is also likely to unlock around $6 billion for affordable housing in the Bay Area in California, which is one of the most expensive and competitive housing markets in the country. A recent report in The Mercury News said that during this election, California voters would be weighing in on two statewide bonds that could “fund tens of thousands of new homes in the Bay Area and beyond—potentially making a dent in the housing shortage.”

However, a lot of this will depend on which party has the power to make these changes, since the Republicans and Democrats have widely different views and approach on the challenge of affordable housing and how to solve it.

For example, the Republicans look at overcoming this challenge by expanding the use of HUD-designated Opportunity Zones, offering investors with tax incentives to invest money in areas that desperately need economic development. According to Sharga, the GOP also continues to look at ways to reduce “regulatory burdens that make it difficult for builders to build affordable homes–Fannie Mae estimates that regulatory and zoning requirements cost a builder $80,000 on average before breaking ground–although many of the regulations are at the state and local level.”

On the other hand, Democrats have lobbied for more funding to help low-income families pay for housing. Citing a Pew Research Sharga said that 38 percent of renters paid more than 30 percent of their pre-tax income for rent, and 17 percent paid more than 50 percent. “Democrats have also proposed a variety of other programs to reduce housing costs, ranging from rent control to tax incentives for builders to build more affordable units, to having the government build millions of units across the country, or creating a pool of federal funds to reward states that build more housing stock,” Sharga said.

For now, though, it’s time to keep your eyes peeled on Capitol Hill to see who wins the Battle of the Houses to chart the future course of the housing market.

Corporate Giving? Consider The Heroes To Heroes Foundation (Video)

corporate giving photo

Depending on a company’s size and philosophy of its management, the process of vetting a charity and then becoming involved with them in some way can be a difficult process to wade through!

One issue facing firms when trying to choose the who, what and where concerning the charity that they will spend time and potentially resources on, is deciphering the vast number of charity categories and the number of organizations operating within those categories.

It can often be overwhelming and difficult to separate charitable organizations in terms of mission, finances and the success they have had in achieving their mission. These facts can make the selection of a charity to focus a firm’s philanthropic dollars on, a daunting task.

In addition, when ‘looking under the hood’, some will have a high percentage of  the donations that they receive being spent on administrative costs, some will be extremely large in size thereby minimizing the impact donations may have on the overall mission and, some may have a mission that falls right into a firms sweet spot but for some reason may have had negative press surrounding them.

That said, the impact that a company can have on those in need makes the effort getting involved extremely worthwhile!

Let’s look at the Heroes To Heroes Foundation…

Hallmark Abstract Service, Combat Veterans At Risk For Suicide And The Heroes To Heroes Foundation

Anyone who has been reading the Hallmark Abstract Service blog will know that, after a great deal of vetting, the company has chosen to focus its time, resources and efforts supporting the non-denominational combat veterans 501(c)(3) Heroes To Heroes Foundation (Heroes To Heroes Foundation – Because 20 Veterans A Day Commit Suicide!)!

In fact, Hallmark Abstract President Michael Haltman now serves as Board Chair of the organization. If after reading the bullet points below describing HTH you would like to learn more about the organization, simply contact Michael at mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com or fill out the form at the end of the article.

  • Heroes To Heroes Foundation (HTH), through a program based in spirituality, successfully saves combat veterans suffering from moral injury and who are at risk for suicide or on a path towards self-destruction,
  • HTH achieves its phenomenal results by sending groups of 12-14 veterans (groups of men and groups of women) on a ‘working journey’ to Israel where they experience some of the most spiritual sites from all major religions. In addition, the group travels with 3 IDF soldiers who understand what their American counterparts are experiencing,
  • Some of the sites visited include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Yad Vashem and being baptized in the Jordan River,
  • It’s in Israel that they will find the strength to reconnect with the faith they have lost due to the horrors of war that they have experienced,
  • Over 400 veterans have come through the HTH program and all are with us in various stages of healing,
  • Approximately 85% of donations go directly towards HTH achieving its mission,
  • Given the current size of HTH with more than $1MM in yearly donations (growing every year), a company’s giving program can significantly help move the needle in terms of the number of veterans that HTH can help,
  • Groups of veterans for future journeys are now being regionalized to make the support system for program participants after they return much easier,
  • Follow-up statistics of program graduates progress is being compiled.

If you would like to speak in order to learn more about your company can get involved with this phenomenal organization, simply fill out the form below.

 

The Ghost Cities Of China: If You Build Them, Will People Actually Come? (Video)

Tianjin China Manhattan lookalike

The theory, particularly if you’re in the upper reaches of China’s government, is that at some point people will inhabit these vast expanses of infrastructure and housing that exist in ghost cities across China!

This is anticipated if, as expected, the population of China steadily moves from the country’s hinterlands to its cities!

Back in 2014, a Hallmark Abstract Service article titled ‘China’s Manhattan is a virtual ghost town! (Video)‘ explored eerie examples of government and quasi-private spending that have run-up massive amounts of debt, all in an effort aimed at urban planning.

More to the point, however, these projects are also meant to keep the vast Chinese economic growth-machine humming at levels reported by that government to be exceeding a +6.0% annual pace.

But are there, or at least should there be, concerns surrounding all of the private company debt that’s been floated for construction-related industries and others, particularly as the economy in China appears to be weakening and potential tariffs and trade war looms on the horizon? Likely, yes!

And should there also be concern over the vast amount of borrowing that LGFB’s, or Local Government Financing Vehicles, have borrowed from the government of China to fund what are these currently unoccupied ghost cities? Likely, no, as this simply represents government borrowing from the government.

At some point, however, when the music ultimately stops, the question is who it will be left standing without a chair?

China’s Debt

A shortage of bank funding and an increasingly competitive business environment has left companies fighting to survive, analysts say…

…The spike in defaults has unsettled regulators that have been keen to prevent systemic risks as they seek to reduce national debt levels.

“No matter what industry they are in, what these companies have in common is that they are finding it much harder than state-owned enterprises to get financing,” Qin Han, chief fixed-income analyst at Guotai Junan Securities, wrote in a note.

Deteriorating business could lead banks to withdraw loans and cause a cash shortage. Eventually, it will lead to more defaults. State-owned enterprises [in contrast] can rely on other sources of borrowing to sustain them, even if their businesses are feeling the strain…”’ (Source)

Tieling, China – Example Of A Ghost City

‘Tieling outstripped the national economy for years, peaking in 2007 when it grew by 20.8 percent, which was fast enough for the local economy to double in size within three-and-a-half years, and significantly faster than the 13 percent growth for China as a whole. But the growth was built entirely on public works that weren’t generating any income…

…Rather than build incrementally, adding infrastructure if and when it becomes necessary, officials across the country have, herd-like, embraced the if-you-build-it-they-will-come model of urban planning…

…”[At first] China’s new cities and new zones . . . like Shenzhen and Shanghai’s Pudong . . . were a node of economic growth . . . however, the new cities and new zones that are now blooming everywhere . . . are moving in the opposite direction . . . They create massive financial waste, they burden local government with heavy debt, and they make the ‘development disease’ of relying on investment to drive the economy worse and worse…”‘ (Source)

Video: China’s Ghost Cities Continue To Haunt Its Economy

 

 

Trying To Sell Your Home? 20 Tips To Help Improve Your Chances! (Infographic)

A recent article at the Hallmark Abstract Service website examined just how well the residential real estate market is acting relative to existing economic conditions!

The finding in the article, ‘Why Is The Residential Real Estate Market Underperforming Its Potential?‘, is that in fact, it is not doing as well as perhaps it should be.

Of course, there are certain things a home seller might consider doing to make the process successful and smoother. One idea would be a simple attorney search performed by a title insurance company to discover whether there are any issues, currently known or unknown to the seller, that might get in the way of a timely sale. Open permits or liens are a couple of examples that can be corrected prior to a title report obtained by any potential buyer, pointing them out.

Beyond that, the infographic below from the website Keeping Current Matters, offers some simple ideas to improve a homes ‘Curb Appeal’ and at the same time make potential buyers feel more comfortable (and potentially put them in the mood to make an offer).

If you have questions ask Hallmark Abstract Service by email at info@hallmarkabstractllc.com or give us a call at (646) 741-6101.

how to sell your home