Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Map Your Community

Another cool interactive tool from the WP - a "Map Your Community" tool.

It allows you to enter an address or zip code, and has tabs you can click on to map recent sales, crime, and school info. Good stuff.

"Junk Fees"

The Washington Post had a good, though short, Q&A on "Junk Fees" from mortgage lenders. Many people know BoA has a big promotion running right now for their "no fee mortgage plus" which advertises $0 closing fees and $0 application fees, with no PMI. (Update July 2007: See the article about whether BoA's program really saves you money here.)

But what are these fees? And which ones are negotiable? Here are some excerpts from the WP, and you can read the full entry here.

The first category of charges listed are those items payable in connection with your loan. These may include an origination fee, points, appraisal fee, credit-report fee, mortgage-broker fee, underwriting fee, processing fee, courier fee and wire transfer fee. An origination fee and points are typically a set fee that you have agreed to pay to obtain your loan. It may be a percentage of the loan amount, say 1 percent.

An appraisal fee and a credit-report fee are typically not negotiable, as the lender or your mortgage broker will order these.

The mortgage-broker fee listed on the good-faith-estimate form is negotiable. The lender's inspection, underwriting and processing fees may be somewhat negotiable, but many lenders stay fairly firm on these fees.

Courier and wire-transfer fees are typically charged for transferring loan documents to the escrow closing company and wiring the loan proceeds to the closing officer. You may ask that these be reduced or waived.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tysons Tunnel

I'm often asked whether buying in Tysons is a good deal, since values may go up with the coming metro line. I wish I had a crystal ball every time I asked what a "good deal" was, but in this case, the one thing I do know is that if you're buying for metro access, you better count on it being a medium- to long-term investment. Today's "Commuter" page in the Post had this update (paraphrased):

The project's first leg will go through Tysons Corner to Reston. Work will begin this summer and the initial phase is scheduled for completion in 2013, with the second phase expected by 2016.

A few things immediately come to mind: there's still quite a big of controversy over whether to build the rail above or below ground. I'm not sure whether those dates in the Post represent the original above ground option, or the much-lobbied for below ground. (See www.tysonstunnel.org for the lobby perspective.) I assume it's the former, and if so, it's reasonable to assume any change to the latter would delay. Even if they move forward above ground, when's the last time you heard of a major construction project finishing on time. NINE years from now?? If that happens, kudos to the planners on that project!

In related long-term construction news, the Springfield Interchange ("Mixing Bowl") project, which started 8 years ago, is scheduled to be completed this summer. I can't imagine all those years of commuting joy, dealing with heavy construction, detours, new traffic pattersn -- congrats, Springfield! Tysons, you may want to ask for some tips on how to survive the next 9 years.