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8 Ways to Make Your Home Look Like New and Sell Fast

Your family has decided to look at new homes in Broomfield CO.  Before buying a new home you know you’re going to have to sell your current home.   A key way to ensure you get that home sold as fast as possible at the highest price is to make it look like new.  Here is a short list of items that will help your home sell for the top price.

  1. Paint

Painting your home, makes your house look completely new. With new paint, your house looks refreshed and ready for a quick sell.  There is no question new paint goes a long way for curb appeal.  The question is compared to cost is a new paint job worth it?

  1. Caulk

Caulk around your windows to help cut your heating and cooling bills. Caulking also makes your home look crisp and clean. This is a must if  you are going to paint your home. Caulk around the windows first then you can come back and paint where you have caulked for an even better looking home!

  1. Make the Lawn Look Good

Set the mower blade at least 3 inches high to let your grass fill in the bare spots your may have. This also pushes the weeds out. Don’t collect grass clippings. Let them drop on the lawn. This nourishes your lawn to make it looking even healthier. Cutting more often will keep your curb appeal at the top notch level.

  1. Clean Gutters

I know what your thinking no one will see in the gutters.  When the leaves build up and the gutters overflow  If you have a safe tall ladder you can easily do this at no cost to you. With fall and summer storms our gutters can get clogged and looking ugly every few months. Cleaning your gutters once or twice a year makes your house look clean adding to your curb appeal.

  1. Shine Your Windows

Get all the gunk off your windows for the summer. Some no-streak approaches you could use are using a few drops of dish soap in a bucket of warm water, applying vinegar and water solution to the glass and wiping it off with crumpled newspaper, or using trisodium phosphate (TSP) powder degreaser mixed in water and squeegeeing it off. For the last suggestion make sure you read the instructions on the TSP powder bottle.

  1. Seal Wood Decks

Is your deck looking a little worn? Seal or stain your deck to make it look brand new. With some sanding and a new color on your deck, you can walk out on a beautiful looking deck to spend the summer nights on.

  1. Insulate your Water Pipes

Without insulating your water pipes the pipes are carrying hot water through the cold basement and costing you money. Buy the pre-slip hollow-core, flexible “sleeves” at the hardware store to decrease your bills.

  1. Inspect and Clean the Dryer Vent

This is for fire prevention. Lint can get stuck in the duct so remove the lint filter and using a long-handled vent brush go down the duct cleaning as much lint as you can. You should also do this from the other end of the duct on the outside of your house too.

When you are finishing cleaning the duct turn on the dryer and go outside to make sure exhaust is coming out. If not, there may be a blockage. If this happens disconnect the duct from the drying and clean out all the duct.

4 Things To Consider Before Buying Your First House

In this age of decreasing house ownership, it is a rare achievement to be able to afford your very own home. Go ahead and take a moment to congratulate yourself. But there are still things you should consider before you put that payment down.

1. Make absolutely sure that you can afford the house.

You may have saved up the money to afford the down payment, but that does not that mean that the you can handle the monthly bills that come with taking a loan out to buy the property. Make sure you have a cushion after deducting all your monthly expenses, in case of an emergency. Owning a home also means paying additional expenses, such as – insurance, taxes and all your own maintenance costs. Shop around for good terms on your loan agreement, meet several bank loan officers to determine what the best option to finance the purchase is. After all, it is probably the most you have spent in your life.

2. Allow the “one little thing” to get to you.

People assume that the one little thing that bothers you about the house – too many French doors or the space left for the fridge – will eventually just be something you get used to. It may start off as a little nagging doubt, but can soon turn into a big issue that will make you want to sell and move on. Make sure that there is nothing objectionable about the house. Revisit houses you are considering more than once before you make your offer. You may find that thing that mildly annoyed you the first time, now infuriates you and is a deal breaker.

3. Check out the neighbourhood.

This is especially important if you have young children. Make sure there is no criminal activity in the neighbourhood. Check out the council laws or development laws, if there are any. Survey the availability of services nearby. Make sure you are near a good hospital, schools etc. Shopping options, especially if you have special needs, are also very important. Talk to some of the neighbours, find out how the neighbourhood is changing and how friendly everyone is. Ask about the people who lived there before you. If you get a bad sign, then you may want to reconsider your purchase.

4. Factor in the price for repair or renovations.

Leave some money out for repairs and renovations. You may have been sold the house as perfect, but you will soon find problems that need to be remedied. It is important to get an inspector out to the house before you buy it and get him to check for mould, mildew and penetrating damp. Calculate how much the repairs will cost and factor that into your budget when buying the house. Some problems require taking down walls and rebuilding them and this can really hurt your budget. Do not get involved in major repaid jobs that will clean out your bank account, even if you absolutely love the house.

James is an aspirational interior designer and decoartor who has recetly taken to blogging about his experiences.

De-Stressing Your Move: Tips For Making Your Next Move Easier

For some people, moving from one house to another is the worst thing they can think of doing.  Moving is such a hassle for everyone involved, and it’s a ripe time for flared tempers to come out.  Sometimes you can get family and friends to help with the big move, but with stress running high, you have to ask yourself how much you’d like to stay on their good side.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to make moving a little easier.  Here are some tips to help you cope with some of the more easily-managed annoyances that come with a move.

1. Find Packing Materials Without Buying Them.

There’s literally no reason to buy boxes for your move as long as you’ve done some planning.  The natural inclination when we need boxes is to grab a few from local stores that gets rid of their boxes, but there are some even better options.  Your office, for example, might be a gold mine of computer boxes. They’re spectacular because they’re designed for heavy items, they’re fairly large, they stack well, and they usually have handles.

In terms of the packing materials to put between fragile items, start asking around as soon as you know you’ll need them.  Ask for anything like packing peanuts, foam, or bubble wrap so that as your friends get packages in the mail they can give you the packing material.  If you can’t get enough from people you know, try posting on Craigslist or Freecycle to see if anyone in your area has some items to help.

2. Know What’s Where, and Where it Goes.

One of the best things you can do to make for a better moving experience is to mark the boxes.  Don’t just settle for something like writing “kitchen” or “bedroom,” try color coded a system instead.  The guys helping you move will recognize a red dot much quicker than they can read “master bath.”  Unloading the truck will go much faster, and people holding heavy boxes like to know as quickly as possible where they need to go.

Additionally, you can keep a list as you pack of what’s in each box (generally), assign the box a number, and at the end you’ll have a manifest of everything you’ve packed.  That way if you need something quickly once you’ve moved, you know exactly which box it’s in.  It’s a simple tip, but it will save a lot of time and headaches later.

3. Get Professional Help.

One sure way to keep you and your friends happy as you move: hire the pros.  There are many reliable companies willing to move for you.  To find the right one, look for the best moving companies in your area through review sites.  That will help make sure you get a company that doesn’t have a reputation for poor prices, being late, or breaking things.

Moving companies are great because besides the muscle, they’ll come with their own truck and equipment to move the heavy stuff.  Just book early, especially if you want to move on or around a holiday.

If you’re planning a move, you’ll undoubtedly already be stressed out because of the general idea of moving to a new place, having to meet new neighbors, and not really knowing the new neighborhood yet.  Take some thought ahead of time to make the actual move easier.  Mitigate the stress by following some of these tips and your move be a much better experience for everyone.

Featured images:

Ashely is a recent college graduate that has a degree in writing. To see more of Ashely’s writing, check out her Twitter @ashelymarie1985.

Top Three News-Worthy Plumbing Disasters

When it comes to plumbing, it is very important for you to contract the best people to fix your plumbing issues. Not every plumbing company or worker has top-notch standards and expectations for themselves. Having the wrong solution implemented for a plumbing problem could seriously hinder the integrity and decrease the value of your home. Not only will you have to get a problem fixed twice; however, you risk having the problem surpass the point of no return. The implications of a plumbing issue going bad are far worse than taking the time to research the company that you are doing business with and paying the extra money to ensure that a trustworthy company and plumber are working on your problem. Here are three examples of news worthy plumbing disasters that you can avoid by hiring the right plumbing professionals to work on your home.

You Have Sprung A Leak!

When you do not take the time to interview and research the plumbing company that you are working with to fix a problem, or initially set up your plumbing in your home you risk having the wrong parts in your plumbing set up. When it comes to plumbing, it’s not always simple to find a company like Road Runner Plumbing Service. The lowest price is almost always the lowest quality of workmanship You do not want to skimp on the plumbing work that is done in your home. A news-worthy plumbing disaster is when the plumbing in a home was constructed so poorly that the pieces do not lock together properly. When the pieces of the plumbing solution are not locked together properly, then they will not hold tight once there is water running through them. If they are not tightly locked, then they will split apart and the water will not be channeled through the complex plumbing lines, the water will spill out all over the inside of your home. You risk flooding, surface damage, and depending on how bad it gets and how long it sits you can even get permanent damage on parts of your home.

But It Looks Good On The Surface

A common misconception by new homeowners is that if the plumbing looks good and the home looks good on the surface, then it must be good all over. This is so far from the truth. A lot of times, a contractor for plumbing may not be as skilled as they claim to be, thus make an area of the home look really great, and neglect to make sure that quality work or materials were used behind the scenes. If low quality or improper parts were used underneath the rest of the project then the whole integrity of the plumbing system is compromised. This can result in rusting, breakage, and permanent damage to important parts that support the functionality of the home.

Dark, Evil Mold In The Cabinets

One of the most news worthy disasters that you can face from using the wrong plumber or plumbing company can be the presence of evil, dark, black mold. This type of mold is extremely hazardous to your health and is bread in dark damn places. Especially in the inside of cabinets that are subject to having water and moisture present. For instance, if the plumbing is not tight and secure and there is a slow leak in a cabinet that is rarely used, you risk the formation of black mold.

As the operational administrator for an internet website marketing corporation, Daniel H. engages as a guest poster to service the business industry from the U.S. He lives in The City of Angels, and is drinking in life together with his wonderful better half and three munchkins. D. man requests tourists to review his Google society whenever they want.

Gardening at Your New Home

Gardening At Your New Merit HomePlanting and Gardening at your new home can seem like a daunting task but with a little planning you can make it easy.  No doubt the outside beauty of your home helps the overall value and makes for a more enjoyable living space. Merit Homes encourages you to jump in and enjoy this rewarding hobby while increasing the value of your home and it’s beauty.  Gardening at your new home is a rewarding hobby, and getting started in the spring requires a little planning for the best success. Deciding on the area and the variety of plants is one of the first considerations. There are plenty of vegetables, herbs and flowers that will thrive in any area and require little care to perform their best.

Organic Gardening Techniques
This style of growing plants relies on the use of natural fertilizers. Gardeners do not use any chemicals on their plants, and this provides produce that is incredibly tasty and good for you. There is an easy way to grow organic vegetables and flowers at home. Raised beds are simple to build and can be filled with a quality organic soil or compost. They should be installed in sunny areas so that the plants get as much direct light as possible. Light is essential for plant growth, and most flowers and vegetables will grow faster when they are in full sun for the better part of the day.

Growing Flowers
Adding some color to the landscape is one benefit that flowers offer. The styles are variable, and using several different varieties in a window box is one idea. These boxes are ideal because they attach directly to the window. They can be filled with a quality potting soil. Petunias, geraniums, marigolds and impatiens are a few flowers that thrive in a container and are perfect for windows. Growing flowers from bulbs is another way to add color and fragrance to the landscape. Several varieties are grown this way, and they come back each spring. Hyacinths, crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths are a few of the more popular flowers that grow from bulbs.

Herbs For The Kitchen And Yard
Fresh herbs are easy to grow and are a great choice for a chef. Oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary are a few of the common kitchen herbs that will thrive in the garden. Herbs are generally more flavorful when they are flowering, and this makes it best to grow them at home. Most herbs can easily be dried for storage and will provide plenty of seasoning for the meals. Herbs can be grown outdoor or in containers and will thrive in both settings. Some herbs, like rosemary, should be brought inside during the winter, but they will continue to grow for several years.

Enjoying the great outdoors with a beautiful landscape at Merit Homes your landscaping is an extension of the beauty of your home.  Here are two quick tips that might help. Getting started in the spring requires a little planning for success. Consulting the local extension agent, the King County Extension is always there to help, is one way for gardeners to find out the plants the plants that thrive in their particular micro-climate. Flowers, vegetables and herbs are easy to grow at home and provide flavor to the kitchen, color to the yard and tasty produce to eat. Organic gardening is more popular than ever and relies on natural methods and no pesticides. This method of growing is easy to do with raised beds. It is the perfect way to grow vegetables or flowers.


The Making of a Modern Home, Technology Now

Have you come up with seemingly crazy ideas that could make your everyday tools and appliances even more useful? Almost everyone has probably experienced moments where they suddenly imagine a regular object has the capability to do extraordinary things. Anyone would be happy with a side table that can heat up or cool down beverages when you set them on top of it. Technologies all over the world are already so advanced that common home furniture and house fixtures are now equipped to be more efficient.

Made by In Style Modern, this infographic entitled “The Makings of a Modern Home” discusses the different types of innovations you can have in your household. In recent years, regular objects are able to do things that they weren’t normally intended for. Discover the cool gadgets you can install in your house. Find interesting inventions like the Memory Coffee Maker, Honda Miimo, and Self-sterilizing Door Handle.

The Making of a Modern Home, Technology and Home Automation

Source: In Style Modern Office Furniture

Make your Kitchen fit for Guests

Having friends and family over for dinner and drinks is a great way to socialise and make the most of your home. Creating a stylish, spacious and accessible area to entertain can easily transform your house from an everyday abode into a desirable and modern dinner party venue. Whether you are looking to create a more efficient dining space for Christmas dinner or simply create a more stylish room for evening drinks with friends, you are sure to fulfil all of your needs by redesigning and remodelling your kitchen.

So, let’s take a look at a few things you can achieve by swapping around your kitchen and exactly how to achieve them!

Suitable Seating

Ensuring you have sufficient space for your guest to sit and eat, chat and drink is the first step towards creating a host’s/hostess’ kitchen. Modern day breakfast bars can be aesthetically wonderful; they are fantastic to look at (especially if bought to adhere to the kitchen’s colour scheme) and can provide enough seating for 6 or 8 friends to drink at if sufficient stools are provided. This can be ideal for hosting dinner parties, and even better if you are planning to have friends round for evening drinks.

If you have a more spacious kitchen, a sizable dining table may be a better suited option for you; this allows guests more space and more comfortable seating. One downfall the breakfast bar has is that stools can eventually become uncomfortable and may start to frustrate guests; the dining table allows for more spacious and comfortable seating, keeping guests happier for longer.

Pleasing Features

Ensuring your kitchen is equipped with enough modern and stylish features to both ‘wow’ and appease guests will put the finishing touches to the evening. Being able to throw together a smoothie or cocktail with a modern and stylish blender can add a fun and interesting twist to the evening, especially when guests are left to try it themselves! Think about which contemporary features you can add which will benefit guests and add heaps of style simultaneously.

Add some designer kitchen taps, fashionable seating and stylish glasses and cutlery to ensure you are adding heaps of style in the areas that guests will be seeing the most of. This ensures you are highlighting the areas of your home that guests will be using and impressing visitors at every turn!

So there we have some simple tips which are sure to help you create an impressive and contemporary entertaining space. 

This article was written by guest blogger Daniel Travis – Brown, for more great hints and tips follow Daniel on Twitter @DanTravisBrown

New custom home completed at Red Bridge Farm

Rouse Chamberlin Homes recently completed a custom home at 690 Patrick Henry Circle in Pocopson Township in the Red Bridge Farm community. Beautifully located among the rolling Chester County hillside, it has spectacular views of a neighboring horse farm and the surrounding woods. This is a perfect opportunity to move into one of the great, established neighborhoods in the area.

The 3,649 square foot home includes 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths and is located on .93 acre on a private cul-de-sac. Special features of this home include a stucco façade, an expanded 3.5 car garage, a deck, full walkout basement, formal living room and dining room, and private first floor study. The cook’s kitchen includes a Bosch 5-burner cooktop, stainless steel convection oven, dishwasher, and 24” microwave drawer, plus a 36” Broan under-cabinet pro-style hood. A sunny breakfast room adjoins the kitchen. A spacious sunken family room off the dining room boasts a direct vent fireplace. The master suite has an extra-large walk-in storage area above the garage. Three secondary bedrooms and two additional full baths complete the second floor.

This home is attractively priced at $569,900.

An Open House will be held each weekend in November from 1-4. For more information, call 610-800-3514 or visit

New vs Used – High Tech and High Efficiency

I don’t think you can underestimate the value of modern construction techniques. Quality construction, top grade materials and the implementation of new energy codes combine to create a home of maximum efficiency. Everything from the water savers in the showerheads, the water saver toilets, and state of the art plumbing systems with direct valves for shut off. New homes are wired for the future to meet the needs of modern homeowners, and are easily customized to meet personal needs. Every Rouse Chamberlin buyer meets with the electrician to review the standard wiring, and has the opportunity to add high hats, speakers systems, additional outlets, switches or dimmers. It is so easy to customize these items before the drywall is installed.

New vs Used – Peace of Mind

Never fail to appreciate the value of peace of mind! Manufacturers’ warranties on roofs, mechanical systems, windows and appliances guarantee your satisfaction and protect your family from unpleasant surprises. Prior to purchasing, buyers are given a binder of the builder’s warranty, which includes information on the one-year and ten-year limited structural warranty. In addition to the township building inspections,

Also, before the drywall goes up, you get to inspect the house so that you can see everything behind the walls. Prior to settlement you will attend a pre-settlement inspection, and review the systems of the home with the Project Manager who built your house. Watching the house come up out of the ground, and being familiar with what is behind the walls, is a very comforting feeling and great knowledge to have.

New vs Used – Mmm Mmm Good!

New homes definitely seem to have lots of the good stuff – open floor plans, lots of light and higher energy efficiency. Kitchens and baths have luxurious amenities, modern, quiet appliances and state of the art plumbing. Just being able to choose colors – down to the doorknobs – makes the purchasing of a new home so much fun! Best of all, you’ll love that no one used that kitchen or bathroom before! (I don’t know that I can put a price tag on that one!)

I find when I look at used homes, I walk through and say to myself, “Well, I would change that out.” or “These carpets have got to go!” The next thing you know, “Ka-ching, ka-ching!” I realize I would be spending $5,000 to $10,000 just on getting the house to look the way I want.

What is it about big purchases that makes us nuts?

Lately I have been thinking about the similarity of purchasing a car and purchasing a new home. They are both big decision making purchases, and for some reason, they tend to put our lives on hold for a bit.

All of a sudden, your weeknights are spent searching on line for the best designs, quality/safety, convenient locations, warranties, interest rates, terms, and deals. Then your free time is devoted to shopping car lots or model homes on the weekends. As you test-drive the model home, you envision yourself entertaining your friends on the deck, eyeing where the big screen will go, and mentally picturing your family and furniture in this home. Even though a lot of research was done on-line, you go home with arms full of brochures, gleaming pictures, estimates of closing costs and big decisions to make.

And then a smidge of buyer’s remorse sets in… Do we really need to move now? Should I do more research? Maybe I should look at used homes. Why am I so stuck on buying a new home? And then you start to research again. And you still come to the conclusion that you are better off buying a new home.

Still brooding? Well how about this… There was an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer that stated that older (i.e. used) homes can have hidden problems. 35% require central heating system repairs, 44% require central cooling system replacement, 30% require roofing repairs, 33% show water seepage, 33% require insulation work, 27% require electrical repairs, 25% have mixed piping, and 15% require plumbing system repairs.

Time to Garden!

So, what outdoor activities or hobbies do you love to accomplish outside? Take a peek out the window and you can feel that May is just begging for you to get outside and get your hands dirty.

If you’ve got a green thumb, aspiring gardeners should check out The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Time to … gardening column by Michael Mills. A lifesaver for novice to expert gardeners, his column blooms with a host of helpful tips that can help you prioritize planting tasks and make sure you meet all of those garden-related deadlines.

In his latest column, Mr. Mills gently reminds us that: Now’s the time to begin planting shrubs, trees, and perennials. You can also start on that vegetable garden of yours by planting beet, carrots corn, and spinach seeds.

Gardeners, who have been cooped up all winter, are just itching to don their gardening gloves and start cultivating. You should know, however, that May is only the very beginning of the growing season. To novice gardeners, May could seem a bit early to start planting. And although May is early, it’s still best to start the growing process now, so that spring and summer don’t get away from you.

When digging those first holes, just be careful about what you plant. The last frost date Philadelphia area’s Hardiness Zone is listed at April 24, but this is just an estimate. Know that frost IS still possible, so you should be careful of what you plant. Specifically, don’t plant tender annuals like tomatoes, peppers, basil, impatiens and petunias yet—even if those pallets of colorful impatiens lining the entrance to your favorite grocery store look positively tempting. If you give in and indulge in containers of those friendly little plants, you may be simply throwing your money away if temperatures dip and the plants are damaged.

Even if you avoid the more tender options, you should be prepared to protect anything that you have planted in case temperatures are forecasted to dip below 32 degrees at night for a late frost You can either bring container plants indoor, or cover in-ground plants with a bucket or some burlap.

We know you’re just dying to forget the long, cold winter we just endured with the help of a few friendly flowers and colorful plants, but in the long run, it really is best to be a tad bit cautious before you dive headfirst into this year’s planting season.

Builder’s Decorated Model Homes for Sale

Buying a builder’s decorator model is fantastic because you’ll get lots of builder and decorator extras, such as an enlarged deck overlooking woods, a walkout basement, a 4-foot kitchen and breakfast room extension, an upgraded kitchen, a gas fireplace, upgraded flooring, wiring for a stereo system, upgraded landscaping, walks, exterior lighting, and much more. Plus, you already have a turnkey professionally designed interior including designer-chosen custom paint and wallpaper. You don’t have to worry about painting or coordinating – all you have to do is move in! The four-bedroom, 2 ½ bath Longwood V decorator model home is conveniently located by the walking trail and exceptionally priced at $349,900. This home has already been reduced by $78,378.

Another quick delivery at Summer Grove is the unique, four-bedroom Malvern III available on homesite 29. The Malvern model is able to provide the feeling of openness while maintaining a sense of privacy, with a unique layout and quiet niches around every corner. This home offers a centrally located private library and a large, central family room which is accented by the graceful staircase leading to the second level.

Plus, this designer home includes a stone facade, an enlarged deck overlooking the woods, a finished walkout basement with full bath, solarium, direct vent fireplace, upgraded kitchen appliances, cabinets and granite countertops! Check out the video tour at, call 610-323-0603 for more information or text sgrove to 49469 on your mobile phone.

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

Tired of renting and paying the landlord’s mortgage instead of putting money in your own investment and getting your own tax deduction? Sometimes, we just have to bite the bullet and move on.

I remember how nervous I was when I signed my first lease, and I secretly thought, “How am I ever going to afford this? Will I be able to make the payments?” Before I knew it, the payment was a breeze, and I was back to going out to dinner, and hanging out. Then I got a promotion and started making even more money, and I knew it was time to consider buying a house. Buying a new home was sort of the same as leasing, but the plus side was that there were hidden benefits in each monthly payment. The interest and real estate taxes were tax deductions, so in the end, the monthly payment was lowered, unlike when I was renting. Best of all was the building up of personal assets. As the market turns and appreciation starts to grow, value is gained without lifting a finger.

There has never been a better time to buy a new home, and that window of opportunity is closing. The rates are low, and prices have bottomed out. Economists always say that we don’t know that we are out of a recession, until we are out of the recession. Don’t let the market beat you. It’s time to start building your future and stop flushing away money on renting. Visit now for new homes in Chester County and Montgomery County in the $200’s.

Primary Reasons for Owning Your Own Home

  • Have friends over for a barbeque on the deck.
  • Paint the rooms any color you want.
  • Finally…getting a dog without risking breaking a lease or getting a landlord’s permission.
  • Garage – having your own parking space and only having to walk 6 footsteps to carry in your groceries.
  • Neighborhood camaraderie
  • Guest room – a place for college friends to sleep, so you are not tripping over them on the air mattresses on the floor when trying to get ready for work.
  • Closets
  • Have friends over to watch the Phillies.
  • Adequate storage space for beach chairs, coolers, sports equipment and skis.
  • Not worrying about making too much noise, and better yet, not having to listen to other people’s music.
  • Space for board game nights
  • Yard for if/when you have kids
  • Space so it won’t be cramped if/when you have kids

Predicting the Housing Market Recovery

When people ask me “How soon are home prices around here going to recover?”, I have been saying that I don’t think they will really start to ‘recover’ for at least 3 to 4 years.

The question usually comes from someone who wants to sell, but is having a hard time dealing with the fact that the value of their home is down about 20% from the peak in summer 2007 – especially if that is when they bought it.  Of course if they had bought it in early 2002, the value would have run up about 85% before it peaked, but it truly is much harder to take a loss than it is to take a gain.

The next most common person asking the question is a buyer who is trying to decide if he or she is going to make money or lose money on their investment in a home. Recent history would certainly give one cause to pause on that question.

Of course there have been all kinds of predictions about which way the housing market is headed, and many of those predictions are colored by what is going on in the writer’s home market.  But recently a friend sent me a very interesting analytical presentation of what is going on in the market, which included a map graphic showing what that analyst thought would happen.  The chart was prepared by Moody’s Analytics, a big player who has a huge interest in figuring out what is most likely to happen, so I thought it was worth sharing with you.  Here’s the chart, which is page 13 from the presentation linked at the end of this post.


This is a pretty fascinating chart.  Note that some areas near us are predicted to recover to their previous highs within the next 2 to 3 years.  And for some of the hardest hit areas, full price recovery may take 20 years.   Factor some inflation against that and I’m not sure it is a recovery.

In our own Greater Seattle / Bellevue area, it looks like their prediction is recovery to 2007 price levels in the 4 to 5 year timeframe at best.  Still, all in all it doesn’t sound too shabby – that would be about 5% a year from here, or more like 3%/yr if it stretched out to the long side.  My guess is that this recovery rate would be back-end loaded – lower appreciation rates near term, and higher rates later on as the national economy really gets rolling again.  We’ve got a lot of unemplyment to work off before that happens.

The whole presentation is linked here in the 2010 – Housing Recuperates  presentation from Moody’s Fall 2009 Economic Outlook Conference.  In the chart on mortgage default rates on page 10, the left axis is CLTV – Current Loan to Value Ratio; the chart is a little hard to understand unless you have that information set in your decoder ring.

What is a Quick Delivery Home?

Buying a new construction home is extremely rewarding, but we understand … waiting for your new home to be built can be a challenge. You’re just sooooo excited to finally move in and start making your house a “home”—it simply can’t happen soon enough!

Eliminating the waiting, Rouse Chamberlin has a wonderful assortment of homes ready for quick delivery in three of our charming area neighborhoods.

So, what is a quick-delivery home, anyway? It’s a home that’s ready for move in within a shorter timeframe than normal. Many times, terrific options in these quick-delivery homes have already been selected and coordinated for you by the folks at Rouse Chamberlin. Or, a quick-delivery home can also be the builder’s decorated model home… not only do you get a professionally designed home, but the home is also ready for you to move in! Or, you can even find some quick-delivery homes that aren’t completely finished, allowing you to choose many of your own options.

So, if you’re a prospective homebuyer itching to move ASAP, why not check out the two quick-delivery homes available at Providence Hill, located in convenient East Fallowfield, Chester County? This community is ideal for those longing for neighborhood camaraderie—it even boasts a Village Green, a tot lot and a gazebo.

At Providence Hill, you’ll find a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath Woodbine Select II on homesite 32, which features a highly sought-after walkout lower level that opens into a gorgeous Chester County view of open meadow and wooded vistas. Gourmet and aspiring cooks alike will appreciate the extended kitchen, architectural circle-top window and cathedral ceiling above the sink. The vaulted family room is an ideal gathering place and features a fireplace that will have family members and friends never wanting to leave. In addition to the master bedroom suite, two bedrooms and hall bath included on the second floor, you’ll also find a fourth bedroom featuring a large walk-in closet. This provides plenty of space versatile enough to be used an in-law or guest suite.

You can also check out Providence Hill’s Woodbine Select I quick-delivery on homesite 97. One of Rouse Chamberlin’s best selling floorplans, this model features a side walkout basement, a kitchen extension and a vaulted ceiling in the family room, which features a fireplace flanked by additional windows. For added enjoyment, a sunny breakfast room is included adjacent to the island kitchen and a convenient laundry room, powder room and two-car garage are found on the first floor. To check out Quick Delivery homes in other neighborhoods, visit www.rcltdcom. For Providence Hill call 484-459-3457 or text provhill to 49469 for more information.

My Mortgage is Underwater. Now What Do I Do? . . . Option 6 – Foreclosure

In the previous articles in this ‘My Mortgage is Underwater. Now What Do I Do?’ series, we discussed Option 1 – Sit Tight in the first article.  Then we discussed some options you might pursue if you didn’t have the income or the savings to be able to continue to make your mortgage payment:  Option 2 – Loan ModificationOption 3 – Short Sale, and Option 4 – Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure.  Then we talked about an alternative to Option 1, even if you could still manage to keep up your payments, called Option 5 – Strategic Default.

In this post we will talk about Option 6 – Foreclosure, voluntary or involuntary.  The better you understand the foreclosure process, the better able you are to manage it and minimize the negative effects on yourself and your family.  In many ways, the foreclosure laws are set up to protect you, the borrower, as well as your lender, and so it is an orderly process that you can work within to try to minimize those negative effects, other than the basic big ones of giving up your house and getting a very big black mark on your credit.

Washington state has provision for two kinds of foreclosure, called Judicial Foreclosure and Non-Judicial Foreclosure.  Almost all mortgage foreclosures in Washington are Non-Judicial foreclosures, and that is what is described in these notes.  The key to understanding the process is the required notices and statutory minimum timelines.

Please keep in mind that foreclosure is a legal process, and I am not an attorney.  So this is meant to be a overview guide to the process and some of the issues.  If you think you are going to have to go through foreclosure, read this guide and then talk with an attorney – I think it will help you to ask better questions and make more sense out of the answers.

Almost all residential ‘mortgages’ written in Washington are actually ‘deeds of trust’, and it is the deed of trust that sets up the non-judicial foreclosure capability.   Unlike a true mortgage, which is a two-party document, the deed of trust has a third party ‘trustee’ who actually holds the deed to your house.  The deed of trust includes an ‘acceleration clause’ which allows the lender to demand payment in full ‘immediately’ if the borrower defaults on the payments, and a ‘power of sale clause’ which says that if the borrower has defaulted, and cannot pay, then the lender can initiate  Non-Judicial Foreclosure.  A Non-Judicial Foreclosure is executed by the ‘trustee’, meaning it doesn’t have to go through the courts; the trustee can simply follow the notification procedures and minimum timelines defined by state law, and proceed to sell the property at a public foreclosure auction held at a county courthouse.

Here are the key terms, notices and timelines:

  • Default – the date your mortgage payment becomes overdue, and you do not pay it
  • State law says the Trustee’s Sale, i.e. the foreclosure sale of your property, cannot occur sooner than 190 days after the actual Default date.
  • Notice of Default – at any time after you default, your lender can send you a Notice of Default and statement of intent to Foreclose.  The lender decides when to send this notice and start the foreclosure process, and it could be soon after default, or delayed for weeks or even months.  They must first correspond with you and assess your ability to pay the debt and explore with you other options for avoiding foreclosure – a new statutory requirement as of 2009.
  • Notice of Trustees Sale – this is a public document which is recorded in the County Recorders Office and published.  It is a public statement that your home is being foreclosed and will be auctioned to the highest bidder unless you stop the process by some payment agreement with the lender.  The lender does not have to agree to anything other than payment in full.  It cannot be issued sooner than at least 30 days after the Notice of Default is sent to you.
  • Trustee’s Sale – the actual sale of your home on the county courthouse steps.  The sale cannot occur sooner than 90 days after the Notice of Trustee’s sale is recorded and published, and also not sooner than 190 days after the original Default, whichever comes last.  Once the sale is done, you cannot redeem the property.
  • After the sale, the law provides 20 additional days for you to move out.  If you are paying attention to the timelines, you will have already planned, and perhaps executed, your move to your new home on your own schedule.

In Washington state law, when a home is sold at a Non-Judicial Foreclosure Sale, the lender cannot later pursue you, the borrower, for a deficiency judgment for the difference between the value of the property and what you owed them at the time of foreclosure.  Your debt on the original ‘mortgage’ is simply wiped out, along with most liens on the property, and you no longer have any rights or obligations to the property.  In the past, the IRS has said that you have to count forgiven debt as taxable ‘income’; however, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 changed that so at least for now, and through 2012, you can generally exclude that debt-forgiveness ’income’.

Note that the lender also has the right to instead choose to pursue a Judicial foreclosure, through the courts, and in that case they can also pursue a deficiency judgement.  The main reason lenders don’t do this is that in a Judicial Foreclosure, you retain the right to redeem the property for a period of one year.  While it is pretty unlikely that you would do that, the possibility of such a redemption claim would certainly create a big problem in the mind of a potential buyer when the lender tried to re-sell the property, so generally lenders don’t try to go the Judicial Foreclosure route.

My Mortgage is Underwater. Now What Do I Do? . . . . . . . The Series Summary

This new real estate ‘technical’ term underwater is getting quite a bit of press lately, and unfortunately it applies to a lot of us.  What it means is “my house is no longer worth as much as I owe on it.”  It means your equity is gone, and it also means that you can’t easily sell the house and pay off the loan if you want to move.

Truly an unpleasant situation.

Just for some rough numbers on the scale of the problem: there are about 110 million households in the U.S.  Of that, about 70 million are in owned homes, not rentals.  Of that 70 million homes, about 30% are owned outright – no mortgage.  Of the roughly 50 million homes with a mortgage, about 25%, 12 million or so, are under water.

But you probably don’t care near as much about the other 11,999,999 mortgage holders as you do about yourself.

If you are one of those unfortunate underwater folks, this note will outline what some of your choices are, and what they might mean to you.  Many of the choices are dependent on the question of whether you are financially solvent or insolvent.  Insolvent means you do not have enough income or savings (excluding IRAs & 401Ks) to make the payments.

Here’s the topics, and the options.  Each title is also a link to a more detailed write-up

  1. Sit Tight – If have the income or the reserves to make the payments, you may just want to sit tight and ride it out for however long it takes for prices to recover.  For some, an unpleasant but practical option may be #5 below.
  2. Loan Modification – If you are insolvent, but have sufficient income to pay at least most of the mortgage, your lender may be willing to agree to a modification of your loan terms that allows you to make a lower monthly payment and still stay in your home.
  3. Short Sale – If you are insolvent and cannot make a substantial regular payment, your lender may agree to let you sell the house, and accept the proceeds (short pay) as full payment of the debt.  There are some new government guidelines for lenders to help this along.
  4. Deed in Lieu – If you are insolvent as in the Short Sale case, your lender may also be willing to simply take the keys back, and accept the property in lieu of payment of the debt.  This is more likely if a Short Sales has been attempted and was unsuccessful.
  5. Strategic Default – If you are not insolvent, but are so far underwater that you seriously want out of the house and the mortgage, and don’t care what happens to your credit score and your ability to borrow for several years, you may simply choose to walk away and let your lender foreclose.
  6. Foreclosure – If you cannot, or will not, make the mortgage payments, your lender, or current owner of your mortgage loan, can choose to foreclose (a minimum 6-month legal process), take possession and sell the property.

Please keep in mind that I am a real estate agent, not an attorney.  I know about this stuff because I’ve dealt with it quite a bit, and I have a fair amount of training on it.  But if you need specific legal advice, consult your attorney, and if you need specific tax advice or financial advice, consult your accountant or your financial advisor.

My Mortgage is Underwater. Now What Do I Do? . . . Option 5 – Strategic Default

In the previous articles we introduced this ‘Now What Do I Do?’ series, and discussed Option 1 – Sit Tight in the first article.  Then we discussed some options you might pursue if you didn’t have the income or the savings to be able to continue to make your mortgage payment:  Option 2 – Loan ModificationOption 3 – Short Sale, and Option 4 – Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure.

In this post we’ll talk about a fifth option that you may want to think about even if you are financially capable of maintaining your payments.  Option means you have a choice.  This option is called Strategic Default or, more casually, ‘walking away’ or ’sending in the keys’.  You are ‘underwater’, and you owe more on the mortgage than the house is worth in the current market.  The essence of Strategic Default is that although you may be capable of continuing to make the mortgage payments, and are therefore not eligible for a Short Sale or Deed in Lieu settlement from your lender, you may decide for any of a variety of reasons that you should not continue making the payments, and that you will simply return your home to the bank and let them foreclose and re-possess it or sell it at the foreclosure auction.

There are a number of key factors for you to consider in this thought process, none trivial, and all laid out many times in the press over the past couple of years.  Five of the main ones are summarized here:

  1. Your circumstances may have changed, and this house may no longer be appropriate for you – in size, in expense, in location, etc; perhaps no longer appropriate to the degree that you would consider bearing a fair amount of pain to get out of the mortgage, move out of the house, and start over.
  2. A foreclosure would cause a significant negative impact on your credit score, and your ability to buy another house later, or a car, etc; it could also have a negative impact on your ability to get your next job, as employers are starting starting to use credit records as a job qualification
  3. It is considered unethical and immoral to not pay your debts; however, it is not illegal.   The agreement you signed has a specific legal process,called foreclosure, for canceling it.  The lender, as well as you, willingly entered into both sides of the agreement, with the house as the secured asset.
  4. You may not have been prudent in how much you borrowed, but you didn’t cause the financial debacle we are now in, nor did you personally cause the value of your house to drop to the degree it has.  This is a bit like force majeure logic
  5. You have some obligation to consider the impact that staying in the home and continuing to make the payments has on your family’s well-being and financial future – relocating can be a major disruption, but being deeply underwater financially can be very stressful and unproductive.

Please keep in mind, again, that I am not a lawyer or accountant or licensed financial planner, and I cannot tell you all the ins and outs and consequences of this kind of action in your particular situation.  If you have a second mortgage, or certain other kinds of liens, you particularly want to consult a lawyer, and perhaps your accountant as well, before making this kind of decision.  Not all types of liens are wiped out by foreclosure.

If you would like a little more description of the foreclosure process, please see the next and last post in this series – Option 6 – Foreclosure.  If you choose, for your own good and well-thought out reasons, to go down the Strategic Default path, then you want to manage the foreclosure process in the most businesslike and least painful way possible.

So there is lots to think about, and the stakes are not trivial.  But the evidence is that the further people are underwater on their mortgage, the more likely they are to make the Strategic Default decision.  Here is a chart  from a presentation at Moody’s Fall 2009 Economic Outlook Conference – in this chart, from page 10 of the presentation, the left axis is CLTV – Current Loan to Value Ratio.  A loan to value ratio greater than 100 means you are underwater.  Note how the delinquency rate, and implied default rate, starts climbing sharply for CLTV rates over 105%.

My Mortgage is Underwater. Now What Do I Do? . . . Option 4 – Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure

In the previous articles we introduced this ‘Now What Do I Do?’ series, and discussed Option 1 – Sit Tight, Option 2 – Loan Modification, and Option 3 – Short Sale.

If you really can’t make your mortgage payment, not even reduced ones, and you’ve tried to do a short sale and it hasn’t worked, then maybe by now you feel like you are running out of time.  But there is one more option that may get you out with less damage to your credit record than a foreclosure.  That option is to get your lender to make a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure agreement with you.  In essence, the lender is acknowledging that you can’t pay, and you can’t get it sold, so maybe they are better off to take the property back now, rather than go through the whole foreclosure process and wind up taking it back later anyway.  The logic for them is that the property is likely to be in better condition if you turn it over to them voluntarily now, and they may be able to shorten the time that they have to hold a non-earning asset, i.e. a ‘problem loan’, on their books.

A key point in either a short sale agreement or a deed-in-lieu agreement is to ensure that you have the lender’s specific statement that they will not pursue a Deficiency Judgement against you for the difference between the value of the property and what you owe them at the time of the agreement.  My recommendation is that you have an attorney read the agreement to make sure that it is clear on that point before you sign it.  If you want to review some of the legal framework for this, refer back to the  Option 3 – Short-Sale article and the paragraph starting “Bear with me on a bit of legalese…”

If your lender will not give up the right to a deficiency judgment, and that would be a significant overhanging debt for you,  maybe you are better off just letting the propety go into foreclosure and wipe the slate clean that way.  Once again, if you are in this kind of situation, talk with an attorney.  My only purpose here is to give you an idea of how things work, and help you ask the right questions if the time comes.  If your lender is participating in the HAFA process described in the Option 3 – Short-Sale article, the deficiency judgement problem should not arise, but check to make sure.  That HAFA process provides for doing a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure as a fallback from an unsuccessful Short Sale .

Is Your Home A Happy Home?

We all know that “home is where the heart is,” and where there’s “heart,” there’s happiness. You already knew this – who isn’t happy spending a relaxing night at home with family? But did you know that there is actual scientific evidence that suggests certain qualities in your home can really make you happy? Your surroundings can have a positive impact on your brain!

These amazing findings are explained in CNNMoney’s article Your home can make you happier. Apparently, scientists have conducted experiments to examine how constructed spaces affect our brains and bodies. The results are so compelling, they are used in something called “evidence-based design,” which is an approach that considers design elements and features to help positively impact the health, well-being and mood (among other things) of healthcare patients.

So, which qualities do you think make homeowners most happy? You might automatically think of lavish luxury, excess space and unneeded rooms, or enough garages to house that handful of classic cars you dream of.

But, according to the findings, happiness created by your home is–thankfully–really much simpler than that.

The article states, “Neither tons of space nor high-end furnishings are key to your home satisfaction. Much more important are things that may seem minor but that pack a big emotional wallop. “

So, what are the characteristics that pack this “big emotional wallop?” It’s simple enough–the things that make people happy in homeownership are the same things that make most of us happy in life: socialization, sunshine and even color (think of the calming yellow hue your childhood room was painted).

According to the article, “Maximizing full-spectrum light during the day and placing the main seating in the “power position” (ideally with a wall at your back) [to foster socialization]” are two such key elements. It’s amazing that socialization is such a key factor in happiness that the National Science Foundation’s General Social Survey found that above wealth, work, or health, it’s family relationships that make people happiest!

My Mortgage is Underwater. Now What Do I Do? . . . Option 3 – Short Sale

In the previous articles we introduced this ‘Now What Do I Do?’ series, and discussed Option 1 – Sit Tight and Option 2 – Loan Modification.

Now what if you really can’t make your mortgage payment?  Not even reduced ones.  Lost your job or got injured…. Savings running out…. This is tough stuff.  But a lot of people are going through it.  Now maybe it’s time to consider Option 3 – doing a Short Sale.  Selling your house for less than you owe, and getting the bank to take the deal, even-up, so you can walk away free and clear.

The advantage to you in doing a short sale is that a successful short sale should be less damaging to your credit than a foreclosure, and allow you to financially recover more quickly.  You won’t get any money out of the deal, except maybe some moving costs, but you’ll be out from under that mortgage and free to get on with your life.

A ‘short sale’ means to sell the house for less than you owe on it, and get the lender to accept that lesser amount as payment-in-full, i.e. a short-payoff.  You can see why the banks and lenders aren’t too fond of the notion.  But if the alternative is for the house to sit empty for 6 months or more, while no payments are being collected, and then for the bank to have to take it back at a foreclosure sale and try to sell it themselves, maybe it starts to look like a reasonable alternative to them.

But you’d never know it by the ways the banks have been behaving – very difficult to get in contact with, endless delays on getting an answer on an offer to buy, etc.  This situation left you hanging as the seller, not knowing if you were actually going to be forclosed, and left the buyer hanging, not knowing if they had a deal.  The result was that many deals were hanging in limbo, many potential buyers were walking away, or staying away, from short sales, and agents were having to push offering prices ever further downward to try to get someone to make an offer.  That hurts market and neighborhood prices even more.  Not good for anyone.

But finally the banks and lenders are coming around.  Once again pushed hard by the government.  A new set of regulations went into effect April 5th.  These regulations, called HAFA, are another part of the federal Making Home Affordable program.  Whatever you think of how we got into these problems, and whatever you think of the current administration in Washington D.C., these programs are helping get things sorted out, and they may be able to help you in your situation.

HAFA stands for Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives, and it applies to your primary residence only.  It is 43 pages of regulations and directives that are enough to make your head ache trying to read them.  The link above is the best shorter summary I have been able to find, produced by the National Association of Realtors.

The HAFA program should make it easier to short-sale your house and get out from under your mortgage.  Many of the biggest banks and lenders in the country have signed up for it.  It also provides some direct help for you – up to $3,000 cash at closing for moving assistance.  And a successful short sale should be less damaging to your credit than a foreclosure, and allow you to recover more quickly.

However, not all lenders are participating in HAFA, and if they are not, there are some other risks in trying to do a short sale.  In particular, they might try to get a Deficiency Judgment against you for the difference between the value of the property and what you owed them at the time of foreclosure.

Bear with me on a bit of legalese here, and recall that I am not an attorney.  Washington state has provision for two kinds of foreclosure, called Judicial Foreclosure and Non-Judicial Foreclosure.  Almost all residential ‘mortgages’ written in Washington are actually ‘deeds of trust’.   The deed of trust has a third party ‘trustee’ who actually holds the deed to your house, and includes an ‘acceleration clause’ which allows the lender to demand payment in full ‘immediately’ if the borrower defaults on the payments, and a ‘power of sale clause’ which says that if the borrower has defaulted, and cannot pay, then the lender can initiate  Non-Judicial Foreclosure.  A Non-Judicial foreclosure is executed by the ‘trustee’, meaning it doesn’t have to go through the courts; the trustee can simply follow the notification procedures and minimum timelines defined by state law, and proceed to sell the property at a public foreclosure auction held at a county courthouse.  In Washington state law, when a home is sold at a non-judicial foreclosure sale, the lender cannot later pursue you, the borrower, for a deficiency judgment for the difference between the value of the property and what you owed them at the time of foreclosure.  Your debt on the original ‘mortgage’ is simply wiped out, along with most liens on the property, and you no longer have any rights or obligations to the property.

The kicker in all this is that the lender also has the right to instead choose to pursue a Judicial foreclosure, through the courts, and in that case they can also pursue a deficiency judgement.  The main reason lenders don’t do this is that in a judicial foreclosure, you retain the right to redeem the property for a period of one year.  While it is pretty unlikely that you would do that, the possibility of redemption claim would certainly create a big problem in the mind of a potential buyer when the lender tried to re-sell the property, so generally lenders don’t try to go the Judicial Foreclosure route.

So what’s the point of all the legalese?  Simply that if your lender will not give up the right to a deficiency judgment, and that would be a significant overhanging debt for you,  maybe you are better off just letting the property go into foreclosure and wipe the slate clean that way.  Once again, if you are in this kind of situation, talk with an attorney, and maybe your accountant and financial planner.  In the past, the IRS has said that you have to count forgiven debt as taxable ‘income’; the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 changed that so at least for now, and through 2012, you can generally exclude that debt-forgiveness ’income’ from the discharge of debt on your principal residence through mortgage restructuring or foreclosure.

One more caveat on these options is that your loan may not even be held by a lender who can make a decision.  It may have been ‘securitized’ and packaged into a bundle of some kind that could have been sold to an investor almost anywhere in the world.  It will take quite a bit of time to untangle the more complicated pieces of this mess.

My Mortgage is Underwater. Now What Do I Do? . . . Option 2 – Loan Modification

In the previous article we introduced this ‘Now What Do I Do?’ series, and discussed Option 1 – Sit Tight.  That works if you can still afford the mortgage.  If you can’t, we need to go to Option 2 – Loan Modification.

Banks and other mortgage lenders may be willing to consider a loan modification if you can’t afford your mortgage as it is now.  What ‘loan modification’ means is that they may be willing to reduce the amount of your monthly payments, reduce the principal (the amount you owe), or both.  There are two reasons they might be willing to do this:

1. If you can’t afford the current payment, you are probably going to default (get way behind or stop paying altogether) and they will have to foreclose.  Foreclosure is not good.  It takes a long time, and doesn’t recover much of the money they loaned you.  If they take the property back at the foreclosure sale, then they have to fix it up and try to sell it.  That takes more time and money, and they don’t really want to be in the real estate business anyway.

2. The second reason is that the government is pushing all mortgage lenders hard to make loan modifications that help people stay in their homes and helps them continue to make their (reduced) mortgage payments.  And it would mean that your mortgage is would still be an earning asset for the bank, instead of a non-earning asset, and they wouldn’t have to report it in their loan loss category.

The name of the government program that fosters the Loan Modification programs is Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and here is the HAMP website that will tell you a lot more about it, including how to tell if you qualify.  Basically they figure that if your mortgage, taxes and insurance total more than 31% of your gross income, you are probably in trouble – and if so, you may be able to get a loan modification conversation going with your lender.

Part of the loan modification process will be a be a 3-month trial period that your lender will set up with you to help both of you to decide if you can keep up at the new payment level.  If it works out, then the lender will modify the terms of your loan to fit the new plan.

To get started, what you need to do is call your lender, or whoever is the loan servicer that you currently send your mortgage payments too.  If they are willing to consider a loan modification, and not all of them are, they will probably send you some forms to fill out about your income and assets, and ask for copies of things like pay stubs and bank statements.  In essence, you are de-qualifying for your loan.