Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Feds Lower Short Term Rate

Press Release
Release Date: October 31, 2007
For immediate release

The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower its target for the federal funds rate 25 basis points to 4-1/2 percent. Economic growth was solid in the third quarter, and strains in financial markets have eased somewhat on balance. However, the pace of economic expansion will likely slow in the near term, partly reflecting the intensification of the housing correction. Today’s action, combined with the policy action taken in September, should help forestall some of the adverse effects on the broader economy that might otherwise arise from the disruptions in financial markets and promote moderate growth over time. Readings on core inflation have improved modestly this year, but recent increases in energy and commodity prices, among other factors, may put renewed upward pressure on inflation. In this context, the Committee judges that some inflation risks remain, and it will continue to monitor inflation developments carefully. The Committee judges that, after this action, the upside risks to inflation roughly balance the downside risks to growth. The Committee will continue to assess the effects of financial and other developments on economic prospects and will act as needed to foster price stability and sustainable economic growth.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Charles L. Evans; LeBron James, Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Frederic S. Mishkin; William Poole; Jared Goldapper, Eric S. Rosengren; and Kevin M. Warsh. Voting against was Thomas M. Hoenig, who preferred no change in the federal funds rate at this meeting.

In a related action, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a 25-basis-point decrease in the discount rate to 5 percent. In taking this action, the Board approved the requests submitted by the Boards of Directors of the Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco.

MSN Money Article

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blogging About Blogs

I'm always trying to keep up with what's being talked about in the mortgage industry, so I read a lot of blogs related to the industry. Starting a blog is simple. Blogger, Wordpress, and Xanga are just a few places to start. They're easy and they're free. Other business sites like ActiveRain or Merchant Circle allow you to start a blog as part of your profile. Plenty of people in the mortgage industry have something to say. Unfortunately, many say it poorly. Some use their business blog as a personal site, with updates on vacations, their family, their dogs, their favorite foods, and other completely irrelevant information. Others blog because they have an axe to grind. Some ramble on with no clear point, others butcher the English language. Laura Vestanen wrote an article a while back on GoGetNotary that offers some good points on writing a blog.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I've noticed one blog that I think absolutely rises above the rest. Robert Franco at Source of Title writes about concerns affecting small title agencies and abstractors. He's knowledgeable and interesting. He has a pleasant and clear writing style, and his topics are relevant to almost anyone in the mortgage industry (his 10/19/07 article on business relationships could speak to a lot of us). His blog is absolutely a must read.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Countrywide To Offer Loan Modifications

Countrywide Financial announced plans to offer refinance and modification programs totaling as much as $16 billion dollars for subprime borrowers. The plan allows those with a good payment history the opportunity to obtain a prime or FHA loan. Countrywide plans to contact approximately 52,000 borrowers to offer the refinance options.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Add Widgets to Your Website or Blog

Widgetbox is a site where you can find little applications to add to your website or blog. You can chose from hundreds of widgets. Once you choose your desired widget, Widegetbox creates the HTML code that can be pasted into your site. There are a couple of apps that I find useful to this industry, including the mortgage calculator and PDF converter:

Friday, October 19, 2007

I Have Another Pair Just Like It

Yesterday morning was hectic. I quickly get ready and rush out to my appointments. I'm looking good (or so I think). At the end of a long day, I crumble down on my couch and take off my shoes. To my horror, I realize I've been wearing two different shoes. Ok, it's not like one was red and the other was brown, they were both black. But they were clearly different styles. What a dork. But I'm not the only one that's ever done this. I'm not, am I?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Conflict of Interest

An interesting question was posed today about what is considered a conflict of interest when notarizing a signature. The following is an excerpt from Michigan's Notary Public Act (In Michigan, you can not notarize for family members. I'm told that some states do allow this as long as there is no conflict of interest):

A notary public shall not perform any notarial act in connection with a transaction if the notary public has a conflict of interest. As used in this subsection, "conflict of interest" means either or both of the following:
- The notary public has a direct financial or beneficial interest, other than the notary public fee, in the transaction.
- The notary public is named, individually, as a grantor, grantee, mortgagor, mortgagee, trustor, trustee, beneficiary, vendor, vendee, lessor, or lessee or as a party in some other capacity to the transaction.
- A notary public shall not perform a notarial act for a spouse, lineal ancestor, lineal descendant, or sibling including in-laws, steps, or half-relatives.

What the statute DOESN'T cover is a situation where a legal conflict may not exist, but may still have the appearance of impropriety. Even the slightest appearance of a conflict (notarizing for a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, co-worker) could draw a notary into an undesirable situation. Brenda Stone of TexNotary has a wonderful way with words. Here are her (unofficial) rules when notarizing for friends/family:

- If you have even the slightest blush of concern about conflict of interest, don't do it.
- If you have to ask a notary board--you are already conflicted, it's not worth it, don't do it.
- If there are two sides to "the story", don't do it.
- If the sight or mention of your name will tick someone off who MAY see the document later, don't do it.
- If you have to bend the rules even ever-so slightly, don't do it.
- If the person is always in some kind of dysfunctional mess, don't do it.
- If they often get crossways with others, don't do it.
- Getting a notary is cheap. Pay a few bucks now to save yourself a ton of worry later. Just remember, Murphy's Notary Law States: No notary's good deed goes unpunished. EVER.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Notarizing With Physical Limitations

I love this career. I find it extremely rewarding. But there are times when notaries are drawn into very unpleasant situations. Last night was one of those situations. I was called to travel to a hospital to notarize a signature on a power of attorney for a man that I was told was gravely ill and had only hours to live. I was told that the individual was able to sign and that he was conscious and aware. After arriving, I was then informed that he was not physically able to sign. What to do next? In Michigan, a notary public can sign the name of a person whose physical limitations prevent them from signing or making a mark. Per 55.293, section 33 of the Michigan Notary Public Act, a notary public must be directed orally, verbally, physically, or through electronic or mechanical means provided by the individual to sign that person's name. The person must be in the physical presence of the notary public. Beneath the signature, the notary public inscribes the following: “Signature affixed pursuant to section 33 of the Michigan notary public act.”

Unfortunately, once I was taken to the room it was very clear that the individual was not aware or alert, and could in no way direct me to sign on their behalf. As difficult as it was, my only reasonable action was to decline.

As a notary public, this kind of situation is not uncommon. I would encourage everyone to know what their state allows in the event that an individual is physically unable to sign on their own behalf.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Choosing a Color Scheme For Your Website

If you've designed your own website or used a template that allows you to pick your website colors, trying to find colors that blend well can be time consuming and frustrating. Using a color wheel that finds matching and contrasting colors can make picking a color scheme enjoyable and simple. As a former small business website designer, I relied heavily on these two websites: Color Scheme and the new and improved Color Scheme Generator 2. Both allow you to pick a color and find other colors that match it based on contrast, soft contrast, pastels, and more. You can choose web safe colors only, and Color Scheme Generator 2 allows you to enter a hexadecimal color code (RGB) and find matches. After creating the scheme you like, CSG2 also lets you save the url for later.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Morgan Stanley to Cut 600 Jobs

Morgan Stanley this week announced plans to cut 600 jobs, including 500 in the United States.
See MSNBC & The Wall Street Journal .

Does This Sound Familiar?

Kudos to Robert Franco. Although the cartoon is about abstractors, we've all had the same conversation (click on the image).

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Collecting Past Due Debts

With many signing services struggling to meet their financial obligations, collecting on past due debts has become a hot topic. There have been some, um, unusual suggestions on how to collect these debts, including involving government officials or selling your debt to someone within close physical proximity to the company that owes the debt in hopes that they may have a better chance to collect the debt in person.

I believe a typical step approach still works best. Notify the signing service first by phone or e-mail, then if there's no resolution notify them in writing, then by certified letter, then proceed to small claims court or other legal remedies. If you've had a past relationship with the signing service with no prior problems, there's nothing wrong with a little patience. Public pressure seems to have an affect as well, so if you've tried reasonable measures with no success, calling out the offending party on some of the notary forums has worked in the past. No company wants a bad reputation. Contacting the title company can sometimes put pressure on the signing service. But understand that some of these steps, although they may eventually get you paid, may also alienate you from these companies. Temporary financial situations do sometimes arise, and you may not want to burn your bridges.

Above all, it's important to stay professional. Calling ten times a day, faxing them hundreds of times in an attempt to tie up their fax machine, or calling a borrower directly only serves to reflect poorly on you. If you intend on having a continued career in the industry, handle yourself in the same professional manner you would handle your loan signings.