Thursday, July 31, 2008

Improving Your Results In Local Searches

Google Maps, Yahoo Local On May 17th I wrote about increasing local web visibility by getting listed on Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and other local searches. Go Get Notary was also kind enough to include my article on the subject in their last newsletter. If you've added your listing to various local map sites and want to do even more to increase your positioning or ranking within these listings, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) consultant David Mihm has compiled absolutely the most comprehensive discussion on local search factors. Mr. Mihm asked 20 experts from the Local Search Marketing community to participate in a study designed to identify factors involved in ranking well in the Google and Yahoo Local Search algorithms, as well as methods to avoid.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

President Bush Signs The U.S. Housing Bill

mortgage bill, loan applications The housing bill sets up a fund to aid troubled homeowners, offers tax breaks, adds support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and allows the U.S. government more power to take equity stakes in credit companies if needed. The bill comes at a time when mortgage applications hit their lowest level since 2000 and on a day when Mercury Company and all it's subsidiaries went belly up.

(Mercury subsidiaries include: American Heritage Title Agency, Arizona Title Agency, Financial Title Company, First American Heritage Title Company, Guardian Mortgage Documents, Investors Title Company, Lender's First Choice Agency dba Lenders Choice Title Company, All Reverse Title, Mercury Exchange, Mercury Settlement Services, Mercury Transaction Services, Security Title Guaranty, Title America, Title Guaranty Agency of Arizona, Title Guaranty Agency of Colorado, United Title Company, United Title of Texas, and USA Digital Solutions)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Foreclosures Continue To Climb

Foreclosures Foreclosures more than doubled in the second quarter of 2008, up 121% from the second quarter of 2007. Foreclosure filings increased in 48 states, with only North Dakota and Alabama missing the party. Nevada, California, Arizona, and Florida lead the way.

Monday, July 21, 2008

All In Favor Say "i"

Mobile iPhone After two years of using the Verizon Pocket PC, possibly the worst mobile phone ever made, I finally made the leap this week to the new iPhone. I've had four Pocket PCs in two years due to various malfunctions, and I didn't even bother getting another when the fourth one started up with many of the same problems. Verizon couldn't fix it, and wouldn't let me replace it with a different mobile phone, even though I was willing to take a much less expensive model.

So on to the iPhone. Holy Toledo! This is one remarkable piece of technology. I remember how I felt the first time I bought an HDTV. I stayed up all weekend watching anything and everything. Tennis, and fishing, and nature shows, and infomercials. I was mesmerized. I feel that way again. E-mails are crystal clear, the calendar is arranged perfectly, visual voicemail is soooooo cool, web browsing is quick and limitless, contacts are a breeze to scroll through, the Google Map based GPS is easy to follow, and oh yeah, the phone is pretty nifty too. There are hundreds of apps that can be downloaded for free or cheap for additional functionality or fun. Banking, stocks, sports, music, all at the touch of a button. I'm completely hooked. Un iPhone avant tout le monde!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Michigan Notary Network Requirements

Michigan Notary Network As we continue to put things in place for the Michigan Notary Network, there's been a lot of thought about membership requirements and professional conduct. How do we distinguish ourselves as the cream of the crop? Here's some of the criteria for membership in the Michigan Notary Network. But whether or not you're a member of any network or aspire to be part of a network, shouldn't every signing agent be following many of these protocols?

I provide clear and accurate loan document presentations
I guarantee the accuracy of my services 100%
I strive for same-day return shipping of loan packages
I value my profession
I understand and uphold the GLBA, the Privacy Act, and proper business ethics (which includes absolutely NO marketing of other products or services to borrowers at any time)
I have the appropriate hardware and software needed, and the skill to use them
I am completely familiar with the Michigan Notary Public Act
I know when to ask a question and whom to ask
I have been awarded at least one industry Loan Signing Certification
I have a current and verifiable Background Check
I have a minimum of two years NSA experience and 500 loan signed
I will submit two Letters of Recommendation
I will participate in either a live or phone interview

The Word document for Membership Rules and Requirements has been temporarily posted here:

Once again, If you are a Michigan Notary and feel that you truly are "the best of the best," you can contact me at or Renee Kovacs at

Friday, July 11, 2008

Big Mac Attack - IndyMac Bank Seized

In a stunning announcement, The Office of Thrift Supervision announced that it has seized IndyMac's assets and transferred operations to the FDIC amidst fears that IndyMac was unable to meet its depositors' demands. IndyMac is the second largest financial institution to close in U.S. history. According to the IndyMac Bank website, all non-brokered insured deposit accounts have been transferred to IndyMac Federal Bank, F.S.B., Pasadena, CA ("assuming institution") a new FDIC-insured Federal Mutual Savings Bank. The announcement goes on to say that if the balance in your account(s) is less than $100,000, no action is required on your part at this time. Your entire insured account(s) will be transferred to IndyMac Federal Bank. Hmm, not sure what this means for my mortgage with IndyMac, but I think it means I don't have to pay back my mortgage and I now own my home free and clear! Sweeeet!

(Shhh, don't wake me from my dream)

Update 07/14/08: IndyMac reopens under control of Federal regulators

Bailout For Fannie & Freddie?

The New York Times is reporting that the U.S. government is considering a bailout plan for government sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as both finance companies continue to struggle with funding issues and shares drop to their lowest level since 1991. The plan to put both companies in receivership would leave shareholders with nothing and stick taxpayers with the cost of covering losses (that crushing sound you hear is your government piling on top of you). Fannie and Freddie currently hold about half the mortgages in the U.S.

07/13/08 Update: Fed to extend credit to Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Here's What's Really Wrong With The Mortgage Industry

Mortgage Denied Last week, Diane Cipa wrote a post about the FICO score and how it punishes the wrong people. Today, this hit home for me. A relative of mine needed $20,000 this week. His banker suggested a $20,000 HELOC. He has approximately $400,000 tied up in bonds and CDs and wanted to avoid paying a penalty for withdrawing a portion of his money early. He owns his $300,000 home outright. He and his wife paid cash for it 40 years ago. He's paid cash for all his cars. He owns three tracts of valuable land which he bought with cash 35 years ago. He and his wife have zero debt. The only credit card he has ever owned is his gas card which he pays off at the end of every month. He's lived his entire life within his means.

The bank denied his HELOC. Credit score too low. I spoke to the banker myself. We even went to high school together. Nothing can be done, the underwriters can't approve it because he has no past credit. Are you kidding me? He can't get a $20,000 loan on a paid off house worth at least $300,000 because he has no past credit?

So, you want to know what's wrong with the mortgage industry? We're idiots. We back up the money truck to those with a long history of living above their actual means, and we're stunned when it finally catches up with them. In the meantime, we consider those who are financially responsible their entire lives to be unacceptable risks. We're so stuck on more rules, and more forms, and more disclosures, and more requirements that we completely abandon all common sense. It's no wonder we're in this predicament. It was inevitable. We deserve it. And there's no sign that we're getting any wiser.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fed To Announce New Lending Rules

In an effort to avoid the same issues that plagued the subprime industry, the Federal Reserve will next week announce new rules that would restrict prepayment penalties (something I think I've seen once in the last year anyway), require lenders to make sure borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance (forced escrow?) and bar lenders from making loans without proof of a borrower’s income (are lenders still doing this?). It would also require lenders to consider a borrower’s ability to repay a home loan from sources other than the home’s value. So now THIS is the next great cure for the mortgage blues, right?

In addition, the Fed once again defended their actions in aiding Bear Sterns and providing last ditch assistance to Wall Street investment houses.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Do Your Business Cards End Up In The Trash?

I'll bet they wouldn't if you had these amazing cards. Thanks to Renee K. for sending me the link to Creative Bits and these ingenious business cards. There's also an interesting collection on Flickr.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In With The New - The New Michigan Notary Network

Michigan Notary Network After considerable evaluation and discussion, I've decided to sever my ties to the Michigan Mobile Loan Closers Network (MMLCN). Although I have valued my relationship with the MMLCN, it has become clear that the network direction is not aligned with my own business goals and what I see as a successful network model. To claim to be "the best of the best," I believe that a notary network must include specific and documented requirements for membership and participation, including verified experience and proficiency with loan signings, referrals, background checks, ethical guidelines, a code of conduct, and network marketing. As it currently stands, there are no such documented requirements for the MMLCN, and no indication of any plan to go in this direction.

So with that, Renee Kovacs and I have left the MMLCN and we've decided to start a new Michigan network, simply called The Michigan Notary Network (MNN). Over the next several weeks, we'll be working on setting up guidelines and requirements for the Michigan Notary Network, creating a web page here on the Detroit Notary site and updating the rest of the site, as well as creating a stand alone site at The goal is to draw from other successful network models, such as the Florida Network. We also feel that it's imperative to align with other state networks in Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, California, Ohio, and Virginia. We are moving forward with those relationships as well.

If you are a Michigan Notary and feel that you truly are "the best of the best," you can contact me at or Renee Kovacs at Also, stay tuned here as I'll be posting the requirements and updates as they are completed.