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Beware of mortgage fraud!

Sadly, there are many types mortgage fraud but the one that I would like to focus on this month is mortgage servicing fraud. What is mortgage servicing fraud? That’s when scammers send out a letter informing borrowers that their mortgages have been sold to another lender. The letter directs the recipients to mail their checks to a different company and address. Most borrowers don’t think anything of it because transfers like that are normal in our industry and they begin making payments to this so-called new lender. The borrowers don’t find out they’ve been scammed until at least a month ...

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Going green without going nuts

Some homeowners are willing to go to great lengths to save the environment, installing costly solar panels to replace traditional sources of electricity. But going green at home doesn’t have to involve spending an arm and a leg. There are many little things that you can do to lend Mother Nature a helping hand, and you can often save money in the bargain. Older refrigerators can use 10 to 50 percent more energy than the energy-efficient models that are available on the market today. Making that simple change could reduce your electrical usage by up to $150 a year. According ...

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Searching newspapers, old school vs. new

While I was in St. Paul, I spent a lot of time at their state historical library. (Believe me, I wish I lived closer to Springfield in order to do a lot of work here in Illinois!) They have one of the best collections of Minnesota newspapers around, covering most major cities and some smaller towns throughout the state. So before I went up there, I made sure I had a complete list of everybody I wanted to find in those papers, particularly death notices. When preparing to work with newspapers, whether small town or big metropolis, you need to ...

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Looking forward while glancing back

If only I had a dollar for every time someone said, “I wish we had our Roseland back,” I’d be a wealthy man. It should come as no surprise to Roselandites, but whenever I talk to Italian Americans from Taylor Street, Bridgeport, Melrose Park or Elmwood Park, the sentiment is the same: “I wish we had (insert neighborhood or town) back.” I don’t know if that’s any comfort, but it proves that change is unavoidable no matter where we’ve come from. “But, CJ, if the neighborhood hadn’t changed, it’d be the same.” Tell that to the Italian Americans who used ...

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What it costs to sell your home

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you may be a little thrown off when you receive the closing statement from your loan officer or attorney. You immediately ask, “What am I paying for and why is it so much?” Let me walk you through them. Your earnest money is a “good faith” deposit that is given to the seller’s representation or a mutually agreed upon title company once the sales contract is signed by all parties. This “up front” amount is usually subtracted from the bottom line due at the closing table. The bulk of your closing costs will be on ...

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Gearing up for a family reunion

I’m in St. Paul, Minn., at an annual family reunion and I’m partly prepared but not 100 percent. I knew about this year’s family reunion year ago, so I had plenty of time to prepare for it. Or so I thought! There are a lot of genealogy issues you need to work on before leaving town for a big reunion such as the one I am at. You should plan to make time to visit the family, both during the larger reunion party, and if possible, before or after to get more one-on-one time with specific relatives that you need ...

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The best uses of summer

As summer winds down, we recall the events we’ve attended throughout the season. We’ve celebrated everything from baptisms, communions and confirmations to graduations and class reunions to picnics with family, friends and neighbors. All of these events constitute a “best use of summer” kind of life. We Midwesterners so look forward to summertime that you’re hard-pressed to find us at home. This month’s column salutes these best-use-of-summer events and the togetherness and camaraderie they bring. St. Anthony’s always signals the start of summer with its communion and confirmation celebrations welcoming new members into the fold of the Catholic Church. Of ...

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Reappraising the appraisal process

So you’re placing your home on the market. This can be an emotional time because your home is where your family memories were made. In your eyes, your home may be worth one number, but in the eyes of an appraiser, that number often differs. And that second number can have a powerful impact on the price your home actually sells for. One of the biggest misconceptions is that the appraiser works for the buyer. The truth of the matter is the appraiser is hired by and works for the mortgage company. They are sent out as an independent third ...

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The upside to chaos

Chaos in Washington is keeping a lid on mortgage rates, which contributes to affordability. The firing of FBI director Comey and the ongoing Russia probes have put pressure on the Trump administration, which in turn has added a touch of volatility to the market. Stocks suffered their worse one-day decline in May, dropping more than 300 points. The drop in equities has helped mortgage bonds/rates, which have ticked down to some of the best levels of 2017. Shortly after the election, the 30-year fixed rate moved up to approximately 4.5 percent, but now has moved down into the low 4s. ...

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A genealogist is always prepared

When I’m not writing columns, I have a 9-5 job. Well, an 8-6 job. Some days it’s a 6-8 job! We’ve been through a lot of change in the past 18 months. Our parent company bought another company, and I worked 37 weekends to help get it up and running, only to have it sold in January. My role in the company has changed twice during this period, which means that after almost 24 years here, I’m still learning my new responsibilities. What does all this have to do with genealogy? Well, it means that despite earning four weeks paid ...

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