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The Electoral College Explained

The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The founding fathers established it in theConstitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.

The Electoral College process consists of the selection of the electors, the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.

The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your state’s entitled allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two for your Senators. Read more about the allocation of electoral votes.

Under the 23rd Amendment of the Constitution, the District of Columbia is allocated 3 electors and treated like a state for purposes of the Electoral College. For this reason, in the following discussion, the word “state” also refers to the District of Columbia.

Each candidate running for President in your state has his or her own group of electors. The electors are generally chosen by the candidate’s political party, but state laws vary on how the electors are selected and what their responsibilities are. Read more about the qualifications of the Electors and restrictions on who the Electors may vote for.

The presidential election is held every four years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. You help choose your state’s electors when you vote for President because when you vote for your candidate you are actually voting for your candidate’s electors.

Most states have a “winner-take-all” system that awards all electors to the winning presidential candidate. However, Maine and Nebraska each have a variation of “proportional representation.” Read more about the allocation of Electors among the states and try to predict the outcome of the Electoral College vote.

After the presidential election, your governor prepares a “Certificate of Ascertainment” listing all of the candidates who ran for President in your state along with the names of their respective electors. The Certificate of Ascertainment also declares the winning presidential candidate in your state and shows which electors will represent your state at the meeting of the electors in December of the election year. Your stateÂ’s Certificates of Ascertainments are sent to the Congress and the National Archives as part of the official records of the presidential election. See the key dates for the 2016 election and information about the roles and responsibilities of state officialsthe Office of the Federal Register and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and the Congress in the Electoral College process.

The meeting of the electors takes place on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the presidential election. The electors meet in their respective states, where they cast their votes for President and Vice President on separate ballots. Your state’s electors’ votes are recorded on a “Certificate of Vote,” which is prepared at the meeting by the electors. Your state’s Certificates of Votes are sent to the Congress and the National Archives as part of the official records of the presidential election. See the key dates for the 2016 election and information about the roles and responsibilities of state officials and the Congress in the Electoral College process.

Each state’s electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress on the 6th of January in the year following the meeting of the electors. Members of the House and Senate meet in the House chamber to conduct the official tally of electoral votes. See the key dates for the 2016 election and information about the role and responsibilities of Congress in the Electoral College process.

The Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count and announces the results of the vote. The President of the Senate then declares which persons, if any, have been elected President and Vice President of the United States.

The President-Elect takes the oath of office and is sworn in as President of the United States on January 20th in the year following the Presidential election.

Why Your Agent Won't Answer Certain Questions

Maybe you've noticed a certain suspicious silence on some issues. No, your agent isn't ignorant or shirking. Here's what's really going on, and how to find the information you seek.

Want to know how old the roof is on a house, or whether it uses gas or electrical heat? Your trusty real estate agent can tell you pretty much anything you need to know about a home you’re hoping to buy (or at least find answers for you). Yet if you ask your agent certain questions, you might be puzzled to hear nothing but an awkward silence. Why? It’s not that real estate agents don’t know the answer; they probably do. It’s just that they’re correctly staying on the right side of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or family/economic status.

So that silence is actually a good thing—it means that your agent is conscientiously steering clear of the tinderbox issues hidden within your innocent questions.

Here are the top ones that leave them feeling tongue-tied—plus where you can actually find the answers you seek.

Question No. 1: Is this a good place to raise a family?

This question is often “a lose/lose/lose for the Realtor®,” says David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in real estate. If an agent admits a certain area is not all that family-friendly, “it could imply that families with kids aren’t welcome.” Or, on the flip side, “if the agent says that the neighborhood is a good place for kids, that could be interpreted as saying households without kids aren’t welcome, which is another form of discrimination.”

Housing professionals who try to either encourage or discourage home buyers based on the kid question can, and do, face consequences in court.

Bottom line: Rather than get burned, a cautious agent refrains from presuming where you and your brood will thrive. So if you want to know this info, you’ll have to do your own research  (more on how to do that below).

Question No. 2: What’s the neighborhood like?

Ask a close friend this question, and you may hear a candid answer along the lines of “Mostly Irish Catholic with a small Chinatown and a sprinkling of hipster transplants fleeing the city.” Awesome!

Your agent, however, will almost certainly not go there, particularly when it comes to race, because such discussions come uncomfortably close to “redlining”—a form of discrimination in which home buyers are steered toward or away from neighborhoods based on the color of their skin.

Still, if you want to get a sense of an area’s ethnic makeup, the U.S. Census website has all the info you need (and those sources will certainly be more accurate than any one person’s opinion). You can also find out about a neighborhood at realtor.com®/local, which has a message board where you can query people living in the area.

Question No. 3: Is this area safe?

Let’s say that there used to be gang violence on a nearby block that’s getting better. You might appreciate knowing this, but such comments could be construed as racist or classist by steering you toward or away from a particular neighborhood, which is why prudent agents keep their lips zipped.

Luckily, though, such info is readily available in the form of crime statistics. Type in an address at My Local Crime to access any recent local crimes, from vandalism to shootings. A map will point you to the exact spot where they happened so you know exactly which blocks are sketchier than others.

Question No. 4: How are the schools here?

Because the racial divide can also run deep in U.S. schools, “a Realtor has to be careful not to let their answer be construed as a coded message about race,” Reiss says. Rather than risk a potentially offensive miscommunication, Realtors may very well introduce you to one of many websites that rank schools—such as Great Schools and School Digger.

Another option: If you have your heart set on your child attending a certain school, download realtor.com’s mobile app, which allows you to search for homes for sale by school district.

THE 9 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO

When shopping for a home, it’s easy to become focused on the aesthetics of a property and forget all of the other factors that will affect whether it’s a good fit or not. To help you find the home that’s right for you, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Visit your lender before you start looking to determine what you can afford.

2. Visit home shows or open houses sponsored by builders or real estate agents to find the style of home and neighborhood you desire.

3. Look at the quality of construction, especially cabinetry, carpeting, trim, and paint.

4. Always keep value in mind when shopping. Consider the factors that could potentially influence the price and desirability of the property, including, housing supply and demand, schools, new development, and the condition of neighboring homes.

5. Determine whether it will meet your needs now and in the future. For example, are there enough living spaces, bedrooms, and storage areas?

6. Think about the cost of maintenance and the amount of effort it will take to keep the property in top condition—both indoors and outdoors.

7. Consider the location of the home and whether it’s ideal for your lifestyle. Is it near parks, shopping, transportation, or other places that interest you?

8. Read and make sure you understand everything in all contracts and forms that you sign. Keep in mind that if you negotiate a contract with an allowance to pay closing costs and/or pre-paids or a reduction in the sales price, you will not get money back at closing if the original estimated amounts are reduced for any reason.

9. Ask questions! Your REALTOR® and loan officer are there to help you with the home-buying process, so take advantage of their knowledge. No matter how simple or complex your questions are, it’s important to get the answers you need in order to make an informed decision. THE 9 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO WHEN LOOKING FOR A NEW HOME *Be sure to contact a REALTOR for home-buying advice

Be objective


You know the old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees? Well, that can apply to real estate. It’s natural to be attached to your home and therefore not be able to see it “clearly,” like a buyer would.

If you’re selling, you’ll need to get into an objective frame of mind. Look at your home from the street and be as judgmental as possible. Ask yourself, “What would make someone want to buy my home?” and remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Jot down what you would change, and then give me a call so we can talk about step two.

Is there anything you can think of you want to change right off the bat? And if you’re buying, what’s your must-have in a home?

FortHoodPro.com
Jesse Mansfield-Associate Broker Century 21 Premier

Harker Heights 76548 Market Watch

Home Sales for Harker Heights zip code 76542 and 76548 From August 11 to November 12, 2016.

  • 2 Bedroom Homes / AVG sales price $75000, AVG list Price $79000, List to Sell ratio=95%
  • 3 Bedroom Homes /AVG sales price $141,095, AVG list Price $142,423, List to Sell Ratio=99%
  • 4+ Bedroom Homes /AVG sales price $218,211, AVG list Price $220,319    List to sell Ratio= 99%
  • Total Sales 90 days=$19,300,401

If you would like a price valuation for your Harker Heights home please email jesse@forthoodpro.com.

Illegal or Legal: How Does Your Landlord’s Crazy Behavior Stack Up?

OK, we’ll say it. Being a landlord may not always be easy, but being a tenant isn’t a cakewalk, either. Unless you’re the luckiest renter on the planet, your landlord can probably make you a little cray.

Sometimes even fuming, call-them-up-and-give-them-a-few-choice-four-letter-words kind of cray.

But is your landlord really crossing the line, or should you suck it up and deal?

To find out, we presented an expert with some situations that would make us go to DEFCON 1, and asked him to choose a side.

Scenario 1

You finally found a cute private rental home with a backyard, so you go overboard and decorate that mother up. Then your landlord shows up and tells you to take it all down.

Verdict: Illegal

There is some gray area here. If the yard looks like Clark Griswold’s house at Christmas and you’re blinding the neighbors, your landlord is probably justified. But otherwise the landlord needs to prove it isn’t allowed, and sometimes that’s no easy task.

If you’re in a private rental home or a condo, the landlord may have to answer to a homeowners association—and show you where the HOA rules (known as covenants, codes, and restrictions, or CC&R) say the decor isn’t allowed.

“The yard or porch can only have restrictions if there are restrictions in the landlord’s CC&R,” says Jonathan G. Stein, a consumer law attorney in Elk Grove, CA.

If you’re in an apartment complex, the rules on outside decor (e.g., plants, grills, bikes, etc.) should have been laid out in your lease. If they weren’t, your landlord doesn’t have much to stand on.

Scenario 2

Your college buddies—and their four friends—are in town and need a place to crash for a week. Your landlord finds out and says they need to go.

Verdict: Legal

 

Sorry, party people. As much as it pains us to admit this, your landlord gets a say in this situation.

“They can limit guests, especially the number,” Stein says. “They can also limit how long a guest stays.”

But here’s the catch: Your landlord should have stated the limits in your lease. If he didn’t, and you’re not bothering the other tenants, there isn’t much he can do. Read your lease!

Scenario 3

You’re minding your own business, paying your rent, and generally trying to avoid your landlord, but he isn’t trying to avoid you. Just this week he’s called four times and sent nine texts and seven emails. This is harassment! Right?

Verdict: Legal

Your landlord might like you a little too much, but if he’s sticking to reasonable hours, there isn’t much you can do. Still, check your state’s landlord and tenant laws for a cap. In California, for example, your landlord has to limit communications to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. unless there’s an emergency, according to Stein.

Scenario 4

Thanks to your well-placed webcam (you knew that would come in handy!), you found out your landlord came into your apartment without telling you first. When you question why, your landlord says he needed “to check something.”

Verdict: Illegal

Your landlord can’t get all in your business without warning unless there is an emergency. And it has to be a legitimate one.

“If there was water leaking from an upstairs unit into a downstairs unit, that would be an emergency. If there is a smell of fire or someone sees smoke, that would be an emergency,” Stein says. “A barking dog is not an emergency, nor would be a situation where the landlord thinks someone may be smoking.”

Scenario 5

Your landlord has decided to sell, and now he wants to show the property all the time.

Verdict: Illegal (mostly)

“The tenant can limit the landlord from showing the property to regular hours and must give notice prior to anyone—including the agent—entering the property,” Stein says.

But you can’t keep your landlord out forever. As long as he’s giving notice, you have to let him show the place to prospective buyers.

 

5 Seller Safety Tips

When you’re selling your property, there’s one important thing you shouldn’t ignore: your safety. While it’s unlikely you’ll experience issues, there are a few precautions you can take to avoid problems.

Hire a Texas REALTOR®. If you sell your property on your own, how will you vet strangers who want to see it? Texas REALTORS® often manage that guesswork by assessing prospects and handling viewing appointments around your schedule.

Store your valuables. Before your house is shown to prospective buyers, you may want to put valuable items like cash or jewelry in a safe-deposit box, or temporarily house your high-quality electronics in a storage facility. And put those valuable items away before your Texas REALTOR® takes photos so your listing doesn't attract people interested in these items rather than your property.

Put away your prescriptions. Lock up your prescription medication or keep it with you when you leave for showings or an open house, since it’s another item that criminals often target.

Pack up your family photos. Storing these photos is often recommended for staging, but it can also be a safety measure. People touring your home don’t need to know your personal details, like the size of your family or what your kids look like.

Make prospective buyers go through your Texas REALTOR®. A for sale sign in your yard might attract people who will ring your doorbell to ask about viewing your property. Don’t let people enter your home in these circumstances. Instead, have them contact your Texas REALTOR® to set up an appointment.

Your Texas REALTOR® may have other tips to help you stay safe as a seller, and will ensure you have a smooth sale.

What Do I Need to Know About Plugging An Abandoned Water Well?

Groundwater from aquifers supplies over half of the water used in the state. With water being one of our state’s most precious natural resources, we must all take responsibility for protecting it.

For many years groundwater has been pumped through water wells. Over time, these wells can deteriorate or not be in use and therefore considered abandoned. It is estimated that 150,000 abandoned water wells exist in the state of Texas. These abandoned water wells are not only a route for possible contaminants to enter our groundwater supplies, but they are also a safety hazard to children and animals.

Contaminants that enter a well are introduced directly into the aquifer because they are not naturally filtered by soils or geologic materials. If a concentrated chemical enters a well, it may reach levels in the underlying aquifer that threaten human health. This puts other wells in the aquifer at risk, particularly those that are close to the abandoned well. If your well is a deteriorated well it must be properly abandoned and cannot be capped. A deteriorated well is a well that, because of its condition, will cause or is likely to cause pollution of any water in this state, including groundwater. In certain cases the contaminated water can even migrate to other aquifers, putting additional water wells at risk.

According to Texas law, a water well is considered abandoned if it is not in use. However, a non-deteriorated well can be considered in use if it contains a casing, pump, and pump column in good condition or if it has been capped.

The landowner may plug any well located on their own property. If the well is not plugged by the landowner then it must be plugged by a licensed water well driller or pump installer. Before any work is done, the landowner is encouraged to contact the Water Well Drillers and Pump Installers Program of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) and get a plugging method approved. Prior to plugging a well located on their property, the landowner should consult the Landowner’s Guide to Plugging Abandoned Water Wells . If the well does not fall within the requirements listed in RG-347, licensed water well drillers or licensed pump installers can legally plug the well.

If the well is within a Groundwater Conservation District (GCD or "district"), the landowner must notify

the district of their intention to plug the well, request the district’s plugging application, and pay applicable fees if required.

Within 30 days after the well is plugged, a copy of the well-plugging form should be sent to the TDLR and the local GCD. The plugging report can be filed online; however, the landowner will need to contact TDLR for a user ID and Password first.

The basic steps to plugging an abandoned well are:

Determine the size of the well;

Remove debris from the well;

Disinfect the well to ensure that disease-causing microorganisms are not sealed in the aquifer;

Remove all removable casing;

Fill the well with plugging material; and,

Complete and mail the state plugging form to the TDLR.

Some areas of Texas have assistance programs for plugging abandoned wells. The landowner may contact their local GCD representative, as well as their Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board representative, to see if a program is available in their area. The Texas Groundwater Protection Committee (TGPC) has also created an online map of GCDs with available abandoned water well Cost Share Plugging Programs available.

Further information about plugging abandoned wells is available by contacting a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent, the local GCD, or the TDLR.

Note that:

A seller must disclose whether there is a private/domestic water well on the property and its condition (Tex. Property Code, Title 2, Chapter 5, Section 5.008); and,

A real estate agent must ensure that known property defects are disclosed to a potential buyer (Tex. Occupations Code, Title 7, Chapter 1101, Section 1101.652(b)(3) and (4)).

 

Upgrading to Windows 10?

Individual consumers and businesses are both closely watching the release of Microsoft’s newest operating system (OS), Windows 10. A recent Spiceworks survey shows 75% of respondents saying they plan to adopt Windows 10 for home use within the first year of its release.1 But when it comes to upgrading your business instead of your home, there are more complicated issues to consider. We’ve heard your concerns and questions about upgrading, and to help navigate the issue we’ve put together the top 4 questions your business should ask before making the move to Windows 10. 1. How much time will you spend training? According to Spiceworks, many users are excited about the return of familiar Windows features such as the Start Menu.1 Others are looking forward to new productivity features like the enhancements to File Explorer (previously called Windows Explorer), a new multiple desktop feature, and a unified settings panel.1 But no matter how user-friendly a new OS is, there will always be a learning curve. That curve can often mean a temporary hit to productivity as employees learn the new environment, even if they become more productive in the long-term. Less tech-savvy users may also need structured training in order to be comfortable with the new OS. So before upgrading, make sure you have the time and resources your workforce needs to transition with minimal loss of productivity. 2. Will essential programs continue to work? Some businesses rely on proprietary software that may be incompatible with Windows 10, or use hardware that may not have updated drivers immediately available for the new OS.1 To gain a better sense of what compatibility issues you might run into, run the free Microsoft Upgrade Assistant, which you can download here. This program will tell you which programs will be automatically reinstalled, and which may have issues after the upgrade. While files and data on the hard drive will not be lost in the upgrade, HP recommends a complete backup before any major migration. Keep in mind that some features your business currently uses in Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 may not be available in Windows 10. Discontinued features include Windows Media Center, Windows 7 desktop gadgets, and USB floppy drivers. If your organization currently uses any of these features, you’ll need to put alternatives in place before making the move to Windows 10. 3. When will you be able to upgrade? When asked what Windows 10 features they consider to be the most intriguing, 55% of respondents cited Microsoft’s offer of a free upgrade from qualified Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.1 But the upgrade to Windows 10 Pro is only free for 1 year.2 Enterprise upgrades are not included without a Software Assurance subscription in volume licensing. In addition, Microsoft support for Windows 7 has already ended, and support for Windows 8.1 will end January of 2018.3 Businesses need to consider when would be the best time for their organization to upgrade, and if they can realistically take advantage of the free offer while their current OS is still supported. Upgrades take time, especially for IT as they download and install the new OS, verify that the software is running correctly, and reorient users to the new system. Many industries have periods of lower volume when IT may have more time and an OS migration might be less disruptive. The free upgrade is tempting, but the timing needs to be right for your business. 4. Are the new features worthwhile? Cortana,4 the voice-activated digital assistant currently only found on Windows Phones, will be making its PC debut, as well as improved multi-monitor support. But Cortana will require a constant internet connection to function, and multi-monitor support is only useful for workstations with multiple monitors. And while Windows 10 may offer performance improvements, that boost may not even be noticeable if your current programs aren’t taxing your PCs. Before deciding to upgrade, you need to consider whether your business can actually utilize and benefit from what Windows 10 has to offer. Nearly all IT professionals—96%—have expressed at least some interest in Windows 10.1 And there are compelling reasons for businesses to make the switch, such as new security features like Windows Hello, Passport, and Enterprise Data Protection. But rolling out a brand new OS can be daunting. HP understands that, and has an array of services to help you understand everything Windows 10 has to offer, prep your environment, implement the right solution, and recommend the best hardware.5,6 Learn more about upgrading to Windows 10 for business

What does the new Qualified Mortgage mean to you?

The upcoming Qualified Mortgage (QM) and Ability to Repay rules will take effect on loan applications. Part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the new rules are designed to protect buyers from purchasing homes they can't afford and provide lenders protection from liability when originating loans that meet the Qualified Mortgage standard.   

What is a Qualified Mortgage?

A qualified mortgage is a home loan that has:

  • Regular periodic payments in substantially equal amounts
  • Been underwritten based on a fully amortizing payment schedule using the maximum rate allowable for the first five years after the date of the first periodic payment
  • Verified the borrower's income and assets; and current debts, including alimony and child support
  • A borrower's total debt-to-income ratio of no more than 43% (see "Temporary QM" for exceptions to this requirement)
  • Met points and fees limitations

None of the following features: negative-amortization, interest-only or balloon-payment features.

 

There are two types of Qualified Mortgages:

Temporary QM
Temporary QM loans are those that must be eligible for one or more of the following:

  • For purchase or guarantee by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac while operating under federal conservatorship or receivership
  • Guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA)
  • Guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

Because Temporary QM loans meet at least one of these requirements, they do not have to meet the 43% debt-to-income ratio. Instead they must continue to adhere to the requirements set forth by the above entities. The majority of loans in the mortgage market today fall into this category and therefore will not be affected by the 43% debt-to-income ratio. The temporary guidelines for these entities will remain in effect for seven years.

Standard QM
Standard QM loans are those that do not meet any of the Temporary QM requirements and must adhere to all QM standards, including the debt-to-income ratio. Some non-conforming lenders may amend their allowable ratio to 43%.                                                            

Points and Fees

A loan must not exceed the limits listed below for points and fees for either Temporary or Standard Qualified Mortgages. These fees typically do not include those that are paid to third parties such as appraisers or title companies unless those companies are affiliated with the lender.

Loan Amount

Cap

Greater than or equal to $100,000

3% of the total loan amount

Greater than or equal to $60,000 but less then $100,000

$3,000

Greater than or equal to $20,000 but less then $60,000

5% of the total loan amount

Greater than or equal to $12,500 but less then $20,000

$1,000

Less than $12,500

8% of the total loan amount

 

Higher-Priced Mortgage Loans

For a lender to originate a Qualified Mortgage with safe harbor legal protections, the lender must ensure that the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) does not exceed certain thresholds. For 1st lien mortgage loans, the APR cannot exceed an index called the Average Prime Offered Rate (APOR) by more than 1.5%. For 2nd lien mortgage loans, the APR cannot exceed the APOR by more than 3.5%. For the week of 12/2/2013, the APOR index for a 30 year mortgage was 4.35%. So if the QM rule were already in effect, then the APR limit would be calculated as follows for a 30 year 1st lien mortgage as of 12/2/2013: 4.35% + 1.5% = 5.85% APR Limit. The APOR rule is likely to be even more flexible for FHA loans once HUD revises their index to account for the annual insurance premium.

What does the Qualified Mortgage mean for you?

There will not be a significant impact for loans that are eligible for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA or USDA. Although some jumbo and non-conforming programs will tighten their standards to the 43% debt-to-income threshold, most customers using these programs will still qualify.

The points and fees limitations and higher-priced mortgage loan limits are generally seen as a positive for homebuyers, as they will prevent many lenders from charging high ancillary fees, large amounts of discount points, and higher interest rates. However, there will be a small amount of riskier loan products that will be difficult to offer without violating the QM thresholds. Some lenders may decide to offer those mortgage products that are not eligible for QM safe harbor legal protection, but doing so will expose them to greater legal risks.

                                                                                                                                         


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Jesse Mansfield
Associate Broker
CENTURY 21 Premier REALTORS

Phone: 512-556-7573
Email: jesse@forthoodpro.com

©2016 CENTURY 21 PREMIER REALTORS. CENTURY 21® is a registered trademark owned by Century 21 Real Estate LLC. Equal Housing Opportunity. Each office is independently owned and operated.