No-Shave November Has Officially Begun

Whether you’re growing a beard or a mustache, November is the month to support men’s health.  Growing in popularity this month-long event raises funds and awareness for men’s health.


Movember takes over “the month formerly known as November” encouraging men to sign up online, clean shaven.  Throughout the month they shape and trim their mustaches into various styles.  Funds raised throughout Movember address men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that typically affect men.  Men who participate, Mo Bros, become walking billboards for men’s health and cancers.  Mo Bros also fundraise throughout the month, many reflecting on a family member’s battle with prostate cancer.

The Movember movement began in Australia and has spread across the world, raising over $174 million.  There have been over 1.1 million Mo Bros and Mo Sisters registered throughout the history of the event.  The amount raised in 2010 was double that of the fundraising dollars in 2009, reaching over $80 million.  $7.5 million of that total was raised in the United States from over 64,500 people.

Where exactly does the money go?  13 percent of the money raised is used for administrative costs, while 4 percent is retained by Movember to cover future advertisements and to retain the long-term goals.  83% of the money collected is donated!  The Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG each receive 35%, and the remaining 13% of funds are donated to Movember’s awareness and education programs.

More information is available online at Movember.

Thank you for growing a mustache gentlemen! Are you going to participate?

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill – Public Information Meeting TODAY

There will be a meeting today, May 4, at 4:30 PM (previously scheduled at 2:00), at the Okaloosa County School District Administrative Building 120 Lowery Street S.E. in Fort Walton Beach with representatives from the DEP, BP, the US Coast Guard, Okaloosa County, and other officials.  This meeting is being held to answer as many of your questions as possible.  Please plan to attend for any information you need concerning the oil spill.

Continue reading “Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill – Public Information Meeting TODAY”

Area Recreational Fishermen Travel to Washington, DC

Fishermen from around the country are planning to pack the steps in front of the U.S. Capitol this week to demand changes to a federal fisheries law they say is killing jobs and eroding fishing communities. Recreational Fishermen from Panama City, Destin and Mexico Beach will be loading buses Tuesday morning at Captain Anderson’s Marina and begin their journey to our Nation’s Capital. They will spend the night in Richmond and meet protesters from around the Country at the Capital Building for the rally at noon.

Organizers of the “United We Fish” rally expect an estimated 3-5,000 people at the Feb. 24 protest, including a bipartisan roster of congressmen, fishermen and their advocates from up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and a smattering from the West Coast and Alaska.  Continue reading "Area Recreational Fishermen Travel to Washington, DC"

Hot Dog Story – Do What You Do and Change for No One


Okay, I know there is so much talk about all the awful things that people see happening in our world. Lucky for me I DO NOT  buy into that.  There will always be challenges and struggles and while this one seems to be very daunting I have learned that those that find the bright spots and DO NOT operate out of fear end up on the top and better yet they enjoy getting there.

Please go to this link and read this incredible hot dog story that just might convince you to just keep on doing those things that you know work.  I have always loved this story and it is quite relevant today.  Do not give in to the negative small minded thinking and talking that we hear so much of. Most of us have more than we need and plenty that we could be sharing with others.

I am so grateful to all of you that have made my life so bright and always filled with promise.  I decided a long time ago to align myself with people that were looking for the possibilities rather than the problems.  I have been writing gratitude list since I was 10 years of age and it has never failed that my life is so filled with more goodness than not.

Thanks to all of you and go read that story and share it with others…. lets the spread the good stuff.   I believe the world needs a shot of happy stuff and I am just the girl to deliver it.

Remember my get even list, it is really long…. “The only people we need to get even with are those that have helped us”

with overflowing gratitude,

Karen Key Smith

Adjustable Rate Mortgages Are Our Friends

Yes, I know what you’re probably saying already. Where has this guy been? Living under a rock somewhere? Hasn’t he heard the nightmare stories about sub-prime mortgages, option ARMS and “liar loans” and how all of these ultra-risky vehicles got us into the mess we’re in right now? Indeed, the media has placed much of the blame for the collapse of home prices and the ongoing foreclosure crisis on the loose credit and lax credit standards for the proliferation of these exotic mortgage products that now make up much of the toxic debt on banks’ balance sheets. Yet, somehow, the plain old adjustable rate mortgage that has been around for decades has been painted with the same brush as the other mortgage products and unfairly so. Let me explain why ARMs are still around, always will be around, and why they may be the best friends we have right now.

The complete evaporation of a secondary mortgage market for condominiums and their twin the condo-tels, has forced banks to develop new vehicles for financing these properties. This is where the in-house loans, or portfolio loans as we call them, come in to play. These loans accept the risk associated with condos as collateral in a market that has seen condo prices plunge in recent years and ignore other factors that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with all the mortgage insurance companies, deem derogatory. But banks can’t loan money on these properties forever when they have no market to sell the loans. Eventually, they would have no money left to lend and would simply have a fat portfolio of nothing but condo loans and no capital. Corus Bank, the owner of Laketowne Wharf, is a great example of this scenario. That is why banks, like the bank I work for, turn to ARMs – they provide interest rate protection to the bank while offering the consumer a quantifiable risk scenario where they can weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision.

I have been a little perplexed lately when potential borrowers call to inquire about financing for a fantastic deal they are getting on a condo. When I explain I have two options, a 3/1 ARM at 6.00% or a 5/1 ARM at 6.75% there is often an immediate rejection of anything that isn’t a fixed rate and an inferred suspicion that I am some sort of snake oil salesman. Never mind there are no other options out there. What about the fact these ARMs have initial fixed periods at very attractive rates? What about the fact that there are no pre-payment penalties, (we want them to pay it off) very low fees, and annual and lifetime rate caps of 2% and 6% respectively? Do they even give me the opportunity to explain that the ARMs are tied to the 1 year Treasury yield which is one of the most stable indexes to be found having averaged 4.38% over the past twenty years? Do I have a glimmer of hope that they will listen to me explain how ARMs work and that if these ARMs were to adjust today they would actually go down? Nope. If it’s an ARM it’s snake oil and will lead them to financial ruin. Yet for those who don’t associate every ARM loan with housing horror stories and who weigh the pros and cons are using my ARM loans to scoop us fabulous deals on beachfront condominiums and stand to make substantial returns on their measured risk proposition. Did I say risk? Of course there is risk with an ARM. Rates could sky rocket in a worst-case scenario but given that the U.S. will probably keep short-term rates low for a very long time, the risk is acceptable.

No one wants you to take an ARM more than the bank someone once told me. Over the years I have found this to be more or less true from a banker’s perspective. So why have I, personally, taken out several ARM loans over the years? It is because that while an ARM provides some safety for the banks, it also provides opportunities to borrowers. Lower rates equate to qualifying for more loan. If I anticipate a rise in property values or an increase in my income, why not look at an ARM? But most significantly, when it is the only mortgage option available and there perhaps once in a lifetime opportunities on beach-front real estate, do ARMs not beg some consideration? ARMs are like bridges, they get us over an obstacle though we may not know what we’ll find on the other side. One borrower said to me recently when we were discussing the end of that bridge on a 5/1 ARM he was applying for, he poignantly stated, “If things aren’t better than this in five years then God help us all.” This lead me to reflect that the bank portfolio ARMs may not be a panacea but they do offer buyers, Realtors and bankers alike, a bridge to better times ahead.

For this and more, visit my blog at

With over fifteen years of mortgage and real estate experience, Hunter Palmer has the knowledge and expertise to help home buyers and Realtors navigate the ever changing real estate finance landscape.

Laketown Wharf – Corus Bank "Unlikely to Survive '09"

The future of Laketown Wharf in Panama City Beach is again dealt a blow of uncertainly as the owning bank, Corus shows increasing signs of weakening.  Friday, they reported a quarterly loss of $260.7 million and stated that more than a third of their “$4.1 billion in outstanding loans were nonperforming.”  On the bright side, Mike Dulberg, Corus’s CFO reported that they have $758 million in capital and $4 billion in liquid assetts and the vast majority of its $7.6 billion in consumer deposits is federally insured.

In the article, Daniel Cardenas, senior vice president at Chicago brokerage Howe Barnes Hoefer & Arnett Inc., was quoted:

“The company is in dire straits.  Barring a surprise injection of private capital and/or a dramatic rebound in condo values, Corus appears unlikely to survive 2009.”

The article was published in the Wall Street Jounal Commercial section in limited “subscriber only” format, but I found it elsewhere, in full:

Condo King Corus Weights Its Options

Few Borrowers Benefiting from latest "Refi Boom"

I can remember back sixteen years ago when thirty-year mortgage rates fell below 7% sparking a flood of refinances. I also remember 2003 when rates dipped again and another “refi boom” ensued. So with thirty year mortgage rates now at their lowest levels in history, why are we not seeing the kind of refi hysteria we have seen in past? Ironically, the cheap mortgage money of the past that helped drive up homeownership rates and property values has left us between a rock and a hard place. Despite historically low rates, much tighter underwriting guidelines coupled with the crash in home values leaves few borrowers in a position to refinance.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported on Wednesday that the national average interest rate for thirty-year, fixed-rate mortgages stood at 4.89% at the end of last week, down from 5.07% a week earlier and down from 6.50% in October. Much, if not all, of the decline in interest rates can be credited to the Federal Reserve’s program of buying up to $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which started on January 5th. This has narrowed the risk premiums associated with mortgage yields leading to the unprecedented drop in long-term rates.

However, according to Doug Duncan, chief economist for Fannie Mae, only a third of outstanding mortgage debt is eligible for refinancing. “Nearly 70% don’t make the cut,” he said ” because their credit isn’t good enough or they owe more than the current values of their homes.” Another set of homeowners locked out of the refinance opportunity are “jumbo” loan holders whose loan amounts exceed the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac maximum. Rates on “jumbo” loans have failed to follow the downward trend of conforming loan rates and have stayed stubbornly around the 7% mark.

Mortgage lenders are reporting that while refinance activity is up, only 50% of applicants end up closing due to credit or appraisal issues. In Florida, where home values have fallen sharply, only 25% of refinance applicants make it to the closing table. While Fannie Mae is looking into the possibility of allowing borrowers to refinance up to 120% of the current property value to help more “upside down” borrowers refinance, there is still no viable program in place. So while refinance “booms” of the past allowed a majority of homewowners to benefit from lower rates and monthly payments, along with the relatively cheap access to their home’s equity through cash-out, the only ones benefiting this time around seem to be those who need it least.

Borrowers who have been in their homes for a number of years and have substantial equity along with excellent credit are taking advantage of the lowest rates in history while those struggling in “upside down” mortgages are stuck with their higher rates. A silver lining would be if the rates stay low enough for long enough, borrowers may begin to choose to move up rather than sit tight in their homes. It will be that slow increase in demand that, ultimately, will stabilize home prices and spread the opportunity of lower rates to more homeowners.

Stimulating More Than the Economy

Over the coming weeks and months I will be explaining or trying to explain some of the complexities that exist in our current economy. First off let me explain to you that in no way am I trying to claim that I am an economic expert, but I do have access to privileged economic data, economic experts and I have an understanding of complex economic issues and concerns. That being said feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability. I will start by addressing issues that I hear in my everyday life from concerned people.

Are we heading towards a depression? The answer is maybe. The experts estimate that the national unemployment rate should peak at about 10 – 11%. The depression of the 1930’s had unemployment rates near 25%. Currently unemployment is just above 7% with a record layoff of more than 500,000 people just last month. 5% unemployment is considered full employment in the U.S. economy and if the unemployment rate hits 10% or more and stays there for more than a year then there will be a depression discussion. There is no standard definition of a depression and we cannot compare this crisis to the Great Depression because there are major differences in this economy when compared to the economy of the 30’s (no U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, etc.). The bright side is that the Great Depression was marked with high unemployment for many years and this financial crisis should clear up in a year or so.

How or will we recover from this crisis? This is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, but we will absolutely recover. Our economy is cyclical and goes through regular cycles of peaks and valleys. Quietly the U.S. dollar has steadily risen back to normal levels and foreign investors are investing in U.S. Treasury securities in a major way. No matter how bad our economic condition, U.S. Treasury securities are the most sought out investment instrument in the world. The Federal Reserve is also purchasing U.S. Treasury securities to infuse cash into the system. This infusion of cash will hopefully help ease the credit crunch (a lack of lending and loans from lending institutions). The easing of the credit crunch will hopefully help to stabilize financial institutions and help increase consumer confidence. And when consumers start buying again then slowly jobs will be created. Employment numbers are the last thing to be hurt from a recession and the last thing to recover from one.

Recessions are vicious cycles. Consumer confidence lowers and consumer spending decreases. Business profits shrink and these businesses have to lay off employees. These layoffs help to reduce consumer confidence even more and business profits decrease even more. This creates more layoffs and you can see how this cycle can spiral out of control.

Do not freak out when on January 30 you hear a report that gross domestic product (measures our nation’s income) has had the worst decline in one quarter in the history of the U.S. It will be the worst ever but the bright side is that the “worst quarter in history” is over and the first quarter of 2009 will be a little better.

New FNMA Condo Guidelines Chilling to Panama City Beach

FNMA released new condo eligibility guidelines for mortgages acceptable to be purchased by FNMA in Announcement 08-34.  These new guidelines are directed specifically toward condominiums located in Florida.  The guidelines specify particular situations that place additional restrictions on condominium mortgages that FNMA will purchase in the secondary market.  The new guidelines have an effective date of January 15, 2009.

Some of the highlights are:

  • Reduced loan to value ratios.
  • 70 percent of the total units in a project must have been sold or under a bona fide contract to a principal residence or second home purchaser.  This could affect new buildings such as Trade Winds, Ocean Reef, Origin of Seaheaven, Grand Panama, Shores of Panama, Etc.
  • No more than 15 percent of the total units in a project can be 30 days or more past due on the payment of their condominium/association fee payments.  This includes the unsold units where the developer is responsible for paying the HOA fees.
  • Increased insurance requirements for the HOA and the unit owners.
  • Projects are ineligible where a single entity (the same individual, investor group, partnership, or corporation) owns more than 10 percent of the total units in the project.  This may affect Emerald Beach where the Wyndham Corporation owns more than 50 percent of the units.  If a hedge fund comes in and buys 10-20 percent of a project, say the Trade Winds, it could mean that FNMA would not purchase any mortgages of the remaining units.
  • Review of the project HOA budget and income statement, especially for projects where the developer is still in control of the HOA.  This could be a problem for projects where the developer has not fully funded the required HOA fees of the unsold units.
  • Projects are ineligible where the HOA or developer (if he is still in control of the HOA) is named as a party to current litigation that relates to the project.  This could affect Shores of Panama that is in bankruptcy or projects where the developer is being sued for nonpayment of construction work or services.

Lenders are also increasingly reluctant to lend on what they consider to be condo-tels.  FNMA may consider projects with any of the following characteristics as condo-tels:

  • Front Desk/Registration Service
  • Central telephone system
  • Daily cleaning service
  • Advertising rental rates
  • Central key system
  • Few or no full time residents
  • Short-term rentals

There are exceptions to all of the rules.  However, if you have a great contract from a well qualified buyer, don’t be surprised if the loan gets rejected by the lender.  Additional loan collateral requirements will mean fewer sales and a longer market recover period.

Sam Portman,