Jerilyn Fisher - Senior Mortgage Loan Officer

Harris Financial Corporation
1115 North Leroy Street --- Fenton, Michigan 48430 --- (810) 750-8200
"Big City Solutions - Small Town Service"

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Price of Children

This is just too good not to pass on to all. Something absolutely positive for a change. I have repeatedly seen the breakdown of the cost of raising a child, but this is the first time I have seen the rewards listed this way. It's nice ...

The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle income family. Talk about sticker shock! That doesn't even touch college tuition.

But $160,140 isn't so bad if you break it down.

It translates into:

* $8,896.66 a year,

* $741.38 a month, or

* $171.08 a week.

* That's a mere $24.24 a day!

* Just over a dollar an hour.

What do you get for your $160,140?

* Naming rights. First, middle, and last!

* Glimpses of God every day.

* Giggles under the covers every night.

* More love than your heart can hold.

* Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.

* Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies.

* A hand to hold, usually covered with jelly or chocolate.

* A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites

* Someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

For $160,140, you never have to grow up. You get to:

* finger-paint,

* carve pumpkins,

* play hide-and-seek,

* catch lightning bugs, and

* never stop believing in Santa Claus.

You have an excuse to:

* keep reading the Adventures of Piglet and Pooh,

* watching Saturday morning cartoons,

* going to Disney movies, and

* wishing on stars.

* You get to frame rainbows, hearts, and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, hand prints set in clay for Mother's Day, and cards with backward letters for Father's Day.

For $160,140, there is no greater bang for your buck. You get to be a
hero just for:

* retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof,

* taking the training wheels off a bike,

* removing a splinter,

* filling a wading pool,

* coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs, and coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.

You get a front row seat to history to witness the:

* first step,

* first word,

* first bra,

* first date, and

* first time behind the wheel.

You get to be immortal.

You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren and great grandchildren.

You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications, and human sexuality that no college can match.

In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there under God.

You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits.

So ... one day they will like you, love without counting the cost. That is quite a deal for the price!!!!!!!

And, you get to do it all over again with your grandchildren.

If you take care of yourself, you might even get to stick a "great" in there too!

Love and enjoy your children and grandchildren!!!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Happy Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, more than any other time in history since World War II, we thankfully think of those who have fought, who are now fighting, and who will continue to fight to preserve our liberty and the right of all people to live in freedom.

With all of the negative press coming out of Iraq lately, I thought I’d pass along the following email I recently received:

This is a letter from Ray Reynolds, a member of the Iowa Army National Guard serving in Iraq:

As I head off to Baghdad for the final weeks of my stay in Iraq, I wanted to say thanks to all of you who did not believe the media. They have done a very poor job of covering everything that has happened. I am sorry that I have not been able to visit all of you during my two-week leave back home. And just so you can rest at night knowing something is happening in Iraq that is noteworthy, I thought I would pass this on to you. This is the list of things that has happened in Iraq recently (please share it with your friends and compare it to the version that your paper is producing):
· Over 400,000 kids have up-to-date immunizations.
· School attendance is up 80% from levels before the war.
· Over 1,500 schools have been renovated and rid of weapons stored there so education can occur.
· The port of Uhm Qasar was renovated so grain can be off-loaded from ships faster.
· The country had its first two million barrel export of oil in August (of 2004).
· Over 4.5 million people have clean drinking water for the first time ever in Iraq.
· The country now receives two times the electrical power it did before the war.
· 100% of the hospitals are open and fully staffed, compared to 35% before the war.
· Elections are taking place in every major city and city councils are in place.
· Sewer and water lines are installed in every major city.
· Over 60,000 police are patrolling the streets.
· Over 100,000 Iraqi civil defense police are securing the country.
· Over 80,000 Iraqi soldiers are patrolling the streets side by side with U.S. soldiers.
· Over 400,000 people have telephones for the first time ever.
· Students are taught field sanitation and hand washing techniques to prevent the spread of germs.
· An interim constitution has been signed.
· Girls are allowed to attend school.
· Textbooks that don’t mention Saddam are in the schools for the first time in 30 years.

Don’t believe for one second that these people do not want us there. I have met many, many people from Iraq that want us there, and in a bad way. They say they will never see the freedoms we talk about but they hope their children will. We are doing a good job in Iraq, and I challenge anyone, anywhere, to dispute me on these facts . . . . If you are like me and very disgusted with how this period of rebuilding has been portrayed, email this to a friend and let them know there are good things happening.

Ray Reynolds, SFCIowa Army National Guard234th Signal Battalion

As we pause to give thanks on this holiday, let’s fly our flags a little more proudly and keep alive the spirit of American patriotism that is burning bright in us today.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Property Titles

For many, part of the "American Dream" is owning real property. Prior to completing the purchase a buyer is typically asked by his real estate agent, and later by the title company handling the sale, how title is to be held.

Titling is held as important for a variety of reasons. Understanding the difference between sole proprietorship, joint tenancy, tenants-in-common, and community property impacts creditor protection, estate planning, and marital dissolution issues.

Sole ownership means just that ... title is vested in one person or entity. The buyer will sign as a single individual (having never been married) or an unmarried individual (widowed or divorced,) or a married individual acquiring an interest as sole and separate property with the other spouse relinquishing all right, title or interest.

Tenancy-in-common allows any number of persons to hold title together with each having a divided interest, equal or unequal. This form of ownership is common among business owners, parents and children, and unmarried domestic partners.

Since one co-tenant cannot act on behalf of another, and they are not liable for the acts or omissions of other co-tenants, creditors can assert a claim against only a portion of the property evidenced by a co-tenant's interest.

For estate planning purposes, a co-tenant has all the rights of a sole owner for his/her portion of the property, including the power of appointment to give his interest away while alive or leave an interest by will at death. For gift or estate tax purposes, the value of a co-tenant interest may be discounted if the new co-tenant does not enjoy the total ownership of the property.

Prior to completing the purchase a buyer is typically asked by his real estate agent, and later by the title company handling the sale, how title is to be held.

Joint-tenancy differs from tenants-in-common in that the property ownership interests, which can be owned by any number of persons, cannot be divided. There is only one title to the property and all owners have equal rights of possession. Upon the death of an owner, that person's ownership interest ends and cannot be willed or given away. The survivor(s) retain all ownership interests.

A common mistake made by parents is to put children on property as joint tenants thinking that by doing so they can pass the property without going through probate. The latter is true, however in doing so they create a taxable event in that the transfer of a joint tenant interest is considered a gift requiring the filing of a gift tax return. Also, this exposes the property to creditor claims of any joint tenant.

Since a joint-tenancy arrangement passes the property to the surviving joint tenant, the decedent tenant has no power of appointment over that property at death. Parents holding property in joint-tenancy have effectively disinherited their children since the first to die parent cannot appoint his/her interest in the property to an heir by means of a will.

Finally, when a joint tenant dies, the surviving tenant is deemed to have received a gift from the deceased of one half of the value of the property. This inherited half receives a stepped-up cost basis equal to the value of the property at date of death. Unlike community property, the half interest retained by the surviving joint tenant retains the original cost basis.

Community property states, such as California and Washington, treat property held and titled by married couples as community property similar to joint tenancy with two very important exceptions. At the death of the first spouse, the decedent has full power of appointment, or the ability to give his/her interest to whomever he/she pleases. Most commonly, the property will be left to the surviving spouse to use for the rest of his/her life, then be passed to the children. Finally, at death, the property receives a full stepped-up cost basis, enabling the surviving spouse to sell the property without a capital gains tax.

Reprinted with permission. The opinions expressed are those of Wendell Cayton, a Registered Investment Advisor in the states of California and Washington, and not those of any com­pany with whom he is associated. He may be contacted at

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Find Local Gas Prices

This piece is being offered with two specific groups in mind: the eager home buyer and the real estate agent. However, anyone in the local area may benefit from this information. What is it? I'm glad you asked. Here is a link I found that claims to have local and current gas prices:

Click here ---> Find local gas prices with just one click!

There are a lot of beautiful homes on the market right around here. The good news ... there is a lot to choose from and in this environment that means you can find some great values for your dollars. The bad news ... there is a lot to choose from which means more driving which in turns means more gas consumption. And with today's gas prices, the cost of house hunting is on the rise. But do not let the gas prices discourage you. The money you could save on your next home purchase (for home buyers) or the money you make on the next home sale (for real estate agents) more than makes up for the increase in gas prices. However it still makes sense (or is it cents?) to be as frugal as possible.

So, if you are a home buyer or a real estate agent (or even just a visiting friend looking to save some money) please check out the above link and post a comment if you think this is helpful. Happy house hunting!

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Touching Mother's Day Story

A little boy came up to his mother in the kitchen one evening while she was fixing supper and handed her a piece of paper that he’d been writing on. After his mom dried her hands on an apron, she read it, and this is what it said:

For cutting the grass: $5.00
For cleaning my room this week: $1.00
For going to the store for you: 50¢
For babysitting my kid brother while you went shopping: 25¢
For taking out the garbage: $1.00
For getting a good report card: $5.00
For cleaning up the yard and raking the leaves: $2.00
Total owed: $14.75

Well, his mother looked at him standing there and the boy could see the memories flashing through her mind. She picked up the pen, turned over the paper he’d written on, and this is what she wrote:

For the 9 months I carried you while you grew inside me: No Charge
For all the nights I’ve sat up with you and doctored and prayed for you: No Charge
For all the trying times, and tears you’ve caused through the years: No Charge
For all the nights filled with dread and the worries I know that are coming: No Charge
For the toys, food, clothes, and wiping your nose: No Charge
When you add it up, Son, my cost of love for you is: No Charge

When the boy finished reading what his mother had written, there were big tears in his eyes and he looked straight at his mother and said, “Mom, I sure do love you.”

And he took the pen and wrote in big letters: PAID IN FULL.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the special women in your life! Thanks Mom!

SUGGESTION - Why not click on the little envelope icon below this story to easily send this to those special women? It only takes a few seconds but the touching thought could linger all week. I know it will linger with me at least that long.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Flight Of The Bumblebee

It's springtime! We've weathered the cold of yet another winter. And if you're like me, you can hardly wait to go outside without several layers of protective clothing!

Among the sure signs of spring are insects, like bumble­bees. Even if you don't like bees and other insects, I think you'll appre­ciate the fable I want to tell you. It makes a true point.

Once upon a time, some eminent scientists developed an interest in the bumblebee. (Let's make them actual rocket scientists, at NASA.) They hoped the tiny insect held some secrets of flight that could be applied to shuttles re-entering the atmosphere. But the wings didn't seem able to generate enough lift for the relatively large torso. Certainly the round, hairy body was not well streamlined.

You probably know the punch line: After weeks of study, the NASA scientists unanimously concluded that bumblebees can't fly. But since no one told the bumblebee, the foolish creature has gone right on believing that it can.

The moral to this story is that you need to believe in yourself and your capacity to succeed, no matter what the so-called experts say. And that moral is true, even though the story isn't.

As automobile manufacturer Henry Ford said, "If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right." So as the year turns into hopeful spring, always think, "I can!"

Friday, April 28, 2006

Thank you Cislo Title

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Cislo Title's 16th Annual Client Appreciation Party at St. John's Activity Center.

What a wonderful event! Great food-catered by The Pier of Argentine accompanied by a great atmosphere with live music and dancing.

Thanks Cislo Title! Looking forward to working together for many years to come.

Real Estate Exchanges

Procrastination in our workaday world is generally not a virtue unless taxes on real estate transactions are involved. Rising real estate values have created opportunities for real estate investors to improve their positions by doing tax-free exchanges of investment property.

Property held for investment or business use and sold at a profit is subject to capital gains transaction on the gain over cost basis. Depreciable investment property, held for many years, typically has a lower cost basis, further exacerbating the tax problem.

These taxes can be deferred by doing a tax-free exchange, commonly called a 1031 transaction. In an exchange transaction the seller sells one property and within a specified period buys a second. If done within the rules, any gain on the sale of the first is deferred until the second, or purchased, property is sold.

For this to work, specific rules must be followed. First, the property to be exchanged must be qualified, defined as real estate property held for investment or income-producing purposes or equipment used in a business. Property not qualifying includes personal use real estate, foreign real estate, property held for sale, inventory or stock-in-trade securities and notes.

The IRS has allowed broad definitions of like kind to apply. Grade or quality of property does not matter. Farmland can be exchanged for commercial or residential rental property. Unimproved land can be exchanged for a leasehold property of 30 years or more. Solely owned property can be exchanged for a tenant in common interest in a property.

Next, if the purchased property is of lesser value than the sold property, or the sold property has a mortgage, the seller will get the boot, in this case boot is a term for a taxable gain on the boot portion.

Certain time lines must be followed for a qualified exchange to occur. The seller must identify a replacement property within 45 days of completing the sale of the original property. The seller can identify up to three properties as prospective purchases. The outright purchase must be completed within 180 days of the sale of the first property.

The transaction in a delayed exchange, as outlined above, requires the use of a financial intermediary. The intermediary steps into the sellers shoes and acts as the seller in the closing of the selling transaction. The intermediary will hold the proceeds of the sale while the property to be purchased is identified and subsequently purchased.

The intermediary may not be related to the seller, may not be an employee or may not have acted recently as a professional advisor to the seller. Generally intermediaries are title companies or law firms specializing in that business. They are paid a fee and/or interest on the money they hold in their trust account.

Exchanges may be simultaneous in that the closing of the exchange and the replacement properties take place on the same day. A delayed exchange is the most common, with the target, or replacement, property being acquired after the original property is sold. A reverse exchange is allowed when the target property is purchased in advance of the sale of the original property.

In a more complicated transaction, the taxpayer can arrange to acquire a property and improve the property as part of the transaction. In this case, the intermediary must retain title to the property until the improvements are completed.

Finally, multiple-asset exchanges are allowed between individuals, investors, small businesses and large corporations. For example personal property such as trucks, helicopters, planes, and furniture can be exchanged along with real estate.

Reprinted with permission. The opinions expressed are those of Wendell Cayton, a Registered Investment Advisor in the states of California and Washington, and not those of any company with whom he is associated. He may be contacted at

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Understand Credit Reporting

Historically low interest rates present a welcome opportunity for many homeowners to improve their financial situation by refinancing their mortgage. But, like everything else in the world of finance, there are no free lunches. To take advantage of these lower rates, homeowners must leap the FICO hurdle.

To qualify for the best loans at the lowest rates, borrowers have to qualify financially and are scored by lenders using a computerized model for evaluating credit risk, developed by Fair, Isaac, and Company, known as the FICO score.

Mortgage lenders are in the business of making money by lending it and being repaid on time. They gauge the risks associated with making that loan on a number of factors, not the least of which is the likelihood of timely repayment.

The FICO scoring system compares borrower’s credit capabilities to those of similar borrowers all over the country. A borrower’s credit history gives a strong indication of integrity, attitude, and discipline as well as a measure of their capability to pay bills on time.

Three major credit reporting agencies gather credit information: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. The firms act independently of each other and use different methods for gathering information, hence the reports of each may differ.

The reporting agencies issue several different types of reports. A Consumer Report is the basic consumer report issued when an individual orders his own credit report. The Merchant Report is more complete and contains the full FICO scores.

Lenders view these scores as just one of several criteria for evaluating the ability of a borrower to pay back a loan. The scores, ranging from 0 to 1000, are numbers that tell lenders how likely an individual is to repay a loan, or make credit payments on time. The higher the score, the better the credit risk. Scores of 700+ make A credit grades, 640+ for a B grade, and below 579 fail.

According to mortgage broker Ron Goerss of Partners Mortgage, the most important factors to mortgage lenders are mortgage history, derogatory credit history, liens or judgments, length of credit history, depth of credit history, proportion of debt to credit balances, and the amount of available credit.

A borrower can improve his FICO score over time by paying bills—especially mortgage payments—on time. Late payments cost points. To get the best scores, one should accumulate at least 36 months of a timely payment history. Generally speaking, a borrower will have an excellent credit score with four major accounts ($1,500 credit limits or higher) all with 36 months of spotless payment history, and all usually maintaining balances that are at or below 60% of available credit limits.

Despite paying bills on time, it is still possible to have a lower credit score. Too many open accounts with higher balances will pull the score down. Too many inquiries hurt the score. Too many monthly obligations weaken the score.

Finally, the real negatives are late mortgage payments, collection history, charge-offs, repossessions, and bankruptcy. While all of those can be worked around, most lenders will refuse a conventional loan to someone with foreclosure history on their report.It’s a good idea to periodically review your FICO score. Erroneous information may be reported, and if you know ahead of time, you can write a letter to the credit-reporting agency and request a correction. For more information on FICO scoring and obtaining your FICO scores, I refer you to these websites: and

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Reverse Mortgages: An Overview

Boomers ready to retire may find themselves house rich and cash poor. Rapid appreciation of personal real estate coupled with five years of a sideways stock market presents a liquidity problem for retirement planning.

The solution for some may lie in a reverse mortgage. In simple terms a reverse mortgage offers the opportunity for a property owner to tap the equity in their home without having to pay back the loan during their life or while they live in the home.

This is accomplished by entering into an agreement with a lender who is willing to advance a sum of money against the equity in the home, either in the form of a lifetime annuity, a lump sum or a line of credit with the understanding that the lender will recover the loan plus interest when the home is sold or the owner passes on.

The amount that can be advanced is a function of three factors. First, the owner(s) must be age 62 or older. Second, the amount advanced will depend upon the value of the home. Finally, interest rates in effect at the time of the loan figure into the equation. For example, an older borrower with a more valuable home during a low interest rate environment will have access to more cash than one faced with the reverse.

A reverse mortgage differs from a home equity line or conventional mortgage in several significant respects. First, the borrower does not have to meet borrowing qualification standards for credit, income, assets and ability to repay the loan. The borrower does not have to make periodic payments. And, the borrower cannot lose the home for non-payment.

For a home to qualify it must be the principal residence, either a single family residence, a 2-4 unit building, or a federally-approved condominium or planned unit development. The home cannot be a mobile home, but some programs offer loans on “manufactured” homes, providing they are on a permanent foundation and taxed as real estate.

Homes must be free of debt. Owners with an existing mortgage can utilize the opportunity to withdraw a lump sum to pay off the mortgage although that will reduce the amount of income available.

Payments can be structured and/or combined into a number of formats. Lump sums, lines of credit, monthly payments and lifetime annuities are the most popular. Some line of credit programs provide for the credit line to increase each year, recognizing the increasing property value. Loans that offer lifetime payments obligate the lender to keep paying even if the value of the home is exceeded. The lender must accept the value of the home for their only source of repayment.

Payback of the loan is due when the principal owner fails to occupy the house for 12 consecutive months or more, sells the home, or dies and leaves the home to heirs.

Reverse mortgages work well for older owners who are reasonably sure they intend to live out their lives in their homes. Before considering a reverse mortgage in such circumstances the owner should give careful considerations to their home’s “senior friendliness.” A “senior friendly” home ideally is all one level, with wide passageways for walkers and wheel chairs, and accommodative bath facilities. It should be located in a neighborhood accessible to public transportation and shopping for basic necessities, or the owner should have a plan to handle those situations when driving is no longer possible.

Finally, those considering a reverse mortgage should bear in mind that they are spending their children’s inheritance. If leaving the home as a legacy is important, a reverse mortgage, with its high fees and compounding interest, will take a large chunk from this legacy.

Reprinted with permission. The opinions expressed are those of Wendell Cayton, a Registered Investment Advisor in the states of California and Washington, and not those of any company with whom he is associated. He may be contacted at