Just in case the closing collapses

Chicago Tribune

Headed for your real estate closing? No matter which side of the table you'll be on, have a Plan B. That's because a new study of agents found that one-third of home-purchase transactions in September, October and November were postponed or went south.

The study found that 13% failed for mortgage-related reasons, a number described as "hefty" by Inside Mortgage Finance, the trade journal that sponsored the survey.

The 2,400 agents surveyed attributed the jump in mortgage-related problems to tighter underwriting standards and the elimination of many once-popular mortgages. The biggest problem, the agents said, was that their clients' credit scores were too low to qualify.

Fraud's up in a down market

If the housing industry was slow in 2007, mortgage fraud wasn't. Last year, about $4 billion in mortgage fraud was identified nationwide by FraudBlogger.com, an index published by MortgageDaily.com, an online trade journal.

That's up from about $1.6 billion countrywide the year before, the publication reported.

California had the biggest dollar volume of such fraudulent activity, with about $1.6 billion last year. The state with the most fraud cases was Ohio.

Typical condo buyer profiled

Who's buying condos? Or who was buying condos until the market began to decline?

The National Assn. of Home Builders recently crunched census data to form a profile of a "typical" condo buyer between 2003 and 2005.

People who bought in buildings with 25 or more units were likely to be: single, non-Latino white, age 25 to 34 and with a bachelor's degree, the trade group said.

And within those larger buildings, about one-third of the buyers were single women without children. About 21% were single men, and about 19% were married couples without children, the study said. Among all condo buyers, nearly a third had bachelor's degrees, and 27% had some college education.

The case of the missing records

Fuming about your property-tax bill? Consider the situation of Pennsylvania State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo.

Seems his house, described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as a "27-room Victorian showplace," is valued by tax assessors at $250,000, though he has it on the market for $6 million. His annual property tax bill is $6,611; a house valued at $6 million would merit a $165,000 tax bill, the paper said.

But when city tax officials went to investigate the apparent discrepancy, they learned that their office had lost all records -- 13 years' worth -- pertaining to the home. The officials speculated the records were lost in a move to a new facility.

Fumo is to be tried this year on various corruption charges, including allegations that a public employee was directed to spend 18 months overseeing renovations on the house, which contains a six-floor elevator, seven fireplaces, three kitchens, a whirlpool bath, a vault, a billiard room, a wine cellar, an indoor shooting range, gas lamps and heated sidewalks, the Inquirer said.

The senator purchased the building, a former convent, for $175,000 in 1994.

Fairy-tale home lists at $13 million

Peter Pan's home is for sale.

That would be the London home where author J.M. Barrie wrote the classic children's stories featuring Tinkerbell, Captain Hook etc. starting in 1902.

The six-bedroom Victorian adjacent to Kensington Gardens, where a sculpture of Peter Pan stands, is listed for about $13 million.

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