Posted at 10:19 AM ET, 08/20/2009

Wells Fargo Being Sued Over Home Equity Loans

I can't muster much excitement over the news, reported by the Associated Press, that a customer of Wells Fargo has filed suit in an Illinois court against the lender, claiming it improperly reduced his home equity line of credit. The borrower, Illinois resident Michael Hickman, and his lawyers are trying to get class-action status for the suit. They say Wells Fargo inappropriately reduced credit lines using a faulty computer model and improperly notified borrowers of the change. Wells Fargo responded with a statement defending its lending models.

Even if Hickman and his lawyers succeed with a class-action suit, borrowers who join such a suit would probably walk away with a pittance in compensation. By the time lawyers' fees and expenses are subtracted from most class-action settlements and the remainder is divided among all the members of the class, the settlement pie has been minced to crumbs.

Regardless of the merits of the suit, we may all be better off with lower HELOC lines anyway. Remember, during the boom, when lenders would approve a 100 percent--or higher-- loan-to-value ratio (considering both the first and second mortgage)? When you would refinance, lenders would offer you a cheap and easy HELOC as a little bonus on the deal. Think "do you want fries with that?" It turned out to be not such a painless add-on after all.

Has your line of credit been reduced? Do you think it was done fairly? And has a home equity line of credit been a help to your finances--or a burden?

Posted by Elizabeth Razzi | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 08/19/2009

What Next? Archie and Veronica House-Hunting?

Personally, I think they're too young to be getting married. But, in the Archie comic book that goes on sale today, Riverdale High's famous redhead alumnus, now a college graduate, allegedly will pop The Question to Veronica. The Post's Michael Cavna has the whole story here.

So, on to the real question: Where should the young couple live? Archie's not exactly Mr. Stability, and the comic book's flash-forward is supposed to have him just out of college. I'd say they oughta rent a while--and definitely not move in with either of their folks. Being responsible for a monthly rent payment ought to help them mature a little.

But old Hiram Lodge might not fancy his daughter signing a 12-month lease. Maybe he'll give them a down payment for a wedding gift? Maybe a house purchased outright? In that case, I suggest they consider a cute little house in the Del Ray section of Alexandria. They can reunite with the old gang from the Chok'lit Shoppe at The Dairy Godmother in Del Ray. And the Archies could probably score the occasional gig down the street at the Birchmere.

What neighborhood would you suggest for the happy couple?

Posted by Elizabeth Razzi | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Posted at 8:50 AM ET, 08/18/2009

Share and Share Alike: Vacation Home-Swaps

We in the nation's capital are supremely well positioned to swap our way to free vacation lodging. The idea is simple: You use Web sites such as Home Xchange Vacation or International Home Exchange Network--or many others--to find someone who will allow you to live in their gorgeous villa in the south of France (or wherever you'd love to travel) for a week or two while they set up housekeeping in your breathtaking Capitol Hill townhouse. The idea is that because each of you is trusting the other with house and home, the risks offset each other. And not only do you get free lodging, but you get to live in a real neighborhood and enjoy the amenities typical for a household in that location.

Hanna Rosin has an interesting piece on the Double X Web site about her own experience swapping houses. She's a braver woman than I. You go all-in on these deals. The folks using your home will cook meals in your kitchen, soak in your tub and channel-surf your TV. Some people even let their swappers borrow their car. I love the idea in theory, but I'm just not cut out for it in practice. I'm too territorial about casa di Razzi. It even annoys me when helpful houseguests put the kitchen utensils in the wrong drawers, so I just don't see myself relaxing through such a vacation. And it's a pity, because I'm probably missing out on a good thing. Have any faithful readers out there given it a try? How did it go? And what are your favorite Web sites?

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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 08/14/2009

Foreclosure Info via iPhone and The Weekend Poll

An iPhone is now your ticket to more on-the-go info on home prices and foreclosures. First American CoreLogic released a free iPhone app, RealQuest Home Value Pro, that lets you tap into estimated values for specific addresses and neighboring properties as well as data on nearby foreclosures, pre-foreclosures, auctions and bank-owned properties.

Jeff Stay, product manager for First American CoreLogic, said they're looking into other platforms, such as Google Android, for their app. "I wouldn't anticipate anything on other platforms until late this year or early next year," Stay said.

Weekend Reading: In Saturday's Real Estate section, the Post's Emma L. Carew reports on the abundance of choices facing renters who want to lease a house or townhouse. And the Post's Jonathan Starkey dives into a story about building a backyard pool.

The Weekend Poll

This is a non-scientific user poll. Results are not statistically valid and cannot be assumed to reflect the views of Washington Post users as a group or the general population.

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