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USDA 502 loans (almost) rescued

Like FHA loans, USDA-backed loans have been surging in popularity over the past few years due to tightening credit underwriting standards.  After doubling its loan volume from 2008 to 2009, the Rural Development 502 Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program was on the brink of insolvency.

Uncle Sam to the rescue: Both houses of the U.S. Congress have passed bills to continue funding the USDA's rural loan guarantee program. Rolled into the emergency supplemental appropriations bill that passed the Senate last week, the loan-guarantee program will see these changes:

FHA releases four appraisal FAQ documents on independence, fees, and more

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has released a series of appraisal FAQs. The FAQs are specific to Mortgagee Letters 2009-28, 2009-29, and 2009-51. The mortgagee letters address appraiser independence (ML 2009-28), appraisal portability (ML 2009-29), and FHA's adoption of Fannie Mae Form 1004D/Freddie Mac Form 442/March 2005 (ML 2009-51).

Wetlands violations risky, and expensive

Wetlands may be hard to spot -- and disturbing them without obtaining the required permits can be very expensive.

Kurt Lorenz found that out the hard way after he bought 22 acres of vacant land in southern Chesapeake. He didn't know that the property contained wetlands, and started work on a horse barn. Today, he faces a $22,750 fine from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, plus a $50,000 expense to restore the disturbed wetlands.

Read more in The Virginian-Pilot....

Fairfax County's I-495 HOT lanes to open in December 2012

Ground has been broken on a HOT lanes operations center near Edsall Road, kicking off the construction project that will eventually result in High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-495. Drivers with two or more passengers will be able to use the High Occupancy Toll lanes for free. Vehicles carrying just one or two people can also use the lanes, for a fee.

"With this more reliable travel time, the Beltway will soon become a viable option for buses and HOV travelers searching for a better commute," said Thelma Drake, director, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Road projects that lower commute times are a boon to homeowners, and can ultimately increase the value and desirability of properties when it's time to sell them.

Census workers contacting Realtors for info about vacant homes

The foreclosure crisis and Census taking have joined forces to create yet another new headache for Realtors®:

Some Census workers have been contacting the listing agents of vacant properties (or their brokers) if the last known occupant hasn't completed the Census form. Sometimes the Census workers have been very aggressive in attempting to acquire information about the owners or occupants. And the United State Code stipulates that it's unlawful for an "…owner, proprietor, manager, superintendent, or agent of any hotel, apartment house, boarding or lodging house, tenement, or other building, (to) refuse or willfully neglect, . . . to furnish the names of the occupants of such premises” during the Census.

Plan for Tysons Corner development could be scaled back

Officials may scale back plans for the transformation of Tysons Corner into a walkable urban center, focusing on the next 20 years rather than creating a blueprint for 40 years' development.

Virginia to improve public/private partnerships in road construction

In an effort to improve Virginia's roads, Governor Bob McDonnell is looking to encourage greater cooperation between the state government and private construction companies. One possibility: establishing an office that would identify and consider privately initiated transportation projects.

Read more:

New lead paint rules went into effect April 22

Editor's note: This story was originally posted on March 25, 2010. We're re-publishing it due to reports of a large number of members being unfamiliar with the new rules.

According to NAR, new EPA rules about lead paint are set to go into effect on April 22, 2010.

To help you comply with the new rules, your friends at NAR have set up a Lead Paint Renovation Rule Compliance Guide at REALTOR.org.

cover the earthQuoth NAR:

Fredericksburg, Kalahari Resorts compromise on bond fees

The Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority and Kalahari Resorts have reached a compromise on bond fees. The agreement calls for a fee on Kalahari's taxable bonds in exchange for the company agreeing to pay the standard fee on the tax-exempt issuance.

The compromise allows the Fredericksburg EDA to charge one-eighth of 1% annual fee to issue tax-exempt bonds. In return, the authority will reduce the charge on the taxable bonds.

Read more in The Free-Lance Star....

Legal battle ends over condemnation of Roanoke property

The legal battle over a three-acre plot of land on Reserve Avenue has ended, with B&B Holdings accepting its condemnation. The City of Roanoke had exerted eminent domain to take the land for a Carrilion Clinic biomedical park, but has since dropped those plans.

The case has been closely watched by advocates of property-owners' rights, who are pushing for stricter limits on the use of eminent domain to seize land. Ultimately, the owners in this case, Jay and Stephanie Burkholder, gave up the fight because it made good financial sense to do so. The legal battle cost them about $600,000.