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Signs of rebound for Polk housing market – News – The Ledger



Single-family home sales slumped in April and May because of COVID-19, but there are already signs of a rebound in June.

LAKELAND — COVID-19 struck Century 21 Myers Realty like lightning.

“We as a company lost 12 sales overnight after COVID-19 hit,” said Jack Myers, the owner and a real estate broker.

The lost clients in early March ranged from investors in short-term rentals to families that experienced job losses, he said.

But Myers and Dawna Stone, the owner and broker of the Property Shoppe of Central Florida Inc., a Lakeland company specializing in home sales, said the Polk real estate market may already be on the rebound.

“I think at the end of this year, we’re going to see a gangbusters market on housing,” Stone said. “I would say (conditions) are definitely favorable. The affordability index with mortgages so low is better than it has been in a great number of years.”

Property Shoppe closed a recent single-family home sale at a 2.75% interest rate, she said. Nationwide mortgage rates are at historic lows, according to recent news reports.

“I feel here the phones are ringing more,” said Myers, who has offices in Auburndale, Winter Haven and Haines City. “Our agents are still on the phone dialing for dollars and keeping in contact with customers.”

Statistics from the Stellar MLS (multiple listing service), a Central Florida real estate market data firm based in Orlando, show the impact of COVID-19 since the first case in the state was reported on March 1.

The Lakeland area saw monthly single-family home sales increase from 8% to 26% in the first three months of this year compared to the same months in 2019, according to a Stellar report. That changed rapidly in April, which saw a 26% decline, followed by a 25% decline in May.

The East Polk area was hit even harder.

Monthly single-family home sales increased from 3% to 32% in this year’s first quarter, followed by a 26% decline in April and a 39% crash in April, Stellar reported.

Those numbers reflect sales reported by Stellar member companies located in the Lakeland and East Polk areas and could include properties outside their areas, said Stone, a Stellar member.

But a large majority of sales traditionally come from the company’s home area, she said.

About 98% of the Property Shoppe’s sales involve Polk County properties, Stone said.

The April-May slump did not represent the overall health of the local real estate market, Stone argued.

Despite the slump, year-to-date growth in single-family home sales was still positive, up 1.5% for the four months ending in April and it fell just 4.4% for the five months through May compared to the same periods in 2019.

In East Polk, the year-to-date growth was essentially flat, down just 0.45% for the first four months and off 10.6% for the five months through May.

Property Shoppe is already feeling a recovery, Stone said.

For the year up to Friday, the company sold 49 single-family homes, the same number it sold through the identical period last year, she said. But the value of those home rose from $8.7 million in 2019 compared to $11.6 million this year, a 33% increase.

Actually the recovery in Lakeland may have already begun, according to Myers, citing up-to-date Stellar data.

The Lakeland area sold 810 single-family homes in June through Friday, a 5% increase from 771 sales in the same period last year, Myers said. And the value of sales rose from $136.7 million to 146.2 million, a 7% increase.

In East Polk, June sales were still 9% lower than a year ago, he said, but the average home value rose from $189,000 to $193,000.

A shortage of homes on the market is keeping values high, acting as a drag on the market, he said.

A lot of sellers dropped out of the market when COVID-19 hit and have not yet returned, Myers said.

“Sales will increase if we have more listings,” or homes available, he said. “If we have more listings, we can sell them.”

Demand remains strong, particularly in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, for homes in Florida, Myers said.

While low mortgage interest rates normally spur growth, lenders have also increased restrictions for getting the loans, another drag on future growth, Stone and Myers agreed.

Since the pandemic, lenders have increased the minimum credit score to qualify for a loan and are looking more closely at the kind of jobs borrowers have and how likely they would face a layoff, they said.

Some lenders are asking for letters of assurance the borrower doesn’t face a layoff, Stone said.

“It’s eliminated some borrowers, but if you get them with a good lender, they can do some credit repair,” Myers said.

Kevin Bouffard can be reached at or at 863-802-7591.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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