With the recent reduction in upfront mortgage insurance premiums for FHA loans from 1.75% to .85% of the loan amount, there has been a boom in refinancings, along with increased market activity for home purchases. The result? Many lenders are backed up and do not have the necessary manpower available to process/approve loans in a timely fashion. This is especially true with government-backed loans -- FHA and VA - if you are using one of these loans to purchase a home, please give yourself extra time for the loan approval process.
I just read the article about the 7 young children who died in a fire in New York -- a horrible tragedy compounded by the fact that there were no smoke detectors in the bedrooms. While there's no guarantee that it would have saved them, it certainly would have improved their odds. I'm still amazed by the number of homes that I visit (many with small children) that don't have working smoke detectors. Please make sure that you have working smoke detectors in every bedroom and in the hall outside of the bedrooms -- a carbon monoxide detector, too. The newer smoke alarms have a sealed 10 year battery and a "hush" feature that allows you to temporarily disable the alarm if you burn dinner -- it will reset after about 5 minutes (no more forgetting to replace the battery). About $20 at most hardware stores. For $100 you can bring a typical 3-bedroom house up to code (4 smoke detectors plus a carbon monoxide detector for the hallway).
Tony Trabucco is a real estate Broker who lives in Old Towne Orange, CA