Elected Officials Appealing FEMA’s Decision to Eliminate Flood Discounts

Elected officials from both the state and federal governments are appealing to FEMA officials to at least reconsider – if not overturn – their decision in late March to eliminate the 25% discount on federal flood insurance policies on up to 125,000 property owners in Southwest Florida.  FEMA said five governments in Lee County, ground zero for Hurricane Ian’s September 2022 landfall, failed to follow federal rules on permissible rebuilding after the storm.

The decision applies to Cape Coral, Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs, Estero and unincorporated Lee County.  

Since the hurricane, county officials said 5,087 demolition permits were issued in just the special flood hazard areas. The county also issued 2,151 violations for work with no permits.   The county and municipalities affected have asked for an extension of the 30-day hold and that is still being discussed. 

The county is now having weekly meetings with Sen. Rick Scott to address the issue. They have also met with FEMA administration and staff.

Lee county is confident that the county will be able to provide FEMA the documentation based on the conversations they have had to ensure the county has been compliant and keep their rating.

Source: Heidrick & Co. Insurance

2024 Home Decor Trends

Pinterest Predicts Report Trends

Looking to update your 2024 home décor? Today’s modern home boasts an eclectic mix of design trends to revamp your living space. So where can you turn to get your finger on the pulse of what’s next in home design?

Social media platform Pinterest releases an annual report called Pinterest Predicts. This report analyzes user search results to identify the top interior design trends for this year. If re-inventing your dining room aesthetic, bringing a fresh look to your bedroom, or modernizing your kitchen is on your 2024 to-do list, save this article and read ahead.

Pinterest shares its annual Pinterest Predicts report for designers to discover trending decor styles in search. While reviewing this year’s report, five interior design trends come to the surface. These include Kitschy Kitchens, Cafecore, Western Gothic, Jellyfish, and Aquatecture.

Let’s dive into each of these home design trends to understand how you can achieve them in your own home.

1. Kitschy Kitchens

Modern dining nook features coffee bar, part of the 2024 home decor trend cafecore.

Picture your kitchen as a vibrant canvas where playful patterns, retro vibes, and bold colors collide! Kitschy Kitchens is all about mixing funky with functional, bringing a dash of nostalgia and a whole lot of fun to your cooking haven.

A stop at your local vintage store will be the best way to achieve this trend in your kitchen. Try grabbing eclectic tea towels or start collecting your favorite mid-century modern Pyrex pattern. Try Etsy or eBay to start collecting eccentric salt and pepper shakers.

Spikes in the number of searches for “eclectic kitchen décor,” “eccentric kitchen” and “retro pink kitchens” lead this trend.

For inspiration, see our Kitschy Kitchens board on Pinterest.

2. Cafecore

Imagine sipping your latte in a cozy cafe… now imagine bringing that cozy vibe home. Cafecore transforms an area of your home into your coffeehouse. Why not mix a design trend with a personal hobby? If becoming an at-home barista is on your 2024 vision board, this may be the perfect fit for you.

Start with the appliances and tools for creating home-brewed coffee like an espresso machine and coffee grinder. Next, start learning different coffee brewing methods. From Chemex to pour-over, Aeropress to French press – there’s no shortage of skills and accessories to grow your home cafe.

Take it to the next level by adding your favorite coffee shop aesthetic. Find the coffee cup set that perfectly matches your vibe, and start collecting beans from local shops to display in your new cafe nook.

Those creating a home café are searching for “Coffee bar styling,” “Cafe chalkboard” and “Coffee station décor.”

We’ve curated the best of Cafecore on our Pinterest board to get your homebrew station started.

3. Western Gothic

Dark, moody, and intriguing – that’s the vibe of Western Gothic.

This trend starts with the ruggedness of the Wild West. Picture natural materials like antlers, animal skulls, and cow-print rugs.

Then marry it with the mysterious allure of gothic aesthetics. Dark earthy colors, ornate wood, and overstuffed leather furniture. The two mix together to create a vibe that’s bold and surprising.

Searches that point to this design trend include “vintage Americana,” “western bedding ideas” and “western mirror.”

See our favorite examples of Western Gothic interiors on our Pinterest board.

4. Jellyfish

Dive into the tranquility of the ocean with Jellyfish-inspired décor.

You may have noticed that 2023 was all about mushroom accents on decor. Get ready to replace those foraged finds with something more gelatinous.

Soft textures, iridescent finishes, and organic shapes add a touch of serenity and whimsy to your home. Build a jellyfish light fixture with sustainable materials. Add a jellyfish accent pillow to your living room mix.

Or, consider bringing what guests might think is a real, live jellyfish into your home with a jellyfish lamp. Realistic (but fake) jellyfish swim among LED lights to give a new take on the old lava lamp style.

Pinterest searches for jellyfish trends include home décor and personal styles like “jellyfish lamps” and “jellyfish haircuts.”

Get to know this trend by looking at our curated Pinterest board.

5. Aquatecture

Jellyfish aren’t the only aquatic animal getting some attention in 2024. Get ready for aquatic architecture to become the focal point of your living room.

Join designers at the intersection of home décor and pet ownership by adding a tank to your home. Aquariums, terrariums, and vivariums are all tanks that fall under the Aquatecture umbrella. If you’ve been waiting to bring a real, live ecosystem into your home this is the year to do so.

Those who aren’t up to aquatic ownership may opt for a plant terrarium. To get started, you can visit your local plant store or purchase a pre-made kit.

Search terms include “small aquarium design,” “fish tank theme ideas” and “bioactive vivarium.”

Start building your home aquatecture with inspiration from our Pinterest board.

The Game-Changing Elements

In addition to top searches from Pinterest, design experts have identified key themes to look out for in 2024. Think of partnering one of the above upcoming trends with one of these best practices to bring your home to life.

Warm Neutrals

Think cozy and inviting! These calming colors create a modern and comforting feel in your living areas. The four pure neutral colors are black, brown, grey, and white. Warm neutrals add undertones of yellow, pink, and red to the mix.

Stepping away from basic beige and adding a hint of color gives your home personality. By sticking to muted undertones, however, you create a simple backdrop for the rest of your decor.

Focal Points

It’s all about making a statement! Consider an eye-catching piece of furniture or a bold art piece. Creating focal points adds depth and personality to your rooms.

The key is to balance the number of focal points you have in a room so as not to overwhelm the senses. Less can create more impact and staying power!

Visual Interest

Spice things up! Combining different textures, patterns, and contrasting elements adds energy and interest to your space, making it far from dull.

Think patterned wallpapers with clashing patterned throw pillows. Add 2-3 mixed metals in your space. Include surprising textures like padded headboards, wood slat walls, or raised tiles.

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, 2024 is the year to let your imagination run wild with these daring trends. From the playful nostalgia of Kitschy Kitchens to the mysterious allure of Western Gothic, these trends invite you to sprinkle a bit of magic and personality into your home.

Embrace the chaos of color palettes, the allure of the unexpected, and the cozy vibes of your favorite cafe. 2024 trends promise to turn your living space into a vibrant, personalized haven that’s as unique as you are!

Real estate fraud risk is on the rise – here’s what you should know before buying a house

Purchasing a home is an exciting milestone in a person’s life, but criminals are increasingly exploiting such transactions through real estate fraud, robbing victims who are often left with little or no recourse.

CertifID’s 2024 State of Wire Fraud report released Tuesday found that 1 in 20 Americans who bought or sold a home within the past three years have been victims of some type of real estate fraud, with the median amount in consumer losses exceeding $70,000 as a result of stolen buyer’s down payments and seller’s net proceeds.

The wire fraud protection company warns fraudsters have become increasingly skilled at leveraging public records, breaching broker and title agency systems, and posing as someone involved in a transaction to steal from unsuspecting consumers.

The latest data from the FBI shows this type of crime, which falls under the category of business email compromise, cost victims a record $446.1 million in real estate transactions during 2022, and CertifID co-founder and CEO Tyler Adams told FOX Business the crime is only accelerating as fraudsters become more sophisticated.

“If you are a first time homebuyer entering into a real estate transaction, you need to be made aware you are entering one of the biggest cybercrime environments that we’ve ever seen today,” Adams said. “You have to be on high alert with every email that you get from your real estate agents, you have to be on high alert with every communication they get from your title company, because at any point, somebody’s communication could be compromised or broken down, and you could start receiving emails that look like they’re coming from one of those trusted parties when they’re not.”

He added, “That’s where we see the consumer get hurt the most, because they received communication convincing them to send money to a fraudulent account or entity, and they believe it to be true.”

It is not just buyers and sellers getting scammed. Adams said title companies are losing a significant amount sending wires to “sellers” that are not actually who they say they are, and submitting funds thinking they are paying off a mortgage – but it is actually a scammer’s account. 

“So everybody’s at risk here as a result of typically phishing schemes that lead to email compromises that then lead to these sorts of scenarios,” he said.   

Meanwhile, CertifID’s survey found most (51%) consumers were not aware of these types of scams prior to closing on a transaction, and 60% said they received little to no education on the risks of real estate fraud from their agent, title agency or attorney.  By Fox Business 02/06/2024

Have you ever wondered if you can finance a Manufactured Home?

manufactured home
Here’s a great article showing how and the differences between manufactured, mobile and modular homes.

Source:  The Bednar Team, Crosscountry Mortgage

When you’re buying a traditional home, you can choose from a wide range of mortgages. But what about other types of homes? If you want to understand how to finance a manufactured home, you’re in the right place.

What is a Manufactured Home?

Manufactured home. Modular home. Mobile home. They’re all different, but they’re all home. There’s a good chance if you want to buy one, you’ll need financing. That’s where we come in. They’re alternatives to traditional homes, and not all lenders have loans for them. We do. Let’s learn more about mobile home loans.

Manufactured, modular, mobile. What’s the difference?

We’re so glad you asked. Knowing the differences will help you understand your home financing options.

Manufactured Home

This is a factory-built home, on a permanent metal frame (called a chassis), moved in one or more sections to a home site. To qualify as a manufactured home, it has to have been built on or after June 15, 1976, to meet the requirements of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code). To get a conventional or government loan on a manufactured home, it must be attached to a permanent foundation and hooked up to utilities and a sewage system.

Modular Home

Outside of manufactured home with a car sitting in carport.

This is the closest thing to a site-built home, and qualifies for traditional financing. Like a 3D puzzle, the pieces of the home are manufactured, taken to the building site, and completed by a builder or contractor. You can either buy it from the builder once it’s complete or nearly complete, or contract to have one built for you. It has to meet the same building codes as a site-built home.

Mobile Home

Unlike a manufactured home, a mobile home can be moved. It’s not eligible for a home loan because it’s considered personal property, not real property like a site-built home. It may be on wheels and not attached to a permanent foundation, and it may be smaller than the minimum square footage required for some manufactured home loans. The good news is that we have mobile home loans, also called chattel loans. We’ll explain more later.

Manufactured home property requirements

To be eligible for a traditional mortgage, a manufactured home has to qualify as real property, equivalent to a site-built home. We’ve already mentioned some requirements, for example being attached to a permanent foundation. Anything that makes it mobile has to be removed, such as wheels, a towing hitch, and axles. Other considerations include making sure your title is properly recorded, and it’s no longer registered with your state motor vehicle department.

Let’s review the possibilities, from conventional and government mortgages to chattel and personal loans.

Manufactured home financing options

Conventional loans

Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the two biggest purchasers of conventional loans finance manufactured home mortgages that meet their guidelines. The basics apply: the home must meet the HUD Code and be attached to a permanent foundation. Beyond that, there are slight differences.

Fannie Mae manufactured home financing

Fannie Mae financing is available for manufactured homes at least 12 feet wide with a minimum of 400 square feet of gross living area. The home must be a one-unit dwelling, and cannot include an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). You must own the land as fee simple, unless the home is in a co-op, condo project, or planned unit development (PUD). Leased land is not eligible.

Freddie Mac manufactured home financing

Freddie Mac will finance a manufactured home that is at least 12 feet wide with a minimum of 600 square feet of living space. There’s an exception if you’re going to use it as an ADU, in which case the home may be 400 square feet. You must own the land, unless the home is in a condo project, PUD. Leased land may be eligible with permission from Freddie Mac.

VA loans

If you qualify for a VA loan , you can use it to purchase or refinance a manufactured home. All the benefits and requirements of a VA loan apply, including 0% down payment and the ability to re-use your benefit. The home must be attached to a permanent foundation on land you own, or you can purchase the home and land with one loan. The manufactured home must have a floor area of no less than 400 square feet for a single-wide or 700 square feet for a double-wide.

FHA loans

FHA loans are available for manufactured home purchases and refinances. The manufactured home must have a floor area of no less than 400 square feet. They are often the choice of first-time homebuyers because of their low down payment requirement (3.5%) and more forgiving credit requirements. Couple that with an affordable manufactured home, and it’s an attractive option. There are several loans within the program. You can finance a manufactured home, or a home and land to place it on. In addition, FHA offers a shorter-term loan if you want to place your home on a leased lot in a manufactured home community or mobile home park.

Chattel loans

Chattel means personal property. Chattel is generally defined as something moveable, unlike real estate, so this is a loan you can use for a mobile home purchase. (It can also be used for a manufactured home, but a traditional mortgage may be a better choice. We can explain the options.) You can finance the home only, and place it in a mobile home community or on leased land, or you can place the home on land you own free and clear and use the land as a down payment for the new financing. Because it’s secured by the home, or the home and land, a chattel loan has a more attractive interest rate than an unsecured loan. You can also use a chattel loan if you’re planning on making the mobile home a vacation or second home, too.

Personal loans

If qualifying for a traditional mortgage or chattel loan is an issue, you may want to consider a personal loan. Be aware that the interest rate is likely to be much higher, and the loan term will be significantly shorter. Banks and credit unions are typical sources of personal loans.

Are manufactured homes a good investment?

As a mortgage company, we’re not in the business of giving investment advice. That said, we believe strongly in the importance of homeownership. Owning a home is a gamechanger: strengthening communities, creating stability, and building family wealth over time. That’s our kind of investment.

CrossCountry Mortgage loan officers

Manufactured home, modular home, mobile home. We’ve got you covered. Our experienced team will help you decide on the right option to fit your goals and your budget. Contact us today to get started.

Chris Bednar

Office Phone:507.334.9465

FEMA Rules Aim to Cut Red Tape

Hurricane Ian Damage

Source:  Federal Emergency Management Agency

Under previous rules, homeowners who had received payments from their insurance company for home repairs but not enough to cover all of the damage were essentially out of luck when it came to getting help from FEMA. Now those homeowners can apply to FEMA for help. Example:  A homeowner who has $80,000 in damage but receives only $45,000 from the insurance company. Previously, FEMA couldn’t help them because their insurance payout already exceeded the agency’s assistance cap of $42,500 per disaster. Now, that homeowner can get money from the agency to make up the difference.   Changes go into effect this March.GETTING RID OF THE LOAN RULEUnder previous rules, disaster survivors first had to apply for a loan with the Small Business Administration and get rejected before they could apply for FEMA assistance.  Owners found the SBA application requirement confusing and challenging, so the agency is eliminating that requirement.FEMA is creating a new category of aid called displacement assistance, designed to help those who can’t return to their home. It gives them money for housing while they’re looking for a long-term rental and has flexibility so that they can, for example, use the money to pay a friend’s utilities while they are staying. 

FEMA Reports Value of Newer Roofs Post-Hurricane Ian

new roof

FEMA has released a fourth Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) report on Hurricane Ian, assessing storm and flood damage to Florida homes from the September 2022 Cat 5 hurricane.  

Unsurprisingly, the report shows the value of new roofing, which damage assessments showed fared better than older roofs; specifically those with roofs built or replaced under the 2015 update to the Florida Building Code which focused on waterproofing homes and ensuring roofs stay attached to their structures. 

Many of the older homes in the impacted Southwest Florida area which were not up to code showed extensive damage from the storm, while newly built roofs sustained little to no damage.

Many of the specific code updates,  such as requiring sealed roof decks and stronger attachments to keep the roof on the structure, stop excessive storm damage like water from seeping into your home when the shingles are ripped off. 

This compounding damage from the storm did not affect the neighbors of these older homes who had updated their roofs in compliance with the new code 

VA Loan For A Manufactured Home

If you’re a Veteran dreaming of homeownership, you might be wondering how to use a VA loan to purchase manufactured housing. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of using a VA loan to buy manufactured homes, also known as manufactured home loans.

Understanding VA Loans for Manufactured Homes.

VA loans are an excellent option for Veterans seeking to buy a home. They offer a host of benefits, including low or no down payment requirements, competitive interest rates, and no need for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

What Qualifies as a Manufactured Home?

Your manufactured home must meet specific criteria to qualify for a VA loan, including:

  • A single-family home with a minimum living space of 400 square feet for a single-wide and 700 square feet for a double wide
  • Built in a factory
  • Classified as real property
  • Be placed on a permanent foundation and classified as real estate.
  • Built after June 15, 1976f and adhere to HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards

VA Loan Benefits for Manufactured Homes

Now that we’ve established the eligibility criteria, let’s delve into the benefits of using a VA loan for your manufactured home purchase.

Competitive Interest Rates

VA loans typically offer some of the most competitive interest rates in the market. This means you’ll save money over the life of your loan, allowing you to invest in other aspects of your life while still enjoying the pride of homeownership.

No Down Payment or PMI

One of the most significant advantages of VA loans is the ability to purchase a home without a down payment when you have full entitlement available to use. This is especially helpful when buying a manufactured home, as it can be challenging to come up with a substantial down payment. Additionally, you won’t need to worry about private mortgage insurance, saving you even more money.

This is especially helpful when buying a manufactured home, as it can be challenging to come up with a substantial down payment. Additionally, you won’t need to worry about private mortgage insurance, saving you even more money.

Easier Credit Score Requirements

While good credit is always beneficial, VA loans tend to be more forgiving when it comes to credit scores. If your credit score is less than perfect, you still have a good chance of qualifying for a VA mortgage.

The VA Loan Process for Manufactured Homes

Now that you’re familiar with the perks of using a VA loan for a manufactured home, let’s walk through the process step by step.

1. Determine Your Eligibility

Generally, you need to have served in the Military for at least 90 consecutive days during wartime or 181 days during peacetime, however, there are instances where a greater length of service is required. Certain National Guard and Reserve members may also qualify, as well as Surviving Spouses.


To qualify, you must have served on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard after September 15, 1940, and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.  The length of service depends on whether it was Wartime or Peacetime and when your service began.

Most Veterans are eligible with 90 days or more, any part of which occurred during wartime, or 181 continuous days or more during peacetime. 

Howevera greater length of service is required for Veterans who enlisted (and service began) after September 7, 1980, or entered service as an officer after October 16, 1981.

If your service dates fall within the date range above, you must have completed 24 continuous months of active duty, or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty, but not less than 90 days (any part during wartime) or 181 continuous days in peacetime.

Members of the Reserves or National Guard who are not otherwise eligible with the above-stated service history, are eligible upon completion of 6 years of service for an active or drilling status and received an honorable character of discharge. 

A general or under honorable conditions discharge does not qualify for a VA loan.

2. Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

To apply for a VA loan, you’ll need to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the VA. This document proves your eligibility for the loan. You can usually obtain it online through the VA’s eBenefits portal or you can ask your lender for assistance.

3. Find a Lender

Choose a mortgage lender that specializes in VA loans for manufactured homes. They can guide you through the process, explain your options, and help you get pre-approved for a loan.

4. Shop for Manufactured Homes

Once you’re pre-approved, it’s time to start shopping for your manufactured home. Ensure it meets all the HUD requirements for a VA loan, including being attached to a permanent foundation and classified as real estate.

5. Apply for the Loan

With your chosen home in mind, submit your loan application to your lender. They will review your financial situation, credit score, and the property itself to determine if you qualify for a VA loan.

6. VA Appraisal and Underwriting

VA loans require a VA appraisal to ensure the property’s value matches the loan amount. After appraisal, the loan goes through underwriting, where the lender reviews your financial documents, ensures the loan meets all VA requirements, and makes a final decision on your loan approval.  In a few circumstances, the lender may need to send your loan documentation directly to the VA for approval.

7. Closing on Your Loan

Once your loan is approved, you’ll schedule a closing date. At closing, you’ll sign all the necessary paperwork, and the funds will be disbursed to complete the purchase of your manufactured home.

8. Move into Your New Home

Congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of a manufactured home by obtaining a VA-guaranteed loan! Move in, personalize it, and enjoy the benefits of homeownership.


In conclusion, VA loans for manufactured homes are a valuable resource for Veterans looking to become homeowners. These loans offer competitive interest rates, no down payment, and more lenient credit score requirements. To make the most of this opportunity, ensure that the manufactured home you choose adheres to HUD’s guidelines.

Don’t let misconceptions hold you back from your homeownership dreams. With a VA loan, you can turn that dream into a reality, whether you’re interested in a single-wide, double-wide, or modular home. Take the first step toward homeownership and explore your VA loan options today!

Featured by: Cross Country Mortgage