The old charm of the French Quarter

Not just for tourists

The French Quarter, or Vieux Carré, which means “old square” in French, is the oldest neighborhood in the city. It’s bounded by Canal Street, the Mississippi River, Esplanade and North Rampart avenues.

In 1718, Bienville and his men cleared the thick canebrakes along the riverfront to lay out the streets of the city’s first neighborhood.

The streets are a grid with a public square in their center, the Place d’Armes, also known as Jackson Square, laid out by Bienville’s chief engineer, Adrien de Pauger. Four square blocks extend in each direction above and below the square, and six blocks stretch between the river and Esplanade Avenue.

Three historic buildings –– St. Louis Cathedral, flanked by the Cabildo and the Presbytere –– face the square. The streets were named Royal, Bourbon, Chartres, Conti and St. Louis to flatter the French court.

The Baroness Pontalba built the first apartment buildings in America on both sides of the square, and the Ursulines established a convent in the neighborhood. The federal government constructed a mint on the corner of Esplanade Avenue and Decatur Street, which was restored in the early 1980s.

Today the Vieux Carré Commission is one of the most powerful of historic district commissions and maintains consistency on matters such as exterior colors, masonry repairs, roofing materials and street plantings.

Tourists are inevitably intrigued by the fact that the French Quarter is still a viable residential/ commercial neighborhood rather than a museum, and even though natives deplore the T-shirt shops along Bourbon Street, many enjoy a stroll through the oldest of the city’s neighborhoods.

 

Louisiana polo farms

If you’ve always dreamed of living in a pristine forest setting, you’ll enjoy taking a look at Louisiana Polo Farms.

This is a huge development of acres and acres filled with plenty of dense trees, shrubs and animals. It’s 10 minutes north of Interstate 12 in Folsom. There are three distinct developments on it where you may build your own design, plus there are houses to lease already.

The first development, Heart of the Forest, offers 2- to 4-acre lots in a wooded forest setting, all restricted to single-family homes. The streets are already paved for walking or biking, and when you drive through, you’ll see white-tailed deer, turkeys and plenty of other animals that make their home here.

Pin Oak Estates consists of only eight heavily wooded lots averaging 4 acres each –– five have already been sold. This community will be restricted to 2,000-square-foot single-family homes.

Louisiana Polo Farms East also offers eight landscaped lots averaging 2 acres each –– five of these lots are also sold, and homes here are also restricted to 2,000-square-foot single-family dwellings. Underground utilities and paved streets are already in place.

Louisiana Polo Farms offers easy access to all areas of the Northshore, New Orleans and Hammond.

What to do if your mortgage application is rejected

Don’t be surprised if your friendly lender, the one who invites you to sit down and apply for a mortgage, ushers you politely out the door empty-handed after you’ve chatted a bit. The sudden chill isn’t personal. The Mortgage Bankers Association, or MBA, in Washington, D.C., estimates that about half of all mortgage applicants are now being turned down. Although refinancing approvals remained static, the acceptance rate on mortgage applications suffered a 10-percentage-point drop, from 63 percent in the first half of 2007 to 53 percent in the first half of last year, according to mortgage data tracked semiannually by the association. Since then, further tightening of credit standards means at least half of mortgage-seeking consumers can’t squeeze through to acceptance.

Instead of yielding to shame, anger or any of the usual emotions associated with rejection, today’s consumers who are intent on buying or refinancing should adopt a pragmatic stance, since cleareyed determination may eventually land them a loan.


Here’s how:

Get a read on the reason
If you’ve submitted a formal application, federal law dictates that you’re entitled to a formal rejection. Expect an adverse-action notice, spelling out the reasons for turning you down, which these days is likely to state that the loan amount you’re seeking is too large compared to the current appraised value of your home. If it’s not your home’s value that’s the issue, it may be your personal credentials, such as your creditworthiness, work history or debt load. When credit is the issue, an adverse-action notice is required, naming the credit reporting agency that provided the data on which the lender based its decision, according to Federal Trade Commission rules. You’re also entitled to a free credit report, so see the FTC Web site for more information.

Given the odds of acceptance, a lender may not require you to pay to submit a formal application, which includes the cost of a professional appraisal on the property. Instead, he or she may pull a credit score and tell you what you’re likely eligible for.

Find a fix
Qualifying for a mortgage isn’t a black-and-white issue. Rather, different loans at varying rates may be available, depending on how risky a lender thinks a particular mortgage will be. If you don’t qualify at 5.5 percent, for instance, you may be able to get the nod for a loan at 6 percent or 6.5 percent. However, many borrowers, especially those who are refinancing, need a certain rate to reach the monthly payment they want. Not only are rates higher for risky loans, but there are also now upfront “point” charges dictated by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two big mortgage guarantors currently under government control. To get a good rate, some borrowers may be able to make changes such as lowering the amount  of the loan they seek.

When a borrower isn’t far from the qualifying mark, he may be able to reapply and be approved relatively quickly. For instance, if you’re within reach of a 740 credit score, which is usually required for the best rate, you might pay down a balance on a credit card and hit the target.

Seek out other opinions
Not every lending firm adheres strictly to the same playbook, and one lender may approve what another rejects. A local community bank, meaning a smaller hometown institution, may be more flexible. Because they’re local, they know home values better. They’ll still use independent appraisals, of course, but they may look at comparable home values differently because they know what’s really happening in different neighborhoods. Credit unions, which only offer loans to consumers who qualify for credit union membership, may also be more forgiving. Some credit unions may judge loan eligibility based upon the unique relationship they have with their members. For instance, many credit unions offer membership to employees of specific companies and would know more about a member’s job stability.

Give it another try
The MBA is predicting that 30-year fixed rates will hover near the 5 percent range through 2009. So if predictions hold and interest rates stay relatively low, you should have time to try again if the factors behind your rejection improve. Fortunately, a rejection shouldn’t bring down your credit score.

Making a formal application and then reapplying more than a month later could lower your score but only by about 5 points. Most scoring systems allow consumers to make multiple mortgage applications within a 30-day period without any negative impact on their credit score. But mortgage inquiries older than 30 days will count as a single inquiry if they’re made within a 14-day or 45-day window, depending on the scoring model used. n

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