REMAX 440/Central Blog

Home Buyer Tax Credit Repayment Begins for 2008 Buyers

February 17, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 17, 2011Most home buyers who claimed the federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for buying their first home in 2008 are required to start repaying the credit in 15 annual installments, beginning with their 2010 tax returns. The creditsome form of which was offered for qualified home purchases in 2008, 2009 and 2010has different repayment rules depending on when and under what circumstances the home was purchased. As tax season approaches, this may cause confusion among home buyers who received the tax credit. "It is important that home buyers consult a qualified tax professional to make sure they are receiving all the tax benefits as well as fulfilling the obligations of their home purchase," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "Homeownership tax incentives such as the home buyer tax credit and the mortgage interest deduction have helped millions of American families achieve their dream of homeownership." The Internal Revenue Service is sending a letter to taxpayers who claimed the credit that explains if, when and how they have to repay it. There are different IRS letters for different situations, including a purchase of a home in 2008, 2009 or 2010; a sale of a main home; or a change in the use of the main home. For example, a taxpayer who claimed the full $7,500 first-time home buyer credit on their 2008 tax return will repay $500 as an additional tax on their returns each year from 2010 to 2025, or until the home is sold or is no longer used as the owner's principal residence. The credit for homes purchased in 2009 and 2010 does not have a repayment requirement unless the home ceases to be used as the taxpayer's principal residence within three years of the purchase. The home buyer tax credit program expired for the majority of Americans in 2010. However, the eligibility period was extended to April 30, 2011, for qualified service members who served official extended duty outside the United States between December 31, 2008, and May 1, 2010. The IRS website (www.irs.gov) contains detailed information about repayment requirements for the federal home buyer tax credit. For information about the tax benefits of homeownership, visit www.SaveMyMortgageInterestDeduction.com. For more information, visit www.nahb.org.

Tips for Organizing Your Kitchen

February 16, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 16, 2011--If the cooking process is rather problematic for you, you may benefit from a kitchen reorganization. By restructuring your kitchen's setup, you can save yourself time while cooking and make a world of difference. With the right organizational features, cooking can be fun and relaxing.

According to Paul Radoy, manager of design services for Merillat, the best way to approach kitchen organization and storage is to look at the room in sections. "All kitchens have a cooking zone and a cleanup zone," he says. "And some kitchens may have an island or pantry. Each of these areas lends themselves to various storage opportunities."

The Cooking Zone

Keeping cooking items organized and within easy reach is key when preparing and cooking food. The National Association of Professional Organizers recommends observing the flow of activity in your kitchen and organizing around it. By designing your kitchen to meet the ways that you live, you can optimize your space and alleviate your processes.

Start by grouping objects by purpose and dedicate specific storage areas for them. Keep all bakeware together, keep pots and pans together, etc. In addition, keep those pots and pans as close to the oven as possible, and keep handy utensils where you'll need them the most. A hanging system or pull-down knife rack are both ideal for easy use. Save the Lazy Susan for awkward items or anything that falls under the miscellaneous category.

The Pantry Zone

Tired of scouring the pantry looking for canned goods? Do you often rebuy items that you already have? If you answer "Yes" to either of these questions, you could also probably benefit from rearranging your pantry. Group similar items together starting with canned goods, breakfast items, baking ingredients, etc. Pullout shelves and baskets can help you utilize cupboard space and keep like items together in one spot. Using stackable platforms for taller spaces can help eliminated waste space and increase your storage space.

The Cleanup Zone

Tidy up your cleanup zone to minimize clutter and make after-cooking cleanup easier. Tilt-out sink trays are great for soap and sponges, while an under sink tote can keep all of your cleanup supplies organized and handy. Having a cutting board near or next to the sink also offers a "clean-as-you-go" option.

Lastly, get rid of things that you don't use often. Foreman grills, waffle makers or panini presses that don't get used a lot just take up space and should be donated to someone who will use them more often.

When you're working in a kitchen that is nicely organized, the whole cooking experience will be easier, more fun and more productive.

For more information, visit www.merillat.com.


Homeowners Insurance Holders Must Be Aware of What's Covered and What's Not

February 16, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 16, 2011--The hazardous winter weather that has swept across the country is making many people wonder about their hazard insurance policy and what it covers. The conditions have brought dangerous ice, heavy snow and freezing cold temperatures. These factors can cause injury to people and damage to property, which is why it is important to know what is included in coverage. This winter's weather has caused hazardous and expensive problems in many areas. People have experienced roof collapses from heavy snowfall and water damage from frozen pipes. These issues are generally covered by most basic homeowners insurance plans. However, there may be some exceptions. If a home is left vacant and the water is not shut off, a policy may not cover the resulting damage. A homeowner should check their policy and properly prepare their house if it will be left unattended for an extended period of time. Falls on slippery ice are common during winter months. Typically, homeowners insurance has liability coverage that will pay for the financial damages for most injuries occurring on a covered person's property. Limits do vary and a homeowner should work with an agent to assess their risk to determine the appropriate level of liability coverage. If an individual does fall due to ice in front of a home and decides to sue, whether it is covered by the policy of the property owner also depends upon the local snow removal statues. Some require by law that the maintenance of the sidewalk in front of a house is the responsibility of the owner. In this case, the homeowners insurance policy will then be in effect. If a homeowners insurance claim needs to be made, the owner should take pictures before any clean up or repairs. A home inventory should be made before a claim. This is a detailed list of the personal property in and around the home. In addition to a list, owners should keep receipts for big ticket items, and make a photo log or a video recording of all the items in the home. A copy of this record should be kept in a safe place outside of the home. Source: HomeownersInsurance.net

Freddie Mac Announces K-701 Offering of K Certificates Backed Only by 7-Year Multifamily Mortgages

February 16, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 16, 2011--Freddie Mac announced its first-ever offering of Structured Pass-Through Certificates ("K Certificates") backed only by multifamily mortgages with a 7-year term. The company expects to offer approximately $861 million in K Certificates ("K-701 Certificates"), which are expected to price the week of February 21, 2011, and settle on or about March 9, 2011. The K-701 Certificates will be offered to the market by a syndicate of dealers led by Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated and J.P. Morgan Securities LLC as Co-Lead Managers and Joint Bookrunners for the transaction. Barclays Capital Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., Goldman, Sachs & Co., Jefferies & Company, Inc., Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated and Wells Fargo Securities LLC have been named as Co-Managers for the transaction. The K-701 Certificates are backed by 44 recently originated multifamily mortgages and are guaranteed by Freddie Mac. "We are very pleased to offer our first '700-series' of K Certificates, which are comprised entirely of multifamily mortgages with an original maturity of 7-years," said David Brickman, vice president of Multifamily CMBS Capital Markets for Freddie Mac. "Because of the strong growth in our multifamily mortgage purchases, we can now tailor securities that segregate our collateral by maturity and provide tighter principal windows to better meet the specific needs of investors. Going forward, we hope to issue K Certificate securities backed by specific collateral such as 5- and 10-year multifamily mortgages." K Certificates provide Freddie Mac with an efficient vehicle to securitize multifamily loans. The certificates provide investors with stable cash flows, structured credit enhancement and the Freddie Mac guarantee. For more information, visit: www.freddiemac.com/mbs/data/k701oc.pdf.

8 Documents Youll Need to Get a Mortgage Approved

February 15, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 15, 2011--Getting a mortgage home loan might seem like a tedious process, but if you do your part to look good on paper, you can increase your eligibility for the best interest rates. Financial institutions primarily consider three main areas in determining who is eligible for a mortgage: employment history, credit history, debt to income ratio (which is the percentage of income that goes to expenses). As proof of these, most financial institutions will ask for a selection of the following documents in considering your request for a mortgage loan.

Employment 1. Last two years federal tax returns and/or W-2 statements financial institutions typically use your past tax returns as verification of your employment and earnings.

2. Pay stubs: Most financial institutions will ask to see your most recent pay stubs, usually covering the past month. Your pay stub must have your name, your social security number, your employers address, and your year-to-date earnings. These help them to gauge whether you will be able to handle your monthly mortgage payments.

3. Employment history: While your pay stubs provide your financial earnings, your employment history gives the financial institution an idea of the nature of your employment. Generally, a record of steady employment is going to work in your favor.

4. Credit History: Credit report, including current creditors and account information. A credit report, including a list of your current creditors and the corresponding account information is useful to a financial institution because it allows them to see how you have dealt with your past loans. This list should include the details (i.e. minimum monthly payment and balances) of all student loans, auto loans, credit cards, and child support payments.

By establishing a solid credit history, you can avoid having to pay higher interest rates that frequently accompany subprime mortgages.

Expenses and Payments 5. Bank statements: In order to verify your banking assets, financial institutions will most likely want to see up to three months of your most recent bank statements.

6. Complete record of assets: Additional assets that should be reported upon applying for a mortgage loan should include mutual funds, retirement accounts, real estate titles, and stock certificates. These not only promote your qualifications as a worthy risk for the financial institution, but they can also help you secure a lower interest rate.

7. Canceled rent checks: If you are currently renting, canceled checks that were used to pay rent can be proof that you are punctual with your payments. Some financial constitutions may ask for the name and address of your landlord instead of the canceled checks.

8. Information about desired property or property type. Providing the financial institution with a description of either the property you want to finance or at least a description of the property helps the financial institution decide if any of the loan programs would be right for you.

Having these documents gathered and ready to go when you are in the process of shopping for a new home will help your mortgage application process go smoothly.

Source: www.informars.com.

Secondary Mortgage Market Needs Improvement, Says NAR

February 15, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 15, 2011--The National Association of REALTORS welcomed the government's call for an orderly transition from the current form of the secondary mortgage market to a new structure that would enable Americans to achieve affordable, sustainable mortgages. NAR believes that we cannot have a restoration of the former secondary mortgage market with entities that took private profits while pushing losses onto the taxpayer. The new system must involve some government presence, outside of FHA, USDA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to ensure a continued flow of capital to housing markets during economic downturns when large lenders flee the housing market, NAR President Ron Phipps said in response to the plan released by the Obama Administration for reforming the housing finance market. As the leading advocate for home ownership, NAR recognizes that the existing system failed and that changes are needed to protect taxpayers from an open-ended bailout. We believe there must be a certain level of government participation to provide middle-class families access to affordable mortgages at all times and in all markets, Phipps said. A system that is dominated by a few large banks that are too-big-to-fail would inevitably involve huge taxpayer risk of another bailout. An efficient and adequately regulated secondary mortgage market must make available to consumers simple yet safe, reliable mortgage products like the 15- and 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, Phipps said. NAR believes that the size of the governments participation in housing finance should decrease if the market is to function properly, but notes that when private capital fled the marketplace during the recent financial crisis, government backing of residential mortgages was critical in sustaining the housing market. Without government support, the financial crisis could have been far worse, Phipps said. NARs economists estimate that a retreat of capital from the housing market will negatively impact the economy; because for every 1,000 home sales, 500 jobs are created for the country. NAR encourages private sector participation in less traditional mortgages in innovative ways, such as through covered bonds. NAR, however, opposes raising fees for current well-qualified consumers to cover losses stemming from mistakes made in the private business decisions of the former Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Reducing the governments involvement in the mortgage finance market is necessary for a healthy market, but should not be done at the expense of the economy or home buyers, said Phipps. Any proposal for increasing fees and borrowing costs beyond actuarially sound levels will only make it harder for working, middle-class individuals to achieve homeownership, and only the wealthy will be able to achieve the American dream. We welcome the Administrations desire to engage stakeholders in the final plan and we want to serve on any advisory panel that will study the consolidation of federal incentives for housing. We also look forward to working closely with Congress. NAR has been representing the interests of home owners for more than 100 years and our goal is to bring their interests into this debate as well. We want to help design a secondary mortgage model that will serve home owners today and in the future, and ensure a strong housing market and full economic recovery, Phipps said.

Institute Unveils Tips to Help Homeowners, Buyers Avoid Appraisal Problems

February 15, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 15, 2011--The Appraisal Institute has released helpful tips for consumers, providing guidance for homeowners and buyers seeking to ensure their sales are completed in a timely manner. As one of the nations largest professional associations of real estate appraisers, the Appraisal Institute created the tips list to let consumers know how to protect themselves and how to avoid unnecessary frustration when selling or buying a home. The document is available at: http://www.appraisalinstitute.org/newsadvocacy/downloads/AIhelpfultipsforconsumers.pdf. Too many consumers in this struggling real estate market face problems with appraisals when attempting to buy or sell a home, said Appraisal Institute President Joseph C. Magdziarz, MAI, SRA. But rather than passively endure delays in closing a sale, homeowners and buyers can take proactive steps to avoid pitfalls. The Appraisal Institutes tips encourage homeowners and buyers to: - Understand the role of appraisals. - Make sure their lender hires a qualified appraiser (such as a designated SRA, SRPA or MAI member of the Appraisal Institute). - Accompany the appraiser during the inspection of the property if possible. - Request a copy of the appraisal report from the lender. - Examine the appraisal report and ask questions. - Appeal the appraisal if appropriate. - Ask the lender to order a second appraisal by a qualified and designated appraiser. - File legitimate complaints with appropriate state board or professional appraisal organizations. Credible opinions of value can help to stabilize the real estate market, Magdziarz said. Appraisals are especially important because they are an objective and unbiased source of information. Unlike others involved in real estate transactions, the appraiser is an independent professional who performs a service for a fee rather than for a commission. Magdziarz noted that normal declines in the real estate market have led to increased caution by lenders. That caution has led to delays in completing some real estate transactions. Appraisers today are doing the same thorough, fact-based research and analysis they have always done, Magdziarz said. Nothing has changed in that regard. Magdziarz added that appraisers have been wrongly accused of prolonging the nations real estate downturn by developing value opinions that are below proposed sale prices. Specifically, he said, theyve been unfairly criticized for including comparable sales in the valuation process that provide opinions that are below the cost to build. It serves neither the lender nor the consumer to enter into an upside-down mortgage, he noted. Some real estate agents, mortgage brokers and home builders have used the Home Valuation Code of Conduct and Interagency Appraisal and Evaluation Guidelines as a scapegoat for current declines in the real estate market caused by the weak economy and the general oversupply of homes in the market, Magdziarz said. For more information, visit www.appraisalinstitute.org.

5 Tips for the First-Time Relocator

February 14, 2011 10:31 am

By A. Michael Del Duca, RISMedia Guest Columnist

RISMEDIA, February 14, 2011A new career opportunity sometimes means relocating your family to another city. Careful consideration of various factors, such as your partners career, the effect on the childrens educational and recreational activities, and financial constraints all impact the decision to move.

Additional responsibilities crop up when moving to a new home, including getting the house up and running, finding the right school for the kids and getting them acclimated, and getting adjusted to life in a new town. These tasks can be incredibly overwhelming, especially in a new location without the aide of family and friends.

Here are some tips to help relieve the stress of relocation and turn your move into a successful endeavor:

  1. Take your time. As with all moves, there are so many things you need to do once you relocate into your new home. From dealing with utility companies, to finding a new doctor, to unpacking and decorating the new residence, your to-do list may seem endless. Dont try to accomplish everything at once. Make a list and divide it into three categories: immediate, secondary and down the road. Set your own timetable because you are the boss of this project and the only person you have to please is yourself.
  2. Get out and meet people. More than likely, you wont know many people in your new community. Besides introducing yourself to neighbors, you can find a place of worship, volunteer in a community organization, join a social club or gym, or just say hello to people.
  3. Reevaluate your career goals. If you had to leave a job behind, check to see if your company offers any employment assistance for relocating partners. Many companies have formal and informal programs, offering as little as resume support to as much as arranging job interviews. If youve desired to make a career change, this could perfect opportunity to do so. You may even want to consider an entrepreneurial career that you can take anywhere.
  4. Talk to your real estate professional. Your real estate professional can be a great resource as he or she has a strong understanding of the area you just moved to. They will have insight on the areas job market and may be able to give you names of career counselors or just help you feel comfortable in your new surroundings.
  5. Most importantly, dont push yourself by setting unrealistic goals. Moving is a process and it will take time for you to get acclimated to your new home and community. So, make this move not only a golden opportunity for your partner, but for yourself as well.

By taking your time and completing tasks one at a time, you and your family will soon be readjusted to life in your new location.


Ensure Your Family's Safety with a Fire Escape Plan

February 14, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 14, 2011--In 2008, fire departments responded to 403,000 home fires in the United States, yet a recent survey by the Home Safety Council (HSC) reveals that less than half (37%) of respondents have taken any actions to prevent home fires. A partnership by HSC and Werner Ladder has resulted in an effort to encourage families to prepare for a home fire by developing an emergency escape plan and to make sure second- and third-story exits are equipped with fire escape ladders. Innovative built-in ladders can also be used as fire escape options for families.

"If your primary exit is blocked by smoke, heat or flames, you'll need to use a second way out, possibly a window," says Chris Filardi, senior vice president of marketing at Werner Ladder. "Making sure everyone knows the exit options and how to use a built-in fire escape ladder if necessary could, ultimately, save a life in an emergency."

According to a 2007 U.S. Census Bureau American Housing Survey, there are more than 70 million two-to-three-story homes in the United States, yet surprisingly, research by HSC reveals that only 6% of U.S. homes own a fire escape ladder.

"Many families don't realize that a fire can go from first spark to deadly levels in as few as three minutes, leaving families little time to escape," says Home Safety Council President Meri-K Appy. "In situations when getting out of the home quickly is critical to survival, a fire escape ladder may be one of the most important home improvement steps a caregiver can take."

HSC and Werner Ladder are urging families to work together to develop a fire escape plan. Families can start by drawing a floor plan of their home, including all rooms, windows, doors, stairways, fire escapes and smoke alarms, and indentifying two ways out of every room. Sometimes a window may be the only way to escape a home on fire. In this situation, families should have a fire escape ladder that is easy to use and long enough to reach the ground.

It is also recommended that families practice fire drills at least twice a year. As part of their fire drill exercises, families should remember to practice deploying the fire escape ladder to the ground. To practice, extend the escape ladder and climb up a few rungs from the bottom. This will give each family member a sense of what it feels like to be on the ladder while preventing an unnecessary fall. Only use the ladder for an exit in an actual emergency.

If you have infants or children too young to escape independently, keep a front facing baby carrier near the window so an adult can escape with the baby and have both hands free to hold the ladder.

By having a plan in place and beginning to practice fire safety now, families can ensure they will be prepared throughout the year to exit their home safely in the event of a fire.

To learn more about developing a fire escape plan and choosing a fire escape ladder for a home, visit the Home Safety Council at http://www.homesafetycouncil.org/MySafeHome/msh_wernerladder_w001.asp or Werner Ladder at www.wernerfireescapeladder.com.


Home Price Stabilization Seen in Most Metro Areas during Fourth Quarter, Sales Up

February 14, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 14, 2011--Home sales rebounded in 49 states during the fourth quarter with 78 markets - just over half of the available metropolitan areas - experiencing price gains from a year ago, while most of the rest saw price weakness, according to the latest survey by the National Association of REALTORS.

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, jumped 15.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual of 4.80 million in the fourth quarter from 4.16 million in the third quarter, but were 19.5% below a surge to an unsustainable cyclical peak of 5.97 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, which was driven by the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit.

In the fourth quarter, the median existing single-family home price rose in 78 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) from the fourth quarter of 2009, including 10 with double-digit increases; three were unchanged and 71 areas had price declines. In the fourth quarter of 2009 a total of 67 MSAs experienced annual price gains.

The national median existing single-family price was $170,600 in the fourth quarter, up 0.2 % from $170,300 in the fourth quarter of 2009. The median is where half sold for more and half sold for less. Distressed homes, typically sold at discount of 10 to 15%, accounted for 34% of fourth quarter sales, little changed from 32% a year earlier.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, is encouraged by the trend. "Home sales clearly recovered in the latter part of 2010 and are helping to absorb the inventory, including many distressed properties. Even with foreclosures continuing to enter the inventory pipeline, they've been selling well and housing supplies have trended down," he said. "A recovery to normalcy requires steady trimming of the inventories."

Yun added, "An improving housing market and job growth will go hand in hand. The housing recovery will mean faster job growth." He projects about 150,000 to 200,000 jobs will be added to the economy this year from an anticipated 300,000 additional home sales in 2011.

Yun further noted, "Better than expected sales and/or strengthening in home values can have an even bigger job impact as consumer spending would naturally rise from a housing wealth recovery affecting a vast number of American families."

NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., said a very favorable affordability environment is a huge factor in the recovery. "Although job growth has been relatively modest and credit is tight, you can't underestimate the impact of historically high housing affordability conditions," he said.

"Mortgage interest rates recently hit record lows, median family income has edged up and prices in most areas have been stable following the correction from the housing boom. For people with good credit and long term plans, it's hard to imagine a better opportunity than what we see today," Phipps said. "Unfortunately the flow of credit is unnecessarily tight and is constraining the pace of the housing and job growth recoveries."

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage was a record low 4.41% in the fourth quarter, down from 4.45% in the third quarter; it was 4.92% in the third quarter of 2009.

"The healthier local housing markets are also experiencing favorable local employment conditions," Yun said. Job growth is a major factor in price appreciation in metro areas such as the Washington, D.C., region, where the median existing single-family home price of $331,100 in the fourth quarter is 8.1% higher than a year ago; the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy area, at $346,300, up 4.2%; and Austin-Round Rock, Texas, at $190,300, up 4.1%.

Smaller metro areas sometimes see larger swings in price measurement depending on the types of properties that are sold in a given period. In such markets, full year price data can provide additional context.

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices - covering changes in 57 metro areas - showed the national median existing-condo price was $164,200 in the fourth quarter, which is 6.4% below the fourth quarter of 2009. Twenty-two metros showed increases in the median condo price from a year ago and 35 areas had declines; only 11 metros saw annual price gains in fourth quarter of 2009.

"Consumers in the hard hit regions of Nevada, Arizona and Florida were able to scoop up condos at absolute bargain basement prices," Yun said. Median condo/co-op prices in affected metro areas include Las Vegas-Paradise at $60,700, Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale with a fourth quarter median of $68,900, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach at $81,900.

Regionally, the median existing single-family home price in the Northeast increased 2.3% to $240,400 in the fourth quarter from a year earlier.

Existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 15.0% in the fourth quarter to a level of 797,000 but are 22.8% below the surge in the fourth quarter of 2009.

In the Midwest, the median existing single-family home price rose 0.5% to $139,200 in the fourth quarter from the same period in 2009.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest jumped 18.3% in the fourth quarter to a pace of 1.02 million but are 25.4% below the cyclical peak one year ago.

In the South, the median existing single-family home price edged up 0.3 % to $152,400 in the fourth quarter from the fourth quarter of 2009.

Existing-home sales in the region rose 11.4 % in the fourth quarter to an annual rate of 1.82 million but remain 17.8 % below the surge in the fourth quarter of last year.

The median existing single-family home price in the West declined 2.9 % to $214,400 in the fourth quarter from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the West jumped 19.9 % in the fourth quarter to a level of 1.17 million but are 14.2 % below the cyclical peak in the fourth quarter of 2009.

"A good portion of the sales activity in the West has been driven by investors taking advantage of discounted foreclosures, with high levels of all-cash transactions," Yun explained.


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