Friday, December 7, 2012

FHA to Cost Borrowers More

FHA has announced a major change to its loan program which allows borrowers to cancel the mortgage insurance premium (MIP) when their unpaid balance reaches 78% of the original purchase price. While no specific date has been set for the change, sometime in 2013, new FHA loans will require the mortgage insurance for the life of the loan.

At existing rates, the monthly MIP on a $168,875 mortgage is $178.99 per month. Under the current rule with normal amortization, the MIP would no longer be required in 9 years and 9 months. However, under the new rule, it would last for the entire 30 year term.

They also announced that the annual MIP will also be increased from 1.25% to 1.35% at some point in the near future. HUD, the parent agency for FHA, is making the changes to restore the capital reserves of the program that are needed to fund failed loans.

People that can close a FHA loan before the change takes place will fall under the old rules for canceling MIP and the lower rates. Since no date was announced, it is not known exactly when the changes will take effect.

While this information will probably not make the evening news, it will have a big impact on borrowers planning to use an FHA loan. Please pass it on to anyone you know who might be considering purchasing or refinancing with a FHA loan.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Refinancing Too Soon?

Some people believe they shouldn't refinance more often than once every two years. The determining factors are if you'll lower your payments and plan to stay in the home long enough to recapture the cost of refinancing. If so, you should consider refinancing.

Interest rates have actually come down significantly in the past 12 months and even more in the past 24 months. According to the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, rates on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage are down to 3.6% in August, 2012 compared to 4.27% one year earlier.

Refinancing in the example below would save the homeowner $67.04 per month and they would recapture the cost of refinancing in 3 years and 9 months based on approximately $3,000 of closing costs.

Click Here to make your own projection on a Refinance Analysis calculator.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Your Ticket to Freedom From Mortgage Frustration


Your Ticket to Freedom from Mortgage Frustration
In the news, there is talk of a housing recovery. Experts feel more optimistic about the state of housing industry in America. However, if you or someone you know is one of the millions of homeowners who is stuck with a home on which you owe more than the property is worth, the feeling of helplessness can be overwhelming and frustrating.

Many people don’t realize that just because they are in danger of losing their home to foreclosure doesn’t mean they have to wait around for it to happen. With help, they can take matters into their own hands.

CLAIM YOUR TICKET TO FREEDOM!

As a Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE), I make it my business to know all of the ins-and-outs of the options that are available for people who are in danger of losing their homes and help the challenges head-on.

Contact me today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Talk To Jere!
334-324-9485

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Star Spangled Banner

Our American flag is obviously the symbol of our country but it has come to remind us of every man and woman who has fought for the freedom that we enjoy. The emotions that are stirred by images of our flag can run from happiness to sadness to even anger and everything in between.

Most of us learned basic flag etiquette when we were young but occasionally, it is a good idea to review the procedures so that we treat the flag with the respect that it deserves.

  • The U.S. flag should not be flown at night unless a light is shown on it.
  • The flag should never touch the ground.
  • The U.S. flag should not be flown upside down except as a distress signal.
  • A U.S. flag should be displayed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.
  • When displaying multiple flags of a state, community or society on the same flagpole, the U.S. flag must always be on top.
  • When flown with flags of states, communities or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor - to its own right. No flag should be higher or larger that the U.S. flag. The U.S. flag is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.
  • When the U.S. flag is flown with those of other countries, each flag should be the same size and must be on separate poles of the same height. Ideally, the flags should be raised and lowered simultaneously.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Real Estate Instructor Mark Porter Teaches CRS 206

WHAT a great chance for me to catch up on the continuing changing world of technologhy for the real estate business! Here in Pensacola, Florida, hoping the storms have moved away, and enjoying one of my favorite real estate instructors. If you are a real estate agent, and have a chance to attend any of Mark's classes, it is well worth it! I learned years ago, when attending one of many of his classes, that Mark and I share many things, including having learned plenty from Tony Robbins. Although Mark is one up on me, because he did in fact, "walk the hot coals". Mark Porter Rocks!! Learning plenty in order to better help my Montgomery, Alabama buyers and sellers

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

If I'd Only Bought

We've probably all said or at least thought "if I knew then, what I know now, I would have done things differently." We should have stayed in school longer. We should have listened to our parents. We should have bought Apple stock in 2002 for $8.50 or gold in 2000 for $300.

Years from now, if we look back at 2012, it may be clear that this was the best buyer's market ever. The prices are down nationwide 35-40% from four years ago, mortgage rates have never been this low and rents are rising. Few homes have been built in recent years to keep up with a growing population. There may never be a better time to buy homes than now.

The housing affordability index which is considered to be good at 100 has increased to over 200 for several months. Shrinking inventories and rising prices in some markets are causing the index to fall for the first time in years.

This 'buying" opportunity applies equally to acquiring a home to live in or to rent as income property. It is estimated that about one-third of the homes purchased last year were done by investors. It is reasonable because the positive cash flows far exceed most other investment alternatives.

The question we're all faced with this year is whether we'll be saying we seized or missed an opportunity of a lifetime. Still sitting on the fence? Give me a call and let's discuss your options!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pre-Approval Gives Everyone Confidence

The benefits of buyer's pre-approval are without question; it is good for the buyers, the sellers and the agents. It saves time, money and removes the uncertainty of knowing whether the buyer is qualified. The direct benefits include:

  • Amount the buyer can borrow decreases as interest rates rise
  • Looking at "Right" homes - price, size, amenities, location
  • Find the best loan - rate, term, type
  • Uncover credit issues early - time to cure possible problems
  • Bargaining power - price, terms, & timing
  • Close quicker - verifications have been made

There a big difference in sitting down with a trusted mortgage professional compared to going through calculators on a website. The cost of being pre-approved is a bargain and generally, limited to the cost of the credit report.

Even if you have been pre-approved, a suggestion that can't hurt but may help is to get a second opinion from a different lender. It will either verify that you have a good deal or you’ll discover that you can improve it. Either way, it works to your advantage. Contact me if you'd like a recommendation.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's Worth Checking Out

"Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible...for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands." 
Judge Learned Hand

This opinion refers to federal income tax but the logic and spirit can easily be applied to any tax including property tax. Most property tax is based on a valuation called an assessment placed on the property by a government taxing authority.

When property values rise due to appreciation, the assessments usually rise. However, when values decline as they have done in many areas in the past few years, the assessments should follow accordingly.

If you don’t believe your assessment reflects market value, put together proof to support your position. Recent comparable sales, similar in size, condition and location are very persuasive. Check to see if the square footage on the assessment is accurate. If the home is not in good condition, take pictures to show that.

As your real estate professional, I can supply the comparables, filing deadlines and other pertinent information needed to make a challenge. Lowering your assessment will result in lower property taxes and more money in your pocket.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Have You Backed Up Your Home?

Personal computers have been around long enough that everyone has experienced or knows someone who has lost their data due to a hard drive crash, accident or burglary. If they had a backup, the loss was inconvenient but not critical.

Do you have a backup for your personal belongings? Not that you need duplicates of all the items but do you have a journal listing of all the items with a description and their approximate values? That record becomes the backup that supports the claim for your insurance.

If a building sustains a total loss, the insurance company will usually pay the face amount of the policy. When it comes to personal property which might be 40% to 50% of the insured value of the dwelling, the insurance company is going to expect an accounting with receipts or at least, a relatively recent inventory.

The better your inventory, the less likely you'll have difficulty with the claim. Almost everyone has a digital camera that can take stills and probably even videos. The combination of the images as well as a written description will help you replace the belongings and serve as proof to the insurance company.

Once you've made the inventory, store it off site for safe keeping. Online storage in the "cloud" might be the best place to insure you'll always know where it is. Contact me for a free Home Inventory form; it's my way of helping you be a better homeowner.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Do This...Before You Call The Repairman

Have you ever had a service company to your home to repair something and find out that it really wasn't "broken"? It probably conjured up ambivalent feelings of joy that it wasn't something serious and frustration that you had to pay a service call for something so simple.

Before you call the repairman next time, keep these things in mind to see if it is something simple:

  • Disposer not working - check to see if the reset button has been thrown. It is usually on the bottom of the disposer. If the disposer is making a humming sound, the blades may be stuck. While the disposer is turned off, use a wooden broom handle as a lever to gently rotate the blades. Remove the broom handle and turn on the disposer to see if it works properly.
  • Air conditioner not working - check to see if a breaker has thrown on your electric panel. You might need to flip the breaker completely off and flip it back on.
  • Electrical outlets not working - Electrical plugs in bathrooms or outside, especially on a porch or patio, are many times connected to a ground fault interrupter. The GFI will be a wall outlet and it may be located in the garage. Locate the outlet and reset the button that may have tripped.
  • Clogged drain - a simple way to correct a slow or clogged drain is to use the water pressure from a garden hose. You'll need a helper to turn on the water full-blast once you have safely placed the hose in the drain and are holding a hand-towel around the hose to direct the water to the drain. Be prepared to tell your helper to turn off the water when needed.

Whether it's preparing a home to market or arranging repairs required by the sale, REALTORS® know reputable, reasonable and reliable service contractors. We're here to share our contacts with you to help make home ownership better.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Don't Miss The Recall

Occasionally, you hear about an important recall on a product you have and you take care of it immediately. However, if you were to miss such a notice, it could put you or your family in jeopardy.

You can subscribe to the U.S. government's service to notify the public when recalls are made on vehicles, tires and child restraints through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on their site called SaferCar.gov.

You'll receive a notification by email when there is a new recall based on the type you selected. You can change your selections or unsubscribe at any time by going back to their website in the "Manage Your Notifications" section.

We're committed to helping you be a better homeowner by providing information on items that can protect your home's value, reduce expenses, improve maintenance and increase the enjoyment of your home.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When Mortgage Debt Is Cancelled

The Mortgage Forgiveness Relief Act of 2007 was passed by Congress to avoid additional financial hardship that some homeowners might experience due to a foreclosure or short sale. The law affects mortgage relief that occurs from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2012.

Normally, IRS considers partial or total debt forgiven by a lender to be treated as ordinary income. This not only affects foreclosures but even short sales where only part of the debt is forgiven would trigger additional taxes for the homeowner. There are exceptions that apply such as bankruptcy and insolvency.

The forgiveness is only applicable to taxpayers' principal residence and only acquisition debt used to buy, build or improve the home. The additional cash taken out when refinancing a home will not be eligible for the relief unless it is used for capital improvements.

The lender is required to submit a 1099 form to IRS and provide the homeowner a copy who will file the forgiven amount on Form 982 as part of their 1040 tax return. How this affects your individual situation may differ due to other circumstances and advice from a tax professional is recommended.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Another Indication...It's A Good Time To Buy

The Housing Affordability Index was developed over thirty years ago to help consumers determine when it is a good time to buy a home. It's considered advantageous to the buyer when the index is over 100 because a median income family can qualify for a median price home.

Recent figures released by the National Association of REALTORS' economic department show that the 2011 index of 184.5 is the highest annual average since it has been calculated. The most recent month released, December 2011, was 194.9. The index is also broken down into four regions of the country.

The two major components that contribute to the index are home prices and mortgage interest rates which are lower than they've been in the last five years which account for the dramatic rise in the index since 2006.

The Housing Affordability Index is another indication that this is a good time to buy a home for people who have good credit, a down payment and want a home. It may be the best time we'll see in our lifetimes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

FHA Fees Going Up April 9, 2012

FHA has raised the annual Mortgage Insurance Premium to 1.25% beginning April 9th.  MIP is required on all FHA loans and used to fund losses by lenders for borrowers who default on their mortgages.  As of June 1st, FHA loans in excess of the standard maximum of $625,500, in high-cost areas, will have a premium of 1.5% of the loan amount.

In addition to the increase in the annual MIP, FHA also announced it plans to raise the fee on the up-front MIP from 1.00% to 1.75%.  No date was reported for its implementation.

The bottom line will result in a borrower’s payments going up.  However, it might not be restricted to the MIP.  Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed that both 30 year and 15 year mortgages have gone up too.

One way to avoid the increase is to have a completed sales contract and have your lender order the FHA commitment prior to April 9, 2012.  If you plan on buying a home this spring, there is a reason to do it earlier rather than later.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fix It Anyway

"If it isn't broke, don't fix it" is certainly popular advice, but if you've ever had a serious plumbing leak, you certainly wished you had taken care of the problem earlier.

Washing machines, like all appliances, are supposed to work and when they don't, it's time to have them fixed or replaced. However, there is a critical connection from your water supply that may even be older than your washing machine itself.

Ask someone whose hose broke while they were asleep or out of town and you'll hear stories of how quickly the water can damage walls, flooring and furniture. Almost anyone can replace the hoses with a pair of pliers for under $30.00 to avoid this potential catastrophe.

As you're shopping for the replacement hoses, consider the braided stainless steel connectors. The advantage is that the stainless steel offers additional protection should a soft spot develop in the hose beneath. They'll cost a little more but offer considerably more protection for a nominal price.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The IDEAL Investment

Rental homes can be the IDEAL investment in today's market because they offer a much higher rate of return than alternatives without the volatility of ups and downs in the stock market.

IDEAL serves as an acronym to identify the advantages of rental properties:

  • Income from the monthly rent contributes to paying the expenses and a return on the investment
  • Depreciation is a non-cash deduction that contributes a tax shelter
  • Equity grows monthly as the mortgage amortizes due to some of each payment being applied to the principal
  • Appreciation is achieved as the value of the property goes up
  • Leverage can increase the return on investment by using borrowed funds to control a larger asset
The combination of these characteristics working together makes rental real estate a very good investment for today's economy and years to come. Increased rents, high rental demand, good values and low non-owner-occupied mortgage rates contribute to positive cash flows and very favorable rates of return.
Contact me for more information about actual opportunities in our local market.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Blogging On The Run With RE/MAX

Well it's Friday morning in Montgomery, Alabama and we may have some bad weather (again) rolling our way. But real estate activity has also been "rolling our way" in the form of increased activity.

SO...2012 is looking really great! And being on the run (meeting with two buyer clients today) I decided to test out the Blogger app for my iPhone.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Great Investment

If you invest in a savings account, you'll make less than 1% and will have to pay income tax on the earnings. On the other hand, contribute something extra to your house payment on a regular basis and you'll essentially, earn at the mortgage interest rate which is certain to be more than you're earning in the bank.

Making additional principal contributions on your mortgage will save interest, retire debt and build equity. An extra $100 a month in the example shown will save thousands in interest and short the term of the mortgage as well.

Reducing your cost of housing is another way to improve the investment in your home. Becoming debt-free is a worthy goal that is achieved with discipline and good decisions. Suggestions like this are part of my commitment to help people be better homeowners when they buy, sell and all the years in between.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Risk Determines Value

Regardless of what a lender quotes on mortgage rates, the actual rate paid by a borrower is based on a number of variables. Lenders determine whether to loan money and at what rate based on the risk involved with the transaction.

Factors that increase the risk that the loan will be repaid will proportionately increase the interest rate charged to the borrower. If the risk becomes too high, the loan will not be approved.

  • Loan amounts - conventional loans for more than the conforming limits set by Fannie Mae are considered jumbo loans and generally have a higher interest rate.
  • FICO score - the lowest interest rate is reserved for the highest credit scores; the lower the score, the higher the rate borrower will pay.
  • Occupancy - borrowers occupying a home as their principal residence are considered a better loan risk than second homes and investment properties.
  • Loan purpose - purchase transactions generally have the lowest interest rate while refinancing a home is generally higher.
  • Debt-to-Income ratio - a borrower's monthly liabilities divided by their gross monthly income develops a ratio that helps lenders to assess the borrower's ability to repay the mortgage.
  • Loan-to-Value ratio - the lower the percentage of the loan to the appraised value of the property will generally lower the interest rate.
Any combination of these factors could limit a borrower's ability to secure a mortgage at the rate initially quoted. Being pre-approved by a trusted mortgage professional is the best way to know what rate you can expect to pay. Please call for a recommendation.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Deductible Is The Point

Points refer to prepaid interest on a home mortgage and can be fully deductible by the buyer in the year paid if the right conditions exist. The points must be used to buy, build or improve a taxpayer's principal residence but not all fees charged by the lender are necessarily deductible.

According to IRS Publication 936, "The term 'points' is used to describe certain charges paid, or treated as paid, by a borrower to obtain a home mortgage. Points may also be called loan origination fees, maximum loan charges, loan discount, or discount points. A borrower is treated as paying any points that a home seller pays for the borrower's mortgage."

"Points" can be confusing! When I am teaching Real Estate Pre-License School at Martin & Fellows Real Estate School, the session on Financing always elicits some puzzled looks of confusion.

If you purchased a home in 2011, have your tax professional evaluate your closing statement to see if there are loan fees that may be used as a deduction on your tax return regardless of whether you or the seller paid them.

Refinancing a principal residence or purchasing an investment or income property require that points must be deducted ratably over the term of the mortgage rather than deducting them fully in the year paid. Borrowers in these situations should consider the benefits of lower interest rates from paying point to higher interest rates without points.

This article is meant to provide information that can be discussed with your tax professional about your specific situation and is not to be considered tax advice.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Choose Your Deduction

One third of all U.S. households, 75% of households with more than $75,000 income and most homeowners itemize their deduction on their federal income tax returns. It makes sense because the interest paid on their mortgage and their property taxes probably exceeds the allowable standard deduction.

However, with interest rates as low as they have been in the last two years and the price of homes having come down considerably, it is possible that the standard deduction may be the better choice.

Each year, the taxpayer can compare the total of the itemized deductions to the standard deduction to select which method will result in the most benefits. The 2011 standard deduction is $11,600 for married couple filing jointly and $5,800 for single filers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Forced Savings...Really??

Part of the American Dream is to own a home. A home is a place to call your own; a place to raise your family and share with your friends. A home is a place to feel safe and secure. A home is a good investment?

In a recent report* by Beracha and Johnson, it is suggested that buying a home is the right thing to do but not necessarily for the reason that people expect. A home is, in many instances, the largest investment that homeowners have and it accounts for the majority of their net worth.

The report suggests that the self-imposed savings due to amortization has a significant contribution to a person's net worth. The premise was determined by comparing the net worth of buyers to renters over a 31 year period of time.

When the savings in rent and down payment were reinvested, renters had a greater net worth than buyers after each 8-year cycle by a margin of 91% to 9%. On the other hand, when the requirement to reinvest the savings was dropped and renters were allowed to spend the savings on consumption, the Buyers had a greater net worth 84% compared to 16% for renters.

Appreciation, tax savings and amortization contribute to lowering the cost of housing and help homeowners build equity. The forced savings due to amortization benefits the individuals who may not be disciplined enough to invest the savings otherwise. Regardless of which benefits apply in different situations, owning a home can be a satisfying investment both emotionally and financially.

*Factor Sensitivities in the Making of Buy vs. Rent Decisions: Do Homeowners Make the Right Decision for the Wrong Reason by Eli Berach and Ken J. Johnson of Florida International University writing for the Journal of Housing Research.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The "Right Size" Home

Work hard, buy a home, start a family and continue to upgrade your home until everyone has enough room. This has been the blueprint for lots of homeowners for the last fifty years but there is certainly a shift in thinking that could change all of that.

Interestingly, Americans live in much larger homes than most people in other countries throughout the world. The U.S. Census reported in 2006 that the average single family home completed had 2,469 square feet which was 769 feet more than in 1976.

Once the children are grown and have moved out, homeowners are finding they have too much room. Even if their home is paid for, they have higher property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance on the larger home than they'd have if they were living in the "right size" home.

Some homeowners state thaty they're keeping their larger home because it has luxury features that smaller homes don't have. There's a movement that seems to have started in the United States to find the "right size" home with the amenities and convenience that homeowners want.

This philosophy has been expressed by Sarah Susanka in her book Creating the Not So Big House. It proposes a house that "values quality over quantity with an emphasis on comfort and beauty, a high level of detail, and a floor plan designed for today's informal lifestyle."