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Don’t Miss the Recall

March 26, 2012

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.

Cheaper to Buy???

March 21, 2012

NEW   YORK(CNNMoney) — It’s the eternal question in real estate: Should I buy or rent?

The answer has never been clearer: Buy.
In 98 of the top 100 housing markets, buying a home is more affordable than renting, according to the online real estate company Trulia. Only Honolulu and San Francisco buck the trend.

There are several reasons. Home prices are falling. Mortgage interest rates are at historically low levels. And rents are on the rise.

Of course, many renters are not in a position to buy. For one, it’s hard to get a mortgage these days, despite low rates. And paying rent can push them further away from being able to afford to buy.

“Rising rents make it harder for people to save for a down payment, which is the biggest barrier to buying a home that aspiring homeowners face,” Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist.

The one number to watch for a housing recovery

The nation’s cheapest buyer’s market is Detroit, where purchasing is only 3.7 times more expensive than renting.

Other top five metro areas where buying is much better than renting are Oklahoma City, Dayton, Ohio,Warren, Mich. and Toledo, Ohio.

Rankings like these, however, can obscure the factors that go into each decision.

Housing markets, even within a single metro area, typically have local submarkets. Take New York City, for example. Renting in Manhattan is more affordable than buying. But in suburbanWestchesterCounty just miles to the north, buying is the more affordable option.

The size of the home can also make a difference. In some markets, renting can be a better deal on larger homes, according to Trulia.

InSan   Francisco, for example, studio and one-bedroom apartments sell for 13.1 times rent, while three bedrooms or larger sell for more than 18 times rent.

Readers on mortgage settlement: This stinks

The Trulia survey does not take into account home price trends, which are another factor for individuals choosing whether to buy or rent.

“People will pay more for a home if they expect prices to rise and give them a better return on their investment,” said Kolko.

Those calculations are about to change, according to Ken H. Johnson, a professor of real estate at Florida International who has studied the buy-vs-rent question extensively. He believes home prices nationally have bottomed.

“The ship has turned,” he said. “Markets should slowly start to recover. Housing will return to its traditional role of a safety investment.”

Foreclosures: A rising tide ahead

If so, that adds an incentive to buy. And investing in many of the most expensive markets may be even safer.

Kolko pointed out that places like Honolulu, San Franciscoand Boston have strong long-term growth prospects. They also have little physical space to grow, a factor that tends to keep prices strong.

On the other hand, old areas that aren’t growing much — while cheap — may not return much in the long run.

“Buying is much cheaper than renting in slow-growing places with high vacancy rates and land to spare, like Detroitand Cleveland, where prices are unlikely to improve much in the future,” he said.                         

 

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.

Another Indication

March 13, 2012

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.

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FHA Fees

March 8, 2012

FHA Fees Going Up April 1st

FHA has raised the annual Mortgage Insurance Premium to 1.25% beginning April 1st. 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’sPrimary 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 1, 2012. If you plan on buying a home this spring, there is a reason to do it earlier rather than later.

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