How to price your home in 2015

home for saleIn case you haven’t been following along closely, the March 3rd release of CoreLogic’s Home Price Index (corelogic.com) indicated that nationwide home prices increased 5.7% during January compared to the same period last year; and there was a 1.1% increase during January compared to December. And believe it or not, CoreLogic stated that nationwide home prices including distressed sales are only 12.7% below the peak; and only 8.6% below peak if you exclude distressed sales.

Of course, national home price data are an average of regions that vary economically, reflected in their respective housing market. CoreLogic Chief Economist Dr. Frank Nothaft stated, “House price appreciation has generally been stronger in the western half of the nation and weakest in the mid-Atlantic and northeast states…In part, these trends reflect the strength of regional economies. Colorado and Texas have had stronger job creation and have seen 8 to 9 percent price gains over the past 12 months in our combined indexes. In contrast, values were flat or down in Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland in our overall index, including distressed sales.” The only 2 states that realized negative price appreciation year over year (including distressed sales) during January were Maryland and Connecticut, where home prices appreciated (–0.3%) and (-0.6%) respectively.

If you include distressed sales, Maryland’s January home prices appreciated (–0.3%) year over year, (-0.1%) month over month, and is (-25.3%) from the peak. Regional differences, of course, exist: DC home prices including distressed sales appreciated 3.3.% year over year, (-0.4%) month over month, and is only (-1.4%) from the peak; Virginia home prices appreciated 1.4% year over year, (-0.2%) month over month, and is (-15.6%) from the peak.

The CoreLogic HPI Forecast projects nationwide home prices, including distressed sales, to appreciate 0.4% from January to February, with an annual appreciation of 5.3%.

CoreLogic expects consistent home price appreciation through 2015 and into 2016, due in part to a current shortage in housing inventory. Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic, stated that “Many homeowners have taken advantage of low rates to refinance their homes, and until we see sustained increases in income levels and employment they could be hunkered down so supplies may remain tight. Demand has picked up as low mortgage rates and the cut in the FHA annual insurance premium reduce monthly payments for prospective homebuyers.”

According to the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors® (gcaar.com) January Montgomery County single family home statistics, home inventory and home buyer activity increased compared to last January. Although total housing inventory increased 26.5% year over year, contracts (pending sales) increased 16.6%, and settlements (sales) increased 4.8%.

If you’re wondering how these statistics might affect your sale, you’re not alone; many home sellers are trying to shape a sensible marketing plan this spring, which includes deciding on a listing price. Consider that although listing inventory is currently relatively low, it is likely to spike within the next two months adding competition to a market competing for discerning home buyers.

Typical home buyers have been increasingly demanding value; besides looking for a “turnkey” (updated and ready to move in) home, they have also been sensitive to home prices. Since cash buyers are not as prevalent as they were two years ago, and many buyers are concerned about their monthly obligations and budgets; pricing your home correctly will be more important this year than it has in the past.

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in Home Price Index, home prices, home pricing strategy, housing market, real estate, Real Estate Market | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stumbling housing market reignites housing policy debate

real estateSurely 2015 is to be the year when the housing market would bounce back from its recent disappointing performance; at least that’s what I wrote back in November. But as January’s news from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) is not as rosy as we expected; a housing policy debate, that has been subdued since 2010, gets heated.

The NAR revealed in a February 23rd press release (realtor.org) that although the pace of home sales increased compared to the same time last year, existing homes sales have declined to the lowest rate in nine months. The typically optimistic Lawrence Yun (NAR Chief Economist) was cited as saying “the housing market got off to a somewhat disappointing start to begin the year with January closings down throughout the country.”   Adding that “seasonal influences” can make January data erratic, the combination of low inventory and home price gains over the pace of inflation seems to have slowed home sales – notwithstanding low mortgage interest rates.

Keeping mortgage interest rates low is not the sole solution; however, if it was, the housing market may have bounced back several years ago. Although a myriad of causes have been blamed for a lackluster housing market that has been trying to make a comeback for six years, most are correlational and incidental.

However, Richard X. Bove (Equity Research Analyst at Rafferty Capital Markets) recently made a case for a sole cause in his February 23rd commentary (There’s a new mortgage crisis brewing; cnbc.com/id/102447414). Bove described how mortgage markets are in trouble; rules and regulations put into place to strengthen the market by increasing borrower standards have dried up a lot of the funding. And not necessarily in the way you might expect; besides shrinking the pool of qualified buyers, Bove suggested that the rules and regulations have made mortgage lending unprofitable and unpalatable for some lenders (leading them to walk away from the business).

As a response, it would seem as if the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) took steps to make mortgages increasingly available (returning to 3% down payment loans, and increasing the number of loans on Fannie and Freddie’s balance sheets). These actions, along with recorded losses in Q4 2014, Bove described, is making some nervous.

If you don’t remember, the FHFA was created in 2008 as a temporary conservator to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; whose original goals included: ensuring a positive net worth for Fannie and Freddie; reducing Fannie and Freddie’s mortgage portfolios; and facilitating a streamlined and profitable model for Fannie and Freddie.

Bove’s catch-22 conclusion, of either hindering the housing market by stopping Fannie and Freddie’s growth or increasing Fannie and Freddie’s debt obligations with continued growth, is not a new dilemma. The debate has been ongoing since 2008.

Having faded somewhat since 2010, the housing policy debate heated up during testimony given by FHFA Director Mel Watt on January 27th during the congressional hearing, “Sustainable Housing Finance: An Update from the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.” Trey Garrison of HousingWire succinctly portrayed opposing views (January 27, 2014; FHFA hearing: GOP fear housing policy headed for Crash 2.0; housingwire.com): “Democrats said policies in the past year are necessary to expand housing opportunities to lower income and challenged borrowers…” while, “…Republicans…said the administration is adopting dangerous policies that risk another housing crash that will put taxpayers on the hook for billions.

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in FHFA, home sales, housing market, mortgage, real estate, Real Estate Market | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Real estate’s new rules – common sense

home for saleReal estate canon used to be straight forward and for the most part consistent. For instance, if you planned a sale, you would target spring time because that was generally accepted as the time when home buyer activity was the greatest; or buying a home was a rite of passage. But since 2008, what was generally accepted has been persistently challenged; home buyers and sellers have shifted into a new paradigm with new rules.

It is no coincidence that Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate (by Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and Chief Economist Stan Humphries, Ph.D.) comes at a time when significant changes in consumer beliefs and expectations about real estate have become widely recognized. The book is described by Zillow as “…poised to be the real estate almanac for the next generation.” And looking at the table of contents, you might think that the highly acclaimed tome is just another book about the buying and selling process; yet it seems to discuss practical aspects about buying and selling a home, as well as possibly confronting real estate myths.

It will remain to be seen how influential the work will become, as research has indicated that home buyers are typically well informed and out in front of housing trends.

A 2012 study by Karl Case, Robert Shiller, & Anne Thompson (What have they been thinking? homebuyer behavior in hot and cold markets. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 265-315) revealed perceptions and expectations of homebuyers from four metropolitan markets over a 25 year period. The authors concluded that the surveyed home buyers were well informed and very much aware of home price trends prior to their purchase. Data suggested that home buyer opinions (beliefs) fluctuated over time; there was more agreement among respondents during strong markets, and increased doubt during times of market uncertainty. There was also a strong correlation between price perceptions and actual movement in prices. Although home buyers were “out in front” of short term market movements, their short term expectations “underreacted” to actual home price changes; while long term expectations were persistently “more optimistic.”

Suggesting a set of “guidelines” for real estate is a trap that implies that the housing market is straightforward and static; where personal and regional differences don’t matter and the market doesn’t change. However, David Wyman, Elaine Worzala, and Maury Seldin raise the question about becoming complacent with trends and models. In a 2013 exploratory paper (Hidden complexity in housing markets: a case for alternative models and techniques, International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis, 6:4, 383 – 404) they discuss how rigid market models may lead to rules where buyers and sellers could make poor decisions.

The authors’ discussion of “complexity theory” in real estate in not unlike the application of “chaos theory,” which focuses on letting go of assumptions upon which rules are definitive; and view housing as a dynamic and changing environment. Citing incidents leading up to the financial crisis, the authors make a case for understanding the market as complex and using common sense before making (buying and selling) decisions.

So as we begin to understand the new real estate dogma, it is likely that the new rules will most likely change along with the market. And much like the housing market, consumer beliefs are also dynamic – which seem to be ahead of the industry experts.

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in Home Buyer, home buyer behavior, home owner, homeowner, housing market, real estate, Real Estate Market, Real Estate Market Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protect your identity when buying a home

real estateLast year, hackers targeted a number of retailers to compromise shoppers’ financial and personal information. A recent hack of a health insurer possibly jeopardized policy holder data. And Krebbs Security (krebsonsecurity.com) reported on February 15th about an investigation being conducted by the Defense Contract Management Agency of a possible hacking.

Surely the reports of stolen data by hackers have made you more aware of protecting your credit cards when shopping. But how protective are you about handing over personal information to mortgage lenders, real estate brokers/agents, and title companies? If not managed or disposed of properly, your sensitive personal information could be at risk of being stolen – an identity thief only needs a few pieces of personal information to access bank accounts, credit card accounts, health record/insurance, etc.

When buying a home, your information is “out there;” and you are trusting those who have it to protect it. If you want to obtain a mortgage, you must complete a mortgage application; which requires a social security number, date of birth, address, employment, and other information. Mortgage lenders also collect financial documents (such as w-2’s, tax returns, and bank statements) to verify income and asset information on your application.

Additionally, your real estate agent may ask you to complete a financial information sheet to demonstrate to the seller your ability to purchase the home. And as a means of record keeping, transaction files maintained by brokers and agents may also contain copies of deposit checks, credit card information, and other financial instruments.

Renters may be required to submit personal information too. A rental application is a lot like a mortgage application, asking social security number, date of birth, address, employment, and other information.

The National Association of Realtors® (realtor.org) Data Security and Privacy Toolkit states that although there is no federal law specifically applicable to real estate brokers, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Modernization Act applies to businesses that qualify as financial institutions; which may subject brokers to comply with “Red Flag Rules” (and other rules), and require policies and procedures to protect against identity theft.

States have also implemented laws to protect consumers from identity theft. For example, the Maryland Personal Information Protection Act (MD Code Commercial Law § 14-3501) describes personal information as an individual’s first name or first initial and last name in combination with any one or more of the following: Social Security number; driver’s license number; financial account number (including credit cards); and/or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Additionally, the law requires a business to take reasonable steps to protect against unauthorized access to or use of the personal information when destroying a customer’s records that contain personal information.

When choosing a mortgage lender and real estate agent, you might consider asking about the company policy on protecting personal information. Some questions about personal data might be: what types of information will be collected; what is it used for; who has access; when transmitted, is it encrypted; how long will the information be retained; and how will the information be disposed? Besides the management of your personal data, you should ask about procedures in case there is a suspected data breach.

To learn more about protecting your personal information and protecting yourself from identity theft, visit these consumer websites: the Federal Reserve (federalreserve.gov/consumerinfo/idtheft.htm); FTC (consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft); FDIC (fdic.gov/consumers/privacy); and OnGuardOnline (onguardonline.gov).

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in financial information sheet, Home Buyer, home owner, homebuyer, Identity Theft, mortagage application, privacy, real estate | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming this summer – A new real estate settlement experience

real estateFor many, August 1st will be like any other summer day. However for those in the lending and real estate industries, August 1st is when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) new lending, closing disclosures and rules go into effect.

Know Before You Owe” is a project that began before the official opening of the CFPB (which officially opened July 21st 2011), and undertook the remaking of mortgage disclosures to make them more consumer friendly. You might say the project started with the passing of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, which mandated the creation of the CFPB as well as amends the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). Sec 1098 of Dodd-Frank states that the Bureau “shall publish a single, integrated disclosure for mortgage loan transactions” in a “readily understandable language” so as to help borrowers understand the financial aspects of their loan clearly and to be nontechnical.

A change in industry disclosure and compliance to enhance consumer protection is not new. RESPA and the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) were both devised as consumer protections, and amended over the years. RESPA was enacted in 1974 as a protection for consumers from abusive and predatory lending practices to help home buyers better shop for services related to the home buying process. Enacted in 1968, TILA provided guidelines for which lenders are required to inform consumers about the cost of their loan; which includes the disclosing the Annual Percentage Rate (APR), finance charges, amount financed, and the total amount paid as scheduled. The new integrated disclosure forms replace the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and Settlement Statement (HUD1) required by RESPA and the Truth and Lending Disclosure Statement required by TILA with a Loan Estimate and a Closing Disclosure.

RESPA and TILA require disclosures to be provided to you within three days upon making your mortgage application, as well as not having changed prior to your closing of the transaction. Changes to these regulations and disclosures have often been made to keep up with the industry as well as to enhance consumer disclosure and education; the most recent revisions being made immediately after the financial crisis. Although redesigned to be more efficient and accurate, the most recent revision of the GFE and the Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement remained technical in nature. Many claimed the forms remained confusing making it difficult to compare mortgage costs between lenders; costs were not always labeled consistently and sometimes changed prior to closing.

By combining these disclosures into two forms in a clear and understandable language, the forms present important information conspicuously to help consumers decide if the mortgage is affordable and warn about loan features that they may want to avoid. The new forms seek to standardize fee and cost disclosures so as to make shopping easier; with standard cost and fee disclosures, comparisons will be more like comparing two apples rather than an apple to an orange.

One of the more important aspects of the new rules is that the new Closing Disclosure be given to the borrower three days prior to settlement. During the three days prior to closing, changes to the Closing Disclosure that increase charges are prohibited (unless allowed by exception). You can find more information about the CFPB and view the new disclosures at the CFPB website Know Before You Owe (consumerfinance.gov/knowbeforeyouowe).

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Dodd-Frank, real estate, RESPA, settlement, TILA | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fair housing and disparate impact – Supremes hear arguments

HouseApril is designated as Fair Housing Month. The timing for the commemoration is not arbitrary, but is the memorialization of the passing of the Fair Housing Act, which was enacted April 1968. According to HUD (hud.gov), “HUD hosted a gala event in the Grand Ballroom of New York’s Plaza Hotel” to celebrate the first year. Fair Housing Month celebrations held during April have become a “tradition” as events to remember the achievement became more prevalent. Fair Housing Month has become more than just recognition of the realization of passing a law; it has also become a celebration of diversity.

It’s January, and there’s an early buzz about Fair Housing; not because of any celebration or proclamation, but because of a case being considered by the Supreme Court of the United States. Oral arguments were heard last week by the Court in the matter of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project. Although still obscure, the case may be one of the most important and controversial cases the Court will hear this year.

Amy Howe, in her January 6th article for SCOTUSblog (Will the third time be the charm for the Fair Housing Act and disparate-impact claims? In Plain English; scotusblog.com), succinctly described the case that emanates from Texas: “In 2008, the Project filed this lawsuit against the state agency.  It argued that the agency had allocated the tax credits in a racially segregated manner:  it disproportionately granted the housing credits in minority areas of the Dallas region, while at the same time disproportionately denying them in white areas of Dallas.  A federal district court agreed with the Project, finding that the agency’s allocation of tax credits violated the FHA because it had a disparate impact on minorities. Under the ruling, it did not matter whether the agency intended to discriminate against minorities; the effect was enough to violate the law.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed that a disparate-impact claim could be brought under the statute. The state then asked the Supreme Court to weigh in, which it agreed to do in October of last year.

Howe stated, that “The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to ‘refuse to sell or rent . . . or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race…’” This is the third case “…in less than four years, the Supreme Court granted review to consider whether this language allows lawsuits based on disparate impact. A disparate-impact claim is an allegation that a law or practice has a discriminatory effect, even if it wasn’t based on a discriminatory purpose.” The first two cases were settled before oral arguments.

According to the National Fair Housing Alliance (nationalfairhousing.org), disparate impact “…is a legal doctrine under the Fair Housing Act which means that a policy or practice may be considered discriminatory if it has a disproportionate “adverse impact” against any group based on race, national origin, color, religion, sex, familial status, or disability…” and “…safeguards the right to a fair shot for everyone.”

The outcome could affect more just the policies of a Texas housing agency. Although the Court’s opinion may not be given until later this year; the outcome will surely be felt beyond the housing and lending industries.

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in fair housing, real estate | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Affordable housing redux

Affordable HousingStatistics and indices have indicated that buying a home has become more affordable in recent years. In fact, the October 2014 Trulia Rent vs. Buy Index indicated that buying a home was 38% cheaper than renting (trulia.com). Additionally, the S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index released December 30th indicated that average home prices for the 10-City and 20-City Composites are at “autumn 2004 levels” (housingviews.com). However, while interest rates continue to be favorable along with an expanding inventory that offers more choices, obstacles remain to home ownership.

Unlike the high home prices that drove affordable housing concerns in the past, many would-be home buyers today face income and savings challenges. Statistics suggest that many do not earn enough to qualify for a home purchase and/or have not saved enough for a down payment and closing costs. The latest report (Q2 2014) of the Maryland Association of Realtors® First-time Homebuyer Affordability Index revealed a decrease in home affordability from 84.1% to 75.7%; which indicates that Maryland first time home buyers had 75% of the income required “to purchase a typical starter home” (mdrealtor.org).

More importantly, a survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (7th Annual Savings Survey Reveals Persistence of Financial Challenges Facing Most Americans; February 24, 2014, consumerfed.org), revealed that “most Americans are meeting their immediate financial needs but are worse off than several years ago.” And, “… that, despite the economic recovery, most Americans continue to face significant personal savings challenges….” Stephen Brobeck, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America and a founder of America Saves, was quoted to say: “Only about one-third of Americans are living within their means and think they are prepared for the longterm financial future. One-third are living within their means but are often not prepared for this longterm future. And one-third are struggling to live within their means.

With an eye to address housing affordability, the President reduced the FHA annual mortgage insurance premium (MIP). Increases in FHA’s MIP in recent years have helped offset losses from the foreclosure crisis; and inadvertently made mortgages more expensive. And although the recent MIP reduction helps more home buyers qualify, critics claim it increases FHA’s risk and exposure to future foreclosure losses. According to Zillow (How Much Can You Save with Lower FHA Annual Mortgage Insurance Premiums?; January 7,2015, zillow.com), a home buyer who has a 3.5% down payment on a 30 year mortgage of $175,000 can save about $818 per year (about $68 per month).

For those who have not saved enough for a down payment and closing costs, State and local initiatives offer down payment assistance and low interest rate mortgage programs. The Maryland Mortgage Program (mmp.maryland.gov) offers down payment assistance in the form of loans, an employer match program, or financial grants. Locally, the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County (hocmc.org) offers several down payment assistance options, including the House Keys 4 Employees program for many Montgomery County Employees. These programs have restrictions; you should check with each program for qualification and eligibility requirements.

The Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA) offers additional affordable housing options: The Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) Program offers affordably priced homes to first-time homebuyers who meet the program’s eligibility; and the Work Force Housing Program promotes “the construction of housing that will be affordable to households with incomes at or below 120% of the area-wide median.”

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in affordable housing, closing cost assistance, down payment assistance, first time home buyer, Home Buyer, home buyer behavior, home prices, real estate | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trust and verify – home buyer due diligence

home for saleIf you’re a home buyer who’s ready to jump into the housing market this spring, you’ve probably begun searching to see what’s on the market. You may have already met a real estate agent or two; and if you’ve haven’t yet talked with a mortgage lender for a prequalification, it’s probably high on your priority list.

Before you know it, you’ve selected an agent, mortgage lender, and title attorney to assist you; and you find yourself increasingly perceptive and selective about the homes you view. Guess what? You’re in the process of buying a home! But before you put the buying process on cruise control, how much trust should you put into the professionals helping you?

It’s not to say that real estate agents, loan officers, home inspectors, and anyone else assisting your home purchase are not qualified – but no one is perfect. Buying a home is probably one of the biggest purchases you’ll make during your life. The idiom “trust but verify” should be your mantra throughout the home buying process to ensure due diligence.

Have you verified the credentials of those you’ve hired? Believe it or not, there are some who are doing business without the authorization of the corresponding licensing agency. And yet, some reasons given for not having a license may sound innocuous, such as forgetting about a license renewal deadline; other reasons may not seem as innocent (for example, licensed professionals from neighboring jurisdictions, DC or VA, attempt to do business locally where they are not licensed).

Professional licensure is a regulatory safeguard that provides consumers a pool of professionals that meet or exceed a minimum professional competency. Agencies such as the Maryland Real Estate Commission; Maryland Home Improvement Commission; Maryland Commission of Real Estate Appraisers, Appraisal Management Companies, and Home Inspectors; Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation; and the Maryland Insurance Administration offers an internet portal to verify a licensee’s status, check for disciplinary actions, and also explains how to file a complaint.

Information is believed to be accurate, but should not be relied upon without verification. Accuracy of square footage, lot size, schools and other information is not guaranteed…” is a disclaimer used by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc (MRIS) prompting you to verify MLS listing information. Although MRIS strives for accuracy in MLS listings, providing guidelines and standards for MLS data; exactness and truthfulness can vary because data input is performed by many agents and/or their staff. You can verify schools by checking the Montgomery County Public Schools “School Assignment Tool” (gis.mcpsmd.org/SchoolAssignmentTool2/Index.xhtml); zoning, development and other information can be verified through the Montgomery County Planning Department (montgomeryplanning.org).

Was the home seller into the DYI (do-it-yourself) trend? Is it possible the seller hired unlicensed contractors to repair or renovate the home prior to listing? Make sure any improvements and recent repairs have had the proper permitting! The permitting process certifies that repairs/renovations comply with building and zoning codes, which are in place to ensure that houses are safe, structurally sound, and meet health standards. Most permits can be checked online via Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (permittingservices.montgomerycountymd.gov) “eServices” data search portal.

Most home buyers are familiar with basics of the home buying process. However, “trust and verify” can help identify and reduce hidden and obscure risks; conducting due diligence can make your home buying experience increasingly trouble free and more enjoyable.

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in due diligence, ethics, Home Buyer, real estate, real estate agent | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making real estate sexy again

Real EstateThe go-go market of almost ten years ago was unique. The wealth aspect of the market seemed to have an effect on almost anyone who owned property; there was somewhat of a carnal attraction that had many home owners seeking more property and turning renters into home owners. It was no surprise that home ownership rates swelled to historic highs. Those who sold their homes or cashed out on their equity found themselves wealthier; while those who didn’t sell were happy to know their “paper wealth” was rapidly growing as home values realized monthly double digit gains.

At that time, the attraction to real estate for many seemed to be instinctive; the flirtation between home buyers and real estate may have been about a future of happy living and financial growth and security. Well, the sex appeal of real estate has worn off and seems to have been replaced by a “meh” attitude; probably indicating a lack of inspiration and/or interest.

Trying to regain the attention of home buyers, some agents have tried to re-establish real estate’s sex appeal. And it has been purposeful to attract home buyers by pairing homes with items that elicit carnal desire; listings are surrounded by exotic cars, modern art, and even sexy models have been credited to facilitate sales of luxury properties.

An April 2011 report by Julie Rose of WFAE 90.7 Charlotte (Realty Firm Uses Sex Appeal To Sell Luxurious Homes; wfae.org) described a photo shoot of a luxury home where, …” a blonde in tight jeans arches her back and tips a wine glass to her glossy lips. Her date leans closer, admiring…” But as Rose sates, “She’s lovely, but she’s not what you’re supposed to be looking at…” You’re supposed to be attracted to the kitchen features that seem to be a backdrop behind the model. However, the real estate agent interviewed said that the idea was to give an idea of what the home’s potential could offer.

Not all agents are on board with this technique, some have characterized the sexy advertising as “cheesy” and distasteful. One agent was quoted by Rose as saying, “It’s definitely gonna make someone stop and look at it. But once they’re in the listing looking at the pictures, I think they’re gonna focus a little more on the models rather than focusing on the home. And I think the bottom line is you want people to focus on the home.”

Sex appeal marketing is just a new take on selling a lifestyle. Lifestyle marketing has been the cornerstone of luxury real estate for years. For example, pairing fine art with luxury real estate has become commonplace; homes and condo projects have incorporated art collections to sell the lifestyle. In fact, the premier art show, Art Basel, has become the place to not only buy/sell fine art but high end real estate as well (Luxury Property Brokers Raring To Pounce On Wealthy Art Lovers At Miami Art Basel; November 28, 2013, Forbes.com). And for gear heads who want their homes built around their supercars, Miami’s über luxury Porche Design Tower will open in 2016.

Want to convey a lifestyle about your home? Before you hire models to pose in your home, consider talking to your agent about focusing on the things that made you enthusiastic and energized about your home. Chances are that the buyer of your home will be attracted to it the way you once were.

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in curb appeal, Home Staging, housing market, real estate | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Relief and uncertainty for short sellers

real estateAlthough we’ve come a long way, the housing market is still feeling the effects of the financial and foreclosure crises. Consider that the CoreLogic’s October National Foreclosure Report (corelogic.com/about-us/news.aspx) indicated that there were 41,000 “completed foreclosures” (the total number of homes lost to foreclosure) during October, which is a 26.4% reduction of the 55,000 recorded during the same time last year; and about 65% lower than that of the peak during September 2010. Although moving in the right direction, the 41,000 completed foreclosures is a far cry from the 21,000 average monthly recorded completed foreclosures before the housing downturn (2000 and 2006).

Also seen as progress is the increasing number of home owners who are paying their mortgages; which is observable from the decrease of mortgage defaults since 2010. The November 2014 S&P/Experian First Mortgage Default Index, was 0.97%; and although this is slightly higher than the 3 months prior, there has been a -3.72% change from the November 2010 index of 4.69% (us.spindices.com).

Negative equity mortgages are making headway too. CoreLogic reported on September 25th (CoreLogic Reports 946,000 Residential Properties Regained 1 Trillion Dollars in Total Equity in Q2 2014) that “950,000 homes returned to positive equity” during the second quarter of 2014. The number of underwater borrowers dropped to 5.3 million (compared to 6.3 underwater borrowers reported in the previous quarter). However, as of Q2 there were 3.2 million underwater borrowers with first mortgages, and an additional 2.1 million underwater borrowers with first and second mortgages.

The number of home owners that continue to be underwater may have been the impetus for Congress to pass the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act before adjourning for break; the legislation was subsequently signed by the President. A December 17th National Association of Realtors® press release (realtor.org) praises the passage of the legislation meant to help “distressed home owners and commercial property investors with transactions made during 2014.” NAR President Chris Polychron stated, “Realtors® strongly supported the bipartisan Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act, which was included in the package to prevent underwater borrowers from paying taxes on any mortgage debt forgiven or cancelled by a lender in a workout or after their home was sold for less money than was owed.

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 was initially passed and signed into law December 20th 2007; which, if you remember, was a time when the housing market was in a sharp downturn. Any debt forgiveness from lenders (either from a mortgage refinance/ modification or a short sale) typically resulted in a huge tax liability (debt forgiveness is usually considered income). The legislation provided tax relief through 2009 to qualified underwater home owners and sellers seeking to avoid foreclosure. The legislation was extended several times thereafter.

Since the last extension expired December 31st 2013, the recent passage of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act was received as a reprieve by many underwater home owners expecting tax relief from debt forgiveness of short sales that closed during 2014. However, since the recent extension only covers mortgage debt forgiveness during 2014, those who have a short sale planned to close during 2015 find themselves in a tentative situation.

Current politics and economics have many pundits believing that any further extensions of the legislation may not be forthcoming. If you have a short sale planned for 2015, you should consult with your tax preparer about any potential tax liability you may incur.

© Dan Krell
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in home seller, real estate, Short sale | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment