Civil asset forfeiture

civil asset forfeiture
Home Buyer Sanpshot (infographic from nar.realtor)

Can your home be seized through civil asset forfeiture? Consider the ongoing and expanded effort to identify cash purchases of residential real estate to catch criminals.

An imminent Supreme Court decision on Timbs v. Indiana could have implications on your home and property. Although the case is about excessive fines brought on by a state, it highlights the issue of due process in civil asset forfeiture. To bring you up to speed, the case is about the seizure of an Indiana resident’s $42,000 Land Rover by the state of Indiana, although his drug related fine was only $10,000. The Land Rover was allegedly purchased from cash obtained from an insurance policy, instead of illicit monies.

Civil asset forfeit is a when the government (federal, state, or local) confiscates your property when you are suspected of a crime. You don’t necessarily have to be charged or convicted of the crime. Civil libertarians criticize governments and law enforcement agencies for abusing civil asset forfeiture for profit. Maryland is one of the many states that have recently passed legislation reforming civil asset forfeiture. However, Congress has yet to pass a civil asset forfeiture reform bill.

In their effort to fight money laundering and mortgage fraud, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (fincen.gov) recently stated that their Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) program has “provided valuable data on the purchase of residential real estate by persons implicated, or allegedly involved, in various illicit enterprises including foreign corruption, organized crime, fraud, narcotics trafficking, and other violations. Reissuing the GTOs will further assist in tracking illicit funds and other criminal or illicit activity…”

Previous GTO’s required title companies to report all-cash transactions that met specific criteria. The purpose was to track and identify individuals who mask their identity behind shell companies. FinCen found that the GTO program provided “valuable data on the purchase of residential real estate by persons implicated, or allegedly involved, in various illicit enterprises including foreign corruption, organized crime, fraud, narcotics trafficking, and other violations.” So much so, that A November 15th press release revealed expanded reporting criteria and metro coverage. FinCen believes that the “reissued GTO” will assist in “tracking illicit activity.”

FinCen’s targets were previously limited to suspected foreign entities purchasing luxury properties. However, FinCen is becoming increasingly aggressive to include more transactions and individuals in their reporting criteria.

Two years ago, I reported on the expansion of the FinCen’s interest in fighting mortgage fraud and money laundering through residential real estate transactions. A January 13th 2016 FinCen release stated their intention in expanding their anti-money-laundering efforts to cash purchases of luxury real estate. The GTO was supposed to help learn about the risk posed by “corrupt foreign officials, or transnational criminals” who were suspected of “secretly” buying of luxury real estate in certain metropolitan areas.

Previous GTO’s focused on the cash purchases of luxury homes (over $1 million) in limited metro areas. However, in their November 15th revision, FinCen lowers the reporting threshold of cash purchases to $300,000. Additionally, the metro areas of interest have been expanded to include certain counties Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas. Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Additionally, title companies in those metro areas are also to report “natural persons” behind shell companies used in all-cash purchases of residential real estate, as well as virtual currency purchases.

Original published at https://dankrell.com

Copyright© Dan Krell
Google+

If you like this post, do not copy; instead please:
link to the article
like it on facebook
or re-tweet.

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.

Home sale renovations

home sale renovations
Interior Home Sale Renovations (infographic from nar.realtor)

According to the National Association of Realtors (nar.realtor), the average time a homeowner stays in their home is ten years.  This is higher than the seven-year average prior to the great recession (but is less than the thirteen-year average immediately following the recession).  Needless to say, many homeowners are approaching (or have exceeded) their ten-year stint, and are likely selling their home during the spring and will likely be doing home sale renovations.

Any home sale preparation in today’s housing market should include some home sale renovations.  If you haven’t replaced the home’s systems (such as the roof or HVAC) while you lived in your home, there’s a good chance that they are approaching or have exceeded their average life expectancy.

Additionally, the décor and fixtures in your home are likely outdated.  The home sellers who make the mistake of not updating or renovating before they list inevitably face home inspection issues.  They ultimately find that the home takes longer to sell at a reduced price.

Let’s face it, remodeling can be expensive and overwhelming, especially when it’s for home sale renovations.  According to the NAR’s 2017 Remodeling Impact Report, about $340 billion was spent on remodeling projects in 2015.  Although a majority of homeowners would remodel their home themselves, thirty-five percent would prefer to move instead of remodeling their home.

The Report cited functionality and livability as the top reasons for home sale renovations.  It’s a no-brainer that home buyers prefer homes that are functional, comfortable, and sustainable.  Aesthetics is not enough for a home to be appealing to today’s home buyer, it has to fit their life style.  Additionally, home buyers want efficient systems in their new homes that can help save on utility costs.

Home sale renovations should focus on functionality and livability

What projects will get buyers who will pay top dollar into your home?  It should be no surprise that the number one interior project, listed by the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report, is a complete kitchen renovation.  Other essential interior projects include renovating bathrooms, installing new wood flooring, creating a new master suite, replacing the HVAC system, and finishing a basement or attic.

It also shouldn’t be a surprise that the Report listed replacing the roof as the top exterior project. Other exterior projects in high demand include new windows, new garage door, new siding, and installing a new front door.

If you want to add value to your home, even if it’s not for home sale renovations, check the 2018 Cost vs. Value report (costvsvalue.com).  The report can give you insight to which remodeling projects are the most popular, and estimates how much of the cost you can potentially reclaim when you sell your home.

There’s no doubt that renovating your home can be expensive.  Although the costs of home sale renovations can tempt you to cut corners, don’t.  Cutting corners on renovation projects can actually cost you more.  You may have to repair, or even re-do the project if not finished adequately.  Home buyers are savvy, and can spot low quality materials and poor workmanship.

Also, make sure to get permits when required.  If the home buyer doesn’t ask you, the home inspector will likely recommend that the home buyer check for permits.

Although many homeowners don’t mind a DIY project, many hire home improvement professionals.  When hiring home improvement professionals, check with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic) to ensure they are licensed contractors.  You should also ask for proof of their insurance, including Workman’s Comp insurance, in case there is an accident on your property while completing the project.

If you hire a contractor who will accept payment when the house sells, read your contract carefully and thoroughly. Do your due diligence.  There may be provisions in your contract that you may not be aware of, such as added costs, charging interest, and setting/lowering the sale price.

Original article is published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/11/17/home-sale-renovations

Copyright© Dan Krell
Google+

If you like this post, do not copy; instead please:
link to the article,
like it on facebook
or re-tweet.

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.

Municipal infraction and your home

municipal infraction
Municipal infractions result from neglect repairs and maintenance (infographic from census.gov)

A common home buyer preference is to buy a home that is not within the confines of a HOA or condo association.  Maybe the home buyer’s impression is that HOAs and condo associations bully home owners.  But the truth is that HOA and condo association rules are created for a number of reasons, which include health and safety.  If you don’t comply with the community rules, they can compel you do so.  But even if you don’t live in an association managed community, it’s your civic duty to comply with county and/or municipal ordinances to maintain your home. Disregard for civic responsibility may result in a municipal infraction.

Believe it or not, regardless of where your home is located, your home has to satisfy health and safety standards that are enforced by your municipality (e.g., Montgomery County, City of Rockville, City of Gaithersburg, etc.).  Deferred home maintenance can surely affect the value of your home.  However, if it is found that your home doesn’t meet code standards, you can receive a notice of a municipal infractions.

Municipal infractions are also another name for code enforcement.  In his manual Municipal Infractions and Code Enforcement, Practice and Procedure for Municipalities in the State of Maryland, Frank M. Johnson stated the need for having such procedures by saying:

“Most persons will follow the law voluntarily, but the reality is that when a law isn’t enforced, it becomes less effective for everyone. Even those who voluntarily comply are less likely to take a law seriously when it’s known the law won’t be enforced. In addition, steps to enforce the law often involve the most serious violations which, if not corrected, can lead to results which have a significant community and neighborhood impact.”

Mr. Johnson’s manual was originally written for the City of Gaithersburg, but was also adopted by the Maryland Municipal League (mdmunicipal.org), which is a statewide non-profit association that promotes municipal administration.  What started as a local handbook describing the entire process of municipal infractions (from complaint to enforcement), became a statewide template in code enforcement.

Municipal infraction and your home

If you ever received a notice of municipal infraction, or just wondered how the process works, check put the manual.  The manual describes why you’re receiving the citation, and how it can be enforced. It also describes the appeal process, as well as what can happen if you don’t comply.

Typically, the municipal infraction process begins by a complaint that triggers an investigation.  The investigator will inspect and witness any code violations.  If there are violations, the investigator will notify you and attempt to resolve the issue(s).  Most home owners resolve the issue(s) with the first notice.  However, if you don’t comply (or attempt to comply) with the first notice, you will likely be fined.  The court can also order you to correct the issue(s), which is called an “abatement order.”  If you don’t comply with the abatement order, your municipality can go on your property (and inside the home if necessary) to fix the issue(s) and send you the bill!  If you don’t pay, a lien will be placed against your home, while collection actions are implemented.

What Caused You to Get Cited For a Municipal Infraction?

Montgomery County’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs (montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA) also publishes valuable information about the process.  The Housing Code Enforcement Handbook, is written for the public to understand housing code enforcement in the county.  The DHCA states that seasonal issues are the most common code violations reported, such as overgrown grass and weeds, dead trees and snow-covered walkways.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/11/09/municipal-infraction-home

Copyright© Dan Krell
Google+

If you like this post, do not copy; instead please:
link to the article,
like it on facebook
or re-tweet.

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.

Flood insurance checkup

flood insurance
National Flood Insurance Program (fema.gov)

Hurricane Florence is not your average storm.  As it will undoubtedly devastate the area where it makes landfall, it will also wreak havoc along the east coast.  Some are already calling it a historic storm.  Flooding is expected not just along the coast, but also well into the mainland due to heavy rains.  Even my local county (Montgomery County) is bracing for persistent heavy rain even though we are in central MD. In its aftermath, hurricane Florence will be another reminder for Congress to act on a long-term reform of the National Flood Insurance Program.

The National Flood Insurance Program was created 1968 as a result of the aftermath of hurricane Betsy.    After the 1965 hurricane ravaged the gulf coast, Congress realized that flood insurance should be affordable and widely available to home owners, tenants, and businesses.  The National Flood Insurance Program provides coverage associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, and heavy rains.  Like other Federal programs, Congress funds the program.  However, in recent years, Congress has appropriated short term extensions for the program.  The current extension provides funding through November.

National Association of Realtors President Elizabeth Mendenhall, issued a statement regarding the impending storm and a plea to Congress to act on reforming the National Flood Insurance Plan.  Mendenhall stated in the September 11th press release that there are an estimated 750,000 homes at risk from a coastal storm surge.  Furthermore, there is the potential of an estimated $170 billion of property damage just in the Carolinas and Virginia (nar.realtor).

Representing the National Association of Realtors, Mendenhall urges Congress to pass a long-term National Flood Insurance Plan by pointing out that “Flooding is the most common disaster in the United States, one that affects Americans in communities both coastal and inland every year.” She is correct to say, “In these times, we are reminded of the importance of peace of mind for property owners with access to quality and affordable flood insurance.

FEMA’s Flood Smart (floodsmart.gov) portal is where you can find more information about flood insurance and protecting your home before and after a flood.  Before a storm like Florence, you can reduce your risk by preparing.  FEMA offers suggestions for flood prepping, which includes (but not limited to): elevating critical utilities; ensuring your sump pump is working and has a battery back-up; install a water alarm in your basement; clear debris from gutters and down spouts; store irreplaceable documents (such as birth certificates, passports, etc.) in a safe, dry place; and of course, build an emergency supply kit that is ready to go when you are.  Your emergency kit should minimally include non-perishable food, bottled water, first aid, medicines and a battery-operated radio.  Ready.gov has checklists and additional preparedness information, including building your emergency supply kit.

It’s also recommended to make an inventory of your valuables so as to make filing insurance claims easier.  Additionally, know your flood risk level by checking FEMA’s interactive flood map (msc.fema.gov/portal/search).

FEMA warns home owners that regardless of your risk zone, flood insurance may be a necessary add-on to your homeowners’ insurance policy.  Even if you live in low or moderate flood risk area, you are five times more likely to experience a flood in your home than a fire.  Don’t assume your homeowners’ insurance policy covers flood damage.  Even if you have a flood rider, your coverage may be limited.  Review your policy with your insurance agent to determine if you have flood coverage as well as its limitations.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/09/12/flood-insurance-checkup/

Copyright© Dan Krell
Google+
like on Facebook
Follow on Twitter.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. 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.

National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness Month
National Preparedness Month (from Ready.Gov)

September is National Preparedness Month!  Being prepared is not just having a “bugout” bag at the ready.  Preparedness is about taking stock to ensure safety for yourself and family in various conditions.  When you hear “preparedness,” you may automatically think of disaster or national emergency.  But it’s also about coping with various local emergencies including: weather, active shooter, hazardous materials, chemical, cybersecurity, and power outages.

FEMA encourages Americans to be prepared to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.  National Preparedness Month is FEMA’s focused outreach effort to educate and empower everyone through local and online events (https://www.ready.gov/september).  National Preparedness Month activities are occurring throughout the country.  In Montgomery County MD, local National Preparedness Month activities are coordinated through the County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Preparedness in your home starts with maintenance.  Proper home maintenance can not only help mitigate a disaster, but also prevent one as well.  Regular maintenance of the home’s systems is obviously suggested.  However, there are specific emergency related recommendations to help you in your home, which include: testing smoke alarms monthly, replacing smoke alarms every ten years, and knowing how to shut off your home’s utilities.  Additionally, to prevent a chimney fire, you should have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified and reputable professional.

Information is key to getting through an emergency.  If you have a cell phone, you may receive “Wireless Emergency Alerts” through the Integrated Public Alert Warning System, which includes amber alerts, weather alerts, and notifications from the Emergency Alert System.  However, localities also have there own alert systems.  Here in Montgomery County MD, the Montgomery Alert system can inform you of local government and school information, weather alerts, as well as traffic and infrastructure issues (montgomerycountymd.gov/OEMHS/AlertMontgomery).

National Preparedness Month
FEMA Preparedness Checklist (from ready.gov)

Do you have an emergency plan?  You should have a plan in case an emergency occurs in and out of the home.  Take time to update your home fire evacuation plan, and practice it with a family fire drill.  Choose a family rendezvous point in case an emergency occurs during work/school hours and the home is inaccessible.  Because cell phones are not reliable during emergencies, alternate means of communication should be considered.  Create a family communication plan by including: family contact information, family physician, medical facility information, and an out-of-town point of contact.

Is your homeowner’s insurance adequate?  The aftermath of recent hurricanes and floods have demonstrated that home owners with proper insurance coverage recover from those disasters quicker.  Insurance and emergency experts recommend to regularly review your insurance policy with your agent to ensure that the replacement costs of your home and possessions are covered.  Coverage varies depending on the policy.  Experts recommended to discuss flood and disaster insurance with your insurance agent.

As for the “bugout” bag… It’s recommended that you have an emergency kit in the home and in your car.  A basic kit should be able to get you and your family through 72 hours of an emergency.  However, extreme emergencies have revealed that infrastructure can be disrupted for weeks.  Many experts encourage having an expanded home emergency kit to last at least two weeks in case of a prolonged lack of infrastructure.

Learn more about National Preparedness Month at FEMA’s Ready.gov (ready.gov/September).  Ready.gov provides detailed information about preparedness for yourself, your family and your home, including assembling an emergency kit.  Local preparedness information in Montgomery County MD can be obtained from Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs).

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/09/05/national-preparedness-month/

Copyright© Dan Krell
Google+
If you like this post, do not copy; instead please:
link to the article,
like it on Facebook
or Twitter.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. 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.