Thursday, March 31, 2011

DC title insurance rates decrease (especially for refiances)

It seems like prices never go down. Gas prices have gone up, taxes have gone up, the 5-cent bag tax has increased the cost of shopping, etc. And yet, sometimes, if you look closely enough, you can find prices that actually do drop. In this case, prices have dropped for refinancing borrowers by 40%.

First American Title Insurance Company, our title insurance underwriter, published their new title insurance rates effective April 1, 2011. The purchase title insurance rates remained unchanged, except for purchase prices in the highest brackets where the rate dropped considerably.

The big change is in the refinance category. First American has dropped their refinance loan policy rates by 40%! In essence, every refinance in Washington, DC will obtain a discount equal to what was previously the full reissue rate discount.

Previously a 40% discount on title insurance was available on a refinance, but the borrower had to jump through some hoops to be eligible. The full 40% discount was only available if the borrower had previously purchased a title insurance policy and if the policy was under 10 years old and if the prior policy was for an amount greater than the amount of the new loan. Often clients either did not know where or how to find their title policy, and often clients who may have been eligible for the discount were not obtaining it. And frankly, often title companies kept the reissue discount a secret, not revealing it to a client unless the client asked for it.

Well, with this new change by First American, every refinance will obtain the equivalent of the old reissue rate discount, even if the refinance would not have been eligible under the prior guidelines. What does this mean for a borrower? It means that refinancing borrowers will save hundreds of dollars on their closing! For example, previously a refinance for $500,000 would have included a $2,100 for lender's title insurance. As of April 1, 2011, a refinance for $500,000 will now include a charge of $1,260 for lender's title insurance � a savings of $840.00!

We've updated the refinance rate chart is posted on our website. While you're there, check out this homebuyer video for a better understanding of title insurance and what title insurance does for you.

6 real estate headlines: 31-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders, homebuyers and home sellers.

What you can (and can't) deduct at tax time
: You must itemize your deductions on a Schedule A for these homeowners' deductions to apply. If you take the standard deduction, you can't take a deduction on mortgage interest.
NAR estimates shadow inventory by state
Mortgage News Daily
: The number of homes in the shadow inventory is not the problem. The difficulty lies in how long it will take before those homes are cleared.
Market for vacation homes on the rise
Wall Street Journal
: Sales of second homes are showing an uptick even in more-affordable communities. In some locations, prices are even inching upward.
Northern Virginia leading region out of recession
Sun Gazette
: George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller described the region's economic recovery during a presentation at the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors' office.
House votes to kill Obama mortgage plan
CNN Money
: The House voted 252 to 170 to stop any new funding for the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). Eleven Democrats joined Republicans to defund the program.
South Florida buyers come out for real estate bargains
Miami Herald
: The real estate industry is opening the doors of thousands of Florida homes this weekend in an attempt to convince consumers that now is the time to buy.

New military programs offered by Bank of America

Bank of America intends to create a new program to assist military homeowners, in light of the recent stories of military members being denied their rights under the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a spokesman said on Feb. 10, 2011. Recent articles in the Army Times and the Wall Street Journal, illustrate the new programs are finally coming to light.�

Effective April 1, 2011, the following new programs will go into effect:

1.�� �Reduced Interest Rates on Mortgages.� The SCRA requires interest rates on loans secured prior to a service member's active duty status be reduced to 6% upon application for SCRA protection.� Bank of America has announced they will reduce interest rates on mortgages entered into prior to active-duty service be reduced to 4%.

���� a.�� �Applies for the entire term of active-duty service and for 12 months upon release from active-duty service.� At the end of this period, the interest rate will then revert to the pre-SCRA protected rate, and

���� b.�� �Goes into effect for April 2011mortgage payments, and

���� c.�� �Applies only to mortgages which are owned by Bank of America.� If your mortgage is only serviced by Bank of America, the 4% reduced interest rate will not apply.� (For example, if your original loan is with a bank other than Bank of America, and then you were notified that your loan was sold to Bank of America, this means that Bank of America only services your loan and the original bank from whom you obtained the loan technically owns it.)

2.�� �New Customer Service Team for Military Members.� A special customer service team is being established to handle military loans, and can be contacted at 888-325-5357. �

3.�� �Reduced Principal Balances.� For military members about to leave active-duty service, and thereby lose their protection under SCRA, Bank of America will work to assist those members having difficulty making their mortgage payments with several options:�

��� a.�� �Forgiveness of a portion of the outstanding balance still owed, or

��� b.�� �A reduction in the outstanding principal balances to "as low as 100% of the current market value," or

��� c.�� �Additional reduced interest rates, or

��� d.�� �Extended repayment periods. �

��� e.�� �However, this only applies to loans which are owned by Bank of America and will not apply to service members who must relocate as a result of PCS orders.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tax tips for military services members

It's that dreaded time of the year again � tax time! For those military service members, there are some distinct tax advantages for you that may result in a windfall:
  1. First-Time Homebuyer Credit.� For service members serving overseas for at least 90 days between January 1, 2009 through May 1, 2010, you are entitle to an extension of the $8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Credit, if you enter into a contract prior to April 1, 2011 and settle by June 30, 2011.� Even if you settle in 2011, you are entitled to claim the credit on your 2010 Federal tax returns.� For more information, see: Federal first-time homebuyer tax credit extended for military member

  2. Military Spouse Residency Relief Act.� Under the Act, military spouses who maintain their state residency in one state (for example, Florida), but move to another state due to PCS orders of their military spouse (for example, Virginia), can claim an exemption from having to pay state income tax in Virginia.� Some states like Virginia however, do require proof that the non-military spouse's domicile is in another state.� Therefore, it may be necessary to file an additional tax form in the non-domicile state.� Please seek legal and tax advice, if you have any questions.

  3. Combat Zone Tax Exclusion.� For any day that a service member serves in a designated combat zone, the member's entire month of pay is excluded from their gross income for tax purposes.� There is no limit to the exclusion for enlisted member or warrant officers.� For officers, however, the exclusion is limited to the highest rate of enlisted pay (currently capped at $7,714.80) plus hostile fire or imminent danger pay they may be entitled to receive.�

The current list of combat zones include, as of the date listed:

  • Arabian Peninsula Areas (the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea north of 10� North latitude and west of 68� East longitude, Gulf of Aden, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates), as of January 17, 1991

  • Kosovo area (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia � Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, Adriatic Sea, Ionian Sea north of the 39th Parallel), as of March 24, 1999

  • Afghanistan, as of September 19, 2001

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Macedonia, as of November 21, 1995

In Support of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan):

  • Pakistan, Tajikistan and Jordan, as of September 19, 2001

  • Incirlik Air Base (Turkey), as of September 21, 2001 through December 31, 2005

  • Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, as of October 1, 2001

  • Philippines (only service members with orders referencing Operation Enduring Freedom), as of January 9, 2002

  • Yemen, as of April 10, 2002

  • Djibouti, as of July 1, 2002

  • Israel, as of January 1 through July 31, 2003

  • Somalia, as of January 1, 2004

In Support of Operation Iraqi Freedom:

  • Turkey, as of January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2005

  • The Mediterranean Sea east of 30� East longitude, as of March 19 through July 31, 2003

  • Jordan, as of March 19, 2003

  • Egypt, as of March 19 through April 20, 2003

Filing Deadline. The national tax filing date has been moved from April 15, 2011 to April 18, 2011 due to the observance of Emancipation Day.� Also note if you are a military service member, you may qualify for an additional 180-day filing and payment extension upon return from a combat zone, hazardous duty area or from other overseas deployments.

Free Tax-Preparation Services. Most service members can visit almost any installation around the world for free, in-person tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, offered by the Armed Forces Tax Council. The Department of Defense is also providing free online federal tax filing through H&R Block and Military OneSource. You can access the site at and then click on "Tax Filing Services."

6 real estate headlines: 30-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders, homebuyers and home sellers.

Real estate: It's time to buy again
: Data from research firm Metrostudy, which tracks new-home inventories for 65% of the U.S. market, show that the plummeting construction rate over the past few years has reversed a glut in supply.
Home prices fall in 19 major U.S. cities
Washington Post
: Home prices in the nation's capital are up 3.6 percent year over year and have risen nearly 11 percent since they bottomed out in March 2009.
New options for underwater home owners
: After banks' initial resistance to loan modification programs and refinancing designed to help struggling borrowers, many are now embracing programs for homeowners in trouble.
Administration proposes banks spend $20B to fix botched foreclosures
Washington Times
: If the plan succeeds, the president would attain a key goal without having to spend further federal dollars on the program.
Housing slump still here: Case Schiller
Wall Street Journal
: Heads of big banks have questioned the fairness of writing down loans, while claiming the costs could be enormous if widespread principal reductions are triggered by a settlement.
Broker's book of Beatles business trips
Inman News
: A Nashville real estate broker writes "Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles," using anecdotes from the musicians' careers as springboards for lessons to aspiring business people.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

6 real estate headlines: 29-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders, homebuyers and home sellers.

Washington area housing market springs back
Washington Examiner
: The Washington region's housing market is springing back, and experts have just one piece of advice for those expecting to find a steal in the next several months.
Mortgage reform storm is brewing
: When it rains, it pours, but we're looking at a hail storm in housing finance this week, as government starts the business of taking itself out of the housing business.
Lenders 'cautious' about cash-out refinance
Washington Post
: Given the amount of fraud in the mortgage industry, lenders are more cautious than ever about doing a "cash out" refinance, where they give homeowners cash when they refinance their mortgage.
Jack Nicklaus will have a house in VA development
DC Urban Turf
: The golf legend will have a house at Nicklaus Village, a 25-home development that will be part of Creighton Farms, a golf community in Aldie, VA about an hour's drive from DC.
Mortgage servicers resist but cut debts
Wall Street Journal
: Heads of big banks have questioned the fairness of writing down loans, while claiming the costs could be enormous if widespread principal reductions are triggered by a settlement.
Little success for loan reduction effort
Wall Street Journal
: Government efforts to encourage mortgage companies to reduce loan balances voluntarily for more borrowers haven't had much success so far.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Investing in Florida real estate

People have successfully built fortunes through real estate investment for decades. In the current housing crisis, many more people are finding success by snatching up the many foreclosures available. To reduce the risk of failure, beginning real estate investors and first-time homebuyers should research the many different aspects of property investing before getting started.

Here are a few basic things to consider first:

��� �Personal goals
��� �Level of responsibility
��� �Location
��� �Current market

All of these factors can be addressed in a business plan. Real estate investing is a business, and just like any other business, should include a "road map."; Having a business plan or financial goal will help keep you on track, reduce frivolous investments, and help you reach your goals faster. Let's look at each aspect a little closer.

Personal goals

First of all, it's important to have specific goals. Do you want to set up a residual monthly income through rental properties, or would you rather buy and sell properties for a quick profit? Are you interested in commercial properties or residential? When outlining your goals, be as specific as possible.


Next, what level of responsibility are you looking for? If you're purchasing properties for resale, more renovations are usually needed. You'll also need to consider resources needed to� list the property and find a buyer. Rentals often require renovations as well as regular maintenance and the time consuming task of finding tenants. It's possible to hire others to do the property management side of things, but that will add more costs.


The location of a property is important; not only what area of the country, but also what part of the city or town, and even what section of a street the property is on. The location affects the value as much as the appearance of the home.

Assess the market

The final consideration new investors and homebuyers must make involvesthe current market. For example, in Florida, because so many people are currently losing their homes to foreclosure, it's more of a rental market than a selling market. Either way, it's important to look at the values of other properties in the area. This involves looking at what houses in the area have recently sold for and what price rentals are bringing in.

Don't get discouraged; investing in real estate really is a great way to build wealth. It's just important to learn everything you can before diving in. There are many investment brokers that deal strictly with property investments. Contact one in your area, or the area you wish to invest in, and ask them for advice.

About the author: Jennifer Hill and the agents at Realnet of Tampa Bay are experts at finding the best investment property for sale. Setting your goals and knowing how to get there are vital to your success! Realnet can help you determine the best investment properties to help you meet those goals.

6 real estate headlines: 28-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders, homebuyers and home sellers.

Jumping home sales! Housing market heats up
Maryland Gazette
: Existing home sales across Maryland jumped 5 percent in February from a year earlier, according to the Maryland Association of Realtors.
Rep. Kucinich fixing up DC foreclosure property
The Plain Dealer
: Public records show that Ohio representative bought the four-bedroom, brick home in Anacostia for $387,000, a 35 percent discount from its assessed value of $602,980, in April 2009.
Homebuyers find their way to Tyson's Corner
Washington Post
: When stacked up comparable suburban commercial hubs such as White Flint Mall or Largo Town Center, home sales around Tysons are faring no worse, and in some respects, better.
Fannie report warned of foreclosure woes in 2006
Wall Street Journal
: The report said foreclosure attorneys in Florida made false statements in court� to more quickly process foreclosures.
A new vision for redeveloping Walter Reed
: It's unknown what percentage of the land will be turned into open space, retail and residential areas. When the construction will begin is also unknown.
South Florida home, condo sales heat up in 2011
Miami Herald
: South Florida saw existing home sales hit stride in January, with more than 2,500 condos sold in the month. But the sales surge�the largest since 2005�came amid still-drooping prices.

Friday, March 25, 2011

6 real estate headlines: 25-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders, homebuyers and home sellers.

Inventory down, houses fly off market
Arlington Real Estate News
: Around most of Northern Virginia and especially in Arlington � about 1/3 of the properties that hit the market are sold in the first week, many times with multiple offers.
Mortgage principal deduction in play
: This week state attorneys general from Virginia, Texas, Florida and South Carolina sent a letter to their colleague in Iowa, Attorney General Tom Miller.
Q&A: Foreclosures, property taxes, deductions
Wall Street Journal
: Developments invited Kim Rueben, an economist who directs the state and local program of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, to answer questions about taxes and real estate.
Rate on 30-year fixed rises
Washington Post
: Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose to 4.81 percent from 4.76 percent the previous week. It hit a 40-year low of 4.17 percent in November.
Why the homebuyer credit didn't work
Smart Money
: Sales in most residential markets remain anemic and prices are still falling. The real estate gurus at Case-Shiller expect more bad news: prices could fall another 15%-25%.
New rules could keep gov't out of housing
Housing Wire
: The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is advocating for a more robust housing market supports proposals to privatize the entire mortgage market.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

6 real estate headlines: 24-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders, homebuyers and home sellers.

Will your home or mortgage hurt you at tax time?
: Answers to 10 common questions as they relate to homeowners during tax season. Be sure you're aware of how your home and mortgage factor into what you owe by April 18.
12% of Miami homes vacant
CNN Money
: Florida was once among the hottest real estate markets in the nation. Homes were snapped up by investors confident that prices would continue to soar.
Homeownership for the few, not the many
USA Today
: As the housing market redefines itself a number of economists who follow the industry suggest the benefit of buying no longer applies.
Behind the housing numbers
Wall Street Journal
: Mill Creek Residential Trust LLC will build NoMa West, three five-story buildings on a 4.3 acre site that will add 603 predominantly market rate apartments to the burgeoning neighborhood.
Doomsday bunker sales up 1000%
CNN Money
: Tens of millions of people believe in a literal apocalypse, which involves earthquakes, storms, disasters of global proportions and especially disasters related to the Middle East.
Fed profit rose to $82 billion last year
The New York Times
: The Fed has greatly expanded the scale of its investments since 2008 as it sought to rescue the banking industry and spur growth.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

6 real estate headlines: 23-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders, homebuyers and home sellers.

Home, condo sales on the rise in Florida
Housing Wire
: Florida's existing home sales rose 13% in February with existing condo sales soaring 29% compared to year earlier, according to housing data released by Florida Realtors.
Housing boom drove D.C.'s shifting color line
Washington Examiner
: Slower growth could allow for better balance in the future, with developers building more housing that is priced for the area median income instead of housing that prices out longtime residents.
Discounts expected in spring housing market
Wall Street Journal
: The silver lining, say economists, is that bargain prices, coupled with low interest rates, might finally spur some buyers off the fence as the real-estate industry prepares for its busiest season.
New residential project breaks ground in NoMa
DC Mud
: Mill Creek Residential Trust LLC will build NoMa West, three five-story buildings on a 4.3 acre site that will add 603 predominantly market rate apartments to the burgeoning neighborhood.
Market Watch: 20011
DC Urban Turf
: Home owners looking to put their house on the market should keep in mind that at this time, $300,000 appears to be the tipping point between seller's and buyer's markets.
Attorneys general try penalize shady lenders
Washington Post
: A hotly contested development project near the Brookland Metro station has been deemed too controversial by a city zoning panel to move forward just yet.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

4 tips for marketing your home to a member of the military

The Washington, DC Metro area is the home to numerous military installations, which results in thousands of members of the military and their respective families moving into and out of the area on a regular basis. As a recent article in the Washington Post pointed out, as most military members move into the area in June and July, now is the time that most begin looking for their future home.

For sellers looking to tap into the increase in military members moving into this area, it is important for you to consider the following:

1.�� �Every member of the military receives a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), which varies depending on the member's rank, number of years of service, location of their duty station and number of dependents. BAH is also designed to be an accurate and equitable amount of housing compensation based on housing costs in local civilian housing markets.� When pricing your home for sale, you may want to consult the military's Basic Allowance for Housing rates to find the applicable rates in the DC area.

2.�� �Another thing many military members consider before buying a home at a new duty station, is whether or not they will be able to rent the property upon receiving new orders to move.� As a home seller, you may want to have information available to show prospective military purchasers that the rental market in your area is strong.

3.�� �It is also important to stress, as a home seller, that the property is located within a reasonable commute time to their duty station, or has easy access to major interstates.

4.�� �Consider listing your property on websites like, as many military members look there first when they begin their search for a new home.� The benefit to, is it allows military members to narrow their searches down to homes close to their specific duty station.� Even if you have a real estate agent, you are not prohibited from listing your property on the website � in fact, your agent just fills in his or her information as the point of contact for anyone that is interested in viewing your property.� If you opt not to list your property on, when your agent lists your property on the Internet, have them include the nearest bases to your property to attract military purchasers.

6 real estate headlines: 22-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders and consumers.

Will spring lead to sunnier housing data?
Wall Street Journal
: Home prices fell to the lowest level in nearly nine years. Industry watchers have mixed feelings about the spring selling season now officially under way.
Housing paperwork: What to keep
Washington Post
: The essential documents are your HUD-1 settlement statement, the promissory note, the deed of trust (mortgage), the truth-in-lending disclosure and the deed.
Existing home sales dive
: Sales fell 9.6 percent month over month to an annual rate of 4.88 million units, snapping three straight months of gains. The percentage decline was the largest since July.
Confessions of a black gentrifier
Washington City Paper
:The story of the black gentrifier, at least from this black gentrifier's perspective, is often a story about being simultaneously invisible and self-conscious.
Survey: American upbeat about owning homes
: In spite of gloomy news about housing coming from virtually all directions, a new survey reveals that 70 percent of Americans would advise friends and family to buy a house.
Brookland development hits snares
Washington Examiner
: A hotly contested development project near the Brookland Metro station has been deemed too controversial by a city zoning panel to move forward just yet.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

6 real estate headlines: 17-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders and consumers.

5 tax tips for homeowners
: At tax time, it's critical to know what you're entitled to, so you can claim it. So, here are five essential need-to-knows about home-related income tax tips.
Condo 'collusion' in Miami?
: Condo sales in Miami were up 134 percent in January year-over-year, according to the Miami Association of Realtors. That's not a typo.
Fed stands pat on interest rates
Washington Times
: The decision to maintain its key interest rate in a range of zero to 0.25 percent was expected, and will remain "exceptionally low" for some time.
3 ways to get a deal in 2011
DC Urban Turf
: While the rising prices are an optimistic sign for the market, they mean that buyers have to work harder to search out a deal in the region.
Hidden workforces hinders economic recovery
Washington Post
: Overshadowing the nation's economic recovery is not only the number of Americans who have lost their jobs, but also those who have stopped looking for new ones.
Help housing? Dump Uncle Sam
: If the government would leave the housing market alone, folks who should never have been able to buy these structures in the first place will finally make the break from their mistakes and rebuild their financial lives.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Affliliated business arrangements = Bad business

In the vein of "Affiliated Business Arrangements = Bad Business," I bring to you yet more evidence of the same.� In an effort to maintain their government-sanctioned kickbacks, proponents (i.e., RESPRO, et. al.) of Affiliated Business Arrangements (ABAs) made a specious claim in a recent meeting with the Federal Reserve Board.�

The proponents used two Harris Interactive consumer surveys (2002 and 2008) to claim that homebuyers were more satisfied with the ABA settlement service providers.�

RESPRO cites Federal Title website

  • The 2008 study revealed that homebuyers who used "one-stop shopping" in their latest real estate transaction were more satisfied with their home buying experience compared to those who used services of multiple providers. �

  • The 2002 study used by the proponents revealed that 64% of homebuyers who used "one-stop shopping" programs had a better overall experience with their home purchase transaction.

First, it's dishonest to call the arrangements "one-stop shopping" since it only means that the real estate broker or mortgage lender will take care of ordering settlement services on behalf of the homebuyer - and, mostly unbeknownst to the homebuyer, receive a kickback from the settlement company for the referral.�

Most homebuyers are completely unaware that they may shop for and select their own settlement company. The proponents of ABAs exploit this lack of consumer knowledge and their supposed fine-print "disclosures" do little to enlighten the homebuyer to this important and costly component to the transaction.�

Naturally, without knowing that they could shop and save on settlement services, a homebuyer is going to be more satisfied with their trusted advisor taking care of the finer details of ordering settlement services on their behalf.

Along comes a recent survey from the Ohio Association of Independent Title Agents (OAITA).� According to this survey, conducted from 2009 through 2010, when homebuyers are made fully aware of ABAs, they become uncomfortable and prefer a title company or title agent to be a third party (i.e., independent) to the transaction.�

First, to the delight of our ABA proponents, 77% of respondents did not independently select their settlement company.� When made fully aware of the ABA relationships, 50% of respondents said they prefer a title company that does not share profits with a referral source compared to 6% of respondents saying they prefer a title agent that shares profits with a referral source.�

Further, 58% of respondents said they believe that ABAs are a conflict of interest. The OAITA stands in stark contrast to the Harris Interactive surveys used by ABA proponents only because homebuyers, as respondents, were clearly informed of the financial benefit gained by the referral source.

Consumers must be informed in order to make sound financial decisions.� While ABAs are very profit-friendly to its participants, ABAs are simply not consumer-friendly. Let's all hope that the Federal Reserve Board retreats from its complicity in bad business.

6 real estate headlines: 15-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders and consumers.

Region's economic output returns to pre-recession levels
Washington Examiner
: However, the region's housing rebound, while steadier than the rest of the country, still has a long way to crawl before prices approach pre-recession levels.

D.C. Area tops list of real estate markets to watch in 2011
DC Urban Turf
: The index reports, median family income was $101,700 and the median home sales price was $277,000, while 78.8 percent of homes in the DC area were deemed affordable.

Wading back into real estate
: Another spring, another burst of hope for a real estate market recovery. And, so for many, to list or not to list � that is the question.
Republicans move to end Obama mortgage programs
Wall Street Journal
: Republicans say the government should stop trying to ease the housing crisis and instead focus on reducing the growing federal deficit and national debt.
Military buyers: Home shoppers on a mission
Washington Post
: Anyone trying to sell a home in the D.C. area would be wise to learn more about the needs and habits of military officers, enlisted people and their families.
Major changes ahead for mortgage system
Washington Post
: Fundamental changes are probably ahead for the American mortgage system as the federal government pushes to unwind its involvement in the housing market.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another new D.C. Homestead Deduction application

The District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) has created a new Homestead and Senior Citizen/Disabled Property Tax Relief Application (Homestead Application). �

Effective May 2, 2011, the OTR will no longer accept any prior versions of the Homestead Application. The new form is only one page and does appear easier to complete than the prior two page application.� It is broken down in the following six sections:

  • Part 1 � Personal Information (name and social security number)

  • Part 2 � Property Information (address, lot and square)

  • Part 3 � Homestead Deduction (the actual application and questions regarding other properties)

  • Part 4 � Property Tax Relief for Seniors (at least one owner must be 65 or older with total household federal adjusted gross income less than $100,000)

  • Part 5 � Property Tax Relief for Disabled (at least one owner must be permanently and totally disabled or receiving certain disability payments with total household federal adjusted gross income less than $100,000)

  • Part 6 � Affidavit (the signature line)

D.C. Homestead Deduction Form (rev. 3/11)

The new Homestead Application can be found on the OTR website: Homestead Deduction/Reconfirmation Application*.� Detailed instructions in regards to the completion of the form are found on the second page.

Also, if a property ceases to qualify for the Homestead/Disabled/Senior Citizen benefits, the homeowner must provide written notice to the OTR within 30 days of the change in eligibility.� The Homestead Deduction Cancellation Form is also posted on the OTR website: Homestead Deduction Cancellation Form*. �

The Homestead discounts have not changed: The Homestead deduction reduces a real property's assessed value by $67,500 prior to computing the yearly tax liability while the senior citizen or disabled tax relief reduces the tax bill by 50 percent.

Here are a few more tips in regards to the Homestead:

  1. To be eligible for the Homestead Deduction, you must be domiciled in the District of Columbia.� The following actions will help prove that the District of Columbia is your permanent home:

  2. Obtaining a District of Columbia driver's license or identification card;

  3. Registering your motor vehicle in the District of Columbia;

  4. Registering and actively voting in the District of Columbia; and

  5. Filing District and Federal income tax returns from the property that is claimed as a principal residence.

A property CANNOT receive the Homestead Deduction if:

  1. It is held in an irrevocable trust, unless it is a special needs trust; or

  2. If the record owner is a corporation, LLC or other business entity (except a partnership in which all partners occupy the property as their principal residence).

For more information on the new Homestead Application please visit OTR's Taxpayer Service Center or send OTR an e-mail.�

6 real estate headlines: 14-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders and consumers.

First steps toward buying a new home
: There are plenty of steps along the way to becoming a homeowner, but nothing can be more important than developing your own financial plan.
Thorny foreclosure questions
Washington Post
: Is someone going to tell me a back-office clerk mishandled my title and their actions threaten my legitimate ownership?
Behind the foreclosure crisis, big banks' reign of terror
Washington Post
: The problem in the nation's housing market now isn't subprime lending. It's subpar lenders.It's a bad situation - and the new majority in the House is poised to make it even worse.
Closing on your home: Are you walking in blind?
Fox Business
: By the time you arrive at the table to close on your home purchase, you're tired. It's been a long haul to get to this point, and the last thing you want is any kind of surprise.
More foreclosure irregularities alleged in Maryland
Baltimore Sun
: Prosecutors have launched an investigation into a complaint that more than 1,000 deeds for homes foreclosed upon in Maryland were improperly executed.
March expected to kick off new wave of home sales
Washington Examiner
: Home sales in the Washington area are expected to jump this spring as the number of pending sales in February has increased significantly compared with last year.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Closing on your home: Are you walking in blind?

By the time you arrive at the table to close on your home purchase, you're tired. It's been a long haul to get to this point, and the last thing you want is any kind of surprise.

Particularly if you're a first-time homebuyer, knowing ahead of time what to expect at closing can help ease any anxieties you may have, and ensure that you get your keys with no unforeseen hiccups.

The good news is, if you have worked with a trustworthy real estate agent and have chosen a reliable mortgage lender, you should anticipate a smooth settlement. All the professionals you've been working with are helping you get through the final steps of the transaction.

"Buyers should not expect any surprises at the settlement as long as they have carefully reviewed their Good Faith Estimate (GFE), shopped for their title services and compared written estimates of closing costs," said Todd Ewing, president of Federal Title and Escrow Co. in Washington, D.C.

Read full story...

Title insurance and known title defects

"Don't worry about it � title insurance will cover it!"

This is what I keep hearing from agents when they talk to their clients about potential title insurance issues: "Don't worry about it, you are getting title insurance � that will cover it!"�

My response: "Whoa!"�

The most recent instance was a District of Columbia tenant issue. I had to break it to the agent and the purchaser that the title insurance would not cover it and the underwriter would take specific exception to this issue because all of the parties were aware of the issue.�

One thing many folks do not seem to understand is that the title insurer literally steps into the purchaser's (new owner's) shoes and commences legal action based on the title issue at hand on behalf of the purchaser (new owner) and can only pursue a legal action the actual owner would be able to pursue.�

In other words, title insurance is to cover the unforeseen title issues.� If the purchaser (new owner) has knowledge of an issue or has waived the right to sue the seller for any title issues i.e. look at the addendum to a contract for properties bought from a foreclosing bank or acknowledged tenants in the property, etc.; it is difficult for the title insurer to pursue any legal action on behalf of the purchaser (new owner).

So, before a purchaser becomes a new owner to a property with known potential title issues, that purchaser should consult the settlement attorney to fully understand what he or she is "signing up for."

Title insurance doesn't always "cover it."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wells Fargo issuing VA fee refunds in wake of lawsuit

As a result of a $10 million settlement in a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Atlanta, Georgia, Wells Fargo will issue refunds of $175 to approximately 60,000 military members and veterans who refinanced VA loans through Wells Fargo, Wachovia and SouthTrust between January 20, 2004 and October 7, 2010.

At the heart of the lawsuit were allegations that Wells Fargo failed to adhere to VA rules regarding fees that are permitted to be charged to military members and veterans taking out a VA loan.� Under VA guidelines, lenders are required to cover all attorneys' service fees with the exception of title work, and lenders are prohibited from requiring a borrower to pay for said fees. �

However, the lawsuit alleged that Wells Fargo encouraged closing attorneys to bundle their fees into title search and title examination fees, thereby charging the borrower for them instead of the lender having to cover the fees as required by the VA rules.

As part of the settlement, Wells Fargo denies any liability, and intends to send letters to those military members and veterans eligible for a refund in late March of 2011, which will include all necessary details in how to apply for and receive the refund.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

6 real estate headlines: 08-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders and consumers.

Picky first-time homebuyers lose out on great deals
Washington Post
: Are today's first-time home buyers passing up great deals because they insist on flawless "move-in ready" houses requiring little or no changes?
FHA powers what's left of the housing market
Wall Street Journal
: As the government moves to reform the mortgage market, the FHA is heading for some changes that could limit borrowers' access to the loans.
The down payment dilemma
: Should homebuyers be required to make a down payment of at least 20 percent of a home's purchase price to qualify for a mortgage?
Million dollar home sales rise 20%
CNN Money
: In Washington, government workers continued to bolster the high-end market. The DC area is now the best educated place in the nation and one of the highest paid.
MERS? It may have swallowed your loan
The New York Times
: For more than a decade, the American real estate market resembled an overstuffed novel, which is to say, it was an engrossing piece of fiction.
Bridging the Waterfront in Southeast
DC Mud
: The architect says work could start as soon as this week, as piles have to be completed by end of March, before the start of spawning season (for fish, not architects).

Monday, March 7, 2011

6 real estate headlines: 07-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders and consumers.

Spurred by private hiring, job growth gathers steam
The New York Times
: The nation's employers added 192,000 jobs in February, up from a gain of 63,000 the previous month, the Labor Department reported last Friday.
True economy: Look past job numbers hype
Inman News
: Markets for long-term credit this week dodged not one bullet but an entire volley. The first week each month brings news of the prior month, and the most definitive data.
Timing is ripe for negotiation
Wall Street Journal
: Small-business owners are seeing opportunities in the soft real-estate market to renegotiate their office, retail and industrial leases for less money.
D.C. property values rise
Washington Post
: In a sign of recovery for the District's real estate market and its economy in general, new property assessment data indicate modest growth in the city's tax base.
Major College Park development wins approval
Washington Examiner
: Prince George's County has approved plans for a high-end residential and retail development adjacent to the University of Maryland.
Defining 'qualified' mortgage
: As government regulators define a "qualified residential mortgage," their definition could determine the types of loans homebuyers and homeowners can get.

Friday, March 4, 2011

7 homebuyer tips

In a recent article by June Walbert on, she stressed the 7 things military personnel should consider before purchasing a home.� While these considerations apply to members of the military, they should also be considered by anyone before jumping into the housing market.

First, you must realize that purchasing a home has become a long-term investment in this economic market.� It is much more difficult to purchase a property for 2-3 years (typical length of a military assignment) and turn around and sell it for a profit.� However, if you are willing and able to purchase a property and hold onto it as an investment property for several years, given the dropping prices and interest rates, you may be able to make a profit several years down the road.�

Second, determine your wants and needs from the home before you buy.� For example, if you are married and have kids or plan on having kids or have pets, do you need a house with a yard?� Do you like living in or near a large city, or do you prefer being in the suburbs?� How long will you be at work on a weekly basis, and will you have enough time to maintain a home, or would condo living be more reasonable?

Third, do not let the low interest rates and low home prices force you into acting too quickly to purchase a property.� Take some time to review your financial situation, including your credit score.� Few people understand that the higher their credit score, the better their chances of obtaining a more favorable interest rate on their mortgage.� Everyone is able to pull one free credit report on themselves each year on� If there are any items that appear on your credit report that you dispute, it is always best to have them cleared up prior to applying for a mortgage.

Fourth, take an inventory of your financial situation and only purchase a home that you can afford.� While every lender will make a determination of your debt-to-income ratio, it is not uncommon for a borrower to be told that they can take out and afford a higher mortgage than what they originally anticipated.� Ideally, your debt-to-income ratio should be 36% or less.� For example, if your gross monthly income is $4,000, you should pay out more than $1,440 towards all your debts (i.e. mortgage payment, car payment, grocery expenses, credit card bills, etc.

Fifth, take advantage of all tax benefits.� As of now, the mortgage interest deduction is still in effect, and therefore is an added incentive to purchase a property.� The way the mortgage interest deduction works is it reduces your taxable income by the amount you pay out each year in mortgage interest and property taxes.� For example, if your gross yearly income is $50,000, and you pay $12,000 in mortgage interest and $2,500 in property taxes, your taxable income has been lowered to $35,500.

Sixth, make sure you set aside some funds for not only a down payment, but also to cover any expenses related to moving into your new home, including any closing costs to be paid at the time of settlement.� In addition, depending on where you are moving from, it may be necessary to purchase items like furniture, a lawnmower, window treatments, etc.

Finally, if you are not certain that you are financially ready to purchase a new home, consider continuing to rent until you are able to set aside enough funds for a down payment and get your credit straightened out.� Purchasers that bite off more than they could chew helped to cause the current housing crisis we are in, so it is always best to make sure you have everything in place before jumping into the housing market with both feet!�

6 real estate headlines: 04-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders and consumers.

Appeal property tax and win
: Good news for Americans facing eye-popping property taxes: You can fight city hall, or whichever government body sends you this annual economic albatross.
Region's blighted neighborhoods left out of recovery
Washington Examiner
: While much of Washington is enjoying a housing recovery, neighborhoods in parts of Prince William and Prince George's counties, especially, are being left behind.
Existing home sales inch up
CNN Money
: According to the National Association of Realtors, homes sold at an annual rate of 5.36 million in January, up 2.7% from December and 5.3% higher than January 2010 sales.
Regulators push 20% down payments
Wall Street Journal
: The proposal is being floated as a way to rewrite rules for mortgage lending to prevent a rerun of the financial crisis that resulted from years of easy credit.
Is Donald Trump moving to Virginia?
Washington Post
: Embattled Virginia socialite and winemaker Patricia Kluge may have found a white knight to preserve her Charlottesville empire - real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Geithner pushes GOP for housing finance overhaul
Los Angeles Times
: Republicans, who now control the U.S. House of Representatives, want to scale back the government's footprint in housing finance and give the private sector a larger role.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

6 real estate headlines: 03-Mar

A daily dose of headlines for real estate agents, mortgage lenders and consumers.

Thinking of buying? Click here first
Wall Street Journal
: Though plenty of uncertainty remains, optimism is slowly creeping back into the U.S. housing market.
Why timing housing market could cost you
Sun Sentinel
: The housing market is hurting, in part because many potential buyers are holding off while they try to find the ever-elusive bottom.
It could be the time to buy that bigger house
Washington Post
: If you want to buy a bigger house, now is the time. You'll have to make good on what you owe on your current home, but if you can sell and get out, good for you.
Median sales price up 14.3% in Washington, D.C.
Arlington Real Estate News
: Nearly 400 properties were sold last month, of which 20% were either short sales or foreclosures.
Gain wealth from home ownership?
: The housing market crash that led the latest recession turned conventional wisdom around, and left many wondering if real estate was a good investment after all.
Miami pending home sales rise, bucking national trend
Miami Herald
: Buyers' continued appetite for distressed properties helped push South Florida's pending home sales upward in February, even as the national housing picture sagged.