I've contacted a lender, been pre-approved and am ready to buy...GREAT! Who's the lender? Dowecheatemandhow.com...I have a fantastic rate and they promise we can close in 15 days.....Sound familiar? Many buyers surf the web looking for the lowest payment and are taken in with deals that are too good to be true~ financing.
As with any purchase~ make sure you're working with an expert who knows the community/area and can offer alternative finance options. There are plenty of reputable companies online or otherwise who can assist clients with finance options, I'd make the following suggestions in selecting a lender:
1. Do they offer alternatives or are they "promoting" a specific program.
2. Are they accessible~ do they return my call and/or email?
3. Do they seem to care about me/us OR are we a number?
These are basic customer service pieces in any industry BUT...there is nothing more frustrating for a buyer who's had the old over promise/under deliver as it relates to finalizing one of the most significant financial transactions they'll ever make! Reduce the stress and make a good choice up front! Do your homework and KNOW who you're dealing with...A good deal is only a good deal if the transaction closes!
Existing-Home Sales Down in January but Higher than a Year Ago; Prices Steady
Washington, February 26, 2010
Existing-home sales fell in January but are above year-ago levels, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Existing-home sales including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops dropped 7.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 5.05 million units in January from a revised 5.44 million in December, but remain 11.5 percent above the 4.53 million-unit level in January 2009.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there is still some delay between shopping and closing that affected current sales. Most of the completed deals in January were based on contracts in November and December. People who got into the market after the home buyer tax credit was extended in November have only recently started to offer contracts, so it will take a couple months to close those sales, he said. Still, the latest monthly sales decline is not encouraging, and raises concern about the strength of a recovery.
Total housing inventory at the end of January fell 0.5 percent to 3.27 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.8-month supply2 at the current sales pace, up from a 7.2-month supply in December. Raw unsold inventory is 9.6 percent below a year ago, and is at the lowest level since March 2006.
Activity should be picking up strongly in late spring as buyers take advantage of the tax credit, which is critical to absorb distressed properties reaching the market and to continually chip away at inventory, Yun said. With a downtrend in the number of homes on the market, especially in the lower price ranges, values are beginning to firm but with great variance around the country.
The national median existing-home price3 for all housing types was $164,700 in January, unchanged from a year earlier. Distressed homes, which accounted for 38 percent of sales last month, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they typically are discounted in comparison with traditional homes in the same area.
A parallel NAR practitioner survey4 shows first-time buyers purchased 40 percent of homes in January, down from 43 percent in December. Investors accounted for 17 percent of transactions in January, up from 15 percent in December; the remaining sales were to repeat buyers. The survey also shows that buyer traffic increased 9.4 percent in January.
NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox&Associates in Tucson, Ariz., said buying a home in the current environment has become more challenging. First-time buyers and others who need a mortgage are increasingly losing out to all-cash investors for the best bargains in many areas, particularly for foreclosed homes where cash is king, she said.
Inventory conditions vary by price range, and of course there are major differences depending on location. Realtors® are the best buyer resource for strategies on winning bids in increasingly competitive markets, Golder said. The bidding for more desirable homes will only accelerate between now and the April 30 contract deadline to qualify for a tax credit of up to $8,000.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage edged up to 5.03 percent in January from 4.93 percent in December; the rate was 5.05 percent in January 2009.
Single-family home sales fell 6.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million in January from a level of 4.76 million in December, but are 8.6 percent above the 4.08 million pace in January 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $163,600 in January, down 0.4 percent from a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales dropped 8.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 620,000 in January from 675,000 in December, but are 38.1 percent above the 449,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price5 was $172,400 in January, which is 1.4 percent higher than January 2009.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 10.9 percent to an annual pace of 820,000 in January but are 22.4 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $245,300, a gain of 8.8 percent from January 2009.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest declined 6.9 percent in January to a level of 1.08 million but are 8.0 percent higher than January 2009. The median price in the Midwest was $130,300, which is 1.0 percent below a year ago.
In the South, existing-home sales dropped 7.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.87 million in January but are 12.0 percent above a year ago. The median price in the South was $140,200, down 2.0 percent from January 2009.
Existing-home sales in the West declined 5.2 percent to an annual rate of 1.28 million in January but are 7.6 percent higher than January 2009. The median price in the West was $203,400, down 5.8 percent from a year ago.
The National Association of Realtors®, The Voice for Real Estate, is Americas largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
# # #
IRS Clarifies What's Needed to Claim Tax Credit
The Internal Revenue Service has clarified which documentation taxpayers need to submit to claim the first-time and move-up homebuyer tax credit.
While the IRS is still requiring the filing of Form 5405, it is not demanding that all parties signatures be on the HUD-1 settlement document in areas where requiring both the buyer and the seller to sign the document isnt common.
The IRS clarification says: "In areas where signatures are not required on the settlement document, the IRS has clarified that it will accept a settlement statement if it is completed and valid according to local law. The IRS encourages those buyers to sign the settlement statement prior to attaching it to the tax return.
For repeat buyers, the IRS is seeking documentation that home buyers have lived in the previous property for a consecutive five of the past eight years. Proof can include property tax records, home owner insurance records, or mortgage interest statements.
Source: Washington Post (02/20/2010)
Important IRS updates on claiming the home buyer tax credit recently been announced. The agency has published an updated version of Form 5405 as well as instructions for home buyers using it to claim the $8,000 first-time buyer credit as well as repeat buyers seeking to claim the $6,500 credit. Updates to the form include the extended purchase date window (tax credit-qualified homes must be under contract prior to May 1 and close before July 1). And yes, even though the revised Form 5405 still references the "First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit," it is also intended to be used by repeat home buyers, who must have lived in a single principal residence for five of the last eight years prior to purchasing their new home for which they plan to claim the tax credit.
Beyond these updates, the IRS is also requiring additional documentation for home buyers who claim the credit for purchases after Nov. 6, 2009. Buyers must now provide a copy of the HUD-1 form or, in cases where that form is not used, a certificate of occupancy for a newly constructed home. For purchases taking place after April 30, a copy of the signed sales contract must also be supplied. Meanwhile, in order to claim the $6,500 repeat buyer tax credit, home buyers must attach one of the following for five consecutive years of the last eight to demonstrate that they meet the repeat buyer qualifications: a Form 1098 reporting mortgage interest; a property tax statement; or home insurance records.
Tax credit buyers should also know that, due to the new documentation requirements, those claiming either the $8,000 first-time home buyer credit or the $6,500 repeat-buyer credit cannot e-file. As a result, taxpayers should be prepared to wait at least 12 to 16 weeks to receive their refunds. On a final note, NAHB has recommended options to Treasury and IRS officials for homebuyers who do not use a HUD-1 form and whose local jurisdiction does not issue a certificate of occupancy. We are awaiting their response at this time. Get more information on NAHB's consumer tax credit Web site at: www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com.
Make Money in 2010: Your Home
by Amanda Gengler
Friday, December 11, 2009provided by
Prices should stabilize at last, but rebuilding your equity will take time.
After three years of slumping house prices, the end of the real estate bust may finally be in sight. Home sales are rising, inventories are shrinking, and most economists believe values nationwide will hit bottom in the second half of the year -- but not before falling another 5% to 10% first.
Prices after that should stay mostly flat until 2012. "Next year will clearly be better than this year," says Mike Larson, a real estate analyst at Weiss Research. "Prices may drop a little more, but the lion's share of the damage is behind us."
One positive byproduct of the 30% plunge in prices since the 2006 peak: Houses are now more affordable than at any time in the past two decades, according to the National Association of Home Builders -- good news for anyone looking to buy.
Then too, mortgage rates, now at 5.15%, should stay low for the first few months, thanks in part to the Federal Reserve's ongoing purchase of mortgage-backed securities. But if the economy really picks up steam and inflation fears resurface in the second half of the year, rates could rise as high as 5.25% to 6.5%.
If you hope to sell your home or rebuild lost equity, there's new hope. One plus is that Congress has recently extended the first-time homebuyer credit, and even expanded it to include those with higher incomes and current homeowners.
But with layoffs high, defaults should remain problematic, hitting wealthy areas even harder next year, says Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR, a consulting firm. In fact, 30% of recent foreclosures were on higher-priced homes -- nearly double the 2006 rate.
Wild card: If the Fed stops buying mortgage securities in March as planned and private investors don't step up, rates could spike to 6% or higher sooner and faster than expected, slowing demand and pushing prices down.
Signs to watch: Steady growth in single-family housing permits (track it at census.gov) indicates that builders believe buyers are returning to the market.
The Action Plan
Buyers: Make your move now. Have you been on the sidelines waiting for prices to go lower before house shopping and bidding in earnest? Don't hold off much longer."The market will remain tilted in favor of the buyer over the next year, but that power will gradually be reduced as conditions in the housing market improve," says Larson at Weiss Research. You'll have plenty of homes to choose from as foreclosures continue to pile up and more homeowners list their houses in an improving market. Be sure to keep a close eye on mortgage rates. If they rise sharply as the Fed's mortgage buyback program draws to a close, act quickly to lock in a low fixed rate.
Anyone looking to buy or invest in a lower-priced, entry-level home should expect competition. Put down as much cash as possible (many investors are offering to make all-cash deals); come in below the listing price and there's a good chance you'll lose to another bidder.
But demand is much softer for middle- to top-tier homes, particularly those priced above $500,000. The supply is greater too, so you'll be in a stronger bargaining position. Offer at least 10% below what comparable homes have sold for lately (your realtor can supply this info). That way you won't take a hit if prices of higher-end homes fall another 10% or more, which is very likely, Shapiro says.
Sellers: Postpone listing your home, if possible. Sellers next year will be unloading property at what's likely to be the very bottom. Ouch. Hold out for a few more years, so you'll compete against fewer foreclosures, increasing the chances your home will fetch a higher price.
Delaying your sale isn't an option? Act fast before prices drop further. To expedite a sale, don't try to compete on price with foreclosures and short sales (when the bank allows owners to sell for less than they owe on their mortgage); most of the time, you can't win. Instead play up your home's strengths. Foreclosures typically need a lot of work, and short sales can take months. So make necessary repairs, throw in a paint job and new carpeting since buyers may be short on cash after the down payment, and offer a fast and flexible closing date. That will attract people willing to pay more for a home that's in move-in condition and a deal they can close quickly.
Copyrighted, CNNMoney. All Rights Reserved. (edited ~removed last paragraph)
DONOVAN ANNOUNCES RECOVERY ACT'S HOMEBUYER TAX CREDIT CAN IMMEDIATELY HELP THOUSANDS OF FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYERS TO BUY A HOME
FHA plan will stimulate new home sales and help stabilize housing market
WASHINGTON - Speaking to the National Association of Home Builders Spring Board of Directors Meeting, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will allow homebuyers to apply the Obama Administration's new $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit toward the purchase costs of a FHA-insured home. Donovan said that today's action will help stabilize the nation's housing market by stimulating home sales across the country.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 offers homebuyers a tax credit of up to $8,000 for purchasing their first home. Families can only access this credit after filing their tax returns with the IRS. Today's announcement details FHA's rules allowing state Housing Finance Agencies and certain non-profits to "monetize" up to the full amount of the tax credit (depending on the amount of the mortgage) so that borrowers can immediately apply the funds toward their down payments. Home buyers using FHA-approved lenders can apply the tax credit to their down payment in excess of 3.5 percent of appraised value or their closing costs, which can help achieve a lower interest rate. To read the FHA's new mortgagee letter, visit HUD's website.
"We believe this is a real win for everyone," said Donovan. "Today, the Obama Administration is taking another important step toward accelerating the recovery of the nation's housing market. Families will now be able to apply their anticipated tax credit toward their home purchase right away. At the same time we are putting safeguards in place to ensure that consumers will be protected from unscrupulous lenders. What we're doing today will not only help these families to purchase their first home but will present an enormous benefit for communities struggling to deal with an oversupply of housing."
Currently, borrowers applying for an FHA-insured mortgage are required to make a minimum 3.5 percent downpayment on the purchase of their home. Current law does not permit approved lenders to monetize the tax credit to meet the required 3.5 percent minimum down payment, but, under the terms of today's announcement, lenders can now monetize the tax credit for use as additional down payment, or for other closing costs, which can help achieve a lower interest rate. Buyers financing through state Housing Finance Agencies and certain non-profits will be able to use the tax credit for their downpayments via secondary financing provided by the HFA or non-profit. In addition to the borrower's own cash investment, FHA allows parents, employers and other governmental entities to contribute towards the downpayment. Today's action permits the first-time homebuyer's anticipated tax credit under the Recovery Act to be applied toward the family's home purchase right away. Unlike seller-funded down-payment assistance, which was a vehicle for abuse, this program will allow homebuyers to shop for the best home price and services using their anticipated tax credit.
According to estimates by the National Association of Home Builders, the Administration's homebuyer tax credit will stimulate 160,000 home sales across the nation - 101,000 of which will be first-time buyers who will receive the credit. Another 59,000 existing homeowners will be able to buy another home because a first-time buyer purchased their home. Given FHA's current market share, it's estimated that thousands of families will be able to purchase a home by allowing the anticipated tax credit to be applied toward their purchase together with an FHA-insured mortgage.
Homebuyers should beware of mortgage scams and carefully compare benefits and costs when seeking out tax credit monetization services. Programs will vary from organization to organization and borrowers should consider whether the services make sense for them, as well as what company offers the most suitable and affordable option.
For every FHA borrower who is assisted through the tax credit program, FHA will collect the name and employer identification number of the organization providing the service as well as associated fees and charges. FHA will use this information to track the business closely and will refer any questionable practices to the appropriate regulatory agencies, as necessary.
| Many States Already Monetizing Tax Credit
Daily Real Estate News |
May 14, 2009 | Share
Some states have already beat the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the punch on making bridge loans available to households who want to claim the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan yesterday announced that the department will allow consumers to obtain a bridge loan, repayable with proceeds from their tax credit, to help cover their down payment. Guidelines for the new policy will be released shortly, he said.
But even before the announcement, nearly a dozen states have made this happen by providing similar bridge loans through their housing finance agencies. And state REALTOR® associations were often behind these proactive efforts.
During the Federal Taxation Committee gathering at the 2009 REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings on Wednesday, Bryan Wahl, the government affairs director for Washington REALTORS®, explained how his association worked with state officials to set up its program
To get the initiative off the ground, Wahl and other association representatives had to sell Washingtons treasury department on the idea. Although the state had made significant cuts in spending, there were some funds available in the capital budget for investment. Wahl proposed that some of that money be used to help shore up the states slumping housing market by lending to first-time home buyers.
We needed to figure out how to provide an advance-loan programa bridge loan, if you will, he said.
The Washington REALTORS® association was able to convince treasury officials that the money loaned to home buyers would not only be paid back when tax credits took effect, but also increase the states funds. According to their calculations, every 1,000 home sales represented approximately $140 million in new tax revenues.
To help close the deal, the association put up $400,000 to help cover the risk. Thus far, the initiative has been successful, with thousands of loans granted to first-time home buyers.
There are currently 10 states that have a program similar to Washingtons, and that number is expected to increase following Secretary Donovans announcement. Wahl said the remaining states need to be convinced that they will get a return on this investment, or at least break even, before they seriously consider these proposals.
Brian Summerfield, REALTOR® Magazine
There have been recent changes to the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credits , the most significant being the elimination of the need to "pay back" the credit over time and the increase to the maximum amount from $7500 to $8000.
Eligible Property: Any single family residence (including condos, co-ops, townhouses) that will be used as a primary residence.
Refundable: Reduces or eliminates tax liability for the current year~ Contact your tax advisor for guidance.
First Time Homebuyer Only: Yes~purchaser and purchaser's spouse may not have owned a principal residence in the 3 years previous to purchase.
Recapture: The New program requires NO REPAYMENT unless the house is sold within 3 years of purchase.
These are simply the highlights to the program and every situation is unique~ as always~ contact your tax advisor with any questions.
TIME to MOVE?
APClosely watched indexes show home prices declined by record annual amount in 4th quarter
Home prices post record annual decline in 4Q
Tuesday February 24, 4:26 pm ET
By J.W. Elphinstone, AP Real Estate Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Home prices tumbled by the worst annual rate on record in the fourth quarter, two housing indexes showed Tuesday, and the slope of decline steepened in all but a handful of battered cities.
The farther prices fall, the fewer homeowners may be able to qualify for President Barack Obama's mortgage relief plan. Last week, the president estimated up to 5 million borrowers in good standing who don't owe more than 105 percent of their home's current value would be able to refinance into a lower interest-rate loan.
Though details of the plan won't be released until March 4, almost 14 million homeowners are already under water, according to Moody's Economy.com, meaning they owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Nationally, home prices have receded to 2003-levels, and half of the metro areas in the 20-city Case-Shiller Home Price Index have lost more than 20 percent of their values from their peaks in 2006, including Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami.
"If they don't get (the plan) into place very soon, it will be out of our reach to help these people," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Economy.com.
Americans are feeling grim about the prospects of any turnaround. Consumer confidence index sank to new lows in February as widespread layoffs, shrinking retirement accounts and plunging home prices fueled fears, the Conference Board said Tuesday.
The Standard&Poor's/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index plunged more than 18 percent during the quarter from the prior-year period, the largest drop in its 21-year history.
Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said Tuesday that home prices dropped more than 8 percent in the quarter from a year earlier, its largest annual decline on record since 1991.
The reports, however, did offer a modicum of good news. The rate of year-over-year price declines slowed in Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington, according to the Case-Shiller index, while cities in Washington, North Dakota and Texas posted year-over-year quarterly gains, the government said.
Home prices in the Boston suburbs are holding up better than in the city itself, said Judy Moore, a broker with Re/Max Landmark Realtors in Lexington, Mass.
Buyers are encouraged by the combination of low interest rates and the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit tucked in the latest stimulus plan.
"I've seen more buyers out there kicking the tires," Moore said.
But prices in the Sun Belt cities continue to get clobbered. Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Francisco all saw home values lose more than 30 percent in December, the Case-Shiller index said. And the government index showed many California and Florida cities clocked their worst declines in the fourth quarter.
In Miami, buyers can't get financing for condos in buildings that have more than 30 percent investor-owned units, or if more than 15 percent of owners are behind on their common fees.
That's bringing down prices in those buildings by as much as 25 percent, said Ron Shuffield, president of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors. "It's more of a credit problem now than a real estate problem because the values are down," he said.
Prices in the Case-Shiller 20-city index have plunged 27 percent from their peak in the summer of 2006, and the 10-city index has fallen more than 28 percent. Both indices have recorded year-over-year declines for 24 straight months.
On Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors releases its existing home sales data for January and the Commerce Department releases its new home sales figures for January on Thursday.
First-time purchasers get a tax credit windfall if they buy before December.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- There's a nice windfall for some homebuyers in the economic stimulus bill signed into law this week by President Obama. First-time buyers can claim a credit worth $8,000 - or 10% of the home's value, whichever is less - on their 2008 or 2009 taxes.
A big plus is that the credit is refundable, meaning tax filers see a refund of the full $8,000 even if their total tax bill - the amount of witholding they paid during the year plus anything extra they had to pony up when they filed their returns - was less than that amount. But there has been a lot of confusion over this provision. Adam Billings of Knoxville, Tenn. wrote to CNNMoney.com asking:
"I will qualify as a first-time home buyer, and I am currently set to get a small tax refund for 2008. Does that mean if I purchased now that I would get an extra $8,000 added on top of my current refund?"
The short answer? Yes, Billings would get back the $8,000 plus what he'd overpaid. The long answer? It depends. Here are three scenarios:
Scenario 1: Your final tax liability is normally $6,000. You've had taxes withheld from every paycheck and at the end of the year you've paid Uncle Sam $6,000. Since you've already paid him all you owe, you get the entire $8,000 tax credit as a refund check.
Scenario 2: Your final tax liability is $6,000, but you've overpaid by $1,000 through your payroll witholding. Normally you would get a $1,000 refund check. In this scenario, you get $9,000, the $8,000 credit plus the $1,000 you overpaid.
Scenario 3: Your final tax liability is $6,000, but you've underpaid through your payroll witholding by $1,000. Normally, you would have to write the IRS a $1,000 check. This time, the first $1,000 of the tax credit pays your bill, and you get the remaining $7,000 as a refund.
To qualify for the credit, the purchase must be made between Jan. 1, 2009 and Nov. 30, 2009. Buyers may not have owned a home for the past three years to qualify as "first time" buyer. They must also live in the house for at least three years, or they will be obligated to pay back the credit.
MORE AT CNNMONEY.COM
Additionally, there are income restrictions: To qualify, buyers must make less than $75,000 for singles or $150,000 for couples. (Higher-income buyers may receive a partial credit.)
Applying for the credit will be easy - or at least as easy as doing your income taxes. Just claim it on your return. No other forms or papers have to be filed. Taxpayers who have already completed their returns can file amended returns for 2008 to claim the credit.
The housing industry is somewhat pleased with the result because the stimulus plan improves on the current $7,500 tax credit, which was passed in July and was more of a low-interest loan than an actual credit. But the industry was also disappointed that Congress did not go even further and adopt the Senate's proposal of a $15,000 non-refundable credit for all homebuyers.
"[The Senate version] would have done a lot more to turn around the housing market," said Bernard Markstein, an economist and director of forecasting for the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). "We have a lot of reports of people who would be coming off the fence because of it."
Even so, the $8,000 credit will bring an additional 300,000 new homebuyers into the market, according to estimates by Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.
The credit could also create a domino effect, he said, because each first-time homebuyer sale will lead to two more trade-up transactions down the line. "I think there are many homeowners who would be trading-up but they have had no buyers for their own homes," Yun said.
Who won't benefit, according to Mark Goldman, a real estate lecturer at San Diego State University, are those first-time homebuyers struggling to come up with down payments. The credit does not help get them over that hurdle - they still have to close the sale before claiming the bonus.
One state, Missouri, is trying to get around that problem by creating a short-term loan on the tax credit of up to $6,750. The state would loan borrowers the money so they could use it at closing as part of the downpayment. Then, when the buyers receive their tax credit from the IRS, they pay back the state. Other states may follow with similar programs, according to NAHB's Dietz.
Many may look at the tax credit as a discount on the home price, according to Yun. A $100,000 purchase effectively becomes a $92,000 one. That can reassure buyers apprehensive about purchasing and then watching prices continue falling, he added.
And it provides a nice nest egg for the often-difficult early years of homeownership, when unexpected repairs and expenses often crop up. Recipients could also use the money to buy new stuff for their home - a lawnmower, a rug, a sofa - and, in that way, help stimulate the economy.