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Archive for the ‘HOME SELLERS’ Category

The new landmark transportation law was passed by the Virginia General Assembly to raise new revenue to fund transportation initiatives across the Commonwealth (HB 2313). This law is effective July 1, 2013.

Among the increase in sales, use and fuel taxes is an increase in the grantor’s tax, or that tax imposed on transferors of real estate located in the Commonwealth of Virginia
However, the increased tax is only applicable to certain geographic areas.
Specifically, the tax will be imposed on properties located in:

  • Arlington County VA
  • Fairfax County VA
  • Loudoun County VA
  • Prince William County VA
  • City of Alexandria VA
  • City of Fairfax VA
  • City of Falls Church VA
  • Cities of Manassas VA and Manassas Park VA
  • Town of Dumfries VA
  • Town of Herndon VA
  • Town of Leesburg VA
  • Town of Purcellville VA
  • Town of Vienna VA
  • Additionally, certain counties and cities in the Hampton Roads area will also be subject to the increased tax.

The current tax imposed is .10/$100 of the sales price or fair market value, whichever is higher.

As of July 1, 2013, the tax is increased to .25/$100 (or $2.50/$1,000). This represents a 150% increase in the grantor’s tax.
For example, on a $400,000 sale, the tax is increased from $400 to $1,000.

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Here is an excellent article about wood floors from REALTOR Magazine. I hope you’ll find it helpful:

“Just as with ties and hem lengths, wood flooring styles change. Colors get darker or lighter; planks get narrower or wider; woods with more or less grain show swings in popularity; softer or harder species gain or lose fans; and the wood itself may be older, newer, or even pre-engineered with a top layer or veneer-glued to a substrate to decrease expansion and contraction from moisture.

Here are key categories for consideration:

Solid Plank

This is what some refer to as “real” wood because the wood usually ranges from three-eighths to three-quarters of an inch in total thickness to permit refinishing and sanding. Thicker floors have a thicker wear layer to allow for more frequent refinishing and sanding, so they can withstand decades of use, says architect Julie Hacker of Stuart Cohen and Julie Hacker Architects. It also can be stained, come from different species of tree, and be sold in numerous widths and lengths:

  • Width and length: Designer Steven Gurowitz, owner of Interiors by Steven G., is among those who prefers solid flooring for many installations because of its rich, warm look. Like other design professionals, he’s seeing greater interest in boards wider than the once-standard 2 ¾ to 3 ¾ inches — typically 5 to 6 inches now but even beyond 10 inches. And he’s also seeing corresponding interest in longer lengths, depending on the species. Width and length should be in proportion. “The wider a board gets, the longer the planks need to be, too, and in proportion,” says Chris Sy, vice president with Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. These oversized dimensions reflect the same trend toward bigger stone and ceramic slabs. The downside is greater cost.
  • Palette: Gurowitz and others are also hearing more requests for darker hues among clients in the northeastern United States, while those in the South and West still gravitate toward lighter colors. But Sprigg Lynn, on the board of the National Wood Flooring Association and with Universal Floors, says the hottest trend is toward a gray or driftwood. Handscraped, antique boards that look aged and have texture, sometimes beveled edges, are also become more popular, even in modern interiors, though they may cost much more.
  • Species and price: Depending on the preference of the stain color, Gurowitz favors mostly mahogany, hickory, walnut, oak, and pine boards. Oak may be the industry’s bread and butter because of the ease of staining it and a relatively low price point. A basic 2 ¼-inch red oak might, for instance, run $6.50 a square foot while a 2 ¼-inch red oak that’s rift and quartered might sell for a slightly higher $8.50 a square foot.
  • Maintenance: How much care home owners want to invest in their floors should also factor in their decision. Pine is quite soft and will show more wear than a harder wood like mahogany or walnut, but it’s less expensive. In certain regions such as the South, pine comes in a harder version known as heart pine that’s popular, says Georgia-based designer Mary Lafevers of Inscape Design Studio. Home owners should understand the different choices because they affect how often they need to refinish the wood, which could be every four to five years, says Susan Brunstrum of Sweet Peas Design-Inspired Interior. Also, Sy says that solid planks can be installed over radiant heating, but they demand expert installation.

Engineered Wood

Also referred to as prefabricated wood, this genre has become popular because the top layer or veneer is glued to wood beneath to reduce expansion and contraction that happens with solid boards due to climatic effects, says Sy, whose firm sells both types. He recommends engineered, depending on the amount of humidity. If home owners go with a prefabricated floor, he advises a veneer of at least one-quarter inch. “If it’s too thin, you won’t have enough surface to sand,” he says. And he suggests a thick enough substrate for a stable underlayment that won’t move as moisture levels in a home shift.

His company’s offerings include an 11-ply marine-grade birch. The myth that engineered boards only come prestained is untrue. “They can be bought unfinished,” he says. Engineered boards are also a good choice for home owners planning to age in place, since there are fewer gaps between boards for a stable surface, says Aaron D. Murphy, an architect with ADM Architecture Inc. and a certified Aging in Place specialist with the National Association of Home Builders.

Reclaimed Wood

Typically defined as recycled wood — perhaps from an old barn or factory — reclaimed wood has gained fans because of its aged, imperfect patina and sustainability; you’re reusing something rather than cutting down more trees. Though less plentiful and more expensive because of the time required to locate and renew samples, it offers a solid surface underfoot since it’s from old-growth trees, says Lynn. Some companies have come to specialize in rescuing logs that have been underwater for decades, even a century. West Branch Heritage Timber,for instance, removes “forgotten” native pine and spruce from swamps, cuts them to desired widths and lengths, and lays them atop ½-inch birch to combine the best of engineered and reclaimed. “The advantage is that it can be resanded after wear since it’s thicker than most prefabricated floors, can be laid atop radiant mats, and doesn’t include toxins,” Managing Partner Tom Shafer says. A downside is a higher price of about $12 to $17 a square foot.

Porcelain “Wood”

A new competitor that closely resembles wood, Gurowitz saysporcelain wood offers advantages: indestructibility, varied colors, “graining” that mimics old wood, wide and long lengths, quickness in installation, and no maintenance. “You can spill red wine on it and nothing happens; if there’s a leak in an apartment above, it won’t be destroyed,” he says. Average prices run an affordable $3.50 to $8 a square foot. The biggest downside? It doesn’t feel like wood since it’s colder to the touch, Lynn says.

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Bottom line: When home owners are making a choice or comparing floors, they should ask these questions:

1. Do you want engineered or solid-based floors, depending on your home’s conditions?

2. Do you want a floor with more natural character, or less?

3. What board width do you want?

4. How critical is length to you in reducing the overall number of seams?

5. What color range do you want — light, medium, or dark?

6. Do you want more aggressive graining like oak or a mellower grain like walnut?

7. Do you want flooring prefinished or unfinished?

8. How thick is the wear layer in the floor you’re considering, which will affect your ability to refinish it over time?

9. What type of finish are you going to use? Can it be refinished and, if so, how?

10. For wider planks that provide greater stability: Where is the wood coming from, how is it dried, what is its moisture content, and what type of substrate is used in the engineered platform?

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SOURCE: REALTOR Magazine

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The Home Affordable Refinance Program — a government refinancing program for underwater home owners — will be expanded for another two years, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announces. HARP was originally set to expire Dec. 31, 2013, but will now be extended to the end of 2015 – December 31, 2015.

“More than 2 million home owners have refinanced through HARP, proving it a useful tool for reducing risk,” says FHFA acting director Edward DeMarco.

Home owners eligible to apply for refinancing under HARP must have a Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgage that was guaranteed on or before May 31, 2009, must be current on their loan, and must have a current loan-to-value ratio more than 80 percent.

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http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-75347532/

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SOURCE: REALTOR Magazine, Chicago Tribune

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Certain dated design features in a home can really make some home buyers cringe.

Among the items making their list:

1. Popcorn ceilings: The speckled ceilings can attract dirt and be impossible to paint. Plus, if the home was built prior to 1980, the ceiling may contain asbestos and need to be tested by an inspector.

Fix it: Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for removing popcorn ceilings; it can get messy. It’ll have to be scraped off and the ceiling then will need to be repaired. Plus, you’ll want to have it tested for asbestos before scraping. Home owners will likely want to consider hiring a professional to do this.

(more…)

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Real Trends 500 ranked NRT LLC #1 Residential Real Estate Company in the U.S. for 15 consecutive years – ranked by Closed Sales Volume for 2011. NRT and Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage is #1 real estate company with the Highest $$$ volume of sales and #1 real estate company with the lowest average days on the market.

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Contact Vivianne Rutkowski for a professional real estate representation:

Vivianne.Rutkowski@cbmove.com; VivianneRutkowski@gmail.com;

540-229-5429

http://www.cbmove.com/Vivianne.Rutkowski

http://www.RealtorVivianneRutkowski.com

Watch the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=ihWmTChfPa4

Real Trends 500 ranks NRT LLC #1 Residential Real Estate Company in the U.S. for 15 consecutive years.

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Repair wood floors and scratches can make rooms look worn out. It is easy to put the luster back into the floors.

Camouflage scratches (more…)

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Starting June 15, 2012 as per the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both agencies must give short-sale buyers a final decision within 60 days. (In a short sale, a lender agrees to accept less than the balance on a mortgage.)

The new guidelines also will require the mortgage giants to respond to initial short-sale requests within 30 days of receiving an offer from a potential buyer. (more…)

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More than 200,000 underwater home owners with mortgages through Bank of America may be eligible to have a reduction in the amount they owe on their loan, which could possibly trim their monthly payments by up to 35 percent.

Bank of America has sent letters to home owners who may be eligible to take part in a program to write-off a portion of underwater home owners’ mortgage principal, reducing it by, on average, $150,000 each.

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The bank’s move stems from the $25 billion settlement, which it and four other of the nation’s largest lenders reached earlier this year with federal and state officials over past foreclosure mishandlings. Bank of America agreed to reduce some home owners’ mortgage principles as part of the settlement.

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Home owners eligible for the principal write-offs must be:

  • “underwater” (owing more on their mortgage than their property is currently worth),
  • have a loan owned or serviced by Bank of America,
  • be at least 60 days behind on their mortgage payments as of the end of January.
  • in order for the mortgage reductions to be made permanent, home owners must make at least three on-time payments.

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“To the extent principal reduction and other modification tools help us turn mortgages headed for possible foreclosure into long-term performing loans, it will be positive for home owners, mortgage investors and communities,” said Ron Sturzenegger, a legacy asset servicing executive.

Bank of America Starts Mortgage Reduction Effort,”

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SOURCE: The New York Times; REALTOR Magazine

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It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to improve a home and make it more sellable, according to HomeGain’s 2012 National Home Improvement Survey.

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HomeGain surveyed nearly 500 real estate professionals nationwide to determine the top do-it-yourself home improvement projects that offer some of the biggest bang for your buck when selling a home. (more…)

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A healthy weed-free lawn is possible without the pesticides or harmful chemicals.

Here are a few reasons to cut out the chemicals: (more…)

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Northern Virginia Public Schools: https://viviannerutkowski.wordpress.com/category/2-re-buyer-resources/nova-schools/

Directs links to Public Schools in  Fairfax County VA, Loudoun County VA, Prince William County VA, Arlington County VA, Fauquier County VA: http://www.realtorviviannerutkowski.com/schoolinfo.shtml

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Living in a high-scoring public school district can raise home values up to $205,000 higher compared to homes located in neighborhoods with low-scoring school districts, according to a new study by Brookings Institute. Brookings analyzed the nation’s 100 largest metro areas to find the differences between living near a high-scoring public school and a low-performing school.

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“We think of public education as being free, and we think of the main divide in education between public and private schools,” Jonathan Rothwell, a senior research analyst at Brookings, told The New York Times. “But it turns out that it’s actually very expensive to enroll your children in a high-scoring public school.” The cost of living in a high-scoring public neighborhood can be higher than paying a private tuition at a school, researchers noted.

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Housing costs near high-scoring schools — those in the top one-fifth of schools in the area — were 2.4 times higher on average, or $11,000 more per year, than homes located in school districts in the bottom fifth, the study found.

Some of the areas with the largest differences in housing costs also have the widest gaps in school test scores,” reports CNNMoney about the study’s findings.

Students from low-income families — classified as those who are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches — were found to be more likely to attend schools that score in the 42nd percentile on state tests, according to Brookings Institute. On the other hand, students from middle- to high-income households, on average, tend to attend schools that score in the 61st percentile.

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SOURCE: Brookings Institute; “Test Scores and Housing Costs” The New York Times;  “Living Near Good Schools will Cost an Extra $200k” CNNMoney; REALTOR Magazine; Vivianne Rutkowski

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Springtime is the best time to give a home a fresh coat of paint, according to the Paint Quality Institute.

“By painting in moderate weather, you’ll likely get a longer-lasting paint job,” said Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute. Zimmer said that exterior painting is best to do when temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but not when it gets too hot. “Very hot days can cause the paint to dry too quickly and impair good paint film formation,” she noted. (more…)

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Most of us know the housing bubble of 2002-2006 and the subsequent housing crash that followed in 2007 was caused by the deregulation of the lending industry by the government, which brought into the market many sub-prime lenders offering no-downpayment-interest-only-loans,  ARM loans and option ARM loans, and other “exotic” loans.

This easy credit and availability of money artificially increased demand for homes, which in turn artificially increased home prices until they became unsustainable, which led to the housing crash – all in a span of a few short years. (more…)

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An error in CLUE insurance report can increase homeowners insurance premium or even prevent from getting coverage at all.

What is C.L.U.E.?

C.L.U.E. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) is a claims history database created by ChoicePoint that enables insurance companies to access consumer claims information when they are underwriting or rating an insurance policy.

https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/fact_act_claims_bundle/landing.jsp

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How to dispute report information?

If you decide to contest information about a claim, your first step is to contact LexisNexis, the owner of CLUE. You can either call the phone number listed on your CLUE report or write to P.O. Box 105292, Atlanta Ga. 30348. (The general toll-free number is 800-456-6004.) You cannot submit a dispute statement online. A-PLUS, operator of another claims-history database, follows a similar dispute procedure.

You’ll need to provide the following information to dispute a claim:

  • The CLUE reference number, which appears near the top of the report;
  • The name of the insurance company;
  • The date of the loss;
  • A brief explanation of the facts as you see them.

Once LexisNexis gets your dispute statement, it will investigate the claim and contact your insurance company, if necessary. The investigation can take up to 30 days, according to a LexisNexis spokesperson. The insurance company then has time to respond, which can take several months.

If LexisNexis’ investigation supports your assertions, it will make changes in your CLUE file. Whether it agrees or not, the company will send you a letter explaining its findings within five days after the investigation is concluded. Many insurers offer a claim-free discount. Just 5% off means $40 in savings on an average annual premium of $804.

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Setting the record straight

If you’re not satisfied with the results of the investigation, you can submit your side of the story. LexisNexis will add your statement to any future CLUE reports that include the disputed claim.

Even if the claims information in your CLUE report isn’t wrong, you may decide the report doesn’t tell the whole story. You can add comments to any entry in your CLUE report to explain the circumstances of a claim. For example, perhaps you made a claim for damage to your roof after a limb from your neighbor’s tree broke off in a storm. Since then the neighbor has cut down the tree and you’ve repaired the roof. You could attach a comment to the claim history indicating that this problem won’t reoccur.

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Look out for these common errors

What should you look for in checking your CLUE report? Of course, look for any claims that you didn’t file. You can also review the specific information about each claim for accuracy, in particular:

  • Social Security numbers. An incorrect number could mean someone else’s claims history is in your report;
  • Policy numbers. Check them against your original policy or your most recent bill;
  • Dates of claim. Since claims only remain on the report for seven years, an incorrect date could mean that the claim is listed for too long;
  • Amounts of claim. Be sure that these amounts agree with any payments you received.

If you haven’t owned your home for seven years, you might also want to contact the previous owners to verify that any claims they filed are stated correctly in the report. If you got a copy of LexisNexis’ Home Seller’s Disclosure Report from the sellers when you purchased your home, you might also want to compare that report with the “Claims History for Risk” section of the current CLUE report. This part of the CLUE report lists recent claims related to your home, not just those you filed. One catch is that the Home Seller’s report, which shows the claims history of a property without divulging personal information about the sellers, only goes back five years.

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For ANSWERS to Frequently Asked QUESTIONS About C.L.U.E.: http://oci.wi.gov/pub_list/pi-207.htm

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SOURCE: LexisNexis, HouseLogic

Real Estate and Homes For Sale in Northern Virginia, Fairfax County VA, Loudoun County VA, Prince William County VA, Northern Virginia Realtors real estate agents, REALTOR Vivianne Rutkowski

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More than 4 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since 2005 and many of those former home owners are now ready to purchase again.

Some banks have guidelines that prevent them from issuing loans to people with a foreclosure or short sale in their credit history in some cases for as much as seven years. However, every lender may have their own guidelines so buyers need to contact their lenders directly for details.

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Aside from the the waiting period to qualify for a loan after a short sale or a foreclosure, former home owners will need to repair their credit scores so they’ll have a better chance at qualifying for financing again in the future at a good interest rate. 

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The good news is some former home owners, particularly those who foreclosed or did a short sale due to extenuating circumstances like a job loss or illness, are finding the wait may not be as long as they were once told.

FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a shorter waiting period for borrowers who can justify that the circumstance for the foreclosure or bankruptcy occurred because of an illness or job loss — or other “extenuating circumstance” — that may help reduce their wait to qualify for lender financing.

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The wait-time for lender financing for former home owners with foreclosures or short sales varies among lenders and government entities..

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan wait due to extenuating circumstances, like job loss:

  • 3 year waiting period following a  foreclosure
  • 2 year wait following a short sale, deed in lieu, or discharge or dismissal of bankruptcy

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan wait with NO extenuating circumstances:

  • 7 years following a foreclosure
  • 4 years after bankruptcy

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Loans insured by FHA, the Federal Housing Administration:

  • 3 years after a foreclosure
  • 2 years after a bankruptcy is discharged
  • 3 years after a short sale with NO extenuating circumstances
  • may be WAIVED after a short sale with extenuating circumstances

Borrowers have to wait three years after short sale and foreclosure to secure a FHA loan UNLESS they can prove the short sale was due to a job loss or other extenuating circumstances and then the wait-time can be waived.

Also, for borrowers who can come up with a higher down payment on their next home purchase, they may also not have as long to wait. For example, Fannie Mae will reduce the wait from seven years to two years for borrowers who come with a down payment of 20 percent or more.

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NOTE: Vivianne Rutkowski is a REALTOR, not a Lender. For financing information and advice always contact your LENDER and for a legal advice always contact your lawyer.

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SOURCE: Associated Press; REALTOR Magazine

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Lenders do, on occasion, forgive some portion of a borrower’s debt in the short sale. The general tax rule that applies to any debt forgiveness is that the forgiven amount is treated as ordinary income and the borrower must pay tax on the forgiven amount.  The amount forgiven is treated as taxable income to the borrower.

However, a law enacted in December 2007 provided relief to troubled borrowers when some portion of mortgage debt is forgiven. That debt forgiveness relief expires on Dec. 31, 2012 – unless The Congress approves extension.

Use this information to better understand mortgage debt cancellation:

General Rule for Debt Forgiveness:

If a lender forgives some or all of an individual’s debts, the general rule is that the forgiven amount is treated as ordinary income and the borrower must pay tax on the forgiven amount. Exceptions apply for bankruptcy, insolvency and certain other situations, including mortgage debt. (See below)

Current Law for Mortgage Debt (January 1, 2007 through Dec 31, 2012):

A borrower can be excused from paying tax on forgiven mortgage debt. The debt must be secured by a principal residence and the total amount of the outstanding obligation may not exceed the original mortgage amount plus the cost of any improvements. The objective of the legislation was to assure fairness: Homeowners should not be required to pay income tax where there is no cash realized in a transaction.

Example: The provision is best understood with an example.

Assume a family purchased their home for $175,000, with a mortgage of $150,000. In 2012, they need to sell the home. They find that the value of homes in their area has declined, so they can sell for only $120,000. At the time of the sale, the outstanding balance on their mortgage is $132,000. Thus, there will not be enough cash at settlement to repay the lender the full balance of the mortgage. If the lender forgives the entire difference between the amount owed ($132,000) and the sales price ($120,000), the debt forgiven will be $12,000. The relief provision assures that the homeowner will not pay tax on the $12,000 forgiven.

Does the relief apply only to a sale?

No. The provision has broader application. Lenders might forgive some portion of mortgage debt in a sale known as a “short sale” (as above, when value at sale is less than the amount owed) or in a foreclosure when the debt is wiped out. In addition, if a borrower still living in the home is able to make an arrangement with a lender that reduces the principal balance of a mortgage, the amount forgiven in that workout will not be taxed.

Can the homeowners in a short sale or foreclosure claim a loss?

No. The loss is considered a personal loss and is therefore ineligible for either capital loss or ordinary loss treatment.

What happens to the seller when mortgage debt is forgiven?

Until January 1, 2013, the homeowner will pay no tax on any forgiven amount. Under pre-2007 law, the amount of forgiven mortgage debt (the $12,000 in the example above), would have been treated as income, and taxed at ordinary income rates.

Does this provision apply to a refinanced mortgage?

Only in limited circumstances. The relief provision can apply to either an original or a refinanced mortgage. If the mortgage has been refinanced at any time, the relief is available only up to the amount of the original debt (plus the cost of any improvements). Thus, if the original mortgage was $125,000 and later refinanced in a cash-out arrangement for a debt totaling $140,000, the $15,000 cash-out is not eligible for relief if a lender later forgives some amount related to the cash-out. Tax relief is generally not available for second mortgages or home-equity lines of credit where the funds are not used for home improvement. Any amount that is not eligible for the relief provision will be taxed as ordinary income.

How does the homeowner get the correct information to the IRS?

The lender is required to provide the homeowner and the IRS with a Form 1099 reflecting the amount of the forgiven debt. The borrower/homeowner must file a Form 982 to reflect the amount forgiven and to show the reason why the forgiven amount is not taxable. Any taxable portion of forgiven debt will then be reported on the homeowner’s Form 1040 for the tax year in which the debt was forgiven. For example, a lender that forgave mortgage debt in March 2012 would provide the 1099 information to the IRS and the homeowner as required. The forgiven amount would then be reflected as appropriate on the 2012 Forms 982 and 1040 that will be due April 15, 2013.

Is there a limit on the amount of eligible debt?

Yes. Up to $2 million of mortgage debt on a principal residence may be forgiven tax-free. Any amount of forgiven debt above $2 million is taxable as ordinary income.

Does this provision apply to commercial real estate?

Permanent rules enacted in 1993 provide relief to debt-burdened commercial real estate and rental properties. The 2007 provision puts commercial/investment property and residential owner-occupied property on similar footing.

What if a property declines in value, but the owner stays in the house?

The provision would not apply. The provision applies only at the time of sale or other disposition or when there is a workout (reduction of existing debt) with the lender. No mechanism exists to reflect a loss of value while the property is still being used as a residence. (See the question on capital losses, above.)

Do all lenders forgive mortgage debt when property values decline or in foreclosure?

No. Some states have laws that allow a lender to require a repayment arrangement, particularly if the borrower has other assets. Forgiveness of debt is always at the lender’s discretion.

When did this legislation pass?

A version of the mortgage relief provision passed the House in 1999 and 2000, but was not enacted. The rules of current law were enacted in 2007 as part of H.R. 3648, a bill focused solely on housing issues. The original rules were effective from January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2009. The provision was extended through December 31, 2012 in 2008 as part of the stimulus legislation enacted in 2008. (HR 1424, PL 110-343).

More information here: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=179414,00.html

AND

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=174034,00.html

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NOTE: I’m a REALTOR, not a tax accountant. For TAX advice always contact a CPA accountant. For information regarding your mortgage loan contact your lender. If you live in Northern Virginia, Fairfax County VA, Loudoun County VA, and Prince William County VA, you may contact me directly for information regarding the short sale process.

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SOURCE: IRS,  REALTOR Magazine

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Five mortgage insurers have granted Fannie Mae mortgage servicers the authority to complete a short sale or deeds in lieu of foreclosure without getting their separate approval, HousingWire reported.

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Traditionally, mortgage insurance groups have had to give the OK before a short sale could be processed on a property with a guaranteed loan.

Now, without that extra step of mortgage insurers’ approval, Fannie mortgage servicers may be able to speed up short sale approvals on Fannie-backed loans.

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The PMI Group, which filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, is the latest mortgage insurer to grant Fannie Mae the authority to no longer wait for its approval on short sales starting with February 2012.

The other four mortgage insurers that also gave Fannie Mae the authority are:

  • Genworth,
  • MGIC,
  • Republic Mortgage Insurance Co.,
  • Radian Guaranty.

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Regardless, Fannie Mae has instructed its mortgage servicers to make sure a short sale does not conflict with any existing mortgage insurance coverage before approving it.

More here: PMI Group Latest Mortgage Insurer to Give Fannie Mae Short-Sale Authority

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SOURCE: HousingWire 

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.When deciding on home remodeling projects, homeowners find that some projects pay off more than others at time of resale.

Remodeling Magazine, in conjunction with REALTOR® Magazine, recently released findings of its annual Cost vs. Value report for 2011-2012, revealing which remodeling projects offer the biggest bang for your buck.

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Overall, the trend right now is replacement over remodeling–replacing the old with the new rather than doing a total gut job, which can be much more costly.

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Year 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value report found that exterior replacement projects–such as new garage doors and a new entry door–offer some of the best returns at resale, allowing home owners to recoup close to 70% or more of the costs of the project at times of resale.

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The following are the top, mid-range projects from this year’s report, based on what home owners stand to recoup at time of resale:

1. Replacing the entry door to steel

Estimated cost: $1,238

Cost recouped at resale: 73%

2. Attic bedroom (converting unfinished attic space into a bedroom with bathroom and shower)

Estimated cost: $50,148

Cost recouped at resale: 72.5%

3. Minor kitchen remodel (including new cabinets and drawers, countertops, hardware, and appliances)

Estimated cost: $19,588

Cost recouped at resale: 72.1%

4. Garage door replacement

Estimated cost: $1,512

Cost recouped at resale: 71.9%

5. Deck addition (wood)

Estimated cost: $10,350

Cost recouped at resale: 70.1%

6. Siding replacement (vinyl)

Estimated cost: $11,729

Cost recouped at resale: 69.5%

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SOURCE: REMODELING

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NOTE FROM VIVIANNE: I agree with four home improvements on this list, but I am NOT certain about the (2). Attic bedroom addition – depending on the ease of adding the extra bedroom and bathroom in the attic, and size and prices of other comparable homes in the neighborhood.

The additional cost of heating and cooling should also be factored in – especially if the attic is not properly insulated.

Most buyers would NOT be willing to pay additional $40,000-%50,000 for the extra bedroom on the fourth level UNLESS it added actual VALUE to the house.

Perhaps small number of buyers would pay more if the improvement was done exceptionally well, there was a need for an additional bedroom & bathroom in the house, and the improvement provided the WOW! factor.

My advice is to do a thorough market analysis of your neighborhood BEFORE you spend any money on converting the attic into another bedroom. It sure would help the economy, but I’m not certain it would put any money in your wallet.

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When it comes to home remodeling, EXTERIOR replacement projects have routinely rewarded home owners with the best returns on the investments. The 2011 year is no different: REALTORS® recently rated many exterior improvements as among the most valuable home investment projects as part of the 2011-12 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report.

“This year’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report shows the value of putting your home’s best façade forward, so to speak,” said National Association of REALTORS® President Moe Veissi. “Inexpensive exterior replacement projects are not only crucial to a home’s regular upkeep, but are also expected to recoup close to 70 percent of costs. Specific exterior projects such as

  • siding
  • window
  • door replacements

are part of regular home maintenance. These projects also do not require expensive materials and they have the added bonus of instantly adding curb appeal.”

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HouseLogic.com, NAR’s consumer Web site, includes dozens of remodeling projects, from kitchens and baths to siding replacements, which indicate the recouped value of the project based on a national average. According to the Cost vs. Value, seven of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects.

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REALTORS® judged an upscale fiber-cement siding replacement as the project expected to return the most money, with an estimated 78% of costs recouped upon resale.

Two additional siding replacement projects were in the top 10, including:

  • foam-backed vinyl siding, expected to return 69.6% of costs,
  • upscale vinyl siding, expected to recoup 69.5% of costs.

Three door replacements were also among the top exterior replacement projects.

  • the steel entry door replacement is the least expensive project in the report, costing little more than $1,200 on average and expected to recoup 73% of costs.

The upscale garage door replacement jumped to number six this year, primarily due to the average cost of the project declining more than 15 percent nationally.

  • the upscale and midrange garage door replacement projects are expected to return more than 71% of costs.

One window replacement project,

  • upscale vinyl window replacement rounded out the last exterior replacement project in the top 10, expected to recoup 69.1% of costs.

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The 2011-12 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels, and replacements in 80 markets across the country. Data are grouped in nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 14th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood LLC, was completed in cooperation with NAR.

SOURCE: NAR

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Some scam artists are preying on home owners looking to refinance using the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, also known as HAMP.

As such, federal agencies are banding together forming a task force aimed at cracking down on con artists who are falsely claiming they can save home owners’ mortgages through HAMP, HousingWire reports.

The new task force recently issued a warning to home owners looking to refinance their mortgage: Only mortgage servicers can grant loan modifications through HAMP so don’t be defrauded by scam artists. Any third-party promising to guarantee a loan modification or pre-approve a loan modification or trying to charge an advance fee for a loan modification may be involved in a scam, the agencies warned in a public statement.

The task force cautions home owners to “beware of individuals or companies that ask you for payment and tout success rates or claim to be experts in HAMP.”

The federal agencies involved in the HAMP fraud investigations are the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Department of the Treasury.

To check on the validity of companies or individuals who display HAMP seals or logos, call the HOPE hotline, 888-995-HOPE

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SOURCE:  HousingWire, REALTOR Magazine

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