Before the first snowflakes of winter, homeowners should think about spring savings. Steps taken today could reduce the tax hit on April 15. Most homeowners who itemize their taxes can deduct the interest paid on their first and second mortgages of up to $1.1 million in debt. That total reflects up to $1 million for home loans and another $100,000 for home-equity loans. The deductions add up for homeowners with jumbo mortgages – those above $417,000 in most places and $625,500 in high-price areas. Documenting other home-related expenses can help further reduce tax bills. For example, self-employed taxpayers and business owners can write off some expenses if part of their home qualifies as a home office, says Robert Winton, a partner at White Plains, N.Y.-based Citrin Cooperman & Co. [Read this article]
Interest rates have fallen below 4 percent, meaning buyers can get a more expensive home for the same monthly payment. Since the beginning of the year, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate on Zillow has fallen by more than a half point, from 4.3 percent to 3.8 percent. A half point may not seem like a lot, but it can translate into significant savings on a monthly basis and over the life of a loan. For example, mortgage rates have dropped off so much this year that a buyer who started shopping at the beginning of the year for a $375,000 house could buy a $400,000 house now for the same monthly payment - an extra $25,000 of spending power. [Read this article]
It doesn’t have to be Halloween for real-estate agents to stumble into some truly creepy houses. In some cases, sellers haven’t taken the care to stage their home properly before listing. Foreclosures also often yield some rather odd showings. Here are some of their stories. In Colorado Springs, real-estate agent Willi Ellis, with ERA Shields, showed a pre-foreclosure home where most of the flooring was ripped out, exposing the plywood subflooring. A beat-up refrigerator was in the dining room, and clothes were piled in a bathtub. Her clients bought it anyway, seeing it as a diamond in the rough, but the problems continued – asbestos remediation was required and radon levels were well over the EPA’s limit. [Read this article]
Consumer confidence advanced in October as Americans enjoyed further price drops at the gas pump and the job market continued to improve. The Conference Board’s index climbed to 94.5 this month, the highest since October 2007, from a September reading of 89 that was stronger than initially estimated. The gauge exceeded the most optimistic projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists. More job security, declining gasoline prices, and a strengthening labor market are setting the stage for a stronger expansion. Bigger wage increases and a reduction in long-term unemployment would help keep sentiment improving and lay the groundwork for gains in spending, which makes up almost 70 percent of the economy. “The consumer really has the wind at their backs,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York, said before the report. “The consumer at this point seems to have the wherewithal to power the economy forward.” [Read this article]
It’s often assumed that people move to get better jobs. But Census data show the main people reason move is to gain access to better housing. The issue is sometimes posed as a chicken-and-egg question: What comes first, people or jobs? A new study published in the journal Urban Studies takes a close look at the connection between these two types of moves – moving for jobs versus moving for housing. The study, by University of California, Irvine, social ecologist Jae Hong Kim, covers 342 metropolitan areas and span two periods, before the Great Recession (2005-2007) and during (2008-2010), to deal with the effects of the economic crisis on mobility. Kim ran a series of statistical analyses to sort out the relationships between job and residential mobility. The upshot: the two are more closely related than we might think. Moving for a job is associated with moving to find new housing, though the reverse is less common. [Read this article]
Lennar Corporation, one of the nation’s leading builders of quality homes for all generations, and the Emmy® Award-winning, syndicated daytime series, “The Doctors” are offering one of the biggest giveaways in daytime television history. Beginning Thursday, October 30, the show will reveal a “Million Dollar Healthy Home Clue” sporadically each week, which viewers can use to enter for a chance to win the home at http://healthyhome.thedoctorstv.com. The audience will have to tune in daily as the “Million Dollar Healthy Home Clue” will appear in varying segments and on varying days each week. The more viewers watch, the more chances they’ll have to catch the clue and enter to win.
One lucky viewer will win a four bedroom, four bath, 2,479 sq. ft. Lennar home worth more than one million dollars located at Pavilion Park, within Great Park Neighborhoods in Irvine, CA. Construction on the home commenced at the end of September 2014 with completion expected early in 2015. The entire process, from foundation to roof and even the interior decor, will be featured throughout the season on “The Doctors.” (Check local listings for stations and times).
[Read this article]
The number of contracts signed to buy previously-owned homes inched up slightly in September, reaching its second-highest level since August 2013. The numbers are another indicator that the housing market is past the rapid recovery phase and is beginning to normalize. The Pending Home Sales Index, which tracks contract signings (as opposed to closed sales), rose 0.3% in September to 105.0, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. September also marked the first time in 11 months that contract signings were higher – by 1% – than their level one year earlier. Contracts for previously-owned homes have been down on a year-over-year basis since September 2013, when rising prices seemed to slow the pace at which Americans were purchasing homes. Now, with price gains slowing and inventory levels easing, buyers appear to be more confident about the market. [Read this article]
When Michelle Rose went hunting for a new home, she was looking for three bedrooms and baths, a nice floor plan and granite countertops. Solar panels weren’t on the list. Still, there they were on the model home in the Table Rock Ridge development being built by Lennar Homes in Golden, Colorado – at no extra charge. “I was excited,” Rose said. “I had looked at adding solar panels to my home, but the upfront expense was too high. When Lennar said they’d take care of the maintenance … it was a win-win,” said Rose, who expects to move into her new home with her two children in December. Lennar is installing solar panels on all the homes in new developments in Golden, Arvada, Castle Rock and Frederick. The solar panels add “to the curb appeal of a new home” and are an investment in “smart homebuilding,” said David Kaiserman, CEO of SunStreet Energy Group, the Lennar subsidiary managing the program. “This is just the beginning we see extending this program to more communities,” Kaiserman said. [Read this article]
If you have good credit, a healthy income and money in the bank, you’ll be able to secure mortgage preapproval quickly and proceed straight to the homebuying process. But if you have less-than-stellar credit, are self-employed or have little cash to bring to the table, you’ll want to start the process way before you look at houses – maybe more than a year before. “You have to get a copy of your credit report,” says Don Frommeyer, chief executive officer of the National Association of Mortgage Professionals and a mortgage broker in Indianapolis. “You have to know what’s in there.” The free credit report you can get annually, while it helps you identify problems, won’t show you the same credit score your mortgage officer will see. Here are 12 things to know before getting your first mortgage. [Read this article]
Sales of new homes in September rose slightly and hit a six-year high even though purchases earlier in the summer were not nearly as strong as initially reported. The pace of new home sales edged up 0.2% last month to an annual rate of 467,000, compared to a revised 466,000 in August, the government said Friday. New home sales in September were the highest since July 2008. And sales of new homes are 17% higher now compared to the same month in 2013, a sign that the housing market continues to get healthier. Home prices are rising at a slower pace and 30-year mortgage rates have fallen back below 4%, making houses somewhat more affordable. New-home sales averaged an annual rate of 446,000 in the third quarter, up 15% from the same three-month period in 2013. [Read this article]