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Serving South Florida

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For over 30 years

Kim Around the Web

How To Set Up A Home Office

Home Office

Home Office

I’ve spent more than three decades with a home office. When you work at home, even part time, you discover that a makeshift desk area on a kitchen counter or the dining table isn’t the best setup. Having a dedicated home office, even if it’s compact, makes a big difference in comfort and productivity. Having a dedicated space also serves as an important signal to those who live with you that you’re ‘at work’. Create boundaries within your home that your family members understand.
Stake Out Your Spot 
You need to pick a spot in your home with the fewest distractions, and where all the essentials (like electrical outlets and your modem) are close by. Modern WiFi is a wonderful thing but understand it can still be inconsistent in even the most tech-friendly neighborhoods. I anticipate that our connectivity speed will be further degraded by all the streaming and game-playing that is happening now, in addition to everyone trying to work from home as well……be patient and see if you can upgrade to a higher speed with your home Internet provider.
Also, try to find a spot near a window with some natural light so you don’t feel completely tucked away from the world. Think about storage and try to keep work-only items grouped together. Think outside the file box to find an organizational system that works for you; see what you can use around your home. It’s more important to give everything that has been sitting out in piles a permanent home than it is to buy new containers. Here are a few ideas for organizing your home office:
·     A grid of clipboards on the wall can make for a handy place to keep papers organized.
·     Wall-mounted cups keep frequently used supplies neat and within reach.
·     Cups and bowls borrowed from the kitchen make great desktop and drawer organizers.
·     Labeled, open-top baskets on shelves are great for people who like piles
·     Traditional files are still useful for important documents.
Set Ground Rules with the People in Your Space
Set ground rules with other people in your home or who share your space for when you work. I say “morning,” but not everyone who works from home follows a nine-to-five schedule. Yours might be a “getting started” routine at another time of day. I want my elderly parents to be able to call me anytime, but have reminded them that “after 6” is the best time to get my undivided attention. I ask other family members and friends to respect my work hours and stick with the less obtrusive email or text for non-emergencies.
Act as if you are “going to work”. Whatever your routine was when you were going to the office, try and maintain it now that you are working from home. Exercise, shower, get dressed (not pajamas), and then “go to work”. I try and avoid eating at my desk and taking a coffee break, lunch break, etc.  Use these times to reconnect with other household members and address their needs and concerns.
Think About Your Back, Feet and Shoulders 
Pick a back-friendly, ergonomic chair if at all possible and always make time for exercise (don’t forget to stretch!). I prefer to stand or walk around while I am on the phone but now that my husband is working from home as well, we find that this is distracting to one another. Go outside and get some fresh air while on that call.
Although you can easily work on a laptop from anywhere, an entire day, week, or even a month spent looking down at a screen is not going to do your neck muscles any favors. If you have the space and the budget, think about upgrading to a decent-sized computer monitor to plug your laptop into. I use two monitors so that I can multitask between emails, software applications required for my work, calendars, and more.
Most desks, chairs and monitors and still designed for the average sized man. I have made adjustments by ensuring that my monitors are at eye level. You can use boxes, books, magazines or anything you have around the house to easily accomplish this…no need to be purchasing special desks, risers, etc. If your chair is not adjustable, use pillows, etc. to ensure that you are sitting at the right height to keep your back straight. I have purchased an ergonomic cushion that provides comfort and support for my spine as well as adds two includes to my seat height.
Make Friends with Your Postal Worker or Delivery Person 
Thank goodness for USPS, UPS and FedEx!!! These people get bonuses at Christmas for their daily deliveries to my door. I have always been an online shopper for convenience and time-saving and now that I am getting deliveries for food, office supplies and more the visits to my front door have increased ( still can’t find toilet paper however).
Take the time to let your local postal worker or delivery person in your neighborhood know you’re now working from home if your work involves a lot of envelopes and packages. I have made a point in the past to have a few daily words with the drivers that frequent my home. It helps when my local delivery person knows I’m working at home and sending and receiving envelopes and packages on a regular basis.  In today’s world something as simple as leaving a note on your door explaining your situation will work and be appreciated.  My UPS driver told me a couple of days ago that I can leave the package outside my front door with a note to pick it up or if I see him in the neighborhood to just hand him the box…..no need to go out to the UPS store!!!
Pump the Brakes with Social Media
Social media can be absolute poison if you don’t limit yourself. It’s definitely good to stay on top of the news during these uneasy times, but if you allow yourself to be sucked into endless posts, you might look up at the clock and discover you lost three or four hours of your day.
I enjoy social media and participate for both personal and work reasons, but I have learned to use it wisely.  I check it before I head to my office with my morning coffee and then again at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you can’t laugh at someone’s funny online story, or post about your favorite sports team or TV show. Just try to limit the damage during work hours.
Freshen up.
Give yourself a big pat on the back, because the hardest work is now behind you! Today is all about making your home workspace fresh and clean, so it will be a healthier, more pleasant place to spend time in.
·     Vacuum your home office from top to bottom. Use an attachment to clean window treatments, high corners and fabric lamp shades.
·     Wipe down shelves and surfaces with a damp microfiber cloth.
·     Use monitor wipes to clean your screens.
·     Use a keyboard cleaner to blow dust from between the keys or gently clean them with cotton swabs.
·     Bring in some fresh plants to help clean the air.
Straighten up your home office before you are done working each day. Bring the coffee cups back to the kitchen and completely clear your desktop.
We are all anxious and a routine will help keep our life as “normal” as possible in these difficult times. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are not as productive as when in the office. Working from home is a mindset and a discipline and cannot replace a normal work environment. It takes time, discipline and commitment to find the right balance for your personal and family needs.

What a Home Buyer Should Never Say!

Always know who the real estate agent you are working with represents. If they are the Listing Agent they represent the Seller, a Transactional Agent works for their personal benefit and even though an agent will put you in the car and drive you around and are not the listing agent, in most states they are Sub-agents for the Seller and work for the seller. It is most advisable for buyers to only work with Exclusive Buyer Agents (EBAs). If you find that you are at an open house or have called an agent and they are not an EBA…you’re your tongue. What buyers may innocently say in the presence of a Seller, Listing Agent, Transactional Agent, or Seller’s Sub-agent can be used against them during a negotiation.

While it may be tempting for buyers to say what’s on their mind during their home search, you should consider yourself in a poker game and keep your cards close to your chest and your comments to yourself. There are some things home buyers should never say on the fly.

Others may be listening. Listing agents, seller and neighbors  all have motives to keep tabs on the situation — or there could be even be a camera or recording device planted somewhere.  In the age of smart home security you can never be too sure.

Those off-the-cuff comments made while moving from room to room could be used against you.

Here are some obvious comments home buyers should never say when shopping for a home:

‘I love it; it’s perfect!’

That feedback goes straight to the seller.

When the less-than-full-price offer comes in and the buyer requests all sorts of concessions, how will the seller be inclined to respond?

 

‘That (decor, furniture, wall color) is awful!’

What were they thinking?

So maybe the sellers’ tastes are not what the buyer would pick, but that doesn’t make their choices wrong. If these comments get back to the sellers, their desire to be cooperative when offer time comes in my be less than enthusiastic.

 

‘This home is way overpriced’

Be careful with that statement.

While this is a common buyer thought, what happens if this house ends up being the best option? When the listing agent or seller sees the buyer’s name on an offer, they immediately tart off in a defensive position. If is is truly overpriced your Exclusive Buyer Agent should provide a comprehensive analysis during the negotiation to make this point.

‘I can afford to spend up to X’

While it’s certainly a good idea for prospective buyers to find out just how much they can afford, they should keep that information strictly between them and their Exclusive Buyer Agent. You would be surprised by the number of deals that end of at the top of your affordability range because you disclosed this to the agent that is driving you around. Insist that they develop a Comparative Market Analysis and pay no more than market value for any property regardless if you can afford to pay more. Most real estate agents have a duty to get the highest price offer for the Seller or want to get the highest price offer to get the most commission. The only type of agent that has a fiduciary responsibility to the Buyer is an Exclusive Buyer Agent, even an Accredited Buyer Agent will either be a transactional agent or sub-agent of the Seller if they are not the listing agent as well.

“Why is the Seller moving?”

This is a personal question that’s best not asked by a buyer, it will more often then not result in an evasive answer or a lie.

Let the buyer’s agent position that query with the listing agent in a diplomatic way to glean information about the situation at hand.

‘What are the neighbors like?’

Talk about putting someone on the spot. Listing agents likely have no idea — they don’t live in the neighborhood 24/7, and it would they cannot discuss race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. When cornered, is the seller likely to divulge?

“There’s a Mrs. Kravitz across the street and a curmudgeon next door? And by the way, the teenager that lives on the other side of the house? His band starts warming up in the garage about 11 p.m. on Thursday nights.”Hardly. These people are trying to sell their house. It’s all wonderful. Buyers have to assess the neighbors on their own. Visit the neighborhood and different times of the day and on the weekends to get a sense of the neighborhood.

‘Will the seller take X price?’

Negotiations are best left to agents with a written document from which to work. No Agent or Seller will be inclined to negotiate in good faith without a written offer and Proof of Funds or a pre-qualification letter that demonstrates your ability to buy the property.

Although it’s OK to be candid with your own agent and those you trust, only do so when you are not within earshot of anyone in the seller’s camp.  That includes those curbside chats as you are wrapping up the showing near your car.

Be engaged but conservative in the information you share and how you react to homes you see, even if you have a real interest. You can jump for joy when you are with your agent writing the perfect offer.

 

Mortgage Rates and The Fed

The Federal Reserve kept the benchmark rate unchanged on September 21st, in a divided vote that alludes to the possibility of a hike before the end of the year.

“The Committee judges that the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened but decided, for the time being, to wait for further evidence of continued progress toward its objectives,” the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released in statement. “The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run.”

“Our decision does not reflect a lack of confidence in the economy,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a press conference, later adding, “We’re generally pleased with how the U.S. economy is doing.”Today’s action was largely expected by analysts as policymakers stood fast this summer, despite initially forecasting four hikes this year. The federal funds rate informs the trajectory of mortgage rates, which remain at historic lows.

Perhaps no sector has benefited more from ultra-low rates than housing, which was devastated by the real estate crash. Home sales are expected to total about 5.7 million this year, up from 5.4 million in 2014 and 4.6 million in 2011. The recovery can at least partly be traced to 30-year fixed mortgage rates that remain below 4%, down from about 6% in 2008, keeping borrowing costs low for buyers.

But today’s housing market is supported by far more than low mortgage rates — namely steady job and economic growth. What’s more, 30-year mortgages are priced off 10-year Treasury note yields, which do rise as short-term rates climb, but not as steeply.

Doug Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae, the giant government-sponsored funder of mortgages, expects this week’s Fed hike of a quarter of a percentage point to have virtually no immediate impact on Treasury or mortgage rates, noting markets already have priced in the move. Assuming the Fed raises its rate by a percentage point over the next year, Duncan expects 30-year mortgage rates to drift from 3.9% to 4.1% during the period. That would boost the monthly cost of a typical $225,000 mortgage by $26 to $1,454 — not enough to deter most buyers.

Adjustable-rate mortgages, many of which are modified annually, could increase about twice as rapidly, by about a half a percentage point. Yet as long as job growth and aggregate U.S. incomes increase proportionally, Duncan expects any market impact to be modest. A far bigger restraint on home sales, he says, is a limited supply that should push up prices by nearly 5% both this year and in 2016. As a result, Duncan expects home sales to increase 4% in 2016, down from 8% this year, with higher rates holding back 1% to 2% of deals.

“As long as the rate rise is gradual, I don’t see it as a hugely important factor,” he says.

Location, Location, Location!

There are many things that should be considered when buying a home. Since most home buyers expect to buy a bigger and better home someday in the future, resale value is an important factor in decision-making. While no one can guarantee that your home will grow in value, there are steps you can take that maximize your potential gain.
“Location, location, location,” is a common and almost overused phrase in real estate and has been in use at least since 1926, according to the New York Times. It is just as relevant now as it was then.
The idea is to buy a house that will appeal to the largest number of potential future home buyers. A careful choice of location can minimize potential negative influences on future resale value, and maximize positive influences.
So if “location, location, location” is so important, what makes a location good? Here are five characteristics to look for when buying a home. If you can get all five, chances are the home will be a good investment.
Some “good” and “bad” qualities simply vary by community. If you know your local community, you know which parts of town are less or more desirable.
Safety:
People want to live where there’s little or no crime. Naturally, they want to feel safe in their homes and will pay extra for it. A safe neighborhood means people will feel free to walk around, be outdoors and interact with their neighbors.
Good Schools:
Whether you have children, plan on having them, never want children, or they are out of the house; the better the school district, the higher the values of the surrounding homes can be. . The reputation, the quality and the district are additional factors in finding a good school. Homes surrounding good schools are in high demand. Found a home you love but the school district is subpar? Be aware of that issue for resale down the road.
Convenient access to work, popular places, shops and restaurants
Everyone wants to be near the best commercial districts. The closer to the hubbub of a particular town or the best parts of a city, the better the location – and the more someone is willing to pay for a home. The distance from point A to point B is so important. A long commute burns more gas and wastes more time than necessary. Therefore, evaluate the time it takes to travel from the home to the following: work, school, store, hospitals and favorite hangouts. Buyers without cars must live in communities with public transportation access. A community containing local amenities close by is valuable to buyers.
View, Views, Views:
No matter which town or city, someone will always pay for a great view or to be on or near the water.  An interior location with lack of road noise is also an important consideration. If the community does not offer views, then the backyard area and how it is designed is a consideration.
Access to public transit and/or freeways:
In major cities, the farther you live from the bus, subway or other types of mass transit, the less valuable the home. A good location means being very close, and having easy access, to public transportation. Being near a train or bus can get you anywhere in a short amount of time. In some towns, where a commute by car is inevitable, easy access to the freeway makes for a good location. Adding 20 minutes to a commute just to get to the freeway never helps a location.
It’s almost easier to talk about what constitutes a bad location than to discuss good locations. There are some common characteristics that make a location “bad,” no matter where you are. That is because the qualities that make a good location desirable can vary, depending on whether you’re looking in the city, suburbs, the country or the mountains. Bad locations, by their general nature, are easier to pinpoint. Some examples are:
Commercial/industrial areas:
Unless you live downtown, commercial buildings on your block diminish residential real estate values. Part of the reason is because homeowners cannot control loitering. Homes next to gas stations or shopping centers are undesirable because of the noise factor and compromise safely.
 
Railroad tracks, freeways or under flight paths:
Some city dwellers have homes close to railroad tracks and endure rumbling and other noise 24-hours a day. If you have a choice to be in a quiet area, free from road noise within the same community, this is the better choice of residence.
Economically depressed areas:
If owners show no pride of ownership in maintaining their homes, evidenced by lack of maintenance, poor landscaping and junk in the yard, you might think twice about moving into such an area.
Close to hazards:
People don’t want to live next door to power plants or substations. Few home buyers want a transformer in their yard, either. Understand the flooding risks and exposure to natural disasters and the preventative measures that have been taken to minimize them.
Other factors that can make for a “bad” location: very close proximity to a fire station (good if your house is on fire, not so good if you’re trying to sleep); a hospital (frequent ambulance sirens); an airport (sounds of jet engines 18 hours per day) or a school (traffic from buses or parents dropping off children or kids yelling and playing).

2016 Florida Homestead Exemption Reminder

It’s not too early to file for a property tax exemption for next year;  filing now
will allow Florida  property owners to beat the rush that normally occurs early in the year
as people try to beat the March 1 deadline.


Any Florida property owner with legal title to a home and who uses it as his or 
her permanent, primary residence by Jan. 1 is eligible for this exemption.   Homeowners
making their first claim at this time should contact their respective county property
appraiser’s office to find out how best to file for the exemption — many offices
offer applications online or will mail applications to residents. Homeowners may
also file for a homestead exemption in person, bringing along the deed to their
property or a property tax bill — something to prove they own the home. Most property
appraisers’ offices will accept applications for homestead exemption until the March
1 deadline. Please call your local county property appraiser’s office to find out
more.Visit the link found on my web site for contact information.

https://www.optimaproperties.com/south-florida-resources

Here are the criteria to see if you qualify and the documentation you will need 
to provide along with your application:

$25,000 Homestead Exemption

Every person who has legal or equitable title to real property in the State of Florida
and who resides thereon and in good faith makes it his or her permanent home is 
eligible to file for Homestead Exemption. First time applicants are required to 
furnish their social security number, and should have available evidence of ownership(
i.e., deed, contract, etc. )  If title is held by the husband alone, a wife may 
file for him, with his consent, and vice versa. If filing for the first time, be
prepared to answer these and other questions:


1. In whose name or names was the title to the dwelling recorded as of January 1st?
2. What is the street address of the property?
3. Are you a legal resident of the State of Florida? (A Certificate of Domicile 
or Voter’s Registration will be proof if dated prior to January 1st.)
4. Do you have a Florida license plate on your car and a Florida driver’s license?
5. Were you living in the dwelling which is being claimed for homestead exemption
on January 1st?

Additional $25,000 Homestead Exemption for persons 65 and older

Every person who is eligible for the homestead exemption described above is eligible
for an additional homestead exemption up to $25,000 under the following circumstances:
(1) the county or municipality adopts an ordinance that allows the additional homestead
exemption which applies only to the taxes levied by the unit of government granting
the exemption; (2) the taxpayer is 65 years of age or older on January 1 of the 
year for which the exemption is claimed; (3) the annual household income of the 
taxpayer (defined as the adjusted gross income as defined in s. 62, United States
Internal Revenue Code of all members of a household) for the prior year does not
exceed $20,000 (beginning January 1, 2001, this income threshold is adjusted annually
by the percentage change in the average cost-of-living index); and, (4) the taxpayer
annually submits a sworn statement of household income to the property appraiser
not later than March 1.

$500 Widow’s Exemption

Any widow who is a permanent Florida resident may claim this exemption. If the widow
remarries, she is no longer eligible. If the husband and wife were divorced before
his death, the woman is not considered a widow. You may be asked to produce a death
certificate when filing for the first time.

$500 Widower’s Exemption

Any widower who is a permanent Florida resident may claim this exemption. If the
widower remarries he is no longer eligible. If the husband and wife were divorced
before her death, the man is not considered a widower. You may be asked to produce
a death certificate when filing for the first time.

$500 Disability Exemption

Every Florida resident who is totally and permanently disabled qualifies for this
exemption. If filing for the first time, please present at least one of the following
as proof of your disability: A certificate from a licensed Florida physician or 
a certificate from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

$5000 Disability Veteran

Any ex-service member disabled at least 10% in war or by service-connected misfortune
is entitled to a $5000 exemption. If filing for the first time, please present a
certificate from the United States Government.

$500 Exemption for blind persons

Every Florida resident who is blind qualifies for this exemption. If claiming exemption
based on blindness, a certificate from the Division of Blind Services of the Department
of Education or the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or the Federal 
Social Security Administration certifying the applicant to be blind is required.
“Blind person” is defined as an individual having central vision acuity 20/200 
or less in the better eye with correcting glasses, or a disqualifying field defect
in which the peripheral field has contracted to such an extent that the widest diameter
or visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than twenty degrees.

Service-connected total and permanent disability exemption

Any honorably discharged veteran with a service-connected total and permanent disability,
surviving spouses of qualifying veterans and spouses of Florida resident veterans
who died from service-connected causes while on active duty as a member of the United
States Armed forces are entitled to an exemption on real estate used and owned as
a homestead less any portion thereof used for commercial purposes.

Persons entitled to this exemption must have been a permanent resident of this state
as of January 1st of the year of assessment.

Under certain circumstances the benefit of this exemption can carry over to the 
veteran’s spouse in the event of the veteran’s death. Consult your appraiser for
details.

If filing for the first time, please bring a certificate from the United States 
Government or United States Department of Veterans Affairs as your proof of a service-connected
disability or death of your spouse while on active duty.

Exemption for totally and permanently disabled persons


1. Any real estate used and owned as a homestead, less any portion thereof used 
for commercial purposes by any quadriplegic shall be exempt from taxation.
2. Any real estate used and owned as a homestead, less any portion thereof used 
for commercial purposes, by a paraplegic, hemiplegic or other totally and permanently
disabled person, as defined in Section 196.012(10), F.S., who must use a wheelchair
for mobility or who is legally blind, shall be exempt from taxation.

Persons entitled to the exemption under number two (2) above, must be a permanent
resident of the State of Florida as of January 1st of the year of assessment. Also,
the prior year gross income of all persons residing in or upon the homestead shall
not exceed the amount of income, set forth in section 196.101(4), F.S., adjusted
annually by the percentage change of the average cost of living index issued by
the United States Department of Labor. Gross income shall include United States
Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and any social security benefits paid to
the person. A statement of gross income must accompany the application.

If filing for the first time, please bring a certificate from two (2) licensed doctors
of this state or a certificate (per s. 196.091, F.S.) from the United States Department
of Veterans Affairs.

_____________________________

 

2016 Real Estate Forecast

Forecasts for the 2016 housing market are starting to trickle in; analysts are predicting that next year’s market will be a picture of “moderate, but solid growth.”

Several real estate pundits are predicting about a 3% year over year growth in housing prices with price increases being dampened by predictions of mortgage rates increasing to 4.65% for a 30-year fixed by the end of 2016.
Total sales of existing and new homes will reach 6 million for the first time since 2006; new home starts will increase 12 percent and new home sales will grow 16 percent, but it will take continued growth in both the gross domestic product and the job market to get there.
The U.S. economy in 2016 is expected to power forward at a steady, reasonable pace. Surveys of lenders continue to show that credit is becoming more available for homeowners, aided by new jobs for millions more people now working.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® expects a moderate annual increase in sales of existing homes of around 7.3 percent in 2015, rising 2.9 percent in 2016. Even brighter is the outlook for new-homes sales, projected in 2015 to grow at 14.9 percent over 2014 levels, and 16.7 percent in 2016.
2015 may have marked the best year for housing since 2007, but the market will likely get even rosier in 2016, according to a recent real estate forecast by Realtor.com®. One of the main drivers behind the brighter 2016 is the projection that employment will continue to grow, which will add to consumers’ wallets and allow them to purchase their first home or upgrade to a new one.
Realtor.com® highlights the following housing predictions for 2016:
1. ‘Normal’ is coming.
Expect a healthy growth in home sales and prices – at a slower pace than in 2015. “This slowdown is not an indication of a problem-it’s just a return to normalcy,” writes Jonathan Smoke,Realtor.com’s® chief economist. New construction and distressed sales are expected to return to more historical levels, and home prices are expected to follow at “more normal rates consistent with a more balanced market.”
 
2. Generational buying trends shape up.
Young adults’ presence on the housing market has been largely predicted for years, but 2016 may finally be the year they make a move in a larger way. Millennials represented nearly 2 billion sales in 2015 – one-third of home-buyers. They are expected to continue to be a major buying pool in 2016 with the majority of buyers between ages 25 and 34 expected to be first-time home buyers next year.
But two other generations will also have a big presence in 2016: financially recovering GenXers and older baby boomers who are entering retirement, Realtor.com® notes. “Since most of these people are already homeowners, they’ll play a double role, boosting the market as both sellers and buyers,” Smoke notes. “Gen Xers are in their prime earning years and thus able to relocate to better neighborhoods for their families. Older boomers are approaching (or already in) retirement and seeking to downsize and lock in a lower cost of living.”
3. New-home construction focuses more on affordability.
Builders have been faced with higher land costs, limited labor, and concerns about the demand of the entry-level market. As such, they have shifted to constructing more higher-priced homes, which has caused new-home prices to rise significantly faster than existing-home prices. In 2016, they likely will shift to more affordable product to cater to the entry-level buyers.
4. Higher mortgage rates.
Mortgage rates will likely be volatile in 2016. But the recent move by the Federal Reserve to guide interest rates higher should push mortgage rates higher in the New Year than the historical lows they have been at for years. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will likely end 2016 about 60 basis points higher than today’s level. “That level of increase is manageable, as consumers will have multiple tactics to mitigate some of that increase,” Smoke says. “However, higher rates will drive monthly payments higher, and, along with that, debt-to-income ratios will also go higher.” The markets with the highest home prices will see the effects from the higher rates the most.
 
5. Rents to go up even higher.
Rental costs are skyrocketing, and the costs are likely to only go up in the New Year. More than 85 percent of the nation’s markets have rents that exceed 30 percent of the income of renting households. “Rents are accelerating at a more rapid pace than home prices, which are moderating,” Smoke says. “Because of this, it is more affordable to buy in more than three-quarters of the U.S. However, for the majority of renting households, buying is not a near-term option due to poor household credit scores, limited savings, and lack of stable income of the kind necessary to qualify for a mortgage today.”

10 Reasons Why Another Real Estate Crash is Unlikely Today

How concerned should investors and homebuyers be that we’re headed for another real estate crash as we approach the 10-year anniversary of the infamous 2006-2007 housing bubble? Not at all.

Although buyers are paying spectacular prices for commercial properties and trophy homes, just as they did then, this time price increases are being fueled by foreign investors seeking diversification and a haven for their funds, as well as investors on the hunt for a low interest-rate environment.

Real estate is still a favorite life raft for nervous investors, who are seeking safety amid market volatility.

This has led to record real estate prices, which some have interpreted as a sign that the U.S. real estate market is once again climbing into bubble territory and headed for another crash. But a repeat of the 2009 real estate implosion that followed the collapse of the equities market in 2008 is highly unlikely this time.

Here are the top 10 reasons why:

1. Most Americans Have Refinanced to Fixed Rate Loans

Most Americans who could refinance to a fixed-rate mortgage have already done it. As a result, the impact of interest-rate shock when short-term ARMs re-adjust will be minor, compared with what happened in 2008-2009. During that period, many Americans could no longer afford their new mortgage payments and defaulted.

2. Bank Repossessions are Flushing Out Old Distressed Properties

Bank repossessions recently rose to the highest levels in more than two years, signaling that banks are dealing with properties in default and flushing out old distress, rather than ingesting more. Foreclosure activity continues to fall.

3. Loans in Foreclosure Are at the Lowest Level Since 2007

Despite an increase in bank repossessions, the percentage of loans in foreclosure nationwide is just 2.1% — the lowest level since 2007, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

4. There’s Less Risk of a New Mortgage Bubble

The market is no longer fueled by a surge in new housing loans based on loose credit standards. Tighter requirements for loan approvals that followed the 2009 mortgage meltdown reduced the number of foreclosures nationwide to a 10-year low. This tempers the number of real estate bubbles that can pop and, if the market slows down, there may be a contraction, rather than a pop. New TRID requirements are further evidence of guarantying a healthy mortgage market.

5. Interest Rates Are Likely to Remain Low for the Foreseeable Future

The likelihood the Federal Reserve will raise key interest rates recently lessened, following the economic disruption coming out of China. As a result of recent market volatility around the globe, rates have not climbed as expected and the risk of higher rates has diminished for the foreseeable future. It’s also important to mention that China’s slowdown could also positively impact U.S. property values, as global funds seek relative stability in the U.S. real estate market.

6. First-Time Buyer Assistance Programs are Luring New Buyers into the Market

New initiatives have been put in place to assist prospective first-time homebuyers. At the beginning of 2015, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) moved to reduce annual mortgage insurance premiums by up to $900 per year. This move could push home sales up to 5.6 million — the most seen since 2006- and it could introduce as many as 140,000 new buyers to the market, according to the National Association of Realtors. The FHA’s program aims to transition millennials and others from renting to owning a home.

7. Job Creation Indicates the Economy is Getting Stronger

The United States has added jobs at a steady rate over the past five years, and many of the jobs that were lost during the recession have been brought back. Additionally, the quality of jobs being created has improved as the economy has recovered.

8. Average Residential Home Prices Have Risen at a Slow, Steady Pace

Unlike the high-end, luxury market, prices for average residential homes have risen at a slow, steady pace. According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Composite 10-Home Price Index, residential home prices remained 15 percent below their April 2006 peak as of July 2015.

9. New-Home Construction Has Not Recovered from the Downturn

The supply of existing homes for sale today is lower than it was in 2000, although the population has grown more than 14%. New, single-family starts are 60% below the 2006 peak and roughly 25% below the average for the past 15 years.

10. Commercial Real Estate Remains Below Peak Levels

Commercial real-estate fundamentals are similarly healthy, and although commercial real estate prices have increased steadily since the crash, they still remain below peak levels. Vacancy rates are at or near all-time lows for apartments and warehouses, and are at their lowest post-crisis point for office and retail properties.

Commercial real-estate development also remains more than 25% below its pre-recession peak, which has led to improved property fundamentals, with both occupancy rates and rents rising.

The real-estate market today has a stronger foundation than it did in 2006, thanks to more disciplined and conservative credit underwriting of debt and a market that is much healthier than it has been at any point during the past decade.

Nearly 10 years after the bubble began, the message to investors is clear: Rest assured you are looking at a chastened and more disciplined market in which to participate — not another looming bubble.

 

By Chris Leavitt, Contributing Writer for The Street

Tips For Moving With Pets

So, you’re moving to a new home. Congratulations! Whether you’re traveling across town or across the country, here are some tips for making moving day as easy and stress-free as possible for the entire family, including your beloved pets.

 

  • Prior to moving day, make sure your pets are fitted with collars and ID tags with your name and current cell-phone number. Micro-chipping is also recommended and will serve as a backup if your pet loses its collar.
  • If your pet is prone to car or airsickness, make sure you visit your veterinarian a few weeks prior to your move to get any prescribed medications and feeding recommendations.
  • Ask you current veterinarian to make a recommendation for a new pet in the area you are moving to.  Ask for copies of all of their inoculation records and keep them handy.
  • Make sure you fill at least one week’s worth of your pet’s prescriptions since you will not have developed a relationship with a vet the minute you move in.
  • For long-distance moves, be sure to identify pet-friendly hotels along your route and reserve rooms ahead of time. For a list of pet-friendly hotels, see www.petswelcome.com or www.pet-friendly-hotels.net.
  • On moving day, make sure your pets are secured in a crate or closed room of your house or apartment until you are ready to load them into your car. The activities and sounds of moving day will be frightening to your pets, so it is important that they be kept in a secure area to reduce their stress as much as possible and to prevent an accidental escape.
  • Always transport cats, small dogs and other small animals in a secure, well-ventilated pet carrier. Take the time to familiarize your pet with the container in advance of the move.
  • Keep larger dogs leashed and under control at all times. The stress of a move can cause even the most obedient dog to run away in unfamiliar surroundings. NEVER transport any pet in an open truck bed, trunk of a car or storage area of a moving van.
  • Prepare a pet first aid kit, including your vet’s phone number, gauze to wrap wounds or muzzle for your pet, adhesive tape, non-stick bandages, towels and wipes, and hydrogen peroxide.
  • When you arrive at your new home, set up the things your pet will need immediately and are familiar with such as their water and food bowls, toys, bedding and litter box.

 

For long-distance moves, make sure you give your pet potty breaks and fresh water whenever you stop for a break yourself. Make sure pets are leashed at all times during potty breaks.

3 Ways To Deduct Mortgage Interest

Your home is more than an investment and a place to live-it also can be a valuable source of tax deductions. For many homeowners, one of the biggest itemized deductions on Form 1040

is the one for qualified residence interest (commonly called the “mortgage interest deduction”). In the usual situation, you can write off all, or almost all, of the mortgage interest you’ve paid for the year.

Under current law, you may claim deductions for three basic types of mortgage interest, up to certain limits:

 

Acquisition Debt: This involves mortgage proceeds you use to buy, build, or substantially renovate a home. The loan must be secured by a qualified residence (either your principal residence or a second home such as a vacation home). Interest on such debt is deductible on amounts of up to $1 million. Acquisition debt often amounts to the lion’s share of your mortgage interest deduction.

Home Equity Debt: If it’s allowed by the laws of your state, you also may deduct the interest on home equity loans secured by a qualified residence, regardless of how you use the proceeds. But with home equity debt, deductions are limited to interest paid on loans of up to $100,000. In addition, the loan amount can‘t exceed your equity in the home.

 

Points:  Although points really aren’t mortgage interest, the tax law essentially treats them as if they were. These are the charges a lender may impose when you obtain a mortgage. (One point equals 1% of the amount you borrow.) You can deduct any points you paid for acquisition debt, but you’ll need to deduct charges for refinancing over the term of the loan. For instance, if you refinance a $200,000 mortgage with a 10-year loan and pay two points – or $4,000 – you may deduct $400 in points ($4,000 divided by 10) annually for 10 years.

You can claim the deduction only if you’re an owner of the home and pay the interest. Please consult with you accountant regarding special rules that may apply to your specific situation and state laws.

Down Sizing Tips

Lots of people these days are following that motto and trying to live a life of less; less junk, less clutter, less stress and less house. So how do you downsize your world when you’ve spent your life accumulating stuff?   Planning your space before you downsize is essential; downsizing requires some careful thought!

Whether you are a baby-boomer having to move your parents or a family who wants to downsize from the stress of a large home, to people wanting to plan a second home on a small scale, or even for people just wanting to have less to manage in their current home. Empty nesters and not-so-empty-nesters alike will find tried and true principles to get them through the challenges. Downsizing doesn’t have to mean losing your style either. In fact, when you do this right, you can end up with even more style with less stuff.

If downsizing is in the foreseeable future for you or a parent, here are seven ways to pare down the possessions. If downsizing seems daunting, remember this: if the home will be placed on the market, you’ll likely have to cut clutter nonetheless.

Plan backwards from moving day. If you have a clear idea when you (or a parent) are planning to move, start downsizing three months prior. It sounds taxing, but tackling every room (and/or garage, basement or attic) in one fell swoop is more challenging, if not impossible – especially for homeowners who’ve stayed put for years. Sorting through one room at a time is best.

Write a list of all the items you love and can’t live without; it will help you bid adieu to things that didn’t make the list. It’s hard to persuade people they can’t take everything with them, but by keeping what’s on your wish list, you won’t be upset about the things you can’t keep.

Stick to the OHIO rule. “Only handle it once.” Avoid placing items in “maybe” piles, particularly when helping a parent who may have a difficult time letting go. Ask yourself or your parent if they would replace the item if it disappeared – this will make the process feel much less like a trashing of beloved possessions.

Remember more isn’t always better. We all have items we’re saving “just in case” the original breaks. Don’t be afraid to purge duplicates. The same applies to clothing – avoid holding on to garments that no longer fit, but might “one day.”

Get a feel for the size of your new rooms by comparing them to rooms of similar dimensions in your present home. For instance, your living-room-to-be might be roughly the same size as your current bedroom. You may think you can squeeze in two sofas, but this kind of reality check could help you realize that only one will fit comfortably.

Get cash for your castoffs. Remember the three-month rule? If you’re planning to sell an item, start early – some things may not move as quickly as you’d like, and you don’t want to be stuck with items you no longer want come moving day. Keep in mind that eBay charges a selling fee, and items like shoes or books tend to languish on Craigslist.

Contact an auction house. If you or your parent has an assortment of valuable items, like antique furniture or artwork, coin and stamp collections, et. al. consider enlisting an auction house rather than an antique dealer – dealers want the most bang for their buck, not yours. Compile a large lot so the appraiser can assess items in one visit. An estate sales group can help facilitate the sale or auction of high-end belongings, too.

Donate as much as you can. Donating items to charitable organizations can make parting with possessions much more manageable. In many areas, the Salvation Army is available to transport big-ticket items like furniture or appliances. Other house wares in good condition can be donated to Goodwill or a local charity.