Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

March 10, 2011 9:09 am

Option. The exclusive right to purchase or lease a property at a predetermined price or rent at some future time.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Q: How do you decide whether to add on to an existing home or purchase a new one?

March 10, 2011 9:09 am

A: There are a few things to consider, including cost, individual needs, and what will add value down the road. Also important: your emotional attachment to the existing home.

As designer and builder Philip S. Wenz, the author of Adding to a House: Planning, Design & Construction, notes, an addition is much cheaper than building a new home and can offer a "new" home without the heartache of moving.

Other considerations:

Can you finance the home improvement with your own cash or will you need a loan?

How much equity is in the property? A fair amount will make it that much easier to get a loan for home improvements.

Is it feasible to expand the current space for an addition?

What is permissible under local zoning and building laws? Despite your deep yearning for a new sunroom or garage, you will need to know if your town or city will allow such improvements.

Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy your changing housing needs?

Explore your options. Make sure your decision is one you can live with either under the same roof or under a different one.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Organizing Paperwork for a Smooth Tax Filing Process

March 10, 2011 9:09 am

RISMEDIA, March 10, 2011-There's no better time to sort through the growing pile of papers in your home office than when you're preparing to file year-end taxes. While organizing paperwork and personal files can seem like a daunting task, it certainly doesn't need to be. Master Lock has provided the following tips for organizing and safely storing important documents for a smooth tax filing process and more organized year.

"Eliminating unnecessary paperwork and storing tax files in one organized, secure place is vital to a stress-free tax filing process," said Rebecca Smith, vice president, marketing for Master Lock. "By creating and maintaining a master storage system, individuals can not only ease the tax filing process, but also enjoy a feeling of preparedness year-round."

1. Purge the paperwork

First things first-clear the clutter. Go through all of your paperwork and eliminate anything you no longer need, shredding identifying documents to protect against identity theft. Get rid of expired warranties and year-old receipts and bank statements.

2. Safely store crucial records

Designate a specific storage space for vital documents including birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports, wills and social security cards. These items, as well as any important memorabilia, should be stored in a locked, fire retardant box. Not only will you always know where these items are, they'll be safe from home mishaps.

3. Create a tax file

Create a separate file for all of your tax documents. Organize this file into 10 categories: income (pay stubs, W-2s, interest statements), medical (medical expenses and health insurance out-of-pocket), donations (cash and non-cash donations), real estate (interest statements from mortgage, tax assessments), child care (payment receipts), tax correspondence (important IRS or state revenue service letters), student loans (statements of payment), miscellaneous receipts (any receipts that might be needed for deductions), payments (records of advance payments) and old tax papers (old tax returns). Continue to use your tax file year-round, and you won't have to scramble for these documents when it comes time to file next year.

4. Back up everything

Make digital copies of important documents and store them in your fireproof box on a zip or thumb drive. Use a secure online organization and security solution to store log-in and password information for bank accounts and credit cards as well as lock combinations or key numbers to your file boxes. Consider appointing a guardian as an additional security measure who knows where and how your records are stored for easy access in your absence.

5. Make it a tradition

Select a specific time of year (perhaps when tax time rolls around again) and make your review of these records an annual occurrence. This will ensure your information is streamlined and up-to-date and that finding or organizing this information is never an overwhelming process again.

For more information, visit www.masterlock.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Foreclosure Homes Account for 26 Percent of All 2010 Residential Sales, According to RealtyTrac

March 10, 2011 9:09 am

RISMEDIA, March 10, 2011-RealtyTrac, a leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, released its Year-End and Q4 2010 U.S. Foreclosure Sales Report, which shows that foreclosure homes accounted for nearly 26% of all U.S. residential sales during the year, down from 29% of all sales in 2009 but up from 23% of all sales in 2008. The report also shows that the average sales price of these foreclosure properties was more than 28% below the average sales price of properties not in the foreclosure process-up from a 27% average discount in 2009 and a 22% average discount in 2008.

A total of 831,574 U.S. residential properties either owned by banks or in some stage of foreclosure-default or scheduled for auction-sold to third parties in 2010, a decrease of 31% from 2009 and a decrease of nearly 14% from 2008. Meanwhile, sales volume of non-foreclosure properties in 2010 decreased nearly 19% from 2009 and nearly 27% from 2008.

A total of 149,303 foreclosure sales were recorded in the fourth quarter, down 22% from the previous quarter and down 45% from the fourth quarter of 2009-despite a 21% monthly uptick in foreclosure sales volume in December. Mirroring the year-end statistics, foreclosure sales in the fourth quarter accounted for 26% of total sales, and foreclosure properties sold for an average sales price that was 28% below the average sales price of properties not in foreclosure.

"Foreclosure sales in the fourth quarter faced the twin headwinds of the expired home buyer tax credit-which began to stifle sales volume during the third quarter-and the foreclosure documentation controversy, which hit in the fourth quarter and temporarily froze sales of foreclosures from several major lenders," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "Given those factors, it's not surprising that in the fourth quarter foreclosure sales volume hit its lowest level since the first quarter of 2008.

"Still, foreclosures continue to represent a substantial percentage of all U.S. residential sales and continue to sell at an average sales price that is significantly below the average sales price of properties not in foreclosure-the result of a bloated supply of foreclosures and weak demand from home buyers," Saccacio continued. "The catch-22 for 2011 is that while accelerating foreclosure sales will help clear the oversupply of distressed properties and return balance to the market in the long run, in the short term a high percentage of foreclosure sales will continue to weigh down home prices."

Foreclosure sales by type

A total of 512,886 bank-owned (REO) properties sold to third parties in 2010-down nearly 32% from 2009-at an average discount of 36%, up from an average discount of 33% in 2009. REO sales accounted for 16% of all sales in 2010, down from nearly 18% of all sales in 2009 but still higher than the 13% of all sales they accounted for in 2008.

In the fourth quarter, a total of 95,683 REO properties sold to third parties, down 17% from the third quarter and down 43% from the fourth quarter of 2009. Fourth quarter REO sales accounted for nearly 17% of all sales during the quarter at an average discount of nearly 37%.

A total of 318,688 pre-foreclosure properties-in default or scheduled for auction-sold to third parties in 2010, down nearly 30% from 2009. Pre-foreclosure properties in 2010 sold at an average discount of 15%, down from an average discount of nearly 17% in 2009. Pre-foreclosure sales accounted for nearly 10% of all sales in 2010, down from nearly 11% of all sales in 2009 and virtually the same percentage of sales as in 2008.

In the fourth quarter, a total of 53,620 pre-foreclosure properties sold to third parties, down 29% from the previous quarter and down 49% from the fourth quarter of 2009. Fourth quarter pre-foreclosure sales accounted for nearly 10% of all sales during the quarter at an average discount of nearly 13%.

Nevada, Arizona, California post highest percentage of foreclosure sales in 2010

Foreclosure sales accounted for 57% of all residential sales in Nevada in 2010, the highest percentage of any state, but still down from a peak of 67% of all sales in 2009. Fourth quarter foreclosure sales accounted for nearly 59% of all sales in the state, up from nearly 54% in the third quarter.

Arizona foreclosure sales accounted for 49% of all sales in 2010, the second highest of any state but down from a peak of 54% in 2009. Fourth quarter foreclosure sales accounted for 55% of all sales in the state, up from 46% in the third quarter.

California foreclosure sales accounted for 44% of all sales in 2010, the third highest of any state but also down from a peak of 57% in 2009. Fourth quarter foreclosure sales in California accounted for 45% of all sales, up from 40% in the third quarter.

Other states where foreclosure sales accounted for at least one-quarter of all sales in 2010 were Florida (36%), Michigan (33%), Georgia (29%), Idaho (28%), Oregon (28%), Illinois (26%), Virginia (25%) and Colorado (25%).

10 states post foreclosure discounts of more than 35 percent in 2010

Ohio foreclosures sold for an average discount of nearly 43% in 2010, down from an average discount of nearly 47% in 2009, but still the highest of any state. Kentucky foreclosures sold for an average discount of more than 40% in 2010, the second highest of any state and up from nearly 38% in 2009.

Eight other states posted average foreclosure sale discounts of 35% or more in 2010: Tennessee, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin.

For more information, visit www.realtytrac.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


National Consumer Protection Week Learn What a Mortgage Servicer Does and Understand Your Rights as a Consumer

March 10, 2011 9:09 am

By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, March 10, 2011-For some people it's the Super Bowl, for others it's the Oscars, but I spend the month of March celebrating consumers.

Every year around this time we stand with federal agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations, in conjunction with state, county and local government agencies to promote National Consumer Protection Week. We also highlight Spring Cleaning Week or what some identify as National Cleaning Week-we'll get to that in an upcoming segment.

According to our friends at the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov), National Consumer Protection Week is a coordinated campaign to focus attention on the importance of consumer information and steer people to free resources about their rights in the marketplace.

One of the many compelling subjects tied to this year's Consumer Protection Week promotion is an important reminder for all home and property owners to stay up-to-date on what mortgage servicer is handling your payments and that your mortgage account is properly credited.

A mortgage servicer is responsible for the day-to-day management of your mortgage loan account, including collecting and crediting your monthly loan payments and handling your escrow account if you have one. The servicer is who you contact if you have questions about your mortgage loan account.

This punch list from the FCC can help you learn what a mortgage servicer does and understand your rights as a consumer:

-A mortgage servicer is responsible for collecting your monthly loan payments and crediting your account. A servicer also handles your escrow account if you have one.

-An escrow account is a fund that your servicer holds. You pay money into this fund to cover charges like property taxes and homeowners insurance. The escrow payments typically are included as part of your monthly mortgage payment. The servicer pays your tax bill and your insurance bills as they become due.

-If your mortgage servicer administers an escrow account for you, the servicer is generally required to make escrow payments for taxes, insurance and any other charges on time. Within 45 days of establishing the account, the servicer must give you a statement that clearly itemizes the estimated taxes, insurance premiums and other anticipated charges to be paid over the next 12 months, and the expected dates and amounts of those payments.

-The mortgage servicer has to give you a statement every year that details the activity of your escrow account. This statement shows your account balance and reflects payments for your property taxes, homeowners insurance, or other charges. There is no charge for this statement.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Existing-Home Sales Rise in January 2011

March 10, 2011 9:09 am

RISMEDIA, March 10, 2011-The uptrend in existing-home sales continues, with January 2011 sales rising for the third consecutive month with a pace that is now above year-ago levels, according to the National Association of REALTORS .

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 2.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.36 million in January from a downwardly revised 5.22 million in December, and are 5.3% above the 5.09 million level in January 2010. This is the first time in seven months that sales activity was higher than a year earlier.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the improvement is good but could be better. "The uptrend in home sales is consistent with improvements in the economy and jobs, which are helping boost consumer confidence," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The extremely favorable housing affordability conditions are a big factor, but buyers have been constrained by unnecessarily tight credit. As a result, there are abnormally high levels of all-cash purchases, along with rising investor activity."

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 29% of homes in January, down from 33% in December and 40% in January 2010 when an extended tax credit was in place.

Investors accounted for 23% of purchases in January, up from 20% in December and 17% in January 2010; the balance of sales were to repeat buyers. All-cash sales rose to 32% in January from 29% in December and 26% in January 2010.

"Increases in all-cash transactions, the investor market share and distressed home sales all go hand-in-hand. With tight credit standards, it's not surprising to see so much activity where cash is king and investors are taking advantage of conditions to purchase undervalued homes," Yun said.

All-cash purchases are at the highest level since NAR started measuring these purchases monthly in October 2008, when they accounted for 15% of the market. The average of all-cash deals was 20% in 2009, rising to 28% last year.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $158,800 in January, down 3.7% from January 2010. Distressed homes edged up to a 37% market share in January from 36% in December; it was 38% in January 2010.

NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., said the median price is being dampened by unusual market factors.

"Unprecedented levels of all-cash purchases, primarily of distressed homes sold at deep discounts, undoubtedly pulls the median price downward," Phipps said. "Given the levels of inventory we see today, we believe that traditional homes in good condition have held their value."

Total housing inventory at the end of January fell 5.1% to 3.38 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.6-month supply at the current sales pace, down from an 8.2-month supply in December. The inventory supply is at the lowest level since December 2009 when there was a 7.3-month supply.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.76% in January from 4.71% in December; the rate was 5.03% in January 2010.

Single-family home sales rose 2.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.69 million in January from 4.58 million in December, and are 4.9% higher than the 4.47 million level in January 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $159,400 in January, down 2.7% from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 4.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 670,000 in January from 640,000 in December, and are 7.9% above the 621,000-unit pace one year ago. The median existing condo price was $154,900 in January, which is 10.2% below January 2010.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 4.6% to an annual pace of 830,000 in January from a spike in December and are 1.2% below January 2010. The median price in the Northeast was $236,500, which is 4.0% below a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 1.8% in January to a level of 1.14 million and are 3.6% above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $126,300, which is 3.2% below January 2010.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 3.6% to an annual pace of 2.02 million in January and are 8.0% higher than January 2010. The median price in the South was $136,600, down 2.1% from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 7.9% to an annual level of 1.37 million in January and are 7.0% above January 2010. The median price in the West was $193,200, down 5.7% from a year ago.

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Word of the Day

March 9, 2011 9:09 am

Open listing. Listing that gives a broker a nonexclusive right to find a buyer; the owner can still find a buyer himself and avoid a commission.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Q: How does the seller determine what rate to provide?

March 9, 2011 9:09 am

A: The interest rate on a purchase money note is negotiable, as are the other terms in a seller-financed transaction. To get an idea about what to charge, sellers can check with a lender or mortgage broker to determine current rates on mortgage loans, including second mortgages.

Because sellers, unlike conventional lenders, do not charge loan fees or points, seller-financed costs are generally less than those associated with conventional home loans. Interest rates are generally influenced by current Treasury bill and certificate of deposit rates.

Understandably, most sellers are not open to making a loan for a lower return than could be invested at a more profitable rate of return elsewhere. So the interest rates they charge may be higher than those on conventional loans, and the length of the loan shorter, anywhere from five to 15 years.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Potholes Pose Plenty of Problems Tips to Keep Your Car Safe

March 9, 2011 9:09 am

RISMEDIA, March 9, 2011-As we leave behind the worst winter in recent memory, there are many reminders left in the form of potholes. Drivers know immediately when they hit a pothole, but what they don't know is if their vehicle has been damaged in the process. To help determine if hitting a pothole has damaged your vehicle, watch for the following warning signs provided by the Car Care Council.

-Loss of control, swaying when making routine turns, bottoming-out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads. These are indicators that the steering and suspension may have been damaged. The steering and suspension are key safety-related systems. Together, they largely determine your car's ride and handling. Key components are shocks and/or struts, the steering knuckle, ball joints, the steering rack/box, bearings, seals and hub units and tie rod ends.

-Pulling in one direction, instead of maintaining a straight path, and uneven tire wear. These symptoms mean there's an alignment problem. Proper wheel alignment is important for the lifespan of tires and helps ensure safe handling.

-Low tire pressure, bulges or blisters on the sidewalls, or dents in the rim. These problems will be visible and should be checked out as soon as possible as tires are the critical connection between your car and the road in all sorts of driving conditions.

"Record snow falls, frigid temperatures and wintery rainfall have left us with plenty of potholes," said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "Hitting a pothole can cause plenty of problems, damaging tires, wheels, steering and suspension, wheel alignment and more. If you've hit a pothole, it's worth having a professional technician check out the car and make the necessary repairs to ensure safety and reliability."

Potholes occur when water permeates the pavement-usually through a crack from wear and tear of traffic-and softens the soil beneath it, creating a depression in the surface of the street. Many potholes appear during winter and spring months because of freeze-thaw cycles, which accelerate the process. Potholes can also be prevalent in areas with excessive rainfall and flooding.

For more information, visit www.carcare.org.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Apartments.com National Survey Reveals Renter Moving Plans for 2011

March 9, 2011 9:09 am

RISMEDIA, March 9, 2011-For the first time in years, the apartment rental market is beginning to experience signs of recovery as the U.S. economy slowly begins to strengthen. Reuters reported the rental vacancy rate fell to 9.4% in the fourth quarter of 2010 from 10.3% in the July-September period-the lowest since the second quarter of 2007. Witten Advisors predicts rents will increase 4.5% in 2011 as operators become aggressive in raising rents with little fear of losing customers to other housing options. In response to this news, Apartments.com conducted a national survey of more than 1,800 of its January website visitors to find out about their 2011 moving plans, including reasons they are moving, when they plan to move and which tools they value most during their apartment search.

Socioeconomic factors are often the leading indicator of growth in the housing industry. Apartments.com survey results revealed nearly three times the number of respondents-or 28.8%-are looking to move to relocate for employment opportunities in January 2011 compared to 10.4% from the previous year, further corroborating news of an improving rental market in 2011. Other key findings from the survey demonstrated many renters are starting their apartment search earlier in the year, a large volume of current homeowners and first-time renters are entering the market and having access to accurate apartment information is paramount when looking for a new place to live.

The primary factor fueling moves for survey respondents are new job opportunities. However, the desire to have more space, affordability and living in a safe neighborhood also topped the list. The five most popular reasons survey respondents are moving in 2011 include:

- Relocating for employment opportunities: 28.8%

- Looking for a bigger apartment: 13.3%

- Shopping for a less expensive apartment: 9.7%

- Rent increase: 6.7%

- Wanting to live in a safer neighborhood: 5.7%

A significant number of respondents indicated they are apartment shopping now for a move that will not take place until much later in the year. According to the survey, nearly 20% of respondents are starting their apartment search three to four months in advance and nearly a quarter are looking as early as five months to more than a year out.

"It's a good idea to lock into a lease right now," states Chris Brown, vice president of product management, Apartments.com. "Many management companies have announced rent increases and we're starting to see this reflected in the rents advertised on our site. As vacancy rates continue to drop and the rental market improves, we expect to see the upward trend grow. Deals can still be had, but they're getting harder to find. Use the tools available online to search for apartments by rent ranges that work with your budget."

Supporting a growing trend in the industry, more than 20% of respondents looking for an apartment this year said they are current homeowners. From these survey respondents who said they are current homeowners, 32% are also first-time renters, indicating a significant number of current homeowners and new renters are turning toward the rental market in 2011.

Survey respondents who are former homeowners also said they are renting this year because it affords them a lifestyle they prefer, including flexibility to relocate for employment opportunities and to live where they choose.

Apartments.com visitors want access to accurate apartment information and the option to tailor their searches by price and location when looking for a new place. According to the survey, 64% of respondents said being able to check real time availability of a specific apartment matters most and 72.2% said the two most popular ways they prefer to search for an apartment is by the "cost of rent" or "location."

It is also clear that renters are tapping multiple resources to find their next apartment. While 81% of Apartments.com visitors surveyed said they are using an Internet Listing Service (ILS) during their apartment search, they are also utilizing popular search engines, listening to recommendations from others and reading their local newspapers. Only 5% said they are using social media websites during their search. Renters ranked their top apartment shopping tools as follows:

- Internet Listing Service (e.g. Apartments.com, Rent.com and MyNewPlace.com): 80.9%

- Online apartment classified listing websites (e.g. Craigslist and Oodle): 46.2%

- Search engines: 38.4%

- Word of mouth: 31.1%

- Local newspaper: 27.1%

Renters also want instant access to information on-the-go. According to the survey, 80% of respondents indicated they use a mobile device during their apartment search. Nearly half of these respondents said they use a smartphone or device including iPhone, iPad, Android or BlackBerry during their apartment hunt. Apartments.com answers the needs of on-the-go renters by offering a mobile version of the website and an app for iPhone and iTouch users.

For more information, visit www.apartments.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.