Monday, December 17, 2012

In a time when the U.S. government is looking for tax hikes and ways to cut back and reduce the federal deficit of $16 trillion, the homeowners' mortgage interest deduction is on the chopping block. While the whole deduction might not be scrapped, modifications and limitations to it could affect many homeowners.


According to the Christian Science Monitor/TIPP survey, Americans would rather lose the charitable giving tax deduction than the mortgage interest deduction. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that's because it's a middle class key incentive that helps Americans build wealth.

Suggestions from economists range from implementing an overall cap on itemized deductions, to eventually having a flat credit for the mortgage interest deduction. Other ideas include capping the amount of the deduction, say, at $500,000 instead of $1 million "or the rate at which mortgage interest deducted would be lower than the top marginal tax rate," said Jed Kolko Chief Economist of A complete abolishment of the mortgage interest deduction "could greatly destabilize the economy," says Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist.

Approximately half of the amount of tax deductions taken by Americans are housing- related. Homeowners who haven't paid down a lot of principal will be hurt the most. Millions of Americans take a tax deduction that can amount to anywhere from an average of thousands of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per year thanks to the mortgage interest deduction.

Those in favor of reducing or eliminating the mortgage interest deduction claim that it could save the federal government $108 billion annually. Some argue that the mortgage interest deduction is not used by many. New research by USA Today showed that in 2010 only 26 percent of homeowners countrywide used the deduction on their taxes and wrote off their interest paid on their mortgage. However, the study points out that not all taxpayers can use this deduction. It's "only available to those who itemize deductions." A taxpayer's mortgage interest, charitable giving, and other expenses need to be greater than the standard deduction offered.

Expensive housing states like California, Washington, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland, and Nevada would feel the pinch. Those states can see on average a tax break from the mortgage interest deduction alone of about $12,000 a year per taxpayer which is over the standard deduction for a married couple, filing jointly in 2012 ($11,900).

Many believe that if the mortgage interest deduction is modified or eliminated it will send the real estate market into a tailspin and cause the progress that the market has made to shrink. Opponents also believe this will hurt future buyers who are currently renting.

The National Association of Home Builders says that 73 percent of those it surveyed are opposed to any changes in the mortgage interest deduction. The California Association of Realtors found that 79 percent of buyers listed the mortgage interest deduction as extremely important when it comes to deciding if they'll purchase a home.

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Monday, November 19, 2012
By Carla Hill - Realty Times

The holiday season can be an incredibly busy time of year. Families are traveling across town, state, and country to visit loved ones. Children are home from school, bringing with them vacation schedules.


This can be a difficult time for many sellers. They must find a balance between family time, showings, and open houses.

If you are finding this holiday season particularly problematic, then keep reading.

Just as your time for showings is limited, so is the time potential buyers have for touring your home. This means that if you are serious about moving your home in this season's market you must be willing to be flexible with your time. Making your home readily available may mean more showings or a faster sale.

You must put the needs of your family and children first, of course, but there should be room for compromise. Consider allowing other family members to host large meals and functions to lighten the load on your home's schedule this year.

You can also plan fun activities for the whole family to participate in while your home is being shown. Take the kids to see the latest holiday movie. Go out for yogurt or ice cream. If the showing is during the evening hours you can take a tour of neighborhood lights!

Also, do not let listing your home for sale deter you from celebrating the holidays this season. Feel free to maintain family traditions, but consider the effect your decorations will have on buyers. While you should feel free to have a tree and lights, it would be wise to keep everything tasteful and in moderation.

You may come across the random buyer that hates the holidays, but most people are not offended by someone else's beliefs. You'll find buyers are tolerant of most everything ... except tacky overdone decorations!

If you are unsure what constitutes tacky, then refer to popular home decor magazines for pictures and examples of what is acceptable.

Selling a home is about about putting the best foot forward. So, in addition to making it available to buyers and decorating tastefully, it's important to consider how your home will appear in wintertime photography.

Great photography is key when posting pictures to the MLS. This is your home's first impression, but the snow, ice, and dreariness of winter months can be a little boring.

Take your time to stage the best pictures possible. Take advantage of sunny days glistening across snowy banks. Let the charm of your living room shine with a perfectly trimmed tree.

Buyers also love to see how your home looks throughout the seasons. Talk to your Realtor about including pictures of your home when your yard is bursting with Springtime blooms or when your pool is full of sparkling blue water.

The holidays can be a wonderful time for families, but with a few compromises you can also make a sale during this special time!

Published: November 19, 2012

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012
By Carla Hill

Homeowners looking to add value to their home should start in one of the most central rooms of the home -- the bathroom.


According to C.P. Hart, one of the UK's leading contemporary bathroom retailers and suppliers of bespoke bathrooms since 1937, a great bathroom can add real value to your property.

HouseLogic, supported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), reports that the top bathroom trends can even be real money savers.

First, take note of energy conservation. Low-flow toilets can use a fraction of the amount of water of standard versions. Low-flow shower heads and faucets can also conserve water, a prime consideration for homeowners all across the drought-ridden Midwest and beyond.

The next trend will tug at the heart of every tech geek. HouseLogic reports it's all about technological advances. "You'll be able to create a custom showering experience more affordably than ever. For $300 for simple controllers to $3,500 or more for a complete luxury installation, programmable let you digitally set your preferred water temperature, volume, and even massage settings before you step in. To achieve a personalized showering experience, you'll need a 120-volt power source, and a thermostatic valve and controller in addition to your standard shower head or heads. Luxury models may include a steam system, a wi-fi source for music, multiple body spray outlets, tankless water heater, and a secondary controller to start the system from another room."

Take it a step further with docking stations for your iPod and integrated television screens in your mirrors!

C.P. Hart say it goes beyond saving energy and geeking out, however. Bathrooms can have focal points and finishes that can be real show stoppers. "Fittings and accessories should never be ignored when furnishing your washroom. A key piece, such as a basin, can really enliven the look and bring a touch of luxury to any space. Glass Design create bespoke washbowls that are a great example of cutting-edge design meets decadence. Each piece is uniquely designed, using materials that capture the soul of the product, adding a new lease of life to your abode."

Today's bathroom designs are about clean lines and organized beauty. Less is more, letting the eye fall on the room's shining stars, such as travertine floors, marble sinks, and beautiful faucets.

It's time to go minimalist. "Enhancing your bathroom's shape and size through discrete storage, each piece is custom-made, maximizing surface space through multi-storage units. With a range of styles, colors and sizes to choose from, you won't be short of ideas to match existing bathroom features," C.P. Hart says.

Consider a beautiful freestanding tub, reminiscent of the claw-footed examples from yesteryear. There are a wide range of shapes and styles available from many large retailers. These baths can become the focal point of any space. "From traditional Victorian to industrial-inspired designs and Japanese influences, there is a great range of inspiring pieces to choose from," says C.P. Hart.

Finally, think about future use of a bathroom. There's an aging demographic of baby boomers in the United States that is trending bathrooms towards future functionality. HouseLogic reports, "Expect to see faux wood, linen, and uniquely-textured looks for tiled bathroom floors and walls in 2012. The texture adds both visual impact and better traction for wet feet."

And let's not forget accessible tubs. "The accessible tub is no longer limited to the high-walled, narrow-door format that dominated the market in the last decade. Newer models, such as Kohler's Elevance ($5,100), employ rising panels in front that give more of a traditional tub look with easier entry and exit. Others use standard hinged, sealed doors, but are increasing door width by several inches for better accessibility and appearance."

Today's bathroom trends are about modern functionality. Go green and clean.

Published: November 12, 2012

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012
By Richard Thompson - Realty Times

In common wall housing, unit flooding and damage can happen for a variety of reasons including roof leaks, water supply pipes leak, toilet/bathtub overflows and washer hose ruptures. Who is responsible for water damage, the HOA or unit owner?


First, determine the actual cause of the loss and whether any of the involved parties were negligent in their maintenance responsibilities (like, left the water running). Then, review the governing documents to determine what guidance there may be for maintenance and repairs. Pay special attention to the definitions of: unit, common element, limited common element, maintenance responsibilities of owners and the homeowner association, insurance responsibilities of owners and the homeowner association and enforcement procedures. These provisions often differ from HOA to HOA.

Generally, owners are responsible for maintaining anything they own or that lies within the unit boundaries, and the HOA is responsible for maintaining the common elements and limited common elements. However, limited common elements are usually allocated to the exclusive use of a unit owner and the unit owner may have the maintenance responsibility for repairs. An important principle to keep in mind is that the obligation to maintain a particular component does not necessarily mean that there is an obligation to repair damage to another unit if that component fails.

Say that the water heater in Unit A fails and damages Unit B. According to most governing documents, Unit A bears the expense for repairing the water heater and any damage to Unit A. There is no obligation for Unit A to pay for damage to Unit B unless the owner of Unit A was negligent in some way. For example, if Unit A owner knew the water heater was leaking slowly and steadily and let it continue to leak for long enough to damage Unit B, Unit A owner would be negligent. On the other hand, if the water heater tank ruptured spontaneously and flooded Unit B, it would not be negligence.

Barring negligence, each unit owner repairs his own unit. The same principle applies if there is a leaking roof which is maintained by the HOA. Roofs leak from time to time. If a unit owner does not inform the HOA when a leak occurs, how does the HOA know to fix it? It's like the old saying, "If a dog barks in the woods and there is no one there to hear him, is he still a bad dog?"

Now, if the HOA is informed of the leak, does nothing to stop it and the unit is damaged, that is negligence and the HOA should pay for the unit repairs. Some would argue that since the HOA's insurance is paid for by the members, unit damage should be paid for by the HOA in every case. Unfortunately, any HOA that does not carefully control the type and frequency of claims made will find itself without insurance or paying enormous premiums.

This is why it is critically important for the board to establish a clear policy on maintenance and insurance responsibility which will safeguard the HOA's insurability. This policy should identify all major building components and assign responsibility either to Owner or HOA that is consistent with the governing documents. Unit insurance agents should be provided this information so they know what their insured is responsible for. This is all about spreading risk around and saving the HOA insurance policy for the Big Claims as much as possible.

There is a sample Areas of Maintenance & Insurance Responsibilities policy available to Gold Subscribers of For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see

Published: November 7, 2012

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Saturday, May 5, 2012
Fixed Mortgage Rates Average New All-Time Record Lows
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