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  • Top Shopping Destinations Worldwide

    3:28 pm on December 7, 2012 | Comments:0
    Tags: Consumer news and advice, , , shopping   Filed under: Consumer news and advice

    By Amy Bertrand

    (MCT)—Our holiday season is in full swing. We are working on gift guides, toy tests, holiday cookie issues and more.

    So it’s not so hard for us to believe that the holiday season is right around the corner. In fact, we feel it’s time we start shopping now! just announced a fun list of the top shopping experiences worldwide. (More …)

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  • Keep Water Away From Your Home’s Foundation

    10:11 am on July 12, 2012 | Comments:0
    Tags: Consumer news and advice, home owner info, protecting your home   Filed under: Buyer Info, Consumer news and advice, Home owner information

    By Kathy Van Mullekom

    (MCT)—Water is good for trees, shrubs and many other plant forms. It’s not, however, always good for your house, especially when your property stays wet and does not drain properly.

    “Water is the number one cause of damage to the homes we live in,” says Jamison Brown with AmeriSpec Home Inspection Service in southeastern Virginia.

    “Excessive water around and under the footprint of the home can produce a host of unwanted consequences — fungal growth and structural damage.”

    To protect your home, the soil around the home should slope away from the foundation on all sides.

    (More …)

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  • Yet Another Housing Bear Turns Bull

    11:11 am on May 3, 2012 | Comments:0
    Tags: buyer inforamtion, Consumer news and advice, ,   Filed under: Agent information, Buyer Info, Consumer news and advice, Housing Market, Seller Info, Supply and Demand, The Housing Market

    by The KCM Crew on May 1, 2012

    Every day there seems to be more positive news about the real estate recovery. We attempt to give you two things in this blog:

    1. The actual data that indicates where the housing market is headed

    2. Quotes from analysts who have scrutinized this data

    Today, we want to give you a quote by Ivy Zelman which appeared last week in a Wall Street Journal article Stunned Home Buyers Find the Bidding Wars Are Back.

    “We very much believe we’ve hit bottom.”

    Why is the quote from Zelman important? She is an industry expert consistently recognized by Institutional Investor, Greenwich Associates, StarMine and The Wall Street Journal as an industry-leading analyst. She has been nicknamed ‘Poison Ivy’ for her harsh positions on housing over the last several years. Now, Zelman is calling a bottom and projecting prices to moderately increase in the next twelve months.

    Again, another expert on housing is calling a bottom; another bear turns bull.

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  • Market Tracker: National February Existing-Home Sales Up Strongly from a Year Ago

    9:45 am on March 22, 2012 | Comments:0
    Tags: , Consumer news and advice, , , , , statts   Filed under: Buyer Info, Consumer news and advice, Housing Market, Median Sales Price, NAR, National Association of Realtors, Seller Info, Statistics, The Housing Market

    Washington, March 21, 2012

    February existing-home sales declined from an upwardly revised January pace but are well above a year ago, while the median price posted a slight gain, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Sales were up in the Midwest and South, offset by declines in the Northeast and West.

    Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, slipped 0.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million in February from an upwardly revised 4.63 million in January, but are 8.8 percent higher than the 4.22 million-unit level in February 2011. (More …)

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  • National Mortgage Settlement: What You Need To Know

    10:58 am on February 16, 2012 | Comments:0
    Tags: , , Consumer news and advice, ,   Filed under: Agent information, Buyer Info, Consumer news and advice, Foreclosure, Housing Market, mortgage, Seller Info

    by The KCM Crew on February 13, 2012

    Last week, the Federal government and 49 state governments (Oklahoma being the exception) agreed to a $25 billion settlement regarding robo-signing and the challenges it created in the foreclosure process. We want to give a synopsis of the settlement and some perspective on what effect it will have on the housing market in 2012.

    The Basics

    The $25 billion in funds will be dispersed as follows:

    $17 Billion National Commitment to Foreclosure Relief Efforts
    The servicers collectively agree to commit a minimum of $17 billion directly to borrowers through foreclosure relief effort options, including principal reduction for qualifying borrowers, short sales, anti-blight measures, and enhanced homeowner transition programs.

    $3 Billion National Commitment to Underwater Mortgage Refinancing Program
    The servicers collectively agree to commit $3 billion to refinance “underwater” homes (when a homeowner owes more on a mortgage than a home’s current market value). To qualify, borrowers must be current on their mortgage payments on a mortgage owned by one of the five banks.

    $5 Billion Payment to States and Federal Government
    The servicers’ $4.25 billion payment to the states includes $1.5 billion for payments to borrowers who lost their home to foreclosure by one of the five servicers…$750 million of the state-federal payment will go to the federal government to resolve federal claims.

    For further details on the settlement you can go to the official website.

    Will the Settlement Have a Major Impact on a Housing Recovery?

    Probably not. Though it is a step in the right direction, it may be too little too late. Here are some opinions on the settlement:

    IHS Global Insights

     “Like many previous plans to stem foreclosures, this agreement will help at the edges. The problem is too big for it to have a large impact, however…This agreement will help the housing market move ahead in 2012 in a small way. But it is hardly a game changer.”

    “While there is no doubt some benefit to formalizing and organizing the process of foreclosure and better monitoring of the process, the fact is that the settlement changes little.”

    Capital Economics

     “While it is good that the settlement has been finalized and will offer principal reductions and refinancing schemes to borrowers, the bigger picture is that the settlement is not large enough to dramatically alter the outlook for the housing market or the wider economy.”

    What about Foreclosures Moving Forward?

    The settlement did bring clarity to one major issue – foreclosures. Banks have been holding off the foreclosure process on millions of homes over the last 18 months as they waited for the particulars of the settlement. They now know how they can move forward without penalty. The result will be an increase in foreclosures coming to the housing market.

    Housing Wire

    “It will speed up processing, and perhaps mean that foreclosures that have been waiting around since robo-signing came to light in 2010 will now gain legitimacy.”

    Calculated Risk

    “It does appear the number of completed foreclosures will increase following this settlement – especially in some judicial states with large backlogs – so there will probably be more REOs (lender Real Estate Owned) for sale.”

    Bloomberg News

    “The $25 billion settlement with banks over foreclosure abuses may result in a wave of home seizures…Lenders slowed the pace of foreclosures as they negotiated with attorneys general in all 50 states for more than a year over allegations of faulty and fraudulent paperwork used to repossess homes. With yesterday’s agreement, banks are likely to resume property seizures.”

    Wells Fargo

    “Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, said the settlement helps the housing market in the long run because it allows banks to proceed with millions of foreclosures that have been stalled. Many lenders have refrained from foreclosing on homes as they awaited the settlement.”

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  • Real Estate 2012: Many Positive Outlooks

    11:21 am on January 26, 2012 | Comments:0
    Tags: , Consumer news and advice, ,   Filed under: Agent information, Buyer Info, Consumer news and advice, Housing Market, Second Home Buyers, Seller Info, The Housing Market

    by The KCM Crew on January 24, 2012

    There is a growing belief among many experts that 2012 will be the year housing turns the corner and starts heading in a more positive direction. Whenever we write a post like this, we unleash the hordes of critics who say we are again wearing rose colored glasses or are puppets being controlled by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and other industry groups.

    It is for that reason we will not be covering the projections of those groups. Instead, we want to share the beliefs of other organizations.



    Washington Post:

    “Housing Market and Economy Showing Encouraging Signs.”

    The Wall Street Journal:

    “From Bottom Up, Signs of Housing Recovery”

    USA Today:

    “Housing Outlook is More Upbeat”


    “CoreLogic’s chief economist Mark Fleming says housing statistics and the duration of the downturn to date indicate 2012 may be the year the housing market begins to turn the corner.”

    Freddie Mac:

    With the New Year comes a sense of cautious optimism. There are some positive signs in the job market and consumer confidence; housing is starting to raise hopes for continued gradual economic recovery.”

    Fannie Mae:

    “The housing sector will likely take incremental steps forward in 2012 …according to economists at Fannie Mae.”

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  • Comparing Real Estate To Other Investments

    2:24 pm on January 5, 2012 | Comments:0
    Tags: , Consumer news and advice, ,   Filed under: Buyer Info, Consumer news and advice, investment, Stock Market

    by The KCM Crew on January 4, 2012

    We recently posted Real Estate: Today’s Golden Opportunity comparing the current housing market to the market for gold about a decade ago. Some commented on the fact that you can’t compare gold to real estate as an investment as gold is a very liquid asset and it would take more time and effort to sell a house. We were not trying to make the case for real estate vs. gold as an investment in our blog. We were just showing that all investments go through cycles and that the best time to buy any investment may be when everyone is saying not to.

    However, since the subject of comparing real estate to other investments has come up, let’s take a closer look. There are two major advantages to investing in a home of your own rather than another option:

    You Can’t Live in Your IRA

    When you buy your own home you are not taking available dollars away from another investment. You are replacing one housing expense (rent) which has no potential for a return on investment with another (mortgage payment) that does give you an opportunity for a return. We realize that there has been research showing that over the last 30 years renting has been less expensive than owning. That research also says that if you invested the entire difference between the rent payment and mortgage payment you may have done better financially.  There are two challenges with this conclusion:

    1. Today, in the vast majority of the country, renting is actually more expensive than owning a home.
    2. History has proven that tenants DO NOT invest the difference in their rent and mortgage payments.

    Today, study after study shows that owning a home is no more expensive than renting a home. However, even if this wasn’t the case, history shows that owning a home creates greater wealth.

    Paying a mortgage creates what financial experts call ‘forced savings’. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University released a study last year titled America’s Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities. In the study, they actually quantified the difference in family wealth between renters and homeowners:

    “[R]enters have only a fraction of the net wealth of owners. Near the peak of the housing bubble in 2007, the median net wealth of homeowners was $234,600—about 46 times the $5,100 median for renters. Even if homeowner wealth fell back to 1995 levels, it would still be 27.5 times the median for renters.”

    There Are Tremendous Tax Advantages to Investing in a Home

    There is no doubt that selling an investment such as gold is easier than selling your home. However, this liquidity comes at a price. The price is called capital gains. That is the tax you pay on any financial gain you receive from the investment. This tax doesn’t apply the same way when you sell your primary residence:

    Theresa Palagonia, a CPA and the Accounting Manager for the firm G.S. Garritano & Associates, was good enough to explain the Home Sale Exclusion Rules:

    “You may qualify to exclude from your income all or part of any gain from the sale of your main home. 

    Maximum Exclusion

    You can exclude up to $250,000 of the gain on the sale of your main home if all of the following are true:

    • You meet the ownership test.
    • You meet the use test.
    • During the 2 year period ending on the date of the sale, you did not exclude gain from the sale of another home.

    If you and another person owned the home jointly but file separate returns, each of you can exclude up to $250,000 of gain from the sale of your interest in the home if each of you meets the three conditions listed above.

    You may be able to exclude up to $500,000 of the gain on the sale of your main home if you are married and file a joint return and meet the requirements. (Special rules apply for joint returns.)

    Ownership and Use Tests

    During the 5 year period ending on the date of the sale, you must have:

    • Owned the home for at least 2 years, and
    • Lived in the home as your main home for at least 2 years

    Certain exceptions exist in which you may qualify for the exclusion without satisfying the tests listed.”

    Bottom Line

    Every investment has pros and cons. That is why there is such an assortment of great opportunities. Real Estate has been, is and always will be one of those opportunities.


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  • 4 Ways to Help Buyer Clients Get Off the Fence

    2:39 pm on December 5, 2011 | Comments:0
    Tags: , Consumer news and advice   Filed under: Buyer Info, Consumer news and advice

    By  Jovan Hackley

    December 1, 2011

    At the end of the day, the decision to make the leap into home ownerships rests in the client’s hands. A smart agent’s job is to make sure prospective owners have the right information to make their assessment and understand the unique opportunities today’s markets presents.

    Arnold’s question is an important one for agents to consider. Understanding the level and reasoning behind a potential buyer’s motivation can be valuable in helping clients make the best real estate decision.

    “One of the best questions I learned is ‘If I find you a perfect house within the next 2 to 3 days is there anything that would stop you from buying it?’” he says.

    Serious buyers make serious moves. “It all boils down to their motivation,” says Arnold Celis, III, Agent at Celis Properties under Casa Grande Realty

    4) Ask the Real Question

    To make your own custom snapshots of long term interest rates, check out the interactive Historical Treasury Rate published by the U.S. Treasury.

    To help her clients take advantage of today’s opportunities, – Melissa Kellerman, Agent at RE/Max Properties, Inc. Colorado Springs, CO says,  “I talk to [buyers] about the record low mortgage rates”.

    3) Show them Interest Rate History

    To get up to speed on the basics, check out NAR’s Guide or check out this free quick guide from the American Institute of CPA’s on the Tax Advantages of Home Ownership.

    Real estate taxes, mortgage interest, and certain home improvements can all mean significant savings (and potential refunds) for homeowners. Agents can help their potential clients understand these benefits.

    “The financial and tax benefits of owning a home vs. renting are very clear,” according to the National Association of Realtors Field Guide to the Social Benefits of Homeownership.

    2) Explain the Tax Advantages and Fiscal Benefits

    Recent data shows that in many areas buying outweighs renting by large margins. To show consumers how your area shapes up, check out Trulia’s Quarterly Rent vs. Buy Interactive Index or the U.S. Census Burea’s American Community Survey Brief.

    Garret says, “Recent comps, a “cost of waiting” analysis for first time buyers, and news articles” can be helpful as well.

    Jay Garrett , Agent at RE/MAX Champions, Freehold, NJ says “Very often the amount [buyers would] pay for rent is more than forecasted depreciation [for homes].” It’s important that agent point out these facts.

    Facts and numbers are an agent’s best resource when it comes to buyer counseling.

    Give them the Facts

    Check out the following 4 ways (along with a few resources) you can use to empower buyers to make the right decision and take advantage of today’s market.

    Successfully helping buyers understand the benefits of ownership and time their purchase correctly hinges, not only on an agent’s reassuring tone, but the information he or she offers buyers. Today buyer agents are just as much counselors/educators as they are sales people.




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  • Luxe Trends Holiday Gift Guide 2011

    2:19 pm on December 1, 2011 | Comments:0
    Tags: Consumer news and advice, gifts, ,   Filed under: Consumer news and advice, Luxury, Luxury Portfolio

    Click on image for printable format

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  • Underwater Refinance Program Expanded

    2:07 pm on October 27, 2011 | Comments:0
    Tags: Consumer news and advice, , , , , , , Refinancing   Filed under: Consumer news and advice, Federal Goverment, FHA, Foreclosure, Home owner information, mortgage

    by Dean Hartman on October 27, 2011

    At a campaign stop in Nevada on Monday, President Obama announced an expansion of the HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) which would eliminate the current maximum LTV of 125%. The initiative is being looked at as a way to reward those homeowners who have been good payers of their mortgages but, because of declining home values, they could not take advantage of today’s lower interest rates.

    While the actual details on the program will not be released until next month, here’s the buzz:


    • It will only pertain to loans currently being serviced by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
    • Because of the removal of the LTV cap, appraisals may not be required
    • With the only qualifying criteria announced being that the last six payments be on time, it is possible that income documentation may be streamlined and credit scores might be more forgiving
    • Fees allegedly will be reduced
    • Incentives may be offered to people who shorten their repayment time
    • It also sounds that the banks may be given some incentive by not holding them liable for the underwater portion of the new loan (a major incentive for sure).

    The government is on the hook for these loans already. By lowering the payments (by offering lower rates), they will likely help these loans to continue to perform and make it less likely for the underwater homeowner to walk away.

    The original HARP was expected to help 5 million families.  After two years, it has yet to reach 900,000; therefore, estimates ranging from 800,000 to 1.6 million borrowers who may benefit need to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Whether the Administration is looking for purely political rhetoric points or not, my advice to underwater homeowners is too keep an eye out for the final guidelines because you just might be able to lower your payments.

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