Fiscal Cliff and Real Estate

Late in the evening of Tuesday, January 1st Congress reached a settlement in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, and President Obama signed the legislation January 2nd.  As a result, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act was extended another year.  The measure will continue to exempt from taxation mortgage debt that is forgiven when homeowners and their mortgage lenders negotiate a short sale, loan modification (including principal reduction), or foreclosure.
The same provision also expired in California, but Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) introduced SB 30, which would waive the potential tax bill for Californians for all of 2013.  C.A.R. already signed on as the bill’s sponsor, and the two hope to fast track the bill through the Legislature.

Also under the fiscal cliff agreement, the so called “Pease Limitations” that reduce the value of itemized deductions are permanently repealed for most taxpayers but will be reinstituted for high income filers.  These limitations will only apply to individuals earning more than $250,000 and joint filers earning above $300,000.  The thresholds have been increased and are indexed for inflation so will rise over time.  Under the formula, filers gradually lose the value of their total itemized deductions up to a total of a 20 percent deduction.  The reinstitution of these limits has far less impact on the mortgage interest deduction (MID) than a hard dollar deduction cap, percentage deduction cap, or reduction of the amount of MID that can be claimed.

Capital gains rates on the sale of principal residences will remain unchanged and continues to exclude the first $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 for married couples.

REALTORS® should encourage their clients to consult with their own tax advisers about their own individual tax situation.

Information provided by Sacramento Association of Realtors.

 

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Article Posted on Zillow – 1 in 3 homeowner’s underwater

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Great Article posted on www.zillow.com that I wanted to share.

One in three mortgage holders still underwater

By John W. Schoen, Senior Producer

Got that sinking feeling? Amid signs that the U.S. housing market is finally rising from a long slumber, real estate Web site Zillow reports that homeowners are still under water.

Nearly 16 million homeowners owed more on their mortgages than their home was worth in the first quarter, or nearly one-third of U.S. homeowners with mortgages. That’s a $1.2 trillion hole in the collective home equity of American households.

Despite the temptation to just walk away and mail back the keys, nine of 10 underwater borrowers are making their mortgage and home loan payments on time. Only 10 percent are more than 90 days delinquent.

Still, “negative equity” will continue to weigh on the housing market – and the broader economy – because it sidelines so many potential home buyers. It also puts millions of owners at greater risk of losing their home if the economic recovery stalls, according to Zillow’s chief economist, Stan Humphries.

“If economic growth slows and unemployment rises, more homeowners will be unable to make timely mortgage payments, increasing delinquency rates and eventually foreclosures,” he said.

For now, the recent bottoming out in home prices seems to be stabilizing the impact of negative equity; the number of underwater homeowners held steady from the fourth quarter of last year and fell slightly from a year ago.

Zillow map: Where homes are underwater

Real estate market conditions vary widely across the country, as does the depth of trouble homeowners find themselves in. Nearly 40 percent of homeowners with a mortgage owe between 1 and 20 percent more than their home is worth. But 15 percent – approximately 2.4 million – owe more than double their home’s market value.

Nevada homeowners have been hardest hit, where two-thirds of all homeowners with a mortgage are underwater. Arizona, with 52 percent, Georgia (46.8 percent), Florida (46.3 percent) and Michigan (41.7 percent) also have high percentages of homeowners with negative equity.

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Loan Modification Scammers

One in 240 California housing units was in foreclosure in April 2011, according to Realty Trac, a statistic that places California foreclosures about 2.5 times higher than the national average.  Those statistics alone make the state a ripe market for loan modification scammers.

The Lawyer’s Committee is starting to file complaints against Nathanson Law Center and other alleged loan mod scammers.  The suit claims that the defendants lured desperate homeowners into paying up-front fees to secure them loan mods, and then did little or no work to follow up on their promised services.  While homeowners were offered 100% guarantees that their funds would be returned if a modification could not be obtained, the defendants later refused to turn their fees.  Many of the victims lost thousands of dollars – or worse, their homes. 

If you believe you have been the victim of a loan mod scam, you are encouraged to call (888) 995-HOPE or visit www.preventloanscams.org and click “Report a Scam!”  Victims are being represented free of charge

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Tips when applying for Loan Modification

The following tips were given by Stephfan Nurse, CEO of Consumer Education, makers of mortgage reduction software designed to help people thru the modification process: 

1)      When faxing or sending in your paperwork to your lender, make sure that your loan number is printed on every page you are sending in.  Lenders received thousands of papers a day and sometimes the cover sheet gets lost or the fax gets misplaced.  If you have the loan number on every page, they can make sure it gets in your file.

2)      Make sure that ALL of the requested paperwork is included in the file.  If you are missing just one required document, they will show your account is incomplete and your file sometimes goes to the bottom of the pile.

3)      Follow up every week with your lender to make sure all of the documents they have are up to date.   Don’t worry about being a pest; this usually keeps your file moving along.

 These tips are the same tips we use when submitting Short Sales.  The complete packages move along much quicker then the packages submitted with missing documents.  Some lenders even tell us to keep sending in pay stubs and bank statements so the file is kept current at all times.

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Loan Modification Scammers

One in 240 California housing units was in foreclosure in April 2011, according to Realty Trac, a statistic that places California foreclosures about 2.5 times higher than the national average.  Those statistics alone make the state a ripe market for loan modification scammers.

The Lawyer’s Committee is starting to file complaints against Nathanson Law Center and other alleged loan mod scammers.  The suit claims that the defendants lured desperate homeowners into paying up-front fees to secure them loan mods, and then did little or no work to follow up on their promised services.  While homeowners were offered 100% guarantees that their funds would be returned if a modification could not be obtained, the defendants later refused to turn their fees.  Many of the victims lost thousands of dollars – or worse, their homes. 

If you believe you have been the victim of a loan mod scam, you are encouraged to call (888) 995-HOPE or visit www.preventloanscams.org and click “Report a Scam!”  Victims are being represented free of charge.

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Most American’s Opposed to Homeowners Walking Away from Mortgages

A recent survey conducted by FindLaw.com a legal information website found that 60% of Americans believe that it is “never OK” for homeowners to simply stop making payments on their mortgages.  34% say it’s OK for homeowners to walk away from mortgages, but only if they aren’t able to make the monthly payments.  Only 3% believe that homeowners should be able to walk away from their mortgage anytime they want. 

Before making any major decisions, homeowners should consult with financial and legal professionals, including accountants, real estate attorneys and financial advisors.  Any major change to a mortgage situation could lead to serious and unanticipated consequences involving taxes, contract law, credit scores, ability to borrow in the future, potential for lawsuits and much more.

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California Law Helps Protect Distressed Homeowners doing Short Sales

Effective January 1, 2011, California first trust deed mortgage holders who consent to a short sale of residential property (up to 4 units) are prohibited from seeking a deficiency judgment for the difference between the mortgage balance and proceeds realized through the sale. 

Senate Bill931 was passed by legistature in August and approved by the Governor on 9/30/10 to help strapped homeowners.

See the complete article at Realty Times 

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Home Affordable Modification Program Modifications down 27%

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New data was released on 9/22/10 by Treasury and HUD on the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).  Just over 33,000 homeowners received a PERMANENT HAMP modification in August, 2010.  This figure is down 27% below the number of PERMANENT HAMP modifications in July, 2010. 

The borrowers whom received the PERMANENT HAMP modifications have seen their mortgage payments drop by a median of 36%, or more than $500 per month.  Homeowner’s who received these modifications saw their housing expenses fall from 45% to 31% of their monthly income

In August, 2010, 26,628 TRIAL HAMP modifications were added to the HAMP roster.  Currently there are 202,521 active trial modifications.  Federal officials are pushing the loan servicers to make decisions for borrowers who have completed the trial phase and either drop them from the program or make them permanent modifications. 

The Treasury stated that the most of the cancellations are due to insufficient documents received or missed or late trial payments.  In addition, if their principal housing expenses are already less than 31% they do not qualify for the program.

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