Thursday, March 27, 2008

Don't Forget: PMI is Deductible

As April 15 tax day approaches, here is a reminder for home buyers with mortgage insurance.Home owners with adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 or less can deduct the full cost of their government or private mortgage insurance premiums on their 2007 federal returns.Families with incomes between $100,000 and $109,000 are eligible for a reduced deduction.This is a new tax break that Congress has approved through 2010. "On average, this year's tax break could be worth $350 per taxpayer — an annual deduction that qualified home owners can take each year through 2010," says Kevin Schneider, president of the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America (MICA).

Source: MICA (03/26/08)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This Spring’s Hot Home Decorating Trend

(ARA) – Want to get a feel for what’s hot in the world of home decor these days? All you have to do is visit a couple of model homes in your community and take a good look around. You’re sure to recognize a recurring theme.

The cabinets you saw in the high-end kitchen closely resemble the furniture in the adjoining breakfast nook, and the ceiling molding in the dining room matches perfectly as well. These days, designers are going out of their way to carry a single theme throughout the entire house. It’s a design trend called unification.

A good example of this practice can be found at fashion and lifestyle expert Robert Verdi’s Luxe Laboratory, an innovative venue for displaying the best of today’s luxury brands for the home. The lab, situated inside a stunning 3,400 square foot loft on the 13th floor of an art deco building on West 30th Street in Manhattan, features a collection of luxury brands -- displayed in context -- to create a seamless total experience that stimulates the style senses.

From the moment you walk through the door, you’re transformed into a space that’s Déjà New -- characteristic of a new French look with touches of old world flair. There’s oversized furniture and big chandeliers. The kitchen is organized and contemporary without being sterile. The cabinetry is being used as a template for what is truly a great room. The library mimics the cabinetry in the kitchen with the same style and finish.

“I wanted the space to be consistent, with a natural flow from one room to the next. No one wants their home to feel like a showroom so the cabinetry in this space unifies the design theme and connects with the rest of the décor,” says Verdi.

Vince Achey, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry, the brand of cabinets chosen for the Luxe Laboratory, agrees with Verdi’s assessment. “Custom cabinetry is the only way to utilize every inch of space and make storage easy, convenient and accessible as well as beautiful. We know our customer has specific storage needs and we try to accommodate them in every way possible, with designs that are smart and functional.”

In the kitchen, some of the most popular custom applications people are requesting include decorative storage houses for toasters and other appliances, built-in spice racks, pull-out drawers and cutting boards that fit right into the counter.

In the library or family room, homeowners have the option of continuing the look by installing matching custom bookshelves/cabinets that offer ample storage space. They may cover all four walls and/or reach from the ground to ceiling. Whatever the homeowner wants.

Matching cabinets above the washer/dryer in the laundry room allow the homeowner to store detergent, dryer sheets and stain remover out of sight so the room has a clean look. They may also want to add a pull down iron or folding shelf that can be pulled out when it’s time to fold laundry, then put back when they’re done. “The possibilities with custom cabinetry are truly endless,” says Achey.

No matter what your dream home looks like, functional, customized storage solutions will make all the difference. To learn more about the benefits of custom cabinetry, and get an idea of the looks and materials available, log on to www.plainfancycabinetry.com. Click on “Find Your Style” to choose the cabinetry design theme that’s perfect for your home.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Downpayment Assistance Update

HUD has been prohibited from implementing their rule which would abolish the use of "seller funded" down payment assistance programs (Nehemiah). Therefore, we may continue to use The Nehemiah Program for the foreseeable future.

On Friday, February 29, 2008 the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California issued a final ruling in Case No. CIV. S-07-2056 - in favor of The Nehemiah program. The decision requires HUD to "set aside" their final rule as published on October 1, 2007, which was to go into effect on March 31, 2008. As a result of this ruling, HUD is prohibited from invoking the final rule at this time. If HUD still wishes to proceed on this issue, they are required to start the process completely over and comply in entirety with the Administrative Procedures Act. This would entail them to once again issue a Proposed Rule and solicit comments, and adequately review and consider all comments (this is where they failed in the previous attempt), before issuing a Final Rule. In the worst case, once the Final Rule is issued, Nehemiah will once again be issued a six month grace period before the rule can be applied.

Please note, Both Houses of The United States Congress are debating legislation to Modernize the Federal Housing Administration. Both bills contain specific language and parameters with regard to "seller funded" down payment assistance programs. As you can probably imagine, the two houses do not currently agree. This will continue to be a "hot topic", which will probably be reported on in the mainstream press. If Congress comes to a resolution, and submits a Bill to the President, that he/she also signs, it is unclear how any changes will be enacted, and more importantly if Nehemiah will get a six month grace period.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Real Estate, A Good Investment

According to a recent Merrill Lynch Economic Report, the prices of homes have not decreased, as some may believe. In fact, real estate prices have increased 60% since 2000. If you've owned your home since then and are worried about the return on your property, have no fear because even if prices do decrease when it's time to sell, you'll still be ahead. If you're thinking about purchasing a new home in the current market, keep in mind that real estate is one of the few investments you can make using leverage. This means you can put 10 to 20% down, yet your return is based on the full market value of your home.

In the past eight years, the S&P 500 report has only declared a 1% per year return, despite stocks doubling in the past five years. It's important to think long term when it comes to the value of your investment. Real estate investments have provided larger returns in the same amount of time. Also, consider the "use" benefit of owning a home compared to owning stock. You'll be able to tangibly enjoy a real estate investment. You probably can't make fond memories with stocks, but owning a home provides the opportunity to create traditions and a place to call home.

Finally, considering the recent drops in interest rates, now is the time to buy and lock in a low fixed mortgage rate. It may be tempting to wait for the rates to drop more, but there is a chance you will miss out. Nobody can accurately and consistently predict the market. Investing now, while you know you have the upper hand, will provide you with a comfortable interest rate you'll be happy with. If you've owned your home for more than two years, you may want to consider refinancing. Especially if you have an adjustable rate mortgage, securing a low fixed interest rate can help ensure the stability of your financial future.

Rest assured that your decision to a buy a home is the right decision, and be confident in your investment!

Contact me for more information.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


In a Down Market, Just Add Color

(ARA) – When it comes to your home’s exterior, color is currency. With millions of homes across the country currently on the market, smart homeowners are differentiating their houses and wowing potential buyers with color - from the roof all the way down to the landscaping.

“Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to beige siding and basic black shingles to play it safe when it comes to exterior color,” says Leslie Segrete, co-host of the Money Pit home improvement radio show. “Contrast can be tastefully done with the home’s enduring architectural elements, while bold or trendy can be reserved for elements that are more easily changed, like landscaping.”

Whether you’re planning to sell your home in this highly competitive market, or just create a classic look you’ll enjoy for years to come, here are some things to keep in mind when adding color to create curb appeal.

From the Top Down
Homeowners might not think of their roof as a part of the overall aesthetic of their home, but it is one of the first things a prospective buyer sees. A roof can account for as much as half of your home’s exterior, yet is an often-overlooked design opportunity. “A new roof is certainly a selling point for a house, but an interesting new roof – one that makes a statement with color or design – can really help pump up curb appeal and enjoyment,” Segrete says.

Color choices in asphalt shingles have been expanding in recent years, and it’s no longer necessary to resort to costly exotic materials – like tile or slate – to create a character-filled look. You can add elegance or whimsy by creating patterns with splashes of color outlined in a contrasting color against a conservative background. Owens Corning, America’s number one brand of roofing shingles, offers a wide selection of shingle colors that can be used in contrasting colors to create eye-catching designs in your roof shingles. You can see examples of a diamond motif and download information from the Owens Corning website, www.owenscorning.com/ibs2008.

Color Cues
Color can help sell a house, real estate experts agree, and a poor color choice can alienate your neighbors; not only will it be an eyesore but it can devalue your home and others around it.

According to Segrete classic, clean and elegant, white consistently shows up on the top of the list in surveys of Americans’ most popular color choices for homes. Earth tones of beige, green, brown or tan usually follow closely in terms of preference. While, historically, the more conservative colors have been popular to Americans, times are changing and homeowners are becoming more adventurous with color. Blues and grays are slightly less popular, but still considered within the range of what’s acceptable. Reds and pinks are the least popular, unless, of course, your home has a brick façade or is in a tropical or historic neighborhood.

Whatever color you choose, don’t forget that complementary colors and shades can be used to highlight the architectural style of your home. Darker color blends provide contrast while lighter colors simplify a home’s lines and angles and can make the home appear larger. For example, you may be able to get away with lavender on a gingerbread-style Victorian, but the color would be far less appropriate on many of today’s modern homes.

Liberty to Landscape
Landscaping is the area where homeowners can have the most versatility – and fun – with color. Because plants are not permanent, it’s possible to take risks or make bold statements with color choices. If you don’t care for something or your real estate agent advises you to tone down the color scheme, it’s relatively easy to redo small landscaping elements.

While you have more wiggle room choosing plant and floral colors, do keep in mind positioning and location, especially for large elements like trees or shrubs. Generally, you want colors near the home that will contrast or complement the color of the house itself, and remember to avoid one of the worst landscaping faux pas – obscuring windows or the front door with large trees or shrubs.

With a little know how, homeowners can easily differentiate their home from the neighbors, and in a down market that can make other sellers green with envy.

Courtesy of ARAcontent