Monday, October 31, 2011
Rising rents are forcing renters to outspend home owners on housing costs, according to a new study.
Since 2005, home owners’ housing expenses have climbed from 31.9 percent of their household budget to 33.2 percent. On the other hand, in that same time period, renters’ expenses have jumped from 35.6 percent to 38.4 percent, according to the October CoreLogic U.S. Housing and Mortgage Trends.
In the last 26 years, home owners have increased the amount they spend on household expenses by 12 percent while renters have increased it by 22 percent, according to the study.
Earlier this month, Capital Economics economists noted that for the first time in 30 years the median monthly mortgage payment is about the same -- or less -- than the median rental payment.
Yet, with the bleak job market, home ownership rates continue to fall in many parts of the country, particularly among younger generations. CoreLogic found in its report that the home ownership rate for the 25-to-34 age group dropped from 51.6 percent in 1980 to 42 percent in 2010. For the 35-to-44 age group, home ownership rates fell from 71.2 percent to 62.3 percent over that period.
Bismarck, N.D is expected to see some of the strongest gains in home appreciation in the next year, according to a new report from Veros Real Estate Solutions, a risk management and collateral valuation service. With a low unemployment rate at 3.5 percent and a growing economy, Bismarck is forecasted to see housing values appreciate at 5.6 percent, according to Veros.
Veros projects that the following five markets will post the strongest gains in home appreciation over the next year:
- Bismarck, N.D.: 5.6 percent
- Honolulu: 2.9
- Fargo, N.D.-Minn.: 2
- Harrisburg/Carlisle, Pa.: 1.9
- Pittsburgh, Pa: 1.9
The unemployment rate and housing supply tend to be the biggest factors differentiating the projected strong markets from the weak. The projected five weakest housing markets in the next year, according to Veros, are:
- Bakersfield, Calif.: -5.5 percent
- Reno/Sparks, Nev.: -5.1
- Deltona/Daytona Beach/Ormond Beach, Fla.: -5.1
- Las Vegas/Paradise, Nev.: -5
- Fresno, Calif.: -4.8
“Overall, the recovery in the housing market is limited to just a few markets and is taking a long time to occur,” says Eric Fox, Veros vice president of statistical and economic modeling. “The encouraging news is that many markets are no longer expected to be rapidly declining.”
Animals left in abandoned homes with no food is a scenario that has become more common since the real estate market tanked and triggered soaring foreclosure rates, say real estate agents, mail carriers and animal rescue groups on the front lines of the problem.
These pets have not only been left behind, but are locked in foreclosed and abandoned homes by their owners.
They suffer a slow death from starvation and dehydration, unless someone finds and rescues them in time.
“They are the silent and unfortunate victims of this,” said Suzanne Sherer of Re/Max Realty in Cape Coral, Fla. “Most of the time when the Realtor gets involved, it may be too late.”
It was almost too late for the big orange tabby that Carolyn Herman, a mortgage broker, found on the lanai of a foreclosed home.
“When I first peeked in the sliding glass door, I thought the animal was dead. There was nothing but fur with some bones stuffed inside of it,” she said.
Then the cat opened its eyes. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, that animal is still alive,’ ” she said.
Herman, a former cardiac nurse, had an emergency kit with an IV in her car. “I was literally driving from this house to my house with one hand holding the IV needle between his shoulders.” The cat survived and was adopted by a loving home, Herman said.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimated in 2009 up to a million animals would be abandoned at shelters, outdoors and in foreclosed homes. There is no updated estimate or a centralized database tracking the problem, though, said Joan Carlson-Radabaugh, ASPCA community initiative director.
Some real estate agents across the country have banded together to help.
Cheryl Lang, president of Integrated Mortgage Solutions in Houston, formed the nonprofit No Paws Left Behind in 2008. Now a nationwide network, the group has rescued at least 1,000 animals.
“I can certainly help the collateral damage that has been left behind through these borrowers through ignorance,” Lang said.
Denita McCarty, who works at the Lehigh Acres, Fla., post office, steps in when mail carriers report abandoned animals.
There was one Labrador retriever that was so hungry the dog had eaten some of his tail.
“These people -- there are times I just bawl my eyes out. It’s just so sad. You have to stay strong and move on to the next one,” McCarty said.
While there is no excuse for abandoning an animal, rescuers say, area shelters are bursting with animals.
“You have to be realistic,” said Ria Brown, Lee County Domestic Animal Services, of those who know they’re facing foreclosure. “Try to rehome them yourself. If you’re desperate, you need to tell somebody and not move away and leave them inside the home, regardless.”
Animal services will take animals abandoned in homes, but the process is long and full of red tape. Animal control officers have to post warnings, document the evidence of neglect and not trespass on the property unless accompanied by law enforcement. To get into the home and take the animal, they need a search warrant.
Betty Hughes, board member and treasurer of the Animal Refuge Center, a no-kill shelter in North Fort Myers, Fla., said the top three reasons animals are sheltered are foreclosure, job loss and divorce. Rescuers say pet owners, afraid their animals will be euthanized, will leave them in homes with food and water, believing someone will come in a couple of days to find them. But it can be weeks or months before someone enters the home.
It’s that time of year—a time that many folks will be heading out to local haunted house attractions, looking to get their share of Halloween scares.
But for those looking for year-round spookiness, here is a compiled list of top 10 haunted houses for sale. That’s right—haunted homes that you can actually buy.
The creator said they arrived at their top ten list by spending many hours with paranormal experts, ghost tour guides and real estate agents across the U.S. to find the spookiest estates on the market.
There is one Ohio haunt on the list—at number nine sits the abandoned mansion once owned by boxer Mike Tyson. The house sits on a lot of more than 60 acres in rural Southington, Ohio. It was previously owned by Tyson, a former county commissioner, and currently imprisoned infomercial mogul Paul Monea. The property, once valued at more than $2 million, now sits vacant, priced at $1.3 million.
Other homes for sale include a haunted horse farm in Kentucky, the “Psycho” murder victim's home in Beverly Hills, an evil clown prefab in Texas, the “Ozzie” California home, a New Orleans haunted bed and breakfast and a Dean Martin ghost in Minnesota—all are for sale.
TOP 10 HAUNTED HOMES
10. Ozzie the Ghost!
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Forget the toasters and champagne flutes: More engaged couples are doing a different type of wedding registry that allows them to collect cash for a down payment on a home, according to a recent article in The Washington Times.
An option for some couples is a nontraditional wedding registry that enables wedding guests to help them gather the cash they need for a down payment on a home. Nontraditional wedding registries also can be used for honeymoon expenses and for charitable donations. Some couples choose to set up more than one wedding registry, including one for traditional gifts and another for down-payment funds.
Dana Ostomel, founder of Deposit a Gift in New York City, has set up approximately 6,500 gift registries since she launched her company in 2009, about 600 of them for customers in the D.C. area. Mrs. Ostomel said about 15 percent of those registries are for down-payment funds and an additional 15 percent are for home-improvement funds to pay for items ranging from a new roof to new furniture.
“Given that 75 percent of today’s engaged couples already live together and are older, very often they are already established with the household basics that you find on a traditional registry,” Mrs. Ostomel said. “What they want is the gift of big-ticket items and longer-term goals, like the gift of homeownership.
“The best gift to get them [to those goals] is cash. The reality is that while it is taboo to ask for cash, it is ultimately the preferred gift. Deposit a Gift leverages the socially accepted platform of the traditional gift registry to allow people to register for what they can’t in a department store.”
In October 1996, a Federal Housing Administration initiative known as the Bridal Registry enabled couples to open an account with a lender in which friends and family could deposit gift funds toward a down payment. That initiative was phased out in 2000, but the FHA still allows gifts accumulated at a wedding to be used for a down payment. Lenders are required to document that the funds are gifts and provide a statement that the funds are not from a participating seller, builder or real estate agent who would benefit from the sales transaction when a home is purchased.
“An FHA loan requires a 3.5 percent down payment, and the entire payment can be made from gift funds,” said Gail Kullman, a senior loan officer with Prime Lending in Alexandria. “On a conventional loan, the borrower can use some gift money as part of the down payment, but 5 percent of the down payment must come from their personal funds rather than a gift.”
According to the 2010 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 27 percent of first-time homebuyers used gift money from relatives and friends to make their down payment Fifty-eight percent of homebuyers in 2010 were married couples.
Ms. Kullman said couples who choose to use cash from wedding guests as a down payment must make copies of the checks and verify that the funds are a gift.
“The best way to send funds is to wire them so that it is easier for a lender to see who the donor was,” Ms. Kullman said. “Lenders will also require a gift letter that shows that the donors do not have a financial interest in the purchase of a particular property. There are lots of ways to document that the gifts are from a wedding, such as setting up a separate account and verifying the wedding with a copy of the invitation or the certificate of marriage. A wedding registry would work well, too.”
Ms. Kullman also said that couples who wait a few months after the wedding before making a down payment on a property will not need to provide verification that the funds come from a gift.
“I would recommend talking with a lender before establishing a wedding registry to make sure you meet the requirements of that particular lender,” Ms. Kullman said. “In general, most lenders require two months of bank statements to verify your assets. If you have received the down-payment gifts and they are in your account for three months or longer, then the money is considered yours and won’t require documentation like a gift”
Mrs. Ostomel said that most down-payment registries she sets up generate between $5,000 and $10,000 in gift funds for a home purchase. A 3.5 percent down payment on a $300,000 home is $10,500.
Registrants can personalize their site with photos and lists of things they will need for their home, such as the front door, kitchen cabinets and a deck, so that gift-givers can feel they are choosing a particular item rather than just giving cash. The cash is then accumulated, and the bride and groom can make partial or full withdrawals for any purpose.
At 1-800-Registry, more than 1,700 wedding registries for down-payment funds have been established since the company launched in April, said Amy Fitzgerald, vice president of consumer marketing for 1-800-Registry in Las Vegas.
“Nontraditional registries are growing in popularity,” Ms. Fitzgerald said. “Brides and grooms can create a wedding blog on our site, upload photos and describe what they are looking for in a home or even post photos of a home they have already identified. The wedding guests and anyone else can donate funds directly to the site, and the money is held in an FDIC-insured account until they are ready to withdraw it.”
1-800-Registry is licensed to provide real estate services, including a 1 percent rebate for registrants who purchase a home with one of the company’s builder partners in California, Nevada or Texas. The company will be offering these services in the D.C. area in the future, but no specific date has been set.
Each wedding registry sets different rules for participation, so brides and grooms should be careful to read the fine print and know what fees are involved and how they will access the gift funds. In most cases, the gift funds are available immediately and can be used for other purposes than a home down payment
A nontraditional registry can be created for commitment ceremonies, graduations, baby showers and more. It’s up to the recipients to decide how to use their gift money.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Single-family home prices were unchanged in August, pointing to a market that continued to stabilize but has yet to gain traction, a closely watched survey said on Tuesday.
The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas was flat compared to the month before on a seasonally adjusted basis. A Reuters poll of economists had forecast a gain of 0.1 percent.
On an unadjusted basis, price gains slowed with the index up 0.2 percent compared to a 0.9 percent gain in July.
The annual rate of decline improved, with prices in the 20 cities down 3.8 percent compared to a year over year decline of 4.1 percent the month before. Still, it fell shy of expectations for a decline of 3.5 percent in August.
"The good news is continued improvement in the annual rates of change in home prices," David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor's, said in a statement.
"In spring and summer's seasonally strong period for housing demand, we cautioned that monthly increases in prices had to be paired with improvement in annual rates before anyone could declare that the market might be stabilizing."