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Laura Feghali's Blog

By Laura Feghali | Agent in Stamford, CT
  • Proposal To Eliminate FHA's Pre-Payment Penalty

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Financing, Agent2Agent  |  March 17, 2014 7:37 AM  |  89 views  |  1 comment
    HUD has issued a proposal to eliminate FHA's post-payment interest charges thus relieving consumers of this additional financial burden. Conventional, VA, and Rural Housing loans  don't have these interest charges.

    Check out the article below for more details:



       On March 13, 2014, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a proposed rule to eliminate Federal Housing Administration (FHA) post-payment interest charges.  The policy change would prohibit mortgagees from charging borrowers interest on their home mortgages for days or weeks after a principal balance pay-off.  The proposed rule will align HUD policy with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Final Qualified Mortgage Rule. NAR has urged FHA and Ginnie Mae to remove this prepayment penalty for more than ten years.  Conventional loans, as well as loans from the Veterans Administration’s Loan Guaranty Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service loan program, do not have post-payment interest charges.  FHA’s antiquated policy has placed an unreasonable and often unexpected burden on FHA consumers who already face high housing and closing costs. NAR will provide a comment letter to HUD on the proposed rule by the comment due date of May 12, 2014.


    Source: realtor.org
  • Senate Passes Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Home Selling, Home Insurance  |  March 13, 2014 5:32 PM  |  130 views  |  No comments

    Good news!  The senate has voted to approve the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act which repeals FEMA's authority to increase rates at the time of sale or when a new flood map is created and also limits the the amount of premium increases based on the age of the property.

    Check out the article below for details:

    On March 13, 2014, the United States Senate voted 72-22 to approve the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (H.R. 3370). The Senate acted quickly to pass the bill as amended by the House to avoid the need for a conference committee to reconcile any differences. The new bill further reins in and holds the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) accountable for the Biggert-Waters implementation issues.

    As passed, the bill repeals FEMA’s authority to increase premium rates at time of sale or new flood map, and refunds the excessive premium to those who bought a property before FEMA warned them of the rate increase. The bill limits premium increases to 18% annually on newer properties and 25% for some older ones. Additionally, the bill adds a small assessment on policies until everyone is paying full cost for flood insurance. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law when it arrives at the White House. NAR had urged a swift vote in the Senate.

    Source: realtormag.realtor.org

  • Stamford CT Taxpayers Can Appeal Property Assessments

    Posted Under: General Area in Stamford, Agent2Agent in Stamford, Home Ownership in Stamford  |  March 12, 2014 7:42 AM  |  124 views  |  No comments

    Many Stamford home owners were shocked at the tax increase on their properties after the re-evaluation in 2012 and were frustrated that they did not have enough time to appeal the assessment.  They now have until March 20th to apply to the Board of Assessment Appeals. 

    The application can be found on the city's web site under "Property Assessments". Here is the link: http://www.stamfordct.gov/board-of-assessment-appeals.

    Check out the article below for more details:

    Residents of Stamford who wish to appeal their property assessment are now able to download the application and must have it submitted no later than Thursday, March 20. 

    Residents have the option to either complete the appeal application online, or can download the application and send it to the following address:

    888 Washington Blvd.
    6th Floor
    Stamford, CT 06901

    This will be the first opportunity for residents to appeal their assessment since learning of the tax implications following the revaluation that took place in December 2012. 

    After the application is submitted, the Board of Assessment Appeals will notify residents of the time and date of their hearing. The board anticipates that appeal hearings will begin in April. 

    Residents should come to their hearing with any and all evidence to help explain why an assessment may be incorrect. 

    In the past, property owners have presented appraisals, photographs, copies of deeds denoting easements or restrictions, as well as data on comparable properties in their neighborhoods.

    If the Board of Appeals decides to lower an assessment, residents will see a credit issued to their July 1, 2014 tax bill. 

    Appellants who feel aggrieved by the Board or are dissatisfied with their decisions may appeal to the Superior Court in their jurisdiction to hear the case within 60 days of notice.

    Source: stamforddailyvoice.com

  • Tax Reform Proposal Bad For Home Owners

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Home Selling, Investment Properties  |  February 27, 2014 12:34 PM  |  106 views  |  No comments

    Tax reform is on the horizon but probably won't be implemented for this year.  The proposal, which was three years in the making, negatively impacts home owners since it places limits on the mortgage interest deduction and capital gains as well as doing away with state and local property tax deductions.

    Check out the article below for more details:

    The comprehensive tax reform discussion draft that House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., released yesterday envisions a very different picture for home owners than what’s in place today. In a statement about the plan, NAR President Steve Brown says the association is concerned with many of the proposals.

    “Proposed limits on the mortgage interest deduction and capital gains, and the repeal of deductions for state and local property taxes ... will impact every single American, either directly or indirectly,” Brown says.

    Under the plan, today's seven tax brackets — which range from 10 percent to 39.6 percent — would be reduced to three: 10, 25, and 35 percent. The size of the standard deduction would be nearly doubled.

    The discussion draft envisions the vast majority of households paying a lower tax rate under the changes, although households earning more than $450,000 would also face the new 35 percent tax rate, and on a much broader income. Also, the deduction for personal exemptions would be eliminated, as would many other longstanding deductions and credits.

    Perhaps the most significant change for home owners would be the repeal of the deduction for state and local taxes paid. Under the plan, no amount of property tax would be deductible. This would also have the effect of taking away the mortgage interest deduction (MID) for millions of home owners who currently claim it because their total itemized deductions would fall below the newly-increased standard deduction threshold.

    Also for homeowners, the maximum mortgage amount eligible for the MID would be reduced from today's $1 million to $500,000 over four years, starting in 2015. The maximum mortgage amount would be $875,000 in 2015, $750,000 in 2016, $625,000 in 2017, and $500,000 thereafter. Mortgages in place in 2014 and earlier would be grandfathered in under today’s $1 million maximum. Also, interest on home equity loans would no longer be deductible.

    Americans selling their homes would also be affected by changes to the exclusion of gain from the sale of a principal residence. Instead of being eligible for the exclusion by owning and living in a home for two of the past five years, the proposal would increase this to five of the past eight years. It would also phase out the benefit of the exclusion for higher-income taxpayers.

    The plan envisions these changes making the standard deduction more attractive. “Far fewer taxpayers [about 5 percent] would choose to itemize overall,” the discussion draft prepared by the House Ways & Means Committee says, “with the remaining 95 percent of taxpayers finding they are better off by taxing advantage of the larger, simpler standard deduction instead.” While this would decrease complexity, it would actually eliminate the tax benefits available today for most home owners.

    Other changes would negatively affect commercial and investment real estate. The like-kind exchange provision, which allows gain to be deferred on certain real estate transactions, would be repealed. Depreciation schedules for real property would also be lengthened, and the tax rate on gain from previously taken depreciation would be increased.

    The plan, which was three years in development, is unlikely to go anywhere this year, House and Senate leaders of both parties have made clear. “I have no hope for [tax reform] happening this year,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says in a statement reported by The New York Times, Washington Post, and other major media yesterday.

    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the draft just the start of the discussion on tax reform.

    Source: realtormag.realtor.org

  • NAR: January 2014 Sales Down But Prices Are On The Rise

    Posted Under: Market Conditions, Home Buying, Home Selling  |  February 21, 2014 9:14 AM  |  103 views  |  No comments
    Below, is NAR's housing report for the month of January.  Low inventory levels in some regions are keeping sales down so are driving prices up but housing inventory levels did rise by 2.2% in January which represents a 4.9 month supply. And according to NAR's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, the winter weather has affected sales so has delayed some activity until the Spring. Overall, the national median sale's price is up 10.7% for single-family homes and up 1.8% for condos and co-ops.

    Check out the article below for more details:


    Existing-home sales fell in January to the lowest level in a year and a half, but ongoing inventory shortages continue to lift prices in much of the U.S., according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).Total existing-home sales dropped 5.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million in January from 4.87 million in December, and are also 5.1 percent below the 4.87 million-unit pace in January 2013. Last month's level of activity was the slowest since July 2012, when it stood at 4.59 million.

    Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, blamed the weather, in part."Disruptive and prolonged winter weather patterns across the country are impacting a wide range of economic activity, and housing is no exception," Yun said in a statement. "Some housing activity will be delayed until spring. At the same time, we can't ignore the ongoing headwinds of tight credit, limited inventory, higher prices and higher mortgage interest rates. These issues will hinder home sales activity until the positive factors of job growth and new supply from higher housing starts begin to make an impact."

    The median existing-home price for all housing types in January was $188,900, up 10.7 percent from January 2013. Distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales - accounted for 15 percent of January sales, compared with 14 percent in December and 24 percent in January 2013. Eleven percent of January sales were foreclosures, and 4 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 16 percent below market value in January, while short sales were discounted 13 percent.

    Total housing inventory at the end of January rose 2.2 percent to 1.90 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.9-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.6 months in December. Unsold inventory is 7.3 percent above a year ago, when there was a 4.4-month supply. A supply of 6 to 6.5 months represents a rough balance between buyers and sellers.

    According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 4.43 percent in January from 4.46 percent in December; the rate was 3.41 percent in January 2013.The median time on market for all homes was 67 days in January, down from 72 days in December and 71 days on market in December 2013. Short sales were on the market for a median of 150 days in January, while foreclosures typically sold in 58 days and non-distressed homes took 66 days. Thirty-one percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.

    First-time buyers accounted for 26 percent of purchases in January, down from 27 percent in December and 30 percent in January 2013. This is the lowest market share for first-time buyers since NAR began monthly measurement in October 2008; normally, they should be closer to 40 percent.All-cash sales comprised 33 percent of transactions in January, up from 32 percent in December and 28 percent in January 2013. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 20 percent of homes in January, compared with 21 percent in December and 19 percent in January 2013. Seven out of 10 investors paid cash in January.Single-family home sales fell 5.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.05 million in January from 4.30 million in December, and are 6.0 percent below the 4.31 million-unit pace in January 2013.

    The median existing single-family home price was $188,900 in January, up 10.4 percent from a year ago.Existing condominium and co-op sales were unchanged at an annual rate of 570,000 units in January, and are 1.8 percent above a year ago. The median existing condo price was $188,700 in January, which is 13.0 percent above January 2013.Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 3.1 percent to an annual rate of 620,000 in January, and are also 3.1 percent below January 2013. The median price in the Northeast was $241,100, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.


    Source: The Commercial Record
  • 5 Tips For Home Buyers To Secure A Mortgage

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Financing, Credit Score  |  February 20, 2014 1:57 PM  |  120 views  |  No comments

    Below, are some excellent tips from Bankrate.com to help home buyers get the best rate on securing a mortgage loan. Pay particular attention to #5 as your debt-to-income ratio makes a difference.

    Check it out:

    1. Be prepared to document your finances. Buyers should be prepared for extra review by lenders when underwriting mortgages due to new mortgage regulations that took effect in January, particularly in proving borrowers’ ability to repay their loans. Borrowers should be prepared to show bank statements, tax returns, W-2s, investment accounts, and documentation of any other assets they own. Also, they should be prepared to explain any large deposits to their accounts—even a $500 check from a family member during the holidays. If they can’t prove where the money came from, it has the potential to delay closing.
    2. Lock in a rate soon. Mortgage rates are expected to rise in 2014 as the Federal Reserve winds down its $85B per month bond buying stimulus program. A rate lock is usually good for 30, 45, or 60 days, although that time period can vary among lenders.
    3. Shop around. Buyers may have the upper hand in 2014. Lenders have lost a large amount of their refinance business this year as rising rates encourage fewer home owners to refinance. That means they are turning their attention to home buyers and may be more willing to compete for their business. Home buyers will want to shop around for more than just the best interest rate on the loan, looking at points and closing costs as well.
    4. Pay careful attention to credit. The best mortgage rates often go to borrowers with credit scores of 720 or higher, Bankrate reports. While those with a credit score of 680 can still likely qualify for a loan, they may end up paying higher rates or higher closing costs.
    5. Watch your spending. Make sure your buyers aren’t tempted to go outfit their new home with all new furniture—on credit—before closing on the home loan. Lenders will be carefully scrutinizing their debt obligations, such as credit cards and student loans. Borrowers are advised to keep their monthly debt obligations, including mortgage and property taxes, to below 43 percent of their income.

    Source: realtormag.realtor.org

  • Foreclosures Fall 24% In 2013

    Posted Under: Market Conditions, Financing, Foreclosure  |  January 29, 2014 11:26 AM  |  113 views  |  1 comment

        According to a new report from real estate data and analytics provider CoreLogic,foreclosures fell 24 percent across the country in 2013, with December's monthly tally down 14 percent compared with 2012.

    Check out the article below for more details: 

        According to the report, there were 620,111 completed foreclosures across the country in 2013 compared with 820,498 in 2012. For the month of December, there were 45,000 completed foreclosures, down from 52,000 in December 2012. On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures decreased 4.1 percent, from 47,000 reported in November 2013. Prior to the decline in the housing market in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month nationwide between 2000 and 2006.

        U.S. foreclosure inventory declined even more steeply in 2013, with approximately 837,000 homes in the United States in some stage of foreclosure at year's end, compared with 1.2 million in December 2012, a year-over-year decrease of 31 percent.

       The foreclosure inventory as of December 2013 represented 2.1 percent of all homes with a mortgage compared with 3 percent in December 2012. The foreclosure inventory was down 2.7 percent from November 2013 to December 2013, according to CoreLogic."The foreclosure inventory fell by more than 30 percent in December on a year-over-year basis, twice the decline from a year ago," Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic, said in a statement. "The decline indicates that the distressed foreclosure inventory is healing at an accelerating rate heading into 2014".

        The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in December 2013 were Florida, Michigan, California, Texas and Georgia. Together, they accounted for almost half of all completed foreclosures nationally.

        The five states with the highest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes were Florida (6.7 percent), New Jersey (6.5 percent), New York (4.9 percent), Connecticut (3.6 percent) and Maine (3.6 percent).

    Source: The Commercial Record
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