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Protect Yourself from Mortgage Fraud

by Pat Fales, Associate Broker

As a leader in real estate, I am repeatedly asked specific questions about today's market - especially in today's economy. In an effort to provide more information to my community, I am including this Top 5 Real Estate Social Networking Systemsm “e-Article,” in which I provide useful real estate information to my real estate networks. If you find the enclosed information beneficial to your family and friends, I encourage you to share it with your “social network" as well.

10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Mortgage Fraud

Many of the challenges homeowners and home buyers are confronting today are the result of unscrupulous mortgages extended over the past several years. Help protect yourself during the home buying process with these tips from the American Homeowners Foundation and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, www.AmericanHomeowners.org, or in Canada, www.genworth.ca:

1. Deal only with reputable mortgage bankers or mortgage brokers. Get recommendations from neighbors and friends who dealt with them as customers. Check on the mortgagor’s record with the local Better Business Bureau and state licensing authority. As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I can also provide you with many credible mortgage resources.

2. Ask how long they have been in the business, and be wary of working with someone with less than five years experience, no matter how reputable their employer may be.

3. Unlike professional real estate agents like myself, mortgagors owe you no fiduciary duty. While it is in the long-term interest of mortgage lenders and brokers to treat consumers fairly, for many, that doesn’t stand in the way of charging higher fees or interest rates. Always get quotes from at least three mortgage lenders and/or brokers, and make sure each one knows you are doing so.

4. Since you’ll be providing them the most comprehensive personal financial information you’ll ever provide any company, ask the lender to describe their data security policies, both online and offline.

5. To reduce the likelihood of overpaying for a home, make sure that you review recent selling prices for similar homes in the same neighborhood before you make an offer. I can provide you with a detailed analysis of the homes in our communities.

6. Set aside some extra money for closing costs. One of the vexations of real estate financing are the differences in estimated settlement costs on the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) forms, and the actual settlement costs, which very often include several hundred additional dollars worth of previously undisclosed and creatively named fees.  

7. Pick the right kind of mortgage. Interest rates are higher on 30 year fixed rate loans than on 15 year fixed rate loans. Adjustable rate mortgage are always a gamble. You may well save money over the first few years if interest rates are dropping, but predicting their direction further out is very speculative. Prepayment penalties can more than offset any savings if the rates go up after that and you want to refinance.

8. Get pre-approved for your loan. Even though there is a glut of homes for sale in most areas right now, a mortgage loan pre-approval is essential to many sellers, and gives a big negotiating advantage to buyers in almost all cases.

9. It is important to review loan documents in advance and understand all the terms. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Try to avoid loans with prepayment penalties if at all possible.

10. Save all the copies of all documents you receive and/or provide mortgage lenders or brokers.

For more advice on how to secure the best mortgage in today’s challenging economic times, please e-mail me directly at pat@patfales.com.  I can help you make sense of the current mortgage landscape and the ever-changing credit standards. Also, if this information can be of benefit to your friends and family members, please feel free to share it with  them.

 

 

Homebuyer's Tax Credit Extension

by Pat Fales, Associate Broker
As you can imagine, with the news of the Home-buyer Tax Credit extension, we have received dozens of updates from our professional network of lenders, title companies and other brokers. One in particular that I received from our Bank of America lender is concise, to the point and easily understood. I am including it here for your review.
 
Although you may not be in the market to buy or sell a primary residence yourself at this moment, you may know someone who could really benefit from this kind of a concession. In fact, it could mean the difference for some between buying a home or continuing to rent. Since mortgage interest rates are still unbelievably low and housing affordability is the best it has been for years, this little assist from Uncle Sam will be the frosting on the cake for some who are in the market to buy right now! 
 
Please share the details of this great program with anyone you know - then have them call us if they need some clarification or would like to know more about how it might benefit them.
 
As always, we appreciate your referrals and your business! 
 
Homebuyer Tax Credit Update!
Compliments of Rick Elmendorf, Bank of America

On November 6, 2009, President Obama signed a bill to extend the tax credit for first-time homebuyers (FTHBs) through June 30, 2010. The bill also opens up opportunities for others who are not buying a home for the first time.

TAX CREDIT OVERVIEW

Who Gets What?

First-Time Homebuyers (FTHBs): First-time homebuyers (that is, people who have not owned a home within the last three years) may be eligible for the tax credit. The credit for FTHBs is 10% of the purchase price of the home, with a maximum available credit of $8,000

Single taxpayers and married couples filing a joint return may qualify for the full tax credit amount.

Current Owners: The tax credit program now gives those who already own a residence some additional reasons to move to a new home. This incentive comes in the form of a tax credit of up to $6,500 for qualified purchasers who have owned and occupied a primary residence for a period of five consecutive years during the last eight years.

Single taxpayers and married couples filing a joint return may qualify for the full tax credit amount.

What are the New Deadlines?

In order to qualify for the credit, all contracts need to be in effect no later than April 30, 2010 and close no later than June 30, 2010.

What are the Income Caps?

The amount of income someone can earn and qualify for the full amount of the credit has been increased.

Single tax filers who earn up to $125,000 are eligible for the total credit amount. Those who earn more than this cap can receive a partial credit. However, single filers who earn $145,000 and above are ineligible

Joint filers who earn up to $225,000 are eligible for the total credit amount. Those who earn more than this cap can receive a partial credit. However, joint filers who earn $245,000 and above are ineligible.

What is the Maximum Purchase Price?

Qualifying buyers may purchase a property with a maximum sale price of $800,000.
  
What is a Tax Credit?

A tax credit is a direct reduction in tax liability owed by an individual to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In the event no taxes are owed, the IRS will issue a check for the amount of the tax credit an individual is owed. Unlike the tax credit that existed in 2008, this credit does not require repayment unless the home, at any time in the first 36 months of ownership, is no longer an individual’s primary residence.

How Much are First-Time Homebuyers (FTHB) Eligible to Receive?

An eligible homebuyer may request from the IRS a tax credit of up to $8,000 or 10% of the purchase price for a home. If the amount of the home purchased is $75,000, the maximum amount the credit can be is $7,500. If the amount of the home purchased is $100,000, the amount of the credit may not exceed $8,000.

Who is Eligible fort FTHB Tax Credit?

Anyone who has not owned a primary residence in the previous 36 months, prior to closing and the transfer of title, is eligible.

This applies both to single taxpayers and married couples. In the case where there is a married couple, if either spouse has owned a primary residence in the last 36 months, neither would qualify. In the case where an individual has owned property that has not been a primary residence, such as a second home or investment property, that individual would be eligible.

As mentioned above, the tax credit has been expanded so that existing homeowners who have owned and occupied a primary residence for a period of five consecutive years during the last eight years are now eligible for a tax credit of up to $6,500.

How Much are Current Home Owners Eligible to Receive?

The tax credit program includes a tax credit of up to $6,500 for qualified purchasers who have owned and occupied a primary residence for a period of five consecutive years during the last eight years.

Can Homebuyers Claim the Tax Credit in Advance of Purchasing a Property?

No. The IRS has recently begun prosecuting people who have claimed credits where a purchase had not taken place.

Can a Taxpayer Claim a Credit if the Property is Purchased from a Seller with Seller Financing and the Seller Retains Title to the Property?

Yes. In situations where the buyer purchases the property, even though the seller retains legal title, the taxpayer may file for the credit. Some examples of this would include a land contract or a contract for deed.

According to the IRS, factors that would demonstrate the ownership of the property would include:

1. Right of possession,
2. Right to obtain legal title upon full payment of the purchase price,
3. Right to construct improvements,
4. Obligation to pay property taxes,
5. Risk of loss,
6. Responsibility to insure the property, and
7. Duty to maintain the property.

Are There Other Restrictions to Taking the FTHB Credit?

Yes. According to the IRS, if any of the following describe a homebuyer’s situation, a credit would not be due:

  • They buy the home from a close relative. This includes a spouse, parent, grandparent, child or grandchild. (Please see the question below for details regarding purchases from “step-relatives.”)
  • They do not use the home as your principal residence.
  • They sell their home before the end of the year.
  • They are a nonresident alien.
  • They are, or were, eligible to claim the District of Columbia first-time homebuyer credit for any taxable year. (This does not apply for a home purchased in 2009.)
  • Their home financing comes from tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds. (This does not apply for a home purchased in 2009.)
  • They owned a principal residence at any time during the three years prior to the date of purchase of your new home. For example, if you bought a home on July 1, 2008, you cannot take the credit for that home if you owned, or had an ownership interest in, another principal residence at any time from July 2, 2005, through July 1, 2008.

 

Can Homebuyers Purchase a Home from a Step-Relative and Still be Eligible for the Credit?

Yes. As long as the person they buy the home from is not a direct blood relative, the purchase would be allowed.

If a Parent (Who Will Not Live In The Property) Cosigns for a Mortgage, Will Their Child Still be Eligible for the Credit?

Yes, provided that the child meets the other requirements for the tax credit.






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