Regina "Ginny" Wolkoff
LOGIN   New User?
eMail:

My Blog

FHFA Tosses Refinancing Lifeline to High-LTV Borrowers

September 27, 2016 2:09 am


Mortgage borrowers with high loan-to-value (LTV) ratios now have more options when it comes to refinancing.

The offering, recently announced by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and to be implemented by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (“the Enterprises”), will provide much-needed liquidity to borrowers current on their mortgage but unable to refinance through conventional programs because their LTV ratio exceeds the Enterprises’ maximum limits.

FHFA Director Mel Watt says providing a sustainable refinance opportunity for high-LTV borrowers who have demonstrated responsibility by remaining current on their mortgage makes financial sense, both for borrowers and for the Enterprises.

In order to qualify for the new offering, borrowers:

• Must not have missed any mortgage payments in the previous six months;
• Must not have missed more than one payment in the previous 12 months;
• Must have a source of income; and
• Must receive a benefit from the refinance, such as a reduction in their monthly mortgage payment.

Full details will be available in the coming months through the Enterprises, but the offering will make use of the lessons learned from the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and its streamlined approach to refinancing. The new offering is more targeted than HARP, but as with HARP, eligible borrowers are not subject to a minimum credit score, there is no maximum debt-to-income ratio or maximum LTV, and an appraisal often will not be required. Unlike HARP, however, there is no eligibility cut-off date. Borrowers with existing HARP loans are not eligible for the new offering unless they have refinanced out of HARP using one of the Enterprises traditional refinance products.

The new high-LTV refinance offering will be available to borrowers until October 2017.  For more information, visit HARP.gov, follow @FHFA on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, or consult with a real estate professional.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Teaching the Value of a Dollar: Average Allowances for Household Chores

September 27, 2016 2:09 am


One of the more effective methods of teaching financial responsibility to children is offering an allowance in exchange for household chores. Providing a reasonable amount, however, is key to ensure the child has a realistic understanding of “the value of a dollar.”

The going rates for the most common chores, according to the COUNTRY Financial Security Index, are:

Making the Bed - $1.18
Setting the Table - $1.31
Taking Out the Trash - $1.90
Doing the Dishes - $2.03
Cleaning the Bedroom - $2.07
Cleaning Surfaces - $2.20
Cleaning Floors/Vacuuming - $2.55
Taking Care of a Pet - $2.66
Cleaning a Common Area - $2.72
Doing Laundry - $2.82
Cleaning the Garage - $5.20
Mowing the Lawn - $6.28

When is the best time to start offering these allowances? Survey respondents say as early as age 5, and ideally when the child reaches age 8.

Source: COUNTRY Financial
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Flying Is Not Fun—but These Fail-Safe Tips Can Help

September 26, 2016 2:09 am


Flying is not fun.

That’s the consensus from a recent Consumer Reports survey assessing air travelers’ attitudes toward flying—in fact, zero of the airlines evaluated in the survey came close to receiving affirmative feedback across the board.

“It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when flying was fun, even glamorous, but today’s flyers face a labyrinth of fees and lackluster services,” said Mandy Walker, Consumer Reports’ Money Content Development senior editor, in a statement on the survey.

Survey feedback on coach/economy for American, Delta and United—the largest airlines in the U.S.—came in poor for factors such as cabin cleanliness, in-flight entertainment and refreshments.

Booking sites were not well-received among survey respondents, either. CheapOair.com, which touts inexpensive airfares, had the highest average fares and not one lowest fare when compared to the five other sites investigated by Consumer Reports.

“We recommend doing multiple searches over multiple days to increase your chances of finding the lowest fare—you will notice that persistence pays off in the quest for the best price on travel booking sites,” Walker said.

There’s a silver lining in the clouds: survey respondents gave Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America decent marks for coach/economy, citing ease of check-in and staff service.

Fliers should take these findings into account on their next excursion, according to Consumer Reports. Make the cabin a bit more comfortable with a blanket or sweater and noise-cancelling headphones, and keep a disinfectant on hand to reduce exposure to germs. Consider travel insurance, too, to protect your expense and possessions.

For more from the survey, visit ConsumerReports.org.

Source: Consumer Reports
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Study: Is Relocation the Solution for Houses Impacted by Climate Change?

September 26, 2016 2:09 am


Climate change threatens to reshape the residential development landscape—so much so that policymakers are exploring the possibility of relocating residences out of vulnerable areas.

Recent research out of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Regional Plan Association presents an option for residents in flood-prone areas, who will experience more impactful weather events as climate change progresses. That option, a managed retreat buyout program, detailed in “Buy-In for Buyouts: The Case for Managed Retreat from Flood Zones,” could “allow residents to forge new beginnings on safer ground and helps create public amenities by acquiring homes in the flood-prone areas and restoring the land to natural floodplain functions.”

Buyout programs are not novel. They are often overseen by the local municipality, though usually funded by federal grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In most buyout scenarios, the municipality acquires properties from homeowners and converts them to “a less risky use, usually open space or parkland.”

The buyout solution proposed by the researchers aims to keep homeowners with federally subsidized flood insurance out of flood-prone areas—these subsidies will be phased out in the near-term, leading to spikes in premiums for some, the researchers point out. The benefits, they state, are manifold.

“Restricted land use coupled with new amenities can increase property values and, in turn, increase local revenue,” the researchers state. “If local governments plan properly, homeowners can relocate within the municipality and thereby maintain, and even enhance, the tax rolls.”

Asking homeowners or even entire neighborhoods to uproot is “is laden with social and political difficulties,” the researchers add, which is why many municipalities have dismissed managed retreat. The unavoidable impacts of climate change, however, beg otherwise. The researchers conclude a buyout program is one of the most prudent solutions.

Source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Kitchens in 2016: What's Hot and What's Not

September 26, 2016 2:09 am


The kitchen can be the highest selling point of a home, considerably contributing to its value. The hottest trends in kitchen design now, according to a recent Zillow Digs® forecast, are on-target for homebuyers in the marketplace today—and are worth considering if you’re planning to sell soon.

“Homeowners today want an open and thoughtfully designed kitchen that blends seamlessly with the rest of the home's design aesthetic,” says Kerrie Kelly, Zillow Digs home design expert. “From hidden appliances to beautifully painted cabinets in complementing colors, homeowners want their kitchen to be stylish enough for entertaining, yet welcoming and functional for everyday use.”

The Zillow Digs forecast pegs the hottest trends:

Hidden Appliances – More and more homeowners are tucking away appliances, integrating them seamlessly visually with surrounding cabinetry—think covered refrigerators or behind-closed-door microwaves.

Tuxedo Cabinetry – Tuxedo cabinets are two-toned—the top and bottom rows are painted in complementary colors, often white and black (like a tuxedo!) or white and soft gray, creating an open, yet grounded space.

Wood Paneling – The farmhouse aesthetic is as popular as ever, wood elements included. Wood paneling, especially shiplap painted white, has become more commonplace on backsplashes or ceilings.

What’s not hot? The Zillow Digs forecast reports:

Dark Colors – Dark wall paint and rich woods (like cherry cabinets) can make a kitchen feel cramped, even if the square footage says otherwise. Count on dark colors fading out in the next year or two.

Short Cabinetry– Cabinets that stop just short of the ceiling are on their way out, and cabinets flush with the ceiling are on their way in—the latter adding height and openness.

Speckled Granite – Granite countertops were once the mainstay, but with more, low-maintenance options now available (like butcher block, marble and quartz), granite (specifically speckled) will be retired soon.

Source: Zillow Digs®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Saving $1,000 in Just 6 Steps

September 22, 2016 1:54 am


Whether you’re new to the working world or have been employed without a budget, the first $1,000 you save may be the most important money you ever sock away. It’s the cushion you need against unexpected expenses, and the cornerstone for building a savings habit. From The Motley Fool come six simple steps to get there:

“Snowball” Your Debt – Attack your debt with gusto, paying as much as you can on your highest interest credit cards, moving on to the next-highest as you go. As your debt decreases, you will naturally have more cash to stow away.

Renegotiate Rates – Most credit card providers will lower your rate if you ask (and have a good payment record). If one provider won’t lower your rate, move the balance to a lower-cost provider.

Cut Spending on Stuff You Won’t Miss – Whether it’s a gym membership you aren’t using, a magazine or cable TV subscription or more cell phone data than you need, rein in what you’re spending each month and redirect that cash to savings.

Find Lower-Cost Alternatives – Fast food coffee can taste as good as high-priced options, and you may decide to brown-bag your lunch four days a week and eat out only on Fridays. Look for savings pathways you can live with.

Sell Stuff You Don’t Use – Try Craigslist, eBay, or an old-fashioned garage sale to sell the stuff you no longer want. Use the cash to speed up your debt snowball, or stash it away in the bank.

Work a Little More – Put in overtime. Take on an extra shift. Find a part-time second job, or use your talent to create and sell your goods or services online or at local craft fairs. Working more leaves less time to spend, and the extra income will help you build that first nest egg of $1,000.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Foundation to Roof: Energy-Efficiency from the Ground Up

September 22, 2016 1:54 am


“I start construction with precast concrete wall panels and then add an insulated basement slab to give my homes a head start on their high performance energy efficiency package. I'm building homes that are more than twice as efficient as a standard home built to ‘code.’”

So says Shawn Jessup, owner of S.D. Jessup Construction, Inc. in North Carolina. Jessup and builders like him are making strides in the energy efficiency arena, constructing new homes with energy-saving features from the foundation to the roof.

The foundation, Jessup notes, sets the “energy tone” for the entire home, calling for add-ons like extra insulation, foam-backed siding or structural insulated panels.

Entry points outfitted with ENERGY STAR®-qualified products also contribute to a home’s overall energy efficiency, adds Jeffery Nofziger, president of Haas Door.

“Advances in steel and aluminum bring both strong insulation factors and beauty to the garage door offerings for the home,” says Nofziger. “Mother Nature can throw some pretty nasty weather at a home, and a garage door takes the brunt of that weather.”

The roof, too, can be an energy-saver. According to the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), roofs are exposed to direct sunlight more than any other feature, which can damage certain roofing materials over time. Jessup recommends using a synthetic tile roof to not only help deflect sunlight (and heat) from the home, but also to stave off roof repair or replacement.

For more on building an energy-efficient home from the ground up, visit Energy.gov or EnergyStar.gov.
 
Source: Superior Walls
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Buying a New Home? 3 Things Not to Overlook

September 22, 2016 1:54 am


(BPT)—Buying a new home is exciting, but the experience is not without challenges. Finding your dream home requires an eye for detail, expert guidance, and, above all, patience.

Buying a newly built home, specifically, comes with a set of considerations, such as amenities, location and security. Three of the most important are:

The Home Inspection

Never disregard the importance of an impartial home inspection. An inspection can not only help you uncover structural issues within a home, but also help you determine if its electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems are functional and up to code. Be present during the inspection. Discuss your options with your REALTOR®, if negotiations are necessary.

Value-Add Features

Value-add features are another important consideration to make when searching for a newly built home. Make note of these features as you view homes. Ask yourself: What existing features will make me (and my family) feel comfortable, happy and secure, now and in the future?

Safety

No new home’s top-of-the-line amenities can replace a sense of safety. Look for features, such as arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) outlets, an alarm system, carbon monoxide/smoke detectors and secure doors and windows, that will enhance the safety of your new home.

Planning to move to a newly constructed home? Contact a real estate professional today!

Source: Leviton (www.Leviton.com/HomeSafety)

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

What Taxpayers Can Expect in 2017

September 21, 2016 1:51 am


We’re nearing the close of the year, when most of us will begin year-end tax planning. What, as taxpayers, can we expect in 2017?

Bloomberg BNA recently projected inflation-adjusted tax items for 2017, a handy guide for those of us hoping to get a head start on taxes—and save tax dollars. Though the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not published information on these items yet, the Bloomberg BNA projection drew from Labor Department data.

The projected income tax rates for 2017, according to Bloomberg BNA:

Married Filing Jointly/Surviving Spouses Earning Taxable Income of:
 
$18,650 or Less - 10 percent of taxable income
Over $18,650 - $75,900 - $1,865, plus 15 percent of excess over $18,650
Over $75,900 - $153,100 - $10,452.50, plus 25 percent of excess over $75,900
Over $153,100 - $233,350 - $29,752.50, plus 28 percent of excess over $153,100
Over $233,250 - $416,700 - $52,222.50, plus 33 percent of excess over $233,250
Over $416,700 - $470,700 - $112,728, plus 35 percent of excess over $416,700
Over $470,700 - $131,628, plus 39.6 percent of excess over $470,700
 
Unmarried Individuals (Other Than Heads of Households) Earning Taxable Income of:
 
$9,325 or Less - 10 percent of taxable income
Over $9,325 - $37,950 - $932.50, plus 15 percent of excess over $9,325
Over $37,950 - $91,900 - $5,226.25, plus 25 percent of excess over $37,950
Over $91,900 - $191,650 - $18,713.75, plus 28 percent of excess over $91,900
Over $191,650 - $416,700 - $46,643.75, plus 33 percent of excess over $191,650
Over $416,700 - $418,400 - $120,910.25, plus 35 percent of excess over $416,700
Over $418,400 - $121,505.25, plus 39.6 percent of excess over $418,400

It’s important to note that taxes due on the same income decrease year to year. Say you and your spouse file jointly and have a taxable income of $233,000. In 2016, you were in the 33 percent bracket and paid $52,303 in taxes; in 2017, you will be in the 28 percent bracket (due to inflation), and pay $52,124.50 in taxes, saving $178.50, according to Bloomberg BNA’s projections.

We have the option to take whichever is higher when calculating deductions: our itemized deductions, or the standard deduction. Bloomberg BNA’s projections for standard deductions in 2017 are:

Married Filing Jointly/Surviving Spouses - $12,700
Heads of Household - $9,350
All Other Taxpayers - $6,350

Keep in mind that the IRS imposes penalties on those of us who do not furnish information on our returns, do not file a return, or do not pay taxes. Congress recently increased some of these penalties, according to Bloomberg BNA, which projects:

• Failure to File Correct Information Returns - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Furnish Identifying Number - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Furnish Copy to Taxpayer - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Retain Copy or List - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Sign Return - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Be Diligent in Determining Eligibility (for American Opportunity Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit or Earned Income Credit) - $510 (Per Violation) / No Limit

“The trend toward tougher penalties continues as Congress passed legislation that may revoke the passports of taxpayers with seriously delinquent tax debt,” says George Farrah, Bloomberg BNA Tax & Accounting editorial director. “For business taxpayers, Congress has provided some degree of certainty by returning to predictable annual increases for the business property expensing limits.”

Source: Bloomberg BNA
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

5 Property Maintenance Tips for Fall

September 21, 2016 1:51 am


Fall is an often overlooked season when it comes to property maintenance, but it is one the most crucial times of year to care for your landscape—ahead of winter, when the elements make it challenging to take measures for a healthy yard come spring.

“While many homeowners consider spring and summer to be the time for tackling landscaping projects, fall is actually a prime season for lawn care and landscaping,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president of Public Affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), in a recent release. “Being diligent in fall landscaping will allow your lawn and garden to withstand their long winter’s nap, and will certainly pay dividends next spring. In addition, thoughtful planning can allow your outdoor living spaces to be enjoyed throughout the cold weather months.”

The best place to start, according to Henriksen, is to consult with a lawn care professional. A professional can not only advise you as to what steps to take now, but also help you plan next year’s landscape.

Following that consult, the NALP’s tips include:

Mulch – Adding two to three inches of mulch around your trees and on garden beds will protect them from the elements come winter.

Rake – Removing dead leaves, either by composting or mulching with a mower, will give your lawn access to sunlight through winter, as well as stave off diseases.

Seed – Overseeding your lawn will fill in patchy areas at a time when grass grows sans weeds—ideal for healthy root growth. Fertilizing and aerating your lawn is also key.

Inspect – Assessing your trees for signs of damage, disease or stress before winter will help avoid breakage and safety issues in the months ahead. Having a professional on hand to trim or remove damaged trees is vital.

Plant – Planting fall varieties will bring life to your landscape now and next year—asters, black-eyed Susans, Chinese lanterns, goldenrod and snapdragons are all ideal.

Source: National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags: