Saturday, February 27 2010
WASHINGTON—Existing-home sales were up 11.5% in January compared to January of 2009, but down 7.2%from December 2009, according to data from the National Association of Realtors®.
Single-family home sales fell 6.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million in January from a level of 4.76 million in December, but are 8.6% above the 4.08 million pace set in January 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $163,600 in January, down 0.4% from a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales dropped 8.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 620,000 in January from 675,000 in December, but are 38.1% above the 449,000-unit level posted a year ago. The median existing condo price was $172,400 in January, which is 1.4% higher than January 2009.
Northeastern U.S. home sales
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 10.9% to an annual pace of 820,000 in January but are 22.4% above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $245,300, a gain of 8.8% from January 2009.
Midwestern U.S. home sales
Existing-home sales in the Midwest declined 6.9% in January to a level of 1.08 million but are 8.0% higher than January 2009. The median price in the Midwest was $130,300, which is 1.0% below a year ago.
Southern U.S. home sales
In the South, existing-home sales dropped 7.4% to an annual pace of 1.87 million in January but are 12.0% above a year ago. The median price in the South was $140,200, down 2.0% from January 2009.
Western U.S. home sales
Existing-home sales in the West declined 5.2% to an annual rate of 1.28 million in January but are 7.6% higher than January 2009. The median price in the West was $203,400, down 5.8% from a year ago.
Friday, February 26 2010
Investors breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday when Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke told Congress that interest rates are likely to remain low for an extended period. The economy, he said, "still requires support for recovery."
Thursday, February 25 2010
The Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana is launching a free application, titled Discover Southwest Indiana, for use on iPhones and certain iPod models.
Matt Meadors, the chamber president and chief executive officer, said the iPhone app strongly complements the organization’s efforts to communicate the region’s attributes as an excellent location to live and successfully operate a business while providing the chamber with a tool to connect with its members and the broader community in real time.
Designed by Agent511, an Owensboro, Ky.- and Chicago-based mobile technology company, the Discover Southwest Indiana app has a number of featured links, including Southwest Indiana Events, CCSWIN Marketplace, Business Directory, Public Policy on Twitter, Chamber CEO on Twitter, Employment, Become a Member and Contact Us.
The application is available for downloading from the Apple iTunes store.
Meadors said “The Chamber’s professional staff will now be able to continually update the business community and others on the organization’s activities, efforts and impact.
“Our new CCSWIN Marketplace feature will provide our members with a mechanism to drive customers to their businesses by providing them with a dynamic communications tool that they can modify at will to offer coupons, specials and other incentives to the consumer.
Wednesday, February 24 2010
The economic recession is encouraging more families to consider homes that accommodate multiple generations.
According to a survey by Coldwell Banker Real Estate, 37 percent of practitioners surveyed saw an increase in home buyers looking for space for parents and grown children. Nearly 70 percent of practitioners say they expect an increase in this kind of demand.
Coldwell Banker recommends that sellers highlight their “mother in-law suites” or similar spaces that could accommodate a family interested in multi-generational living. Whether it’s a garage apartment or refurbished basement, this separate space can help such a home stand apart from others on the block.
Source: Coldwell Banker Real Estate (02/22/2010)
Tuesday, February 23 2010
The Internal Revenue Service has clarified which documentation taxpayers need to submit to claim the first-time and move-up homebuyer tax credit.
While the IRS is still requiring the filing of Form 5405, it is not demanding that all parties’ signatures be on the HUD-1 settlement document in areas where requiring both the buyer and the seller to sign the document isn’t common.
The IRS clarification says: "In areas where signatures are not required on the settlement document, the IRS has clarified that it will accept a settlement statement if it is completed and valid according to local law. … The IRS encourages those buyers to sign the settlement statement prior to attaching it to the tax return.”
For repeat buyers, the IRS is seeking documentation that home buyers have lived in the previous property for a consecutive five of the past eight years. Proof can include property tax records, home owner insurance records, or mortgage interest statements.
Source: Washington Post (02/20/2010)
Sunday, February 21 2010
The first-time homebuyers' tax credit, along with low interest rates and home prices, may have led to builders feeling a bit better about the market for new, single-family homes.
Saturday, February 20 2010
If you are thinking of moving into a home, building one that you can retire in, or wondering how you can make your elderly parent’s home easier to live in - there are some things to look for to make living as a Senior Adult or a person with a disability easier. Here is a list of 21 proven helpful ideas and tips.
1. Rocker style light switches and lots of ways to turn lights on/off from different locations - commonly known as 2-way or 3-way. Plenty of natural lighting, overhead lights and electrical outlets. Ideally, electrical outlets should be higher off the floor than code says and many more in number, this makes placing of lights easier, cords are less likely to be in the way too. In large spaces, consider in-floor outlets which will eliminate cords and allow for furniture placement options. This also is very handy if you have a small bedroom and someone needs a hospital bed in a living or dining room area.
2. All doors - going inside/outside and doorways into rooms should be at least 36″ for wheelchair, scooter, walker, etc. use. You need to have 18″ wall space free of clutter on the latch side of the doorway (in & out of room) so if you are in a wheelchair you can get close enough to the handle to easily open/close the door. Watch out not to block the space with furniture. Look into pocket doors - you gain footage and ease.
3. Plenty of phone jacks so phones can be throughout the house, as you age, it takes longer to get to the phone. This also is safer in case of emergency situations.
4. Railings up/down stairs both sides, railings in the bathroom for balance getting up/down on the toilet and in/out of showers/tubs.
5. Think about a security system that include an emergency button that has a wrist or neck chain you can wear or put in your pocket. These are very affordable and can even be used outside within many feet of the home.
6. Hang a tennis ball on a string from the ceiling in the garage to hit your windshield at the right parking spot. Makes life easier. Make sure that if you have electric garage door openers, that if the power goes out, a “short” and not physically strong person can open the door to get the car out. Think about an on-demand generator….takes care of so many obstacles and dangers.
7. Have drawers for all of your under cabinets in the kitchen, makes finding things easy, less lifting and actually uses space more efficiently.
8. Washer/Dryer on floor near bedroom as this is where most laundry is generated.
9. Make sure house is one floor, or if two-story, has a staircase extra wide so a stair-chair climber can be installed. They now have home elevators at affordable prices that work like a bank air tube and thus they even work when there is no power coming downstairs.
10. Windows should be able to be cleaned from inside the house, both sides.
11. Really spend time looking at the bathroom and how you can make it usable if you broke your leg, if you had severe arthritis or if you were weak. Tub/shower/faucets/sprayers/slipping/room for equipment and mobility equipment.
12. Door knobs and faucet knobs should be lever type.
13. Maintenance free as much as you can, inside and outside of the home.
14. Is the home located near important resources such as grocery store, doctor/medical, pharmacy, friends, and church/clubs/activities? Consider this in case you can’t drive at night or very far or if you couldn’t drive at all. How far to fire/rescue/police services too.
15. Open space vs. a house with many tiny rooms is best for flexibility as you age. Consider how far you have to walk in the home just to do daily living activities.
16. Think about a doggie or cat door, if appropriate and the animal will be safe. It could go into a fenced in area, they can be closed off at night and they make living much easier.
17. Re-think flooring. Does it have to be washed often, is it slippery, can a wheelchair go on it easily, and is it easy to care for and maintenance.
18. Stairs whether they are inside or outside the house can quickly become large obstacles, consider placement, width & rise, how often need to use, number, etc. for your future being to access areas of your home, getting in/out of your home and being safe.
19. Higher toilets are available and they make it easier to get up/down. There are now combo shower/tubs you walk into and they keep coming down in price too.
20. Having paved driveways and walkways is very helpful for safety, use of devices if necessary and in a snow climate, melt faster. Consider fire escape plans too, we just don’t move as quickly or as easily as we age or when you have limitations.
21. If you can just look at a home through aging eyes or have someone with a disability or who is a Senior Adult look at things for you, you can have a much happier, safer and easier life in your home.
Some disability organizations may have a trained person in accommodations/adaptations too, or contact The Practical Expert for Tonia who is well trained in this area and who also lives it.
If you belong to a club, think about having it reviewed for suggestions of making it easier to access. This helps Senior Adults, people with disabilities and even people with a temporary injury (such as a person with a broken leg) to attend things like school graduations, belonging to civic organizations, for volunteering at places and going to many types of activities. Many accommodations/adaptations have no cost or little cost that can make a huge impact in people utilizing the place. Example, # of handicap spots at a school and how far to walk to the gym, etc.
Keeping your eye on how life can be more accessible and safer for senior adults, elderly parents and people with injuries or disabilities, means it is easier and safer for everyone, not just for today but for the future too.
Tonia Boterf - The Practical Expert(TM) is there to lend you a hand with some of life’s tougher challenges. Through coaching, articles, books, and other resources, we provide you with the information and the tools you need to help you live your life fully. Try a free trial coaching session today!
Distributed by Content Crooner
Brought to you by one of our Real Estate Authors from http://www.realestatelocalexperts.com, a multi-authored blog about real estate.
Friday, February 19 2010
Keeping track of the cost of capital improvements to your home can really pay off on your tax return when it comes time to sell.
It’s no secret that finishing your basement will increase your home’s value. What you may not know is the money you spend on this type of so-called capital improvement could also help lower your tax bill when you sell your house.
Tax rules let you add capital improvement expenses to the cost basis of your home. Why is that a big deal? Because a higher cost basis lowers the total profit—capital gain, in IRS-speak—you’re required to pay taxes on.
The tax break doesn’t come into play for everyone. Most homeowners are exempted from paying taxes on the first $250,000 of profit for single filers ($500,000 for joint filers). If you move frequently, maybe it’s not worth the effort to track capital improvement expenses. But if you plan to live in your house a long time or make lots of upgrades, saving receipts is a smart move.
What counts as a capital improvement?
While you may consider all the work you do to your home an improvement, the IRS looks at things differently. A rule of thumb: A capital improvement increases your home’s value, while a non-eligible repair just returns something to its original condition. According to the IRS, capital improvements have to last for more than one year and add value to your home, prolong its life, or adapt it to new uses.
Capital improvements can include everything from a new bathroom or deck to a new water heater or furnace. Page 9 of IRS Publication 523 has a list of eligible improvements. There are limitations. The improvements must still be evident when you sell. So if you put in wall-to-wall carpeting 10 years ago and then replaced it with hardwood floors five years ago, you can’t count the carpeting as a capital improvement. Repairs, like painting your house or fixing sagging gutters, don’t count. The IRS describes repairs as things that are done to maintain a home’s good condition without adding value or prolonging its life.
How capital improvements affect your gain
To figure out how improvements affect your tax bill, you first have to know your cost basis. The cost basis is the amount of money you spent to buy or build your home including all the costs you paid at the closing: fees to lawyers, survey charges, transfer taxes, and home inspection, to name a few. You should be able to find all those costs on the settlement statement you received at your closing.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Had you not factored in the money you spent on the kitchen remodel, you’d be facing a tax bill for that $25,000 gain that exceeded the automatic exemption. By keeping receipts and adjusting your basis, you’ve saved about $3,750 in taxes (based on the current 15% tax rate on capital gains). Well worth taking an hour a month to organize your home-improvement receipts, don’t you think?
Watch out for these basis-busters
Some situations can lower your basis, thus increasing your risk of facing a tax bill when you sell. Consult a tax advisor. One common one: If you take depreciation on a home office, you have to subtract those deductions from your basis. Any depreciation taken if you rented your house works the same way. You also have to subtract subsidies from utility companies for making energy-related home improvements or energy-efficiency tax credits you’ve received. If you bought your home using the federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers, you’ll have to deduct that from your basis too, says Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Services.
This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Readers should consult a tax professional for such advice, and are reminded that tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.
Donna Fuscaldo has written about personal finance for more than 10 years at the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, and Fox Business. She’s currently remodeling her home—and aiming to make a profit on it one day.
Thursday, February 18 2010
The middle of the winter is prime time for carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure your appliances and heating system are operating safely.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is formed when carbon-based fuels, such as kerosene, gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, charcoal or wood, are burned with inadequate amounts of oxygen, creating a condition known as incomplete combustion. When incomplete combustion occurs, carbon monoxide is produced, and this can potentially lead to carbon-monoxide poisoning to a family.
The early stages of carbon-monoxide poisoning produce unexplained flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and mental confusion. Since carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen in the blood, prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to death by asphyxiation.
According to the Southern California Gas Co., these signs may indicate the presence of carbon monoxide:
What to do if someone suspects carbon monoxide is present in their home:
How to maintain and use gas appliances safely and efficiently:
Carbon-monoxide alarms may provide an extra measure of safety, but they also require routine maintenance such as battery replacement and the unit itself must be replaced periodically per manufacturer’s instructions. Even with alarms in place, regular gas appliance maintenance still is required.
Inspection and routine maintenance are still the best defense against accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning from natural gas appliances.
Source: Southern California Gas Co. http://www.houselogic.com/news/articles/safety-tips-prevent-carbon-monoxide-poisoning/
Wednesday, February 17 2010
EVANSVILLE — As international efforts continue to heal, feed and shelter victims of the earthquake that killed more than 200,000 Haitians and displaced millions more, an Evansville couple are helping supply clean drinking water.
Five days after the Jan. 12 earthquake struck, Joe and Jenny Smith flew from St. Louis to work with Potters For Peace, an organization that teaches locals to make, assemble and distribute inexpensive ceramic filters that provide families with safe drinking water now and for years to come.
Even before the earthquake, illnesses and death from dirty water plagued Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries.
The situation is critical now and will become worse, the Smiths said. A volunteer physician told them, "For all we can do for these people now, they'll still die if they don't have clean water."
The couple recently returned after three weeks working in Haiti and the Dominican Republic with Potters For Peace, a nonprofit organization based in Brisbee, Ariz.
Joe Smith took leave from Oakland City University, where he has taught ceramics for 31 years. He spent his time outside Santiago, Dominican Republic, working 13-hour days with local potters in an established ceramic filter operation to expand operations and increase production.
Jenny Smith, a former international aid worker who most recently operated an art gallery in Evansville, moved into a massive tent city in Jacmel, Haiti. She helped distribute the clay filters made 150 miles away at the factory in Santiago where her husband was working.
Since the quake, an estimated 2,000 clay water filters have gotten to Haitians, more are waiting to be shipped and the Santiago operation has double production, promising an increased flow of filters moving into Haiti in the future, said Jenny Smith.
The couple plan to return this summer to help set up one or two new local operations to make clay purification systems in Haiti. While they're home, they'll work to raise money for the factories, estimated to cost about $60,000 each.
That's nothing compared to what it will take to build water systems for the cities, suburbs and villages that eventually will rise from Haiti's rubble. The ceramic filters do offer an immediate solution for families.
The filter, developed in Guatemala in the early 1980s, looks something like an oversized terra cotta flower pot without drain holes. It's made from clay mixed with prescribed amounts of sawdust, rice husks or other suitable combustible materials available locally.
When fired, the combustible material burns out, leaving a porous vessel that allows water to pass through while filtering out particles. A coating of colloidal silver painted on the inside kills bacteria.
How effective are they? The filters "effectively eliminate 99.88 percent of most waterborne disease agents," according to Potters For Peace's Web site, www.pottersforpeace.org.
Fitted with a plastic lid, the fired clay unit slips like an oversized coffee filter into a large manufactured plastic storage bucket equipped with a spigot at the bottom. Each can hold several gallons of water, which filters through at a rate of up to 21/2 quarts per hour.
"If you fill it up at night, by the morning you'll have enough water ready for a family," Jenny Smith said. "We used one in Haiti, in the tent camp and we never got sick. As a matter of fact, I thought the water tasted better than what we drink (from the tap) here in Evansville."
Depending on the region and local resources, the entire unit costs between $15 and $25, and replacement filters typically run between $4 and $6, according to Potters For Peace.
The Smiths first worked with Potters For Peace in 1999, when the organization helped set up ceramic filter operations in Managua, Nicaragua, as that city struggled to recover from Hurricane Mitch.
Since then, the organization has helped set up operations throughout Central America and in areas around the world lacking clean water.
The factories often are open-air structures consisting of mixing areas, clay presses (using concrete molds and hand-pumped hydraulic truck jacks), drying racks and kilns.
Locals own and operate them as businesses, providing not only clean water, but also employment for the potters and others needed to make and distribute them.
Jenny Smith said she's heard stories about looting in neighborhoods and violence at food distribution points, "but I never felt endangered and I never saw any violence," she said. "I think about how the Haitians I saw helped us and helped each other."
She doesn't blame starving people for being angry.
"There were warehouses full of water and food and it was not being distributed, and there were a lot of communities not getting what they needed," she said.
"I found it very frustrating. Once, when I held a child, I remember thinking, 'This child may not be living in two weeks.'"
Tuesday, February 16 2010
Real estate investors are coming to the same conclusion that housing activists reached at the beginning of the crisis — forgiving principal on underwater loans may be the best way to deal with the problem.
“Principal reduction is the only answer,” says Laurie Goodman, a senior managing director at mortgage-bond trader Amherst Securities Group L.P.
Some activists and investors are asking banks to consider principal reductions so that the amount borrowers owe on underwater loans can be sharply reduced. They say this offers the best incentive for borrowers to continue to make their monthly mortgage payments.
Even though principal reductions are complicated transactions for lenders, even the largest of them are beginning to accept the idea.
"Everybody's realizing there is a place for principal reductions to a much greater extent than before," says Jack Schakett, a senior Bank of America Corp. executive involved in loan workouts.
Micah Green, a partner at law firm Patton Boggs LLP, who represents some of the largest investors in mortgages, shrugs the idea that write-downs are unfair to those who continue to make their payments. "Everybody's going to have to give a little for it to work," he says.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, James R. Hagerty (02/09/2010) http://www.realtor.org/rmodaily.nsf/pages/News2010021203
Wednesday, February 10 2010
January started an exciting year for F.C. Tucker Emge REALTORS. We had our annual kickoff meeting to begin our 100th year of service to Tri-State home buyers and sellers. A video was produced chronicling our company history which began when Eli Huber drove his horse drawn buggy to Rockport, IN and sold a farm. From that, we have grown to the area’s dominant real estate company. We now have over 200 REALTORS and employees located in 8 locations. The tools we use combined with the best agents in the area led to market dominance in 2009. According to local Multiple Listing Service data, we sold $50 million more than our closest competitor in 2009. Furthermore, I am proud to work at a company that is involved in so many community organizations and is committed to the future of our area.
Although our company is well positioned, January sales in our area were somewhat below my expectations. Our local Multiple Listing Service reported closed transactions were down slightly from January of 2009. That said, the average sales price was up, resulting in an increase of $1.4 million in sales volume for the month. January’s weather, although not highly unusual, did not lend itself to leisurely home shopping. I am very optimistic that March and April will show much better sales figures. I anticipate that improved weather and some help from the extended and expanded tax credit will boost sales. As I mentioned last month, buyers must have a signed contract by the end of April in order to receive either a $6,500 or $8,000 one time gift from the U.S. Treasury. Call me for more details about this one time opportunity.
I am excited to inform you that “The Easiest Search On The Web” just got even better. When you visit FCTuckerEmge.com and scroll over a picture of a home the picture automatically enlarges and property pictures throughout the site are bigger. In addition, we now list all area open houses so it’s even easier to find your dream home all on one site.
Tuesday, February 09 2010
Selling a property in this tough market can seem like a challenge. Here are four factors that actually make this a good time to post a For-Sale sign.
Source: McClatchy Tribune, Kate Forgach (02/07/2010) http://www.realtor.org/RMODaily.nsf/pages/News2010020801?OpenDocument
Tuesday, February 02 2010
EVANSVILLE — In addition to Tri-State residents donating more than $100,000, area businesses are giving however they can to Haiti earthquake relief efforts.
"There have been a number of businesses that have stepped up," said Greg Waite of the American Red Cross for Southwestern Indiana.
Within days of the earthquake, Mead Johnson Nutrition shipped $100,000 worth of baby formula to Haiti. The company, whose corporate offices are in Evansville, also has operations in the Dominican Republic.
"Having a neighboring business was so beneficial because we were able to act so quickly," said Susan Wedeking, a spokeswoman for Mead Johnson. "We will provide additional assistance as we can. Each disaster is different, but oftentimes we are able to provide help."
The company is also one of several in the area that is matching their employees' donations to relief efforts.
Other companies doing so include Vectren, Duke Energy, Toyota and several banks.
AmeriQual, which specializes in the production of shelf-stable food products that don't require cooking, is ramping up production to replace all of its reserves it had in stock to help during a disaster.
Tim Brauer, the company's president, said it has distributed close to a million meals and another million to the American Red Cross.
"That's a lot of meals moving around that are hopefully getting to the people who need them," he said. "We maintain in the range of a million to 2 million meals in storage just for events like this."
Designed to assist in disasters, the American Red Cross has been a leading organization with relief efforts in Haiti.
The national organization's focus has been on three areas:
n Sending food to those in need, including 3 million pre-packaged meals and funding for World Food Program efforts that will enable them to feed up to 1 million people for a month.
- Providing clean drinking water.
- Distributing shelter items, such as blankets, tarps, sleeping mats and tents to homeless families.
Locally, Waite said, the Tri-State has donated more than $100,000 to the agency to help with relief efforts.
"That's from people who've walked in through a chapter door or made a donation online," he said. "(The community) has been amazing, and they're asking, 'What else can we do?'"
Waite said a key part is making sure the community is up to date on efforts in Haiti, "so when they see those images, they're reassured" about where their donation is going.
Monday, February 01 2010
The city of Evansville enters 2010 looking to continue to manage the recession. Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel says the area's unemployment rate has consistently remained under the state average, currently by a full two points. He says companies like Mead Johnson and Berry Plastics have been adding jobs and that several construction projects are underway, led by the new $125 million downtown arena.
Weinzapfel says the city also made the decision to bring management of local water and sewer utilities back to local government, which is expected to save an estimated $14 million over the next five years.
Source: Inside INdiana Business http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?ID=39894