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Expert Tips for Navigating the Real Estate Market

My mission at Treu Group Real Estate is to be your best resource for real estate advice. Whether you are a buyer, seller, or investor, I can answer any questions you might have about real estate. Subscribe to this blog to get the latest news on local market trends and receive expert tips for buying or selling a home.

Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act

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By now, chances are you have probably heard the term “short sale” – especially during the past five years with our housing market struggling to recover from the housing market crisis of 2007. Luckily, we have enjoyed a strong economy and have not seen too much of the same dire circumstances many homeowners across America have experienced. Still, if you owe more on the house than what it is worth and are looking to sell it, a short sale is likely your best option.

Everyone has a pretty good idea of how a short sale might impact one’s credit outlook. Though it may not have as heavy an impact on credit as a foreclosure might, a couple years after a short sale before the homeowner can consider buying a home again. There is, however, a tax implication of doing a short sale that many people are not aware of. The amount of debt that a bank agrees to forgive in order to allow a short sale to take place is forgiven debt and the IRS considers that amount as income. As such, all income is taxable, leaving the homeowner that opts for a short sale with a significant tax bill at the end of the year.

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act
In light of our nation’s struggles with property ownership after housing values plummeted, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act was signed into action, allowing homeowners an exemption on discharged or forgiven debt from the sale of a primary residence.

This benefit has been around for some time now and has been extended by the government in the past, however its deadline is fast approaching with a program end date of December 31, 2012. This means that all homeowners considering short sales should complete their transaction before the end of the year.

Short Sale Process Can Take Months
At first, when countless Americans struggling with the economy and declining values, short sales were slowly began picking up pace. Then, when the 2010robo-signing scandal broke loose, banks again lacked confidence in doling out relief in this form to borrowers, ending up in short sale processes that could take up to a year or even more. 

Today, however, many banks have streamlined the process and even prefer the short sale route versus a foreclosure. Compared to the lengthy process times and extensive legal fees involved in a foreclosure, banks are even willing to pay out cash in some short sale cases.

Window Of Opportunity Will Not Last Long
Since the halfway mark of the year has passed, we strongly advise any homeowner looking to sell their home despite owing more than its current value, to contact us today. Timing is key and with just a few months before the end of the year to take advantage of this benefit, now is the good time to start the process.

Ten Facts the IRS Wants You to Know About the Mortgage Debt Relief Act

1.  Normally, debt forgiveness results in taxable income. However, under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, you may be able to exclude up to $2 million of debt forgiven on your principal residence. 

2.  The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return.
3.  You may exclude debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in a foreclosure. 

4.  To qualify, the debt must have been used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence and be secured by that residence. 

5.  Refinanced debt proceeds used for the purpose of substantially improving your principal residence also qualify for the exclusion. 

6.  Proceeds of refinanced debt used for other purposes – for example, to pay off credit card debt – do not qualify for the exclusion. 

7.   If you qualify, claim the special exclusion by filling out Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness, and attach it to your federal income tax return for the tax year in which the qualified debt was forgiven. 

8.  Debt forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans do not qualify for the tax relief provision. In some cases, however, other tax relief provisions – such as insolvency – may be applicable. IRS Form 982 provides more details about these provisions. 

9.  If your debt is reduced or eliminated you normally will receive a year-end statement, Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, from your lender. By law, this form must show the amount of debt forgiven and the fair market value of any property foreclosed. 

10.  Examine the Form 1099-C carefully. Notify the lender immediately if any of the information shown is incorrect. You should pay particular attention to the amount of debt forgiven in Box 2 as well as the value listed for your home in Box 7.

Home Inspection to the Rescue!

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You Better Give Sherlock Holmes a Ring!

No, you don't need the fictional detective inspector. However, you do need a home inspector! Think of this as a "pre-emptive strike" to maintain or increase your home's value before you put it on the market. Here are the benefits an inspector provides you:

Benefit 1: The inspector can uncover any problems that need fixing, and you can correct them before any potential buyers enter your home. Such an inspection can prevent your sale from falling through!
Benefit 2: With an inspection, you can show prospective buyers receipts to prove the work has been done. Buyers love proof! In reality and in their eyes, it underpins the value of your home and the asking price.
Benefit 3: You may be able to factor the cost of the inspection into the asking price for your home!
Benefit 4: When you have a pre-sale home inspection completed, you're able to estimate if the discount the prospective buyer is asking is reasonable. In other words, you can refuse unreasonably low offers if you know the value of your house, including the degree of its defects.
So, How Do I Find a Qualified Home Inspector?
I can recommend a certified home inspector who will do a great job for you. However, if you decide you want to do it on your own, make sure he or she is qualified!
Con artists sometimes pose as home inspectors, taking your money and giving you nothing but grief in return. Here's how to know if an inspector is the real deal:
Ask your friends for referrals. If they've had a good experience, go with that home inspector. I’d recommend you interview a minimum of two or three inspectors before choosing one. Make sure they’re full-time professionals conducting several inspections a year.
If possible, select a home inspector who’s a member of The American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors.These association members follow a stated code of ethics. In addition, they’re prohibited from having a professional interest in the sale, repair or maintenance of a property they inspect. They’re also forbidden from using their inspection business as a way to find customers for a handyman service that they “happen” to own. You may want to go on the Internet and use ASHI’s “Find a Home Inspector” link to identify potential candidates in our locality.

As part of the interview process, ask for samples of comprehensive reports (about 20-50 pages in length). The samples should be painstakingly done and backed up with complete details, including photos and diagrams. If an "inspector" refuses to give you a report or provides only a sloppily written 2-to-5 page sample, run the other way!

What Does a Home Inspector Cost?
Frankly, the rates vary. On a national level, the rates fall in the range of $200 to $400. As part of the interview process, I recommend you ask several inspectors for their rates so you can get an idea of the price range. In the end, keep in mind that while the cost of an inspection may seem high, it can actually add several thousand dollars to the value of your home! So, don't think of it as a cost; think of it as an investment!

What Exactly Does a Home Inspector Evaluate?
In general, he or she will look at the following areas: 
- Electrical System Wiring, Service Panel and Service Capacity
- Energy Conservation/Safety Items
- Exterior Walls, Siding, Trim
- Floor, Wall, Ceiling, Roof Structures
- Foundation, Footings, Crawl Space, Basements, Sub-flooring, Decks
- Gutters, Downspouts
- Heating & Cooling Systems
- Insulation & Ventilation
- Interior Floors, Walls, Ceilings
- Moisture Intrusion/Mold 
- Overall Structural Integrity
- Plumbing Systems
- Property Drainage/Landscaping
- Roof & Shingles, Chimneys, Attic
- Walks and Drives
 - Windows, Doors, Cabinets, Counters, etc. 

Should I Be Present During a Home Inspection?
You bet! A typical inspection takes three hours or more, so I recommend that you be present for at least the first 30 minutes to make sure the job is being done thoroughly. At the end of the inspection, the home inspector should give you a point-by-point summary of what needs to be corrected in order to add value to your home!
Hope you enjoyed this very useful information about home inspection! If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to contact me!

Good News For the Palm Beach County Real Estate Market – Mid-Year Recap

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As we study our statistics and continue to report the news as it’s happening, we have seen some pretty incredible activity happening lately. In fact, when you look at the number of homes available on the market last year versus this year at the same time, the change is almost unbelievable.

The number of available single-family homes on the market has decreased a very significant 58% this year as of June as compared to the same period in 2011. This huge dip in inventory has a direct impact on sellers and buyers alike.

For sellers, homes are selling faster and they are able to yield top dollar on the sale – for the first time in a long while enjoying a seller’s market. Lower inventory means that buyers are facing increasing competition when they go to get their dream homes.

Multiple offers have been coming in for most listings and in some cases these can be as many as 5 or even 10 offers per property. What does this mean for the seller? It means there is likely going to be a bidding war and the homeowner will be able to get at least asking price or even more in some cases. Buyers will need to be quick on the draw and move efficiently if they want to avoid getting into a bidding war that might end up in disappointment.

Whether you are a buyer, seller or investor – we know exactly how to get you to the closing table. Contact me today on my personal cell phone at 561.352.3056 so together we can help achieve your real estate dreams of living in beautiful Palm Beach County, Florida!