4 renovations that kill a home’s value

Read a [tag]home decorating[/tag] magazine or watch a [tag]cable-TV home improvement show[/tag], and you might easily conclude that any upgrade will pay off when you sell. Not so. Even in good times, not all projects have widespread appeal. You’ll earn back virtually your entire investment in a kitchen or deck, but less than 75 cents on the dollar if you add a home office or sunroom, according to “Remodeling” magazine’s annual cost vs. value survey. What’s worse, some renovations can even hurt you in the eyes of home buyers, a costly problem if you hope to sell in a softening market like today’s. Basic Home Remodeling: Home Improvement DVD

In some areas, especially hot-weather spots like Arizona and Florida, a pool is a must-have. In the Southwest, adding one boosts your home’s value by 11 percent on average, according to a National Association of Realtors study. But elsewhere it can just as easily turn off buyers, who worry about affording the upkeep and insurance. And if the most likely buyer of your home is a family with small children, think long and hard before installing a pool. “People with younger children may be leery of houses with pools for safety reasons,” says Barry Graziano, a real estate agent with Prudential Rand Realty in White Plains, N.Y. “I’ve had families walk away. A pool can cut down on the number of people who will want to buy your house.”
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Surge in Home Prices Leaves Homeowners Underinsured

Mold, Fire, Flood & Other Topics: Homeowners Insurance Explained Americans have been pouring money into their homes in recent years, adding everything from marble bathrooms to fancy backyard barbecues: Last year alone, spending on improvements like these hit an estimated $155 billion, up 27% from two years earlier. At the same time, the global boom in commodities prices — lumber, copper piping and other necessities — as well as rising labor costs has pushed up replacement costs by 7% a year since 2001.

[tag]Home insurance[/tag] exists to help owners repair or rebuild a home, and replace furniture, clothing and other personal property, in the wake of a fire, burglary or other calamity covered by the policy. Some risks, such as flooding or acts of war, are routinely excluded. (Policies also include [tag]liability coverage[/tag] to protect against lawsuits resulting from incidents around a home, such as your dog biting the cable guy). For insurance purposes, the value of a house is based mostly on the rebuilding costs in a particular area, not on its market value. The policy isn’t meant to include the value of the land underneath, which is why some homes, especially in desirable neighborhoods where land is pricey, need less insurance than the amount they would fetch in a resale. Continue reading “Surge in Home Prices Leaves Homeowners Underinsured”

New group brings Caribbean flavor to Tampa Bay

Mini flags of the different [tag]Caribbean island[/tag] nations sat on a table at the front of the room – Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Vincent, Jamaica, Barbados, Haiti, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago. More than 50 people were seated in the meeting room at the Copperstone meeting facility in Land O’Lakes. Among them were mortgage brokers, real estate developers, dentists, doctors, accountants, lawyers, chiropractors, doctors. Business folks. The Wednesday evening gathering was the first general meeting of the [tag]Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce[/tag] of [tag]Tampa Bay[/tag]. Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations (National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations Includes the Islands and Coastal Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, and Honduras)

The Caribbean business flavor is sprinkled throughout Tampa, with small grocery stores and restaurants. You can also find Caribbean businesses and business folks in Pasco, Citrus and Hernando counties. For those who know what to look for and listen to, the presence is unmistakable. It usually starts with a casual conversation and a recognition of the telltale accent. I hear from Caribbean folks whenever I, an immigrant from Montserrat, write anything about island life. While the number of Caribbean immigrants in Tampa Bay still lags far behind the numbers in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and even Orlando, their presence is growing Continue reading “New group brings Caribbean flavor to Tampa Bay”

How moving to nursing home affects reverse mortgage

Reverse Mortgages For Dummies My 90-year-old mother-in-law has recently moved permanently into a [tag]nursing home[/tag]. She has a new [tag]reverse mortgage[/tag] on her free-and-clear home to pay her living costs. My husband will inherit her house when she passes on. At that time, we plan to demolish it and build new. What are the financial ramifications of renting the house to tenants until she passes away? He is reluctant, whereas I hate to see a nice house sitting there vacant that can bring in $2,000 monthly rent.

Because your mother-in-law permanently moved out of her principal residence, her reverse mortgage will become due and fully payable in full after 12 months of her non-occupancy of the house. Reverse mortgage lenders periodically check up on their borrowers to see if they (a) are still alive and (b) are occupying their primary residence (except for absences less than 12 months). If the house is rented to a tenant, when the reverse mortgage lender discovers the owner no longer lives there, the lender can require the loan balance be paid in full or it will be put into foreclosure. For more details, read the reverse mortgage documents and consult a local real estate attorney. Continue reading “How moving to nursing home affects reverse mortgage”

Real Estate Speculators Being Washed Out of Southeast Housing Markets

ForeclosureS(dot)com, a northern California based [tag]real estate investment advisory firm[/tag] and publisher of foreclosure property information, reported today that the rising tide of foreclosure activity in [tag]southeastern housing market[/tag]s was an indication that property flippers who bought at the peak of the price appreciation curve were simply walking away from houses they were unable to sell at a profit. “Over 8,500 properties in Florida went into foreclosure in the month of June alone,” said ForeclosureS(dot)com president Alexis McGee. She added that the problem was being exacerbated by the widespread use of so-called “[tag]creative mortgage products[/tag]” that people used to buy homes they really couldn’t afford as prices skyrocketed in overheated coastal markets. Make Money in Short-Sale Foreclosures: How to Bypass Owners and Buy Directly from Lenders

“Now, price appreciation has gone flat and even reversed slightly and this trend is colliding with [tag]rising interest rates[/tag]. People who bought at or near the market peak are being squeezed out of their homes and speculators find themselves trapped by rising costs and negative cash flows,” said Ms. McGee. She pointed out that in Georgia almost 8,900 properties had already been lost in foreclosure. “We think this is only the beginning of a major shakeout. There are about $400 billion of these exotic loans out there across the country that will reset to market rates this year and cause severe payment shock to homeowners,” she added. Continue reading “Real Estate Speculators Being Washed Out of Southeast Housing Markets”

Result of sale could be retail for downtown St. Petersburg

Mortgages For Dummies, 2nd Edition

Part of a 1980s plan to spark a retail renaissance in downtown [tag]St. Petersburg[/tag], 100 Central Station may finally be rising to its potential almost 20 years later. A Michigan company, Lutz Real Estate Investments, has paid $15-million for the first two floors of the downtown building, soon to be vacated by Progress Energy. Its eight stories on Central Avenue between First and Second streets N consist of 133,279 square feet of commercial space below six floors of parking.

Though Progress is leaving early next year to occupy a new 16-story tower in downtown St. Petersburg, the company’s lease at Central Station extends until May 2008. Progress’ early departure leaves Lutz a year to renovate and market the class A office space, but don’t expect all the square footage to hold desks and copiers. “We’d be very happy to entertain retail on the first floor,” company principal Adam Lutz said. Lutz entered the Tampa Bay area last year with the purchase of the 670,000-square-foot Tri-County Business Park north of Tampa for $42-million. St. Petersburg’s attraction to the company was twofold: office and retail vacancy downtown has plunged to about 5 percent, a rise in demand that portends a rise in rents. Plus, downtown has become more lively, as underscored by the popularity of the shops and restaurants of BayWalk. Lutz is banking on the creation of what it calls a “24/7 live-work-and-play downtown.” Continue reading “Result of sale could be retail for downtown St. Petersburg”

Freebies for home buyers

As the real estate market slows, sellers seem willing to try anything to close a deal. “[tag]Incentives[/tag] are all over the place,” says Salli Kirkpatrick, founder of SK Associates, a Sacramento area advertising agency that works with home builders. “No [tag]closing costs[/tag], no payments for six months, $10,000 toward a built-in s[tag]wimming pool[/tag]. Things have gone berserk.” Interior and Exterior Home Inspection from A to Z - DVD - Real Estate Home Inspector, Homeowner, Home Buyer and Seller Survival Kit Series

“Price cuts are averaging 5 percent to 6 percent,” Seiders says, “and 30 percent of all the large builders have cut prices in at least some of their development by 10 percent or more.” As mortgage rates inch higher, some builders eager to move inventory may help in that area too, says Seiders. That could mean a 4.5 percent interest rate for the first year and 5.5 percent for the second on a [tag]30-year fixed rate mortgage[/tag], instead of the going rate of about 6.5 percent. That would save a total of $6,828 on a $300,000 loan over the first two years of ownership. Continue reading “Freebies for home buyers”

Why Buying Bigger Doesn’t Guarantee a Rich Retirement

The Retirement Savings Time Bomb...and How to Defuse It It’s among today’s most popular [tag]retirement-savings[/tag] strategies: Buy the big house, hope the [tag]real-estate boom[/tag] continues and then trade down at retirement, thus freeing up home equity that will pay for years of early-bird specials. Sound appealing? Trouble is, you will fork over a heap of dollars — and you’ll end up with a surprisingly small [tag]nest egg[/tag].

What’s the best way to build yourself a nest egg? You might stick with your current home, pay down that mortgage over the next 30 years and stash your spare cash in stock and bond mutual funds. Call this the “small-house strategy” (though, in many parts of the country, a $400,000 home wouldn’t be exactly small). Alternatively, you could opt for the “big-house strategy” — trading up to a $1 million home and aiming to pay down the resulting $900,000 mortgage between now and retirement. At age 65, you would then cash in a big chunk of your home equity by swapping back to the equivalent of a $400,000 home. Continue reading “Why Buying Bigger Doesn’t Guarantee a Rich Retirement”

Tips to Cut Energy Bills

With the dog days of summer officially upon us — and with [tag]utility costs[/tag] rising at the same pace as our backyard thermometers, the [tag]Alliance to Save Energy[/tag] offers these tips to remain cool during the sweltering heat wave and save a few bucks in the process. Shift energy-intensive tasks, such as laundry and dishwashing, to off-peak hours — nights, mornings, and weekends — when the strain on the power grid from business, industry and homes operating [tag]air conditioning[/tag] simultaneously is reduced. Operate washers and dryers with full loads to get the most for your energy dollars. Environmental Science : Earth as a Living Planet

Also consider increasing the temperature by just three degrees to decrease your energy bills — or use a fan to circulate air so that you can increase the temperature comfortably. For optimum performance, make sure window units are sized properly. Save water and energy simultaneously. Energy Star-certified clothes washers cut water and energy usage simultaneously, while getting clothes just as clean with less wear and tear. Also investigate Energy Star-certified dishwashers with soil sensors to shorten the washing cycle and clothes dryers with moisture sensors. Continue reading “Tips to Cut Energy Bills”

Why Is Illegal Flipping A White-Collar Crime?

Real Estate Flipping: Grow Rich Buying and Selling Property Hardly a week passes without more revelations of i[tag]llegal flipping[/tag]. Typical of what you see has been the recent situation in Cincinnati where more than three dozen people have been convicted in a $50 million illegal flipping scam. Timothy Husvar, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, was involved in illegal flipping worth $2.3 million over a three-year period. The paper says he has “admitted in court papers to serving as a mortgage broker and property seller in a scheme involving low-priced homes, stooge or puppet buyers, [tag]bogus appraisals[/tag], [tag]falsified loan applications[/tag] and, ultimately, loans well in excess of the value of the properties.

Illegal flipping occurs in large measure because we see it as an acceptable white-collar crime. Many of those involved in the Cincinnati scheme received two years in jail for their assorted crimes. If you think that’s tough, consider how much damage was done and how many people were harmed — and then imagine the sentence if someone robs a convenience store of $20.Those who engage in serial illegal flipping should face far tougher sanctions than we now demand. Continue reading “Why Is Illegal Flipping A White-Collar Crime?”