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773.818.9054 office/cell
866.381.4238 efax

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mortgage-free Living Lures Young and Old

From yesterday's Chicago Tribune:

What mortgage meltdown?

While millions of Americans have suffered the angst of lost homes, equity and pride, nearly a third of the nation's homeowners have no mortgage at all, according to an estimate released Thursday by real estate website Zillow.

The free-and-clear class includes, predictably, retirees who have chipped away at their debts for decades, but also a surprisingly high percentage of young people and those who live in relatively affordable regions.

Economists and housing analysts said that Zillow's estimates are in line with historical norms. But the proportion of these owners is likely to grow as the nation's baby boomers reach retirement. The fact that they can pay cash when they move will make them increasingly important players in a recovering housing market.

"Those are the people who have the greatest flexibility," said Svenja Gudell, a senior economist with Zillow.

As the economy picks up, regions with high percentages of free-and-clear owners probably will get a boost.

"That means there is a lot more disposable income," said Celia Chen, a housing economist with Moody's Economy.com. "That is positive for the local economy."

Out of the nation's largest metro areas, Pittsburgh; Tampa, Fla.; New York; Cleveland; and Miami had the highest percentages of mortgage-free homeowners. Washington, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Denver and Charlotte, N.C., had the lowest. That compares with 29.3 percent nationally — nearly 21 million homeowners.

A big factor in regional variation is median home values, with lower-priced areas not surprisingly having higher outright ownership rates.

Zillow also found that the nation's most elderly were the most likely to own their homes. One outlier was those homeowners 20 to 24. Out of that relatively young demographic, about 34.5 percent owned their homes outright. These homeowners could be young millionaires, those with trust funds or those who received help from their parents.

People who own their homes outright have always been a significant part of the housing market, said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. But the recent financial crisis may drive more people toward the financial security of having no house note.

"Clearly that is going to be a growing trend as our population ages," Cecala said. "The credit crisis has pushed more and more people to think that the best way they can prepare for retirement is with no mortgage at all."

Delia Fernandez, a certified financial planner in Los Alamitos, Calif., said that even with interest rates so low, those seeking her guidance for retirement often want to pay off debts. And that makes sense, particularly for those nearing retirement.

"The financial argument has always been to borrow other people's money and invest the rest," she said. But "that higher rate of return is not always guaranteed. . In the meantime, as you get closer and closer to retirement, people want to take on less and less risk."

Victor Robinette, a certified financial planner with Raymond James Financial Services Inc. in South Pasadena, Calif., said customers have been asking him more often these days about paying off the mortgage.

"During the boom days, and before, there was hardly any interest in paying off debt because people were so confident that the value of their home was going to go up," Robinette said. "Nowadays, after four or five years of being bruised, people really appreciate the comfort of having the house paid off. And so many people still have concerns about possibly losing their livelihood."


10:21 am cst 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Illinois Top 5 in Foreclosures in 2012

From today's Chicago Tribune:

Foreclosure activity fell 3 percent on a national level last year from 2011 but higher foreclosures in half of the states, including Illinois, showed the uneven pace of the housing recovery.

Homeowners, including those in the Chicago area, did get some good news in a second report issued Thursday that showed fewer homeowners were underwater on their mortgages.

Nationwide, foreclosure notices were filed against 1.84 million properties last year, a sizable decline from 2010, the peak year, when foreclosures affected 2.9 million properties, according to a year-end RealtyTrac report issued Thursday.

Of the 25 states where foreclosure activity rose in 2012, 20 of them are judicial states, where foreclosures are handled by local court systems. Illinois is among those states, and in 2012, foreclosure activity in the state rose 33 percent from 2011.

In Illinois, 2.58 percent of homes received a foreclosure filing last year, meaning it had the fifth highest state foreclosure rate in the nation in 2012. The four states ahead of Illinois were Florida, where 3.11 percent of properties received a foreclosure filing, followed by Nevada, Arizona and Georgia, said RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for distressed properties.

In Cook County, the state's most populous county, 70,233 properties received a foreclosure filing in 2012. Totals for other Chicago-area counties included DuPage, 10,443; Kane, 8,564; Kendall, 2,306; Lake, 10,555; McHenry, 5,419; and Will, 9,591.

At the end of the year, there were 135,858 properties in Illinois that were either in some stage of the foreclosure process or already bank-owned. In Illinois, it takes an average 697 days for a property to complete the foreclosure process.

That pales in comparison to some other states. Foreclosures take an average of 1,089 days in New York, 987 days in New Jersey and 853 days in Florida.

"Although we are comfortably past the peak of the foreclosure problem nationally, 2013 is likely to be book-ended by two discrete jumps in foreclosure activity," said Daren Blomquist, a RealtyTrac vice president, in a release.

"We expect to seek continued increases in judicial foreclosure states near the beginning of the year as lenders finish catching up with the backlogs in those states, and another set of increases in some non-judicial states near the end of the year as lenders adjust to the new laws and process some deferred foreclosures in those states."

Foreclosure filings can include the initial notice of default, notice that a auction of the home has been scheduled and notice that the property has been repossessed by the lender.

RealtyTrac said home price increases are helping consumers slowly gain back some equity in their homes. A report by housing data provider CoreLogic echoed that finding.

At the end of the October, 10.7 million residential properties, or 22 percent of all properties with a mortgage, were underwater, meaning more was owed on the mortgage than the value of the property. That compares with 22.3 percent at the end of June.

Another 2.3 million properties were considered in a near-negative equity situation, meaning they had less than 5 percent equity in their homes.

In the Chicago area, more homes were underwater than the national average but the situation is improving. CoreLogic found 451,684 homes, or 29.6 percent of residential properties with a mortgage, were underwater, compared with 30.1 percent at the end of June. The percentage of properties that had near-negative equity locally remained the same, at 4.7 percent, or about 71,000 homes.

CoreLogic economists attributed the equity gains to rising home prices, sent higher in part because of tight inventory levels across the country.

1:36 pm cst 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Congress extends Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act through 2013

Great news for those who are considering a short sale in 2013!

Congress has extended the certain provisions of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act through the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 until December 31, 2013. This act benefits qualified homeowners who may have otherwise owed taxes on forgiven debt after going through a short sale.

Homeowners will continue to receive their 1099-C forms. Please keep in mind that homeowners should always consult their tax advisor so they can evaluate their personal situation and understand their tax payments.

3:23 pm cst 

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