Dec. 5, 2018

Freddie Mac to back new loans for manufactured homes

McLEAN, Va. – Dec. 4, 2018 – Freddie Mac announced a new loan product for manufactured housing as a way to boost the U.S. supply for affordable homes.

Freddie says its CHOICEHome conventional financing for manufactured housing will help increase the availability of quality affordable homes by providing lenders with the innovative financing options they need. Manufactured homes can deliver quality at prices up to 50 percent less per square foot than conventional site-built homes.

"Finding a home is more difficult than ever because of the ongoing housing supply shortage in many parts of the country, especially when looking for a home at a lower price point," says Mike Dawson, vice president of Single-Family Affordable Lending Strategy and Policy at Freddie Mac. "Currently there are more than 22 million families living in factory-built housing, and with that number expected to grow, there's an opportunity for factory-built homes to address the housing supply shortage and quality housing overall. This new generation of manufactured housing might just be the best option for first-time homebuyers, millennials, and empty-nesters looking to downsize."

Freddie Mac is conducting a two-year CHOICEHome pilot to bring conventional loan financing to factory-built homes. These homes have features such as permanent foundations and pitched roofs. Many of these homes also come with energy-saving features like Energy Star Qualified Low-E windows, programmable thermostats and minimum insulation values.

Freddie Mac will treat loans secured by CHOICEHome like loans secured by single-family site-built homes. If a factory-built home meets certain specifications, it will be granted a CHOICEHome certification and be eligible for CHOICEHome financing that includes many Freddie Mac conventional loan products, including HomeOne and Home Possible mortgages.

Appraisers will be able to use site-built housing as a comparable for valuation.

Manufacturers and lenders must follow HUD-code guidelines for the home construction and siting of the home in order to meet CHOICEHome eligibility, and lenders must follow local and state guidelines for manufactured housing titled as real property.

© 2018 Florida Realtors®

Nov. 30, 2018

What happens to a house after one spouse dies?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Nov. 29, 2018 – Question: I am concerned about what will happen to my house if my husband passes away. Will I be allowed to keep the house and make mortgage payments, or sell it if I want to? – Nancy

Answer: In most cases, you would be allowed to either keep the house, making mortgage payments, or sell it. Many factors affect this, though – most importantly, how the home is titled.

Most married couples own their homes in a special type of ownership reserved just for spouses known as "tenants by the entirety." To explain the significance of this type of joint ownership, however, I need to first explain the two other options that are available.

The default type is called "tenants in common," in which each co-owner owns his or her part of the property individually. Typically, these portions are equal but, if specified on the deed, they can be different, such as 80 percent to one owner and 20 percent to another. With this type, there can be many owners, and when each owner dies, his or her portion goes to any heirs.

Another type of ownership is called "joint tenants with right of survivorship." This is like "tenants in common" in many ways, except that when each owner passes away, the portion goes to the other owners instead of heirs.

This brings us to "tenants by the entirety," which is similar in many ways to "joint tenants with right of survivorship," except that it is limited to a married couple. It has been said that the marriage becomes the owner of the property with this form, automatically making the surviving spouse the owner of the property. There are other advantages to owning property this way, such as money judgments against one spouse not forming a lien against the property – unlike with other forms of ownership where judgments against one owner could attach.

The easiest way to tell whether you own your home this way is by looking at your deed. If both of your names are listed along with an indication that you are married, then you are all set.

If the property is in his name alone, the law will still provide you with certain protections. However, many factors come into play such as whether you have children, their ages, and what is set out in his will, if he has one. You should review your situation with a qualified estate planning professional now because any discrepancies are much easier and less expensive to deal with while you are both alive.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation

Nov. 29, 2018

Forget marriage – more young adults prefer homeownership

NEW YORK – Nov. 27, 2018 – When asked about life priorities, millennials name homeownership as their second-highest goal behind retirement – and before marriage and having children, according to Bank of America's 2018 Homebuyer Insight Report.

Seventy-two percent of millennials say owning a home is a top priority, while 50 percent pointed to marriage and 44 percent to having children.

"Millennials are redefining life's priorities by placing homeownership above nearly all other key milestones, including marriage," Steve Boland, head of consumer lending at Bank of America, notes in the report. "Millennials equate homeownership with personal and financial success, and it's encouraging to see this generation aspire to homeownership."

Forty-seven percent of millennials equate homeownership with being mature and responsible or feeling like an adult, according to the survey. Millennials also said homeownership would make them feel independent (36 percent), established (34 percent) and empowered (26 percent).

First-time buyer housing preferences

  • Homeownership tenure: 50 percent prefer a starter home; 50 percent prefer a long-term home.
  • Larger space: 52 percent want more square footage; 48 percent prefer a larger backyard.
  • Home design: 66 percent want a modern layout; 34 percent prefer a home with "good bones."
  • Extra rooms: 65 percent want a garage; 35 percent want an extra bedroom.
  • Amenities: 75 percent prefer updated appliances; more than 25 percent prefer an updated exterior.

Source: "Bank of America 2018 Homebuyer Insight Report," Bank of America (November 2018)

© Copyright 2018 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688  

Nov. 26, 2018

Florida's housing market: More sales, median prices up in October

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nov. 21, 2018 – Florida's housing market reported more closed sales, rising median prices and more new listings in October compared to a year ago, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 22,272 last month, up 8.5 percent compared to October 2017.

"Florida's housing market showed a rise in new listings in October, which is a good sign for potential homebuyers," says 2018 Florida Realtors President Christine Hansen, broker-owner with Century 21 Hansen Realty in Fort Lauderdale. "New listings for existing single-family homes rose 9.5 percent compared to a year ago and new listings for condo-townhouse properties increased 7.9 percent from last October.

"At the same time, the median time for a sale to go to contract is getting shorter: For single-family homes, it was 40 days, down 7 percent from the same time last year; for condo-townhouse properties, it was 44 days, down 12 percent. With such a quick turnaround time to contract, buyers and sellers can benefit from the expertise of a Realtor who understands their local markets."

October marked 82 consecutive months (more than six and a half years) that statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and condo-townhouse properties increased year-over-year.

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $253,853, up 7.6 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Thestatewide median price for condo-townhouse units in October was $180,000, up 5.9 percent over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in September 2018 was <spancolor:#231b18;background-color: white;="" background:white"="" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: none; border-spacing: 0px; border-collapse: collapse;">$578,850; in Massachusetts, it was $390,000; in Maryland, it was $287,700; and in New York, it was $270,000.</spancolor:#231b18;background-color:>

Looking at Florida's condo-townhouse market, statewide closed sales totaled 9,270 last month, up 14.1 percent compared to a year ago. Closed sales data continued to reflect fewer short sales and foreclosures in October: Short sales for condo-townhouse properties dropped 45.2 percent and foreclosures fell 28.2 percent year-to-year; while short sales for single-family homes declined 31.5 percent and foreclosures fell 21 percent year-to-year. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

"Closed sales of single-family homes were up 8.5 percent in October compared to last year, thanks in large part to a level of inventory that has been on the rise since July," says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O'Connor. "As of the end of October, in fact, the inventory of active single-family home listings was up 9.8 percent year-over-year. If this trend continues into the new year, and should mortgage rates continue to climb as well, we might eventually see less vigorous price growth – but for now, price growth remains robust.

"Inventory levels in the condo-townhouse category have also been on the rise as of late, with active condo and townhouse listings up almost 5.4 percent statewide compared to last year. This rise in inventory has been good for sales, as Florida Realtors' data shows."

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.83 percent in October 2018, up from the 3.90 percent averaged during the same month a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Research & Statistics section on Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors website

© 2018 Florida Realtors®

Nov. 15, 2018

Want to lower your 2018 tax bill? Take action now!

NEW YORK – Nov. 14, 2018 – Income taxes can be taxing. And that's especially the case with the tax overhaul signed into law late last year.

The law created $1.5 trillion in tax cuts but did nothing to make the filing process simpler. In fact, the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" fell woefully short in that regard, according to Wolters Kluwer, an information services and software company.

Given all that, now would be a good time to review ways to cut your tax bill before it gets too late in the year. After all, you likely don't want to pay any more in income taxes than the new law demands. What do experts recommend?

Check your withholding

Check your withholding and update your W-4 if needed, says Julie Welch, a partner in the accounting firm Meara Welch Browne in Leawood, Kansas. "If additional withholding is needed before year-end, you can use line 6 of the W-4 to state the amount," she says. "Remember to submit another updated W-4 if you wish to remove that extra withholding in the future," she adds.

The IRS website has a calculator that helps you identify your withholding to make sure you have the right amount of tax held back from your paycheck.

And don't forget to estimate your 2018 and 2019 income tax situation to avoid large balances due, says Welch.

Use it or lose it

Robert Westley, a vice president and wealth adviser at Northern Trust Company in New York, says taxpayers should focus on the use-it or-lose-it type planning opportunities.

"Taxpayers should strive to maximize contributions to their available retirement plans, keeping in mind the additional contributions that may be made if age 50 or older," he says.

Taxpayers should review their flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, and plan how to use the funds before year-end. "Any funds not used by the end of the year or account deadline will be lost," says Westley.

Bunch charitable contributions

The new tax law doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for single taxpayers and $24,000 for those married filing jointly. And that, combined with changes that limit or repeal many itemized deductions, means that starting in 2018 more than 90 percent of taxpayers will claim the standard deduction, according to Wolters Kluwer.

For those individuals who are considering the standard deduction instead of itemizing, consider bunching your charitable contributions into alternate years if it will enable you to take the standard deduction one year and itemize the next.

"If you do not want to give the money to charity at one time, contribute to a donor-advised fund and then make the distributions to charity over time," says Lisa Featherngill, the head of legacy and wealth planning at Abbot Downing in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Gift your money

Year-end also is a great time to make annual exclusion gifts, says Westley. "For those looking to reduce their estate tax exposure, individuals can give up to $15,000 to an unlimited number of beneficiaries per year without decreasing their lifetime estate tax exclusion amount or paying a gift tax," he says. "These (and other) planning opportunities will be lost once the year ends and should be top of mind to review now."

Got qualified business income?

The new 20 percent deduction from qualified business income for pass-through entities is a significant potential tax benefit for business owners, says Mark Luscombe, a principal analyst with Wolters Kluwer. "But it can be complicated to figure out how to maximize the deduction," he says.

Luscombe's advice: Work with a trusted tax adviser to maximize eligibility for the 20 percent deduction.

Tactics based on your bracket

Leonard Wright, a wealth management adviser at Northwestern Mutual, says there are specific steps to take based on your tax rate.

"If your tax rate is high, consider boosting your and your spouse's 401(k) contributions and/or your spouse's IRA contributions," he says. "but if you are in a loss position, or a very low tax bracket, consider converting IRA or 401(k) assets to a Roth IRA."

Also, consider contributing to a Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA if able. "Especially for anyone who is early on in their career and in a lower tax bracket," Wright says.

Copyright © 2018,, USA TODAY, Robert Powell. Robert Powell is editor of TheStreet's Retirement Daily.

Posted in National News
Nov. 12, 2018

Buyers finding it easier to qualify for a mortgage

NEW YORK – Nov. 9, 2018 – Clearing the hurdles to qualify for a mortgage used to be much harder. House hunters with too much debt had their home-buying hopes dashed after being denied a mortgage.

That's changing as mortgage lenders ease lending guidelines to expand mortgage credit to more people.

Borrowers with a high debt-to-income ratio now have more leeway than since the subprime mortgage meltdown of a decade ago. Your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, is the percentage of monthly income you pay toward your monthly debts, including a new mortgage payment. It's a key factor – along with your credit – that lenders use to determine whether you can repay a loan. The more debt you have, the higher your DTI ratio – and that's a red flag for lenders evaluating your potential for risk.

Some consumer advocates worry that borrowers who are already struggling to stay afloat might get in over their heads with today's laxer lending requirements. On the flip side, expanding access to mortgage credit could help creditworthy borrowers in higher-priced housing markets join the home-ownership ranks they've increasingly been shut out from.

How getting a mortgage has gotten easier

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises that back most U.S. mortgages, have eased their lending rules in recent years. Fannie Mae increased its maximum DTI ratio to 50 percent, up from 45 percent, in July 2017. Both agencies allow borrowers to finance up to 97 percent of a home's purchase price, which is considered a high loan-to-value ratio.

Conventional lenders charge higher interest rates on high DTI loans to mitigate their risk. They also require a higher FICO score and more cash reserves.

Raising DTI limits is just one way lenders have made it easier to get a mortgage. LTV (loan to value) ratio increases help borrowers who don't have a large down payment. However, you'll pay private mortgage insurance when you put less than 20 percent down – and you might not be able to borrow as much as you need to buy a home.

Some conventional lenders have rolled out their own low down-payment programs without private mortgage insurance in exchange for a higher interest rate. Government-insured loans require little to no down payment, and generally have more relaxed credit score requirements than conventional loans.

Mortgage credit standards still tighter than boom times

Borrowers who don't fit into a pristine credit box now have more options, says Joel Kan, associate vice president of industry surveys and forecasting with the Mortgage Bankers Association. There's more balance to the lending equation nowadays after the regulatory pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction – a move that shut out otherwise capable borrowers, Kan said.

Although standards have loosened considerably in recent years, today's lending practices are still more stringent than they were before the housing crisis. The days of doling out loans without verifying income or employment are long gone.

"We're still about one-quarter of where we were compared to the pre-housing boom," said Kan of mortgage credit accessibility. "Standards are looser now than they were from 2010 to 2012 when credit access was the tightest, but it's not subprime."

The share of new, conventional conforming home-loans with a DTI ratio above 45 percent spiked after Fannie Mae raised its DTI limit, according to research from CoreLogic. From early 2012 up until last summer, the share of these high DTI loans held steady between 5 percent to 7 percent. In the first quarter of 2018, that share nearly tripled, jumping to 20 percent, CoreLogic found. The average DTI ratio for these home loans rose by two points to nearly 37 percent from Q1 2017 to Q1 2018.

Even as high DTI loans gain popularity, lenders haven't budged on credit score standards. Borrowers' average credit score for conventional, conforming purchase loans remained unchanged at 755 in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same period a year ago, CoreLogic found. That's significantly higher than homebuyers' average credit score of 705 in 2001 – before the downturn.

Expansion of mortgage credit has its drawbacks

High DTI and LTV loans aren't without risks. A high LTV ratio increases borrowing costs, and you'll likely have to pay mortgage insurance to offset the lender's risk.

For starters, lenders calculate your DTI ratio using your gross monthly income (before taxes and payroll deductions) and debts that appear on your credit report. They're not including monthly expenses such as groceries, gas, auto or health insurance, daycare/tuition, utility bills and other recurring bills that can eat up a good chunk of your monthly budget, said Rebecca Steele, CEO and president of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

"It puts some borrowers in a more precarious position," Steele says of high DTI loans. "Today, people have significantly less savings in reserve. To have that you need a stable income, and some consumers struggle with that. Most people have little disposable income, especially because rents are going up."

A job loss or other major financial hardship could land you in a tighter spot than if you had paid down your debt and shored up your emergency savings fund before buying a home. You'll also pay more interest with a high DTI loan, Steele said.

Another key issue that some first-time buyers overlook are the hidden costs of home-ownership, says Jeff Levine, a certified financial planner with BluePrint Wealth Alliance in Garden City, New York. When you're stretching your income to cover monthly debt payments, you won't have as much cash on hand for maintenance expenses, homeowners association dues, and major repairs that inevitably pop up, he says.

Borrowers should factor those expenses into the mix and avoid overextending themselves, Levine said.

"Just because you can get approved for a mortgage doesn't mean you should get one," Levine says. "People got into trouble (in the downturn) because they borrowed up to the hilt and didn't have the capacity to repay."

© 2018 Journal Media Group, Deborah Kearns

Nov. 7, 2018

You’re never too old to buy a first home

NEW YORK – Nov. 6, 2018 – A home purchase later in life comes with considerations unique to seniors.

Where is the cash coming from?
If you tap retirement savings, make sure you're old enough to avoid an early withdrawal penalty. You may be exempt if you're a first-time home-buyer. If you take from brokerage accounts, don't forget the tax bill the following year.

Do you plan to age in place?
Will the home meet your needs later when your health changes? Do you want live-in care? The house should accommodate these outcomes. Consider buying a condo, a more affordable and easier-to-maintain option.

Can you afford the expenses long term?
Make sure your savings and withdrawal rate support a mortgage payment and other home costs such as property taxes, insurance, home association fees and maintenance. Can you swallow these costs along with others such as medical expenses? Be conservative.

Take Rupert and Pat Haller. Since 1974, these high school sweethearts planned to buy a quiet, spacious home, a far cry from the fourth-floor walk-up apartment in Jersey City where they spent most of their lives. They finally closed on their first home in September, a ranch-style house in Toms River, New Jersey.

"It's really what we strived to do," said Rupert, 65. "After 45 years of marriage, we're both retired, we have a house, and we spend every moment together. I'm very blessed."

The Hallers represent a tiny but growing sliver of first-time home-buyers in this year's housing market. The share of home-buyers 55 and older has more than doubled in the last 15 years to 38 percent. And senior first-timers accounted for 9 percent of that share – the highest level since data was first collected in 2003, according to the 2018 Homebuyer Profile report from the National Association of Realtors® given to USA TODAY exclusively.

"People are living longer, working longer and have steady income in retirement if they even retire at all, so they feel comfortable taking on a mortgage in their senior years," says Jessica Lautz, NAR's managing director of survey research and communications.

Affordable rent and earlier financial woes kept many of these older home-buyers on the sidelines as they worked long hours, raised children and eventually welcomed grandchildren. As their golden years approached, their circumstances changed, and new possibilities opened.

A lifelong dream
Almost a year after Rupert and Pat married in 1973, the newlyweds moved to a railroad-style, two-bedroom apartment in a building managed by Rupert's father and owned by his aunt. It was on the top floor.

"I can't emphasize fourth floor walk-up enough," Rupert says. But the low rent and short commute to work made it hard to leave. "We were supposed to stay there a little while and buy something of our own," he says, "but a little while turned into 44 years."

By 1995, the property had passed to Rupert and his sister, who also lived in the building. No longer paying rent, Rupert and Pat squirreled away the extra cash for a home in retirement. A year ago, they began looking and, in Toms River, they found a house with sliding glass doors leading to an in-ground pool, hardwood floors, private lot and woods in the back. "We knew as soon as we walked in that this was the house," Pat says. "We didn't have a poker face."

They made an offer that was accepted, then rejected by a higher offer the next day. The Hallers, armed with four decades of savings, came back with an all-cash offer to seal the deal.

"We can't believe it," Rupert says. "We wake up in the morning and have breakfast together. I have a birdfeeder out here and a few days ago we saw two deer across the street. It's like a dream."

Putting family first
When her sister started to have memory problems, it was bad case of deja vu for Vanessa Blunt. Years before, her mother suffered from Alzheimer's. Vanessa helped pay for her mom's care but it took a toll on her financially. Now many years later, Vanessa, 58, and her husband Kevin, 60, are in a better position money-wise to help her sister.

But that meant moving out of their two-bedroom rental in Queens, New York, where they lived for eight years and buying a house that could accommodate her sister's changing needs. "I needed space in case her situation went from bad to worse," Vanessa says.

The Blunts, using their savings for a down-payment, looked at a dozen houses and put losing offers on three before they landed a Long Island home with three bedrooms on the main floor plus a basement apartment with its own kitchenette. They scooped it up for $400,000, up only $1,000 from its listing price.

"When I told Kevin the final price, he bugged out a bit," Vanessa says. "What sold him is if things went south, then we can rent out the basement, which is now his man cave."

Now her sister has a huge bedroom of her own with a separate entrance. The Blunts' adult son and a family friend also live with them. "It's a full house, but we have the room," Vanessa said.

At the landlord's mercy
In 1980, Cindy and Jim Schwartz – coming off separate divorces – moved in together with five children between them in a rental house in New Hampshire. For the next 38 years, that's where they lived, raising the kids and ultimately never paying more than $900 a month for the house.

"That's a big reason why we didn't move," Cindy, 69, says.

Last year, their landlord decided to sell the house. He gave them the first right of refusal, but the price was too high. But they didn't want to rent again. They wanted a house of their own.

To get a down-payment, Cindy cashed in stocks that were earmarked for their retirement. "What the heck, you only come this way once," says Cindy, a compensation manager analyst. Jim, 71, is an excavation supervisor for a homebuilder.

They would borrow $150,000 and no more. With their tight budget, they focused on fixer-uppers and expanded their search to a 50-mile radius in the state. They looked at 38 homes and lost three bidding wars. "We couldn't compete," Cindy says.

When they laid eyes on their eventual home, they knew "it had to be gutted, but the bones were good," she says. The listing price was too high at $234,900, so they put in a low-ball offer and finally got it for $207,500.

Since closing in July, the couple have knocked down walls to create a large kitchen and dining area, added French doors to the deck, replaced the flooring, installed new windows, updated the master bedroom and renovated the second bathroom, all by themselves.

"We'll be good for Thanksgiving," Cindy says.

Financial discipline
A year before Jill Charles and Glen Person bought their townhouse in September, the couple focused on putting their financial house in order. "We sat down together and talked about our goals, what we needed to survive and retire comfortably," Jill, 64, says.

The married couple from Denver saved $8,000, bought life insurance, opened an IRA and improved their credit score. When they finished paying one bill – mostly medical expenses, some that had gone into collections – they would put the extra money toward the next one. "We went from about a 575 (credit score) to 680," says Glenn, 61, a general manager for a retail outlet.

Staying in their apartment also didn't fit into their plan. The rent had doubled in the last nine years with no end in sight. They originally looked at mobile homes, but most of those sat on rented land, a turn-off for the couple.

So, they turned to town-homes. The search was difficult because they needed to stay between $175,000 and $225,000 in the hot Denver market and find a property that could be financed by an FHA-backed mortgage.

In September, they closed on a one-bedroom townhouse with a fireplace, updated kitchen and views from every window. They were one step closer to their retirement dream.

Jill, who works three days at a facility for disabled adults, plans to work for as long as she can. As for Glenn?

"I'm going to have to work until I'm 70," he says. "But on my 70th birthday, I'm going fishing."

Copyright 2018,, USA TODAY, Janna Herron  

Nov. 5, 2018

I want to sell but my ex isn’t cooperating. What do I do?

Nov. 5, 2018 – Question: I own half of a property with my ex and want to get the value out. However, he is refusing to sell. What can I do? – Patricia

Question: I got the house in our divorce years ago. Now it is time to sell, but I am told he is still on the title and will need to sign. Of course, he is not cooperating. What are my options? – Kamala

Answer: I see these sorts of problems constantly in my practice. Lawyers tend to specialize, and not all family lawyers understand the long-term ramifications of how a marital settlement agreement and divorce judgment get drafted.

Many times, the primary residence is dealt with but investment property is ignored. Or, in some cases, the couple decided to forego the use of an attorney altogether and get divorced but neglected to deal with co-owned property.

In either case, your first step is to review your divorce papers carefully. Most will order that one spouse deed the property to the other but do not effectuate transfer of the property in the judgment.

If this is the case, you need to get your ex to sign a deed now. If your ex does not want to do this, you may need to reopen the divorce case and ask the judge to enforce its ruling by holding your ex in contempt. This is time-consuming and expensive but almost always works.

It can be more difficult if your ex is nowhere to be found, but you can accomplish it through the court. With this headache in mind, people with a pending divorce are well served to either get the judge to include the actual transfer of the property in its ruling or to make sure your ex signs a deed while signing the rest of the mountain of paperwork.

If the co-owned property was not dealt with in the divorce, either purposefully or because you forgot to include it, you need to move forward like any other joint property owners and file a partition lawsuit. In this type of case, the judge looks at the circumstances of the purchase and ownership of the property to decide what is a fair way to split it. The judge considers factors such as how the down payment was made; who paid the mortgage, taxes and expenses; and how the property was used – then crafts a fair split. This usually requires that the property be sold, any debt be paid off, and the remaining equity be shared accordingly, although the judge may allow one party to buy out the other if that is what they want to do.

These suits are very effective in resolving the issue, but they cost money and can take months or longer to work their way through the courthouse. So, as is the case with most lawsuits, it is best to work things out, if possible, without judicial intervention.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

© Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Oct. 30, 2018

Sellers could lose momentum if they overprice listings

CHICAGO – Oct. 26, 2018 – A shift is occurring in many housing markets. As home prices continue to rise along with mortgage rates, more potential buyers are choosing to postpone a purchase – and more home sellers are now facing competition. In many locations, sellers should no longer expect the quick sale they've seen neighbors get in the past.

The number of For Sale signs is starting to increase across the country, and unsold inventory is at a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace. Inventories were at 1.88 million in September, up slightly from 1.86 million a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors®' (NAR) latest housing report.

"There is a clear shift in the market with another month of rising inventory on a year-over-year basis, though seasonal factors are leading to a third straight month of declining inventory," says Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "Homes will take a bit longer to sell compared to the super-heated fast pace that we saw earlier this year."

Existing-home sales declined in September, with all four major regions of the country seeing no gains in sales activity last month, according to NAR's report. Total existing home sales – completed transactions for single-family homes, town homes, condos, and co-ops – dropped 3.4 percent in September compared to August and are now at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million. Sales are down 4.1 percent from a year ago.

"This is the lowest existing home sale level since November 2015," says Yun. "Decades-high mortgage rates are preventing consumers from making quick decisions on home purchases. All the while, affordable home listings remain low, continuing to spur under-performing sales activity across the country."

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has jumped from an average of 3.99 percent in 2017 to an average of 4.63 percent in September.

"Rising interest rates coupled with increasing home prices are keeping first-time buyers out of the market, but consistent job gains could allow more Americans to enter the market with a steady and measurable rise in inventory," Yun says.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Oct. 30, 2018

Millions of Florida properties impacted if Amendment 2 fails

ORLANDO, Fla. – Oct. 26, 2018 – More than 2 million of Florida's 5 million commercial properties, rental units, second homes and vacant lots are facing property tax hikes not seen in over a decade if voters do not approve Amendment 2 on Nov. 6.

Amendment 2 preserves the 10 percent cap on annual increases of non-homestead property values that has been in place for the last 10 years. The property number, generated by an analysis of tax rolls in every Florida county, showcases the large scale impact that will occur if that tax cap is allowed to expire. If Amendment 2 fails, all non-homestead properties will be affected.

"Five million properties is a huge number, and if property taxes are allowed to increase unpredictably on even a fraction of those properties, Florida is in trouble," says Anita Colletti, a Realtor with John R. Wood Properties in Naples, Florida. "And that's not just an anecdotal statement. We have actual evidence of excessive property tax increases prior to the cap that hurt these property owners and the communities they support."

Prior to the 10 percent cap, non-homestead property values rose at uncontrollable rates. For example, according to data contained in a Revenue Estimating Conference analysis conducted in 2011, nearly one third of all non-homestead properties were hit with a one-year value increase of 80 percent or more from 2004 to 2005. This means a property valued at $300,000 in 2004 could have been valued and taxed at $540,000 or more in 2005. A similar increase occurred the following year, which means the same property may have theoretically been valued and taxed at $970,000 in 2006. Nearly seventy percent of non-homestead properties saw an increase of over 10 percent during that time span.

"With so many properties and people at stake, we need to make sure Amendment 2 passes so the tax cap can continue to benefit our economy and our communities," adds Colletti. "It was good policy 10 years ago that has helped our state flourish, and our only mistake at the time was giving it an expiration date. Amendment 2 is our chance to fix the problem for good."

To protect these 5 million-plus properties and provide their owners and tenants with stable property taxes, Florida Realtors® developed a toolkit filled with various images, social media content, videos and news media templates that Realtors can share with their family, friends, clients, colleagues and social media networks.

Realtors are encouraged to use the toolkit resources through early November to help educate voters in advance of the Nov., 6, 2018, general election.

© 2018 Florida Realtors®