Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Send Free "Thank You" Postcard to U.S. Troops Overseas

I just found the website LetsSayThanks.com. From this Web site you can send a
free printed postcard to U.S. soldiers deployed overseas thanking them for their
service and showing your support and appreciation for their service to our country.
Once again it is FREE because XEROX and Give2TheTroops® have teamed up to
print and sent these postcards.

They (postcards) are based on children, ages 6-14, designes. So, if you have a child, or work with children, consider having them submit their artwork for new postcards.

Our troops need to know that we support them and appreciate their services.
This is the least we can do to show them how much we care about them.
It only takes a minute to send a card. Just choose a design, choose ont of the prepared
messages, or create one of your own, click "Submit", and you are done! No personal
information is required from you.

Send a card today - and tell others!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Preparing Home for Sale - First Impressions

First impressions make a significant impact on a buyer's decision-making process! Once your home goes on the market, it becomes a product. Home Styling or Staging simply allows you to highlight the best of your home and de-emphasize its flaws. It's not about decorating, but actually turning your home into a model, to appeal to the broadest range of prospective buyers. The goal is to make people feel like they could live there, and the best way to do this is to "neutralize" the surroundings.

Try out these helpful styling tips taken from Setting the Stage - REALTOR® Magazine Online. They've compiled the best tips from stagers and real estate pros—things you can do for little or no expense—to put a home in prime showing shape.

* Clear out closets and clutter—sellers can give away or pack up toys, linens, and
small kitchen appliances to store offsite. Buyers are also forgiving of storage
boxes neatly tucked away in a garage or basement.
* Focus most on the most visible areas—the foyer, kitchen, living room, master
bedroom, and family room.
* De-personalize the home by removing photos, mementos, and dated items.
* Use plants in colorful pots or inexpensive wicker baskets to fill in empty spaces.
* Look to home catalogs for little details on beautifying the home. For instance,
group books, pictures, and objets d’art appealingly on bookcases.
* Try angling one or two pieces of furniture slightly and move furniture 4 inches to
6 inches from the wall to create more interesting room spaces.
* Put away large collections— porcelains, plates, and so on.
* Remove valuables, prescription medicine, collectibles, and breakables.
* Trim trees, prune shrubs, and make sure the lawn is mowed and watered regularly.
* In summer, turn on the sprinklers for five minutes, 30 minutes before the open
house. It makes the lawn and driveway sparkle.
* Refrain from cooking anything that leaves a distinctive odor, such as fish,
garlic, or cabbage.
* Hire a professional service to clean the home, including the carpets and the
* Set the dining room table with attractive linens, dishes, and stemware.
* Arrange fresh or silk flowers (choose those good quality) throughout the home.
* Light a fire in the fireplace in fall and winter.
* A mirror in a pretty frame can make a small room feel more open.
* Use as much natural light as possible. Add extra lamps in dark rooms or corners.
* Place candles with nice smell, like vanilla or pumpkin spice
* Make functional repairs—fix dripping faucets, sticking doors, and broken fences.
* Bring in another pair of eyes—even if it’s not a professional stylist. The person
may see problems you have missed.

IRS Owes You Money on Your 2006 Federal Tax Refund

I'm not sure if all of us are aware that on 2006 Tax Return we will be eligible for the refund of federal excise tax paid on long distance telephone bills.

The excise tax on telephone services was first imposed in 1898 to fund the Spanish American war. Back then only the wealthy had telephones, the U.S. had no income tax and we relied on excise taxes to fund the war. You see this tax on every local, long distance and cell phone bill you paid or are paying and it is clearly marked EXCISE TAX. The current rate is 3% of the charges billed for these services.

Taxpayers will be eligible to file for refunds of all excise tax they have paid on long-distance service billed to them after Feb. 28, 2003 and before August 01, 2006.

You can claim the refund of actual amount of the excise tax you paid, or standard amount. The standard amount (safe harbour amount) includes interest. In order to qualify for the standard amount refund you aren't required to submit or keep any documentation to support your refund request. To use the safe harbor amount, you must (1) have paid all taxes billed by your long distance telephone service provider after Feb. 28, 2003, and before Aug. 1, 2006; (2) have not received a credit or refund of these taxes from this service provider, and (3) either have not requested a credit or refund from the service provider or have withdrawn any such request but you have to make sure that you paid Federal Excise Tax after February 28, 2003 and before August 01,2006. IRS announces that the standard amounts for telephone excise tax refunds will range from $30 to $60 and will include interest rate. The standard amounts, which are based on the total number of exemptions claimed on the taxpayer's 2006 federal income tax return, are:

* $30 for a person filing a return with one exemption
* $40 for a person filing a return with two exemptions
* $50 for a person filing a return with three exemptions
* $60 for a person filing a return with four or more exemptions

It is up to you whether to use the standard amount or the amount of tax you actually paid. To take the standard amount, you don’t need to do anything now, but you have to make sure that you did pay excise tax. You can figure it when you fill out your 2006 return. If you decide to claim the actual amount of the excise tax you paid, you need to have copies of your phone bills showing this tax charged for each month and receipts, canceled checks, or other evidence that the tax was actually paid. The refund will be treated as a one-time payment on a taxpayer's 2006 return. It will reduce the amount that a taxpayer otherwise owes on his return or increase the amount of his refund. As explained in "Telephone Tax Refund Questions and Answers" on IRS's web page "taxes paid on local-only service are not eligible for the refund. In general, federal excise taxes paid on other types of service qualify". "It is available to anyone who paid long-distance taxes on landline, cell phone or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service".
The Government estimates the amount refunded to individuals will be about $10 billion.

Businesses and nonprofits must fill out the new Form 8913 and base their refund requests on the actual amount of tax they paid. The IRS is considering an estimation method that businesses and nonprofits could use for figuring the tax paid and is asking for public suggestions on potential methodologies that are both accurate and relatively easy for taxpayers to use. Comments should be e-mailed to Telephone.Tax@irs.gov and must be received by Sept. 15, 2006.

As always, consultation with a tax advisor is recommended.

You can click on the links below to get more information regarding the above matter:

Friday, September 08, 2006

How to make your home secure, outside and in.

Your property should be secure at all times, whether you're home or not.
Adequate security can prevent thieves from being tempted to target your house.
Follow these few easy tips so your house becomes a bad choice for a burglar:

* Remove any plants or shrubs that obscure the front of your property

* Plant thorny bushes such as roses, bougainvillea etc., under windows and
along fences

* If you have a fence on theside of the house that leads to the rear of the
property, make sure there is a secure latch on the gate door. For night
protection or added security, place a padlock on the inside of the gate latch.

* Do not leave ladders or tools next to the house. A ladder leaning against
the house or a tool left by a window is quite helpful to the burglar trying to
enter your home.

* Install sensor lights around the perimeter of the reisdence.

* Install 1 inch deadbolts on all entrance doors.

* Put locks on all windows.

* Have some type of covering on all windows.

* Designate and fully equip a "safe room".

* If you don't have a dog in the house, get a tape recording of a really loud,
scary bark that can be played if an unwanted solicitor comes to your door.

* Install an alarm system in the house.

Monday, July 17, 2006

5 Homeownership Tax Myths

I found this really good article in Broker Agent News written by Kay Bell,
which many homeowners may find interesting:

Owning a home tops the dream list for most Americans, and for plenty of good reasons. It's a shelter for your family, a gathering place for your friends and a good long-term investment.

Tax breaks are also frequently cited as motivation for moving from renting to owning, and there are many ways a home can cut your tax bill.

But, as is often the case with the U.S. tax code, homeownership tax benefits are not always clear-cut. That frequently leads to some bad information floating around.

While myths, half-truths and misconceptions may abound, we've narrowed it down to five that, if you buy into them, could cost you.

1. My mortgage interest will reduce my tax bill.
This is true for the majority of homeowners, but not for all. And this tax break won't work forever.

To take tax advantage of your home loan's interest, you must itemize and come up with a total that exceeds your standard amount. On 2006 tax returns, the standard deductions will be $5,150 for single taxpayers, $7,550 for head of household filers and $10,300 for married couples who file jointly. These amounts increase a bit each year to account for inflation.

"Given home prices these days, most owners are itemizing," says Mark Luscombe, principal tax analyst with CCH Inc. of Riverwoods, Ill. By the time they count mortgage interest, property taxes and other nonhome deductions, such as state taxes and charitable gifts, their itemized totals easily surpass their allowable standard deductions.

But most is not all.

Taxpayers who buy a home late in the year, for instance, might find the standard deduction is more beneficial, at least initially, says Kathy Tollaksen, a CPA at Sikich LLP in Aurora, Ill. In these cases, where you make only a few payments in a tax year, depending on your loan you might not pay much interest, at least not enough to exceed standard amounts.

Timing also could reduce or eliminate other home-related tax breaks.

"Quite a few states have real estate taxes that are calculated in arrears. That is, they have already been paid or mostly paid (by the seller) by the time you buy," says Tollaksen. "In the first year, you're seeing taxes that are someone else's responsibility so you're not getting the full tax value of your real estate taxes."

The benefit of mortgage interest also could be a myth if you've lived in your home for a long time. In this case, you likely are paying more toward your loan's principal instead of interest. So homeowners at the end of a loan term don't get much, if any, from this tax break. Or, as Bob D. Scharin, senior tax analyst and editor of Warren, Gorham & Lamont/RIA's monthly tax journal "Practical Tax Strategies," puts it, "Every deductible expense you incur may not produce a deduction."

2. All costs related to my home are deductible.
There are no two ways about this one. It's flat-out false.
"Some buyers think, hope, they can write off everything connected with the house," says Tollaksen. "Not so. Association fees and property insurance costs are not deductible."

Neither is private mortgage insurance, which your lender probably required if your down payment was less than 20 percent.

And you can't deduct basic maintenance, repair or home improvement costs either.
Tollaksen says, "I've had people say, 'I put a new roof on my home; can I deduct that?' No."

If you try to write off these expenses, expect to hear from the Internal Revenue Service and to pay a higher tax bill (and possible penalties and interest) after you refigure your taxes without the disallowed deductions.

However, you still need to keep track of these expenses.

"If you convert the home to rental property or sell it," she says, "these costs will affect the property's tax basis."

A home's basis is critical when it comes time to sell (more about that below). And selling is also a tax area in which many people fall for myth No. 3.

3. I must use money from my home sale to buy another residence.
This used to be the only way to get around a tax bill on a home sale. Even then, you were only able to defer taxes by purchasing a new residence of equal or greater value with the profits from your other house. When you sold your final house, you'd owe those long-deferred taxes you had rolled over throughout the years. Home sellers age 55 or older were allowed a once-in-a-lifetime tax exemption of up to $125,000 in sale profit.

But on May 7, 1997, home-sale tax law changed. Still, almost a decade later, many homeowners are confused about the tax implications of selling.

"I recently heard some neighbors talking about having to buy another house when they sell to avoid the taxes," says Scharin. "If the last time you sold the house was before 1997, you're thinking of those old rules."

Don't worry. Most taxpayers still get a nice break. Now, if you live in the house for two of the five years before you sell, the IRS won't collect tax on sale profit of up to $250,000 if you're single or $500,000 if you and your spouse file a joint return.

"The law change has really affected people's behavior," says Luscombe. "Before, it didn't really matter much whether you sold frequently or held onto your home for a long term. You, basically, could roll over the gain into a larger home and people could avoid tax until they sold for the final time without putting it into a replacement home."Now the law rewards people who sell frequently. In this current market, people who sell every couple of years can get and keep their gain," Luscombe says. "But people who buy and hold might find they have reached the point where the gain exceeds the exclusion."That means they face unexpectedly high tax bills, even at the lower 15-percent capital gains rate. The profit could also push them into a higher overall tax bracket, meaning they would make too much to claim some deductions, credits or exemptions. They also might even end up owing alternative minimum tax.

Another problematic consequence, says Luscombe, is that when the new rules took effect, people basically quit keeping records related to their homes."They thought: Since we're never going to be taxed on the sale, there's no need to keep track of what we paid and what improvements we made," he says. The improvements add to your home's basis, which you subtract from the sale price to determine your profit and whether any of it is taxable.

"Now with inflation in the housing market, a lot of people are selling homes in excess of the gains without any way to show that their tax bill should be less," says Luscombe.

4. Putting my child on my home's title is a smart tax move.Worries about taxes on a residence sometimes lead homeowners to fall for this myth. It's a particularly tricky one, because it combines confusion about residential taxes with the even more complex estate-tax area.

"Sometimes we'll hear about taxpayers who, in doing some quick back-of-the-envelope estate planning, decide to put their home in the children's names," says Tollaksen. "The thinking is: My son or daughter won't have to worry about this when I die."

The goals: Avoid probate, keep the home in the family and get the property out of the parent's estate for those tax purposes. Such a move, however, could produce other tax problems for your children. Unless the child moves into the newly deeded house with the parent and lives there long enough (two of the previous five years) to make the house the child's main residence, too, says Tollaksen, the son or daughter won't get the $250,000 or $500,000 residential tax break when the child later decides to sell. Without establishing primary residency in the house, either before or after the parent passes away, the child's ownership is viewed as an investment property.

Other parents opt to simply add a child's name along with theirs on the title to the house, known legally as a joint tenancy. It doesn't mean that all the owners live in the home, but simply that two or more people hold title to the property.

This, too, can produce tax complications. Generally, when someone inherits a property, its value is stepped up. That means when the owner dies, the property becomes worth its fair market value that day.

But if the child co-owns the property with his parent, the child doesn't get to fully use stepped-up basis. Tax law considers the addition of the child's name to the title as a gift. And, along with that half of the home, the child receives half the basis that his or her parent has in the property.

This is known as the property's carry-over basis. And it could be costly.

Consider, for example, that you bought your house many years ago and your basis in the property is $50,000. You add your daughter to the title. When you die, she inherits your half of the home, which by then is worth $250,000. A buyer offers $300,000 for the home.

Pretty good deal, right? From a real estate perspective, yes. But not when it comes to your daughter's tax bill on the sale.

Tax bill on the sale

Rather than owing taxes on just $50,000 more than the house's stepped-up market value, your daughter will owe on three times that amount. Here's the math:

1. Parent owns home with a basis of: $50,000
2. Parent adds child to title, "giving" child carry-over basis of: $25,000
3. At parent's death, house is worth $250,000, producing on the
inherited half a stepped-up basis of: $125,000
4. Home subsequently sells for: $300,000
5. Child's total adjusted basis (number 2 plus number 3) is: $150,000
6. Taxes due on sale profit (line 4 sale price less line 5 basis) of: $150,000

What had been done with the best parental intention turned out to carry a big price because of this homeownership tax myth.
5. If I take a capital loss when I sell my home, I can write it off.
This myth, like No. 2, was probably started by wishful homeowners. Sorry, it's just as wrong.

It is true that real estate, like any other asset, has the potential to go down as well as up in value. But unlike most of those other holdings, you cannot write off any loss you suffer if you must sell your main residence for less than what you paid.

That's because your residence, under tax law, is considered personal property.

"When you sell your home for a loss, it's not like other capital items," says Scharin. "You don't get to deduct personal property that you sell for a loss."

"It's the same as any personal property that declines in value," says Luscombe, "like that old TV you sold to the neighbor kid so he could take it to college. You sold it for much less than you paid, but you can't take a loss."

You do, however, have to pay tax on gains you make when selling personal property.

But at least you now know the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to your residential property, which will help you make appropriate real estate and tax decisions in the future.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sellers Earn 16% More by Using an Agent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Technology is transforming how Americans buy and sell homes in unexpected ways, including how they work with real estate agents and brokers, according to one of the largest surveys of real estate consumers ever conducted. The study was released by the National Association of Realtors®.

Nine out of 10 home buyers use a real estate agent in the search process, but use of the Internet to search for a home has risen dramatically over time, increasing from only 2 percent of buyers in 1995 to 77 percent in 2005; it was 74 percent in 2004. The next largest source of information for buyers is a yard sign, mentioned by 71 percent of buyers.

When asked where they first learned about the home purchased, 24 percent of buyers identified the Internet, up strongly from 15 percent in 2004 and only 2 percent in 1997. Although most buyers use an agent to complete the transaction, 36 first learn about the home they buy from a real estate agent and 15 percent from yard signs; five other categories were 7 percent or less.

The 2005 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, based on more than 7,800 responses to a questionnaire mailed to a large national sample of consumers located through county deed records, is the latest in a series of surveys evaluating demographics, marketing and other characteristics of home buyers and sellers.

NAR President Thomas M. Stevens from Vienna, Va., said the findings underscore the complexity of the home-buying process. “Buyers who use the Internet in searching for a home are more likely to use a real estate agent than non-Internet users, and consumers rely on professionals to provide context, negotiate the transaction and help with the paperwork,” said Stevens, senior vice president of NRT Inc.

“The real estate industry today bears little resemblance to the way we did business 10 years ago. It is hard to find another industry that has adopted technology so readily to its customers,” Stevens said. “Realtors® have invested a lot of time and money in building information technology, and because of these efforts, more consumers than ever are using the Internet in their home search.”

The survey shows 81 percent of buyers who use the Internet to search for a home purchase through a real estate agent, while 63 percent of non-Internet users buy through an agent; non-Internet users are more likely to purchase directly from a builder or an owner they knew in advance of the transaction.

“We find that the level of for-sale-by-owners is on a sustained decline and is now at a record low. In addition, a growing share of FSBO properties are not placed on the open market – they’re private transactions,” Stevens said.
A clear downtrend in FSBOs has been seen since that market share experienced a cyclical peak of 18 percent in 1997. Only 13 percent of sellers conducted transactions without the assistance of a real estate professional in 2005, and 39 percent of those FSBO transactions were “closely held” between parties who knew each other in advance, up from 32 percent in 2004. The FSBO market share was at 14 percent in both 2003 and 2004. NAR began tracking the FSBO market in 1981; the record was 20 percent in 1987.

“In reality, the term ‘FSBO’ is a misnomer when used to broadly describe homes sold directly by owners. Since two out of five of these transactions are between related parties, and those properties are not placed on the open market, we believe that ‘unrepresented sellers’ would be a much more accurate term to describe this segment,” Stevens said.

The median home price for sellers who use an agent is 16.0 percent higher than a home sold directly by an owner; $230,000 vs. $198,200; there were no significant differences between the types of homes sold. “While many unrepresented sellers are motivated to save on paying a commission, we think the price difference speaks for itself,” Stevens said. “Owners without professional assistance also have problems in understanding and completing paperwork, prepping the home for sale, getting the right price and selling within the time planned.”

Survey data don’t explain the price difference, but Stevens offered some context. “Agents know best how to prepare a home and maximize value, agents provide broader exposure to the market and are more likely to generate multiple bids, and the portion of sales that are between private parties are likely to be at a lower price than those on the open market.”

“The housing market today contrasts sharply with predictions a decade ago that the Internet would ‘disintermediate’ real estate agents, including speculation that NAR membership would fall in half. In reality, it’s grown dramatically – selling real estate is not like selling a book or buying an airline ticket,” he said.

Realtor.com was the most popular Internet resource, used by 54 percent of buyers, followed by multiple listing service (MLS) Web sites, 50 percent, real estate company sites, 38 percent, real estate agent Web sites, 31 percent, and local newspaper sites, 15 percent; other categories were smaller.

Based on National Realty News

Friday, April 28, 2006

Houston Real Estate Sales Up Again in March 2006

Houston home prices have momentum. According to the Houston Association of Realtors' (HAR) most recent press release, this March set records for average and median home prices in Houston. In terms of number of homes, March sales outpaced March 2005 sales and the previous month's sales.

Inventories have ticked up, as HAR reports 5.3 months of inventory at the end of March vs. the 5.2 months of inventory at the end of February. As noted in the press release, inventory is up by 1,100 homes in February, but down by 1,200 homes since March 2005.

Houston real estate transactions numbered 8,015, a 22% increase over March 2005 transactions.
All Categories: March 2005 March 2006 Percent Change

Total property sales 6,548 8,015 +22.4%
Total dollar volume $1,114,378,189 $1,475,233,100 +32.4%
Average single-family $178,519 $193,640 +8.5%
sales price
Median single-family $136,000 $143,310 +5.4%
sales price
Active listings 43,152 41,948 -2.8%
Pending sales 5,118 5,506 +7.6%
Months inventory* 6.0 5.3 -12.3%

* Months inventory estimates the number of months it will take to deplete current active inventory based on the prior 12 months sales activity. This figure is representative of the single-family homes market.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

NAR Asks Home Owners: If You Sell It, Will Buyers Come?

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As spring approaches, home buyers’ and sellers’ thoughts turn to the real estate market. With the premiere of television advertising spots titled, “Don’t Try This at Home,” the National Association of Realtors® encourages home sellers to protect what could be their largest investment by enlisting the help of a professional.

“Selling a home is like climbing Mount Everest,” said Thomas M. Stevens, NAR president and senior vice president of NRT Inc., from Vienna, Va. “If you don’t prepare correctly, you’ll never achieve your goal. Getting a signed contract is like reaching the peak, but that’s only half the journey. Many things can happen on the way back down the mountain. Savvy sellers know to hire a Realtor® to protect their interests and guide them through.”

Home owners who try to sell their home without professional help must overcome a number of hurdles. As mentioned in the TV spots, the obstacles include making the appropriate disclosures, preparing the home for sale, pricing the home appropriately for a dynamic market and, most importantly, attracting qualified, motivated buyers. According to the 2005 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, only 17 percent of do-it-yourself home sellers used the Internet to market their home; that’s at a time when Internet use in home searches has risen dramatically – in 2005, 77 percent of all home buyers used the Internet to look for a home.

Finding an interested buyer is only the first step toward a successful sale. The typical home sale today involves more than 20 steps after the initial contract is accepted to complete the transaction. Consumers can learn more about potential post-contract pitfalls by visiting http://www.realtor.org/realtororg.nsf/pages/post_contract_pitfalls.

Most home sellers in today’s market recognize the hazards inherent in do-it-yourself home selling, and rely on the expertise of a real estate professional to assist them when they sell their home. The percentage of owners who sell without representation has been trending down and is now at a record low – according to the 2005 profile, only 13 percent of recent home sellers sold their home without professional help, and only half of those would do it again.

“Selling a home is a full-time job,” said Stevens. “The average homeowner may sell three or four homes in his or her lifetime; Realtors® can sell hundreds over the course of a career. This experience is invaluable, and it’s part of the reason why home sellers who use a real estate professional can expect to sell their homes for 16 percent more, on average, than sellers who try to do it themselves.”

Radio versions of the “Don’t Try This at Home” TV spots began airing on February 6. Those advertisements will run in tandem on radio and television with another NAR spot that premiered on television March 6 titled, “Someone You Can Trust.” That spot highlights the Realtor® Code of Ethics and underscores the honesty and integrity that Realtors® bring to each and every transaction.

Now in its ninth year, the National Association of Realtors® Public Awareness Campaign has helped millions of consumers realize the value of using a Realtor® to help them buy or sell real estate. In 2006, the Public Awareness Campaign will run more than 4,000 spots in national TV and radio, 18,000 spots in local radio and 12,000 spots on XM satellite radio. Ads are airing on network television stations from March through September, and on radio stations from February through November.


National Realty News, a BEXT Inc. publication
Thursday, March 30, 2006

Friday, March 31, 2006

Solar Energy

U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
A Consumer's Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Exploring Ways to Use Solar Energy
Step outside on a hot, sunny day, and you'll experience the power of the sun's heat and the light. That's solar energy.

You can use solar energy to do the following:

Heat your home through passive solar design or an active solar heating system

Generate your own electricity

Heat water in your home or swimming pool

Light your home both indoors and outdoors

To enable your use of solar energy for these purposes, your community may have established solar access planning guidelines and/or ordinances.

If you live in the southwestern United States, you may even have the opportunity now or in the future to buy clean electricity from a concentrating solar power plant.

See Solar Radiation Basics to learn more about how solar energy works.

Learn More
Department of Energy Resources
Solar Energy Technologies Program

The Energy Policy Act of 2005

What the Energy Bill Means to You
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT), signed by President Bush on August 8, 2005, offers consumers and businesses federal tax credits beginning in January 2006 for purchasing fuel-efficient hybrid-electric vehicles and energy-efficient appliances and products. Most of these tax credits remain in effect through 2007.

Buying and driving a fuel-efficient vehicle and purchasing and installing energy-efficient appliances and products provide many benefits such as better gas mileage – meaning lower gasoline costs, fewer emissions, lower energy bills, increased indoor comfort, and reduced air pollution.

Some consumers will also be eligible for utility or state rebates, as well as state tax incentives for energy-efficient homes, vehicles and equipment. Each state’s energy office web site may have more information on specific state tax information.

About Tax CreditsA tax credit is generally more valuable than an equivalent tax deduction because a tax credit reduces tax dollar-for-dollar, while a deduction only removes a percentage of the tax that is owed. Beginning in tax year 2006, consumers will be able to itemize purchases on their federal income tax form, which will lower the total amount of tax they owe the government.

Automobile Tax Credits
Individuals and businesses who buy or lease a new hybrid gas-electric car or truck are eligible for, and can receive, an income tax credit of $250-$3,400 – depending on the fuel economy and the weight of the vehicle. Hybrid vehicles that use less gasoline than the average vehicle of similar weight and that meet an emissions standard qualify for the credit. “Lean-burn” diesel vehicles could also qualify, but currently available diesel vehicles do not meet the emissions standard. There is a similar credit for alternative-fuel vehicles and for fuel-cell vehicles.

If individuals and businesses buy more than one vehicle, they are eligible to receive a tax credit for each. If a tax-exempt organization buys such a vehicle, the retailer is also eligible to receive another credit. Companies that buy heavy-duty hybrid trucks are also eligible for a larger tax credit. Currently, there is a $2,000 tax deduction for hybrid vehicles for the remainder of 2005.

This tax credit is for vehicles “placed in service” beginning January 1, 2006, but because there is a waiting list for many hybrids, consumers can receive the tax credit if they arrange to purchase the vehicle this year as long as they do not take possession of the vehicle until January 1, 2006. This tax credit will be phased out for each manufacturer once that company has sold 60,000 eligible vehicles. At that point, the tax credit for each company’s vehicles will be gradually reduced over the course of another year.

Home Energy Efficiency Improvement Tax CreditsConsumers who purchase and install specific products, such as energy-efficient windows, insulation, doors, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment in the home can receive a tax credit of up to $500 beginning in January 2006.

The EPACT also provides a credit equal to 30% of qualifying expenditures for purchase for qualified photovoltaic property and for solar water heating property used exclusively for purposes other than heating swimming pools and hot tubs. The credit shall not exceed $2000.

Improvements must be installed in or on the taxpayer’s principal residence in the United States. Home improvement tax credits apply for improvements made between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2007.

Business Tax CreditsBusinesses are eligible for tax credits for buying hybrid vehicles, for building energy- efficient buildings, and for improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings (as outlined in the Energy Policy Act of 2005).

Biodiesel/Alternative Fuels
Small producer biodiesel and ethanol credit. This credit will benefitsmall agri-biodiesel producers by giving them a 10 cent per gallon tax credit for up to 15 million gallons of agri-biodiesel produced. In addition, the limit on production capacity for small ethanol producers increased from 30 million to 60 million gallons. This is effective until the end of 2008.

Credit for installing alternative fuel refueling property. Fueling stations are eligible to claim a 30% credit for the cost of installing clean-fuel vehicle refueling equipment, (e.g. E85 ethanol pumping stations). Under the provision, a clean fuel is any fuel that consists of at least 85% ethanol, natural gas, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, or hydrogen and any mixture of diesel fuel and biodiesel containing at least 20% biodiesel. This is effective through December 31, 2010.

Credit for business installation of qualified fuel cells, stationary microturbine power plants, and solar equipment. This provides a 30% tax credit for the purchase price for installing qualified fuel cell power plants for businesses, a 10% credit for qualifying stationary microturbine power plants and a 30% credit for qualifying solar energy equipment. This is effective January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2007.

Business credit of energy-efficient new homes. This provides tax credits to eligible contractors for the construction of a qualified new energy-efficient home. Credit applies to manufactured homes meeting Energy Star criteria and other homes, saving 50% of the energy compared to the EPACT standard. This is effective January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2007.

Energy-efficient Commercial building deduction. This provision allows a tax deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings that reduce annual energy and power consumption by 50% compared to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 2001 standard. The deduction would equal the cost of energy-efficient property installed during construction, with a maximum deduction of $1.80 per square foot of the building. Additionally, a partial deduction of 60 cents per square foot would be provided for building subsystems.

Energy-efficient appliances - This provides a tax credit for the manufacturer of energy-efficient dishwashers, clothes washers, and refrigerators. Credits vary depending on the efficiency of the unit. This is effective for appliances manufactured in 2006 and 2007.

Below are samples of anticipated tax savings and energy savings for energy-efficient home improvements (as of November 2005):

Product Category
Product Type
Tax Credit Specification
Tax Credit

Exterior Windows
Meet 2000 IECC & Amendments
10% of cost not to exceed $200 total

Meet 2000 IECC & Amendments
10% of cost not to exceed $200 total

Exterior Doors
Meet 2000 IECC & Amendments
10% of cost not to exceed $500 total

Metal Roofs
Energy Star qualified
10% of cost not to exceed $500 total

Meet 2000 IECC & Amendments
10% of cost not to exceed $500 total

Central AC
EER 12.5/SEER 15 split Systems EER 12/SEER 14 package systems

Air source heat pumps

Geothermal heat pump
EER 14.1 COP 3.3 closed loop

EER 16.2 COP 3.6 open loop

EER 15 COP 3.5 direct expansion

Gas, oil, propane water heater
Energy Factor 0.80

Electric heat pump water heater
Energy Factor 2.0

Gas, oil, propane furnace or hot water boiler

Advanced main air circulating fan
No more than 2% of furnace total energy use

* Source: ENERGYSTAR.gov

** The IRS will determine final tax credit amounts

Thursday, March 02, 2006

20 signs of a bad loan

By Dana Dratch

If your credit is damaged but you need cash, you might be tempted to accept a loan without worrying too much about the terms. But some conditions and clauses should make you reconsider your options.
"There are some extremely abusive, one-sided contract terms consumers sign because they think that's what they have to do to get the money," says Jean Ann Fox, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America. But often you can find a better deal if you shop around.

Here are some loan conditions that should make you think twice:

1. Money upfront. "Money upfront is a really bad sign," says Fritz Elmendorf, vice president of communications for the Consumer Bankers Association, a financial services trade group. "Possibly even of fraud." One nominal application fee is fine, he says. But the point of a loan is that they are supposed to be giving you money, not the other way around.

2. Changing interest rate. An adjustable-rate mortgage can be a good thing for some borrowers. But it should be a trade-off. In return for accepting a little uncertainty, the borrower gets favorable terms, like a lower rate. Too many times in the subprime market, borrowers are saddled with adjustable-rate mortgages simply as the cost of getting a loan, says Michael Stegman, professor of public policy and director of the Center for Community Capitalism at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

If you have a rate that can change, you have to ask some questions. "You want to know what is the worst-case scenario, not best," says Norma Garcia, senior attorney with Consumers Union. "What's the worst this can get? Will that be OK?"

Realize that a changing rate makes the loan a much riskier proposition for you. In a recent study of subprime mortgage refinance loans, ARM features boosted the chances of foreclosure by 49 percent, Stegman says.

3. Balloon payment. "The ideal is: Don't have any balloon payments," says John Taylor, president and CEO of National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a trade association of community groups. The worst scenario: The balloon is due early in the loan. "It makes a huge amount of money due right away, and most people in the subprime market really can't afford to do that. So for a lot of people, they end up losing everything."

In subprime mortgage refinance loans, borrowers with a balloon payment have a 46 percent greater chance of foreclosure, says Stegman.

4. Too much money. More is not always better. So raise the red flag if a lender is trying to talk you into a larger loan. Two red flags if your home is the collateral. If you have to borrow, take the least amount for the shortest time period with the lowest APR.

5. Excessive fees. "Some fees are truly legitimate," says Garcia. "Some are backdoor fees that don't appear in the disclosure." What you want to watch out for is excessive or hidden fees. Add everything up yourself. The sum of the terms you shopped should equal what's in the loan documents. If it doesn't, you need to ask some questions.
"The title insurance policy should be something competitive," says Taylor. And if you're refinancing, you should get a refinance rate on the policy -- often half the cost, he says. "In terms of points, you shouldn't pay more than 1 to 2 points even in subprime situations. You can find competitive subprimers who will make you loans at those rates."

6. Additional services you don't want or need. Some loans are bundled with insurance policies to pick up payments or pay off the loan if you die or become disabled. Assuming you want the coverage (and can't get it cheaper from your insurance company), the problem is that many times you pay for the entire policy upfront and it's rolled into the loan with interest, Taylor says. So if you refinance that 30-year mortgage after five years, you'll have paid for 25 years of insurance that you won't use and can't recoup. If you want the feature, look for a pay-as-you-go version.

7. A credit card that taps your home equity. You don't want to squander home equity on a thousand little everyday purchases, says Garcia. "That's a real scary prospect."

8. High interest rate. The difference between prime and subprime rates will vary with the length and type of loan. With a mortgage, 5 percent to 6 percent above prime and "it's time for the customer to look around and see if they can do better," says Allen Fishbein, director of housing and credit policy for Consumer Federation of America.

Even if your credit is bad, shop around and be sure to include a credit union and a bank that makes both prime and subprime loans on your list.

9. No minimum loan term. Often with a payday loan, the entire loan (interest and principal) is due very quickly, says Fox. That means the borrower will be borrowing again just to keep pace with the debt, creating a never-ending cycle.

10. Requires a valuable asset as collateral. It may seem obvious that car-title lenders and pawn shops are a gamble because you risk losing the item if you can't come up with cash you already don't have. But consumers think nothing of putting their houses on the same block with a home equity loan or line of credit. "The worst are home equity second mortgage loans, all of the loans that are secured by the roof over your head," says Fox.

11. Binding mandatory arbitration clause. What is this? Before you sign for the loan, you forgo any rights to sue for any reason and instead agree to binding arbitration. The problem: Many consumer advocates believe that arbitrators' decisions tend to favor the lenders and deny borrowers the right to due process.

Some of the big lenders are moving away from arbitration clauses, says Fishbein. But they're still around in the subprime market.

"This should be freely entered into at the time of dispute, not as a condition for obtaining the loan," he says. "By agreeing to this provision if a dispute should arise, the table is tilted toward the lender."

12. Prepayment penalties. For the borrower, this fee "adds to the cost of credit," says Fishbein. Reason: If your financial situation or credit improves, you can't refinance your loan at a better rate. "It's one of the features we find particularly bothersome in subprime loans," says Fishbein.
Some credit experts advise avoiding prepayment penalties altogether. Others caution that one year is fine. Still others recommend keeping it to three years or less.

Prepayment penalties also increase the odds of foreclosure, says Stegman. In his study of subprime refinance loans, consumers with prepayment penalties of less than three years had a 15 percent higher rate of foreclosure. With three years or more, the numbers went to 20 percent.

And make sure the loan doesn't use the Rule of 78 to calculate interest. It's an antiquated method and "a hidden prepayment penalty," Fox says. What you want to see instead: the word "actuarial." That means "you pay for credit for the actual length of time you use it," she says.

13. Balance transfer fees. "Depending on how much you're transferring, it can be a lot of money," says Garcia. "It's something that's really easy to overlook and can cost you hundreds of dollars."

14. The lender solicited you for the loan. Face it, you get the best terms when you shop around and compare. If you're just accepting what was offered, you probably could do better.

15. Teaser rates. Who are they teasing? The person whose name is on the bill. Read the fine print, and go with a lender who's willing to give you a good rate and stick with it.

16. It comes with a free vacation. "If it's a product that's that good, you don't have to add something to make it attractive," says Garcia.

17. High pressure tactics. Are you being urged to sign immediately? "Don't do that," says Garcia. Instead, have a third party look through the paperwork. Some possible candidates: an accountant, lawyer or someone at your local bank (if they aren't making the loan). Or call a local credit counselor affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counselors.

"If it's good today, it will be good tomorrow," says Garcia.

18. The lender is focused on your assets, not your income. Whether you're pledging your car title or your home equity, if you're a bad risk and the lender doesn't care, that should set off the warning bells. "The biggest thing that would send me running: 'no job, bad credit, bankruptcy -- no problem because you have equity in your home,'" says Garcia. "If you don't have income, you're going to default, and you will be out of your home."

19. A slew of "little" red flags. You may be able to negotiate a couple of unfavorable terms. But if the contract is loaded with them, you might just want to walk. A multitude of bad loan terms in combination could create a financial disaster.

The most dangerous triumvirate: an adjustable rate, prepayment penalties and balloon payments. "You really don't want to have these combinations of terms," says Stegman. Not only are you setting up a financial risk, but you're also limiting your escape options.

20. Terms you don't understand. Loans have gotten a lot more complicated. And with the addition of concepts like interest-only loans, adjustable rates and negative amortization, you might feel like you need an economics degree just to shop around. The truth is you might be better off with a more standard loan.

"Borrowers have to be asking a lot more questions than they were before," says Fishbein. Especially tricky: What's the payment, how often will that change and what's the worst that it could get? And if increases are capped, does that mean the lender will add payments to the end of the loan?

"You need to do the math," he says, "and ask a lot of questions."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Top Mistakes of Home Buyers and Sellers in 2005

This is a good article I found in Broker Agent News

By Mark Nash

The 2005 residential real estate market was filled with anticipation of the over- hyped real estate bubble. Though we'll only see a correction, home buyers and sellers made some mistakes that those looking to buy or sell in 2006 can put to good use in their transactions.


Bought properties to flip at top-of-market prices. Thinking the bubble headlines were wrong or didn't apply to them, newbie real estate investors wanted to become week-end millionaires. What they didn't know is they were buying the experienced investors portfolios as they exited markets at the top.

Utilized Interest-Only Mortgages. Many home-hungry buyers discovered the only way you can pay top-of-market prices is to get an interest-only mortgage. With declining prices and no monthly principal payments, these homebuyers could fuel a foreclosure market in 2006. Fixed-rate mortgages will become the majority in 2006 as mortgage underwriters and educated consumers are reunited.

Overlooked Resale Characteristics. New construction was the rage in 2005, everyone wanted to select finishes, floor coverings and kitchen cabinets. 2005 buyers should beware when this years homebuyers become sellers, buyers could bypass their resale that was new in 2005 for the chance to design their own new home. Look to future before signing on the line.

Skipped Performing a Home Inspection. Before some markets shifted away from sellers markets, many homebuyers waived their right to a property inspection. Never, skip or waive the right to a inspection, the benefits far out weigh the costs and could save you numerous headaches and expenses later. Hire a professional, not Uncle Bert.

Misinterpreted developers give-away's. Two years free condominium assessments, stainless appliances and plasma tv's were thrown in to induce buyers to write contracts to purchase. What many buyers thought were a freebie were actually a signal that markets were softening and that projects were slow to sell from increased competition and a lack of buyers. Incentives are a band-aid for a languishing development.

Were represented by the same agent representing the sellers. Thinking they might get a better deal or out of ignorance used the listing agent to represent them as well. Most states require written acceptance of this situation known as dual-agency by both parties under agent license laws. All buyers should be represented by an agent who has a fiduciary responsibility to them. Hire an Exclusive Buyers Agent.

Didn't Read Homeowners Association Documents. Getting rid of Fido because you didn't know you were moving into a no-dog building is an example why every buyer should request and read home owner association declarations, rules and regulations, association meeting minutes and budgets. Ask if there are any special assessments (typically for capital improvements; new roofs, windows, elevators) or planned ones. Special assessments can run into the thousands.

Neglected to request rates of state, county or local transfer taxes paid by buyers at closing. Some buyers learn too late that they might need large amounts of extra money to pay transfer taxes in the state, county and city where they are purchasing property. Transfer taxes which typically can't be financed can kill a transaction. Inquire when you start your search how much transfer taxes are and who pays them.


Over-priced home. Thinking back to bragging sellers at the water cooler or at the neighborhood cocktail party as little as a year ago, home sellers in 2005 over-priced properties in record numbers. After chewing up market time, the realization set in that it wasn't the same market as '02.'03 or 2004. Realistic pricing based on sold comparable's in the last six months illustrates to buyers that you understand today's market.

No Internet property marketing. According to The National Association of Realtors® over 70% of all home buyers start their search on the Internet before contacting a real estate agent. Require any agent you list your home with to post a virtual (360 digital) tour and a minimum of eight indoor and outdoor photos on the Internet. CD's of your home are a great take-away for open houses.

Stop showings to early after contract. With a shift towards buyers for the first time in years, buyers remorse was on the upside in 2005. Many sellers lost valuable market time when taking their home off market too early after signing a purchase contract. Continue to show your home until you feel very comfortable that your buyers intend to go to the closing table with you.

Refused to pay buyers closing costs. For the first time in many years, buyers based on their strength in the market, asked for and received give-backs from sellers. Closing costs and points on mortgages were the most popular. Decide before offers come in, what your strategy is for dealing with give-back requests. In 2006 expect owner-financing to be the next buyer perk.

Exclusion confusion. As prices dropped, sellers began to strip fixtures and amenities in contract negotiations. Forget "if the price is right" and take down and replace Grandma's chandelier and remove the mid-century refrigerator for sodas before you place your home on the market . Some simple ratios of home list price versus chandelier cost will convince you to not get distracted by personal property or must-keep fixtures.

Knowing your market and competition. Buyers in 2005 were very savvy with market times and available inventory. Home sellers who were out-of-touch failed to spend the time to visit competing properties at public open houses, study the competitions marketing and "listening" to the market. No or few showings, no second showings or purchase offers and unfavorable feedback indicate market issues with your home. Don't be the obstacle to selling your home.

Paid document fees on top of full-service commissions. American business is in love with extra fees that they charge if you don't ask to have them waived. In 2005 documentation fees became standard in listing agreements. No matter what your told, they are just another revenue source for brokerages. It's excessive for brokerages to ask for another $300.00 on top of 5-7 percent commissions from home sellers. Either ask to have them waived or have the listing agent pay them.

Most Overvalued Housing Markets

Hare is some interesting data from CNNMoney.com….

Link to original article

Most Overvalued Housing Markets
Latest analysis of 299 markets: See how your hometown ranks.
By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer
January 3, 2006: 2:33 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Sixty-five of the nation’s 299 biggest real estate markets are severely overpriced and subject to possible price corrections.

That’s according to the latest (third quarter) Housing Market Analysis conducted by National City Corp, a financial holding company, in conjunction with Global Insight, a financial information provider.

The report named Naples, Florida as the most overvalued of all housing markets in the United States. A single-family, median-priced home there sells for $329,970, 84 percent more than what it should cost — $180,956 — according to the analysis.
National City arrives at its estimates of what the typical house in these markets should cost by examining the town’s population densities, local interest rates, and income levels. It also factors in historical premiums and discounts for each area.

Other markets deemed wildly overpriced included Merced, California (by 77 percent), Salinas, California (75 percent), and Port St. Lucie, Florida (72 percent).

Undervalued markets were College Station (-23 percent), El Paso (-18 percent), and Killeen (-16 percent), all in Texas. That state dominated the discounted markets list with nine of the 10 most undervalued housing markets. Montgomery, Alabama was No. 8 among the undervalued markets.

The data did produce some evidence of prices moderating, according to National City’s chief economist, Richard DeKaser.

In Massachusetts, for example, one of the hottest of housing markets over the past few years, each of the seven housing markets analyzed was still overvalued. Prices, however, had fallen in all seven. That would indicate the state is trending back toward normal valuations.

The same could not be said of Florida. The Sunshine State had 15 different markets on the list of extremely overpriced metro areas and all 15 had grown more overpriced during the quarter.

Amidst all these hot and cold markets there were a few judged, like Goldilock’s porridge, “just right.” They included Albuquerque New Mexico, Dayton Ohio, and Omaha Nebraska. In all those towns actually selling prices closely tracked the expected values.

Areas over-valued
Naples, FL +84%
Merced, CA +77%
Salinas, CA +75%
Port St. Lucie, FL +72%
Stockton, CA +72%
Madera, CA +70%
Santa Barbara, CA +70%
Modesto, CA +67%
Napa, CA +65%
Riverside, CA +65%
Medford, OR +64%
Sacramento, CA +61%
Atlantic City, NJ +59%
Chico, CA +59%
Fresno, CA +58%
West Palm Beach, FL +57%
Redding, CA +56%
Santa Rosa, CA +56%
Bend, OR +56%
Sarasota, FL +56%
Miami, FL +55%
Oxnard, CA +55%
Vero Beach, FL +54%
Los Angeles, CA +54%
Fort Lauderdale, FL +53%
Vallejo, CA +53%
San Luis Obispo, CA +53%
Cape Coral, FL +52%
Bakersfield, CA +51%
Palm Bay, FL +49%
Barnstable Town, MA +48%
Oakland, CA +47%
Ocean City, NJ +47%
Prescott, AZ +46%
Panama City, FL +46%
San Diego, CA +46%
Visalia, CA +45%
San Jose, CA +44%
Deltona, FL +44%
Santa Cruz, CA +44%
Santa Ana, CA +44%
Bellingham, WA +43%
Fort Walton Beach, FL +43%
Nassau-Suffolk, NY +43%
Poughkeepsie, NY +39%
Reno, NV +38%
Las Vegas, NV +38%
Kingston, NY +38%
Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV +37%
Bethesda, MD +36%
Providence, RI-MA +35%
San Francisco, CA +35%
St. George, UT +35%
Ocala, FL +35%
Phoenix, AZ +35%
Portland, OR-WA +35%
Eugene, OR +34%
Tampa, FL +34%
Pensacola, FL +33%
Orlando, FL +33%
Grand Junction, CO +31%
Honolulu, HI +31%
Edison, NJ +31%
Duluth, MN-WI +31%
Jacksonville, FL +31%
Virginia Beach, VA-NC +29%
Worcester, MA +29%
Portland, ME +29%
Flagstaff, AZ +29%
Essex County, MA +28%
Baltimore, MD +28%
Charlottesville, VA +28%
Charleston, WV +28%
Tucson, AZ +27%
Newark, NJ-PA +27%
New York, NY-NJ +27%
Monroe, MI +26%
Bay City, MI +26%
Flint, MI +26%
Olympia, WA +26%
Wilmington, NC +25%
Tacoma, WA +25%
Salem, OR +25%
Minneapolis, MN-WI +24%
Asheville, NC +24%
Seattle, WA +24%
Mount Vernon, WA +24%
Jackson, MI +24%
Longview, WA +24%
Lakeland, FL +23%
Brunswick, GA +23%
Gainesville, FL +23%
Manchester, NH +23%
Bremerton, WA +22%
Tallahassee, FL +22%
Holland, MI +22%
Niles, MI +21%
Savannah, GA +21%
Santa Fe, NM +21%
Chicago, IL +21%
Eau Claire, WI +20%
Vineland, NJ +20%
Trenton, NJ +20%
Rockingham, NH +20%
Anchorage, AK +20%
Casper, WY +20%
Racine, WI +20%
Battle Creek, MI +20%
Springfield, MA +19%
Detroit, MI +19%
Greeley, CO +19%
Burlington, VT +18%
Wilmington, DE-MD-NJ +18%
Camden, NJ +18%
Boston, MA +18%
Lansing, MI +18%
Boulder, CO +18%
Michigan City, IN +17%
Ann Arbor, MI +17%
York, PA +17%
Milwaukee, WI +16%
Madison, WI +16%
Philadelphia, PA +15%
Spokane, WA +15%
Warren, MI +15%
Norwich, CT +15%
Richmond, VA +15%
Corvallis, OR +14%
Grand Rapids, MI +14%
Muskegon, MI +14%
Lake-Kenosha, IL-WI +14%
Albany, NY +13%
Allentown, PA-NJ +13%
Saginaw, MI +13%
Harrisonburg, VA +13%
La Crosse, WI-MN +13%
Boise City, ID +13%
Pittsfield, MA +13%
Wenatchee, WA +13%
Rockford, IL +13%
Farmington, NM +13%
Cambridge, MA +12%
New Orleans, LA +12%
Janesville, WI +11%
New Haven, CT +11%
Gainesville, GA +11%
Kalamazoo, MI +11%
Roanoke, VA +11%
Fayetteville, AR-MO +11%
Canton, OH +11%
Lancaster, PA +10%
Colorado Springs, CO +10%
Denver, CO +10%
Peoria, IL +10%
Reading, PA +10%
Fort Collins, CO +10%
Waterloo, IA +9%
Gary, IN +9%
St. Louis, MO-IL +9%
Champaign, IL +9%
Yakima, WA +9%
Dalton, GA +9%
Sheboygan, WI +9%
Toledo, OH +9%
Green Bay, WI +8%
Springfield, OH +8%
Youngstown, OH-PA +8%
Lynchburg, VA +8%
Davenport, IA-IL +7%
St. Joseph, MO-KS +7%
Mansfield, OH +7%
Hickory, NC +6%
Fond du Lac, WI +6%
Cleveland, OH +6%
Bridgeport, CT +6%
Billings, MT +5%
Chattanooga, TN-GA +5%
Idaho Falls, ID +5%
Cheyenne, WY +5%
Pueblo, CO +5%
Dubuque, IA +4%
Topeka, KS +4%
Hartford, CT +4%
Kansas City, MO-KS +4%
Akron, OH +4%
Wausau, WI +4%
Salt Lake City, UT +4%
Scranton, PA +4%
Lexington, KY +4%
Bismarck, ND +4%
Athens, GA +3%
Fargo, ND-MN +3%
Sandusky, OH +3%
Knoxville, TN +3%
Bloomington, IN +3%
Anderson, IN +3%
Lafayette, LA +3%
Louisville, KY-IN +3%
Durham, NC +2%
Atlanta, GA +2%

Areas under-valued Erie, PA +2%
Columbia, MO +2%
Columbus, OH +2%
Harrisburg, PA +2%
Kennewick, WA +2%
Provo, UT +2%
Lima, OH +1%
Utica, NY +1%
Bowling Green, KY +1%
Hattiesburg, MS +1%
Decatur, IL +1%
Columbia, SC +1%
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN +1%
Rochester, MN 0%
Greenville, SC 0%
Oshkosh, WI 0%
Lawrence, KS 0%
Las Cruces, NM 0%
Omaha, NE-IA 0%
Appleton, WI 0%
Albuquerque, NM 0%
Burlington, NC 0%
Ogden, UT 0%
Baton Rouge, LA 0%
Dayton, OH 0%
Amarillo, TX 0%
Alexandria, LA 0%
Kokomo, IN -1%
Nashville, TN -1%
Winston-Salem, NC -1%
Spartanburg, SC -1%
Florence, SC -1%
Birmingham, AL -1%
Sherman, TX -1%
Jackson, MS -1%
Houma, LA -1%
Pittsburgh, PA -1%
Binghamton, NY -1%
Monroe, LA -2%
Columbus, GA-AL -2%
Sioux Falls, SD -2%
Des Moines, IA -2%
Columbus, IN -2%
Lincoln, NE -2%
Mobile, AL -2%
Greensboro, NC -2%
Albany, GA -2%
Augusta, GA-SC -2%
Raleigh, NC -3%
Owensboro, KY -3%
Evansville, IN-KY -3%
Bloomington, IL -3%
Shreveport, LA -3%
Cedar Rapids, IA -3%
Greenville, NC -4%
Syracuse, NY -4%
South Bend, IN-MI -4%
Indianapolis, IN -5%
Springfield, IL -5%
Rocky Mount, NC -5%
Oklahoma City, OK -5%
Jefferson City, MO -5%
Buffalo, NY -5%
Fort Wayne, IN -5%
Charlotte, NC-SC -6%
Warner Robins, GA -6%
Iowa City, IA -6%
Decatur, AL -6%
Wichita, KS -6%
Little Rock, AR -6%
Macon, GA -6%
Springfield, MO -6%
Elkhart, IN -6%
Waco, TX -7%
Charleston, SC -7%
Midland, TX -7%
Austin, TX -7%
Lubbock, TX -7%
Tyler, TX -7%
Corpus Christi, TX -8%
Fort Smith, AR-OK -8%
Tulsa, OK -9%
Memphis, TN-MS-AR -9%
Rochester, NY -9%
San Angelo, TX -10%
Lafayette, IN -10%
Abilene, TX -11%
San Antonio, TX -11%
Huntsville, AL -11%
Longview, TX -11%
Odessa, TX -12%
Montgomery, AL -12%
Houston, TX -14%
Fort Worth, TX -15%
Beaumont, TX -15%
Dallas, TX -16%
Killeen, TX -16%
El Paso, TX -18%
College Station, TX -23%