Tax Liens: A Lucrative Investment – With a Dark Side

For good or for ill, county and municipal governments rely on property taxes to provide services to their residents. Police and fire protection and school districts all rely on homeowners’ timely payment of property taxes in order to fund their payroll and operations. And that’s where tax lien investing comes in. When a homeowner is…

Property Owners Get a Reprieve From Rising Flood Insurance Costs

President Obama indicated last Friday that he will sign the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013, which eases the earlier Biggert-Waters reforms and grants property owners a reprieve from a planned sharp increase in flood insurance premiums. The problem is that politicians have overruled the actuaries for years, setting National Flood Insurance Program premiums…

Key Lawmaker Takes a Swing at the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction

Last July, I warned that policymakers in Washington, increasingly desperate for revenue, were beginning to look hungrily at the home mortgage interest deduction. Indeed, I specifically pointed out to readers that Representative Dave Camp, (R-Michigan), and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was holding hearings collecting testimony designed to undermine the case…

Feds Launch New Gee-Whiz Mortgage Data Aggregation Site

Don’t look now, but the federal government seems to have developed a website that actually works! The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – the federal watchdog agency created under the Dodd-Frank financial reforms of 2010, has created a site that aggregates mortgage data nationwide and collects it in a series of well-executed infographics. Perhaps the most…

Reminder: Short Sales and Foreclosures Could Bring a Nasty Tax Bill

If you had mortgage debt forgiven in the last year by your lender, check the mail. Your lender should be sending you a 1099-C form in the mail right about now. The 1099-C lists the amount of debt your lender wrote off. Hard as it seems to believe, struggling homeowners have had it easy for…

New ‘Ability to Pay’ and ‘Qualified Mortgage’ Rules Take Effect

It may be a little bit tougher now for more marginal borrowers to qualify for home mortgages than it was just a few weeks ago. That’s because a series of new rules became effective on Jan. 10 that require lenders to take greater care that their borrowers can actually afford to pay back their qualified…

Loosening PMI Market Portends Easier Lending in Future

It was tough for a while. In the four years following the 2008 near-collapse of the banking system under the strain of the mortgage crisis, bankers were so wary of getting stung again that it was tough to get a loan at all. Why would lenders lend? They could buy equities dirt cheap in 2009,…

The Fed Tapering: What it Means for Real Estate

The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee met on December 17 and 18, and after long last is doing what central banks are supposed to do: take away the punchbowl just as the party gets going. After months of creating $85 billion every month out of thin air for more than a year, and using the…

Prominent Senator Takes Aim at Section 1031 Like-Kind Exchanges

A prominent Senator, Max Baucus (D-Montana), has unveiled a draft proposal that would sharply reduce or eliminate a number of tax breaks currently enjoyed by real estate investors. Specifically, the draft proposal would eliminate Section 1031 “like-kind” exchanges. It would also lengthen the current depreciation schedule under MACRS from 39 years for commercial property and…

The Future of Fannie and Freddie in Flux

For generations, the longstanding goal of homeownership as a key component of the American dream was propped up on … strategic ambiguity. When Congress chartered the twin government-sponsored enterprises of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to create a ready secondary market for mortgages to encourage bank lending, they didn’t specify any sort of government guaranty…