Come tax time, JPMorgan Chase will be able to write off the $1.5 billion in debt relief it must give homeowners to satisfy the terms of a recent settlement.
But the homeowners who receive the help will have to treat it as taxable income, resulting in whopping tax bills for many families who have just lost their homes or only narrowly managed to keep them.
They are not alone. A tax exemption for mortgage debt forgiveness, put in place when the economy began to falter in 2007, was allowed to expire on Dec. 31, leaving hundreds of thousands of struggling homeowners in financial limbo even as the Obama administration has tried to encourage such debt write-downs. Read More.
A new Pew Research survey on Facebook’s users, released 10 years after the social network’s founding, sheds new light on how relationships are changing in the age of social media. While there are more people than ever using Facebook, only a small percentage of users are sharing details about their lives every day.
Of Facebook’s more than 1.2 billion users, only 10% update their status daily, while only 4% update it more than once a day, according to the Pew survey. About 15% of users comment on photos more than once a day. Read More.
Last year’s 3.5% mortgage rates are long gone — and experts say consumers who hold off buying or refinancing homes in hopes that sub-4% interest levels will return could miss out on today’s sub-5% rates, too.
“We think 3.5% rates are in the rearview mirror now,” says Mike Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “It’s highly unlikely that we’re going to get back to those levels again.”
Benchmark U.S. mortgage rates hit a record-low of around 3.5% in late 2012 and early 2013 as the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing III program helped push long-term interest rates into the cellar. Under QE3, the central bank had been buying $85 billion of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities each month in a bid to drive rates on mortgages and other long-term debt down. Read More.
Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow, the big three when it comes to web portals in the real estate industry, remain in the top spots.
Homes.com, Apartment Guide and Rent.com all moved up in Experian Marketing Services’ rankings of top real estate websites in January, surging past MSN Real Estate.
Century 21 maintained its position as the only franchisor website in the top 20, and Redfin and ZipRealty were the top brokerage websites on the list.
Movoto — which obtains listings data as a licensed broker in California and 35 other states, but which operates primarily as a referral site for agents at other brokerages — was the only other brokerage site in the top 20. Read More.
The Federal Housing Administration announced that it will allow lenders to start accepting electronic signatures on mortgage loan documents. The FHA will accept the e-signatures on third-party documents, such as sales contracts and other documents not controlled by the lender. This also includes REO sales contracts.
The new policy is effective immediately.
“By extending our acceptance of electronic signatures on the majority of single-family documents, we are bringing our requirements into alignment with common industry practices,” says FHA Commissioner Carol Galante. “This extension will not only make it easier for lenders to work with the FHA, it also allows for greater efficiency in the homebuying and loss mitigation process.” Read More.
On Jan. 30, 2014, the United States Senate voted 67-32 to approve the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (S. 1926), sponsored by Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Isakson (R-GA).
This bipartisan legislation, an NAR member priority, calls for a 4-year timeout on rate increases triggered either by a property’s sale or a flood map update for a property with previously grandfathered rates. NAR provided Congress with expert testimony suggesting that many of these increases are excessive and inaccurate. The bill also creates a flood insurance advocate within the Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) to investigate home owner complaints of multiple different or excessive rate quotes. Read More.
Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points in December from November, to 8 percent, the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training reported Thursday. The preliminary jobless rate for the month was the same as December 2012.
Although Kentucky’s unemployment rate is lower, it still is well above the 6.7 percent jobless rate reported nationwide, indicating that employment in Kentucky has not recovered as fast as in most other states. Read More.
Counties in Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia are joining a federal program designed to help persistently poor rural communities take advantage of government resources.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a conference call that the StrikeForce initiative has helped to support over 80,000 projects since it began in 2010. Those projects include home and business loans, natural resources conservation and food assistance.
Although the loans and assistance aren’t new, the initiative helps people take advantage of them in the communities where they are most needed. Vilsack said many Department of Agriculture programs are underutilized, so money that could be spent in rural communities ends up going back to Washington, D.C. Read More.
Kentucky currently leads the nation in new businesses created, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Specifically, Kentucky saw a 6.05 percent year-over-year jump in new businesses opened during the second quarter (Q2) of 2013, the most recent quarter for which information is available.
Kentucky saw 6,686 new businesses open during Q2 2013. Read More.
Starts fell 9.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 999,000 in December following a surge in November to the highest level of the year — 1.1 million. December’s rate was the year’s third highest.
The government estimated 923,400 homes and apartments were started last year. That’s more than 18% above the 2012 figure of 780,600.
In 2007, housing starts totaled nearly 1.4 million. Read More.