MAHER MUHAWIEH

Real Estate

Maher Muhawieh - 3 basics of social media engagement
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Everyone says that you have to be on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The question is, "How are you converting your social networking activities into an income stream for your business?"

Eighteen months ago, at a National Association of Realtors conference, I was in the audience for a social media panel composed of five of real estate's best social media experts. When an agent stood up and said, "I'm on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but how am I supposed to make money with them?" sadly, there was not a direct answer from the panel. Read More..

Source : www.inman.com

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Maher Muhawieh - Rates on 15- and 30-year mortgages tumble
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NEW YORK — Fixed mortgage rates tumbled this week and the 15-year loan dipped below 4 percent for the first time in three months. Rates followed the yield on U.S. Treasury bonds, which fell on worries that the crisis in Japan could slow economic growth.

Freddie Mac said Tuesday the average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinance option, dropped to 3.97 percent from 4.15 percent. The last time the rate was below 4 percent was in mid-December. It reached 3.57 percent in November, the lowest level on records dating back to 1991.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.76 percent from 4.88 percent the previous week. It hit a 40-year low of 4.17 percent in November.

Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Those yields have tumbled as investors sought safer investments.

Low mortgage rates haven't been enough to jumpstart the housing market. Home construction last month plunged to its lowest level in almost two years, while building permits, an indicator of future housing activity, sank to a five-decade low, the government said this week.

Homebuilders remain pessimistic about the outlook for housing. High unemployment, a record number of foreclosures and tough credit standards have kept many people from buying homes. And most economists don't expect home values to bottom out until midyear, another factor dissuading potential homebuyers.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac collects rates from lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week. Rates often fluctuate significantly, even within a single day.

The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 3.57 percent from 3.73 percent. The five-year hit 3.25 percent last month, the lowest rate on records dating back to January 2005.

The average rate on one-year adjustable-rate home loans slipped to 3.17 percent from 3.21 percent. That is the lowest level in a year for the one-year ARM rate.

The rates do not include add-on fees, known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount. The average fee for the 30-year fixed loan and 15-year fixed loan in Freddie Mac's survey was 0.7 point. The average fee for the five-year ARM and the 1-year ARM was 0.6 point.

Source : www.msnbc.msn.com

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Maher Muhawieh - 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Holds Steady at 4.88 Percent
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McLean, VA – Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS), which shows mortgage rates holding steady and below 5.0 percent.

30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.88 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending March 10, 2011, up from last week when it averaged 4.87 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.95 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 4.15 percent with an average 0.7 point, the same from last week when it averaged 4.15 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.32 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.73 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.72 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 4.05 percent.

Source : realtytimes.com

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Maher Muhawieh - Real Estate Outlook: Good News Across the Nation
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The market is changing out there, and the latest reports are showing that when it comes to buyers, less is more in some cases.

A recent study from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) indicates that the recent housing slump has meant buyers are looking for smaller houses. The McMansions of the boom era are quickly losing their style.

The NAHB reports that the builders they "surveyed expect homes to average 2,152 square feet in 2015, 10 percent smaller than the average size of single-family homes started in the first three quarters of 2010. To save on square footage, the living room is high on the endangered list – 52 percent of builders expect it to be merged with other spaces in the home by 2015 and 30 percent said it will vanish entirely."

Also a heavy influence on the housing front are green and eco-friendly features. The NAHB reports that "in addition to floor plan changes, 68 percent of builders surveyed say that homes in 2015 will also include more green features and technology, including low-E windows; engineered wood beams, joists or tresses; water-efficient features such as dual-flush toilets or low-flow faucets; and an Energy Star rating for the whole house."

This is great news for eco-activists across the nation. The other great news this week? The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports that mortgage applications are at the highest level in months. They rose by 17.2 percent, that being the biggest increase since June 11th.

Michael Fratantoni, MBA's vice president of research and economics, reports, "An improving job market is beginning to pave the way for an improving housing market. Additionally, mortgage interest rates remained below 5 percent for a second week, maintaining affordability for buyers and leading to an increase in refinance applications."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had their own good news. Their latest February edition of the Obama Administration's Housing Scorecard revealed that existing home sales are on the rise thanks in part to high home affordability levels.

And since April of 2009, record low mortgage rates have helped more than 9.5 million homeowners to refinance, resulting in $18.1 billion in total borrower savings.

They did report, however, that the "housing market remains fragile as data through January paint a mixed picture of recovery. Existing home sales ticked upward in January, but remained below levels seen in the first half of 2010. Mortgage delinquencies continued a downward trend compared to early 2010 and foreclosure starts and completions remain below peak."

But not everyone is in agreement about what foreclosures mean for today's homeowner. According to the New York Times, "All 50 state attorneys general, as well as a host of federal agencies, are pushing for a settlement over investigations into foreclosure abuses by major mortgage servicers that could cost the industry $20 billion or more. Much of that money would be earmarked to reduce principal owed by homeowners facing foreclosure."

Many homeowners have weathered the storm, however, taking on heavy burdens in order to avoid foreclosure. Bank of America argues that by helping some and not helping others, we create an unfair system.

"There's a core problem that if you start to help certain people and don't help other people, it's going to be very hard to explain the difference,” said Brian T. Moynihan, the chief executive of Bank of America. "Our duty is to have a fair modification process.”

Source : realtytimes.com

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Maher Muhawieh - Tax Tips: Real Estate Rules
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Generally real estate taxes on a personal residence are deductible only by the titled owner of the property. The same rule applies to mortgage interest.

However a taxpayer who does not have legal title to a residence may be able to deduct the real estate taxes and mortgage interest paid if he/she can be considered the "equitable and beneficial owner" of the property.  An "equitable and beneficial owner" is a person who has the exclusive "burden and benefit" of the property – he/she occupies the property exclusively, makes the mortgage payments, and maintains the property.

John and Mary are newlyweds who are just starting out.  They are unable to secure a mortgage to purchase a home. John’s parents are well off and decide to help the couple out by purchasing a home for them.

The parents live in their own separate personal residence. John and Mary make all the mortgage payments directly to the lender and they pay the real estate taxes directly, or via an escrow account, to the municipality. They also pay all the utility, insurance and maintenance bills for the residence. If a repair needs to be made to the home it is paid for directly by John and Mary.

The parents are the legal owners of the property, but John and Mary are the “equitable and beneficial” owners and can deduct the real estate taxes and mortgage interest paid on their Schedule A.

Source : www.mainstreet.com

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Maher Muhawieh - Selective First-Time Buyers Can Miss Deals
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Finding a "move-in ready" home was important to 87 percent of 300 first-time buyers recently polled by Coldwell Banker Real Estate. Some agents say first-timers are being more selective; and some are turning away from well-priced homes because they do not have granite countertops, they need a new carpet, or they have wall colors not to their liking.

Zillow says higher down payments and stricter underwriting standards mean today's buyers want to ensure their homes need few and inexpensive improvements.

Agents believe HGTV and other cable channels have made buyers more knowledgeable about home design, but some worry that such programming also has given buyers unrealistic expectations.

"You can't have the big yard, the top-line updates and all that in a starter home," says Cindy Westfall of Lake Oswego, Ore.-based Prudential NW Properties. "You've got to compromise somewhere or else you'll never buy anything."

Source : www.realtor.org

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Maher Muhawieh - Sales of new homes fall a shocking 11.2%
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The new year has brought little cheer to new-home builders: Their sales fell a shocking 11.2% between December and January and 18.6% from 12 months earlier.

The total number of new homes sold in January was a seasonally adjusted 284,000, down from 325,000 in December, the government said Thursday.

In total, the market is down 80% from its peak, which was set in July 2005, when the annualized rate of sales hit nearly 1.4 million.

The big problem facing developers is that they face significant competition from foreclosed homes, which sell at bargain-basement prices. In fact, 26% of all homes sold last year were foreclosures.

"Housing is a price-driven market," said real estate analyst Michael Larson of Weiss Research Investors. "Ordinary home buyers can and will buy houses, but only if the price is right. That makes life tough for new home builders, who have to compete with distressed properties and 'nearly new' foreclosures."

The release followed Wednesday's more positive industry report showing that sales of previously owned homes had inched up slightly during January. A bulk of those sales came from bank repossessions and other distressed properties.

But there is always a market a for new homes because many people prefer a a house that nobody else has used, according to Jeff Mezger, CEO of KB Homes. Plus, foreclosures are often sold "as is" and are in poor condition.

"One of our biggest market segments is single moms, who don't want to have to fix up things," he said. "They look at used homes first. "They look at foreclosures and don't like what they see."

Some progress has been made by home builders in reducing their inventories of unsold homes, according to Brad Hunter, chief economist with Metrostudy, a real estate information provider.

In Atlanta, builders reduced the glut by 35% during 2010. In Tampa, inventory fell more than 17%; in Phoenix, it's down more than 10%.

That absorption may be slow by historical standards, but it does indicate a trending in the right direction.

Source : money.cnn.com

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Maher Muhawieh - Foreclosures make up 26% of home sales
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Home prices are down but sales are up, somewhat contradictory trends.

Home prices fell nearly 6% during the six months ended Dec. 31, sending values to their lowest levels in the post-bubble period, S&P/Case-Shiller reported on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes rose for the third straight month.

"At least it's not a double whammy where both sales and prices are dropping," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Services Group. "Deals are getting done."

That's because 26% of all homes sold last year were foreclosures and short sales, according to a RealtyTrac report released on Thursday. That's down slightly from 2009, but a jump compared to 2008.

Homes already foreclosed on and repossessed by banks, called REOs (real estate owned), sold for an average of 36% less than normal sales, RealtyTrac reported. Meanwhile, the discount for homes sold while they were still in the foreclosure process (short sales) was 15%.

"It's like the post-holiday sales at Macy's where they're trying to clear out unwanted inventory," said Anthony Sanders, a real estate professor at George Mason University.

Source : money.cnn.com

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Maher Muhawieh - Pending real estate sales dip in January
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Pending sales of existing homes dipped for the second straight month in January, according to a National Association of Realtors index.

The Pending Home Sales Index, based on purchase contracts signed but not yet closed, is considered to be a leading indicator for future sales. An index score of 100 is the average level of contract activity in 2001, the first year that index data was collected.

The index fell 2.8 percent month-to-month and 1.5 percent year-over-year in January, to 88.9.

Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, said in a statement, "We should not expect the recovery to be in a straight upward path -- it will zig-zag at times."

Source : www.inman.com

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Maher Muhawieh - Mortgage Delinquencies Decline
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The number of U.S. households behind on their mortgage payments fell during the fourth quarter to the lowest level in two years, buoyed by improving labor market conditions.

The share of loans where the borrower had missed at least one payment dropped to 8.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis, representing about 4.3 million households and the lowest level since the end of 2008, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association quarterly survey released Thursday.

The number of loans where the borrower had missed just one payment fell to the lowest level since the end of 2007.

But the number of loans in foreclosure remained at its highest level since the start of the mortgage crisis, in part because banks slowed their foreclosure processes late last year to fix document-handling problems that surfaced in September.

While the number of loans entering foreclosure fell, "loans were not exiting the foreclosure process," said Michael Fratantoni, an MBA economist. The result was an increase in the total inventory of loans in foreclosure.

Overall, some 12.9% of home loans were 30 days or more past due or in foreclosure at the end of December. That's down from 14% at the end of 2009 but still up from 11% at the end of 2008.

The figures provide the clearest indication yet that the mortgage crisis that began four years ago has stopped getting worse and is easing.

Source : online.wsj.com

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