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NAR: Strong Health Insurance Rule Needs Improvement

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 6, 2018 - 1:00am

The Department of Labor's proposal to let more associations offer health plans to their members is a positive step forward, but changes are...

Categories: Real Estate News

Housing Markets Need Landlords to Sell

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 6, 2018 - 1:00am

Landlords own thousands of single-family homes across the U.S. With shortages abounding, some are calling on those owners to start selling.

Categories: Real Estate News

4 Activities That Waste Your Time

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 6, 2018 - 1:00am

Want to get the most out of your workday and maximize productivity? Be aware of these menial time suckers.

Categories: Real Estate News

Third REALTOR® Lost Child in Fla. Shooting

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 6, 2018 - 1:00am

Mitchell Dworet, a sales associate with Skye Louis Realty in Coconut Creek, Fla., lost his 17-year-old son, Nicholas, in the massacre at Marjory...

Categories: Real Estate News

Home Features First-Time Buyers Choose

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 6, 2018 - 1:00am

Highlight these amenities in your home listings. New buyers say they’re essential. 

Categories: Real Estate News

Rising Rates Top Commercial Concerns

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 6, 2018 - 1:00am

Commercial real estate executives say this year’s increase in interest rates is what has them the most worried about the impact to...

Categories: Real Estate News

The Necessary Income For Buying in 15 Cities

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 6, 2018 - 1:00am

View a chart to see the median salary needed to purchase a home in some of the 15 largest cities. 

Categories: Real Estate News

Consumer Confidence Leaps

RisMedia Consumer Advice - March 5, 2018 - 5:04pm

Consumer confidence leapt in February, posting a 130.8 reading in the latest Consumer Confidence Index® from The Conference Board. The Expectations reading of the Index rose to 109.7, while the Present Situation reading rose to 162.4. January’s reading was 124.3.

“Consumer confidence improved to its highest level since 2000 (Nov. 2000, 132.6) after a modest increase in January,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, in a statement. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was more favorable this month, with the labor force the main driver. Despite the recent stock market volatility, consumers expressed greater optimism about short-term prospects for business and labor market conditions, as well as their financial prospects. Overall, consumers remain quite confident that the economy will continue expanding at a strong pace in the months ahead.”

The percentage of consumers who believe business conditions are “good,” as defined by the Index, increased from 35.0 percent in January to 35.8 percent in February; the percentage of those who believe business conditions are “bad” decreased from 13.0 percent in January to 10.8 percent in February. The percentage of those who expect business conditions to improve increased from 21.5 percent in January to 25.8 percent in February; the percentage of those who expect business conditions to worsen decreased from 9.8 percent in January to 9.4 percent in February.

The percentage of consumers who believe jobs are “plentiful” increased from 37.2 percent in January to 39.4 percent in February, according to the Index; the percentage of those who believe jobs are “hard to get” decreased from 16.3 percent in January to 14.7 percent in February. The percentage of those who expect more jobs in the coming months increased from 18.7 percent in January to 21.6 percent in February; the percentage of those who expect less jobs in the coming months decreased from 12.5 percent in January to 11.9 percent in February.

The percentage of consumers who expect higher incomes increased from 20.6 percent in January to 23.8 percent in February; the percentage of those who expect a decrease also increased, from 7.9 percent in January to 8.6 percent in February.

Source: The Conference Board

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The post Consumer Confidence Leaps appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Tax Scammers Use Refund Ruse

RisMedia Consumer Advice - March 5, 2018 - 5:03pm

(TNS)—Wait, what? You didn’t file your income tax return yet, but, suddenly, somehow, you spotted a bunch of money in your bank account from a refund?


Believe it or not, criminals are using real bank accounts in a fast-spreading scam that could gain more traction as we move into prime refund season, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

“It’s super sophisticated,” says Luis Garcia, a spokesperson for the IRS in Detroit. “If you haven’t filed your taxes—especially if you’re not expecting a refund—and money shows up in your account, don’t touch it.”

Last summer, the IRS reported that cybercriminals had been targeting tax professionals. According to the IRS, 177 tax professionals or firms reported data thefts involving client information relating to thousands of tax filers from January through May 2017. Much of that theft started with a phishing email sent to the tax professional posing as a potential client to gain access to the professional’s computer systems and collect the personal information of existing clients.

After stealing the data from tax professionals, criminals could have your bank account number if you requested direct deposit of a refund earlier.

Now, the crooks who file fake tax returns to steal refund cash could be giving the IRS your bank account information for direct deposit of fraudulent refunds.

How do the crooks then get the cash?

One scheme includes an automated call that claims that you’re a willing participant in tax fraud and demands that you return the money. Of course, if you follow their directions, you’re handing the money over to the crooks.

Garcia says some people could be caught off guard by such calls, especially when they suddenly spot a deposit from the U.S. Treasury in their account.

“It’s jarring when somebody calls you and they know your bank account,” Garcia says.

The IRS began issuing tax refunds as of Feb. 27 for many early filers who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit, so the ID thieves who filed fake returns claiming those credits will be looking to collect soon, if they used your bank account for direct deposit.

As part of the crackdown on tax-related ID fraud, the IRS has been taking extra steps to avoid depositing refunds onto suspicious prepaid cards. That’s why the scam could involve a new twist.

After the money hits your account, a con artist might pose as a debt collection official working on behalf of the IRS. The crook might say the refund was deposited in error and they ask the taxpayer to forward the money to their collection agency.

Don’t do it.

Or a robocall claims to be from the IRS and threatens the person with an arrest warrant unless refund money is turned over. Some calls talk about “blacklisting” the Social Security number of the real taxpayer, if the taxpayer doesn’t follow the appropriate steps to return the refund cash.

Don’t do it.

“This isn’t your refund,” Garcia says. “You’re the victim of tax fraud. But don’t complicate things by not returning that money to the IRS—not the scammers.”

What should you do? Contact your bank. Don’t plan to spend the money. Follow the proper steps to return the fraudulent refund to the IRS.

Some consumers have reported that their bank accounts ended up being frozen as banks try to deal with this odd criminal twist. Your account could have to be closed to prevent fraudsters from gaining access.

The IRS said taxpayers who receive an erroneous refund should contact the Automated Clearing House department of their bank. The bank would return the erroneous refund directly to the IRS.

The taxpayer should contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 for an individual filer or 800-829-4933 for a business.

You’re going to want to file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit when you file your own tax return to state that you were a victim of a tax preparer data breach. Once a victimized taxpayer tries to file his or her own return electronically, they may fear that their tax return will be rejected because a 2017 return bearing their Social Security number has already been filed.

Tax fraud remains a threat, even though the IRS said the number of tax returns with confirmed identity theft declined by 32 percent to 597,000 returns in 2017, compared with 883,000 returns in 2016.

A spokesperson from Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, said its fraud detection program includes providing suspicious activity reports to the IRS and validating internet protocol addresses to block high-risk transactions from suspect geographies.

But experts say cybercriminals are always developing new lines of attack, like the direct deposit scam. So if you’re hit, it’s important to take action.

The IRS outlines the steps to take to return an erroneous refund in its “Tax Topic Number 161 – Returning an Erroneous Refund.” See www.irs.gov.

Many times, scammers likely could try to use direct deposit. But some could have a fraudulent refund check sent to your home. They’re hoping you cash it—and don’t spend it—and then hand over the money. Or maybe they’re planning to steal that check out of your mailbox.

The steps for returning an uncashed check include writing “Void” on the back of the check where you’d sign it. The IRS wants you to submit the check immediately but no later than 21 days to the appropriate IRS location listed online. The IRS lists 10 possible locations for where you’d mail that erroneous check.

You will want to include a note saying that you’re returning an erroneous refund check and give a short reason.

And what if you’ve cashed an erroneous refund check?

You will need to send a personal check or money order to the IRS. Make sure to write on the check or money order: “Payment of Erroneous Refund” and the tax period for which the refund was issued.

If you don’t act promptly to repay an erroneous refund, the IRS could charge interest on the money.

©2018 Detroit Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Tax Scammers Use Refund Ruse appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Foreign Buyers Coming to U.S. Are Changing

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 5, 2018 - 1:00am

The share of buyers from China has decreased, but other countries are quickly filling the gap to own real estate in the U.S.

Categories: Real Estate News

Oscar Nominee Prompts “Ebbing, Mo.” Home Searches

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 5, 2018 - 1:00am

The Academy Award-nominated movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has some intrigued about the fictional backdrop for the...

Categories: Real Estate News

Manufactured Homes to Ease Housing Shortages?

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 5, 2018 - 1:00am

The federal government may increasingly be eyeing manufactured housing as one potential solution to ease shortages of affordable homes across the...

Categories: Real Estate News

Freddie Still Bullish on New-Home Sales

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 5, 2018 - 1:00am

New-home sales may have started the new year by softening, but that hasn’t made Freddie Mac economists lose their optimism that the sector...

Categories: Real Estate News

The Nation’s Fastest-Gentrifying ZIP Codes

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 5, 2018 - 1:00am

Find out which ZIPs are seeing the biggest run-up in home prices, household incomes, and level of residents with higher education over the past 16...

Categories: Real Estate News

Howard Hanna Touts Record Year

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 5, 2018 - 1:00am

The third largest real estate company in the U.S. saw its business surge in 2017 to a record-breaking year. 

Categories: Real Estate News

Sinkholes: Avoiding Collapsed Transactions

RisMedia Consumer Advice - March 4, 2018 - 2:06pm

In 2017, multiple regions were severely impacted by natural disasters—and the real estate industry has been affected by them all. But one event which often occurs across the U.S. has largely been out of the limelight.

Sinkhole activity typically occurs in areas of Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. These events take with them land surfaces, which oftentimes include homes, when rock in the underground space dissolves and creates an unsupported cavern, ultimately giving way and collapsing.

The recent resurgence of sinkholes in Florida is leaving homeowners with questions. Are there signs to look for? Can they be prevented? What if a home is destroyed during the selling process? There are steps that homeowners can take to protect themselves and their assets in the case of sinkholes.

Seek Out the Signs
Does the property have noticeable sinking, sagging or cracking walls? These are all tell-tale signs of a sinkhole, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Lou Nimkoff, president of the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association, tells RISMedia.

EarthTech.com provides even more signs to look for, which can vary depending on the severity of the situation:

  • Tilting or falling trees or fence posts
  • Slanting foundations
  • Sudden pond drainage
  • Wilted vegetation in a specific area
  • The sudden appearance of earthy odors
  • Infestation of bugs, such as slugs and centipedes

Homeowners should also look out for holes or depressions in which surface or storm water disappears. If a vortex emerges through which stream or pond water swirls down, this is another sign of a sinkhole.

Evaluate the Property
If a sinkhole is thought to be present, homeowners must act quickly to have the home inspected. The first step is to report it to the state’s department of environmental protection. If the property is on the market, the buyer can request that the home be inspected by a geotechnical engineer.

“An evaluation by a geotechnical engineering company (often done in concert with the homeowner’s property insurance company) will provide recommendations regarding safety and options for repair,” says Nimkoff.

Manage a Sinkhole-Impacted Transaction
Both buyers and sellers will be affected if the property in question is in danger of being damaged by a sinkhole. To ensure clients are protected, real estate agents should recommend they hire attorneys with sinkhole experience.

“Buyers whose under-contract property becomes involved in a sinkhole should turn to their REALTOR® for a referral to a real estate attorney,” Nimkoff says. “Options for the buyers moving forward (cancellation or renegotiation of the contract; reimbursement or withholding of escrow) are subject to legal interpretation of the contracts and the language contained therein.”

If the sinkhole is discovered before the home goes on the market, both homeowners and real estate agents must follow local real estate disclosure laws. In Florida, the sinkhole must be fully disclosed using the appropriate forms.

“Sellers and their REALTORS® are required by Florida law to disclose the presence of a sinkhole; REALTORS® are further obligated to disclose by the REALTOR® Code of Ethics,” says Nimkoff.

Buyers wishing to walk away from a sinkhole property may be protected depending on the type of contract they sign. These contracts can vary by location and by attorney.

“Buyers whose accepted purchase contract includes an option to cancel pending satisfactory inspection results (or a maximum estimated repair amount) will most likely be able to walk away without losing their escrow,” Nimkoff says. “However, those buyers who utilized other types of contracts (such as an AS-IS) or who included minimal contingencies and wish to cancel the contract should consult with a real estate attorney.”

Remediate the Sinkhole
The good news is a sinkhole can be remediated if it is discovered before its collapse. The process varies depending on the severity of the sinkhole. Shallow, isolated sinkholes are typically repaired through excavation and the installation of a plug. If the sinkhole is deep, however, geotechnical contractors need to use special drilling equipment in order to fix the sinkhole without disrupting it. Some companies install injection pipes in which grout creates a concrete cap.

Of course, remediation does not always translate into a cooperative buyer. Sinkholes can be a deal-killer; however, a property should be remediated in any case to ensure the safety of the homeowner and their property. Insurance also plays a role, as added coverage may be required by the state once a sinkhole is discovered and remediated.

“The decision of whether or not to move forward on a property involved in a sinkhole is dependent on many factors that are personal to each buyer’s intent, the type of property, and the type and age of the sinkhole,” says Nimkoff. “Buyers should rely on their REALTORS® to guide them through all the things to consider as they make a decision.”

The best thing buyers and sellers can do is to become knowledgeable of which areas are more prone to sinkholes. While unpredictable, sinkholes have an easier time forming on specific land.

“According to the Florida Department of Environmental Projection, the entire state of Florida is made up of underground terrain (carbonate rock) in which sinkhole-forming processes are continually taking place, and there is no way to predict the formation of a sinkhole; however, there are definite regions where sinkhole risk is considerably higher,” says Nimkoff. “In general, areas of the state where limestone is close to surface or areas with deeper limestone—but with a conducive configuration of water table elevation, stratigraphy and aquifer characteristics—have increased sinkhole activity.”

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Sinkholes: Avoiding Collapsed Transactions appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Robots Suit Up for Bigger Roles in Real Estate

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 2, 2018 - 1:00am

Companies touting robotic technology for real estate are seeing explosive growth as the industry begins to embrace the idea of turning certain...

Categories: Real Estate News

More Buyers Are Bidding Up Prices

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 2, 2018 - 1:00am

Consequently, sellers are pocketing more than what they’re asking for in a home transaction.

Categories: Real Estate News

Mortgage Rates Just Got Higher Again

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 2, 2018 - 1:00am

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has been on a tear in 2018, climbing 48 basis points since the start of the year.

Categories: Real Estate News

Show the Benefits of Staging a Vacant Home

NAR Daily Real Estate News - March 2, 2018 - 1:00am

Having a tough time convincing sellers that staging a vacant home is worth it? Here are four compelling reasons you can share.

Categories: Real Estate News