South Florida Real Estate News

1. Schedule future Facebook messages

Speaking of time, in real estate, timing is everything, and it can be the difference between landing a client or losing one.

Stay in touch with your sphere, and reach out to clients with Sendible. This clever tool allows you to schedule Facebook messages to your friends ahead of time; think birthdays, anniversaries, quarterly follow-ups, etc.

If you’re looking for a simple way to ramp up your social media game, this is the tool.

2. Check your ‘Message Requests’ inbox

Aside from making sure you don’t miss leads by setting up a chatbot and pixel and using Messenger to communicate with “friends,” you can also keep track of messages and requests from your non-friends within the Messenger app.

If you’re familiar with Facebook Messenger, then you’ll recognize the lightning bolt icon. When you click it, the icon automatically defaults to the “Recent” tab of your inbox, but take a closer look, and you’ll notice a “Message Requests” tab.

This is where the messages from people you’re not currently friends with live.

Whether it be an old pal or perspective client, best to go in and have a look. There is also a “See filtered requests” link located directly below that will show you outlier messages from strangers, scammers and everything between.

Browse with caution!

3. Transfer files, send money and share maps via Messenger

Facebook Messenger allows you to do so much more than send messages. In fact, you can send images from your mobile device, share a mapped location and even transfer money at the click of a button. Here’s how.

Open the Facebook Messenger window and look for the small icons along the bottom bar. These icons are powerful tools that allow you to upload and send files from your device, share a map of any location or send money from a debit card or PayPal account.

Splitting the bill with a co-worker to share your open house has never been easier!

4. Take advantage of Facebook Notes

Longtime Facebook users know you can make the most of a milestone or share a client story by highlighting it in Facebook Notes.

According to PCMag, Facebook Notes is basically “a personal blog post that lives inside the Facebook ecosystem.”

Click on Facebook Notes to share entire paragraphs of text and images just like a regular Facebook post, or save it and come back to work on it later. You’ll be able to publish whenever you’re ready.

Here’s a great “how-to” on using Facebook Notes.

5. Save news feed posts for later

If you never noticed it before, today is your lucky day! Facebook has a “Save for Later” function that allows you to save posts and read later when you have more time — basically Facebook’s way of taking on content savers such as Pinterest.

Click the ellipsis in the top-right of any post, which will pull up a number of options including the Save button. This will send the link to your “Saved” folder, which doesn’t exist until you, in fact, save something.

Next, look for the “Saved” ribbon in the left-hand side of your explore bar, and let the daily catch-up begin.

6. Wow clients with 360-degree pics and vids

Have you noticed those “360-degree” photos and videos popping up all over your Facebook feed? The “360” feature allows Facebook users to pivot and look at all angles and directions. The same goes for users on a desktop.

With “360,” you can give your clients and followers a truly immersive experience – whether broadcasting a listing to an international audience, promoting an open house, or simply showcasing what you see in your day-to-day.

Get started with this Facebok360 tutorial to learn the ins and outs of 360 media.

7. Create a fundraiser that resonates

Most real estate agents are big on giving back, and Facebook makes it even easier to show you care.

Scroll the left-side of your explore bar until you find the “Fundraiser” icon (a little coin with a heart in the middle). Here, you can start a charity, use the power of your sphere and crowdsource funds via donations for your cause.

There are, however, policies and sometimes fees associated with Facebook fundraisers and charitable donations. TechCrunch recently reported changes to Facebook’s policy which includes dropping the fee for certain donations and matching up to $50 million a year!

8. Up your security game

Security should be top priority for every Facebook user. The main threat? People can try to get into your account to steal personal information.

PCMag suggests these top three tips to protect yourself, which you can access via Settings > Security and Login > Setting Up Extra Security; this includes two-factor authentication, enabled alerts for unrecognized logins and trusted contacts for when you get locked out.

9. Keep an eye out for Facebook’s city-specific feature

According to AdEspresso by Hootsuite, Facebook is testing a new area of its app called “Today In,” a mix of city-specific events, announcements and local news.

This will make it easier for users to stay in-the-know about their communities and could be a valuable marketing tool for agents once officially rolled out.

Currently, only a few chosen cities are testing it: New Orleans, Louisiana; Olympia, Washington; Billings, Montana; Binghamton, New York; Peoria, Illinois; and Little Rock, Arkansas.

10. Biggest change to Facebook’s news feed algorithm

Perhaps the most talked about update of 2018 includes Facebook’s decision to prioritize news from family and friends at the expense of public content, news publishers and marketers.

This isn’t all that bad for agents looking to foster meaningful connections in their sphere.

AdEspresso by Hootsuite details Mark Zuckerburg’s reasoning behind the decision and dives deeper into how Facebook’s 2018 updates affect marketers and users of the platform.

You can also check out Katie Lance’s take on the update, “What the Facebook news feed change means for real estate pros.”

Now that you know about these highly underutilized Facebook tricks, you can go forth and become the Facebook power user/real estate marketer you were born to be.

by Amy Puchaty

Courtesy of Inman news

Posted in:General
Posted by Linda Barratt PA and Justin Cervantes, PA on February 11th, 2018 2:05 PM

Those hoping that the next generation of 100-percent commission brokerages would just die a death may want to see a therapist about their denial.

These thick-skinned companies are alive and well, and the tenacious breed of broker-owners who run them have gotten used to being called flat-fee scumbags.

They say they know what it feels like to be Netflix at a Blockbuster conference — they’ve been sent hate mail; they’ve been shunned from industry conferences, stopped from joining real estate boards, had their signs defaced — but they have brushed it off and kept going.

And the accolades are going to start rolling in.

According to Real Trends’ president, Steve Murray, companies using the 100-percent commission model snagged three out of the top 11 slots on the Real Trends 500, due out at the end of the month, when their identities will officially be unveiled.

“In all of their varieties, they are here to stay. The data supports it,” Murray said. “They are a huge part of the industry; it wouldn’t surprise me if they were getting to be 15 to 25 percent of the industry. They are all over and they are multiplying.”

He tells the more traditional brokerages not happy with this competition: “It’s just a different way of doing business, not good or bad, they just are, and it’s making you work harder to prove your value.”

Re/Max blazes the trail

Realty Executives International pioneered the 100-percent model in 1965. But Re/Max founder Dave Liniger made his name with the formula when launching in 1973 and proved to be very effective at it, said Re/Max president Geoff Lewis.

“In a sense he blazed a trail for the 100-percent model,” he said.

Lewis has heard the stories from Liniger. “There was opposition to us joining boards, having signs stolen and defaced; there was a real effort to make the business model fail,” he said.

Re/Max’s 100-percent model allowed it to surge in market share and to establish a brand, which the company considers one of its biggest competitive advantages, he said.

The 100-percent commission concept allowed the company to attract the experienced, productive agent who was more profitable on a fixed monthly fee than on a commission split, said Lewis. The average Re/Max agent of a large brokerage does 16.5 transactions annually.

Lewis warns: “But no competitive advantage lasts forever; you can’t patent a business model. You have to find sustainable advantages in other areas rather than the business model.”

Re/Max has watched with interest as the next generation of 100-percent commission brokerages has sprung up.

Said Lewis: “The jury is still out on some of the models that have gone further than Re/Max — those that only have a transaction fee, for instance. In any version of the 100-percent model, the agent has always paid something,” he said.

As Re/Max has matured, it is now promoting a 95/5 split, which it started around 12 years ago.

The move from 100/0 to 95/5 was to help brokers improve their profit margins, which were getting squeezed, said Lewis.

Of Re/Max, Murray of Real Trends added: “[The company is] going to do over one million sides for last year, and there’s only one company in shouting distance of that, and that’s Keller Williams,” he said.

Re/Max attracts agents coming from 100-percent commission brokerages who don’t mind this small split.

“They are looking for more tech, support and a recognized brand name,” said the Re/Max president.

The ‘Facebook‘ of the 100-percent model

Of the next-generation companies, Re/Max should perhaps watch Realty One Group most closely.

The largest in its cohort, the Las Vegas upstart that also operates in Arizona and Southern California has just announced its imminent arrival in New York from its start 12 years ago. Next year, it’s going international.

According to Burke Smith, EVP of home warranty protection plan company American Home Shield. and someone who has consulted with a number of 100-percent commission brokerages, Realty One Group is streets ahead of the others.

“Kuba Jewgieniew, Realty One Group founder, is the innovator in this space right now — he’s like the Facebook versus all the other social media sites,” Smith said. “In terms of transactions, you could probably add up all the other companies’ numbers to equal what Realty One Group is doing.”

The company’s figures are impressive: In 2016, nearly 3,000 real estate professionals joined Realty One Group. The company saw a 24-percent increase in sales volume, and transactions totaled 44,000, a total of over $15 billion in 2016.

Last year, agents earned around $300 million in commission; this year, it will be closer to $400 million.

“It will be interesting going forward; we are going to see a much clearer line drawn between the brands which are consumer-driven and those that are agent-driven,” Smith added.

“The winner of this 100-percent commission brokerage race will be the one that creates a brand that is recognizable by both consumer and the agent. A brand that doesn’t work in concert with its agents is not sustainable.”

For more small- to medium-sized independent brokerages competing in markets with a tight listing inventory, it would be smarter for them to join a 100-percent commission brokerage as a franchise, he said. That way they maintain the autonomy but unload the logistics of running a brokerage.

Smith has no doubt that being with the 100-percent brokerage model can give agents an edge.

“The reality of it is, a good agent in a 100-percent model will be able to provide more for their client because they have more financial resources available,” he said. “An agent in a 100-percent brokerage should spend more on marketing for the client than the traditional model agent.”

Smith believes companies including Realty One Group, Big Block Realty and Signature Real Estate, have all done a good job of creating a high-quality brand image that in some respects outclasses a lot of the traditional brands with outdated images and slogans.

Competing with the big brands

Realty One Group no longer competes with 100-percent companies, according to Smith. It competes with the established brands.

CEO and founder of Realty One Group, Kuba Jewgieniew, explains his approach.

“With HomeSmart, we don’t see them as a competitor; it’s more Keller Williams, Coldwell Banker and the Berkshire Hathaways. We really respect these brands and admire what they’ve built.”

The traditional brokerages are coming round to the idea of his company, he thinks.

“I feel that they are taking us seriously; they know we are a threat, that we are strategically expanding nationally,” he said.

Unlike Re/Max, Realty One Group has no intention of deviating from the 100 percent.

“We know it works; our margins are lower, as long as we align with the right people,” Jewgieniew said.

HomeSmart: Fast growth but not at any cost

Another major player in the 100-percent commission brokerage space is HomeSmart.

Its sales volume in 2016 was more than $12.67 billion, up nearly 26 percent over last year, while its transactions came in at 46,568, up over 20 percent over the same time frame. It hired 2,287 agents nationwide in 2016, bringing its count to 11,300 total.

The company added 22 new franchised offices last year, and founder Matt Widdows stresses that he is being selective: “The biggest thing is we want to find good partners; it’s very, very important that we get alignment of vision and culture. We’ve started to get very picky with who we are bringing on,” he said.

Widdows, based in Phoenix, takes pride that the 100-percent commission model all started in the Phoenix market — it’s the business formula’s birthplace.

He believes that increasing numbers of traditional brokerages are taking a page out of the 100-percent commission brokerage’s book, and that this is good for the industry.

“If you asked traditional brokerages a few years ago if they had a 90/10 split, they wouldn’t have,” he said. “That’s a testament to where we are going. The agents’ commission is being pushed down, earning is pushing down on the broker side and broker splits are making the broker more competitive.”

How does HomeSmart make its model work financially? “We use tech to keep on a path of consistent delivery of service — that is how you afford to do it, very efficient very high-end, high-touch, customer service,” he said.

“We write all of our own software, including all of the things we offer consumers to market homes and purchase homes,” he added.

While traditional brokerages might say you won’t get the support at 100-percent commission brokerages, Widdows reply is: “We have to give great service to the agents; our reputation is more important than ever to make sure that we are protecting and representing the brand well.”

Signature Real Estate

While Widdows is proud of the number of 100-percent brokerages to come out of Phoenix — Las Vegas is another hotbed of activity.

The co-founders of Signature Real Estate Group, which launched in May 2013 in Sin City, would like to have 2,000 agents in Vegas alone in the next few years.

They believe the 100-percent brokerage model will become the new norm — and also that those that don’t support agents won’t last.

“For us, we are trying to go above and beyond the competition in support,” said co-founder Mike Rasmussen.

The business, which is attracting agents across the board, is trying to offer training every day, he said.

Co-founder Brandon Roberts said that in their third year, they are at 600 agents and expanding on a franchise basis, opening two new offices a month on average. Their latest markets include Massachusetts and Florida.

Roberts, a former regional owner at Exit Realty, Nevada, said Signature’s next office is set up to cater to teams specifically.

Carbon copies pop up in Texas

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and there is definitely some copycat action happening across the country.

In Fathom Realty’s Dallas-Fort Worth market, founder Josh Harley is seeing some traditional brokerages trying to offer plans with 100-percent splits but with little success.

“These companies are charging high monthly fees with low transaction fees but then tacking on separate E&O fees, handling fees, and their typical franchise fee of 6 percent or more,” he said. “When it is all said and done, the agent paid almost the same amount as they did before when they were on a 30-percent split.”

On the other hand, he doesn’t think any of the 100-percent commission brokerages have really “nailed it” yet, including his.

“To be successful, we must become experts on streamlining our business while helping our agents become more successful than ever before,” Harley added, “The 100-percent companies who grasp this idea will thrive, while those who try to get away with charging less but also giving less, will go out of business.”

It’s only a matter of time before brokerages who offer the 100-percent model dominate the real estate industry, thereby becoming the new “traditional” brokerage model, said Harley.

“Once our model reaches a 15-percent market share of agents, our model will cross a pivotal point in the adoption lifecycle and the industry will begin to see a significant shift of agents moving to 100 percent companies like Fathom,” he said.

How much for your company?

You know you are doing something right when a big company makes an offer for you.

In the case of another Texas company, J.P. & Associates Realtors (JPAR) was approached by a large, public real estate company that had its own 100-percent commission brokerage already but liked the JPAR model and structure.

Said founder JP Piccinini: “I wouldn’t sell it for a billion bucks.”

He’s now getting to the fun part, where business is easier now his brand is known.

In his sixth year, he is recruiting 60 agents a month in Dallas-Fort Worth alone.

When he started, he took agents straight out of real estate school, then mid-producers. Now he is getting serious producers doing 100 to 200 transactions, with $40 million sales volume a year. This is what he wants — agents with high productivity.

How do you win in this market? Like any other business, you still have to have something new to say. NextHome’s chief strategic officer, Keith Robinson, former COO of Better Homes and Gardens Mason McDuffie Real Estate, said that most residential brands at this point will say they excel over the competition when it comes to technology and branding.

“That’s the stock answer, and I think our manifestations of those two statements are different and need to be different,” Robinson said. “The world doesn’t need just another real estate franchise; you’ve got to be passionate about what you bring to the party.”

NextHome, launched in 2014, is in 40 states today with 170 offices and 1,200 members, and its goal is to be in all states by end of 2017.

Being California-based, tech is a big part of NextHome’s appeal, which targets millennial consumers in its marketing.

One project it is working on at the moment is helping its agents on converting leads.

“Our tech is focused on making all of these fractured disparate tools communicate for the agent,” said Robinson.

Whatever the economic model might be, it doesn’t always translate to success if the culture and leadership aren’t there, said the seasoned executive.

‘You have to look big’

The founders of Big Block Realty (Big Block), a 100-percent commission brokerage making a big noise in San Diego, are well aware of this.

“With the 100-percent model, you have to be smart — you have to look big,” said Big Block co-founder Sam Khorramian. “For a boutique brokerage, to have 10 to 15 agents on a model like this, it’s not worth it. You have to think big and be in a constant recruitment position, and they have to be productive agents.

“If you have a roster of non-productive agents, you help with the story everybody else is trying to tell,” he adds.

Co-founder Oliver Graf is not interested in the debate on whether the 100-percent brokerage will take over the industry.

Murray, meanwhile, reels off names of these brokerages all over the country and Canada: Solid Source Realty in Atlanta, Rutenberg Realty in Florida, among others.

Graf boils it down: “The biggest thing comes down to how you support the agent,” he said. “Most brokerages are used to getting paid by their agents and not giving value.

“At brokerages where the agents are not receiving anything and they are paying 20 or 30 percent commission, those brokerages will become extinct because they are not supporting the agent.

“It’s all about what the agent wants,” he said.

Courtesy of Inman

Posted in:General and tagged: 100% Commission
Posted by Linda Barratt PA and Justin Cervantes, PA on March 29th, 2017 8:48 AM

Surprise, surprise the big banks that everyone loves were caught after selling BAD residential mortgage backed securities to investors before the financial crisis.

Does anyone really believe that they didn't know?

Courtesy of NMP:

Joseph A. Smith Jr. has released his fourth report on JP Morgan Chase’s progress under its settlement with the federal government and five states concerning claims that Chase, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual packaged and sold bad residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) to investors before the financial crisis (Chase RMBS Settlement). In the report, Smith confirmed that Chase provided $2,245,673,500 in consumer relief credit to 111,924 borrowers through Sept. 30, 2014. Chase must provide $4 billion in credited relief by Dec. 31, 2017.

The report also contains Chase’s self-reported gross consumer relief. The Monitor has not yet validated the crediting of these activities. According to Chase, in the fourth quarter 2014, Chase provided $5.1 billion in principal forgiveness and forbearance, rate reduction, and low-to-moderate or disaster area lending to 39,512 borrowers. Chase also asserted that as of December 31, 2014, 151,436 borrowers had received some type of relief, including $1,956,638,212 in principal forgiveness or forbearance, $1,115,656,744 in rate reduction, and $15,771,381,912 in eligible lending.

“After in-depth formula testing and data review, I have credited Chase with more than half of the $4 billion in consumer relief credit it must provide under this agreement.” Smith said. “I look forward to reporting on my next round of testing mid-year. In addition to its consumer relief requirements, I have no reason to believe that Chase has failed to comply with any of the policy-based, non-creditable requirements of the Settlement.”

So, to recap:

The big banks make huge profits by selling the bad debt.

The big banks hurt consumers (investors) that bought the bad debt.

The big banks blame the "industry" and mortgage brokers for causing the financial crisis with the help of main stream media and politicians.

The big banks help push legislature through that forces heavy regulations on mortgage brokers that want to continue in the business.

Finally, big banks are slapped on the wrist and forced to "repay" consumers by providing relief credit in the form of being human and working with people in distress to find a way to keep their homes.

Sounds fair? Until next time...JJ

Posted by Linda Barratt PA and Justin Cervantes, PA on April 3rd, 2015 9:00 AM
This story is the reason it is vitally important to adhere to regulations that govern the Real Estate & Mortgage Industry...

 - Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Maryland Attorney General took action against Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase for an illegal marketing-services-kickback scheme they participated in with Genuine Title, a now-defunct title company. The Bureau and Maryland also took action against former Wells Fargo employee Todd Cohen and his wife, Elaine Oliphant Cohen, for their involvement. Genuine Title gave the banks' loan officers cash, marketing materials, and consumer information in exchange for business referrals. The proposed consent orders, filed in federal court, would require $24 million in civil penalties from Wells Fargo, $600,000 in civil penalties from JPMorgan Chase, and $11.1 million in redress to consumers whose loans were involved in this scheme. Cohen and Oliphant Cohen also will pay a $30,000 penalty. 


"Today we took action against two of the nation's largest banks, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, for illegal mortgage kickbacks," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "These banks allowed their loan officers to focus on their own illegal financial gain rather than on treating consumers fairly. Our action today to address these practices should serve as a warning for all those in the mortgage market." 

"Homeowners were steered toward this title company, not because they were the best or most affordable, but because they were providing kickbacks to loan officers who referred consumers to them," said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. "This type of quid pro quo arrangement is illegal, and it's unfair to other businesses that play by the rules." 


Genuine Title was a Maryland-based title company that offered real-estate-closing services from 2005 until it went out of business in April 2014. As part of the marketing-services-kickback scheme, Genuine Title offered loan officers valuable services to increase the amount of loan business generated. Genuine Title conducted this scheme at several financial institutions. The services the company offered included purchasing, analyzing, and providing data on consumers and creating letters with the banks' logos that the company had printed, folded, stuffed into envelopes, and mailed. In return, the banks' loan officers would increase Genuine Title's profits by referring homebuyers to the company for closing services. This scheme was especially profitable for the loan officers, who generally are paid by commission. 


The marketing-services-kickback scheme violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), which prohibits giving a "fee, kickback, or thing of value" in exchange for a referral of business related to a real-estate-settlement service. 


Wells Fargo The Bureau's investigation identified more than 100 Wells Fargo loan officers in at least 18 branches, largely in Maryland and Virginia, who participated in this scheme. The Bureau alleges that these loan officers referred thousands of loans to Genuine Title over the course of the scheme. The Bureau alleges that, despite the fact that Wells Fargo had multiple warnings of the illegal arrangements between its loan officers and Genuine Title - including a federal lawsuit explicitly alleging the existence of such agreements - the bank failed to take action to stop the practices and did not have an adequate system in place to identify these violations. Under the proposed consent order filed today, Wells Fargo would be required to pay $10.8 million in redress and $24 million in civil penalties. The Bureau also filed an administrative consent order against Wells Fargo prohibiting future violations. 


Wells Fargo employed Todd Cohen as a loan officer from April 2009 through August 2010. The Bureau alleges that, while at Wells Fargo, Cohen not only received marketing materials, he also took substantial cash payments in exchange for referrals. Rather than pay Cohen directly, Genuine Title made payments to Cohen's then-girlfriend, now-wife, Elaine Oliphant Cohen, in an effort to disguise the kickback nature of the payment. She received tens of thousands of dollars in payments for loans Cohen referred to Genuine Title. Under the proposed consent order filed today, Cohen and Oliphant Cohen would be required to pay a civil penalty of $30,000, and Cohen would be banned from participation in the mortgage industry for two years. 


JPMorgan Chase The CFPB also found that loan officers at JPMorgan Chase participated in the marketing-services-kickback scheme with Genuine Title. The Bureau alleges that at least six Chase loan officers in three different branches in Maryland, Virginia, and New York were involved. These officers referred settlement business to Genuine Title on almost 200 loans. The Bureau also alleges that Chase did not have an adequate system in place to ensure that its loan officers were following the law. Under the proposed consent order filed today, Chase would pay approximately $300,000 in redress and $600,000 in civil penalties. The Bureau also filed an administrative consent order against Chase prohibiting future violations. 

In addition to the loan officers at Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, several loan officers at another financial institution also participated in the scheme with Genuine Title. While Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase did not identify or address the illegal conduct, that institution self-identified the problematic practices and terminated the loan officers involved. The institution also cooperated with the CFPB's investigation and self-initiated a remediation plan. Based on the institution's behavior, the CFPB has resolved that investigation without an enforcement action, consistent with the CFPB's Bulletin on Responsible Business Conduct.  


Today's actions are the result of a joint investigation by the CFPB, the State of Maryland, and the Maryland Insurance Administration, which regulates title insurance providers such as Genuine Title. 

You always have to ask yourself, "Is it worth it?" and the answer is always "NO."

Until next time...J

Posted in:General and tagged: ILLEGAL KICKBACKS
Posted by Linda Barratt PA and Justin Cervantes, PA on January 22nd, 2015 5:15 PM

The Senate approved a bill late Tuesday that would retroactively extend over 50 expiring tax provisions for one year, including one that shields distressed homeowners from paying taxes on any mortgage debt forgiven in a short sale.

The Senate approved the bill 76 to 16, which extends the provisions until Dec. 30 of this year (the one-year extension is retroactive). The House passed the bill 387 to 46 on Dec. 3.

At one point, House and Senate lawmakers were close to a deal on a two-year extension. But the White House objected because key business tax provisions were given permanent status while others affecting low- and moderate-income households would still have had to be extended each year.

"In my view, any agreement on permanent tax policies must be balanced between support for businesses and support for working families. A deal that only makes corporate policies permanent - or one sharply skewed in that direction - would have failed the test of fairness," said Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Under the bill, homeowners can deduct the cost of mortgage insurance premiums on their 2014 tax forms. This tax break covers private mortgage insurance premiums as well as premiums paid on Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and Rural Housing Service guaranteed loans. The U.S. Mortgage Insurers welcomed the extension.

"USMI commends passage by Congress last night of a one year extension of vital homeowner tax relief. We are especially pleased that the legislation includes the tax-deductible treatment of mortgage insurance premiums for low and moderate income borrowers. We look forward to working with Congress towards permanent enactment of this important tax relief for homeowners," according to the private mortgage companies.

About 3.6 million taxpayers claimed the mortgage insurance deduction in 2009, according to analysts at Compass Point Research and Trading LLC.

The bill also ensures underwater borrowers that sold their homes in a short sale in 2014 will not be penalized.

Prior to the housing bust, troubled homeowners had to pay taxes on any mortgage debt that was canceled or forgiven by a lender. The amount of forgiven mortgage debt was treated as ordinary income and taxed accordingly.

The "Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act is crucial to foreclosure mitigation efforts such as principal forgiveness and short sales," said Isaac Boltansky, an analyst with Compass Point.

In 2007, Congress passed the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act so that distressed borrowers would not be penalized for doing a short sale. Congress extended this tax relief in 2009 and 2012, but failed to pass a tax extender bill at the end of 2013.

Since 2008, more than 800,000 distressed homeowners have taken advantage of this tax break, according to Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., an original sponsor of the debt forgiveness bill in 2007.

Short sales have been declining over the past few years due to an improving economy, lower foreclosures and the uncertainty over the tax consequences of a short sale or deed in lieu transaction, where the homeowner simply signs over the deed to the house to the bank and vacates the property.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac servicers completed 27,800 short sales during the first eight months of this year, compared to 87,740 in 2013 and 125,232 in 2012.

Boltansky noted that the retroactive reauthorization for 2014 also gives Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt a shield to resist Democratic pressure to permit principal reductions on Fannie and Freddie loans.

Watt "will have additional political cover to reject calls to embrace the principal reduction through HAMP as the tax consequences could limit borrower participation" he wrote in a Dec. 2 report.

Courtesy of Brian Collins
DEC 17, 2014 12:27pm ET

Posted in:General
Posted by Linda Barratt PA and Justin Cervantes, PA on December 30th, 2014 9:41 AM


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