Friday, December 18, 2009

Orlando Home Sales Stay High But Prices Hit a Low

By Mary Shanklin
Orlando Sentinel

The last time Orlando-area home prices were as low as now, it was the year George W. Bush first took office, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Apple released the iPod.

Last month the number of existing-home sales doubled from a year ago as prices dipped to a midpoint of $123,000, according to a report released Friday by the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.

The last time the median price was below $123,000 was March 2001, at the outset of the previous recession, when it dipped to $120,287. So anyone who bought an existing home in the past eight years probably paid more than if they bought the property today. During the housing boom, the local median peaked at $264,436 in July 2007.

In the past year, prices in the Orlando Realtors' core market (mainly Orange and Seminole counties) have fallen by more than 25 percent.

Sellers seem to be recognizing the market's extended decline, as the difference between the average sales price and average list price actually narrowed a few tenths of a percentage point in November, to 94.9 percent, despite the drop in prices.

The pace of sales last month actually fell slightly from October, to 2,238 from 2,319but the November total was up more than 100 percent from the same month a year ago, an indication of how much sales activity has been improving for more than a year now. So far this year, Orlando Realtors have reported selling 21,420 homes, compared with 13,435 homes through the first 11 months of 2008.

The Orlando Realtors group broke down the prices paid for single-family homes and condo units in November by the level of financial distress involved: The median price for "normal" sales was $173,960, a 3 percent decrease from October to November; the median price for "short sales" was $122,000, down 2 percent from October; and the median for bank-owned properties was $84,000, up 5 percent from October.

Of all properties sold in November, 63 percent were owned by a bank already or in some stage of distress; the remaining 37 percent were "normal," or conventional sales, in which the owner wasn't under threat of foreclosure.

Orlando resident Bruce Tooker thinks many of the financially strapped homeowners peddling short sales -- listings for which the bank has agreed to accept less than the amount owed on the property's mortgage, to avoid the expense of a full foreclosure -- are still delusional about market prices.

Tooker said he recently submitted a low offer on a short-sale house near Westmoreland Drive in Orlando. The sellers had paid $329,000 for the house at the peak of the market and wanted $200,000 now, but it was worth only $169,000 when compared with similar sales, he said.

Tooker said he's in no hurry to buy because he expects prices will decay further.

"There are just too many houses out there and not enough buyers," he said.

According to the Orlando Realtors group, a growing number of buyers are poised to close on sales: Friday's report noted that the number of pending sales has more than doubled in the past year, growing from 3,326 to 8,633. That included 3,023 sales contracts filed just last month, an 84 percent increase from November 2008's new filings.

Mary Shanklin can be reached at or 407-420-5538.

Friday, December 4, 2009

MMG Monthly Newsletter- Great Information

For the Month of December 2009 --- Vol. 4, Issue 12

Happy Holidays! The holiday season is in full swing. But did you realize that the government already gave homebuyers the gift of an extended and expanded Homebuyers Tax Credit? This is one gift you won't have to stand in line to receive. But you will need to make sure you qualify and that you take the right steps to receive it. The article below on the new Homebuyers Tax Credit can help you get started.

Speaking of standing in line, this holiday season some people may find themselves waiting in line on the airport tarmac rather than in the shopping mall. So, if you're planning to travel by plane this holiday season, make sure you read the second article below with information on passenger rights and what to do if your flight gets stranded on the tarmac.

As always, please feel free to forward this issue to friends, family members and coworkers... or let me know if they'd like to enjoy their own free subscription. If you need any personal assistance at this time, simply call or email. Happy holidays to you, your family, and friends!

The Gift That Keeps on Giving...

Homebuyer Tax Credit Extended and Expanded!

Last month, a new Homebuyers Tax Credit bill was signed into law. The bill extends the tax credit for first-time homebuyers (FTHBs), as well as opens it up to current homeowners who are looking to buy. And even if you aren't looking to purchase - pass on this article to anyone you think might be in the market to do so. This is information that might benefit them greatly, and I'll be happy to be of service to them.

Here is a brief overview of the Homebuyers Tax Credit - and its benefits - based on the new bill.

Tax Credit for First-Time Homebuyers

FTHBs (that is, people who have not owned a home within the last three years) may be eligible for the tax credit. The credit for FTHBs is 10% of the purchase price of the home, with a maximum available credit of $8,000.

Single taxpayers and married couples filing a joint return may qualify for the full tax credit amount.

Tax Credit for Current Homeowners

The tax credit program now gives those who already own a residence some additional reasons to move to a new home. This incentive comes in the form of a tax credit of up to $6,500 for qualified purchasers who have owned and occupied a primary residence for a period of five consecutive years during the last eight years.

Single taxpayers and married couples filing a joint return may qualify for the full tax credit amount.

What are the New Deadlines?

In order to qualify for the credit, all contracts need to be in effect no later than April 30, 2010 and close no later than June 30, 2010. Those in the military do have some special extensions on the timelines available.

What's So Great About a "Tax Credit"?

The benefit of a tax credit is that it's a dollar-for-dollar benefit, rather than a "tax deduction", or reduction in a tax liability that would only save you $1,000 to $1,500 when all was said and done. So, if a first-time homebuyer who qualified for the entire benefit were to owe $8,000 in income taxes and would qualify for a tax credit of $8,000, she would owe nothing.

Better still, the tax credit is refundable, which means the homebuyer can receive a check for the credit if he or she has little or no income tax liability. For example, if a first-time homebuyer is eligible for a tax credit of $8,000 but is liable for $4,000 in income tax, she can still receive a check for the remaining $4,000!

Higher Income Caps

The amount of income someone can earn and qualify for the full amount of the credit has been increased.

Single tax filers who earn up to $125,000 are eligible for the total credit amount. Those who earn more than this cap can receive a partial credit. However, single filers who earn $145,000 and above are ineligible.

Joint filers who earn up to $225,000 are eligible for the total credit amount. Those who earn more than this cap can receive a partial credit. However, joint filers who earn $245,000 and above are ineligible.

Maximum Purchase Price

Qualifying buyers may purchase a property with a maximum sales price of $800,000.

Remember, the new tax credit program includes a number of details and qualifications. Call or email today if you have questions or would like to see if you can benefit from the tax credit...and email this article along to anyone else you feel it might benefit as well!

Flying Home for the Holidays? What Should You Do If You Get Stranded on the Tarmac?

Earlier this year, a Continental Airlines flight stranded passengers on the tarmac for 6 hours. A couple weeks after that, passengers on a Sun Country flight also sat on the tarmac for a grueling 6 hours.

For proof that these aren't isolated incidents, you only have to look back in history to similar situations. In 1999, Northwest Airlines stranded a plane on the tarmac for 8 hours. American Airlines also stranded passengers for 8 hours in 2006. In 2007, JetBlue held passengers on the tarmac for 11 hours. In many of these cases, passengers were stuck on planes with no food or water, not to mention terrible odors coming from the cramped airplane bathrooms.

But what can you do if you're on a flight that gets stranded on the tarmac? The information below describes what you can do to be prepared and make sure your voice is heard.

Know Your Rights

As a result of long delays years ago, the Air Transport Association - which includes Delta, United, Continental, Southwest, and other airlines as members - released a Customer Service Plan stating that airlines will:

Notify passengers of known flight delays and cancellations
Meet customers' essential needs during long on-aircraft delays
Allow reservations to be held or tickets to be refunded within 24 hours of purchase
Be more responsive to customer complaints
The details of the self-governed Customer Service Plan should be posted on each airline's website. So, before you head to the airport, take a minute to review the airline's specific details regarding this plan.

You can check out the Air Transport Association's website for links to specific airlines. If the airline you're flying on isn't listed on that website, you may be able to find a customer's bill of rights on the corporate website. For instance, JetBlue offers a detailed bill of rights on its website for customers.

What Can You Do?

The national debate is gaining momentum and now's the time to make sure your voice is heard. There are a number of ways that you can join the discussion.

You may want to join the effort to put more stringent rules onto the law books. For example, the Coalition for Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights has proposed a set of rights to be written into law, including a requirement that airlines "establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate." You can view the proposed Bill of Rights on

In addition, you can sign a Petition for the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights. You can also contact your Senators and Representative in Congress to make sure they take this issue seriously and work to protect airline passengers' rights. If you don't know how to contact your Senators and Representative, you can quickly find their names, telephone numbers, and websites by typing your zip code into the Congressional Directory on

Finally, if you do experience a horror story on the tarmac, you can submit a complaint form to make sure the incident is recorded.

Be Prepared Before You Fly

Before you get on your next flight, visit to download and print two important documents that you can carry on the plane. The first document is the Emergency Kit Document, which lists items you should have handy on your next flight. The second document is the Stranded Passenger Survival Guide, which features information on what you can do if your plane is stranded on the tarmac for an unreasonable amount of time.

It all comes down to taking some time before you fly to know your rights, be prepared, and take part in the conversation. Have a safe, comfortable flight.

The data provided is for information purposes only and does notwarrant credit and/or rate approval.

The material contained in this newsletter has been prepared by an independent third-party provider. The material provided is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment, financial, real estate and/or mortgage advice. Although the material is deemed to be accurate and reliable, there is no guarantee it is not without errors.

We are sending you the Views You Can Use - MMG Monthly newsletter because we are committed to keeping you updated on news, financial events and hot topics that may impact or interest you.

And as your Trusted Advisors, we always look forward to hearing from you. If you or someone you know is in need of our services at this time...or even if you just have a quick question or would like to touch base...please feel free to give us a call or email today!