Featured post

The Real Estate Markets Supply and Demand Dilemma


After the Federal Reserve approved a quarter-point increase in its target funds rate last December – the first increase since June 29, 2006 – the real estate industry, as well as mortgage borrowers, have been concerned about higher interest rates in 2016. So far, all that worry has been unnecessary. With mortgage rates remaining low, now is an excellent time to buy or refinance a house.

Heading into Record Lows

Ever since the Fed raised its funds rate, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has been dropping. The reason? Looking for a safety play in a highly volatile and largely negative stock market, investors are flocking to the U.S. bond market. “If stocks are selling [off], and if people are generally pretty panicked about the state of the global economy, bond markets are a natural safe haven,” said Matthew Graham, COO of Mortgage News Daily. “Popular opinion about rates moving higher only helped. Too many people were on one side of that trade, and it almost always makes sense to root for the underdog in those scenarios.” For more on this topic, see

Featured post

Investing in Manhattan Real Estate with Just $20000


You booked an apartment in Barcelona on Airbnb for your last vacation. You prefer Uber to taxis. You just chipped in $50 to a friend’s Kickstarter music project – and you’re looking forward to getting a copy of the CD when it’s released. You may not call yourself a crowdfunding fanatic, but you’ve fully embraced the spirit of the sharing economy.

So why not take the next step and make crowdfunding work for your finances? Until now, investing in New York City real estate was probably something best left to those blessed with an inheritance or at least some seriously great stock options. Now that crowdfunding – scratch that, call this venture crowd investing – has entered the real estate scene, some of America’s most coveted properties just became a little more accessible to the masses.

But just how accessible? (For related reading on the Big Apple’s real estate scene, see: New York City Real Estate: A Safe Haven?)

An Ambitious Goal

Prodigy Network calls itself “the leader in real estate crowdfunding,” and it certainly is the vanguard. The company’s philosophy, according to its website, seems

Featured post

It Pays to Be a HENRY


Following the Great Recession, a 20% minimum down payment became the industry standard for jumbo mortgages. Today, however, lenders are relaxing the 20% down payment requirement on jumbos – especially for HENRYs (“High Earners, Not Rich Yet”), who tend to be younger professionals with great credit and incomes, but not much cash.

Jumbo Loans

Jumbo loans are mortgages that exceed conforming loan limits. For 2016, that’s $417,000 in most real estate markets, and up to $721,050 in a few high-cost housing markets, such as Honolulu, Hawaii. These loans fall outside conforming loan restrictions, so they aren’t backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Because lenders assume more risk on these loans, they typically impose stricter credit requirements and charge higher interest rates to offset their financial exposure. For more, see A Quick Guide to Jumbo Mortgages and What Are Your Options for Big-Money Mortgages?

Income Rich, Cash Poor

The term “HENRY” refers to a segment of individuals or families who earn between $250,000 and $500,000 per year, but don’t have much cash left after paying for taxes, housing costs, schooling and setting money aside for retirement

The Activist Report Starboard’s Plans for Macys Inc

In a presentation to Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) shareholders last summer, shareholder activist Jeff Smith of Starboard Value claimed that Macy’s shares could be worth $125 if it were to implement his strategic plan. The central element of the plan is to convert the massive portfolio of real estate under Macy’s control into a series of real estate investment trusts (REITs), thereby unlocking billions of dollars in value for shareholders. In a more recent presentation, Smith lowered his share price estimate to $70, but he still insists the company is undervalued and that its shareholders will be better served if Macy’s separates itself from its real estate.

The initial proposal by Starboard sent Macy’s share prices higher, topping out at $73 a share in July 2015. Its share price has since tumbled to a low of $35 in December 2015. Investors are showing their disappointment in Macy’s management, which has shown little interest in pursuing Starboard’s strategies. The stock is also down on deteriorating earnings.

Starboard’s Plans

Smith’s rapid rise to activist investor stardom accelerated after his successful campaign to have Darden Restaurants’ board of directors entirely replaced. That paved the way for his strategy for spinning off the restaurant chain’s real estate

The Most Overlooked Tax Deductions

Through deductions, American wage earners have the chance to pocket more income, rather than hand over their hard-earned cash to the government. For those who keep good records, deductions can mean more money them – and less for the IRS. You probably know the most common deductions, such as deductions for property taxes and charitable donations, but there are related deductions you might be overlooking. Read on for some of the common fees and expenses you can deduct to reduce your tax bill.

The Deductions Caveat

Some of the deductions listed here fall under the label of miscellaneous deductions, and they are below the line – that is, you take the deductions after you’ve calculated your adjusted gross income (AGI). To cash in, you must itemize deductions on Schedule A of your federal return rather than take the standard deduction. The sum of all of your miscellaneous deductions must be more than 2% of your AGI; therefore, if your AGI is $50,000, all of your miscellaneous deductions must top $1,000. The kicker, of course, is that you can deduct only the amount that exceeds 2% (that is, the amount above and beyond $1,000). (For background reading, see An Overview of Itemized Deductions.)


5 Ways an Open House Can Actually Hurt Your Home Sale

Anyone selling their home has been trained to believe an open house is a good way to find a buyer. If you open your home to the public all weekend you’re sure to draw some foot traffic that could translate into a sale. But that may no longer be the case. Lots of times an open house can do more harm than good. According to the National Association of Realtors, only 9% of buyers found the home they purchased at an open house in 2014. That’s a 16% decline from 2004. The number of buyers that include open houses in their search stood at 44% in 2014, down 51% from 2004. (For related reading, see: Selling Your House? Avoid These Mistakes.)

The Internet Kills the Open House

Thanks to the Internet, the days of driving around from one open house to the next are over. Buyers do most of their research online, narrowing down their options before they even contact a real estate agent. There are a ton of websites and mobile apps that gives buyers a plethora of homes to search through. They can even be alerted when new homes go on the market, or if a house they are eyeing

5 Reasons the HELOC Market is Expected to Heat up in 2016

Following on the heels of the Great Recession home equity line of credits (HELOCs) were hard to come by. Banks were less than willing to extend credit in an environment characterized by record foreclosures that left them stuck with houses nobody wanted to buy. Homeowners who needed cash had to turn to credit cards and personal loans, often paying a higher interest rate than they would have gotten by using the equity in their home. But that’s all changed. Thanks to an improving economy and real estate market, lenders are much more willing to lend, setting the stage for the HELOC market to heat up this year. (For more, see: Home-Equity Loans: What You Need to Know.)

Consider this: according to data from Black Night Financial Services’ data and analytics division, HELOC originations continue to rise, with line of credit amounts originated increasing 35% in January over 2014 levels. HELOC line amounts are the highest Black Knight has seen since it began tracking it in 2005. The reasons for the increased demand vary but one thing is for sure, interest rates are playing a starring role.

Rising Interest Playing a Role

Interest rates have a direct impact on lots of aspects of the

An Activist Investment Analysis

In many cases, the arrival of an activist investor is unwelcome for corporate boards and management teams. Activists often jockey to remove and replace leadership, disperse more dividends and earnings to shareholders, or even break up entire companies. Fortunately, at least for big corporations, some activist investors are highly collaborative. This was the case when Jeffrey Ubben and ValueAct Capital took a large stake in CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE: CBG) and advocated for a more expansive future. The story is a happy one, even if it is a little blander than you get with contentious battles, such as Carl Icahn’s failed bid for Clorox. In the end, CBG stocks appreciated, the company grew, and Jeffrey Ubben doubled his position and earnings per share (EPS) over the course of three-plus years.
Why CBRE Group Was Targeted

CBRE Group, Inc., formerly CB Richard Ellis, is a huge commercial real estate and investment firm and one of the leading global outsourcing services providers. It offers its services to owners, lenders and investors in office, multifamily and other types of real estate, almost all of which are commercial. Forbes reported that, as of May 2015, CBRE Group was among the globe’s 1,200 largest public companies

Commercial Real Estate Agent Job Description dan Average Salary

A commercial real estate agent’s job is much different from that of a residential real estate agent. Generally, selling or leasing commercial property takes a significantly longer time, and commercial real estate agents must provide substantial analytical data and financial information. Agents can work on their own, for a real estate services firm or for a commercial broker. Most commercial real estate agents are paid on a commission basis.

Qualifications and Requirements

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists a high school diploma or equivalent as a basic requirement for commercial real estate agents, but most are college graduates. Community and four-year colleges offer real estate degree programs, with the lease or sale of commercial property being a focus or specialty.

While some agents learn as they go, an educational background in real estate is almost essential. Firms and other commercial property services require a college degree. Courses that benefit potential agents the most include finance, statistics, economics and business administration. In many cases, brokerage firms will offer educational courses, mentorship and on-the-job training. The National Association of Realtors also provides a list of beneficial courses specific

When Are You Too Old for a Mortgage

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act is clear: It is illegal to discriminate against someone who wants to borrow money based on age. You cannot be denied a mortgage or mortgage refinance loan because you are too old.

You can, however, be denied if you do not financially qualify to take out the loan. For more see: Mortgage Basics.


If the bank or mortgage company determines your income is insufficient, you can be denied the loan. The same applies to your credit score: If it’s too low, you may be out of luck.

If your FICO score is 740 or higher, you should be fine. If it is under 640, you may qualify for a mortgage, but at a higher rate.

Some lenders view pensions, Social Security benefits and other forms of fixed income as a problem. Others see fixed income as “certain income” and are happy to grant the loan.

Your debt should be no more than 43% of gross monthly income, but even if that’s the case for you, your budget and personal finances are what really determine whether you can afford the mortgage.

From this point on, it’s not a matter of not being allowed to obtain a mortgage, but rather whether it’s a

Additional Streams of Income for Seniors

Try and picture a scenario in which a mortgage company sends you a check every month rather than you sending them a check. This is exactly what you get when you take out a reverse mortgage. Reverse mortgages are gaining in popularity because of increased life expectancies, higher medical costs and the downturn of the stock market over the past few years.

Reverse Mortgages

A reverse mortgage is a special type of loan that lets a homeowner, 62 years of age or older, convert the equity in their home into cash without having to sell their home or give up the title. The home can be one of the largest assets a senior owns, and a reverse mortgage allows individuals to access that capital as an income stream without having to vacate the property. “A lot of people are in more of a financial bind than they thought they would be in, at this age, because they’re not getting as high a return on their investments, and their expenses are higher than they anticipated. These are the type of conditions that create demand for reverse mortgages,”

3 Companies that Graduated from Micro Cap to Small Cap in 2015

Investors willing to assume the risks of investing in micro-cap stocks need to develop the self-discipline to research those companies and avoid impulse buying. Conducting adequate due diligence, giving serious consideration to the advice provided by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for micro-cap investing and restricting investments to stocks listed on major exchanges can provide opportunities for success in an area where most people fail.

Investors holding shares of stocks that graduate from micro-cap status to the small-cap level have good reason to celebrate. Fund managers generally avoid micro-cap stocks because the relatively large position a fund would take in such a small company can trigger burdensome SEC reporting requirements. Funds provide additional liquidity for their stocks and often boost investor demand for the stocks they report as new holdings. Many of the micro-cap stocks from 2014 benefited from the broad-market bullishness of 2015, finding their way into the small-cap universe.


NeoGenomics, Inc. (NASDAQ: NEO) operates cancer testing laboratories, providing genetic and molecular testing services for doctors, clinics, hospitals and other laboratories. Despite this stock’s 16% price decline to $6.78 from Dec. 31, 2015 through

Take the Pain Out of Selling Your House

If you’ve ever sold a house, you know what a major headache it can be. First, there’s the hassle of pinpointing the right real estate agent. Once you hire an agent and list your home, then comes the really hard work.

You’ll need to stage your home and keep every room meticulously clean so that total strangers can tramp through them on a daily basis. Not to mention you’ll probably have to get lost for all of these showings. (Most real estate agents recommend that you leave the house when a potential buyer comes to take a gander at your property.) That means you’ll have to pack up the entire family, including Fluffy and Fido, and find something to do outside of the home for an hour or so – for every single showing. (For more, see 7 Absolute No-Nos When Selling a Home.)

When you finally get an offer, you’ll have to haggle with the buyers, set a closing date, cough up real estate fees and deal with an avalanche of paperwork. To make matters worse, the average property sits on the market for more

The Complete Guide to Financing an Investment Property

Real estate can be a hedge against market volatility when stocks take a tumble, and there are many perks associated with owning an investment property. Becoming a landlord is a smart way to generate a steady passive income stream, but it does take a certain amount of cash to get started. When you don’t have a huge bankroll, taking out a loan may be the only way to seal the deal. (For more, see the tutorial: Exploring Real Estate Investments.)

Investment property financing can take several forms, and there are specific criteria that borrowers need to be able to meet. Choosing the wrong kind of loan can impact the success of your investment, so it’s vital to understand how the various alternatives work before approaching a lender.

Option #1: Conventional Bank Loans

If you already own a home that’s your primary residence, you’re probably familiar with conventional financing. A conventional mortgage conforms to guidelines set by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and unlike an FHA, VA or USDA loan, it’s not backed by the federal government. With conventional financing, the typical expectation for a down payment is 20% of the home’s purchase price but with an investment property, the lender may require a

Why It May Be Easier to Get One Now

Good news came out of Washington recently. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-chartered agencies that purchase mortgages from private lenders, agreed to rules that would potentially open mortgage markets to borrowers with less than perfect credit. (For more, see What You Need to Know About Fannie Mae Mortgages.)

The Problem

To understand why this news is so important, you first have to understand the problem. Fannie and Freddie, as they are known, don’t lend money. A consumer would never call them to get a good-faith estimate on an upcoming home purchase. Instead, Fannie and Freddie are publicly traded companies created by Congress that help provide stability and liquidity to the mortgage market.

When a lender makes a loan to finance a housing purchase, often that lender’s ultimate goal is to sell it to Fannie or Freddie in what is called the secondary market. By selling the loan, the lender clears it from his or her books, freeing up money and making an immediate profit on the loan. Fannie and Freddie are charged by Congress to help low-, moderate- and middle-income families achieve their dream of purchasing a home. That makes the agencies eager to buy these loans from the original (primary) lender

Best Mortgage Companies Friendly to Retirees

Conventional wisdom tells us that we should try to eliminate all debt – including mortgages – before retirement. The reason is simple: Once retirement hits, the paychecks stop coming in; if you have no debt, your retirement savings will last longer. In the past, it was the norm for people to enter retirement without a mortgage: You bought a house in your 20s or 30s, paid it off over the next 30 years and by the time you hit your 50s or 60s, you were mortgage-free.

That’s not necessarily the norm today; many people now wait until later in life – even during retirement – to buy a home. Indeed, some 25 million people age 50-plus still have a mortgage, according to AARP.

The Law Protects You

Here’s something to keep in mind: The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits lenders from denying mortgages to retirees if all standard criteria are met – things like your credit score, the size of your down payment, your liquid assets and your debt-to-income ratio. (The Act prohibits credit discrimination not just based on age, but also on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital status or because you get public assistance.) It’s also illegal for lenders to

Be Sure You Get the Best Deal

As a house is likely the largest single investment you’ll ever make, there’s a good chance you’ll get a mortgage to finance it. Mortgages are loans that are secured by specified real estate – namely, the house the loan is used to purchase. Depending on factors such as your credit score, employment history and debt-to-income ratio, a lender may offer you a prime or subprime mortgage or something in between, called an “Alt-A” mortgage. Let’s take a quick look at the different mortgage categories and how you can be sure you’re getting the best deal you can. (For more, see Finding the Best Mortgage Rates in 2016.)

Prime Mortgages

Prime mortgages meet the quality standards set forth by Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation), the two government-sponsored enterprises that provide a secondary market in home mortgages by purchasing mortgages from originating lenders. According to the Federal Reserve, a prime residential mortgage is “a mortgage for a borrower whose credit scores are 740 or higher, whose debt-to-income ratios are lower than average and whose mortgage features the standard amortization schedule common to a fixed-rate or an adjustable-rate mortgage.”

Borrowers also have to make a

How to Get More Yield From Your Investments

Cash is king, particularly in periods when the stock market is on the decline. But even in times of stock market prosperity, lots of investors look for yield out of their investments. It becomes even more important the closer you get to retirement. After all, generating income and at the same time protecting what you already saved is a top goal during your golden years.

While chasing yield can be a dangerous game for investors, there are ways to boost the amount of income your investments throw off without compromising your risk tolerance or your nest egg.

From shifting your bond strategy to shorter term investments to investing in dividend paying stocks, here’s three ways to get more yield out of your investments. (For related reading, see: Finding the Best Yields.)

Dividend Paying Stocks Can Provide Yield

A sound financial plan gives investors exposure to different investments and asset classes, and should at least include stocks and bonds. It can also encompass alternative investments like real estate. Within those segments there are opportunities for investors to boost the amount of yield they generate.

Take stocks for starters. Investors looking for yield have a few ways to achieve that. One of the most popular ways is

How They Work

A house is probably the single largest investment you will ever make, and if you’re like most, you’ll need a mortgage to finance it. Mortgages are loans that are secured by specified real estate – namely, the house that the loan is being used to purchase. Depending on factors like your credit score, employment history and the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, you may be offered a prime mortgage, subprime mortgage or something in between: an Alt-A mortgage. Here, we take a quick look at the Alt-A mortgage, and why Wall Street wants to bring them back.

Alt-A Basics

Most mortgages are either prime or subprime. Prime mortgages are offered to borrowers who have higher credit scores (and, therefore, lower risk), and come with lower interest rates. Subprime mortgages go to borrowers with lower credit scores and – to make up for the added risk – lenders charge higher interest rates on them. Alt-A mortgages are loans that fall somewhere in between the prime and subprime category in terms of risk and interest rates. (For more, see How Interest Rates Work on a Mortgage.)


One of the defining characteristics of Alt-As is that they are typically low-documentation or no-documentation loans, meaning the borrower doesn’t have

Mansion Prices Are Hitting New Highs

Following a four-year boom in the U.S. luxury real estate market, prices have dampened in all but a few markets amid global economic fears. “There’s volatility in China and Russia, and there’s the oil issue in the Middle East,” Dan Conn, CEO of Christie’s International Real Estate, the luxury-property brand of the renowned auction house, told Bloomberg Business. “I have no doubt there’s an impact overall on the market.”

Ritzy Enclaves the Exception

While most of the luxury markets have softened, prices have remained strong in ritzy enclaves such as Aspen, Colo.; Beverly Hills, Calif.; and the various Hamptons of New York’s Long Island. According to market trend data from real estate aggregator Trulia.com, the median sales price in Beverly Hills (zip code 90210), for example, was $3.07 million during the Oct. 15, 2015, to Jan. 16, 2016, period. That represents a 41.1% increase over the previous quarter and an increase of 52.5% from the prior year. The average price per square foot has increased 32.4% year over year (to $1,086) and 66% over five years ago (when it was $656).

In East Hampton the real estate market has experienced a similar trend: The median sales price – about $1.3 million – is