Thursday, March 15, 2012

Massachusetts Pending Home Sales Up for 10th Straight Month in February

WALTHAM, Mass. – March 13, 2012 – The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) reported today that the number of single-family homes put under agreement in February went up again for the 10th straight month compared to the same time in 2011. Condominium pending sales were also up from the same time last year. Pending figures are a leading indicator of actual housing sales in Massachusetts for the following 2-3 months.

“This was the largest year-over-year increase in pending sales since we’ve been tracking this data,” said 2012 MAR President Trisha McCarthy, broker at Keller Williams Realty in Newburyport. “Buyer confidence continues to grow and the numbers confirm what REALTOR®-members across the state have been reporting; they’re busy. If these pending sales hold together through closing, we have the potential for impressive increases in April and May closings.”

The number of single-family homes put under agreement in February was up 44.2 percent compared to the same time last year (*2,335 homes in 2011 to 3,368 homes in 2012). This is the 10th straight month of year-over-year increases. This was the largest year-over-year increase since MAR has been tracking this data. Prior to the previous record in January 2012 (39.4 percent increase), the largest increase year-over-year was 32.3 percent in April 2010. On a month-to-month basis, single-family homes put under agreement went up 18.3 percent from 2,846 homes in January.

The number of condos put under agreement in February was up 35.3 percent compared to February 2011 (*944 units in 2011 to 1,277 units in 2012). On a month-to-month basis, condos put under agreement were up 20 percent from 1064 units in January.

About Pending Sales:
The tracking of signed purchase and sales agreements (also called “pending sales”) provide reliable information about where the real estate market is heading in coming months.

A pending sale or a sale “under agreement” is when the buyer and seller agree on the terms of the sale of a home and have a signed purchase and sale agreement, but have yet to close and be recorded as such. MAR is the only organization which compiles this statewide information from Multiple Listing Services each month.

About the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®:
Organized in 1924, the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is a professional trade organization with more than 18,000 members. The term REALTOR® is registered as the exclusive designation of members of the National Association of REALTORS® who subscribe to a strict code of ethics and enjoy continuing education programs.

*Please note: As of January 2012, all 2011 pending home sales data has been updated to reflect new collection methods from the three REALTOR® affiliated Multiple Listing Services in Massachusetts via 10K Research and Marketing.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Do I Have to Pay Taxes on my Short Sale Debt That Was Forgiven by my Lender?

Question: I did a short sale on my home in 2011, and I received an IRS form 1099 for the difference on what I sold my home for and how much I owed on the mortgage. That's almost $50,000 in extra income I now have to report on my tax return and pay taxes on - and I don't have the money. What can I do? Help!

Answer: Your former mortgage holder sent you a 1099 because the IRS requires any debt that is forgiven to be reported as income. They were required to send them out by February 2nd. The good news is that you won't have to pay taxes on it. Because of all the foreclosures and short sales, the IRS in their divine wisdom and ultimate compassion (yeah, sure) has decided through 2012 not to tax people on income derived from forgiving debt (that was really only received on paper). When you do you taxes you will need IRS form 982. Please consult your tax adviser for more information, and go to the IRS link below:,,id=179414,00.html 

There are still plenty of people out there that owe more than their home is worth in this current real estate market , and if they want to sell they will have to do a short sale (or come up with the difference in cash). Although we are hoping that the IRS will extend the exemption to pay taxes on debt forgiveness incurred during the sale of a home, you can't count on it. If you are considering doing a short sale, you should make sure it happens in 2012 or you could owe thousands in taxes. With the timeline needed to process a short sale, that means you need to get your home on the market by early summer at the latest.

Contact me directly if you want more information on selling your home when you owe more then its market value. 
Jim Armstrong - 978-394-6736

The information above should not be construed as tax advice, but is given just to make you aware of some important tax information. You should always consult your accountant or tax professional for advice.

Make Your Home Appealing to Buyers

As you start to gather up your belongings and pack them away for your move, many sellers question which items they should leave out for buyer appeal.

Often the wrong items are left on display; things like family photos, personal keepsakes, and treasured belongings. All of these items should be safely packed away which very often creates open space (a plus for buyers) on shelves, refrigerator doors, and desktops.

Buyers often make a decision within just seconds of seeing your home about whether or not they want to buy it. So picture your home through the eyes of your potential buyers. What do you see in about 10 seconds?

When you walk up do you see children's toys scattered across the front lawn? Do you see overgrown shrubs and weeds? Do you see chipped paint on the front door, a screen that's torn? Do you spot oil spills on the driveway?

Even answering yes to just one or two of those questions can be damaging, and that's before your potential buyer has entered your home. Sometimes, those seconds are all the buyers need to decide to simply do a "drive by" and not even stop to go inside.

Of course, the goal is to get the buyers inside. To get them to spend time, feel like your home could be their home. But even though that goal is so widespread and common among sellers, somehow the decisions some sellers make are almost completely polar to the goals.
Let's look at five tips that can make your home appealing to buyers.

Check all the screens and molding around your windows and doors. This isn't at the top of a seller's list but it ought to be. Even slightly torn screens send a careless message to buyers. It gives an unconscious uneasiness that there's been, at the very least, lack of care for this home.

Something simple like fixing a screen is often overlooked by a seller because it is so simple, yet, just seconds of seeing the ripped screen can cause a negative impact for buyers.
Add artwork to long hall ways. You don't have to buy artwork that costs thousands of dollars but, if your home has long hall ways, it's nice to break up the monotony with some tasteful artwork. Use contrasting shades and hues to coordinate with the flooring. When you're shopping for the artwork or borrowing it from a friend or your real estate agent or homestager, bring swatches of the carpet or flooring and wall paint to match the artwork colors.

Make the kitchen a focal point. Whether they cook or not, the kitchen is of primary interest to many buyers. Winning over buyers with an appealing kitchen can often convince them that they must have the home. Make sure your appliances are clean, sparkling, and working. Return on investment in the kitchen is usually high and worth every penny, and more, you put into it.

Put the "ah" in the bedroom. The bedroom needs to look like a bedroom. Sounds funny, but many people use their bedroom for other things such as an office or storage. Boxes or newspapers are scattered or stacked in a corner. There's no "ah" or sense of relaxation with that kind of room. So even if that's how you've been living, understand that's not how you should show a home.

If there isn't much space, clear the clutter out. Remove excess furniture. It doesn't matter if you use it. You can walk to another room to get what you need if it means you sell the home faster because it now looks more inviting and spacious.

Making your home more appealing is about seeing your home through the eyes of your potential buyers. When it comes time to go over the offers, you'll be glad you did.