The Biggest Air Leak in Your House You Don’t Know About

There’s a gap in your home that’s wasting precious energy and inviting cold air inside — do you know where it is?

Have you caulked windows and replaced weather stripping on your doors? Good for you. But if you think you’ve sealed up air leaks, you’re in for a shock.

The biggest air leak in your home is right under your nose.

Or, underfoot, more accurately.

It’s the hole that a plumber cuts in the subfloor to make room for the drain assembly at the bottom of a bathtub. Because the drain assembly is big, plumbers make way for it by cutting a generous-size hole that gives them some “wiggle room” when connecting plumbing pipes. This big hole often is left open to the space below.

If you have a first-floor bathroom over a crawl space or unheated basement, you likely have one of these giant energy wasters in your home.

“Having that big hole for the bathtub drain can waste about as much energy as leaving one of your windows open a few inches, all day, every day,” says Allison Bailes III, president of energy consultant firm Energy Vanguard. “The main difference is that you can easily close the window, but most people don’t even know about this other open window.”

And BTW, that hole also is big enough for good-size critters to crawl inside your home!

Plumbers may plug this hole with a wad of loose insulation, but that’s an imperfect solution — fiberglass insulation can sag over time, especially if it gets damp. The preferred method is to insert foam board that’s cut to fit around the pipes, then seal the board in place with spray foam insulation.

You won’t know if you have a problem unless you crawl under your bathroom and take a look at the tub drain assembly from underneath. Patch the hole with pieces of foam board screwed in place, then seal any gaps with spray foam insulation ($8/can).

A plumber will do the job, too, but that’ll set you back $100-$150. Probably worth it when you think about energy savings, comfort, and keeping mice and camel crickets out of your house!

Still battling rising energy costs? Maybe you’re looking for energy savings in the wrong places.



Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/insulation/biggest-air-leak-home/#ixzz2dZS5ng6f

Calif. man sentenced after hundreds lose homes in mortgage scheme.

 A San Diego man has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for his role in a mortgage rescue scam in which nearly 260 California and Arizona homeowners lost their homes. Prosecutors say Frank Becerra Campos, 66, and two other defendants were accused of bilking distressed homeowners out of approximately $675,000 in upfront mortgage assistance fees that were promised to reduce borrowers’ mortgage payments by 25 percent. Instead, the trio did not pursue any loan modifications and virtually all of the homes were foreclosed. According to the report, Campos, together with co-conspirators Miguel Carrera and Oswaldo Esqueda, who are believed to have fled to Mexico, charged borrowers $2,500 to $4,500 for the assistance.

 Nearly half of all US homeowners with a mortgage still ‘underwater’ in Q1.

Zillow: Homeowners with 'effective' negative equity helped keep inventory low
 

Underwater image via Shutterstock

Despite rising home prices early in the year, a significant portion of U.S. homeowners with a mortgage — about 44 percent — still owed more on their home than it was worth or didn’t have enough equity to move at the end of the first quarter, according to Zillow’s first-quarter Negative Equity Report.

Zillow’s analysis showed that 25.4 percent of homeowners with a mortgage were underwater on their homes, while another 18.2 percent more were “effectively” underwater, with less than 20 percent equity in their homes.

Taken together, about 22.3 million U.S. homeowners likely don’t have enough equity in their homes to afford a down payment on another home, Zillow said, keeping them in their homes and preventing new inventory from hitting the market.

“Reaching positive equity, even barely, is an important milestone,” said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries in a statement. “But things like real estate agents’ fees and a down payment for the next home traditionally come out of the proceeds from the prior home’s sale. Without enough equity, these costs will instead have to come out of a homeowner’s pocket, leaving many still stuck,” he said.

“Looking at the effective negative equity rate could explain why recent, healthy declines in the number of underwater borrowers haven’t yet translated into more homes for sale,” Humphries added. “The only cure is patience, as rising home values continue to build equity to the point where more homeowners can realistically sell.”

Among the 30 largest metro areas covered by Zillow, those with the highest effective negative equity rate, including homeowners with 20 percent equity or less, include Las Vegas (71.5 percent), Atlanta (64.1 percent), and Riverside, Calif. (59.7 percent).

Zillow predicts that the negative equity rate among all homeowners with a mortgage will fall to 23.5 percent by the first quarter of 2014. Of the 30 largest metro areas, the majority of these newly freed homeowners are anticipated to come from: Los Angeles (94,642 homeowners), Riverside (74,693 homeowners), and Phoenix (51,580 homeowners).

- See more at: http://www.inman.com/2013/05/22/nearly-half-of-all-us-homeowners-with-a-mortgage-still-underwater-in-q1/#sthash.mibyqTAW.dpuf 

Optimism over home prices reaches milestone.

A majority of Americans now expect home prices to increase over the next year, pointing to growing optimism among housing-market observers, according to the results of Fannie Mae’s April 2012 National Housing Survey.

By comparison, in April of last year only 32 percent of those surveyed said they believed home prices would appreciate over the next year. In April, the three percentage point increase in the share of Americans who believe prices will increase was enough to push the total share of those bullish on home prices to 51 percent, Fannie Mae said.

“For the first time in the survey’s three-year history, the majority of Americans surveyed now expect home prices to increase,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Crossing the 50 percent threshold marks a significant milestone as most Americans believe a housing recovery is truly occurring throughout the country. Reflecting that increased optimism toward housing, the share of Americans who think it is a good time to sell has doubled during the last year. Many homeowners who have been underwater are gradually returning to positive equity, and selling is now becoming an available and attractive option again.”

As buyers continue to bid up prices in many markets suffering from a shortage of inventory, the share of Americans who believe now is a good time to sell continued to climb in April, according to the survey. That share of respondents rose by four percentage points in April to 30 percent, exactly double the share recorded last year.

Other results of April’s survey appear to highlight growing optimism among Americans in the larger economy as well. They include:

  • The share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track increased 4 percentage points over March to 39 percent.
  • The percentage of people who expect their personal financial situation to get worse over the next 12 months dropped by five percentage points to 16 percent.
  • Eleven percent reported significantly lower household expenses compared to 12 months ago, a three percentage point increase over March.

- See more at: http://www.inman.com/2013/05/07/optimism-over-home-prices-reaches-milestone/#sthash.loKD06UT.dpuf 

A majority of Americans now expect home prices to increase over the next year, pointing to growing optimism among housing-market observers, according to the results of Fannie Mae’s April 2012 National Housing Survey.

By comparison, in April of last year only 32 percent of those surveyed said they believed home prices would appreciate over the next year. In April, the three percentage point increase in the share of Americans who believe prices will increase was enough to push the total share of those bullish on home prices to 51 percent, Fannie Mae said.

“For the first time in the survey’s three-year history, the majority of Americans surveyed now expect home prices to increase,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Crossing the 50 percent threshold marks a significant milestone as most Americans believe a housing recovery is truly occurring throughout the country. Reflecting that increased optimism toward housing, the share of Americans who think it is a good time to sell has doubled during the last year. Many homeowners who have been underwater are gradually returning to positive equity, and selling is now becoming an available and attractive option again.”

As buyers continue to bid up prices in many markets suffering from a shortage of inventory, the share of Americans who believe now is a good time to sell continued to climb in April, according to the survey. That share of respondents rose by four percentage points in April to 30 percent, exactly double the share recorded last year.

Other results of April’s survey appear to highlight growing optimism among Americans in the larger economy as well. They include:

  • The share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track increased 4 percentage points over March to 39 percent.
  • The percentage of people who expect their personal financial situation to get worse over the next 12 months dropped by five percentage points to 16 percent.
  • Eleven percent reported significantly lower household expenses compared to 12 months ago, a three percentage point increase over March.

First comes home, then comes marriage?

Survey finds more couples buying home before tying the knot

Inman News®

Couples today are significantly more likely to purchase a home before marrying than older couples were, according to a survey commissioned by real estate franchisor Coldwell Banker that appears to point to a cultural shift in views toward homeownership and marriage.

Twenty-five percent of married couples between the ages of 18 and 35 bought their first home before their wedding date, compared to 14 percent of married couples who are 45 or older, according to the survey, which was administered by Harris Interactive on behalf of Coldwell Banker.

"While life goals and expectations continue to weigh on young couples, their views of homeownership are transcending their plans of marriage and starting a family, creating a direct effect on the patterns of buying a home altogether," said Dr. Robi Ludwig, Coldwell Banker's lifestyle correspondent. "What we're seeing is that young couples are switching up the order and purchasing their first home regardless of whether or not they have set a wedding date. This is a huge movement within the American culture. While younger generations may be focusing more on their career, and in turn waiting longer to get married and have children, they are not delaying their dream of homeownership."

Other findings of the study include:

  • Eighty percent of homeowners surveyed said buying a home strengthened their relationship more than any other purchase.
  • Thirty-five percent of married homeowners purchased their first home by their second anniversary.
  • Ninety-three percent of homeowners who purchased their first home while married always planned on buying a home after marrying.
  • Thirty-five percent of married homeowners wish they had bought a home earlier than they did.

Housing starts hit highest level in five years in March.

Census Bureau: annual rate of starts up 46.7 percent from a year ago

Inman News®

<a href=New home image via Shutterstock." width="225" />New home image via Shutterstock.

Housing starts rose 7.0 percent month-over-month and 46.7 from a year ago in March, according to a monthly report from the U.S. Census Bureau released today.

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.04 million homes in March, the rate of new construction has gone up each month since November when it measured 841,000.

With tight inventory in many parts of the country, housing starts are critical to the housing market turnaround, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. There have to be homes available for those who sell their homes, he has said.

Source: Calculated Risk

Regionally, the South saw the largest year-over-year increase in housing starts with a 58.2 percent jump to 520,000. Starts in the West followed with a 53.7 percent rise from last March to 229,000.

Consumers still confident in housing recovery.

Fannie Mae survey shows uptick in concern over economy

Inman News®

<a href=Housing rebound image via Shutterstock." width="225" />

Nearly twice as many people think now is a good time to sell compared to a year ago, Fannie Mae reported today.

A record 26 percent of respondents to Fannie Mae's March 2013 National Housing Survey said now is a good time to sell, up from 25 percent last month and 14 percent from a year earlier, Fannie Mae said.

The share of respondents who believe home prices will rise next year also was at a record high, holding steady at the 48 percent recorded in February's version of the survey, Fannie Mae reported.

Fannie Mae's 2013 National Housing Survey was first administered in June 2010 during the depths of the housing crisis, accounting for why results that may reflect limited confidence in the housing market also may be the most positive on record.

"Despite an uptick in concern expressed about the direction of the economy, it appears consumers believe that the housing recovery will march on," said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. "Housing sentiment remains unshaken from the highs of the last few months. At the same time, perhaps driven by the experience of the past several years, consumers remain cautious in their housing outlook."

Indeed, relative pessimism over the larger economy may be keeping consumers' hopes for the housing market in check. The survey findings below seem to suggest that sentiment towards the economy continues to lag, and that it worsened modestly from last month:

  • At 35 percent, the share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track decreased 3 percentage points from February.
  • The percentage of respondents who expect their personal financial situation to get worse over the next 12 months rose by 4 percentage points to 21 percent.
  • Twenty percent of respondents say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago, a slight decrease from last month.
  • Thirty-two percent reported significantly higher household expenses compared to 12 months ago, a slight increase over February.

The survey was conducted before the release of last week's jobs reported, which fell far short of expectations. Despite showing disappointing numbers on nearly all fronts, the report's results also continued to reflect improvement in the construction sector.

Price gains lift 1.7 million homes above water in 2012.

CoreLogic: 10.4 million borrowers still owe more than homes are worth

Inman News®

<a href=Underwater image via Shutterstock." width="225" />Underwater image via Shutterstock.

Rising prices helped lift 1.7 million homes above water in 2012, including 200,000 in the final three months of the year, according to a report released today by real estate data and technology firm CoreLogic.

An estimated 10.4 million homes remained underwater as of Dec. 31 -- about one in five (21.5 percent) of all homes with mortgages. But another 5 percent gain in home prices could lift 1.8 million additional homes into a state of positive equity, CoreLogic said.

In aggregate, total negative equity nationwide fell $42 billion last quarter to $628 billion, with just over half that amount consisting of first liens with home equity loans. The average amount of equity for all properties with a mortgage was 31 percent.

But 2.3 million homes with "near-negative equity" (less than 5 percent) are particularly at risk should home prices decline, CoreLogic said.

"The scourge of negative equity continues to recede across the country," a trend that should continue in 2013, said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic, in a statement. "There is certainly more to do but with fewer borrowers underwater, the fundamentals underpinning the housing market will continue to strengthen."

CoreLogic has previously said negative equity was holding back potential home sellers. Underwater borrowers -- who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth -- must obtain approval from their lender for a short sale, or come up with the difference between the home's sales price and the mortgage value.

For-sale home inventory stood at its lowest since January 2001 at the end of the fourth quarter. Inventory shortages are at least partly responsible for home price increases nationwide.

Improving market conditions "are the catalyst for households to regain equity and become participants in 2013's housing market," said CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming in a statement.

While 38.1 million mortgage residential properties had equity at the end of the fourth quarter, CoreLogic noted that three out of 10 properties with equity had less than 20 percent equity. These "under-equitied" borrowers could have a more difficult time obtaining new financing for their homes due to tight underwriting standards, the firm said.

Five states accounted for nearly a third of negative equity in the U.S.: Nevada, where 52.4 percent of mortgaged properties are underwater; Florida (40.2 percent), Arizona (34.9 percent), Georgia (33.8 percent) and Michigan (31.9 percent).

Survey shows Americans upbeat about housing.

Americans continued to view housing as a relative bright spot in the economy, even as their sentiment towards the broader economy and household finances limped along, according to Fannie Mae's February 2013 National Housing Survey.

Americans who believe home prices will increase over the next year and home price expectations for 2013 both hit their highest levels since the survey's inception in June 2010, the survey found. But confidence in personal finances, household income and the health of the overall economy kept pat or dipped, according to the survey.

"Despite fiscal headwinds and political uncertainty, consumer sentiment toward housing is robust and continues to gather strength," said Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae.

Fannie Mae said that a sizable pool of borrowers eligible for refinancing, the looming expiration of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and an increasing expectation that mortgage interest rates will creep up are likely to spur more refinances in 2013.

"Despite historically low mortgage rates, nearly half of borrowers have never refinanced their mortgage," Duncan said. "Combined with the scheduled year-end HARP deadline, rising rate expectations should prompt some borrowers to refinance soon to take advantage of more favorable mortgage terms and add to their disposable income, helping to offset ongoing fiscal drag."

Findings of the report included:

  • The 48 percent of respondents who believe home prices will go up in the next 12 months was also a survey high. The share who believe home prices will go down -- 10 percent -- held steady at the survey low.
  • The share of respondents who said that if they were moving, they would buy rather than rent, increased by 2 percentage points to 67 percent.
  • Nearly half of those surveyed -- 45 percent -- think mortgage rates will go up. That was an increase of 4 percentage points to the highest level since August 2011. Only 7 percent of those surveyed thought mortgage rates would go down.
  • One in 4 respondents think it's a good time to sell a house, the highest level since the survey's inception in June 2010.
  • At 38 percent, the share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track has held steady over the past three months.
  • The percentage who expect their financial situation to get better over the next 12 months fell by 2 percentage points to 41 percent.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 respondents -- 31 percent -- reported significantly higher household expenses compared to 12 months ago. But that was a 7 percentage point decrease, and the lowest level since June 2010.

Foreclosure timelines now measured in years.

Process taking longer in some states with new laws protecting homeowners

The number of mortgages that are delinquent or in foreclosure is declining, but those in the pipeline are years away from clearing, according to a report from Lender Processing Services Inc. released today.

Of all the loans in the foreclosure process in January 2012, 42 percent were still in the foreclosure process a year later, the report said. Only 22 percent had become real estate owned (REOs), and 11 percent had been liquidated through short sales or deeds-in-lieu.

In states where the foreclosure process is handled by the courts, 58 percent of loans in foreclosure are more than two years past due. In judicial foreclosure states, that figure is 33 percent. Judicial foreclosure states have three times as much foreclosure inventory as judicial foreclosure states.

In judicial foreclosure states, it takes an average of 62 months (more than five years) for a foreclosure to clear, almost twice as long as in a nonjudicial foreclosure state: 34 months, or nearly three years.

Broken down by state, judicial states New York and New Jersey had the longest timelines: 607 months (more than 50 years) and 483 months (more than 40 years), respectively. By comparison, in nonjudicial Texas and Virginia, the averages were 40 and 39 months, respectively.

But the difference between judicial and nonjudicial states is decreasing due to recently enacted "judicial-like" legislation in some nonjudicial states, the report said. In Nevada, legislation has resulted in a jump from a 27-month timeline in June 2012 to 57 months at the end of January, and in Massachusetts, the average timeline has risen from 75 to 171 months since last January, the report said.

"As California's recently enacted Homeowner Bill of Rights is closely modeled on the Nevada legislation, we'll be watching that state closely over the coming months to gauge its impact, as well," said LPS Applied Analytics Senior Vice President Herb Blecher in a statement.

The report found that states with high numbers of underwater borrowers are still seeing high levels of new problem loans, particularly "sand states" such as Nevada, Florida and Arizona where 45 percent, 36 percent and 24 percent of mortgages, respectively, are underwater.

Credit standards have improved across the board in recent years, so the majority of the new problem loans are coming from "bubble" vintages (loans originated in 2007 and earlier). Loans to "subprime" borrowers -- sometimes characterized as those with credit scores below 620 -- were common.

Currently, even loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration or guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs average credit scores above 700, LPS said. The average overall credit score in 2012 was 747.

Lakewood After School Programs. 

Lakewood’s After-School Activity ZONE is a free drop-in program for school-age children, teens and preteens. The program is offered at city parks, Monday through Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Schedules flex to accommodate school holidays and vacation periods.

After-school activities include playground games, arts and crafts, homework help and organized sports leagues through the Lakewood Youth Sports Program. Most programs are free and do not require pre-registration. Some specialized activities may require a minimal materials cost.

Programs will continue through much of December with special holiday activities and schedules planned for mid-December through early January. Programs will be featured throughout the two weeks of the school holiday vacation period.

Some specialized activities may require a minimal materials cost. For more information call 562-866-9771, extension 2408.

 

A complete offering of activities is listed in a PDF file at the bottom of the main recreation homepage, at neighborhood parks and at city hall.

 

After-school programs are designed to be safe and secure with supervised activities. Rules of good conduct enforced. Specialized programs introduce new skills in an upbeat atmosphere where participants share ideas with their peers.

 

  • Recreation staff on site
  • All activities supervised
  • Rules of good conduct enforced
  • A space to create and imagine
  • Fun activities
  • Specialized programs to introduce new skills
  • Peer sharing and support
  • Homework assistance
  • Organized Indoor and outdoor games
  • Sports clinics and leagues for all ages

 

Supervised Lakewood Parks

 

Click for the ‘Park Finder’ to learn more about Lakewood parks

 

Biscailuz Park 2601 Dollar Street

562-634-3348

 

Bloomfield Park 21420 Pioneer Blvd.

562-865-1717

 

Bolivar Park 3300 Del Amo Blvd.

562-421-3881

 

Boyar Park 6701 Del Amo Blvd.

562-925-6912

 

Del Valle Park 5939 Henrilee Street

562-429-0545

 

Mayfair Park 5720 Clark Ave.

562-866-4776

 

Palms Park 12305 207th Street

562-865-6414

 

San Martin Park 5231 Ocana Street

562-867-1090

 

Existing-home sales, January 2012.

Seasonally adjusted annual rate 4.92 million
% change from January 2012 +9.1%
% change from December 2012 +0.4%
   
National median price $173,600
% change from January 2012 +12.3%
   
Unsold inventory (months' supply) 4.2
Share of all-cash buyers 28%
Share of investor buyers 19%
Share of first-time buyers 30%

Share of distressed sales

23%

For A Good Cause.

By Kurt A. Eichsteadt
Editorial Assistant
Gazettes.com - Gazette Newspapers Long Beach California |

Residents of Long Beach help people all year through a variety of activities. Listed below are the results of some projects, as well as more opportunities to reach out to others.

This year’s Tour of Long Beach bike event is set for May 11. Riders who raise $200 by March 25 will receive an official Tour of Long Beach Jersey on the day of the ride. The money raised goes to pediatric cancer research. For more information, visit. www.active.com/donate/2013TourofLongBeach.

 

Organizers of the Newcomb Academy Golf Classic on June 3 are looking for their silent auction. Call 310-2502.

Hughes Middle School and Longfellow Elementary are teaming up with Goodwill to host a used clothing drive from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at Hughes, 3846 California Ave. Household goods will be accepted along with clothing. When the items are sold, the schools will receive a percentage of the money.

Collections from Melrose Alley will be highlighted at the fashion show and luncheon hosted by the Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach Auxiliary starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Hyatt Regency, 200 S. Pine Ave. Tickets are $50. Call 433-1533.

House of Synergy Salon & Spa will host makeover event for children living in shelters starting at 9 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at the shop, 4126 E. Anaheim St. They’d appreciated donations of any kind such as body wash, lotions, deodorant, undergarments and just plain cash. Call (702) 498-5220.

The “Love Your Mentors” Fashion Show and Silent Auction begins at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at Virginia Country Club, 4602 N. Virginia Rd. The event supports Women Guiding Women at MemorialCare Breast Center which pairs up specially trained cancer survivors with women dealing with breast or gynecologic cancer. Tickets are $70. Call 933-7815.

Throughout the month of February, customers at Foggia Italian Market & Deli in Lakewood can “Have a Heart” and make a special donation to Pathways Volunteer Hospice. Pathways provides service to the terminally ill and their families in Long Beach and other Southern California areas. Foggia is at 5522 Del Amo Blvd. in Lakewood.

Make a donation of used clothing or household goods to Goodwill and receive a voucher for two free tickets to a Long Beach State Dirtbags baseball game in February or March. The offer is good at any Goodwill location through the end of February. Goodwill’s main office is at 800 W. PCH. Visit www.goodwillsolac.org.

Long Beach Special Olympics presents “A World of Difference” honoring the Long Beach Education Partnership at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at the Hyatt Regency, 200 S. Pine Ave. The partnership was formed by California State University, Long Beach, City College and the Long Beach Unified School District to ensure that more students would be prepared for college when they graduate from high school. The evening begins with cocktails at 5:30 p.m. and music will be provided by Arms Wide Open. Tickets are $125. Call 354-2606 or visit www.sosc.org/worldofdifference.

Raffle Drawings, silent auctions and more will be part of MS Pint Night from 5 to 8 p.m., Saturday, March 9, at the Red Leprechaun, 4000 E. Anaheim St. The money goes to the fight against Multiple Sclerosis. For more information search MS Pint Night on Facebook.

Five local celebrities will compete in the Long Beach Symphony Chefs’ Challenge, presented with Friedman’s Appliance Center starting at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at 1827 E. Spring St. Tickets are $150. Call 436-3203 or visit www.lbso.org.

The 2013 Walk For Kids, which supports the Ronald McDonald House, is set for April 7 in Shoreline Park. For more information on participating, becoming a sponsor, or making a donation, visit www.longbeachrmh.org. The Ronald McDonald House provides a place for families to stay while their children are being treated at nearby hospitals and medical facilities.

Tickets are on sale now for the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix Foundation Charity Ball set for April 19 at the Westin Long Beach. The black-tie event will feature professional and celebrity drivers, cocktails, dinner, silent and live auctions including a chance to drive in the 2014 Toyota Grand Prix Celebrity Race. Live music will be provided Flashback Heart Attack! Tickets are $150 per person. Call 490-4509 or visit www.gplb.com/grand-prix-foundation.

Westerly School hosts its “Night at the Races” fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Westin Long Beach. For more information, visit www.westerlyschool.org.

The I Love My Public Library drive runs through April, which is National Library Month. The project started in 2007 in the Fifth City Council District and expands citywide this year. Coins may be dropped off at any public library.

Home Prices Are Rising.

The median home price nationwide saw its biggest jump in seven years last quarter as for-sale inventory hit its lowest level in 12 years, according to a quarterly report from the National Association of Realtors.

Of 152 metro areas, 133 (87.5 percent) saw their median sales prices rise year over year in fourth-quarter 2012 compared with 120 in the third quarter and only 29 in fourth-quarter 2011.

Nationally, the median sales price jumped 10 percent on an annual basis, to $178,900 -- the strongest annual price increase since fourth-quarter 2005 when the median rose 13.6 percent, NAR said.

"Home sales are on a sustained uptrend; mortgage interest rates are hovering near record lows; and unsold inventory is at the lowest level in 12 years," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, in a statement.

"Home sales are being fueled by a pent-up demand and job creation, along with still favorable affordability conditions and rents rising at faster rates. Our population has been growing faster than overall housing stock, so supply and demand dynamics are very much at play," Yun said.

More housing construction is needed to relieve some of the pressure in the market and keep home prices from overheating, Yun added.

 

The top 10 things you need to know when buying a home.

1. Don't buy if you can't stay put.

If you can't commit to remaining in one place for at least a few years, then owning is probably not for you, at least not yet. With the transaction costs of buying and selling a home, you may end up losing money if you sell any sooner - even in a rising market. When prices are falling, it's an even worse proposition.

2. Start by shoring up your credit.

Since you most likely will need to get a mortgage to buy a house, you must make sure your credit history is as clean as possible. A few months before you start house hunting, get copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you discover.

3. Aim for a home you can really afford.

The rule of thumb is that you can buy housing that runs about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. But you'll do better to use one of many calculators available online to get a better handle on how your income, debts, and expenses affect what you can afford.

4. If you can't put down the usual 20 percent, you may still qualify for a loan.

There are a variety of public and private lenders who, if you qualify, offer low-interest mortgages that require a small down payment.

5. Buy in a district with good schools.

In most areas, this advice applies even if you don't have school-age children. Reason: When it comes time to sell, you'll learn that strong school districts are a top priority for many home buyers, thus helping to boost property values.

6. Get professional help.

Even though the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings, most new buyers (and many more experienced ones) are better off using a professional agent. Look for an exclusive buyer agent, if possible, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.

7. Choose carefully between points and rate.

When picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points -- a portion of the interest that you pay at closing -- in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you stay in the house for a long time -- say three to five years or more -- it's usually a better deal to take the points. The lower interest rate will save you more in the long run.

8. Before house hunting, get pre-approved.

Getting pre-approved will you save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can't afford and put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Not to be confused with pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history.

9. Do your homework before bidding.

Your opening bid should be based on the sales trend of similar homes in the neighborhood. So before making it, consider sales of similar homes in the last three months. If homes have recently sold at 5 percent less than the asking price, you should make a bid that's about eight to 10 percent lower than what the seller is asking.

10. Hire a home inspector.

Sure, your lender will require a home appraisal anyway. But that's just the bank's way of determining whether the house is worth the price you've agreed to pay. Separately, you should hire your own home inspector, preferably an engineer with experience in doing home surveys in the area where you are buying. His or her job will be to point out potential problems that could require costly repairs down the road.

 

Five Tax Tips To Giving To Charity.

Rule No. 1: You must itemize to deduct charitable deductions

First, you'll benefit from a charitable deductions only if you itemize your personal deductions on your income taxes. Itemized deductions are deductions taxpayers are allowed to take each year for certain personal expenses, such as mortgage interest, property taxes, state income taxes, certain medical expenses, casualty and theft losses, and charitable contributions.

Only taxpayers whose total itemized deductions are more than the standard deduction will itemize their deductions. Taxpayers who don't itemize get no deduction for their charitable contributions (or any other itemized deductions). Thus, from a tax standpoint, charitable contributions are useless for people who don't itemize.

This rule applies whether you make your contribution as an individual or through your business. Unless your business is a C corporation, charitable contributions typically "flow through" the business and are claimed as deductions on the individual tax returns of business owners. This is so whether your business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability corporation, or S corporation.

The fact that you don't itemize doesn't mean you shouldn't make charitable contributions. You just won't get tax deductions for them.

Rule No. 2: Only contributions to qualified charities are deductible

Only contributions to what the IRS calls "qualified organizations" are deductible. These consist mainly of public charities -- organizations that come under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. These are the myriad nonprofits that engage in charitable, religious, scientific, literary, or educational work. If a nonprofit has obtained a determination letter from the IRS recognizing its status as a 501(c)(3) public charity, then it is a qualified organization and donations to it are deductible.

Ask the charity about its tax-exempt status. You can also visit IRS.gov and use the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool to check if your favorite charity is a qualified charity.

Rule No. 3: You can deduct money or property

You generally can deduct your cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified charity. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats.

Rule No. 4: You must keep records of all donations

You need to keep a record of any donations you deduct, regardless of the amount. You must have a written record of all cash contributions to claim a deduction. This may include a canceled check, bank or credit card statement, or payroll deduction record. You can also ask the charity for a written statement that shows the charity's name, contribution date and amount.

Rule No. 5: You must contribute by year-end

If you plan to take an itemized charitable deduction on your 2012 tax return, your donation must go to a qualified charity by Dec. 31. Donations charged to a credit card by Dec. 31 are deductible for 2012, even if you pay the bill in 2013. A gift by check also counts for 2012, as long as you mail it in December.

Peter Solomon, TNG Real Estate Consultants

Peter Solomon

562-354-6059
562-310-1644

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