Author: Carrie B. Reyes

Deduction requirements for energy efficient commercial buildings modified

This notice modifies former guidelines for tax deductions on recently built energy-efficient commercial buildings. Internal Revenue Code §179D Amended by Notice 2012-22 Effective date: March 12, 2012 – December 31, 2013 Energy-efficient improvements placed in service on commercial buildings between February 24, 2012 and December 31, 2013 qualify for tax deductions if the improvements show a 50% total energy reduction compared to minimum set requirements. If an energy-efficient building does not meet the 50% energy reduction standard, a partial deduction may be taken if energy savings total at least: 25% for interior lighting systems; 15% for heating, cooling, ventilation...

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Proposed uniform mortgage billing statement will help borrowers

Will simplified, standardized billing statements help borrowers understand their loan terms? Yes (50%, 4 Votes) No (50%, 4 Votes) Total Voters: 8 The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), established in 2010 under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), has proposed a standardized mortgage billing statement. The billing statement is crafted to help consumers stay on top of payments, anticipate mortgage rate resets and easily notice mortgage servicer errors. [For more information about the Dodd-Frank Act, see the October 2010 first tuesday article, TILA circa 2010; consumer protection enhancement.] The proposed billing statement includes: a breakdown of how the payment is split between the principal, interest and escrow payments; the principal amount remaining to be paid; the maturity date of the loan; notice of any prepayment penalties; and  in the instance of an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), when and how the rates can reset. The CFPB is asking for input from industry professionals and the public before implementing a final version of the billing statement this summer. The bureau is also in the process of drafting new disclosure rules required for exotic hybrid ARMs, and rules to protect borrowers from expensive, “force-place” homeowner’s insurance policies. first tuesday take: The nationwide $25 billion bank settlement has curbed some confusing servicer practices, but it has done nothing to change the practices of non-bank servicers. This proposed mortgage industry...

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Severing ties with listing aggregators

Have private party websites like Trulia, Zillow and Redfin dominated your practice of locating buyers for your listings? No (67%, 42 Votes) Yes (33%, 21 Votes) Total Voters: 63 A San Diego brokerage office has publicly denounced third-party real estate aggregators like Zillow and Trulia and removed access to its listings from those websites. These actions follow a few other large brokerages throughout the U.S. severing ties with third-party websites, though the San Diego real estate community is divided on the issue. One problem the San Diego brokerage office cited is third-party websites use intellectual property, such as real estate photos, without permission and without compensating the sources. They compared websites like Zillow and Trulia to Napster, the troubled file-sharing service known for the numerous lawsuits it received for copyright infringement. The brokerage office also claimed the aggregated listings available to the public occasionally contain erroneous information. Errors include the wrong real estate agent being featured on a listing, incorrect square foot data and some properties not being featured in a way that makes their information readily accessible to the searcher. Other questionable data on these aggregator websites included failing to remove active listings, posting wrong prices and providing inaccurate details about listed homes. Proponents of third-party listing aggregators say firms refusing to work with listing aggregators will miss out on all the sales opportunities popular listing websites provide....

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Higher gains for specialty REITs investors

Do you invest in REITs? I do not invest in any type of REIT. (50%, 2 Votes) I invest in specialty REITs. (25%, 1 Votes) I invest in traditional and specialty REITs. (25%, 1 Votes) I invest in traditional REITs. (0%, 0 Votes) Total Voters: 4 Real estate investment trusts (REITs) have performed better than most investments during the recession. Furthermore, specialty REITs have performed even stronger than their traditional REIT counterparts in these tough economic times. At the end of last year, REITs showed a year-to-date return of 3.2%, and specialty REITs showed a return of 7.94%, according...

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Freddie Mac bets against homeowners

Do you believe that Freddie Mac’s investment in inverse floaters is ethical? No (80%, 74 Votes) Yes (20%, 19 Votes) Total Voters: 93 Freddie Mac (Freddie) waged billions of dollars that homeowners with expensive mortgages would not refinance their home loans at lower interest rates. These bets were in the form of inverse floater deals, which Freddie made while at the same instant restricting the ability of homeowners to refinance by hitting them with additional risk-based fees and rules. Inverse floaters are securities backed by interest payments and have the potential of paying a higher return than the rate of interest – provided the underlying mortgages are not refinanced. These are contrasted against securities backed by principal, which pay a low return but are a safer investment and less volatile. Freddie Mac continues to profit from inverse floaters only if their mortgage borrowers do not refinance their higher-than-market interest rate mortgages, since refinancing creates a new loan, stopping interest payments on the original loan and an immediate loss for Freddie on that bet. In late 2010 and early 2011, Freddie purchased 29 securities of inverse floater deals, an exponential increase from the seven inverse floaters purchased in 2009 and mere five in 2008.  Five billion dollars of its $650 billion portfolio was invested in inverse floaters, according to a statement by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Freddie’s overseer....

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[M]ost people join CAR in order to obtain the forms, not for the other services. And if there were any viable choices for agents, CAR would immediately suffer as much as a 40% to 50% loss in membership. […] CAR owns the “for profit” company that produces their software, with top officers in CAR sitting in top management spots in ZipLogix. This is the living, breathing definition of a conflict of interest. […] On their website they parade their forms software as “free” when cost of their forms software for non-members as a percentage of their actual membership cost speaks for itself.

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