Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Livingston County Real Estate News

June 9, 2018

3 Legal Documents Caregivers Need to Manage a Senior's Healthcare

There are ways to access to a loved one’s medical records and obtain the ability to make decisions on their behalf, but these legal permissions must be established before they are needed for them to be most effective. Unfortunately, many families do not realize that any special paperwork is required for them to participate in a loved one’s care, and the consequences of being unprepared can be very stressful for everyone involved.

You might be barred from accessing vital medical information or unable to direct your loved one’s care if they cannot make their own decisions. In a worst-case scenario, you may need to go to court and petition for guardianship to obtain these legal powers. Fortunately, families can avoid this time-consuming and expensive scenario by working together to prepare three necessary legal documents that will enable them to make critical care decisions.

  1. HIPAA Authorization Form
    The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides legal standards for keeping a person’s health information and records private. This means it is illegal for medical professionals to share any details about your care recipient’s health unless they gave their written consent for you to receive this sensitive information. HIPAA authorization is a simple yet important document for family caregivers. It authorizes the doctor to keep approved family members in the loop regarding a loved one’s medical status. This form only takes a moment to complete, and every doctor’s office should have blank ones on hand for patients. All you need to do is request that your loved one grants you access to their healthcare information by filling out this form.
  2. Health Care Proxy
    Also known as a medical power of attorney (POA), a health care proxy is a legal document that enables a person (called the “principal”) to appoint a trusted relative or friend (called the “agent”) to handle specific healthcare decisions on their behalf. 
    While HIPAA authorization only grants a caregiver access to information, a medical POA document grants this access as well as the ability to make medical decisions for their care recipient. This document is crucial because it gives a trusted person the power to manage a loved one’s healthcare in the event they become incapacitated. There is a catch, though. This document must be prepared while a person is still mentally competent to grant an agent these powers.
    It is important for the principal to trust that their agent understands their healthcare goals and will act in their best interest. This is where the next legal document comes into play.
  3. Advance Health Care Directive
    This document is commonly referred to as a living will. An advance health care directive lets people record their wishes for end-of-life care before a medical crisis strikes. With a living will, a person’s loved ones don’t have to agonize over difficult medical decisions. This document essentially spells out instructions for a medical POA to follow when making end-of-life care decisions. 
    A living will may indicate specific treatments a person does or does not want performed under certain circumstances. At the very least, the document should specify whether resuscitation should be attempted if breathing stops, whether artificial life support should be used and whether a feeding tube should be inserted.

Preparation is Crucial

Once a healthcare emergency strikes, it is usually too late to prepare these documents. To avoid unnecessary stress and confusion, talk to your family members about getting their affairs in order. It is important for all adults to discuss their personal wishes with loved ones while they are still healthy.

An elder law attorney can discuss individual questions and concerns, prepare these legal documents, and provide advice on additional legal planning tools that may be useful for your family’s circumstances.

Posted in News, Senior News
June 9, 2018

Don't Wait to Sell Your House! Buyers Are Out Now

SUPPLY

It is no secret that the supply of homes for sale has been far below the number needed to sustain a normal market for over a year at this point. A normal market requires six months of housing inventory to meet the demand. The latest report from NAR revealed that there is currently only a 3.6-month supply of houses on the market.

Supply is currently very low!

DEMAND

A report that was just released tells us that demand is very strong. The most recent Foot Traffic Report(which sheds light on the number of buyers who are actually out looking at homes) disclosed that “foot traffic grew 10.5 points to 52.4 in March as the new season approaches.”

Demand is currently very high!

Bottom Line

Waiting to sell will only increase the competition between you and all of the other sellers putting their houses on the market later this summer. If you are debating whether or not to list your home, let’s get together to discuss the conditions in our market.

Posted in News, Seller News
June 9, 2018

Concerned About Preplanning?

Get preapproved

Before you even set foot in a house you're interested in purchasing, you need to meet with your financial adviser to determine the home loan amount you are approved for. This will help you determine which neighborhoods to look at and what homes you will be approved for without the hassle of finding your dream home and then finding out that you aren't approved for the loan.

Research and talk to banks to find the best home loan and interest rate so that you can purchase a home that you love while staying in your budget.

Maintain your budget

It's important for any homeowner to maintain and stick to a budget when purchasing a new home, especially for a first-time homebuyer. Take into consideration extra expenses that come along with buying a home, such as taxes and maintenance. If you want amenities in your home that are beyond what your budget allows, you may want to consider purchasing a fixer-upper.

Work with your Realtor if you find a home that you love but that's a little above your price range. Your Realtor is there to help negotiate a price that works with your budget.

Consider long-term investment potential

Purchasing and owning a home is a long-term investment, and its potential should be considered before purchasing the home. Does the home have a solid foundation? Is the neighborhood well-kept and maintained? These are things you need to consider when deciding whether the home is a good long-term investment. You also need to consider whether you have the time and budget to maintain certain homes. An older home may require a lot of upkeep. Or you may be buying in a neighborhood that has certain rules about how the outside of your house and lawn need to be kept.

The homebuying process can be full of complications and bumps, but if you take the time to plan out your budget and other necessities, you won't get stuck in a home you can't afford or one that requires too much maintenance. To ensure a successful homebuying process, contact us today, and we will help put you into a home that's just the right fit.

Posted in Buyer News, News
June 9, 2018

You Can Still Deduct PMI, But How Do You Get Rid of It?

Eventually, you can. You reach a point where the bank basically sees that you have enough equity in the house so the insurance isn’t necessary anymore. Federal law actually requires banks to cancel PMI when you hit certain thresholds. As the law puts it, this happens when “the principal balance of the mortgage is first scheduled to reach 78 percent of the original value of the secured property.” This is referred to as the loan-to-value ratio — the outstanding loan divided by the value of the property.

Even if you haven’t reached the magic “78", you can request cancellation at other times. The servicer is supposed to cancel the insurance at the halfway point — so, 15 years into a conventional 30-year mortgage.

Also, you have the right to ask for earlier cancellations — at 80 percent. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gives instructions for doing this:

  • Your request must be in writing.
  • You must have a good payment history and be current on your payments.
  • Your lender may require you to certify that there are no junior liens (such as a second mortgage) on your home.
  • Your lender can also require you to provide evidence (for example, an appraisal) that the value of your property hasn’t declined below the value of the home when you first bought it. If the value of your home has decreased, you may not be able to cancel your PMI.

Of course, to claim cancellation under any of the rules, you should have a clean payment record.

You still can catch a break

While you’re waiting to meet these thresholds, however, you might be able to deduct your PMI costs. This is one of the tax breaks Congress keeps threatening to cancel and then renews at the last minute. PMI in 2017 was deductable, with income limits, but it may not be for 2018. Check with a qualified tax professional about the current status.

 
Posted in Buyer News, News
June 9, 2018

What People Would Sacrifice to Buy a Home

Twenty-two percent of 1,000 buyers recently surveyed said they’d be willing to give up the right to vote in exchange for a 10 percent down payment they would not need to pay back, according to Unison Home Ownership Investors and Atomik Research’s The Value of Owning a Home survey. Millennials (26 percent) are more likely than Gen X (20 percent) and baby boomers (7 percent) to be willing to give up their right to vote. Men are more likely than women to give up their driver’s license—14 percent versus 9 percent, respectively.

Forty-four percent said they’d be willing to give up their dream car, and 38 percent would give up vacationing for the next five years. 

Homeownership status may even affect relationships, the survey found. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they’d be more likely to date or marry someone who already owned a home at the time their relationship began, according to the survey. Homeowners may be more attractive to aspiring buyers. Millennials (58 percent), Gen X (59 percent), and baby boomers (56 percent) admit preference toward engaging in a relationship with a current homeowner. 

To overcome the down payment barrier, more consumers are showing openness toward crowdfunding. Twenty-six percent of respondents surveyed said they’d consider crowdfunding a down payment, and 29 percent would use an equity investment or homeownership investment. Read more about buyers using crowdfunding to secure a home.

 
Posted in Buyer News, News
June 9, 2018

How to Get Rid of Junk Mail & Telemarketing Calls for Good

 

While there is not much anyone can do to eliminate their bills, there are a few things you can do to get rid of junk mail. In fact, scams and spam seem to be on the rise via most methods of communication these days. Taking steps to declutter your mailbox and protect your phone number(s) can greatly minimize your frustration and reduce your vulnerability to fraud and identity theft.

How to Opt Out of Junk Mail

The first step toward eliminating a large portion of one’s junk mail is to participate in the DMAchoice program from the Data & Marketing Association (DMA). This program was created to give you control over what mail you receive and help the DMA’s more than 3,600 members avoid mailing to uninterested customers.

The categories of mail you may opt out of receiving include credit card offers, catalogs, magazine offers (such as subscription offers, newsletters, periodicals and other promotional mailings), donation requests, bank offers, retail promotions and more. You can choose to opt out of specific direct mail categories like the ones above or all of them. Once registered, the DMA forwards your preferences to the appropriate members.

To register, visit www.dmachoice.org and enter your information. There is a $2 fee to register online, but this registration lasts for 10 years. Caregivers also have the option to register on behalf of their care recipients to prevent them from receiving junk mail as well. Just visit the DMA website’s Do Not Contact for Caretakers page and follow the instructions. There is no cost for removing a vulnerable senior from the DMA’s databases.

Cancelling Pre-Approved Credit Offers

In the same way that DMAchoice works with member organizations to streamline marketing and promote consumer satisfaction, the OptOutPrescreen program works directly with the credit bureaus Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and Innovis to allow consumers to opt out of pre-approved and pre-screened credit and insurance offers.

To register for the program, visit OptOutPrescreen.com or call 888-567-8688. If you register online or by telephone, your registration is valid for five years. To opt out permanently, you will need to print, sign and mail back a permanent opt out election form. This form will be emailed to you when you register online or be mailed to you if you register by telephone.

Doing Away with Unsolicited Mail

In order to opt out of generic mail (the type that says “Dear Occupant” or “Current Resident”), you must directly contact the organization that sent you the solicitation. If you’d like to send a written request, provide your name and mailing address and state clearly that you wish to opt out from receiving future mail.

“Junk” Can Overwhelm Your Phone, Too

While junk mail is a nuisance that can literally pile up, unsolicited telephone calls can be equally as annoying but even more dangerous. Scammers will often call pretending to be from a legitimate organization in an attempt to get you to send them money or share your sensitive financial or identifying information.

One common scam is where the caller pretends to be from the IRS. He or she states that you owe money and if you do not pay within a certain timeframe you will be arrested. They use fear and intimidation to get the victim to do what they want.

But how can you tell which calls are legitimate and which are scams? It is often difficult to make that determination based on the call alone. One way to reduce, if not eliminate, legitimate solicitation calls is to register both your home and cell phone numbers on the Federal Trade Commission’s national Do Not Call Registry. Once you have registered, solicitors are prohibited from contacting you.

However, this does not apply to organizations with which you currently conduct business (known as established business relationships or “ERBs”) or tax-exempt organizations. You will still receive calls from entities you have given permission to contact you, like your bank, charities soliciting donations and—everyone’s favorite—political calls.

To register for this free service, call 1-888-382-1222 from the telephone number you wish to register. You can also register online at www.donotcall.gov. Keep in mind that this registration does not expire, so there is no need to ever re-register.

Telemarketers have 31 days from your registration date to remove your information from their call list and cease contact. If you receive a call after this 31-day period, notify the caller that you are on the national Do Not Call Registry and ask to be removed from their contact list. If they continue to call you, then you can report them online at the FTC’s complaint website. By law, organizations that are not tax exempt must remove a consumer’s contact information from their call list upon request.

This will not eliminate all calls, but it will greatly reduce the number of legitimate, unsolicited calls. You should be wary of whatever calls continue to come in from unknown sources. Here are a few indications that you’re talking to a scammer on the phone:

  • Caller is asking you to provide sensitive information
  • Caller is threatening or bullying you
  • Caller demands money, especially in the form of a money order
  • Caller refuses to remove your information from their call list
  • Caller claims to be from the IRS or another “official source” and demands money or sensitive information
  • Caller threatens your arrest if you do not comply

Also, don’t be fooled by what appears on your caller ID. Caller ID can easily be manipulated using free online tools. This process is called “spoofing.” I could call you and have the caller ID read “IRS” or “police station.” It really is just that simple.

Read: Fake Caller ID: Don’t Fall for Spoofing Scams

If you are in doubt when you receive an unsolicited telephone call, simply hang up the phone. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from your bank or credit card company, hang up and call the official telephone number printed on your bank statement or the number printed on the back of your credit card. If they claim to be from the IRS, you can visit the IRS website (www.irs.gov), and call them at the telephone number listed there. You get the idea. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Tackling Unwanted Text Messages

If you receive spam-type text messages on your cell phone, you can typically report it to your carrier by forwarding the text message to 7726. This works for AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and Bell customers. They will then add this to their identified spam messages list and attempt to block the sending number. This process is similar to identifying an unsolicited email as spam or junk mail. Once you have labeled it as such, your email provider will block future emails from that sender from getting into your inbox.

The same handling rules for spam emails apply for text messages as well. Don’t reply to the sender, click on any links in the messages or provide any personal information. Legitimate businesses will not ask for your account or login information via text. The next safest thing after reporting the message to your carrier is to delete it immediately.

While you may not be able to block all potential frauds and scams, these tools will help you to eliminate most legitimate solicitors, making it easier for you to identify the remnants as fraudsters and scammers. At that point, you can simply toss the mail, hang up the telephone or delete the text

Posted in News
June 2, 2018

Why You Should List in the Middle of the Week

Redfin researchers found that homes listed on a Wednesday sold for an average of $2,023 more than homes listed on a Sunday—the worst day of the week to list. They also found that homes listed on a Thursday tended to find buyers five days faster than homes listed on a Sunday, which was used as the baseline for comparison. Further, homes listed on Thursday also were more likely to be sold within 90 to 180 days. 

“There isn’t one clear reason why Wednesday outperforms on price, while Thursday wins on speed and certainty,” according to Redfin’s blog, which details the study’s findings. “Possible explanations include that agents who list on Wednesdays tend to be better at pricing strategically to command the best price, or that in this fast-paced, low-inventory market, there’s simply a sweet spot for garnering the maximum sense of urgency and competition among eager homebuyers. Another theory is that the advantage of Wednesday and Thursday simply correlates to buyers’ house hunting schedules.” 

Redfin’s study follows on the heels of a separate one from ATTOM Data Solutions that found May is the best month to sell a home nationwide. Researchers evaluated the sales of 14.7 million homes from 2011 to 2017 to find the month with the highest sales price. They found that May saw the largest premiums above the estimated market value of 5.9 percent. 

Source: “What’s the Best Day to Put Your Home on the Market?” Redfin (May 4, 2018)

 
Posted in News, Seller News
June 2, 2018

3 Pros, 3 Cons of Buying New Construction

Many house hunters are under the mistaken impression that new construction is flawless, a perception that may be challenging to wrestle with if your seller’s home is surrounded by brand-new development. In reality, there can be just as many inspection issues with new builds as there are with resale properties. If you’re working with clients who are interested in purchasing new, it’s important to manage their expectations and let them know that no home—no matter what age—is perfect. On the other hand, new homes do have some advantages because they’re not worn. Here are three pros and three cons of new construction.

Pros

  1. Less wear and tear. Buyers of new construction can expect fewer imperfections in the product, says Terrylynn Fisher, CRS, GRI, a professional stager and associate broker with Dudum Real Estate Group in Walnut Creek, Calif. Scratched floors and cracks in walls, for example, are more commonplace in resale homes than new ones. Finishes and design flourishes in new homes may also be brighter and more colorful because they are untouched.
  2. Built-in technology. While many homeowners have been slow to adopt smart-home technology, developers are jumping on the bandwagon more quickly and incorporating smart features into their projects, says Sce Pike, founder and CEO of Portland, Ore.-based software company IOTAS. Smart door locks and thermostats are among the most popular products developers request, but some are eyeing more comprehensive packages that include smart humidity sensors and the ability to control access to a home remotely, Pike adds.
  3. It’s a blank canvas. Buyers may feel more like they are designing a home specifically for them when starting from scratch with a brand-new home, which can be a big psychological motivator in a purchase decision, Fisher says. Though resale buyers, too, have the opportunity to make a home their own, they may not feel complete ownership of its style because they’re either adding to, morphing, or covering up the previous owner’s sense of style, says Christine Rae, founder of the Certified Staging Professionals International Business Training Academy.

Cons

  1. Flaws due to building shortcuts. Builders may take shortcuts in the construction process to cut costs, and that can result in blemishes in the home. Fisher says one of her buyers recently bought a new home and discovered about six aesthetic problems that were caused during construction, including an unsightly gap at the top of a shower that made the framing behind the wall visible. “It was like a bad flip that appeared beautiful on the outside,” she says. “You’re going to have a more substantial house in an older home because it’s had owners that have cared for it.”
  2. Style over functionality. Builders are hyperfocused on open floor plans, as it’s a top priority for today’s buyers. But that often requires sacrificing storage space, Rae says. To achieve a truly open space, builders often have to decrease the size of closets and other areas of the home designed for storage. That can be problematic for meeting the needs of buyers who envision purchasing a long-term residence.
  3. Incomplete curb appeal. Many builders put all of their effort—and investment—into the front of the house so it looks good to potential buyers driving by. But they’ll sometimes leave the backyard unattended to, Fisher says. Many new-home buyers may have to assume all the costs of backyard landscaping, including planting grass or laying sod, as well as planting trees and other shrubbery. This can be a huge expense, too.
June 2, 2018

VA Pension Provide Veterans with Supplemental Income

Eligibility Requirements for the Veterans Pension

There are several eligibility requirements that veterans must meet in order to qualify for the VA pension program. The first and simplest requirement is that a veteran must have received a discharge other than dishonorable. All other requirements are described in detail below.

Wartime Service Requirements

The veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military, naval or air service, with at least one day taking place during a recognized period of war. The VA recognizes the following wartime periods:

  • Mexican Border Period: May 9, 1916 – April 5, 1917, for veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders or adjacent waters
  • World War I: April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918
  • World War II: December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946
  • Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam Era: February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975, for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975
  • Gulf War: August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation

(Veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980, must have either served 24 months or the full period for which they were called into active duty with at least one day during a wartime period defined above.)

Financial Requirements

Because this pension is intended to supplement the income of financially needy vets, it makes sense that the VA requires applicants to demonstrate their financial need. There are both income and net worth limitations that must be met to qualify.

For 2018, a veteran’s annual income must not exceed the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) of $13,166. For a veteran with a spouse, their household income must not exceed the MAPR of $17,241. Income sources include earnings, disability and retirement payments, payments from annuities, and net income. However, a veteran’s countable income can be reduced by unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed five percent of their appropriate MAPR. For a single veteran this threshold is $659, and for a married veteran, it is $863.

For example, if a married veteran’s annual income is $18,000, they would not financially qualify for this pension. However, let’s say that this couple also incurs $1,700 worth of unreimbursed medical costs over the course of the year. Their countable income is actually reduced by $837 (1,700 – 863 = 837) to equal $17,163, which is below the MAPR limit. This couple meets the income qualifications for the veterans pension.

When it comes to net worth limits, the VA’s method for determining eligibility is much more complex and a bit of a mystery. Applicants are expected to provide detailed information regarding all the bank accounts, property (except one primary residence) and investments they own. Based on the applicant’s age and life expectancy, the VA will determine whether these assets could reasonably sustain the veteran throughout the rest of their life. Those found to have “excessive net worth” are considered ineligible.

Functional Requirements

The VA enforces certain functional requirements for recipients of this pension as well to ensure that vets who are unable to work, whether due to disability or age, receive the financial assistance they deserve. An eligible applicant must meet at least ONE of the following criteria:

  • At least 65 years old.
  • Permanently and totally disabled (non-service-connected).
  • Living in a nursing home.
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

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Pension Amounts and Uses

Veterans pensions are paid out on a monthly basis, considered tax-free income and can be used however the recipient sees fit. For example, pension funds can help cover the costs of housing, food, medical expenses, clothing, bills, home repairs, transportation, etc.

As mentioned above, the VA sets Maximum Annual Pension Rates (MAPRs) and adjusts them each year to account for changes in the cost of living. The amount that a veteran receives is calculated by subtracting his or her net countable income from their appropriate MAPR. For example, if a single eligible vet’s net income totals $9,000, then he or she is able to receive $4,166 in pension funds (13,166 – 9,000 = 4,166). This amount is then split up into 12 equal monthly payments of approximately $347.

How to Apply for VA Pension

Although many veterans are eligible for pensions, navigating the filing process is often overwhelming and frustrating. If you think you or a veteran you know may qualify for a veterans pension, the first step is to locate discharge papers (also known as DD Form 214.)

Many veterans have misplaced their discharge records, but there are a couple of options for tracking them down. The first place to look is at the county courthouse where many vets filed their discharge records upon returning home. If you still cannot find this document, it is also possible to submit an online request through the National Archives eVetRecs site or submit a request via mail or fax using a SF-180 form. Certain fees may apply for requesting replacement documents. Emergency requests can be made, but regular turn-around times can be as long as 90 days.

Those filing for the veterans pension will also need to complete and gather the following:

  • VA Form 21-527EZ (Application for Pension)
  • Additional personal and household evidence including proof of income, net worth information, and all relevant medical records or where to find them (specifics are outlined in the beginning pages of the above form).

Where to Find Help Applying for VA Benefits

Including specific and comprehensive information in a VA application is crucial for timely processing and determination of benefits, but many families need help locating and compiling the necessary paperwork. Veteran service organizations (VSOs) like regional offices of the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) can provide this assistance free of charge.

Once an application is submitted, there is a waiting period before a veteran will receive an approval or denial. The amount of time varies according to the backlog of claims the VA is processing, but the average wait time is usually a few months. However, longer waits are to be expected if a vet files an incomplete or incorrect application.

Posted in News, Senior News
June 2, 2018

7 Secondary Markets That Are Breaking Out

 

Where are the next urban powerhouses? Realtor.com® researchers are betting on a handful of smaller cities to become red-hot, following in the steps of Seattle; Nashville, Tenn.; and Austin, Texas. Those cities once were known as secondary markets but have soared to primary status in recent years. “We’ll see small cities continue to be growth centers,” says Chris Porter, chief demographer at John Burns Real Estate Consulting. “A lot of them are in the South—a region with great affordability, a business-friendly environment, and warmer weather.”

Realtor.com® analyzed data from the 200 largest metros, excluding the top 15, which are already primary markets. Researchers looked at population growth, income, home prices, building permit growth, employment, and cultural amenities. (Note: Only one metro per state was included for geographic diversity.) Realtor.com® ranked the following smaller cities as the ones poised to become the next urban powerhouses: 

1. Salisbury, Md. 

  • Median home list price: $309,050

2. Lafayette, La. 

  • Median home list price: $210,050

3. Myrtle Beach, S.C.

  • Median home listing price: $239,050

4. Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss.

  • Median home list price: $192,550

5. Winston-Salem, N.C.

  • Median home list price: $205,040

6. Grand Rapids, Mich.

  • Median home list price: $288,950

7. Knoxville, Tenn. 

  • Median home list price: $268,250
 
Posted in Buyer News, News