Everyone has an opinion, and this is the time of year when we get to hear those opinions more often. As experts try and predict what will happen in 2012 to the housing market, they also try and look back at the past year and analyze how it turned out. Here are some quotes we are hearing right now.

TIMOTHY WARREN JR.

CEO, market tracker the Warren Group

“My general impression is that we’re sort of bumping along the bottom right now. … I think 2012 will have (appreciably) more home sales than 2011 — and that’ll be the first time that’s happened since 2004. … We won’t have an eight-year downturn — just a seven-year one.”

President, Mass. Association of Realtors; broker, Keller Williams Realty

“I think we’ll see very small (gains) in housing during 2012 if interest rates stay low, consumer confidence stays good and nothing happens (in Washington) to the mortgage-interest deduction. … As long as nothing changes (in housing laws) with the administration and Congress, then I feel we’re going to see inch-by-inch improvements.”

ALAN CLAYTON-MATTHEWS

Economist, Northeastern University

“Given the state of the economy, I expect there will be very little change in prices, (or) even slight declines. The volume of sales may be on a slow upward trend, but I don’t expect a (major) rebound — certainly not to the levels we saw (before) the downturn began.”

Patrick Newport

Analyst with IHS Global Insight

“Our forecast is they [home prices] will hit bottom in the second half of 2012,” said Mr. Newport. “We still will have a lot of foreclosures. That is still going to stay high for another several years.”

Richard Henry Suttmeier

Contributor, Forbes Magazine

“Today there are some tentative positive signs in the housing market, which I view as stability in a market that remains depressed according to the Federal Reserve. New home sales rose for the third consecutive month in November to an annual rate of 315,000. The inventory of new homes reached a record low of 158,000 units, so there should be good demand given an easing of credit standards, or appropriate home buyer initiative programs.”

David M. Blitzer

Chairman of the index committee at S.& P.

“The National Association of Realtors said last week that sales of single-family houses, town houses, condos and co-ops in November rose to 4.42 million, their highest level in 10 months, according to its latest revised data. But there were also signs that buyers were still nervous and lenders were being cautious about approving loans — the association said that a third of all contracts signed in November did not lead to closed sales.”

It’s that time of year where we look back at the past and hypothesize about the future.

Here are some predictions that were made for 2011

1. Prices and mortgage rates will stay low in most areas, but will rise in affluent areas and markets experiencing job/population growth.

2. Loan guidelines will tighten up, and down payments and loan costs may rise.

3. Condos will become even more difficult to buy.

4. Mortgage rates are going to remain low. However, it’s tough to tell when they’ll start to climb and how quickly they may climb. For that reason, it may be smart to try to secure a mortgage near the beginning of 2011 rather than waiting until the end of the year.

5. Home prices are going to decline in 2011. This seems fairly clear. However, it is much less clear how much they will decline or when they will stop declining and bottom out. Although some sources predict drops as high as 20%, it is much more likely that the drop will be small. Housing bottoms may even have been reached in some urban areas.

6. Because mortgage rates will remain low and home prices are at or near their bottom, 2011 is a good time to invest in real estate if you have the means to do so.

 

Here are some predictions that are being made for 2012

1. 2011 saw record low interest rates and high affordability, but sales will likely remain weak2.

2. Price drops seen through 2011 will continue3.

3. Rentals rebounded in 2011 and will drive development in 20124.

4. Market disparity between, and within, regions will continue5.

5. Foreclosure rates rising again, expected to jump in 2012

6. Signs of life seen in housing construction but no true recovery yet

With Christmas getting closer, many people take off to visit family or even head south for the winter. But leaving your home unattended for long periods of time over the holidays can make you a target for crime. Holiday absences and the presence of an abnormal number of valuables and gifts make homes more attractive to thieves during the holidays,

Making a home look occupied is the best way to prevent a break-in. This means keeping the sidewalks and driveways shoveled and plowed, and having mail and newspapers pickup up by neighbors.

Here are some other tips for keeping your home safe during the holiday season.

  • Get a timer for indoor and outdoor lights and your television
  • Turn a radio on when away from home.
  • Don’t store gifts in garage or in other exterior structures on property.
  • Have someone walk around your home and leave tracks in the snow.
  • Break down boxes from holiday gifts and put in trash receptacle or recycle bin rather than setting them out by the road.
  • Make sure all shrubbery near doors and windows are maintained and cut to prevent someone from hiding and add motion activated exterior lights.
  • Avoid displaying gifts where they can be seen from a window or doorway.
  • Arrange to have packages delivered to a neighbor if you’re not home to receive them.
  • Be sure not to obscure the view from your windows. You need a clear view of your property.
  •  Never cancel general deliveries such as mail, newspapers, and other services when leaving town or going on vacation.
  • Notify your local police precinct when you’re planning an extended absence. They can issue a vacation watch or directed patrol for your home.

Having the right perspective, and plenty of patience, are necessary traits for investing in commercial real estate.

 Choosing to invest in commercial properties over residential ones is a big choice in more than one way. You need to be willing to spend a lot of time and effort upfront in researching, developing the right relationships and identifying the right type of investment. But the profits far exceed those of residential properties.

Commercial real estate consists of things like malls, hotels, retail stores, business complexes, medical centers, ect. People buy these or build these with the intent of renting them out or selling them of to other investors for profit. The demand for these spaces is much higher than the demand for residential homes.

 

Here are 10 guidelines for investing in commercial real estate.

  1. Think Big. Buy an apartment building with ten units instead of five. The more units the cheaper they are and the amount of work really doesn’t increase.
  2. Take your time. You have to be patient if you want to invest in commercial properties. They take more time to buy, renovate and resell then homes.
  3. Don’t choose apartments by default. People tend to steer towards residential properties because that is what they are comfortable with. However, you really should take the time to research all the different types of properties available and pick one that interests you and then make that your niche.
  4. Learn new formulas. Commercial real estate buying is not the same as residential buying and therefore the formulas aren’t transferrable. Learn “Net Operating Income” and “Cap Rates.”
  5. Find good financing in advance. Commercial loans typically need more money up front, but there is no liability if the deal falls through.

 

You did it! You bought a new house and moved in. Congratulations.

But, you haven’t yet sold your old one. And, as if that isn’t stressful enough, winter is coming. With no one living in your old house, winter weather can really do some damage to it.

Here are some tips for winterizing your vacant (or non vacant) home.

Leave the heat on very low. Though it might seem like a waste of money or energy at first glance, a minimal heating bill will be less expensive than the cost of potential repairs if everything were to freeze up.

Turn off all water and drain all pipes, water fixtures, heaters, wells tanks, ect. If you can’t do this, make sure to leave some water running through the pipes by turning on the fixture closest to where water enters the house and at the farthest point indoors, say in an upstairs bathroom. It needs to trickle constantly to keep water flowing.

Wrap insulation around the water heater, the pipes leading to and from it and insulate any pipes exposed outdoors, in a crawl space under the house, etc.

Put some anti-freeze in both the tank and the bowl of each toilet. If the heat goes out and water inside the toilets freezes, it could crack the china fixtures.

Test your furnace & while you’re at it, change your furnace filter too.

Check your hose bibs (outside faucets) – Disconnect any outside hoses to prevent trapping water. If you have valves inside your house to shut off your exterior faucets, shut off those valves and open your hose bib to let any trapped water out.

Clean gutters – Make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and other debris. Clogged gutters can prevent melting snow from draining which can lead to ice dams.

Seal up leaks – Check all of your window and doors for air leaks, and add weather stripping if needed.

Storm windows – If you don’t have double pain windows, adding storm windows or a window shrink kit can make a big difference in your heating bill.

Insulate – Check your attic to see how much insulation you have. The recommendation these days is 16”-22” or an R-value of 49

Reverse your fan – Since warm air rises, set your ceiling fans to blow the warm air down.

Finally, if your home is vacant, try and check it every few weeks to make sure nothing cracked, broke, leaked, ect.

Go ahead and buy that vacation home! Right now is a great time to invest in a second home. Whether you turn it into a rental property or use it for your own enjoyment, you will be locking in what could be your future retirement home at today’s prices.

With home prices being at an ultimate low and mortgage rates between 3% and 4%, you should really start looking! There are four reasons to consider before buying a second home: finances, fun, family and the future. If you turn it into a rental home, it can be a little extra money each month. If you use it for yourself, think of the fun you and your family can have. Finally, the future is not that far away and when it comes, won’t it be nice to have a cozy place to relax in and spend your golden years?

AOL Real Estate gives us 5 great reasons to buy a second home.

Location, Location, Location

We’ve all heard the real estate maxim that location is everything. Well, that truism is especially important when it comes to buying a second home.

Nobody buys property with the expectation that it will decline in value. Unfortunately, however, that’s a fate that can happen if you’re not selective about where you purchase. To increase your odds of having great resale value, stick to properties in popular areas, like near beaches, lakes or mountains.

Another location tip: think globally when it comes to second-home opportunities, especially if you’re considering a home that you may retire in. Why be bound solely to America, when exotic and low-priced areas of the world also beckon?

Some of the world’s most affordable housing markets — including Canada, the Caribbean and Central America – are all relatively close to the U.S., yet dramatically cheaper. That fact, combined with growing American angst about everything from job security to social security, means that more pre-retirees in particular are expanding their real estate horizons.

A 2010 survey by International Living magazine found that 96 percent of those polled are more likely to move out of the U.S. now than they were in 2009.

Says Elaine Finnegan, events director of InternationalLiving.com, “There seems to be a groundswell of discontent in the U.S., and we’re seeing a record number of people who are ready to vote with their feet and get out while they can still afford to do so.”

It’s a Pity It’s Not Just PITI

Of course, cost is a major consideration when contemplating a second home.

Mortgage interest rates are at historically low levels – around 4.6 percent. However, interest rates on second homes typically run about half a percentage to a full percentage point above rates for your principal residence. Insurance costs can be higher too, particularly if you buy a vacation property in a hurricane-prone locale, such as Florida.

The most important cost consideration, however, is one that most people probably never think about. It’s the overall true cost of owning and maintaining a second home. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the real cost of homeownership for a vacation property, or even a piece of rental real estate.

Common wisdom tells you to think about PITI – Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance – when purchasing a house. With a second home, however, you’ll need to think well beyond those parameters. An additional home could mean that you’ll have to pay for some, or all, of the following:

• Advertising for renters
• Appliances
• Carpets, flooring and rugs
• Chimney servicing
• Fees to a landlord or professional property manager
• Furniture
• Gardening supplies
• Home improvements (additions, renovations and upgrades)
• Lawn care
• Lighting fixtures
• Maintenance
• Moving costs
• Repairs
• Supplemental insurance (earthquake, flood, hurricane or tornado coverage)
• Utilities
• Window treatments

This laundry list of costs represents hidden expenses that all contribute to the true cost of homeownership. You’d be wise to set aside money in a Home Expense Fund each year. Stash away at least 2 percent of your home’s value in order to pay for the items above without going into debt.

Don’t Forget the Tax Man

When you rent out a second home, you’ll have to adhere to strict IRS rules in order to reap the biggest possible tax benefits from your real estate investment. Tax laws concerning second homes are complicated, so you’ll definitely want some professional advice in this area. However, you don’t need an accountant to teach you the basics.

First off, there’s the capital gains exemption. With your primary residence, you are allowed to exclude up to $250,000 in capital gains when you sell your house. The exemption is even larger ($500,000) if you are married. Unfortunately, that same capital gains exemption doesn’t apply when you sell a vacation home. To get the tax break, you’d have to make that vacation property your primary residence for at least two years.

Then there’s what I call the “14 day rule.” This refers to the number of days that you rent out a second home. If it’s 14 days or fewer, you don’t have to report that rental income to the government; thus you don’t pay taxes on that income. The downside, though, is that you can’t write off any expenses you might incur for renting out your property.

If you rent out a second home for more than 14 days, you are legally permitted to deduct expenses. Your deduction is limited if you use the home for personal reasons for more than 14 days a year, or if at least 10% percent of the total rental days are for personal use.

As with most things tax-related, IRS rules can get complex, so be sure to enlist the services of an accountant to minimize your tax burdens – and stay on the right side of the law.
So this holiday season, instead of exchanging presents, maybe you will be exchanging house keys!

information provided by AOL

I’m Brandon Davis, branch manager at Freedom Mortgage and 1st in Reverse. My team and I work hard to make sure our clients get the information they need to make sound decisions about buying a home or investment property or refinancing their existing properties. We decided to start a blog so our clients can have an easy place to go to keep up on news that may affect their purchasing power. We look forward to interacting with our readers.