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Tax proposal could carry high costs for many homeowners

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Whether you already own a home or are thinking of purchasing, the new tax legislation pending before Congress poses serious questions: Am I going to get smacked with punitive new taxes? Will the value of my home decrease because previous real estate tax benefits have been stripped away? Or am I one of the lucky ones, well insulated...Read more

Less-stringent standards open options for home buyers

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Here's an important question for anyone hoping to buy a home next year but who isn't quite confident about qualifying for a mortgage: Is it true that lenders have eased up on certain key requirements, making it simpler for first-time buyers and others who can't pass all the strict tests to get approved?

The good news answer is yes...Read more

Equifax breach already taking a toll on consumers

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- The scenario that personal finance and credit experts feared most about the heist of consumer data from Equifax may already be underway: Criminals are using the stolen information to apply for mortgages, credit cards, student loans, tapping into bank debit accounts, filing insurance claims and racking up substantial debts, ...Read more

Homeowners: Don't panic yet over Senate tax overhaul

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- If you hoped that Senate Republicans would treat homeowners and buyers more kindly in their tax overhaul plans than their colleagues did in the House, you were an optimist. It didn't happen.

In fact, the Senate tax bill released last week is harsher on residential real estate in some areas than the House version, with two notable ...Read more

Hidden costs for homeowners in latest tax bill

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- The message sent by Republicans in the tax overhaul bill they launched last week is unmistakable and blunt: We think homeowners and buyers have gotten much too sweet a deal from the federal tax code for far too long -- and now we're going to whack them down. No other major sector of the economy gets hit so hard in the proposal in ...Read more

FBI: Home buyers' billion-dollar scam problem getting worse

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- In this year of horrendous cyberheists -- Equifax the most prominent -- you've probably taken at least a few precautions: changed passwords, stopped opening files and links from unknown senders, upgraded your computer security measures, maybe put a freeze on your credit reports.

But if you're buying a house and heading to ...Read more

Mortgage interest, property taxes in play in tax bill

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- The political jostling and frenetic lobbying on Capitol Hill over the Republican tax overhaul bill are producing unexpected developments that could prove important to home owners, sellers and buyers.

The drafting of legislative language is a work in progress behind closed doors, but it appears that there have been some key changes...Read more

Shop around for title insurance

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- A recent legal settlement between the federal government and a title insurance agency is drawing fresh attention to one of the murkiest, least understood and costly items you get charged for in a real estate closing: title insurance.

You are hardly alone if, like many buyers and mortgage borrowers, you didn't shop for the lowest ...Read more

Protect yourself against rising risk of mortgage fraud

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Fraud in connection with home mortgages is on the rise, ranging from little white lies about the intended use of the property all the way up to much more sophisticated schemes.

But what, you ask, does this have to do with me? Maybe more than you think, especially if you end up on the wrong end of it and have no clue about what's ...Read more

Tax overhaul plan poses big unknowns for homeowners

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- If you've been pondering how you as a home owner or buyer might fare under the new Republican tax overhaul plan, here are a few points to consider.

Although the tax proposal got fattened up a little over the summer -- moving from a White House "outline" of barely one page to a "framework" now consisting of nine pages -- there's ...Read more

Government cracks down on refi scheme targeting veterans

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Federal officials plan to crack down on what they view as predatory lending schemes -- reminiscent of the toxic practices seen during the housing boom -- targeted at thousands of veterans nationwide who have VA home loans.

The abuses involve serial refinancings that generate hefty fees for lenders and loan brokers but leave ...Read more

Protect yourself against lasting damage from Equifax theft

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to Equifax news, Ken Harney is writing this column for this week and taking off next week's column instead.

WASHINGTON -- The catastrophic theft of 143 million consumers' personal data from national credit bureau Equifax could cause financial grief for years for homebuyers and mortgage applicants.

The odds are that some of ...Read more

Wells Fargo accused of unwarranted "rate lock" fees

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Wells Fargo & Co., the controversy-battered big bank, has a new problem -- this time directly affecting mortgage applicants. Last week a first-time home buyer filed a class action suit against the company, alleging widespread abuse of a procedure well known to most mortgage borrowers: Interest rate "locks."

The suit alleges that ...Read more

Appraisal-free home sales draw mixed reviews

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Would you welcome the option to buy a house but not have to pay hundreds of dollars for an appraisal?

Are you kidding? Sign me up, you might say. Who doesn't want to save $500 or $700 for someone to confirm that the price you and the home seller agreed to makes sense? Appraisals are mainly for lenders, right?

If an appraisal-free...Read more

What's it take to be in the home equity elite?

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- Americans readily gossip about home values -- "Did you hear the crazy high price the house down the street sold for?" "Did you hear how little our neighbors were forced to take on their sale?"

But people are much more reticent when it comes to home equity, which is not surprising: Prices and assessed values are public information....Read more

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