January 31, 2012

Decent income, little savings?

Maryland is a high-income state. But it's also got a big share of defaulted mortgages, delinquent loans of all sorts and outsized credit-card debt, according to a new study by the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

What gives? Some of it is probably housing costs. Two-thirds of states have a smaller percentage of "house poor" homeowners, people spending 30 percent or more of their before-tax income on their mortgage, property taxes and other ownership expenses.

But we could probably do better. Sure, if you're between jobs, it's awfully hard to save. And if you've already locked in a high mortgage payment that strains your budget, your options might seem limited. Still, chances are there's something you can do.

Continue reading "Decent income, little savings?" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Savings/downpayment, The foreclosure mess

June 30, 2011

Baltimore offers $10,000 incentive to buyers of formerly vacant rehabs

The $8,000 federal homebuyer tax credit pushed up sales in 2009 and part of 2010. Now Baltimore's housing department is hoping $10,000 toward closing costs and downpayment will drum up as much interest in vacant homes, the city's perennial problem.

The agency plans to officially announce the incentive today -- a total of $500,000 available for the first 50 buyers of Vacants to Value properties. Homeowners can qualify either by finding a recently rehabbed home that the city considers a Vacants to Value property or by purchasing a still-vacant home with a rehab loan such as a 203(k).

Ken Strong, assistant commissioner for green, healthy and sustainable homes at Baltimore Housing, said the city is putting together a list of eligible homes. The program will launch July 1, he said.

The money comes from bond funds intended for homeownership incentives.

"We've had such a slow year -- the housing market has been so depressed -- that some of the money we've set aside for homeownership incentives in the past year have been unspent," Strong said. "Now we want to target them to get real stimulus into Vacants to Value."

The city's Office of Homeownership, 410-396-3124, will handle questions about the program. The money can be used with other incentives, such as Live Near Your Work and Buying into Baltimore.

Buyers, do these sorts of incentives make a difference? I'm curious whether they get people off the fence or change buying patterns. The now-gone federal tax credit was widely seen as encouraging people who would have bought a bit later to speed things up -- at a multi-billion-dollar cost.

UPDATE: Here are more specifics from the city about which homes are eligible:

1. A city-owned vacant house sold since July 1, 2010 and rehabbed for homeownership

2. A city-cited property with a "vacant house" notice since July 1, 2010

3. Any property that has been vacant for a year, as long as the evidence of that -- from the seller and/or buyer -- is acceptable to the city

April 28, 2011

1 in 3 say their financial situation is getting worse, not better

A third of Americans say their finances are in worse shape now than they were 12 months ago, and few are comfortable with their level of debt, according to a new survey.

I figured you all would be interested, since you need savings -- absent lots of downpayment assistance from other sources -- to buy a home.

Quick poll: Is your financial situation better than it was a year ago?

This week's guest poster argues that the echo boom generation, which includes everyone in their 20s, is (as a group) in no financial shape to buy a house -- and might be uninterested even when/if savings improve.

That's sparked an interesting conversation. Pigtown girl, for instance, says she and her siblings are all echo boomers and have very different perspectives on homeownership: "My one sister & I see real estate as an investment if done properly & my other two sisters see it as a ball & chain to the area."

Continue reading "1 in 3 say their financial situation is getting worse, not better" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Savings/downpayment
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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
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