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The holiday season is a time for celebration and giving gifts to family and friends, but it is also a time when safety can sometimes take a back seat due to the rush and excitement of the season. People become careless and vulnerable to theft and holiday scams.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® shares the following information to keep you, your family and your home safe and secure during the holiday season:

  • Keep the outside of your home well-lit. When you leave your home, place your inside lights on timers to make it appear occupied.
  • Make sure you always lock the front door. Also, be aware that criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts.
  • When putting up decorations make sure you use a sturdy ladder or step stool. Do not stand on a chair or other furniture.
  • Outdoor holiday lights add to the season’s festivities. Use lights that are certified for outdoor use and in good condition.
  • Do not overload wall outlets and extension cords when using outdoor or indoor lights.
  • If you have a live Christmas tree, cut two inches off the trunk and mount the tree on a sturdy stand. Keep the tree well-supplied with water and away from candles or a fireplace. If you use an artificial tree, choose one that is labeled as fire resistant.
  • Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle. Make sure candles are on stable surfaces.
  • If you plan on using the fireplace, make sure it is clean. The chimney and fireplace should be checked at least once a year.
  • Don’t place gifts under the Christmas tree where burglars can see them. Place a blanket over the presents, so they are not in full view of a window.
  • Poinsettias, holly berries and mistletoe spruce up your home during the holiday season, but remember these plants are toxic. Keep them away from children and pets.
  • After the holidays, do not advertise your gifts by leaving the boxes at the curb for garbage collection. Take the big boxes to the recycling center.
  • Many people are in a giving mood during the holidays and will donate money to charities. Do not become a victim of holiday charity scams. Do not give your personal information to strangers.
  • When shopping at malls, park in a well-lit area. Be aware of your surroundings. Do not leave packages visible in your car.
  • If you plan on traveling during the holidays, do not post your travel plans online. Stop your mail delivery, or have a friend or trusted neighbor pick up your mail daily and check on your house, as well.

Items that can keep your friends and family safe year-round make great gifts. Some holiday gift suggestions include smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, escape ladders, first aid kits, earthquake kit, automobile safety kit, flashlights and portable radios.

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will no longer insure mortgages on homes that carry Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans.

The PACE program allows homeowners to borrow money to finance energy upgrades for their home. The loan is then repaid as a surcharge on the property tax. The loan travels with the house and is transferred to the buyer upon purchase.

Though PACE loans are a way to finance important energy upgrades, such as double-pane windows, insulation, solar panels, etc., they have some very real risks. The PACE loan takes primary position to the mortgage. If a homeowner takes out a PACE loan without finding out whether their mortgage holder allows them to do so, they could be in automatic default of their mortgage. They may also have difficulty refinancing or selling their home if the new mortgage holder does not allow for PACE loans. Under these situations, they would need to pay off the loan in full before proceeding.

Last year, HUD announced that the FHA would begin insuring mortgages that carry liens created by the PACE program. The decision was reversed last week because the FHA has become concerned about the impact of the PACE liens and potential losses to the FHA’s flagship fund, the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund, due to the priority lien status given to these assessments in case of default and the lack of consumer protections associated with the origination of the PACE assessment.

As both the House and Senate sharpen their vision for tax reform, REALTORS® want to ensure homeownership is protected throughout the tax reform debate.

“We are watching closely for changes to current law that might leave middle-class homeowners – and homeownership broadly – in a worse place than it is today,” said National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “A near doubling of the standard deduction, combined with the elimination of other deductions, like the state and local tax deduction, can turn the American dream into a nightmare for families, as the rug is pulled out from under them. Simply preserving the mortgage interest deduction in name only isn’t enough to protect homeownership.” Now that both the House and Senate have passed their own versions of The Tax Cut and Jobs Act, a Conference Committee will address the differences between both bills and come up with a final version of a tax reform bill. It could happen anytime next week, as their goal is to vote on the bill by the end of the week.

NAR is asking Congress to support the following provisions for inclusion in the final legislation:
Mortgage Interest Deduction: Retain current law to maintain a total cap of $1 million on primary first and second homes.

Capital Gains Exemption: Retain current law of exempting gains of up to $250,000 for single filers and $500,000 for joint filers for primary residence lived in for two of the past five years of ownership.

State and Local Tax Deductibility: The limitation of deductibility to property taxes should be expanded to include state and local income taxes and the cap should be increased and indexed to inflation These provisions would add needed protection to current and future homeowners and strengthen the ability of qualified American families to purchase a home.

Denise Welsh, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, emphasized it is important to keep homeownership intact for everyone who wishes to purchase a home. “Let’s not let tax reform quash the American dream of homeownership. While the bill reduces taxes on average in every income group, we have grave concerns that with the elimination of the state and local tax deductions and limiting property tax deductions, millions would still see their taxes go up and home values would drop,” said Welsh.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced this week that it will raise the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2018 to $453,100 on one-unit properties and a cap of $679,650 in high-cost areas. The previous loan limits were $424,100 and $636,150, respectively. This is the second straight year and the second time that the FHFA has raised the conforming loan limits since 2006.

The conforming loan limit determines the maximum size of a mortgage that Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy or guarantee. Non-conforming or jumbo loans typically carry a higher mortgage interest rate than conforming loans, increasing monthly payments and negatively impacting affordability for families to purchase homes.

The FHFA decided to raise the conforming loan limits due to rising home values. In most of the country, the 2018 maximum loan limit for one-unit properties will be $453,100. In high-cost areas like Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and most counties in the Bay Area, the cap will be $679,650. Maximum loan limits for 2018 are up in all but 71 counties or county equivalents in the U.S., according to the FHFA. For a list of the 2018 maximum loan limits for all counties and county-equivalent areas in the U.S. click here.

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2017 Los Gatos/Saratoga District Chair Mary Kay Groth passes the gavel on to 2018 District Chair Ryan Nunnally.a caption

 

Ryan Nunnally, a REALTOR® with Keller Williams Bay Area Estates, was installed on Wednesday night as 2018 chair of SILVAR’s Los Gatos-Saratoga District. More than 90 SILVAR members and guests attended the District’s annual Holiday Reception and Installation held at La Rinconada Golf & Country Club in Los Gatos. The evening also gave members an opportunity to celebrate the year’s achievements and welcome the holiday season.

2017 District Chair Mary Kay Groth welcomed everyone and before relinquishing the position, mentioned she was very grateful for the opportunity to have served the District and glad she had stepped up and got involved in organized real estate. Groth urged SILVAR members to get involved and heed the Calls for Action from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.).

“It’s good we stay involved as REALTORS®. Please answer the Call for Actions because it is important to our business,” said Groth.

Noting getting involved in organized real estate, while it has many rewards, is also a time commitment, Groth thanked the members of this year’s District Council for helping her with the tour meetings and events this year. They include Alan Barbic, Shawn Carroll, Pelin Erdal, Eileen Giorgi, Audrey Hutton, Nunnally, David Tonna and Suzanne Yost.

Then, in keeping with the District’s tradition, past District chairs who were present were asked to come forward and pass the gavel on to the incoming District chair. The gavel was passed from Marlene Rodman to Jeff Barnett, Dennis Byron, David Tonna, Mark Von Kaenel, Karen Trolan, Alan Barbic, Suzanne Yost, and on to Groth, who then handed it to Nunnally.

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