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Survey Says


Money and Home
THE BAD NEWS
Rising Costs Impact Buying Power

One in three Americans worries that rising monthly payments—especially taxes and energy costs—will force them to sell their home and buy a less expensive one, according to the most recent National Housing Opportunity Pulse survey by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

The survey also found that, by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans believe that a high monthly payment rather than a high down payment is the greatest obstacle to buying a home. The rise in property taxes is the leading concern associated with owning a home (34 percent), followed by increasing electrical, fuel and other energy costs (28 percent). Only 14 percent say rising mortgage interest rates would keep them from becoming homeowners.

“It’s clear America is facing a crisis in housing opportunities, with nearly two-thirds of families concerned about being able to find a home they both like and can afford,” says 2006 NAR President Thomas M. Stevens. “Many families are struggling to meet the high cost of homeownership, and increasingly those costs are property taxes and energy utilities.”

In 2003, the average monthly mortgage principal and interest payment was $840. In 2005, this figure increased by 23.8 percent, to $1,040 monthly. In the past year alone, the average monthly mortgage principal and interest payment has gone up 11.5 percent—from $1,015 in April 2005 to $1,132 in April 2006. State and local property taxes for the 2004 fiscal year averaged $1,121 per household, up 14.9 percent from 2003, when the average was $985, and 16.8 percent higher than the $969 average for 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more information, go to NAR’s Web site at www.realtor.org.

THE GOOD NEWS
Florida Market Looks Bright

Demand from foreign buyers and retiring baby boomers will continue to fuel the housing market in the Sunshine State, National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Chief Economist David Lereah told attendees at the 2006 International Real Estate Congress and Expo in Miami this summer.

Noting that foreigners currently account for 15 percent of homebuyers statewide, Lereah says the U.S. import-export boom, a weak dollar and political unrest in Latin America will continue to lure foreign buyers to Florida.

Meanwhile, the recent 2006 State of the Nation’s Housing report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies highlights the significant contribution that people who are foreign born and those who are minorities will make to overall household growth.

“Strong household growth,combined with record incomes and wealth, will lift housing investments to new highs next decade,” says Eric Belsky, executive director of Harvard’s Joint Center. “Each generation is achieving higher homeownership rates, incomes and wealth than the [previous] one.”

Researchers estimate household growth will accelerate to 14.6 million over the next 10 years, from 12.6 million over the last decade. For more information, go to www.jchs.harvard.edu.

Florida News
Florida Cities Growing Strong

Two Florida cities made the top five for the U.S. Census Bureau’s fastest-growing cities in the United States (with populations of 100,000 or more) from 2004 to 2005. Port St. Lucie ranked No. 3 and Cape Coral came in at No. 5. Rounding out the top five are Elk Grove, Calif. (No. 1), North Las Vegas, Nev. (No. 2) and Gilbert, Ariz. (No. 4).

For more information, check out the Census Bureau’s Web site.

Florida's Just Beachy

It’s hot, sweaty work, but someone has to do it. Once again, Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a.k.a. Dr. Beach, has combed the beaches—from the Keys to the Hawaiian Isles—in search of the 10 best in the United States.

Two Florida beach areas made the top 10: No. 2, Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, and No. 10, Barefoot Beach Park, Bonita Springs Park.

Here are the rest of Leatherman’s top picks for 2006: Fleming Beach Park, Maui, Hawaii (No. 1); Ocracoke Island, Outer Banks, N.C. (No. 3); Coopers Beach, Southampton, N.Y. (No. 4); Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii (No. 5); Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y. (No. 6); Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass. (No. 7); Coronado Beach, San Diego, Calif. (No. 8); and Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii (No. 9). For more information, check out www.drbeach.org.

Taxes
Never Too Late

Months after Florida taxpayers struggled with the issue of how to deduct property losses in the wake of Hurricane Wilma, the IRS has issued guidelines that could help residents who filed extensions for their 2005 tax returns (due in October) or taxpayers who want to file amended returns. The notice says the IRS wouldn’t challenge the value individuals put on their return for the loss of personal residential real estate and belongings as long as they follow one of the “safe harbor” methods outlined in Revenue Procedure 2006-32.

The IRS broadly allows taxpayers to deduct casualty losses based on a decrease in fair market value of a property.

Visit the IRS online at www.irs.gov and search on the keywords “Revenue Procedure 2006-32,” which leads to a document titled “IRS Issues Guidance to Hurricane Victims Claiming Casualty Losses; Safe Harbor Methods.”