Real estate briefs

Home buyers with bad credit get help from the FHA

The Federal Housing Administration is making it easier for people who have experienced a bankruptcy, foreclosure or short sale to once again qualify for a mortgage.

A new FHA program will help people who have such a blotch on their credit history, but who have recovered financially and repaired their credit. These people must now wait only one year to get an FHA-backed loan, rather than the three years they had to wait previously.

To qualify, borrowers must show that (1) the bankruptcy or foreclosure was caused by losing their job or by some other loss of income that was out of their control, (2) their incomes have recovered, and (3) they have gone through a mortgage counseling program.

Apartment vacancies are down; rents are up slightly

The percentage of apartments that are vacant is at the lowest level in more than a decade, according to a study by research company Reis Inc.

Only 4.2% of the nation’s apartments were unoccupied in the third quarter of 2013, the study showed. That’s the lowest rate since the third quarter of 2001. Back in 2009, the vacancy rate was 8%.

Despite the tight market for apartments, average rents increased only about 3% over the same time last year, according to Reis. That’s surprising, because rents would normally be expected to increase more than that at a time when vacancies are so low.

Nationally, the lowest vacancy rate was in New Haven, Connecticut, at 2%. The highest rate was in Memphis, Tennessee, with 8.2%.

The highest monthly rents in the U.S. were in New York City, which averaged $3,049. The lowest were in Wichita, Kansas, which averaged $529.

Same-sex marriage ruling will affect real estate taxes

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act will give a tax break to married same-sex couples who own a home.

Under federal law, when a home that has appreciated in value is sold, the first $250,000 of any capital gains is tax-free. This amount is $500,000 for a married couple – and as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the $500,000 exemption will now apply to sales by married same-sex couples.

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