5 Remodeling Projects with the Lowest Paybacks at Resale


If you want to get the biggest bang for your remodeling buck, replace the entry door to steel, according to the 2014 Cost vs. Value Report, produced by Remodeling Magazine in conjunction with REALTOR® Magazine. The entry door may cost about $1,162 but home owners could potentially recoup 96.6 percent of that at resale, according to the report.

However, not all remodeling projects offer big paybacks at resale. Remodeling Magazine evaluated 35 of the most popular remodeling projects and the potential payback throughout 101 U.S. cities.

While all remodeling projects may be nice to have, home owners may not want to expect as big as of returns from their remodeling dollars with the following:

  1. Home office remodel

Estimated job cost: $28,000

Estimated cost recouped at resale: 48.9%

  1. Sunroom addition

Estimated job cost: $73,546

Estimated cost recouped at resale: 51.7%

  1. Bathroom addition

Estimated job cost: $38,186

Estimated cost recouped at resale: 60.1%

  1. Backup power generator

Estimated job cost: $11,742

Estimated cost recouped at resale: 67.5%

  1. Master suite addition

Estimated job cost: $103,844

Estimated cost recouped at resale: 67.5%

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Sandy Wagner

Short Sale Specialist in Tacoma, WA and Gig Harbor, WA

Helping people find a way out of foreclosure






In today’s market, you usually need up to 10 percent of a home’s purchase price for a down payment. This means a $250,000 home could require $25,000 down plus closing costs. If you saved $1,040 a month for the next 24 months, you’d achieve that goal. On the surface, that may seem impossible—but it’s not. Make some short-term sacrifices now to save for a down payment on a house.

Move to a Smaller Place

Give up that extra bedroom for the short term. If you rent in a premium location, consider moving to a less expensive area. It may take you a little longer to commute, but it won’t be for long. Reduce the amount you are paying in rent by $500, and you will be halfway to your monthly goal.

Take a Part-Time Job

Become a barista at your local coffee shop. Become a yoga instructor at your gym (maybe you can get the gym membership for free). Offer babysitting or pet-sitting services to friends and neighbors. Scour thrift stores and yard sales for great finds, and then sell the items on eBay. Find something you enjoy doing, and then find a way to earn a little money doing it in your spare time.

Cut Expenses

If you don’t have a budget, now is the time to create one. Examine each line item and ask yourself, “What can I do to reduce this amount?”

  • Insurance. Speak with your insurance agent and ask for a quote with several different deductibles. Raising your deductible on your car insurance can lower your premiums.
  • Cable and Internet. Survey your cable bill for charges you can eliminate. Most people don’t need 148 channels. Internet connection is free at the local library or coffee shop.
  • Cell Phone. Unlimited texting is a luxury, not a need. Reconsider your smartphone.
  • Dining Out. Cook dinner at home and prepare enough for tomorrow’s lunch. Make your morning coffee at home. Don’t eat out as much.
  • Gym Membership. Take up a sport. Running, racquetball, tennis and swimming are aerobic and strength-building activities you can do for free.

Maximize Your Windfalls

Financial windfalls (cash gifts, bonuses and tax refunds, for example) tend to get lost in the monthly spending shuffle. Deposit these funds directly into your savings account. If you receive regular structured settlement payments, consider selling your future payments for a lump sum of cash now. You could then put the money toward your down payment.

Agree on a Plan

Once you determine which sacrifices you will make, ensure that everyone affected buys in on the plan. Revisit the plan each month to insure you are on track. Don’t be afraid to talk about the pitfalls or complain about the sacrifices. This is the time to reassure each other you are in it for the long haul. Before you know it, you’ll be discussing paint colors for the living room.

Sandy Wagner

Short Sale Specialist in Tacoma, WA and Gig Harbor, WA

Helping people find a way out of foreclosure



Mortgage Debt Cancellation Tax Relief Information


It is SO important that the Tax Relief Act is extended as there are still many homes underwater and going into foreclosure. Short Sales are better for everyone. The following is the latest information from the National Association of Realtors.

National Association of Realtors Brief

On April 3, 2014 the United States Senate Finance Committee agreed to a bipartisan bill to reinstate close to 50 tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. Among the real estate provisions included in the “extenders” package are tax relief for mortgage debt forgiveness, 15-year cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements, election to expense certain qualified real property, and deduction for energy efficient commercial buildings. All of these provisions are retroactively extended to cover a period from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2015.

NAR has been working on an extension of these provisions since the previous extension was passed on New Years’ Day 2013. While this is an important first step toward having the 2-year extension enacted into law, there some significant hurdles left to overcome.

The extension of the tax relief “costs” money to the Treasury. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that a two-year extension of the mortgage debt cancellation relief would cost $5.4 billion. This will create significant push-back by some Members of Congress and Senators who will insist that amount be offset by raising taxes elsewhere or cuts in spending – an ongoing debate in Congress. Also, the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp has expressed a desire to make some of the “extender” provisions permanent, while allowing other provisions to expire. Reconciling which provisions are extended, for how long, and whether they are paid for, are still issues without consensus between the Senate and the House.

In sum, NAR has been working to pass an extension since the end of 2013. Now that the bill has cleared the Finance Committee, NAR will continue to support the tax “extenders” package as it moves to the Senate floor for what we hope will be a rapid consideration. We are also working with the House of Representatives to take action on these important provisions that will help millions of Americans.

What NAR is doing: NAR lobbyists are in daily meetings with Senators and Members of Congress, pressing for swift action on an extenders package. NAR is providing the most up to date data on short sales and foreclosures to continue to highlight the mortgage debt forgiveness as a top priority for REALTORS®. In addition, NAR is leading a coalition of over 20 organizations that is pressing for extension of mortgage debt forgiveness relief and is engaged in a large coalition of commercial real estate stakeholders in pushing for an extension of commercial investment provisions.

What can you do? First, you can contact your Senators to urge them to act on the Finance Committee Tax Extenders Bill. Second, if you have clients in distressed situations, urge them to do so as well. The more Senators hear from constituents, the better.

NAR cautions REALTORS® against giving clients tax advice, as every situation is different, but at this point our best estimate is that Congress will pass some extension of this law, probably late in 2014, and make it retroactive. There is precedent for Congress doing this, but no guarantee.

Short Sales in Pierce County Washington

If you or someone you know is facing the possibility of foreclosure in Tacoma, Washington, Pierce County you need to understand that you are not alone.

Today, 1 out of every 6 homeowners in America is behind on mortgage payments. These are tough and frustrating times. Now more than ever, it’s important to identify your options. Foreclosure can be avoided, your credit can be saved, and your financial future can be salvaged.

Through my experience handling distressed properties in Tacoma, WA, I’ve found that homeowners today have more questions than answers about their circumstances. I have created a site to help you understand the possible solutions to foreclosure, as well as provide a detailed explanation of short sales, which may be the best course of action for some homeowners.

Sandy Wagner

Short Sale Specialist in Tacoma, WA and Gig Harbor, WA

Helping people find a way out of foreclosure






Short Sales and How to Close Them

Finding Success, Rewards in Short Sales

Short sales keep two agents busy, fulfilled and on top of their game

By Dorota Wright-O’Neill

Tearful clients. Mounds of documents. Endless delays. The aspects that scare many agents away from short sales are precisely the challenges that attract Jane Santiago and Sandy Wagner to this niche.

Angry, Frustrated WomanShort sales nationwide are declining; they made up 7 percent of December 2013 home sales, according to the Campbell/Inside Mortgage FinanceHousingPulse survey. But that’s not the whole picture: As of November 2013, nearly 2 million mortgages were seriously delinquent, according to the quarterly CoreLogic National Foreclosure Report. Many of those delinquent homeowners might be potential short-sale candidates – and potential new leads for skilled RE/MAX agents.

Santiago and Wagner are proof that short sales are still personally gratifying and lucrative.

Santiago estimates that 60 percent of her business at RE/MAX Time in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., comes from short sales. Wagner, who works near Tacoma at RE/MAX Professionals in Gig Harbor, Wash., sometimes can’t believe her own numbers.

“In 2013, I closed 22 short sales. In 2012, I did 24 of them. With the hours and paperwork I’ve put in, that’s like closing 60 regular transactions,” Wagner jokes.

Problem solving  

Ask Santiago and Wagner why they do short sales, and both respond in kind: the personal satisfaction they get from helping struggling owners.

“By the time they call me,” Wagner says of her short sale clients, “they’ve been through so much. It’s very gratifying to help them overcome this hurdle.”

Santiago agrees.

“Short sales are a solution to the serious financial problems my clients are facing,” she says.

Financial adversity is something Santiago understands all too well. Before she became an agent, she found herself underwater with several investment properties.

“When I tell my clients, ‘I know how you feel,’ it’s really true. I’ve been that scared owner who doesn’t know where to get help. My own short sale past really helps build trust with my clients. 

Streamlined, but still bumpy   

Santiago and Wagner began selling short sales several years ago by handling transactions other agents were either too busy, or too reluctant, to take on.

sandy wagnerCertified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) training paved the way to a full-blown specialty, but today their experience of short sales differs.

“They used to take forever,” Santiago says. “But now, many of my short sales close within two months.”

She praises the large Southern California institutions she works with for simplifying their procedures and widely implementing Equator software that helps keep track of short-sale documentation.

In contrast, Wagner’s transactions tend to take four to six months, and some regulations designed to streamline the process instead tend to complicate it.

“I work with two banks that offer quicker cooperative short sales involving less paperwork. But these banks set the list price, and it’s always too high.”

When that happens, Wagner steps in and negotiates – sometimes at length – for a lower price. She’s worked with major lenders to negotiate competitive prices by offering documentation that more accurately reflects nearby comparable sales than the original valuations.

“Agents should always be ready to negotiate with lenders,” Wagner says. “I’ve been able to extend default timelines, and twice even convinced banks to halt a foreclosure because I was close to a sale. You have to be willing to go to bat for your sellers.”

Giving sellers hope

Strong people skills are a must in short sales. Wagner says any agent who works these type of transactions must be part therapist, part Realtor and part teacher.

“Sellers need to have a full understanding of the sale’s ramifications on taxes, their ability to purchase a home in the future and other financial obligations,” says Wagner, who always advises clients to consult an accountant and an attorney before getting started.

Santiago teaches clients to see short sales as a means to an end.

“I emphasize that a short sale is better than foreclosure,” Santiago says. “It’s an opportunity for a clean start and hope for the future.”

These days, both Wagner and Santiago are seeing that hope fulfilled.

“I’m now closing on a home purchase for clients I helped with a short sale in 2010,” Santiago says with pride.

For Wagner, being a problem solver is the best reward of all.

“Working short sales sometimes makes me question my sanity,” she says, “but not my ability.”

Distressed-property training

Learn more about short sales and get your distressed-property training via RE/MAX University. To register, visit Mainstreet, click on the RU tab and select the Designation/Certification option from the drop-down menu.

CDPE – Certified Distressed Property Expert

This very popular course from the Distressed Property Institute can be taken online at a discounted RE/MAX price of $399. It will help you gain an in-depth understanding of the short-sale process.

SFR – Short Sale and Foreclosure Resource

The NAR course, offered through the Real Estate Buyers Agent Council, costs $125 and includes a class, plus three one-hour webinars. In addition to short sales, the SFR also includes training on foreclosures.

Sandy Wagner

Short Sale Specialist in Tacoma, WA and Gig Harbor, WA

Helping people find a way out of foreclosure



Don’t Be the Next Victim of Mortgage Relief Fraud!


It’s a sad but true fact that homeowners in danger of losing their homes are extremely vulnerable to scams. With more and more people in this situation, it has become increasingly common for con artists to devise schemes that take advantage of this vulnerability.

The problem is that the solutions that these fraudsters approach homeowners with almost always have a grain of truth to them. They can sound a lot like the actual solutions that really can help homeowners, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between what is fake and what is real.

That is why it is important to have a trained professional on your side. As a Certified Distressed Property Expert, or CDPE, I am uniquely trained to help you understand the difference between these scams and the real solutions that can actually help you protect your financial future.

Go to my website at http://www.hosted.cdpe.com/sandywagnerhomes and download the free report, entitled, “Mortgage Fraud Alert!” , and then contact me so I can answer any of your questions and help you navigate the process without becoming the next victim.


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Sandy Wagner

Short Sale Specialist – Helping people find a way out of foreclosure



Short Sales Mortgage Debt Relief – Will You Owe Taxes At The End?

Home For Sale Sign in Front of Beautiful New Home

Highlights of Mortgage Debt Relief

  • Exclude up to $2 million of debt forgiven or canceled by a mortgage lender on a main home.
  • Both mortgage restructuring and foreclosures qualify
  • Available for the years 2007 through 2012.
  • Claim the tax relief using IRS Form 982 (PDF)

What is Canceled Debt Income?

Anytime a lender cancels, or forgives, your debt, that is considered income to the debtor. The tax laws considers this income, and the debtor is taxed on forgiven debt unless an exception applies.

Canceled Debt That is Taxable

Anytime a lender cancels or forgives debt, that is usually a taxable event. “Generally, if a debt you owe is canceled or forgiven, other than as a gift or bequest, you must include the canceled amount in your income.”

Debt forgiveness is reported by the lender using Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt. Individuals report the forgiven debt on their Form 1040, Line 21 as other income.

The tax laws provide several exceptions to the tax treatment of forgiven debts. Tax-free treatment of mortgage debt is the most generous and easiest to calculate.

Sandy Wagner

Short Sale Specialist in Tacoma, WA and Gig Harbor, WA

Helping people find a way out of foreclosure



Get Paid to Sell the Home You Can’t Afford!


When the housing market crashed in 2008, millions of homeowners suddenly found themselves in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. To help these homeowners, in 2009 the U.S. Treasury launched the Making Home Affordable (MHA) program, which is comprised of several subprograms designed to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure.

One of the most talked about elements of the MHA program is the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program, or HAFA. The HAFA program creates options for homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than the property is worth and don’t know what to do. Even better, it allows relocation assistance of $3,000 to be paid to eligible homeowners in this situation.

To learn more, you can download my free report entitled “Struggling to Make Your Mortgage? Uncle Sam May Pay You to Sell Your House!”by filling out the form below.

As a real estate professional with the Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) designation, I offer all of my clients the benefit of the best expertise and insights when it comes to foreclosure avoidance.


Congress RENEWS Critical Homeowner Relief Program

Congress RENEWS Critical Homeowner Relief Program

As part of tax bill H.R. 8, which addressed the so called “fiscal cliff,” On January 1, 2013, Congress passed an extension of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007. For distressed homeowners, the extension of this act comes as welcome news, as it means foreclosure alternatives, such as loan modifications and short sales, will continue to be valuable options free of tax penalties on forgiven debt. This report details how the extension of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt
Relief Act will save these homeowners thousands in taxes, and what to do if you or someone you know find yourself facing the possibility of foreclosure. What Is The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act? The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act was originally passed in 2007 to aid the millions of homeowners who suddenly found themselves in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure following the housing market crash. Under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, any debt forgiven in a short sale, foreclosure, or loan modification is exempt from federal taxes.

Here’s how the process worked before the Mortgage

Forgiveness Debt Relief Act:

  • A homeowner found that he or she could no longer afford his or her mortgage. At risk of default and foreclosure, the homeowner was able to negotiate with the bank an option that avoided foreclosure (most likely a short sale or a principle reduction).
  • The bank was legally required to report the amount of debt forgiven or cancelled to the IRS.
  • The IRS labeled this amount as “income.” Even though the homeowner was never given any cash from the bank, it was considered income because it was a credit issued to the borrower from the bank that didn’t previously exist.
  • The homeowner was now responsible for paying income tax on this amount, which could amount to tens of thousands of dollars. With the recent extension of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, eligible homeowners will continue to remain exempt from these taxes, saving them from paying thousands, or even tens of thousands, in taxes on top of losing their homes.

When does the Mortgage Debt Relief Act Expire?
December 31, 2013.

How much debt can be forgiven?
$2 million ($1 million if you are married and filing separately.

Does this apply to any debt that is forgiven?
No, the Mortgage Debt Relief Act applies only to debt forgiven on your primary residence.

Who determines how much debt is forgiven?
The lender is required to report any forgiven debt that is over $600.

Will be reported on my credit?
If a foreclosure was started, then it probably will be, although it will be less impactful than if the foreclosure is completed.

Short Sales Explained

Are you considering a short sale in Pierce County, Washington? A short sale can be an excellent solution for homeowners who need to sell, and who owe more on their homes than they are worth. In the past, it was rare for a bank or lender to accept a short sale. Today, however, due to overwhelming market changes, banks and lenders have become much more negotiable when it comes to these transactions. Recent changes in corporate policy and the Obama administration have also improved the chances of getting a short sale approved.

But to be technical, here’s a more official definition:

  • A homeowner is ‘short’ when the amount owed on his/her property is higher than current market value.
  • A short sale occurs when a negotiation is entered into with the homeowner’s mortgage company (or companies) to accept less than the full balance of the loan at closing. A buyer closes on the property, and the property is then ‘sold short’ of the total value of the mortgage.

For homeowners to qualify for a short sale, they must fall into any or all of the following circumstances:

  • Financial Hardship – There is a situation causing you to have trouble affording your mortgage.
  • Monthly Income Shortfall – In other words: “You have more month than money.” A lender will want to see that you cannot afford, or soon will not be able to afford your mortgage.
  • Insolvency – The lender will want to see that you do not have significant liquid assets that would allow you to pay down your mortgage.

This seems simple enough, but it is a complicated process that takes the expertise of experienced professionals. I hold the CDPE® Designation and am ready to identify all possible options and, when possible, assist in the quick execution of a short sale transaction.

If you have questions or feel you may qualify for a short sale, please contact me for a free consultation.

Understanding your options now could mean all the difference in the world.