Happy Third of July! Here are three hot real estate items: on fireworks and homeowners insurance; on making it easier for people with student loans to qualify for a mortgage; and on the gazillion dollars (OK, just billions) worth of property in Oklahoma County.
Fireworks at home and insurance
From Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready, something I’d never thought about since my place-on-ground-light-fuse-and-get-away days are pretty much behind me:
“Any injuries caused by fireworks to yourself or your family will likely be covered under your health insurance,” he wrote in a column. “In addition, your homeowners insurance would cover any injuries caused to someone else.
“Usually, the liability will pay that person’s medical bills and legal expenses up to the policy’s limits. Always check with your insurance agent to understand your policy coverage.”
But, as for your house, beware damaging it with fireworks if they’re illegal where you live.
“While most people know fireworks can be unsafe, many assume homeowners insurance will cover any damage they cause. There are always exceptions,” Mulready wrote. “Fireworks are illegal in most towns and cities in Oklahoma, so you need to check if your policy excludes fireworks-related coverage.
“Homeowners’ policies typically exclude damages caused by illegal activities and may exclude coverage for fireworks completely. Check with your insurer to see if you are adequately covered for liability and damage to your home resulting from the use of fireworks.”
Home loans easier for student loan borrowers
Scott Senner, senior loan officer at InterLinc Mortgage in Edmond, alerted me to this change in how the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department lets lenders calculate student loan payments when qualifying borrowers for home loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration:
“In recognition of the expanding student loan payment plan alternatives offered by the U.S. Department of Education, including plans with variable amortization schedules based upon Borrower’s income, HUD is adjusting the policy options available for calculating the monthly obligation of student loan liabilities,” HUD said in a June 17 letter to lenders. “These changes seek to further HUD’s mission of providing access to credit, while ensuring Borrowers maintain a long-term ability to repay their debt.”
The letter spells out the details:
“For outstanding Student Loans, regardless of payment status, the Mortgagee (lender) must use the payment amount reported on the credit report or the actual documented payment, when the payment amount is above zero; or 0.5% of the outstanding loan balance, when the monthly payment reported on the Borrower’s credit report is zero.”
Senner likes it.
“This is a really, really big deal (in a good way) because it will significantly lower the payment amount a lender will have to use for qualifying,” he said. “If a person is on an income-based repayment plan, which results in a much lower than normal payment, we can now use that lower payment for qualifying. For a lot of people, this will make the difference between qualifying for a home and not.”
That’s $73 billion-with-a-B in property value
You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma County property owners and taxpayers.
Property values increased 2.2% the past year to $73 billion, County Assessor Larry Stein said in reporting his annual filing of the abstract for the county with the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
“An abstract of our county is the foundational document which contains information needed by public schools, cities and towns and other beneficiaries of property taxes,” Stein said. “The data is used to prepare budgets for Oklahoma County schools, some of the 19 cities and towns that benefit from those funds and the essential services provided by the county. More than 72 cents of every publicly funded property tax dollar goes for K-12 education and technology centers.”
He noted that the value of property in the county has more than doubled in the past 15 years.
“In 2005, the total value of all the property in Oklahoma County was around $32.6 billion. That is an increase of more than 123% in the last 16 years,” he said. “Because of the constitutional limitations on real property first passed by voters in 1996, Oklahoma County residents have saved more than $1 billion in property taxes.”
Real Estate Editor Richard Mize edits The Oklahoman’s Real Estate section, and covers housing, construction, commercial real estate, and related topics for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a subscription at http://subscribe.oklahoman.com.