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Master bedroom walk-in-closets and laundry rooms are the top features that builders are most likely to include in a new home this year, according to a survey of builders conducted by the National Association of Home Builders.

“Both features speak to improving organization and storage characteristics of new homes,” according to NAHB on its Eye on Housing blog.

Greater energy efficiency amenities also were ranked higher, with low-E windows coming in No. 3 on the most likely amenity list on new homes. Energy Star-rated appliances and windows as well as a programmable thermostat also ranked high.

The following were ranked as the most likely features and amenities to be included on an average single-family home in 2015:

  • Walk-in closet in master bedroom
  • Laundry room
  • Low-E windows
  • Great room (kitchen/family room/living room)
  • Energy Star-rated windows
  • Ceiling height on the first floor of 9 feet or more
  • 2-car garage
  • Programmable thermostat
  • Granite countertop in the kitchen
  • Central island in the kitchen
  • Bathroom linen closet
  • Front porch

Many homeowners who have lingered on the sidelines for years are finally ready to stake a for sale sign in their yards, boding well for purchase activity for the remainder of the year. Sellers are encouraged by increased job and income growth, according to Fannie Mae’s most recent 2015 National Housing Survey.

The share of Americans surveyed who say now is a good time to sell reached a new high in the latest survey, increasing three percentage points to 52 percent. It’s the first time the metric had crossed the 50 percent threshold in the survey’s history.

The number of Americans who say they expect home rental prices to rise in the next 12 months also reached an all-time survey high, at 59 percent.

Jumping In

“With an increase in housing supply from those ready to sell, combined with higher rental cost expectations, more potential home buyers may be encouraged to leave the sidelines,” according to Fannie Mae’s survey.

The limited inventory of homes for sale that has plagued many markets has been putting upward pressure on home prices. It may also be signaling an increasing advantage to sellers. Also, renters are facing rising costs.

“Together, these results point to a healthier home purchase market, with more renters likely to find owning to be more cost-effective than renting and more sellers likely to put their homes on the market,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae.

February 2013 (with updates through to 2015) — This entry discusses the Federal estate tax and certain changes brought about by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

Background

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 ("American Taxpayer Relief Act") was signed into law by President Obama on January 2, 2013. The American Taxpayer Relief Act modified and made permanent certain provisions of prior Acts that dealt with the Federal estate tax: the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 ("EGTRRA"), which was set to expire on December 31, 2010, and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the "2010 Tax Act"), which extended and modified provisions of EGTRRA, and which was set to expire on December 31, 2012.

Beginning in 2002, EGTRRA gradually reduced the Federal estate tax rate and increased the amount of the Federal exclusion in steps. Under EGTRRA, in 2010, the Federal estate tax would have been repealed entirely. Under EGTRRA's "sunset" provisions, the pre-EGTRRA 55% estate tax rate and a $1 million exclusion were scheduled to return in 2011.

The 2010 Tax Act revived the Federal estate tax for decedents dying after December 31, 2009. However, the maximum tax rate was lower (35%) and the exclusion amount was higher ($5,000,000) than the amounts that would have been applied under the scheduled EGTRRA expiration. The $5 million basic exclusion is adjusted for inflation after 2011. These rates and exclusion amounts were scheduled to expire on December 31, 2012.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act provides for a maximum Federal estate tax rate of 40% for decedents dying after December 31, 2012, and continues the $5 million basic exclusion, plus inflation adjustments, for tax years after 2011. Unlike the prior laws, these rates and amounts are not scheduled to expire.

Although the following could apply anywhere along our open bays, marshlands and/or estuaries, we'll pretend it actually occurred along the Metedeconk.

The house and land were picturesque, material suitable for a New Jersey Shore vacation postcard.  The property was purchased in the late 1960's for cash.  The owners, now empty nesters, decided to sell and accordingly listed it with a local Realtor.  Soon thereafter an offer, sizeable in amount, was tendered and much to the delight of the sales agent involved it was accepted.  The closing process was expedited to accommodate the anxiousness of all parties involved especially the buyer who constantly had visions of parking his power boat next to the 16 foot dock extending into the Metedeconk.

And then the bad news arrived!