What's the outlook for home prices?

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate.com

Twenty-thirteen was a banner year for home prices, which shot up in many areas, making sellers happy and buyers not so much. Housing economists now say prices will continue to rise in 2014, though at a more modest and sustainable pace.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, said sales of existing homes increased 20 percent and prices gained 18 percent over the last two years, cumulatively.

Sales are expected to top out at 5.13 million in 2013 and, to use Yun's words, "hold fairly even at about 5.12 million in 2014."

4 tips to survive a bank heist

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate.com

Suppose you're in a bank branch when it gets robbed. Should you hit the ground and stay quiet? Confront the robbers? Try to take a photo or summon help?

While every situation is different and no one knows in advance how they'll react, the best advice for bank customers is to not do anything that might put themselves or others at greater risk of harm, says Doug Johnson, vice president of risk management policy at the American Bankers Association, a trade organization in Washington, D.C.

"It's important for individuals not to try to be heroes, not to panic, and to do anything the robber tells them to do, which is reasonable," Johnson says. "Certainly, they should not try to take pictures or try to be part of the solution to the crime. You do not want to draw attention to yourself in any way, shape or form."

Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/banking/tips-surviving-bank-robbery-1.aspx

Homeowner tax breaks set to expire

By Marcie Geffner - HSH.com

Homeowners enjoy a number of preferences in the federal tax code. But three of those preferences expire on Dec. 31, 2013.

"There may be fewer homeowner tax breaks in 2014, unless the expiring provisions are extended," explained Mildred Carter, senior federal tax analyst at CCH Tax & Accounting, a Wolters Kluwer company in Riverwoods, Ill. "These include the itemized deduction for mortgage insurance premiums, the residential energy property credit and the exclusion from gross income for discharge of qualified principal residence indebtedness."

Read more: http://www.hsh.com/finance/mortgage/tax-breaks-homeowners-expire-2013.html

How to make investing less scary

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate.com

Investors naturally tend to focus on the return they expect to receive from a financial strategy or investment. But that single-mindedness can be a huge mistake because it ignores the impact of risk.

Too much risk can lead to what Arlen Olberding, owner of Guidepost Financial Planning in Fort Collins, Colo., describes as "inappropriate responses," such as buying too aggressively when the stock market is overheated or selling in a panic when the stock market takes a dive.

"Make sure you're aware of what you're buying, how much risk you're taking and what you're comfortable with," Olberding says.

Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/investing/investment-risk-how-to-lessen.aspx

How to refinance a house you're renting out

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate.com

Buying a home is an attractive proposition in these days of low mortgage interest rates and fallen house prices. But if you want to buy a new home while renting out the old house, you could face a glitch. It might be hard to refinance a house that you're renting out.

That's because "things change when you're no longer dealing with a primary residence," warns Ben Chenault Jr., regional manager at Fairway Independent Mortgage in Birmingham, Ala.

Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/refinance/refinance-house-renting-out-1.aspx

Buying a home during holiday season

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

The year-end holiday season is a good time for gift-exchanging, entertaining and general merriment. But what about buying a house? Should you try to do that in November or December, too?

If you're not picky about the home you intend to buy, the answer might be yes.

Sellers tend to avoid the end of the year due to the short days, wintry weather and conventional wisdom that says buyers are otherwise occupied, says Tim Deihl, associate broker at Gibson Sotheby's International Realty in Boston. But those who do choose to sell at year-end are often under pressure and highly motivated to cut a deal.

Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/5-reasons-to-buy-a-home-during-holidays-1.aspx

6 tips for boomerang home buyers

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate.com

Folks in the housing biz love people who want to buy homes. And these days, many real estate and mortgage brokers feel especially fond of so-called rebound or boomerang buyers: people who lost a home to foreclosure, but are now ready to buy again.

The chief attraction is strong motivation, says Kent Temple, broker/owner of Keller Williams Realty -- The Temple Team in Mooresville, N.C.

"If you've been through a foreclosure, you've already been a homeowner," Temple says. "You know what it's about. You know the process. You've been through hell sometime in the last seven years, and if you really want to buy a house, you are so willing to do whatever it takes."

With that in mind, here's a look at what rebound buyers need to know before buying a home after foreclosure.

Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/tips-boomerang-buyers-homes-1.aspx