Article From BuyAndSell.HouseLogic.com
By: G. M. Filisko
Published: September 01, 2010
Homebuyer incentives can be smart marketing or a waste of money. Find out when and how to use them
Be sure you’re sending the right message to buyers when you throw in a homebuyer incentive to encourage them to purchase your home.
When you’re selling your home, the idea of adding a sweetener to the transaction-whether it’s a decorating allowance, a home warranty, or a big-screen TV-can be a smart use of marketing funds. To ensure it’s not a big waste, follow these dos and don’ts:
Do use homebuyer incentives to set your home apart from close competition. If all the sale properties in your neighborhood have the same patio, furnishing yours with a luxury patio set and stainless steel BBQ that stay with the buyers will make your home stand out.
Do compensate for flaws with a homebuyer incentive. If your kitchen sports outdated floral wallpaper, a $3,000 decorating allowance may help buyers cope. If your furnace is aging, a home warranty may remove the buyers’ concern that they’ll have to pay thousands of dollars to replace it right after the closing.
Don’t assume homebuyer incentives are legal. Your state may ban homebuyer incentives, or its laws may be maddeningly confusing about when the practice is legal and not. Check with your real estate agent and attorney before you offer a homebuyer incentive.
Don’t think buyers won’t see the motivation behind a homebuyer incentive. Offering a homebuyer incentive may make you seem desperate. That may lead suspicious buyers to wonder what hidden flaws exist in your home that would force you to throw a freebie at them to get it sold. It could also lead buyers to factor in your apparent anxiety and make a lowball offer.
Don’t use a homebuyer incentive to mask a too-high price. A buyer may think your expensive homebuyer incentive-like a high-end TV or a luxury car-is a gimmick to avoid lowering your sale price. Many top real estate agents will tell you to list your home at a more competitive price instead of offering a homebuyer incentive. A property that’s priced a hair below its true value will attract not only buyers but also buyers’ agents, who’ll be giddy to show their clients a home that’s a good value and will sell quickly.
If you’re convinced a homebuyer incentive will do the trick, choose one that adds value or neutralizes a flaw in your home. Addressing buyers’ concerns about your home will always be more effective than offering buyers an expensive toy.
Article From HouseLogic.com
By: Mike DeSenne
Published: February 22, 2010
From energy tax credits to vacation home deductions, check out these tax tips for homeowners looking ahead to 2010 returns.
Tax planning for homeowners should start well in advance of the April 15 filing deadline each year. If you delay until the last minute, it might be too late to maximize tax credits and tax deductions. These tax tips for homeowners looking ahead to 2010 returns explain some of the things you can do now that’ll pay off later on your 1040.
Take a day to formulate a tax plan for the year. Depending on your circumstances, you might want to take advantage of energy tax credits or max out your vacation home deductions. The “What’s New in 2010” section of IRS Publication 17 (http://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/index.html) offers a sneak peek at tax changes that might affect homeowners.
Claim remaining energy tax credits
It’s time to get cracking if you didn’t exhaust your full allotment of residential energy tax credits (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/claim-your-residential-energy-tax-credits/) during 2009. Although tax credits for big projects like residential wind turbines and solar energy systems have no upper limit and are good through 2016, energy tax credits capped at $1,500 expire at the end of 2010. Eligible capped projects include new windows and doors, insulation, roofing, water heaters, HVAC, and biomass stoves.
Here’s how it works with capped federal credits: You can earn energy tax credits worth 30% of the cost of qualifying improvements (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index), but the total tax credits can’t exceed $1,500 combined for 2009 and 2010. So if you only took, say, $700 worth of capped energy credits on your 2009 tax return, you’re still due for another $800 in credits in 2010. Some projects include the cost of installation–a furnace, for example–while others, such as insulation, are limited to the cost of materials.
Max out tax benefits of a vacation home
Use a vacation home wisely, and it’ll provide a break from taxes as well as the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The rules on tax deductions for vacation homes (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/tax-deductions-vacation-homes/) can get a bit tricky, but understanding and adhering to them can yield many happy tax returns.
If your vacation home is truly a vacation home meant for your personal enjoyment, as opposed to a rental-only income property, you can usually deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes, just as you would on your main home. You can even rent out the home for up to 14 days during the year without getting taxed on the rental income. Not bad.
Now, let’s say you want to rent out your vacation home for more than 14 days in 2010, but also use it yourself from time to time. To maximize the tax benefits, you need to keep tabs on how many days you use your vacation home. By restricting your annual personal use to fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), you can treat your vacation home as a rental-only income property for tax purposes.
Why is that a big deal? In addition to mortgage interest and real estate taxes, rental-only income properties are eligible for a slew of other tax deductions for everything from utilities and condo fees to housecleaning and repairs. Deductions are limited once personal use exceeds 14 days (or 10% of total rental days), so get out your calendar now to strategically plot your vacations.
Take advantage of tax breaks for the military
In salute to members of the armed forces serving overseas who want to purchase a home, the IRS is extending a lucrative tax perk for military personnel (http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=215594,00.html). If you spent at least 90 days abroad performing qualified duty between Jan. 1, 2009, and April 30, 2010, you have an extra year to earn a homebuyer tax credit. In addition to uniformed service members, workers in the Foreign Service and in the intelligence community are eligible.
Thanks to this extension of the homebuyer tax credit (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/claim-your-homebuyer-tax-credits/), qualifying military personnel have until April 30, 2011, to sign a contract on a new home. The deal must close before July 1, 2011. Just like non-military buyers, first-time homebuyers can earn a tax credit worth up to $8,000, and longtime homeowners can earn a credit of up to $6,500. The same income restrictions and $800,000 cap on home prices apply.
Military personnel can also get a break if official duty calls and they’re forced to move for an extended period. Normally, the homebuyer tax credit needs to be repaid if you sell your home within three years, but this requirement is waived for uniformed service members, Foreign Service workers, and intelligence community personnel. The new extended duty posting doesn’t need to be overseas, but it must be at least 50 miles from your principal residence.
Challenge your real estate assessment
You can’t do much about the rate at which your home is taxed, but you can try to do something about how your home is valued for taxation purposes in 2010. The process varies depending where you live, but in general local governments conduct a periodic real estate assessment to determine how much your home is worth. That real estate assessment figure is used to calculate your property tax bill.
You can usually appeal your real estate assessment (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/appeal-your-property-tax-bill/) if you think it’s too high. Contact your local assessor’s office to find out the procedure, and be prepared to do some research. There’s often no charge to request a review of your assessment.
Look for errors. You probably received an assessment letter in the mail, and many local governments provide the information online as well. Make sure the number of bedrooms and bathrooms is accurate, and the lot size is correct. Also check the assessed value of comparable homes in your area. If they’re being assessed for less than your home, you might have a case for relief.
Even if your assessment is accurate and comparable homes are being taxed at the same rate, there might be another route to tax savings. Ask your assessor’s office about available property tax exemptions (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/common-property-tax-exemptions/). Local governments often give breaks to seniors, veterans, and the disabled, among others.
This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.
By: G. M. Filisko
Published: March 19, 2010
By preparing for a real estate short sale, you can emerge with a great home at a favorable price.
When sellers need to sell their home for less than they owe on their mortgage, they’re shooting for a short sale. Short sale homes can sometimes be bargains, but only if you do your homework, stay patient, and remain unemotional during the sometimes lengthy and difficult short sale process.
Here are six tips for protecting yourself emotionally and financially when bidding on a short sale.
1. Get help from a short sale expert
A real estate agent experienced in short sales can identify which homes are being offered as short sales, help you determine a purchase price, and advise you on what to include in your offer to make the lender view it favorably. Ask agents how many buyers they’ve represented in short sales and, of those, how many successfully closed the transaction.
2. Build a team
Ask agents to recommend real estate attorneys knowledgeable in short sales and title experts. A title officer can do a title search to identify all the liens attached to a property you’re interested in. Because each lienholder must consent to a short sale, a property with multiple liens, like first and second mortgages, mechanic’s and condominium liens, or homeowners association liens, will be harder to purchase.
A title search may cost $250 to $300 up front, but it can help weed out less desirable properties requiring multiple approvals.
3. Know the home’s fair market value
By agreeing to a short sale, lenders are consenting to lose money on the loan they made to the sellers to purchase the home. Their goal is to keep those losses as low as possible. If your offer is dramatically less than the home’s fair market value, it may be rejected. Your agent can help you identify the price that’s good for you. The lender will determine whether approval is in its best interest.
4. Expect delays
There are two stages to a short sale. First, the sellers must consent to your purchase offer. Then they must submit it to their lender, along with documentation to convince the lender to agree to the sale.
The lender approval process can take weeks or months, even longer if the lender counteroffers. Expect bigger delays if several lienholders are involved; each can make a counteroffer or reject your offer.
5. Firm up your financing
Lenders will weigh your ability to close the transaction. If you’re preapproved for a mortgage, have a large downpayment, and can close at any time, they’ll consider your offer stronger than that of a buyer whose financing is less secure.
6. Avoid contingencies
If you must sell your current home before you can close on the short-sale property, or you need to close by a firm deadline, your offer may present too many moving parts for a lender to approve it.
Also, consider ordering an inspection so you’re fully informed about the home. Keep in mind that lenders are unlikely to approve an offer seeking repairs or credits for such work. You’ll probably have to purchase the home “as is,” which means in its present condition.
This article includes general information about tax laws and consequences, but isn’t intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.
By: Carl Vogel
Published: August 05, 2010
Before you put your home up for sale, use the right comparable sales to find the perfect price.
How much can you sell your home for? Probably about as much as the neighbors got, as long as the neighbors sold their house in recent memory and their home was just like your home.
Knowing how much homes similar to yours, called comparable sales (or in real estate lingo, comps), sold for gives you the best idea of the current estimated value of your home. The trick is finding sales that closely match yours.
What makes a good comparable sale?
Your best comparable sale is the same model as your house in the same subdivision-and it closed escrow last week. If you can’t find that, here are other factors that count:
Location: The closer to your house the better, but don’t just use any comparable sale within a mile radius. A good comparable sale is a house in your neighborhood, your subdivision, on the same type of street as your house, and in your school district.
Home type: Try to find comparable sales that are like your home in style, construction material, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, basement (having one and whether it’s finished), finishes, and yard size.
Amenities and upgrades: Is the kitchen new? Does the comparable sale house have full A/C? Is there crown molding, a deck, or a pool? Does your community have the same amenities (pool, workout room, walking trails, etc.) and homeowners association fees?
Date of sale: You may want to use a comparable sale from two years ago when the market was high, but that won’t fly. Most buyers use government-guaranteed mortgages, and those lending programs say comparable sales can be no older than 90 days.
Sales sweeteners: Did the comparable-sale sellers give the buyers downpayment assistance, closing costs, or a free television? You have to reduce the value of any comparable sale to account for any deal sweeteners.
Agents can help adjust price based on insider insights
Even if you live in a subdivision, your home will always be different from your neighbors’. Evaluating those differences-like the fact that your home has one more bedroom than the comparables or a basement office-is one of the ways real estate agents add value.
An active agent has been inside a lot of homes in your neighborhood and knows all sorts of details about comparable sales. She has read the comments the selling agent put into the MLS, seen the ugly wallpaper, and heard what other REALTORS®, lenders, closing agents, and appraisers said about the comparable sale.
More ways to pick a home listing price
If you’re still having trouble picking out a listing price for your home, look at the current competition. Ask your real estate agent to be honest about your home and the other homes on the market (and then listen to her without taking the criticism personally).
Next, put your comparable sales into two piles: more expensive and less expensive. What makes your home more valuable than the cheaper comparable sales and less valuable than the pricier comparable sales?
Are foreclosures and short sales comparables?
If one or more of your comparable sales was a foreclosed home or a short sale (a home that sold for less money than the owners owed on the mortgage), ask your real estate agent how to treat those comps.
A foreclosed home is usually in poor condition because owners who can’t pay their mortgage can’t afford to pay for upkeep. Your home is in great shape, so the foreclosure should be priced lower than your home.
Short sales are typically in good condition, although they are still distressed sales. The owners usually have to sell because they’re divorcing, or their employer is moving them to Kansas.
How much short sales are discounted from their market value varies among local markets. The average short-sale home in Omaha in recent years was discounted by 8.5%, according to a University of Nebraska at Omaha study. In suburban Washington, D.C., sellers typically discount short-sale homes by 3% to 5% to get them quickly sold, real estate agents report. In other markets, sellers price short sales the same as other homes in the neighborhood.
So you have to rely on your REALTOR’s® knowledge of the local market to use a short sale as a comparable sale.
Article From BuyAndSell.HouseLogic.com
By: G. M. Filisko
Published: March 19, 2010
While you’d like to get the best price for your home, consider our six reasons to reduce your home price.
Home not selling? That could happen for a number of reasons you can’t control, like a unique home layout or having one of the few homes in the neighborhood without a garage. There is one factor you can control: your home price.
These six signs may be telling you it’s time to lower your price.
1. You’re drawing few lookers
You get the most interest in your home right after you put it on the market because buyers want to catch a great new home before anybody else takes it. If your real estate agent reports there have been fewer buyers calling about and asking to tour your home than there have been for other homes in your area, that may be a sign buyers think it’s overpriced and are waiting for the price to fall before viewing it.
2. You’re drawing lots of lookers but have no offers
If you’ve had 30 sets of potential buyers come through your home and not a single one has made an offer, something is off. What are other agents telling your agent about your home? An overly high price may be discouraging buyers from making an offer.
3. Your home’s been on the market longer than similar homes
Ask your real estate agent about the average number of days it takes to sell a home in your market. If the answer is 30 and you’re pushing 45, your price may be affecting buyer interest. When a home sits on the market, buyers can begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with it, which can delay a sale even further. At least consider lowering your asking price.
4. You have a deadline
If you’ve got to sell soon because of a job transfer or you’ve already purchased another home, it may be necessary to generate buyer interest by dropping your price so your home is a little lower priced than comparable homes in your area. Remember: It’s not how much money you need that determines the sale price of your home, it’s how much money a buyer is willing to spend.
5. You can’t make upgrades
Maybe you’re plum out of cash and don’t have the funds to put fresh paint on the walls, clean the carpets, and add curb appeal. But the feedback your agent is reporting from buyers is that your home isn’t as well-appointed as similarly priced homes. When your home has been on the market longer than comparable homes in better condition, it’s time to accept that buyers expect to pay less for a home that doesn’t show as well as others.
6. The competition has changed
If weeks go by with no offers, continue to check out the competition. What have comparable homes sold for and what’s still on the market? What new listings have been added since you listed your home for sale? If comparable home sales or new listings show your price is too steep, consider a price reduction.
Article From BuyAndSell.HouseLogic.com
By: G. M. Filisko
Published: March 30, 2010
You’ve found your dream home. Make sure missteps don’t prevent a successful closing.
A home purchase isn’t complete until you make it to the closing. Until then, the transaction can fall apart for many reasons. Here are five tips for avoiding mistakes that cause a home sale to crater.
1. Be truthful on your mortgage application
You may think fudging your income a little or omitting debts when applying for a mortgage will go unnoticed. Not true. Lenders have become more diligent in verifying information on mortgage applications. If you fib, expect to be found out and denied the loan you need to fund your home purchase. Plus, intentionally lying on a mortgage application is a crime.
2. Hold off on big purchases
Lenders double-check buyers’ credit right before the closing to be sure their financial condition hasn’t weakened. If you’ve opened new credit cards, significantly increased the balance on existing cards, taken out new loans, or depleted your savings, your credit score may have dropped enough to make your lender change its mind on funding your home loan.
Although it’s tempting to purchase new furniture and other items for your new home, or even a new car, wait until after the closing.
3. Keep your job
The lender may refuse to fund your loan if you quit or change jobs before you close the purchase. The time to take either step is after a home closing, not before.
4. Meet contingencies
If your contract requires you to do something before the sale, do it. If you’re required to secure financing, promptly provide all the information the lender requires. If you must deposit additional funds into escrow, don’t stall. If you have 10 days to get a home inspection, call the inspector immediately.
5. Consider deadlines immovable
Get your funds together a week or so before the closing, so you don’t have to ask for a delay. If you’ll need to bring a certified check to closing, get it from the bank the day before, not the day of, your closing. Treat deadlines as sacrosanct.
Buying a foreclosure property can be helpful and rewarding to all parties involved. A house in foreclosure means the property owner went into default and the bank now owns the property. If this home can not be sold before auction credit is ruined and the bank may sell at a tremendous loss. The bank, mortgage provider, and property owner looks to resolve this issue before it reaches the auction level.
As a homebuyer you should not feel guilty buying a foreclosure property, and if you can ride out the procedure you can come out with a great investment.
That being said, there are some wonderful homes in Atlanta that are in foreclosure. It’s definitely worth looking at. Below are pictures of such properties but you’ll have to visit my website to view more info. Click the picture to view the property details.
If you’d like to talk. Feel free to call me 678.443.4442