Thursday, January 8, 2009

Richmond Real Estate - Home Buyer Tax Credit: How It Works

First-time homebuyers in 2008 can take an income-tax credit on their purchase, thanks to passage in Congress earlier this year of the first-time home buyer tax credit.

The definition of first-time homebuyer is generous. To get the credit, the homebuyer cannot have owned a home in the previous three years. The home must be a principal residence and purchased between April 9, 2008 and July 1, 2009.

The credit is equal to 10 percent of the purchase price, up to $7,500. Single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income up to $75,000 and couples with MAGI up to $150,000 will qualify for full credit. Singles with MAGI up to $95,000 and couples with MAGI up to $170,000 will get a reduced amount. Those with higher incomes don’t qualify.

If the amount of tax a homebuyer owes is less than the amount of the credit, they get to keep the difference in the form of an IRS refund.

The homebuyer must begin to repay the credit in two years in increments of about $500 a year over a 15-year period for those who received the full credit

Homebuyers who sell their home before the credit is repaid must pay off the loan with any profits. If they sell the home at a loss, the loan is forgiven.

[Editor's Note: The credit is set to expire in mid-2009, although industry groups, including the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, are encouraging Congress to extend it. NAR is also encouraging Congress to make the credit available to all buyers and to eliminate the repayment requirement. More detail on how the credit works. The documents are on downloadable and printable PDFs:
* First-time home buyer tax credit chart
First-time homebuyer tax credit FAQ

Source: Chicago Tribune, Mary Umberger (12/28/2008)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Season's Greetings and Happy New Year!

Wishing you a very prosperous and healthy New Year.

Please check out the link below. I found this particular clip very appropriate, since we are all setting goals for 2009. I wish you all the best and hope that we all survive in tough times ahead.

Best Regards

Friday, December 26, 2008

Effective Tips for Cleaning Your Garage!

Does it seem as if the things in your garage multiply almost overnight? For most people cleaning their garage is an onerous task. Here are some effective tips for gaining space to actually park your car.

* Gather all items you're not using and have a garage sale, donate the items to charity or take them to the dump.

* Dust the walls and corners; get rid of the spider webs.

* Hang heavy-duty wall hooks for larger items like yard tools, bicycles or exercise equipment that are taking up floor space.

* If you don’t have shelves, consider buying adjustable steel shelves on wheels available at warehouse stores.

* Get boxes and other items off the garage floor.

* Clean the floor and remove oil drips with cat litter and Simple Green detergent.

* Make sure all flammable materials, tools and toxic chemicals are stored out of reach of children.

* Check your garage door to make sure the opener is working properly in reverse.

Keeping your garage clutter-free and clean will allow you to have useful storage and workshop space. While your garage usually won't make or break a deal when you decide to sell your home, a clean, well-maintained garage may be a tie-breaker by enhancing an overall impression of a well-cared-for home.

Please call or send us an email if you'd like some additional real estate tips or neighborhood information.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More on housing trends!

The trends in new homes as our population ages. Here are more things we’re seeing – and they make a lot of sense:
Master suites downstairs. Raised dishwashers so users don’t have to bend as much. Raised, front-loading washers and dryers. Wide halls and doors. Lower light switches. Levers, rather than knobs, on doors. Pull-out shelving in cabinets to avoid reaching. More room beneath counters for wheelchair access. Remote controls for lighting, ceiling fans, blinds, curtains and gas fireplaces. No steps at the front door and from the garage to the inside of the home.

When you look at a lot of new homes you almost need to look for these things in order to notice them. Builders are designing homes sop well that these features blend in.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Which is Better for You: A Condo or a Single Family Home?

Did you know that condominiums are one of the fastest growing segments of the housing market? Owning a condo is perfect for those with busy lifestyles, little interest in home maintenance or landscaping chores or who frequently travel. Condos are a fine choice for a first home or when downsizing from a larger house.

Here are some pros and cons to consider:

· Fewer maintenance requirements.
· Usually less expensive than a single family home.
· You own the space inside the walls.
· There can be more security with neighbors close by.
· The exterior of the building, landscaping, surrounding roads and driveways, and common areas all owned by the condo association, a group made up of all unit owners.
· Special assessments by the association for painting or repairs can be a substantial added expense.

Single family home:
· Usually offers more storage space.
· You own the interior as well as the exterior.
· You are responsible for all maintenance, landscaping and repairs.
· You usually don’t have to pay community dues or special assessments.
· You have room to grow plants, flowers, trees, veggies, etc.

Think about how your household may change over the next few years. Will you still need a larger home or will you have enough space in a condo? Or would you be happier in a smaller house with room for a garden?

For more information about real estate options in our market, call or email us. We’d be happy to provide you with that info via email or we can show you what is available.

Important Real Estate Documents to Keep in a Safe Place!

As long as you own your home, here is a list of important real estate documents you’ll want to keep in a safe place:

1. Property deed: keep it for as long as you own the property.

2. Closing statements: keep statements for three years after your purchase to show capital gains.

3. Home improvement: some remodeling projects can reduce a potential capital gains hit when you sell your property, so save your receipts and consult your accountant.

4. Warranty information: keep until the warranty expires.

5. Loan papers: keep until paid off or refinanced, or in the case of mortgages that have tax-deductible interest, keep them for three years.

6. Insurance policies: keep until the policy expires.

7.Receipts or statements: save credit card receipts and/or checking account statements or cancelled checks for all major purchases such as appliances, furniture, antiques and art

When you sell your home, you’ll usually be required to submit a disclosure form. Receipts for major home improvements like a new roof or remodeling project can help you complete disclosure forms and substantiate the good condition of your home.

A bank safety deposit box or fireproof safe is the best place to store your important documents. Be sure to save an up-to-date household inventory, complete with appraisals, receipts and photos or a videotape for insurance purposes in case of loss.

Please call or send us an email if we can provide you with an updated home evaluation for insurance purposes.

How Value-Added Features Affect the Sales Price of Your Home!

If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, a recent report by the National Association of Realtors measured how certain characteristics influence the value of a property. Here are some of the findings:

* A remodel adding an additional 1,000 square feet of living space increases a home’s market value by just 3.3%.

* Adding an extra bedroom adds about 4% to the price while an additional bath can add 24%.

* Houses advertised as “fixers” sell for 24% less than other houses.

* A garage adds about 13% to the price.

* Central air conditioning adds about 12% to the price.

* A basement increases a home's value by an average of 9%.

* A sitting area in the master bedroom increases the price by about 8%.

* Features that add the most value are a family room, a dining room, a whirlpool and a security system.

This information can help determine the return you can expect to see on your remodeling investment as well as to compare property values when you’re shopping for a home.

Please call or send us an email if you’d like us to help evaluate your remodeling plans and determine how much they’ll return on your investment. Or, if you are considering a purchase, we can help you get the best buy on a home with the amenities that are important to you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

13 Reasons You Should Buy a Home in the Richmond Area, Now!

Conventional wisdom says that this is an awful time to buy a new home. The housing market is in a funk. Mortgage companies have tightened their guidelines and homes are sitting on the market for months without selling. If you listen to the news it's all doom and gloom with talk of recession and inflation, and questions of how long it will be before we see a recovery. So who would be crazy enough to buy a home now?

There is a famous quote by noted investor Baron Von Rothschild - the time to buy is when there is blood in the streets. Here in Richmond the market isn't as bad as it is in other parts of the country, but if you are a seller sitting in a home that won't sell, the situation is grim. But the bad news for the seller is great news if you are looking to buy a home. Here are some reasons to buy a home here in the Richmond area, now:

Selection - There are homes in the market in all areas and all price ranges. With more houses on the market you can pick and choose and find the home you want. It wasn't so long ago that buyers were jumping on new listings as they came onto the market, even if the home wasn't exactly what they were looking for. You can pick and choose, now.

It's a buyer's market - Again, the best time to buy is when most people want to sell. If you buy now you can get a lot more house for your money, and you have a lot more negotiating power.

Interest rates are low - Mortgage interest rates are at their lowest point in the last several years. This means your mortgage payment takes you a lot farther than it did before. We're not that far off of the all time lows we hit several years back. It is smart to take advantage of the low mortgage rates while they are still available.

Great financing is available - There's a lot of talk about how the problems in the mortgage market have made it harder for borrowers to get financing. Some programs have been cut out, and guidelines are tougher than they were before. But there is still a lot of mortgage money available, including options for low or no money down, and some great programs for first time home buyers. If you are a first time home buyer in Richmond, you may qualify for Virginia Housing authority Program which offers a below market interest rate and down payment and closing costs assistance. There are other programs for home buyers in Virginia with great rates and low fees, ask me how?

Tax savings - Buying a home is one of the best ways to save money on taxes. Your mortgage interests, real estate taxes and in many cases mortgage insurance are all tax deductible. If you are a first time home buyer this means that after-tax, you can pay a lot more for a mortgage payment than you pay for rent.

Appreciation - This might not seem like the best reason to buy, with prices stagnating and falling in some areas, but in the long run, home prices always move up. There is a lot of pessimism in the real estate market today, but even the most pessimistic are bullish in the long run.

Equity build up - As you pay down your mortgage you build up equity in your home. Most people don't even think of this because it is so gradual, but every mortgage payment (as long as it is an amortizing loan) pays a little less interest and a little more principal. In a way owning a home is a form of forced savings.

Tax refunds are coming out - If you wanted to buy but were short of cash, your tax refund could be just what you need for the down payment and closing costs.

Rents are rising - Buying a home means you can fix your mortgage payment, at least the principal and interest portion. Rents are projected to rise this year and over time.

Those are the hard financial reasons for buying a home now, but there are other good reasons to buy now:

You need more room - Has your family has grown, and you are bursting at the seams? You need a new place to put all your stuff? If you have needs that you've been putting off, this could be the right time to buy and take advantage of the buyers market.

Control - If you own your home, you can do what you want to with it. Have a dog? Not a problem. Want to plant a garden? Go for it. Want to paint stripes on the walls? Paint your heart out, it's your home and you are in control.

Pride of ownership - There is a big difference between renting a place and having a home of your own.

It's the American Dream - Not only that, but buying a new home gives you a reason to throw a house warming party.

These are some reasons for buying now, but buying isn't the right course for everyone. Buying a home is a long-term investment. If you can't afford to hold on for the long run, you might be better off renting.

Effective Pricing Leads To A Sold Sign On Your Property!

According to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors, almost 80% of home buyers surf the Web to begin their home search. That means home buyers are well aware of what properties are available on the market and the prices they are selling for. Therefore, now more than ever, pricing is the key to selling your home.

Some sellers think that a higher price will give them some negotiating room. But in fact many buyers don't even look at a property that is overpriced, much less make an offer on it.

This can lead to the property's becoming "shop-worn." Buyers often inquire about the length of time a property has been on the market. If it has been on the market a long time, they wonder if there is something wrong with it. The sellers then have to drop the price, taking less than they might have if they had priced it correctly to begin with.

Homes that are well-priced attract the buyers in their price range. The buyer's perception is that the home is a good buy, and then the seller is positioned to receive the listing price or close to it.

Please feel free to call us if you have any pricing or general real estate questions. We would be happy to provide you with a free market evaluation on your home to ensure it is competitively priced in the marketplace so you will receive the best offer.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

How to Avoid 8 Costly Moving Mistakes!

If you have a move in your future, there are definite ways to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Plan ahead and you'll avoid these 8 costly moving mistakes.

1. Scheduling your move on the same day of closing
While most buyers take possession of their new home on the day of closing, there are a lot of conflicts that can arise unexpectedly. Be sure to keep in constant communication with your escrow company so as not to delay your moving plans.

2. Not requiring a written estimate
It's fine to have moving companies give you an estimate over the phone or Internet. But to get a firm price, you need to ask the company to send a representative to walk through your home while you point out exactly what you want transported. Be sure you understand the conditions of the estimate - can they raise your bill on delivery? Does the contract allow them to bill you for more later?

3. Choosing a moving company based on price alone
You could end up spending more time and money in the end trying to fix a moving disaster. Check out the company's references (try to get two), licensing, insurance and length of time in business.

4. Not making a first night survival kit
Better to be safe than sorry. If your shipment hasn't arrived or you're simply too tired to unpack everything, you'll be thankful to have an accessible overnight bag with some essential items you'll need for the first night in your new place. Don't forget toiletries, medication, children's and pet's necessities - and maybe even a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

5. Not using a dolly or a hand truck
Whether you're moving yourself or just rearranging things after a professional move, the money you spend to rent or buy moving equipment will pay for itself by dodging back strains and chiropractic visits.

6. Refusing extra coverage for loss and breakage
The basic limited liability coverage offered to you, free of charge, by the movers will not be sufficient. And most homeowners' policies don't cover items broken or lost in a move. Extra insurance can be purchased through an independent insurance company, which will cover you for the duration of the move. Your mover will be able to direct you to a company that will bind your move.

7. Not labeling boxes
When packing boxes, make sure you label the top and sides of boxes with contents, location of contents in your house and any special instructions, such as "fragile" or "open first." Also, by keeping a list of the contents on the outside of the box, you won't have to dig through several boxes marked "kitchen" just to find a pan.

8. Not keeping your receipts
If you're moving closer to a job, your moving costs may be tax-deductible. Keep receipts for moving household goods, utility change fees and lodging and travel expenses. However, if your employer covers those costs, you won't be allowed to deduct them.