Archives: January 2010

Tips for filing — and getting — your first time homebuyer’s credit

2892058635_da341cba5fPlease note: this post is merely intended as a broad overview of information found on the IRS.gov website and is not intended to substitute for the advice of a tax professional.

As we’ve mentioned in prior posts, the first-time homebuyer tax credits were extended and expanded back in 2009, allowing even more people to take advantage of the program. But if you bought your home in 2009, how do you make sure you actually see that credit on your upcoming tax return?

According to the IRS, there will be even more compliance checks this coming tax season because of the numbers of people applying for the credit, so it pays to have all your paperwork in order.

Tax guidelines for first-time homebuyers

Taxpayers who claim the credit on their 2009 tax return must file a paper return (no electronic submissions) and attach Form 5405, “First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit,” along with one of the following forms of documentation:

  • For purchasers of conventional homes, a copy of Form HUD-1, Settlement Statement, or other settlement statement, showing all parties’ names and signatures, property address, sales price and date of purchase.
  • For purchasers of mobile homes who are unable to get a settlement statement, a copy of the executed retail sales contract showing all parties’ names and signatures, property address, purchase price and date of purchase.
  • For a newly constructed home where a settlement statement is not available, a copy of the certificate of occupancy showing the owner’s name, property address and date of the certificate.

Long-time homeowners who have purchased new homes

For long-time homeowners who have purchased a new main home, they first must qualify by living in their old homes for five consecutive years out of the last eight year period ending on the purchase date of the new home. According to IRS recommendations, these homebuyers should also attach these additional documents to prove their prior home ownership:

  • Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement, or substitute mortgage interest statements,
  • Property tax records or
  • Homeowner’s insurance records.

More information, including how to file for the refund on 2008’s taxes, is available at the irs.gov article here.

If you haven’t yet taken advantage of the first-time homebuyer tax credit and homeowner extension, talk to Susan Stecher about finding a Pacific Northwest home that’s just right for you and your family!

Photo credit: Steve Wampler

Attention Pacific Northwest homebuyers — Check out this great incentive through Fannie Mae!

Picture 8Pacific Northwest homebuyers, listen up!  Homebuyers who purchase and close on a Fannie Mae-owned home between now and April 30, 2010, are eligible for a 3.5% incentive. Up to 3.5% of the final sales price can be used for:

• Closing costs

• New Whirlpool appliances purchased by Fannie Mae

• A combination of both closing costs and Whirlpool appliances, up to 3.5% of the final sales price.

To be eligible for this great deal, homebuyers must have offers accepted on or after January 28, 2010. Properties must close before May 1, 2010, and buyers must be owner-occupants.

Expert Pacific Northwest real estate agent Susan Stecher can help you find these Fannie Mae properties. Act now to get moving on this great deal — to find a Fannie Mae home in Whatcom, Skagit, Island or San Juan counties, contact Susan today!

New Pacific Northwest Homes: 10 Must-Haves

Steve Kerch recently wrote that Americans are buying smaller houses today than they used to, and while they’ve decided there are certain luxuries they can live without — home theater rooms, for example, there are several “classic” amenities that remain popular among new homebuyers. Pacific Northwest homes are no exception. According to consumer experts at the International Builders Show, buyers are now looking for architecture based on spaces and not necessarily room use, and homes that are designed “green” from the very beginning.

According to Carol Lavender, president of the Lavender Design Group in Texas, “What we’re hearing is ‘harvest’ as a home theme — the feeling of Thanksgiving. It’s all about family togetherness — casual living, entertaining and flexible spaces.”

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That said, here are 10 things that are must-haves in new homes today:

1. Large kitchens with an island remain some of the best investments, as this is where people want high-quality appliances and furnishings.

2. Kitchens that open to a family dining area.

3. Home office/study.

4. Main-floor master suites are becoming ever-more popular, especially with empty-nesters.

5. Outdoor living room.

6. Master suite soaker tubs are still a luxury item that homeowners are willing to spend on.

7. Stone and brick exteriors, rather than stucco and vinyl.

8. Energy-efficient appliances.

9. Community landscaping is becoming more popular than clubhouses, etc., as residents look for more green spaces.

10. Two-car garages are a must, though three-car garages are still popular in higher markets.

To find your perfect Pacific Northwest home, call me, your expert Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan County real estate agent! Let me take the guesswork out of locating a Northwest home with all the right amenities at an affordable price.

Photo courtesy: Nancy Hugo

Conduct your own energy audit for your Northwest home!

Here are some ways to make your Pacific Northwest home greener and less expensive…

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Do-it-yourself home energy audits are a great way to save money and reduce your carbon footprint… best of all, it’s free! Here’s a list we found over at The Daily Green that will help you find the easiest and most effective ways to save some cash and the environment.

1. Open your energy bill and really look at it. Bills are fairly high up there on the list of mail we don’t like getting, but energy bills especially can hold helpful information about when you use the most energy, and how much you’re paying. Once you review costs each month, you’ll start noticing patterns that can be helpful in reducing your overall usage during peak months.

2. Find air leaks in your home. If you’ve got air leaks, you’ve got an energy efficiency problem (reduced by 5-30% per year). Where to look? Places where two building materials meet (corners, chimneys, where pipes or wires pass through walls, along the foundation). Check the insulation in your attic and make sure it’s still in good shape (not crumbly or compacted). Make sure your water pipes, furnace ducts, and exterior walls are all insulated appropriately so you keep the Pacific Northwest winter out, and your cozy heat in.

3. Check out your heating and cooling. Check furnace filters (which usually need to be changed every month or two during winter months) and change them if dirty. Clean dust and dirt from central air conditioning and vents. Close vents in rooms you don’t use often — no need to heat an empty room.

4. Swap out energy-hog appliances for less wasteful models. For about $20, you can get a handy little device called a Kill-A-Watt. It plugs into any outlet, and when you plug in your appliance, the Kill-A-Watt will tell you how much energy this appliance uses — and more importantly, how much this appliance is costing you per month. Not a bad little household helper.

If you find an appliance that’s costing you an arm and a leg to operate, you should consider an upgrade to a newer model that’s Energy-Star certified.

6. Unplug it! EIGHT PERCENT of our annual electric bills are due to electronics that are plugged in, but not turned on, such as TV’s, stereos, cell phone chargers, etcetera. Unplug it if you’re not using it, or, for best convenience, plug regularly-used items into a power strip and simply switch it off when items aren’t in use.

7. Examine your lighting. High-wattage bulbs can easily be switched out for CFL’s, which are cheaper in the long run and often are subsidized by Puget Sound Energy via an instant rebate at several Northwest retailers. Start with the bulbs you use most often and work your way down, so you’re not overwhelmed at the initial investment. Get rid of halogen lamps, which consume loads of energy. Outside, motion detectors can work wonders for your energy usage, since the lights are only on when someone is around.

8. After make changes, take another look at your bill in a few months. If you’re not seeing much of a difference, it may be worth it to take a second look, or hire the pros to come out and find what you may have missed.

Conducting your own energy audivt may not be your most exciting Saturday of all time, but it will pay off, both for your Pacific Northwest home and your wallet. To find Green Homes in Whatcom County, contact me or view featured Northwest Green Properties.

Photo Credit: CL

Bellingham May Acquire Chuckanut Ridge Property

SAL_Chuckanut06 copyUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably noticed a sign here or there regarding Horizon Bank’s development of Chuckanut Ridge. There has clearly been a lot of debate here in Bellingham and Whatcom County over the proposed condominium development because of environmental preservation concerns, but since Horizon Bank was shut down by federal regulators last week and taken over by Washington Federal, it’s possible that the City of Bellingham may acquire the forested parcel of land.

Cathy Cooper, a Washington Federal senior vice president, says that the bank has no interest in developing the site: “We are not real estate developers and we really don’t want to be involved in a highly controversial project if we can avoid it,” she said, according to The News Tribune.

Mayor of Bellingham Dan Pike is in discussions with Washington Federal’s president to see if the City and Washington Federal can work something out.  Stay tuned for more information…

New to Whatcom County? Friends Await at the Newcomer’s Club

2925399107_f3a7eeea6fIf you’ve recently bought a Whatcom County home, or are planning a move to Whatcom County, you may be wondering how to get settled in the community and make new friends.  Good news!  You’re not the only one, and there’s a group that’s ready and waiting to help you meet new people and learn about our beautiful Pacific Northwest community.

Started in 1997, the Newcomer’s Club of Whatcom County has simple goals: they exist to encourage social gatherings for members and guests of Whatcom County, to distribute a newsletter with a calendar of activities, and to offer community information that assists people in becoming integrated into our community.

With fun activities ranging from hiking and golf to bridge, bunco, dominoes, and book clubs, the Newcomer’s Club is open to all adults who are interested in building new friendships.

Their monthly luncheon is January 20th at noon.  For more information, check out their website: www.whatcomnewcomers.org.

Photo credit: AD