Tag Archives: homebuyers

Pacific Northwest Home Buyers Use The First Time Home Buyers Tax Credit

Pacific Northwest home buyers-if you are searching the Pacific Northwest MLS for your dream home right now, you will want to try to find it before the end of April 2010, so you can take advantage of the First Time Home Buyers Tax Credit. The tax credit has already been extended twice, and so far I have heard no news about extending it for a third time, so this may be the last chance you have to get the credit.

While you shouldn’t rush out to buy a home just because of the tax credit, if you happen to be already in the process of looking, or feel ready to make a purchase now, then it would be a shame to miss the benefit of the tax credit by only a few days.

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The credit does not have to be repaid unless the home is sold or ceases to be used as the buyer’s principal residence within three years after the initial purchase and offers a great way to save some money.

Are you not sure you can take advantage of the tax credit? Though the tax credit is for first time home buyers only, which the IRS defines  as someone who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase, there are some other restrictions so be sure to contact me to learn all the details.

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What is also great? The tax credit can be taken for THIS YEAR, but simply submitting and amendment to your 2009 taxes, so you should get your tax credit before the end of the summer. The tax credit is for 10% of the home’s purchase price up to a maximum of $8,000 on homes priced at $800,000 or less. That is quite a nice sum of money to put towards your house, decorating your house, or even saving for a rainy day or a new roof down the road.

For homes purchased on or before April 30, 2010, single taxpayers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with incomes up to $225,000 qualify for the full tax credit. Additionally, so long as a binding contract is signed by April 30, 2010, the IRS will also grant the tax credit, so long as you close by June 30, 2010, so if you are already to start the Pacific Northwest home buying journey now, then you still have plenty of time.

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So while I don’t want you to feel pressured or rushed into buying Pacific Northwest homes for sale, if you have been searching for your perfect dream home, or feel ready to buy now, then it would be great to squeeze in on the tax credit deadline.

Contact Your Pacific Northwest Realtor

If you have questions, or want to put your Pacific Northwest MLS home search into high gear, simply contact me, Susan Stecher, your trusted Pacific Northwest real estate agent, to learn more about Pacific Northwest home buying and make sure you can get the Federal Housing Tax Credit.

Until next time,

Susan

Rise in Whatcom County’s Total Property Sales in February

SAL_Chuckanut04Good news for Whatcom County communities — things sure are looking a bit busier, which is good news for those who want to sell a Whatcom County home.

117 properties (residential, commercial, industrial, or undeveloped land) in Ferndale, Lynden, and Blaine were sold in February, up 37.6% from this time last year, according to First American Title in Bellingham. For January and February combined, sales are up 27% compared to 2009.

Last month, there were 100 property sales in Bellingham, up 8.7% from the same month last year; in the Deming/Sumas area, there were 18 property sales in February, up from 6 sales in February 2009.

Used single-family homes are among the most active groups of property sales. During the months of January and February, Ferndale, Lynden and Blaine’s used home sales were up nearly 30%, while Bellingham was up nearly 14%. Sumas and Deming were up 50%.

If you want to sell your Whatcom County home in the near future, it’s best to have an expert Pacific Northwest Real Estate agent on your side! Please Contact Me or call my office toll-free at (888) 319-4939 to get started!

Are you a Pacific NW homeowner at risk of foreclosure? Get informed about Short-Sales.

Short-Sale

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This past year has been incredibly challenging for many families, not only for Pacific Northwest homeowners, but for owners throughout the United States. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Short-Sale” often in recent months, but you may not know the guidelines or implications. Let me walk you through some of the basics.

Short-Sales Defined

In short sales, the lender agrees to let homeowners facing financial difficulties sell their home for less than the mortgage owed on the home. For those facing potential foreclosure, this is often a better alternative, though it does have consequences both for the homeowner’s credit score and their taxes. After other efforts to keep homeowners in the home have been exhausted, this is often a last effort to avoid foreclosure on their Northwest home.

Short-Sale vs. Foreclosure

A short sale, though it does seriously ding the owner’s credit, is usually far less damaging to their score. The owner can qualify for a mortgage from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac for another home within two years, which is far sooner than if the home had been foreclosed on. Short sales also help protect property values for the rest of the community by keeping the house from falling into disrepair.

Standardization for Short-Sales

With many families struggling during the after-effects of the economic downturn, there was a need for standardization in the process, and the US Treasury has now issued guidelines to streamline the process for homeowners. 75% of American mortgages are now governed by the new rules.

Under the US Treasury’s Foreclosure Alternatives Program, mortgage lenders have 10 business days to respond to a short-sale offer. Usually, a lack of timely response has been one of the reasons short-sales haven’t gone through. Paperwork and documentation are now also standardized, as are deadlines.

Benefits for Homeowners, Benefits for Lenders

Successful short-sales releases the borrower fully from their primary mortgage obligation, and the lender will not pursue a judgment against them. Homeowners can also qualify for $1,500 to offset moving expenses.

Lenders, on the other hand, are able to determine a minimum acceptable offer for the property under US Treasury guidelines. Though the lender still faces a loss on the loan, the loss is usually not as bad as if the property had gone into foreclosure. Through the program, mortgage servicers receive $1,000 for every short-sale they close.

I know it can be easy to feel completely overwhelmed if you’re behind on your payments and you know foreclosure may be looming —  but don’t let yourself become paralyzed.  Usually the worst thing you can do in this situation is nothing.

There is help available! I am a Certified Short-Sale Professional, and I’ve walked other Northwest homeowners through this challenging process. If you have any questions about what a short-sale on your Pacific Northwest home could mean for you and your family, please don’t hesitate to call me!

—Susan

Make sure your Washington State home inspector is licensed!

Last year in July, Washington State enacted a series of laws that protect homesellers and homebuyers by regulating home inspections, which is great news both for the home inspection industry and the Pacific Northwest homebuyers and real estate professionals they serve. These new laws (RCW 18.280 and WAC 308-408A) help ensure that those who inspect your Pacific Northwest home are truly qualified to do so, and that they uphold a certain standard of quality.

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Here’s just a few things that are required of Home Inspectors:

• Home Inspectors are now legally required to be licensed through the Washington State Department of Licensing (licenses began being issued in July 2009).

• Home Inspectors must complete 120 hours of board-approved home inspection course work prior to licensing.

• Home Inspectors must mentor with an experienced home inspector for at least 40 hours of field training.

• They must successfully pass the 4-hour Washington State Home Inspection Exam, pay $680 in licensing fees, and complete 24 hours of continuing education courses every 2 years.

• Home Inspectors cannot repair or upgrade components for compensation on any building inspected within one year of the original inspection. They also can’t disclose information pertaining to an Inspection Report without the client’s permission.

If you need help finding a qualified Home Inspector, give me a call and I’ll refer you to a qualified, licensed Home Inspector.

A new economy, a new kind of retirement

833180372_e88313c291Green spaces, not green fees for new generation of retirees

Based on current recession trends all across the U.S., it appears the era of retiring to a posh home out on a golf course are over, at least for now. Recent economic woes have hit the retired and soon-to-be-retired extremely hard — taking a toll both on their nest eggs and their idea of what buying a retirement home should look like. For active adults and seniors, bike paths and wooded trails are becoming far more important than living “on the green.”

Though many families across all demographics are choosing to downsize, relocating to a smaller house is even more popular with those 55 and older — a trend that has remained fairly steady over the years. Currently, 30-40% of those 55-and-up plan to move to a new home when they retire,which is comparable to most years.

The numbers remain the same, but priorities have changed somewhat. It used to be that the most important thing to retirees was moving to a warmer climate — now home affordability is at the top of the priority list. This means that though Florida, Arizona and California remain top retirement spots, other states are drawing retirees as well… and the green natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest is no exception.

What do retiring home buyers want?

Here’s a short list of amenities and home features that are important:

  • big bathrooms with helpful aids such as grab bars
  • entrances/porches without steps
  • washers/dryers in-unit
  • first-floor master bedrooms
  • convenient storage space
  • attached garages with garage-door openers
  • user-friendly heat & AC thermostats
  • outdoor maintenance & general home repair services

If you’re a senior or active adult looking for a beautiful Pacific Northwest home to retire in, I can help you find exactly what you’re looking for! Feel free to give me a call, visit my free Northwest MLS home search, or check out my helpful Pacific Northwest Seniors & Active Adults directory.

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!

Whatcom home sales continue their rise

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More than a few of us were surprised by all the Whatcom County real estate sales activity last month. Most expected some level of recovery on the Pacific Northwest housing market, especially as compared to this time last year, but home and condo sales were actually more than double than numbers from November 2008, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

235 homes and condos sold last month, much higher than November ’08’s severely low 117.  In fact, these numbers are the best since 2006.

As usual, one potential reason for the rise in activity is the first-time home buyer credit, which may have helped first-timers take the leap into home ownership.

While sales are up, median sales prices continue to fall.  In Whatcom County, the median price on homes and condos sold was $240,250, down from $250,900 two months ago.  Skagit County is also seeing some recovery, with 121 homes and condos sold last month (up from 51 November of last year).  However, their median sales prices have fallen more dramatically over the past year.

The tax credit really makes this a great time to purchase.  However, it’s not a great time to be out there on your own in the housing market.  If you’re looking for an trustworthy, personal Pacific Northwest real estate agent who can help you navigate these uncharted waters and make a Northwest home purchase that makes sense for you and your family, pick up the phone and give me a call, or feel free to browse my no-hassle free Pacific Northwest MLS search.

Pacific Northwest Home Sales Get Big Boost from Tax Credit

1150489_property_for_sale_5Though the First-Time Homebuyer Credit was eventually extended through April 30, 2010, the looming original deadline still prompted a surge in Pacific Northwest home sales through October. The Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported a 63 percent jump in pending sales this past month compared to October 2008.

These new figures continue to indicate some stability in the market and some improvement in consumer confidence. Inventory is at its lowest level since December 2008. For the month of October, Whatcom County has 364 new listings on the market, while Skagit County has 208 new listings. Island County reports 162 new listings, and San Juan County listed 25.

(Wanted to also mention good news for homeowners in San Juan County, where the median sales price for last month’s completed sales was $454,250: price changes are rising rather than declining at a gain of 15%!)

NWMLS director Kathy Estey says that while the tax credit has been incredibly helpful to getting the housing market moving again, there are actually a number of factors at work: “Sales are not just fueled by the first-time buyer stimulus,” but include the stabilization of entry-level homes and diminished inventory, just to name a few catalysts.

“The fourth quarter is one of the best times for buyers, so we expect the positive activity to continue,” she says.

If you’re looking to buy a home in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, or San Juan County, the time is right to start moving forward in 2010! Feel free to view our free Pacific Northwest MLS search, or contact me, your expert Pacific Northwest realtor, directly for details.

Great News for Pacific Northwest Homebuyers: Tax Credit Extension Passes!

1229466_dollar_signGood news for people looking to purchase a home in the Pacific Northwest – President Barack Obama recently approved the first-time homebuyer tax credit extension which will extend the tax credit until April 30, 2010.

This extends the $8,000 tax credit for homebuyers who are purchasing their first home from the current November 30 deadline and expands the program to offer a credit of $6,500 to homeowners who have lived in their current home for at least five years and are seeking to relocate.

If you’re thinking of buying a Northwest home in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, or San Juan County in 2010 – the first half of the year may be the time find your dream home!

The following details apply to the homebuyer tax credit expansion:

Who is Eligible
First-time homebuyers, who are defined by the law as buyers who have not owned a home during the three-year period prior to the purchase, may be eligible for up to an $8,000 tax credit.
-Existing homeowners who have been residing in their principal residence for five consecutive years out of the last eight and are purchasing a home to be their principal residence (“repeat buyer”), may be eligible for up to a $6,500 tax credit.
-All U.S. citizens who file taxes are eligible to participate in the program.

Income Limits
Homebuyers who file as single or head-of-household taxpayers can claim the full credit ($8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers) if their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is less than $125,000.
-For married couples filing a joint return, the combined income limit is $225,000.
-Single or head-of-household taxpayers who earn between $125,000 and $145,000, and married couples who earn between $225,000 and $245,000 are eligible to receive a partial credit.
-The credit is not available for single taxpayers whose MAGI is greater than $145,000 and joint-filers with a MAGI that exceeds $245,000.

Effective Dates
-The eligibility period for the tax credit is for homes purchased after Nov. 6, 2009, and before May 1, 2010. However, home purchases subject to a binding sales contract signed by April 30, 2010, will qualify for the tax credit as long as closing occurs prior to July 1, 2010.

Types of Homes that Qualify
-All homes with a purchase price of less than $800,000 qualify, including newly-constructed or resale, and single-family detached, townhomes or condominiums, provided that the home will be used as their principal residence. Vacation home and rental property purchases do NOT qualify.

Tax Credit is Refundable
-A refundable credit means that if the amount of income taxes you owe is less than the credit amount you qualify for, the government will send you a check for the difference.

-For example:
-A first-time buyer who qualifies for the full $8,000 credit who owes $5,000 in federal income taxes would pay nothing to the IRS and receive a $3,000 payment from the government. If you are due to receive a $1,000 refund, you would receive $9,000 ($1,000 plus the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit).
-A repeat buyer who owes $5,000 would pay nothing to the IRS and receive $1,500 back from the government. If you are due to get a $1,000 refund, you would get $7,500 ($1,000 plus the $6,500 repeat buyer tax credit).
-All qualified homebuyers can take the tax credit on their 2009 or 2010 income tax return.

If you’re looking for a dream home in the Pacific Northwest, I’m here to help! Contact me or feel free to browse my free, no-hassle Northwest MLS search.