Saturday, November 21, 2009

5 Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Shopping online is a great way to find deals. But, if you're not careful, you could be putting your personal information at risk of being stolen by identity thieves.

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself while shopping – or doing anything – online. Follow these tips to protect your personal information while buying gifts this year.

1. Never shop online from a public Wi-Fi connection. Hackers can tap into Wi-Fi connections at hotspots, such as coffee shops, airports and hotels, to capture your personal information. If you must use public Wi-Fi, you can download for free the AnchorFree HotSpot Shield to hide your IP address while you're online and protect your computer from snoopers. Also, never use a public computer to shop or check accounts online.

2. Don't use your smartphone to shop. Hackers can use the same tactics for tapping into your smartphone as they use for your laptop or PC.

3. Don't use your debit card for online shopping. If hackers steal your debit-card information and raid your bank account, you must report any misuse within two days to get the same $50 limited liability as you would with a credit card. Miss that deadline but report your loss within 60 days and you could be liable for up to $500. After 60 days, your liability is unlimited.

First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit Extended & Expanded

On November 6, 2009, President Obama signed a bill into law that immediately extended the popular tax credit program offering up to $8,000 for qualified first-time homebuyers (FTHBs) into the first half of 2010.

The bill also instantly expanded the program, offering up to $6,500 in tax credits for qualified repeat home buyers, swinging open the door for even more qualified homebuyers to take advantage of this valuable opportunity at a time when mortgage rates are still near historical lows.

First-Time Buyers

For FTHBs (defined as someone who has not owned a primary residence in the previous 36 months, prior to closing and the transfer of title), the basic rules remain the same, with one important exception – higher income limits are now in place, increasing the pool of potential buyers eligible for the tax credit of up to 10% of the purchase price or up to $8,000. This is money that does not have to be repaid as long you stay in your new home for at least 36 months.

Single tax filers who earn up to $125,000 are now eligible for the total credit amount. Those who earn more than this cap (but less than $145,000) can receive a partial credit. Joint filers who earn up to $225,000 are eligible for the total credit amount. Those who earn more than this cap (but less than $245,000) can receive a partial credit.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Housing and Economy Headed for Sustainable Recovery; First-Time Homebuyers Lead the Way

Aided by the home buyer tax credit, the outlook for housing and the economy appears headed for a sustainable recovery, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the projections are enhanced by a tax credit expansion to more home buyers through the middle of 2010. “Given the success of the first-time buyer tax credit to date, and the need for qualified buyers to continue to absorb inventory that will include additional foreclosures over the coming year, we are hopeful about the impact of the expanded tax credit because it will stabilize home prices,” he said. “In fact, the credit is working better than first projected – it now looks like we’ll have 2.3 to 2.4 million first-time buyers this year.”

The 2009 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, shows first-time buyers accounted for a record 47% share of home sales over the past year, up from 41% in the 2008 survey. The share has risen steadily since a cyclical low of 36% in 2006.

Existing-home sales are expected to total 5.01 million in 2009, a gain of 2.0% over last year, and then are forecast to rise 13.6% to 5.69 million in 2010. “A steady draw down of inventory will help home values to turn positive in 2010, but risks such as unemployment remain in the economy,” Yun said.

New-home sales are projected at 397,000 this year, recovering to 549,000 in 2010. Housing starts, including multifamily units, should total 564,000 units this year but grow to 752,000 in 2010.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will probably average 5.3% in the fourth quarter, rising gradually to 5.8% by the end of next year. NAR’s housing affordability index will set a record in 2009, averaging 30 percentage points higher than 2008. Affordability will decline from record highs next year but will remain at historically attractive levels for home buyers.

“We’ve seen a steady downtrend in housing inventory for well over a year and home prices appear to be in the early stages of stabilizing. With the expansion of the tax credit to additional buyers through the middle of next year, and no major unforeseen events impacting the economy, home prices should rise between 3 and 5% in 2010, but with wide geographic differences,” Yun said. He expects growth in the U.S. gross domestic product to be at a pace of 2.5% in the current quarter, with GDP up 2.8% in 2010.

The unemployment rate is close to peaking and is projected to ease to 9.5% by the end of next year.

“The size of the U.S. budget deficit is a concern going forward, and carries the risk of higher inflation. At this point, that risk appears to be restrained,” Yun said. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, is seen contracting 0.4% this year, then rising 1.6% in 2010. Inflation-adjusted disposable personal income is estimated to grow 0.4% this year and 1.2% next year.

Video on first time home buyers tax credit

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting ready to sell? Here are some tips.....

HomeGain’s recent survey shows the top do-it-yourself home improvements that Realtors recommend to home sellers. HomeGain received responses from nearly 1,000 Realtors nationwide and configured a list of the top 12 do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvements that cost under $5,000 and benefit sellers most when they sell their homes.

According to the HomeGain survey, the top five home improvements that Realtors recommend to home sellers based on cost and return on investment (from highest to lowest ROI) are:

1. Cleaning and de-cluttering
2. Home staging
3. Lightening and brightening
4. Landscaping
5. Repairing plumbing 

Cleaning and de-cluttering continues to rank as the top suggested home improvement (since the survey was originally conducted in 2000), recommended by 98% of Realtors, costing less than $200 and returning a value of nearly $1,700 to the home’s sale price, or an 872% return on investment.

“Many Realtors agree, especially in a buyer’s market, that sellers who make these recommended home improvements often get their homes sold faster and at higher prices,” stated Louis Cammarosano, General Manager at HomeGain. “We have customized our Home Sale Maximizer online home improvement tool to help identify and prioritize the projects that can increase the salability and selling price of a home.”

Rounding out the top 12, the list of low cost, do-it-yourself home improvements includes: updating electrical, replacing or shampooing carpets, painting interior walls, repairing damaged floors, updating kitchen, painting outside of home, and updating bathroom/s.

The home improvement projects with the highest price increases to a home’s resale value are updating the kitchen ($1,200 cost / $2,850 price increase), followed by painting the outside of the home ($900 cost / $1,815 price increase) and home staging ($300 cost / $1,780 price increase).

“Inexpensive cosmetic home improvements and basic improvements greatly enhance the value of the home,” stated Carol Wilson of Carpenter Real Estate in Indianapolis, IN, HomeGain AgentEvaluator member since 1999.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The details for condo purchasers

A Hampton Roads condo is a desireable product for a large number of buyers. Choose well and Make sure you do your homework! By Law you have the right to review the condo docs to get the answers. Know your questions first.

Questions to Ask Your Potential Hampton Roads Condo Association:

If you’re looking at buying a Hampton Roads condo, you need to be aware that there are condominium associations that oversee condo developments just like there are homeowner’s associations that oversee subdivisions. However, they may not work the same and can vary widely from condo to condo. Here are a few things you need to ask the association before signing that contract:

1. What’s the ratio of owner-occupied to tenant-occupied units? More owner-occupied units means better marketability if you want to resell.

2. Do the assessments rise with inflation? This doesn’t sound like a good thing, but matching assessments with the rate of inflation means the ability to build reserves for any future repairs.

3. What does the assessment cover (trash collection, condo maintenance, etc.) in the Hampton Roads condo? Some association assessments may not cover recreational facilities, for instance, while other condos’ assessments may cover a broad range of areas.

4. What is the turnover in the building? If it’s high, that’s an indication of issues you may not be familiar with.

5. How much of the assessments do they keep in reserve and for what? How do they invest the money? If you’re paying fees and assessments, you want to make sure they aren’t spent frivolously.

6. Are they involved in a lawsuit? If the condo is in litigation, those reserves can disappear quickly.

7. How reputable is the builder? If you can, visit other projects and ask the residents how they feel about their place. Get an engineer’s report to find out if the building is in good shape. Any problems that are there when you buy are yours once you sign the contract.

8. What are the condominium’s bylaws, restrictions, covenants and grandfather clauses? You want to make sure you can live with them. In addition, you’ll want an attorney to look over the documents with you.

9. Is more than one association involved? The larger the development, the more likely that there are umbrella associations. Several associations can mean several assessments.

If you’re looking for a condo that perfectly fits your lifestyle and needs, I can help.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Distressed Properties Lend Opportunities for Everyone

We’ve heard a lot about the ‘perfect storm’ over the past year—appreciating home prices, plus loans gone bad, plus unemployment equals a devastating downturn for real estate. But there’s another perfect storm you should know about: distressed properties,  plus HUD’s FHA 203k rehab loans.

Real Estate is the best avenue to build wealth and there are opportunities for everyone in this market. Are you thinking about a move or interested in investing in real estate?   We have the knowledge and resources to find the fit for you and help you with a property purchase or sale.

Contact me to discuss the opportunities available.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tax Credit to extend and offer $6,500 to others

The amendment would extend the existing $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers and offer a new $6,500 credit for existing homeowners who have lived in their current residence for a consecutive five-year period within the past eight years. Under the amendment, home buyers would be required to be under contract by April 30 and close before July 1.