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Tips for Buying in a Tight Market

Increase your chances of getting your dream house in a competitive housing market, and lower your chances of losing out to another buyer.

1. Get pre-qualified for a mortgage. You ll be able to make a firm commitment to buy and your offer will be more desirable to the seller.

2. Stay in close contact with your real estate agent to find out about the newest listings. Be ready to see a house as soon as it goes on the market  if it s a great home, it will go fast.

3. Scout out new listings yourself. Look at Web sites such as REALTOR.com, browse your local newspaper s real estate section, and drive through the neighborhood to spot For Sale signs. If you see a home you like, write down the address and the name of the listing agent. Your real estate agent will schedule a showing.

4. Be ready to make a decision. Spend a lot of time in advance deciding what you must have in a home so you won t be unsure when you have the chance to make an offer.

5. Bid competitively. You may not want to start out offering the absolute highest price you can afford, but don t go too low to get a deal. In a tight market, you ll lose out.

6. Keep contingencies to a minimum. Restrictions such as needing to sell your home before you move or wanting to delay the closing until a certain date can make your offer unappealing. In a tight market, you ll probably be able to sell your house rapidly. Or talk to your lender about getting a bridge loan to cover both mortgages for a short period.

7. Don t get caught in a buying frenzy. Just because there s competition doesn t mean you should just buy it. And even though you want to make your offer attractive, don t neglect inspections that help ensure that your house is sound.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Tips for Finding the Perfect Neighborhood

Your neighborhood has a big impact on your lifestyle. Follow these steps to find the perfect community to call home.

Is it close to your favorite spots Make a list of the activities  movies, health club, church, etc.  you engage in regularly and stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel from each neighborhood you re considering to engage in your most common activities.

Check out the school district. This is especially important if you have children, but it also can affect resale value. The Department of Education in your town can probably provide information on test scores, class size, percentage of students who attend college, and special enrichment programs. If you have school-age children, visit schools in the neighborhoods you re considering. Also, check out www.schoolmatters.com.

Find out if the neighborhood is safe. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime statistics. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type  such as burglaries or armed robberies  and the trend of increasing or decreasing crime. Also, is crime centered in only one part of the neighborhood, such as near a retail area

Determine if the neighborhood is economically stable. Check with your local city economic development office to see if income and property values in the neighborhood are stable or rising. What is the percentage of homes to apartments Apartments don t necessarily diminish value, but do mean a more transient population. Do you see vacant businesses or homes that have been for sale for months

See if you ll make money. Ask a local REALTOR or call the local REALTOR association to get information about price appreciation in the neighborhood. Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, this information may give you a sense of how good of an investment your home will be. A REALTOR or the government planning agency also may be able to tell you about planned developments or other changes in the neighborhood  like a new school or highway  that might affect value.

Make personal observations. Once you ve narrowed your focus to two or three neighborhoods, go there and walk around. Are homes tidy and well maintained Are streets quiet How does it feel Pick a warm day if you can and chat with people working or playing outside.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

How to Get an Offer on Your Home

1. Price it right. Set a price at the lower end of your property s realistic price range.

2. Prepare for visitors. Get your house market ready at least two weeks before you begin showing it.

3. Be flexible about showings. It s often disruptive to have a house ready to show at the spur of the moment. But the more amenable you can be about letting people see your home, the sooner you ll find a buyer.

4. Anticipate the offers. Decide in advance what price and terms you ll find acceptable.

5. Don t refuse to drop the price. If your home has been on the market for more than 30 days without an offer, you should be prepared to at least consider lowering your asking price.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

5 Things to do Before Putting Your Home on the Market

1. Have a pre-sale home inspection. Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. An inspector will be able to give you a good indication of the trouble areas that will stand out to potential buyers, and you ll be able to make repairs before open houses begin.

2. Organize and clean. Pare down clutter and pack up your least-used items, such as large blenders and other kitchen tools, out-of-season clothes, toys, and exercise equipment. Store items off-site or in boxes neatly arranged in the garage or basement. Clean the windows, carpets, walls, lighting fixtures, and baseboards to make the house shine.

3. Get replacement estimates. Do you have big-ticket items that are worn our or will need to be replaced soon, such your roof or carpeting Get estimates on how much it would cost to replace them, even if you don t plan to do it yourself. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home, and will be handy when negotiations begin.

4. Find your warranties. Gather up the warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for the furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items that will remain with the house.

5. Spruce up the curb appeal. Pretend you re a buyer and stand outside of your home. As you approach the front door, what is your impression of the property Do the lawn and bushes look neatly manicured Is the address clearly visible Are pretty flowers or plants framing the entrance Is the walkway free from cracks and impediments

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

7 Tips for Short Sale Success.

By: G. M. Filisko

Have to sell your home for less than it’s worth Our seven tips will help you get the best price.

When you owe more on your home than it’s worth, but you have to sell, you need to squeeze every dollar possible from the sale.

Here are seven tips for navigating the short-sale process.

1. Know who you owe
A short sale has to be approved by any company that has a mortgage or lien against your home. That includes your first, second, or even third mortgage lender, your home equity line lender; your homeowners or condominium association; and any contractors who’ve placed a lien on your home. Make a list and start talking to everyone early in the process. Ask what documents they’ll need from you.

2. Pick your short sale team
You’ll need to work with a team of short sale experts, including a real estate agent, real estate attorney, and your accountant. Look for agents and attorneys who advertise themselves as short sale experts. Interview at least three, and listen carefully for signs that they understand the complexities of the short sale process.
Agents should explain how they’ll arrive at a suggested price for your home. Ask them to show you a sample short-sale package or for an example of a prior short-sale success.

3. Get your documents ready
Gather the paperwork your creditors and mortgage lenders asked to see, like your listing agreement and a hardship letter explaining why you need to do a short sale. You’ll also need proof of what you earn and what you owe as well as copies of your federal income tax returns for the past two years.

4. Expect delays
Despite a federal rule saying banks participating in the federal government’s Making Home Affordable loan modification program (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/making-home-affordable-modification-option/) must respond to short-sale offers within 10 days, it may take weeks or months for your lender to decide whether to allow you to sell your home in a short sale–and even longer if you must negotiate with more than one lender or lienholder.
Your lender and lienholders don’t have to agree to your proposed short sale. They can reject your terms or make a counteroffer, which can create further delays.

5. Anticipate demands
Discuss with your short-sale team how you should respond to common short-sale demands from lenders. For example, are you willing to sign a promissory note agreeing to pay outstanding amounts after the sale is complete

6. Know the tax implications
Any unpaid amount of your mortgage “forgiven” by your lender through a short sale may be considered income to you under federal tax rules. Ask your attorney or accountant whether you qualify to exclude that amount as income on your tax returns under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation Act. Also ask if you’ll be required to report amounts “forgiven” by other lienholders, if applicable.

7. Consider how the short sale will affect your credit and what you must pay
Ask whether your lender will report the short sale to credit-reporting agencies. Having a portion of your debt forgiven may negatively affect your credit score, but a short sale typically damages your score less than a foreclosure or bankruptcy.
Ask you lawyer whether you’ll be responsible for paying back the lenders’ loss. If the lender says it will forgive any losses on the sale of your home, get that promise in writing.

Other web resources
More on short sales (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/article-30016.html)

IRS information on the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation (http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=179414,00.html)

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.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

6 Reasons to Reduce Your Home Price

By: G. M. Filisko

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.

More from HouseLogic
How to ready your home for sale at little cost (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/5-tips-prepare-your-home-sale/)

How to review offers on your home (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/6-tips-choosing-best-offer-your-home/)

Other web resources
Setting the right price

More on setting the right price (http://public.findlaw.com/abaflg/flg-4-4a-1.html)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who made strategic price reductions that led to the sale of a Wisconsin property. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Understanding Capital Gains in Real Estate

When you sell a stock, you owe taxes on your gain  the difference between what you paid for the stock and what you sold it for. The same holds true when selling a home (or a second home), but there are some special considerations.

How to Calculate Gain
In real estate, capital gains are based not on what you paid for the home, but on its adjusted cost basis. To calculate, follow these steps:

1. Purchase price: _______________________

The purchase price of the home is the sale price, not the amount of money you actually contributed at closing.

2. Total adjustments: _______________________

To calculate this, add the following:
Cost of the purchase  including transfer fees, attorney fees, and inspections, but not points you paid on your mortgage.
Cost of sale  including inspections, attorney fees, real estate commission, and money you spent to fix up your home just prior to sale.
Cost of improvements  including room additions, deck, etc. Note here that improvements do not include repairing or replacing something already there, such as putting on a new roof or buying a new furnace.

3. Your home s adjusted cost basis: _______________________

The total of your purchase price and adjustments is the adjusted cost basis of your home.

4. Your capital gain: _______________________

Subtract the adjusted cost basis from the amount your home sells for to get your capital gain.

A Special Real Estate Exemption for Capital Gains
Since 1997, up to $250,000 in capital gains ($500,000 for a married couple) on the sale of a home is exempt from taxation if you meet the following criteria:
You have lived in the home as your principal residence for two out of the last five years.
You have not sold or exchanged another home during the two years preceding the sale.
You meet what the IRS calls  unforeseen circumstances, such as job loss, divorce, or family medical emergency.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Your Property Wish List

What does your future home look like Where is it located As you hunt down your dream home, consult this list to evaluate properties and keep your priorities top of mind.

Neighborhoods

What neighborhoods do you prefer

Schools

What school systems do you want to be near

Transportation

How close must the home be to these amenities:
Public transportation
Airport
Expressway
Neighborhood shopping
Schools
Other

Home Style

What architectural style(s) of homes do you prefer
Do you want to buy a home, condominium, or townhome
Would you like a one-story or two-story home
How many bedrooms must your new home have
How many bathrooms must your new home have

Home Condition

Do you prefer a new home or an existing home
If you re looking for an existing home, how old of a home would you consider
How much repair or renovation would you be willing to do
Do you have special needs that your home must meet

Home Features

Front yard
Back yard
Garage ( __ cars)
Patio/Deck
Pool
Family room
Formal living room
Formal dining room
Eat-in kitchen
Laundry room
Finished basement
Attic
Fireplace
Spa in bath
Air conditioning
Wall-to-wall carpet
Wood floors
Great view

Other notes:

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

6 Creative Ways to Afford a Home

1. Investigate local, state, and national down payment assistance programs. These programs give qualified applicants loans or grants to cover all or part of your required down payment. National programs include the Nehemiah program, www.getdownpayment.com, and the American Dream Down Payment Fund from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, www.hud.gov.

2. Explore seller financing. In some cases, sellers may be willing to finance all or part of the purchase price of the home and let you repay them gradually, just as you would do with a mortgage.

3. Consider a shared-appreciation or shared-equity arrangement. Under this arrangement, your family, friends, or even a third-party may buy a portion of the home and share in any appreciation when the home is sold. The owner/occupant usually pays the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance costs, but all the investors’ names are usually on the mortgage. Companies are available that can help you find such an investor, if your family can t participate.

4. Ask your family for help. Perhaps a family member will loan you money for the down payment or act as a co-signer for the mortgage. Lenders often like to have a co-signer if you have little credit history.

5. Lease with the option to buy. Renting the home for a year or more will give you the chance to save more toward your down payment. And in many cases, owners will apply some of the rental amount toward the purchase price. You usually have to pay a small, nonrefundable option fee to the owner.

6. Consider a short-term second mortgage. If you can qualify for a short-term second mortgage, this would give you money to make a larger down payment. This may be possible if you re in good financial standing, with a strong income and little other debt.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Real Estate Economic Update

Last Week in the News


The South Gate Real Estate Market is looking good.

Existing home sales rose 4.3% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million units from a downwardly revised 4.38 million units in December. The inventory of unsold homes on the market decreased to 2.31 million, a 6.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 6.4-month supply in December.

Retail sales rose 3% for the week ending February 18, according to the ICSC-Goldman Sachs index. On a year-over-year basis, retailers saw sales increase 3.2%.

New home sales fell 0.9% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 321,000 units from an upwardly revised rate of 324,000 units in December. The initial December reading was 307,000. The November rate was also revised higher to 318,000 units. At the current sales pace, there’s a 5.6-month supply of new homes on the market, the lowest reading in six years.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending February 17 fell 4.5%. Refinancing applications decreased 4.8%. Purchase volume fell 2.9%.

Industrial production at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities was unchanged in January after advancing an upwardly revised 1% in December. Compared to a year ago, industrial production is up 3.4%. Capacity utilization fell slightly to 78.5% in January from 78.6% in December.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending February 18 were unchanged at 351,000. Continuing claims for the week ending February 11 fell by 52,000 to 3.392 million, the lowest level since August 2008.

Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on pending home sales on February 27, the housing price index on February 28 and construction spending on March 1.

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