The Time is Now!

    3 reasons to take action TODAY!:

    1. As of today there are 61 days to secure a purchase agreement on a property to qualify for the first home buyer program AND as a current home owner the same expiration applies for the home you are planning to move to! When you consider it often takes 45 days of concentrated efforts to find a home – that means now is the time to take action.

    2. What about the April 1st expiration of government support lower interest rates? Finding and securing that home NOW would allow you to place a rate lock on today’s low rates. Looking at an FHA mortgage? Processing times are almost certainly going to take longer the closer to April 30th we get. As a result there could be some processing time “back up.” If this is the case it means getting yours at the “front of the line” will be advantageous.

    3. Prices in the market may experience a temporary “hardening” in the market the closer to April 30th we get – therefore taking action now makes sense before the market experiences any reason not to give you the best deal out there.

    Sellers – thinking of taking advantage of one of the busiest buying markets we’ve seen in 3+ years? Now is the time to act. There IS time to have your home marketed properly to secure a purchase agreement. What’s your risk – it doesn’t sell and you’re still in the same boat you are now but potentially this push has burned through the next 18 months of buyers. What’s your gain? If you are thinking of selling within the next 12 months – now is the time to capture the artificial demand created by the tax credit – including the potential to hold closer to your list price based on the demand between now and April 30th.

    Want to customize an action to weigh out your options? Contact us and we’ll work with you to maximize your achieving your goals.

    The HEAT is ON!

    With it only being mid February you might think that there’s plenty of time for a home buyer who qualifies for the tax credit to act. However, consider this: on average it take 60-75 days to find a home and close on it. That means we are closing in on the “point of no return” as Marty McFly use to say.

    Just in the last week and half I have experienced not only an upturn in activity on the market but also multiple bid situations where in order to win the bid for the home the buyer needed to act fast & make good decisions on how the offer was written.

    So how can you be sure to secure your bid?
    1. Start looking now – don’t delay, the longer you wait the more competition you’ll have.
    2. Get preapproved – if you were a seller who would you sell too? The buyer saying they would get proof they can buy the home in a couple of days or the buyer that says I am preapproved now, here’s my letter of proof…..
    3. Write a clean offer. Sure there are lots of ways to have the seller pay for a lot of items on behalf of the buyer, and there are instances where those requests are justified but often, the seller is reviewing the offer and adding up every request and noting what their bottom line line is. If you’re competing against other buyers the seller will often choose the “cleanest” deal to counter or accept – forcing you out of the running.
    4. Use a buyers agent, many first time home buyers are not aware of the real estate process ( see historical post, 9 step process ( When a home is listed the commission is set by the listing agent (the one with the sign in the yard) and the seller. The seller agrees to pay the agent a commission upon sale of the home. The listing agent then is take a portion of their commission and offers it out to the other agents if they sell the home. This allows you are a buyer to have someone working on your behalf, without having to pay a commission for their services. The seller is paying the commission regardless and the listing agent is motivated to sell that ONE house, where as your buyers agent is going to earn a commission regardless of the home they help you find. Therefore the buyers agent is motivated to help you find the best possible option for you. Ashley and I always say that we would never want to help someone into a home that we couldn’t help them sell again when they are ready, this means taking into account all factors: is this a good home, purchased at a good price, in an area that should be marketable and desirable down the road?

    Buying a home is fun and now with the additional tax credit you have plenty of incentive to “make the leap.”

    Contact us for options that could best fit your needs and to ask more questions. We’re here as a resource to you!

    Spring Market Here?

    Yes its true – this years Spring market is already heating up early. With the seasonal nature of the local market in combination with the tax incentive – the housing market is in position for a busy time ahead.

    What does this mean to you? If you are going to be a seller in this market – get prepared now – even if you don’t yet take action – at least you’ll be ready. As a buyer – take advantage of sellers who have held onto the property over the slowest time of the year – they need you!

    To take the next step and learn more – email us!

    New Tax Credits Signed Into Law Now Not Just First Time Home Buyers!

    BREAKING NEWS: Obama Signs Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension

    RISMEDIA, November 6, 2009—President Barack Obama has approved the first-time homebuyer tax credit extension which will extend the tax credit until April 30, 2010.The extension is part of a $24 billion economic stimulus bill that will extend 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.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 principal residence 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 LimitsHomebuyers 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 married couples 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 provided 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.Payback ProvisionsThe tax credit is a true credit. It does not have to be repaid unless the home owner sells or stops using the home as their principal residence within three years after the purchase.

    To learn how this will impact you and to determine your homes value and also learn about the amazing deals for your next home – call or email!

    Top 5 Things to sell your home

    The Top 5 Steps To Help You Sell Your Home

    With now through mid August being the strongest market of the year we are re-posting our blog post from Early Spring. This includes an informative outline of what a seller should consider before placing their home on the market.

    Before placing your home on the market there are some considerations to make. Think back to when you purchased your home. How did it smell? How clean was it? Did this affect your opinion of how the home owners were keeping up the house? Often, a buyer will perceive what is seen on the surface as a reflection of how well you’ve cared for the house while living there. A clean house with well oiled doors and clean windows and cupboards that close is often perceived as a house that has been well cared for. With that in mind read on….

    The Top 5 Steps To Help You Sell Your Home

    So you’re thinking of placing your home on the market? Be sure to consider these 5 steps before the sign goes in the yard.

    1. Curb Appeal: What does your home look like from the outside? Is it such that a buyer would want to come in? The buyers’ first impression is very important to drawing them to the interior of the home. Make sure your exterior is well manicured; cut the grass, trim the shrubs, eliminate weeds from cracks in pavement, scrub down the front door and wash all the windows. This shows the buyer how well you take care of your home.

    2. Clutter Be Gone: Clear entryways and hallways making it easy for the buyers to move throughout your home. Clean off counter tops in bathrooms and kitchens and rid them of clutter. Take good inventory of items that can be given away or thrown away – shoving them a closet won’t help – buyers open closets and drawers too! Speaking of closets, organize them – showing ease of use and plenty of space. If you need to, consider renting a storage unit for off-season items.

    3. Hammer & Nail: If there are small items around the house that need fixing correct them. A home that shows it’s been well maintained is received positively. If the cabinet door sticks, or there are areas that could use patching, consider doing these before you let the buyers in.

    4. K.I.N.: Keep It Neutral! Paint is one of the least expensive ways to improve the appearance of a space. Buyers these days prefer light, neutral colors. While painting a room will not usually yield a higher sale price it can GREATLY assist in your home selling sooner. Dark paints can make a room look smaller and don’t reflect the light as well and stronger colors can inhibit many buyers from envisioning themselves living in the home.

    5. Soap & Water: Cleaning can do wonders for the appeal of your home. Clean carpets, shine wood floors, scrub the tile and wipe down the baseboards –and that’s just the floors! Consider cleaning every inch of the bathrooms and replace the shower curtain if necessary. For the kitchen clean the cupboards and the both the stove top and the oven. When it comes to dusting replace your furnace filter first! Then dust away all those dust bunnies. By replacing your filter first you will have less of a likelihood of the dust returning so quickly.

    By following these 5 steps you’re well on your way to having your home prepared. Now it’s time to call us and we’ll walk through the home with “buyer eyes” assisting you by pointing out items that a buyer may notice. Small corrections can go a LONG way!

    $8000 in your pocket….

    The new stimulus bill has definite benefits for today’s first time home buyer. This could mean great things for both first time home buyers AND sellers.

    Buyers: If you are a first time home buyer and had heard of the $7500 tax credit (which was a 5 year interest free loan) you now have an upgraded offer: $up to $8000 in your pocket AND its not a loan! Yo can learn more about this at:

    Sellers: With today’s market being an incredible buying opportunity, all sellers feel they are in the same boat shouting “Pick Me, Pick Me!!!” Well the great news is that buyers may have just been encourage to take action and do just that. For the West Michigan and Grand Rapids areas the “first time homes buyer market” primarily is at $175k and under. In some cases professional, dual income home buyers may touch upon $200k but we are seeing most stay at $175k and below. With the new $8k tax credit this buyer group has been called to action. Couple this with the banks making an effort to reduce the number of foreclosures on the market an the market could potentially loosen up over the next 6 months.

    Lastly, for sellers in the mean time – prior to your home selling, you may consider a refinance. If so the stimulus bill may have something in it for you too. You can find our more at:

    As always please feel free to email us your questions.

    Happy New Year!

    Enjoy this time of reflection on 2008 and the wonderful new year that is to come.

    For Ashley and I – we’re excited about what is to come in 2009.

    Stay tuned for our summary of the 2009 economic outlook, buyer incentives and many ways you can make 2009 work for you!

    $7500 Tax Credit for you?

    Have you heard the latest news in home purchases? Now most individuals who have not owned a home in the last 3 years will qualify for a $7500 tax credit upon the purchase of a home. It’s retroactive back to April 9 of 2008 until July 1 2009.

    At a glance it breaks down like this:

    • The tax credit is available for first-time home buyers only. (The law defines “first-time home buyer” as a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase. )*
    • The maximum credit amount is $7,500. *
    • The credit is available for homes purchased on or after April 9, 2008 and before July 1, 2009.*
    • Single taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000 and married couples with incomes up to $150,000 qualify for the full tax credit. *

    *excerpts taken from the Federal Housing tax Credit website

    What does this mean for you? It could mean $7500 taken directly off your income tax that you owe (see definition of income tax credit at see #11)

    To learn more about the Federal Housing Tax credit please visit their website at:

    If you’re a first time home buyer now is the time to act! Not only do you currently get the $7500 tax credit as mentioned about but also the down payment assistance programs that have become so popular in recent history are going away. Meaning that if you intend to purchase a home with zero down action must be taken prior to September 30 of this year. Otherwise 3.5% will be required as a down payment. The details on this are slim at this point and I am hopeful something else will assist in allowing some home buyers to continue to purchase with zero or little down. I’ll continue to update you on the progress of this.

    If you would like more information regarding this program please contact me and I’ll put you in touch with a lender who can answer your specific questions.

    Foreclosures and Short Sales in Grand Rapids

    In today’s market the term “short sale” & “foreclosure” not only are making headlines – they’re making today’s smart buyer money. West Michigan has seen a rise in it’s foreclosure rate – in fact it doubled. Doubled? that’s not as scary as it sounds; our market went from a historical foreclosure rate of 2% to 4% in recent times.
    With 4% of the market in foreclosure what does that mean for today’s buyer? It means 2 things 1. Foreclosed properties are often offered at a discounted rate to that of a traditional sale as they are owned by banks or the government – 2 parties who consider the home a liability not an asset and who wish to sell quickly.
    2. Today’s traditional seller (not in foreclosure) is having to compete against significantly reduced comparable properties.
    As a buyer in today’s market how do you capitalize on this current foreclosure trend? 3 things:
    A. Get a buyers agent to assist you. No seriously this is not simply a sales pitch for business. here’s why: Bank list their properties with listing agents who work for the bank- they represent the bank for a set commission rate. There is a commission offered to a buyers agent for helping the buyer find a home so they’re motivated to help the buyer with the buyer having to pay. However there is typically not a discount on commission for going straight to the list agent. It doesn’t save the buyer money and the agent with the sign in the yard is working for the seller. Second- foreclosure markets can run quickly – the top properties can sell in a matter of hours. Working with a buyers agent will get you the inside line on a home as soon as it hits the market or prior to the general public being aware of it.
    B. Get pre-approved. Banks won’t even look at your offer unless it’s from a buyer who has been pre-approved.
    C. Be informed. Banks want to dump the house as fast as possible but that doesn’t discount your right to know what you are buying. ASIS doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to inspections and it also doesn’t automatically mean that is something drastically wrong with the property. It does mean that the bank does not plan on fixing any issues you come across. However you can usually negotiate for those issues. Let’s say you place an offer for $140k on a home that’s on the market for $160k in foreclosure. After negotiating the offer is accepted at $145k. You have inspections and find you need a new roof which is estimated at $3500. You can then go back to the bank to look to renegotiate and get that $3500 off the purchase price. Of course the deal has to be written properly in the first place to ensure you reserve the right to do this but an agent that’s use to dealing with foreclosures can assist with that.

    Want to learn more? Contact us or plan to visit our net seminar.

    Note to Buyers: Maximize Your Equity

    Question: What is the number one component to a home all buyers should seek in today’s market?

    Answer: The ability to increase equity. In a market where buyers are witnessing sellers bring thousands of dollars to the closing table – buyers are asking themselves “How can I avoid this when it’s my turn to sell?” This is where the knowledge of a markets history is vital and knowing where to spend your dollars over the coming years after you’ve bought your home is key. What if you spent $30k on an indoor hot tub and dry sauna only to find out it’s added no value to the next buyer and therefore it’s money wasted? Knowing where to spend your money, how much potential improvements may cost you and what aspects of a home can and should be improved are key things to understand BEFORE you buy your home. Ashley and I recommend every buyer have an Exit Strategy Analysis completed before making an offer on a property. This analysis goes beyond market history to include potential market patterns, population & local economic factors affecting growth, and improvements tailored to the subject home that can identify equity maximizing improvements. Approaching the purchase of your home with your end goal in mind will assist you in your next purchase and will maximize your investment in real estate.

    Want to learn more about an ESA (Exit Strategy Analysis)? Contact us.