IN TODAY’S MARKET YOUR HOME HAS TO STAND OUT…IN A POSITIVE WAY!

1. Curb appeal, the window to your home.   You have 10 seconds to make an impression.  Keep the grass well-watered and mowed. Have your trees trimmed. Cut back overgrowth. Plant some blooming flowers. Store toys, bicycles, roller-skates, gardening tools. If necessary, replace your front doors hardware, paint the door and trim painted.  Be sure the numbers on your home are visable and replace if dateD, an inexpensive face lift.   Sweep the porch and the front walkway. Are you exterior lights dated?  If so, replace or paint them.  Always keep your lights on after dark!.

2. If you’re not using it, put it away! SIGHT, SMELL, SOUND. If any one of these senses is offended in your home that is ALL the potential buyer will remember! Buyers have to be able to see themselves in your home. If your home has too much furniture, overflowing closets, crowded kitchen and bathroom countertops or lots of family photos or collectibles on display, potential buyers won’t be able to see your home. Get rid of anything you don’t need or use. They know you’re moving so boxes in the basement or garage, stored neatly, are not a problem. To eliminate bad smells, bathe your pets, freshen the cat litter box frequently, shampoo your carpets,vacuum daily,  dry clean your drapes, and empty trash cans, and recycling bins.  Place open boxes of baking soda in smell-prone areas, and refrain from cooking fish or strong-smelling foods. Introduce pleasing smells by placing flowers or potpourri (soft scents, you don’t want anything to floral or overwhelming) in your home and using air fresheners. Baking a fresh or frozen pie or some other fragrant treat is another common tactic.

4. Fix it! Buyers expect everything in their new home to operate safely and properly. Picky buyers definitely will notice-and likely magnify — minor maintenance problems you’ve ignored for months or even years. Leaky faucets, burned-out light bulbs, painted-shut or broken windows, inoperable appliances and the like should be fixed before you put your home on the market. These repairs may seem small, but left undone they can lead buyers to question whether you’ve taken good care of your home.

5. Don’t overstage. Sometimes setting the tables with your fine china, silver and napkins can be a little much.  Fresh flowers, clean towels, freshly made beds and everything in it’s place sets the stage.

6. Become the buyer. View your home as if you were there for the first time. What do you notice? How do you feel about what you see? Does the home seem inviting? Well-maintained? Would you want to buy this home? Your answer should be an enthusiastic yes!

Tax Credit Extended for Certain Individuals

First-Time Homebuyer Credit: Members of the Military and Certain Other Federal Employees

 
The Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009, which was signed into law on Nov. 6, 2009, extends and expands the first-time homebuyer credit allowed by previous Acts. The new law:

  • Extends deadlines for purchasing and closing on a home.
  • Authorizes the credit for long-time homeowners buying a replacement principal residence.
  • Raises the income limitations for homeowners claiming the credit.  

Under the new law, an eligible taxpayer must buy, or enter into a binding contract to buy, a principal residence on or before April 30, 2010 and close on the home by June 30, 2010. For qualifying purchases in 2010, taxpayers have the option of claiming the credit on either their 2009 or 2010 return.  

For the first time, long-time homeowners who buy a replacement principal residence may also claim a homebuyer credit of up to $6,500 (up to $3,250 for a married individual filing separately). They must have lived  in the same principal residence for any five-consecutive year period during the eight-year period that ended on the date the replacement home is purchased.

People with higher incomes can now qualify for the credit. The new law raises the income limits for homes purchased after Nov. 6, 2009. The credit phases out for individual taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) between $125,000 and $145,000 or between $225,000 and $245,000 for joint filers. The existing MAGI phase-outs of $75,000 to $95,000 or $150,000 to $170,000 for joint filers still apply to purchases on or before Nov. 6, 2009.

Several new restrictions apply to homes purchased after Nov. 6, 2009.

  • Purchasers must attach a properly executed settlement statement to their return.
  • No credit is available if the purchase price of the home exceeds $800,000.
  • The purchaser must be at least 18 years old on the date of purchase. For a married couple, only one spouse must meet this age requirement.
  • A dependent is not eligible for the credit.
  • The new law gives the IRS broader authority to deny first-time homebuyer credit claims, without having to first audit a taxpayer’s return. Known as math error authority, this authority applies, retroactively, to credits claimed on original and amended 2008 returns, as well as to claims yet to be filed.

Additionally, there are new benefits for members of the military and certain other federal employees:

  • Members of the military and certain other federal employees serving outside the U.S. have an extra year to buy a principal residence in the U.S. and qualify for the credit. Thus, an eligible taxpayer must buy, or enter into a binding contract to buy, a principal residence on or before April 30, 2011. If a binding contract is entered into by that date, the taxpayer has until June 30, 2011, to close on the purchase. Members of the uniformed services, members of the Foreign Service and employees of the intelligence community are eligible for this special rule. It applies to any individual (and, if married, the individual’s spouse) who serves on qualified official extended duty service outside of the United States for at least 90 days during the period beginning after Dec. 31, 2008, and ending before May 1, 2010.
  • In many cases, the credit repayment (recapture) requirement is waived for members of the uniformed services, members of the Foreign Service and employees of the intelligence community. This relief applies where a home is sold or stops being the taxpayer’s principal residence after Dec. 31, 2008, in connection with government orders received by the individual (or the individual’s spouse) for qualified official extended duty service. The credit is still allowable even if this happens during the year of purchase. Qualified official extended duty is any period of extended duty while serving at a place of duty at least 50 miles away from the taxpayer’s principal residence (whether inside or outside the U.S.) or while residing under government orders in government quarters. Extended duty is defined as any period of duty pursuant to a call or order to such duty for a period in excess of 90 days or for an indefinite period.

Question and Answer

Q. Are both spouses required to be overseas for the requisite time period in order to qualify for the 2011 extension to claim the credit?  

A. Only one spouse must be overseas on official extended duty for the requisite amount of time for either spouse to be eligible for the 2011 extension of time to purchase a principal residence and claim the credit. 

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: December 14, 2009

HAFA Program Takes Effect April 5, 2010…Understanding the Process

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On November 30, 2009, the Treasury Department released guidelines and forms for its new Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA). HAFA is part of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). HAFA provides incentives in connection with a short sale or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure (DIL) used to avoid foreclosure on a loan eligible for modification under the HAMP program. Servicers participating in HAMP are also required to comply with HAFA. A list of servicers participating in HAMP is available at MakingHomeAffordable.gov.

HAFA applies to loans not owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, which will issue their own versions of HAFA in coming weeks.

HAFA is a complex program, with 43 pages of guidelines and forms, designed to simplify and streamline use of short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure. HAFA:

  • Complements HAMP by providing a viable alternative for borrowers (the current homeowners) who are HAMP eligible but nevertheless unable to keep their home.
  • Uses borrower financial and hardship information already collected in connection with consideration of a loan modification.
  • Allows borrowers to receive pre-approved short sales terms before listing the property (including the minimum acceptable net proceeds).
  • Prohibits the servicers from requiring a reduction in the real estate commission agreed upon in the listing agreement (up to 6 percent).
  • Requires borrowers to be fully released from future liability for the first mortgage debt (no cash contribution, promissory note, or deficiency judgment is allowed).
  • Uses standard processes, documents, and timeframes/deadlines.
  • Provides financial incentives: $1,500 for borrower relocation assistance; $1,000 for servicers to cover administrative and processing costs; and up to $1,000 for investors for allowing a total of up to $3,000 in short sale proceeds to be distributed to subordinate lien holders (on a one-for-three matching basis).
  • Requires all servicers participating in HAMP to implement HAFA in accordance with their own written policy, consistent with investor guidelines. The policy may include factors such as the severity of the potential loss, local markets, timing of pending foreclosure actions, and borrower motivation and cooperation.

The program does not take effect until April 5, 2010, but servicers may implement it before then if they meet certain requirements. The program sunsets on December 31, 2012. Published by NAR.