June 2009 Vol. 4 No.6
• Attention First-Time Homebuyers: Care for $8,000? • June's Home Value Improver • About Us

Attention First-Time Homebuyers: Care for $8,000?

If there is one bright spot in the dark economic picture, it may be this - it's a great time for first-time homebuyers to join the ranks of homeownership.

If you haven't owned a house in at least three years, conditions are right for you to buy a home, for three simple reasons:

  1. Housing prices have dropped.
    Unless you have been living in a convent in rural Venezuela, you know that the real estate market is in a slump and pricing is depressed.

  2. You have nothing to sell.
    People who need to sell in order to buy are often stuck wondering which to do first. They have trouble accurately assessing their budget without knowing their current home's selling price. Plus, what if they lose money? Without anything to sell, you are in an excellent position to take advantage of the lower housing prices.

  3. You can have $8,000 free and clear.
    Uncle Sam really wants you to buy a house. In fact, if you've never owned one, you are eligible for an $8,000 tax credit.

Before you click away from this newsletter to find your dream home in an online listing, let's talk about a few specifics of the tax credit.

Any individual whose Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is less than $75,000 per year or a married couple whose combined AGI is less than $150,000 qualifies. You cannot have owned a primary residence in the past 3 years.

It's money for first-time buyers - free and clear. The 2008 first-time homebuyer plan required people to pay the money back to the feds. It was actually a no-interest loan. This one for 2009 is money in the bank.

You must have purchased a primary residence on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009.

Wherever you want to buy a home, and whatever type you want - single families, condos, or multi-family units that serve as your primary residence are some examples.

Simply claim the credit on your federal income tax return when the time comes. Be sure to fill out an IRS Form 5405. You do not need any pre-approval or permission. (Of course, you should make sure you qualify before you take any major steps.)

More consumer spending means more jobs. More jobs mean more spending. More spending and more jobs mean higher real estate prices, so get moving before things get too good!

For more information about the 2009 first-time homebuyers' tax credit, check out:

June's Home Value Improver

Should You Add a Deck to Your Home?

If the impending sunshine has you hankering for some outdoor time, you may be thinking about adding a deck onto your house. Fortunately, in addition to being fun to have, a deck adds value to your home. Real estate professionals estimate that homeowners can recoup up to 75% of the cost of building a deck.

Before you start seeking a contractor or digging up the dirt if you're doing it yourself, take some time to think about the following:

1. Decide what you will do on your deck.

  • Will you entertain lots of people or will it be just you and your spouse?
  • Will there be children around or will it see mostly adult use?
  • Does it lead to a pool or a spa?
  • Do you need privacy from neighbors?

2. Get the appropriate permits.

  • Start at your local town or city Building Department and get information about the zoning laws that may apply and the permits that are required.
  • If you have a homeowner association, learn its rules about decks.
  • Find out if the utility companies have any pipes buried in your yard that could be disturbed by digging.

3. Consider cool design features.

  • If form matters as much (or more) than function to you, you might include some design flairs, such as 45-degree angles, multiple levels, or just a funky-shaped deck.
  • You might also consider a "cut-out," which means that your deck can actually be built around a tree or other structure.

4. Choose your material of choice.

  • Pressure-treated wood works well, but will undergo the wear and tear of any wood due to insects, color changes, etc.
  • Composite material sometimes is more difficult to install, although some of the material acts just like wood. One drawback is that it can sag at the joists in the heat.

5. Figure out your budget (Yes, I saved this for last.)

  • Prices vary widely depending on the materials and style you choose.
  • If you have the deck designed, consider buying materials and pulling permits yourself. If you do this work, you will save money on any work a contractor may do.
  • Committed do-it-yourselfers will save the most money, of course. But make sure you can devote the time and attention the project deserves.

We are in an extremely volatile market. My advice to homeowners is to find a rate you can live with, lock it in and move on.

It is never wise to play the market - very few people win in Vegas, and very few win when gambling with mortgage rates.

Two things I have learned in my years so far: 1. Never run for the bus. 2. Lock and close and move on with your life - a .125% or .25% rate change usually makes a very small difference in monthly payments.

As always, I am happy to discuss your specific situation or answer any questions you may have!

Best regards,
Debbie Siegel
Westchester Mortgage

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