Friday, November 6, 2009

Obama signs jobless benefit extension bill extending unemployment benefits by up to 20 weeks and legislation extends homebuyer tax credit into 2010

President Obama said he signed a bill to provide up to 20 weeks of jobless benefits to unemployed Americans to "help create and save jobs."

NEW YORK ( -- President Obama said he signed into law Friday a bill to provide up to 20 additional weeks of jobless benefits to unemployed Americans and extend the $8,000 tax credit for new homebuyers into the middle of next year.

The signing came after the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate spiked to a 26-year high of 10.2% in October, with 190,000 jobs lost in the month.

After calling the jobless rate "sobering," Obama said the bill he signed will "will help grow our economy, help create and save jobs, and help provide necessary relief to small businesses," in a statement following the signing.

The House approved the measures by a 403-12 vote Thursday afternoon, a day after the Senate passed the legislation.

The closely watched legislation will extend jobless benefits in all states by 14 weeks. Those that live in states with unemployment greater than 8.5% will receive an additional six weeks. The proposal will be funded by extending a longstanding federal unemployment tax on employers through June 30, 2011.

The measure will apply to those whose benefits run out by Dec. 31, which is nearly two million people, according to Senate estimates. Those whose checks have already stopped will be able to reapply for another round.

The House, which passed its own benefits extension in September, giving an additional 13 weeks in high-unemployment states, approved the Senate's version.

"The bill will mark another step toward a boost in our economic growth and it will make critical investments for our families and our workers," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "The legislation offers a lifeline to out-of-work Americans, to the men and women hardest hit by the recession."

"The bill also a places a down payment on the future of our middle-class because it extends, for the first-time homebuyer, a tax credit helping more Americans purchase homes and making it a little easier for families to move into a new house and keep a roof over their heads," she added.
7,000 a day losing benefits

The Senate had been bickering over the details since September, and that cost more than 200,000 people their benefits. Some 7,000 unemployed Americans run out of benefits each day, according to the National Employment Law Project.

Millions of Americans are now depending on unemployment benefits, as the unemployment rate continues to soar.

More than one in three people who are unemployed have been out of work for at least six months, according to the law project.

Lawmakers twice lengthened the time people can receive checks to as much as 79 weeks, depending on the state.

Tax break for buying a home

The legislation also will extend the $8,000 homebuyer tax credit to contracts signed by April 30 and closed by June 30. The controversial credit, which many say has boosted home sales in recent months, was set to expire after Nov. 30.

The bill also creates a $6,500 credit for those who buy a home after living in their current house at least five years. That measure will apply to contracts signed by April 30 and closed by June 30. The current credit defines a first-time homebuyer as someone who has not owned a residence within the past three years.

The credit will be available only for the purchase of principal residences priced at $800,000 or less.

The bill will raise the adjusted gross income cap to $125,000 for single filers and $225,000 for joint filers. The amount of the credit currently begins to phase out for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is more than $75,000, or $150,000 for joint filers.

"It's gonna put people back to work, the home builders, put people in the real estate business," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. "The kind of jobs that can make a difference."

The extension will cost $10.8 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Through mid-September, 1.4 million tax returns had qualified for the credit, according to the IRS. Some portion of those returns, which the IRS couldn't specify, represents buyers who took advantage of an earlier version of the tax credit, which was only worth $7,500 and has to be repaid over time.
By the end of November, the credit will have been used by 1.8 million homebuyers, at least 355,000 of whom would not have bought a house without the tax break, according to estimates by the National Association of Realtors.

"The data on the present home buyer tax credit show that the credit has had its intended impact -- sales have jumped in recent months to a projected 5.1 million for the year and housing inventory has been trimmed, thus stabilizing home prices noticeably," said Ron Phipps, the association's first vice president, in Senate testimony last month.

The credit, however, has also posed many problems. Critics say it's a waste of money because most of those claiming the credit would have bought homes anyway.
It's also been the target of fraud. Some 74,000 people claimed more than $500 million in credits even though they may not be first-time homeowners, according to Treasury officials. And more than 580 children, including some as young as 4-years-old, have claimed the credit.

"Some key controls were missing to prevent an individual from erroneously or fraudulently claiming the credit and receiving an erroneous refund of up to $8,000," said J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration, before a House subcommittee last month.

Last Updated: November 6, 2009: 12:13 PM ET

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Senate passes Homebuyer Tax Credit

November 4, 2009
Today the US Senate voted 98-0 to pass the Homebuyer Tax Credit [within the Unemployment Bill]. It now goes to the House. We expect the House to pass the bill as well and it could go to the President for signature within the week.
Passage of this bill would be wonderful news for the real estate industry in Washington. In essence, the bill extends the $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit through April 30, 2010 and provides a $6,500 credit to new purchasers who have lived in their current residence for five or more years.
According to Senator Patty Murray, "Extending and expanding the successful homebuyer's tax credit will help families purchase homes and will provide a much needed boost to the local housing market".

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Home sales continue to rise

Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - by Jeff Clabaugh Washington, D.C., Business Journal

One measure of home sales rose for the eighth consecutive month in September, the longest streak since 2001.
"National Association of Realtors' index of pending sales of existing homes rose 6.1 percent in September. Pending sales are up 21.2 percent from a year ago, the largest annual increase on record, the NAR says.

"What we are witnessing is a rush of first-time buyers trying to beat the expiration of the tax credit at the end of this month," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. "Home values will stabilize sooner rather than over-correcting."
Existing home sales, which make up the vast majority of home sales, are leading the recovery. Reports last week said sales of new homes fell 3.6 percent in September, while sales of existing homes jumped 9.4 percent. Existing home sales were at a two-year high in September. New home sales are down nearly 8 percent from a year ago.
The NAR predicts new home sales will continue to lag as home builders hold back production to drive down inventory. New home construction also continues to be hampered by an ongoing credit crunch for construction loans.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bridge loans helping homebuyers trying to move up

By Jane Hodges
Special to The Seattle Times

First-time homebuyers have benefitted this year from falling home prices, historically low mortgage rates and $8,000 tax credits that expire Nov. 30.

But another kind of buyer — "move-up buyers" who must sell an existing home to finance the purchase of another, more expensive place — has suffered from slow-moving transactions among mid-priced homes like theirs, unable to predict when a home will sell or for how much and stalling their plans.

Hoping to spur more transactions among the move-up set, Windermere Real Estate last week began promoting 0 percent bridge loans to help them finance the purchase of a new home before they've sold their existing one.

Bridge loans are loans against the value of a home for sale, and borrowers use them to finance a new home purchase they wish to complete before they've sold their original place. Borrowers repay bridge loans with funds from their original home's sale.

Windermere says it's testing a 0 percent bridge loan to see if the offering motivates more transactions.

"We're back in the bridge-loan business," said Jill Wood, president at Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. "This is for a limited time, and our goal is to stimulate the market for the second-, third- or even fourth-time buyer."

Windermere is working with Vintage Loans to offer the program. Would-be buyers can borrow up to $100,000 at 0 percent interest for six months, or up to $200,000 for 0 percent interest for up to three months. Wood said buyers ineligible for the 0 percent bridge loan can apply for a traditional bridge loan at a 7.75 percent interest rate that the company began offering Sept. 1.

Golf Savings Bank and Washington Federal are also offering bridge loans locally. Golf Savings Bank Executive Vice President Donn Costa says rates at Golf Savings Bank are now about 8 percent and require a good credit rating.

Agents say that the middle and top tiers of the local real-estate market could certainly use a boost. In Seattle and close-in areas, the "move-up" market generally includes homes priced at $500,000 or higher, said Brent Lumley, an agent with Windermere's Oak Tree office. Such homes take three or four times longer to sell than homes below that price, he says.

"It does seem that a lot of buyers are kind of stuck," said Todd Williamson, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate's Westwood office in West Seattle who currently represents a few listings priced at over $650,000. "Bridge loans are good in theory. But it also seems like you need equity to take advantage of them."

Williamson says that, rather than use bridge borrowing and wait on a sale, some sellers have become much more flexible about lowering prices. Indeed, he has one listing that's come down from $775,000 to $699,000 over the past six weeks.

Nationally, bridge loans play a role in less than 5 percent of all real-estate transactions, according to Keith Gumbinger, a vice president with HSH Associates, a mortgage research firm in Pompano Plains, N.J.

Craig Goebbel, a partner at Cascade Pacific Mortgage, says local bridge-loan usage is similar to national rates cited by HSH. Goebbel says he hasn't helped clients pursue bridge loans in recent months. And, when he has helped clients seek approval for such loans they've only needed to tap the financing in 15 percent of the time due to successful home sales.

A 0 percent bridge loan, however, might actually do some good, says Gumbinger.
"If this caters to the section of the market that's holding up the overall market, then it could help," he said. "Having access to more liberal financing terms always helps."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Home prices gain for 3rd straight month

Case-Shiller index shows 1.6% gain in July, a sign that recovery may be in motion.

By Les Christie, staff writer
Last Updated: September 29, 2009: 10:37 AM ET

NEW YORK ( -- There was another tick-up in home prices in July, a further indication that housing markets may be stabilizing, according to a report issued Tuesday

Prices for the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price index of 20 cities rose 1.6% from a month earlier, the third consecutive month of gains. They went up 1.4% in June.

Prices were still down 13.3% compared with July 2008, but even that performance was better than expected. A panel of industry experts surveyed by had forecast a 14.2% loss.

"The rate of annual decline in home price values continues to decelerate and we now seem to be witnessing some sustained monthly increases across many of the markets" said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's.

Craig Thomas, a senior economist with PNC Financial Services Group, called the report very encouraging.

"The rule of thumb is that three observations is a trend," he said. "There have been three straight good reports, so, this is a trend."

The home-price gains also confirmed other positive recent housing reports such as lower inventories and more traffic being reported by home builders, according to Thomas. Trends in other economic indicators, such as job losses and retail sales have also improved lately.

A pattern is developing, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), one in which stabilizing prices could contribute to a self-sustaining recovery.

"When prices are falling, consumers ask themselves, 'Why buy now when I can buy later for less,'" he said, adding that rising prices are a strong incentive to act more quickly.

Minneapolis' gain: Among the 20 cities, Minneapolis recorded the biggest gain during July; with prices up 4.6%. San Francisco, up 3.3%, and Chicago, 2.7% higher, also recorded sizable gains.

The only price declines occurred in Las Vegas, where they fell 1.1%, and Seattle, down 0.1%.

Las Vegas has become the city hardest hit by foreclosures, which remain one of the big issues facing housing markets.

Yun points out that there will be another foreclosure spike over the next six to 12 months as the terms of option ARMs and interest-only mortgages reset, raising monthly payments for many borrowers and pushing some into delinquency. Foreclosed homes will continue to come back onto the market, padding supplies and dampening prices.

The other major uncertainty is over the first time homebuyers' tax credit that currently gives back up to $8,000 to taxpayers who buy before Dec. 1 and who have not owned a home within the past three years.

Yun credits the tax credit with being a major market stimulus. NAR estimated that an extra 350,000 homes will be sold because of it. There are bills in Congress that would extend the program and even expand it to every home buyer. If none of these are enacted, the market could suffer a reversal.

There will be a clear-cut market recovery because of buyer interest tied to that stimulus, according to Yun, and if the tax credit is allowed to lapse, we could be looking at another bottom coming our way.

The Case-Shiller index compares the sale price of a home to its price the last time it was sold, then factors in changes in prices over time.

That, ideally, yields a more accurate picture of home price fluctuations than simply calculating the median or average prices of all homes sold during the month. Those averages can be skewed by changes in the mix of homes sold during any one period

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Unemployed Home Owners May Get Assistance

The Obama administration has opened a dialogue with major lenders, economists, and government officials over the possibility of extending a financial lifeline to home owners who no longer can afford their mortgages because of job losses.

Possible strategies range from encouraging loan servicers to allow unemployed borrowers to skip some payments to providing grants or loans to temporarily cover mortgage obligations for home owners who become unemployed.

The talks have drawn praise from some real estate groups and other interests, who say that without aid to this subset of homeowners, the housing recovery could lose momentum.

Source: USA Today, Stephanie Armour (09/18/09)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How Does Inflation Impact Interest Rates?

If you have seen the news lately, you know that inflation is a very serious issue that will likely be on the rise as the year proceeds.

But What Does This Really Mean to You?

The bottom line is that as inflation increases, home loan rates will rise too. That is because lenders know that a rise in inflation actually diminishes the value of the money they receive over the life of a loan, as the money they receive for payment simply will not go as far. So when lenders see changes in inflation or even anticipate a rise, they increase their interest rates to make up for the loss in future buying power that will happen as a result of inflation.

What Should You Do?

Work with a home loan professional who pays close attention to what is going on with inflation–not only with the reports that come out, but also with the concerns that legislators and lenders express. After all, lenders may raise rates to protect their money as soon as they feel the tide turning.

More importantly, if you or any of your family, friends, neighbors or co-workers have been considering a purchase or refinance, this is a great time to act because home loan rates could be on the rise.

Information Provided by Toby Wonder
Mortgage Consultant
Office: 425-274-9524
Cell: 206-910-4766
License #: 510-LO-32290

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

70 DAYS and counting!!! -- The Countdown is On....

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 authorizes a tax credit of up to $8,000 for qualified first-time home buyers purchasing a principal residence on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009.

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. For married taxpayers, the law tests the homeownership history of both the home buyer and his/her spouse.

The income limit: for single taxpayers is $75,000; the limit is $150,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return. The tax credit amount is reduced for buyers with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of more than $75,000 for single taxpayers and $150,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return. The phase-out range for the tax credit program is equal to $20,000. That is, the tax credit amount is reduced to zero for taxpayers with MAGI of more than $95,000 (single) or $170,000 (married) and is reduced proportionally for taxpayers with MAGIs between these amounts.

This information provided by Robert Wolverton with Mortgage Advisory Group


If you are a buyer and would like to get pre-qualified contact Robert Wolverton - 425.418.3233

"I can close most transactions in 10 business days when needed" - Robert

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pricey areas see big growth in home sales

August home-sales figures show two higher-priced King County neighborhoods saw the biggest increases in sales.
By Eric Pryne, Seattle Times business reporter

King County home sales continued their summer surge in August. And the latest numbers suggest the buyers aren't all cash-starved first-timers.

Buyers closed on 5 percent more houses last month than in August 2008, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported Friday. It was the third consecutive monthly year-over-year increase, a bump many attribute to the new $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time buyers.
But the neighborhood that saw the biggest jump in sales in August was West Bellevue/Medina, far beyond the means of most folks making their first forays into homeownership.

The runner-up for the month, Queen Anne/Magnolia, also is no mecca for real-estate rookies.
Brokers who work in those two neighborhoods say people with money, who held back when the economy was on the brink, are starting to buy houses again.

"Americans forget very quickly," said Sam Konswa, owner of Queen Anne Real Estate. "The confidence level has just gone crazy on the up side."

Single-family home closings in Queen Anne and Magnolia were up 74 percent in August from the same month in 2008, from 31 to 54, the listing service said. In West Bellevue/Medina — the priciest of the 30 areas into which the service divides the county — the increase was a whopping 169 percent, from 13 to 35.

Together, the two high-end areas accounted for more than half the countywide increase.

Pending sales — offers sellers have accepted that haven't yet closed — also were up both in those neighborhoods and countywide for the fifth consecutive month.

But the median price of a King County house that closed in August was $375,000, down 11.6 percent year over year.

Median fluctuated

The median has fluctuated between $364,000 and $395,000 since January. Some real-estate professionals say it could drop further as banks put more foreclosed homes on the market.

In Queen Anne and Magnolia, the median price of a house that sold in August was $573,000 — the highest in Seattle — but down from $599,000 a year earlier. In West Bellevue and Medina the drop was more dramatic, from $1.6 million to $915,000, the listing service said.

Lower prices are one reason buyers are returning to the luxury-home market, said Ron Sparks, managing vice president of Coldwell Banker Bain, whose firm lists many high-priced homes.

"The million-and-up market has really dramatically improved in the last 60 to 90 days," he said.

Fewer sellers

Prospective buyers in that price range aren't as concerned about job security as they were earlier this year, Sparks said. Their stock portfolios have bounced back from the depths of March. And it's easier for them to get financing at a low interest rate now.

Inventory in West Bellevue/Medina has dropped from a five-year supply early this year to a 10-month supply now, Sparks said.

On Queen Anne, Konswa said the market has an overabundance of buyers and not enough sellers. His small firm had 26 listings in January, he said; now it has just three.

"I am now soliciting sellers for the first time," Konswa said. "Every time I get a call, it's 'I want to buy a house.' "

Some buyers are finally taking the plunge after looking for more than a year, he said. Others are investing some of their recent stock-market gains in real estate.

Countywide, single-family home inventory — the number of active listings — was down more than 20 percent in August from the same month last year.

King County condos didn't fare as well as single-family homes in August. Buyers closed on 11.4 percent fewer units last month than in August 2008, the broker-owned listing service said. The median price, $252,250, was down 5.9 percent.

In Snohomish County, the median price of a house that sold in August was $299,950, down 11.8 percent year over year.

Closed sales were up 8.1 percent countywide — but in Southeast Snohomish County, the priciest area, the increase topped 30 percent.

Friday, August 21, 2009

July home sales surge more than 7 percent

The U.S. housing market is rebounding faster than expected. The question is, can it last? Home resales in July posted the largest monthly increase in at least 10 years as first-time buyers rushed to take advantage of a tax credit that expires Nov. 30. Sales jumped 7.2 percent and beat expectations, the National Association of Realtors said Friday.


AP Real Estate Writer

The U.S. housing market is rebounding faster than expected. The question is, can it last? Home resales in July posted the largest monthly increase in at least 10 years as first-time buyers rushed to take advantage of a tax credit that expires Nov. 30. Sales jumped 7.2 percent and beat expectations, the National Association of Realtors said Friday.

"We've got tens of thousands of homes perfect for the first-time homebuyer and we've taken advantage of that," said George Hackett, president of Coldwell Banker Real Estate in Pittsburgh.

Sales hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.24 million in July, from a pace of 4.89 million in June. It was the fourth-straight monthly increase and the strongest month since August 2007. Sales had been expected to rise to an annual pace of 5 million, according to economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

The risks to that healthy pace, however, are job cuts, mortgage rates and the looming end to the homebuyer tax credit. And the last one could be a doozy because first-time buyers are snapping up one out of every three homes.

First-time buyers get a credit of 10 percent of the purchase price of a home, up to $8,000. The credit phases out for singles earning more than $75,000 and couples earning more than $150,000. The real estate industry is lobbying to have the credit extended but its unclear if Congress will be swayed.

"I would not be at all surprised to see a dip at the end of the year once the tax credit expires," said Robert Dye, senior economist with PNC Financial Services Group.

The home sales report was another sign that the U.S. economy is on the verge of a long-awaited recovery after enduring a brutal recession and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Economic activity in both the U.S. and around the world appears to be leveling out and "the prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Friday.

But fallout from the recession will linger for some time. Unemployment rose in July in 26 states and fell in 17, the Labor Department said Friday. That is driving up foreclosures, which are not expected to level off until sometime next year.

Sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties made up about a third of all transactions last month, down from nearly half earlier this year. In places like San Diego and Orlando, buyers are snapping up foreclosed properties at deep discounts, and inventories are low.

Those sales helped drag down the national median sales price by 15 percent to $178,400.

Stephen Stoyko hunted off-and-on for two years before he bought a four-bedroom, two-story foreclosure this week for $320,000. The home in Roswell, Ga., north of Atlanta, was initially priced at $335,000.

Stoyko expects to spend about $7,000 to replace missing kitchen appliances and light fixtures - a cost will be at least partially offset by the first-time homebuyer tax credit. "It's bigger than I needed, but the price was right," he said.

The inventory of unsold homes on the market rose to 4.1 million, from 3.8 million a month earlier as buyers who had held their homes off the market in the past decided to list them for sale. That's a 9.4-month supply at the current sales pace, unchanged from June.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Median U.S. home price rise from 1st quarter to 2nd

A real estate group says U.S. home prices posted a gain in the second quarter, another sign that the ailing housing market is finally coming to life.

The National Association of Realtors says the median sales price in the quarter was $174,100, up 4 percent from the first quarter, but still almost 16 percent below a year ago. Prices, however, were still down from a year ago in 129 out of 155 metropolitan areas the group tracks.

Total sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.76 million, from 4.58 million in the first quarter, but were still about 3 percent below a year ago.

By ALAN ZIBELAP Real Estate Writer

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pending Home Sales Surge; Fifth Straight Monthly Rise

By: with wires

Pending home sales rose for the fifth consecutive month in June, easily topping expectations, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The Pending Home Sales Index rose 3.6 percent to 94.6 from an upwardly revised reading of 91.3 in May, and is 6.7 percent higher than in June 2008. Reuters had expected an 0.6 percent increase.

The last time there were five consecutive monthly gains was July 2003.

The housing market's collapse is at the heart of the longest U.S. recession since the Great Depression and reviving the sector is critical to healing the economy. The data served as further evidence that the housing market was starting to claw out of a three-year slump.

"Historically low mortgage interest rates, affordable home prices and large selection are encouraging buyers who've been on the sidelines. Activity has been consistently much stronger for lower priced homes," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Pending home sales were higher in all four regions than last month, and only the west experienced a decrease from a year ago. The index in the Northeast rose 0.4 percent to 81.2 in June and was 5.8 percent above the same period last year. In the Midwest, the index climbed 0.8 percent to 89.9. It was 11.6 percent higher than June 2008.

The index in the South jumped 7.1 percent to 100.7 in June and was 8.9 percent higher versus a year ago. In the West, the index rose 2.9 percent to 100.4, but was 0.2 percent below June 2008.

"Hopefully, in the months ahead, we'll see an even closer relationship between contract activity and closed transactions," said NAR president Charles McMillan.

The organization's Housing Affordability Index fell from record peaks reached in recent months but remains 36.6 percentage points above one year ago.

The Clock is Ticking! Decision Time Draws Near for First Time Buyer's Credit

While the economy continues to show signs of improvement and many housing markets are beginning to heat up, scores of would-be buyers are still waiting on the sidelines for further positive housing trends. But for first-time buyers, time is running short on the federal government's $8,000 tax credit.

Though the official expiration date of the credit is December 1, in reality on-the-fence buyers will need to make a decision one way or the other fairly soon. The reason: in order to qualify for the credit, the home purchase must close by December 1st. Merely having loan approval, an accepted offer or a signed contract won't be enough to qualify for the Housing and Economic Recovery Act.

Decision-Making Timeline - While each transaction is unique, closing a real estate deal is no speedy matter. On average, closing takes place 45 to 60 days after the date that the contract is signed. In order to meet the December 1st deadline, this would mean having a signing date in late September or early October. Those who consider the tax credit an important incentive but are still unsure about entering the market will need to make a decision one way or another before many more summer days pass.

To have any chance at finding a home and having an offer accepted by early October, buyers will want to wade into the home buying process right away. The immediate steps include making a final list of desired home attributes, scouting favorite neighborhoods and areas, starting the mortgage pre-approval process and beginning the home search process online.

Potential for Delays - Buying a home is a complicated process, and it is not unusual for purchases involving first-time buyers to take slightly longer than those involving experienced buyers. Some of the delays that first-time buyers may face over the coming months:

Competition with Other Buyers
While home may be selling at a lower rate than in years past, in many areas changes in inventory have created extremely competitive buying environments. Foreclosures or other homes with greatly lowered asking prices are particularly sought after, and in many cases investors are very active in the marketplace.

Disclosures & Contingencies
The seller is obligated to disclose any material facts about the property, including any property defects or any lawsuits regarding claim to ownership on the property. Disclosures can stall negotiations and delay the contract signing depending on their nature and severity. Contingencies (written clauses in the sales contract that give protection to both the buyer and the seller of a home) can also result in some delay in negotiation, particularly if the contingency requires the seller to make specific repairs.

The lender will arrange for appraisal of the property, which will include a thorough inspection of the home's interior and exterior. The appraiser's report will describe the physical characteristics of the property and comparable property values will be used to determine the value of the property. If the appraisal of the home's value is lower than the agreed upon sales price, the buyer's chance of loan approval can be in jeopardy. In addition, recently added rules for appraisers have been causing some delays based upon anecdotal evidence.

Loan Approval
While interest rates remain advantageous for buyers, lenders are being much more fastidious during the approval process. Obtaining pre-approval can help prevent many delays.

The Holiday Season
Buyers who submit an offer in mid-fall may likely run into another roadblock to a pre-December 1st closing date: the approaching holiday season. Closing a real estate sale requires the work and attention of a number of professionals; from real estate agents to attorneys to bankers. Like many Americans, it is not uncommon for individuals in these fields to use up vacation time in the last few weeks of November. Securing a closing date during Thanksgiving week may be something approaching miraculous.

Additional Delays for Short Sales and Foreclosures
Buyers who make an offer on a short sale property or bank-owned foreclosure may find that it takes a significantly longer time to receive a reply than expected. Overall, buying these types of properties is a longer process than buying homes listed on the market by individual owners.

KEY Elements for First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

1.) The tax credit only applies to first-time home buyers. The law defines a "first-time" buyer as any buyer who has not owned a home within the previous three tax years. For married couples, the homeownership history of both individuals must meet this qualification.

2.) The tax credit is only available for homes purchased between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 1, 2009. For the purposes of this credit, the purchase date is the date when closing occurs and the title to the property transfers to the new home owner.

3.) As long as the property is purchased by a qualified buyer for use as a principal residence, any type of home, including single-family detached homes, townhouses, condominiums and manufactured homes can qualify for the credit.

4.) The tax credit does not have to be repaid provided that the buyers use the home as their principal residence for at least three years.

5.) The full tax credit is only available for individuals with an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 and for married couples with a combined adjusted gross income of up to $150,000. The tax credit phases out for anyone above those income thresholds.

6.) The tax credit applies for up to 10 percent of the home's purchase price, with a maximum of $8,000. For example, a first-time buyer of a $50,000 home would be eligible for a tax credit of $5,000 while a buyer of a $150,000 home could receive a tax credit of a maximum of $8,000.

Click Here for a More Information About $8000 Tax Credit

Monday, July 27, 2009

New-home sales up 11% in June

Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle)

New-home sales in the United States increased dramatically in June from May, offering some evidence that the housing market is recovering.

Sales of single-family homes increased 11 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000, compared to a revised May rate of 346,000, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The jump marks the third consecutive increase in as many months and eclipses predictions by economists recently surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires, who expected June sales to climb 2.3 percent to 350,000.

The last time sales rose so dramatically was in December 2000.

Last week, the National Association of Realtors reported that home resales posted a monthly increase of 3.6 percent in June.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tips for a Sustainable Lifestyle - Windermere Green Living

Host a Green Barbeque Summer is here and that means the start of what-should-we-barbeque-tonight season. Whether you cook with gas, wood, charcoal or an outdoor solar cooker, you can host a green barbeque this summer with these quick ideas.

Try a natural charcoal

If you are using a charcoal grill, there are natural charcoal options available to lessen your carbon footprint while keeping the flavor. All-natural charcoal burns cleaner than traditional briquettes and doesn’t contain any chemicals. Try Cowboy Charcoal or Wicked Good Charcoal the latter made of carbonized lump wood made from timber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Use reusable plates, cups and utensils

If you’re worried about breaking your last complete set of dishes, more stores are selling inexpensive, sturdy outdoor serveware with bright summer patterns to match the season. Here are a few ideas to check out from Crate and Barrel and Target or buy used dishes from your neighbor’s garage sale or the local Goodwill. If you have just too many guests, try using compostable items that biodegrade much faster and are made from renewable resources such as corn or potato starch.

Become a locavore

Looking for the freshest fruits, veggies, cheese and meat for your next barbeque? Buy local, sustainably grown foods. Eating locally reduces the harmful impact of transporting foods across oceans and continents while supporting local economies. The food itself is fresher, tastier and has better nutritional value. Local Harvest is a great resource to find local sustainable farms and farmers’ markets in your area.

Have a Green story to share?We’d love to hear about your ideas for green living. Share a note or picture with one of your green endeavors and you could be featured in the next Green Living newsletter. Email

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Home sales climb in June in King County; median price drops from year ago to $395,000

By Eric Pryne, Seattle Times business reporter

Single-family home sales in King County in June surged to their highest level in nearly two years, according to statistics released today by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

A total of 1,655 houses closed last month, up 4 percent from the same month in 2008. It was the first year-over-year increase in closed sales since the local housing market peaked in July 2007, and the largest number of closings in the county since October 2007.

"The positive movement in our real estate market year-over-year is really very encouraging," Ron Sparks, managing vice president of brokerage Coldwell Banker Bain, said in a prepared statement.

He and other real-estate agents attributed the increase in part to the new $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. One broker said they account for about 40 percent of the market now.
Condo sales in King County continued to lag, with closings last month 18 percent below the June 2008 number.

The median price of a single-family house sold in the county in June was $395,000, down 12 percent year-over-year. Real-estate professionals noted the median price is up slightly since January — but it increased between January and June of last year as well.

The median condo price was $249,000, down 16 percent from last June.

Pending sales of King County single-family homes — offers that have been accepted by sellers, but haven't yet closed — were up nearly 25 percent year-over-year, the third consecutive monthly increase.

But, until June, closed sales had continued to trail last year's numbers, prompting some to wonder if the pending-sales increase was illusory. Agents attributed much of the disparity between and closed sales to "short sales" — offers sellers accept for less than they owe on the property — that are notoriously slow to close, and often don't close at all.

In Snohomish County, pending sales of single-family homes in June were up 37 percent year-over-year, and closed sales were nearly even. The median selling price was $307,000, down nearly 12 percent from June 2008.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Home sales stabilizing; weak recovery seen

AP Real Estate Writer

Nationwide home sales may have finally hit bottom, new data shows, but a host of thorny problems are hindering any recovery.

Sales of previously occupied homes rose by 2.4 percent from April to May - the third monthly increase this year - but the results missed analysts' expectations.

Home sellers are still competing against a growing number of bargain-priced foreclosures, buyers are paying higher mortgage rates and new rules for property appraisers are delaying or scuttling many deals.

"We have just been flooded with e-mails, telephone calls on the appraisal problems," said Lawrence Yun, the Realtors' chief economist.

The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 4.77 million, up from a downwardly revised rate of 4.66 million in April.

About one in three homes sold last month was a foreclosure or distressed sale, dragging down the median price to $173,000 - 16.8 percent below a year ago.

The size of the price drop, however, reflects a crush of first-time buyers and investors snapping up bargain-priced homes. A government home price index also released Tuesday showed home prices were flat between March and April. That index, however, only measures the values of homes with government-backed loans, so it underestimates the weakness at the top end of the market and doesn't include many foreclosures.

Marlene Rossi had to shaved 26 percent off her original listing price of $719,000 to sell her four-bedroom colonial in Congers, N.Y., on the west side of the Hudson River. She first listed the house in September 2007, thinking it would take only six months to sell. She finally accepted an offer this month for $530,000.

Rossi, 59, and her husband now have to rethink their retirement plans. Rossi is a nanny and her husband works in a golf pro shop and also as an umpire for baseball games.

Instead of being able to buy a condominium without a mortgage, she said, "we will only be able to put a down payment on it and we will still have to work."

The bursting of the housing bubble helped push the U.S. economy into the worst financial crisis in seven decades. Now the economy is hobbling the recovery of the real estate market.

Corporate layoffs are forcing more cash-strapped homeowners to miss their monthly mortgage payments. Unemployment, currently at 9.4 percent, isn't expected to peak until mid-2010 and foreclosures should crest about six months after.

"We're in the bottom of the seventh-inning" of the housing crisis, said Mark Zandi, chief
economist at Moody's

But there's still a risk the housing bust could go into extra innings.

Interest rates, for example, have climbed back from their all-time lows this spring. The average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 5.38 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac.
Mindful of the negative trends, Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global insight, says home sales could fall another 9 percent from last month's levels. "Things are going to get a little bit worse," he said.

Nevertheless, there are other signs the market is turning around. The number of unsold homes fell 3.5 percent in May. That means there's a 9.6 month supply at the current sales pace, compared with 6 months or fewer in a normal market.

The inventory figures, however, don't reflect the large number of houses being held off the market by owners who are reluctant to sell while prices are falling.

Meanwhile, another complication has emerged in recent months: New rules designed to tackle conflicts of interests in the property appraisal process have caused many transactions to fall apart or be delayed.

Responding to widespread complaints about inflated appraisals during the real estate boom, New York Attorney General Cuomo reached a pact last year with mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on a new code of conduct for the industry.

Since the rules took effect May 1, real estate agents and mortgage brokers say a number of appraisals are coming in surprisingly low. And now the National Association of Realtors is pressing regulators to put an 18-month hold on the code, arguing in a letter Monday to regulators that it the code is "hampering the housing market's recovery."

Chris Heller, agent-owner of Keller Williams Realty in northern San Diego, estimated that in recent weeks problems with the appraisal process have caused about a third of his transactions to fall apart.

While the new rules are not ideal, appraisers are not to blame for a market where prices are falling rapidly, said Bill Garber, director of governmental relations at the Appraisal Institute. He defended the industry, saying, "The appraisers only report what's going on in the market."

SOLD - Redmond Ridge - Congratulations Marcela & Alejandro!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Are Zillow Estimates Accurate?

Earlier today a dear friend on Facebook sent me the following message:


Hi Stacey,
I became your fan this morning! That's just a formality--I was already your fan of course.
Not sure where your discussion board is to ask this question, so I hope you don't mind an email question instead:
Do house valuations tend to be accurate?
Thanks in advance,


I just thought I'd post it here on my blog in case anyone else is curious about Zillow.

Zillow has been a great resource over the last few years for both buyers and sellers allowing them to search for homes, post questions, and utilize what is probably the most commonly used tool on their website a "Zestimate". This tool allows people to input a property address and have a number come up that provides them with estimated value.

So often in my industry I have clients tell me -- "I found my home on Zillow and they are telling me my home is worth XYZ", and although Zillow can get close, it is pulling data from nearby/recent sales and tax records. It bases the numbers on comparable square foot, lot size, location and bedrooms. However, be aware that if you are trying to determine the real value of your home have a licensed Real Agent put together a CMA (Comparable Market Analysis) for you. There analysis will take into consideration the overall state of a property (great condition or completely torn up inside), often times tax records may not appropriately reflect square footage or bedrooms if improvements were made or lot line adjustments were done, if nereby sales included short sales or foreclosures which do affect a property's value, and also it does not calculate any improvements you've done to your home, unless you've gone in to manually enter them into Zillow.

Overall, it might get you in a range, but in the end if you really want to know -- give me a call and I will meet you to prepare a CMA for your home with no obligation!

Roberta, I hope this answers your question :-)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Consumer confidence: biggest jump in 6 years

Despite Americans saying 'jobs are hard to get,' the index hits its highest level in 8 months.

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- U.S. consumer confidence soared in May to its highest level in eight months as severe strains in the labor market showed some signs of easing, though Americans' moods remained depressed by historical standards.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said on Tuesday its index of consumer attitudes jumped to 54.9 in May from a revised 40.8 in April, the biggest one-month jump since April 2003. Economists had been looking for a much smaller rise to 42.0.

Fewer Americans said jobs were "hard to get," the survey found, with that measure slipping to 44.7% from 46.6%. Those saying jobs were plentiful climbed to a still meager 5.7%, but that was still higher than April's 4.9%.

"Consumers are considerably less pessimistic than they were earlier this year," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center.

The data was in line with other evidence suggesting that, while the economy continues to contract in the current quarter, the pace of deterioration has abated somewhat.
U.S. stocks extended their rally after the data, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 120 points or 1.5%.

The survey offered mixed messages regarding Americans' propensity to spend money. The proportion of those who said they planned on buying a car over the next six months rose to 5.5%, its highest in at least a year.

But fewer intended to buy homes -- only 2.3%, a tough break for one of the hardest hit sectors in the country's economic crisis. A separate report on Tuesday revealed U.S. home prices dropped 18.7% in March compared to a year earlier.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

2009 Stimulus Plan (Summarized)

President Obama unveiled his plan to help stabilize the housing market and keep millions of borrowers in their homes. The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan includes two initiatives to help struggling homeowners. One is a refinancing program for homeowners with less than 20% equity in their homes, or who owe more than their home is worth. The second program attempts to lower monthly payments for homeowners at risk of losing their home. In addition, the plan includes a third initiative to support low mortgage rates by strengthening confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Many of the plan’s details are still being worked out and will not be announced until March 4, here is an overview of the plan’s main components.

Refinancing Initiative

Under current rules, those families who own less than 20% equity in their homes have a difficult time refinancing and taking advantage of the historically low interest rates. Therefore, the refinancing initiative in the new plan provides refinancing help for homeowners with less than 20% equity in their homes or who owe more than their home is worth. This initiative is open to homeowners who have conforming loans which are guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and who owe up to 5% more than their home is worth.

According to the plan, “credit-worthy” or “responsible” homeowners can refinance their mortgage into a 30- or 15-year, fixed-rate loan based on current market rates. The refinanced loan, however, cannot include prepayment penalties or balloon payments. For many families, this low-cost refinancing may help reduce their mortgage payments by up to thousands of dollars per year. As with the rest of the plan, details about this initiative will be released at a future date—including what, if any, credit score requirements will be included.

Stability Initiative

This initiative aims at providing help to individual families as well as entire neighborhoods by helping reduce foreclosures and stabilize home prices. It is intended to help homeowners who are struggling to afford their mortgage payments, but cannot sell their homes because prices have fallen significantly.

The goal of this initiative is simple: “reduce the amount homeowners owe per month to sustainable levels.” To accomplish this, lenders are encouraged to lower homeowners' payments to 31 percent of their income by lowering their interest rate to as low as 2% or by extending the terms of the loan. In addition, lenders can also lower the principal owed by the borrower, with Treasury sharing in the costs.

Homeowners who are current on their mortgages but are struggling can still apply for this program. As such, this is one of the few programs designed to help homeowners who may face delinquency soon, but are current at the moment. Since the focus of this initiative is on helping families and neighborhoods, investment properties do not qualify. This initiative also includes a number of additional elements and incentives that benefit homeowners and lenders alike, including:

• Incentives to Help Borrowers Stay Current: To provide an extra incentive for borrowers to keep paying on time, the initiative will provide a monthly balance reduction payment that goes straight towards reducing the principal balance of the mortgage loan. As long as a
borrower stays current on his or her loan, he or she can get up to $1,000 each year for five years.

• Reaching Borrowers Early: To keep lenders focused on reaching borrowers who are trying their best to stay current on their mortgages, an incentive payment of $500 will be paid to servicers, and an incentive payment of $1,500 will be paid to mortgage holders, if they
modify at-risk loans before the borrower falls behind.

Supporting Low Mortgage Rates

As part of the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, the Treasury Department is increasing its funding commitment to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure the strength and security of the mortgage market and to help maintain mortgage affordability. This portion of the plan will use using funds already authorized in 2008 by Congress for this purpose.

The increased funding will enable Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to carry out ambitious efforts to ensure mortgage affordability for responsible homeowners, and provide forward-looking confidence in the mortgage market.

Again, the government plans to unveil the final details of the plan on March 4, 2009. For now, you can download a sheet of common

Questions and Answers produced by the government at:

by Larry Steele, Sr. Mortgage Consultant, Countrywide Home Loans(425) 974-6111 Direct, (425) 457-2194 Mobile,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Senate OKs $15,000 tax break for homebuyers

By DAVID ESPO – 17 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate voted Wednesday night to give a tax break of up to $15,000 to homebuyers in hopes of revitalizing the housing industry, a victory for Republicans eager to leave their mark on a mammoth economic stimulus bill at the heart of President Barack Obama's recovery plan.
The tax break was adopted without dissent, and came on a day in which Obama pushed back pointedly against Republican critics of the legislation even as he reached across party lines to consider scaling back spending.
"Let's not make the perfect the enemy of the essential," Obama said as Senate Republicans stepped up their criticism of the bill's spending and pressed for additional tax cuts and relief for homeowners. He warned that failure to act quickly "will turn crisis into a catastrophe and guarantee a longer recession."
Democratic leaders have pledged to have legislation ready for Obama's signature by the end of next week, and they concede privately they will have to accept some spending reductions along the way.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who advanced the homebuyers tax break, said it was intended to help revive the housing industry, which has virtually collapsed in the wake of a credit crisis that began last fall.
The proposal would allow a tax credit of 10 percent of the value of new or existing residences, up to a $15,000 limit. Current law provides for a $7,500 tax break for the purchase of new homes only.
Isakson's office said the proposal would cost the government an estimated $19 billion.
Democrats readily agreed to the proposal, although it may be changed or even deleted as the stimulus measure makes its way through Congress over the next 10 days or so.
"This bill needs to be cut down," Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor. He cited $524 million for a State Department program that he said envisions creating 388 jobs. "That comes to $1.35 million per job," he added.
Republicans readied numerous attempts to reduce the cost of the $900 billion measure, which includes tax cuts and new spending designed to ignite recovery from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
But after days of absorbing rhetorical attacks, Obama and Senate Democrats mounted a counteroffensive against Republicans who say tax cuts alone can cure the economy.
Obama said the criticisms he has heard "echo the very same failed economic theories that led us into this crisis in the first place, the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems."
"I reject those theories and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change," said the president, who was elected with an Electoral College landslide last fall and enjoys high public approval ratings at the outset of his term.
Obama did not mention any Republicans by name, and most have signaled their support for varying amounts of new spending.
Even so, the president repeated his retort word for word in late afternoon, yet softened the partisan impact of his comments by meeting at the White House with senators often willing to cross party lines.
His first visitor was Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a moderate GOP lawmaker. Later he met with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
"I gave him a list of provisions" for possible deletion from the bill, Collins told reporters outside the White House. Among them were $8 billion to upgrade facilities and information technology at the State Department and funds for combatting a possible outbreak of pandemic flu and promoting cyber-security. The latter two items, she said, are "near and dear to her," but belong in routine legislation and not an economic stimulus measure.
Collins and Nelson have been working on a list of possible spending cuts totaling roughly $50 billion, although they have yet to make details public.
The House approved its own version of the stimulus bill last week on a party line vote, but the political environment in the Senate is far different.
Democrats hold a comfortable 58-41 majority. But because the legislation would increase the federal deficit, any lawmaker can insist that 60 votes be required to add to its cost.
While the 60-vote threshold can impose a check on Democrats, it can also illuminate the cross-pressures at work on Republicans.
A Democratic attempt on Tuesday to add $25 billion for public works projects failed when it gained only 58 votes, two short of the total needed. But a few hours later, a proposed $11 billion tax break for new car buyers attracted 72 votes, including several from Republicans.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Loven and Andrew Taylor contributed to this story.
(This version CORRECTS the estimated cost of the homebuyer tax break to $19 billion, not $19 million.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Enjoy the Finer Things in Life... Luxury NEW Home $2,595,000

Devon Hughes Homes presents this NEW Exquisite Hollywood Hill 7650 SF Home with Elegant Living Spaces Throughout. Perfectly placed on a private 2.13 acre corner lot with plenty of room for pool and/or sports court. 5 spacious bedrooms, 4.25 bathrooms, State-of-the-art Kitchen with top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances including 2 dishwashers, sub zero refrigerator and freezer and much more! Sensational entertaining areas and a sumptuous oversized spa-like master retreat. Enjoy the dramatic entrance, high-tech amenities and beautiful detailed finishes. The expansive office area features a private entrance and access through master suite or main house. And don't forget the huge 1500 SF unfinished space or shop on lower level that could become outstanding wine cellar. There is still time to choose some finishes, don't miss out on this amazing home! Call today for a private showing!

Friday, January 16, 2009

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Search Thousands of NW Rentals -

Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency Extended in 2009

On October 3, 2008, President Bush signed into law the "Emergency Economic Stabiliation Act of 2008" which included an extension of the residential tax credits for energy efficient improvements. The previous tax credit expired at the end of 2007. The extension is for improvements made from January 1 - December 31, 2009. Improvements made in 2008 are not eligible for a tax credit.


- $300* Central Air Conditioner or Heat Pump
- $150 Furnace or boiler
- Up to $200* in Windows
- Up to $500* Insulation and Sealing
- Up to $2000 Ground-source heat pump

* Maximum of $500 total for home improvements

What is the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction?
A tax credit reduces the tax you pay, dollar-for-dollar. Tax deductions - such as those for mortgages and sharitable giving - lower your taxable income. If you are in the highest 35% tax bracket, the income tax you pay is reduced by 35% of the value of your tax deduction. But a tax credit reduces your federal income tax by 100% of the amount of the credit.

What do you need to do to get the tax credit?
File IRS Form 5695 with your taxes. In addition, you will need to keep receipts proving that you purchased the improvements and a copy of the manufacturer's certification (or the ENERGY STAR label for windows).

Visiti the IRS ( or speak with a certified account for more information.