Why Use A Buyer’s Agent? Because You’ll Get A Better Deal

July 25, 2009

Another piece on buyer’s agents from Greg Swann:house

Are home-buyers best served by the vigilant efforts of an experienced buyer’s agent? Consider a transaction we have in play right now.

The buyers are a young couple, about to be married. They have about $10,000 in cash. With a conventional loan, they could put 20% down on a dismal starter home. Or, with Private Mortgage Insurance, they could put 10% down on a nicer home.

But with an FHA loan, $10,000 is 3.5% down on a $285,000 home. We can argue the wisdom of making so small a down payment, but the FHA loan program is the path to homeownership for millions of Americans. And $285,000 is too much house for our buyers. They found a nice lender-owned two-story home in the suburbs selling for $169,000. The down payment on that home would be $5,915. But the closing costs would probably run to another $5,000 — which comes to more money than they have.

They qualify for the $8,000 first-time home-buyer tax credit, but they won’t get that until they file their tax return. They also qualify for a state-funded grant program that will contribute up to 22% of the purchase price — but which can’t be used for the down payment or the closing costs.

Here’s the deal we put together. We offered $175,000, $6,000 over list price. In exchange, we asked the seller to contribute 4% of the full purchase price [$7,000 — FHA allows up to 6%] to defray the buyer’s closing costs. The down payment will be $6,125, leaving the buyers $3,875 in cash to pay for the endless expenses of moving into a new home.

And there will be about $2,000 left over after the closing costs are paid. This will be used to buy down the interest rate. The buyers will end up with just over 25% equity in the property for a cash outlay of $6,125 — all at a very low monthly payment. And they’ll still have their $8,000 tax credit to look forward to.

This is the kind of outcome a skilled buyer’s agent can achieve.

Right again, Greg. There are so many ways a knowledgeable agent can help you get a better deal, that is right for you, even when you pay full price or more.

Kim Hannemann, Samson PropertiesSamsonPropTag
Real Estate Consultant/Realtor
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055
Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!

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If You Can Search The MLS, Why Do You Need An Agent?

July 24, 2009

homesalepriceFrom agent Greg Swann in the Arizona Republic:

Here’s an intriguing question: Given that it’s so easy to search for homes on the internet, why do you need a buyer’s agent?

Face it, if you use the MLS search tool on my web site, you’re seeing exactly the same listings I see. And you know better than I ever could what you like and what you don’t like.

By now, the home search process is at best a partnership between the agent and the buyer. In some cases the buyer and I will work together to perfect our search criteria. But many buyers simply search the available inventory on their own, emailing me the MLS numbers of the homes they want to see.

So why do those buyers need a buyer’s agent?

Realtors hoarded the MLS data for so long that even they came to believe it was the source of their value to buyers. But this is very far from the truth.

You don’t need me to search for listings, although I’m happy to do that. And you don’t need me to open lock-boxes. You need a buyer’s agent to guide you through what is in fact an arcane and perilous process — potentially a financial disaster. You might not need me to find your next home, but you need me to make sure that you get it — or that you pass on it, if that is what is truly in your best interests.

A skilled buyer’s agent will write the kind of purchase contract that will prove surprising to you at every turn, with every term and condition tailored to achieve your best advantage. Your agent will supervise the inspection process and negotiate the optimal solution to the repair issues. Your agent will be prepared for every pitfall in the escrow process.

If you bought and sold houses every day, you could do all these things yourself. It’s because you don’t — and because the seller and the listing agent are looking to take advantage of your naivete at every turn — that you need a skilled buyer’s agent as your steadfast champion in the home-buying process.

Greg’s post is right on the money. Personally, I like to help my clients search for homes, but that’s largely because as an agent I have access to information that can tell me, for instance, whether or not the property is already under contract even though it’s still listed as “Active” in the search they are using. I’m also looking for certain things that clients – no matter how savvy they may be – will not notice or understand. Still, it’s what comes after finding the property that is going to make a bigger difference to my clients, and makes my involvement crucial for them.

Kim Hannemann,  Samson PropertiesSamsonPropTag
Real Estate Consultant/Realtor
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055
Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!


Why Can’t Tar-Jay Get With The Program?

May 18, 2009

spfldmallchgFrom the Washington Examiner:

Supervisors delay Springfield Mall redevelopment

Fairfax County supervisors on Monday [5/18/2009] delayed a vote on the long-awaited overhaul of Springfield Mall after an unresolved issue among landowners knocked the project off course. County officials and mall owners alike had hoped for a quick rezoning approval that would have allowed the ambitious redevelopment to move forward. The makeover would install new retail, hotel, office and living space on the site of the languishing mall, as well as trails, parks and other improvements.

The delay is rooted in a disagreement over details of the project among the four owners of the 80-acre mall property, officials said. County supervisors Monday agreed to delay the rezoning until July. [Kim note – ugh.]

“For me, this is a very difficult thing to have to do, because the community has embraced this project, and county staff has moved mountains” to keep it on schedule, said Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay. McKay said one of the landowners, Target, has not reached an agreement on proffers, which are contributions to roads, schools and other services a developer makes in exchange for a rezoning.

Overhauling Springfield Mall has been one of the county’s top revitalization priorities for years. Eclipsed by better-regarded shopping centers in Tysons Corner, the mall garnered an undesirable reputation as a symbol of suburban decay. Officials hope to use the revamp to reverse that image.

They’re not the only ones!

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®
samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!


Supervisors Vote On Springfield Mall May 18

May 7, 2009

midtownspringfieldFrom the Springfield Connection:

At its May 18 meeting, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a rezoning proposal and finally sign off on the transformation of the Springfield Mall into a commercial and residential town center.

The mall’s owner, Vornado Realty Trust, plans to redevelop the 80-acre suburban retail shopping center into an area where people will be able to live, work, dine and entertain themselves — all without getting into a car.

According to the Web site, http://www.springfieldtowncenter.com, the new town center would include high-quality retailers, a state of-the-art movie theater, “Class-A” office space, upscale hotels and “premier” residential homes.

Vornado’s plans also include parks and plazas with pathways that make travel between residential and commercial space easy. According to the Web site, parking would be offered throughout the development.

“This is the single most important project for Springfield obviously, but I think it is also the most important project for the entire county. I can’t think of another regional shopping center that is in such dire need,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), who represents the area where the Springfield Mall is located.

The Springfield Mall has many amenities some of the county’s higher performing shopping centers, including Tysons Corner, Fairfax Corner and Reston Town Center, lack. The mall is at the crossroads of Northern Virginia’s two major thoroughfares, the Capital Beltway and Interstate 95, and is in close proximity to a Metro station.

McKay said the mall has not lived in up to its potential, primarily because of poor and irresponsible ownership in the past. With Vornado at the helm of the redevelopment project, he expected the site to flourish.

“Springfield Mall had everything that Tysons Corner craved, except a good owner. There is no reason why that mall can’t exceed Tysons Corner in quality when it has everything going for it that it has,” said McKay.

McKay and other supervisors have been frustrated with recent delays in getting the Springfield development underway.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the site’s rezoning application in February and the supervisors were supposed to vote on the plans in late March. But negotiations between the Target store and Vornado held up the supervisors’ final approval.

“It is unfortunate that Target and Vornado had not talked earlier in the process than they did on some of these last-minute details,” said Stuart Mendelsohn, Target’s lawyer and former Dranesville supervisor.

Target, one of the mall’s current retail anchors, owns the land on which its store sits and has more control over what happens to its property than most of the mall’s other retail outlets.

The mall redevelopment plans called for the current Target to grow from a one-floor store to a two-floor store; however, the company did not want to be locked into any specific expansion plans.

“Ultimately, I think [the expansion] is what they would like to do but, at this point, they were not prepared to move forward on that,” said Mendelsohn.

Target was also displeased with the configuration of the parking garage that is planned for outside the store’s entrance, said Mendelsohn and McKay.

But ultimately, Target is excited about the Springfield Mall redevelopment and wants the project to move forward.midtownspringfield

“Target is absolutely supportive of all the changes coming to the mall,” said Mendelsohn.


Making Your Home Affordable – The Plan

March 4, 2009

mhalogo

The US government’s Making Home Affordable plan was released this morning. Millions of homeowners wanting to see if they qualify under the plan for either a refinancing or a loan modification will be eager to check out this program.

You might qualify for refinancing under the plan:

  • If the home you want to refinance is your primary residence; and
  • The loan on your home is controlled by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac; and
  • You’re current on your mortgage payments (not more than 30 days late on your mortgage in the last 12 months); and 
  • You have sufficient income to support a new mortgage.

You can owe between 80-105% of the current value of your home, but no higher than 105%.

If you think you might qualify to refinance, you’ll need to give the following documents to your mortgage lender:documents

  • Your monthly gross (before taxes) income of your household, including recent pay stubs.
  • Your last income tax return.
  • Information about any second mortgage on the house (you can only refinance your first mortgage under the plan, but having a second mortgage won’t automatically exclude you).
  • Account balances and minimum monthly payments due on all your credit cards.
  • Account balances and minimum monthly payments for all your other debts, like student loans or car loans.

You might qualify for a loan modification (first mortgage only) under the plan: 

  • If you originated your mortgage before Jan. 1, 2009; and
  • You are an owner-occupant; and
  • You have an unpaid balance that is equal to or less than $729,750 (for a single-family home); and
  • You have trouble paying your mortgage due to financial hardship – perhaps because your  mortgage payments increased, or your income was reduced, or you suffered a hardship (such as medical problems) that increased your bills, or you can show that you soon will be unable to make your payments. You will be required to enter an affidavit of financial hardship; and,
  • Your monthly mortgage payment must be more than 31% of your gross (pre-tax) monthly income.

You must successfully complete a three-month trial period at the modified rate. If you make all payments on time, you will keep this lower rate that will be fixed for five years.

The idea is for your monthly payments (not including private mortgage insurance) to reach 31% of your pre-tax monthly income. The monthly payments are defined as payments on the principal, interest, taxes, insurance (not including mortgage insurance) and homeowners association/condo fees. First, the lender will reduce the interest rate to no less than 2% on the loan, so that the monthly payments are less than 38% of your monthly income. Then, the Treasury will match further reductions, dollar-for-dollar, with your lender, to bring the monthly payments down further, to 31% of your monthly income.

If you keep your payments on time after the modification, the government will pay up to $1,000 each year in the first five years toward reducing the principal on your mortgage.

After five years, the interest rate on the loan will start to increase by no more than 1% per year, but can’t go higher than what the market rate was on the day your loan was modified.

The amount you owe versus the current value of your home doesn’t matter for this program.

The foreclosure process will stop while you’re being considered for the program, or for any alternative foreclosure prevention option.

The borrower does not have to pay any charges or fees. Any fees are supposed to be paid by the company that holds the loan, and the servicer of the loan will pay for your credit report. The company that services your loan will get a an incentive fee of $500 for each modification they do. Once your lender modifies your loan, they’ll be paid a $1,500 incentive.

Gather these required loan modification documents:

  • Information about the monthly gross (before tax) income of your household, including recent pay stubs if you receive them or documentation of income you receive from other sources;
  • Your most recent income tax return;
  • Information about your assets;
  • Information about any second mortgage on the house;
  • Account balances and minimum monthly payments due on all of your credit cards;
  • Account balances and monthly payments on all your other debts such as student loans and car loans;
  • A letter describing the circumstances that caused your income to be reduced or expenses to be increased (job loss, divorce, illness, etc.).

Then call your mortgage servicer (the company you make payments to). Your servicer is not required to join the program, but the government hopes that the incentives will motivate them to participate.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®
samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!


Organizing Can Be An Emotional Thing

February 16, 2009

messydeskStuff. Most of us have waaaaay too much of it. If you know my wife, you will understand who keeps stuff organized in our house. She spent a good part of this weekend moving cookbooks, camera and various electronic gizmos from one cabinet to another, tossing things we haven’t been using, and getting some new things put away. It’s certainly not me – you should see my desk right now. I am not the best person to talk about decluttering, though it’s definitely a mantra of mine when talking to sellers! So that’s why I asked for professional help in writing this piece, and Aimee Saldivar obliged:

tmntDo you feel bad throwing out every greeting card you receive? Or do you feel the need to save every toy your children owned to hand down to their children someday? Keeping these toys and remembrances can add up, especially if you don’t have the space to store them. If you save the toys’ original boxes or perhaps the toys that are slightly tattered, they’ll be of no value if your children decide to buy their kids new toys altogether. Get rid of them! One way to keep that precious toy close to your heart is to take a picture of it and create a digital album for you and your children to cherish tomorrow. Those pictures would make a great hardback album for a holiday gift, or can be used to create a scrapbook. It will not only take up less room, be cost effective and environmentally friendly, but it will allow more room for you to use today.

walshI recently finished a book by Peter Walsh, professional organizer and motivational speaker, called “It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan For Living a Richer Life With Less Stuff.” He makes some great points about happiness: more material things don’t really measure success, having more possessions may be more suffocating than liberating, and the stuff we own ends up owning us. When we feel like we have too much stuff, we buy more containers; but in reality we aren’t cleaning out clutter, we’re just storing it away. Eventually this will build up and take over our space.

We have more winter ahead of us, but it’s a great time to start planning our organization. Here are few ideas to get you started without being overwhelmed by the task:

  1. One room at a time. Focus on a room rather than your entire home. A smaller goal cuts down your anxiety and helps you stay focused. Prioritize each room according to either your budget or the time you have to spend. This will help you plan your project more effectively and will keep you on track to organizational success.
  2. Think about what you want to achieve out of that room. If you’re planning to put your home on the market, you may want to consult a professional stager or organizer to create a “punch list.” An extra set of eyes can’t hurt, and they know creative ways to minimize clutter and maximize your sale price without going overboard. If you’re looking simply to organize, store away those keepsakes into one box you can bring out when you want to reflect, and keep the room livable without feeling cramped and cluttered.
  3. consignTIP:  In today’s economy, second-hand and consignment stores are becoming the hot place to shop. If have you some great items that you feel guilty about giving away, consignment shops are a great way to get rid of them without having to host a yard sale or post them in the classifieds online. Remember, one man’s junk can be another man’s treasure – at less than half the price! [Followup tip from Kim:  Drop off your stuff and drive away quickly, or you will come home with more than you took in!]
  4. If you haven’t used in the last year – GET RID OF IT! Some things we own may be seasonal items, which is okay; however, if you’re still thinking that the one item you’re saving may go back in style, dump it. If it comes back someday, there will plenty of options to choose from. Many times we get so wrapped up in how much we paid or how much we saved on a particular item when, in reality, it was probably an impulse buy at the time. We may also keep something “in case we need it.” Unless you are talking about fire extinguishers and the like, if we haven’t used it in a year, then we don’t need it, and we’ve probably forgotten about it.
  5. books1TIP:  Getting rid of dust collectors such as books, lampshades and dried flowers can help alleviate dust for people with allergies. You may continue to dust the shelves, but not the books on the shelves or the dried flowers you are saving from a special occasion. It rarely occurs to people that dust build-up on these items is overlooked and can make matters worse for people with allergies. Once you finish reading a book, trade it for a new one or donate it. Donating books to your local public library is a very simple process and is a tax write-off for you next year.
  6. The more you can eliminate, the better. Linen closets become an emotional trap for us since they house blankets and linens we don’t want to part with. This is usually where Grandma’s hankies and table linens end up. Instead, think about storing them in a dedicated keepsake box from Grandma, or framing and hanging them in a guest bedroom (if they go with the theme). Once you make room for the linens you actually use, you won’t have to shuffle through mismatched sheet sets and torn towels. If you have different sizes of sheet sets for different rooms and/or family members, a great way to keep them organized  is to color-code them. Buy a different color of two-inch grosgrain ribbon rolls for each size or family member to keep the sheet sets together for “grab and go.” It adds a nice touch to your linen closet, too. NOTE:  When you have your home on the market, prospective buyers look through everything, especially closets – they’ll be impressed.
  7. medalsA great way to pay tribute to a loved one after they have passed would be to dedicate a space or a room for their items. If they were in the military, one way to pay tribute would be to frame their military medals along with their uniform jacket. Or if you are having a hard time parting with their collected items, perhaps you could sell them and donate the money in their memory to an organization or educational institution they would have appreciated.

ladybugsoMany thanks to Aimee Saldivar, professional organizer and home stager. She also offers special occasion set-up such as table setting and arranging. You can find before and after pictures on Facebook by looking up Ladybug Staging and Organization.

If you mention this article, Aimee will provide a free consultation when you sign up for a service. Plan ahead and call today for an estimate at 703-856-3404 or email ladybugstaging@gmail.com.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service


Ready To Be Stimulized?

February 15, 2009

capitolIt’s a fine mess when Mr. Language Man has to make up words (“stimulized?”). But it’s a pretty messy bill our elected representatives just passed. I’m sure President O would have just preferred to get $800 bill to spend as he needed, when he needed, on whatever he thinks will work. But, nooooo.

I am sure there will be no shortage of articles and blogs on this subject. Still, since I want you to read my blog, here’s a summary of some of the provisions that might be of interest to you:

hometaxcreditRefundable First-time Home Buyer Credit. Last year, Congress provided taxpayers with a refundable tax credit that was equivalent to an interest-free loan equal to 10 percent of the purchase of a home (up to $7,500) by first-time home buyers. The provision applies to homes purchased on or after April 9, 2008 and before July 1, 2009. Taxpayers receiving this tax credit are currently required to repay any amount received under this provision back to the government over 15 years in equal installments, or, if earlier, when the home is sold. The credit phases out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $75,000 ($150,000 in the case of a joint return). “Refundable” means that even if you don’t owe any taxes at all, or owe less than the amount of the credit, you will receive the difference in cash after filing.

The new bill eliminates the repayment obligation for taxpayers that purchase homes after January 1, 2009, increases the maximum value of the credit to $8,000 ($4,000 for a married person filing separately), and removes the prohibition on financing by mortgage revenue bonds, and extends the availability of the credit for homes purchased before December 1, 2009. The provision would retain the credit recapture if the house is sold within three years of purchase.

Another important change for our area: reinstatement of the increased conforming loan limits for high cost areas. You may recall that our local conforming loan limits rose from $417,000 to $729,750 last year, giving purchasers of higher end homes an important break on interest rates for loan limits up to that amount. At the end of 2008, the temporary limit expired and it dropped to $625,500. This stimulus bill reinstates that $729,750, which should make it easier to get larger loans which now qualify for Fannie, Freddie and possibly FHA guidelines, which translates to lower rates.

newcarSales Tax Deduction for Vehicle Purchases. The bill provides all taxpayers with a deduction for State and local sales and excise taxes paid on the purchase of new cars, light truck, recreational vehicles, and motorcycles through 2009. This deduction is subject to a phase-out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $125,000 ($250,000 in the case of a joint return).

energyauditTax Credits for Energy-Efficient Improvements to Existing Homes. The bill would extend the tax credits for improvements to energy-efficient existing homes through 2010. Under current law, individuals are allowed a tax credit equal to ten percent (10%) of the amount paid or incurred by the taxpayer for qualified energy efficiency improvements installed during the taxable year. This tax credit is capped at $50 for any advanced main air circulating fan, $150 for any qualified natural gas, propane, oil furnace or hot water boiler, and $300 for any item of energy-efficient building property. For 2009 and 2010, the bill would increase the amount of the tax credit to thirty percent (30%) of the amount paid or incurred by the taxpayer for qualified energy efficiency improvements during the taxable year. The bill would also eliminate the property-by-property dollar caps on this tax credit and provide an aggregate $1,500 cap on all property qualifying for the credit.

diploma

“American Opportunity” Education Tax Credit. The bill would provide financial assistance for individuals seeking a college education. For 2009 and 2010, the bill would provide taxpayers with a new “American Opportunity” tax credit of up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition and related expenses paid during the taxable year. Under this new tax credit, taxpayers will receive a tax credit based on one hundred percent (100%) of the first $2,000 of tuition and related expenses (including books) paid during the taxable year and twenty-five percent (25%) of the next $2,000 of tuition and related expenses paid during the taxable year. Forty percent (40%) of the credit would be refundable. “Refundable” means that even if you don’t owe any taxes at all, or owe less than the amount of the credit, you will receive up to 40% of the credit in cash after filing. This tax credit will be subject to a phase-out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $80,000 ($160,000 for married couples filing jointly).

A fairly decent 19-page PDF summary of the whole bill – THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT OF 2009 – is available from the Senate Finance Committee website.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

samson-realty-and-birdIt’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service