New Appraisal Rules – A Problem, or A Solution?

May 18, 2009

appraisalSaturday’s Washington Post Real Estate section featured an article by Ken Harney entitled, “New Appraisal Rules Come With Costs,” in which he posits the following scenarios:

  • The real estate appraisal that used to cost you $325 now costs $450, even though the appraiser doing the work is getting only $175 or $200.
  • Your appraisal-related charges may now be subject to add-on feessuch as $50 to $100 extra in “no show” penalties if you get stuck in traffic and miss your appointment with the appraiser, or an extra $50 to $150 if the property is worth more than $500,000.
  • Your mortgage loan officer requires you to pay for the appraisal upfront with a credit or debit card, rather than including the fee with the usual lender origination costs at settlement. Your card may be charged more than the anticipated cost of the appraisalleaving debit-card holders in a potential overdraft situation.
  • The person conducting your appraisal may be new to the fieldwilling to work for a cut rateand may not be as familiar with local value trends and pricing adjustments as an appraiser with more experience.
  • If your mortgage application is denied by one lender, you could be forced to pay for a second full appraisal because the new lender may not accept the first one.

The “new appraisal rules,” which go by the name Home Valuation Code of Conduct, were imposed May 1 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and are intended to improve the accuracy of appraisals by eliminating pressure on appraisers from loan officers. The code pushes most large lenders to use third-party “appraisal management companies” that contract with networks of independent appraisers around the country who thus are not in direct contact with retail loan officers or mortgage brokers. The Code came about as a result of an agreement made between the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the New York State Attorney General. The intent of the agreement was made to enhance the independence of appraisers. The most relevant part of the code seems to be the following:

The lender or any third party specifically authorized by the lender (including, but not limited to, appraisal companies, appraisal management companies, and correspondent lenders) shall be responsible for selecting, retaining, and providing for payment of all compensation to the appraiser. The lender will not accept any appraisal report completed by an appraiser selected, retained, or compensated in any manner by any other third party (including mortgage brokers and real estate agents)

It used to be that a mortgage professional – whether working for a specific lender or as a broker – might have a “stable” of appraisers he or she could call on to provide services. Most of them just wanted a reliably thorough and competent job. However, and this is the reason for the new rules, some only wanted appraisers who were willing to find the right “comps” to hit a specific valuation necessary for the loan to go through. Under pressure to produce that number or perish, many appraisers buckled.

But are the new rules helpful or harmful to the more ethical mortgage lenders and brokers out there? Are they seeing big increases in appraisal costs? How about appraisal quality, now that they can’t choose one of their go-to guys? I asked several of the mortgage professionals I work with every day in Northern Virginia to give me their impressions about whether they find the scenarios suggested in Harney’s article to be happening here:.

We’ve actually been working under these rules for many years . . . All appraisals have been ordered through a 3rd party management company, and while we did have some communication with the appraiser (although not encouraged), we cannot any longer . . .

This is actually a good thing that is happening. Too many times appraisers have been bullied by agents, mortgage lenders and borrowers for not having the same opinion. This will take that opportunity away. This does NOT mean that you can’t call the appraiser, still meet them at the home, etc . . . this is so that lenders cannot contact the appraisers directly – even for a status, as this is seen as undue pressure. These appraisers are professionally trained, educated and have to uphold ethical standards just like all of us; yet no one challenges our decisions like these people.

[The fees and time requirements] are the same, for now. I bet the appraisal costs will go up, and they should. The appraisers can’t live on a “cut” and they have been required to do so many more compliance checks etc . . [Turnaround times] are longer due to volume.

This won’t change the quality . . . if anything the quality will improve because the lenders and agents are now separated from any undue influence.

Jennifer Duplessis, Prosperity Mortgage

Interesting article and I am happy to say we have not had the issues mentioned. [Local] appraisers have only added $25.00 to their fees due to some additional addendums that required extra research. Appraisal fees have ranged from $350 to $375 and now are $375.00 to $400.00 for under $1 million sale price, and they have always charged more for above $1 million – that is not new. Yes, loan officers are no longer allowed to directly pick the appraiser – it is an automated random selection of a pool of known appraisers in our local area.

I think the worst [problem] is the extreme pressure the appraisers are [receiving from the lenders] to include the foreclosures and short sales when determining values. During the recession In the early 90’s foreclosures and short sales were considered distress sales and discarded as [comparable to a] homeowner selling their property. In my opinion, this change in [guideline] has escalated the erosion of home prices. They should have allowed for an adjustment upward on the distress sale, but they did not, they are requiring the appraisers to use them thus providing for lower and lower values – how unfair to the normal seller is that?

Shirley Jones, First Savings Mortgage

I haven't experienced any true horror stories yet, but the new system will definitely change things. I think the appraisers will feel empowered to bring in property values at whatever they feel the value is, regardless of what it may mean for the transaction. The old system had a conflict of interest where (I believe) appraisers didn't want to ruin too many deals with a low appraisals since they were hurting their referral sources (potentially their future income) by bringing in the low appraisal. This new system will potentially change that, which ultimately will be a good thing, but could be painful. I think that will be the biggest change. I believe we will see more low appraisals (meaning appraisal comes in below contract price).

In the past we could choose appraisers and go with ones that we felt were "good appraisers." We now have less of a say. It also adds a layer to the process which usually means more time. I do agree with what the article said about the costs of the appraisals being higher. Mortgage brokers definitely kept costs down with the old system. Appraisals have gone up by about $100 over the past year I believe. I haven't noticed a big difference in the quality of appraisal, but it is still early in the process.

Overall I don't love the new system but the old system definitely had it's flaws also. I'm not sure I would want to go back to the old system even if we could.

Kevin Haddon, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

So on balance, it seems, in the Northern Virginia area the new rules are seen in an overall positive light by people who I believe to be in a position to know. Yes, costs my have increased slightly, and there may be a somewhat longer turnaround – especially as the system gets established – but I think the horror story scenarios drawn by critics are not reflected in the actuality. I do agree with Shirley's view about separating the distress sales from the normal sales – it's unreasonable, but it's not a part of the new rules, just a lender-imposed requirement. Appraisers should be able to reflect adjustments for condition, given the lousy condition of most foreclosures, but it's unlikely to fill the gaps.

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.

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April 2009 Northern Virginia Sales Info

May 15, 2009

April 2009 home sales activity for Fairfax and Arlington counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna:

  • A total of 1,544 homes sold in April 2009, an increase of 6% over April 2008, and the ninth consecutive month of higher year-over-year sales. Terrific, but look at this – pending home sales, based on signed contracts, are 2,692, up 25% from last year! Pending sales have been up double-digits year-over-year for 13 consecutive months.
  • Active listings – homes on the market – decreased by 23% from last year, with 8,234 active listings at end-April. Fewer homes on the market usually means prices are poised to start rising. The supply of homes remains in the less-than-six-months “seller’s market” range.
  • Another sign of strong activity – the average days on market (DOM) for homes in April 2009 decreased by 15% to 85 days, compared with 100 days in April 2008.
  • Sales prices continue to remain lower than those realized last year. The average sales price in April fell 16% percent from April 2008 to $405,514, while the median price was $356,750, a decline of 14%. The average and median sale prices are again both higher than last month, however.
  • Agents continue to see a lot of multiple-offer situations on attractive well-priced homes in good condition, particularly in price ranges under $475,000. If you are looking for such a home, be prepared to act decisively.

StatsApr

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!


March 2009 Northern Virginia Sales Info

April 15, 2009

chartMarch 2009 home sales activity for Fairfax and Arlington counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna (this sounds like a weather alert, doesn’t it?):

A total of 1,384 homes sold in March 2009, an increase of 11% over March 2008. That’s great, but look at this – pending home sales, based on signed contracts, are 2,306, up a fantastic 33% from last year!

Active listings – homes on the market – decreased by 20% from last year, with 8,069 active listings in March, compared with 10,123 homes available in March 2008. Fewer homes on the market usually means prices are poised to start rising. The supply of homes has again fallen into the under-six-months “seller’s market” range.

Another sign of strong activity – the average days on market (DOM) for homes in March 2009 decreased by 18% to 89 days, compared with 109 days in March 2008.

Sales prices continue to remain lower than those realized last year. The average sales price in March fell 17% percent from March 2008 to $395,512, while the median price was $335,000, also a decline of 17%. Interestingly, though, the average and median sale prices are both about 5% higher than last month.

Agents are reporting a considerable number of multiple-offer situations on foreclosures, and on attractive well-priced homes in good condition, particularly in price ranges under $425,000. If you are looking for such a home, be prepared to act decisively – and, if the home is right for you, don’t let yourself be outbid.
statsmar1

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!


February 2009 Northern Virginia Sales Info

March 15, 2009

graphFebruary 2009 home sales activity for Fairfax and Arlington counties, the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Vienna, Herndon and Clifton:

A total of 1,067 homes sold in February 2009, a 10 % increase above February 2008 home sales of 969.

Active listings decreased by 18 % from last year, with 7,811 active listings in February, compared with 9,497 homes available in February 2008. The average days on market (DOM) for homes in February 2009  to 109 days, compared with 116 days in February 2008.

The average sales price in February fell by 21 % from February 2008, to $380,077, compared with last February’s average of $479,320. The median sales price of homes sold in Northern Virginia in February was $318,000, which is a decline of 23 % compared with February 2008’s median price of $410,500.

The February pending home sales data, based on signed contracts, is bucking the national trend – 1,817 contracts are pending compared to February 2008 when 1,526 were pending, an increase of 19 %.

febstats


Slow Down/Move Over Law In Virginia

March 11, 2009

moveoverslowdownlogo1I just saw a note posted on our local MLS – Realtors drive a lot – about a relatively new law in Virginia that require drivers to yield the right of way or reduce their speed when approaching stationary emergency vehicles on the highway.

Virginia code § 46.2-921.1. Drivers to yield right-of-way or reduce speed when approaching stationary emergency vehicles on highways; penalties.

The driver of any motor vehicle, upon approaching a stationary emergency vehicle, as defined in § 46.2-920, that is displaying a flashing, blinking, or alternating emergency light or lights as provided in §§ 46.2-1022, 46.2-1023, and 46.2-1024, shall (i) on a highway having at least four lanes, at least two of which are intended for traffic proceeding as the approaching vehicle, proceed with caution and, if reasonable, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that occupied by the stationary emergency vehicle or (ii) if changing lanes would be unreasonable or unsafe, proceed with due caution and maintain a safe speed for highway conditions.

Violation of any provision of this section shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the violation resulted in damage to property of another person, the court may, in addition, order the suspension of the driver’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle for not more than one year. If the violation resulted in injury to another person, the court may, in addition to any other penalty imposed, order the suspension of the driver’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle for not more than two years. If the violation resulted in the death of another person, the court may, in addition to any other penalty imposed, order the suspension of the driver’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle for two years.

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!


It’s Big Johnson Basketball Time Again !!

March 11, 2009

It’s once again that time . . . bigjohnson

 . . . when people all over the country stop doing what they are doing and feverishly consider their picks for the NCAA Basketball Tournaments so they can enter the SEVENTH Annual Big Johnson COED College Basketball Tournament Classic, sponsored by yours truly. 

newshuffleStick It To The Man – that’s me! A NEW 4GB Apple iPod Shuffle (in your choice of silver or black ) awaits the winner of EACH of the Men’s and Women’s Big Johnsons! (YOUR gender is irrelevant. I am referring to the separate basketball tournaments.) If you win, and you happen to already have an iPod – or other music player (ptui!) – I’ll give you the equivalent in iTunes credit, if you prefer. I would suggest that you check out the NEW Shuffle carefully before you decide. And as usual, anyone who gets more points than The Man will win something. Last time it was a king-sized Snickers bar. Can’t beat chocolate . . .

ti82It won’t cost you anything but your sanity . . . and not even that, if you just choose the higher-seeded team in each matchup, and then pick the eventual Final Four winner based on their mascot or school colors. How difficult can this really be? Well, there might be upsets. Or not. And gee, there are only – uh, lessee, 64 teams in each tournament, where’s my TI-82? – okay, 126 total games.

And it takes a special kind of person to enter BOTH the Men’s and Women’s tournaments. Yes, I mean you!

The brackets are being set by the NCAA (Men’s Sunday March 15; Women’s Monday March 16). The men’s first round games start on Thursday March 19 (we don’t do the men’s “play-in” game on Tuesday), and the women’s on Saturday March 21 – and the brackets are locked shortly before the first game of each tournament. That doesn’t leave you much time, so GET GOING!

The Group Name on ESPN is “Big Johnson” for each tournament, and the group password is: kimsentme. That’s right, kim sent me, one word.

espn_logo

You can get there through the following URLs:

   Men’s Tournament Challenge:  http://games.espn.go.com/tcmen/frontpage

   Women’s Tournament Challenge:  http://games.espn.go.com/tcwomen/frontpage

I know some of you like to fake out ESPN with an alias and throwaway email, but please be sure I can identify you from your name or the name of your entry. Otherwise I will keep your iPod, ha ha. 

After you create your entries, be sure to join the Big Johnson group in each tournament! And, if you create your entry before the brackets are set, be sure to return in time to choose your winners before they lock. Most people will wait until March 17 or 18, but don’t forget! ESPN tracks your points as the tournaments progress. I will weigh in every now and then with a Big Johnson update note.

FRIENDS ARE WELCOME, so you can forward this if you wish. Just be sure they identify themselves to me!

Best of luck to everyone!

          Kim

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!


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!


Foreclosure Pricing – Real or Pretend?

February 21, 2009

Excerpt from one of my favorite Real Estate bloggers, Kris Berg in San Diego:

wheelofWe are finding ourselves spending a whole lot of time explaining lender pricing methods to buyers. This week we saw another bank-owned listing priced a full 20% below one active listing and two in escrow – all identical homes within two blocks of the perpetrator. Now, one can argue this is a brilliant strategy for ensuring a speedy-quick sale, and one might even argue that the price will tend to float toward something more in line with true values. Both arguments are valid, but is blatant and gross under-pricing moving toward an ethical gray area? And, what about an agent’s fiduciary responsibilities? Lenders are clients, if not people, too, and pricing a property using a dreidel could be considered negligent. Finally, there is the confusion among buyers that this causes.

Pretend prices – This is what the prices we see attached to many of the foreclosure homes on the market actually are. Most of these homes are knee-deep in offers numbering double-digits before the sun goes down on the first day of showings. Unfortunately, this is a difficult concept to explain to buyers. “Yes, the home is priced exactly at the amount for which you are approved and, no, you cannot buy it.” This is a bitter, even seemingly incredulous message to swallow, and so often a buyer will need to go through the exercise once or twice before they take my word for it.

There is a bigger issue  . . . the one of uber-low pretend prices becoming a popular “lead generation” tool for the agents representing the listings. In a world where buyers are doing their own searches, a too-good-to-be-true carrot can sure make that phone ring. And it leaves the rest of us who use real numbers with a lot of explaining to do.

Read the whole post at the San Diego Home Blog  – Kris’s writing is pretty good, by the way.

This is happening here too. Buyers call me excitedly about a home they have seen in their real-estate-search-engine-of-choice, supposedly in their price range – “Wow! Can we go see this one NOW???” Sure. If you can get past the hordes of other buyers waving offers. You can make an offer, too . . . and let me show you the “escalation clause” addendum, because you are going to need it.

No such thing as a free lunch.

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


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