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With all the stimulus packages being floated out there at costs of up to $5,000 per tax payer (per program), the question comes begging about the Homebuyer Tax Credit.

“At $8,000 for each first-time homebuyer and now $6,500 for move-up buyers – how much is that going to cost the American taxpayers?”

Good question. Not knowing how many people will be able to take advantage of it, we’ll have to start with some guestimates.

Keep in mind, first, that about 4.5 million existing home sold in 2008 altogether and we have been on track to sell roughly the same in 2009.

For 2009, the tax credit was  only for first-time buyers and up to $8,000 (10% of the sales price, not to exceed $8,000). So not everyone received the $8,000 if they purchased a house less than $80,000 – but let’s go ahead and say they did for argument sake.

If the stats hold true, and that is about half of all buyers are first-timers, then there were 2.25 million buyers that qualified (assuming they didn’t go beyond the income limits – which many did). But for simplicity, we’ll say they all qualified.

Simple math puts the tax credits at $18 billion for 2009 – that doesn’t have to be paid back. For all the money that’s being floated out there to stimulate the economy, this is probably the best plan in play.

Now, before all my conservative friends blow a vein behind their eyeballs that are now popping – here’s what happens when a homeowner purchases a house (vs., say when someone buys a car or some other depreciating asset). They spend money on it. Lots of money.

The foreclosures/short sales that have made up most of the market for the last 2 years are mostly in paltry condition and need paint, carpet, appliances, countertops, cabinets, windows, landscaping, rot replacement, sump pumps, mold remediation, heat pumps, etc.

Unless you saw these houses, you just wouldn’t understand. I’m not talking “updating” homes that would otherwise be in good living condition, but making them inhabitable altogether. In fact, regular home buyers like you and me can’t even finance many of these houses because of the condition they’re in.

People get into a tizzy about home flippers swooping in and making “all this money” by flipping a house. Let me tell you – without the flippers some of these houses would completely fall apart. Remember, that lenders WON’T LEND MONEY on a house without complete bathrooms, that are mold invested, lack certain appliances, etc. And the REO banks WON’T fix them up to sell them. They just let them deteriorate while they wait for a buyer.

Enter the investor/rehabber who purchases the house with either cash or off-line financing, then fixes it up to pristine condition, sells it at a fair price and moves on to the next project. They are providing a much-needed service to even make the houses salable, much less inhabitable.

Now, as the market turns around in city after city (that’s what the increase in  pending sales is all about across the country), we’ll see an increase in sales and a use of the home buyer tax credit to fix up the housing pool.

The tax credit for home buyers has played its role and now it will go away April 30, 2010. The question for consumers is will they recognize and act on a good deal when they see it?

by M. Anthony Carr

As with any resale product, the person trying to sell said product will usually try to make the product look as new as possible to ensure the highest profit available. In reviewing many of the homes on the market today, however, some sellers don’t get that notion.


Don’t make the mistake of the seller who, knowing full well that buyers were coming by, not only failed to do a fresh clean up, but also left his underwear on the exercise bike, a pan of crusty macaroni and cheese on the stove and debris throughout the yard.
There are some task items any seller should consider when selling a house. Even if you decide to sell “as is,” a little soap and water could put a few more bucks in your pocket. With that in mind, let’s look at what sellers should look at doing with any house they want to put on the market; what to do when you want to get a little more money; and how to compete with the Joneses when looking to prepare your home for sale.


Any House

All homes going on the market should receive a deep cleaning. This is the cleaning that you do when … well, you would never do it unless you’re selling your house (or you’re just an absolute neatnik. This involves scrubbing every cranny of the house. Nothing goes unscrubbed. I would suggest bringing in a professional group to get this done and plan on spending a couple hundred bucks (maybe more) to get the house ready for your new buyer.

Next, declutter the house. Go ahead and rent a huge storage unit and fill it up. Plan this with a bunch of pre-made boxes that have lids you can tape shut and label. Take extra kid’s toys to charity. Donate all clothes that are even a bit too tight or out of date. Remove excess furniture (or even cover with matching covers).

Repair and paint where needed. As with most homes that have been lived in, that would be all of them. Walk through a new construction home to see what you’re up against and then go and make yours look as best you can on your budget.

Landscaping. Thankfully, mulch and flowering plants don’t really cost a lot of money for those who are just sprucing up. Before going out and paying for a designer-created landscaping job, start with the local garden center and get some free advice on how to spruce up on a budget. Fresh, flowering plants (even in fall and winter) can make the house look oh-so much better.

Even if you’re selling as-is, the above four tips are a must. Next is where we spend a little more money.

Redecorating
Renewed color. Giving your house a makeover doesn’t have to cost you a second mortgage. The first item to consider for rehab is your color selection. While the traditional advice is “go vanilla,” professionally selected colors (not too bold) can make a “nice” house into a “wow” house.

Flooring is one of the best moderately priced upgrades a seller can install to make a huge difference. While I like the concept of “choose-your-own-carpet” offers in home listings, think about what else it’s saying: “We’re too cheap to fix up the house now, so we’ll let you walk through our tattered, stained carpeting and let you get it installed the weekend after we leave.” Like I said, make your house a “wow” by making that first great impression with new carpet.

Replacing dated items. Sometimes replacing certain items in the house is really more like maintaining your home instead of upgrading it. Items like windows, doors, light fixtures, faucets, door hardware, etc., need upgrading and replacing periodically. A walk down the light aisle at your favorite hardware store reveals this could be done on a budget. Nevertheless, there’s nothing more gross looking than a brass light fixture that’s chipping and rusting.

Keeping up with the Joneses

At some point you have to look at what the neighbors are doing and keep up or you’ll lose out. If everyone in the neighborhood is ripping out the old and installing the new (kitchen, bath, carpet, doors, etc.) then you may be forced to do the same thing long before you’re thinking of putting your home on the market. My wife and I are facing that right now with the kitchen. It’s starting to show its age, which means before we put the house on the market in a few years, if I want the best buyer (or any buyer for that matter) the kitchen cabinets need an upgrade.

Redo, Remodel, Relax

As you look around the house, making your list of things to change before putting the house on the market, remember to create some time to enjoy your new digs before selling the place. If a sale is on your horizon and you must redo the landscaping before putting the house on the market — do it early so you can drive home to the professionally designed flowerbeds and floral creations a few months or years before selling it to someone else.

While you want to repair, paint, remodel and add on to your house because it adds value to your home, every homeowner should especially do it because they want to enjoy the changes as well.

Published: October 20, 2006

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