Buy the Home Twilight was Filmed In!

For all you vampire lovers – blood is in the water. The home Twilight was filmed in is up for sale and the price is being reduced! Click Here for More Info!

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Introducing our New Feature--Home Improvement Section

I have been blogging for over a year now and enjoy the opportunity to communicate with our many readers. I have had a growing interest in sharing more info about Home Improvement. The housing downturn has turned up lots of neat ideas on topics from how to save energy (Green Tips) to fixing your leaky faucets to low cost home updates. I am going to launch this new feature with an interesting new green gadget – the Dual Flush Toilet Conversion. It’s an interesting topic to start with but one that is near and dear to all of us. Ok – let’s carefully move on :)

Here’s the link – enjoy!

Housing Recovery in Early Stages

We are now beginning to see solid signs of recovery in the housing market. This report (click here) is one in a pattern of news items that begin to document the housing recovery. Price increases are certainly a sign that things are beginning to firm up, but a full recovery is still a ways off. It is however an early indicator that prices for the most part are as good as they are going to get. Coupled with low interest rates 30 year fixed conventional @ 4.99% and FHA @ 4.875% represents tremendous value opportunities.

As the recovery gains traction, we will see interest rates begin to rise and this period of unbelievably low rates will have passed.

Investors Drawn Back into Real Estate

Today I was reading an article entitled - Low priced Foreclosures and High Hopes for Appreciation Draw Investors back to Real Estate.

This is actually happening in my market. In fact we are seeing multiple offers on foreclosed properties becoming the norm as savvy buyers move to take advantage of current market conditions. Continuing low interest rates coupled with the $8,000 First Time Homebuyers Gift (Grant), plus the expansion of the program to include $6,500 for current owners purchasing a new residence is creating lots of buying activity. Buyer perception about affordability of homes has increased to the point where they now realize they can now afford 70% of the homes on the market based on the median income of $52,029. Buyers are waking up to the opportunities in a hurry!

First Time Home Buyers Grant Extended and Expanded to Current Homeowners!

Congress passed the Homebuyers Tax Credit Program Expansion set to expire November 31, 2009. Here is a quick summary.

The program, which was set to expire November 30, 2009 has been extended and expanded. It will continue to assist First Time Homebuyers by providing an $8,000 credit with the existing rules still in place. The program has also been extended to Current Homeowners who now qualify for $6,500 for the purchase of a new residence if they have lived in their existing home 5 of the last 8 years. The extension will terminate April 30, 2010 and will apply to contracts entered into before that date and which close before July 1, 2010.

For all the details click here.

Click here to read about the Four Windows of Opportunity.

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Existing Home Sale Contracts Rise for 8th Straight Month

Some good news in the housing market surfaced in September (Click Here to Read the article).The September Pending Home Sales Index which tracks sales of existing homes rose 6.1%. This was a higher than anticipated increase. The feeling is that it is spurred by the upcoming expiration of the first time Homebuyers Credit (set to expire at the end of November). That deadline looks like it will be extended into 2010 at this point. Housing may not be out of the woods yet, but this report is the latest in a line of positive indicators. The report quotes “An excess of homes remains on the market despite recent improvements," he said. "Although current inventory is getting closer to price equilibrium, foreclosures will continue to enter the pipeline." Our region has seen in increased level of activity as well and is experiencing the same trend.
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Are Distressed Homes Worth It?

I recently read a great Wall Street Article which talks about the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing distressed homes. Having obtained my CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) designation I can attest to the fact that it is a complicated and lengthy process that demands patience and nerves of steel. For the right people and in the right circumstances the distressed property process can pay off big. This year I have worked on a good number of transactions where buyers did really well, and I mean really well! I’ve noticed the ones that were successful showed lots of patience and persistence.
As is often the case the bigger the risk, the greater the reward. Buying foreclosures can involve some element of risk, particularly in the home inspection process. Many lenders only sell “as is” and buyers may take some chances on the physical condition of the home. Typically these defects are pretty easy to identify if you have a good home inspector. Armed with that info home buyers can then decide if they are comfortable making the purchase.

Are distressed properties for you? Here are some good questions you might ask yourself before moving ahead.

1) What is my timeframe? In other words - when do I want to occupy? Short sales involve a very lengthy approval process that can last between 3-6 months before final approval is granted to close the transaction.
2) Am I prepared to lose a home and start over? Short sale lenders may not approve the sale and you might have to start all over. You could lose 3-6 months if this happens. See question #1 for impact.
3) Am I ready to add some sweat equity? Foreclosures often require some cosmetic, minor or sometimes even major repairs. You will need to decide what cost or work level you are prepared to contribute.

Have more questions? Email me and I’ll be happy to share some good info with you.

Thanks for helping me better serve our Real Estate Community.

A Realtor in Maryland...
The McGinn Group of RE/MAX 100 is a group of Realtors in Maryland and we can personally help you or someone you know in the Baltimore, Silver Spring, Rockville and Annapolis areas. In the areas we don't personally service, we can connect you with experienced colleagues who are part of our regional network.

Or Anywhere Else...
If you're not looking for a home in Maryland we can help you find an experienced Realtor anywhere across the country and in Canada. We belong to a network of realtors that we can recommend. Instead of blindly trying to find a realtor, get in touch with us and we'll do all the work finding the right Realtor for you. Not all real estate agents are experienced or full time. Our referral network has the best credentials to represent you at the highest level. The combination of personal service coupled with knowledge and experience will ensure a great transaction. We have done all the interviewing and vetting. We will provide you with some names and you can then select the one that you feel most comfortable with, knowing that they are already highly qualified professionals.

Here's the best part...
The cost for me doing all that leg work for you is nothing!

Boyd's personal cell: 443-447-5511

Selling Homes in a Challenging Market - A Price War and a Beauty Contest

Selling a home in this market involves a very important two-step approach.

First, sellers have to be priced aggressively. That does not mean they have to give away their home, but in this market homeowners simply cannot afford to be priced higher than their competition. Otherwise they will die on the vine waiting for buyers who will never come. One of my key responsibilities is completing market research in order to see what similar homes are asking and have sold for in the area. I thoroughly analyze the data and then sit down and review pricing strategies with sellers to determine the best possible price. A well-priced home that is a real looker presents a very compelling opportunity for buyers. That leads us to the second step.

Sellers need to have their homes ready to wow buyers – this is the beauty contest. Imagine buyers everywhere watching HGTV. When they are ready to buy they have a clear idea of what they want as far as decorating and home design is concerned. It seems most have Champagne tastes on a Ginger Ale budget. That can discourage sellers who see themselves spending tens of thousands of dollars getting their homes into selling shape only to disappoint buyers’ high expectations. It may come as a surprise that it is possible to present a home in a very exciting way without breaking the bank. My secret weapon in this step is Kristi of Energizing Spaces. I call her "the House Whisperer."

Together we work with sellers to develop a lean budget and then through a combination of using the seller’s own furniture and decorating accents along with items from Kristi’s decorator library, Kristi uses her great design ideas to help transform homes into HGTV classics. Sellers are amazed at the results both in shortened selling time and increased price. Using this two-step approach we have (even in this challenging market) managed to attract multiple offers for our sellers to consider. Now that’s a winning combination! So, who do you know who wants to win the price war by coming first in the beauty contest? Tell them to contact me for all our insider secrets.

Thanks for helping me better serve our Real Estate Community.

Homes: Sell at a Loss, Buy at a Discount

The Issue

A question I hear all the time these days is – "I would like to upgrade and buy a new home, taking advantage of low prices and low interest rates, but how can I do that while I still own my existing home? Can I sell my home at a loss and still buy a new one?"

The Solution

The answer is yes, you can and here’s how:
  1. It is possible to sell your home at a loss as long as you have enough equity to break even. I have even helped clients complete transactions where they brought money to settlement in order to complete the deal. They then purchased their dream home at a drastically reduced price. So your first step is to get an idea of what your home is currently worth. Call or email me, I can help.

  2. Obtain a loan pre-approval – find out what you can afford to buy now that interest rates are low. I am seeing 30 year fixed loans around and just below 5% these days. Talk to your lender or contact me and I will connect you with a lender who will review all loan options with you.

  3. Shop Like a Shark – Once you are ready we can find the right home for you. When it comes to negotiating I am like a Pitt Bull and there are lots of great deals I can bite into for you.

If you or someone you know is interested in taking advantage of the opportunities in our current real estate market, call or email. I can get some good information into your hands.

Thanks for helping me better serve our Real Estate Community.

Chocolate Calculator

Isn't the internet interesting!? A friend sent me this recently. Try it!

Don't tell me your age; you'd probably lie anyway-but the Hershey Man will know!

This is pretty neat.
DON'T CHEAT BY SCROLLING DOWN FIRST!It takes less than a minute. Work this out as you read. Be sure you don't read the bottom until you've worked it out!

1. First of all, pick the number of times a week that you would like to have chocolate (more than 1 but less than 10)

2. Multiply this number by 2 (just to be bold)

3. Add 5

4. Multiply it by 50 -- I'll wait while you get the calculator
5. If you have already had your birthday this year add 1759... If you haven't, add 1758.
6. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born

You should have a three digit number The first digit of this was your original number (how many times you want to have chocolate each week)

The next two numbers are
YOUR AGE! (Oh YES, it is!!!!!)

Interest Rates Fall – Opportunities Galore!

I noticed last week that interest rates for 30 year home loans edged down again and are close to record lows, which provides another excellent opportunity for home buyers to save money. The average rate was 5.04, which is really a great rate! It seems the Fed’s strategy to spend over $1.25 trillion on mortgage backed securities is having the desired effect of driving down rates for home loans. Apparently that money will run out by winter and will most likely result in a rising trend for rates about six months from now.

I hear early reports that we are beginning to work our way out of recession even though it doesn’t feel like it yet. Low interest rates, combined with low prices, combined with the $8,000 First Time Home Buyer’s grant, provides an awesome opportunity for buyers. I think I sound like a broken record, but it is true!

Who do you know that’s ready to cash in on this once in a generation opportunity?

Thanks for helping me better serve our Real Estate Community

Client Appreciation Party – Sound of Music Sing-Along

On September 18, 2009 the McGinn Real Estate Group is hosting our annual client appreciation party. This year it will be held in Ellicott City at the Patapsco Female Institute (see link for Historic Venue Info) and we will be presenting The Sound of Music in Sing-Along format. This style of movie presentation has become quite popular in Europe and other places such as the Hollywood Bowl in California. It is much more than just watching this classic family movie. Attendees are invited to participate by coming dressed in theme costumes. So be prepared not only to sing along to songs such as "Do Re Mi" and "Edelweiss" but to really get into the act. Here is an idea of what we will be doing. For example, whenever you see a mountain, everyone yells “mountain!” When you see the Baroness, you hiss. As Liesel says something cute, everyone says “ahh.” When the bad guys appear you boo and when they are trying to find the von Trapps, everyone waves flashlights around. Prizes will be awarded for costumes so use your imagination. We have included some neat ideas in the blog.

The Patapsco Female Institute is a stunningly beautiful historic site. Since we have the site for the evening feel free to come early (any time after 5:00 pm) and bring a box supper. There are lots of picnic tables or you can spread blankets and enjoy the beauty of the grounds. There isn’t a bad seat in the place so you can take your time and enjoy yourselves. We are anticipating it getting dark just about 7:30-7:45 pm.

Remember – seating is limited so sign up quickly and prepare for a great time! Pray for good weather and plan to join us for a wonderful evening. We will make the Hills of Ellicott City come alive with the sound of music!

Thanks for helping me better entertain our Real Estate community.

Will Congress Extend the $8,000 Tax Credit for First Time Home Buyers?

About 14 weeks from now this important tax credit is set to expire. The big question is whether or not congress will extend the program another 6 to 12 months. I have experienced first hand the impact of this program since its inception in late 2008. It has been instrumental in encouraging people to buy their first home. In my opinion it has been a very important factor in stabilizing and correcting the housing decline. Since no housing recovery can occur without the first time buyers getting back into the market it stands to reason that until we are fully and completely recovered this program will be critical to the process.

Time is an important issue here as well. Since the home purchase process can take around 8 to 14 weeks from start to finish (including searching and getting under contract) we are now at the point where that window of opportunity may be closing and buyers could be left without the incentive at a time when it is still needed. Economists at the National Association of Realtors have estimated that $63,000 in downstream “ripple effects” is generated on a typical home purchase. That could include things like furniture purchases, landscaping, renovations etc. Even if that number is a little on the high side it is still plain to see that home sales have a significant impact on our economy.
One of the key points that seems to get lost when the real estate downturn is discussed, is that housing is the biggest industry of all, bigger than the auto industry, the steel industry and general manufacturing. When housing is sick, everything is sick. So, the best way to heal housing is to keep important incentives in place that encourage home buying and selling. That in turn will begin to heal the overall economy and we will move more quickly to work our way out of this deep recession. We might want to send that message to our members of congress and encourage them keep working to get this incentive extended. I don’t think it needs to be a bigger credit or more extensive than what it is at this time, but let's at least extend the existing program so more can benefit from it.
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Lima Beans--My Newfound Joy

Yes it’s hard to believe that anyone could love lima beans – they sure take a beating in the forum of public opinion. I grew up hearing horror stories about how everyone hated lima beans, but mothers everywhere seemed compelled to buy them and force kids to eat them all up so there was not one left on the plate. I guess it was mothers’ way of getting even for all the crazy stuff kids did. For most of my life I was only exposed to them when I had my vegetable soup. There was sure to be one or two floating in the bowl somewhere. I thought I liked them, but there were never enough to know for sure. One time I bought a bag of frozen lima beans. That was a disaster! They tasted like sludge mixed with wet cardboard. From that point on I was curious but simply ignored them.

This past year my wife Ninon got us involved in a community gardening project. She managed to get a 25 X 25 foot plot and we plunged into gardening in Maryland. One of our plot neighbors, Bob, is a gardening expert, and also works at the University of Maryland in their Agriculture Department. He is an encyclopedia of great info and has been an invaluable resource to us this past summer. One day he mentioned in passing that he was growing lima beans. He said he loved the taste of fresh cooked lima beans in butter along with a little salt. I filed that info away and never thought much more about it until we were visiting a garden stand in Delaware close to Bethany Beach. As we were purchasing corn and tomatoes I noticed boxes of lima beans still in the pod – big hairy green pods! So I decided to buy just one box and give them a try. A few days later I shelled them, boiled them and put on a little butter and salt. They were simply delicious! Before I knew it I had eaten them all without sharing any with Ninon. So the next time we went down to the ocean we bought some more. This time we made a dish called Succotash which is made with fresh corn (not on the cob) mixed with lima beans in a cream sauce.

Well for those of you old enough to remember Sylvester the Cat in Bugs Bunny - Suffer’n Succotash! – It was wonderful! Way beyond excellent! So, if you are interested in a new food adventure here is a recipe for Succotash and if you are quick (because they are almost finished for the season), go down to your local farmer’s market and pick up some lima beans and give ‘em a try. Your mother will be impressed!

Thanks for helping me better feed our Real Estate Community!

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Facebook Faux Pas

I recently came across a situation where the widely expanded use of social network sites can create some problems. The buyer of a property decided to post his negotiating strategy on his Facebook wall. Unbeknownst to each other, the buyer and seller had a mutual friend, so the seller could see the buyer’s Facebook page. The buyers had posted that they really liked the home, and were willing to go up to $xxxxx for it. When they made a lower offer, the seller refused to come down in price knowing what the buyer was really willing to pay.

This is a good reminder that what is posted on public sites is, in fact, public - and could come back to haunt as it did in this case. Developing negotiating strategies is one of the important values we bring to real estate transactions. Confidentiality is a key component of this process, something that we guard very carefully. This example reminded me how important that can be.

Thanks for helping me better serve our real estate community.

Image Courtesy: Microsoft Office Online

Regional Housing Report

Here is the latest MRIS Trends in Housing Report that is published quarterly. It notes some interesting factors at play in our market.
  1. Prices seem to be firming a little based on 2nd quarter improvements. Prices in some areas could drift lower by year end, but lower listing supply seems to indicate pricing traction.
  2. Days on Market are down sharply from this past quarter and a year ago. Homes are selling more quickly than before.
  3. Ratio of Inventory is showing continued decline. This is an indicator that demand is beginning to outpace supply.

What does all this mean? Well the simple answer is that these are early signs of an improving market. Since housing decline led us into recession, it makes sense that housing recovery will lead us out. I have picked up on some early signals in the overall market that indicate we are beginning to emerge from recession although the job market continues to be a little soft. These are national indicators and I still maintain that our regional job market is stronger.

What have I seen? I have been busy with both buyers and sellers since late 2008 continuing through into 2009. July and August typically see significant slowing in real estate sales but this year July has been busy. August seems to be building strong as well. Prices have not increased but levels of activity are up sharply.

We are not out of the housing correction period but I am certainly seeing our market shift from an aggressive buyer’s market to a more moderate buyer’s market. Interest rates remain very competitive and that factor along with the $8,000 first time buyer incentive will continue to encourage buyers to move into the market.

Click Here for the Report.

Thank you for helping me better serve our real estate community.

Are You Having a Hard Time Keeping Your Balance?

Life has its challenges. Not the least of which is finding balance. My oldest son Alec was attending a conference recently when someone asked the speaker, "How do you balance all of life's responsibilities?"

He responded that he doesn't think of balancing his responsibilities as much as he thinks it's more like the circus performer who spins plates. The plate spinner has all these plates on poles, and if one slows down too much he rushes to it to spin it faster again, and he goes from plate to plate, giving attention where it is needed most.

So isn't that like life? Instead of beating ourselves up because we aren't finding a perfect balance (because everything is constantly changing), we should focus on giving attention where it is needed most at that time. Sometimes work will be more demanding, and sometimes family will be more demanding, sometimes our charity-work will be more demanding. We just adapt to the situation, and keep all those plates spinning!

A Fresh Start

Recently I met with some clients who found themselves in a situation where they could no longer afford their home. A combination of salary reduction and an interest rate increase left them unable to pay their mortgage. Values had dropped on their home and they were underwater on their loan - meaning they owed the bank more than what their home was worth. Our first meeting was very difficult for them and I could see they were overwhelmed with the situation. They always had good credit and now they were facing foreclosure. They were unfamiliar with the process and did not really understand their options or that they even had options.

I was able to review their situation, develop a plan to put their home on the market as a "Short Sale" and avoid a possible job loss that foreclosure could have caused. Working closely with the lender I sold their home and they were able to make a fresh start.

The most interesting part of the process was settlement. It was actually a very positive experience and despite the difficult circumstances there was a lot of excitement at closing. After everything was over my clients took me aside and explained how happy they were to be free of the stress of the situation and how excited they were to start fresh with their credit undamaged by foreclosure. For them it was a very positive outcome.

I admit I was a little surprised. That day I learned firsthand how good people can feel once they have the opportunity to be free of oppressive debt.

I recently obtained my Certified Distressed Property Expert designation (CDPE) in order to more effectively understand the needs of distressed homeowners. If you know of anyone who is in a difficult situation with their home, let them know they do have options. I would be pleased to give them good information that will help them move forward in a positive way.

Thank you for helping me better serve our real estate community.

Deal or No Deal

If you've ever seen the show "Deal or No Deal" you've likely noticed how common it is for contestants to be lured into taking additional risks to see if they can get through just one more case and keep their dream of big money alive. Sometimes it works out for them and they win big. However, more times than not, the contestant tries to push the envelope too far and ends up squandering a sure thing in hopes of obtaining that alluring million dollar prize.

We've seen the same thing happen in the real estate industry lately as clients risk a sure thing - buying the home that is available at an already deep discount in the hopes of saving a few dollars more on that elusive steal of a deal. They get distracted and miss the great opportunity that is right in front of them. This desire to catch the market at its absolute lowest point and save that extra money can backfire and cost much more in the purchase of a home. The truth is that none of us knows "what case will be opened up next," and betting on the future can be a bit of a risky proposition considering the turbulent climate that surrounds us.

The reason I bring this up is out of concern that many are missing out on the current opportunity that is before us. The turmoil in the economy has created a situation where we can help you find a really attractive home at a hugely competitive price - the proverbial great deal. To find out exactly how to take advantage of the opportunity that still exists, give me a call at 443-310-8824.

Thanks for helping me better serve our real estate community.

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Six Degrees of Separation

Earlier this month a Washington Post article talked about "Six Degrees of Separation," you know - that theory that you are only about 6 people away from knowing anyone else? But is it just a joke, or is there some truth to it?

There has actually been some real research done on this. In 1967 a sociologist randomly chose individuals in the Midwest and asked them to send a package to a stranger in Massachusetts. They were not given an address, but given the name, occupation, and the approximate location of the individual. They were asked to send the package to someone they thought might know the stranger, or would at least know someone else who might know the stranger.

Guess what!? Each package reached its destination, after being sent to (on average) five to seven people. Amazing.

Then in 2001 a professor at Columbia University devised a similar experiment, using the internet. His experiment was done on a much larger scale! He used 48,000 senders in 160 countries, and 19 "targets." The average number of people the email had to go through? Six.

Here's an example from my own life! Have you seen the video of Susan Boyle (I think nearly everyone who uses the internet has!)? Well - I asked my neighbor Mary (who's from Scotland) if she knows her (I asked her more as a joke than anything else), and she does! Her brothers know her well. So I am only two people away from Susan Boyle!

Which famous person do YOU know - maybe six degrees away?

(Image courtesy of USMagazine)

Faith and Football

My blog typically centers on real estate related topics. This one however is a little different. I have noticed that much of the news made by professional athletes these days seems the kind that makes parents cringe whenever they hear it.
I would like to highlight a particularly interesting and positive event that will happen May 16th. This event is called Faith and Football and it is being hosted by my church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Although my church is hosting this event, those participating are men of faith from different religions. But what they have in common is a belief in God, and their faith that sustains them and has contributed to making them the great people they are. The event focuses on “Learning That Great Football Coaches and Players Can Also Be Great Men.” What a positive theme, and hopefully one that will be very influential in the lives of football fans of all ages.
Those participating in the event include:

LaVell Edwards, College Football Hall of Fame Coach, Brigham Young University
Derrick Mason, Two-time NFL All-Pro, Baltimore Ravens Wide Receiver
Lenny Moore, Pro Football Hall of Fame Player, Baltimore Colts Legend
Edwin Mulitalo, Super Bowl Winner (Ravens), Ten-year NFL Veteran
Ken Niumatalolo, Head Football Coach, US Naval Academy
Burgess Owens, NFL All-Pro, Super Bowl Winner, Oakland Raiders
Stan White, Baltimore Colt All-Pro and Ohio State All-American
Andy Reid, Two-time NFL Coach of the Year, Head Coach, Philadelphia Eagles

Feel free to visit the web site . All are welcome to attend. There is an afternoon as well as an evening session. Although tickets are limited, there is no cost. This will be a wonderful event for sports and football enthusiasts everywhere. This is my invitation to you – come join us, bring your friends. Attend a great event where these men will "share their experiences and motivate all of us to be better.”

May Riddle Answer!!!

Don't be Fearful. Be Factual.

If Buyers and Sellers were just to take the news at face value it would be very easy to get scared in today's market. The better thing to do right now is to look for the facts. We hear about 8% unemployment but what we don't hear is that means that 92% of Americans have jobs and are getting their salary every single month. We hear how the market is doing and how the banks are failing but we don't hear much about how interest rates are at a six decade low right now.

There's a huge inventory of wonderful, great-value homes that are on the market right now; selection is high, interest rates are low, prices are low, and it's a fantastic time to be a Buyer. This also opens the door of opportunity for Sellers as well. Your home may not be worth what it was at its peak, but neither is the one you will buy. The fact is that since you will most likely purchase a home that has a higher value than yours, its 15-20% value drop translates into a greater reduction in sale price than yours. That means the math works to your advantage. If you couple that with low interest rates you are getting a double bonus.

Don't be fearful, be factual.

Thanks for helping me better serve our Real Estate Community.

Kind of like "On Star" for Real Estate...

I am really excited to blog about some new technology I just launched. It's called Voice Pad and here is how it works.

Let's say you are driving through a neighborhood and you come across a home with a For Sale sign out front. This home looks very nice and you are interested in finding out the asking price along with other details such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, if there is a finished basement, or lot size. At this point you think, "I'll email Boyd tomorrow and get the info." While this is a good way to get the info, wouldn't you really rather know right then and there while you are looking at the property?

Now I have a solution for you. My new technology allows me to set you up with a dedicated phone number that you put in your cell phone speed dial. When you see a home, you call Voice Pad. Immediately they answer and provide you with detailed info for that home. It's kind of like On Star for real estate. It is really fast and is also very simple. I have test driven this technology and if it is easy for me it will be a breeze for you. It's also fast. I'm no lover of slow phone systems that take forever to get info into your hands. This is so quick you'll have what you want in an instant.

If you or someone you know could use this technology, email me at and I'll get you started.

Let me know if you are interested.

A Bell Won't Ring

I heard a quote recently which said, "when home prices hit bottom you won't hear a bell ring." Bottoming out is something that is more clearly identified six to eight months after the event has occurred. Depending on the market it can even take a little longer. However, I have been seeing some positive signals lately and there are some early indicators that we might be getting pretty close to bottom.

Here is what I am seeing:
  1. February home resale figures jumped by 5.1%

  2. February new home sales also jumped 4.7%

  3. Interest rates are officially at historic lows

These are national reports and it is important to note that our regional market performs better. These reports may be early indicators that housing is beginning to move in a better direction

Our area is not completely recession proof, but we have felt much less of an impact because of the economic strength of our region. Here is my experience locally:

  1. I noticed an increase in buying activity early December 2008 - primarily first-time buyers but some move-up buyers as well.

  2. January 2009 started strong and continues busy - mainly first-time buyers and some move-ups.

  3. Whenever a home comes on the market and is priced right, it will often produce multiple offers.

  4. I am noticing a return of confidence as buyers take advantage of low prices and historic low interest rates.

  5. As interest rates dip buyers move off the fence and when they do, they move decisively to purchase well-priced homes.
As I speak with other real estate professionals I'm receiving confirmation that they are having a similar experience. Whenever the market is making a change, real estate agents who are on the front lines every day usually see that change first. I am seeing some positive signals right now.

Have you come across any positive signals?

Could Be a Good Idea

President Obama has launched a very aggressive stimulus program and the details are just starting to filter down. I won’t pretend to know everything about the bill and if or when it will actually do what it is intended to. There is a parade of talking heads on TV every night better qualified than I to answer that question – unfortunately they never agree on anything. There is some agreement on one point however – by the time the economy recovers nobody will know for sure what exactly caused the recovery and when. It will likely be a combination of factors starting with the stimulus program that was just launched, a natural swinging back of the economic pendulum, or maybe just the fact that your washing machine gives up the ghost and it's time to buy a new one whether you want to or not. At some point we will venture out and begin to spend again. The world has to spend to live.

During this time of uncertainty some novel ideas pop up about how best to deal with certain aspects of the problem. I came across one the other day that made some sense to me. This is an article that appeared in the Washington Post February 22, 2009 written by Ricardo J Caballero, head of the Economics Department at MIT.

Perhaps this idea may gain some traction and be one of the factors that puts our economy back on solid ground. What do you think?

$8,000 First-time Home Buyers Incentive

The Obama government has provided an incentive for first-time home buyers who purchase homes from the start of the year until the end of November 2009. They may be eligible for a tax credit based on 10 percent of the value of the home or $8,000 (whichever is least). Remember a tax credit is very different from a tax deduction – a tax credit is equivalent to money in your hand, as opposed to a tax deduction which only reduces your taxable income.

The tax credit starts phasing out for couples with incomes above $150,000 and single filers with incomes above $75,000. Buyers will have to repay the credit if they sell their homes within three years.

Tax Credit Versus Tax Deduction

It’s important to remember that the $8,000 tax credit is just that
a tax credit. The benefit of a tax credit is that it’s a dollar-for-dollar tax reduction, rather than a reduction in a tax liability that would only save you $1,000 to $1,500 when all is said and done. So, if a home buyer were to owe $8,000 in income taxes and would qualify for the $8,000 tax credit, they would owe nothing.

Better still, the tax credit is refundable, which means the home buyer can receive a check for the credit if he or she has little income tax liability. For example, if a home buyer is liable for $4,000 in income tax, he can offset that $4,000 with half of the tax credit, and still receive a check for the remaining $4,000!

Homes that Qualify

The tax credit is applicable to any home that will be used as a principle residence. Based on that guideline, qualifying homes include single-family detached homes, as well as attached homes such as townhouses and condominiums. In addition, manufactured or homes and houseboats used for principle residence also qualify.

Higher Loan Amounts

More good news – there is an extension on the additional tier of conforming loan amounts which had been first established in 2008. This tier of home loans are those greater than $417,000, and with a maximum that depends on the area, but is not greater than $729,750. These loans will again be eligible for rates that are slightly higher than conforming loan rates, but less expensive than the standard “jumbo” loan rates.

Phase-out Examples

According to the plan, the tax credit starts phasing out for couples with incomes above $150,000 and single filers with incomes above $75,000.


As Modified in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Major Modifications Italicized)

February 2009 - Click image to enlarge.

Foreclosure vs. Short Sale

There is a lot of discussion these days about Short Sales and Foreclosures. I think it might be helpful to understand some of the terminology and how each option might impact an owner of a property who is in jeopardy of losing their home. Here's a quick and simple definition of the two and some additional information that helps understand the impact of Foreclosure vs. Short Sale. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please call me.

Thanks for helping me better serve our Real Estate Community.

When a homeowner defaults by failing to make payments on his or her mortgage, the bank or financial institution that holds the mortgage note may foreclose on the property. Foreclosure gives the legal ownership of a property to the bank to allow the bank to recoup its investment. Foreclosure proceedings vary by state but usually involve court appearances to ensure the foreclosure is warranted.

Real Estate Short Sale Definition:
A short sale means that you sell the property. But you get a lower price than what you owe. Then you go to your lender (or both lenders if you have two loans) and get them to approve the sale of your house.

The purpose of a real estate short sale is to avoid expensive foreclosure for the lender and get the borrower out of debt with the least possible credit history damage. Lenders have no interest in owning property as they have to pay property taxes and pay for necessary repairs and borrowers would be happy to walk out free of mortgage debt.

However, lenders may or may not agree to take the short sale as full debt satisfaction. As a result, they could file a deficiency judgment for the remaining loan amount and the borrower's credit and capability of taking another home loan soon after the short sale will be damaged.

Foreclosure vs. Short Sale
Homeowner Consequences



Successful Short Sale

Future Fannie May Loan – Primary Residence

A homeowner who loses his home to foreclosure is ineligible for a Fannie May Backed mortgage for a period of 5 years.

A homeowner who successfully negotiates and closes a Short Sale will be eligible for a Fannie May backed mortgage after only 2 years.

Future Fannie May Loan – Non Primary

An investor who allows a property to go to foreclosure is ineligible for a Fannie May backed investment mortgage for a period of 7 years.

A homeowner who successfully negotiates and closes a Short Sale will be eligible for a Fannie May backed investment mortgage after only 2 years.

Future Loan With Any Mortgage Company

On any future 1003 application, a prospective borrower will have to answer Yes to question C in Section VII of the standard 1003 that asks “Have you had property foreclosed upon or given title or deed in lieu thereof in the last 7 years?” This will affect future Rates.

There is no similar declaration or question regarding a Short Sale.

Credit Score

Score may be lowered anywhere from 250 to over 300 points. Typically will affect credit score for over 3 years.

Only late payments on a mortgage will show and after sale mortgage will be reported as paid or negotiated. This will lower the score as little as 50 points if all other payments are being made. A Short Sale’s effect can be as brief as 12 to 18 months.

Credit History

Foreclosure will remain as public on a person’s credit history for 10 years or more.

Short sale is not reported on a credit history. There is no specific reporting item for “Short Sale.” The load is typically reported as “paid in full, settled.”

Security Clearances

Foreclosure is the most challenging issue against a security clearance outside a conviction of a serious misdemeanor or felony. If a client has a Foreclosure and is a police officer, in the military, CIA, or any other position that requires a security clearance in most cases clearance will be revoked and the position will be terminated.

A Short Sale on its own does not challenge most security clearances.

Current Employment

Employers have the right and are actively checking the credit of all employees who are in sensitive positions. A Foreclosure may be grounds for an immediate reassignment or termination.

A Short Sale is not reported on a credit report and is not a challenge to employment.

Future Employment

Many employers are requiring credit checks on all job applicants. A Foreclosure is one of the most detrimental credit items an applicant can have and can challenge employment.

A Short Sale is not reported on a credit report and is therefore not a challenge to employment.

Deficiency Judgment

In many states, depending on the kind of loan, the bank has the right to pursue a deficiency judgment under the personal covenant on the loan.

Depending on the type of loan some lenders who accept a Short Sale may be able to pursue a borrower for a deficiency judgment. In many successful Short Sales it is possible to convince a lender to give up this right as part of the Short Sale.

Property Tax Assessments and Homestead Tax Changes

This is the time of year when the triennial property tax assessments begin to appear in Maryland. They begin to arrive any time between mid December and the end of January. Every three years your property value is reassessed and your tax rate is based on that new assessment. Last year I sent out a special alert regarding these changes in order to help save you money -- perhaps lots of money. Here it is again so take a close look and see if this has any impact on your taxes -- especially in light of the drop in home values over this past year.

Thanks for helping me better serve our Real Estate Community.

Property Tax Assessment

Every three years your property value is reassessed for tax purposes.
With the recent decline in real estate values you want to be watching very closely that your assessment is not too high. If you feel your assessment is too high here is what you do:

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If you missed the time period for appeal or if you are not in your year for assessment you can use this section to reapply.

Petition for Review Application There is no formal application for assessment appeals that are not Petition for Review. The homeowner would have to follow the directions on the attached information sheet, which can also be found at

Homestead Tax Credit Changes

Last year the Maryland State Assembly made changes to the Homestead Tax Act which now requires that you reapply to keep this important credit on your principal residence.
If you are being reassessed this year that application will be inlcuded in with that information. Be sure you don't miss it. DO IT NOW!!!!!

Explanation for Homestead Tax Credit
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Commonly Asked Questions
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Information from the State Department
of Assessments and Taxation

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Online Homestead Application Note: to the best of my knowledge, this can only be used by homeowners who have their Homestead Tax Credit information that was mailed from the SDAT.

Application that Homeowners can print and mail with or without their information that was mailed from the SDAT.

Keep in mind, to the best of my knowledge you can only apply for this credit upon receipt of your tri-annual assessment notice or within 180 days of the purchase of a property.

Special Note -- Make sure you don't miss this form in the paper blizzard the state sends you!