Home Seller: Your “To Do” List Prior to a Home Inspection.

February 22, 2011

by christiborden

Home Inspection Approaches

So you finally have a contract on your home. Congratulations! Now, your buyer has ordered an independent inspection. Believe me, this is a good thing. When so many real estate transactions end in court due to disclosure items, inspections are a wonderful way for both parties to be aware of the condition of the property and hopefully resolve any such issues up front. You should applaud a buyer that thinks enough of his investment to hire an inspector. I am always worried about buyers who don’t. In fact, I would rather not represent a buyer that declines to inspect, even new construction.

Even though it is probably too late to make major repairs prior to the inspection, there are some things a seller can do to help the inspection go well for both parties and most of these items are simply the little nagging, honey-do type of things that we, as homeowners, tend to get used to and ignore.

  • Let there be light: Check all light bulbs and replace those not working. An inspector is not going to test the fixture itself but may call it as a deficiency and recommend that it be examined by a licensed electrician. Quite a costly repair for a blown bulb.
  • Water, water everywhere: Repair any leaking faucets, water fixtures, irrigation systems, etc. If you do not know how to do it, hire a plumber. If you are aware of rotten wood on the exterior of your home, this is usually flagged for repair.
  • Heating, Cooling and More: How long has it been since your systems have been serviced? How long has it been since you changed your filters and cleaned your vents? A well-maintained home will shine at an inspection, helping you and your buyer keep the transaction together.
  • Access to your home: Make sure there is access to your breaker box, the heater/air conditioner, water heater, etc. If your personal belongings block these important items, the inspector will not inspect it causing the buyer to either accept an incomplete inspection, having to pay an additional fee for a further inspection or he may just pull out of the deal completely.
  • Disclose, Disclose, Disclose: Please click here to read my past blog about your responsibility as a Seller to disclose. This is not something to take lightly or to ignore. If you know about it something that you, as a buyer, would want to know about a property, disclose. Even if you have made a repair, it is required to let them know the issue existed.

That should get you started on your way to having your property ready for the inspection. If you have questions about this or other items, contact your Realtor or your real estate attorney for advice regarding the inspection report and repairs. Also, in the State of Texas, you are required to disclose this and any other property inspection performed within the last four years and must note same on the Seller’s Disclosure Notice.

I hope this has helped you and wish you a safe and stress-free journey toward your closing.

Disclaimer: My name is Christi Borden. I am a licensed real estate agent in the State of Texas and a member of the National Association of REALTORS. As such, I adhere to a strict code of ethics and all laws with regard to equal housing, which is reflected in the content of this blog. My broker is Prudential GARY GREENE, REALTORS, 23922 Cinco Village Center, Suite 123, Katy TX 77494. My TX Real Estate License number is 0517398. All of the opinions in this blog are mine, unless otherwise noted.


Cool Tools for Today’s Realtor!

January 25, 2011

Okay, so I am a gadget junkie and an intervention is certainly in my near future, but there are certain tools that help me through my day as a busy and successful Realtor in Katy, TX  – a sprawling suburb located about 20 miles west of Houston and near the center of the Energy Corridor.

My list has nothing to do with being able to perform the business of real estate but haseverything” to do with my being able to perform it well.

1. Tablet PC – I love being able to run my business as paperless as possible. I have an HP Tablet Elite that allows me to take notes, bring up all manner of paperwork, fill in the contracts and have clients sign on site. This is a powerful machine and impresses clients that I have the equipment of a professional.

2. Real Estate Dashboard software by www.Gopaperless.com. I use this software to keep my documents organized on my computer and it has an e-sign feature that compares to Docusign as well as an upload feature similar to Dropbox.  (I use Dropbox for my iPad, too).

3. Docusign – Even though I have a redundant system on my computer, with so many other Realtors using Docusign, I am an avid subscriber as well. It is easy to use and clients LOVE it. No more driving across town to secure signatures. Experienced relocation clients, especially those out-of-town, now expect this level of service. Check it out… your business will prosper because of it.

4. Mi-fi – I have a wi-fi by Sprint (the Overdrive) that I carry with me always. For a mere $ 50 a month, I am able to access the internet at every opportunity on at least 5 machines: iPad, laptop, etc. I always give my listing appointments LIVE so that future clients can see exactly what is happening in their market in real-time as well I can demonstrate my marketing in action. For my buyers, we can drive around and use the new www.HAR.com app or the www.Realtor.com app to view homes on the fly. I am one of those people who are “always” connected and I like it that way. However, my family does not always agree with me. Use with discretion…

5. iPad – Yes, I know I have a computer but it is not always convenient to bring it along plus my iPad is so much fun! I love the instant access to all of  my Social Media Sites plus my husband steals it from me to play “Words with Friends”. I know that my opponents may notice at times I am a tad brighter than usual… it is all Danny. Sorry but he loves the game and can really crush it at Scrabble. How can I deny him this one joy?

6. Kodak HD Video camera – the best $ 139.00 you will spend, and make sure to get the sport version which is water proof down to 3 meters and can be dropped from 5 feet (not that I have ever dropped a camera anywhere near water…ahem). And it will be perfect to take on my next vacation. Bahamas, here I come…

7. Laser Tape measure – How can any Realtor live without this device? In fact, I have about three because I tend to leave them around or lose them. They are fantastic and sellers are very impressed when you whip them out to measure their home.

8. Digital SLR Camera with a tripod – While I usually hire a professional photographer for my main photos, I tend to supplement with area community shots and they have to be great. I have several point and shoot cameras (the Kodak Video camera has a built-in 5 MP) but nothing really takes the place of a good SLR camera. There is no comparison between the two and having a great range of lenses (wide-angle for indoor shots and long-range for outdoors) helps me truly present the best features a property has to offer. I am a Nikon gal but any of the big guys will do. Shooting with a tripod completely eliminates any motion or shake allowing you to take the clearest of photos. Try a tripod, you will never go back to handheld photography again.

9. Laminating machine – I know this is a weird tool but many times I need to present a great copy of a survey, pool rendering, bullet list of features, newsletter, community update, etc. and a laminated copy always takes my marketing up a notch. The fact that it came from Sam’s and cost $ 99 is beside the point. No one else is using one and my listings stand out because of it.

10. Showing Beacon – This is a terrific box that connects to the phone of the seller and lets them know when a showing is complete by the simple touch of a button. The agent showing the home signals the seller to return home upon leaving the property and the beacon actually calls the seller’s cell phone with the message. Pretty cool, huh? My sellers love it because they are not left waiting hours for an agent that arrives late or does not show at all.

Now that I have gotten started, I could probably list at least 10 more.

What tools would you add to this list and how do you use them?


Q.What is the big deal about Master Planned Communities anyway?

June 13, 2010

by christi borden, realtor

A. I just finished writing an offer for a client and he and others always ask me what makes Cinco Ranch or other master-planned communities so special, i. e. more expensive and more elusive than other housing options in the Katy/West Houston Area.

One word explains it all… security. And not in the usual sense of the word from a personal security standpoint. I actually refer to security as it relates to your financial investment in your home. No Realtor with any sense will guarantee a buyer that his or her home will appreciate in any area in the United States or at least they should not – even in an area with a pretty darned good track record like ours.

All we can do for our clients when advising them as their buyer’s representative in a real estate transaction is to inform and disclose all we know that could have a positive or negative impact on the value of their property and the value of the quality of life. There are so many variables to the process that no one can predict what will happen so we have to look at the past to help us understand the future.

As Houston is not a city with proper Zoning for residential areas, developers (the really good ones) take it upon themselves to master-plan or self-zone their developments with one goal in mind: helping their residents enjoy their lifestyle while retaining property values. This is a good goal and some do it better than others. One of the reasons the South Katy market has consistently been one of the hottest markets in Houston is our developers have taken their role seriously and have created award-winning and world-renowned communities such as: Cinco Ranch, Grand Lakes, Seven Meadows, Cross Creek Ranch, Firethorne and even the older areas like Kelliwood and Green Trails. Richmond and Fulshear are also areas with great new communities such as: Lakes of Bella Terra, Fulshear Creek Crossing and Weston Lakes.

So how much difference does a neighborhood make when comparing similar houses? Well, it could mean more available amenities to improve quality of life, a Home Owner’s Association that has stringent rules and enough capital to take care of the community, and when you plan to sell in the future: the difference of a quicker sale for top dollar or an extended stay on the market and less than you hope to sell for in the future.

When searching for a home in the Katy market, make sure your Realtor knows the area well because “where you buy” is often more important than “what you buy”, which makes for very big deal… indeed.


Katy, TX – Cinco Ranch Does it Again! in Katy, TX – # 1 in sales in US

March 24, 2010

by christi borden

 According to a report by the PR Newswire – March 23, 2010 –  Newland Communities’ Cinco Ranch in Katy (sprawling suburb 20+ miles west of downtown Houston) was the nation’s top-selling master-planned community for new-home sales in 2009, according to a survey by RCLCO, an independent real estate advisory firm.

“With 887 net new-home sales in 2009, Cinco Ranch topped the RCLCO study, moving up from second place in 2008. Sales in the 7,600-acre community were up 14%, making it one of only four communities on the top 10 list to report a positive new-home sales gain from 2008 to 2009. Telfair, another Houston community by Newland Communities, was ranked fourth, up from sixth the year prior, with 450 new-home sales, a 9% sales increase over 2008 levels.”

 Interestingly, Newland held 5 spots in the top-selling 15 for last year: Cinco Ranch, Telfair, Eagle SpringsTeravista and FishHawk Ranch, No other developer has held such a record and continues to be the leader in not only sales but resident satisfaction.

The Cinco marketing folks have recently changed their campaign to, “Cinco Ranch, Your Comfort Zone”. At a time when the economy across the nation has people skittish about real estate, this is a brilliant approach. Buyers need to feel comfortable or safe when making a home purchase. This has never been truer than for the relocation buyer – who may only be here for a year or two before moving again and needs to place his/her family in the safest area in terms of resale value. Although there are many choices out there, one must really look to the strength of the community and the developer along with the actual builder when considering a purchase. Buyers understand this as do the Realtors that serve them. No amount of incentives or give-aways can change the fact that community is so very important in our area – not just in terms of resale values but also quality of life. If you research the sales data for area builders, you will note that many of them are being kept afloat because of the strength of the very communities in which they build.

 “Newland’s sales success at Cinco Ranch can be attributed to the product diversity our homebuilders offer, the proven established track records of these communities, and a highly focused marketing approach that speaks to our customer needs,” McLeod continued.
Houston’s strong showing in the RCLCO study underscores the fact that the city is a bright spot in the national economy.

 RCLCO has been releasing its top-selling MPC rankings since 1994.

About Newland Communities
Newland Communities is the largest private developer of planned communities in the United States. With a legacy that began in 1968, Newland specializes in comprehensive residential and urban mixed-use master planning with expertise in leading large-scale single and multifamily new-home communities. Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., Newland and its affiliated companies are currently developing and managing nearly 40 projects in 14 states. www.newlandcommunities.com

 About RCLCO

RCLCO is an independent real estate advisory firm, providing market and financial analysis and strategic planning services to a broad spectrum of clients including developers, corporations, financial institutions, institutional and private investors, public agencies, and nonprofit organizations around the globe.


Local Custom Builder Partner Retires…Two Buyers Benefit!!!

March 16, 2010

 

by christiborden

Masterpiece Custom Builders: Launching a new generation in home building and celebrating a much earned retirement.

Have we got a deal for you!

 Masterpiece Custom Builders is offering two Inventory Homes for immediate and BELOW MARKET VALUESale in Lakes of Bella Terra as part of their company’s special celebration!

 Gordon Boyle, original founder of Masterpiece Custom Builders has announced his impending retirement, entrusting the future success of his company to his long time friend and partner, Greg Stephens, a master builder in his own right. Greg will carry on the Masterpiece name and tradition of building award winning Custom Homes in Lakes of Bella Terra and other communities in the West Houston area, maintaining the integrity of workmanship while adding to their design capabilities and product line.

This retirement announcement has prompted Masterpiece to offer for special Sale selected Inventory Homes in selected communities at Below Market Value prices during their restructuring process!

 Included in this offer are two Custom Homes in the Lago Verde section in Lakes of Bella Terra:

These homes are 100% completed, ready to move-in, fully warranted and Masterpiece is ready to “make a deal” to liquidate inventory!

If you have not committed to a Custom Home in another community, I invite you to stop by and visit Lakes of Bella Terra.  With interest rates still very low, the economy on an upswing, and construction costs for future new homes on the rise,  there has never been a better time to take advantage this “once in a lifetime” opportunity!

 HOW DO I GET THE BEST POSSIBLE DEAL DURING THIS BUILDER’S CELEBRATION?

Contact me right away for more details regarding this special event at 832-368-5953 or email me, Christi Borden at christi@christiborden.com. We have Sales Experts on site and the builder, Greg Stephens is available for private showings.

 Custom Home Sales Leader – Christi Borden, Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors     www.ChristiBorden.com


Prudential Gary Greene, Top Fundraiser Again for Sunshine Kids in US!

March 16, 2010

Prudential Real Estate Network Raises $1.3 Million for The Sunshine Kids in 2009

by christiborden

The Prudential Real Estate Network raised more than $1.3 million for The Sunshine Kids (SSK) foundation in 2009. SSK is a national non-profit organization dedicated to serving children with cancer. Established in 1982 in Houston, TX, The Sunshine Kids Foundation provides a variety of programs, free-of-charge, for children receiving cancer treatments in hospitals across the United States, Canada, and Mexico – like trips to Colorado, Hawaii, Washington DC and other great places. Visit www.SunshineKids.org to learn more about this amazing organization.

Throughout the year, Prudential Real Estate Network members participate in many fundraising activities including golf tournaments, auctions, bake sales, and the Listing Program – where our agents voluntarily earmark portions of their commissions earned through their real estate sales. These programs, among many others, help support The Sunshine Kids.

Expressing his gratitude to the Network at the 2010 Sales Convention, G.W. Bailey, SSK executive director and Movie/TV star, said, “In a most challenging market you found it in your heart to raise $1,304,841 in 2009.”

Congratulations to the top fund-raising company, Houston’s own Prudential GARY GREENE, REALTORS who donated more than $338,000 to the foundation.

Our next great fundraiser in West Houston is the Katy Sunshine Fest in Katy, TX on Thursday, April 22, 2010. This annual event will blow the socks off of last year – which was attended by over 600 invited guests and raised over $ 30,000 for The Sunshine Kids.

The fun event kick’s off with a fantastic Fashion Show and is followed by a great evening of music, food, friends, fun and more importantly… fundraising! We will offer a great silent and live auction as well as raffle prizes. We have 6 fabulous area restaurants providing food and drinks. While we do not charge admission, we ask for a $ 10 donation at the door and hope that our guests come with hearts and wallets open for the kids.

If you would like to sponsor this great event or would like information on attending, please contact me christi@christiborden.com .

See you there!


Update from Katy Independent School Distrist (KISD) Trying to Clear Up Misconceptions about the Attendance Boundary Modifications (ABM)

February 4, 2010

From the District:

“We have received feedback that many of you are not able to make out your subdivision on the map that was provided in the e-mail that was sent out earlier today. We do not have a map with street names at this time; however, below is a listing of neighborhoods that are under consideration for Attendance Boundary Modification.

If your neighborhood is NOT listed below, then you are NOT under consideration for Attendance Boundary Modification.

LUZ 66 Highland Trails
LUZ 66 Kelliwood Enclave
LUZ 66 Kelliwood Gardens
LUZ 66 Kelliwood Lakes
LUZ 66 Kelliwood Place
LUZ 66 Kelliwood Trails
LUZ 66 Lake Forest
LUZ 66 Lakes of Buckingham
LUZ 71A Alexan Downs Apart.
LUZ 71A Kelliwood Pointe
LUZ 71A Kelliwood Terrace
LUZ 71A Willow Park Greens
LUZ 71B Meadow Ridge
LUZ 71C Park Hollow
LUZ 71C Park View
LUZ 76C Bayou Crossing
LUZ 77A Fairways at Kelliwood
LUZ 77A Greens at Willowfork
LUZ 77A Kelliwood Greens
LUZ 77B Arbor at Willow Fork
LUZ 79B Canterbury Village
LUZ 79B Meadow Glen
LUZ 79B Residences at Cinco Ranch
LUZ 79B South Park
LUZ 79B Summer Point
LUZ 79C Canyon Gate
LUZ 79D Estates at Willowfork Greens
LUZ 79D Kelliwood Greens
LUZ 79D Kelliwood Park
LUZ 79F Saddlebrook Crossing
LUZ 79G Park Trace

——————————————————————————–

Attendance Boundary Modification

It has come to our attention that there are several rumors running rampant through the community regarding the ABM. These rumors are inaccurate and we regret the unnecessary stress these rumors are causing some of our district families. Modifying attendance boundaries is a sensitive issue and accurate information is essential. We would like to take this time to address some of these rumors:

Rumor 1) An e-mail is currently circulating in the community stating that all of the neighborhoods under consideration for ABM will be attending Taylor High School next year.

FACT: The map below indicates in yellow which neighborhoods are under consideration for ABM at this time. While the ABM recommendation to be discussed has some neighborhoods currently attending Cinco Ranch High moving to Taylor High School next year, the district has not considered moving any neighborhoods from Seven Lakes to Taylor. The district is, however, considering moving some neighborhoods from Seven Lakes to Cinco Ranch.

Rumor 2) It has also been circulating in the community that high school students who may be moved from their current high school to another and participate in athletics may need to sit out one year for eligibility per UIL rules.

FACT: UIL eligibility will not be an issue. In fact, the district has been studying scenarios resulting in the least disruption to students. It is anticipated that current high school students will remain unaffected by the ABM. In other words, students currently in the 9th – 11th grades will stay at their current high school until graduation. In addition, families with younger siblings will have the opportunity to attend the same high school as the older sibling, as long as they both attend at the same time.

Living in a fast growth district comes with many opportunities, and some challenges as well. We understand that with an issue as emotionally charged as ABM, there are those who will take advantage of the situation and use it as an opportunity to spread misinformation. Unfortunately, this does nothing but cause anxiety in the community. Thank you for looking to us for accurate information and please continue to send e-mails to communications@katyisd.org so that we can have the opportunity to address these rumors and help separate fact from fiction.”


Top 10 list of “Must-Haves” in Today’s New Home!

January 29, 2010

Ris-Media recently published an article about their opinion of the top 10 items or features that top the list for today’s buyer. Click here to read this informative article.

However, one must always remember that real estate is local and the items may vary from area to area. In our market of Katy, TX and surrounding suburbs west of Houston, many of the features listed are the same but there are subtle changes and reasons for those changes.

The Ris-Media list is as follows:

1. Large kitchens, with an island.

2. Granite countertops.

3. Energy-efficient appliances

4. Home office/study.

5. Main-floor master suite.

6. Outdoor living room.

7. Master suite soaker tubs.

8. Stone and brick exteriors.

10. 2-car garages.

We live in an area where the average buyer moves about every 4 to 5 years as opposed to the national average of moving every 7 or more years. This is due to the transient nature of many of our residents who are employed with local oil, gas and chemical companies that tend to move their folks around more often than say, a local employer.

When building or buying a home, many of my clients ask me how their selections can affect resale later. I have a two-fold answer to that question. First, how long with they be in the home? If only for a short time (say less than 7 years), then it is best to purchase a home with the most popular features of the time because home trends should not have changed too drastically and those items should still be hot-ticket features that their future buyers will want. Of course, if we are talking about a long-term goal of ownership, it really does not matter what you install because when you move, trends will dictate a completely different set of priorities for buyers and and chances are the home will be ready for an update to accommodate those changes.

In dealing with today’s buyer in our area, I would suggest the following list of must-haves (in no certain order of importance):

1. Master-planned Community: In our area, the developer of a community is many times more important than the actual floor plan or builder of the home. It is easier to change the home to fit your needs than to try to change your community. Choose wisely as this can affect your future sales price and time on the market. Buyer’s who plan to stay only a few years will chose the community with the best schools and best track record for resale. In short, where you buy may be more important than what you buy!

2. Large Kitchens: I agree with this one as it is still a hot item and builders continue to provide incredible choices. Large islands and warm, stained cabinetry with custom touches are all the rage.

3. Granite counters: Yes, granite still rules. I know there are many alternative choices out there but none that compete with cool, hard granite. Buyers love that it is natural and hardy. Perhaps in the Loop Cement, Stainless Steel and other modern materials are desired, but in the ‘burbs, Granite rules.

4. Stainless appliances: still the top choice for today’s buyer but of course, this can be limited by the buyer’s budget. Black is very complimentary to many kitchen designs and we still see White but not often. As for energy efficient models, most builders include this at all price ranges. At the top tier custom level, you see professional grade appliances including warming trays, double convention ovens, convection microwaves and more.

5. Downstairs Master Suite: I realize that those from the North prefer to sleep upstairs so they can open the windows at night and enjoy a cool, gentle breeze. However, down in Houston we live in a much different climate where most days windows are sealed shut and the A/C is blasting cool air to keep us cool and control humidity in our homes. We like a downstairs bedroom because it keeps the kids and their noise and clutter out of sight and away from our tranquil retreat.

6. Study/Home office: this room has taken over the formal living space in almost all but the upper price ranges. People live a more casual lifestyle in our area and this floor plan choice reflects the need for home office space that is functional and not just pretty.

7. 3-car Garage: There are several reasons people request more than the standard 2 car garage: we do not have basements and limited attic space, many homeowners use their garage for storage and we live in a very family-oriented area with lots of teens of driving age and need the space for that extra car(s). Some builders offer tandem or stacked garages as an alternative to three full bays. This is fine but can affect resale if buyer does not want to do the old car shuffle when parking 3 vehicles.

8. Media Rooms: this feature started appearing in custom homes and worked it’s way down to the production homes about 5 years ago and is still a very popular feature. Many builders are adding upstairs mini-kitchens with microwaves, sinks and refrigerators. I do not see this item going away any time soon.

9. Hard Flooring: choices today are leaning away from carpet and toward wood and tile. 3″ wood planks are being replaced with larger planks and are more often hand-scraped and dark. Tile is best if larger than 12″ and many times laid in diagonal designs with natural stone or very elegant stone-like porcelain.

10. Pool-friendly Yards/Outdoor living spaces: Our climate lends itself to long, warm summers with nice breezes… perfect for cooking in our outdoor kitchen and diving into your crystal blue pool. Even if you do not plan to install a pool, it is wise to buy a home with sufficient backyard space to handle a private pool so it is easier to sell later. If you do install a pool, be sure your design matches your home in detail and price range. Popular pool items include: spa, water features, rock features, fire features, outdoor kitchens and fireplaces.

If you are thinking about building a new home, you may want to keep these popular features in mind. No, you do not have to select any of them but if you need to sell in the immediate future, your buyer may want them and that can hit your bottom line.


Katy makes the Gadberry Group’s top 5 position!

January 8, 2010

 

Group, renowned supplier of Household Level Geo-Demographics names their nine most notable high-growth areas in the nation from 2009 and guess what, our wonderful Katy is number 5. Click here to view the entire report.

Katy, Texas

Katy was one of the Top 25 candidates in 2008 and occupies the number five position in this year’s list. The area is second for absolute household change, adding 15,699 households since 2000, and was third for percent household change, increasing from 6,585 households in 2000 to 22,284 households in 2008, or 238%.

Katy tied with Mansfield for highest percentage of children compared to total population at 42%. It is also the most ethnically diverse of this year’s places, with no ethnic group having less than 6% of total households and all major ethnic groups growing more than 150% since 2000.

Those of us who live, work and play in Katy, TX are not surprised. Our growth has remained strong and constant. We are consistently recognized as one of the hottest real estate markets in the Greater Houston Area (which is also one of the hottest in the US).

Why Katy, you ask? What has led to this amazing growth? We have wonderful master-planned communities, terrific access to thoroughfares for your commute to work, close proximity to the huge energy corridor (a major employer in our area), one of the strongest school systems in the State, constantly growing retail, entertainment, dining, shopping opportunities and now, we are currently developing into a major medical area know as the Med-Center West.

So many reasons to love living here… and it is great to be given this national recognition. If you would like to know more about our area, please visit my web site www.ChristiBorden.com  or give me a call 832-368-5953.


Understanding the First Time Home Buyer’s Credit… Before it is Too Late!

September 7, 2009

1.   Who is eligible to claim the tax credit?
If you are a first-time home buyer purchasing a new home or a resale-you are eligible for the tax credit.  The purchase must take place on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009 to qualify for the tax credit. As it applies to the tax credit, the purchase date is the date when the home closes and the title to the property transfers to the home owner.

2.   What is the definition of a first-time home buyer?
The tax credit law defines a “first-time home buyer” as a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase. If you are married, both spouses cannot have owned a home.

For example, if you didn’t own a home but your spouse did, you do not qualify.  For unmarried purchasers, the credit amount can be given to any buyer who qualifies as a first-time buyer, for instance, if a parent jointly purchases a home with a son or daughter. If you owned a vacation home or rental property not used as a principal residence you are not disqualified as a first-time home buyer.

3.   How is the amount of the tax credit determined?
The tax credit is 10 percent of the home’s purchase price, however, there is a maximum $8,000 credit.

4.   Are there any income limits for claiming the tax credit?4.
The full tax credit amount is given to buyers with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of less than $75,000 for single taxpayers and $150,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return. For taxpayers with MAGI of more than $95,000 (single) or $170,000 (married) the credit is reduced to zero.  Taxpayers between these figures are prorated accordingly.
  
5.   What is “modified adjusted gross income”?
Modified adjusted gross income or MAGI is defined by the IRS.   For most buyers this will be the figure at the bottom of the first page of form 1040 or 1040A.  For Form 1040 EZ this is reported on line 4 as of 2008.

6.   If my modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is above the limit, do I qualify for any tax credit?
Possibly. It depends on your income.

7.   Can you give me an example of how the partial tax credit is determined?
There is a $20,000 difference between those who are eligible for a full tax credit and those where the credit is reduced to zero.  If you take the amount you are over the limit by and divide it by the 20,000, this will give you the percentage that you are over the limit by.  Subtract that number from 100% and then multiply it times the $8,000.  That will give you your tax credit amount.

For example: A married couple has a modified adjusted gross income of $165,000. Their income exceeds $150,000 by $15,000. Dividing $15,000 by $20,000 yields 0.75.  This means they are over the limit by 75% and so are eligible for a tax credit of 25%.  Multiplying $8,000 by 0.25 shows that the buyer is eligible for a partial tax credit of $2,000.

Please remember that this is an example. You should always consult your tax advisor.

8.   How is this home buyer tax credit different from the tax credit that Congress enacted in July of 2008?
The most significant difference is that this tax credit does not have to be repaid.  This tax incentive is a true tax credit. But home buyers must use the residence as a principal residence for at least three years or face having to repay it. Certain exceptions apply.

9.   How do I claim the tax credit? Do I need to complete a form or application?
You claim the tax credit on your federal income tax return. Specifically, home buyers should complete IRS Form 5405 to determine their tax credit amount, and then claim this amount on Line 69 of their 1040 income tax return. No other applications or forms are required, and no pre-approval is necessary. However, you will want to be sure that you qualify for the credit under the income limits and first-time home buyer tests.

10.What types of homes will qualify for the tax credit?
Any home that will be used as a principal residence qualifies for the credit. This includes single-family detached homes, attached homes (i.e. townhomes and condominiums), manufactured homes (also known as mobile homes), modular homes and houseboats.  If it qualifies for the capital gains tax on a primary residence, it qualifies for this.

11.I read that the tax credit is “refundable.” What does that mean?
It means that the credit can be claimed even if the taxpayer has little or no federal income tax liability to offset.

For example, if you owe $6,000 in taxes and had $4,500 in taxes withheld for the year you still owe $1,500 in taxes.  You would receive a check from the government for $6,500.  ($8,000 – $1,500 = $6,500.)
Or perhaps more common would be that you have a tax liability of $6,000 and you had $7,500 withheld so you would be getting a refund of $1,500 before the credit – the credit gets added to your refund so you would get a refund of $9,500 ($1,500 + $8,000 = $9,500)
And you don’t have to have any tax liability in the year you claim the credit – but you do have to have income.

12.I purchased a home in early 2009 and have already filed to receive the $7,500 tax credit on my 2008 tax returns.How can I claim the new $8,000 tax credit instead?
You may file an amended 2008 tax return with a 1040X form. You should consult with a tax advisor to ensure you file this return properly.
 
13.Instead of buying a new home from a home builder, I hired a contractor to construct a home on a lot that I already own. Do I still qualify for the tax credit?
Yes. The “purchased” date is the date the owner first occupies the house.  The date of first occupancy must be on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009.

In contrast, for newly-constructed homes bought from a home builder, eligibility for the tax credit isdetermined by the settlement date.

14.Can I claim the tax credit if I finance the purchase of my home under a mortgage revenue bond (MRB) program?
Yes. The tax credit can be combined with the MRB home buyer program. Note that first-time home buyers who purchased a home in 2008 may not claim the tax credit if they are participating in an MRB program.

15.I live in a district where I am already receiving a first time home buyer credit (Washington D.C.)   Can I claim both credits?
No. You can claim only one.

16.I am not a U.S. citizen. Can I claim the tax credit?
Consult your tax accountant.  If you are NOT a nonresident alien (as defined by the IRS), have not owned a principal residence in the past three years and meet the income limits you may be eligible to claim the tax credit for a qualified home purchase.

17.Is a tax credit the same as a tax deduction?
No. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in what the taxpayer owes. That means that a taxpayer who owes $8,000 in income taxes and who receives an $8,000 tax credit would owe nothing to the IRS.

A tax deduction is subtracted from the amount of income that is taxed. Assuming the same $8,000 tax liability from above, a taxpayer is in the 33 percent tax bracket would have their liability reduced from $8,000 to $5,360. ($8,000 minus 33%).
So the tax CREDIT is much more helpful to the buyer

18.I bought a home in 2008. Do I qualify for this credit?
No, but you may qualify for another tax credit  if you bought  your first home between April 9, 2008 and January 1, 2009.
 
19.Is there any way for a home buyer to get the money before they file their 2009 tax return?
Yes. If you believe you will qualify for the tax credit you can reduce your withholding taxes on your paycheck by adjusting your withholding amount on your W-4 via your employer or through your quarterly estimated tax payment.  You can put this saved money aside to use as a downpayment.
 
IRS Publication 919 contains rules and guidelines for income tax withholding. Please note that if the qualified purchase does NOT occur, then you will be liable for repayment to the IRS of income tax and possible interest charges and penalties.  Consult your account prior to doing this.
 
20.If I’m qualified for the tax credit and buy a home in 2009, can I apply the tax credit against my 2008 tax return?
Yes. The law allows taxpayers the opportunity to treat qualified home purchases in 2009 as if the purchase occurred on December 31, 2008.

Taxpayers buying a home who wish to claim it on their 2008 tax return, but who have already submitted their 2008 return to the IRS, may file an amended 2008 return claiming the tax credit. You should consult with a tax professional to determine how to arrange this.
 
21.For a home purchase in 2009, Can I choose which year to claim the credit (2008 or 2009) to make sure I get the largest credit possible?
Yes.  You can choose to claim the credit in the tax year that will give you the greatest credit based upon your MAGI.  The purchase must take place in 2009.