August 29, 2008

Memo From CENTURY 21–Tax Credit


I just received an email from Tom Kunz, the President and CEO of CENTURY 21.    In this email to all CENTURY 21 agents, he outlines more details about a tax credit that is available for some buyers.  I think this is good news and hope it will help to stimulate the housing market. 

The memo goes as follows:

As part of the “Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008” that was recently signed into law, Congress has created a new, temporary federal income tax credit to provide an incentive for first-time homebuyers. This is not only good news for first-time homebuyers, it is also a great opportunity for you as CENTURY 21 sales professionals to educate your clients and make them aware of how they can benefit from this tax credit.

The highlights of this federal tax credit are as follows:

  • The amount of the federal tax credit is for 10% of the cost of the home, up to a maximum credit of $7,500. In essence, this is an interest-free loan that enables consumers to receive a tax credit on a dollar-for-dollar basis on their personal income tax return in the calendar year following the year of closing on their home. They begin paying the tax credit back the year after that and make equal installments during the next 15 years. If the homeowner sells the home at any point during the 15-year payback period, then the remaining amount is recaptured, unless they sell the home at a loss, at which point the balance is forgiven.
    e.g., If a home costs $65,000, the allowable credit would be $6,500. If a home costs $120,000, then the allowable credit would be $7,500.
  • Eligibility is for first-time homebuyers only. In this case, a first-time homebuyer is defined as an individual who has not owned a primary home at any time during the past three years, but who may have done so previously. Although certain income limits do apply, the amount of the credit is the same for all taxpayers, married or single.
  • Individuals whose Form 1040 filing status is single (or head of household) are eligible for the tax credit if their income is no more than $75,000.
  • Individuals who file a joint return may have no more than 0,000 in income.
  • Individuals with incomes between $75,001 and $94,999 (single) or $150,001 and $169,999 (joint returns) are eligible for a partial tax credit.
  • Individuals with incomes greater than $95,000 (single) or $170,000 (joint return) are not eligible for this tax credit.
  • The federal income credit can be claimed on one’s individual or joint tax return for the purchase of any single-family home between April 9, 2008 through July 1, 2009. Individuals should consult a professional tax advisor for exact tax calculations.
    e.g., If an individual’s actual tax liability was $5,000, then after the tax credit is applied the purchaser would receive a total refund of $2,500. The refundable amount is the difference between the $7,500 tax credit and the amount of one’s tax liability. e.g., If an individual’s actual tax refund was $2,000, then after the tax credit is applied the purchaser would receive a total refund of $9,500.
  • This tax credit is required to be repaid without interest in equal installments of 6.67% of the total credit each year for 15 years beginning the year after the tax credit is claimed.
    e.g., If a homebuyer claims the ,500 credit in 2009 on their federal income tax return for a closing that occurred in 2008, then the credit is received in 2009, so repayment begins in 2010 with an annual repayment amount of approximately $500 a year.

To further assist you in communicating this good news, we have created and posted a First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit PowerPoint presentation on This presentation can be used for first-time homebuyer seminars in your local market and in individual client meetings. In addition, the National Association of REALTORS® has prepared a Quick Reference Chart and Frequently Asked Questions document for your reference. For consumers, a special promotion of the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit with links to the Quick Reference Chart and Frequently Asked Questions documents will be posted on the home page of within the next few weeks.

Keep in mind that this tax credit is retroactive. You should reach out to your recent first-time buyers who either closed on or after April 9, 2008 or are currently under contract to close in the near future.

Please take advantage of this opportunity to educate your customers and potential first-time homebuyers about this tax credit. Good news like this needs to travel fast. I encourage all of you to actively share the attached information with consumers and to post these documents on your local Web sites as well. Of the many provisions of this new housing bill, the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit appears to provide the most promising opportunity to impact home sales for the remainder of 2008.

Please let us know how your efforts are received in your community with regard to communicating about the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit. We’d like to share your success stories with the CENTURY 21 System.

Thanks again for your support.


Tom Kunz

President and CEO

Century 21 Real Estate LLC


This post is informational only.  Please talk to your accountant or tax advisor about your specific situation.  It may not apply in all cases. 

August 25, 2008

Concrete Medians

I am getting excited as I see 800 North in Orem draw closer to being finished.  It has been a long time and has affected my commute for years.  I will be relieved when it is finally done. 

I noticed the other day though, that they are putting in those concrete medians.  It makes me scratch my head.  I have lived in Provo or Orem for a little over the last two decades.  I remember when I first lived here, Orem had the concrete medians everywhere along their busy streets.  Then I remember when they took them all out.  I wondered why they would go through all the expense of removing them.  Over the years, I have seen a few places where the city has put them back in and taken them out again several times in the same spot. 

I have found myself feeling frustrated over the years that Orem City cannot make up their minds as to whether they should have concrete medians or not.  It is such a frivilous thing to draw any amount of my attention and especially to let it get under my skin, but hard as I try, it annoys me.   So, when I saw the concrete medians going up on 800 North, the annoyed feelings came back.  I can only wonder how many years it will be before we have to endure more contruction again along 800 North while they decide to rip them out. 

Is it one of those tax break things, like hospitals?  Hospitals are constantly remodeling so that they are always under construction.  By doing so, they get some sort of tax break which saves them a lot of money.  So, do cities actually come out ahead financially when they spend loads of the people’s tax dollars doing and re-doing the same projects such as adding concrete medians, only to remove them again a few years later? 

Filed under: Real Estate — Susan @ 6:14 am

August 23, 2008

Buyer’s Don’t Save Money

Some buyers assume that using the lisitng agent to represent them will save money in the end.  This is not the case.  When a seller lists his/her house, he/she signs an agreement spelling out how much commission will be paid to his/her agent upon the sale of the home.   The seller is going to pay the percentage amount of the purchase price that was agreed upon in that listing contract.  When a buyer uses the same agent as the seller to represent him/her in a transaction, the seller still pays what he/she agreed to pay. 

In some cases, the listing agent and the seller may have agreed in the listing contract to pay a smaller percentage amount if the agent ends up representing both seller and buyer in the same transaction, but this saves the seller money, not the buyer. 

In most cases, when the same agent represents both parties, that agent is the one that walks away with more money. 

Typically, the buyer does not have to pay his/her agent any commission.  The seller usually pays enough to satisfy both agents in the transaction.  Occasionally,  an agent agrees to take a listing for less than the buyer’s agent is willing to accept.  Example:

     The listing agent and the seller agree to list a home for 5% commission.  Upon the sale
     of the home, the lising agent and his/her office will receive 2.5% of the purchase price
     and the selling or buyer’s agent and his/her office will receive 2.5% of the purchase price. 
     However, the buyer’s have signed a representation agreement with their agent that spells
     out that their agent will receive 3% upon closing.  The buyer may then be obligated to pay
     his/her agent the extra .5% of the purchase price. 

As a seller, is it is important to understand that most buyers will choose not to purchase a home that the seller is not willing to pay enough commission to satisfy the buyer’s obligation to his/her own agent.  In a ” buyer’s market”,  sellers are probably shooting themselves in the foot if they are trying to sell with a “discount” agent/brokerage. 

Commission is negotiable.  There is no “set”commission amount, but, it is important to understand the terms of your agreement whether you are listing your home with an agent or enlisting an agent to represent you as the buyer.  

Filed under: Blogroll,Buying,Credit & Finances,Real Estate,Selling — Susan @ 7:14 am

August 20, 2008

What Can Go Wrong?

As a professional real estate agent, I constantly see the things that can make a real estate deal fall apart. Every transaction is different. Some go smoothly with no problems while others have obstacles so overwhelming that even the professionals cannot help you overcome them. However, having a professional on your side is the most important thing you can do to get what you want in the end. For buyers, that means getting your dream house and for sellers it means getting your home sold quickly and for a fair market value.

Some of the things that can go wrong include:

Pricing the home right
Buyers are not going to pay too much for a home. Overpricing, hoping to hit that home run, even if you plan to lower the price later if you don’t, means your home will sit on the market until it becomes unsellable. The first few days are often the most important and it is imperative that you are priced right. Most sellers that start out too high end up selling fair below value because they stigmatize their home. Buyers start to wonder, “what is wrong with that home, why hasn’t it sold?”

Keeping your home in good condition is important. Putting off repairs and upgrades only hurts you when selling. Many sellers think they can pass along the repairs to the new buyer. Buyers will see a $400 repair and want $4,000 off the price. Buyers have the right to back out of a deal if the home does not meet their Evaluations and Inspections expectations and/or if the seller is not willing to negotiate the repairs and upgrades.

There is a lot of paperwork in a real estate transaction. A professional can help you wade through it.

“Time is of the Essence”
In a real estate transaction, there are deadlines to be met. It is often frustrating to get everyone involved to do their part…in time. Failure to meet a deadline is a breach of the contract and can kill the deal with monetary reprecussions.

Inspections, Appraisals, Loan Approvals, etc
There are a lot of steps along the way to settlement.  Getting everyone and everything scheduled and done in the time allotted can be frustrating.  Choosing people that you trust is more important than trying to save money.  Choosing someone based on saving a couple hundred dollars can end up costing you your earnest money deposit when they do not perform on your behalf.  They can ultimately cost you your dream home in the process causing you heartache and aggrevation also.

Honest Lenders
Again, choosing a lender you trust is more important than saving a little money.   Some lenders have been known to change the terms mid-deal knowing that you have too much at stake to call them on it or change lenders.  Getting a written “good faith estimate” is recommended.  The Truth in Lending Act of 1968 was designed to protect consumers and requires uniform or standardized disclosure of costs and charges so that consumers can shop around. 

Earnest Money Deposit
Buyers should put an amount of money down with their offer to show the seller how serious they are about purchasing the home.  The money is not deposited until both parties have agreed upon the terms and the money is used as leverage to make buyer perform or lose it.  At closing, the money is usually applied toward the buyer’s costs. 
Too many buyers do not put any money down at the time of the offer.  They want to wait until the offer is accepted.  Some buyers do not put enough down to make it worth their while to perform on their obligations, and some buyers write a bad check for their earnest money deposit.  

Title Problems
During escrow, the title company will make sure the home has marketable title.  Sometimes the search may turn up liens, judgements, unrecorded easements, etc against the home that the seller did not know about.  A buyer will not want to buy the home until these matters are cleared up. 

The buyer cannot get homeowners insurance on the new home
Occassionaly, a homeowner will make several claims against the homeowner”s insurance within a short amount of time.  This can make the home uninsurable for a new buyer.  If you as the seller made the claims, you may have made the home uninsurable as well as the home you are moving into.  A buyer may also become ineligible for  homeowners insurance on a new home if he/she made claims at his/her previous residence.   Lenders will not loan money on a home that is not insurable.

The appraisal comes in too low
A lender will not loan more on a home than it appraises for.

There are many more things that can go wrong along the way to buying or selling a home.  Having a professional on your side to help you through the process is one way to minimize the obstacles and headaches that can come up.





Filed under: Blogroll,Buying,Luxury Home Market,Real Estate,Selling — Susan @ 8:00 am

August 18, 2008

I’m Back From Belize

Tobacco Caye, Belize

Belize was great!  We spent about 10 days on Tobacco Caye.  We dived at least 2 dives each day and just enjoyed the small, quiet island the rest of the time: snorkeling, fishing, reading, eating, lounging, hammocking??, beaching??.  ( I know these are not real words but you understand exactly what I mean, right?)   We stayed at Reef’s End Lodge which is run by the Jackson family.  It seems that we run into Jacksons all over the caribbean.  Mrs. Darla Jackson was a great cook. 

The diving was excellent.   The fishlife was not quite as abundant as some of the other places I have dived and with the exception of some lobster and a certain nurse shark, what we did see seemed smaller than usual.   The reefs were in wonderful condition, however.  I don’t think I have seen so much healthy coral anywhere else.  

We did a night dive which was cool.  There is a great dive site which can be dived right from the shore.  We waded out from the pier then snorkeled until we got to a good depth to dive.  The deepest part of the dive was only 40 feet but much of the dive was even more shallow.  We saw several octopus, a larger squid than usual, lobsters, crabs, starfish, a spotted moray eel, and something that is called “The Thing”.  It looked like a mini-version of a creature from a horror film.  (I am thinking of the movie “Tremors”).  It was a long worm-like creature that was semi-transparent with brown spots or stripes.  It was kind of segmented and one end had at least 3 tentacles.  I was glad it was only about 18 inches long because it would have given me the creeps if it were 6 feet long or something. 

We strayed from Tobbaco Caye two days for diving and went to Glover’s Atoll one day and South Water Caye another.  At Glover’s, we did Long Caye Wall.  A dive that Jacques Cousteau claimed as one of his top three dives of all time.  It was pretty amazing but one of my top three dives so far will have to be Carrie Bow Wall at South Water Caye .   This wall started out the usual awesome wall dive, as most are, but eventually it somehow turned into a Two Wall dive??  I can only describe it as breathtaking when we reached the top of the wall we had been diving and we were floating along a narrow ridge, looking down into the abyss on both sides.  I will never forget that one.

One day, we were coming back in from a dive when the captain spotted a Manatee. We all frantically threw on our snorkels and jumped in. It was amazing. It looked like a huge white walrus with a paddle tail. It hung out, eating grass about 15 feet right below me then slowly worked his way out of sight. He did not seem to be upset about us at all. It may have been a once in a lifetime experience. As if that was not luck enough, later that same day, we were coming back in from our second dive. This time the captain spotted two dolphins. They are more wary of people so we quietly slipped into the water and I was able to catch a quick glimpse of them about 20 feet away. That was a good day!

Again, if you are considering buying a home in an exotic, tropical location, give me a call.  I love to talk about the places I have been and when I travel, I keep my eyes open for just such reports. 

Reef’s End Lodge and Dive Shack

Pristine Coral Garden and Lobster

More Coral

Moray eels

The most exciting safety stop. A Remora decided to taste us!


Octopus and turtle

A larger octopus

“The Thing”

August 7, 2008


I hate to rub it in, but by the time this blog posts, I will be in Belize. I will be spending 10 days underwater and on the beach. I am looking forward to this vacation as most of my family will be with me this trip. I have actually been to Belize once before but we did not dive that trip. Belize is supposed to have excellent diving. I will be sure to post pictures and give a report when I get back.

I will also be sure to check out the real estate market while I am there. I always try to get a feel for the market when I am on vacation so that I will be ready if any of my clients ask about a great place to buy a vacation/beach home. If you would like information about the places I have been, feel free to email me or give me a call. You might be surprised to find all the places I have visited as far as tropical beach locations are concerned and I love to talk about them.

See you when I get back.

Filed under: Buying,Personal,Real Estate,Selling,Vacation Homes/Resort — Susan @ 7:38 pm

August 4, 2008

Cars Thieves Want the Most

The latest list of “Most Stolen Cars” study has recently been reported.  I thought it would be interesting to publish the list.  

The NICB study is based on information reported to the National Crime Information Center.

Here are the 10 most stolen vehicles as reported by the NICB — the number in parentheses is the model year most stolen:

  1. Honda Civic (1995)
  2. Honda Accord (1991)
  3. Toyota Camry (1989)
  4. Ford F-150 (1997)
  5. Chevrolet C/K 1500 (1994)
  6. Acura Integra (1994)
  7. Dodge Ram Pickup (2004)
  8. Nissan Sentra (1994)
  9. Toyota Pickup (1988)
  10. Toyota Corolla (2007)


 I have to share a personal story:

When my youngest was born 13 years ago, we suddenly outgrew our current car which would no longer have enough seat belts for everyone.  While I was still in the hospital recovering from my C-section, my husband, very thoughtfully, bought me a new 1994 mini-van.   Buying that mini-van was a very generous and loving gesture to me and his family as I am sure he would have preferred to maintain a more masculine image.  However, that mini-van proved to be a good investment over the years. 

After quite a few years, we finally bought a new car and handed down the mini-van to our oldest daughters.  We assumed that at anytime, it would be on it’s last leg and we could get rid of it.  That just never happened.  It was like the “Energizer Bunny “, it just kept going and going.  It got the twins through college, in spite of the fact that it had become the BYU’s Women’s Lacrosse Team’s main mode of transportation to their away games which were mostly in Colorado and California.  Upon graduating from BYU, we handed the mini-van down to the next daughter while she attended BYU.  She also played Lacrosse, so the team was relieved to know they still had their “bus”. 

We constantly joked about how old this van was, and it looked it.  We laughed with this daughter about how wonderful it would be that she could drive it, probably, forever!  While it was not looking too good and she would have preferred a “prettier” or more up-to-date SUV or something, she was grateful to have a reliable set of wheels. 

Then one day, she called to tell me about a list of “Most Stolen Cars” she had just found.  She was laughing, almost hysterically, as she relayed to me that her car was on the list.  Apparently at that time, one of the most stolen cars happened to be a 1994 Dodge Caravan. 

We laughed alot at that poor car’s expense:  ”We need more insurance,” or “Don’t forget to leave it unlocked“.  We finally traded it in when she graduated from BYU and got her a new Jeep.  I bet that mini-van is still getting someone where they need to be.   


Filed under: Blogroll,Community,Humor — Susan @ 2:30 am