Sunday, February 15, 2009

the $8000 Tax Credit for First Time Homebuyers

I dove into the Stimulus Plan on the House Appropriations website to try and find out what kind of agreement the Senate and House of Representatives came to regarding the First Time Home buyers Tax Credit. Not the most fun reading, but extremely important to know about for any serious real estate professional.

Currently, a taxpayer who is a first time home buyer (someone who has not owned a home within the previous three years) was allowed a refundable tax credit of the lessor values of $7500 or 10% of the purchase price of the home. The credit was allowed for homes purchased between April 9, 2008 to July 1, 2009. However it would have to be repaid, interest free, over a period of 15 years, or recaptured at the time of sale.

The stimulus package modifies the current rules, but also keeps the following in place:
  • the tax credit phases out for individual tax payers you have a modified gross income of $75,000 to $95,000 ($150,000-$170,000 for joint filers)

  • tax payers can claim the purchase of a home on their 2008 tax return (thus the reason for the credit beginning on December 31, 2008), even if they buy their home, for example in January of 2009
The new agreed to provisions that go into effect December 31, 2008 and are:
  • extends the current home buyer tax credit for qualifying home purchases to December 1, 2009

  • increases the maximum credit to $8000 ($4000 for a married person, filing separately)

  • waives the recapture of this tax credit for homes bought between December 31, 2008 to December 1, 2009

  • if the home is sold, or ceases to be the primary residence, within 36 months of the closed date, then the rules of recapturing the tax credit apply (currently over a time period of 15 years)

The part that really stinks about the revisions is for the first time home buyers who closed on their home between April 9, 2008 -December 30, 2008. It appears they will still need to repay the tax credit of $7500 over a period of 15 years, just as originally written, and none of the new revisions will apply to them.

Don't worry though, at least you get a tax credit. We closed on your new home in March 2008, and even though we are only 30 days out for qualifying, no soup for us!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This Just in From the Minneapolis Association of Realtors

"For the week ending January 31, new listings continue at a lower level than seen last year, clocking in at 1,635—a 15.3 percent drop. Conversely, pending sales continue to raise sand with 673 recorded for this week's report—25 percent above last year. Basically, this is all welcome news. Having fewer listings on the market, combined with an increase in pending sales, helps to reduce the Months Supply of Inventory to 13.5 percent when compared to last year at this time—down from 8.9 to 7.7 months. This means it will take the current supply of houses for sale 7.7 months to sell (on average).

The Percent of Original List Price Received at Sale continues to fall, with the January figure of 89.5 sitting at 1.6 percent less than 2008. It's important to consider sales prices of foreclosure homes and how they affect this figure.

Our new Housing Affordability Index jumped to 202 in February. This is a new record and means that the median family income is 202 percent of what is necessary to qualify for the median-priced home. Again, we must consider how the sales prices in the lender-mediated market are affecting this figure, but we can say with some confidence that there are a number of very attractive buying opportunities in the local housing market. If we are able to maintain these trends, we'll be well on our way to killing the blues. And to this current market malaise, we'll be singing "gone, gone, gone (done moved on)."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Who are the Next Businesses to Fail?

I just read an interesting article which predicts the next 15 companies that could likely fail in 2009. While some of them are no big surprise, like Chrysler, who should have failed decades ago, or Blockbuster, who has been struggling ever since online video rentals have taken off (I am an avid Netflix fan), some are rather surprising.

Well, OK. Krispy Kreme is really not that surprising. They over expanded in the United States and stretched themselves too thin. Sometimes, staying small is the best plan for long term survival. But one that I was surprised to see is Realogy, the largest real estate brokerage in the country:

"Realogy Corp. (Privately owned; about 13,000 employees). It's the biggest real-estate brokerage firm in the country, but that's a bad thing when there are double-digit declines in both sales and prices, as there were in 2009. Realogy, which includes the Coldwell Banker, ERA, and Sotheby's franchises, also carries a high debt load, dating to its purchase by the Apollo Group in 2007 - the very moment when the housing market was starting to invert from a soaring ride into a sickening nosedive. Realogy has been trying to refinance much of its debt, prompting lawsuits. One deal was denied by a judge in December, reducing the firm's already tight wiggle room."

It will be no surprise to me if some real estate brokerages go out of business in 2009 and 2010. Many just over expanded and overspent during the fat years, and left nothing for the lean years. I believe that the local Realtor association has said about 15% of the agents in town have left the business.

The funny thing about this, to me at least, is it seems many people and businesses should have reread the Biblical story of Joseph. See Joseph could interpret dreams and when Pharaoh had one he couldn't decipher, Joseph came to the rescue and predicted that Egypt would see 7 years of famine after 7 years of feast. Their solution? Put some food aside during the seven years of plenty, so they would not suffer from hunger during the famine. Hmmm...there's a novel idea.

But so many businesses, including our local governments, saw the money flooding in and decided to build larger buildings, expand, grow, grow, grow, and were so blinded by the wealth they violated history, and are now paying for it. Cities in Minnesota are right now debating on whether to cut school funding and after school programs...because they are facing a budget deficit. You've got to be kidding me. I don't see them proposing to cut a few of those high paying government jobs.

Please, can someone answer how governments survived 5+ years ago, before the boom, on a budget, but cannot do it today?