Monday, January 19, 2009

Tips for Sellers: How Can I Attract Buyers?

You're ready to buy your dream home, but you can't seem to attract interested buyers to your present house. (It's a familiar story these days.) Here are some great tips that I saw recently on, and I wanted to pass them along to Sweet Home Alpharetta readers!

1) Helping with the Down Payment: Financing is the biggest road block for buyers these days. Even though interest rates are good, buyers do need a down payment now. Financial incentives from the seller are very helpful- and attractive to buyers.

2) Helping with Closing Costs: Closing Costs can amount to as much as 2-3% of the loan amount, so assistance here from seller to buyer can go a long way to sealing the deal for you.

3) Paying Points: Paying the cost of a point to get the buyer's interest rate from 6.5 to 5.5%, for instance, might be just the deal-maker that brings about a win-win for everybody. (You get to move on to your new home!)

4) Home Warranty: A home warranty is like an insurance policy on your home, covering major mechanical systems. Paying for a home warranty, especially on an older home, gives your buyer piece of mind. A good plan costs in the range of $400-$500/year.

5) Gimmicks: Some sellers are resorting to big screen tvs, cars, and exotic vacations to entice buyers, but most experts recommend spending your money on doing repairs on your home, so that potential buyers aren't scared away before they even think about making an offer.

If you have any questions about getting your home ready for sale, I would love to give you a hand. Our present market is challenging for sellers, so you want to have everything covered before entering the competition! Hiring an experienced realtor doesn't cost, it pays!

Have a great week, everybody. I hope you all have a little time to watch some of the Inaugaration Events! It's so exciting, isn't it?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Help for the Organizationally Challenged!

How Ready Are We for 2009?

OK, I admit it, I am not the world's most organized person. But, the new year seems to be an opportune time to adopt some tried and true principles that should make my life less stressful. My husband is very good about keeping track of where all my "stuff" is, but that shouldn't excuse me from at least attempting some better habits, right? So, if you lean toward messy, like me, maybe one or two of these organizing tips will help you, too!

Now that the holidays are over and a new year has begun, now is the perfect time to make sure we are ready for 2009. Here are five things we all should do this month that will make our lives easier in the months ahead:

1. Clean Out the Clutter: We keep saying we'll do, let's go ahead and do it. Let's spend an hour going through our old files, and shred those receipts, bills, and statements we no longer need, like old ATM receipts and utility bills, paystubs more than a year old, and receipts for things that are not deductible.

2. Get Organized: While we're at it, let's create new files for our 2009 tax-related papers and receipts. Examples of categories include medical expenses, gift and charitable donations, and home improvements.

3. Check the Gift Card Fine Print: If you received gift cards as a present over the holidays, use them soon. Some have expiration dates, or the amount on the card may get reduced over time. In addition, in the current economy, retailers that go out of business may not honor gift cards.

4. Do Some Review: Review various insurance policies - life, home, auto, etc - to make sure the coverage we have is still the best fit for our needs and situation. To save on cash out of pocket, we might even consider raising our deductible to get a lower premium.

5. Do Some Reflection: Take an honest look at our schedule and responsibilities and make sure we are taking the time you need to stay healthy and feel good. Don't feel bad about actually scheduling specific blocks of time to exercise or spend special time with family and friends, to ensure it actually happens. This will make everything else we have to do this year easier...and more enjoyable, too!

Baby steps, baby steps........
Have a great week, everyone!


Monday, January 5, 2009

New Mileage Rates for 2009

Here is some new, useful information for the new year from our friends at the IRS.(Thanks, Kathy Vitali of Country Wide!)

If you drive a car, truck or van for work, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced news that impacts you. That's because they have released the new standard mileage rates for 2009.
The rates will be used to calculate deductible costs for driving an automobile for business, charitable, medical and moving purposes. The new mileage rates for business, medical and moving purposes will be slightly lower than the rates for the second half of 2008, which were raised in the middle of last year due to spiking gas prices. The rate for charitable driving, however, is set by law and will remain unchanged from 2008.
Beginning January 1, 2009, the standard mileage rates for 2009 are as follows:
Businesses = 55 cents per mile driven
Medical or moving = 24 cents per mile driven
Charitable organizations = 14 cents per mile driven
Overall, these rates reflect the higher transportation costs compared to a year ago. However, the rates are slightly lower than the second half of 2008 to factor in the recent drop in gasoline prices. While gasoline is a significant factor in the mileage rate, other fixed and variable costs, such as depreciation, also enter the calculation.

But before you calculate your deduction, make sure you qualify. The IRS reminds taxpayers that they cannot use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for any vehicle used for hire or for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

Remember, you don't have to use the standard rate! Although the IRS provides the standard mileage rate for ease and convenience, you're not required to use it. If you choose, you have the option of calculating the actual costs of using your vehicle instead of using the standard mileage rates. So keep that in mind as you calculate your automobile usage for business, medical, moving, or charity driving in 2009!

Have a great first week of the new year, everyone.

Here is a quote that will get us motivated."Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle."Abraham Lincoln