Tax Credit Gives BoostsBy Dennis Phillips firstname.lastname@example.org
First-time homebuyers have been getting a tax credits of up to $8,000 since January as part of the economic stimulus package enacted earlier this year. And with the extension and expansion of the program in November, Jan R. Murray, Chautauqua County Board of Realtors executive officer, said housing sales will continue to climb, helping realtors during the tough seasonal, winter months.
''There will be a seasonal slow down, but buyers looking will buy because of this (tax credit),'' she said. ''Things will get slow between now and the new year, but we do expect it to pick up after. The tax rebate program will help to see us through the slow time.''
The new program will also include home owners looking to sell. Anyone who has owned their current homes at least five years would be eligible for a tax credit of up to $6,500. First-time homebuyers - or anyone who hasn't owned a home in the last three years - would still get up to $8,000. Couples earning as much as $225,000 and individuals earning up to $125,000 would qualify for the tax credit. That's up from the original $75,000 limit for individuals and $150,000 for couples.
To qualify, buyers in both groups have to sign a purchase agreement by April 30, 2010, and close by June 30.
State housing sales experts say October's sales jumped of 8 percent above September and a nearly 6 percent improvement compared to October 2008 is because of the tax-rebate credit.
''There is no question that the federal first-time homebuyer tax credit has been a significant driver of home sales in New York state since its inception,'' said Duncan R. MacKenzie, New York State Association of Realtors chief executive officer. ''New York's realtors are grateful that our Congressional delegation understood this and forwarded legislation to extend and expand the tax credit to President Barack Obama, who signed it into law.''
New York realtors sold 7,783 existing single-family homes in the state in October, a 7.7 percent increase compared to the September total of 7,224.
The October 2009 sales total was 5.7 percent above the October 2008 total of 7,363. The October median sales price in the state of $209,900 represents an increase of 2.4 percent compared to the September median of $205,000.
''Realtors know that the tax credit has helped to revitalize the housing market and position it to once again lead our economic recovery,'' MacKenzie said. ''The extension of the first-time buyer credit and the creation of a tax credit for existing homeowners who purchase their next home will allow both the housing market and our economy to hold on to the gains that have been made in recent months. We anticipate the expansion of the tax credit will bring trade-up buyers back into the market, driving sales in all segments of the market in addition to helping to ease the tightening of inventory in the first-time buyer segment.''
For more information on Chautauqua County Real Estate & Living visit: www.chautauqualakehomes.com
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Source: WDOE News
While there may not be enough snow on the ground in portions of Chautauqua County, the snowmobile trails will be open and ready for snowmobilers this Tuesday. Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace says it's important that snowmobile riders respect the property of property owners, to never drink alcohol and operate their sleds, to watch their speed and to exercise extreme caution when handling their snowmobiles and to always make sure their sleds are registered. Gerace says snowmobile-related accidents have been on the increase, he feels is due to operators travelling at high rates of speed.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Peek'n Peak Resort is opening this week for skiing. The main ski lodge, nine slopes and two lifts are scheduled to be operating from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday with a packed powder base.
Snowmaking guns at the resort have been operating since Thursday.
"Snowmaking operations continue around the clock when the temperatures permit," says Brad Gravink, the resort's general manager. "All other terrain will open as soon as possible."
This year, Peek'n Peak is offering a "snow guarantee." The guarantee assures skiers that:
n Slopes will be open for a minimum of 100 days over the season.
n If the trails aren't 100 percent open, the resort will discount the price of a daily lift ticket based on the percentage of open terrain.
n Peek'n Peak's snowmaking technology and abundant natural snow will make sure skiers are riding on a minimum of six inches of groomed base.
Following opening day Thursday, the resort will be open regular hours and offer free lift tickets to guests staying at the Inn at the Peak through Christmas.
The Peak gets an average snowfall of more than 200 inches a year. During the 2008-2009 ski season, slopes remained open more than 120 days. The resort is open seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends and holidays, and from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays.
For more information on Chautauqua Lake Real Estate & Living visit: www.chautauqualakehomes.com
Friday, December 04, 2009
The market features a series of events that occur all day long so one can join the festivities at their own schedule.
Events being held at the Hamilton Collegiate Center at Jamestown Community College include a Scandinavian handicraft marketplace will be running from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Several local crafters offer their gift items.
Also at JCC, Culture Day workshops will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon. More than 10 one-hour workshops are available to learn about the Scandinavian culture with such topics as Swedish language, cooking, crafts, chip carving, hardanger embroidery, Swedish weaving and genealogy. A Swedish Christmas smorgasbord is set for noon, with the cost a $3 donation.
Additional locations and offerings include Ecklof Bakery, 832 Foote Ave., offering Swedish seasonal baked items; Peterson Farm, Fluvanna Avenue Extension, imported and homemade Swedish foods; Viking Trader, Route 430, Bemus Point, Scandinavian holiday gifts; and Immanuel Lutheran Church, Homemade korv dinner. To make a reservation for the korv dinner, call 664-7104.
Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington Alejandro Lazo -- Thousands of Southern California home buyers, and millions nationwide, will have to come up with more cash and reach higher minimum credit scores to get a government-backed mortgage under changes unveiled by the Federal Housing Administration.
Some loans might require more than the current 3.5% minimum down payment, but the Obama administration is resisting calls for an across-the-board hike. Instead, it is looking at other ways to increase the amount of cash at closing, such as requiring borrowers to pay more of their mortgage insurance premiums up front.
The FHA, which insures mortgages with low down payments, is scrambling to balance its increasingly important role in propping up the housing market with faltering finances of its own that could require a government bailout.
The agency's share of home loans has surged from 3% in 2006 to nearly 30% this year as credit has tightened and borrowers' bank accounts have been depleted. But that increased exposure has led to more defaults, driving the FHA's reserves below their mandated levels.
"We've learned from recent history that the market is fragile, and we have to plan for the unexpected," Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who oversees the agency, said at a House hearing Wednesday.
In Southern California, FHA-backed loans have become a crucial source of financing for first-time home buyers, particularly those snapping up foreclosed homes. FHA loans made up 38.3% of all Southland purchase loans in October, up from 32.5% a year earlier and just 2% two years before, according to MDA DataQuick, a San Diego real estate research firm.
George Ramirez, a sales manager for Citibank, and his wife, Leticia, a social worker, got an FHA-insured loan in August 2008 to buy a three-bedroom home with a swimming pool in La Puente. Without such a loan, he said, "there is no way" they could have bought it. The FHA let them put $8,250 down for the $275,000 house, or 3%, the minimum then.
"These loans are actually going to help people who are looking for the American dream," Ramirez said, "and if they start restructuring, it's going to hurt them."
Details of the changes announced Wednesday weren't expected to be finalized until next month; Donovan said officials wanted to carefully design them to avoid damaging the budding housing recovery.
But he said the Obama administration was considering increasing the minimum 3.5% down payment required for an FHA-backed mortgage in some instances, such as for people with lower credit scores, and is seeking congressional authority to raise the premium for mortgage insurance.
Vincent Flores, a real estate agent in Lakewood, said the FHA has been the main lending source for many of the first-time home buyers he works with, and a higher minimum down payment could keep them out of the market.
On a $300,000 house, a 3.5% down payment would amount to $10,500. If the down-payment requirement grows to 5%, as some have called for, a buyer would have to put down $15,000. "That's $4,500 more, and that's quite a bit to save," Flores said.
Donovan told the House Financial Services Committee that the expanded role of the FHA is temporary only until the mortgage financing market recovers, and that he doesn't want to steer the agency away from its traditional role of helping lower-income people with solid jobs buy their first homes.
FHA-backed loans plunged during the housing boom earlier this decade as buyers flocked to easier-to-get and cheaper subprime mortgages. The FHA focuses on traditional 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages and requires documents verifying income.
"Homeownership should be available to responsible borrowers . . . and we have to keep in mind FHA's historical role of doing that," Donovan said.
But some lawmakers are concerned that the FHA, which is funded by mortgage insurance premiums paid by borrowers, will need an infusion of government money as even its traditional loans face increased defaults because of rising unemployment.
The agency is supposed to hold a secondary reserve fund equal to 2% of all the mortgages on its books. An independent actuarial study released last month showed the reserve had fallen to 0.53%.
Raising the minimum down payment to 5% from 3.5% would be one way to reduce the risk of foreclosures, said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), who has introduced legislation mandating such a change.
In 2008, Congress raised the minimum down payment to 3.5% from 3%, but it appears Democratic leaders would not support another increase.
Donovan said that increased down payments lessen the risk of foreclosure, but other factors also lead to defaults, such as a borrower's credit score. Donovan wouldn't commit to raising minimum down payments for all FHA loans, but said they could be raised for people who don't have high credit scores.
The FHA wants to increase the cash required from borrowers so they "have more 'skin in the game' and a stronger equity position in their loans," Donovan said. But the agency is looking at other ways to do that as well, such as increasing the upfront mortgage premium required and preventing the premium from being financed as part of the loan.
Donovan can change credit-score requirements without congressional approval, but would need a vote by lawmakers to increase the mortgage insurance premium. The upfront premium now is 1.75% of the loan's amount and the annual premium is 0.5% to 0.55%, depending on the size of the down payment. On a $300,000 loan, the upfront premium would be $5,250 and the annual premium would be $1,500 to $1,650.
"There is a huge societal question here, which is: Why are we encouraging home ownership via the FHA if so many of those loans are destined to failure?" said Stuart A. Gabriel, director of the Ziman Center for Real Estate at UCLA. "After all, what the FHA is seeking to create is not homeownership that goes bad, but rather sustainable homeownership."
Ryan Nowicki, a Hermosa Beach tax attorney, is looking to be one of those long-time homeowners, but said that without an FHA-backed loan, he and his wife wouldn't be poised to close next week on a town house in Redondo Beach.
Dave Emerson, a Realtor in the Lakewood area, said the FHA needs to make some changes to reduce its risk.
"The question is, are we far enough along on this recovery that the market can handle that?" he said. "I think the argument could be made that there is enough competition for homes that tightening the requirements a little bit makes sense. . . . The question is how they do it."
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
The Chautauqua County Sheriff's office is conducting a snowmobile safety course on Dec. 29 and 30 at the Mayville Fire Hall on South Erie Street.
The course will be held for people between the ages of 10 and 18 years old.
Students must be 10 prior to the start date of the course and those not yet 10 must take the course after their birthday.
The course is broken down into four-hour sessions with the start time of 9 a.m. and end at 1 p.m.
Students must attend both classes in order to obtain their certification.
All students must have a signed parental permission slip turned in to the instructor prior to the second session. These slips will be sent home with the students at the end of the first session.
There is a limit of 30 students for this course and the seats will be filled on a first come, first served basis.
There are no pre-registrations necessary. A textbook will be provided.
For more information on Chautauqua Lake Real Estate & Living visit: www.chautauqualakehomes.com