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Mar 5

Foundation Repairs–Should You Flee or Stay?

by Mary Teresa Fowler
House Foundation Repairs

When a home inspector lists 'foundation repairs' in the inspection report, those two words shock home buyers. Yet knowing that your potential new home has foundation problems puts you one step ahead in the game. At least, home inspections alert buyers to major (or minor) concerns about a home's condition.

Professional Help

Buyers need professional advice before they buy a home in need of foundation repairs or a house with a repaired foundation. In both cases, a buyer has reason for concern. Before home buyers commit, they have a choice whether or not to purchase the home. They can weigh their options and explore the solutions.

Second Home Inspection

For peace of mind and a sense of security, buyers could consider getting two home inspections completed before closing. Sometimes, a second home inspection is required as part of the official process of buying a home. A second inspection carries an extra cost but it will give the home buyer another professional opinion. Home inspection is not regulated in all U.S. states. Especially in these unregulated regions, a second home inspection is a smart decision.

Inspections help avoid unpleasant surprises

Repaired Foundation

A home inspection in a previously owned home could reveal foundation repairs. Buyers should not feel at ease with that report. Finding foundation repairs means that a repair has been done to correct earlier damage.

Early failing of a foundation is not a good sign and could be an indication of future damage. As well, surface water and plant life cause foundation damage. While these conditions remain, the foundation is in danger.

Home foundation repair information

Foundation Repairs

When a home inspection reveals a need for foundation repairs, buyers cannot ignore these findings. The problem cannot be delayed and a repair completed somewhere down the line. Foundation repairs are expensive but a St. Louis engineering firm warns buyers not to ask sellers about fixing foundation repairs. The engineers advise that many sellers will choose the cheapest repair option. With a foundation settlement concern, that move could be catastrophic for a new home owner.

Foundation Problems

Complete Fix

Buyers can choose to buy a home with foundation repairs or in need of foundation repairs but they must be prepared for a substantial repair bill. Earlier problems could resurface and current problems must be addressed without delay. Engineers explain that partial piering is not a smart solution. The rest of the piers will have to be replaced at a later date. Choose a reputable company because inadequate piers will cause problems in the future.

Winter Inspections

The Challenge

Sharon Marinaccio, of LeConte Realty in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., raises the issue of home inspections in a wintry climate.

"Home inspections can be more difficult if snow covers decks and the home's foundation. And buyers won't be able to have the air conditioning tested or the pool inspected," says Sharon Marinaccio ~ realtor

The Solution

If a complete home inspection becomes an issue because of extreme winter weather, the buyer does not have to be left out in the cold. Marinaccio explains the solution.

"Agents recommend that buyers ask the seller to put aside money in escrow or supply a home warranty in case repairs are needed later." ~ Sharon Marinaccio

Winter needn't freeze out home sales

Would You Buy A Home In Need Of Foundation Repairs?

Image courtesy of foundationrepairdallas.biz

Feb 19

Real Estate Values - Think Green

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Energy Efficient Home

Doug Overholt of BC (British Columbia) Hydro's Power Smart New Home Program is the latest official to encourage home owners towards energy-efficient products. Overholt points out the benefits of 'green' homes and insists that energy-efficiency is a factor in resale real estate value. The greener the house, the higher the resale value.

Think Green

Of course, saving energy also translates into more comfort, extra savings in the short and long term, and taking care of the environment. The BC Hydro representative makes a point that we discussed here previously at estaterebate.com. Despite the fact that almost everyone understands the benefits of being green, sometimes we get sidetracked with other purchases. Our earlier post referred to them as "eye candy." Several home owners would sooner pay extra for the gorgeous granite countertop than high-performance windows.

Are 'Green' Homes Worth The Price?

Overholt says that green homes are worth the price. He explains how rising energy costs will cause more homeowners in the future to look for energy-efficient homes. Even though if a homeowner makes simple alterations, they can save on energy bills in the meantime.

"Sometimes new home buyers overlook two important aspects of energy efficiency. First, an efficient home is going to cost you less to operate every month. That's money in your pocket - you can pay down your mortgage faster. Second, we live in an era of rising energy costs. Down the road, a house that's an energy pig won't sell as easily, or appreciate as well as one that costs less to operate," says Doug Overholt of BC Hydro's Power Smart New Home Program.

Sometimes people get off track because they think that green homes will cost more. No doubt, certain features such as heat pumps can come with considerable initial cost. Yet these smart purchases pay for themselves with savings in the long term.

Anyway, everything 'energy-efficient' does not have a high price tag. Usually, extra insulation or air sealing will not break your budget. As well, there are energy-efficiency grants out there to help Canadian and American homeowners. With high energy costs and an economy emerging from a downturn, many people need help and providing energy grants goes in the right direction.

Energy-Efficient Programs

Sometimes the programs may not go far enough, however, in the right direction or the path may be too complicated for certain groups. For example, specific programs encourage homeowners to buy energy-efficient products and receive reimbursement from the government. That plan does not always work for families living on low incomes because they cannot pay the upfront cost. That won't be because they are spending it on "eye candy." Their income covers only (or maybe does not even cover) the basics.

Yet everyone should check with state (provincial in Canada) and federal officials to see if there is an energy-efficiency program to suit your needs. Thinking green can save you money today and in the future.

For resale real estate value, think energy efficiency

estaterebate.com has also provided information in another post about Prince William's new 'green' home at Harwood Park Estate. A few interesting green details here! Let us not forget, however, that every family, regardless of income, should be able to live in a comfortable and energy-efficient home.

At Home with Prince William & Kate Middleton

Are You Planning Energy-Efficient Improvements?

Image courtesy of immaterial-labor.com

Feb 12

First-Time Home Buyer – Fix Up or Move In

by Mary Teresa Fowler
First Time Home Buyers

Do first-time home buyers prefer to buy a "fixer-upper" or a "ready to move in home?" Obviously, the choice will vary from buyer to buyer. Yet it is an interesting topic to explore on different levels.

Fix Up or Move In

On the average, do today's first-time buyers respond differently than a generation ago? Do urban buyers make different choices than rural buyers? Does modern society encourage home owners to want 'instant' results – the perfect home right from the start – no "fixer-uppers."

Starting Out

The traditional perception of the 'first-time buyer' is the newly-married bride and groom just starting out in life. Of course, in our enlightened world, we don't (or shouldn't) put limits on our definition of couples. Yet still, many of today's first-time home buyers are young couples who are just setting up their first home together. Others might have lived previously in apartments as a family.

First-time home owners, however, are not always couples. Three friends could purchase a home. Individuals could even just pool their resources together and buy a home as an investment. Obviously, people must exert caution in all steps of such a major transaction.

First-Time Home Owner

Regardless, buying a home for the first time is a new and 'starting out' experience – whether you are 20 or 40. Remember that not every first-time home buyer is just a few years out of high school. First-time home owners can be nearer middle age. Many people rent for years before buying that first home. Actually, for the purposes of qualifying for the expired Federal First-Time Home Buyers' Tax Credit, home owners could be real first-timers or people who had not owned a principal residence for three years.

First-Time Survey

The results of a recent Coldwell Banker Real Estate survey shed a little light on the contemporary first-time home buyer. In many housing markets with low prices, first-time buyers can afford to pick and choose, and they do not have to select that home in need of renovation. If prices were higher, maybe first-timers would make a different choice. For example, young families could be carrying a heavy financial load. Probably they would go for the 'fixer-upper' in a market with more expensive houses.

With affordable prices, however, starter homes with imperfections get left behind for a more 'ready to move in' type of home. According to the Coldwell Banker Real Estate survey, first-time buyers are not even searching for homes in need of repair. Eighty-seven percent of home owners who purchased their first home in the past year mentioned that a move-in-ready house had mattered to them.

Almost all of the 300 first-time home owners in the survey said that they had been pleased with the purchase price. The new home owners found that they could stretch their dollar and get a home to suit their lifestyle. Sixty-seven percent said that market conditions allowed them to buy a home sooner than their original expectation.

Half of the home owners found homes in a better neighborhood than they expected and 61% bought a home at a more affordable price. Many home owners (40%) said they got more space for their dollar and 43% of respondents locked in a lower mortgage rate. According to this survey, first-time buyers do not have to fix up before they move into their new homes.

First-time buyers forgo starter homes: survey

Do You Prefer A "Fixer-Upper' Or A "Move-In-Ready" Home?

Image courtesy of house2uonline.com

Jan 19

Mortgage Changes – Helpful or Harmful

by Mary Teresa Fowler

Mortgage Changes

Many potential home owners in Canada are reeling from recent mortgage changes introduced by their federal government. Yet the Canadian administration believes that the modifications will make a positive difference in people's financial health. The regulatory changes are meant to save consumers from themselves in terms of debt load. The government is hoping to discourage potential home owners from taking on debt that they cannot handle in reality. As well, the regulations aim to discourage unwise use of home equity lines of credit.

Helpful Advice

Now many people will argue that consumers should not be prompted in one way or another; they should make their own decisions and live with the consequences. Of course, too little regulation can also cause financial woe. Consider the recent U.S. dilemma. Mortgage approval might have been too easy in some instances; many consumers became homeowners but lacked the financial means to handle the commitment.

Mortgage Changes


According to Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, effective March 18, 2011, the term of government-backed mortgages has been lowered to 30 years from 35 years. As well, the maximum amount of equity for refinancing will drop to 85% from the previous 90 per cent.

Many hopeful first-time home buyers are not pleased with this recent development. Yet the government insists that they are helping consumers. Eventually, homeowners will be faced with a rise in interest rates. This latest intervention is designed to discourage buyers who will not be up to the challenge.

Massive Debt

According to recent statistics, Canadian household debt has soared to 148% of disposable income. Of course, shopping trips and house sales fuel the economy but there is an 'elephant in the room' with such a high percentage of debt. The Canadian government has chosen not to ignore the massive amount of debt carried by many home owners.

Beginning April 18, the Canadian government will stop insuring newly issued home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). An ever-increasing number of home owners in Canada are using these lines of credit. In fact, HELOCs account for 12% of consumer debt.

Home Equity Lines of Credit

Actually, 50% half of these variable-rate loans are spent on consumer goods including new cars and boats. Only one third of the loans go towards paying down other debt. Therefore, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation has reconsidered its practice of insuring home equity lines of credit.

Government Regulations

With recent mortgage changes, the Canadian government claims to have considered the best interests of consumers. Of course, distancing themselves from the inevitable future rise in interest rates might be a wise move for this government – especially with a possible election in the near future. As well, in 2006, this government allowed the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. to lift its 25-year limit on mortgages and insure up to 40 years.

In 2008, Flaherty rewound the 40-year term back to 35 years. Maybe this latest move is an attempt to distance themselves further from that original rash decision of extending limits to 40 years. The Canadian government, however, has to be prepared for their new regulations to have a few undesirable effects on the economy. Almost one third of Canadian mortgages in 2010 were for 35-year terms.

Mortgage changes sensible

Do You Think The Canadian Government Made Sensible Mortgage Changes?

Image courtesy of dallastexasrealestateblog.com

Jan 8

Rounding Up the Best Real Estate Advice

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Real Estate Advice for 2011

The beginning of the New Year revolves around the 'annual' resolutions – at least according to the media. Whether people choose to follow a set plan or just play it by air, you can bet that they will be bombarded by all kinds of advice - on television, in print, and at online sites. The professional (or other) advice will cover every topic from routine to resorts to real estate.

You have to separate the great advice from the inaccurate, silly, or even foolhardy suggestions. Real estate is one area where it pays to resolve to learn more during the coming year. Even if you are not buying or selling now, chances are that you will at some point. As well, renters need to know the score. It pays to get a feel for the topic and arm yourself with knowledge.

As you delve through the mounds of real estate advice, you can find 'real' golden nuggets of information from reputable sources. Often the best pieces of advice are simple suggestions that make the most sense. Yet often, consumers overlook the simple solution because they perceive real estate as a complicated matter. Truthfully, real estate is a complex issue, but knowing the basics makes it less of a challenge.

Rounding Up the Best Real Estate Advice

"Get your home into selling shape." ~ Ilyce Glink, Real Estate Matters, Chicago Tribune

Ilyce Glink, author of Real Estate Matters, emphasizes preparing to sell your home. Part of her wise advice – get rid of items - unless you need or use them. Interior and exterior cleaning, repairs, and touch-ups are also suggestions as well as the possibility of hiring a stager.


"Make a sensible valuation." ~ Tanya Ashreena, Financial Times

This sensible statement was written for London readers but it is relevant on a global level. Sellers have to be certain that their asking prices reflect the present market – not yesterday's value or tomorrow's prediction. The Financial Times focuses on the reality of what will happen if you ignore this piece of advice. Failure to do so will lower your chances of selling a home.

"Always get a home inspection." ~ US News

Now this bit of advice might seem boring if you've just found the perfect house – or so you think at the time. Potential buyers need to complete a 'checklist' before they decide on that dream home. The state of the foundation and the electrical system as well as water damage – all these matters (and more) have to be explored before you buy a home. Keep in mind that potential buyers can keep an eye out for types of damage and disrepair but they still need the professional help of a home inspector.


Federal Reserve issues tips for mortgage loan shopping

Money Saving Tips for Your Apartment

What Is The Best Real Estate Advice For First-Time Buyers?

Image courtesy of occarealty.com

Dec 29

Global Real Estate Trends

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Global Real Estate Trends in 2010

As the current year winds down and 2011 approaches, readers can expect reports and articles about real estate trends to pop up everywhere. With so much trend-related content out there, our eyes can sometimes glaze over and we tend to ignore the latest list. Yet we should rethink our reaction to the barrage of year-end statistics.

Tracking Trends

Examining trends helps us to zone in on where we've been, gives us an idea of where we're going, and arms us with the knowledge to navigate the system. Real estate revolves around statistics. It is worth consumers' time and effort to examine the numbers and keep up-to-date about real estate trends.

Global Real Estate Trends

The Global Real Estate Trends report released by Canada's Scotiabank tracks housing markets in 12 major economies. The December report states that global residential property markets in 2010 experienced a modest but uneven recovery.


Australia fared the best with its housing demand and low unemployment. Slower sales and price appreciation, however, are expected for this thriving market in the coming months.


Meanwhile, Japan’s twenty-year property slump continued in the past year. In 2011, Japan's economy is expected to experience a further slowdown.


Stability is returning to U.S. markets. Housing demand is expected to rise with increasing employment numbers and continued low interest rates. Yet the Global Real Estate Trends report warns that housing demand might not translate into home sales. Within a recovering economy with a high unemployment rate (although shrinking), individuals and lenders are feeling uncertain and cautious about major financial commitments.


Despite a volatile market in 2010, Canada ranked high in the Global Real Estate Trends report.

Read about all 12 housing markets in the Global Real Estate Trends report.

Local Real Estate Trends

Potential home buyers and sellers should keep informed about state and local trends. Varied media (print or online) across the US and elsewhere publish information regularly about the latest real estate trends. The Washington Post tracks housing sales and prices in the Washington area. Each Saturday, the results are posted in their 'Real Estate' section. Information is collected for every residential zip code and the data is compared to the numbers during the corresponding period in the previous year.

Green Building Trends

'Green building' trends will make a noticeable difference to the real estate industry in the coming year. Regardless of uncertain economies, 'green building' is expected to rebound in 2011. New commercial start-ups will opt for green alternatives. Existing businesses will be making energy-efficient improvements.

This decision makes sense on many levels for businesses. Besides being environmentally-friendly choices, green businesses impress the modern customer. As well, residential buildings will follow this trend. Home owners want to live in a safe and healthy environment.

Parents and educators will also be advocating for 'green' schools. As part of the LEED system, the number of Certified Green Schools should increase as more people embrace the health and educational benefits of these buildings. By the middle of 2010, certified schools made up almost 40% of all new LEED projects in the US. In 2011 and beyond, the real estate industry will be seeing more 'green' buildings in all areas - commercial, educational, and residential buildings.

Green Building’s Top Ten Trends for 2011

What Do You Think Will Be The Top Real Estate Trends in 2011?

Image courtesy of hcrealty.com

Dec 14

US and UK Home Sellers - Chilly Sales

by Mary Teresa Fowler
End of Year Slowdown in Home Sales

Unless you are in a hot climate, November and December can be chilly months. This year, parts of the US and the UK are living through an early winter. Home sellers in these countries have also been experiencing a chilly period.

Los Angeles

Although Los Angeles might have warm temperatures, there has been a cooling down period in the housing market. During November 2010, the Los Angeles County housing market saw quite a slowdown. Home sales fell 21% compared to purchases in 2009. Condos sales had even a worse showing. Last year, 4,315 homes had sold in this region throughout November. Only 3,423 homes were purchased during the same period in the current year.

Sales were down 9% from October. Often home sales will decline somewhat in late autumn as the market heads towards winter. Yet the median price in Los Angeles County did not show much movement. In fact, median price was at almost the same place as in summer.

In a November 23 report, the California Association of Realtors suggested that the average home seller is not prepared for these chilly times. The housing market is in the midst of change. People must be willing to participate in a different game on an unfamiliar playing field. Leslie Appleton-Young, association chief economist, explains the "new reality."

"We're really seeing two different housing markets: one at the lower end driven by first-time buyers and investors, which is keeping prices stable, and one with nostalgic sellers who set unrealistic asking prices," says Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist of the California Association of Realtors.

As well, Michael Nourmand, president of residential brokerage Nourmand & Associates, has noticed that buyers and sellers are finding it hard to adjust to a new market. Home sellers tend to think about the previous popularity of an area or earlier neighborhood prices. Yet sellers must think in the "here and now." In uncertain times, affordable options (such as fixer-uppers) are a big draw.

November Ushers In a Big Chill for Home Sellers


In the UK, home sellers cut asking prices by 3% in December. These figures represent the worst December performance for home sale prices in three years. The statistics show the steepest decline since the 3.2% drop in 2007. Home purchase prices have now fallen during five of the past six months in all regions of England and Wales. The West Midlands saw the worst fall at 5% but Wales escaped with a mere 1.3% decline.

Despite a demand for homes and interest in quality homes and popular neighborhoods, dreams do not always translate into actual sales. Negative factors can come in to play to outweigh positive circumstances. Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove, explains part of the problem in the current UK housing market.

"The fact that many would-be buyers do not have the ability to proceed, and some homeowners find themselves in a position where they are forced to sell, drives prices down," states Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove.

Rightmove believes national home sales prices will at least remain flat in 2011. In fact, they predict the worst scenario could be a 5% decline because many homeowners are facing repossessions.

Home Sellers Forced To Slash Asking Prices

Are Home Sale Prices Experiencing A Chill In Your Neighborhood?

Image courtesy of sandiegometro.com

Dec 8

The Falling Prices of Foreclosures

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Home Foreclosure Bargains

Home buyers might expect to purchase a foreclosure for a bargain. Yet probably few buyers would be hoping for a 45% discount. According to Realty Trac, however, sales prices for Ohio foreclosures reached that low point in the third quarter of 2010.

Falling Prices

Purchase prices for foreclosures did not fall to that extent in every state. Yet foreclosures sold on the average for 32% less than non-foreclosure sales. In the second quarter, foreclosures sold for just 26% less than other homes. They could be purchased for 29% less in 2009. Realty Trac CEO, James Saccacio, said that he had never seen such disparity in prices of foreclosures and non-foreclosures since 2005.

The overall best deals went to buyers who picked up REOs (real estate owned by the bank after repossession). REOs were selling 41% lower than non-foreclosures in the summer and early autumn of the current year. That percentage means that a $300,000 foreclosure was selling for $177,000. A huge discount!

Distressed Properties

Of course, REOs may not be in prime condition. That factor is at play in the discount prices for certain foreclosure sales. Home buyers must always be realistic about purchasing distressed properties. These homes will need extra tender loving care – an investment of time, effort, and money. Home buyers must understand the implications of buying homes in less-than-mint condition.

If buyers are willing to take on the challenge, however, they will be getting a good deal in the current market. While the average price of homes rose 6.4% from the second to third quarter in 2010, distressed property prices fell 2.5%. Non-foreclosure sale prices rose to an average of $250,000 and foreclosure purchase prices fell to $170,000.

Behind the Scene

Home sales had dropped after the end of the Federal Homebuyers' Tax Credit. As well, more foreclosures came on the market. Buyers had plenty of choices. If homes were not set at favorable prices, they could just sit on the market for an indefinite period.

Getting Rid of REOs

REOs have been returned to lenders but they are still eager to get rid of the properties. REOs come with a cost for bankers. Actually, lenders would prefer to take a low price rather than carry the cost of the home for months.

Buy A Foreclosure - Save 30% On The Price

REO Statistics

Even with the deeply-discounted prices, however, REO sales dropped during the third quarter. Since home sales also fell, foreclosures still occupy the same share of the market. Yet REOs remained popular with many home buyers.

Nevada had the highest percentage (54%) of REO sales in the third quarter of this year. Yet these figures were 2% lower than sales for the second quarter. Other states also showed high numbers of foreclosure sales. In Arizona, foreclosures accounted for 47% of home sales. Foreclosures within California made up 40% of all home purchases.

In Massachusetts, more than one third of home sales during July-September were foreclosures. The fourth quarter statistics will be released in the new year. These figures will reflect the impact of the robo-signing fiasco.

Already dirt cheap, foreclosure prices dive

Will You Be Taking Advantage Of The Falling Prices Of Foreclosures?

Image courtesy of blog.foreclosure.com

Dec 3

Refinancing-Mortgage Rates-Different Moves

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Mortgage Refinance

While Fannie Mae announced that mortgage rates had increased this week to 4.46%, refinancing rates experienced a drop. Signs of an improving economy, however, are inspiring people to buy homes. Yet with an increase in interest rates, home refinancing falls out of favor.

Refinances Fall

Last week, applications for refinancing dropped below 75% of all mortgage applications. During the late summer of 2010, refinancing seemed to be the choice of many home owners. In early August, loan applications for refinancing accounted for more than 80% of all applications.

Only once before in recent years had applications for refinancing come in above 80 per cent. Micheal Fratantoni of the Mortgage Bankers Association points to the 80-plus percentage "in 2003, for one week, when the rate on 30-year mortgages fell below 5% for the first time since the 1950s." In 2003, the total amount of mortgages issued was almost $4 trillion – with $2.5 trillion (60%) in refinancing.

Refinancing numbers fell temporarily for a single week during October 2010. Yet afterwards, refinancing statistics stayed the same until November 19. Since June, there has not been a fall in refinancing numbers that compares with the recent drop.

Mortgages Rates Rise

According to a survey (including higher-interest jumbo loans) released by the Mortgage Bankers Association, the average 30-year contract rate tops 4.5%. Increased mortgage rates (especially above 4.5%) will bring about a decrease in refinancing numbers. Indeed, there would be less refinancing except some homeowners wanted to act now before the next increase in mortgage rates.

Anxious Homeowners

Of course, rising rates are not the only factor responsible for low refinancing numbers. Many homeowners would like to choose a refinance. Yet they cannot go that route because of reduced home equity or a decrease in income. Both circumstances result from the economic downturn.

Indeed even if people have home equity, they are less likely to use it in a recovering economy. Most homeowners have to be confident about the economy before they will use their home equity to take out cash. Chris George, president of CMG Mortgage in San Ramon, explains how homeowners think about refinancing in uncertain times compared to booming periods.

"In '04, '05 and '06 it was all about leveraging your home equity.… I would say back then three-quarters or better of the people refinancing were pulling out cash. Now it's the opposite — people are de-leveraging, saving for a rainy day," says Chris George, president of CMG Mortgage in San Ramon.

Home refinancing applications drop as interest rates rise

Reasons to Refinance

Home owners refinance for varied reasons from tapping into equity to shortening term to maturity. Yet the main reason is to save money. If refinancing is to make sense for home owners, they have to save on payments. If homeowners can see only minimal savings, the industry cannot expect to see maximum numbers in refinancing.

Of course, some homeowners are choosing a refinance. The Mortgage Bankers Association suggests that refinancing will account for almost $1 trillion of the entire mortgage market in 2010. Michael Fratantoni detailed the predictions of the Mortgage Bankers Assn. for refinancing numbers in 2011.

"Purchase loans are expected to increase a bit, to $600 billion of the total, with loan refinancing at $400 billion, or 40%, as rates rise above 5% by the end of the year, " says Micheal Fratantoni of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Will You Be Applying For A Refinance?

Image courtesy of blogcu.com

Dec 1

Residential Energy Property Credit

by Mary Teresa Fowler
Residential Energy Property Credit

U.S. homeowners have only until December 31, 2010 to take advantage of the current Residential Energy Property Credit. This 'green' program is available to home owners who make energy-efficient improvements to their houses. New homes or rentals are not eligible for this credit and the home must be the person's principal residence.

Federal Tax Credit

This property credit is about to expire and qualifying items must be bought and installed before the end of 2010. People can make purchases such as heating and cooling systems, insulation, roofing, windows and doors, water heaters, and biomass stoves. The credit is a dollar-to-dollar reduction on the amount of tax owed and home owners can receive up to 30% of the cost – up to $1500 per home. Two or more unmarried people living in the same home with joint ownership are each eligible for the tax credit on money spent for improvements. Yet the total credit cannot exceed $1500 for a single home.

The credit includes installation costs in certain categories but not for all purchases. For example, installation costs are covered for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC). The tax credit, however, does not include installation costs for insulation. As well, not all ENERGY STAR qualified products are included in this initiative. Homeowners are advised to check out the rules of eligibility for this credit.

Associated Components

People are wondering if the tax credit applies to components associated with a product. If a homeowner purchases a biomass stove, will the cost of a hearth, stovepipe, and chimney be eligible for the credit? The IRS administers this program and they have not issued any written guidelines about eligible components.

Homeowners can contact the IRS for the official word. Yet it has been widely suggested informally that components are covered if they are critical pieces of the product's energy efficiency. If the component can be used with a non-qualified product, it does not meet eligibility guidelines for this credit.

How To Apply

For products installed in 2010, homeowners must file the IRS Form 5695. They must submit the form with their 2010 taxes by April 15, 2011. Homeowners must save receipts and the Manufacturer's Certification Statement for their records. A Manufacturer’s Certification Statement is a signed statement from the manufacturer certifying that the product or component qualifies for the tax credit. Manufacturers should provide these certifications on their website.

Income Limit

There is no income limit with this program but it is a 'non-refundable' credit. Homeowners' credits cannot exceed their tax liability (the amount they pay in taxes).

Future Energy

If a homeowner cannot make the December 31 deadline, there are other opportunities to take advantage of energy-efficiency programs. Indeed, new homes and second homes (as well as existing homes) are considered for a tax credit in two additional incentives. The programs vary and cover from 30% of the cost with no upper limit to 30% of the cost and up to $500 per .5 kW of power capacity. These credits do not expire until December 31, 2016. Learn more about Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency.

Last chance for homeowners to get green tax credit

Have You Applied For The Residential Energy Property Credit?

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