Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tax Credit Extended with New Features!

Congress just passed an expanded version of the $8,000 first time home buyer tax credit that was set to expire on November 30.

Although the tax credit remains at $8,000 for home buyers that have not owned a primary residence in the last three years, it has been expanded to include a $6,500 tax credit for home buyers that have lived in their current primary residence for at least five consecutive years out of the past eight years. Under the old rules, move-up home buyers did not qualify.” Consider these three examples:

Example 1: Jane purchased a home in 2002, lived there for 5 years as her primary home, moved out in 2007, and turned that home into a rental property. If Jane decides to buy a new primary residence today, she would qualify for the $6,500 tax credit based on the fact that she lived in the same residence as her primary home for at least five consecutive years out of the past eight.

Example 2: Harry purchased a home in 2004, and lived there for the past 5 years as his primary home. If Harry decides to buy a new primary residence today, he would qualify for the $6,500 tax credit based on the fact that he lived in the same residence as his primary home for at least five consecutive years out of the past eight.

Example 3: Nicole purchased a home in 2006, and lived there for the past 3 years as her primary home. If Nicole decides to buy a new primary residence today, she would not qualify for the $6,500 tax credit based on the fact that she did not live in the same residence as her primary home for at least five consecutive years out of the past eight.

The tax credit applies to homes purchased for less than $800,000 before May 1, 2010. “If you sign a binding contract to purchase a home before May 1st, you would need to close on the transaction before July 1, 2010,” Nicholas said. “It works kind of like a gift certificate that can be redeemed for cash. You simply file a form with the IRS right after you buy your home, and the IRS will send you a check for the full amount of your credit.”

The income limitation for single tax payers went up from $75,000 under the old rules to $125,000 under the new rules. For married tax payers, the income limitation went up from $150,000 to $225,000.

There are many creative ways of structuring your home purchase transaction in ways that maximize the benefits of the credit. Here are a few examples:

• The credit applies to 1-4 unit homes as long as you live in one of the units as your primary residence – you could live in one unit and rent out the others

• If two unmarried individuals buy a home, and only one of the individuals qualifies for the credit based on their income or past home ownership status, the individual who qualifies for the credit can claim the full credit. (Note: In the case of married couples, both spouses must qualify for the credit.)

• The credit applies even if you have co-signers on your mortgage loan

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Free Reports & Home Searches!

Have you visited our website lately? Just think, you can do so at your leisure without even having to talk to us (darn pesky real estate agents).

Just click the link --->
and click on "Your Organizer."

If you would like to receive listings directly to your email that match your home buying needs, set up a personal organizer. You'll be asked to provide your email address, set up a user name & password, and answer a few questions about your home search and from there you'll be able to search hundreds of listings that meet your needs. Going forward, our website will search the MLS every morning at approx 4:00am for any new listings that meet your needs and e-mail them directly to your organizer so they'll be there during your morning e-mail check. Check it out!

Also, don't miss out on our free report for buyers, sellers, and financing information. By creating an organizer, you can request these reports. They are packed with great information!post signature

Monday, September 21, 2009



Remember, you can earn up to $8,000 in tax credits on your tax return! This is huge! Visit for full details!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

HUD Properties are Your Friends!

HUD Properties are Your Friend!

Many buyers tend to believe that HUD properties are bad properties and we want to stop this rumor! There are many great things about HUD properties ...

1) Not all HUD properties are in bad condition and need a lot of work. In fact, some aren't in need of any repairs at all. HUD properties are simply properties that were purchased with a HUD insured mortgage in which the buyer defaulted. HUD then pays off the lender and takes possession of the home as a foreclosure. HUD homes aren't near as creepy as the happy house to the left is! :)

2) You can purchase a HUD property with only $100 down if you're obtaining an FHA loan; whereas the normal minimum down payment is 3.5% of the purchase price! You can keep more money in your pocket!! For example, if you were to purchase a home for $115,000 the minimum down payment you would have to come up with would be $4,025 whereas with a HUD home, you would only have to pay $100! Perfect if you want to buy now to take advantage of the tax credits but don't have quite enough cash!

2) HUD will give you a $1000 credit at closing if you put a HUD property under contract within it's first 30 days on the market! Free money! There are only three requirements for this ... 1) you have to be an owner-occupant (not an investor) 2) the property has to be a new listing (not one that has expired and put back on the market) and 3) you have to put a contract on it within the first 30 days on the market.

3) HUD will pay up to 3% of your closing costs!

4) HUD favors owner occupants! During the first 12 days that a HUD home is listed, it is open to owner-occupants only! This means that investor offers aren't even considered until the 13th day (and that's if there are no acceptable owner-occupant bids)

5) HUD has a special program called "Officers/Teachers/Firefighters/EMTs Next Door." This program was created in effort to help more officers, teachers, firefighters and EMTs become home owners. If you are one of these professionals, you can purchase a HUD property at a 50% discount. That's better than hitting a good sale at Neiman Marcus ... half off of your next home! In order to take advantage of this program, the property must be your primary residence (you can't own any other properties) for 3 years. If you're a teacher, the home must be located in the same county in which you teach.

These are just some of the great things about HUD properties!

Click the following link to browse through all HUD properties in Georgia:

Feel free to email or call with any questions! We would love to help you find the perfect HUD home!

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Monday, July 20, 2009

YOU NEED US! Yes, I'm being a bit forceful with that comment, but actually I'm backed by a well-known Real Estate guru, John Adams. You may already read his articles in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Homefinder section in the Sunday paper. If not, you may want to start. His advice is almost always in-line with what we at Stephens & Stephens believe.

This past Sunday (July 19th), John's article discussed why you need a real estate agent to represent you when you purchase a home. I'll just let you read the article below and hear it from him.

There's one important note that he left out of his article that I think you should know though: Using a Real Estate agent to represent you as a buyer is free to you!!!! The seller pays the commission to both their listing agent and the agent who brings them a buyer, commonly called the selling agent in our world (unless your looking at a For Sale by Owner, or FSBO, but John covers that issue in his article below).

Some buyers have a misconception that they must pay their agent a 3% commission when they find a house. That's simply not true. The seller pays it! If a Realtor ever asks you to pay them a commission or fee for their services when you are buying you should ask them why!

What more could you ask for? You can have great representation from the Stephens & Stephens Group for free and find your dream home at the same time!

Here's the article:
Read this week's AJC article
Sunday, 19 July 2009

John Adams

"I recently had the privilege of visiting with a group of prospective homebuyers, listening to their concerns and trying to answer some of their questions. There was one question asked more often than any other, and here it is:

Q: In this market, many sellers have given up on agents and are trying to sell without an agent. Their signs often read "For Sale By Owner" or FSBO. Isn't it wise to approach these sellers directly and try to save the commission dollars in a lowered offering price?

A: In my opinion, that's not a smart route to take. I must begin by pointing out that I am not a Realtor and I have no axe to grind in this matter. But this is my observation: in most cases, agents today more than earn their commission, whatever that amount is.In this challenging market, one of the most important elements of homebuying success is to have an experienced agent assist you in the task of shopping and comparing among the many homes that may be right for you.

Everyone knows that today we have lots of supply and little demand - that's the definition of a buyer's market. All the more reason to equip yourself with an experienced professional to prevent you from making mistakes.

In addition, agents have direct access to previous neighborhood listing activity as well as county tax records. This data is critical in helping a buyer compare one house to another and learning about conditions of past sales. With so many foreclosures being resold today, you have to be able to discern the real sales from the forced ones.

Finally, real estate agents are trained to make sure that written agreements are valid and enforceable, and they will make sure all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. In other words, your agent will work to make sure your purchase is shepherded to a successful conclusion.

Is it possible to buy a house on your own directly from an owner? Of course it is, and it happens every day. But my advice is to take advantage of professional assistance.

Most sellers, even FSBO sellers, will entertain the idea of paying a reasonable commission to your agent for services rendered. And what good is a contract between buyer and seller if it fails to reach the closing table?

The answer is that it's worse than no contract at all. A failed contract wastes the time and energy of all parties, and discourages both buyer and seller going forward.

My experience has been that sales guided by an experienced real estate professional have a much higher chance of getting to closing, especially in today's difficult mortgage market.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Investing in the Southern Crescent of Atlanta

Ever thought of investing in Real Estate?

If you already are, we think you're very wise. If not, and you have the money and time to invest, then why aren't you? Have you sat on the fence for weeks, months, or even years thinking about investing? Get off of that fence (even if the barb-wire has the seat of your pants) and get in gear! We truly believe that you can make a living off of investing in real estate. Heck....we even know some who are self-made millionaires from it.

There is a catch though! You have to have a good team of people to help you invest wisely. With the knowledge and expertise of a good Real Estate agent you will make money! Don't listen to the whiners and complainers who thought they could do it on their own, bought a home for 80k when it was worth 50k, sunk 20k into it (when they should have only spent 10k), and don't understand why they can't sell it for 200k. Here's what you need.

1. Yourself -completely motivated with a great attitude and a stick to it mentality

2. Us - a great Real Estate duo that has the knowledge of the right areas to invest in, the amounts of money you should spend, and the eye for showing you a deal.

3. A Good Lender (or cash on hand if you have it) - Good investment loans are hard to come by these days, but they are out there. Cash is king though. If you have it, invest in Real Estate. The stock market hasn't given returns like Real Estate in the past few years.

4. A Good Home Inspector (or your knowledge of homes and housing systems if you know it) - You should always know what you're getting. Inspect that baby from top to bottom.

5. A Good Closing Attorney - Some sellers dictate who you can close with, but you can always request your attorney, especially when paying cash. It's worth it in many cases.

6. A Good Contractor, Rehab, Do-It-All Person - Whether it's you, or a company, many investment type properties need some work once you purchase them (although you'll be surprised to find that some don't need much at all). Knowing that the work is going to be done right the first time, and for a good fair price, will save you thousands.

Areas that are Hot!

You can find a deal in just about any city or county right now. Some are more rare than others, but they are out there. These are the areas where most of our investors are investing in at the present time.

  • Clayton County (Forest Park, Jonesboro, Riverdale, Conley, etc.) Most of the homes bought as investments here are bought and rented out as opposed to flipped. You can buy a home for less than the price of car here....and we're not even talking a Lexus or Mercedes, we're talking Kia & Hyundai.

  • Henry County (McDonough, Stockbridge, Hampton, Locust Grove). There's a 50/50 mixture of homes being bought and rented and bought and flipped. It depends on the investor. Henry county has been the 4th fastest growing county in the nation for several years now. It's still a profitable and desirable county.

  • In-town and South Atlanta (Inman Park, Grant Park, Cabbagetown, Adair Park, Ormewood Park, Hapeville, Edgewood, Kirkwood, West End and other small self-named areas of Atlanta). Come on people, it's Atlanta! Buy a home in the city of Atlanta for 50k or below....duh! No brainer! Some are easily flipped and others are held until the market corrects itself. Either way, it's a moneymaker!

  • And any where else we spot a deal! We sell all the counties and cities of South Metro Atlanta.

Crayola Can't Beat This!

We want our blog to be informative and fun at the same time. So here's a post that should do the trick. These pictures were found in the MLS system and all come from the same property. The MLS feeds every listing onto a gazillion other sites, so these pictures are all over the internet and available for the whole world to see; therefore, after a long debate, we figured it's okay to post these so long as we don't disclose the owner's name or address. Side Note: If you are the owner of this home, we apologize for using your property as an example. We know some really great painters, call us!

Crayola would call this "Macoroni & Cheese" Orange

Red is In... I can deal with Red. I can't deal with
the random brown portion of the wall though. Can you?

Left Over Paint Room! Pay close attention, you will notice that all of
these colors are used throughout the house. This is a crime!

Inspiration -> Hunt's Ketchup & French's Mustard! I can't look at this room without
thinking about the plastic red & yellow bottles that every small diner has on the table.

Laker's Fans Perhaps? ... Purple & Gold

This room actually looks calming after looking at the last few, huh?

Dark Green with Silver Stripes. Wow.

I call this 'Plain Jane'. I know you won't believe me, but I swear
this neutral room existed in the Crayola house!

There is a lesson to be learned here. If you're thinking about selling your home, take the time to neutralize the paint colors prior to putting it on the market. Buyers can better visualize themselves in your home if everything is neutral. With bright colors, such as the ones you've seen in these photos, the potential buyer will spend so much time looking at the walls that they won't even notice the house itself. Some color is okay, but this is obviously an extreme. Helpful Tip: If you're reading an ad regarding a listing that you're interested in and see 'designer paint colors' that can sometimes mean that there are some funky colors in the house. Real estate agents have a way with words. :) Just remember, paint is a pretty easy fix in most cases. So try to look past the color on the walls (and other decor) and focus on the house itself.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Georgia Tax Credit ... Woo-hoo!

It's official - I'm a real estate geek! While most people are probably raving about the Atlanta Hawks, I'm raving about another tax credit!!! This is so exciting! Sonny Perdue signed House Bill 261 today which offers a $1800 tax credit to Georgia home buyers who purchase a home within the next 6 months! Lets do some math people... (put your calculators up, I'm going to make this easy for you!)

$8000 (Federal Tax Credit) + $14000 (GA NSP) + $1800 (GA Tax Credit) = $23,800!

That's like hitting home buying lottery!! Too bad Uncle Sam won't let you spend any of that at Lenox Mall...

For the scoop on this bill, click here:

Call or email us with any questions!


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Perfect Time to Buy!

What a Perfect Time to Purchase a Home!

We want EVERYONE to know what a wonderful time it is to purchase a home. Not just because we're Realtors, but because this is an opportunity of a lifetime and we don't want anyone to miss it! There are several reasons why it's a great time to purchase right now:

  1. Declining Home Prices! There are unbelievable deals out there!
  2. Great Selection! Inventory levels are extremely high right now which means buyers have a lot to choose from!
  3. Low Interest Rates! Rates are at near-record lows!
  4. $8,000 Federal First Time Homebuyer Tax Rebate!
  5. $14,000 Georgia Neighborhood Stabilization Program Grant!
  6. Purchasing a Home is a Great Investment! Real estate is an investment just like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.

While you do have to be a first time home buyer (you qualify if you haven't owned a home in the past 3 years) to claim the $8,000 Federal Tax Credit, you don't have to be a first time home buyer to claim the $14,000 GA NSP Grant.

For more information on these two programs, check out the following links:

Georgia Neighborhood Stabilization Program:

Federal Housing Tax Credit:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What is a Short Sale?

What is a Short Sale?

If you've flipped through a Real Estate magazine full of homes for sale or browsed for a home on the internet recently, you probably saw at least a dozen properties that are "short sales." We currently have 3 properties listed that are short sales and when we answer phone calls from interested buyers, we have found that majority don't know what short sales are and who would? Short sales are new to this market; even Realtors had to learn about short sales.

A short sale is the sale of a property in which the proceeds from the sale fall short of the balance owed to the mortgage company. Short sales break all the normal real estate rules and because of the decline in market values, they are becoming more and more common in this area. Not everyone qualifies for a short sale on their property though. There are typically three requirements:

  • The home's market value has dropped: Comparable sales must show that the home is worth less than the unpaid balance due to the lender.
  • The mortgage is in or near default status: Majority of the time lenders will not consider a short sale unless the owner is behind on payments.
  • The seller has fallen on hard times: The seller must submit a letter of hardship (along with bank statements, income verification, financial budgets, etc.) that explains why the seller has or will stop making monthly payments. Examples of hardship include: unemployment, divorce, medical emergency, bankruptcy, death, etc. A few examples that DO NOT constitute a hardship are: bad purchase decisions, unhappy with home or neighborhood, purchasing another home or a growing family.

If you (or anyone you know) are having a hard time and you think you might be eligible for a short sale, give us a call. We currently have three short sale properties on the market and have recently closed one. We will be happy to answer any questions that you have. Not only can we list short sale properties, but we can help you negotiate with your mortgage company and manage all of the paperwork that is needed to complete such a sale.

Short Sales from a Buyer's Prospective:

Like foreclosures, short sales are priced aggressively and buyer's can find themselves quite a deal in purchasing a short sale property; however, short sales aren't a good match for every buyer. Short sales normally take longer to close than a regular resell property or even a foreclosure because there's a pretty lengthy process involved in getting a short sale approved. The mortgage company's loss mitigation department will have to work the contract through the system which can take time (and you would expect so when they're taking a loss on the property). So if you're not in a hurry and you're looking for an excellent deal, a short sale may work for you.

Things to Know When Looking for Short Sales:

  • Always have your agent talk with the listing agent to inquire on the status of the short sale. A lot can be learned by doing this. Often times the listing agent will tell you if it's worth your time or not. Make sure you're represented by an agent who is familiar with the short sale process so they can keep tabs on what's going on. If you have an agent who is unfamiliar with short sales, you might end up getting one story after another from the listing agent; however, if you're agent knows what should happen & when - then they can check in with the listing agent & help guide you right to the closing table!
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Agents sometimes price properties much lower than fair market value in effort to obtain offers. Mortgage companies normally want an offer in hand before they complete the short sale approval. Once they get an offer and run it through the process, they will bump up the list price to where it should be. Beware of properties that are priced extremely low (as in too good to be true low).
  • Mortgage company's don't always tell the listing agent what they should list the home for. They leave it up to the agent to price it at fair market value. So even if a buyer were to submit a full price offer based on the list price, the mortgage company may still reject it in the review/approval process if the numbers don't work out.
  • Think of a short sale property as being sold 'as-is'. Majority of the time, the seller doesn't have money to make repairs.
  • No two short sales are the same. Every mortgage company has a different process for dealing with short sales. If you have a bad experience with one short sale property, don't assume that all of them are bad.

Have a question? Email us:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Client Profile: Chris & Christine

Story: Chris & Christine are engaged and set to tie the knot this fall. They knew they wanted to be in a home prior to getting married so that they didn’t have to deal with the stress of home hunting and wedding planning at the same time. We casually began looking last fall and put offers on 2 other homes before finding their perfect home pictured above! This property was a short sale and we originally tried to steer clear of these because of the lengthy process; however, upon viewing this property & falling in love with it, Chris and Christine decided it was worth the wait. There was a higher offer on the table when we submitted ours; however, after negotiating, the seller and mortgage company proceeded with our offer (and we even lowered our sales price in the counter offer!). Chris & Christine's patience paid off! They purchased their first home in March at an unbelievable price, a fabulous interest rate and will also be getting $8,000 back from the First Time Home Buyer's Tax Credit!

Home Stats: 3 Bedroom & 2 Bath Ranch in McDonough with a huge, private backyard (perfect for their furry child, Midnight)

Chris & Christine's Advice for Buyers: "If it's meant to be, it will happen - there's a reason for everything. We looked at quite a few homes before we found the perfect one. Throughout the home hunting process we got our hopes up and hearts broken when we would find that our 'perfect house' was already under contract or we were out bid. Just when we were beginning to get discouraged and wondering if we would ever find a house, we found the perfect one! Thinking that the other houses were the 'perfect ones', we came to find that the one we purchased was far better in many ways than the previous. We didn't have to compromise anything that we wanted and still got the 'hottest house on the market' (those were the words of the listing agent!) at a great price! With all that being said, the best advice we can give to other buyers is to be patient and to never settle for something less than what you want. If you're patient, you will find a home better than you ever imagined you could own!"

Testimonial: "Rebekah is truly an angel sent from above! Even after 20 phone calls a day, frantic emails and constant questions, Rebekah remained patient and professional and was able to answer all of our questions. Being first time homebuyers, we were truly clueless but Rebekah walked us through each step and still kept the process fun and exciting! We will definitely use her to purchase or sell any property in the future!"

Thursday, April 9, 2009

We Actually Have a Blog Now!

Melissa and I have often talked about creating a real estate blog but it kept getting put on the to-do list (I like to call it the 'wish list'). In fact, I created this blog months ago and it has taken up blank space on the internet since. Finally, we have it up and in just a few minutes it will have our first post!

Our goal in creating this blog is to provide helpful, informative real estate information to our clients and friends but with a fun, personal twist!! We've seen far too many real estate blogs that consisted of nothing more than copied articles from real estate and financial websites. Now that I've got this started, I'm going to mark this off the wish list. :)