Archive for February, 2009

The 2009 Economic Stimulus Bill may help first-time buyers get a home

February 17th, 2009
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Uncle Sam wants YOU to buy a home.

In fact, they want you to buy one so badly they have added yet ANOTHER incentive for you to do so. The $790 billion stimulus package approved by the House and Senate includes benefits for any one buying a home, but is especially beneficial to first-time homebuyers. Among other things, the bill has created a true tax credit for first-time buyers that give them an $8,000 credit if they purchase a home in 2009. This credit does NOT have to be paid back as long as the buyer stays in the home for at least three years. A first-time buyer is anyone that has not owned a home in the last three years.

What this means is that for a first-time buyer, the Government will pay for a significant portion of your down payment. For example, according to BAREIS, the Median price for a home in Sonoma County in January 2009 was $290,000. If you buy a home at this price and use the FHA loan program with its low 3.5% down payment, your down payment would only be $10,150. At the end of 2009, the Government would give you back $8,000 of this money. Your effective down-payment would only be $2,150, or equivalent to less than two months rent. In addition to this, the entire down payment could be a gift from a relative.

When you combine this new incentive with the INCREDIBLE features of an FHA loan, it really makes sense for anyone that is considering the purchase of a home to take a serious look at what is available in the market today. Contact me at 707-327-9407 or by email at: and I can help you get started in understanding today’s market and help you find a good lender that will treat you fairly and honestly.

For more information about the great benefits of an FHA loan today, read my post: The Advantages of the FHA Loan

First Time Buyers, Lending, New Laws, Tax Advantages , ,

Advantages of an FHA loan

February 12th, 2009
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Have you heard about the new FHA loan programs?

The FHA loan has quickly become the “loan of choice” for many buyers in today’s crazy market. The FHA loan pretty much disappeared in California about 15 years ago because the FHA loan limits had not kept up with the price of homes.

Well  MUCH  has changed recently. As the newspapers are quick to point-out, the price of homes have dropped significantly in the last three years, and this combined with higher loan limits for an FHA loan make this a very useful loan today. Today’s loan limits for an FHA loan are $520,950, AND the Obama administration may change this to even higher limits later this month. This means that even with a minimal 3.5% down payment, today you could have a purchase price of $539,844. That will buy plenty of home in today’s Sonoma County real estate market.

Here are some other benefits available from an FHA loan;

FHA loans are assumable!!! This means that when you go to sell your home, you can offer a qualifying Buyer the same great interest rate that you got, regardless of what the current interest rates are the day you sell your home. Today’s incredible low rates will probably not be around in a few years, so YOUR home will be very attractive to potential buyers.

 The Buyer’s FICO scores can be lower for an FHA loan than those for a conventional loan. This means more buyers will qualify.

The allowable debt ratios are higher for an FHA loan than the debt-ratio limits imposed for conventional loans.

The FHA loan requires a smaller down payment: FHA-insured loans have a low 3.5% down payment and the money can come from a family member, employer or charitable organization as a gift. Most conventional loan programs don’t allow this.

FHA has eliminated unnecessary requirements to make minor repairs on homes and the current requirements are quite easy to follow.

 The seller can contribute up to six percent of the home’s price toward the Buyer’s closing costs.

 Mortgage insurance is funded into the loan, meaning a premium of 1.5% is added to the loan balance instead of being paid out-of-pocket. In addition, a small portion for the mortgage insurance premium is added to the monthly payment, but it is far less than private mortgage insurance monthly premiums.

I hope this helps with your questions about the FHA loan. I do know several lenders that are quite good with FHA loans and offer very competitive rates. Call me at 707-327-9407 or email me at if you want to learn more about the incredible opportunities in today’s market.

First Time Buyers, Lending , , ,

Is it time to reduce your property taxes?

February 9th, 2009
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What’s up with my Assessed Value and Taxes?

Each year the Sonoma County Assessor’s office will re-evaluate the “Assessed Value” of your property for the purposes of calculating your property taxes. Historically the Assessor has worked under the philosophy that property values increase each year which generally has been true. In the last few years, however, this has NOT been the case for many homes in Sonoma County. Yet despite the fact that the median price for homes has steadily declined for several years, the Assessor’s opinion of the value of YOUR home may NOT have dropped, or may even have increased. If you feel that the Assessor  SHOULD have decreased the assessed value of your property (and therefore lowered your taxes) you can request that the Assessor take another look. This is called an “Informal Request for Decline”. 


How do you request a review of your property valuation?

There tends to be a quite a bit of confusion about this process and which comparable sales are allowed, so I have created a quick review of the process and links to the required documents.

 The purpose of the Informal Request, is to show the property value of your home, as of January 1st of 2009, is lower than the current assessed value. This is done by filing a Prop 8, “Informal Request for Decline” document with the Sonoma County Assessor’s office. This is a fairly simple form which you can use to show the sales prices of three comparable properties which have sold in your area between April 1st of 2008 and March 31st of 2009. This is a one-year time frame from which to select your comparable sales. These three sales should support your request to the Assessor that the tax valuation of your property should be lower.

 The Assessor will review the information that you provide and will calculate an opinion of the current value of your property for the purpose of assessing taxes. In doing so, even though any sale that occurs within the one-year window CAN be used, the Assessor will place the highest relevance on those sales that occurred CLOSEST to January 1st 2009, but no later than March 31st 2009. This means that a comparable sale that occurred in December of 2008 will have higher relevance than a sale that occurred in March of 2009 because the December sale is closer to the valuation date of January 1st 2009. A sale that occurs in September 2008 can be used because it did occur within the 12-month window, but a sale that occurs on April 1st 2009 cannot be used because it is past the March 31st cut-off.

 Here is a link to the Prop 8, “Informal Request for Decline” on the Assessor’s website.

 The deadline for filing this form is October 31, 2009. 


What if you disagree with the Assessor’s opinion of value?

The results of the Assessor’s “Informal Request” are completely up to the Assessor’s discretion.

If you disagree with the Assessor’s evaluation you can call them (707-565-1888) and discuss this, but more importantly, you may file a formal appeal with the State Board of Equalization Assessments Appeals Board. The Assessment Appeal Filing period is from July 2 through November 30, 2009

Here is a link to the “Application for Changed Assessment” as well as directions for filing the form.

 It is important to note that you have until October 31st 2009 to file the “Informal Request” and that if you disagree with this valuation, in Sonoma County you must file a “Formal Appeal” by November 30, 2009 (one month later). It is entirely possible (VERY PROBABLE) that the Assessor’s office will not have responded to your “Informal Request” before the deadline to appeal their decision has already passed.

For this reason, you may want to file the “Formal Appeal” at the same time you file the “Informal Request”, or at least no later than November 30, 2009, even if you have not received a result from the Assessor’s office. Once you do receive the result, if you agree with the Assessor’s valuation you may simply cancel the “Formal Appeal”, or leave it in place if you disagree.

 The State Board of Equalization has some good information about the appeal process, including several videos and publications.

 The Sonoma County Assessor’s office has posted a pamphlet “Residential Property Assessment Appeals“.

 If you need help with finding comparable sales for your neighborhood, you may contact me at 707-327-9407 or at and I will be glad to assist you. You may also want to check-out my website ( where you can find tons of information about real estate in Sonoma County as well as the ability to search the local MLS.

 Please feel free to pass this along to anyone you know who may want to lower their property taxes.

 David Harts
David Harts Realty

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