The Pros and Cons of Price Cuts

By Marcie Geffner - Cyberhomes Contributor

Home sellers hate price cuts and with good reason: Every dollar that’s knocked off the sales price is a dollar less in the seller’s pocket when the sale closes. But sometimes, a price cut is the best option, as unpalatable as it may be.

There’s no absolute rule for timing a reduction in your asking price, but some experts suggest two to four weeks as a good guideline, depending on how fast comparable homes have sold in your market and how quickly you need to sell.

If your home has been on the market for a while without a decent offer, you’ll have to choose a tactic:
- reduce your asking price
- wait for more buyers
- make major improvements
- take your home off the market.

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Where's My Office?!

By Marcie Geffner - California Real Estate

Pam Spoo thought she’d seen everything in her 30-plus years in real estate. But even she was surprised and shocked when she learned that her brokerage company, Robert Weil Associates in Long Beach, was about to close its doors for good.

"In the first week of December, we got the news that the company was going to be closing," Spoo recalls. "We knew business was slow, but I did not understand what it costs to keep an office open."

Spoo’s experience is instructive for others who may face a similar situation. She and her business partner Mary Klingensmith acted quickly to make sure their own business would suffer as little disruption as possible. Within weeks, they’d landed at Coldwell Banker Coastal Alliance in Alamitos Heights.

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Housing bill no panacea

By Marcie Geffner - Inman News

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, signed by President Bush July 30, contains a hodge-podge of new programs, protections and perks for homeowners, home buyers and housing-related companies. But considerable doubt remains as to whether the law will do much to change the current dynamics of the nation's housing markets, which are still mired in misfired mortgages and depressed home sales. The bill may turn out to be not so much too little, too late, but rather misdirected, riddled with loopholes and subject to unintended consequences.

Let's take some of the homeowner and home buyer items for a spin:

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Better Credit Can Save Cash

By Marcie Geffner -

Want to save an easy $105 this year? If you’re an average consumer, that’s how much you could cut your annual finance charges if you improved your credit score by just 30 points, according to a new survey released by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Washington Mutual Bank.

Boosting your credit score by a mere 30 out of several hundred points might be much easier than you’d think it would be. According to the survey, these five strategies may be among your easiest opportunities for improvement:

● Pay all of your bills on time and in full every month.
● Don’t max out, or get close to maxing out, the limits on your credit cards or revolving credit accounts.
● Pay off your debts, rather than transferring your balances from one account to another.
● Don’t open multiple new credit accounts all at one time or in rapid succession.
● Check your credit report annually and take action to correct any mistakes that might have been made.

The survey also found that in some ways consumers have become better-informed about credit scores in recent years. But in other ways, consumers still harbor misconceptions and misunderstandings.

With that in mind, here are a few important points to remember:

● Your credit score is based on your history of using credit and paying your debts. Your personal characteristics such as your income, age, marital status, home state, education or ethnicity have no effect on your credit history or credit score.
● You can improve your credit score by using credit responsibly. For example, your credit score can increase if you pay off a large credit-card balance, but decrease if you make a late payment on a credit-card or max out your limit on a credit-card.
● You’re legally entitled to a free look at your credit report (but not your credit score) once each year. If you also want to find out your score, you’ll have to pay a small fee. An exception occurs if you’ve been turned down for a mortgage loan or credit-card. In that case, you’re entitled to a free credit score as well.

The bottom line is that the more you know about credit, the better prepared you’ll be to use credit wisely--and that can be easier on your wallet.

© 2008 LendingTree, LLC. This story, "Better credit can save cash," is reprinted by the author with written permission of LendingTree, LLC.

The Puzzle of Home Price Indexes

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

U.S. home prices declined 15.3 percent, 8 percent or 4.6 percent from April 2007 to April 2008, according to Standard & Poor's, the National Association of Realtors and the U.S. government, respectively.

If you're puzzled by that sentence, you're not alone. Home price measures have been front and center this year as home values have fallen across the country, but amid all the uproar, very little attention has been paid to the startling discrepancies among these three measurements of house prices or the implications of this conundrum for home buyers and sellers.

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Foreclosures hurt condo owners

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

When too many condominium owners lose their units to foreclosure, condo associations feel the financial pain. That's bad news for homeowners and real estate investors who depend on these associations to take care of building maintenance, property insurance, utilities, landscaping and other amenities that are shared in common.

While most owners pay their association dues as they are obligated to do, a rising number have fallen behind for various reasons. The problem isn't insignificant: Approximately 24 million housing units are governed by some 300,800 homeowner associations in the United States, according to the Community Associations Institute, or CAI, a nonprofit organization of homeowner association managers in Alexandria, Va.

"If you've been foreclosed on and you have a lien against your home or (if you're in financial trouble due to) general economic conditions and you aren't able to pay your assessments, that creates some major problems for the association," says CAI spokesman Frank Rathbun.

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Breaks for big loans

By Marcie Geffner - Bankrate

Homeowners and homebuyers who live in expensive housing markets may be pleased to learn that the federal government recently increased the size of mortgages that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can purchase and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can insure. The higher loan limits are expected to help people in high-cost housing markets buy homes and refinance existing mortgages, though the extent of such aid won't be assured until the new programs are put into place.

The higher loan limits were part of the economic stimulus package that President Bush signed into law in February. At that time, the loan limit for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was $417,000 in high-cost markets, except for Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the limit was $625,000. The new limits will be based on a percentage of the median home price in each county and could be as high as $729,750 in some areas.

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