Notes & Scribbles

Tax Credit ~ The First-Time Home-Buyers’ $8,000.  Tax Credit is, of course, the talk of the town (the nation, actually). It is acknowledged that it is and has been helpful in spurring the real estate market (activity in related price ranges is steady if not occasionally feverish… especially lately!)   There is much talk about extending the deadline from the current November 30th date to an as-yet-undetermined date in 2010.  While it is generally agreed that the housing market is turning the corner, and a large part of this growth is related to the tax credit, there is also concern being expressed about dispersing more government money in light of recent history.  So… nothing is decided as of now. There are talks about plans to:

  • Extend it to all home-buyers,
  • Not extend it at all,
  • Increase it to $15,000.,
  • Extend it and keep the terms the same,
  • Offer it only to service members who have been out of the country,
  • Etc.

The important thing to remember if you are a first-time home-buyer, or care about one, is that right now there is an opportunity to get an $8,000. tax credit. That means real money coming to you when you file for 2009.  We do NOT know how the debate will play out regarding extending or not extending it… AND right now there is still time to take advantage of it, but you must act now.

Oil Tanks (Reminder & Update) ~ The standards for levels of contaminants are under review. In particular, ethyl benzene and naphthalene have been changed to a “carcinogenic” classification, and therefore cleanup requirements are also changing. There is now concern over the possibility of  fumes potentially penetrating a home from underground & causing harm. Remember, if you have an oil tank underground on your property that has not been decommissioned, or if you are a Buyer considering a property with one: Underground oil tanks have a life of approximately 40 years.  After that, they leak… and what they leak is toxic.  Homeowners can be held liable for damage to soil from leaking tanks, and therefore, proper soil testing and decommissioning through a DEQ-certified environmental service is the wise choice.  If you are a Seller in this situation, I would highly recommend just doing this now and getting it out of the way.  It makes your home more attractive to potential Buyers, removes an objection, and protects you and the environment at the same time.

Loans ~ There are truly all kinds of loans out there right now for all kinds of Buyers.  FHA loans are a  current favorite, and the FHA 203 (b) is a little easier to qualify for than most conventional loans these days. There are also “Flex”  loans for teachers (administrators & school nurses can also apply!), police, and firefighters. Other than the FHA loan I mentioned, you usually want a credit score of 640 or higher, and for all of them you’ll need 3 to 3.5% down. Talk to your favorite mortgage broker for more information, or give me a call and I can refer you to some great resources.

Homes on Slopes ~ Some precautions, in light of current information gained from recent slides in Portland, Lake Oswego and surrounding areas are worth noting:

  • At no point should drain water be discharged onto slopes in an uncontrolled manner. Investigate energy dissipation devices to prevent erosion at discharge points.
  • Make sure that any fill used on the slope is “engineer-fill”.  Not all fill is able to handle the specialized drainage requirements of sloped properties.
  • Make sure gutters remain clear in order to prevent over-saturation in areas not able to handle runoff.
  • Keep drainage ditches or berms clear during the rainy season so that they do not direct water into areas where erosion & damage may occur.
  • Keep drain inlets, outlets and weep holes at foundation, retaining walls, driveways etc clean at all times.  Remove debris to prevent clogging.
  • Notice any wet spots on the property.  This may indicate either natural seepage, or leaking water or sewer line problems. Seek professional advice immediately.
  • Regularly check irrigation systems. Drip systems are preferred on hillsides.
  • Make sure roof drainage is not connected to a subsurface disposal system unless it has been approved by a geotechnical engineer.
  • Keep water from accumulating next to foundations, retaining walls or basements.
  • Guard against over-saturation on the hillside, as once this has occurred, damage can result very quickly and without warning.
  • Seek the advice of a good Engineering firm. One source is:  GeoPacific Engineering, Inc.

More Random Tips:

Disclose, Disclose, Disclose!

Once upon a time there was a transaction wherein the Realtor representing the Buyer noticed some abnormalities in the Seller’s answers to questions on the Disclosures.  FYI, when you are selling a home, the best and only rule is “Disclose, disclose, disclose!”.  In this situation, the Seller, who had lived in the house for some time, seemed to have excellent knowledge of some things and no knowledge at all of things such as whether the roof had leaked while he/she lived there, whether there were any drainage problems on the property, and whether the main systems of the house were in good working order.  A quick call to the Seller’s agent resulted in answers forthcoming that the Seller had not experienced any leaking from the roof, nor noticed any drainage problems, and that the systems were all working just fine.  I think Seller’s get nervous when filling out these disclosures as they can seem like being asked to air your dirty laundry.  Disclosures, however, are really important to the Seller and the Buyer alike.  Basically, you just want to look at each question and answer to the best of your ability and knowledge.  Sometimes an “N/A” is in order.  Sometimes a “Yes” or a “No” is really called for, and sometimes an “Unknown” is absolutely fine.  If you are a  Seller and fail to disclose something about the property, and it becomes apparent after closing, you could possibly be liable for misrepresenting on your Disclosures… even if it was just a slip of the pen or a spat of bad memory.  It’s much better to just let it all hang out, and your Buyers will appreciate your obvious candor.  A Buyer feels much more comfortable seeing a few dings on the disclosures than they do wondering at odd answers or obvious misstatements… such as that all work was done with permits when the naked eye can tell that some was not.  Again, sometimes you have to take a moment to remember… especially if you’ve lived in a home for a long time.   So anyhoo, better just to lay it all out there.  Calms everyone right down, protects you as the Seller & sets the tone for a good transaction.

Oil Tanks & the DEQ

Speaking of instructional situations…  Make sure that when you are purchasing or selling a home whose heating system has been updated at some point, you check to find out if there was ever an underground oil tank on the property.  Dianne and I have written posts on this in the past and you can find them in the archives here, but it is very important to find out 1) If one was/is on the property, 2) If so, was it decommissioned?, and 3) If it was decommissioned, was a DEQ Certificate obtained?  (You can call DEQ, give them your address, and find out pretty quickly.) This last question is the kicker, and I find that people are confused about it.  If you are a Seller and bought your home with the understanding that it had an oil tank that was decommissioned, but you did not find out if there was a DEQ Certificate and there is NOT one… You will most certainly be required to provide one before closing (Your Buyer does not want to inherit this situation for themselves for when they sell in the future).  This involves calling a DEQ-licensed Environmental Services provider.  The process includes locating the underground tank, taking soil samples, checking the decommission job if one was done, and verifying that it was done to DEQ standards.  If all this checks out, you can get yourself a DEQ Certificate to pass on to your Buyer.  So… better to check this out before putting your property on the market rather than getting surprised during a transaction.  And Buyers… remember to ask your Realtor about this for more clarification.

Feel free to call Dianne or myself any time for more information on any of the tidbits we provide.  We love to help our Property Blotter readers and clients!  Hope this was helpful to you today.

Very Best,