Incentives get consumers to buy

by Dan Krell &copy 2009

As “Cash for Clunkers” (C4C) winds down this week it is clear that consumers are pushed off the fence to buy cars when given a financial incentive. Housing’s stimulus, in the form of a first time home buyer tax credit, is said to have been pushing home buyers off of the fence too.

The first time home buyer tax credit was first introduced in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The initial credit allowed first time home buyers, who purchased a primary residence in the United States in 2008, to claim a tax credit up to $7,500 on their 2008 federal tax return that was to be repaid in 15 installments beginning in 2010. First time home buyers must meet specific criteria to qualify for the credit (

The tax credit was extended and expanded to include first time home buyer purchases in 2009. The expanded credit that can be claimed is currently up to $8,000, however does not have to be repaid. Home buyers can claim this credit in several ways. The current first time home buyer credit is set to expire (to qualify, the home must be purchased before December 1st) December 1st, 2009 (

Some housing experts point to recent spikes in home sales as success for the first time home buyer credit. In an August 12th podcast, National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun stated that there has been “consistent momentum” with the first time homebuyer credit such that there is pressure to expand and extend the program. Comparing the C4C stimulus to the first time home buyer tax credit, Dr. Yun explains that the effects of the C4C on the economy is temporary whereas the effects of the home buyer credits have a longer lasting effect on the economy and real estate market (

As the window to claim the first time home buyer credit is quickly closing, there is strong support to extend and expand the current first time home buyer credit. In a June 10th press release (, Senator Johnny Isakson made a case to expand the current incentive. Senator Isakson stated; “The first-time homebuyer tax credit has made a difference. First-time home buyers used it and the market stabilized, but we don’t have a recession in first-time home buyers. We have a recession in the move-up market…”

Senator Isakson, expressing concern over the inability for “move-up” home buyers to buy and sell homes due to a lack of equity and liquidity, introduced bi-partisan legislation on June 10th. The bill seeks to expand the incentive to home purchases made in 2010, increase the tax credit from $8,000 to $15,000, and eliminate home buyer income caps. Basically, if the legislation passes, any home buyer would be able to claim the credit. Currently, the bill (S.1230) is in committee.

Other bills to extend the tax credit were introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives. Among them, H.R. 1245 (introduced by Rep. Ken Calvert) also calls for an increase in a home buyer tax credit to $15,000.

It is clear that the current tax credit is effect to motivate first time home buyers to get off the fence. However, some experts state we cannot know the full effect of the incentive until we measure the data.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 24, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell

Why Title Insurance is Important

Title insurance should not be an enigmatic item listed on the settlement sheet, and there should be no question as to its validity. Here is a very basic explanation of why title insurance is important.

Title insurance, like other forms of insurance, is governed by the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA). Title companies and title attorneys are licensed by the State to sell title insurance.

Title insurance is important because it’s an assurance that the home buyer receives a clean title from the home seller. Clearing a title of all liens and mortgages is not always an easy task. The first step is for the title attorney to order a title abstract.

A title abstract is simply a synopsis of the chain of title, or a history of ownership, that has been recorded in the office of land records in the county court house. The title abstract indicates all owners, mortgages, liens, encumbrances, and easements attached to the property. The title abstract also indicates previous sales and mortgage and lien satisfactions.

Because all the information in the title abstract is obtained from recorded information, it is inevitable that mistakes occur. For example, it is common for mortgage release letters to be lost, misfiled, or never filed at all. Sometimes there are years of information that is lost or destroyed resulting in a break in the chain of title.

Once received, the title attorney will review the abstract and look for any blemishes including unreleased mortgages or liens and breaks in the chain of title. If there are any blemishes found, they need to be cured before issuing a clean title. The home seller can remedy most blemishes by supplying all required documents or paying to release attached liens and mortgages. Sometimes it may be necessary for the home seller to show their title insurance policy so as to indicate they were given a clean title.

Sometimes there are items not filed in the office of land records that may affect the ownership of your home. Some of these items may be heirs of previous owners or undocumented lien holders who may make claim to your home. Title insurance can protect you from these claims. It is rare, but making a claim with the title insurance company can resolve these issues.

Lenders believe title insurance is important. If you are obtaining a mortgage to purchase the home, your lender will require “lender’s coverage” title insurance. The lender’s coverage protects the lender in case there are any unrecorded liens, easements, or other unrecorded defects.

Just as in other insurance policies there are different levels of coverage of title insurance. A basic owner’s title insurance policy typically assures clear title to the property and covers against incorrect signatures, on documents, forgery, fraud, and defective recordation of covenants, encumbrances or judgments.

Extended coverage may include coverage for building permit violations from previous owners, covenant violations from previous owners, living trusts, and a variety of encroachments and forgeries. Title insurance does not cover against liens placed after the effective date of the policy.

Policies and limitations vary, consult your title attorney for more information. Some policies cost more than others because of the difference in title insurance companies and levels of coverage. When comparing title companies, you should also ask about title insurance coverage and rates. You can access more information about title insurance at the MIA website,

by Dan Krell

Copyright © 2006

Homebuying tips for First Time Homebuyers

Every homebuyer needs information and support to help them maneuver through the sometimes confusing and often overwhelming home buying process. Even for veteran home owners, who are moving up to a larger home, the process can be perplexing and overwhelming. If you are a first time homebuyer.  However, you will definitely need specific information to help you through the wonderful experience that is home buying. Here are a few tips for first time homebuyers.

One of the most important tips for first time homebuyers is to look to the professionals who assist you through the process. Choosing the right professionals whom you can trust is important. Your lender, Realtor, home inspector and title company can make the difference between having a great first time home buying experience and a regretful experience.

The very first thing that you should do is consult with a lender to get pre-qualified so as to know how much home you can purchase. In order to do that, you need to find a lender. From the outside, choosing a lender might seem as simple as looking at the rates in the paper to see who will give you the best interest rate. However, it is not that simple. The rates and ads that appear in the paper are usually teasers to get you to call. I have found that many buyers that I have worked with either have used their local banks or have developed a relationship with a loan officer from a local mortgage company. Using your local bank or credit union can be good because they know you and want to make you happy to keep your business. Who ever you chose, make sure they can deliver what they promise.

I have found that many homebuyers do not put much thought into the Realtor that helps them purchase their home. Some of the ways that homebuyers have found their realtor include referral, internet, and open houses. Many Realtors have a strong referral base of past clients and friends where many homebuyer referrals originate. The referral is a wonderful way to find a Realtor because the person that referred you obviously trusts the Realtor to help you with your major purchase. Make certain the Realtor you chose can give you the time you need, as a first time homebuyer, to help you understand the process and make the right decisions.

Two of the lesser considered professionals that play a role in your home buying experience are the home inspector and the title company (or attorney). Choosing competent home inspector is important to the quality of your home inspection. In choosing a home inspector, you should interview them to understand their philosophy in conducting the home inspection and what kinds of defects are important to address. In searching for a home inspector, one good place to start is the American Society of Home Inspectors (

Choosing a title company or title attorney can be a bit more confusing because title work and title insurance seems very straight forward. You should interview a few title companies or attorneys before you choose so you can get an idea how they will conduct your settlement. Again, the title company or attorney should give you enough time so as you can understand the legal issues that surround your home purchase.

If you are uncertain where to begin in choosing the right professionals to help you in your purchase, you might consider attending first time home buyer classes. One place to start is the Housing & Communities Initiatives, Inc. (, a local non-profit organization.

As a first time homebuyer, you will require additional time and support from the professionals who will help you buy your first home. Referrals and interviewing is the good way to start to develop the necessary relationship to build your trust.

By Dan Krell.
Copyright © 2005.