Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 11

Deciding Between Two Houses?

by Samia S. Morgan

Shopping for a home can be an exciting time, but when house hunting you may find two houses in which you cannot decide which one is the right one. It might be that you have found what seems like two perfect homes and deciding between the two can be a difficult decision.

Purchasing a home is a major decision and shouldn't be taken lightly, so it is a good idea to approach it rationally and not be guided by emotion, which can be easier said that done.

Making a decision may at times be necessary if the seller has received multiple offers. Start the decision process by making a list of your needs as well as the pros and cons of each house.  Some things you'll want to compare include:

•Which neighborhood offers the most benefits? If the two homes you are looking at are in different neighborhoods, evaluate the pros and cons. Perhaps you have children and need to be close to schools or parks or even other families with children. Also consider the proximity to shopping, restaurants as well as your work commute, church, and other services? Are the streets maintained? Do homeowners landscape and maintain their homes nicely? How long will  Don't forget to inspect the other homes in the area, are they well maintained?

•Do your research on the crime statistics in the area. You can get this information from the local police or sheriff department.  You might find theft or vandalism to be more prevalent in one area than another.

•If you have children who are in school, having a good school system is an important aspect to consider in your decision. You can find school ratings, reviews and test scores at to help you make the decision that is right for you.

•In your list of pros and cons be sure to identify the specifics of the house and your current and future needs. Does the home have enough room? Is the layout what you want?st. Then, rate how each house measures up to each need on your list.

If you are still having difficulty deciding, it is a good idea to visit  each home at least two more times, at different times of the day to get a feeling for how the house and neighborhood look and feel. It can be a difficult decision but you want to make sure you are comfortable as it is one of the largest decisions you will make.



Selling Your Home - Tips Looking Forward Two Years

by Nancy Linebarier - Stager & Feng Shui Consultant

I recently did a staging consultation on a house that was going on the market. My clients were a young couple and they were expanding their family and buying their second home.

Because of their busy schedule they had left many repair and simple mini upgrades undone thinking they would get to them and not sure where to start or what issues to address.

Now because of this competitive market they need to address these” hanging” items right away.

Repairing doors, painting a ceiling stained from an old leak, broken kitchen door hinges.

The older bathroom that had a cracked and damaged counter top and sink.

Anyway you get the idea.

By doing just a couple of things differently they could have enjoyed their home more, spent less money, and they would have avoided a lot of stress.

Many of us know or have an idea when we may want to sell our home. So whether it is moving to a larger home, retiring or relocating, planning ahead is key.

Spend money where and when it makes sense;

  • Call in a design and or staging professional. It’s only needs to be a 1 hour consultation so that you have a good advise and a solid starting point and a style to work with. A designer will advise you how to spend wisely now, let you know expected costs and often has resources to share as well.
  • Look for and build a relationship with a handyman now.  It is especially important if you do not have the time or expertise to handle items as they come up. There are many great people in the profession that are willing to do very small jobs and can fill their schedule with your items. Work with someone who does “time and material”. Keeping your home in good order allows you to live more comfortably now and pays off later with fewer things to do in the midst of buying and moving.
  • Update small things. You do not have to wait for large projects. For example, replace outdated light fixtures (one room at a time is fine), paint one room, touch up baseboards.
  • Plan ahead with an “update” budget and account. Set aside a few dollars just for these types of expenses. Allow for design time, handyman costs, materials, fixtures. Doing some small things incrementally helps avoid sticker shock
  • Schedule. Plan that every month you accomplish tasks that need to be addressed. Stay disciplined. With busy career and family schedules if you are doing some of the projects yourself only plan what you have time for. ie. If you have only one hour Saturday morning only do a small item, change one fixture and feel good about that accomplishment.

Nancy Linebarier
Interior Designer and Stager
Feng Shui Consultant
Habitat Enhancements
Email Me 

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Home Equity Loans And Taxes

by Samia S. Morgan

Home equity loans are a great way to access the equity in your home and provide you with extra funds to pay off debt, remodel or even for a vacation. Most homeowners don't know that there are also some tax benefits in doing so as well.

 There are two basic types of home equity loans.  One type is a traditional loan where you borrow the whole amount of the loan, then pay it back with specified monthly payments over a specified term.  The second type is a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) where you obtain a fixed line of credit based on the equity of your house.   Typically with this type of loan you only pay interest on the amount that you borrow, and your monthly payments may vary also.

The interest is deducible up to the purchase price of the house plus any improvements.  Many people mistakenly think that all real estate related interest is deductible.  Several years ago the held true but tax reform has since been passed. However, for most people the tax deductions are still substantial, but you may want to consult a tax professional to determine how much you can deduct in your specific case.

However, even if the interest is not deductible, the savings associated with the lower interest rates charged on a home equity loan, will still be beneficial to pay off other higher interest credit cards or other loans.

It is important however to do the math and be responsible when considering these types of loans. Many homeowners found themselves in trouble when they borrowed against the equity in their home and then when housing values declined, they owed more than the house was worth.

BBB Alert - Banking

by Courtesy of Samia S. Morgan

    ▪    Banks seek new strategies to earn customers' trust
After years of relying on less-than transparent fees and risky products, bankers are attempting to rebuild trusting relationships with customers by interacting with them through more honest means. New laws and the crippling effects of the economic downturn have also prompted banks to find new ways to connect with customers. The New York Times/The Associated Press  

    ▪    IRS has turned its focus to small businesses in recent years
Small businesses have attracted a disproportional amount of Internal Revenue Service scrutiny in recent years, even as the audit rate for the nation's largest corporations declined to 25% from 42.6%, according to a study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The revelation highlights the need for enhanced tax protections for small business, Dean Zerbe writes. Forbes  

    ▪    Some credit card issuers extend protections to business customers
Bank of America, American Express and some other credit card issuers have extended protections recently mandated by law for consumer cards to their business customers, in part because it's more cost-effective to have one set of rules. But the rules could hamper credit to business borrowers, and, without legal regulations, issuers could choose to reverse the rules at any time, experts warn. The Wall Street Journal   

    ▪    Have a problem with your bank? Call BBB
If you're frustrated by coming up against dead ends in trying to challenge what seems like unfair treatment from your bank, take heart in this statistic: BBB has a 95% resolution rate with banks. BBB's Alison Southwick reminds customers that this doesn't mean everyone who complains gets their way, but BBB can help find out whether you've been treated fairly and legally and then take action if you haven't. WalletPop

Lead Editor:  Brooke Howell
Mailing Address:
SmartBrief, Inc.®, 1100 H ST NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20005

About BBB®

BBB is the leader in advancing marketplace trust - it is an unbiased, non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Across the U.S. and Canada, more than 120 BBBs serve communities by evaluating and monitoring nearly 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Learn more at

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Selling Your Home

by Samia S. Morgan

Interview with Samia Morgan on Selling Your Home


Understanding Mortgage Points

by Samia S. Morgan

When researching mortgage financing, potential homebuyers will often receive quotes from lenders that include both loan rates and "points." Many people are unaware as to exactly what is a point?

A point is a fee equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. For example, A 30-year, $200,000 mortgage might have a rate of 6 percent, but come with a charge of 1 point, or $2,000. A lender can charge 1, 2 or more points. There are two kinds of points: discount points and origination points.

 •Discount points:These types of points are really prepaid interest on the mortgage loan. Because, the more points you pay, the lower the interest rate on the loan and vice versa. Borrowers typically can pay anywhere from zero to 3 or 4 points, depending on how much they want to lower their rates. The advantage to this type of point is that it is tax-deductible.
 •Origination fee: This is charged by the lender to cover the costs of making the loan. The origination fee is deductible if it was used to obtain the mortgage and not to pay other closing costs. The
IRS specifically states that if the fee is for items that would normally be itemized on a settlement statement, such as notary fees, preparation costs, and inspection fees, it is not deductible.

There are many different factors that will effect whether or not you pay points as well as how many. The amount of money you have to put down at closing as well as how long you plan on staying in your house can be a factor. If you plan to stay in your home for a while, it may be worth reducing the interest rate by paying points. Be sure to have your lender carefully explain these fees if you have any questions.


BBB Alert - Check Scams

by Samia S. Morgan


Interview with Gene O'Neil - President of the Golden Gate BBB

California Legislation - Tax Credit up to $10,000 to Residents

by Andy Block - Mortgage Advisor

Beginning May 1, new California legislation takes effect that will provide a tax credit up to $10,000 to residents who buy their first home or a newly constructed home.

This legislation allocates $200 million to fund tax credits for qualified home purchases; $100 million is for buyers of new, unoccupied homes and the other $100 million is for first time buyers of existing homes.

The tax credits will be available to home buyers on a first-come, first-served basis. This is an incentive for your buyers to act now (as a reminder, the $100 million allocated for last year’s new home buyer program was depleted in just four months).

A notable feature of this year's legislation is that buyers of newly constructed homes may choose to reserve a tax credit prior to the close of escrow. This will become important as California nears the $100 million cap for homes that may not close escrow before the cap is reached. Buyers that are applying for the First-Time Buyer Credit (purchasing existing homes) will not be able to reserve the tax credit before escrow closes. Details about how to reserve the tax credit can be found here.

Below are some highlights of the new tax credit program:

  • Buyers of existing homes must close escrow between May 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010.
  • Buyers of new homes can reserve their credit by entering into an enforceable contract between May 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010. They must file the proper paperwork with the tax board and close escrow by August 1, 2011.
  • First-time home buyers are eligible whether they buy a newly built or an existing home.
  • Current homeowners looking to trade up must buy a newly built home in order to receive the tax credit.
  • If a taxpayer qualifies for both tax credits, the law specifies that that the New Home Credit be applied (only one tax credit is allowed per taxpayer).
  • The tax credit is worth up to 5% of the purchase price of the home, or $10K, whichever is less.
  • The credit will be allocated evenly over three years. If a buyer qualifies for the full $10,000 tax credit, they’ll get up to $3,333 per year. They will need to consult with their CPA for details and eligibility as related to their specific situation.
  • The buyer cannot be a dependent and the home purchased can't belong to a relative.
  • The buyer is required to live in the home for at least two years or forfeit the credit (i.e., repay it to the state).

And, although it’s a small window, there are some buyers that may be able to combine this new California tax credit with the $8,000 Federal Home Buyer Tax Credit for a total of $18,000 in tax credits. To do so, the purchase contract must be signed by April 30, 2010 (for Federal eligibility) and the purchase must close between May 1, 2010 (when the California program begins) and June 30, 2010 (when the Federal program ends). For the purposes of the California tax credit, the purchase date is defined as the date escrow closes.

As always, please call me to discuss specific situations or to schedule time to review your clients' mortgage or financial strategies.

Andy Block - Mortgage Advisor & Financial Advisor
Opes Advisors

Email Me

Direct: 650.931.0605
Fax: 650.931.0601

License #01096311
400 S. El Camino Real
Suite 250
San Mateo, CA 94402
Fax 650.931.0601

Opes Advisors is licensed as a registered investment advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is licensed as a Residential Mortgage Lender by the CA Dept of Real Estate.

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Top 10 First-Time Homebuyer Credit Tax Tips

by Samia S. Morgan

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2010

There is still time to claim the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit on your 2009 tax return. If you purchased or entered into a binding contract to purchase a home in 2009 or early 2010, you may be eligible to claim the First-Time Homebuyer Credit. Claiming this credit might mean a larger refund. Here are 10 things the IRS wants you to know about the First-Time Homebuyer Credit and how to claim it.

  1. You must buy – or enter into a binding contract to buy – a principal residence located in the United States on or before April 30, 2010. If you enter into a binding contract by April 30, 2010, you must close on the home on or before June 30, 2010.
  2. To be considered a first-time homebuyer, you and your spouse – if you are married – must not have jointly or separately owned another principal residence during the three years prior to the date of purchase.
  3. To be considered a long-time resident homebuyer, you and your spouse – if you are married – must have lived in the same principal residence for any consecutive five-year period during the eight-year period that ended on the date the new home is purchased. Additionally, your settlement date must be after November 6, 2009.
  4. The maximum credit for a first-time homebuyer is $8,000. The maximum credit for a long-time resident homebuyer is $6,500.
  5. You must file a paper return and attach Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit with additional documents to verify the purchase. Though you cannot file electronically, you can still use IRS Free File or tax-preparation software to prepare your return. The return must then be printed out and sent to the IRS, along with all required documentation.
  6. If before May 1, 2010, you enter into a binding contract to purchase a home before July 1, 2010, and you are claiming the credit, attach a copy of the pages from the signed binding contract to make a purchase showing all parties' names and signatures, the property address, the purchase price and the date of the contract. 
  7. New homebuyers must attach a copy of a properly executed settlement statement used to complete such purchase. Generally, a properly executed settlement statement shows all parties' names and signatures, property address, sales price and date of purchase. However, settlement documents, including the Form HUD-1, can vary from one location to another and may not include the signatures of both the buyer and seller. In areas where signatures are not required on the settlement document, the IRS encourages buyers to sign the settlement statement when they file their tax return -- even in cases where the settlement form does not include a signature line.
  8. Buyers of a newly constructed home, where a settlement statement is not available, must attach a copy of the certificate of occupancy showing the owner’s name, property address and date of the certificate.
  9. Purchasers of mobile homes who are unable to get a settlement statement must attach a copy of the executed retail sales contract showing all parties' names and signatures, property address, purchase price and date of purchase.
  10. If you are a long-time resident claiming the credit, the IRS recommends that you also attach documentation covering the five-consecutive-year period such as Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement or substitute mortgage interest statements, property tax records or homeowner’s insurance records.

For more information about the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit and the documentation requirements, visit


YouTube Video:

New Homebuyer Credit - Claim It:  English | Spanish | ASL

I am happy to help you or anyone you may know with any real estate need. Just give me a call!

Local Earth Day Events

by Samia S. Morgan

On April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day, which is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. This year's celebrations mark the 40th anniversary of this day of observance of the need to protect the earth. The San Francisco area offers many different events to celebrate Earth Day. Below are some of the exciting events planned in the area!

   The Marine Science Institute's "Earth Day on the Bay!"This event is on Saturday, April 17, 2010 from 8 am - 5 pm. This all day event is filled with family-friendly events geared towards providing fun, memorable, and meaningful experiences to bond you with San Francisco Bay, and the planet. Last year was was a tremendous success, and this year promises to be their biggest and best yet.  If you like music, mud and sea creatures, you are bound to have a great time! Create ocean crafts, enjoy our special presentations, or head out on the Bay on one of our four trips aboard our Research Vessel, the Robert G. Brownlee!

SCA San Francisco Earth Day Project
On April 24, 2010 9:00am - 12:00pm in San Francisco, CA. Join the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and the Golden Gate Audubon Society for day of fun projects in San Francisco. On Saturday, April 24, we will be joining Golden Gate Audubon Society at Harding Park in San Francisco. Get your hands dirty removing non-native invasive plants, and building trail to improve your city parks. Meet SCA members and alumni, SCA supporters, community members and SCA staff. of Where: Harding Park, Sunset & Lake Merced Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94132. Register for the San Francisco Earth Day Service Event at

Green Festival Event
On April 10th and 11th , over 225 visionary Speakers and Artists to motivate you, more hands-on workshops to keep you participating in the process, and more planet-friendly choices to help you activate your goals every day – all in a more intimate setting! Join Mayor Gavin Newsom to learn more about the Bay Area's new clean energy economy. Visit the Fair Trade Pavilion to learn how fair-trading your home, workplace and community with foods, home furnishings and textiles can make a world of difference. At the Green Design Pavilion, explore sustainable innovations within your budget that will help you make the most of your home and work environments. Don’t miss the Eco Fashion Show presented by Hi-Def Creations, Inc.—a showcase of the Bay Area’s eco-conscious fashion designers, make-up artists and hairstylists. Visit the Green Kids' Zone throughout the weekend to find activities and storytelling for the whole family.


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Contact Information

Photo of Samia S. Morgan, Inc. Real Estate
Samia S. Morgan, Inc.
dba Samia Realty Group
BRE# 00967165
San Mateo CA 94403