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March 30, 2009

The Obamas Will Use Their Own Money To Redecorate The White House

first-couple  What a great example the Obama’s are setting! New presidents have traditionally undertaken extensive redecoration efforts to their personal quarters reflect their own tastes, with a new Oval Office rug tradition ringing in as the priciest item.

The Obamas have decided to use their own money to redecorate the White House residence and Oval Office.  They have turn down the $100,000 in federal funds that is traditionally allotted to new presidents for such renovation projects.

The first couple has also turned down money from the White House Historical Association, the organization that financed a $74,000 set of china for the Bushes.

Former President George W. Bush spent over $60,000 on a new cream carpet designed by Laura Bush in 2000 to replace the deep blue rug that covered the space during the Clinton administration. Obama aides have said the president likes the Bush rug, and does not plan to replace it.

The Obama’s designer Michael Smith said that their casual style, their interest in bringing 20th Century American artists to the forefront and utilizing affordable brands and products will serve as a guide for his team to make the residence feel like their home.

This couple has incredible class, grace and finesse!

Washington Bans Dishwashing Liquids

dishwashing-liquidIn an effort to improve water quality in Washington waters, the state is reducing one of the most common causes of pollution:  phosphorus in household products.

There are over 260 bodies of water polluted because of nutrients like phosphorus in Washington State.  Phosphorus is a common ingredient in household detergents and fertilizers, where it is often described as “phosphate.” It is used in many industrial processes. Phosphorus also occurs naturally in soil and human and animal wastes.

In water, phosphorus behaves as a fertilizer, accelerating plant and algae growth. When those plants and algae die in the water, bacteria consume oxygen that is dissolved in the water. When this happens, less oxygen is available for fish and aquatic life that need oxygen to survive. Excess phosphorus in drinking water is difficult to remove, and also can require an increase in treatment chemicals which adds cost.

Industry and wastewater treatment plants account for about fifty percent of the phosphorus contributed to Washington waters. The other half comes from a variety of “nonpoint” sources which are hard to trace such as such as storm-water runoff, septic tanks and agriculture.

When we reduce our use of phosphorus-based products we can considerably improve this pollution problem. The best way to protect our water sources is to avoid putting phosphorus into it to begin with.

There are alternatives to phosphorus-containing detergents that can be just as effective at food removal and spot reduction as phosphorus-containing soaps – Palmolive has a phosphorus free version.  Ask your supermarket(s) about phosphorus free products.

Even if your state isn’t regulating phosphorus in its water systems (as yet) we all need to start protecting our lakes and ground water. I believe that regulators should also ban phosphorus from our laundry detergents.

March 24, 2009

Buying Your First Home In 2009? Claim $8K In Tax Credit!!!

house-on-money  Now is the time to purchase your first home!

Last month, President Obama signed into legislation a $789 billion economic stimulus package that included something very important: an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers!

This credit is a far cry from the one passed last summer.

Last summer Congress passed a $7,500 tax credit for first-time home buyers that sounded good at first glance. However, a closer look at the details revealed that buyers actually had to pay the tax credit back. It really was just a zero interest loan. Just 111 people in the whole country applied for the program.

But this new program is making it a real deal to purchase a first home. The tax credit does not have to be repaid and is for 10 percent (up to $8,000) of the price of the home.

A “first-time home buyer” is anyone who has not owned a principal residence for the last three years. Even if you’ve owned a vacation home, but not a principal residence, within the last three years you can still qualify for the credit. So if the last date you owned a home was three years ago from today, you could buy a home and qualify.

An important part of the program that everyone needs to understand is that to qualify, you have to buy the home before Dec 1, 2009. It’s retroactive to Jan. 1, so if you bought your first home any time after the first of the year you can still qualify.

There are income limits, though. Single people who buy their first home cannot make more than $75,000 to qualify for a full credit. And if you are married, you cannot have a household adjusted gross income of more than $150,000. If you make more than that, you may still be eligible for reduced credits.

There is a requirement that buyers must live in the new home for at least three years. If it is sold within three years the credit must be returned to the government. Exceptions will be made in certain cases such as death or divorce.

So, how does someone take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit? If you buy a new home between January 1 and December 1, 2009, you claim the credit when you file your 2008 taxes (before April 15 this year so you can get your money back now!) or when you file your 2009 taxes early next year.

Now is the time to purchase a home.  An $8,000 tax credit coupled with the lowest interest rates in 30 years, joined by an unusually large inventory of homes from which to choose, offered by sellers who have lowered their prices well below what they were worth just two years ago.

This perfect storm won’t last long; the buyer’s market window will be closing before the end of 2009. It’s time to buy.

For more information, including guidance for people who bought their first homes in 2008, visit IRS.gov.

To learn more about the overall implementation of the Recovery Act, visit Recovery.gov.

Real Estate: Home Sales UP 5.1% Nationwide

happy-house Nationally existing home sales were up 5.1 percent according to the National Association of Realtors which equals to 4.72 million homes sold.  This is the largest monthly sales increase since July 2003.

This was an unexpected but pleasant surprise since economists were anticipating another drop in sales to 4.45 million units from the 4.49 million annual rate in January.

More than 40 percent of sales nationally were of foreclosed properties or properties in default that were being sold for less than the mortgage balance and most sales were for homes at the bottom of the price ladder. The more expensive homes aren’t selling as well, and median prices continue to drop. Half of all homes sold last month went to first-time buyers.  Single family sales are selling better than condos because of differing mortgage availability.

Region

February 2009 Existing Homes Sales Increased By:

Northeast

15.6%

South

6.1%

Midwest

1%

West

2.6%*

 

* Sales in the West are up a sharp 30.4% over the year due to strong sales in foreclosure heavy regions of  Southern California and Las Vegas.

Region

February 2009 Median Price

February 2008 Median Price

Percentage

 

Northeast

$251,200

$263,258

4.8%

South

$146,700

$158,143

7.8%

Midwest

$131,000

$141,218

7.8%

West

$204,600

$265,980

30%

 

Economists and real estate agents are watching carefully to see if low mortgage rates — which went below 5 percent last week — will boost sales.  An $8,000 federal tax credit aimed at first-time buyers already has brought new shoppers into the market.

New listings in the northeast region fell by nearly 10 percent in February.  This is an indicator that the flood of available homes might be drying up.  If there in fact is less inventory, then that will help rebuild the real estate market.  If there is less supply and more demand for homes then the value of real estate will start to increase again.

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