Tedkramer's Blog

May 20, 2010

5 Ways to Use Your Income Tax Refund

Filed under: Uncategorized — tedkramer @ 11:36 pm

Top 5 Ways to Use a Tax Refund

Thousands of Americans are receiving income tax refunds from the U.S. government, with the IRS reporting an average refund of $2,940 this year. In the current economy, consumers can make strategic choices to make sure that refund pays off for them.

As a member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, my clients often ask me about financial matters, including advice on smart ways to manage income tax returns. According to Freedom Tax Relief (www.freedomtaxrelief.com), many tax refund recipients might be thinking of creative ways to spend that cash as the economy starts to recover. But before getting carried away, they suggest thinking more long term.

Freedom Tax Relief suggests the following as the top ways to wisely spend an income tax refund:

1. Pay down credit card and other high-interest debts (including payday loans). Few investments can top the rate of return for eliminating debt. Paying off credit card debt at typical interest rates effectively makes an investment that returns 20 percent or more per year. The only caveat: Be certain you change your mindset as well. If you pay off debts, only to charge up the credit cards or sign for a new car loan a few months later, you have ultimately gained nothing. If credit card debt is your problem, cut up or freeze your credit cards to ensure you do not re-create the same problem you have left behind. Use a debit card for future purchases that require a card.

Ready to pay down your debt? List and pay secured debts first (mortgage, car). Mortgage payments should take absolute priority. Then list unsecured debts (credit cards, loans) in order of highest interest rates. Make minimum payments on all but the highest-rate card. Use every cent of available income to make large payments on the card with the highest rate. When that card is paid off, apply the big payment plus the old minimum payment on the next-highest rate card until it is paid off. Continue until all debt is eliminated.

2. Create an emergency fund. The Great Recession has pointed out the importance of an emergency fund. Those who do not yet have enough readily accessible money set aside to cover several months’ worth of expenses should consider a tax refund a prime opportunity to create a fund that ultimately includes 6-9 months’ living expenses. These amounts are not necessarily equal to salary. Instead, they should include only what the household would spend if it were in dire straits. House these savings in a money market fund or rolling CDs so that the money earns interest and cannot easily be spent — but can be accessed in an emergency.

3. Make sure you have adequate insurance. Everyone should have health, auto, and home or renters insurance. If dependents rely on breadwinners’ income, look into life insurance. Consider an umbrella policy to protect from additional liability. And if the household could not survive without an income, purchase disability coverage. This is a huge savings step – one trip to the emergency room or one minor accident can easily end up costing thousands or tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

4. Fund the future. Contribute to retirement savings, whether an individual or Roth IRA, 401(k) or other plan.

5. Invest in the home. Homeowners might consider using refunds to cover major or minor maintenance to make sure no bigger (and more expensive) problems arise down the road. In addition, these capital improvements can create additional equity in a home.

No matter how big or small the amount, and despite the temptation to celebrate and splurge, make your choice on what to do with any refund carefully, experts say. Take time to make sure your money works for you and helps build wealth.

For more information, e-mail me, ted@tedkramer.com, and please forward this email on to anyone you believe will benefit from these tips.

April 13, 2010

RE/MAX Allegiance No. 1 Again

Filed under: Uncategorized — tedkramer @ 7:52 pm

According to the April 2010 issue of RISMedia Real Estate Magazine’s 2010 Power Broker Report, RE/MAX Allegiance had the highest sales volume of any RE/MAX company and ranked 22 compared to all real estate companies in the country. The only Virginia based real estate company with higher sales was Long and Foster, but it has over 12,000 agent compared to the 657 RE/MAX Allegiance agents. On average each RE/MAX Allegiance agent had $3,955,792 in sales, which is more than twice the sales of an average Long and Foster agent.

What this means to buyers and sellers of real estate is that when they use a RE/MAX Allegiance agent, like me, they are getting the benefit of more experienced agents, with better training and better office support, and that leads to a better result in their real estate transactions.

April 11, 2010

Video of Current Condo Listing

Filed under: Uncategorized — tedkramer @ 7:53 pm

I did my first video of a condo listing and posted it on Youtube. Take a look and tell me what you think.

4067 S. Four Mile Run #201

April 9, 2010

Good News In Our Local Market

Filed under: Uncategorized — tedkramer @ 10:31 pm

Yesterday I wrote that local real estate markets vary from the national market and locally, the market can vary by community, zip code, subdivision and even by street. Here is some local market information that just came out for Arlington:

For the month of March, both average and median prices  increased from March of 2009. The total number of units sold increased and the days on the market decreased. These are all positive indicators and point to a better period for home sellers.

Over the last 6 months, these prices peaked in December, reflecting the run-up in prices as the Nov. 30 deadline for the first time home buyer credit approached. Prices dropped in January reflecting both the extension of the home buyer credit and the typical seasonal drop. Prices for February and March increased and will probably continue to increase due to both the Spring market and the upcoming April 30 deadline for the first time home buyer credit.

April 8, 2010

Fact: All Real Estate Headlines Are Not Local

Filed under: Uncategorized — tedkramer @ 9:01 pm

None of us are immune to the constant stream of negative news about the real estate market. There’s no denying the fact that the market has suffered, along with our country’s economy, over the past couple of years.

Unfortunately, this has created a serious dilemma as many consumers unwittingly base their real estate decisions on national media reports. Those of us in the industry live by the term “all real estate is local,” and as a consumer, so should you—otherwise, you run the risk of making an irreversible real estate mistake.

The truth, which you won’t find in the national media, is that real estate markets not only vary from region to region but from county to county, neighborhood to neighborhood…even street to street. I know from my national network of leading real estate professionals, The Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, that there is tremendous variation in home sales prices from locality to locality, and that buyers and sellers are often heading into—or worse, avoiding all together—a real estate investment based on misinformation from national media reporting.

Therefore, if you are thinking about buying or selling a home, it’s essential that you talk to a seasoned real estate professional in the areas you’re considering. Keep the following tips in mind when considering a real estate sale or purchase:

1.  Consult with a local real estate professional—like a Member of Top 5—for the most up-to-date information on the local market.
2.  Ask for statistical reports and trend graphs—the hard facts. Real estate professionals have access to actual data that can be broken down into extremely finite components, such as a particular street or neighborhood.
3.  Ask for comparative reports for the last 3-4 months of the current year, versus the previous year. This will reveal the latest market trend and provide you with concrete facts.
4.  Media reports can vary widely based on state, city, and neighborhood – read, listen, learn, but always revert to the facts for the specific area in which you are looking, especially if you are relocating to a different state or region.
5.  Also take seasonal considerations into account. In vacation-destination areas, the numbers will vary greatly from national and state data.

For many real estate consumers, today’s market is an unbelievable opportunity to buy or move up to a different home. Don’t let the national headlines scare you away. Consult with a local real estate professional to get only the facts that matter to your specific situation and location. Please e-mail me for more information and pass this article along to others who might benefit from the real facts.

April 7, 2010

Hello world!

Filed under: Uncategorized — tedkramer @ 3:32 pm

This is my first post on my blog. My plan is to update it every couple of days. Be patient until I get in the habit.

I will include information about what is going on in various areas of Arlington. I help buyers and sellers of real estate in the Arlington, Virginia area and the surrounding Northern Virginia suburbs.  My hope is to provide information that is useful to people who live in this area or are thinking of moving here.

My website, www.tedkramer.com has lots of stuff you can review right now, including pre-set searches for either single family houses, townhouses/duplexes and condos in areas that are within 1 mile of each Metro stop in Arlington.

Here is some positive news on the real estate front. Yesterday, the National Association of Realtors reported that pending home sales in February 2010 by 8.2% from January. This is 17.3% above a year ago. This may be the result of the extension of the first time home buyer credit of $8,000 and the exising homebuyer credit of $6,500. To get these credits, buyers have to have a ratifiec contract no later than April 30, 2010 and they must close on the purchase no later than June 30, 2010.

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