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November 30, 2009

From Hither, Thither and Yon…

Michael Kurtianyk

I like it that Maryland’s State Highway Administration (SHA) is testing a new mixture for pre-treating roads this winter. It seems that the $25,000 pilot program will treat this winter’s roads with a mixture of salt water and a sugar beet molasses byproduct.


This mixture, which can be found commercially as “Ice-Bite,” is more eco-friendly and is said not to stick to the tires of the vehicles. Let’s hope that the SHA will provide the public with feedback as the winter goes along. If it works, great; if not, then we can – and should – try something else.


So, if you’re driving on Interstate-70, between Interstate-270 and MD-32, you might discover first-hand an innovative, cost-effective method for treating our roads.


On Crashing a White House Party…


Did you read about the couple from Virginia who crashed a dinner for the Prime Minister of India? It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it’s not. Tareq and Michaele Salahi, of Northern Virginia, crashed a state party, passed through security, and even had their picture taken with Vice President Joe Biden.


It turns out that that these publicity-seekers are looking to be on a reality show called “Real Housewives of Washington, DC.” There was a camera crew filming Mrs. Salahi (a former Washington Redskins cheerleader) getting her hair done hours before the party.


How sad is it, that a couple like this has to stoop so low as to crash a White House party just for the publicity? It demeans the stateliness of the presidential party, and reminds me of the other recent publicity hounds – the Balloon Boy and his family in Colorado.


The White House must forcefully look at this security breach – how is it that an uninvited couple made it through security? Makes you wonder what’s happening at our nation’s borders, too!


On the Local Housing Market…


I’ve been asked with increasingly frequency lately this question: Should I sell my house now, or wait until after the holidays? After discerning where they live (for if it’s a “hot spot,” then now is the time), I explore the reasons why a seller would want to move. If the reason has to do with job relocation or loss, divorce, downsizing, or the like, then I advise sellers to wait until after the holidays.


Now why would a salesperson suggest postponement of a potential sale? Because the reality is that we are in a normal real estate cycle, and have been for a few years. Such a cycle is one which consists of a relatively strong spring/summer market, as parents want to have their children begin a school year in August rather than mid-year. This is followed by a downturn in September, a slight uptick in October and November (people wanting to move in for the holidays), and then a slow winter as people gear up for the Spring season.


Thus, if a seller doesn’t have to sell in December, then, the best thing would be to wait until the Spring market. Why list a house for sale, have it sit there through the holidays, then watch as fresh houses come on the market in the Spring? Savvy buyers will know how long a house has been listed, and if a house goes on the market at the wrong time, then the stigma of staleness will be attached to the house.


One cautionary note: the Spring market may arrive sooner, locally, than in years past. Previously, the spring market began after Easter/Passover, and when the weather broke from cool temperatures to warmer temperatures. However, this year I predict that the Spring market could arrive as early as mid-January. Why? Look no further than the Extended Homebuyer Tax Credit Plan.


Under this plan, a first-time homebuyer who purchases a home between November 7, 2009, and April 30, 2010, would receive a tax credit of $8,000 from the government. To qualify as a first-time home buyer, the purchaser or his/her spouse may not have owned a residence during the three years prior to the purchase. Single buyers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with incomes up to $225,000 may receive the maximum tax credit. These income limits are up from $75,000 for a single buyer and $150,000 for married couples.


My prediction is that homebuyers (first-time and otherwise) will wait through the holidays, save their money, make sure they still have a stable job, and then go out in January to begin looking for a home. Their deadline is April 30 (acknowledging the extension until July 1, if necessary), and many may want to get in before March 30, before filing their taxes by April 15.


Let the buying begin!


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