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Even though it’s cold outside, baby, it’s warm inside the carousel at Coolidge Park in North Chattanooga. One dollar per person per ride and it even accepts credit cards.

Interested in the history of the grand old lady? Click here.

Check out this link to see current operating hours for the carousel.

Think you might want to live within walking distance of the park? Click here for currently available homes within just a half mile.

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Julia Odom enjoys long walks on the beach, debating the restoration vs. renovation question and hanging out with plumbing inspectors

Visit her website to search for homes.

Do you have a Chattanooga area image you’d like to share (credit given),

community event to promote or maybe even a crime to report?

Don’t want to miss a thing?? Subscribe to Chattanooga Real Estate.

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{{You’re gonna have to hang in there with me, this one definitely gets filed under ‘boring but important’}}

Today, HUD announced new rules for FHA mortgages that will go into effect in the near future (“summer” whatever that may mean). Those who don’t eat, breathe, and live real estate finance like I do may not know this, but FHA has become the go-to loan for most borrowers, especially first-timers and lower income, but really for everyone who doesn’t have 20% to put down.

Here are the proposed changes:

Anyone with a credit score under 580 is required to put down 10%

Hey HUD, maybe we should call you Captain Obvious! In practice, most banks aren’t lending to anyone with a score of less than 620 these days anyway so this one won’t have much of an impact.

The up front mortgage insurance is being raised from 1.75% to 2.25%

For a $100,000 loan amount, this means that the house would cost you an extra $500 which can be financed into the loan. Again, not great but not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.

Seller concessions limited to 3%

This is the one that gives me heartburn. What’s a seller concession, you ask? In most cases, it’s your closing costs. With FHA, you can get a loan with as little as 3.5% down. For first time buyers without a lot of savings, that means you can buy a $100,000 house with not much more than $3,500 out of your pocket, assuming the seller pays your closing costs. That last part is the kicker. Currently, the seller is allowed to contribute up to 6%. And 6% is plenty when you are talking about a $100,000 loan. You aren’t usually going to go over $6,000. But you are probably going to go over $3,000, the new limit in this scenario.

And if you are looking at an even smaller amount, say $50,000?  Three thousand dollars would probably cover your closing costs so you could buy a $50k house for as little as $1,750 out of pocket. Now, with the seller only contributing $1,500 toward your closing costs, that almost doubles what you’re going to have to pull out of the old tin can in the back yard. That’s HUGE!  Anyone looking to live in a $50,000 – they’re rare, but they do exist in Chattanooga – probably doesn’t have that extra $1,500.

And that’s why I don’t like this change. Looking at houses in the $200,000+ range? You probably won’t notice a difference. But all of those first time buyers who are near and dear to my heart (yes, it’s far more gratifying to sell someone their first house), to put it bluntly, are getting screwed.

So to all those who need to use FHA financing and who don’t have an extra couple thousand dollars in your mattress, now just became an even better time to buy. Don’t wait until ‘summer’!

Click to search Chattanooga houses for sale.

Disclaimer: all those closing costs number I’m throwing around up there don’t mean that I (or anyone else) is offering a loan with those exact costs, those are big round numbers to illustrate the point.

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Julia Odom enjoys long walks on the beach, debating the restoration vs. renovation question and hanging out with plumbing inspectors

Visit her website to search for homes.

Do you have a Chattanooga area image you’d like to share (credit given),

a community event to promote or maybe even a crime to report?

Don’t want to miss a thing?? Subscribe to Chattanooga Real Estate.

Free money!

OK, so I’m not going to get into the whole ‘I’m-a-taxpayer-so-it-isn’t-really-free’ debate. The fact of the matter is that this is the closest to a free ride that you’re ever going to find.

What are you talking about, Jules?

Why, the Homebuyer Tax Credit, of course!

Time is running out to take advantage of this Fab. U. Lous. opportunity. As of today, you have 101 days to get a house under contract and then you’ve got another 60 days from then to get it closed. Some buyers that I’ve talked to have casually mentioned something along the lines of ‘Oh, they’re going to extend it again, so I’ll probably just wait a while longer.’

To those I say: WHAT, ARE YOU CRAZY???

There’s a chance that it might get extended. But then there’s also a chance that interest rates, which are hovering around 5% right now will go up. Up a lot. In the very near future. Very smart people are predicting that for very good reasons. Will it happen? I’ll let you know when my crystal ball gets back from the shop. At the very least they aren’t going to stay where they are indefinitely.

So if you are a first time buyer (that includes anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the last 3 years) or if you have owned and lived in your current home for 5 of the last 8 years then you probably qualify for either the ‘first time buyer credit’ of 10% (max of $8,000) or the ‘move up credit’ of 10% (max on this one is $6,500).

There are income and purchase price limits but those won’t apply to most of you looking for a house to buy in Chattanooga or northwest Georgia. If those limits do apply to you? Well, sorry, but my heart doesn’t exactly bleed for you ($225,000 is the income limit for couples and $800,000 is the purchase price limit). You’re probably doing just fine on your own. Thanks for being in the upper income tax bracket and covering for the rest of us poor schlubs!

It doesn’t really matter what house you are buying. It’s the buyer that qualifies for the tax credit, not the house.

So if you’ve been sitting on the fence wondering if you should buy now or wait until later…STOP WAITING! DON’T MISS OUT! YOU’LL ONLY BE KICKING YOURSELF LATER!

And that was my public service announcement for today.

You’re welcome.

Interested in seeing what’s out there for sale right now, this very day? Click to search Chattanooga metro area homes for sale.

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Julia Odom enjoys long walks on the beach, debating the restoration vs. renovation question and hanging out with plumbing inspectors

Visit her website to search for homes.

Do you have a Chattanooga area image you’d like to share (credit given),

a community event to promote or maybe even a crime to report?

Don’t want to miss a thing?? Subscribe to Chattanooga Real Estate.

I talked before about what you can do to whip your home into shape for less than $100. Now we’re going to look at a few finishing touches  you can add if you’ve got a little more cash-ola in the old bank account. These will make a world of difference if you’re trying to sell.

Replace light fixtures

From lighting to faucets to door knobs, fixtures can date your home like almost nothing else. Most are pretty simple to replace. If you don’t know what you are doing, call in a pro.

Maybe you can picture your name in lights with that old used-to-be shiny-brass Broadway style vanity light. You know the one I’m talking about. It points its bulbs straight at you with the intensity of a thousand suns (OK, maybe only with the intensity of its 10 big orbs, but still – NOT flattering).

Or perhaps your ceiling fan sports a nice wicker insert and squeaks like the swinging door in a John Wayne film. Replace those suckers with something simple and neutral but most of all….manufactured in this millennium.

Total cost? As little as $100 or as much as you can afford.

Replace bathroom counter tops

Cigarette burns, a swirling kaleidoscope of colors, or just downright ugly. Whatever the reason, it may be time to replace the vanity tops. These days you can get a granite counter with built in undermount sink for a couple hundred bucks. Throw in another hundred for installation. Boom! Instant update.

New Faucets

Maybe you have the ever lovely not-so-shiny chrome vanity faucet with gorgeous faux crystal (i.e. dirty looking plastic) control. Nothing says cheap like that faucet. It probably leaks a little anyway. So replace it with a brushed nickel or antique bronze fixture for an instant update. Find a simple new light fixture that matches that spiffy new faucet you just put in. Total cost of your bathroom makeover? About $200-500 depending on what you pick out and whether you’re handy enough to do it yourself.

Replace worn kitchen counters

If you are in a high end market, you’re going to need to splurge to update your kitchen to the standards expected but if you’re in a middle of the road sort of development, getting rid of those mauve counter tops will make a world of difference for a modest amount of money. No need to get some crazy custom color, just a nice neutral, new, clean looking counter. Costs are going to vary widely but installing new laminate counter tops in a  typical smallish kitchen can be done for as little as $500.

Take down that nasty wallpaper

Even if it isn’t actually nasty, chances are it isn’t attracting any buyers. They walk in the door and automatically take a couple grand off the price because they KNOW what a pain it is to take down. And that’s why I’m including it as a $500 makeover item. If you do it yourself, it won’t cost anywhere near that much in dollars but it might be twice that price in aggravation. So spare your buyers and do it for them. They, and your asking price, will thank you for it.

Total cost: Maybe $100/room for removal supplies and paint.

Remember – Elbow grease is always free!

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Julia Odom enjoys long walks on the beach, debating the restoration vs. renovation question and hanging out with plumbing inspectors

Visit her website to search for homes.

Do you have a Chattanooga area image you’d like to share (credit given),

a community event to promote or maybe even a crime to report?

Don’t want to miss a thing?? Subscribe to Chattanooga Real Estate.

Hixson, Soddy Daisy & North Hamilton County Residential Real Estate Sales through the Chattanooga MLS

All active listings as of 1/5/10: 445
Pending or contingent listings (under contract) as of 1/5/10: 64
Residential listings closed (sold) during December 2009: 57
Number of months to sell current actives at December’s sales pace: 7.8

Under $100,000

Active, residential listings: 42
Pending or contingent listings: 18
Residential listings closed during December 2009: 10
Number of months to sell current actives at December’s sales pace: 4.2

$100,000-200,000

Active, residential listings: 202
Pending or contingent listings: 33
Residential listings closed during December 2009: 30
Number of months to sell current actives at December’s sales pace: 6.7

$200,000-400,000

Active, residential listings: 153
Pending or contingent listings: 11
Residential listings closed during December 2009: 16
Number of months to sell current actives at December’s sales pace: 9.6

Over $400,000

Active, residential listings: 48
Pending or contingent listings: 2
Residential listings closed during December 2009: 1
Number of months to sell current actives at December’s sales pace: ’bout 2-4 years (that one hurts)

What does all of this mean? All the way up to a $200k price tag, you can expect a home in Hixson or Soddy Daisy to sell within a reasonable time. The higher you get in that range, expect it to start looking more like a 10 month supply. Once you start moving into the higher end of the market you’ll see significantly increased marketing times.  Settle in for a long wait if you’re priced over $400k (there was only one sold in November and none in October in that price range). The good news for those guys? They’re living in a beautiful house that probably has a stunning view or, better yet, lake access. Life could definitely be worse.

These stats cover all of Hamilton County – makes it a lot easier to draw conclusions when you’ve got a more data to work with. Care to see how it looked last month? Click here.

And, yes, I’m still a big ol’ real estate geek…

All Chattanooga/Hamilton County Residential Real Estate Sales through the Chattanooga MLS

All active listings as of 1/5/10: 2,467

Pending or contingent listings (under contract) as of 1/5/10: 295

Residential listings closed (sold) during December 2009: 262

Number of months to sell current actives at December’s sales pace: 9.4

Under $100,000

Active, residential listings: 558

Pending or contingent listings: 87

Residential listings closed during December 2009: 78

Number of months to sell current actives at December’s sales pace: 7.2

$100,000-200,000

Active, residential listings: 910

Pending or contingent listings: 124

Residential listings closed during December 2009: 106

Number of months to sell current actives at December’s sales pace: 8.6

$200,000-400,000

Active, residential listings: 677

Pending or contingent listings: 69

Residential listings closed during December 2009: 67

Number of months to sell current actives at November’s sales pace: 10.1

Over $400,000

Active, residential listings: 323

Pending or contingent listings: 15

Residential listings closed during December 2009: 11

Number of months to sell current actives at December’s sales pace: 29

And just because we all like to see how the other half lives, here are the actual sales for December over $400,000

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Julia Odom enjoys long walks on the beach, debating the restoration vs. renovation question and hanging out with plumbing inspectors

Visit her website to search for homes.

Do you have a Chattanooga area image you’d like to share (credit given),

a community event to promote or maybe even a crime to report?

Don’t want to miss a thing?? Subscribe to Chattanooga Real Estate.

Another brand spanking new report, this one for my St. Elmo neighbors.

All St. Elmo Real Estate Sales through the Chattanooga MLS

All active listings as of 1/5/09: 23

Pending or contingent listings (under contract) as of 1/5/09: 1

Residential listings closed (sold) during December 2009: 2

Number of months to sell current actives at December’s sales pace: a respectable 11.5

And because everybody is a nosy neighbor, here’s what actually sold in December:

DOM= Days on Market

Notice anything there? Not much sold (although it’s a fairly small area without a great deal on the market) but what did sell, went awfully fast. I’m not saying that everything in St. Elmo goes that quickly but that just goes to show you that if you price it right it will go, and quickly.

Want to know more about this charming little community? Click here for a recent blog post or see what’s for sale right now.