Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-6 of 6

$7,500 Home Buyers Tax Credit Explained

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CRS, GRI

A recent NAR survey stated that most Americans are unaware of the $7,500 home buyer tax credit. Some details from the National Association of Home Builders:

§ The tax credit is available for first-time home buyers only. See FAQ link below for the definition of first-time home buyers, as it is not what it seems.

§ The maximum credit amount is $7,500.

§ The credit is available for homes purchased on or after April 9, 2008 and before
July 1, 2009.

§ Single taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000 and married couples with incomes up to $150,000 qualify for the full tax credit.

§ The tax credit works like an interest-free loan and must be repaid over a 15-year period.

The National Association of Home Builders has a great FAQ site here.  This tax credit is available in the Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Hampton Roads area.

Defective Chinese Drywall Causing Health Problems

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CRS, GRI

Sounds like the makings of a bad joke on late night TV, but the problem is real and may have affected a small percentage of homes built in Hampton Roads and to a larger extent homes across the country.  I have even learned that a large well known builder in the area is negotiating to buy back some homes that were built in Chesapeake due to using this product.  

Apparently, the defective Chinese drywall was used in some new construction projects since approximately 2004.  With the building boom around the nation, drywall was in short supply and untested Chinese drywall was imported to meet demand.  

It appears the chemical make up of the drywall is causing health and material defects in the home itself. If you think your home may be affected, you can read more about this issue by using the links below:

Deffective Chinese Drywall Lawsuit

In The Walls, A New Health Concern

Century 21 Ends TV Ads; RE/MAX Debuts 3 New Spots



While some competitors are limiting - or even discontinuing - national television advertising, RE/MAX has a campaign that’s alive and well.

In fact, three new RE/MAX TV ads reflecting the opportunities consumers have in today’s market will debut in February, says David Rea, RE/MAX International Executive Creative Director.

Realogy Corp. subsidiary Century 21 announced this week that it will stop running its national television spots amid current economical woes, according to Inman News.

Century 21 says it is shifting focus from TV to online advertising due to changing consumer patterns, but acknowledges that the company’s shrinking budget as a result of the housing downturn played a role in the decision.

For its part, RE/MAX plans to continue promoting the brand and the Associates behind it.

“The economy has led a lot of our competitors to cut back on services to their franchisees and agents, but RE/MAX believes its Affiliates need all the support they can get in times like these,” Rea says. “That’s why we’ll continue our industry-leading TV and radio advertising, as well as our ever-growing presence on the Internet.

“RE/MAX agents don’t have to choose between media; they’ll continue to get both. The president of C21 says it himself: ‘The main benefit of TV advertising is name recognition.’ As RE/MAX TV advertising has increased, so has our name recognition - and we’ve become the undisputed leader.”

RE/MAX has led in national TV share of voice for the past seven years, Rea adds. He also notes that the television campaign helps drive traffic to, which drives more leads to RE/MAX agents and offices through LeadStreet.

“We get more hits to the Web site when we’re running TV commercials,” Rea says. “Consumers spend more time watching TV (followed by radio and the Internet) than any other medium. Our media mix reflects consumer consumption. RE/MAX out-delivers other top brands on a regional basis, too, with more locally placed media than any of our competitors.”

Source: RE/MAX Times


More Info On Heat Pumps - Part II

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CRS, GRI

After my last blog post on using heat pumps in the Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads area, I got more questions and comments about them.  With the temps dropping this week, I thought I better answer them now.  Please note I am not a HVAC system technician, but I have been managing rental properties since 1993, so I have learned a few things over the years.  In addition, I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express too....

Q. What's that whooshing sound?  Did my heat pump just blow up?

A: I get this call every winter.  Actually, that sound is the heat pump going through the defrost cycle.  If you are actually looking at the unit when it happens, you will also see steam rushing out of the unit too.  Don't be embarrassed, it can be kinda scary if you never seen it happen before.


Q: The emergency light on the thermostat came on, is something wrong?

A: Heat pumps work great in our area most of the year.  However, they are not very efficient when the temp drop below 32 degrees.  Heat pumps extract the heat out of the air in the winter.  When it is below freezing outside, this gets to be a challenging job for your system.  To help make it feel comfortable in the house, there are electric heat strips inside the air handler that are used to supplement the heat.  When these heat strips are on the emergency heat light comes on. 

You will also see the light come on if you increase the temperature on the heat more than 2 degrees at a time.  So if it is 65 degrees and you bump it up to 70, the emergency heat will come on until you reach 70. 

The emergency heat does use more electricity, so you do not want to use it all the time.  During extremely cold periods over several days, it could be coming on and off a lot.  Your really cannot do anything about this and you will likely see a higher electric bill next month. 

It is best to set the temperature to the level you want it and leave it set.  Heat pumps are not designed to be turned up and down all the time.  Programmable thermostats change the temp slowly and is really the only efficient way to do it.


Q: There is an ice build up around the coils on the outside heat pump unit . Is something wrong?

A: Yes, you may have a leak in the system.  Best to turn off the system and call for service.  Continuing to run the system could damage the compressor, so turn it off and wait for the HVAC company.

Q: My heat pump is running poorly.  What can I do to resolve it?

A:  With rental properties, I have found that often the air filter has not been changed in a long time.  An extremely dirty air filter will suffocate the system.  Heat pumps need to breathe too, so a dirty filter would be like holding a pillow over your face. Please change your air filter every 30 days.

If you do not change your filters regularly, you may need to have the system professionally cleaned.  The coils in the air handler get very dirt over time and your system will have to work harder to heat or cool your house and will cost you more on your electric bill.  Having your system cleaned regularly is good preventive maintenance too and will extend the life of your system.

Q: My heat pump stopped working.  What do I do? 

A: Before calling for service, try to reset the system yourself.  Turn off the system at the thermostat.  Then turn the breaker off in the circuit breaker panel box.  Now wait about 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes pass go back to the panel box, turn the breaker back on and then go back to the thermostat and turn the heat (or A/C) on again too.  Sometimes heat pumps do not start up immediately, so it may 5-10 minutes.

If you do not have heat (or A/C) within 30 minutes, you will need service.  There are several things it could be, so you will need a qualified HVAC technician to evaluate the system.  Best to turn the system off until help arrives.  You may be able to use the emergency heat if necessary.

NOTE: Some systems like a Rheem, may have a reset switch on the unit itself.  If you have one, you should look for it first to reset it yourself.  I am aware of HVAC companies come out, push the switch and charge you $129. 

Q:  I have an old system and they HVAC guy said it would cost $6,000 to replace the entire system. Is this correct? 

A: I am afraid he may be right.  A couple of years ago the Gov't mandated that all new heat pumps be 13 SEER or better.  A heat pump system has the outside unit and an inside air handler unit.  If either unit goes bad, it may not be able to be matched with a new unit.  Therefore, you will have to replace both units.  Depending on the size of the units and your house, it could cost anywhere between $5,000 to $8,000 for a standard system.  High efficiency units (14 to 19 SEER) can be very expensive. 

Please read my other Blog post on Heat Pumps for a related issue:

If you need service on your HVAC system, please contact me for a referral.  I know a couple of honest companies that I have been dealing with for over a decade. 

Stated (No Documention/Proof of Income) Mortgages Ending Soon

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CRS, GRI

For years the best way for a self employed, sales, or even retired people to get get a mortgage was to apply for a stated mortgage.  Basically, these types of loan do not require any proof of income and no supporting documentation.  The basic qualification requirement was very good credit scores (like 680 and above) and a large down payment or significant equity for mortgage refinancing (70%-80% LTV).  Unfortunately, these types of mortgages have fallen victim to the current market environment and will be going the way of the buggy whip. 

It is easy to blame these types of loans for some of the mortgage problems in real estate today, but when they were properly used they are very beneficial to helping people qualify for a mortgage who do not qualify under traditional means.  Anyone who can put down a lot of cash, but maybe they are in sales with unpredictable monthly income would greatly benefit from this type of loan.  With a great credit score and a large down payment or significant equity, it would be highly unlikely that they would foreclose and lose everything.

These loans are very hard to come by these days and I found out that Bank of America Mortgage was ending there stated mortgage program on January 17, 2009 and any applications taken must be fully funded by February 27, 2009. Mortgage rates are very favorable for these types of loans on primary residences, so if you are still interested in getting one of these loans before they disappear, please contact Ken Dolan at Bank Of America Mortgage at 757-376-8491.

Ken has been my primary loan officer for my clients since about 1995. Please let him know I referred you and he will take good care of you.   

Why Does My Heat Pump Air Feel Cool When The Heat Is On?

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CRS, GRI


A Virginia Beach tenant called me today with a common concern for people who have heat pumps, so I thought I would share the answer.  The tenant stated, "I think something is wrong with my heat pump since the air feels cool to the touch when the heat is on."

If your house has a heat pump and the heat normally feels luke warm or even cool to the touch, because the way it works it is extracting heat from the cold air outside.  Gas and oil heat will always feel warmer to the touch, since it is actually burning fuel to create heat. 

There is an easy way to improve how the temperature feels inside a house with a heat pump and that is by using a whole house humidifier during the colder months.  The extra moisture in the air will make it feel warmer and it will also eliminate most static electricity too. 

I have a whole house humidifier in my own home and love it, especially on cold nights it will make a big difference.  I just don’t recommend using it over 55 degrees or so, because it makes it feel to warm and humid for me.  If you have a 2-story home, the best place to keep it is near staircase, since the humidity will also travel upstairs too. 

In addition, always remember to change your air filter(s) monthly to keep the HVAC system clean and so it breathes properly.  Clean air filters will keep your electric bill lower too.


Displaying blog entries 1-6 of 6

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Jorge Gonzalez primarily provides Real Estate and Property Management services for rental properties for the following areas of Hampton Roads:

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