Sometimes when things are bad, things are good.
Let me explain. When the real estate business is gasping and almost dead, that's the time to march in and buy your dream house in the sun.
If you were thinking of moving into the sun belt for retirment or were thinking of buying a second home to rent (until you retired), this summer is the time to start getting serious.
With the recession choking real-estate sales and prices dropping in one area after another, it's a buyers' market. Listen to what Mike Sumichrast, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, says: "Builders are offering all sorts of inducements, discounts, lower-cost mortgages, even cars to people who will buy."
When builders can't move their inventory of houses or condo units, their carrying costs eat them up. Then, one by one, the banks and other lenders take over. When this happens, you might see distress sales with discounts as much as 25 to 30 percent off the original price.
Where is it happening? In all the nice sun belt places like Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California. cIf you want a place in the sun, this summer could be the time to buy.
Along with the discounts you will find that mortgage money will be a lot easier to find and that interest rates are falling fast. Any actual quote that I could give you would be quickly out of date.
You can find all sorts of buys if you look carefully. You may find builders and developers who are stuck with a lot of units. You may find homeowners who need the money or have to move.
David Wolfe, president of Community Management Corp. (consultant to condominium associations), says "recessions are excellent for buyers -- look what happened in the last recession."
In Ocean City, Md., builders got caught with loads of condos to sell. The banks took over and quickly sold offf some apartments at 30 percent discount and slashed mortgage rates as much as 40 percent below the going price. Anything to move the properties.
Visit your favorite sun area. Talk to some banks and savings and loan officers. Ask if they know of properties that have to be sold because of the "economic situation." You might find a winner.
If you're looking at condominiums, buildings that were financed with backing from Fanny May (Federal National Mortgage Association) or VA (Veterans Administration) have to be in good condition and have buyer-protection clauses.
When and if you are ready to buy, get a local lawyer. The lenders who want your business should be able to suggest names of good realtors, lawyers, insurance representatives and other professionals you'll need.
Some good reading on the subject:
"Complete Book of Home Buying," Michael Sumicharst, Dow-Jones Books ($14.95). Just revised for the 1980s.
"Home Buyer's Checklist," By Benny L. Kass, a real estate lawyer. Send $2.25 to: Home Buyer's Checklist, 1528 18th St., NW, Washington, D.C., 20036. You can also get a "Condominium Owner's Handbook" for $3.
"Buying a Home in the Sun," a free booklet from: The Deltona Corp., 3250 Southwestt Third Ave., Miami, Fla 33129.
Q. We read that Congress is going to cut out a lot of the training programs to help lower income people get jobs. This is outrageous at a time when the recession hits those on the bottom rung of the ladder the hardest. How can we get through to people in Washington to let them know what a mistake they're making?
A. First off, you can write to your members of Congress. Spell out your case and get as many people as possible to write in. Second, you can organize a local lobbying group and maybe even affiliate with people in other cities. You can get a detailed, 12-page booklet. "Getting Your Point Across In Washington," by writing to: Gilberrt Simonett Jr., Price Waterhouse & Co., 1801 K. St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20006. The price is $10.
Q. My husband and I both work. We pay my husband's mother $80 a month to baby-sit for our 2-year-old daughter. We didn't claim any child-care credits on our tax return because we thought money paid to a grandmother wasn't eligible for a credit.
A friend in our apartment building says she claimed child-care credits for baby-sitting, and her mother was the sitter. Do we have any money coming to us? If so, how do we go about getting it?
A. Baby-sitting payments made to a mother, grandmother, aunt, grandfather or whomever qualify for child-care tax credit as long as the relative is not a dependent.
You can take a credit for 20 percent of the child-care expense involved. But, there's limit of $2,000 in total expenses per child, which would give a limit of $400 in credits.
In your case, you paid "granny" $80 a month, which comes to $960 for the year. Taking 20 percent of that, you should get $192 in a tax credit rebate. If you paid extra for food and incidentals, you can add that to the total expense. How do you get this money back after you've filed your tax return? You fill out a 1040-X form and add a special form for child-care credits. The Internal Revenue Service has the forms with booklets that explain what to do. Your local IRS office can help with this.