Home buyers' guide: Today's market creates opportunities

The fact that Nevada leads the nation in homes in foreclosure may be bad news to some, but it's good news to those thinking about buying a house.

A first-quarter foreclosure study by RealtyTrac says 41,296 Nevada properties received a foreclosure filing, an increase of 19 percent from the previous quarter and a rise of nearly 111 percent from year-earlier figures. One in 27 homes in the state was in the foreclosure process, five times the national average.

But Sandra Shields, a mortgage consultant for Greater Nevada Mortgage Services in Dayton, said she has seen a definite uptick in home buying that she attributes to prices dropping in that area.

"Prices are getting hit harder here than in Carson City because there was so many foreclosures," Shields said. "Everything is so cheap now."

Also helping buyers is interest rates nearing all-time lows. A review of mortgage rates being offered by financial institutions shows rates at 4.5 percent and below.

Shields said there is also a United States Department of Agriculture program for rural areas (anything outside of Carson City, Washoe and Clark counties in Nevada) offering 100 percent financing for qualified individuals.

"A lot of people don't think they qualify for programs like USDA," Shields said. "It's not just for first-time home buyers, you just can't own any property at the time. And the first-time home buyer programs, people think because they owned a house 10 years ago they can't qualify, but they can."

Shields urges potential buyers to work on getting pre-approved for financing to figure out what they can afford before they go out looking for homes and fall in love with something.

"Find out what you can afford, then buy what you can afford," Shields said. "Also, buy a house for a home, not because it's a good deal. Buy a house because it's something you want to live in. Those of us who bought a house for a home, it doesn't really matter what the value is, if you are planning on staying there."

Also enticing first-time buyers this year is an $8,000 federal tax credit, which unlike the $7,500 credit offered in 2008, doesn't have to be repaid.

Dan Smith of Coldwell Banker Best Sellers last month called the situation of large inventories matched with incentives "the perfect storm" for home buyers.

The opportunities presented by the current market have led several real estate agents to offer special first-time home buyer seminars to guide people through the process. The next one of these seminars is scheduled for April 23 at Western Title Company in Carson City. The program is being offered by Sheri Wilson of Prudential Nevada Realty, Janet Wilson of Nevada Property Mortgage, and Donna Peacock of Western Title Company.

"This is the best time to be a home buyer, and first-time home buyers are especially fortunate with the recently passed legislation that raises the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit to $8,000, a substantial savings," Wilson said.

A perception exists that buying foreclosed property can be a difficult experience. But according to Janice LaPorte, who bought a foreclosed home in Dayton recently, the process was simple.

"It was very easy. It went very quickly," she said.

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