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Searching for Short Sales, Foreclosures, or Bank Owned Properties (REOs)

December 15, 2009

Buying a short sale, foreclosure or bank-owned property (REO) is an appealing option for buyers looking for a deal, and those trying to stretch their dollars and get more home for their money. Searching for a short sale, foreclosure, or bank-owned property (REO) can however be difficult and maddeningly frustrating as short sale listings are typically poorly advertised on account that the banks pay reduced commissions on these sales which requires that the listing agents reduce the advertising budgets on these listing. Furthermore, newspaper notices of foreclosure sales are disorganized, foreclosure listing websites charge hefty monthly fees, lenders post only minimal information on the properties they’ve taken back and the vast majority of the banks require that these properties not be advertised as ‘bank-owned’ because of the negative connotation this carries and the expectation it creates. 

In addition, many real estate agents have little if any experience with these types of transactions and attempt to discourage their clients from considering these types of properties suggesting that they are not as deeply discounted as they may have heard, they can take months and months to close, or that they are typically in a state of disrepair and require significant improvements and carry additional expenses. This simply isn’t true and in fact most of these properties sell at discounts of 20% or more! While many foreclosed properties lack appliances and may require cosmetic improvements, there are loan products such as FHA’s 203K loans which allow buyers to include these costs in their mortgage. The banks are closing these transactions much more quickly these days and while it often took as long as 4 months to close a transaction, they can now be closed in as little as 60-90 days. The simple fact is these transaction are more labor intensive for the realtor and in most instances the banks offer reduced commissions on them, which means more work for less pay to the agent but also an opportunity for the agent to get their client an outstanding deal! 

 If you’re a buyer, or an investor, interested in purchasing short sale or foreclosure properties, please give us a call or send us an email as we’d be happy to assist you by sending over a an inventory of properties matching your criteria.

How To Set a Price For Your Home

December 15, 2009

How to Set a List Price for Your Home

Setting the list price for your home involves evaluating your home as well as various market conditions and financial factors. During this phase of the home selling process, your Realtor will help you set your list price based on:

  • pricing considerations
  • comparable sales
  • condition of your home  
  • market conditions
  • offering incentives

Pricing Considerations – Find a Balance Between Too High and Too Low

Buyer’s shop by comparison, they preview homes in the areas they are looking and the price range they can afford. Buyers typically base their selection of a home on what’s most appealing to their personal tastes but also what they feel is the best value based on all of the homes they’ve seen. So it’s important to consider this when setting a list price for your home. Please consider these additional pricing factors:

If you set the price too high, your house won’t be selected for showing. Even though yours may be much nicer,it needs to be priced appropriately and in comparison to other homes in the neighborhood. And while you may have told your Realtor ”Bring me any and all offers. As frankly, I’d take less.” What buyers and their agents see is a home that simply appears overpriced in comparison to other homes in the community, and too expensive to be considered.

If you price too low, you’ll short-change yourself. Your house will sell promptly, yes, but you may make less on the sale than if you had set a higher price and waited for a buyer who was willing to pay it.

TIP: Never say “asking price”, which implies you’re willing to accept less and frankly don’t expect to get it. Instead confidently inform interested parties that your home is “priced at” whatever figure you and your agent come up with.

Price Against Comparable Sales in Your Neighborhood and Community

No matter how attractive and polished your house, buyers will be comparing its price with everything else on the market.

Your best guide is a record of what the buying public has been willing to pay in the past few months for property in your neighborhood. Your Realtor can furnish data on sales figures for those comparable sales and analyze them to help you come up with a suggested listing price. Of course ultimately the decision about how much to ask, is always your own.

Competitive Market Analysis (CMA): The list of comparable sales your Realtor provides to you, along with data about other houses in your neighborhood that are presently on the market is used for a “Comparative Market Analysis” (CMA). To help in estimating a possible sales price for your house, the analysis will also include data on nearby houses that are presently on the market as well as those which failed to sell in the past few months, along with their list prices.

A CMA differs from a formal appraisal in several ways. One significant difference is that an appraisal will be based only on past sales and will not take into account those homes currently listed, that is your competition. Also, an appraisal is done for a fee while the CMA is provided by your Realtor and will typically include properties currently listed for sale as well as those currently pending sale. For the average home sale, a CMA is all the information you’ll need to help you set a proper price.

Formal Written Appraisal: A formal written appraisal (which may cost a few hundred dollars) can be useful if; you have unique property, there hasn’t been much activity in your area recently, co-owners disagree about price, or there is/ are other circumstances that make it difficult to put a value on your home.

TIP: If you do order a market value appraisal, make it clear you don’t need an elaborate, or full narrative report, i.e., the kind that’s complete with photos of the house and neighborhood. Floor plans and a site map is sufficient in most cases.

Market Conditions – Is it a Buyer’s Market or a Seller’s Market?

A CMA often includes a Days on the Market (DOM) value for each comparable house sold. When real estate is booming and prices are rising, houses may sell in a few days. Conversely, when the market slows down, average DOM can run into many months.

Your Realtor can tell you whether your area is currently in a buyer’s market or a seller’s market. In a seller’s market, you can price a bit beyond what you really expect, just to see what the reaction will be. In a buyer’s market, if you really need to sell promptly, offer an attractive bargain price.

If You Price High, Set a Schedule for Lowering the Price

Some sellers list at the rock-bottom price they’d really take, because they hate bargaining. Others add on thousands to the estimated market value “just to see what happens.” Our group does not recommend the latter strategy as the price at which a home eventually sells is inversely correlated to it’s time on the market and thus it is best that the home be priced appropriately from the start. Furthermore, homes typically receive the highest levels of traffic in the first 30 days they are listed and thus if the home is initially over priced you are missing out on the best opportunity to sell your home! However, if you want to try this strategy, have the luxury of time to feel out the market and are willing to take the risk, sit down with your Realtor and work out an advance schedule for lowering the price if need be.

If there haven’t been many prospects viewing your home after three weeks, you may need to lower your list price. If that doesn’t bring any prospective buyers, you may need to lower your list price again. Plan on doing that regularly until you find a level that attracts buyers. Make a written schedule in advance, before emotion takes over and you’re tempted to dig your heels in.

Offering Incentives to Hasten a Sale

Sometimes cash incentives are as effective as lowering the price, especially in the lower price range where buyers may be “cash poor.” You may offer to pay some or all of a buyer’s closing costs and discount points required by the buyer’s lending institution.

If you haven’t had much traffic through your house and you’re in a hurry to sell, you may want to add the offer of a bonus to the selling broker, in addition to their commission. An example of the wording for such an offer may be “to the broker who brings a successful offer before Christmas.”

Estimating Net Proceeds

Once you’ve been given an estimate of market value by your Realtor, you can get a rough idea of how much cash you might walk away with when the sale is completed. This can be particularly useful when you start looking for another home to buy.

To estimate your net proceeds, from the estimated sales amount, subtract the applicable costs in the three sections outlined below: seller’s costs, buyer’s/seller’s costs and closing costs.

Seller’s Costs: Subtract the following costs as applicable.

  • payoff figure on your present loan(s)
  • broker’s commission
  • prepayment penalty on your mortgage
  • attorney’s fees
  • unpaid property taxes

Buyer’s/Seller’s Costs: Additionally, your Realtor can tell you whether local customs or rules dictate whether the buyer or seller pays for the items listed below. Subtract the following costs, as applicable.

  • title insurance premium
  • transfer taxes
  • survey fees
  • inspections and repairs for termites, etc.
  • recording fees
  • Homeowner Association transfer fees and document preparation
  • home protection plan
  • natural hazard disclosure report

Closing Costs: As far as closing costs are concerned, you and your eventual buyer may agree on any arrangement that suits you, no matter what local practice dictates. Your Realtor will assist you in estimating what your final closing costs will be.

How to Choose a Home

December 15, 2009

How to Choose a Home

Searching for the perfect home can be overwhelming. To avoid wasting time looking at homes that aren’t right for your family, first set aside time to prepare a “wish list”. You’ll want to determine what you want and need in a home and categorize these items accordingly so your agent can focus on what’s most important to you. If you and your real estate agent have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll spend a lot less time visiting houses that don’t appeal to you.

When narrowing down your home search, consider the following:

  • know what types of home you want to buy
  • determine what age and condition of the house you want to buy
  • consider resale potential
  • use a features wish list to keep focused
  • use a home search comparison chart to keep organized
  • act decisively when you find the right home

Determine What Type of Home You Want to Buy

There are several forms of home ownership: single-family homes, multiple-family homes, condominiums and co-ops.

Single-family homes: One home per lot.

Multiple-family homes: Some buyers, particularly first-timers, start with multiple-family dwellings, so they’ll have rental income to help with their costs. Many mortgage plans, including VA and FHA loans, can be used for buildings with up to four units, if the buyer intends to occupy one of them.

Condominiums: With a condo, you own “from the plaster in.” You also own a certain percentage of the “common areas” – staircases, sidewalks, roofs, etc. Monthly charges, also known as “Condo Dues” pay your share of taxes and insurance on those elements, as well as repairs and maintenance. A homeowner’s association administers the development. See our blog on condo vs. home for more information on this topic.

Co-ops: Though rare to Columbus, in some cities such as New York and Chicago, cooperative apartments are common. With co-ops, you purchase shares in a corporation that owns the entire building, and you receive a lease to your own unit. A board of directors, comprised of owners and elected by owners, supervises the building management. Monthly charges include your share of an overall mortgage on the building.

Decide What Age and Condition of Home You Want to Purchase

Weigh your needs, budget and personal tastes in deciding whether you want to buy a newly constructed home, an older home or a “fixer-upper” that requires some work.

Consider Resale Potential

As you look at homes, you may want to keep in mind these resale considerations.

  • One-bedroom condos are much more difficult to resell than units offerings two or more bedrooms.
  • Two-bedroom/one-bath single houses generally have less appeal than houses with three or more bedrooms, and therefore have less appreciation potential.
  • Homes with “curb appeal,” i.e. well-maintained, attractive and with a charming appearance from the street, are the easiest to resell.
  • It’s usually not a good idea to buy the most expensive home in the neighborhood or an unusual home as these are often difficult to resell and thus do not represent good investments.
  • Use a Features Wish List to Keep Your Search Focused

Use a Features Wish List to Keep Your Search Focused 

Make a features wish list to clarify which features are most and least important to you when looking for a home. Using this features wish list will keep your house hunt focused and effective.

Act Decisively When You Find the Right Home

Before you begin the home buying process, resolve to act promptly when you do find the right house. Every REALTOR® has stories to tell about a couple who looked far and wide for their dream home, finally found it, and then decided to sleep on it, only to find someone else came in that evening with an offer that was accepted.

Resolve that you will act decisively when you find the house that’s clearly right for you. This is particularly important after a long search or if the house is newly listed and/or underpriced.

Home Inspections

December 15, 2009

Suppose you bought a house and later discovered, to your dismay, that the stucco exterior concealed a nasty case of dry rot. Or suppose that when you fired up the furnace in the winter, you discovered a cracked heat exchanger leaking gas into your home. The best way to avoid unpleasant surprises like these is to arrange for a home inspection before you buy.

You need to understand defects and disclosures before you evaluate the physical condition of the home you want to buy and decide how much you want to pay for it.

Defects

Pre-purchase home inspections target two kinds of defects: the kind you can see (a patent defect) and the kind you can’t see (a latent defect).

Patent defects are easy to spot: for example, water stains, ceiling cracks, sticky windows or sagging floors are patent defects. Latent defects are more elusive because they may be hidden: for example, faulty plumbing, asbestos ceilings or dry rot.

Some defects are trivial; others are more serious. An inspection can help you decide whether you need to act on the defects you find. Whether you are a buyer or seller, you’ll want to be sure to work out how all defects will be repaired or paid for during contract negotiations.

Disclosure

Disclosure is when a seller or real estate agent reveals a material fact about the physical condition of a property to a buyer.

A material fact is any information that can affect the price of the home or a buyer’s decision to purchase it at all, such as spring flooding in the basement or a highway project that will cut through the neighborhood.

Ohio Disclosure laws require a mandatory seller disclosure in the form of a questionnaire, Sellers can be held legally responsible for withholding information and not disclosing problems they are aware.

Finding an Inspector

Your real estate agent can recommend an experienced home inspector. We suggest that buyers choose an inspector who can provide proof of membership in the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). While home inspection is fairly unregulated in most states, ASHI-certified inspectors meet stringent requirements and abide by a strong Code of Ethics.

Types of Inspection

A standard pre-purchase inspection covers a home’s major mechanical systems—electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling—and its construction from roof to foundation, exterior to interior. Overall inspections do not cover soil, pools, wells, septic systems, building code violations or environmental hazards such as lead.

If you are a buyer, include an inspection contingency in your purchase contract; it should allow you up to two weeks to conduct an overall inspection plus any specialized inspections you (or your lender) require. Most inspections cost several hundred dollars. Specialized inspections usually involve an expert and can cost more. Remember, repairs or remedies are negotiable; they also can derail a deal.

Type of inspection What it covers Cost/who pays Remedies
Standard pre-purchase Overall home construction and condition, including major mechanical systems $200-$500; buyer Conduct further specialized inspections; repair
Wood damage
(required by many lenders; check with yours)
All wood portions of home (interior and exterior) $75-$200; negotiable Repair or replace damaged wood; treat for wood-destroying insects or organisms
Lead
(disclosure required on all homes built before 1978)
Presence of lead in paint, plumbing or other areas $400 for basic survey; negotiable Repair or replace affected areas
Radon
(disclosure of known elevated levels required)
Presence of naturally occurring radioactive gas $150 for basic survey; negotiable Seal foundation cracks, install a sump pump; ventilate basement or crawl space.
Environmental hazards
(asbestos, formaldehyde, petroleum, toxic chemicals)
Presence of any substance in building material, soil, water or air that poses a health risk Price varies; negotiable Remove hazardous material, such as asbestos, or source of danger, such as a buried oil tank.
Soil Condition of soil under and around foundation and retaining walls $300 to $2,000; negotiable Repair or treat problem

If you, or someone you know is considering Buying or Selling a Home in Columbus, Ohio please give us a call and we’d be happy to assist you!

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Sales in;  Bexley  Columbus  Delaware  Downtown  Dublin  Gahanna  Grandview Heights  Granville  Grove City  Groveport  Hilliard  Lewis Center  New Albany  Pickerington  Polaris  Powell   Upper Arlington  Westerville  Worthington

Expired: How to Sell a Home that Didn’t Sell

December 15, 2009

So you attempted to sell your home by owner, or with an agent, it didn’t sell and now you’re feeling frustrated and discouraged and aren’t sure what to do next. Before you put your home back on the market, take a step back and review your situation. Usually when a house doesn’t sell it’s due to one of four things: PRICE, CONDITION, MARKETING, or THE AGENT YOU HIRE TO SELL YOUR HOME. 

1. Price (or is it price range?) rules all In most cases, the reason a property doesn’t sell is the price. The ‘Right Price’ depends on market conditions, competition and the condition of your home. If your home doesn’t compare favorably with others in the price range you’ve set, it will not sell.You’ll get the facts when you see the statistics! To help you establish a realistic selling price for your home, ask your Realtor to provide an up-to-date competitive market analysis to give you: a review of comparable homes recently sold as well as those currently available for sale. Sold homes represent what homes are currently selling for while active listings represent your competition.

Here is the simple truth about pricing a home:

1. You must price it based on the current market.

2. You must effectively market and expose the home.

3. If it is priced right, it will sell. If it is priced to high, it won’t.

All else is commentary. The simple fact is the market is always right! If you attempt to argue with the market, the market will always win! If a home has been on the market, and it has been effectively marketed but has not sold, it is overpriced.

Pricing Luxury Homes – In today’s luxury real estate market, you can be priced perfectly, but if you’re in the wrong price range your property won’t sell. In other words, your property can be in perfect condition and in perfect alignment with the comparable sales and it can still sit on the market for months. The reason? The credit crunch.

The first-time-buyer market has been flourishing, largely due to the first-time-buyer tax credit of $8,000. Homes that require financing over and above the “conforming loan limits,” however, are languishing on the market. A conforming loan meets the guidelines to be purchased and securitized by either the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac).

Conforming loan guidelines include a maximum loan amount determined by geographical region as well as the requirements to meet certain down payment, credit and debt-to-income requirements.

If your property is too expensive to fit into the conforming loan category and you have a considerable amount of equity in your home, some sellers have been able to sell by carrying some, or all of the buyer’s financing. In fact, 35 percent of the properties in the U.S. are free and clear.

In most areas, the maximum amount that you can obtain for a conforming loan is $417,000. In certain expensive areas, the maximum loan amount that a borrower can obtain is $729,750 (through the end of 2010, unless these upper limits are extended).

Thus, if your property is priced more than $450,000, the reason it may not be selling is that buyers are unable to obtain financing to buy it. A second reason is that if your home is a “move-up” property rather than a first-time-buyer property, your potential buyers may be unable to sell their existing properties in order to buy your property.

There can be a wide variety of reasons for this, the most notable of which is their properties are worth less than they paid for them. In many cases, their properties may fall into the “short sale” category where they owe more on the mortgage than the property is worth. When a substantial number of sellers in a given area have no equity in their current properties, the move-up market will be dead.

2. Condition Does your house show like a model? Is it someone else’s idea of a dream home? How does the house look from the street? Is the landscaping attractive? Is the exterior well maintained? When buyer’s enter are they inspired? Is the house cluttered with your personal belongings or have you cleared out as much as possible? You need to get into the mindset that it’s not your house anymore. Your goal is to help the buyer imagine that your house is their future home.

Visit our home enhancement guide for advice on preparing your home for sale.

3. Marketing Gone are the days when all an agent had to do was put a sign in the front yard, place the home on the multiple listing service, run a well worded sales ad and wait for the offers to come in. Today’s agent must have an aggressive marketing plan that makes effective use of new innovative, non-traditional marketing approaches.

Is your listing being marketed on at least 25 major listing portals?

Does your agent know which real estate websites are the most visited online?

In addition to the local multiple listing service is your property on Realtor.com (is it a featured listing), Yahoo Real Estate, Zillow, HomeGain, Craigslist, Cyberhomes, or Trulia to name a few?

4. The Listing Agent Your listing agent is key to the sale of your home and will need to be able to completely and proficiently assist you in PRICINGENHANCING and EXPOSING your home. You need an experienced and aggressive professional you can trust, and one whose expertise extends into cutting edge sales and marketing techniques.

If you’re having trouble selling you home carefully evaluate where you stand on each of these issues. If there’s an area that needs improvement, don’t wait… address these issues today and get your property sold tomorrow!

If you, or someone you know is considering Buying or Selling a Home in Columbus, Ohio please contact The Opland Group. We offer professional real estate advice and look forward to helping you achieve your real estate goals!

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Salesin;  Bexley  Columbus  Delaware  Downtown  Dublin  Gahanna  Grandview Heights  Granville  Grove City  Groveport  Hilliard  Lewis Center  New Albany  Pickerington  Polaris  Powell   Upper Arlington  Westerville  Worthington

Search for Homes in New Albany, Ohio – Search the MLS

December 14, 2009

 

Columbus, Ohio MLS SearchSearch the most updated MLS database for real estate listings in New Albany and throughout Columbus. If you’re looking for a home this is where you’ll want to start! View the area’s newest properties and open houses and be the first to see new homes on the market. 

Search for homes using any combination of criteria including; area, price range, school district, year built, number of bedrooms, etc. Search for residential and commercial properties.

The site also offers; the latest local market reports, tips on buying and selling, relocation assistance, luxury home sales, short sale and foreclosure lists, research area schools and neighborhoods, advice on how to choose a home, the steps to buying a home, advice for first-time home buyers, assistance arranging financing and much, much more. 

What if I find a home I’m interested in?

After you find a home you’re interested in simply write down the Listing or MLS Number (7-digit number), give us a call at (614) 332-6984, or contact us online and we can assist you in scheduling a private showing.  If you’d like we can setup an automated custom search to email you new listings matching your specified criteria as they become available.  If you’re interested in setting up a custom search please email or call us with this request!

Looking For Short Sales, Bank Owned Properties or Foreclosures? Email us for a list of properties in your area!

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Sales in;  Bexley  Columbus  Delaware  Downtown  Dublin  Gahanna  Grandview Heights  Granville  Grove City  Groveport  Hilliard  Lewis Center  New Albany  Pickerington  Polaris  Powell   Upper Arlington  Westerville  Worthington

Year End Real Estate & Additional Tax Tips

December 13, 2009

This is your final reminder to take a few minutes from holiday merrymaking and get those last-minute tax moves done. You have until Dec. 31. After that, there’s little you can do to cut your tax bill.

Here’s what you can do before the end of the year to trim your 2009 tax bill. I’ll start with the simple things.

What you need to do now

Mortgage interest. Make your January mortgage payment Dec. 31. Send in a check or pay it online.

Remember to add the interest you paid to what your bank reports on its Form 1098. Your bank will get your payment in 2010 and won’t report it for 2009.

But because you paid it this year, it adds to your 2009 deduction. (The downside, of course, is that you won’t be able to deduct the payment from your 2010 return.)

Real-estate taxes. If you pay your own real-estate taxes, make any payments due in the beginning of 2010 by Dec. 31. My fourth-quarter real-estate taxes are due Feb. 1. By paying them Dec. 31, I get the deduction a year earlier. (Again, you can’t deduct payments made in 2009 from your 2010 return.)

A friendly warning: Taxes aren’t allowed as a deduction under the alternative-minimum-tax computation. If you expect to get hit by the AMT, don’t prepay.

Charitable donations. If you contribute to your church, your college, the local dog pound, United Way or organizations contributing to disaster relief, make these donations by Dec. 31. And make sure that before you file your tax return, you have a receipt from the organizations that benefited from your generosity.

If you don’t have the cash, find out if the organization can process a donation via credit card. As long as the donation is made by Dec. 31, it’s valid as a 2009 deduction.

Separately, any contributions of clothes or household goods must be in good condition or better to qualify for a deduction. If a single item has a value of $500 or more, you will need an appraisal. The Internal Revenue Service can deny deductions for items of minimal value.

Complicating any deductions will be new requirements on record keeping. This is important.

To deduct a cash donation, regardless of the amount, you must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing its name and the date and amount of the contribution. Acceptable bank records would include canceled checks or bank or credit union statements containing the name of the charity, the date and the amount of the contribution.

Medical and miscellaneous deductions. Medical expenses and miscellaneous itemized deductions have “floors.” For medical expenses, only those in excess of 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) count. Miscellaneous itemized expenses have to exceed 2% of your AGI to qualify.

An important point: Your health insurance premiums count so long as you’re not paying them out of a flexible spending account.

If you’re going to exceed the floor, accelerate your expenses. Prepay your orthodontist or your tax preparer. Send in your payment either online or via the U.S. mail by Dec. 31. Alternatively, if you’re not going to exceed your floors, defer the deductions to 2010. You may exceed your floors then.

Pension or IRA contributions. These are especially important if you are self-employed. Unless tax rates shoot up, you want to pay your tax “tomorrow” rather than today.

If you’re contributing to a retirement plan such as a 401(k) plan or a 403(b) plan, you can put in $16,500 this year and the same amount in 2008. If you’re 50 or older, you can put in an additional $5,500 as a catch-up contribution.

Cash gifts. If you might ever be subject to the estate tax, make your $12,000 tax-free gift before the end of the year.

Capital gains and losses. 2009 has been a volatile year for investors, if you are one of the lucky who have capital gains, remember that any net capital losses over the $3,000 allowed on your 2008 tax return should be carried forward to offset those 2009 gains. If you still have net losses, up to $3,000 may be used to offset ordinary income for 2007.

All net long-term gains are subject to a maximum 15% rate. If you’re in the 15% or lower tax bracket, your tax hit is softened to only 5%.

If you’re single with taxable income of $31,850 or less, you get the 5% rate. With a standard deduction of $5,350 and a $3,400 personal exemption, you can have as much as $40,600 in gross income and still qualify.

If you have net capital gains, sell losers to offset those gains. If you have more losers, sell at least enough to get the $3,000 offset against ordinary income. If you have shares of stock pregnant with gains and you don’t expect them to appreciate further, sell those shares and shelter the gains with the losses on your losers. Worst case: Pay the maximum 15% tax. You can’t go broke taking profits.

Tax-free IRA distributions to charities. If you’re 70 1/2 or older and looking to make a donation to a favorite cause using funds from your individual retirement account, this may be the year to do it. For 2009, you can distribute as much as $100,000 directly from your IRA without recognizing any income.

You don’t get a charitable-donation deduction (unless the distribution was from a Roth IRA), but the distribution does count toward your minimum-distribution amount.

A note: This provision will expire after Dec. 31 unless Congress renews it. A renewal is expected, however.