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House hunting? Here's a great deal for you
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Sacramento-based Re/Max Gold agent Loren Ransier has seen his share of incentives. "One of the other incentives I'd recently heard about is a home builder advertising that they'll even completely pay off your Mello-Roos tax, a special tax we have in California," he says. "A typical Mello-Roos bond can be a $40,000 to $50,000 bond, and they'll now pay it off for you upfront so you won't have that tax increasing your monthly payment when you buy a new house."

In a separate promotion, home-builder William Lyon Homes had recently been providing a free $30,000 pool to customers buying a new Sacramento-area home through the company's mortgage lender, William Lyon Financial.

Generous incentive packages can even be found in the conservative Midwest.

Those who sign a new home contract with MasterCraft Builders based in Kenosha, Wis., for instance, can now win a number of expensive prizes, among them a three-car garage or a trip to Las Vegas, in the company's "Spin-N-Win" game.

Buyers purchasing lots in the high-end subdivisions of Bavarian Woods, in Germantown, and Weston Highlands, in Brookfield, through Wisconsin-based Simon Group, on the other hand, can simply choose between either a brand new Mazda Miata convertible or a $20,000 rebate.

Other companies in the area have noticed the incentives builders are offering.

"This year, there's definitely a lot more negotiating and discounting going on with most builders in our area," says David Balcerzak, vice president of sales and marketing at Pulte Homes in Detroit. "But our company has taken a different approach. We're taking a much closer look at our potential buyer's situation and asking what we can do to help offer them a solution. We're not playing pricing games because we feel we've priced our homes to a level that's appropriate for today's market, and we're not resorting to gimmicks and giveaways."

It might not call them "giveaways," but Pulte is certainly assisting buyers in generous ways. For instance, one of the biggest hurdles new home buyers now face is selling an existing home. To help them, Pulte (through its own mortgage company, Pulte Mortgage) has implemented a special program which basically covers three to six months of buyers' existing and new mortgages, both interest and principal, plus tax payments so that these customers aren't stuck with the pain of making twin payments on two properties.

"This program is an incentive, but it's not like giving somebody $20,000 off, which really might not be helpful if they still have a house to sell," Balcerzak says. "This program is available to all Pulte home buyers, as long as they qualify for the mortgage. And it's also available to folks who might've already sold their house and, yet, who want to take advantage of the program and who want to live in a new home basically payment-free, for up to six months."

Buyers can also avail themselves of Pulte's "stager" promotion to help sell their existing homes more quickly and for higher prices. "We're providing customers with about $2,000 of home staging by a certified ASP staging professional to help get their current home ready for sale," says Balcerzak. "We think that this service ultimately makes much more sense to our customers than a $10,000 discount, for it has the potential, in the end, to get them much more money when they sell their existing home."

Next: "Do I have to buy ... a new Mercedes, too, just to sell my house?"
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