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posted: 1/17/2014 12:20 AM

Winter can be the best time for buyers to shop for a home

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Many homebuyers can get the best deals in January or February, because sellers are anxious to make concessions instead of marketing their property when the weather improves and more houses go up for sale.

Q. My husband and I want to buy a new home. I want to start looking now, but my husband thinks we should wait until spring, when the weather turns better. What do you think we should do?

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A. Start your house-hunting trek now. Many prospective buyers, like your husband, don't want to trudge through rain or snow to look for a new home, and would rather wait until the weather turns nicer. With fewer buyers out there today, smart sellers are more willing to make concessions to close a quick sale instead of waiting for the peak spring home-buying season that starts in a few months.

There are other reasons to launch your home hunt today. Nationwide, property values are expected to rise about 6 percent this year, so you and your spouse likely would have to pay more as the year progresses. Interest rates are expected to climb gradually, too, which would further boost the monthly payments that you would have to make.

Q. One of our New Year's resolutions is to get some new furniture for our living room and dining room. Would it be better to buy now, or wait for the spring sales?

A. January usually is the best time to buy most types of furniture, according to researchers at budget-minded website www.dealnews.com. That's because many manufacturers unveil their new lines in February, so retailers have to clear out their existing inventory at cut-rate prices at the start of the year to make room on their showroom floors.

There are several other common household items that go up for sale at bargain-basement prices this time of year. Among them are many types of electronic equipment -- including cameras, tablets and audio equipment -- because newer versions are always rolled out at the massive Computer Electronics Show in Nevada in early January. Fitness equipment, from treadmills to full-blown home gyms, also get marked down as stores try to accommodate all those folks who resolve to lose weight and get into better shape in the year ahead.

Linens tend to be cheapest this time of year, too. So are many types of repair tools and gardening equipment, in part because few homeowners care to battle inclement weather in order to paint, launch a major repair job or plant a garden.

Not surprisingly, holiday decorations are at closeout prices now as well, because retailers don't want to see them take up space on the sales floor or in a warehouse for 11 more months.

Q. I am 79 years old. My wife passed away a year ago, and now I am thinking of selling our longtime home and using the proceeds to buy a small condominium, because I can no longer mow our yard, make repairs or do other maintenance. My son is against this plan because he says that buying a condo would prevent me from writing off my mortgage-interest payments and property taxes. Is this correct?

A. No, your son is misinformed. Condo and townhouse owners can deduct most or all of their interest charges and property-tax payments, just like owners of single-family homes do.

Perhaps the confusion lies in the monthly dues you would have to pay to the condo's homeowners association. Such HOA dues will not be tax-deductible, unless you eventually move out of the development and rent the unit to someone else.

Talk to an accountant or other tax expert for details. Also get a free copy of Internal Revenue Service Publication 530, Tax Information for Homeowners, by calling the agency at (800) 829-3676 or by downloading it from www.irs.gov. Your son should read it, too.

Q. Reading the real estate advertisements in the newspaper, I know that BA stands for "bathroom," and BR stands for "bedroom." But what are a CAC and WBF?

A. A home with CAC has central air-conditioning, rather than a tiny window conditioner or none at all. WBF means that the property has a wood-burning fireplace.

Some folks believe that such abbreviations are the direct result of realty agents' attempts to generate more calls from potential buyers. But the truth is, it's a way to save both themselves and their sellers money -- newspaper advertising can be expensive, and shortening common amenities to just two or three letters can help an agent direct more cash to other marketing efforts.

Real estate trivia: Bright yellow turns off more prospective buyers than any other hue, the National Association of Realtors says, because it can irritate eyes and cause headaches. Babies cry more in yellow rooms, and spouses argue more in lemon-yellow kitchens.

• For the booklet "Straight Talk About Living Trusts," send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to David Myers/Trust, P.O. Box 4405, Culver City, CA 90231-4405.

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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