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April 20, 2017

Tax Return Depressing? Owning a Home Could Help

Many Americans got some depressing news last week; either their tax return was not as large as they had hoped or, in some cases, they were told they owed additional money to either the Federal or State government or both. One way to save on taxes is to own your own home.

According to the Tax Policy Center’s Briefing Book -“A citizen's guide to the fascinating (though often complex) elements of the federal Tax System” - there are several tax advantages to homeownership.

Here are four items, and a quote on each, from the Briefing Book:

1. Mortgage Interest Deduction

“Homeowners who itemize deductions may reduce their taxable income by deducting any interest paid on a home mortgage. The deduction is limited to interest paid on up to $1 million of debt incurred to purchase or substantially rehabilitate a home. Homeowners also may deduct interest paid on up to $100,000 of home equity debt, regardless of how they use the borrowed funds. Taxpayers who do not own their home have no comparable ability to deduct interest paid on debt incurred to purchase goods and services.”

2. Property Tax Deduction

“Homeowners who itemize deductions may also reduce their taxable income by deducting property taxes they pay on their homes.”

3. Imputed Rent

“Buying a home is an investment, part of the returns from which is the opportunity to live in the home rent-free. Unlike returns from other investments, the return on homeownership—what economists call “imputed rent”—is excluded from taxable income. In contrast, landlords must count as income the rent they receive, and renters may not deduct the rent they pay. A homeowner is effectively both landlord and renter, but the tax code treats homeowners the same as renters while ignoring their simultaneous role as their own landlords.”

4. Profits from Home Sales

“Taxpayers who sell assets must generally pay capital gains tax on any profits made on the sale. But homeowners may exclude from taxable income up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of capital gains on the sale of their home if they satisfy certain criteria: they must have maintained the home as their principal residence in two out of the preceding five years, and they generally may not have claimed the capital gains exclusion for the sale of another home during the previous two years.”

Bottom Line

We are not suggesting that you purchase a house just to save on your taxes. However, if you have been on the fence as to whether 2017 is the year you should become a homeowner, this information might help with that decision.

Disclaimer: Always check with your accountant to find out what tax advantages apply to you in your area.

 

April 13, 2017

Home Mortgages: The Ups and Downs

The media has extensively covered the rise in mortgage interest rates since last fall (from 3.42% last September to the current 4.1% according to Freddie Mac). However, a less covered aspect of the mortgage market is that requirements to get a mortgage have eased while rates have risen.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) quantifies the availability of mortgage credit each month with their Mortgage Credit Availability Index(MCAI). According to the MBA, the MCAI is:

“A summary measure which indicates the availability of mortgage credit at a point in time.”

The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage. Here is a chart showing the MCAI over the last several months as rates have increased.

Have requirements for attaining a mortgage actually eased?

Yes. Here are two examples:

1. FICO® Score – the credit score which helps determine a buyer’s eligibility. The score required to attain a mortgage has been falling over the last five months:

2. Down Payment Requirement – the percentage of the purchase price necessary to place as a down payment on a home. To make this point, let’s look at the percentage of first-time buyers who have put less than 5% down over the last several years as compared to the 1st quarter of 2017:

 

Bottom Line

Whether you are a current homeowner looking to move to a home that will better serve your family’s current needs, or a first-time buyer looking for a starter home, it is easier to get a mortgage today than it has been at any other time in the last ten years. Contact me to get started!

March 29, 2017

Looking to Move-Up to a Luxury Home? Now's the Time!

If your house no longer fits your needs and you are planning on buying a luxury home, now is a great time to do so! We recently shared data from Trulia’s Market Mismatch Study which showed that in today’s premium home market, buyers are in control.

The inventory of homes for sale in the luxury market far exceeds those searching to purchase these properties in many areas of the country. This means that homes are often staying on the market longer, or can be found at a discount.

Those who have a starter or trade-up home to sell will find buyers competing, and often entering bidding wars, to be able to call your house their new home.

The sale of your starter or trade-up house will aid in coming up with a larger down payment for your new luxury home. Even a 5% down payment on a million-dollar home is $50,000.

But not all who are buying luxury properties have a home to sell first.

In a recent Washington post article, Daryl Judy, an associate broker with Washington Fine Properties, gave some insight into what many millennials are choosing to do:

“Some high-earning millennials save money until they are in their early 30s to buy a place and just skip over that starter-home phase. They’ll stay in an apartment until they can afford to pay for the place they want.”

Bottom Line

The best time to sell anything is when demand is high and supply is low. If you are currently in a starter or trade-up house that no longer fits your needs, and are looking to step into a luxury home… Now’s the time to list your house for sale and make your dreams come true. Contact me to get started!

 

March 21, 2017

Should I Downsize Now? It is a Seller's Market!


A study by Edelman Berland reveals that 33% of homeowners who are contemplating selling their houses in the near future are planning to scale down. Let’s look at a few reasons why this might make sense for many homeowners, as the majority of the country is currently experiencing a seller’s market.

In a blog, Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, highlighted the advantages of selling your current house and downsizing into a smaller home that better serves your current needs. Ramsey explains three potential financial advantages to downsizing:

  1. A smaller home means less space, but it also means less time, stress and money spent on upkeep.
  2. Let’s assume you save $500 a month on your mortgage payment. In 30 years, you could have an additional $1–1.6 million in the bank to get you through your golden years.
  3. Use the proceeds from selling your current home to pay cash for a smaller one. Just imagine what you could do with no mortgage holding you down! If you can’t pay cash, aim for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage and put at least 10–20% down on your new home. Apply the $500 you saved from downsizing to your new monthly payment. At 3% interest, you could pay off a $200,000 mortgage in less than 10.5 years, saving almost $16,000 in the process.

Realtor.com also addressed downsizing in an article. They suggest that you ask yourself some questions before deciding if downsizing is right for you and your family. Here are two of their questions followed by their answers (in italics) and some additional information that could help.

Q: What kind of lifestyle do I want after I downsize?

A: “For some folks, it’s a matter of living a simpler life focused on family. Some might want to cross off travel destinations on their bucket lists. Some might want a low-maintenance community with high-end upgrades and social events. Decide what you want to achieve from your move first, and you’ll be able to better narrow down your housing options.”

Comments: Many homeowners are taking the profits from the sales of their current homes and splitting it in order to put down payments on smaller homes in their current locations, as well as on vacation/retirement homes where they plan to live when they retire.

This allows them to lock in the home price and mortgage interest rate at today’s values which makes sense financially as both home prices and interest rates are projected to rise.

Q: Have I built up enough equity in my current home to make a profit?

A: “For most homeowners, the answer is yes. This is if they’ve held on to their properties long enough to have positive equity that will be sizable enough to put a large down payment on their next home.”

Comments: A study by Fannie Mae revealed that only 37% of Americans believe that they have significant equity (> 20%) in their current home. In actuality, CoreLogic’s latest Equity Report revealed that 78.9% have greater than 20% equity. That equity could enable you to build the life you’ve always dreamt about.

Bottom Line

If you are debating downsizing your home and want to evaluate the options you currently have, let's meet up to help guide you through the process.

Click here to get started!

March 14, 2017

Oh **** Mortgage Interest Rates Went Up Again… Should I Wait to Buy?

Mortgage interest rates, as reported by Freddie Mac, have increased over the last several weeks. Freddie Mac, along with Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors, is calling for mortgage rates to continue to rise over the next four quarters.

This has caused some purchasers to lament the fact they may no longer be able to get a rate below 4%. However, we must realize that current rates are still at historic lows.

Here is a chart showing the average mortgage interest rate over the last several decades.

Bottom Line

Though you may have missed getting the lowest mortgage rate ever offered, you can still get a better interest rate than your older brother or sister did ten years ago, a lower rate than your parents did twenty years ago, and a better rate than your grandparents did forty years ago.

Click here to get started!

Your Home Purchasing Power, Visualized

Whether You Buy or Rent, You're Paying a Mortgage!

Posted in Buying A Home
March 13, 2017

How to Get the Most Money When Selling Your Home

Every homeowner wants to make sure they get the best price when selling their home. But how do you guarantee that you receive maximum value for your house? Here are two keys to ensuring you get the highest price possible.

1. Price it a LITTLE LOW 

This may seem counterintuitive. However, let’s look at this concept for a moment. Many homeowners think that pricing their home a little OVER market value will leave them room for negotiation. In reality, this just dramatically lessens the demand for their house (see chart below).

Instead of the seller trying to ‘win’ the negotiation with one buyer, they should price it so that demand for the home is maximized. By doing this, the seller will not be fighting with a buyer over the price, but will instead have multiple buyers fighting with each other over the house.

Realtor.com gives this advice:

“Aim to price your property at or just slightly below the going rate. Today’s buyers are highly informed, so if they sense they’re getting a deal, they’re likely to bid up a property that’s slightly underpriced, especially in areas with low inventory.”

2. Use a Real Estate Professional

This, too, may seem counterintuitive, as the seller likely believes that he or she will net more money if they don’t have to pay a real estate commission. With that being said, studies have shown that homes typically sell for more money when handled by a real estate professional.

Research posted by the National Association of Realtors revealed that:

“The median selling price for all FSBO homes was $185,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number sinks to the median selling price of $163,800. However, homes that were sold with the assistance of an agent had a median selling price of $245,000 – nearly $60,000 more for the typical home sale.”

Bottom Line

Price your house at or slightly below the current market value and hire a professional. This will guarantee that you maximize the price you get for your house. 

Click here to get started!

Posted in Selling A Home
March 9, 2017

Tax Time Coming Soon! How to Maximize your Tax Deductions


If you bought your first home in 2016, chances are you're in for a very new tax experience this year. That's because for many new homeowners, buying a house is the first time it makes sense to itemize taxes.

The good news is that itemizing your taxes is surprisingly easy to do. Here's how to make sure you save the most on taxes while minimizing your filing headaches.

First, locate your Closing Disclosure Agreement. This is a part of your home closing paperwork provided by your lender.

Second, add up the following four main real estate deductions:

1. Loan costs and fees. These are different fees charged by your lender and spread throughout the Closing Disclosure Agreement. Different lenders will call them by different names. Look for the items "application fee," "underwriting fee," and "loan costs."

2. Mortgage interest. You can deduct the entire interest portion of your monthly mortgage payments. This will probably be your biggest tax deduction, particularly at the start of your mortgage when interest payments are highest.

3. Property taxes. You can deduct property taxes — but only for the part of the year that you owned the house. Amazingly, you can claim this deduction even if you managed to negotiate with the seller to have them pay the full year's property taxes.

4. Mortgage insurance. If you've put down less than 20%, you probably have to pay for private mortgage insurance. The good news is this item is also tax deductible. By the way, mortgage insurance is entirely different from homeowners insurance, which isn't tax deductible.

There are a few other items you might also be able to itemize. For example, if you gave away furniture or appliances before moving, this can be deducted as a charitable donation. And if you work from home, you can claim additional deductions for that.

Now, add up all those deductions. Is the total less than the standard deduction ($6,300 for an individual, $12,600 for a married couple)? If it is — congratulations, you will save more this year by itemizing your taxes.

By the way, I've been talking this whole time about new homeowners. But even if you've already owned your home for a while but you haven't been itemizing your taxes yet, you can definitely start doing so.

Points two through four above are recurring deductions, and you can also apply them this tax season.

Also, if you did not buy a house in 2016 but you're considering doing it this year, make sure you check out all the available listings. Click here to to an advanced real estate search.

Posted in Real Estate Tips
March 7, 2017

Thinking of Selling? Do it Today!

That headline might be a little aggressive. However, as the data on the 2017 housing market begins to roll in, we can definitely say one thing: If you are considering selling, IT IS TIME TO LIST YOUR HOME!

The February numbers are not in yet, but the January numbers were sensational. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors, said:

“Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of last year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home. Market challenges remain, but the housing market is off to a prosperous start as homebuyers staved off inventory levels that are far from adequate…”

And CNBC says consumer confidence in the economy is fueling the market:

“U.S. home resales surged to a 10-year high in January as buyers shrugged off higher prices and mortgage rates, a sign of growing confidence in the economy.”

The only challenge to the market is a severe lack of inventory. A balanced market would have a full six-month supply of homes for sale. Currently, there is less than a four-month supply of inventory. This represents a decrease in supply of 7.1% from the same time last year.

Bottom Line

With demand increasing and supply dropping, this may be the perfect time to get the best price for your home. Let’s get together and discuss the inventory levels in your neighborhood to determine your next steps.

Click here to get started!

 

Posted in Selling A Home
Feb. 24, 2017

Existing Home Sales Reach Highest Mark Since 2007 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Highlights:

• Sales of existing homes reached the highest pace in a decade at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.69 million.

• January marked the 59th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains as the median home price rose 7.1% to $228,900.

• NAR’s Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun had this to say, “Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of last year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home." 

Would you like to know the value of your home?
Click here to find out.

Posted in Housing Analysis
Sept. 26, 2016

4 Reasons to Buy This Fall



It’s that time of year; the seasons are changing and with them come thoughts of the upcoming holidays, family get-togethers, and planning for a new year. Those who are on the fence about whether or not now is the right time to buy don’t have to look much further to find four great reasons to consider buying a home now, instead of waiting.

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.4% over the next year. The Home Price Expectation Survey polls a distinguished panel of over 100 economists, investment strategists, and housing market analysts. Their most recent report projects home values to appreciate by more than 3.5% a year for the next 5 years.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Remain at Historic Lows

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have remained at or below 3.5% for 13 consecutive weeks. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Freddie Mac & the National Association of Realtorsare in unison, projecting that rates will increase by this time next year.

Any increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, the percentage of your income that you spend on housing will increase substantially if you choose to wait.

3. Either Way You Are Paying a Mortgage

Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage - either your mortgage or your landlord’s. As a paper from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University explains:

“Households must consume housing whether they own or rent. Not even accounting for more favorable tax treatment of owning, homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord plus a rate of return. That’s yet another reason owning often does—as Americans intuit—end up making more financial sense than renting.”

4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide whether it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

 

Click here to get started!

Posted in Buying A Home