Homeownership Rules

Most people agree that homeownership rules! When asked, people say they want a home they can call their own, to raise their family, share with their friends and to feel safe and secure. It also accounts for the majority of most people’s net worth.

These rules can help protect your investment and make homeownership more enjoyable.

  1. Don’t overpay for your home
  2. Maintain your home’s condition
  3. Minimize your assessed value to lower property taxes
  4. Make extra principal contributions to save interest and build equity
  5. Validate the insured value of improvements and contents
  6. Stay current on surrounding property values
  7. Make mortgage interest payments deductible
  8. Invest in capital improvements that increase market value
  9. Don’t over-improve the neighborhood
  10. Keep records of capital improvements and other maintenance

We want to be your personal source of real estate information and we’re committed to helping from purchase to sale and all the years in between.

Retirement Home Now?

Maybe you’re not ready to move into it but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take advantage of the present opportunities to acquire the home you want to live in during retirement. The combination of the low interest rates, reduced prices and lower competition may never be this good again in our lifetimes.

The rental market is strong and a tenant could pay for your retirement home. The cash flows are attractive and the yield is bound to be stronger than what you’re currently earning. Even if you don’t retire to this home, it could be a placeholder to control the costs of the home you do move into.

One thought would be to finance it with a 15 year loan that will have a lower rate than that of a 30 year loan and it will obviously amortize in half the time. Even if you don’t have the home paid for by the time you retire, your equity will be larger.

Ideally, if you sell your current home when your move into this retirement home, you may be able to take up to $500,000 of tax-free gain for a married couple. That profit could be used to fund your retirement.

With home prices and mortgage rates certain to rise, this may be one of the best decisions you can make. We want to be your personal source of real estate information and we’re committed to helping from purchase to sale and all the years in between.

Managing Deductibles

The purpose of insurance is to shift the risk of loss to a company in exchange for a premium. Most policies have a deductible which is an amount the insured pays out of pocket before the insurance starts covering the cost of the loss.

In the process of managing insurance premiums, policy holders often consider adjusting their deductibles. Lower deductibles mean less money out of pocket if a loss occurs but obviously, results in higher premiums. Higher deductibles result in lower premiums but require that the insured bear a larger amount of the first part of the loss.

A small fire in a $300,000 home that resulted in $2,500 of damage might not be covered because it is less than the 1% deductible. If the homeowner can afford to handle the cost of repairs in exchange for cheaper premiums, it might be worth it. On the other hand, if that loss would be difficult for the homeowner, a change in the deductible could be considered.

It is a good idea to review your deductible with your property insurance agent so that you’re familiar with the amount and make any changes that would be appropriate.

Single-Family Homes for Rentals

Single-family homes used for rental property have distinct advantages over other types of investments.

An investor can borrow 75-80% at fixed interest rates on appreciating assets with definite tax advantages and reasonable control. The financing alone is attractive compared to some investments that require 50% cash and have floating rates at prime plus for one or two years.

Home prices have adjusted 30-40% around the country, mortgage rates are incredibly low and rents have risen in the past two years due to more demand and shorter supply. Indicators like these point to a strong and sustained rental market.

Consider you bought a $125,000 home for cash that would rent for $1,250 per month. With $15,000 income and allowing for property taxes, insurance and maintenance, it is still reasonable to expect $10,000 net income. You’d have an 8% return on investment without considering tax savings or future appreciation compared with 5-year CDs paying less than 1.5% and a 10-year Treasury yield at 1.65%.

The reasonable control has a lot of appeal to many investors who find the volatility of the stock market unacceptable and don’t want the risk associated with some of the alternative investments. Please contact me if you’d like to know more about available opportunities.

Which Value Do You Use?

What your home is worth depends on why you ask the question. It could be one value based on a purchase or sale and an entirely different value for insurance purposes.

Fair market value is the price a buyer and seller can agree upon assuming both are knowledgeable, willing and unpressured by extraordinary events. This value is generally indicated by the comparable market analysis done by real estate professionals.

Insured value is determined for the proper insurance coverage. Replacement cost could actually exceed the cost of new construction when additional expenses are incurred for demolition and the added complexities of matching existing construction.

Homeowners are generally more familiar with their home’s market value. Since it can be lower than the replacement cost, owners should review the insured value with their property insurance agents periodically. Under-insuring could invoke a co-insurance clause that may limit the settlement and increase your out of pocket expenses.

Second Homes Treated Differently

While a principal residence and a second home have some similar benefits, they have some major differences. A principal residence is the primary home where you live and a second home is used for personal enjoyment while limiting possible rental activity to a maximum of 14 days per year.

The Mortgage Interest Deduction allows a taxpayer to deduct the qualified interest and property taxes on a principal residence and a second home. The interest is limited to a maximum of $1,000,000 combined acquisition debt and a combined $100,000 home equity debt for both the first and second homes.

The gain on a principal residence has a significant exclusion for taxpayers meeting the requirements. The gains on second homes must be recognized when sold. Even if you sell a smaller second home and invest all of the proceeds into a larger second home, you’ll need to pay tax on the gain.

Tax-deferred exchanges are not allowed for properties having personal use including second homes.

If the home is owned for more than 12 months, the gain is taxed at the long-term capital gains rate. If the home is owned for less than 12 months, the gain is taxed as ordinary income which would be a considerably higher rate.

The article is intended for informational purposes. Advice from a tax professional for your specific situation should be obtained prior to making a decision that can have tax implications.

Gift or Inherit – Transferring Title Of A Home…

Transferring the title of a home from one person to another may seem simple but it could have a significant tax implication.

When a person inherits property, the basis is “stepped-up” to fair market value at the time of the decedent’s death. On the other hand, a gift has a carry-over basis which means that the recipient receives the unrealized gain also.

As an example, let’s say an elderly parent, in an attempt to get their affairs in order, gives their home to their adult child. The rationale might be that they are the sole beneficiary and will get the property eventually. In an effort to settle things early, unnecessary income tax may be incurred.

If the home was purchased for $20,000 and worth $100,000 at the time of transfer, there is a possible gain of $80,000. However, if the adult child inherited the property at the time of the parent’s death, their new basis would be $100,000 or the fair market value at the time of death and the possible gain would be zero.

This is meant to be an example and many other variables could be involved. If you’re concerned about a situation, you should seek specific advice from a tax professional. As always, I’m here to help you as your real estate professional.

Assumption Opportunity – Home Buyers and Sellers!

The low interest rates secured by borrowers recently on FHA mortgages may become valuable in a different way in the future. FHA and VA mortgage are assumable at the existing interest rates subject to buyer qualification.

Buyers wanting to assume an existing FHA mortgage must be owner-occupants and meet the current FHA guidelines. Applicants should have a minimum 600 credit score, total debt with house payment to be assumed not to exceed 41% of their monthly gross income and meet other standard income, credit and qualifying requirements.

The benefits are not only assuming a lower interest rate resulting in lower payments but the closing costs on an assumption are much less than originating a new loan. The fact that the mortgage is already into an amortization schedule and that lower interest rate loans amortize faster than higher interest rate loans make it build equity faster than a new mortgage.

When interest rates eventually rise, assumptions will provide an opportunity for buyers to lower their cost of housing significantly while improving their wealth positions.

Protect Yourself! House Hold Safty Tips!

Home is a place you should feel safe and secure. Sometimes, we take it for granted and unfortunately, we do need to remain vigilant about things we do that could compromise our well-being. Here are a few tips you might want to consider.

  1. Everyone loves an inviting home including burglars. Make sure it looks occupied and is difficult to break in.

    • Always lock outside doors and windows even if you’re gone only a short time.
    • Leave lights on when you leave. Consider timers to automatically control the lights.
    • Keep your garage door closed even when you’re home; don’t tempt thieves with what you have in your garage.
    • Suspend your mail and newspaper delivery when you’re out of town or get a neighbor to pick it up for you.

  2. Posting that you’re out of town or away from home on social networks is like advertising your home is unprotected.
  3. Equally dangerous could be allowing certain social network sites to track your location.
  4. Don’t leave keys under doormats, in flowerpots or the plastic rocks; thieves know about those hiding places and even more than you can think.
  5. Trim the shrubs from around your home; don’t give criminals a place to hide.

Pre-approval Gives Everyone Confidence

The benefits of buyer’s pre-approval are without question; it is good for the buyers, the sellers and the agents. It saves time, money and removes the uncertainty of knowing whether the buyer is qualified. The direct benefits include:

  • Amount the buyer can borrow decreases as interest rates rise
  • Looking at “Right” homes – price, size, amenities, location
  • Find the best loan – rate, term, type
  • Uncover credit issues early – time to cure possible problems
  • Bargaining power – price, terms, & timing
  • Close quicker – verifications have been made

There a big difference in sitting down with a trusted mortgage professional compared to going through calculators on a website. The cost of being pre-approved is a bargain and generally, limited to the cost of the credit report.

Even if you have been pre-approved, a suggestion that can’t hurt but may help is to get a second opinion from a different lender. It will either verify that you have a good deal or you’ll discover that you can improve it. Either way, it works to your advantage. Contact me if you’d like a recommendation.