Friday, December 30, 2016

"This is going to be the year"

Every year, it seems like the same things are on the list but this could be the year you really do invest in a rental home.Resolutions.png

Rents are climbing, values are solid and mortgage rates are still low for non-owner occupied properties. A $150,000 home with 20% down payments can easily have a $300 to $500 monthly cash flow after paying all of the expenses.

There are lots of strategies that can be successful but a tried and true formula is to invest in below average price range homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods. These properties will appeal to the broadest range of tenants and buyers when you’re ready to sell.

Single family homes offer an opportunity to borrow high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed rates for long terms on appreciating assets with tax advantages and reasonable control.

This can be the year to make some real progress on your resolutions. The first step may be to invest some time learning about rental properties by attending a FREE webinar on January 4th at 7:00 PM Central time zone by national real estate speaker Pat Zaby. Click here to register. If you can’t attend live, by registering you’ll be sent the link to watch at your convenience.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Can 0.5% Really Equal 5%?

Since the election, rates have started going up and it will have a direct effect on the cost of housing. There is a rule of thumb that a ½% change in interest is approximately equal to 5% change in price. 14439217-250.jpg

As the interest rates go up, it will cost you more to live in the very same home or to keep the payment the same, you’ll have to buy a lower priced home.

Before rates rise too much, it may be the best time to buy a home whether you’re going to use it for your principal residence or a rental property. Low interest rates and lower prices make housing more affordable.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Time May Be Running Out

During the Great Recession, some homeowners elected to rent their home rather than sell it for less than it was worth.

IRS tax code allows for a temporary rental of a principal residence without losing the exclusion of capital gain based on some specific time limits. During the five year period ending on the date of the sale, the taxpayer must have:14095450-250.jpg

  • Owned the home for at least two years
  • Lived in the home as their main home for at least two years
  • Ownership and use do not have to be continuous nor occur at the same time

If a home has been rented for more than three years, the owner  will not have lived in it for two of the last five years. So the challenge for homeowners with gain in a rented principal residence that they don’t want to have to recognize is to sell and close the transaction prior to the crucial date.

Assume a person was selling a property which had been rented for 2 ½ years but had previously been their home for over two years. To qualify for the exclusion of capital gain, the home needs to be ready to sell, priced correctly, sold and closed within six months.

All of the gain may not qualify for the exclusion if depreciation has been taken for the period that it was rented. Depreciation is recaptured at a 25% tax rate.

A $200,000 gain in a home could have a $30,000 tax liability. Minimizing or eliminating unnecessary taxes is a legitimate concern and timing is important.

Selling a home for the most money is one thing; maximizing your proceeds is another. For more information, see IRS publication 523 and an example on the IRS website and consult a tax professional. 


Friday, December 2, 2016

It Isn't Final Until It's Funded

Mortgage approval isn’t final until it’s funded.  Things can change prior to the loan being closed that can affect a pre-approval such as changes in the borrowers’ financial situation or possibly, factors beyond their control like interest rate changes.40783733-250.jpg

Good advice to buyers is to do nothing that can affect your credit report until the loan closes. Opening new credit cards, taking on new debt for a car or furniture or changing jobs could affect the lender’s decision if they believe you may no longer be able to repay the loan.

The benefits of buyer’s pre-approval are definitive: 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

It is a very common practice for mortgage lenders to require income and bank verifications and to re-run the borrowers’ credit one final time just prior to closing. Mortgage approval isn’t final until it’s funded.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Gift or Inheritance - Does It Matter?

A person called into a radio talk program with a situation that was troubling to the caller and disturbing based on the potential tax liability that may have been avoided.18732493-250.jpg

The caller’s elderly father had deeded his home to his daughter a few years earlier because in his mind, his daughter was going to get the home eventually and this would be one less thing to be taken care of after his death. The daughter didn’t really care because the father was going to continue to live in the home and take care of it so that it would be no expense to her.

Obviously, unknown to either the father or the daughter, transferring the title of a home from one person to another could have significant tax implications. In this case, when the father “gave” the home to his daughter, he also gave her the basis in the home which is basically what he paid for it. If she sells the home in the future, the gain will be the difference in the net sales price and her father’s basis which could be considerably higher than had she inherited it.

If the home was purchased for $75,000 and worth $250,000 at the time of transfer, there is a possible gain of $175,000. However, when a person inherits property, the basis is "stepped-up" to fair market value at the time of the decedent's death.  If the adult child had inherited the property, at the time of the parent's death, their new basis would be $250,000 or the fair market value at the time of death and the possible gain would be zero.

In most cases, there are less tax consequences with inheritance than with a gift. There are other factors that may come into play but being aware that there is a difference between a gift and inheritance is certainly an important warning flag that would indicate that expert tax advice should be sought before any steps are taken.


Friday, November 18, 2016

It's the Principal of the Thing

Most people think they’ll have a house payment and a car payment for the rest of their lives but it doesn’t have to be with a plan and a little discipline. The plan is to make additional principal contributions to a fixed rate mortgage to shorten the term and save tens of thousands in interest. 65125303-250.jpg

If a person were to make an additional $100 payment each month applied to principal on a $175,000 mortgage, it would shorten the loan by five years six months. If the person were to make $200 a month additional payments, it would shorten the loan by 9 years. $459 additional payment would shorten it to 15 years.

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If a person does make a decision to regularly pre-pay their mortgage, it will be their responsibility to verify that the lender is applying the money to the principal each time as opposed to being placed in the reserve account for taxes and insurance.

In today’s market, a savings account pays around 0.5% or less. Even with the low mortgage rates available, there is still a considerable savings. People who might need the funds in the near future should carefully consider this option due to the difficulty to access equity easily from one’s home.

Make your own projections using the Equity Accelerator.


Friday, November 11, 2016

A Cost to Consider

Homeownership, part of the American Dream: a home of your own where you can feel safe, raise your family, share with your friends and enjoy life. The benefits are easily recognizable but maintenance is just as real and should be considered.Maintenance.png

Property taxes and insurance are two of the largest expenses homeowners have aside from their mortgage interest. But, as any homeowner knows, there will be occasional expenses for repairing toilets, faucets, windows and other things. There are also the significantly larger expenses that arise like replacing a water heater or HVAC unit. And don’t overlook the periodic maintenance like painting or floor coverings.

Financial experts suggest that homeowners save one to four percent of the home’s value per year for repairs and maintenance. Two to eight thousand dollars a year may sound like more than you’ll need but the cost of an air conditioning unit can easily be $6,000 and some homes have more than one unit, which hopefully, won’t need to be replaced in the same year.

Some homeowners purchase home warranties to avoid the unexpected costs. An annual premium instead of an unexpected large expenditure. Coverage varies from company to company and are not intended to cover existing conditions.

The alternative to not saving for these anticipated expenditures means that a homeowner might have to put it on a credit card at a very high interest rate or get a home improvement loan. Appreciation is a distinct benefit of home ownership and deferred maintenance can limit the value as well as lengthen the market time when it sells.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Down Payment: FOUND!

Saving the down payment may be unnecessarily keeping would-be buyers from getting into a home. They may be unaware that the funds might be available.

The NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports that 81% of first-time buyers got all or part of their down payment from savings. Less than 4% said that all or part of the down payment came from a withdrawal in their IRA and 8% from their 401(k) or pension fund. 21330457-250.jpg

Traditional IRAs have a provision for first-time buyers which include anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the previous two years. A person and their spouse, if married, can each withdraw up to $10,000 from their traditional IRA for a first-time home purchase without incurring the 10% early-withdrawal penalty. However, they will have to recognize the withdrawal as income in that tax year. For more information, go to IRS.gov

Allowable withdrawals from traditional IRAs can be from yourself and your spouse; your or your spouse’s child; your or your spouse’s grandchild or your or your spouse’s parent or ancestor.

Roth IRA owners can withdraw their contributions tax-free and penalty-free at any age for any reason because the contributions were made with post-tax income. After age 59 ½, earnings may be withdrawn as long as the Roth IRA have been in existence for at least five years.

Up to half of the balance of a 401(k) or $50,000, whichever is less, can be borrowed by the owner at any age for any reason without tax or penalty assuming the employer permits it. There can be specific rules for loans from a 401(k) that would determine the repayment; interest is usually charged but goes back into the owner’s account. You can consult with your HR department to find out the specifics.

A risk in borrowing against a 401(k) comes if your employment ends before the loan has been repaid. The loan may have to be repaid as soon as 60 days to keep the loan from being considered a withdrawal and subject to tax and penalty. Even if you continue with the same employer, failure to repay the loan could be considered a withdrawal also.

Your tax professional can provide you specific information on how making a withdrawal from your retirement program might affect you. Additional information can be found on www.IRS.gov.


Friday, October 21, 2016

It's not far, if you know the way

“It’s not far, if you know the way.” What this expression implies is that you could have a long way to go if you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there. Just like reading a map, there are some definite steps that will improve your success in buying a home in today’s market.12137546-250.jpg

  • Know your credit score – the best mortgage rates are available to borrowers with the highest scores. Unless you know what your credit score is at all three major credit bureaus, you don’t really know what rate you’ll have to pay.
  • Clean up your credit – it is estimated that about 90% of credit reports have errors. Some are not serious but others could affect a borrower from getting the loan they want. It is your responsibility to know what is on your different reports and correct them if possible. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from Experian, Trans Union and Equifax.
  • Get pre-approved – Taking the time to make a loan application with a qualified lender even before you start looking at homes will provide peace of mind, make sure that you are looking at the “right” homes and may help you negotiate the best price on the home you select.
  • Do your homework – when you find the home that meets your needs and desires, get the home inspected and research the tax assessments, school ratings, crime activity, possible zoning changes and comparable sales in the area.

Call for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional and an inspector.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Sale of Home by Surviving Spouse

Special consideration is made by IRS for the sale of a jointly-owned principal residence after the death of a spouse. Surviving spouse may qualify to exclude up to $500,000 of gain instead of the $250,000 exclusion for single people if certain requirements are met.30725703-250.jpg

  • The sale needs to take place no more than two years after the date of death of the spouse.
  • Surviving spouse must not have remarried as of the sale date.
  • The home must have been used as a principal residence for two of the last five years prior to the death. 
  • The home must have been owned for two of the last five years prior to the death.
  • Survivor can count any time when spouse owned the home as time they owned it and any time the home was the spouse’s residence as time when it was their residence.
  • Neither spouse may have excluded gain from the sale of another principal residence during the last two years prior to the death.

If you have been widowed in the last two years and have substantial gain in your principal residence, it would be worth investigating the possibilities. Time is a critical factor in qualification. Contact your tax professional for advice about your specific situation. Contact me to find out what your home is worth in today’s market. See IRS Publication 523 – surviving spouse.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Rental Real Estate is Preferred Choice

Real estate is the overwhelming preferred choice by Americans as identified in a recent survey. With the Dow Jones industrial average reaching record highs, it might be expected that the stock market would be the favored choice but that wasn’t the outcome.

Analysis of the report suggests that the popularity for houses could be that they are tangible assets that you can see where your money is actually invested compared to stocks and bonds which tend to be unclear where the money is invested.Best way to invest.jpg

There are several distinct advantages of homes as investments over other popular alternatives.

  1. High loan-to-value mortgages available
  2. At fixed interest rates
  3. For long periods of time
  4. On appreciating assets
  5. With definite tax advantages
  6. And reasonable control.

Another advantage of rental homes is that most people are comfortable with them. It is the same type of property that they live in but used as a rental. They have a tendency to understand the key components such as value, appreciation, rent, maintenance and financing. 


Friday, September 30, 2016

When the rate goes up

It’s not “if” the rate goes up but “when” the rate goes up; it could make a big difference for some buyers. Freddie Mac predicts that mortgage rates will be at 4.5% a year from now.Mortgage Rate History0916.png

If buyers can afford a home with higher interest rates, it means higher payments. Higher payments might mean they won’t have the money to spend on other things like furniture or improvements to the home or an unrelated purchase like a new car.

When the rate moves 0.50% on a $250,000 mortgage, the payment goes up by $70.66 a month. If it moves 1.00%, the payment goes up by $143.74 per month, each and every month for the entire term of the mortgage which means paying over $50,000 more for the house.

The question facing every borrower in this situation is “How will you feel about having to pay more to live in the same house because you were not ready to commit?”

Then, there’s the borrower who is absolutely maxed out as to what they can qualify for or sometimes, it is a borrower who just refuses to pay a higher payment. When that’s the case, the buyer has to make a larger down payment. In the same example, a 0.50% increase in rate would require $14,873 more in down payment. That could make the purchase impossible or require the buyer to buy a lesser price home that will not have the same amenities.

Mortgage rates have been low for so long that some people think that is what they should be. There are some economists who believe that the economy will not be strong again until mortgage rates are in the 7% range.

To see how this type of scenario might affect you, go to the If the Rate Goes Up calculator.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Waiting to Buy...WHY?

Some people wait to buy a home until they have 20% down payment to avoid paying the mortgage insurance which is required by lenders when the loan-to-value ratio is greater than 80%, with the exception of VA loans. 9379386-250.jpg

To illustrate a typical situation, let’s assume that buyers have $10,000 for a down payment on a $200,000 home. They could purchase it today with a 95% loan or save another $30,000 in order to get an 80% loan without mortgage insurance.

If it took three years to save the additional down payment, the $200,000 home at 3% appreciation would cost $218,545. A 20% down payment on the increased sales price would be $43,709, less the $10,000 the buyers currently have leaves them $33,709 to save which would amount to $936.36 a month. They would secure a $174,836 mortgage at the then current mortgage rates, which in all likelihood, will be higher than today’s rates.

The alternative is for the buyer to purchase the home today with a 95% loan at today’s low interest rates plus approximately $85 a month for mortgage insurance depending on their credit score. At the end of three years, the unpaid balance would be $179,548.  Assuming the home will be worth the same $218,545, the buyer’s equity would be almost $39,000.  To reduce the mortgage to the same amount as the first example, the buyer would need to make an additional $125 a month principal contribution above the normal payment. Then, the mortgage would have an unpaid balance at the end of three years of $174,775.

When there is sufficient equity in the home, the mortgage insurance is no longer required. Some lenders may drop the mortgage insurance requirement with an appraisal to provide proof. In other situations, it may require refinancing to eliminate the insurance.  Call to discuss options that may be available to you.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Dust-Free Home

Having a dust-free home isn’t difficult, but it takes a serious commitment and a housekeeping strategy that addresses the dust and its causes. Whether your motive is cleanliness or to eliminate the cause of some allergies and asthma symptoms, it will be worth it. 10043513-250.jpg

  • Try to dust your home at least twice a week. Dust the tallest items and work your way down. Dust picture frames, blinds, baseboards and anything that stands out from the wall.
  • Feather dusters can spread more dust than they collect compared to microfiber cloths that attracts dust because they have an electrostatic charge.
  • Filters on heating and air-conditioning systems should be changed often not only to remove dust from the air but to increase the efficiency of the units themselves. Special HEPA filters can improve the overall indoor air quality.
  • Frequently changing the bag or emptying the container in your vacuum is helpful in eliminating dust.
  • Vacuum the floors at least once a week. Vacuum under furniture and periodically, move appliances to clean behind and underneath. Use the proper attachments to vacuum upholstered furniture and under cushions.
  • Eliminate dust magnets like carpet, heavy drapes and upholstered furniture. Consider hard surface flooring like wood or tile instead of carpet.
  • Keep windows closed to keep dust out.
  • Clean your pillows and drapes.
  • Damp mopping and dusting with plain water helps hold the dust and is environmentally friendly.
  • A humidifier can eliminate static electricity which holds dust.
  • Air purifiers circulate air and capture dust and other pollutants.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Getting to Value

Fair market value is the price that real estate would sell for on the open market without any unusual forces being involved. The definition is relatively simple but there certainly different methods of determining what it is.27939218-250.jpg

A homeowner could order an appraisal before they put their home on the market but would incur the expense of an appraisal and more likely than not, it won’t or can’t be used by the buyer or their lender. The advantage is that an appraisal is a professional approach by a disinterested party to establish value.

Licensed appraisers use three approaches to value: the market data, the replacement cost and the income approach. The appraiser can put more weight on one approach than another based on his/her assessment of what would be appropriate.

The replacement cost looks at what it would cost to rebuild the property today less the depreciation it has experienced by age and wear and tear plus the value of the lot.

The income approach uses a capitalization rate based on the net operating income of a property to determine value. It is more applicable to commercial properties than it is for homes used by homeowners and not rented.

The market data approach relies on recent sales of similar properties near the subject. The appraiser will make monetary adjustments for differences in the comparables that are used to create a more accurate comparison.

Real estate agents use a similar approach to determine fair market value by performing a Competitive Market Analysis, CMA. Like the market data approach of an appraisal, it looks at recent sales of similar properties, it also considers properties currently for sale and what homes were unsuccessful in their attempt to sell. This approach is sensitive to supply and demand and may be more reactive to rapidly rising or declining markets.

Both appraisals and CMAs have a distinct advantage because of the personal opinion as a professional compared to online website estimates using raw data and mathematical formulas. Regardless of which method is used, it is an estimate. Obviously, some estimates are more accurate based on the experience of the person making the estimate. A price is placed on the property by the seller but value is ultimately determined by the buyer when a final sale is achieved.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Pay Off Your Mortgage?

Becoming debt free is as much a part of the American Dream as owning a home but there certainly can be conflicting circumstances that make the decision to pay off your mortgage early unclear. 32498400-250.jpg

The advantages of paying off debt early is increased cash flow, less interest paid and a higher credit score. The disadvantages are lower cash flow available as discretionary funds for meals, entertainment and other things. If the ultimate goal is financial security, is it worth the intermediate sacrifice?

Whether you pay off your mortgage early is a personal decision that may be right for one person and not for another. Consider the following before you get started:

Reasons you should

  • Peace of mind knowing that you don’t have a mortgage
  • You’ll save interest regardless of how low your mortgage rate is
  • Lowering your housing costs before you retire

Reasons you shouldn’t

  • You can invest at a higher rate than your mortgage
  • You have other debt at a higher rate than your mortgage that needs to be paid off
  • You might need the money in the future and want to remain liquid
  • You might not qualify for a mortgage currently
  • You should pay off other debt with higher interest rates
  • Your employer has a matching retirement plan that would benefit you more
  • You have more urgent financial needs like emergency fund, life, health and disability insurance
  • You expect high inflation and the value of your mortgage debt will decrease

Use this Mortgage Accelerator to determine how quick you can pay off your mortgage.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Two Negotiations

There are two negotiation periods in some home sales. The primary negotiation takes place when the contract is agreed upon that includes the price, closing and possession. Buyers and sellers alike feel relieved once this first round has resulted in an agreement but there may be more negotiations to come if there are contingencies for financing, inspections or other things.Round 1-250.png

The purpose of an inspection is for the buyer to receive an objective evaluation about the condition of the home and its components to identify existing defects and potential problems. The expense for inspections can be several hundred dollars and it’s reasonable for buyers to not want to spend the money before they find out if they can come to terms with the seller. From a different perspective, sellers want to know quickly if the buyer is going to reject the home due to the inspections.

Sometimes, buyers will expect sellers to make all of the repairs listed on the report and this is where the second round of negotiations begins. If the seller refuses, the negotiations can go back and forth until the other party accepts the offer on the table or the contract falls apart.

When purchasing a new home from a builder, it is expected for everything to be in working order; after all, it is new. However, it is reasonable to expect that existing homes, that are not new, have a different standard. While it’s understandable that buyers would want to be aware about major items that are not in “working order”, normal wear and tear of components based on its age should be expected.

In a highly competitive seller’s market, buyers might do whatever they can to get their contract accepted, realizing that there is another place to negotiate when they’re not competing with other buyers’ offers to purchase.

For this to be a WIN-WIN negotiation, both seller and buyer must feel good about the transaction. Neither party should feel that they have been taken advantage of.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Ready for Retirement?

It’s surprising to realize that most people spend more time planning their next vacation or cell phone purchase than they do on their own retirement. Let’s look at a hypothetical situation where you have $35,000 to invest for your retirement in 15 years. Have you compared where you might have the best opportunity?

The safest place to put it might be a certificate of deposit because it’s insured but unfortunately, rates would be less than 2%. The value would grow to $47,233.26 at the end of the 15 year holding period.Where to invest - 250.jpg

Investing in a mutual fund has more risk but also a greater opportunity to earn a higher rate of return. An estimated 7% return would project an accumulated value of $99,713.14.

Using the $35,000 for a 20% down payment and closing costs on a $150,000 rental home could realize much higher proceeds. Using a familiar investment analysis spreadsheet, the $35,000 could grow to a future wealth position of $153,302. This analysis considers leverage, 3% appreciation, re-investing cash flows, 7% sales expenses and paying applicable taxes which the previous examples do not.

The rate of return on these three examples are 2% for the CD, 7% for the mutual fund and a comparable 14.19% return on the rental. As the rate of return increases on investments, additional risk is reasonable.

Most people are much more familiar with homes than they are with mutual funds, bonds and other similar investments. The same REALTOR® who helped you with your home can help you invest in a rental home.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Avoid Wasting Time

“If you waste my time, don’t expect me to hang out with you very long.” This could have been said by a buyer or seller or a real estate agent. Time is valuable and no one wants to waste their time. 45568020-250.jpg

Most people can’t put their lives on-hold while they’re trying to buy or sell a home. Whether they have a family, a couple or single, life continues and the time constraints of moving can become burdensome.

Your agent is committed to helping you save time while making the experience memorable. They know the process and the potential problem areas and can help you move through them.

To preserve your time and your agent’s, please consider the following:

  • If your plans to buy or sell change, let your agent know.
  • Be on time for appointments or if it is necessary, cancel them with as much notice as possible.
  • Get pre-approved through a trusted mortgage professional.
  • Cooperate with your loan professional by providing all requested documentation.
  • Don’t wander into builder or REALTOR® open houses without your agent. If you find yourself in that situation, immediately notify them that you have an agent.
  • Only talk to the other party through your agent until after closing.

Your agent is working to help you meet your goals. Things work best when it’s like a partnership where each party mutually respects the other and their resources including their time.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Picture This!

Listing photos may be one of the most important marketing efforts that lead to a potential buyer.50557127-250.jpg

Nearly, all buyers use the Internet during the home search process. They usually start looking at homes online before they contact an agent. It’s far more efficient to screen properties by looking at the pictures that have been posted than to make appointments with each homeowner, drive all over town and waste a lot of time looking at homes that would never meet a buyer’s criteria.

  • There needs to be enough pictures of a property to adequately represent the home; most websites allow for at least 24 and more may be needed if it is a large home.
  • Take horizontal shots to accommodate the format of most listing websites.
  • The pictures should be well-lit so that it is easy to see all of the features of the room. Natural light is preferred over the limitations of flash.
  • They should be taken with a wide-angle lens so that you can see the majority of the room in one picture.
  • Large rooms can be taken from different angles to give the buyers a different perspective.
  • Rooms should be set if not staged prior to taking the pictures so they will give the buyer an idea of what the room might look like with their own things in it.
  • Arrange pictures in website to help buyers visualize the floorplan as if walking through it.
  • Think about using a tripod; professionals do to absolutely hold the camera still.
  • They should definitely not be “photoshopped” to modify factual elements like removing power lines.

Everyone occasionally takes a great picture but it doesn’t make them a photographer. Since the photography can be one of the most important marketing efforts, consider using a professional photographer to show the home to its best advantage.


Friday, July 29, 2016

How Will It Feel?

It has been said that change is the only constant. Most of the financial experts have been expecting interest rates to increase along with home prices. While homes, in most markets, have definitely seen increases over the past five years, the mortgage rates today are actually lower than they were a year ago. FreddieMac PMMS 072816 rev.jpg

If the interest rates were to increase by 1% over the next year while homes appreciated at 6% during the same time frame, a $250,000 home would go up by $15,000 and the payment would be $211.53 more each month for as long as the owner had the mortgage. The increased payments alone would amount to $17,769 for the next seven years.

When facing a decision to postpone a purchase for a year, a legitimate question to ask oneself would be: “how will it feel to have to pay more to live in basically the same home a year from now?”

It is easy to understand that if the price of a $250,000 home goes up by 6%, it increases the price by $15,000. A slightly more difficult concept to realize is that if the interest rate were to go up by ½%, it is approximately equal to a 5% increase in price. A 1% increase in mortgage rates would approximately equal a 10% change in price. This means that if a home goes up in price by 6% and the interest rate goes up by 1%, it is equivalent to the price of the home going up by a little more than 16%.

Use the Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator to estimate what it might cost to wait to purchase based on your own estimates of what interest rates and prices will do in the next year.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Increase the Chance of Being Accepted

While all contracts must have certain required elements, mutual assent, consideration, capacity and legality, there are some things that increase its chance of being accepted.

19269905-250.jpgThe seller generally wants the highest possible price with the fewest inconveniences in the shortest period of time. In the same way, the buyer generally wants the lowest possible price with the fewest inconveniences in the shortest period of time.

The perspective of the principal can change depending on how these different parts of an agreement are structured.

  • Offer Price - While the price of the home seems to be the major point of contention in a home negotiation, the seller’s net proceeds and the buyer’s mortgage payment may actually be more critical.
  • Financing - 86% of buyers financed their recent home purchase as opposed to the 14% who paid cash. Some financing has higher fees than other types of financing and in some instances, sellers must pay the additional charges on behalf of the buyer.
  • Concessions
    • Seller-paid closing costs – paying all or part of a buyer’s closing cost requires less cash outlay for the purchaser and makes it easier or more appealing for them to buy the home.
    • Seller-paid buydown – prepaying interest to the lender on behalf of the buyer gives them lower payments for the first one, two or three years even though they must qualify at the note rate of the fixed-rate mortgage.
    • Personal property – seller may agree to include existing or new personal property like washer, dryer or refrigerator.
    • Improvements – seller may agree to make modifications to the existing condition of the home like floor covering, countertops, appliances, painting or other things.
  • Earnest Money – more money gives the seller a sense that the transaction is more likely to close while putting the least amount at risk is generally, more appealing to the buyer.
  • Timing – depending on which party is more flexible, sometimes an earlier or later closing or a position on occupancy can be an offsetting consideration that can balance the differing terms.
  • Contingencies or lack thereof – requirements that must be satisfied before the contract can be closed.

The training and experience of a skilled negotiator can benefit both buyers and sellers to save time, avoid difficulties and bring all parties to an agreement. Your real estate professional should be able to help you structure a good offer and negotiate a win-win situation.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Right Questions are Key

Asking the right questions will lead to the answers that help you determine which agent to use for one of the largest investments that most people make…the purchase or sale of their home. 13481441-250.jpg

Rudyard Kipling wrote the verse “I keep six serving men, they taught me all I knew; their names were what and why and when and how and where and who.” Prefacing your questions with one of these words can help you get the information you need to make a good decision about the REALTOR® you use.

  • How long have you been selling homes and is this your full-time job?
  • What designations or other credentials do you have?
  • How many homes did you and your company sell last year?
  • What is your average market time compared to MLS and your top competitors?
  • What is your sales price to list price ratio?
  • When will you report to me on the progress of my transaction?
  • Who can you recommend for service providers like mortgage, inspections, repairs and maintenance?
  • Why do you want to work with me?
  • Where are the biggest opportunities to expose my home to the largest market?

Finding the right person to represent you is a little like the person who ordered a lobster dinner at a restaurant. When the waiter brought out the meal, the lobster only had one claw. The customer asked why it only had one claw and the waiter said: “I don’t know; I guess it was in a fight.” The customer looked at him and said: “then, bring me the lobster who won.”


Friday, July 8, 2016

Opportunity Can Disappear

In the last few years, some people who were unable to sell their homes, rented them instead. The market has improved in most places and the home may easily sell now and possibly, for a higher price.53848691-250.jpg

Even though the opportunity to sell in the near future might not change, there could be another opportunity that could quickly disappear for some homeowners.

Most homeowners are aware that there is a capital gain exclusion on the profits of a principal residence of up to $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. The rule requires that you must own and use the home as your principal residence for two out of the last five years.

A homeowner can rent their home for up to three years and still be eligible for the exclusion. As an example, if they had owned and lived in it for two years and then rented it for two and a half years, they would need to sell and close the transaction before the remaining six months expired.

If there was a $200,000 profit in the home that didn’t qualify for the exclusion, a 15% long-term capital gain tax of $30,000 could become due depending on the tax bracket of the owner. With some careful planning, the tax could be avoided. Awareness of the time frames and the right team of tax and real estate professionals could save a considerable amount of the homeowner’s equity.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Retirement Funds for Home Purchase

For the person who has good credit and income but not enough money for the down payment on a home, their qualified retirement program could offer them some help. The rules are different depending on whether it is a 401(k), a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA.iStock_000029879344-250.jpg

Up to half of the balance of a 401(k) or $50,000, whichever is less, can be borrowed by the owner at any age for any reason without tax or penalty assuming the employer permits it. There can be specific rules for loans from 401ks that would determine the repayment; interest is usually charged but goes back into the owner’s account. You can consult with your HR department to find out the specifics.

A risk in borrowing against a 401(k) comes if your employment ends before the loan has been repaid. The loan may have to be repaid with as soon as 60 days to keep the loan from being considered a withdrawal and subject to tax and penalty. Even if you continue with the same employer, failure to repay the loan could be considered a withdrawal also.

Roth IRA owners can withdraw their contributions tax-free and penalty-free at any age for any reason because the contributions were made with post-tax income. After age 59 ½, earnings may be withdrawn as long as the Roth IRA have been in existence for at least five years.

Traditional IRAs have a provision for first-time buyers which include anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the previous two years. A person and their spouse, if married, can each withdraw up to $10,000 from their traditional IRA for a first-time home purchase without incurring the 10% early-withdrawal penalty. However, they will have to recognize the withdrawal as income in that tax year. For more information, go to IRS.gov.

Another interesting fact about this provision is that the taxpayer making the withdrawal can help a relative includes children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents.

If you want more information to clearly understand the issues involved relative to your specific situation, talk to your tax professional or consult www.IRS.gov.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Choose a Lower Tax Rate

During campaign season, it is not unusual to hear a candidate criticized because they make a lot of money but pay little in income tax. While it might not seem fair, taxpayers are allowed to arrange their affairs so that they minimize the amount of tax paid.tax brackets.png

Salary, wages and commissions, along with interest and dividends are taxed at ordinary income rates which can range from 10% to 39.6%. However, capital gains rates, for property held more than 12 months, are much lower ranging from 0% to 20%. Taxpayers in the 25-35% brackets pay LTCG rates of 15%.

The profit on rental property enjoys the lower long-term capital gains rates as compared to the profit on “flipped” property which is taxed at ordinary income rates.

Investments in rental homes generate income, provide depreciation for tax shelter, have equity build-up due to the amortizing loan, leveraged growth due to the borrowed funds and appreciation. The profits could be considerably higher than alternative investments and the profits taxed at lower rates.

The advantage is available to people who understand the tax laws and choose to arrange their activities so they pay a minimal amount of tax. The advantage is available to all taxpayers, not just the rich. In fact, implementing these types of strategies could lead to an increase in wealth.

Consider having this discussion with your tax professional.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Increase Your Marketability

The seller has three tools available to affect the marketability of their home: price, condition and terms. Price is the easiest to adjust for the competing properties, amount of inventory or market conditions. However, lowering the price is not necessarily the best decision when trying to maximize the proceeds of sale.

If a home is in poor or outdated condition, updating can be done to make it show favorably with other homes that are currently on the market. Sometimes, sellers rationalize not doing the work by saying they believe the buyers would rather make their own choices. The truth is that most buyers are using all their resources to get into the home and will have to live in its present condition until they can save enough to make the changes they want.Marketability-250.jpg

Another reason to go ahead and invest the money and effort into improving the condition is that it is difficult for buyers to imagine the home any other way than its current condition. When comparing one home to another, buyers will sometimes refer to a home as the “stinky house” or the “old kitchen” which may put it at a disadvantage.

While price and condition are the main things that control the marketability, terms can be equally effective. Terms relate to financial considerations made by the seller to induce a buyer to make a decision to purchase their home.

Seller-paid points or closing costs, interest rate buy downs and owner-financing are examples of terms that may increase the marketability of a home because of the additional benefits they offer to buyers.

An example could be that a seller will carry a 10% second lien so that the buyer can get an 80% loan and avoid the expense of mortgage insurance. The seller gets most of their equity plus a fair interest rate on the loan that doesn’t have to be tied up for 30 years like the first mortgage.

Increasing the marketability of your home is a great conversation to have with your real estate professional especially to help you get the highest price in the shortest time with the fewest problems. Just be aware that not all agents may be as creative as some.


Friday, June 10, 2016

If you're going to play, GET IN THE GAME

If competition is a buyer’s biggest concern, for goodness’ sake, get in the game. In a new survey of close to a thousand home buyers conducted by Redfin, affordability is still the number one concern but due to low inventories, competition from other buyers is moving its way up the poll.

26% identified affordability while 19% mentioned competition and 15% mentioned low inventory as their respective top concerns.get in the game-250.jpg

To win, athletes study the competition to come up with a plan and buying a home is not different.

  1. Ask what terms are important to the seller before you write the offer.
  2. Once you decide to make an offer, do it as fast as you can, hopefully, to be the only one the seller is considering.
  3. Make a good (or possibly, your best) offer in the beginning; you may never get a chance at improving it. In highly competitive situations, offer above the list price.
  4. Attach your pre-approval letter from a respected lender. This means you’ll need to get pre-approved before you even think about writing an offer.
  5. Have your lender call the listing agent to reassure them of your ability to qualify.
  6. Include a higher than normal amount of earnest money to show you are serious.
  7. Eliminate unnecessary contingencies.
  8. Write a personal, hand-written letter telling the seller what you like about their home and why you want it. Consider including pictures of your family.
  9. Minimize seller expenses paid for the benefit of the buyer.
  10. Shorten inspection times.
  11. Don’t ask for personal property.
  12. Be flexible on closing dates to accommodate the seller’s move.

Once you find your dream home, don’t take a chance on losing it. Write a winning offer that will be good for both the sellers and the buyers.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Your Tenants Will Send Your Kids to College

Parents, with children getting closer and closer to entering college, may also be feeling stress because they haven’t saved enough for tuition and other expenses. It’s estimated that the average cost for the 2015-16 school year is $32,405 for private colleges, $9,410 for state residents of public colleges and $23,893 for out-of-state residents.kids to college.png

If you started saving the year your child was born, you’d have to save $4,608 per year for 18 years at 5% to accumulate $129,620. If you waited until they were 10 years old, you’d have to save $13,574 per year to have the right amount. Saving enough can be difficult if you have a lot of time but if you only have a short time to meet your goals, it can seem impossible.

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Student debt is one way to handle the tuition but many parents are reluctant to saddle their children with the obligation. Currently, there is more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt to 40 million borrowers with an average balance of $29,000. Some economists suggest that this debt is delaying would-be buyers from making their first home purchases.

There is another way to pay for the education by making an investment in a rental property. Rents are continuing to rise, homes in owner-occupied neighborhoods are appreciating and the leverage due to borrowed funds can be a huge help in building the equity to pay the tuition.

Rent the home and maintain its condition over the years. As the loan amortizes and the value increases, the equity will grow. When your student is ready to start college, you'll actually have several options.

You can sell the property; pay the tax on the gain at the reduced capital gains rate and fund the education. Another option would be to refinance and take the proceeds to pay for the tuition. This would allow you to continue to own the asset but would free your equity. Under current tax laws, it is a non-taxable event.

In effect, your tenants are paying to send your kids to college.


Friday, May 27, 2016

The Obvious Alternative Investment

Rental homes can be a natural alternative investment choice for homeowners because they are already familiar with houses. Maintenance on a rental is not that much different than on your personal home. The same plumbers, painters and other workmen can be used to make repairs. 20947848-250.jpg

Single family homes offer an investor high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for long terms on appreciating assets with defined tax advantages and more control than other investments.

  1. High loan-to-value mortgages – most investments require that you pay cash but rental properties can be purchased with 20% down payment.
  2. Fixed interest rates – most commercial loans are based on a floating rate such as prime interest plus one or two percent compared to real estate loans as fixed rates for the term.
  3. Long terms – commercial loans are generally short-term such as six months or a year with the possibility of being renewed for another six months or a year unlike real estate where a 30-year mortgage is commonplace.
  4. Appreciating assets – real estate has a long-term history of going up in value.
  5. Defined tax advantages – many investments are taxed as ordinary income but rental real estate enjoys a non-cash deduction called cost recovery, the profits from sale are taxed at lower long-term capital gains rates or may be eligible for a tax-deferred exchange.
  6. Control – rental homes don’t require partners and afford the investor more options than investing in mutual funds and other traditional investments.

The demand for good rentals is strong and the rents continue to go up in most markets.  There are people who choose not to buy or cannot buy a home who would prefer to live in a single family home rather than an apartment.


Friday, May 20, 2016

7 Out of 50 Could Save Money

It is estimated that seven million out of 50 million homeowners could save money by refinancing their existing mortgages. Obviously, if the replacement mortgage has a lower rate than your existing one, you will save money.

If you bought a home before 2011 and are paying mortgage insurance, you should investigate refinancing to eliminate that requirement. Even if you don’t get a lower interest rate, the savings could amount to hundreds of dollars a month.

If a home you purchased since 2011 has appreciated enough, it could easily justify refinancing to eliminate the required mortgage insurance. Most loans don’t require mortgage insurance if the loan-to-value is 80% or less. There are some programs for 90% mortgages that don’t require mortgage insurance. It is certainly worth investigating with a trusted mortgage professional.

Continuing to pay mortgage insurance that could be eliminated is like having a broken cell phone and continuing to make the monthly payments for something you can’t use and don’t need.

If your current mortgage is several years old, instead of getting a new 30 year mortgage, you might consider a 15-year term. The money you save with a lower interest rate could help you to retire your loan in a shorter time so that your home would be paid for.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

You may never stop paying for some improvements

14041766_s.jpgYou've saved the money and are ready to pay cash to build a new pool for your home.  However, that's just the beginning of your soon to be increased expenses which will include maintenance, higher utilities and higher taxes.

Homeowners obviously benefit by a larger equity when their home increases in value due to appreciation.   A not-so-obvious effect that will also more than likely take place is that their property taxes will increase.  In most cases, a property's assessed value is generally tied to market value to calculate the property taxes based on the tax rate for that year.

Similarly, a homeowner can affect the value of their home by making capital improvements.  Some small items may never be recognized by the taxing authority but items that require a permit, certainly are brought to their attention.  Items such as a fence, roof, remodeling, windows, new rooms or swimming pools can easily increase the assessed value of a property.

Most states have an established time frame in which to challenge the current tax assessment for that year.  The process is relatively simple and doesn't require professional representation.  It generally involves showing that there is an error which has overstated the value or that current comparable sales indicate a lower value.

If you'd like more information or need the comparable sales data, please let us know.  We would be happy to help you investigate the possibility of lowering your property taxes.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Your home may be worth a lot more than you think

Real estate lost a lot of value during the recession but most areas have rebounded considerably.  In some cases, the homes are worth more than they were before the housing bubble burst. 60178926_250.jpg

The dynamics are classic for this type of market: inventories are low, mortgage rates are low and demand is high.  All price ranges are on the rise with some at an even higher rate because the short supply is causing competition among buyers.

Another reason many homeowners' may have more equity is simply not staying current with what is going on in the market.  In a recent FNMA study, it indicates that 23% of owners believe they have negative equity in their home when actually, it is 9%.  37% believe they have greater than 20% equity in their home when actually 69% of homeowners do.

Even if you're not planning to sell your home, knowing the value helps you understand your financial position better.  The interest on home equity debt up to a $100,000 limit is tax deductible and can be used for any purpose.  Owner's commonly refinance to eliminate mortgage insurance, consolidate mortgages, pay off higher interest rate debt like credit cards or student loans or to buy out an ex-spouse's equity.

Be aware that an automated value model like Zillow Zestimates uses algorithms to determine a price and while it might be in the ballpark, AVM results may only be accurate about 20% of the time.  A comparable marketing analysis or broker's price opinion will be more accurate due the subjective approach that will be used by an agent with personal experience in the area.  An agent will consider factors like condition, floorplan, marketability and demand.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tips for Buying Rentals

Buying rental property can be an excellent decision and the better informed you are, the more likely you'll have favorable results.  The following suggestions can help you with your decisions.

rising homes.jpgReal estate is a long term investment affected by supply, demand and the economy.  It isn't an investment that is easily converted to cash.  The costs to acquire and dispose of real estate are sizable and need to be spread over years to minimize their effects on the rate of return.

Invest in average price homes or slightly below average price to appeal to the broadest market not only when you are renting but later on when you sell it.  The average price is relative to the market you are in and those specific prices.

Lower-priced homes will rent for more relative to higher-priced homes.  There is an inverse relationship between rent as a percentage of the price.  As the price increases, the rent as a percentage of the price decreases.  For example, a $200,000 home might rent for $1,750 a month or 0.88% where a $400,000 home might only rent for $2,250 a month or 0.68%.

Choose predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods because when you sell the home, it will appeal to a homeowner who will most likely pay a higher price for the home.  Homes in predominantly tenant-occupied neighborhoods tend to sell to investors who pay lower prices and will not be emotionally involved with the purchase.

Purchase a property with the idea of selling it in mind.  You may be able to get a property for a bargain price today but if it is due to a functional obsolescence like a bad floorplan or not enough bathrooms, that problem will still be there when you're ready to sell the property.  Identify what the problem is and what solutions are available.  The property may rent fine in that condition but before you sell, it will need to be corrected.

Get the home inspected before you purchase it.  Having the property checked out can save thousands in unanticipated expenses. 

Consider getting a home warranty on your rental.  The annual premium can limit the out of pocket expenses for repairs and maintenance.

Risk can be minimized by understanding the investment and what is involved in the acquisition, operation and disposition.  For the typical homeowner, rental property is something that they can relate to because of the similar attributes of the home they live in.

Friday, April 15, 2016

How Earnest Are You?

"If I tell you it's going to rain, you can put the buckets on the porch." If you grew up in the south, you may have heard this expression when a person is testifying to the veracity of his word. If you know a person and/or their reputation, you know whether you can trust their word or not.

7918959_s-250.jpgHowever, with a stranger such as a buyer, the seller doesn't know whether they'll live up to the terms of the contract or not. Buyers submit earnest money along with a contract to demonstrate their commitment to the terms of the offer.

The more earnest money that the buyer deposits indicates to the seller a higher level of commitment to the contract. Except for stated contingencies in the sales contract, if the buyer fails to close on the sale, the earnest money may be forfeited. Significant earnest money makes the seller feel more secure that the contract will close.

There certainly are a lot of things that can dictate how much earnest money is appropriate. Local customs, price of the home and type of mortgage can all help to determine the proper amount. In some areas, it may be common for it to be 1-5 percent of the purchase price. In other areas, it might be a specific amount like $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the sales price. It really comes down to whatever the buyer and seller agree is the proper amount.

Another strategy is to put up an adequate amount initially until you get through the inspections or contingency period and then, to put up an additional amount when the contingencies have been removed.

The earnest money demonstrates the buyers' sincerity in making the offer and proceeding according to the agreement so the seller can take their home off the market and start making plans to move and give possession of their home. Ultimately, both parties want to close as anticipated according to the contract and the earnest money helps facilitate that.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Components of a Credit Score

Credit scores are used by lenders to measure the credit worthiness of borrowers. While there are several different companies that offer scores, the FICO, Fair Isaacson Corporation, is the model that is used most often.

There are five key components that determine the overall score or rating. The most emphasis, 35% of the overall score, is placed on payment history which reflects whether the borrower paid on time and as agreed by the terms of the credit. Being late, missing payments or going into default would have adverse effects on this part of the score. FICO score.png

The second largest component, 30%, is credit utilization or the amount owed in relation to amount available. A person might have a $4,000 outstanding balance on available credit of $20,000. This would be a 20% ratio and would be considered acceptable. Owing $15,000 on $20,000 of available credit would be a 75% ratio and would negatively affect this part of the credit score. FICO says people with the best scores average around 7% credit utilization.

The length of time each account has been open and the account’s activity determines 15% of the total credit score. By having a longer credit history, the credit provider has a better indication of the borrower’s long-term financial behavior. Having an open account without activity doesn’t offer a provider much information.

New credit and types of credit each account for 10% of the total score. New credit can adversely affect a score because it is a new obligation without history of how it will affect the borrower’s ability to repay all of their liabilities. Types of credit include both revolving and installment debt. A good mixture of each can indicate less risk for lenders.

The combination of all five areas make up the total score which lenders use to determine credit worthiness. Another confusing issue is that all credit scores are not mortgage credit scores. This particular score determines not only whether the lender will make a mortgage but at what interest rate.

The best place to get your credit score if you’re planning on purchasing a home is from a trusted mortgage professional. This person will be able to suggest things to improve your score if necessary. Buying a home is one of the largest investments in most people’s lives; it is really not a do-it-yourself activity.


Friday, April 1, 2016

More Money in Your Paycheck

A homeowner’s tax savings benefit is generally realized when they file their federal income tax return after the money has been spent for the interest and property taxes. Some people look forward to the refund as a means of forced savings but some people need to realize the savings during the year.Increase Allowances.png

It is possible to adjust the deductions being withheld from the homeowner’s salary so they realize the benefit of the savings prior to filing their tax returns in the form of more money in their pay checks. Employees can talk to their employers about increasing their deductions stated on their W-4 form.

By increasing the exemptions or deductions, less is taken out of the check and the employee will receive more each pay period. If a person over-estimates their exemptions and therefore, underpays their income tax, they might incur interest and would have additional tax to pay when they filed their tax return.

Buyers considering this strategy should seek tax advice and discuss it with their human relations department at work. Additional information is available on the Internal Revenue Service website about Completing Form w-4 and Worksheets.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Postponing a Purchase

You might be surprised how many people contact real estate offices because they want to buy a home but they don’t have the down payment or the credit to qualify. Occasionally, an agent will be working with someone who does have the down payment and credit but for whatever reason, decides to postpone the decision to purchase now for some point in the future.

It’s not uncommon that once they’re out of the market, the money starts burning a hole in their pocket and they end up buying a boat or a motorcycle or some other thing that cannot positively affect their lives and security the way a home does.40382258_s-250.jpg

If the money had been put away somewhere safe like a certificate of deposit, it wouldn’t earn a lot but it would be there when they decided the time was right to buy a home. $8,750 would grow to $9,286 in three years in a 2% CD.

For the person who could tolerate a little more risk, they might consider investing in the stock market. If you found a mutual fund that would earn 7%, at the end of the same three year time frame, the $8,750 would have grown to $10,719.

Alternatively, if the would-be buyers used the same amount to purchase a $250,000 home that appreciated at only a modest one percent, the equity in the home at the end of the same three year period would be $29,597.

The dynamics of earning appreciation on the value of the home rather than just the down payment combined with the amortization of the mortgage makes the equity in the home almost three times greater than the mutual fund. If you used a 2% appreciation, the equity would be over $37,000 in the same period.

Obviously, there are legitimate reasons for postponing the purchase of a home. An important thing to remember is to safeguard the hard-earned down payment so it is ready when you are to buy in the future.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Worth the Effort

“Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible...” While Judge Learned Hand was talking about federal income taxes, it can be applied to property taxes as well. Cut taxes - 300.jpg

States have a process of assessing the value of a property based on a number of things that can include size, amenities, location and what the owner paid for the property. Most states make adjustments to that value annually. Once it has been published to the owner, there is a process available for those who disagree with the value.

  1. Learn the assessment process and what the filing deadlines are to apply. Since different states have different requirements, it is important to know the process in your area.
  2. Obtain your assessment records – they may be available online and you can find out how your value was determined. Check for mistakes in square footage, bedrooms, amount of land, etc. Then, verify if the comparable sales in the neighborhood support their position or not. Your real estate agent can be valuable in this area.
  3. Proceed to make your case from the lowest to the highest level necessary. It isn’t necessary to hire someone to represent you. Sometimes, just talking to employees at the tax assessor’s office may be enough. If not, there is a process for a hearing where you present your evidence and so does a representative from the assessor’s office. If this still doesn’t give you the remedy you want, you may need to proceed to the courts.

Challenging your assessment really isn’t an adversarial position. Their job is to assess a fair value and your job is to pay the least amount of taxes. Whether it be an employed assessor or a voluntary board, they have a job and they appreciate being treated professionally and courteously.

Keep this last thing in mind: the people you’re presenting your case to have the ability to lower your taxes.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Leverage - A Maximum Advantage

Leverage gives the user a maximum advantage whether it is physically lifting a large object or rapidly building equity in a home. In the case of the home, the high loan-to-value mortgage allows the profits made to be greater than simply the cash invested.Leverage-300.jpg

A $250,000 home can be purchased on a FHA loan with a 3.5% down payment of $8,750. If the home appreciates at 2% a year, in seven years the equity will grow to $75,920 due to the appreciation and the amortization of the mortgage. That would be a remarkable 36.2% rate of return.

It is estimated that homeowners have a 45 times higher net worth than renters. Since the obvious difference is that renters don’t own a home, owning a home is a distinct advantage. The leverage that allows a borrower to control a much larger asset with a small down payment gives them a return on the much bigger asset than on just the down payment.

Another interesting contribution is the forced savings that occurs with each payment made on the mortgage. A portion of the payment is applied to principal so that the loan will be paid in full by the end of the term, usually 30 years. The amortization on the 4% mortgage example from above has approximately $4,300.00 paid in the first year to reduce the principal which increases the owner’s equity in the home.

For people who have the necessary funds for the down payment and good credit, buying a home can be a financially stabilizing event. While research on the Internet can provide valuable information, there is no substitute for having a face-to-face meeting with a trusted professional to determine your specific facts.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Digital Showings

Ask any real estate professional if they have sold a house without the buyer having physically seen it and they’ll most likely tell you they have. While it may have been an unconventional sale, it is more prevalent today than it was twenty or even ten years ago. iStock_000060465576_Small.jpg

The digital world of the Internet has changed the process of buying a home. It is evolving as people have become more comfortable with the reliability of the information available.

Getting in a car and driving around all day looking at homes that may or may not fit your needs or wants is not productive for buyers or the agents.

The quality and the quantity of pictures has dramatically improved in the last twenty years. Buyers and agents alike can view a property online and get a fairly accurate idea of the condition and layout of home and whether it warrants a physical visit. Videos can “walk” you through the house to be able to assess if the floorplan will work for you.

The 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports 89% of all buyers cited an online website as an information source with real estate agents being a close second at 87%. 42% of all buyers looked online for properties for sale as the first step taken during the home buying process.

Interestingly, 87% of buyers in 2015 purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker compared to only 68% in 2001. The agent services deemed most valuable to buyers were help finding the right home to purchase (53%) and help to negotiate the terms of sale (12%) and the price (11%).

A challenge for sellers is to understand that the digital showings are a critical part of today’s process. They save time and money for both buyers and sellers and are convenient because they can be done at any time of day and from anywhere. The difficulty is the seller’s feelings of inactivity when they believe their home is being shown frequently.

Agents can share statistics that show a variety of digital activity like number of unique visitors, length of time spent on the listing site as well as the other features that were accessed. 65% of all buyers walked through the home they purchased after they viewed it online.


Friday, February 26, 2016

Pay Yourself First

The principle to pay yourself first has been referred to as the Golden Rule of Personal Finance.

The concept is that one of the first checks you write each month is for your own savings. The rationale is that if there is no money left after a person pays their bills, there is nothing to contribute to savings or investments that month. pay yourself first - check -300.png

By establishing a priority to save, a person realizes that the balance of their monthly income must cover living expenses and other discretionary spending. This is a much different strategy than saving what is left over from monthly expenses and other spending.

Many financial experts have likened an amortizing mortgage to a forced savings account because a portion of each payment is applied to the reduction of the principal amount owed. Some homeowners have taken that concept further with a shorter term mortgage to build equity faster.

In the example below, a $250,000 mortgage at 4% interest is compared with two different terms. The 30 year mortgage would have payments of $1,193.54 each month with the first payment having $360.20 being applied to the principal. Each payment would have an increasingly larger amount applied to the principal.

The 15 year mortgage would have payments of $1,849.22 each month with the first payment having $1,015.89 being applied to the principal. The $665.68 difference in payments goes toward reducing the loan amount and acts like a forced savings.

A homeowner might opt for the longer term and intend to put the difference in the two payments in a bank savings account each month or make an additional principal contribution to pay the mortgage down. However, as any person responsible for paying household bills knows, there will always be something that comes up that could hijack your intentions.

By committing to the shorter term mortgage, a borrower is committing to make the higher payment each month and the benefit is that it will reduce your principal balance faster.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Homeowner Advisory

Similar to an annual wellness physical, homeowners should consider an annual review of the financial elements of their home. It’s particularly valuable based on the fact that their home and its equity is generally, one of their largest assets. Info You Need.png

  • List of similar properties recently sold and currently available
  • Information on challenging property tax assessment
  • Refinance Analysis to:
    • lower your rate
    • shorten the term
    • make improvements
    • eliminate mortgage insurance
    • remove a person from the loan
    • eliminate credit card debt
    • combine loans
    • take cash out of the equity
  • Equity Accelerator to retire the mortgage within a specific period of time
  • Repairmen and contractors recommendations
  • Information on rental property opportunities
We’d be happy to provide this information at no obligation as part of our on-going commitment to providing homeowner information, both in general and specifically, to our contacts. It is part of a long-term strategy whereby we hope to earn your loyalty and referrals when you do need our services to buy or sell.

Friday, February 12, 2016

It's a Big Difference

Let’s say that you just won $8,750 on a lottery scratch-off ticket. You’ve decided to be frugal and invest the money and have decided on three alternatives: buying a certificate of deposit, a mutual fund or use the money as a down payment for a $250,000 home.

To compare the three alternatives, let’s look at the equity in each one three years from now.Your best investment graphic.png

The certificate of deposit can be invested at 1.3% in today’s market and you believe you can reasonably earn 5% on a mutual fund. You expect the home to appreciate at three percent a year.

The certificate of deposit would be worth $9,096 at the end of three years and the mutual fund would be worth $10,129. However, the equity in the home at the end of three years would be $45,204. That is a four time’s higher yield on the home.

One of the main reasons for the big difference is that the buyer benefits from leverage: the use of borrowed funds to increase the results. The $8,750 down payment is controlling a $250,000 investment. The appreciation is determined by the price and not merely by the cash invested. Another factor is that the loan balance is smaller at the end of five years than originally borrowed due to amortization.

There are certainly other factors to consider such as maintenance and other expenses but when the financial benefits are as strong as they are, it certainly deserves a much closer investigation. One of the first things to consider is whether the borrower can qualify for a mortgage and the only satisfactory way to be certain is to get pre-approved by a trusted mortgage professional.

Use the Your Best Investment calculator to make your own projections.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Is Understanding Costing You Money?

People tend to fear what they don’t understand. Homeowners understand fixed rate mortgages and remember the horror stories of people who lost their homes because they could no longer afford them when their adjustable rate mortgages went up.iStock_000023022788Small-250.jpg

Interest rates on fixed-rate mortgages have been so low for enough years, that borrowers haven’t even given much consideration to an adjustable rate mortgage. Changes in the way adjustable rate mortgages are now made make them much safer for borrowers who understand how they work but also know they’ll only be in the home for a limited period of time.

Adjustable rate mortgages can go up or down according to an index that the lender has no control. The amount that can be adjusted is limited by caps for each period and for the life of the loan. While there are different periods for ARMs, the most popular lock the first period for five to seven years and then, can adjust annually after that.

One quick and easy way to determine whether an adjustable may be a viable alternative to a fixed would be to determine the maximum payment adjustments possible to find out when the savings from the early years are exhausted which would be the breakeven point. If the borrower is certain they’ll move prior to that date, the ARM will definitely provide a lower cost of housing.

The breakeven point for a $250,000 mortgage would be 8 years 3 months comparing a 2.9% 5/1 adjustable-rate with 1 and 5 caps to a 3.8% fixed-rate mortgage. In the initial five-year period, the payments on the ARM would be $124.32 lower and the unpaid balance would be $3,522 less than the fixed-rate to make a total savings of $10,981.

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Whether you’re buying or refinancing, get some good advice from a trusted lending professional about the adjustable-rate alternative. If you’re only going to be in the home a short time after the mortgage is made and your tolerance for risk allows you to feel comfortable, the ARM may be the best choice for you. Check out this ARM Comparison to use your own numbers.