Friday, August 7, 2020

Things Have Changed



The soothsayer in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar issued his famous warning "Beware the Ides of March."  Who knew that in 2020, around the middle of March, the world, as we knew it, would force such dramatic changes on us from the Coronavirus.

In America, it has brought our economy to its knees as we sheltered in place for over four months.  During this time, changes have affected our lives and many of those changes could be permanent.

Previously, smaller homes were becoming the trend for not only efficiency but upkeep so owners would have more time to do things including travel.  Now, travel is minimal and our world, in some respects, is reduced to our home.

For families with children, their home has become a school.  With so many people working from home, it has become our office or store or studio.  If there is more than one working adult in a home, it needs to have space for each party to work.  The home fitness industry is experiencing record sales in exercise equipment so the home can become a gym.

Since we're all spending more time at home, it is also the place to recreate.  We're cooking more; a larger kitchen and dining area would be nice.  We want to enjoy the yard, garden, pool or balcony and our current home may not even have them or we'd like to upgrade. 

People are wanting and needing more space to do all of these things at home.  Many experts are anticipating that these changes we thought were temporary may be part of the new normal even after a vaccine and cure have been discovered.

If you have had any of these thoughts and would like to know more about how to buy or sell a home in our current market, we would love to tell you about the many options available while being responsible to stay safe.  Whether it is buying for the first time, moving up or moving on, I would like to help.  Call me at (956) 725-3838.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Do you like to negotiate?



Whether you like to or not, buying and selling a home involves negotiation at all stages of the process.  It is not like the retail world where once you decide to purchase, you pay the price.  It is easily the most expensive purchase or sale that most people experience and emotions get involved that could affect the negotiations adversely.

The word "home" by itself conjures up emotions and selling a home you've lived in for a while could even complicate things more.  A real estate professional can separate their emotions from the process to be able to help the one they are representing.

The price of the home, the type of financing and concessions, closing costs, personal property, closing dates and possession are just a few of the many things that can be negotiated in a contract.  Since the seller wants to get the most for their house and the buyer wants to pay the least, their objectives are diametrically opposed.

Even after the contract is signed, removing the contingencies can cause considerable negotiations.  The appraisal, the inspections or the repairs could be a source of reevaluating the terms and provisions of the contract.

Negotiating the sale or purchase of a home is a competition; for one person to get something, someone has to give something up.  If you don't feel comfortable with this, it is important to work with an agent who can bring their skills to the table on your behalf.  As your advocate, they can champion your position.

I'd like to share how my skills, training and experience can benefit you in a sale or purchase.  Call me at (956) 740-3838.

Friday, July 24, 2020

REALTORS Thoughts on the Recovery



The National Association of REALTORS® just released the Market Recovery Survey of a random sampling to close to 100,000 members conducted June 24-26, 2020.  The following statements are the members' opinion on various aspects of the recovery to the Covid-19 pandemic as it relates to real estate.

In response to the safety of buyers, sellers and agents, REALTORS® are expecting within the next year to have increased demand for the following technologies used to market properties:

  • 67% - Zoom or other video technology to communicate with clients
  • 66% - virtual tours
  • 63% - live virtual tours conducted by agent using video
  • 60% - virtual open houses

Nine out of ten respondents indicated that some of the buyers have returned to the market or never left the market.  Agents currently working with buyers report that slightly more than half of buyer's timeline has remained the same with about the same level of urgency.  27% believe the buyers have more urgency.

The most popular reason cited by buyers with an increased timeline is that the delay during the pandemic has amplified their demand for a new home.  Others realize that new home features would make their home life more comfortable.  Some buyers are wanting to buy before a potential second peak of Covid-19 occurs. 

During the week the survey was taken, three out of four buyers saw the home in person physically while 26% did not.

Roughly 2/3 of the buyers are looking for the same features as they were prior to Covid-19 while new feature considerations include home office, space to accommodate family, larger home for more space, place to exercise and bigger kitchen.

Most buyers are looking for the same type home, however, respondents reported that 13% are moving away from multi-family properties to a single-family home and only 1% are going from SFH to multi-family.

89% of respondents stated that some of the sellers have returned to or never left the market.  Only 23% reported more urgency to sell a home due to the pandemic.

On the commercial side, 2/3 of REALTOR® respondents felt like the demand for office space would decrease and 72% felt that retail space demand would decrease.

The stats mentioned in this article pertain nationwide.  To find out specifics in your market, call your REALTOR® Lizbeth Uribe  at (956) 725-3838.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Who Decides Value?



The seller can put a price on the home but the value is ultimately, determined by the buyer. Individually, a buyer could pay over market value because they love the location, or the elevation of the home or the proximity to something that is important to them.  The shortage of available homes resulting in increased competition among buyers could drive the value higher.
Most experts agree initially pricing it properly will generally result in the highest sales price.  If a home starts out too high, it could actually sell for a lower price after it has been on the market for a while.  It gives the impression that there must be something "wrong" with the house because it didn't sell immediately. 
So, how does a seller determine what price to put on the home?  It has nothing to do with what the seller needs to get out of it.  Nor does the price the seller paid for it make any difference now.  Even if the seller made considerable improvements, they may not affect the value of the home.
There are three common sources for a seller to determine market value: an appraisal, a broker price opinion or an automated value model found online.
AVM, automated value models, are mathematical estimates that analyze limited public record data to determine a value.  While this process can easily compare square footage, age, number of bedrooms as objective data, it is much more challenging to make adjustments for subjective data like appeal, quality of construction, floorplan and updating.  Zillow Zestimates are the most common AVMs but there are many others providing similar services.
Appraisals can only be made by a licensed appraiser.  Most mortgages require an appraisal as part of the underwriting process to verify that there is ample collateral to secure the mortgage in case of default by the borrower.  FHA, VA, FNMA, Freddie Mac and USDA as well as most private lenders require an appraisal especially for high loan-to-value mortgages.  In some situations where the risk is lower, some lenders may use an AVM.
An appraisal requires the appraiser to visit the property, perform a visual inspection, analyze the property considering three approaches to value and accurately report the property information that is verifiable.
Broker Price Opinion, BPO, as the name indicates, is a price opinion on a property made by a licensed real estate agent.  The determination of whether the estimate accurately reflects the market will depend on the experience of the agent with that type of property and market area.  It is possible that a BPO could be more sensitive to the actual market because it will consider homes currently for sale and recently expired properties as well as comparable sales.
While all three methods, used recent, comparable sales to arrive at a value, the appraiser and the real estate professional can make a series of adjustments for the differences in the comparables.  While the appraiser is highly trained in this technique, the real estate professional also adds credibility to this process based on their experience in how the buying public might react to specific features and the home in general including positive and negative influences.
Current condition of the property is very important for a number of reasons.  In some price ranges, a buyer may only have the necessary down payment and closing costs but is not able to make improvements like paint, floor coverings, appliances or other major items.  In this situation, a buyer would have to live with the house in its current condition until they could afford to make wanted improvements.
Investors may not be deterred by making an additional investment in the home after purchasing it but will probably be motivated to do so only if it will increase the potential profit to be made.
An AVM can be a tool that a homeowner, prospective buyer, mortgage officer, appraiser or real estate agent can use to get a quick idea of price but there are inherent limitations that can only be considered by personal examination balanced with experience in the market place.
Experience and understanding of the subject property and the marketplace are critical to having confidence that a value is accurate.  Any person could go through the same steps to arrive at a value but an experienced, well-trained professional is far more likely to assess all of the variables more accurately.  If you are curious what your home is worth, call (956) 740-3838 or email Lizbeth@lizbethuribe.com for a Broker Price Opinion.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Prepaying Your Mortgage



Paying off your mortgage can provide peace of mind and is a worthy goal but is it the best thing for you to do at this time.

Do you have higher interest rate debt currently?  If you have credit card debt with double-digit rates or personal, car or student loans, you'll probably save more money from interest by paying these things off before you pay off your mortgage which is usually one of the lower rates on debt.

Many financial advisors recommend funding your annual retirement contribution before paying down a mortgage.  If your company offers matching funds for your contribution, you would be leaving money on the table by not making the contribution to your retirement.  For instance, you would be getting a $10,000 value by putting $5,000 into your retirement if your company matches it.

Creating an emergency fund is another favorite of financial advisors.  When the rainy day arrives and you need funds, it may be difficult to get money from the equity of your home, especially if you have lost your job.  Six months' worth of living expenses is a good target to have available should you need it and a year's worth would be even better.

Children's college funds may be another priority that takes precedent overpaying off the mortgage.  Whether you're saving or investing to pay for their education, it is going to cost more than it did when you were in school.

When you are ready to start paying off your mortgage, decide on the best way to do it.  Regular principal contributions on a monthly basis are very predictable and will get the job done.  Setting up an automatic bill pay with your bank will assure that you don't re-prioritize that extra amount every month because there is always going to be something else to do with extra money.

It is important to be sure that the lender applies the additional payment amounts to the principal and not to the escrow account.

Use the Refinance Analysis to see what extra amount you'd have to pay to retire your mortgage in a certain time frame or by making a specific additional amount each payment, you can find out when the loan will be paid.  Regardless of which way you go, prepaying a loan will save interest, build equity and shorten the term on a fixed-rate mortgage.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Lower Your Cost of Housing



Homeowners still have considerable advantages from the amortization of the mortgage and the appreciation enjoyed by most homes even with taking the standard deduction instead of itemizing to take the interest and property tax deduction. 

There is an adage, "Rent or buy, you pay for the house you occupy."  You either pay for it yourself or for your landlord.  The people who have job security, sufficient income, good credit and the funds for the down payment and closing costs can enjoy the many financial and emotional benefits of homeownership.

Looking at a $350,000 home purchased with an FHA mortgage with 3.5% down payment at 3.25% interest for 30-years, the total payment would be $2,420 a month.  During the first year, the average monthly principal reduction is $573 a month which build the owner's equity in the home.

At an estimated 3% appreciation, this home would increase in value at the rate of $875 a month during the first year which again builds the owner's equity in the home.

Even if you consider the buyer will now be responsible for repairs and possibly homeowner's association fees, the monthly net cost of housing in this example is $1,122 or less than half the monthly payment.  The difference goes to equity which a tenant does not benefit from.

If the buyer were paying $2,750 monthly rent, they would be paying $1,628 more each month to rent than to own.  In a year's time, they would lose $19,500 of equity by continuing to rent.  The down payment in this example is only $12,250 which would leave $7,000 to pay for buyer's closing costs.

Purchase Price

$350,000

Down Payment

$12,250

Total Monthly Payment (PITI + MIP)

$2,420

Less Monthly Principal Reduction (average first year)

$573

Less Monthly Appreciation (average first year at 3% annually)

$875

Plus Estimated Maintenance & HOA

$175

Net Cost of Housing

$1,122

The equity for the homeowner in this example at the end of seven years would be almost $140,000 based on the appreciation and amortization of the mortgage.  Whether you rent or buy, you pay for the house you occupy.

Use this Rent vs. Own to plug in your own numbers for the price home you'd like to buy.  If you need help with it, contact me and we can do it over the phone at (956) 725-3838 or in an online meeting.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Annual Advisory



Homeownership is a privilege and a responsibility. Even after decades of owning a home, you may still need some help to handle some of its challenges by focusing on the three "M"s of homeownership: maintenance, minimizing expenses and managing debt and risk.

While many people recognize the benefits of annual wellness, financial, vehicle and equipment maintenance visits, an important checkup that you may not have considered is an annual homeowner advisory or real estate review. Why would you treat the investment in your home with less care than you treat your car or your HVAC system?

Consider exploring the following:

  • Do you know the current value of your home? (You can, by obtaining a list of comparable sales in your immediate area, as well as what is currently on the market for sale.)
  • Have you compared your assessed value for tax purposes to the fair market value in order to possibly reduce your property taxes?
  • Even if you've refinanced in the last two years, can you save money and recapture the cost of refinancing in the length of time you plan to remain in your home?
  • Have you considered reducing your mortgage debt with low-earning cash reserves that will not be needed soon?
  • Do you have a record of the improvements you've made to your home since you purchased it? Do you know what items can be included?
  • Have you considered investing in rental homes in good neighborhoods to increase your yields and avoid the volatility of the stock market?
  • When was the last time you updated your home inventory of personal belongings? Do you have pictures as well as written documentation?
  • Do you need recommendations of repairmen and other service providers?

This service is part of my point of difference as a real estate professional to provide information to help homeowners not only when they buy and sell but all the years in between too.  My goal is to create lifelong relationships with our customers as their "go to" person whenever they have a real estate question.

My strategy is to provide reliable, consumer-based information about homeownership on a regular basis through email and social networking.  If it benefits you by helping you be a better homeowner, maybe you'll consider us your real estate professional.

When you don't know the answers to real estate questions, you know where to get them.

We're always here to serve your real estate needs. By helping you with the three "M"s of homeownership, we can earn your confidence and trust for the next time you move or a friend of yours needs a recommendation.

If you'd like to have a list of the market activity in your area or any of the other information mentioned, please contact me at (956) 725-3838 or Lizbeth@lizbethuribe.com.  We're happy to provide it along with informative guides regarding the subjects mentioned.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Why homebuying begins with the agent



It takes a team of professionals to buy a home like the lender, the appraiser, the inspector, the property insurance agent, the title officer, and others but the real estate professional may play the most critical role.

Baking bread seems so simple.  There are only four ingredients: flour, salt, yeast, and water; yet, there are steps that should be followed as well as a certain sequence to get the proper results.  Some people mix all of the dry ingredients before adding the hot water to activate the yeast.  Other people will activate the yeast in the warm water first to allow it to "bloom."

Both methods can achieve satisfactory results but one knowledgeable person needs to be in charge of the bread instead of having multiple people to be concerned with just their one ingredient or contribution like mixing, kneading, fermentation, benching, shaping, proofing or baking.

Similarly, in a home purchase, the buyer's agent can be the one who puts things in the proper order and sees that no steps are missed.  The buyer's agent coordinates between the other professionals with the common goal of getting the home closed on time according to the terms agreed in the sales contract.

Even if a buyer has been through the process before and possibly, multiple times, the buyer's agent will most likely have far more experience because it is their job. They perform their job on a daily basis and are not personally or emotionally involved like a buyer is.

Your agent understands what and when the various steps should be done and by whom.  They have worked with enough of the other professionals to know who is good at their job and can offer recommendations.  They have seen the things that make a transaction go smoothly and what can derail one.

Experience is a great teacher, but the lesson does not have to be learned by going through it by yourself.  Take the luxury of using your real estate professional's experience acquired through years of study and practice.  Allow your agent to advise you and coordinate the efforts to achieve the results you are expecting and deserve.

Learn more about the process and different steps by downloading the Buyers Guide

Friday, June 5, 2020

Why Keep Track of Home Improvements



Homeowners receive a generous exclusion on the gain of their principal residence up to $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.  Most people probably consider the gain or profit in a home to be the difference between the purchase price and the sales price.

IRS allows a taxpayer to lower the sales price by the selling expenses before calculating gain.  Normal expenses like real estate commission, title policy, attorney fees, and other sales expenses may be included if they are normal and customary.

Another significant adjustment is that capital improvements made during the holding period can be added to the cost basis.  Normal maintenance like repairs are not considered improvements.  IRS says that if the expenditure materially adds value (features) to the property, or appreciably prolongs the useful life of the property, or adapts a portion of the property to a new use, it can be considered a capital improvement.

Examples could include replacing a heating or air conditioning system, storm windows, new permanent landscaping like trees or shrubs or completing an unfinished basement.  They don't necessarily have to be high-ticket items but can include things like adding dead bolts, ceiling fans, video doorbell and other items.  For more information, see IRS Publication 523.

The total amount of the money that is spent on capital improvements increase the cost basis of the home which in turn will reduce the amount of gain when sold.  With the average person staying in a home for 10 ... 12 years, the total improvements could be significant.

As an example, let's say a single taxpayer sold their home for $350,000 more than they paid for it.  If their selling expenses were $25,000 and they had made $75,000 of capital improvements during the holding period, the gain would be $250,000 and within the limits for a single taxpayer to exclude all of it instead of having a $100,000 gain.

It is necessary to be able to prove the amount spent and for that reason, a routine should be established to keep the receipts and cancelled checks for all expenditures on their principal residence.  Even if the owner is not sure whether they qualify as an improvement, by having the receipt available at the time of sale, a tax professional can help a homeowner with the determination.

In addition to receipts and cancelled checks, a contemporaneous register listing the date, description and amount spent will provide accurate information for calculations and serve as evidence should it be needed in the future.

There is more information in the Homeowners Tax Guide that is available for download.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Rethinking Home



The last two months of the new normal stay at home has led many homeowners to rethink the way they live in their home.  It has now become an office for working at home; a school for children; a gym to stay in shape; and a place for recreation.

The repurposing has people evaluating whether their home still meets their needs or if some changes are necessary.  In some cases, adult children have moved back home, and, in others, there are parents who have moved in for the first time.

Staying at home and sheltering in place is necessary but how much togetherness can one family take and how long is it going to last?  Temporary is stretching into longer than expected and even when vaccines and treatments are discovered, will things really go back to the way they were?

A home is a place to call your own; to raise your family, share with your friends and to feel safe and secure.  Covid-19 has changed the scope of feeling safe and secure at home and may now be considered a sanctuary of safety more than ever before.

Many of the chief economists in the country feel that real estate will likely lead the country out of this recession.  The housing market is experiencing low inventory and has for almost a decade.  Building has not kept up with demand and prices of existing homes have continued to go up; 8% over last year.  

With 30-year mortgage rates at close to 3.25% and prices expected to continue to rise, an investment in a home can fit your needs and show returns in satisfaction, comfort, enjoyment, and monetary value.

If you are going to be spending more time in your home for all the reasons mentioned, maybe now is the time to consider finding a home that better suits your needs. It can be done in a responsible and safe manner using an online meeting with your real estate professional.  Find out what is available and what the process entails to protect you and your family.

 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Mortgage Forgiveness



During the mortgage meltdown that caused the Great Recession a decade ago, some homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure or constructed a short sale to get out from under the debt.  In most of the cases, the lenders forgave all or part of the debt owed them.

Similarly, in the early 90's after the failure of the Savings & Loans in the U.S., thousands of homeowners lost their homes in the same way but back then, the policy of the IRS was to consider the forgiven debt as income.  Today, it is still considered income which means that a homeowner could lose their home because they could not afford to pay for it and to make matters worse, they would owe income tax on the debt relieved.

The good news is that in 2007, Congress passed the Mortgage Forgiveness Act and it has continued to be extended with its current expiration of 12/31/20.

The amount forgiven for income tax purposes may not be the same amount owed to the lender.  Mortgage forgiveness has a limited exclusion for discharged home mortgage debt for a principal residence only; it does not include second homes or investment properties.  Only the amount of mortgage debt that can be treated as acquisition indebtedness in included.

In the example below, a homeowner purchased a home and refinanced the home five years later at 80% of the market value.  The new loan proceeds were used to payoff the original mortgage and make $30,000 of new capital improvements.  The revised acquisition debt is the acquisition debt at the time of refinance plus the capital improvements made with the loan proceeds.

The new $400,000 loan produced $39,417 of home equity debt which is not considered acquisition debt.  Home equity debt is money borrowed on a home and can be used for any purpose, but it may not be tax deductible or considered acquisition debt.  Acquisition debt is money borrowed to buy, build or improve a principal residence subject to a $750,000 limit.

Assume that the borrower never made a payment on the new loan.   If the new loan went through foreclosure while the Mortgage Forgiveness Relief Act is in effect, the forgiveness would be limited to the acquisition debt of $360,583 and the remaining amount of $39,417 would be considered income and subject to tax.

This article is meant to inform homeowners of liabilities associated with foreclosures and possible remedies that may be available.  This example is meant to illustrate the portion of a loan that could be forgiven.  Taxpayers should always consult their tax professional regarding their specific situation and the way the law would apply to their situation. For more information, see IRS Publication 4681.

 

Example

 

Purchase Price ... 5 years ago

$400,000

Mortgage at time of purchase ... Acquisition Debt

$360,000

Fair Market Value ... Today, 5 years later

$500,000

Refinanced 80% - Loan to Value

$400,000

Replaced unpaid balance - current acquisition debt

$330,583

Capital improvements made with loan proceeds

$30,000

Revised acquisition debt

$360,583

Home equity debt ... difference in refinanced amount and acquisition debt

$39,417

 

 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Convenience at a Cost



The convenience of selling your home without the hassle of getting it ready, putting it on the market, showings, open houses, negotiations and repairs comes at a cost ... a significant part of your equity. 

The companies, referred to as iBuyers, that buy homes from sellers are for-profit organizations.  They expect to make a profit from sellers who are willing to discount the proceeds they'll realize as an alternative to the conventional method of selling a home for people who need a quick sale.

The promotions for these companies generally state that you can receive a cash offer in a few minutes after putting your address online.  The discount can be between 10 to 18% compared to normal selling costs from 6 to 9%.   The cost to a person with a $100,000 equity could be as much as ten thousand dollars.

Even after you have accepted an offer, there can be contingencies in the contract that allow the company to inspect the home to discover the condition and reassess the offer to possibly make even more deductions.  If the seller isn't willing to accept them, the buyer can withdraw from the sale without penalty.

This appears on the surface to be a friendly, accommodating service but it can be an adversarial situation.  The seller wants to maximize their proceeds and the buyer wants to buy it as cheap as possible.

Compare this to working directly with a real estate professional acting as your agent.  They have to put your interests above their own.  They have a fiduciary duty of care, integrity, honesty and loyalty in their dealings with you.  Other duties include confidentiality, disclosure, obedience and accounting to the seller.

In this traditional model, your agent will provide you with the facts of what homes have sold for in the area and their opinion and recommendations on what the most likely sales price will be.  Your agent will provide you an estimate of the sales expenses based on different sales possibilities. 

They can advise you on work to be done prior to putting the home on the market, staging so your home will show at its best and estimate the time it will be on the market.  Based on low inventories in some price ranges, it could be surprisingly short.

As an owner, you made an investment in your home in cash and maintenance.  You are entitled to maximize your proceeds based on the risk taken to purchase a home instead of renting.  The convenience of a quick offer has a cost to it.  You need to compare the two alternatives to see which one benefits you the most based on your individual situation.

For more information, download the Sellers Guide.

Friday, May 8, 2020

It Starts Before the Statement is Sent



The deadline for challenging your property tax assessment this year may be later than normal due to the stay at home orders but when you are notified, you'll want to be ready to decide whether you can save some money on property taxes this year.

There are two elements that determine the amount of property taxes you'll pay for the year: the assessment of value and the property tax rate.  Both determinations occur long before the property tax statement is sent.

Property owners are notified in writing what their assessed value is for the year.  It is estimated that most owners don't challenge that value even though it could lower their tax bill.  Not all appeals are successful, but many homeowners believe that it is worth the effort to try.  Procedures for challenging the assessment are generally included with the letter and a deadline for filing the challenge.

An initial step is to determine the accuracy of the information on your property's record such as market value and square footage.  If the record shows a higher square footage than actual, it can cause the value to be higher than it should be.  Even though it may not be required, an appraisal could be proof of actual square footage that shows the square footage and value by an independent party.

Recent comparable sales are used by assessors to determine market value of a property but are usually not identified in the property record.  Property owners can research comparable sales that indicate a lower value and submit them to the assessor's office either informally or in a challenge hearing.

It is important that the properties proposed to establish the value of the subject property are recent, comparable in size, condition, amenities and in the same area. 

There are companies who will represent the owner to lower their assessment.  The fee charged is usually a percentage of the taxes that are saved.  It is not a complicated procedure and can be very gratifying to make the effort.

Your real estate professional can be a valuable source of information and experience to guide you through the process.  Call me at (956) 725-3838 for more information and a list of comparable sales.

Friday, May 1, 2020

One More Reason to Refinance



Taking cash out of the equity of your home could be a legitimate way to fund a temporary cash crisis now or to have it on-hand if the need arises.  Most homeowners can pull out the difference in 80% of the fair market value of their home and what they currently owe.

The most frequently cited reasons for refinancing are to lower the payment, eliminate the private mortgage insurance, combine mortgages, consolidate debt, convert an ARM to a fixed rate mortgage, remove a person from the loan or to take cash out for another reason.

The option of using your equity to deal with unexpected living expenses or potential lost wages in the future could be a good reason for doing a cash-out refinance.  It is important to consider that it could increase your monthly payment instead of lowering it which would result in higher expenses during uncertain economic times.

Some lenders have recently raised the minimum credit score requirement but borrowers with good credit and the ability to repay should be able to refinance.  Lenders are reporting that during the Covid-19 crisis their processing time is taking longer but they have implemented procedures to safely facilitate the application as well as the appraisals.

While homeowners with an FHA loan are available for a streamline process because FHA is already insuring the mortgage to be refinanced, the cash-out is limited to $500.  Even though the owner may not be able to pull funds out of their FHA equity, refinancing may lower their payment and therefore, lower their expenses.

Unlike conventional loans that require income through a job or other sources, refinancing an existing FHA loan does not require income verification or an appraisal.  The borrower cannot be delinquent on their current FHA loan and it must be at least six months old.  The refinance must reduce the current interest rate or term or both. 

Another alternative for homeowners is a HELOC, home equity line of credit, where you do not incur interest expense unless you actually draw on the line of credit.  It will be a variable rate home equity loan similar to a credit card letting you borrow up to a specific limit when you want and repay it slowly over time.

Refinancing a home incurs closing costs which can be paid in cash or added to the financed amount.  The breakeven point to recapture the cost of refinancing is determined by dividing the monthly savings into the cost of refinancing.  If you stay in the home less than that time, refinancing could be an unnecessary expense.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Check This Off Your LIst



Everyone knows someone it has happened to or has heard a tragic story.  It could have been a fire, a flood, a burglary or some other disaster but to file a claim on their insurance, they need the receipts or a list for what is being claimed.

Since you're at home anyway and may even have kids at home who need something to do, now is a great time to get a current home inventory done.  One of the easiest ways to accomplish this seemingly, daunting task is to put together a collection of pictures of every room in your home.    

The more valuable, the more important it is to take a close-up picture.  It will be necessary to open the drawers and closets and, in some cases, to pull things out in order to show everything in the picture.  That's why having someone to help you makes it faster and easier.

Not to get distracted from the job at hand, you may discover things that you had forgotten you had which is why you should do an inventory rather than trying to reconstruct it after the loss.  In some cases, it may be years after you've filed a claim when you remember you forgot some things.

Having photos or videos of the different rooms in your house combined with a list of the items can serve as the proof you need for your claim.

There are other benefits to doing a home inventory also.  You'll know the "right" amount of insurance to have on your personal belongings by assigning replacement costs to them.  It will simplify filing a claim if you ever need to. 

To organize your photos and even provide a detailed list of higher value items, you can download a Home Inventory in an interactive PDF that you can complete.  You can put it together on your computer and store it online to make it available if the computer is stolen or damaged.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Mortgage Closing Scams



The American bank robber, Willie Sutton, was asked why he robbed banks and his answer was "because that is where the money is."  During his 40-year career, he stole about $2 million but Internet scammers are stealing many times that amount in phishing schemes preying on unsuspecting home buyers.

These crooks know where the money is because buyers have the down payment and closing costs and are expecting to transfer it to the close the sale of their home.  The FBI, in their 2018 Internet Crime Report, stated victims lost over $149 million and the CFPB estimates the losses at over $1 billion as a result of fraud in real estate transactions.    The scammers want to take advantage of the situation while it is still in the buyer's account.

Commonly, during the closing process, scammers will send spoofed emails to homebuyers from someone they expect to hear from regarding the transaction like the real estate agent or the settlement agent.  They will include false instructions for the closing funds.

Following these suggestions can help to protect you and possibly, avoid scams:

  • Call before you click to verify the wiring instructions to transfer funds.  DO NOT use the phone number or email in the email request.  Use a trusted source, preferably, in person, of contact information.
  • Confirm everything independently with your real estate agent and closing officer.   Confirm the actual instructions with the bank before transferring money.
  • Verify immediately, within four to eight hours, with the title company and real estate agent that the money was received.  If it has not been received, notify the bank immediately to determine if it can be cancelled.

If you believe you have been the victim of a phishing scheme, call your bank immediately and ask them to issue a recall notice on the money transfer.  File a complaint with the FBI at www.IC3.gov and report it to your local FBI office.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released two documents in an effort to inform consumers about wire fraud scams that commonly occur during closings: Mortgage Closing Checklist and Mortgage Closing Scams.

This is for information purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

Friday, April 3, 2020

What Buyers Can Do While Staying at Home



While you're isolating at home, there are things you can do to help buy a home now or in the near future.  Instead of spending time surfing the Internet looking at homes, do the groundwork necessary to be able to purchase the home that you find.

  • There is a lot of documentation necessary to qualify for a mortgage and to be approved.  This part of the homebuying process can be done in advance, long before you even start looking at homes much less finding the one that you want.
    • Assemble all documents to make a pre-approval
    • Photo ID
    • Two months current pay stubs
    • Last two years' W2s
    • Complete copies of checking and savings statements for last three months
    • Copies of statements for IRAs, 401k, savings, CDs, money market funds, etc.
    • Employment history for last two years with addresses and contacts
    • Proof of commissioned or bonus income
    • Residency history for last two years with addresses and contacts
    • Assets for down payment, closing costs, and reserves; must provide paper trail
    • If self-employed, last two years tax returns, current profit and loss statement and balance sheet; copy of partnership/corporate tax returns for last two years if owning more than 25% of company
    • FHA requires driver's license and social security card
    • VA requires original certificate of eligibility and DD214
    • Other things may be required such as previous bankruptcy, divorce decree
  • Get pre-approved giving you the confidence
    • Determining the amount you can borrow - decreases as interest rates rise
    • Looking at "Right" homes - price, size, amenities, location
    • Finding the best loan - rate, term, type
    • Uncovering issues early - time to cure possible problems
    • Creating bargaining power - price, terms, & timing
    • Being able to close quicker - verifications have been made
  • If using a gift as a down payment, construct your gift letter
    • The donor's relationship to borrower
    • State the dollar amount is a gift and not a loan
    • State that no repayment is required
    • Signed and dated by the donor and borrower
    • Include all contact information
  • Build your homebuying team
    • REALTOR® - this person will coordinate the efforts of the other team members to make the transaction move smoothly, without unnecessary delays to close on time.
    • Lender* ... consider a trusted professional you can meet with face-to-face
    • Title company* ... guaranteeing the title and closing on time is important
    • Inspector* ... more than a flashlight and a clipboard

*Your agent can recommend these professionals based on their experience and having worked with them in the purchase and sales of other homes.  This can keep you from getting hooked-up with someone that may not be familiar with the type of home, area, or loans that you might be considering.

Additional information about the buying process and things that you can be doing while you're waiting to look at homes can be found in the Buyers Guide.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Showing Procedures During Covid-19



During these unsettling times, sellers and buyers are concerned about staying healthy and virus-free as we all are.  To keep all parties safe, new procedures should be considered regarding the procedure for showing houses.

Agents are reporting that they are selling homes where the buyers have not physically been in the home and base their decision on the virtual tour found online.  Some states have suspended showings because they are not considered essential services and other states have not addressed the subject.

In the spirit of stepping up to do what is necessary, the following suggestions should be considered:

  • Buyers should view the pictures online first to see if the home meets their needs.  Most listing agents upload enough pictures to get a good idea of what a home looks like.
  • Buyers should ask their agent questions that the photos don't address.  Then, their agent can go through the listing agent to ask the seller direct.
  • It may be possible for the agent or owner to do a Facetime walk-through which would allow the buyers to ask questions and direct the agent or owner where to point the camera.
  • When possible, buyers can make an appointment to see the home through their agent.  They should meet the agent at the home in their own car.  No children should attend showings.
  • Recommended safe distances will be maintained between the owners and listing agent, if present, the buyers and their agent.
  • Transfer is almost inevitable, and all precautions should be taken.  Buyers should carry their own sanitizing wipes and or gloves and avoid unnecessarily touching surfaces.  Allow their agent to open doors and cabinets.
  • They should be disposed of in a trash bag in their car after they exit the home.

The social distancing and isolation could present some buying opportunities due to a lack of competition.  At the same time, the lack of inventory in many markets could keep prices high.  Overall, home prices nationwide are stable and, in many cases, continuing to rise which makes it a far less volatile alternative to investing in the stock market.   

With mortgage rates being at historic lows, there will probably never be a cheaper time to finance a home. 

Thank you again for looking at our listings and let us know if we can help you in anyway.

Please stay safe; wash your hands; practice social distancing and follow all the guidelines necessary to promote good health. We're all in this together!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Why have a mortgage during retirement?



You don't have to watch TV for long before Tom Selleck, Henry Winkler or Robert Wagner will tell you why seniors should consider a reverse mortgage.  However, there are a seniors who are resisting the conventional wisdom of having their home paid for and opting for a mortgage with payments on their home.

In some cases, seniors will downsize into a smaller home and have a large amount of equity to pay cash for the new home.  In other situations, they may have their home paid for and decide to do a cash-out refinance which will require making payments.

The logic behind either of these examples could be motivated by the fact that since mortgage rates are so low currently, the owners can reinvest the money at a higher yield and make money on their equity.  This will give them more money for their retirement income.

A common question that is asked by owners considering such a strategy is whether they'll be able to qualify for the new mortgage since they may no longer be employed.  The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination against borrowers based on age.

All borrowers, whether they are working or not, need to show that they have good credit, reasonable debt and enough stable income to repay the mortgage.  Lenders cannot base their decision on loan term based on an applicant's life expectancy, so a 30-year loan is possible regardless of the borrower's age.

Fannie Mae, one of the largest purchaser of mortgages on the secondary market, is concerned on income that is stable, predictable and likely to continue.  Retirees' income can come from Social Security, pensions, or distributions from retirement accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, Keogh or other plans.  Lenders will analyze these sources to estimate how long it will last. 

Other investments can be considered like stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities.  Based on the type and the volatility of the investment, lenders may be restricted from considering 100% of the income.

Getting the facts as it pertains to you as an individual is important to be able to know if you are eligible and how much you can borrow.  A trusted mortgage professional who understands this type of borrower is very important to help you determine the right mortgage vehicle and provide information to decide if this option is right for you.  Call me at (956) 725-3838if you would like a recommendation.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Shopping for a Mortgage



A lower rate will not only result in a lower payment, it will amortize the loan quicker.  A $250,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years will have a $1,266.71 principal and interest payment.  At 4%, the same loan will have $1,193.54 payment saving $73.18 a month and the unpaid balance would be $1,776 lower at the end of five years.

Mortgage lenders tend to price their mortgages based on the credit score of the borrower.  The higher the credit score, the lower the mortgage rate.  There is an inverse relationship that the lower the credit score, the higher risk and therefore, a higher rate is needed to balance the risk.

In order to get a valid rate that will be available to you with your credit score, you need to be pre-approved. The process of making a loan application before you find a home, allows the lender to verify your credit, income, and ability to repay the loan.  Lenders usually only charge the cost of the credit report for this type of service.  Be aware that pre-approval is not the same thing as pre-qualification which is simply a loan officer's opinion.

When you shop for a mortgage with multiple lenders, the credit bureaus count them as a single credit inquiry if they are done within a two-week period. On the other hand, restrain yourself from applying for other credit such as cars, furniture or credit cards until after you have closed on the purchase of your home because those inquiries can negatively affect your credit score.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends that you let lenders know that you are shopping the mortgage for the best rate and fees.

Instead of going to the Internet and Googling mortgage lenders, start with recommendations for a lender from your real estate professional.  They see the good, the bad and the ugly and can save you a lot of time.  Another reliable source would be from a friend who has recently purchased a home.

There are lenders who bait unsuspecting borrowers with lower rates and fees into making an application and after critical time has lapsed, try to switch them to a different program.  By that point, many buyers feel they don't have any choice but to accept what is offered.

Another confusing factor is the way that loans are priced to the public.  They are usually quoted at a rate with a certain amount of points.  A point is one percent of the amount borrowed.  An example would be a quote for a loan at 4.5% with 1 point or at 4% with 2.5 points.

The points combined with the rate affect the yield the lender will earn, and you will pay.  A simple way to make this an apple to apple comparison is to have the lender quote the loan as a "par-value" loan with no points involved.  Then, the lowest rate will produce the lowest cost to you.

Another way to compare loans will be to uses a financial app called Will Points Make a Difference.  You can plug in the rate and points to calculate the lowest yield over a projected holding period or the full term.

The lenders do not want to make it easy for you to compare.  Mortgage money is a commodity and shopping will be worth the effort. 

Friday, March 6, 2020

Get Ready to Garage Sale



A well-planned garage or yard sale can give you extra space in your home, get rid of unused items and make some money but it needs some of the same considerations that any business needs to be successful. 

  • Start early to research and plan
  • Promotion is key
  • Display items attractively
  • Price items right
  • Organize checkout

Determine the date of your sale, remembering that there are exceptions, but Saturdays are generally the best day.  Experienced garage-salers believe that a well-planned one-day event will do as well as a multi-day event.  Serious purchasers will look for the "new" sale and most people don't come back multiple days.

Recognize that the first day of the sale will have the most people.  Everyone will be looking for a bargain but some of them actually want to purchase things for them to resell at their own sales.

Advertise in local newspapers and free online classified sites like Craigslist.  If several families are going together for the sale, mention that in the ad; it will be a big draw.  Mention your bigger-ticket items like furniture, equipment and baby items.

Garage sale signs can be purchased or you could have them made at Office Depot or FedEx Office.  Signs need large lettering so they're easy to read without too many words on them.  Remember that people will be driving when they see them.  Most important info: Garage or Yard Sale, address, date and time.  Directional signs are also important along with balloons and streamers to attract attention.

Consider using the service Square so that you can take credit cards.  The cost is 2.6% + 10¢ per swipe and you can do it on your smartphone or iPad.  You'll need to sign up at least two weeks in advance to receive your reader.

You will be amazed at what sells and what doesn't.  If your goal is to get rid of some things regardless, put those items in the sale and at the end of the sale, donate what you can to Goodwill and the balance goes to the dump.  If you can't bear to do that, box them up and try again next year or possibly, at one of your neighbors' sales.

Other supplies you'll need will be:

  • Labels and markers for pricing items.
  • Newspaper and clean, grocery bags to wrap breakables.
  • Tables to display the items.

Unless you're having an estate sale, keep your home locked.  You don't want people wandering through your home while you're outside.  If you start to accumulate a lot of money, take some of it inside.  Don't discuss how much money you've made during the sale or how successful it has been.

People will want to bargain; it's the nature of the game.  Consider this strategy: less negotiations early in the sale and possibly, more toward the end of the sale.

Friday, February 28, 2020

What kind of properties are these?



It is the way the property is used that determines the type of property it is, not what it looks like.  Based on the intent of the owner, the property could be a principal residence, income property, investment property or dealer property.

A principal residence is a home that a person lives in.  There can be only one declared principal residence.  It is afforded certain benefits like deducting the interest and property taxes on a taxpayers' itemized deductions, up to limits.  Up to $250,000 of gain for a single taxpayer and up to $500,000 for a married couple filing jointly can be excluded from income if the property is owned and used as a principal residence for two out of the previous five years.

An income property is an improved property that is rented for more than 12 months.  The improvements can be depreciated based on a 27.5-year life for residential property or 39-years for commercial property.  This is a non-cash deduction that shelters income.  When the property is sold, the cost recovery is recaptured at a 25% tax rate.

An investment property could be an improved property or vacant land that does not produce income and is not eligible for depreciation or cost recovery.  The gain on both income and investment properties are taxed at a lower, long-term capital gain rate and are eligible for a tax deferred exchange.

Second homes are properties that a taxpayer primarily uses for personal enjoyment but is not their principal residence.  For IRS purposes, it is treated as an investment property in that the gain is taxed at preferential long-term rates if it is held for more than 12 months.   However, it is not eligible for exchanges because personal use properties are excluded from that benefit.

Properties that are built or bought to make a profit are considered inventory and are labeled dealer properties.  The gain is taxed at ordinary income rates and they are not eligible for section 1031 deferred exchanges.

The financing available differs considerably based on the intent of the owner which determines the type of property.  Owner-occupied homes, used as a principal residence, are eligible for low down payment mortgages like VA, FHA, USDA and conventional ranging from nothing down to 20%.

A second home, in most cases, requires a minimum of 10% down payment.  Investment and Income properties, generally, require 20% or more in down payment with some possible exceptions.  There is not any long-term financing available for dealer property.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Why Put More Down



The least amount in a down payment is an attractive option when people are thinking of buying a home.  A common reason is to have cash available for furnishing the new home and  possible unexpected expenses.

Some people don't have any options because they only have enough for a minimum down payment and the closing costs.  For those fortunate buyers who do have extra money available, let's look at why you'd want to do such a thing.

Most loans in excess of 80% loan to value require mortgage insurance to protect the lenders for the upper portion of the loan if the home were to go into foreclosure.  FHA requires an up-front premium of 1.75% of the amount borrowed plus a monthly amount of .85% on the balance.  FHA mortgage insurance premium must be paid for the life of the loan.

Mortgage insurance on conventional loans varies depending on the borrowers' credit and the amount of down payment being made.  Unlike FHA, when the unpaid balance reaches 78% of the original amount borrowed, the mortgage insurance is no longer needed.  If the home enjoys rapid appreciation, after a period, the lender may allow the borrower to get an appraisal to show that the unpaid balance is now less that 78% of the current appraised value.

The premium for mortgage insurance on conventional loans can be paid as a single premium upfront in cash or financed into the mortgage.  A second option would be monthly mortgage insurance included in the payment until it is no longer needed.  A third option could be lender-paid MI where the cost is included in the mortgage interest rate for the life of the loan.

VA loans do not require mortgage insurance but there is a one-time funding fee of 2.3% that can be paid in cash at closing or added to the amount borrowed.  Disabled veterans and Purple Heart recipients are not required to pay the funding fee.

Putting at least 20% down payment on a home not only will avoid the mortgage insurance, it could also help you to get a little lower interest rate.  Since the loan to value is lower, there is less risk for the lender.

A $350,000 with a 10% down payment at 4% interest could have a monthly mortgage insurance cost between $70 to $130.  A trusted mortgage professional can help you assess the options you have available.  It is always better to make some of these decisions before you start shopping for a home.

This is another reason it is good to start by getting pre-approved with a trusted mortgage professional.  If you need a recommendation, call me at  (956) 725-3838.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Financing Home Improvements



Home improvement loans provide a source of funds for owners to finance the improvements they want to make.  These are usually, personal installment loans that are not collateralized by the home itself.  Since there is more risk for the lender with this type of loan, the interest rate is higher than a normal mortgage loan.

In today's market, the rates on home improvement loans could vary between 6% and 36%.  A borrower's credit score will determine the interest rate; the lower the score, the higher the rate and the higher the score, the lower the rate.

Smaller loan amounts are under $40,000 with larger loan amounts over $40,000 based on the extent of the improvements to be made.  With all things being equal, a larger loan may have a lower interest rate.

Besides the interest rate being higher than a regular mortgage, the term is shorter.  Similar to a car loan, the term can be between five and seven years.  A $50,000 home improvement loan for a borrower, with good but not great credit, could have a 12% interest rate for seven years.  That would make the monthly payment $882.64.

An alternative way to fund the improvements would be to do a cash out refinance.  These types of loans are collateralized by the home.  The current mortgage would be paid off with the new mortgage plus the amount for the improvements.  Lenders will usually require that the owner maintain a minimum of 20% equity in the home.

Assuming a homeowner owed $230,000 on the existing mortgage and wanted $50,000 for improvements.  The new loan amount would be $280,000 and the home would have to appraise for at least $350,000 for the homeowner to have a 20% equity remaining. 

Another thing that occurs on a refinance is that the standard term for mortgages is 30 years which means the owner would be financing the improvements for 30 years instead of a shorter term.  The advantage would be a smaller payment.

Let's say in this example, the owner originally borrowed $250,000 at 4.5% for 30 years with a payment of $1,266.71.  After 54 payments, the unpaid balance is $230,335.  If they did a cash out refinance at 4.5% for 30 years for the additional $50,000 and financed the estimated closing costs of $8,700, the new payment would be $1,464.50.

Using the home improvement loan, the combined payments would be $2,149.35 which would be $684.85 higher.  While the cash out refinance produces a lower payment, it adds $8,700 to the amount owed and stretches it out over a longer period.  Home improvement loans have lower closing costs than regular mortgage loans.

Another alternative loan is a HELOC or Home Equity Line of Credit which can be explored and compared to the two options mentioned above.  If a homeowner is going to finance improvements, a comparison of different types of loans and payments can be helpful in the decision-making process. 

A trusted mortgage professional is a valuable resource to assist you with current and accurate information.  If you need a recommendation, please call me at (956) 725-3838.

Friday, February 7, 2020

House-Hacking Rental Property



House-hacking refers to buying a multifamily property on an owner-occupied mortgage, living in one unit and renting the others.  If you're thinking about becoming a rental mogul, starting early is an advantage.  Not only will you have longer to accumulate a larger portfolio, you can increase the leverage on the first acquisitions if they are owner-occupied. 

Leverage is the use of other people's money to finance an investment.  The higher the loan-to-value, the greater the leverage which can increase the yield.

A $200,000 rental property with an 80% LTV at 4.5% for 30 years producing a 16.88% before-tax rate of return would increase to a 23% return on investment by increasing the mortgage to 90%.  A typical down payment on an investor property in today's market is 20-25% but, in some cases, a higher loan-to-value is possible.

Owner-occupied, multi-unit properties, two to four units, allow a borrower to occupy one of the units and rent the others out.  The cash flows from the rental units subsidize the cost of housing for the unit occupied by the owner.  VA will guarantee 100% of the mortgage for eligible veterans, while FHA will loan up to 96.5% for qualifying borrowers.

Consider a four-unit property was purchased as owner-occupied and the other three units were rented for $800 each.  If an FHA loan was obtained, the owner could live for roughly $355 a month after collecting the rent and paying the expenses.  Assume the owner lived in it for two years and then, rented out the fourth unit for the same $800 per month.  The cash flow would rise to $4,800 a year with a before-tax rate of return of 30% based on a 2% appreciation.

 

Occupy 1 unit

Rent all 4 units

Gross Scheduled Income @ $800 monthly each

$2,400

$3,200

Cash Flow Before Tax

$4,59

$4,861

Before Tax Rate of Return

20.77%

30.56%

 

Rental properties offer the investor to borrow large loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for up to 30 years on appreciating assets with tax advantages and reasonable control that many other investments don't enjoy.

Some people consider rental properties the IDEAL investment with each letter in the acronym standing for a benefit it provides.  It provides income from the rent which many investments do not have.  Depreciation is a non-cash deduction from income that increases cash flow.  Equity buildup occurs as each payment is made by reducing the principal owed.  Appreciation happens over time as the value of the property increases.  L stands for leverage that was explained earlier in this article.

You may be able to buy another four unit as an owner-occupant before you need to start using a normal investor's down payment.  In the meantime, you could have eight units that are increasing in value while the mortgage balance is decreasing with every payment made.  If there is sufficient equity in the properties by the time, you're ready to buy more, you may be able to take cash out of the existing ones to use for the down payments.

This can be a great way to turbocharge your net worth by becoming an owner and a real estate investor at the same time.  To learn more about rental properties, download the Rental Income Properties guide and/or contact me at (956) 725-3838 to schedule an appointment to meet to discuss the possibilities.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Who Earns the Commission?



What do you think the motivating reason would be for the 5% of all homebuyers who chose not to work with an agent but instead conducted their own home search, contacted the seller, negotiated the contract, located their financing, arranged their inspections and all of the other services provided by REALTORS®?  Most people would probably guess the buyers were wanting to do the work themselves and earn the commission in the form a lower purchase price.

Looking at it from the seller's perspective, what would be the reason for the 8% of all home sellers who chose not to work with an agent but instead did their own research to determine the value of their home, coordinated all of the marketing efforts necessary to have sufficient exposure to the market, negotiate directly with the buyer, and investigate all of the other steps necessary to close the sale?  Is it possible and even probable, that they too were trying to earn the commission and net more proceeds from the sale?

If the home sold for fair market value, it would be reasonable to assume that the seller won out over the buyer.  If it sold for less than market value, it seems that the seller didn't realize his full equity in the home.  In either case, both buyer and seller engaged in activities that they were less experienced and capable than the real estate professional.

The Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (Exhibit 8-1) reports that 14% of sales were For-Sale-by-Owners in 2004 compared to just 8% in 2019.  The trend shows that agent-assisted sales rose to 89% in 2019 from 82% in 2004.

The three most difficult tasks identified by for-sale-by-owners is getting the price right, preparing or fixing up the home for sale, and selling within the length of time planned.   

The time on the market for sale by owners experienced was less than that of agent assisted homes; two weeks compared to three weeks.  This could indicate that the home didn't maximize its potential sales price.  According to the previous mentioned survey, for sale by owners typically sell for less than the selling price of other homes.

The reality is that both parties cannot earn the commission.  It is earned by providing specific services that are essential to the transaction.  The capital asset of a home represents the largest investment most people make.  An investment of that importance certainly deserves the consideration of a professional trained and experienced to handle the complexities involved. There is value to having a third-party advocate helping each party to the transaction.

The tasks involved in buying and selling a home exist and must be done.  Since nine out of ten transactions involve an agent and therefore, a commission.  It comes down to deciding which is more important: time or money.  If a buyer or seller values their time more than the commission, they'll usually work with an agent.  If money is more valuable to a buyer or seller, they may try purchasing or selling without an agent.  One thing is for sure: there are two parties to the transaction and only one commission.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Take the Standard Deduction & the Home



Now that the standard deduction is increased to $12,200 for single taxpayers and $24,400 for married ones, many homeowners are better off with the standard deduction than itemizing their deductions to write off their mortgage interest and property taxes.  There was some speculation that without the tax advantages, homeownership is not the investment it once was.

By looking at the other benefits, you can see that homeownership is still one of the best investments people can make.

A $275,000 home financed with a 4.5%, 30-year FHA loan would have an approximate total payment of $2,075.  The difference in the value of the home and the amount owed on the mortgage is called equity.  Two things cause equity to increase: the home appreciating in value and the principal loan balance being reduced with each payment made on an amortizing loan.

In this example, if the home were appreciating at 2% annually, the value would increase by $5,500 the first year which would be $458.33 per month.  At the same time, with each payment made, an increasing amount would reduce the unpaid balance which would average $363.00 a month in the first year.

The homeowner's equity would increase over $800 a month.  Instead of paying rent, the homeowner is building equity in their home.  It becomes a forced savings and lowers their net cost of housing.  In seven years, the homeowner in this example would have $80,901 in equity instead of seven years of rent receipts.

This example doesn't consider tax advantages at all.  If the homeowner would benefit from itemizing their deductions, it would lower their cost of housing even more.

The IRS recommends each year to compare the standard and itemized deductions to see which would benefit you more.  Items such as substantial charitable donations, mortgage interest, property taxes and large out-of-pocket medical expenses could increase the likelihood of itemizing deductions.

You can see the benefits using your own numbers without tax advantages by using the Rent vs. Own.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Understanding Reverse Mortgages



Reverse mortgage loans are like traditional mortgages that permits homeowners to borrow money using their home as collateral while retaining title to the property.  Reverse mortgage loans don't require monthly payments.

The loan is due and payable when the borrower no longer lives in the home or dies, whichever comes first.  Since no payments are made, interest and fees earned are added to the loan balance each month causing an increasing unpaid balance.  Homeowners are required to pay property taxes, insurance and maintain the home, as their principal residence, in good condition.

Reverse mortgages provide older Americans including Baby Boomers access to their home's equity. Borrowers can use their equity to renovate their homes, eliminate personal debt, pay medical expenses or supplement their income with reverse mortgage funds.

Homeowners are required to be 62 years and older and meet the following requirements:

  • Own the home free and clear or owe very little on the current mortgage that can be paid off with the proceeds
  • Live in the home as their primary residence
  • Be current on all taxes, insurance, and association dues and all federal debt
  • Prove they can keep up with the home's maintenance and repairs

Payouts are based on the age of the youngest spouse. The younger the age, the less money can be borrowed. Reverse mortgages offer two terms ... a fixed rate or variable rate. Fixed rate HECMs have one interest rate and one lump sum payment. Variable rate loans offer multiple payout options:

  • Equal monthly payouts
  • A line of credit with access until the funds are gone
  • Combined line of credit and fixed monthly payments for a specified term
  • Combined line of credit and fixed monthly payments for the life of the loan

Traditional reverse mortgages, also called Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, HECM, are insured by FHA. There are no income limitations or requirements and the loan funds may be used for any purpose. The borrower must attend a counseling session about the HECM, its risk, benefits, and how much can be borrowed. The final loan amount is based on borrower's age and home value. FHA HECMs require upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums but can be wrapped into the loan.

Proprietary HECM loans are not federally insured. Lenders create their own terms, including allowing loan amounts higher than the FHA maximum. Proprietary HECMs don't require mortgage insurance (upfront or monthly), which may result in more funds available. Proprietary reverse mortgages typically have higher interest rates than FHA HECMs.

Advantages

  • Create a steady stream of income during retirement
  • The proceeds aren't taxed or risk borrower's Social Security payments
  • Title and rights to the home are retained by the homeowner
  • Monthly payments are not required

Disadvantages

  • The loan balance increases over time rather than decreases as with an amortizing loan
  • The loan balance may exceed the property value eliminating inheritance
  • The fees may be higher than traditional mortgage loans
  • Any absence of the home for longer than 6 months for non-medical or 12 months for medical reasons makes the loan due and payable

More information is available about reverse mortgages from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or Federal Trade Commission or HUD.gov.