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Overlooked Record keeping
Homeowners are familiar that they can deduct the interest and property taxes from their income tax returns. They also understand that there is a substantial capital gains exclusion for qualified sales of up to $250,000 if single and $500,000 for married filing jointly. However, ongoing recordkeeping tends to be overlooked.
New homeowners should get in the habit of keeping all receipts and paperwork for any improvements or repairs to the home. Existing homeowners need to be reminded as well, in case they have become lax in doing so.
These expenditures won’t necessarily benefit in the annual tax filing but may become valuable when it is time to sell the home because it raises the basis or cost of the home.
For instance, let’s say a single person buys a $350,000 home that appreciates at 6% a year. Twelve years from now, the home will be worth $700,000. $250,000 of the gain will be exempt with no taxes due but the other $100,000 will be taxed at long-term capital gains rate. At 15%, that would be $15,000 in taxes due.
Assume during the time the home was owned that a variety of improvements totaling $100,000 had been made. The adjusted basis in the home would be $450,000 and the gain would only be $250,000. No capital gains tax would be due.
Some repairs may not qualify as improvements but if the homeowner has receipts for all the money spent on the home, the tax preparer can decide at the time of sale. Small dollar items can really add up to substantial amounts over many years of homeownership.
You can download a Homeowner’s Tax Worksheet that can help you with this recordkeeping. The important thing is to establish a habit of putting receipts for home expenditures in an envelope, so you’ll have it when you are ready to sell.
It Is All In The Name
You may be able to judge a neighborhood by its name. Some neighborhoods containing certain names tend to attract the wealthiest residents and boast the highest home values, according to a new study by Porch.com, a home improvement resource.
Neighborhoods that include names like “Hills,” “Island,” and “Village,” for example, tend to report some of the highest average household incomes in the country. On the other hand, the lowest home values were found in neighborhoods with words like “Fort,” “Junction,” and “Rock” in their names.
In the richest neighborhoods, researchers found places that had names using the words “Village,” “Valley,” and “Heights” tended to exceed $100,000 in average household incomes. For example, in Texas, 22 neighborhoods and communities that contained the name “Village” had average household incomes of more than $174,000. Colorado and Michigan communities that contained the word “Village” in the name also contained some of the states’ wealthiest residents, too.
Porch researchers looked at the neighborhoods with the highest incomes and home values in each state. View the chart below for a breakdown of each state’s neighborhood name that boasted the highest average incomes.
What to Avoid Before Closing Your New Home
It’s understandable; you’re excited; you’ve found the right home, negotiated a contract, made a loan application and inspections. Closing is not that far away, and you are making plans to move and put personal touches on your new home.
Even if you have an initial approval on your mortgage, little things can derail the process which isn’t over until the papers are signed at settlement and funds distributed to the seller. The verifications are usually done again just prior to the closing to determine if there have been any material changes to the borrower’s credit or income that might disqualify them.
Most lending and real estate professionals recommend NOT to:
- Make any new major purchases that could affect your debt-to-income ratio
- Buy things for your new home until after you close
- Apply, co-sign or add any new credit
- Close or consolidate credit card accounts without advice from your lender
- Quit your job or change jobs
- Change banks
- Talk to the seller without your agent
Your real estate professional and lender are working together to get you into your new home. It’s understandable to be excited and feel you need to be getting ready for the move.
Planning is fine but don’t do anything that would affect your credit or income while you’re waiting to sign the final papers at settlement.
Rising Rates Affect the Cost Too
Mortgage rates have risen 0.5% in 2018 on 30-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and experts expect them to continue to increase. Buyers paying attention to the market understand the relationship that inventory has on pricing; when the supply is low, the price usually goes up. Rising interest rates can affect the cost of homes also.
When interest rates go up, fewer people can afford homes. Lower numbers of buyers can affect the demand, which could cause prices of homes to come down. The question is how much do the interest rates have to go up to affect demand?
As the rates gradually go up, the affect may not be noticeable at all except for the fact that the payments for the buyer have increased.
A ½% change in interest is approximately equal to a 5% change in price. A $300,000 mortgage at 4.5% for a 30-year term will have a $1,520.06 principal and interest payment. If the mortgage rate goes up 0.5%, it would affect the payment the same as if the price had gone up 5%. The difference in payments for the full term of the loan would be $32,547.
There are some things beyond buyers’ control, but indecision isn’t one of them. If they haven’t found the “right” home yet, it is understandable. However, when that home does present itself, the buyer needs to be ready to make a decision. If they are preapproved and have done their due diligence in the market, they should be able to contract before significant changes occur in the mortgage rates.
Don’t Have a CLUE?
If you haven’t heard of a CLUE report, it has nothing to do with the table game searching for a murderer. It is a report showing the insurance claims on your home and car for the past five to seven years.
This database is used by insurance companies to evaluate risks and determine rates. C.L.U.E. stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange. Rates can be increased not only due to legitimate claims but data entry errors also. Sometimes, simply asking a question without filing a claim can be logged as a claim.
For that reason, similar to verifying the accuracy of your credit report, it is important to check out the CLUE report on your home and car. The reports are free and there is a process for correcting mistakes.
An interesting and sometimes costly surprise occurs during the home buying process. The claim experience of the prior seller could impact the price of the premium of the new buyer. For that reason, you can ask for a copy of the CLUE report on the home you’re interested in buying prior to writing a contract.
Owning Makes More Sense
When comparing the cost of owning a home to renting, there is more than the difference in house payment against the rent currently being paid. It very well could be lower than the rent but when you consider the other benefits, owning could be much lower than renting.
Each mortgage payment has an amount that is used to pay down the principal which is building equity for the owner. Similarly, the home appreciates over time which also benefits the owner by increasing their equity.
There are additional expenses for owning a home that renters don’t have like repairs and possibly, a homeowner’s association. To get a clear picture, look at the following example of a $300,000 home with a 3.5% down payment on a 4.5%, 30-year mortgage.
The total payment is $2,264 including principal, interest, property taxes, property and mortgage insurance. However, when you consider the monthly principal reduction, appreciation, maintenance and HOA, the net cost of housing is $1,218. It costs $1,282 more to rent at $2,500 a month than to own. In a year’s time, it would cost $15,000 more to rent than to own which is more than the down payment and closing costs to buy the home.
With normal amortization and 3% annual appreciation, the $10,500 down payment in this example turns into $112,000 in equity in seven years. Check out your own numbers using the Rent vs. Own or call us at (206) 979-9632. Owning a home makes sense and can be one of the best investments a person will ever make.
Before You Leave Town…
Along with all the planning of what you’re going to do and where you’re going to stay, consider this checklist to make you feel more comfortable while you’re away from home.
- Ask a trusted friend to pick up your mail, newspaper and keep yard picked up to avoid an appearance of not being at home.
- Stop your mail (USPS Hold Mail Service) and your newspaper.
- Don’t post about your trip on Facebook and other social media until you return; some burglars look for this type of announcement to schedule their activities.
- Do notify police or neighborhood watch – especially if you’re going to be gone for more than just a few days. Let your monitoring service know when you’ll be gone and if someone will be checking on your home for you.
- Light timers make it look like someone is home. Set multiple timers for various times to better simulate someone at home. There are plug-in modules for lights and appliances that would allow you to control them from your phone while your out of town.
- Do unplug certain appliances – TV, computers, toaster ovens that use electricity even when they’re off and to protect them from power surges.
- Don’t hide a key; burglars know exactly where to look for your key and it only takes them a moment to check under the mat, above the door, in the flower pot or in a fake rock.
These easy-to-handle suggestions may protect your belongings while you’re away and will add a level of serenity to your trip.
Waiting Period After Distressed Sale
“How long do we have to wait to qualify for another mortgage” is the question concerning people who’ve had a foreclosure, short sale or bankruptcy. The loan types for the new loan will differ in amounts of time to heal credit scores based on the event.
The following chart is meant to be a general guide for how long a person might have to wait. During this waiting period, it’s important that the person be current on all payments and maintains a history of good credit.
A recommended lender can give you specific information regarding your individual situation and can make suggestions that will improve your ability to qualify for a mortgage. This process should be started before looking at homes because of the time constraints listed here can vary based on current requirements and possible extenuating circumstances of your case.
A Word Homeowners Need to Understand
Acquisition Debt is the amount of money borrowed and used to buy, build or improve a principal residence or second home. Under the new tax law, mortgages taken after 12/14/17 are limited to a combination of $750,000 on the first and second homes. The mortgage interest on this debt is tax deductible when itemizing deductions.
It is a dynamic number that is reduced with each payment as the unpaid balance goes down. The only way to increase acquisition debt is to borrow money to make capital improvements.
Prior to the new law, homeowners could additionally borrow up to $100,000 of home equity debt for any purpose and deduct the interest when itemizing deductions. Mortgage interest on home equity debt is no longer deductible unless it is for capital improvements.
Acquisition debt cannot be increased by refinancing. Some confusion occurs because mortgage lenders are concerned in making home loans that will be repaid according the terms of the note and using the home as collateral. That does not include making a tax-deductible mortgage.
Another thing that adds confusion to the issue is that the lenders will annually report how much interest was paid in a year but only the amount that is attributable to acquisition debt is deductible.
Even if the interest on the cash-out refinance is not deductible, it may be advantageous to pay off higher interest debt such as credit card debt and replacing it with lower mortgage debt.
It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to know what part of their mortgage debt is deductible. The challenge becomes more difficult after a cash-out refinance. Homeowners should keep records of all financing and capital improvements and consult with their tax professional.