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Take the Standard Deduction & the Home!

1/20/2020

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.

Title Insurance

11/27/2019

Most people who have car, home and health insurance have probably made claims and wouldn't consider being without it.  However, it might be difficult to find a homeowner who has made a claim on their title insurance which could lead a person to think that it may not be necessary. 

Title insurance covers the largest investment most people have and if there was a loss, it could be devastating.  Title insurance indemnifies the policy holder from financial loss sustained from defects in the title to the property.  The policy holder is determined by their interest in the property.  

An owner's title policy protects the owner of the property from title issues that may arise other than the mortgages that are being placed on the property at the time of purchase.  The title of the property goes back in time to check that clear title (no unsatisfied liens or levies and poses no question to legal ownership) was passed from owner to owner up to the current seller.

A mortgagee's or lender's policy protects the lender by guaranteeing they have an enforceable lien on the property and legal claims from parties asserting they have a claim against the property.  Lender's generally require the borrower to provide this coverage.

The title search is an examination to determine and confirm legal ownership and if there are clouds on the title so the seller can pass a clear title.  A cloud is defined as any document, claim, unreleased lien or encumbrance that might invalidate or impair the title to real property.

If a person passes title to a buyer that has unsatisfied liens on the property, the new buyer could become responsible for the money owed and it could affect their ability to sell the property in the future.

Unlike most insurance that has a specific term and periodic premiums, title insurance covers the insured for a single premium.  An owner's policy lasts for as long as they or their heirs have an interest in the property.  It guarantees the title up to the date and time that the property was deeded to you and recorded in the public records.

The majority of homes purchased in America have title policies insuring the new owner.  You could live in the home for five, ten or twenty years without an incident.  Then, when you're ready to sell the home, a title claim could happen.  The title policy would still protect you at that point.  It is a peace of mind coverage that is part of the investment in your home.

Buy Your Retirement Home Now

11/4/2019

Buy Your Retirement Home Now

Maybe you're not ready to move into it but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't take advantage of the present opportunities to acquire the home you want to live in during retirement. The combination of the low mortgage rates, high rental rates, positive cash flows and tax advantages can help you get it paid for by the time you're ready to move into it.

Your tenant could literally buy your retirement home for you.  One idea would be to finance it with a 15-year loan that will have a lower rate than a 30-year loan and it will obviously be paid for in half the time. With every monthly rental check from your tenant, you make the payment on the mortgage which includes a portion that reduces debt and builds equity. Even if you don't have the home paid for by the time you retire, your equity will be larger. 

Consider you sell your current home which could be paid for by then when you are ready to move into this retirement home .  Taxpayers can exclude up to $500,000 of tax-free gain for a married couple. That profit could be used to fund your retirement.

Even if you don't retire to this home, it could be a placeholder to control the costs of the home you do move into.  For example, you could buy a home in a destination location now, rent it out and build equity in it until you're ready to use it as your principal residence.  That home would have kept pace with other homes in the area so that you would not be priced out of the market you want to retire to.

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

Contact us if you'd like to talk about the idea or if you need a recommendation of real estate professional in another city.

Interior Condensation Solutions

10/21/2019

Interior Condensation Solutions

Condensation occurs when the air has too much moisture in it which is felt as high humidity.  The water deposits on various surfaces that are cooler than the air itself.  Several things can contribute to the high humidity such as cooking, dishwashers, clothes dryers, bathing and long showers. 

If the home has a crawl space under the floor, inadequate ventilation or insulation can cause moisture in the home.  There seems to be a difference of opinions about whether to vent or not vent.  First, determine if you are having a problem and then, weigh the options available to find the best solution.

Condensation that forms on windows and other surfaces in your home can cause damage to window trim, frames, drywall, floor coverings and sub-floors as well and the interior framing.

To reduce condensation in a home, the moisture saturating the air needs to be reduced.  Just as steam from a shower can fog a mirror, warm air holds more moisture.  When the air cools, it releases the moisture.  There are other things that can be done to reduce the moisture and the condensation.

  • Adjust humidifier
  • Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans
  • Circulate the air; ceiling fans can help with this
  • Open windows to release warm air
  • Raise temperature
  • Add weather stripping
  • Window insulation kits
  • Storm windows
  • Move plants that release moisture in the air

The average life of a bathroom exhaust fan is about ten years with kitchen fans lasting about fifteen years.  Regular cleaning can increase the life of the fans.  Bathroom exhaust fans should be vented to the outside and should be run for 15-20 minutes after using the bath or shower to remove the moisture that causes mold and mildew.

Regulating the humidity in a home can protect against damage but it also promotes comfort in the form of breathing, relieving dry skin, sinus problems and sickness in general.  Breathing is easier and the air feels more pleasant.

Downsizing is an Alternative

9/4/2019

Downsizing is an Alternative

It is estimated that over 15% of the population in the U.S. are over 65 years of age.  With one of the most common fears of seniors being their money will run out early, it is understandable that downsizing may be strategy to meet their goals.

Once the kids are grown, have careers, relationships and get a place of their own, parents find they may not need their "big" home like they did before.  In other situations, their lifestyle might have changed, and the house just doesn't "fit" anymore.

The benefits of a smaller home can include the following:

  • Easier to maintain
  • Lower utilities
  • Lower property taxes
  • Lower insurance
  • More convenient location
  • Single level
  • Possibly more energy efficient
  • Possibly lower maintenance

Like any other big change in life, it is recommended that a person should take their time to consider the possible alternatives and outcomes.  Are they going to stay in the same area?  What type of property would suit their needs for the future?

The tax-free exclusion allows a homeowner to take up to $250,000 of gain for single taxpayers and up to $500,000 for married taxpayers.  Part or all of this could be used to generate income for retirement.  Other uses for the equity could include paying off other debt, taking the trip of a lifetime or making a special gift.

There will be expenses involved in selling a home as well as the purchase of a new home.  These will lower the amount of net proceeds you'll have to invest in the new home.

Homeowners should consult their tax professionals to see how this applies to their situation.  Please contact me at (269) 488-9292 or spattison@remax.net if you have any questions about what your home is worth or how long it might take to sell it.  Other things that could be of value are our Homeowners Tax Guide or Sellers Guide.

Attachments area

America Still Considers Real Estate the Best

8/14/2019

America Still Considers Real Estate the Best

35% of respondents, in a recent annual Gallup poll that dates back to 2002, identified real estate as the best long-term investment option compared to 27% who identified stocks.

The top choices included real estate, stocks, savings accounts and gold.  Even with the remarkable prices of the different U.S. stock indices recorded in 2019 through April and May, homes have the highest confidence in the minds of the respondents.

This seems to be based on the stability of the housing market and the expectation that home prices will continue to rise.  Homeowners build equity from both appreciation as well as reducing principal with each payment made. These same factors exist for investors of rental homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods.

Real estate has another dynamic working to produce favorable investment results due to leverage.  Leverage occurs when borrowed funds are used to control an asset.  When the borrowed funds are at a lower rate than the overall investment results, positive leverage occurs which can increase the yield from an all cash investment.

Gold and savings accounts must be funded with cash.  The maximum borrowed funds allowed for stocks is 50% and generally, at a rate higher than typical mortgage rates.

Homes are a particularly attractive investment because you can enjoy them personally by living in them.  The interest and property taxes are deductible and gains on the profit are excluded up $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. 

Many people consider an investment in a home for a rental property an IDEAL investment: Income, Depreciation, Equity Build-up & Leverage.

If you have questions or are curious about the process, contact me at spattison@remax.net or (269) 488-9292.

Determining Property Type

8/6/2019

Determining Property Type

8/7/2019

The Internal Revenue Service considers four different types of real estate.  Specific types of properties have benefits based on their classification.  The determination does not depend on the property itself as much as it depends on how the property is used and what the owner's intentions are.

Principal Residence ... a principal residence is the place a person lives or expects to return if they are temporarily away from it.  It could be a single family, detached home or condominium or a duplex, tri-plex or four-unit.  The owner(s) can deduct the qualified mortgage interest and property taxes on the schedule A of their tax return.  There is a capital gains exclusion on profit of up to $250,000 for a single taxpayer and up to $500,000 for a married taxpayer. 

Income Property - is improved property that is rented or leased to tenants as opposed to using it personally.  It can include houses and condos, apartment buildings, office complexes, shopping centers, warehouses and other commercial buildings.  Depreciation is allowed on the improvements.  For property held more than one year, the profits are taxed at long-term capital gains rates.  This type of property is eligible for a tax deferred exchange.

Investment Property ... can be raw land or improved property that is not rented or leased.  This property is not subject to depreciation.  If the property is held for more than one year, the profits are taxed at long-term capital gains rates.  It is also eligible for a tax deferred exchange. 

Dealer Property ... this type of property is primarily considered inventory because the intention is to sell it without intentionally holding it for more than a year.  It could be new construction such as a home builder.  It could be an investor who buys a property and expects to sell it for more.  There is not a requirement to make improvements.  The profits on dealer property are taxed as ordinary, "sweat of the brow" income.  Dealer properties cannot be exchanged.

A second home is like a principal residence in that you can deduct the interest and property taxes on your Schedule A, up to the limits.  A second home, as well as a principal residence, can be rented out up to 14-days a year without threatening the status of the property.  Seconds homes are not eligible for exchange because personal use properties are not allowed.  A second home is not a principal residence and profits are taxed like an investment property.  If you own it for more than a year, it is taxed at long-term capital gains rates.

Vacation homes are rented for more than 14 days a year and are like income property but with some additional rules that apply.  If your personal use is 14 days or less or 10% of the time it is rented, your expenses can be deducted in excess of income.  If you use it for more than 14 days or more than 10% of the number of days it is rented, it is considered personal use and your expenses are limited to the amount of income collected with no losses being deductible.

Taxpayers can strategically change the property type based on their intentions.  A principal residence can be converted to income property.  Dealer property could become a principal residence.  A rental property could become a principal residence.

Professional tax advice is always recommended to be able to understand the information and how it applies to your specific situation.

Building Equity

7/2/2019

Building Equity

Owning a home is the first step to building equity.  Tenants build equity but not for themselves; they build it for the owners.

Equity is the difference in the value of the home and what is owed on the home.  There are two dynamics that cause this to grow: appreciation and principal reduction.

As the home increases in value, it is said to appreciate.  Various authorities will annualize an appreciation rate based on average sales prices from one year to the next.  Since appreciation is based on supply and demand as well as economic conditions, it will not be the same year after year. 

If you looked at a ten to twelve-year period, some would be higher than others and there may even be some individual years that it is flat or even declined.  For the most part, values tend to appreciate over time.

Most mortgages are amortized which means that a portion of the payment each month is applied to the principal in order to pay off the loan by the end of the term.  A $300,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years has $395.06 applied to the principal with the first payment.  A slightly larger amount is applied to the principal each following month until the loan is paid with the 360th payment.

If additional principal payments are made, it will save interest, build equity faster and shorten the term of the mortgage.  Using the previous example, if an additional $250.00 principal contribution was made with each payment, it would only take 270 payments to retire the loan instead of 360.  It would save $69,305 in interest and shorten the mortgage by 7.5 years.

To see the dynamics of equity due to appreciation and principal reduction, look at the Rent vs. Own.  To see the effect of making additional principal contributions on your equity, look at the Equity Accelerator.  

Comfort Systems

5/13/2019

Comfort Systems

Heating and air-conditioning are frequently referred to as the "comfort systems."  If one has gone out in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, lack of comfort becomes a primary concern.  Regular maintenance with a HVAC checklist is something that homeowners can do themselves to ensure that the units operate properly.

Periodically

  • Change your filter every 90 days; every 30 days if you have shedding pets. 
  • Maintain at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
  • Don't allow leaves, grass clippings, lint or other things to block circulation of coils.
  • Inspect insulation on refrigerant lines leading into house monthly and replace if missing or damaged.

Annually, in spring

  • Confirm that outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps are on level pads.
  • Pour bleach in the air conditioner's condensation drain to clear mold and algae which can cause a clog.
  • Avoid closing more than 20% of a home's registers to keep from overworking the system.
  • Replace the battery in the home's carbon monoxide detector.


While using this list will provide some things that may impede the comfort system's proper performance, it is recommended that you have your units serviced annually by a licensed contractor.  Furnaces should also be inspected for carbon monoxide leaks. Preventative maintenance may help avoid costly repairs.

Auto Pay Your Mortgage Payment

4/10/2019

Auto Pay Your Mortgage Payment

In the time that it takes to write one check, you can set it up with your bank and never have to do it again.  You won't have to write checks, envelopes or buy stamps anymore.  You'll save time, money and benefit in other ways too.

  1. Never be late ... avoid late fees and protect your credit
  2. Schedule additional principal contributions monthly to save interest, build equity and shorten the mortgage term. 
    An extra $200 a month applied to the principal on a $200,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years will result in shortening the loan by 8.5 years.  If the loan was paid to term, it would save $52,977 in interest.  Use the Equity Accelerator to see how much you can save.
  3. It's convenient ... by doing it online with your bank, you'll have a centralized history of the payments.
  4. Protect your credit ... your payment history is the single biggest component of your credit score and accounts for over 1/3 of your credit score.

Establishing the practice of auto bill pay could run the risk of overdrawing an account and incurring overdraft charges.  Monitor your bank account to be sure that you have enough cash to cover your automatic payments.

Schedule the Auto Pay to allow for processing and the time it takes to reach the lender so that you don't incur late fees.

And even though, you set up the Auto Pay, it is still your responsibility to monitor your bank account to see that they are executing it properly.  If you are making additional principal contributions, you must see that the extra amount was indeed applied to principal reduction and not somewhere else like in the escrow account.

Some banks offer email or text reminders to let you know when checks are about to be written or if your balance is low.

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