Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Homeowners can raise the basis or cost in their home by money spent on capital improvements. The benefit is that it will lower their gain and may save them taxes when they sell their home. Improvements must add value to your home, prolong its useful life or adapt it to new uses. Repairs are routine in nature to maintain the value and keep the property in an ordinary, operating condition. Additions of decks, pools, fences and landscaping add value to a home as well as new floor covering, counter-tops and other updates. Replacing a roof, appliances or heating and cooling systems would be considered to extend the useful life of the home. Completing an unfinished basement or converting a garage to living space are common examples of adapting a portion of the home to a new use. Other items that can raise the basis in your home are special assessments for local improvements like sidewalks or curbs and money spent to restore damage from casualty losses not covered by insurance. Here’s a simple idea that could save you money years from now. Every time you spend money on your home other than the house payment and the utilities, put the receipt or canceled check in an envelope labeled “Home Improvements.” Regardless of whether you know if the money would be classified as maintenance or improvements, the receipt or cancelled check goes in the envelope. Years from now, when you’ve sold your home and you need to report the gain on the property, you or your accountant can go through the envelope and determine which of the expenditures will be adjustments to your basis. Some people disregard this idea because of the generous exclusion allowed on principal residences. At the unknown point in the future when you sell your home, circumstances may have changed and the proof of these expenditures will be valuable. The tax laws could lower the exclusion amount or eliminate it altogether. Your marital status may change because of death or divorce. The market value of your home may skyrocket. Since the future is unknown, it is better to keep track of the improvements as they are made and how much is spent on them. Download an Improvement Register and examples or read more in Publication 523 on Increases to Basis.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Sometimes, there are costs associated with not taking a particular action. If a person left their money in a certificate of deposit earning 2% when they could have made an investment that earned 8%, the difference is the opportunity costs associated to not taking action. If a couple has a down payment and good credit, locking in a low interest rate mortgage for 30 years could easily provide their lowest cost of housing. If that couple waits three years to purchase a home, the price would probably be higher as would the mortgage rate. However, assuming the price and interest rate remained constant, look at what the opportunity costs might be compared to doing nothing. If their money was invested in a certificate of deposit at 2.00%, in two years their $8,750 would have grown to $9,104. They would have earned $354 and had to pay ordinary income tax on the interest. If their money was invested in the stock market that had increased 7%, in two years they would have a profit of $1,268 which would be subject to long-term capital gains tax. On the other hand, it the same investment was used to buy a home that increased in value at 3% annually, the equity would be $31,938 or an increase of $23,188. Tax would not be triggered until the home is sold and may not be due then based on their homeowner’s principal residence exclusion. The home goes up in value due to appreciation and the unpaid balance goes down because of amortization. The dramatic difference in growth in the equity of the home is effected by leverage: the use of borrowed funds controlling the asset. A home is a place of your own where you can feel safe and secure, to enjoy with your family and friends and in many instances, a very good investment. It is difficult to measure the opportunity costs of intangibles but not necessarily money. Make your own projections with Your Best Investment.
An agent was presenting a contract to a single, senior woman who was moving into a retirement home. It was a full price offer with reasonable terms and timelines but the seller wouldn’t accept it. When the agent probed deeper, she discovered that the seller was concerned with her dining room table. It had been the first piece of nice furniture that she and her husband had purchased and they had literally spent a lifetime celebrating and making decisions at that table. It troubled the owner to think that the table would go to strangers who might not appreciate it as much as her family had. The agent told the elderly seller that she knew of a church nearby that had a community room filled with lovely tables like hers. If she liked the idea, the agent would call the church to see if they’d like to have it. Once a new home for the table was found, the sale of the home went smoothly. Lower inventory and increased demand in certain price ranges have increased the frequency of multiple offers on the same home. Sellers are frequently faced with a decision dilemma on which offer to accept and the price may not be the most important factor. Sellers generally need the equity from the sale of their home to purchase another one but they also don’t want to have to temporarily move if they’re not able to get into the home they’re purchasing. Flexible buyers have discovered the value in coordinating the sale and possession of the homes. Sellers want to know when they make a decision on an offer, that the buyers will be able to perform as the contract is written. The more contingencies that can be eliminated or minimized, the more comfortable a seller will feel about the certainty that it will close according to schedule. The buyer should be pre-approved with all verifications and credit reports having been done. Simply having a loan officer’s opinion is definitely not the same thing as a pre-approval. There is a unique dynamic to every transaction because the parties are individuals with infinite priorities and values. The art of the deal takes place when these unique variables are considered to define a mutually acceptable offer involving price, terms and conditions. The role and experience of the agents contribute to the successful outcome.