Tuesday, October 27, 2015
With mortgage rates below 5% since 2009, you would think any homeowner who should refinance would have already. However, it is estimated, there are approximately 6.5 million borrowers who would benefit with significant monthly savings by refinancing. Rodney Anderson of Supreme Lending, on his weekly radio program, described a recent pipeline meeting where they reviewed every pending mortgage application his company was processing. They had seven refinancing applicants whose current mortgage was over 9% and twelve with a rate between 7% and 9%. “Some 550,000 American homeowners with a mortgage could save $500 or more each month by refinancing at today’s rates. Over three million could save at least $200 per month.” said Ben Graboske, CTO with Black Knight Financial Services. Getting a lower interest rate should be reason enough but eliminating the mortgage insurance should make the decision a no brainer. With increased home values, the loan-to-value ratio may no longer require mortgage insurance which would add additional savings. Homeowners need solid information about what their home is worth and whether they’d benefit from refinancing. The most reliable solution is to talk with a qualified mortgage professional. The internet is a great place for generalized info but each person's situation is unique. Call if you'd like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional or would like to know what your home is worth.
The majority of tenants say they would like to own a home but continue to pay rent and missing out on financial and emotional advantages. There seems to still be a lot of misinformation in the marketplace. There are a number of programs for low or no down payment options. Veterans can get into a home with no down payment or closing costs. In qualifying areas, USDA has zero down payment programs. FHA requires 3.5% down payment and there are conventional programs for as little as 3% and 5% down. People with credit issues need expert opinions about their specific situation. Borrowers with bankruptcies or foreclosures may be eligible to purchase again after certain periods of time. There are short-term fixes for some types of credit problems. There is an extended list of individual issues that a skilled mortgage professional may be able to overcome. Most tenants realize considerably lower cost of housing by owning once the appreciation, amortization and tax savings are considered. The savings in the first year alone could easily be more than the down payment required. Plug in your own numbers in a Rent vs. Own to see what your real cost of housing may be. Contact us for a recommendation of a mortgage professional who can give you accurate information about your situation.
Equity is an asset and an appreciating home is an investment. While some people have resolved themselves that a mortgage payment is a normal part of life, others have set goals to get their home paid for as soon as possible. There are several strategies that will work but they all require persistent vigilance. A shorter term mortgage such as 20, 15 or even 10 years will not only pay off sooner, it will generally have a lower interest rate. A recent comparison at Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed a 30 year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.04% compared to a 15 year fixed-rate at 3.20%. The fees for the shorter term were even .1% less. The shorter term with the lower rate would have a higher payment but some people consider it forced savings. Additional principal contributions to any length fixed-rate mortgage will save interest, build equity and shorten the term of the loan. Some homeowners may apply lump sums at various times during the year such as when bonuses are paid or a tax refund is received. Other owners might increase their payment by $100, $200 or more each month. Setting the increased payment through electronic banking would insure that you consistently make the extra amount. Bi-weekly payments make 26 half-payments in a year which equals 13 full-payments. Because of the frequency, it reduces the interest that is due. This might work well for borrowers who are paid every two weeks but could present cash flow problems for those who are paid on schedules that don’t coincide. Making one extra payment a year will have almost the same effect as a bi-weekly payment. The 13th payment would be completely applied to principal. Before embarking on one of these strategies, it would be wise to verify with your lender that it complies with their policies. Check out the Equity Accelerator to see how it could affect your loan.
Among the many reasons people have to own home, they include having a place of their own, to raise a family and to share with friends. Additional benefits include security, investment, peace, pride and enjoyment. Together with the benefits come the responsibility to take care of the home for its livability and viability as a sound decision. A homeowner's concerns can be broken down into three areas. The maintenance on the property is something that every homeowner deals with. Changing filters are easy to handle yourself. Other things might require a skilled professional but identifying the “right” one can be challenging. Minimizing expenses can reduce the cost of living in the home. Its good to recognize when a repair is appropriate compared to a replacement. Reputable and reasonable service providers are key to keeping expense low. Managing debt and risk becomes the financial side of the effort. Taking advantage of low interest rates or shorter terms for refinancing, making additional principal contributions are just a few ways to manage debt. Home warranty programs and homeowner insurance tips can reduce risk. We sincerely want to be a resource for you not only when you buy or sell but all of the years in between. It is actually the reason we send this newsletter to you.
Why would you consider refinancing if your mortgage is only two or three years old and the rate is not considerably higher than what is currently available on new loans? Because you may be able to eliminate the mortgage insurance and have significant monthly savings. Many homes have seen their values rise in the past few years. The current loan-to-value ratio may be low enough to no longer require mortgage insurance. In some cases, a homeowner might actually pay a little higher rate than they currently have but lower their monthly payment dramatically because the mortgage insurance isn’t required. A rough rule of thumb is that mortgage insurance is not needed on loans at or less than 80% of value. There could be programs available that would allow a higher LTV than 80%. Careful consideration should also be given to the fees required to refinance. Lenders differ in not only the rates they charge but also the fees associated with the loans and the process. If you’d like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional, we’d be happy to make a recommendation.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Preserve the memories you’re making by taking photographs of your home now. The pictures will remind you of the role your home played with your family and life. Reminiscing is easier when scrolling through pictures to remind you of people and times. One of the least heard regrets is that we should have taken more pictures. Shots to consider:
- The front of the home from across the street
- Times when your yard and plants looked exceptional
- Holiday decorations
- Special occasions in the homes like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc. Home improvements
- Major purchases for the home
- Times when the home looked the best and the worst
- Family, friends and pets in the home
- Your children’s height marks on a door frame
- The view from a favorite window
If a seller was looking at two offers for exactly the same price on their home, there would still be things that could make one standout more than the other. If there happens to be more than two offers, things can really get sticky for a buyer. For that reason, it is good to craft the most attractive offer possible because even if you don’t have competition now, another offer could come in during negotiations and derail all your efforts to that point. Anything that can give the seller the peace of mind that one contract will close on time and as agreed will make them more comfortable in accepting one offer over another. Buyers can consider putting up larger than customary amounts of earnest money and limiting the contingencies to only the most essential items. The closing costs could be more expensive to the seller based on the type of mortgage a buyer is obtaining. One buyer may be asking the seller to pay part or all of their acquisition costs and the other buyer is paying their own costs. The borrower who has a signed, preapproval letter will appear to have a greater certainty to closing than a buyer who only says they have talked to a loan officer. Some lenders' letters are considered “gold” and others may not be worth the paper they’re written on. The seller will depend on their listing agent to advise them. In most cases, the seller will be taking all or part of the cash they receive from the sale of their home and buying another one. If they have to put a contingency clause in the contract based on their current home selling, it weakens their position. Conversely, it will strengthen a buyer’s position if they don’t have to make their offer contingent upon selling their current home. Even shortening the inspection periods and offering to close early or possible lease the home back to the seller for a short time can be valuable negotiating factors. Finally, don’t overlook the value of a personal hand-written letter that tells the seller why you want their home. An emotional connection has been known to make a difference for one set of buyers getting the home.
There are sites all over the web that offer to tell you what your home is worth. Simply plug in your address and email and you’ll get a value. It’s fast; it’s easy but is it accurate? The value is determined by what is called an Automated Valuation Model (AVM) that analyzes public record data with computer decision logic. Square footage, age, number of bedrooms and location are easily definable objective data. The challenge is identifying, measuring and comparing the subjective data. An AVM cannot identify how unique features might add or detract from the value, if the market is declining or why the comparable sales apply or don’t apply to the subject property. Is a home worth more because it is near shopping or less because it is across the street from a high-traffic commercially zoned property? Experienced professionals are more likely to make proper adjustments for condition, market appeal and positive and negative influences. Imagine that you’re going out for dinner and you consult HamburgerAVM.com to tell you how much a hamburger is worth. It might be accurate based on condiments, vegetables and weight but can it address things like taste, quality, cleanliness, service, convenience or atmosphere. You certainly couldn’t present the printout to the waiter to negotiate a lower price. 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.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Home Too Big Now? Once the kids are grown, have careers, relationships and get a place of their own, parents find that they may not need their “big” home like they did before. Their lifestyle may have changed and the house just doesn’t “fit” anymore. Benefits of a smaller home: Easier to maintain Lower utilities Lower property taxes Lower insurance More convenient location Convenience of a single level Possibly more energy efficient Possibly lower maintenance Moving from a larger home frees equity from the previous home that can be invested for retirement income, purchase a second home, travel, education or just to have a nest egg for unexpected expenses. The profit on the home, in most cases, will be tax-free up to the exclusion limits set by IRS. 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 available to invest in the new home. Like any other big change in life, it is recommended that you take your time to consider the possible alternatives and outcomes. Your real estate professional can provide information that can be valuable in the discernment process such as what your home is worth, what you will net from a sale as well as alternative properties for your next stage in life.
Monday, February 16, 2015
Insurance is a way to hedge the risk of a possible loss on an asset that a person or entity cannot afford. The cost of the coverage is determined by risk and exposure to the insurer and reflected in the premium. Another way to say it is: don’t buy insurance when you can afford the loss. If you have a mortgage on your home, you must have insurance. It is probably prudent for most people to have property insurance but certain coverage might be avoided because you can afford the loss if you were to have an occurrence. Call your current agent and review your insurance coverage. Ask if there are any available discounts whether your property qualifies for now or after certain improvements are made. Monitored alarm systems, dead bolts, smoke detectors, updated electrical, certain types and ages of roofs among other things may be eligible for individual discounts. Compare the newly revised coverage and premium with other reputable agencies and insurers. Shopping can be time consuming but experts agree that the exercise can be valuable and should be considered every few years. Deductibles are an easy way to affect the premium based on the initial amount of loss that the insured wants to assume. The higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Determine the amount of risk you want to assume and select an appropriate deductible. Consider bundling your home and auto policies for possible discounts and leverage for better service. Don’t become a co-insurer. Most policies stipulate that a building must be insured for at least a certain percentage, usually 80% of its insured value to be able to collect the full amount of a partial loss. Insured value is not always the same as market value. The land is not considered in the value but replacement cost of the dwelling is. It isn’t possible to purchase insurance after a loss; it must be purchased before a loss is incurred. Premiums are based on careful analysis of insurer’s loss and overhead expense plus a profit. As a homeowner and an insured, it would be equally wise to analyze coverage, claim service, your risk tolerance and the premium you’ll pay for that coverage.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
A simple decision to rent your current home instead of selling it when moving to a new home could have far reaching consequences. If you have a considerable gain, in a principal residence and you rent it for more than three years, it can lose the principal residence status and the profit must be recognized. Section 121 provides the exclusion of capital gain on a principal residence if you own and use it as such for two out of the last five years. This would allow a temporary rental for up to three years before the exclusion is lost. Let’s assume there is a $100,000 gain in your principal residence. If it qualifies for the exclusion, no tax would be owed. If the property had been converted to a rental so that it didn’t qualify any longer, the gain would be taxed at the current 20% long-term capital gains rate and it may incur a 3.8% surcharge for higher tax brackets. At least $20,000 in taxes could be avoided by selling it with the principal residence exclusion. Depreciation, a tax benefit of income property, is determined by the improvement value at the time of purchase or at the conversion to a rental whichever is less. If the seller sold the home and took the exclusion and then, bought an identical home for the same price, he would be able to have 60% more cost recovery and avoid long term capital gains tax. It is always recommended that homeowners considering such a conversion get advice from their tax professional as to how this will specifically affect their individual situation.
Monday, February 2, 2015
Over 50% of homebuyers don’t shop to find the best interest rate for their mortgage. While a buyer wouldn’t rarely purchase the first home they look at, they will accept the rate and terms offered by only one lender. While the borrower and the property affect the rate and terms that a lender may offer, it is not to be said that all lenders will offer the same terms and rates to the same buyer. Credit score, home location, home price and loan amount, down payment, loan term, interest rate type and loan type all affect the interest rate but different lenders can interpret this information differently. Shopping around to compare rate and terms for a mortgage is a reasonable exercise considering that a half percent lesser interest rate could not only lower the payment but the cumulative interest that is paid while that loan is outstanding. Some borrowers don’t shop the mortgage because they are concerned that having their credit checked multiple times could adversely affect their credit score. The credit bureaus take this into consideration when several requests are made by the same category of lender in a short period of time. Check to see the difference 0.5% could make in the mortgage you’re considering by using the calculator provided by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Contact your real estate professional for a list of trusted mortgage professionals to consider.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
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With roughly 12.5% of the population over 65 years of age, it is understandable that some of them are thinking of downsizing because they may not need the amount of space they did in the past. There is something to be said for the freedom acquired by divesting yourself of “things” that have been accumulated over the years but are no longer needed. Moving to a less expensive home, could provide cash that could be invested for additional income or savings for unanticipated expenditures. Savings can also be recognized in the lower utility costs associated with a smaller home, not to mention, the lower premiums for insurance and property taxes. Going from the home where you reared your family to one of the new tiny homes may be a bit extreme but downsizing to 2/3 or 50% of your current home may certainly be reasonable. In some situations, your interests may have changed so that a different area or city might be a possibility. At one time, IRS had a once-in-a-lifetime exclusion of $125,000 of gain from a principal residence but it was changed so that homeowner's are eligible for an exclusion of $250,000 of gain for single taxpayers and up to $500,000 for married taxpayers who have owned and used their home two out of the last five years and haven’t taken the exclusion in the previous 24 months. Homeowners should consult their tax professionals to see how this may apply to their individual situation.
0% financing has induced car buyers into taking the plunge because it doesn’t cost anything to use someone else’s money. While mortgage rates are not at zero, they’re close enough that many buyers are applying similar logic. Qualified mortgage interest is deductible on taxpayers' returns subject to the maximum acquisition debt of one million dollars. For the fortunate homeowners who have paid off their mortgage, their acquisition debt was reduced to zero and only the interest on a maximum home equity debt of $100,000 is deductible. If you have to pay interest, deductible interest is preferable because it reduces your actual cost. Consider the following example of a taxpayer with a $500,000 debt-free home. If they did an 80% cash-out refinance of $400,000, $100,000 would be considered home equity debt and the interest on that would be deductible on their income tax. The other $300,000 of debt is considered personal debt and the interest is not deductible. However, because the rates are currently so low, the loss of deductibility of the interest doesn’t have as much impact as if the rates were higher. The key is to have a good purpose for the money that would offset the actual cost of the interest. Paying off a higher rate debt such as credit cards, student loans, possibly, business debt could all have significantly higher interest rates. Refinancing a home and eliminating debts like these could be a big savings. All lenders are not the same. Call for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.
There are many reasons for wanting to have a home of your own like a place to raise your family, share with friends and feel safe and secure. While investment opportunities rank high for most people based on the fact that homeowners' net worth is over forty times higher than that of renters, so do the tax benefits that reduce tax liability.
- Taxpayers who have owned and used a home for at least two out of the last five years, can exclude a maximum of $250,000 of gain as a single taxpayer and up to $500,000 of gain for married taxpayers filing jointly.
- If the gain on a principal residence exceeds the allowed exclusion, the balance is taxed at the lower long-term capital gains rate rather than the marginal tax rate of the homeowner.
- Homeowners can deduct the interest paid on up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt used to buy, build or improve their first or second home. They may also deduct the interest on up to $100,000 over acquisition debt that is a recorded lien on their first or second home.
- IRS will allow taxpayers to decide each year whether to take the higher of the itemized deductions or the standard deduction.
- Points paid on new loans for home purchases are considered interest and can be deducted in the year paid. On the other hand, points paid for refinancing a home must be amortized over the life of the mortgage.
Everyone knows that ice can make a drink cool or reduce swelling, but if you put it on your cell phone, it might just save your life. The concept is simple. Make a contact record in your address book with the name “ICE”, which stands for In Case of Emergency. In the note section of the record, you would list your name, blood type and medical conditions along with prescriptions and physicians. You’d also list the people and their phone numbers that can be contacted in case of an emergency. Several years ago, a British first responder came up with the idea when his emergency unit responded to a call where the victim was unable to communicate due to illness or trauma. The victim’s wallet didn’t indicate specific persons to be notified in an emergency. The fireman went through his cell phone to try to identify a relative and wasn’t successful. That’s when he came up with the idea of a universal entry into the address book for ICE where the necessary parties and special information could be kept. The story received a considerable amount of publicity and spread across the pond to the United States and into many other countries. While it isn’t recognized everywhere, it is becoming increasingly more popular. Even if emergency technicians didn’t find it, the slight possibility that they would find it and it would make a difference would justify the few minutes it will take to create it. Click here to download a card to carry in your wallet or purse.
Appreciation and tax savings are legitimate contributors to an overall rate of return on rental real estate but what if you didn’t consider them at all. If you only looked at one or two, very conservative measurements, you might decide to invest especially knowing that there are more benefits that will accrue to your investment. If we bought a property for cash, collected the rent and paid the expenses, the amount left would be called Net Operating Income. In the example below, if would generate $7,200 a year which would be a 7.02% cash on cash rate of return which is considerably higher than the current 10 year treasury rate of around 2.3%. If we place a mortgage on that property, the rate of return actually increases due to leverage. After the principal and interest are paid, the net operating income obviously decreases but the cash on cash rate of return increases to 9.10% because the borrowed funds means less cash invested. Another contribution to the investment's rate of return occurs with the mortgage due to amortization: the principal reduces with each payment made which increase the investor’s equity. In this example, the equity build-up divided by the initial investment yields a 5.25% rate of return in the first year. Single family homes for rental purposes offer the investor high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for long terms on appreciating assets with tax benefits, reasonable control and an opportunity to earn higher than normal rates of return. Call if you'd like to talk about what kind of rental opportunities are available.
A good neighbor might be characterized as someone who’ll look after your home when you’re out of town by picking up your mail and watering your plants. You’d most likely reciprocate for anyone who’d be so generous toward you. In some cases, you might only be able to name one or two of your neighbors who would step up to that level of service. Wouldn’t it be nice if more people on your street would be happy to make that offer? The solution may just start with being a better neighbor first. The following suggestions go a long way to improving your neighborhood and making new friends at the same time.
- Meet your neighbors and exchange phone numbers and email addresses. Agree with each other that you’ll let them know if you see something strange going on at their home.
- Slow down when driving through the neighborhood; it will make it safer and everyone will appreciate it.
- Control your dog: keep it on a leash; pick up after it; don’t let it bark too much.
- Don’t park in front of your neighbor’s home.
- Notify your immediate neighbors when you’re having remodeling done and ask them to let you know if any of the contractors cause damage to their property.
- Let your neighbors know when you’re having a party and that there will be more cars on the street than usual.
- Maintain your home and yard so that it adds to the beauty of the neighborhood.
- Put your garbage out for collection on the correct day and bring the containers back in promptly.
If you have a mortgage with an escrow account to pay your property taxes and insurance, you expect the company servicing your loan to pay this year's taxes this year so that you can deduct them on your 2014 income tax return. After all, your monthly payment includes 1/12 the annual amount so there will be money available for them to be paid on time. IRS requires that expenses must actually be paid in the year that a deduction is to be taken. The predicament occurs when you have made your payments but the mortgage company did not pay the taxing authority in the tax year they were due. If they paid your 2014 taxes in January of 2015, they would not be deductible for you until you file your 2015 income tax return. Verify with your lender after you make the December payment that they did indeed pay your property taxes. The question for your lender's customer service is: "Have you or will you pay the 2014 property taxes this year so I am eligible to deduct them on my 2014 income tax return?&"
fixed rate mortgages as low as they are, most purchasers or owners wanting to refinance might not even consider an adjustable rate loan. The determining factor should be how long the person plans to be in the home and which mortgage will provide the cheapest cost of housing. For instance, if you compare a $300,000, 30 year term mortgage with a 4.125% rate on the fixed and a 3.25% on the 5/1 adjustable, the breakeven point would be almost seven years assuming the rates adjusted the maximum that they could in each year. Therefore, if a person is going to stay in the house less than 7 years, the ARM would provide the cheapest cost of housing. This example shows that at the end of five years, the ARM would generate almost $13,000 savings over the fixed-rate. On the other hand, this could be a good time for homeowners with an existing adjustable rate mortgage to consider refinancing into a fixed-rate mortgage. The longer that they intend to stay in their home, the more advantageous it might be for them to convert their mortgage to lock-in their payment and fix their housing costs. A trusted mortgage professional can analyze the alternatives to provide you with the information necessary to make a good decision. You can try the Adjustable Rate Comparison with your own numbers to see the effect.
A homeowner’s tax saving benefit is generally realized when they file their federal income tax return after the money has been spent for the interest and property taxes. Some people look forward to the refund as a means of forced savings but some people need to realize the savings during the year. It is possible to adjust the deductions being withheld from the homeowner's salary so they realize the benefit of the savings prior to filing their tax returns in the form of more money in their pay checks. Employees would talk to their employers about increasing their deductions stated on their W-4 form. By increasing the exemptions or deductions, less is taken out of the check and the employee will receive more in each pay check. If a person over-estimates their exemptions and therefore, underpays their income tax, they might incur interest and would have additional tax to pay when they filed their tax return. Buyers considering this strategy should seek tax advice and discuss it with their human relations department at work. Additional information is available on the Internal Revenue Service website about Completing Form w-4 and Worksheets.
Is the stock market keeping you up at night? Are you consuming more antacids than ever before? Are the ups and downs causing more stress than you want or need? There is a simple alternative in rental real estate. Single family homes for rental purposes offer an excellent rate of return in an investment that most people understand better than other investments. The concept is simple: stay with predominantly owner-occupied homes in a slightly below average price range. In most areas, tenants are easy to find and they will usually stay two to three years or more. For the person who does not want to be bothered with calls from tenants, professional management is available and commonly won't dramatically affect the rate of return. Managers can achieve economies of scale that individuals cannot due to managing multiple properties and having good connections with the best workmen. Unlike most commercial property, single family homes are much more liquid because of the higher demand for residential property. Single family homes offer the investor the opportunity to borrow high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates, for long periods of time on appreciating assets with tax advantages while providing the investor a higher than normal level of control. Spend an hour investigating the benefits and you might sleep better at night, eat less antacids and find yourself more mellow than you have been in years.
If you invest in a savings account, you will make less than 1% and would have to pay income tax on the earnings. On the other hand, contribute something extra to your house payment and you will earn at the mortgage interest rate which is certain to be more than you are earning in the bank. Making additional principal contributions on your mortgage will save interest, build equity and shorten the term. An extra $100 a month in the example shown will save thousands in interest and shorten the term of the mortgage as well. Reducing your cost of housing is another way to improve the investment in your home. Becoming debt free is a worthy goal that is achieved with discipline and good decisions. Suggestions like this are part of my commitment to help people be better homeowners when they buy, sell and all the years in between. Check out what would happen if you were to make additional payments on your mortgage.