Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Invest in Equity Build-up



Equity build-up could be one of the biggest advantages to buying a home.  There are two distinct dynamics that take place to make this happen: each house payment applies an amount to reduce the mortgage owed and appreciation causes the value of the home to go up.

It is easy to make a projection based on the type of mortgage you get and your estimation of appreciation over the time you expect to own the home.  Even conservative estimates can produce impressive results.

Let's look at an example of a home with a $270,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years and a total payment of $2,047.55 payment including principal, interest, taxes and insurance.  The average monthly principal reduction for the first year is $362.98. If you assume a 3% appreciation on the $300,000 home, the average monthly appreciation is $750 a month.

The total payment of $2,047.55 less $1,112.98 for principal reduction and appreciation makes the net monthly cost of housing, excluding tax benefits, $934.57.  If this hypothetical person was paying $2,500 in rent, it would cost them $1,565.43 more to rent than to own.  In the first year, it would cost them over $18,000 more to rent.

Together, the items in this example contribute over $1,100 to the equity in the home .  This is one of the reasons a home is considered forced savings.  By making your house payments and enjoying increases in value, the equity grows and the net cost of housing decreases by the same amount. 

In this same example, the $30,000 down payment grows to $133,991 in equity in seven years.  While this is equity build-up, the extraordinary growth is attributed to leverage.  Leverage is an investment principle involving the use of borrowed funds to control an asset.

To see what your net cost of housing and the effect of leverage will have on a home in your price range, see the Rent vs. Own.  If you have questions or need assistance, contact me at (616) 402-3535.

Tuesday, August 13, 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 Linda@BuyTheLakeshore.com or (616) 402-3535.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Determining Property Type



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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Get Leverage Working for You

Leverage is an investment term that describes the use of borrowed funds to control an asset; sometimes referred to as using other people's money.  Borrowed funds can affect the investment in your home positively.

For instance, if you had a $100,000 rental property, collected the rents and paid the expenses and had $10,000 left, you would earn a 10% return (divide the $10,000 by the $100,000.)  With no loan on the property, there is no leverage.

If you decided to get an 80% mortgage at 8%, you would owe an additional $6,400 in expenses leaving you only $3,600 net.  However, your return would grow to 18% because your investment is now $20,000 in cash (divide the $3,600 by $20,000.)

Leverage, the use of borrowed funds, causes the return to increase in this example.  While, most people associate leverage with rental properties, it also applies to a home.  The larger the mortgage, the more leverage you have.  A FHA mortgage with a 3.5% down payment has more leverage than an 80% loan.

Assume we're looking at a $295,000 purchase price with 3% closing costs and a 4.5% mortgage for 30 years with a five-year holding period.  The following table shows the return based on different down payments and appreciation rates.  The initial investment is the down payment plus closing costs.  The equity build-up at end of year five is the result of normal principal reduction and appreciation.

Down Payment

1% Appreciation

2% Appreciation

3% Appreciation

3.5%

21%

28%

34%

10%

12%

17%

21%

20%

7%

10%

13%

Another way to look at the 3.5% down payment example with 3% appreciation would be to say that a $10,325 down payment plus $8,850 in closing costs could grow into $82,482 of equity in a five-year period producing a 34% rate of return on the initial investment.

Estimate what your initial investment could grow to using this Rent vs. Own.  If you need any help, let me know at (616) 402-3535 or Linda@BuyTheLakeshore.com.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Delay Will Usually Cost More

Two things can happen when the mortgage rates go up before you've found a home or locked-in your mortgage.  You'll either pay the current mortgage rate which means a higher payment, or you'll have to increase your down payment to keep the monthly payment at the same level.

If the rate were to go up by ½%, the payment on a $275,000 mortgage would increase by $82.87 per month for the entire 30-year term.  That would increase the cost of the home by $29,835.

Some people are purchasing the maximum home that they can qualify for.  In that case, they cannot qualify for a higher payment and the only way to buy the same price home is to put more money down which may not be a possibility.  The other alternative is to buy a lower price home which may not be in the same area or size which will involve some compromises.

The rate is not the only dynamic that affects buyers waiting to purchase.  The home they want could sell to someone else.  Prices could increase as new homes come on the market.  The question that many buyers ask themselves when they become a victim of the consequences of delay is "What could we have spent the money on if we didn't have to make a higher payment?"

Mortgage rates are very attractive currently and within ½% of the all time low of 3.35% in December 2012.  The highest rate was 18.45% in October 1981.  Whether you're purchasing or refinancing, it may not be this low again.

To see how it will affect the payment, plug your numbers into this Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator or call me at (616) 402-3535 and I'll help you with it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Measuring Square Footage

Square footage is commonly used to determine if a home will fit a buyer's needs.  The price per square foot can be used to compare the costs of different homes and even, determine the value of a property.

The challenge is what is the source of the square footage measurement and how was it done.

County records use square footage to determine assessed value for property tax purposes.  They are assumed to be reliable but there can be inaccuracies in their tax rolls.  Another source of square footage could be from the house plans but the problem there is that the builder may have made modifications, or a subsequent owner could have made additions.

Appraisers are required to measure the home to determine square footage and they generally, adhere to a standard method which leads to uniformity in the industry.  The ANSI, American National Standards Institute, guidelines are considered the standard but there are no laws governing the process.

Because basements are below grade level, regardless of whether they are finished, they are typically not counted toward gross living area.  Attics because they are above grade level can be included in gross living area if they are finished to the same standard as the rest of the home and they meet the minimum height requirement of seven feet.

Unfinished areas are usually not considered in the square footage because it is not livable.

For detached properties, it is common to measure the perimeter of the house but to only include the living areas, not porches, patios or garages.  Gross living area includes stairways, hallways, closets with minimum height and bathrooms.  Covered, enclosed porches would only be considered if they use the same heating system as the house.

By contrast, condominiums, generally measure the inside area of the unit. Some appraisers may add six inches to account for the wall thickness.  If you were to compare the total of the interior room measurements of a detached home, it would be far less than the stated square footage using the normal method.

If the county records are significantly different from the appraisal or the plans, it will be necessary to determine which one is more accurate.  This may require getting the home measured by an appraiser which should be less than paying for a complete appraisal.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Checking for Water Leaks

Aside from standing water in your yard or water running out from under a sink, the first indication that you might have a water leak comes from a larger than normal water bill.  Before calling a leak specialist or a plumber, there is a simple diagnostic you can perform.

Go through your home and make certain that all the faucets are turned off and that the toilets have indeed stopped filling the reserve.  Then, go to the water meter and make a mark on the lens where the dial is currently.  If there is water in the meter box, the meter itself could be leaking.

If the meter is still turning, the leak is between the meter and the house. By inspecting the area between the meter and the house, you can look for soft, muddy areas or grass that is greener than the rest of the yard.

One of the hardest places to isolate a leak is in a swimming pool.  If you have an automatic filler, like in a toilet, you'll need to turn it off.  Mark the water line on the wall and wait to see if the water level goes down.  There will be a certain amount attributable to evaporation.

Some leaks can be very difficult to locate.  Plumbers, by the very nature of their job, will be more familiar with tracking down the source of the leak than a homeowner.  There are some non-invasive techniques like acoustic listening devices, heat scanners and miniature video cameras on fiber optics that professionals can use.

Leaks can be expensive from the loss of water and the resulting damage that it can cause.  Determining where the location of the leak can also cause damage because plumbing is usually concealed in walls or under concrete. For particularly difficult to locate leaks, discuss how the professional intends to locate the leak and minimize damage in the process.

Tuesday, July 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.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Taxes and the Homeowner

Whether you're an owner now or expect to be one in the future, it is important to be familiar with the federal tax laws that affect homeownership.  Since personal income tax was enacted in 1913 with the 16th amendment, homes have had preferential treatment.

The mortgage interest deduction is based on up to $750,000 of acquisition debt used to buy, build or improve a principal residence.  In addition to the interest, the property taxes are deductible, limited to the new $10,000 limit on the aggregate of state and local taxes (SALT).  The taxpayer may also deduct interest and property taxes subject to limits on a second home.

Homeowners can decide each year whether to take itemized personal deductions or the allowable standard deduction which was significantly increased under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Single taxpayers may exclude up to $250,000 of capital gain on the sale of their home and up to $500,000 if married filing jointly.  They must have owned and lived in the home for at least two of the last five years.  For gains more than these amounts, a lower, long-term capital gains rate is paid rather than one's ordinary income tax rate.

Capital improvements made to a home will increase the basis and lower the gain.  Homeowners are probably familiar that large dollar expenses like roofs, appliances or major remodeling are capital improvements.  However, many lower dollar items may also be considered improvements if they materially add value or extend the life of the property or adapts a portion of the home to a new use. 

Homeowners are urged to keep records of money they spend on the home that they own over the years so that their tax professional can decide at the time of sale what they must report to IRS.

You can download a helpful Homeowners Tax Guide that explains in more detail and includes a worksheet to keep track of the basis of your home and capital improvements.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Show Them You're Serious

June and July are the busiest home sale months of the year. When inventory is in short supply and you may be competing with other offers, it is important to show the seller you're serious. Make your offer look as good as possible because you may not get the chance to make or accept a counter-offer.

Put yourself in the seller's shoes.  Your home has just gone on the market.  There is lots of activity and suddenly, there is more than one offer to purchase.  The seller's first consideration may be to accept the highest offer but there are many other things to consider like closing dates, closing costs, possible repairs, contingencies and of course, the ability of the borrower to get a loan.

Offer a fair price for the property in your initial purchase agreement.  It shows sincerity and good faith that you're actually trying to purchase the home and not trying to take advantage of the seller.  The old adage that you can always go up later may never happen if there are multiple offers on the property in the beginning.

  1. Remove the uncertainty that you may not be approved for a mortgage by having a pre-approval letter from your mortgage company.
  2. Show your sincerity by increasing the normal amount of earnest money customary for the area and price of the home.  The earnest money will be applied toward your down payment and closing costs.  Consider placing even more money in escrow when the contingencies have been met.
  3. Specify a closing date in the contract but acknowledge that you can be flexible to accommodate the sellers' moving date.  If it becomes an issue, it still must be mutually agreed upon.
  4. Make the contingency periods shorter if possible to make the seller feel that they'll know sooner that the offer is solid.
  5. If the contingency really isn't important to you, leave it out of the offer.  The more contingencies included in a contract, the more the seller will wonder what might happen to keep it from closing.
  6. If you're not using a digital contract, physically sign the offer with a felt tip pen of contrasting color.  You'd be surprised how this adds a personal touch to the offer.

One way to eliminate the competition of multiple offers is by not procrastinating.  When you have decided to write a contract, don't wait; do it immediately and ask your agent to deliver it quickly.  Your agent will be able to help you craft a solid offer that makes you look serious and can give you advice that may be unique to your situation.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Don't Leave Home Without...

You've been planning this trip for some time and almost every detail has been considered...or has it?  Have you thought about how to protect your home while you're out of town?  What's going to make sure that everything you left is still there when you return?

Nothing could ruin a trip more than coming back to find out your home has been burglarized or worse.  It makes sense to spend a little time before you leave on making sure your home is as safe and sound as it can be.

There are a host of devices to use across the Internet including camera doorbells, video cameras, door locks, garage door openers, light and thermostat controls.  You can monitor your home whenever you have an Internet connection.  The question is whether you want the distraction from your trip.

Consider these low-tech suggestions along with your other normal efforts:
  • Tell your neighbors you'll be out of town and to be aware of any unusual activity.
  • Notify your alarm company
  • Discontinue your postal delivery
  • Use timers on interior lights to make it appear you're home as usual.
  • Don't make it easy for burglars by leaving messages on voice mail or posting on social networks.
  • Post on social networks after you've returned about your vacation.
  • Remove the hidden spare keys and give it to a trusted neighbor or friend.
  • Lock everything, double-check and set the alarm.
  • Take pictures of your belongings in case you need them.
  • Disconnect TVs and other equipment in case of unexpected power surges.
  • Adjust your thermostat.
  • Arrange for lawn care.
  • Consider disconnecting the garage door opener.
  • Put irreplaceable valuables in a safety deposit box.
It's nice to go out of town on a well-deserved trip and it's always nice to get back home...especially when it is just the way you left it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Temporarily Renting a Home

IRS has provisions for homeowners regarding the sale of a principal residence that allows for temporarily renting the home without losing the ability to exclude the gain if the home is sold under the correct conditions.

The rules for the exclusion of gain on the sale of a principal residence are:

  • Up to $250,000 of gain may be excluded for single taxpayers and up to $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.
  • Ownership and Use must have been a principal residence for two of the five years preceding the date of sale (closing date).  This allows for a temporary rental for up to three years maximum.
  • Either spouse may meet the ownership test.
  • Both spouses must meet the use test.
  • No exclusion has been used in the previous 24-month period.

Let's pretend that a person had owned a home from more than two years.  This person married and moved into their new spouse's home two years, six months ago.  That person decided to sell the home and would have approximately $200,000 of gain in the sale.

If the property is put on the market, sold and closed prior to the three-years that they moved out, the home would still be eligible for the section 121 exclusion on the sale of a principal residence.  If the sales closes after that three-year period, the owner would owe tax on the gain.  If the long-term capital gains rate for the owner was 15%, they would owe approximately $30,000 in taxes.

If you or a person you know is in a situation like this, they should certainly seek professional tax advice as well as discussing the marketing and value of the property with their real estate professional.  This is something that I have experience with; call me at (616) 402-3535.  The timing is very important and critical to a favorable outcome.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Time to Buy Again

For people who have experienced a distressed sale of a home and gotten their finances and credit back in shape, there can still be an unanswered question of "How long do we have to wait to qualify for another mortgage."  The loan types for the new loan will differ in amounts of time based on the event. 
The different lending authorities, VA, FHA, Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FHLMC), establish their own waiting periods.  A borrower may be eligible to qualify for one type of mortgage before another type, even though during this waiting period, that the person was current on all payments and maintained a history of good credit.
The following chart indicates how long a person might have to wait.
waiting period for distressed sales.png
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.
I want to be your personal source of real estate information and I'm committed to helping from purchase to sale and all the years in between.  Call us at (616) 402-3535 for lender recommendations.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tech to Find the Right Home

According to the 2018 Profile of Buyers and Sellers, 52% of buyers want help to find the right home to purchase.  Physically locating the home is certainly part of what buyers want from their agent but finding the right home at the right price and terms is also crucial.  87% of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker.  Slightly more than half of buyers were referred to their real estate professional by/or is a friend or relative or had used the agent previously to buy or sell a home.

There are tech tools that can be used together with the expertise and experience of your real estate professional to make the home buying process efficient and effective.
Listing Alert ... while this service is called by other names, the buyer identifies the specifics about the home they want, and it will notify them directly when a new listing comes on the market that matches their needs. Your agent can handle this for you as well.
Real estate smartphone apps ... imagine driving a neighborhood, seeing a sign and immediately being able to know the price and specifics about the home; very convenient.  There are a variety of different apps available such as Homesnap, and others, ask your agent for their recommendation before installing one.
Digital documents ... companies like DocuSign have revolutionized real estate negotiations by doing everything digitally so that you're not going back and forth between the parties signing and initialing changes.  It is safe and secure and your agent will handle this end of it for you.
ColorSnap Visualizer ... this Sherwin Williams app for iPad allows you to paint walls on a picture, match photos to find paint colors and other things before you commit to a color.
Google maps ... plug in an address on Google Maps and you can see a street view of the home, satellite view, surrounding businesses, traffic speed and other things.
Sex Offender Registry ... NSOPW, the National Sex Offender Public Website is a safety resource that provides the public with access to sex offender data nationwide.
Financial Calculators ... fill in the blank applications that can illustrate the benefits of renting vs. owning, Equity Accelerator, Adjustable Rate Comparison, Cost of Waiting to Buy and many other homeowner situations.
Free Public Records Directory - OnlineSearches provides access to public record sources like deeds and assessor and property tax records.  While this service is free, some state and county agencies may charge fees for accessing public records.
Virtual open house ... an alternative to physically viewing a home is to look at the multiple photos online.  If the property is interesting, you can schedule a physical showing with your agent.
Check your credit ... Order free credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion each once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

The final recommendation is your phone.  When you have a question, contact your agent.  Calling another agent may seem like an expedient way to get an answer, especially if you cannot get a hold of your agent but it could inadvertently, cause issues.

Your real estate professional can assist you with these and other tools to help you find the right home.  If you have any questions, feel free to call me at (616) 402-3535.

Tuesday, May 14, 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 prevent 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.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Home Warranty Can Save Money

Your income tax is probably filed for last year by now and you've been through your expenses for the year.  Money spent on repairs to your home is not deductible but being aware of how much you spent last year may help you make a decision that could save you money this year.
Sellers, often, provide a home warranty to buyers to give them peace of mind by limiting some of the out-of-pocket money spent on unexpected repairs for one year.  Home warranties can be renewed by the buyer by paying the annual fee and any homeowner can purchase one for their home whether they had one when they bought it or not.
A home service contract typically covers mechanical systems and built-in appliances in the home.  Many times, these items are not covered by the homeowner's insurance policy.  They can also include other things such as pool and spa equipment, and free-standing appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers.
The process is simple.  It doesn't cover pre-existing conditions.  Once a plan is in effect, you call to report a claim.  The company will assign a local professional to assess the problem and if covered, they will repair or replace the item.  You will only pay a service fee.
Home protection plans can range in price depending on area and coverages.  Most start around $400-500 a year which could easily cover the cost for one claim alone.
For more information on home warranties in general, you can go to HomeServiceContract.org which is an association representing some of the premier home service contract providers.  If you'd like to have a recommendation based on companies we work with in our area, give me a call at (616) 402-3535.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

iBuyers - Convenient at a Price

There are an increasing number of real estate companies, termed iBuyers, like Open Door, Offerpad, Zillow, Knock and others that market a service that has an appeal to homeowners.  The pitch for these quick cash offer companies will include some variation of "let us buy your home in days without the normal hassles of listing."

This approach attempts to provide an alternative to selling a home in a normal manner at the expense of not realizing the full equity a homeowner is entitled. There is no fiduciary relationship requiring the broker to put a seller's best interest above their own interest.  An iBuyer does not represent a seller and does not owe client-level services like loyalty, obedience and disclosure, among other things, required by most state license laws.

The offer is based on an automated valuation model, many times, without a physical inspection of the home.  In some cases, a contract is written but there are provisions that allow iBuyers time to possibly "flip" the property to an investor or use an "out" in the contract to void the sale.

The reality is that a company cannot stay in business if they pay too much for the property.  The iBuyer becomes the Seller who now must be concerned with pricing the home properly to cover the normal selling expenses as well as repairs, improvements, and holding costs that will be incurred until the property sells.

There could be circumstances that make it necessary for a homeowner to sell their home at a discount.  The seller could be in a distressed situation needing immediate cash.  They might need a quick sale and don't want to be bothered with repairs or marketing efforts.  Or possibly, they may have found their next home   and need to act quickly. The instant liquidity comes at a cost to the seller in lower proceeds from the sale.

To realize the maximum possible equity, a real estate professional in your area can advise you about the fair market value of your home, a reasonably expected sales price, the costs involved and how long it will take.  Before accepting a price to sell your home to a wholesaler, you owe it to yourself and your family to find out what you can expect if you take a conventional sales route.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

One Loan for Purchase & Renovations

The FNMA HomeStyle conventional mortgage allows a buyer to purchase a home that needs renovations and include them in the financing.  This facilitates the purchase of the home and the renovations in one loan rather than getting a separate second mortgage or home equity line of credit.

The combination of these loans should save closing costs as well as interest rates which would typically be higher on a home improvement loan.

The borrower will need to have an itemized, written bid from a contractor covering the scope of the improvements.  Any type of renovation or repair is eligible if it is a permanent part of the property.  Improvements must be completed within 12 months from the date the mortgage loan is delivered.

  • 15 and 30-year fixed rate and eligible adjustable rate loans are available.
  • Typical FNMA down payments are available starting as low as 3% for a one-unit principal residence to 25% for three and four-unit principal residence and one-unit investment properties.
  • Borrower must choose his or her own contractor to perform the renovation.
  • Lender must review the contractor hired by the borrower to determine if they are adequately qualified and experienced for the work being performed. The Contractor Profile Report (Form 1202) can be used to assist the lender in making this determination.
  • Borrowers must have a construction contract with their contractor. Fannie Mae has a model Construction Contract (Form 3734) that may be used to document the construction contract between the borrower and the contractor.
  • Plans and specifications must be prepared by a registered, licensed, or certified general contractor, renovation consultant, or architect. The plans and specifications should fully describe all work to be done and provide an indication of when various jobs or stages of completion will be scheduled (including both the start and job completion dates)

Up to 50% of the renovation funds may be advanced for the cost of materials after the closing of the loan.

This mortgage does have a provision for the borrower to do a portion of the work themselves if it doesn't exceed 10% of the total project and it must pass inspection on completion just as the contractor's work.

It is recommended that borrowers thoroughly research this program before they commit to a loan.  For detailed information, see FNMA HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage and Selling Guide Announcement SEL-2017-02.   It is important to work with a mortgage officer who is familiar with these loans who can guide you through the process.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Get Rid of Things You Don't Need

Periodically, you need to rid yourself of things that are taking up your time and space to make room for more of what you like and want.

There's a frequently quoted suggestion that if you haven't used something for two years, maybe it isn't essential in your life. 

If you have books you'll never read again, give them to someone who will.  If you have a deviled egg plate that hasn't been used since the year your Aunt Phoebe gave it to you, it's out of there.  Periodically, go through every closet, drawer, cabinet, room and storage area to get rid of the things that are just taking up space in your home and your life.

Every item receives the decision to keep or get rid of.  Consider these questions as you judge each item:

  • When was the last time you used it?
  • Do you believe you'll use it again?
  • Is there a sentimental reason to keep it?

You have four options for the things that you're not going to keep. 

  1. Give it to someone who needs it or will appreciate it
  2. Sell it in a garage sale or on Craigslist.
  3. Donate it to a charity and receive a tax deduction
  4. Discard it to the trash.

Start with your closet.  If you haven't worn something in five years, get rid of it.  Then, go through the things again and if you haven't worn it in two years, ask yourself the real probability that you'll wear it again.

Another way to do it is to move it from your active closet to another closet.  If a year goes by in the other closet, the next time you go through this exercise, those clothes are on their way out.

If the items taking up space are financial records and receipts, the solution may be to scan them and store them in the cloud.  There are plenty of sites that will offer you several gigabytes of free space and it may cost as little as $10 a month for 100 GB at Dropbox, to get the additional space you need.  It will certainly be cheaper than the mini-storage building.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Qualified Charitable Contribution

If you're at an age where you need to be taking Required Minimum Distributions (age 70.5) from your IRA, a qualified charitable contribution and some planning may allow you to lower your overall tax liability.

Let's say that a couple's 2019 itemized deductions include $8,000 in property taxes, $4,400 in interest and $20,000 in charitable contributions.  That would total $32,400 which exceeds the 2019 $25,300 standard deduction for married couples, 65 years of age or older, filing jointly. 

Their required minimum distribution from their IRA is $40,000 which will be taxed at ordinary income.  If this couple is in the 24% tax bracket, the tax liability would be $9,600.

Alternatively, if they made the $20,000 in charitable contributions from their IRA as a Qualified Charitable Contribution, it would not be taxable in the withdrawal.  The balance of the RMD of $20,000 would be taxable at 24% which would have a tax liability of $4,800.

Their $32,400 worth of itemized deductions would be reduced by the $20,000 because it was paid from the IRA which makes their itemized deductions $12,400.  The $25,300 standard deduction would benefit them more by an amount of $12,900 increased deductions.  At 24%, this would reduce their liability by $3,096.

In the first instance, they would owe $9,600 in taxes due to the $40,000 RMD from their IRA.  In the second example, because of the increased amount by taking the standard deduction, the net tax liability would be $1,704 ($9,600 - $4,800 - $3,096 = $1,704).

This example shows how shifting contributions to a Qualified Charitable Contribution will get the same amount to the charity but lower the Required Minimum Distribution that must be recognized as ordinary income.  The shifting also gives the taxpayers the advantage of a higher amount of the standard deduction than the itemized deduction.

As always, before taking action, you should get advice from your tax professional on how this strategy may impact you.  There is information available on www.IRS.com for IRS Required Minimum Distribution FAQs and Qualified Charitable Distributions.


Wednesday, April 3, 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.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

To-Do List for Better Homeowners

Checklists work because they contain the important things that need to be done.  They provide a reminder about things we know and realize but may have slipped our minds as well as inform us about things we didn't consider.  Periodic attention to these areas can protect the investment in your home.
  1. Change HVAC filters regularly.  Consider purchasing a supply of the correct sizes needed online and they'll even remind you when it's time to order them again.
  2. Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors annually.
  3. Create and regularly update a Home Inventory to keep track of personal belongings in case of burglary or casualty loss.
  4. Keep track of capital improvements, with a Homeowners Tax Guide, made to your home throughout the year that increases your basis and lowers gain.
  5. Order free credit reports from all three bureaus once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
  6. Challenge your property tax assessment when you receive that year's assessment when you feel that the value is too high.  I can supply the comparable sales and you can handle the rest.
  7. Establish a family emergency plan identifying the best escape routes and where family members should meet after leaving the home.
  8. If you have a mortgage, verify the unpaid balance and if additional principal payments were applied properly.  Use a Equity Accelerator to estimate how long it will take to retire your mortgage.
  9. Keep trees pruned and shrubs trimmed away from house to enhance visual appeal, increase security and prevent damage.
  10. Have heating and cooling professionally serviced annually.
  11. Check toilets periodically to see if they're leaking water and repair if necessary.
  12. Clean gutters twice a year to control rainwater away from your home to protect roof, siding and foundation.
  13. To identify indications of foundation issues, periodically, check around perimeter of home for cracks in walls or concrete.  Do doors and windows open properly? 
  14. Peeling or chipping paint can lead to wood and interior damage.  Small areas can be touched-up but multiple areas may indicate that the whole exterior needs painting.
  15. If there is a chimney and fires are burned in the fireplace, it will need to be inspected and possibly cleaned.
  16. If the home has a sprinkler system, manually turn the sprinklers on, one station at a time to determine if they are working and aimed properly.  Evaluate if the timers are set properly.  Look for pooling water that could indicate a leak underground.
  17. Have your home inspected for termites.
Instead of remembering when you need to do these different things, use your calendar to create a system.  As an example, make a new appointment with "change the HVAC filters" in the subject line.  Select the recurring event button and decide the pattern.  For instance, set this one for monthly, every two months with no end date.  You can schedule a time or just an all-day event will show at the top of your calendar that day.
By scheduling as many of these items as you can, you won't forget that they need to be done.  If you don't delete them from the calendar, you'll continue to be "nagged" until you finally do them.
If you have questions or need a recommendation of a service provider, give me a call at (616) 402-3535.  I deal with issues like this regularly and have experience with workers who are reputable and reasonable.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Reasons Rental Homes Rank Highest

Single family homes offer the investor an opportunity to borrow large loan-to-value loans at fixed interest rates for long terms.  Lenders will loan 75-80% of the purchase price at 5.5% to 6.5% interest rate for thirty years.  Compare that with other popular investment alternatives like precious metals, commodities, stocks, and mutual funds and it will be hard to find financing available at all. 

There may be some short term, one-year, loans at a floating rate tied to prime plus with no guarantee that it will be renewed.  Some of those loans require you to have a 50% margin of equity and if the value goes down, you'll have to put up additional cash or be forced to sell.

The advantage of having long-term mortgages is that an investor could find the optimal time to sell the property instead of needing to sell it because the term is due, and no other financing is available.   Supply and demand cause the real estate market to be higher and lower and a long-term mortgage provides options to sell when the price is optimal.

Single family homes enjoy distinct tax advantages.  If the rental or investment property is held for more than 12 months, the gain is taxed at lower, long-term capital gains rates rather than ordinary income rates.

Another advantage of rental homes is that the improvements can be depreciated over a 27.5-year life.  This is a non-cash deduction that reduces income and shelters income.  The accumulated depreciation taken over the life of the property is recaptured when the property is sold.

Since rental homes provide income that other investments may not, tax would have to be recognized on the annual income.  IRS allows normal operating expenses like interest, property taxes, insurance, repairs, and management to be deducted including the annual depreciation.

Rental and investment property are eligible for tax-deferred exchanges to avoid paying tax at the time of disposition.  Real estate also enjoys stepped-up basis which means that when an heir inherits a property, instead of having a potential gain from the value the decedent had purchased it for less depreciation taken, the heir's basis becomes the fair market value at time of death.  All potential gain may be permanently avoided.

Appreciation is a much-anticipated benefit of real estate because value tends to go up over time.

Another big benefit is the control that an investor has with rentals that is not available with other investments like stocks, bonds, or commercial real estate.  It takes a relatively small amount of cash to control the entire investment in a home that wouldn't be available in other investments without partners or publicly traded companies.

Single family homes are an investment that homeowners understand because they are essentially the same as the home they live in.  They're used for rental purposes but the maintenance is the same, the service providers are the same, and the neighborhood are the same.  Most homeowners understand rentals far better than alternative investments.

Contact me at (616) 402-3535 if you'd like to know more about rental property.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Will Points Make a Difference

Lenders typically quote mortgages at a market rate but can offer a lower interest rate loan if the borrower is willing to pay points up-front which is considered pre-paid interest.  These points are generally tax deductible for the year paid when the borrower pays them in connection with buying, building or improving their principal residence.

A point is one-percent of the mortgage amount.  A lender will quote a lower-rate mortgage with a certain number of points.  There is not a standard amount; it is an individual company policy.

A simple comparison of the two alternatives based on the borrower's ability to pay the points and whether the borrower will stay in the home long enough to recapture the costs will help to determine which loan will provide the cheapest cost of housing.

In the example below, two choices are compared; a 4.25% loan with no points vs. a 4.00% loan with one point.  If the buyer stays in the home at least 69 months, they will recover the $3,150 cost for the point on the lower interest rate.

If the purchaser stays ten years, he'll save two thousand three hundred dollars over the cost of the point.  A less obvious advantage will be realized because the unpaid balance on the lower interest rate loan will results in an additional $2,076 savings.

Points a Difference.png

Use this Will Points Make a Difference app to discover whether paying points will make a difference in your situation.  This is an example of a permanent buy-down but temporary buy-downs are also available.  A trusted mortgage advisor can help you determine alternatives.

For more information about the deductibility of points, see IRS Publication 936 and if you're refinancing a home, there is a section specifically on that.  For advice on your specific situation, contact your tax professional.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

More Than Just an Address

For a short time after the housing crisis a decade ago, some homeowners thought the value of home is a place to live rather than an investment.  A home certainly has an appeal as a place to call your own, raise your family, share with your friends and feel safe and secure.  It can be more than an address; it can also be one of the largest investments homeowners have.

Most mortgages apply a portion of the payment toward the principal amount owed in order to pay off the loan by the end of the term.  This acts like a forced savings for the homeowner because as the loan is reduced, the equity grows which increases their net worth.

The other contributor to equity is appreciation.  Most homeowners don't realize the increase in value until they sell the home or do a cash-out refinance, but the increase is real and part of their equity.  If the expected appreciation is averaged over the anticipated time for the home to be owned, the value of the equity increase can be proportioned annually or monthly.

Combining appreciation and principal reduction with leverage, it's possible to build a case that a home is definitely an investment.  Leverage is the ability to control a larger asset with a smaller amount of cash using borrowed funds.  It has been described as using other people's money to increase your yield and it applies to homeowners and investors alike.

The table on the picture above shows that even a modest amount of appreciation combined with the amortization of a loan can cause a substantial rate of return on the down payment and closing costs.

This example assumes a 3% acquisition costs on the home with a 4.5% mortgage rate and the resulting equity at the end of five years.  The larger down payments lower the yield because it decreases the amount of borrowed funds.

If a borrower buys a home that appreciates at 2% a year with a 3.5% down payment on a FHA loan for 30 years, the down payment and acquisition cost factored by the equity will produce a 28% return on investment each year during the five year period.

A home can be many things including an investment.  You can use this Rent vs. Own calculator to see the effect that appreciation and principal reduction can have on a home purchase in your price range.  If you have any questions, I'm a phone call away at (616) 402-3535.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Depends If You Can Afford It

Affordability, stability and flexibility are the three reasons homebuyers overwhelmingly choose a 30-year term.  The payments are lower, easier to qualify for the mortgage and they can always make additional principal contributions.

However, for those who can afford a higher payment and commit to the 15-year term, there are three additional reasons: lower mortgage interest rate, build equity faster and retire the debt sooner.

The 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is the loan of choice for first-time buyers who are more likely to use a minimum down payment and are concerned with affordable payments.  For a more experienced buyer who doesn't mind and can qualify making larger payments, there are some advantages.

Consider a $200,000 mortgage at 30 year and 15-year terms with recent mortgage rates at 4.2% and 3.31% respectively.  The payment is $433.15 less on the 30-year term but the interest being charged is higher.  The total interest paid by the borrower if each of the loans was retired would be almost three times more for the 30-year term.

Let's look at a $300,000 mortgage with 4.41% being quoted on the 30-year and 3.84% on the 15-year.  The property taxes and insurance would be the same on either loan.  The interest rate is a little over a half a percent lower on the 15-year loan, but it also has a $691.03 higher principal and interest payment due to the shorter term.

The principal contribution on the first payment of the 30-year loan is $401.56 and it is $1,235.09 on the 15-year loan.  The mortgage is being reduced by $833.53 more which exceeds the increased payment on the 15-year by $142.50.  Interestingly, over three times more is being paid toward the principal.

Some people might suggest getting a 30-year loan and then, making the payments as if they were on a 15-year loan.  That would certainly accelerate amortization and save interest.  The real challenge is the discipline to make the payments on a consistent basis if you don't have to.  Many experts cite that one of the benefits of homeownership is a forced savings that occurs due to the amortization that is not necessarily done by renters.

Use this 30-year vs. 15-year financial app to compare mortgages in your price range.  A 15-year mortgage will be approximately half a percent cheaper in rate.  You can also check current rates at FreddieMac.com.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Do You Know the Way?

Fear of the unknown is common among all ages.  Kids, at night, imagine monsters in their closets or under their beds and adults are unsure of what the future might bring.

It may be natural for first-time buyers to be unsure of the process because they haven't been through it before but even repeat buyers need to know changes that have taken place since the financial housing crisis.

The steps in the home buying process are very predictable and generally follow the same pattern every time.  It certainly makes the move stay on schedule when you know all the different things that must be done to get to the closing.

  • In the initial interview with your real estate professional, you share the things you want and need in a home, discuss available financing and learn how your agent can represent you in the transaction.
  • The pre-approval step is essential for anyone using a mortgage to purchase a home to assure that they're looking at the right price of homes and so they'll know what they can qualify for and what the interest will be.
  • Even with lower than normal inventory, it is difficult to stay up-to-date with the homes currently for sale and the new one just coming on the market.  Technology has simplified this process, but the buyer needs to implement them.
  • Showings can be accommodated online through virtual tours, drive-bys and finally, a personal tour through the home.  Your real estate professional can work with you to see all the homes in the market through REALTORS®, builders or for sale by owners.
  • When a home has been identified, an offer is written and negotiation over price, condition and terms takes place.
  • A contract is a fully negotiated, written agreement.
  • Escrow is opened to deposit the earnest money from the buyer as a sign they're acting in good faith.  The title search is also started so that clear title can be conveyed from the seller to the buyer and that the lender will have a valid lien on the property.
  • 88% of home sales involve a mortgage.  The lender will require an appraisal to be sure that the home can serve as partial collateral for the loan.  If the buyer has been pre-approved, the verifications will be updated to be certain that they're still valid.  The entire loan package when completed, is sent to underwriting for final approval.
  • When the contract is completed, at the same time the title search and mortgage approval are being worked on, the buyer will arrange for any inspections that were called for in the contract.
  • After all contingencies have been completed, the transaction goes to settlement where all the necessary papers are signed, and the balance of the buyer's money is paid.  This is where title transfers from the seller to the buyer.
  • Possession occurs according to the sales contract.

One of the responsibilities of your real estate professional is to make sure that things are done in a timely manner so that the transaction will close according to the agreement on time and without unforeseen or unnecessary problems.

Even if you're not ready to buy or start looking yet, you need to be assembling your team of professionals.  Let us know and we'll send you our recommendations, so you can read about them on their websites.

If you have any questions, download this Buyers Guide and call us at (616) 402-3535; we're happy to help.  Informed buyers lead to satisfied homeowners and that is better for everyone involved.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

When It's Important...Find the Facts

Most parents don't put a lot of credence in the statements "Everyone is doing it" and "No one does that anymore."  They'll dig a little deeper and get the facts of the situation.  Interestingly, when it comes to buying a home, similar common myths continue to prevail surrounding what it takes to buy a home.

One of the most common myths is that it takes 20% down payment to get into a home.  Certainly, an 80% mortgage might have the most favorable interest rate. It won't require mortgage insurance and qualifying requirements might be a little less but there are alternatives.

"88% of all buyers financed their homes last year and consistent with previous years, younger buyers were more likely to finance their home purchase.  In 2018, the median down payment was 13% for all buyers, 7% for first-time buyers and 16% for repeat buyers." Stated by the 2018 NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers.

  • Qualified Veterans are eligible for zero down payment, 100% mortgage loans without mortgage insurance.
  • Conventional loans are available with as little as 3-5% down payments.
  • FHA mortgages have a 3.5% down payment.
  • USDA mortgages for rural housing have two major products: one does not require a down payment and the other has a 3% down payment.  Maps, based on population numbers, are available to determine if the area you're interested in purchasing in is eligible for a USDA mortgage.

We've come to believe that facts can be instantly verified by searching on the Internet.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of things on the Internet that are questionable and certainly, that includes some information on mortgages.  Specifically, some loans are not available in certain areas and to a particular persons based on their income and credit history.

The best approach, when it comes to buying a home, is to get the facts from a knowledgeable and trusted loan professional before you begin the home search process.  Contact me at (616) 402-3535 for a recommendation.

 A website may not provide relevant information for your individual situation.  Purchasing a home is a large investment and taking the time to find out the facts is worth the effort.



Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Your Real Estate Resource

Being a better homeowner is a full-time job.  It takes good information to make good decisions not only when you buy and sell but all the years you own a home.

Think of times when you need advice on financing, taxes, insurance, maintenance, finding reasonable and reliable contractors and lots of other things.  Imagine how nice it would be to have a real estate information line you could call whenever you have a question.

My objective is to move from a one-time sale to customers for life; a select group of friends and past customers who consider me their lifelong real estate professional.  I believe that if I help you and your friends with all your real estate needs, I can earn the privilege to be your real estate professional.

Throughout the year, I'll send reminders and suggestions by email and social media that enhance your homeowner experience.  When I find good articles to help you to be a better homeowner, I'll pass them along.  You'll discover new ways to maintain your property, minimize expenses and manage debt and risk.

I want to be your "Go-To" person for everything to do with real estate.  I'm here for you and your friends...now and in the future.   Please let me know how I can help you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Is a Home Equity Loan an Option?

Here's the scenario: you have a project and need to borrow some money, but you want to do it in the most economic manner.  You've got a low rate on your existing first mortgage and don't want to do a cash-out refinance and pay a higher rate.  Is a home equity loan an option?

Prior to 2018, homeowners could have up to $100,000 of home equity debt and deduct the interest on their personal tax return.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated the home equity deduction unless the money is used for capital improvements.

Regardless of the deductibility, lenders will still loan money to owners who have equity in their home and good credit.  The most common reasons people borrow against their home equity are:

  • Consolidate debt with higher interest rates
  • Make improvements on their home
  • Refinance an existing home equity line of credit
  • Down payment for another home or rental investment
  • Creating reserves or available access for potential needs

One available loan is a fixed-rate home equity loan, commonly referred to as a second mortgage.  It is usually funded at one time, with amortized payments for terms that could range from five to fifteen years.

Another option is a home equity line of credit or HELOC, where a homeowner is approved for up to a certain amount at a floating-rate over a ten-year period.  The borrower can draw against the amount as needed and would pay interest every month and eventually, pay down the principal.

The amount of money that can be borrowed is determined by the equity.  Lenders generally will not exceed 80% of the value of the home.  If a home was worth $400,000, the 80% ceiling would be $320,000.  If the homeowner had an unpaid balance on their first loan of $240,000, an amount up to $80,000 would be possible.

The next variable is the borrowers' credit score which will determine the rate of interest that will be charged.  The higher the score, the lower the rate the borrower will pay.  And the converse is true, the lower the score, the higher the rate.

Another common variable considered is the borrowers' total debt to income ratio.  Ideally, the combination of regular monthly debt payments should not exceed 43% of their monthly gross income.

If you have good credit and an adequate amount of equity, your home could be the source of the funds you need.  There is a lot of competition among lenders and shopping around can make a difference.

Call us at (616) 402-3535 for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.  If you have questions about whether the interest on the loan will be deductible, talk to your tax professional.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Home Inventory

Generally speaking, when you need an inventory of your personal belongings, it is too late to make one.  Sure, you can reconstruct it but undoubtedly, you'll forget things and that can cost you money when filing your insurance claim.

Most homeowner's policies have a certain amount of coverage for personal items that can be 40-60% of the value of the home.

Homeowners who have a loss are usually asked by the insurance company for proof of purchase which can come in the form of a receipt or current inventory of their personal belongings.

The most organized people might find it difficult, if not impossible, to find receipts for the valuable things in their home.  Think about when you're rummaging around a drawer or closet looking for something else and you discover something that you had totally forgotten that you had.

An inventory is like insurance for your insurance policy to be certain that you list everything possible if you need to make a claim.  Systematically, make a list of the items by going through the rooms, along with the drawers and closets.  In a clothes closet, you can list the number of shirts, pants, dresses and pairs of shoes but higher cost items should be listed separately.

Photographs and videos can be adequate proof that the items belonged to the insured.  A series of pictures of the different rooms, closets, cabinets and drawers can be very helpful.  When video is used, consider narrating as it is shot and be sure to go slow enough and close enough to see the things clearly.

For more suggestions and an easy to use, interactive form, download a Home Inventory, complete it, and save a copy off premise, either in a safety deposit box or digitally in the cloud if you have server-based storage available like Dropbox.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Standard or Itemized Deductions

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 increased the standard deduction to $24,000 for married couples.  There will be some instances that homeowners may be better off taking the standard deduction than itemizing their deductions.  In the past, homeowners would most likely be better off itemizing but the $10,000 limit of state and local taxes (SALT) adds one more issue to consider.

Let's look at a hypothetical homeowner to see how a strategy that has been around for years could benefit them now even though they haven't used it in the past.  The strategy is called bunching; by timing the payments in a tax year so that they can be combined to make a larger deduction.

Let's say that the married couple filing jointly has a $285,000 mortgage at 5% for 30 years that has about $14,000 in interest being paid.  The property taxes are $6,000 and they have $4,000 a year in charitable contributions for a total of $24,000 of allowable itemized deductions on Schedule A.

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Since that deduction amount is the same as the Standard Deduction, there is no monetary advantage one way or the other.  However, if the taxpayers were to pay their interest because they must make timely house payments but only pay $2,000 of the 2018 property taxes in December of 2018 and the balance of the $4,000 in January, they transfer part of the deduction into 2019.

Additionally, if they make their intended charitable contribution for 2018 in January of 2019, it makes that deductible on the 2019 return.

Since the total deductible amounts paid out in 2018 was $16,000, the taxpayers would have an $8,000 benefit that year from taking the Standard Deduction. 

Assuming they made the same $4,000 charitable contribution in 2019 during the year and paid the house payment and property taxes on time, their total deductions for 2019 would be $32,000 which is $8,000 more than the Standard Deduction.

In this example, the taxpayers in 2018 and 2019, would benefit a total of $16,000 in tax deductions by bunching and electing to take the standard deduction one year and itemizing the next. 

This is only an example but if your situation is similar, it might benefit you to consider an alternative when to take the standard deduction and when to itemize.  This is a conversation you need to have with your tax professional to see if it would work for you.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Eliminate FHA Mortgage Insurance

Mortgage insurance premium can add almost $200 to the payment on a $265,000 FHA mortgage.  The decision to get an FHA loan may have been the lower down payment requirement or the lower credit score levels, but now that you have the loan, is it possible to eliminate it?

Mortgage Insurance Premium protects lenders in case of a borrower's default and is required on FHA loans.  The Up-Front MIP is currently 1.75% of the base loan amount and paid at the time of closing.  Annual MIP for loans with greater than 95% loan-to-value is .85% per year. 

For loans with FHA case numbers assigned before June 3, 2013, when the loan is paid down to 78% of the original loan amount, the MIP can be cancelled.  The borrower may need to contact the current servicer.

However, for loans greater than 90% with FHA case numbers assigned on or after that date, the MIP is required for the term of the loan.

Most homeowners with FHA mortgages are not eligible to cancel the MIP because they either originated their loan after June 3, 2013, put less than 10% down payment and/or got a 30-year loan.  If they have at least 20% equity in the home, they can refinance the home with an 80% conventional loan which in most cases, does not require mortgage insurance.

With normal amortization on a 30-year loan, it takes approximately 11-years to reduce the original loan to the 78-80% requirement based on normal amortization.  There is another dynamic involved which is the appreciation on the home.  As the home goes up in value and the unpaid balance goes down, the equity increases.

If the homeowners believe that they have enough equity that would eliminate the need for mortgage insurance, they can investigate refinancing with a conventional loan.  Borrowers refinancing will incur expenses in starting a new mortgage and the interest rate may be higher than the existing rate.  Analysis will determine how long it will take to recapture the cost of refinancing.

Call me as (616) 402-3535 for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Year End Tax Newsletter

One of the first steps in a good outcome is knowing a little bit about what you're about to undertake.  By being aware of some of the areas regarding homes that may not come up every year in a tax return, you'll be able to point them out to your tax professional or seek more information from IRS.gov.

Look through this list of items for things that could affect your tax return.  Even if you have relied on the same tax professional for years to look out for your best interests, they need to be aware that there could be something different in this year's return.

If you bought a home for a principal residence last year, check your closing statement and identify any points or pre-paid interest that you or the seller paid based on the mortgage you received.  These can be deducted on your Schedule A as qualified home interest if you itemize your deductions.  See Home Mortgage Interest Deduction | IRS Publication 936 (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).

Keep track of all money you spend on your home that might be considered a capital improvement.  Get in the habit of putting receipts for money spent on your home that is not the house payment or utility bills.  Repairs are not tax deductible but improvements, even small ones, can be added to the basis of your home which can lower the gain when the home is sold.  Years from now, your tax preparer can sift through them and determine whether they're capital improvements or maintenance. See Increases to Basis | IRS Publication 523 Selling Your Home (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).

By making additional principal contributions with your mortgage payment, you'll save interest, build equity and shorten the term of a fixed-rate mortgage.  See Equity Accelerator.

If you sold a home last year, the payoff on your old mortgage included interest from the last payment you made to the date of the payoff.  That interest is tax deductible.  You may need a breakdown of the payoff to the mortgage company; you should be able to get that from your closing officer.

If you refinanced your home, unlike a home purchase, points paid to refinance are not deductible as interest in the year paid; they must spread ratably over the life of the mortgage.  See Home Mortgage Interest Deduction | IRS Publication 936 (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).

For homeowners who have lost a spouse, there is an exception regarding the exclusion on the sale of a principal residence.  If the surviving spouse concludes a sale of the home within two years of the death of their spouse, they may exclude up to $500,000, instead of $250,000 for single taxpayers, of gain provided ownership and use tests are met prior to death.

The two-year period begins on the date of death and ends two years after that date.  See Sale of Main Home by Surviving Spouse | IRS Publication 523 Selling Your Home (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).

There could be significant tax consequences to a person selling a home that was received as a gift as compared to receiving the home through inheritance.  With a gift, the basis of the donor becomes the basis of the donee.  With inheritance, the heir usually gets a stepped-up basis and avoids potential unrecognized gain.  See Home Received as Inheritance | IRS Publication 523 Selling Your Home (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).

Click here to download a Homeowners Tax Guide.  This is meant for information purposes only and advice from a qualified tax professional should be sought to find out about your individual situation.tax guide 001.png