The Flo Vachon Team for Sun City Center and Southern Hillsborough County.
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Can 0.5% Really Equal 5%?

Since the election, rates have started going up and it will have a direct effect on the cost of housing. There is a rule of thumb that a ½% change in interest is approximately equal to 5% change in price. 14439217-250.jpg

As the interest rates go up, it will cost you more to live in the very same home or to keep the payment the same, you’ll have to buy a lower priced home.

Before rates rise too much, it may be the best time to buy a home whether you’re going to use it for your principal residence or a rental property. Low interest rates and lower prices make housing more affordable.

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Time May Be Running Out

During the Great Recession, some homeowners elected to rent their home rather than sell it for less than it was worth.

IRS tax code allows for a temporary rental of a principal residence without losing the exclusion of capital gain based on some specific time limits. During the five year period ending on the date of the sale, the taxpayer must have:14095450-250.jpg

  • Owned the home for at least two years
  • Lived in the home as their main home for at least two years
  • Ownership and use do not have to be continuous nor occur at the same time

If a home has been rented for more than three years, the owner will not have lived in it for two of the last five years. So the challenge for homeowners with gain in a rented principal residence that they don’t want to have to recognize is to sell and close the transaction prior to the crucial date.

Assume a person was selling a property which had been rented for 2 ½ years but had previously been their home for over two years. To qualify for the exclusion of capital gain, the home needs to be ready to sell, priced correctly, sold and closed within six months.

All of the gain may not qualify for the exclusion if depreciation has been taken for the period that it was rented. Depreciation is recaptured at a 25% tax rate.

A $200,000 gain in a home could have a $30,000 tax liability. Minimizing or eliminating unnecessary taxes is a legitimate concern and timing is important.

Selling a home for the most money is one thing; maximizing your proceeds is another. For more information, see IRS publication 523 and an example on the IRS website and consult a tax professional.

It Isn’t Final Until It’s Funded

Mortgage approval isn’t final until it’s funded. Things can change prior to the loan being closed that can affect a pre-approval such as changes in the borrowers’ financial situation or possibly, factors beyond their control like interest rate changes.40783733-250.jpg

Good advice to buyers is to do nothing that can affect your credit report until the loan closes. Opening new credit cards, taking on new debt for a car or furniture or changing jobs could affect the lender’s decision if they believe you may no longer be able to repay the loan.

The benefits of buyer’s pre-approval are definitive: it saves time, money and removes the uncertainty of knowing whether the buyer is qualified. The direct benefits include:

  • Amount the buyer can borrow – decreases as interest rates rise
  • Looking at “Right” homes – price, size, amenities, location
  • Find the best loan – rate, term, type
  • Uncover credit issues early – time to cure possible problems
  • Bargaining power – price, terms, & timing
  • Close quicker – verifications have been made

It is a very common practice for mortgage lenders to require income and bank verifications and to re-run the borrowers’ credit one final time just prior to closing. Mortgage approval isn’t final until it’s funded.

Gift or Inheritance – Does It Matter?

A person called into a radio talk program with a situation that was troubling to the caller and disturbing based on the potential tax liability that may have been avoided.18732493-250.jpg

The caller’s elderly father had deeded his home to his daughter a few years earlier because in his mind, his daughter was going to get the home eventually and this would be one less thing to be taken care of after his death. The daughter didn’t really care because the father was going to continue to live in the home and take care of it so that it would be no expense to her.

Obviously, unknown to either the father or the daughter, transferring the title of a home from one person to another could have significant tax implications. In this case, when the father “gave” the home to his daughter, he also gave her the basis in the home which is basically what he paid for it. If she sells the home in the future, the gain will be the difference in the net sales price and her father’s basis which could be considerably higher than had she inherited it.

If the home was purchased for $75,000 and worth $250,000 at the time of transfer, there is a possible gain of $175,000. However, when a person inherits property, the basis is “stepped-up” to fair market value at the time of the decedent’s death. If the adult child had inherited the property, at the time of the parent’s death, their new basis would be $250,000 or the fair market value at the time of death and the possible gain would be zero.

In most cases, there are less tax consequences with inheritance than with a gift. There are other factors that may come into play but being aware that there is a difference between a gift and inheritance is certainly an important warning flag that would indicate that expert tax advice should be sought before any steps are taken.

It’s the Principal of the Thing

A Cost to Consider

Homeownership, part of the American Dream: a home of your own where you can feel safe, raise your family, share with your friends and enjoy life. The benefits are easily recognizable but maintenance is just as real and should be considered.Maintenance.png

Property taxes and insurance are two of the largest expenses homeowners have aside from their mortgage interest. But, as any homeowner knows, there will be occasional expenses for repairing toilets, faucets, windows and other things. There are also the significantly larger expenses that arise like replacing a water heater or HVAC unit. And don’t overlook the periodic maintenance like painting or floor coverings.

Financial experts suggest that homeowners save one to four percent of the home’s value per year for repairs and maintenance. Two to eight thousand dollars a year may sound like more than you’ll need but the cost of an air conditioning unit can easily be $6,000 and some homes have more than one unit, which hopefully, won’t need to be replaced in the same year.

Some homeowners purchase home warranties to avoid the unexpected costs. An annual premium instead of an unexpected large expenditure. Coverage varies from company to company and are not intended to cover existing conditions.

The alternative to not saving for these anticipated expenditures means that a homeowner might have to put it on a credit card at a very high interest rate or get a home improvement loan. Appreciation is a distinct benefit of home ownership and deferred maintenance can limit the value as well as lengthen the market time when it sells.

Down Payment: FOUND!

Saving the down payment may be unnecessarily keeping would-be buyers from getting into a home. They may be unaware that the funds might be available.

The NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports that 81% of first-time buyers got all or part of their down payment from savings. Less than 4% said that all or part of the down payment came from a withdrawal in their IRA and 8% from their 401(k) or pension fund. 21330457-250.jpg

Traditional IRAs have a provision for first-time buyers which include anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the previous two years. A person and their spouse, if married, can each withdraw up to $10,000 from their traditional IRA for a first-time home purchase without incurring the 10% early-withdrawal penalty. However, they will have to recognize the withdrawal as income in that tax year. For more information, go to IRS.gov.

Allowable withdrawals from traditional IRAs can be from yourself and your spouse; your or your spouse’s child; your or your spouse’s grandchild or your or your spouse’s parent or ancestor.

Roth IRA owners can withdraw their contributions tax-free and penalty-free at any age for any reason because the contributions were made with post-tax income. After age 59 ½, earnings may be withdrawn as long as the Roth IRA have been in existence for at least five years.

Up to half of the balance of a 401(k) or $50,000, whichever is less, can be borrowed by the owner at any age for any reason without tax or penalty assuming the employer permits it. There can be specific rules for loans from a 401(k) that would determine the repayment; interest is usually charged but goes back into the owner’s account. You can consult with your HR department to find out the specifics.

A risk in borrowing against a 401(k) comes if your employment ends before the loan has been repaid. The loan may have to be repaid as soon as 60 days to keep the loan from being considered a withdrawal and subject to tax and penalty. Even if you continue with the same employer, failure to repay the loan could be considered a withdrawal also.

Your tax professional can provide you specific information on how making a withdrawal from your retirement program might affect you. Additional information can be found on www.IRS.gov.

It’s not far, if you know the way

“It’s not far, if you know the way.” What this expression implies is that you could have a long way to go if you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there. Just like reading a map, there are some definite steps that will improve your success in buying a home in today’s market.12137546-250.jpg

  • Know your credit score – the best mortgage rates are available to borrowers with the highest scores. Unless you know what your credit score is at all three major credit bureaus, you don’t really know what rate you’ll have to pay.
  • Clean up your credit – it is estimated that about 90% of credit reports have errors. Some are not serious but others could affect a borrower from getting the loan they want. It is your responsibility to know what is on your different reports and correct them if possible. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from Experian, Trans Union and Equifax.
  • Get pre-approved – Taking the time to make a loan application with a qualified lender even before you start looking at homes will provide peace of mind, make sure that you are looking at the “right” homes and may help you negotiate the best price on the home you select.
  • Do your homework – when you find the home that meets your needs and desires, get the home inspected and research the tax assessments, school ratings, crime activity, possible zoning changes and comparable sales in the area.

Call for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional and an inspector.

Sale of Home by Surviving Spouse

Special consideration is made by IRS for the sale of a jointly-owned principal residence after the death of a spouse. Surviving spouse may qualify to exclude up to $500,000 of gain instead of the $250,000 exclusion for single people if certain requirements are met.30725703-250.jpg

  • The sale needs to take place no more than two years after the date of death of the spouse.
  • Surviving spouse must not have remarried as of the sale date.
  • The home must have been used as a principal residence for two of the last five years prior to the death.
  • The home must have been owned for two of the last five years prior to the death.
  • Survivor can count any time when spouse owned the home as time they owned it and any time the home was the spouse’s residence as time when it was their residence.
  • Neither spouse may have excluded gain from the sale of another principal residence during the last two years prior to the death.

If you have been widowed in the last two years and have substantial gain in your principal residence, it would be worth investigating the possibilities. Time is a critical factor in qualification. Contact your tax professional for advice about your specific situation. Contact me to find out what your home is worth in today’s market. See IRS Publication 523 – surviving spouse.

Rental Real Estate is Preferred Choice

Real estate is the overwhelming preferred choice by Americans as identified in a recent survey. With the Dow Jones industrial average reaching record highs, it might be expected that the stock market would be the favored choice but that wasn’t the outcome.

Analysis of the report suggests that the popularity for houses could be that they are tangible assets that you can see where your money is actually invested compared to stocks and bonds which tend to be unclear where the money is invested.Best way to invest.jpg

There are several distinct advantages of homes as investments over other popular alternatives.

  1. High loan-to-value mortgages available
  2. At fixed interest rates
  3. For long periods of time
  4. On appreciating assets
  5. With definite tax advantages
  6. And reasonable control.

Another advantage of rental homes is that most people are comfortable with them. It is the same type of property that they live in but used as a rental. They have a tendency to understand the key components such as value, appreciation, rent, maintenance and financing.