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.

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Conventional, VA and FHA have increased mortgage limits for loans in 2019.

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Smart home technology promises to make your home more comfortable, convenient and secure.  It may not be the home from the Jetson’s but artificial intelligence is the hope to make it the home of the future which is available now and controlled from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

When Alexa appeared at Christmas-time two years ago, most people thought it was a novelty to ask what the weather will be or to play a song.  Few people understood the vision of Amazon would be verbally purchasing everything imaginable and that your calendar, contacts, lights, and appliances would all be connected.

There are plenty of players in the market including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung Smart Things, Apple and others.  It starts with a hub that acts like a brain for your system to connect the different home automation devices.  You’ll establish an online account with the hub manufacturer so that you can adjust settings and controls.

You could start simple with switch and plug receptacles that would allow you to control lights either vocally through your hub or from your Smartphone or tablet anywhere in the world where you have an Internet connection.

Programmable thermostats can lower your monthly utility costs while conveniently regulating your comfort by adjusting temperatures on your heating and cooling systems.  These can be particularly effective in homes with zoned systems where you might live in one area during the day but sleep in a different zone.

Door bells might be one of the next additions to your automation.  Not only can you communicate with the person at your door, you don’t have to go to the door to do it.  The device cameras are motion activated so you’ll see who is there regardless of whether they rang the doorbell or not.

Door locks can be convenient because instead of giving someone a key, you can issue a temporary code to let them enter.  You can give them permanent access and rescind it any time you want without having to change the locks.  You’ll know when they enter and leave your home.

Other security options can include door and window sensors, motion detectors and cameras for outside or inside the home.  The homeowner will be able to monitor from inside or anywhere else they have an Internet connection.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as water sensors to determine leaking water around water heaters or in basements give homeowners peace of mind.

Most of these devices are available in wireless models so you won’t have to string wire throughout the home.  The Wi-Fi can introduce a potential problem of hackers who could illegally access your system.  This is true with any home that has a Wi-Fi router and precautions should be taken.

The big box stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Amazon offer a wide variety of brands and modules.  Many people prefer it as a do-it-yourself project and others would rather have a professional do it for them.  YouTube has a lot of videos that can probably show you exactly how to install the ones you select.

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Order your free copy of your credit reports and look for errors; use a trusted mortgage professional; get pre-approved; use a trusted real estate professional.

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The Federal Reserve Board’s Triennial Survey of Consumer Finances recently revealed the net worth of a homeowner was $231,400 compared to $5,200 for a renter.  The net worth of homeowners increased 15% from 2013 to 2016 while renters’ decreased by 5%.

Appreciation and principal reduction are the two dynamics that affect a homeowner’s equity.  Each payment is applied to the interest for the previous month and the principal reduction to retire the mortgage.

A $300,000 home purchased with a $294,566 FHA mortgage at 5% for 30 years has an average monthly principal reduction $362 in the first year. Two percent appreciation would benefit the buyer by $500 a month.  In this example, the equity grows by $860 a month for the homeowner.  A tenant would have to invest $660 a month over and above the rent they’re paying.

Based on the assumptions listed above, the $10,500 down payment would become approximately $85,000 of equity in seven years. Leverage and forced savings contribute to the difference in addition to the appreciation and principal reduction.

The rent paid by tenants help the landlord recoup their investment in the home and a return on their investment.  Some people say, regardless if a person rents or buys, they pay for the house they occupy.  The choice is whether to buy it for themselves or their landlord.

Check out some of the benefits using your own numbers with this fill-in-the blank Rent vs. Own.

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Pre-appproval confidence

There are so many benefits to getting pre-approved, it rarely makes sense to not do it.

 

 

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Changing Air Filters

If this were a test, would you make an “A” on air filters 101?

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There is a little-known mortgage program that could provide the vehicle for the right person to get into a home. If a person sells their home to another for less than the fair market value, the difference in the appraised value and the sales price is considered a gift of equity for the buyer.
FHA requires that borrowers receive gifts of equity only from family members transferring title to the borrower.

An appraisal is required to determine the value of the home. The sales price is subtracted from the appraised value to determine the equity to be gifted. If a home appraises for $300,000 when the owner will sell it for $250,000, the gift is $50,000.

The gift is applied to the down payment. In this example, the borrower would have to qualify for a $250,000 mortgage which would require private mortgage insurance because a 20% down payment on a $300,000 home would be $60,000. If the buyer had an additional $10,000 in cash to put down, the PMI would not be required, and the monthly payments would be lower.

The seller would need to provide a gift letter stating the amount of the gift, the date the gift, and that no repayment is expected or required. It also needs to have the donor’s name, address, phone, email and relationship to the buyer. In addition, the settlement statement will need to show the gift being credited from the seller to the buyer. The lender may require additional documentation.

Beginning in 2018, the annual gift tax exemption is increased to $15,000 per person per year and lifetime exemption to $5.6 million. The fact that the $50,000 exceeds the individual amount doesn’t mean there will necessarily be any gift tax due now. The seller should consult their tax professional.

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It may be natural for first-time buyers to be unsure of the process of buying a home 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 predictable and generally follow the same pattern.  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 is 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 of 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, call us at (320) 762-7106; we’re happy to help.  Informed buyers lead to satisfied homeowners and that is better for everyone involved.

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Finding the right home is still the biggest challenge buyers are faced with in today’s market as is shown in the latest Confidence Index Survey.  Assuming the buyers find the “right” home with determination, perseverance and the help of a real estate professional, 88% of all transactions last year required financing to get the buyer’s address on the home.  93% of first-time buyers needed financing.

Pre-approval is an essential step that needs to be handled before buyers begin searching for a home.  The benefits to the buyer fall into the category of confidence.

PRE-APPROVAL GIVES YOU CONFIDENCE

  • Knowing the amount you can borrow
    the mortgage amount decreases as interest rates rise
  • Looking at the right priced homes
    price, size, amenities, location
  • Comparing and identifying the best loan
    rate, term, type
  • Uncover issues early that could affect the most favorable loan terms
    time to cure possible problems
  • Bargaining power to negotiate with the seller and possibly, competing buyers
    price, terms, & timing
  • Settlement can occur sooner after contact is accepted
    verifications have already been made

Items Needed for Pre-Approval

  • Photo ID
  • Two months current pay stubs
  • Last two year’s W2s
  • Complete copies of checking and savings statements for last three months
  • Copies of statements for IRAs, 401k, savings, CDs, money market funds, etc.
  • Employment history for last two years with addresses and contacts
  • Proof of commissioned or bonus income
  • Residency history for last two years with addresses and contacts
  • Assets for down payment, closing costs, and reserves; must provide paper trail
  • If self-employed, last two years tax returns, current profit and loss statement and balance sheet; copy of partnership/corporate tax returns for last two years if owning more than 25% of company
  • FHA requires driver’s license and social security card
  • VA requires original certificate of eligibility and DD214
  • Other things may be required such as previous bankruptcy, divorce decree

Contact us at (320) 762-7106 or paulajackson@realtor.com if you’d like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.

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