One of the most common reasons buyers want to deal directly with the seller is because they feel they can save the commission.  It’s a valid consideration but interestingly, it’s the same reason the seller isn’t employing an agent; they feel they can save the commission. image.ashx

Both parties cannot save the commission.  The buyer feels they have earned it because they’ve had to find the home, determine its value and negotiate with the seller.  They had to arrange their own financing, title and inspections.

The seller equally feels that they have earned the commission because they have incurred all of the marketing expenses and have invested hours upon hours to be available to show the property, hold open houses and answer inquiries.  They have had to research value, financing, title work and make decisions.

There is certainly value in all of the things that buyers and sellers are willing to do to save the commission but only one person can save the commission only if the buyer and seller can reach a written agreement.

There is value to having a third party advocate helping each party to the transaction.

The Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (Exhibit 8-1) reports that 14% of sales were For-Sale-by-Owners in 2004 compared to just 9% in 2013.  The trend shows that agent-assisted sales rose to 88% in 2013 from 82% in 2004.

The three most difficult tasks identified by for-sale-by-owners is attracting potential buyers, getting the price right and understanding and performing the paperwork. When surveyed, sellers most value the home selling in an anticipated time frame and for an expected amount.

The reality is that both parties cannot save the commission.  It is earned by providing specific services that are essential to the transaction.  The capital asset of a home represents the largest investment that most people make.   An investment that important certainly deserves the consideration of a professional trained and experienced to handle the complexities involved.

Read more

Paying cash for a home seems like a huge advantage to qualifying for a mortgage and an appraisal.  However, for the fortunate few who don’t need a mortgage, there is a question they should answer before they make that decision: Do you think at any point in the future, you might put a mortgage on this property? image.ashx

It’s important because paying cash for a home could affect the ability to deduct the interest if the homeowner should place a mortgage on the home at a later date.

Most homeowner’s know they can deduct the interest on up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt on their principal residence but they may not understand the limitations of such debt.

Acquisition debt is the amount used to buy, build or improve a person’s principal residence.  The amount is not static but changes over time.  An amortized loan reduces the principal owed with each payment made and the acquisition debt is reduced accordingly.  If a person stays in a home long enough to retire the loan, the acquisition debt is reduced to zero.

Our current federal law allows a homeowner to deduct the interest on the acquisition debt plus the interest on up to an additional $100,000 home equity debt.  If a person pays cash for a home, the acquisition debt would be zero and the only interest deduction allowed would be for home equity debt.

If you answered yes or even maybe to the question, before you pay cash to buy your home, you should discuss your situation with your tax advisor.

Read more

94% of purchasers last year opted for a fixed-rate mortgage at some of the lowest rates in home buying history.  Yet, some of them will pay more in interest than necessary based on the time they’ll own the home. image.ashx

If a person only plans to be in the home a few years, the adjustable-rate can offer significant savings.

Not only is the interest rate on the adjustable-rate lower than the fixed in the initial period, amortization on a lower interest rate amortizes faster than a higher interest rate.

In the example shown below, a $200,000 mortgage for 30 years is compared using a 4.25% fixed-rate to a 3.25% 5/1 FHA adjustable rate.  The first five years of the ARM generates a $113.47 a month savings which accumulates to $6,808.20.  In addition, due to faster amortization on lower interest rate loans, the unpaid balance at the end of five years will be $3,001 lower on the ARM for a total savings of $9,801.

Assuming the adjustable-rate mortgage was to escalate the maximum allowed at each period, the breakeven would occur in 8 years and 6 months. If a person were to sell the home prior to this point, the ARM would provide a lower cost of housing for the homeowner.

For some people, the uncertainty of how the interest rate may change is not acceptable.  On the other hand, for the risk tolerant individual who may be more confident in financial matters or who may know when they’ll be moving next, the ARM can be a smart choice.

To make projections using your individual numbers, see the Adjustable Rate Comparison.

image.ashx2

 

Read more

Section 1031 exchange for rental and investment real estate is a tool that allows investors to move the gain from one property to another without immediate income tax consequences.

An instant benefit is to postpone the tax due which gives the investor a larger amount of proceeds to invest.  In the example shown, the investor has 21% more proceeds to invest and grow over time than if he had paid the taxes due instead of exchanging.

A legitimate long-term goal might be to make qualified exchanges from one property to another until the investor dies.  The heirs would then receive a stepped-up basis on the property based on the market value at the time of the decedent’s death and possibly avoiding taxes altogether.

There are specific requirements to be met in order for the exchange to qualify. For more information on exchanges, see IRS publication 544.  In addition to enlisting the services of a real estate professional familiar with investment property, seek the help of Qualified Intermediary to facilitate the intricacies of the exchange.  Your real estate agent can help you locate one.

image.ashx

Read more

With interest rates lower than they’ve been in over 40 years, it may be difficult to think of a “window of opportunity” closing.  However, it isn’t difficult to understand that it may very probably cost more to live in a home in the near future due to rising interest rates and prices. image.ashx

Zillow recently reported results from a nationwide study that home values are expected to appreciate by 4.5% through the end of the year.  Coupled with Freddie Mac’s projection that rates are going up, the cost of housing for buyers by the end of the year will be higher than it is now.

While uncertainty of the future can stagnate some people, the fear of loss can be much more devastating when a person realizes that the amount they pay to live and enjoy a home could have been considerably lower had they acted when prices and mortgage rates were lower.

The following example considers a $250,000 purchase today with a FHA mortgage compared to what it might be at the end of the year with a higher price and interest rate as discussed earlier.  The net effect is that it will cost $191.87 to live in the very same home based on the cost of waiting to buy.

To see what the cost might be for your price range, use this Cost of Waiting to Buy spreadsheet.

image.ashx2

 

Read more

IRS allows taxpayers the option to take the standard deduction or the itemized deduction.  The astute taxpayer will compare to see which one will result in the greatest deduction and the election can be made each year.  image.ashx

The 2013 standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly is $12,200 and $6,100 for a single taxpayer.  It doesn’t require any proof of actual expense and has no requirement for home ownership.

Items that can be included on Schedule A for itemized deductions include:

  • Certain taxes paid for state and local income tax, general sales tax, real estate property taxes, personal property taxes or other taxes paid
  • Qualified home mortgage interest, investment interest or possibly, mortgage insurance premiums
  • Charitable contributions
  • Casualty or theft losses
  • Medical and dental expenses that exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income if born before 1/2/49 or 10% if born after 1/2/49
  • Job expenses and other miscellaneous deductions that exceed 2% of adjusted gross income

A non-homeowner taxpayer who has been taking the standard deduction needs to consider that it isn’t just the ability to deduct the mortgage interest and property taxes.

While the standard deduction might be the obvious choice for a non-homeowner, the combination of the mortgage interest and the property taxes plus other allowable deductions not recognized previously such as charitable contributions, now makes taking the itemized deductions significantly more advantageous.

Read more

Prepaid interest, sometimes called “points”, is generally tax deductible when a person pays them in connection with buying, building or improving their principal residence.  When points are paid on a refinance, they are not a current deduction but have to be taken prorata over the life of the mortgage. image.ashx

For instance, if $3,000 in points were paid on refinancing a 30 year mortgage, a deduction of $100 per year is allowed.  When the loan is paid off or replaced by refinancing again or the home is sold and the mortgage paid off from the proceeds, the balance of any un-deducted points may be taken in that tax year.

Your tax professional needs to be made aware of any of these situations so that he or she can accurately reflect the deductions in your return.  Currently, the most common situation is homeowners may be refinancing their home for the second, third or even, fourth time. If there are points that have not been completely deducted, they need to be treated in the year of refinancing.

For more information, see points in IRS Publication 936; there is a section on Refinancing in this publication. For advice considering your specific situation, contact your tax professional.

Read more

1

The regional community of Alexandria, MN and the Douglas County area continue to grow and thrive, and this fact is being recognized throughout the region, state, and nation.

Site Selection Magazine ranked the Alexandria Micropolitan statistical area as the fastest growing MSA in Minnesota and tied for the position of the 6th fastest growing MSA in the United States.

For a project to qualify, new construction must take place and meet one of the following:

1. Employees = 50 or more
2. Square Footage = 20,000 or more
3. Investment = $1,000,000 or more (construction cost, land, and building).

Click here for full story.

Read more

The Qualified Mortgage Rule came into effect on January 14, 2014 as one of the results to the Dodd Frank Reform Act to protect consumers from predatory lending practices.  This will affect the underwriting standards that the majority of lenders will use to qualify borrowers.  image.ashx

The ability to repay rule states that financial information must be supplied by the borrower and verified by the lender.  The borrower must have sufficient assets or income to pay back the loan which limits the maximum debt-to-income ratio of 43%.  In an effort to present a more accurate picture of the costs to the borrower, teaser rates can no longer hide a mortgage’s true cost.

A maximum of 3% in upfront points and fees can be paid on behalf of the borrower.  There can be no negative amortization, interest-only or balloon payments and the loan term limit cannot exceed 30 years.

While there are more requirements, most deal with good underwriting practices that are followed by reputable lenders such as considering and verifying things that affect the ability to repay the mortgage like income, assets, employment status, simultaneous loans, debt, alimony, child support and credit history.

Read more

Coffee should be hot. Beer should be cold. Mexican food should be spicy.  However, if these things are less than the standard that you expect, there are not any lasting consequences.

As the value of the object in question rises, either in price or gravity, the expectations usually increase and decisions become progressively more important.  Marriage, children, health and careers are certainly a few of the more important items that bear careful consideration. image.ashx

The sale of the largest asset that most people own, their home, also merits having reasonable expectations.  A homeowner should expect to get the market value for their home in a reasonable period of time with as few inconveniences as possible.

According to the latest Home Buyers and Sellers Survey, more homeowners are entrusting the sale of their home to real estate professionals.  Owners can increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome by sharing their expectations with agents prior to listing their home for sale.

Challenge your agent to explain what they intend to do to:

  • Price the home correctly
  • Prepare the home to make a good impression
  • Position the home in the marketplace

It is reasonable for a seller to expect the agent will work hard to sell the home; will tell the truth and represent the client’s interests to the best of their ability.  Agents exemplify remarkable service when they when they exceed the seller’s expectations.

Read more