All posts in Retirement

Multi-ethnic team of blue collar air conditioner repairmen at work. They prepare to begin work by gathering appropriate tools from their tool box.

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 profession 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 prices 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 <https://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 (320) 762-7106.

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Shot of a mature woman hugging her husband

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.

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Cropped shot of a man and woman completing paperwork together at a desk

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.  We 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 us a call at (320) 762-7106.  We deal with issues like this regularly and have experience with workers who are reputable and reasonable.

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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 (320) 762-7106.

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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.

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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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Pre-appproval confidence

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

 

 

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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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