Annual Home Advisory

Homeownership is a privilege and a responsibility. Even after decades of owning a home, you may still need some help to handle some of its challenges by focusing on the three “M”s of homeownership: maintenance, minimizing expenses and managing debt and risk.

While many people recognize the benefits of annual wellness, financial, vehicle and equipment maintenance visits, an important checkup that you may not have considered is an annual homeowner advisory or real estate review. Why would you treat the investment in your home with less care than you treat your car or your HVAC system?

Consider exploring the following:

  • Do you know the current value of your home? (You can, by obtaining a list of comparable sales in your immediate area, as well as what is currently on the market for sale.)
  • Have you compared your assessed value for tax purposes to the fair market value in order to possibly reduce your property taxes?
  • Even if you’ve refinanced in the last two years, can you save money and recapture the cost of refinancing in the length of time you plan to remain in your home?
  • Have you considered reducing your mortgage debt with low-earning cash reserves that will not be needed soon?
  • Do you have a record of the improvements you’ve made to your home since you purchased it? Do you know what items can be included?
  • Have you considered investing in rental homes in good neighborhoods to increase your yields and avoid the volatility of the stock market?
  • When was the last time you updated your home inventory of personal belongings? Do you have pictures as well as written documentation?
  • Do you need recommendations of repairmen and other service providers?

This service is part of my point of difference as a real estate professional to provide information to help homeowners not only when they buy and sell but all the years in between too.  My goal is to create lifelong relationships with our customers as their “go to” person whenever they have a real estate question.

My strategy is to provide reliable, consumer-based information about homeownership on a regular basis through email and social networking.  If it benefits you by helping you be a better homeowner, maybe you’ll consider us your real estate professional.

When you don’t know the answers to real estate questions, you know where to get them.

We’re always here to serve your real estate needs. By helping you with the three “M”s of homeownership, we can earn your confidence and trust for the next time you move or a friend of yours needs a recommendation.

Much Success! Gary

Gary Thompson
CRS, SRS, SFR, e-Pro, Broker Associate
Re/Max Masters
(801) 821-9292

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Mortgage Forgiveness

5/20/2020

During the mortgage meltdown that caused the Great Recession a decade ago, some homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure or constructed a short sale to get out from under the debt.  In most of the cases, the lenders forgave all or part of the debt owed them.

Similarly, in the early 90’s after the failure of the Savings & Loans in the U.S., thousands of homeowners lost their homes in the same way but back then, the policy of the IRS was to consider the forgiven debt as income.  Today, it is still considered income which means that a homeowner could lose their home because they could not afford to pay for it and to make matters worse, they would owe income tax on the debt relieved.

The good news is that in 2007, Congress passed the Mortgage Forgiveness Act and it has continued to be extended with its current expiration of 12/31/20.

The amount forgiven for income tax purposes may not be the same amount owed to the lender.  Mortgage forgiveness has a limited exclusion for discharged home mortgage debt for a principal residence only; it does not include second homes or investment properties.  Only the amount of mortgage debt that can be treated as acquisition indebtedness in included.

In the example below, a homeowner purchased a home and refinanced the home five years later at 80% of the market value.  The new loan proceeds were used to payoff the original mortgage and make $30,000 of new capital improvements.  The revised acquisition debt is the acquisition debt at the time of refinance plus the capital improvements made with the loan proceeds.

The new $400,000 loan produced $39,417 of home equity debt which is not considered acquisition debt.  Home equity debt is money borrowed on a home and can be used for any purpose, but it may not be tax deductible or considered acquisition debt.  Acquisition debt is money borrowed to buy, build or improve a principal residence subject to a $750,000 limit.

Assume that the borrower never made a payment on the new loan.   If the new loan went through foreclosure while the Mortgage Forgiveness Relief Act is in effect, the forgiveness would be limited to the acquisition debt of $360,583 and the remaining amount of $39,417 would be considered income and subject to tax.

This article is meant to inform homeowners of liabilities associated with foreclosures and possible remedies that may be available.  This example is meant to illustrate the portion of a loan that could be forgiven.  Taxpayers should always consult their tax professional regarding their specific situation and the way the law would apply to their situation. For more information, see IRS Publication 4681.

Example 
Purchase Price … 5 years ago$400,000
Mortgage at time of purchase … Acquisition Debt$360,000
Fair Market Value … Today, 5 years later$500,000
Refinanced 80% – Loan to Value$400,000
Replaced unpaid balance – current acquisition debt$330,583
Capital improvements made with loan proceeds$30,000
Revised acquisition debt$360,583
Home equity debt … difference in refinanced amount and acquisition debt$39,417

Gary Thompson
CRS, SRS, SFR, e-Pro, Broker Associate
Re/Max Masters
(801) 821-9292

Contact Me Visit Website Subscribe to Newsletter

It’s Different This Time!

Of course, it is!  We haven’t experienced a global pandemic in our lifetime.  We haven’t had an economic shutdown like this before.  Uncertainty is understandable and people tend to fear what they don’t understand. With all that said, it doesn’t mean there are not opportunities for people who can act in this unprecedented environment.

During the recent Great Recession, housing prices experienced dramatic reductions in value due to the subprime mortgage crisis.  Homeownership in the U.S. peaked in 2004 at 69.2% when lenders with questionable practices would approve almost anyone who applied for a mortgage. 

Since the Great Recession, Congress and the mortgage industry enacted significant rules that require a person to actually qualify based on the ability to pay back the loan, cash and savings necessary to close, the house securing the loan and sufficient credit history.

Both first-time buyers and investors were able to capitalize on opportunities during that recession by acquiring properties at below market prices.  These buyers had good credit, the necessary down payment, income and the willingness to act at the moment.  Interestingly, those prices did not stay depressed for long.

Today, there is a big part of America that has good credit, the necessary down payment and sufficient income to qualify but are in a wait and see posture.  It is understandable that both sellers and buyers across the country are uncertain whether now is a good time for them individually to make a move. 

Consumers should understand the difference in the ability to qualify for a home and the ability to afford and maintain it.  If a buyer is secure with their income and job status, a real estate market with less competition can definitely be an opportunity.

Currently, the homeownership rate is estimated at 65.1% based on the U.S. Census Bureau.  This is only slightly lower than its all-time high.

“The housing sector enters this current recession underbuilt rather than overbuilt” states Robert Dietz, chief economist with the National Association of Home Builders, “that means as the economy rebounds … which it will at some stage … housing is set to help lead the way out.”  Ali Wolf, chief economist with Meyers Research, believes housing will be the hero this time “Last time housing led the recession.  This time it’s poised to bring us out.”

The majority of housing economists don’t expect prices to fall because we’re still experiencing a housing shortage.  Both existing homes on the market and new construction cannot meet the high demand from buyers, some who have been trying to buy and have lost bidding wars.

There is probably an equal number of sellers and buyers who are waiting to see what happens to the economy which will reduce the overall sales.  However, for the sellers who are in the market, their prices may stay solid based on the lack of inventory for the buyers who are staying in the market.

All real estate is local and each market, in its various price ranges have their own current characteristics.  If you would like to investigate how it might affect your decision to buy or sell, now or in the near future, we can arrange a video meeting.  We can provide you with current inventory levels in your area and price range, recent sales and current demand levels.

Flag Protocol – 5/28/2018 

The American flag is obviously a symbol of our country but it has come to remind us of every man and woman who has fought for the freedom that we enjoy. The emotions that are stirred by images of our flag can run from happiness to sadness to trust and everything in between.

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Most of us learned American flag etiquette or the Flag Code when we were young but occasionally, it is a good idea to review the guidelines so that the flag is treated with the respect it deserves.

  • The U.S. flag should not be flown at night unless a light is shown on it.
  • The U.S. flag should not be flown upside down except as a distress signal.
  • The flag should never touch the ground.
  • A U.S. flag should be displayed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff in mourning.
  • When displaying multiple flags of a state, community or society on the same flagpole, the U.S. flag must always be on top.
  • When flown with flags of states, communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor – to its own right. No flag should be higher or larger than the U.S. flag. The U.S. flag is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.
  • When the U.S. flag is flown with those of other countries, each flag should be the same size and must be on separate poles of the same height. Ideally, the flags should be raised and lowered simultaneously.

More information on flag etiquette can be found at the Veterans of Foreign Wars website.

Assumptions May be an Alternative – 5/7/2018 

For the last 25 years, most buyers have gotten a new mortgage or paid cash when purchasing a home. For a practical reason, owner-occupant buyers have another alternative: assuming a lower interest rate existing FHA or VA mortgage.29377293-250.jpg

In the late 80’s, both FHA and VA began requiring buyers to qualify to assume their mortgages. Prior to that, good credit or even a job wasn’t required. The real reason there haven’t been significant numbers of assumptions in the past 25 years is that interest rates have been steadily going down. If a person had to qualify, they might as well do it on a new loan and get a lower interest rate.

Even though mortgage money is currently attractive and available, it is at a four-year high. When interest rates on new mortgages are higher than the rates of assumable FHA and VA mortgages originated in the recent past, it may be more advantageous to assume the existing mortgages.  Conventional loans have due on sale clauses that prevent them from being assumed at the existing rate.

FHA loans that originated with lower than current interest rates have great advantages for buyers and sellers.

  1. Interest rate won’t change for qualified buyer
  2. Lower interest rate means lower payments
  3. Lower closing costs than originating a new mortgage
  4. Easier to qualify for an assumption than a new loan
  5. Lower interest rate loans amortize faster than higher ones
  6. Equity grows faster because loan is further along the amortization schedule
  7. Assumable mortgage could make the home more marketable

This financing alternative can save money for the buyer in closing costs and monthly payments. While the equity may be more than the down payment on a new mortgage, second mortgages are available to make up the difference. Call us at (801) 821-9292 to find out if this may be an option for you.

Costs More – Takes Longer – 4/23/2018 

The one experience that homeowners can agree upon after completing a remodeling project is that it costs more and takes longer than expected. It doesn’t really matter that you researched, planned, and received multiple bids, it will, invariably, cost more and take longer than you originally anticipated.

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Replacing floorcovering or painting is a project that a homeowner can easily get bids and contract with the workmen directly. A new level of complexity occurs when the project involves more specialized contractors, like plumbers, electricians, carpenters, counters, and others.

Now, a homeowner is faced with dealing with one general contractor who will run roughshod over the sub-contractors or make the decision to do it themselves. Typically, you’ll pay more for a general contractor, but the trade-off is that they have the contacts and experience to make things go smoothly.

Subs are notorious for wanting to finish their “part” of the project and move onto to the next job. Sometimes, they’re not interested in the “big picture” enough to consider doing things in a way that are best for the overall outcome.

When you start tearing out some things, you find out that there may be unexpected expenses involved. Another common occurrence is that during the project, you get a new thought about changing something else “since it is already torn up anyway.” This will add time and money to the job.

There can be the situation that the homeowner doesn’t even know the right questions to ask or what to consider when trying to coordinate the different workers. The most detailed timetable can be thrown off track if one set of workers don’t show up or finish on time. At best, it delays the project for a few days. At worst, it can delay it for a few weeks because the individual workers may have committed to other jobs that don’t allow them to reschedule.

Once the work is done in a professional manner, you’re probably going to live with it for years. If it is something you’ve wanted to do and it will allow you to enjoy your home more, it is worth doing. Just be patient and enter this adventure with the understanding that it will cost more and take longer than you expect.

Waiting Period After Distressed Sale – 4/9/2018 

“How long do we have to wait to qualify for another mortgage” is the question concerning people who’ve had a foreclosure, short sale or bankruptcy. The loan types for the new loan will differ in amounts of time to heal credit scores based on the event.

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The following chart is meant to be a general guide for how long a person might have to wait. During this waiting period, it’s important that the person be current on all payments and maintains a history of good credit.

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.

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We want to be your personal source of real estate information and we’re committed to helping from purchase to sale and all the years in between. Call us at (801) 821-9292 for lender recommendations.

Standard or Itemized – 3/19/2018 

Taxpayers can decide each year whether to take the standard deduction or their itemized deductions when filing their personal income tax returns. Roughly, 75% of households with more than $75,000 income and most homeowners itemize their deductions.

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Beginning in 2018, the standard deduction, available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they own a home, is $24,000 for married filing jointly and $12,000 for single taxpayers.

Let’s look at an example of a couple purchasing a $300,000 home with 3.5% down at 5% interest. The first year’s interest would be $14,630 and property taxes are estimated at 1.5% of sales price would be $4,500.

The interest and property taxes would provide a combined total of $19,130 which is less than the $24,000 standard deduction. Unless this hypothetical couple has other itemized deductions like charitable contributions that would make the total exceed $24,000, they would benefit more from taking the standard deduction.

If the mortgage rate were at 8%, the combined total of taxes and interest would be almost $28,000 which would make itemizing the deductions more beneficial.

Tax professionals will compare available alternatives to find the one that will benefit the taxpayer most. For more information, see www.IRS.gov and consult a tax advisor.

Inventory Continues to be a Challenge – 3/12/2018 

In any given market, inventories fluctuate based on supply and demand considering area and price range. The National Association of REALTORS considers a balanced market to be a six-month supply of homes.

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If it takes longer than six months to sell, it is thought to be a buyer’s market and less than six months, a seller’s market. Most buyers and sellers probably feel a balanced inventory is more like three months’ supply of homes.

The inventory of existing homes has been reduced to approximately 1.5 million houses which is 10.3% lower than a year ago. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis there are 5.7 months’ supply of new homes currently on the market in the U.S.

Inventory has a direct impact on price. When demand is constant, but inventory is reduced, price tends to increase because the same number of people are trying to buy a smaller than normal number of homes.

As easy as it is to recognize the signs of spring, one should be able to spot the direction prices will be moving. When prices and mortgage rates are increasing, buyers are affected by not being able to afford the same price or size of homes.

Your Refund Could be the Difference – 3/5/2018 

One of the silver linings to filing your income tax return is finding out that you are going to receive a refund. If you happen to be one of these fortunate taxpayers, your next decision is what to do with it. With the average tax refund around $3,000, it could be the difference that makes a home a reality sooner rather than later.

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Many would-be buyers think it takes 10% or more down payment to purchase a home, but actually, it can be much less. There are VA and USDA mortgages that have no down payment for qualified buyers. FHA has a 3.5% down payment program and FNMA has 3% down payment mortgages for qualified creditors.

Closing costs for originating new mortgages can easily range from two to three percent of the purchase price but most lenders will allow the seller to pay part or all of them based on the agreement in the sales contract.

While the average tax refund might not cover the down payment on the median price home, it certainly helps. Your refund could make it as simple as 1-2-3 to get into a home.

  1. Get the hard, cold facts for the homes and mortgages in your area and price range.
  2. Get pre-approved with a trusted mortgage professional.
  3. Start looking at homes.

Call me at (801) 821-9292 or garythompson@remax.net to get started.