Lower the Rate – Deduct the Interest

Credit card debt in America is back to levels prior to the recession. The average credit card APR is just under 16% according to CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Report. Homeowners have an advantage over renters when it comes to getting their arms around debt issues.

Basic money management suggests that higher rate debt be replaced with lower rate debt. Credit cards, personal cars, boats, motor vehicles and other personal property, typically have interest rates higher than that of real estate loans.

Borrowing against a person’s home usually provides the lowest rate of financing. Refinancing a home mortgage to take cash out to retire personal debt is one option. Another would be to secure a home equity or HELOC, home equity line of credit.

An alternative advantage of borrowing against one’s home is that the interest may be tax deductible unlike the interest on most personal debt. Qualified mortgage interest includes acquisition debt which can only be used to buy, build or improve a principal residence and up to $100,000 of home equity debt which can be used for any purpose.

Managing money is a critical life skill that people need to master. While the goal may be to become debt-free, paying the least amount of interest possible can be a good first step. Owning a home provides an asset that allows for options not available to tenants. Seek professional advice to determine your best course of action.

Save the Cost of Mortgage Insurance

During the banking crisis in the Great Recession, certain types of mortgages were unavailable that are once again being offered. Fortunately, the 80-10-10 mortgage is one of those making a reappearance and it can save borrowers a considerable amount of money. 80-10-10.png

The objective of an 80-10-10 mortgage is to avoid the expense of mortgage insurance for buyers wanting a 90% loan. A buyer can obtain an 80% first mortgage and a 10% second mortgage with a 10% down payment and not be required to have private mortgage insurance.

For example, a buyer could put $30,000 down on a home priced at $300,000 and get an 80% first mortgage without mortgage insurance. The borrower could get a second mortgage, either through the same lender or a third party.

In the example, the 80-10-10 would save a buyer $193.71 per month which can be a considerable amount of money over a ten-year period. The interest rate on the second loan will be higher than the first because there is more risk.

Helping buyers make better choices is a valuable service real estate professionals can provide. Having the right tools and information can make the decisions easier to understand. Using an 80-10-10 calculator, you can see what the savings might be for your situation.

Important Estate Documents

An estate plan is a collection of documents to ensure that your wishes are carried out because of death or incapacity to make decisions for yourself. Spouses, minor children, adult children, property and investments can all be factors that should motivate a person to undergo the process.

Will – this document specifies the way a person wants to manage and distribute his/her assets after their death. When a person dies without a will, the laws of the state where the person resided will determine the distribution of the property.

Durable Power of Attorney – this document grants to a designated person the authority to act on behalf of the principal in in legal affairs should the principal become incapacitated. Among other things, this would allow the attorney-in-fact to buy and sell property on the behalf of the principal.

Healthcare Proxy – this document grants that a designated person can legally make healthcare decisions on behalf of the principal when they are incapable of making and executing specific decisions stated in the proxy.

Living Will – this document directs physicians with respect to life-prolonging medical treatments in case they become unable to communicate their decisions.

Hippa Release – this document allows heath care providers to release your health care information to a designated person. Otherwise, they are required by federal law to protect the privacy of your health information.

Letter of Instruction – This document contains information and instructions about a person’s wishes upon death. It is intended to offer details on whom to contact and where to find important documents about personal and financial matters.

Requirements of these documents can vary from state to state and legal advice should be obtained. If you need a current estimate of value on real estate that may be involved, usually a price opinion from a licensed real estate professional will suffice. It would be my privilege to assist you with this at no cost or obligation.

Tax Benefits of Home Ownership

U.S. taxpayers have enjoyed specific tax benefits for home ownership since personal income tax was introduced by the 16th amendment in 1913. While these benefits may not be the primary reason that motivates a person to buy a home, they are still tangible and not available to tenants.

The exclusion of capital gains tax on the profit made from a home is unique from other investments and provides homeowners significant savings. Single taxpayers can exclude up to $250,000 gain and married taxpayers up to $500,000 gain. During the five-year period ending on the date of sale, a taxpayer must have: owned the home for at least two years; lived in the home as their main home for at least two years; and, ownership and use do not have to be continuous nor occur at the same time.

Gain on the sale of a principal residence in excess of the allowed exclusion are taxed at the lower long-term capital gain rate of the owner.

A homeowner may take the standard deduction or itemized deductions in any tax year based on which will create the largest deduction. Property taxes and qualified mortgage interest are allowable itemized deductions.

Qualified mortgage interest is acquisition debt plus home equity debt not to exceed the maximum amounts. Acquisition debt is the amount of debt incurred to buy, build or improve a first and second home up to $1,000,000. Home equity debt is limited to $100,000 over the current acquisition debt on the combination of a first and second home and may be used for any purpose.

For more information, see your tax advisor or see IRS Publications 523, Selling Your Home and 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.

Not Available For All Buyers

Lenders regularly publish mortgage rates but they may not be available for all buyers.

Imagine that the mortgage payment based on an advertised rate influenced a buyer to make an offer on a home. After negotiating a binding contract, this buyer makes a loan application and finds out that for any number of possible reasons, that rate isn’t available.

Even if the person does financially qualify for a loan at a higher interest rate, it will not be the payment that the buyer expected when the contract was negotiated.

Lenders evaluate several factors such as the borrower’s credit score, debt-to-income and loan-to-value ratios. These variables are used to assess the risk associated with the repayment of the loan.

While mortgage money is a commodity, it isn’t priced the same way items are that involve cash for goods. The lender puts up the money today based on a promise from the borrower to repay over a long term, possibly up to thirty years.

The simple solution to avoid surprises such as the one described here is to get pre-approved at the beginning of the home search process. Since pre-qualification does not mean the same thing to all lenders, call if you’d like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional

Proof of Purchase

People who experience a property loss are usually asked by their insurance company for proof of purchase which can come in the form of a receipt or current inventory of their personal belongings.

Even the most organized people might find it challenging to find receipts for all the valuables in their home. If the inventory isn’t up-to-date, a homeowner might forget to add some items to the claim and may not recognize the omission for long after the claim is settled.

The inventory can serve as a guide to make sure a homeowner gets compensated for all the loss.

Photographs and videos can be adequate proof that the items belonged to the insured. A series of pictures of the different rooms, closets, cabinets and drawers are helpful. When video is used, consider commenting as it is shot and be sure to go slow enough and close enough to things becoming recorded.

For your convenience, download a Home Inventory, complete it, and save a copy off premise. Good places for your inventory could be a safety deposit box or digitally, in the cloud if you have server-based storage available like Dropbox.

 

 

Boomers Are Staying In-Place

There seems to have been an accepted progression for homeowners going from starter home, to gradually moving into one’s dream home, then, downsizing after becoming an empty nester and finally, into a retirement home. However, Marianne Cusato’s 2016 Aging-in-Place Report indicates that many older Americans don’t plan on following that pattern.

61% of homeowners above the age of 55 intend on staying in their homes indefinitely. 2/3 of them believe that the home’s layout will serve their needs without having to make aging-related improvements.

Some of the reasons being cited for staying in place are:

66% say their home is conveniently located
38% say they live close to their family
68% say they feel independent in their home
54% say they are familiar with their neighborhood
66% say the feel safe in their home
Typical renovations that might be considered for their current home are things like grab bars in the tub or shower, shower seats, taller toilets, handheld showerheads and additional handrails on stairways.

It seems that the report’s conclusion is that regardless of a homeowner’s age, they want to thrive in their home. The same emotional reasons that causes a person to want to buy a home are the things that cause them to hold onto them if is practical.