Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Selecting an agent



When a whole lobster was presented at the table of a restaurant, the customer noticed there was only one claw on it.  He asked what happened to the lobster and the waiter said, maybe he lost a fight with another lobster.  The customer replied to the explanation by saying "then, bring me the winner."

There are approximately 1.3 million REALTORS® in the U.S.  The July 2019 Existing Home Sales annualized about 5.4 million units with a listing side and a selling side that totals 10.8 million transactions.  That means that the average number of units sold per agent is 8.

In any given market, 20% of the agents are selling 80% of the homes.  260,000 agents are selling 8,480,000 or an average of 32 transactions sides.  Some markets are dominated by 10% of these successful agents selling 90% of the market.  If that were the case, 130,000 agents are selling 9,720,000 or an average of 75 transactions sides.

The question you should ask yourself is who do you want representing you in the purchase or sale of the largest asset that most people have?  Do you want an average agent, or do you want a powerhouse agent who can provide you the best advice, avoid issues that can cost time, and maximize the results that you expect and deserve?

Finding the right property is listed as the most difficult experienced by buyers (56%), according to the Home Buyers and Sellers Profile, together with the paperwork (20%) and understanding the process and steps (16%) makes these the most important areas of expertise needed when evaluating your agent.

An agent provides valuable services for buyers and sellers during the transaction that can make a difference in finding the "right" home or buyer, negotiating the best terms, and closing on time.  The answers to the following questions can help you decide who to work with in your next purchase or sale.

  • Describe your experience in real estate?
  • What are your personal sales stats compared to the market? (For sellers, list price to sales price ratio, days on market; for buyers, average # of houses shown and closure rate)
  • Describe your strategy to accomplish my needs?
  • Do you have references and/or reviews?
  • What makes you different than your competition?
  • Can you help me find the other professionals and vendors?
  • What is your fee and who pays it?

For more information, download the Sellers Guide and Buyers Guide.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Price It Right the First Time



The Internet has empowered all buyers with information and home buyers are no exception.    The amount of information available to public includes details on size, condition, sales history, current inventory, recent sales, photographs, videos, school info, drive-times, entertainment and much more.

When a seller realizes that buyers are educated with facts, it becomes unlikely that they will pay more than a home is worth. 

If a home is priced too high in the beginning, it may stay on the market longer than normal which could adversely affect the ultimate sales price.  It is a natural reaction from people, personally or professionally, to assume that something must be wrong with a home that doesn't sell in a reasonable time for that market.

The seller is entitled to maximize the equity in their home and pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to achieve that.  Overpricing can reduce buyers activity because they assume that the best homes are purchased soon after they are offered for sale and if one has been on the market longer than normal, there must be a problem with it.  Similarly, sales associates may come to the same conclusion.

After buyers have seen a few homes in a certain price range, they begin to expect similar amenities in each home they look at.  If a home is overpriced, it will not compare favorably with the other homes that are being viewed.  Sometimes, the buyer may even think that another home could be a bargain because it offers much more for the same price as the overpriced listing.

Shopping the market means looking at the homes that meet a buyers' wants and needs and selecting the one that gives them the most, whether it is in price or amenities.  The overpriced listing doesn't compete well, and it extends the market time.  There is a documented study that shows that the longer a home stays on the market, the lower the price will be.

It is essential that a seller receive factual information to price their home to compete favorably in the current market.  Some of the obstacles can include:

  • Failure to objectively compare the current and sold homes with theirs
  • Neighbors who mislead the seller as to how much they got for their home
  • Fear of making a mistake and thinking they can start high and always lower the price
  • Loss of perspective because the seller is emotionally involved
  • Expecting the home to sell for more than fair market value because they need the money
  • Agents who will accept a listing at any price in order to tie up the property until the seller realizes the price is too high

What a seller paid for the home or the cost to rebuild it today do not affect market value.  Neither does the amount spent by sellers on certain improvements that were made for their own pleasure and enjoyment.

It is unrealistic to expect a buyer to pay more than market value for a home.  The seller sets the price of a home but the buyer determines the value.  If the home is priced properly in the beginning, it is more likely to sell for a higher price, in a shorter period and with less problems.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

What every homeowner should know about their property insurance



Insurance is required on a home by the mortgage company, but homeowners rely on it for peace of mind also.  Unfortunately, people may not take the time to investigate their policy and what it covers until they need to file a claim, which could be too late.

While it may not seem like the best use of your time, an in-depth visit with your property insurance agent once a year could be valuable to you if you have losses and could increase your peace of mind.

The following are some questions you can ask your insurance agent:

  • What is the insured value of the policy and the replacement cost of your home?  Insured value is the amount that would be paid for a total loss but replacing the home could cost more than that amount.
  • What is the deductible?  Higher deductibles on the first amount of the loss are one way to lower the cost of the premium.  It may sound good when you're having to pay for the policy but feel very different at the time you file a claim.
  • What does the policy cover? Typical policies cover fire, theft, vandalism and storms.  Homeowner policies bundle personal belongings and some liability coverage.  They can differ not only from company to company but from policy to policy.  Be clear on what is covered.
  • What does it not cover? ... Some perils are usually not covered by policies like hurricane, flooding, power outage, rising water and earthquake.  It can be confusing because a broken pipe might be covered but rising water from backed up sewer is not.
  • What is your anniversary date? ... Policies are usually written for one-year and should be renewed before they expire.  Mortgage companies like to renew them a month before they expire so there will not be a lapse in coverage.  That is why borrowers with escrow accounts for taxes and insurance must fund them accordingly.
  • Is it paid by an escrow account with the mortgage?  New homeowners should verify that their house payment includes 1/12th the annual taxes and insurance so they will not be surprised with a large bill when they become due.
  • Does your policy include liability coverage? ... This covers claims made by third parties of bodily or property damage done by the insured.  It could be as simple as a guest slips and injures themselves in your home.  It is important to know the limits of liability and consider larger amounts especially, if you have a higher net worth or risk profile.
  • What is an umbrella policy? -  This is a separate policy that increases the liability coverage above the limits of the homeowner's policy.  It can be a relatively inexpensive coverage.
  • Are personal belongings included? ... Most homeowners policies include an amount toward personal belongings like furniture, rugs, housewares, and clothes.  It may be expressed as a percentage of the overall policy.  The question is: will it cover your belongings or does it need to be increased?
  • What is the process to file a claim? ... Most claims require proof of purchase or a current inventory of the home.  Since most people don't have receipts except for big ticket items at best, the inventory becomes important.  Videos, still pictures or a detailed list can help to satisfy this need.  Click here for a digital Home Inventory.
  • Are there additional living expenses included? ... Some policies include temporary living expenses if you are displaced from your home. 
  • Does a home office require additional insurance? ... Many homeowners work from their home and have special equipment that may not be covered normally.  If you "meet and greet" people at home, ask about additional liability coverage.
  • Ask about floater policies on big-ticket items? ... Some items like jewelry, furs or collectibles need to be scheduled or covered on a separate policy.

Insurance is meant to give you peace of mind against possible losses that could financially harm you without it.  Because insurance is very specific about what it does and does not cover, it is important that you have a good understanding of your policy.  A policy is a contract between you and the insurance company, and it deserves due consideration.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Want to be a Landlord?



Real estate has consistently been one of the highest rated investments available to individuals.  TV shows certainly make rentals look easy and you may even know someone who has made a lot of money with them.  Possibly, the thought has crossed your mind that if they can do it, you can too.

Before you contract for your first investment, ask yourself some questions that could save you time and energy.  Not all people have the time, the inclination or even the skill to manage property.  Landlords need to be good business people who can maximize revenue and minimize expenses.  If investors don't have the skills and talent to handle some of the repairs, they at least need to know reputable and reasonable service professionals.

Another important element is to be familiar with the state and local landlord tenant laws.  You'll need to know what are allowable security deposits and where the money can be held.  Knowing how long you have to return it to a tenant is important and what to do if you plan to keep all or part of it for damages done.  It is important to know about the eviction process and how fair housing applies.

If you decide that you may not be cut out for being a landlord, it won't eliminate investing in rentals.  It does mean that you will need to engage a property management company who is capable of dealing with all aspects of the process.  The peace of mind and convenience will cost you a fee, usually a percentage of the rent collected.  They can handle finding a tenant, doing the background check and writing the lease but there will be an additional fee for that service.

Even though your expenses will be higher with a property manager, with their experience, they should be able to help you lease the property for more money than you can get and will probably have service providers to do the work needed for less.

Occasionally, rental property requires out of pocket expenses for repairs and improvements which is like making another capital contribution.  As equity builds in a rental property due to appreciation and principal reduction, the owner does have the option to take cash out of the investment either to pay additional expenses or to use any way the owner wants.  Pulling equity out of a rental doesn't even trigger a taxable event.

Single-family homes and up to four-unit buildings offer an investor the opportunity to get a high loan-to-value mortgage at a fixed interest rate for 30 years on appreciating assets with tax advantages and reasonable control compared to other alternative investments.

Many investors like the fact that you can borrow to purchase a rental investment where many other investments require cash.  The use of borrowed funds can create an advantage called leverage.  Assume you paid cash for a $100,000 home that generated $7,000 income after the rent was collected and expenses were paid.  Divide the value of the home into the income and it would earn 7%.

If you decided to put an $80,000 mortgage on it at 5% interest, the interest expense would be $4,000 leaving only $3,000 income.  However, at that point, you'd only have $20,000 invested in the property.  Divide the cash invested into the income and the rate of return would increase to 15%.

This is a simple example of leverage showing that borrowed funds can increase an investor's yield on a property.

Rental property can be an excellent investment when it is treated like the business that it is.  Knowledge of the investment will reduce the risk and enhance the opportunity to make a profit.  Some investors consider their rental income as "mailbox money" because each month, they go to their mailbox and they have money being sent to them by their tenants.  The benefits of rental property can easily outweigh risk involved.

Contact me for more information on rental properties and the option to be the landlord or to delegate it to a property manager.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Money You Saved for a Down Payment



Occasionally, buyers who can qualify to purchase a home decide to "take a break" and wait to purchase a home.  When the focus of buying a home is relaxed, other uses for the money that was going to be used for the home are considered.

Maybe they think how much fun it would be to have a Sea Doo or a motorcycle or a new car.  It is amazing how many people would like to buy a home but either don't have the down payment, the income or the good credit to make it possible.

Instead of spending the money, consider investing the money for two years until the time is right to buy a home.  Let's look at putting the money in a certificate of deposit that earns 2% or in the stock market that could average a 5% return.

Assume you were purchasing a $295,000 home on a FHA loan with 3.5% down payment.  The $10,325 would grow to $10,742 in the CD which isn't a big increase but at least it is safe and secure, and it will be available when you're ready.

If the same amount were invested in a safe stock or mutual fund that earned 5%, it would grow to $11,383 in the same two-year period.  It earns more but there is more risk involved.

Your Best Investment

 

CD

Stock Market

Home

Cash to Invest

$10,325

$10,325

$10,325

Wealth Position

$10,742

$11,383

$38,871

Profit Taxed as

Ordinary Income

Long-term capital gains

§121 exclusion applies

 

Alternatively, if you invest the same amount in purchasing a home that appreciates at 3% a year, the equity would be $38,871 two years from now.  The dramatic increase is due to leverage, being able to control a large asset with a small amount of cash.  The appreciation is based on the purchase price not the down payment.

Another factor is that there is principal reduction with each payment that is made.

Make your own projections with Your Best Investment.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Downsizing is an Alternative



It is estimated that over 15% of the population in the U.S. are over 65 years of age.  With one of the most common fears of seniors being their money will run out early, it is understandable that downsizing may be strategy to meet their goals.

Once the kids are grown, have careers, relationships and get a place of their own, parents find they may not need their "big" home like they did before.  In other situations, their lifestyle might have changed, and the house just doesn't "fit" anymore.

The benefits of a smaller home can include the following:

  • Easier to maintain
  • Lower utilities
  • Lower property taxes
  • Lower insurance
  • More convenient location
  • Single level
  • Possibly more energy efficient
  • Possibly lower maintenance

Like any other big change in life, it is recommended that a person should take their time to consider the possible alternatives and outcomes.  Are they going to stay in the same area?  What type of property would suit their needs for the future?

The tax-free exclusion allows a homeowner to take up to $250,000 of gain for single taxpayers and up to $500,000 for married taxpayers.  Part or all of this could be used to generate income for retirement.  Other uses for the equity could include paying off other debt, taking the trip of a lifetime or making a special gift.

There will be expenses involved in selling a home as well as the purchase of a new home.  These will lower the amount of net proceeds you'll have to invest in the new home.

Homeowners should consult their tax professionals to see how this applies to their situation.  Please contact me at (703) 878-4866 or Bob@Military-RealEstate.com if you have any questions about what your home is worth or how long it might take to sell it.  Other things that could be of value are our Homeowners Tax Guide or Sellers Guide.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Steps in Home Buying Process



The process of buying a home can be different based on the price range and whether a mortgage is needed.  While some things are different, others are similar regardless of price, financing or local customs.

Each year, the National Association of REALTORS® surveys buyers and sellers who have purchased or sold in the previous twelve months in order to identify the process and steps taken.  It provides a lot of information for the people who will be going through the process now and in the near future.

44% of all buyers looked online for properties for sale.  This might be considered a logical first step to determine the prices of homes in certain areas and what features they offered.

17% of all buyers stated that their next step was to contact a real estate agent.  In another REALTOR study, it is reported that 87% of all buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker.  Buyers identify a wide range of services the agents offer that is considered valuable in the purchase of a home.

The next step identified by most buyers is to look online for information about the home buying process.  In many cases, agents share this information in their first substantial meeting but since it is identified as the third highest steps taken by buyers, some people may not be getting adequate information from their agents or they are verifying the process as explained to them.

The fourth step identified by buyers is to contact a bank or mortgage lender.  The position this step takes place is interesting because many real estate professionals suggest that it be one of the first things buyers should do.  The reason is to find out how much mortgage they can qualify for, so they are looking for homes in the right price range.  This can save a lot of time and frustration.

The three next highest steps included driving by homes and neighborhoods, talking with a friend or relative about the home buying process and visiting open houses.

The buyers in this study mentioned that they depended on several sources for information during the home search.  The most frequently used were online website, their real estate agent, mobile search device, open houses and yard signs.

The three most difficult steps listed were finding the right property, the paperwork and understanding the process and steps.

You can download a Buyers Guide that has a lot of interesting information.  We have an array of Financial Apps that can provide insight on things like Rent vs. Own, Mortgage Payment and Your Best Investment.  And of course, I'd be happy to schedule an appointment with you to go over all these things and talk to you about finding your next home.  Call me at (703) 878-4866.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Invest in Equity Build-up



Equity build-up could be one of the biggest advantages to buying a home.  There are two distinct dynamics that take place to make this happen: each house payment applies an amount to reduce the mortgage owed and appreciation causes the value of the home to go up.

It is easy to make a projection based on the type of mortgage you get and your estimation of appreciation over the time you expect to own the home.  Even conservative estimates can produce impressive results.

Let's look at an example of a home with a $270,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years and a total payment of $2,047.55 payment including principal, interest, taxes and insurance.  The average monthly principal reduction for the first year is $362.98. If you assume a 3% appreciation on the $300,000 home, the average monthly appreciation is $750 a month.

The total payment of $2,047.55 less $1,112.98 for principal reduction and appreciation makes the net monthly cost of housing, excluding tax benefits, $934.57.  If this hypothetical person was paying $2,500 in rent, it would cost them $1,565.43 more to rent than to own.  In the first year, it would cost them over $18,000 more to rent.

Together, the items in this example contribute over $1,100 to the equity in the home .  This is one of the reasons a home is considered forced savings.  By making your house payments and enjoying increases in value, the equity grows and the net cost of housing decreases by the same amount. 

In this same example, the $30,000 down payment grows to $133,991 in equity in seven years.  While this is equity build-up, the extraordinary growth is attributed to leverage.  Leverage is an investment principle involving the use of borrowed funds to control an asset.

To see what your net cost of housing and the effect of leverage will have on a home in your price range, see the Rent vs. Own.  If you have questions or need assistance, contact me at (703) 878-4866.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

America Still Considers Real Estate the Best



35% of respondents, in a recent annual Gallup poll that dates back to 2002, identified real estate as the best long-term investment option compared to 27% who identified stocks.

The top choices included real estate, stocks, savings accounts and gold.  Even with the remarkable prices of the different U.S. stock indices recorded in 2019 through April and May, homes have the highest confidence in the minds of the respondents.

This seems to be based on the stability of the housing market and the expectation that home prices will continue to rise.  Homeowners build equity from both appreciation as well as reducing principal with each payment made. These same factors exist for investors of rental homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods.

Real estate has another dynamic working to produce favorable investment results due to leverage.  Leverage occurs when borrowed funds are used to control an asset.  When the borrowed funds are at a lower rate than the overall investment results, positive leverage occurs which can increase the yield from an all cash investment.

Gold and savings accounts must be funded with cash.  The maximum borrowed funds allowed for stocks is 50% and generally, at a rate higher than typical mortgage rates.

Homes are a particularly attractive investment because you can enjoy them personally by living in them.  The interest and property taxes are deductible and gains on the profit are excluded up $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. 

Many people consider an investment in a home for a rental property an IDEAL investment: Income, Depreciation, Equity Build-up & Leverage.

If you have questions or are curious about the process, contact me at Bob@Military-RealEstate.com or (703) 878-4866.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Determining Property Type



The Internal Revenue Service considers four different types of real estate.  Specific types of properties have benefits based on their classification.  The determination does not depend on the property itself as much as it depends on how the property is used and what the owner's intentions are.

Principal Residence ... a principal residence is the place a person lives or expects to return if they are temporarily away from it.  It could be a single family, detached home or condominium or a duplex, tri-plex or four-unit.  The owner(s) can deduct the qualified mortgage interest and property taxes on the schedule A of their tax return.  There is a capital gains exclusion on profit of up to $250,000 for a single taxpayer and up to $500,000 for a married taxpayer. 

Income Property - is improved property that is rented or leased to tenants as opposed to using it personally.  It can include houses and condos, apartment buildings, office complexes, shopping centers, warehouses and other commercial buildings.  Depreciation is allowed on the improvements.  For property held more than one year, the profits are taxed at long-term capital gains rates.  This type of property is eligible for a tax deferred exchange.

Investment Property ... can be raw land or improved property that is not rented or leased.  This property is not subject to depreciation.  If the property is held for more than one year, the profits are taxed at long-term capital gains rates.  It is also eligible for a tax deferred exchange. 

Dealer Property ... this type of property is primarily considered inventory because the intention is to sell it without intentionally holding it for more than a year.  It could be new construction such as a home builder.  It could be an investor who buys a property and expects to sell it for more.  There is not a requirement to make improvements.  The profits on dealer property are taxed as ordinary, "sweat of the brow" income.  Dealer properties cannot be exchanged.

A second home is like a principal residence in that you can deduct the interest and property taxes on your Schedule A, up to the limits.  A second home, as well as a principal residence, can be rented out up to 14-days a year without threatening the status of the property.  Seconds homes are not eligible for exchange because personal use properties are not allowed.  A second home is not a principal residence and profits are taxed like an investment property.  If you own it for more than a year, it is taxed at long-term capital gains rates.

Vacation homes are rented for more than 14 days a year and are like income property but with some additional rules that apply.  If your personal use is 14 days or less or 10% of the time it is rented, your expenses can be deducted in excess of income.  If you use it for more than 14 days or more than 10% of the number of days it is rented, it is considered personal use and your expenses are limited to the amount of income collected with no losses being deductible.

Taxpayers can strategically change the property type based on their intentions.  A principal residence can be converted to income property.  Dealer property could become a principal residence.  A rental property could become a principal residence.

Professional tax advice is always recommended to be able to understand the information and how it applies to your specific situation.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Get Leverage Working for You

Leverage is an investment term that describes the use of borrowed funds to control an asset; sometimes referred to as using other people's money.  Borrowed funds can affect the investment in your home positively.

For instance, if you had a $100,000 rental property, collected the rents and paid the expenses and had $10,000 left, you would earn a 10% return (divide the $10,000 by the $100,000.)  With no loan on the property, there is no leverage.

If you decided to get an 80% mortgage at 8%, you would owe an additional $6,400 in expenses leaving you only $3,600 net.  However, your return would grow to 18% because your investment is now $20,000 in cash (divide the $3,600 by $20,000.)

Leverage, the use of borrowed funds, causes the return to increase in this example.  While, most people associate leverage with rental properties, it also applies to a home.  The larger the mortgage, the more leverage you have.  A FHA mortgage with a 3.5% down payment has more leverage than an 80% loan.

Assume we're looking at a $295,000 purchase price with 3% closing costs and a 4.5% mortgage for 30 years with a five-year holding period.  The following table shows the return based on different down payments and appreciation rates.  The initial investment is the down payment plus closing costs.  The equity build-up at end of year five is the result of normal principal reduction and appreciation.

Down Payment

1% Appreciation

2% Appreciation

3% Appreciation

3.5%

21%

28%

34%

10%

12%

17%

21%

20%

7%

10%

13%

Another way to look at the 3.5% down payment example with 3% appreciation would be to say that a $10,325 down payment plus $8,850 in closing costs could grow into $82,482 of equity in a five-year period producing a 34% rate of return on the initial investment.

Estimate what your initial investment could grow to using this Rent vs. Own.  If you need any help, let me know at (703) 878-4866 or Bob@Military-RealEstate.com.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Delay Will Usually Cost More

Two things can happen when the mortgage rates go up before you've found a home or locked-in your mortgage.  You'll either pay the current mortgage rate which means a higher payment, or you'll have to increase your down payment to keep the monthly payment at the same level.

If the rate were to go up by ½%, the payment on a $275,000 mortgage would increase by $82.87 per month for the entire 30-year term.  That would increase the cost of the home by $29,835.

Some people are purchasing the maximum home that they can qualify for.  In that case, they cannot qualify for a higher payment and the only way to buy the same price home is to put more money down which may not be a possibility.  The other alternative is to buy a lower price home which may not be in the same area or size which will involve some compromises.

The rate is not the only dynamic that affects buyers waiting to purchase.  The home they want could sell to someone else.  Prices could increase as new homes come on the market.  The question that many buyers ask themselves when they become a victim of the consequences of delay is "What could we have spent the money on if we didn't have to make a higher payment?"

Mortgage rates are very attractive currently and within ½% of the all time low of 3.35% in December 2012.  The highest rate was 18.45% in October 1981.  Whether you're purchasing or refinancing, it may not be this low again.

To see how it will affect the payment, plug your numbers into this Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator or call me at (703) 878-4866 and I'll help you with it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Measuring Square Footage

Square footage is commonly used to determine if a home will fit a buyer's needs.  The price per square foot can be used to compare the costs of different homes and even, determine the value of a property.

The challenge is what is the source of the square footage measurement and how was it done.

County records use square footage to determine assessed value for property tax purposes.  They are assumed to be reliable but there can be inaccuracies in their tax rolls.  Another source of square footage could be from the house plans but the problem there is that the builder may have made modifications, or a subsequent owner could have made additions.

Appraisers are required to measure the home to determine square footage and they generally, adhere to a standard method which leads to uniformity in the industry.  The ANSI, American National Standards Institute, guidelines are considered the standard but there are no laws governing the process.

Because basements are below grade level, regardless of whether they are finished, they are typically not counted toward gross living area.  Attics because they are above grade level can be included in gross living area if they are finished to the same standard as the rest of the home and they meet the minimum height requirement of seven feet.

Unfinished areas are usually not considered in the square footage because it is not livable.

For detached properties, it is common to measure the perimeter of the house but to only include the living areas, not porches, patios or garages.  Gross living area includes stairways, hallways, closets with minimum height and bathrooms.  Covered, enclosed porches would only be considered if they use the same heating system as the house.

By contrast, condominiums, generally measure the inside area of the unit. Some appraisers may add six inches to account for the wall thickness.  If you were to compare the total of the interior room measurements of a detached home, it would be far less than the stated square footage using the normal method.

If the county records are significantly different from the appraisal or the plans, it will be necessary to determine which one is more accurate.  This may require getting the home measured by an appraiser which should be less than paying for a complete appraisal.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Checking for Water Leaks

Aside from standing water in your yard or water running out from under a sink, the first indication that you might have a water leak comes from a larger than normal water bill.  Before calling a leak specialist or a plumber, there is a simple diagnostic you can perform.

Go through your home and make certain that all the faucets are turned off and that the toilets have indeed stopped filling the reserve.  Then, go to the water meter and make a mark on the lens where the dial is currently.  If there is water in the meter box, the meter itself could be leaking.

If the meter is still turning, the leak is between the meter and the house. By inspecting the area between the meter and the house, you can look for soft, muddy areas or grass that is greener than the rest of the yard.

One of the hardest places to isolate a leak is in a swimming pool.  If you have an automatic filler, like in a toilet, you'll need to turn it off.  Mark the water line on the wall and wait to see if the water level goes down.  There will be a certain amount attributable to evaporation.

Some leaks can be very difficult to locate.  Plumbers, by the very nature of their job, will be more familiar with tracking down the source of the leak than a homeowner.  There are some non-invasive techniques like acoustic listening devices, heat scanners and miniature video cameras on fiber optics that professionals can use.

Leaks can be expensive from the loss of water and the resulting damage that it can cause.  Determining where the location of the leak can also cause damage because plumbing is usually concealed in walls or under concrete. For particularly difficult to locate leaks, discuss how the professional intends to locate the leak and minimize damage in the process.

Checking for Water Leaks

Aside from standing water in your yard or water running out from under a sink, the first indication that you might have a water leak comes from a larger than normal water bill.  Before calling a leak specialist or a plumber, there is a simple diagnostic you can perform.

Go through your home and make certain that all the faucets are turned off and that the toilets have indeed stopped filling the reserve.  Then, go to the water meter and make a mark on the lens where the dial is currently.  If there is water in the meter box, the meter itself could be leaking.

If the meter is still turning, the leak is between the meter and the house. By inspecting the area between the meter and the house, you can look for soft, muddy areas or grass that is greener than the rest of the yard.

One of the hardest places to isolate a leak is in a swimming pool.  If you have an automatic filler, like in a toilet, you'll need to turn it off.  Mark the water line on the wall and wait to see if the water level goes down.  There will be a certain amount attributable to evaporation.

Some leaks can be very difficult to locate.  Plumbers, by the very nature of their job, will be more familiar with tracking down the source of the leak than a homeowner.  There are some non-invasive techniques like acoustic listening devices, heat scanners and miniature video cameras on fiber optics that professionals can use.

Leaks can be expensive from the loss of water and the resulting damage that it can cause.  Determining where the location of the leak can also cause damage because plumbing is usually concealed in walls or under concrete. For particularly difficult to locate leaks, discuss how the professional intends to locate the leak and minimize damage in the process.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Building Equity

Owning a home is the first step to building equity.  Tenants build equity but not for themselves; they build it for the owners.

Equity is the difference in the value of the home and what is owed on the home.  There are two dynamics that cause this to grow: appreciation and principal reduction.

As the home increases in value, it is said to appreciate.  Various authorities will annualize an appreciation rate based on average sales prices from one year to the next.  Since appreciation is based on supply and demand as well as economic conditions, it will not be the same year after year. 

If you looked at a ten to twelve-year period, some would be higher than others and there may even be some individual years that it is flat or even declined.  For the most part, values tend to appreciate over time.

Most mortgages are amortized which means that a portion of the payment each month is applied to the principal in order to pay off the loan by the end of the term.  A $300,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years has $395.06 applied to the principal with the first payment.  A slightly larger amount is applied to the principal each following month until the loan is paid with the 360th payment.

If additional principal payments are made, it will save interest, build equity faster and shorten the term of the mortgage.  Using the previous example, if an additional $250.00 principal contribution was made with each payment, it would only take 270 payments to retire the loan instead of 360.  It would save $69,305 in interest and shorten the mortgage by 7.5 years.

To see the dynamics of equity due to appreciation and principal reduction, look at the Rent vs. Own.  To see the effect of making additional principal contributions on your equity, look at the Equity Accelerator.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Taxes and the Homeowner

Whether you're an owner now or expect to be one in the future, it is important to be familiar with the federal tax laws that affect homeownership.  Since personal income tax was enacted in 1913 with the 16th amendment, homes have had preferential treatment.

The mortgage interest deduction is based on up to $750,000 of acquisition debt used to buy, build or improve a principal residence.  In addition to the interest, the property taxes are deductible, limited to the new $10,000 limit on the aggregate of state and local taxes (SALT).  The taxpayer may also deduct interest and property taxes subject to limits on a second home.

Homeowners can decide each year whether to take itemized personal deductions or the allowable standard deduction which was significantly increased under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Single taxpayers may exclude up to $250,000 of capital gain on the sale of their home and up to $500,000 if married filing jointly.  They must have owned and lived in the home for at least two of the last five years.  For gains more than these amounts, a lower, long-term capital gains rate is paid rather than one's ordinary income tax rate.

Capital improvements made to a home will increase the basis and lower the gain.  Homeowners are probably familiar that large dollar expenses like roofs, appliances or major remodeling are capital improvements.  However, many lower dollar items may also be considered improvements if they materially add value or extend the life of the property or adapts a portion of the home to a new use. 

Homeowners are urged to keep records of money they spend on the home that they own over the years so that their tax professional can decide at the time of sale what they must report to IRS.

You can download a helpful Homeowners Tax Guide that explains in more detail and includes a worksheet to keep track of the basis of your home and capital improvements.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Show Them You're Serious

June and July are the busiest home sale months of the year. When inventory is in short supply and you may be competing with other offers, it is important to show the seller you're serious. Make your offer look as good as possible because you may not get the chance to make or accept a counter-offer.

Put yourself in the seller's shoes.  Your home has just gone on the market.  There is lots of activity and suddenly, there is more than one offer to purchase.  The seller's first consideration may be to accept the highest offer but there are many other things to consider like closing dates, closing costs, possible repairs, contingencies and of course, the ability of the borrower to get a loan.

Offer a fair price for the property in your initial purchase agreement.  It shows sincerity and good faith that you're actually trying to purchase the home and not trying to take advantage of the seller.  The old adage that you can always go up later may never happen if there are multiple offers on the property in the beginning.

  1. Remove the uncertainty that you may not be approved for a mortgage by having a pre-approval letter from your mortgage company.
  2. Show your sincerity by increasing the normal amount of earnest money customary for the area and price of the home.  The earnest money will be applied toward your down payment and closing costs.  Consider placing even more money in escrow when the contingencies have been met.
  3. Specify a closing date in the contract but acknowledge that you can be flexible to accommodate the sellers' moving date.  If it becomes an issue, it still must be mutually agreed upon.
  4. Make the contingency periods shorter if possible to make the seller feel that they'll know sooner that the offer is solid.
  5. If the contingency really isn't important to you, leave it out of the offer.  The more contingencies included in a contract, the more the seller will wonder what might happen to keep it from closing.
  6. Write a personal note to the seller explaining why you like and want their home.  Consider including a picture of your family and pets.
  7. If you're not using a digital contract, physically sign the offer with a felt tip pen of contrasting color.  You'd be surprised how this adds a personal touch to the offer.

One way to eliminate the competition of multiple offers is by not procrastinating.  When you have decided to write a contract, don't wait; do it immediately and ask your agent to deliver it quickly.  Your agent will be able to help you craft a solid offer that makes you look serious and can give you advice that may be unique to your situation.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Free Home Buyer Seminar This Saturday

Join me this Saturday, June 22 10am - 12:30pm at the Woodbridge Campus of Strayer University. You'll receive a FREE credit report; closing cost discounts; a home buyer feasibility analysis; and a wealth of reference material!

To learn more visit my website for my complete schedule of FREE seminars.
http://bit.ly/junehbs

 #homebuyers #northernvirginiahomes #firsthome #novahomes4sale 

Open House Sunday June 23! $605,675 16569 Space More Cir #16569, Woodbridge, VA 22191

Just Listed!
MLS# PW30585225    - $605,675
16569 Space More Cir #16569, Woodbridge, VA 22191

**OPEN HOUSE SUNDAY JUNE 23 1PM - 4PM** Fantastic three-level executive home in Port Potomac. Brick and vinyl siding exterior. Extra large two car garage with openers. Stunning hardwood floors on main and upper levels with new upgraded carpeting. Entire home has been freshly painted. Two story foyer with double wooden staircase. Large two story family room with a gas fireplace. Entire home is full of windows, which makes it bright and airy. Large formal dining room and cozy living room both have stunning hardwood floors. The office adjacent to the family room has a large closet and could be used as a bedroom. Gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and upgraded appliances. Lots of room in the kitchen for multiple cooks! Master bedroom is very large with adjacent bathroom. Two walk-in closets. The lower level is fully finished except for a large storage room. New carpeting and walkout to rear yard. 

Open House Saturday, June 22! $395,000 690 Hope Rd, Stafford, VA 22554

Just Listed!
MLS# PW30116218   - $395,000 
690 Hope Rd, Stafford, VA 22554











**OPEN HOUSE SAT JUNE 22 10AM - 2 PM** Spectacular split foyer country home on 1.5 acres, backing to woods! Includes shed with generator. Newer windows and roof (2015). Upgraded stainless steel appliances and large screened room under deck. Two fireplaces. Very close to marina. Motivated sellers - quick settlement possible!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Don't Leave Home Without...

You've been planning this trip for some time and almost every detail has been considered...or has it?  Have you thought about how to protect your home while you're out of town?  What's going to make sure that everything you left is still there in you return?

Nothing could ruin a trip more than coming back to find out your home has been burglarized or worse.  It makes sense to spend a little time before you leave on making sure your home is as safe and sound as it can be.

There are a host of devices to use across the Internet including camera door bells, video cameras, door locks, garage door openers, light and thermostat controls.  You can monitor your home whenever you have an Internet connection.  The question is whether you want the distraction from your trip.

Consider these low-tech suggestions along with your other normal efforts:

  • Tell your neighbors you'll be out of town and to be aware of any unusual activity.
  • Notify your alarm company
  • Discontinue your postal delivery
  • Use timers on interior lights to make it appear you're home as usual.
  • Don't make it easy for burglars by leaving messages on voice mail or posting on social networks.
  • Post on social networks after you've returned about your vacation.
  • Remove the hidden spare keys and give it to a trusted neighbor or friend.
  • Lock everything, double-check and set the alarm.
  • Take pictures of your belongings in case you need them.
  • Disconnect TVs and other equipment in case of unexpected power surges.
  • Adjust your thermostat.
  • Arrange for lawn care.
  • Consider disconnecting the garage door opener.
  • Put irreplaceable valuables in a safety deposit box.

It's nice to go out of town on a well-deserved trip and it's always nice to get back home...especially when it is just the way you left it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

FREE Home Seller Seminar this Saturday!

Join me at 10 am this Saturday, June 8th at the Woodbridge Campus of Strayer University. This seminar is packed with information for the prospective home seller. No obligation. A wealth of reference material will be provided.

#northernvirginiahomes #novahomes4sale #homesellers

Attendees receive:
Discount On Settlement Expenses
Free Credit Report
Free Home Market Analysis

It's a good time to sell!
To learn more visit my website for my complete schedule of FREE seminars.
http://bit.ly/seller-seminar-june


Temporarily Renting a Home

IRS has provisions for homeowners regarding the sale of a principal residence that allows for temporarily renting the home without losing the ability to exclude the gain if the home is sold under the correct conditions.

The rules for the exclusion of gain on the sale of a principal residence are:

  • Up to $250,000 of gain may be excluded for single taxpayers and up to $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.
  • Ownership and Use must have been a principal residence for two of the five years preceding the date of sale (closing date).  This allows for a temporary rental for up to three years maximum.
  • Either spouse may meet the ownership test.
  • Both spouses must meet the use test.
  • No exclusion has been used in the previous 24-month period.

Let's pretend that a person had owned a home from more than two years.  This person married and moved into their new spouse's home two years, six months ago.  That person decided to sell the home and would have approximately $200,000 of gain in the sale.

If the property is put on the market, sold and closed prior to the three-years that they moved out, the home would still be eligible for the section 121 exclusion on the sale of a principal residence.  If the sales closes after that three-year period, the owner would owe tax on the gain.  If the long-term capital gains rate for the owner was 15%, they would owe approximately $30,000 in taxes.

If you or a person you know is in a situation like this, they should certainly seek professional tax advice as well as discussing the marketing and value of the property with their real estate professional.  This is something that I have experience with; call me at (703) 878-4866.  The timing is very important and critical to a favorable outcome.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Time to Buy Again

For people who have experienced a distressed sale of a home and gotten their finances and credit back in shape, there can still be an unanswered question of "How long do we have to wait to qualify for another mortgage."  The loan types for the new loan will differ in amounts of time based on the event. 

The different lending authorities, VA, FHA, Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FHLMC), establish their own waiting periods.  A borrower may be eligible to qualify for one type of mortgage before another type, even though during this waiting period, that the person was current on all payments and maintained a history of good credit.

The following chart indicates how long a person might have to wait.

waiting period for distressed sales.png

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.

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 (703) 878-4866 for lender recommendations.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tech to Find the Right Home

According to the 2018 Profile of Buyers and Sellers, 52% of buyers want help to find the right home to purchase.  Physically locating the home is certainly part of what buyers want from their agent but finding the right home at the right price and terms is also crucial.

87% of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker.  Slightly more than half of buyers were referred to their real estate professional by/or is a friend or relative or had used the agent previously to buy or sell a home.

There are tech tools that can be used together with the expertise and experience of your real estate professional to make the home buying process efficient and effective.

Listing Alert ... while this service is called by other names, the buyer identifies the specifics about the home they want, and it will notify them directly when a new listing comes on the market that matches their needs.

Real estate smartphone apps ... imagine driving a neighborhood, seeing a sign and immediately being able to know the price and specifics about the home; very convenient.  There are a variety of different apps available such as Homesnap, and others, ask your agent for their recommendation before installing one.

Digital documents ... companies like DocuSign have revolutionized real estate negotiations by doing everything digitally so that you're not going back and forth between the parties signing and initialing changes.  It is safe and secure and your agent will handle this end of it for you.

ColorSnap Visualizer ... this Sherwin Williams app for iPad allows you to paint walls on a picture, match photos to find paint colors and other things before you commit to a color.

Google maps ... plug in an address on Google Maps and you see street view of the home, satellite view, surrounding businesses, traffic speed and other things.

Sex Offender Registry ... NSOPW, the National Sex Offender Public Website is a safety resource that provides the public with access to sex offender data nationwide.

Financial Calculators ... fill in the blank applications that can illustrate the benefits of renting vs. owning, Equity Accelerator, Adjustable Rate Comparison, Cost of Waiting to Buy and many other homeowner situations.

Free Public Records Directory - OnlineSearches provides access to public record sources like deeds and assessor and property tax records.  While this service is free, some state and county agencies may charge fees for accessing public records.

Virtual open house ... an alternative to physically viewing a home is to look at the multiple photos online.  If the property is interesting, you can schedule a physical showing with your agent.

Check your credit ... Order free credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion each once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

The final recommendation is your phone.  When you have a question, contact your agent.  Calling another agent may seem like an expedient way to get an answer, especially if you cannot get a hold of your agent but it could inadvertently, cause issues.

Your real estate professional can assist you with these and other tools to help you find the right home.  If you have any questions, feel free to call us at <phone>.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Comfort Systems

Heating and air-conditioning are frequently referred to as the "comfort systems."  If one has gone out in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, lack of comfort becomes a primary concern.  Regular maintenance with a HVAC checklist is something that homeowners can do themselves to ensure that the units operate properly.

Periodically

  • Change your filter every 90 days; every 30 days if you have shedding pets. 
  • Maintain at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
  • Don't allow leaves, grass clippings, lint or other things to block circulation of coils.
  • Inspect insulation on refrigerant lines leading into house monthly and replace if missing or damaged.

Annually, in spring

  • Confirm that outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps are on level pads.
  • Pour bleach in the air conditioner's condensation drain to clear mold and algae which can cause a clog.
  • Avoid closing more than 20% of a home's registers to keep from overworking the system.
  • Replace the battery in the home's carbon monoxide detector.


While using this list will prevent some things that may impede the comfort system's proper performance, it is recommended that you have your units serviced annually by a licensed contractor.  Furnaces should also be inspected for carbon monoxide leaks. Preventative maintenance may help avoid costly repairs.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Home Warranty Can Save Money

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 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 (703) 878-4866.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

iBuyers - Convenient at a Price

There are an increasing number of real estate companies, termed iBuyers, like Open Door, Offerpad, Zillow, Knock and others that market a service that has an appeal to homeowners.  The pitch for these quick cash offer companies will include some variation of "let us buy your home in days without the normal hassles of listing."

This approach attempts to provide an alternative to selling a home in a normal manner at the expense of not realizing the full equity a homeowner is entitled. There is no fiduciary relationship requiring the broker to put a seller's best interest above their own interest.  An iBuyer does not represent a seller and does not owe client-level services like loyalty, obedience disclosure among other things required by most state license laws.

The offer is based on an automated valuation model, many times, without a physical inspection of the home.  In some cases, a contract is written but there are provisions that allow iBuyers time to possibly "flip" the property to an investor or use an "out" in the contract to void the sale.

The reality is that a company cannot stay in business if they pay too much for the property.  The iBuyer becomes the Seller who now must be concerned with pricing the home properly to cover the normal selling expenses as well as repairs, improvements, and holding costs that will be incurred until the property sells.

There could be circumstances that make it necessary for a homeowner to sell their home at a discount.  The seller could be in a distressed situation needing immediate cash.  They might need a quick sale and don't want to be bothered with repairs or marketing efforts.  Or possibly, they may have found their next home   and need to act quickly. The instant liquidity comes at a cost to the seller in lower proceeds from the sale.

To realize the maximum possible equity, a real estate professional in your area can advise you about the fair market value of your home, a reasonably expected sales price, the costs involved and how long it will take.  Before accepting a price to sell your home to a wholesaler, you owe it to yourself and your family to find out what you can expect if you take a conventional sales route.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

One Loan for Purchase & Renovations

The FNMA HomeStyle conventional mortgage allows a buyer to purchase a home that needs renovations and include them in the financing.  This facilitates the purchase of the home and the renovations in one loan rather than getting a separate second mortgage or home equity line of credit.

The combination of these loans should save closing costs as well as interest rates which would typically be higher on a home improvement loan.

The borrower will need to have an itemized, written bid from a contractor covering the scope of the improvements.  Any type of renovation or repair is eligible if it is a permanent part of the property.  Improvements must be completed within 12 months from the date the mortgage loan is delivered.

  • 15 and 30-year fixed rate and eligible adjustable rate loans are available.
  • Typical FNMA down payments are available starting as low as 3% for a one-unit principal residence to 25% for three and four-unit principal residence and one-unit investment properties.
  • Borrower must choose his or her own contractor to perform the renovation.
  • Lender must review the contractor hired by the borrower to determine if they are adequately qualified and experienced for the work being performed. The Contractor Profile Report (Form 1202) can be used to assist the lender in making this determination.
  • Borrowers must have a construction contract with their contractor. Fannie Mae has a model Construction Contract (Form 3734) that may be used to document the construction contract between the borrower and the contractor.
  • Plans and specifications must be prepared by a registered, licensed, or certified general contractor, renovation consultant, or architect. The plans and specifications should fully describe all work to be done and provide an indication of when various jobs or stages of completion will be scheduled (including both the start and job completion dates)

Up to 50% of the renovation funds may be advanced for the cost of materials after the closing of the loan.

This mortgage does have a provision for the borrower to do a portion of the work themselves if it doesn't exceed 10% of the total project and it must pass inspection on completion just as the contractor's work.

It is recommended that borrowers thoroughly research this program before they commit to a loan.  For detailed information, see FNMA HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage and Selling Guide Announcement SEL-2017-02.   It is important to work with a mortgage officer who is familiar with these loans who can guide you through the process.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Get Rid of Things You Don't Need

Periodically, you need to rid yourself of things that are taking up you time and space to make room for more of what you like and want.

There's a frequently quoted suggestion that if you haven't used something for two years, maybe it isn't essential in your life. 

If you have books you'll never read again, give them to someone who will.  If you have a deviled egg plate that hasn't been used since the year your Aunt Phoebe gave it to you, it's out of there.  Periodically, go through every closet, drawer, cabinet, room and storage area to get rid of the things that are just taking up space in your home and your life.

Every item receives the decision to keep or get rid of.  Consider these questions as you judge each item:

  • When was the last time you used it?
  • Do you believe you'll use it again?
  • Is there a sentimental reason to keep it?

You have four options for the things that you're not going to keep. 

  1. Give it to someone who needs it or will appreciate it
  2. Sell it in a garage sale or on Craig's List.
  3. Donate it to a charity and receive a tax deduction
  4. Discard it to the trash.

Start with your closet.  If you haven't worn something in five years, get rid of it.  Then, go through the things again and if you haven't worn it in two years, ask yourself the real probability that you'll wear it again.

Another way to do it is to move it from your active closet to another closet.  If a year goes by in the other closet, the next time you go through this exercise, those clothes are on their way out.

If the items taking up space are financial records and receipts, the solution may be to scan them and store them in the cloud.  There are plenty of sites that will offer you several gigabytes of free space and it may cost as little as $10 a month for 100 GB at Dropbox, to get the additional space you need.  It will certainly be cheaper than the mini-storage building.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Qualified Charitable Contribution

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.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Auto Pay Your Mortgage Payment

In the time that it takes to write one check, you can set it up with your bank and never have to do it again.  You won't have to write checks, envelopes or buy stamps anymore.  You'll save time, money and benefit in other ways too.

  1. Never be late ... avoid late fees and protect your credit
  2. Schedule additional principal contributions monthly to save interest, build equity and shorten the mortgage term.
    An extra $200 a month applied to the principal on a $200,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years will result in shortening the loan by 8.5 years.  If the loan was paid to term, it would save $52,977 in interest.  Use the Equity Accelerator to see how much you can save.
  3. It's convenient ... by doing it online with your bank, you'll have a centralized history of the payments.
  4. Protect your credit ... your payment history is the single biggest component of your credit score and accounts for over 1/3 of your credit score.

Establishing the practice of auto bill pay could run the risk of overdrawing an account and incurring overdraft charges.  Monitor your bank account to be sure that you have enough cash to cover your automatic payments.

Schedule the Auto Pay to allow for processing and the time it takes to reach the lender so that you don't incur late fees.

And even though, you set up the Auto Pay, it is still your responsibility to monitor your bank account to see that they are executing it properly.  If you are making additional principal contributions, you must see that the extra amount was indeed applied to principal reduction and not somewhere else like in the escrow account.

Some banks offer email or text reminders to let you know when checks are about to be written or if your balance is low.