Tax Time 2015: How Buying a New Home Can Impact the Amount of Tax You’ll Pay

Tax Time 2015: How Buying a New Home Can Impact the Amount of Tax You'll PayFew people consider the tax implications of buying a home, but there are many. Here are a few ways buying a home can impact the amount of tax you pay.

Mortgage Interest

Most people put down the minimum amount of money needed to buy a home and finance the rest, usually over 30 years. This means that, especially in the early years of the loan, most of what they are paying are the finance charges. The good news is that all that interest is tax-deductible for people who itemize their deductions, which adds up to several thousands of dollars in deductions annually. You also can deduct interest on home equity loans, up to a certain amount.

Property Taxes

Another way that buying a home affects your taxes is property taxes. In most jurisdictions, property taxes are based to some extent on the price you pay for your home, meaning the more you pay, the higher your taxes will be. The positive is that, just as with mortgage interest, those property taxes you pay are deductible if you itemize deductions on your income tax return.

Points

Points are up-front fees you pay to lower the interest rate on your home mortgage. If you paid them when buying your home, you can deduct the entire amount on your tax return. If you paid points on a refinance or home equity loan, you have to deduct them a bit at a time over the entire term of the loan.

Tax-Free Appreciation

One of the reasons many people treat homes as an investment is the favorable tax treatment on profit from a sale. For example, in the United States as long as the home is your principal residence for at least two years out of the five years before you sell, you can exclude up to a $250,000 gain from capital gains taxes, or $500,000 if you are married.

Retirement Accounts

Buying a home for the first time is one of the few situations in which the government allows you take money from retirement accounts early without paying a tax penalty. For example, you can take up to $10,000 out of an individual retirement account without having to pay the early withdrawal penalty, although you still might face income taxes if your contributions were tax-deferred.

If you are considering buying a home, contact a real estate professional to discuss the potential tax and other benefits.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 16, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 16 2015Last week’s economic reports included job openings, retail sales, retail sales except automotive, consumer sentiment for March and the usual reports on weekly jobless claims and mortgage rates.

Job Openings Highest in 14 Years

The Labor Department reported that job openings reached their highest level in 14 years in January, and rose by 2.50 percent over December 2014 job openings. On a seasonally adjusted basis, there were five million job openings in January. Job openings rose by 28 percent year-over-year.

Hiring rose by 3.50 percent to 5.24 million, but analysts said that employers continue to have difficulty in finding workers with skills needed to fill their job openings. Winter weather was also mentioned as contributing to lower hiring rates.

Stable full-time employment is a key requirement for qualifying for a home loan. Inconsistent, part-time and self-employment typically make it more difficult to qualify for mortgages in today’s conservative lending environment.

Retail Sales Lower

Retail sales fell by –0.60 percent in February against an expected reading of +0.30 percent and January’s reading of -0.80 percent. This was the third consecutive drop in retail sales volume and suggests that consumers are not confident about spending. Retail sales except automotive were also lower with a February reading of -0.10 percent against an expected reading of +0.40 percent and January’s reading of -1.10 percent.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

According to Freddie Mac average mortgage rates rose across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.86 percent, an increase of 11 basis points. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose by seven basis points to 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose five basis points to 3.01 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 389,000 against expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 325,000 new claims filed. This was good news after a spike in new jobless claims that was likely caused by bad weather. Although week to week data tends to be more volatile than month-to-month trends, there was good news in that new jobless claims fell below a benchmark of 300,000 new claims filed. Readings of 300,000 or fewer new jobless claims filed represent strong labor market conditions.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic reports include the NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, federal reports on housing starts and building permits and the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting statement. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to present a press conference, which analysts will watch closely for any indication of when the Fed will raise interest rates.

Three Inexpensive Makeovers That Will Boost Your Home’s Appeal to Young Buyers

Three Inexpensive Makeovers That Will Boost Your Home's Appeal to Young BuyersWhen preparing to list your home for sale, you may be wondering who will buy your home. While this initial thought may be one spurred by curiosity, the fact is that understanding who your target audience is and what they are looking for in a home may help you to position your home to sell more quickly and for a better price. If you have determined that there are many younger buyers moving into your area, you may want to make a few changes that will add appeal to this target audience. While you could spend tens of thousands of dollars or more completing a home makeover, there are a few budget-minded ideas that you may consider.

Add Color to Molding and Trim

One of the hottest trends in home décor and interior design is to get rid of the standard white trim and molding and to add color to these areas. Neutral hues like grays and browns have universal appeal, or you can give your space a more contemporary look by adding black to these areas. Generally, you will want a more neutral color like a creamy beige on the walls when executing a look with colored trim.

Update Light Fixtures

If you have a little more money to spend, you may consider updating your light fixtures. There are rather affordable yet stylish fixtures available in a wide range of finishes. When your rooms are empty or staged to perfection, the light fixtures can easily set the tone of the room and may be focal points. Outdated fixtures may have limited appeal to young buyers who are looking for a home that is modern and current with today’s trends.

Redefine Outdated Spaces

In some older homes, some of the rooms may have originally been built with outdated uses in mind. Today’s younger buyers may be looking for a home with an exercise room, a media room or a study rather than a formal living or dining area. With this in mind, you may consider how you can stage your home to show that it can be used for modern purposes. This may simply mean moving your formal dining room set into storage, adding French doors and investing in an affordable desk and side chairs for staging purposes. This is just one of several options available that may give your home broader appeal to a younger audience shopping for a modern floor plan.

If you are thinking about listing your home for sale and you believe that you will likely attract younger buyers to your home, you can consider implementing some of these ideas in your space. Your real estate agent may be able to offer additional suggestions that are customized for your specific home.

Taking an Extended Vacation? Renting Your Home to Long-term Tenants is a Great Option

Taking an Extended Vacation? Renting Your Home to Long-term Tenants is a Great OptionTaking an extended vacation can seem like a dream come true. You may have plans to spend your summer in Europe, your winter in the Caribbean or even a full year or longer exploring a different region. If you have the luxury of taking an extended vacation, you may have your sights set on adventure and relaxation.

However, you also need to consider the practicality of leaving behind your home and belongings for an extended period of time. A great idea is to take on a long-term tenant for your home, and there are a number of benefits that you can enjoy by doing this.

Generate Income From Your Home

When you lease your home to a long-term tenant, you will be able to generate a monthly income from the property. This can be used to pay for your mortgage, property insurance and other related expenses while you are gone. Essentially, it can make it more affordable for you to take your trip for an extended period of time.

Decrease Your Maintenance Expenses

When you are away from your home, you may still have maintenance and upkeep chores to do. When you are home, for example, you may easily be able to water your lawn and mow the grass on your own. You may deal with a leaky pipe before it becomes problematic and causes considerable damage to the home. When you are gone, you may need to pay for a lawn service, and you have nobody to watch over the interior of the home. However, when you lease your home to a tenant, the tenant may be responsible for caring for the yard. In addition, he or she can alert you to issues that develop inside the home.

Someone to Keep an Eye on Your Property

When a home appears to be vacant, it is more likely to be vandalized or burglarized. A tenant will give your home an occupied look and will decrease the risk of criminal activity. In addition, the tenant may change your air filters, replace batteries in the smoke detectors and take other steps to keep the home in great condition for you while you are gone. You can specify your requirements in the lease.

If you are planning an extended vacation and you are looking for a convenient way to ensure that your home is taken care of while you are gone, consider the benefits of taking on a long term tenant. You can speak with a real estate agent to learn more about the market rental rate for your home.

Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time? How to Juggle These Two Transactions

Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time? How to Juggle These Two Transactions There are few things that can be more stressful than buying or selling a home. When you are buying and selling a home at the same time, your stress level may understandably skyrocket through the roof. There may be financial aspects of both transactions that may be cause you stress, and you may be dealing with logistical issues or simply feel stressed by the stacks of documents piling up for both transactions. While this will inevitably be a challenging time in your life, you can more easily navigate through the transactions with success by following a few tips.

Consider the Timing of Both Transactions

One of the best things you can do when buying and selling a home at the same time is to plan ahead and consider the timing of both transactions. You may get lucky enough to get an offer on your home from a buyer who wants to close just a few days before you close on your new home. However, it is more likely that these two transactions may be finalized weeks or longer apart from each other. You may need to plan on finding an interim home or paying double mortgages for a period of time. You may consider which of these two options is more preferable to you based on your work situation, your family’s needs and your budget.

Prepare a Budget Ahead of Time and Update It Periodically

Financial stress can mount during this period of time. You will need to make a good faith deposit and pay for third party reports and mortgage application fees for your new home purchase. You may also need to pay money to make repairs and to stage your current home before you list it. It is common to rent a storage unit and to pay for boxes and moving supplies as well.

In addition, a buyer for your current home may request that you make repairs to your home before closing. It is important that you prepare a budget so that you can pay for all of these expenses as they arise, and you should consider leaving yourself ample funds for unexpected expenses. If you run into a cash crunch, consider completing the sale of your current home entirely before going under contract with your new home purchase.

Use the Same Real Estate Agent for Both Transactions

The knowledge and support of a real estate agent can be beneficial to you for both transactions, and you may consider using the services of the same agent for both. Dealing with one person who is familiar with your goals and needs can be truly beneficial to you throughout the entire process, and he or she may offer insight about the best steps to take to make the transition from one home to the other smoother for your family.

While buying and selling real estate can be stressful, you do not have to make the process more difficult than it needs to be. You can set up a time to meet with a real estate agent today to begin discussing your plans and to take the initial step.

All About Radon: How to Test Your Home for Radon Gas and What to Do if You Find It

All About Radon: How to Test Your Home for Radon Gas and What to Do if You Find It If you are concerned about the presence of radon in your home, you are not alone. The fact is that radon is an invisible, odorless gas that may be found in buildings around the world. It is a radioactive gas that is emitted from the ground soil as trace amounts of naturally occurring uranium break down. The gas can enter a building and remain trapped, and this is known to cause as many as 21,000 deaths related to lung cancer each year, according to the EPA. Testing your home from time to time is a necessity, and you can easily accomplish this in two different ways.

A Home Radon Test Kit

Regardless of the age or location of your home, you should test your home periodically for the presence of radon. You may be able to purchase a radon test kit at a local home improvement store or even online. These kits are designed to be easy to use and to read, and they can provide you with the information you seek in a short period of time.

A Professional Indoor Air Quality Test

Another option is to hire a professional to complete a full indoor air quality test. This may provide you with more information about the presence of radon, asbestos, mold spores and many other pollutants and particulates that may be making you and your family sick. A professional test may be more comprehensive and sensitive. Furthermore, the results can be more reliable.

If You Have Radon In Your Home

If you have the unfortunate experience of learning that your home has radon gas inside of it, you may immediately feel stressed and concerned. This is understandable considering this is a known carcinogen. However, while it is important that you take immediate action to cleanse and purify your home’s air, there is not a need to panic. There are numerous filtration and purifier systems that you can invest in that have amazing results. In fact, some can eliminate up to 99 percent of the radon in your home.

Even if your home tests clean for radon today, keep in mind that this gas can naturally seep into your home over time. You may consider testing your home periodically for radon at regular intervals for the entire time you live in the space. This will help you to identify a problem in your home and to take action soon to minimize the health risks for you and your loved ones.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 9, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 9 2015Last week’s economic news was light on housing related reports, but several employment reports were released along with the national unemployment rate, which dipped to 5.50 percent. This was a full point below the Federal Reserve’s original target rate of 6.50 percent. Construction spending was incrementally lower than expected and mortgage rates also fell.

Fewer Private-Sector Jobs, Non-Farm Payrolls Increase

The ADP employment report for February fell from January’s reading of 250,000 jobs to 212,000 private-sector jobs. January’s reading was upwardly revised from the original tally of 213,000 jobs added. News was better for Non-Farm Payrolls for February. The Labor Department reported that 295,000 jobs were added; analysts expected a reading of 238,000 new jobs based on January’s original reading of 257,000 jobs added, but January’s reading was revised to 239,000 jobs added. The Non-Farm Payrolls report includes both public and private-sector jobs.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 320,000 against expectations of 301,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 313,000 new jobless claims. The week-to-week jobless claims report is considered volatile; most analysts base forecasts on a four-week rolling average.

National unemployment decreased from 5.70 percent in January to 5.50 percent in February as compared to an expected reading of 5.60 percent. February’s reading was the lowest since May 2008. Construction added 29,000 in February, which could indicate a boost in home construction. The unemployment rate does not account for 17.50 million workers who work part-time but want full-time work and those who have left the job market. The labor market participation rate fell to 62.8 percent, which was its lowest since the late 1970s.

Analysts said that based on the lower unemployment rate, the Fed may move as soon as June to raise the target federal funds rate to prevent rapid inflation, but Federal Reserve policy makers have consistently cited concerns over labor markets as a reason why the fed funds rate hasn’t been raised. A combination of stagnant wages, higher mortgage rates combined with stubbornly strict mortgage credit requirements could cause housing markets to lag behind other economic sectors until would-be home buyers achieve steady employment and can qualify for home financing.

Mortgage Rates Drop

Freddie Mac provided good news as average mortgage rates dropped.  Last week’s rate for a 30-year mortgage was 3.75 percent and lower by five basis points; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by four basis points to 3.03 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was three basis points lower at 2.96 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic news includes reports on job openings and labor market conditions along with retail sales reports. Consumer sentiment will be release and Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims data will be released as usual on Thursday.

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster If your personal budget is similar to many other people’s budgets, your home mortgage payment is by far the largest expense that you pay for each month. In fact, this payment may easily account for 20 or 25 percent or more of your take-home income.

Understandably, you may be focused on trying to pay this expense off early. By focusing on this payment, you can build equity and may be able to achieve financial security more quickly. You simply have to find a way to put aside a bit of extra cash regularly so that you can make extra payments, and there are few easy ways that you can consider.

Use Your Tax Refund

First, if you are one of the many taxpayers who receives a refund each year, consider setting aside some or all of this refund to reduce your outstanding mortgage balance.

Some taxpayers may have such a sizable refund that it can account for two or more mortgage payments each year. However, even a few hundred dollars extra put toward your principal balance will save you a considerable amount of money in interest charges over time and will have a wonderful effect on your balance.

Earmark Your Annual Bonus

If you are lucky enough to receive an annual bonus each year, you may consider using this to pay down your principal balance. While you may usually spend this money on extra holiday gifts or just add it to your spending cash, you can benefit more substantially when you contribute it to your effort to pay down your mortgage.

Use An Automated Draft To Create a Fund

Another great idea that will work well for all individuals is to create an automated draft from your checking account each month. You may set aside the funds in a special account, and you can make an extra mortgage payment from this account periodically. Another idea is to set up auto payments for your mortgage that are higher than the amount due. For example, you may establish auto payments that are $50 or $100 more than your scheduled payments.

Paying off your mortgage earlier can be a life changing event for you. Simply imagine how different your life would be if you were not responsible for this payment each month. The fact is that this could be your reality sooner than you think if you follow these tips. For the best results, apply two or even all three tips to your efforts.

Making the Offer: 4 Ways to Craft an Offer That Will Catch the Seller’s Attention

Making the Offer: 4 Ways to Craft an Offer That Will Catch the Seller's AttentionIt can take a time and effort to find the perfect home to purchase. After you have found that home, you need to convince the seller that your offer is the one they want to choose. There may be multiple offers made at the same time, and you may be in a situation where you are competing for the home.

Even if your offer is the only one the seller receives, there is no requirement that they must accept the offer you make. Crafting an effective offer that will catch the seller’s attention is important, and you may be able to accomplish this by following a few tips.

Offer Close To The Asking Price

One of the first things most sellers will look at when they receive an offer is the price you are offering to pay. You may feel as though the seller is asking too much for the home, and your agent may advise you to offer a lower price. On the other hand, there may be multiple offers, and you may feel as though you need to offer a price higher than what is being requested. With your real estate agent’s advice in mind, consider that a seller will be more inclined to accept an offer if it is close to what they are asking. If your offer is too low, they may decline it without looking at the other merits to your offer.

Request A Quick Closing

When you prepare your offer, one of the factors that you will have control over is the requested closing date. Sellers generally want to close quickly, but this is not always the case. Each market is unique, but a general rule of thumb is to offer a closing date that is 21 to 28 days away, contingent on mortgage approval. You may work with your real estate agent and mortgage company to determine when a reasonable closing date is. However, offering a quick closing generally shows that you are a motivated buyer.

Choose A Shorter Option Period

A sales contract has an option period, which allows the buyer to back out of the deal for any reason. This may be a time when you get your third party reports, such as the property inspection, completed. A shorter option period may be preferred by sellers. This is because the buyer is generally locked into the contract contingent on mortgage approval after the option period has expired.

Offer A Higher Non-Refundable Good Faith Amount

When you make an offer, you will also give the seller a good faith or earnest money deposit. The amount of the deposit will be disclosed in the contract, and you will typically hand it off after the offer has been accepted. This is the amount of money that you stand to lose if you do not follow through on the terms of the contract. A higher good faith or earnest money amount shows that you are serious about buying the home.

There are many factors that a seller is thinking about when reviewing an offer. While the entire offer will be reviewed fully, the fact is that these factors are generally given significant weight in most seller decisions. You can work with your real estate agent to structure the best offer possible.

Home Security in 2015: Here’s How New Technology Can Keep You Even Safer

Home Security in 2015: Here's How New Technology Can Keep You Even SaferSecuring your home is a top priority, and you will need to make periodic updates and upgrades to your efforts from time to time. Today’s criminals are highly intelligent, and they often use superior techniques to break into homes criminals from past years and decades did not use.

As homeowners’ efforts to secure their homes become more sophisticated, the fact is that criminals are also becoming more sophisticated. There are several new products on the market that you may consider installing and implementing in your home to improve security going forward.

Wireless Video Cameras

Many of the more advanced home security systems today have some type of video surveillance system in place. Generally, this is a closed circuit system that records activities or that is motion activated so that the area is only recorded when movement is detected.

More advanced options, however, are wireless by design, and you may be able to both listen to and watch your home from your smartphone or wireless device. Keep in mind that not all activities will take place in the small perimeter that is monitored by your camera, so the ability to listen to the home in real-time is a benefit.

Keyless Entry Locks With Alarm Sounds

Many homeowners have already invested in keyless entry locks. These are often viewed as a convenience feature for homeowners because they do not have to worry about misplacing their keys or giving a key to their maid service or others who need to enter the home. The key code can easily be changed as needed to add security to the home. However, a new spin on the keyless entry lock is an audible alarm sound. With this product, the lock will emit a loud alarm signal that can alert you and others passing nearby that someone is trying to break into your home.

Smart Door Locks

You can also choose to invest in smart door locks. These are locks that you can monitor and even control through an app on your smartphone or mobile device. You do not have to give out a code to the maid service because you can simply unlock the door for the cleaners when they arrive at your home. You may have forgotten to lock your door that morning before you left for work, and you can use the app to lock the door remotely. You can also receive a notification each time the door is opened or unlocked.

Each of these innovative features can enhance the security of your home in different ways. When you want to gain better control over your home security, you may consider investing in some of these state-of-the-art products for your home in the near future.