Tax Return Depressing? Owning a Home Could Help

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Many Americans got some depressing news last week; either their tax return was not as large as they had hoped or, in some cases, they were told they owed additional money to either the Federal or State government or both. One way to save on taxes is to own your own home.

According to the  Tax Policy Center's  Briefing Book -"A citizen's guide to the fascinating (though often complex) elements of the federal Tax System" - there are several tax advantages to homeownership.

Here are four items, and a quote on each, from the  Briefing Book:

1. Mortgage Interest Deduction

"Homeowners who itemize deductions may reduce their taxable income by deducting any interest paid on a home mortgage. The deduction is limited to interest paid on up to $1 million of debt incurred to purchase or substantially rehabilitate a home. Homeowners also may deduct interest paid on up to $100,000 of home equity debt, regardless of how they use the borrowed funds. Taxpayers who do not own their home have no comparable ability to deduct interest paid on debt incurred to purchase goods and services."

2. Property Tax Deduction

"Homeowners who itemize deductions may also reduce their taxable income by deducting property taxes they pay on their homes."

3. Imputed Rent

"Buying a home is an investment, part of the returns from which is the opportunity to live in the home rent-free. Unlike returns from other investments, the return on homeownership-what economists call "imputed rent"-is excluded from taxable income. In contrast, landlords must count as income the rent they receive, and renters may not deduct the rent they pay. A homeowner is effectively both landlord and renter, but the tax code treats homeowners the same as renters while ignoring their simultaneous role as their own landlords."

4. Profits from Home Sales

"Taxpayers who sell assets must generally pay capital gains tax on any profits made on the sale. But homeowners may exclude from taxable income up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of capital gains on the sale of their home if they satisfy certain criteria: they must have maintained the home as their principal residence in two out of the preceding five years, and they generally may not have claimed the capital gains exclusion for the sale of another home during the previous two years."

Bottom Line

 

We are not suggesting that you purchase a house just to save on your taxes. However, if you have been on the fence as to whether 2017 is the year you should become a homeowner, this information might help with that decision.

Disclaimer: Always check with your accountant to find out what tax advantages apply to you in your area.

Again… You Do Not Need 20% Down to Buy NOW!

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survey by  Ipsos found that the American public is still somewhat confused about what is required to qualify for a home mortgage loan in today's housing market. There are two major misconceptions that we want to address today.

1. Down Payment

The survey revealed that consumers overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan. According to the report, 40% of consumers think a 20% down payment is always required. In actuality, there are many loans written with a down payment of 3% or less.

Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined with new programs that have emerged allowing less cash out of pocket.

2. FICO® Scores

The survey also revealed that 62% of respondents believe they need excellent credit to buy a home, with 43% thinking a  "good credit score" is over 780. In actuality, the average FICO® scores of approved conventional and FHA mortgages are much lower.

The average conventional loan closed in February had a credit score of 752, while FHA mortgages closed with a score of 686. The average across all loans closed in February was 720. The chart below shows the distribution of FICO® Scores for all loans approved in February.

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Bottom Line

 

If you are a prospective buyer who is 'ready' and 'willing' to act now, but are not sure if you are 'able' to, let's sit down to help you understand your true options.

Millionaire to Millennials: Buy Now!

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Self-made millionaire David Bach was quoted in a  CNBC article explaining that  "the single biggest mistake millennials are making" is not purchasing a home because buying real estate is  "an escalator to wealth."

Bach went on to explain:

"If millennials don't buy a home, their chances of actually having any wealth in this country are little to none. The average homeowner to this day is 38 times wealthier than a renter."

In his bestselling book,  "The Automatic Millionaire," Bach does the math:

"As a renter, you can easily spend half a million dollars or more on rent over the years ($1,500 a month for 30 years comes to $540,000), and in the end wind up just where you started - owning nothing. Or you can buy a house and spend the same amount paying down a mortgage, and in the end wind up owning your own home free and clear!"

Who is David Bach?

Bach is a self-made millionaire who has written nine consecutive  New York Timesbestsellers. His book,  "The Automatic Millionaire," spent 31 weeks on the  New York Times bestseller list. He is one of the only business authors in history to have four books simultaneously on the  New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and  USA Today bestseller lists.

He has been a contributor to  NBC's Today Show appearing more than 100 times, has been a regular on  ABC, CBS, Fox, CNBC, CNN, Yahoo, The View, and  PBS, and has been profiled in many major publications, including  The New York Times, BusinessWeek, USA Today, People, Reader's Digest, Time, Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Working Woman, Glamour, Family Circle, Redbook, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Investors' Business Daily, and  Forbes.

Bottom Line

 

Whenever a well-respected millionaire gives investment advice, people usually clamor to hear it. This millionaire gave simple advice - if you don't yet live in your own home, go buy one.

4 Great Reasons to Buy This Spring!

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1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic's latest  Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.9% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 4.8% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have remained around 4% over the last couple months.  The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac & the National Association of Realtorsare in unison, projecting that rates will increase by at least a half a percentage point this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way, You are Paying a Mortgage

There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage -  either yours or your landlord's.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of  'forced savings' that allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It's Time to Move on with Your Life

The 'cost' of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren't? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

Mortgage Interest Rates Went Up Again… Should I Wait to Buy?

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Mortgage interest rates, as reported by  Freddie Mac, have increased over the last several weeks Freddie Mac, along with  Fannie Mae, the  Mortgage Bankers Association and the  National Association of Realtors, is calling for mortgage rates to continue to rise over the next four quarters.

This has caused some purchasers to lament the fact they may no longer be able to get a rate below 4%. However, we must realize that current rates are still at historic lows.

Here is a chart showing the average mortgage interest rate over the last several decades.

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Bottom Line

 

Though you may have missed getting the lowest mortgage rate ever offered, you can still get a better interest rate than your older brother or sister did ten years ago, a lower rate than your parents did twenty years ago, and a better rate than your grandparents did forty years ago.

 

Housing Market Expected to “Spring Forward”

 

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Just like our clocks this weekend in the majority of the country, the housing market will soon  "spring forward!" Similar to tension in a spring, the lack of inventory available for sale in the market right now is what is holding back the market.

Many potential sellers believe that waiting until Spring is in their best interest, and traditionally they would have been right.

Buyer demand has seasonality to it, which usually falls off in the winter months, especially in areas of the country impacted by arctic temperatures and conditions.

That hasn't happened this year.

Demand for housing has remained strong as mortgage rates have remained near historic lows.

The  National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently reported that the top 10 dates sellers listed their homes in 2016 all fell in April, May or June.

Those who act quickly and list now could benefit greatly from additional exposure to buyers prior to a flood of more competition coming to market in the next few months.

Bottom Line

 

If you are planning on selling your home in 2017, let's get together to evaluate the opportunities in our market.

Are You 1 of the 59 Million Planning to Buy This Year?

 

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According to a survey conducted by  Bankrate.com, one in four Americans are considering buying a home this year. If this statistic proves to be true, that means that 59 million people will be looking to enter the housing market in 2017.

The survey also revealed 3 key takeaways:

  1. Those most likely to buy are 'Older Millennials' (ages 27-36) or 'Generation X' (ages 37-52)
  2. Minorities, particularly African-Americans, were twice as likely to respond that they were considering purchasing a home this year than white respondents.
  3. Many potential buyers believe they need to put 20% down and need to have perfect credit to own and are unaware of programs that would allow them to buy now.

Holden Lewis, a mortgage analyst for  Bankrate.com, pointed to one big reason why many Americans are starting to consider homeownership:

"Having kids and raising a family is a primary reason why Americans take the leap into homeownership-many consider it a key component of the American dream."

Bottom Line

 

If buying a home is a part of your dream for 2017, let's get together to determine if you are able to.

3 Questions to Ask If You Want to Buy Your Dream Home

 

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If you are debating purchasing a home right now, you are probably getting a lot of advice. Though your friends and family will have your best interest at heart, they may not be fully aware of your needs and what is currently happening in the real estate market.

Ask yourself the following 3 questions to help determine if now is a good time for you to buy in today's market.

1. Why am I buying a home in the first place?

This is truly the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with money.

For example, a survey by  Braun showed that over 75% of parents say  "their child's education is an important part of the search for a new home."

This survey supports a study by the  Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University which revealed that the top four reasons Americans buy a home have nothing to do with money. They are:

  • A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
  • A place where you and your family feel safe
  • More space for you and your family
  • Control of that space

What does owning a home mean to you? What non-financial benefits will you and your family gain from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the biggest reason you decide to purchase or not.

2. Where are home values headed?

According to the latest  Existing Home Sales Report from the  National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median price of homes sold in December (the latest data available) was $232,200, up 4.0% from last year. This increase also marks the 58th consecutive month with year-over-year gains.

If we look at the numbers year over year,  CoreLogic forecasted a rise by 4.7% from December 2016 to December 2017. On a home that costs $250,000 today, that same home will cost you an additional $11,750 if you wait until next year.

What does that mean to you?

Simply put, with prices increasing each month, it might cost you more if you wait until next year to buy. Your down payment will also need to be higher in order to account for the higher price of the home you wish to buy.

3. Where are mortgage interest rates headed?

A buyer must be concerned about more than just prices. The 'long-term cost' of a home can be dramatically impacted by even a small increase in mortgage rates.

The  Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the  National Association of Realtors, and  Fannie Mae have all projected that mortgage interest rates will increase over the next twelve months, as you can see in the chart below:

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Bottom Line

 

Only you and your family will know for certain if now is the right time to purchase a home. Answering these questions will help you make that decision.

 

Buyer Demand Is Outpacing the Supply of Homes for Sale

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The price of any item is determined by the supply of that item, as well as the market demand.  The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) surveys  "over 50,000 real estate practitioners about their expectations for home sales, prices and market conditions" for their monthly  REALTORS Confidence Index.

Their latest edition sheds some light on the relationship between Seller Traffic (supply) and Buyer Traffic (demand).

Buyer Demand

The map below was created after asking the question:  "How would you rate buyer traffic in your area?"

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The darker the blue, the stronger the demand for homes in that area. Only six states had a weak demand level.

Seller Supply

The Index also asked:  "How would you rate seller traffic in your area?"

As you can see from the map below, the majority of the country has weak Seller Traffic, meaning there are far fewer homes on the market than what is needed to satisfy the buyers who are out looking for their dream homes.

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Bottom Line

 

Looking at the maps above, it is not hard to see why prices are appreciating in many areas of the country. Until the supply of homes for sale starts to meet the buyer demand, prices will continue to increase. If you are debating listing your home for sale, let's get together to help you capitalize on the demand in the market now!

Why Pre-Approval Should Be Your First Step

 

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In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the amount of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, knowing your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the  My Home section of their website:

"It's highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets."

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding  "your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history."

Freddie Mac describes the 4 Cs that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

 

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so as well.