Year End Tax Newsletter


One of the first steps in a good outcome is knowing a little bit about what you’re about to undertake. By being aware of some of the areas regarding homes that may not come up every year in a tax return, you’ll be able to point them out to your tax professional or seek more information from IRS.gov.

Look through this list of items for things that could affect your tax return. Even if you have relied on the same tax professional for years to look out for your best interests, they need to be aware that there could be something different in this year’s return.

If you bought a home for a principal residence last year, check your closing statement and identify any points or pre-paid interest that you or the seller paid based on the mortgage you received. These can be deducted on your Schedule A as qualified home interest if you itemize your deductions. See Home Mortgage Interest Deduction | IRS Publication 936 (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).

Keep track of all money you spend on your home that might be considered a capital improvement. Get in the habit of putting receipts for money spent on your home that is not the house payment or utility bills. Repairs are not tax deductible but improvements, even small ones, can be added to the basis of your home which can lower the gain when the home is sold. Years from now, your tax preparer can sift through them and determine whether they’re capital improvements or maintenance. See Increases to Basis | IRS Publication 523 Selling Your Home (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).

By making additional principal contributions with your mortgage payment, you’ll save interest, build equity and shorten the term of a fixed-rate mortgage. See Equity Accelerator.

If you sold a home last year, the payoff on your old mortgage included interest from the last payment you made to the date of the payoff. That interest is tax deductible. You may need a breakdown of the payoff to the mortgage company; you should be able to get that from your closing officer.

If you refinanced your home, unlike a home purchase, points paid to refinance are not deductible as interest in the year paid; they must spread ratably over the life of the mortgage. See Home Mortgage Interest Deduction | IRS Publication 936 (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).

For homeowners who have lost a spouse, there is an exception regarding the exclusion on the sale of a principal residence. If the surviving spouse concludes a sale of the home within two years of the death of their spouse, they may exclude up to $500,000, instead of $250,000 for single taxpayers, of gain provided ownership and use tests are met prior to death.

The two-year period begins on the date of death and ends two years after that date. See Sale of Main Home by Surviving Spouse | IRS Publication 523 Selling Your Home (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).

There could be significant tax consequences to a person selling a home that was received as a gift as compared to receiving the home through inheritance. With a gift, the basis of the donor becomes the basis of the donee. With inheritance, the heir usually gets a stepped-up basis and avoids potential unrecognized gain. See Home Received as Inheritance | IRS Publication 523 Selling Your Home (2018 version not released as of this newsletter).

Click here to download a Homeowners Tax Guide. This is meant for information purposes only and advice from a qualified tax professional should be sought to find out about your individual situation.tax guide 001.png

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Your Real Estate Resource


Being a better homeowner is a full-time job. It’s not just about making better decisions when you buy and sell; it’s making better decisions throughout the time you own the home.

It takes good information to make good decisions. Think of times when you need advice on financing, taxes, insurance, maintenance, finding reasonable and reliable contractors and lots of other things. Imagine how nice it would be to have a real estate information line you could call whenever you have a question.

During the purchase or sale, the obvious place to get real estate answers is your agent but where do you go the rest of the time? Since homeowners are now staying in their homes for ten to twelve years or more, they need a reliable resource for good information and advice.

Our objective is to move from a single purchase or sale to customers for life; a select group of our friends and past customers who consider us their lifelong real estate professional. We believe that if we help you and your friends with all their real estate needs not just when they buy or sell but for all the years in between, we can earn the privilege to be your real estate professional.

Throughout the year, we’ll send reminders and suggestions by email and social media that enhance your homeowner experience. When we find good articles to help you be a better homeowner, we’ll pass them along. You’ll discover new ways to maintain your property, minimize expenses and manage debt and risk.

We want to be your “Go-To” person for everything to do with real estate. If you have a question, please call us at (503) 289-4970. If we don’t have the answer, we’ll find it for you or at least, point you in the right direction.

We’re here for you and your friends…now and in the future. Please let us know how we can help you.

Experian Wants to Spy into Your Bank Account


Ask Carolyn Warren

Experian has announced that it wants access to view people’s bank accounts. It wants to see who you’re making debit deposits to, who you’re paying, and when. It wants to look at items that do not report to the credit bureaus.

For instance, Experian wants to look at your cell phone payment, your utility bill, your Xfinity bill, and possibly your rent payment.

They’re calling this new program “Experian Boost.”

Their excuse for gaining this extra access into your personal life is that they claim it will improve credit scores for people who have thin credit, meaning not much credit.

But here’s the problem…

The Experian Boost program uses the FICO Score 8 model, which mortgage lenders consider outdated and don’t even use anymore. Mortgage companies are using FICO10. So this spy action won’t help you qualify to buy a home.

The good news…

is that you must give…

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More Comfortable, Convenient and Secure


Smart home technology promises to make your home more comfortable, convenient and secure. It may not be the home from the Jetson’s but artificial intelligence is the hope to make it the home of the future which is available now and controlled from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

When Alexa appeared at Christmas-time two years ago, most people thought it was a novelty to ask what the weather will be or to play a song. Few people understood the vision of Amazon would be verbally purchasing everything imaginable and that your calendar, contacts, lights, and appliances would all be connected.

There are plenty of players in the market including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung Smart Things, Apple and others. It starts with a hub that acts like a brain for your system to connect the different home automation devices. You’ll establish an online account with the hub manufacturer so that you can adjust settings and controls.

You could start simple with switch and plug receptacles that would allow you to control lights either vocally through your hub or from your Smartphone or tablet anywhere in the world where you have an Internet connection.

Programmable thermostats can lower your monthly utility costs while conveniently regulating your comfort by adjusting temperatures on your heating and cooling systems. These can be particularly effective in homes with zoned systems where you might live in one area during the day but sleep in a different zone.

Door bells might be one of the next additions to your automation. Not only can you communicate with the person at your door, you don’t have to go to the door to do it. The device cameras are motion activated so you’ll see who is there regardless of whether they rang the doorbell or not.

Door locks can be convenient because instead of giving someone a key, you can issue a temporary code to let them enter. You can give them permanent access and rescind it any time you want without having to change the locks. You’ll know when they enter and leave your home.

Other security options can include door and window sensors, motion detectors and cameras for outside or inside the home. The homeowner will be able to monitor from inside or anywhere else they have an Internet connection.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as water sensors to determine leaking water around water heaters or in basements give homeowners peace of mind.

Most of these devices are available in wireless models so you won’t have to string wire throughout the home. The Wi-Fi can introduce a potential problem of hackers who could illegally access your system. This is true with any home that has a Wi-Fi router and precautions should be taken.

The big box stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Amazon offer a wide variety of brands and modules. Many people prefer it as a do-it-yourself project and others would rather have a professional do it for them. YouTube has a lot of videos that can probably show you exactly how to install the ones you select.

Another Type of Financing Concession


Price, condition and terms are factors that any owner must consider when marketing their home. Price is usually the easiest to adjust to compensate for shortcomings in location or condition of the home. Improving the condition of the property is more time consuming but updates to kitchens, baths and other things can appeal to a buyer.

One of the most overlooked marketing factors are terms which are also referred to as financing concessions.

Paying part or all a buyer’s closing costs is the most common financing concession. By doing so, the buyer doesn’t need as much cash to get into the home which can be attractive to more buyers.

There is another financing concession that is not used very often in today’s market but it is still allowed and can increase the marketability of a home. A temporary buy-down of the interest rate makes a lower payment for an initial period.

It is still a fixed-rate mortgage that the buyer must qualify for at the note rate and there is no negative amortization. The seller pre-pays the interest in advance at closing so the buyer has lower payments in the initial period.

Instead of lowering the price of the home, let’s say the seller has decided to offer $6,875 worth of financing concessions that the buyer can apply any way they want. One way might be to get a 2/1 buy-down which means that the first year, the payment would be based on 2% less than the note rate of the mortgage and the second year, it would be 1% less than the note rate. The third through thirtieth years, the payment would be the actual note rate.

On a $275,000 home with a 3.5% down payment at 5% for 30 years, the first year’s mortgage payment would be figured at 3% which would be $305.76 less than normal. The second year’s payment would be figured at 4% and would be $157.65 less than normal. The third through thirtieth years, the payment would be the normal payment of $1,424.59.

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It would save the buyer $5,560.90 in interest in the first two years and there would still be $1,314 of the financing concession to apply toward the buyer’s closing costs.

The financing concessions paid by the seller give the buyer lower payments for the first two years and less money needed for the closing cost. An added bonus for the buyer is that the buyer can deduct the pre-paid interest the seller paid as qualified mortgage interest.

Some lenders may tell you that temporary buy downs cannot be done. They’ve been around for over thirty years and can still be done today on FHA, VA and conventional loans. Call (503) 289-4970 if you need a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional or check out a 2/1 Buydown with your own numbers.

Is There a Dispute Note on Your Credit Report?


Ask Carolyn Warren

If you sent a letter of dispute to Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion stating that something was not 100 percent correct about an account, then there might be a notation that says account in dispute or disputed by consumer.

If you hired a professional credit repair service that disputed on your behalf, then the same thing applies.

There’s a Good Reason for the Dispute Notice — and It Helps You

If a negative account (late payments, collection, anything bad) is on your credit report, it lowers your score. If the negative account is false, it would penalize you unfairly. Therefore, the credit bureaus remove the disputed account from the mathematical scoring system. Interesting, as this opens a door of opportunity!

This was a strategy credit repair services used in the past. They would send a dispute, your score would increase, and then you could quickly apply for a mortgage while…

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Loan Limits Increase, Saving Buyers Money


Ask Carolyn Warren

BIG NEWS!

Conforming loan limits have increased to $484,350.

High balance loan limits have increased to $726,525.

Conforming Limits

If you want the best loan, a conventional loan, you can now borrow up to $484,350 without paying a higher interest rate for a jumbo loan. If you have not owned a home in the past three years, you can do as little as 3 percent down payment (5 percent down for previous home owners).

High Balance Limits

If you live in an area where the median price of homes is higher than the national average, such as much of California or in Western Washington, then you can borrower up to $726,525 without paying a higher interest rate for a jumbo loan.

Advantages of the Mortgage Broker

  • Your mortgage broker (myself in CA or WA) can get you these loans now, today. The banks and other lenders are trailing…

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