Monday, November 14, 2016


Homeownership, part of the American Dream: a home of your own where you can feel safe, raise your family, share with your friends and enjoy life. The benefits are easily recognizable but maintenance is just a real and should be considered.
Property taxes and insurance are two of the largest expenses homeowners have aside from their mortgage interest. But, as any homeowner knows, there will be occasional expenses for repairing toilets, faucets, windows and other things. There are also the significantly larger expenses that arise like replacing a water heater or HVAC unit. And don’t overlook the periodic maintenance like painting or floor coverings.
Financial experts suggest that homeowners save one to four percent of the home’s value per year for repairs and maintenance. Two to eight thousand dollars a year may sound like more than you’ll need but the cost of an air conditioning unit can easily be $6,000.
Some homeowners purchase home warranties to avoid the unexpected costs. An annual premium instead of an unexpected large expenditure. Coverage varies from company to company and are not intended to cover existing conditions.
The alternative to not saving for these anticipated expenditures means that a homeowner might have to put it on a credit card at a very high interest rate or get a home improvement loan. Appreciation is a distinct benefit of home ownership and deferred maintenance can limit the value as well as lengthen the market time when it sells.

Monday, October 24, 2016

First-Time Buyers

Saving the down payment may be unnecessarily keeping would-be buyers from getting into a home. They may be unaware that the funds might be available.
The NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports that 81% of first-time buyers got all or part of their down payment from savings. Less than 4% said that all or part of the down payment came from a withdrawal in their IRA and 8% from their 401(k) or pension fund.
Traditional IRAs have a provision for first-time buyers which include anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the previous two years. A person and their spouse, if married, can each withdraw up to $10,000 from their traditional IRA for a first-time home purchase without incurring the 10% early-withdrawal penalty. However, they will have to recognize the withdrawal as income in that tax year. For more information, go to
Allowable withdrawals from traditional IRAs can be from yourself and your spouse; your or your spouse’s child; your or your spouse’s grandchild or your or your spouse’s parent or ancestor.
Roth IRA owners can withdraw their contributions tax-free and penalty-free at any age for any reason because the contributions were made with post-tax income. After age 59 ½, earnings may be withdrawn as long as the Roth IRA have been in existence for at least five years.
Up to half of the balance of a 401(k) or $50,000, whichever is less, can be borrowed by the owner at any age for any reason without tax or penalty assuming the employer permits it. There can be specific rules for loans from a 401(k) that would determine the repayment; interest is usually charged but goes back into the owner’s account. You can consult with your HR department to find out the specifics.
A risk in borrowing against a 401(k) comes if your employment ends before the loan has been repaid. The loan may have to be repaid as soon as 60 days to keep the loan from being considered a withdrawal and subject to tax and penalty. Even if you continue with the same employer, failure to repay the loan could be considered a withdrawal also.
Your tax professional can provide you specific information on how making a withdrawal from your retirement program might affect you. Additional information can be found

Monday, October 17, 2016

Steps to Success in Buying a Home

“It’s not far, if you know the way.” What this expression implies is that you could have a long way to go if you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there. Just like reading a map, there are some definite steps that will improve your success in buying a home in today’s market.
  • Know your credit score – the best mortgage rates are available to borrowers with the highest scores. Unless you know what your credit score is at all three major credit bureaus, you don’t really know what rate you’ll have to pay.
  • Clean up your credit – it is estimated that about 90% of credit reports have errors. Some are not serious but others could affect a borrower from getting the loan they want. It is your responsibility to know what is on your different reports and correct them if possible. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from Experian, Trans Union and Equifax.
  • Get pre-approved – Taking the time to make a loan application with a qualified lender even before you start looking at homes will provide peace of mind, make sure that you are looking at the “right” homes and may help you negotiate the best price on the home you select.
  • Do your homework – when you find the home that meets your needs and desires, get the home inspected and research the tax assessments, school ratings, crime activity, possible zoning changes and comparable sales in the area.
Call for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional and an inspector.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Jointly-Owned Principal

Special consideration is made by IRS for the sale of a jointly-owned principal residence after the death of a spouse. Surviving spouse may qualify to exclude up to $500,000 of gain instead of the $250,000 exclusion for single people if certain requirements are met.
  • The sale needs to take place no more than two years after the date of death of the spouse.
  • Surviving spouse must not have remarried as of the sale date.
  • The home must have been used as a principal residence for two of the last five years prior to the death. 
  • The home must have been owned for two of the last five years prior to the death.
  • Survivor can count any time when spouse owned the home as time they owned it and any time the home was the spouse’s residence as time when it was their residence.
  • Neither spouse may have excluded gain from the sale of another principal residence during the last two years prior to the death.
If you have been widowed in the last two years and have substantial gain in your principal residence, it would be worth investigating the possibilities. Time is a critical factor in qualification. Contact your tax professional for advice about your specific situation. Contact me to find out what your home is worth in today’s market. See IRS Publication 523 – surviving spouse.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Advantage of Rental Homes

Real estate is the overwhelming preferred choice by Americans as identified in a recent survey. With the Dow Jones industrial average reaching record highs, it might be expected that the stock market would be the favored choice but that wasn’t the outcome.
Analysis of the report suggests that the popularity for houses could be that they are tangible assets that you can see where your money is actually invested compared to stocks and bonds which tend to be unclear where the money is invested.
There are several distinct advantages of homes as investments over other popular alternatives.
  1. High loan-to-value mortgages available
  2. At fixed interest rates
  3. For long periods of time
  4. On appreciating assets
  5. With definite tax advantages
  6. And reasonable control.
Another advantage of rental homes is that most people are comfortable with them. It is the same type of property that they live in but used as a rental. They have a tendency to understand the key components such as value, appreciation, rent, maintenance and financing.

Monday, September 26, 2016

If The Rate Goes Up

It’s not “if” the rate goes up but “when” the rate goes up; it could make a big difference for some buyers. Freddie Mac predicts that mortgage rates will be at 4.5% a year from now.
If buyers can afford a home with higher interest rates, it means higher payments. Higher payments might mean they won’t have the money to spend on other things like furniture or improvements to the home or an unrelated purchase like a new car.
When the rate moves 0.50% on a $250,000, the payment goes up by $70.66 a month. If it moves 1.00%, the payment goes up by $143.74 per month, each and every month for the entire term of the mortgage which means paying over $50,000 more for the house.
The question facing every borrower in this situation is “How will you feel about having to pay more to live in the same house because you were not ready to commit?”
Then, there’s the borrower who is absolutely maxed out as to what they can qualify for or sometimes, it is a borrower who just refuses to pay a higher payment. When that’s the case, the buyer has to make a larger down payment. In the same example, a 0.50% increase in rate would require $14,873 more in down payment. That could make the purchase impossible or require the buyer to buy a lesser price home that will not have the same amenities.
Mortgage rates have been low for so long that some people think that is what they should be. There are some economists who believe that the economy will not be strong again until mortgage rates are in the 7% range.
To see how this type of scenario might affect you, go to the If the Rate Goes Up calculator.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Down Payment

Some people wait to buy a home until they have 20% down payment to avoid paying the mortgage insurance which is required by lenders when the loan-to-value ratio is greater than 80%, with the exception of VA loans.
To illustrate a typical situation, let’s assume that buyers have $10,000 for a down payment on a $200,000 home. They could purchase it today with a 95% loan or save another $30,000 in order to get an 80% loan without mortgage insurance.
If it took three years to save the additional down payment, the $200,000 home at 3% appreciation would cost $218,545. A 20% down payment on the increased sales price would be $43,709, less the $10,000 the buyers currently have leaves them $33,709 to save which would amount to $936.36 a month. They would secure a $174,836 mortgage at the then current mortgage rates, which in all likelihood, will be higher than today’s rates.
The alternative is for the buyer to purchase the home today with a 95% loan at today’s low interest rates plus approximately $85 a month for mortgage insurance depending on their credit score. At the end of three years, the unpaid balance would be $179,548.  Assuming the home will be worth the same $218,545, the buyer’s equity would be almost $39,000.  To reduce the mortgage to the same amount as the first example, the buyer would need to make an additional $125 a month principal contribution above the normal payment. Then, the mortgage would have an unpaid balance at the end of three years of $174,775.
When there is sufficient equity in the home, the mortgage insurance is no longer required. Some lenders may drop the mortgage insurance requirement with an appraisal to provide proof. In other situations, it may require refinancing to eliminate the insurance.  Call to discuss options that may be available to you.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dust Free House

Having a dust-free home isn’t difficult, but it takes a serious commitment and a housekeeping strategy that addresses the dust and its causes. Whether your motive is cleanliness or to eliminate the cause of some allergies and asthma symptoms, it will be worth it.
  • Try to dust your home at least twice a week. Dust the tallest items and work your way down. Dust picture frames, blinds, baseboards and anything that stands out from the wall.
  • Feather dusters can spread more dust than they collect compared to microfiber cloths that attracts dust because they have an electrostatic charge.
  • Filters on heating and air-conditioning systems should be changed often not only to remove dust from the air but to increase the efficiency of the units themselves. Special HEPA filters can improve the overall indoor air quality.
  • Frequently changing the bag or emptying the container in your vacuum is helpful in eliminating dust.
  • Vacuum the floors at least once a week. Vacuum under furniture and periodically, move appliances to clean behind and underneath. Use the proper attachments to vacuum upholstered furniture and under cushions.
  • Eliminate dust magnets like carpet, heavy drapes and upholstered furniture. Consider hard surface flooring like wood or tile instead of carpet.
  • Keep windows closed to keep dust out.
  • Clean your pillows and drapes.
  • Damp mopping and dusting with plain water helps hold the dust and is environmentally friendly.
  • A humidifier can eliminate static electricity which holds dust.
  • Air purifiers circulate are and capture dust and other pollutants.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fair Market Value

Fair market value is the price that real estate would sell for on the open market without any unusual forces being involved. The definition is relatively simple but there certainly different methods of determining what it is.
A homeowner could order an appraisal before they put their home on the market but would incur the expense of an appraisal and more likely than not, it won’t or can’t be used by the buyer or their lender. The advantage is that an appraisal is a professional approach by a disinterested party to establish value.
Licensed appraisers use three approaches to value: the market data, the replacement cost and the income approach. The appraiser can put more weight on one approach than another based on his/her assessment of what would be appropriate.
The replacement cost looks at what it would cost to rebuild the property today less the depreciation it has experienced by age and wear and tear plus the value of the lot.
The income approach uses a capitalization rate based on the net operating income of a property to determine value. It is more applicable to commercial properties than it is for homes used by homeowners and not rented.
The market data approach relies on recent sales of similar properties near the subject. The appraiser will make monetary adjustments for differences in the comparables that are used to create a more accurate comparison.
Real estate agents use a similar approach to determine fair market value by performing a Competitive Market Analysis, CMA. Like the market data approach of an appraisal, it looks at recent sales of similar properties, it also considers properties currently for sale and what homes were unsuccessful in their attempt to sell. This approach is sensitive to supply and demand and may be more reactive to rapidly rising or declining markets.
Both appraisals and CMAs have a distinct advantage because of the personal opinion as a professional compared to online website estimates using raw data and mathematical formulas. Regardless of which method is used, it is an estimate. Obviously, some estimates are more accurate based on the experience of the person making the estimate. A price is placed on the property by the seller but value is ultimately determined by the buyer when a final sale is achieved.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Pay Off Your Mortgage

Becoming debt free is as much a part of the American Dream as owning a home but there certainly can be conflicting circumstances that make the decision to pay off your mortgage early unclear.
The advantages of paying off debt early is increased cash flow, less interest paid and a higher credit score. The disadvantages are lower cash flow available as discretionary funds for meals, entertainment and other things. If the ultimate goal is financial security, is it worth the intermediate sacrifice?
Whether you pay off your mortgage early is a personal decision that may be right for one person and not for another. Consider the following before you get started:
Reasons you should
  • Peace of mind knowing that you don’t have a mortgage
  • You’ll save interest regardless of how low your mortgage rate is
  • Lowering your housing costs before you retire
Reasons you shouldn’t
  • You can invest at a higher rate than your mortgage
  • You have other debt at a higher rate than your mortgage that needs to be paid off
  • You might need the money in the future and want to remain liquid
  • You might not qualify for a mortgage currently
  • You should pay off other debt with higher interest rates
  • Your employer has a matching retirement plan that would benefit you more
  • You have more urgent financial needs like emergency fund, life, health and disability insurance
  • You expect high inflation and the value of your mortgage debt will decrease
Use this Mortgage Accelerator to determine how quick you can pay off your mortgage.