Archive for Austin Home Buying Process

Mortgage Interest Deduction

 

A recent U.S. Tax Court ruling clarified the IRS position that the $1.1 million limit for mortgage interest deduction applies per residence and not per taxpayer as some high-priced homeowners were hoping.

A married homeowner filing jointly can have fully deductible interest on a mortgage of up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt and up to an additional $100,000 of home equity debt. If the married couple files separately, each party is limited to deducting the interest on half of those maximum amounts.

The court case came about when two unmarried individuals who owned a home together as joint tenants felt that they were entitled to deduct the interest on $1.1 million of debt each. IRS did not agree with their understanding and neither did the Tax Court. The Court ruled that the limits apply per residence, not per taxpayer even if a home is co-owned by unmarried taxpayers.

The result for the taxpayers in this case was that their deduction was cut in half resulting in much more income tax due. While this situation only affects a few taxpayers, homeowners in this position should have a discussion with their tax professional.

 

FHA Fees Going Up April 1st

FHA has raised the annual Mortgage Insurance Premium to 1.25% beginning April 1st.  MIP is required on all FHA loans and used to fund losses by lenders for borrowers who default on their mortgages.  As of June 1st, FHA loans in excess of the standard maximum of $625,500, in high-cost areas, will have a premium of 1.5% of the loan amount.

In addition to the increase in the annual MIP, FHA also announced it plans to raise the fee on the up-front MIP from 1.00% to 1.75%.  No date was reported for its implementation.

The bottom line will result in a borrower’s payments going up.  However, it might not be restricted to the MIP.  Freddie Mac’sPrimary Mortgage Market Survey showed that both 30 year and 15 year mortgages have gone up too.

One way to avoid the increase is to have a completed sales contract and have your lender order the FHA commitment prior to April 1, 2012.  If you plan on buying a home this spring, there is a reason to do it earlier rather than later.

Risk Determines Rate

Regardless of what a lender quotes on mortgage rates, the actual rate paid by a borrower is based on a number of variables. Lenders determine whether to loan money and at what rate based on the risk involved with the transaction.

Factors that increase the risk that the loan will be repaid will proportionately increase the interest rate charged to the borrower. If the risk becomes too high, the loan will not be approved.

  • Loan amounts – conventional loans for more than the conforming limits set by Fannie Mae are considered jumbo loans and generally have a higher interest rate.
  • FICO score – the lowest interest rate is reserved for the highest credit scores; the lower the score, the higher the rate borrower will pay.
  • Occupancy – borrowers occupying a home as their principal residence are considered a better loan risk than second homes and investment properties.
  • Loan purpose – purchase transactions generally have the lowest interest rate while refinancing a home is generally higher.
  • Debt-to-Income ratio – a borrower’s monthly liabilities divided by their gross monthly income develops a ratio that helps lenders to assess the borrower’s ability to repay the mortgage.
  • Loan-to-Value ratio – the lower the percentage of the loan to the appraised value of the property will generally lower the interest rate.
Any combination of these factors could limit a borrower’s ability to secure a mortgage at the rate initially quoted. Being pre-approved by a trusted mortgage professional is the best way to know what rate you can expect to pay. Please call for a recommendation.

End of Year Deal!

 

Finding the Best Deal

 

Consumers are vigilant about buying opportunities like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday along with sales, coupons and rebates.  Some cautious buyers will even risk shopping early to find exactly what they want to waiting until the last moment for potentially lower prices.

In retail, the hype is more obvious and the signs may be easier to read than that of the home market.  Certainly, volumes have been written about the record low mortgage rates and that home prices have adjusted considerably lower in the last four years.

A more subtle indication of a home buying bargain is that statistics indicate that year-after-year, the average home prices fall in the fourth quarter.  The holidays beginning with Thanksgiving, winter weather and the distractions of gift purchases certainly contribute to lower home sales.  

Regardless of what is causing the reduced volume, the smart buyer can take advantage of the end of the year to get their best possible deal on a home purchase.  The buyers willing to buck the trend could easily benefit from lower prices and less competition from other buyers.

Full Price or Special Terms?

No one wants to pay more than its value regardless of the product. When you buy bananas for 49 cents a pound at one store and see them for 39 cents a pound at another store, it’s not the ten cent difference as much as it is about overpaying.

It seems like the natural way to start the negotiation process is to offer less than the asking price for the home. However, instead of the price, a buyer could negotiate condition, timing or terms. A few thousand dollars off the price may not make much difference in the monthly payments but it might make a big difference if it was negotiated in one of the other areas.

A buyer who only has enough available funds for down payment and closing costs will have to live in a home exactly the way it is for some time. They may not be able to make the changes that would really make it feel like home until they’ve saved more money.

Let’s say you found a home that needed $5,000 worth of improvements and the seller would lower the price by that amount. Financing those improvements with a separate bank loan will result in higher payments due to a higher interest rate and shorter term than your mortgage.

Offering full price and asking the seller to make the improvements will result in lower monthly payments based on today’s low mortgage rates and 30 year term. Another alternative is to negotiate with the seller to pay your closing costs so you’d have the cash to make the improvements.

Paying full price may cause the seller to consider concessions regarding condition or terms which can be balanced to affect the value of the property. Buyers can and should negotiate to acquire the home that meets their needs at the lowest possible cost of housing.