Archive for Austin Real Estate

Bunch Your Taxes and Save

iStock_000016195030XSmall(er).jpgOne of the drawbacks to low mortgage rates is that the total interest and property taxes paid for the year may be lower than the standard deduction.  A little planning might be able to help you at least every other year.

Most homeowners know they can deduct their qualified mortgage interest and property taxes on their Schedule A of their 1040 tax return or to take the standard deduction if it is greater.  See Your Deduction…Your Choice.

Deductions are taken in the year that they’re actually paid.  If a homeowner paid their 2012 property taxes in 2013, they would not be deductible on their 2012 tax return.  Then, if the 2013 property taxes were paid in 2013, both the 2012 and 2013 taxes could be deducted on the 2013 Schedule A.

By delaying the payment of the 2012 taxes until 2013, the combination of the 2012 and 2013 taxes might exceed the 2013 standard deduction and provide a higher deduction.

Other Schedule A expenses such as charitable contributions and medical expenses may be bunched also.  From a practical standpoint, since most mortgage payments are due monthly, the mortgage interest would not be bunched.

This information should be discussed with your tax advisor to see how it might apply to your individual situation.  The key is you must be aware of the strategy early to be able to use it.

Your Deduction – Your Choice

Taxpayers are allowed to decide each year whether to take the standard deduction or to itemize their deduction when filing their personal income tax returns.  Roughly, 75% of households with more than $75,000 income and most homeowners itemize their deductions.Itemized Deductions.png

The 2012 standard deduction, available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they own a home, is $11,900 for married filing jointly and $5,950 for single taxpayers.

Let’s look at an example of a homeowner couple with a $150,000 mortgage at 3.5%.  The standard deduction would give them $2,650 more than the total of their interest paid and property taxes of approximately $9,250.  If they were in the 28% tax bracket, the actual tax savings would be $742.00.

When mortgage rates were considerably higher, many people expected the interest and property taxes to easily exceed the standard deduction but with today’s low rates, a comparison is certainly justified.

There are other things that could come into consideration like charitable contributions, medical expenses and casualty losses.  Tax professionals will compare available alternatives to find the one that will benefit the taxpayer most.

For more information, see www.IRS.gov and consult a tax advisor.

 

Low Inventories Indicate a Trend

Low inventory is a relative term depending on how you’re comparing it.  Would the comparison be to total number of homes on the market last year, homes in a certain price range or homes in a certain area?  In some situations, it’s a combination of all of those things.

In any given market, inventories will fluctuate based on area and price range.  The National Association of REALTORS® considers a balanced market to be six months’ supply of homes.  If it takes longer than six months to sell, it is thought to be a buyer’s market and less than six months, a seller’s market.  Most buyers and sellers probably feel inventory equilibrium is more like three month’s supply of homes.

Inventory has a direct impact on price.  During the housing bubble, demand decreased, supply ballooned to four million houses and prices dropped dramatically.  Increased inventories due to foreclosures, bank’ revised lending practices and builder’s lack of new housing starts each contributed to the dramatically lower prices.

As the market has recovered, economic conditions have improved, banks have loosened their requirements, interest rates have remained low, foreclosures have slowed and gradually, the inventory has been reduced to approximately two million houses.  When demand is constant but inventory is reduced, price tends to increase because the same number of people are trying to buy a smaller than normal number of homes.

Based on the low mortgage rates that have been inching up each week in 2013 and an improving consumer confidence level, most markets are experiencing some increase in demand.  With inventory decreasing, buyers in the marketplace can see that prices are increasing.

Just as signs of spring can be seen to be just around the corner, it should be recognized what direction prices will be moving.  Hindsight is 20/20 but we can’t purchase or sell in the past.  We need to make decisions today on what we think will happen in the future.

If you’re curious to know what inventory conditions are for your specific market, send me an email with the price range and area and I’ll send you a report.  Vivian@VivianDaywood.com

Thinking About Refinancing Again?

We’re constantly bombarded by lenders to refinance our mortgage under a variety of programs. The volume of offers can almost make you numb to the rational consideration.

There are common rules of thumbs that homeowners and agents use such as not refinancing more often than every two years or there must be at least 2% savings from your previous mortgage rate may not always be accurate.

The reality is that if you can refinance for a lower rate and you’ll be in the home long enough to recapture the cost of refinancing, it should be considered. The costs of previous refinancing that haven’t been recaptured by monthly savings may need to be added to the costs of the new refinance.

Take a look at the chart that shows the average rates according to Freddie Mac for 2012. They are lower today than they were in January of 2012 and for the ten years before that.

Refinancing may save you a substantial amount of money, especially if you’re going to be in your home for a long time. It is definitely worth investigating. To get a quick idea of what your savings could be, use this refinancing calculator.

Sell Sooner and for More Money? – More Likely If It Shows Better!

If it shows better, it will probably sell faster and maybe for more money. Once your home is on the market, it’s time to look at it like a commodity and through the eyes of potential buyers. In all likelihood, you’ll need to take care of these items eventually, so do them now to help it sell sooner.

  1. Make repairs – it doesn’t matter if it’s been that way since you bought it. You need to fix it so that the buyer doesn’t think that the rest of the house is about to fall apart.
  2. Not too personal – you may have bought your home to express yourself but if the buyer can’t see themselves in the home for all of your things, it’s going to take longer to sell than you want.
  3. Drive-up appeal – the old saying “you never get a second chance at a first impression” applies to your home too. They may never even get out of the car to come inside.
  4. The nose knows – it may not smell like home but it shouldn’t smell like a place they would never consider living.
  5. Neutral colors, decor, etc. – these are not decorating tips you’ll see in magazines but the truth is that bold colors and designs are difficult for most people to see beyond. They’ll imagine their things better in neutral surroundings.
  6. Less looks like more – removing some of the non-essential things from your home will eliminate clutter and make the home feel larger. The same suggestion applies to cabinets and closets.
A confused mind will not make a decision. Identify and eliminate items that could derail a potential sale. The preparation you make in the beginning will help the presentation to your buyers.

Before You Leave Home…

The last thing you want to do while you’re on a trip is to worry about someone burglarizing your home. Use this checklist to add some peace of mind to your travel plans.

  • Ask a trusted friend – to pick up your mail and newspaper and keep the yard free of trash and advertisements.
  • Stop your mail but maybe not your newspaper – you can easily handle this online by going to the US Postal Service’s Hold Mail Service. A recent story implicated an employee from a major newspaper who was passing customer hold requests to burglars.
  • Don’t post about your trip on Facebook and Twitter until you return – some burglars actually look for this type of announcement to schedule their activities.
  • Do notify police and/or neighborhood watch – especially if you’re going to be gone for more than just a few days. Let your monitoring service know when you’ll be gone and if someone will be checking on your home for you.
  • Light timers make it look like someone is home – use several set for different times to better simulate someone at home.
  • Do unplug certain appliances – TVs, computers, toaster ovens that use electricity even when they’re off and to protect them from power surges.
  • Don’t hide a key – burglars know exactly where to look for your key and it only takes them a moment to check under the mat, above the door, in the flower pot or in a fake rock.

These easy-to-handle suggestions may protect your belongings while you’re gone while adding a level of serenity to your trip.

Choose the Right Color!

Have you ever picked a color from the myriad of paint samples available, put it on the wall and decided that it was all wrong? It shouldn’t have to be that difficult but trying to pick the perfect color from those little swatches is just not that easy.

Painters and decorators suggest you buy a small amount of the colors you’re considering. Your paint store should be able to mix them in any brand and any color. Once it’s on the wall, it will be easy to determine if it needs to be lighter or darker or if it’s completely wrong.

Take them home and paint a 2′ x 2′ area on the wall. If you’re concerned about testing the colors on your wall, you can paint some sample boards that can be easily moved around to see how they’ll look with the furniture, floors and other items in the room.

Instead of guessing what it’s going to look like, you’ll actually see how it looks during different times of the day, in natural and artificial light.

While $30 to $40 a gallon for paint may seem like a lot of money, the cost in time and labor to put it on the wall is even more. It’s worth taking the time to test the color on the wall before you buy all the paint needed

Sooner is Better Than Later!

Buyers who have delayed purchasing a home due to concerns about what might happen to the tax laws affecting home ownership should feel comfortable about getting back in the market. The recent legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President continues to value homes as a favored investment.

For a summary of specific real estate provisions in the “Fiscal Cliff” bill, click here.

Whether the delayed purchase is for a home to live in as your principal residence or to use as rental property, taking action sooner is better than later.

Reasons to buy now:

  1. The house payment with taxes and insurance is probably cheaper than the rent.
  2. Rents will continue to rise making the difference even greater in the future.
  3. Lock-in the principal & interest payment with a fixed-rate mortgage.
  4. 30 year mortgage terms are available to most borrowers.
  5. The mortgage interest deduction is intact for the majority of taxpayers.
  6. The capital gain exclusion for principal residences up to $500,000 remains in place.
  7. Prices are going up due to lower inventories and several years of low housing starts.
Contact me about any specific questions you have or information you need.

Get Your Offer Accepted

As the market shifts from a buyer’s market, it’s good to know how to improve your chances to have the seller accept your offer.

Once you decide on a home, don’t waste time; write an offer and submit it as soon as possible. Competing with another buyer happens more frequently than you’d expect. Multiple offers are a seller’s advantage but here are some tips to level the playing field:

  • Realistic offer – don’t give the impression you’re trying to “steal” the property. Submit comparable sales that justify your offer.
  • Pre-approval letter – this satisfies seller’s biggest concern that an unqualified buyer will unnecessarily take the home off the market and the seller will lose other opportunities.
  • More earnest money – it shows you’re serious and makes the seller feel like the contract will actually close.
  • Minimize contingencies – from a seller’s standpoint, each contingency is one more reason why the sale won’t go through. They feel the home is “off the market” and they’re in limbo.
  • Shorten inspection period – your agent can help you set a reasonable date but let the seller know you’re willing to close prior to that if possible.
  • Write a personal letter to the seller telling them why you want their home – this can be the emotional connection to the seller that makes the difference in you getting the home.
A seller wants to feel confident that the offer they accept will actually close so they can plan for their next move. Following tips like these can definitely affect negotiations and help put together an offer that is more likely to be accepted.

Unexpected Home Repairs – Avoiding Them!

It’s common for sellers to consider offering and buyers might find it an incentive, but a growing number of homeowners are purchasing the home warranties themselves to limit the unexpected expenses of repairs and replacements.

A home protection plan is a renewable service contract that covers the repair or replacement of many of the components in a home. Some homeowners especially like the convenience that it organizes a qualified service provider as well as the cost of the items.

There are a variety of companies that offer home warranties and the coverage may differ but the majority of things will include heating, air conditioning most built-in and some free-standing appliances, as well as other specific items. Additional specific coverage may be available for other things like pool and spa equipment.

Some investors are even placing this coverage on their rental properties to limit the amount of maintenance repairs during the year. It is a viable alternative to managing the financial risk and the stress dealing with unexpected expenses.

If you’re interested in home warranties, I’ll be happy to send you more information.