The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the standard deduction

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 increased the standard deduction to $24,000 for married couples.  There will be some instances that homeowners may be better off taking the standard deduction than itemizing their deductions.  In the past, homeowners would most likely be better off itemizing but the $10,000 limit of state and local taxes (SALT) adds one more issue to consider.

Let’s look at a hypothetical homeowner to see how a strategy that has been around for years could benefit them now even though they haven’t used it in the past.  The strategy is called bunching; by timing the payments in a tax year so that they can be combined to make a larger deduction.

Let’s say that the married couple filing jointly has a $285,000 mortgage at 5% for 30 years that has about $14,000 in interest being paid.  The property taxes are $6,000 and they have $4,000 a year in charitable contributions for a total of $24,000 of allowable itemized deductions on Schedule A.

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Since that deduction amount is the same as the Standard Deduction, there is no monetary advantage one way or the other.  However, if the taxpayers were to pay their interest because they must make timely house payments but only pay $2,000 of the 2018 property taxes in December of 2018 and the balance of the $4,000 in January, they transfer part of the deduction into 2019.

Additionally, if they make their intended charitable contribution for 2018 in January of 2019, it makes that deductible on the 2019 return.

Since the total deductible amounts paid out in 2018 was $16,000, the taxpayers would have an $8,000 benefit that year from taking the Standard Deduction.

Assuming they made the same $4,000 charitable contribution in 2019 during the year and paid the house payment and property taxes on time, their total deductions for 2019 would be $32,000 which is $8,000 more than the Standard Deduction.

In this example, the taxpayers in 2018 and 2019, would benefit a total of $16,000 in tax deductions by bunching and electing to take the standard deduction one year and itemizing the next.

This is only an example but if your situation is similar, it might benefit you to consider an alternative when to take the standard deduction and when to itemize.  This is a conversation you need to have with your tax professional to see if it would work for you.

Eliminate FHA Mortgage Insurance

InTouch Mortgage Insurance

Mortgage insurance premium can add almost $200 to the payment on a $265,000 FHA mortgage. The decision to get an FHA loan may have been the lower down payment requirement or the lower credit score levels, but now that you have the loan, is it possible to eliminate it?

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 (864) 400-9974.  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.

Roll the Repairs into the Mortgage

It’s been said that if you can find a home that has most of what you want, you should go ahead and purchase it.  Many first-time buyers are using everything they have for a down payment and closing costs and would have to “live” with the less than perfect home until they can save the money to make the changes.

The FHA 203(k) mortgage allows a borrower to purchase a home and provides additional funds for improvements to be made.  These types of renovations can include kitchen and bathroom remodels, flooring, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, additions and other things.

The benefit to the buyer is that they have the opportunity to consider a home that needs repairs and might have been unacceptable without a program like this.  Being a FHA loan, a minimal down payment is required, fair interest rates and generous qualifying requirements.

The 203(k) Streamline can be used for cosmetic improvements, appliances and minor remodeling up to $35,000 in cost.

As you can imagine, this is a specialized program and not all lenders choose to make 203(k) loans.  They usually take longer to process and getting firm bids on the work to be done will be required.  It is important to find out how much experience a lender has with this particular type of loan.

It will also be required that you work with a 203(k) consultant in addition to the mortgage officer.

For more information, go to Hud.gov.  FNMA has a similar conventional loan program called HomeStyle Mortgage.  Your real estate professional will be able to help with recommendations.  Call me at (864) 400-9974.

Getting the “Right” Home

Finding the right home is still the biggest challenge buyers are faced with in today’s market as is shown in the latest Confidence Index Survey.  Assuming the buyers find the “right” home with determination, perseverance and the help of a real estate professional, 88% of all transactions last year required financing to get the buyer’s address on the home.  93% of first-time buyers needed financing.

Pre-approval is an essential step that needs to be handled before buyers begin searching for a home.  The benefits to the buyer fall into the category of confidence.

PRE-APPROVAL GIVES YOU CONFIDENCE

  • Knowing the amount you can borrow
    the mortgage amount decreases as interest rates rise
  • Looking at the right priced homes
    price, size, amenities, location
  • Comparing and identifying the best loan
    rate, term, type
  • Uncover issues early that could affect the most favorable loan terms
    time to cure possible problems
  • Bargaining power to negotiate with the seller and possibly, competing buyers
    price, terms, & timing
  • Settlement can occur sooner after contact is accepted
    verifications have already been made

Items Needed for Pre-Approval

  • Photo ID
  • Two months current pay stubs
  • Last two year’s W2s
  • Complete copies of checking and savings statements for last three months
  • Copies of statements for IRAs, 401k, savings, CDs, money market funds, etc.
  • Employment history for last two years with addresses and contacts
  • Proof of commissioned or bonus income
  • Residency history for last two years with addresses and contacts
  • Assets for down payment, closing costs, and reserves; must provide paper trail
  • If self-employed, last two years tax returns, current profit and loss statement and balance sheet; copy of partnership/corporate tax returns for last two years if owning more than 25% of company
  • FHA requires driver’s license and social security card
  • VA requires original certificate of eligibility and DD214
  • Other things may be required such as previous bankruptcy, divorce decree

Contact us at (864) 400-9974 or Nick@NextHomeRealtor.com if you’d like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.

Start Early and Live Happily Ever-after

As storybooks go, the character is introduced, they meet their love interest, a villain thwarts their intentions, true love overcomes, they marry and live happily ever-after.  It’s a very familiar formula.

Similarly, there is a formula that couples follow in real life.  They go to college, get a good job, rent a home, fall in love, get married and buy a starter home.  They start a family, move into a larger home, save for their children’s education, start planning for their retirement and if they live within their means, they invest their surplus funds.

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An alternative to this might be to start investing in rental homes early in their adult life before their standard of living becomes so expensive that they don’t feel like they have the money to purchase rentals.  There are infinite possibilities but let’s say a single person, after getting a good job, buys a small three or four-bedroom home with an owner-occupied, minimum down payment.  They move into the home and possibly, rent out the bedrooms to other singles who need a place to live.

At some point, they decide to buy another home to live in with a minimum down payment and either rent out their bedroom in the first home or rent the whole home to a tenant.  And they repeat the process again with the second home.

This could continue until they acquired several homes.  Let’s say, that in the meantime, they have met their love interest, decide to get married and together, they buy a starter home for them to live in.

This concept advances the investment in rental homes from the latter part of their lives to the early part of their life.  The early investment gives them more time for appreciation and wealth accumulation.  A simple principle of investing is that sooner is better than later.  By delaying gratification to own your “dream home” early, a person may be able to accumulate more net worth in the same period of time.

Buying a property initially as owner-occupied permits a lower down payment of 3.5% compared to a typical down payment for non-owner-occupied properties is 20%.  By using more borrowed funds, leverage can increase the yield on the investment.

It may be too late for some people reading this article to adopt this strategy but if they have kids in college, it may be something for them to consider.