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Understanding the Mortgage Interest Deduction

Mortgage interest paid on your principal residence is deductible today as it was in 1913 when 16th amendment allowed personal income tax.  The 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act reduced the maximum amount of acquisition debt from $1,000,000 to $750,000.

Acquisition debt is the amount of debt used to buy, build or improve a principal residence, up to the maximum amount.  A common misunderstanding among taxpayers is that you are entitled to that much debt even if you refinance a home during your ownership years.

Acquisition debt is a dynamic number that changes over time.  It decreases with normal amortization as the principal amount of debt is reduced.  The only way to increase acquisition debt after a home is purchased is to borrow additional funds that are used for capital improvements.

Assume a person buys a home with a new mortgage and after the home has enjoyed significant appreciation, refinances the home for much more than is currently owed.  Let’s also say that the refinance amount is less than $750,000 which might lead the borrower to an erroneous conclusion that all the interest will be deductible.

The current acquisition debt is transferred to the new mortgage.  Only the portion of the funds used to pay for new capital improvements can be combined to equal the increased acquisition debt.  The interest on that part of the mortgage is deductible as qualified mortgage interest.

The remainder of the refinanced mortgage is attributed to personal debt and the interest paid on that is not deductible.

Lenders are not generally concerned with making a homeowner a fully tax-deductible loan.  Lenders are interested in making a loan which will make a profit and be repaid according to the terms.  The annual statements that most lenders issue to borrowers indicate how much interest was paid in a calendar year as they are required to do by federal law.

Part of the confusion may be because homeowners believe they can deduct interest on debt up to $750,000 and this annual statement shows the interest paid for the year.  It is up to each homeowner to keep track of their acquisition debt and only deduct the qualified mortgage interest.

Your tax professional can be very helpful in determining this amount.  It is important to notify them that you have refinanced a home during the tax year for which the taxes are being reported.  For more information, see IRS Publication 936 and Homeowners Tax Guide.  Home equity debt has not been allowed since the beginning of 2018.

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4 Reasons to Buy A Home This Summer

4 Reasons to Buy A Home This Summer | Simplifying The Market

Here are four reasons to consider buying today instead of waiting.

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest U.S. Home Price Insights reports that home prices have appreciated by 3.7% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 4.8% over the next year.

Home values will continue to appreciate. Waiting may no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage have started to level off around 4.3%. Most experts predict that rates will rise over the next 12 months. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting rates will increase by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way, You Are Paying a Mortgage

Some renters have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ which allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Examine the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, greater safety for your family, or you just want to have control over renovations, now could be the time to buy.

Bottom Line

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

Content previously posted on Keeping Current Matters

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The Ultimate Truth about Housing Affordability

The Ultimate Truth about Housing Affordability | Simplifying The Market

There have been many headlines decrying an “affordability crisis” in the residential real estate market. While it is true that buying a home is less affordable than it had been over the last ten years, we need to understand why and what that means.

On a monthly basis, the National Association of Realtors (NAR), produces a Housing Affordability Index. According to NAR, the index…

“…measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national and regional levels based on the most recent price and income data.”

Their methodology states:

“To interpret the indices, a value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index above 100 signifies that family earning the median income has more than enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment.”

So, the higher the index, the more affordable it is to purchase a home. Here is a graph of the index going back to 1990:

The Ultimate Truth about Housing Affordability | Simplifying The Market

It is true that the index is lower today than any year from 2009 to 2017. However, we must realize the main reason homes were more affordable. That period of time immediately followed a housing crash and there were large numbers of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales). Those properties were sold at large discounts.

Today, the index is higher than any year from 1990 to 2008. Based on historic home affordability data, that means homes are more affordable right now than any other time besides the time following the housing crisis.

With mortgage rates remaining low and wages finally increasing, we can see that it is MORE AFFORDABLE to purchase a home today than it was last year!

Bottom Line

With wages increasing, price appreciation moderating, and mortgage rates remaining near all-time lows, purchasing a home is a great move based on historic affordability numbers.

Content previously posted on Keeping Current Matters

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Multigenerational Homes Are on the Rise

Multigenerational Homes Are on the Rise | Simplifying The Market

As loved ones start to get older, we start to wonder: how long will they be able to live alone? Will they need someone there to help them with daily life? There’s a reason to ask those questions now more than ever, as the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78 years old!  As a result, 41% of Americans in the market are searching for a home that can accommodate a multigenerational family.

The graph below shows the number of people by generation that purchased a multigenerational home because they will either be taking care of an aging parent or they just want to spend time together.Multigenerational Homes Are on the Rise | Simplifying The MarketOf those buyers, 26% indicated they will be taking care of an aging parent, and 14% said they want to spend time with an aging parent. These numbers do not come as a surprise. According to Pew Research Center, 64 million Americans (20% of the population) lived in a multigenerational household in 2016 (Last numbers available).Multigenerational Homes Are on the Rise | Simplifying The MarketAn increasing number of studies affirm the benefits of being part of a multigenerational household. These benefits aren’t just for the grandchildren, but for the grandparents as well. According to these two resources:

The University of Oxford

“Children who are close to their grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems and are better able to cope with traumatic life events, like a divorce or bullying at school”.

Boston College

“Researchers found that emotionally close ties between grandparents and adult grandchildren reduced depressive symptoms in both groups”.

This research gives helpful insight into why 41% of Americans are in the market to buy a multigenerational home.

Bottom Line

If you have a home that could accommodate a multigenerational family and are thinking about selling, now is the perfect time to put it on the market! The number of buyers looking for this type of home will only continue to increase.

Content previously posted on Keeping Current Matters

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3 Tips for Homebuyers in a Fast-Pace Market

Homebuying is already an emotional experience without the pressures of the market. Adding on the market’s intensity is enough to make anyone go insane. If you’re experiencing this problem as a homebuyer in your local market, here are three tips to help break through the competition and beat the other competing buyers to your next home purchase.

Set up instant property alerts. Many real estate websites allow users to save their search criteria and alerts emailed or text to them within minutes of homes coming on the market. This is the best way to stay ahead of competing buyers. When homes are selling within hours, every minute counts. It’s nearly impossible to find the best house in a hot market without having instant notifications.

The process is typically very simple. Find the best real estate website in your area to setup email alerts and then watch your phone for the alerts to come through. Many times, the best sites for this feature are local Realtors’ websites. A quick Google search is the easiest way to find these sites, and see which have homes that best meet your criteria.

Pro tip: Not all websites have a direct feed to their local multiple listing service. In order to get the best results from the site supplying you with property updates, make sure you choose one connected to the MLS and updates within minutes. Some websites update daily, meaning you won’t receive updates until the next day. In markets where homes are selling within hours, these late updates will not help much.

Hire an agent who moves fast. Not all real estate agents are created equal, and some work with more sellers than buyers. Other may work part time, or are not very tech savvy. There are many different kinds of agents, so you need to be smart about who you choose to help you find your home.

Find an aggressive agent who can meet you in a timely manner. You stand the best chance of this by working with one who works with mostly homebuyers. Buyer’s agents are very in-tune with the current struggles that fast-paced markets present. They understand how time is of the essence when shopping for a home in a hot market.

By choosing an agent who moves fast and simplifies the process, you can beat other buyers to the punch and get the home you’re interested in under contract. The internet and technology have changed the real estate industry dramatically over the past few years. While some professionals have adapted well, others are still trying to catch up – choose wisely.

Be prepared to make an aggressive offer. When a real estate market is hot, there’s no time for being picky. If you’ve looked at multiple homes and have been beat out by other buyers on several occasions, you may be asking for too much in your offer.

Listing agents are very busy right now. When they receive multiple offers – sometimes 20 or more at time – they have to sift through all of those contracts to determine which ones are the best for their sellers. Some buyers are willing to offer tens of thousands of dollars above the listing price of the home. If you want to compete, you have to keep up or give up on buying a home this year.

A good local real estate agent will know the best way to structure a contract to make it as appealing as possible to the home sellers in your market. The more appealing your offer, the better chance it stands of being accepted. If you work with your agent to form your offer strategy before you fall in love with a home, the process will go much smoother. Emotions tend to trigger impulse decisions, which can cause deals to fall apart later on. Learn your market, develop a strategy, and stick to it.

Final thoughts. Buying a house in a fast paced market can be very stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. If you know what to expect going into it and you utilize tools and tricks to navigate your market, you can bypass much unnecessary stress. Leverage the professionals around you and be ready to move fast once you find the best home for you.

 

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report L.P.