Month: April 2017

Tax Return Depressing? Owning a Home Could Help

Tax Return Depressing? Owning a Home Could Help | Simplifying The Market

Many Americans got some depressing news last week; either their tax return was not as large as they had hoped or, in some cases, they were told they owed additional money to either the Federal or State government or both. One way to save on taxes is to own your own home.

According to the Tax Policy Center’s Briefing Book -“A citizen's guide to the fascinating (though often complex) elements of the federal Tax System” - there are several tax advantages to homeownership.

Here are four items, and a quote on each, from the Briefing Book:

1. Mortgage Interest Deduction

“Homeowners who itemize deductions may reduce their taxable income by deducting any interest paid on a home mortgage. The deduction is limited to interest paid on up to $1 million of debt incurred to purchase or substantially rehabilitate a home. Homeowners also may deduct interest paid on up to $100,000 of home equity debt, regardless of how they use the borrowed funds. Taxpayers who do not own their home have no comparable ability to deduct interest paid on debt incurred to purchase goods and services.”

2. Property Tax Deduction

“Homeowners who itemize deductions may also reduce their taxable income by deducting property taxes they pay on their homes.”

3. Imputed Rent

“Buying a home is an investment, part of the returns from which is the opportunity to live in the home rent-free. Unlike returns from other investments, the return on homeownership—what economists call “imputed rent”—is excluded from taxable income. In contrast, landlords must count as income the rent they receive, and renters may not deduct the rent they pay. A homeowner is effectively both landlord and renter, but the tax code treats homeowners the same as renters while ignoring their simultaneous role as their own landlords.”

4. Profits from Home Sales

“Taxpayers who sell assets must generally pay capital gains tax on any profits made on the sale. But homeowners may exclude from taxable income up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of capital gains on the sale of their home if they satisfy certain criteria: they must have maintained the home as their principal residence in two out of the preceding five years, and they generally may not have claimed the capital gains exclusion for the sale of another home during the previous two years.”

Bottom Line

We are not suggesting that you purchase a house just to save on your taxes. However, if you have been on the fence as to whether 2017 is the year you should become a homeowner, this information might help with that decision.

Disclaimer: Always check with your accountant to find out what tax advantages apply to you in your area. 

Measuring Your Ability to Achieve the American Dream

Measuring Your Ability to Achieve the American Dream | Simplifying The Market

Forbes.com recently released the results of their new American Dream Index, in which they measure “the prosperity of the middle class, and…examine which states best support the American Dream.”

The monthly index measures several different economic factors, including goods-producing employment, personal and commercial bankruptcies, building permits, startup activity, unemployment insurance claims, labor force participation, and layoffs.

The national index score was rounded out to 100 in January and saw a modest jump to 100.5 in February.

Alaska represented the lowest score on the index at 80.7, due mostly to the recent collapse in oil prices. Nevada came in with the highest score at 108.8, boosted by big gains in goods-producing jobs and new construction activity. The full results can be seen in the map below.

Measuring Your Ability to Achieve the American Dream | Simplifying The Market

Forbes Senior Editor Kurt Badenhausen explained why many states saw a boost in the index last month:

“[B]usinesses are hiring in part in anticipation of tax cuts and less regulation... Many areas of the country have experienced strong upticks in employment and construction, as well as declines in unemployment claims since the start of the year.”

Bottom Line

The American Dream, for many, includes being able to own a home of his or her own. With the economy improving in many areas of the country, that dream can finally become a reality.

US Housing Market Continues the Move into ‘Buy Territory’!

US Housing Market Continues the Move into ‘Buy Territory’! | Simplifying The Market

According to the Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent (BH&J) Index, the U.S. housing market has continued to move deeper into buy territory, supporting the belief that housing markets across the country remain a sound investment.

The BH&J Index is a quarterly report that attempts to answer the question:

In today’s housing market, is it better to rent or buy a home?

The index examines the entire US housing market and then isolates 23 major cities for comparison. The researchers “measure the relationship between purchasing property and building wealth through a buildup in equity versus renting a comparable property and investing in a portfolio of stocks and bonds.” 

While most of the metropolitan markets examined moved further into buy territory (15 of the 23), markets like Dallas, Denver, and Houston are currently deep into rent territory. In these three markets, it is estimated that renting will top homeownership 7 out of 10 times.

Due to a lack of inventory, the home prices in the Dallas, Denver, and Houston, areas have increased by 13%, 11.4%, and 7.3% respectively. Home prices in these areas will begin to return to more normal levels once residents realize that renting is not the best option, therefore bringing home affordability back as well.

Bottom Line

The majority of the country is strongly in buy territory. Buying a home makes sense socially and financially, as rents are predicted to increase substantially in the next year. Protect yourself from rising rents by locking in your housing cost with a mortgage payment now. 

To Find Out More About the Study: The BH&J Index and other FAU real estate activities are sponsored by Investments Limited of Boca Raton. The BH&J Index is published quarterly and is available online at https://business.fau.edu/buyvsrent.

Thinking of Selling? Now Is the Time to Act

Thinking of Selling? Now Is the Time to Act | Simplifying The Market

If you thought about selling your house this year, now may be the time to do it. The inventory of homes for sale is well below historic norms and buyer demand is skyrocketing. We were still in high school when we learned the concept of supply and demand: the best time to sell something is when supply of that item is low and demand for that item is high. That defines today’s real estate market.

Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at realtor.com, revealed in a recent article that:

“The biggest challenge to buyers this spring will be simply finding a home to buy and getting it successfully under contract. That’s because the supply of homes for sale is at an all-time low, and yet demand is strong and getting stronger.”

Smoke goes on to say:

“We started the year with the lowest inventory of homes available for sale that we’ve ever seen on realtor.com. While we did see inventory grow 2% in February, total inventory was down 11% over last year.”

In this type of market, a seller may hold a major negotiating advantage when it comes to price and other aspects of the real estate transaction including the inspection, appraisal and financing contingencies.

Bottom Line

As a potential seller, you are in the driver’s seat right now. It might be time to hit the gas.

Home Mortgages: Rates Up, Requirements Easing

The media has extensively covered the rise in mortgage interest rates since last fall (from 3.42% last September to the current 4.1% according to Freddie Mac). However, a less covered aspect of the mortgage market is that requirements to get a mortgage have eased while rates have risen.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) quantifies the availability of mortgage credit each month with their Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI). According to the MBA, the MCAI is:

“A summary measure which indicates the availability of mortgage credit at a point in time.”

The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage. Here is a chart showing the MCAI over the last several months as rates have increased.

Home Mortgages: Rates Up, Requirements Easing | Simplifying The Market

Have requirements for attaining a mortgage actually eased?

Yes. Here are two examples:

  1. FICO® Score – the credit score which helps determine a buyer’s eligibility. The score required to attain a mortgage has been falling over the last five months:

Home Mortgages: Rates Up, Requirements Easing | Simplifying The Market

  1. Down Payment Requirement – the percentage of the purchase price necessary to place as a down payment on a home. To make this point, let’s look at the percentage of first-time buyers who have put less than 5% down over the last several years as compared to the 1st quarter of 2017:

Home Mortgages: Rates Up, Requirements Easing | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

Whether you are a current homeowner looking to move to a home that will better serve your family’s current needs, or a first-time buyer looking for a starter home, it is easier to get a mortgage today than it has been at any other time in the last ten years.

Susan Rupert Group

Realtor, ABR, CRS, SRES, MCNE, e-PRO
Kissinger Bigatel & Brower

2300 South Atherton Street
State College, PA 16801
Mobile/Direct: 814-280-0364
Office: 814-234-4000 ext. 3213
Email: Susan@StateCollegePARealEstate.com

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