Tech to Find the Right Home

According to the 2018 Profile of Buyers and Sellers, 52% of buyers want help to find the right home to purchase. Physically locating the home is certainly part of what buyers want from their agent but finding the right home at the right price and terms is also crucial.

87% of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker. Slightly more than half of buyers were referred to their real estate professional by/or is a friend or relative or had used the agent previously to buy or sell a home.

There are tech tools that can be used together with the expertise and experience of your real estate professional to make the home buying process efficient and effective.

Listing Alert … while this service is called by other names, the buyer identifies the specifics about the home they want, and it will notify them directly when a new listing comes on the market that matches their needs.

Real estate smartphone apps … imagine driving a neighborhood, seeing a sign and immediately being able to know the price and specifics about the home; very convenient. There are a variety of different apps available such as Homesnap, and others, ask your agent for their recommendation before installing one.

Digital documents … companies like DocuSign have revolutionized real estate negotiations by doing everything digitally so that you’re not going back and forth between the parties signing and initialing changes. It is safe and secure and your agent will handle this end of it for you.

ColorSnap Visualizer … this Sherwin Williams app for iPad allows you to paint walls on a picture, match photos to find paint colors and other things before you commit to a color.

Google maps … plug in an address on Google Maps and you see street view of the home, satellite view, surrounding businesses, traffic speed and other things.

Sex Offender RegistryNSOPW, the National Sex Offender Public Website is a safety resource that provides the public with access to sex offender data nationwide.

Financial Calculators … fill in the blank applications that can illustrate the benefits of renting vs. owning, Equity Accelerator, Adjustable Rate Comparison, Cost of Waiting to Buy and many other homeowner situations.

Free Public Records DirectoryOnlineSearches provides access to public record sources like deeds and assessor and property tax records. While this service is free, some state and county agencies may charge fees for accessing public records.

Virtual open house … an alternative to physically viewing a home is to look at the multiple photos online. If the property is interesting, you can schedule a physical showing with your agent.

Check your credit … Order free credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion each once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

The final recommendation is your phone. When you have a question, contact your agent. Calling another agent may seem like an expedient way to get an answer, especially if you cannot get a hold of your agent but it could inadvertently, cause issues.

Your real estate professional can assist you with these and other tools to help you find the right home. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at <phone>.

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Comfort Systems

Heating and air-conditioning are frequently referred to as the “comfort systems.” If one has gone out in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, lack of comfort becomes a primary concern. Regular maintenance with a HVAC checklist is something that homeowners can do themselves to ensure that the units operate properly.

Periodically

  • Change your filter every 90 days; every 30 days if you have shedding pets.
  • Maintain at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
  • Don’t allow leaves, grass clippings, lint or other things to block circulation of coils.
  • Inspect insulation on refrigerant lines leading into house monthly and replace if missing or damaged.

Annually, in spring

  • Confirm that outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps are on level pads.
  • Pour bleach in the air conditioner’s condensation drain to clear mold and algae which can cause a clog.
  • Avoid closing more than 20% of a home’s registers to keep from overworking the system.
  • Replace the battery in the home’s carbon monoxide detector.

While using this list will prevent some things that may impede the comfort system’s proper performance, it is recommended that you have your units serviced annually by a licensed contractor. Furnaces should also be inspected for carbon monoxide leaks. Preventative maintenance may help avoid costly repairs.

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A Home Warranty Can Save Money

Your income tax is probably filed for last year by now and you’ve been through your expenses for the year. Money spent on repairs to your home is not deductible but being aware of how much you spent last year may help you make a decision that could save you money this year.

Sellers, often, provide a home warranty to buyers to give them peace of mind by limiting some of the out-of-pocket money spent on unexpected repairs for one year. Home warranties can be renewed by the buyer by paying the annual fee and any homeowner can purchase one for their home whether they had one when they bought it or not.

A home service contract typically covers mechanical systems and built-in appliances in the home. Many times, these items are not covered by the homeowner’s insurance policy. They can also include other things such as pool and spa equipment, and free-standing appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers.

The process is simple. It doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. Once a plan is in effect, you call to report a claim. The company will assign a local profession to assess the problem and if covered, they will repair or replace the item. You will only pay a service fee.

Home protection plans can range in prices depending on area and coverages. Most start around $400-500 a year which could easily cover the cost for one claim alone.

For more information on home warranties in general, you can go to HomeServiceContract.org which is an association representing some of the premier home service contract providers. If you’d like to have a recommendation based on companies we work with in our area, give me a call at (303) 880-5585.

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iBuyers – Convenient at a Price

There are an increasing number of real estate companies, termed iBuyers, like Open Door, Offerpad, Zillow, Knock and others that market a service that has an appeal to homeowners. The pitch for these quick cash offer companies will include some variation of “let us buy your home in days without the normal hassles of listing.”

This approach attempts to provide an alternative to selling a home in a normal manner at the expense of not realizing the full equity a homeowner is entitled. There is no fiduciary relationship requiring the broker to put a seller’s best interest above their own interest. An iBuyer does not represent a seller and does not owe client-level services like loyalty, obedience disclosure among other things required by most state license laws.

The offer is based on an automated valuation model, many times, without a physical inspection of the home. In some cases, a contract is written but there are provisions that allow iBuyers time to possibly “flip” the property to an investor or use an “out” in the contract to void the sale.

The reality is that a company cannot stay in business if they pay too much for the property. The iBuyer becomes the Seller who now must be concerned with pricing the home properly to cover the normal selling expenses as well as repairs, improvements, and holding costs that will be incurred until the property sells.

There could be circumstances that make it necessary for a homeowner to sell their home at a discount. The seller could be in a distressed situation needing immediate cash. They might need a quick sale and don’t want to be bothered with repairs or marketing efforts. Or possibly, they may have found their next home and need to act quickly. The instant liquidity comes at a cost to the seller in lower proceeds from the sale.

To realize the maximum possible equity, a real estate professional in your area can advise you about the fair market value of your home, a reasonably expected sales price, the costs involved and how long it will take. Before accepting a price to sell your home to a wholesaler, you owe it to yourself and your family to find out what you can expect if you take a conventional sales route.

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One Loan for Purchase & Renovations

The FNMA HomeStyle conventional mortgage allows a buyer to purchase a home that needs renovations and include them in the financing. This facilitates the purchase of the home and the renovations in one loan rather than getting a separate second mortgage or home equity line of credit.

The combination of these loans should save closing costs as well as interest rates which would typically be higher on a home improvement loan.

The borrower will need to have an itemized, written bid from a contractor covering the scope of the improvements. Any type of renovation or repair is eligible if it is a permanent part of the property. Improvements must be completed within 12 months from the date the mortgage loan is delivered.

  • 15 and 30-year fixed rate and eligible adjustable rate loans are available.
  • Typical FNMA down payments are available starting as low as 3% for a one-unit principal residence to 25% for three and four-unit principal residence and one-unit investment properties.
  • Borrower must choose his or her own contractor to perform the renovation.
  • Lender must review the contractor hired by the borrower to determine if they are adequately qualified and experienced for the work being performed. The Contractor Profile Report (Form 1202) can be used to assist the lender in making this determination.
  • Borrowers must have a construction contract with their contractor. Fannie Mae has a model Construction Contract (Form 3734) that may be used to document the construction contract between the borrower and the contractor.
  • Plans and specifications must be prepared by a registered, licensed, or certified general contractor, renovation consultant, or architect. The plans and specifications should fully describe all work to be done and provide an indication of when various jobs or stages of completion will be scheduled (including both the start and job completion dates)

Up to 50% of the renovation funds may be advanced for the cost of materials after the closing of the loan.

This mortgage does have a provision for the borrower to do a portion of the work themselves if it doesn’t exceed 10% of the total project and it must pass inspection on completion just as the contractor’s work.

It is recommended that borrowers thoroughly research this program before they commit to a loan. For detailed information, see FNMA HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage and Selling Guide Announcement SEL-2017-02. It is important to work with a mortgage officer who is familiar with these loans who can guide you through the process.

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Get Rid of Things You Don’t Need

Periodically, you need to rid yourself of things that are taking up you time and space to make room for more of what you like and want.

There’s a frequently quoted suggestion that if you haven’t used something for two years, maybe it isn’t essential in your life.

If you have books you’ll never read again, give them to someone who will. If you have a deviled egg plate that hasn’t been used since the year your Aunt Phoebe gave it to you, it’s out of there. Periodically, go through every closet, drawer, cabinet, room and storage area to get rid of the things that are just taking up space in your home and your life.

Every item receives the decision to keep or get rid of. Consider these questions as you judge each item:

  • When was the last time you used it?
  • Do you believe you’ll use it again?
  • Is there a sentimental reason to keep it?

You have four options for the things that you’re not going to keep.

  1. Give it to someone who needs it or will appreciate it
  2. Sell it in a garage sale or on Craig’s List.
  3. Donate it to a charity and receive a tax deduction
  4. Discard it to the trash.

Start with your closet. If you haven’t worn something in five years, get rid of it. Then, go through the things again and if you haven’t worn it in two years, ask yourself the real probability that you’ll wear it again.

Another way to do it is to move it from your active closet to another closet. If a year goes by in the other closet, the next time you go through this exercise, those clothes are on their way out.

If the items taking up space are financial records and receipts, the solution may be to scan them and store them in the cloud. There are plenty of sites that will offer you several gigabytes of free space and it may cost as little as $10 a month for 100 GB at Dropbox, to get the additional space you need. It will certainly be cheaper than the mini-storage building.

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Qualified Charitable Contribution

If you’re at an age where you need to be taking Required Minimum Distributions (age 70.5) from your IRA, a qualified charitable contribution and some planning may allow you to lower your overall tax liability.

Let’s say that a couple’s 2019 itemized deductions include $8,000 in property taxes, $4,400 in interest and $20,000 in charitable contributions. That would total $32,400 which exceeds the 2019 $25,300 standard deduction for married couples, 65 years of age or older, filing jointly.

Their required minimum distribution from their IRA is $40,000 which will be taxed at ordinary income. If this couple is in the 24% tax bracket, the tax liability would be $9,600.

Alternatively, if they made the $20,000 in charitable contributions from their IRA as a Qualified Charitable Contribution, it would not be taxable in the withdrawal. The balance of the RMD of $20,000 would be taxable at 24% which would have a tax liability of $4,800.

Their $32,400 worth of itemized deductions would be reduced by the $20,000 because it was paid from the IRA which makes their itemized deductions $12,400. The $25,300 standard deduction would benefit them more by an amount of $12,900 increased deductions. At 24%, this would reduce their liability by $3,096.

In the first instance, they would owe $9,600 in taxes due to the $40,000 RMD from their IRA. In the second example, because of the increased amount by taking the standard deduction, the net tax liability would be $1,704 ($9,600 – $4,800 – $3,096 = $1,704).

This example shows how shifting contributions to a Qualified Charitable Contribution will get the same amount to the charity but lower the Required Minimum Distribution that must be recognized as ordinary income. The shifting also gives the taxpayers the advantage of a higher amount of the standard deduction than the itemized deduction.

As always, before taking action, you should get advice from your tax professional on how this strategy may impact you. There is information available on www.IRS.com for IRS Required Minimum Distribution FAQs and Qualified Charitable Distributions.

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Auto Pay Your Mortgage Payment

In the time that it takes to write one check, you can set it up with your bank and never have to do it again. You won’t have to write checks, envelopes or buy stamps anymore. You’ll save time, money and benefit in other ways too.

  1. Never be late … avoid late fees and protect your credit
  2. Schedule additional principal contributions monthly to save interest, build equity and shorten the mortgage term.
    An extra $200 a month applied to the principal on a $200,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years will result in shortening the loan by 8.5 years. If the loan was paid to term, it would save $52,977 in interest. Use the Equity Accelerator to see how much you can save.
  3. It’s convenient … by doing it online with your bank, you’ll have a centralized history of the payments.
  4. Protect your credit … your payment history is the single biggest component of your credit score and accounts for over 1/3 of your credit score.

Establishing the practice of auto bill pay could run the risk of overdrawing an account and incurring overdraft charges. Monitor your bank account to be sure that you have enough cash to cover your automatic payments.

Schedule the Auto Pay to allow for processing and the time it takes to reach the lender so that you don’t incur late fees.

And even though, you set up the Auto Pay, it is still your responsibility to monitor your bank account to see that they are executing it properly. If you are making additional principal contributions, you must see that the extra amount was indeed applied to principal reduction and not somewhere else like in the escrow account.

Some banks offer email or text reminders to let you know when checks are about to be written or if your balance is low.

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To-Do List for Better Homeowners

Checklists work because they contain the important things that need to be done. They provide a reminder about things we know and realize but may have slipped our minds as well as inform us about things we didn’t consider. Periodic attention to these areas can protect the investment in your home.

  1. Change HVAC filters regularly. Consider purchasing a supply of the correct sizes needed online and they’ll even remind you when it’s time to order them again.
  2. Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors annually.
  3. Create and regularly update a Home Inventory to keep track of personal belongings in case of burglary or casualty loss.
  4. Keep track of capital improvements, with a Homeowners Tax Guide, made to your home throughout the year that increases your basis and lowers gain.
  5. Order free credit reports from all three bureaus once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
  6. Challenge your property tax assessment when you receive that year’s assessment when you feel that the value is too high. We can supply the comparable sales and you can handle the rest.
  7. Establish a family emergency plan identifying the best escape routes and where family members should meet after leaving the home.
  8. If you have a mortgage, verify the unpaid balance and if additional principal payments were applied properly. Use a Equity Accelerator to estimate how long it will take to retire your mortgage.
  9. Keep trees pruned and shrubs trimmed away from house to enhance visual appeal, increase security and prevent damage.
  10. Have heating and cooling professionally serviced annually.
  11. Check toilets periodically to see if they’re leaking water and repair if necessary.
  12. Clean gutters twice a year to control rainwater away from your home to protect roof, siding and foundation.
  13. To identify indications of foundation issues, periodically, check around perimeter of home for cracks in walls or concrete. Do doors and windows open properly?
  14. Peeling or chipping paint can lead to wood and interior damage. Small areas can be touched-up but multiple areas may indicate that the whole exterior needs painting.
  15. If there is a chimney and fires are burned in the fireplace, it will need to be inspected and possibly cleaned.
  16. If the home has a sprinkler system, manually turn the sprinklers on, one station at a time to determine if they are working and aimed properly. Evaluate if the timers are set properly. Look for pooling water that could indicate a leak underground.
  17. Have your home inspected for termites.

Instead of remembering when you need to do these different things, use your calendar to create a system. As an example, make a new appointment with “change the HVAC filters” in the subject line. Select the recurring event button and decide the pattern. For instance, set this one for monthly, every two months with no end date. You can schedule a time or just an all-day event will show at the top of your calendar that day.

By scheduling as many of these items as you can, you won’t forget that they need to be done. If you don’t delete them from the calendar, you’ll continue to be “nagged” until you finally do them.

If you have questions or need a recommendation of a service provider, give us a call at (303) 880-5585. We deal with issues like this regularly and have experience with workers who are reputable and reasonable.

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Reasons Rental Homes Rank Highest

Single family homes offer the investor an opportunity to borrow large loan-to-value loans at fixed interest rates for long terms. Lenders will loan 75-80% of the purchase price at 5.5% to 6.5% interest rate for thirty years. Compare that with other popular investment alternatives like precious metals, commodities, stocks, and mutual funds and it will be hard to find financing available at all.

There may be some short term, one-year, loans at a floating rate tied to prime plus with no guarantee that it will be renewed. Some of those loans require you to have a 50% margin of equity and if the value goes down, you’ll have to put up additional cash or be forced to sell.

The advantage of having long-term mortgages is that an investor could find the optimal time to sell the property instead of needing to sell it because the term is due, and no other financing is available. Supply and demand cause the real estate market to be higher and lower and a long-term mortgage provides options to sell when the price is optimal.

Single family homes enjoy distinct tax advantages. If the rental or investment property is held for more than 12 months, the gain is taxed at lower, long-term capital gains rates rather than ordinary income rates.

Another advantage of rental homes is that the improvements can be depreciated over a 27.5-year life. This is a non-cash deduction that reduces income and shelters income. The accumulated depreciation taken over the life of the property is recaptured when the property is sold.

Since rental homes provide income that other investments may not, tax would have to be recognized on the annual income. IRS allows normal operating expenses like interest, property taxes, insurance, repairs, and management to be deducted including the annual depreciation.

Rental and investment property are eligible for tax-deferred exchanges to avoid paying tax at the time of disposition. Real estate also enjoys stepped-up basis which means that when an heir inherits a property, instead of having a potential gain from the value the decedent had purchased it for less depreciation taken, the heir’s basis becomes the fair market value at time of death. All potential gain may be permanently avoided.

Appreciation is a much-anticipated benefit of real estate because value tends to go up over time.

Another big benefit is the control that an investor has with rentals that is not available with other investments like stocks, bonds, or commercial real estate. It takes a relatively small amount of cash to control the entire investment in a home that wouldn’t be available in other investments without partners or publicly traded companies.

Single family homes are an investment that homeowners understand because they are essentially the same as the home they live in. They’re used for rental purposes but the maintenance is the same, the service providers are the same, and the neighborhood are the same. Most homeowners understand rentals far better than alternative investments.

Contact me at (303) 880-5585 if you’d like to know more about rental property.

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