Worth the Effort:Taxes & Denver Real Estate

“Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible…” While Judge Learned Hand was talking about federal income taxes, it can be applied to property taxes as well. Cut taxes - 300.jpg

States have a process of assessing the value of a property based on a number of things that can include size, amenities, location and what the owner paid for the property. Most states make adjustments to that value annually. Once it has been published to the owner, there is a process available for those who disagree with the value.

  1. Learn the assessment process and what the filing deadlines are to apply. Since different states have different requirements, it is important to know the process in your area.
  2. Obtain your assessment records – they may be available online and you can find out how your value was determined. Check for mistakes in square footage, bedrooms, amount of land, etc. Then, verify if the comparable sales in the neighborhood support their position or not. Your real estate agent can be valuable in this area.
  3. Proceed to make your case from the lowest to the highest level necessary. It isn’t necessary to hire someone to represent you. Sometimes, just talking to employees at the tax assessor’s office may be enough. If not, there is a process for a hearing where you present your evidence and so does a representative from the assessor’s office. If this still doesn’t give you the remedy you want, you may need to proceed to the courts.

Challenging your assessment really isn’t an adversarial position. Their job is to assess a fair value and your job is to pay the least amount of taxes. Whether it be an employed assessor or a voluntary board, they have a job and they appreciate being treated professionally and courteously.

Keep this last thing in mind: the people you’re presenting your case to have the ability to lower your taxes.

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Leverage; Denver Home Buyer Gets the Maximum Advantage

Build Equity Using Leverage When Buying A Denver House

Leverage gives the user a maximum advantage whether it is physically lifting a large object or rapidly building equity in a Denver home. In the case of the home, the high loan-to-value mortgage allows the profits made to be greater than simply the cash invested. Denver Homes up to about $450,000 can be purchased with only 3.5% down.Leverage-300.jpg

A $250,000 home can be purchased on a FHA loan with a 3.5% down payment of $8,750. If the home appreciates at 2% a year, in seven years the equity will grow to $75,920 due to the appreciation and the amortization of the mortgage. That would be a remarkable 36.2% rate of return.

It is estimated that homeowners have a 45 times higher net worth than renters. Since the obvious difference is that renters don’t own a home, owning a home is a distinct advantage. The leverage that allows a borrower to control a much larger asset with a small down payment gives them a return on the much bigger asset than on just the down payment.

Another interesting contribution is the forced savings that occurs with each payment made on the mortgage. A portion of the payment is applied to principal so that the loan will be paid in full by the end of the term, usually 30 years. The amortization on the 4% mortgage example from above has approximately $4,300.00 paid in the first year to reduce the principal which increases the owner’s equity in the home.

For people who have the necessary funds for the down payment and good credit, buying a Denver home can be a financially stabilizing event. While research on the Internet can provide valuable information, there is no substitute for having a face-to-face meeting with a trusted professional to determine your specific facts.

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Digital Showings For Denver Homes

Ask any Denver real estate professional if they have sold any Denver Homes without the buyer having physically seen it and they’ll most likely tell you they have. While it may have been an unconventional sale, it is more prevalent today than it was twenty or even ten years ago. iStock_000060465576_Small.jpg

The digital world of the Internet has changed the process of buying a home. It is evolving as people have become more comfortable with the reliability of the information available.

Getting in a car and driving around all day looking at homes that may or may not fit your needs or wants is not productive for buyers or the agents.

The quality and the quantity of pictures has dramatically improved in the last twenty years. Denver Home buyers and agents alike can view a property online and get a fairly accurate idea of the condition and layout of home and whether it warrants a physical visit. Videos can “walk” you through the house to be able to assess if the floorplan will work for you.

The 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports 89% of all buyers cited an online website as an information source with real estate agents being a close second at 87%. 42% of all buyers looked online for properties for sale as the first step taken during the home buying process.

Interestingly, 87% of buyers in 2015 purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker compared to only 68% in 2001. The agent services deemed most valuable to buyers were help finding the right home to purchase (53%) and help to negotiate the terms of sale (12%) and the price (11%).

A challenge for sellers is to understand that the digital showings are a critical part of today’s process. They save time and money for both buyers and sellers and are convenient because they can be done at any time of day and from anywhere. The difficulty is the seller’s feelings of inactivity when they believe their home is being shown frequently.

Agents can share statistics that show a variety of digital activity like number of unique visitors, length of time spent on the listing site as well as the other features that were accessed. 65% of all buyers walked through the home they purchased after they viewed it online.

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Pay Yourself First

The principle to pay yourself first has been referred to as the Golden Rule of Personal Finance.

The concept is that one of the first checks you write each month is for your own savings. The rationale is that if there is no money left after a person pays their bills, there is nothing to contribute to savings or investments that month. pay yourself first - check -300.png

By establishing a priority to save, a person realizes that the balance of their monthly income must cover living expenses and other discretionary spending. This is a much different strategy than saving what is left over from monthly expenses and other spending.

Many financial experts have likened an amortizing mortgage to a forced savings account because a portion of each payment is applied to the reduction of the principal amount owed. Some homeowners have taken that concept further with a shorter term mortgage to build equity faster.

In the example below, a $250,000 mortgage at 4% interest is compared with two different terms. The 30 year mortgage would have payments of $1,193.54 each month with the first payment having $360.20 being applied to the principal. Each payment would have an increasingly larger amount applied to the principal.

The 15 year mortgage would have payments of $1,849.22 each month with the first payment having $1,015.89 being applied to the principal. The $665.68 difference in payments goes toward reducing the loan amount and acts like a forced savings.

A homeowner might opt for the longer term and intend to put the difference in the two payments in a bank savings account each month or make an additional principal contribution to pay the mortgage down. However, as any person responsible for paying household bills knows, there will always be something that comes up that could hijack your intentions.

By committing to the shorter term mortgage, a borrower is committing to make the higher payment each month and the benefit is that it will reduce your principal balance faster.

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Homeowner Advisory

Similar to an annual wellness physical, homeowners should consider an annual review of the financial elements of their home. It’s particularly valuable based on the fact that their home and its equity is generally, one of their largest assets. Info You Need.png

  • List of similar properties recently sold and currently available
  • Information on challenging property tax assessment
  • Refinance Analysis to:
    • lower your rate
    • shorten the term
    • make improvements
    • eliminate mortgage insurance
    • remove a person from the loan
    • eliminate credit card debt
    • combine loans
    • take cash out of the equity
  • Equity Accelerator to retire the mortgage within a specific period of time
  • Repairmen and contractors recommendations
  • Information on rental property opportunities

We’d be happy to provide this information at no obligation as part of our on-going commitment to providing homeowner information, both in general and specifically, to our contacts. It is part of a long-term strategy whereby we hope to earn your loyalty and referrals when you do need our services to buy or sell.

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It’s a Big Difference

Let’s say that you just won $8,750 on a lottery scratch-off ticket. You’ve decided to be frugal and invest the money and have decided on three alternatives: buying a certificate of deposit, a mutual fund or use the money as a down payment for a $250,000 home.

To compare the three alternatives, let’s look at the equity in each one three years from now.Your best investment graphic.png

The certificate of deposit can be invested at 1.3% in today’s market and you believe you can reasonably earn 5% on a mutual fund. You expect the home to appreciate at three percent a year.

The certificate of deposit would be worth $9,096 at the end of three years and the mutual fund would be worth $10,129. However, the equity in the home at the end of three years would be $45,204. That is a four time’s higher yield on the home.

One of the main reasons for the big difference is that the buyer benefits from leverage: the use of borrowed funds to increase the results. The $8,750 down payment is controlling a $250,000 investment. The appreciation is determined by the price and not merely by the cash invested. Another factor is that the loan balance is smaller at the end of five years than originally borrowed due to amortization.

There are certainly other factors to consider such as maintenance and other expenses but when the financial benefits are as strong as they are, it certainly deserves a much closer investigation. One of the first things to consider is whether the borrower can qualify for a mortgage and the only satisfactory way to be certain is to get pre-approved by a trusted mortgage professional.

Use the Your Best Investment calculator to make your own projections.

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Is Understanding Costing You Money?

People tend to fear what they don’t understand. Homeowners understand fixed rate mortgages and remember the horror stories of people who lost their homes because they could no longer afford them when their adjustable rate mortgages went up.iStock_000023022788Small-250.jpg

Interest rates on fixed-rate mortgages have been so low for enough years, that borrowers haven’t even given much consideration to an adjustable rate mortgage. Changes in the way adjustable rate mortgages are now made make them much safer for borrowers who understand how they work but also know they’ll only be in the home for a limited period of time.

Adjustable rate mortgages can go up or down according to an index that the lender has no control. The amount that can be adjusted is limited by caps for each period and for the life of the loan. While there are different periods for ARMs, the most popular lock the first period for five to seven years and then, can adjust annually after that.

One quick and easy way to determine whether an adjustable may be a viable alternative to a fixed would be to determine the maximum payment adjustments possible to find out when the savings from the early years are exhausted which would be the breakeven point. If the borrower is certain they’ll move prior to that date, the ARM will definitely provide a lower cost of housing.

The breakeven point for a $250,000 mortgage would be 8 years 3 months comparing a 2.9% 5/1 adjustable-rate with 1 and 5 caps to a 3.8% fixed-rate mortgage. In the initial five-year period, the payments on the ARM would be $124.32 lower and the unpaid balance would be $3,522 less than the fixed-rate to make a total savings of $10,981.

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Whether you’re buying or refinancing, get some good advice from a trusted lending professional about the adjustable-rate alternative. If you’re only going to be in the home a short time after the mortgage is made and your tolerance for risk allows you to feel comfortable, the ARM may be the best choice for you. Check out this ARM Comparison to use your own numbers.

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What’s That Smell?

Homeowners may be totally unaware that their home has an unpleasant odor. It can be unrecognizable to them but immediately apparent to visitors on entering the home. smell - 300.jpg

Candles, aerosol spray or even chocolate chip cookies can’t get rid of the smell. To eliminate the odor, the source of the smell first has to be removed and then, the affected areas can be treated.

Cigarette smoke is particularly offensive to people. It is very common for buyers to refuse to even consider looking at a home where smoking is allowed. This odor permeates the air in a home and soaks into carpets, furniture, drapes, clothing and even the building materials like drywall and cabinets.

Pets may be considered part of the family but it is still a problem when the animals are not adequately house-broken. Urine isn’t just absorbed by the carpet but also the padding and in some cases, the subflooring. Sometimes, walls and floors have to be treated and sealed before painting and new floor covering can be installed.

If a casual friend doesn’t want to hurt your feelings about the jeans you’re wearing, you can bet the ranch that they won’t tell you about the odors in your home. You’ll need to rely on your closest friends to tell you the truth or maybe your mother-in-law.

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Remember to Get Your Annual Credit Report

You are probably aware that Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report annually by each of the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. By regularly looking at each of these reports, you can determine if there are any errors on them and be aware of your credit worthiness.

Instead of ordering all three at the same time, experts recommend that you stagger them throughout the year. This will let you look at your credit at three different times during the year instead of only once a year.32619499_s-300.jpg

An easy way make this happens on a timely basis is to set a recurring appointment on your digital calendar whether it is on your phone, your email program or a contact manager. Make the appointment to order a free credit report from www.AnnualCreditReport.com a recurring event to take place every four months. You’ll order one report from each of three companies once a year.

You can record that date and the bureau you ordered the last report in the appointment’s note section so that you’ll have a history and won’t try to order the same report twice in one year.

This isn’t just for people who are trying to clean-up their credit. This procedure allows you to monitor your credit to be sure that your report is accurate. You might even discover that someone is illegally using your good credit.

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It’s Your Advantage

Technology has certainly streamlined the home buying process and introduced things that help purchasers make better decisions. Buyers have enthusiastically embraced video tours, digital signatures and the enormous amount of information available about a home, neighborhood, schools and neighbors.

The ironic thing is that buyers are ignoring the one single thing that can help them secure the “right” home. Talking to a lender or using a financial calculator is not pre-approval. pre-approved-300.jpg

Pre-approval requires written verification on employment and income and ordering a credit report for the purpose of obtaining a mortgage. A mortgage credit score is different than what a person might see from credit reporting websites.

Pre-approval gives buyers the confidence to know the amount they can borrow which can result in bargaining power when dealing with a seller or competing against another offer. Transactions can close quicker once a buyer has been pre-approved.

If any issues are discovered in the initial process, the purchaser and lender will have more time to correct them compared to trying to get it done during the loan approval period as stated in the sales contract.

Most lenders best interest rates are only available to the best borrowers. You might get approved on a loan but at a higher rate than you expected which could make a significant difference in the monthly payments.

The “right” home without financing will never have the buyer’s address. Getting pre-approved with a trusted mortgage professional is one of the first steps in the buying process. It can definitely be an advantage that will benefit you in negotiations and ultimately, during the time you own the home.

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