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Home Inspections: What to Expect

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So you made an offer, it was accepted, and now your next task is to have the home inspected prior to closing. Oftentimes, agents make your offer contingent on a clean home inspection.

This contingency allows you to renegotiate the price you paid for the home, ask the sellers to cover repairs, or even, in some cases, walk away. Your agent can advise you on the best course of action once the report is filed.

How to Choose an Inspector

Your agent will most likely have a short list of inspectors that they have worked with in the past that they can recommend to you. HGTV recommends that you consider the following 5 areas when choosing the right home inspector for you:

  1. Qualifications – find out what’s included in your inspection and if the age or location of your home may warrant specific certifications or specialties.
  2. Sample Reports – ask for a sample inspection report so you can review how thoroughly they will be inspecting your dream home. The more detailed the report, the better in most cases.
  3. References – do your homework – ask for phone numbers and names of past clients who you can call to ask about their experiences.
  4. Memberships – Not all inspectors belong to a national or state association of home inspectors, and membership in one of these groups should not be the only way to evaluate your choice. Membership in one of these organizations often means that continued training and education are provided.
  5. Errors & Omission Insurance – Find out what the liability of the inspector or inspection company is once the inspection is over. The inspector is only human after all, and it is possible that they might miss something they should have seen.

Ask your inspector if it’s okay for you to tag along during the inspection, that way they can point out anything that should be addressed or fixed.

Don’t be surprised to see your inspector climbing on the roof or crawling around in the attic and on the floors. The job of the inspector is to protect your investment and find any issues with the home, including but not limited to: the roof, plumbing, electrical components, appliances, heating & air conditioning systems, ventilation, windows, the fireplace and chimney, the foundation, and so much more!

Bottom Line

They say ‘ignorance is bliss,’ but not when investing your hard-earned money into a home of your own. Work with a professional who you can trust to give you the most information possible about your new home so that you can make the most educated decision about your purchase.

What If I Wait Until Next Year to Buy a Home?

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We recently shared that national home prices have increased by 6.7% year-over-year. Over that same time period, interest rates have remained historically low which has allowed many buyers to enter the market.

As a seller, you will likely be most concerned about ‘short-term price’ – where home values are headed over the next six months. As a buyer, however, you must not be concerned about price, but instead about the ‘long-term cost’ of the home.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae all project that mortgage interest rates will increase by this time next year. According to CoreLogic’s most recent Home Price Index Report, home prices will appreciate by 5.2% over the next 12 months.

What Does This Mean as a Buyer?

If home prices appreciate by 5.2% over the next twelve months as predicted by CoreLogic, here is a simple demonstration of the impact that an increase in interest rate would have on the mortgage payment of a home selling for approximately $250,000 today:What If I Wait Until Next Year to Buy a Home? | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

If buying a home is in your plan for this year, doing it sooner rather than later could save you thousands of dollars over the terms of your loan.

4 Reasons Why Today’s Housing Market is NOT 2006 All Over Again

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With home prices rising again this year, some are concerned that we may be repeating the 2006 housing bubble that caused families so much pain when it collapsed. Today’s market is quite different than the bubble market of twelve years ago. There are four key metrics that explain why:

  1. Home Prices
  2. Mortgage Standards
  3. Mortgage Debt
  4. Housing Affordability

1. HOME PRICES

There is no doubt that home prices have reached 2006 levels in many markets across the country. However, after more than a decade, home prices should be much higher based on inflation alone.

Frank Nothaft is the Chief Economist for CoreLogic (which compiles some of the best data on past, current, and future home prices). Nothaft recently explained:

“Even though Core Logic’s national home price index got to the same level it was at the prior peak in April of 2006, once you account for inflation over the ensuing 11.5 years, values are still about 18% below where they were.” (emphasis added)

2. MORTGAGE STANDARDS

Some are concerned that banks are once again easing lending standards to a level similar to the one that helped create the last housing bubble. However, there is proof that today’s standards are nowhere near as lenient as they were leading up to the crash.

The Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center issues a Housing Credit Availability Index (HCAI). According to the Urban Institute:

“The HCAI measures the percentage of home purchase loans that are likely to default—that is, go unpaid for more than 90 days past their due date. A lower HCAI indicates that lenders are unwilling to tolerate defaults and are imposing tighter lending standards, making it harder to get a loan. A higher HCAI indicates that lenders are willing to tolerate defaults and are taking more risks, making it easier to get a loan.”

The graph below reveals that standards today are much tighter on a borrower’s credit situation and have all but eliminated the riskiest loan products.

4 Reasons Why Today’s Housing Market is NOT 2006 All Over Again | Simplifying The Market

3. MORTGAGE DEBT

Back in 2006, many homeowners mistakenly used their homes as ATMs by withdrawing their equity and spending it with no concern for the ramifications. They overloaded themselves with mortgage debt that they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) repay when prices crashed. That is not occurring today.

The best indicator of mortgage debt is the Federal Reserve Board’s household Debt Service Ratio for mortgages, which calculates mortgage debt as a percentage of disposable personal income.

At the height of the bubble market a decade ago, the ratio stood at 7.21%. That meant over 7% of disposable personal income was being spent on mortgage payments. Today, the ratio stands at 4.48% – the lowest level in 38 years!

4. HOUSING AFFORDABILITY

With both house prices and mortgage rates on the rise, there is concern that many buyers may no longer be able to afford a home. However, when we look at the Housing Affordability Index released by the National Association of Realtors, homes are more affordable now than at any other time since 1985 (except for when prices crashed after the bubble popped in 2008).

4 Reasons Why Today’s Housing Market is NOT 2006 All Over Again | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

After using four key housing metrics to compare today to 2006, we can see that the current market is not anything like the bubble market.

 

How Much Has Your Home Increased in Value Over the Last Year?

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Home values have risen dramatically over the last twelve months. In CoreLogic’s most recent Home Price Index Report, they revealed that national home prices have increased by 6.7% year-over-year.

CoreLogic broke down appreciation even further into four price ranges, giving us a more detailed view than if we had simply looked at the year-over-year increases in national median home price.

The chart below shows the four price ranges from the report, as well as each one’s year-over-year growth from February 2017 to February 2018 (the latest data available).

How Much Has Your Home Increased in Value Over the Last Year? | Simplifying The Market

It is important to pay attention to how prices are changing in your local market. The location of your home is not the only factor that determines how much your home has appreciated over the course of the last year.

Lower-priced homes have appreciated at greater rates than homes at the upper ends of the spectrum due to demand from first-time home buyers and baby boomers looking to downsize.

Bottom Line

If you are planning to list your home for sale in today’s market, let’s get together to go over exactly what’s going on in your area and your price range.

Moving up Is MORE Affordable Now Than Almost Any Other Time in 40 Years

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If you are considering selling your current home, to either move up to a larger home or into a home in an area that better suits your current family needs, great news was just revealed.

Last week, Trulia posted a blog, Not Your Father’s Housing Market, which examined home affordability over the last 40+ years (1975-2016). Their research revealed that:

“Nationally, homes are just about the most affordable they’ve been in the last 40 years… the median household could afford a home 1.5 times more expensive than the median home price. In 1980, the median household could only afford about 3/4 of the median home price.

Despite relatively stagnant incomes, affordability has grown due to the sharp drop in mortgage rates over the last 30 years – from a high of over 16% in the 1980s to under 4% by 2016.

Of the nation’s 100 largest metros, only Miami became unaffordable between 1990 and 2016. Meanwhile, 22 metros have flipped from being unaffordable to becoming affordable in that same time frame.”

Here is a graph showing the Affordability Index compared to the 40-year average:

Moving up Is MORE Affordable Now Than Almost Any Other Time in 40 Years | MyKCM

The graph shows that housing affordability is better now than at any other time in the last forty years, except during the housing crash last decade.

(Remember that during the crash you could purchase distressed properties – foreclosures and short sales – at 20-50% discounts.)

There is no doubt that with home prices and mortgage rates on the rise, the affordability index will continue to fall. That is why if you are thinking of moving up, you probably shouldn’t wait.

Bottom Line

If you have held off on moving up to your family’s dream home because you were hoping to time the market, that time has come.

7 Factors to Consider When Choosing A Home to Retire In

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As more and more baby boomers enter retirement age, the question of whether or not to sell their homes and move will become a hot topic. In today’s housing market climate, with low available inventory in the starter and trade-up home categories, it makes sense to evaluate your home’s ability to adapt to your needs in retirement.

According to the National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents (NAEBA), there are 7 factors that you should consider when choosing your retirement home.

1. Affordability

“It may be easy enough to purchase your home today but think long-term about your monthly costs. Account for property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, utilities – all the things that will be due whether or not you have a mortgage on the property.

Would moving to a complex with homeowner association fees actually be cheaper than having to hire all the contractors you would need to maintain your home, lawn, etc.? Would your taxes go down significantly if you relocated? What is your monthly income going to be like in retirement?

2. Equity

“If you have equity in your current home, you may be able to apply it to the purchase of your next home. Maintaining a healthy amount of home equity gives you a source of emergency funds to tap, via a home equity loan or reverse mortgage.”

The equity you have in your current home may be enough to purchase your retirement home with little to no mortgage. Homeowners in the US gained an average of over $14,000 in equity last year.

3. Maintenance

“As we age, our tolerance for cleaning gutters, raking leaves and shoveling snow can go right out the window. A condominium with low-maintenance needs can be a literal lifesaver, if your health or physical abilities decline.”

As we mentioned earlier, would a condo with an HOA fee be worth the added peace of mind of not having to do the maintenance work yourself?

4. Security

“Elderly homeowners can be targets for scams or break-ins. Living in a home with security features, such as a manned gate house, resident-only access and a security system can bring peace of mind.”

As scary as that thought may be, any additional security and an extra set of eyes looking out for you always adds to peace of mind.

5. Pets

“Renting won’t do if the dog can’t come too! The companionship of pets can provide emotional and physical benefits.”

Evaluate all of your options when it comes to bringing your ‘furever’ friend with you to a new home. Will there be necessary additional deposits if you are renting or in a condo? Is the backyard fenced in? How far are you from your favorite veterinarian?

6. Mobility

“No one wants to picture themselves in a wheelchair or a walker, but the home layout must be able to accommodate limited mobility.”

Sixty is the new 40, right? People are living longer and are more active in retirement, but that doesn’t mean that down the road you won’t need your home to be more accessible. Installing handrails and making sure your hallways and doorways are wide enough may be a good reason to look for a home that was built to accommodate these needs.

7. Convenience

“Is the new home close to the golf course, or to shopping and dining? Do you have amenities within easy walking distance? This can add to home value!”

How close are you to your children and grandchildren? Would relocating to a new area make visits with family easier or more frequent? Beyond being close to your favorite stores and restaurants, there are a lot of factors to consider.

Bottom Line

When it comes to your forever home, evaluating your current house for its ability to adapt with you as you age can be the first step to guaranteeing your comfort in retirement. If after considering all these factors you find yourself curious about your options, let’s get together to evaluate your ability to sell your house in today’s market and get you into your dream retirement home!

Bitcoin Buyer Beware

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By Joshua Katz

“How Bitcoin has become the most recognized cryptocurrency, how it is taxed, and what that means for real estate.”

Bitcoin is the most widely used and recognized cryptocurrency as of the start of 2018.  It is becoming more and more common with companies paying their employees in Bitcoins, certain retailers allowing Bitcoin as an acceptable payment, and even homes that are listed as ‘Bitcoin-only’ listings. It is considered a convertible virtual currency because it has an equivalent value in real currency.  As Bitcoin becomes more popular, it also increases in value. One question on everyone’s mind: How are Bitcoins taxed? Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made clarification to the tax treatment of Bitcoin and Bitcoin transactions.

IRS rules that Bitcoins are ‘treated as property’ and not as currency

Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are treated as property for tax purposes, which means that there is capital gain or loss when disposing of virtual currency.  If someone is paid in virtual currency, their income is still taxable.  Business transactions in Bitcoin are subject to all the normal rules for sales tax.  When someone spends virtual currency, they are really performing two transactions in one.  They must dispose of the virtual currency and spend the dollar equivalent amount.

Virtual Currency Treatment, from a Tax Perspective

Since Bitcoin must be treated as property, the IRS has stated that, “General tax principles applicable to property transactions apply to transactions using virtual currency.  A taxpayer who receives virtual currency as payment for goods or services must, in computing gross income, include the fair market value of the virtual currency, measured in U.S. dollars, as of the date that the virtual currency was received.”  On a tax return, “transactions using virtual currency must be reported in U.S. dollars.”  “If virtual currency is listed on an exchange and the exchange rate is established by market supply and demand, the fair market value of virtual currency is determined by converting the virtual currency into U.S. dollars…at the exchange rate, in a reasonable manner that is consistently applied.” With these tight tax laws and restrictions on virtual currency, it makes investing in Bitcoin a bit more complex.  It also means capitals gains when Bitcoins are disposed of.

ForSale

Calculating your gain/loss with every Bitcoin Transaction

Since Bitcoins are treated as property, what happens when a property is disposed of?  We would follow the same four rules that apply to dispositions of property:

  1. Income is realized from any gains on the property.
  2. Gain is measured by the change in the dollar value between the cost basis (the purchase price) and the gross proceeds received from the disposition (the selling price).
  3. The tax rates that apply depend on whether the property was held for a short-term or for a long-term duration.
  4. Dispositions of property are reported on the tax return using Schedule D & Form 8949 or Form 4797. These forms require us to “show our math” when calculating a gain or loss.

Tax Tips for Bitcoin Enthusiasts

These are a few tips and tricks when it comes to how Bitcoins are taxed.  There are tips for merchants and businesses and the ‘casual Bitcoin user’.

  1.  Identify an exchange rate to use consistently in valuing Bitcoins received.
  2. Charge sales tax when a customer buys from you using Bitcoin.
  3. If paying employees in Bitcoin, first withhold all applicable payroll taxes in US dollars. Net pay can then be paid out in Bitcoin as appropriate.
  4. Taxes are paid in dollars, not in Bitcoin. Consider converting Bitcoins to dollars on a regular schedule so that you have enough dollars to remit any income tax, withholding, or sales tax.
  5. When paying an independent contractor $600 or more during the year, request Form W-9 and issue Form 1099-MISC, even if you pay them in Bitcoin. Track the amount paid to contractors throughout the year to measure whether you reach the $600 threshold.
  6. Backup withholding may be required.
  7. Include Bitcoin transactions when figuring out your estimated tax payments.
  8. Sales revenue is recorded as business income in dollars.
  9. Expenses are also recorded in dollars.
  10. Gain or loss on holding Bitcoin are recorded as trading gains (Form 4797 or Schedule D as appropriate).

Tips for ‘Casual Bitcoin Users’

  1. Establish a record-keeping system.
  2. Keep track of when you acquire and when you sell Bitcoins.
  3. Record dispositions of Bitcoins on Schedule D and Form 8949.
  4. Each purchase using Bitcoin is two transactions in one: an implied disposition and an expense.

To Sum It Up

Jeremy Naylor, a tax attorney and partner at Cooley, said, “If you hold Bitcoin or ethereum or one of these other convertible digital currencies as a capital asset, when you use that Bitcoin to purchase goods or services — so for example, if I were to take $1 million in Bitcoin to buy an apartment building or something — to the extent that Bitcoin has appreciated since I acquired it, any of that gain, that built-in gain, would be taxed when I used the Bitcoin to buy the building.” The world is changing and there are new ways to purchase goods and acquire wealth. Cryptocurrency has made an everlasting impact on the world’s economy.  The question is, are you going to invest?

You Can Save for a Down Payment Faster Than You Think!

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Saving for a down payment is often the biggest hurdle for a first-time homebuyer. Depending on where you live, median income, median rents, and home prices all vary. So, we set out to find out how long it would take to save for a down payment in each state.

Using data from the United States Census Bureau and Zillow, we determined how long it would take, nationwide, for a first-time buyer to save enough money for a down payment on their dream home. There is a long-standing ‘rule’ that a household should not pay more than 28% of their income on their monthly housing expense.

By determining the percentage of income spent renting in each state, and the amount needed for a 10% down payment, we were able to establish how long (in years) it would take for an average resident to save enough money to buy a home of their own.

According to the data, residents in Ohio can save for a down payment the quickest in just under 3 years (2.44). Below is a map that was created using the data for each state:

You Can Save for a Down Payment Faster Than You Think! | MyKCM

What if you only needed to save 3%?

What if you were able to take advantage of one of Freddie Mac’s or Fannie Mae’s 3%-down programs? Suddenly, saving for a down payment no longer takes 5 or 10 years, but becomes possible in a year or two in many states as shown on the map below.

You Can Save for a Down Payment Faster Than You Think! | MyKCM

Bottom Line

Whether you have just started to save for a down payment, or have been saving for years, you may be closer to your dream home than you think! Let’s meet up so I can help you evaluate your ability to buy today.

4 Reasons Spring is a Great Time to Buy a Home!

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

Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.6% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 4.3% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage hovered close to 4.0% in 2017. 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 that rates will increase by nearly a full percentage point 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.

Either Way, You Are Paying a Mortgage

There are some renters who 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’ that 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?

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?

Look at 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, you want your family to be safer, or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

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.

A New Housing Bubble Forming…Not Before 2024!

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A recent report by CoreLogic revealed that U.S. home values appreciated by more than 37% over the last five years. Some are concerned that this is evidence we may be on the verge of another housing “boom & bust” like the one we experienced from 2006-2008.

Recently, several housing experts weighed in on the subject to alleviate these fears.

Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac Chief Economist

 “The evidence indicates there currently is no house price bubble in the U.S., despite the rapid increase of house prices over the last five years.”

Edward Golding, a Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center

 “There is not likely to be a national bubble in the way that we saw the first decade of the century.”

Christopher Thornberg, Partner at Beacon Economics

 “There is no direct or indirect sign of any kind of bubble.”

Bill McBride, Calculated Risk

 “I wouldn’t call house prices a bubble.”

David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices

 “Housing is not repeating the bubble period of 2000-2006.”

A recent article by Teo Nicolais, a real estate entrepreneur who teaches courses on real estate principles, markets, and finance at Harvard Extension School concluded that the next housing bubble may not occur until 2024.

The article, How to Use Real Estate Trends to Predict the Next Housing Bubble, looks at previous peaks in real estate values going all the way back to 1818. Nicolais uses the research of several economists. The article details the four phases of a real estate cycle and what defines each phase.

Nicolais concluded his article by saying:

“Those who study the financial crisis of 2008 will (we hope) always be weary of the next major crash. If George, Harrison, and Foldvary are right, however, that won’t happen until after the next peak around 2024. 

Between now and then, aside from the occasional slow down and inevitable market hiccups, the real estate industry is likely to enjoy a long period of expansion.”

Bottom Line

The reason for the price appreciation we are seeing is an imbalance between supply and demand for housing. This has created a natural increase in values, not a bubble in prices.