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Homebuying Decision

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

How's The Housing Market Right Now?

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

By: Cathie Ericson

Yeehaw, the latest home-buying season is now in full swing! And if you're hoping to buy a house soon, listen up: The real estate market changes on a dime, so if you want to succeed in today's environment, you'll want to take its temperature and act accordingly.

And buyers are in luck: By and large, this year's home-buying season is a far better bet for buyers than in the past. So if you're craving some intel on what to expect—and how to use this to your advantage—here's the info you need to confidently buy a house right now.

The strong seller's market is on the wane

In the recent past, you weren’t altogether wrong if it seemed like buyers were offering their firstborn child in order for their offer to get a fair look—and often for houses that you would have snubbed in less-sizzling markets. But now it’s OK to breathe—and even sleep on it.

As inventory begins to rise, the strong seller's market that characterized last season's home-buying season is fading fast. In fact, many say we’re back into what can be considered more of a buyer’s market, where the seller doesn’t hold all the cards, says Brad Cox, a real estate agent at the Vesta Group of Long & Foster Real Estate, in Lutherville, MD. That means you’re going to have some wiggle room to negotiate.

“While you still want to prepare a competitive offer, your time window is likely to expand—meaning you can think it over before rushing in with an offer," Cox says. "And you aren’t going to have to include some of the riskier elements, such as waiving financing or inspection contingencies, that were a hallmark of past years."

But what you face still varies by the Big L

You’ve heard the adage "location, location, location," but it will definitely be a huge factor in 2019's home-buying season, Cox says. Because while bidding wars are out in most markets, real estate is still very neighborhood-driven.

“While you might see a softening market in some areas, others may still be in a strong seller’s market," he explains.

He says the key metric to look for is “days on market,” which means how long a property has been waiting to sell. If you’re hoping to buy in an area where days on market are staying low, you’ll have to be prepared to act a little faster. But in areas where this number has started creeping up, you might be able to look around a little more.

For an accurate pricing picture, look only at the latest comps

Both buyers and sellers rely on comparables, aka comps, when determining a fair price. But that can get tricky as the market starts to turn, because sellers might be remembering a months-ago heyday and pricing accordingly.

“Buyers should only consider the most recent comps, which means the last three months, because that is the most accurate reflection of where the market is,” says agent Jed Lewin of Triplemint in New York City.

But don’t forget that it’s still very easy to insult a seller

Yes, the house might have been on the market a few more days than it would have been last year and the comps might be sliding, but that doesn’t mean you can expect that anything goes when you’re buying a home in 2019.

“I am seeing far more buyers starting to make very aggressive lowball offers in an attempt to test sellers’ appetites, even if they’re totally serious about a given property,” says Lucas Callejas, an agent at Triplemint. But in places where the market is still warm, that can turn sellers off—and turn their attention to the next offer that comes along instead of yours.

You may be able to get a better interest rate than you think

One of the big stories of 2018 was rising mortgage interest rates—but while they ticked up precipitously by the end of last year, they’ve fallen a bit again, so you could be in a good spot, says Beatrice de Jong, director of residential sales at Open Listings, in Los Angeles.

Bottom line: Now is the time to lock in a great rate, since today’s appealing numbers might not last long.

“Interest rates are predicted to rise in 2019 and 2020, so buyers would be wise to shop for and lock in their interest rate as soon as possible,” de Jong says.

Increasing rates can make a huge difference, she points out, noting that the difference between a 5% interest rate and 5.5% interest rate is $93 a month on a $300,000 mortgage loan, which can easily derail a buyer’s budget.

So even if you are trying to improve your credit or save a few more bucks for the down payment, you might be better off just wading in and locking in the rate, says Jason Lerner, vice president and area development manager for George Mason Mortgage, in Lutherville, MD.

“You might work for three months to burnish your credit, and then find that the rate has risen so much that it doesn’t make a difference,” he adds.

Your credit score might be better than you thought

Two recent developments in credit scoring may help would-be buyers: One is the new UltraFICO, which takes into account how you manage your checking, savings, and money market accounts, in addition to your credit cards and consumer loans. And the second is Experian Boost, which adds your utility and cellphone bills into the mix.

But even if you have a stellar record in all those areas, there’s no guarantee these will be your golden ticket, cautions Lerner. That’s because it’s still early days for these initiatives: UltraFICO is currently available only in a pilot phase in certain areas, and Experian has yet to launch the booster product, although it is taking sign-ups. But as these products become more widely available throughout the year, home buyers may reap the benefits.

“A difference in 10 or 20 points to your credit score can make a difference between approval or denial—and can lower your rate, which can save thousands over the life of a mortgage,” Lerner points out. He also predicts that requirements will loosen a bit in 2019: “You might not think your credit is good enough for a mortgage, but it’s worth talking to a lender to see if there is a program out there that can help.”

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The Homeownership Dream

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

Don’t Get Sidelined

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

Are Closing Costs Tax Deductible Under The New Tax Law?

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

Are closing costs tax deductible? What about mortgage interest? Or property taxes? The answer is, maddeningly, “It depends.”

Basically, you’ll want to itemize if you have deductions totaling more than the standard deduction, which is $12,000 for single people and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. Every taxpayer gets this deduction, homeowner or not. And most people take it because their actual itemized deductions are less than the standard amount.

But should you take it?

To decide, you need to know what’s tax deductible when buying or owning a house. Here’s the list of possible deductions:

Closing Costs

The one-time home purchase costs that are tax deductible as closing costs are real estate taxes charged to you when you closed, mortgage interest paid when you settled, and some loan origination fees (a.k.a. points) applicable to a mortgage of $750,000 or less.

But you’ll only want to itemize them if all your deductions total more than the standard deduction.

Costs of closing on a home that aren’t tax deductible include:

Real estate commissions
Appraisals
Home inspections
Attorney fees
Title fees
Transfer taxes
Mortgage refi fees
Mortgage interest and property taxes are annual expenses of owning a home that may or may not be deductible. Continue reading to learn more about those.
Mortgage Interest

Yearly, you can write off the interest you pay on up to $750,000 of mortgage debt. Most homeowners don’t have mortgages large enough to hit the cap, says Evan Liddiard, CPA, director of federal tax policy for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. But people who live in pricey places like San Francisco and Manhattan, or homeowners anywhere with hefty mortgages, will likely maximize the mortgage interest deduction.

Note: The $750,000 cap affects loans taken out after Dec. 17, 2017. If you have a loan older than that and you itemize, you can keep deducting your mortgage interest debt up to $1 million. But if you re-fi that loan, you can only deduct the interest on the amount up to the balance on the day you refinanced – you can’t take extra cash and deduct the interest on the excess.

Home Equity Loan Interest

You can deduct the interest on a home equity loan or a second mortgage. But — and this is a big but — only if you use the proceeds to substantially improve your house, and only if the loan, combined with your first mortgage, doesn’t add up to more than the magic number of $750,000 (or $1 million if the loans were existing as of Dec. 15, 2017).

If you use a home equity loan to pay medical bills, go to Paris, or for anything but home improvement, you can’t write off the interest on your taxes.

State and Local Taxes

You can deduct state and local taxes you paid, including property, sales, and income taxes, up to $10,000. That’s a low cap for people who live in places where state and local taxes are high, says Liddiard.

Loss From a Disaster

You can write off the cost of damage to your home if it’s caused by an event in a federally declared disaster zone, like areas in Florida after Hurricane Michael or Shasta County, Calif., after a rash of wildfires.

This means standard-variety disasters like a busted water pipe while you’re on vacation or a fire caused because you left the toaster on aren’t deductible.

Moving Expenses

This deduction is also only for some. You can deduct moving expenses if you’re an active member of the armed forces moving to a new station.

And by the way, no matter who you are, if your employer pays your moving expenses, you’ll have to pay taxes on the reimbursement. “This will be a real hardship to many because it’s non-cash income,” says Liddiard. Some employers may up the gross to provide cash to pay the tax, but many likely will not.

Home Office

This is a deduction you don’t have to itemize. You can take it on top of the standard deduction, but only if you’re self-employed. If you are an employee and your boss lets you telecommute a day or two a week, you can’t write off home office expenses. You claim it on Schedule C.

Student Loans

Anyone paying a mortgage and a student loan payment will be happy to hear that the interest on your education loan is tax-deductible on top of the standard deduction (no need to itemize). And you can deduct as much as $2,500 in interest per year, depending on your modified adjusted gross income.

Ways to Increase Your Eligible Deductions

There are some other itemize-able costs not related to being a homeowner that could bump you up over the standard deduction. This might allow you to write off your mortgage interest. Charitable contributions and some medical expenses are itemize-able, although medical expenses must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

So if you’ve have had a hospital stay or are generous, you could be in itemized-deduction land.

Also, if you’re a single homeowner, it could be easier for you to exceed the standard deduction, Liddiard says. The itemized deductions on your house will probably more quickly break the $12,000 standard deduction threshold than a couple’s similar house will break their $24,000 threshold.

Tax-Savvy Home-Buying Ideas

If you’re a prospective homeowner with an eye to making the most efficient use of your tax benefits, here are a few ways to buy smart:

Especially in expensive areas, buy a less expensive home so you don’t hit the cap on mortgage debt and local and property taxes, says Lisa Greene-Lewis, a CPA and tax expert for TurboTax.
If you’re buying a higher price home, make a bigger down payment so your original mortgage doesn’t exceed the $750,000 cap.
How to Decide If You Should Itemize

Though every homeowner’s tax benefits will be a little different, in the end, you’re building equity, you’ll likely make money when you sell, and you have the freedom to paint your walls any color you want and get a dog.

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School is Cool

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

Home Buyer Blunders

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

Down Payment Dilemma

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

Homebuying Mistakes By Generation

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

Bay Area home prices soar to new record

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

April 24, 2018  | San Francisco Chronicle

The median Bay Area home price surged to an all-time high of $820,000 in March, up 9.3 percent from February and up 14.7 percent from March of last year, research firm CoreLogic reported Tuesday.

The previous peak was $784,000 in November. The report includes newly built and existing homes and condos sold in all nine counties. For the past six months, the median price has risen 12.8 percent year over year on average.

For the fourth consecutive month, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties showed the steepest year over year gains: 33.6 and 25.7 percent, respectively.

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The Rain Team
CA# 01169588 | CA# 01125976 | CA# 01908304
248 Main Street, Suite 200
Half Moon Bay CA 94019
Michael: 650-888-6361
Kathy: 650-888-6903
Fax: 866-396-0207

Kathy and Michael Rain of Coldwell Banker provides real estate services in the San Mateo County, California area including the surrounding communities: El Granda, Half Moon Bay, Montara, Moss Beach, Pacifica and San Mateo. Search for homes in San Mateo County. We list and sell residential real estate, investment properties, vacant land, lots for sale in the San Mateo County, California area.

Licensed in the State of California

Kathy Rain - CA BRE# 01169588 | Michael Rain - CA BRE# 01125976 | Coldwell Banker - CA BRE# 01908304  

Email: therainteam@coastal-realestate.com
Cell Phone: (650) 888-6903 * Direct Phone: (650) 712-0411
San Mateo County Real Estate and Homes for Sale

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